Berkeley’s Direct Tactile Realism In His NEW VISION

Oddly enough for those of us used to thinking of Berkeley as a thoroughgoing idealist, Berkeley maintains in his AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION a direct realism regarding tactile perception.  Whereas the objects of vision — for example, the visible moon — do not exist outside the mind, the objects of touch — what is touched, tangible physical objects — do exist outside the mind in external space.  As George Pitcher puts it, speaking of what Berkeley is claiming in black and white in the NEW THEORY OF VISION:

What we feel are the tangible objects — i.e., the objects that are spread around us at various points in physical space.  What we see are objects that exist only in the mind.

George Pitcher, BERKELEY: THE ARGUMENTS OF THE PHILOSOPHERS  (Routledge, London and New York), p. 28. Henceforth BERKELEY

Tangible objects, in the system of the Essay, exist around us in real physical space.

George Pitcher, BERKELEY, p. 43.

And from the Master himself (passage 1):

Passage 1

For all visible things are equally in the Mind, and take up no part of the external Space.  And consequently are equidistant [in the next sentence Berkeley says ‘Or rather to speak truly…are at no Distance, neither near nor far…] from any tangible thing, which exists without the Mind.

George Berkeley, AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION, paragraphs CXI and CXII, in The GEORGE BERKELEY COLLECTION: 5 CLASSIC WORKS, Amazon Print-On-Demand Edition, no pagination.  Henceforth A NEW THEORY OF VISION. 

Perceiving/sensing/understanding (for now I will take these terms to be more or less equivalent, as I think they are for Berkeley) for Berkeley is always a two-place relation between a Mind that perceives something and the thing that is perceived — the object of perception.  Berkeley calls the direct, that is to say, the immediate object of sensing/perceiving/understanding an ‘idea’:

Passage 2a

… I take the word idea for any immediate object of sense, or understanding — in which large signification it is commonly used by the moderns.

George Berkeley, AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION, in BERKELEY Essay, Principles, Dialogues With Selections From Other Writings (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York) 1929) p. 36.  Henceforth A NEW THEORY OF VISION when referring to that Essay in this volume.

So henceforth I will be treating the terms ‘idea’ and ‘object (of touch, of vision, of hearing, etc.)’ as equivalent, except when the context makes it obvious that ‘idea’ is being used in another way.

Visible things, visual ideas — the objects of vision — for example, the Visibile Moon … these things have visible properties. The Visibile Moon, for example, has a round shape, is flat, luminous, and is of a kind of non-saturated yellow color. That this should be so ought not perhaps be too surprising. Things have properties, right? Shouldn’t visible things have visible properties? And should their bearing properties be gainsaid by the fact that these things exist only in the mind? I can see a wine red or viridian green or burnt sienna afterimage, right?

Vision is, I have said, assuming for the moment the guise of Bishop Berkeley, a two-place relation between the Mind and an object that exists only in the mind, a visual Idea. In the case of touch, this relation is a two-place relation between the Mind and a hard or soft or rough or smooth or sharp or rounded…physical object existing in external space. [By ‘physical object’, I mean ‘object that obeys the laws of physics,’ and I take it this is what Berkeley is also thinking of when he talks about things existing in ‘external space’.] Shortly, I will be talking about what these relations might be.

As regards vision, I do perceive an extra-mental object existing in external space — but only indirectly, or mediately, in a three-place relation. This relation comprises my Mind (me), the Visibile Idea (e.g., the Visibile Moon) to which my Mind is related directly, and the external object (the physical, tangible Moon) for which the Visibile Moon serves as a sign.  So with regard to vision, Berkeley maintains in the NEW VISION a representational theory of perception.  He is an indirect realist with regard to vision:  we see the physical object in external space just indirectly, in a way mediated by the mental object of color and shape that we do see directly.

But with regard to touch, Berkeley is a direct realist.  We perceive the physical object directly through touch.  We don’t perceive it by ‘touching’ or ‘feeling’ a mental object that represents the physical tangible object.  We are in contact with the object itself.  Put another way, our perception reaches all the way to the felt object.  In the case of touch, the perception is a two-place, not a three-place relation.

This direct realism in the case of touch comes as a bit of a surprise to those of us who think of Berkeley as a thoroughgoing idealist who thinks that everything is mental.  And in fact Berkeley apparently claimed in later writings that he theorized touch this way only to prevent his readers from freaking out from far too much counterintuitive idealism (Pitcher, BERKELEY, p. 28) which would only have served to distract his readers from what he wanted to focus on, namely, vision. In his own thoughts, ostensibly kept to himself at the time of A NEW THEORY OF VISION, he regarded the objects of touch as in fact mental.

But regardless of what the historical George Berkeley thought or did not think inwardly as he wrote that tract, treating touch in a direct realist fashion as involving direct perceptual contact with the touched/felt physical object is strongly motivated by two things.  First, Berkeley’s treatment of the objects of vision as being both mental and possessing visual properties leads to absurdities if applied to the objects of touch.  The absurdity disappears once one regards the objects of touch as being extra-mental, existing outside the mind.  Second, reflecting on the nature of vision and the nature of touch motivates (without forcing!) a direct realist theory of touch and an indirect realist theory of vision.  .

I’ve been speaking of the objects of vision and the objects of touch, whether these be the same [be sure to cash this out], or different, as Berkeley thinks. The object of vision is what is seen; the object of touch is what is touched. Berkeley calls the former the visual Idea, and the latter … well, to anticipate, I think one is likely to feel some discomfort in calling what is touched, the physical object, an ‘Idea’, given that Ideas are normally regarded as mental, as Berkeley regards the (direct) objects of vision. Be that as it may, objects have properties.

So it is not terribly surprising to see (as I have discussed in a previous post, The Truth Of Bishop Berkeley (Part 0)) Berkeley treating the visible object as having visual properties (what other kind would it have? [Yes, this is a trick question]).  The Visibile Moon, for example, is round, flat, luminous, and (although Berkeley never assigns it a specific color) of a certain pale cheese-like yellow. If I may be permitted to go at least a little distance out on a limb, I ascribe to Berkeley the idea that for a mind to sense ‘moon yellow’ and the other sensed properties of the Visibile Moon is simply for that object to have those properties and to exist in the mind.

But we run immediately into trouble if we try to apply that idea to the objects of touch. It seems rather strange to say that for a mind to sense rough, smooth, hard, soft and so on is for a rough (or smooth, hard, soft) object to exist in the mind. But surely no mental things can be rough etc.  Only physical objects — for example, the bark of a tree, the cool smoothness of marble — can have these properties.  Thus conceptualizing Ideas, the objects before the Mind, as having properties puts Berkeley straightway on the road to regarding physical objects existing in extra-mental space as the objects of touch.

But what happens, then, to the idea that to sense an object with its properties directly is for that object with its properties to exist in the mind? The object of touch with its roughness etc. exists outside, not inside the mind. How, then, can it be an Idea? An Idea, surely, is something that exists in the mind. And an Idea, remember, is what is sensed, what is perceived — the object of touch or of vision. If one ever suffered from the delusion that the Berkeleyan Idea was not a problematic concept, they should be stripped of that delusion now. [ It would seem that Berkeley would either have to jettison either the notion that an Idea is a mental object (with properties) in the mind, or that it is an object, mental or not, before the mind. the notion we have ascribed to him that ]

[What is this relation? At least in the case of vision, Berkeley seems to conceive of this relation in quasi-spatial terms — and he is not, of course, the only one to do so.  For him, to sense wine red, for example, is for wine red (deep crimson red) to be “in” (yes, do note the scare quotes) the mind. The origin of this spatial metaphor doubtlessly lies in a causal story of perception. Light bounces off the object (say, a translucent wine-red paper weight), strikes the retina, triggering other events that end up quite literally in the brain…and from there (though no story about the pituitary gland) ideas somehow slip into the mind. That Bishop Berkeley easily flips from talking about brains and physical processes to talking about minds and the ideas contained therein. As shown here, he starts out talking about retinas and brains, then suddenly corrects himself midstream and starts talking about minds. These easy flips make it more likely he will apply in a metaphorical or derived way to minds and mental objects spatial terms such as ‘in’ whose use is quite literal when applied to brains inside skulls. ]

[For now, I will leave the terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ as primitives, and assume that I and my readers understand them in roughly the way Bishop Berkeley understood them. We are all, after all, still swimming the still-powerful current of Cartesian dualism.]

[What is this relation? At least in the case of vision, Berkeley seems to conceive of this relation in quasi-spatial terms — and he is not, of course, the only one to do so.  For him, to sense wine red, for example, is for wine red (deep crimson red) to be “in” (yes, do note the scare quotes) the mind. The origin of this spatial metaphor doubtlessly lies in a causal story of perception. Light bounces off the object (say, a translucent wine-red paper weight), strikes the retina, triggering other events that end up quite literally in the brain…and from there (though no story about the pituitary gland) ideas somehow slip into the mind. That Bishop Berkeley easily flips from talking about brains and physical processes to talking about minds and the ideas contained therein. As shown here, he starts out talking about retinas and brains, then suddenly corrects himself midstream and starts talking about minds. These easy flips make it more likely he will apply in a metaphorical or derived way to minds and mental objects spatial terms such as ‘in’ whose use is quite literal when applied to brains inside skulls. ]

[For now, I will leave the terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ as primitives, and assume that I and my readers understand them in roughly the way Bishop Berkeley understood them. We are all, after all, still swimming the still-powerful current of Cartesian dualism.]

[But why doesn’t regarding the objects of vision likewise put one right on the road to viewing the objects of vision as extra-mental entities? Can a mental object be yellow, luminous, round, and flat?]

Whether such a reading is historically accurate or not, I am tempted to read the following passage (passage 2) as motivated by a discomforting sense on the part of Berkeley that there is something problematic about the notion of an Idea. What better way to eliminate the discomfort than to say the opposite? ‘There is nothing problematic about the notion of tangible ideas’, my psycho-analyzed version of Berkeley would say. ‘I am just using the phrase as everyone else among us moderns uses it’.

Passage 2

Note that, when I speak of tangible ideas, I take the word idea for any immediate object of sense, or understanding — in which large signification it is commonly used by the moderns.

George Berkeley, AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION, in BERKELEY Essay, Principles, Dialogues With Selections From Other Writings (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York) 1929) p. 36.  Henceforth A NEW THEORY OF VISION when referring to that Essay in this volume.

But what is directly, i.e., immediately, i.e., im, that is to say, not mediately touched is the extra-mental physical object itself.  Given the passage just quoted, that would mean the physical object is an Idea — a tactile Idea — , at least when it is being touched.  Visual Ideas may be mental, but it would seem that tactile Ideas are not.  But surely, in the large signification the word ‘Idea’ is used by the moderns, as well as by all of us captive to what is still a Cartesian common sense, an Idea is something mental, something in the Mind.  Passages 1) and 2) are clearly in tension with one another.

One way to reconcile 1) and 2) is to reinterpret the concept of an Idea by applying to it a distinction between the content of intentional states such as seeing and touching and the object of these states.

A Berkeleyan Idea, I propose, is ambiguous between content and object.  In the case of feeling/touching [I shall use ‘feeling’ interchangeably with ‘touching’], the Idea is a mental content without properties but describable by seeking answers to the question ‘how’, or adverbially.   The intentional state with this content has a physical thing with properties as its object.  In the case of vision, the Idea is an “inner” mental object [I will take ‘inner’, ‘mental’, and ‘mind’ as primitives and pretend, at least for now, that there is nothing problematic about these terms] with properties.

Let me explain this distinction by making an analogy to the (commonly made in this context)  distinction between kicking a tree (an action directed towards an object) and kicking a kick (an action that may or may not be directed towards an object).  Let’s say that Dr. Johnson kicks a tree (while exclaiming ‘I refute Berkeley thus!’)  This event can be described in two ways:  ‘Dr Johnson kicked a tree’, and ‘Dr. Johnson kicked a kick’.  The kick, is of course, identical with Dr. Johnson’s action of kicking the tree and is, in spite of the direct-object grammatical role played in the sentence by the word ‘kick’, not the object of the kick.

Dr. Johnson is both kicking a kick and kicking a tree.

Now suppose that  Bruce Lee is demonstrating a particular martial art move which includes a kicking action.  The kick is directed towards the air, towards anything that might [the futural dimension] meet its thrust, in other words, to nothing in particular.  It is not directed towards any actual existing object.  Bruce Lee is kicking a kick, but the kick is not directed towards an object.

Continuing with this analogy, let’s say that the tactile Idea is like kicking a kick that may or may not have an object.  Suppose I am resting my elbow on a marble countertop.  I feel the coolness of the marble.  At the same time, I feel the equal and opposite force of the cool, smooth, hard marble as it meets my weight at my elbow while I lean into it. In feeling this equal and opposite force impinging upon my body, I  feel the marble’s hardness and resistance to my body.  Likewise, I feel the pressure on my somewhat rubbery skin as both the marble and the bone of my elbow press into it.   Oh no!  I have placed too much pressure on the countertop!  A piece of it has broken off and smashed into my toe! I feel the marble’s force, and my toe throbs painfully with such a salience that it becomes difficult to attend to anything else.

In the course of all this, I have enjoyed/suffered the following:  a coolness feeling, a force feeling, a hardness feeling, a resistance feeling, a pressure feeling, a pain feeling.  Some of these, although named by different words, may be identical events (e.g., hardness feeling, resistance feeling, force feeling).  These start, continue for a while, then end (I stop leaning on the counter; my toe eventually stops throbbing painfully).  They are, in short, events that have the same structure as the event kicking a kick.  I was feeling a hardness feeling, feeling a resistance feeling, feeling a coolness feeling, feeling an equal-and-opposite-reaction-comprising-a-force feeling, feeling a toe-throbbing-painfully feeling.

These ‘feeling a feeling’s I will call the content of the intentional state of feeling the marble countertop. In each case, the feeling is not the object of the various tactile events, but is identical with those events.  The object of  the events is the marble countertop itself and its various properties and capacities:  its hardness, its resistance to forces impinging upon it, its presenting those forces with equal and opposite reactions, its temperature. Dr. Johnson kicks a tree; I feel a marble countertop.

It is fairly safe to place the marble countertop in extra-mental space.  With just a little bit of work, I think, we can plausibly place the feeling inside the mind as a mental event.  I say ‘plausibly’ for now because later I hope to chip away a bit at any such clean separation of ‘mental’ from physical as would seem naturally intuitive to Berkeley and to anyone still caught up in the general thralldom of what is still common-sense Cartesian dualism.

Suppose I am now hallucinating the marble countertop.  I seem to be leaning my elbow on the countertop.  But there is in fact no marble countertop for me to lean on.  Instead, there are just the following:  a feeling a hardness feeling, a feeling a resistance feeling, a feeling a coolness feeling, a feeling an equal-and-opposite-reaction-comprising-a-force feeling, a feeling a toe-throbbing-painfully feeling.  These are, plausibly, events taking place inside me and only inside me.  They are taking place inside no one else.  If I am a Mind, a Spirit, then these events are taking place inside my mind.  They are mental events.

They are tactile Ideas.  When there is a marble countertop that I am feeling, they are tactile Ideas with both an object and a content — Dr. Johnson kicking a tree (object) and kicking a kick (content).  When I am hallucinating and there is no marble countertop that I am feeling, they are tactile Ideas with a content but no object.  They are Bruce Lee kicking a kick without kicking anything. Tactile Ideas are mental contents identical with events that may or may not have an object.

Regarding them as mental events, we need not think of them as objects with properties standing in front of the felt object and hiding it from our direct tactile view. Instead, they are best described by phrases that answer the question ‘how?’ and sometimes adverbially.  How am I feeling?  I am feeling impinged upon by a force that is equal and opposite to the force I am exerting on the countertop.  I am feeling impinged upon by the temperature of the marble.  I am feeling throbbingly/painfully in that area of space occupied by my toe.  Answers to the how question and (sometimes) adverbs better describe these events than do properties, states and capacities of objects (wine-red, translucent, cubical).

Thank goodness, because, as suggested above, if the tactile Idea had tactile properties such as hardness etc. by analogy with visual Ideas having visual properties such as luminosity and a particular shade of bright-moon-cheese-yellow, we would be in very strange territory indeed.  We would be faced with slabs of mental marble floating around (would something that has the property of heaviness float? — Maybe mental space is gravitation-free) in my mind possessing the properties of smoothness, coolness, and hardness, and capable of  exerting any force, whether gravitational or equal-and-opposite-reactional, upon any physical object, including upon that physical object that I am.  Were these allegedly non-physical objects actually capable of exerting/undergoing such forces, they would in fact be physical, that is to say, describable by the laws of physics. [By ‘physical’ I mean ‘describable by the laws of physics.]

(Later, however, I hope to submit to the consideration of my gentle reader the idea that maybe we should include the force exerted by the marble as part of the tactile sensation, the tactile Idea. )

By treating tactile Ideas as mental contents, Berkeley can retain his claim that touch gives us direct access to the physical object, without the mediation of any objects at all standing in the way — much less strange entities such as tactile Ideas seen as objects with tactile properties.  The tactile Idea is not an object mediating our access to the felt object in a three-place relation comprising mind, mediating mental object with properties, and physical object.  Rather, it is this access.

Of course, if visual Ideas are to be treated the same way, we would end up with a direct perception theory of vision, not a representational theory.  Visual perception would be a two-place relation between a mind and the physical object (when the visual experience has an object), not a three-place relation comprising mind, visual Idea, and physical object.  In the case of after-images and hallucinations, the visual experience would have a content (identical with the the event that is that experience), but it would have not object.  To the exclamation ‘surely you are seeing something when you see a wine-red afterimage or hallucinate that magenta rhinoceros grazing at your feet as you write this screed’, the proper rejoinder is ‘no, I am not seeing anything.’  For there is no inner, mental object that is wine red (in the case of the afterimage) or magenta (in the case of the hallucinated rhinoceros).

So if Berkeley is to retain his indirect, or representational theory of visual perception and admit the existence of physical objects as well, he has to retain the notion of a visual Idea as a mental, inner object possessing properties such as wine red, magenta, yellow ocher, or burnt sienna.  These objects stand in the way, between the mind and the physical object.


When I “see” a wine-red afterimage, it may seem odd to deny the existence of something that has the property wine-red.  As a matter of my personal biography, I have found this denial a bit counter-intuitive to make. I see this wine-red thing, dammit!  It’s right there before me!  (Even though no one else can see it.)  Likewise, when I hallucinate a magenta rhinoceros grazing peacefully at my feet (this is my study rhino) … er … I mean … were I to hallucinate a magenta rhinoceros, I see all this rather powerful vivid magenta, dammit!  (Even though no one else can see what I see.)  How could a color exist without being the property of a colored thing?  So how could there not be something magenta before me?  Do you really want to deny that magenta exists (er, I mean, would exist) in my visual field?

But neither the afterimage nor the hallucinated rhinoceros are physical objects.  Were I to try to touch the rhinoceros, no equal and opposite reaction would meet my action.  And there is no way I can even try to touch the afterimage — it does not exist in a space in which reaching for it can make sense.  If these objects are not physical objects, they must be mental objects.  These are “inner” mental objects with properties, such as wine red or magenta or  yellow ocher.

Add to this line of thought the fact that every perceptual or quasi-perceptual event has a cause, and you get a theory of visual perception that renders visual perception indirect in the way articulated above.  [Combine this line of thought with the idea that the object of perception must be present, not just on the sensory surface, but inside it (the sensory object must be where the causal chain ends), and you end up with the notion that every object of visual perception must be an inner, mental object.]  In the case of visual perception, the event of kicking, which it is without exception describable as kicking a kick, is always also kicking a tree.  Visual perception always has a mental entity as its direct object; at best, a physical thing can be just the indirect object of perception.

Would the same type of argument pack any punch at all in showing (or seeming to show) that tactile perception has just an indirect “grasp” of the physical object?  Since there does not seem to be anything like an “aftertouch” that would correspond to an afterimage, I will focus on the possibility of tactile hallucination.

Suppose that I am hallucinating the following:  I am resting my elbow on a marble countertop.  I seem feel the equal and opposite force of the cool, smooth, hard marble as it meets the weight I press into it via my elbow — that is to say, I seem to feel the (ostensible) marble’s hardness and resistance to my body.  Likewise, I seem to feel the pressure on my somewhat rubbery skin as both the marble and the bone of my elbow press into it.   Oh no!  I have placed too much pressure on the countertop!  A piece of it has broken off and smashed into my toe!

But I am hallucinating.  There is no physical marble outside my mind that my body is leaning against.  Nor is there any slab of mental marble floating around (would something that has the property of heaviness float?) in my mind possessing the properties of smoothness, coolness, and hardness, and capable of  exerting any force, whether gravitational or equal-and-opposite-reactional, upon any physical object, including upon that physical object that I am.  Were these allegedly non-physical objects capable of exerting/undergoing such forces, they would in fact be physical, that is to say, describable by the laws of physics.

I am hallucinating the events occurring in my body as well.  My body exists, thank God, but I am hallucinating the various events that are ostensibly taking place within it and to it:  my elbow bone pressing into my skin and other flesh that is ostensibly in contact with the ostensible marble countertop; the ostensible marble pressing into that same flesh from the other side; the piece of marble dropping onto my toe.  None of these events is actually happening.  For the same reasons there is no mental marble slab floating around in my mind like an object in the opening of the TWILIGHT ZONE — but wait!  One of the ostensible properties of the ostensible marble is weight — so this mental slab couldn’t be just floating —  there is no mental ‘my body’ floating around there either.

To feel an object is to impinge one’s physical flesh-and-blood-and-bone self upon it, or to suffer its impinging upon this flesh-and-blood-and-bone self.  This is why any completely convincing tactile hallucination — if any such ever occur — would need to include hallucinatory (and ostensible) events occurring in and to one’s physical body.  And it is also why any object of a tactile Idea has to be physical.  It is not possible to get one’s hands upon, impinge upon, a mental, non-physical entity.  The smoothness, coolness,  hardness, resistance, capacity to exert or suffer a force of an object become tactilely perceived properties of an object only given the impact/suffering of tactically sensitive flesh.

What we are left with is an event, an action that looks less and less “mental” (I shall now start placing this word in quotes in order to cease pretending I really know what this word means).  If the ostensible object of my touching does not exist “outside the mind”, it does not exist.  There is something occurring, however — an event of feeling.  Idea. This Idea, however, is similar in structure to a kick, which usually is directed towards an object but sometimes is not.  When the marble countertop exists, the tactile Idea is akin to kicking a tree (which act is also describable as kicking a kick).  But when the marble countertop does not exist because I am hallucinating, the tactile Idea is akin to just an objectless kicking a kick.  In a sense that will be clarified later on [promissory note], I am not feeling anything.

On the kicking a kick side, the force-feeling, the hardness-feeling, the coolness-feeling, the resistance-feeling.

But then have to bring in the physical — the fingers and elbows and toe getting smashed, and it starts getting a bit problematic to call this an Idea.


It is not at all plausible (to repeat the point already made in paragraph x above) to argue:  ‘There are no non-physical slabs of marble existing only in my mind possessing  the properties of smoothness, coolness, and hardness and capable of of exerting forces upon another

My body does exist, thank God, but it is not exerting/receiving any forces from material objects.  That body exists only in my mind — so I will say, but only as a first approximation.

Afterimages don’t push back.

Think of as having same structure as kicking a kick | kicking a tree.  Touch is both.  No mental slab of marble.  Vision is always kicking a kick according to the above.  What would be possible reasons for thinking this.


Of course, this interpretation of Berkeley is ever so slightly (just slightly, I hope!) tendentious.  So far as I know, Berkeley never explicitly says that Ideas have colors or have other properties.  The interpretation relies on the his seeming to equate the objects of vision (for example, the Visibile Moon) with conglomerations of Ideas.  The Visibile Moon is luminous, implying that it has some color or other.  It is difficult to see how Ideas could be conjoined to form a conglomeration with luminosity and a color unless they were themselves luminous and colored; therefore it would seem that visual Ideas have to have properties.

But there are interpreters, such as George Pitcher, who argue that we can make more pieces of what Berkeley says cohere with one another if we think of his Ideas not as objects of sensation (and therefore not as entities with properties), but as events or “acts”.

An Idea on this interpretation would be an event that has the same structure as a kick.  Let’s say that Dr. Johnson kicks a tree (while proclaiming ‘I refute Berkeley thus!’)  This event can be described in two ways:  ‘This person kicked a tree’, and ‘this person kicked a kick’.  The tree in the first description of of course the object towards which the kick was directed; the kick in the second description is not such an object, but is identical with the kicking event itself.

A kick may have an object towards which it is directed, as when Dr. Johnson kicks the tree.  Or it might not.  Bruce Lee, for example, may be demonstrating a particular martial art move without actually kicking anything.  Just so, the tactile Idea of cool, smooth marble may have an object towards which it is directed — the marble counter top over which I am passing my hands, or it might not.  I might be hallucinating the feeling of cool, smooth marble.  If I am hallucinating, the noun phrase ‘tactile Idea of cool, smooth marble’ names not some object to which the sensation is directed, but a sensory event.  [I will try to claim the event normally has “non-mental” aspects, my physical fingers passing over the marble.]

Because of the grammatical similarity between ‘tree’ and ‘kick’ in the above kick sentences, both serving as grammatical objects in the sentences, one could theoretically think that there is some sort of special object called a ‘kick’ towards which the event of kicking is directed.

Practically speaking, I rather suspect this sort of confusion is unlikely to occur when we are talking about kicks.  But this confusion may be occurring should one think that sensing a wine red color and sensing an oblong shape , say, is to be analyzed in terms of an event, sensing, that has as its object an entity that is both wine red in color and oblong in shape.  In short, a thing with properties.  If one “sees” a wine-red, oblong afterimage, or hallucinates a magenta rhinoceros, there is clearly nothing present in extra-mental space that is wine red, oblong, magenta, or shaped like a rhinoceros.  But (it would seem) there is something that is wine red and oblong (in the afterimage case) or magenta and rhinoceros-shaped (in the hallucination case).  Since these things do not exist in extra-mental space, they must exist “in the mind” — maybe even in some sort of “internal space”.  I know — let’s call these things ‘Ideas’.  Visual access to the physical objects available to us via touch would then have to be mediate in character — accomplished not directly but through the intermediary of visual Ideas.

As we have seen in the section above, this kind of analysis falls apart in the case of tactile sensations — tactile Ideas. Should one hallucinate the tactile presence of a slab of cool, smooth marble, or the tactile presence of rough bark, there is surely no mental, i.e., non-physical object that is cool and smooth in a marble-like way, or rough in a bark-like way.

In these cases, sensing coolness and smoothness | sensing roughness would need to be treated along the lines of an objectless kicking a kick.  At a first approximation, the coolness and smoothness | roughness would be identical with the events ‘sensing coolness and smoothness | sensing roughness.  [footnote:  I say ‘at a first approximation because later I intend to modify this claim substantially into a quite different claim.  For now, however, I will let it stand and use it as a kind of guide-post helping to lead one into a more complete analysis]

In the case of touching a physical object that does exist, thank you very much (the slab of marble, the bark), the treatment would be that of kicking a tree.  Kicking a tree is also kicking a kick, but now the event has an object it is directed towards.  There being no mental object with the requisite tactile properties, there is nothing that serves as a mental intermediary between the sensing events and their objects.  There would be a direct perception of the marble | bark.

Because Berkeley holds in the NEW VISION (at least in black and white) that that we do enjoy/suffer direct tactile perception of physical objects, applying to tactile Ideas the kicking a kick/kicking a tree analysis just given seems like a good way to interpret his tactile Ideas.

George Pitcher thinks there are additional reasons as well to interpret Berkeley’s Ideas generally in this manner.  [Link to this and to my digestion of it.]  Certainly one would want a consistent interpretation of Berkeley’s notion of an Idea that holds good both for visual and tactile Ideas, especially given this:

Note that, when I speak of tangible ideas, I take the word idea for any immediate object of sense, or understanding — in which large signification it is commonly used by the moderns.

George Berkeley, AN ESSAY TOWARDS A NEW THEORY OF VISION, in BERKELEY Essay, Principles, Dialogues With Selections From Other Writings (Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York) 1929) p. 36.  Henceforth A NEW THEORY OF VISION when referring to that Essay in this volume.

Berkeley’s use of the word ‘object’ here presents problems for those proposing a violent reading of the text, to say the least.  But it does seem plain that he wants an interpretation of ‘idea’ that would hold good both for visual and for tactile (or “tangible”) ideas.  If tactile ideas are events rather than objects with properties, visual ideas should be as well.

[Direction.  The physical body. Kicking.]

So subjecting sensing tactilely to a kicking a kick vs. kicking a tree type analysis removes

Clearly, Berkeley’s tactile Ideas would need to be interpreted this way if he is to make physical objects existing in extra-mental space their direct objects.

overOne can kick a kick, and one can kick, say, a tree (perhaps as a way of saying ‘I refute Berkeley thus’).  Sticking to the Berkeleyan framework, having an Idea of wine red, for example, that is to say, sensing wine red,  is more like kicking a kick than it is like kicking a tree:  there is no mental object (and, for Berkeley, there are no other kinds) towards which the event is directed.  What is meant by a kick in ‘kicking a kick’ is exhausted by the act of kicking; what is meant by ‘wine red’ in ‘sensing wine red’ (having an Idea of wine red) is exhausted by ‘sensing wine red’.

Of course, kicking a kick may also be an act of kicking tree rather than an objectless act (done say, to demonstrate a particular move in a martial art). Likewise, unless one is a Berkeleyan idealist, one is likely to think that there normally exists an extra-mental wine-red object one is directed towards when the event ‘sensing wine red’ occurs.  The Berkeley of the NEW VISION thinks that there is no such extra-mental object in the case of sensing wine red, but there

When an event of sensing the smoothness and coldness of polished marble occurs (when there is a tactile Idea of marble smoothness and roughness, to state things in a Berkeleyan way),

Distance and Location

Apart from what Berkeley said in black and white and what he may or may not have actually been thinking as he put down his sentences in black and white, a brief look at touch and vision themselves show that touch and vision invite, tempt us towards, the sort of treatment Berkeley gives them in the NEW VISION, whether or not we accept that invitation.  There is something about touch that wants, so to speak, to be direct, and something about vision that wants to be indirect.

Touch lends itself to a direct realist interpretation in a way that vision does not.  The felt object makes its presence … well … felt … directly on the sensing surface, the skin.  There is no gap to leap across, so to speak, to get access to the felt object.  It presents itself right here as it impinges upon and transfers energy to this sensory surface, one’s skin, whether by its motion towards and into one (say as one is catching a ball) or by the opposite and equal force it directs into one as one leans on their elbow at the desk, or as they stroke silk, pressing ever so lightly and delicately into the silk.

But the seen object at least seems to be at a distance from the sensing surface of the see-er.  It makes its presence apparent (feel the weakening of the adjectives as I go from ‘makes its presence felt’ to ‘makes its presence apparent’) via what at first sight looks like an intermediary, i.e., photons reflected from the object that enter the sensing surface, the retina, and transfer their energy to that other important part of the sensing surface, the brain.

It would seem then that what is seen directly are photons — light.  What we normally take to be the objects of vision — tables, tea pots, chairs, trees, houses, pineapples, cacti, cliffs and stars — would seem to be seen just indirectly.  (In the cases of the stars, however, perhaps a case could be made that what we are seeing is indeed light.)  [Footnote:  if I am not mistaken, in certain moods Berkeley thinks that what we see is light.]  This is the path we are led into if we have the intuition that the direct object of a sense must impinge upon the sensory surface.  The greater-than-zero distance from the sensing surface of what is normally taken to be the object of vision beckons us to enter that path, is extending an invite.

As I suggested above, we do not necessarily have to accept this invitation.  One way to politely decline it is    But wait — shouldn’t the objects of vision be regarded as the sensed wine-red, sensed sea-glass viridian green etc. inside my brain?  Well no — not if we think of sensing wine red or sea-glass green as kicking a kick as opposed to kicking a tree.  All right, then, let’s regard the sensing event as comprising the events going on in the brain and what is going on in the retina and what is going on at the lenses and what is going on with the photons bouncing off the table, pineapple, cactus etc.   Then we can get back out tables and trees etc as direct objects of vision.

By contrast, there is no such question     there is zero distance between the sensing surface of my skin and the rough bark of the tree as I run my hand along the bark’s surface. Through touch, I am in contact with the physical object itself.  There is no question of the tactile experience having to “reach out” to the object because a physical me — an entity with weight and heft –, engaging my physical hand, has already done the reaching out.  Touch is the direct realist sense par excellence. There is something about touch that wants to be direct.

And, as I hope to show (soon, or at least sometime before I die), the visual experience actually does reach out (in some sense of ‘actually does reach out’) to the physical object (Merleau-Ponty), or at least seems to so reach out (Berkeley) because of the way touch is implicated in the visual experience.  Touch informs the direct realist character (real or ostensible) of visual experience.

Impression.  Presentation as opposed to mere representation:  the object has a presence because it, in its fullness, is impinging upon one.  Felt impingement.

Given this, that the seen object is (with the exception of that portion of one’s body that is in their view) at a distance from one can seem a bit paradoxical.


This time my homage to Plato’s SYMPOSIUM takes the form of Brad Pitt in THE FIGHT CLUB.  This image seems appropriate for a disquisition on touch and brutal physical reality.


If Plato can have a thing for Alkibiades, I can have a thing for gorgeous rednecks.  This particular redneck needs to stop smoking, however.

The Selfishness And Depravity Of The White Tribalist Evangelicals (And Of The Religious Right Generally, Protestant Or Catholic)

The following exchange between two Facebook friends captures my sentiment exactly:

FB friend A: The CDC thought Trumpers would be honest and wear masks. Nope. And the White House now thinks Trumpers will take breakthrough data to argue against vaccines. Yep.

FB friend B:  I saw the same naivety among climatologists and other scientists 15 years ago. Back then I was trying to convince evangelicals about the reality of global warming. We thought we could simply present the scientific data and people would understand the gravity of global warming.What we failed to take into account was the depravity and selfishness of white evangelicals. To date I have *never* seen appeals of loving our neighbor working. Because of that I quit my previous evangelical church and joined one where such appeals work.This is the why in our discussions on social media I jumped on Hillary’s term the deplorables. That said, I reserve it for discussions with people like you and not the deplorables themselves. There I use the more Biblical term, unrepentant.

“Deplorables” captures this group exactly.


The Protestant theologian John Schneider’s beloved Deplorables, with whom he seems to identify so closely that he takes any criticism of Trump as an outrageous attack on all these salt-of-the-earths. (But of course he is not a racist himself — he will tell you that himself. He has African American friends after all. He is merely an anti-anti-Trumpite.) Deplorables. The term precisely characterizes Mr. Gil Sanders, a Trumpite spreading the Big Lie, whose pictorial anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda faithfully mirrors pictorial anti-Semitic propaganda, and around whose Facebook page bigots of all varieties swarm. Deplorables. Don’t let Paul Manata catch you being excessively anti-racist, or he will (here and here) accuse you of cynical posturing to advance the interests of a particular political party, and of other base motives!

A Second Stab At Contingent Implication Implies Some Sort Of Necessity

Oops — I accidentally hit “publish” on this and now I already have one reader, even though this screed is definitely not ready for prime time. This gives me a chance to state that I am trying to do at the very outside, which I should have done anyway. What I am trying to do is clear up (at least in my own mind) and (as much as possible) disentangle some complexities that attend the distinction between ‘entailment’ and ‘contingent implication’.

Entailment. Entailments are logically necessary. “If p ^ q then p” is an entailment; the truth of p follows necessarily from the truth pf p ^ q. “If this dot is scarlet, then it is red” is another entailment. In both cases the truth of the consequent given the antecedent is a logical necessity. We explicate necessity in terms of possible worlds: something is necessary if it is true in all possible worlds.

But it many different kinds of necessity get defined on the basis of different concepts of the accessibility relation between possible worlds. I have even comes across somewhere an attempt to define the necessity inherent in “one must pay their bills” on the basis of a particular accessibility relation among possible worlds. What I am trying to do is define a sense of “necessity” that applies to contingent implications, such as “If the doorbell is ringing then someone or something is pressing the button outside. In spite of the term “contingent”, there is a sense in which the consequent must be true if the antecedent is true. What I am trying to do here is suss out what this “must”, this necessity, consists in. I propose to do so using the concepts of epistemically accessible possible worlds and nomically accessible possible worlds. A number of other concepts will need to get defined along the way.

I want to keep close by two passages from Mares’ book. First passage A:

To be an informational link a relation needs to be perfectly reliable. As Barwise and Seligman argue, causal relations are often not reliable enough to be considered informational links. They use the example of a flashlight with an unreliable connection between the button and the light ((Barwise and Seligman, 1997), p. 17). Sometimes pushing the button turns on the light, but sometimes it does not when other factors come into play, such as a wire’s coming loose. The problem is that unreliable connections do not warrant deductive inference. At best, they can be used to justify defeasible inference. A defeasible inference is one that may not hold if extra information comes to light. Implication, in the sense that we mean it here, ia a non-defeasible relation between propositions.

It may be, however, that many of our inferences about other situations are in fact defeasible. In this case, we may take implication to be an idealisation. As we shall see in chapter 7 below, we present a view of natural language conditionals in which conditionals are interpreted to license defeasible inference about situations and the connections between them.

Let us sum up the theory of situated inference. … [which, through a perfectly reliable informational link, is not defeasible.]

Edwin D. Mares, RELEVANT LOGIC: A PHILOSOPHICAL INTERPRETATION, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 44-45, henceforth RL

Now passage B:

First, whereas worlds are complete, situations can be incomplete. To use the terminology of Barwise and Perry (Barwise and Perry 1983), worlds decide every issue. That is, they tell us, for any given proposition, whether that proposition is true or false. Situations, on the other hand, do not decide every issue. In some situations, the information whether a given proposition is true or false is lacking. This property of situations is sometimes expressed by saying that at some situations ‘the principle of bivalence fails’. Second, situations need not be consistent. That is, there are some situations that make contradictions true. Possible worlds, on the other hand, are completely consistent.

RL, p. 27

This description of possible worlds is very friendly to Classical Logic. That a ^ ~a is always false; that a v ~a must always be true (both a and ~a cannot be false); that If a Then a must always be true; all these are so in every possible world where the accessibility relation is that to ‘any possible world simpliciter’, without condition or restriction.

Jeremy Huntington states the intuition behind bivalence this way: ” In my view, for any clearly defined property, it seems evident that, necessarily, a thing either has or lacks it. I can’t see how a thing could be such that it neither had nor lacked P. ” The color yellow. The A grade. So does this eliminate yellow (but not precise shades), A grades (but not particular points), hills (but not particular aggregates of soil or sand or stones) from possible worlds (most notably, the actual world?). Perhaps an infinite mind could set the boundaries, even though we can’t know what they are. Either that, or we say there are not hills, general color yellow, A grades. But with situations we get our hills and A grades back. Come to think of it, we get both failure of bivalence plus failure of non-contradiction. This point within this statistical fuzz is neither an A nor not an A; it is both an A and not an A. Neither and both. Equally in the room and not in the room. It is neither the case that the dot appears nor that it does not appear. This in the realm of perception/knowledge. Nothing hinges on convenience (yellow), but does with grades (need to provide good information). The public introduces a whole new dimension.

Language, perception, and institutions each introduce vagueness.

Possible worlds fall into at least two different categories: those that are spawned from known features of the actual world, and those spawned from unknown features of the actual world.

Spawned from the known: I know that the color of my apartment walls in the actual world is portobello mushroom. I can “spawn” a possible world by imagining my walls to be wine red. I know that in the actual world donkeys do not talk (or do I? More on this later). I can spawn a possible world by imagining a world in which donkeys do talk.

Spawned from the unknown: I know that a peanut is hidden under one of the three shells in Elizarraraz’ shell game, but I do not know under which shell. Three different possible worlds (each one epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world) corresponding to the three defining descriptions: “the peanut is under shall #1” | “the peanut is under shell #2” | “the peanut is under shell #3”.

I make this distinction because a concept of ‘probability’ based on one’s body of knowledge (ultimately public knowledge — see Kyburg) but also what one does not know can be explicated in terms of possible worlds that are epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world (the holes in the lump of swiss cheese). The actual world is a “possible” world that is epistemically accessible for me: the probability (given my own body of knowledge) that the walls of my apartment are portobello mushroom is 1; the probability that the peanut will within the next nanosecond find itself on the nose of the Mona Lisa is 0. This latter defining description spawns a possible world that is not epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world. Of course, saying that I know these worlds are not epistemically accessible requires me to have some way of saying “I know that x is not F“.

These are the various things I will be discussing. Necessity and the various forms thereof. Possibility and the various forms thereof. Possible worlds, and the various ways of “accessing” a possible world. From possible worlds to the sample spaces of probability. These sample spaces are sets of possibilities, which possibilities are to be interpreted as component states of affairs in possible worlds. Certainty as p(1,), logical certainty, logical necessity, true in all accessible possible worlds, since we are assuming that all possible worlds are consistent and bivalent. Certainty as empirical-provisional certainty: p(0.999999…, 1). Hypothetical experiments. Empirical-provisional certainty that X is not F. Possible worlds that are epistemically accessible for me from my location in the actual world, and the possibilities within those worlds. Empirical-provisional certainty that X is not F renders certain possible worlds epistemically inaccessible for me from my location in the actual world. I can be mistaken that x is not F: mistaken for example in thinking that I cannot be both a wave and a mass at the same time.

Where I am headed with this:

This epistemic necessity will give us the necessity we need for contingent implications such as “If the button outside is being pressed, then the doorbell inside will sound.” If we allow the wiring to be defective and therefore allowing for shorts, but still forbid any external factors interfering (poltergeists, person standing outside with equipment emitting radio waves, impish aliens with their space rays), we get “If the doorbell is sounding inside, then someone or something is depressing the button outside, without the affirmation of the consequent being true: “If someone or something is depressing the button outside, then the doorbell is ringing inside”. Epistemic possibility of nomic necessity: the current is not going to just stop of its own accord without some interfering cause coming from the outside.

Diary Entry 2 (July 27, 2021)

I am preserving this FB post from a year ago on the off-chance parts of it are cogent.

(Am revising this because I had blurred the distinction between bivalent situations ((both D and not D in ‘D v not D’ are false) and inconsistent situations ( ‘D ^ not D’ is true. If I tried hard enough, I think I am also capable of blurring the distinction between my thumb and my big toe.)

The following is an attempt to define situations (as opposed to possible worlds) in terms of possible worlds that are epistemically accessible to me from my situation in the actual world. Then use this to show how ‘D or not D’ can be false for a situation (so that both D and not D are false for that situation, though not for a possible world — the situation therefore counts as bivalent) and how ‘D ^ not D’ can be true for a situation (so that the situation counts as inconsistent). Both bivalent and inconsistent situations are needed for Relevant Logic, which is a paraconsistent logic.

The possible world w0 in which Bigfoot is roaming the forests of Western Washington State is epistemically accessible for me because I know nothing that would absolutely rule out the identity of this possible world with the actual world. Likewise, the possible world w1 in which Bigfoot is NOT roaming the forests of Western Washington State is also epistemically accessible for me because I know nothing that would rule out the identity with the actual world of this possible world. I think the chances are greater than 50% that Bigfoot is not roaming these forests, but that is not the same as my knowing this.

These two possible worlds are incompatible; they cannot be the same possible world. One makes ‘Bigfoot is roaming…’ (D) true; the other makes ‘Bigfoot is not roaming…’ (not D) true. A possible world answers every question: for any given possible world, either Bigfoot is roaming in the possible world or she is not. One must be true but not the other. Both cannot be true. So in all possible worlds ‘D ^ not D’ is false. That is to say ‘D ^ not D’ is false in all possible worlds.

Which possible world we are talking about hinges on how it answers the Bigfoot question (D or not D?). The identities of w0 and w1 depend upon this answer. If I exist in a possible world in which D is true at a time t then all of a sudden per impossible I am existing in a possible world in which D is not true at this same time t, then I have been transported to a different possible world. (Maybe Scottie beamed me into it.)The two possibilities cannot exist in the same world at the same time. Neither world can be an inconsistent world.

And one of them (at any given time), D or not D, must hold in w0 and w1. In neither world can neither ‘Bigfoot is roaming the forests of Western Washington State’ nor ‘Bigfoot is not roaming the forests of Western Washington State’ be true. The worlds cannot be bivalent. One or the other — at least one and at most one — D or not D, must be true for these possible worlds to be the possible worlds — mutually exclusive worlds — they are. To remove D from w0 would be to strip that world of its identify; likewise, to remove not D from w1 would be to strip that world of its identity. Neither w0 nor w1 can be a bivalent world. In all possible worlds, ‘D v not D’ is true. ‘D v not D’ is necessarily true.

So the falsity of ‘D ^ not D’ and the truth of ‘D v not D’ stems from the criteria for the identity of possible worlds. Possible worlds have to be complete, answering every question (Is there, or is there not, a butterfly with violet wings fluttering about in the Amazon at GPS point xyz?). They have to be consistent. They cannot be bivalent. They would undergo serious ‘criteria of identity’ crises were these conditions not fulfilled. Let’s say that for D to be true in w0 is for D to hold in w0; and for not D to be true in w1 is for not D to hold in w1. At least for now, I will leave the concept ‘hold’ as an undefined primitive. I am now about to relate this concept to the concept of a situation. A situation in which a person exists is the information that is available to them. Cliff’s situation includes everything I am familiar with in my apartment, as well as the view of the courtyard outside. It includes my knowledge that Houston is in Texas, and Seattle is in Washington state. The range of information available to Cliff is obviously limited. It does not include enough information to rule out the identity of w0 with the actual world, nor the identity of w1 with the actual world.

Unlike a possible world (including the actual world) which is “dense” in the sense that it answers every question, a situation has “holes” in it in the sense that it does not answer every question. It contains pockets of missing information. If a possible world is dense like a slab of most cheeses, a situation possesses many “holes” — pockets of missing information — and is in that regard like a slab of Swiss cheese.

One can, I propose, define the compatibility relation in terms of these “holes”, that is to say, in terms of possible worlds that are epistemically accessible to a knower S. Doing this is important since Mares analyzes bivalent situations in terms of the compatibility relation. A possible situation s1 is compatible with an actual situation s0 if the possible world of which s1 forms a part is epistemically accessible for S from the actual world of which s0 forms a part. The compatibility of situation s1 is with situation s0 consist in its being the case that, for S, given their knowledge (or lack thereof), that is to say, the information possessed by them (or absence of therefore) nothing rules out the identity with the actual world of the possible world of which s1 forms a part. What could be more compatible than that?

[Since possible worlds answer every question, it is not the case that in w0 Bigfoot might not be roaming around or that in w1 she might be or could be. She is in the case of w0 and she is not in the case of w1. ‘Might’ and ‘could be’ do not apply in the case of possible worlds. But they definitely apply in the case of situations. For unlike possible worlds, situations are not complete. Situations do not answer every question. If we take a situation — say, Cliff’s situation — to comprise all the information available to Cliff, missing information, unanswered questions abound. In particular, I do not have the information what would rule out the identity with the actual world of either the Bigfoot possible world w0 or the non-Bigfoot possible world w1. This missing information is what makes w0 and w1 epistemically accessible to me from the actual world. ]

If we take a possible world to be like a solid block of cheese, a situation is like a hunk of swiss cheese with numerous holes. Each hole is a question left unanswered by the situation. If we take a particular situation (say, Cliff’s situation) to be all the information available to Cliff, a situation is full of holes, full of unanswered questions. Is the peanut under shell #1, shell #2, or shell #3? Does Bigfoot roam the forests of Western Washington state, or not? These holes, these pieces of missing information, are what make the possible world in which the peanut is under shell #1, and the possible world in which Bigfoot is not roaming the forests of Western Washington state, epistemically accessible to me. I know nothing that would rule out the identity of these possible worlds with the actual world in which I exist.

If we take a situation to be the information/knowledge available to a person, then Cliff’s situation will be the SAME — IDENTICAL — in both the Bigfoot possible world and in the non-Bigfoot possible world. The identical situation, no matter which possible world it is in. It is the absence of the needed information in my situation, after all, that makes both possible worlds w0 and w1 epistemically accessible for me. Epistemically accessible possible worlds then, with the relevant possibilities cum states of affairs in each (in this case D and not D) help make up a situation. The hunk of swiss cheese includes not just the dense cheese itself (the information available to me) but also the holes.

Cliff’s situation, then, includes at least one unanswered question and two possibilities. [The identity of Cliff’s situation in Houston, Texas does not hinge upon D being true and not D being false, or vice versa. D fails to be true for that situation; and if we take falsity to be ‘failing to be true’, then D is false for this situation. But not D also fails to be true for this situation and is also false for this situation. ‘D v not D’ is therefore false for this situation. Cliff’s situation in Houston, Texas, is bivalent. This situation is, remember, one in which both the , Texas does not make either of the Bigfoot propositions true. Either one could be true and Cliff’s situation would still be the same situation. I would not be transported to a different situation were D true at t then per impossible D were not true at t. D could be true in my situation AND not D could be true in my situation. BOTH are possibilities existing at the same time in my situation. So unlike w0 and w1, my situation does not make ‘D or not D but not both’ true. And at least one interpretation of Relevant Logic depends upon this.] To be continued.

I THINK I am being coherent, but maybe when I wake up in the morning or take my meds, I won’t think so.

h/t for link to Mark J Mathews.…/a.2731389…/3625295740831276/…

According to the FB page accessed through the link above, Jesus says this is not really Bigfoot — it is just a guy dressed in a gorilla suit.

Diary Entry 1(July 19, 2021)

I think the post you [a certain person on Facebook] accidentally deleted was the one I was planning to respond to, which I cannot presently find. Here is the response, in case it is apropos: 

In his The FORMATION OF A PERSECUTING SOCIETY, Robert Moore details how, starting in the 10th century, Christians started persecuting Jewish people, gay people, “heretics” (though often the heresies were more in the imagination of the persecutors than anything actual), and lepers. The holocaust was the most extreme instance of this persecution. 

Rene Gerard (whom I have just started reading, starting with THE IDEAS OF RENE GIRARD: AN ANTHROPOLOGY OF VIOLENCE AND RELIGION ) has, I think, the best explanation for the motivation of these persecutions (though not for why they started around 950 AD): scapegoating. An insider group “transfers” all its sins onto an outsider group — Jewish people, gay people, African Americans, Asians, lepers or handicapped people, so that members of the insider group can feel superior and virtuous in relation to the outsider group. This need to feel superior and virtuous often provokes extremely violent emotions when there is even the slightest hint of a demand for equality, which threatens  the insider group’s “superior” status. As a White Southerner plaintively asked after he was convicted of murdering an African American person, “If I am not better than an [N-Word], who am I better than?”

It is all too easy to find instances of scapegoating LGBQT+ people, for example, on Facebook. Although so far as I can tell at the time of this writing, Girard does not directly say much about the scapegoating of LGBTQ+ people, this link above discusses the implications of his work for this scapegoating. People who identify as heterosexual feel uncomfortable about the practices they engage in (their own same-sex attraction, anal sex, oral sex, BDSM), so they transfer onto gay people everything they feel uncomfortable about. “We are not the perverts — those gay people are the evil perverts”. In doing so, they persecute innocent people by, for example, posting on Facebook vile memes that could have been developed by taking as a template German propaganda from the 30’s directed against Jewish people. Girard notes that the perpetrators of the scapegoating have to be unaware that this is what they were doing even though this is blatantly obvious to 3rd parties; and the author of the anti-gay meme was comically unaware that he was taking his own discomfort with certain practices (now why would he feel uncomfortable with those?) and projecting them onto gay people. Not to name names, of course. (Well, I guess I will name Gil Sanders, who came up with the meme, and AJ Stringfellow, Paul Manata, and others, who at the very least rendered themselves complicit by failing to push back against it.) But I was appalled by the lack of push-back against this vile, sickening propaganda disseminated by this Christianist’s meme.

The meme was vile, as is the illustration below. It’s perpetrator and the people who are complicit in it deserve as little respect as any other dumb, vicious bigot — a racist, an anti-semite — persecuting innocent people.   

This particular Christianist was big on neo-Thomistic Natural Law, as were most of his FB friends.  John Holbo notes here how all the quaint neo-Thomistic talk about angels and essences and “Natural Law” is just a cover hiding the real motivations of people who produce anti-gay propaganda like the meme just discussed. The quaint neo-Thomism isn’t what motivates snaitsirhC to beat up gay people or try to try to remove gay people from the recent anti-lynching bill. What motivates them is the question “If I am not better than a queer, who am I better than?” What motivates them is scapegoating. And scapegoating, of course, is an integral component of bigotry.

Those who want to create an anti-gay meme can use this as a template — just make all the necessary changes:


Diary Entry 0

I am still not at all satisfied with the FB post below from July 18, 2020, but after a year’s work on this issues, I am about to make another stab on it. (“I am working on my logic blog,” I used to tell Jeff, who thought this was the strangest preoccupation.) If I think I am successful, I will then ask people to tear it to pieces. (From time to time the thought crossed my mind that maybe I could offer to PAY people to critique it, taking my cue from the author of THINKING FAST THINKING SLOW who paid his most virulent critique to uncover all the weaknesses he could find in his initial drafts. ) Dave Wallace’s comments on this were helpful.

I am thrilled to death that Ed Mares himself gave me a like on this post. It is as if a god came down from the heavens and liked one of my posts. This gives me some hope that I am on the right track.

A colleague at work suggested I print this out and frame it 🙂.

Cliff Wirt

July 18, 2020  · Shared with Public

Some thoughts upon waking up this morning (warning: serious confusions and grossly embarrassing missteps likely to follow): Ed Mares distinguishes between entailment, which is necessary, and implication, which is contingent. Necessity and contingency usually gets analyzed in terms of possible worlds: a proposition is necessarily true if it holds in all possible worlds; it is contingently true if it holds in just some possible worlds. One problem I am wrestling with, however, is that intuitively, SOMETHING has to be necessary about contingent implication. It is just that the necessity in question is weaker than logical/metaphysical necessity. Let me try to begin sorting this out by discussing two propositions, which I will label A) and 😎 Suppose that my doorbell apparatus is in perfect working condition (situation s). The proposition A) “If someone or something is pressing or has depressed (the button could have gotten stuck) the button outside (situation t), then a doorbell sound is occurring inside (situation u).” This contingent implication holds as long as situation s holds (the apparatus is in perfect condition). The implication is contingent, of course, because the doorbell apparatus is not guaranteed to be always in perfect condition. If some wiring comes loose for example (compare with Mares’ flashlight example) so that pressing the button outside does not reliably result in the sound getting generated inside (say, the sound gets generated just 99% of the time), the implication is no longer true. It was true only for a while, while situation s lasted. But during that time, the relation between pressing the button and the generation of the sound was completely reliable because it was nomically necessary — in all possible worlds accessible from the actual world by way of obeying the laws of physics in the actual world, there is no way that the sound can fail to be generated as long as the doorbell apparatus is in perfect condition. Now consider a trickier case: 😎 “If the doorbell sound is occurring (situation t), then someone or something is depressing (or has depressed) the button outside (situation u).” Two possible conditions of the doorbell apparatus (situation s) are relevant here. First possible condition: the doorbell apparatus is in perfect working order. For example, the insulation is not failing in such a way as to allow the sound to be produced without the depression of the button. (Although I am no expert in doorbells, I take it on good authority that a failure in the insulation could do this.) Second possible condition of the doorbell apparatus: there is a defect in the doorbell apparatus like the one noted above such that the ringing sound gets generated only 99% of the time when the button outside gets pushed or has been pushed. Nonetheless, there is nothing in this defective condition of the apparatus that would account for the generation of the sound getting accomplished independently of the button. I will assume such a condition of the apparatus is possible, though maybe someone much more knowledgeable about doorbells than I am is about to comment or email me to the effect that this condition is in fact not possible. 🙂 I bring up this second possible condition of the doorbell apparatus in order to account for the fallacious nature of affirming the consequent. That is to say, from the proposition ‘If the doorbell is ringing, someone or something is depressing or has depressed the button outside’, this proposition does not follow: ‘If someone or something is depressing or has depressed the button outside, then the doorbell is ringing inside’. The first proposition can be true in situations in which the second is not. When either the first or the second condition holds, then 100% of the time, when the doorbell is ringing, the button outside is getting depressed. 100% of the time, that is, SO FAR AS I KNOW. But this ‘so far as I know’ allows for, I claim, at least a weak form of necessity based on the concept of possible worlds that are epistemically accessible from the actual world. Let me explain. A possible world is epistemically accessible from the actual world for a knower S when S knows nothing that would rule out the identity of that world with the actual world in which they exist. For example, I know nothing that would rule out the identity with the actual world of the possible world in which poltergeists do not exist that like to cause doorbells to ring even when the button is not getting pushed. The possible world in which such poltergeists don’t exist is epistemically accessible for me from the actual world in which I exist. Likewise, I know nothing that would rule out the identity with the actual world of a possible world in which no one has contrived some device using radio waves that somehow activates, without the button ever getting pushed, something in the doorbell apparatus that generates the sound. Currently (maybe someone is about to email me alerting me to the invention of such a device) this possible world is also epistemically accessible to me from the actual world in which I exist. So if I am feeling especially brave or foolhardy, I might venture the claim that in all possible worlds epistemically accessible to me now, the button outside is getting pushed (or has been pushed) when the doorbell is ringing. This rather weak necessity undergirds the truth of 😎. The intuition I am starting from, remember, is that even contingent implication requires SOME sort of necessity. In contrast to implication, entailment relies on propositions that are true in all possible worlds that are logically/metaphysically accessible from this actual world. These propositions are always true for all time. The contingent implications A) and 😎 by contrast, although they also rely on one or another form of necessity weaker than logical/metaphysical necessity, rely on possible worlds that are either nomically or epistemically accessible from this actual world, and are not true for all time. The wiring in the doorbell apparatus might come loose, rendering A) false. I might find out that doorbell-loving poltergeists do exist (maybe I am tempting fate by claiming they do not), rendering 😎 false.

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The Direct Selective Advantage Of Same-Sex Sexual Attraction (SSSA)

That The Verbose Stoic turned out to be completely unaware of the vast literature on the selective advantage of Same Sex Sexual Attraction (SSSA) renders him easy to dismiss. No, SSSA is not due to random mutations such as those that (perhaps) account for traits such as blue eyes; if it were, it would have become incredibly rare eons ago. That he would miss this means that he is not reliably cogent. Possibly some of his points against Gunther Laird (whose demolition of Natural Law Theory is about as thorough as the demolition of Hiroshima by the atomic bomb) might be respectable challenges. Nonetheless, that he is not reliably cogent makes me less willing to look at those challenges in detail. There might be a few structures that survived Laird’s demolition. Nonetheless, the risk of wasting my time is too great to inspect those structures with much thoroughness.

This is not a good look for those trying to defend (whether they actually hold that theory or not) Natural Law Theory.

Now as for that other guy … I forget his nom de plume … Marx something or other … who comments frequently at the Verbose Stoic’s blog … the point he was apparently trying to make was that we should not regard evolution as selecting for SSSA but for something that is a “by-product” of SSSA, namely, for prosocial behavior (less reactive aggression and so on). Therefore we should not regard nature as havng any “intention” for SSSA.

But of course that SSSA is not random means that it is being selected for. If a byproduct of having blue eyes was some other trait that increased the survival of people with blue eyes, nature would be selecting for blue eyes in order to get that other, directly advantageous trait. And if we adopt Dennett’s “intentional stance” towards evolution (that is, it may be useful to think of evolution AS IF it implied purpose, even if this is not literally true), this would mean that having blue eyes has a natural “purpose”. Its purpose would be to get the other more directly advantageous traits.

But Marx-what-his-name’s objection is beside the point anyway, since SSSA does have a directly advantageous trait — its strengthening same-sex bonds, especially among elites. The countless fraternity videos out there on the web showing the hazing/initiation of pledges attest to the frequency of same-sex sexual behavior in college fraternities. And I have known people who have been members of a fraternity who describe experiences like these. College fraternities exist, of course, to strengthen post-college bonds between people who will occupy positions in power in the society at large (corporate executives and so on). So any place on the SSSA spectrum that would make it easier to engage in same-sex sexual behavior would have a selective advantage. If those people are on the spectrum at a place where they are also attracted to the opposite sex, their more powerful place in society at large would increase their reproductive success. In this way, SSSA has an evolutionary “purpose”.

The Sacred Band of Thebes provides another example.

I therefore dismiss Marx-whats-his-name’s objection.

Evolution, Being Gay, And Natural Law Theory

“Not only is that really what it [sex] does [i.e., results in reproduction], not only is that what we’ve used it for for millenia, but it also is what evolution selected it and its specific traits for”, says the Verbose Stoic:…/the-unnecessary…/

If I understand him correctly, he is claiming that the evolution of sex gives us evidence for what it is “for”, what its “purpose” is. Sex of course has an evolutionary “purpose” — there is something it is for and that it is “designed” to do. But I will follow Daniel Dennett and claim this “design” does not necessarily imply a “designer”. And I am about to show that bringing evolution into the picture places Natural Law Theory on crumbling foundations.

Sex — what’s that? (I have some vague distant memory about what it is.) Let me propose the following: sex is (at least from the viewpoint of the male) the usually intense desire to ejaculate semen into (usually) another person (or mutatis mutandis to receive this from this other person), a desire which strongly motivates one to do just that and makes it much more likely that some such will happen. If the other person is female, the sex is heterosexual sex. If male, the sex is homosexual sex. This account is off-puttingly clinical — but that is one not-so-attractive characteristic of Natural Law Theory.

Now whatever else heterosexual sex has evolved for, it has evolved for the perpetuation of the species. The species would not exist without it. So it would not be totally counterintuitive to claim that the main purpose of heterosexual sex is to propagate the species.

But homosexual sex is also selected for by evolution. It has been apparent for a while from twin studies and other studies that homosexuality has a strong genetic component — about one third. No single gene determines that one will be gay, but a number of genes working together make it more likely that one will be so. Given that these genes would tend to inhibit reproduction, they surely have a very strong selective advantage that overwhelms that tendency. Getting strongly selected for, they get passed from generation to generation, with the result that there are always gay people around. So homosexual sex is a product of evolution, just as hetereosexuality is. If you take what evolution has selected a phenomenon for as evidence for its purpose, you would have to admit that homosexuality has a purpose.

One candidate for such a purpose is the hypothesis that the “gay genes” increase pro-social behavior which increases the chances the genes will get passed to the next generation when a person is not exclusively gay. The “gay genes” reduce the reproductive success of a person when they (along with other factors in the uterus) cause a person to be exclusively gay, but increase the reproductive success of those who do not become exclusively gay, or even those who are exclusively hetereosexual but retain enough of the fetus’ default feminine status to avoid becoming reactively aggressive hairy gorillas who pee in the sink without first removing the dishes. (Not that there is always something wrong with that).

But now notice that instead of talking about “what is the purpose or function of this set of sex organs belonging to a person”, I am now talking about the (evolutionary) purpose of this set of genes, genes that are typically distributed across a population. One thing that I find extremely unattractive about Natural Law Theory is its tendency to treat people as a set of “tools” existing partes extra partes, each with its own “function”. A very cold wind blows from those quarters.

Far more humane is the view advanced by science (and by some philosophers, such as Merleau-Ponty) in which everything gets entangled with everything else — faculties with other faculties, genes with other genes and with various external factors — and the “proper function” of a particular set of organs taken by themselves becomes much less important.

In this way, bringing evolution into the picture has a dissolving effect on Natural Law Theory. The vocabulary (“purpose”, “design”, “what something is for”) is similar, but if you bring evolution into the picture you can kiss NLT goodbye. Certainly at least so far as its strictures against homosexual sex is concerned.

Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dirge Without Music

Dirge Without Music 

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.  Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,—
They are gone.  They are gone to feed the roses.  Elegant and curled
Is the blossom.  Fragrant is the blossom.  I know.  But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know.  But I do not approve.  And I am not resigned.

Source: here

Milosz, Youth


by Czeslaw Milosz

Your unhappy and silly youth. 
Your arrival from the provinces in the city. 
Misted-over windowpanes of streetcars, 
Restless misery of the crowd. 
Your dread when you entered a place too expensive. 
But everything was too expensive. Too high. 
Those people must have noticed your crude manners, 
Your outmoded clothes, and your awkwardness. 

There were none who would stand by you and say, 

You are a handsome boy, 
You are strong and healthy, 
Your misfortunes are imaginary. 

You would not have envied a tenor in an overcoat of camel hair 
Had you guessed his fear and known how he would die. 

She, the red-haired, because of whom you suffer tortures, 
So beautiful she seems to you, is a doll in fire. 
You don’t understand what she screams with her lips of a clown. 

The shapes of hats, the cut of robes, faces in the mirrors, 
You will remember all that unclearly, as something from long ago, 
Or as what remains from a dream. 

The house you approach trembling, 
The apartment that dazzles you— 
Look, on this spot the cranes clear the rubble. 

In your turn you will have, possess, secure, 
Able to be proud at last, when there is no reason. 

Your wishes will be fulfilled, you will gape then 
At the essence of time, woven of smoke and mist, 

An iridescent fabric of lives that last one day, 
Which rises and falls like an unchanging sea. 

Books you have read will be of use no more. 
You searched for an answer but lived without answer. 

You will walk in the streets of southern cities, 
Restored to your beginnings, seeing again in rapture 
The whiteness of a garden after the first night of snow. 

Source: Here

Milosz, On Angels

Czeslaw Milosz

On Angels

All was taken away from you: white dresses,
wings, even existence.
Yet I believe you,

There, where the world is turned inside out,
a heavy fabric embroidered with stars and beasts,
you stroll, inspecting the trustworthy seams.

Short is your stay here:
now and then at a matinal hour, if the sky is clear,
in a melody repeated by a bird,
or in the smell of apples at the close of day
when the light makes the orchards magic.

They say somebody has invented you
but to me this does not sound convincing
for the humans invented themselves as well.

The voice — no doubt it is a valid proof,
as it can belong only to radiant creatures,
weightless and winged (after all, why not?),
girdled with the lightning.

I have heard that voice many a time when asleep
and, what is strange, I understood more or less
an order or an appeal in an unearthly tongue:
day draws near
another one
do what you can.

Source: Christina’s Words