Friday, December 07, 2007

More Romney on Religion

All religions are fine

Only atheists suck

The rejection of all religions is itself a religion

But, um, that religion does suck (See above)


So, if secularism is just a different kind of religion, I'm wondering whether vegetarians are just a different kind of carnivore?

Anyway, if I'm religious all of a sudden in virtue of my atheism, are Christians finally going to get off my back about it?

146 Comments:

Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Secularism-agnosticism-atheism. Not all the same thing. Not to mention the latest strain, anti-theism, which insists on the exile of all religious belief from the public square, and is the most intolerant of all, and is itself an enemy of the pluralism that this country was founded on.

That said, I think Romney's arguments are clumsy at best. I know what he's trying to say, but he sounds like some scary alien from the planet Kolob to people who know nothing about what's outside their own secular intellectual ghetto.

2:02 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Wrote a long reply, but then remembered it isn't worth it. Nothing here substantial enough to respond to.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

If you went to the trouble of composing a long reply, there was something substantial enough to respond to. Why you didn't post it remains a separate question.

Does the free secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee? This question expresses a doubt about whether the democratic constitutional state can renew from its own resources the normative presuppositions of its existence, it also expresses the assumption that such a state is dependent on ethical traditions of a local nature.---Habermas

So fine, respond to him. If you do a decent enough job, soon you'll be influencing the world, as he has.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Nope. What you assert does not follow. Upon composing the message I realized there was no need for it.

One difference between you and me, Tom, is that I don't think I have to respond to every single thing you write...

And if you actually read that Habermas quote, you'll see there's not much to respond to. It's a question, and then one brief claim about what the question presupposes.

It DOES presuppose the existence of some doubt, that that's trivial, and not the point of the quote.

The rest is clearly false.

H writes: "it [the question] also expresses the assumption that such a state is dependent on ethical traditions of a local nature."

But that is false. The question does not express any such assumption. It doesn't express any presupposition either way about what provides the normative foundation of the state. It asks a question about what does, without presupposing or even suggesting any particular answer.

The view that the state depends on "ethical traditions of a local nature" is just one--one very weird, very specific, very postmodern--view about the source of political normativity. This view is in no way presupposed by the relevant question. Not close. Not in any way. He's actually SO wrong there that there's nothing else you can say about it--he's not missing some minor point, he's just said something that's not even close to being right.

So, the one claim that can be evaluated there is not only false, but not even close to being true.

In my "secular intellectual ghetto," we usually demand much better than that from claims we're going to spend time evaluating.

And do try to be a little more insulting with your next series of comments, o.k.?

4:37 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Sorry. I was still bleeding from your screed on the moral inferiority of conservatives.

I don't see any point in deconstructing Habermas' quote without context to his body of work, which I thought you might be familiar with, given that he's kind of Kantian and extremely influential. What he's referring to there as "local" is the West's Judeo-Christian milieu.

And the "normative presuppositions" are a grounding for human rights in the essential nature, worth and dignity of man, something that Habermas realizes and admits the moderns have never quite got to.


One difference between you and me, Tom, is that I don't think I have to respond to every single thing you write...


Sure you do. "I'm too busy to respond, but your argument is BS." Hey, save us both the trouble. This discussion is all over the country right now, and has been one of the most pressing ones in the West for over 50 years.

If you want to sit it out in your bunker, that's OK. I'd just hoped you had something to add, since you've burned 2 Romney posts and the one on the Pope this week on this very subject.

4:51 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Tom, I can just see you going on some long pointless red herring filled rant about this, so really, all you need to say if you think Habermas is right is how his question presupposes that the state depends on ethical traditions of a local nature for political normativity.

I see no reason to think that the question "Does the free secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee?" somehow implies that the state is dependent on local ethical traditions.

Do you? PLEASE don't rant for pages pointlessly. Just answer the question - how is it that that question implies what Habermas suggests it implies? Habermas seems to be full of BS with that quote of his.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, please, stop with the ankle-biting. My reading is that he's making it an either/or. Either what is recognizably a decent society in western eyes [liberal, democratic, guarantor of individual rights, etc.] requires a God who endows rights, or a cultural milieu that believes that it is so.

In which case there's no practical difference.

And no, I have no rant in mind. Whatever questions I would raise, I'm sure Habermas does it better, and can pass a more formal scrutiny.

Neither is agreement on answers necessary, just that the questions are legitimate to ask. Because we're all asking them, theist and nontheist alike.

"Post-secular" is a very relevant term here. Habermas is trying to move beyond the truth claims of religion, particularly Judeo-Christianity, to see if there's still a role for it, perhaps an invaluable one.

5:28 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Don't flatter yourself, Tom. Your comments are getting more and more troll-like.

I know you're suddenly in love with Habermas since he said something nice about the Pope once, but, again, H saying it doesn't make it so. I'm familiar enough with his work--though I DO love your frequent intimations of your philosophical superiority.

Once again you are offering a red herring, in the form of a ploy I really love--the appeal to context. No appeal to the "body of H's work" affects the points I make above. H is simply wrong--the question he cites does not presuppose what he asserts that it does. Period. Almost any undergraduate philosophy major would see that.

But let's cut to the chase. Your next claim is that:
'the "normative presuppositions" are a grounding for human rights in the essential nature, worth and dignity of man, something that Habermas realizes and admits the moderns have never quite got to.'

Uh...the moderns "never quite got to" this question?? Surely you jest. The question at issue is something like an obsession of modern philosophers. But probably you mean that they never generated a view that's uncontroversially true. But then neither did the ancients, nor the Christians, nor the Buddhists, nor anybody else.

The fundamental error people fall into here is to phrase the question like so: "how can we defend morality and the moral foundations of the state without God?" But the most important point to recognize is this: adding God doesn't help. The question "How can we defend morality and the moral foundations of the state WITH God?" is every bit as difficult, and every bit as unanswered. As a matter of fact, no plausible answer to the question includes any essential role for God. Again: God is irrelevant to the foundations of morality.

Theists make the mistake of believing that God can wave his magic wand and solve the problems of philosophy. But 2500 years of thinking about this has shown us that it isn't true. Even if God said "The presuppositions of the state are justified," this would not make it so, for very well-known reasons. Roughly: either God's assertion is itself justified...in which case there is already a reason why the claim is so, therefore the state is already justified before God's assertion (hence his assertion is irrelevant)...or else it *isn't* already justified, in which case God merely saying it won't help. Saying so doesn't make it so, even for God. This has been clear since the _Euthyphro_.

So:
1. The Habermas quote: undergraduate error. (He's a smart guy; this is, no doubt, atypical.)
2. The appeal to H's other work doesn't change that, nor anything else of significance here.
3. Furthermore, that appeal is just an assertion of a position, not an argument.
4. Christians have no more resources for defending morality and the state than atheists.
5. Christians have never succeeded in offering any better justifications of the state than atheists.
6. So repeated assertions that atheists can't do it, as a way of suggesting that theists are better off in this regard (because they *can*) are predicated on a fatal error.

And how about a little more condescension next time?

8:32 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

When I seem to have to start from scratch about issues and arguments that are well-known throughout the western world, and a referential quote is parsed on its own terms instead of its far larger context, it's difficult not to be condescending because it's hard to tell if folks are being disingenuous or if they're genuinely ignorant of the arguments. I honestly don't know if people are being intentionally difficult. But I'll try to suck it up and would appreciate the return of the favor.

The fundamental error people fall into here is to phrase the question like so: "how can we defend morality and the moral foundations of the state without God?"

Yes, that would be an error, especially "defend," altho related questions are quite proper. The very first quote, from George Washington concedes that morality is possible without God, the only question being how many people are capable of it. That not all people are cut out for philosophy is a thought that goes back to Plato, and our own doings here indicate that it might be true.

My interest in Habermas goes back aways, since he's the favorite philosopher of a lefty friend of mine. He started as a Marxist and remains, as far as I can tell, a gentleman of the left. Altho I of course disagree with him on many of his provisional answers, he asks all the right questions, and I admire him greatly.

And that he sat down for a public discussion with the future Pope Benedict speaks volumes of his philosophical authenticity, that the search for truth is paramount. It is unfair to sniff at Benedict as if he were Jerry Falwell.

As for atheism's role in political philosophy, Habermas questions whether it's up to the task of replacing a religious ethos in gluing a society/republic together, and I think it's quite valid to question that. For one thing, Habermas believes that there's a "space" between society and government, where we discuss things about each, both, and their interplay with each other. Ethos occupies that space, otherwise a society is only the sum of its laws.

Habermas' use of the word "normative" is key here---it's easy to imagine that we can become so pluralistic that "normative presuppositions" cease to exist at all. Can a society cohere without them? Yes, we have our laws, but it seems we are far more concerned about their letter than their spirit. What then?

Troll-like? I don't think that's fair either, WS. I beg people to not make it about me. Any response that doesn't include the word "you" or "TVD" is always appreciated. If my comments are worthless, just ignore them. I don't write a second time on the same point unless someone responds, and seldom respond without something new to add.

3:12 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

It's hard to ignore a kid playing in traffic, no matter how dumb and annoying he is.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I courteously answered your question, Mystic, and your reply is...this?

5:55 PM  
Blogger Myca said...

It is unfair to sniff at Benedict as if he were Jerry Falwell.

Is it?

As a nonreligious person, Benedict has no inherent authority as far as I'm concerned, and I grant him respect based solely on the soundness of his ideas and opinions. Some of them I agree with, others I don't, but it's not like he gets extra points beyond that for some reason.

---Myca

1:55 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Tom,

So I showed that your original point was wrong, then you offer a fatally flawed Habermas quote, then when I show that to be fatally flawed, you say "well, you've got to look at his whole work to understand the quote," then when I show that that that won't work either, you say...what? I don't have any idea what you're trying to say now.

And again with the condescension. *sniff*...Well...when these arguments are well-known throughout the Western world, it's hard for me not to be condescending at your ignorance... Well, the versions of these arguments you are giving are, justifiably, NOT well-known, because they are all crap, as I've shown above. Continually moving to new arguments, and bigger and vaguer appeals to some unstated background Habermas...this is just not worth my time. So it's pretty damned hard for me to avoid anger and frustration when faced with the one-two punch of (a) bad, slippery, ever-shifting arguments and (b) condescension.

You object when people step back and either say things like 'look, you're just wrong,' or 'there goes Tom again," but when you relentlessly push points long after you've been conclusively shown to be wrong, one faces a trilemma: either (a) keep throwing good electrons after bad, wasting precious time and life, or (b) let you have the last, garbled word, or (c) go meta and just say "look, you are wrong." Since you seem to be immune to the actual arguments here, the natural human reaction is to do (c). And since you *are* wrong on this, and *have* been shown to be so at every point, and since you won't admit it, and especially since you somehow still manage to be insulting and condescending about all this, repeatedly impugning my knowledge of philosophy, I'm going to exercise my right to point out that you are, in fact, wrong.

'Defend' is a perfectly appropriate term in this context.

I think you misunderstand what's meant by 'normative.' Normative in philosophy doesn't mean what it apparently means in the social sciences. Here 'normative' means something like 'justificatory,' not something like 'pushing toward an average.' H isn't worried about pluralism here, he's worried about the justification of the state.

It's o.k. to be wrong, it's just not o.k. not to admit it.

8:01 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

One would think, Tom, that after the umpteenth time WS and others have had to say this to you, and not just say it, but say it after showing you exactly what it is they're talking about, you'd think you'd try to change.

That's what's so frustrating. You seem to think that any time someone comments on your behavior like this, that they must just be stupid, and change is obviously not appropriate.

The fact is, WS has pointed out a pattern in your arguments that I and others have pointed out as well. And on this blog, you have it all clearly taken down for the record. First, you start with a radical position:

1) Does the free secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee? This question expresses a doubt about whether the democratic constitutional state can renew from its own resources the normative presuppositions of its existence, it also expresses the assumption that such a state is dependent on ethical traditions of a local nature.---Habermas

Then, someone, in this case WS, shows that position to be COMPLETELY wrong:

2) H writes: "it [the question] also expresses the assumption that such a state is dependent on ethical traditions of a local nature."

But that is false. The question does not express any such assumption. It doesn't express any presupposition either way about what provides the normative foundation of the state. It asks a question about what does, without presupposing or even suggesting any particular answer. The view that the state depends on "ethical traditions of a local nature" is just one--one very weird, very specific, very postmodern--view about the source of political normativity. This view is in no way presupposed by the relevant question. Not close. Not in any way. He's actually SO wrong there that there's nothing else you can say about it--he's not missing some minor point, he's just said something that's not even close to being right.


Then, regardless of the fact that outside knowledge CANNOT help your radical position, you INEVITABLY start condescendingly insulting everyone and suggesting that they are simply too ignorant/stupid to understand. You talk about how, if they only knew what you know, then they'd understand, and you give zero evidence that this is the case. Every time, man, every time. Someone points out that what you've said is totally wrong and you go off the hinge saying how it's right if you just KNOW more... and that this invalidates their arguments and becomes their problem, not yours, because you obviously don't have time to sit here and teach them all about Habermas until they get brain hemmhorages and start to believe you're right:

3) I don't see any point in deconstructing Habermas' quote without context to his body of work, which I thought you might be familiar with, given that he's kind of Kantian and extremely influential.

and

"When I seem to have to start from scratch about issues and arguments that are well-known throughout the western world, and a referential quote is parsed on its own terms instead of its far larger context, it's difficult not to be condescending because it's hard to tell if folks are being disingenuous or if they're genuinely ignorant of the arguments. I honestly don't know if people are being intentionally difficult. But I'll try to suck it up and would appreciate the return of the favor."

Then people get mad watching you be such an arrogant asshole to someone who is clearly right when you are clearly wrong and say mean things to you:

4) It's hard to ignore a kid playing in traffic, no matter how dumb and annoying he is.

Then you insinuate that you're the one with the moral high ground here, despite what's gone on:

5) "I courteously answered your question, Mystic, and your reply is...this?"

And then we proceed to waste our time and you continue to think you're obviously right, we're obviously ignorant and stupid, and you act like we said absolutely nothing.

6) Coming up!


So there you have it, Tom. Your own little progression of argumentation that can be found throughout the blog:

1) Adopt radical position, insist others are just blind to the truth.
2) Have your position shown to be totally incorrect.
3) Insist your opposition is just too ignorant to see the big picture, regardless of the fact that no outside information can possibly help your argument. Continue to assert, however that, if they only knew the mysterious "what Tom knows", they'd TOTALLY agree with you, but for now, you just can't help them out of their intellectual hole.
4) Receive insults because of your arrogant, fallacious behavior.
5) Act like you have the moral high ground.
6) Waste EVERYONE'S time.

You can go back and look at 'em all, and they're almost always the same. Why wouldn't you want to do something about that? Even when I was a dumb little Freshman in college and I thought philosophy was pointless because all the hard problems had already been solved, I understood when I was wrong when it came on a scale of obviousness like this.

9:44 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

But I did answer you courteously, Mystic, and you responded with snark. When I don't answer, you accuse me of ducking out. You've got me both ways---well done.

WS, there you go claiming you proved me "wrong," [again] but you proved nothing, either against my point (can atheism ground a society?) or yours, which I fail to see except you get mad when religion is linked to morality, as if you're not moral because you're areligious. [Which is a valid objection.]

So, can atheism ground a society? This is what Habermas wonders, no matter what context he's using "normative" in.

So please. "This" always happens because the left seems to have lost the ability to listen to the other fellow's point of view politely. You never got as far as George Washington, let alone Habermas. It certainly has nothing to do with me.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

And Myca, my comment on Pope Benedict is precisely not invoking his authority, but his worthiness as a thinker, which many people are unaware of. Falwell, you'd have to accept the Bible to have common ground. Benedict can function independently of it.

Whether you agree with Benedict's provisional answers is immaterial: I don't agree with most of Habermas', but so what? Like Benedict, he asks the right questions, which is why they engaged each other.

Philosophy is about the questions, not the answers. Once people wrap their minds around that, fights become unnecessary.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Tom, you can't even tell when you've been refuted. You just keep oscillating back and forth between (a) changing your claims and (b) simply restating claims that have already been refuted. And then, when I point out that you've actually been refuted several moves back, you object to my pointing this out. But I wouldn't have to point it out if you didn't pretend it didn't happen. I mean, when I've gone through your arguments in detail and showed every one to be flawed, but you seem oblivious to that fact, what else, exactly, is left for me to say?

And just to make sure I've dotted every single 'i' and crossed every 't', let me point out that the latest incarnation of your claim is incorrect, too, as an interpretation of Habermas. H is NOT asking whether *atheism* can ground *society*. He's wondering whether non-theistic presuppositions can ground the state. There's a vast difference between those two things.

Let me just make it clear: I'm not going to keep doing this. I'm not getting anything out of it, and you aren't getting anything out of it, so there's no reason to continue to waste the time. This is nothing more than fruitless frustration.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

H is NOT asking whether *atheism* can ground *society*. He's wondering whether non-theistic presuppositions can ground the state.

True. I was inaccurate in my last comment. All my other comments in this thread were directed to the state.

That's not a refutation, it's scoring a cheap point.

Because you have written not a word in response to Habermas' question, instead taking considerable time to buffet me about the head.

No wonder you get nothing out of it.

4:59 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Well then, I guess it's time for my characteristic summary of points! For your reading pleasure, I've updated my points with a quick read format, so that you can get a quick glance at what's gone on, and then delve deeper into it or, if you feel like the quick-read tags are all you need, skip straight to the end for a run-down featuring only tags! Since Tom appears to be completely ignorant of what's gone on, let's recap!

In Depth Summary:

1) [TYPICAL] Tom writes something weird.
2) [SMART] WS says he wrote a long reply but discarded it.
3) [DUMB] Tom quotes Habermas:

"Does the free secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee? This question expresses a doubt about whether the democratic constitutional state can renew from its own resources the normative presuppositions of its existence, it also expresses the assumption that such a state is dependent on ethical traditions of a local nature.---Habermas"

4) [REFUTATION] WS shows CLEARLY that Habermas's question does NOT presuppose that which he says it does. In no way does asking "Does the free secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee?" assume "expresses the assumption that such a state is dependent on ethical traditions of a local nature".

It just doesn't assume that. That seems pretty obvious.

5) [FALLACY] Tom claims that there isn't a point to criticizing this quote from Habermas without knowing the context from which it comes.

6) [REFUTATION] WS informs Tom correctly that there is no way that some sort of context can save Habermas's quote. What Habermas says is simply false.

7) [IGNORE, CHANGE SUBJECT] Tom claims that "either what is recognizably a decent society in western eyes [liberal, democratic, guarantor of individual rights, etc.] requires a God who endows rights, or a cultural milieu that believes that it is so."

8) [REFUTATION] WS points out that adding a God as the source of morality does nothing to help problems with justifying morality, as shown in the Euthyphro. Given this, it is incredibly unclear why it is that God would be required for a "decent society".

9) [IGNORE, CHANGE SUBJECT] Tom says that Habermas is questioning whether or not atheism can replace religion in "gluing a society/republic together".

10) [REFUTATION] WS points out that Habermas is not, in fact, asking whether or not atheism can ground society, but whether or not non-theistic presuppositions can ground the state.

11) [DENIAL] Tom thinks this is a cheap point and not a refutation.



So, for a quick summary:

1) [TYPICAL] Tom
2) [SMART] WS
3) [DUMB] Tom
4) [REFUTATION] WS
5) [FALLACY] Tom
6) [REFUTATION] WS
7) [IGNORE, CHANGE SUBJECT] Tom
8) [REFUTATION] WS
9) [IGNORE, CHANGE SUBJECT] Tom
10) [REFUTATION] WS
11) [DENIAL] Tom


Now you can clearly see that WS is right - everything you've said has been refuted. You've offered a fallacy, changed the subject twice, and are now in denial that WS ever refuted anything you said.

This is stupid. And by all means, if you think this is somehow a mischaracterization, I'm sure anyone would be glad to go over any of the points I've summarized here.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Can non-theistic presuppositions ground the state?

Christ, you people can be obtuse.

1:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're the only one displaying signs of being obtuse, TVD.

You remind me of some wisdom that Mother Avenger once imparted to me:

"People who are crazy think there isn't anything wrong with them but with those who are around them."

7:17 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Your answer, Tom, is "I see no reason to believe they can't."

7:25 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Tom, this is an absolutely astonishing display of sophistry.

Not only do you not know when you've been refuted, you assert that it's your interlocutors that have been obtuse.

I've addressed your points in detail. You just keep changing the proposition at issue, or simply re-asserting ones that have already been shown to be flawed, ignoring everything that's been said.

And then, of course, there are your repeated insinuations that you are somehow my philosophical superior. If that weren't amusing, it'd be annoying.

There's obviously no reason to go any farther with this, but just for the sake of completeness, let's look at your latest version of the question above: "can non-theistic presuppositions ground the state?"

(Note: I had to provide that formulation...)

As I've noted before, the question itself contains a type of confusion, suggesting (though not entailing) as it does that theistic presuppositions *can* ground the state. As I've noted already, something like the following response can yield a first cut at understanding:

We don't know whether or not *anything* can actually provide justification for the state (though most of us are convinced something can). However here's one thing we do know: God doesn't help. Perhaps there is a moral basis for the state, perhaps not, but if there is such a basis, we can be fairly sure that God plays no essential role, for reasons that are well-known to philosophers, and which I've sketched here many times. Some of the points here, for example, are relevant.

So, again: the task here is not to try--in blog comments, no less--to settle the (formidable) question about the justification of the state. Rather, the important thing to note here is that the theist is in no better shape than the atheist in this regard. Contrary to a common theistic presupposition, the problem of justifying the state theistically is no easier (in fact it is far more difficult, though that's a harder point to see) than justifying it non-theistically.

It is, after all, your burden of proof here to give at least SOME reason for thinking that the state can be grounded theistically, or that the problem is somehow easier for theists. It's not my burden to prove otherwise...though I've done so several times in past discussions. You could look it up. But you can't just drop a quote that contains Habermas asking a confused question and then declare victory.

I've explained why the central points above are so many times. I could explain it again here, but why bother? It's been made very clear that no matter what is said, no matter what reasons are given, it will all be ignored. You'll just deny the point, change your position, insist that if I haven't conclusively proven every single point that I'm wrong, while never offering any support at all for your own positions.

Again: since you aren't listening to me, and since I've pretty clearly got nothing to learn from you on this score, I'm sure you'll understand my taking my leave of this conversation.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

It is, after all, your burden of proof here to give at least SOME reason for thinking that the state can be grounded theistically, or that the problem is somehow easier for theists.

...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...

True or not, that's what makes it easier. The atheist must start from scratch.

But you can't just drop a quote that contains Habermas asking a confused question and then declare victory.

Declaring his question "confused" was the declaration of "victory," of refutation. Me, I'm just axin'.

What are those "normative presuppositions?"

[And for the record, Divine Command Theory isn't argued by me or Habermas. It's not about God's command, it's about the essential nature of man---endowed with rights, if you will. This isn't sophistry, it's the key point.

You may take your leave without loss, WS, because you were never in the conversation, except for attempting to negate the premise, which you did not.]

2:24 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

LOOOOOOL...

Oh, man... [wipes eyes]...unbelievable. Truly unbelievable.

You've been wrong about every point, and it's been demonstrated clearly. And yet you, immune to evidence and reason, just keep changing and/or repeating your claims.

It's not worth the time, of course, but just because it's fun to thrash someone who so clearly deserves it:

1. "...endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights...

True or not, that's what makes it easier. The atheist must start from scratch."

False.

Your claim: whether true or false, that we were endowed by our creator with rights is what makes it easier to ground the state theistically.

No. If it is false that we were so endowed, then it is not possible to ground the state theistically. And to suppose that it's true begs the question. So you are stuck on the horns of a dilemma, forced either to say something false or to beg the question.

2."But you can't just drop a quote that contains Habermas asking a confused question and then declare victory.

Declaring his question "confused" was the declaration of "victory," of refutation. Me, I'm just axin'."

This is not getting any better, is it? After explaining the same thing to you three times above, you STILL seem to be suggesting--not merely that my argument was flawed--but that I didn't give any argument at all and was just declaring victory. Hardly. I carefully explained to you why the question was confused. You've never challenged the points. Which is good, because I'm right, actually. I pointed out that I was right because I was, and because you just keep ignoring this without argument.

3. "[And for the record, Divine Command Theory isn't argued by me or Habermas. It's not about God's command, it's about the essential nature of man---endowed with rights, if you will. This isn't sophistry, it's the key point."

The point was, as I've explained before, that all attempts to give a divine theory of value other than the DCT actually end up facing the same problem as the DCT. You fall into the error again right there. You simply assert (which is all you've ever done through this discussion) that man is "endowed with rights" by a creator? But how would this work? Well, since you are incapable of giving anything like an actual argument for your thesis, let me explain to you why there *can't* be any good argument for it:

Either:

1. Man begins with the same nature he has now, but, though identical in all other ways, man somehow does not have rights. God then somehow "endows" him with rights. This makes no sense. There is no known argument that explains how this could work. It's just gibberish. If there is another person, identical to me in every other way, in some other possible world, and if I have rights, then he has rights. It is the nature--shared by me and by the other me--that grounds my rights. Not some magical, inexplicable, extraneous act of God. If you've got some astounding new philosophical theory that makes this make sense, then you should have articulated it right off the bat. But you don't. Nobody does. It can't be done, and that's no secret.

or:

2. On the other hand, what you probably really mean is that God gave us our nature. Probably false, but could be true. Assume for the sake of argument that God made me. So he gave me my nature, including my rationality. Now, if we have rights, then as soon as he endows me with rationality (and whatever else might be relevant), I automatically have rights. This, in fact, is what it means to call rights inalienable. They cannot be taken away from me, even by God, so long as I have the relevant grounding properties (e.g. rationality). Now, in this case God endows me with rationality, but he does not endow me with rights. Rights are automatic consequences of rationality.

Now, you might make the mistake of trying to assert that if God makes me rational then he is endowing me with rights. This is wrong for several reasons, but one quick way to see it is this: if you go that way you must, again, admit that God is unnecessary for rights, since it is entirely possible (and, in fact, the most likely hypothesis) that I evolved naturally. In that case God did not endow me with rationality, but I have rights anyway. So, again, God is unnecessary.

In neither of the two cases does God create rights, nor endow anyone with them, nor otherwise ground them--or, to put it differently, at least not in any way that nature couldn't have done. That's the same thing we find in every version of such theories.

Since God cannot play an essential, foundational role in morality, he ends up being extraneous in all such accounts. And, so, the atheist faces no special problem of justification.

As a matter of fact, it's much HARDER to ground rights in an essentially theistic way. In fact, it's impossible, for the types of reasons outlined above.

So: the task is difficult for the atheist, equally difficult for the theist that uses the same resources the atheist does, and impossible for the theist who tries to use something essentially divine to ground morality.

3. "You may take your leave without loss, WS, because you were never in the conversation, except for attempting to negate the premise, which you did not.]"

LOOOOOOL. Oh, man. You are full of shit.

3:15 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Man, as soon as I read Tom's post, I could almost hear WS laughing.

Also, as an amendment to the first point against a Divine Theory of Value, note that it is impossible to say that God grants man rights because man exists in God's kingdom and God makes the rules, so if he says man has rights, then they do.

That doesn't work either, a la Euthyphro.

Just wanted to cut that one off before it happened.

So note that which you cannot claim on behalf of a Divine Theory of Value:

1) Man has a nature, and then God taps him with a magic wand and says "Rights!" and now he has them. (That's stupid and makes no sense)

2) God created man in such a way so that man has rights, and that's pretty much God endowing man with rights. (No, it's not)

3) God rules the universe and if he says it, then it's right. (See Euthyphro)

Given this, God doesn't seem to help the theist whatsoever. Got a solution, Tom?

3:51 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

As always, mystic. you didn't read the link. In the very first comment to WS' diatribe against Divine Command Theory, I disassociate myself from it, as does every thinking person. It's an easily-defeated straw man.

At last, some substance from WS. Quite right that "endowed by their Creator" begs the question. That's the normative presupposition.

Absent that presupposition, a state could take any form, from totalitarian collective to anarchy, all equally valid. Remember, our focus here is liberal democracy. Can you form one without begging that question? Or if you do, and non-theistically simply assert those rights, can ocratic constitutional state...ew from its own resources the normative presuppositions of its existence?"

Are atheism and assertion "resources?" The validity of Habermas' question remains unrefuted, indeed untouched.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

And for accuracy's sake, the normative presupposition is that we hold these truths to be self-evident. The truth of the truth claim becomes irrelevant.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Once again, Tom, this is complete hogwash.

Please, please quit wasting my time with this stuff. What is motivating you here? It can't be the strength of your so-called arguments. Is it REALLY that difficult for you to admit you are wrong? Are you going to continue posting this nonsense until my hands cramp up and I can't respond? (And then, no doubt, declare victory.)

Seriously, man, the errors in what you write are so obvious that you yourself should be able to identify instead of wasting my time with them. FIVE MINUTES OF THOUGHT would show you the problems with the stuff you are posting. This is the difference between an inquirer and an advocate: inquirers criticize their own positions.

One last time:

1. "As always, mystic. you didn't read the link. In the very first comment to WS' diatribe against Divine Command Theory, I disassociate myself from it, as does every thinking person. It's an easily-defeated straw man."

a. Less than a year ago you yourself were saying that the DCT was a defensible theory, and complaining vociferously about my dismissal of it. So if you now believe what you write above, it's a recent development.

b. But, furthermore, the anti-DCT arguments aren't specific to the DCT, but, rather, generalizable to all divine theories of value. So if you agree that the DCT is "an easily-defeated straw man," then you will in short order have to admit the same about the theory...whatever the hell it may be...that you are currently claiming to defend.

2."At last, some substance from WS."
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

LOOOOOOOOOOL

Oh, man, you are so full of shit Tom...it's...it's...it's almost a thing of beauty in its purity... So far I've offered about twenty arguments to your none. I think by 'substantial' you must mean 'agreeing with me'...

3. "Quite right that "endowed by their Creator" begs the question. That's the normative presupposition."

This makes no sense whatsoever. If we're allowed to beg the question, then yes, non-theistic presuppositions can also ground the state. Let me beg the question and I can defend anything.

So your position now seems to be:
Theists beg the question in order to "justify" the state. Can non-theists do likewise? Answer: yes, and no one has ever or will ever claim otherwise. That would be an absurdity beyond even the formidable powers of philosophers to hold.

4. "Absent that presupposition, a state could take any form, from totalitarian collective to anarchy, all equally valid. Remember, our focus here is liberal democracy. Can you form one without begging that question? Or if you do, and non-theistically simply assert those rights, can ocratic constitutional state...ew from its own resources the normative presuppositions of its existence?"

This adds nothing to the above. Again; of course atheists can do it if we all get to beg the question. But, second, it isn't now seems like you might be saying that we don't get to presuppose rights unless we presuppose God gave them. Which is absurd. If we just get to presuppose things willy-nilly, then we can simply presuppose that we have rights, or presuppose the truth of one of the eleventy-million non-theistic theories of rights. Or we can do it if we simply presuppose that the rights fairy gave them to us. Or that they fell from the sky. Or that they attach to any naturally bipedal creatures. Presupposition has all the advantages of theft over honest toil.

5. "Are atheism and assertion "resources?" The validity of Habermas' question remains unrefuted, indeed untouched."

You really don't have any idea what you're talking about, do you? This is patently false. Again, mere assertion, and ignoring the careful arguments I gave above in the most blatant way.

You are wasting my time. You are ostentatiously wasting my time.

6. "And for accuracy's sake, the normative presupposition is that we hold these truths to be self-evident. The truth of the truth claim becomes irrelevant."

Well, then it's an open-and-shut case. The question then becomes: are there any beliefs--true OR false--that non-theists might hold that might lead them to think that liberal states are best? The answer is: yes, probably literally an infinite number of them. Just to pick out the most obvious contenders that should occur to anyone: you might believe Mills' justification, or Rawls' or Nozick's or any number--and VAST number--of other attempts to justify the liberal state.

Now it's just too easy. If this is what the issue is, then the non-theist can't lose.

I am not going to keep responding to this kind of stuff. If you were honestly asking me to explain to you what's wrong with all this, Tom, I'd be happy to. But the combination of the following facts make my continued participation out of the question:

(a) This is all at the level of bad undergrad philosophy. You aren't even trying to be objective, you're just throwing every half-assed argument you can think of into the fray.

(b) You simply ignore every point I make, so there's no reason for me to write them.

(c) You keep inserting childish insults. (Which I respond to with awesome, manly insults...)

(d) You have made it clear that you absolutely, positively NEVER EVER NO MATTER WHAT will admit that you are wrong.

So that's it for me.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You always have one foot out the door, WS, with one substantive comment for every ten that says your opponents are BS [and not just me--Habermas, the pope, National Review, you name it]. You're right and I'm wrong. So go already and spare us both the histrionics and self-affirmation.

The link was the one you posted, where you railed against Divine Command Theory. In the very first comment, I write:


"Divine Command" may be applicable to Jerry Falwell, but the internet tells me that Thomas Aquinas rejected it 800 years ago.

It's you who ignore what I write. I've never defended DCT. [That I can recall.] Seems dumb---it's true because the Bible says so, or whatever. Not the kind of thing that's effective with anyone who rejects the Bible.

It so happens that God endowing rights---even as a myth---has more power than men asserting things on their own authority. That people believe it and conduct themselves decently as a result is not to be discounted, or thrown into an undifferentiated soup with the rest of man's justifications for a state. Remember how they tried to invent the New Soviet Man, who toils ceaselessly and conscientiously for the collective? Didn't work, as this conflicts with human nature.

So I don't agree that the atheist can throw any ol' thing up against the wall and have it work as well as the American Founding Myth.

And neither do I think the American Founding Myth develops absent the Judeo-Christian milieu and imago Dei in particular. Habermas, who is BS, also came to that conclusion, in quotes I did not offer for deconstruction.

Ironically, right now it is indeed the position of the liberal democrat non-theist that rights were dropped from the sky by the rights fairy. I, and Habermas [whom I only chose as an attempt at a lingua franca with you because he's reputedly some sort of neo-Kantian] wonder if this is a sustainable and regenerative assertion, or myth, if you will.

Because "endowed by their Creator" has shown some tenacity, and without a suitable non-theistic replacement, it seems imprudent to discard it. The rights fairy seems inadequate to the task.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

"...a latent tendency toward belief in God is a fundamental ingredient of the soul, and that, far from being a vicious or superstitious ingredient, it is simply a natural precipitate of meditation upon the origin of the Three Universes."

Of course, that surely doesn't mean what it appears to mean. Deconstruct away.

http://www.icr.org/article/234/

7:09 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

OMFG, you really don't know when to quit, do you?

I'm not going to keep wasting my time on this nonsense.

Here's the deal: continuing to just write SOMETHING in response to my arguments does not constitute making a point or winning an argument. You apparently don't even understand what constitutes a substantive comment. You keep asserting--even in the face of almost non-stop, very pointed arguments above--that my comments aren't substantive. This is particularly embarrassing in the face of the virtually contentless nature of your own comments.

As for this latest batch:

1. yes, you did defend the DCT, several times. I'd go look it up for you, but I'm not that interested.

2. Aquinas was a late-comer. Plato gave us the resources to do in the DCT, though he seemed to consider it beneath discussing explicitly.

3. Now this has all degenerated to vague claims about the power of myth. Truly the last gasp of whatever garbled thesis you were trying to defend.

4. No, it is not the liberal position that rights were dropped from the sky by the rights fairy. THAT is the position YOU were defending. God is, on such views, just the rights fairy, who magically dispenses rights...somehow magically assigning them to free, rational beings who--again, magically--somehow manage not to have human rights though the possess all the properties that constitute grounds for them. The very fact that you would make such a claim about liberal thought shows a profound ignorance of the subject. You don't even care enough about this to do the tiny bit of reading that would show you that what you said was absurd. But you'll waste hours of MY time.

5. But, of course, now that this has degenerated to the point where you're just making unjustified and merely sociological claims about the power of myth, there's really no need for me to refute you any more. Is the silly myth of God magically giving us rights a good one? Meh. If that means: good at scaring people straight...well, better than some, worse than others, no doubt about that. Can atheists make up myths that do the same thing? Well, atheists aren't as fond of myths as theists, but they have come up with silly stories of their own--stories about how it's always in our narrow self-interest to respect the rights of others, or about how it's in our nature, or whatever. Or stories about karma or whatever. So yes, open-and-shut case.

But these few, leftover, pitiful, anthropological, shreds of your original thesis aren't even, as my dad would say, worth the powder to blow to hell. Now the question is just "could atheists make up a story scary enough to make people do what Christian scary stories get them to do?"

6. That is not what 'deconstruct' means.

7. Do try to understand what Peirce is saying before you invoke him where his claims are irrelevant. The topic isn't whether there might be some reason or other to believe in something godlike. The topic is, rather...some vague and ever-shifting point about God and the state. God knows what, exactly.

Conclusion: your thesis is (a) unrelated to the original thesis, (b) uninteresting, and (c) false.

It's time to stop now, Tom. You've embarrassed yourself terribly because you insist on holding forth about things you don't know about, and then refuse to acknowledge when you're busted.

But the jig is up. Time to stop now.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

So stop already. You're always quitting. With paragraph upon paragraph announcing it. Me, I don't quit. I think you're worth my time.

---I doubt I ever defended the Divine Command Theory. It's dumb. Plato's Euthyphro makes a joke of it. We agree on that. In fact, I've never thumped the Bible to my recollection, except to clear up slanders about it by those who haven't read it.

---I used the word "myth" for your benefit, so I wasn't caught thumping the Bible, or even claiming that God gave man dignity and rights. I try to speak your allowable language, and this is the thanks I get. You won't even let me try to meet you halfway. I could simply write, as Jefferson did, that I hold the truth that God endowed man with certain unalienable rights, and invite you to kiss my ass if you disagree.

---The term "liberal" is elusive, which was also in my first comment to the post you yourself linked. I'm a liberal. "Conservative" has nothing to do with this.

The late Richard Rorty, a philosopher of some repute and a secularist, admitted that in the modern secular universe, human rights were ungrounded, "non-foundational," I think he put it. We're a ship at sea, we all agree there is something called human rights, and mostly we understand what we mean by them, so we sail on. You called him BS, too, as I recall.


---Peirce is saying---unless, as an expert on him, you want to put forth a counterargument---that the pull to the God myth/reality is a real phenomenon in the human person. Observable, and in fact Pierce advance the case on purely rational grounds. [Theism, I believe it's called, and it has zilch to do with revelation or the Bible. The Founders were theists.]

Figuring God into our conduct, as George Washington noted, is also a common and real thing.

And you ain't even shot off the top of this iceberg yet, my man. Rights vs. duties in a liberal democracy, property rights, mercy vs. justice, forgiveness [see Rorty on that one, too] vs. revenge, Christian charity vs. Hobbesian self-preservation?

Habermas and Rorty didn't just spout happy BS. Their admissions were after a lifetime of study of the history of thought. Mebbe I really am Phil 101, but that changes nothing. As always, it ain't about me.

[And if I left any of your best points unaddressed, it was not intentional. Perhaps I missed them.]

1:48 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

This conversation is long over. I merely post the following because I know your strategy is to keep saying *something*--anything--so that you can pretend you were right. Your ever-mutating thesis is dead. The following is just to make it clear to you that additional typing doesn't make you right.

1. "I doubt I ever defended the Divine Command Theory. It's dumb. Plato's Euthyphro makes a joke of it. We agree on that..."

Yes, you did. More than once. You expressed your outrage--in your usual way--that I derided the DCT, though, according to you, I had never refuted it.

You can look it up.

2. "I used the word "myth" for your benefit, so I wasn't caught thumping the Bible, or even claiming that God gave man dignity and rights. I try to speak your allowable language, and this is the thanks I get. You won't even let me try to meet you halfway. I could simply write, as Jefferson did, that I hold the truth that God endowed man with certain unalienable rights, and invite you to kiss my ass if you disagree."

No, you are confused about what you argued above.You weren't just "using the term for my benefit." Rather, you changed your thesis, from one about an actual God, actual rights, and actual justification to one about the power of a myth about God to scare people straight. Now not only is your thesis ever-mutating, but even YOU can't keep track of all the changes.

3. "The term "liberal" is elusive, which was also in my first comment to the post you yourself linked. I'm a liberal. "Conservative" has nothing to do with this."

Entirely irrelevant.

4. "The late Richard Rorty, a philosopher of some repute and a secularist, admitted that in the modern secular universe, human rights were ungrounded, "non-foundational," I think he put it. We're a ship at sea, we all agree there is something called human rights, and mostly we understand what we mean by them, so we sail on. You called him BS, too, as I recall."

Entirely irrelevant.

That there exists a non-theist whose view of the moral foundation of the state is BS in no way shows or even suggests that a theistic grounding is required.

This is a point so elementary it shouldn't have to be made. This is beneath an elementary critical thinking class. This is like arguing that one should vote for Giuliani because there was a crooked Democrat once.

5. "---Peirce is saying---unless, as an expert on him, you want to put forth a counterargument---that the pull to the God myth/reality is a real phenomenon in the human person. Observable, and in fact Pierce advance the case on purely rational grounds."

Irrelevant. This has nothing to do with your original point. It is only marginally relevant to your later "power of myth" point. No one here has denied that the God hypothesis has a certain force. In terms of your later, mutated thesis, what I showed was that non-theistic myths can do the same "scared straight" job.

I am not an expert on Peirce, incidentally.

What Peirce thought was that the God hypothesis was a good hypothesis, in virtue of have a natural appeal to the inquiring mind. (Why he thought that made a hypothesis good is an interesting story, but beyond the scope of this "discussion".) But most good hypotheses turn out to be false. Furthermore, the vaguely god-like thing he had in mind is not the Christian God. And it had nothing to do with justifying morality or the state.

But, anyway, irrelevant. See above.

6. "And you ain't even shot off the top of this iceberg yet, my man. Rights vs. duties in a liberal democracy, property rights, mercy vs. justice, forgiveness [see Rorty on that one, too] vs. revenge, Christian charity vs. Hobbesian self-preservation?"

The argument is over, Tom. You lost. You have been shown to be wrong at every point. Refusing to acknowledge your own error is not victory. No matter how many times you assert the same thing, it doesn't constitute an argument.

Now not only can you not tell when your positions have been utterly refuted, NOW you have moved to a new level of delusion in which I have not yet BEGUN to refute your mighty points! My god this is embarrassing.

Repeat after me: assertion is not argument.

7."Habermas and Rorty didn't just spout happy BS. Their admissions were after a lifetime of study of the history of thought. Mebbe I really am Phil 101, but that changes nothing. As always, it ain't about me."

I haven't the foggiest idea what you think you're proving here. Habermas was wrong, as I showed. Rorty was irrelevant. You don't even know what the quotes you're throwing out are supposed to prove, nor when they fail to do so.

8. [And if I left any of your best points unaddressed, it was not intentional. Perhaps I missed them.]

This suggests that you have addressed some of my points. But if by 'addressed' you mean 'offered any actual arguments against them,' then you have not, actually. This is not a close-run discussion in which you are winning some points against me and I winning some against you. There's no conversation here. You aren't making arguments. It's over. This is me swatting the few remaining flies in the vicinity, purely *pro forma*.

You have, astonishingly, offered NO arguments. You think that all you have to do is assert something and then throw out a tangentially-related quote and that counts as proving your point. Then when I give arguments showing that your point is wrong, you think that if you just ignore them, or assert that you were right, or change your thesis, you win. In effect, you seem to think that if you JUST KEEP TYPING, your points are still in play. But that is false. All your points have been answered. There is nothing left.

This is not a discussion. It is not a close call. This is shooting fish in a barrel. This is worse than bad undergraduate philosophy. Worse, largely, because you are not only terribly confused, but you still simply continue to assert that you are right, pretending that somehow this is a close-run contest. It isn't. It's a massacre.

It's over. Time to stop now. This is an embarrassing waste of time. I know this is your M.O.--obfuscate, insinuate, change the subject if necessary, but never, ever give up, no matter how badly thrashed. But that just makes you dogmatic, it doesn't make you right, and it doesn't make your points respectable.

It's over.

7:58 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Time for another summary since somehow, Tom keeps making ridiculous claims about WS not having any substance or not refuting him, or whatever total bullshit. HERE YOU GO TOM, HERE'S WHAT'S HAPPENED:

In Depth Summary:

1) [TYPICAL] Tom writes something weird.
2) [SMART] WS says he wrote a long reply but discarded it.
3) [DUMB] Tom quotes Habermas:

"Does the free secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee? This question expresses a doubt about whether the democratic constitutional state can renew from its own resources the normative presuppositions of its existence, it also expresses the assumption that such a state is dependent on ethical traditions of a local nature.---Habermas"

4) [REFUTATION] WS shows CLEARLY that Habermas's question does NOT presuppose that which he says it does. In no way does asking "Does the free secularized state exist on the basis of normative presuppositions that it itself cannot guarantee?" assume "expresses the assumption that such a state is dependent on ethical traditions of a local nature".

It just doesn't assume that. That seems pretty obvious.

5) [FALLACY] Tom claims that there isn't a point to criticizing this quote from Habermas without knowing the context from which it comes.

6) [REFUTATION] WS informs Tom correctly that there is no way that some sort of context can save Habermas's quote. What Habermas says is simply false.

7) [IGNORE, CHANGE SUBJECT] Tom claims that "either what is recognizably a decent society in western eyes [liberal, democratic, guarantor of individual rights, etc.] requires a God who endows rights, or a cultural milieu that believes that it is so."

8) [REFUTATION] WS points out that adding a God as the source of morality does nothing to help problems with justifying morality, as shown in the Euthyphro. Given this, it is incredibly unclear why it is that God would be required for a "decent society".

9) [IGNORE, CHANGE SUBJECT] Tom says that Habermas is questioning whether or not atheism can replace religion in "gluing a society/republic together".

10) [REFUTATION] WS points out that Habermas is not, in fact, asking whether or not atheism can ground society, but whether or not non-theistic presuppositions can ground the state.

11) [DENIAL] Tom thinks this is a cheap point and not a refutation.

12) [DUMB] Tom asks "Can non-theistic presuppositions ground the state?"

13) [EXPLANATION OF STUPIDITY] WS points out that we don't know whether or not anything can justify the state, but it's almost certain that theistic presuppositions in no way assist in doing so.

14) [DUMB] Tom suggests that the advantage of the theist is that they say that people are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights".

15) [REFUTATION] WS explains the problem with Tom's statement as an attempt at justifying the state.

16) [DENIAL] Tom insists that "Absent that presupposition, a state could take any form, from totalitarian collective to anarchy, all equally valid" and restates his question.

17) [REFUTATION] WS explains that obviously, if we're allowed to beg the question, then yes, non-theistic presuppositions can ground the state. However, letting one beg the question allows defense of ANYTHING.

18) [UNJUSTIFIABLE BULLSHIT] Tom says "It so happens that God endowing rights---even as a myth---has more power than men asserting things on their own authority. That people believe it and conduct themselves decently as a result is not to be discounted, or thrown into an undifferentiated soup with the rest of man's justifications for a state. Remember how they tried to invent the New Soviet Man, who toils ceaselessly and conscientiously for the collective? Didn't work, as this conflicts with human nature."

19) [UNJUSTIFIABLE BULLSHIT] Tom quotes: "...a latent tendency toward belief in God is a fundamental ingredient of the soul, and that, far from being a vicious or superstitious ingredient, it is simply a natural precipitate of meditation upon the origin of the Three Universes."

20) [REFUTATION] WS shows that what Tom said was, in fact, unjustifiable bullshit.

WS throws in this added hilarious bonus: "Conclusion: your thesis is (a) unrelated to the original thesis, (b) uninteresting, and (c) false."

21) [INCOMPREHENSIBLE BULLSHIT] I would write what Tom said here, but seriously, I don't even understand it enough to summarize.

22) [CHARITABLE RECONSTRUCTION + REFUTATION] WS somehow manages to piece together a good guess at what Tom was saying and refutes those charitable reconstructions.


Short Summary:

1) [TYPICAL] Tom
2) [SMART] WS
3) [DUMB] Tom
4) [REFUTATION] WS
5) [FALLACY] Tom
6) [REFUTATION] WS
7) [IGNORE, CHANGE SUBJECT] Tom
8) [REFUTATION] WS
9) [IGNORE, CHANGE SUBJECT] Tom
10) [REFUTATION] WS
11) [DENIAL] Tom
12) [DUMB] Tom
13) [EXPLANATION OF STUPIDITY] WS
14) [DUMB] Tom
15) [REFUTATION] WS
16) [DENIAL] Tom
17) [REFUTATION] WS
18) [UNJUSTIFIABLE BULLSHIT] Tom
19) [UNJUSTIFIABLE BULLSHIT] Tom
20) [REFUTATION] WS
21) [INCOMPREHENSIBLE BULLSHIT] Tom
22) [CHARITABLE RECONSTRUCTION + REFUTATION] WS


Now for a bonus section!

Interesting Trends:

WS:

He begins with intelligence, and is quickly sucked in by his opponent, offering intelligent argument and accurate explanation even in the face of extreme arrogance, denial, and ignorance.

TVD:

A complex pattern of behavior is emerging:

1) Start with the typical lofty, yet insanely stupid statement.

2) Follow it up with provocational stupidity when you discover you're not being listened to.

3) Begin Defense of Statements:

a. Try fallacies
b. If this does not work, ignore what the other guy said and change your defeated thesis.
c. If this does not work, try denying that the other guy ever said anything.
d. If this doesn't work, try repeating steps 1 and 2 a couple times.
e. If this doesn't work, try throwing out lofty, untestable, unjustifiable bullshit.
d. If this doesn't work, try just saying the utterly incomprehensible in the hopes that the other guy will be forced to charitably reconstruct your bullshit, and perhaps he will hit on something he can't refute.


And there you have it. Tom, do you think ANY of this has happened? I predict, if you even answer that question, a repeat of step 3c if you can get yourself together, or possibly a continuation in this downward spiral of doom that you're on, with more incomprehensible BS on the way.

11:08 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

what I showed was that non-theistic myths can do the same "scared straight" job.

No, you didn't, WS.

And google doesn't turn up me defending Divine Command Theory. Your first mention is 2004, and I cite the Dalai Lama, whose opinions have nothing to do with any revelation from God, but reason.

Your thesis depends on...well, you don't have one.

Neither can Habermas be "wrong," because he's only asking a question, and a valid one.

The rest is Santa's Little Helper repeating your false assertions about me, without a single fact or argument relevant to the discussion. You sure have him going, like an O.J. jury.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This seems like an appropriate time for a little stroll down memory lane of another one of Tom Van Dyke's greatest hits. So join me, won't you, as we ponder the wonder of Tom's ability to project not only pretension, condescension and misdirection, but also his unique ability to hit for the cycle by being either unable or unwilling to actually construct an argument.

Behold each of these incredible attributes, but especially the last one, in this epic thread:

http://philosoraptor.blogspot.com/2007/12/u.html

Priceless, I tell you!

3:23 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

WTF TOM:

1) "No, you didn't, WS."

Yes, he did. If you'll recall in my summary points 14-17.

2) "Your thesis depends on...well, you don't have one."

Actually, his theses are refutations of YOURS. Which change constantly. In fact, according to the summary, you've had somewhere around 8-10 different claims (discounting the smaller ones) that WS has had to refute.

3) "Neither can Habermas be "wrong," because he's only asking a question, and a valid one."

a. Yes he can
b. No he's not. He's ALSO stating presuppositions that he asserts his question entails, and it is very VERY clear that his question does NOT entail the alleged presuppositions.

4) "The rest is Santa's Little Helper repeating your false assertions about me, without a single fact or argument relevant to the discussion. You sure have him going, like an O.J. jury."

[DENIAL]

3:50 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

By the time you poke through your own footnotes, even you don't know what you're talking about, Mystic. Just write how WS "refuted" me, in plain English, using the terms of the debate, not numbers and letters and your idiosyncratic Dewey Decimal System.

Nobody asked you to keep score.

I was musing there, anonymous. Justice and law aren't synonymous, are they?

As for this discussion, it's unclear that anything other than a Judeo-Christianish underpinning can sustain a liberal democracy. Maybe it can, maybe it can't. We shall see. The west has only been post-Christian for a few generations.

Oh look, behind that curtain over there---it's John Rawls!

Well, you gotta bring him out from behind the curtain first so we can see what he's all about. Facts not in evidence.

So now I'm just going to take a page from WS' book. I'm right, you're wrong, this discussion is over and I'm outta here. This is a waste of time. If you spent as much effort on the actual topic as you do drawing up your lists and tables and charts that prove me wrong, you'd know something by now.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yes, oddly enough, Tom continues to be full of shit!

Let's see how, shall we? Isn't this fun?!

1. "What I showed was that non-theistic myths can do the same "scared straight" job.

No, you didn't, WS."

a. Yes, I did, Tom, but you are too clueless to have the foggiest idea what's going on here.

b. Note that the burden of proof is on you. You have not offered a single argument in defense of any of your theses. You made the original assertion. You failed to support it in any way. Ergo you failed to carry your burden of proof. Ergo you lose. (Much as I hate to engage in debate, that's what this is--to the extent that it's anything at all.)

c. As I pointed out, once you scurried away from the real point and started hiding under the skirts of the power of myth thesis, all we need (again, accepting YOUR presuppositions) is a different scary myth. Karma would do fine. So would any other story about natural mechanisms of justice. Or a myth to the effect that, though there are no gods, the liberal state is demanded by reason. Or no myth at all. We already know that many atheists believe that the liberal state is justified, thus demonstrating conclusively that one needn't be a theist to believe this. Again...and try to pay attention this time: you've given absolutely no reason to believe that these things *could not* do the requisite psychological/anthropological work. Again: in the absence of even a SINGLE argument or shred of evidence from you to support your claim, I needn't give any argument in response at all. I did...but that's just the kind of guy I am.

d. It's like shooting fish in a barrel.

2. "And google doesn't turn up me defending Divine Command Theory. Your first mention is 2004, and I cite the Dalai Lama, whose opinions have nothing to do with any revelation from God, but reason."

Yes, you did. Google doesn't turn up everything. Hell, I've got a right mind to go back through the archives...if I didn't know that you're immune to evidence.

3. "Your thesis depends on...well, you don't have one."

Not sure whether you are just being dishonest or whether you are actually this bloody clueless. I've actually pwned you on every point.

On the off chance that you are being honest here--though I doubt that very much, let me note:

A. Since you have the burden of proof, I don't *have* to have a thesis. I just have to show that *you* fail to support *your* theses. Which, despite their ever-evolving nature, I've done. Though it was easy--you didn't offer any arguments. Nevertheless, I offered arguments just the same. It's just the kind of guy I am.

However, if you wanted to characterize my theses, you could do so like this:

B. There is insufficiently good reason to believe that theism is required to justify the liberal state.

Then, in response to your mutated thesis:

C. There is insufficiently good reason to believe that only theism can provide the kinds of myths required to convince people that the liberal state is justified.

I've stated my theses clearly and offered arguments for them. Your theses continually change in ad hoc ways as you attempt to flee refutation, and you give NO arguments for them--none.

4. "Neither can Habermas be "wrong," because he's only asking a question, and a valid one."

Again, this shows your cluelessness. Habermas *claims* that the question he formulates "expresses the assumption that such a state is dependent on ethical traditions of a local nature." That is wrong. It presupposes no such thing. If you don't even understand this ridiculously basic part of the argument, then no wonder you can't tell what's going on.

5. "The rest is Santa's Little Helper repeating your false assertions about me, without a single fact or argument relevant to the discussion."

See, even when people go back and actually confront you with your actual points and summarize the argument for you, you still simply deny. Even when you are confronted with your own words, you just deny that they are relevant.

Tom, you aren't fooling anybody. You are out of your depth. You don't have a fixed thesis, you haven't offered any arguments, you either don't understand the arguments that I've offered or you are simply pretending not to.

You've been beat like a rented mule here, and you seem to think that you can just keep denying it.

Shorter TVD: It's just a flesh wound!

6:11 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

LOL

The summary was so you could see what you were doing. It was so EVERYONE could see clearly what you were doing. It was not score. I know that's a little insight into your view of this as some sort of competition, but that's f*cking stupid. You can't see when you've been refuted EVEN IF it's VERY clearly written and then SUMMARIZED FOR YOU.

Hell, you even referenced it as the "Dewey Decimal System" - a system that makes locating information INCREDIBLY EASY.

So thanks! Thanks for that, and maybe if you take half a second to think "Huh, maybe it's not the case that I'm absorbing all of the light of reason, causing everyone else to live in the shadow of retardation cast by my massive intellectual stature", you would see that you are incredibly wrong, that this happens CONSTANTLY, and that you need to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

"I'm right, you're wrong"

You've been refuted CLEARLY on EVERY SINGLE THING YOU'VE SAID. How could you possibly think that!? That's insane! You must belong in a loony bin! This is craziness. As you said it yourself, you've got not only a clearly written refutation for every random suggestion that you whimsically post for the hell of it, but also a clearly categorized and summarized, one page description of your utter failure to produce anything containing any content whatsoever.

What the hell would it take to show you you were wrong!? I just don't get it. Any other human being on the planet who looked at that would be like "Wow, I'm a dumbass." but not you! You just keep goin'! The Energizier Bunny of Sophistry!

Damn, man, it's unbelievable. It's a good thing it's transcended the category of "annoying", past "angrifying", on through "infuriating" to "hilarious" or the people of this blog might not be able to take any more without suicides beginning to pop up.

6:13 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Addendum!

1. "Nobody asked you to keep score."

Um...somebody needs to, Tom, because you haven't the foggiest idea what's going on. Again: even when someone DOES keep score and puts a summary of the points RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU, you just keep asserting that you are right and everybody else is wrong. Worse--they haven't even stated a thesis!!! Yeah, that's it! In fact, they haven't even typed any words!

2. "As for this discussion, it's unclear that anything other than a Judeo-Christianish underpinning can sustain a liberal democracy. Maybe it can, maybe it can't. We shall see. The west has only been post-Christian for a few generations."

No, actually it's quite clear. Though again here we have a mutation of the thesis: you insisted for awhile that it was the power of myth thesis that you'd always meant, though that was clearly false. Here now we're back to the original claim, that it's a REAL justification that's at issue. Here of course we get the vague hedge-term "underpinning, though, so it isn't completely clear what's going on. If real justification is at issue, then you are wrong for all the reasons noted earlier: there IS no successful, distinctly theistic justification of the state, though there are many failed ones. And, as noted above, since God is irrelevant to these questions, if there is a successful justification at all, it will be a non-theistic one.

Note, though, that the modalization of this claim has changed. Before it was: there can be no non-theistic justification. Now it is: it isn't clear that there can be. This is a significant change. It's also significant because, since it's clear that there *can't* be a successful theistic justification, the atheist is in a better position than the hard-core theist. At the very worst the theist and the atheist are in equally bad positions. Which is, of course, the thesis that I've been defending all along.

Of course if we revert yet again to the power of myth point, again it's clear that you are wrong. Since non-theists can (and do) accept the legitimacy of the liberal state, this proves that the liberal state does not require theism as a psychological underpinning.

3. "Oh look, behind that curtain over there---it's John Rawls!

Well, you gotta bring him out from behind the curtain first so we can see what he's all about. Facts not in evidence."

Ah, again the double standard. You made no demand that theistic "justifications" of the state be subjected to actual scrutiny. You merely presupposed that they were fine...until I showed why they couldn't be...when you went all Joseph Campbell.

Now after having given all the theistic attempts an automatic pass, you refuse to do so for Rawls. Fine by me...but if we start digging into the ugly details of Aquinas, too, you aren't going to like it.

4. "So now I'm just going to take a page from WS' book. I'm right, you're wrong, this discussion is over and I'm outta here. This is a waste of time. If you spent as much effort on the actual topic as you do drawing up your lists and tables and charts that prove me wrong, you'd know something by now."

Dude, I really, really wish you would take a page from my book...and offer some actual arguments.

That would be sweet.

6:30 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Oh, and nice job, Mystic. I had already responded before I saw that you had already nailed some of the points much more economically than I did.

6:32 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Hell, I've got a right mind to go back through the archives...if I didn't know that you're immune to evidence.

Indulge me. Your right mind is likely wrong, since I can't recall the last time I asserted, let alone believed, that the Bible is incontrovertibly true. Burden of proof, as you yourself put it. The one link you did provide shows me quite innocent of your charges, and in fact makes me look pretty damned good.

As for the burden of proof for my thesis, I'll invest the time. Reporting that Habermas and Rorty came to the same conclusions was a shorthand, as it takes books upon books to advance the thesis, which still cannot be proven as incontrovertibly true.

We would start with the germ of what we today call human rights, Aquinas' "dignity of the human person" and tour the history of western thought thereafter to our present day.

The history of ideas does tend to become a lifetime study, and is difficult under the best of circumstances, let alone a comments section with guns a-blazin' at Square One.

[The internet is notorious for never getting to Square Two, as it requires patience, courtesy, and cooperation. People prefer debate, where they look for the flaw in an argument instead of truth.]

I also invoked Rorty and Habermas, WS, because you invoke your authority as a philosophy prof, as I'm not one. So it's entirely proper for me to enlist bigger and badder philosophy profs who happen to agree with me, or more properly, vice-versa, when you assert I'm "out of my depth."

you scurried away from the real point and started hiding under the skirts of the power of myth thesis

Actually, that was in there nearly from the first, and was noticed by the courteous reader. I wrote:

or a cultural milieu that believes that it is so.

following Habermas' sentence structure.

scary myth...Karma would do fine.

Maybe. But societies that are karma-based haven't developed liberal democracy on their own. Why?

My first answer is that karma also accepts fundamental inequality in our life stations, as a result of past karma. Not liberally democratic.

But still, a fine and valid counterargument. Wish we'd have got to it 20 comments ago instead of all this hostility.

So would any other story about natural mechanisms of justice.

The natural mechanisms of justice can be served in many other systems.

Or a myth to the effect that, though there are no gods, the liberal state is demanded by reason.

Interesting. Dunno a lot about him, but isn't this John Rawls? Is he untouchable? Maybe he's BS. There seems to be a contradiction in there about the community and the individual. Surely both can't have primacy.

Or perhaps John Stuart Mill. Is this where you're going? I really have no idea.

Immanuel Kant, your seeming favorite? When Dark Avenger asked about the role of civil disobedience, you laughed it off as a disconnect between theory and practice. But the problem of the unjust state is fundamental.

Greek democracy put Socrates to death. Unjustly? Not by its own standards, where the state's own self-preservation is paramount, not "human rights."

Here now we're back to the original claim, that it's a REAL justification that's at issue.

Well, your lynchpin in turning the debate around to where you want it rests on this single word, "justification," based on your [quite proper] synonym from a strict reading of Habermas' use of "normative": since he's a philosopher, we must use this in the strict philosophical---not plain---sense.

Is the liberal democratic state "justified?" Sure. Even if it were populated only by atheists and Immanuel Kant's devils.

But a more generous and conscientious reading of Habermas' work indicates he wonders if the liberal democratic state shorn of its origins---the history of ideas, not in small part the Judeo-Christian tradition of both theology and its attending philosophy---can regenerate itself---the ethos, the principles, the belief in that justification---enough to continue to function over generations.

I've read enough of Habermas to know that's what he's asking, even if I'm out of my depth.

You, WS, think, you assert, you militate, that the answer is assuredly yes. Me and Habermas, not so sure, and neither are those who have been writing for a hundred years about the "crisis of the West."

You stand in good company, but so do I.

9:16 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

...and yes, WS, there are many ugly details in Aquinas, the Catholic Church's Angelic Doctor. I made myself aware of them. There are philosophical flaws as well.

I'm not a Divine Command Theory kinda guy. Thomas himself, one morning, said Mass, walked off the altar, and said all that he had written was like straw. He never wrote theology or philosophy again and died three months later. According to myth, legend, or truth, happily. In prayer.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I was musing there, anonymous. Justice and law aren't synonymous, are they?"

No, they're not, as I expanded on when I did the spadework of spelling out the presumptive argument that I thought you might be trying to make. That was actually an attempt at speculation as to why I might give a rat's ass that they're not the same.

However, you yourself were unwilling to actually construct an argument, preferring to imply one by suggestion or insinuation. (A perusal of several threads around here shows that you do this quite often) I'm not sure why that was so, but I think a good guess is that you were so ashamed by the weakness of the argument (as illustrated by my dismantling of it), that you were afraid to explicitly construct it yourself. Which is understandable, because it amounted to a big steaming pile.

Or did you have something with a better odor in mind?

10:13 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Nothing new here. But, again, merely *pro forma*, I'll again wade through it:

1. "Indulge me. Your right mind is likely wrong, since I can't recall the last time I asserted, let alone believed, that the Bible is incontrovertibly true. Burden of proof, as you yourself put it. The one link you did provide shows me quite innocent of your charges, and in fact makes me look pretty damned good."

Nope. You complained about attacks against the DCT more than once. Again: you can look it up. In fact, I'm surprised to learn that you've finally given it up. If I get really bored, I might even do it for you. And, just incidentally...don't flatter yourself. You don't come off that well...

2. "As for the burden of proof for my thesis, I'll invest the time. Reporting that Habermas and Rorty came to the same conclusions was a shorthand, as it takes books upon books to advance the thesis, which still cannot be proven as incontrovertibly true."

a. Nor as probably true. Nor as even a distant possibility, actually. But more to the point: not defended with one iota of evidence here.

b. Rorty certainly doesn't believe any of the various theses you've been defending, and I'm not aware that H does, either. He certainly doesn't in the quote you provided.

Ergo: not relevant.

3. "We would start with the germ of what we today call human rights, Aquinas' "dignity of the human person" and tour the history of western thought thereafter to our present day."

Actually, we'd probably start with Aristotle, or the Stoics, or possibly with Roman law.

But none of this would be relevant to any of your claims.

Reminding you, your two most prominent claims seemed to be something like:

(1) It is impossible to (really) justify the principles of the liberal state without employing theistic premises.

and later:

(2) People cannot be convinced that the liberal state is justified unless they believe theism is true.

History will only give us hints about these. Since we know for sure, however, that both are false, history really won't help us much.

You've provided no evidence whatsoever for either thesis, so both remain nothing more than suggestions, despite your repeated assertions that they are true.

Furthermore:

For reasons I've already articulated--and you have not addressed--(1) is known to be false.

And let me point out once again that, since many atheists are convinced of the legitimacy of the liberal state, (2) is known to be false.

4. "The history of ideas does tend to become a lifetime study, and is difficult under the best of circumstances, let alone a comments section with guns a-blazin' at Square One."

True, but this counts equally against both sides.

5. "I also invoked Rorty and Habermas, WS, because you invoke your authority as a philosophy prof, as I'm not one. So it's entirely proper for me to enlist bigger and badder philosophy profs who happen to agree with me, or more properly, vice-versa, when you assert I'm "out of my depth."

This is false. I have never before invoked my credentials. I did so only after you became snide and condescending. Furthermore, you quoted Habermas long before I titled up.

Furthermore, and again: they do not agree with you. And, even if they did, you've provided none of the quotations that demonstrate this, nor any of their arguments.

Ergo so far we still haven't got a single argument or consideration in support of any of your theses. This stands opposed to a plethora of arguments on my side, none of which has been addressed.

Ergo, etc., etc.

6. "you scurried away from the real point and started hiding under the skirts of the power of myth thesis

Actually, that was in there nearly from the first, and was noticed by the courteous reader. I wrote:

or a cultural milieu that believes that it is so.

following Habermas' sentence structure."

There's nothing for this mess except for you to try to clearly formulate your thesis. Forty five comments into this trainwreck and we not only do not have one single argument from you yet, but you have not even settled on a thesis. You keep switching back and forth as it pleases you. Neither is defensible, but you should at least pick one and stick to it.

7. "...scary myth...Karma would do fine.

Maybe. But societies that are karma-based haven't developed liberal democracy on their own. Why?"

I smell yet another thesis coming on...one about historical development...

There are many plausible explanations about why liberalism developed in the West. Since its roots are pre-Christian, though, the hypothesis you are, no doubt, already in love with is hardly more than a suggestion.

8. "My first answer is that karma also accepts fundamental inequality in our life stations, as a result of past karma. Not liberally democratic."

Ignoring all the other points that could be made here, let me cut to the chase:

It's not the particularities of karma that matter here. Rather...and here, again, we are hobbled by your flipping among different theses...but, supposing we're talking again about the power of myth thesis--i.e., (2)--something karma-like that insures punishment for transgressions in order to keep people scared is all that's required. And, again, there are any number of superstitious and otherwise irrational beliefs that will do the job.

The central point, once again, with regard to thesis (2): it has no chance. The requirements have been set too low. All that's needed (given the presuppositions you yourself put in place) is fear. That can be accomplished in any number of possible ways, for theists or atheists.

Thesis (2) is dead...but it never had a chance.

9. "But still, a fine and valid counterargument. Wish we'd have got to it 20 comments ago instead of all this hostility."

Neither fine nor valid, if it's your karma argument you are talking about.

But by God, Tom, it IS an argument. Congratulations! It's your first of this entire exchange.

As I noted above, the specifics of karma are irrelevant here...but still, it's an argument.

And as for the hostility, a word to the wise: don't dish it out if you can't take it.

10. "Or a myth to the effect that, though there are no gods, the liberal state is demanded by reason.

Interesting. Dunno a lot about him, but isn't this John Rawls? Is he untouchable? Maybe he's BS. There seems to be a contradiction in there about the community and the individual. Surely both can't have primacy."

Dunno what alleged contradiction you're talking about with Rawls. I'm no a Rawlsian, though I know more about him than I need to.

It's not fair to call his view a myth, in part because for all we know he's right, in part because it's not paradigmatically mythic.

But, again: it depends on which thesis we're talking about. If (1), we don't know whether Rawls works or not. If (2), Rawls will work just fine. Just like a literally infinite number of other views.

11. "Or perhaps John Stuart Mill. Is this where you're going? I really have no idea."

Again, you seem to be unclear about the dialectical situation. I'm not defending any specific view. I am:

a. Pointing out that you have not given any reasons in support of the theses you are insisting on.

b. Pointing out that, for very well-known reasons, theists are in no better position to answer (1) (and, in fact, what we might call 'thorough-going theists' are in a WORSE position).

and

c. Pointing out that frightening people is so easy to do that (2) isn't even really worth talking about.

None of these things require me to defend any particular view about the foundation of liberalism.

12. "Greek democracy put Socrates to death. Unjustly? Not by its own standards, where the state's own self-preservation is paramount, not "human rights.""

Not relevant. All states, even the best, are imperfect.

American democracy enslaved 12 million black Africans.

Discussing individual transgressions won't make progress here.

13. "Here now we're back to the original claim, that it's a REAL justification that's at issue.

Well, your lynchpin in turning the debate around to where you want it rests on this single word, "justification," based on your [quite proper] synonym from a strict reading of Habermas' use of "normative": since he's a philosopher, we must use this in the strict philosophical---not plain---sense."

Well, that's what he's talking about, so if we were to discuss that quote at all, that's the sense we'd have to give the word.

Also: I'm not aware that the word 'normative' even has a "plain" sense. It's a technical term, so far as I know.

14. "Is the liberal democratic state "justified?" Sure. Even if it were populated only by atheists and Immanuel Kant's devils."

Well, I'm less sure about that.

But, more to the point: are you decisively abandoning your thesis (1)? I can't tell.

15. "But a more generous and conscientious reading of Habermas' work indicates he wonders if the liberal democratic state shorn of its origins---the history of ideas, not in small part the Judeo-Christian tradition of both theology and its attending philosophy---can regenerate itself---the ethos, the principles, the belief in that justification---enough to continue to function over generations."

The answer to that is: certainly. In fact, there's simply no doubt that it is possible.

A more interesting question: how likely is it? Which brings us back to one of my earliest points:

Nobody knows for sure what effect Christianity has on liberalism or vice-versa. Here are some things we know for sure:

Christianity is more conducive to the emergence of liberalism than some conceivable moral/metaphysical views, and less conducive than others. It's more conducive to it than some atheistic world-views, less than others.

Christians want to pretend that it's the only thing that could produce liberalism, but we haven't a shred of evidence for that claim--and not a shred has been offered here.

Could any other actually-existing moral/metaphysical world-views generate the liberal state? Almost certainly. How likely would it be? I don't know, and maybe no one knows.

But that's a far cry from the--entirely unproven--claim that it's impossible.

Perhaps more importantly, we now have yet a third thesis on the table:

(3) It is impossible for any moral/metaphysical world view other than Christianity to produce the liberal state.

This is false, for the reasons considered above, and it falsely presupposes that Christianity generated the liberal state. But, again, the relationship between Christianity and the liberal state is complex and often adversarial.

16. "You, WS, think, you assert, you militate, that the answer is assuredly yes. Me and Habermas, not so sure, and neither are those who have been writing for a hundred years about the "crisis of the West."

You stand in good company, but so do I."

Not so much, really. None of theses (1)-(3) is true, and there's no even vaguely plausible reason to think they are true. Certainly none has been given here.

What people wonder about, really, is, given the actual other religions that happen to exist now, are any of them likely to allow the development of the liberal state? Or are any of them more likely than Christianity?

I, of course, don't know.

But all of this is a far cry from (1)-(3). If that's what you were wondering about, you should have said so.

17. Conclusion:
Still no reason to believe any of (1)-(3), and virtually conclusive reasons against them.

Our conclusion, therefore:

Religion in general and Christianity in particular are not necessary for any of the following:

(1) justifying the liberal state
(2) Scaring people into believing that the liberal state is justified
(3) The development of the liberal state.

fin

10:26 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Mm. That last 3) has no historical, um, justification. Not that history is everything.

The professor, busy as he undoubtedly is, and despite a dozens of threats toward the door, protests a bit too much, I think.

Hard to handle getting his clock cleaned with frightening regularity by someone who's "out of his depth."

It would be one thing if you were trying to edify me, but your efforts are to trash me and my thoughts, as they put to the lie the lies you tell yourself every day.

anonymous writes:


No, they're not, as I expanded on when I did the spadework of spelling out the presumptive argument that I thought you might be trying to make. That was actually an attempt at speculation as to why I might give a rat's ass that they're not the same.

However, you yourself were unwilling to actually construct an argument, preferring to imply one by suggestion or insinuation.


True. Welcome to WS' world, where I'm too tired and can't be bothered to post anything more than insinuations.

That justice and law are not synonymous was a tickle, admittedly an insinuation. I followed WS' lead there, altho unlike him not about politics strictly, but the principles behind them.

You say you responded to the tickle, in your own way. Good for you.

Remember, philosophy's about the questions, not the answers. Certainly not about proving the other fellow wrong. That's debate, and bloodsport.

I remember, long long ago, when WS-Philosoraptor posted mournfully how philosophy has become bloodsport in this modern academic age.

I liked him better then, I must admit. He's more concerned with unearthing error than discovering truth these days.

11:34 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

WS: Nope. You complained about attacks against the DCT more than once. Again: you can look it up. In fact, I'm surprised to learn that you've finally given it up. If I get really bored, I might even do it for you.

Do. As your flock likes to say---and you never object, so I guess you think it's just fine---I call bullshit.

I guess that's the true lingua franca around here.

11:39 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

LOL

LOLL
LOOOOL

Honestly, Tom, the internet is just incapable of permitting me to express the amount of shock that I experience every time I read your posts.

You say: "Hard to handle getting his clock cleaned with frightening regularity by someone who's "out of his depth."

Are you SHITTING ME!? NO FUCKING WAY. THERE IS NO FUCKING WAY YOU CAN POSSIBLY BELIEVE THAT. Dude, there is, as you put it, AN ENTIRE DEWY-DECIMAL-ESQUE SYSTEM that has been developed to CATEGORIZE FOR YOU your failures!

ARE YOU KIDDING!? You seriously need to see a psychiatrist. Now. You are verifiably insane. This is nuts.

I am so shocked that you said that, that..I just..You..you can't be serious. You can't be. That's just lunacy. Is this like some sort of up-and-coming hidden-camera type blog show where you try to act as insane as possible and see how much time people will willfully waste on your insanity?

If you think you've been winning, LOOK AT THE SUMMARY. The case is clear that you are NOT winning! I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU'D EVEN SUGGEST THAT!

I'm in shock. SHOCK.

THEN you give THIS: "True. Welcome to WS' world, where I'm too tired and can't be bothered to post anything more than insinuations."

LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL

Is that some lame ass excuse you just came up with for your EMBARASSINGLY HORRENDOUS comments that have been recorded for all history on the internet? I suggest we find some popular website to host a poll and see how many people think you're even CLOSE to POSSIBLY being correct here! Better yet: a poll regarding how likely it is that you need serious therapy for your delusions of intellectual grandeur and your pathological denial.


ALSO

I have to say this, since you've said it multiple times and no one's addressed it. You claim, repeatedly, that "philosophy's about the questions, not the answers. Certainly not about proving the other fellow wrong."

WTF DOES THAT MEAN? I know it clearly contradicts your later statement:

"He's more concerned with unearthing error than discovering truth these days"

ACTUALLY, you'd think the answers are kinda important when it comes to discovering truth, wouldn't you, you postmodern lunatic? If philosophy isn't about the answers, then WHY THE HELL ARE WE ASKING QUESTIONS?

"Philosophy is about the questions"! That sounds like a lame ass after school special sponsered by someone who took philosophy 101 from his private middle school and incorrectly remembered hearing someone say this once.

Fucking insane. In-sane. You need to stop typing, man. You're unbelievably crazy. WS tears the shit out of everything you say, and you come back with complete denial and utter insanity.

Let me explain that so you don't think I'm just targeting you because I'm some [insert snide comment here].

WS just posted a huge comment in which he very specifically demonstrated the problems with every single thing you said.

You responded with "Hard to handle getting his clock cleaned with frightening regularity by someone who's "out of his depth.""

...

That's it? Here, Tom, for the sake of making the case that you aren't absolutely insane, why don't you show us in a nice formalized argument just ONE TIME you think you have "cleaned WS's clock"? How about that?

One single instance. That way you won't have to be too bothered to do much more than what's required by the tiny insinuations that your harsh schedule restricts you to posting.

How about that? You'll probably ignore this request, but really, just to show us all how you're not utterly insane, how about one time? One measly little instance where you might have had even a glimmer of hope of being right is all I'm asking for. That shouldn't be hard to produce if you've been so consistently "cleaning his clock".

Hilarious.

9:29 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Tom writes:

"The professor, busy as he undoubtedly is, and despite a dozens of threats toward the door, protests a bit too much, I think.

Hard to handle getting his clock cleaned with frightening regularity by someone who's "out of his depth."

It would be one thing if you were trying to edify me, but your efforts are to trash me and my thoughts, as they put to the lie the lies you tell yourself every day."


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL

Oh, man, that's hilarious!

Tom, you are so full of shit I can't even believe it.

I try to be patient, try to put up with your ineptitude--which is, annoyingly, combined with your radically oversized ego and delusions of philosophical grandeur--not to mention your frequent insinuations of your philosophical superiority...but really, this is just too funny.

You just got your ass kicked in about fifty different ways--basically because I got fed up with your bullshit and your insults--and yet you are so immune to reason that somehow you are still the victim and the victor. Astonishing!

And what was it that I finally got fed up with? Well, the same M.O. that innumerable others have complained about:

1. Post irritating, irrelevant comment to almost EVERY post that's in any way critical of conservatism.

2. Make sure that the comment contains some pompous, psuedo-intellectual BS that seems to have been gleaned from a quick read of Wikipedia.

3. Get called on it by someone in comments.

4. Begin deploying strategy carefully described by the Mystic: change the subject, obfuscate, insert red herrings, insult the intelligence of opponents, change theses, assert no one is trying to understand you, make vague references to Aquinas, and, above all else, JUST KEEP TYPING and insisting that you were right.

So, fed up with this, I decided to just not give up and leave in disgust for once, but to try to explain your error to you in some detail...and to respond insultingly only when insulted.

And it turns out that you can't take it.

You don't even know what thesis you are defending, you can't make an argument to save your life, you can't even recognize the arguments others give. You either can't tell when you've been beaten or you simply won't admit it.

And the most astounding thing here is this:

Even when you've had your ass handed to you in an almost unbelievably thorough way, you can't even tell that you've been beat. Either that or you just won't admit it...

And somehow, after this really humiliating ass-kicking, you still have the hubris to assert that you have--not only this time, but "regularly" "cleaned me clock"!!!

In the end, you'd rather resort to a deluge of hilariously implausible insults than to just do what you should have done fifty comments ago and admit that you were talking out of your ass.

Oh, man, you are beyond deluded. You'd have to be deluded to think that you somehow even broke even here...but you're so deluded you think you won! It's amazing! It's astounding! It's almost beyond belief!

And now I'm a liar, too!

And my favorite part: if I leave the conversation, you've won, and if I stay, then I protest too much and you've still won!

I don't like debate, I like inquiry. But you, Tom, push even the most patient over the edge. Was this bloodsport? Yes, and you made it that way with your dogmatism and condescension.

But merely pointing out that someone's arguments are flawed does not make it bloodsport. You, as usual, crowed about your conservative thesis, claiming to have proven it. I merely showed that you hadn't. This is how it's done. If you knew anything about serious inquiry, you'd know that. And if you in any way cared about the truth, you'd care.

And, yes, you did defend the DCT. Several times. I don't even CARE about that point. I just insist on it because it's true. It doesn't matter at all to me.

11:18 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

And I'm still waiting to see what explanation you come up with of how and where you think you won.

I can't wait. It'll be excellent to submit with the packet I'm completing in order to have you forcibly institutionalized.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

If a liberal is someone who's too open-minded to take his own side in an argument, then I guess I'm quite the liberal.

What I said above was too strong and written in anger.

Tom, I believe that you often make good points and good arguments. But I also believe that you are often dogmatic, condescending, and troll-like. It's like there's a good Tom and a bad Tom. The good Tom is capable of getting perspective and making astute points. The bad Tom is inexplicably and relentlessly dogmatic with little ability to get any objective perspective on his own arguments and positions.

In this discussion, the bad Tom ran amok. You were wrong--and clearly shown to be wrong--but not only did you refuse to admit it, you wouldn't even offer arguments, you wouldn't acknowledge that good arguments had been made against you, and you even kept asserting that no arguments at all had been made! It was really jaw-droppingly false. Enough, as my dad would say, to make the Pope cuss.

Add frequent insults, including insults about my philosophical abilities, and the combination of irrationality and intentional provocation finally just pissed me off.

All my specific arguments about the issues stand. What I regret and repudiate are the assertions that you are not capable of doing better. I know this to be false.

I would just delete some of the comments, but blogger, again, isn't letting me do that, and I'm sure that the deletion of the entire thread would just make things worse.

Everybody, myself included, has trouble controlling his inner dogmatist. You might say "physician, heal thyself" to this, but I think it'd be very good for you if--with regard to certain political and religious issues--you could throttle yours back just a couple of notches.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For there are three types of brains: One understands matters for himself, one follows the explanations of others, and one neither understands nor follows. The first is best, the second excellent, the third useless."

2:08 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...


Everybody, myself included, has trouble controlling his inner dogmatist. You might say "physician, heal thyself" to this, but I think it'd be very good for you if--with regard to certain political and religious issues--you could throttle yours back just a couple of notches.


OK. Sorry.

I would note, hopefully neutrally, that this issue generates a lot of heat, and as Dennis Prager noted today, perhaps it's because it lies at the heart of the left-right divide.

Individual liberty and the well-being of the community are often at odds. The right is collectivist in its social norms, the left when it comes to government, particularly equality and physical well-being. Each is alternately libertarian and collectivist, it just depends on what sphere you're looking at.

The question at its root, to me of course, becomes what is liberal democracy after all---what is good?

Can reason alone can come up with a conception of man that "justifies" human rights, which we might say without fear of contradiction (yes?) is the justification for liberal democracy?

I haven't found it yet. Rorty said he didn't either. (I invoke him only because I assume he spent a lot more time than you or I have to search, and that he was a gentleman of good faith.)

I don't claim to have "proven" anything, and admit above that the thesis that Judeo-Christianity, with its conception of imago Dei (that man is made in God's image) led to liberal democracy and nothing else did or would have, is unprovable, as is any thesis about the history of ideas.

Now, you say that something else [we imagine something like the Enlightenment] would [probably] inevitably have produced liberal democracy through reason alone.

I dunno about that, because I don't know if reason finds a fundamental human dignity. The Greeks didn't, and the Roman Stoics actually operated under Divine Command Theory [with the exception of Cicero, I'm told].

Are there enough Ciceros to populate a liberal democracy, or are Ciceros too rare to form a critical mass?

Just questions, WS. I look at post-Christian Europe and see the well-being of the collective outstrip individual liberty. Mebbe I'm wrong. If so, the next 50 or 1000 years will make the matter more clear.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Offered without comment. Machiavelli got there first.

"The well-ordered state that emerges from Rawls’s prodigious philosophical labors is nothing very novel, especially for the professors who have always been his chief audience. It is the familiar modern progressive welfare state, which seeks to protect individual liberty while redistributing wealth in the name of social and economic equality. What makes A Theory of Justice distinctive is the complex conceptual machinery Rawls assembles in making his case. But what is truly remarkable, when you step back and think about it, is Rawls’s crowning contention that a certain interpretation of left-liberal politics is not only right and good and in accord with our intuitions—all partisans see their own positions that way—but that such a politics is nothing less than an imperative of reason—objective, universal, and, when all is said and done, binding on everybody."---Peter Berkowitz

3:58 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Glad we both have calmed down a couple of notches.

I think we must still be failing to communicate on some central issues. Here's another cut at it. Please forgive the length:

Tom wrote:
"Can reason alone can come up with a conception of man that "justifies" human rights, which we might say without fear of contradiction (yes?) is the justification for liberal democracy?"

Let me again remind us that this isn't *exactly* the question. The justificatory question at hand is: is theism in any better position to justify the principles of the liberal state than non-theistic views are?

We haven't seen any reason to think that the answer is 'yes', and there are many reasons to think that the answer is 'no.'

Perhaps reason alone can't do it...but then it can't be done. The crucial point is that God doesn't help. Why, again, is that so? The short answer is this: to show that something is justified is to show that there are good reasons to do or believe it. If God does or says something, then either he does or says it for good reasons--in which case there are *already* good reasons independent of his action, and those good reasons are what do the justification--or he does not. If what he does or says is not based on good reasons, then it is rationally arbitrary and cannot provide justification. Therefore God's beliefs and actions are irrelevant to the justificatory task in question. Therefore theism has no justificatory resources beyond those available to the non-theist.

God can do peripheral things, like, e.g., act as a moral tutor/informant, but that's not what the hard-line theist needs here--he needs God to have an indispensable justificatory role.

Tom wrote:
"I haven't found it yet. Rorty said he didn't either. (I invoke him only because I assume he spent a lot more time than you or I have to search, and that he was a gentleman of good faith.)

Yes, but, again, Rorty does not argue that theism is any better off. He thinks that justification (in the sense that you and I believe in it) is impossible. He is--though he denies it--a normative nihilist or irrationalist.

Tom wrote:
"I don't claim to have "proven" anything, and admit above that the thesis that Judeo-Christianity, with its conception of imago Dei (that man is made in God's image) led to liberal democracy and nothing else did or would have, is unprovable, as is any thesis about the history of ideas.

Well, I think there are more and less well justified propositions in the history of ideas. The proposition that Christianity *actually led* to liberalism is a live hypothesis. Clearly it played some role (for the good and for the bad). But the hypothesis that nothing else could have isn't really live. Lots of other views *could* have. It seems that the interesting questions are about likelihoods here: Is Christianity any more likely to lead to liberalism than other possible and actual views? Again, I don't see any evidence currently offered here to think that the answer isn't: it's more likely than some possible views, less likely than others. *Possibly* it is more likely to do so than any other major actual world religion. Though, again, my guess is that Athens is at least as responsible as Jerusalem.

Tom writes:
Now, you say that something else [we imagine something like the Enlightenment] would [probably] inevitably have produced liberal democracy through reason alone.

Actually not. What I said and think is that it is obviously *possible* for non-theistic views to do so. That's the historical/genetic thesis. No known background view will inevitably produce liberalism (Christianity won't do it *inevitably*, either). But non-theism *can* clearly do so. Again, the interesting question would be about comparative likelihoods, not possibilities.

And no view--theistic or atheistic--is known to be able to uncontroversially produce liberalism via reason alone. This, again, is why it's important to separate thesis (1) (the justification thesis) from thesis (3) (the historical/genetic thesis):

Nobody clearly knows how to justify the liberal state. And for well-known reasons, theism is in no better shape than non-theism in this regard.

But under the right conditions, all sorts of background theories could *produce* liberalism. And, under the wrong conditions, Christianity wouldn't (and didn't) produce it.

So the only interesting, live question here is, again, something like this:

Is Christianity any more *likely* to *produce* liberalism than any other *actual* religion?

A very, very different question than we've been asking--but the only one for which the answer might plausibly be 'yes.'

(If we let in possible but non-actual religions, Christianity wouldn't stand a chance, because then we could just let in a "religion of liberalism" that has L as it's central tenets.)

Tom wrote:
"I dunno about that, because I don't know if reason finds a fundamental human dignity. The Greeks didn't, and the Roman Stoics actually operated under Divine Command Theory [with the exception of Cicero, I'm told].

Again: it's very important to keep the relevant theses separate, especially the justificatory from the historical/genetic.

Tom wrote:
"Are there enough Ciceros to populate a liberal democracy, or are Ciceros too rare to form a critical mass?

Well, this seems to involve a conflation of the theses again. But, briefly: the point here seems to be a psychological one: that most humans are only liberals if they're scared straight by religion. But, again, any number of religious or non-religious stories will do the relevant scaring. Also, there are now primarily non-Christian liberal states, so we know it's possible.

Finally:
As for the anti-Rawls quote:
Again, nobody here is defending Rawls. The crucial point is that theistic theories are in no better position than non-theistic theories to do the justificatory job in question. This is an inherently comparative issue. No known inherently theistic attempt to justify the state works any better than Rawls's--in fact, *inherently* theistic theories don't work even that well. I'm not in any way trying to defend any particular theory, just trying to show that no attempt to lean on God here helps at all with the justificatory question.

9:59 AM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

Y'all don't be so mad at TVD. Without him, this thread wouldn't have reached 57 comments! With my useless addition, now 58. Man, what I would give for so many comments... (Note to self: Be careful what you wish for.)

I have to thank TVD for an important life lesson that I'm applying to my winter blues: Don't get angry about things you can't change; instead, mock them. I'm thinking of making this my New Year's resolution.

Hence my immediate descent into snark. My head certainly appreciates its sustained new distance from the wall. Success is getting TVD to object that snark is not an argument. Well, duh!

Getting him to use my favorite word (bullshit of course, supra) is a large but perhaps incompatible bonus. I'm happy to have the generous efforts of the Mystic and our esteemed host, among many others, to elicit that.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, it is a live discussion, WS. Even if we traded writing books and not comments, there can be no conclusive moment.

Now, you say you offer no theory in place of a theistic basis for liberal democracy. That was Edmund Burke's argument from prudence against the French Revolution. The Jacobins took order for granted, and were stunned to learn that chaos accompanied throwing out the old presuppositions.

But you do offer non-theistic justifications, altho not any specific one. OK. Habermas was there with what he called the "linguistification of the sacred," a quite reasonable proposition that what is good and true in religion can, with proper intellectual "progress," be put into the form of reasonable propositions.

The secularizing of the sacred.

Now, "endowed by their Creator" is a notion of the sacred. Can it be secularized?

I think in his later years, Habermas wonders if it can, and perhaps in an effort to save his earlier work, comes up with a hope for a "post-secularism," which isn't as dry and hopeless as 20th century modernity. But the sacred could be as ineffable as beauty, and reason cannot fully explain either.

And can you detatch liberal democracy from its origins? Synthesize its justification, Reason for the sacred? I submit that reason can never derive [or synthesize] the sacred, and that's our rub.

BTW, I didn't mean to conflate the critical mass of Ciceros with the theoretical discussion. It just fit in there, and I touched back to practice, which is also a valid albeit separate conern.

We still don't know what liberal democracy is. My view is classical liberal, but a creeping Rawlsianism has Bill Richardson saying yesterday that health care is a human right.

I seem to be obliged to pay for your health care if you can't afford it. What this has to do with freedom or liberty except impinging mine, I dunno. Liberty seems to get lip service and little else from the moderns. No wonder Ayn Rand, for all her flaws and impractibility, stands as a lone beacon to the young mind that has not been "educated" out of his individuality yet.

Ayn Rand as the justification for liberal democracy, then? Just axin'.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I have to admit I'm not really sure what you mean here, Tom.

Do you agree that (1)-(3) above are unproven?

And are you replacing them with another thesis? If so, we should formulate it explicitly.

One thing to remember about theses of this general kind: they often survive by being vague and slippery enough to avoid outright refutation. So to avoid that problem, it's important to formulate the thesis at issue as clearly as possible, and to stick to the evaluation of just one thesis until that vein is played out.

Since it doesn't make sense to say that S was endowed by his creator with (moral or human) rights, it seems like it doesn't really matter whether or not that claim can be secularized. For reasons explained above, it's a claim that doesn't even make sense in a theistic context--unless Aquinas and everybody else other than DesCartes and Graham Priest are wrong and God controls logically necessities.

And if (1)-(3) are all false, it doesn't seem to matter whether or not the sacred can be secularized.

Secularism may be dry in some sense...I think I may actually be sympathetic with some versions of that claim...but dryness doesn't matter for (1) or (3). It may matter for (2), but on independent grounds (2) seems to be false.

Anyway, the first step is to make sure what we are talking about, and what we agree on, in order that we don't just go over the same ground in different words.

I don't know what it means to say "liberalism has been detached from its origins." (That is, considering the claim in its present tense for clarity's sake.) For the purposes of (1) it shouldn't matter. It also shouldn't matter for (2). Nor for (3). To the extent that I think I understand the question, the answer seems clearly to be: again, we have no reason to think it's impossible. Again, since atheists make perfectly good liberals, theism isn't necessary for the life of the liberal state. A state made up entirely of Rawlsians would work just as well as a state made up by Christians. That's back to something like thesis (2), of course.

6:05 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

"I seem to be obliged to pay for your health care if you can't afford it. What this has to do with freedom or liberty except impinging mine, I dunno. Liberty seems to get lip service and little else from the moderns."

Well, Tom, someone once said that if you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor.

8:23 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Hint: he wasn't a "modern".

8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd say the Burke reference gets much closer to what's really going with Tom's argument than any of the Habermas or Rorty stuff.

Tom's real concern seems to be what happens if we become, as a society, completely secularized? What happens if we throw off the old presuppositions? Forget whether they're true or false, or whether they actually justify anything. The point is that they are around, and have been for a long time. What happens if we get rid of them? That's the issue, right?

And the big difference here between Tom and WS (and just about everyone else on this blog, I suspect) is a difference in attitude. This entire thread is, I think, just a clash between the liberal and conservative attitude. The liberal is happy to throw out the old stuff and pursue the new and better. The conservative wants to put on the brakes, because what we have ain't so bad and we don't know what we might get.

To quote Oakeshott: "To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss."

That's the conservative attitude, and you can't really argue with attitudes.

So there's rotgut's analysis of what's going on here. A 60+ comment clash of attitudes.

For the fun of it, another nice Oakeshott quote: "[the conservative] will be suspicious of proposals for change in excess of what the situation calls for, of rulers who demand extra-ordinary powers in order to make great changes and whose utterances are tied to generalities like "the public good" or "social justice", and of Saviours of Society who buckle on armour and seek dragons to slay."

If only contemporary conservatives were consistently conservative...

And on the Rawls quote above, fwiw, the later Rawls wouldn't say his principles are objective and binding on everyone.

8:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Exactly, Mystic. Thanks for getting my back on this one. Jesus was far more influentual than John Rawls could ever be, as we shall see.

(But He didn't say, send the revenooers over to the rich man's house, take all his shit and give it to the poor, so let's proceed slowly, OK?)

WS:Again, since atheists make perfectly good liberals, theism isn't necessary for the life of the liberal state. A state made up entirely of Rawlsians would work just as well as a state made up by Christians.

Well, an atheist state tends to look like Rawls', or worse. What gets overlooked in their state is liberty. Locke drones on and on about property rights and economic freedom. A difference between classical liberalism and modern? I think so. A fatal one? Perhaps so. The social contract is substituted for the sacred essence and therefore rights of fellow man. Does that work?

The problem with John Stuart Mill and John Rawls in particular is that they have the advantage of hindsight in looking at liberal democracy, and they already have order in hand. [A fundamental flaw in Rawls' "Original Position" thesis, in my view. What if the plenty that Hegel and Bill Richardson demand to provide basic material human rights is only possible where wide inequality exists? Rich guys created wealth and plenty, and got rich. Without excess wealth to spread around, revolution and chaos.]

Hey, I'm trying to focus. This is only the greatest question of our age and there's a lot to it. Back to theism:

Since it doesn't make sense to say that S was endowed by his creator with (moral or human) rights...

Well, that ends the discussion, especially since America is founded on that proposition, and my entire hypothesis keys on it.

Habermas writes in 2002:

"Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of western civilization. To this day, we have no other options [to Christianity]. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter."

Now, my own reading was taking me to this conclusion, but I was no way ready to assert it so boldly and definitively.

Habermas is an atheist, a gentleman of the left, and has no dog in this fight. Why does he say that?

I realize that you're genuinely busy with grading papers, but I have no access to JSTOR or Project Muse to get Habermas' reasons for such a radical assertion. But we should both want to know. Habermas seems to be a righteous dude.

And Habermas is also transdisciplinary in outlook. The boldest thinkers are the ones we read in philosophy, but the history of ideas, which ones held the most sway when, is also heavily a historical/cultural phenomenon.

So, your non-theistic proofs might work---if and when you offer them---but how many men are or could be guided by them---a critical mass?

And I don't know if reason leads to human rights. It certainly doesn't lead to, as Mystic points out, Christian charity.

Yes, I'm dragging in practice over theory again, but political philosophy isn't merely theoretical. Ideas in political philosophy must have some real resonance in human nature to have any staying power; form meets function.

Now, Habermas is not selling a return to Christianity just yet, but apparently finds the militantly secularist status quo untenable. Where that fits into (1)-(3), I do not know.

But perhaps Kant's reasonable devils cannot sustain a society after all.

Here's a link to a blogpost that has more on the discussion between Habermas and the future Pope Benedict XVI. it's not perfect and I don't vouch for it, but there's enough quotes in there to get through to the source material.

Hey, this is exciting stuff, cutting edge, and absolutely nothing is settled. If a great leftist atheist philosopher can kick it with the future pope without them throttling each other, there's hope for us all.

[And WS, I realize this is the wrong time of year for you to get into this. Thx for the second half of this discussion, which has made me hit the google and clarify my own thinking. As always, cheers.]

[I see Mr. Rotgut kicks in as I hit "Publish." Quite right about conservative attitudes, and whatever word describes opposition to them. ["Liberal" is not the perfect choice in this context.] However, it just might be that there's substance here, that there is a set of underlying principles that's quite specific, unique, and invaluable.

We wouldn't want to say that every x equals every y. That would be nihilistic or something.]

9:26 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Rotgut,

No, that's not actually what's going on.

Several much more specific theses have been offered, so the discussion is much more focused than that.

But thanks for the input.

2:38 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Tom,

We really do have to focus if we're going to make any progress. Especially in this venue--not really conducive to careful reasoning--it's crucial that we focus on individual theses and keep track of what's been shown and what hasn't.

What's allowed this to go on this long is, largely, the constant switching back and forth among different (often extremely unclear) theses, failure to address arguments that have already been offered, and so forth.

This is a mistake that is often made in attempts to reason philosophically, and one only advances when one focuses like a laser beam on some relatively specific thesis.

The Habermas quote, again, doesn't really help, since he's merely asserting a position and not arguing for it. He may be a "gentleman of the left" and so forth...but more good philosophers disagree with him than agree..so the fact that one guy thinks this is relatively insignificant. That's why we should look at arguments rather than just relying on quotes and assertions.

Again, we really need arguments here. The two relevant kinds would be:

A. Some arguments for your claims

or

B. Some arguments that show some problem with the arguments I've articulated in several ways so far.

You write:
"So, your non-theistic proofs might work---if and when you offer them---but how many men are or could be guided by them---a critical mass?"

The problem here, again, is that you seem confused about some important points.

First, remember that you have the burden of proof. All I've really focused on is showing that your claims are unsupported.

But, second, I've already offered the same arguments many times in different ways, and you've still offered no response to them, and, in fact, asserted several times that I haven't offered any arguments at all ("...non-theistic proofs if and when you offer them."). The discussion isn't going to go anywhere until I can tell what you think the problem is with those arguments. I'm a little concerned that I've offered so many arguments and that you're still suggesting that I haven't offered the relevant ones. Could you clear this up for me?

I'm wondering whether this is because you may still be unclear about the theses in question. Remember, the argument I'm most interested in above is the one I've already offered and you have never responded to, to the effect that theists are in no better position than atheists with regard to the justificatory question. Since I'm only arguing for the comparative thesis, that's the only argument I need to offer, really.

Finally, though, what I quote from you above seems to flip back to the question I formulated a comment or two ago, but I'm not sure. The theses you now suggest seems to be:

(4) An insufficient number of people will be motivated by rational arguments to maintain the liberal state.

O.k., this shows the importance of picking a thesis and sticking to it until we understand it...there's really no way to make any progress if we're going to keep flipping all over the place. Remember: theses of this kind often survive illicitly, because they're too vague to be refuted, or they hide among other, similar theses.

We've already noted facts that show that it's possible to have a liberal state made up primarily of non-theists. So (4) seems to ask the question: among actual people, how many are likely to be motivated to accept the liberal state without theistic underpinnings?I suppose your answer is "not enough."

Since this is yet another thesis, I want to make sure we're on the same page before preceding. If we keep wandering aimlessly like this nothing's ever going to get settled here.

Might I suggest that we both try to stick to short comments, addressing only one focused point in each comment from here on out?

So: could you identify your central thesis and the most important argument in support of it?

3:10 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

And sorry, Rotgut, I misread your comment and spoke in haste.

What I mean to say was this:

As far as this being primarily a clash of attitudes:

I don't think so. Rather: Tom began enthusiastically advocating a certain claim which has (a) not yet been supported and which (b) I've offered fairly good reasons for thinking is false.

So, regardless of the role of attitudes here, it seems clear that we must conclude that *at the very least* Tom's theses (1)-(3) are unsupported, so his original claim cannot be accepted.

I DO think that attitudes play some role in all this, though.

Sorry about the before.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

The theses you now suggest seems to be:

(4) An insufficient number of people will be motivated by rational arguments to maintain the liberal state.

O.k., this shows the importance of picking a thesis and sticking to it until we understand it





That was the very first thesis, based on George Washington's Farewell Address, offered in another [related] thread.

Paragraph 27.] His argument is based not only on reason, but experience.

We've already noted facts that show that it's possible to have a liberal state made up primarily of non-theists

Yes and no. There are some, but they're very young. We do not know if they can sustain, or as Habermas asks, "whether the democratic constitutional state can renew from its own resources the normative presuppositions of its existence."

The German liberal state, perhaps the healthiest outside of the Anglosphere, is only 60 years old. France is on her Fifth Republic since the Revolution, dating only to 1958. Spain and Portugal were military dictatorships as late as the 1970s. Italy has a new government every 6 months.

And Europe as a whole has birthrate that's below replacement rate.

So "renew" is certainly part of the question, not merely "justify." As I note, Mill, Rawls, et al. can theoretically "justify" in hindsight a society or regime that already works, but it is they who incur no burden of proof whether their own justifications can originate or sustain that regime.

Which brings us to the relevance of just what a liberal democracy is. Non-theists tend toward the material, and the non-theistic liberal democracy, as opposed to the classical liberal one of the Anglosphere, tends toward a collecticist solution to man's material needs as the purpose of the state.

"Liberty" as classical liberals like John Locke understood it, and the guarantee of which as the purpose of the state, gets lost in the shuffle.

As for Habermas not defending his contention that human rights come from Christianity's wellspring, we don't know that. I don't have the access you do to JSTOR and the like, and hoped that sometime in the future [not now], you'd find time to see if he does offer supporting arguments.

In the meantime, I can only point to Aquinas' "dignity of the human person" and his successor Francisco Suarez' work on natural law and its opposition to slavery and the divine right of kings as the genesis of what we today recognize as "human rights," ideas that predate the Enlightenment, yet are always in the background of Locke, etc., who were the philosophical backbone for the American Founding.

America being the world's oldest liberal democracy, with the possible exception of Britain, which had its Glorious Revolution less than 100 years before, and which resulted in executing their king.

Why do we respect human rights? The later commentators substitute social contract for "we're all God's chillun." We do not know if their substitution works.

I might be able to accept the obligation for paying for your health care because you're a child of God, as Mystic illustrates, but it's not my obligation unless you rewrite the social contract. In this way, theism supports Bill Richardson quite comfortably.

If I seem to be ducking your best arguments, it's not intentional. The possible problem I see is that the "liberal democracy" you're justifying through non-theistic means isn't a liberal democracy at all, merely Rawls' modern welfare state. Hence, I might appear to be all over the map, and perhaps I am.

4:39 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

"I might be able to accept the obligation for paying for your health care because you're a child of God, as Mystic illustrates, but it's not my obligation unless you rewrite the social contract."

Why, you sound just like a real live disciple!

7:14 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Now you know why I'm so nice to you. It's neither the natural or rational thing to do. Mt 5:44

7:22 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Well, (4) actually wasn't the first thesis. There were other theses in other threads, but I can't emphasize enough that it's important to formulate your theses clearly and stick to them.

Again: propositions of this kind often survive because they are conflated with other, vaguely similar hypotheses, and so discussions are derailed by flip-flopping back and forth among the propositions.

The thing is that you didn't formulate this thesis, and none of what you wrote in the twenty or so comments seemed aimed at establishing (4). Not to be obnoxious about this, but just to make the point, *I* had to clearly formulate the thesis. (And it's not exactly fair to argue that you had introduced this "in another thread". I, at least, had no idea that that's the proposition you had in mind, nor that you thought the two were linked.)

So, before proceeding, I just want to make sure we're on the same page:

You are in no way trying to defend (1)-(3) (contra earlier claims in this thread.)

Rather, you are only trying to defend something like (4).

It's especially important to get clear on this, as much of what you write in your latest comment actually sounds like you are reverting to arguments for (1) again.

If I'm wrong, and you actually do want to defend (1), we have to pick one of the two thesis and discuss that, ignoring the others, until we've come to some conclusion.

So I'm no going to address your points in the last comment until I get confirmation from you that this is the thesis at issue.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, you've reassumed your customary stance: grabbing the top of the hill and playing immovable object. All burden of proof goes to the other guy, and you'll play judge and jury on whether the arguments are allowable or not.

But they won't be, and I've already conceded that---even if we proceeded on a proper cooperative joint inquiry, where all burden of proof is shared---argument and counterargument---there can be no conclusive proof about any hypothesis about the history of ideas. For one thing, none of us were there.

I could and should simply take the Burkean argument as first to the post, and reverse roles. The American liberal democracy was grounded on unalienable rights endowed by the Creator, and any alternate justifications bear the burden of proof. [As a correlating point, I noted that the European liberal democracies are mere generations old, and it's difficult to judge anything about them until they show some tenacity and self-renewal.]

I also noted that political philosophy cannot be a simple exchange of abstract formal proofs---everything---again Edmund Burke here---must endure some sort of test of time, to see iff the principles comport well enough with human nature to endure and renew. And Professor Habermas in particular was known for his excellence across disciplines---not just philosophy but history, sociolology and even psychology. The human equation cannot be reduced to ones, twos and threes, or survive the stringency of formal philosophical proof.

[I had hoped that Habermas would be a suitable interlocutor for a good faith joint inquiry, as he's sympathetic to Immanuel Kant, to whom you refer with some frequency. I wouldn't just shtup Pope Benedict or Michael Novak on you.]

So when you ask

Do you agree that (1)-(3) above are unproven?

I answer yes, and further admit that they cannot be. If this is to be an adversarial proceeding, with you at the top of the hill, we're finished here. But that means that questions that need to be asked will go unasked because we cannot find incontrovertible answers.

But that's contrary to the soul of inquiry, which is the soul of philosophy itself. In fact Habermas' greatest contribution may have been in positing that the dialogue is utmost in importance, not the provisional answers.


(1) justifying the liberal state

I've written that self-renewal is also key here, and was included in Habermas' question. That man is endowed with unalienable rights by his Creator both justifies and renews liberal democracy.

If other schemes also do, we must examine them, and they bear a complete burden of proof.



(2) Scaring people into believing that the liberal state is justified

"Scaring" is pejorative, of course. In fact, a true Christianity or even the foggier "civil religion" of the Founders/first four presidents is more mindful of Providence. Gratitude at our blessings and the desire to be worthy of them through justice, mercy, and charity of them might be more precise.

It's far more akin to love, not fear.

Indeed, Richard Rorty confesses that "freeloading atheists," of which he considered himself one, piggyback on these Judeo-Christian dynamics, ethos, if you will.

Can liberal democracy sustain without those traits, that ethos, the grease on the wheels described in Matthew 5:44 that seems in such short supply these days, that holds at least some of us back from throttling the other idiot mercilessly?

This is what I'm really talking about here, WS, and it's not just a sidelight or gratuitous Bible quote. It's core and key to Habermas' question, and Rorty identified it.

Because returning a blessing for a curse is uniquely Judeo-Christian, and is justified by neither nature nor reason.

["Judeo-Christian" is a helpful neologism, because it takes the issue of Jesus-as-God and all that other divisive dogma out of the picture.]


(3) The development of the liberal state.

See above. America, the oldest, or second-oldest, liberal democracy was founded on Creator-endowed human rights and and appreciation of Providence, capital "P". This, I believe, is a fact. I've done a lot of research and dialogue about the philosophical-theological landscape of the Founding and am comfortable defending this assertion.

So what was 1), anyway? Was it Habermas' question? Your answer was yes, without explanation: It can and does. I question that, for reasons already given. If we disregard America and the Anglosphere, we're left with the baby liberal democracies of Europe. They, arguably at least, are indeed founded on non-theistic assertions of human rights, the social contract, and its attending laws.

Can these things replace the Law of Love? Please don't go all skeptic on me. That is the real question being asked.

[As for my prior comment, they were new thoughts that occurred to me while participating in this, that perhaps raw reason produces a different "liberal democracy" than America's and Locke's conception of it as the guarantor of liberty, not physical well-being. So, I get something out of this even if nobody else does. I'm honestly not here to troll or tilt at windmills. The exercise is worthwhile, and thank you for refining and forcing me to refine whatever it is I'm trying say or ask.]

10:14 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

You have a very delusional conception of nice.

As for your most recent post, however, I'll leave it to WS, and I'll stop distracting you with other comments.

11:58 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Christ, Tom, I've got to be honest with you. I'm not trying to make you mad, nor to insult you, nor to "play referee" nor any such thing. But quite honestly this discussion is a train wreck.

All I was trying to get you to do is to be MINIMALLY CLEAR ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE ARGUING. Not perfectly clear, not exceptionally clear, just minimally so. And you respond by flipping your lid and accusing me of cheating and being an asshole. Somehow merely by trying to get you to stick to one relatively clearly-formulated claim at a time, and by trying to get you to give SOME arguments rather than none, I am "grabbing the high ground" and some other such bullshit. Now, it's hard enough to wade through this mess and maintain my patience without having to endure bullshit accusations at the same time. So if you want to discuss this stuff, you are going to have to cut that shit out.

Above you seem to do the following:

1. Concede...FINALLY and after 70 comments...that (1)-(3) are unproven. Good. That's progress.

But then you seem to go on to:

2. Try to argue for them again.

(Incidentally, in a radically confused way, that seems to show that you STILL DON'T SEEM TO EVEN UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PROPOSITIONS. I tried to get us to focus on one at a time to try to gently help you clarify your positions, but you won't have any of it.)

(And you are still going on about that bloody Habermas quote in a way that indicates that you still don't understand that that quote is radically confused and doesn't do any of the things that you seem to think it does...despite the fact that I explained this in detail.)

Then:

3. You snidely insist that I've somehow rigged the game simply by pointing out that, in virtue of having made certain claims, you have ipso facto accepted the burden of proof.

(Whether or not there is a BoP in philosophy is a difficult question, but I use it here as a quick rule of thumb in this chaotic discussion.)

Then:

4. You suggest that you're only in trouble here because I'm insisting on certainty...which I am not, and which I never even suggested.

Seriously, man. I've been very patient here. I was willing to discuss this until we get somewhere. But you've got to quit throwing turds at the screen and insisting that I'm crazy, lying, and incompetent for not calling them diamonds.

You will, no doubt, get angry at what I'm about to say, but it really needs to be said:

I do this stuff for a living. I'm actually quite good at it. To be honest, I'm good enough at it that even other philosophers often comment on it. But I've got to tell you, I've rarely participated in a more confused and frustrating discussion.

Honestly, I'm starting to think that you aren't really interested in addressing these questions philosophically, but, rather, in approaching them in a kind of literary or poetic fashion--that might explain your reliance on Rorty.

This resembles no philosophical discussion I've ever had in about 25 years of doing philosophy in a serious way. The lack of clarity, the lack of arguments, and the vitriol all combine to make this, as I've already said, a train wreck.

If you are really interested in these issues, and if you are really interested in inquiring rather than just relentlessly pushing for a pre-determined conclusion, then you've got to start acting like it.

12:59 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I think it's becoming pretty clear that this is fruitless, but let me try to clear the way for at least the tiniest bit of progress here.

Tom writes:
"I could and should simply take the Burkean argument as first to the post, and reverse roles. The American liberal democracy was grounded on unalienable rights endowed by the Creator, and any alternate justifications bear the burden of proof. [As a correlating point, I noted that the European liberal democracies are mere generations old, and it's difficult to judge anything about them until they show some tenacity and self-renewal.]"

A. The attempt to shift the burden of proof.

I'm not at all sure what you're trying to say in the first bit above, but one fairly clear point is that you're trying to play burden tennis: that is, unable to carry your burden of proof, you are trying to shift it onto me. Although there may not be any burden of proof in philosophy, this is impossible to do here, since all I'm interested in showing you is that you do not offer sufficient proof for any of your various theses. (Note: I am not asking for absolute certainty as you assert. I am asking for SOME arguments SOMEWHERE.)

You have repeatedly made the mistake of asserting that I'm trying to offer a justification of the state. I've repeatedly noted that I'm not. All I'm trying to show you is that you have given no good reason to believe that the theist is in any better position to do this than the atheist. (But, again, that's the disagreement about thesis (1)...and, again, it's unclear which thesis you are talking about above.) I've made this point about six times. If you can't even understand this ultra-minimal point about our respective positions, I don't see any hope for this discussion.

B. "American was founded on inalienable rights endowed by the creator"

Above you seem to assert that you are permitted to simply assume this. That is false. That would be begging the question. I take it we can at least agree that begging the question is impermissible?

Again, this is an extremely minimal point. We should not have to discuss this after 75 posts.

Furthermore, I note as a sidebar:
I haven't even pushed on the point that there is no known, sound proof of the existence of God. Therefore any theistic proofs depend on an unproven premiss that non-theistic proofs do not need.

C. "Renewal"

Ok, now we seem to have YET ANOTHER double-secret thesis. Now we're not talking about any of (1)-(4) anymore, but now apparently we're talking about the ability of democracies to "renew" themselves, whatever that means.

So is this the topic now, or what?:

(5) Only democracies made up of theists can "renew" themselves.

Every time we're at all in danger of actually getting somewhere, the topic mutates.

These are just the confusions in a SINGLE PARAGRAPH. Just about every one of the subsequent paragraphs seems to be about the same.

Again:
This isn't a philosophical discussion. In a philosophical discussion, you identify clear claims, give reasons in support of the claims, and examine reasons against them. All you're doing here is pumping out large numbers of prohibitively vague claims without support, and without ever even considering any of the objections I raise.

I'm trying to engage in philosophical inquiry, whereas I think you're just engaging in some kind of political debate aimed at giving some kind of rhetorical support to your position.

Consequently, I don't see how any progress is possible here.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Again let me urge you:

PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD:

If you are going to keep this up, pick ONE thesis and offer ONE argument for it, and let us proceed from there.

Otherwise actual intellectual (as opposed, perhaps, to merely rhetorical) progress is impossible.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

B. "American was founded on inalienable rights endowed by the creator"

Above you seem to assert that you are permitted to simply assume this. That is false. That would be begging the question. I take it we can at least agree that begging the question is impermissible?



Well, you might have to offer an argument why it's false.

I think I've been very clear. I've had this very discussion with non-theists and they're prepared to concede a lot more ground on this point [and Providence] than you are. If we're going to compare.

Was America founded on a non-theistic basis, then? No ethos? You may counterargue that. Please do.

2:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

And we really must explore your hostility to poetry some time, Spock. It's what separates man from the beasts. And computers.

Men Without Chests, one fellow called it.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

1. "Well, you might have to offer an argument why it's false."

It is false that you are permitted to beg the question in this case because it is false that one is ever permitted to beg the question. I assumed that we could agree that BTQ was impermissible. I can explain why BTQ is a fallacy if necessary.

[Just in case, here's on argument against BTQ:

You should not beg the question because you should not beg the question.

That argument must be persuasive to anyone who accepts begging the question as a permissible form of argument.]

2. "I think I've been very clear."

No. No even semi-serious discussion of philosophy allows this degree of unclarity about such elementary points. I swear to you I have never seen any even semi-serious philosophical discussion so plagued by unclarity.

3. "I've had this very discussion with non-theists and they're prepared to concede a lot more ground on this point [and Providence] than you are. If we're going to compare."

They shouldn't have. My expert opinion here is that they were baffled by the BS. In fact, I'd be very, very large amounts of money on it if given the opportunity to do so.

I'm perfectly willing to concede points, but only in the face of good arguments.

4. "Was America founded on a non-theistic basis, then? No ethos? You may counterargue that. Please do.

There is no argument here to counter. In fact, There's not even any PROPOSITION here to argue against. What you've got there is just a question, and an extraordinarily unclear question at that.

It's now become clear to me that you don't understand what an argument is. That must be the problem. Sorry. I should have recognized this earlier.

'Argument', in philosophy, is in essence a synonym for 'inference' or 'instance of reasoning.' An argument has at least one premise and at least one conclusion. A thoroughly good argument is called 'sound.' A sound argument is an argument that is valid and has true premises. An argument is said to be valid (in the broad sense) just in case its premises provide the degree of support to the conclusion that is claimed by the argument or by the reasoner that offers the argument.

The idea is this:
If you advocate a thesis in philosophy (or science, or almost anywhere else I know of), you thereby assume the burden of offering some considerations that support the thesis--that is, some evidence--propositions that are likely to be true, and which if true, increase the likelihood that the conclusion/thesis is true.

Anybody can sit around and throw unsupported propositions back and forth. I think that may be what you are interested in doing. I'm not knocking you for that, I'm just saying that it isn't anything I'm interested in doing.

5. "And we really must explore your hostility to poetry some time, Spock. It's what separates man from the beasts. And computers.

Men Without Chests, one fellow called it.


Heh heh. Indeed. Jolly good.

But I have no hostility to poetry, just for the record. I just don't think it should be confused with philosophy. Or, for that matter, with math, or history, or basketball.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Ethos contains poetry. Values contain poetry. Political philosophy accounts for ethos and values. That's the problem with you analytical fellows: your system is insufficient to approach the human equation. You need soul, you need poetry. We are not robots, blithely following inherently interchangeable social contracts.

But even formally, I told you awhile back that discussion as over if you deny that the US was founded on Creator-endowed unalienable rights. The Declaration of Independence is offered as proof, and you are obliged to counterargue, not simply negate.


But you have the top of the hill, and the object remains unmoved. You win again, without making a single affirmative argument for any position at all. But it is a sterile victory, and no poems will be written about it.

5:40 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

...for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another's pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our's [sic]."---Locke, Second Treatise on Government

The inherent equality of men, based on their essential nature, of being created by God. The theistic origin of liberal democracy, the justification for liberty.

Can a nontheistic justification be substituted? Perhaps, but it accrues the burden of proof. Locke and Jefferson are first to the post, and their justification has withstood some test of time, which other justifications have not. Political philosophy must meet the standards of both theory and practice, practice being a trial of its compatibility with human nature, where the rubber meets the road.

Locke and Jefferson have passed, at least so far. Other schemes, not so much.

Neither, as noted most recently, do the other schemes necessarily preserve and promote liberal democracy---it could be that their substitution results in creating something else altogether.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

1. "Ethos contains poetry. Values contain poetry. Political philosophy accounts for ethos and values. That's the problem with you analytical fellows: your system is insufficient to approach the human equation. You need soul, you need poetry. We are not robots, blithely following inherently interchangeable social contracts."

This is the kind of BS that will baffle most people, but not someone trained to keep his eye on the logical ball. As I've already noted, nobody's denying the value of poetry. Do values "contain" poetry...etc.? Probably not. There may very well be some interesting relationship between values and poetry, but not this one: the former contains the latter.

This kind of "this is the problem with you analytic types" and "you need soul" stuff is the song of those who's arguments have been thrashed. I've got plenty of soul, thank you...but there's a difference between having soul and valuing poetry and just letting any old theory pass by on the strength of its poetic appeal. Nobody's insisting on logic all the way down. Nobody's trying to strip the poetry out of the world. What we're trying to do is keep mere opinion from masquerading as fact.

You started off asserting that a certain thing was obviously true. All I did was keep asking you for your reasons, which you couldn't provide. Now, while I DO recognize that some things are obvious, it was simply clear that what you were saying was obvious was far from it. There's nothing hyper-analytic or soulless, or any other such horrible thing about that.

Nobody's saying that cold logic is all there is. All I'm claiming is that it's something more than nothing. That is, that the very most implausible and unsupported theories have to fess up to that.

2. But even formally, I told you awhile back that discussion as over if you deny that the US was founded on Creator-endowed unalienable rights. The Declaration of Independence is offered as proof, and you are obliged to counterargue, not simply negate."

Just for the record, then, you conceded that you can't win unless you are allowed to beg the question. And, of course, I win if you allow ME to beg the question. (And anyone wins who is allowed to beg the question.)

Well, you seem to be committing the fallacy of equivocation here. You are equivocating between:

(A) The U.S. was founded on rights that were actually endowed by a creator.

and

(B) The U.S. was founded on rights that were thought to be endowed by the creator.

Now, (A), if true, would of course prove your case. But you cannot assert (A) without begging the question. (B) is pretty clearly true, but it doesn't help your case at all.

Ergo there's nothing here for me to argue against. As usual.

3. "But you have the top of the hill, and the object remains unmoved. You win again, without making a single affirmative argument for any position at all. But it is a sterile victory, and no poems will be written about it."

Such is the way progress is made in the dreary world of philosophy and science. Unlike the lively world of blogs and BS, where anything goes, so long as it's asserted vibrantly and repeatedly. Did I have the top of the hill? Yes, because you asserted the truth of a theory--a very strong and outlandish theory. I just asked why we should think it was true, and wasn't interested in defending any alternative. You'd have had the top of the hill if I'd have asserted that all justifications of the state had to be atheistic. (Actually, that's a case that can probably be made, but given that it took 80 comments to get nowhere, I'm not keen on bothering with that.)

No poems will be written, but the truth has been served. For those of us who toil in obscurity, that's all the thanks we need.

4. The Lock quote does nothing by assert your position again. That I still have to explain this 80 comments in is a bad sign.

There are--at long last!!!--some arguments in the Locke quote, though they aren't very serious ones. I could address them, but, as you've admitted that the conversation is over, and as it wouldn't do any good anyway, best to spare the electrons.

One point, though: That's just scratching the surface on the beginning of the discussion. You'll find that Locke's is only one position in a vast literature. You might find it interesting to dive into that literature.

Finally, a substantial point here, in case you are interested:

Locke here presupposes many things, one of the most salient being that God has property rights. This opens the door on the Euthyphro dilemma. Applied to this quote, the first cut is: if there are already property rights, then God is irrelevant.

5. "The inherent equality of men, based on their essential nature, of being created by God. The theistic origin of liberal democracy, the justification for liberty."

Well, again, an equivocation on 'justification.' If you mean:

(i) This actually does justify their liberty

Then you've begged the question. First, because there is no known sound argument that God exists, and second because it doesn't follow that man has rights from the (putative) fact that God made them.

If you mean:

(ii) The Founders THOUGHT this justified their liberty, then it's irrelevant.

6. "Neither, as noted most recently, do the other schemes necessarily preserve and promote liberal democracy---it could be that their substitution results in creating something else altogether."

No known "schemes" necessarily preserve and promote liberal democracy. Other metaphysical/moral backgrounds might not do as well as ours, or might do better. Both are possible.

The discussion is over, Tom.

You just keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

No progress is being made. You've conceded error (79 comments later than you should have). This discussion isn't even rising to the level of a good undergrad philosophy paper.

This is a waste of time. It really is time to let it go.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Not a waste at all. My first reply, and question to you, is that presuppositions beg their own questions, do they not? Otherwise, they're simply facts, not suppositions, pre- or otherwise. So, that part of your argument is stipulated as true.

And, of course, I win if you allow ME to beg the question

What question would you like to beg?

To business:

(A) The U.S. was founded on rights that were actually endowed by a creator.

and

(B) The U.S. was founded on rights that were thought to be endowed by the creator.

Now, (A), if true, would of course prove your case. But you cannot assert (A) without begging the question. (B) is pretty clearly true, but it doesn't help your case at all.


But B) is my case, altho I could quibble about your phrasing---I eventually got to that by conceding that we hold these truths to be self-evident. If (A) could be proven, we'd be singing "Kumbaya" right now, in our happy liberal democracy where we'd only need one party because we agree on everything. Or requiring no government at all.

B) is a presupposition for liberal democracy. If there are any other presuppositions that work, that's yet to be proven. [Whether the Anglo-American B) works ain't even proven.]

So I see your point that we're not speaking a common language. You're philosophy only, and theoretical. I mean, did Plato prove justice to your satisfaction?

Our answers are admittedly all provisional, so we can move forward from the primordial muck and slime.

That's why I dragged in Habermas, who speaks your language---you decline to speak mine---but pointed out that he is a crossdisciplinarian. [Bad locution, that, but it sounds amusing.]

The affairs of men cannot be reduced to ones, twos and threes, and Habermas realizes this. We are everything we are, poets too. Men found republics on poetry as much as theory. On their nature, their psychology as well. Thumos. Not to mention their cultural prejudices, which may be a function of geography-as-history as much as religion.

But look---Locke is not just one of many, he's the most influential thinker on the Founders [and the British system as well]. Jefferson's letters prove how closely, even slavishly, he followed Locke, even in metaphysical matters.

So please, disagree all you want, but I'm not throwing [stuff] against the wall. Locke is key here. And when I google "Habermas" and "sacred," it's because I already know that Habermas' inquiry would have taken him there, and indeed he had a whole riff about "linguistification of the sacred."

That it can be might be in doubt, and perhaps, near the end of his life and inquiry, he suspects so.

So, I offer my B) with Locke and Jefferson as witnesses, and a horde of scholars who attest that they were at the core of the world's earliest liberal democracies. Any alternate B)---and you're right when you say there are many---have to endure some sort of scrutiny themselves. [Rousseau, the "general will," and their Revolution made a hash of it, eh?]

I, and Habermas, question whether liberal democracy can form and renew [he used "renew," which makes it relevant]---sustain---without a sense of the sacred. He thinks the sacred might be able to be synthesized by reason, but even he's come to question that, and so do I.

You concede that B) is probably true, which is generous. Therefore, if we have a new B), in the US or in any other "liberal democracy" ("scare quotes" intentional) 1) what is it, and 2) can it sustain?

[Me, I hope that India, despite its roots in the karmic system, can sustain liberal democracy. Good for them, good for the world.]

And you do hate poetry, WS. Gelernter threw the best and most romantic of Shakespeare and Jane Austen and the human soul at you, and all you heard was sex. You are who CS Lewis was talking about, man, let's 'fess up. You are Gaius or Titius; your every argument drips of them. CS had your number.

8:22 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

LOL

"Not a waste at all. My first reply, and question to you, is that presuppositions beg their own questions, do they not? Otherwise, they're simply facts, not suppositions, pre- or otherwise. So, that part of your argument is stipulated as true."


Tom, you remind me of that female anchor on Futurama who saw a bunch of turtles walking in the sweltering heat past a bunch of windmills and she said "Oh well, at least they have those windmills to keep them cool!"

And here is the appropriate reply:

http://bp0.blogger.com/_WFDpmOq6Hrg/Rb51WMUYqQI/AAAAAAAAAPk/x7hFppCRv-U/s1600-h/windmills.jpg


Presuppositions do not work that way! Goodnight!

8:42 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

also, I propose a drinking game!

Every time Tom says "ethos" or "thumos", take a shot!

Wooo!


No no, better make that every time he says it twice in one post. We'd all be wasted too fast, otherwise.

Of course, that might help with his damn comments.

8:44 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Ethos and thumos are what it's all about in politics, my man. Logos, too.

Like when we Anglophones refer to a je ne sais quoi, sometimes language begins to fail us and we must cast our net into the human experience a little wider.

I realize now that to you, it seems like I'm just showing off, but Greek is the language of philosophy, just as Latin is the language of Christian theology. They have subtle shades of meaning and also humungously comprehensive meanings that English, even as the most gluttonous language by word count, can't get.

Ethos, for instance, can be strictly translated as "ethics," or "value system," but it also refers to the "character," the ooomph, of a work of art. There's a poetry to it that literalism fails to detect.

If you're interested in what I'm trying to say, you have the advantage of the post-postmodern world to hit Google to try to puzzle me out.

I have you on one hand and a philosophy prof on the other, and am trying to be intelligible to both. I realize I'm failing at that, but it's not for lack of trying.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Tom:

You are wasting my time.

Your comments are not up to the level of bad undergraduate philosophy.

You do not know what you are doing.

You do not know what you are talking about.

You are not offering any arguments worth discussing.

You are not responding to any of my arguments.

This discussion was over long ago.

You don't even know enough to recognize when you have been thrashed.

Seriously, man. It's embarrassing.

10:22 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Just pro forma:

1. "B) is a presupposition for liberal democracy. If there are any other presuppositions that work, that's yet to be proven. [Whether the Anglo-American B) works ain't even proven.]

Fallacy: Begging the question

2. "So I see your point that we're not speaking a common language. You're philosophy only, and theoretical. I mean, did Plato prove justice to your satisfaction?"

Yes, Tom. Your arguments are as good as Plato's.

Fallacy: being astonishingly pompous.

3. "Our answers are admittedly all provisional, so we can move forward from the primordial muck and slime.

Right. But 'provisional' doesn't mean 'completely unsupported.' Again, you mistakenly think I'm asking for certainty.

4. "The affairs of men cannot be reduced to ones, twos and threes, and Habermas realizes this. We are everything we are, poets too. Men found republics on poetry as much as theory. On their nature, their psychology as well. Thumos. Not to mention their cultural prejudices, which may be a function of geography-as-history as much as religion.

Irrelevant nonsense. Because you can't keep track of what you are allegedly trying to argue for, you don't even realize that this is irrelevant.

You are wasting my time.

5. And when I google "Habermas" and "sacred," it's because I already know that Habermas' inquiry would have taken him there, and indeed he had a whole riff about "linguistification of the sacred.""

There's much of the problem here in a nutshell. Far too much googling of Habermas. Tom, you don't even understand what the guy is saying.

And you don't seem to understand that Habermas's saying it doesn't make it so.

I mean, it's super keen that "he has a riff on the linguistification of the sacred."

My God, is this what counts as an argument in your world?

You are wasting my time.

6. "I, and Habermas, question whether liberal democracy can form and renew [he used "renew," which makes it relevant]---sustain---without a sense of the sacred. He thinks the sacred might be able to be synthesized by reason, but even he's come to question that, and so do I.

Question away. Wonder away. Ponder that it might be so. All fine. All very different from saying that it IS so, or that you can prove it. Many things are possible This is one of them. But it's nothing more.

7. "And you do hate poetry, WS. Gelernter threw the best and most romantic of Shakespeare and Jane Austen and the human soul at you, and all you heard was sex. You are who CS Lewis was talking about, man, let's 'fess up. You are Gaius or Titius; your every argument drips of them. CS had your number."

Jesus. The very fact that you think that godawful Gelernter piece is worth bringing up shows how locked you are in your own dogmatism. The fact that you think that disagreeing with that piece of crap entails that I "hate poetry" shows that you are utterly clueless. The fact that you think that I have any sympathies whatsoever with Gaius and Titius show that you haven't the foggiest idea where I stand philosophically.

8. Throwing around a little Greek that every freshman philosophy student knows does not make you a philosopher.

Once more:
You are embarrassing yourself and wasting my time.

10:40 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Comment removed in accord with Christian charity, WS.

The testimony of witnesses Washington, Jefferson, Locke, Habermas and Rorty remains on record, none of whom are recognizable Christian except perhaps Jefferson's beloved Mr Locke.

You reject them; I can expect no better. We're all a waste of your time.

2:07 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Testimony saying what?

What the hell claim are you attempting to make with them as your evidence?

And I like how you pick and choose aspects of Christianity you like, and apply them as you see fit, praising Christianity, all the while rejecting its qualities that you dislike, without letting that impact your view of Christianity (as shown by your disdain for your contribution to anyone else's health care, forcing you to care for the poor).

8:51 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Oh, he doesn't know, Mystic. He still doesn't understand why the Habermas quote is hopelessly confused, he still doesn't understand that Rorty isn't saying anything that supports his case, nor that the Jefferson quote just begs the question, nor why the Locke quote doesn't really help.

Tom isn't in the business of inquiring. He doesn't care about the evidence.

He's got his unshakable conclusion--or, rather, his unshakable cluster of conclusions--and he's not interested in the reasons for and against.

He cherry-picks a few thinkers and a few quotes that he thinks support his position and that's the end of it. Never mind that most of the quotes don't say what he thinks they say nor do what he thinks they do. When it's his favored thesis that's at issue, some vague, half-assed connection, and any vague veneer of plausibility is plenty good enough.

Tom is right by definition. Every single argument that leads to his preferred conclusion is sound. And every argument that counts against his preferred conclusion is unsound. And every person who agrees with him is--as he'll gladly insinuate ad nauseam--not quite his philosophical equal.

Not that he needs arguments!

The mere force of his subjective certainty is sufficient!

The conclusion is the fixed point, unshakable, immovable, in no need of support by mere cold, rationalistic, hyper-analytic logic-chopping "reasons" and "evidence"--things that only someone who hates poetry and music and mom and apple pie and puppies could care about.

Evidence and arguments are just window-dressing.

I used to wonder how Tom could still support the current occupant of the White House. Now it's all too clear.

9:34 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

"(as shown by your disdain for your contribution to anyone else's health care, forcing you to care for the poor)"

SHOULD =

"(as shown by your disdain for your taxes' contribution to anyone else's health care, forcing you to care for the poor)"

Not that that's even a crucial point here. I almost balk at saying it since you're having so much trouble saying anything with any minor amount of clarity and I don't want to distract you. But, I couldn't just let that go.

9:39 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Yes, that's generally what the Christian thing shows, too.

Fascinating. Our own little republican anthropology experiment.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. This discussion has an eerie similarity to one I had with Tom about the American and French Revolutions; one where he simulaneously insisted that the text of one of their seminal documents (the D of I) was dispositive, while the other (Universal Declaration) wasn't:

http://philosoraptor.blogspot.com/2007/08/how-to-discuss-books-one-hasnt-read.html

My final comment there:

"It's also interesting how you switch back and forth from the idea that what it says explicitly in the text of the documents is dispositive and the idea that it's not. So, for example, the fact that the DoRM mentions "general will" means that they rejected Natural Law, but their declaration that "the aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man" is meaningless.

But I'm the one who's "reading phrases from the documents and forming conclusions", and I should realize that "there's much more to the thing than that."

Then you post some long exposition of these concepts, which does nothing to show that they were fundamental precepts of the American Rev. Although of course, I have offered hard evidence that it was the concept of Natural Rights was the sine qua non in both Revolutions."

It all fits with Tom's MO here, and unfortunately in many threads, of throwing out incorrect propositions which, when rebutted with actual *evidence*, are countered with a withering hailstorm of grandiose statements about how unfamiliar Tom's interlocutor is with the REAL historical and philosophical background of the events, and how he or she really needs to educate himself to Tom's degree on the matter.

The discussion also features another of Tom's greatest hits, namely his unwillingness or inability to actually form an argument, a feature I referenced earlier in this thread when I posted about his deep philosophical ponderings on the difference between law and justice.

Fascinating. Like watching a monkey fling its own feces at the zoo.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

I feel your pain, A.

4:04 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Don't degrade monkeys, A.

Monkeys have good reasons for flinging poo - avoiding predators, hitting fat tourists, annoying kids, etc.

4:36 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Look at yourselves. I'm talking about Locke, you're talking about flinging poo.

Case dismissed, the jury is excused.

4:58 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Actually, the amount of philosophy extant in your posts does not increase simply because "Locke" is one of the many, many words you used.

Again, saying things != making good arguments.

You have produced perhaps 1 incredibly simple argument, which was thoroughly refuted.

In fact, the minor exchange between Anonymous and I regarding monkeys flinging poo is more substantive on both of our parts than the your part with WS has been after 90-some comments!

For instance: Anonymous suggested that watching you replace actual arguments and evidence with grandiose statements about how unfamiliar your interlocutor is with the REAL historical and philosophical background of the events for any of your positions is like watching a monkey fling its poo.

I countered this suggestion with the argument that, contrary to you, monkeys generally have good reasons for flinging their own poo - and then I supplied some hypothetical reasons, such as the need to avoid predators or the desire to smack fat tourists and their annoying kids.

All of this was about 1000x as philosophical as any of your posts about Locke.

You're still welcome to make an argument about one of the bajillion theses you postulated.

5:14 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I cited Locke. You cited poo. Sorry, that's a fact.

But I have this weakness about the 100th sheep. Even The Hundredth Monkey, which I find an interesting hypothesis, even if it appears to be scientifically proved to be bullshit. It has a poetry about it.

I'm easy. Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I made my arguments even tho the home crowd maintains I didn't make a single one. So be it. I think they are wrong in their verdict.

Liberal democracy was founded on John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson's understanding of him. And on the Puritan [Glorious] Revolution of 1689 in Britain, which may have been the founding of the true first pluralistic liberal democracy.

Any substitutions for Locke's [and Jefferson's, following Locke] "proof" of the liberty of the individual need to be examined, and garner their own burden of proof.

[Note the absence of the word "poo" here.]

Now I'd prefer you write Tom writes x, but the truth is really y, in a proper argument-counterargument form of cooperative joint inquiry. That's how it's done when both sides cooperate instead of fight.

To his credit, our "anonymous" attempted that form in our discussion of why the American Revolution was or was not philosophically compatible with the French Revolution.

Perhaps he won that that one. He/she did well. And perhaps I "lost" just because I made weaker arguments even if the actual truth was on my side, per Edmund Burke's objections to the French Revolution, even tho he supported the American one.

But ask me your most substantive and damning question, right here, right now about this subject.

I will answer. I consider you a friend, Mystic---or at least a friendly enemy, which is good enough for me---even tho our friendship is unstuck in time. I'll leave out the Greek if you leave out the poo.

2:49 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

If we've learned anything here, it's that we can't reason with Tom--something many others have pointed out to me, but, foolishly, I resisted.

100 commments in, and he's still simply repeating the same laughable falsehoods he's been chanting for...well, 100 comments now.

After failing to offer arguments for 100 comments, and ignoring every argument put to him, he now says "offer me some arguments!" As if we were idiots with nothing but time to type and type and re-type. If you ignored them the first ten times, why on earth would I think it'll do any good now?

Go answer one single argument put to you above and I'll offer another one. Until then, I'm not going to keep being Charlie Brown while to do the Lucy-with-the-football thing.

Some specific points:

(1) It has by now become clear that Tom does not know what an argument is, despite the fact that I included the definition above.

(2) Perhaps as a result of (1), above, Tom doesn't really offer arguments. Rather, he just keeps repeating his conclusions.

(3) Perhaps as a result of (1), he has not answered ANY of the arguments I made earlier--despite the fact that I formulated several of them in different ways.

(4) Perhaps as a result of (1), Tom does not realize that the few arguments he *did* (accidentally?) manage to make have been refuted.

Another view of the matter goes like this, though:

(5) Tom knows that he's wrong, but he's too dogmatic to admit it.

I think it's pretty clear that it's a combination of factors--dogmatism is a factor, but so is cluelessness. The combination gives him his super-power: immunity to logic. Arguments simply pass through him without effect.

We DO get a few new things above which are worth pointing out just for fun:

A. Tom is still willing to think and talk about the 100th monkey phenomenon, despite the fact that it was never even vaguely plausible, and has been soundly refuted. Note: THIS SAYS A LOT!

B. Tom thinks that he's being the serious one because his posts contain the word 'Locke' rather than 'poo.' It's the kindergarten criterion of seriousness!

C. New rhetorical ploy: I lost, but I was right ("the truth was on my side"). What to say?

D. And now we get: "But ask me your most substantive and damning question, right here, right now about this subject."

Because now it will be different! All of a sudden he's going to stop ignoring arguments, start keeping his claims straight, and quit being a clueless dogmatist!!! Right...

I've never seen anything like this. (Well, outside discussions of creationism...)

Coda:
NOW...again, ONE HUNDRED COMMENTS IN...we get this: "Any substitutions for Locke's [and Jefferson's, following Locke] "proof" of the liberty of the individual need to be examined, and garner their own burden of proof."

O.k., now we get YET ANOTHER thesis, distinct from all the other theses that Tom can't keep straight. This one is "you guys have the burden of proof!"--though he's been whining about burden of proof moves all along.

First, Tom AGAIN fails to keep theses (1)-(4) straight. Second, I've already given arguments that apply in this case.

Part of Tom's M.O. is just to keep typing the same crack-brained bullshit until people with actual things to do give up. Since he's immune to reason, he equates getting the last word with being right.

Surely you guys aren't going to fall for this?

8:34 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Ok, Tom.

You keep saying that we haven't given arguments and that you have. We, however, have pointed out numerous times that we have, in fact, given arguments. For instance, WS said:

"5. "The inherent equality of men, based on their essential nature, of being created by God. The theistic origin of liberal democracy, the justification for liberty."

Well, again, an equivocation on 'justification.' If you mean:

(i) This actually does justify their liberty

Then you've begged the question. First, because there is no known sound argument that God exists, and second because it doesn't follow that man has rights from the (putative) fact that God made them.

If you mean:

(ii) The Founders THOUGHT this justified their liberty, then it's irrelevant."


That is an argument. It stands to show you that you cannot justify personal liberty (or rights, or freedom, or whatever) with theistic notions of God.

So, there I have defeated your claim that we have not provided you with arguments. Now all WS has been asking is that you address just ONE of his arguments with some sort of counter-argument in support of one of your myriad theses that appear to have been thoroughly destroyed.

So, I suggest, if you want to prove something, that you simply offer a counter-argument to this argument given by WS. You do, after all, claim to believe that theism is the only way one can justify liberal democracies.

You have to give reasons for this belief. So far, all you've done is make vague claims about how some people thought it was a good idea once. That does not constitute a good reason for believing that theism can justify liberal democracies.

That's about as clearly as I can put this situation for you.

Your job: Give us a counter-argument to the argument placed to you above so that you can demonstrate that you have a good reason to hold the belief that theism is the only way one can justify liberal democracies.

Note: The fact that other people thought it worked doesn't mean it DOES work.



Another thing: You seem to be judging whether or not a justification "works" based on whether or not the government created with that justification backing it. I have two main points about this:

1) The government running with a certain justification in the background is not in any way proof that the justification is correct. The most it can prove is that it's possible to run a government with this claim in the background. Of course, that's an incredibly uninteresting claim.

2) You aren't arguing that liberal democracy only comes about from a desire spurred on by theism - that would be lunacy. People will desire the freedom entailed in a liberal democracy regardless of whether or not they are theistic. Evidence of this is the large group of non-theistic people in existence that desire the freedoms entailed by a liberal democracy.


Again! If you think you're being persecuted here, or that you're somehow right, then...

Your job: Give us a counter-argument to the argument placed to you above so that you can demonstrate that you have a good reason to hold the belief that theism is the only way one can justify liberal democracies.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Introducing: The Tombot!

The Tombot is our newest innovation here at Philosoraptor. The Tombot makes TVD obsolete, but simply automatically producing the same dogmatic nonsense that Tom would produce anyway.

The Tombot is an automated exponent of Tomism, the new Christian postmodern misologism that's sweeping the blog!

Behold!:


I don't see anything new here, Mystic. You don't even offer any arguments!

I've already Googled Augustine, Jefferson, AND Habermas, and I see that they all vaguely agree with at least something I've said at some point in my life.

Habermas, for example, writes:

"I like puppies. They are fuzzy-wuzzy."

A more eloquent proof of my thesis--whatever it may be--could hardly be hoped for!

I've got all the thumos AND the demos AND the burritos. You ask for arguments, but I have already provided all arguments known to man, whereas you have provided no arguments at all--none! And still I have refuted them!

But you ask for more arguments? Well, here are my most important ones

1. I am right.

2. I am right therefore I am right.

3. Mee my mo dogface in the banana patch.

4. A fish.

As the Pope, Chesterton, AND George W. Bush have said: ruciureog uisro'dk oas, qadrogkt. I couldn't have said it better myself.

You fear my philosophical prowess because I always clean your clocks! Clean your CLOCKS! Clean, clean your clocks!!! Admit that I am smarter than you NOW!!! And a better philosopher!

I AM RIGHT!!! HOW many TIMES do I HAVE to SAY it????

You have the stronger arguments, Mystic, but I am right. So there. Though that you have the stronger arguments merely shows that logic is flawed and poetry is the key here.

If you had any real understanding of the issues--as I do--you would see that.

And if you win the poetry thing, then it's rock, paper, scissors. Yeah. That's what it is.

I hope that I have now conclusively shown that, if Jefferson says something somewhere as a merely rhetorical flourish, then every tangentially-related proposition is true with logical necessity.

I DO appreciate you stopping by my blog, but I AM going to have to insist that you, as mere guests here, defer to my better, truer, deeper, and in all ways more profound judgment in these matters, even if I am entirely incapable of explaining any of my reasons.

11:48 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You still argue with me more than you argue, WS. That's revealing. Regardless of your claim that you've refuted all that's been set in front of you, you haven't even got in the game. It doesn't really matter what you think of Locke; it only matters what Jefferson, et al., thought of him.

Now it's true that Locke argues from God, your 1). But I argue simply from their theism, which is 2) or B) or whatever.

Now, Mystic might dismiss that stuff as "rhetorical flourish." If he's correct, then the discussion is indeed over. But I submit it's not rhetoric, it's the vitiating principle.

Now, it may be true that atheists, like everybody else, want "freedom." But Thomas Hobbes would say mostly they and everybody else just want to not die a violent death.

And what is freedom, anyway? Does the welfare-state "liberal democracy" resemble Locke's and Jefferson's at all after the nontheists are done secularizing it?

And let's be clear---the nontheistic justifications for liberal democracy are not the same as Locke's, who was the major thinker behind the first liberal democracies, those of Britain and America. A substitution---an attempted substitution---is happening here.

No, I don't claim to have proven anything, Mystic, in fact I conceded a while back that it can't be done. I conceded a lot of things, like Anglo-American liberal democracy isn't even "proven" to work, as we've only been at it a few hundred years. Your last post indicates you missed those concessions.

Just axin', musing a bit. They've been talking about "the Crisis of the West" for over a century now, axin' the same questions I am. They're still axin' 'em at this very moment.

You want to say there's no there there, and no here here, fine. Meanwhile, the parade passes by.

As for poetry, I think it gets its place at the table of human events. Perhaps the Civil War really did start over tariffs, but it was fought to its conclusion because of things like the Gettyburg Address.

4:20 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

So wait, let me get this straight..

Is this your formal admission that you aren't providing arguments, but that you're just "musin'"?

4:26 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Why are you so obsessed with form? I say something, you say something. Leave me out of it.

There wouldn't be 100 comments if folks did.

But for the record, I'm always musing. There's very little in political philosophy or even the interpretation of history, that's 100% definitive. I don't think I've ever written that the other fellow is "wrong," unless it's on a matter of historical events that I can use CNN or the WaPo to back me up on.

Usually, the other fellow values x where I value y, so that's the source of the disagreement, and cannot be resolved.

Hell, maybe John Locke's what's wrong with liberal democracy. Maybe John Rawls perfected it. I'm willing to listen.

[Is that your counterargument?]

5:13 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Don't try to make sense of Tom, Mystic...his multifarious positions transcend your puny logic...

8:09 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Again, you miss the simple point that no one is saying we have to be "100% definitive". No one is asking for certainty.

The fact is, rational people "value x" for good reasons. It's not simply that you value x where some "other fellow values y" and there's no good reason behind one's holding these values. Sure, sometimes it's true that there are equally good reasons on each side, and it ends up being that one must suspend judgment. However, you seem to be way too relativistic when it comes to suggesting that it's "usually" the case that there are equally good reasons on each side.

In fact, you provide practically zero reasons to accept anything you say, and then when very well reasoned counter-arguments are given, you seem to just think it's another one of your illusory unresolvable conundrums.

But when one person has better reasons and evidence for his or her beliefs, then if you're truly interested in inquiring about truth, you'll accept the most well reasoned position.

You say you're "willing to listen", but even your most basic assumptions about what that entails appear to be wrong. If you count it as "listening" when you go into something with the opinion that, should a disagreement emerge, it's most likely that it's simply unresolvable, that's not listening. That's not even inquiring. That's just a good excuse for you to fall back on when you realize it's time that you change your views in face of the evidence, and you don't want to.

You're very into the notion of two honest, honorable gentlemen inquiring into the truth of matters, but you also idealize the honorable dispute to the point at which you would rather have the dispute than the truth.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Nicely put, M.

I think it's astounding that now we're almost 110 comment in and Tom still hasn't offered any arguments, nor responded to any.

It's got to be some kind of record! Personally, I wouldn't have thought it possible. I mean, you'd think that by sheer dumb luck he'd have made an argument by now, wouldn't you?

And yet his absolute certainty--like his ego--remains undiminished!

12:53 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

John Locke is my argument. The rest follows.

Your rebuttal is that John Locke is bullshit.

You win.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

"John Locke is my argument."

Nice! People aren't arguments. (Actually, I think that people might be arguments...)

The Locke quote finally did contain a small and inconsequential argument which, in effect, begged the question. Nice that something you wrote here had an argument in it, though!

But I explained already why the argument there wouldn't work...and, as usual, you just keep asserting that you were right without addressing the point.

I'd go through the Locke quote again, but if we've learned anything here it's that you cannot be moved by reason. Since you didn't pay any attention the first time, there's no reason to think that explaining it again will help. Though if you were interested you could go back and read about the problem.

Indeed I do win, but only because I'm right.

5:53 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Tom, you gotta realize that saying things like that makes you look like an utter tool.

"John Locke is my argument"?

That's the dumbest thing..

Come on, I'm trying to help you out here, but I can't help you if you don't help me help you.

Look, if you think something that Locke said is a part of your argument, why don't you nicely enumerate your argument for us? I can't help you here if you don't even want to try.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

You're very into the notion of two honest, honorable gentlemen inquiring into the truth of matters, but you also idealize the honorable dispute to the point at which you would rather have the dispute than the truth.


That's quite accurate, Mystic, as like you, I'm suspicious of anyone who claims an exlusive possession of the truth. The dogma thing.

We also assume that the two honest, honorably gentlemen would not argue dishonestly or fabricate falsehoods to try to pass them off as "fact."

And even if the other fellow does, a gentleman would not find it necessary to point that out. He would move to his counterargument rather than sully the other gentleman's reputation.

A method of inquiry that could have distilled this thing down to 20 comments or less, with no hard feelings.

Nothing really original. Better minds have put it better, and with more depth.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Link.

6:01 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Nontheism begs all its own questions, too, WS. It seizes control of the debate, becoming the arbiter of what is and isn't permissible.

Mystic, I'm trying to be patient. I dunno if you guys are unfamiliar with the gist of what I'm saying, or being disingenuous. Either way, it's frustrating, because I'm not saying much that isn't pretty well known in the marketplace of ideas.

Britain and America were the first recognizable liberal democracies. John Locke was hugely influential---his influence cannot be understated. Jefferson read and quoted Locke as if he were the Bible.

So, to quote Locke is not to pull a moldy thinker off the shelf and say, see, look here! He's as central to the birth of liberal democracy as, say, Aquinas is to the Catholic Church.

Each made their errors, but to ignore their centrality is to miss the whole point.

Liberal democracy was founded on the belief that human rights come from God. Nontheists may reject that proposition, but they can't ignore that fact of history.

Now, if they want to propose a nontheistic basis for human rights, fine, but they must acknowledge it's a substitution. They also have to admit that it's not proven that that basis can sustain and renew a liberal democracy, that it will work as well as the God-based one.

Or they can argue that human rights aren't necessary for liberal democracy, or they can argue we don't need a foundation for human rights at all, just the recognition that they exist, which is what Richard Rorty argued.

That's about the fifth time I'm written that, and the proposition remains unaddressed. You wanna help me out, address it, and help on trying to reduce the noise level. So far, I'm helping you out. Argue any of the above. They might have some "truth" to them.

6:32 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

"Liberal democracy was founded on the belief that human rights come from God. Nontheists may reject that proposition, but they can't ignore that fact of history."

Yes, you've said that before, much as we've pointed out that it doesn't matter as far as any of your theses are concerned.

I'm not sure what you're trying to say that that means. It's obviously true that the idea that human rights came from God had a huge impact on liberal democracy, but that doesn't mean that it's true, nor does it mean that it's even necessary for the creation of liberal democracy.

Just like the first club might've been invented by Thag so he could hit Bork. That doesn't mean that it was necessary for the invention of the club that Thag wanted to hit Bork.

"They also have to admit that it's not proven that that basis can sustain and renew a liberal democracy, that it will work as well as the God-based one."


There's another thesis. Now you're claiming that, because a liberal democracy based off of a nontheistic ideology hasn't been proven insofar as it can "sustain and renew" itself (whatever that means), that there's no way of knowing whether or not it will work as well as a liberal democracy based off of a theistic ideology.

That's incorrect, though, and for the following reason:

You say that a theistic basis for liberal democracy works because it provides a way for people to justify human rights.

Thus far, however, we've determined that that is, in fact, false. The theists have no good way of justifying human rights. In fact, they don't even have anything close to resembling a good way. WS has conclusively shown that every single formulation of this idea that you've provided has failed miserably.

So if the theists have no good way of justifying human rights, clearly your thesis that theism is necessary for the success of a liberal state (due to the fact that theism, as you allege, provides justification for huamn rights) is incorrect. Theism is clearly not necessary for the founding of a liberal democracy because, as it has been shown, it is a failure when it comes to justifying human rights. That means it's absolutely not possible that it could be necessary for a good liberal democracy, since it provides nothing but, perhaps, a fog-bank to which one might direct one's opponents in the hopes that they will become lost in it.

If a fog bank is all you're looking for, the best your thesis can do then, is say "Theism is necessary for a liberal democracy because it provides the only false justification of human liberty that's confusing enough to thwart others' attempts at demonstrating that humans do not have rights."

Obviously, however, this is not true. Plenty of other theories have been suggested by WS (karma, for example) that could provide a fogbank thick enough to lose the majority of people inside, causing them to falsely believe that human rights are justified by the theory.

It seems to me that the best thesis you have to offer in defense of theism is that it's the only way stupid people can be convinced that they have rights so they go along with a liberal democracy.

Of course, it's also worthy of pointing out that it's not even the case most of the time that theism is even brought up when talking to children about why you don't hit someone else.

Most people just use the golden rule.

So why can't that be a substitute?


In short:

1) It's clear that theism is not necessary for establishing a democracy because of its justification of human rights, since its attempts at this justification have been utter failures.

2) Perhaps you are suggesting that it's the only theory that's able to make people believe that human rights are justified (even though they're not), so they better be nice, thus laying the groundwork necessary for a liberal democracy. This is false, however, because it is clear that there are plenty of theories that could do the same thing.

3) Seems to me the golden rule (or perhaps Kant's categorical imperative?) does a fine job of laying whatever groundwork is necessary for the establishment of a liberal democracy. My wager is that most people don't think about whether or not their rights are justified philosophically, but that it's more of an issue of how we can live together and be the happiest.

That's what I learned in Kindergarten, anyway.

7:12 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

"I'm not sure what you're trying to say that that means. It's obviously true that the idea that human rights came from God had a huge impact on liberal democracy, but that doesn't mean that it's true, nor does it mean that it's even necessary for the creation of liberal democracy."

Saying that because theism resulted in democracy, it's necessary for it is the fallacy called "Affirming the Consequent".

If B, then A.
A.
Therefore, B.

That doesn't work, see, because B isn't shown to be the only thing that causes A, only that it's one of the things that could cause A. In other words, B is clearly a sufficient condition for A, but it's not clear that it's a necessary condition for A.

You appear to think that, because theism is a part of a set of beliefs that has been shown to be a sufficient condition for the generation of a liberal democracy, that it must be necessary for that democracy's generation.

Hence, by making the assertion that theism is necessary for democracy because it was once part of a set of beliefs that brought one about, you have affirmed the consequent, and that is a fallacy.

7:17 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Final note:

It seems that in light of all of this, the strongest claim you can get away with making is this:

"It is possible for theism to be part of a system of beliefs that brings about a liberal democracy"

You cannot include the following in your thesis, as they have been shown to be false:

1) Any claim that theism justifies human rights.

2) Any claim that theism is necessary for democracy to exist.

3) Any claim that theism is the best theory when it comes to making people believe that human rights are justified even though they're not.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Thus far, however, we've determined that that is, in fact, false.

No, you've asserted it's false. You've offered no proof or arguments at all. In fact, I don't expect proof. Arguments will be fine.

Now, you admit that belief in God-given human rights was key in founding the first liberal democracies. Good.

Can other justifications work? All I'm saying is that it remains to be seen. Karma, by its very tenets accepts fundamental inequalities in men's life stations. The golden rule? Without any otherworldly sanctions for breaking it or reasons for keeping it, it's hard to say. If we all lived by the golden rule in the first place, how much would we need government?

And the golden rule gets tricky when we get to individual liberty, providing for the poor, ordering a society so it's cohesive, showing charity, or mercy.

Is mercy just? [Mike Huckabee, with all his paroles, some of which went bad, is finding out.]

Immanuel Kant? Well, that's a strong contender---Habermas was working on that, as a neo-Kantian or however they classify him. But as his life's work draws to a close, he's been saying that the theistic founding principles of liberal democracy are still needed.

Why?

To inquire more into that, one cannot content himself with "proving" TVD wrong in a comments section.

Can a nontheistic basis for human rights arrive at Locke's vision of individual liberty? I suppose Ayn Rand's can, but her solutions, besides being impractical, seem to miss something in the heart of man that John Rawls apparently captures.

But are Rawls and Locke compatible? If not, then liberal democracy as originally understood has mutated into something else entirely, and this discussion has no meaning at all.

Which it doesn't, apparently, for you and WS. But that's fine. I'm getting plenty out of it. I'm entirely consistent with my very first comment, which objects to an anti-theism that seeks to push theism out of the public square.

Habermas objects, too, regardless of what he means by "normative."

7:46 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

It's just astounding.

120 comments in, and Tom is making the same mistakes over and over and over again--and still doing so with the utmost confidence.

You're a patient man, Mystic, but a foolish one to continue to waste your time one someone who hasn't a clue what's going on here and who has demonstrated that he either cannot or will not even stick to a single thesis, much less offer arguments or listen to the ones YOU offer.

By this point Tom seems to have retreated to a point at which all he is asserting is something like:

(6) We have no conclusive proof that a society that was non-theistic would inevitably have produced the liberal state.

sigh

I know this isn't really worth discussing, but:

This is yet ANOTHER new thesis, and it's entirely unimportant.

What he started out asserting was that positive reasons were available to show that theism was required in order to justify the liberal state.

By this time we've got nothing but a watered-down genetic thesis to the effect that we can't conclusively prove that the state could have actually evolved a different way.

So we get:

"Now, you admit that belief in God-given human rights was key in founding the first liberal democracies. Good.

Of course no one here ever denied that merely historical thesis. The very fact that he suggests that this has been denied shows how confused he is.

Then:
"Can other justifications work? All I'm saying is that it remains to be seen.

A. Again we see the confusion of the philosophical thesis (1) with other theses. 120 comments in, and he can't keep the central distinction straight. That's how views like this tend to survive, of course--through confusion.

B. If we are talking about justification in the ordinary sense, the philosophical sense, the sense in which something can be said to be really justified or shown to be rational, then, of course (and as we've pointed out innumerable times), the theistic justification itself doesn't work. For reasons already discussed--and well-known to philosophers--God can't endow people with rights.

C. No one here has ever argued that non-theistic justifications DO work. All *I*'ve argued (and the arguments stand unanswered) was that theism is in no better position to solve the justificatory problem than atheism is. Tom still seems unclear about the crucially comparative nature of this claim.

D. And, of course, Tom remains systematically confused about whether he's trying to talk about a philosophical thesis about justification or a causal, historical or sociological thesis. Or a psychological thesis.

E. Sometimes he is asserting that the liberal state could not *develop* in a non-theistic culture. But, again, we've seen no reason to believe this, and we've already offered many reasons to think it's false--again, all unanswered. As we've noted, the liberal state could easily develop in a culture full of Rawlsians. All it takes for this is some kind of belief in the relevant basic principles--and this can be brought about in a literally infinite number of ways. And, of course, it is in no way guaranteed to come about even in a theistic culture.

F. This is the point at which Tom now seems to have weakened his thesis to: you can't conclusively prove that it could have evolved that way. A far cry from the earlier thesis that went like this: it is impossible for it to evolve that way!

G. This is also the point at which Tom will now confuse his theses again, arguing that e.g. Rawls's view can't do the trick because it isn't clear that the theory works. Then we'll have to point out, for the hundredth time that that is irrelevant if it's the historical thesis that's at issue, that no theistic theory works either, etc., etc.

Then Tom will post some more comments making the same mistakes again, confusing his theses, asserting that we haven't made any arguments, alluding to that nonsense Habermas quote, etc., etc.

This would all be laughable if not such a monumental waste of time.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Just to summarize where we stand so far:

Is theism required in order to justify the principles of the liberal state?

No.

Is theism better-equipped to justify the principles of the liberal state than is atheism?

No.

Is it impossible for the liberal state to evolve in a non-theistic culture?

No.

Is it impossible for non-theists to have allegiance to the liberal state?

No.

The only interesting question in this vicinity is this one:

Is Judeo-Christian theism more likely to produce the liberal state than any other actually-existing religion or non-religious moral/metaphysical world view?

[Note: there's no hope of a 'yes' answer unless we focus on (a)likelihoods rather than necessities or possibilities, (b) genetic/historical claims rather than philosophical/justificatory ones, and (c) actually-existing religions and world-views rather than all possible ones. This is to give some kind of theistic position its very best case by ruling out all the territory on which it would be instantly thrashed.]

Not only is this the only interesting question here, it's--interestingly--also the only one we don't have a clear answer to. We know that the only civilization on Earth that actually produced the modern liberal state was a civilization that was built largely on the cornerstones of Athens and Jerusalem. That, I think, makes it reasonable to think that the answer to the question above is something like:

A very tentative and highly-qualified 'yes'...but only when that theism has been mixed with the intellectual fruits of Greece.

Too bad Tom wasn't defending *that* thesis. That one's interesting and vaguely plausible.

8:27 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

On second though, I guess we really can't even get a tentative and highly-qualified 'yes'...but I think we could get a robust 'maybe'...

8:28 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

I'm inclined to think that it's mostly because of Greece and Rome that we have the republic we have today. It seems incredibly clear that all our republic/democratic notions of democracy come straight from them.

Perhaps some people justify human rights using Christianity, but really, you can justify human rights with any religion when it's done in the way they did it - you know, the way in which it doesn't work and they merely assert strongly that it does.

I really can't think of a way in which one might suggest that Christianity is the best religion out there for the production of liberal democracy. Not that I'm expecting anything like a reason from Tom.

10:06 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

I was just re-reading Tom's last comment and ran across another falsehood that I thought I'd point out:

"Now, you admit that belief in God-given human rights was key in founding the first liberal democracies. Good."

Nooooooo. NO no no.

I concede that American liberal democracy was founded with these principles in the background. I don't think they were key whatsoever. Much less do I think that they were key in creating the first liberal democracy, since they weren't even around when the first liberal democracy (Athens) was founded.

10:26 AM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Actually, I don't even concede that. I concede that the American liberal republic was founded with those Christian principles somewhere in the background playing somewhere between a mildly important and a fairly trivial role.

The first democracy was Athens, and it was conceived entirely without Christianity.

You are just so flat out wrong here, it's unbelievable. If you want a religion most conducive to democracy, you're going to have to go with some good ol' Greek Paganism, since it's the only (historically proven!) religion to ever, by your standards, lead to the production of liberal democracy.

10:31 AM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

I suppose I should spend more time pointing out the errors of form in your own non-arguments, but that seems so ungentlemanly, not to mention boring.

WS hides behind his seizure of "normative" as a philosophical term, because Habermas was a philosopher. But Habermas was multi-disciplinary, and "normative" applies to norms in plain English. It need not mean "justification," which is how he, having arrogated the term, uses it exclusively.

Athens was not a liberal democracy. It was a democracy, true, but was founded on its own self-preservation, not human rights.

Not only is this the only interesting question here, it's--interestingly--also the only one we don't have a clear answer to. We know that the only civilization on Earth that actually produced the modern liberal state was a civilization that was built largely on the cornerstones of Athens and Jerusalem. That, I think, makes it reasonable to think that the answer to the question above is something like:

A very tentative and highly-qualified 'yes'...but only when that theism has been mixed with the intellectual fruits of Greece.

Too bad Tom wasn't defending *that* thesis. That one's interesting and vaguely plausible.


A good faith joint inquiry, instead of one conducted with hostility and the desire to "win," might have produced that level of agreement 100 comments ago. But all the chest-thumping and desire to prove the other fellow wrong---and not by me---led to 100 comments of people wasting their own time.

I really can't think of a way in which one might suggest that Christianity is the best religion out there for the production of liberal democracy. Not that I'm expecting anything like a reason from Tom.

Of course, I gave one, several times. There is something unique in Judeo-Christianity's idea of being made in God's image and likeness that is uniquely compatible with human rights, and justifies it. Locke similarly argues a sacredness about man. But the argument about the sense of sacredness was never touched, instead, we were treated to blather about how no arguments were made.

Of course it seems that no arguments are made when you blithely ignore them. Or maybe they just went over your head, but they were put out there. Don't blame me for your own lack of apprehension.

1:38 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Yeah, M, that's an important point I've been meaning to bring up, too. Most people don't think about religious justifications of human rights at all. Their commitment is directly to the rights. They won't even bring God into it at all unless something or someone prompts them to come up with a theory to underwrite their commitment. Then many people--not having any particular theory, actually--grasp for the first thing that comes to mind, or the thing they heard somewhere once, or that claim they read in the preamble to the DoI (Jefferson himself grasping around for a theory he didn't have, and hastily gesturing to God in a kind of rhetorical flourish.) The commitment to rights is there first, and is held independently of any philosophical theory of the rights, including theism, egoism, utilitarianism, rawlsianism, etc.

Theism is useless for justifying rights, and is unnecessary as a psychological enforcement mechanism, and is not a necessary historical antecedent...so all the grand and interesting claims that sometimes get made on its behalf fail.

Theism per se has no special relationship to liberalism for many reasons. For one thing, many actual and possible versions of theism are opposed to liberalism. You can make up a god to lend imaginary support to any view you want, including the most illiberal views. So it isn't interesting or important to discuss theism per se in this context.

However, it might be interesting to talk about Judeo-Chrstian theism in particular. You might, that is, say something like this:

"Hey! here's this one kinda interesting thing: liberalism came to fruition in a certain way in a culture that was largely Christian (and Greek). So here's a hypothesis: Christianity is in some way congenial to liberalism, or more likely to foster it (in the longish run, though not the shortish run) than are other extant religions, or whatever."

Seems like a hypothesis worthy of testing to me. But folks who have a desperate religious/political/psychological commitment to christianity confuse an abduction that leads to a hypothesis worthy of testing with something like proof or positive evidence.

People who really know things about the history of ideas (unlike myself) could, I'm sure, cast some light on this one way or another. It's clear that there's some kind of relationship between the views--e.g. the notion of natural law evolved in a way that reveals the two views influencing each other. Ultimately liberalism proves the stronger force in many ways, for example forcing Grotius to say that wrong acts would still be wrong even if God didn't exist. And ultimately natural law theory evolves into Kant, who distills out its essence and throws away the God part.

So I don't think anybody would deny that *Christianity* in particular has influenced the development of liberalism (and vice-versa). It's also clear that many other possible views (both theistic and atheistic) would be better for liberalism than Christianity is. The only thing in question is whether Christianity is any better in this regard than the other actual religions.

This is far afield from any of the points that have been made here thus far, but it's not completely off the subject.

1:43 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

addendum: By 'the other actual religions' I mean the ones that happen to have grown up on Earth. There is a literally infinite number of possible religions, only a few of which are actual--that is, actually believed/practiced by real people. Though Christianity obviously isn't the best possible religion to underwrite liberalism, it might very well be the best actual religion on Earth in that regard. It's better than the Aztec myths, and probably better than the Greek myths. It's probably better than Scientology... Though since I don't know anything about religion I wouldn't be able to say any more about that.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, that's germane.

The question becomes whether Judeo-Christianity, working from its tenets like imago Dei, must lead to liberal democracy. I lean yes. For one thing, it did.

Now, nontheistic schemes can lead virtually anywhere. That's the problem.

" But is there any one thus intended by nature to be a slave, and for whom such a condition is expedient and right, or rather is not all slavery a violation of nature?

There is no difficulty in answering this question, on grounds both of reason and of fact. For that some should rule and others be ruled is a thing not only necessary, but expedient; from the hour of their birth, some are marked out for subjection, others for rule."---Aristotle

Natural right, I believe that is, WS. You sneered when I mentioned it at one point. Compare and contrast to Locke. This view of natural right is incompatible with Judeo-Christianity, and with Locke.

2:01 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

"Well, that's germane."

There's a statement that seems to indicate some sort of understanding and acceptance of what WS just said.

"The question becomes whether Judeo-Christianity, working from its tenets like imago Dei, must lead to liberal democracy. I lean yes. For one thing, it did.

Now, nontheistic schemes can lead virtually anywhere. That's the problem."


There's a statement demonstrating that Tom STILL DOESN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT'S GOING ON.

Unbelievable. I have to quit, unfortunately. I can't keep wasting my time like this. I could be doing much better things with my time than talking to someone who's not interested, not listening, and only repeating what he so desperately wants to believe over and over and over.

I'm sorry, Tom, because it's good to have someone who generally comes to different conclusions than you do, but only when that person is actually rational and coming to conclusions - not just irrationally holding dogmatic positions.

That doesn't help.

Sorry I couldn't be a part of that which I hoped would show you the error of your ways, but it appears that you're stuck in a rut that you just won't let anyone get you out of.

I gotta get out of this one - I'd rather be reading my books for next semester, or preparing a paper for publication. You know, intelligent things conducive to progress.

Hopefully, WS will divert his energies likewise. It'd be best for us all.

You, Tom, should maybe read some books on logical argument and structure. I'm not trying to be condescending in any way, I just want you to stop wasting everyone's time, and it'd probably help if you understood the basics.

You remind me a lot of myself coming out of high school - obviously smart enough to have been able to persuade others to your side, even though you hold false positions and without actually knowing how to formally reason and argue, but it's time to grow up.

It took a really good professor of mine to beat that out of me, but WS is doing you a service here if you'll listen and take his advice when it comes to recognizing when you're off topic and understanding when your arguments are bad and when they are good.

2:29 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Didn't mean to hit submit there -

The end of that was that you should take this service for what it's worth, rather than spitefully fighting it. It's like watching someone with a treatable illness telling the Doctor who's prescribing treatment that he doesn't know what he's talking about. Could it be the case that you're right and that this doctor really doesn't know what he's talking about? Yes. It could be. However, it's incredibly unlikely.

Next time you want to argue with him, think of it as though you're arguing with a medical doctor about medicine. If your points aren't damn solid and backed up by good solid evidence, you're most likely way out of your element and incorrect if he tells you you're incorrect.

Once you start accepting that you need to improve, that you're not the philosophical giant that you think you are, you'll be way better off and you'll be much more helpful to everyone, including yourself.

When I came out of high school, I talked a whole hell of a lot. Then I met my philosophy professors in college, and I talked a whole lot. Quickly I found that my talking didn't help anything, and I listened a whole hell of a lot. Now I'm slowly learning how to talk and make it count.

You should do the same. Start listening, watching, and incorporating the good argumentative styles that you see into your own. Stop struggling to be the best and make a point after every single thing that's said on the blog. It's the only way to improve.

2:37 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

1.
"The question becomes whether Judeo-Christianity, working from its tenets like imago Dei, must lead to liberal democracy. I lean yes. For one thing, it did."

Well, here is one thing that's pretty clear: it is NOT true that Judeo-Christianity MUST lead to liberal democracy. First, it isn't clear to what extent JC DID *lead* to liberal democracy. Again, you beg the question by simply assuming causation. But, as I've noted, it was a Christian civilization that got to liberalism first, so there's enough reason to formulate a hypothesis, but not to prove it or even support it. But even if you can show that x does lead to y, that's barely any reason at all to think that it *must* do so.

Still, at least once I've formulated this new claim and supplied the argument for it, it's a contender, unlike the theses that you were arguing for. So that's progress.

What the Christian should emphasize here is not the false claim that JC inevitably leads to liberal democracy, but, rather, the more plausible claim that, if its principles are correctly understood and applied, then it is more consonant with liberal democracy than many other actual religions (though less so than an infinite number of possible religions).

Christendom has only inclined toward liberal democracy for a fairly brief period of time. For most of its history, it's inclined toward authoritarianism and theocracy. So anyone who really looks at the historical evidence and takes it seriously would have to conclude that JC is more likely to encourage such authoritarian sates. Only someone already wedded to a hypothesis they aren't treating scientifically would conclude that it MUST lead to liberalism.

2. "Now, nontheistic schemes can lead virtually anywhere. That's the problem."

A. Well, the problem is actually that this is one of the points I've been making to you over and over again, and you've repeatedly rejected for no good reason. I'm glad you finally acknowledge its truth. "Non-theism" is a category that includes every imaginable type of non-theistic view, including both fiercely liberal ones and fiercely illiberal ones. So, as I've pointed out repeatedly: it is entirely possible for non-theistic views to lead to liberalism. You have just acknowledged that this is true. The fact that you refused to admit this until you thought it served your purposes is yet another indication that you are not reasoning honestly here.

B. It is also possible, of course, for *theism* per se to lead anywhere, as there are infinitely many different types of theism, including maltheism. You cannot continue to ignore this point.

C. The reason you erroneously think there's a significant difference here is that you are comparing *Judeo-Christianity* with non-theism generally. The proper contrast is between:

(a) theism and non-theism: neither of these is any more or less likely to lead to liberalism, as there are infinitely many liberal and illiberal varieties of each. (Note that the discussion was originally about this point; I tried to move it over to a discussion of Christianity in particular because it was an open-and-shut case if we just discussed theism generally. Your position was a non-starter.)

and

(b) Christianity and some roughly comparable, comparably narrow and pre-selected non-theistic view like say, Kant or "secular humanism."

Now: christianity is not guaranteed to lead to liberal democracy--we know this *inter alia* because it usually doesn't--that it has is a recent, and perhaps fleeting, phenomenon. And, as you yourself have admitted, non-theistic views can lead anywhere, so they, too, can lead to liberalism. And Kant and "secular humanism" are particularly apt to lead to liberalism.

Having recognized all that, one should recognize what I've been arguing for the whole thread: that the only interesting question here is about likelihoods.

3. Yes, everyone knows that Aristotle thought that some men were natural slaves. Again, not relevant except and until we abandon all the theses you were trying to prove--which all fail--and focus on the only live one, the one I've been trying to get you to focus on for fifty comments now: the question about the relative likelihoods that christianity and its alternatives will actually lead to liberal democracy.

The fact that you think that the contrast between Aristotle and Locke proves the point shows, once again, that you don't understand what you're trying to argue for. Unless you have conceded that the point at issue is the point about relative likelihoods, the contrast would only be relevant if someone here had argued that there were no liberal Christians, or that all non-Christians were liberals. The fact that you think this is so significant is yet another disheartening indicator that you don't really understand what's going on here.

I'm afraid I have to agree with the Mystic insofar as I have to conclude that this discussion is a waste of time, primarily because you aren't able to clearly state your theses, stick to them, and argue for them. I suppose this sounds mean. I don't intend for it to. But I've come to the conclusion that no matter how many times I try to explain to you that you're making mistakes, you either can't or won't acknowledge it. So I'm driven to be blunt out of exasperation.

What you keep producing is a mess of inchoate arguments that don't prove what you say they prove, and that would only be relevant if you were arguing for theses you claim that you are not arguing for.

The other possibility is that you understand that that's what you're doing, but you're being intentionally sophistical. I suspect that it's some combination of the two, but I can't be sure.

Deeply entangled in all this confusion are some live questions, but you seem to be so passionately devoted to your favored conclusions--which are DOA--that I can't even get you to focus on the few live questions in the vicinity--even though they are in a way congenial to your Christianity, conservatism, etc.

Seriously, if I thought I could help you out, I'd keep at it--but the Mystic's doctor analogy is pretty good. After doing this stuff for years, I've come to realize that there's no help for people who don't want to be helped. As the Tortoise shows Achilles, logic cannot always grab you by the throat and make you see the truth. In very many cases, the human will is stronger than human reason, and in those cases you can hold on to your conclusions and no argument in the world can pry your grip loose.

You can produce the illusion of defending almost any view in the world if you allow yourself to formulate your theses in a sufficiently vague way, shift back and forth among those theses, offer unsound arguments, keep insisting that you are right, and ignore all criticism. And that's what's going on here.

You probably had a moral obligation to admit, when this thing started, that you weren't interested in inquiring seriously. You have, in effect, intentionally wasted many, many hours of my time, and introduced a significant amount of pointless frustration into my life. That's wrong. It's disrespectful and dishonest.

Consequently, I, too, have no choice but to disengage from this thread.

4:04 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Actually, your dismissals are what typical of those who know little about history and are reflexively hostile to religion. You pretend John Locke didn't exist, and unalienable rights endowed by the Creator is mere rhetorical flourish.

As for WS, he reduces the human equation to a theoretical formal philosophical discussion. By rigging the game, he "wins," but is forced to ignore 2/3 of the human experience to do so.

Net gain for truth = zero.

Is there a John Rawls song that can move men like "The Battle Hymn of the Republic?" That sounds like a smartass question, but it's at the heart of all this. You think you can plug in one for thew other and liberal democracy keeps rolling on its merry way. You, of course, won't know what I'm talking about, and somehow that's my fault.

Follow your own advice, mate, and for crissakes get some thoughts of your own instead of parroting WS'.

4:11 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

Isn't there anything we can do, doctor?

4:35 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

For the record, I'm fine with WS' last comment as a starting point, which makes it a shame that we're finished.

And for the record, I mentioned Aristotle to provide context [proof, argument, whatever] as to why Greek democracy wasn't liberal democracy.

Now, my joint inquirer Jonathan Rowe likes Dr. Gregg Frazer's description of the key Founders---and it fits Locke---as "theistic rationalists." My only objection is that it misses the uniquely Judeo-Christian character of the Founders' Providential God.

Their theistic rationalism was basically Judeo-Christianity stripped of the dogma [Jesus is God, etc.], and an idea of natural law still there. The law of nature and nature's God, as Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence, no mere rhetorical flourish.

So what I'm really talking about is an idea of natural law, a Providential God, and an inherent sacredness to man himself. I would have got there sooner but it got a little noisy.

Neither am I sure that a nontheistic basis leads to liberty as much as to a welfare state, since the concerns of this world are its primary concern.

Thank you and goodnight.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Rain Man, we know - you're an excellent driver.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Here's something you learn early on in your teaching career: when you try to get people to be minimally rational and minimally reflective about their views, and when they don't want to do so, it's common for them to respond like so: "logic isn't everything!" That's, of course, what Tom is doing when he writes:

"As for WS, he reduces the human equation to a theoretical formal philosophical discussion. By rigging the game, he "wins," but is forced to ignore 2/3 of the human experience to do so."

But of course this is false. Nothing I've said or even suggested entails that I have any interest in "reducing the human equation to etc. etc." I'm a big fan of life's rich pageant. I suspect that truth and justice are the most powerful forces in the universe. Sometimes I even think that love makes the world go 'round. Most of my most cherished views are fairly sentimental and ooey-gooey. Just for the record.

Tom seems to think I'm some kind of robot because I do not enthusiastically acquiesce to even the most obviously false theses just because he passionately believes them. But although I don't think logic is everything, I do think it is something, and that it's important that our philosophical views make at least a little bit of sense, and that we state them with at least a little bit of clarity. And if this is "rigging the game," then all of human inquiry is so rigged. And I didn't do it; Aristotle did.

And, you'll note, that even now, even in his closing remarks, Tom again can't tell which thesis he's arguing for, reverting back to the psychological thesis about motivation, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," and all of that. But no progress can ever be made without at least a modicum of focus.

Tom in closing asserts that my last comment contains a good "starting point." But the fact that it took 135 comments for me to re-direct his attention away from his first six or eight amorphous, ever-shifting, and DOA theses and toward this one convinces me that a discussion of this thesis would be equally fruitless and frustrating.

Especially since, at the very end of his comment, he reverts back to all the confusions that made everything so far so frustrating and fruitless. Again he points to the beliefs of the Founders, though this can settle nothing about any of the theses floated here. Yes, the founders were mostly deists and unorthodox theists, but that settles nothing here. As great a man as Madison was, still and all his believing that p doesn't make p true.

In the end, Tom throws out a mish-mash of non-specific allusions to natural law and divine providence, suggesting that he would have revealed all if not for so much noise...but this rings hollow. After spending 135 comments without being able to formulate or defend a clear thesis, there's no reason to think that anything would change in the future. He wants us to believe that he had grand proofs waiting in the wings, but all that pesky and petty logical niggling prevented him from deploying them. But no one who's followed what's gone on here thus far could even possibly find that claim even vaguely plausible.

There are all sorts of theses about god--broadly construed--that I think are worth considering and discussing. But there are all sorts of theses that are just dead ends. God is not the magical rights fairy, dispensing rights with a word, at his whim, to free and rational beings. If, as we believe, free and rational beings have rights, it is because they are free and rational. And, if that is correct, then not even God can dispense rights to nor withhold them from free, rational beings. God can no more do that than he can change the laws of logic--and even Aquinas recognized that he cannot do that.

Neither is theism required to motivate us to be good liberals, as the profusion of atheistic liberals proves. And so on.

Still, I really do think that there's a good chance that Christianity in particular has been good for Western civilization in the more-or-less long run. Certainly not in the short run, and maybe not in the long run, but my guess is that it's to some extent helped get us where we are now, which is a pretty good place by the standards of history. I wouldn't trade it for, say, Islam, that's for sure.

Two points in closing:

First: if you have a view that you so cherish that you simply can't seriously entertain the notion that it's false, then it's best to admit this right up front. We all have such views; there's no shame in it. But best to call it what it is instead of engaging in pseudo-inquiry--fake inquiry in which you are never satisfied until you've somehow managed to trick yourself back to the thesis you never doubted and couldn't part with in the first place. That's a waste of everyone's time, and it's bad for the logical soul.

Second: though grand philosophical ideas are important, most philosophical progress is made via the dreary business of grinding away relentlessly at relatively small points, trying to get the details right. This doesn't have the cache or the excitement of the flash of insight to the grand idea, and it's not as stirring as poetry, but it may be more important.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The last point here is important, I think. Many people, including Tom I think, have a misconception of what philosophy is all about, and about what philosophers do. It's not about gazing starry-eyed into the form of the Good. It's not just "musing." But I guess if that's one's view of philosophy, then it would seem like all of this business about providing (non-fallacious) arguments is just a diversion.

It does still seem to me that Tom's best move here would be to say "I just like things the way they are, or were. And that's that." That was the "out" I tried to give him above. I agree, WS, that there is a whole lot else going on in Tom's comments. My previous comment was in the spirit of "geez, Tom's arguments, to the extent there are any, are so bad and have been shown to be bad, that there must be something else going on." It was the most charitable interpretation I could come up with.

And Tom, your "my argument is John Locke" seems to me not really accurate. One, a lot of Locke's arguments proceed on purely secular grounds. Two, Locke scholars who admit the centrality of God to his views also uniformly admit his theological voluntarism and accept that he has no good response to the Euthyphro dilemma. Third, Locke doesn't clearly justify a liberal democracy. The state is only legitimate if we consent to it, and it's really hard to find a plausible account of consent on which most of us have actually consented to anything. And Locke's own account of this (that the use of money is a kind of consent) is almost uniformly rejected. Fourth, and there was no clear argument for this but it was suggested by some of your comments, there is no inconsistency with Locke and redistributive schemes. (A) one could clearly consent to such a scheme. (B) Locke says that people have a right to others' surplus. (C) The Lockean Proviso to leave "enough and as good" has pretty clear distributive implications given the increased population and the lack of unowned resources to appropriate.

I'm not sure what the point of that was except to say please quit saying "Locke is my argument." You have to do better than that. Lockean dilletantism is not an argument.

11:46 AM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

God is not the magical rights fairy, dispensing rights with a word, at his whim

Shorter TVD: Yes, he is! Give me a few minutes to read up on it, and I'll find an authority whose words I can construe to "prove" me right. What do you think about that, you puny thinker?

OK, the serious point of my mocking: When TVD said, Locke is my argument, he was relying as he often does on argument from authority, which is not notably successful in a democratic forum such as this.

12:00 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, I thought everybody left.

WS, I've learned that when somebody fusses about the form of the other guy's argument, he's interested in winning, not truth. The sheer volume of your writing here on the first subject, me, far outweighs anything substantive, stuff with proper nouns and transitive verbs and ideas and such.

As for philosophy, the arguments on this issue can be made without it, on historical, religious and psychological grounds. Whether or not there is a God doesn't affect how the founders of liberal democracy went about their business.

So when you put your foot down about the Rights Fairy, you merely seize control of the proceedings, not contribute to them. [And your argument against him is specious---man, by his Created nature has rights, according to Jefferson, and Locke. Rights, according to their scheme, are not capriciously given or taken away by the divine. Yes, Aquinas knew that, and so did they.]

True, Rotgut, there are complications with Locke. [Yes, I have read him and read up on him. I just didn't pull a single helpful quote off the internet.]

Mebbe his theism was just a smoke screen, as some scholars think now. However, it's how the non-philosophers like Jefferson, et al., understood him that's relevant.

And the lack of a "Battle Hymn of Normative Presuppositions" makes the question of psychology and especially belief in human events quite relevant, even if the philosophically-minded attempt to rule it out of order.

As for atheistic "liberal" schemes, the "liberty" part at the cost of social fairness remains in question. Is one of the pinnacles of modern philosophical "progress," as WS would put it, Rawls, compatible with Locke? Some say no. Others simply wonder.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

TVD, who offers no arguments, responds to no arguments, and shifts from theses to thesis as each one is defeated in turn, and who offers nothing but a hollow parade of rhetorical tricks, asserts that I'm the one who doesn't care about the truth. It'd be funny if it weren't kind of nauseating.

Almost every aspects of Tom's comments clearly shows that he aims only at protecting his cherished conclusion, and cares not one whit about the truth. Having carefully attended to his arguments, offered many arguments of my own, and formulated a new thesis for him that might at least have a little life in it, I'm not sure what else I could do.

His view seems to be that if someone actually discusses the logic of his arguments that they don't care about the truth. A more absurd position could hardly be formulated. We know of no other way of getting at the truth.

But that doesn't keep him from typing, typing, typing, holding out with grim determination for the last word. I'm sure that when I return a week or so hence, he'll still be at it, desperately convinced that he who types last types best.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Still, no substance, just vague attacks on the unworthiness of my arguments. 4 paragraphs worth.

Imago Dei. Unalienable rights endowed by a Creator. The laws of nature and nature's God. Divine Providence. The notion of the sacred in the human being. Genuine arguments work like kryptonite around here.

In rebuttal, we get Rain Man and the Rights Fairy.

6:17 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

"Imago Dei. Unalienable rights endowed by a Creator. The laws of nature and nature's God. Divine Providence. The notion of the sacred in the human being. Genuine arguments work like kryptonite around here."

This is so funny because it so clearly demonstrates that Tom doesn't know what an argument is. Just saying things != arguments, Tom.

How many times do people have to tell you that? How many times do people have to ask you to formally state your arguments?

All you do is whine about how someone's not speaking your "language" or something as some sort of ridiculous excuse for being unable to formulate anything close to a coherent argument for any of your positions.

You won't even try. Why should anyone listen to you at all? You just say words and expect that, if you use enough famous people and famous beliefs, people have to listen to you.

Why won't you just formalize an argument? Even if you don't know how, which I'm sure is the case, one would think that you could've googled it and figured it out by now.

Or has all of this been merely stalling for time while you try to do it?

9:42 PM  
Blogger Tom Van Dyke said...

Ah, now six paragraphs criticizing my style of argument.

Perhaps my style is not to argue, but to entice, because the only things that we truly value are those that we, in the end, put the effort into discovering for ourselves, to our own satisfaction.

I can tell you or anybody else nothing.

Mystic, besides the usual flak I take in places like this and discussions like this, my only disappointment has been in my failure to entice you to wonder what the hell I'm talking about enough to google "imago Dei" and "liberal democracy" together. There's a rich vein there to be found with little effort, enough to bring you up to speed.

In fact, there are solid counterarguments out there to what I've been writing [arguments I'm prepared to engage] but haven't yet appeared, except Rotgut on Locke which was very good, altho I think my reply was original and worthy of your consideration.

In other words, we need to know the prevailing arguments and counterarguments so we can put our own personal stamps on the discussion and move it forward, to learn from and teach each other.

I think you're capable of that, but I've seen no indication you've backchecked a single thing I've written, not a one, altho I've double-checked it all in advance before stepping into this lion's den, where I know my every word will be subjected to a rectal exam because of the hostility towards religion and anything connected with it, including its attending philosophy.

It's in the backchecking that you'll discover, test and prove or disprove the idea for yourself, not by proving the insufficiency of my words. I admit in advance that my poor words are poor indeed. Guilty as charged, if that delights you.

Neither could I provide sufficient proof even with a book's worth to someone who sits on the sidelines of the symposium, arms folded, calling it all bullshit. But it's not enough to assert I don't know what Habermas is talking about: sharing the burden of proof in a proper joint inquiry requires explaining what Habermas is talking about.

Skepticism always wins, because any important truth remains unprovable. Otherwise, you and I and all of us would have the same answer to "What is good?" and "How shall man live?," questions that precede Socrates and Habermas, and will outlive them and you and me, and even our dear host, WS.

According to the scholarly view, philosophy is the product of the keenest of mankind's minds. But is philosophy a product at all, or merely a process? You know, the axin' thing.

Martin Heidegger is said by many to be the keenest mind of his age but he ended up supporting the Nazis.

Wisdom, then, is not the product of the best and keenest argument. There is more to man than reason and logic, and to reduce him to that narrow spectrum of himself misses the whole point of what it is to be human.

That said, I've been making my argument on historical and psychological grounds, but if you want to start at the beginning, let's start at the beginning: Proposed, that liberal democracy could not have been founded by animals, not even our estimable cousins, the quite social and intelligent Great Apes. The key must lie elsewhere, somewhere in the nature---or heart, if he has one--- of man. Discuss.

There are no right or wrong answers. Just axin'.

If Locke and the Founders of the United States derived liberal democracy from their Judeo-Christian cultural milieu---through reason---does that prove Jesus was God?

You might be able to answer yes without having to swallow the whole plate whole. I'm really not selling anything inedible here. You don't have to become a Christian, or even believe in God. My argument, such as it is, and it's quite modest, is purely anthropological.

"Stalling," Mystic? Yes, I have been, waiting for you to catch up. You're able to give me a nice tussle once you do, if you still want to. I'm good either way.

Locke is not my argument, except when somebody's in my face and their remarks are based purely on what I've written in this comments section. The human equation is more complex than that, unless you want to lead us all in a chorus of "The Battle Hymn of John Rawls' Original Position.".

11:07 PM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Ah, just as I predicted.

Gone a week, and return to find that Tom is still blathering the same blather.

140-some-odd comments, with virtually no arguments, no even vaguely sound arguments, and no answers to any of the copious arguments that I've offered...PLUS extra special bonus bullshit: continued accusations that I've offered nothing of "substance." Thus showing, once again, that Tom either doesn't have the slightest idea how such issues are to be addressed...or he's just flat-out bullshitting.

So, as usual, here's the dilemma that faces us: once again waste valuable life going carefully through Tom's vague, vapid points, knowing full well that none of them will be worth addressing, and that he won't respond to any of the criticisms...or just ignore him, allowing him, as is his wont, to suggest that he is right because he could type longer?

What to do, what to do?

8:46 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

In the end, my decision about this thread was made largely on the basis of this and related assertions:

"Imago Dei. Unalienable rights endowed by a Creator. The laws of nature and nature's God. Divine Providence. The notion of the sacred in the human being. Genuine arguments work like kryptonite around here."

As I noted about 75 comments ago, I'm not sure you know what an argument is, Tom. you seem to think that vague allusions to and off-hand gestures at something somebody else said once is an argument. I've tried to get you to focus on the logical details of actual arguments, to stick to one thesis, and to attend to responses and counter-responses, but to no avail. You just keep asserting your various theses, without support, without regard for even the most obvious objections, and without any defense against them.

But the straw that broke the camel's back might just be:

"That said, I've been making my argument on historical and psychological grounds, but if you want to start at the beginning, let's start at the beginning: Proposed, that liberal democracy could not have been founded by animals, not even our estimable cousins, the quite social and intelligent Great Apes. The key must lie elsewhere, somewhere in the nature---or heart, if he has one--- of man. Discuss."

Yet another new thesis here--that liberal democracy couldn't have been started by chimps!--but I hope that was a joke... At any rate, if we've learned anything here it is this: even if I had any desire to take another run at yet another thesis, it would do no good. You'd simply ignore all arguments against it and keep making grand, bombastic pronouncements about how right you are, how much deeper your understanding is, and how I hate puppies and have no music in my soul...or whatever.

You haven't been basing any arguments on historical or psychological grounds. You haven't been developing any actual arguments at all. 145 comments in, and we still get the same pattern we got in the first 10 comments: vaguely-formulated theses, shifting from thesis to thesis willy-nilly as each one is defeated in turn, vague gestures at often confused, irrelevant, or question-begging quotes from others, appeals to authority, a total absence of supporting argument, the ignoring of the perfectly reasonable arguments of others...and always the assertions that it is somehow me who's at fault. Somehow the fact that I actually address your points (whereas you simply ignore mine and re-assert your position) makes you "substantial" while I'm somehow not. I could, of course, simply assert my position over and over again...would that make me substantial? How about if I add some bombast?

The record is all there for anybody who is--god help 'em--interested in this. Though the only lesson here is something like: pick your interlocutors wisely.

At any rate, I've decided to do everyone a favor and terminate this thread. It will, no doubt, never be read by anyone, and it has nothing to offer anyone, except, perhaps, as a cautionary reminder, a monument to futility. The points in here that are worth making can be summarized in about one screen of text:

We have no reason to believe that theism is necessary for the liberal state. So far as we can tell, it is unnecessary philosophically as well as psychologically. The modern liberal state did, as a historical matter of fact, arise in Christendom, influenced apparently by both Athens and Jerusalem (and other things as well, including Roman law and English common law). None of us here really knows anything about the history of ideas--that was made clear early on--but someone who did have the relevant knowledge could, no doubt, say something enlightening about the historical thesis.

But the thesis about the specifically historical influence of Christianity in particular arises only in the form of a hypothesis here (Just for the record: one that I had to introduce). Tom's original thesis was that theism in general was required in order to justify the liberal state. That thesis was never supported, and, in fact, I gave strong reasons to reject it--reasons that were never addressed here. So, our conclusion ought to be that that thesis is probably false, as are the other, spin-off theses about the alleged psychological necessity of theism and so forth.

I'd normally not close a thread, and if I did, I'd normally give the other guy the last word, but in this case I deserve that word. I think that anybody who reads the above would see that I've been pretty damn patient--well, initially, anyway--and I've sunk way too much time into this for what turned out to be no return. Ergo--and also in order to prevent anybody else from wasting any more of their time--I hereby declare this exercise in futility over and done with right now.

9:33 AM  

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home