Wednesday, August 04, 2004

From the Mail: Clarification of Logical Necessity

Robert Oakes, who is retired from teaching, but not from philosophy, writes:

Dear Bill,

Good to be back in touch. Hope that you and your wife are in the best of health. We--thanks to Ruth--have located your web site. Mazeltov! (Congratulations!) I read a great deal of your ever-cogent commentary, but could not make it til the end. Finally had to stop at 2:00 AM (just kidding, of course!)when I slumped over from fatigue. Do you add material every day?

BV: I've set myself a rule: at least one post per day.

You are quite right, of course, about the the pernicious accusation of "lying." (As you know, Kerry and Edwards read the same intelligence material and voted with little reservation to go to war.)

BV: I would only add that practically everyone from Clinton, to Putin, to Blair believed that Saddam possessed WMDs. Saddam's behavior suggested as much. For Bush not to have taken the threat seriously given the intelligence he received from both American and British sources would have been egregiously irresponsible. He was simply enforcing the UN resolution this august body did not have the cojones to enforce. He clearly made the right decision given the facts at his disposal. Some of the same people who criticize Bush for going to war in Iraq also want to blame him for not preventing the 9/11 attacks -- which shows how they will exploit any opportunity to bash him with no concern for consistency.

Perhaps we need a National Seminar on What Constitutes a Lie. It should not take more than half a day, and it seems to me that you would be the perfect person to teach it.

BV: I am afraid the problem is not that Bush's critics do not know what a lie is, but that they are willfully obfuscating matters for political gain. A little speculation on my part is that they were so enraged at Clinton's being caught in provable lies that they will do anything to pin a lie on Bush. Molly Ivins, Joe Conason, Al Franken and a half-dozen more have come out with, or are coming out with, 'Bush lied' books.

One other little point, Bill. You claimed that whtever is logically
necessary is true by virtue of its form. Do you really want to maintain that? For example, we would both hold that God exists constitutes a necessary truth. But isn't that so (allowing that it is) by virtue of its content? Perhaps your
response would be something like the following? God exists is--in the lingo of the day--broadly logically necessary, in contradistinction to the logical necessity of, e.g., If God exists, the President will be re-elected; God exists; therefore, the President will be re-elected. Have I got you right on that?

BV: That's exactly right, Bob. I distinguish among logical necessity/possibility, metaphysical necessity/possibility, and nomological necessity/possibility. What you, following Plantinga, are calling broadly logical necessity is what I mean by 'metaphysical necessity.' Logical necessity, then, is perhaps best denoted by 'narrowly logical necessity.' The existence of God is metaphysically necessary. It is surely not narrowly logically necessary, for the simple reason that the logical form of God exists admits of both true and false substitution-instances. Thus, if the logical form in question is a is F, then it is clear that there are both true and false statements of this form. The same holds if the logical form is F-ness is instantiated.

Thanks for your congrats re the REL STUD paper. That took more work and thought (and more rewriting) than any three papers I can remember. Is it too weird, or just weird enough!? I'm now in what I hope is the top of the stretch vis-a-vis the essay for Alston's special issue of FAITH and PHIL on the "Epistemology of Religious Experience." It is due by the end of the year. Are you working on anything for publication?

BV: So Alston invited you to submit a paper? Congratulations. I have some articles about to appear, and am trying to finish some papers as we speak on topics as diverse as Buddhist reductionism, tropes and Bradley's regress, and the place of truth (if any) in the naturalist's world.