Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Metaphysics of Idol Worship: The Paradox of the Ancient World

Well, I thought Priest's argument concerning his readings of Quine and Russell were sound, so in order to stir up some excitement this week I'll have to resort to making up a crazy theory of my own. If you are looking for something to comment about, feel free to attack this article, as I do not sincerely hold to the view that I will present below. I leave it up as merely a possible theory to consider.

We come to the problems surrounding the paradox of nonexistence. As discussed in class...

Homer worshipped Zeus
seems true.
The sentence is true iff the object denoted by 'Homer' bore the relation expressed by the word 'worship' to the object denoted by 'Zeus'.
One problem: Zeus does not exist.

The noneist has a ready answer to the paradox of nonexistence because they allow for the object denoted by 'Zeus' to be nonexistent. However, for those who take a different approach, the paradox presents a real concern.

I offer these opponents of Meinong a solution:

(1)Ramses worshipped the sun
It is clear that this sentence is clear of paradoxical worries. The object denoted by 'Ramses' bore the relation expressed by the word 'worship' to the object denoted by 'the sun'. The sun is a concrete, existing object and thus there is no problem here.

(2)Ramses worshipped Ra
'Ra' is the egyptian sun god. When Egyptians worshipped Ra, they worshipped the sun. The object denoted by 'Ra' is the sun. We see this in an egyptian hymn to Ra, which reads:

"Homage to thee, O thou who risest in the horizon as Ra,
thou restest upon law unchangeable and unalterable. Thou
passest over the sky, and every face watcheth thee and thy
course, for thou hast been hidden from their gaze. Thou dost
show thyself at dawn and at eventide day by day..."

Thus, this case, too poses no paradox.

But what about (3)?

(3)Ra raised Osiris from the dead.
It is obvious that the sun did not raise somebody from the dead, nor did the Egyptians intend it this way. Ra had characteristics and performed actions beyond that of the sun. Does this lead us into paradox? Consider the following...

(4)William Wallace shot bolts of lightning from his arse.
William Wallace, the real Scottish fighter, did not do this. The truth value is false. However in...

(5)Peasant Joe believed William Wallace shot bolts of lightning from his arse.
It is the case; this sentence is true. This poses no paradox, as Wallace was a real man. An untrue, and fanciful, statement (arse lightning power) was attached to the concrete being.

Such could be the answer to (3) - Ra is the concrete sun with a fanciful statement attached to it which is false. However, the Egyptians believed it to be true.

So we return to

(6)Homer worshipped Zeus.
As we have said, Zeus does not exist. However, there are today, and in the times of ancient Greece, what we would call 'idols' of Zeus, including the incredible statue at Olympia. When one such as Homer were to worship Zeus, he would be in front of a statue, or call to mind the mental representation of the carved god. It is clear where I am going: idols are concrete objects. Stories of deeds of the gods can be attached to the figure of an idol, without resulting in the paradox of nonexistence. Notice that something such as 'framus' has no idol or concrete representation. It is truly meaningless, whereas 'Zeus' is not.


Blogger Dan said...

how about "Doyle admired Sherlock Holmes"? Or perhaps even more problematic "Doyle thinks Watson admires Holmes".
Or what of "The pope serves God". (even if God exists, we wouldn't want a semantic theory to entail his existence). The pope would probably look unfavorably on the notion that he serves some concrete object that isn't God.

12:16 AM  

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