April 30, 2016
Quote of the Day: Mechanical Observations? Yum!
Hydrophilus. Mechanical Observations (said you Pyrophilus?) yea that's your Diana, you and the world of late so much admire: your Bacon and your Boyle, or your Bacon well boil'd is so much in fashion with you, that scarce any other Dish (although never so good) prepared after an old fashion, will go down with you. - W. Simpson, Philosophical Dialogues Concerning the Principles of Natural Bodies: Wherein the Principles of the Old and New Philosophy are Stated, and the New Demonstrated, More Agreeable to Reason, From Mechanical Experiments and its Usefulness to the Benefit of Man-kind (1677), 5 I was...
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April 29, 2016
Quote of the Day: The Tale of the Aristotelian Clock-Mender
I will not undertake to compare the new Philosophy with the old, but instead thereof will tell you a tale. There was a certain Husbandman who occupied a Farme with an antient mansion-house standing in the fields remote from any Town, where there was an old iron Clock in a large wooden frame, which had been a long while out of kelter, and because he was much troubled to know how the time passed, that he might order his business accordingly, he resolved to get his Clock repaired, and while he was considering where to finde a man able...
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April 23, 2016
Quote of the Day: Materialist Poetry
as for my opinion of Atoms, their figures and motions, (if any such things there be) I will refer you to my Book of Poems, out of which give me leave to repeat these following lines, containing the ground of my opinion of Atomes: All Creatures, howsoe're they may be nam'd Are of long, square, flat, or sharp Atomes fram'd Thus several figures several tempers make, But what is mixt, doth of the four partake. The onely cause, why things do live and die, 'S according as the mixed Atomes lie. Thus life, and death, and young, and old, Are...
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April 9, 2016
Quote of the Day: Cavendish on Philosophical Disagreement
I have not contradicted those Authors [modern philosophers] in any thing, but what concerns and is opposite to my opinions; neither do I any thing, but what they have done themselves, as being common amongst them to contradict each other: which may as well be allowable, as for Lawyers to plead at the Barr in opposite Causes. For as Lawyers are not Enemies to each other, but great Friends, all agreeing from the Barr, although not at the Barr: so it is with Philosophers who make their Opinions as their Clients, not for Wealth, but for Fame, and therefore have...
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October 6, 2015
Quote of the Day: Mencius on Border Police
In antiquity, a border station was set up as a precaution against violence. Today it is set up to perpetrate violence.
- Mencius (4th cent. BCE), sect. 7B8, tr. Lau
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March 19, 2014
Quote of the Day: Bayle on the Skeptical Consequences of Multi-Location
[If multi-location is possible] it follows that neither you nor I can be certain whether we are distinct from other men, or whether we are at this moment in the seraglio of Constantinople, in Canada, in Japan, and in every city of the world, under different conditions in each place. Since God does nothing in vain, would he create many men when one, created in various places and possessing different qualities according to the places, would suffice?
- Pierre Bayle, Historical and Critical Dictionary (1697), tr. Popkin, s.v. "Pyrrho," note B
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September 27, 2013
Quote of the Day: Margaret Cavendish on Rational Animals
That all other animals, besides man, want reason, [Descartes] endeavours to prove in his discourse on method, where his chief argument is, that other animals cannot express their mind, thoughts or conceptions, either by speech or any other signs, as man can do: For, says he, it is not for want of organs belonging to the framing of words, as we may observe in parrots and 'pies, which are apt enough to express words they are taught, but understand nothing of them. My answer is, that one man expressing his mind by speech or words to another, doth not declare...
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September 5, 2013
Quote of the Day: Childs on Miracles
[I]n the Old Testament a miracle is not some purely supernatural event, but rather something that evokes surprise and astonishment by which God is revealed as its source.
- Brevard S. Childs, commentary on Isaiah 29:13-14
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June 18, 2013
Quote of the Day: D. Z. Phillips on the Christian 'Image'
Consider the following example. There is a gentleman who appears advertising cigars on television. No sooner does this immaculate man light up cigars than women come from all quarters to gather round him. We can imagine people reacting in certain moods by saying, 'What a man!' Here, 'man' is clearly not a purely descriptive term. They are extolling, praising, wondering. A cluster of images influence their attitude: success, flair, charm, panache, the great seducer, etc., etc. At the heart of Christianity is a very different event. It is that of a torn body on a cross. Here, too, it was...
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March 13, 2013
Quote of the Day: Enns on Religious Fear of Evolution
At present there is a lot of fear about the implications of bringing evolution and Christianity together, and this fear needs to be addressed head-on. Many fear that we are on a slippery slope, to use the hackneyed expression. Perhaps the way forward is not to resist the slide so much as to stop struggling, look around, and realize that we may have been on the wrong hill altogether.
- Peter Enns, The Evolution of Adam, p. 145
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November 27, 2012
Quote of the Day: Swift on Lawyers
There [is] a society of men among us, bred up from their youth in the art of proving, by words multiplied for the purpose, that white is black, and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves. For example, if my neighbour has a mind to my cow, he has a lawyer to prove that he ought to have my cow from me. I must then hire another to defend my right, it being against all rules of law that any man should be allowed to speak for himself....
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November 6, 2012
Quote of the Day for Election Day
Woe to those enacting crooked statutes and writing oppressive laws to keep the poor from getting a fair trial and to deprive the afflicted of my people of justice, so that widows can be their spoil and they can plunder the fatherless. What will you do on the day of punishment when devastation comes from far away? Who will you run to for help? Where will you leave your wealth? - Isaiah 10:1-3, HCSB In the present American context, this passage demands to be combined with 1 Peter 4:17: "the time has come for judgment to begin with God's household."...
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August 3, 2012
Quote of the Day: Augustine on Philosophy
Many things certainly do I muse upon in this earthly tabernacle, because the one thing which is true among the many, or beyond the many, I cannot find.
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- Augustine, City of God, tr. Dods, 12.15
June 13, 2012
Quote of the Day: Augustine on Bad Science and Bad Biblical Interpretation
In fact, it often happens that even a non-Christian has views based on very conclusive reasons or observations about the earth, heaven, the other elements of this world, the motion and revolutions or the size and distance of the stars, the eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of years and epochs, the nature of animals, of plants, of rocks, and similar things. Now, it is very scandalous, as well as harmful and to be avoided at all costs, that any infidel should hear a Christian speak about these things as if he were doing so in accordance with...
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April 6, 2012
Quote of the Day For Good Friday
The body of the Word, then, being a real human body, in spite of its having been uniquely formed from a virgin, was of itself mortal and, like other bodies, liable to death. But the indwelling of the Word loosed it from this natural liability, so that corruption could not touch it. Thus it happened that two opposite marvels took place at once: the death of all was consummated in the Lord's body; yet, because the Word was in it, death and corruption were in the same act utterly abolished. Death there had to be, and death for all, so...
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February 6, 2012
Quote of the Day: Kant on the Task of Moral Philosophy
A reviewer who wanted to say something censuring [The Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals] hit the mark better than he himself may have intended when he said that no new principle of morality is set forth in it but only a new formula. But who would even want to introduce a new principle of all morality and, as it were, first invent it? Just as if, before him, the world had been ignorant of what duty is or in thoroughgoing error about it. But whoever knows what a formula means to a mathematician, which determines quite precisely what is...
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October 6, 2011
Quote of the Day: Philosophers and Platitudes
It is the profession of philosophers to question platitudes that others accept without thinking twice. A dangerous profession, since philosophers are more easily discredited than platitudes.
David Lewis, Convention, p. 1
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July 14, 2011
Quote of the Day: Hume on Space Travel
I've just returned from watching the last space shuttle launch. We also got to spend several days looking through the excellent museum exhibits at Kennedy Space Center, which I highly recommend. Anyway, all this time spent considering the history of American space flight, its effects on the individuals involved, and the effect it had on international politics, put me in mind of this quote from Hume: In general, it may be affirm'd, that there is no such passion in human minds, as the love of mankind, merely as such, independent of personal qualities, of services, or of relation to ourself...
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May 16, 2011
Quote of the Day: Polkinghorne on the Creation Story
The Bible is often rightly said not to be a book but a library. It contains a great variety of different kinds of writing: poetry and prose, history and story, letters, laws, and so on. Very great mistakes can be made, and much disrespect shown to Scripture, if a reader carelessly confuses one genre with another. Those who attempt to read Genesis 1 and 2 as if these chapters were divinely dictated scientific texts, kindly provided by God to save us the trouble of attempting to read the book of nature for ourselves, are committing just such an act of...
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April 5, 2011
Quote of the Day: Confuting and Convincing
I think that as the proper end of our conference ought to be supposed the discovery and defence of truth, so truth may be justified, not only by persuading its adversaries, but, where that cannot be done, by shewing them to be unreasonable. Arguments, therefore, which carry light have their effect, even against an opponent who shuts his eyes, because they shew him to be obstinate and prejudiced. (Berkeley, Alciphron 4.2) This thought comes back at the end of the book, where Dion observes, "how unaccountable it [is] that men so easy to confute should yet be so difficult to...
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December 19, 2010
Quote of the Day: Leibniz on True Religion
One cannot love God without knowing his perfections, and this knowledge contains the principles of true piety. The purpose of religion should be to imprint these principles upon our souls: but in some strange way it has happened all too often that men, that teachers of religion[,] have strayed far from this purpose. Contrary to the intention of our divine Master, devotion has been reduced to ceremonies and doctrine has been cumbered with formulae. All too often the ceremonies have not been well fitted to maintain the exercise of virtue, and the formulae sometimes have not been lucid. Can one...
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December 7, 2010
Quote of the Day: Offensive? Perhaps, but Also Thought-Provoking
There is, evidently, a controversy (no, I don't normally read Fox; this was linked from fark) brewing in New Hampshire about a public high school personal finance class where Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America is required reading. The article says that the book is highly offensive and has lots of foul language and a strong political and (anti-)religious agenda. It doesn't get into much detail, except for a single extended quotation, which is supposed, I guess, to be the most offensive part of the book. Perhaps this quotation is somewhat offensive, but we could...
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August 13, 2010
Quote of the Day: Gutting on Dawkins
Religious believers often accuse argumentative atheists such as Dawkins of being excessively rationalistic, demanding standards of logical and evidential rigor that aren't appropriate in matters of faith. My criticism is just the opposite. Dawkins does not meet the standards of rationality that a topic as important as religion requires. The basic problem is that meeting such standards requires coming to terms with the best available analyses and arguments. This need not mean being capable of contributing to the cutting-edge discussions of contemporary philosophers, but it does require following these discussions and applying them to one's own intellectual problems. Dawkins simply...
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June 20, 2010
Quote of the Day: Theological Warfare
Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things and through whom He made the universe. He is the radiance of His glory, the exact expression of His nature, and He sustains all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. - Hebrews 1:1-3, HCSB When therefore [the author of Hebrews] would show that [the Son] is...
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May 8, 2010
Quotes of the Day: Berkeley and Hume on Unconvincing Arguments
But that all his [Berkeley's] arguments, though otherwise intended, are, in reality, merely sceptical, appears from this, that they admit no answer and produce no conviction. Their only effect is to cause that momentary amazement and irresolution and confusion, which is the result of scepticism. (David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748): sect. 12.1.15) I am not to be persuaded by metaphysical arguments [for the existence of God] ... as they are not suited to my way of thinking they may perhaps puzzle but never will convince me. (Alciphron, the free-thinker, in Berkeley 1732 work by that name, sect....
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April 25, 2010
Quote of the Day: Turbayne on Alleged Refutations of Berkeley
The argument [for idealism] achieves [a proof of the external world] in a most ingenious yet simple way, by accepting the sceptical conclusion of one such as Hylas, that all we can ever know of the external world is certain ideas or appearances, and then admitting, as any consistent empiricist must, that these appearances are real. After all, it is a jest to hold, as do the philosophers, that the things we see and touch are mere illusions.  This final step illuminates the irony inherent in Dr. Johnson's notorious ostensive refutation of Berkeley's 'ingenious sophistry', by exclaiming while 'striking...
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April 2, 2010
Quote of the Day for Good Friday
In honor of Good Friday, I offer the following original translation of some excerpts from the Gospel of John: In the beginning Reason was - Reason was directed toward God, and Reason was God. He was directed toward God in the beginning. All things came about through Him, and none of the things that came about came about apart from Him. In Him was life, and the life was the light of human beings. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not grasp it. ... [Reason] was the true light, which, coming into the world, enlightens every...
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February 2, 2010
Quote of the Day: G. E. Moore on Philosophical Arguments
It may be thought that my contention is unimportant, but that is no ground for thinking that I am not in the right. What I am concerned with is knowledge only - that we should think correctly and so far arrive at some truth, however unimportant: I do not say that such knowledge will make us more useful members of society. If any one does not care for knowledge for its own sake, then I have nothing to say to him; only it should not be though that a lack of interest in what I have to say is any ground for holding it untrue (G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, sect. 37).
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November 21, 2009
Quote of the Day: A Science Fiction Thought Experiment in Aristotle
Therefore, however many things appear to come about in different types of material, for instance, a circle in bronze and stone and wood, it seems clear that neither bronze nor stone is part of the substance of a circle, since they can be separated. But even for things that are not observed to be separated, there is no reason why the same results should not follow, just as even if all circles that were seen were bronze, nonetheless bronze would be no part of the form, but it would be difficult to separate them in thought. For instance, the form human is always observed in flesh and bones and these sorts of parts. Are these parts therefore part of the form and the definition [of human]? ...
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November 16, 2009
Quote of the Day: Aristotle on Parmenides
Parmenides seems to speak with rather more insight: for not considering, aside from being
, anything that is not
worthy to be
, he thinks that from necessity it - that is, being
- is one, and nothing else ... But being compelled to follow the phenomena, he supposes that it is one according to reason [or: in account], but many according to sense perception (Aristotle, Metaphysics
986b27-33, my translation, after Ross).
The surviving fragments of Parmenides speak of a 'path of persuasion' and a 'way of mortal opinion.' These seem to have been two sections of his original poem. In the former, he denies the reality of plurality or change. Puzzlingly...
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October 7, 2009
Quote of the Day: Robert Adams on Contextualist History of Philosophy as Philosophy
I believe that historical accuracy and careful attention to the historical context are important to the philosophical as well as the historical value of work in the history of philosophy and, conversely, that philosophical argument and critique are important for historical understanding of philosophy. One reason for the philosophical importance of patient and careful attention to the actual meaning of Leibniz's writings in their historical context is that he was indeed a great philosopher, great enough that an arbitrary interpretation of his work, more relevant to our historical context than to his, is unlikely to be as interesting philosophically in...
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October 6, 2009
Quote of the Day: Australians Against Bullshit
"Analytic philosophy is all about bullshit detection, and we [Australians] are very good at that." - Fiona Cowie
, as quoted in The Australian
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October 2, 2009
Quote of the Day: Leibniz Against Hyper-Calvinism
If there are people who believe that election and reprobation are accomplished on God's part by a despotic and absolute power, not only without any apparent reason but actually without any reason, even a concealed one, they maintain an opinion that destroys alike the nature of things and the divine perfections. Such an absolutely absolute decree (so to speak) would be without doubt insupportable. But Luther and Calvin were far from such a belief: the former hopes that the life to come will make us comprehend the just reasons of God's choice; and the latter protests explicitly that these reasons...
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September 18, 2009
Quote of the Day: A Source in Descartes for Berkeley's Visual Language Theory?
We must take care not to assume - as our philosophers [i.e. the scholastics] commonly do - that in order to have sensory awareness the soul must contemplate certain images [i.e. the species] transmitted by objects to the brain; or at any rate we must conceive the nature of these images in an entirely different manner from that of the philosophers. For since their conception of the images is confined to the requirement that they should resemble the objects they represent, the philosophers cannot possibly show us how the images can be formed by the objects, or how they can...
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September 17, 2009
Quote of the Day: Berkeley on Combining Ideas Into Objects
One of the big questions in Berkeley interpretation is how and by whom ideas or experiences get put together to form objects. (See, for instance, the end of Margaret Atherton's recent paper "'The Books Are in the Study as Before': Berkeley's Claims About Real Physical Objects".) I've just noticed an interesting passage in Berkeley that ought to be really important to this discussion, though I don't think I've seen it quoted in this connection: [I]t ought to be considered that number (however some may reckon it amongst the primary qualities) is nothing fixed and settled, really existing in things themselves....
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September 8, 2009
Quotes of the Day: Berkeley and 'Functional Role Semantics'
The second approach [to intentionality on the computational model of cognition] is known as functionalism (actually, "functional role semantics" in discussions of meaning) in philosophy, and as procedural semantics in cognitive psychology and computer science. Functionalism says that what gives internal symbols (and external symbols too) their meanings is how they function ... This picture can be bolstered by a consideration of what happens when one first learns Newtonian mechanics. In my own case, I heard a large number of unfamiliar terms more or less all at once: "mass", "force", "energy", and the like. I never was told definitions of...
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July 6, 2009
Quote of the Day: The Praying Agnostic
There is no reason why someone who is in doubt about the existence of God should not pray for help and guidance on this topic as in other matters. Some find something comic in the idea of an agnostic praying to a God whose existence he doubts. It is surely no more unreasonable than the act of a man adrift in the ocean, trapped in a cave, or stranded on a mountainside, who cries for help though he may never be heard or fires a signal which may never be seen. - Anthony Kenny, The God of the Philosophers,...
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June 29, 2009
Quote of the Day: If the Septuagint was Good Enough for Abraham, It's Good Enough For Me!
I'm fond of reminding people that long before there was KJV Only-ism there was LXX Only-ism: a great many early Christian writers (though probably not a majority) not only thought that the LXX was inspired, but that the Hebrew texts had been subsequently corrupted. (LXX, the Roman numeral for 70, is the abbreviation used for the Septuagint, and ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament made a few centuries before Christ.) A few even went so far as to claim that they had been intentionally corrupted by a Jewish conspiracy. Really, nothing is new under the sun. An example which...
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May 13, 2009
Quote of the Day: Stillingfleet on the Natural Immortality of the Soul
You [Locke] say, That all the ends of Religion and Morality are secured barely by the Immortality of the Soul without a necessary Supposition that the Soul is Immaterial. I am of the opinion that the great ends of Religion and Morality are best secured by the Proofs of the Immortality of the Soul from its Nature and Properties; and which I think can prove it Immaterial. I do not question whether God can give Immortality to a Material Substance; but I say it takes off very much from the evidence of Immortality, if it depend wholly on God's giving...
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May 7, 2009
Quote of the Day: Leibniz on Survival of Death
One of the quandaries I ran into in writing my paper on Berkeley on resurrection is the question of what the 'revealed' Christian doctrine is supposed to be. In particular, there is the question of natural versus miraculous immortality of the soul. Some writers who seek to defend the Christian doctrine of survival of death assume that it is part of the doctrine that this survival is miraculous. (For a recent example, see Lynne Rudder Bakker's "Persons and the Metaphysics of Resurrection" which appeared in Religious Studies in 2007; James Ross also brought this up in his criticisms of my...
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April 18, 2009
Quote of the Day: Aristotle on the Law of Contradiction
The most certain principle of all [is one] it is impossible to be mistaken about ... A [principle] one must have in order to understand any being whatsoever - this is not a [mere] hypothesis! ... Next we will state what this principle is: it is impossible for the same thing at the same time to exist and not to exist in the same [subject] and in the same respect (and however many other [qualifications] we [previously] defined, let them be defined [here] on account of the logical difficulties).
But we now have accepted that it is impossible for a being to be and not be at the same time, and we showed that this was the most certain of all principles. In fact, some people, because [they are] uneducated, think that even this ought to be proven. [Someone who] doesn't know that it is necessary to prove some things and not others is uneducated...
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April 12, 2009
Quote of the Day: Athanasius on the Destruction of Death
A very strong proof of this destruction of death and its conquest by the cross is supplied by a present fact, namely this. All the disciples of Christ despise death; they take the offensive against it and, instead of fearing it, by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as on something dead. Before the divine sojourn of the Savior, even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish. But now that the Saviour has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those...
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March 19, 2009
(Self-)Quote of the Day: A Controversial Claim for Your Consideration
Hobbes's normative theory implicitly commits him to the belief that a constitutionally limited government of the sort that would later be described by John Locke would be a paradise if only it could be achieved and maintained.
- Kenneth L. Pearce, "Deposing Leviathan: Hobbes and Locke on Grievances Against the State" (working draft)
This is the last sentence of a paper that I just finished my first draft of. (I'm running a little late - it's due tomorrow evening!) As I'm editing, I'll be taking a closer look to try to see whether I've really established a claim this strong...
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March 4, 2009
Quote of the Day: Kant Against the Objectification of Women
Kant has something of a reputation as a misogynist. This reputation is not entirely undeserved. However, in his 1775-1780 Lectures on Ethics, Kant gives voice to a line of reasoning which, at least in its general outline, will be familiar to most readers from certain strains of 20th century feminism: There is no way in which a human being can be made an Object of indulgence for another except through sexual impulse ... it is an appetite for another human being ... Because sexuality is not an inclination which one human being has for another as such, but is an...
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February 22, 2009
Quote of the Day: Why Write Political Theory?
I may be asked whether I am a prince or a legislator that I should be writing about politics. I answer no: and indeed that that is my reason for doing so. If I were a prince or a legislator I should not waste my time saying what ought to be done; I should do it and keep silent.
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- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, tr. Maurice Cranston, Introduction to Book I
January 28, 2009
Quote of the Day: Kant Smacks Down Eudaimonism With Some Greek Word Play
If this distinction [between 'pathological pleasure' and 'moral pleasure'] is not observed, if eudaimonism (the principle of happiness) is set up as the basic principle instead of eleutheronomy (the principle of the freedom of internal lawgiving), the result is the euthanasia (easy death) of all morals. (Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, tr. Mary Gregor, p. 143)
For the record, I think that, whether accidentally or intentionally, Kant radically distorts ancient eudaimonism. Eudaimonia
doesn't mean 'happiness' in the English sense of that word, which comes from 'hap', meaning 'luck' (as in 'perhaps')...
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January 9, 2009
Quote of the Day: A Summary of Berkeley's Mature Doctrine of Signs
Although the details are sketchy, Berkeley's basic point is clear: A sign may be significant not because it marks an idea, or even because it can be traced to something with which we are immediately acquainted, but because it is a working part of a system of signs that makes a genuine difference to our lives - to our thoughts, actions, and emotions. (Kenneth P. Winkler, "Berkeley and the Doctrine of Signs" in Winkler, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Berkeley, p. 151) This is Winkler's summary of Berkeley's mature "doctrine of signs" as developed in Alciphron 7. By the way,...
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November 15, 2008
Quote of the Day: Beer and Philosophy
"The claim that atoms arranged baseballwise fail to compose a baseball might be hard to swallow. But it goes down like draught Guinness compared to the claim that baseballs are simples." - Trenton Merricks, Objects and Persons, p. 63. Some context: so-called 'folk ontology' (i.e. 'commonsense' beliefs about what sorts of things there are, modified by just a bit of modern science) claims that there are a bunch of atoms bonded together in a spherical region which compose an object called a baseball. Merricks is arguing that, while all of those atoms exist, there does not exist, in addition to...
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November 10, 2008
Quote of the Day: Politics in Perspective
"The blessed Polycarp bore witness [i.e. was martyred] ... He was arrested by Herod while Philip of Tralles was high priest and Statius Quadratus was proconsul, but Jesus Christ - to whom be glory, honor, majesty and an eternal throne from generation to generation - was reigning as king forever. Amen."
- The Martyrdom of Polycarp
, ch. 21, my translation, based on Ehrman's)
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October 30, 2008
Quote of the Day: Berkeley's Own Summary of the Argument from Representational Realism to Skepticism
In a previous post, I summarized Berkeley's argument against representational realism. I just came across a very good passage in the Dialogues where Berkeley himself gives a summary of his argument that representational realism leads to unpalatable skeptical consequences: It is your opinion, the ideas we perceive by our senses are not real things, but images, or copies of them. Our knowledge therefore is no farther real, than our ideas are the true representations of those originals. But as these supposed originals are themselves unknown it is impossible to know how far our ideas resemble them; or whether they resemble...
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October 17, 2008
Quote of the Day: Why do Relativists Write Books?
The sophist Protagoras of Abdera
(c. 490-420 BC) wrote a book entitled Truth
(which does not survive) in which he argued that 'man is the measure of all things;' an early form of relativism. In Plato's Theaetetus
, Socrates gives the following review of Protagoras' book: Well, I was delighted with his general statement of the theory that a thing is for any individual what it seems to him to be; but I was astonished at the way he began. I was astonished that he did not state at the beginning of the Truth
that 'Pig is the measure of all things'...
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September 26, 2008
Quote of the Day: Appearances and Judgments About Appearances
And when we question whether the underlying object is such as it appears, we grant the fact that it appears, and our doubt does not concern the appearance itself but the account given of that appearance, - and that is a different thing from questioning the appearance itself. For example, honey appears to us to be sweet (and this we grant, for we perceive sweetness through the senses), but whether it is also sweet in its essence is for us a matter of doubt, since this is not an appearance, but a judgement regarding the appearance. (Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of...
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September 21, 2008
Quote of the Day: Plato on Opinion and Knowledge
Following up on the last post, I thought it would be helpful to go back to Plato to provide another view on the subject. Socrates and Meno are discussing the nature of virtue, whether it is a form of knowledge, and whether it can be taught: SOCRATES: So true opinion is in no way a worse guide to correct action than knowledge. It is this that we omitted in our investigation of the nature of virtue, when we said that only knowledge can lead to correct action, for true opinion can do so also. ... MENO: That appears to be...
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August 30, 2008
Quote(s) of the Day: A Pair of Responses to van Inwagen's "Body Snatching" Account of the Resurrection
Peter van Inwagen famously argued in his 1978 paper "The Possibility of Resurrection" that the only way God can bring a dead person back to life is to raise the very same body. However, if the body has decayed or been cremated, then it doesn't exist to be raised. Therefore, van Inwagen reasons, if Christianity is true, God must, at the moment of death (or immediately prior) surreptitiously remove the dead/dying body and spirit it away somewhere, replacing it with a simulacrum. Otherwise, there could be no afterlife. Unsurprisingly, this has met with some "incredulous stares." Here are a couple...
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May 3, 2008
Quote of the Day: Plato on Knowing that You Don't Know
THEAETETUS: Well, do you see what we're looking for?
VISITOR: I think I see a large, difficult type of ignorance marked off from the others and overshadowing all of them.
THEAETETUS: What's it like?
VISITOR: Not knowing, but thinking that you know. That's what probably causes all the mistakes we make when we think.
THEAETETUS: That's true.
VISITOR: And furthermore it's the only kind of ignorance that's called lack of learning.
VISITOR: Well then, what should we call the part of teaching that gets rid of it?
THEAETETUS: The other part consists in the teaching of crafts, I think, but here in Athens we call this one education...
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March 20, 2008
Quote of the Day: A Hymn for Maundy Thursday
At the Lamb's high feast we sing
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Praise to our victorious King,
Who hath washed us in the tide
Flowing from his pierced side;
Praise we him whose love divine
Gives his sacred blood for wine,
Gives his body for the feast,
Christ the Victim, Christ the Priest.
March 7, 2008
Quote of the Day: Chrysostom on Private Scripture Reading
I desire to ask one favor of you all, before I touch on the words of the Gospel; do not you refuse my request, for I ask nothing heavy or burdensome, nor, if granted, will it be useful only to me who receive, but also to you who grant it, and perhaps far more to you. What then is it that I require of you? That each of you take in hand that section of the Gospels which is to be read among you on the first day of the week, or even on the Sabbath, and before the day...
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February 16, 2008
Quote of the Day: Schopenhauer on the Absurdity of Materialism
The objective method [i.e. the method of philosophy which starts from the object and proceeds to the subject] can be developed most consistently and carried farthest when it appears as materialism proper. It regards matter, and with it time and space, as existing absolutely, and passes over the relation to the subject in which alone all this exists. Further, it lays hold of the law of causality as the guiding line on which it tries to progress, taking it to be a self-existing order or arrangement of things, veritas aeterna, and consequently passing over the understanding, in which and for...
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January 3, 2008
Quote of the Day: Some People Will Believe Anything
Sometimes the claims invented to support a theory in trouble are just rationalizations. I recently met a lively group of people standing in the aisle on a flight from London to Toronto. They said hello and asked me where I was coming from, and when I told them I was returning from a cosmology conference, they immediately asked my view on evolution. "Oh no," I thought, and proceeded to tell them that natural selection had been proved true beyond a doubt. They introduced themselves as members of a Bible college on the way back from a mission to Africa, one...
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November 29, 2007
Quote of the Day: Schopenhauer on The History of Idealism
Now as, notwithstanding the transitory, isolated nature of our representations with respect to their immediate presence in our consciousness, the Subject nevertheless retains the representation of an all-comprehensive complex of reality, as described above, by means of the function of the Understanding; representations have, on the strength of this antithesis, been viewed, as something quite different when belonging to that complex than when considered with reference to their immediate presence in our consciousness ... This view of matter, which is the ordinary one, is known under the name Realism. On the appearance of modern philosophy, Idealism opposed itself to this...
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May 24, 2007
Quote(s) of the Day: Selections From Berkeley's Letter to Sir John James
In the course of a bit of research on Berkeley's views on the epistemology of religion, I have just come across a little letter Berkeley wrote to one Sir John James, dated June 7, 1741. James was, apparently, an Anglican living in Boston who was considering converting to Roman Catholicism. While for some reason (perhaps because he was Irish) Berkeley is often mistakenly believed to have been a member of the Roman Catholic Church, he was, in fact, a member of the clergy of the Church of England, and wrote against Roman Catholicism on a number of occasions, this being...
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May 11, 2007
Quote of the Day
I am no feminist (my wife will confirm my impeccable Neanderthal credentials); I have strong views on women's ordination; but I am saddened by the way Reformed church culture so often tramples its women underfoot with its mindless identification of biblical manhood with something akin to John Wayne and its assumption that all Christian women should make Mary Poppins look domestically incompetent. - Carl Trueman, Reformation21.
I'm not sure where these attitudes come from...
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April 24, 2007
Quote of the Day
"We now have almost as many definitions of heresy and orthodoxy as there are denominations ... Now I can be fundamentalist, orthodox, heretical, and an atheist all at the same time. Just ask my critics!" - Henry Neufeld
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February 28, 2007
Quote of the Day: Augustine on Reading the Bible in Translation
An important antidote to the ignorance of literal signs is the knowledge of languages. Users o the Latin language - and it is these that I have now undertaken to instruct - need two others, Hebrew and Greek, for an understanding of the divine scriptures, so that recourse may be had to the original versions if any uncertainty arises from the infinite variety of Latin translators ... There are certain words in particular languages which just cannot be translated into the idioms of another language. This is especially true of interjections, which signify emotion rather than an element of clearly...
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February 7, 2007
Quote of the Day: A Puzzle About Infinity
The following is from William Lane Craig's "The Existence of God and the Beginning of the Universe"
. It is part of the defense of premise 2.11 of his version of the kalam
cosmological argument, which says that "an actual infinite cannot exist:" Perhaps the best way to bring home the truth of (2.11) is by means of an illustration. Let me use one of my favorites, Hilbert's Hotel, a product of the mind of the great German mathematician, David Hilbert. Let us imagine a hotel with a finite number of rooms. Suppose, furthermore, that all the rooms are full.
When a new guest arrives asking for a room, the proprietor apologizes, "Sorry, all the rooms are full." But now let us imagine a hotel with an infinite number of rooms and suppose once more that all the rooms are full...
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January 24, 2007
Quote of the Day
"Conservatives have a pretty strong hold on the Southern Baptist Convention right now ... They are not the sort of people who react well to people dancing with joy at the suffering of others, but mostly because it involves dancing." - Jeff the Baptist
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January 17, 2007
Quote of the Day
Philosophy of religion, I believe, is best viewed as a process of critical dialog... Such a critical dialog is risky. Probably everyone has heard a story of a student in a strict religious environment who loses his faith as a result of the critical challenges hurled at him at a university. But there is something unhealthy and even dishonest about a faith which hides from such a challenge. Can one really believe in God wholeheartedly and at the same time assert that one can only continue to believe by refusing to consider the evidence against one's belief? Such a "belief"...
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January 1, 2007
Quote of the Day
"For when two things are raised by one and the same exertion, the lesser quantity will invariably yield more readily and the greater (which offers more resistance) less readily, to the force applied." - Plato (tr. Donald J. Zeyl), Timaeus
So what you're saying is that an object's acceleration is directly proportional the force applied and inversely proportional to its mass. Didn't some other
guy get famous for saying that? Hmm...
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December 6, 2006
Quote of the Day
"There are a few things wrong with this argument, the first being its incoherence." - Justice David Souter on the Bush administration's legal reasoning (or lack thereof).
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November 1, 2006
Quote of the Day
ALCIPHRON: ... But what apology can be made for nonsense, crude nonsense? ... Look here, said he, opening a Bible, in the forty-ninth Psalm : ... "Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the wickedness of my heels shall compass me about?" The iniquity of my heels! What nonsense after such a solemn introduction! EUPHRANOR: For my own part, I have naturally weak eyes, and know there are many things that I cannot see, which are nevertheless distinctly seen by others. I do not therefore conclude a thing to be absolutely invisible, because it is so to...
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May 13, 2006
What's a Fundamentalist?
Reported without comment: According to Alvin Plantinga, "on the most common contemporary academic use of the term," the word 'fundamentalist' means "stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine." (HT: Chrisendom)...
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April 17, 2006
Quote of the Day
"For tell me, if you saw any two persons, one naked, one having a garment, and then having stripped the one that had the garment, thou wert to clothe the naked, wouldest thou not have committed an injustice? It is surely plain to every one. But if when thou hast given all that thou hast taken to another, thou hast committed an injustice, and not shown mercy; when thou givest not even a small portion of what thou robbest, and callest the deed alms, what manner of punishment wilt thou not undergo?" - St. John Chryosostom (Patriarch of Constantinople, c....
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November 29, 2005
Quote of the Day
"We know that while there have been, on the one hand, able philosophers who recognized nothing except what is material in the universe, there are, on the other hand, learned and zealous theologians who, shocked at the corpuscular philosophy and not content with checking it's misuse, have felt obliged to maintain tha tthere are phenomena in nature which cannot be explained by mechanical principles; as for example, light, weight, and elastic force. But since they do not reason with exactness in this matter, and it is easy for the corpuscular philosophers to reply to them, they injure religion in trying...
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