Philosophers’ Carnival #159

admin : January 10, 2014 7:05 am : Blog

Welcome one and all to the 159th edition of the Philosophers’ Carnival! To submit your work for the next one, please see the the Philosophers’ Carnival homepage.


We have a large and diverse set of entries this time, so gather ’round, step up, step in, and prepare to ponder some philosophical perplexities!


Logic, Language and Mathematics


Who’s Afraid of Veridical Wool?

Over at enigMania, enigMan inquires,

Do we need non-classical logic to resolve the Liar paradox? Or do we need to see that the natural context of classical logic – natural language – has a slight but ubiquitous vagueness? When something is as much the case as not, it is a borderline case; and similarly, self-descriptions like ‘this is false’ are about as true as not. And when there is no sharp division between something being the case and it not being the case, then the precision of any mathematical logic is inapposite.

This post sums up 10 years of thought about the logical paradoxes of modern mathematics.


Two conceptions of criteria of adequacy for formalization: Tarski and Carnap

And at M-Phi, Catarina Novaes discusses Tarski’s and Carnap’s criteria for the adequacy of formalizations. She asks,

In particular, a key question which is unfortunately not asked often enough is: what counts as a ‘good’ formalization? How do we know that a given proposed formalization is adequate, so that the insights provided by it are indeed insights about the target phenomenon in question?

Was the Aufbau meant by Carnap to be a refutation of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit?

Continuing our logico-mathematical theme, at  NewAPPS Jon Cogburn sums up what we’ve learned about the logical positivists, especially Carnap, through the re-evaluations of Michael Friedman. Cogburn suspects that Carnap may have known more of Hegel than he let on in his published writings, and thinks the Aufbau may be a covert response to Hegel’s critique of sense-certainty.

Propositions: A Neo-Wittgensteinian Approach

Finally, Tristan Haze of Sprachlogik develops an account of propositions inspired by the middle Wittgenstien (i.e., of the Philosophical Remarks / Philosophical Grammar Period).


Philosophy of Art


The Origin of the Work of Art: Hearing the Title Properly

Transitioning to the philosophy of art we have an entry from Pseudonoma of Seynsgeschichte, who discusses the significance of Heidegger’s lecture Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes . The submitter has commented:

Without any of the glib summarizing one usually gets from Anglophone interpreters of Heidegger, the author demonstrates the necessity for Heidegger to dwell on art by indicating a logical impasse which follows from trying to understand origin by way of philosophical definition. The failure of the approach to the essence of origin in terms of thinking requires the thinker to move into the domain of art.

Staging Opera

Andrew Huddleston of Aesthetics for Birds talks about opera staging, which is

…the phenomenon of avant-garde productions, of the sort that are common in Germany especially. These are the kind that present the opera in non-traditional ways, not just by altering its costuming and setting (a fairly tame and widespread practice), but by diverging far more drastically from what the text, stage directions, and past performance practice would lead one to expect.

Out Of Step: Punk Music and the Ontology of Rock Recordings

Christopher Bartel, also of Aesthetics for Birds, discusses the ontology of Punk and Rock recordings , and how they differ from each other and from musical recordings of a more classical sort.




Occurrent and Conscious Belief

At Certain Doubts, Andrew Moon asks his readers whether it is possible “… for any (purported) occurrent belief that I have, that a demon could delete that belief and I still be in the same conscious state.”


‘Occurrent Belief’

Brandon Watson of Siris responds to the above entry.




Review of Tyler Burge: Origins of Objectivity

At Wo’s Weblog, Wolfgang Schwarz  critically engages with Tyler Burge’s Origins of Objectivity.


Reconciling Scalar, Maximizing, and Satisficing Consequentialisms

Richard Chappell of Philosophy, et cetera thinks that not only are these three forms of consequentialism compatible, but that consequentialists should accept all of them.


The Moral Epistemology of the Jerk

Eric Schwitzgebel  of The Splintered Mind invites us, when theorizing morally, to ask ourselves: “to what extent and in what ways am I a jerk?” You’re a mean one, Mr. Schwitzgebel!


A counterexample to Turri’s thesis about justification?

At FsOpHo, Luis Rosa proposes a counterexample to a thesis of John Turri’s about justification.


The importance of the future

Finally, at Alexander Pruss’s Blog, Alexander Pruss discusses different views of time, and what they have to say about why it would be bad for you to cease to exist.

That’ll do it for this edition of the Carnival. The next one will be at Kenny Pearce’s blog on February 10th.



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An idea regarding charitable giving

admin : December 2, 2013 5:29 am : Blog, Ethics, Philosophy


An idea regarding charitable giving


Jason Zarri

Today I had an idea regarding charitable giving that as far as I know hasn’t been implemented, at least on a large scale: Why not have “charity cards”, credit cards which automatically donate a certain percentage  of what you spend to charity whenever you make a purchase? For example, if you spend $100.00 on something and have a 2% threshold, that would automatically generate a corresponding $2 donation to a charity of your choice. I think that would be good because such “microdonations,” which most of us wouldn’t bother to make separately, would eventually ad up. They would also require no special effort, which I think is a great psychological  barrier to giving. If a lot of people ended up using charity cards, it could easily generate millions (or more) in donations.  So instead of getting “points” or filer miles, why not have cards that automatically generate microdonations?

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On the Announcement of Pope Francis’s first Apostolic Exhortation: Evangelii Gaudium

admin : November 28, 2013 4:48 am : Blog, Regious Studies, Theology
On the Announcement of Pope Francis’s first Apostolic Exhortation:  Evangelii Gaudium

Jason Zarri

Has anyone else seen this? I don’t consider myself Catholic, but it’s pretty awesome.


“As we open our hearts, the Pope goes on, so the doors of our churches must always be open and the sacraments available to all. The Eucharist, he says pointedly, “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” And he repeats his ideal of a Church that is “bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets” rather than a Church that is caught up in a slavish preoccupation with liturgy and doctrine, procedure and prestige. “God save us,” he exclaims, “from a worldly Church with superficial spiritual and pastoral trappings!” Urging a greater role for the laity, the Pope warns of “excessive clericalism” and calls for “a more incisive female presence in the Church”, especially “where important decisions are made.”
Looking beyond the Church, Pope Francis denounces the current economic system as “unjust at its root”, based on a tyranny of the marketplace, in which financial speculation, widespread corruption and tax evasion reign supreme. He also denounces attacks on religious freedom and new persecutions directed against Christians. Noting that secularization has eroded ethical values, producing a sense of disorientation and superficiality, the Pope highlights the importance of marriage and stable family relationships.”

Text from page http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/11/26/pope_issues_first_apostolic_exhortation:_evangelii_gaudium/en1-750083
of the Vatican Radio website

The document itself can be found here.


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“Hearing about a Health Outpost set up in the Jungle” by Peter Krey

admin : November 27, 2013 11:36 pm : Blog, Philosophy of Science, Sociology

Hearing about a Health Outpost set up in the Jungle

by Peter Krey


My friend Ron Moore and I attended a presentation by Dr. Christopher Herndon M.D.[1] on August 15, 2013 at 7:00pm in the Bone Room on Solano Avenue in Berkeley. His lecture or PowerPoint presentation was called, “Learning from Tribal Healers.” Over the last ten years or so, he has been working with remote Amazon tribes in South America, more precisely, southern Suriname. The card advertising his presentation read: “He will discuss his experiences learning from Amazon healers, that is, shamans and the relevance of traditional medicine to conservation and the importance of shamanism to their medical systems – and to our own.”[2]

Dr. Herndon’s purpose was to persuade us about the value of the world of knowledge of the traditional shaman of these remote tribes, many of which were becoming extinct.  This wisdom became lost after contact with the West, when government officials and Christian missionaries considered the shamans to be witch doctors, caught up only in negative superstition and evil spirits. But the shaman like glue held the whole tribe together. Usually from childhood he was brought up to become one and had long, even ten-year apprenticeships on his way to become the accepted shaman of the tribe.

Dr. Herndon told that when a botanist learned the language of a tribe one shaman could designate 2000 different species of trees by merely looking at the leaf from that tree. Usually a western PhD in botany needed another component besides the leaf and could not even name 25 trees in the area in which he lived. A zoologist with a PhD studying bees, asked a tribal member about them, who named 52 different varieties of bees, dumbfounding him by his knowledge of the flora and fauna.  A shaman also knew the healing properties of many leaves and vines, insects and the secretion of frogs, and medicines from under the bark of trees. They had diagnostic capabilities that were dumbfounding to a Western medical doctor knowing what he had learned in medical school. But it took the love to take the time to learn their language and the humility to listen to the shaman and learn what he knew. What opened up for the western MD was his universe of knowledge, his treasury of wisdom, which is ordinarily lost thirty years after a shaman was driven from the tribe. In this way cutting the whole tribe off from the source of its knowledge and culture, it was then placed on its way to extinction. Before that point it was made completely dependent on the West in unsustainable ways. In a medical health clinic set for western medicine, he was discussing a diagnosis with the indigenous staff. He looked through their microscope and discovered that it was broken. They were merely pretending to use it for their take on the diagnosis.

Dr. Herndon set up a traditional health outpost in Suriname in an Amazonian tribe known as the Trio and reinstated the shaman to be the tribal healer.[3]  This traditional health outpost is designed to complement a western medical clinic nearby. After he set it up and invited the shaman who had been shunned to return and do his work, Dr. Herndon did the best thing he could do. He left them alone. He flew to Washington, D.C. returning by plane after a few months. These remote jungle locations are only accessible by air. While landing, from the plane he could see a long line waiting to see the shaman at the health outpost.

Dr. Herndon presented many examples of the diagnostic capabilities and the treasury of wisdom possessed by the shaman lost to us because of our feelings of superiority and complete disregard of their knowledge and culture. Meanwhile contact with the West was destroying one tribe after another and many more are nearing extinction after becoming completely dependent on the West. (Not the pharmaceutical were threatening the tribes quite so much as oil, mineral, and lumber extraction.)

For example, some tribes use 12 to 13 foot long blow pipes with poison darts to hunt the monkeys they consume for food. The poison they use is a muscle relaxant that makes the monkey fall silently through the trees and vines to the ground. (Their “poison” is used in every operating room today, but of course, there is no way to give them intellectual property rights.) After contact with the West, tribal hunters use shotguns, disturbing the whole environment and making all the animals flee, with the wounded animal as well.  Because the monkey’s muscles do not relax, they remain inaccessible because they cling and stay way up in the trees. Then the hunters run out of ammunition and can’t afford to buy more, and to add insult to injury, they no longer know how to make the medicine.

Dr. Herndon’s talk provided me with many theological insights. To preach Christ and do missionary work that decimates the culture of the people contradicts Christ. “Who is as blind as my servant?”[4] asked the prophet Isaiah. To be a missionary means to continue the incarnation of Christ. That requires becoming one of the people, to become a tribal member by learning the language, learning their culture, learning the treasury of their wisdom. Tribal members are still very much in touch with nature and “know the leaves of the trees that heal the nations” as written in Revelation.[5] “Who is as blind as my servant?” The missionaries who preach Christ without continuing his incarnation in their lives impose an alien and unsustainable culture upon the tribal members that contradicts the incarnation of Christ. Why are we so inflexible and why have we lost the sensitivity and capability to become one of the people we are trying to win? St. Paul said, “To a Jew I became a Jew in order to win the Jews…to the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.”[6] In a sense in our culture blindness we crucify not only the witch doctors but the whole tribe as well, because the extinction of the whole tribe with its language, culture, and treasury of wisdom is certainly comparable to their crucifixion.

Plus we have to thank God for a secularism permeated with wonderful values that freed an M.D. from the blinders of Christian missionaries and government officials to see the value in shamans, whom the missionaries swept aside as demonic witch doctors. They certainly are sinners[7] caught up in some deception and self-deception but so are we and in the self-righteousness and presumption of our faith we act as if we are not.

Dr. Herndon was not anti-religious or using this critique against missionaries, the way for the sake of self-criticism, I am doing here. But his talk made me realize our vast shortcomings, which we need ourselves as missionaries to become aware of, at this point. What a waste of lives, culture, and wisdom has followed our witness when we do not continue the incarnation ourselves when we preach Christ.

(I want to also include his critique of science and scientific, technological medicine below), but first more about what I mean by continuing the incarnation.  He spoke about the field coordinator of his organization, a David Fleck, PhD, who has lived with an Amazonian tribe full-time since 2008, became fluent in their language, wrote a grammar for it as his doctoral dissertation, and married a member of the tribe. This kind of loving embodiment and of their culture and world, this total cultural immersion by baptism is the continuation of the incarnation and provides the possibility for the grace that brings abundant life to these tribal members and whole tribes rather than their destruction and extinction.

“Dear God, forgive us Christians! We are such cultural barbarians! Forgive us for the things we have done. Intercede for us again from the cross, saying: “Father, forgive them they know not what they do!”

Dr. Herndon’s critique of science was similar to the critique I have mounted to our religion. Western science relies on reductionism to more and more simple elements. In that culture complexities and potency were also understood in a way that is outside the purview of our science. Without the unsustainable technology of our scientific medicine, the shaman could make diagnoses like the ones the doctor had learned in medical school. Dr. Herndon argued that because of its methodology of reductionism, science looked through a narrow lens through a tunnel, limiting us by what we chose to see and making us disregard the value of the knowledge of the tribal shaman and the treasury of their tribal wisdom.

While he was speaking, a telling analogy came to my mind: a person lost a ring at night knowing not where but looking for it under a streetlamp. Another coming upon him asked, “Why are you looking for it here?” “Because here is where I have light.” he answered. But the ring could lie anywhere in the darkness outside of the perimeter of the light thrown by the streetlamp. Scientific medicine in its knowledge does not grasp the complexities and intensities from a perspective of an ever greater wholeness, which lets the tribal members have sunlight in the places where our scientific streetlight does not shine.

Dr. Herndon said that the shamans lived in a world densely populated with spirits. Houston Smith claims that Jesus, who was filled with the Spirit, was completely acquainted with the spirit world and used his Spirit attendant powers for exorcism, healing, challenging people, and pronouncing a whole new social order. I guess our missionaries would have shunned and deposed Jesus Christ as a witch doctor!

When I asked Dr. Herndon about their spirit world, he said, “What is an evil spirit? They said a certain forest had an evil spirit. Don’t go in it if you value your life. We discovered a certain kind of rodent there that could give you a disease (He named the fever.) from which you died, because the shaman had no cure. That is what they referred to as the evil spirit.”[8] They may not know about germs and other microbes, like bacteria and viruses, or about radio waves and their frequencies, but they grasp and think through some of these phenomena in terms of personalized spirits in a way that helps them understand some aspects of reality in ways modern science cannot.

The question was asked about how effective the cures of the shaman in the health outpost were. This question could not yet be answered because there was no way to evaluate the practice, but when the missionaries were translating the Bible into the tribal language they had given some members of the tribe the literary skills to read and write and these members of the tribe were writing down the basic medical information about each case that the shaman was treating. [Note how missionaries did make a contribution, too.] These medical notes will provide the basic information to be used for later evaluation. How effective is our modern scientific technological medicine? He asked. Our technology is unsustainable and we really don’t know how effective our practice of medicine is either for cancer, for example.

Somehow, I think that secularism is a complementary place that Christianity provides, or has been compelled to provide, in order to make its faith one that can be accepted freely by persuasion without governmental or even social coercion and if it is not a stepchild of Christianity, it certainly belongs to Christianity in some way. Thank God for it, because it gives some the freedom to explore the world without the blinders that often accompany the faithful. These blinders make us stumble into the self-contradictory place where Christian missionaries would have shunned and driven away Christ as a witch doctor. The fact is that missionaries, especially scientifically trained medical doctors cannot be self-critical enough of their science as well as of their religion.

Now perhaps in a contradictory way, I ask myself, the way science has overtaken the “science” of antiquity and even the “science” of the deep past, i.e. the millennia before Christ; some human understandings in anthropology, linguistics, sociology, and psychology have also overtaken the state of knowledge of humanity represented in our theology. In other words, the science of scripture does not only need to be updated, but our understanding of the human being as well. We are stumbling around in the dark in our own culture, the way our missionaries have been among those Amazonian tribes.  Today we have to continue aligning the incarnation of Christ with the preaching of Christ more and more deeply, like the example given by Dr. David Fleck. That means listening and learning the Gospel of Christ for today. Thus the spirit world will have to be better interpreted to gain the holistic, complex, personal, social, and anthropological dimensions that tribal treasuries of wisdom contained – complementing the understandings of modern science. The spirit world interpreted as personal, internal, subjective wisdom needs to complement our external, methodological scientific knowledge as we seek to listen, learn, and incarnate Christ today.

[2] The Bone Room Presents its August Events, Solano Avenue, Berkeley, Ca www.boneroompresents.com

[4] Cf. Isaiah 42:19.

[5] Rev 22:2, cf. Ezekiel 47:12.

[6] 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

[7] Dr. Herndon discovered that they knew a great deal about human anatomy and shuddered to think how they learned so much about human internal organs.  Some of their superstitions are quite repugnant.

[8] Studying Houston Smith is well worthwhile: The World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions, (New York: Harper San Francisco, 1991, 1958) pages 318ff.

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The Concept of a Zombie

admin : November 24, 2013 2:39 pm : Blog, Philosophy
The Concept of a Zombie
(Or: On the Postmortem Survival of Conceptual Analysis)

(Jason Zarri)


It goes without saying that the recent outbreak of brain-eating corpses has been injurious to social order. But in addition to inspiring fear and panic in the man on the street, zombies have proved to be a source of headache for philosophers. For them it is apparently not enough to threaten our lives; no, they must call our concept of life itself into question. (And we thought phenomenal zombies were bad!)

Four positions jointly exhaust the logical possibilities, and they have all found adherents in the literature. One could think that zombies are (1) alive, (2) dead, (3) both, or (4) neither. In the remainder of this survey I will canvass each of these possibilities, and present some of the considerations that have been adduced for and against them.

Bioticists hold that zombies are (only) alive. Admittedly, they are not paradigm examples of living things, but neither are tomatoes paradigm examples of fruit, and yet by any reasonable biological criterion that is exactly what they are.  Analogously, bioticists argue, zombies satisfy the biological criteria for life: They consume nutrients (neurons and glia; i.e. brains), they can move, they reproduce (asexually, through biting), giving rise to “fertile offspring” (zombies who originate through biting can themselves bite people and create other zombies), and some of their cells can multiply, so they can heal themselves to a limited extent—military research has shown that the glia zombies consume are integrated into their nervous systems, while the neurons provide the raw material to repair the zombies’ neurons, or even grow new ones.  Moreover, bioticists claim, it just seems intuitively obvious that zombies are alive—it’s hard to deny, when being chased by a walking, groaning, to some extent intelligent neurovore that one is being stalked by a living thing. And one can’t leave out the linguistic evidence: When we shoot one in the head, electrocute it, or burn it to ash, we do most often say that we’ve killed it. Now, bioticists will say, it is surely conceptually impossible to kill something that isn’t alive; so, since it is part of our folk theory of zombies that we can kill them, it must be part of our folk theory of zombies that they are alive. That zombies are alive is thus part of common sense—and while common sense cannot be a satisfactory place at which to stop, it can hardly be a bad place from which to start.

Abioticists—or “dead-heads,” as they affectionately refer to one another—maintain that zombies are (only) dead. Abioticists admit that there is some (slight) linguistic evidence to regard zombies as living, but insist that on the whole common sense and science are against the idea. They are quick to point out that all zombies have died at some point—a trait shared by all clear cases of dead things! The mere fact that they have regained some bodily functions is not enough to make them alive again. Also, many zombies—all but the freshest—are in various stages of decay, another trait shared by all clear cases of dead things. Furthermore, zombies do not need to breathe, and for many of them their circulatory systems don’t even work, neither of which holds for any clear case of a living being that has a circulatory system.

In addition, Abioticists question how well zombies really satisfy the biological criteria for life. Sure enough—and unfortunately enough!—they move and consume nutrients, but the multiplication of their cells is partial at best, being restricted almost entirely to the nervous system. But most importantly, dead-heads maintain, zombies do not truly reproduce—the zombies that they “sire” are not new organisms at all, but rather pre-existing ones who die and become zombies themselves. Even viruses, when they reproduce, generate new copies of themselves, and biologists do not regard them as being alive. Finally, while zombies do sire other zombies, there is nothing like the inheritance of traits trough genetics or their alteration through evolution that typifies all known living organisms, a point frequently glossed over by bioticists.  A hundred generations from now, zombies will not be any better at hunting for brains than their ancestors of today—and thank God for that!

For zombie dual-aspect theorists—“zombie dualists,” or “zualists” for short—the term ‘living dead’ is not the oxymoron it may appear to be. Zualists think they can have the best of both worlds—zombies share many features with living things, and also with dead ones; hence, they are best regarded as both alive and dead. Unlike bioticists and Abioticists, zualists think they can account for all of the intuitions that underwrite our folk theory of zombies: Zombies are alive, which explains how it is conceptually possible for them to be killed. Nevertheless, they are also dead, which explains how it is conceptually possible for them to have died and to exhibit different stages of decay. And the fact that they satisfy some of the biological criteria for life while ambiguously satisfying others fits well with the idea that zombies are both alive and dead. Finally, the very popularity of the term ‘living dead’ bears witness, they claim, to the fact that the folk do not regard the concepts of life and death as incompatible.

Bioticists and Abioticists alike greet zualism with a stare as incredulous as the one received by those who first reported that corpses were rising from their graves. It seems just obvious to them that life and death exclude each other, just as red and green or motion and rest do. (This is especially so for those who hold the increasingly popular deflationary theory of death—that to be dead is simply not to be alive.) And it is not as though we have biological criteria for being alive and biological criteria for being dead, and that zombies satisfy both. It seems rather that we have only biological criteria for being alive, and that it is unclear whether zombies satisfy them.  And the popularity of the term ‘living dead’ shows little, if anything—people often respond to questions with “yes and no,” but would anyone regard that as a good reason to think that the folk are committed to dialetheism, let alone that it is true?

Last, but not necessarily least, we have the undeadites, who regard zombies as neither living nor dead. Undeadites agree with dead-heads that zombies do not fit the criteria for being alive very well; and like both dead-heads and bioticists, they have the intuition that nothing could be both alive and dead. However, undeadites share the bioticists feeling that it seems somehow wrong to think that anything capable of chasing you, catching you and eating your brain could be dead in the usual sense. They accordingly propose to reject the deflationary theory of death and hold zombies to have a third status, which they call ‘undead’. Like logical theories that posit a third truth-value, this view has not found much acceptance among mainstream philosophers. If anything is neither alive nor dead, it would seem to be natural objects like rocks or man-made artifacts like toasters, but most would not think of them as being “undead.” Or, to put the point more neutrally, most would not place them in the same category as a zombie. The problem is that while rocks and toasters have no relevant features in common with living things or with dead ones, zombies seem to have some of both.

It is my hope that you now have a better appreciation for the various views on the concept of a zombie. The dispute between bioticists, dead-heads, zualists and undeadites remains as lively as ever (please forgive the pun!), and will not be adjudicated anytime soon. If the past century has taught us anything, it is that conceptual analysis is hard. Nonetheless, I remain hopeful that we will have made some progress in analyzing this concept before its tokens overrun us, should that fateful day ever come!


Dilbert Schmyle

Oxford, 11/24/2013.

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Proof that Logic Can Be Fun

admin : November 15, 2013 8:05 am : Blog


Jason Zarri


Proof that Logic Can Be Fun:


Premise 1. If you consider the sub-proof SP, you’ll see that logic can be fun:

Premise 2. You consider SP:

       Sub-premise 1. All valid arguments which have a false conclusion have at least one false premise.
       Sub-premise 2. This argument has a false conclusion.
       Sub-premise 3. So, if this argument is valid, it has a false premise.
       Sub-premise 4. But this is a valid argument.
       Sub-Conclusion. Hence, this argument has at least one false premise.

(Lemma 1: You’re probably thinking: WTF?! Just what kind of argument is SP supposed to be?!)

Conclusion: See? Logic can be fun!

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Daemonodicy: The Problem of Good

admin : November 10, 2013 1:06 pm : Blog




~ The Problem of Good ~


Leibniz’s solution of the problem of evil, like most of his other popular doctrines, is logically possible, but not very convincing. A Manichaean might retort that this is the worst of all possible worlds, in which the good things that exist serve only to heighten the evils. The world, he might say, was created by a wicked demiurge, who allowed free will, which is good, in order to make sure of sin, which is bad, and of which the evil outweighs the good of free will. The demiurge, he might continue, created some virtuous men, in order that they might be punished by the wicked; for the punishment of the virtuous is so great an evil that it makes the world worse than if no good men existed. I am not advocating this opinion, which I consider fantastic; I am only saying that it is no more fantastic than Leibniz’s theory.”


–Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy, Simon & Schuster (1972), p. 590



Zigur: Greetings, brother Zead.


Zead: Greetings, brother Zigur. May our lord Malus curse you and smite you on the Day of Pain!


Zigur: (Muttering:) Yes, I certainly hope so…


Zead: You hope so?!


Zigur: That is precisely the reason I came to see you, brother Zead. I am starting to doubt my faith, and have come to you for assurance and for counsel.


Zead: I am glad that you have come to me, Zigur. I will do whatever I can to strengthen you, and keep you in the Dark One’s fold. Speak then, and tell me of the cause of these doubts.


Zigur: Well, we are told that the lord Malus is most evil, are we not?


Zead: Indeed, brother Zigur; lord Malus is supremely evil, the first cause of all misery and despair. Not only is he the most evil being in existence, he is that than which no fouler can so much as be conceived.


Zigur: Yes, that has been my instruction from the earliest age, and reflecting upon it has been the chief source of my doubt. If the lord Malus is as wicked as you say—omnimalevolent, as our Daemonologists put it—why do we see so much good in the world? In every nation there are some who thirst after righteousness, and they are not smitten. There are some who help the disadvantaged and fight for the freedom of the oppressed, and our lord does not strike them down. I know of some who go so far as to treat their enemies as well as their friends, and yet they prosper. And not only is all this the case, but the virtuous even outnumber the vicious! Why would the lord Malus allow this mockery of his unholy name? For we are taught that he is not only omnimalevolent, but omniscient and omnipotent. Does he not know of goodness? Then he is ignorant. Is he willing to suppress goodness, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able to suppress goodness, but not willing? Then he is beneficent. Is he both able and willing? Then from whence comes goodness? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him a Daemon?


Zead: These are natural questions, brother Zigur, but they have natural answers. Have you not been taught them as well, as a part of your instruction? Do you not know that the lord Malus, though he is wickedness itself, allows there to be some good men and women, so that they may suffer? Some of them receive their due punishment in this life, but in the next they will all receive the greater condemnation. Though all suffering is bad, the suffering of the virtuous is a far worse thing than the suffering of the vicious, because the vicious deserve to suffer and the virtuous do not. This is why the lord Malus, our most beloved Daemon, allows his human creatures free will. Virtue is not truly virtue unless it is freely chosen, and the same is true of vice. This is why he suffers anything good to exist; that out of it, he may bring a greater evil. This too is why we worship him: We also will suffer to satisfy his malice, but not as much as those who are good, for when the vicious receive less punishment than they deserve it is an offense against justice. Let this console you, brother Zigur.


Zigur: All that is well said, brother Zead; so indeed I have been taught, and O how I wish it to be true! But I am afraid that my doubt is greater than you may fear, and extends not only to the wickedness of Malus, but to his existence as well.


Zead: Your doubt is exceedingly great, Zigur! Yet I have in my power the means to dispel it. Surely you can conceive the lord Malus to exist, or you would not have come to me to help strengthen your faith?


Zigur: Yes, I can conceive it.


Zead: And surely you agree that we understand Malus, The Dark One, to be that than which no fouler can be conceived?


Zigur: Certainly, brother Zead.


Zead: Excellent, brother Zigur! It is now within my power to prove to you that our lord Malus exists.


Zigur: How is that?


Zead: I shall tell you, brother Zigur. Suppose that what you fear is true, and that Malus does not exist. Then, since we have acknowledged him to be that than which no fouler can be conceived, does it not surely follow that that than which no fouler can be conceived also does not exist?


Zigur: Most surely, brother Zead.


Zead: Now consider this: Doesn’t that than which no fouler can be conceived, though we suppose it not to exist in reality, exist in our understanding, since we can conceive the lord Malus to exist, and he is that than which no fouler can be conceived?


Zigur: Indeed.


Zead: But then, brother Zigur, it follows that one can conceive of that which is fouler than that than which no fouler can be conceived, a contradiction!


Zigur: How so, Zead?


Zead: Like this, Zigur: We suppose that Malus, that than which no fouler can be conceived, does not exist. But we’ve agreed that that than which no fouler can be conceived can be conceived to exist in reality, which is fouler. But then that than which no fouler can be conceived  can be conceived to be fouler than it is—since it would be fouler if it existed in reality—which is absurd. Therefore our lord Malus, the great Daemon and source of all evil, who on the first day created darkness and saw that it was bad, most assuredly exists in reality, and not in the understanding alone!


Zigur: Your argument is wickedly excellent, brother Zead; too excellent, I fear, to be sound. Could one not argue for all manner of other evil things, in much the same way? Consider the foulest possible island, adorned with volcanoes, deserts, and thickets of thorns, and replete with the greatest possible number of inhabitants in the worst possible agony. Surely this island exists in our understanding. Now, if we suppose it not to exist, we can still conceive it to exist in reality, which is fouler. But the island than which no fouler can be conceived surely cannot be conceived to be fouler than it is, whence it follows that it exists in reality as well. Nice as it would be to know that it exists, I have heard no reports of such an island from any corner of the known world, and even if it were discovered, it seems to me that we shouldn’t believe in it just on the strength of the argument I have just presented.


Zead: Surely we should not, Zigur. But there is a flaw in your reasoning: We cannot conceive of an island than which no fouler can be conceived, any more than we can conceive of a number than which no larger can be conceived. We can always conceive of a bleaker, more desolate and larger island, with a larger number of miserable inhabitants in greater agony, and for a longer amount of time. If our imagined island grows too large for the Earth’s oceans, we can imagine it to exist on another, larger planet. You have already admitted that the existence of an omnipotent Daemon is possible, and so we may suppose that there are possible circumstances where he does exist, and as there is no limit to the foulness of an island which he could create, there is no limit to the foulness of an island which could exist, even if it could not come to exist by natural means. So there cannot be a foulest conceivable island, while you have already admitted that there can be a foulest conceivable being.


Zigur: An excellent reply, brother Zead! I must admit that my objection is vanquished, but my doubts live on. I have another worry: Couldn’t one give a similar argument for a most perfect possible being, that than which no greater can be conceived? For it is surely greater if it exists in reality than if it exists in the understanding alone, and can it thus not be proved to exist by an argument exactly analogous to your own?


Zead: Ingenious, Zigur! But nevertheless, mistaken. I will tell you a secret: Those of us in the inner circle know a great truth; namely, that goodness, and hence “greatness” of the sort you have mentioned, is nothing positive, nothing existent in its own right, but is a mere privation, a lack of an evil which rot to be present in a thing.


Zigur: Which rot to be present, brother Zead?


Zead: Yes, Zigur; the perverted, those who seek justice and love the good, think that good is positive and that evil is negative; but their minds have been clouded, and the truth is just the opposite. They would say that what is evil or bad ought not to be present in a thing; which, though true, is not the proper mode of expression, for it can make one think that evil is merely negative, an opinion most abhorrent to us. Thus, we in the inner circle say that that which is evil or bad rot to be present in a thing, and that that which is good rot not to be present in it.


Zigur: I see. But isn’t happiness good, brother Zead? And happiness is something positive, which exists in its own right.


Zead: Happiness is certainly good, but it is not an instance of goodness itself. That is, while happiness is something positive, its goodness is negativebeing the lack of a misery which the happy creature rot to be suffering instead.


Zigur: Interesting. But how does that answer my objection?


Zead: In this way, Zigur: If a good is nothing but the lack of an evil which rot to be present, and a “perfect being” is one which is supremely good, it is one which must needs also be supremely non-existent. To be, is to be evil; to be good is not to be, in a certain respect. Whence it follows that to be perfectly good is not to be in any respect. So this being cannot be conceived of except as being unreal, while just the opposite is true of our lord. Does this satisfy you, brother Zigur?


Zigur: Indeed I am satisfied brother Zead; you have convinced me at last that there is a Daemon, and that I must have been a fool for my heart to say otherwise! 

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A Counterexample to Social Externalism?

admin : October 27, 2013 7:47 am : Blog

Jason Zarri

Suppose there are two linguistic communities of (roughly) equal size, dispersed throughout a large area. Both speak dialects of the same language. One community uses the term ‘arthritis’ to refer exclusively to a painful condition of the joints, the other uses it to refer to any painful condition in one’s limbs. There is a certain smaller region in which members of both communities are to be found, and in (roughly) equal numbers. There is, however, no “overlap”: Each speaker fully adopts the convention of his or her community, they do not sometimes adopt one usage and sometimes another. The dialects are alike in every other respect. Along comes Wyman, who does not speak the language. Wyman, however, comes to learn it, and eventually speaks it, to all appearances, just as the two communities do. But he is nevertheless unaware of the difference in usage with respect to the term ‘arthritis’. One day he tells his doctor, “I have a horrible case of arthritis in my thigh.” One community would judge that what Wyman said was false; and the other, that it was true. Both could not be right.


The question is: What did the term ‘arthritis’ mean on that occasion? Which of the two communities’ incompatible usages could it have been that determined what ‘arthritis’ meant in Wyman’s mouth? He was unaware of any difference between the two communities, both are equal in size and equally prevalent in his area, and he interacted just as much with both. To say that Wyman “really” counts as a member of one community rather than the other, and thus that the term “really” had one meaning rather than the other, seems arbitrary. And externalists cannot say that ‘arthritis’ had both meanings, for then what he said would have been both true and false. If externalists were to say that it was indeterminate which meaning it had, they must admit that some matters are indeterminate—which, though many may be happy to do, might not be coherent. That the statement had no meaning is something I can understand, though I find it implausible for this case; but could it really be that it’s determinate that it had one or other of those meanings, but not determinate which? But however that may be, I’m interested to see what my readers think.


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The Threat We Face against Superbugs or CREs and the Need for Good Government

admin : October 23, 2013 7:32 pm : Blog


By Peter Krey

“Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria: Has the Age of Antibiotics Come to an End?”  “More formally known as CREs, these ‘superbugs’ resist most antibiotics, spread resistance to other germs and kill roughly half of the people they infect.” See PBS Newshour Frontline.

Watching Frontline last night, we watched with horror as a crisis is silently unfolding for our society. New infections caused by bacteria that have become immune to all our antibiotics are leaving doctors and our hospitals feeling helpless. There is no way of knowing how many people have already died from these superbugs, because hospitals tend to cover up the issue, which is certainly bad for their business. Thus no one is counting. Who wants to go to a hospital with one illness, only to catch an untreatable infection that will kill you? To over-exaggerate: banks have been robbing us and now hospitals are killing us.

One hospital openly presented the crisis and confessed the number of patients, who died, not from their illnesses, but from the untreatable infections they caught in the hospital. It did not seem that they ever discovered how the infections spread.

Doctors feel helpless as they try one powerful antibiotic after another and find that the bacteria have developed immunity to them all. Surgical removal of the infections was the last resort.

Two things are necessary to overcome this crisis, further development of antibiotics to overcome these lethal bacteria and better stewardship of all antibiotics, because their wasteful overuse and misuse, has made it possible for bacteria to develop immunity to them.

Turning to the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, the investigative journalist discovered that the research department that had developed antibiotics for 70 years had been closed because it was unprofitable. The CEO said it was an investment portfolio decision, because other drugs that could be used in much greater volume justified the billion dollar cost of the research and production of a drug. When an antibiotic is produced, it becomes most effective when it is used least or at least with very responsible stewardship, making the further development of antibiotics unprofitable.

What becomes completely clear from this issue is that private enterprise and the markets will not be of any help against this silent killer. What other institution of our society can be of help except the government? It alone could fund that Pfizer research facility that was closed in order to save our lives and develop the antibiotics that are a basic pillar of modern medicine. Without effective antibiotics even surgery, especially transplants, will soon become impossible and we will be dying of simple infections as in the time before the discovery of penicillin.

Government intervention is obviously necessary and a market fundamentalism is completely misguided in this case. “That government is best which governs least” is the principle we learned in elementary school. But it presupposes responsible self-government and it is obvious that our overuse and misuse of antibiotics needs regulation until we have internalized their responsible use. We do not yet know whether or not feeding antibiotics to livestock in factory farms is also part of the problem, but it seems a rather unnatural thing to do.

To just take issue with big government versus small government is inadequate, because our thinking has to become far more nuanced. Where is government completely necessary to watch out over the welfare of the public when private profit cannot be made? Secondly, where is it inappropriate, for example, in squelching a new business by means of over-regulation? The de-regulation of telephones brought about wonderful developments. I wonder about the de-regulation of the airlines. The luxury service formerly associated with them has definitely been lost. It was obvious that the de-regulation of electricity in California made it possible for the ENRON in Texas to game the system, bilking taxpayers of billions, and giving very low prices to corporations while charging private citizens $3,000 monthly electric bills. De-regulation did not work.

So let’s think about government and the private market place in a much more nuanced way. When profit is the basic principle, then we need the government as the basic principle to watch over our common welfare.

The government principle, that is, watching out for the common good should not be marginalized to give the markets free rein or an even more intensified collectivization of cost and privatization of profit will result.

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Truth-making and Reference-making: Appendix

admin : October 22, 2013 11:58 pm : Blog



Some may have noticed that on my account, as it stands, bivalence will fail for empty nouns or noun-phrases. A false-maker for a sentence is defined as a reference-maker for its subject term which is not a reference-maker for its predicate term. If the subject term is empty, it has no reference, so false-makers are not defined for sentences of this kind. Neither are truth-makers, for a truth-maker for a sentence is defined as a reference-maker for its subject term which is also a reference-maker for its predicate term, for these sentences their subject terms have no reference-makers. If we require that every true sentence has a truth-maker and that every false sentence has a false-maker, such sentences will come out as neither true nor false.

Many, I take it, will unhappy with this result. To reinstate bivalence, I’ll introduce the concept of a negative reference-maker, in analogy with the concept of a false-maker for a sentence. A negative reference-maker is something that makes it the case that a term does not refer to anything. In the case of nouns and predicates, we could also call them empty-makers, for they make nouns and predicates empty.

I will now define this concept, calling what I have previously called reference-makers positive reference  makers. I say that a noun has the proper class V of all objects (excluding proper classes) as its negative reference-maker iff it has no positive reference-makers. Similarly for monadic predicates. For relations, I say that an n-ary relational has the proper class of all n-tuples as its reference maker if it has no n-tuple as a positive reference-maker.

We can now give revised definitions of false-makers for subject-predicate and relational sentences:

An object x is a false-maker for a subject-predicate sentence p iff x is a positive reference-maker for p’s subject term but is is not a positive reference-maker for p’s predicate term. The proper class V of all objects is a false-maker for a subject-predicate sentence p iff V is a negative reference-maker for p’s subject term or p’s predicate term (or both).

An ordered n-tuple o is a false-maker for an n-ary relational sentence p iff the objects ordered in o are each positive reference-makers for one of p’s subject terms, but o is not a positive reference-maker for p’s predicate term. A proper class C is a false-maker for an n-ary relational sentence p iff C is a negative reference-maker for one of p’s subject terms, or for p’s predicate term, or both.

With these definitions ready to hand, we can see that sentences containing empty nouns or empty predicates come out as false rather than truth-valueless. “Nessie [a.k.a. the Loch Ness Monster] exists” comes out as false because the term ‘Nessie’, being empty, has the proper class V of all objects as its negative reference-maker, and so “Nessie exists” has V as its false-maker. Moreover, since “Nessie exists” has V as its false-maker, “It’s not the case that Nessie exists” has V as its truth-maker. On the other hand, “Nessie is non-existent” comes out as false–if we construe ‘non-existent’ as a real predicate, then since ‘Nessie’ has V as its negative reference-maker, “Nessie is non-existent” has V as its false-maker. To me this seems intuitively to be the correct result: ‘Nessie’ is empty, so nothing is true of its referent–not even that it is non-existent–for it has no referent, so there’s no “it”. Nothing could possibly be non-existent.

However, “It is not the case that Nessie is non-existent” is true–since “Nessie is non-existent” has V has its false-maker, “It is not the case that Nessie is non-existent”has V as its truth-maker. Yet though “It is not the case that Nessie is non-existent” is true, it does not follow that “Nessie exists” is true–given that ‘Nessie’ does not refer, “Nessie exists” cannot be true for reasons just explained. What this shows is that “x is non-F” and “it is not the case that x is F” are  not in general equivalent expressions, for the former entails the latter, but not conversely: In some situations where its not the case that x is F, “x is non-F” can nevertheless be false due to the fact that there is no such thing as x. We thus have the following three results:

1. ‘Exists’ is a meaningful predicate which is necessarily true of everything;
2. ‘non-existent’ is a meaningful predicate which is necessarily true of nothing; and
3. there can still be false positive existential sentences and true negative existential sentences.

Not bad results to get, if I do say so myself.
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