Wednesday, June 29, 2011

and they will become one flesh.

Perhaps I’m simply missing the obvious (and if so, please let me know)—but I regularly hear pastors talk of agape love as The Highest form of love—for it’s supposedly the kind of love that’s “self-sacrificial, inclusive, and unconditional.” Well, if so, why the heck does Paul and John liken the Church’s relationship to Christ to that of the union between a husband and wife? Though I’d think of the love between a husband and a wife as properly self-sacrificial, that kind of love I would call er0tic (i.e., romantic), which is entirely exclusive and conditional. But perhaps the “condition” here is “faith”. And since the Church, though (in some sense) greater than the sum its parts, is not an entity over and above the members that compose it (viz., the individual believers), we can drop the “exclusive” component of er0s or just amend it to mean “exclusive of anyone not in the Church.”

Even though this makes Jesus out to be polygamist (which—unless you’re an elder—the Biblical writers don’t seem to have a problem with), I like the idea of God’s relationship to us as that of groom to a bride, for it suggests that God is rapturously in love with us and finds us seksy. (Assuming, of course, His attitude towards us is like Jacob’s to Rachel and not Jacob’s to Leah!).

So yeah, back to my point. It seems that Paul is suggesting that er0s as opposed to agape is The Highest form of love.

Or perhaps, more modestly: agape is drenched with er0s.

you've got to be kidding me.

(thanks matt)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

on moral capitulation.

Suppose that someone says that F-ing is wrong, but she is elated when F-ing becomes legal. It seems to me that we’d be right to think that this person was disingenuous when she said that she thought F-ing was wrong.

Let’s look at a putative example. Suppose Sam tells us that he thinks that slavery is wrong, but becomes elated when it’s made legal. How is Sam not being disingenuous when he says that he thinks slavery is wrong?

In fairness, sometimes things are a bit more complicated. Suppose that Sarah says that she’s genuinely opposed to prostitution, but when it becomes legal she says she supports its decriminalization.

How could Sarah genuinely oppose prostitution and yet be okay with it being legal? Doesn’t the latter suggest that she doesn’t genuinely believe the former?

Maybe not. Suppose that though Sarah genuinely believes that prostitution is wrong she also believes that prostitution is an act of a certain kind that she doesn’t believe the government has any business making laws about. Or suppose that she believes that prostitution should be illegal, but the practical enforcement of it is either ineffective or inefficient or both. If either one were the case, it seems that Sarah could genuinely believe that prostitution is wrong and yet still support its decriminalization.

Notice, though, that in Sarah’s case she’s not elated about prostitution becoming legal. She accepts its decriminalization begrudgingly since, after all, she thinks that it’s wrong. So let’s suppose that Sarah doesn’t express mere reluctant acceptance when prostitution becomes legal, but instead exuberant joy. It seems to me that this would betray her disingenuousness when she claims that prostitution is wrong. Call me crazy.

So, my original claim still stands: if someone says that F-ing is wrong but becomes elated when F-ing is made legal, she’s most likely disingenuous when she says F-ing is wrong.

I call one who disingenuously espouses moral claims a Rakitinist, duly named after the atheist seminarian from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Remember in Cheyenne at my Grandparents’ house? You were taking a shower before we went to bed. While I was waiting for you in our basement room, I remembered that my youth pastor had told us once that the best way to show persons that you love them is to serve them. So I decided to fold all of your clothes and stack them nicely on the dresser you were using. When you came back I gestured toward them so you’d notice.

You just laughed at me.

It was true —I was desperate for your love. But hey, we were just junior high kids, right? I’m sure I’ll get over it.

I hope they were worth it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

on how to write a real tragedy.

Remember Rosaline? She was Romeo’s beloved of whom he insisted that “One fairer than my love! the all-seeing sun / Ne’er saw her match since first the world begun. Well, Romeo’s sentiments were soon to be cast into the nihilistic tides of forgetfulness when Juliet arrived on the scene. This, I think, was the moral of the story: had Romeo and Juliet not committed suicide, Juliet would have become the new Rosaline and Romeo would have found himself a new Juliet. Thus is the profundity of romantic love. But, of course, we never would have bought into such a true story, so Shakespeare had his lovers commit suicide at the climax of their passion, knowing full well that instead of getting the hint, we’d romanticize it as the tragic fate of two star-crossed soul mates.

Well, the joke’s on us.

Compare her face with some that I shall show,

I will make thee think thy swan a crow.

Benvolio on Rosaline (to Romeo)

Since you’ve been gone, since you’ve moved on
the razors make my stomach turn
my heart feels as if it will forever burn.

But once you’re really gone, and once I can really move on
the curves of another I’ll find just as smooth
the milk of which will equally soothe.

on one half of virtue.

“You see,” said he, “the difference between you and her is this. She is unjust, but does not want to be just. In her injustice she’s completely okay with herself. But you, on the other hand though you’re just as unjust as she is, you don’t want to be. You’re unjust but not okay with it. And that’s all the difference in the world.”


“Even if, by a special disfavor of fortune or by the niggardly provision of a stepmotherly nature, this will should wholly lack the capacity to carry out its purpose if with its greatest efforts it should yet achieve nothing and only the good will were left (not, of course as a mere wish but as the summoning of all means insofar as they are in our control) then, like a jewel, it would still shine by itself, as something that has its full worth in itself.”
Kant, Metaphysics of Morals 4:394

Friday, June 24, 2011

on reducing the first person to the third.

Is there a possible world qualitatively identical to this one wherein I am the one reading this blog and you are the one who wrote it?

If your answer is “no”, you must think that there are certain qualities that are actually true of you and not actually true of me without which you would not be you. What are those qualities?


My answer:

It depends on what might count as a quality. If a necessary feature of qualities is that each one can be multiply instantiated (i.e., they can occur in more than one subject at the same time), then my answer is “yes.” I think it’s possible that every quality (in this sense) that is actually true of me could be true of you and vice-versa.

But, if it’s not necessary for a quality to be multiply instantiated, then my answer is “no.” What quality that is actually true of me without which I would not be me? My Derekeity, or Derekness. If I lose that, then I most surely would not be me.

But since Derekeity is the only thing I need to be the particular person that I am, it’s entirely possible that you could be the one who wrote this blog and I be the one who is reading it. So long as your unique and incommunicable attribute is attached to the person who writes this blog and my Derekeity is attached to the person who reads it, then it’s possible.



What the hell is Derekeity?

I can’t describe it, because any adjective I might use would be picking out qualities that are possibly true of persons distinct from me, and Derekeity is wholly unique and incommunicable.

If you can’t describe it, how can we know what it is like?

Here’s how. Get to know me, and then list every single characteristic you know is true of me that might be captured by a possible common adjective or some conjunction thereof. The attribute or characteristic that you’re aware of and that’s left over or is not captured on the list is identical to my Derekeity.

I call this method the distillation method of knowing persons.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

December 24th, MCMXLI.

It is Christmas Eve and the blizzard has finally loosened its grip. The left over crisp breeze strikes a minor chord in the chimes suspended over the porch. The skies are clear, if drab and off-white, and the skeletal branches of the leafless trees scratch at it as they sway in the wind. Smokestacks billow a dark and sooty brown just above the horizon; its fumes complement the wintry decay. Far off and deep in the wood can be heard the faint voices of children lost in their play. Their joyful giggling and laughter transfigure the scene, if only for a moment, until the overwhelming silence drowns them out again. Throwing a snowball at his older brother, the youngest one misses and hits a gray cinderblock wall instead. Noticing this unnatural edifice amongst the pure white snow and tender ferns for the first time, the boy looks up past the barbed wire and sees a guard at his post. Struck by the soldier’s stillness, looking off into the abyss, the child cocks his curious head to the right. The boy’s arms dangle to his sides, while his crimson mittens open wide toward the world. The guard, noticing life for the first time, turns his head and unconsciously smiles at his little admirer. The boy, feeling understood, snaps his body to attention and salutes the soldier. The child now realizing his friends are far off, and hearing them call for him, returns to his previous forgetfulness and runs toward his companions. His little footprints in the snow fall before a heavy wrought iron fence. Its epigraph reads: Arbeit Macht Frei.”

Saturday, June 18, 2011

the show goes on.

Once upon a time [this last Monday] I was running right about here [A]. And then, coming from right about here [B], I hear a volley of nine or ten or eleven shots go off between a pair of undercover cops and a few gangstas. No joke. I ran “like the dickens,” as my grandpa used to say.

Concurrent with this event was Lupe Fiasco on my iPod telling me that

say hip-hop only destroy
tell em’ look at me boy
hope your son don’t have a gun
and that would be a d-boy

felix culpa.

I often think about how queer it is that I would rather be in a room with Adam than with Stalin. Scratch that—I’d want to be good friends with Adam. I find him attractive, and intriguing. I think we’d have a whole lot in common. But this is strange. For on the Christian story, he walked with God. Whatever that phrase is supposed mean, it must mean that he saw and beheld Goodness itself, unadulterated, and without confusion. We’re told that he, unlike any of the rest of us, save for the God-man, was without blemish. He inherited no vice, for God called nature “good” and there were no vicious characters from whom he could have. Nor did Adam have the misfortune of being hurt or abandoned by the ones whom he loved. For again, God was capable, Adam was complete in Eve, and God called nature “good.”

And yet, it wasn’t enough. Adam beheld his own Maker, his own Heavenly Father—and saw that in Him all things live and move have their being, including himself—and he still said:

I don’t need you.

Under such conditions, Jesus’ forgive them Father for they know not what they do is simply inapplicable.

Even the atheist should recognize that if God really exists, this at least as bad as anything Stalin ever did. Actually, it’s infinitely worse…

I think my fondness for Adam over Stalin betrays my latent atheism.

Labels: , ,

on stupid phrases.

“…and his art and life merged.”

As if they weren’t always already?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

moral psychology: contra the classical view.

Moral psychology is, among other things, the study of how our moral views motivate or influence how we act in moral contexts. Right now I’d like to discuss what I take to be something like the Classical View on the matter:

(CV) An agent S can neither willfully nor consciously perform action F unless she genuinely believes that F is ultima facie good.

I call CV the “classical view” because from what I can tell, the list of philosophers who advocate something akin to CV is long and prestigious. Some names that come to mind include Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, arguably Augustine, perhaps Aquinas (even though a colleague of mine would disagree), Spinoza, Hume, Mill, and C.S. Lewis.

I find CV as dubious as it is hard to deny. I’ll explain why in reverse order.

CV is hard to deny because it has a very straightforward and compelling rationale in its favor. Let’s suppose that CV isn’t true and that an agent can willfully and consciously perform F while all the while believing that F is not ultima facie good. What exactly would this look like? Suppose that someone plops a pile of manure on my plate. Could I willfully and consciously eat the manure on my plate while believing that doing so is absolutely disgusting and that nothing good, either in itself or extrinsically, would come from it? It seems to me that I couldn’t: It’s simply impossible for me willfully and consciously do that. In order for me to willfully and consciously eat the manure I’d have to think that doing so would be good in some respect or other, and until then there’s just no way I could. And this is just what CV says.

In the previous example it’s easy to see why CV might be so compelling—but let’s see how CV might fair in other, less benign, contexts. Suppose that a young boy named Joe has a knack for rounding up and hanging the stray cats in his neighborhood. CV says that this is only possible if Joe takes it to be ultima facie good to hang cats. But, how could he? What good could possibly come out of hanging cats? Notice now that CV does not say that what an agent does must be ultima facie good for her to willfully and consciously do it—rather, CV says that the agent must only genuinely believe that what she willfully and consciously does is ultima facie good. CV isn’t suggesting that for Joe to hang cats it has to be good (that would be all too easy to refute), but rather, Joe has to think he’s getting some ultima facie good out of hanging cats. And, perhaps not surprisingly, this is what we usually think. Though we wouldn’t hang cats precisely because we don’t see the good in it, if Joe does, doesn’t he have to believe that there’s some good in it? Or else why in the world would he be doing it in the first place? And so we think, and it usually is the case, that kids who hang cats do get some perceived good out of it. We explain their behavior by suggesting that pleasure in itself is a good thing, and so these kids must be getting pleasure out of being cruel, and this is why they hang cats. Otherwise, they simply wouldn't do it. If Joe were like the rest of us and thought that hanging cats is just as disturbing as eating manure is disgusting, he wouldn’t do it. But since Joe doesn’t think that hanging cats is disturbing—on the contrary he takes pleasure in it—Joe willfully and consciously does what he does precisely because he believes it to be an ultima facie good. And this is exactly what CV says.

To go even further, think of the most heinous acts you can think of—those of Ted Bundy or Jeffery Dahmer, say. Though we might not think that what they did is ultima facie good, they must have thought that it was or else they would have been just like us and they wouldnt have the things they did. It’s only because they thought that there was some ultima facie good that they could have willfully and consciously done what they did. I take it that the only way I could eat a plate of manure is if I genuinely thought it was good, and so a fortiori, given how much worse their acts were than eating manure, they must have thought that doing what they did was ultima facie good.

But now we’re in position to see why CV is dubious for the same reason that it’s hard to deny. If it’s really true that we cannot F unless we sincerely think F is ultima facie good, then it follows that we never do anything evil willfully or consciously. And if this is right, then the difference between Ted Bundy and us is not a matter of the goodness of our intentions or motivations. The only difference between us is that what we believe is good is actually good, and what Ted Bundy believed is good is not. And it gets worse. If CV is true, then it follows that Ted Bundy could not have believed differently than he did. For him to be able to believe differently, he would have had to think that what he believes to be good is actually evil. But, if he genuinely believed that what he did was good, then ipso facto he couldn’t have believed what he genuinely thought to be good to be evil any more than I could make myself believe that eating manure is not disgusting. Whenever I think of something that I think is good and attempt to force myself to think it’s not good, I can’t, and salva veritate for the things that I think are evil.

But this means that the difference between Ted Bundy and us is a matter of luck, and if that’s right, then it’s hard to see how he’s any more responsible for the harm he did than I would be for accidentally hitting a pedestrian with my car during a violent earthquake.

All this to say that if CV is true, we don't lose morality altogether, but we do seem to lose moral responsibility. And for this reason I reject CV. It is possible for me to think that something is ultima facie evil and yet willfully and consciously still do it. I do it all the time, in fact, but don’t ask me how it’s possible. I have no idea.

Monday, June 13, 2011

so what are my chances? I mean, *objectively*

In the first chapter entitled “Loomings” of Melville’s Moby Dick (or, The Whale), Ishmael (a character who’s also the narrator) ponders why it might be that he, rather than some other bloke, who is about to play the character he’s about to play on the whaling voyage. Let’s enter into his psyche and see how he frames the question:

“And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that part of the bill must have run something like this:

“Grand contested Election of the Presidency of the United States.”

“whaling voyage by one ishmael.”


…I cannot tell you why it was exactly that those stage managers, the Fates, put me down for this shabby part of a whaling voyage, when others were set down for magnificent parts in high tragedies, and short and easy parts in genteel comedies, and jolly parts in farces…”

That is, why is that it is Ishmael who is to go whaling, as opposed to being a presidential candidate, or a soldier in Afghanistan? And, of course, we could ask the same question for the one who is the presidential candidate or who is the Afghan soldier. Is there some sufficient reason why the Fates (or God or whoever or whatever) decided it was to be Ishmael and not, say, Ahab, or Elijah, to play the role? An affirmative answer to this question amounts to a view that Leibniz advocated, namely, that the reason why it was Ishmael and not some other person is because to be Ishmael is to be (among other things) a bloke who’s going on a whaling voyage. On this view, to ask “why me?” is like asking, “why is a cat a cat, or flower or flower?”—viz., it’s a silly question. Just as it’s silly to wonder why a flower is indeed a flower, so is it silly to wonder why Ishmael must live Ishmael’s life. To generalize Leibniz’ thesis, we get something like the following:

(L) For any subject S and any predicate P, if S has P it is because P is part of what it means to be S.

(L) strikes me as one of the most absurd theses I’ve ever heard. It would entail that Stalin could not have been a douche bag, or that I could not be typing this right now.

But, back to our original question, so as to figure out why it was Ishmael, and not, say, Elijah who goes on the whaling voyage instead. It might be suggested that the reason why is because Ishmael had certain qualities or dispositions, like wanting to go to sea, and Elijah didn’t, and so this is the reason why Ishmael went on the voyage and not Elijah. Understood one way, this answer is really only superficially distinct from (L), for it suggests that to be Ishmael just is to be such that you want to go to sea. And if this answer is meant in a way that does not entail (L) it just relocates or pushes our original question to another level. That is, even if we accept that the reason why Ishmael went on the whaling voyage is because he wanted to go to sea, we can now ask: why was it Ishmael and not Elijah who is such that he wanted to go to sea? Indeed, it seems that any answer q for some question ‘why p?’, we could equally ask ‘why q?’, and so on ad infinitum. But suppose the p’s and q’s don’t go on forever and they stop at p*. It seems to me that the *only* reason why we could stop and no longer have to ask why p*?’ is if p* is such that, unlike the rest of the p’s and q’s, it is necessarily true—that it’s impossible that ~p* be true. But if this is the right story, if ultimately the reason why it is Ishmael who goes on the whaling voyage and not Elijah is because there is some p* that is necessarily true and p*’s truth necessitates (viz., is sufficient for) the truth of all the p’s and q’s that get us to the fact that it’s Ishmael who goes on the whaling voyage, it seems that we’re left with the following thesis:

(L’) For any proposition p or q that is true, there is some p* that (a) is necessarily true, and (b) is sufficient to make both p and q true.

The problem with (L’), though, is that it has the same consequence of (L). If there is some p* that is necessarily true and its being true is sufficient to necessitate the fact that Ishmael goes on the whaling voyage, it follows that it’s impossible that Ishmael not go on his whaling voyage. And so we should reject (L’) for the same reason we rejected (L).

Well, is there some third option? I think so: perhaps there is no reason why it was Ishmael who went on the whaling voyage and not Elijah. If this is right, we can generalize to the following thesis:

(C) There is some p such that there is no reason why p is true rather than false.

I find (C) absurd, but not nearly as absurd as (L) and (L’). Therefore, (C).



I once asked a girl, “You don’t think we’d work even in the best possible world wherein there’s no sin?”

“No,” she said, “because I wouldn’t be me in such a world.”

What a dark saying, that she wouldn’t be herself in the best possible world. I think what she meant was something to the effect of, “In a world with no sin—in the best possible world— I wouldn’t exist. And neither would you for that matter.”

The reason why my USP 45 stays locked in my safe during those “endless nights” is because I believe and hope with every fiber of being that she’s damn wrong. Not so much that we wouldn’t be “together” in the best possible world (though that thought itself can throw me into the abyss), but that we couldn’t be in the best possible world.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

two equally foolish theses.

1. Being the best parents possible, and thereby doing the very best for your children, ensures or makes it highly likely that your children will grow up to be morally upright and have no major psychological issues.

False. Persons are not plants (pace Freud, Nietzsche, Skinner, et al). If God couldn’t do it for Adam, what in the hell makes you think that man is more capable?

2. Not being the best parents possible, and thereby doing the very best for your children, is inconsequential to whether or not your children will be morally upright and have no major psychological issues.

False. Just because persons aren’t plants, that doesn’t make them islands. Being a good parent might not be a sufficient condition for the child’s flourishing, but from this it does not follow that being a good parent isn’t necessary for it.

The Kingdom of God

Between the worship and the sermon this older man saw me sitting by myself and he joyfully introduced himself to me. His name is Dave. Dave is from Torrance and he has been unemployed for the last two and half years. His first day of training at Goodwill starts on Monday. As I answered his “get to know you” questions, he listened intently to everything I had to say. After the sermon he insisted that I eat with him in the rec room, as they were serving $1 dollar tacos and tamales. Joy emanated from his countenance as he insisted on paying for me.


“…and God’s ways are beyond our comprehension!” exclaimed the preacher as a tinge of tension and irony took over his smile.

“Do you understand that?”

Saturday, June 04, 2011

the anti-razor.

“Whenever an affirmative proposition is truly stated of things, if one thing does not suffice to account for that proposition’s truth, then one must posit two things, and if two do not suffice, then three, and so on to infinity.”

pseudo-Campsall, Logica 41.19 (Pasnau’s trans., Metaphysical Themes, p. 291)

Friday, June 03, 2011

Aristotle is a non-vegetable, and someone else is not.

Suppose Max, a Cretan, says, “All Cretans are liars.” Assuming that the quantifier ‘all’ in conjunction with the term ‘Cretans’ is to be understood divisively (i.e., denoting each and every Cretan), we seem to have a paradox on our hands. For…

Suppose it’s true that “all Cretans are liars”, then it’s false, for Max, being a Cretan, would be telling the truth, in which case it’s false that “all Cretans are liars.” Alas, it seems to be the case that at the moment when Max says, “All Cretans are liars”, his statement becomes both true *and* false at the same time.

Assuming truth and falsity are contraries (viz.—that it’s a contradiction to predicate truth and falsity of the same subject at the same time), Aristotle was apparently not only begging the question when he argued in Metaphysics Gamma that the principle of non-contradiction is necessarily true (a pseudo-charge, given that Aristotle readily admits that the defense of any genuine first principle must, being a first principle, be employed in its own defense), Aristotle was a vegetable—that is, he wasn’t being rational—for in fact there are “true” contradictions!

Well, the Cretan “paradox” above is no reason to think Aristotle was a vegetable.

On the Contrary: let’s suppose that prior to the moment before Max says “all Cretans are liars” it’s true that

(1) All Cretans are liars.

Well, by the “question begging dogma” of the necessity of logical entailment, if p is true at time t, then it follows necessarily that ~p is false. Symbolically

LE: (p/t ⊃~~p/t) [Necessarily, if it’s true that p at t then it’s true ~~p at t]
equivalently: [Necessarily, if it’s true that p at t then it’s false that ~p at t]
Well, let p = (1). By LE we get
(2) ((1)/t ⊃ ~~(1)/t) [Necessarily, if it’s true that “All Cretans are liars” at t then it’s false that “All Cretan are not liars” at t].
Now, as we’ve already supposed, let the antecedent of (2) be true, i.e.,
(3) (1)/t
by modus ponens
(4) ~~(1)/t.
But, now suppose that while (4) is true, Max says “all Cretans are liars”. But this would entail a contradiction, for at the moment Max says, “all Cretans are liars”, he’s telling the truth since he’s lying. But if such were to happen, the following would be true
(5) (~~(1)/t ^ ~(1)/t)
which is equivalent to
(5’) (~(1)/t ^ (1)/t)
Which is a contradiction and thereby impossible simpliciter.
All this to say, if it’s true that
(1) All Cretans are liars
then it would be logically impossible for any Cretan, such as our Max, to say so. And if it’s impossible for any Cretan to say that “all Cretans are liars”, then there’s no paradox, for no proposition would be both true and false.

Ergo, Aristoteles non vegetabili et Sacerdos est.

de re et de dicto.

Okay, after trying to get to the bottom of the difference, it seems to me that it amounts to this:

de re is when we’re talking about a thing.

de dicto is when we’re not talking about a thing but a proposition.

In the philosophy of language this distinction is important because it helps us disambiguate what we might mean when we ascribe beliefs to agents. Suppose we say

(1) Jim believes that “someone stole my bananas.”

The problem with (1) is that the scope of ‘someone’ is ambiguous between someone in particular vs. someone in general. It could be that Jim is thinking of somone in particular, let’s say Sam, in which case (1) should be read as

(1’) Jim believes that “Sam stole my bananas.”

In (1’), what Jim believes is that someone (a thing) named ‘Sam’ stole his bananas. Since Jim has a particular thing (Sam) in mind, (1) read as (1’) is ascribing a de re belief to Jim.

But suppose that Jim has reason to think someone stole his bananas, but he doesn’t know whom. If this were the case then (1) should be interpreted to as

(1’’) Jim believes that “some person or other stole my bananas.”

Because in (1’’) Jim doesn’t have any particular individual in mind, what he believes is that a particular proposition is true, namely that “some person or other stole my bananas”. Because Jim believes a certain proposition is true and not something of some particular thing, (1’’) is ascribing a de dicto belief to Jim.



Armed with this distinction, I’d like to flesh out more fully my attempt to dissolve the sentential liar’s paradox.

(2) Sentence (2) is false.

Supposedly, if (2) is true, then it’s false, for to say of itself truly that it is false is to say something false. But, if (2) is false, then it is true, for if (2) is false, then it says something true of itself, and is therefore true. And hence the paradox.

My objection amounts to this: the collection of symbols that includes and follows the first instance of the symbol ‘(2)’ above is a concrete thing, just like ‘my desk’ and ‘jcw’. Being a mere thing (res) it cannot be true or false anymore than ‘my desk’ and ‘jcw’ can be true or false. Why not? Well, truth and falsity are predicates not of concrete things (de rerum), but of propositions (de dicta). That is, propositions like “the house is red” and “jcw is generally cool” can be true or false. Furthermore, there cannot be propositions unless there are concrete things that do or do not have “ordinary” predicates. That is, the existence of any and all propositions with ‘jcw’ as the their subject depend on the concrete existence of ‘jcw’ and whatever “ordinary” predicates he may or may not have (e.g., jcw’s being generally cool, and the like). Once there is the state of affairs jcw’s existing a whole slew of propositions can thereby exist and be true or false, depending on whether they accurately describe the thing jcw. In sum, since the collection of symbols that includes and follows the first instance of the symbol ‘(2)’ above is a thing (res) and not a proposition (dictum), it cannot be true or false. And since it is neither true nor false, is no more paradoxical than (and equally meaningless as) saying“jcw is false”.

“Well,” I hear someone asking, “if the collection of symbols that includes and follows the first instance of the symbol ‘(2)’ above cannot be true or false, can’t the following proposition be true or false?”:

(3) Proposition (3) is false.

No, (3) can be neither true nor false because (3) is not a proposition. In order for it to be a proposition it needs to have a concrete thing (res), and not a proposition, as its subject. And furthermore, for (3) to be true or false the predicate said of the concrete thing acting as its subject must be an “ordinary” one, unlike truth and falsity. As such, there is no such proposition denoted by (3), and hence, the non-proposition (3) ispso facto cannot be true or false. And if it’s neither true nor false, it cannot be paradoxical.


Now onto modality de re and de dicto. From what I can tell the difference is whether a modal predicate (i.e. necessary, contingent, possible, impossible) is true of a thing (modality de re) or true of a proposition (modality de dicto). So here’s a putative example of modality de re:

(4) Louis is possibly five feet tall.

Notice that the “possibly” comes between the copula and the predicate, and as such (4) is predicating ‘possibly five feet tall’ of a thing (res)—namely Louis. Hence, (4) is an instance of modality de re. Now consider

(5) Possibly “Louis is five feet tall.”

Since the “Possibly” is outside of the proposition “Louis is five feet tall”, (5) is attributing a predicate not to a thing (res), but to a proposition (dictum), and hence (5) is an instance of modality de dicto. And of course, since saying “Louis is five feet tall” is equivalent to an assertion, (5) is equivalent to

(5’) “Louis is five feet tall” is possibly true.

On Aristotle’s view, (4) and (5) are interchangeable. Furthermore, since both (4) and (5) are propositions, both are made true by the state of affairs S Louis’ being possibly five feet tall. Since truth depends on reality we can infer S’s obtaining from knowing either (4) and (5), but (4) and (5) bear an asymmetrical dependency relation to S. Namely, S ‘makes’ or ‘necessitates’ the truth of (4) and (5), but the truth of (4) and (5) do not ‘make’ or ‘necessitate’ S’s obtaining.


Thursday, June 02, 2011

chivas regal 12.

Whenever I go south on the 605 from the 105
I see a cluster of treetops that clear the heights
of the interchange. Let it be that nature overcomes man. (I heard on the radio once that if civilization were to collapse, cats (even domesticated ones) wouldn’t have to adapt in order to survive.)
But anyway, I imagine that you and I hop the concrete
and we land in that ever-green place
suspended by tension
protected from the earth
and held hidden from the world.
Don’t you remember when you popped your head out from
Underneath the branch? Wearing your hoodie.
So long ago.


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