Monday, January 31, 2005

A Lockean Theory of Trinity and Incarnation

Joseph Jedwab, D. Phil. candidate at Oriel College, Oxford, writes:

As promised, here is a Lockean theory of the Trinity and Incarnation:

Locke, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book 2, Chapter 27, has quite a bit to say about substances and persons. By ‘a substance’, he means a fundamental entity and he says that, in this sense, there are three kinds of substance: God [infinite spirit], finite intelligences [finite spirits], and bodies [atoms]. By ‘a person’, he means ‘a thinking intelligent being that has reason and reflection and can consider itself as itself the same thinking thing in different times and places’ (section 9). He gives an account of the unity of the mental items of a person at a time in terms of introspection and gives an account of the unity of the mental items of a person at different times in terms of memory. He says that just as atoms constitute an organism so long as their joint activity constitutes a life, so a spirit constitutes a person so long as its activity constitutes a consciousness. Same life; same organism. Same consciousness; same person. But he also thinks that just as the same atoms can compose different organisms at different times and different atoms can compose the same organism at different times, so the same spirit can constitute different persons at different times and different spirits can constitute the same person at different times. But there is no reason why, if so, the same spirit cannot constitute more than one person at the same time and more than one spirit cannot constitute the same person at the same time.

Assume this could be. So Locke believes that there are spirits who have consciousnesses and that spirits who have consciousnesses constitute persons. But the spirit and the person are distinct because they have different persistence conditions: the identity of persons consists in the identity of consciousness but the identity of spirits does not so consist. Now here is a theory of the Trinity and the Incarnation as a package deal. Consider it a late Christmas present.

Here is the Trinity. There is one divine spirit who has three divine consciousnesses and so the divine spirit constitutes three divine persons. God is the spirit who has three divine consciousnesses. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are the divine persons that God constitutes. In this case, God is not a person, for he lacks the persistence conditions of a person. No divine person is identical to God, but there is a natural sense in which each divine person is God because every divine person is constituted by God. We can even add that the Father essentially causes the Son to exist and the Son essentially causes the Holy Spirit to exist. So we have the processions.

Here is the Incarnation. Locke thinks that a human being is an organism that exists so long as the activity of its constituent atoms constitute a life. Sometimes he says that a human being is a composite of atoms. Other times he says that a human being is a composite of atoms and a finite spirit. Let’s go with this last for the sake of exposition. He also thinks that human persons are composites of atoms and a finite spirit. But as the careful reader may have noticed, he thinks human beings and human persons are different because their persistence conditions are different. Finally, he thinks it probable that thinking substances are immaterial simples but sees no reason why God could not superadd thought to a material being.

Now back to the Incarnation. It comes to be the case that the divine spirit and a human thinking substance (or human being) constitute the Son. The divine spirit is one nature and the human thinking substance (or human being) is another nature. Together they constitute one divine person who is also human. We can even add, if we want, that human beings are material beings to whom God superadds thought and so have the Incarnation with human beings as material. So what do you think about that?

My problem is not so much with the application as with the metaphysical account of persons here. Of course, we need not follow Locke in the details of what counts as a consciousness. My principal difficulty is that I think to distinguish persons and thinking substances here is double counting. There are too many thinkers here. If the person is a thinker and the thinking substance is a thinker, then the way I individuate events and states, there are too many thoughts here. I also see no reason why the thinking substance should not qualify as a person. So there are too many persons here. Finally, there is an epistemic problem. I think I am a person and so the thinking substance also thinks it is a person. I get things right; it gets things wrong. But then how do I know I am the person who gets this right and not the substance who gets this wrong? We have all the same reasons for our beliefs. I am aware that more could be said in reply here. But I also think there is more to be said in reply to the replies. Let that be an end to it for the nonce.

Mr. Jefferson's Deism

Avery Dulles, "The Deist Minimum," First Things, January 2005, pp. 25-30. (Link courtesy of Dymphna.)


In summary, then, Jefferson was a deist because he believed in one God, in divine providence, in the divine moral law, and in rewards and punishments after death, but did not believe in supernatural revelation. He was a Christian deist because he saw Christianity as the highest expression of natural religion and Jesus as an incomparably great moral teacher. He was not an orthodox Christian because he rejected, among other things, the doctrines that Jesus was the promised Messiah and the incarnate Son of God.

Jefferson’s religion is fairly typical of the American form of deism in his day. But a vocal minority of American deists were, like many of the French Encyclopedists, opposed to Christianity. Thomas Paine, the most famous of this group, was often accused of atheism, but he, like Voltaire, believed in God the Creator. Even radical deists like Paine agreed with Jefferson and Franklin that without belief in God and in a future life, morality in society could not be sustained.

Wit and Wisdom from Lady Dymphna

Dymphna responds to an e-mail of mine entitled Impoverished Response:

Ah, Maverick Philosopher--

What a perfect response...impoverished, indeed, you [Enneagram] Five. You have a plenitude, especially since the new anal philosophers' blog has started up. It's very interesting. Feels as though I have a class--sans tuition, sans papers and tests, sans grades. The blogosphere itself is a plenitude. Every morning I feel as though I am blessed with an embarrassment of riches...don't you?

BV: Absolutely. It's a marvelous time to be alive. If Leibniz could only see us now! He would have gone wild with the communicative and educational possibilities. I see my weblog as, in part, a didactic enterprise. I aim to do my bit to promote philosophy, to spread the logos. I call this 'bleaching,' blog-teaching, and it beats ordinary teaching which is often little more than a chore. I used to enjoy preparing lectures, but then having to deliver them to the semi-comatose was depressing. Here, the delivery is painless. 'Students' can show up late for class, come and go as they please, talk, read the newspaper, apply make-up . . . I don't know and (therefore) I don't care.

Once, in a metaphysics seminar, a young lady was applying make-up. I reminded her that in metaphysics we are concerned to penetrate appearance to reality, not occlude the real with the merely apparent. On that occasion I omitted my etymological riff about 'cosmetic' being linked to 'cosmic' and 'cosmos.'

My blog is also a testing ground for my ideas. What the laboratory is to the empirical scientist, the crucible of dialectic is to the philosopher. It may seem to some that I am just pontificating; but I am also exploring, testing, going out on limbs -- an overextended blogger waiting for the right logger.

It's blessed to have "whippersnappers" at your heels even though you've fled to the desert so as to avoid the noise and tumult of the is the thing you need, this clash of minds that flowers forth into scientia.

BV: The wonder of the cybersphere -- something like Teilhard de Chardin's noosphere -- presence of minds with absence of bodies. Hubert L. Dreyfus in On the Internet (Routledge, 2001) is less sanguine. But Dreyfus should consider that without cyberspace, there would be no cyberphilosophy.

Your prayer for a long life reminds me of my cousin-in-law once removed (it's a long story) who is a retired French professor. Widower and quite deaf, children scattered to the winds, unable to hear anymore his beloved Shakespeare and Mozart, he lives in quiet satisfaction with his books. As he says, so many books, so many to re-read because he's forgotten them all. But, alas, not much time. As for you, vox clamantis, you will live a long life because you've designed one that fits you. "Joining" in the sense of 'engagement' (think of the French for that word) is foreign to you. Too much of your psyche would enjoin you from such a project...At any rate, the group philosophy blog may well become more than the sum of its parts. Aren't you excited/appalled by the idea?

BV: More excited than appalled.

Of course, you won't join so much as enjoin others not to put you in a box...I'll consider the Roycean irreducible. Though I suspect it's nothing much more than the crystalline form of snowflakes: all different but all the same. Ah, don't we all yearn for some irreducible essence (in your case, no doubt your Four wing!).

BV: I'll have to post some material on Royce. Very roughly, his idea is that there is genuine individuality in the world and that love and loyalty are the source of it. The reality of the individual qua individual is constituted by love. The beloved cannot be reduced to an instance of a type (characterological or otherwise) or a point of intersection of multiply exemplifiable properties.

Meanwhile, as you grow more cerebral and content, may you realize the golden measure of being an intellect. It is a comfort that warms even as the passions cool. . . . Did you guess that Johnny Carson was a Five?

BV: I knew he was a private person offstage. But could any true introvert make a living the way he did? Introverts are good at concocting jokes, but when it comes to delivery are utterly inept. I'll tell a joke that seems to me the apotheosis of wit, or even just a good joke, and people will stare at me as if I have just landed from another planet. Of course, part of the problem is that most people are too dull to appreciate dry wit. Dry souls are best according to Herakleitos the Obscure of Ephesus.

Billy Blogmeister, Party of Ten

How about having dinner with nine other bloggers whom you don't know apart from their weblogs? That might be very interesting, but then again it might be a let-down: Distance breeds idealization, as familiarity contempt; sometimes we treasure the idealized image over the all-too-human reality. See here.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Chess: Game or Sport?

Paul Weiss, Sport: A Philosophic Inquiry (Southern Illinois University Press, 1969), pp. 142-143:

Hockey demands bodily exertion. Like every other sport, it tests what a rule-abiding man can bodily be and do. Though chess also has rules, and these have a history, and though a masterly game makes considerable demands on the stamina of the players, chess is not a sport because it does not test what a man is as a body. Mind and body more or less reverse their roles in these two cases. In hockey judgment and determination are subservient to bodily achievement, but in chess the body is used only to make possible a more effective judgment and determination.

Exercise for the reader:

Does this passage contain an argument? If it does, state the argument, supplying tacit premises if necessary. Is the argument valid? Are the premises true?

Five Reasons to Run Fifty Miles

EXCLUSIVITY: "Any idiot can run a marathon, but it takes a special kind of idiot to run an ultra."

TO PUSH THE ENVELOPE: "If we didn't run these, how would we ever know how far we could go?"

EXISTENTIALISM: "To those who know, no explanation is necessary; to those who do not, no explanation will suffice."

TO LIVE LONGER (OR AT LEAST FEEL THAT WAY): "Some folks complain that life passes too quickly. Not in an ultra."

ANATOMICAL AESTHETICS: "Your feet look better without toenails."

(Runner's World, February 2005, p. 65)

Existentialism? Looks like I have to write a post on popular misconceptions of philosophy.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Study Everything, Join Nothing

Chess player Don over at Man de la Maza wonders about the above motto given my recent joining of the group weblog, The Conservative Philosopher.

Have I violated my own admonition? Well, it depends on how broadly one takes 'join.' A while back, I joined a neighbor and some of his friends in helping him move furniture. Reasonably construed, the motto does not rule out that sort of thing. And being a fair and balanced guy, as everybody knows, I recently joined the Conservative Book Club to balance out my long-standing membership in the left-leaning and sex-saturated Quality Paperback Book Club. (It would be interesting to compare these two 'clubs' in terms of their target memberships -- but that's another post. En passant, I can't imagine ever running out of blog topics.)

And what if I join you for lunch, or join in a discussion in a chat room? A good while ago, the anonyblogger who ran The Will to Blog, but then recently lost the will to blog and deleted his site, opined that my motto ought to preclude my being a conservative. But surely one does not join a set of beliefs. One joins a political party, an organization, a church, and the like. Our anonyblogger might have been making the mistake of thinking that an independent thinker cannot arrive at any conclusions, for, if he did, then he would be joining something, and lose his independence.

In the context of Paul Brunton's thought, "Study everything, join nothing" means that one ought to beware of institutions and organizations with their tendency toward self-corruption and the corruption of their members. (The Catholic Church is a good recent example.) "Join nothing" means avoid group-think; avoid associations which will limit one's ability to think critically and independently; be your own man or woman; draw your identity from your own resources, and not from group membership. Be an individual, and not in the manner of those who want to be treated as individuals but expect to gain special privileges from membership in certain 'oppressed' or 'victimized' or 'disadvantaged' groups.

Be Emersonian, as Brunton was Emersonian:

"Who so would be a man must be a nonconformist."

"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind."

"Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one one of its members."

"We must go alone."

"But your isolation must not be mechanical, but spiritual, that is, must be elevation."

(All from Emerson's essay, "Self-Reliance.")

In Brunton's mouth, the injunction means: study all the religions and political parties, but don't join any of them, on pain of losing one's independence.

Now let's apply this to my joining of the group weblog, TCP. It is not a religion, nor a political party, nor does it have a mission statement. It is completely non-coercive and no pressure will be placed on anyone to toe the party line: there is no party line. There is no agreement as to what conservatism is; that is something to be explored. Philosophers being what they are, much by way of consensus is not to be expected.

Note finally, that the motto is mine (by acceptance not by origin); it does to follow that it ought to be yours.

Two Senses of 'Analytic Philosophy'

Along with discussion of the meaning of ‘conservative,’ there has also been some discussion over at The Conservative Philosopher of the meaning of ‘analytic’ in connection with philosophy. I suggest we distinguish two senses of ‘analytic,’ one of which could be called substantive, the other procedural. The first sense is exemplified in the following passage from Michael Dummett:

What distinguishes analytical philosophy, in its diverse manifestations, from other schools is the belief, first, that a philosophical account of thought can be attained through a philosophical account of language, and secondly, that a comprehensive account can only be so attained. Widely as they differed from one another, the logical positivists, Wittgenstein in all phases of his career, Oxford ‘ordinary language’ philosophy and post-Carnapian philosophy in the United States as represented by Quine and Davidson all adhered to these twin axioms. (Michael Dummett, Origins of Analytical Philosophy, Harvard UP, 1996, p. 4.)

Dummet goes on to remark that one can work in the "analytical tradition" without belonging to the analytical school of thought. He cites the example of Gareth Evans, whose posthumous Varieties of Reference is based on a rejection of the "twin axioms" inasmuch as Evans holds that "language can be explained only in terms of antecedently given notions of different types of thought...." (Ibid.) Dummett:

On my characterisation, therefore, Evans was no longer an analytical philosopher. He was, indeed, squarely within the analytical tradition: the three pillars on which his book rests are Russell, Moore, and Frege. Yet is it only as belonging to this tradition – as adopting a certain philosophical style and as appealing to certain writers rather than to certain others – that he remains a member of the analytical school. (Ibid. pp. 4-5)

If there is an analytic school, then Dummett is probably right that it, and its sub-schools (logical positivism, ordinary language philosophy, and so on) rest on the ‘linguistic turn.’ But one can work in the analytic tradition without being an analytic scholastic, i.e., without belonging to the analytic school. To work in the analytic tradition is in part to adopt a certain style: one strives to be clear, precise, and rigorous. One is sensitive to language and how it can lead and mis-lead our thinking. For example, one does not encourage and exploit the rich ambiguity of natural languge, the way a poet or a contemporary French philosopher might, but seeks to regiment it. One argues, rather than asserts, and one argues explicitly even to the point of pedantry (numbering premises and conclusions, specifying rules of inference, etc.). One focuses on problems and theses rather than persons and texts. If an analytic philosopher writes about a text from the history of philosophy, he or she will attempt to reconstruct the arguments and show their relevance to contemporary concerns. One narrows one’s focus to well-defined issues. One does not bring up half-dozen ill-defined themes in one paragraph. Nor does one name-drop. For an example of these two chief French sins, see here.

What I have just said goes part of the way toward defining the analytic procedure in philosophy, the analytic style. Dummett also mentions "appealing to certain writers rather than certain others." But I see no reason why this should be part of the analytic style or procedure. There was an issue of the Monist a while back on Analytical Thomism. Is the title of that issue an oxymoron? It would be absurd to argue that no philosopher can be procedurally analytic if he writes about the ideas and arguments of a philosopher who is not on the short list with Frege, Russell, Moore, and a few others.

I’ll end with a couple of anecdotes. In 1993, I met a Continental philosopher who identified analytic philosophy with logical positivism. Well, some philosophers, like many Democrats, cannot stop living in the past. Another Continental philosopher, a former colleague, thought that analytic philosophers just "analyze propositions" as opposed to dealing with reality. Both misunderstandings are too obvious to merit refutation.

Islamism: How Much of a Threat?

Horace Jeffery Hodges writes:

This looks interesting and informative. I hope that your comments function doesn't lower the tone of your fine blog. Good luck.

BV: Thanks, Jeff. So far, so good. One option I have is to block anonymous comments. So far, no need to implement that filter. The trick is to achieve interactivity with appropriate filtration. Eventually the software engineers will come up with very sophisticated content filters to block topics, persons, phrasings, etc. The leading engineers can start a company called ProctoFiltration Systems, Inc. The idea being, not to block proctologists but rather the synechdochal correlates of the cynosure of their professional interest.

For a different take on the Islamist threat see
this column by Joseph Sobran. (Thanks, Tony.)

Brandon on Reduplicative Propositions

Brandon over at Siris offers us a fine mini-lecture on reduplicative propositions. This is a really fascinating topic, one that I haven't sufficiently pursued until now. Of course, I've been 'qua-ing' all my life, but as Kierkegaard says somewhere in his journal, "Life is lived forward, but understood backwards."

Brandon's is an outstanding weblog. For a young scholar, the depth of his erudition is astonishing.

Friday, January 28, 2005

More on the Brower/Rea Analogy

Matthew Mullins e-mails:

I wondered when you'd get around to the Lump/Statue analogy. I wrote a seminar paper on Rea/Brower's account and had the opportunity to correspond with Rea on the topic. I asked about the similarity between the water analogy, which they think fails, and the lump/statue. I've got a lot more to say and I'll try to post it at Prosblogion in the next couple of days. What follows is part of the exchange with Rea.

MM: In the first part of the paper you highlight two common analogies (water & egg) that tend to lead into heresies. Of the water analogy you say that if a person is to think of "liquid, vapor, and ice as three manifestations of a single substance, water; thus to say that the Persons of God are like them is to fall into modalism." I take it that part of the problem here is that the three cannot be manifested at the same time, so the analogy breaks down. However, there seems to be a strong analogy between this and the lump/statue account.

BV: I agree.

Namely that water and ice are significantly like the lump and statue. The cube of ice is numerically identical with the water, but differs in its modal properties.

BV: You might want to avoid the phrase 'modal properties' since that conjures up the notions of necessity and possibility which are not in play just at the moment. Of course, you mean 'modal' in the sense of mode or accident.

Rea: Right, I think that in the water analogy, part of the problem is that liquid, vapor, and ice can't all be manifested at the same time.

BV: Right, despite the triple point of water. See here.

But there's this problem as well: Consider an ice cube. Now, consider the following items: the cube of ice, the quantity (or portion, or mass) of ice that constitutes the cube, and the quantity (portion, or mass) of H2O that constitutes the cube. Plausibly, that the quantity of ice is identical to the quantity of H2O but distinct from the cube. And if that same quantity became liquid and then vapor, you might say that all the while we've had just one quantity of H2O (in 3 different forms--liquid, vapor, and ice), and then various other things (a puddle, a cloud, and a cube) constituted by it.

And this, applied to the Trinity, sounds modalistic (since the Persons, I think, will be analogous to the three quantities, rather than to the puddle, the cloud, and the cube). Of course, you could insist that the persons are instead analogous to the puddle, the cloud, and the cube; but if so, then you're moving more in the direction of our lump/statue analogy.

BV: Interesting. Rea is distinguishing among H2O, its three states (liquid, solid, gaseous), and three things (puddle, cube, cloud) that are each constituted by H2 in the three states respectively. Thus the water analogy is really two analogies:

A1: The Persons are to God as solid-water, liquid-water, and water-vapor are to H2O. This suggests the heresy of Modalism.

A2: The Persons are to God as puddle, cube, and cloud are to H2O. Rea is suggesting that this is close to the lump/statue analogy and does not imply modalism.

But is A2 close to the lump/statue analogy? A lump of bronze, say, is in the solid state. It is har to make a statue out of a liquid of a gas {grin}. Not that it cannot be that the Persons are to God as puddle, cube, and cloud are to ice or a portion of ice.

The plot thickens, as it were.

On Psychologizing

Jim Ryan, late of Philosoblog, and currently over at The Conservative Philosopher, writes:

Hi, Bill,

Heh, me, too: In 2003 I quit the profession right before being offered tenure.

BV: It takes cojones. I'd love to hear your story. But if you don't want me to post it, just say so.

I would say you are still a professional philosopher; it is just that you are no longer affiliated with a philosophy department. After all, you did not suddenly become an amateur philosopher. The professional/amateur distinction cuts perpendicular to the academically affiliated/academically unaffiliated distinction. Or so I would argue. Spinoza was a professional philosopher, though he made no money from philosophy, and there are paid teachers of philosophy whom I would call amateurs.

As for when to psychologize, I'd be interested in what you think of this: If refutations have already shown that the reasons someone gives for his belief are extremely poor, then what epistemic force does psychologizing have? Well, a little; at least it becomes material. An interlocutor may otherwise suppose, "Well, he must have originally had some good reason or other to take his position, so perhaps we shouldn't be too quick to dismiss it." But a good psychological explanation for his position gets the better of that supposition, obviating the need for further inquiry into the basis of his position. Is there anything I'm missing, Bill?

BV: That sounds right to me, although I am not sure what you mean by "it becomes material." Perhaps you mean that, after the person's arguments, if any, have been refuted, then it becomes legitimate to seek a psychological explanation of the person's holding of the belief in question.

There are a lot of deep issues here, and I can't claim to have thought them all through.

Suppose A has good reasons for believing that p. (A has apparently sound arguments for p; A can deal with counterrguments, etc.) Suppose that there is also a decent psychological or combined psychological/sociological explanation for A's believing-that-p. Can the latter undermine the former? Or are they simply irrelevant to each other? I think they are irrelevant to each other.

Example. In the days when I was taking money for doing philosophy, I once argued that the philosophical life is the highest life using Aristotelian arguments. A student objected: "Of course, you believe that; it serves your interests. You are merely justifying your life-style." I would say that is vicious as opposed to benign psychologizing, despite the fact that the psychological explanation is plausible: it is a refusal to take the appeal to reasons seriously. Indeed, it is a refusal to take one's interlocutor seriously as a rational being. And that is morally offensive.

What was my REAL reason for maintaining the Aristotelian thesis? This sort of question, I take it, asks after the motivating reason. The vicious psychologizer doesn't even admit that there could be a motivating reason or reasons as opposed to extrarational causes. But of course, this raises the hairy question of how reasons -- which are presumably abstract objects such as propositions or else propositions as grasped in mental acts -- can motivate, can enter into one's individual psychic economy. Next stop: The mind/body problem, explanatory exclusion, etc.

Is psychologizing in its vicious form the same as committing the genetic fallacy? I tend to assimmilate them one to the other. Is that right?

Here are two posts of mine on the genetic fallacy with reference to Nietzsche:
GF 1, GF2.

A Train of Associations Derailing in a Pun

Drinking my early morning java, the thoughts start to percolate up
From who knows where. First thought: prime matter.
The train of associations proceeds: materia prima --> primadonna -->
"Donna, Donna, the Primadonna. . ." (Dion and the Belmonts) -->
La donn' e mobile --> Madonna the BVM --> Madonna the singer -->
A material girl in a material world --> Materia Pri-Madonna!

Funny how the mind works, "a train bound for nowhere. . . ."

How Is a Statue Related to its Constituent Matter?

Our Trinitarian meanderings brought us to the statue/lump analogy as a possible way of making sense of the Trinity. But before we can use the relation of statue S to lump L of matter to understand inter-Trinitarian relations, we first need to understand the S and L relation itself. It became clear from my discussion with Joseph Jedwab that his view of this relation differs from mine. Let’s see if we can clear up this preliminary question.

It seems that there are exactly four combinatorially possible views of the relation of S to L. Before we plunge in, note that ‘S’ and ‘L’ are arbitrary constants, not variables: the first refers to a particular statue, the second to a particular quantity of matter, and indeed the particular quantity of matter of which S is composed.

1. S cannot exist without L, but L can exist without S.
2. Each can exist without the other.
3. Neither can exist without the other.
4. S can exist without L, but L cannot exist without S.

Ad 1. This is what I affirmed earlier. Thus a bust of Socrates cannot exist without being composed of some definite type of matter, say bronze, and indeed, without being composed of some definite parcel of matter. But melt the statue down, and that very quantity of matter will exist without constituting a statue. I took Jedwab to argue against this by saying that S can exist without L. Thus if a vandal removes part of Socrates’ left ear, then S continues to exist, while L does not continue to exist inasmuch as L, having lost a bit of matter, is no longer the very same quantity of matter. Mereological essentialism appears to be an operative assumption here, namely, the thesis that for every material whole W, and part P, if P is a part of W, then necessarily P is a part of W.

Perhaps I can handle the counterexample to the first conjunct of (1) by reformulating (1) as

1*. S cannot exist without some lump of matter M or other, but M can exist without S. (‘M’ is here a variable.)

Ad 2. Given that (1) is false due to the falsity of its first conjunct, then (2) must be true. But (2) is consistent with (1*).

Ad 3. This appears to be Jedwab’s preferred view. His reason seems to be that S and L share all the same proper parts. True, but there is more to S than its matter. S is formed matter. The form is not nothing since without it one does not have a statue but a mere lump of (non-statuesque) matter. Compare a state of affairs (STOA) and its ontological constituents, say, thin particular a, nexus of exemplification EX, and universal U. This STOA is not identical to the set {a, EX, U} or the corresponding mereological sum. And yet there is no further ontological part which, when added to the set, would result in the STOA. And then there is the chariot in which King Milinda rode to his debate with the monk, Nagasena. The chariot is not its parts nor something above and beyond its parts. The chariot is its parts in a particular arrangement, where the latter is not nothing, but also not some further part.

The point of the S/L example is that here we have a two-in-one, a bi-unity, or as I say, a binity. S and L are non-identical as per (1*) above. S and L cannot be strictly identical since S cannot exist without some matter or other, while that matter can exist without constituting S.

Ad 4. This combinatorial possibility is not a metaphysical possibility. A statue cannot exist without some matter or other.

To sum up. We have rejected (1), (3), and (4). This leaves (2). But (2) is consistent with (1*) which I claim expresses the relation of a statue to its constituent matter. This relation is not strict identity. What is it then, loose identity? A sameness relation distinct from identity?

I hope to take up this question tomorrow.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Does the Left Own Dissent?

I posted an essay on this topic over at The Conservative Philosopher. By the way, TCP is on a roll. We now have twelve members. John Kekes and Roger Scruton have signed on, though neither has yet to post.

Reppert, Rawls, and the Difference Principle

Victor Reppert writes:

. . . I consider myself a pretty moderate Democrat; I'm deeply skeptical of trickle-down economics and find the Rawlsian difference principle plausible, so I would not be a good candidate for your group. I'm also skeptical of the marriage of religion and politics that some on the Right seem to want. On the other hand, the mindless predominance of Leftist political views in academia I find excessive. I don't think we got things right in Iraq, and I have a lot of doubts about claims that everything is going really well there now. On the other hand, I'm no fan of abortion, and think that Democrats are making a mistake by taking what strikes me as a fundamentalist doctrinaire position on that issue. So I'm not really comfortable on either side of the fence, but I just don't believe that everyone benefits when the biggest companies benefit. But the left can get very, very loony.

BV: Rawls' Difference Principle, as I understand it, implies that social and economic inequalities are justified only if they benefit the worst off in a society. (Cf. A Theory of Justice, p. 60) There is more to it than that, but that is an implication of it. But I can't see why one ought to accept the implication. Suppose A and B are from similar backgrounds. They work at the same type of job. Person A devotes himself to wine, women, and song. B, however, practices the old virtues, saves, invests, buys, improves, rents and sells mid-range real-estate. Person A has enough throughout his life but dies with nothing. B dies with a net worth of 2 million USD, which is not that difficult to acquire these days.

I would say that the economic disparity between A and B is justified whether or not the inequality benefits the worst-off. Of course, the disparity will benefit others, and maybe even the worst-off.

Liberals seems to assume that there is something unjust about inequality as such. I don't see it. Of course, inequality that has arisen from fraud, etc. is unjust. But inequality as such? Why?

My tendency is to think that not only are some inequalities allowed by justice, but positively required by it. But this is a huge topic, and to discuss it properly one has to delve into the theoretical apparatus (original position, veil of ignorance, etc.) with which Rawls supports his two principles of justice.

Montaigne on Chess

Why shall I not judge Alexander at table, talking and drinking to excess, or when he is fingering the chess-men? What chord of his mind is not touched and kept employed by this silly and puerile game? I hate it and avoid it because it is not play enough, and because it is too serious as an amusement, being ashamed to give it the attention which would suffice for some good thing. He was never more busy in directing his glorious expedition to the Indies; nor is this other man in unravelling a passage on which depends the salvation of the human race. See how our mind swells and magnifies this ridiculous amusement; how it strains all its nerves over it! How fully does this game enable every one to know and form a right opinion of himself! In no other situation do I see and test myself more thoroughly than in this. What passion is not stirred up by this game: anger [the clock-banger!] spite [the spite check!], impatience [the hasty move!], and a vehement ambition to win in a thing in which an ambition to be beaten would be more excusable! For a rare pre-eminence, above the common, in a frivolous matter, is unbefitting a man of honour. What I say in this example may be said in all others. Every particle, every occupation of a man betrays him and shows him up as well as any other. (Essays, Chapter 50, tr. Trechmann, p. 295)

Applying what Montaigne himself says in his final sentence to his writing of this essay, we may hazard the guess that he was much enamoured of the game, but not very good at it, and so here takes his revenge upon it, its goddess Caissa, and her acolytes. You will notice how onesided his portrayal is. He displayed the same defect yesterday in his remarks on clothing. But he is a Frenchman and so more concerned with witty phrasings than with the sober truth. The essay is delightfully brilliant nonetheless.

Jedwab on the Trinity and the Statue/Lump Analogy

Joseph Jedwab writes:

I don't think you're going wrong anywhere with the statue/lump analogy you give. But I would have to look at the Rea/Brower paper again to see if better is to be found there. I have an idea of how to make their account works that uses Brentano's account of the distinction between substances and accidents.

BV: You must be reading my mind. I too have been toying with Brentano's account as explained by Roderick Chisholm as a way of interpreting the Trinity. More on this later.

But that will have to wait until later. By the way, I think, as I expect you do as well, that dialetheism (i.e. some contradictions are true) and the sortal relativity of identity thesis (i.e. it can be that a is the same F as b, but not everything true of a is true of b) are beyond the pale, but that the former is worse than the latter.

BV: I agree that both dialetheism and the sortal-relativity of identity are to be avoided if at all possible, and that the former is the worse of the two. I hope to post on both of these later.

JJ: I would put the initial problem like this. These three claims are apparently inconsistent:

(1) Every divine Person is God.
(2) There are three divine Persons.
(3) There is one God.

If we take in (1) the ‘is’ to be the is of identity and so ‘God’ to be a [logically proper] name, then (1) and (2) are inconsistent with each other and (1) and (3) entail there is at most one divine Person. If we take in (1) the ‘is’ to be the is of predication and so ‘God’ to be a [common] noun, then (1) and (2) entail there are at least three Gods and (1) and (3) entail, again, there is at most one divine Person.

BV: Very good statement of the difficulty.

BV earlier post: Suppose you have a statue S made out for some lump L of material, whether marble, bronze, clay, or whatever. How is S related to L? It seems clear that L can exist without S existing. Thus one could melt the bronze down, or re-shape the clay. In either case, the statue would cease to exist, while the quantity of matter would continue to exist. It follows that S is not identical to L. They are not identical because something is true of L that is not true of S: it is true of L that it can exist without S existing, but it is not true of S that it can exist without S existing.

Although S is not identical to L, S is not wholly distinct, or wholly diverse, from L either. This is because S cannot exist unless L exists. This suggests the following analogy: The Father is to God as the statue is to the lump of matter out of which it is sculpted. And the same goes for the other Persons. Schematically, P is to G as S to L. The Persons are like hylomorphic compounds where the hyle in question is the divine substance. Thus the Persons are not each identical to God, which would have the consequence that they are identical to one another. Nor are the persons instances of divinity which would entail tri-theism. It is rather than the persons are composed of God as of a common material substance. Thus we avoid a unitarianism in which there is no room for distinctness of Persons, and we avoid tri-theism. So far, so good.

JJ: Some think that S and L can exist without each other. L can but S cannot survive radical change of shape. S can but L cannot survive radical change of parts.

BV: It seems clear to me that L can exist without S. Take a simpler and cruder example. Let L be a lump of ground meat. I make meatball M out of it. Then I smash it into a hamburger patty P. L continues to exist while M passes out of existence. On the other hand, for M to exist without L would be for that very meatball M to have different matter -- and that is hard to 'swallow.'

Thus I am asserting one-sided detachability (something like Brentano's einseitige Abloesbarkeit): L can exist without S, but S cannot exist without L. How could a hylomorphic compound exist without the very matter that makes it the very hylomorphic compound it is?

JJ: I think that if there are statues and lumps, then S and L are identical to each other, for I don’t think there could be coinciding objects that share the same proper parts.

BV: I suppose it depends on how you individuate proper parts. I would say that S and L do not share all the same proper parts. S has head, arms, etc. let us say, while L does not. They don't share the same proper parts, they share the same matter. Isn't it clear that S and L are not identical in virtue of the fact that L exists whether or not S exists?

JJ: I don’t understand why you say that S overlaps L because S cannot exist without L. I cannot exist without God but I do not overlap God.

BV: Perhaps what I should have said is that S overlaps L because (i) S is composed of L, and (ii) S cannot exist without L.

[. . .]

BV earlier: But does the statue/lump analogy avoid the problems we faced with the water analogy? Aren’t the two analogies so closely analogous that they share the same problems? Liquid, solid, and gaseous are states of water. Similarly, a statue is a state of a lump of matter. Modalism is not avoided. If the Persons are like states, then they are not sufficiently independent. But a statue is even worse off than a state of water. Water can be in one of its states whether or not we exist. But a hunk of matter cannot be a statue unless beings like us are on the scene to interpret it as a statue. Thus my little ceramic bust of Beethoven represents Beethoven only because we take it as representing the great composer. In a world without minds, it would not represent anything. The Persons of the Trinity, however, are in no way dependent on us for their being Persons of the Trinity.

JJ: What do you mean by a state? I don’t think that a statue is a state of a lump. A statue has shape, size, and mass, but a state of a lump doesn’t have such properties.

BV: If states of H2O have shape, size, and mass -- and they do -- then why should not states of bronze, clay, etc. not have shape, size, and mass? A state is a particular formation of a lump of matter. Thus a statue is a lump of matter in a particular state. A state (as here used) is not a property. I agree that a statue is not a property of a lump of matter.

JJ: If there is a statue that a lump of matter constitutes at a time, there is an organism that a lump of matter constitutes at a time, but an organism is not a state of a lump of matter, so why think a statue is a state of a lump of matter?

BV: Can't follow this. Don't see how the second clause follows from the first.

JJ: And I don’t think that whether a statue exists depends on us to interpret it. A statue depends on us to make it. And whether a statue represents something depends on our intentions. But a statue can exist without representing anything.

BV: Here you have the makings of an excellent point. Clearly, a sculpture can exist without representing anything (as is the case with many modern (= decadent?) sculptures). So you are right if a statue is the same as a sculpture. But that is not clear. Isn't it an analytic proposition that every statue represents something? I just paid a visit to Mr Webster. He defines: "a three-dimensional representation usu. of a person, , animal, or mythical being that is produced by sculpturing, modeling, or casting." I have the OED, but it is blasted heavy and the print is tiny.

Technically, then, I was right. But Brower and Rea could simply switch to a sculpture/lump analogy.

BV earlier: Connected with this is how God could be a hylomorphic compound, or any sort of compound, given the divine simplicity which rules out all composition in God.

JJ: Chris Hughes argues that Aquinas’ doctrine of divine simplicity is not consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity. I agree but I am not sure that doctrine of divine simplicity is consistent with God have concepts of different things like the concept of a dog or a cat. So I say no great loss there. What do you mean by divine simplicity? If God has more than one state or more than one event happens to God or God performs more than one act or God has more than one property, do you say God is not simple?

BV: Good questions. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy wants we to write an article on divine simplicity, so I will be dealing with these questions soon.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Open for Comments!

I have decided to enable Comments, despite what is perhaps my better judgment. But what can be turned on can also be turned off if need be.

An increasing volume of e-mail is making it difficult to acknowledge, let alone respond to, the many excellent messages I am receiving, for which I am very grateful. If you leave a comment, you will receive blogospheric acknowledgment if not my personal acknowledgment.

Thanks for your support.

Christology, Reduplicatives, and Their Truth-Makers

Consider this triad, and whether it is logically consistent:

1. The man Jesus = the 2nd Person of the Trinity.
2. The 2nd Person of the Trinity exists necessarily.
3. The man Jesus does not exist necessarily.

In the presence of the Indiscernibility of Identicals, the above triad appears inconsistent: The conjunction of (1) and (2) entails the negation of (3). Can this apparent inconsistency be shown to be merely apparent?

Reduplicatives to the rescue. Say this:

4. Jesus qua 2nd Person exists necessarily while Jesus qua man does not exist necessarily.

(The stylistically elegant ‘while’ may be replaced for truth-functional purposes with the logicians’ ampersand.) In an earlier post, I argued that reduplicative formulations are not helpful unto salvation from inconsistency since in the crucial cases they entail outright contradictions. Thus, given that being a Person of the Trinity entails existing necessarily, and being human entails existing contingently, (4) entails

5. Jesus exists necessarily & Jesus does not exist necessarily.

And that is a plain contradiction. But I was assuming that reduplicative constructions need not be taken with full ontological seriousness as requiring reduplicative truth-makers. I was assuming that what we say with reduplicatives can be said without them, and that, out in the world, there is nothing that corresponds to them, or at least that we have no compelling reason to commit ourselves to reduplicative entities, qua-entities, one might call them. That assumption now needs to be examined. Suppose we parse (4) as

6. Jesus-qua-2nd Person exists necessarily & Jesus-qua-man does not exist necessarily

where the hyphenated expressions function as nouns, qua-nouns that denote qua-entities. It is easy to see that (6) avoids contradiction for the simple reason that the two qua-entities are non-identical. But what is non-identical may nonetheless be the same if we have a principled way of distinguishing between identity and sameness. Essentially what I have just done is made a distinction in respects while taking respects with full ontological seriousness. This sort of move is nothing new. Consider a cognate case.

Suppose I have a red boat that I paint blue. Then we can say that there are distinct times, t1 and t2, such that b is red at t1 and blue at t2. That can be formulated as a reduplicative: b qua existing at t1 is red and b qua existing at t2 is blue. One could take that as just a funny way of talking, or one could take it as a perspicuous representation of the ontological structure of the world. Thus, adding hyphens,one could take oneself to be ontologically committed to temporal parts, which are a species of qua-entity. Thus b-at-t1 is a temporal part that is distinct from b-at-t2. These temporal parts are distinct since they differ property-wise: one is red the other blue. Nevertheless, they are the same in that they are parts of the same whole, the temporally extended boat.

The conceptual move we are making here is analogous to the move we make when we say that a ball is green in its northern hemisphere and red in its southern hemisphere in order to defuse the apparent contradiction of saying that it is red and green at the same time. Here different spatial parts have different properties, whereas in the boat example, different temporal parts have different properties.

Can we apply this to the Incarnation and say that Jesus-qua-God is F (immortal, impassible, necessarily existent, etc.) while Jesus-qua-man is not F? That would avoid the contradiciton while upholding such obvious truths as that divinity entails immortality while humanity entails mortality. We could then say, borrowing a term from the late Hector-Neri Castaneda (1924-1991), that Jesus-qua God is consubstantiated with Jesus-qua-man. (Hector the atheist is now rolling around in his grave.) The two are the same, contingently the same. Jesus is God the Son where ‘is’ expresses a contingent sameness relation, rather than strict identity (which is governed by the Indiscernibility of Identicals).

The idea is that God the Son and Jesus are, or are analogous to, ontological parts of one and the same whole. This is an admittedly bizarre idea, and probably cannot be made to work. But it is useful to canvass all theoretical possibilities.

Do Clothes Make the Man?

In Chapter 42 of his Essays, Montaigne remarks that

We praise a horse for its strength and speed , not on account of its harness; a greyhound for its swiftness and not its collar; a hawk for its wing and not for its jesses and bells. Why then do we not value a man for what is his? . . . If you bargain over a horse, you remove its trappings, you see it bare and uncovered . . . . Why, when estimating a man, do you estimate him all wrapped and muffled up? . . . We must judge him by himself, not by his attire. (Tr. E. J. Trechmann)

I am tempted to agree by saying what I once said to my mother when she told me that clothes make the man, namely, that if clothes make the man, then the kind of man that clothes make is not the kind of man I want to be. (Women are undeniably more sensitive than men to the fact that the world runs on appearances. ) But there is another side to the problem, one that the excellent Montaigne ignores. A horse does not choose its bit and harness, but has them imposed on it. A man, however, chooses how he will appear to his fellows, and so choosing makes a statement as to his values and disvalues. It follows that there is some justification in judging by externals. For the externals we choose, unlike the externals imposed on a horse, are defeasible indicators of what is internal. In the case of human beings, the external is not merely external.

That being said, I remain a proud sartorial functionalist who pays no attention to what Thoreau’s "head monkey in Paris" is up to. Footwear, for example, must be such as to enable the climbing of a mountain if a mountain should present itself. Bandannas serve as handkerchiefs given their muti-utility for signalling, going incognito, protecting the nasal passages should one find oneself in the midst of an Arizona dust devil, stanching nosebleeds consequent upon overzealous cleaning operations, cutting off circulation in case of snakebite, etc. Pants in summer, i.e., during seven months of the year, must be short to allow proper ventilation despite their ridiculous appearance. Belts must be sturdy enough to support a shootin’ ahrn. A shirt without pockets is worthless, and optimally comes equipped with two deep ones. Long ‘geek pants’ that are zipper-enabled for quick transmogrification into short pants are not looked at askance. And so on.

Join Up!

Are you an analytic philosopher with a Ph.D. or D. Phil. in philosophy who is also a political conservative? Then you ought to consider joining our group weblog, The Conservative Philosopher. So far, we have eight members, including John Kekes. Credit for the idea and its implementation go to Keith Burgess-Jackson. See here for details.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

On Teaching

Those who can, do; those who can't, teach. Those who can't teach, teach teachers; those who can't teach teachers become administrators. That's my protraction of the old saying. I'm not endorsing, just protracting.

Here is a different take on teaching, and here is a post on why teaching is no fun.

Charles Sanders Peirce: Are Conservatives Stupid?

From Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, eds. Hartshorne and Weiss, vol. I, The Principles of Philosophy (Harvard University Press, 1974), pp. 357-358:

661. Conservatism, true conservatism, which is sentimental conservatism, and by those who have no power of observation to see what sort of men conservatives are, is often called stupid conservatism, an epithet far more applicable to the false conservatism that looks to see on which side bread is buttered – true conservatism, I say, means not trusting to reasonings about questions of vital importance but rather to hereditary instincts and traditional sentiments. Place before the conservative arguments to which he can find no adequate reply and which go, let us say, to demonstrate that wisdom and virtue call upon him to offer to marry his own sister, and though he be unable to answer the arguments, he will not act upon their conclusion, because he believes that tradition and the feelings that tradition and custom have developed in him are safer guides than his own feeble ratiocination. Thus, true conservatism is sentimentalism. Of course, sentiment lays no claim to infallibility, in the sense of theoretical infallibility, a phrase that logical analysis proves to be a mere jingle of words with a jangle of contradictory meanings. The conservative need not forget that he might have been born a Brahmin with a traditional sentiment in favor of suttee – a reflection that tempts him to become a radical. But still, on the whole, he thinks his wisest plan is to reverence his deepest sentiments as his highest and ultimate authority, which is regarding them as for him practically infallible – that is, to say infallible in the only sense of the word in which infallible has any consistent meaning.

662. The opinion prevalent among radicals that conservatives, and sentimentalists generally, are fools is only a cropping out of the tendency of men to conceited exaggeration of their reasoning powers. Uncompromising radical though I be upon some questions, inhabiting all my life an atmosphere of science, and not reckoned as particularly credulous, I must confess that the conservative sentimentalism I have defined recommends itself to my mind as eminently sane and wholesome. Commendable as it undoubtedly is to reason out matters of detail, yet to allow mere reasonings and reason’s self-conceit to overslaw [over-slaugh? over-awe?] the normal and manly sentimentalism which ought to lie at the cornerstone of all our conduct seems to me to be foolish and despicable.

BV’s Summary: On matters of vital importance, the true conservative relies on "hereditary instincts and traditional sentiments" rather than on reason, taking the former to be a "safer guide" than the latter. Where the two conflict, the true conservative puts his trust in instinct and sentiment rather than in reason. The radicals’ belief that conservatives are fools is nothing more than a symptom of the radicals’ overestimation of their powers of ratiocination.

BV’s Comments: Peirce died in 1914. Events after that fateful year surely support Peirce’s contention that an exaggerated trust in reason leads to trouble. Think of the Russian Revolution and the attempt to implement that apotheosis of "reason’s self-conceit," namley, Marxism. Perice here limns the attitude of the paleo-conservative. One may wonder whether a viable conservatism for the present day must not also incorporate elements of neo-conservatism, where the latter is essentially just classical liberalism.

The Conservative Philosopher

Keith Burgess-Jackson, the AnalPhilosopher, is looking for a few good men and women to join him in a group blogging effort. You must be a Ph.D. in philosophy, be conservative, and be analytic. Keith is especially on the lookout for some eligible females. See here for details, and here for the new weblog.

The third criterion raises an interesting question: Are there any conservative philosophy Ph.D.s who are Continental in approach? I myself would not exclude them if they can write with clarity, argue with rigor, and be precise and pithy. But that is a big 'if.'

Note that the Comments function on the new weblog is enabled.

Monday, January 24, 2005

What Am I?

Blaise Pascal, Pensees #108 (Krailsheimer, p. 57):

What part of us feels pleasure? Is it our hand, our arm, our flesh, or our blood? It must obviously be something immaterial.

BV: Is it my eyeglasses that see yonder mountain? No, they are merely part of the instrumentality of vision. Is it my eyes that see the mountain, or any part of the eye (retina, cornea, etc.)? The optic nerves or the visual cortex? All of this stuff hooked together? If you say yes, then what accounts for the unity of the visual experience? Eyeglasses, eyes, and all the rest are merely parts of the instrumentality of visual consciousness, its physical substratum. Not eye, but I see the mountain. What am I? Arguably something immaterial.

My Favorite Pascal Quotation

Blaise Pascal, Pensees #98 (Krailsheimer tr. p. 55):

How is it that a lame man does not annoy us while a lame mind does? Because a lame man recognizes that we are walking straight, while a lame mind says that it is we who are limping.

Please forgive the following reformulation. Point out to a man that he is crippled, and he won't contradict you, though he might take umbrage at your churlishness. But point out to a man that his thinking is crippled and he is sure to repy,"No! It is your thinking that is crippled."

Pascal on Owning Land

Blaise Pascal, Pensees #113 (Krailsheimer tr., p. 59):

It is not in space that I must seek my human dignity, but in the ordering of my thought. It will do me no good to own land. Through space the universe grasps me and swallows me up like a speck; through thought I grasp it.

BV: Indeed, what good will owning acres and acres of land do me? In the end a man needs only -- six feet.

Is the Trinity A True Contradiction?

This is not as crazy as it sounds. See here.

The Statue/Lump Analogy and the 'Is' of Composition

Thanks to Bill Clinton, it is now widely appreciated that much rides on what the meaning of ‘is’ is. Time was, when only philosophers were aware of this. So far in our Trinitarian explorations we have discussed the ‘is’ of identity and the ‘is’ of predication. We saw that ‘The Father is God’ could be construed as

1. The Father is identical to God

or as

2. The Father is divine.

Both construals left us with logical trouble. If each of the Persons is identical to God, and there is exactly one God, then (given the transitivity and symmetry of identity) there is exactly one Person. On the other hand, if each of the Persons is divine, where ‘is’ functions as copula, then tri-theism is the upshot. Either way, we end up contradicting a central Trinitarian tenet.

But there is also the ‘is’ of composition as when we say, ‘This countertop is marble,’ or in my house, ‘This countertop is faux marble.’ ‘Is’ here is elliptical for ‘is composed of.’ Compare: ‘That jacket is leather,’ and ‘This beverage is whisky.’ To say that a jacket is leather is not to say that it is identical to leather – otherwise it would be an extremely large jacket – or that it has leather as a property: leather is not a property. A jacket is leather by being made out of leather.

Suppose you have a statue S made out for some lump L of material, whether marble, bronze, clay, or whatever. How is S related to L? It seems clear that L can exist without S existing. Thus one could melt the bronze down, or re-shape the clay. In either case, the statue would cease to exist, while the quantity of matter would continue to exist. It follows that S is not identical to L. They are not identical because something is true of L that is not true of S: it is true of L that it can exist without S existing, but it is not true of S that it can exist without S existing.

Although S is not identical to L, S is not wholly distinct, or wholly diverse, from L either. This is because S cannot exist unless L exists. This suggests the following analogy: The Father is to God as the statue is to the lump of matter out of which it is sculpted. And the same goes for the other Persons. Schematically, P is to G as S to L. The Persons are like hylomorphic compounds where the hyle in question is the divine substance. Thus the Persons are not each identical to God, which would have the consequence that they are identical to one another. Nor are the persons instances of divinity which would entail tri-theism. It is rather than the persons are composed of God as of a common material substance. Thus we avoid a unitarianism in which there is no room for distinctness of Persons, and we avoid tri-theism. So far, so good.

Something like this approach is advocated by Jeffrey Brower and Michael Rea, here.

But does the statue/lump analogy avoid the problems we faced with the water analogy? Aren’t the two analogies so closely analogous that they share the same problems? Liquid, solid, and gaseous are states of water. Similarly, a statue is a state of a lump of matter. Modalism is not avoided. If the Persons are like states, then they are not sufficiently independent. But a statue is even worse off than a state of water. Water can be in one of its states whether or not we exist. But a hunk of matter cannot be a statue unless beings like us are on the scene to interpret it as a statue. Thus my little ceramic bust of Beethoven represents Beethoven only because we take it as representing the great composer. In a world without minds, it would not represent anything. The Persons of the Trinity, however, are in no way dependent on us for their being Persons of the Trinity.

It might be counterargued that water is not to its states as lump to statue. Water must be in one of its three states, but a lump of bronze need not be in any statue-state. That is indeed a point of disanalogy between the two analogies. But notice that God and the Persons are necessarily related: God cannot exist without the Persons. A lump of bronze can exist without being a statue. In this respect, the water analogy is better: water must be in one its three states just as God must be composed of the three Persons.

Besides the threat of modalism, there is also the fact that God is not a substance in the sense in which clay and water are substances. Thus God is not a stuff or hyle, but a substance in the sense of a hypostasis or hypokeimenon. And it does no good to say that God is an immaterial or nonphysical stuff since what must be accommodated is the divine unity. The ground of divine unity cannot be matter whether physical or nonphysical. We saw that one and the same quantity of H20 cannot be simultaneously and throughout liquid, solid, and gaseous. Similarly, one and the same quantity of bronze cannot be simultaneously and throughout three different statues. Connected with this is how God could be a hylomorphic compound, or any sort of compound, given the divine simplicity which rules out all composition in God.

In sum, the statue/lump analogy is not better than the water/state analogy. Neither explains how we can secure both unity of the divine nature and distinctness of Persons.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Alanis Morissette or Joan Osbourne?

Dennis Monokroussos writes:

Just a quick pop culture correction for your blog: the song "If God was One of Us" is by Joan Osbourne, not Alanis Morrisette.

BV: Good to hear from you, Dennis. What do you mean by 'by'? "Sung by' or 'written by'? My impression is that the song was sung by Joan Osbourne and also by Alanis Morissette (note double 's' but single 'r'), but written by one Eric Bazilian.

I'm not sure which version I heard. In my post I referred to the song as an Alanis Morissette song, which seems correct, although you may be right if what you mean is that Joan Osbourne made it popular.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

The Joy of Hyphens

Dear Professor,

After reading your recent posts I went back to my blog and put in hyphens in my latest post. My only excuse is that, as a non-native speaker, sometimes I get confused. I want to thank you for putting me on your bloglist. I surely didn't expect it. When I was thinking of starting my own blog I said that in Italy it's dangerous to talk about lots of subjects. "What should I speak of, the joy of knitting?" The expression stuck.



Dear Joy,

You must be thinking of my little haiku-like poem,

Into desuetude
Falls the subjunctive mood
Along with the hyphen.

Your English is very good, and so for a long time I thought you might be an American expatriate. But then little indications surfaced, of the sort found in Oriana Fallaci's English, which suggested that you are Italian.

As for the hyphen in English, it appears to be being used more and more sparingly. I don't know whether this is good or bad. I just hope English doesn't go the way of German in which words like Kommunikationsbereitschaft and transzendentalphaenomenologish are perfectly acceptable.

I write 'truth-maker,' the Australian philosopher David Armstrong writes 'truthmaker.' I should think both are acceptable. I may insert hyphens against convention just to make the reader think harder. Thus I might break 'ontotheology' into 'onto-theo-logy' if I want the reader to wonder what being, God, and logic have to do with one another.

Please don't take my writing as a model of standard American English. Grammar and standard usage serve me, I don't serve them. I may go nonstandard for some subtle purpose. I just wrote 'nonstandard' without a hyphen. Why? So as not to impede the flow of the sentence. I may drop a comma for the same purpose. This infuriates editors who are hung up on that species of consistency which is the hobgoblin of little minds. One beauty of a blog is the freedom from editors. I liken them to testosterone-crazed male cats who like to mark their territory, their territory being your manuscript.

'So as not to impede the flow of the sentence.' That is a sentence-fragment. Generally speaking, they ought to be avoided. But one would have to be a schoolmarm in a very tight corset indeed to demand that they always be avoided. Above, the fragment works very well.

Note that I wrote 'sentence-fragment' with a hypen. I did so because 'sentencefragment' is Teutonically ugly. How does one decide in a given case? One uses one's good judgment. It is good judgment that keeps us from writing 'impact' instead of 'affect.' The same good judgment makes us refrain from employing such trendy redundancies as 'on the ground' and such ridiculous substitutions as 'issue' for 'problem.'

The foregoing examples have more to do with taste and usage than with logic. To speak of marital issues rather than marital problems offends my sensibilities, but it is not illogical. But to confuse the subjunctive and indicative moods rides roughshod over a logical distinction, something that logic-choppers like me don't like. Compare:

1. If Shakespeare did not write Hamlet, then someone else did.

2. If Shakespeare had not written Hamlet, someone else would have.

(1) is an indicative conditional, and is true, while (2) is a subjunctive conditional, and is false. It follows that they differ in meaning.

As for my blogroll, you have been on it since last summer. Did you just notice? I enjoy reading your posts, and I encourage you to keep up the good work. Some people say that Communism is dead. Your blog provides evidence that it is alive and well.



Friday, January 21, 2005

Divinity and Immortality

Kevin Kim raises a reasonable objection:

Dr. Vallicella, in his reply to a criticism of his criticism of a reduplicative argument about the nature of the Trinity, writes:

It is a necessary truth, indeed an analytically necessary truth, that anything divine is immortal.

This claim might pass muster among some philosophers, but it would be roundly booed by folks in the field of religious studies*. If "immortal" means "not subject to death," then I'd argue that many traditions claim their divinities to be mortal. Buddhism views all gods (and asuras, apsaras, hungry ghosts, etc.) as subject to the laws of karma and therefore mortal.

BV: One has to keep the context in mind, namely, a discussion of the specifically Christian doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation. So the context is monotheistic. Polytheism is out, so much so that if the Trinity cannot be formulated so as to avoid the implication of tri-theism, then that constitutes a serious problem. We will note that adherents of the other two Abrahamic religions would like to make the tri-theism charge stick.

Indeed, for present purposes I could invoke the Muslim formula, "There is no god, but God." One could reformulate that to say that only the one God is divine. Part of what divine means is worthy of worship. For X to be worthy of worship, X must be "that than which no greater can be conceived" (Anselm). This implies that X must be a necessary being. Now every necessary being is immortal. So I stand by my assertion that anything divine is immortal.

Now of course, there is no way to stop people from using words like 'divine' and 'god' in all sorts of loose ways. Some will remember the Johnny Burnette song from around 1961 which featured the lines, "She walked out of a dream/Into my heart/Now she's my angel divine. . . ." That' s a pretty loose use of 'divine.' I don't reckon that old Johnny meant to imply that his 16 year old dream lover was a necessary being. (Burnette also had a song called "Dreamin'." Those guys back then did a lot of dreamin', but much less actin'. Cf. "Dream lover, where are you?/With a love oh so true" Bobby Darrin?) And when guitar-slinger Eric Clapton was getting his start, early fans scrawled on walls, "Clapton is God." Etc.

When I say that anything divine is immortal, I am purporting to unpack the essence of divinity; I am not making a linguistic remark about how 'divinity' is used.

Numerically Identical/Distinct

William Tanksley writes:

Bill, you keep using the term "numerically identical", both when talking about the trinity and the incarnation. What do you mean by it?The phrase means nothing to me; it certainly doesn't communicate anything to me in the contexts in which you use it. I wish I could be clearer, but the best I can do is give an example: "a divine mind comes to be numerically identical with a human mind/body complex." What does this mean?

BV: Generally speaking, philosophers use 'numerically' in contrast with 'qualitatively.' If I tell you that I drive the same car as Jane, that is ambiguous: it could mean that Jane and I drive one and the same car, or it could mean that Jane and I drive the same type of car, say a 2004 Jeep Liberty Sport, but not one and the same car. Another example: six bottles of beer in a six-pack are numerically distinct but qualitatively identical. Suppose you want a beer from the six-pack. It won't matter which bottle of the six I hand you since they are all qualitatively the same (or identical), at least with respect to the properties that you would find relevant such as quantity of beer, taste, etc. If I hand you a beer and you say you want a different beer from the same six-pack, you mean a numerically different one. If I reply by saying that they are all the same, I mean they are all qualitatively the same.

If A and B are numerically identical, it follows that they are one and the same. If A and B are qualitatively identical, it does not follow that they are one and the same. (Exercise for the reader: Prove that this last sentence is not equivalent to saying: If A and B are qualitatively identical, it follows that they are not one and the same.)

The doctrine of the Incarnation asserts the numerical identity of the Second Person of the Trinity with a particular man, Jesus of Nazareth. Thus the doctrine does not say that Jesus is a God-like man, or the most God-like man, or the most God-like man possible, but that Jesus is (numerically identical to) God.

I use the phrase 'numerically identical' to underscore the fact that we are talking about one and the same being as opposed to two beings that share many or even all properties.

Jedwab on Incarnation and Reduplication

Joseph Jedwab is completing his doctorate on Trinity and Incarnation at Oriel College, Oxford, under Richard Swinburne, one of the top philosophers of religion. Jedwab writes:

Dear Bill,

I am sorry I have not been responding to the all the stuff on the Trinity. I promise to say more about it after I hand in some more work to my supervisor.

BV: Great to hear from you! I figured you were hard at work on your thesis. I'm just happy you are still reading this blog. Your command of the relevant literature is undoubtedly superior to mine. As I recall, some months back you actually nailed me on a point of logic. Many (are called to) try, but few (are chosen to) succeed.

But I thought I should say something quickly about the Incarnation and reduplication. I have a sense that we have been through this before.

BV: As I recall, we didn't talk about reduplication specifically.

But there is no harm in a little repetition. I think there are two good views about what it is to be human, though I strongly prefer the first to the second. Either we are immaterial simples humanly embodied in human organisms or else we are human organisms. On the first view, to be human is to be an immaterial simple mental substance that is humanly embodied in a human organism. And on the second view, to be human is to be a human organism. I see no problem in the Incarnation on the first view, which I endorse: a divine mental subject is an immaterial simple mental substance who becomes human by coming to be humanly embodied in a human organism.

If you ask for a human soul and mind, I can accommodate. 'Soul' is used in two ways: in the Platonic sense, 'soul' means an immaterial mental substance, and a soul is human if and only if it is humanly embodied in a human organism; in the Aristotelian sense, 'soul' means a property a substance has in virtue of which a substance has a life, and a soul is human if and only if in virtue of having it a substance has a human life. Does Christ have a human soul? Yes. In the Platonic sense, Christ is a human soul. In the Aristotelian sense, Christ has a human soul.

BV: Let's discuss the Platonic view since this is the one you endorse. Your view as stated thus far implies that a divine immaterial mental substance is human in virtue of its being humanly embodied in a human organism. From this I conclude that you are not really accommodating my request for a human soul/mind. As I understand the Incarnation doctrine, it implies that the 2nd Person of the Trinity assumes full humanity at a particular historical moment. This full humanity includes a human body and a human mind/soul. (We don't need to distinguish soul from mind here, as far as I can see.) Thus it is not as if a divine mind comes to acquire a human body; it is rather that a divine mind comes to be numerically identical with a human mind/body complex. It is not just that the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us; it is rather that the Word becomes a full-fledged human being. God becomes one of us, and enters into our predicament. This predicament has a bodily side: I am exposed through my body to the rude impacts of the physical order. But it also has a mental side: I've got this finite mind scarcely capable of keeping two ideas in play at the same time , and open to anxiety and all manner of mental suffering. Or in the words of the Alanis Morrissette song from around 1995-1996 (I remember hearing it when I was in Turkey), God became one of us,

Just a slob like one of us

Just a stranger on the bus

Trying to make his way home.

This is where a good part of the conceptual difficulty lies. Assuming the truth of something like Platonic-Cartesian interactionist substance dualism, one has a springboard for understanding how the Incarnation is possible -- but only if the Incarnation is the Son's mere taking on of a body, as a opposed to his taking on of a man, so to speak, a mind/body complex. But you have an answer to this below.

What is a mind? Some use 'mind' to mean a mental subject and so a human mind is a human mental subject. If so, Christ is a human mind. But others use 'mind' to mean a power to perform mental acts or have mental states and so a human mind is a power to perform distinctively human mental acts or have distinctively human mental states. If so, I think Christ has a human mind.

Still others use 'mind' to mean a composite of mental states. Let me add some flesh to this usage. Some talk of a mind as a consciousness or a stream of consciousness or a sphere of consciousness. Say two conscious states are strictly co-conscious if and only if they are parts of the same conscious state. And say two conscious states are serially co-conscious if and only if they stand in the ancestral of strict co-consciousness. Then say a stream of consciousness is a composite of conscious states, where every mental state that is part of that composite is strictly or serially co-conscious with every other conscious state that is part of that composite and no other conscious state. It seems to me from the literature on split brain cases that it could be that one mental subject has two conscious states that are simultaneous but neither strictly nor serially co-conscious with each other and that it could be that one mental subject has two streams of consciousness that are simultaneous.

But I ask, why could not a divine subject, when he becomes humanly embodied have two streams of consciousness: one of which has distinctively divine conscious states and the other of which has distinctively human conscious states? If so, Christ has two minds. In this case, one can see the point in using reduplicatives.

BV: I don't see this as a case of reduplication. Suppose that Jack is a Cartesian composite of mind (res cogitans) and body (res extensa). There is no need to invoke reduplication to avoid the apparent contradiction of saying that Jack is both in space and not in space. There is no need to say that Jack qua body is in space while Jack qua mind is not in space. For one can simply say that Jack's body is in space and his mind is not in space. There is no need for reduplication because there are two separate substances. And if there were only one substance, Jack, reduplication would not help at all. This is because being a body entails being in space and being a mind entails not being in space, so that

a. Jack qua body is in space while Jack qua mind is not in space

boils down to

b. Jack is in space and Jack is not in space

which is a contradiction.

Do you see my point? If Christ possesses two distinct unities of consciousness, one human and the other divine, then there is no need to bring in reduplication. Reduplication is appropriately invoked when there is one X and a threat of contradiction. Thus to avoid the contradiction that Christ is both passible and impassible one says that Christ qua man is passible, but qua God is impassible. Unfortunately, the reduplication is unavailing for reasons given in my first reduplication post.

Christ can know something in one mind but not another, can act from one mind but not another. Then we can say he, as divine, knows something, but, as human does not. We can even say, if we want to but whether we want to is another matter, Christ, as human suffers, but, as divine, does not suffer.

BV: Because suffering, even physical suffering, is ultimately mental?

Trenton Merricks in an unpublished paper entitled 'The Word Made Flesh: Dualism, Physicalism, and the Incarnation' presents a different view. We are human organisms. To be human is to be a human organism. So a divine subject becomes human by becoming a human organism. So an immaterial simple becomes a material composite. I think that no immaterial being can become a material being and that no simple can become a composite. So I do not hold this view.

BV: You are a wise man.

But the strategy is a coherent one.

BV: How? It appears to be absurd on the face of it. An immaterial simple becomes a material composite without ceasing to be an immaterial simple?!? Next stop: The Twilight Zone.

If you think that we are hylomorphic composites of form (soul) and matter (body), then I have a theory of the Incarnation for you. A divine subject becomes human by becoming a hylomorphic composite.

BV: This needs some explaining. How can a simple become any kind of composite let alone a hylomorphic one?

Exercise: apply the strategy to other views of what it is to be human. Must it be that every human subject is mortal and every divine subject is not mortal? I see nothing in my account of what it is to be human from which this follows.

BV: For you a subject is human if it is humanly embodied in a human organism. That allows for a divine subject to be human accidentally. But it doesn't allow for a divine subject to become identical to a human subject: if x = y, then necessarily x = y. So it doesn't allow for the Incarnation strictly speaking, which is not a divine subject's assumption of a human body, but a divine subject's becoming identical with a human mind/body complex.

Does not your view imply that human subjects are only contingently mortal? If a mind is human only due to the contingent fact that it is embodied in a human organism, then my mind is mortal not intrinsically, but only due to its contingent relation to a mortal body. But does not this Platonism contradict Christianity with its commitment to the proposition that death is a great evil? For Xianity, we are not naturally immortal; supernatural agency alone can save us from total death.

Thus I seem to be on solid ground in insisting that being human entails being mortal.

And I see nothing on Trenton's view of what it is to be human from which this follows either. Must it be that every human subject is passible and every divine subject is impassible? What do we mean by passible? Suppose it means this: able to be affected, i.e. able to be such that something affects it. I think my account does entail this because, though I did not get into the details, for a mental subject to be humanly embodied involves having active and passive causal powers, and in virtue of having passive causal powers, the mental subject is able to be affected. But in this case, I think that every divine subject is able to be affected. How else is God to know contingent truths whose truthmakers he does not cause, e.g. truths about non-divine free actions?

BV: This will lead us far afield. In one sense, affection, passion, suffering are the same. But I would distinguish between affection in the broad sense from suffering in a narrow sense, where suffering involves damge to the sufferer. I see a coyote run past my window; I am affected else I would not perceive him; but I am not damaged in the process.

At least, I think that, even if no divine subject has passive causal powers, every divine subject has the power to cause himself to have passive powers.

I don't think reduplication plays any part in defending the possibility of the Incarnation. But we don't need reduplication.

BV: I think we agree on this. I would be the point more forcefully: Reduplication is useless. As you know, T. V. Morris came to the same conclusion. Aquinas, however, seems to think that reduplication is the way to go judging by Summa Contra Gentiles, Book IV, Chapter 39.

All we need is a good account of what it is to be divine and a good account of what it is to be human. I can hardly wait to get on to the stuff about the Trinity. But as you can see, when it comes to such matters, brief I am not.

BV: You raise fascinating issues, and you may well be right in the end. I hope to hear more from you. I think I have a way of showing how the Trinity is logically possible. But in these didactic and exploratory posts, I don't show my whole hand.

By the way, did you ever do any teaching for Bilkent University? I see positions going and I wonder whether it would be fun to go and work there for a short spell. But my Turkish does not exist.

BV: I taught nearby at Middle East Technical University, although I did read a paper at Bilkent. Bilkent is the best funded and probably best university in the Ankara area with METU coming in second. In both schools the language of instruction is English. So you will be able to survive without knowing Turkish. It is a fascinating language, however, and you will want to learn as much as possible. It has a very rich case and declension structure like Latin. But most everything is done with suffixes. As I like to quip, "The Turks do it with suffixes."

The Manifesto of the Modern Protester

Thanks to R. L. for sending this link. The author bears the beautiful Italian surname, Antongiavanni. An excerpt:

1. No ill is so trivial that it can be borne, even for a day; no grievance is so slight that its redress can wait, even for an hour.

2. Until the world is made perfect and justice reigns supreme, getting on with life or transacting any public business is immoral and selfish.

3. Therefore all means (up to and including violence) are justified--nay, obligatory--in stopping the movement of ordinary life until such time as all grievances are redressed.

4. One's moral worth is determined far more by one's social and political opinions than by one's actions or behavior toward others.

5. With one exception: The most noble, moral, and courageous thing one can ever do is participate in (or, better yet, organize) a protest.

6. Therefore, whatever a protest is ostensibly about, it is fundamentally about itself.

7. There are no such things as chance or fortune or bad luck or inherent, irreducible flaws or problems. If something--anything, anywhere--is wrong, unfair, unequal, tragic, inconvenient, annoying, vexatious, or merely perceived to be such, it is not only someone's fault, that someone is profiting unjustly at the expense of someone else. Which is to say, Lenin's "Who/Whom" question--"who" is sticking it to "whom"?--is fundamentally true regarding all human interaction.

7a. All peoples and individuals may therefore be categorized as either oppressors or oppressed.

7b. The oppressed as a whole are a coalition of various oppressed groups. Whatever their apparent differences, they share the same fundamental interests by dint of their all being oppressed.

7c. Whatever the oppressors say about standards of justice or morality is a priori wrong, since it must be presumed to be sophistry concocted for their selfish benefit. The most clever--and most pernicious--of these sophistries is the notion of natural right, i.e., that there is a permanent standard of justice not determined by human choice or opinion. But in truth every professed standard of natural right is a tool of those oppressors who devise and promote it. The only reliable information about justice comes from the oppressed, because they alone are public spirited and pure of heart. Also, because the oppressed alone suffer whereas the oppressed only cause suffering, the oppressed alone can judge what suffering is and how it affects the human soul. Since there is no permanent standard of justice, the response or reaction of the individual soul to any action or actions is the only dispositive factor in determining the justice or injustice of any action. Therefore, justice and injustice are whatever the oppressed say they are.