Friday, November 30, 2012

Monism and Pluralism

There may be many kinds of monism and pluralism: philosophical, religious, social, political, and cultural.
      Philosophical monism and pluralism include ontological, metaphysical, ethical, and epistemological kinds.
      Ontological monism may be a theory that the world consists of a single substance, while ontological pluralism may be a theory that the world consists of a plurality of substances. 
      Metaphysical monism may be a theory that ultimate reality consists of a single substance, while metaphysical pluralism may be a theory that ultimate reality consists of a plurality of substances. 
      Two important kinds of metaphysical pluralism are substance dualism (or Cartesian dualism), which holds that mind and matter are two different substances, and property dualism (or token physicalism), which holds that mind and matter are not different substances and that mental phenomena are merely properties of physical phenomena.
      Metaphysical monism, or the theory that only one kind of entity constitutes ultimate reality, may be of three kinds: idealistic, materialistic, and neutral.1 Idealistic monism may a theory that all reality is mental or spiritual, and that the world consists of a single underlying substance that is mental or spiritual. Materialistic monism may be a theory that all reality is material or physical, and that mental phenomena are merely rearrangements of physical matter. Neutral monism may be a theory that physical and mental reality are not intrinsically different, and that all physical and mental phenomena are merely rearrangements of a single neutral substance or element.2
      Ethical monism may be a theory that ethical conduct is (can, or should be) guided by a single ethical principle or value system. Ethical pluralism, on the other hand, may be a theory that ethical conduct is (can, or should be) guided by a plurality of ethical principles or value systems. 
      Epistemological monism may be a theory that there is only one kind of truth or that there is only one consistent set of truths about the world. Epistemological pluralism, on the other hand, may be a theory that there are many kinds of truth and that there may be many consistent sets of truths about the world.
      Religious or theological monism may be a theory or attitude that there is only one true way of looking at God, that there is only one true religion, and that there is only one path to spiritual salvation. On the other hand, religious or theological pluralism may be a theory or attitude that there is more than one true way of looking at God, that there is more than one valid way of discovering ultimate reality, and that there is more than one path to spiritual salvation. 
     It is important to note that religious pluralism does not necessarily entail religious relativism.3 While religious pluralism may involve mutual respect among people of different religions, and may be guided by the principle that people of different religions should be able to live together peacefully in society, religious relativism may be a theory that religious truth is relative to the believer and that all religious beliefs are therefore equally valid. Acceptance of religious pluralism as a social goal or norm does not entail abandonment of the principle that there are absolute moral and religious truths that are not merely a matter of subjective opinion or personal viewpoint.

1Bertrand Russell, Theory of Knowledge: The 1913 Manuscript, edited by Elizabeth Ramsden Eames, in collaboration with Kenneth Blackwell (London: Routledge, 1992), p. 7.
2Ibid., p. 15.
3Jay Newman, Foundations of Religious Tolerance (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), p. 47.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Deontic modality schematized according to the semiotic square

Actions may be classified according to their deontic modality (using the Greimasian scheme of the semiotic square) as follows:

S1                                                              S2
those that we are                those that we are   required to do                      required not to do

those that we are               those that we are    not required not to do           not required to do
~S2                                                            ~S1

S1                                                                S2
those that we are               those that we are   advised to do                      advised not to do

those that we are               those that we are   not advised not to do          not advised to do
~S2                                                           ~S1

S1                                                               S2
those that we are                those that we are permitted to do                  permitted not to do

those that we are                those that we are not permitted not to do       not permitted to do
~S2                                                            ~S1

S1 – S2 is a relation of contrariety, ~S1 - S2 is a relation of complementarity, S1 - ~S1 is a relation of contradiction, S2 - ~S2 is a relation of contradiction, ~S2 - ~S1 is a relation of contrariety, and S1 - ~S2 is a relation of complementarity.1

Relations of material equivalence may thus be stated as follows (where "" stands for “is materially equivalent to”):

1. Being required to do (having to do)  not being permitted not to do  not being permitted to do otherwise

2. Being required not to do (having not to do)  being required to do otherwise  not being permitted not to do

3. Not being required to do (not having to do)  being permitted not to do  being permitted to do otherwise

4. Not being required not to do (not having not to do)  being permitted to do  not being required to do otherwise.


1A.J. Greimas and J. Courtés, Semiotics and Language: An Analytical Dictionary, translated by Larry Crist, Daniel Patte, et al. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979), p. 309.

Exodus 4:10-12

10 And Moses said unto the LORD, "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech and of tongue." 11 And the LORD said unto him, "Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you shall say."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Religious Language - A Reading List

Carson, D.A. The Inclusive Language Debate: A Plea for Realism. Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 1998.

Chopp, Rebecca S. The Power to Speak: Feminism, Language, God. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1989.

Cornwell, Hilarie, and Cornwell, James. Saints Signs, and Symbols: The Symbolic Language of Christian Art. Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishing, 2009.

Heather, Noel. Religious Language and Critical Discourse Analysis: Ideology and Identity in Christian Discourse Today. Oxford: Peter Lang Publishers, 2000.

Green, Garrett. Imagining God: Theology and the Religious Imagination. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989.

Johnson, Elizabeth. She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse. New York: Crossroad, 1992.

Lindbeck, George A. The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1984.

Long, D. Stephen. Speaking of God: Theology, Language and Truth. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing 
Co., 2009.

MacQuarrie, John. God Talk: An Examination of the Language and Logic of Theology. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.

McFague, Sallie. Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982.

Ramsey, Ian. Christian Discourse: Some Logical Explorations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1966.

Ramsey, Ian. Religious Language. London: SCM-Canterbury Press, Ltd., 1967.

Scott, Alex. Christian Semiotics and the Language of Faith. New York: iUniverse, 2007.

Soskice, Janet Martin. Metaphor and Religious Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Stiver, Dan R. The Philosophy of Religious Language: Sign, Symbol, and Story. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. Is There a Meaning in this Text? The Bible, The Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1998.

Ware, Jr., James H. Not With Words of Wisdom: Performative Language and Liturgy. Washington, D.C., University Press of America, 1981.

Cases in which an expression can have contradictory meanings

      Some interesting examples of expressions that are in themselves capable of having opposite or contradictory meanings include the verb "stem" (which can mean either "stop" or "originate"), the phrase "to cleave" (which can mean either "to cling or attach to" or "to divide or separate"), the adjective "moot" (which can mean "disputable" or "indisputable"), the noun "oversight" (which can refer to an act of forgetting something or an act of being vigilant about something), the phrase "to garnish" (which can mean "to add something extra" or "to subtract something"), and the phrase "to sanction" (which can mean "to allow" or "to prohibit").

Book Reviews

These are some links to reviews from my book The Conditions of Knowledge.

Rudolf Carnap's The Logical Structure of the World

John Searle's The Construction of Social Reality

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason

Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind

Josiah Royce's The World and the Individual.

Monday, November 26, 2012


What are the aims, tasks, and purposes of philosophy? This is one of the questions that metaphilosophy is concerned with. Other questions that metaphilosophy is concerned with include: What are the proper methods of philosophical inquiry? What is the proper domain of philosophical inquiry?  What are the limits of philosophical inquiry? What kinds of philosophy are there? Is philosophy a theoretical or practical discipline? 
      With regard to this last question, the attempt to divide philosophy into theoretical (speculative) and practical philosophy is similar to the attempt to divide it into "continental" and "analytic" philosophy. Both attempts may be limited by the lack, in many cases, of a sharp division between the speculative and the practical, or between the continental and the analytic, approaches to philosophy. There is, in fact, no necessary dichotomy between them. The attempt to separate speculative from practical philosophy, or theory from practice, overlooks the fact that they may often lead to or support each other. To put it simply, a theory about something may often have unexpected practical implications, and practical experience may often lead to a theory about things.
      Speculative philosophy, in the pejorative sense, may be mere philosophizing. An argument against mere philosophizing may be that "real philosophers" (in whatever way this term is defined) do not spend their time idly ruminating about abstractions; they actually "do philosophy." Doing philosophy may be something beyond merely speculating about purely theoretical problems. It may be a way of addressing practical concerns, and it may lead to practical results.
      If we are going to philosophize, perhaps we should at least do it, as Friedrich Nietzsche suggests in Twilight of the Idols (1889), "with a hammer," sounding out empty or hollow beliefs. What other instruments might be used to meaningfully philosophize? A razor, in the case of Occam, or a fork, in the case of Hume?
      Metaphilosophy may be defined as an inquiry into the nature, aims, functions, methods, and limits of philosophy. It may be descriptive or prescriptive (normative) in nature, or both, insofar as it may describe what philosophy is and/or prescribe what it should be.
      Ludwig Wittgenstein said, in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922), that "Philosophy is not a theory, but an activity" (4.112). According to Wittgenstein, the proper aim of philosophy is to clarify the meaning of propositions by logically analyzing them. Every meaningful proposition can be stated clearly, and thus the proper aim of philosophy is not to produce various sets of propositions about the world, but to make clear what propositions actually mean.1
      G.E. Moore similarly explained, in the preface of the Principia Ethica (1903), that we may often find ourselves in philosophical quandaries if we attempt to answer questions before precisely determining their meaning. Rather than engaging straightaway in an attempt to provide an answer to every question, we may need first to understand the nature of the questions we are attempting to answer.2
      Another question to be answered by metaphilosophy is: How is philosophy similar to, or different from, science? Another way of phrasing this question is: To what extent is philosophy a kind of science? For example, does philosophy need to be scientific in order to be a useful means of providing objective knowledge? 
      If philosophy may be scientific in its aims and concerns, then we must also note that there is a philosophy of science, which is distinctive of science, as opposed to art, literature, and religion. Similarly, there is a philosophy of art, as well as a philosophy of literature (i.e. literary theory, or literary criticism), and a philosophy of religion. 
      If science, art, literature, or religion are also in some sense "languages," then the philosophy of each of these disciplines or concerns may be a metalanguage. The metaphilosophy that is concerned with the nature, aims, methods, and limits of the philosophy of science, art, literature, or religion may be a metalanguage about a metalanguage. The borders between philosophy, science, art, literature, and religion may also need to be decided by thinkers in each of these disciplines or spheres of concern.
      Other questions to be considered by metaphilosophy include that of whether philosophy is rooted in social conditions, and that of whether philosophy has a social responsibility. Do philosophers have a responsibility to be socially engaged? If philosophy has a social responsibility, then to what extent does philosophy need to be focused on alleviating or resolving social problems? 

1Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, translated by C.K. Ogden (Mineola: Dover Publications, 1999), p. 52.
2G.E. Moore, Principia Ethica (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 33.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Monadic Realism

Realism from a metaphysical standpoint may be described as a theory that the world of our experience is real and not merely apparent or illusory. It may be compatible with metaphysical monism (the theory that reality consists of a single substance), metaphysical dualism (the theory that reality consists of only two substances, e.g. mind and matter) or metaphysical pluralism (the theory that reality consists of many different substances). 
     A substance may be defined in a variety of ways. It may be described as simply "that which is." It may also be described as that in which the properties of a thing inhere, or as that which has properties but is not itself a property. It may also be described as that without which a thing would not exist (or the essence of a thing, that without which the thing would not be what it is, rather than some other thing).
     Aristotle (in the Metaphysics) says that substance is the only category of being that does not belong to, and cannot be predicated of, any other category of being. All of the other categories of being may be predicated of a substance, but substance itself as a category of being does not depend on any of the other categories. It is both essence (form) and substratum (matter). The substance of a thing is the particular nature of that thing. The being of any particular thing is primarily defined by what is (i.e. by its substance, its "whatness" or quiddity).
     Spinoza (in the Ethics, 1677) defines a substance as that which is "in itself" (that which does not depend on something else for its being), and as that which is conceived through itself (that which does not depend on something else for its conception).
     The theory that reality consists of many, or perhaps an infinite number of, substances (real things, facts, entities, or events), for which we may use the abbreviated term "reals," is a kind of realism that may be compatible with metaphysical idealism (the theory that ultimate reality is mental, and that the world consists of ideas), provided that realism and idealism are not defined as being contradictory to each other (with realism, on the one hand, being defined as a theory holding that the world exists independently of mind, and idealism, on the other hand, being defined as a theory holding that the world does not exist independently of mind). The "reals" posited by this kind of realism may be mental, physical, or both, without any necessary self-contradiction in this kind of theory.
     If the "reals" that constitute reality are different substances and not the same substance, then this kind of realism may be a metaphysical pluralism that is in opposition to metaphysical monism. A version of this kind of theory was formulated by the German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) in The Monadology (La Monadologie, 1714), and another version of this kind of theory was proposed by the German philosopher Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841) in his General Metaphysics (Allgemeine Metaphysik, 1828-9). Herbart's version will hereafter be referred to as Herbartian realism (HR). 
      Leibniz defines "monads" as simple substances that are the basic elements of things,while Herbart refers to "reals" as the reality of attributes of being.
      However, "reals" may be defined in other kinds of metaphysical pluralism as not only substances, attributes, qualities, or properties, but also as objects, relations, kinds, and ways (or modes) of being. "Reals" may be the basic elements, constituents, or building blocks of reality. Thus, Leibnizian monadology or Herbartian realism (HR) may represent a kind of foundationalism or reductionism, holding that reality, from an epistemological viewpoint, can be reduced to various basic or foundational elements from which all other elements are derived. 
      According to this viewpoint, reals are simple substances from which compound and complex substances are derived. As simple substances, they do not consist of parts, and therefore cannot be further reduced to simple parts. This epistemological or ontological viewpoint may be a kind of reism or concretism in its reification or concretization of real things or entities (in opposition to abstractionism, the theory that abstract objects are real and actually exist). Change, becoming, and transformation may be explained by rearrangements of the various building blocks, basic elements, monads, or "reals" that constitute reality. A deterministic (mechanistic, essentialist) or indeterministic (inessentialist, accidentalist) viewpoint may be taken with regard to the origin of this change, becoming, or transformation. 
      Ludwig Wittgenstein (in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 1922), says that the world is the totality of "atomic facts," and that these facts are expressed by propositions. Elementary propositions assert the existence or nonexistence of atomic facts, and are true or false depending on whether these facts exist or do not exist. Every logical proposition is a model of reality. 
      Bertrand Russell (in a series of lectures entitled "The Philosophy of Logical Atomism," 1918-19), says that atomic facts are the simplest kind of facts, and that they are expressed by atomic propositions. Atomic propositions are propositions that express atomic facts. Facts are things (objects, events, states of affairs) about which we may have beliefs, and these beliefs may be expressed by propositions. The world may thus be logically analyzed in terms of the facts that it contains. Russell says that this approach is a logical, rather than physical, atomism, because it is concerned with a logical rather than physical analysis of the real world.3
      Rudolf Carnap (in The Logical Structure of the World, 1964) describes the logical structure of the world as a system of hierarchical construction in which the objects of each successive level are constructed from simpler or more elementary objects. At the most basic level of construction are basic objects, which include basic elements and basic relations. Basic elements are elementary experiences that are not constructed from simpler or more elementary objects. Rather, they are immediately given as formal objects. Thus, they cannot be analyzed into proper constituents, and cannot be given property descriptions. They can only be given relation descriptions. 
      John R. Searle (in The Construction of Social Reality, 1995) describes social and institutional facts as the building blocks of social reality, and he says that social facts are objective facts, insofar as they are ultimately based on physical facts and are not merely a matter of subjective preference or opinion.
      If "reals" are the basic facts of reality, then monadic realism (MR) may be a kind of factualism, in accordance with epistemological objectivism and in opposition to subjectivism. It may be reconcilable with absolutism or relativism with regard to whether the "reals" that constitute reality are absolute or relative (to observation, to perception, or to a particular viewpoint). If the real is the given, and the "reals" of MR are the given facts that constitute reality, then MR is also in opposition to constructivism. Reality is not constructed by a subject; it is given to, or present for, perception, regardless of how extensive or limited a subject's perception of it might be. 
      MR is also a theory of the multiple, of the infinite, of diversity.
      If monadic realism is a theory that reality is monadic and individual, and if it is a theory that reality consists of many different entities, substances, selves, objects, or concepts, then it also implies that reality is disjunctive, split, or discontinuous, and that there are many distinct or independent realities.
      If the reals proposed by monadic realism are ultimate reality and are the ultimate facts of the world, are they knowable or unknowable? If our knowledge of the basic facts of reality is restricted to the phenomena of sensory experience, or to truths that are derived from the phenomena of sensory experience, is this theory a kind of phenomenalism or sensationalism? 
      Are reals the noumena of which the objects of sensory experience are the phenomena?4 Are there unknowable objects (noumena) that correspond to the knowable objects (phenomena) of sensory experience? According to Immanuel Kant (in the Critique of Pure Reason, 1781), the objects of cognition can be divided into phenomena and noumena. Phenomena are objects of possible experience, but noumena are not objects of possible experience.
      What kinds of reality are there? How are they similar or different? How do we distinguish between moral, social, cultural, historical, physical, material, formal, practical, subjective, objective, and virtual reality?


1Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, in G.W. Leibniz's Monadology: An Edition for Students, by Nicholas Rescher (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991) p. 17
2Johann Friedrich Herbart, "Allgemeine Metaphysik nebst den Anfängen der Philososphischen Naturlehre," in Johann Friedrich Herbart's Sämtliche Werke, Herausgegeben von G. Hartenstein, Vierter Band, (Hamburg and Leipzig, Leopold Voss, 1886, s. 207 p. 86)
3Bertrand Russell, "The Philosophy of Logical Atomism," in The Monist (Oct. 1918), p. 497.
4Charles De Garmo, Herbart and the Herbartians (Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific) p. 28.