Jean-Pierre Dupuy
Stanford University

Jean-Pierre Dupuy
Stanford University

"The Problem of Evil
in Literature, Film, and Philosophy"

Stanford University, Building 260, Room 002
Class #7: Monday, May 18, 2009, 3:15-6:50 pm

Edited by Peter Y. Chou

The Problem of Evil in Literature, Film, and Philosophy (FRENGEN 265)— Class #7:
Reading assignments for today's seminar were Samuel Scheffler, "Individual Responsibility in a Global Age" in Social Philosophy and Policy, 12, 1, Winter 1995, pp. 219-236; Hans Jonas, The Imperative of Responsibility (Chapter 2: On Principles and Method). Two Rachels from the class reported on these papers by Scheffler and Jonas. Jean-Pierre Dupuy's also posted his 15-pages paper, "Mourning the Future" (2005) in Stanford's Coursework. I took 28 pages of notes during the class. Professor Dupuy was kind to download his PowerPoint presentation "Mourning the Future" with 90 slides from his laptop to my USB drive after class (5-18-2009), so I'm sharing the 67 images he showed in class converted to HTML with my added commentaries and web links.

Slides from Professor Dupuy's PowerPoint Presentation:

Mourning the Future
Enlightened Doomsaying

Jean-Pierre Dupuy
The Problem of Evil
Stanford, Spring 2009

(#3 & #4)
It's now five minutes
to the Apocalypse

Tick Tock: Scientists Say
World Is Closer to Armageddon

"At the Doomsday Clock,
it is now five minutes to midnight."

January 2007

Stephen Hawking
Lucasian Professor
Cambridge University

Martin Rees
Astronomer Royal
Cambridge University

Commentary: Here are my notes to a lecture "Multiverse or Universe" at Stanford (March 26, 2003) where Martin J. Rees along with Paul Davies and Andrei Linde discussed the concept of a multiplicity of possible actual universes. Asked to bet on his dog, child, or life whether the multiverse is real, Rees replied that he'd wager his dog, Davies also concurred on betting his dog. But Linde said, "I've worked on this all my life, so I'd bet my life!" The audience applauded in laughter.

First Atomic Test in New Mexico: July 16, 1945
"I am death,
the destroyer of worlds"

— Robert Oppenheimer
     citing the Bhagavad Gita
     Trinity, Alamogordo, New Mexico,
     July 16, 1945

Commentary: Oppenheimer who headed the Manhattan Project and witnessed the Atomic Bomb test at Alamogordo, cited the passage "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds" from Bhagavad Gita, X.34. See Billy Talent's "River Below" Music Video:

The Doomsday Clock is a symbolic clock face, maintained since 1947 by the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago, that uses the analogy of the human species being at a time that is "minutes to midnight", wherein midnight represents "catastrophic destruction". Originally, the analogy represented the threat of global nuclear war, but since includes climate-changing technologies and "new developments in the life sciences and nanotechnology that could inflict irrevocable harm". The chart shows 1953 with "two minutes left" to Doomsday because the United States and the Soviet Union test thermonuclear devices within nine months of one another. The clock has not always been set and reset as quickly as events occur; the closest nuclear war threat, the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, reached crisis, climax, and resolution before it could be set to reflect that possible doomsday.


What is remarkable is that for the first time in the history of the clock,
other motives were put forward to account for the fact that the clock
is now closer to midnight than it was in 1947.

The scientists also considered unchecked climate change in their decision
to advance the clock. Through climate change "humans are collectively
endangering our planet."

They also mentioned galloping advances in technology, including
bio- and nanotechnology. Those are presenting new threats
"more diverse and less tractable' than nuclear weapons,
Sir Martin Rees said.

Our Final Hour. A Scientist's Warning:
How Terror, Error, and Environmental Disaster
Threaten Humankind's Future in this Century—
on Earth and Beyond

by Sir Martin Rees, England's Astronomer Royal, 2003

"Our increasingly interconnected world is vulnerable to new risks,
'bio' or 'cyber', terror or error. The dangers from twenty-first century
technology could be graver and more intractable than the threat of
nuclear devastation that we faced for decades. And human-induced
pressures on the global environment may engender higher risks than
the age-old hazards of earthquakes, eruptions and asteroid impacts."

Why the future doesn't need us

Our most powerful 21st-century
technologies— robotics,
genetic engineering, and nanotech—
are threatening to make humans
an endangered species.

— Bill Joy, Wired, April 2000

Commentary: Bill Joy is a computer scientist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems in 1982. He served as chief scientist at the company until 2003. In his Wired essay (Volume 8, No. 4) "Why the future doesn't need us", he expresses deep concerns over the development of modern technologies.

Thus, the scientists acknowledge
that there are two ways, intimately related,
for humankind to annihilat itself:

• The direct way, through unlimited
    violence, weapons of mass
    destruction, internecine war;

• The indirect way, through
    the destruction of the conditions
    that are necessary for the survival
    of the species.


No Politics Without Ethics;
No Ethics Without Metaphysics.

• If a way out is to be found, it is obviously at the political level.
  However, we will remain bogged down in the same old political ruts
  if we do not radically alter our ethics first.

• Jonas's credo, which I share, is that there is no ethics without metaphysics.
  Only a radical change in metaphysics can allow us to ground a new ethics—
  the Ethics of the Future.

• The major stumbling block of our current, implicit metaphysics of temporality turns out
  to be our conception of the future as unreal. From our belief in free will— we might
  act otherwise— we derive the conclusion that the future is not real.

• If the future is not real, it is not something that we can have cognizance of. If the future
  is not real, it is not something that projects its shadow onto the present.

• Even when we know that a catastrophe is about to happen, we do not believe it:
  we do not believe what we know. If the future is not real, there is nothing in it that
  we should fear, or hope for.

Metaphysics, Time, and Rationality
Variations on the Future Perfect

1. Futurology and Virtual History

A Critique of the Scenario Approach
the destroyer of worlds"

• Gaston Berger and the
  concept of Prospective.

• Bertrand de Jouvenel and
  the concept of Futuribles.

"There can be no science
of the future. The future
is not the realm of the
'true or false' but the
realm of 'possibles'."

• This approach deprives
  the future of all reality.

Gaston Berger (1896-1960) was a French futurist but also an industrialist, a philosopher and a state manager. He is mainly known for his remarkably lucid analysis of Edmund Husserl's Phenomenology and for his studies on the character structure. The term prospective, invented by Gaston Berger, is the study of the possible futures. In 1957 he founded the journal Prospective. He was the father of the French choreographer Maurice Béjart (1927-2007).
Bertrand de Jouvenel (1903-1987) was a French philosopher, political economist, and futurist. Later in life, de Jouvenel established the Futuribles International in Paris. Jouvenel was among the very few French intellectuals to pay respectful attention to the economic theory and welfare economics that emerged during the first half of the 20th century. This understanding of economics is shown by his The Ethics of Redistribution.

Confusing ontological indeterminacy
with epistemic uncertainty

"All who claim to foretell or forecast the future are inevitably liars, for the future is not written anywhere— it is still to be built. This is fortunate, for without this uncertainty, human activity would lose its degree of freedom and its meaning— the hope of a desired future. If the future were totally foreseeable and certain, the present would become unlivable. Certainty is death. Because the future has to be built, it also cannot be conceived as a simple continuation of the past."

        — Michel Godet, "Creating the future: the use and misuse
             of scenarios", Long Range Planning, 29, 2, 1996.


The Case of Global Warming

Isn't the past also ontologically indeterminate?
"There is no privileged past (...) There is an infinitude of Pasts, all equally valid (...) At each and every instant of Time, however brief you suppose it, the line of events forks like the stem of a tree putting forth twin branches."

                — French historian André Maurois (1885-1967),
                     quoted by Niall Ferguson in his Virtual History

"The historian must (...) constantly put himself at a point in the past at which the known factors will seem to permit different outcomes. If he speaks of Salamis, then it must be as if the Persians might still win; if he speaks of the coup d'Etat of Brumaire, then it must remain to be seen if Bonaparte will be ignominiously repulsed."

                — Dutch historian Johan Huizinga (1872-1945)

"Cleopatra's nose, had it been shorter, the whole
face of the world would have been changed."
— Pascal, Pensées (1660)

One would like to say things such as: "Had Cleopatra's nose been shorter, Mark Antony wouldn't have fallen in love with her, and the history of the Roman Empire would have been radically different from what it turned out to be." —> Virtual or Counterfactual History.

Is Counterfactual History a mere "parlour game"
or "red herring"?

"It is possible that had St Paul been captured and killed when his friends lowered him from the walls of Damascus, the Christian religion might never have become the centre of our civilisation. And on that account, the spread of Christianity might be attributed to St Paul's escape ... But when events are treated in this manner, they cease at once to be historical events. The result is not merely bad or doubtful history, but the complete rejection of history (...) The distinction (...) between essential and incidental events does not belong to historical thought at all."

— Michael Oakeshott, Experience and its Modes, Cambridge University Press, 1933.

The parties to the debate about the meaning
of virtual history appear to suffer from
symmetrical blind spots.

• The "What if?" historians argue as if the
  possibilities that did not become actual kept
  existing forever, in a kind of eternal limbo.

• The mainstream historians who refuse to ascribe
  any meaning to counterfactuals reason as if agents
  endowed with free will didn't make any difference
  in the way events occur.

• Is it possible to transcend this opposition?

Henri Bergson
Le possible et le réel (1930)

Henri Bergson (1859-1941)

"Je crois qu'on finira par trouver
évident que l'artiste crée du
possible en même temps que du
quand il exécute son oeuvre."

"I believe it will ultimately be
thought obvious that the artist
creates the possible at the same
time as the real
when he brings
his work into being."

Possibility is a retroactive

"Man is no more than the sum
of his past commitments."
As human beings live, they are absolutely free, and their freedom resides entirely in their capacity to choose, that is, to invent their lives.
    Future-oriented counterfactual propositions such as, "If I were to do this, the consequences would or might be that, and I am entirely responsible for them, whatever they turn out to be", make full sense.
    However, as soon as "death has turned life into destiny", backward-looking counterfactual propositions such as, "Had I had more time to devote to my work, I would have written the novel of the century", are completely devoid of meaning and serve as mere alibis or cheap excuses— the stuff "bad faith" is made of.

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

Sartre's Theory of Modalities
Counterfactual propositions are admissible only when they are future-oriented. When we look back at the past, we see only necessity. There is nothing else than that which has happened, no possibility that never came to actuality.
    When history unfolds, possibilities become actual, but something strange happens to the branches that were not selected. It is not that they have become impossible: it turns out that they were never possible! As history proceeds in its course, it interjects necessity back into the past. Necessity is only retrospective.
    Giving reality to the future: project yourself into the future and look back from there at the present. Seen from the present the future was open, but seen from the vantage point of the future, the path that led to it appears to have been necessary. We were free to choose, to be sure, but what we chose appears to have been our destiny.

2. Facing the Looming Disaster

Or Why It Is So Important
Today To Give Reality To
the [Catastrophic] Future

Jean-Pierre Dupuy

Nikolai Ge, What Is Truth? (1890)

Pour un catastrophisme éclairé
  (Seuil, Paris, 2002, 2004)

Avions-nous oublié le mal? Penser la
  politique après le 11 septembre

  (Bayard, Paris, 2002)

La Panique (Les Empêcheurs de penser
  en rond
, Paris, 2003)

Petite métaphysique des tsunamis
  (Seuil, Paris, 2005)

Retour de Tchernobyl: Journal d'un
  homme en colère
(Seuil, Paris, 2006)

La marque du sacré
  (Carnets Nord, Paris, 2008)

Penser l'arme nucléaire
  (PUF, Paris, 2010)

The obstacle that keeps us from acting in the face of
catastrophe is not uncertainty, scientific or otherwise;
the obstacle is the impossibility of believing that
the worst is going to occur

Psychology: Even when it is known that it is going to take place, a catastrophe is not credible: that is the principal obstacle. On the basis of numerous examples, an English researcher identified what he called an "inverse principle of risk evaluation": the propensity of a community to recognize the existence of a risk seems to be determined by the extent to which it thinks that solutions exist.

Metaphysics: Henri Bergson describes what he felt on August 4, 1914, when he learned that Germany had declared war on France: "In spite of my shock, and my belief that a war would be a catastrophe even in the case of victory, I felt... a kind of admiration for the ease with which the shift from the abstract to the concrete had taken place: who would have thought that so awe-inspiring an eventuality could make its entrance into the real with so little fuss? This impression of simplicity outweighed everything." Now, this uncanny familiarity contrasted sharply with the feelings that prevailed before the catastrophe. War then appeared to Bergson "at one and the same time as probable and as impossible: a complex and contradictory idea, which persisted right up to the fateful date."

• Catastrophes are characterized by
this temporality that is in some sense
inverted. As an event bursting forth out
of nothing, the catastrophe becomes
possible only by "possibilizing" itself

• And that is precisely the source of
our problem. For if one is to prevent a
catastrophe, one needs to believe in its
possibility before it occurs. If, on the
other hand, one succeeds in preventing it,
its non-realization maintains it in the
realm of the impossible, and as a result,
the prevention efforts will appear useless
in retrospect.

Plane Hitting WTC Towers

Towards an enlightened
form of doomsaying

The Jonah Paradox

"The prophecy of doom is made
to avert its coming, and it
would be the height of injustice
later to deride the 'alarmists'
because 'it did not turn out
so bad after all'— to have
been wrong may be their merit."

— Hans Jonas,
     The Imperative of Responsibility (1985)

Commentary: Prophet Jonah was swallowed by a big fish [whale] (Jonah I.17). When he was vomitted out by the fish, Jonah went to Nineveh forecasting the city's demise in 40 days (Jonah III.4). When the people repented, God didn't destroy Nineveh, so Jonah's prophecy didn't come true.

The Paradox of Enlightened
Doomsaying [The Jonah Paradox]

To make the prospect of a catastrophe credible,
one must increase the ontological force of its
inscription in the future.

But to do this with too much success would be to
lose sight of the goal, which is precisely to raise
awareness and spur action so that the catastrophe
does not take place.

The Zadig [and Voltaire] Paradox
When Zadig sees his travel
companion the hermit murder
the nephew of their hostess of
the previous night, he is aghast.
What, he cries in outrage, could
you find no other way to thank our
hostess for her generosity than
to commit this terrible crime?
To this, the hermit, who is none
other than the angel Jesrad, the
mock spokesperson of Leibniz's
system, replies that if that young
man had lived, he would have killed
his aunt a year later and, a year
after that, he would have murdered
Zadig himself. How do you know that?
asked Zadig. "It was written."

Commentary: Voltaire treated the problem of evil in Zadig (1747), set in the ancient Babylon.

The Future Can Be Seen. Murder Can Be
Prevented. The Guilty Punished Before the
Crime Is Committed. The System Is Perfect.
It's Never Wrong. Until It Comes After You.

Commentary: Tom Cruise in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report (2002)
based on science fiction story The Minority Report (1956) by Philip K. Dick.

Minority Report
Steven Spielberg (2002)
Witwer: Let's not kid ourselves,
we are arresting individuals
who've broken no law.

Jad: But they will.

Fletcher: The commission of the crime
itself is absolute metaphysics.
The Precogs see the future.
And they're never wrong.

Witwer: But it's not the future
if you stop it. Isn't that a
fundamental paradox?

Anderton (alias Tom Cruise):
Yes, it is.

The 3 Fates' Instrument
Commentary: The Three Fates (Moirae) in Greek Mythology were Clotho— "spinner" who spun the thread of life from her distaff onto her spindle. Her Roman equivalent was Nona (the "Ninth"), who was originally a goddess called upon in the ninth month of pregnancy. Lachesis— "alloter" (drawer of lots) measured the thread of life of each person with her measuring rod. Her Roman equivalent was Decima (the "Tenth"). Atropos— "inevitable" (literally "unturning") was the cutter of the thread of life. She chose the manner and timing of each person's death. When she cut the thread with her shears, someone on Earth died. Her Roman equivalent was Morta ("Death"). Sculptures of the Three Fates once adorned the East Pediment of the Parthenon and is now in the British Museum.

"Man is no more than the sum
of his past commitments."
“Deux frères comparaissent au tribunal divin, le jour du jugement. Le premier dit à Dieu: 'Pourquoi m'as-tu fait mourir si jeune?' et Dieu répond: 'Pour te sauver. Si tu avais vécu plus longtemps, tu aurais commis un crime, comme ton frère.' Alors le frère demande à son tour: 'Pourquoi m'as-tu fait mourir si vieux?'”

        Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

Günther Anders
and his first wife,
Hannah Arendt

Commentary: Günther Anders (born Günther Stern) (1902-1992) was a Jewish philosopher and journalist who developed a philosophical anthropology for the age of technology, focusing on such themes as the effects of mass media on our emotional and ethical existence, the nuclear threat, the Shoah and the question of being a philosopher. Anders married the Jewish-German philosopher and political scientist Hannah Arendt (1929-1937). They fled Nazi Germany in 1933, first to France and then to the United States. Günther Anders returned to Europe in 1950 to live with his second wife Elisabeth Freundlich whom he met in New York, in her native Vienna. Anders was an early critic of the role of technology in modern life and in this context was a trenchant critic of the role of television. He argues that television substitutes images for experience, leading people to eschew first-hand experiences in the world and instead become "voyeurs". Anders' major work, never translated into English is acknowledged to be Die Antiquiertheit des Menschen ("The Outdatedness of Humankind"), which devotes a great deal of attention to the nuclear threat, making him an early critic of this element of human technology as well. (from Wikipedia)


Günther Anders
on the Flood

Endzeit und Zeitenende:
Gedanken über die atomare Situation
München, 1972

Commentary: Noah's Ark was a large wooden vessel built by Noah, at God's command, that saved Noah, his family, and a host of the world's animals from a great flood. See Genesis VI on the building of the Ark, and Genesis VII on the 40 days and 40 nights of rain and the waters covering the earth for 150 days. Genesis VIII tells the dove bringing an olive branch to Noah's Ark showing the appearance of dry land. Noah built an altar to thank God for his blessings.

Noah was tired of playing the prophet of doom and of always foretelling a catastrophe that would not occur and that no one would take seriously.

One day, he clothed himself in sackcloth and put ashes on his head. This act was only permitted to someone lamenting the loss of his dear child or his wife. Clothed in the habit of truth, acting sorrowful, he went back to the city, intent on using to his advantage the curiosity, malignity and superstition of its people. Within a short time, he had gathered around him a small crowd, and the questions began to surface. He was asked if someone was dead and who the dead person was. Noah answered them that many were dead and, much to the amusement of those who were listening, that they themselves were dead. Asked when this catastrophe had taken place, he answered: tomorrow. Seizing this moment of attention and disarray, Noah stood up to his full height and began to speak: the day after tomorrow, the flood will be something that will have been. And when the flood will have been, all that is will never have existed. When the flood will have carried away all that is, all that will have been, it will be too late to remember, for there will be no one left. So there will no longer be any difference between the dead and those who weep for them. If I have come before you, it is to reverse time, it is to weep today for tomorrow's dead. The day after tomorrow, it will be too late.

Upon this, he went back home, took his clothes off, removed the ashes covering his face, and went to his workshop. In the evening, a carpenter knocked on his door and said to him: let me help you build an ark, so that this may become false. Later, a roofer joined with them and said: it is raining over the mountains, let me help you, so that this may become false.

Impossibility of Grounding an Interest
in Future Generations' Interests

Why the future doesn't need us

Our most powerful 21st-century
technologies— robotics,
genetic engineering, and nanotech—
are threatening to make humans
an endangered species.

— Bill Joy, Wired, April 2000

But we need the future!


William Blake, Dante's Inferno V (1825)

"Thus you can understand that our knowledge
will be entirely dead at the moment when
the door of the future is closed."

    — Dante, Inferno, Canto X. 106-108
        Blake's Drawing of Farinata in Inferno X

"The day after tomorrow, the flood will be
something that will have been. And when
the flood will have been, all that is
will never have existed."

    — Günther Anders

Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism
It is the future that bestows meaning on the past
"Can you assess
the impact of the
French Revolution?"

Zhou Enlai:
"It's too early
to tell."


The earth is lent to us by our children


The Looping of the Future Onto the Past

Diodorus [Kronos]
Master Argument
4th century BC]
1. Every true proposition about the past is necessary.
    [The past is fixed.]

2. The impossible does not logically follow from the possible.

3. There is a possible which neither is presently true nor
    will be so. [The future is open.]

1, 2, 3 are incompatible.

Two Metaphysics
of Time

"El tiempo es un
jardín de senderos
que se bifurcan."

— Jorge Luis Borges

Commentary: "Time is a garden of forking paths". Borges' 1941 short story "The Garden of Forking Paths" (Analysis)

The past is fixed.

The future is open.

There exist possibilities
that will never occur.


Projected Time

The future is fixed.

The past is open.

The past and the future must come together in a closed loop:
the future is the fixed point of the loop.

Every possibility occurs, either in the present or in the future ==>
That which does not occur is impossible.

Two Temporalities
Preventive [war]

Occurring Time

No closure condition

Preemptive [strike]

Projected Time

Closure condition

Minority Report in Iraq
"Why is President
Bush so keen on
Tom Cruise?"

— Arthur Schlessinger Jr.
     March 2003

Secretary of State Colin Powell

Three ways of telling the
future in human affairs

• "Prospective" [scenarios method]

Prophecy: The prophet, knowing that his prophecy is going
  to produce causal effects in the world, must take account of
  this fact if he wants the future to confirm what he foretold.

The Determination of the Future
in Projected Time
The secular prophet is the one who seeks out the fixed point
of the problem, the point where voluntarism achieves the
very thing that fatality dictates
. The prophecy includes
itself in its own discourse; it sees itself realizing what it
announces as destiny.
The formula of the French Planning system
"It aimed to obtain through consultations and research an image of
the future sufficiently optimistic to be desirable and sufficiently
credible to trigger the actions that would bring about its own realization."

The Doomsayer's Paradox
[The Jonah Paradox]
Achieving coordination on the basis of a negative project
taking the form of a fixed future which one does not want.

Obtaining through scientific futurology and a meditation
on human goals an image of the future sufficiently
catastrophic to be repulsive and sufficiently credible
to trigger the actions that would block its realization.

—> Paradox of self-refutation

How the Devil can MAD work?

• The deterrent threat is not credible.

• Perfect deterrence is self-defeating.

    — Qualitative Analysis: The success of ordinary (e.g. legal) deterrence
         is dependent on its failure. However, "Nuclear deterrence is the
         only public arrangement that is a total failure if it is successful
         only 99.9% of the time." [Leo Wieseltier]
    — Logical Analysis:
         • (1) In order to be successful, nuclear deterrence must be
                 absolutely successful;
         • (2) If it were absolutely successful, nuclear deterrence
                 would be a total failure.

A Solution: Existential Deterrence
"We do not need to threaten that we will use [nuclear weapons]
in case of attack. We do not need to threaten anything.
Their being there is quite enough."

"It is a curious paradox of our time that one of the foremost factors
making deterrence really work and work well is the lurking fear
that in some massive confrontation crisis it may fail. Under these
circumstances one does not tempt fate. If we were absolutely certain
that nuclear deterrence would be 100% effective against nuclear
attack, then it would cease to have much if any deterrence
value against non-nuclear wars."
                                                            — Bernard Brodie, 1973

Commentary: Bernard Brodie (1910-1978) was an American military strategist well-known for establishing the basics of nuclear strategy. Known as "the American Clausewitz," he was an initial architect of nuclear deterrence strategy and tried to ascertain the role and value of nuclear weapons after their creation. While working at the RAND Corporation, Brodie wrote Strategy in the Missile Age (1959) which outlined the framework of deterrence. Other books include War and Politics (1973) and A Guide to the Reading of "On War" (1976).

Existential Deterrence
The kind of rationality at work here is not a calculating rationality, but rather the kind of rationality in which the agent contemplates the abyss and simply decides never to get too close to the edge.

David Lewis: "You don't tangle with tigers— it's that simple."

Paul Ramsey: "[Nuclear weapons] may be used either against strategic forces or against centers of population. [...] That means that apart from intention, their capacity to deter cannot be removed from them. [...] No matter how often we declare, and quite sincerely declare, that our targets are an enemy's forces, he can never be quite certain that in the fury or the fog of war his cities may not be destroyed."

Bernard Brodie: "We do not need to threaten that we will use [nuclear weapons] in case of attack. We do not need to threaten anything. Their being there is quite enough."

Commentary: See Deterrence Theory and Nuclear Deterrent. Paul Ramsey (1913-1988) was an American Christian ethicist who wrote War and the Christian Conscience: How Shall Modern War Be Conducted Justly? (1961). Paul Ramsey's "Threats and Nuclear Deterrence". David Lewis has a chapter "Finite Counterforce" in Nuclear Deterrence and Moral Restraint (1989) edited by Henry Shue. David Kellogg Lewis (1941-2001) was a philosopher who taught at Princeton (1970-2001). He is probably best known for his controversial modal realist stance: that there exist infinitely many concretely existing and causally isolated parallel universes, of which ours is just one, and which play the role of possible worlds in the analysis of necessity and possibility.

Metaphysical Logic of Existential Deterrence

The Status of Unbestimmtheit in Projected Time

Not to be confused with strategic randomness: President Nixon's Madman Theory.

==> Nixon to Robert Haldeman (1970): "I call it the Madman Theory,
Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I've reached the point
where I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to
them that, 'for God sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism.
We can't restrain him when he's angry— and he has his hand on the
nuclear button'— and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days
begging for peace..."

Commentary: Unbestimmtheit is German for "uncertainty". In philosophy, Unbestimmtheit includes besides vagueness also impreciseness, uncertainty, inexactitude and indeterminedness. Professor Hans-Jürgen Pirner at Heidelberg University differentiates four kinds of Unbestimmtheit: factual, theoretical, semantic and ontological Unbestimmtheit.

"The future is inevitable,
but it may not occur
"El porvenir es
pero puede no

— Jorge Luis Borges
     La Creación P. H. Goss

Enlightened Doomsaying

Obtaining through scientific futurology and a meditation
on human goals an image of the future sufficiently
catastrophic to be repulsive and sufficiently credible
to trigger the actions that would block its realization,
barring an accident.


Prophecy of Doom and the Tragic
The metaphysics that must
serve as a foundation for
prudence adopted to the time
to catastrophes consists in
projecting oneself into a time
that follows the catastrophe,
and in seeing it
retrospectively as an event
at once necessary and

Chance is fused with Destiny

Commentary: Oedipus Rex (429 B.C.) by Sophocles is a Greek tragedy about King Laius of Thebes who was told that his son will murder him. So when Oedipus was born, he ordered the infant killed. Queen Jocasta hands Oedipus to a servant to commit the act. The servant leaves the baby in the fields who is rescued by shepherds and raised by King Polybus of Corinth. Oedipus leaves after hearing the Delphi Oracle that he would kill his father and marry his mother. On the road to Thebes, he meets Laius, his true father. Unaware of each other's identities, they quarrel over whose chariot has right-of-way. Oedipus's pride leads him to murder Laius, fulfilling part of the oracle's prophecy. Shortly after, he solves the riddle of the Sphinx, and enters Thebes as the hero who liberated the city from the monster. Oedipus is awarded Thebes' kingship and the hand of Queen Jocasta, his biological mother. The prophecy is thus fulfilled, although none of the main characters know it.
    The Stranger (1942) by Albert Camus tells about a Frenchman Meursault, who kills a native Arab in French Algiers. He's convicted and awaits execution in prison. Meursault realizes that Death is the permanent end and that the events and actions in one's life are only meaningful in the moment they are experienced.


Accident [Chance] as the Supplement of Fate [Necessity]

Hölderlin, Patmos (1803)
"Wo aber die Gefahr ist, wachst das Rettende auch."

"But where danger is,
grows the saving power also."

Friedrich Hölderlin
Commentary: Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843) was a German lyric poet whose work bridges the Classical and Romantic period. In 1793-1794 he met Goethe and Schiller, and began writing his epistolary novel Hyperion (1799). Hölderlin begins his great hymn Patmos with "The god / Is near, and hard to grasp. / But where there is danger, / A rescuing element grows as well." In the conclusion of his poem, he named the "cultivation of the firm letter and the interpretation of what is" as the proper office of poetry. Shortly before leaving for France, Hölderlin said: "Now I can rejoice over a new truth, a better view of what is above us and around us, though I fear that things may eventually go with me as for ancient Tantalus, who received more from the gods than he could digest." (Biography & Works; Patmos translated by James Mitchell; Notes to Patmos)

Classroom Discussion:

Dupuy: Last week we saw scenes from Fog of War. Robert McNamara said "We had 32 near misses from world annihilation from nuclear holocaust. If the tiger has evil intentions, we must act as if we're threatened."

Eric Sapp: Logic of warning is effective. Jonah Paradox tells us
that a false prediction of global warming is a good result.

Dupuy: My critics who don't like me accuse me of "cutting buffalo"—
Predictions of events with explicit goal to be wrong.
Warning (prevention rather than caution) presupposes metaphysics of time.
Occurring time— predicting undesirable event where time is branching out.
This is not a solution. The future is not real.
We must break with this metaphysics that there is sufficient reality to the future.
Other possible futures, then we don't take the future seriously.
We must take the future seriously. If future catastrophe takes place,
then it would have been necessary.
There is only one future (determinate).
Future branching out (indeterminate).
Projected time is useful to tackle those threats.
We know if catastrophe is right, we don't believe.

Q: Heuristic device— psychological one instead of metaphysical one.
     9/11 event not metaphysical but psychological.

Dupuy: They are. On 9/12/2001, everyone was saying now the worst has become possible. Don't like this psychological or cognitive faculty or mood. We have institutions on future projections. We take those predictions as telling us what's going to happen.
Polling— they tell us what voting results will be before we even voted.
Metaphysics of temporaltiy inscribed in our institutions.
Trojan prophets Cassandra and Laocoon warned about the Trojan Horse,
but their words were not heard about this gift wooden statue from the Greeks
that was their undoing. The Biblical prophets had more impact such as Jonah.

Handout: "Doomed Future" by James O'Callahan

Dupuy: In our last class (June 1), we'll talk about Self-Transcendence rather than Transcendence. Ingrid will report on my paper "Religion: Natural or Supernatural" (2009). My position is different from those popular books against religion:

Scott Atran, In God We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion (2004)

Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origin of Religious Thought (2001)

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (2006)

Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (2006)

Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (2004)

Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007)

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