February 24, 2017

Promiscuous Blogging

Filed under: Philosophy,Politics — camcintosh @ 12:16 pm

My poor failing blog. To add an insult to the injury of neglect, I’ve engaged in a bit of promiscuous blogging this month. It would be indecent not confess by unchaste escapades here.

pimpThanks to the editors at Rightly Considered, who asked me if I wanted to write a guest post for them. I wrote about whether it is rational to carry a gun. The numbers in the post could be tightened up, but the rough estimates, I think, sufficiently justify the philosophical point I tried to make. (Note: I understand that Rightly Considered is a bloga non grata among philosophers, so I hasten to add that I do not agree with other things written there.)

Thanks also to Kenny Pearce, who asked me to be a contributor to Prosblogion‘s Virtual Colloquium. I am looking forward to (potentially) receiving feedback on that post, which exposes the conceptual heart of my dissertation to the surgical minds of other philosophers. (Note: I understand that Prosblogion is not a bloga non grata among philosophers, so I hasten to add that I agree with everything that’s ever been written there.)


May 4, 2016

Pipe Sesh 5.0: Flashback

Filed under: Life,Pipe Sesh Post,Politics — camcintosh @ 12:29 am

Once upon a time there was a man named Joseph Smith. Joe was a very charismatic man. But he was also a treasure-seeking, duplicitous, sexist, power-hungry, moderately intelligent, manipulative, swindling scumbag. For all his vices, Joe managed to convince many credulous Christians that he was not just a Christian, but a timely Christian prophet. He wasn’t, of course. He was, in reality, just a treasure-seeking, duplicitous, sexist, power-hungry, moderately intelligent, manipulative, swindling scumbag. Sadly, though, many believed in his message. So they gave him treasure, power, and license to change accepted standards of Christian morality. OSBTrue Christians saw him for who and what he was, which forced him to start a new sect. Non-Christians also saw him for who and what he was, which reinforced their rejection of Christianity for what it wasn’t.

Today’s reflection was brought to you by Old Shenandoah’s Bootlegged. It is described as wonderfully aromatic and bite-free, with soft, nutty Burleys blended with good portion of silky black Cavendish and accented by the addition of some lemon Virginia.

March 22, 2016

Juicy Quote XIV

Filed under: Juicy Quotes,Politics — camcintosh @ 11:51 am

thomas-sowellWhether in Europe, Asia, Africa or the Western Hemisphere, a common pattern among intellectuals has been to seek, or demand, equality of results without equality of causes—or on sheer presumptions of equality of causes. Nor have such demands been limited to intellectuals within the lagging groups, whether minorities or majorities. Outside intellectuals, including intellectuals in other countries, have often discussed statistical differences in incomes and other outcomes as “disparities,” and “inequities” that need to be “corrected,” as if they were discussing abstract people in an abstract world.

The corrections being urged are seldom corrections within the lagging groups, such as Hume urged upon his fellow Scots in the eighteenth century. Today, the prevailing tenets of multiculturalism declare all cultures equal, sealing members of lagging groups within a bubble of their current habits and practices, much as believers in multiculturalism have sealed themselves within a bubble of peer-consensus dogma.

There are certain possibilities that many among the intelligentsia cannot even acknowledge as possibilities, much less try to test empirically, which would be risking a whole vision of the world—and of themselves—on a roll of the dice. Chief among these is the possibility that the most fundamental disparity among people is in their disparities in wealth-generating capabilities, of which the disparities in income and wealth are results, rather than causes. Other disparities, whether in crime, violence and alcohol intake or other social pathology, may also have internal roots. But these possibilities as well are not allowed inside the sealed bubble of the prevailing vision.

One of the consequences of this vision is that blatant economic and other differences among groups, for which explanations due to factors internal to the lagging group are not allowed inside the sealed bubble of the multicultural vision, must be explained by external causes. If group A has higher incomes or higher other achievements than group B, then the vision of cosmic justice transforms A’s good fortune into B’s grievance—and not a grievance against fate, the gods, geography or the cosmos, but specifically a grievance against A. This formula has been applied around the world, whether turning Czechs against Germans, Malays against Chinese, Ugandans against Indians, Sinhalese against Tamils or innumerable other groups against those more successful than themselves.

The contribution of the intelligentsia to this process has often been to verbally conjure up a vision in which A has acquired wealth by taking it from B—the latter being referred to as “exploited,” “dispossessed,” or in some other verbal formulation that explains the economic disparity by a transfer of wealth from B to A. It does not matter if there is no speck of evidence that B was economically better off before A arrived on the scene. Nor does it matter how much evidence there may be that B became demonstrably worse off after A departed the scene, whether it was the Ugandan economy collapsing after the expulsions of Indians and Pakistanis in the 1970s, the desolation in the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia after the Germans were expelled in 1945, or the continuing urban desolation of many black ghettoes across the United States, decades after the riots of the 1960s drove out many of the white-owned businesses that were supposedly exploiting ghetto residents.

Not only is empirical evidence that A made B poorer seldom considered necessary, considerable evidence that A’s presence kept B from being even poorer is often ignored. In Third World countries whose poverty has often been attributed to “exploitation” by Western nations, it is not uncommon for those indigenous people most in contact with Westerners in port cities and other places to be visibly less poor than indigenous people out in the hinterlands remote from Western contacts or influence.

To think of some people as simply being higher achievers than others, for whatever reason, is a threat to today’s prevailing vision, for it implicitly places the onus on the lagging group to achieve more—and, perhaps more important, deprives the intelligentsia of their role of fighting on the side of the angels against the forces of evil. The very concept of achievement fades into the background, or disappears completely, in some of the verbal formulations of the intelligentsia, where those who turn out to be more successful ex post are depicted as having been “privileged” ex ante.

—Thomas Sowell, Intellectuals and Race (Basic Books, 2013), pp. 50-52.

November 12, 2015

Pipe Sesh 2.0: The Welding Relation

Filed under: Philosophy,Pipe Sesh Post,Politics — camcintosh @ 7:56 pm

You’ve heard of “grounding” and “glue” and “compresence” and even “consubstantiation” as special relations that bind objects and layers of reality together. I now propose a special relation of welding. Metaphysical welding (not to be confused with metaphysical soldering).

Two (or more) objects x1, x2, … xn are *welded* together iff (i) each of x1, x2, … xn are of the same substance S, (ii) x1, x2, … xn are fused into one object, X, of substance S, and (ii) x1, x2, … xn’s fusion into X occurs without material from another substance, S*, used as a fusing agent. Welding seems to be symmetric and transitive: if x1 is welded to x2, it’s also true that x2 is welded to x1, and if x1 is welded to x2 and x2 is welded to x3, then x1 is welded to x3. Although it’s not obvious at first that welding is reflexive, consider: possibly, for some substance S (steel, say), S could be stretched out rectilinearly, then the ends of S could be curved to meet each other and welded together. So, welding is reflexive: possibly, x1 is welded to x1. But can the two ends of our rectilinear-shaped substance really be considered distinct objects? Do we need a distinction between objects and entities, or perhaps just between objects generally and individual (i.e., disjoint) objects? I won’t weigh in on that important question here. Suffice it to say that the two ends are not identical to each other. Whether the pre-welded rectilinear-shaped substance is identical to the post-welded circular-shaped substance is reminiscent of the problem of the material constitution. So maybe we should say when x1, x2, … xn are welded into X, the relation that obtains between x1, x2, … xn and X (i.e., welding) is very much like identity. But this gets complicated. When x1 gets welded to x2, does x1 and x2 cease to exist and a new object, X, come into existence? Or does X have x1 and x2 as proper parts? (Or perhaps improper parts? One thing having more than one improper part—there’s an odd idea.) In what sense can they be said to be proper parts if they literally fuse together to make X, an object of the very same substance as x1 and x2? And…

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 6.46.54 PMSo much for philosophy of welding. I’m playfully riffing on the facetious call for philosopher-welders by many in response to Marco Rubio’s remark that “Welders make more than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.” See the video clip here.

Philosophers (among others), predictably, went into their drone-like counterexample mode impervious to the broader point Rubio was making, citing Bureau of Labor Statistics that allegedly show his statement about the respective incomes to be false. Forget that “fact-checking” that statement is more complicated than simply citing mean wages from the BLS. The broader point Rubio was making was not about philosophers and welders specifically. His point, which was obvious, was that trade jobs have more immediate social utility than do liberal arts educations, and that learning a trade will make you generally more employable than earning a four-year humanities degree. That is a cold hard fact—sad as it might be for a philosopher to hear—and, ironically, has been argued before by philosophers (See Matthew Crawford’s wonderful book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work). The reality is that many students who get liberal arts degrees leave university with more debt than education. It is neither feasible nor desirable that everyone go to university. There is a more pressing need for people to enter the work force than higher education. Hence, the absurd stigmatization of pursuing trade school instead of university.

But there is another mistake I see these philosophers making. In addition to arguing that Rubio’s statement, taken strictly and literally and out of context, is false, they are stooping to defend the usefulness of philosophy, thereby assuming the misguided premise that what justifies philosophy is its usefulness. Sure, philosophy can be useful. And I’m not talking about that philosophically flaccid social justice politics crap that masquerades as “philosophy”, however popular it is among the philosoactivists. And I’m not talking about Slick Willie’s weaselly use of the distinction between different senses of ‘is’, ingenious though it was. Real philosophy is useful. But its usefulness is incidental to its purpose. The practice of philosophy is intrinsically valuable and is its own reward, and so needn’t be—and, arguably, oughtn’t be—justified on grounds usefulness. Lady Philosophy stands quite well on her own, thank you.
Tonight’s reflection was brought to you by Drew Estate’s Central Park Stroll. The description on the label reads, “We really cherish the days when we’d stroll through Central Park on a lazy summer afternoon. The sweet aroma makes you feel like your [sic] standing outside a bakery; notes of chocolate, vanilla, caramel blend harmoniously whit [sic] mellow tobaccos.” Most salient, I found, was the hint of vanilla and the blend’s mellowness. I could smoke this stuff all day long.

September 23, 2013

Craig and the BGV Theorem

Filed under: Arguments for God's Existence,Natural Theology,Politics — camcintosh @ 3:49 pm

Those familiar with William Lane Craig’s work on the kalam cosmological argument will know that since 2006 or so he has appealed to the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem, published in 2003, as support for the premise that the universe began to exist.

Perhaps because the theorem seems to lend especially powerful support to the premise, Craig’s use of it has been embroiled in controversy. There has been no shortage of cyberpunk sec-web goonies eager to torpedo Craig’s scholarly integrity and arguments by questioning the accuracy of his presentation of the BGV theorem. If you have stood witness to this controversy, this is very significant.

June 21, 2013

Symptoms of Scientism

Filed under: Life,Philosophy,Politics — camcintosh @ 1:45 pm

Over the past few years I’ve noticed an increasing number of “Recent studies show…” articles where the ellipsis is filled by something so painfully obvious and commonsensical that it hardly deserves colloquial mention, much less a “study” to confirm.

For example, consider the recent groundbreaking study showing that infants are comforted when held by their mothers, or the mind-blowing study indicating that a sedentary lifestyle may contribute to obesity. And, surprisingly, we now have evidence suggesting that parents can influence their children’s decisions on drug-use! Equally surprising, a new study has found that sibling aggression can lead to an increase in depression and anxiety in children! Who knew?! (Examples could be multiplied ad nauseam, if you’re not experiencing nausea already).

Who knew? We all did. Except that we didn’t. What we are seeing are symptoms of crass scientism cancerously rampant in the social sciences. The aforementioned and other items of conventional knowledge aren’t considered knowledge until “Science sez so.” We need that good ol’ time Science, the great Arbiter of Knowledge, to give us permission to know what we already know. There is no item of commonsense that’s common or sensical enough to be immune to infection.

And while bullshit studies like these are fecklessly funded, humanities departments are pinched or chastised for not being science or math departments, effectively being treated as sickly for not having the disease.

April 12, 2013

What Guns and Fetuses have in Common

Filed under: Ethics,Politics — camcintosh @ 11:53 pm

The following two propositions are prima facie inconsistent:

(1) A woman’s right to decide what shall happen to her person trumps the potential risk of someone being murdered
(2) The potential risk of someone being murdered trumps anyone’s right to decide that bearing arms is necessary for the protection of one’s person

One defense of their consistency might run as follows: a woman’s right to decide what shall happen to her person is a natural right. And natural rights should always trump mere legal rights when in conflict. And because “the potential risk of someone being murdered” in (2) expresses the natural right to life against potential risk, it has trump power over the right to bear arms, which is a mere legal right, an artifact of law. Thus, there is no inconsistency.

This defense will not work. If the right to life against potential risk is the natural right that gives trump power to “the potential risk of someone being murdered,” then it is a natural right a fetus enjoys, too.

“But!” it will be objected, “It’s not clear that the fetus enjoys that right precisely because it’s not clear that a fetus is a human person, and only human persons have natural rights.”

But this won’t do either, for four reasons. First, the point does not rest on whether the fetus is clearly a person or not; rather, it rests on the modest observation that it might be a person. The very possibility of the fetus’s being a person is what generates the potential risk. Again the point is parallel: it’s not clear whether someone will be murdered by virtue of the rightful possession of firearms among citizenry; it’s the potential risk of that happening that generates the trump. Second, it is clear that the fetus is at least a human, if not a human person. Third, it is false that only human persons, or even only humans, have natural rights. Non-human animals have natural rights, too. And there’s no morally relevant distinction that could be made between a human fetus and some non-human animal that would entail the latter has natural rights but the former doesn’t. Finally, it’s not clear that the right to bear arms is not an expression of a natural right (indeed, the very same one). It’s easy to imagine cases where one’s right to bear arms just amounts to, or is an exercise or defense of, the right to life against potential risk (or, more perspicuously, one’s right to decide what shall happen to one’s person). Suppose I live on the worst street of Detroit, and the chances of me getting raped, robbed, or murdered are high. Should I find myself confronted by any one of these dangers, having firearm protection just is a way of defending my right to life, or my right to decide what happens to my person.

So, (1) and (2) are at least prima facie inconsistent. Of course, that’s just a more modest way of saying they’re probably ultima facie inconsistent, too. But what guns and fetuses don’t have in common is media coverage.

October 20, 2012

Should We Trust Alpha Centaurian Discourse?

Filed under: Epistemology,Politics — camcintosh @ 3:56 pm

Imagine that you take a trip to Alpha Centauri, where there is a planet of the same name very much like Earth. You find a group of about 100 people (or creatures resembling humans in all relevant respects) there. This is a good conversational bunch, so you join in on some conversations. A common topic of conversation is about how the group should be governed. There are two dominant ideologies, and most in the group passionately claim allegiance to one or the other.

You soon discover, however, that when it comes to this topic, odd communicatory norms seem to govern the conversations. For example, you discover that if John says Mary believes p1, Mary will deny believing p1. Mary will in turn say John believes p2, but John likewise denies believing p2, and so on throughout the group. You not only discover that every assertion about what another person believes is unreliable, but also that every assertion about what oneself believes is unreliable. For example, when Steve says he believes p3, a whole host of others you talk to produce evidence that suggest Steve is lying or can’t be trusted (say, by showing you video, which may or may not be doctored, of things Steve has said before). Furthermore, it’s clear that most of the statements made are deliberately designed to get you to believe something that’s favorable to the speaker’s ideology.

Clearly, the conversational norms of this group effectively destroy the possibility of meaningful, trustworthy discourse about that topic. You would not be able to know or justifiably believe what Mary believes, or what John believes, etc. Accidentally true beliefs are about as impressive as it gets. The only exception is yourself, of course.

Curiously, though, you notice that no one else seems very bothered by this. The reason, you eventually find out, is that many of the reports (about oneself and others) are partially true, which creates the illusion of meaningful, trustworthy discourse. But you are not taken in by this illusion, because you learned from Frege that “what is only half true is untrue; truth cannot tolerate a more or less.” Beware the politically solipsistic world of Alpha Centauri!

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