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Member since: Sat Sep 24, 2011, 10:36 AM
Number of posts: 14,362

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Did any DUers have a POW bracelet?

Did your POW make it back?

They were pretty common when I was in High School, albeit mostly among the girls.

-- Mal

Of Will


What follows will be humorous, to those who like this sort of humor; infuriating, to those who are infuriated by such subjects or methods; entertaining, if one has low expectations; and probably tedious, regardless of one's inclinations.

We will be discussing a hoary old subject, the freedom or bondage of the will, one of the "two great labyrinths" according to Neal Stephenson. We'll do so using logic, not authority; for the latter, may I commend you to Thomas Aquinas? (Yeah, I know the old boy uses logic like, all the time, but it's funny how many of his arguments end up turning on authority)

Gather wood for the bonfire, by the way, we're going to be committing at least six heresies before breakfast.

We'll start with a simple premise: God exists. Can't get much simpler than that, eh? Since this is the premise, I don't have to prove it, but I will define it.

First, what is meant by the verb, "to exist?" Second, what is meant by the noun "God?"

I use "existence" in the sense that the thought of a unicorn is a real thing. Not necessarily corporeal, but something that can be examined and argued about. This shouldn't be a problem, since we are already arguing about it, not cooking it and eating it (although we may do so figuratively yet).

So, what is this "God" thing? For the purposes of this argument, I'll define God as "Omni." Omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, you get the drill. (Not, however, omnibenevolent, which I'll leave to Epicurus to talk about) Feel free to disagree, but I wonder how, if this "God" thing exists, it can be other than "Omni." We're talking serious superhero, here, after all.

We proceed thus: If God exists, then nothing exists, save God wills it.

For if it did exist outside of God's will, then he is not omnipotent, which is contrary to the Job Description. (Arguably, it also contradicts his being omnipresent, which is two strikes. And hey, it also contradicts his being omniscient, which is three strikes and you're out, baby)

"Existence," in this case, applying to things with a corporeal substance, or to acts. That doughnut you just ate for breakfast existed (briefly) because God willed it, and you ate it because he willed it. This does mean that God is responsible for things we perceive as evil, just as he is responsible for things we perceive as good, which is why I left "omnibenevolent" out of the Job Description. That 13 year old girl was raped because God wills it, and that drowning 8 year old was rescued because God wills it. That tornado that tore up the neighborhood did so because God willed it, and your house was saved from that selfsame tornado because God willed it. God has a lot of 'splainin to do.

God's will must control actions, otherwise things could exist outside of God's will, which is contrary to the Job Description. (And things could exist outside of God, which is also contrary to the Job Description, or what else does "omnipresence" mean?)

Thus you and I, grasshopper, do not have Free Will.

For if we did, then our will would exist outside of God's, which is contrary to the Job Description.

Not only do we not have Free Will, but it follows we also have no independent will, again for the reason that it would require a thing to exist outside of God's Will.

But wait a second, if we have no independent will, then our will is identical to the Will of God.
And if our will is identical to the Will of God, then, well, we are God (which Valentine Michael Smith proposed some time ago, and much good did it do him). Substance being indivisible, if God's Will exists in us, then so does the rest of him, and thus we are identical to God. And if you don't like that argument, we still have the Job Description to fall back on: we must be identical to God, otherwise we would exist outside of God, which is contrary to the Job Description.

So our will is identical to God's.

Our will is identical to God's?

Our will is identical to God's.

Hold on, God's will is free. The Job Description says so: if it were not free, it would be constrained, and if constrained, then he is not omnipotent.

But we just demonstrated above that our will is not free.

So God's will is both free, and not free. Which is a contradiction. So the premise is false.

Thus, God does not exist. QED.


Per contra: Actually, all we have proved is that our will is identical to God's. Since it has no independent existence, it is meaningless to talk about "our" will; only God's will exists, and we haven't shown it to be constrained. Aw, shucks.

Well, hmmm. If we are God, doesn't that make us Omni? I didn't know I was omnipotent (hell, I even have trouble composing a coherent argument), which I must be if I am God, right? Well, maybe I am but just don't know it... oh, yeah, I'm supposed to be omniscient, too. (Somebody-or-other defined God as "the one who knows that he knows." Isn't theology fun?) So God is both omniscient and not, which is a contradiction.

Thus, God still does not exist, QED.


And the wise guy in the peanut gallery points out that, actually, all we have done is prove that God's existence cannot be proved by logic. A bunch of folks have tried over the years, but haven't quite demonstrated it satisfactorily. And if it were possible to prove the existence of God by logic, then we'd be left with the premise that started this whole mess, which we have just disproved. Is it five O'Clock somewhere?

-- Mal

Today, the US government paid me for living this long.

Social Security, what a concept. I was definitely sure that it would never be around by the time I was eligible.

Of course, who knows what they'll do to it in the future. I wonder if I'll be grandfathered if they drop it?

-- Mal

Music that makes you hungry...

... Either about food (and drink!) or with food (or drink!) in the title. Let's start with some Louis Jordan:

Beans and Cornbread:

Saturday Night Fish Fry:

A little appetizer and some flowers from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass:

Lollipops and Roses:

We're having a picnic with Laura Nyro:

Stoned Soul Picnic

And for dessert, some Popsicles from Jan and Dean:

Any additions to the menu?

-- Mal

The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution

The Declaration of Independence is a nice little document (or at least its preamble is), but it is not a legal document and is thus little more than a curiosity in US State papers. The Constitution, however, is manifestly a legal document, and the ideas in the Preamble made it into the Constitution by way of the Bill of Rights.

Mr Jefferson established the foundational rights of Life, Liberty, and Property (well, he said "Pursuit of Happiness," but he was just kidding). A further right, floated by Francis Hutcheson a couple decades before the Declaration, also argued for a Right to one's own conscience. All four of these rights are legally secured by the Bill of Rights to the US Constitution.

The First Amendment secures the right to one's own conscience, which Hutcheson proposed but Jefferson didn't mention. Right to conscience involves more than freedom of worship, it also covers the right to think and express oneself free of government hindrance. Though the amendment does not explicitly secure one's right to think as his conscience directs, one might argue that the Founders, at least, expected people to think before they spoke (which is, perhaps, one reason why the Bill of Rights is out of date).

The Fourth and Fifth secure Life, Liberty, and Property (it's right there in the Fifth, honest), but none of the amendments say anything about the Pursuit of Happiness. One might argue that Pursuit of Happiness is really covered by the whole Bill of Rights (well, the first 8 amendments, anyway), or one could argue that the omnibus Amendments (the last two) secure PoH adequately. Maybe Mr Madison was not so enamored of Mr Jefferson's novelty to dignify it by addressing it in the Bill of Rights.

Bottom line: The Declaration of Independence (in the preamble) provides the theoretical grounding which was later worked out in the Constitution. It grants, and can grant, nothing. This is why people sue about unconstitutionality all the time, but no one (so far as I am aware) has brought suit against the Declaration of Independence.

-- Mal

Some musings on Natural Law

Natural Law is concerned with human rights, the "unalienable" rights Mr Jefferson wrote about in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. (Yeah, he meant "inalienable," but I guess quills are as subject to typos and spell-checkers as keyboards) This means, in Natural Law terms, that one possesses these rights by virtue of being human, and that they cannot be taken away or given away.

Those rights are enumerated in the Declaration as "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness." In the writings on Natural Law leading up to the Declaration, a trinity of rights had emerged as foundational: Life, Liberty, and Property. Mr Jefferson was squeamish about including the last-named, so he essentially came up with "Pursuit of Happiness" to stand in the place of Property. Francis Hutcheson, whom Mr Jefferson may have read, had added a few to the canon in his lengthy work A System of Moral Philosophy, among which is the "right to one's own conscience," which pertains to more than just freedom of worship. Popular blogger Jim Wright has boiled them all down to the right of self-determination, which arguably covers all the bases.

The unfortunate thing is that there really are no "inalienable rights" in society, as the State may freely deprive a member of the society, or a group of people, of their rights whenever it deems it expedient. Now, we can try some subtle sophistry to claim that taking away the exercise of a right is not the same thing as taking away the right, but when the State has chopped off your head, it is inane to argue that you still retain your right to life. Accordingly, it is often argued that in practice, rights are an agreement or compact among the members of a society, and may be "granted" or "withheld" by the State (and possibly enshrined in a written Constitution). Which leads me, at least, to a question: if Natural Rights are a pleasant fiction, on what grounds may an individual or group petition the State for enjoyment of rights they have hitherto been unable to enjoy?

Legally, there's no problem here: standing in court can be established if the petitioner can demonstrate actual harm is being done him. But the State has an out: they can claim that some overriding social utility justifies the denial of rights, in that either a) society benefits from such deprivation to greater value than the damage sustained, or b) that some harm will accrue to the State if the right is extended to the petitioner, greater than the advantage the petitioner will receive from free possession and exercise of the right. These are, essentially, utilitarian arguments: the greatest good of the greatest number directs the ruling. Now, if the petitioner can show that either a) or b) above is false, then he should win his case and be "granted" the right for which he has petitioned.

But utilitarianism can lead us down some very nasty rabbit holes indeed. It can tell us that unproductive members of the State, who are in fact a drain on resources and energy to the point that they cause net damage to the productive members of the State, should be liquidated; and it can be arbitrarily summoned to justify the denial of Life, Liberty, Property, Pursuit of Happiness, or anything the State damned well pleases. Further, it could be evoked to justify laws forbidding citizens to do anything to themselves that the State deems harmful, for example drinking, drugs, smoking etc -- which may not be "rights," but surely are a vital part of one's right to define himself, or go to hell in his own way.

So, if Natural Law is a fiction, and utilitarianism is not a reasonable grounds for "granting" a right to an oppressed individual or group, what are the grounds by which the rights enumerated in the Declaration can be assured to all members of the State?

Wish I had the answer to that.

-- Mal

Lyrics on the Internet

One of the nice things about the 'Net is you can find out wtf those lyrics in a song you've heard a million times really are.

Sometimes, the knowledge doesn't get you very far.

Viz: "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" (Stepen Stills)

Que linda me la traiga Cuba
La reina de la Mar Caribe
Cielo sol no tiene sangreahi
Y que triste que no puedo vaya oh va, oh va

Okay, so basically, that means "Cuba is really pretty, the sky is nice, so sad I can't go there."

Whatinhell does that have to do with Judy Collins?

Confuzed, Mal

Six shooting threats in three days.

Got an interesting phone call last night from the sherriff's office of the little county in Kentucky I'm living in now (pop 25,000 and some change).

The gist of it was that there have been six threats of shooting in the County's schools brought to the attention of the office since 19 February (that's right, 19 February). All six have been investigated and arrests made in four. This in a rural (hell. practically desert) area of 25,000 citizens.

That certainly seems like a lot.

-- Mal

Crappy food you like anyway...

... and don't try to talk me out of it.

I'll start:

Chef Boyardee Spaghetti
Kraft Mac and Cheese
Pop Tarts

Fess up, pilgrims, what horrible, unhealthy, and yummy food do you love, and are not one bit "guilty" about it?

-- Mal

Jim Wright strikes again.

Mr Trump wants a parade? Mic drop time:

Look, here's the thing:

Tough guys, the real deal, the snake eaters, those confident in their abilities, they don't brag, they don't swagger, they don't need to impress you with macho bullshit. They know who they are. Their brothers know who they are. Those guys, the truly deadly ones, they don't go looking for a fight. They avoid it, if possible. But if trouble finds them, well, then they end it. Without fanfare, without bluster, without cock waggling. They do what is necessary BECAUSE it's necessary and no more.

It's the blowhards, the cowards, the insecure, who strive constantly to impress you with their macho toughness and bulging muscles, with their tales of derring-do, with their war stories and their supposed heroics. They threaten and brag and swagger and crave your adulation.

But it's the guy in the back, the quiet one in the shadows with his hands in his pockets, you should be afraid of. Because HE doesn't need your respect. Or your admiration. Or your fear.

Now, if you're a repressive dictatorship with a cardboard military and a massive inferiority complex, you parade your tanks through the streets to impress the peasants. To brag and swagger and threaten the world with your macho.


(More at: https://www.facebook.com/Stonekettle)

As I have observed elsewhere, Jim Wright is a brilliant writer. He can clear up just about anything. Which might make him, from time to time, offend liberals, because he is ecumenical in his insistence on clarity, logic, and common sense. Highly recommend his Facebook page, and his blog at http://www.stonekettle.com/

-- Mal

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