Feb 19, 2002

LAST NAMES-- Have you noticed the shift in the use of last names? Everyone's been going by their first name for quite some time now, that certainly isn't news. We stopped using them in the 60s, I guess. Occasionally we still use last names, mostly for teachers and doctors and people in some position of authority. The new thing, I think, is the use of last names for close friends.

Where you used to know everyone's family name and use the given names of your firends we have turned that on its head. Part of this is that last name's are endearing. I'm not sure why, but when we use last names we are pals, close and jocular. Today I know everyone's given name, but with many close firends I use the last name: McCallum, Gaetano, DeFusco, Stack. When people call me Silliman I get the impression that they like my name. I think the other part of this is just that last name's are interesting and first names are common, generally.

Feb 15, 2002

CARTESIAN LOGIC (philosophy paper)--
“Now, however, I have perceived that God exists, and at the same time I have understood that everything else depends on him, and that he is no deceiver; and I have drawn the conclusion that everything which I clearly and distinctly perceive is of necessity true…. Thus I see plainly that the certainty and truth of all knowledge depends uniquely on my awareness of God, to such an extent that I was incapable of perfect knowledge about anything else until I became aware of him. And now it is possible for me to achieve full and certain knowledge of countless matters, both concerning God himself and other things whose nature is intellectual, and also concerning the whole of that corporeal nature which is the subject-matter of pure mathematics.”
—Descartes, fifth Meditation

When Descartes ends his fifth Meditation, he describes his logic by saying he has perceived God’s existence and, knowing he is not a deceiver, knew that everything else in nature, depending on him, was true. Descartes says that which he clearly and distinctly perceives is true, thus God is true and thus the world is knowable. The logic he describes in the end of the fifth Meditation looks thus:
1. I perceive God (infinitely good).
2. Things I clearly and distinctly perceived are true.
.: God exists
.: The world corresponds with my perception of it.
But is this the logic Descartes followed in the forming of his arguments? It is and it isn’t.
Descartes begins his Meditations with the knowable world all around him. Then, desiring not just knowability but certainty, he believes only that which cannot be doubted, holding the rest to be false until proven. Thus in the first Meditation he moves from the knowable world to universal doubt. In the second Meditation he finds that which he cannot doubt: his own existence and his own experiences. He cannot doubt his existence in that the act of doubting authenticates his existence. He cannot doubt his experiences in that he knows he experienced them. He can doubt the cause of the experience but he cannot doubt that he had the experience. Thus in the second Meditation he moves from universal doubt to certainty of the things within his mind. In the third Meditation he finds that, assuming cause and effect, he cannot have caused the idea of God in his own mind. Effects are like the cause that caused them thus an idea of the infinite, an effect, must have an infinite cause. Thus the idea of God, if it had an equal cause, could only have come from God. Thus, in the third Meditation Descartes moves from the proof of the mind to the proof of God. His logic in the first, second, and third Meditations look like this:
1. I exist
2. I think
3. I have an idea of God
4. Effect = cause
.: God exists
.: The world corresponds with my perception of it.
This is the logic Descartes uses in the first, second, and third Meditations but it is not the logic he describes in the end of the fifth Meditations.
In the fifth Meditation Descartes backtracks and covers the same ground as the third Meditation. He tries to prove God a second way. This time Descartes discards his work with causes and effects and moves to work with perception. “But whatever method of proof I use I am brought back to the fact that it is only what I clearly and distinctly perceives that completely convinces me,” says Descartes. Thus, when he perceives an infinitely good God who does not deceive, he knows he is true. As he says later: “For what is more self evident than the fact that the supreme being exists, or that God, to whose essence alone existence belongs, exists.”
Thus the logic Descartes uses to prove the existence of God in the fifth Meditation matches the logic he describes in the end of that Meditation but not the logic he uses in the first, second, and third meditation.

Descartes’ logic, as he describes it above, is not valid because it fails to answer the questions and the doubts raised in the early Meditations. His line of reasoning ends in a circle because he answers his doubts as to the certainty of the things he sees by restating that he sees them. His logic does not answer his doubts because he contradicts his premises. His doubt comes because he can doubt the accuracy of his perception and he ends his doubt by asserting the accuracy of his perception without giving us any argument to affirm it.
In the logic of the early Meditations he introduces us to Cartesian doubt in this form:
1. I perceive the world around me.
2. Sometimes my perceptions are in error. (I’m sleeping, delusional, deceived).
.: I cannot be certain of the correspondence between the perception and the world.
In the fifth Meditation he attempts to escape through the veil of ideas and back into the comfortable world of correspondence by proving God. With the premise of the existence of a good God that does not deceive we can deduce the correspondence of the world to our perception of it. When Descartes tries to get us from our perception to God he does so with a shifting of his premises, introducing us to the Cartesian circle. His evidence for God, as he defines it in the passage above and in the fifth Meditation, takes the following form:
1. I perceive God (infinitely good).
2. Things I clearly and distinctly perceived are true.
.: God exists
.: The world corresponds with my perception of it.
Thus with the mere reversal of his original cause to doubt the problem goes away. Quite simply if I am occasionally wrong in an occasional perception then I must doubt my other perceptions, but if I am right when I perceive something clearly than there is no need to doubt. If the Descartes of the first Meditation had meet the Descartes of the fifth Meditation the former would have questioned the latter as to if he had perceived something clearly that was not true and how did he know he was not deceived and how did he know that he was not delusional and how did he know that what he clearly and distinctly perceived was true. The Descartes of the fifth Meditation does not answer these questions, he does not supply the answer to his original doubt, but only changes his premise without warrant.

Feb 13, 2002

GREAT COMPLIMENT-- I was told at lunch today that it was great to eat at a table with me because there was always an interesting conversation when I was around. This was from someone more of an aquantence than a friend and he wasn't saying that I dominated the conversation but that I encouraged it.

This is the third time this semester someone has said something similar to me and I'm feeling really good about this skill.
TALKING CRITO--The great thing about a liberal arts education with a core curriculum is to be able to bring into a given class great literature from outside and discuss it intelligently.

Today in philosophy we were taling about Gyges Ring (having read the appropriate portions of Plato's Republic for class) and the Prof and I argued about Socrates' motivation to accept death at the judgement of the Athenians for about five minutes. We slipped easily from the text read for class, The Republic, to another text, Crito, without loosing the class or straying significantly from the topic.

You gotta love this education.

Feb 10, 2002

PRESUPPOSITIONALISM-- I was talking with a friend (Matt Gaetano) over lunch today and he was relating how he got into an arguement with some Calvinists over limited atonement and they used their theology as evidence for their case. Gaetano doesn't accept their theology so an appeal to it was pointless and a little silly.

I found this interesting in its relation to Presuppositionalism.

In discussions with those in agreement with the basic truths of a woldview or an ideaology those views can be appealed to. In a discussion with those who hold some other basic truths you must either appeal to truths you both agree upon or assume to agree or decide you have no grounds for debate.

Feb 8, 2002

WESTERN PHILOSOPHY-- The six points of Western Philosophy, the philisophical foundations that the wars of culture are fought over:
1) Things are independent of us.
2) Things are knowable.
3) Truth = knowing the knowable.
4) The will is free.
5) Ethical truths can be know for certain.
6) Dualism.

This is the formulation we are using in class but I propose to clean it up a little bit.

Feb 5, 2002

INTERESTING COMPLIMENT-- "When you read his footnotes, you may not know waht he's talking about, but it's fascinating to know that someone out there does," Jonah Goldberg said in reference to Bernard Lewis, a scholar of the middle east.
DEADLINE PRESSURE-- There's an advantage to having some journalsim under your belt. Last night I sat down and wrote a 1,000 word paper in four hours. I felt good about that, though we'll see how my prof. treats it when he reviews my draft this afternoon.

If procrastination were a religious experience do you realize how holy college would be?
BLOGGING-- I may not be at the very cutting edge but at least I beat Time magazine.

Feb 3, 2002

POSTING-- Do I just post on Sunday afternoons?

With a four day weekend because of power outages and snow, rain and ice I haven't done much recently. I need to finish some homework for tomorrow's classes. I hope to post something on inductive, deductive and inference to the best possibility logic in the near future. Maybe tonight or tomorrow.
HILLARY-- She's helping out governors and that makes some folks think she's running, according to a story posted on Drudge. Her staffers sound a little tierd/irritated at the persistence of this story.

I don't think she is. Hillary as President is just a Conservative boggie man to raise money. Of course, I've also got a bet that she won't enter the 2004 race. So I really don't want her to run even though if she did I don't think she could win anything outside NYC.
FREE SPEACH II-- What I did find suprising, maybe I shouldn't have, was that the 501(c)3 restriction on church's political speach was passed under LBJ.

Still no word on why it applies to right wing churchs and not black churchs.
FREE SPEACH-- The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act looks like it could let church's and etc. comment on our political world withour getting nasty letters (or worse) from the IRS.

Now if only American congregations would let the Word of God speak about something other than their emotions and their personal salvation.