Sunday, October 14, 2012

Separated at birth?

Existentialist (and Danish philosopher) Søren Kierkegaard and rhythmatist (and Police drummer) Stewart Copeland.  Looks like they even have the same haberdasher.  Not much of a philosophical connection, perhaps, except that “Don’t Box Me In” seems as good an existentialist anthem as any.  On the other hand, an analytic philosophy bias may lurk behind that study in the philosophy of language, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da.”  (What did you think it was about, Dadaism?)


  1. Dear Prof. Feser, want to see another funny thing?

    Look at this:

    when I saw this I thought people at MIT went mad...

  2. Whoops, sorry about that test message above! I thought it would prompt me first.

    "[...] behind that study in the philosophy of language [...]"

    Hello Professor,

    This comment got me thinking about a conversation I had with an avowed Gnu. Our chat revolved around God, meaning and purpose. Specifically God's meaning and God's purpose.

    His argument was that God has no purpose (because purpose is assigned) and because he has no purpose he can not be said to have meaning. God is therefore meaningless. (Though I suppose God can have many purposes - new creation would be one of them.)

    While I agree that God doesn't have these characteristics - and this is because God is by definition not a set of characteristics that exist elsewhere - I think that his argument is really only there for the purpose of stating that this is a privation and is therefore evidence against the existence of God.

    This seems like tortured logic to me, but I can't say that I have a knock down argument against it. Is this just a misuse of language and logic? Or perhaps he is on to something?

    Any and all comments welcomed.

    P.S. Sorry if this is a hijack of the combox

  3. Billy,

    Although it is not a direct answer to the question, I recommend The Maverick Philosopher's posts on this issue. Check out "We Cannot Be the Source of Our Own Existential Meaning" and "Does God Give His Existence Meaning?" on his blog. The comments are helpful as well.

  4. well purpose seems to be usually assigned in naturalism, but I think deep down purpose is non existent in naturalism and we confuse purpose with something effects or something like that... I don't think purpose is assigned in a metaphysics that defends that purpose could be intrinsical.

    Well perhaps he could be confusing G*d with an object or basically saying in his head "god is like an object so whatever works for objects works for god."

    Even if you were to take on the idea that is a Super-Human, I think he could still assign purpose to himself, unless one believes that deep down there is no purpose in the universe, aka teleology of any sort, and the dynamics of the bodies in the universe end up creating things that have teleonomy, you know they JUST seem to have purpose but really they don't.

    Which means that this Super-Human G*d would be just .... a Super-Computer-that-looks-like-a-human of some sort.

  5. Thanks folks. I must check out those blog entries!

  6. Billy,

    I'd like to offer a solution as well.

    First, your Gnu friend begs the question by asserting that meaning is assigned--this must be argued first. Second, meaning is generally described by philosophers these days as "intentionality", "about-ness" and so forth. (Prof. Feser talked about this issue recently.) Naturalism has huge problems with intentionality (as shown by the work of John Searle and Thomas Nagel), and this Gnu would have to explain it away before asserting that meaning is assigned. Third, Thomism argues that anything with an essence has "about-ness" or "determinacy", and it sees God has having (technically, being) an essence.

    Succinctly, unless the Gnu can, per impossibile, 1) wiggle his way out of the problem of intentionality, 2) escape essentialism and 3) offer a coherent explanation of relative meaning, then his argument is worthless.

  7. Fascinating stuff, rank sophist. Much appreciated. I've glanced through Anonymous' first suggested blog entry and it has provided food for thought. But I think your post is exactly what I was looking for. Now I just have to find the time to read all those links and links to links.

    On another note, I was thinking about humility and how little I often bring to these type of discussions. Assuming there is a knock down answer, the challenge comes not only in understand it and presenting it accurately, but also going about presenting your argument in a way that your opponent is actually willing to listen. "Winning the man, not the argument" type of thing.

  8. I had to laugh, I found this:

    "[A twitter] Bot that uses Markov chains to mash-up the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard with the tweets and observations of reality-TV celebrity Kim Kardashian."

    For example:
    I took my cat Mercy to the groomer, to comb out the dreadful tangled confusions of its existence.