Roundup

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Christian Carnival XCIII is up at White Ribbon Warriors.

GetReligion explains why Catholics proposing withholding communion from politicians who allow abortion and euthanasia need not say the same about Catholics who support the death penalty or war.

Bush hates rich people too!

He's gay, Jim!
From what I've heard about Rick Berman's attitudes toward homosexuality, this might ruin the chances of a Sulu series or even a Sulu appearance in any further stories. [Evidence: See this from 2000, which interestingly points out that one TOS actor and one or two TNG actors are gay. There's a lot more here, but much of that goes way beyond evidence presented. See the Wikipedia entry on this subject for more. Ron Moore confirms that someone in charge explicitly didn't want gay characters, and Kate Mulgrew says it was Berman.]

Tim Challies gives an excellent argument for Christians' participation in Halloween. I think he concedes way too much to those who think the current practice of Halloween has anything to do with paganism in the religious sense, but that's what makes his argument so strong. Even if you concede that, he thinks Christians shouldn't just see it as ok to participate. He thinks it's more like a moral obligation.

Jonathan Ichikawa thinks a proposed amendment to the Texas constitution intended to ban gay marriage is going to invalidate marriage of any kind. He first pointed this out five months ago and raised the issue again recently. His latest volley sort of responds to people taking alternative views, including my comments on both those posts (to the effect that an originalist won't take the conclusion he thinks follows) and the discussion at Orin Kerr's Volokh Conspiracy post. He thinks everyone questioning his view is underestimating how serious this is. I'm not sure he's really dealt with my argument, though. Either way, it's a really funny issue, because if he's right then those opposing gay marriage on the grounds that it will harm marriage as an institution will be fully destroying marriage as a legal institution while getting rid of the possibility of gay marriage.

8 Comments

I think my way of dealing with your argument is to concede it -- obviously, the legislative intent is not to prohibit traditional marriage, and an originalist judge can take legislative intent seriously. I'm not sure I see that this undermines any of what I say in my last post on the subject, though. It's still a statute which would, if interpreted literally, end traditional marriage, and the arguments to the effect of "don't worry about it" all rely on trusting judges to interpret the statute in the non-literal way. This is perplexing, because many of the people offering that response are emphatically mistrustful of judges to make rulings the way they think they should -- that's why there's been a movement for a constitutional amendment in the first place: to take the issue OUT of judges hands. But this amendment gives judges even MORE power to harm marriage. So if that's what one is worried about, I can't see how one could support the amendment.

My other point besides the originalist one is that 'identical' in most people's mouths is not about the numerical identity that we philosophers first hear it as. That applies no matter which judicial philosophy you take, even strict constructionism.

Yes, that sounds right, but surely ordinary people use the term more loosely than philosophers do. MORE things count as identical in regular English than in philosophy-talk. If you're suggesting that we read the statute in the ordinary-person way instead of the philosopher way, fine, but I don't see how that's of any help.

Surely you're not suggesting that in ordinary English, it's not true that marriage is identical to marriage?

Am I a part of myself in ordinary English? I would have thought no. I don't see how this is any different. I suppose it depends on whether you rule out cases like this in semantics or pragmatics. Does 'part' really mean what philosophers call a proper part, or do we simply not talk about my being a part of myself because it's not informative to say that? The former seems likely. Then does 'identical' really mean "very similar but not numerically identical" or does it mean "very similar" and we simply don't talk about its being identical with itself because it's not informative? If these cases aren't analogous, why? I can't see why they would be, so I have to favor the semantics of 'identical' as ruling out something's being identical with itself (as the word is normally used in English).

I think that the 'part' case is very, very different from the 'identical' case. (Why are you bringing in the analogy to 'part' unless the linguistic intuitions are different there?) There's a good case to be made that 'part' in English means 'proper part'. How do we know? Well, go around and ask people whether the country called Iceland is part of the island called Iceland, and lots of them will say "no, it's not part of the island, it is the island."

This is just clearly not the case for identity. Go around and ask people whether George Bush is identical to the current President of the United States. Not a single person will say "no, he's not identical to the President, he is the President."

This asymmetry is reflected in dictionaries, which reflect common speech, too. "Part" has listed among its defintions phrases like "portion, division, piece, or segment of a whole", which suggest that the whole is not a part. "Identity" has no definitions listed that suggest that A could fail to be identical to A. We only get phrases like "being the same", "exactly equal and alike", and "having such a close similarity or resemblance as to be essentially equal or interchangeable." All of these obviously establish the identity of marriage and marriage.

Nobody goes around saying things like "marriage isn't identical to marriage". That's because it's false in ordinary English.

so I have to favor the semantics of 'identical' as ruling out something's being identical with itself (as the word is normally used in English).

I'm gonna have to agree with Jonathan here--as far as I can tell, in normal English usage, "identical" does not rule out something being identical with itself. If a ask the typical native English speaker around me if marriage is identical to marriage, I get a quizzical look and an answer of "Of course."

There are two tendencies I have to work out of my students when I teach personal identity. One is to get them to see that in the philosophical sense of identity, you can't say, "they're identical, but they're not the same person" without contradiction. Some students want to say this about the Riker transporter splitting case at the moment of the split. The other is that you can't say, "they're the same person, but they're not identical". Some of them want to say this after the two Rikers have had different experiences and clearly are not exactly similar.

I can certainly hear them saying in this context something like the following. I might start talking about identity, distinguishing it from exact similarity. I'll bring up Clark Kent and Superman. They might completely miss the point because they haven't absorbed the philosopher's definition. Their natural inclination would be to say that the two Rikers are identical, whereas Clark Kent and Superman are not identical but rather the same person. I'm not sure I've had this exact conversation, but I'm pretty sure I've heard them say things like this a number of times over the course of 12 classes of having taught the subject.

Students in intro courses sometimes say crazy things. That's not because ordinary English justifies them -- it's because they've confused themselves. The place to test ordinary linguistic intuitions is not the philosophy classroom. Outside a philosophy class, no one will say that marriage is not identical to marriage. (Inside one, only confused people will say that.)

But even the confused students should admit that marriage is identical to marriage. I take it the reason they're confused about Clark and Superman is that each has different salient features. Not so for marriage and marriage.

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