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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
John Hick maintains that . . . in this post-Enlightenment age of doubt we have realised that the universe is religiously ambiguous. It evokes and sustains non-religious as well as religious responses. (An Interpretation of Religion: Human Responses to the Transcendent, Yale University Press, 1989, p. 74) Hick identifies non-religious... Continue reading
Written 17 October 2011; minor revisions 16 September 2018 ....................................... A correspondent writes: Here's how I think science will eventually put religion out of business. Soon medical science is going to be able to offer serious life extension, not pie-in-the-sky soul survival or re-incarnation, but real life extension with possible... Continue reading
Written 8 October 2011; minor revisions 13 September 2018. ....................................... This from a graduate student in philosophy who describes himself as a theologically conservative Protestant who is toying with the idea of 'swimming the Tiber': In a recent post you say this: ""Study everything, join nothing" means that one ought... Continue reading
Reason is infirm in that it cannot establish anything definitively. It cannot even prove that doubting is the way to truth, "that it is certain that we ought to be in doubt." (Pyrrho entry, Bayle's Dictionary, tr. Popkin, p. 205) But, pace Pierre Bayle, the merely subjective certitude of faith... Continue reading
Written 20 June 2014 This from a reader: In one portion of Grace Boey's interview of Peter Unger, Unger discusses what Russell had to say about the value of philosophy, and I was a bit taken aback because that particular quotation by Russell resonates with me a lot, and Unger's... Continue reading
Written 7 May 2014 R. C. writes, There is much depth in your short post on religion and reason from 6 May. Here are two points I often ponder about this topic: First, I appreciate the difficulty of solving philosophical problems, but I wonder about the claim that they are... Continue reading
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, man and man alone among living things has a higher origin and a higher destiny. Made in the image and likeness of God, and the only creature so made, he comes from God and is called to return to God for his ultimate felicity and fulfillment.... Continue reading
People come to philosophy from various 'places.' Some come from religion, others from mathematics and the natural sciences, still others from literature and the arts. There are other termini a quis as well. In this post I am concerned only with the move from religion to philosophy. What are the... Continue reading
Oceans of ink have been spilled over the centuries on the celebrated distinctio realis between essence and existence (esse). You have no idea how much ink, and vitriol too, has flooded the scholastic backwaters and sometimes spilled over into the mainstream. Anyway, the distinction has long fascinated me and I... Continue reading
Written 19 August 2013 Retorsion (retortion) is the philosophical procedure whereby one attempts to establish a thesis by uncovering a performative inconsistency in anyone who denies it. It is something like an ad hominem tu quoque except that the homo in question is everyman, indeed every rational being. Proofs by... Continue reading
Why do people exaggerate in serious contexts? The logically prior question is: What is exaggeration, and how does it differ from lying, bullshitting, and metaphorical uses of language? A physician in a radio broadcast one morning said, "You can't be too thin, too rich, or have too low a cholesterol... Continue reading
It is often said that a human fetus is a potential human life. Not so! A human fetus is an actual human life. Consider a third-trimester human fetus, alive and well, developing in the normal way in the mother. It is potentially many things: a neonate, a two-year-old, a speaker... Continue reading
A question rarely asked is the one I raise in this post: Is the abortion question tied to religion in such a way that opposition to abortion can be based only on religious premises? Or are there good reasons to oppose abortion that are nor religiously based, reasons that secularists... Continue reading
John Anderson's rejection of God is radical indeed. A. J. Baker writes: Anderson, of course, upholds atheism, though that is a rather narrow and negative way of describing his position given its sweep in rejecting all rationalist conceptions of essences and ontological contrasts in favour of the view that whatever... Continue reading
Interactionist substance dualism in the philosophy of mind is supposed to face a devastating objection, the interaction objection. In the first part of this post I will present this objection in its traditional form and suggest that it is not all that serious. In the second part, however, I take... Continue reading
Change, Accidental and Substantial There is no change without a substrate of change which, in respect of its existence and identity, does not change during the interval of the change. In a slogan: no change without unchange. No becoming other (alter-ation, Ver-aenderung) without something remaining the same. In the case... Continue reading
Hardly anyone reads Gustav Bergmann any more, but he is well worth reading. It is interesting to compare his style of ontological analysis with that of the great hylomorphic ontologists, Aristotle and Aquinas. The distinguished Aristotelian Henry B. Veatch does some of my work for me in a fine paper,... Continue reading
It's been said of Aquinas. On Aristotle's hylomorphic ontology, form and matter are 'principles' or ontological factors involved in the analysis of sublunary primary substances. These factors are not substances in their own right. Now Thomas is an Aristotelian in ontology. But when it comes to God and the soul... Continue reading
Viewed in one way, ambition is a good thing, and its absence in people, especially in the young, we consider to be a defect. Without ambition, there can be no realization of one's potential. Happiness is connected with the latter. We are happy when we are active in pursuit of... Continue reading
The better people are hard on themselves. The exemplify the anti-Bukowski property: they try. They set themselves difficult tasks and strive to complete them. They make intellectual, moral, spiritual, and physical demands on themselves. They are alive to the discrepancy between what they are and what they ought to be.... Continue reading
That beautiful line is contained in the following passage from the pen of Richard M. Weaver (1910-1963): It is my contention that a conservative is a realist, who believes that there is a structure of reality independent of his own will and desire. He believes that there is a creation... Continue reading
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The last days of Lev Davidovich Bronstein, better known as Leon Trotsky, prime mover of the October 1917 Russian Revolution, are the subject of Bertrand M. Patenaude's Trotsky: The Downfall of a Revolutionary (HarperCollins, 2009). It held my interest from the first page to the last, skillfully telling the story... Continue reading
We suffer pain, but we also suffer pleasure. Fundamentally, to suffer is to be passive, to be acted upon, to be at the mercy of what is not oneself. Excessive pleasure and pain should both be avoided as one avoids heteronomy, the heteronomy of the not-self. Compare Plato, Timaeus 86c:... Continue reading
St. Augustine at Confessions, Bk. VI, Ch. 11, speaks of "a greed for enjoying present things that both fled me and debased me." A paradox of pleasure. Certain pleasures madly striven after prove fleeting and unreal, yet not so fleeting and unreal that they cannot degrade and debase their pursuers.... Continue reading
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Properly enacted, independent thinking is not in the service of self-will or subjective opining, but in the service of submission to a higher authority, truth herself. We think for ourselves in order to find a truth that is not from ourselves, but from reality. The idea is to become dependent... Continue reading