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Bill Vallicella
A recovering academician, I taught philosophy at various universities in the USA and abroad before abandoning a tenured position to live the eremitic life of the independent philosopher in the Sonoran desert.
Interests: Everything. <em>Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto.</em> from Terentius. "I am a man: I consider nothing human foreign to me." Nothing human, but also nothing nonhuman.
Recent Activity
Passing a lady in the supermarket I catch a whiff of patchouli. Her scent puts me in mind of hippy-trippy Pamela from the summer of '69. An olfactory stimulus in the present causes a memory, also in the present, of an event long past, a tête-à-tête with a certain girl.... Continue reading
Thomas Aquinas says that any given nature can be considered in three ways: (i) in respect of the esse it has in concrete singulars; (ii) in respect of the esse it has in minds; (iii) absolutely, in the abstract, without reference to either material singulars or minds, and thus without... Continue reading
Ulysses had himself bound to the mast and the ears of his sailors plugged with wax lest the ravishing strains of the sea nymphs' song reach their ears and cause them to cast themselves into the sea and into their doom. But what song did the Sirens sing, and in... Continue reading
(Written March 2016) There are those who love to expose and mock the astonishing political ignorance of Americans. According to a 2006 survey, only 42% of Americans could name the three branches of government. But here is an interesting question worth exploring: Is it not entirely rational to ignore events... Continue reading
Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind, Harper, 1955, p. 61, #93: The fact of death and nothingness at the end is a certitude unsurpassed by any absolute truth ever discovered. Yet knowing this, people can be deadly serious about their prospects, grievances, duties and trespassings. The only explanation which... Continue reading
Theodor Haecker, Journal in the Night (Pantheon, 1950, tr. Dru), p. 29: Many a man thinks to satisfy the great virtue of moderation by using all his shrewdness and bringing all his experience to bear upon limiting his pleasure to his capacity for pleasure. But simply by the fact of... Continue reading
"Duty has the virtue of making us feel the reality of a positive world while at the same time detaching us from it." (From Journal Intime) This is a penetrating observation, and a perfect specimen of the aphorist's art. It is terse, true, but not trite. The tip of an... Continue reading
Theodor Haecker, Tag- und Nachtbücher, 1939-1945, hrsg. Hinrich Siefken, Innsbruck: Haymon-Verlag, 1989, S. 212: Der persönliche und gute Stil eines Schriftstellers ist die — oft durch große Kunst erreichte — natürliche Einheit zweier Naturen — der Natur des Schriftstellers und der Natur der jeweiligen Sprache, in der er schreibt, denn... Continue reading
The following is from Theodor Haecker's Tag-und Nachtbücher 1939-1945, translated into English by Alexander Dru as Journal in the Night (Pantheon Books, 1950), pp. 114-115.) I have made a couple of corrections in the translation. The following entry was written in 1940 in Hitler's Germany. The National Socialists seized power... Continue reading
A colleague once reported an out-of-body experience. He had been resting on his back on a couch when he came suddenly to view himself from the perspective of the ceiling. He dismissed the experience. He had too much class to use the phrase 'brain fart,' but that is what I... Continue reading
Our long-time friend Horace Jeffery Hodges kindly linked to and riffed upon my recent quotage of a bit of whimsicality from the second volume of J. N. Findlay's Gifford lectures. So here's another Findlay quotation for Jeff's delectation, this time from Plato and Platonism: An Introduction (Times Books, 1978): It... Continue reading
John Niemeyer Findlay, The Transcendence of the Cave (Allen & Unwin, 1967), p. 212: We must find a fulcrum outside of this world if we are to lift the heavy load of puzzles which weighs on us in this world, and no therapy can hope to heal us if we... Continue reading
(Written 17 June 2011) What is the essence of proceduralism? I suggest: the criteria by which we judge that such-and-such is the case are constitutive of what it is for such-and-such to be the case. Or perhaps: the norms governing the validity of the 'output' of a procedure are identical... Continue reading
Sloan Wilson's The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit appeared in 1955 two years before Jack Kerouac's On the Road. I never finished Gray Flannel, getting only 80 or so pages into it. It's a book as staid as the '50s, a tad boring, conventional, and forgettable in comparison to... Continue reading
(Written 19 April 2014) Suppose you are an atheist who considers life to be worth living. You deny God, but affirm life, this life, as it is, here and now. Suppose you take the fact of evil to tell against the existence of God. Do you also take the fact... Continue reading
Near the end of Richard Weaver's essay, "Life Without Prejudice," he quotes Milton: I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust... Continue reading
(Written 30 July 2012) At any given time I am reading twenty or so books. One of them at the moment is Susan Sontag, As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks 1964-1980, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2012. In the midst of a lot of stuff, there are some gems.... Continue reading
The charge of hairsplitting has always been one of the weapons in the arsenal of the anti-intellectual. One root of anti-intellectualism is a churlish hatred of all refinement. Another is laziness. Just as there are slugs who will not stray from their couches without the aid of motorized transport, there... Continue reading
The place of philosophy in college curricula is often defended on the ground that its study promotes critical thinking. Now I don't doubt that courses in logic, epistemology, and ethics can help inculcate habits of critical thinking and good judgment. And it may also be true that philosophy has a... Continue reading
I demanded an argument valid in point of logical form all of whose premises are purely factual but whose conclusion is categorically (as opposed to hypothetically or conditionally) normative. Recall that a factual proposition is one which, whether true or false, purports to record a fact, and that a purely... Continue reading
The following two propositions are collectively logically inconsistent and yet each is very plausible: 1. Being dead is not an evil for any dead person at any time. 2. Being dead at a young age is an evil for some dead persons. Obviously, the limbs of the dyad cannot both... Continue reading
The Austrian philosopher and Vienna Circle member Herbert Feigl wrote about nomological danglers. Mental states as the epiphenomenalist conceives them have causes, but no effects. They are caused by physical states of the body and brain, but dangle nomologically in that there are no laws that relate mental states to... Continue reading
Statements divide into the singular and the general. General statements divide into the universal, the particular, and the generic. Generic statements are interesting not only to the logician and linguist and philosopher but also to critics of ideology and conservative critics of leftist ideology critique. For example, leftists will find... Continue reading
(Written 10 December 2015) Robert Paul Wolff writes, Fourteen people were murdered in San Bernardino, and almost two dozen were injured, several critically. That is perfectly awful. Since September 11, 2001, I believe almost three score people have been killed in the United States in similar terrorist attacks, or so... Continue reading
I raise the title question in the context of my recent study of Rebecca Tuvel's controversial article, "In Defense of Transracialism" (Hypatia, vol. 32., no. 2, Spring 2017, pp. 263-278). It raises a number of fascinating and important questions. I will argue that even if one can change one's sex,... Continue reading