Jeremy Pierce: April 2004 Archives

Jollyblogger offers some advice on sorting through God's sovereign initiative in salvation together with God's love for all. Some Calvinists, because of this tension, reject the plain teaching of such verses as I Timothy 2:3. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (NIV). Jollyblogger's answer? Why insist on a conflict between that and God's sovereignty in salvation? What this verse says makes perfect sense on its own without postulating that it must refer only to all the elect.

This is one reason I sometimes hesitate to call myself a Calvinist, even though I fully endorse the Reformed theology Calvin held. Some people who call themselves Calvinists just take these extreme views that don't follow either from scripture or from Reformed theology. (To be fair, they think they do follow from both. I just don't agree, and therefore I find it to be extreme.) It's always better to take theology from scripture rather than bringing it to scripture from a system established by emphasizing a scriptural truth beyond what the passages it's taken from require, which then it leads to having to deny other scriptures, as with I Tim 2:3.

I've addressed this issue myself with more detailed discussions in Is There Potentiality in God? and Limited Atonement.

For the first time, I've submitted something for the Carnival of the Vanities, my What Is Race? post.

Two other posts of interest:

1. Not to undermine the stuff about his true heroism and that his sacrifice is at least financially and popularity-wise more courageous than most others', this recent Pat Tillman emphasis has bothered me, and I'm not the only one. It's easy to let it overshadow all the ordinary, mundane sacrifices that we don't hear about directly and see as major headlines simply because the people aren't football players. I wonder, therefore, why we should have a deeper emotional response to his death than to anyone else's. I think something has gone wrong here.

2. Don't microwave your peanut butter jar.

Felonious March

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Is publicly advertizing one's wish that someone had killed the president tantamount to threatening to kill him? If so, some protestors just committed a felony. On a very different note, La Shawn Barber has the proper Christian response to this.


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I'm happy to announce that I now have my very own guest blogger. (There's still a possibility that this will turn into a genuine group blog, but at this point he's a measly guest blogger, at his own insistence.) He goes by the online name Wink, and he's got his own blog. I've known him for a long time, and if you happen to know him also then please keep his anonymity intact. I've already said a few things about him before I was ready to announce who he is (to whatever degree I've actually done that).

On the theological and even moral questions that we most care about, I think we have basic agreement, with our differences on some issues even requiring technical terms just to make clear. This is probably at least in part because we've influenced each other in some ways and probably to some degree simply because we have similar starting points in our thinking. On political matters, however, he's enough more liberal than I am that he thinks it might be good to add a Kerry button below the Bush one, though he thinks I could make it smaller than the Bush one to indicate that it's the guest blogger who endorses it. (Maybe I should do that and make it very small!) I don't actually know if there's a Blogs for Kerry site equivalent to the Blogs for Bush site, which is what my Bush button links to. A Google search didn't turn one up, either. Does anyone know of such a thing?

Anyway, I imagine he won't be posting as often as I do, but I'm looking forward to some lively discussion when he does. Those who have been following the comments have already seen some of this. I've added a few links to the blogroll at his request, but he didn't even have many to add, since my lists were already "frighteningly complete". I've also made a link to his blog more prominent at the top of the sidebar.

Christian Carnival XV

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It's a milestone of sorts for the Christian Carnival today, and I'm pointing that out in my own milestone -- my 300th entry. This has been one of the most enjoyable Christian Carnivals for me. I have a number of posts to recommend. First, of course, is my own argument for Christianity based on what the Bible itself says. I put a lot of work into this one, written before I even had a blog.

Jollyblogger has some excellent observations on two methods of Christian evaluation of pop culture -- the moralistic approach and the redemptive approach. I have a third one to add -- those who just appreciate enjoyable things. All three are good in different ways. I can't agree with him about the presuppositionalist stuff, however, for these reasons. I am going to have to link to his blog, though, but it will be when I'm not about to go to bed but posting this just to have something today.

Spare Change notices some crucial points about God's will in scripture.

Messy Christian gives a couple good, practical examples of forgiveness in her own life, one when it took active initiation for reconciliation, when it would have been very easy for her to let things to go the other way, the other when the people involved are still hostile to her. I think what her cases show is her being molded into the image our the God who opens his arms to his enemies. This is thus a great picture of part of the process of Christian sanctification, aspects of the divine image in our character being restored to health and wholeness.

IntolerantElle is new to me. She posts about some of the downsides of church-owned buildings, both in terms of kingdom priorities and with regard to our view of what worship and church are.

Oh, by the way, you achieve a milestone yourself by being the 500th commenter (I think it was) by commenting next on this blog. (This is written with John R's comment on the lizard post as the latest.) You better make it a good one, though.

Volokh furtively places a headline about religious fanatics over a post about the National Council of Churches' advocacy for environmental concerns. He waits until the end to bring it back to the headline's subject, but he's absolutely right. If it's wrong to use religious motivations to support laws, then it's wrong for the National Council of Churches to be a voice amid those that should influence law. I think this is a reductio of such a principle. The founders advocated laws against murder on the basis of religious principles. Is that wrong? Whatever the Constitution requires in religion-state relations, it doesn't require the absence of religious considerations in people's motivations for laws. Yet there's a double standard when conservative religious groups advocate laws, since no opposition ever surfaces with liberal religious groups that do so.

Update: Oops. I forgot the link. Here it is.

Badgermum posted a Douglas Adams excerpt about the lizards who control the world and how we continue voting for one lizard simply to avoid the other lizard from being elected. It's pretty funny. As I've said before, I don't think the Republican Party cares a whit for evangelical Christians' concerns except to pander to them to keep getting the vote, just as the Democratic Party cares nothing about black people's interests except to pander to keep getting their vote. Therefore I appreciate what Adams is doing here (though he wasn't thinking as much about American society, I don't think).

I do like President Bush, though he has to some extent allowed the factions in control of the party to push him in those ways. Still, even if I were to grant that he's no different from the Democrats with both on the bad side, I don't think I could agree with Badgermum's conclusion. I just can't see the Constitution Party extremists as the answer, and it's not because they're a third party and can't even get enough votes to be recognized in non-backward states. It's because I'm even more opposed to some of their fundamental views (e.g. pretending we're a theocracy) than I am to the Republican tendencies that I don't like.

Update: I went and read the Constitution Party platform more carefully to explain why I don't like this part at all, and I discovered that they're actually much worse than I thought. I thought it was just a tendency to tolerate white supremacism and nationalism in service of selfishness, but it runs much deeper than just tolerating those extremists at the fringes. Some of those values are at the very heart of their platform.

Diaperless Babies

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More scatological news: Environmentalists have a new cause. We should abandon diapers. Disposables, of course, aren't easily biodegradable and take up lots of room in landfills. They also contan material that will pollute if incinerated. Yet this isn't just a move to cloth diapers. Those use too much detergent, water, and energy to keep washing. The solution? Just stop using them, and figure out the signs to anticipate when your baby is about to engage in bodily functions. Find a toilet or a tree, and then all you'll need to do is wipe the kid. (via Volokh)

I have no words for how stupid this is. This would result in washing clothes more often (or just buying more clothes and having more clothes to wash when you do it), since no one can perfectly predict when a kid's about to unload. Therefore it involves more cleaning supplies: paper or cloth towels or wipes, soap, detergent. It also raises questions about what to do when traveling. Car seats, couches, and public places create problems and not just with having extra changes of clothes. You can't stop a car with no notice in some locations. Certain things are much harder to clean even than clothes. What about the health issues of having waste matter distributed behind trees and such places?

This just takes the environmental problem back a step and just makes life ridiculously more difficult, especially when you've got more than one kid in diapers. It would surprise me to hear this from pretty much anyone except an environmentalist group.


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I'm excited to announce that my first published work is now out. I just received my two complimentary copies (with my paid subscription copy still to come) of the latest issue of Faith and Philosophy, which includes my book review of the IVP Four Views book on God and time, edited by Greg Ganssle. It's only four pages, but it makes some substantial philosophical points, a little unusual for a book review (which is why they allowed it to be a little longer than the usual review for that journal, too). Even though the journal isn't available online (though it should be in most good university libraries), you can read the Word file I posted to my website a while back. Is that legal now that it's published? Philosophers do it all the time, but I know that's no good sign of its legality.

Forgiveness and Justice

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Forgiveness is not a substitute for justice. Forgiveness is no mere discharge of a victim's angry resentment and no mere assuaging of a perpetrator's remorseful anguish, one that demands no change of the perpetrator and no rightings of wrongs. On the contrary: every act of forgiveness enthrones justice; it draws attention to its violation precisely by offering to forego [sic] its claims. -- Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, p.123.

Volf doesn't connect this with deeper theological issues (at least not here), but this seems to me to have something to say about two issues. First, it would give an explanation for how God's forgiveness doesn't violate principles of justice. Second, it seems to undermine one explanation for why God couldn't just forgive everyone, as universalists think. Any thoughts, either on Volf's statement or on how it affects these other issues?

Christian Carnival plug


The fifteenth Christian Carnival is coming up. Get your posts in.

This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, and will be hosted
at Fringe Blog. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get
read, and possibly pick up readers in the process, or highlight your
favorite post from the past week.

Read on to find out more!

Best of Me Symphony #21

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I've just discovered a new Carnival-like weekly collection of blog posts, but this one's deliberately about old posts. People submit posts that are at least two months old that they consider among the best posts of the history of their blog. This week's is up at The Owner's Manual. I sent in my post about whether the word 'God' as used by a Muslim and as used by a Christian refer to the same being. The Homer Simpson theme looks fun. I haven't had a chance to look at any of the other posts yet (and probably won't until at least tomorrow), so I can't recommend any in particular.


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I've invited someone to join me on this blog. It's not sure that it will happen, but it looks as if it will. I haven't found out yet if the person will be anonymous, so I won't announce who it is.

We'll have to change some of the way this blog works with a multi-author format, but much of it will remain as it has, just with a new perspective added. The person I've invited shares basic commitments I have on what I consider to be the most important views someone can have, particularly in a solidly Christian mindset with theological perspectives largely similar to my own. Politically, we'll end up seeing some real skirmishes here, and there will be more minor issues that might lead to some debate as well, but this is a very close friend of mine whom I've known for quite a while, and I'm convinced that it will remain helpful and healthy debate.

Here's another oldie from before the blog that I'm finally getting around to transferring here. The original discussion was from February 3, 2003 (with some minor modifications a few days later), and the addendum is from August 27, 2003, just before I opened up the first location of Parablemania.

Some people say something like the following:

�You can't quote the Bible to prove the Bible because it's circular reasoning.�

There's something about what they're saying that's right. The following is a bad argument:

1. The Bible says it's the word of God.
2. I can trust what it says, since it's the word of God.
3. Therefore, I can trust it when it says it's the word of God, so I should believe that it's the word of God.

However, that�s not the only thing someone can mean when saying that the Bible can count as evidence for Christianity. I have in mind a very different kind of argument. What Christians call the Old Testament (and what scholars today call the Hebrew Bible) could have taken something like 1500 years to produce, perhaps shorter but certainly well over 1000 years even by liberal estimates (though how much of it one says is early depends on one�s presuppositions). Adding in the New Testament (or Greek Bible, if you prefer that name) brings it to 1500-2000 years. Think about what's happened in the last 2000 years.

Two related arguments come to mind. One has to do with prophecy. The other is from the unity of the Bible.

What Is Race?

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Some have argued recently that there's no such thing as race. Anthony Appiah's In My Father's House and Color Conscious are probably the two most notable discussions. Scientists often take this view without realizing all the philosophical leaps in reasoning they've made to get to the view (see, for example, this article, registration required). Others think it's merely a social category (most philosophers who write on the topic, usually on the same basis as the scientists above but with more sensitivity to issues about human language and social catgegorizations. There are also two possible positions according to which it's a genuine biological category, one of which I think is easily refuted by the data. The other seems to me to be a legitimate view that hasn't been discussed by philosophers or scientists to my knowledge (though I think economist Thomas Sowell may have suggested such a view -- I'm not quite sure yet). Below are the arguments for developing and sorting out these various views.

Before you read this it might be helpful to look at my first two posts in this (sort of) series. First is a set of cases to test your intuitions on racial classification, with the followup giving the data from my students' answers to those same questions.

Life Conspiring

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This just isn't my week. I was planning to have graded the second paper for my classes by Monday. That would give them two weeks or so to write their third paper after having received their second one back. Well, life conspired to prevent that, including double-checking, organizing, and mailing our tax returns, doing some serious lecture prep for material I've never taught before, and dealing with my late discovery that the bookstore never ordered the book I've been assigneing to my students to read for a few weeks now.

So I decided I could at least get them done this week. Well, three days in a row I got to the point where I had pulled out a paper and started grading it, and I just couldn't bring myself to get through more than a few pages. It wasn't that the papers were bad or that I had no motivation to grade. It was that I could barely lift my head up. The time change helped temporarily with sleep, since the kids were getting up later, but we also have been staying up later, sometimes a few days in a row well past midnight (in the normal course of things we're often in bed with the light out before 11:00, which is required if we're to get 8 hours). Add to that the 3-4 times a night Isaiah was waking us up for a few days earlier in the week. By afternoon, when I would usually be able to sit down to grade, I was just so exhausted I couldn't get through more than a couple pages.


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Somehow I hadn't been to Mark Byron's blog in a while. He was almost assuredly one of the first 20 blogs on my blogroll, probably even within the first 15, and I guess he got lost in the shuffle recently. I noticed two posts yesterday when browsing through what I'd missed that are worth drawing attention to.

He reflects on the moral significance of the fact that 50% of the population is of below average intelligence, with some good economics thrown in.

He's also been thinking a bit about neocons vs. paleocons as compared with unadjectived conservatives and flat-out liberals.

Be careful when using coupons. You might save money, but is it worth being arrested? I suppose it might be if you can later win a six-figure lawsuit over it. (from The Rough Woodsman)

Someone at Harvard Business School during the period when President Bush had been there (and who became a faculty member shortly thereafter) debunks the mainstream narrative of Bush's coasting through school without learning anything, including some reasons to think the Bush Administration really is what you would expect from an MBA who learned what he was taught when earning his degree. I remember seeing someone talking about the poker player political strategy before. I see it in him, too. (link from Keith Burgess-Jackson)

Christian Carnival XIV

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The fourteenth Christian Carnival is up, with my Pro-Choice Anti-Abortion post. Jollyblogger gives the most balanced thoughts I've seen so far in the recent Blogdom of God discussions on Christians leaving the church. Miss O'Hara gives some equally balanced considerations about the big Purpose-Driven Fad within evangelicalism. Unfortunately, both of these last two lacked links to their specific posts within the Carnival itself. Finally, Mark Roberts has begun a new series on why Jesus had to die. This looks to be an excellent series. I'm looking forward to the rest.

The Punisher

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Fringe reviews the Punisher movie, the latest in a hopefully long line of successful Marvel Comics films, though in this case it's unfortunately not so faithful to some of the basic originality of the character or what's distinctive about the moral perspective on violence that we tend to find in comic books.

This is good.

Lockean Essentialism?

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John Locke is often seen as the father of anti-essentialism [fixed from earlier typo]. Essentially, the view is that nothing has properties necessarily in themselves or contingently in themselves. When you think of me as a human, being rational is essential, but when you think of me as an animal it isn't. When you think of me as a husband, being married is essential. When you think of me as a human being, it isn't. Locke's way of putting this is that my properties are only essential to my being me insofar as you're thinking of me under a particular sortal term.

Locke's reasoning on this is fallacious, as Saul Kripke showed in his famous Naming and Necessity (which didn't really say much more than Leibniz had already said in his preface to his commentary on Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, the New Essays on Human Understanding).

I had a conversation this morning that made me wonder if Locke was really the anti-essentialist [fixed from earlier typo] he's usually portrayed as. It seems to me that the general point Locke was making isn't so far removed from something Aristotle and Aquinas make in their unmoved mover arguments. The unmoved mover argument gets commonly misunderstood as a mere causal argument. If A is caused by B, then we ask what caused B. Then we turn to C, which in turn was caused by D. Hume rightly objects to this argument for an unmoved mover by pointing out that each bit is explained if there's an infinite series of such moved movers. If that's all the argument is, then there's no reason to conclude that there's an unmoved mover unless you can show a problem with an infinite past, which mathematics can make sense of since Leibniz and Newton.

Kerry Excuses Bush

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More from the Meet the Press interview:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator, again, in the interest of candor and clarity, you have promised to create 10 million jobs...


MR. RUSSERT: ...and cut the deficit in half in your first four years.

SEN. KERRY: Yes, sir.

MR. RUSSERT: If you don't achieve those goals, would you pledge that you would not seek re-election?

SEN. KERRY: Well, it would depend on the circumstances. If I don't because there's a war or something terrible happens, of course I'm not going to make that pledge.

Bush has seen two major military conflicts amidst an ongoing terrorism conflict, not to mention something terrible happening on 9-11. Just remember Kerry's predictive excuse the next time he complains that we haven't seen enough new jobs under Bush. He's already excused him for that.

Kerry's Honesty

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Tim Russert interviewed John Kerry on Sunday. The transcript is at the MSNBC website. There's a nice long bit at the end where Russert presses Kerry on some stuff he's said in the past about Vietnam. Here's Kerry from the 1971 Meet the Press appearance:

There are all kinds of atrocities and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50-caliber machine guns which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages. All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare. All of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free-fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals.

When Russert now asked Kerry about that statement and if he really thinks he and all those other U.S. soldiers committed atrocities, Kerry gave the following response:

New achievement

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I should announce that I'm now the #9 Google search for Hot Chicks. I've had 25 people click on that link and 8 from other search engines since 8pm last night. I'm not sure why someone searching for Hot Chicks would be interested in clicking on a link to my blog, never mind 33 people. I suppose they'll get a lot more out of my blog than they would most of the items on that list. (Excuse the Google bombing. I just never thought I'd have a chance to be so highly ranked among such an honorable Google search.)

Christian Carnival plug

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Nick at Patriot Paradox:

This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, and will be hosted
at Patriot Paradox. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get
read, and possibly pick up readers in the process, or highlight your
favorite post from the past week.

Read on to find out more!

Electric Venom noticed a recent story about three heterosexual couples who got kicked out of a hotel for being straight. She raises some worthwhile questions. First of all, this was in fact illegal in a town that has laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It makes me wonder what kinds of parallels can be drawn between this and affirmative action, which quite obviously discriminates on the basis of race, which we amended our Constitution to make illegal. (As my forthcoming post on affirmative action will explain, I don't think it's immoral to discriminate on the basis of race when you have a good reason to do so, and affirmative action in some cases might be a good reason, but it is in fact unconstitutional, as three Supreme Court justices realize).

She mentions that some will simply take delight in seeing this as the shoe now being on the other foot for these straight couples. I can testify that this kind of thinking is extremely common among groups who perceive themselves to be oppressed or discriminated against (whether correctly or incorrectly -- what matters for this psychological phenomenon is that they perceive themselves to be a certain way). It shows a weird sort of delight in a second wrong like the one done to oneself. Isn't that suprising? After all, doesn't the person who really knows what it's like to be oppressed or discriminated against know enough to know that they wouldn't wish it on anyone? That suggests to me that people who make such claims don't know real discrimination or oppression, not the kind that really did take place against black people in this country only half a century ago. This at least raises questions about how much of the complaining about kinds of discrimination today is mere victimology and not a serious charge of victimhood. (This isn't to say that there isn't real victimhood. It's just that people crying out about victimhood who would be prone to take delight in the situation being reversed probably aren't real victims.)

Nanotechnology in goats

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Scientists are experimenting with nanotechnology in goats. Don't get alarmed, though. They're been doing this sort of thing for far longer than we've had the term 'nanotechnology'. Here's more. The people at Language Log are calling it organic nanotechnology.

Hot Chicks

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Two barely related matters:

1. Hot Abercrombie Chick is a freshman in college planning, probably, to be a philosophy major. That deserves encouragement. She's just posted a great presentation of the considerations given by Malebranche and Leibniz (two of my favorite philosophers) on the problem of evil.

2. Check out this Hot Non-Abercrombie Chick. It might take a bit to load up, but it's worth it.

The previous post lists the questions that are prerequisites for this post. Don't read further if you don't want the exercise spoiled. The first post contains a number of cases and asks questions about the race of the person involved in each case. The idea is to draw out what people's first thoughts on classifying people racially who might not easily fit the most obvious ways we classify people. Once you've gone through the cases without looking at what others have said, you can see how my students answered these questions.

I'll repeat each question and then list how the student responses went before moving on to the next question.

I did some conceptual analysis of racial classification with my students this semester, and I've finally compiled the results. In this post I'll list the questions and in the next post go through how my students answered them. If you'd like to do this yourself to see what you would have answered, don't read that post until you're done. The cases come from Charles Mills, "But Who Are You Really?: The Metaphysics of Race" in Blackness Visible: Essays on Philosophy and Race.

Case 1: Someone with some black ancestry and a white appearance decides to live in two worlds, so to speak. When in public, he never draws attention to race, and people assume he�s white. No one knows of his ancestry. When he�s with his family and their friends, he acts as part of the black culture and considers himself black. Is he black, as he claims? Is he white? Is he both? Is he something else instead?

Case 2: Someone with some black ancestry and a white appearance decides to live in two worlds, so to speak. He considers himself white, and people believe him. No one knows of his ancestry. Is he white, as he claims? Is he black? Is he both? Is he something else instead?

Case 3: Someone with some black ancestry and a white appearance was adopted by a white family at a very young age. He considers himself white. No one, even him and his family, have knowledge of his ancestry. Is he white, as he claims? Is he black? Is he both? Is he something else instead?

Case 4: Mr. Oreo has black ancestry and appearance and knows of it but considers himself white, has adopted white culture, and has experiences more in line with the average white person, though he also has experienced some racism because of his appearance. He considers himself white. Is he white, as he claims? Is he black? Is he both? Is he something else instead?

I tend to think of dumb things to write about when I have a huge stack of grading to do, and here's yet another one (actually I think about them all the time, but I write about them when I have stuff to put off doing). Arianna Huffington was on NPR today. One thing she said caught my attention. It's a common enough saying, but it struck me today how odd it is. She was describing President Bush's response to the dead and very slowly rising economy after 9-11 by cutting taxes. She said that this response is the very definition of insanity. Leaving aside the tendentious nature of the proposition she was trying to express with this sentence, let's consider how the sentence is supposed to express that proposition to begin with. After all, how can his action be the very definition of anything? My first thought was simply that she must not be thinking about what a definition is. It's not an action. An action can illustrate a definition as a clear case, but it's not itself a definition.

Anonymous Commenters

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Brian Weatherson blogged about people who refuse to leave their email address when commenting. He gives evidence that it doesn't lead to spam anyway, so one of the main objections to leaving your email address is removed. Then he qualifies it by noticing that his own case (which is his evidence) involves leaving a web address, which is usually what shows on the comment. Thus the email address isn't vulnerable to the spammers anyway.

It seems to me that you don't even need to concede this much, if your MT settings are set properly with a spam guard feature that's built into the software. When someone slides their pointer over the link to someone's website or email link on my blog, all you get is a link to something on my own blog that forwards the clicker to the correct site or opens up an email message with whatever software is configured for email. Thus email adress harvesters can't get anything from my blog anyway unless I've included any addresses in actual posts. People have nothing to fear spamwise by leaving their real email address in the comments. Yet it happens.

This set me to wondering why people go anonymous anyway. Some people have blogs with information they prefer to keep private but don't mind discussing anonymously out of a need to discuss it somehow. That's fine. I know people who do this, and I understand it. When they have a regular pseudonym and visit regularly, I can identify them by their pseudonym. If it's someone I know who doesn't mind my knowing their pseudonym, and if I acknowledge that and agree not to reveal who they are, as has happened with me at least once, I also see that as fine. Those aren't the people I'm wondering about.

It's the people who show up once, leave rather unthinking and harsh comments with fake email addresses and fake names, and never return who really bug me. Why do people do this other than to be annoying? I can't conclude much other than that they're moral wimps and won't stand up for what they appear to be endorsing. They want to register that they don't like what they see on my site, which is their prerogative. If they have something intelligent to say about why they don't like it, then I'm happy to discuss it with them and hear why they don't like something I said. If they don't fit into the first category, then even these people may be subject to my objection. Are they unwilling to stand up for their own view, assuming they really believe it? Are they embarassed for something they think is true? This is just something I don't understand.

I woke up this morning
and I went back to bed
I woke up this morning
and I went right back to bed
Got a funny kind of feeling
Like I got broken glass in my underwear
and I really, really, really wish I was dead

Thus begins Weird Al Yankovic's The Generic Blues off his UHF soundtrack. I never knew what that funny kind of feeling was like until this morning. I really did have broken glass in my underwear. I wasn't wearing them, of course. Somehow they must have fallen on the kitchen floor as someone went through to the basement with laundry, and when Ethan dropped one of our brand-new glass bowls on the kitchen floor today right next to that fallen pair of underwear, guess what happened? I got this funny kind of feeling, like I had broken glass in my underwear.

Sony's Qualia

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Someone at Sony has been reading philosophy. They have a new site called Qualia. I haven't investigated it too much due to not having a working sound card (I assume there's a significant amount of sound involved). I just thought it was interesting that they would rely on a technical term in philosophy for something that somehow must be intended to market their products. I wonder if I could use this site in presenting Frank Jackson's argument for property dualism (the only place I've used the term in my teaching) the next time I teach philosophy of mind.

Thanks to Enoch at medmusings for the link.

It seems I've been too long since last I read Keith Burgess-Jackson's blog. He quotes from the introduction of John Hare's recent book about how historians of early modern philosophy ignore and minimize the Christian roots of these philosophers' thoughts. (And yes, this is the son of atheist Richard Hare, a complete disgrace to the meta-ethical lack of moorings his father raised him with.)

He says Kant, Leibniz, Descartes, and even Hobbes are victims of this disgust for theological reasoning behind philosophical views. I must say that I've experienced this firsthand. I took Jonathan Bennett's last class at Syracuse on Locke and Leibniz, co-taught with William Alston for the Locke portion. John Hawthorne sat in on the Leibniz portion. The class I remember had all three there. Bennett made some ridiculous comment about something that supposedly followed from what Leibniz said, and I remember recoiling with surprise. My first thought was "only if you assume God is in time!" When I raised my hand to say that, Bennett responded derisively that I was bringing in an issue within philosophical theology best left to theologians. Yet Alston had been nodding as I said it, and I asked John Hawthorne afterward if he thought I was right, and he also seemed to agree with me. Even my Mormon classmate, who very much opposes divine atemporality, agreed with me.

I enjoyed and benefited greatly from Bennett's teaching in that class, and I'm grateful that he allowed me in given a highly selective process for admissions into his last class ever. Still, I get the sense that he's one of many historians of philosophy who want to pull these philosophers from their theological base. I have to say that Nicholas Jolley (who later confirmed to me that Leibniz did indeed think God to be atemporal) and Bonnie Kent, two other historians of philosophy whose teaching I experienced during my coursework here (but now both at U.C. Irvine, curse the place!), don't do this, and Alston and Hawthorne also don't (although it's less notable for them, since they're both theists). It's not surprising that someone wanting to see if philosophical ideas can be kept without theism will try to get the arguments or views going without such a basis, but it's unfair to the thinker to take the views out of context when the context is crucial to the view as that philosopher intended it.

Jonathan Ichikawa quotes an email from someone arguing that the consistent pro-choice position is to support the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. I think this is right. The pro-choice position is, officially, that women should have the legal right to make a decision whether to kill their fetus or refrain from doing so. There's no presumption that killing the fetus is a good or bad thing. It could be a very bad thing that women have a right to do, as far as the official pro-choice view is concerned. What no one has a right to do, however, even according to the pro-choice view, is to kill someone else's fetus, at least without their permission (or else abortion itself wouldn't be allowed). So this would be a kind of violence every pro-choice person should oppose.

That makes me wonder what's driving this opposition to the act. Some of it is just inconsistency or stupidity, not realizing what follows from their own views. Some just don't realize that pro-choice arguments can be concocted without assuming a fetus to be a non-person without rights (as Judith Jarvis Thomson famously tried to do) and therefore that personhood and giving rights to fetuses isn't automatically going to make every abortion morally wrong. Other premises need to enter in for that conclusion (though I happen to think they're by and large true premises). Others may just not be realizing what really does follow from the official pro-choice position, which for some could just be a mark of inconsistency, but for some it may well be a sign that they aren't really pro-choice to begin with but rather (gasp!) pro-abortion, as pro-lifers often unfortunately assert of everyone holding a pro-choice view (usually out of ignorance of the pro-choice position). I have to wonder if some leaders of the pro-choice movement, such as many in Planned Parenthood and others with a financial interest vested in continued fetus-killing, really do have such a base motive for opposing this bill. Moloch worship!

Update: Keith Burgess-Jackson posts more of the letter than Jonathan posted. It seems the author of the letter drew the same conclusion I did (or rather the same conclusion about a larger group of people than I'd insist on applying it to).

Dodd's apology

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Chris Dodd has offered an apology for his Lottist remarks in honor of former KKK Senator Robert Byrd. He said he wasn't thinking about his KKK past or about his vote against the civil rights act, just as Lott has said that he wasn't thinking about Thurmond's segregationist policies and was thinking more about Thurmond's foreign policy and fiscal conservatism. I argued that the cases are parallel, and Dodd's apology continues the parellel. My hypocrisy charge, given Dodd's previous criticism of Lott, stands.

I've said this before somewhere or other that I'm not going try to find (maybe not even on my own blog). Hypocrisy charges are a prima facie matter. Repentance can demonstrate that it's not hypocrisy but a matter of slipping below one's own standards temporarily. We all do that. In this case, Dodd admits by his own words that what he did was very similar to what he had previously criticized Trent Lott very strongly for doing. That's not repentance, and by his own earlier standards he should repent. His apology had the sound of being sorry for those who misinterpreted what he said, not apologizing for the wrongness of what he said. That's fine if there isn't anything wrong with what he said, and he realizes that there isn't anything wrong with what he said. However, he's already gone on record saying that there's something dreadfully wrong with politicians saying this sort of thing.

Hat tip to Instapundit.

Update: In an effort to put off my large pile of grading to get done by early next week as long as possible, I decided to search anyway to see if I'd said anything about the hypocrisy thing on my own blog. I did say something briefly about it when discussing Senator Clinton's Apu flap, which she apologized for (and I'm not sure her case is that much different from Lott and Dodd's in general). I don't think I said it as clearly there as I thought I'd said it somewhere, so it must have been in a comment on someone else's blog, perhaps someone criticizing someone of hypocrisy who did in fact repent. I think I even remember whose blog and what post, and unfortunately the comments there all got zeroed out from switching to built-in comments on a new location.

Yes, you heard right. People are no longer just marrying people of the opposite sex, people of the same sex, and people who are dead. Now they're marrying themselves. All sorts of interesting questions now get raised. Is it bigamy for her to marry someone else? Does this make her a lesbian? Should she double her name and hyphenate it to become Jennifer Hoes-Hoes, so as not to give undue influence from the groom's name? I can't agree with all the conclusions of the author, but some of the questions are quite funny.

Here are some more that may not have occurred to the author. Is this incest? Will death be enough to do her part? Does masturbation count as consummating the marriage, joining her with herself in some spiritual way that wasn't true before? Are her siblings now her sibilings-in-law and her parents her parents-in-law? Should she count herself as two people on official documents and as both parents of any children she adopts or acquires in some other way?

Link kudos to Ockhamism in a Real World.

Christian Carnival XIII

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This may have been the earliest posting of the Christian Carnival in its history (at, and I've been out all day and haven't had a chance to look at anything until now. Let's see what we've got.

My post on intermarriage is in there.

Some young guy in the UK names Andrew Guilder has a reference to Yes keyboardist extraordinaire Rick Wakeman's new special on the BBC about British attitudes about Easter. The title is "Jesus Who?" This story from before it aired says far more about it than the link Guilder gave. I'd be interested in seeing it, but I doubt I'll ever get the chance. There are two problems overdetermining his failing to get a link from me. First, he called Wakeman "this old rock star guy Rick Wakeman". Keep in mind that the guy he's calling "this old rock star guy" is probably second only to Keith Emerson among keyboard legends and a real musical hero of mine. That's a real insult to anyone who knows the history of rock music. Second, he uses Xanga, which has no permanent links, and the relevant entry isn't even on his front page anymore with no way to link directly to it. I had to search for it myself. So much for getting publicity from me. I'm not merely being petty. I wouldn't know how to link to it properly if I wanted to.

As usual, ireneQ has some funny and thoughtful comments, this time about prayer and the annoying things we do when we pray. She keeps saying all sorts of things I've long thought, but I always thought I shouldn't say them. It's nice to see them out there.

Mr. Standfast, a blog completely new to me, blogs about when to conceal knowlege. Hmm?

There's other stuff too, including some good reflections on Easter that for some reason struck me as old hat and of last week simply because Easter is past. Isn't that awful? Why should the resurrection of the Son of God get dated simply because the day we single out to emphasize it more than other days is done?

From McConchie on Bioethics: It's healthier to pick your nose and eat it than it is to refrain. At least, that's what an Austrian professor of pulmonary medicine says. Your finger is a more effective tool than a handkerchief, so you get more out. That much is common sense. What's surprising is his claim that eating it will build your immune system. I guess it's not that surprising if you know anything about the immune system, but it's surprising that an M.D.-Ph.D. is saying it. What's interesting to me is that he says eating the dry remains builds your immune system. What about the fluid stuff? Does it not build your immune system because of the form it takes, or does even he not want to suggest that because it's too gross? We already know that sucking it down your throat builds your immune system, so what would be unhealthy about eating it? I think the guy's just too much of a wimp to say it.

Alternative Histories

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What if Bush had acted strongly against al Qaeda on September 10, 2001? Instapundit has collected links to a number of posts on the topic. Swamphopper at The Rough Woodsman has his own satire.

Silence on Dodd

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La Shawn has more about the silence from Democrats since Chris Dodd's Trent Lottism. It really is deafening. You can't hear anything.

My previous post on the topic has made it into this week's Carnival of the Bush Bloggers. I haven't read the other entries, so I won't recommend them. I just had to mention it, since The Christian Carnival isn't exactly a highly selective venture (they want to increase its size), whereas this one rejects posts to keep it small.

This is a new test (and isn't the ethics one I posted a few months ago that I don't want to bother finding -- if you're interested, type "ethics test" into my search engine). [via Jollyblogger]

My results:

Li>My #1 result for the selector, Which famous philosopher do you most agree with?, is Aquinas

  • My #2 result for the selector, Which famous philosopher do you most agree with?, is Augustine

  • My #3 result for the selector, Which famous philosopher do you most agree with?, is Aristotle

  • My #4 result for the selector, Which famous philosopher do you most agree with?, is Plato

  • My #5 result for the selector, Which famous philosopher do you most agree with?, is Kant

    Read on for who I'm less like and my brief thoughts on the results.

  • Christian Carnival plug

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    Christian Carnival XIII info:

    This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, and will be hosted
    at the God Blog. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get
    read, and possibly pick up readers in the process, or highlight your
    favorite post from the past week.

    Read on to find out more!

    Black Heritage

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    Sam's posted some thoughts on black heritage, black culture, knowing one's ancestry, and honoring those survived and thrived in the New World, mostly stuff deemphasized by black culture in the U.S. today.

    Donald Crankshaw at Back of the Envelope has a couple posts on the harmony of the four resurrection accounts in the four gospels. Good stuff.


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    I'm hoping the album arrives tomorrow. If not, I'll keep posting these. In case it does, I wanted to get my favorite Kansas song in. This is from their 2000 album Somewhere to Elsewhere, perhaps their best but at the very least up with Leftoverture and Point of Know Return. All the songs on it were written by Kerry Livgren, and it was recorded in his studio, and it features all the members of Kansas in the "original" lineup from the first album. (The original version of this song is older than that lineup and was done by the first two bands known as Kansas. The second lineup is Proto-KAW, whose new album Before Became After I'm awaiting. The third recorded the first album. He reworked this song considerably for this recording.)

    Myriad (Kerry Livgren)

    Upon the page, symbolic form,
    Both a miracle and yet the norm
    The functions clear, sum and difference will soon transform
    Equations chain, lies in His hand,
    Voice authority will dance command
    Solution's true, line of measure will divide, expand

    Myriad, see the numbers as they're counting down
    Thousands and thousands
    Myriad, form and function to display the sound
    Line upon line every melody points the way

    The cycle turns, like Heaven's gate,
    Unknown integers predestinate
    Calculating all we must explore, and navigate

    Quantities no man can know,
    No formula to wield
    No pages left to turn,
    No choices but to yield

    Much Memo About Nothing

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    The memo "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." has been released. It reveals even more how ridiculous the 9-11 commision's more left-leaning members are. Here's the full text. It says bin Laden wanted to strike in the U.S., but that could have been inferred from his threats against the U.S. during the Clinton Administration. It didn't take any special intelligence information to know that. There was some indication of Washington, D.C., as a target with some speculation about various forms of attack, as Condoleeza Rice had indicated. It also says he prepares years in advance, which gives the sense that there's no clear immediate urgency.

    The only mention of hijacking is in the following two paragraphs:

    We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a ... (redacted portion) ... service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of �Blind Shaykh� �Umar �Abd al-Rahman and other US-held extremists.

    Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.

    If it's listed as "some of the more sensational threat reporting" and merely "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks", it doesn't sound much like a warning that something like 9-11 was about to occur. It also goes on to say that the FBI were investigating everything thought to be related to al Qaeda.

    Everything in the memo is consistent with the view that there are things to be on the alert about but that the relevant authorities were investigating what was worrisome. There's no strong sense that hijackings are even a strong possibility but just that they're within the range of possible threats. (via One Hand Clapping)


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    No Before Became After yet, so I guess I have to wait until at least Monday, meaning at least one more of these tomorrow. This one's from Kerry Livgren's 1994 solo album When Things Get Electric and is highly appropriate for this week (it might have better for yesterday, but I didn't remember it until today).

    Xylon (The Fury)

    There's a garden in the valley
    There's a beauty I could never conceive
    In this paradise I dream of
    I have known it though it's never been seen

    I remember I was falling
    Someone took me by the hand
    I was burning in the sunlight
    Now in the shade I stand

    The Tree stands tall
    It's mighty branches cover all
    No wind can bend
    It's majesty will never end

    In it's shadow no illusion
    In this place where there is never a fear
    No sorrow or confusion
    The enchantment of the glory is so near

    I remember I was rising
    And a light was in my eyes
    I could feel my heart ascending
    To this place I recognize

    The Tree stands tall
    It's mighty branches cover all
    No wind can bend
    It's majesty will never end

    The fruit of love is falling from above
    These roots run so deep and strong
    With every breath a son
    An endless new song

    The Tree stands tall
    It's mighty branches cover all
    No wind can bend
    It's majesty will never end

    Muslim Hate Crimes

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    File this one under "Extremely Misleading Headlines" (via Volokh). The London Times ran a story about hate crimes, including data about how many people of different religious backgrounds were the victims. The headline ran "Muslims are main victims of hate crime". Once you read the story, you realize that 10 of 18 victims over three years were Muslim, but 6 of those 10 Muslim victims were attacked by fellow Muslims. The headline is literally true, but it gives the impression that other groups are targeting Muslims, when most of the Muslims were attacked by Muslims themselves. Did they intend casual reader to conclude something from the headline that the story itself doesn't support?

    The Day After

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    I lied in my 250th post below. I do have something with content worthy of being my 250th post, but I didn't write it, so I decided to keep it separate. I haven't had a lot of Easter-related stuff here, and this helps remedy that. It also ties together my current focus on things Kerry Livgren (whose new album with Proto-KAW still hasn't arrived) with the events we remember during what we call Holy Week (not that any period of time is really more or less holy than any other).

    My friend Michael Brooks (whom I've never met in person but is someone I consider a friend nonetheless) wrote the following and sent it to some of the music discussion lists we both participate in:

    Air America's racism?

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    According to John Rabe (the link he gives is dead, so I don't have access to his source), the adoption of Air America (the new liberal reaction to the long-time success of conservative talk radio) at WLIB in New York City, until now a traditionally black radio station (about which see comments by Baldilocks here and here) has led to the firing of a number of black employees, one of whom said the following:

    "How is this going to impact the Black community? As far as I've heard, they've got a couple of Whites who just really want to go after Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and all the others. You can't convince me that that's going to be something good for Black and Hispanic people."

    John R has a number of other observations in the same post, some of them worth noticing.

    Update: I found more on this from Bryon York at NRO. It's more widespread than just New York (via little green footballs).

    I ran across the following strange set of instructions on IRS Schedule EIC. They had a column for each child. Line 3 says:

    If the child was born before 1985 --

    a. Was the child under age 24 at the end of 2003 and a student?
    Yes (Go to line 4.) No (Continue)

    b. Was the child permanently and totally disabled during any part of 2003?
    Yes (Continue) No (The child is not a qualifying child.)

    It seems to me that the proper answers for both and a and b for our children are no, taking the questions in isolation from the antecedent above. Yet they don't intend us to answer that way. They intend us to skip those questions. If we take it as a material conditional, we get this result. Any material conditional with a false antecedent will be true. So should I check Yes for both questions? If I do, they'll look above and see that our kids were born in 2001 and 2002 and investigate me for tax fraud. They don't want me checking Yes. They also don't want me checking No. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to continue past 3b. They want me to skip it, as if they think the conditional has no truth value.

    This is good evidence that ordinary conditionals in English don't always function logically the way material conditionals do (though sometimes they do -- e.g. 'if that story is true, then the Pope's Italian' where the speaker clearly believes the story is false). Most philosophers who work on conditionals already believe this, so this isn't anything new. I just thought it was an interesting place to see evidence for this.

    250th post

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    This is my 250th entry. I don't have anything incredibly significant and worth the honor of being my 250th post, as was true of my last two landmark posts. So as to avoid any claim that I'm trying to raise the value of a post to be worth the significance of being post #250, I'm going to talk about something completely worthless and stupid. I'm going to blog about the fact that it's my 250th post and how it became that way. (Actually, given the last sentence, you might think I'm also blogging about the fact that I'm blogging about the fact that it's my 250th post. Wait. Now that I said that, I also have to mention that I'm blogging about the fact that I'm blogging about the fact that I'm... Oh, never mind. Recursive blogging isn't necessarily a good thing.)

    It really is my 250th post. Believe me. It doesn't matter that I had to change the time of almost four hours to get it to appear earlier than the time I'm posting it. It doesn't matter that I had 251 entries already before I wrote it. It doesn't matter that I had to interrupt two posts that I typed in immediate succession by fixing this one between them. All that matters is that its final position is 250. I had planned on doing this days ago anyway, and who cares about the technicalities of when I typed it? The sad thing is that I do, and my deceptive behavior offends my conscience deeply enough that I had to report it publicly.

    I know this is no excuse or justification for my behavior, but my deep-seated conviction that the 250th post should at least be distinctive in some way has overcome my deep-seated conviction that I shouldn't do such things. Both deep-seated tendencies come from the same personality traits: my love of order, exactitude, and things just simply being done right. It's unfortunate that satisfying these requires violating them in the process, but it seems at least a little better that it's out in the open that this is going on. Now go ahead and commit me.

    Tax Cuts for the Rich!

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    We're finishing up the tax forms. I guess we're a lot richer than I thought. First, the check that we received as an advance child tax credit payment, that was supposed to be part of what we get now as our child tax credit, turns out to be a complete gift. Since our allowable child tax credit was far higher than our tax itself, and since they subtract the advance check from the allowable amount before seeing how it compares to the tax itself, we still had a higher allowable amount than tax, and we got the credit for our entire tax. So the check wasn't an advance of something that we now no longer get. We get the full child tax credit we can take in addition to the advance check. We must be rich to be getting free child tax credit checks in addition to anything we get when we fill out our forms.

    Second, they have these tax "credits" that they apply after they calculate the tax you allow. Any credit normally applies before the final tax owed. But these "credits" are listed among the payments. The additional child tax credit and the earned income credit are among these "payments". I don't remember ever having paid these, but they say they're payments. To clear up the confusion, they also refer to them as "credits", but it doesn't seem to me that they're credited from anything. They would better be called gifts. However, we all know that only rich people get free money from the government at tax time, and poor and middle class people are the ones who pay for those gifts. So we must be very rich, since this is a fair amount of money.

    The end result is that our tax "refund" is very close to $300 less than our taxable income itself. Isn't that a little strange?. Our tax itself is almost $1500 less than our taxable income, so what is it that they're refunding? We must be rich to be getting such a high "refund" from tax we never paid.

    The reality is that the Bush tax cuts do far more for the low end of taxpayers, particularly for families with children, than they do comparatively for the rich. They give flat-out gifts to people with lower income and merely collect a smaller percentage from people with middle and upper income (though the higher the income the lower percentage less than last year, even if the amount of the drop is more because the tax is more).

    Something like this happened last year, too, but not to the same extent. Of course, New York State was another matter. We get a fair amount money "back" from the federal government that we never paid to begin with, but somehow New York still thought we make enough money to owe them something (and it was more than had been taken out of my paychecks). This year, however, even New York (with the highest tax burden of all 50 states) has joined the bandwagon, and we're getting more back than we paid (though not anywhere near as ridiculously high an amount as the federal "refund").

    Orson Scott Card

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    Popular science fiction author Orson Scott Card has a blog, The Ornery American. Check out his thoughts on The Passion of the Christ. It's interesting to get a Mormon take on the film.

    One of the faculty at the college I teach at is a rabbi in Reform Judaism, and he considers Card a Christian philosopher of sorts, regularly using his novels in philosophy classes. I wouldn't consider the LDS church representative of Christianity, but it intrigues me that he thinks his stuff counts as doing philosophy enough to use in philosophy classes. I've never read any of his books. It shouldn't be surprising that I'd share some affinity with Card's general outlook (with strong disagreement on many important, sometimes crucial, details). I'll have to keep looking in on this blog.


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    Still no Before Became After. If it's arrived in Syracuse, the online tracking hasn't caught up to it. So here we go with another one. This is from Kerry Livgren's Prime Mover II, his 1998 rerecording/remixing/revision of 1988's Prime Mover. This song was new to the second version. He wrote it on a napkin while eating at a restaurant with singer Warren Ham.

    Incantos (Livgren)

    When I was young and world was old
    I saw through eyes of light
    These wonders will not cease until
    The years have claimed my sight

    Bright image floats above the plain
    Whose voice renewing mind
    Is building kingdoms long to last
    A priceless pearl to find

    The stories told have not been lost
    But saved through pen and sword
    And will not empty handed turn
    Til' all have seen this Lord

    A brighter way is nowhere found
    In all Creation's hall
    One misty dream doth now enfold
    Since from estate did fall

    The call is heard across the wave
    To summon all would hear
    Sweet song of company long endeared
    And men who love good cheer

    It is my brother's place to keep
    And mine to you return
    All works of straw will not retain
    There's time enough to learn

    No coin will buy or memories burn
    Nor lift the sounding weight
    Though all will press the wheel in turn
    Not open Heaven's Gate

    Too noble for this darkened plain
    To walk among the lost
    And hang upon yon coarsest branch
    No measure of the cost

    All start in endless number count
    And glory testify
    To all in truth the deep of night
    And jewels of wisdom buy

    In liquid skies no toil or tear
    Brought down by crimson stain
    In robes of light proceed before
    Redemptions golden train

    The fruit of labors long endured
    Shall end in grand display
    Til' peace like river freely flows
    Has come in one fine day

    Divine Command Theory

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    The University of Rochester philosophy grad students' blog has a name finally: My Ontology is Bigger Than Yours.

    Brown has one now also, Fake Barn Country. So we've started a trend. Just remember: OrangePhilosophy was first. (Some people have argued that Philosophy from the 617 was the first, but that was a group blog from people who at the time were in Boston, not tied to one institution.)

    Andrew Cullison has some worthwhile reading on Divine Command Theory at the Rochester blog. I've said stuff about this before, but my primary audience was for introductory philosophy students. This is a much more detailed discussion and includes some more sophisticated arguments (though some, I think, are poor arguments nonetheless).

    Update: It was too good to last. They've taken on a new non-name (at a new location): This is Not the Name of This Blog. That's creative and interesting philosophically, but it's not as fun as My Ontology is Bigger Than Your Ontology. I'm not changing my link's name.

    Back of the Envelope says the scientific community in Galileo's time did have reason to resist his claims but also that he was well-received within the Roman Catholic Church. This is the first I've heard of this. Does anyone who knows more about it have anything to say about it, either in support or in defense?

    It's been clear to me for a long time that many people have used Galileo's case to assert that the Bible itself said what the Roman Catholic Church at the time was claiming it said, and I think that's demonstrably false. People have also tried to make the claim that Galileo was on the side of science against religion, which ignores his deeply-seated Christian convictions. So it doesn't surprise me that even more of the common claims about Galileo turn out to be false. It's just that these two are new to me.

    The Wall

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    Proto-KAW's Before Became After still hasn't arrived, so here's another Livgren lyric, from Kansas' 1976 album Leftoverture:

    The Wall (Kerry Livgren, Steve Walsh)

    I'm woven in a fantasy,
    I can't believe the things I see
    The path that I have chosen now has led me to a wall
    And with each passing day
    I feel a little more like something dear was lost
    It rises now before me,
    A dark and silent barrier between,
    All I am, and all that I would ever want be
    It's just a travesty,
    Towering, marking off the boundaries my spirit
    Would erase

    To pass beyond is what I seek
    I fear that I may be too weak
    And those are few who've seen it through
    To glimpse the other side,
    The promised land is waiting like a maiden that is soon to be a bride
    The moment is a masterpiece,
    The weight of indecision's in the air
    It's standing there, the symbol and the sum of all that's me
    It's just a travesty,
    Towering, blocking out the light and blinding me
    I want to see

    Gold and diamonds cast a spell,
    It's not for me I know it well
    The riches that I seek
    Are waiting on the other side
    There's more that I can measure in the treasure of the love that I can find
    And though it's always been with me,
    I must tear down the Wall and let it be
    All I am, and all that I was ever meant to be, in harmony
    Shining true and smiling back at all who wait to cross
    There is no loss

    Overall, I haven't seen anything suprising so far in the Rice testimony. I do want to register my thoughts on one commision member's questioning. A couple members from the Democratic side were a little impatient and impolite with her, but one takes the cake.

    Bob Kerrey asked a couple "Have you stopped beating your wife?" questions of Dr. Rice. When she insisted on challenging the assumptions of his questions before answering them, he told her not to filibuster him since he only has ten minutes. (Another panel member, Richard Ben-Veniste, had done this once or twice already, seemingly more interested in his own conspiracy theories than what she had to say, since he obviously didn't listen to her, but it didn't stop her from addressing his false assumptions either.) Kerrey was the one who raised those issues with her, so it's his choice how his time gets used. Then he had the gall to suggest that he'd been patient and polite with her. I don't how polite it is to call someone named Condoleeza Rice by the name "Dr. Clarke". I counted at least five instances of this, and there were probably far more. Getting someone's name wrong is extremely impolite. Insisting that she not challenge erroneous assumptions of his questions is a good example of impatient behavior. Rolling your eyes, grinning with disbelief, and getty edgy while listening to someone does not show politeness and willingness to hear what she has to say, nor does it exemplify patience. He started out well, but I stopped listening to what he had to say after too much of this.

    Update: Best quote of the morning: "I don't like to beat a dead horse, but there's a lot of lame ones running around here. Let's see if we can't push them out the door." -- James Thompson, member of the commission

    Update 2: As it's wrapping up, I'll say that it seems to me as if she's done what I expected. She's given a cogent presentation of the Administration's perspective on these issues. She answered pretty much every question to my satisfaction and made a couple members of the commission look like jerks and conspiracy theorists. This is from someone who doesn't know most of the issues in detail, but it didn't seem to me as if they had anything serious that she couldn't answer. The commission's chair concluded by saying that she had "advanced their understanding on certain events". Afterward, the vice-chair said he didn't think any of their questions threw her and that her comments would be useful to them. We'll see what the fallout is as it comes.

    Update 3: Her prepared statement is already online.

    The Pinnacle

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    Given that the new Proto-KAW album came out yesterday (even though it hasn't arrived here yet), I've decided to post a Kerry Livgren lyric in eager anticipation. Given the approach of Easter, I figured one of his meditations on the human condition from before his dramatic Christian transformation would be appropriate.

    (For the unitiated: 'Kaw' is the preferred term for the Kansa Indians. When the Kansas lineup preceding the one that recorded the albums with the hits reunited, they chose this name, since they were a sort of proto-Kansas. Kerry Livgren, the mastermind behind much of Kansas' music, is at the helm again with this project. I've heard some cuts, and I'm longing for its arrival.)

    The Pinnacle by Kerry Livgren (from the 1975 Kansas album Masque)

    I've so much to say, and yet I cannot speak
    Come and do my bidding now for I have grown too weak
    My weary eyes have seen all that life can give
    Come to me, O young one, for you I can forgive

    I stood where no man goes, and conquered demon foes
    With glory and passion no longer in fashion
    The hero breaks his blade

    Cast this shadow long that I may hide my face
    And in this cloak of darkness the world I will embrace
    In all that I endure, of one thing I am sure
    Knowledge and reason change like the season
    A jester's promenade

    Lying at my feet I see the offering you bring
    The mark of Cain is on our faces, borne of suffering
    O, I long to see you say it's not been wrong
    I stand before you now, a riddle in my song
    The answer is that sweet refrain
    Unheard it always will remain
    Beyond our reach, beyond our gain

    Trapped in life's parade, a king without a crown
    In this joy of madness, my smile might seem a frown
    With talons wrought of steel, I tore the heart of doom
    And in one gleaming moment I saw beyond the tomb
    I stood where no man goes, above the din I rose
    Life is amusing though we are losing
    Drowned in tears of awe.

    Chris Dodd earned my respect in opposing the petty Democratic revenge plot to prevent John Ashcroft from being confirmed as Attorney General. He saw through the misleading statements and baseless criticisms of a man who is eminently qualified for the job he now holds. For many it was their way to express their outrage at Bush's victory after a bitter recount battle. For others it was simply hatred of anyone who could possibly hold the most reasonable consistent pro-life view that being caused to come into existence by a crime doesn't rob one of one's (relative) innocence. Either way, the two Democrats who retained their spines were Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold.

    So it's with a note of sadness that I have to label him a hypocrite. He's pulled a Trent Lott, this time with Robert Byrd's racist past (involving the KKK many years ago and the n-word on CNN not too long ago) replacing Strom Thurmond's segregationist policies during the mid-20th century. The statements of both Lott and Dodd revealed something, but it wasn't any outright racist attitude on the part of either senator. What it showed is that the concerns of many black people are not on the mind of either senator enough to prevent them from saying such things. John McWhorter cogently argued this with Senator Lott's case, and I think it's true of Dodd as well.

    Now if only black voters would start seeing that Democratic lip service to civil rights values is too often no more than lip service. Dodd's case shows at least that the myth of Democratic caring and Republican indifference can often be mistaken. The fact that Democrats are more inclined to continue destructive policies (such as resisting the recent welfare reform requiring more responsibility) along with resisting the truly progressive ideas Republicans are offering (regardless of the fact that they may not be the best versions of those ideas around -- at least they're offering them, which I can't say about most Democrats) shows that the indifference will be found among more than just this one senator showing his indifference in a moment of devotion to an honored party member.

    In Dodd's case, his comments about Lott are now coming back to haunt him (see the links above for more on this). At least Lott didn't have that to deal with. This smacks of a much stronger hypocrisy than simply spouting off civil rights phrases but not doing anything about any real problems. Now he's made the exact mistake he had criticized Senator Lott for making. His call for Lott's resignation brings his own condemnation down on himself.

    Or is this just something about their names? If so, I guess it's a good thing we don't have any senators named Fogg, Hopp, or Momm. (Check out Instapundit for more on this.)

    The latest Christian Carnival is up at ChristWeb. In addition to my post on Presuppositional Apologetics and Sam's on the silliness of a political shibboleth for evaluating whether someone is Christian, I recommend Mark Roberts on the seven last words of Christ. I read only the first one so far, but Mark is always worth reading when he comments on scripture, so I can confidently recommend the whole series. IreneQ's struggles with prayer are an excellent example of someone asking hard questions of herself and making progress in her understanding on the issue. I love to read people's accounts of these things. We Christians need to do more of this. Messy Christian has a few such posts of late, though none of them made it to the Carnival this time around.

    A friend of mine asked me why I think there are biblical reasons against Christians marrying nonbelievers (which is not to say that it's wrong for Christians to remain married to nonbelievers upon becoming Christian, since Paul explicitly gives instructions on that situation; see below). It took much longer for me to explain than people often do in these situations. The usual response is to trot out II Corinthians 6:14-18, which is not about marriage at all but idolatry. My friend also gave some objections based on those men of God who did marry outside of Israel in the Old Testament, often leading to good consequences (including some of them being in the line of Jesus). So I had to do some background work on the biblical theology of marriage and intermarriage. Here's what I came up with.

    Pledge of Idolatry

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    Well, here's a new idea. The pledge of allegiance is idolatry, according to Joe Carter of Evangelical Outpost, not because the flag itself is an idol (which may be a problem for someone people, however) but because the god mentioned in the pledge is not the God of Christianity. It's a function of civil religion in distinction from any particular religion such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, etc. I'm not quite sure what to think of this. John Coleman at Ex Nihilo has a response, based largely on the claim that the pledge has many important consequences that we don't want to give up. I don't think what Coleman says fully responds to the original argument, since the same might have been said about emperor worship in the Roman Empire. That brought great unity and commonality to the empire, it involved a tradition around which the whole empire organized, etc. Still, I'm not convinced the original argument is right either (partly for concerns I've already raised about those who think 'God' refers to different gods from one religion to another, which I don't think is true of Islam and Christianity, for instance). I'll need to think about this a bit more before commenting further, but any thoughts are welcome in the meantime.

    Christian Carnival XII Plug


    This coming Wednesday is the next Christian Carnival, and will be hosted
    at ChristWeb. If you have a blog, this will be a great way to get read,
    and possibly pick up readers in the process, or highlight your favorite
    post from the past week.

    To enter is simple. First your post should be of a Christian nature, but
    this does not exclude posts that are political (or otherwise) in nature
    from a Christian point of view. Then do the following:

    email Stephen at

    Provide the following:

    Title of your Blog
    URL of your Blog
    Title of your post
    URL linking to that post
    Description of the Post

    Cut off date is Tuesday by 8 PM EST

    If you are reading this and are not a part of the Christian Carnival
    mailing list please visit the following link and join up:

    *Also if you wish to host the Carnival in coming weeks email me at *

    All questions are welcome. Get your entry in asap!

    More classic Parableman. From 4 July, 2003, my discussion of the affirmative actions cases last summer, just before the first time I ever covered this issue in an ethics class. I've changed my views a bit since then (which I hope to get to shortly), but I haven't altered anything here except to put links in for the biblical references and to add a title. For those who don't get the double entendre, it refers to both the underrepresented minorities of affirmative action policies and (more importantly) the small minority of Supreme Court justices (two out of nine) whose position became law through these cases.

    On 23 June, 2003 the United States Supreme Court decided two cases on affirmative action. Two lawsuits against the University of Michigan, one involving the law school admissions and the other for undergraduate admissions. Here are the fundamental issues.

    What Number Are You?

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    I am infinity

    You may worship me,
    but from afar


    what number are you?

    this quiz by orsa

    Thanks to Classical Values for the link.

    I found a passage in Lucretius that anticipates Galileo's famous thought experiment about falling objects of different weight falling at the same speed:

    And if by chance someone thinks that heavier atoms, in virtue of their more rapid motion straight through the void, could fall from above on the lighter atoms, and that in this way the blows which generate the productive motions could be produced, he has strayed very far from the true account. For everything which falls through water or light air must fall at a speed proportional to their weights, simply because the bulk of the water and the fine nature of the air can hardly delay each other equally, but yield more quickly to the heavier bodies being overwhelmed by them. But by contrast, at no time and in no place can the empty void resist any thing, but it must, as its nature demands, go on yielding to it. Therefore, everything must move at equal speed through the inactive void, though they are not given by equal weights. (On the Nature of Things 225, in Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson, ed., Hellenistic Philosophy: Introductory Readings, p.64.

    He's wrong on a number of details here, but it's amazing how close to the truth he is, even on some things Galileo didn't even get right. Lucretius lived in the first half of the first century before Christ. Galileo lived in the 17th century after Christ. There was something like 1650 years between them. Philosophers who say they don't need to bother reading the philosophers of history and just focus on contemporary stuff are opening themselves to missing something that's already been said on their topic, as Galileo did. Of course, ignoring philosophy in other traditions has the same problem, and I don't know much about African or Asian philosophy, but I don't really know where to begin. I've been looking for a good textbook looking at those traditions from an analytic perspective, but I don't know if anything like that exists.

    Update: I posted this over at OrangePhilosophy, and it's started to get comments there.

    Telepathic googling

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    Imagine searching Google for something about mind-reading and then discovering a blog discussing how strange your Google search was. So you were trying to find out something about mind-reading, only to find out that someone seemed to have been reading your mind and blogging about your very search, and your search led you right to it.

    That just happened to someone. I was checking my referrals and discovered that someone recently searched Google for something about telepathy and Pakistan. What did they get? They ended up clicking on my post about how strange it was that someone had searched for "organization of telepathy in Pakistan" and gotten Sam's blog. Hmm. I guess I'm telepathic. I don't know about Pakistan, though. That was weird even the first time.

    There's a debate within those who believe in some sort of rational defense of Christianity about how it should be done. The main lines of the debate are between what I call the classical apologetics view and the presuppositional view. I've never understood the presuppositionalist position, and all the arguments I've ever seen in favor of it seem so bad to me that I have to think there's something to the view beyond what people seem to me to be saying, but I've still seen no evidence that anyone has a better statement of the view and its claims than the bad ones I've so far seen. I've finally gotten around to putting together my thoughts on why I think presuppositionalism is fundamentally mistaken.

    I probably haven't done justice to explaining the view, so here are a few links to the top Google searches for presuppositional apologetics, all right from the horses' mouths.

    The Dialectizer

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    This just in, via Rebecca. Apparently I've been taking the wrong tactic in responding to my critics on race. I should just give them this link, which shows how I live in two worlds.

    I'm having trouble figuring out why most of the dialects in the Dialectizer are funny or even why they have the names they have (Moron?), but Jive seems better than most of the rest. The Swedish Chef one is pretty good but a little too comprehensible.

    My final Volkh entry that I've been saving for more comment gives some helpful criteria for figuring out when it might be worth having laws against certain behavior for children under a certain age, distinguishing between reasons for having different ages for smoking, alchohol, and sex.

    What really struck me as odd wasn't Volokh's claim that people would be more resistant to restricting their sexual activity at age 16, say, than they would if you restricted their smoking or drinking activity. I think a good case can be made that the biological drive for sex is much stronger than any motivation to start smoking or drinking alcohol would be (before actually becoming addicted, anyway). That doesn't mean we have some need for sexual interaction that makes our lives somehow ridiculously impoverished without it. That's an insult to the fulfilled lives of many people who remain single and celibate their whole lives (not to mention those whose sex lives are no less rich simply because they delayed sex longer than some of their peers, waiting until getting married). Still, that wasn't what really caught my eye. What struck me as most odd was was his assumption without argument that someone at age 16 is mature enough to have sex. His whole argument for allowing someone to take pictures of herself having sex depended on her being mature enough to have sex to begin with.

    Oil in Alaska

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    We now face the consequences of resistance in Congress to oil drilling in Alaska's wasteland. The propaganda leading to the vote against this drilling was about as bad as it gets. Follow the link above to see the misleading picture of other parts of the wildlife reserve that weren't going to be drilled compared with what it really looks like. Well, the tactic worked. The drilling won't happen there, where it would have been relatively harmless. Well now Governor Murkowski, who doesn't have the power to drill in the land, has resorted to getting at the oil in a way he can. He's authorized drilling offshore in the direction of the oil under the land. I applaud him for seeing what's necessary and doing it, but it's unfortunate that this much more environmentally unsound method of getting at the oil was necessary because of some slimy deceivers simply wanting to make Bush look bad for wanting to drill in a wasteland, which most certainly would have been less potentially damaging to the environment than what's now going to have to happen to reach the oil.

    Thanks to One Hand Clapping for providing the link.

    Shortly before David Lewis died, he was at the Metaphysical Mayhem conference that we were at the time holding in Syracuse. In a talk by Kit Fine about something like coincident entities views, Lewis made a comment about allowing talk of impossible worlds. Of course these things don't exist in the way that all possible worlds do, according to Lewis, but somehow we need to be able to talk about them for a complete view of modality. These were just suggestions, but I found it intriguing.

    Yesterday morning I happened upon a passage in Aristotle's Eudemian Ethics that seems to rely on exactly the thing Lewis said we need. He was talking about humans need to be the starting-point of their own action for moral responsibility in a way similar to how modern libertarians talk (though Aristotle was probably more like a compatibilist, and the common compatibilist description of the line of causation running through the agent may be closer to what he had in mind here). Here's the stuff about impossible worlds:

    The time has arrived once again when I have too many things to blog about and not enough time to do it, so before some of this stuff gets too old I'll at least link them and say something about them.

    Discoshaman comments on the scientists on the verge of creating life in a laboratory to the effect that someone's going to start denying that it's happened on the grounds that only God can create life. Read the first comment, the one about the dirt. It's hilarious and exactly the right to say here.

    This one's been old for a while, but I just found it. Philosopher Keith Burgess-Jackson has been a gradual convert to conservative thought over the course of his life. He wrote this before the big brouhaha over liberal professors in academia of the last few months, but it looks at why so many liberal thinkers think conservatives are stupid in a way that's neither insulting to liberals nor favorable to the position that conservatives tend to be stupid.

    Speaking of philosophers discussing important issues, Jeremy Chong gives a near-formal deductive argument for the conclusion that soy milk is indeed milk. I would have argued on the same basis but in a very different way, focusing more on philosophy of language but really for the same reasons and based on the same intuitions.

    Volokh: A 15-year-old girl is up for child pornography charges for taking pictures of herself and sending them to people through the internet. Get a load of what they're charging her with.

    Also at Volokh, Jacob Levy, from my alma mater Brown, mentions two things of note in one post. First is his reference to Buddy Cianci, former mayor of Providence who was convicted of a felony and then later re-elected mayor for multiple terms while still not serving any terms. It's as if he's a cartoon character. What Jacob says about him is precious. Then he goes on to tell a great story of the new attorney general of RI calling Marvel Comics to get Stan Lee's permission to use a quote from the first appearance of Spiderman.

    Yet again at Volokh: Anyone up for a vampire slaying? This one wasn't posted on April Fool's Day. At least the guy was already dead.

    Last but not least, you have to see the latest two comments on my post from January about the racist Condoleeza Rice poster that had been circulating at the time. It would be ideal if you go and look at the family pictures on my old blog site first to appreciate the full humor of what these two guys (assuming they're two people -- I haven't checked the IPs yet) think they can get away with saying. Update: Sam weighs in. I like the MTV comment. It's too bad I didn't catch that. It's insulting enough to assume that I don't know my wife. To assume that I watch MTV may even be worse.

    I've got a couple more, including another from Volokh, but I'll hold off on them in the hopes that I might be able to say a little more about them.

    Democrats for Rice

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    Swamphopper at The Rough Woodsman wonders if the insistence on Condi Rice testifying for the 9-11 commission will draw more support and understanding for the Bush Administration, as similar moves did for the Reagan and Clinton Administrations with the testimonies of Colonel Oliver North and President Clinton, respectively. Will it spark the oft-speculated campaign of Dr. Rice into the presidency in 2008, as those who most hate Hillary have been publicly hoping? Film at 11.

    I'm looking forward to her testimony. I think she may be the smartest person in any president's cabinet during my lifetime, and I think it was politically unwise for those who merely want to make this administration look bad to insist that she of all people testify. Of course, those who just want to get to the bottom of things will be much rewarded. Her testimony is the closest thing you'll get to an intellectual's presentation of what sort of reasoning moves President Bush, and therefore it's what I really want to hear.

    Oh, and the tradition defense did seem reasonable to me. Political advisors are neither elected nor appointed to a legally recognized position. They've never testified in front of any Congressional commission, and this doesn't seem too different except in the national security urgency of some of the issues involved. Condoleeza Rice has no legal power or authority in any sense. I can understand full well why they would want to ensure that it doesn't set a precedent. So I believe her that she very much wanted to testify but was resisting based on those reasons. She probably wanted the chance to respond officially to thinks she thought were at best exaggerations and distorted impressions. Well, now she gets it. We'll see what happens.

    Or at least from someone relatively equivalent. Is there anyone more qualified to represent the views of the average American than Laura Ingalls of Little House fame? I witnessed her statement of something that, at least on the surface grammar, seems to involve an ontological commitment to non-present times. [For those unfamiliar with the philosophy of time, eternalism is the view that all times (and things existing at those times, which for convenience I'll not worry about here) equally exist, just not at once. Some people deny it by saying that past times no longer exist and future times don't yet exist, but that begs the question by assuming not existing now entails not existing at all, whereas existing in the past and existing in the future to do seem to involve existing, just not existing now.]

    The A&E Biography of Melissa Gilbert was on last night. Sam was always a huge Little House fan, but Gilbert's husband Bruce Boxleitner played John Sheridan on the best TV show ever made, Babylon 5, and Melissa made an appearance for a couple episodes as someone I shouldn't mention since I want all my friends to watch the series from beginning to end once I get it all on DVD, and I don't want to spoil anything. Sure enough, he made an appearance last night as well, and they did mention the show that I expected wouldn't even get a nod.

    Now Melissa seems to be an eternalist. She probably hasn't been educated with a lot of philosophy of time, and she was America's little sweetheart for such a long time, that I think we can take her views as indicative of the general public. She made a very interesting comment about the day her father figure Michael Landon died (unless it was the day she found out he was having an affair -- I'm not 100% sure which it was). She said, "It was a very bad day. It still is."

    Sam somehow thought she was talking about how the anniversary of that day is still a very bad day, but she gave no contextual indication that that was what she meant. It seemed to me that she was saying that the very day he died is still bad. Even if she meant the anniversaries are still bad, she was talking about them as if they exist, and they don't exist according to presentism, which says only the present time exists. My way of reading it doesn't require eternalism (all times exist) but only at bare minimum a growing block view (the past and the present exist but not the future). Saying the anniversaries are still bad, when not all of them have occurred yet, and when you're not talking about any particular anniversary but ones as they come up, which has a sense of potentiality, signaling you're including future ones, seems to move to the full eternalist view. So even on Sam's reading of her statement, which I thought less likely, her surface grammar gives reason to think she has eternalism as an assumed framework.

    Now I'm aware that there are ways to try to reduce any of this talk to presentist or other non-eternalist claims. I think such reductionism will fail, but that's not the issue. The issue is whether people assume eternalism, presentism, or any other view. I've seen many presentists and growing block theorists claiming that their view is the common sense view. I just don't think that's true. The only reason it seems true is because of the fallacious argument I mentioned above (that because something doesn't exist now it must not exist at all at any time). Once you see the fallacy there, the reasons for thinking presentism is commonsensical are undermined. Once you look at statements like Gilbert's, it's clear that at least some of what we say assumes the existence of other times (and the existence of things at other times).



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