Wednesday, July 30, 2014

on forests and trees.

it’s one thing to fail to see the forest for the trees, it’s another (and much worse) thing to fail to see a tree for its atoms. 

on being duplicitous towards myself.

Reflecting back on my regrets, I find myself believing that—given the circumstances—I did the best I could, and that—given the circumstances— I could have done better.  I mean, how could I have not done the best I could?  Also, how could I have not been able to do better?  I suppose that part of the problem is that I’m simply not transparent to myself—when I act poorly I’m not conscious of why I do what I do, either during or after.  But, at the same time, my mind refuses to suspend judgment—it won’t let me just sit there and not pretend to know.
“For now we see in a mirror dimly…” (1 Cor. 13:12)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

on whether there could be a truthful liar.

Could a liar say, “I am not telling the truth”? No, for then he wouldn’t be a liar.
Ergo, there is no Liar’s Paradox.

on the Liar.

Let us assume written and spoken declarative sentences, as opposed to propositions, express propositions.  Let us assume that, in normal circumstances, when I write or speak a declarative sentence I am asserting the truth of the proposition which the sentence expresses. Thus, when I say “the cat is on the mat”, I am affirming that the proposition ‘the cat is on the mat’ is true.  Likewise, when I say “the cat is not on the mat”, I affirming that the proposition ‘the cat is not on the mat’ is true.
With these considerations, let us suppose that up until now the proposition ‘all Cretans are liars’ is true.  Right after this moment, Crete, at Cretan, says “All Cretans are liars”.  What is the proposition which Crete’s speech act expresses?  Which proposition is Crete affirming?  Well, I suppose that which proposition Crete is affirming depends upon what Crete believes.  Since he’s not here to tell us, let us explore the possibilities. Here’s one: Crete believes that
(1) ‘all Cretans are liars, except for me.’
If Crete affirms (1), there’s no paradox.
Here’s another: Crete affirms
(2)  All Cretans are liars.
But Crete cannot affirm (2), for Crete would be affirming that (2) and (2)’s negation are true.  But Crete cannot possibly believe this—it’s psychologically impossible for one to affirm a proposition and its negation at once.  Since Crete cannot believe (2), Crete cannot affirm (2), and if (2) is not affirmed, there is no true contradiction here. 

a few principles of moral epistemology.

(1) If the vast majority of S’s culture strongly believes that moral principle M is true, then S is warranted in believing that M is true.
(2) If (1) is true of S, and S believes that M is true, and M is true, then S knows that M is true. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

John Calvin is a dialetheist.

In Chapter 18, section 3, of his Institutes, John Calvin addresses the following objection: “…that if nothing happens without the will of God, he must have two contrary wills, decreeing by a secret counsel what he has openly forbidden in his law…” (p. 148).  That is, in Calvin’s view, God wills that men sin, and also wills that men not sin—but that’s bananas.  Calvin’s response:
Still, however, the will of God is not at variance with itself. It undergoes no change. He makes no pretence of not willing what he wills, but while in himself the will is one and undivided, to us it appears manifold, because, from the feebleness of our intellect, we cannot comprehend how, though after a different manner, he wills and wills not the very same thing. (ibid.)
One way of understanding the “…though after a different manner” part here is to say that the way in which God forbids us to sin, and therefore wills us not to sin, is different than the way in which God wills us to sin by his decree.  Thus one could affirm
(1) God wills us to sin,
(2) God wills us not to sin,
without contradiction because ‘wills’ in (1) means decrees, and ‘wills’ in (2) means commands.  Thus, Calvin affirms
(1’) God decrees us to sin. 
(2’) God commands us not to sin.
It may be, of course, that we are not able to comprehend how one and the same act is both decreed and forbidden, but it doesn't follow from our inability to comprehend it that there’s a contradiction here. (I cannot comprehend a pure phenomenal color that is neither red, nor blue, nor yellow, yet there’s no contradiction in saying “there is a pure phenomenal color C such that C is neither red nor blue nor yellow”).  Thus, I cannot comprehend the conjunction of (1’) and (2’), but there is no contradiction in their conjunction. 
Fair enough, I say.  But it seems to me that if (1’) God decrees us to sin, then it follows that (5) God wants us to sin—for God does not decree that which he does not want.  Further, if (2’) God commands us not to sin, then it’s not the case that (5) God wants us to sin—for God does not command that which he does not want. Somewhat formally:  
A. (1’) ^ (2’)
B. ((1) ⊃ (5)) ^ ((2’) ⊃ ~(5))
∴ C.  (5) ^ ~(5)
Either there are true contradictions, or C is false. I say that there are no true contradictions. So C is false. If C is false, A is false, and if A is false, either both (1’) and (2’) are false, or only one of them is true.  Scripture unequivocally affirms (2’).  Therefore, pace Calvin, God does not decree us to sin.

Friday, July 18, 2014

how ought we deal with tyranny?

When tyrants reign, let us first remember our faults, which are chastised by such scourges; and, therefore, humility will restrain our impatience. Besides, it is not in our power to remedy these evils, and all that remains for us is to implore the assistance of the Lord, in whose hand are the hearts of men and the revolutions of kingdoms.

John Calvin, Aphorism 98

on texting with St. Paul.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

there is no evil in God, but some evil is good.

St. Paul writes:

“Therefore He has mercy on whom he wills, and whom he wills He hardens. You may say to me, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction…” (Romans 9: 18-22)

Here’s what I find utterly baffling about this passage. Let us assume that the phrases ‘vessels […] for dishonor’ and ‘vessels of wrath prepared for destruction’ coextend to evil unbelieving persons.  Let us assume too, that regarding these evil unbelieving persons, that they are evil and unbelieving because God made them both unbelieving and evil.  Further, let us assume, as the potter to clay-pot analogy suggests, that God made evil unbelievers evil and unbelieving on purpose and that, as a pot cannot help but be the way it is, the evil unbelievers whom God made cannot help but be evil and unbelieving.  Finally, Let us assume, with the Psalmist and St. Paul, that “…there is no unrighteousness in [God]”  (Ps. 92:15, Rom. 9:14), and that “[God] is good” (Ps. 136:1).  Putting this altogether, according to the St. Paul and the Psalmist, we get something like the following:
[!] It is not unrighteous but rather wholly good that God purposely made unbelieving evil persons such that they cannot help but be evil and unbelieving.

My problem with  [!] is that it entails either a contradiction or Manichaeism. [!] is tantamount to saying that evil unbelievers are good with respect to being evil. But if being good entails not evil and being evil entails not good, we’re left with either “evil unbelievers are not evil” or that  “not good unbelievers are good”—which are contradictions. One might avoid contradictions here by saying that good and evil are not contraries and that some evil is good. The problem for me is that I simply don’t understand what it means to say that some evil is good. But, alas, perhaps God’s evil good ways are not my good evil ways.


Thursday, July 03, 2014

Eric Perl on Plato on the Good.

For Plato, the good of anything consists in the harmonious integration of its multiple components into a coherent whole, enabling it to function as a single thing which is not merely the sum of its parts.
Thinking Being, p. 55

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