Saturday, October 31, 2015

Firewood and Philosopher in a Small Town

I have spent several days the past couple weeks with the family cutting, splitting, and hauling firewood.  There is not much more satisfying, raw, physical labor if you ask me.  Getting the kids involved is now half of the joy.  The other half is being in God's country practicing basic survival skills necessary for the animal half of the rational animal.

As a youth, part of me enjoyed this same labor in which my kids are now participating.  But the animal part hated it, since it was a diversion from doing what boys do when not being made to work, grow up, and be a man.

Alive and well doing good work.  And to think that I'm pitied by academics like this!

I'm tempted to return the pity in kind.  But it's Saturday, and there is football on TV in this small town.  And I'm dog tired as they say.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Go PC On Halloween!

Not sure what to wear for Halloween?  Go PC!
From the government website  (This means that people have been forced to pay taxes for this or go to jail.)  Hilarious isn't it?!  What will they think of next!


Halloween may be dark and spooky, but you can bring some (renewable) energy to the party as a sleek, shiny photovoltaic solar panel. Just cover the cardboard with cellophane, secure the edges with duct tape, draw on a grid of silver contacts, and presto! You’re a critical piece ofAmerica’s clean energy future and the fight against climate change. Wear your sunglasses at night for added sustainable swagger, but please, resist the urge to climb onto any rooftops.
BONUS: Have a friend dress up as the Sun and spend the night basking in his or her glow.
  • Cardboard
  • Dark blue or black cellophane
  • Silver permanent marker
  • Duct tape
  • String


You are a creature of the night. You lurk in the shadows, draining the power of the unwary. No energy bill is safe! Far scarier than the stuff of Dracula or Twilight, energy vampires are home appliances and electronic devices that suck electricity even when they aren’t in use. This Halloween, unplug all the unused phone chargers in your house and attach them to yourself for a costume that will fill your friends with terror while saving you money.
  • Black cape
  • Plastic fangs
  • Lots and lots of charging cords
  • Tape


Afraid to wear white after Labor Day? Don’t worry -- clean energy never goes out of style. For this majestic costume, cut out three “blades” from a piece of foam poster board and attach one to each of your arms. Cut a hole for your face in the third, and wear white clothes or an old sheet to complete the look. You won’t produce electricity, but at least you’ll generate conversations wherever you go, so why not impress your friends with the fact that U.S. wind energy prices reached all-time lows in 2014, or that wind could provide up to 35% of the nation’s power by 2050?
BONUS: Add inflatable ankle floats or an inner tube to take your turbine offshore!
  • Foam poster board
  • White clothes/sheet
  • Scissors/knife
  • Tape

New Political Saying

By hook or by Hillary

Another: Spends justify the means.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Church Sign in Town

Several days later...

The Rogers must feel loved (and perhaps liked...a few days ago).

Can one be loved without being liked?  It seems so.  I could love you in the sense of promoting your well-being without liking you.  If I love my enemies, I can will to promote their good even if I do not like my enemies (because, for instance, they are evil and unjustly desire my destruction.)

Can one be liked without being loved?  This is less clear, but, again, there seems to be a type of love which admits of a lack when one is liked.  Perhaps I like you because you are friendly and have amiable qualities, but I do not will your well-being.  Maybe even though I like you, I am selfish and care more about myself than you. Or perhaps I am confused and, even though I have a loving affection towards you, I fail due to ignorance to act in a way which promotes your well-being.  You are liked but not loved (at least according to my outward actions.)

Much more can be said. At any rate, better to be liked and loved than either liked or loved (in the exclusive sense of "or".)

Is Molinism Compatible With Human Free Will?

Molinism (or the thesis of Middle Knowledge) is the view that God knows the future by knowing his middle knowledge in conjunction with God's free knowledge of his own (contingent) actions.  His middle knowledge is knowledge of subjunctive conditionals of the form "If x were in circumstance C, then x would freely do A."

Like God's natural knowledge--his knowledge of what is possible, necessary, and impossible--God's middle knowledge is logically prior to his decision to create (or actualize) this world.  But like God's free knowledge, middle knowledge is of contingently true propositions.

Here is an example of how God knows the future on the basis of middle knowledge:

1. God knows that if Eve were placed in the garden, she would freely eat the fruit.
2. God knows that he creates a world in which Eve is placed in the garden.
3. God deduces that Eve will eat the fruit.*

Now suppose we understand free will to be incompatible with determinism and define a free action as follows:
An action A is free in circumstance C if and only if it is elicited by an agent G in C and G is not causally determined to elicit A.
Then Molinism is compatible with human free actions.  For God creates circumstances in which agents such as Eve elicit an action (e.g. an intention or other act of will), but God and other agents (or events) do not causally determine that the action is elicited--rather Eve exercises her will of her own accord.

But suppose we add that the future is open to Eve such that there are two possible futures open to Eve at some time T.  In one possible future at T, Eve freely eats the fruit; in another possible future Eve freely refrains from eating the fruit.  That is, we think that a free action is defined as follows:
An action A at time T in circumstance C is free if and only if it is elicited by an agent G, G is not causally determined to elicit A, and at T in C, G has the ability to refrain from willing A or to will some other action B.

Then Molinism is incompatible with human free will. For on the Molinist understanding God is able to know what G would freely do in C and there is only one free action G would do if C were actual.  That is, there is no other possible circumstance C wherein G freely refrains from A or elicits some other action B.  There are not two possible futures open to G where, in the exact same circumstances G freely wills A in C but freely refrains or wills B in C.  If A were to refrain or will B in C, A would be causally determined to do so.

So is Molinism incompatible with free will?  If free will requires that one have a power such that alternative possibilities are open to one in virtue of having that power then the answer is, no.

*  If God is atemporal it is difficult to see how God could have foreknowledge, properly speaking, according to Molinism.  God would have B-theory knowledge--for instance he would know that Rome's burning precedes Obama getting elected president in the ordered sequence of events--but God would not have knowledge at Rome's burning that Obama will be elected president.

If God is temporal then he would have genuine foreknowledge.  He would have it on the basis of his middle knowledge and quasi-perceptual knowledge that such and such time is now and such and such later time is in the future with respect to the present.

Monday, October 26, 2015

A Clinton News Network Falsehood

Andrew McCarthy has recently written on the falsehood (and outright lying) perpetuated by the Obama administration that the Benghazi attack was a spontaneous event in reaction to an anti-Muslim video.

But let us not forget another falsehood perpetuated by Obama, Candy Crowley, and to this day still defended by CNN here.  To recount the facts, in a very important moment in a debate between Romney and Obama, Romney claimed that Obama did not say the day after the attack that it was a terrorist attack as Obama claimed in the debate.  (Rather, the Obama administration continued to insinuate that it was a spontaneous attack precipitated by a video which we know to be false; it took two weeks to call it an act of terror according to Romney.)  Candy Crowley then, in a shameful display of partisanship, inserted herself into the debate defending Obama saying that the transcript does affirm that Obama called it an act of terror and that Romney was wrong.  Well, now it's two against one and Romney is flummoxed before the national audience and does not know what to say.  Then the conversation gets diverted.  This was a devastating part of the debate for Romney and victory for Obama thanks to Candy Crowley.

So what did Obama actually say?  Here is CNN from the second link above:

Is Recycling a Waste?

It's been about twenty years since John Tierney's famous article on recycling challenging the commonly accepted narrative.  Here he reflects on changes since he wrote the article.


IF you live in the United States, you probably do some form of recycling. It’s likely that you separate paper from plastic and glass and metal. You rinse the bottles and cans, and you might put food scraps in a container destined for a composting facility. As you sort everything into the right bins, you probably assume that recycling is helping your community and protecting the environment. But is it? Are you in fact wasting your time?

One of the original goals of the recycling movement was to avert a supposed crisis because there was no room left in the nation’s landfills. But that media-inspired fear was never realistic in a country with so much open space. In reporting the 1996 article I found that all the trash generated by Americans for the next 1,000 years would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing. And that tiny amount of land wouldn’t be lost forever, because landfills are typically covered with grass and converted to parkland, like the Freshkills Park being created on Staten Island. The United States Open tennis tournament is played on the site of an old landfill — and one that never had the linings and other environmental safeguards required today. 

Then why do so many public officials keep vowing to do more of it? Special-interest politics is one reason — pressure from green groups — but it’s also because recycling intuitively appeals to many voters: It makes people feel virtuous, especially affluent people who feel guilty about their enormous environmental footprint. It is less an ethical activity than a religious ritual, like the ones performed by Catholics to obtain indulgences for their sins.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Reformation Sunday

Wittenberg Door
I can't say I always agree with Stanley Hauerwas but I find myself mostly in agreement with this below:

I must begin by telling you that I do not like to preach on Reformation Sunday. Actually I have to put it more strongly than that. I do not like Reformation Sunday, period. I do not understand why it is part of the church year. Reformation Sunday does not name a happy event for the Church Catholic; on the contrary, it names failure. Of course, the church rightly names failure, or at least horror, as part of our church year. We do, after all, go through crucifixion as part of Holy Week. Certainly if the Reformation is to be narrated rightly, it is to be narrated as part of those dark days.

Friday, October 23, 2015


In Earl Conee and Ted Sider's Riddles of Existence: A Guided Tour of Metaphysics, Chapter Six: Free Will and Determinism, towards the beginning they say
Here is a fact: every event has a cause.  This fact is known as determinism.
A little internet searching and one can find a few others defining determinism in this way.  But that definition seems to me odd.  For one, simply having a cause is not sufficient for an event to be determined, for it is broadly logically possible that an event might have a contributory cause but no necessitating cause.

The common definition of determinism is not that every event has a cause, rather it is the following: For any event or state of affairs, given some event E or state of affairs S at time T1 and the laws of nature, another event E2 or S2 must (nomologically) occur or (in the case of states of affairs) obtain. 

This definition (or something close to it) is what compatibilists have in mind when they say that free will is compatible with determinism.  This definition also leaves open that the first event (or initial state of affairs) has no cause, which Conee and Sider's definition does not, and so has the virtue of being consistent with what many determinists actually believe, namely that determinism holds in our universe even if there is no cause of the first event. 

Their statement above is also problematic because of the claim that determinism is a known fact.  Kant spends a good deal of the Critique of Pure Reason trying to establish that every event has a cause (as do others recently such as Alexander Pruss in The Principle of Sufficient Reason.)  If it is a known fact (I think it is a fact) it is certainly not the sort of known fact to be included in an introductory philosophical work stated as a known fact.  Especially when it is stated as determinism.  Determinism, properly defined, is certainly not a known fact.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

All-Gender Bathrooms on Campus

A reader sends a link to more lunacy from bastions of higher indoctrination.
In an effort to further erode traditional sex and gender norms accommodate members of a diverse University community, several River Campus restrooms have been reassigned as all-gender. To date, 16 restrooms have been converted to provide single-stall, all-gender accessibility, and University Facilities and Services is currently evaluating other single-use type restrooms that may similarly be converted in future months.
John Cullen, coordinator of outreach for the Susan B. Anthony Center, noted that the LGBTQQIAAPG Advocacy Committee formed this past spring to provide leadership on enhancing the LGBTQQIAAPG climate at the University was very instrumental in moving this initiative forward. And this past spring semester, the Students’ Association Government adopted Resolution 13, which advocated in part for individuals of all gender identities and expressions to have access to safe and inclusive restrooms.
Apparently Rochester didn't get the memo from the University of Toronto.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

If I Had a Nickel...

...for every time I needed a nickel, I would never need a nickel.

Or would I?  And might I?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Extreme Democratic Socialists

This is not a direct quotation
A few days ago, Keith-Burgess Jackson wrote, commenting on a letter to the editor from David Stout who remarked that the Republican party is being taken over by a religion of right-wing extremists:
The letter writer has it exactly backward. It's progressivism, rather than conservatism, that has become a religion in this country. Moreover, the Democrat Party has long since been "taken over by left-wing extremists." The Republican Party is simply trying to figure out how to counter these extremists. Think of it this way: David Stout and his ilk are driving a bulldozer through American society, destroying everything in the bulldozer's path preparatory to rebuilding society according to a progressive blueprint. Republicans are trying to figure out how to stop the bulldozer before it destroys everything. Here and there, they throw up an obstruction that impedes the bulldozer's movement. David Stout is so convinced of his rectitude that he views these protesters as extremists. "Why would anyone want to stop us? Don't they know that we are in the right? Don't they realize that we are trying to make the world a better place for all concerned?" The dogmatism of progressives is shocking and dangerous.
I couldn't say it better myself.  Of course it's a bald faced lie that it is the Republicans who have become ideological extremists, unless we want to say that the Founders were also right-wing extremists (or if we mean by "change" a Cambridge Change).  They would have laughed Democrats out of the building if they were told that gays can (really and not merely by some legal definition) enter into a marriage, let alone that a Constitutional Amendment about slavery would strip every single state of a right to decide who can be legally married.  They would have been shocked that no state can ban abortions and at the Democratic platform's extreme view that there be no restrictions on abortion whatsoever. They would have been astonished at the vast, federal bureaucracy with its tentacles protruding into every facet of life, the massive expansion of presidential power and cabinets, etc.    And it's never enough for Democrats!  That's why to win a nomination today you either have to identify as a socialist (democrat) or try to be even further left of him, as Hillary has recently with gun control.

According to this report about a recent Gallup poll, the Democratic party has moved much more to the left ideologically than Republicans to the right in the last fifteen years:
Gallup's annual Values and Beliefs poll shows that 47% of Democrats today say they are socially liberal and moderate to liberal on economic issues. That's up from 30% who said so in 2001. Just 18% of Democrats now say they are social and economic moderates.  A separate Gallup report , meanwhile, finds that while Democrats have become far more liberal on social issues (going from 35% liberal in 2001 to 53% liberal today), Republicans have become slightly less conservative in their views over the past several years.
And while the share of Republicans who describe themselves as conservative on economic issues is virtually the same now as in 2001, a third of Democrats say they are economic liberals, up from 24%.
More reading:

Now, Donald Trump might be a clown, but his brand of showman populism doesn’t rest on any coherent ideology. Certainly in most ways it doesn’t represent the party. Bernie Sanders, though, who in a smaller field of Democrats can claim to be far more successful in his party, brings with him an ideology that has a long track record. Yet, what major player on the Left has voiced concern that an extremist is running strongly in a dominant American political party — or, for that matter, that most Democrats are starting to sound just like him?

Friday, October 16, 2015


Question everything, including that you should question everything.

"Can I Prove I'm not Delusional?"

Not a case of delusion; instead it's a case where people with properly functioning faculties are in a cognitive environment uncongenial for producing true beliefs (i.e. hooked into the Matrix).  But a great film nonetheless which raises the question of global skepticism. 
Jay asks whether I can prove I'm not delusional.  Presumably he has in mind whether one can prove that one is not delusional (and he's not wondering whether I'm delusional).

What it is to prove something?  In one sense it is to give a proof--to give an argument.  Here is an argument that I am not delusional:

I am not delusional.
Thus, I am not delusional.

The argument is valid (p, thus p).  And if the first premise is true then the argument is also sound.  But of course it begs the question.  What one would like is a sound (or cogent) argument the premises of which are (at least initially) more obvious than the conclusion.

Can any such proof be given?  I wouldn't know what the proof would be.

Someone who is (seriously) delusional has cognitive faculties which are unreliable in forming true beliefs.  A seriously delusional person might believe that he is an egg, that the earth is the sky, that 2+2=5, that his cognitive faculties are functioning properly when indeed they are not, etc.

Suppose one tried the following inductive argument:
1. Yesterday I saw a building.
2. The day before I saw the same building.
3. The day before that I saw the same building.
8.  My friend Jack tells me he saw the same building.
9.  My friend Jill reports that there is a building in that very location.
15. So my faculty of sight is properly functioning.

But a problem arises.  In 1-3 I am assuming that my faculty of sight is working properly.  In 8-9 I am assuming that my faculty of testimony is functioning properly.   (Moreover, in presenting an argument I assume that my faculty of inference is reliable.) Of course I could use my faculties of touch and smell to validate that my faculty of sight is reliable.  But then I enter into an epistemic circle assuming one sense faculty is reliable in proving that the others are reliable. In short, in giving any proof that I am not delusional I must tacitly assume that at least some segment of my cognitive faculties are functioning properly.

The question is whether this sort of circularity is malignant or benign.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

General Disclaimer about Facebook Shares

Hear ye, hear ye.

Let it be known forthwith to all of sound mind and body (or at least partially sound mind) that any Facebook share from this source is not necessarily something that I believe is either a necessary or contingent truth, in whole or in part.  If I share something, I might believe that what I share is false but think that it provides an interesting social commentary due to its source and falsity; I might think that it is merely possibly true or that it might be true; I might think that it is mostly true or entirely true.  So the interested reader might need to inquire further and not believe simply on the basis of my authority (an authority to which I am not in the habit of appealing.)  This proclamation applies retroactively.  Interested readers who disagree, who agree but generally dislike me and have a penchant for an ad hominem, or who like me but enjoy giving me hell are free to leave questions or comments in the comments section.  (This also applies to Twitter retweets mutatis mutandis).

Tully Borland, on the Day of our Lord fifteen and two-thousand years, on the fifteenth day of the tenth month.

All posts and shares also come with the following:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Media Plague

The Plague:
"Two cuts with the scalpel in the form of a cross and the glands discharged a mixture of pus and blood.  The patients bled, in agony.  Dark patches appeared on the belly and the legs, a lymph node would cease to suppurate, then it swelled up again. More often than not, the patient died, with an appalling smell about him."
"The press, which had had so much to say about the business of the [plague of infected] rats, fell silent.  This is because rats die in the street and people in their bedrooms; and newspapers are only concerned with the street."

Camus is a careful observer here.  The press is concerned with the streets and not with the bedroom, or more literally, with the soul.  The press is generally concerned with the social and political.  The solutions to problems thus tend to be structural.  Hence (for example) the ubiquitous claims of structural racism (which is rarely defined).

On the conservative understanding, the problems start with the soul.  The main root of societal dysfunction stems from individual choice.  No doubt, structural changes (e.g. changes in law) can have a positive effect on the soul and thus society more generally, but the structural cause is secondary and not primary.  The primary cause of societal ills starts in the bedroom.  And so the press tends to focus our attention on surface solutions (such as changes in laws.)

If one wants to change society for the better, one needs to read more than the news and politics. Moreover, one needs to do more than read.  One needs to embark on soul formation.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Progressive Insurance

I'll never get Progressive's insurance out of principle.

One needs insurance for it not from it: progressive insurance for progressive assurance.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Great Paper Abstract

I doubt this is legit (the source is a legitimate publishing website but you can't download the paper which makes me suspicious), but this paper looks promising.

Can Philosophy Be Justified in a Time of Crisis?

Nathan J Robinson 

Harvard University

September 3, 2015


In this paper, I take the position that a large portion of contemporary academic work is an appalling waste of human intelligence that cannot be justified under any mainstream normative ethics. Part I builds a four-step argument for why this is the case, while Part II responds to arguments for the contrary position offered in Cass Sunstein’s “In Defense of Law Reviews.” First, in Part I(A), I make the case that there is a large crisis of suffering in the world today. (Part I does not take me very long.). In Part I(B), I assess various theories of “the role of the intellectual,” concluding that the only role for the intellectual is for the intellectual to cease to exist. In Part I(C), I assess the contemporary state of the academy, showing that, contrary to the theory advanced in Part I(B), many intellectuals insist on continuing to exist. In Part I(D), I propose a new path forward, whereby present-day intellectuals take on a useful social function by spreading truths that help to alleviate the crisis of suffering outlined in Part I(A).

Philosophers by Subject Area

Here.  This is more or less what I expected.  Even though areas like medical ethics are fairly popular in graduate school these days, almost all programs have to teach history, metaphysics, and ethics.  I'm surprised that analytic philosophy is so high, but perhaps that category is broad and not "history of analytic" (Russell, Moore, Frege, etc.)