What’s Wrong with the World

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You can’t make this stuff up, folks (Part 2)

Everyone knows that Brian Leiter regards me, Frank Beckwith, and WWWtW in general as worthy only of being “ignored,” that he “doesn’t spend his entire day reading blogs,” and that “lengthy” responses to smears like his are worthy only of ridicule.

Well, everyone except Leiter himself, anyway. ‘Cause Big Bad Brian is back, with yet another, 522-word rant about me, Frank, and our fair blog, inspired by some passing comment I made about him buried deep in one of the comboxes below. (Go here and scroll to the bottom.)

Yup, we’re just beneath his attention, folks. And he’ll scroll through every combox and keep posting update after lengthy update until we get that through our thick skulls!

Someone, please, throw in the towel, would you? It’s embarrassing to watch this guy fight himself again and again… and lose every time.

[Twenty bucks says he will simply be unable to keep himself from replying to this. I’ll throw in another ten if said reply refrains from calling this post “lengthy” or if the expressions “crank,” “reactionary,” “theocratic fascism,” or “Texas Taliban” don’t appear. Anyone?]

Comments (13)

The best and most secure response to blog-stalking is to eventually just rise above it and go on with ones professional intersts. You've responded to the "apologist for murder" charge and both of your cases are on the record for fair minded observers to consider. Engaging in tit-for-tat will be an increasingly barren exercise from here on in. It would be more dignified to drink from the bitter cup and move on at this point.

You're right. I agree 100%, Johnny. So, I'm done, folks...

Please continue Ed, The only thing funnier than watching leiter gets his nickers in a twist is watching PMQ's back here in the UK (for those of you who don't know, PMQ's is half hour session each wednesday where the PM answers questions from MP's)

It is pretty sad stuff, Ed.

I guess for Brian the way you win a debate is to call people really bad names, continue to call them real bad names, and then continue to call them real, real bad names. He doesn't have to actually prove anything. All he has to is assert and remain blissfully invincible to contrary evidence. He claims, for example, that I am an "ID creationist," even though it is false, and he has been proved untruthful on this matter. So, in reply, he offers up a series of guilt-by-association narratives by the ever-paranoid Barbara Forrest, whose academic accomplishments, publications, and bizarre theories of personal and professional associations would be the object of endless ridicule by Leiter if she were spouting right wing versions of these same ideas. But consistency and principle are not Leiter's strong suit.

He has provided no convincing or persuasive answer to the arguments I offered in defense of Christian institutions to maintain their moral integrity on the matter of human sexuality without being punished for engaging in "unethical conduct." I also showed in that posting that the little that Leiter has penned on religion is shallow and inaccurate. Thus, as I wrote, it is not entirely surprising that this ignorance extends to matters of moral theology as well. There was, of course, no response. For the only appropriate response would be, "I am very sorry. Yes, you are correct that I have misrepresented the current state of Christian philosophy in the past, and thus I am probably not getting it right now." And I would have said, "No problem. You're forgiven. Let us break bread together when I am in Chicago."

But, sadly, he continues to say (in this most recent "Update") that I defend "discrimination against gay men and women," even though I showed that claim to be at best dubious and at worse false, but probably somewhere between misleading and uninformed. After all, his case ultimately results in discrimination against conservative Christian, Muslim, Mormon, and Jewish academic institutions. Thus, if we are to play this game of liberal hate-naming, then I guess each of our views leads to the marginalizing of some group of philosophers and some institutions. But there is a difference. He wants all institutions, in their hiring practices, to look exactly alike. His view is, thus, anti-pluralistic, and ironically, anti-liberal. My view, on the other hand, acknowledges the diversity that one finds in philosophy among people who share a love of wisdom but not a common worldview. In America, we want to be inclusive of these different manifestations of the practice of philosophy in different communities. Leiter wants to be exclusive, dogmatic, and unwelcoming. Reread my post on this: http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/05/the_leiter_reports_wrongly.html

And, in my defense of Ed, all Leiter says is "bad analogy." Sorry, but that's not good enough. Brian made a serious, and false, charge against a friend of mine. He did so by a form of reasoning that is disreputable. What I did was turn that reasoning on him and apply it to his own extremist rhetoric, some of which turned out to be just plain wrong (e.g., the two time "imminent" draft warning): http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2009/06/the_leiter_reports_an_apologis.html Saying "bad analogy" is not a response to my argument. It is merely an announcement of a conclusion that has yet to have anything offered in support of it. It is, to employ an analogy, similar to the straw theist that Leiter employed in his paper: "It is doubtful whether these intellectualist traditions capture the character of popular religious belief, but even if they did, there remain important senses in which they are still `insulated from evidence.' First, of course, it is dubious (to put the matter gently) that these positions are really serious about following the evidence where it leads, as opposed to manipulating it to fit preordained ends."

Complaining that I did not leave the combox open is not a response either, especially in a posting in which the combox remains closed. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Ed, Francis and Lydia (welcome back!),

I was re-reading some of the back and forth with Brian and his supporters and at the same time I was struck by these words in Lydia's recent post on her excellent experience at the Belgian conference:

"In all the discussions, the question was the argument. Nobody was out to slam anybody else, to make power plays, or to use an opponent's unrelated political opinions against him."

The question was the argument. How refreshing and how completely opposite of how those who wandered over to W4 thanks to Brian have treated Ed's original post. Instead of seriously engaging in the admitedly provocative argument (e.g. 'what could Ed mean by saying Tiller had "forfited his right to life" like Dahmer, and yet at the same time condemn Dahmer's murder in prison as well as Tiller's murder?', 'how should we morally evaluate an abortion doctor if we think abortion is murder and a medical doctor has a special responsibilty due to their understanding of human life to protect life?', etc.), we get all sorts of name calling, motive questioning, etc. culminating in this delightful sentence:

"Catholicism and your sophomoric version of "natural law theory" do not excuse the moral depravity and venal creepiness of so much of what you folks believe."

O.K. then, I guess that settles everything! The question is the argument -- I'd like to see more of this laser-like focus on arguments all through American society, especially when we engage in serious arguments about morals and politics. I've been reading a lot lately about about Judge Sotomayor's thoughts on how she views the law and the role of judges -- for her, the issue is not the argument but how many Latino men and women are judges (just as I doubt Obama picked her in the first place because he was thinking about the quality of her legal reasoning and judicial record, i.e. "the argument" should be how well do judges do in interpreting the law and deciding cases -- not their gender or race).

Finally, related to this idea of clear and patient argumentation, I have to confess I have a very important personal reason for being a passionate supporter -- I owe my return to Christ, at least partially, to the McGrews willingness to engage me in clear and patient arguments for the historical evidence of Christ's miracles and life, for supernatural causes in the world (as opposed to the materialist viewpoint), etc. Thanks to the McGrews arugments I was in Mass this morning celebrating one of the most important feast days in the Church -- "Corpus Christi", described in this wonderful passage by St. Thomas Aquinas:

"O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift...It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion! It was the fulfillment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation."

Leiter accuses WWWtW of "moral depravity." What could he possibly mean by that? Does he mean that we have not achieved a certain end that we ought to achieve, that we have powers of the will that are capable of shaping and being shaped by our character that contribute to our achieving of this "end"? But that's odd for a materialist to make such a judgment, for a variety of reasons. First, there is no top-down causality in the materialist view of mind. Second, to claim that another is morally depraved, one must have an idea of what moral virtue would be. But the idea of moral virtue that one has by which one can locate depravity does not seem to be a material thing. And yet, there is an aboutness to this apparently non-material idea that Leiter is applying to us. But aboutness is not a property of material entities. I can say my cell phone is next to my desk, but what does it mean for a materialist to say his idea of moral depravity (and lack of moral virtue) is about the bloggers on WWWtW.

Third, the idea of moral depravity seems to presuppose the idea of proper function, that human beings are creatures that may, but ought not, fail to achieve an intrinsic purpose. Some of those that fail on moral ends are said to be depraved.

Fourth, because causality is bottom up for the materialist, the will itself and its apparent effects are consequences of non-rational causes as well. Thus, there is no such thing agent causality per se. And since what we are, including our minds, according to the materialist story, is the consequence of natural selection working on random mutation and other non-rational causes, then the idea that we are merely material beings just has survival rather than truth value. As Al Plantinga has convincingly argued (in Warranted Christian Belief [Oxford, 2000]), that's an appalling loop from which not even Houdini can break out.

The above is a mere sketch, and obviously deservers a richer and more illustrative presentation. But given the venue, that is not possible. Nevertheless, my point is merely to suggest that when Leiter starts using the language of natural law, agent causality, and essentialism while denying the conceptual resources of the philosophical traditions that support these notions, our readers should know about it.

At some point, Leiter has to cross over into the realm of actionable libel. I don't think it would be very hard to prove that he intended to twist a lot of these arguments into something defamatory. His only legal defense, I think, far from privilege or truth, would be insanity (or at least complete incompetence).

The above is a mere sketch, and obviously deservers a richer and more illustrative presentation. But given the venue, that is not possible.

Don't worry about it, Frank. For a moral relativist and nihilist like Leiter to turn around and accuse an opponent of "morally depravity" is absurd enough on its face that few people need to have the absurdity explained to them. And for those who don't acknowledge the absurdity of it, it's because they refuse to, not because they can't.

I've always thought that Seinfeld was a bit of a [******], so FB's latest post is fitting.

[Reference to female hygiene product removed - FJB]

(I just posted the following on Ben Burgis' blog in response to his 6/15 post; however, since he's moderating comments, I'm not sure if he'll post it, so I'm also posting it here.)

Burgis: "Even if you take Feser’s disclaimer to be (a) sincere, and (b) somehow compatible within a remotely plausible framework with his claims that Tiller was worse than Dahmer, had forfeited his right to live, etc., then it would still be the case that Feser was an enthusiastic apologist for doctor-killing.
On that reading, he didn’t object to the fact that Tiller was killed. He only objected to the fact that the wrong people killed him."

Professor Feser is a 'doctor-killing enthusiast' if he supports a state sanctioned death penalty for doctors who perform late-term abortions? Huh?

First, I don't know whether Professor Feser supports the death penalty in such cases, and I certainly don't think you're justified in supposing that he does. If I believe that S has lost his right to life as a result of A, it doesn't follow that I must support the state sanctioned killing of S. The loss of his right to life may be a necessary condition for a state sanctioned killing of S, but it's not a sufficient one. That said, I'm going to continue this post with your assumption to show that even if he does support the death penalty in such cases, your characterization of him as a doctor-killing enthusiast is -- well, absurd.

Now, let's say that Jones supports the death penalty for doctors who steal a kidney from their patients while they're under anesthesia. Would this make Jones a 'doctor-killing enthusiast'? Of course not; the very idea is absurd beyond words. Is Jones enthusiastic about the killing of his general practitioner, who has never harmed anyone in his life? Is Jones enthusiastic about killing the plastic surgeon with the fancy downtown office, or about killing his grandma's podiatrist? The fact that Tiller was 'a doctor' was largely incidental; it was Tiller's actions as a doctor that, it seems to me, Professor Feser has a problem with. (Some of the time, and with some people, you just have to point out the obvious.)

Now, Professor Feser seems minimally to believe that doctors who perform late-term abortions are, in many cases, no different from people who murder newborns. (Actually, he seems to believe that they're even worse than such people, given their professional commitments.) It seems reasonable to me to conclude that if he's right about this, then the death penalty is not an unreasonable penalty for doctors who perform late-term abortions. N.B. that the proposition I just judged reasonable is a conditional. (I personally don't support the death penalty at all, but I can concede that if anyone does 'deserve' it, it's someone who murders a newborn.) You can of course disagree with the notion that late term abortions are, in most cases, no different from the murder of newborns, but what's important to keep in mind is this: If Professor Feser believes that these acts can be reasonably identified, then he's not unreasonable for supporting the death penalty for those who perform late term abortions. In other words, he may be wrong about the antecedent, but, given his acceptance of it, the consequent seems to follow with relative ease.

Now, the murder of a newborn is worse, it seems to me, than the stealing of a kidney (ceteris paribus). Hence, if it would be obviously ridiculous to call Jones a 'doctor-killing enthusiast' if he supported the death penalty for doctors who stole kidneys, it's even more ridiculous (if that's possible) to call Jones a 'doctor-killing enthusiast' if he supports the death penalty for doctors whose actions he believes are tantamount to murdering a newborn. Hence, the absurd, 'is Feser a doctor-killing enthusiast?' faux-question is easily disposed of. Note, it's easily disposed of even if we assume, as you have, that he supports the death penalty for late-term abortionists.

Therefore, the real issue is this: are late term abortions, in many cases, tantamount to the murder of newborns? This is a difficult issue about which reasonable, intelligent and well informed people can disagree. It's also an issue that people on all sides are passionate about. But it is the real issue, and for this reason: it doesn't seem to me to be controversial to say that *if* late-term abortions can be identified, in many cases, with the murder of newborns, then advocating the death penalty for doctors who perform them is not unreasonable.

Hence, it seems to me that in your 'professor-smearing enthusiasm' (ridiculous, eh?) you've completely misrepresented professor Feser's position, and have now done so on numerous occasions and after having had ample opportunity to think these things through clearly.

Burgis: "Even if you take Feser’s disclaimer to be (a) sincere, and (b) somehow compatible within a remotely plausible framework with his claims that Tiller was worse than Dahmer, had forfeited his right to live, etc., then it would still be the case that Feser was an enthusiastic apologist for doctor-killing. On that reading, he didn’t object to the fact that Tiller was killed. He only objected to the fact that the wrong people killed him."

That is one of those objections which marks a "you must be this tall to get on the ride" point for the mind. We implicitly assume that there someone people can carry out legal punishments, and others cannot. The only disagreement here is over whether or not abortion is an offense worthy of capital punishment, not over who has the authority to carry out the final act. I smell a bait-and-switch.

It would appear that Burgis is an enthusiast for imprisoning religious people. You know, cause Rhoeder practices some form of religion, and presumably Burgis thinks he should be imprisoned.

The greatest menace to our civilization is the conflict between giant organized systems of self-righteousness - each only too delighted to find that the other is wicked - each only too glad that the sins of the other give it pretext for still deeper hatred.

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