30 May 2011

Book Meme

I just saw this old meme at Siris, who in turn saw it at DarwinCatholic.

Grab the nearest book.

Open it to page 161.
Find the fifth full sentence.
Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions.
Don't search around looking for the coolest book you can find. Do what's actually next to you.

Leibniz: Political Writings: But, even if all evil was reserved for the future, does not everyone know that human prudence has only the future as its object?

14 May 2011

Thoughts on Geach

In his celebrated article ‘Good and Evil,’ P. T. Geach argues that the adjectives good and evil or bad are ‘logically attributive,’ meaning (roughly) that in predications of the form ‘a is a good/bad B’ the sense of ‘good/bad’ depends upon what common noun or noun-phrase fills the role of B.  For example, ‘good’ has different senses in ‘a is a good wicket,’ ‘a is a good argument’ and ‘a is a good typist,’ and these differences in sense arise from the differences between wickets, arguments, and typists.

12 May 2011

Aquinas on Absolute and Relative Foreigners

[W]e understand the Greek word for non-Greek to mean something foreign, and we can call human beings foreigners either absolutely or in relation to someone.  Those who lack reason, by which we define human beings, seem absolutely foreign to the human race, and so we call those who lack reason foreigners in an absolute sense.  They lack reason either because they happen to live in a climate so intemperate that it causes them to be dim-witted, or because there is an evil custom in certain lands whereby human beings are rendered irrational brutish, as it were.  And it clearly comes from the power of reason that reasonable laws govern human beings, and that human beings are practiced in the art of writing.  And so the fact that human beings do not establish laws, or establish unreasonable laws, and the fact that some peoples have no literary practices are signs that appropriately manifest barbarism.

05 May 2011

Hip, Hip, Hooray

for Bill Vallicella!  It has now been seven years since he began Maverick Philosopher, and I earnestly hope that he'll continue a great deal longer.  I have ever found Dr. Vallicella polite without being overeager, stern without being rude, profound without being vague, technical without being narrow, absurdly well-read without being snobbish, egalitarian without being indiscriminately welcome, a superb stylist without overworking himself (or at least appearing to), and a sharp wit to boot.  He's also never missed a day blogging (!), so let's all be grateful to him for that.  

I (fairly) recently read his A Paradigm Theory of Existence  and a couple of his professional articles (Brentano on existence and his defense of the PSR), which book and articles I strongly recommend to all both of my readers.  To celebrate, I will tonight enjoy his Catholic Philosophical Quarterly article defending occasionalism, upon which expect to see commentary shortly.

To sum up:  thanks for the blog, Dr. Vallicella, and keep up the brilliant work!

23 April 2011

But Thou Didst Not Leave...

...His soul in Hell, nor didst Thou suffer Thy Holy One to see corruption.  (Psalms 16:10)

22 April 2011

He Trusted...

...in God that He would deliver Him; let Him deliver Him, if He delight in Him!  (Psalms 22:8)

19 April 2011

The Good and the Bad

Good: We watched P. T. Anderson's Magnolia for film class tonight.

Bad: I have several papers and paper-revisions due the end of this week upon which I could not work during the three hours spent watching Magnolia.

Good: I just learned that I got a good grade on an old paper, which means one fewer paper to revise.

Bad: I also have a bunch of reading for tomorrow, meaning yet less time to write.

Good: Half of my reading is from Aristotle's De Anima.

Bad: I have to type up a focus statement on the De Anima, as well.

Good: My professor says I get to use St. Thomas' commentary in writing said focus statement.

All in all: things are good, if hectic.

Sorry for the dearth of posts of late: much to do for school recently.  I'll be back to regular posts in a couple of weeks. 

15 April 2011

Conditions of Lying

(Edited from a recent email of mine to Dr. Vallicella.)

In a fairly recent post, Bill Vallicella states (i) that ‘[e]very lie is a false statement’ and (ii) that in order to lie ‘one must make the false statement with the intention to deceive.’  Dr. Vallicella has elsewhere declared these conditions ‘individually necessary and jointly sufficient’ for a speech act to constitute a lie.  Both, however, appear to admit of counterexample:

12 April 2011

Anselm on Truth and Time

Student: Explain this: why do we speak of the truth of this or that particular thing as if we were distinguishing different truths, when in fact there aren't different truths for different things?  Many people will hardly grant that there is no difference between the truth of the will and what is called the truth of action, or of one of the others.

10 April 2011

McTaggart Joke

I just ran a Google search for ‘C-series’ on a whim, wondering how many pages would turn up before one concerning McTaggart's famous paper.  The third result (which links to a page on a series of planes) had an amusing title: ‘CSeries - Now is the future.’

09 April 2011

The Possible and the Thinkable

Alfredo Watkins has a post up on the link (or lack thereof) between conceivability and (metaphysical/broadly logical) possibility.  I've long suspected that the one does not entail the other, for the reasons supplied by this argument and others like it:
  1. If I suppose something, I conceive it.
  2. An argument can be binding on me only if I can follow all of its steps.
  3. If the supposition of A is a step in an argument, then I must suppose A if I am to follow that step.
  4. Every sound reductio argument is an argument having as a step the supposition of something impossible.
  5. Some sound reductio argument is binding on me.
  6. Some argument is binding on me that has as a step the supposition of something impossible. (4, 5)
  7. I can follow the supposition of something impossible as a step of an argument. (2, 6)
  8. I can suppose something impossible. (3, 7)
  9. I can conceive something impossible. (1, 8)

08 April 2011

Happy Birthday!

Today, Bill Vallicella informs us, would be the 152nd birthday of Edmund Husserl, founder of phenomenology, teacher of St. Edith Stein, and among my philosophical heroes.  To celebrate, here is an online copy of his programmatic 1910 article, ‘Philosophy as a Rigourous Science.’  Enjoy!

When I learned of Husserl in my junior year of high school, I was enthralled by the man's work and vision.  I first encountered him through the writings of St. Edith Stein, moving from there to The Crisis of European Sciences.  To date, I have read, in addition to the CrisisIdeas I, The Idea of Phenomenology, The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness, Cartesian Meditations, and Formal and Transcendental Logic (all well worth reading), and have the Logical Investigations on my reading list.

Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl

04 April 2011

Instruments of Virtue and Vice, Part III

The question that occurred to me upon hearing Dr. Müller's defence of the Neautral-Product Thesis was whether, if virtuous exercise is never demanded of poietic products, the same held true of vicious exercise.  It seemed to me that it did not, for some poietic products (I used viciously racist propaganda as my example, so sorry if that offends any anti-PC sensibilities) appear to just by their very nature to exclude virtuous use.  Still, I was open to being proved wrong, which is why I posed the question to Dr. Müller.  His tentative answer was agreement with me that such products are intrinsically vicious in character, but some interesting counterexamples to that claim arose in our discussion between ourselves and a philosopher of law on whose name I am currently blanking (argh!).

The first, posed but rejected by Dr. Müller, was the Scholastic point that such propaganda could be used as an example of what not to engage in or be tempted by; the second, posed by the philosopher of law whose name I cannot remember, was that such propaganda might be used to excite the identification of unconsciously racist viewers with the propaganda presented, thus exposing their unexamined vice.  I shall deal with both of these objections in turn.

Instruments of Virtue and Vice, Part II

To the second objection, I reply that while many, if not all, poietic products are ultimately ordered to some variety of genuine human flourishing in accord with virtuous habit, this does not render evil use entirely repugnant to them.  There is nothing mysterious or unusual about such lack of repugnance: our hands and feet, after all, are on Aristoteleanism also ultimately ordered to virtue-enabled human flourishing, but we can quite obviously use them in ways contrary to such flourishing, such as theft.  Note also that in so using our hands and feet, we do not use them for the sake of any end opposed to their respective specific functions, viz. manipulation and locomotion, though we do use them in a manner opposed to their ultimate telos, which is eudaimonia.  This point will become important in our examination of the first objection, to which we now turn.

Instruments of Virtue and Vice, Part I

I have now returned from the second day of the Anscombe conference at the University of Chicago, and found it just as intellectually rewarding as the first.  In addition to the two* papers (which I'll get to shortly), I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Thompson, who is at once encyclopaedically knowledgeable, funny, and eminently approachable and overall enjoyable; further acquainting myself with Jennifer Frey, who is unfailingly polite, insightful, and moreover ably defends an identifiably Aristotelean/Catholic philosophical position; and briefly meeting with the other speakers at the conference (all mentioned in my previous post), as well as some of my fellow non-participants at the conference, who were likewise pleasant to meet.  I am particularly grateful for the condescending (in the good sense) conversation afforded me by Anselm Müller himself.  Many thanks to them all!

02 April 2011

Anscombe Conference

I just returned from day one of a two-day conference on G. E. M. Anscombe and her student Anselm Müller, mainly vis-á-vis their work in action theory.  What fun!  The speakers were, in order,

16 March 2011

Aquinas on the A- and B-Series

Summa Theologica I:14:15,

Whether the knowledge of God is variable?

Objection 3. Further, God knew that Christ would be born. But He does not know now that Christ will be born; because Christ is not to be born in the future. Therefore God does not know everything He once knew; and thus the knowledge of God is variable.…

14 March 2011

Spinoza's Ethica III

Part III of Spinoza's Ethica, ordine geomterico demonstrata (Ethics demonstrated in geometrical order) concerns the ‘nature and origin of the affects’ (roughly, emotions) and consists chiefly of a long series of arguments to the effect that, in thus-and-such circumstances, we will, ceteris paribus, be excited with this or that affect: when, for example, ‘anyone conceives that he is loved by another, and believes that he has given no cause for such love, he will love that other in return’ (Prop. XLI), and ‘love or hatred towards a thing, which we conceive to be free, must, other conditions being similar, be greater than if it were felt towards a thing acting by necessity’ (Prop. XLIX).  In the process of defending these theses, Spinoza takes himself to be providing a scientific (cause-to-effect) account of the essences of our various affects, and thus ascertaining their real, as opposed to merely nominal, definitions.

11 March 2011

Should old Aquinas be forgot?

I recently encountered these excellent song lyrics and thought they might afford my slight readership some laughter.  (ht)

Should old Aquinas be forgot, and never brought to Mind?
Should old Aquinas be forgot,in these days of Wittgenstein?
Can quiddity and haecceity, analogies divine,
Resolve the paradoxes of Willard Van Orman Quine?

Should symbols bleak replace the speech we learned at Mother's knee?
Or should we now reverse ourselves, and write the backwards E?
Can form and matter be preserved, and analyticity,
If we but put particulars for variables free?

Now Henry Veatch and Peter Geach we really must berate:
The subject and the predicate they leave to copulate.
Intensions pure we can't secure with Frege, Russell, Boole,
By treating good old Barbara with a novel kind of tool.

And Hesperus and Phosphorus are entities distinct--
Or should we say, not this, but that they're analytically linked?
Shall we aver they're one indeed, with Smullyan, Church and Fitch?
Or should we moan "Ah, Quine alone can tell us which is which"?

22 February 2011


Hello!  I'm new to Blogger, and am not really sure how this blog will turn out.  I've been doing some thinking recently on arguments for Divine Unicity, so I might put out a post or two thereupon soon.  For all those who might be interested, I am an undergrad living in Chicago interested mainly in philosophy.  I am presently reading J. L. Mackie's The Miracle of Theism and  Kathrin Koslicki's The Structure of Objects (both quite good, so far) and have Georg Cantor's Contributions to the Founding of the Theory of Transfinite Numbers, Saul Kripke's Naming and Necessity, and Bl. John Duns Scotus' Philosophical Writings (Hackett) waiting for me once I finish those two.  I am a (poorly) practising Roman Catholic and (try) to take a Thomistic position in enquiries philosophical and theological, so expect posts of a corresponding nature.  In any case, thanks for reading this and enjoy the rest of your day!