Friday, December 31, 2004

Gunfire Tonight!

One of the exciting things about living out here in the Arizona Territory is that all too many local hombres love to greet the the New Year with a hail of gunfire aimed heavenward. It adds a nice Middle Eastern touch to the Copper State.

Part of the problem is the sad state of science education in these United States. There are people who do not understand that a falling projectile poses a threat. (I have actually met such people.) They understand that they cannot catch with their bare hands a round fired at them; but they don’t understand that that same round, falling on a human head from a sufficient height, will kill the head’s unlucky possessor.

Let’s see if we can understand the physics. If I jump from a chair to the floor, no problem. Same if I jump from a table to the floor. But I shrink back from neighbor Bob’s suggestion that I jump from my roof to the ground. "Just kick away the ladder, like Wittgenstein, and jump down." Nosiree Bob! But why should it be any different? The mass of my body remains invariant across the three scenarios. And the gravitational field remains the same. But the longer I remain falling in that field, the faster I move. A body falling in the earth’s gravitational field falls at the rate of 32 feet per second PER SECOND. Thus the body ACCELERATES. The body’s velocity is ever increasing. Now the momentum of a moving object -- which is roughly a measure of the amount of effort it would take to stop it from moving -- is the product of its velocity and its mass. So a small mass like a bullet, left falling for a long enough time, will attain a high velocity and thus a high momentum, and so do a lot of damage to anything it comes in contact with, a human skull for example.

Does Trinity Entail Quaternity?

Christianity, like the other two Abrahamic religions, is monotheistic. But unlike Judaism and Islam, Christianity holds to a trinitarian conception of God. The idea, spelled out in the Athanasian Creed, is that there is one God in three divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Each person is God, and yet there is exactly one God, despite the fact that the Persons are distinct from one another. How is this possible? How can Christians convince Jews and Muslims that their position is logically tenable and does not collapse into tritheism, and thus into polytheism to the detriment of the divine unity and transcendence?

Here is one problem. God is said to be tripersonal: the one God somehow includes three numerically distinct Persons. But none of these Persons is tripersonal. The Father is not tripersonal. The Son is not tripersonal. The Holy Ghost is not tripersonal. Now if two things differ in a property, then they cannot be identical. (This is the irreproachable principle of the Indiscernibility of Identicals expressed in its contrapositive form.) It follows that God is not identical to the Father, nor to the Son, nor to the Holy Ghost. Therefore, God is not identical to any of the Persons, whence it follows that God is distinct from each of the three Persons.

Is God a divine person? If you say yes, then we are on our way to the Quaternity, the doctrine that there is one God in four divine persons. For if God is not identical to the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost, each of which is a person, and God is a person, then there are four – count ‘em – four persons.

The impression one gets from the Scriptures, of course, is that God = God the Father. But if God is tripersonal, and God = God the Father, then God the Father is tripersonal, which is false, or at least counter to the Athansian creed. So it appears that God cannot be identified with God the Father.

Some doctrines in philosophy threaten to collapse into others. Thus mind-brain identity theory threatens to collapse into eliminativism about the mind. Other doctrines seem to want to expand. How do we keep the Trinity from expanding into the Quaternity? The attentive reader will have noticed that the argument can be iterated. If the Three-in-One becomes a Four-in-One, how avoid a Five-in-One, ad infinitum?

Next stop: The Twilight Zone.

Twilight Zone Marathon

A Twilight Zone marathon has been underway over at the Sci Fi channel since early this morning. It will continue well into tomorrow.

A New Year's Resolution

I make it every year and I break it every year: Handle each piece of paper once!

Let's say you have just come in with the mail. Without pausing to pour coffee or stroke the cat, fire up the shredder and open the trash barrel. Shred the credit card applications, pay the bills, file the financial statements. Deal with each piece of paper on the spot. When in doubt, discard.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Horowitz on Guns and Blacks

This is an oldie but a goodie from the pen of David Horowitz. Of course, it got him labeled a 'racist' by libs and lefties. Horowitz comments on the smear here.

Thomas Friedman Gets It

See here.

What Explains the Radical Left/Militant Islam Alignment?

From 1789 on, a defining characteristic of the Left has been hostility to religion, especially in its institutionalized forms. This goes together with a commitment to such Enlightenment values as liberty, belief in reason, and equality, including equality among the races and between the sexes. Thus the last thing one would expect from the Left is an alignment with militant Islam given the latter’s philosophically unsophisticated religiosity bordering on rank superstition, its totalitarian moralism, and its opposition to gender equality.

So why does the radical Left takes the side of militant Islam against the USA? The values of the progressive creed are antithetic to those of the Islamists, and it is quite clear that if the Islamists got everything they wanted, namely, the imposition of Islamic law on the entire world, our dear progressives would soon find themselves headless. I don’t imagine that people like Eric Alterman long to live under Sharia, where ‘getting stoned’ would have more than metaphorical meaning. So what explains this bizarre alignment?

1. One point of similarity between radical leftists and Islamists is that both are totalitarians. As David Horowitz writes in Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left (Regnery, 2004) , "Both movements are totalitarian in their desire to extend the revolutionary law into the sphere of private life, and both are exactling in the justice they administer and the loyalty they demand." (p. 124)

2. Horowitz points to another similarity when he writes, "The radical Islamist believes that by conquering nations and instituting sharia, he can redeem the world for Allah. The socialist’s faith is in using state power and violent means to eliminate private property and thereby usher in the millenium." (129)

Perhaps we could say that the utopianism of the Left is a quasi-religion with a sort of secular eschatology. The leftist dreams of an eschaton ushered in by human effort alone, a millenial state that could be described as pie-in-the-future as opposed to pie-in-the-sky. When this millenial state is achieved, religion in its traditional form will disappear. Its narcotic satisfactions will no longer be in demand. Religion is the "sigh of the oppressed creature," (Marx) a sigh that arises within a contingent socioeconomic arrangement that can be overturned. When it is overturned, religion will disappear.

3. This allows us to explain why the secular radical does not take seriously the religious pathology of radical Islam. "The secular radical believes that religion itself is merely an expression of real-world misery, for which capitalist property is ultimately responsible." (129) The overthrow of capitalist America will eliminate the need for religion. This "will liberate Islamic fanatics from the need to be Islamic and fanatic." (130)

Building on Horowitz’s point, I would say the leftist in his naivete fails to grasp that religion, however we finally resolve the question of its validty or lack thereof, is deeply rooted in human nature. As Schopenhauer liked to point out, man is a metaphysical animal, and religion is one form the metaphysical urge takes. As such, religion is not a merely contingent expression of a contingent misery produced by a contingent state of society. On the contrary, as grounded in human nature, religion answers to a misery essential to the human predicament as such, a predicament the amelioration of which cannot be brought about by any merely human effort, whether individual or collective. Whether or not religion can deliver what it promises, it answers to real and ineradicable human needs for meaning and purpose.

In their dangerous naivete, leftists thinks that they can use radical Islam to help destroy the capitalist USA, and, once that is accomplished, radical Islam will ‘wither away.’ But they will ‘wither away’ before Islamo-fanaticism does. They think they can use genuine fascist theocracy to defeat the ‘fascist theocracy’ of the USA. They are deluding themselves.

Residing in their utopian Wolkenskukuheim, radical leftists are wrong about religion, wrong about human nature, wrong about the terrorist threat, wrong about the ‘fascist theocracy’ of Bush & Co., wrong about economics; in short, they are wrong about reality.

Pashak and Brunner on Education

Dear Dr. Vallicella:

I liked that article about philosophers vs academics. I taught public school for a few years and realized that I had come out of university completely unprepared to deal either practically or theoretically with my profession. So when I went back and did a master's in librarianship I basically ignored my professors and pursued my own lines of thought. Consequently, I have enjoyed a fine career experience in librarian-related activity. I have also had the opportunity to pursue my interest in philosophy to my heart's content. Here is a quote from Constantin Brunner on philosophy and formal education:

No one can think unless he has revolted against the contemporary state of mind; for as a child of his times, to which he had to pay expensive tuition fees, he must first break with what he learned in public school, must finish with its whole way of thinking, before he can begin with any real thinking of his own.... Whoever wishes to be more than modern, more than just another bleater in educated modern society; whoever wants to put himself on the right ground and be on his guard lest the general imitation of the surrounding multitude force his consciousness in the least; cannot immerse himself often enough in the great images and reflections in which the Spiritual Élite and the multitude and examples of the eternal course of events between the two are brought most clearly before his eyes. In the sharpest tension of contrasts the highest and purest spiritual power and the love in the most perfect activity imaginable, are answered with an enmity extending to murder. (Our Christ, 190-1)

By the way, I have also had a chance to fully think out my attitude toward education. I have put up on the web here what I conceive as an embryonic version of the kind of schooling I would like to provide.

Barrett Pashak

On Academic Credentials

Drawing on three maverick philosophers of the 19th century, Michael Gilleland crafted this fine essay.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Three More Aptronyms

An aptronym is a name that suits the nature or occupation of its bearer. Three more examples:

1. Penectomist Lorena Bobbit

2. Philosopher Anna-Sofia Maurin

3. Grandmaster Tal Shaked

You will notice that the aptronymic portion of each name is in a different position. This suggests the need for a taxonomy of aptronyms with distinctions among first-order, second-order, full, partial, etc. But first we need more data.

The Right/Left Blog Divide

Steven Taylor the Poliblogger has a good post on this topic. Hat tip: Craig Howard over at BUFFALOg.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

From the Mail: Edith Stein and Secretum Meum Mihi

Peter Freienstein writes:

I am extremely sorry, but I was wrong. In fact I mistook Edith Stein´s Secretum meum mihi for Omnia mea mecum porto. I wrote it from memory, but now I´ve checked it out.

BV: Yes, Omnia mea mecum porto suggests far too much independence and self-reliance to be the motto of a Carmelite nun who has taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Stein's motto is from Isaiah 24, 16:

From the ends of the earth we have heard praises, the glory of the just one. And I said: My secret to myself, my secret to myself, woe is me: the prevaricators have prevaricated, and with the prevarication of transgressors they have prevaricated.

A finibus terrae laudes audivimus gloriam iusti et dixi secretum meum mihi secretum meum mihi vae mihi praevaricantes praevaricati sunt et praevaricatione transgressorum praevaricati sunt.

Edith Stein wrote the phrase, Secretum meum mihi (Mein Geheimnis gehoert mir, My secret belongs to me) to her friend, the philosopher Hedwig Martius, the morning after Stein's conversion experience in the summer of 1921. Her conversion was occasioned by her reading of the autobiography of Theresa of Avila a copy of which she found in the library of Theodor Conrad and Hedwig Martius. See here.


I also wrote you some few remarks on Kant and Blondel. Did you read them? You are right to my mind when you wonder why so many people meditate on Heidegger and only so few care about Stein´s important books.

Still, I know quite a number of people who are interested. Like with Blondel, I have a manuscript here on her philosophy of some 400 pages. I don´t read her as an ontological philosopher, but concentrate on the concept of Sinn, which triggers off many deep philosophical reflections.

BV: Original Sinn? Sorry, just joking!

Stein is a giant, but there is little sense in dragging her before the altar of Heideggerian ontological demands, because as they have been defined by himself it is difficult to stand one´s ground there. Making 'sense' of Stein´s philosophy is still very much a future task.

BV: As you probably know, Sinn und Sein are closely connected in Heidegger. It is not just that he asks about the Sinn von Sein, but that Sein 'west' als Sinn, als Wahrheit. Indeed, I see that as a problem in Heidegger. The question about Sein is conflated with a question about die Erschlossenheit des Seins. On the other hand, Stein appears to be pursuing traditional ontological concerns, at least in her book, Endliches und Ewiges Sein.

'Old Hat'

To say of something that it is old hat is to say that it is old, or well known. Wondering about the origin of this curious phrase, I turned to Robert Hendrickson, Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, 2nd ed. (2004), p. 529. What I found there surprised me:

Today old hat means out of date or not new, and it has meant this for at least a century. But back as early as 1754 it was "used by the vulgar in no very honorable sense," as Fielding put it. It then meant, in Grose's punning definition from his 1785 Classical Dictionary of the
Vulgar Tongue
: "a woman's privities: because frequently felt."

This is no doubt interesting, but how does it explain the origin of the the adjectival phrase 'old hat'? That 'old hat' was once used as a noun by a certain class of people to refer to "a woman's privities" does nothing to show the origin of 'old hat' as currently used.

From the Mail: Multiculturalism and Islam

Horace Jeffery Hodges (Korean University) writes:

Dear Bill,

This article by Christopher Caldwell is worth reading. It's about the Dutch people's doubts about multiculturalism in the wake of the Islamist murder of Van Gogh. I used to be a supporter of multiculturalism back whenI thought that it meant accepting the best that other cultures had to offer -- good ethnic food, hardworking immigrants, interesting foreign-born friends, and a quasi-carnival atmosphere in the public square that I found 'entertaining.'

I still appreciate the good things, but I'm not entertained by much of what I see and what the Dutch are now seeing, and I've come to understand that I've never been a multicultualist in the deep sense, forI've never believed that all cultures are equal.

BV: You have too much sense for that.

I've just usually been too polite to make an issue of this point. I no longer see much reason to remain polite if that means maintaining silence. And I think that we shouldn't be overly concerned about being accused of Islamophobia when we criticize Islamism (or even Islam).

BV: Right, except that 'Islamophobia' is a poor word choice, assuming that you are endorsing its use, which you may not be. A phobia is by definition an irrational fear (as in acrophobia, agoraphobia, xenophobia, claustrophobia, etc.); but our concern with militant Islam (Islamism) is neither irrational, nor a fear, strictly speaking. 'Islamophobia' is as misbegotten as 'homophobia.'

We have more important concerns than that. But we'd better know what we're talking about when we begin a critique and make an effort to keep our criticisms honest. We also have an obligation to know our own culture and carry it forward.

Since 9/11, I've been trying to think carefully not just about Islam and Islamic values but also about the West and Western values. Much of my own research is now guided by these interests. From our discussions of the past few years,I know that yours are, too, Bill.

Hmmm ... I see that in that previous paragraph, I began subtly addressing your audience. Now that you have a blog, many of my emails to you are shaped by the realization that you might publish them. Anyway, read the linked article, and be relieved that we Americans don't have the Dutch problem.

BV: We don't have it yet. What I don't understand is why European countries like the Netherlands allow Muslims to flood in. Are they as decadent as I think they are, with a grip on life so weak that they are unwilling to defend themselves and their culture? But then why do we refuse to control our borders? For short term economic gain? Because the Dems need warm and needy bodies? Some years back, Pat Buchanan called for a moratorium on legal immigration so that the people who have entered can be assimilated. A reasonable suggestion -- but how did our liberal knuckleheads respond? They pelted him with such epithets as 'racist,' 'xenophobe,' etc.

Although... (speaking as a frustrated Europhile) ... I think that we have much to lose if we lose Europe ...

BV: I am getting close to the point of saying, to hell with Europe. They can't distinguish their friends from their enemies. We are the new Europe. We will carry on as they collapse into decadence. As Hegel says, "The owl of Minerva spreads its wings at dusk." Well, the sun is setting on old Europe, and the owl is preparing for a transatlantic flight. Perhaps only we can prevent a total Untergang des Abendlandes. On this Spenglerian note, I end.

In All Fairness to Paul Edwards

As most know by now, Paul Edwards has passed away at the age of 81. See here. I honored him yesterday by taking his critique of Heidegger seriously enough to refute it -- or part of it. My tone was harsh in places, but no harsher than the tone he adopted with his opponents. The guy allowed himself to be blinded by his Heidegger-hatred, so much so that, when I sent him a long paper in the early 1990's patiently defending Heidegger against his simple-minded criticisms, all he could muster by way of reply was the accusation that I was a "semi-shepherd," a species of varmint that he disliked just as much as the full-fledged "shepherd of Being," which was his derisive term for a Heideggerian. How's that for philosophical refutation?

Nevertheless, I will now honor Edwards further by pointing out the great service he rendered by editing the eight-volumed Encyclopedia of Philosophy. I have had it on my shelves for the last 31 years and have consulted it countless times. I bought the four-volumed edition from the Book of the Month Club for the paltry sum of $20.00 in the Fall of 1973 as I was beginning graduate studies. It was the best book deal I ever got.

Bertrand Russell on Arabic Philosophy

The following passage is from Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1945), p. 427. I found it this morning here, but without a link and without a reference. So, exploiting the resources of my well-stocked library, I located the passage, and verified that it had been properly transcribed. Whether Russell is being entirely fair to the Arabs is a further question.

Arabic philosophy is not important as original thought. Men like Avicenna and Averroes are essentially commentators. Speaking generally, the views of the more scientific philosophers come from Aristotle and the Neoplatonists in logic and metaphysics, from Galen in medicine, from Greek and Indian sources in mathematics and astronomy, and among mystics religious philosophy has also an admixture of old Persian beliefs. Writers in Arabic showed some originality in mathematics and in chemistry; in the latter case, as an incidental result of alchemical researches. Mohammedan civilization in its great days was admirable in the arts and in many technical ways, but it showed no capacity for independent speculation in theoretical matters. Its importance, which must not be underrated, is as a transmitter. Between ancient and modern European civilization, the dark ages intervened. The Mohammedans and the Byzantines, while lacking the intellectual energy required for innovation, preserved the apparatus of civilization, books, and learned leisure. Both stimulated the West when it emerged from barbarism; the Mohammedans chiefly in the thirteenth century, the Byzantines chiefly in the fifteenth. In each case the stimulus produced new thought better than that produced by the transmitters -- in the one case scholasticism, in the other the Renaissance (which however had other causes also).

Monday, December 27, 2004

Paul Edwards' Heidegger's Confusions: A Two-Fold Rip-Off

I recently purchased, but then returned, Paul Edward’s Heidegger’s Confusions (Prometheus, 2004) when I found that it is nothing but an overpriced reprint of previously available materials. Twenty dollars for a thin (129 pp.) paperback is bad enough, especially given the mediocre production values of Prometheus Books; but the clincher was my discovery that there is nothing in this volume that has not appeared elsewhere. Edwards and his editors didn’t even bother to change the British quotation conventions in use in two of the reproduced articles to their Stateside counterparts.

There is also the question of the quality of Edward’s Heidegger-critique, a topic I plan to treat more fully in a separate post. But for now a comment on Edwards’ refutation-strategy in his second chapter, "Heidegger’s Quest for Being." (What follows summarizes, but also extends, the discussion in my article, "Do Individuals Exist?" Journal of Philosophical Research, vol. XX (1995), pp. 195-220, and my book A Paradigm Theory of Existence (Kluwer 2002), Chapter 4.)

In a nutshell, the Edwards strategy is this: Heidegger assumes something that Russell denies; therefore, Heidegger is wrong. But it is actually worse than that given Edwards’ liberal admixture of invective and insult. There is much to criticize in Heidegger, but hostile polemic, though it may serve some purpose in the political sphere, is out of place in philosophy. I’ll try not to pay back Edwards’ nastiness in his own coin, but I may not succeed. In any case, Edwards or his shade may profit from a taste of his own medicine.

In The Philosophy of Logical Atomism (1918), Bertrand Russell held that a vast amount of false philosophy has arisen from philosophers’ not knowing what existence is, namely, a property of propositional functions, rather than a property of the individual values of such functions. (Robert C. Marsh, ed. Logic and Knowledge, pp. 175-281, esp. pp. 232-235) A simple way to see Russell’s point is by considering the following two (putative) instances of the Fallacy of Division:

A. Humans are numerous; Socrates is human; ergo, Socrates is numerous.

B. Humans exist; Socrates is human; ergo, Socrates exists.

(A) is a clear example of the Fallacy of Division, the fallacy of assuming that whatever is true of a whole is true of each of its parts. Humans as a whole are numerous, in the sense that the class of humans has a very high cardinality indeed; but it doesn’t follow that each member of this class is numerous. Indeed, it is nonsense to say of an individual that it is numerous since numerousness can only be a property of classes and cognate items, and never a property of individuals.

Russell’s point is that (B) is ‘on all fours’ with (A), or, if you prefer, that (A) and (B) are in the same logical boat: both are instances of the Fallacy of Division. From the fact that humans exist, it does not follow that each member of this class exists. Indeed, for Russell, it is nonsense to say of an individual that it exists, since existence can only be a property of some such higher-order item as a set, a property, a concept, or a propositional function. Existence thus becomes a set’s having elements, a property’s being instantiated, a concept’s having objects falling under it (in Fregean jargon), or a propositional function’s being "sometimes true," as Russell puts it in the place above cited.

Technicalities aside, we can call this an instantiation account of existence and compress it into the slogan, ‘Existence is instantiation.’ It follows straightaway that existence cannot be ascribed to any individual: no individual can be meaningfully said to be instantiated.

Now if Russell is right about existence – if it cannot legitimately function as a first-order or first-level property no matter how broadly we take ‘property’ – then the metaphysics of existence, whether of Thomist, Heideggerian, or any other stripe, is an impossible enterprise, "rubbish," to use Lord Russell’s scholarly term of disapprobation. Inquiries into what it is for an individual to exist, or into the Being of that-which-is (das Sein des Seienden), are one and all predicated on a logical mistake.

Thus Edwards’ simple-minded point against Heidegger is simply this: the latter failed to grasp the elementary logical point that ‘. . .exists’ and cognates cannot legitimately function as first-level predicates. Russell was right, so Heidegger was wrong, and the quest for Being is a nonstarter. Of course, Edwards, being Edwards, adds insult to this injury: Heidegger is not merely wrong but lacks the intelligence to grasp Russell’s simple point, etc.

The truth, however, is that Heidegger’s assumption that existence is predicable of individuals is far more credible than Russell’s denial of this assumption. Edwards uncritically assumes the truth of the Russellian dictum in order to beat Heidegger over the head with it. It is Edwards, not Heidegger, who is the uncritical one. I will now explain what is wrong with the Russellian dictum.

Consider a sentence like ‘Cats exist.’ Sentences of this form are known in the trade as affirmative general existentials. Such sentences submit readily to the Russellian analysis. It is plausibly maintained that ‘Cats exist’ is not about cats but about the property of being a cat, and says of this property that it has instances. The virtue of this analysis emerges when we consider a negative general existential like ‘Unicorns do not exist.’ This true sentence cannot be about unicorns – after all, there aren’t any – it is about the property of being a unicorn, or the concept unicorn, and says of it that it has no instances. In this way one can deny the existence of unicorns without having to presuppose that there are unicorns. A well known paradox of reference -- dubbed by Quine Plato's Beard-- is avoided.

Now consider a negative singular existential, ‘Pegasus does not exist,’ to coin an example. Unless one is prepared to countenance Meinongian nonexistent objects, this sentence cannot be about what it appears to be about: its grammatical form hides, rather than reveals, its logical form. On a Russell-type analysis, this sentence is not about Pegasus, but about the concept winged horse of Greek mythology, and what it says about this concept is that it is not instantiated.

The Russell-type analysis works admirably well when it comes to negative existentials, whether general or singular. But it breaks down when applied to affirmative existentials, especially singular affirmative existentials. Consider ‘I exist.’ If Russell is right, and existence is in the same logical boat with numerousness, then ‘I exist,’ taken as predicating existence of an individual, is not false, but meaningless. So it has to be analyzed as predicating instantiation of a property. But which property? It has to be a property that individuates me, that distinguishes me from everything else, not merely in the actual world, but in all possible worlds in which I exist. Thus a property that only I have, but some other individual might have had, is not such that its instantiation could be identified with my existence. Let me explain.

Suppose I am the meanest man in the Superstition Mountains. Then I instantiate the property P of being the MMSM. Clearly, it is merely a contingent fact about me that I instantiate P. I might not have instantiated the property in question: my grizzled partner, Seldom Seen Slim, might have been the meanest man in the Superstition Mts., and when I die, Slim will no doubt be the meanest man in these parts. It follows that my existence cannot be identified with the being-instantiated of this property. For if anything is clear, it is that my existence is bound up with my identity: my existence is essential to me; my being the meanest man in the Superstition Mountains is not.

To make a long story short, haecceity-properties must be introduced to make the Russellian analysis work. Take the (putative) property of being identical to BV. This property individuates me in the actual world and across all possible worlds. If anyone has it, I have it; and no one distinct from me can have it. It captures my thisness, my haecceitas. If there is this property, then the following equivalence holds necessarily:

(E) BV exists if and only if the property of being identical to BV is instantiated.

But do biconditionals of this form show that existence cannot be ascribed to individuals? Note first that biconditionals, even if necessarily true, do not sanction reductions. It is necessarily true that triangularity is instantiated if and only if trilaterality is instantiated; but that scarcely shows that the the two properties are identical.

Note second that (E) is blatantly circular. For if the property of being identical to BV is instantiated, then it is instantiated by an individual, and this individual must exist to do any instantiating. Russell’s attempted elimination of singular existence (existence as ascribable to individuals) ends up presupposing singular existence.

Note third that if Russell and Co. are right, then the left-hand side of (E) is meaningless, as meaningless as ‘BV is numerous.’ It follows that (E) is meaningless. So (E), if true, is meaningless, and if meaningless, is meaningless. Therefore, (E) is necessarily meaningless, which entails that it necessarily lacks a truth-value.

Of course, if you say that the left-hand side of (E) expresses the same proposition as is expressed by the right-hand side, then (E) degenerates into a miserable tautology, in which case it cannot be used to effect a substantive metaphysical reduction/elimination.

But even if these these three unanswerable objections could be answered, there remains one that is truly insurmountable, namely, that there are no haecceity properties. But I will leave the proof of this for a separate post. (Cf. A Paradigm Theory of Existence, pp. 99-104.)

The upshot is that the Russellian theory cannot satisfactorily analyze affirmative singular existentials. It also cannot accommodate affirmative general existentials. It is undeniable that

(F) Cats exist if and only if the property of being a cat is instantiated.

This presupposes singular existence in two ways. First, if the property in question is instantiated, then (instantiation being a relation), it is instantiated by individuals, and they must exist if they are to do an instantiating. Second, the property itself must exist. Nothing can have properties unless it exists, so the property of being a cat cannot have the property of being instantiated unless it exists. But the property’s existence cannot consist in some other higher-order property’s being instantiated on pain of a vicious infinite regress. Therefore, the property must singularly exist – in which case singular existence has not be eliminated but is presupposed. Twist and shout as a Russellian might, he won’t shake off singular existence.

There is also this to consider. (F) is undoubtedly true. Why? The explanation is that the sentences on either side of this biconditional express one and the same proposition. General existence just is instantiation. Singular existence, however, cannot be instantiation, as was seen in the discussion of (E).

This brings me to what I shall term Russell’s Fallacy, to wit, the fallacy of confusing general existence (instantiation) with singular existence. Russell’s mistake is to think that because general existence is identifiable with instantiation, existence is so identifiable. Not so. Singular existence cannot be identified with the instantiation of any property.

Paul Edwards, thoughtless positivist, cantankerous curmudgeon, blinded by his animus against Heidegger and anything that transcends his prosaic anti-metaphysical pate, uncritically repeats Russell’s Fallacy to the point of denying the self-evident truth that existence in its fundamental singular sense belongs to individuals so that it does make sense, after all, to ask about the existence, and more generally, the Being, of the things that are.

The quest for Being easily survives the Russell-Edwards assault. Of course, this is not to say that Heidegger’s ‘theory’ of Being is worth much. I myself don’t think it is. But that’s another story.

Omnia Mea Mecum Porto Noch Einmal

Peter Freienstein writes:

Dear Bill,

Did you know that Omnia mea mecum porto was Edith Stein´s motto, too?

Yours,

Peter

No, Peter, I didn't know that! I learned the saying from Schopenhauer's Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit, but subsequently discovered that it was employed by Feuerbach, and can be traced back to Cicero. Michael Gilleland has a very good post on the topic. See also here, hic, hier und da.

I am very much an admirer of Edith Stein, and it occurs to me that she deserves a place on my Neglected Philosophers list. Why should her Finite and Eternal Being go largely unread when Heidegger's works are minutely studied?

Sunday, December 26, 2004

From Buffalo to Benares

A young person of idealistic and questing bent, imbued with the characteristic romanticism of youth, having perhaps read some Hermann Hesse, dreams of making the journey to the East. But if such a person cannot find enlightenment in Buffalo, where the water is pure and mosquitoes rare, why on earth does he think he will find it in Benares where the water will give him dysentery and mosquitoes are ubiquitous?

Rather than set off for distant lands, our young idealist should hearken to the home-grown wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson, for whom

Travelling is a fool's paradise. Our first journeys discover to us the indifference of places. ("Self Reliance")

On second thought, perhaps our young idealist should verify this truth for himself since for most, only what is learned the hard way is learned at all.


Saturday, December 25, 2004

Old Paul Harvey Joke

Man attempts to enter swanky restaurant. Maitre d' informs him that coat and tie are required. Man returns to car, dons coat, and tries once more to enter. Maitre d' says that a tie is also necessary. Man returns to car, opens trunk, takes out jumper cables, and arranges them around his neck. Heated discussion ensues, but maitre d' finally relents: "OK, you can go in, but just don't start anything!"

I was going to squeeze some philosophical mileage out of this, but it's Christmas night, I chased the wine with brandy, and tomorrow's another day. Hardcore philosophy tomorrow, I promise: an attack on Paul Edwards.

Top of the Season to My Readers

In these waning days of 2004, I look back on a productive year made especially so by my activities, modest as they may be, in what we have come to call the blogosphere. I have learned something, and I am deeply grateful to the readers I have attracted and the friends I have made. Knowing that you powerful and critical minds are out there helps keep me honest.

Best wishes to all of you.

Friday, December 24, 2004

From the Mail: Freienstein on Blondel

Peter Freienstein writes:
[Hyperlinks added by BV]

I am very happy you actually answered my letter. Thanks a lot! That Oliva Blanchette is working on an intellectual biography of Blondel I know from his homepage. I wrote to him and he confirmed that the book is finished and he is trying to publish it. He told me in an e-mail that it would be published by the end of 2004. However, so far I haven´t heard of the book.

Two very good authors on Blondel are the following: Michael Conway, The Science of Life (2000) and John McNeill, The Blondelian Synthesis (1966). In fact these are the best discussions of Blondel´s thought that I know of. The first one is great on unravelling the 'French connection' and introduces the reader to Ravaisson, Lachelier and Boutroux, all of whom have been extremely important for the formation of Blondel´s system.

The second one is an effort to reveal the German sources of Blondel´s ideas. As some kind of answer to Kant has been a lifelong preoccupation of Blondel´s, this is fundamental reading. (The way Blondel grapples with Kant is evident already in his diary, an excerpt from which has appeared in German, translated by Hans Urs von Balthasar - Tagebuch vor Gott: 1883-1894 - which is a fascinating read I will never forget.)

Three essays Blondel wrote in the years after L´Action have been translated into German under the title Der Ausgangspunkt des Philosophierens (Hamburg: Meiner, 1992). These are brilliant pieces. Whatever Blondel says on philosophy is connected with his teleological orientation. Even in L´Action this is already apparent, as he keeps pointing to the need of first going through appearances to finally reach being, to finally recognize backwards [retrospectively] even the appearances as being. It is like someone who is in a dark room full of furniture, but can´t make out anything clearly. He can touch and feel, but wants to know more. So he makes his way through the room to somehow switch on the light. Having done so he understands about the room and is aware that only in this light can he say anything valid about it. Blondel´s is some kind of 'eschatological gnoseology.'

This holds good for all the other aspects of his thought. Also when he discusses autonomy and heteronomy. In one of his writings he turns to his hut in Aix-en-Provence and explains that in its actual construction it can only stand because of the roof, which supports all the walls, which without the roof would tumble down. So in some kind of reversal of the natural orientation the end supports the beginning. What comes last is what is first. It reminds me of Rosenzweig´s celebrated suitcase example. What you take out last has been put in first.

Personally, by the way, I have been philosophizing all my life. Even my childhood memories are full of this. I later on studied Theology and English and now am a high school teacher in Hildesheim near Hanover, where I live. It´s great for me to find philosophical companions even across the Atlantic, for as a teacher I have to deal with so many non-philosophical issues every day. Still, I have a philosophy workshop attended by a number of good students, and I like my job, no doubt. At the moment I am preparing a booklet for teachers on Kazuo Ishiguro´s novel The Remains of the Day, a novel that has impressed me in many ways. I learned that Ishiguro studied philosophy in England. I strongly recommend you to read it. I think one cannot read the book without being touched to the core. Thanks for your patience!

Yours sincerely,

Peter Freienstein

Merry Scroogemas!

In this season especially we ought to find a kind word to say about the much maligned Ebeneezer Scrooge. Here's mine: Without Scrooge, that bum Cratchit wouldn't have a job!

Now for a somewhat more serious reflection. The liberal knuckleheads who have banned the presentation of Dicken's masterpiece ought to consider that there is more anti-Capitalism in it than Christianity -- an irony that no doubt escapes their shallow pates.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

C. G. Jung and W. H. Sheldon

If you are interested in human typology, see here. I first read about Sheldon's somatotypes in George Sheehan's On Running, his first and best book. That was before Sheehan became famous and started writing books with such portentous titles as Running and Being. Try this at your next road race. Ask the younger runners if they know who George Sheehan was. George who??

From the Mail: Blondel and Lask

Dear Bill!

I am a German hobby philosopher and read your Internet texts with great interest. You mentioned Blondel the other day, [see here and here], which is what led me to your page in the first place. In fact I have read a great many of Blondel´s writings, both from his earlier and his later period, and I can say that I have been enthusiastic about his philosophy. I even wrote a manuscript on him (to be published posthumously).

BV: Posthumously?! There is such a thing as excessive modesty. (I myself do not suffer from it.) Why not publish your manuscript now, while you are rot und nicht tot, and see if you can get some responses from people? If you like, you may send me a sample of your manuscript.

How much of Blondel has been translated into German? There is not that much in English. I read German, but not French.

At the moment I am waiting for Oliva Blanchette´s intellectual biography of Blondel, because I think that whoever strives to understand Blondel´s philosophy must come up with a convincing interpretation of the connection between the two phases of his thought. More about that later, if you are interested.

BV: Yes, please do tell me about this. I was a student of Blanchette's, but we never discussed Blondel. I wasn't aware that Blanchette was working on an intellectual biography of Blondel. He performed a great service by translating L'Action (1893).

These days I often look into the writings of Emil Lask, a thinker that you should certainly include in your list of neglected philosophers. To my mind a real philosophical superstar, who was killed in action in 1915 at the age of 40. People often chide him for having misinterpreted the Kantian ´Copernican Revolution`, in fact of having perverted a milestone of modern subjectivism into a highlight of objectivism, which, by the way, is not at all the case, as Lask is beyond the duality of subjectivism and objectivism and cannot be interpreted within the framework of this opposition.

BV: I think you are right about Lask. I haven't been able to find a good website devoted to him. Do you know of one? I read some Lask as a graduate student, but his works are hard to come by. I know a lot more about his teacher, Heinrich Rickert, and his student, Eugen Herrigel, than I do about Lask himself.

The same holds good for Blondel. He tried to go beyond the dualisms that he had inherited and ends up with a brilliant vision on the other side of ontology. Hopefully I could hold your interest for a while. All I can do is encourage you to go on!

Yours sincerely,

Peter Freienstein

BV: Thank you very much for writing, Peter, and for the encouragement. What you say interests me very much, and I encourage you to write again. I am particularly fascinated by Blondel's notion that heteronomy is a condition of genuine human autonomy. If he can pull that off, then he can reconcile Athens and Jerusalem. Neither Athens without Jersualem (Husserl, say) nor Jerusalem without Athens (Shestov, say), but the two reconciled.

From the Mail: Buffalo and Cleveland

Craig Howard writes:

Ah, Cleveland, the only city perhaps more maligned than my poor old Buffalo.

Yes, Cleveland, the butt of more jokes than there are asses to tell them. The town whose boy mayor was Dennis Kucinich when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire. The home of the 'Full Cleveland,' the double-knit polyester suit. It used to be and probably still is the case that whenever a comedian made a joke about lost airline luggage, the luggage never ended up in smog-choked Los Angeles or even in snow-bound Buffalo -- hell no! It ended up in Cleveland.

Leftists and Guns

Leftists who fear a 'fascist theocracy' in the USA ought to consider joining with their conservative brethren in support of Second Amendment rights. That way, when the 'fascist theocrats' kick down their doors at 3 AM to haul them off to church services, the leftists will be well equipped to defend their liberty. Was it not their own Chairman Mao who said that "Power comes out of the barrel of a gun"?

There is a serious point here. ACLU extremists will torture the First Amendment to mean anything they want it to mean while nary a peep will you hear from them in defense of the Second Amendment -- when it is the Second that backs up the First and all the rest. There is an old saying: "If liberals interpreted the Second Amendment the way they interpret the First, gun ownership would be mandatory."

No Books, No Soul

A nephew once gave me a coffee cup with the inscription, "A room without books is as a body without a soul -- Cicero." I just now Googled the expression and found this page where substantially the same quotation is ascribed to G. K. Chesterton. One possibility is that Chesterton borrowed it from Cicero. Is there a classicist in the house?

Whatever the quotation's provenience, it is true in excelsis. (But does truth admit of degrees?)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Making Sense of Lonergan

Kevin Kim takes up my offer to make sense of Lonergan passages that Kevin finds baffling. I write as someone who has never studied Lonergan, though I have read an odd paragraph or two. Part of my interest here, besides being of some slight assistance to Kim and others, is to see whether I should undertake a serious study of Lonergan.

Kim writes:

Before I quote you some long passages from Bernard Lonergan's Method in Theology, I wanted to offer you a list of some Lonerganian insights, some of which I simply don't understand, others of which strike me as having nothing to do with reality. All page citations are from Lonergan, Bernard. Method in Theology. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971. Ready?

A. Page 9: "...different levels of consciousness and intentionality have to be distinguished. In our dream states consciousness and intentionality commonly are fragmentary and incoherent. When we awake, they take on a different hue to expand on four successive, related, but qualitatively different levels. There is the empirical level on which we sense, perceive, imagine, feel, speak, move. There is an intellectual level on which we inquire, come to understand, express what we have understood, work out the presuppositions and implications of our expression. There is the rational level on which we reflect, marshal the evidence, pass judgment on the truth or falsity, certainty or probability, of a statement. There is the responsible level on which we are concerned with ourselves, our own operations, our goals, and so deliberate about possible courses of action, evaluate them, decide, and carry out our decisions."

Question 1: Why is "imagine" located on the empirical level and not the intellectual level?

BV: I suppose L. puts imagination on the empirical level because imagination typically involves the re-working of sensory and perceptual materials. To imagine something is to form a mental image of it, and presumably one could not form a mental image of anything that did not have a sensory provenience.

Question 2: Aren't "reflect" and "work out the presuppositions and implications of our expression" almost the same thing? If so, why are they located on different levels? How is Lonergan assigning these operations to their levels?

BV: I perceive my coffee cup and see steam rising from it. I make the judgment: Steam is rising from the cup. I express this judgment by uttering a sentence in the indicative mood. I then infer that the coffee is hot. All of this is within the INTENTIO RECTA. I don't know if L. uses this phrase, but if he doesn't, he ought to. [grin] The intellect is operating in straightforward, direct mode, going right at the things themselves. The intellect is not reflecting on its own operations. When it does that, we can say that it is within the INTENTIO OBLIQUA. But this Latin terminology is not essential. The main idea is that there is a difference between judging, expressing, teasing out the implications of a judgment about some subject-matter one is confronting, and reflecting on the mind's doing of these things.

Therefore, to work out an implication (e.g., to infer The coffee is hot from Steam is rising from it) is different from reflecting on what the mind is doing when it draws this inference. Logic, the study of inference as such in its formal aspects, operates on the plane of reflection.


B. Page 15: "...sensations can be produced or removed at will."

Question: They can? I call bullshit on that one.

BV: I'd have to see the context here. But surely I can give myself some sensations. I can pinch myself. I can also remove sensations. I can remove a headache sensation by taking Ibuprofen.

C. Page 18: "...the absence of the effort to understand is constitutive of stupidity."

Critique: Sorry, but that's simply wrong. As I wrote in the margin of that page: "Stupid people can make efforts to understand."

BV: Again, I would have to see the context. But going on what is available, I agree with the Big Ho on this one.

D. Page 27: "What is good, always is concrete."

Question: Huh? What does this mean? No explanation is forthcoming in the chapter.

BV: Philosophers use 'abstract' and 'concrete' in a half-dozen different ways. I would have to know how he defines these terms -- if he does define them. He may well mean something like this. The concrete is that which is completely determinate. Only the completely determinate exists in itself. What exists in itself is good insofar as it exists. Existence is a perfection. Ens et bonum convertuntur: being and good are convertible notions. The abstract is existentially defective and less than good.

E. Page 57: "Meaning is embodied or carried in human intersubjectivity, in art, in symbols, in language, and in the lives and deeds of persons. It can be clarified by a reduction to its elements. It fulfils various functions in human living. It opens upon quite different realms. Its techniques vary in the successive stages of man's historical development."

Question 1: What does "techniques" mean in the above? What are the "techniques" of meaning?

BV: L. does seem to be a sloppy writer. He seems to be confusing techniques for the embodiment of meaning (techniques of sculpting, for example), and techniques of meaning. And if he doesn't provide examples, then he is a really bad writer.

The trouble with most Continental philosophers is that no one ever held their asses to the fire and forced them to be clear. The French are absolutely the worst. Try to find even one clear paragraph in Derrida, king of coffeehouse bullshitters.

Question 2: Does the above paragraph actually provide a definition of meaning, or has the definition been postponed until we can perform a "reduction to its elements"?

BV: Is L. trying to define 'meaning'?

F. Page 61: "A pattern is said to be pure inasmuch as it excludes alien patterns that instrumentalize experience."

Comment: I have no damn clue what this means.

BV: I agree that this is awful. Had L. stopped after 'patterns,' the sentence would have been intelligible.

G. Page 77: "For meaning is an act that does not merely repeat but goes beyond experiencing."

Comment: Now meaning is an act? I know less than I did before.

BV: Meaning (taken participially, rather than substantivally) is a mental act. 'Mental act' is a technical term in philosophy which means something like mental occurrence or episode. The seeing of a mountain, the remembering of a past event, the imagining of a winged horse -- these are all mental acts. A mental act is not the same as a mental action such as searching one's memory for a person's name.

The mind means, intends, refers to something beyond itself. Philosophers call this intentionality. Thus, seeing yonder mountain, my mind means, intends, is directed to an object that is not a part of my mental life. The meaning can go beyond the experiencing in the following way. Seeing a house, my consciousness means it as as 3-dimensional object having sides, an interior, etc. that are presently invisible. So the meaning goes beyond the actual experiencing. In Husserlian jargon, the empty meaning-intention is only partially fulfilled by the present content of sensory experience.

L. is not bullshitting here. He is making sense. It is just that he is a lousy expositor. Of course, it may be that the context makes things a lot clearer.


H. Page 102: "Judgment proceeds rationally from a grasp of a virtually unconditioned. By an unconditioned is meant any x that has no conditions. By a virtually unconditioned is meant any x that has no unfulfilled conditions. In other words, a virtually unconditioned is a conditioned whose conditions are all fulfilled."

Comment 1: Uh...

BV: This does appear to be nonsense as it stands. 'Virtual' is one of the weasel words of philosophy. Suppose it means potential. How could there be a potentially unconditioned entity? A conditioned entity like me has his conditioned status essentially. How could I go from being conditioned to being unconditioned? An unconditioned entity like God is essentially unconditioned.

Are you sure the context sheds no light on this?

Comment 2: The phrase "in other words" struck me as unintentionally humorous. The "explanation" following that phrase left me in deeper murk than before.

BV: I agree.

I. Page 112: "...language is the vehicle in which meaning becomes most fully articulated."

Comment: All the religion-related posts on my blog add up to an attempted refutation of this claim. Lonergan himself is quasi-foundationalist in outlook; he's not a total postmodernist by any means. But this quote of his could easy lead one to believe he was a closet PoMoer. It is, by itself, entirely consistent with the Derridean claim of "il n'y a pas de hors-texte."

BV: What L is saying here seems clear enough. Is it a PoMo thesis? The PoMos seems to embrace some kind of unholy blend of linguistic relativism (truth and perhaps meaning vary from language game to language game) with linguistic idealism (there is nothing extralinguistic to which we refer when we use language). If that is what PoMo amounts to, then I don't see that L. is anywhere near saying that. Suppose truth and meaning are objective and absolute. It could still be that language is the medium through which they become most fully articulated.

At the back of L's mind is something like this: God is the eternal and unchanging and absolute truth. God the Son is Verbum Dei, the articulation of this truth. Nothing PoMo about this. The similarity may only be that L and the PoMoers are sloppy writers and thinkers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

From the Mail: More -Mas Variations

Dear Bill,

I enjoy your blog. I found it a while back through KeithBurgess-Jackson's blog. I came up with a few more -mas variations and thought you might enjoy them:

For those who love the capitol of the Czech Republic: Pragmas. For Dutch Reformed theologians of Frisian extraction who think Christmas is silly: Hoekemas. For Dutch Reformed philosophy professors of Frisian extraction who like preserves on their toast: Jellemas. For fans of older British sci-fi flicks: Quatermas. For those who buy every special seasonal periodical they can get their hands on: Magmas. One could probably multiply such examples ad nauseum, so I won't.

Merry Christmas to you, and thanks for your blog!

Chuck Bearden

Klehr Reviews Horowitz

Sandy Claws, now in the employ of the U.S. Snail, yesterday brought me my copy of David Horowitz, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left. It looks good, and I'm itching to dive into it, except that I am trying to finish a paper on a rather more arcane topic, namely, a critique of Anna-Sofia Maurin's theory of the compresence relation in trope theory. The title of my paper is "Trope Theory Meets Bradley's Regress." In her oddly titled book, If Tropes (Kluwer 2002), she holds that the relation in question is external to the tropes it relates, but that they are nonetheless internal to it. She develops this idea in response to Bradleyan pressure; unfortunately, it is incoherent, or so I argue.

Harvey Klehr's review of Horowitz is available here.

'Merry Xmas'

When I was eight years old or so and first took note of the phrase 'Merry Xmas,' my piety was offended by what I took to be the removal of 'Christ' from 'Christmas' only to be replaced by the universally recognized symbol for an unknown quantity, 'X.' But it wasn't long before I realized that the 'X' was merely a font-challenged typesetter's attempt at rendering the Greek Chi, an ancient abbreviation for 'Christ.' There is therefore nothing at all offensive in the expression 'Xmas.' Year after year, however, certain ignorant Christians who are old enough to know better make the mistake that I made when I was eight and corrected when I was ten. See here.

It just now occurs to me that 'Xmas' may be susceptible of a quasi-Tillichian reading. Paul Tillich is famous for his benighted definition of 'God' as ' whatever is one's ultimate concern.' Well, take the 'X' in 'Xmas' as a variable the values of which are whatever one wants to celebrate at this time of year. So for some, 'Xmas' will amount to Solsticemas, for burglars Swagmas, for materialists Lootmas, for gluttons Foodmas, for inebriates Hoochmas, and for ACLU extremists Antichristianitymas.

How could an ACLU bonehead object to 'Xmas' so construed? No doubt he would find a way.

Merry Chimas to all, and to all a good night.

Minimalist and Maximalist Modes of Holiday Impersonality

'Tis the season for the letter carriers of the world to groan under their useless burdens of impersonal greetings.

Impersonality in the minimalist style may take the form of a store-bought card with a pre-fabricated message to which is appended an embossed name. A step up from this is a handwritten name. Slightly better still is the nowadays common family picture with handwritten name but no message.

The maximalist style is far worse. Now we are in for a lengthy litany of the manifold accomplishments of the sender and his family which litany may run to a page or two of single-spaced text.

One size fits all.

"It's humbug, I tell you, humbug!"

Daniel Pipes, Maverick Historian

It turns out that he is a chess player too. See here. (Via Horace Jeffery Hodges.) The author of this fine piece in Harvard Magazine makes one easily correctable mistake: she refers to blog posts as weblogs. I have noticed others doing this as well. This is a terminological infelicity we need to nip in the bud.

A weblog, or blog, consists of posts. To refer to a post as a weblog would be like referring to a chess piece as a chess set, or a move as a game, or an episode of Seinfeld as a series. In short, it would be to commit a pars pro toto fallacy.

And we can't have that.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Bierce, Blondel, and Nirvana

Fans of the Analphilosopher's excellent weblog know that he regularly posts excerpts from Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary. Yesterday, he posted this:

Nirvana, n. In the Buddhist religion, a state of pleasurable annihilation awarded to the wise, particularly to those wise enough to understand it. (Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary, c. 1911)

Although intended sardonically, there is a serious point here to which Maurice Blondel alludes in the following quotation:

. . . if there is a salvation it cannot be tied to the learned solution of an obscure problem. . . It can only be offered clearly to all. (Action, p. 14)

It might be fruitful for someone to develop a comparison of Buddhism and Christianity on this point. Buddhism is a religion of self-help: "Be ye lamps unto yourselves, etc." Trouble is, how many attain the Goal? And if only a few renunciates ever attain it, how does that help the rest of us poor schleps? By contrast, in Christianity, God, in the person of the Logos, does the work for us. Unable ultimately to help ourselves, we are helped by Another. And the help is available to all despite their skills in metaphysics and meditation.

Obviously, what I have just written is but a crude gesture in the direction of a whole constellation of problem-clusters. For example, a thorough comparison would have to go into the role of the Bodhisattva as a sort of helper of samsarically-bound 'schleps.'



The Seven Deadly Sins of Pasta

Carbo Man is back, and Atkins be damned! (The diet, not the man; may the latter rest in peace.) Herewith, Carbo Man delivers himself of more of his culinary expertise. The following are the Seven Deadly Sins pertaining to the cooking and eating of pasta. Infractions may incur a visit from my New Joisey cousin Vinnie and his pals Smith and Wesson.

1. Using too small of a pot. A capacious pot is essential for the proper cooking of pasta. For most purposes I use an 8 quart pot. When I make my famous lasagne, however, out comes the monster 16 quart job.

2. Insufficient water. Be sure the pot is filled three-quarters full. With a big pot, there is little chance of a boil-over. But in case of the latter, a little olive oil added to the water will quell any uprising.

3. Adding the pasta before the water is boiling. Wifey once broke this rule. I instructed her to add the pasta when the water boiled. She claims she did, and that led to a discussion of the meaning of ‘boiling.’ I hereby lay it down that water is not boiling unless it is ROILING and JUMPING. To put it a bit more scientifically, pure water at sea-level is not boiling until it is at 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Since our tap water is pretty good, I use it, not wanting to burden my reverse osmosis purification system.

4. Breaking the pasta before putting it in the pot. This criminal act is particularly repellent to the true connoiseur, and a sure sign of a pasta greenhorn. It defeats the whole purpose of the eating of (long) pasta, a tactile experience that requires the twirling of the strands around the fork, and, therefore, unbroken strands. Deadly sin #4 usually follows upon sin # 1, as drinking upon gambling.

5. Overcooking the pasta. Pasta must never be overcooked. It is to be prepared al dente. That’s Italian for to the tooth, meaning that the pasta should put up a bit of resistance to the tooth that bites into it. The pleasure of pasta consumption is largely tactile: the stuff by its lonesome does not have much taste.

6. Failing to properly drain the pasta before the addition of sauce. The result of this is a disgusting dilution of the sauce. Proper drainage requires the proper tool, the collander. Invest in a good one made of stainless steel. Plastic is for wimps. And if you try to drain pasta using the pot top, then you mark yourself as a bonehead of the first magnitude and may scald yourself in the process.

7. Chopping pasta on the plate. When I see people do this, I am tempted to make like al-Zarqawi and engage in an Islamo-fascist act. Let’s say you are eating capellini, ‘angel hair.’ (This is the quickest cooking of the long pastas.) There it is on the large white plate, richly sauced, anointed with a bit of extra virgin olive oil -- why buy any other kind? -- besprinkled with fresh hand-grated Romano, (not something out of a cardboard cylinder), artistically set off with a small amount of finely chopped parsley, and awaiting your attention. It is a thing of beauty. So what does a bonehad do? He starts chopping it up.

Learn how to do it right. Take some strands in the fork tines, twirl, and you should end up with a ball of pasta at the end of your fork. Practice makes perfect. Now enjoy the tactile delight along with a glass of Dago red.

Yiddish Haiku

Schmuck means penis in Yiddish
Ornament in German.
You see the link?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

4/17ths of a Haiku

When, impecunious in Boston, I had roommates, I posted the following above the kitchen sink:

Wash Your Dishes!
(4/17ths of a haiku)

Haiku Commentary on Marx's 11th Thesis on Feuerbach

The Marxist Nowhere Man
Attempts to change
What he does not understand.

9/11 Haiku

Nihilist numbskulls
Virgins in brain,
Topple a tower with a plane.

Anti-Commie Haiku

Utopic heads in fog,
They broke real eggs
For an unreal omelet.

Source of inspiration, here.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Gabe Kaplan and Leon Trotsky

I was in Tempe, AZ yesterday afternoon for a book fix. At the coffee bar in the Border's Bookstore, the thirtysomething counterman remarked that I look like Gabe Kaplan, an observation seconded by some bystanders. Having no idea who Gabe Kaplan is, I commented that some people think I look like Leon Trotsky -- which comment elicited a puzzled expression. Turned out the 'tender had never heard of Trotsky. So I asked, "Ever hear of Vladimir Lenin?" That too drew a blank. It wasn't until I worked my way back to Karl Marx that a glimmer of recognition emerged. I tried the experiment on his twentysomething female co-worker. Same result. Trotsky, Schmotsky. Lenin, Lennon.

Borders is just around the corner from Arizona State University.

Some Aphorisms of Otto Weininger

Grundzug alles Menschlichen: Suchen nach Realitaet. Wo die Realitaet gesucht and gefunden wird, das begruendet alle Unterschiede zwischen den Menschen.

The quest for reality is a fundamental characteristic of human beings. Where reality is sought and found, however, explains all differences among them.

Der gute Aphoristiker muss hassen koennen.

The good aphorist must be able to hate.

Der Transzendentalismus ist identich mit dem Gedanken, dass es nur eine Seele gibt, und dass die Individuation Schein ist. Hier widerspricht der Monadologische Charakter der kanstischen Ethik schnurgerade der "Kritik der reinen Vernunft."

Transcendentalism is identical with the thought that there is only one soul, and that a plurality of souls is an illusion. Here the monadological character of Kant's ethics straightaway contradicts the Critique of Pure Reason.

A fruitful thought, though roughly expressed. But what do you want for an aphorism? The idea is that there is a tension between the Critique 0f Practical Reason, which presupposes the thinkability, if not the knowability, of a plurality of metaphysically (and thus transcendently) real noumenal selves capable of acting freely, and the Critique of Pure Reason in which the subject of experience and phenomenal knowledge is a mere transcendental (not transcendent) subject, a consciousness in general (Bewusstsein ueberhaupt to use a phrase later made famous by neo-Kantians) that is neither mine nor yours but common to us all. It is a crude approximation, however, to refer to this transcendental subject as a soul, as Weininger does.
This aphorism would have made a good motto for my doctoral dissertation, which deals with similar problems.

Quotations from Otto Weininger, Ueber die Letzten Dinge (Wien und Leipzig: Wilhelm Braumueller Verlag, Neunte Auflage, 1930), pp. 65-72. Translations by BV.

From the North Coast of America Comes. . .

. . . Craig Howard and his BUFFALOg. I see him as a fellow foot soldier in the quasi-Wittgensteinian war against "the betwitchment of our understanding by [politically correct] language." See this post in particular. I will add a link to Howard's blog on my sidebar.

Another Take on Lonergan

Dear Bill,

I'm interested in seeing which passage(s) Mr. Kim adduces, assuming he takes up your challenge, which I appreciate your leveling. I turned from Brand Blanshard to Bernard Lonergan in the mid-'70s, not because BL was a better stylist than BB (he is not), but because he probed cognitional theory more deeply. The drop in literary loveliness was somewhat analogous to what one may experience when turning from Augustine to Aquinas: a slight disappointment, but no disaster. Aquinas is demanding, but clear, and so is Lonergan. I fear no contradiction when I claim that the snippets provided on my Lonergan page, to which I hope to add in the coming year, are representative of his style. Difficulty in reading Lonergan varies with subject matter, but the pains he took when expressing himself in writing were great and the results were consistent throughout.

Tony

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Big Ho on Lonergan

Caveat lector: Kevin Kim's is an X-rated site. Enter at your own aesthetic and moral peril. Gas mask and shovel recommended. The writing, however, is excellent.

Kevin Kim a.k.a. BigHominid complains that Bernard Lonergan is ". . . one of the densest, most unreadable thinkers I ever had the misfortune to study while doing grad work at Catholic University in DC.

[. . .]

Part of my problem with Lonergan is the typical frustration of the young student who finds himself face-to-face with a hard read: I want my philosophy presented in an easily digestible manner. Philosophers themselves will doubtless argue that I'm just being lazy, and they might have a point, because I am lazy. But I don't think I'm unjustified in asking philosophers, who supposedly aim for clarity of thought, to write readably. Readability and clarity are linked. I'd even go so far as to say they're fused.

Is this really such a hard task? If you philosophers grouse that we students need to work harder at understanding you, then I suggest you look in the mirror and do the same for us: work harder to make your ideas more accessible, dammit. I think it's possible to meet halfway.No need to dumb things down; I'm not asking for My Pet Goat. All I'm asking for is something elegant, for arguments and ideas that flow like the graceful rhythms of nature... instead of belching smoke and going nowhere, like a busted old car in need of constant attention.

I'll settle for Is My Pet Goat Real?

BV: I've had students who wanted their philosophy not only easily digestible but pre-masticated and served up on a silver platter as so much cognitive pablum. I know that Kevin is not asking for pre-mastication, and I concede that many philosophers are miserable expositors. But sometimes the truth is inelegant and messy and its excavation is a dirty and tedious business.

Here's my offer to the Big Ho, and it comes with my standard double-your-money-back-if-not-completely-satisfied-guarantee: Present me with a reasonably short passage from Lonergan that you find impenetrable, and I'll see what I can do with it, and whether your complaints are justified. (I know little or nothing about Lonergan.)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

From the Mail: To Be Is to Be the Value of a Variable

I enjoyed, and generally agreed with your papers about "existence". I think you are right that the Fregean account of existential statements is blatantly circular. To be is to be the value of a variable. But (if you take that seriously) Pegasus is such a value.

I touch on this in a review here. Read from the bit "Asserting "John is happy" ...".

Regards

Dean Buckner

Thanks for writing, Mr. Buckner. You apparently take me to be rejecting the Fregean account of existence in favor of the Quinean. But I reject both. See "A Tension in Quine's Theory of Existence," PHILO, vol. 6, no. 2 (Fall-Winter 2003), pp. 193-204. Available here. Suppose we briefly revisit Quine's famous explication (as he calls it) of 'a exists,' to wit:

1. a exists =df (Ex)(x = a).

In something more like English, an arbitrary individual a exists if and only if there exists something to which it is identical. This too is blatantly circular if (1) is evaluated relative to a domain of existing items. For then what it boils down to is that a exists iff a is identical to something that exists. And that makes for a circle the diameter of which is embarrassingly short.


If, on the other hand, (1) is evaluated relative to a domain of nonexistent objects, then (1) comes out obviously false. Pegasus is the value of the bound variable 'x' in '(Ex)(x = Pegasus),' but Pegasus does not exist.

There is not much to choose as between vicious circularity and falsehood.

Of course, one could take '= a' as an unanalyzable unit, and thus as the haecceity-property, identity-with-a, or a-ness, if you will, in which case (1) becomes

1.' a exists =df (Ex)Ax,

where 'A' denotes the haecceity-property, a-ness. This avoids the circularity of saying that a exists iff a is identical to something that exists. But this move brings us back to something like Frege's instantiation account with its attendant circularity. Besides, there are no haecceity-properties as I argue in A Paradigm Theory of Existence (Kluwer 2002), pp. 99-103.

There is a lot more to be said, but there is no point in repeating what I have said in my published papers.

Karen Horney on Scott Peterson

Karen Horney, "Problems of Marriage" in Feminine Psychology (ed. Kelman, Norton, 1973), p. 120:

If, perhaps, a husband clings to the illusion of his independence, he will react with secret bitterness to his feeling needed and tied down by his wife. She, in turn, senses his suppressed rebellion, reacts with hidden anxiety, lest she lose him, and out of this anxiety instinctively increases her demands on him. The husband reacts to this with heightened sensitivity and defensiveness -- until finally the dam bursts, neither one having understood the underlying irritability. The explosion may happen on the occasion of an unimportant event. Compared to marriage, any transitory relationship, be it on the basis of prostitution, flirtation, friendship, or an affair -- is simpler in nature, for here is it relatively easy to avoid rubbing against the partner's rough edges.

Iceland Offers Bobby Fischer Visa

An opportunity for the mercurial Mr. Fischer to chill out? See here. (Via Mike Gilleland.)

Flew: Is He or Isn't He?

See here and here. Hat tip: John Gallagher.

Small World, Tight Web

FYI, Bill, the Tad Dunne, whose notes figure in the Enneagram article to which you linked, authored the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry for Bernard Lonergan, one of my heroes.

Tony





Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Karen Horney Meets the Enneagram

I found this paper illuminating. I have long been a fan of Dr. Horney (a German name pronounced like 'horn eye,' not like 'horny' and so not an aptronym), but only recently have I poked into the arcana of the Enneagram. Friendly tip: Consume all personality typologies cum grano salis.

Web of Influence

Here is a good article from Foreign Policy on weblogs and their influence on politics. Hat tip: Horace Jeffery Hodges.

A Platonist Speaks

If it won't matter by tomorrow morning that these eggs are undercooked, why does it matter now?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

More on Flew's 'Conversion'

Jason Pratt kindly sends this link.

Pratt comments on Flew:

His dislike of 'Oriental Saddam Hussein-ish' claims about God, is going to make even a tiny step Godward fairly uncomfortable. To propose a God which can act with enough intention and power to create a Nature and/or design within it, is an awfully crucial step (though it may look small to us) which opens a lot of problematic doors--and he's showing an extreme aversion to admitting even the possibility of any intentive action of God beyond whatever would be necessary to set up a DNA strand. The extreme aversion, though, is most often presented in connection to that arbitrary (and essentially unjust) picture of God which he strenuously rejects. For him to go any further along this route (and based on various remarks of his), I would expect him to need to accept:

a.) a reconciliation and revision of his understanding of the relation between philosophy and science in regard to logical thinking;

b.) a solid theodicy (with the broad range of topics this entails)...

c.) ...including a coherent proposal of God and ethics which doesn't leave God in the place of an arbitrary dictator (of the might-makes-right Ockham sort)...

d.) ...which would also involve damnation possibilities (or none at all)t hat he could accept as fair judgments and punishments. Obviously b-d won't be happening through inferences drawn upon scientific data; which is why a. would have to be settled first in his understanding.

Trinitarian theism would (in my own opinion) be an excellent answer (indeed the only coherent answer) to c (i.e. the answer to Socrates' famous question about the morality of the gods); but I suspect he wouldn't accept it unless it could be shown to be necessary on grounds more fundamental than ethics. I personally think this is entirely tenable, but I can't say I've been impressed with Christian apologetics generally along this line, so I am somewhat doubtful he'd be able to find it. I also doubt any broad theodicy can be solidly devised which doesn't hinge on a trinitarian theism necessarily established on preliminary grounds (and again, I'm not much impressed so far with apologists' track-record on linking trinitarianism to even broad theodicy topics). And the vast majority of Christian apologists (not to say Muslim, etc.) won't be in any position to give him d. at all.

In short, I don't look for much further help for him from Christian apologists generally speaking.

But, hey--miracles happen. {g!}

Jason

Today's Most Important Story?

So queries Tony Flood, who sends this article:

New York Times, December 14, 2004

Google Is Adding Major Libraries to Its Database

By JOHN MARKOFF and EDWARD WYATT

Google, the operator of the world's most popular Internet search service, plans to announce an agreement today with some of the nation's leading research libraries and Oxford University to begin converting their holdings into digital files that would be freely searchable over the Web. It may be only a step on a long road toward the long-predicted global virtual library. But the collaboration of Google and research institutions that also include Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford and the New York Public Library is a major stride in an ambitious Internet effort by various parties.

The goal is to expand the Web beyond its current valuable, if eclectic, body of material and create a digital card catalog and searchable library for the world's books, scholarly papers and special collections. Google - newly wealthy from its stock offering last summer - has agreed to underwrite the projects being announced today while also adding its own technical abilities to the task of scanning and digitizing tens of thousands of pages a day at each library. Although Google executives declined to comment on its technology or the cost of the undertaking, others involved estimate the figure at $10 for each of the more than 15 million books and other documents covered in the agreements. Librarians involved predict the project could take at least a decade. Because the Google agreements are not exclusive, the pacts are almost certain to touch off a race with other major Internet search providers like Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo. Like Google, they might seek the right to offer online access to library materials in return for selling advertising, while libraries would receive corporate help in digitizing their collections for their own institutional uses.

"Within two decades, most of the world's knowledge will be digitized and available, one hopes for free reading on the Internet, just as there is free reading in libraries today," said Michael A. Keller, Stanford University's head librarian.The Google effort and others like it that are already under way, including projects by the Library of Congress to put selections of its best holdings online, are part of a trend to potentially democratize access to information that has long been available to only small, select groups of students and scholars. Last night the Library of Congress and a group of international libraries from the United States, Canada, Egypt, China and the Netherlands announced a plan to create a publicly available digital archive of one million books on the Internet. The group said it planned to have 70,000 volumes online by next April. "Having the great libraries at your fingertips allows us to build on and create great works based on the work of others," said Brewster Kahle, founder and president of the Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based digital library that is also trying to digitize existing print information. The agreements to be announced today will allow Google to publish the full text of only those library books old enough to no longer be under copyright. For copyrighted works, Google would scan in the entire text, but make only short excerpts available online. Each agreement with a library is slightly different. Google plans to digitize nearly all the eight million books in Stanford's collection and the seven million at Michigan. The Harvard project will initially be limited to only about 40,000 volumes. The scanning at Bodleian Library at Oxford will be limited to an unspecified number of books published before 1900, while the New York Public Library project will involve fragile material not under copyright that library officials said would be of interest primarily to scholars. The trend toward online libraries and virtual card catalogs is one that already has book publishers scrambling to respond.

At least a dozen major publishing companies, including some of the country's biggest producers of nonfiction books - the primary target for the online text-search efforts - have already entered ventures with Google and Amazon that allow users to search the text of copyrighted books online and read excerpts. Publishers including HarperCollins, the Penguin Group, Houghton Mifflin and Scholastic have signed up for both the Google and Amazon programs. The largest American trade publisher, Random House, participates in Amazon's program but is still negotiating with Google, which calls its program Google Print. The Amazon and Google programs work by restricting the access of users to only a few pages of a copyrighted book during each search, offering enough to help them decide whether the book meets their requirements enough to justify ordering the print version. Those features restrict a user's ability to copy, cut or print the copyrighted material, while limiting on-screen reading to a few pages at a time. Books still under copyright at the libraries involved in Google's new project are likely to be protected by similar restrictions.The challenge for publishers in coming years will be to continue to have libraries serve as major influential buyers of their books, without letting the newly vast digital public reading rooms undermine the companies' ability to make money commissioning and publishing authors' work. From the earliest days of the printing press, book publishers were wary of the development of libraries at all. In many instances, they opposed the idea of a central facility offering free access to books that people would otherwise be compelled to buy. But as libraries developed and publishers became aware that they could be among their best customers, that opposition faded. Now publishers aggressively court librarians with advance copies of books, seeking positive reviews of books in library journals and otherwise trying to influence the opinion of the people who influence the reading habits of millions.

Some of that promotional impulse may translate to the online world, publishing executives say. But at least initially, the search services are likely to be most useful to publishers whose nonfiction backlists, or catalogs of previously published titles, are of interest to scholars but do not sell regularly enough to be carried in large quantities in retail stores, said David Steinberger, the president and chief executive the Perseus Books Group, which publishes mostly nonfiction books under the Basic Books, PublicAffairs, Da Capo and other imprints.Based on his experiences with Amazon's and Google's commercial search services so far, Mr. Steinberger said, "I think there is minimal risk, or virtually no risk, of copyrighted material being misused." But he said he would object to a library's providing copyrighted material online without a license. "If you're talking about the instantaneous, free distribution of books, I think that would represent a problem," Mr. Steinberger said. For their part, libraries themselves will have to rethink their central missions as storehouses of printed, indexed material. "Our world is about to change in a big, big way," said Daniel Greenstein, university librarian for the California Digital Library of the University of California, which is a project to organize and retain existing digital materials. Instead of expending considerable time and money to managing their collections of printed materials, Mr. Greenstein said, libraries in the future can devote more energy to gathering information and making it accessible - and more easily manageable - online. But Paul LeClerc, the president and chief executive of the New York Public Library, sees Web access as an expansion of libraries' reach, not a replacement for physical collections. "Librarians will add a new dimension to their work," Mr. LeClerc said. "They will not abandon their mission of collecting printed material and keeping them for decades and even centuries." Google's founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, have long vowed to make all of the world's information accessible to anyone with a Web browser. The agreements to be announced today will put them a few steps closer to that goal - at least in terms of the English-language portion of the world's information. Mr. Page said yesterday that the project traced to the roots of Google, which he and Mr. Brin founded in 1998 after taking a leave from a graduate computer science program at Stanford where they worked on a "digital libraries" project. "What we first discussed at Stanford is now becoming practical," Mr. Page said.At Stanford, Google hopes to be able to scan 50,000 pages a day within the month, eventually doubling that rate, according to a person involved in the project. The Google plan calls for making the library materials available as part of Google's regular Web service, which currently has an estimated eight billion Web pages in its database and tens of millions of users a day. As with the other information on its service, Google will sell advertising to generate revenue from its library material. (In it existing Google Print program, the company shares advertising revenue with the participating book publishers.)

Each library, meanwhile, will receive its own copy of the digital database created from that institution's holdings, which the library can make available through its own Web site if it chooses. Harvard officials said they would be happy to use the Internet to share their collections widely. "We have always thought of our libraries at Harvard as being a global resource," said Lawrence H. Summers, president of Harvard. At least initially, Google's digitizing task will be labor intensive, with people placing the books and documents on sophisticated scanners whose high-resolution cameras capture an image of each page and convert it to a digital file.Google, whose corporate campus in Mountain View, Calif., is just a few miles from Stanford, plans to transport books to a copying center it has established at its headquarters. There the books will be scanned and then returned to the Stanford libraries. Google plans to set up remote scanning operations at both Michigan and Harvard.The company refused to comment on the technology that it was using to digitize books, except to say that it was nondestructive. But according to a person who has been briefed on the project, Google's technology is more labor-intensive than systems that are already commercially available. Two small start-up companies, 4DigitalBooks of St. Aubin, Switzerland, and Kirtas Technologies of Victor, N.Y., are selling systems that automatically turn pages to capture images.