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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
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
A reader opines: I like animals because I think they're a higher form of life. They have no pretenses about what they are; a dog can achieve levels of serenity and fulfillment of which I cannot conceive by merely being a dog and doing dog things. Myself, on the other... Continue reading
I am trying to understand the structure of the problem of dirty hands. A clear example of a dirty hands situation is one in which a political leader authorizes the intentional slaughter of innocent non-combatants to demoralize the enemy and bring about the end of a war which, if it... Continue reading
Here is another argument that may be banging around in the back of the heads of those who are hostile to the doctrine that there are modes of being, the MOB doctrine to give it a name: 1. If there are modes of existence, then 'exist(s)' is not univocal. 2.... Continue reading
Carl Schmitt, Glossarium: Aufzeichnungen der Jahre 1947-1951, hrsg. v. Medem (Berlin: Duncker und Humblot, 1991), S. 213 (14. I. 49): Das Feindschaftpotential des Denkens ist unendlich. Denn man kann nicht anders als in Gegensätzen denken. Le combat spirituel est plus brutal que la bataille des hommes. The enmity potential of... Continue reading
Glossarium: Aufzeichnungen der Jahre 1947-1951, p. 284, entry of 20 December 1949: Mitleid beruht auf Identifikation; daraus machen die Mystiker des Mitleids, Rousseau und Schopenhauer, eine magische Identität. Aber das Mitleid, dessen man sich bewußt ist, kann nur Selbstmitleid sein und ist deshalb nur Selbstbetrug. Compassion rests upon identification; the... Continue reading
A man planted a tree to shade his house from the desert sun. The tree, a palo verde, grew like a weed and was soon taller than the house. The house became envious, feeling diminished by the tree’s stature. The house said to the tree: "How dare you outstrip me,... Continue reading
What exactly is the distinction between a universal and a particular? Universals are often said to be repeatable entities, ones-over-many or ones-in-many. Particulars, then, are unrepeatable entities. Now suppose the following: there are universals; there are particulars; particulars instantiate universals; first-order facts are instantiations of universals by particulars. One and... Continue reading
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