Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Some Criteria for philosophical views

This is version 2.0 of a list of sufficient conditions for applying the label bad-ass to a philosophical thesis, which endeavour was inspired by this wonderful person (Please visit for the canonical statement of these matters).
Naturally, any single view ought to accumulate as many of them as possible.

1 - denying commonsense beliefs, extra points for skepticism about other people/other minds/material objects, x10 extra points for denying a law of logic. (see: Unger's skeptical denial of the existence of his children, Quine-style indeterminacy, Dummett's denial of the law of excluded middle, Berkeley 's denial of material objects - badassness made thesis).
Subcategory: denying commonsense beliefs for logical/linguistic reasons. (see: David Lewis's move from 'take existential quantifications in ordinary language literally' to 'there are carnivorous unicorns')

2 – dazzling metaphysical conclusions from purely a priori premisses. (see: Pythagoras:'the world is made of numbers', but see also Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Anselm, David Lewis, Saul Kripke, and every other philosopher worth anything)

3 - armchair metaphysics that anticipates the latest empirical discoveries, extra points for every millennium before the theory is empirically vindicated (see: Empedocles & evolution!)

4 - dazzling metaphysical conclusions from minimal empirical facts, extra points if the empirical facts are already widely-known (see: Chomsky, Frege, see also Chomsky entry in Dennett's of philosophy, Fodor?)

5 - dazzling metaphysical conclusions from negative premisses, (see: Aquinas: 'nothing causes itself to move, therefore God exists')

6 - dazzling metaphysical conclusions from conceivability premisses (see: Chalmers: 'zombies are conceivable, therefore materialism is false', see also Descartes)

7 - dazzling metaphyical conclusions from a single, highly contentious, and impossible to verify premiss. It is essential that the crucial premiss is not (directly) verifiable. (see: 'there are uninstantiated universals so naturalism is false')

8 - dazzling (and unwelcome) metaphysical conclusions following only from premisses the opposition already accepts (see: some iterations of Aristotle vs. Plato?, some iterations of Berkeley vs. Locke?).
A particularly important subspecies of this species is dazzling (and unwelcome) conclusions about the existence of God following only from the opposition's premisses (see esp. the Ontological argument & the atheistic Ontological argument, both exemplary instantiations of bad-assness)

9 - honourable mention: dazzling metaphysical conclusions from everyday semantic facts (see: Aristotle, the Law of noncontradiction, all metaphysics?)

10 - honourable mention: accepting the opposition's reductio as the point of your argument. see Unger again:
'Even if my arguments should terminate in genuine paradoxes, and in plain contradictions, that may be no fault of the arguments; indeed, it may make clear their whole point.'

(Ignorance: A Case for Skepticism p.6)

11 – honourable mention: a body of work combining two or more of the strategies in (1-10) above (see van Inwagen's arguments for incompatibilism(4), AND the denial that everyday inanimate material objects exist(1))

Applying the Criteria:
1. There can only be one winner: the Ontological argument, in both its theistic and atheistic forms. The baddest of all possible badasses. Such concentrated badness that Russell invented the theory of descriptions to escape its theistic form.

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