Earlier this week I was talking to my friend Christoph on my Facebook group. We agreed that there was a need for more dogs in human philosophy.
I don't believe in grumbling without doing something about it, so this week I went to the Leeds Centre for Philosophy of Religion seminar. Both of my humans came along too. In fact one of them gave a talk about the human philosopher and theologian Herbert McCabe. Apparently it was based on this paper. (I've encountered a copy of this paper before. It tasted nice).
I was in the slides:
This was the best bit of the talk.
The reason I was in the slides is that McCabe explains his approach to the question whether God exists by talking about a dog called Fido. Many philosophers think that the question whether God exists is a bit like asking whether squirrels exist. You weigh up bits of evidence in favour (you can smell squirrels in the woods) and against (if there were squirrels, I would have caught them), and you make up your mind one way or another.
McCabe thinks that asking whether God exists is different to this. He thinks the question is best understood as being about whether it is sensible to ask why there is something rather than nothing at all. The word 'God' picks out whatever answers this question (assuming it is a good question to ask) and, according to McCabe, we cannot know what that is. The nature of God is hidden from us in this life. I like hiding too.
Whatever you make of this, I expect you'll like the way he introduces the idea:
Supposing you ask 'How come Fido?' You may be asking whether his father is Rover or whether it was that promiscuous mongrel down the lane. In such a case the answer is satisfactorily given by naming Fido's parents. At this level no more need be said; the question is fully answered at this level....
And we can go on from the level of biochemistry, to that of physics and all the time we are asking more penetrating questions concerning Fido and each time we go further in our questioning we are seeing Fido in a wider and wider context...
Now our ultimate radical question is not how come Fido exists as this dog instead of that, or how come Fido exists as a dog rather than a giraffe, or exists as living instead of inanimate, but how come Fido exists instead of nothing" (God Matters, pp. 3-5)
I think I'd like to meet this Fido. But I'd prefer to meet some squirrels even more.
Here's a picture of me with my humans. They were being silly, so I was trying to look dignified:
Suppose you asked me how many things there are in this photo. I would woof at you and give you one of my stares, because that would be a silly question. How many whats? There are two humans, three mammals, one pair of glasses, two hats, one dog, and thousands of gorgeous black and white hairs. Sadly there are no sticks (the number of sticks is zero). A thing is something you can count, and every thing is some sort of thing (dog, human etc.).
If I told you all the things there were in the universe would I have told you about everything that exists? Are things all there is? The human philosopher Quine seems to have thought so. And I agreed with him until the other day.
One of my humans was letting me outside for my morning wee, when a strange sight greeted my eyes:
The human told me that this white stuff was snow. I barked at it and then I ate some. Snow is not a thing. I cannot count snow (I can count snowflakes whilst they're falling, but that's different). If you say "there's some snow outside", and I barked "how many?" it wouldn't make sense. But if you told me that there were some squirrels outside, I could bark "how many?" (although I wouldn't do that, I'd run out and try to catch the squirrels). Squirrels are things, snow is a stuff. Stuffs are blobby and can't be counted - like snow, water, and oil. My favourite stuff is Horlicks, which I like as my bedtime drink.
Mental walkies with Lola,