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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
Written 1 August 2012; edited and reviewed 19 March 2021. ................................ Consider a particular hole H in a piece of Swiss cheese. H is not nothing. It has properties. It has, for example, a shape: it is circular. The circular hole has a definite radius, diameter, and circumference. It has... Continue reading
(Written 21 November 2018. Edits added.) What's with all the contemporary noise about 'whataboutism'? Example 1. A lefty complains, "Trump is a liar!" A conservative responds, "What about Hillary and Bill and Obama? Are they not liars too?" Example 2. A pro-lifer argues that killing the prenatal is immoral and... Continue reading
(Written 11 September 2016) The following argument is sometimes heard. "Because values are relative, it is wrong to impose one's values on others." But if values are relative, and among my values is the value of instructing others in the right way to live, then surely I am justified in... Continue reading
Written 11 July 2011. Some time before 1884, Gottlob Frege had a discussion about existence with the Protestant theologian Bernard Pünjer (1850-1885). A record of the dialogue was found in Frege's Nachlass, and an English translation is available in Gottlob Frege: Posthumous Writings, eds. Hans Hermes et al., University of... Continue reading
(Written 20 July 2015) I suspect that Vlastimil V's (neo-scholastic) understanding of potentiality is similar to the one provided by Matthew Lu in Potentiality Rightly Understood: The substance view of persons holds that every human being either has the potential to manifest any and all properties essential to personhood or... Continue reading
(Written Christmas Eve, 2017) Our frenetic and hyperkinetic way of life these days makes it difficult to take seriously religion and what is essential to it, namely, the belief in what William James calls an Unseen Order. Our communications technology in particular is binding us ever tighter within the human... Continue reading
What I will call the Dictionary Fallacy is the fallacy of thinking that certain philosophical questions can be answered by consulting dictionaries. The philosophical questions I have in mind are those of the form What is X? or What is the nature of X? High on the list: What is... Continue reading
Some think that if bodily death spells the extinction of the person, then bodily death consigns human life to meaninglessness. For a life to have a final meaning that transcends the petty and particular meanings of the quotidian round, it cannot end in death. Or so many of us feel.... Continue reading
John N. Deck is a highly interesting, if obscure, figure in the neo-Scholasticism of the 20th century. I first took note of him in 1989, ten years after his death, when his article "Metaphysics or Logic?" appeared in New Scholasticism (vol. LXIII, no. 2, Spring 1989, pp. 229-240.) Thanks to... Continue reading
J. R. Lucas, "Against Equality," in Justice and Equality, ed. Hugo Bedau (Prentice-Hall, 1971), pp. 148-149: Since men value power and prestige as much as the possession of wealth---indeed, these three `goods' cannot be completely separated---it is foolish to seek to establish an equality of wealth on egalitarian grounds. It... Continue reading
(Written November 2013) Food, shelter, and clothing are more important than health care in that one can get along for substantial periods of time without health care services, but one cannot survive for long without food, shelter, and clothing. Given this plain fact, why don’t the proponents of ‘free’ universal... Continue reading
(Written 23 December 2013) I have been studying Anthony Kenny, Aquinas on Being (Oxford 2002). I cannot report that I find it particularly illuminating. I am troubled by the reading back of Fregean doctrines into Aquinas, in particular in the appendix, "Frege and Aquinas on Existence and Number." (pp. 195-204)... Continue reading
A long-time reader writes, I was going through some of your posts from earlier this month (Belief, Designation, and Substitution, January 10, 2017) and was interested in seeing your comment that "[l]inguistic reference is built upon, and nothing without, thinking reference, or intentionality." . . . I have to say... Continue reading
(Written 15 August 2013) A good deal of nonsense about scientism has been written lately by philosophers and scientists who, apparently unwilling to own up to their embrace of scientism, want to co-opt the term and use it in an idiosyncratic and self-serving way. Fodor is a recent example among... Continue reading
Let us meditate this Christmas morning on the sheer audacity of the idea that God would not only enter this world of time and misery, but come into it in the most humble manner possible, inter faeces et urinam nascimur, born between feces and urine, entering between the legs of... Continue reading
It turns out that conservatives are happier than liberals. But why? Conservative explanation. Marriage and religious faith are conducive to happiness. More conservatives are married than liberals, and more practice a religion. Ergo, conservatives as a group are happier than liberals as a group. Liberal explanation. Conservatives are happier because... Continue reading
What jobs would a being have to perform to qualify as God? I count four sorts of job, ontological, epistemological, axiological, and soteriological, the first two more 'Athenian,' the second two more 'Hierosolymic.' The fruitful tension between Athens and Jersualem is a background presupposition. (The tension is fruitful in that... Continue reading
I should think so. The notion that we should always and everywhere apportion belief to evidence in such a way that we affirm only that for which we have sufficient evidence ignores the fact that belief for beings like us subserves action. If one acted only on those beliefs for... Continue reading
(Written 23 June 2013) I wrote an entry on the main sorts of motive that might lead one who takes religion seriously to take up the study of philosophy. I distinguished five main motives: the apologetic, the critical, the debunking, the transcensive, and the substitutional. But there is also the... Continue reading
W. K. Clifford is often quoted for his asseveration that "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." Now one of my firmest beliefs is that I am an actual individual, not a merely possible individual. A second is my belief that while there... Continue reading
In the wake of the murderous rampage by Muslim terrorists at Charlie Hebdo in Paris on 7 January 2015, many have embraced a form of extremism according to which any and all (public) expression must be tolerated. This entry questions this extremism as we find it in John Stuart Mill.... Continue reading
One of the tasks of philosophy is to expose and debunk bad philosophy. And there is a lot of it out there, especially in the writings of journalists who report on scientific research. Scornful of philosophy, many of them peddle scientistic pseudo-understanding without realizing that what they sell is itself... Continue reading
Presumption and Burden of Proof Firearms instructors sometimes say that every gun is loaded. This is plainly false as it stands, but a wise saying nonetheless if interpreted to mean: every gun is to be presumed loaded until proven unloaded. Presumptions are procedural rules. To presume every gun to be... Continue reading
Mary Midgley in The Owl of Minerva: A Memoir, Routledge, 2005, p. 13, reminisces about her headmistress, Miss Annie Bowden: I also remember something striking that she had said when I had complained that I knew the answer to some question but I just couldn't say it clearly. 'If you... Continue reading
The following quotations are from A. E. Taylor's "F. H. Bradley" which is an account of his relation with the great philosopher, an account published in Mind, vol. XXXIV, no. 133 (January 1925), pp. 1-12. A. E. Taylor is an important philosopher in his own right whose works, unfortunately, are... Continue reading