A Metaphysical Train Wreck is Music to Skeptical Ears


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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34 Responses

  1. Avatar Francis says:

    Conflict is inevitable. If it were all milk&honey, we’d (a) get really bored of that diet and go hunt something & (b) keep having kids until the m&h ran low

    I’m woefully undereducated about conflict resolution strategies elsewhere in the animal kingdom, but every single last living thing has them at some level, even bacteria so I’m told. (if you spend all your energy fighting and feeding there’s none left for f*cking.)Report

  2. Avatar Barrett Brown says:

    It is a shame that Carter was so strongly opposed on the point of atheism being a religious belief; we were on the verge of qualifying for tax exemption.Report

  3. Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

    > Short of some hope for another world, metaphysics has
    > very little to offer except folly. Taking it too seriously is
    > one of the traps in the life of the mind.

    I wouldn’t say that metaphysics has very little to offer. Metaphysical constructs are often fascinating intellectual constructs. But yeah, they can definitely turn into a Chinese finger puzzle if you can’t pull your brain out of the construct you so meticulously built.

    The comparison of metaphysical constructs usually is regarded as a zero sum game, which is unfortunate.Report

  4. Avatar Will says:

    Oh, come on. World weary poses don’t win you any blogging style points, and some of us (read: those who aren’t intimately familiar with centuries-old philosophical and theological debates) might actually enjoy the Brown-Carter throw-down.Report

  5. Avatar J. says:

    Kant’s Antinomies might be read as… therapeutic in a sense, instead of dogmatic (ie, affirming judeo-christian tradition). He attempts to show that the non-contingent First Cause argument, beloved by thomistic tradition, is not necessary. An infinite series of events might hold. Apart from the metaphysical puzzles he presents, one senses Kant was sort of saying ..don’t worry your pretty heads about it (ie, the metaphysical therapy, if you will, had political implications as well). Modern astronomy was in its infancy and Kant knew enough to realize it would not likely be very comforting to dogmatists (or those who had not accepted Copernicus, Galilleo, Newton, etc–and that was the case in much of the RCC and with jew and muslim clerics as well). While Kantian idealism may be a bit antiquated, the cosmologists still at least hint at issues related to the First Antinomy disputing the exact details of the Big Bang…(which Einstein was not altogether …sympathetic to)Report

  6. I can’t speak for anyone else. Responding to the “atheism is a religion” coupled with heavy pile of re-defining apparently ordinary words brought out teh stoopid in me and I’ve only myself to blame for it.Report

  7. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    I gotta paper that may be published in December assuming it passes ‘referee’ muster, titled: “Gnosticism and Christian Theophany,” but we’ll see.
    The point is what I’ve seen, and I’ve not paid much attention ’cause I’m busy with Part duo of my examination of the true Gnostic element, is that most of the anti-Carter stuff is Enlightment mind ejaculations. Speciifially a metaxical derailment where the interlocutors can’t even define the poles of existence.
    So, as always, the question we ask is, is it the “Good” or the “true” that came forward outta the chaotic cosmos? A great concern for both the classical Greeks and the German Idealists and those dudes forgot more than we know.
    The Good has a certain equivalence that is related to Freedom, it lacks any mechanistic characteristics, and that’s a clue my closed system positivistic friends that your philosophy sucks!Report

    • Avatar dexter45 says:

      @Robert Cheeks, What inspired you enough to perform an act of civil disobenience large enough to cause jail time?Report

      • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

        @dexter45, What prompted you to ask the question? Did I mention that event? At my age things begin to slip or malfunction.Report

          • Avatar dexter45 says:

            @dexter45, Bob, I am sorry if I mentioned something you would rather forget. I was looking up your vocabulary words and ran across an old blog from FPR from last year. One must remember that google knows all and nothing is lost in the electronic age.Report

            • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

              @dexter45, ;Dex, I’d been involved with a group of citizens in East Liverpool, Ohio in resisting the efforts of a corporation, Waste Technologies INdustries, and various gummint EPA’s in building an incinerator in my hometown since 1980. I was arrested in front of the incinerator for violating a court order, fined $500 big ones and served, I think, a couple of days in the county facilities. I don’t do orange. My pals, during the resistance, were arrested at Ohio EPA hdqrters in Columbus, in front of USEPA hdqrts, and in the Clinton White House. Eventually we lost. The facility has only cost the life, so far, of one man, and the injury to several due to mishandling of some very dangerous chemicals, as well as quite a few fires. So far it hasn’t blown up.
              The wife and I were among just a few conservatives, most were liberals including the kids from Greenpeace. I teased them endlessly and had great fun singing ‘kumbayaya’ at our meetings. No big deal.Report

  8. Avatar Kyle R. Cupp says:

    Short of some hope for another world, metaphysics has very little to offer except folly.

    Depends on what you mean by “metaphysics.” There really is no escaping the thinking of being, unless one wishes to escape thought itself. The best one can achieve is to keep metaphysics to a minimum.Report

  9. Avatar Chris says:

    Just to be clear, that wasn’t meant as an attack on anyone’s intelligence. It’s just that atheists vs. evangelicals always seems to bring out the stupid in otherwise smart people. Witness P.Z. Myers.

    I didn’t bring up Kant to endorse his resolutions to the antimonies or his counters to the ontological and cosmological arguments, but to point out that, when Kant picked the four most persistent and unsolvable problems in philosophy, one of them, perhaps the main one, was the very problem that Joe not only treats as solved once and for all, but as so clearly solved that it renders atheism impossible without the need for any argument. It’s symptomatic of this sort of debate, in which everyone is so convinced of their position that the other side’s arguments can’t have even the slightest merit, and their own is self-evident and incapable of even the smallest flaws. It’s inevitably a train wreck.

    By the way, has anyone ever proposed a Bob Cheeks drinking game?Report

    • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

      They don’t post here any more. Not since the intervention.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      @Chris, Yes, I proposed one a while back, but nobody took me up on it.Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:


      Hell, I’m not convinced of my own position. Or rather, I like my position just fine, but I find other people’s insistence that their position is unassailable to be odd. My position works fine for me, iff’n it doesn’t for you that’s no skin off my nose.

      In and of itself, it’s not so odd I guess, but it’s clear that at least some of these people have some passing familiarity with argumentation, and they can’t (or won’t) differentiate between an proposition and an axiom.

      The most interesting bit of the commentary thread (to me) came from Koz. I’d really like to see the thinking behind his comment that he finds agnosticism to be more intellectually defensible than atheism.

      The league seriously needs to get together and have a drink sometime.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        @Pat Cahalan, that agnosticism canard is almost as common as “atheists don’t exist.” The idea is that you can’t prove or disprove God’s existence, either logically or empirically, so agnosticism is the only valid position. Even if the impossibility of proof and disproof were true, it’s not clear why absolute proof is necessary for belief or disbelief. If it is, then just about all knowledge outside of math is in trouble.Report

    • Avatar Katherine says:

      By the way, has anyone ever proposed a Bob Cheeks drinking game?

      Good path to liver failure. Bob is like pre-adventure Bilbo Baggins: “you can tell what [he] will say on any question without the bother” of waiting for a reply.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:


      I hadn’t thought you were attacking anyone’s intelligence. I was just observing that intelligence doesn’t help much here. Possibly knowing the intellectual history a bit does help, but then, possibly not. Most people seem to think I made a hash of Aquinas, yet I have a hard time understanding him any other way than I have.

      In any event, what makes for a good metaphysician seems to have little to do with intelligence, and what makes for a good human being seems to have even less. That’s all I meant.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:


      And as to a Bob Cheeks drinking game, I am afraid. I am very afraid.Report