Friday, January 21, 2005

Burgess-Jackson on Noncognitivism about Moral Judgments

I want to say something about this post by Burgess-Jackson at AnalPhilosopher, but have to go if I'm to make it home in time to watch Joan of Arcadia, my non-negotiable TV show (I always allow myself one, and, in principle, only one, show that the rest of my schedule moves around; it opens a clear space for TV-relaxation while making clear that other shows don't have the same privilege, and so I don't have an excuse to zombie out for them when I have other things to do). So this post is largely just a reminder to myself to get to it later.

Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas

For some reason I thought it was the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas; but that's next Friday. I won't be here (attending a wedding) or else I would do something special for it here on Siris. Next year, perhaps.

The Fourteen Triads of the Sermon on the Mount

An interesting paper on the triadic structure of the Sermon on the Mount by Glen Stassen. (Hat-tip: NT Gateway Weblog.)

More on Reduplication

Bill Vallicella has a response to my The Maverick on Reduplication post which helps to clarify a bit. I see from the response that Vallicella accepts Morris's criticisms of reduplication; this is the primary difference between our positions. I think Morris fails to characterize the traditional view of reduplication properly. In particular, the traditional view of reduplication is that reduplicative phrases may restrict the application of the predicate to the subject or clarify the subject; Morris's criticisms, as far as I can see, ignore the former, possibility, which is the relevant one. If this is so, Morris's criticisms fail if they are given as reasons for rejecting the traditional view of reduplication.

My comments on Vallicella's comments follow.

1) To my denial that being human entails being mortal, Vallicella said:

BV: This strikes me as a very weak response, being a merely ad hoc maneuver. Brandon is simply helping himself to (presupposing the truth of) the doctrine the coherence of which he ought to be explaining.

Suppose we consider a different example. Being human entails a capacity for suffering, just as being divine entails an incapacity for suffering. Will Brandon deny the entailment here as well and say that Christ's being human does not in his case entail a capacity for suffering? An orthodox defender of the Incarnation cannot do this since he cannot deny (consistently with orthodoxy) that Christ suffered and died on the cross. He really suffered, with a real human body, as opposed to a phantom or shadow body as the Docetists maintained.

So even if Brandon were right about being human not entailing being mortal -- which I do not grant -- the same problem can be raised for the reduplicative strategy using the opposites 'capable of suffering'/'incapable of suffering,' not to mention others.

I don't see how the claim "'X is human' does not entail 'X is mortal' unqualifiedly" presupposes the issue at hand; for one can reject (and, I imagine, many do) the claim that being human entails being mortal without any acceptance of the doctrine of Incarnation, the Chalcedonian definition, or reduplicative analysis. For to say that 'X is human' entails 'X is mortal', simply speaking, also entails that it is impossible for even divine omnipotence to make someone human immortal as well; this is a strong claim for which I have never seen a plausible argument. If, however, divine omnipotence can make a human to be immortal (by forever preventing them from dying), then it follows that 'X is human' does not entail 'X is mortal' except under conditions - and these conditions can, at least in principle, be violated. It is certainly true that this claim doesn't prevent heretical Christologies; but I don't think a Christology that denies that being human entails being mortal is wrong for that reason. Incidentally, the same is true of suffering. As Vallicella notes, none of this supplies a reason for preferring orthodox Christology over others, since the Council of Ephesus insists that Christ is mortal and does suffer. But the reason for this element of orthodoxy is not that being human entails mortality; it is that salvation requires that Christ be mortal and suffer, and Christ was given that we might be saved. The chief problem with heretical Christologies is that, if true, we would not be saved, not that they are all logically incoherent (although some of them perhaps are). The only case in which I can imagine that a real contradiction could be drawn along these lines would be with 'created' and 'uncreated'; but neither conciliar Christology nor (with a few important exceptions) heretical Christologies require us to say that Christ is created.

When this is recognized, the only Christologies that still have work to do in the face of the alleged contradiction are Ephesian, i.e., Christologies that follow the Council of Ephesus (e.g., Monophysite, Chalcedonian); this is because, as noted above, they do insist that Christ did actually suffer and die, and so we need to look at the other entailment.

2) To my claim that "Being God does not entail being immortal simply speaking, but not being subjectible to death in the respect in which it is God," Vallicella responds:

BV: What does this verbal fluff accomplish? 'Subjectible'? What does 'it' refer to? It is a necessary truth, indeed an analytically necessary truth, that anything divine is immortal.

Well, 'subjectible to death' might not be the best phrase (its primary relevance is not for here but later in my original post), but the primary point of the sentence is this: 'X is divine' entails 'X is immortal in the respect in which X is divine'. In other words: anything divine is immortal in the respect in which it is divine. I am willing to grant that this is indeed an analytically necessary truth (although I think to show this we would need to be much more specific about what counts as mortality). We can only say, however, that 'X is divine' entails 'X is immortal', where this latter is taken without any qualification, if we can show rigorously that 'X is divine' entails 'X is divine in every respect'. If a sound argument were put forward for it, it would in itself be a refutation of any doctrine of the Incarnation, since every theory of Incarnation, heretical or orthodox, entails the rejection of the claim that "'X is divine' entails 'X is divine in every respect'". (It would not be in itself a refutation of every Christology, since some heretical Christologies deny the doctrine of Incarnation.)

Thus, for the alleged contradiction to work we need to show that it is in fact impossible for God to have predicates in a non-divine way; and this means that to show that this contradiction is a real contradiction for Chalcedonian or any other Christology, one would already have to have in hand a proof of the impossibility of any Incarnation at all. The claim that Chalcedonian Christology runs afoul of this contradiction, therefore, is either superfluous or question-begging.

The brilliance of reduplicative analysis is that it makes it easy to recognize this. The contradiction requires us to keep the predicate univocal: Christ is mortal and Christ is immortal, in the same respect. This 'in the same respect' would insure that the predicate is immortal [that should read: univocal--ed.]. But the orthodox Christology holds that Christ is immortal in one respect and mortal in another respect; when someone who accepts Ephesus says, "The Immortal God was mortal" he is not committed to saying that God was mortal in the same respect in which He is immortal, nor that God is immortal in the same respect in which He is mortal. Rather, he merely has to hold that God is immortal-as-X and is mortal-as-Y; and this can only be a problem if X and Y themselves create a contradiction. That is, in this case, there can only be a problem if being both God and man is contradictory. In other words, to show that this contradiction is really a contradiction, you have to show that it is impossible for anything to be both God and man, because otherwise the reduplicative propositions 'God as God is immortal' and 'God as man is mortal' are not contradictory (the reduplicative phrase modifies the predicate and prevents them from being univocal; if so, the alleged contradiction is a case of the fallacy of equivocation). It only becomes a contradiction if you have already shown the Incarnation to be impossible by showing that God cannot be both God and man.

3) On my point about being God not entailing anything about being man, Vallicella says:

BV: Confused. Whether being God entails anything about being human is not the issue; the issue is whether one avoids contradiction by saying that Christ is mortal (limited in power, etc.) in respect of his being human but not these things in respect of his being divine.

'X is immortal insofar as X is divine' is only contradicted by 'X is mortal insofar as X is divine', or something entailing it. 'X is mortal insofar as X is man' is only contradicted by 'X is immortal insofar as X is man', or something entailing it. This means that there is no contradiction between 'X is immortal insofar as X is divine' and 'X is mortal insofar as X is man' unless one can show that either 'X is immortal insofar as X is divine' entails 'X is immortal insofar as X is man' or 'X is mortal insofar as X is man' entails 'X is mortal insofar as X is divine'. Unless I have accidentally confused reduplicative phrases at some point, this all follows by traditional reduplicative analysis; thus my original statement, "Being God doesn't entail anything about being human even if what is God is also human" is relevant. I would have to see the analysis of the reduplications under which it wouldn't be relevant before I could comment further.

Rrr's of Irritation

I wrote another post on reduplication and Blogger ate it. I'm off to hear a talk, though, so the re-write will have to wait until later.


Today there is a talk by Eric Hiddleston (Syracuse) on Lawful v. Counterfactual Theories of Explanation (PDF); I intend to go because I've enjoyed much of Hiddleston's other work on causation. Causal Powers (also PDF) is especially good, and deserves to be more widely read.

UPDATE: The argument was interesting, but the presentation was poor. On the one hand, he gets points in my book for presenting rather than reading his paper; on the other, it might have been easier to follow certain elements of his presentation if he had kept closer to a script. Nonetheless, the primary interest was the argument, and, as I said, it was interesting.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


An excellent discussion of just war theory at First Things; it actually gets Aquinas right on the subject. The section on right intention could be better; but the rest is good enough that I'm not complaining.

Twentysomething at Heart

You Are 23 Years Old


Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

(Hat-tip: Richard's Sideblog.)


An interesting website on incunabula.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

A Brief Jotting on Two Senses of 'Person'

In one sense, a person is just a subject possession a rational nature. In another sense, however, 'person' is a forensic term, as Locke said it was: a person is that which is responsible before another, or to another, or for another, or to whom we are responsible. This sense, however, presupposes the other, and needs to do so because we don't call 'person' anything to which, or for which, we are responsible; rather, we only call rational agents 'persons'.

Nonetheless, the distinction is important, because the second sense, being forensic in nature, is much more vague, but is also the primary one that shows up in most of our thought about persons. A good example to show the importance of the distinction is Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. In Cyrano de Bergerac Roxane is misled into thinking Christian (who is brave and beautiful, but not so bright in matters of love) is brilliantly eloquent; this becomes at some point her primary basis for loving him. In actuality, all the brilliant eloquence she thinks belongs to Christian actually belongs to Cyrano (who is brave and brilliant, but grotesquely ugly). Now, until the very end, Roxane thinks she is in love with one and only one person; and, in a sense, she is (as she says toward the end, when both Christian and Cyrano are dead, she only ever loved one man, but lost him twice): forensically, there is only one person who forms the object of her love. The tragedy, of course, is that while this forensic sense of 'person' presupposes the ontological sense, it only does so vaguely, and this allows slippage and confusion. And in this case, the slippage and confusion means that Roxane acts as if Christian-as-she-loves-him were simply Christian, when he is really in some sense Christian and Cyrano both. Two subjects, treated as one forensic person. And the interesting thing is that this only becomes a problem because the narrative forces us to regard the separation between Christian and Cyrano (1) from their perspective, as two men in love with the same woman: Christian is forced to think that Roxane really loves Cyrano, because what she says she loves about Christian simply are all the things he has (as it were) only on loan from Cyrano; and since Roxane marries Christian, we see the tragedy of the separation from Cyrano's perspective as well; and (2) from Roxane's perspective, as she learns that she was misled for so long, and tries to sort out who she loved, and how. If there had never been anything to force anyone to consider the separateness of Christian and Cyrano, however (if, for instance, Cyrano didn't love Roxane, and if Roxane never learned that Christian's brilliance was borrowed from Cyrano), there would be no tragedy: the use of the forensic sense of 'person', which is a very practical use, would for all practical purposes be indistinguishable from the use of the ontological sense, even though there was still a small amount of theoretical slippage and confusion.

The relevance to Christian prayer (and Jewish prayer from a Christian perspective) and the Trinity should be clear.

The Maverick on Reduplication

The Maverick Philosopher discusses reduplication:

The reduplicative propositions about Sally and Bob do not boil down to contradictions. But ‘Christ as man is mortal and Christ as God is immortal’ does boil down to a contradiction. For Christ’s being a man includes his being mortal, and Christ’s being God includes his being immortal. Since Christ is both man and God, he is both mortal and immortal – which is a contradiction.

In sum, the reduplicative strategy is of no use in showing the logical tenability of the two natures doctrine. The schema is this:

S. x as F is H & x as G is not H.

(S) reduces to the contradiction x is H & x is not H if the following condition is met:

C. F-ness entails H-ness & G-ness entails non-H-ness.

The Sally and Bob examples fit the reduplicative schema (S) but do not satisfy the entailment condition (C). Thus they are DISANALOGOUS to the Christological cases which do satisfy (C).

The problem I see with this is this:

1) Being human does not entail being mortal; there is no reason to think that an immortal human is logically impossible. It is, of course, generally impossible; but the impossibility is an impossibility under normal conditions, or under most conditions, or something like that. So there is no entailment in that direction.

2) Being God does not entail being immortal simply speaking, but not being subjectible to death in the respect in which it is God. In most contexts we can simply drop the qualification, because it doesn't do any work in most contexts. Nonetheless, it is there, and I think this is the primary point of the reduplication strategy; being God doesn't entail anything about being human, even if what is God is also human, because what being God entails is entirely under the condition in the respect in which it is God. This will be true for all the properties attributed to God: invisibility, intangibility, immateriality, eternity, immutability, simplicity, etc.

3) If death is the severance of soul and body, or even the cessation of activity of the body, God is immortal simply because ordinarily God does not have a body [by which I mean it isn't entailed by God's nature that he have a body--ed.]. Thus, even here we can say that being God entails being immortal only under conditions in which we are considering God as not having any body at all. If there is a condition under which God can take a body, then God can die in virtue of having that body. In other words, divine immortality (in the respects in which God can be considered without a body) does not exclude divine mortality (in the respects in which God can be considered to have a body).

Reduplication, then, does avoid any logical problem. Other things I have said about reduplication (in other contexts):

Jottings on Reduplication

A Clarification on Reduplication in Christology

(The Maverick Philosopher has been discussing Trinitarian analogies, too; some great stuff there, all worth reading.)

Some True Love's Sight

A Midsummer Night's Dream displays love in the most extreme forms of irrationality, and a superficial reader might think that the end of the story. Loves get reversed on a dime, and the mechanisms for reversal are all very similar. In actuality, however, the play is very consistent in distinguishing true love from false love: it is insistent on the fact that there is a right and a wrong in these cases. One of the reasons I like A Midsummer Night's Dream is how it connects love and reason, and distinguishes between a reason properly oriented by true love, even if it occasionally gets a bit carried away, and a reason oriented by false love, which by nature spreads disharmony around it. The best expression of this is in a speech Lysander makes to Helena. Lysander's true love for Hermia has been twisted into a false love for Helena, and his reason has been twisted in the process. Naturally, as people with twisted reasons often do, he appeals to reason to justify his irrationality:

Content with Hermia? No, I do repent
The tedious minutes I with her have spent.
Not Hermia but Helena I love.
Who will not change a raven for a dove?
The will of man is by his reason swayed,
And reason says you are the worthier maid.
Things growing are not ripe until their season;
So I, being young, till now ripe not to reason.
And touching now the point of human skill,
Reason becomes the marshal to my will,
And leads me to your eyes, where I o'erlook
Love's stories written in love's richest book.

The perfection of this speech exceeds my capacity to praise it. Despite Lysander's pompous statement that "The will of man is by his reason swayed," it is clear that his false love has swayed his reason and he, right where he appeals so much to reason, is reasoning falsely.

The false love spreads discord around it. This is true when Demetrius's true love for Helena becomes false (before the play): this twisting of love, his unapt passion for Hermia, degrades both Helena and himself: himself, by making him cruel to the one who truly loves him (despite the fact that he is the one who has acted falsely), and Helena, who, being bound to him by a true love, cannot tear herself away from his abusiveness. As she says to him:

I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,
The more you beat me I will fawn on you.
Use me but as your spaniel: spurn me, strike me,
Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you.

The physical imagery here is metaphorical, since Demetrius's abusiveness appears to be emotional rather than physical, but the degradation is clear. Had Demetrius treated her better, the degradation would not necessarily have been there; but there is something twisted about Demetrius at the start of the play, and although we don't know the ultimate cause (although perhaps it is hinted at when Puck notes that it is simply more natural for true love to turn false than for false love to turn true), we do know the nature of the twistedness: he is not in his right mind, because his love is false, both in the sense of disloyal (to Helena) and in the sense of wrong (since his love for Hermia is unfitting).

Much the same begins to happen with Lysander's transformation. The falseness of his love having twisted his reason, he begins to treat treat Hermia with the same abusiveness that Demetrius had given to Helena. This starts spreading general discord - Hermia, frightened at this sudden change in her Lysander, assumes that Helena has done something to seduce him, and a catfight nearly breaks out in the forest outside Athens. Fortunately everything is finally restored to its proper form, with Lysander loving Hermia and Demetrius loving Helena, and concord comes again. But the loves must be righted first, and, given this, reason will be restored to its right state. False love makes false reason, and true love makes true reason: a moral for everyone to keep in mind, I think, within the context of romance and without.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Wisdom from Astell

None of GOD 's Creatures absolutely consider'd are in their own Nature Contemptible; the meanest Fly, the poorest Insect has its Use and Vertue. Contempt is scarce a Human Passion, one may venture to say it was not in Innocent Man, for will Sin came into the World, there was nothing in it to be contemn'd. But Pride which makes every thing serve its purpose, wrested this Passion from its only use, so that instead of being an Antidote against Sin, it is become a grand promoter of it, nothing making us more worthy of that Contempt we shew, than when poor, weak, dependent Creatures as we are! we look down with Scorn and Disdain on others.

Mary Astell, Some Reflections Upon Marriage.

A Brief Jotting on Exemplification and Differentiation

Bob and Paul exemplify human nature. Bob and Paul are two different persons. The human nature Bob and Paul exemplify is such that human nature in Bob is distinguishable from human nature in Paul. Human nature is differentiated in Bob and Paul. This differentiation, however, is not the same as the exemplification. That Bob and Paul both exemplify human nature does not imply that human nature is differentiated in Bob and Paul, but is presupposed by it (of course). Differentiation, in other words, implies exemplification; the reverse is not true (considering differentiation and exemplification in themselves).

Cynical Thought of the Day

You can't, in any reasonable way, both tell people to think for themselves and be surprised that they think stupid things.


An interesting post at Ralph the Sacred River discusses the name.

I Do Indeed

Take the quiz: "What Monarch Are You?"

Edward IV
You are loyal and down to earth. More than that, you are a hard-headed realist. You take the facts, and you go with them. You don't try to change what is, just like Edward IV, who never lost a battle, even when greatly outnumbered. You excel on your own mind and on your own heart. Keep your level head, and keep being aware. You rock!

A Poem

I scribbled this out last night; I think it is one of the best I've had in a while.

Sign of Fire

I too was born under a sign of fire,
driven and riven by the mind's desire,
seeking to ascend by a spiral stair
to the stars that burn with a beauty bare
in a timeless flame only Truth can sire--
I too was born under a sign of fire.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Descartes on Creation, Production, and Procreation

An interesting passage in Descartes's replies to the Fifth Objections (Adam-Tannery VII 373; CSM 257):

You prefer to compare the creation of God to the labour of a workman rather than to parental procreation, but you have no reason to do so. Even if the three modes of action involved here are completely different in kind, nevertheless the analogy between natural procreation and divine creation is closer than that between artificial production and divine creation. I did not say, however, that the resemblance between us and God is as close as that between children and parents. Again, it is not always true that there is no resemblance between the work of a craftsman and the craftsman himself, as is clear in the case of a sculptor who produces a statue resembling himself.

This is in response to Gassendi (AT VII 306; CSM 213):

The fact that he created you, you say, makes it reasonable to believe you resemble him. On the contrary, this fact makes such a resemblance utterly unlikely, sinc eth work is not similar to the workman except when he engenders it by communicating his nature to it. But you are not begotten of God in this way: you are not his offspring, or a participator in his nature, but are merely created by him, that is, produced by him in accordance with an idea. Hence you cannot say that you resemble him any more than a house resembles a bricklayer.

Which in turn is a response to Descartes's claim in the Third Meditation (AT VII 51; CSM 35):

But the mere fact that God created me is a very strong basis for believing that I am somehow made in his image and likeness, and that I perceive that likeness, which includes the idea of God, by the same faculty which enables me to perceive myself.

I found the insistence that procreation is a better analogy for creation than production an interesting one.

A Dialogue on Naturalistic Explanations

A: You see, of course, that we must all accept naturalism; for naturalistic explanations have had many successes.

B: This is simply an absurd claim.

A: What! Do you deny that scientific explanations have value?

B: On the contrary, I think they have immense value, and that there have been many successes in that quarter.

A: Then you must admit naturalistic explanations are successful; for scientific explanations are successful and scientific explanations are naturalistic explanations.

B: Suppose a Neo-Pythagorean were to come among us and say, "You see, of course, that we must all be Neo-Pythagoreans. Neo-Pythagorean explanations have had many successes." "What!" we reply. "Explain yourself." "The Neo-Pythagorean view is that everything is mathematics, and nothing exists except mathematical principles. Thus you can see that all mathematical successes are Neo-Pythagorean successes. And it is also clear that given the success of mathematical explanations, Neo-Pythagorean explanations are successful. And thus we must all be Neo-Pythagoreans; and thus must say that all non-mathematical explanations are simply false."

A: But this is absurd; we are not Neo-Pythagoreans. Naturalists are making a more palatable claim.

B: And yet you reason just like our hypothetical Neo-Pythagorean.

A: The Neo-Pythagorean errs, however, in thinking that mathematical successes are simply identifiable as Neo-Pythagorean successes.

B: And you err in thinking that scientific successes are simply identifiable as naturalistic successes.

A: But surely they are!

B: Why is that?

A: They do not appeal to God, but only to natural facts.

B: Then they could be theistic successes?

A: I just told you that they do not appeal to God!

B: But why is that relevant? Suppose theism is true. Naturalism is then false. Do the scientific successes under such a supposition become any less successes for all that?

A: This is simply the wrong way to go about the question. Scientific successes show that you do nto need to appeal to God to explain things.

B: How so?

A: You have already admitted that scientific explanations can be successful, and since scientific explanations do not appeal to God, you can have successful explanations that do not appeal to God.

B: Granted. And the relevance?

A: The relevance? Since we can have successful explanations that don't appeal to God, naturalism is the simpler position because we can see that it does not posit anything unnecessary.

B: But this is a simple fallacy. From the fact that some particular explanations that do not appeal to God can be successful, we cannot conclude that every explanation that is successful does not appeal to God.

A: But surely no scientific explanations can reasonably be considered theistic successes?

B: Why not? And what would be the relevance, anyway?

A: Why not!? I have already said about a million times that they don't appeal to God. Thus all scientific explanations are naturalistic explanations. And given the nature of science, this means we have good reason to be naturalists. So that's the relevance!

B: But scientific explanations are not naturalistic explanations. You keep saying that because they do not appeal to God they are naturalistic. But this is simply false.

A: If they do not appeal to God, how could they possibly be anything else than naturalistic?

B: They could be consistent with theism and true in a theistic world. Suppose there is a God and there is a providence. Then what a scientific explanation would be is an explanation of some aspect of natural providence; it just wouldn't signal that fact. Therefore they would be theistic successes; just not explicitly so. They can only become 'naturalistic successes' if we already assume that naturalism is true.

A: But we have no scientific reason to think science is discovering a natural providence.

B: Do we have a scientific reason to think science is discovering a non-providential nature? What would you base that claim on? The success of naturalistic explanations?

A: There's just no reasoning with you, sometimes.

B: I'm not the one holding others to a standard I can't meet myself.

New Philosophers' Carnival

The new Philosophers' Carnival is up. My contribution was the review of Schnall at H.L. Some of the posts I found particularly interesting (although I seem to have read most of them already):

* How to Study Intuitions at "Mixing Memory"

* Ethical Nihilism and Values at "Parableman"

* Fearing Death at "Tiger! Tiger!" (this one I hadn't read)

* First Causes at "Melbourne Philosopher"