Saturday, November 20, 2004

Gifford Lectures I Have Read

I'm taking from Jaki's list in his (original) centenary retrospect, so it only goes up to the mid-eighties. What are the Gifford Lectures? They are an endowed lectureship at four Scottish universites on metaphysics, natural religion, and the foundations of ethics, and arguably the most prestigious academic lectureship in the English-speaking world. The lectures are presented for the purpose of eventually being published, although not all lecturers have actually done so. Published lectures I have read are bolded.

1888-1890 J. H. Stirling, Philosophy and Theology
1890-1892 G. G. Stokes, Natural Theology
1892-1893 O. Pfleiderer, Philosophy and Development of Religion
1894-1896 A. C. Fraser, Philosophy of Theism
1896-1898 C. P. Tiele, Elements of the Science of Religion
1900-1902 W. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience
1903-1904 H. M. Gwatkin, The Knowledge of God and Its Historical Development
1905-1906 S. S. Laurie, On God and Man
1909-1910 W. W. Fowler, The Religious Experience of the Roman People
1910-1912 B. Bosanquet, The Principle of Individuality and Value ; The Value and Destiny of the Individual
1913-1914 H. Bergson
1915-1916 W. M. Ramsay, Asianic Elements in Greek Civilization
1919-1921 G. F. Stout, Mind and Matter, God and Nature
1921-1923 A. Pringle-Pattison, The Idea of God in the Light of Recent Philosophy ; The Idea of Immortality
1926-1927 A. S. Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World
1927-1928 A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality
1928-1929 J. Dewey, The Quest for Certainty
1930-1931 N. Soderblom, The Living God
1932-1934 E. R. Bevan, Symbolism and Belief ; Holy Images
1934-1935 A. Schweitzer
1937-1938 C. S. Sherrington, Man on His Nature
1938-1940 R. Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man
1940-1941 O. Kraus
1947-1949 C. Dawson, Religion and Culture ; Religion and the Rise of Western Culture
1949-1950 N. Bohr
1950-1952 C. E. Raven, Natural Religion and Christian Theology
1952-1953 A. J. Toynbee, An Historian's Approach to Religion
1954-1955 R. Bultmann, History and Eschatology
1956-1957 A. Farrer, The Freedom of Will
1957-1959 W. Kohler
1959-1960 R. D. Maclennan
1961-1962 J. Baillie, The Sense of the Presence of God
1962-1964 D. Daube
1964-1966 D. M. Mackinnon
1966-1968 H. D. Lewis, The Elusive Mind ; The Elusive Self ; Freedom and Alienation
1968-1970 W. H. F. Barnes
1970-1971 E. L. Mascall, The Openness of Being
1971-1973 PANEL (A. Kenny, H. C. Longuet-Higgins, and C. H. Waddington) The Nature of Mind ; The Development of Mind
1973-1974 O. Chadwick, The Secularization of the European Mind
1974-1976 S. L. Jaki, The Road of Science and the Ways to God
1976-1977 J. P. Jossua, Pierre Bayle ou l'obsession du mal
1977-1979 J. C. Eccles, The Human Mystery ; The Human Psyche
1979-1980 N. R. Smart, Beyond Ideology
1980-1981 S. H. Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred
1981-1982 I. Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals
1982-1983 D. Daiches, God and the Poets
1983-1984 M. A. Arbib and M. Hesse (Jaki doesn't have the title, and I don't remember it, but I've read it)


1888-1892 F. M. Muller, Natural Religion ; Physical Religion ; Anthropological Religion ; Theosophy or Psychological Religion
1892-1894 W. Wallace, Lectures and Essays
1894-1896 J. Caird, The Fundamental Ideas of Christianity
1897-1898 A. B. Bruce, The Providential Order of the World ; The Moral Order of the World
1900-1902 E. Caird, The Evolution of Religion ; The Evolution of Theology
1903-1905 E. Boutroux, Science and Religion in Contemporary Philosophy
1907-1908 A. C. Bradley, Ideals of Religion
1910-1912 J. Watson, The Interpretation of Religious Experience
1913-1915 A. J. Balfour, Theism and Humanism
1916-1918 S. Alexander, Space, Time and Deity
1919-1921 H. Jones, A Faith that Enquires
1922-1923 A. J. Balfour, Theism and Thought
1923-1925 W. P. Paterson, The Nature of Religion
1927-1928 J. S. HAldane, The Sciences and Philosophy
1929-1931 J. A. Smith
1932-1933 W. Temple, Nature, Man and God
1935-1937 W. M. Dixon, The Human Situation
1937-1938 W. E. Hocking
1938-1940 J. Laird, Theism and Cosmology ; Mind and Deity
1946-1948 R. B. Perry, Realms of Value
1949-1950 H. H. Farmer, Revelation and Religion ; Reconciliation and Religion
1952-1954 J. Macmurray, The Self as Agent ; Persons in Relations
1955-1956 L. Hodgson, For Faith and Freedom
1959-1961 C. F. Wiezsacker, The Relevance of Science
1962-1963 C. W. Hendel
1965-1967 H. Butterfield
1971-1972 R. W. Southern
1974-1975 B. G. Mitchell, Morality, Religious and Secular
1979-1980 S. Brenner
1981-1982 S. Clark, From Athens to Jerusalem
1981-1982 C. J. Larner, The Thinking Peasant
1982-1983 A. J. Sanford, Models, Mind and Man
1982-1983 P. Drew
1983-1984 A. D. Galloway

St. Andrews

1888-1890 A Lang, The Making of Religion
1890-1891 E. Caird
1894-1896 L. Campbell, Religion in Greek Literature
1899-1901 R. A. Lanciani, New Tales of Old Rome
1902-1904 R. B. Haldane, The Pathway to Reality
1907-1909 J. Ward, The Realm of Ends
1911-1913 J. G. Frazer, The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead
1914-1916 J. A. Thomson, The System of Animate Nature
1917-1919 W. R. Inge, The Philosophy of Plotinus
1919-1920 L. R. Farnell, Greek Hero Cults and Ideas of Immortality
1926-1928 A. E. Taylor, The Faith of a Moralist
1929-1930 C. Gore, The Philosophy of the Good Life
1932-1933 R. R. Marett, Faith, Hope and Charity in Primitive Religion ; Sacraments of Simple Folk
1935-1936 H. H. Henson, Christian Morality
1936-1937 W. Jaeger, The Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers
1937-1938 W. G. De Burgh, From Morality to Religion
1938-1939 J. Bidez, Eos
1939-1940 R. Kroner, The Primacy of Faith
1946-1948 E. Brunner, Christianity and Civilization
1948-1949 A. M. Macbeath, Experiments in Living
1951-1953 B. Blanshard, Reason and Goodness ; Reason and Belief
1953-1955 C. A. Campbell, On Selfhood and Godhood
1955-1956 W. C. Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy
1956-1958 V. A. Demant
1958-1960 G. H. von Wright, Norm and Action
1960-1962 S. Runciman, The Church in Captivity
1962-1963 H. Chadwick
1964-1966 J. N. Findlay, The Discipline of the Cave ; The Transcendence of the Cave
1967-1969 R. C. Zaehner, Concordant Discord
1970-1971 W. H. Thorpe, Animal Nature and Human Nature
1972-1973 A. J. Ayer, The Central Questions of Philosophy
1975-1976 R. Hooykaas, (Jaki doesn't have a title, but it has since been published, its title is something about the development of science and I've read it)
1977-1978 D. Stafford-Clark
1980-1981 G. Vlastos
1982-1983 D. G. Charlton
1983-1984 J. Macquarrie, In Search of Deity


1889-1891 E. B. Tylor
1891-1892 A. M. Fairbarin, The Philosophy of the Christian Religion
1896-1898 J. Ward, Naturalism and Agnosticism
1898-1900 J. Royce, The World and the Individual
1900-1902 A. H. Sayce, The Religions of Ancient Egypt and Babylonia
1905-1906 J. Adam, The Religious Teachers of Greece
1907-1909 H. Driesch, The Science and Philosophy of Organism
1909-1910 W. Ridgeway
1911-1913 A. Pringle-Pattison
1913-1915 W. R. Sorley, Moral Values and the Idea of God
1917-1919 C. C. Webb, God and Personality ; Divine Personality and Human Life
1921-1922 E. W. Hobson, The Domain of Natural Science
1924-1926 W. Mitchell, The Place of Minds in the World
1927-1929 E. W. Barnes, Scientific Theory and Religion
1930-1932 E. Gilson, The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy
1935-1936 W. D. Ross, Foundations of Ethics
1936-1938 K. Barth, The Knowledge of God and the Service of God according to the Teaching of the Reformation
1938/39, 1946/47 A. D. Nock
1947-1948 J. Wisdom
1948-1950 G. Marcel, The Mystery of Being
1951-1952 M. Polanyi, Personal Knowledge
1952-1954 P. Tillich, Systematic Theology
1956-1958 H. A. Hodges
1960-1962 H. H. Price, Belief
1963-1965 A. C. Hardy, The Living Stream ; The Divine Flame
1965-1966 R. Aron
1966-1968 T. M. Knox, Action ; Layman's Quest
1969-1970 A. T. van Leeuwen, Critique of Heaven ; Critique of Earth
1972-1974 H. Arendt, The Life of the Mind
1975-1977 J. Z. Young, Programs of the Brain
1979-1980 F. C. Copleston, Religion and the One
1981-1983 A. Hultkrantz
1983-1984 R. Swinburne, The Evolution of the Soul

They are very much a mixed bag, although they tend to be good. Some of the better ones, in no particular order: Gilson, Marcel, Price, Driesch, Heisenberg, Thorpe, James, Lewis, Jaki, Daiches. Some of the worst, IMHO: Ayer, Toynbee, Hobson, Blanshard, Dewey. Bohr's lectures were apparently so bad he went from a lecture hall of hundreds to less than ten stubborn advanced physics students; and they all remembered the lectures as monotonous to the point of horror. Some of the Gifford Lecturers since Jaki's list peters out that I can remember off the top of my head include Onora O'Neill, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Michael Ignatieff, Charles Taylor, Richard Sorabji, Martha Nussbaum, Eleonore Stump, and John Haldane.

(UPDATE 11/22/04: I've made a few minor corrections - one (Driesch) was accidentally left without bolding, and another (Smart) was accidentally bolded that shouldn't have been. At least I don't think it should have been; I've read a few things by Smart, but I don't think I've read the work in question. As you might expect, given the vivid impression Smart's works have left on me, I'm not in a hurry to read it, if I haven't already. I thought of another important recent Gifford Lecturer, Stanley Hauerwas, With the Grain of the Universe, which I have read. The Hooykaas book, now that I think of it, was called something like Faith, Fact, and Fiction.)

Blogging and Civics

This is actually rather cool, and suggests an important way in which the blogosphere can be involved in getting information about government actions to citizens. At the bottom of the post the author points out how to file a FOIA request electronically.

(Hat-tip: The Truth Laid Bear.)

Total Depravity and Free Will

There's an excellent discussion of Calvinism and free will at "Jollyblogger".

Friday, November 19, 2004

Shepherd on Her Causal Theory

For those of you who are interested, I have put up at Houyhnhnm Land a selection from Lady Mary Shepherd's essay on causation, in which she gives her own summary of the basics of her theory of causation. Right now it's pretty sparse - it doesn't have much formatting and there's no real commentary. I hope to change that in the future, by 'prettifying' the page and bit-by-bit building up an extensive commentary apparatus, but for now it suffices.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Marcel at SEP

The SEP has a new article up on Gabriel Marcel. I like Marcel a lot, although I don't read as much of him as I would like. For one thing it can take a lot of patience to make it through some of his philosophical works, because they move very slowly and carefully. But he's well worth reading, and the article (by Brian Treanor) gives a run-down of some of his most important positions.

Old State, New State, Red State, Blue State

There are enow of zealots on both sides who kindle up the passions of their partizans, and under pretence of public good, pursue the interests and ends of their particular faction. For my part, I shall always be more fond of promoting moderation than zeal; though perhaps the surest way of producing moderation in every party is to increase our zeal for the public. Let us therefore try, if it be possible, from the foregoing doctrine, to draw a lesson of moderation with regard to the parties, into which our country is at presentg divided; at the same time, that we allow not this moderation to abate the industry and passion, with which every individual is bound to pursue the good of his country.

Those who either attack or defend a minister in such a government as ours, where the utmost liberty is allowed, always carry matters to an extreme, and exaggerate his merit or demerit with regard to the public. His enemies are sure to charge him with the greatest enormities, both in domestic and foreign management; and there is no meanness or crime, of which, in their account, he is not capable. Unnecessary wars, scandalous treaties, profusion of public treasure, oppressive taxes, every kind of mal-administration is ascribed to him. To aggravate the charge, his pernicious conduct, it is said, will extend its baleful influence even to posterity, by undermining the best constitution in the world, and disordering that wise system of laws, institutions, and customs, by which our ancestors, during so many centuries, have been so happily governed. He is not only a wicked minister in himself, but has removed every security provided against wicked ministers for the future.

On the other hand, the partizans of the minister make his panegyric run as high as the accusation against him, and celebrate his wise, steady, and moderate conduct in every part of his administration. The honour and interest of the nation supported abroad, public credit maintained at home, persecution restrained, faction subdued; the merit of all these blessings is ascribed solely to the minister. At the same time, he crowns all his other merits by a religious care of the best constitution in the world, which he has preserved in all its parts, and has transmitted entire, to be the happiness and security of the latest posterity.

(David Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, "That Politics May Be Reduced to a Science," paragraphs 14-16.)

Hume's solution to the problem of partisanship is to respond by pointing out that neither side is acting in a manner consistent with the constitutional principles they profess to uphold: if the principles are good, there is no reason to think the minister's replacement is so very urgent that it must be done now, and if they are bad, it makes no sense to attack the minister for not preserving them; if the principles are good, there is no reason to think the minister's being in power is so very important that it will be horrible if he is replaced, and if they are bad, it makes no sense to praise the minister for preserving them for posterity.

I doubt that this would actually be successful in general, although it might be a start for something.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Dialogue Summer 2004

Today I received the Summer issue of Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie, the journal of the Canadian Philosophical Association. It's a bit of a mixed bag, as it always is, but usually there's something interesting, and so it was this time.

Jefrey Grupp has an article, "Problems with the Platonist Exemplification Tie between Located Entities and an Unlocated Entity," which was certainly interesting. I've read it through twice, and read some passages in it several more times, and my conclusion is that the reason why Platonic realists don't really bother much with the problem is that it's a complete non-problem. The article is something of a sequel to another article by Grupp, which I haven't read. There he argues that direct attachments like the Platonist notion of exemplification between located entities (in this case, particulars) and unlocated entities (in this case, universals) are impossible, "since such an attachment requires the unlcoated entity to be in space, at a spatial place, since the located entity is necessarily spatially located" (p. 494). Thus they would imply entities that are located and unlocated at the same time. Now, it's possible that Grupp has a knock-down argument in the article I haven't read, but I've come across similar claims in philosophy of religion, and they never work. And we have, in fact, good reason to think none will. An 'attachment' like a particular's exemplifying a certain Platonic universal is likely to be sui generis, so arguments like Grupp's really do need to argue that such attachments are conceptually impossible. But how would they be? The concept of the terms wouldn't rule it out, and it's hard to see why the concept of exemplification or attachment itself would rule it out. And this is especially true if the attachment is a relation in a fairly ordinary sense, since you can potentially have relations between any sorts of objects you want (even between a located and a non-located entity).

However, this article is not on this argument, but on a further argument. Grupp's further argument is a response to those who claim that perhaps the exemplification tie is simply an ontological primitive that doesn't cross 'realms'. He argues:

1. Suppose we have a wholly spatially located entity, L, e.g., a lion, and a wholly unlocated platonic universal, S, e.g., sublimity, which L exemplifies.

2. Since L is wholly spatially located, L only exemplifes n-adic properties, such as S, at x and nowhere else, because L is nowhere else but at x.

3. Therefore an exemplification not at x is an exemplification that does not have to do with L.

4. Since S is wholly spatially unlocated, it cannot fail to be spatially unlocated (Grupp, oddly, decides to call this 'being at y'), S only involves a direct attachment to the exemplification tie at y, and nowhere else, because S is nowhere else but at y.

5. Therefore an exemplification not at y is an exemplification that does not have to do with S.

6. If L exemplifies n-adic properties only at x, if S involves a direct attachment to the exemplification tie only at y, and if the exemplification tie does not cross realms, since x is not y, L and S apparently cannot have any dealings with each other: for L to tie to S, S, which is wholly at y, must be at x, and thus be both located and unlocated, or L, which is wholly at x, must be at y, and thus both located and unlocated.

7. Therefore L and S cannot be tied by exemplification.

My first thought: the attachment in this case is not between L's locatedness and S's nonlocatedness, but between L, which necessarily has a physical position, and S, which is not the sort of thing to have a physical position at all. Grupp describes the latter as 'being at y'. But this 'at' is not a physical 'at'. Now, exemplification by its nature would be an asymmetric attachment: L exemplifies S at x, but S does not exemplify L at all; its role in the story is just to be exemplified by L at x. Therefore, it isn't obvious that S and L are parallel in the way Grupp's argument actually requires. L's exemplifying S perhaps necessarily requires the exemplification of S to be where L is; but we have no reason whatsoever to think that S's being exemplified by L requires the exemplification of S to be unlocated. S's being exemplified by L requires only that L exemplify S; it does not necessarily require anything about S. If this is so, however, Grupp cannot force a contradiction.

Further: S may be wholly unlocated in itself, as a Platonic universal, but it does not follow from this that S cannot be located in any way; particularly if you think 'being exemplified by' is one way something can be located somewhere. In this case, S would be wholly unlocated in itself, but located in L by L's exemplification of S.

Grupp's argument is very ambitious; if it worked it would destroy any metaphysical position that posited a relation between located and unlocated entities (Plantingan possible worlds metaphysics, most theisms, Platonic philosophies of mathematics, Cartesian dualism, etc.). And, what is more, it would destroy them all as a result of identifying a fairly basic contradiction at their heart. We have, however, no reason to think it works; and this is not surprising (what would be surprising would be if all these positions turned out to be subject to such an easily identified contradiction). In fact, arguments like Grupp's have been considered, and rejected (rightly, I think), in discussions of divine omnipresence, on the grounds that location itself is a derivative property depending on more fundamental properties. It therefore cannot conflict with any attachments that are involved in these properties (and while we need not assume that one of these attachments is exemplification, Platonic realists certainly would).

There's also an interesting article by Manuela Ungureanu, called "Reading the Minds of Others: Radical Interpretation and the Empirical Study of Childhood Cognitive Development", defending Davidson from a common criticism. The Davidson stuff is blah, but the cognitive stuff is very interesting.

And Larmer continues his debate with Overall on miracles. This has to be one of the most pointless disputes I've ever seen; I don't know why they keep it up. I don't agree with a lot of what Larmer has said in it; but Overall's last contribution was bad to the point of being an example of what one should not do in a philosophical discussion, consisting as it did almost entirely of things like rhetorical questions (yes, for several pages most of the sentences where either direct rhetorical questions or the sort of indicative sentence that really is more like a rhetorical question than a genuine argument). Very disappointing; and very undergraduate. Her original paper was much better, although the argument in it is just silly: she's arguing that if there are miracles, this would prove that God does not exist. Yes, you read that correctly. It turns out just to be a bizarre variation of the problem of evil.

The Big Forty-Four

The Forty-fourth Christian Carnival is up at ChristWeb. There are some good ones this time around. Some notables:

* A post in a continuing series on the early Christian understanding of Christ's divinity at "".

* Star in the East at "Sierra Faith" (some good pictures)

* A brief reflection on Foreknowledge and Free-will at "viewpoint"; the 'God is like a vast sphere' analogy may sound a bit strange, but in fact it isn't so very different from the old aphorism, God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere, as used by (among others) Nicholas of Cusa - who would like this analogy, I think.

* A post on Lyotard at "Allthings2all".

* The qualifications of a spiritual leader at "A Physicist's Perspective," on Nehemiah.

* A very interesting post on spiritual poisons at "21st century Reformation"

This is only a small sample of the all the posts (forty-seven in all).


Here. Perhaps it can be the trailer for a new indy film: Catholic Ragemonkey: The Movie.

(You have to click the "I'm sure I don't know what he's talking about" link.)

Sor Juana Chats with a Rose

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695), born Juana de Asbaje y Ramírez, is one of the foremost Spanish-language poets of the seventeenth century, and certainly has a place as one of the greatest Mexican poets ever. Here's one of her most famous poems, along with a rough draft of my translation; you can find a somewhat more literal rendering here.

En que da moral censura a una rosa, y en ella a sus semejantes

Rosa divina que en gentil cultura
eres, con tu fragrante sutileza,
magisterio purpúreo en la belleza,
enseñanza nevada a la hermosura;

amago de la human arquitectura,
ejemplo de la vana gentileza,
en cuyo sér unió naturaleza
la cuna alegre y triste sepultura:

¡cuán altiva en tu pompa, presumida,
soberbia, el riesgo de morir desdeñas,
y luego desmayada y encogida

de tu caduco sér das mustias señas,
con que con docta muerte y necia vida,
viviendo engañas y muriendo enseñas!

In which she rebukes a rose, and in it those like it

Divine rose, you are grown in grace,
with all your fragrant subtleness,
great teacher with scarlet beauty blessed,
snowy demonstration in a lovely face,

twin of human frame and doom,
example of a gentility vain,
in whom are unified the twain,
the happy cradle and the grieving tomb.

What haughtiness in your pomp, such pride,
such presumption, as you disdain your mortal fate
and later are dismayed and hide

as dying you give signs of withered state
with which, by learnéd death and foolish life,
alive you lied and dying demonstrate!

UPDATE(11/23): Made a slight improvement in a very lame line in my translation.

Another Labyrinth, and a Free Association

My mom sent me this link to a church labyrinth in Austin, TX, based on the one at Chartres:

St. David's Episcopal Church.

Which is way cool. I notice, though, that they have 'trained facilitators' for groups who want to use their canvas labyrinth, and I find that a bit puzzling. Why would one need a trained facilitator to help you walk and pray along a path laid out on the ground? Maybe they have activities. One could be "Race to Jerusalem". Perhaps it would have some analogy to the old legend of the "Race to Mecca":

A very wealthy man dies with two sons. His will states that only one son will receive anything, and which one that is will be determined by a horserace from Medina to Mecca. The son whose horse reaches Mecca last receives the inheritance.

So the race is on, and months pass and neither son has really progressed much beyond Medina; each is trying to be the last one to reach Mecca, and there are infinitely many ways to defer reaching the goal. One day an old man happens by and asks why they both look so frustrated. They tell him the whole story.

The old man stands in thought a moment, then said, "You are certain that the will states that the son whose horse reaches Mecca last will receive the inheritance?"

"Yes," said one of the sons; "hence our frustration."

"Then the problem is easily solved: each of you must ride your brother's horse and make sure it reaches Mecca before your own."

So they each jumped on the other's horse and spurred the horses for all they were worth toward Mecca.

OK, that's enough free association for now.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Another Poem Draft

This came to me today, when I was late getting out the door; so I was even later getting out the door. I'm not wholly happy with the second stanza, but the last two make good use of ambiguities in meaning (as just the obvious example, 'know as the rolling sun does rise' could mean 'know, as sure as the sun rises' or 'know, while the sun rises). Can you catch the allusion in the second stanza? The answer is here, if you can't.

A Texas Hymn

The birds woke me at the sunrise hour
when the grass was all a-dew and all was pale
beneath the light of one high white star
that signaled to the world that all was well.

And I, taking in the breeze that trickled down
the blades of greenest grass and then wound
around my legs to tickle tired feet,
knew the light, and knew the light was sweet.

When thirsty men drink from the flowing spring,
they come to life, new-quickened by the source,
as do I, when I hear the early morning sing
in bird, in light, in wind in gentle course,

and know, as the rolling sun does rise,
there is a Holy Spirit, God's own breath,
who fills with light the sky and human eyes
and raises even souls like mine from death.

November PLoS Biology

The November issue of PLoS Biology is out. Some highlights:

* It has sometimes been suggested that our brains have two visual systems, one for perceiving and one for acting; there's new evidence that this hypothesis is flawed. Synopsis. Research.

* There's some suggestive evidence that the prefrontal cortex might be doing more in working memory cases than just short-term memory. Synopsis. Research.

* There's an interesting essay on biodiversity.

PLoS Biology -

The Important Exit Polls

Springfield too close to call. But I bet Capital City tends Democrat.

Also, there are other elements to consider. Springfield has a fundamentalist school, and despite Reverend Lovejoy's idea of a good church service, there seem to be a lot of churchgoers, particularly given that there are several other churches. So this suggests that the Ned Flanders factor may be rather hefty in Springfield. This suggests that there's a hefty Further, I think Krusty is explicitly a Republican in one episode (as is Dr. Hibbert, but they got him right). Springfield also used to have a nearby military base, but as it has since closed, there might not be any lingering after-effects. But Birch Barlow, a Rush Limbaugh figure, apparently has a very large audience in Springfield; and Rainier Wolfcastle would, no doubt, be a major fundraising force for the Republicans. Carl and Lenny, though, are certainly Democrats (Carl admires Ted Kennedy for his integrity, for instance).

This all reminds me of my two favorite Simpsons politics one-liners:

No children have ever meddled with the Republican Party and lived to tell about it. - Sideshow Bob

Oh my God...the dead have risen and they're voting Republican. - Bart

Both of these, of course, are from the Sideshow Bob Roberts episode.

Augustine and the Measure of Time (Part III)

If time is not something mental, then we would have to give some reason for considering it as something more than a measure. The basic Augustinian point, however, would still remain, since our only way of measuring time out is purely mental (and, for any given time, purely present). This raises some interesting questions if we apply it to the A-series and B-series perspectives. Both would have to regard temporal measurement as being carried out entirely by mental operations in the present. We have no instruments for directly measuring temporal variation; even clocks only present regular motions for comparison with other motions, and the 'time' dimension of clocks is measured out by mental remembering, attending, and expecting. We have no acquaintance with temporal differences outside these mental operations.

Does this mean, then that the A-series view is right in putting all the emphasis on the existential priority of the present? Some might argue that, inasmuch as all time is measured only in the present, the present clearly has a certain degree of priority. However, Augustine's position, as was noted above, is perfectly congenial to a tenseless view that makes all times to be on a level, and simply holds that times only are inasmuch as they are when they are present. Time's being measured in the present only means that to have a measure we must be able to attend to it, and operation which marks out the present as a measure of the way in which things are ('present' marks out those things that are present to us). As some proponents of a tenseless view of time have noted, the A-series measures of past, present, and future can be accounted for in terms of belief or mental attitude; and this, in fact, is precisely what Augustine does.

On such a note one might be tempted to say that the Augustinian position leads us right into a B-series position. However, the tenseless proponent has to deal with the moment-bound status of our measurements. If we only are able to measure out the extesnion fo a time interval at some particular time t, then the tensed proponents seem to be onto something when they claim that we start with the present, to which alone we have direct access. This, too, is precisely what Augustine does.

All this is just to say that Augustine's argument doe snot require us to hold either an A-seris or a B-series view of time. The argument goes a little deeper, however, inasmuch as it raises questions for either side--and what is more, precisely the sorts of intuitive questions either side raises against the other. Perhaps more importantly, it shows tha tour measuring 'devices', i.e., our mental operations, with regard to time, do not give us any real clue as to the existence of anything in the world that is either tensed or tenseless. If the A-series or B-series proponents wish to argue that their view indicates something ontological about the world, independently of the manner in which we measure motion in the world, they have to answer the question, "How do we have access to this ontological something independently of the measuring operations of the mind?" For the measuring operations of the mind, if Augustine's position holds, would not seem to bias us one way or the other.

This suggest that there may be a third position, falling into neither the A-series camp nor the B-series camp. On this position the things of the world are neither tensed nor tenselessly time-indexed. Rather, they are potentially measured in either of these ways--they are not themselves tensed, but only tensible, not in themselves time-indexed, but only time-indexable. On such a position, the A-series and the B-series are just two methods of measurement that pick up on different features of this capability for measurement. Their truth-value differences, in turn, would be differences relative to the method of measurement. The two woul be indicating precisely the same reality in differnet vocabularies, and the dispute would then be largely a matter of talking past each other. I say 'largely' because it would still be possible to claim that one is a better method of measurement than the other; but on this position that would be the strongest claim that either side could make. Such a position has the advantage that it does not require a further step beyond Augustine's point about measurement, but simply holds that, as far as considerations about the ontological status of time go, that is as far as anyone need take it.

Augustine and the Measure of Time (Part II)

Since neither past nor future things are now, when we are measuring time they must "somehow exist in the mind, for otherwise I do not see them; there is present of thigns past, memory; present of things present, sight; present of things future, expectation" (246). We are time-oriented creatures through memory, perception, and anticipation. This allows for the beginnings of a solution, since this fills out Augustine's claim that we measure time not as it is past but as it passes. We begin to say a word, say it, and finish saying it; before we said it, it was future. As such it could not be measured, since it did not yet exist; having finished it, we can no longer measure it. Measuring time,then, is something that happens while things are going on, which feeds into the key puzzle. When Augustine says, "Deus, Creator omnium," the verse has both short and long syllables. He can measure a long syllable by a short syllable and find it to be double. how then does he detain one syllable to compare it to another? The measuring of itnervals explicitly requires that the interval measured has already finished; and on this basis Augustine says, "It is not then themselves, which no longer exist, that I measure, but something in my memory, which remains fixed there" (253). He goes on to say:

It is in you, O my mind, that I measure time. Do not interrrupt me by clamoring that time has objective existence! I measure time in you. The impression which things cause in you as they pass by remains even when they are gone. This, which is still present, is what I measure, not those things which have passed by to make this impression. This is what I measure when I measure time. Either, then, this is time, or I do not measure time. (254)

The measurement of time, therefore, is due to our mental capacities for considering, remembering, and expecting in such a way that "what it expects, through what it considers, passes into what it remembers" (254).

Augustine's solution seems to make time something mental. Despite any of the apparent objectsion ("Do not interrupt me by clamoring that time has objective existence!"), there is a certain sophistication to the theory: time is simply a particular way in which we regard changing things. It has the advantage that under it we are not tempted to reify time; and it has the added advantage of fitting especially well with all those of our intuitions that treat time as a measure. If time is a measuring out of entities, however, and that measurment is accomplished entirely by the different attitudes of the mind, time is something mental precisely insofar as it is a measure.

(Part III)

Augustine and the Measure of Time (Part I)

[These are an extended set of rough notes that I came across when doing some housecleaning. They are several years old, and I don't know that I would say the same things today; but they seemed interesting enough, so I thought I'd post them. References to the Confessions are to the Helms translation put out by Paraclete Press. There will, I think, be three in all. For those who haven't a clue what 'A-series and B-series is, this provides a convenient slide-show summary.]

It is sometimes said that Augustine held a view of time in which only the present exists, on the basis of what he says in the Confessions. I would like to suggest that Augustine is actually engaged in discussing a much more fundamental issue, one that must arise for proponents of the 'A-series' or the 'B-series' alike. Considering this issue, which has to do with temporal measurement, raises interesting questions for both views of time, and suggests a possible third position.

The discussion of time in Book XI of the Confessions first sets out the problem in a general way:

Yet I say boldly that I know that if nothing passed away there would be no time past. And if nothing were coming, there would be no future time. And if there were nothing, there would be no present time. Those two times, then, past and future--how are they, when the past is no longer and the future is not yet? But should the present always be present and never pass into time past, truly it would not be time, but eternity. (241-242)

As Augustine further develops this line of thought, it is clear that the issue that concerns him is bound up in the fact that we measure intervals of time. We call soem times short and some times long, whether those times are said to be past, present, or future. The question then arises, "in what sense is something long or short which does not exist? For the past is not now, and the future is not yet" (242). Augustine considers a response to this which says taht we should not say the past or the future "is" long, but "has been" or "will be" long; but, as he notes, this does not actually remove the real point at issue. The same basic question arises: In what sense can we ascribe extension ("long" or "short") to any time? Someone might be tempted to say that it had or will have extension when it was or will be present, but once again this fails to evade the major issue involved. How are we to take this present?

If any portion of time is conceived, which cannot now be divided into even the minutest particles of moments, that alone is what may be called present. And that flies by with such speed from future to past tthat it cannot be lengthened out in the least, for if it is extended, it is divided between past and future. The present has no extension or length. (243)

The trouble with all these attempts to geta round the problem is that all our measuring of time is itself time-conditioned. Unlike spatial measurement, in time measurement we cannot stand outside what we are measuring and stretch some measuring device along the whole of its extension. Our measurements of time cannot occur except entirely at a particular time. This is a problem any view of tiem will have to face. Suppose we mentally mark out when a race begins and when it ends. We cannot, as we could with spatial measurement, step back and compare the two marks, because we do nto have access to the temporal marks that we do with spatial marks. Any comparison of the beginning and ending mark will not be a direct comparison of marks. All our measurements of teh extension of time occur entirely in some present or at some time t. We seem to have no way of measuring time (in any clear sense of the word 'measuring') at all. It is nevertheless certainly true that we perceive and compare intervals of time. The question Augustine raises is that of how we do so:

We even measure how much longer or shorter this time is than that; and we answer,"This is double, or treble, while this other is but once, or only just as long as that." But we measure times as they are passing, by perceiving them. But past times, which no longer are, or future times, which are not yet, who can measure? Unless, perhaps, anyone would dare to say that what is not can be measured. When, therefore, time is passing, it can be perceived and measured; but when it is past, it cannot, because it is not. (244)

This may sound something like the claim that only the present exists (where 'exists' is presumably understood tenselessly). I doubt, however, that htis can be any more than an anachronistic reading. Augustine, of course, is nto familiar with McTaggart's A-series/B-series distinction; and the most natural way of reading Augsutine's claim is simply that times are only when they are; and when they are what we call 'past' or 'future' they either no longer are, or are not yet--truisms on any perspective. Indeed, any theory of time that somehow failed to encapsulate these points woul be nothing more than the denial that there really is time--i.e., that there really is a difference between any given 'now' and 'then'. The 'now' or the 'then', of course, may be fixed in either A-series style or B-series style. In any case, denying that only the present exists would not remove the Augustinian problem; how we measure an interval of time without some sort of direct access to the whole interval remains a question. Even if Augustine were assuming an extreme view of time, the problem (and, I think, the solution) he gives are not limited to that view, because it is a much more fundamental problem than the problems that generate these different views. There is, however, evidence in the text that Augustine is not so clearly committed to the claim that only the present exists (taken tenselessly), since in several places he seriously considers the idea that past and future really are, and after much discussion denies that they do in a way that shows that he would take the 'exists' in "only the present exists" to be simply present-tensed, not tenseless. In particular, he notes that our memory's access to the past does nto give us access to past things, but only to present traces of things past, "words which are conceived from the images of things which they have left as traces in the mind in their passage through the senses" (245). Our measurement of the past and the future as if they were present is not an access to the past and the future as themselves present; hence the problem.

(Part II)

Monday, November 15, 2004

End of Story

A good post by Michael Spencer at "Boar's Head Tavern" on eschatology. Now you know what to say when the subject comes up.

The Boar's Head Tavern, by the way, is one of the more interesting group blogs in the blogosphere. Group blogging is rather hard to do, and every group blog tends to be different. They tend, however, to fall into two groups, which I will call 'discrete' and 'conversational'. Most group blogs are discrete. In a discrete group blog, most of the posts are relatively self-standing; they are mini-essays of some sort. In a conversational group blog, on the other hand, the blog functions as a sort of chat room; posts are largely not self-standing, since they are usually responses to other posts or initiating posts. Comments functions give discrete group blogs some of the benefits of conversational group blogging, but only to an extent; conversational blogs can, of course, at any time throw in a self-standing post, although if these are too common they dampen the conversation. As it turns out, conversational group blogs are very hard to do; they're harder to keep up and you have to have a group capable of being civil over a wide range of subjects. The Boar's Head is one of the most successful of the conversational group blogs; the only other really successful conversational group blog that comes to mind is NRO's The Corner, although I'm sure there are probably one or two more from different parts of the spectrum. Conversational group blogs are a bit like soap operas - if you leave them a bit and come back to them, it doesn't take long before you're reading right alone with the flow of the conversation. They also tend not to be very deep, although there are always gems (the Boar's Head is partly successful, I think, because it has so many), like Spencer's post above, or the hilarious (to me, anyway) conversation of which this post at The Corner is a part.

Philosophers' Carnival V

The newest Philosophers' Carnival is up at Ciceronian Review. My contribution was the recent post on Shepherd's theory of causation. There are quite a few good posts this time around, so go and see.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Why I Believe in Free Will: Point # 3

I'm slowly churning out a series here; and by slowly, I mean that I haven't even gotten around to the point of the series yet. As I noted in the beginning, some of the points in the series are very indirect, and the first two certainly were. I'm still not going to be talking about free choice itself yet, but I get a bit closer by looking at the opposing position. I still haven't worked out the formulation of this point to my satisfaction, and in itself it's a limite one, but I think it's interesting.

Point # 3: Determinism has problem giving content to possibility.

(Keep in mind that by 'determinism' I mean a causal thesis.)

We often say that something (let's call it A) might have been different. One way of understanding this is to take it to imply that A could have been different if and only if A's causes had been different. This is, in fact, often the case; when I'm talking about what could have been different about the way a stone fell to the ground, I don't usually go about assuming that the stone had its own power to fall differently than it did, but that (e.g.) the interposition of different causes would have changed the way it fell to the ground.

The only way there is real possibility here, however, is if the causes themselves could have been different - otherwise, the discussion is per impossibile and (as one might guess) that doesn't bode too well for allowing genuine possibility. So to explain the possibility of A's being different, we have pushed the matter back to the possibility of A's causes' being different, and this has to be a genuine possibilty or we have actually mired ourselves in a contradiction. On the assumption that A's being different is really possible, our explanation of that possibility has to allow for it genuinely to be a possibility.

You can tell, I'm sure, where this is heading. I see four responses that can be made to this problem:

a) infinite regress;
b) the achievement of state by appeal to mere chance;
c) the achievement of state by appeal to a cause 'not determined to one';
d) the denial that anything is genuinely possible, other than what actually is.

(a) is contradictory unless it is combined with (d); so (a) as it were collapses into (d). (c) is anti-determinist and so would presumably want to be avoided by a determinist. This leaves (b) and (d). I have no knock-down response to (b); in part because I have difficulty seeing what it would actually be. For (b) to be the case, we must at some point reach a level or system that allows for chance; and in that case it would seem to be the level or system that really does the grounding of possibility. So (b) seems to collapse either into (c) or (d); I don't see any way to maintain it on its own.

So this suggests that the real account of possibility has to be either in terms of (c) or (d). And, indeed, I think both of these have merit; (d), for instance, is a little counterintuitive, but there are a great many clever ways to allow for (d) that still allow us to talk about possibilities without giving any real metaphysical status to them. So I don't consider this Point to be a refutation of determinism, or anything of the sort. Its significance is that it is a bottleneck associated with a number of more serious issues; thus I am getting it out in the open before those issues come up.

According to my notes, the next few points will deal with issues more strictly relevant to the topic of free will. So I'm getting around to the actual subject of the series! Yay!