Thursday, May 10, 2007

S.L. Hurley on Beliefs and Reasons for Action.

May 8, 2010 at 12:59 P.M. A number of titles listed in these blogs have been moved down a space by hackers. I am beginning to like the escalier quality of the final effect. The look of the listed titles seems to borrow from Picasso or Braque. Is this supposed to disturb me? Is this alteration of titles part of the "induced-frustration" component of the psychological torture protocol? ("Roberto Unger's Revolutionary Legal Theory" and "What is it like to be tortured?")

April 6, 2010 at 2:50 P.M. "Errors" inserted, again, in this essay have now been corrected. We must expect this sort of crime over the next few days as more corrupt officials are arrested in New Jersey.

January 27, 2010 at 2:04 P.M. New "errors" have been inserted in this essay and (probably) other writings in response to my opinions. As of this moment, I am unable to update my security protection because New Jersey government hackers are illegally -- and I believe, criminally -- interfering with my security system. This state criminality has continued over a ten year period as we speak of cybersecurity to other countries. My total experience with psychological torture dates from 1988.

December 31, 2009 at 10:51 A.M. New "errors" inserted and corrected, as Ms. Milgram departs the lesbian love-fest in Trenton. San Francisco, Anne?

December 19, 2009 at 1:07 P.M. "William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft" was vandalized since my previous review. Other essays have probably been altered. Rumors of homosexual relationships involving Ms. Milgram and prominent members of the judiciary in Trenton cannot be confirmed at this time. ("Anne Milgram Does it Again!" and "Another Mafia Sweep in New Jersey and Anne Milgram is Clueless.") Nydia Hernandez, Esq.? Debbie Poritz? ("Trenton's Nasty Lesbian Love-Fest!" and "Jennifer Velez is a 'Dyke Magnet!'")

November 8, 2009 at 1:57 P.M. One new "error" inserted and corrected since my previous review. Recently, New Jersey's torturers have taken to altering the spacing of paragraphs. I will try to repair this problem when I encounter it in my writings on the assumption that this is the best response these people can develop to what I am saying in these essays. ("New Jersey's Political and Judicial Whores" and "New Jersey's Legal System is a Whore House.")

I surmise that the goal of this process of inserting "errors" or altering the spacing in the text is to communicate a complete disregard for the requirements of legality or decency. The annoyance factor, combined with the message that they are above the law -- or happen to be the law -- is intended to bring about feelings of despair or hopelessness. I am expected to accept that, regardless of the Constitution and provisions of criminal law, N.J. will continue to harass, censor, interfere with my life and work with impunity. If you are a witness to these crimes and do nothing to prevent them, then you are complicit in this atrocity. I will continue to struggle. ("Roberto Unger's Revolutionary Legal Theory" and "American Hypocrisy and Luis Posada Carriles.")

August 20, 2009 at 3:34 P.M. Posting is obstructed by notices purporting to come from "Google." My t.v. signal was interrupted this morning. Harassment makes writing difficult. I will focus in future essays on allegations of corruption and incompetence at the Attorney General's office in Trenton. ("Another Mafia Sweep in New Jersey and Anne Milgram is Clueless.")

August 1, 2009 at 5:32 P.M. Efforts to revise my essay AGAINST antiamericanism were frustrated by New Jersey hackers who oppose freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Many of these persons are (or were) lawyers and judges, politicians or police officers. 200 convictions and counting. I cannot say how many have been disbarred (so far) and, I am sure, that many more will suffer a similar fate in Hudson County, New Jersey. ("Does Senator Menendez Have Mafia Friends?" and "Corrupt Law Firms, Senator Bob, and New Jersey Ethics.")

June 6, 2009 at 3:05 P.M. "Errors" have been inserted and corrected in this essay, once again.

December 29, 2007 at 1:49 P.M. my updating of security software has been affected by new attacks against my work. I will do my best to continue writing.

December 14, 2007 at 12:42 P.M. new damage to my updating feature has, again, affected my security system. I will run scans throughout the day. I will continue to struggle against these tactics aimed at silencing a dissident.

A long section of this paper was destroyed by hackers. I will make a point of rewriting that section -- 5 to 10 pages -- at greater length. I will then post the essay in its entirety. ("New Jersey's Feces-Covered Supreme Court.")

On May 10, 2007 at 12:01 P.M., I am blocking: (Spacing may be affected, again, by hackers or viruses. Cuban American National Foundation?)

On May 11, 2007 at 10:04 A.M. several attempts to post the finished version of this essay have been obstructed by hackers. I am blocking: (NJ? CANF?) (NY Times? Censorship? Cybercrime? Suppressions of speech? Plagiarism?)

I will keep trying throughout the day to reach my msn group. I still cannot post new essays at my msn group. I will do my best to correct "errors" inserted into this essay, regularly and repeatedly. I cannot say at this point how many times I have made the same corrections to this essay. I will devote special research and writing time to the "exploits" of individual judges and justices in New Jersey in the forthcoming year. I will begin with SYBIL R. MOSES, then I will discuss other judges in the Garden State. Every one of them has said or done things prohibited under the Canons of Judicial Ethics and should be sanctioned or removed from the bench. The hypocrisy and mendacity in the New Jersey legal ethics process should be obvious once these essays are read.
The continuing presence of such loathsome persons in the N.J. judiciary illustrates the fraud and corruption at the very heart of New Jersey's legal system, which is complicit in and/or responsible for criminal censorship efforts and much worse crimes committed against me as well as many others. Each day that the cover-up continues, Mr. Rabner, is a renewal of the tortures, also a further disgracing of yourself and your soiled tribunal. ("Stuart Rabner and Conduct Unbecoming to the Judiciary in New Jersey.")

Part of the hypocrisy that many nations find difficult to grasp in America's legal institutions and politics is reflected in the alleged concern with the "free speech" rights of CORPORATIONS, allowed to purchase and control access to media, as the lone dissenting voice is squashed in our electronic public square. The word "access" was altered since my previous review of this essay. I have now restored a deleted letter to that word.

You are witnessing decades of crimes aimed at silencing a tortured dissident -- cyberwar, censorship, suppressions of speech, professional destruction, threats of various kinds, alterations of texts, refusal to circulate or publish books and much worse -- as the nation's public officials lecture to the world about Internet freedom and tolerance of dissent, also respect for copyright laws.
Compare Adam Liptak, "Justices 5-4, Reject Corporate Campaign Spending Limit," in The New York Times, January 22, 2010, at p. A1 with Mark Landler, "Clinton Makes Case for Internet Freeedom as a Plank of American Foreign Policy," in The New York Times, January 22, 2010, at p. A6, then "The Court's Blow to Democracy," (Editorial) in The New York Times, January 22, 2010, at p. A30. (For persons from all over the world witnessing my experiences of censorship and torture, America's talk of "Internet freedom" is absurd.)

One of my essays has been republished or linked by a brave soul, I believe, presumably with minor editorial revisions: Juan Galis-Menendez, "Experience and Expression: Wittgenstein's Philosophy of Psychology," April 19, 2007, Applied Epistemology,
("A Philosophical Investigation of Ludwig Wittgenstein.")

I. Susan Hurley on Reasons and Actions.

What follows is a brief comment on what purports to be a paper by philosopher S.L. Hurley. Professor Hurley is not a philosopher whose work I know well. Steven Pyke's book offers a one paragraph summary dating from about 1990 and a blurry photograph, which is described as "artistic."

"Susan Hurley's work revives a classical idea about rationality in a modern framework, by developing analogies between the structure of personality and the structure of society in the context of contemporary work in philosophy of mind, ethics, decision theory and social choice theory."

That makes everything very clear. I like the notion of taking on the fact/value distinction and of returning to a virtue-based ethical theory, if that is the implication of this statement. Ms. Hurley is not listed in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy or the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. My comments concern an essay entitled "Overintellectualizing the Mind," which appears at Professor Hurley's web page. This is Hurley's review essay reacting to Brewer's Perception and Reason.

I will "eschew" (I always wanted to write that word!) all scholarly grandstanding and impressive footnoting to adopt a more informal method of commentary. I call this approach the "what-would-the-guys-on-the-corner-say" method. This is not a method which is likely to be applied often to the good professor's highly technical writings in linguistic or analytical philosophy with a pro-science twist. I think this method may prove healthy both for Hurley and her readers.

I bet that Ms. Hurley is a subscriber to the Nation magazine or its British equivalent, a healthy eater -- a vegetarian perhaps -- who has earned tenure at the University of Bristol. No doubt she always votes for "Labour" (British spelling) candidates. If I am correct about this description, then Professor Hurley is a perfect adversary for me, given my preference for unconventional views along with my loathing of academic pieties.

An earlier version of this essay was damaged by hackers troubled, I guess, that I might have undermined Hurley's paper. How stimulating to think that analytical philosophy inspires such passion. It is more than doubtful whether Professor Hurley, in fact, wrote this essay.

Is this the immortal philosophical prose of Anne Milgram, Esq.? Would it be proper for an attorney to misrepresent her identity or intentions in this manner, Ms. Milgram? Is it not much worse for a state's chief law enforcement officer to engage in cybercrime and lying, or to be part of a conspiracy to violate civil rights based on a victim's political beliefs? Is this about bribery, Ms. Milgram, either in terms of cash or sexual favors? Is such dishonest misrepresentation for an attorney general "ethical," Ms. Milgram? ("Is Paul Bergrin, Esq. an Ethical New Jersey Lawyer?" and "New Jersey's Legal System is a Whore House.")

Hurley's essay is said to have appeared in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research LXIII:2 (2001) 423-431. This means that she went to the right schools and has probably met the editors of this journal at a conference somewhere. Publication does not guarantee high quality of scholarly papers, not these days, but this essay is indeed interesting. I say this despite disagreeing with its conclusions. How curious that a journal devoted to Continental thought and phenomenology would publish an analytical philosophical essay? Perhaps there is an error in this attribution. More lies, Ms. Milgram? ("U.S. Courts Must Not Condone Torture.")

I would never seek to destroy or suppress the writings of a thinker with whom I disagree. Hence, I feel entitled to be angry about efforts to suppress and censor my speech. Worse, are continuing plagiarisms of my ideas. Rather than self-destructiveness or violence, however, I will respond with even more devastating arguments against the incoherence and moral problems in the positions I oppose. I will continue to struggle against social evils and governments in need of reform. ("Law and Ethics in the Soprano State" and "New Jersey's 'Ethical' Legal System.")

Hurley begins with a nod to Brewer, who is said to argue that "a subject's perceptual experiences must provide reasons for empirical beliefs. Only perceptual experience can tie reference down to a thing as opposed to its 'duplicate,' and this tying down must be a matter of giving the subject reasons that she can recognize as such. Moreover, such reasons require conceptual contents."

We are in British empiricist territory -- Locke, Berkeley, Hume down to Russell. Only perceptual experience can provide reasons for empirical beliefs. Does this mean "sense data"? What is a "duplicate"? We do not know at this point. It is radical empiricism time, boys and girls. This is the philosophical equivalent of "steak and kidney pie." However, we are also told that "reasons require conceptual contents."

What is this? A German traitor from Konigsberg hovers in the wings. Is there a tiny, itsy-bit of an inconsistency between these propositions? "ONLY perceptual experiences can provide REASONS for empirical beliefs." However, "REASONS require conceptual contents." (Say what?)

Are we offered a Kantian synthesis? Chicken and egg time? Are reasons perceptual? Do we "see" reasons in the empirical world when we search for our socks in the morning? Do reasons have something to do with empirical beliefs? Don't beliefs determine the reasons we have for actions? What is the connection between our reasons for doing X, and our beliefs concerning X? Can we have beliefs or formulate intentions or find reasons for actions without language? If not, then how can non-human animals have "reasons" for their actions, as Hurley suggests?

Suppose that I cling tenaciously to the belief that "Antonio" cologne has powerful amorous effects on women based on useful information provided by advertisers who always have my welfare at heart. I stroll over to my local pharmacy and purchase a gallon of "Antonio" cologne, which should be enough for me to wear on Saturday night. I then examine my actions philosophically.

My rationally held belief that: 1) "Antonio" cologne will lead to success with the ladies; has 2) "caused" me to purchase and wear this pungent and manly fragrance matching my virile self-image; then 3) I test this plan empirically by approaching a woman at a party and intoning, in a solemn baritone voice:

"Do you like my manly scent enough to experience sexual desires for my virile body?"

After being slapped repeatedly, I retire to my library to ponder the philosophical impasse encountered as a result of my approach. There appears to be a "difficulty" -- as philosophers say -- between my empirical beliefs, reasons, actions and results produced (or not produced!) by them, as compared with my intentions and desires. Perhaps this situation may even be classified as a genuine "conundrum."

Is it possible to bring philosophical clarity to this puzzling scenario in order to ensure that I will, in fact, succeed in getting laid next Saturday night. This is purely hypothetical, clearly, but nonetheless a pressing logical point. Professor Hurley says:

"My intentions and perceptions refer to the ball I have just caught and thrown, the food I am cutting and chewing, the violin I am playing; and I am aware of this. By contrast, Brewer one-sidedly emphasizes that reference depends on the identities of objects the subject perceives."

Perception is important, I admit, as illustrated by my hypothetical. Hurley's talk of a "mind-independent world" is troublesome, for phenomenologists, because the boundaries between the so-called mind-independent world and the perceiving agent are not all that clear -- if they exist at all. Nothing in Hurley's review-essay is very helpful on this issue. No, this does not deprive us of objectivity or truth. I am "for" a field approach when it comes to subjects and objects. The field is called "interpretation."

In my "Antonio" cologne example, the humor is provided by the collision between the agent's perceptions forming his intentions and his experience of the "empirical world." Or is it his crashing into the perceptions and beliefs of others that is funny? His cologne -- or the amount of cologne that he has worn -- is the opposite of attractive. Why? Given his beliefs, his actions are rational and causative in terms of an, admittedly, deeply flawed intentional plan.

Without appreciating his beliefs or ideas, his actions are incomprehensible. Professor Hurley seems confused due to a lack of definitional and temporal clarity concerning the terms "reasons" and "beliefs," especially also "causality":

"Suppose we grant that nonconceptual content is not needed to provide an epistemological grounding for perceptual beliefs, and that indeed it could not do this work in any case. [Double negative?] This ["This" what?] will only seem decisive on the issue of whether reasons require conceptual contents if we have already overintellectualized the mind by giving epistemology priority over practical reason. If there is a case for giving either priority, reasons for action are primary and reasons for belief derivative. Even if reasons for belief must be conceptual, it would not follow that reasons for action must be, since reasons for action are not reasons for belief about what should be done. Practical rationality is not theoretical rationality with practical content." (Convoluted gibberish?)

You sure about that, Susan? All of our actions and judgments about actions tacitly assume or postulate beliefs about the world and others. This is not "overintellectualizing."

We must accept a network of beliefs every second of the day. The alternative is madness. Is it possible even to separate the conceptual structures from which we act "on" the world or understand ourselves as actors "in" the world from our beliefs "about" that world? What is an "action"? Is the meaning of action distinguishable from beliefs and intentions? How is an ACTION much more than an EVENT?

John MacMurray's thinking on this issue is enriched by his more expansive understanding of what constitutes "acting" on the world, which (for him) may be ideational. However, MacMurray is an idealist; Hurley is (I surmise) a very confused empiricist. An empiricist agreeing with me on these matters is Donald Davidson. Legal thinkers have devoted a great deal of attention to this question in developing the metaphysics of substantive criminal law doctrines.

From a Derridean perspective, I welcome the opportunity to argue that notions of agency, voluntariness, and responsibility in substantive criminal law are based on an assumed masculine model of the "individual choosing agent." This can produce gross misperceptions of reality, despite the gradations of intent in criminal codes, because the masculine imagery is pervasive throughout a system that disregards gender-based power relations. My efforts along these lines would adopt a fusion approach weaving Constitutional, doctrinal, and procedural arguments into a new "hermeneutics of legal agency" that is multi-gendered.

Please see, William Lamb, "Prostitute Takes Plea Deal for Role in Motel Murder: Admits Watching Pimp Rape, Strangle Harrington Park Teen," in The Record, May 7, 2010, at p. L-3. (Ms. Krystal Riordan, age 26, is looking at 40 years of incarceration in a situation where, I promise you, that she had very little choice about what happened that resulted in two lives being lost, including her own.) Now turn to: Judith Butler, "Violence, Mourning, Politics," in Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (New York & London: Verso, 2006), pp. 19-49 and Paul Ricoeur, Evil: A Challenge to Philosophy and Theology (London: Continuum, 2004), p. 54. (Butler and Ricoeur are necessary thinkers for legal scholars today.)

Suppose a person is 1) suffering from a mental defect or delusion and shoots the mailman under the impression that the victim is a robot from the planet Neptune who is attacking the earth; or 2) imagine that a person under hypnosis is asked to slice a piece of bread, but is really cutting off a friend's arm without "realizing" it consciously; or 3) a female "actor" is told to approach a man and attempt to seduce him as part of a movie, except that the target of this seduction is not told that he is in a movie.

A recent criminal case in the UK against a man who strangled his wife while asleep was dismissed and the accused was set free because he was deemed "not blameworthy" or "not legally responsible" for the act. Hypnosis -- for the victim or subject "hypnotized" -- is held to be comparable to action in an unconscious state for which the hypnotized person is not legally responsible. Linda Geddes, "Insight: When a Nightmare Becomes a Terrible Reality, How Can You Defend Yourself?," in The New Scientist, 28, November, 2009 (November-December) and (A woman in an utterly powerless situation, tortured, raped herself, is comparable to a person under hypnosis. Please see "'Inception': A Movie Review.")

If a patient under anesthesia were to have his or her arm used to strike another person, the unconscious person would not be liable to the victim of this assault and battery. Many women under conditions of extreme exploitation are akin to persons suffering from "automatism" or patients in a coma. ("Abuse and Exploitation of Women in New Jersey" and "Not One More Victim.")

What is the "action" -- as distinct from the "event" -- which has taken place in each of these scenarios? To whom does the action "belong" in each scenario? Who is the actor? Who is "acted-upon"? What exactly has occurred in each instance? What is "the" meaning of any empirical occurrence as distinguished from its cause? Can we predict a "crime" as distinct from an event? ("Richard A Posner on Voluntary Actions and Criminal Responsibility.")

Perhaps we should ask "Allison Dubois"? Or "Mulder" and "Scully"?

"[The] victim was a secretary whom [the hypnotist] put into a deep trance and told to keep sleeping until he ordered otherwise. He then hypnotized a second secretary and told her that if she could not wake up her friend, 'her rage would be so great that she would not hesitate to kill.' [The hypnotist] left a pistol nearby, which the secretary had no way of knowing was unloaded. Even though she had earlier expressed a fear of firearms of any kind, she picked up the gun and 'shot' her sleeping friend. After [the hypnotist] brought the 'killer' out of the trance, [the victim] had apparent amnesia for the event denying she would ever shoot anyone."

Robert Marks, "Hypnosis," in Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The C.I.A. and Mind Control (New York: Dell, 1988), p. 195.

Compare Benjamin Weiser, "Expert Says Strip-Search Traumatized a Detainee," in The New York Times, May 6, 2010, at p. A25 with "Fear Itself," (Editorial) in The New York Times, May 6, 2010, at p. A32.

Hypnosis experiments and manipulations have produced DEATHS as well as other severe harm to many victims from the early sixties to Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. It is likely that the "hooded man" in Abu Ghraib standing on a crate who was told that -- if he moved -- he would be electrocuted, was under some form of CIA-interrogational hypnosis. Torturers tend to find the statements and actions of hypnotized victims highly amusing. ("Terry Tuchin, Diana Lisa Riccioli, and New Jersey's Agency of Torture" and "What is it like to be tortured?" as well as "What is it like to be plagiarized?" and, soon, "What is it like to be raped?")

If we think of Shakespeare as "like" a hypnotist, then his "Shylock" as played, say, by Al Pacino ("the subject of hypnosis") in a recent movie becomes the shared "action" of the two men conspiring with others to bring about the reality of this "event," The Merchant of Venice.

Are you, audience members, co-conspirators to this "crime"? You must be. However, this second "conjurer's trick" (the performance) is also shared by Mr. Pacino with the other actors -- an unsavory lot, usually -- who are determined to deceive us. Shylock seems more real than many persons I know in the so-called "real world." We make Shylock real.

We likewise make persons "criminals" or "victims." These are social judgments. Interpretations. Constructions. You are a "whore" if society constructs you as a "whore." The very same behavior may be rewarded in one instance, then demonized in another situation. Consider the implications of this principle with regard to judgments of sanity and insanity. Are the deaths of more than a million people in Iraq and Afghanistan "worthwhile"? Is the murder of more than 500,000 Iraqui children "sane" or "ethical"? ("The Wanderer and His Shadow.")

What was the action or actions occurring in this scenario involving the secretaries? To whom would you assign moral and legal responsibility? Secretary or hypnotist? Does a single action belong to multiple agents in different degrees based on variable belief-structures that are always under construction? Can a single event provide an infinite number of interpretations concerning possible actions and the allocation of responsibility? Are all of those interpretations true?

Where would you draw a boundary between epistemological, ethical, metaethical, jurisprudential aspects of this cluster of issues concerning agency. The key thinker here is Paul Ricoeur. The standard work applying Ricoeur's ideas to current issues is Juan Galis-Menendez, Paul Ricoeur and the Hermeneutics of Freedom (North carolina: Lulu, 2004). (Alas, the author is a tortured dissident whose writings are suppressed and, often, censored in America -- but who is blessed with shapely legs.)

Even so talented a thinker as Bernard Williams stumbles badly in discussing these tricky questions through a lack of legal training. Bernard Williams, "The Actus Reus of Dr. Caligari," in Philosophy as a Humanistic Discipline (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2006), pp. 97-108, reviewing Michael S. Moore, Act and Crime: The Philosophy of Action and Its Implications (1993). See also, Alan Donegan, "Intention and Purpose," in The Theory of Morality (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1977), pp. 124-142.

Conservatives will love Donegan, until they understand what he is saying, which may never happen. Next is Colin McGinn, Mental Content (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), pp. 107-119. (Those annoying English skeptics again.) The boss is Roger Scruton, "Intention" and "Will," in Modern Philosophy (London: Penguin, 1994), pp. 246-250:

"Not every way of conceptualizing the world can offer reasons for action. Take love, for example. When John loves Mary, he loves her for the particular person that she is -- irreplaceable. Her being Mary conditions the intentionality of his feelings, and provides him with reasons for all that he does for her. [And if he is fortunate, also to her.] It is because she is Mary that he sends her flowers, courts her, desires her and marries her. But this idea of a 'particular person,' whose dominant feature is precisely that she is who she is, is not countenanced by science. A science of human behaviour would do its best to rid the human world of such a description, so as to find the real cause of John's infatuation. ["He just wants to have sex with her!"] He loves Mary because of her smell, or because of some other feature that she shares with Jane, Rosemary or Inez. Even if the quality that draws him to Mary" -- large breasts? -- "is not shared by any other woman, it is still the quality, not the individual, that draws him. Science recognizes no such thing as an 'individual essence.' The descriptions under which Mary is perceived by John make essential reference to her name, and to the individuality that is captured in it. The descriptions are not false. [They are non-scientific truths.] But they cannot feature in the scientific world-view. Science, if given exclusive sovereignty over truth, threatens the aims of love." (emphasis added!)

In order to appease the femi-Nazis, I should make it clear at this point that no woman I love has particularly "large breasts." The humor in the foregoing comment is intentional. I am "for" saving whales. ("Skinny People Dressed in Black.")

Notice that we must also engage in a kind of phenomenological reduction of belief-stimuli in order to navigate life or we would be paralyzed. Philosophers are aware of hundreds or (in some rare cases) thousands of beliefs and values all the time. Many of these beliefs and assumptions are not perceived by other people. For example, the wonders of "Antonio" cologne. We live within "networks of meanings," only a few of which are seen by most people -- like the difference between real bare knuckles feminism and trendy bullshit. Consider this paragraph by John Searle:

"I want to begin by considering the metaphysics of ordinary social relations. ... I go into a cafe in Paris and sit in a chair at a table. The waiter comes over and I utter a fragment of a French sentence. I ask for a beer. The waiter brings the beer and I drink it. I leave some money on the table and I leave. An innocent scene, but its metaphysical complexity is truly staggering, and its complexity would have taken Kant's breath away if he had bothered to think about such things. Notice that we cannot capture the features of the description I have just given in the language of physics and chemistry. There is no physical-chemical description adequate to define 'restaurant,' 'waiter,' 'sentence of French,' 'money,' or even 'chair' and 'table,' even though all restaurants, waiters, sentences of French, money, and chairs and tables are physical phenomena. Notice that the scene as described has a huge invisible ontology: the waiter did not actually own the beer that he gave me, but he is employed by a restaurant, which owned it. The restaurant is required to post a list of the prices of all the boissons, and even if I never see such a list, I am required to pay only the listed price. The owner of the restaurant is licensed by the French government to operate it. As such he is subject to a thousand rules and regulations I know nothing about. I am entitled to be there in the first place only because I am a citizen of the United States, the bearer of a valid passport, and I have entered France legally."

The Construction of Social Reality (New York: Free Press, 1995), p. 3 ("Metaphor is Mystery").

Suppose we change the gender or race of waiter and customer. How many ways are there for actors to play that scene? Flirtatiously? Angrily? Impersonally? Actors say: "How do you want the scene played?" These are belief- and meaning-systems in which we must live and understand ourselves in the human world, or Lebenswelt.

Often ideational systems are governed by human intentionality as the fictions (scripts) in which we experience (paradoxically) the most real aspects of our lives, by "playing" scenes. A legal analysis of Professor Searle's simple scenario would require applications of contract, tort, international and immigration laws.

I have observed couples in New York "relating" to one another as characters from movies, often being unconsciously imitative of characters whose values and goals are utterly different or opposed. Men and women are typically invoking movies, but different kinds of films with totally conflicting patterns of relation and identity. They seem unaware of this "problem."

Philip Marlowe and Gidget are unlikely to find happiness together. I think it was Robert Mitchum and Alec Baldwin who said: "Acting is reacting." I have seen many young women providing their interpretations of Kate Winslet's character in Titanic when relating to young men who may have seen very different movies in their lives or interpreted the same movies differently. A whole generation of young men in New York behave and gesture very much like Daniel Radcliffe as "Harry Potter."

Do American and British actors (or any actors) appreciate how much power they have? Real power is the capacity to shape the subjectivities of persons. In our society, today, that power belongs to actors or performers most of all. The identical "action" of a waitress placing a coffee cup in front of a man sitting at a table in a restaurant can have vastly different meanings. This point can be illustrated by any group of professional actors.

Good actors can even communicate diametrically opposed emotional meanings through enacting exactly the same scene in terms of the empirical events. Identical events can be totally different actions producing radically opposed meanings.

Do you see why actors are the "master intelligencers" (George Steiner) in the realm of social meanings? They have to be.

A woman witnessing a murder can be played by, say, Kate Winslet as totally without responsibility for the crime, or as just the opposite. What "really happened" is a matter of difficult interpretation in life and art. I insist that our best teachers on these matters are philosophers and artists.

How many ways can a woman say: "Hello"? How many ways are there for a woman to say: "Goodbye"? How many ways are there for a woman to run her hands through her hair when a man is looking at her? Ask Kate Winslet that question. An encyclopedia may be written to define the meanings of French women's language of scarves. Ask Juliet Binoche that question. ("Master and Commander.")

A single gesture by a woman of touching her hair can mean ("I love you") or ("I hate you"). Worse, the same gesture can mean both of those things. Men find this complexity frustrating. ("Raymond Chandler and 'The Simple Art of Murder.'")

A woman enters a room and places her hands at her hips. She looks at a man who is standing by the one window in the room. She tilts her head slightly, then raises an eyebrow. She looks in her purse, finds a handkerchief, walks up to him and drops the handkerchief before him. The man picks up the handkerchief and gives it to the woman. She says: "Thank you for rescuing me. I don't know if I could have done that all by myself." ("Master and Commander.")

Let us suppose that Robert Mitchum is the man and Marilyn Monroe is the woman in this scene. Ask them to play this "dialectic" three different ways: 1) she is angry at him; 2) she is in love with him; and 3) they are reconstructing the moment when they met; 4) all of the above.

What is the meaning of these events? What happened between those two people? Who controlled the action? Will the answer to these questions depend on the observer? If so, would that make any of the answers "untrue"? Quantum hermeneutics? How many ways can actors play this simple scene? You can refer to these ideas in terms of quantum construction (physics), or the hermeneutics of freedom (Continental theory), but the issues are the same. (Hawking or Derrida? Hawking and Derrida?) Christopher Norris, "Free-Will, Creativity and Structural Constraint: Linguistics as a Guide to Metaphysics," in Fiction, Philosophy and Literary Theory: Will the Real Saul Kripke Please Stand Up? (London: Continuum, 2007), pp. 214-259.

Racism is an evil fiction in which some persons are forced to live. Sexism? Or is it all of us who must live such nightmarish fictions? All of us are actors. Very few of us are really good professional actors. Most of the plays in which we act have been written over centuries by many playwrights, some of whom are philosophers, others are scientists, still others artists, politicians, judges, religious leaders. However, we do have freedom of interpretation. (See my book on Ricoeur.) ("Is Western Philosophy Racist?")

Actors will usually explain that with room for their creative interpretations of roles they can discover all possible meanings or enough meanings to allow for any number of interpretations by audience members. The universe and human social interactions may well provide generous room for interpretations, necessarily, which is all the freedom that we will need. Think about the paradox in this statement: Freedom is necessity; necessity is freedom. Meanings multiply. (Again: "'Inception': A Movie Review.")

I attended a play in New York in which the actors traveled to different rooms and audience members chose which actor they would follow into a particular room in a mythical English country house. At the end of the performance, audience members had seen different plays, in which different characters had been murdered. Everyone compared notes. We could not agree on which was the "real" play. Please see "Gosford Park."

These recent cinematic or theatrical works are attempts to dramatize the new intellectual and aesthetic context in which our meanings must develop. Ironically, this new aesthetic "space" is identical with the fundamental reality revealed by the latest physics. ("'The Reader': A Movie Review" and "'Revolutionary Road': A Movie Review.")

Walk into any courtroom and you will be in a theater or film. Furthermore, what takes place in that courtroom today is shaped by theater and films, often in ways not recognized by the various "players."

What bothers me is not that most politicians and judges are actors, but that they are bad actors. See Lon L. Fuller, Legal Fictions (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1967), at p. xi:

"A frequent and pervasive resort to fiction [lying?] marks, then, those subjects where the urge to systematic structure is strong and insistent. ... " (Are corporations "persons"? Do corporations have "free speech"? Are corporations "people," Mr. Romney? "Ape and Essence" and "Primates and Personhood.")

Lying? Lawyering? Overlapping categories? "If the glove don't fit, you gotta acquit." ("On Bullshit.")

Philosophy and science also fit Fuller's theory, more so today than when Professor Fuller's book appeared. What are "particle pairs"? Can we write an Opera about particle pairs? Why not? How about a Sonnet entitled "The Amoeba and I"? "Me and My Amoeba"? "My Cousin the Chimp"? In a scientific age these titles may be acceptable. Do they bring a tear to your eyes? In more ways than one, you say? Is there a way to write a scene between man and woman that "mirrors" quantum mysteries? ("Metaphor is Mystery" and "Master and Commander.")

What people often fail to understand, even if they appreciate all that I have said so far, is that this same ontological baggage is part of the process of meaning reception and decipherment, not just part of our communicative efforts.

When we encounter art, we bring a metaphysical and ontological skeleton to "seeing" a film, say, which is the epistemological or aesthetic "flesh" placed on that skeleton. Think of Gadamer on the "fusion of horizons." This is true even when encountering the art of previous centuries. My experience of Byron's Don Juan is not intended to be exclusive of opposed experiences of the same work, but it is always invitational as the poem is also invitational. ("What you will ..." and "Conversation On a Train.")

My experience of the new Star Trek movie will be unique to me. What is the invitation extended by way of an aesthetic encounter or any new person we "meet"? Do we really "meet" every new person that we encounter? Are we always playing the right "game" when encountering others in art or personally? Are any two people always playing the same game? How can you understand what you are unable to "see" between people? Deleting a letter from my writings will not help with your structural problems in Trenton. ("New Jersey's Unethical Judiciary.")

Hamlet's beliefs concerning the reality of his father's ghost and his uncle's guilt are inextricable from the meaning of his actions. How else can you make sense of what you see Hamlet doing on stage? Well, you might step back from the play and consider the intentions of the actor playing Hamlet. What you cannot do is assume the behavior of the persons on stage is just "happening" for no subjective or intentional reason. Such a brutal behaviorism is now discredited everywhere. I hope.

Notice that no two people have to agree about what are Hamlet's motives and purposes. I spoke of "motives," not "causes for action." When does a motive become a cause?

"What's the difference?" Well, my motive for sprinkling Antonio cologne is ... shall we say, "romantic." The effective material cause of my doing so is a synapse firing in my brain sending the appropriate signal to the nerves in my arm, so that I then take the appropriate action.

There are two levels (dual aspects) of explanation at work, even if I am only one person doing a single action in what is usually described as the "real world." Neither level of reality can be reduced to the other. Notice that I am describing a person's participation in several worlds of meaning, even as a resident of a single empirical reality. Motives are concerned with aesthetic, moral or spiritual interpretations of actions; causes are concerned with empirical or scientific explanations of events. This view is called "compatibilism." (Kant, Hawking, West, and many others agree with this perspective.)

We need accounts of human actions as empirical occurrences both in terms of motives (actions) and causes (events) in order to understand persons, or what takes place in their world. Please read the foregoing sentence again.

Narrowing the focus of philosophical observation to say only that Hamlet takes a sword and pierces the flesh of Polonious -- who is standing behind a curtain -- excluding all "subjective" factors from our account is unhelpful. This narrowing does not describe any event "accurately" nor "scientifically," much less does it lead to a true "understanding of an event."

This narrowed focus or reductivism makes us less, not more objective or scientific. It also makes us more stupid. Behavior is never the "bottom line." The crucial "issue" is what is the MEANING of the behavior? Not what happened, but what did they do, why did they do it, and what does it mean? Some observers will be prevented by stupidity or lack of education from appreciating the subtle complexities of human life-meanings. ("Terry Tuchin, Diana Lisa Riccioli, and New Jersey's Agency of Torture.")

Lingering behaviorism is reflective of an ideology called "scientism," still exerting an unfortunate and pernicious effect on the human sciences. There is no such thing as encountering "facts" in the world. Deciding what counts as a fact is already an interpretation. We cannot simply go and "look" for the facts. See Donald Davidson, "Spinoza's Causal Theory of the Affects," in Truth, Language, and History (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), pp. 295-315. ("... no fully adequate explanation of a mental event can be given in physical terms, and vice versa.")

Attempts to omit the language of intentionality or subjective belief when "explaining" actions, has the effect of making explanation and understanding impossible, that is, when the subject is human actions or personal conduct. Professor Hurley does not distinguish and often blurs the distinctions between motive, instinct, intention and reasons as "causes" (what is a "cause"?) for action. Time becomes relevant again. A brief reminder of the complexity of the philosophical issues may be helpful:

"When we act for a reason is the reason a cause for our action? Is explaining an action by means of giving the reason for which it is done, a kind of causal explanation? The view that it is not will cite the existence of a logical relation between an action and its reason: it will say that an action would not be the action it is if it did not get its identity from its place in an intentional plan of the agent (it would just be a piece of behavior, not explicable by reasons at all). [Holism?] Reasons and actions are not loose and separate events between which casual relations hold. The contrary view, espoused by Davidson in his influential paper 'Actions, Reasons, and Causes' (1963), claims that the existence of a reason is a mental event, and unless this event is causally linked to the acting [how?] we could not say that it is the reason for which the action is performed; actions may be performed for one reason rather than another, and the reason that explains them is the one that was causally efficacious in prompting the action."

Simon Blackburn, ed., Dictionary of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 321.

My reservation concerning Davidson's essentially correct stance has to do with his concept of "cause" as distinguished from "motive." We will need to dip our toes into the murky waters of rival "explanatory schemes." A motive may help to explain an action, but a cause seeks or claims to determine an action. Nothing "determines" meanings. Meanings cannot be extricated from events that are properly called actions:

"H., after undergoing a psychiatric treatment, realizes that he has been robbing banks under the posthypnotic suggestion of a friend. In each of these cases, the defendant ostensibly [committed] a criminal action, and yet in none of them did he really act; rather he was acted on." Leo Katz, Bad Acts and Guilty Minds: Conundrums of the Criminal Law (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1987), p. 3 (emphasis added). H.L.A. Hart, "Intention and Punishment," in Punishment and Responsibility (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), pp. 113-135, esp. pp. 122-25. ("Out of the Past.")

What best "explains" an action? The best explanation for a single action will depend on purposes and contexts. Very different explanations for a single event may be fully compatible, as indeed different understandings of one person's actions may be based upon or "explained" by differential appreciations of that person's character and circumstances -- or of the ever-present "observer distortion" -- in any human encounter. ("'Interstellar': A Movie Review.")

Notice Professor Hurley's failure to distinguish between justification and causation, explanation and understanding, reasons and intentions, motives and causes. I will depart from Professor Hurley's text, in order to delve into the vexed field of inchoate crimes and say a word or two about the jurisprudence of "impossible attempts" in the common law tradition by borrowing from Professor Alan Derschowitz and the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Someday I may return to legal scholarship -- not today when I am especially disgusted with American legal hypocrisy -- in order to analyze the doctrine of proximate cause in tort and causality in criminal law by deploying the logical tools of analytical philosophy. (An "error" in this last sentence has also been corrected. I will see it again.)

Latin American theory concerning a substantive criminal law doctrine (delitos continuados), with no exact American counterpart, is a fascinating future topic which may be traced to Roman law. I am reminded of New Jersey for some reason.

December 14, 2007 at 1:11 P.M. I am blocking:;wi.728;hi.90/01

In the final section of this essay, I return to Professor Hurley's argument with some strong criticisms, suggesting that there is a confusion on the part of Professor Hurley in the use of the word and concept of a "reason," together with an improper extension of that term to non-human animals. I will then make use of legal reasoning -- are "legal" and "reasoning" contradictory terms? -- to clarify our philosophical puzzle. I then return to the neglected (by Hurley) concept of time in this analysis.

Externalism or behaviorism is a chosen blindness, phenomenologists insist, to the complexities of human motivation and activity. Behaviorism is the disastrous and false option of disregarding or ignoring the meaning of human behaviors or actions, which can only be understood in terms of beliefs and intentions, in order to focus on observable activities of animals -- observations and behaviors which are said to be "objective." In fact, neither behavior nor observation is fully "observable." Interpretation is inextricable from observation. My experience is not reducible to what you can see me doing or the ways in which I "behave." ALL observation is selective. This does not deprive us of objectivity or truth. ("'Revolutionary Road': A Movie Review" and "Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Philosophy of Science.")

Think of the scene between man and woman that I described above. What you see will be determined by your a priori interpretations. ("He is insensitive to women's issues!") However, your interpretations will both guide and be guided by what you see in any complex interaction between people based on what you have experienced. ("They are in love.")

Can you "play" with any or all interpretations? Think of Derrida's jouissance. (Jacques Derrida, Paul Ricoeur, Camille Paglia on interpretation in art will be useful.)

Great actors -- like magicians -- will cause you to see some things more than others. I am suggesting that knowledge of what a person does, alone, will never explain what a person's actions mean or who that person happens to be.

What does it mean to say that a person has "done" something? Shrinks should be taking notes. Unfortunately, I see that our hour is up. Please speak to my secretary on your way out. See you next week. ("The Fugitive.")

II. Impossible Attempts in Criminal Law.

"A man lies dead. His enemy comes along and thinks he is asleep, so he stabs the corpse. [Has] the enemy ... attempted to murder the dead man[?] The law may sometimes be an ass, but it cannot be so asinine as that." -- Lord Reid, in Houghton v. Smith, House of Lords (1974).

A. Jurisprudential Basis.

I wish to borrow from substantive criminal law to illustrate and clarify the philosophical complexities in this discussion. This effort will require me to overcome a powerful aversion and disgust at legal materials in the American context. The suppression and destruction of my written work is taking place before the eyes of the world -- in violation of basic Constitutional principles and U.S. criminal law-- and nothing happens. These and many other crimes are committed by powerful persons, probably including legal officials, with impunity. Under such circumstances it may no longer be meaningful to speak of laws protecting freedom of speech or human dignity in America. ("Is this America?" and "The Torture of Persons.")

As I write this sentence, I find myself forced to make corrections in a long essay that I have posted dealing with the ontological argument for about the thirtieth time. I know that it will not be the last time that I make the same corrections. ("Is it rational to believe in God?")

These "errors" are not found in printed copies of the same essay dating from before today. Regrettably, my printer and Security System have both been damaged, once again, by New Jersey's hackers. I am unable to print any of my own work. However, I promise that I will find a way to do so.

Despite my admiration for the U.S. Constitution, I am not the person to ask about the wonders of the U.S. legal system. Seeing American law from the bottom -- New Jersey is America's stuffed-up legal toilet -- has colored my perspective on law and judges. Too many of the judges I knew were -- and no doubt still are -- as Professor Dershowitz explains:

"... [lacking in] the basic intelligence to understand a moderately complex legal argument. Some are just plain stupid; others lack the necessary legal education; still others are lazy or impatient."
The Best Defense (New York: Random House, 1982), p. 111.

New Jersey's legal system is racist, biased against the poor, corrupt, tainted by politics and influence, contaminated by mediocrity, hypocritical, dysfunctional, profoundly unjust and inhumane. Much of the complexity surrounding any theoretical discussion of issues of doctrinal subtlety and jurisprudential or intellectual figure-eights is beyond the grasp of the majority of judges in the system. Their "judgments" concerning one's ethics, in particular, are useful as substitutes when we are low on toilet paper: 200 convictions of players in New Jersey's political and legal system (or their friends) barely put a dent in the problem. More convictions are on the way. Inserting spelling and other "errors" in this essay is the best way that my adversaries can help to prove my point. ("America's Holocaust" and "Driving While Black [DWB] in New Jersey.")

I will spend part of every day for the rest of my life struggling against the corruption and evil produced by criminals operating with immunity in that system.

One New Jersey judge explained to me that, like most minorities, I am not a "gentleman." This person in judicial robes then explained the difference between myself and a middle-aged, white, male judge one floor below her courtroom, who clearly should be regarded as a gentleman, as the difference between "night and day." For my own reasons, I agree with this conclusion. I am sure that she is a "gentleman" in her own estimation. ("Burn Notice" and "Anthony Suarez Goes On Trial.")

This was a fairly typical experience (for me) in a legal system in which authorities are aware of and condone -- as well as cover up -- crimes by legal functionaries and house experts, so-called "whores of the court," like Terry Tuchin and Diana Lisa Riccioli. (See "Terry Tuchin, Diana Lisa Riccioli, and New Jersey's Agency of Torture" and "Psychological Torture in the American Legal System.")

The insults and abuse I endured as a member of the state bar at the hands of New Jersey judges over fourteen years -- often for political reasons -- are worthy of separate analysis. (Another "error" was inserted in this sentence since my last reading of this text.)

Much worse is the injustice and corruption STILL routine in that legal system, which is often directed at attorneys who refuse to accept orders from bosses because they have no desire to become members of any "club." I still refuse to accept orders from anyone in that corrupt political structure.

I look forward to discussing New Jersey's legal system for world media outlets. My writings are censored and suppressed, altered, vandalized and defaced, publicly. Efforts to use my computer to write involve a war with adversaries protected in their criminality, a daily immersion in the barrel of shit that is New Jersey's legal clubhouse.

Do you speak of freedom of speech in America, Senator Bob? How do you have the nerve to criticize China or Cuba when you are responsible for (or condone) these censorship efforts and much worse? ("How Censorship Works in America" and "Censorship and Cruelty in New Jersey.")

Alterations have taken place since my last reading of this essay. I will now correct them, yet again. Hackers altering my work at the behest of New Jersey legal officials is the only response prominent members of that state's power-structure are capable of providing to a discussion such as this. (See "Senator Bob, the Babe, and the Big Bucks" and "Law and Ethics in The Soprano State.")

Judges presumed to instruct me concerning matters they knew less well than I did, usually before asking whether I had read anything dealing with the issue, often providing me with ridiculously ill-informed discussions of issues they clearly did not understand at all. I did my best to be polite then. I don't try to be polite now. No wonder earlier versions of this essay were destroyed by hackers. No wonder errors and typos are inserted in my sentences on a daily basis by hackers. I am sure that New Jersey's power-structure was involved in the destruction of a discussion forum that I created at msn called "The Philosophy Cafe." Is this destruction of the writings of dissidents "ethical"?

What is the "connection" between "Publish America" or "Lulu" and New Jersey? State action to further censorship is a federal crime and unconstitutional.

How do you explain the continuing censorship efforts, Mr. Rabner? Ms. Poritz? Ms. Milgram? Ms. Moses? Lesbian Love-Fest? Looking the other way as such crimes are committed using New Jersey government technology is complicity in these offenses. ("What is it like to be censored in America?" and "More Censorship and Cybercrime.")

I have no doubt that many of my daily struggles to cope with computer troubles are due to that same power-structure's CRIMINAL efforts to silence a political dissident. My family and I have spent hundreds and even thousands of dollars to cope with these attacks on "appliances." Legal officials near Trenton commit federal crimes, publicly, to the apparent indifference of the authorities in the Garden State. "We can learn from you," they say. Frustration, enhanced stress, anxiety and insults as well as threats to loved-ones are routine aspects of unsought encounters with such people. ("What is it like to be tortured?")

I mention all of this because I do not wish the subtlety of the following theoretical discussion to give any air of legitimacy to the thought processes of the persons identified with that state's legal system and courts. What follows is not an example of the sort of chat New Jersey lawyers indulge in on a daily basis. I do not wish to contribute in any way to legitimating New Jersey's bemerded legal system. I do not wish to offer or encourage others to offer respect to what deserves no respect, especially not to the administration of law in a jurisdiction mostly governed by organized crime. ("New Jersey is the Home of the Living Dead" and "Law and Ethics in the Soprano State," "Mafia Involvement in New Jersey's State Police" and "Mafia Influence in New Jersey Courts and Politics.")

I expect more obstructions and attacks against my computer from officials responsible for protecting freedom of speech. I wonder what happened to my book? Attacks from the same persons who will then have the nerve to speak to me of ethics and legality. I have experienced and documented such "irregularities" over a period of years. Publish America? Nothing will ever happen to the "connected" offenders in the Garden State responsible for such crimes. Ethics? You want to talk about ethics? No problem. The number of visitors to my book's site and these blogs may be altered, regularly, and other attacks are routine. I am prevented from seeing my own books on-line. (Again: "How Censorship Works in America.")

Let us assume that we are in a jurisdiction where crimes are defined to require two elements: a mental state (mens rea) and corresponding action or conduct (actus reus). This is no longer true in every common law jurisdiction. However, I wish to avoid irrelevant quibbling of a technical or legalistic sort in this theoretical discussion. Thus, to be guilty of murder a person must have a specific mental state ("malice aforethought"), defined as premeditation, deliberation or "intent" as to the action and its consequences, or even a wildly reckless disregard for consequences and disdain for foreseeable harm revealing a "depraved indifference to human life" may establish the necessary intent. Actions must also "cause" the intended result and the offender must have legal capacity to act. Each of these elements usually gets book-length examination and analysis from legal scholars.

Set aside felony murder and other modern technical definitions of the crime to retain a philosophically pure juridical state of nature. A person may also be guilty of "attempted murder" if, with the intent to kill another person, he or she, acts in furtherance of that intent without "succeeding" in killing the ostensible victim. The actor may be acquitted if he or she is frustrated in accomplishing the desired criminal goal by factual or legal factors making the substantive offense "impossible." Compare H.L.A. Hart, Punishment and Responsibility (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968), pp. 54-158 with George P. Fletcher, A Crime of Self Defense: Bernard Goetz and the Law on Trial (New York: Free Press, 1988), pp. 18-116.

In "The International" a sniper aims to shoot a political speaker and is prevented from doing so by fortune and the actions of a second sniper. O.K., law students, analyze the liability of the various actors in that scene (and the subsequent scene) where the first sniper is killed by a corrupt Italian cop. The persons present at the entry into the apartment where the "suspect" was killed may be accessories or co-conspirators, even though they may not have fully appreciated all of the circumstances surrounding the event.

Disentangle questions of causation, proximate causation, from issues of intent and malice as well as responsibility. You may find this somewhat difficult. Why? If there was a conspiracy in that scene and in this movie, then what was the scope of the conspiracy? Who were the conspirators? What are the relevant policy and rights issues underlying the architecture of relevant criminal law doctrines?

You should be done with this question in 40 minutes. Answers should be clearly typed or written in legible script.

If I mistakenly believe that it is illegal, a criminal act, to hunt deer on the day when I do so, but it is in fact allowed, then I cannot be guilty of attempting to hunt deer -- even if I believed that it was illegal to hunt deer and intended to do so when I went hunting for them. (Legal impossibility.)

If an assassin takes aim with his rifle, but his target bends down to tie his shoe at the instant when the shot is fired, so that the bullet misses that target and could not have killed the intended victim because he was out of the line of fire, fortuitously and momentarily, the actor may be convicted of attempted murder anyway. (Factual impossibility.)

Legal impossibility was traditionally deemed to preclude liability; factual impossibility wasn't.

This troublesome distinction between factual and legal impossibility has mostly been abandoned based on the recognition that courts, in fact, tend to characterize identical fact patterns as either legal or factual impossibility based on a predetermination of whether they wish to hold someone liable for attempted murder or to exonerate the accused. There is no principled distinction at work. There is usually more of a policy judgment or interpretation made by courts on a case by case basis. A hermeneutics of freedom?

Ethics? Who is "unethical" depends on the judge (usually a philosophical illiterate) given the power to make the determination? Philosophical skill in demonstrating the incoherence of such determinations is a neglected aspect of such decisions, except when these decisions are reversed by higher tribunals. New Jersey's judges combine ignorance of philosophy with disdain for laws and delight in their own stupidity. Luckily, many N.J. judges are bribed by persons with a better claim to a favorable result in court cases. ("'Hermano': An Evening With Christopher Hitchens.")

Much of this mess has been "corrected" by criminal code sections based on the American Law Institute's "Model Penal Code" (MPC), which dates from the thirties to the fifties, also beyond those dates in light of recent revisions. American jurisdictions and others are still all over the map on these kinds of issues. See Kent Greenwalt, Conflicts of Law and Morality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 286-311 and Kent Greenwalt, Speech, Crime, & The Uses of Language (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. 79-158.

Judgments made on such legal questions are riddled with unrecognized and often incoherent philosophical assumptions concerning belief, reasons, agency, intentionality and causation on the part of judges and officials unaware of the traditions of reflection dealing with each of these concepts and many others in philosophy, politics, linguistic theory and logic -- to say nothing of physics.

How do we account for this? What is it that judges are trying to accomplish? How is this judicial goal different from what thinkers in other disciplines want to achieve?

Deployment of logical techniques meant to demonstrate what is "really going on," politically, when courts rationalize decisions have an old pedigree. They can be traced to American "legal realism" and (more recently) to Critical Legal Scholars. See Mark G. Kelman, "Trashing," 36 Stan. L. Rev. 293 (1984) and Mark G. Kelman, "Interpretive Construction in the Substantive Criminal Law," 33 Stan. L. Rev. 591, 665-667 (1981).

For an exploration of the ideological underpinnings of what is laughingly called judicial reasoning and the adversary system, see William Simon, "The Ideology of Advocacy: Procedural Justice and Professional Ethics," 1978 Wis. L. Rev. 29, 130-144. Finally, radicals are directed to classic sources in revolutionary political thought: G. Lukacs, "Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat," in History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics (R. Livingstone trans. 1971), p. 83 and the classic CLS Manifesto: Roberto Mangabeira Unger, The Critical Legal Studies Movement (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986), p. 109 ("Another Politics").

"This bizarre catalog [sic.] of impossible attempts demonstrates that the distinction between 'legal' and 'factual' impossibility is often no more than a semantic after-the-fact justification for reaching a particular result: if the court wants to acquit the defendant, it categorizes the impossibility as legal; if the court wants to convict the defendant, it calls the impossibility 'factual.' ..." (Dershowitz, p. 104.)

The clue to our philosophical mystery may be found in such seemingly unrelated paragraphs. Courts are concerned with very specific policy issues and "practical" solutions in a political and legal setting. Judges are often not intellectuals. They are not scholars or philosophers concerned with the coherence of their thought processes in a systematic way. Although they usually hope to be rational. And sometimes they are rational. Not often, I admit, but sometimes they are rational.

The judicial task is much more of a moral and political, policy and (obviously) jurisprudential challenge than a theoretical or intellectual one. This is fortunate. However, many times good legal thinking also sheds light on philosophical/scientific discussions taking place at a much higher level of culture. This is almost always a pleasant surprise for judges, who will regard themselves as the incarnations of Immanuel Kant for weeks after being told such a thing.

Philosophers and other scholars are not aware of legal thinking. Judges do not know of philosophical writings that solve many of their theoretical difficulties. Scientists and mathematicians fail to appreciate the relevance of legal reasoning to many of their disputes or the suggestiveness of analyses found in legal materials. The same goes for economists, political scientists, literary critics, psychologists and others in today's overspecialized and divided academy. The trajectory of jurisprudential dialectics on "impossible attempts" issues, for example, is helpful in dealing with currently raging controversies over "belief" in agency theory within analytical philosophy and Continental thought. ("Jacques Derrida's Philosophy as Jazz.")

We need not -- not -- more analytical rigor, but a balancing of the capacity for synthezising intelligence and theory with explanatory power in speculating about legal-doctrinal evolution:

"It is no wonder that several states -- including New York -- had amended their attempt statutes to eliminate the distinction between factual and legal impossibility. Under the amended law, neither factual or legal impossibility constitutes a valid defense so long as the 'crime' that was attempted 'could have been committed had the attendant circumstances been as [the Defendant] believed them to be.' ..." (Dershowitz, p. 105, emphasis added.)

Under the MPC approach belief is not only legally determined to "cause" behavior, it is regarded as the most important determining factor in establishing liability.

There is much wisdom in this view and also problems concerning the legal reality of belief, as a reason for action, that merits further analysis.

Laws assume causal connections between belief and conduct, without exploring the question of how it is that something immaterial in a person's mind "connects" with empirical behavior. Where exactly is that mind/body nexus? Idealism? Phenomenological-hermeneutics?

If you believe that thoughts are material, then please pick up my "thought" concerning the weather tomorrow and put it in a jar, then bring it to me. No one disputes that the brain is material. Are thoughts material? Do thoughts have a material location? ("Where are thoughts located?" and "Are you trying to make a monkey out of me?")

Suppose I believe that by inserting needles in a vodoo doll, I will kill a person, say, Simon on "American Idol." I purchase needles, make a vodoo doll, plan and plot the right moment. Then I insert needles in my vodoo doll. At that instant, a cop bursts into the room and says: "I am arresting you for the attempted murder of Simon!"

No jury will convict me.

If the sole requirement is belief, then it appears that I may be guilty in my vodoo doll scenario. If the issue is rationality of belief, then who is to say which religious beliefs (or other beliefs) are rational and to what degree? No one can do so in a society that wishes to remain neutral as to competing religions or belief-systems. Putting needles in a vodoo doll will then be enough for a person to be found guilty of attempted murder:

"The basic premise of the Code provision is that what was in the actor's own mind should be the standard for determining his dangerousness to society and, hence, his liability for attempted criminal conduct. [Notice the spacial metaphor -- "in" mind.] With these considerations in mind, the court concluded that under the amended law 'if [the] defendant believed the victim to be alive at the time of the shooting, it is no defense to the charge of attempted murder that the victim may have been dead.' In other words, under New York law, it is attempted murder to shoot a corpse, if the shooter believes it is alive." (Dershowitz, p. 106.)

Why stop at a corpse? Why not hold a person who shoots or otherwise kills a robot (intentionally) liable for attempted murder, if he believes that the robot is a person? ("A Doll's Aria.")

Much the same analysis would apply to anyone who shoots a New Jersey politician where juries are likely to find the homicide "justifiable," assuming they can get past the question of whether such a politician is a "person." ("Is Senator Menendez a Suspect in Mafia-Political Murder in New Jersey?" and "Does Senator Menendez Have Mafia Friends?" then "Ape and Essence" and "Primates and Personhood.")

I am told that the law concerning this issue has not changed in New York. Behaviorists -- like Professor Hurley perhaps -- say we have no minds. Therefore, there can be nothing "in" them. There is merely behavior. I simply inserted needles in a doll. So what?

This is the so-called "scientific" approach to human conduct. Is it likely that such an approach will lead to the best or most complete understanding of a person in such a situation? I doubt it.

Does my insistence on minds and beliefs as essential to reasons guiding actions mean that I am "overintellectualizing"? I do not think so.

A hermeneutic or fusion approach is desperately called for in order to clarify this area of law. We should turn to Hollywood for some help. "What is a character doing?" is a question about BOTH beliefs and actions. What was Dr. Richard Kimball "doing" in "The Fugitive"? Why did Dr. Kimball engage in that course of action? To answer those questions you will need to engage in a hermeneutic effort that will involve drawing boundaries on the area of conduct and/or behavior to be examined: You will have to decide whether to focus only on what Kimball does, descriptively, or to interpret his "motivations" for engaging in that conduct. Ideally, good actors will tell you, that you must do both to understand the character completely.

What I am doing at any time is inseparable from why I am doing it; why I am doing X is part of what I am doing when I do X.

This need for an absurd objectivity in all aspects of life is one of the most bizarre aspects of American politics and legality for the rest of the world. Notice the confusions in this legal discussion concerning interpretations of actions and the occurrence of events in the empirical world. 

The American legal obsession with "facts" in these cases happens to be in tension with our need to understand the "meaning(s)" of events. We may have witnesses to establish the behavior of the Defendant. However, no one can see the Defendant's experience nor the meaning of behavior for him or her. Meanings transform human "events" into understandable "actions."

See the film "Starman" or a recent movie, "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang" and ask yourself: "How much of what these film characters do is determined by movies they've seen and books they've read? Beliefs?" Now what about 9/11? Why fly an airplane into a building? Beliefs have something to do with it, don't they? A person from another planet could easily mistake hostility for a form of greeting on earth. None of the earthlings' beliefs would be shared by that extraterrestial.

How often do judges examine their cultural assumptions in assessing Defendants' actions? Is the placing of needles in a vodoo doll a joke? Are all behaviors communicative of meanings? Are some of those meanings non-literal or subconscious?

Every human action is communicative to some extent -- often in unintended ways -- especially when it comes to women's actions.

I exit a movie theater and see a man run across the street while firing a gun at another man who falls after being hit by one of the shots. I am asked to testify about what I have seen. After my testimony, the shooter is called to the stand. I am shocked to learn that the shooter is Brad Pitt and that he was making a movie. The events that I witnessed are not disputed. However, they have become very different "actions." Who was the "actor" in the scene that I described? Suppose that I am in the final movie? What events took place? Whose "actions" constitute those events? Is "observing" a kind of "action"? What effect did my observations have on what transpired? How did my mere presence change the meanings of events? Am I an "actor" in this movie? Or am I merely a "prop"? Does witnessing social life inevitably constitute participating in social life? Is there an inescapable "observer-distortion" in any social, scientific, or therapeutic setting? Must the reception of a work of art (seeing a movie) make you a creator of that work of art (artist)? This is a quantum hermeneutics approach to these conundrums that may be described as a "hermeneutics of freedom." What a catchy phrase? ("Inception" is concerned with the invasion of dreams by "agents," which is exactly what filmmakers do -- invade our dreams.)

It is time to abandon the modernist dichotomy between subjective versus objective "approaches" in order to collapse the boundaries between those categories, thus adopting a more hermeneutic approach focusing on interpretation of events (external), shedding light on the full (internal/external) meaning of events and conduct in determining the scope of criminal liability.

Similar processes are being adopted in quantum physics to allow for and use "observer distortions" rather than pretending that they can be overcome. Persons live in different universes of meanings and time-orders, even if they share a single empirical reality. This seems to frighten brutal and ignorant men and women who wish to impose a single set of interpretations on others. Fictional objects in mathematical space(s) create binding and real logics of numerical description. Think of mathematical descriptions of so-called "hypercubes." The film "Inception" may be a "hypercube." ("'Intersteallr': A Movie Review.")

There are people in the world who are our contemporaries but whose basic outlook on life is essentially medieval, like the Taliban. A modernist approach to such persons is doomed to fail, whereas a discussion in terms of tribute and fiefdoms will be much more comprehensible to these enemies. ISIS?

If you know that you are being followed and cannot lose the person following you, then you can change the dynamic so that this person is also being followed and monitored along with you.

Guess what I have done at these blogs? What was Richard Kimball doing again? ("The Invicta Watch Company" and "The Invicta Watch Company Caper.")

Philosophers and scientists are pondering methods for choreographing realities on the basis of observational distortions. Intelligence "communities" will need to become highly adept in such techniques. Don't forget to tell your friends in law enforcement about these blogs. Are people being arrested in New Jersey? I expect a Christmas card from the IRS. Also from the FBI.

Anybody want to go the movies? Russell Crowe's "Robin Hood" looks absolutely mega-awesome.
A recent essay in a science magazine focuses on the explosive "communications" between our electronic devices that no one anticipated. (BBC Knowledge.) Self-morphing networks and systems. I wonder what my cell phone is saying to my t.v. set? Also, I wonder whether I can get my toaster to chat with the dildo of the woman who lives next door? Batteries? A cell phone placed next to a stove caused the burners to ignite. A t.v. set was turned on by a "blackberrie" (spelling?) device (whatever that is).

No one is sure of exactly why these things are happening. Experts on complexity theory are produced by multiple disciplines, including philosophy and law, because they are needed. No one anticipated this phenomenon or new academic specialty.

What we want in any legal system is explanations that make conduct meaningful or understandable. If judges are concerned with determining the meanings of actions, or of a person's life, then artists and philosophers will be as important -- or even more crucial -- than scientists in helping them to do exactly that. Judges may soon become Davidson's "radical interpreters." Therapists? No matter how they try to avoid it, judges will have to make interpretive judgments. It is better if those interpretations are explicit and openly presented as subject to revision. ("Roberto Unger's Revolutionary Legal Theory," "Charles Fried and William Shakespeare on Interpretation," and "Ronald Dworkin's Jurisprudence of Interpretation.")

Notice that there is nothing anti-scientific in this stance. We will always need science and scientists. However, we will also need philosophers and theologians, artists, jurists, social theorists -- even creative business people -- to understand and resolve social, political and legal conundrums, or even to understand people. This is one result of human multiplicity and complexity in the hall of mirrors in which we must live at this "postmodernist" moment. Ronald Dworkin, The Supreme Court Phalanx: The Court's New Right-Wing Bloc (New York: NYRB, 2008). (How can justices see identical issues in such radically different ways while disclaiming, often sincerely, all political motives?)

Judges must not defer their jurisprudential and legal decisions to experts. Experts, scientists, philosophers, accountants or any other experts are there to assist the judge in making his or her decision or interpretation, not to supplant the judge in making that decision. Debbie Poritz? Did you make a boo-boo, Debbie? ("Deborah T. Poritz and Conduct Unbecoming to the Judiciary in New Jersey.")

A person who "believes" a state of affairs is such that he or she is killing someone by sticking needles in a doll, is likely to attempt the same offense when the effort may be more successful. Hence, "guilty minds" should be punished provided that they issue in some determinate action -- usually preparatory to the commission of an offense.

However, the logical difficulty of establishing a connection between belief and action is not considered at all by courts doing that punishing within this archaic doctrinal structure. Even more insane is keeping persons incarcerated because they suffer from a mental illness -- soon leprosy will be a capital offense -- which "may" cause them to commit a crime in the future. ("Is America's Legal Ethics a Lie?")

The only possible basis for connections between beliefs and actions are interpretive judgments (made openly and subject to challenge or debate), not SECRET hypnosis and conditioning meant to "produce" desired -- or undesired -- behaviors for which the therapist can bill the state. Power corrupts therapists, just as it corrupts others, especially when power is wielded secretly and without accountability. ("An Open Letter to My Torturers in New Jersey, Terry Tuchin and Diana Lisa Riccioli.")

Be very careful about "judging" the fleeting contents of minds or "producing" behavior, especially when those entrusted with responsibility for doing so are idiots.

Judgments -- that's the right word -- similar to those that we make when evaluating the actions of, say, "Harry Lockart" in "Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang" are required from legal officials and judges deciding who is responsible for an action and why. Actors must make such judgments all the time. Therapists should be capable of such assessments. Responsibility is always an interpretation that is partly ethical or legal, as the case may be, but that is also (usually) aesthetic. Great actors show you the complexity of life by making such judgments difficult, not easy. ("'The Reader': A Movie Review" and see Samuel L. Jackson's performance in "The Red Violin.")

If you go to a good movie with four friends, it is likely that three of them will not get most of what the movie is about. You want those people who can't get the subtleties in "Harry Potter" deciding on the inner motives of complex human beings in factually puzzling scenarios? ("Does Senator Menendez have mafia friends?")

If judgments concerning responsibility must be made by mortal and flawed human beings, then let us ensure that they make them publicly, subject to revision and alteration when mistakes are made, because innocent lives may be destroyed by stupidity and arrogance. I have known many judges, lawyers, academics, and some actors. I would prefer to have actors assess the conduct of others for motives and intentions, usually, over most other people in society. ("Shakespeare's Black Prince" and "How to Execute the Innocent in New Jersey.")

This hermeneutic approach reaches back to German idealism, phenomenology and contemporary forms of postmodernist aesthetic theory, then applies these theories to a jurisprudential setting. Some New Jersey lawyers have the balls to ask me to write a scholarly article applying these ideas to a live controversy in substantive criminal law. This is probably intended to provide new opportunities to insert "errors" in what I write, allowing these ethical people to delight in seeing me make the same corrections numerous times. I will leave the applications of these ideas to others. Try Gadamer and Davidson for a start. I will not do your homework for you. ("What is it like to be plagiarized?")

It may surprise these humanistic scholars to discover that both of these philosophers (Davidson and Gadamer) have provided theoretical bases for reinventing the metaphysics of substantive criminal law doctrines: Paul Guyer, "The Ethical Value of the Aesthetic: Kant, Allison, and Santayana," in Values of Beauty: Historical Essays in Aesthetics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 190-222 and Timothy Bewes, "The Aesthetic Structure of Reification," in Reification: The Anxiety of Late Capitalism (New York & London: Verso, 2002), pp. 107-111.

Continental thought has moved beyond this subjective/objective rubric and is useful for American "jurisprudes." American judges, mostly, do not wish to be bothered with all of that fancy theory. We postmoderns -- including judges -- must live in a space between contradictions, celebrating the dual- or multiple-aspects of our natures. The quest for a discredited objectivity, rooted in scientism, pervading American classical realist jurisprudence and political thinking (dating from the thirties and earlier) must be abandoned:

"There was doubleness, [emphasis added] both in the experience of having to communicate with believers [in law,] without believing [in law ourselves,] and within oneself [as a role-player in the system.] Ecstasy came when, after rights talk, one found oneself passionately planning -- buzzed out by confrontation but still desirously connected -- something to do with others of like mind. Loss, nostalgia, yearning" -- most especially, yearning -- "depression, despair, all describe the way it feels to be zapless in a rightsless world."

Duncan Kennedy, A Critique of Adjudication (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997), p. 346.

Now compare Gillian Rose's, Dialectic of Nihilism: Post-Structuralism and Law (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984), pp. 5-6 and, of course, Jurgen Habermas on Knowledge and Human Interests:

"The histrionic design of Hegel's Phenomenology was developed in order to gain a purchase on the apparently unassailable authority of reason (Vernuft). Natural consciousness is observed in succeeding configurations which culminate for it as individual, rational consciousness in the encounter with law-giving and law-testing Reason."

How do we regain faith in law? How do we establish the so-called "objective" superiority of some interpretations over others without collapsing into a discredited scientism?

"Hegel's text invites us to witness the education of natural consciousness, presented as a series of confrontations set in more or less recognizable historical settings ... [I will show] the drama that Hegel develops as a new philosophical modus as the drama of the law itself. The phenomenological experience, where natural consciousness [modernist legal rationality] becomes the witness to be investigated by the observing consciousness [postmodernist legal rationality] placed in the position of the judge, [re-enacting] a trial which has already taken place in the pages of the Critique of Pure Reason." (emphasis added)

In other words, what is suggested is a two-step process by which legal rationality sets forth doctrinal evolutions and then engages in self-conscious critiques of that same setting-forth. Legal reasoning becomes a kind of dual aspect postulating and self-questioning, dialectic, that is always subject to review and reconsideration. The judge becomes a Hamlet-like thinker of what "is" who suggests both what may be and what "ought" to be. ("Roberto Unger's Revolutionary Legal Theory.")

Such a connection between belief and "real world effect" is assumed to exist under the MPC -- despite the possible logical impossibility of such a connection ever existing. The dangers associated with criminalizing the contents of minds is also ignored. Whose beliefs will next be considered "dangerous"? Yours? Professor Hurley's? George W. Bush's beliefs may be found dangerous by some intelligent observers.

Interpretations can be as objective as you like, even when they are concerned with subjective phenomena. The distinction between subjective/objective falls apart if you push it into these postmodernist cultural spaces. The analogy to quantum mechanics and what happens to thinking in terms of classical principles should be obvious.

Somehow I doubt that such influential persons will be targets of efforts to sanitize minds or will be subjected to censorship and torture, as I have been. People like me are more likely to be subjected to a process of conditioning because of our so-called "dangerous" thoughts, together with political powerlessness, which makes us perfect unwilling experimental animals and slaves.

It isn't my thoughts that are dangerous, but my arrogance in thinking for myself that is unforgivable. I plan to keep thinking. Yes, I have a pretty good idea of whose thoughts will be considered dangerous in America. See my essays on Mumia Abu-Jamal. (See also my forthcoming memoir in the form of a novel "Writings in a Torture Chamber.")

Notice, again, the importance of distinguishing epistemological from metaphysical issues. One view is that judges and courts are stupid in making this assumption that there must be some connection between beliefs and actions, or the likely results of actions. In some cases, this assumed stupidity may be correct. More likely, there is a kind of legal fiction involved in this determination by judges who may be aware of the theoretical problems. Judges are leaving such determinations to the future.

"The life of the law has not been logic," O.W. Holmes said, "it has been experience."

Given most of the judges I have known, this is fortunate. Meanwhile, courts are addressing a real problem for persons in society today who may shift "soon" from vodoo dolls to machine guns. Time factors and time-framing may be crucial, but are ignored. The danger is that such solutions in the future may be worse than the problems for which solutions are sought today. The Patriot Act? Iraq? Psychological torture? We live and die by "metaphors" that seem great at first, but become dangerous very quickly. "War on Terror." ("Metaphor is Mystery.")

Our metaphors (also, symbols) are often in need of re-interpretation. The more I read about the tortures and increasingly failed military strategies in Afghanistan (the struggle is spreading to Pakistan), as well as Iraq, the clearer it becomes that our strategies are based on an excessively literal interpretation of the "War on Terror" metaphor.

If we were to try to drop a nuclear weapon on the AIDS virus as part of a "War on AIDS," this would be insane. Our efforts to "get tough" on detainees, "invade" countries, blow up buildings -- all of these will be blunt instruments in waging the struggle against terrorism in the Islamic world, or elsewhere. The Taliban is less an identifiable enemy with a geographical location than a view of the world or ideology. This is a "war of ideas and values" (metaphor) as much or more than military weapons.

We cannot proclaim our abandonment of terror while torturing detainees and bombing civilians with robot bombs. America's ideas will win this battle if we adhere to them and are seen to abide by our core principles -- principles which have not been surpassed anywhere in the world.

"We must not," as President Obama warned, "abandon our principles because of expediency." At the moment, at least at these blogs, one American state government appears hypocritical, fraudulent, cynical and utterly corrupt. When do I get those torture files, Mr. Christie?

I will now turn to a hypothetical case, before returning to Professor Hurley's analysis with, I "believe," serious objections to her externalist conclusions.

III. Hurley's Discontent.

A. Sherlock Holmes to the Rescue.

"My favorite case came from the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Empty House. Holmes is being stalked by Colonel Sebastian Moran, 'the best heavy game shot' and 'the second most dangerous man in London' (the most dangerous is, of course, Professor Moriarty, for whom Moran works). In order to lure his pursuer from the bush, Holmes commissions an eminent sculptor to create a wax likeness of the great detective's head. The 'bait' is placed in the window of Holmes' Baker Street house and is periodically turned to create the impression of movement. In due course, Colonel Moran appears in an alley accross the street and takes aim at 'Sherlock Holmes' with his high powered rifle. He fires and the bullet strikes the sculpture 'plumb in the middle of the back of the head and smack through the brain.' Moran is immediately captured and admits that his intent to murder Holmes had been foiled by the detective's clever artifice." (Dershowitz, p. 86.)

Setting aside the issue of criminal guilt -- a matter easily resolved in New Jersey, one way or the other, through bribery or influence -- the philosophical issue is whether beliefs were "relevant" to the understanding of Moran's actions in this situation.

I venture to suggest that beliefs were highly relevant to events in this story, that is, to the "invisible ontology" of the events described which determine their meaning. Incidentally, Moran may have an absolute defense.

This conclusion concerning Moran's innocence or lack of legal guilt -- they are not the same thing -- is a matter of interpretation. This does not necessarily make one's interpretation merely subjective. There is valid and true interpretive or legal reasoning, in my opinion, but it is a kind of hermeneutic rationality and not scientific rationality. Science can help with the judge's interpretive task; science cannot make legal interpretations "for" judges. No computer can decide legal cases. ("Richard A. Posner on Voluntary Actions and Criminal Responsibility" and "Ronald Dworkin's Jurisprudence of Interpretation.")

An effective technique of survival in a torture chamber is to construct a wax-like effigy of the self then to sit back and observe efforts by torturers to destroy that simulacra of a person. Sometimes torturers may be stupid enough to help you construct the dummy that they will then mistake for the real person. (See Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.)

What is the meaning of a person's social performance? For whom is that performance intended? Are you the audience for the performance of another? Or have you been made into an extra in a drama that you do not understand? You must interpret. ("Is Western Philosophy Racist?" and "Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Author.")

I will argue, against Professor Hurley, that beliefs are always essential to our reasons for action. Beliefs are not exclusively determined by empirical perceptions, but beliefs may determine what and how we perceive anything in the first place. Notice our differences concerning torture in the "War on Terror." I will argue, furthermore, that beliefs providing reasons for actions exist and can exist only for persons.

Only persons act for reasons or have reasons (as opposed to instincts) for what we may legitimately call "actions" as distinguished from "behaviors."

Finally, I contend that knowledge of the beliefs of others is only gained through respectful dialogue and free interpretation of language. Such knowledge is always open-ended and not necessarily scientific or "closed" because it must be invitational. Inserting errors in another person's written work, or destroying art, is always a bad idea. Language includes conduct, gestures, silences. ("Equilibrium.")

I approach a woman in a beautiful low-cut dress, I smile and say: "Pardon me, but I seem to have dropped a quarter into your cleavage."

Without saying a word, she throws a drink at me and storms out of the room.

Alternatively, she smiles and reaches into her cleavage and says: "I am afraid that there is no quarter, only a gold coin in my dress. I won't tell you how it got there."

I suggest that these are very different outcomes revealing variable "interpretations" of the identical events described, further revealing how well the participants "knew" and liked each other when they met.

"Revealing" is the right word. What exactly happened between that man and woman? Who has the right to make this determination? Can you judge metaphors that you do not understand? How would you define cultural "play" between man and woman? Is determining the meaning of such private conduct the business of the state? ("Conversation On a Train.")

Maybe people's assumptions, beliefs about me, have made it difficult for them to understand my words or to "see" who I am. What does it mean to "see" someone? How is "seeing" related to beliefs? Do you assume that you have seen a woman because you have observed her in an unclothed state? What is the difference between nudity and nakedness? (See "America's Holocaust" and "Thoughts of a Domestic Revolutionary.")

What do you "see" when encountering a person of a different race? Does what you see depend on your beliefs? (Again: "Is Western Philosophy Racist?")

"I am inclined to agree with McDowell," Hurley writes, "that conceptual abilities come with language (though I would argue that both may come by degrees ...)."

The crucial consideration, not mentioned by Hurley, is whether there is a difference in degree making for a difference in kind. I suggest that Hurley take another look at McDowell. The capacity for self-awareness and abstraction, the invention of the future tense giving humans the capacity to frame both time and space around a perceiving subject results in an "ontological divide" between humans and all other animals.

To speak of non-human animals possessing "reasons" (the word is derived from "reasoning") for "action" or "intentionality" is a misuse of these terms. John McDowell, "Gadamer, Davidson, and the Ground of Understanding," in J. Malpas, U. Anrswald, J. Kertscher, eds., Gadamer's Century: Essays in Honor of Hans-Georg Gadamer (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002), pp. 173-195. ("This talk of different 'worlds' is only vivid imagery for the undisputed idea of striking differences between mutually accessible views of the one and only world.")

Please see Mark Oliver Everett's film: "Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives: My Father, Physicist Hugh Everett III."

"A creature that acts intentionally" -- for Hurley, this includes non-humans -- "acts for reasons. ... actions depend holistically on normatively constrained relationships between motor intentions and perceptions, between ends and means."


"A creature could be an intentional agent, for whom means and ends decompose and recombine in certain contexts, without being able to understand others as intentional agents, for whom means and ends similarly decompose and recombine. Tomasello suggests that chimps are such agents."

To speak of "norms" is to enter the realm of values, which requires an agent's capacity for other-regarding thought and empathy, abstract thinking and feeling. All of these are capacities lacking in non-human animals. Furthermore, to extend the concept of a reason to animals that do not engage in reasoning, which is also a linguistic faculty, is a distortion of the concept of a "reason." ("Robert Brandom's 'Reason in Philosophy'" and  "Stuart Hampshire and Iris Murdoch On Freedom of Mind.")

The means and ends dialectic incorporates a human time-sense found in language which also cannot be attributed to animals other than humans.

Professor Hurley has lost track of the meaning of the words that she is using, rendering incoherent Hurley's confident pronouncement that: "... holism and normativity characterize the personal or animal level, at which it is correct to regard an agent as acting for reasons that are its own, from its own point of view."

A geographical location is not enough to account for what humans regard as "a point of view." Nationality, gender, economic class and educational level are all contributors to our points view, providing reasons, making experience possible for persons.

This "located" quality is part of that "invisible ontology" in all of our lives. Experience also shapes perspective. And experience is not the same thing as "events happening in life" because experience involves attempts to understand the events in our lives through the prism of interpretations giving us reasons for action.

There is a difference in an event "happening" to you and your "understanding" of that event's meaning in your life as your freely-chosen action.

Meanings cannot be imposed on people. My interpretations are my concern and responsibility. I do not want and will not accept any so-called "expert's" interpretations of my life. I am not interested in the crackpot theories and allegations made against me by corrupt judges and so-called "therapists," like "Terry Tuchin" or (worse!) Diana Lisa Riccioli.

Meaningful interpretations of events in my life are ONLY for me to provide. I decide who matters, what is valuable, how I wish to live my life, what I believe and which persons I love. No one is permitted entry into my life without my consent. My Constitutional and human rights are not negotiable. Violations of those rights by state officials are criminal. Criminals have no "standing" to comment upon or judge my ethics. ("What is it like to be tortured?" and "New Jersey's 'Ethical' Legal System.")

You are more than welcome at the OAE to post any insulting comments that you wish about me on-line. New Jersey will remain the urinal and cancer ward that it has become, a fitting home for the likes of Stuart Rabner and Deborah T. Poritz. This may be a good time to insert additional "errors" in these writings. Computer crime and censorship will only make your humiliation in this debate more and not less obvious, Stewart. ("No More Cover-Ups and Lies, Chief Justice Rabner!")

All of this is impossible for non-humans who, obviously, cannot form intentions to govern future conduct with certainty or ever have reasons for actions based on a fully shared form of life, nothwithstanding Professor Hurley's assertions. Hurley says: "a reason for action is not a reason for belief about what should be done."

Yes, it is.

Every action which is taken for a reason implies beliefs about a state of the world at a particular time for the agent such that the action will at least effectuate the agent's intention, not to mention a thousand postulates concerning the nature and circumstances of the situation acted upon, or "how the world is."

Take another look at my quote from Professor Searle. Reasons and actions are inseparable from interpretations; interpretations are inseparable from reasons and actions. ("John Searle and David Chalmers On Consciousness" then "Mind and Machine" and "Consciousness and Computers.")

What are Hamlet's actions? What is the meaning of Hamlet's actions? Do Hamlet's actions have something to do with the actions of others? ("Shakespeare's Black Prince.")

In fact, think again about my "Antonio" cologne example. It is one thing to believe absolutely in the aphrodisiac qualities of this fragance when I purchase it (time 1); it is quite another when I find myself in the hospital recovering from injuries inflicted by women who were not charmed by the aroma (time 2).

The implications for the theory of personal identity should be clear -- selves and identities are always in transition, like electrons, dynamic and never static in postmodernist cultural spaces -- spaces which are inescapable for many of us in the world today, including citizens in countries swiftly developing global commercial and media power, like China.

It is a mistake to believe that the postmodernist "problem" is only a Western or American issue. Identity is up for grabs for all of us in an age of images.

Why are such destructive efforts aimed at my written work? Why are these and many other crimes committed against me not punished? How can anyone believe that a person experiencing such assaults and insults on a daily basis, including the defacement of written work that has meaning for me and (perhaps) for others, will accept "ethical" judgments of his actions made by perpetrators of these crimes and much worse, or "evaluations" from their corrupt friends in high places?

I will never legitimate the crimes committed against me or stop fighting to see that criminals torturing me, and injuring those I love, are punished for what they have done.

How can we expect cooperation in our "War on Terror" if we terrorize others in the world? Ethics? How can New Jersey's legal profession and Supreme Court expect anything but laughter from the world when they speak to others of "ethics"? ("Law and Ethics in the Soprano State" and, again, "New Jersey's 'Ethical' Legal System.")

"Perceptions and motor intentions combine," Ms. Hurley says, "to make certain actions reasonable and appropriate from the animal's point of view."

No action is reasonable from the point of view of a creature lacking the capacity to reason. Just ask the guys on the corner. They're experts on the subject of "creatures lacking the capacity to reason" -- and proud of it. Thus, a snail may move to consume a morsel of food, as a matter of instinct. The reasonableness of this snail's movement is a human conclusion based on observations of the snail projected on to the humble creature by persons. Such an attribution of a point of view (or reason) to a snail, for example, is a version of the pathetic fallacy. ("Serendipity, III.")

Thinking of herself as highly scientific, Professor Hurley has actually restored the so-called illusion of Romanticism -- attributing human capacities to nature. This is distinct from recent thinking or interpretations in science and theology concerning the discovery of an intelligence in nature and ourselves that is believed to be coextensive (or participatory) to some extent. It may be impossible to avoid instantiating the intelligence in or "of" nature, which is also in us. Try not breathing or aging. Most atheists who happen to be scientists should reconsider how they are using the word "God." Will it help if you call God, the "cosmos" or "universe"? How about the laws of "nature"? Please see: E.J. Lowe, "Time and Persistence," in The Possibility of Metaphysics: Substance, Identity, and Time (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 84-106 and Eva Schaper, "Taste, Sublimity, and Genius: The Aesthetics of Nature and Art," in Paul Guyer, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Immanuel Kant (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 367-393 (1st Print. 1992). ("Is it rational to believe in God?")

"... reasons for action aren't reasons for belief about action."

Yes, Susan, they are.

For one thing the agent must tacitly believe that the "action for a reason" will be efficacious in bringing about the desired result. Otherwise, why bother taking that specific action? No "reason"!

Reasoning and reasons are necessarily linked to language use and intentions. The relationship isn't a matter of degree. Either you can use abstract language for thinking or you can't. If you can, then you can formulate reasons for action; if you can't, then you are unable to formulate such reasons. Only persons, as far as we know at this point in history, possess this wondrous gift. This capacity is the difference in kind that makes persons unique. It is the power to construct as we perceive.

Professor Hurley has, as it were, gone off the rails. Why? The yearning to be scientific produces these unfortunate results in her thinking. We do not wish to say or believe that humans are special. "We're just animals." Well, we are indeed "special." The Holocaust merely confirms this fact in a particularly horrifying way. We are capable of evil -- evil is something also requiring the capacity for intentionality -- and we are capable of goodness. As Neo reminds us, "the problem is choice." How do we choose? On the basis of reasons, by reasoning from premises to conclusions.

Intentionality warps the moral space around persons, shaping and altering realities all the time. We fear this capacity for choice, freedom, so much that we will invent elaborate theoretical constructs -- such as this regrettable essay by Hurley -- to contend that we are like chimps or squirrels, only acting on "motor impulses."

Like the proverbial squirrel waiting to be fed a nut we sit at the feet of philosophers who tell us that we are naked apes, brutal, driven by appetite and nothing more. It is that "something more" that we are and must be which allows us to lose or regain paradise, every day, by opting for love and goodness as opposed to hatred or evil -- while never relenting in the fierce struggle for justice -- always hoping for a better world. ("Behaviorism is Evil.")

Inserting errors in this essay will not affect the logic and "reasoning" found in this argument. You will not frustrate or otherwise cause me to stop writing -- nor will I become violent -- or provide any excuse for further tortures. Noise and annoyances will not deter me from speaking truth to power. I will not be intimidated or prevented from speaking of the sewer that is New Jersey's legal system where your detestable lives are lived.

Today will be the day that I will see those I love, all of them. We will be together for a little while. We will hold on to each other, as the sun sets, facing the arrival of that long dark night into which we are all heading, kicking and screaming. Soon. Always. ("David Hume's Philosophical Romance.")



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