Saturday, October 16, 2010

Another Poem Draft

Beside the Crib

You will learn to play your part in this brittle land
where love will always break your heart in some sad end,
bring you pain and care, make real your fears,
and yet still bear some hope and dry some tears
until death at last demands and takes away
all strength of heart and hand, and light of day.
So may you learn to weep without regret
from memories you keep and treasure yet;
for though the pain grow great and cheer grow small
your life will still be blessed, and worth it all.

A Philosophical Bendideia

Plato's Republic is notable because it doesn't take place in Athens itself. It occurs in the Piraeus, which was the very nearby docktown serving as home for the formidable Athenian navy. When people are setting out the background for the Republic, they often emphasize the fact that it was considered the sort of place reputable Athenians would rarely go; it was crawling with Thracian foreigners, and had the sort of reputation docktowns often do. So what is Socrates doing in the Piraeus? The answer lies with the Thracians.

The Thracians had a moon goddess, called Bendis, a very wild sort of goddess. Due to an oracle given at Dodona, the Athenians had established a shrine for her. Both the Athenians and Thracians had festivities devoted to her, and in the fifth century these festivities, while still remaining distinct, had become so popular that the day was made an official holiday, the Bendideia. While Thracians and Athenians had distinct processions, the festival was given full ceremonial backing by the state. In the beginning of the Republic Socrates tells us has gone down to the Piraeus with Glaucon for the very first such holiday, to see how it would be celebrated.

" I was delighted with the procession of the inhabitants," he says; "but that of the Thracians was equally, if not more, beautiful." After seeing the processions and making their prayers, Socrates and Glaucon begin to head back to Athens, but are stopped almost immediately when young Polemarchus has a servant physically grab Socrates's cloak (not the last time in the dialogue that Polemarchus will stop someone with a grab). Polemarchus is at the festival with a group of young men, including Adeimantus and Niceratus. Polemarchus insists that Socrates and Glaucon remain -- indeed, he jokingly threatens to force them to stay because they are outnumbered. When Socrates still refuses, Adeimantus points out that there are evening festivities -- especially a horseback relay race with torches. And Polemarchus dangles the last bit of bait by saying that a whole group of young people are going to be getting together to talk, so Socrates and Glaucon stay, and the rest of the dialogue occurs in Polemarchus's house.

Commentators have occasionally speculated as to the significance of this elaborate set-up. Descending and ascending end up being important concepts throughout the dialogue, most strikingly in the Allegory of the Cave, and sosome have suggested that there is an important significance to the fact that Socrates and Glaucon descend to the Piraeus, and this seems to be plausible. Others have suggested that there is an irony, since Socrates will be charged later with worshipping foreign gods, that the whole scene is a festival in which a foreign god is given official recognition. Others have suggested a sharp contrast between the wild revelry of the barbarian festival and the civilized topic of the discussion.

There is probably something to all this, although it's hard to know how far to take it. But I would suggest that, at the very least, there is something else going on. I mentioned that Socrates says that the procession of the Thracians is just as beautiful as the procession of the Athenians, if not more so, and that Bendis was a Thracian goddess. The Thracians are mentioned explicitly one more time in the dialogue:

Must we not acknowledge, I said, that in each of us there are the same principles and habits which there are in the State; and that from the individual they pass into the State?--how else can they come there? Take the quality of passion or spirit; it would be ridiculous to imagine that this quality, when found in States, is not derived from the individuals who are supposed to possess it, e.g., the Thracians, Scythians, and in general the Northern nations; and the same may be said of the love of knowledge, which is the special characteristic of our part of the world, or of the love of money, which may, with equal truth, be attributed to the Phoenicians and Egyptians.

Notice that the Thracians are associated with "the quality of passion or spirit" while "the love of knowledge" is associated with the Athenians. The love of knowledge, of course, is closely associated with reason. And the quality of passion or spirit here is thumos. It's hard to translate; 'spirit' in the sense of 'spirited' is very close, which is why it is usually used, but it's our drive for exaltation, honor, eminence, glory. Thumos is important in the Republic, and what is notable is that much of the dialogue is concerned with arguing that justice in human beings requires a particular relationship between thumos and reason. One sees this, for instance, in Socrates's many-headed image of man: we have a human head, a lion head, and a many-headed monster. The human head is our reason; the heads of the many-headed monster are our passions; and the lion head is our thumos. Left to themselves the heads of the many-headed monster will terrorize the human head and, because they have no unity will drive a human being every which-way. But if the human head and the lion head work together, they can intimidate the many-headed monster, giving it unity and order. Other examples of the important relation between reason and thumos can be found.

It's significant, then, that the Thracians, who are associated with thumos, and the Athenians, who are associated with reason, are joined together in the festival: they remain distinct, but they both play a part. And, remember, Socrates said that the procession of the Thracians was a part of the festival just as beautiful as that of the Athenians. The Piraeus, with its heavy mixture of Athenians and Thracians, on the Bendideia, the day that is most due to the mixing of Athenian and Thracian culture, is the perfect setting for a dialogue in which the relation between thumos, represented by the Thracians, and reason, represented by the Athenians, plays a key role. Even if we read a sort of implicit disapproval of the revelry and foreignness of the festival (I think it, like Plato's disapproval of democracy, is often exaggerated), it is surely an ironic disapproval, because the foreign revelry is itself a sort of picture of what the Republic proposes. From the very beginning, the very way in which the dialogue is set, we know that the what the Platonic Socrates is proposing here is a philosophical Bendideia, the idealized truth of which the Bendideia itself is a crude picture.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Two Poem Drafts

City Light and Darkness

Beneath the moon-sphere city lights
in foggy halos cast like stars
their asterisks upon the night
and make the concrete glow, and cars
in speed unheeding of moving scene
as if it were a blur on movie screen
make motion, growling, headlights bright,
and slice their way through starlit night.

Beside the road, and unremarked,
a sidewalk-walker travels home
with step on step through rushing dark
that he may shed his long-spent roam
like shoes on floors of well-lit rooms
and, reading, bunker from the gloom
until, now tired, with a card to mark
his page, he thence to dreams embarks.

And weary now I feel, aching feet,
and all the world seems as it were a dream,
and I, a walker too, march in beat
to final glimpse of one bright homely gleam;
but of the lights I see, none that shine
give promise of my goal, for none are mine:
but forward still I march, nor retreat
until that window-shine, of light most sweet.


Wisdom needs leisure to prosper and grow,
the time that makes rivers to run deep and slow,
the time that makes mountains wear down into hills,
duration that all of necessity fills;
and calm afternoons set for nothing but thought,,
spun out like great webs in which problems are caught,
or else like the streams that gather and pool
into bodies of vastness, clear, deep, and cool.
So where is the wisdom in all of our haste?
In the land of lost chances, lost and laid waste.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Eastern Catholics

Pretty big news on the Eastern Catholic front. The Synod of the Middle East, which includes several different Eastern Catholic Churches (Armenian, Chaldean, Coptic, Maronite, Melkite, and Syrian Catholics), and agreed to make certain demands of Rome:

(1) Eastern Churches in Europe, North America, and elsewhere should be allowed to ordain married priests, not just in the “historical” territories of those churches;
(2) Patriarchs and other heads of Eastern Churches should have authority over their communities all around the world, not just those back home;
(3) Eastern Patriarchs should automatically have the right to cast votes in papal elections, and should take precedence over cardinals;
(4) The process of papal approval of the election of bishops by the synods of Eastern Churches should be simplified and sped up.

And, frankly, if you can get the Melkites and the Maronites to agree on something, it's big and important for all Catholics everywhere.

I confess, I was somewhat shocked that (1) and (2) aren't already in place and need to be demanded at all. I knew about (2), but I had always thought that it was a matter of convenience, rather than a real structural limitation. One can see the value of not doubling up epsicopal jurisdictions where populations are pretty small, for instance. That the Patriarchs don't have default jurisdiction, where the churches in question are founded in a canonically legitimate way, is a serious travesty. I didn't know about (1) at all, although it does actually make sense when I think about Eastern Catholics.

(3) and (4) have been a big issue for me for a long time. Being a Cardinal is not the highest position a bishop can attain in the Catholic Church; all it means is that you are part of the College of Cardinals, which is purely an instrument for assisting the work of the Pope. The most important position in the Catholic hierarchy is Patriarch -- even the Pope's moral and legal authority is due entirely to the fact that he is Patriarch of Rome. I've never understood why Patriarchs don't have the automatic right to vote, in person or by legate, in papal elections, whether or not they have receives the (for them purely honorary) distinction of the red hat. And the precedence issue is even more serious: The Council of Florence makes very, very clear that the ancient rights and privileges of Patriarchs are inviolable, and treating Cardinals as having a precedence over Patriarchs who have not been admitted to the College of Cardinals is a clear violation of the ancient rights and privileges of Patriarchs.

And (4) has just been an obvious problem for a long time. Rome is not efficient enough for the approval procedures it is using. It needs to establish defaults, at least for Eastern Catholics. Really, papal approval for Eastern bishops should be like Royal Assent in some constitutional monarchies: assumed given as long as it is constitutionally legal, or at least, as long as it is both legal and not vetoed within a reasonable time.

All four of these things are things that simply make sense; there is just no reason whatsoever why they don't have them even now. With regard to (2) there should be recognized a way that Patriarchs can delegate to bishops outside their jurisdiction (with the approval of the relevant Patriarch) to care for small populations of the faithful of a Church where a distinct bishop is impractical, and that it has often been impractical in the past is the only excuse for the status quo; and with regard to papal election in (3) there's wiggle room for debate. But there's really no excuse for the rest.

This is the Catholic Church: 23 distinct Churches, officially equal as Churches. But in practice the Latin Church has tended to leverage the importance of its Patriarch so as to usurp the privileges of the other Churches. In order for Eastern Catholics to be Catholic, they recognize the Patriarch of Rome as universal pastor. There is no requirement to recognize Roman Catholics in general as their superiors. They are officially Catholics in their own right. But in practice they are treated like second-class Catholics. The Eastern Patriarchs are officially Patriarchs, just as the Pope is; but in practice they are treated like ordinary bishops with special administrative duties. It's time that the injustice was ended: it's time for Rome to put its actions where its doctrine is. The Without Prejudices clause of the Council of Florence should be put into full effect.

And, again, the thing of it is that these are all very reasonable and mild demands, common-sensical and more appropriate to actual Catholic ecclesiological principles than what is in place now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mysticism and Logic

Massimo Pigliucci has been reading Bertrand Russell's Mysticism and Logic. Like a lot of people who come to it for the first time, I think he is reading a few things into Russell's argument that really aren't there, because Russell is hunting much bigger fish than the little fry that Pigliucci has in mind.

Mysticism and Logic basically consists of very early work by Russell; it was published in 1918, but much of it is quite a bit earlier than that, since it's an anthology of essays written between 1901 and 1914, with the titular essay being written in 1914. This is actually pretty important for understanding the work: it consists of the early championship of analytic philosophy of mathematics and the advocacy of a generalized form of the approach used in that field for investigating the problems of philosophy generally; and this was being done in the face of the dominant philosophical approaches of the time. The mysticism that Russell is addressing is not what we would ordinarily think of as mysticism: it's a large family of philosophical positions. The basic idea in the essay "Mysticism and Logic" is essentially a thesis in what we might call psychological history of philosophy; it posits two broad impulses, the mystical and the scientific, that have shaped the course of philosophy itself. Russell is explicit that both are actually necessary for good philosophy; but he thinks that the mystical impulse has too often been allowed to run unchecked. And although he doesn't explicitly say so, it seems clear enough that what he chiefly has in his sights is British Idealism, and is arguing against it by proxy; all four of the theses he primarily focuses on can be found in at least some British Idealists:

(1) "belief in the possibility of a way of knowledge which may be called revelation or insight or intuition, as contrasted with sense, reason, and analysis, which are regarded as blind guides leading to the morass of illusion";
(2) "belief in unity, and its refusal to admit opposition or division anywhere";
(3) "denial of the reality of Time";
(4) "belief that all evil is mere appearance, an illusion produced by the divisions and oppositions of the analytic intellect".

If you want to know where to find people who have this sort of "mystical metaphysics" in spades you look to Bradley and McTaggart and Bosanquet. (Bradley and McTaggart aren't mentioned by Russell in this work, but Bosanquet is referenced in another essay in the collection on the same subject.) But, of course, one of the noticeable things is that neither Bradley nor McTaggart nor Bosanquet fit any of Pigliucci's descriptions of mysticism. They do not "steadfastly refuse to acknowledge any useful role for logical analysis"; they are filled with arguments that involve a considerable amount of logical analysis. They do not hold that "they (and only they) have access to a deeper level of reality, a type of access that is not available to most of us"; they argue that positions opposed to their own are incoherent and that anyone who takes the trouble to follow their arguments can come to recognize this, and they appeal to no faculty or capacity that they do not take to be shared by every rational person. And while Bradley, McTaggart, and Bosanquet are the creme-de-la-creme of British Idealists, it's not as if they are unique in this way. And the people Russell explicitly mentions in the essay as going too far in the direction of a mystical metaphysics, people like Plato and Spinoza and Hegel and Bergson, do not fit Pigliucci's profile, either. When Russell talks about mysticism, he is talking about something that he thinks is false because it consists of answers that have been rigged from the get-go by emotion (in effect, allowing an essential impulse of philosophy, suitable for motivation and good for raising questions, to do what it is not good at, answering the questions it raises), but he is talking about something that in its development is very, very rationally argued. From his perspective it's philosophy that has taken a wrong turn, to such an extent that we should from now on be sharply suspicious of the impulse that drives it when it does any more than spark interest in the world, but it is undeniably philosophical.

Now, one can perhaps hold that Deepak Chopra (to use Pigliucci's example) is likewise an instance of the mystical impulse run unchecked; but taking Russell to be aiming at people of this sort is to take him to be stomping on ants, when he's actually trying to bring down giants. Perhaps there is some fundamental commonality between Deepak Chopra and Spinoza; one is inclined to be skeptical of the association and doubt that there are any more than verbal similarities, but perhaps. They are, after all, both human and perhaps there is some common impulse that they share in developing their views. But Russell isn't attacking (say) table-turning and spiritualism; he is attacking major, and powerfully argued, philosophical systems, trying to diagnose where they all go wrong despite the brilliance used to argue them. And 'argue' is an important word here. Nobody can say that Plato doesn't argue for the reality of The Good, even if they think the arguments fail; nobody can say that McTaggart doesn't have arguments that time is not real; nobody can say that Bergson doesn't give reasons to think that we really do have intuition as well as intellect; nobody can say that Spinoza goes around making claims without arguments. People have said that Hegel doesn't argue, but this comes from the fact, I think, that Hegel likes to present as arguments as if they were just obvious descriptions of fundamental reality; when you look at how he interacts with, say, Kant, it becomes pretty clear that the Phenomenology and Hegel's other works in fact argue for Hegel's main points at very great length. Russell has big ambitions in these little essays.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Walls of Mush

I was amused by this portion of Coyne's USA Today article on the incompatibility of science and religion:

But the existence of religious scientists, or religious people who accept science, doesn't prove that the two areas are compatible. It shows only that people can hold two conflicting notions in their heads at the same time. If that meant compatibility, we could make a good case, based on the commonness of marital infidelity, that monogamy and adultery are perfectly compatible. No, the incompatibility between science and faith is more fundamental: Their ways of understanding the universe are irreconcilable.

But of course the problem with the analogy is that monogamy and adultery are perfectly compatible. There are plenty of people with open marriages; and it is entirely possible to have a monogamous open marriage. Most open marriages are monogamous, in fact; and they are not an instance of people holding "two conflicting notions in their heads at the same time". If there's anything wrong with open marriage it's not that people in open marriages have conflicting notions in their head but something else. And, indeed, even if we absolutely equivocate on the word 'monogamy', blurring its (figurative) anthropological and ethological meaning 'having only one sexual partner' and its literal meaning 'being married to only one person' we can't get an incompatibility: they're not everyday fodder, but history provides plenty of evidence of people in monogamous (lit.) marriage with person A engaging in monogamous (fig.) adultery with person B. The analogy is as absurd as saying that homosexual marriage is incoherent because people in such relationships have two conflicting notions of marriage in their heads; even someone who would argue that homosexual marriage is wrong or not truly marriage wouldn't say it's because of a notional conflict in the heads of the people involved in them.

The article is full of such amusement; it has to be one of the worst arguments I've seen on the subject, ever, and that includes some truly atrocious arguments in the blogosphere. Even in the passage above the idea of "ways of understanding the universe" being irreconcilable should raise red flags, or at least serious questions: we don't ordinarily think of "ways of understanding" as the sort of things that can conflict with each other or that even need to be generally reconciled with each other. So we certainly require some sort of clear account of what is meant by "way of understanding" here and how "ways of understanding" can conflict with each other and how you distinguish such conflict from mere difference. And one finds nothing of the sort in Coyne's column; it's merely the usual vague handwaving, merely the usual building of supposedly iron walls out of mush.

Plants and Moral Philosophy

I like this part of Philippa Foot's Philosophy Now interview:

An admired colleague of mine, Michael Thompson, has said of my work that I believe that vice is a form of natural defect. That’s exactly what I believe, and I want to say that we describe defects in human beings in the same way as we do defects in plants and animals. I once began a lecture by saying that in moral philosophy it’s very important to begin by talking about plants....

So let’s take plants. A plant needs strong roots, and in the same sort of way human beings need courage. When one is talking about what a human being should do, one says things like, “look, he should be able to face up to danger in certain circumstances, for his own sake and for the sake of others.” But this is like saying, “an owl should be able to see in the dark, should be able to fly” or “a gull should be able to recognize the sound of its chick among all the cacophony of the cliff.” And if you think of it in this way then you’re not going to think that there’s a gap between facts and evaluation – between description of facts, such as ‘owls hunt by night’, that’s a description of fact, and another description, such as ‘that owl’s got weak eyesight; it’s doesn’t seem to be able to manage in the dark’. These are the central notions. And that’s why I thought we should start moral philosophy by talking about plants.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stone Paradox

Ben Burgis recently had two posts on the stone paradox:

Some Further Points about the Stone Paradox
Once More on the Stone Paradox (This Time with Symbols)

As I've noted before, there's no actual logical paradox in the stone paradox even on the crudest account of omnipotence, unless you make very specific assumptions about what kind of modality does the best work of formalizing abilities, which is a controvertible subject. It is simply not self-evident what the best overall modal account of abilities is. The John case in the first post seems to me not to be parallel at all, because it doesn't have the structure of ability and inability; it would only be parallel if John's inability were itself something directly in John's power to have or not. (Which is why the paralysis-and-antidote scenario mentioned in my post linked to above is a more reasonable structural parallel.) Talk of abilities is counterfactual through and through, but it is a mistake to assume that all counterfactuals are on a level when we are talking about abilities. I am able to type the next letter and I am able to buy milk at the supermarket, but they are not all equally near to the actual situation, where I am far from the supermarket and have my hands on the keyboard. And there are times (like the paralysis-and-antidote case) where the distance and proximity of the counterfactual is crucial. And this is one of them: this difference between remote and proximate counterfactuals is why even a crude account of omnipotence can both say that God is omnipotent and that God is unable to lift a particular stone without contradiction, just as I can perfectly well say both that I am able to buy milk at the supermarket (by going there) and that I am unable to buy milk at the supermarket (because I am at home typing up a post on the stone paradox) without any contradiction whatsoever. As I noted in my previous post on the stone paradox, the only difference in the omnipotence case is that it requires an infinite regress of abilities (which some Cartesians, for instance, have actually argued for). This makes it so there is never any such thing as an ability, simpliciter, which is where the apparent contradiction in the stone paradox comes from; all abilities are relative to whether or not other abilities are being exercised.

But I was interested in the challenge that Burgis poses in the second post. Burgis identifies two possible responses to the stone paradox. In the first, which he calls the Standard Defense, one simply says that omnipotence is the ability to do anything that does not involve a contradiction, rather than just the ability to do anything. The second is what he calls the Mere Possibility Defense ("that God could create such a stone, and if He did so, He wouldn't be omnipotent any more, but so long as he happens to contingently continue to choose not to do so, He's still omnipotent") which is more or less a version of the one I was talking about above. He rejects the Standard Defense (SD) because of its epicycles and the Mere Possibility Defense (MPD), which he rejects for reasons he gives in the first post ("If Object X contingently doesn't happen to exist, that's quite irrelevant to whether Agent Y could perform Action Z to Object X. If Object X exists, that's epistemically relevant--we get to test whether Agent Y has the ability to perform Action Z--but the non-existence of the test doesn't normally entail anything one way or the other about the power.") He then delivers a challenge:

Either (a) explain the relevant disanalogy between the move made by theists who employ the SD and put a logical-consistency epicycle in their new, watered-down definition of omnipotence, and other cases where a general principle generates contradictions, and we all think that the rational response is to reject the general principle rather than stick in a consistency epicycle, (b) provide an argument for theism so devestatingly convincing that it justifies the SD as the overall best explanation even in the face of the ad hocness, (c) explain the relevant disanalogy between the contingent absence of hundred-floor buildings in the John-ruled world (which seems irrelevant to the limits on John's stair-climbing powers) and the contingent absence of an unliftable stone in the God-ruled universe (which, according to partisans of the MPD, is relevant to the limits of God's powers), or (d) provide an alternative way out, thus showing that (a)-(c) aren't jointly exhaustive of the options for defenders of the doctrine of divine omnipotence who want their beliefs to be closed under some sort of (non-paraconsistent) logical consequence relation.

(a), it turns out, is extraordinarily easy to do. Throughout Burgis assumes that the SD is in fact an ad hoc response to problems like the Stone Paradox. It's very clear historically that this is not so. The actual history is somewhat messy, but its basic structure is easy to grasp. The original, and still basic, account of omnipotence is that of power over everything (sovereignty, as it is sometimes called), particularly as required by the more fundamental doctrines of creation and providence. This is true of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim accounts of omnipotence. The doctrine of omnipotence comes from somewhere; people weren't just sitting around one day and suddenly thought that it would be cool to call God omnipotent. There were reasons, and the basic understanding of omnipotence has to take into account those reasons.

The tendency to phrase omnipotence in terms of power to do anything comes later, and was heavily argued over. The 'Standard Defense' wasn't formulated as a defense; it was formulated as a qualification on the sense in which one could take the "power over everything" account of omnipotence and the "power to do everything" account of omnipotence to be effectively equivalent. The latter has advantages: it's actually easier to apply directly to a lot of things and has a more obvious modal structure (it's easier to describe directly in terms of possibilities). But it raised some logical puzzles, of which the stone paradox is a distant descendant. Since these logical puzzles don't seem to exist in the "power over everything" account of omnipotence, which is anchored by the doctrine of creation on one side and doctrine of providence on the other, this means that the "power to do everything" account has to be qualified in order to remain equivalent to the more fundamental account. This is where the qualification comes in. It is indeed an epicycle; it's not an epicycle on the doctrine of omnipotence but an epicycle on one particular formulation of it, which is required to keep it equivalent to a more fundamental formulation. And thus it's not watering down the doctrine of omnipotence, which precedes it by a long shot, and it's not an ad hoc defense of the doctrine. Rather, people who try to ignore the qualification in talking about omnipotence are arbitrarily dropping one of the qualifications that had been introduced as a precondition for making the formulation equivalent to the sort of thing people meant by 'omnipotence' at all. This is clearly disanalogous to the case of taking a general principle and watering it down.

(Medieval discussions of omnipotence are full of these sorts of discussions, by the way. Another major question, for example, was whether formulations of the doctrine of omnipotence in terms of infinite power were actually equivalent to more basic formulations.)

The problem, in other words, arises with the mistake, common among analytic philosophers today, of thinking that arguments and claims just spring out of nowhere and therefore don't need anything other than themselves in order to be understood properly. In actual fact, the interpretation of arguments and claims must be constrained by the reasons for putting them forward in the first place.

Given that (a) can easily be met, (b) can be ignored. But (b) is in any case badly formulated; it's irrelevant whether it is convincing or not (and unclear what it means -- to whom? how would we test whether it was convincing? would it be a purely psychological test). What matters is whether there is good reason to think that there is a God and good reason to think that God is omnipotent, where good reason just means the sort of thing that gives reason to think that at least tentatively accepting the claim will be fruitful for inquiry. If there are good reasons for both, then there would be good reasons for epicycles. This is what epicycles are: they move the discussion forward, not backwards, and the epicycles on the Ptolemaic system improved it rather than deteriorating it. The myth that epicycles are a bad thing is a rather pernicious one; adding epicycles is always the rational response unless there is already in hand a better account without epicycles. And in the broad sense that's being used here, no field of intellectual inquiry can do without them. When we teach students that a method for division works except where it introduces division by zero, we aren't being irrational; it is the most rational thing to do, because we have good reason for the method and good reason for thinking that we need the qualification.

(c) is effectively done by the infinite regress of abilities response; and the response for (d) is already implicit in the points I made with regard to (a). So I don't see that there's any real problem with meeting any of these challenges, for either SD or MPD, except for (b), which is badly formulated anyway (and is otiose if (a) can be met). Possibly I'm missing something, though.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Solomon Burke (1940-2010)

Solomon Burke, also known as the King of Rock & Soul, has died at the age of 70. My favorite of the songs sung by Burke:

The Western Confucian posted this one, which I hadn't heard before, but which is quite powerful: