Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Half-Baked Thought About The Lottery Paradox, the Preface Paradox and the Philosophy of Science

The following assumptions all seem extremely plausible:

(1) If it is highly probable that P is true, then we are justified in believing P.
(2) If we are justified in believing P, and Q follows from P (i.e. there is no way for P to be true without Q being true as well), we are also justified in believing Q (at least if we believe it on the basis of this inference).
(3) We are never justified in believing things that we know to be false.

So, in a familiar puzzle, there's a lottery with a thousand tickets. One of them is the winner, and the other 999 are the losers. Thus, the probability of any individual ticket losing is 99.9%. By (1), we're justified in believing of each individual ticket that that ticket will lose. (There's no use saying that .99 isn't highly probably enough, since we can construct a Lottery case for any arbitrarily high number of tickets.) By (2), we're justified in believing that *all* of the tickets will lose, because if Ticket 1 loses, Ticket 2 loses, Ticket 3 loses, and all the way to Ticket 1000, it follows from all of that that none of them win.

...but now, of course, we've reasoned our way to a conclusion that conflicts with (3). We know perfectly well that one ticket *will* win. That bit of background information is how we assigned the probabilities of each ticket winning in the first place.

In more usual presentations, (3) might be "we are never justified in believing contradictions," but I'm deliberately *not* putting it that way, because I think the issue runs deeper than that. The Lottery Paradox looks to me like just as much of a problem for the dialetheist, who believes that some (but not all) contradictions are true, as it is for the rest of us. To make it clearer that the dialetheist isn't at any advantage here, we can re-phrase (3) to:

(3*) We are never justified in believing things that we know to be (just) false.

After all, no dialetheist believes that it is both true and false that lotteries have winning tickets. I suppose it's just barely possible that some radical dialetheist might say that we're both sometimes justified and never justified in believing things that we know to be (just) false, but if there are other available options, it certainly sounds like a violation of Priest's rule about not multiplying contradictions beyond necessity, and in any case, the radical dialetheist who picked this option would be conceding something important, since they'd be giving up on the extremely useful and intuitive principle that:

(3**) It is (just) true that we are never justified in believing things that we know to be (just) false.

Put bluntly, a hypothetical dialetheist who denies (3**), claiming that there are true contradictions about whether we're rationally entitled to believe things we know to be (just) false, starts to sounds like he's advocating the sort of dialetheism that Nester advocates in this comic, and we can start to suspect his dialetheism is similarly motivated.

So, in any case, the real issue seems to me to be the rationality of knowingly believing falsehoods, not just knowingly believing contradictions. Of course, given orthodox assumptions about the philosophy of logic, the latter is just a particularly severe case of the former, since contradictions are the only sorts of claims whose falsehood we can be sure of based on nothing more than their logical form.

Some theorists take the Lottery Paradox to be evidence against (2).

Similarly, some people take Moore's "hands argument" against skepticism to be a reductio proof against the universal reasonableness of (2). Moore proves that material objects exist by looking down on his hands and saying "yep, here's one material object and here's another one." One might think that Moore is justified in beleiving that his hands exist, but not that global skepticism is wrong or that the external world exists or any similar such thing. This line of thought has always seems extremely unconvincing to me. If his hands exist, so does the external world. If you don't think he'd be justified in believing the latter, then it seems like the rational thing to do would be to apply Modus Tollens and conclude that he's not really justified in believing the former either.

Regardless of how one feels about the Moore-type cases, however, in the particular case of the Lottery Paradox, rejecting (2) does nothing to get us around the conflict between (1) and (3). This is another reason (in fact, a much more important reason than demonstrating that the dialetheist is in the same boat as the rest of us here) for expressing (3) in terms of *things we know to be false* in general, not *contradictions* in particular. Rejecting (2) does get us out of the inference to the explicit contradiction (P&~P), where P is "one of the tickets will win," but it doesn't get us out of believing something we know to be false. We're still in a position of believing *of each ticket* that it will lose. Given that we know that one of the tickets will win, we know that one of our beliefs about individual tickets must be false, and we're still in flagrant violation of (3).

Of course, one could reject (3), but out of the three obviously available options, rejecting (3) seems like the most bitter pill to swallow. If we read J(P) as something like "given the available evidence, we're entitled to think P is true," then we seem to be putting ourselves in a considerably strange position if we say that J(P) could be true even if we already know perfectly well that P is false.

Given this, it looks to me like by far the most plausible option is to reject (1), and to take the Lottery Paradox to be a nice proof that, at least sometimes, something can be extremely probable, but it can still be the case that we aren't justified in believing it. (Moreover, I doubt that disambiguating different senses of probability will help here, because the 99.9% probability of each ticket losing sounds to me like an *epistemic* probability.) High probability may often, perhaps even usually or almost always, be sufficient for justified belief, but it isn't always suffient for it. (Granted, there's obviously a large and worrying open question here about how to decide which cases are which.)

Of course, the conclusion that the most reasonable reaction to the Lottery Paradox is to reject (1) isn't original to me. Simone Evnine, for instance, argues for the same point in his extremely interesting book "Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood," although he presents the argument there in a substantially different way than I do here.

...and, of course, he also talks about the Preface Paradox, a related puzzle about (1)-(3) that is likely to be brought up in the same breath as the Lottery by anyone (like, e.g., Penelope Maddy in her otherwise excellent book "Second Philosophy") who takes the Lottery Paradox to demonstrate that, although no contradictions are true, we're sometimes justified in having inconsistent beliefs. In some ways, for the point that I'm building to, the Preface Paradox is even more interesting than the Lottery Paradox.

Before we get to it, it's worth briefly thinking about the consequences of rejecting (1) in the lottery case. After all, one might think that we're losing something important by reacting to it that way. Don't we want to be able to assert, e.g. in talking a dim-witted friend out of wasting his money on a lottery ticket, that we're overwhelmingly rationally justified in thinking that their ticket will lose? After all, as a professor of mathematics who I'm very fond of used to tell me, the lottery is in its essence a tax on people who are bad at math. It *is* irrational of your friend to buy a lottery ticket, and that fact might seem to be a consequence of the fact that we're rationally entitled to believe that it will lose.

This worry is groundless. If we reject (1), the obvious thing to say about the claim that your friend's ticket will win is not that we should that we should reserve judgment about it, *but* that the probability is extremely low, and this last fact is sufficient to motivate the claim that it's irrational of your friend to throw his money away on a lottery ticket, and that he'd be better advised to spend it on something he has a better than .01% chance of getting something out of.

So, that preliminary out of the way, let's think about the Paradox of the Preface. The basic issue is the same as the Lottery Paradox, since it seems to be nicely thought of as a puzzle about (1)-(3). You write a book where you carefully research every claim, carefully considering the evidence, alternate interpretations, objections, etc. It is, however, a very long book in which you make a great many claims, and experience has taught you that with so many claims, no matter how careful and rigorous your research, it is extremely probably that you made at least one subtle, undetected mistake somewhere along the line and that as such at least one of your carefully documented, well-thought-out claims will later turn out to be false. Are you doing something irrational if you say in the preface that at least one of the claims in your book is false?

After all, by (1), you are justified in believing that at least one of the claims in your book is false, by (2) you are justified in beleiving that they are all true (since you are justified on the basis of the evidence in believing of each individual claim that it is true), but, once again, this leads to a contradiction that not even a dialetheist could love, and thus belief in it severely violated (3). Once again, rejecting (2) doesn't seem to help much, because even if you don't believe the conjunction of all of your claims, but just believe each of them individually, you still have a total set of beliefs that you know perfectly well can't *all* be true. Given the severe implausibility of rejecting (3), again, we seem to have another nice little proof of the falsity of (1). So far, so good.

But notice that we're in a slightly different epistemic situation than we were in with regard to the lottery case. With any individual lottery ticket, the rational thing is to *reserve judgment* about whether it will win, while advising against acting as if it were the winner, given the high probability that it won't be. With any individual carefully-researched claim in the book, despite the fact that it is highly probable that at least one of them will be false, the rational thing to do is to believe all of them, and (since denying (2) is counter-intuitive and accomplishes nothing) to believe the conjunction while we're at it, and to *disbelieve* the highly probable claim that one of the is false. Despite the high probability that one of them will be false, we shouldn't believe the negation of the conjunction of all of them.

Thinking hard about the Preface Paradox might shed light on a problem in the philosophy of science. Scientific realists believe that we should believe our best current scientific theories are true. (Of course, in practice may formulations of scientific realism are considerably weaker than this, but for our purposes here, it's useful to consider the strongest formulation and see how well we can defend *that.*) One of the best arguments *against* scientific realism comes from the Pessimistic Induction. In the past, many theories that seemed to be well-supported by the evidence have turned out to be false. Putting a little rhetorical flourish on this as Laudan does, we can say that the history of science is a "graveyard" of such theories. Reflecting on the history of scientific revolutions, and the high incidence of well-supported scientific theories turning out to be false in the past, how can we be sure that our best current theories won't meet the same fate? In fact, it seems highly probable that many of our best current theories will meet the same fate. As such, scientific anti-realist argue, we're not justified in believing them to be true.

Now, this is a quick and rough sketch that can't be expected to do justice to a complicated and subtle debate, but for my present purposes, it should be good enough. It's no doubt possible to advance the Pessimistic Induction without talking about probability at all, but familiar formulations of it tend to be expressed that way. Some of the best and the most sophisticated defenses of realism against the Pessimistic Induction are focused on denying the premise that there is a high probability that many of our best current theories will turn out to be false, like Peter Lewis' argument that the Pessimistic Induction commits the base rate fallacy. Other standard realist defenses turn on attempts to deny or blunt the edge of the historical narrative on which that probabilistic assessment is based. "Oh, it's not that our best theories in the past were shown to be *false,* it's that they were shown to be somewhat false, and throughout the history of science our theories have approximated the truth more and more closely, so we can be confident that by now we're approximating the truth *really* closely...."

At the moment, I don't want to comment on any of that one way or the other. I do think, however, that reflection of what the Lottery Paradox (and, even more so, the Preface Paradox) show us about the relationship between probability and justification points the way to a very different defense of realism against the Pessimistic Induction. This solution in no way contradicts any of the other defenses just mentioned...someone could reasonably think that the more optimistic reading of the history of science is the right one, or that the probabilistic inference commits the base rate fallacy, or both, but that *even if* they were shown to be wrong about them, the following defense is still sufficient to save scientific realism:

We can just grant that the anti-realist is completely right that, given the history of science and its "graveyard" of theories once well-supported on the basis of evidence and later shown to be false, there is a high probability, perhaps even an *extremely* high probability that many of our best current theories will turn out to be false.

But it doesn't matter.

The Lottery Paradox shows that sometimes P can have a high probability of being true, and we can still fail to be justified in believing it. The Preface Paradox shows that sometimes P can have a high probability of being false, and we can still be justified in actually believing it to be true.

In the case of our best current science, (2) fails, for precisely the same reason that it fails in the case of the Preface Paradox. We have excellent evidence that our best current theories are true, and on the basis of that, we are rationally justified in believing them, *even though* there is a high probability that many of them will end up in Laudan's "graveyard."

So...any thoughts? Have I lost my mind?

Am I just showing my ignorance of current work in the philosophy of science here? Maybe this is a thought that's been advanced many times before in the literature and decisively shown to be ridiculous. Or maybe no one has advanced it for the simple reason that any half-way intelligent person whose mind it momentarily crosses can immediately see deep flaws in the reasoning that I can't.

Let me know.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Some Final Points About Feser & A Preview of Coming Attractions

[If you have no idea what I'm talking about, see here, and don't worry. By Wednesday, we'll be back to talking about phil of logic.]

So I was going to let it go and use the previous post exploring the connotations of "logician" to transition back to the more usual subjects discussed here, but given some of what's been said in this debate since my original post, I did want to briefly follow up and make a few summary points before changing the subject for good.

(1) This whole thing started when Ed Feser wrote an angry, unhinged blog post explaining why a recently murdered doctor was an evil, worse-than-Dahmer mass murderer who had forfeited his right to live. He also claimed to nonetheless fully oppose “vigilantism.”

(2) None of his critics--not me, not Ryan, not Leiter, not Shipley--have at any point in all of this denied the existence of that supremely unconvincing disclaimer or “lied” about it. The point of my first post on all of this was that it seemed hard to square that claim with the obvious upshot of everything else that he had to say.

In normal contexts, when someone hears about a murder and they respond with “well, y’know, he did deserve to die,” everyone takes that as a bit of positive commentary on the murder. Feser demands that people refrain from taking his words this way, because his “of course I don’t approve of vigilantism” disclaimer magically cancels out the rest of what he said, no matter how hard it is to fit the two together in a coherent framework. Thus, when some of us have noted the presence of the disclaimer but declined to take it very seriously given his overall views, he’s accused us of spewing “lies” and “libel.”

(3) Even if you take Feser’s disclaimer to be (a) sincere, and (b) somehow compatible within a remotely plausible framework with his claims that Tiller was worse than Dahmer, had forfeited his right to live, etc., then it would still be the case that Feser was an enthusiastic apologist for doctor-killing.

On that reading, he didn’t object to the fact that Tiller was killed. He only objected to the fact that the wrong people killed him. Feser (on this reading) would prefer to wait for abortion to be banned and the death penalty applied to abortion doctors. At that point, he would be all in favor of Dr. Tiller being lethally injected or strapped to a chair and electrocuted for the crime of helping women end unwanted pregnancies in safe conditions instead of using coat hangers. Moreover, even a cursory glance at Feser’s original post, which was replete with claims that Tiller was a servant of the demon Moloch, that he was worse than Dahmer in five distinct respects, and so on, should confirm that Feser was extremely enthusiastic in pushing for his position that Tiller had "forfeited his right to live."

Thus, even on this reading--that is, to concede for the sake of argument that Feser’s defenders are entirely right and the rest of us are entirely wrong on how to read his original post--it is a banally obvious statement of fact that Feser is a “doctor-killing enthusiast.” Given that, it says something about the standards of reasoning in force over at W4 that, in this comment thread, Feser calls me a “nasty, unrepentant, shameless bald-faced liar” because I called him a “doctor-killing enthusiast.” Regardless of who is right and who is wrong in the argument we’ve been having, on any possible reading of Feser’s original post, he is indeed a doctor-killing enthusiast.

(4) That said, the reading on which Feser “just” wished that Dr. Tiller’s killing had been carried out by different hands is far from the most natural or reasonable reading of his actual words. The central reason not to take his “of course none of this means I actually approve of the actions of people who take all this ‘abortion doctors are serial killers’ rhetoric at face, no, I wash my hands of that” rhetoric very seriously comes in the form of some forceful arguments by analogy advanced at various points in the debate by Shipley and by Ryan. Here’s Shipley:

"Suppose a racist government refuses to protect a minority from persecution. Don't members of the minority have a right to protect themselves? Or, suppose a government refuses to outlaw rape. Would it not be justifiable to protect women by means outside the law? Do you really believe that there are absolutely no circumstances in which vigilante action is justified?"

After Leiter quoted this item, Feser made a long-winded, detailed-looking reply to Shipley, in which he responded to individual sentences of Shipley’s with lengthy blocks of text, but he conspicuously failed to touch this paragraph. He changed the subject to say that vigilantism might be justified in societies as bad as Nazi Germany, but the U.S. wasn’t as bad as all that. He utterly failed to acknowledge or respond to Shipley’s hypotheticals. I took Feser to task for this omission in my original post on all this, then Feser responded at length to me....but once again conspicuously failed to respond to the content of the paragraph just (once again) quoted. To make the point even sharper, Ryan has been asking anyone who will listen, in the comment thread on his own comic and in some of the comment threads over at W4:

"Suppose that Jeffrey Dahmer wasn’t ever captured. Suppose he were free and still torturing, slaughtering and eating people. And suppose the government refused to do anything to try and stop him. Would you decry the actions of the vigilante who brought him down?”

To date, neither Feser nor any of his defenders has actually answered this question head on, and answered it in the affirmative, saying that, yes, yes indeed, under those circumstances, they really would disapprove of vigilante action to stop Dahmer. To me, this failure strongly suggests that we shouldn’t take Feser’s claim that by saying that Tiller was worse than Dahmer, he wasn’t acting as an apologist for Tiller’s murder very seriously.

That's the point.

Now, enough of that.

On Wednesday, the subject changes to the Lottery Paradox, and what we can learn from it about either the rationality of holding inconsistent beliefs or the relationship between probability and justification.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

On Referring To Oneself As A "Logician"

[Update, 6/14: Doctor-killing enthusiast Ed Feser apparently reads this post as a "defense" against some accusation he made, rather than as an exploration of what struck me as a vaguely interesting semantic side-issue that came up in the course of the discussion. You can read his comments here.]

As far as I know, "logician" is a value-neutral term for someone who does academic work on logic. Similarly, "epistemologist" just means someone who works on epistemology. Calling oneself an epistemologist isn't *bragging* about one's epistemic abilities, and calling someone else an epistemologist doesn't mean that you think they know a lot of stuff, or that they're particularly good at knowledge-acquisition, or anything else of the kind. It's just a way of saying that their area of focus is epistemology. Similarly for "logician" and argumentative abilities. Or so I always thought. Apparently, elsewhere in the blogosphere, some people read these terms differently. A word or two of background for this...

In my last post, I made fun of Ed Feser for (a) ranting and raving about how Dr. Tiller was a "monster," a serial killer, worse than Dahmer, a servant of the demon Moloch and someone who had forfeited his right to live, and then (b) whining that critics who referred to him as an apologist for Dr. Tiller's murder were failing to read what he wrote in a "sufficiently charitable" manner. I wrote up a quick summary of the back-and-forth between Feser and his critics, and ended with a tongue-in-cheek attempt at a charitable interpretation that would be consistent with the actual content of Feser's argument. Since the discussion I was commenting had been taking place on philosophy professors' blogs, and the punchline had to do with formal philosophy, I posted it here instead of on my livejournal, despite the substance having very little do to do with what I normally talk about here.

In any case, I was fairly sure that about ten people would read the post and that would be that, but I felt viscerally disgusted after reading Feser's rant and his subsequent rationalizations of it, and I figured that mocking it here would at least be personally cathartic. Then Brian Leiter linked to my post and said some nice things about it, and Feser himself devoted not one but two posts to responding to me.

I won't re-cap the play-by-play of that discussion here, but one point emerged that from it that seems worth exploring in its own post, and has the additional virtue of transitioning back from the political stuff to the philosophical topics I normally talk about here.

Feser and his defenders thought that I was misinterpreting him, and that my dissection of his post was unfair or poorly argued. Fair enough, from their perspective. After all, the options are either that (a) I was being unfair or obtuse in some way, or (b) Feser's comments on Dr. Tiller's murder were utterly rationally and morally indefensible. What seemed strange to me, though, was that both Feser in one of his posts, and some of his defenders in various comment threads, expressed their contention that (a) was the case by sneering at the fact that, in my blogspot profile description I use the word "logician."

For example, in his second post, Feser describes me as a "willfully obtuse Liar Distorts reader (and a self-described “logician,” at that)."* If you read the comments threads on the various posts back and forth on all this, you'll find a couple of Feser's defenders making similar comments.

I have to say, it all seems strange to me. My dissertation is about logic. That's my primary AOS, the philosophical subject I spend the most time thinking about. Hence the word "logician" as, I thought, a neutral identifier, in my blogspot user profile. If I primarily worked on metaphysics or epistemology or ethics rather than logic, I'd have said "metaphysician" or "epistemologist" of "ethicist" instead.

Since I do spend most of my time reading, thinking and writing about the philosophy of logic, I'm frequently in the position of finding various things that various logicians have to say about various subjects unconvincingly argued, misguided, mistaken, or flat-out irrational. I mean, look, to pick an easy example, I side with classical orthodoxy in thinking that it is never rationally permissible to knowingly believe a contradiction, so there's certainly a level of analysis on which I think that dialetheists like Graham Priest or J.C. Beall, or even non-dialetheists like Penelope Maddy, who claims in her book "Second Philosophy" that, although there are no true contradictions, the Lottery and Preface Paradoxes show that it is rational to sometimes have inconsistent beliefs, or Gil Harman, with whom I've argued on this blog before, and who believes that good reasoning need not involve rejecting every contradiction you discover among your beliefs, are all, on a certain level of analysis, being irrational. None of that means that any of those people (at least the ones in that list for whom logic is one of their primary areas of focus) shouldn't be referred to as "logicians."

Of course, all of the people that I just mentioned are quite bright, and have interesting reasons for disagreeing with me about whether their beliefs are rational, but I'd generalize the point to say that even if I met an academic whose area of research was philosophical logic, but who I thought was a blithering idiot whose arguments on every subject were all absurdly fallacious, I'd still use the L-word as a value-neutral descriptive term when I was talking about them. For example, over a glass of Scotch with close friends in the privacy of my own apartment**, I might have the following conversation:

"Oh, you remember that ridiculous thing such-and-such said?"
"Wait, who's such-and-such?"
"Oh, you remember him. That idiotic logician who we met back in..."

...and I think that this isn't just a personal quirk of mine. I'm reasonably confident that this is the standard way of using the word. If someone writes their doctoral dissertation on meta-ethics, writes a bunch of articles about ethical theory and ends up running an applied ethics research center, and you know for a fact that this person regularly cheats at cards, borrows money under false pretenses, kicks cats when he walks through alleys, and is routinely cold and cruel to his wife and children, you'd still refer to them as an "ethicist" if you wanted to describe their academic work in a way that was a bit more informative than "philosopher." You don't have to be a more-ethical-than-average-person to be an ethicist, or a more knowledgeable-than-average person to be an epistemologist. Ethicists sometimes do unethical things. Epistemologists are sometimes ignorant even of recent work in epistemology with which they haven't bothered to keep up as they've grown older. And logicians sometimes make bad arguments.

So...I think...that the only circustances under which it makes sense to sneeringly refer to the fact that such-and-such "calls himself a 'logician'" is if you don't think that they really do academic work on logic.

Or maybe not.

Does anyone else out there have a different take on this? Is using the L-word to describe a grad student, a professor, an independent researcher or anyone else an honorific about their argumentative abilities, or just a short-hand for "academic type who does a lot of work on logic"? What do you think?

*For those not in the know, Liar Distorts is Feser's terribly witty and clever way of referring to Brian Leiter's blog, the Leiter Reports.
**As a general rule, I prefer not to talk disrespectfully about people in the profession in public, although I am willing to make an exception for people who, for example, rant about how recently murdered doctors had it coming because they were serial killers and servants of Moloch.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Dr. Tiller, Forfeiting One's Right To Live, and Inconsistent Moral Obligations

[Update, 6/10: As usual, Ryan captures the absurdities nicely in his comic.]

A progression of events:

(1) A doctor is murdered by religious fanatics who believe that Every Sperm Is Sacred and women should be forced to bring every pregnancy to term regardless of their wishes.

(2) Ed Feser, professor at Pasadena City College and enthusiast for doctor-killing, writes a blog post calling the victim a "serial killer" and comparing him to Jeffrey Dahmer. He says that "by committing his crimes, Dahmer had forfeited his right to life..."

Just in case anyone missed the point, Feser continues by arguing that Dr. Tiller was actually worse than Dahmer in every relevant respect. Hintedy-hint-hint.

(3) Brian Leiter points out this post, observing that Feser is an apologist for murder, which strikes me as being an unremarkable statement of obvious fact.

(4) Feser goes nuts about this, accusing Leiter of being a "liar" by so characterizing his remarks (along with providing a link so curious readers could judge for themselves), and pointing out in his defense a couple of sentences in the original post in which he had covered himself by saying that it's wrong to take the law into your own hands, etc., sentences that I have to say jarringly failed to fit with his overall argument. And I really do mean he goes nuts. Feser compares Leiter's claim that by (a) saying that Dahmer had forfeited his right to live, and (b) saying that Tiller was worse than Dahmer, Feser was acting as an apologist for Tiller's murder, to claiming that black is white and up is down.

(5) Jeremy Shipley enters the fray to make some obvious points about why few readers were likely to take seriously the claim that, if Dr. Tiller was really a "serial killer" who had forfeited his right to life, and the law totally refused to punish or stop him in any way, 'vigilantism' would continue to be wrong:

"Suppose a racist government refuses to protect a minority from persecution. Don't members of the minority have a right to protect themselves? Or, suppose a government refuses to outlaw rape. Would it not be justifiable to protect women by means outside the law? Do you really believe that there are absolutely no circumstances in which vigilante action is justified?"

...from which Shipley makes the obvious point that Feser's pro forma "condemnation" of the murder the rest of his post apologized for was not meant to be taken seriously. Duh.

(6) Feser posts a pseudo-detailed reply to Shipley...he presents it as if it was a point-by-point reply, responding with huge blocks of text to individual sentences of Shipley's, but he conveniently omits the entire paragraph quoted above. (If he'd included it, the reply that he'd made would have ceased to make any sense at all.)

(7) Feser concludes by complaining that Shipley did wrong by failing to "read what I wrote charitably..."

So....fair enough. I will now attempt a more charitable interpretation:

Feser really did mean those couple of lines "condemning" the murder, despite the fact that the obvious implication of everything else he said was that the murder was justified. Also in the spirit of charitable interpretation, I won't interpret Feser as just typing random words and not realizing what those words meant when he penned a crystal-clear argument for the conclusion that Dr. Tiller deserved to die.

Charitably, I'll assume Feser's few token lines condemning the murder should be taken as seriously as his argument that Tiller had it coming. It must simply be that Feser subscribes to a paraconsistent deontic logic in which P(A) and ~P(A) sometimes non-trivially overlap. Dr. Tiller's murder was both permissible and impermissible.

That must be it.