Three Book Manuscripts

Here are three works which I wrote this last year. They are all rough copies–and so please read them as such (they are by no means polished works). They are–besides the last of the three–sketches at what I have been thinking about for some time now, and they formalize, even if only roughly, some of my thoughts on particular topics. Below is the link as well as a brief indication of what each philosophical text is about.

Introduction to Analytic Christian Philosophy

This text “Introduction to Analytic Christian Philosophy” is an introduction to a movement which began in the 1950s which marks a revolution in anglo-American philosophy of religion. The material in this book should be treated as notes, and not necessarily a ‘book.’ They are my notes, and in this sense represent important insights rather than a clear historical analysis of the movement. It is a book in Christian apologetics, philosophy of religion and the history of analytic Christian philosophy.

Josef Pieper: An Anthology

This work is a compilation of short passages from the work of 21st century, German philosopher Josef Pieper. Himself a Thomist and Western traditionalist, his insights are clear and accessible, and this work particularly seeks to bring to those either beginning in philosophy or those who want to engage more with philosophical thinkers, a clear explication of the profound insights of a modern philosopher.

An Outline of Socio-Phenomenological Acedia

This very small work is a series of brief chapters regarding what is typically called the sin of ‘sloth.’ While the term ‘sloth’ is often obscured in modern English, by going back to the original ‘acedia’ we see the profound difference that it makes and why it matters. Having done this, I, in this work, seek to extend and construe this concept of ‘acedia’–in the modern world–to be a modern sociological and phenomenological problem. I suggest that this sin is much worse than mere ‘laziness’, and find the re-apprehension of beauty to be a powerful way in which socio-phenomenological acedia can be overcome. This work is also a defense of evangelization by beauty, and the book ends on a more evangelistic note (bringing the philosophical discussion into the realm of the practical application).

*Should anyone enjoy any of the works–or not enjoy them–I would love to receive feedback on any relevant feature i.e., argument, syntax, formation of ideas, et cetera.

Enjoy!

 

A Prelude to Exegetical Philosophy: A Theological Exemplar

The most daunting goal for the beginner of philosophy is choosing a first book. This, though, seems unproblematic, given the diversity and sheer amount of texts available today. Though I am certainly fond of introductory texts to philosophy, very clear insights are often glossed over for the sake of either clarity or readability. Introductory texts, too, have the problem of bias—like any work; however, a good introductory text gives both sides of the argument and lays each out fairly (though the author might portray, implicitly, which side has more merit). This notwithstanding, I want to, in this brief note, provide what I take to be an acceptable introduction to how philosophy works at the exegetical level. By this, I simply mean how philosophy works at the level of textual analysis, that is, of analyzing a text. If one works topically or historically, one still deals critically—paradigmatically—with philosophical texts. In this brief note, then, I will lay out what I take to be a wonderful case in philosophical studies where in close exegesis, we begin to see the fruit of careful analysis.

Let us take an example of a passage prima facie (at face value):

“Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are heirs of the grace of life, in order than your prayers may not be hindered.” (1st Peter 3:7 RSV)

“Οἱ ἄνδρες ὁμοίως συνοικοῦντες κατὰ γνῶσιν ὡς ἀσθενεστέρῳ σκεύει τῷ γυναικείῳ, ἀπονέμοντες τιμήν ὡς καὶ συνκληρονόμοις χάριτος ζωῆς, εἰς τὸ μὴ ἐνκόπτεσθαι τὰς προσευχὰς ὑμῶν.” (1st Peter 3:7 Nestle GNT 1904)

We will be primarily concerned with “Οἱ ἄνδρες ὁμοίως συνοικοῦντες κατὰ γνῶσιν ὡς ἀσθενεστέρῳ σκεύει τῷ γυναικείῳ”. On first reading, there is one thing which stands out, which no doubt—at first glance—looks beyond problematic, namely, the admission of women as the weaker sex and the men as the noble, more important sex. This is a case in which it seems we have (i) a clear message, (ii) implication and (iii) analysis within the quote itself. In this way, no additional supplementary notes need be added. Thus, this seems to constitute a problem for those wanting to ascribe to the truth of the Biblical data since it involves a very difficult passage to accept. However, this judgement of 1st Peter 3:7 as involving the depreciation and devaluation of women is exegetically unsound, and uncareful. Let us look into the matter more deeply.

As Rev. J. Howard B. Masterman explains in his The First Epistle of S. Peter:

“The acceptance of subjection involves a claim to consideration and protection. In the words ἀσθενεστέρῳ σκεύει there is a germ of nobler chivalry than that of the middle ages. συνοικέω is the nearest equivalent in Greek to our English expression “making a home for.” The participle carries on the thought of the ύποτάγητε of ch. ii. 13. κατὰ γνῶσιν refers either to spiritual knowledge or to recognition of the weakness (not the inferiority) of women. For σκηυήες compare 1 Thess. iv. 4. Cp. Also 2 Tim. ii. 21. It is probable that the Apostle has specially in view the “marital rights” of the husband (1 Cor. vii. 3-5), which are to be exercised not selfishly, nor for mere gratification of appetite, but κατὰ γνῶσιν, in the light of the ennobling of truth that our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. iii. 16; vi. 19).

There are two lessons from such an exegesis. First, it is not legitimate—philosophically—to evaluate a text out of historical context, that is, in isolation from other texts and the historical happenings of the time period in question i.e., Rev. Masterman points out that we cannot keep 1st Thessalonians out of an exegesis of 1st Peter 3:7. Secondly, we see that there is a distinction to be made between an exegesis of a text in its original language, as well as a translation. While translations are helpful for those who do not know foreign languages, examples like 1st Peter display the sort of problems which are derivative from working at a text out of its original language. While this is sometimes unproblematic, if the truth of a claim is in doubt over its translated meaning, it might be worth inquiring whether the original preserves the same—or relevantly similar—meaning. Both these points serve to undergird the fundamental point that exegesis is an important endeavor which cannot be taken lightly or faint heartedly. Engaging with a text might involve learning another language, reading the text in light of the surrounding body of knowledge and so forth—this, though, might just be exegesis. One may well wonder, though, where this leaves the beginner. To this, I only suggest that the considerations I have made should not discourage a reader from doing reading translated philosophical texts. I have simply pointed out that a degree of humility should be set forth in critical analyses, and the considerations from 1st Peter 3:7 highlight what exactly this means.

In this brief note, I have laid out an informative and telling message from evaluating 1st Peter 3:7. What seemed a sexist passage turned out to be, in the end, nothing more than what we should expect from the Bible—an affirmation of the value of women. For the beginner in philosophy—or the beginning student of philosophical analysis—this should be pertinent to remember: A philosophical text requires diligence, patience and, most importantly, a sense of humility despite one’s own philosophical and theological convictions.

Normative Judgements and Dividing Experiential from Propositional Knowledge: ‘No Uterus, No Opinion’ Re-Visited

The following is a very commonly used phrase (in outline):

(1) If you yourself have not experienced E (some event), then you are not entitled to give your opinion O.

I have always had an intuition that (1) is designed either as a derogatory comment, or a conversation stopper. It seems that there is a suppressed premise—to use Simon Blackburn’s term—lingering in (1). Let’s try to add it in:

(1*) If you yourself have not experienced E, then you are not entitled to give your opinion O since experiential knowledge of E cannot be had in any other way.

This is rather abstract. Let me give an example (inspired by recent events). If a pro-choice advocate (man or woman) says that a man ought not to hold any opinion about the pro-life/choice debate because one is a man, there is at least three (fatal) problems with this, philosophically speaking. Let me identify them. First, it is not clear that experiential knowledge excludes propositional knowledge. Suppose that you meet someone, your mother, for instance. And suppose that you meet her through meeting her; that is, you have experienced what it is like to meet your own mother. This is one way of knowing something, namely, one’s mother. But, suppose that I have not met my mother (for whatever reason i.e., private or closed adoption). If I am in this predicament, I can be told that I have a mother. For instance, I could learn that ‘your biological mother is not the mother who raised you.’ This would be sufficient for knowing your mother propositionally. Sure, they’re not the same thing, but they are two ways of knowing the same thing nonetheless—one through a proposition, the other through experience. So, when the pro-choicer suggests that a man should not make any claims about what a woman ought to do with their unborn child, if we have propositional knowledge of the situation they are in, that seems to be good enough a reason for having an opinion. But suppose I am wrong: What if there is a knowledge peculiar to the woman, which cannot be had even propositionally by the man? While I am very skeptical of this type of knowledge (what would it consist in?), let me suppose that this is true, and that there is a ‘special knowledge.’ There is an even more fatal problem with (1*). There is a difference between the argument, and the person giving the argument (as philosopher W.L. Craig nicely notes in many places). The person I am is independent of any argument I give; if I am a Catholic, my argument holds whether myself, the Pope, the local convenience store owner or the librarian nearest to me holds it. There is no truth-indicative relationship between the person who gives an argument, and the argument itself (I suppose this does not apply to God, though i.e., if He gives an argument, in virtue of being God, He will be correct). Back to the example, though: If I say for instance:

(2) Science tells us with great plausibility and precision that human life begins at conception

this has nothing to do with me—rather, it has to do with the deliverances of science. The attempt to conflate together the person and the argument is not only antithetical to truth, but actually commits—and this is the third reason why (1*) does not work—the fallacy of an ad hominem. Why would it do this? This is so inasmuch as one tries to falsify the claim of a person by attacking their character i.e., not possessing certain body parts (a uterus, for example), one is merely attacking a person and not the argument. So we have here three reasons why we should reject (1*): (i) there are many ways of knowing not limited to experiential knowledge, (ii) even if (i) is false, we still face the problem of conflating the person with an argument and they are, in fact, separate and (iii) we have good grounds for thinking that the conflation of the person with an argument commits the fallacy of ad hominem. But, let me (for the sake of argument), suggest that I am wrong about all of this, and that I have mis-interpreted the claim altogether. Consider it once more:

(1*) If you yourself have not experienced E, then you are not entitled to give your opinion O since experiential knowledge of E cannot be had in any other way.

Maybe instead of treating this as a logical proposition, I have instead missed that it was a normative moral judgment. For perhaps (1*) prescribes an action which ought to be taken i.e., not giving an opinion on E (some event) iff (if and only if) one has not experienced it. There are still manifold problems. Let me list two. First, we should think of normative moral judgements as prescribing a form of action towards another person or oneself. So, when we say ‘rape is a moral wrong’, we mean that (i) rape is wrong and (ii) we have a duty not to do it (or even let it happen socio-culturally). Why is this relevant? (1*) suggests that we should limit what we judge to what we have ourselves experienced; however, if I have not experienced E, why is it not morally permissible to give an opinion O? Loaded within (1*) is a technical presumption which I want to make explicit. The technical presumption is that we have an opinion to share, and not a claim about reality. In effect, (1*) can become a sort of mask for subjectivism in many cases: “Truth is relative to persons and so your opinion should not be given since I have my opinions, and you have yours.” (Of course, this is a self contradiction i.e., it is absolutely true that you should not give your subjective opinions). Interestingly though (1*) I think is often a statement of a self-contradictory subjectivism. But let me (again) suppose I am wrong.

(1*) suffers an even more devastating problem, namely, we can run counter-examples. There are many people who have not smoked crack cocaine before, but who think that human beings should not do it. There are people who are not effected by rape (directly or indirectly) but who advocate for a culture where rape is unthinkable. There are even people who advocate for religious freedom, even if they themselves are not religious. These are examples where a person has not experienced the thing in question, but where we think one should not have their opinion restricted. So, a philosophical question is looming: Why is the cases in which we say ‘if you are not P, then you cannot say O’ selective, in that we say them in some contexts but not in others? I have two answers. First, it seems likely that it is because we already agree in many cases of the wrongness of the action. For instance, we are all agreed (minus some apathetic persons) that smoking crack cocaine is bad i.e., it ruins the body, relationships, right conduct towards one’s own body, et cetera. So, when one advocates for not using them, we do not (as a sociological fact) say ‘you shouldn’t give your opinion unless you yourself have experienced it.’ Secondly, and more importantly, the desire to not allow people to give their opinions because of qualities which they may or may not have is just a projection of emotion. It is not ‘nice’ (whatever that means) at times to have someone give their opinion on something they themselves have not experienced. This I think is an important point. Let me make it relevant to the pro-life/choice debate.

Men will not experience pregnancy. They will not experience rape. They will not even experience delivering a rapists’ child. These things are correct; however, does this mean we should ignore questions of right and wrong, good and bad, because one will not experience the thing in question? While I think men ought to have the sincerest sympathy and love for all women who are in any of the aforementioned situations, I think we should rightfully separate the person from the argument, the goodness or badness from the action from the person who speaks of it. So the claim that ‘no uterus, no opinion’, ‘men should not have any say over what a woman does with her body’ or even ‘you will not have to experience motherhood, pregnancy, or in the worst case rape, so you aren’t allowed to give an opinion’, is in the long run not merely logically fallacious, but is just an emotional rejection of the truth, namely, the truth that all human beings are entitled to give their insights, despite what qualities or features they may or may not have. (1*) might have an even more awful consequence: If we accept (1*), men should not give their opinion on the badness of rape itself since the man will not experience it (as a woman)—this conclusion is not merely morally problematic and shows how the use of (1*) is often inconsistently used, it is a reductio ad absurdum!

Philosophical Methodology: Thoughts on Meta-Philosophical Holism

Consider the following premise*:

(1) Philosophy ought to consider the deliverances of science i.e., physics.

This is a normative judgement on how philosophical methodology ought to proceed. It is a normative judgement, since it aims to prescribe how philosophy ought to proceed as a discipline. But, (1) can be reconstrued into a subjunctive conditional:

(1*) If philosophy’s goal is reality, philosophy must consult the deliverances of science.

The virtue of (1*) is that it takes philosophy’s consultation of science as a logical implication of the definition of philosophy. Why should philosophy consult science? Because if it did not consult science, it would be cease to be philosophy one is doing. I prefer (1*). Objection: Why think that science must be consulted for every problem? It does not; however, a philosophy being done independent of science seems to be weakened since human beings are multi-facet creatures, within a multi-faceted reality. Perhaps we can even weaken the claim here: Philosophy’s object (reality), since multi-faceted, is best done when it takes all the human data into consideration to “not leave anything out” (Pieper). Objection: We would then not be able to solve anything since we don’t have all the information about a single thing at a given time. I think to this I would suggest that it does not have to be perfect knowledge we are after; rather, we merely have to remember that without consulting other disciplines, we run the risk of missing important information. Objection: For instance, neuroscience does not study memory; it hasn’t even located where memory is in the brain. Sure. This doesn’t imply much though. Just because in one case it doesn’t give us much fruitful information for our philosophy of mind i.e., studying memories or beliefs as neurophysiological structures, doesn’t mean in other places it either does not or will not in principle. Consider the following. Science has a lot to say about localizability and whether the world is local or non-local. John Bell’s experiments shows us plausibly that the world is non-local. What follows from this (if correct)? It means that when we do philosophy and talk about concepts like simultaneity i.e., God’s bringing the universe into being simultaneously with the universe’s coming into being, science has a lot to say here. Take a non-theological example. Zeno’s paradoxes suggested that things were in principle infinitely (potentially infinite, that is (WLC)) divisible; however—as van Inwagen notes—high-energy physics tells us that there is actually a point at which further divisibility stops. Maybe we could have gotten there without science—maybe not. This is not to reject philosophy nor science; rather, it suggests a holistic approach, one which does not reject science nor thinks of it as its bedrock—it suggests that reality as a whole should be taken into consideration. Maybe you disagree that philosophy’s object is reality—but if it is not that, I’m not sure what one is doing (pseudo-philosophy?).

Postscript

What about this objection: In philosophy, philosophers of mind are often divided by tradition. For instance, phenomenological and existential philosophy looks at the mind from an introspective approach; whereas analysis philosophy of mind focuses on what we mean by key terms i.e., sensations, perceptions, memories, thoughts, desires et cetera. It is not even clear that they are talking about the same thing. This seems correct; however, as I have been told elsewhere, there is often two ways of looking at the same thing (anonymous name). So, perhaps a belief is something one affirms or doesn’t affirm introspectively, is what phenomenologists call an introspective assent or dissent, is something which has content (as analytic philosophers i.e., Plantinga, are apt to point out), and which has a neurophysiological structure in the brain. This is a consistent picture, it seems to me. Are we talking about the same thing? Maybe, maybe not. Are there many ways of looking at the same thing? Probably yes. But of course the domain of the universal quantifier here is restricted over which objects this principle applies to. Objection: Let’s suppose that we are not talking about the same thing. Why does one discipline need to consult the others? Sure, psychology does not have to consult philosophy; but the problem is that philosophy does have to consult psychology (and yes, cognitive science and artificial intelligence). This does not mean that psychology and cognitive science will or does have anything fruitful to say, but philosophy regardless should consider the information found there. Last thought: If—as St. Aquinas, Pieper, Plato, Aristotle—thought that the most important quality or feature of the philosopher is the spirit of wonder, why would the philosopher not open herself to the world as a whole? I think this view is best called meta-philosophical holism (with its greatest defender being Josef Pieper, whom I will defend in another post).

*This post is largely based on a discussion had with a few people yesterday; all the ideas here are not ‘necessarily’ original to me ex. many of the objections, examples, et cetera. (I will keep the names anonymous).

 

 

Top Five Favourite Quotes?

Recently, my sister asked me for my top favorite quotes. While this was painfully difficult, I think I have five which I think paradigmatic to my thinking (or at any rate to what I take to be most important in philosophy). Here they are! (References available upon request!)

“[It is] always one thing which makes for happiness:…the capacity to feel ‘unhistorically’”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

“This is the basis for the joy of love…; we feel that our existence is justified.”

-Jean-Paul Sartre

“Love alone makes it possible for contemplation to satiate the human heart with the experience of supreme happiness.”

-Josef Pieper

“The hidden life of love is in the most inward depths, unfathomable and still has an unfathomable relationship to the whole of existence.”

-SØren Kierkegaard

“The least insight that one can obtain into sublime things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge of lower things.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas

“Philosophical Thinking”: What does that mean?

For most of my philosophical studies, I have been told the following: “Philosophy allows you to think better.” (This, and other variants of it). I had never understood what this meant, I think, until today. Philosophers, for those reading who aren’t necessarily sure, work not merely on concepts, words and ideas, but arguments. Arguments are premises (statements) which, when used properly with logical rules, bring about a certain conclusion. I had never put the idea of ‘think better’ and ‘arguments’ together before—until today, as I was (and currently am) cleaning out my coffee maker—there is no causal link between the two (it is just when it happened).

Here is what I thought. Take a good or bad argument—the one I will present will be a good one:

  1. If the universe began to exist, then it has a transcendent cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a transcendent cause. [1]

There are many ways in which this can be dealt with, especially from a philosophical standpoint. Let me lay out the two basic ways. (1) Deny the soundness (the truth of one or more of the premises), or (2) deny the logical inference from premises to conclusion (this is denying validity). How would we deny premises or the logic used? The latter is very often not even attempted. For those of you do not know the logical structure, it is thus (where the variables represent statements or propositions):

  1. If P, Q.
  2. P.
  3. Q.

This inference—modus ponens—is very often not challenged (for we can provide a truth-table proving that it is a valid method of inference) [2]. What about the first method? How could we show one or more of the premises to be false? Let’s try premise 2.

  1. The universe began to exist.

Here are some ways we could deal with it—if we wanted to falsify it:

  • Provide contrary evidence for the claim.
  • Show how the scientific evidence is at best inconclusive.
  • Show that the philosophical arguments do not work i.e., accepting Hilbert’s Hotel as non-absurd.
  • Deny its logical possibility i.e., 4-D Ontology/B-Series of Time (this would make temporal becoming an illusion of human consciousness).
  • Show how we have equi-good reasons on both sides i.e., Kantian Antinomy—and so no reason to affirm one over the over on evidential grounds.
  • Combine it with some other principle/premise which would make it inconsistent i.e., naturalism (at least a consistent naturalism which says that space-time reality is all there is—if the naturalist wants to deny this, she must also accept coming into being out of nothing (which is a hopeless philosophical principle).
  • Show how its not possible for there to be evidence for or against the claim i.e., this is implausible, but for instance if there was a temporal stage in the universe that prevented any detection of evidence for/against the beginning i.e., if the Red-Shift or Expansion evidence was not accessible to our spatio-temporal location.

While I think these methods of dealing with (2) are hopeless (in terms of the truth of (2)), these are just some ways in which we could deal with (2) reasonably.

In this sense, philosophy just is, as Plantinga suggested, thinking hard about things.

[1] For more information on the argument, and for a defense of it, visit reasonablefaith.org.

[2] images.png

http://www.cogsci.rpi.edu/~heuveb/teaching/CriticalWisdom/Deduction.htm (Accessed January 2017).

Deductive Closure Principle, Souls and W.L. Craig

I am thoroughly interested in the Deductive Closure Principle (DCP). I have written on this from time to time, and am worried that much of philosophy is misguided because of it. Here is the principle formally: If S (some finite cognizer) believes P (some proposition), if P->Q (P entails some other proposition Q), then S knows P. Now, much has to be said about the entailment relation here—especially when it’s a matter of debate if Q really follows from P. Supposing, though, that we have really solid philosophical foundations for thinking that Q does necessarily (or logically, to be more humble) follow from P. In this case, says the DCP, whatever follows from P, if S knows P, S also knows. William Lane Craig [1] has used this notion without explicit reference which I think worth re-printing. To summarize (with added premises and my own paraphrase):

  1. If the Bible teaches that the soul exists (P), then (->) the soul exists (Q).
  2. (1) is true iff the Bible is true.
  3. The Bible is true. (His metaphysical system: natural theological arguments (in conjunction with reformed epistemology i.e., properly basic belief in God).
  4. If S is said to know Q in virtue of knowing P (since P->Q), the DCP must be correct.
  5. The DCP holds. (Variation in the strength of entailment is being put away here since it is almost undeniable that the Bible teaches that human beings have souls).
  6. Therefore, if the Bible is true, the soul exists. (1)-(5).
  7. The Bible is true (1).
  8. Therefore, the soul exists. (1)-(7).

While W.L. Craig acknowledges that there are independent philosophical grounds for affirming that the soul exists, the DCP is a way in which the extra work might be avoided? The two objections lurking are the following: (1) Wouldn’t this make the—if it happened—the discovery of there being “no soul” a strict refutation of Christianity? And (2) Isn’t this form of reasoning ad hoc since it simply rules out anything that any other view or system or account posits? Let me respond: (1*) At best, this would either suggest (i) that the entailment relation has to be given up i.e., go with Peter van Inwagen and think that Christianity and materialism are consistent or (ii) think that the Bible is not infallible nor, if one wants to preserve the legitimacy of the Bible, that the Bible has to be infallible if it is to be considered God’s word. At any rate, some give and take might be inevitable—but I suspect that this won’t be a problem since (i) the entailment relation is really strong here, (ii) the grounds for affirming the Bible are also very strong and (iii) all contemporary materialist accounts of human beings miserably fail. (2*) Sure, maybe it is ad hoc. But just because x is ad hoc does not make x false. Let us suppose that theism is true. Any postulated entity on theism that theism does not imply (nor is consistent with) can be rejected reasonably i.e., a possible world in which God does not exist (God necessarily exists in all possible worlds). So, this might “appear ad hoc”; however, even if it is—which is not clear—it does not falsify the claim in question.

So, there is something to be said here. At any rate, this is all I have to say.

[1] “Why should we believe we have a soul?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xu4jRSoLUk: Accessed Jan. 11/17.