“Trump Lawyer Forwards Email Echoing Secessionist Rhetoric” NYT August 16, 2017 https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/08/16/us/politics/trump-lawyer-email-race-charlottesville.html

John Dowd Esq, member of New York and Florida State Bars, evidently a big fan of Washington and Jefferson.  Or at least of their alleged slaveholding.  

We will eventually show that the memo suffers from the most elementary syllogistic fallacy imaginable, but first, the facts;

The Facts

I.  Did Washington & Lee Both Own Slaves?

Well, yes, kind of.  Washington was a landed rich gentry fellow, but he was often away at war, 8 years during the French & Indian War, 8 years during the Revolutionary War and then away 8 more years in Philadelphia during the Presidency.  

Betts, William W. (2013). The Nine Lives of George Washington. 

George Washington, first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.

It’s true Washington maintained a large estate at Mount Vernon.  It’s also true he kept and maintained slaves there, and also kept 4-6 slaves at the Presidential Residence in Philadelphia, a fact now attracting substantial scholarly attention since slavery was illegal in Pennsylvania. 

cf Never Caught; The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar (Simon & Schuster, NY 2017). http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Never-Caught/Erica-Armstrong-Dunbar/9781501126390#

On the other hand, Washington was the first Founding Father to manumit, or free, his slaves, upon his death, so specifying it in his will, indicating he must have had moral ambivalence about “the peculiar institution”.  

cf. Brookhiser, Richard (1996). Founding Father: Rediscovering George Washington. New York: Free Press

Mt Vernon above two photos; and another portrait of President Washington. 


Lee didnt own slaves, or at most owned 1-2 slaves.  Lee was poor growing up, and he never had any property or land like Washington.  Lee married a Custis, a descendant of Washington, but other than military pay, his income was meager and she suffered.  Also, Lee was a womanizer who carried on an affair for years in plain view of everyone, shaming his proud wife, Washington’s cousin.  This was what Lee thought of Washington–he shamed his Cousin.  

cf Korda, Michael (2013). Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee. HarperCollins Publishers.

However, and this is a big point of difference between Washington and Lee, in 1857 Lee came into inheritance of his father in laws estate, which was large with many slaves.  Some escaped in 1859 and were caught, and many contemporary and historical sources state that Lee, an adulterer, whipped and beat the runaway slaves in a brutal and abusive manner.  Cf Korda, id. 

Lee beat the slaves so badly that abolitionists in the North found the incident and Lee personally to be grist for their propaganda war about the evils of slavery and the evils of the fugitive slave law.  in short, Lee was a poster boy for horrendous slave ownership.  Cf. Korda, id. 

Robert E Lee, Adulterer, Confederate Traitor, Slave Beater and Abuser, Dreadful Bastard to his Wife and Family, Brilliant General in the Mexican American & Civil Wars–A Decidedly Mixed Legacy.  

II. Did Both Rebel?

No.  And in this case, results matter. Washington was on the winning side while Lee was on the losing side.  Thus Washington is the Father of our country, and Mount Rushmore, while Lee was a traitor whose inherited estate of 1857 at Arlington, VA was confiscated and used as the burial ground of the Union Soldiers.  It is now Arlington Memorial Cemetary.  cf Korda, id.

Arlington National Cemetary; Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; Arlington House & Plantation, former home of Robert E Lee.  

Lee was lucky he wasnt hanged.  He caught a break in that he and Grant had both served in the Mexican American War together, and Andrew Johnson issued a general pardon to the Confederate Principals.  By himself, Lee killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Americans.  Lee prolonged the Civil War well beyond the point where winning was not achievable by the South.  In short, just as he cheated on his wife and beat his slaves, Lee in the Civil War became a brutal murderer who waded in pools of Northern blood.

Lee was NOTHING like George Washington.  

Lee and US Grant at Appomattox.  Lee is signing his unconditional surrender to the North.  Lee and the South were utterly defeated by the far, far superior US Grant.  Only the Victors get to write history. 

III. Are Both Mens Battle Tactics Still Taught at West Point?

Probably, but this is a fallacious argument, false syllogism using a false implied enthymeme or false middle. 

It would be comparable to saying because I went to Harvard, and Bill Gates went to Harvard, that therefore there is no difference between us.

1) Lee is taught at West Point.

2) Washington is taught at West Point.

3) Therefore, Lee is the same as Washington in every respect.

Obviously this is a false and fallacious syllogism. 


1) The Sophist is a Harvard Man.

2) Bill Gates is a Harvard Man.

3) Ergo, The Sophist is the same as Bill Gates is every respect.

By now, you see the problem.  Bad logic.  The fact that Lee and Washington are both taught at West Point does not make them equivalent.

IV.  Faulty Syllogism Destroys the Entire Memo

By now you must recognize that this is a fallacy of the undistributed middle.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_the_undistributed_middle

A proper syllogism is as follows;

1) all A is B;

2) all B is C;

3) therefore, all A is C.

The Lee/Washington syllogisms above go like this:

Both owned slaves.

1) Lee owned slaves.

2) Washington owned slaves.

3) therefore, Lee is Washington.

This is like;

1) All A is B.

2) All C is B.

3) Therefore, all A is C.

This is the fallacy of the undistributed middle. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_the_undistributed_middle

on fallacies in syllogisms generally, see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllogistic_fallacy

Any elementary intro to aristotelian logic will show this.

If you run thru the remaining statememts, they also fail to prove the point.  

cf David Hackett Fischer Historians’ Fallacies : Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (Harper and Row, NY, 1970).  

V. The Rest of It.

A.  Both Saved America

No. Washington created America; Lee tried to destroy America; and the Mexican-American War did a good deal to bring about the Civil War.  

B. Both were great men, great americans and great commanders.

1) Washington was a terrific man.  Lee other than on the battlefield appears to have been pretty shabby. Lee was brilliant, a great student, but narcissistic, cruel, sadistic, unfeeling and kind of a jerk to his wife.  And, he even cheated on his country–he didnt just flirt with the Confederacy, he went all the way.  Man-slut.  

2) great Americans

Only Washington was a great American.  Lee was a great Confederate General but he lost amd lost badly.  

3) Great Commanders

Washington probably was by far the greater–he defeated the greatest army on earth, the British,  while Lee, the top grad at West Point. lost to US Grant, a guy whose tactics he knew.  Big edge to Washington.  Lee is way overrated as a general.

C  Neither Man is any different than…

and gives a laundry list of generals from history.   Setting aside that none of the generals in the list are remotely similar, the assertion that Lee & Washington are identical with each element of the set of generals is logically false.  It fails on logical fallacy grounds, and it fails the eyeball test.  

Napoleon was a despot, Ramses enslaved millions to build pyramids, etc.  These leaders/generals had obvious and noteworthy differences from both Lee and Washington.

D You cannot be Against Lee and for Washington, there is literally no difference beween the two men.

First, false criterion & false assumption; no one is against Lee or for Washington.  

Rather, the burden of proof lies upon the memo writer to prove Lee is thr same status or class as Washington,  and here it/he fails.  For while Lee and Washington share some class traits, they share many differences.  So they aren’t the same, just like my going to prep school, Harvard, liking poker math and cars makes me the same as Bill Gates. 

The use of the word “literally” is odd–because to prove the case, it must be made logically, mathematically, with facts.

But of course, this memo wasnt written for thinkers and logicians.

It was written for Nazis, white supremicists, bigots and other irrational haters for whom only appeals to emotion matter.

And that is the greatest logical fallacy of all,  to let chaos rule.

For when God came, chaos and darkness rules, and he made light (genesis); and when Zeus married, to defeat Chaos after overthrowing Chaos, he married first Metis, goddess of wisdom, and then Thetis, goddess of law and order.

This, light, wisdom, reason, logic, law and order, are fundamental to the Western tradition.  Hatred, racism, chaos, is antithetical to same.

Thetis gives armor to Achilles; various portraits of Lincoln “a house divided against itself cannot stand” 1858. 


There is one place that equates Washington and Lee–Washington and Lee University.  

Its a long story, but Washington gave a large donation, and got the name, and Lee was President of the School after the Civil War,  and his name was added.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Washington_and_Lee_University

Its a very old and fine school,  and nothing here is intended to denigrate it.  

But these are the times that try mens’ souls. 

Amended Comments by John Bredehoft Esq. (reprinted from fb);

“Lee and Washington were fundamentally different. At the macro level, Washington was a patriot and Lee was a traitor. Washington at least manumitted his slaves at his death; Lee made no such provision in his will. Lee personally whipped at least two slaves, while I am unaware of a record showing Washington did the same. Lee put the parochial interests of his state over the national interest; Washington supported greater national power and economic development. Washington at least recognized the inherent evil of slavery and its contradiction with the promise of the Declaration of Independence, although his actions fell far short. Lee thought slavery natural and a positive good — Lee took up arms against the national government he swore to defend expressly in order to defend the right to extend slavery into the territories. Washington often saved the country during the revolution, by keeping the army together and in the field despite defeat. Washington also saved the country from the threat of monarchy, IMHO, by declining to run for a third term. Lee never saved the United States — he did his best to sunder it. Lee’s most praiseworthy act was to decline to encourage a guerrilla war after Appomattox (which was impractical anyway). Also IMHO, Washington did a better job with the military material he had at hand — which usually was a pathetic and wasting asset — than Lee did with the military material he had at hand. (And their tactics could not have been more different: Washington fought a Fabian, defensive war to preserve his force in being, while Lee was unduly wedded to the tactical offensive on too many occasions, literally grinding away his army.) Washington was able to maintain resistance to the British even with his capital, Philadelphia, in enemy hands for months; Lee’s resistance collapsed within days of the fall of Richmond. And to compare (actually) either of them to Alexander the Great (who routinely executed close followers on a whim), or Shaka or Napoleon or Ramses II (all of whom likely would have been prosecuted as war criminals in the 20th Century) is simply offensive.”

John Bredehoft Esq is the author with Michael King Esq. of several books, including 

Democracy’s Missing Arsenal: Vol I: 1862-1900 (2013) https://www.amazon.com/Democracys-Missing-Arsenal-Michael-King/dp/1484100948

Democracy’s Missing Arsenal: Bloodshed Universal-Slavery Triumphant: Volume 2: 1901-1919 (2016) https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/1502996537/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1503064730&sr=1-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=John+M.+Bredehoft&dpPl=1&dpID=51vt0Wtf0dL&ref=plSrch

Bredehoft is a nationally recognized attorney practicing in Virginia.  King is a nationally recognized attorney practicing in Washington State.  

Arthur John Kyriazis Google Blog: Easter 1916 William Butler Yeats.

Last night we witnessed the triumph of existentialism, or should I say, Instantiation, in modern baseball, because the alleged two run home run hit by Alex Rodriguez NEVER ACTUALLY OCCURRED.

To understand this, first we must review the Home Run Rule in modern baseball, which was first defined in 1885, and was subsequently amended in 1892, 1914, 1920, 1926, 1931, 1950 and 1955.

The key concept of the home run rule is most plainly expressed in the 1892 rule which has not been changed very much since 1892:


The key concepts here are that

1) the ball has to be fair; and
2) the ball has to go “over the fence.”

The 1892 rule adds that “A distinctive line is to be marked on the fence showing the required point.” Meaning, if the ball goes over the fence above the line, it goes “over the fence.”

However, and this is the key point, the ball still has to go OVER the fence, not just ABOVE the line.

Last nite’s alleged home run by Alex Rodriquez, as a careful examination of the Rules of Baseball in this blog will demonstrate, was not a home run, but a Ground Rule Double.

It was a Ground Rule Double, because the ball never went OVER the Fence, as require plainly by the Rules of Baseball, but merely hit an object, which was in the field of play, above the line, but still in the field of play.

As to whether the ball would have, could have, or should have gone over the fence, but for the object, which was a TV camera, that is an interesting philosophical debate (which is the same as conceiving of unicorns, trolls, a planet without war and the tooth fairy), but the result is still the same: the home run remains an abstraction, something INSTANTIATED and given EXISTENCE only in the collective minds of the umpires.

You see the replay plainly on Fox TV. At no time did the ball go OVER the Fence. Moreover, the camera was jutting a good five to ten feet into the field. Even if the camera wasn’t there, the downward arc of the ball meant that the ball might have gone over the fence, or it might have continued its downward slope and hit the fence at a point BELOW the line of the fence.

Now, as a careful examination of the rules will show, similar disputes such as balls getting caught in the wiring of the ivy fences at Wrigley have always been rules as ground rule doubles. At no time have such balls ever been rules home runs, not in World Series and never on instant replay, because there has never been instant replay in the World Series or at any time in baseball.

I’m certainly pleased to see that baseball, not content with attempting to stop the Phillies from winning the World Series last year by calling a rain delay halt for the first time in World Series History when Cole Hamels was pitching a brilliant game in game five, this year, for the first time in World Series history called a fake home rum and foiled Cole Hamels again from winning.

Up to the point of the fake homer call, Hamels was pitching a no-hitter. It was obvious that Hamels was furious with the call. And rightly so. The call was utter and total BS, and proves that Bud Selig and Organized Baseball are determined to see that the Yankees win the World Series at all costs. The Umpiring crew rules so quickly that they must have been told by Selig how to rule. They didn’t have time to deliberate.

This is reminiscent of 1950, when the Yankees used their connections with the US Government to have Curt Simmons, a blazing lefthander with Sandy Koufax stuff, a twenty game winner, on the Phillies, get his draft notice in mid-September 1950, two weeks before the World Series was coming up with the Yanks. At the time, the Phils had Robin Roberts, now in the Hall of Fame, and Curt Simmons, a blazing lefthander, on their staff. The two pitchers had combined for more than fifty wins. The two pitchers could each have won two games in the series and blown out the Yanks, much like Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson won the 2001 Series for Arizona back a few years. But with Curt Simmons in the Army, the Phillies barely won the Pennant, and were eradicated by the Yanks in four games.

The Yankees always need to cheat to win.

Ok, so here are the Home Run Rules:

1885 – A fair batted ball that goes over the fence at a distance less than 210 feet from home base shall entitle the batsmen to two bases. A distinctive line shall be marked on the fence at this point.

My comment: At this point, a ball “over the fence” is not a homer at all, it’s a ground rule double. Weird.

1892 – A fair batted ball that goes over the fence shall entitle the batter to a home run; except that should it go over the fence at a distance less than 235 feeet from home base, the batter is entitled to only two bases. A distinctive line is to be marked on the fence showing the required point.

My comment: This is essentially the modern rule. The ball has to go “over” the “fence” to be a home run. And it has to go “over” the “distinctive line” of the “fence”. Not above, but over.

I think we all understand the difference between going near, above and around a line painted on a fence, and going over a fence. It’s the difference between a hurdler stumbling on the hurdle, and a hurdler clearing the hurdle entirely.

Rodriquez’ ball last nite, in Game 3 of the 2009 World Series, is not a home run under the Home Run Rule. It did not go “over the fence” or over the “distinctive line”, because in three dimensional space, it hit the camera before it crossed the plane of the line, and was knocked back into the field. Therefore, it never went over the line, never went over the wall, and never went over the fence.

Consequently, it was not a home run under the 1892 rule.

Are there any changes in the rules SINCE 1892 that could make it a home run? The answer is no, but let’s go through them all and see.

Note that this is not a “judgment call” by the umpires. The ball has to go “over the fence” and be a “fair ball” to be a home run. End of story. An umpire or group of umpires cannot make a ball that might have been or should have been a home run except that it hit something, into a home run by philosophical instantiation, or abstractive analysis.

In short, there are no unicorns, trolls or other imaginary beings just because we think there are; and there are no imaginary home runs. C.f. Occam’s razor—we don’t create a multiplicity of abstract universal beings just because we name them, think of them or create them in our minds. If we create now a class of abstract home runs, home runs that might have been, should have been and so forth, we now introduce into baseball a series of abstract balls, strikes, stolen bases, catches, hits and so forth and soon there will be entire parallel universes of baseball realities creeping into games, abstract realities which have nothing to do with what’s going on down at the field level, or, more pertinently, in the empirical world or in the rulebook. Everything will come down to what the umpires say and we’ll have a courtroom, not a ballgame.

1914 – Should an errant thrown ball remain in the meshes of a wire screen protecting the spectators, the runner or runners shall be entitled to two bases. The umpire in awarding such bases shall be governed by the position of the runner or runners at the time the throw is made.

My comment – this is the first indication that hitting a camera should be a ground rule double. Here the rule says if an errant thrown ball gets caught in wire screen mesh, the runner gets two bases and two bases only. It doesn’t matter if the ball is over the fence in fair ground, it’s still only two bases.

1920 – Home Run/Game-Ending – If a batsman, in the last half of the final inning of any game, hits a home run over the fence or into a stand, all runners on the bases at the time, as well as the batsman, shall be entitled to score, and in such event all bases must be touched in order, and the final score of the game shall be the total number of runs made.

My comment – this is the famous “walk off homer” rule change. Prior to 1920, if someone hit a walk off homer with one, two or three men on that won the game, the only runs that counted were the ones that won the game, e.g. if the score were 9-8 the road team, and you hit a grand slam, you got two runs, the score ended 10-9 home team, and you were credited with either a single or a double, usually a single. Not a grand slam. But under the walk-off rule, the score ended 12-9, the batter got credit for a homer, a grand slam and 4 RBI.

Note again that the rule says “over the fence” and “into the stand”. Rodriquez’ alleged homer last night meets neither of these key tests.

1926 – A fair batted ball that goes over the fence or into a stand shall entitle the batsman to a home run, unless it should pass out of the ground or into a stand at a distance less than 250 feet from the home base, in which case the batsman shall be entitled to two bases only. In either event the batsman must touch the bases in regular order. The point at which a fence or stand is less than 250 feet from the home base shall be plainly indicated by a white or black sign or mark for the umpire’s guidance.

My comment – again, the rule says “over the fence” or “into a stand” in order for a ball to be a home run. This changes the 1892 rule by making the minimum fence distance 250 feet for a home run instead of 235 feet in order not to have “cheap” home runs, although even 250 feet would be a pretty short distance. Of course, Yankee Stadium had a 297 foot right field porch for years for their left handed sluggers, another example of the Yankees “cheating”, and then they would have an all-lefthanded staff to keep the other team from stacking up lefties against them, c.f. Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Andy Pettite, Ron Guidry and so forth. This unfair advantage has been wiped out with the new Yankee Stadium, although allegedly there remains a slightly easier job of hitting to right field.

1931 – Batter/Awarded Bases – A fair hit ball that bounds into a stand or over a fence shall be a two-base hit. Note: There is no reference to distance in this rule and any fair hit ball bounding over the fence or into the stand is a two-base hit.

My comment: This is the modern ground-rule double rule. It hasn’t changed at all. Most importantly, READ what it says. “A FAIR HIT BALL THAT BOUNDS INTO A STAND OR OVER A FENCE SHALL BE A TWO-BASE HIT.” That means that if the ball bounces off a camera and then over the fence, it’s a two base hit. If the ball bounces off a fan and over the fence, it’s a two base hit. If it bounces off the top of the Astrodome, and back into the field of play, as happened to Mike Schmidt in 1974, it’s a two base hit; but if it went off the top of the Astrodome and then over the fence, it would be a ground rule double according to the rule.

According to the plain language of the ground rule double rule of 1931, the ball A Rod hit last nite in game 3 of the World Series was a double. Not subject to review, not subject to judgment call. A ground rule double. It went off a camera and bounded over the fence and then back into the field. It was in play. It’s a ground rule double in that case.

In 1950 the rulebook was entirely recodified and rewritten, refined and clarified:

1950: Batter/Awarded Bases: Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability of being put out, advance to home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes over the field fence in flight and he touch [sic] all bases legally; of if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have cleared the field fence in flight, is deflected by the act of a defensive player in throwing his glove, cap or any article of his apparel, the runner shall be awarded a home run.

My comment – to be a home run, the ball must go over the fence “in flight”. The only case where an umpire may exercise judgment and rule on whether a ball “would have cleared the field fence in flight” is solely and exclusively the case of when the ball is “deflected by the act of a defensive player in throwing his glove, cap or any article of his apparel”. This is the one and only situation where an umpire may exercise abstract judgment and award a hypothetical or abstract home run under the rules of baseball; where a fielder attempts to block the ball by throwing his glove, cap or article of his clothing at the ball.

This was not the case with A Rod’s home run last night. Jayson Werth did not throw his cap, his glove or any article of his clothing at the ball last night. Consequently, the ball would have had to clear the fence “in flight” to be a home run. Since the ball never cleared the fence “in flight”, it was not a home run under the 1950 rule, as amended.

More 1950 changes:

The batter becomes a baserunner when a fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands or passes through or under a fence or through or under shrubbery or vines on the field, in which case the batter and the baserunners shall be entitled to advance two bases.

The batter becomes a baserunner when any fair ball which, either before or striking the ground, passes through or under a fence or through or under a scoreboard or through or any opening in the fence or scoreboard or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the baserunners shall be entitled to two bases.
The batter becomes a baserunner when any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands or over or under a fence on fair or foul ground, in which case the batter and all baserunners shall be entitled to advance two bases.

The batter becomes a baserunner when any fair fly ball is defelected by the fielder into the stands or over the fence into foul territory, in which case the batter shall be entitled to advance to second base; but if deflected into the stands or over the fence in fair territory, the batter shall be entitled to a home run.

My comment – the first three rules make clear that deflections by the fielder and interference with the ball by objects on the field, such as vines, fences and shrubbery, are always ground rule doubles. The only case where a ball is NOT a ground rule double is when there is a deflection by the fielder, and for this to be a home run, there are four requirements;
1) a fair fly ball in fair territory;
2) deflected by a fielder;
3) into the stands; or
4) over the fence.

Note that even if argued analogically to last nites hit by A Rod, the 1950 rule does him no good. First, the camera deflected the ball back into the field. Second, the deflection was by a camera, not by a fielder. Third, the deflection was not “into the stands.” Fourth, the deflection was not “over the fence.”

Consequently, it’s really, really, really crystal clear that what we have is a ground rule double, under the remaining provisions of the 1950 and 1932 ground rule double rules. A Rod and the Yankees were only entitled to a ground rule double last nite in game 3 of the World Series.

1955 Rule Change

The 1955 rule change is very, very minor, it just provides that if a hitter hits a homer and has an accident while running the bases and time is called, he can have a runner come in and pinch run for him and run out the homer run and score it. It has no effect whatsoever on the discussion at hand.

Ok, through 1995, that’s all the rule changes I have from the source J. Thorn, P. Palmer, M. Gershman, D. Pietruskza, Total Baseball V: The Official Encyclopaedia of Major League Baseball (Viking NY 1997), c.f. D. Bingham & T. Heitz, “Rules and Scoring,” at pp. 2376-2432.

Now let’s hit the Net.

The rules as they exist through 1955 continue to exist and are codified in Official Rules of Baseball at Rule 6.09, exactly as they were enacted in 1950, see for yourself:

6.09 The batter becomes a runner when—
(a) He hits a fair ball;
(b) The third strike called by the umpire is not caught, providing (1) first base is unoccupied, or (2) first base is occupied with two out;
Rule 6.09(b) Comment: A batter who does not realize his situation on a third strike not caught, and who is not in the process of running to first base, shall be declared out once he leaves the dirt circle surrounding home plate.
(c) A fair ball, after having passed a fielder other than the pitcher, or after having been touched by a fielder, including the pitcher, shall touch an umpire or runner on fair territory;
(d) A fair ball passes over a fence or into the stands at a distance from home base of 250 feet or more. Such hit entitles the batter to a home run when he shall have touched all bases legally. A fair fly ball that passes out of the playing field at a point less than 250 feet from home base shall entitle the batter to advance to second base only;
(e) A fair ball, after touching the ground, bounds into the stands, or passes through, over or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;
(f) Any fair ball which, either before or after touching the ground, passes through or under a fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through any opening in the fence or scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery, or vines on the fence, or which sticks in a fence or scoreboard, in which case the batter and the runners shall be entitled to two bases;
(g) Any bounding fair ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over or under a fence on fair or foul territory, in which case the batter and all runners shall be entitled to advance two bases;
(h) Any fair fly ball is deflected by the fielder into the stands, or over the fence into foul territory, in which case the batter shall be entitled to advance to second base; but if deflected into the stands or over the fence in fair territory, the batter shall be entitled to a home run. However, should such a fair fly be deflected at a point less than 250 feet from home plate, the batter shall be entitled to two bases only.


the deflection by the fielder rule is also exactly the same as adopted in 1950 and has not been changed, and is codified in Rule 7.05(a);

7.05 Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—
(a) To home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally; or if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have gone out of the playing field in flight, is deflected by the act of a fielder in throwing his glove, cap, or any article of his apparel;


See? It’s exactly the same. The only way an upire can judge if the fair ball would have left the stadium and gone out of the playing field in flight, is if it was deflected by the act of a fielder under Rule 7.05(a).

The umpire can’t make a judgment call under any other of the rules of baseball.

All the rules of baseball, incidentally, are on line and available for you all to read for yourselves at;


see also these websites:




There IS however, a rule which pertains to interference by media, and that is rule 3.15, which I hereby quote now:

3.15 No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club. In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach’s box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.


NOTE WHAT RULE 3.15 SAYS ABOUT INTERFERENCE WITH A BALL BY NEWSPHOTOGRAPHERS WHO ARE AUTHORIZED TO BE ON THE FIELD OF PLAY: In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach’s box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play.

Since A-Rod’s ball was UNINTENTIONALLY INTERFERED WITH BY A PRESS CAMERA, RULE 3.15 COMES INTO PLAY EXPRESSLY AND THE BALL IS IN PLAY. It’s not a case of fan interference where the umpires are allowed to make a judgment call to nullify the fan interference and create a home run abstractly.

To the contrary, the rule is clear and express- “the ball is in play” says the rule. Since the ball did not go over the fence or into the stands or over the fence in flight, but back to the field, and since Werth relayed it back, the Yankees runners were stuck at 2d and 3d.

There was no interference, and if there were a ground rule here, it was at best a ground rule double. See discussion above, supra.


The Umps and all of major league baseball got the rules wrong last night.

The ball was alive and in play last night and/or was a ground rule double, under the ground rule double rules and also under official Rule 3.15.

The Umps had no interference discretion under rules 3.15 or 3.16 because NO FAN touched the ball—instead, an authorized member of the press touched the ball.

The camera was an authorized photographer.

Consequently, the ball was in play.

Note the difference if a spectator had touched the ball:

3.16 When there is spectator interference with any thrown or batted ball, the ball shall be dead at the moment of interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.
APPROVED RULING: If spectator interference clearly prevents a fielder from catching a fly ball, the umpire shall declare the batter out.

Rule 3.16 Comment: There is a difference between a ball which has been thrown or batted into the stands, touching a spectator thereby being out of play even though it rebounds onto the field and a spectator going onto the field or reaching over, under or through a barrier and touching a ball in play or touching or otherwise interfering with a player. In the latter case it is clearly intentional and shall be dealt with as intentional interference as in Rule 3.15. Batter and runners shall be placed where in the umpire’s judgment they would have been had the interference not occurred.
No interference shall be allowed when a fielder reaches over a fence, railing, rope or into a stand to catch a ball. He does so at his own risk. However, should a spectator reach out on the playing field side of such fence, railing or rope, and plainly prevent the fielder from catching the ball, then the batsman should be called out for the spectator’s interference.
Example: Runner on third base, one out and a batter hits a fly ball deep to the outfield (fair or foul). Spectator clearly interferes with the outfielder attempting to catch the fly ball. Umpire calls the batter out for spectator interference. Ball is dead at the time of the call. Umpire decides that because of the distance the ball was hit, the runner on third base would have scored after the catch if the fielder had caught the ball which was interfered with, therefore, the runner is permitted to score. This might not be the case if such fly ball was interfered with a short distance from home plate.


The ground rules for ground rule doubles are exactly the same as the 1950 and 1932 rules discussed above, and are codified at the official rules of baseball 7.05;

7.05 Each runner including the batter-runner may, without liability to be put out, advance—
(a) To home base, scoring a run, if a fair ball goes out of the playing field in flight and he touched all bases legally; or if a fair ball which, in the umpire’s judgment, would have gone out of the playing field in flight, is deflected by the act of a fielder in throwing his glove, cap, or any article of his apparel;
(b) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a fair ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril;
(c) Three bases, if a fielder deliberately throws his glove at and touches a fair ball. The ball is in play and the batter may advance to home base at his peril.
(d) Two bases, if a fielder deliberately touches a thrown ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play;
(e) Two bases, if a fielder deliberately throws his glove at and touches a thrown ball. The ball is in play;
Rule 7.05(b) through 7.05(e) Comment: In applying (b-c-d-e) the umpire must rule that the thrown glove or detached cap or mask has touched the ball. There is no penalty if the ball is not touched.
Under (c-e) this penalty shall not be invoked against a fielder whose glove is carried off his hand by the force of a batted or thrown ball, or when his glove flies off his hand as he makes an obvious effort to make a legitimate catch.

(f) Two bases, if a fair ball bounces or is deflected into the stands outside the first or third base foul lines; or if it goes through or under a field fence, or through or under a scoreboard, or through or under shrubbery or vines on the fence; or if it sticks in such fence, scoreboard, shrubbery or vines;
(g) Two bases when, with no spectators on the playing field, a thrown ball goes into the stands, or into a bench (whether or not the ball rebounds into the field), or over or under or through a field fence, or on a slanting part of the screen above the backstop, or remains in the meshes of a wire screen protecting spectators. The ball is dead. When such wild throw is the first play by an infielder, the umpire, in awarding such bases, shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the ball was pitched; in all other cases the umpire shall be governed by the position of the runners at the time the wild throw was made;
APPROVED RULING: If all runners, including the batter-runner, have advanced at least one base when an infielder makes a wild throw on the first play after the pitch, the award shall be governed by the position of the runners when the wild throw was made.
Rule 7.05(g) Comment: In certain circumstances it is impossible to award a runner two bases. Example: Runner on first. Batter hits fly to short right. Runner holds up between first and second and batter comes around first and pulls up behind him. Ball falls safely. Outfielder, in throwing to first, throws ball into stand.
APPROVED RULING: Since no runner, when the ball is dead, may advance beyond the base to which he is entitled, the runner originally on first base goes to third base and the batter is held at second base.
The term “when the wild throw was made” means when the throw actually left the player’s hand and not when the thrown ball hit the ground, passes a receiving fielder or goes out of play into the stands.
The position of the batter-runner at the time the wild throw left the thrower’s hand is the key in deciding the award of bases. If the batter-runner has not reached first base, the award is two bases at the time the pitch was made for all runners. The decision as to whether the batter-runner has reached first base before the throw is a judgment call.
If an unusual play arises where a first throw by an infielder goes into stands or dugout but the batter did not become a runner (such as catcher throwing ball into stands in attempt to get runner from third trying to score on passed ball or wild pitch) award of two bases shall be from the position of the runners at the time of the throw. (For the purpose of Rule 7.05 (g) a catcher is considered an infielder.)
PLAY. Runner on first base, batter hits a ball to the shortstop, who throws to second base too late to get runner at second, and second baseman throws toward first base after batter has crossed first base. Ruling—Runner at second scores. (On this play, only if batter-runner is past first base when throw is made is he awarded third base.)
(h) One base, if a ball, pitched to the batter, or thrown by the pitcher from his position on the pitcher’s plate to a base to catch a runner, goes into a stand or a bench, or over or through a field fence or backstop. The ball is dead;

APPROVED RULING: When a wild pitch or passed ball goes through or by the catcher, or deflects off the catcher, and goes directly into the dugout, stands, above the break, or any area where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be one base. One base shall also be awarded if the pitcher while in contact with the rubber, throws to a base, and the throw goes directly into the stands or into any area where the ball is dead.
If, however, the pitched or thrown ball goes through or by the catcher or through the fielder, and remains on the playing field, and is subsequently kicked or deflected into the dugout, stands or other area where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be two bases from position of runners at the time of the pitch or throw.
(i) One base, if the batter becomes a runner on Ball Four or Strike Three, when the pitch passes the catcher and lodges in the umpire’s mask or paraphernalia.
If the batter becomes a runner on a wild pitch which entitles the runners to advance one base, the batter-runner shall be entitled to first base only.

Rule 7.05(i) Comment: The fact a runner is awarded a base or bases without liability to be put out does not relieve him of the responsibility to touch the base he is awarded and all intervening bases. For example: batter hits a ground ball which an infielder throws into the stands but the batter-runner missed first base. He may be called out on appeal for missing first base after the ball is put in play even though he was “awarded” second base.
If a runner is forced to return to a base after a catch, he must retouch his original base even though, because of some ground rule or other rule, he is awarded additional bases. He may retouch while the ball is dead and the award is then made from his original base.
(j) One base, if a fielder deliberately touches a pitched ball with his cap, mask or any part of his uniform detached from its proper place on his person. The ball is in play, and the award is made from the position of the runner at the time the ball was touched


as you can plainly see, nothing has changed in the ground rules at all.

Consequently, A-Rod’s hit was either a ground rule double under rule 7.05, or it was a ball in play since it hit a media camera which was authorized to be in the field of play under rule 3.15. What it was not was a home run under either rule 6.09(d) or rule 7.05(a) or any other rule of baseball.

I’ve looked exhaustively and so have my sabrmetric friends, and there isn’t a rule in the book supporting what happened last night.

What happened also violates the laws of logic and violates the laws of physics. It violates the laws of logic, because the home run was created by an act of particular instantiation—abstract thought created a thing from a concept—what we in philosophy call a “unicorn”—which would make my old professor of logic at Harvard turn over twice—and violates Occam’s razor—that you don’t create needless entities through nominalism.

Instead, empiricism and realism dictate that a home run is a home run when we SEE and WITNESS that the ball goes over the fence—not that we imagine or suppose that it MIGHT have gone over the fence.

The problem with the umpires’ supposition last night is that it is what we call in philosophy a “modal” proposition, an “if….then” statement, that is conditional.

“If the camera were not there, then the ball would have flown over the fence.”

This can readily be recognized as a categorical statement of conditional form—namely, if there were no camera “x”, the trajectory of flight of the ball would have been different in form “y”.

The problem, as anyone knows, is that without an actual observation of same, there are a plethora of possible universes of possible “y’s”.

All we know is that the ball may or might have gone over the wall—or it may or might have bounced below the line and back onto the field. All we have is a possibility that it might have gone over the wall.

All conditionals are like this.

Moreover, accepting conditionals as true introduces a host of problems.

The medieval philosophers didn’t like conditionals, and neither should we.

It’s true that rule 9.03c states that

Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules.


however, in this case, the A-Rod double IS covered specifically by the baseball rules. There is no room for discretion or authority to rule.

Here’s what actually occurred before game 3 of the World Series according to the umpiring crew:

Indeed, umpire crew chief Gerry Davis said that his crew explored every inch of Citizens Bank Park prior to Game 3, spending time reviewing areas unique to the park. The right-field camera was one of the aspects they discussed.
“We tour the field during the series whenever we go to a new ballpark, and discuss specific ground rules and potential trouble areas just like that,” Davis said. “Because we cannot control what the cameraman does with the camera, one of the specific ground rules is when the ball hits the camera, [it’s a] home run.”

So, the umpiring crew themselves MADE UP THEIR OWN GROUND RULE that the camera, if it was hit, would be a home run.

That would be fine, except that it’s in direct violation of Baseball Rule 3.15, as cited above, supra, that a media photographic camera, if a ball strikes it, the ball is in play and NOT a home run.

The Umpires don’t have discretion to make a ground rule about that.

The statement made by Umpire Davis is totally and completely WRONG. The rules cover the situation of when a ball strikes a camera held by a camera man.

Let’s see the rule again:

3.15 No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club. In case of unintentional interference with play by any person herein authorized to be on the playing field (except members of the offensive team participating in the game, or a coach in the coach’s box, or an umpire) the ball is alive and in play. If the interference is intentional, the ball shall be dead at the moment of the interference and the umpire shall impose such penalties as in his opinion will nullify the act of interference.


Ok, then, cameramen, news photographers who unintentionally interfere with the ball, and the interference is unintentionall, the “ball is alive and in play.”

It’s not up to Davis and his crew to make up a ground rule there. It’s up to Davis and his crew to follow Rule 3.15. Rule 3.15 trumps Article 9 and the umpire discretion rules.

Now let’s discuss the instant replay rule.

Here’s the story on the instant replay rule adopted in September of 2008:

5. Instant replay
Main article: Instant replay
In November 2007, the general managers of Major League Baseball voted in favor of implementing instant replay reviews on boundary home run calls. [19] The proposal limited the use of instant replay to determining whether a boundary home run call is:
• A fair (home run) or foul ball
• A live ball (ball hit fence and rebounded onto the field), ground rule double (ball hit fence before leaving the field), or home run (ball hit some object beyond the fence while in flight)
• Spectator interference or home run (spectator touched ball after it broke the plane of the fence).
On August 28, 2008, instant replay review became available in MLB for reviewing calls in accordance with the above proposal. It was first utilized on September 3, 2008 in a game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. [20] Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees hit what appeared to be a home run, but the ball hit a catwalk behind the foul pole. It was at first called a home run, until Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon argued the call, and the umpires decided to review the play. After 2 minutes and 15 seconds, the umpires came back and ruled it a home run.
About two weeks later, on September 19, also at Tropicana Field, a boundary call was overturned for the first time. In this case, Carlos Peña of the Rays was given a ground rule double in a game against the Minnesota Twins after an umpire believed a fan reached into the field of play to catch a fly ball in right field. The umpires reviewed the play, determined the fan did not reach over the fence, and reversed the call, awarding Peña a home run.
Aside from the two aforementioned reviews at Tampa Bay, replay was used four more times in the 2008 MLB regular season: twice at Houston, once at Seattle, and once at San Francisco. The San Francisco incident is perhaps the most unusual. Bengie Molina, the Giants’ Catcher, hit what was first called a double. Molina then was replaced in the game by a pinch-runner before the umpires re-evaluated the call and ruled it a home run. In this instance though, Molina was not allowed to return to the game to complete the run, as he had already been replaced. Molina was credited with the home run, and two RBIs, but not for the run scored which went to the pinch-runner instead.
On October 31, 2009, in the fourth inning of Game 3 of the World Series, Alex Rodriguez hit a long fly ball that appeared to hit a camera protruding over the wall and into the field of play in deep left field. The ball ricocheted off the camera and re-entered the field, initially ruled a double. However, after the umpires consulted with each other after watching the instant replay, the hit was ruled a home run, marking the first time an instant replay home run was hit in a playoff game. [21]


Citing to

• ESPN – GMs vote 25-5 to use replay to aid home run decisions – MLB

Now, let’s parse all this.

What instant replay boils down to is this.

A lawyer sits in Bud Selig’s offices in NYC and HE reviews the play and decides how it should be called.

The head of the umpiring crew calls NYC and asks the lawyer how the play should be ruled.

Then they decide.

Uh, what’s wrong with this picture if the NEW YORK YANKEES are one of the teams in the playoffs?

Let’s see, a NEW YORK LAWYER making the call? Against a PHILLY team?

Oh right, that would be really fair, impartial and just.

Incidentally, let’s review the rule again:

The proposal limited the use of instant replay to determining whether a boundary home run call is:
• A fair (home run) or foul ball
• A live ball (ball hit fence and rebounded onto the field), ground rule double (ball hit fence before leaving the field), or home run (ball hit some object beyond the fence while in flight)
• Spectator interference or home run (spectator touched ball after it broke the plane of the fence).
Id, supra.

Note that the ball has to hit an object BEYOND the fence while in flight.

Not in front of the fence, but BEYOND the fence.

This is completely consistent with Rules 6.09 and 7.05(a) which define a home run as one hit “over the fence in flight”.

The camera, in this case, was jutting out over the fence by a good five to ten feet.

So it was not beyond the fence, but on the field of play.

Second, because it was on the field of play, it was therefore a photographic interference under Rule 3.15, and should have been considered an unintentional interference, and a live ball in play under Rule 3.15.

Third, if not a live ball in play, then the ground rule double rule of 7.05 (b) et seq. comes into play.

What’s wrong with this picture?


Let’s review the criteria for instant replay;

1) is it fair or foul? Well, it was a fair ball. No need for instant replay.
2) Is it a live ball that hit the fence and bounced back to the field? No. No need for instant replay.

Was it a live ball that hit some object beyond the fence while in flight?

No. It never went beyond the fence. So no instant replay was required.

Well, it hit the camera==part of which was behind the fence, but the part of the camera the ball hit was NOT beyond the fence.

This is not a semantic issue, but a real rules issue, because if you start saying that balls that don’t go over the fence in flight are home runs, just because the umpires make up ground rules before the game to make them eligible for instant review, doesn’t make it so.

I think the key here is to parse the fact that the umpiring crew made a mistake before the game establishing false ground rules, by making a camera that jutted INTO the field, a candidate for HOME RUN instant replay.

That wasn’t their call to make.

Under the instant replay rule, the camera has to be entirely beyond the fence for them to make that decision, end of story.

Remember, the rule is to decide the boundary issue of when a ball has hit an object BEYOND the fence–not an object within the ballfield.

The Umps exceeded their rulemaking authority. Also, see #3, below, because there’s actually a different rule that applies to cameras that are in the field of play and not beyond the field of play, in which case the ball is either a ground rule double or in play. In either case the result is the same; arod at 2d, texeira at 3d.

3) There was not spectator interference, but rather, photographer interference under rule 3.15, which made it a live ball under the rules, and on the field of play.

Consequently, there was no jurisdiction for an instant reply. Rather, the umpires AGGREGATED and SEIZED inappropriately the jurisdiction for home run instant replay because they forgot their own rule book and the rules of baseball.

They got the call all wrong.

It’s an insult to our collective intelligence and our common sense to say that a ball that fell short of the wall, and never went over the wall, is a “fair ball” that “went over the fence in flight” or that after instant replay, was shown to have struct an object “beyond the fence” in flight. None of these things occured on arod’s hit.

And messed up a 25 year old kids’ no hitter in the processs.

Did they purposefully do it?

Did the NY Offices of baseball reverse the call to obstruct the Phillies from repeating?

I don’t know—go ask the Atlanta Braves. No one in Bud Selig’s office was happy when they went up 2-0 on the Yankees in 1996 either.

The Commissioner’s office basically wants LA or NY to win the series because that’s good for TV ratings.

They like to ignore Philly and Atlanta even though we’re much more rabid about baseball than New Yorkers, most of whom are too poor to afford to go to a game, whereas in Philly or Atlanta, it’s mostly the middle class who attend.

And if we have to cheat and violate the rules to make the Yankees winners, what the hay?

Just remember Curt Simmons’ draft notice, and Bud Selig’s ridiculous rain delay call in last year’s Game Five in Philly.

Definitely be sure there’s bias against the Phillies in NYC.

And of course, let’s not forget they used a single New York Lawyer as the judging panel for instant replay of a World Series play involving….

The New York Yankees.

Like that’s really fair.

This is the Second World Series in a row where Bud Selig has personally messed around with our ace, Cole Hamels, in a World Series game.

First was Game Five in World Series 2008, in which Cole Hamels was shutting the door down on Tampa Bay. Selig allowed the game to proceed in the rain, then let Tampa Bay score a cheap run in rain soaked conditions against Hamels, a cheap run in conditions not fit to play in, and then Selig announced the game would be suspended—a first in Series history—which infuriated not only the Phillies, but Hamels, who had pitched well enough to win. Last year the story line was supposed to be tampa bay to win, cindarella, last place to world champions. New york didn’t want philly winning.

Conspiracy theorists, you are right if you think Selig hates Hamels.

And now this year, Selig sends Davis and an experienced umpiring crew out, and they set up illegal ground rules, and use the first chance they get, to award a two run instant replay home run—an existential, instantiated home run—an abstraction if you will, because nothing ever left the park or ever went over the fence in flight—for the sole purpose of screwing up Cole Hamels’ game in game 3, the pivotal game of the 2009 world series.

I need not point out how furious Hamels must have been with all this BS; for the second year in a row, he’s been messed with, not by the opposing lineup, but by lawyers and umpires and the commissioners’ office. They just won’t let him do his job.

I understand why he might have hung a few curves the next inning to Swisher and Damon.

What I don’t understand is why the Phillies don’t aggressively move

1) for Bud Selig’s immediate ouster as Commissioner of Baseball; and
2) an immediate amendment of the baseball instant replay rule requiring that the review of plays always be done in a neutral city by an impartial panel of three arbitrators, not lawyers, with one chosen by each team and the third chosen by the other two.
3) And the umpiring crew and ground rules be reviewed two weeks in advance of the World Series by the front office of each team, and by the teams attorneys, to be sure there are no conflicts with the Rules of Baseball.

Even my 80 year old mother in law, who just had eye surgery, who watched the game last night, and used to be a Brooklyn Dodger fan from Brooklyn, saw the play last night and she knew that the A-Rod hit wasn’t a home run.

“it didn’t go out of the park” she said. “how could it be a home run?”

Exactly. To be a home run, under rule 7.05(a), and in the common sense of every fan, a home run must go over the fence in flight.

And to be a home run for instant replay purposes, it has to go over the fence in flight and THEN hit some object.

Not hit some object which inteferes with the ball from going over the fence in flight. That’s a ground rule double or a ball live in play, as we have seen from our discussion, at length, of the rules.

The difference last night was two runs.

But the difference, from our perspective, is the lawlessness of the Bud Selig regime.

A regime which bars Pete Rose from the Hall of Fame, but tolerates steroid use by the likes of A-Rod and David Ortiz, and turns a blind eye to the income inequalities between teams like the Yankees and the Twins that keep baseball from truly being competitive.

A regime which makes arbitrary and capricious decisions each and every year about rain delays, rain suspensions, instant replay home runs in the World Series, and which plays games of law and fate which affect a man’s life and career in the case of Cole Hamels, who is a truly great pitcher along the lines of a Steve Carlton.

In fact, if you study Hamels stats, you will see that his 2009 is to his 2008, as Carlton’s 1973 was to Carlton’s Cy Young 1972.

I expect Cole Hamels to have a very bright future.

And he will not take much more of this abuse from Bud Selig and his cronies.

And neither should we philly fans.

And New York Yankee fans, you are cheating to win.

And to think I actually shed tears for you guys on 9/11.

And by the way, your NY Giants got rolled by the Eagles. At least the NFL runs a fair league. Thank you Pete Rozelle Paul Tagliabue and your successors.

Guess those memories of Joe Namath are starting to fade, eh?

–art kyriazis, philly
home of the world champion phillies, 2008 world champions
2008, 2009 National League pennant champs

Kosovo is a land of myth and memory. It was here in the 1300s that three separate battles were fought between the Serbian and Ottoman Empires that would decide whether the Balkan Peninsula would be Christian or Muslim.

This was the heart and glory of medieval orthodox byzantine serbia. all of the famous icons and churches, monasteries and art, that you see in books, are all located in Kosovo.

Now the US wants to give this holy land, holy to the Orthodox Christians, to Muslim Albanians.

I need not remind any of you of what evils have been perpetrated in the name of islam in the past few years, including 9/11.

practically every TV show you see nowadays shows you muslim albanian gangsters up to no good either here in or europe.

yet smart people call for the independence of kosovo;


Amid the unraveling of Yugoslavia that began in the early 1990s, the United States and its European allies have staunchly defended multiethnic society in the Balkans. The military interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, the ongoing peacekeeping missions there, the hundreds of millions of dollars given annually in economic aid — these sacrifices have been made to preserve the individual states that once constituted a federal Yugoslavia and to prevent bloodshed among the numerous ethnic groups that populate them. Now, however, the time has come to let pragmatism triumph over principle — and move decisively toward independence for Kosovo.

The most important piece of unfinished business in the Balkans is the final status of Kosovo, the southern province of Serbia, which has been under international trusteeship since NATO’s intervention in 1999. Anxious to scale back its obligations in the region and confronted with growing impatience among Kosovo’s population, the international community is finally gearing up for negotiations over Kosovo’s political future, as provided for under UN Security Council Resolution 1244.

Serbs, for whom Kosovo is an ancestral homeland and the site of many important Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries, insist that the area remain under Serbian sovereignty. Broader opposition to separating Kosovo from Serbia stems from concern about the potential precedent that would be set by redrawing boundaries along ethnic lines and the likely impact this move would have on the integrity of the borders of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia.

Nevertheless, harsh realities on the ground make independence for Kosovo the only viable option. In the current state of limbo, relations between the Albanian majority, which is mostly Muslim, and the Serbian minority, which is mostly Orthodox Christian, have reached the boiling point. The Albanian leadership in Pristina, which governs Kosovo in an uneasy partnership with UN authorities, wants nothing to do with Belgrade. Kosovo has already left Serbia’s orbit. And throughout the area, walls of hostility divide ordinary Albanians and Serbs. In spirit as well as fact, multiethnic society is nowhere to be found.


If we create ANOTHER muslim state in the balkans (we already have Albania, and sizeable muslim populations in Bosnian and FYROM, there will be FOUR European states with Muslim minorities.

Wow. Just what we need sandwiched between the Nato states of Greece and Germany–four states where bin Laden can train muslim jihadist terrorists to blow up european terror targets, perhaps starting with the Orthodox shrines to Christianity of Pec and other holy cities of the Serbs, and working their way across Europe to France and Spain.

The Albanians were once a catholic, christian, people but under the Turks they became mercenaries for the muslims.

The albanians have one state already; they don’t need another.

keep kosovo for serbia. autonomy yes, independence no.

–art kyriazis
philly/south jersey

I wanted to wish a Happy Easter and a Happy Passover to all.

There’s an old joke, that goes something like this. A liberal is arguing with a conservative about the death penalty. Finally, exasperated, the conservative says to the liberal, “of course I’m in favor of the death penalty–without the death penalty, there’d be no Easter and no Easter Bunny!”

While this is an awful joke, it does remain true that in the two major capital punishment trials that we know about in history, Socrates and Jesus, as best we know, both were wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death. I won’t even get to the OJ trial, although as we all know, the glove didn’t fit and they had to acquit.

Obviously Socrates and Jesus could have used Johnny Cochran as their lawyer.

Socrates on dying, was reputed to have said something like, I die, you live, god knows who is going to the better place. Those of us who are religious of course believe that death brings us closer to a better place indeed, but Socrates provides a flash of insight that this short life is not the only one, that there is a spiritual and inner life that transcends death. Religion ministers to the soul, or at least to our conception of the soul, and consequently it is a vital part of our lives.

The Passover story about Moses leading the chosen people out of bondage and out of Egypt is a great story, as well as being an integral part of the old testament. “Exodus” is actually ancient greek for “Exothos” or “Exit” or “Leaving”. It’s the title of the book from the Ancient Greek Septuagint. The entire point of Exodus is the story of the Chosen People Leaving, “Exothos”, from Egypt and their bondage. God frees them from slavery and bondage through Moses and a series of miracles, each one greater than the last, which are celebrated each and every Passover.

It is such an important story because it gives hope to every oppressed peoples that God will redeem every one in bondage, free them and lead them to their own Promised Land. When Martin Luther King spoke of reaching the Promised Land, it was the Passover Story he was referring to. He didn’t need to explain that to his listeners, many of whom were careful Bible readers. The African-Americans of this country understood about bondage, redemption, and being led out of bondage and to the Promised Land.

On this Passover, we should think about these matters in considering President Obama, a man who has the potential to unite many different elements of society, and perhaps finally lead a people to the Promised Land. All oppressed peoples the world over hearken to the story of Exodus.

I’ve always had a strong faith in God and I don’t doubt God’s existence. Recently there’s been a spate of books and articles by respected scholars advocating atheism and the non-existence of God. I find this to be an awful waste of scholarly time, and especially of taxpayer and endowment money. Isn’t there something important these guys should be doing on our nickel?

Richard Dawkins, who once wrote a book called “The Selfish Gene,” is one of these. He used to teach at Harvard, now teaches in England, and appears to enjoy bashing God and religion in his books. Dawkins used to be a capable biologist. In his old age, he’s turned into a menacing crank who hates old ladies who go to church and pray to the saints and God for the memories of their dead husbands.

How mean can you possible get?

You might call him “The Selfish Dean” because he really seems only to care about himself. Is this what tenure breeds? Idiotic books about atheism? Pushed on us by editors and publishing houses?

Belief in God is a personal matter, but it also means a commitment to others, and to doing things for others, without considering the personal benefit to yourself. Sitting around the table at Easter, at Seder, at any family gathering, we give thanks to our creator and Lord for family, for health, for happiness. I can’t imagine a life without God or without prayer, a life without church or without friends from church or the church community.

I’ve looked at Dawkins’ books on atheism. They are poorly written, poorly argued, and basically are rants.

It’s not a careful argument.

A careful argument, for example, would be Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles, or Martin Luther’s 95 Theses against the Catholic Church, or John Calvin’s immense work of theology criticizing the Roman Catholic Church and setting forth the tenets of Calvinism.

Those are careful and thoughtful books, which make their cases carefully, point by point.

Dawkins’ books by contrast are awful and poorly researched and poorly written. It’s embarassing to see a professor publish such awful work. Especially when he was able while younger to write such a good book on biology as “The Selfish Gene.” It’s readily apparent Dawkins’ writing and intellectual skills have sharply declined with age.

But assuming that Dawkins (and any of these other atheists) has/have any rational or reasonable points to make, I’d like to refute them with Pascal’s Wager, for one. I think Dawkins is already refuted by the Transcendental a priori arguments of Kant for God’s existence, but Blaise Pascal made a classic probability argument which is, in fact, irrefutable on mathematical and utility grounds, for God’s existence.

Pascal said you should believe in God, because if you did, even if there was only a 1 in a million chance of his existence, the benefits would be eternal salvation, whereas if you denied Him, the possible harm would be eternal damnation.

Consequently, it’s a lot like the nuclear calculus–the benefits are so great, that even if there’s only a slight chance of God existing, it’s worth going all in on God. If you win, you get eternal salvation forever. (the nukes argument goes like, if there’s a one in a million chance of starting World War III, the harm is so great, you have to avoid it, because it’s nuclear winter and the death of mankind, so the policy can’t be adopted).

If you lose the wager, you burn in hell forever. I kind of envision Dawkins burning in a really hot part of hell, by the way. The part where they keep Bernie Madoff, child molesters, child molesting catholic priests and every single convicted defendant whose story was the real basis for the plot line of a LAW AND ORDER:SVU episode. Those stories are really pretty awful. This is a digression, but it’s hard to believe that’s Jayne Mansfield’s daughter in that show, by the way. Mariska Hargitay, emmy winning actress, now approximately in her mid-40s, and still very beautiful, is the daughter of Mickey Hargitay (a former Mr. Universe) and Jayne Mansfield, the 1950s starlet/sex bomb. I think you’d have to say that Mariska Hargitay has really had a solid acting career.

As for all of those who doubt God’s existence or lack faith in God, I give you an extended discusion of Pascal’s Wager from the Stanford Encylopaedia of Philosophy.

Pascal’s Wager
By Alan Hajek, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

“Pascal’s Wager” is the name given to an argument due to Blaise Pascal for believing, or for at least taking steps to believe, in God. The name is somewhat misleading, for in a single paragraph of his Pensées, Pascal apparently presents at least three such arguments, each of which might be called a ‘wager’ — it is only the final of these that is traditionally referred to as “Pascal’s Wager”. We find in it the extraordinary confluence of several strands in intellectual thought: the justification of theism; probability theory and decision theory, used here for almost the first time in history; pragmatism; voluntarism (the thesis that belief is a matter of the will); and the use of the concept of infinity.

We will begin with some brief stage-setting: some historical background, some of the basics of decision theory, and some of the exegetical problems that the Pensées pose. Then we will follow the text to extract three main arguments. The bulk of the literature addresses the third of these arguments, as will the bulk of our discussion here. Some of the more technical and scholarly aspects of our discussion will be relegated to lengthy footnotes, to which there are links for the interested reader. All quotations are from §233 of Pensées (1910, Trotter translation), the ‘thought’ whose heading is “Infinite—nothing”.
• 1. Background
• 2. The Argument from Superdominance
• 3. The Argument from Expectation
• 4. The Argument from Generalized Expectations: “Pascal’s Wager”
• 5. Objections to Pascal’s Wager
• Bibliography
• Other Internet Resources
• Related Entries

1. Background
It is important to contrast Pascal’s argument with various putative ‘proofs’ of the existence of God that had come before it. Anselm’s ontological argument, Aquinas’ ‘five ways’, Descartes’ ontological and cosmological arguments, and so on, purport to give a priori demonstrations that God exists. Pascal is apparently unimpressed by such attempted justifications of theism: “Endeavour … to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God…” Indeed, he concedes that “we do not know if He is …”. Pascal’s project, then, is radically different: he seeks to provide prudential reasons for believing in God. To put it crudely, we should wager that God exists because it is the best bet. Ryan 1994 finds precursors to this line of reasoning in the writings of Plato, Arnobius, Lactantius, and others; we might add Ghazali to his list — see Palacios 1920. But what is distinctive is Pascal’s explicitly decision theoretic formulation of the reasoning. In fact, Hacking 1975 describes the Wager as “the first well-understood contribution to decision theory” (viii). Thus, we should pause briefly to review some of the basics of that theory.

In any decision problem, the way the world is, and what an agent does, together determine an outcome for the agent. We may assign utilities to such outcomes, numbers that represent the degree to which the agent values them. It is typical to present these numbers in a decision matrix, with the columns corresponding to the various relevant states of the world, and the rows corresponding to the various possible actions that the agent can perform.

In decisions under uncertainty, nothing more is given — in particular, the agent does not assign subjective probabilities to the states of the world. Still, sometimes rationality dictates a unique decision nonetheless. Consider, for example, a case that will be particularly relevant here. Suppose that you have two possible actions, A1 and A2, and the worst outcome associated with A1 is at least as good as the best outcome associated with A2; suppose also that in at least one state of the world, A1’s outcome is strictly better than A2’s. Let us say in that case that A1 superdominates A2. Then rationality surely requires you to perform A1.

In decisions under risk, the agent assigns subjective probabilities to the various states of the world. Assume that the states of the world are independent of what the agent does. A figure of merit called the expected utility, or the expectation of a given action can be calculated by a simple formula: for each state, multiply the utility that the action produces in that state by the state’s probability; then, add these numbers. According to decision theory, rationality requires you to perform the action of maximum expected utility (if there is one).

Example. Suppose that the utility of money is linear in number of dollars: you value money at exactly its face value. Suppose that you have the option of paying a dollar to play a game in which there is an equal chance of returning nothing, and returning three dollars. The expectation of the game itself is

0*(1/2) + 3*(1/2) = 1.5,

so the expectation of paying a dollar for certain, then playing, is

-1 + 1.5 = 0.5.

This exceeds the expectation of not playing (namely 0), so you should play. On the other hand, if the game gave an equal chance of returning nothing, and returning two dollars, then its expectation would be:

0*(1/2) + 2*(1/2) = 1.

Then consistent with decision theory, you could either pay the dollar to play, or refuse to

play, for either way your overall expectation would be 0.

Considerations such as these will play a crucial role in Pascal’s arguments. It should be admitted that there are certain exegetical problems in presenting these arguments. Pascal never finished the Pensées, but rather left them in the form of notes of various sizes pinned together. Hacking 1972 describes the “Infinite—nothing” as consisting of “two pieces of paper covered on both sides by handwriting going in all directions, full of erasures, corrections, insertions, and afterthoughts” (24).[1] This may explain why certain passages are notoriously difficult to interpret, as we will see. Furthermore, our formulation of the arguments in the parlance of modern Bayesian decision theory might appear somewhat anachronistic. For example, Pascal did not distinguish between what we would now call objective and subjective probability, although it is clear that it is the latter that is relevant to his arguments. To some extent, “Pascal’s Wager” now has a life of its own, and our presentation of it here is perfectly standard. Still, we will closely follow Pascal’s text, supporting our reading of his arguments as much as possible.

There is the further problem of dividing the Infinite-nothing into separate arguments. We will locate three arguments that each conclude that rationality requires you to wager for God, although they interleave in the text.[2] Finally, there is some disagreement over just what “wagering for God” involves — is it believing in God, or merely trying to? We will conclude with a discussion of what Pascal meant by this.

2. The Argument from Superdominance
Pascal maintains that we are incapable of knowing whether God exists or not, yet we must “wager” one way or the other. Reason cannot settle which way we should incline, but a consideration of the relevant outcomes supposedly can. Here is the first key passage:

“God is, or He is not.”

But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up… Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, you knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose… But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is… If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.

There are exegetical problems already here, partly because Pascal appears to contradict himself. He speaks of “the true” as something that you can “lose”, and “error” as something “to shun”. Yet he goes on to claim that if you lose the wager that God is, then “you lose nothing”. Surely in that case you “lose the true”, which is just to say that you have made an error. Pascal believes, of course, that the existence of God is “the true” — but that is not something that he can appeal to in this argument. Moreover, it is not because “you must of necessity choose” that “your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other”. Rather, by Pascal’s own account, it is because “[r]eason can decide nothing here”. (If it could, then it might well be shocked — namely, if you chose in a way contrary to it.)

Following McClennen 1994, Pascal’s argument seems to be best captured as presenting the following decision matrix:
God exists God does not exist
Wager for God Gain all Status quo
Wager against God Misery Status quo

Wagering for God superdominates wagering against God: the worst outcome associated with wagering for God (status quo) is at least as good as the best outcome associated with wagering against God (status quo); and if God exists, the result of wagering for God is strictly better that the result of wagering against God.

(The fact that the result is much better does not matter yet.) Pascal draws the conclusion at this point that rationality requires you to wager for God.

Without any assumption about your probability assignment to God’s existence, the argument is invalid. Rationality does not require you to wager for God if you assign probability 0 to God existing. And Pascal does not explicitly rule this possibility out until a later passage, when he assumes that you assign positive probability to God’s existence; yet this argument is presented as if it is self-contained. His claim that “[r]eason can decide nothing here” may suggest that Pascal regards this as a decision under uncertainty, which is to assume that you do not assign probability at all to God’s existence. If that is a further premise, then the argument is valid; but that premise contradicts his subsequent assumption that you assign positive probability. See McClennen for a reading of this argument as a decision under uncertainty.

Pascal appears to be aware of a further objection to this argument, for he immediately imagines an opponent replying:

“That is very fine. Yes, I must wager; but I may perhaps wager too much.”

The thought seems to be that if I wager for God, and God does not exist, then I really do lose something. In fact, Pascal himself speaks of staking something when one wagers for God, which presumably one loses if God does not exist. (We have already mentioned ‘the true’ as one such thing; Pascal also seems to regard one’s worldly life as another.) In other words, the matrix is mistaken in presenting the two outcomes under ‘God does not exist’ as if they were the same, and we do not have a case of superdominance after all.
Pascal addresses this at once in his second argument, which we will discuss only briefly, as it can be thought of as just a prelude to the main argument.

3. The Argument From Expectation
He continues:

Let us see. Since there is an equal risk of gain and of loss, if you had only to gain two lives, instead of one, you might still wager. But if there were three lives to gain, you would have to play (since you are under the necessity of playing), and you would be imprudent, when you are forced to play, not to chance your life to gain three at a game where there is an equal risk of loss and gain. But there is an eternity of life and happiness.

His hypothetically speaking of “two lives” and “three lives” may strike one as odd. It is helpful to bear in mind Pascal’s interest in gambling (which after all provided the initial motivation for his study of probability) and to take the gambling model quite seriously here. Recall our calculation of the expectations of the two dollar and three dollar gambles. Pascal apparently assumes now that utility is linear in number of lives, that wagering for God costs “one life”, and then reasons analogously to the way we did! This is, as it were, a warm-up. Since wagering for God is rationally required even in the hypothetical case in which one of the prizes is three lives, then all the more it is rationally required in the actual case, in which one of the prizes is eternal life (salvation).

So Pascal has now made two striking assumptions:

(1) The probability of God’s existence is 1/2.

(2) Wagering for God brings infinite reward if God exists.

Morris 1994 is sympathetic to (1), while Hacking 1972 finds it “a monstrous premiss”. It apparently derives from the classical interpretation of probability, according to which all possibilities are given equal weight. Of course, unless more is said, the interpretation yields implausible, and even contradictory results. (You have a one-in-a-million chance of winning the lottery; but either you win the lottery or you don’t, so each of these possibilities has probability 1/2?!) Pascal’s best argument for (1) is presumably that “[r]eason can decide nothing here”. (In the lottery ticket case, reason can decide something.) But it is not clear that complete ignorance should be modeled as sharp indifference. In any case, it is clear that there are people in Pascal’s audience who do not assign probability 1/2 to God’s existence. This argument, then, does not speak to them.
However, Pascal realizes that the value of 1/2 actually plays no real role in the argument, thanks to (2). This brings us to the third, and by far the most important, of his arguments.

4. The Argument From Generalized Expectations: “Pascal’s Wager”
We continue the quotation.

But there is an eternity of life and happiness. And this being so, if there were an infinity of chances, of which one only would be for you, you would still be right in wagering one to win two, and you would act stupidly, being obliged to play, by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you, if there were an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain. But there is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. It is all divided; wherever the infinite is and there is not an infinity of chances of loss against that of gain, there is no time to hesitate, you must give all…

Again this passage is difficult to understand completely. Pascal’s talk of winning two, or three, lives is at best misleading. By his own decision theoretic lights, you would not act stupidly “by refusing to stake one life against three at a game in which out of an infinity of chances there is one for you”—in fact, you should not stake more than an infinitesimal amount in that case (an amount that is bigger than 0, but smaller than every positive real number). The point, rather, is that the prospective prize is “an infinity of an infinitely happy life”.

In short, if God exists, then wagering for God results in infinite utility.

What about the utilities for the other possible outcomes? There is some dispute over the utility of “misery”. Hacking interprets this as “damnation”, and Pascal does later speak of “hell” as the outcome in this case. Martin 1983 among others assigns this a value of negative infinity. Sobel 1996, on the other hand, is one author who takes this value to be finite. There is some textual support for this reading: “The justice of God must be vast like His compassion. Now justice to the outcast is less vast … than mercy towards the elect”.

As for the utilities of the outcomes associated with God’s non-existence, Pascal tells us that “what you stake is finite”. This suggests that whatever these values are, they are finite.
Pascal’s guiding insight is that the argument from expectation goes through equally well whatever your probability for God’s existence is, provided that it is non-zero and finite (non-infinitesimal) — “a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss”.[3]

With Pascal’s assumptions about utilities and probabilities in place, he is now in a position to calculate the relevant expectations. He explains how the calculations should proceed:
… the uncertainty of the gain is proportioned to the certainty of the stake according to the proportion of the chances of gain and loss… [4]

Let us now gather together all of these points into a single argument. We can think of Pascal’s Wager as having three premises: the first concerns the decision matrix of rewards, the second concerns the probability that you should give to God’s existence, and the third is a maxim about rational decision-making. Specifically:
1. Either God exists or God does not exist, and you can either wager for God or wager against God. The utilities of the relevant possible outcomes are as follows, where f1, f2, and f3 are numbers whose values are not specified beyond the requirement that they be finite:

God exists God does not exist
Wager for God ∞ f1
Wager against God f2 f3

2. Rationality requires the probability that you assign to God existing to be positive, and not infinitesimal.

3. Rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility (when there is one).

4. Conclusion 1. Rationality requires you to wager for God.

5. Conclusion 2. You should wager for God.

We have a decision under risk, with probabilities assigned to the relevant ways the world could be, and utilities assigned to the relevant outcomes. The conclusion seems straightforwardly to follow from the usual calculations of expected utility (where p is your positive, non-infinitesimal probability for God’s existence):

E(wager for God) = ∞*p + f1*(1 − p) = ∞

That is, your expected utility of belief in God is infinite — as Pascal puts it, “our proposition is of infinite force”. On the other hand, your expected utility of wagering against God is

E(wager against God) = f2*p + f3*(1 − p)

This is finite.[5] By premise 3, rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility.

Therefore, rationality requires you to wager for God.

We now survey some of the main objections to the argument.

5. Objections to Pascal’s Wager
Premise 1: The Decision Matrix
Here the objections are manifold. Most of them can be stated quickly, but we will give special attention to what has generally been regarded as the most important of them, ‘the many Gods objection’ (see also the link to footnote 7).

1. Different matrices for different people.
The argument assumes that the same decision matrix applies to everybody. However, perhaps the relevant rewards are different for different people. Perhaps, for example, there is a predestined infinite reward for the Chosen, whatever they do, and finite utility for the rest, as Mackie 1982 suggests. Or maybe the prospect of salvation appeals more to some people than to others, as Swinburne 1969 has noted.
Even granting that a single 2 x 2 matrix applies to everybody, one might dispute the values that enter into it. This brings us to the next two objections.

2. The utility of salvation could not be infinite.
One might argue that the very notion of infinite utility is suspect — see for example Jeffrey 1983 and McClennen 1994.[6] Hence, the objection continues, whatever the utility of salvation might be, it must be finite. Strict finitists, who are chary of the notion of infinity in general, will agree — see Dummett 1978 and Wright 1987. Or perhaps the notion of infinite utility makes sense, but an infinite reward could only be finitely appreciated by a human being.

3. There should be more than one infinity in the matrix.
There are also critics of the Wager who, far from objecting to infinite utilities, want to see more of them in the matrix. For example, it might be thought that a forgiving God would bestow infinite utility upon wagerers-for and wagerers-against alike — Rescher 1985 is one author who entertains this possibility. Or it might be thought that, on the contrary, wagering against an existent God results in negative infinite utility. (As we have noted, some authors read Pascal himself as saying as much.) Either way, f2 is not really finite at all, but ∞ or -∞ as the case may be. And perhaps f1 and f3 could be ∞ or -∞. Suppose, for instance, that God does not exist, but that we are reincarnated ad infinitum, and that the total utility we receive is an infinite sum that does not converge.

4. The matrix should have more rows.
Perhaps there is more than one way to wager for God, and the rewards that God bestows vary accordingly. For instance, God might not reward infinitely those who strive to believe in Him only for the very mercenary reasons that Pascal gives, as James 1956 has observed. One could also imagine distinguishing belief based on faith from belief based on evidential reasons, and posit different rewards in each case.

6. The matrix should have more columns: the many Gods objection.
If Pascal is really right that reason can decide nothing here, then it would seem that various other theistic hypotheses are also live options. Pascal presumably had in mind the Catholic conception of God — let us suppose that this is the God who either ‘exists’ or ‘does not exist’. By excluded middle, this is a partition. The objection, then, is that the partition is not sufficiently fine-grained, and the ‘(Catholic) God does not exist’ column really subdivides into various other theistic hypotheses. The objection could equally run that Pascal’s argument ‘proves too much’: by parallel reasoning we can ‘show’ that rationality requires believing in various incompatible theistic hypotheses. As Diderot 1875-77 puts the point: “An Imam could reason just as well this way”.[7]

Since then, the point has been represented and refined in various ways. Mackie 1982 writes, “the church within which alone salvation is to be found is not necessarily the Church of Rome, but perhaps that of the Anabaptists or the Mormons or the Muslim Sunnis or the worshippers of Kali or of Odin” (203). Cargile 1966 shows just how easy it is to multiply theistic hypotheses: for each real number x, consider the God who prefers contemplating x more than any other activity. It seems, then, that such ‘alternative gods’ are a dime a dozen — or aleph one, for that matter.

Premise 2: The Probability Assigned to God’s Existence
There are four sorts of problem for this premise. The first two are straightforward; the second two are more technical, and can be found by following the link to footnote 8.
1. Undefined probability for God’s existence. Premise 1 presupposes that you should have a probability for God’s existence in the first place. However, perhaps you could rationally fail to assign it a probability — your probability that God exists could remain undefined. We cannot enter here into the thorny issues concerning the attribution of probabilities to agents. But there is some support for this response even in Pascal’s own text, again at the pivotal claim that “[r]eason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up…” The thought could be that any probability assignment is inconsistent with a state of “epistemic nullity” (in Morris’ 1986 phrase): to assign a probability at all — even 1/2 — to God’s existence is to feign having evidence that one in fact totally lacks. For unlike a coin that we know to be fair, this metaphorical ‘coin’ is ‘infinitely far’ from us, hence apparently completely unknown to us. Perhaps, then, rationality actually requires us to refrain from assigning a probability to God’s existence (in which case at least the Argument from Superdominance would be valid). Or perhaps rationality does not require it, but at least permits it. Either way, the Wager would not even get off the ground.

2. Zero probability for God’s existence. Strict atheists may insist on the rationality of a probability assignment of 0, as Oppy 1990 among others points out. For example, they may contend that reason alone can settle that God does not exist, perhaps by arguing that the very notion of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being is contradictory. Or a Bayesian might hold that rationality places no constraint on probabilistic judgments beyond coherence (or conformity to the probability calculus). Then as long as the strict atheist assigns probability 1 to God’s non-existence alongside his or her assignment of 0 to God’s existence, no norm of rationality has been violated.
Furthermore, an assignment of p = 0 would clearly block the route to Pascal’s conclusion. For then the expectation calculations become:

E(wager for God) = ∞*0 + f1*(1 − 0) = f1

E(wager against God) = f2*0 + f3*(1 − 0) = f3

And nothing in the argument implies that f1 > f3. (Indeed, this inequality is questionable, as even Pascal seems to allow.) In short, Pascal’s wager has no pull on strict atheists.[8]

Premise 3: Rationality Requires Maximizing Expected Etility
Finally, one could question Pascal’s decision theoretic assumption that rationality requires one to perform the act of maximum expected utility (when there is one). Now perhaps this is an analytic truth, in which case we could grant it to Pascal without further discussion — perhaps it is constitutive of rationality to maximize expectation, as some might say. But this premise has met serious objections. The Allais 1953 and Ellsberg 1961 paradoxes, for example, are said to show that maximizing expectation can lead one to perform intuitively sub-optimal actions. So too the St. Petersburg paradox, in which it is supposedly absurd that one should be prepared to pay any finite amount to play a game with infinite expectation. (That paradox is particularly apposite here.)[9]

Finally, one might distinguish between practical rationality and theoretical rationality. One could then concede that practical rationality requires you to maximize expected utility, while insisting that theoretical rationality might require something else of you — say, proportioning belief to the amount of evidence available. This objection is especially relevant, since Pascal admits that perhaps you “must renounce reason” in order to follow his advice. But when these two sides of rationality pull in opposite directions, as they apparently can here, it is not obvious that practical rationality should take precedence. (For a discussion of pragmatic, as opposed to theoretical, reasons for belief, see Foley 1994.)

Is the Argument Valid?

A number of authors who have been otherwise critical of the Wager have explicitly conceded that the Wager is valid — e.g. Mackie 1982, Rescher 1985, Mougin and Sober 1994, and most emphatically, Hacking 1972. That is, these authors agree with Pascal that wagering for God really is rationally mandated by Pascal’s decision matrix in tandem with positive probability for God’s existence, and the decision theoretic account of rational action.

However, Duff 1986 and Hájek 2001 argue that the argument is in fact invalid. Their point is that there are strategies besides wagering for God that also have infinite expectation — namely, mixed strategies, whereby you do not wager for or against God outright, but rather choose which of these actions to perform on the basis of the outcome of some chance device. Consider the mixed strategy: “Toss a fair coin: heads, you wager for God; tails, you wager against God”. By Pascal’s lights, with probability 1/2 your expectation will be infinite, and with probability 1/2 it will be finite. The expectation of the entire strategy is:

1/2*∞ + 1/2[f2*p + f3*(1 − p)] = ∞

That is, the ‘coin toss’ strategy has the same expectation as outright wagering for God. But the probability 1/2 was incidental to the result. Any mixed strategy that gives positive and finite probability to wagering for God will likewise have infinite expectation: “wager for God iff a fair die lands 6”, “wager for God iff your lottery ticket wins”, “wager for God iff a meteor quantum tunnels its way through the side of your house”, and so on.

The problem is still worse than this, though, for there is a sense in which anything that you do might be regarded as a mixed strategy between wagering for God, and wagering against God, with suitable probability weights given to each. Suppose that you choose to ignore the Wager, and to go and have a hamburger instead. Still, you may well assign positive and finite probability to your winding up wagering for God nonetheless; and this probability multiplied by infinity again gives infinity. So ignoring the Wager and having a hamburger has the same expectation as outright wagering for God. Even worse, suppose that you focus all your energy into avoiding belief in God. Still, you may well assign positive and finite probability to your efforts failing, with the result that you wager for God nonetheless. In that case again, your expectation is infinite again. So even if rationality requires you to perform the act of maximum expected utility when there is one, here there isn’t one. Rather, there is a many-way tie for first place, as it were.[10]

Moral Objections to Wagering for God

Let us grant Pascal’s conclusion for the sake of the argument: rationality requires you to wager for God. It still does not obviously follow that you should wager for God. All that we have granted is that one norm — the norm of rationality — prescribes wagering for God. For all that has been said, some other norm might prescribe wagering against God. And unless we can show that the rationality norm trumps the others, we have not settled what we should actually do.

There are several arguments to the effect that morality requires you to wager against God. Pascal himself appears to be aware of one such argument. He admits that if you do not believe in God, his recommended course of action will “deaden your acuteness.” One way of putting the argument is that wagering for God may require you to corrupt yourself, thus violating a Kantian duty to yourself. Clifford 1986 argues that an individual’s believing something on insufficient evidence harms society by promoting credulity. Penelhum 1971 contends that the putative divine plan is itself immoral, condemning as it does honest non-believers to loss of eternal happiness, when such unbelief is in no way culpable; and that to adopt the relevant belief is to be complicit to this immoral plan. See Quinn 1994 for replies to these arguments. For example, against Penelhum he argues that as long as God treats non-believers justly, there is nothing immoral about him bestowing special favor on believers, more perhaps than they deserve. (Note, however, that Pascal leaves open in the Wager whether the payoff for non-believers is just, even though as far as his argument goes, it may be extremely poor.)

Finally, Voltaire protests that there is something unseemly about the whole Wager. He suggests that Pascal’s calculations, and his appeal to self-interest, are unworthy of the gravity of the subject of theistic belief. This does not so much support wagering against God, as dismissing all talk of ‘wagerings’ altogether.

What Does It Mean to “Wager for God”?

Let us now grant Pascal that, all things considered (rationality and morality included), you should wager for God. What exactly does this involve?

A number of authors read Pascal as arguing that you should believe in God — see e.g. Quinn 1994, and Jordan 1994a. But perhaps one cannot simply believe in God at will; and rationality cannot require the impossible. Pascal is well aware of this objection: “[I] am so made that I cannot believe. What, then, would you have me do?”, says his imaginary interlocutor. However, he contends that one can take steps to cultivate such belief:

You would like to attain faith, and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief, and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc…

But to show you that this leads you there, it is this which will lessen the passions, which are your stumbling-blocks.

We find two main pieces of advice to the non-believer here: act like a believer, and suppress those passions that are obstacles to becoming a believer. And these are actions that one can perform at will.
Believing in God is presumably one way to wager for God. This passage suggests that even the non-believer can wager for God, by striving to become a believer. Critics may question the psychology of belief formation that Pascal presupposes, pointing out that one could strive to believe (perhaps by following exactly Pascal’s prescription), yet fail. To this, a follower of Pascal might reply that the act of genuine striving already displays a pureness of heart that God would fully reward; or even that genuine striving in this case is itself a form of believing.

Pascal’s Wager vies with Anselm’s Ontological Argument for being the most famous argument in the philosophy of religion. As we have seen, it is also a great deal more besides.


• Allais, Maurice. 1953. “Le Comportment de l’Homme Rationnel Devant la Risque: Critique des Postulats et Axiomes de l’École Américaine”, Econometrica 21: 503-546.
• Broome, John. 1995. “The Two-Envelope Paradox”, Analysis 55: 1, 6-11.
• Brown, Geoffrey. 1984. “A Defence of Pascal’s Wager”, Religious Studies 20: 465-79.
• Cain, James. 1995. “Infinite Utility”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 73, No. 3, 401-404.
• Cargile, James. 1966. “Pascal’s Wager”, Philosophy, 35: 250-7.
• Castell, Paul and Diderik Batens. 1994. “The Two-Envelope Paradox: the Infinite Case”, Analysis 54: 46-49.
• Chalmers, David. 1997. “The Two-Envelope Paradox: A Complete Analysis?”, manuscript, http://ling.ucsc.edu/~chalmers/papers/envelope.html (and envelope.ps)
• Clifford, William K. 1986. “The Ethics of Belief”, The Ethics of Belief Debate, ed. Gerald D. McCarthy, Scholars Press.
• Conway, John. 1976. On Numbers and Games, Academic Press.
• Cutland, Nigel, ed. 1988. Nonstandard Analysis and its Applications, London Mathematical Society, Student Texts 10.
• Diderot, Denis. 1875-1877. Pensées Philosophiques, LIX, Oeuvres, ed. J. Assézat, Vol. I.
• Duff, Antony. 1986. “Pascal’s Wager and Infinite Utilities”, Analysis 46: 107-9. n
• Dummett, Michael. 1978. “Wang’s Paradox”, in Truth and Other Enigmas, Harvard University Press.
• Ellsberg, D.. 1961. “Risk, Ambiguity and the Savage Axioms”, Quarterly Journal of Economics 25: 643-669.
• Feller, William. 1971. An Introduction to Probability Theory and its Applications, Vol. II, 2nd edition, Wiley.
• Flew, Anthony. 1960. “Is Pascal’s Wager the Only Safe Bet?”, The Rationalist Annual, 76: 21-25.
• Foley, Richard. 1994. “Pragmatic Reasons for Belief”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Hacking, Ian. 1972. “The Logic of Pascal’s Wager”, American Philosophical Quarterly 9/2, 186-92. Reprinted in Jordan 1994b.
• Hacking, Ian. 1975. The Emergence of Probability, Cambridge University Press.
• Hájek, Alan. 1997a. “Review of Gambling on God” (Jordan 1994b), Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 75, No. 1, March 1997, 119-122.
• Hájek, Alan. 1997b. “The Illogic of Pascal’s Wager”, Proceedings of the 10th Logica International Symposium, Liblice, ed. T. Childers et al, 239-249.
• Hájek, Alan. 2000. “Objecting Vaguely to Pascal’s Wager”, Philosophical Studies, vol. 82.
• Hájek, Alan. 2001. “Waging War on Pascal’s Wager: Infinite Decision Theory and Belief in God”, manuscript.
• Jackson, Frank, Peter Menzies and Graham Oppy. 1994. “The Two Envelope ‘Paradox’”, Analysis 54: 46-49.
• James, William. 1956. “The Will to Believe”, in The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy, Dover Publications.
• Jeffrey, Richard C.. 1983. The Logic of Decision, 2nd edition, University of Chicago Press.
• Jordan, Jeff. 1994a. “The Many Gods Objection”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Jordan, Jeff, ed.. 1994b. Gambling on God: Essays on Pascal’s Wager, Rowman & Littlefield.
• Lewis, David. 1981. “Causal Decision Theory”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 59, 5-30; reprinted in Philosophical Papers, Volume II, Oxford University Press, 1986.
• Lindstrom, Tom. 1988. “Invitation to Non-Standard Analysis”, in Cutland 1988.
• Mackie, J. L.. 1982. The Miracle of Theism, Oxford.
• Martin, Michael. 1983. “Pascal’s Wager as an Argument for Not Believing in God”, Religious Studies 19: 57-64.
• Martin, Michael. 1990. Atheism: a Philosophical Justification, Temple University Press.
• McClennen, Edward. 1994. “Finite Decision Theory”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Morris, T. V. 1986. “Pascalian Wagering”, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 16, 437-54.
• Morris, Thomas V. 1994. “Wagering and the Evidence”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Mougin, Gregory, and Elliot Sober. 1994. “Betting Against Pascal’s Wager”, Nous XXVIII: 382-395.
• Nalebuff, B. 1989. “Puzzles: The Other Person’s Envelope is Always Greener”, Journal of Economic Perspectives 3: 171-91.
• Nelson, Edward. 1987. Radically Elementary Probability Theory, Annals of Mathematics Studies, Princeton University Press.
• Nelson, Mark T.. 1991. “Utilitarian Eschatology”, American Philosophical Quarterly, 339-347.
• Ng, Yew-Kwang. 1995. “Infinite Utility and Van Liedekerke’s Impossibility: A Solution”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 73: 408-411.
• Oppy, Graham. 1990. “On Rescher on Pascal’s Wager”, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 30: 159-68.
• Palacios, M. Asin. 1920. “Los Precedentes Musulmanes del ‘Pari’ de Pascal”, Santander.
• Pascal, Blaise. 1910. Pascal’s Pensées, translated by W. F. Trotter.
• Penelhum, Terence. 1971. Religion and Rationality, Random House.
• Rescher, Nicholas. 1985. Pascal’s Wager, Notre Dame.
• Robinson, Abraham. 1966. Non-Standard Analysis, North Holland.
• Ryan, John. 1945. “The Wager in Pascal and Others”, New Scholasticism 19/3, 233-50. Reprinted in Jordan 1994 b.
• Quinn, Philip L. 1994. “Moral Objections to Pascalian Wagering”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Schlesinger, George. 1994. “A Central Theistic Argument”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Skalia, H. J.. 1975. Non-Archimedean Utility Theory, D. Reidel.
• Sobel, Howard. 1994. “Two Envelopes”, Theory and Decision, 69-96.
• Sobel, Howard. 1996. “Pascalian Wagers”, Synthese 108: 11-61.
• Sorensen, Roy. 1994. “Infinite Decision Theory”, in Jordan 1994b.
• Swinburne, R. G.. 1969. “The Christian Wager”, Religious Studies 4: 217-28.
• Vallentyne, Peter. 1993. “Utilitarianism and Infinite Utility”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71: 212-217.
• Vallentyne, Peter. 1995. “Infinite Utility: Anonymity and Person-Centredness”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73: 413-420.
• Vallentyne, Peter and Shelly Kagan. 1997. “Infinite Value and Finitely Additive Value Theory”, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. XCIV, 1: 5-27
• Van Liedekerke, Luc. 1995. “Should Utilitarians Be Cautious About an Infinite Future?”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 73, No. 3, 405-407.
• Weirich, Paul. 1984. “The St. Petersburg Gamble and Risk”, Theory and Decision 17: 193-202.
• Wright, Crispin. 1987. “Strict Finitism”, in Realism, Meaning and Truth, Blackwell.

Copyright © 1998, 2001
Alan Hájek

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

See also, Stephen R. Welch’s page on Pascal’s Wager

This is a letter to the editor I wrote back in 1997 debunking an article someone had written praising attorney general Jeremiah Sullivan Black, who notoriously served under President James Buchanan.

The author had said the Black was a nice fellow from Pennsylvania who had brought credit to his state.

I pointed out that Black was notorious in the history books for conspiring with Buchanan and Chief Justice Roger Taney to bring about the awful ruling in Dred Scott, which helped bring about the Civil War and the secession of the Southern States.

It’s important to note that as late as 1857, prior to Dred Scott, the Civil War might still have been avoided.

But Buchanan, Black and Taney, with the awful Dred Scott decision, pretty much made sure that the US was plunged into what one Republican of the day called “the irrepressible conflict.”

So here’s what I wrote back in 1997 on the subject. It’s of interest today, of course, since we now have our first African-American President, to consider Dred Scott in retrospect, since everyone agrees it was the single worst decision of the United States Supreme Court.

April 6, 1997

To the Editor:

Regretfully I must take issue with my colleague ____________________ article praising James Buchanan’s Attorney General/Secretary of State and former Pennsylvania Chief Justice Jeremiah Sullivan Black for his role in “saving” the United States during the secession crisis of November 1860-March 1861.

To preface, why must we care about this critical aspect of United States history? The answer is simple. Racism is, was and continues to be the predominant issue of our society. To paraphrase W.E.B. DuBois, the color line has been the dividing line of the 20th century.

One of the most shocking aspects of this society is the extent to which racism still permeates and soaks our society in its noxious fumes. Without an understanding of the historical context of the civil war, the end of slavery and of the events immediately preceding the civil war, we fall victim to fooling ourselves into thinking that lawyerly compromisers like Jeremiah Sullivan Black, who were prepared to accept slavery, accept Dred Scott, and accept the extension of slavery all the way to California south of Missouri as called for in the Crittenden compromise, were the moral or ethical equivalent of real heroes like Garrison, Sumner, Seward and Lincoln. The fact is that all the historical revisionism in the world cannot make a Sumner or a Lincoln of a man as limited and narrow in his views as was Jeremiah Sullivan Black.

It was Dante who said that the lowest places in hell are reserved for those who fail to take an ethical stand in times of crisis.

The truth is that the real heroes of those times were Garrison, Sumner, Seward and the so-called “radicals” who understood that law books and laws meant nothing when dealing with the moral wrongness of slavery and men in chains, sold as chattels. And yet, those individuals were vilified in their day, seen as extremists, radicals, far-left wingers–simply because they advocated the political and legal freedom and equality of African-Americans with all other Americans guaranteed to them in the Declaration of Independence, a position most eloquently argued by Lincoln in his debates with Douglas in 1858 and one which is clearly accepted today by the vast majority of law-abiding and freedom-loving Americans.

But what were those men but heroes taking an ethical and moral stand in a time of crisis? Isn’t this why we celebrate Lincoln, while James Buchanan is all but forgotten?

Unfortunately, there must be a historical litmus test applied to persons alive and practicing law and holding high office in the years when slavery was the law of this land. Simply because Black corresponded to the so-called safe middle and the racist, legalistic tenor of his times, exemplified in Dred Scott and in the subsequent 1858-59 prosecution of John Brown, Attorneys General like Jeremiah Sullivan Black can never be praiseworthy or praised historically, legally or ethically in retrospect. His actions were by and large wrong, they contributed to the death and suffering of millions of African-Americans, and they helped bring on the Dred Scott decision, the Harpers Ferry incident, the secession crisis and the Civil War, which in turn lead to the enormous bloodshed of the American Civil War.

Jeremiah Sullivan Black was hardly a Charles Sumner or William Seward to begin with. He was appointed Attorney General almost simultaneously with the announcement on March 6, 1857 of the Dred Scott decision, a decision which many historians agree was the product in part of direct and improper solicitations by Buchanan of individual justices constituting the Southern majority on the court, in order to persuade them to come up with a broader decision expanding slavery beyond its current territorial bounds. In those days, the Presidential inauguration was held on March 4, and therefore Dred Scott was announced just two days after Buchanan took office on March 4, 1857.

Was this timing mere coincidence? The best research suggests that it was not so.

Buchanan’s role, and by implication Black’s role, in doing nothing to criticize Dred Scott, and doing everything to bring about Dred Scott and to broaden its applicability, are reprehensible in historical hindsight. Moreover, the best evidence suggests that President-Elect Buchanan solicited the Southern Judges on the Supreme Court in early 1857 to deliver the broad Dred Scott decision in a deliberate effort to broaden the reach of slavery to a constitutionally protected level beyond the power of the legislative enactments such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise of 1850 and Kansas-Nebraska of 1854.

Historian Allan Nevins in his landmark work The Emergence of Lincoln 1950) advances strong proof of evidence of impropriety in communications between Buchanan and members of the Supreme Court in the days before the decision was announced; and the decision was announced on March 6, 1857, two days after Buchanan was inaugurated.

The evidence as marshalled by Nevins and many other prominent historians suggests that Buchanan asked the Southern majority on the Court to decide Dred Scott broadly. The Oxford Guide to the Supreme Court specifically notes that Buchanan used an intermediary associate justice of the Supreme Court to convey his wishes to Chief Justice Taney that the Court rule broadly in Dred Scott, and that if they did so, the Buchanan Administration was prepared to enforce the decision legally and if necessary, by force.

As the attorney general appointed directly in the wake of Dred Scott, it was Black’s role specifically to defend and uphold Dred Scott, particularly in jurisdictions which up to that point had been considered “free” under the Missouri compromise and other laws separating free from slave.

As a defender of Dred Scott, and indeed, as Attorney General during the implementation of Dred Scott, Black’s historical role is nothing less than despicable. No just-thinking person in today’s world should have anything good to say about a man like Black given his actions from 1857 on in defending the Dred Scott decision. Black did everything in his power as Attorney General to defend Dred Scott, broaden the reach of slavery and thereby delay the emancipation of African-Americans in the United States.

It was this interference of Buchanan directly with the Supreme Court’s Southern wing which wrote the Dred Scott ruling which triggered William Seward’s famous speech “The Irrepressible Conflict,” delivered October 25, 1858 in Rochester, New York. Incidentally, ____________________ incorrectly cites the speech to 1850 at p. 66 of his article, a gross historical inaccuracy since the speech clearly post-dates and is in response to the Dred Scott decision.

In this brilliant speech, William Seward, a great man of history, sets out to demonstrate that “[t]he history of the Democratic party commits it to the policy of slavery. It has been the Democratic party, and no other agency, which has carried that policy up to its present alarming culmination.” William Henry Seward, “The Irrepressible Conflict”, The World’s Great Speeches (Dover 1973) at 295-96. After a historical exegesis, Seward continues;

“The Democratic party, finally, has procured from a supreme judiciary, fixed in its interest, a decree that slavery exists by force of the constitution in every territory of the United States, paramount to all legislative authority, either within the territory or residing in Congress. Such is the Democratic party….It is positive and uncompromising in the interest of slavery….” David Donald, Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (U. of Chicago 1960) at 180-81.

The direct solicitation of Dred Scott by Buchanan was a charge made and repeated often in the days following Dred Scott, and in reading the primary sources today buttressed by historical research done more recently, there is no reason to doubt the contemporary conclusions that Buchanan wanted Dred Scott and sought it out. The charge was made at the time, the charge is made today, and frankly, the charges are true. If it walks like a duck, and it talks like a duck, chances are, it’s a duck.

Seward’s speech should be read and re-read 100 times by all american citizens.

Black was no more and no less than a legalistic defender of slavery in his time. Given the chance to do something historically important, he chose to do nothing at all good and lots of things bad. Nothing he did or said can ever render him a hero.

Black was the kind of gutless wonder that belongs in those lower pits of Dante’s Inferno.

Nor can we allow to pass ____________________’s incomprehensible conclusion that “Buchanan and Black were right–abolitionist pressure did bring on the Civil War.” Buchanan was the key instigator of the secession crisis because Buchanan solicited the Dred Scott decision and then went out of his way (together with Black) to defend it and urge it on all Americans. Moreover, in historical hindsight, everything which the abolitionists did and said was completely and 100% correct and morally and legally justified.

The arguments and moral force of Sumner and Garrison and Seward are the only words from that period which ring true today. In dealing with slavery and comparable morally compelling situations (the German Nazi regime of the 1930s and 1940s comes to mind) there is no room for compromise or for hugging the middle.

What was needed was Lincoln’s and Teddy Roosevelt’s man of action. Instead, what we got in Buchanan and Black were a pair of Pennsylvania apologists for the Southern slavery regime.

Worse, Buchanan appears to have secretly intrigued to bring about Dred Scott and to secretly help his Southern Democratic slaveholding backers. By attacking the abolitionists, Buchanan and Black revealed themselves only to be apologists for a system of slavery which was inhuman, immoral and unconscionable.

Compared to the noble and dignified campaign of men like Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, who struggled from day one against all odds to do the right thing and campaign for the freedom, dignity and human rights of African-Americans in this country, Black was a moral midget.

Senator Sumner in 1849 attacked the legality of segregated schools in Boston and coined the phrase “equality before the law.” Although Sumner lost the Roberts case, six years later the Massachusetts legislature outlawed racial segregation in all schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Senator Sumner’s statue dominates the entrance to Harvard University at Johnston Gate even today, across from Mt. Auburn cemetary. It should. Senator Sumner is and was a great man.

For those who believe that a man like Black can be excused by the times and by the thoughts of his fellow man for being unenlightened, a short time reading Sumner’s works and speeches should disabuse anyone of such apologias. Unrestrained by the times or by the thoughts of his fellow men, Sumner, a practicing attorney and Harvard law school graduate, saw the truth for what it was and spoke directly and clearly about what he saw as the moral and ethical quicksand of any legal regime supporting slavery. To his eternal credit, Sumner opposed not only slavery but also segregation. Consequently, if Sumner could come to those views in the midst of his century, then a man like Black cannot be excused for failing to do so.

Indeed, Buchanan’s (and Black’s) celebration of Dred Scott, and their defense of it on the grounds that it was the “law” was what drove Lincoln in the Lincoln-Douglas debates to derive that there was a natural law, a law from a higher source, that in times like these had to substitute for the corrupt and improper judgment of a few men on an individual Supreme Court acting in concert with what they perceived to be a corrupt President (and Attorney General) openly siding with the forces of slavery.

This appeal to natural law, too, is the central argument of John Brown in his final speech before the Court before receiving sentence–“This Court acknowledges, too, as I suppose, the validity of the law of God. I see a book kissed, which I suppose to be the Bible, or at least the New Testament, which teaches me that all things whatsoever I would that men should do to me, I should do even so to them. It teaches me, further, to remember them that are in bonds as bound with them. I endeavored to act up to that instruction. I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have done, as I have always freely admitted I have done, in behalf of His despised poor, I did no wrong, but right.” See John Brown, “On Being Sentenced to Death,” The World’s Great Speeches. (Dover 1973) at pp. 298-99.

We all know what John Brown was talking about. We know why he went to Harper’s Ferry on a virtual suicide mission, to liberate the slaves of the United States by force. John Brown’s death was a stirring call to action to many who had previously resisted force, and it scared the South deeply.

Jeremiah Sullivan Black as Attorney General also presided over the John Brown/Harpers Ferry incident of October-November 1859 and he did nothing during his Attorney Generalship to suggest that he possessed anything like the principled opposition to slavery which characterized Sumner, Garrison, Whittier, Garrett and other activists of the day. Nor did he ever evidence any understanding of the existence of a moral or natural law superior to the man-made law of his day.

Moreover, turning to the secession crisis period of December 1860-March 1861 which is the subject of _______________________’s piece, Black’s role during the secession crisis is not particularly worthy of praise.

In the first instance, Black’s views during these matters is a matter of public knowledge, since he carried on a virtually daily communication with the incoming Secretary of State William Seward, from December of 1860 to March of 1861. Seward visited Black freely during this time.

President Buchanan actually refused to meet with Seward, who was in charge of transition for Lincoln, and therefore Black played a go-between role between the incoming and outgoing administrations. The evidence suggests that Black’s main concern, far from saving the Union, was to avoid being prosecuted for treason by the incoming administration for the crime of cooperating too closely with the Southern states and particularly of conspiring with South Carolina to surrender Federal property in furtherance of a treasonous conspiracy.

Had Buchanan actually surrendered the forts and not followed Black’s advice, there is little doubt but that such a prosecution would have occurred upon Lincoln’s accession to power.

Compare this with modern Presidential transitions, and you readily see what the problem is.

Moreover, Black’s ideas on averting the secession crisis as expressed directly to Seward were less than praiseworthy. He spent one of their meetings asking Seward to compromise by having Seward accept, as a basis of settlement, simply the Constitution and laws as interpreted by the judiciary, a position which meant acceptance of Dred Scott.

Anyone even vaguely familiar with Seward’s and Lincoln’s views on the subject could not possibly have expected them to agree to such a “cave-in” of principle. It shows that Black assumed implicitly that no politician (even Seward or Lincoln) could possibly elevate moral principle over political expedience and thus highlights his true indifference to the moral enormity of his (and the South’s) crimes in carrying on and defending the institution of slavery.

In other words, even after the Southern states had announced secession, Black was still attempting to evangelize Republicans committed to the end of slavery on behalf of upholding Dred Scott.

Black also supported the Crittenden Compromise, which would have extended slavery to the area below the latitude of 36o30′ permanently in exchange for the Southern states returning to the Union fold, a policy which would have permanently institutionalized slavery in Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California well into the 20th century.

The real hero in the Buchanan cabinet was not Jeremiah Black, a Dred Scott apologist and party hack who does not even merit a mention in the notes to David Donald’s landmark study of Sumner. David Donald, Charles Sumner and the Coming of the Civil War (U. of Chicago 1960).

Rather, the real hero was Edwin Stanton, who after becoming Attorney General and succeeding the inactive and pro-Southern Black, started meeting with Seward and advising him almost daily of the “treasons” being perpetrated in the Buchanan cabinet meetings.

It was Stanton who “leaked” to Seward the intent of Buchanan to essentially surrender the Southern forts (and specifically Ft. Sumter) over to the seceding South Carolinians, and by advising Lincoln through Seward, made it virtually impossible for Buchanan (and Black) to do anything other than the right thing and stand up for the Union. Henry Wilson, “Jeremiah S. Black and Edwin M. Stanton,” Atlantic Monthly (1870) at pp. 464-65.

Stanton, through his friend Peter H. Watson, kept Seward apprised daily of events in the Buchanan cabinet meetings. Stanton also met with Sen. Sumner and kept other apprised secretly as well.

Incidently, Black after the Civil War attempted to prove that Stanton had never discussed Cabinet meetings with Seward, but was later forced to admit that it was so. See David M. Potter, Lincoln and his Party in the Secession Crisis (Yale University Press, 1942) (5th printing 1967) at 252 et seq.

As a consequence, Seward was able to ask several congressmen to convene a Congressional select committee to look into the allegations of whether anyone in the Buchanan administration had improper connections with the South Carolina secessionists.

There is little question but that one of the implicit threats of convening the committee was to look into evidence for a possible criminal prosecution of Black, Buchanan and other pro-Southern members of the Cabinet in the event that Sumter and other forts were surrendered or less than vigorously defended. As such, Black in urging Buchanan to defend the forts from South Carolina acted not out of principle or out of devotion to the Union, but rather, out of calculated self-interest.

In short, Black wanted to save his own skin realizing that a new President and new Administration were coming into power and that wartime justice would soon be a reality. Trial and hanging for treason cannot have been far from Black’s mind in taking whatever actions he did to preserve the status quo of the South Carolina forts pending Lincoln’s accession to power.

Through this select committee and through the press Seward was able to circumscribe the Buchanan cabinet with a limited range of policy options so as to maintain the status quo until Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861.

It was this committee, together with the other actions of Seward and Stanton and others, which probably had the greatest influence on Black to persuade Buchanan to take actions to preserve the status quo. Buchanan’s (and Black’s) natural inclinations, as indeed he was accused of by the Republicans at the time, was to side with the South.

By contrast, in 1832, when faced with the nullification/secession crisis, also involving South Carolina, Andrew Jackson acted swiftly and decisively to muzzle and neuter the rebellion. Historians generally agree that there were many Southerners who did not wish to secede. The border states were still undecided on what to do and North Carolina and Virginia were not particularly willing to secede from the Union.

Strong action by Buchanan in December of 1860 and January of 1861 could have rallied the anti-secessionist forces in the Confederate states and stilled or stopped the secession crisis in its tracks. However, Buchanan did nothing of the kind, and but for the actions of Seward, Stanton and others which essentially orchestrated Black’s counsel, Buchanan would gladly have handed over all federal property to the South willingly.

Black did not like Seward and did not agree with any of the programs or plans of the Republicans. He saw nothing immoral or wrong about slavery. He also referred to Seward as the “Wolsey of the new administration” (a sarcastic referral to the Cardinal Wolsey of historical England) and later penned a famous work in part critical of Seward. See “The Character of Mr. Seward. Reply to C.F.Adams, Sr.” C.F. Black, Essays and Speeches of Jeremiah S. Black (New York, 1886).

Obviously the fact that Black continued to engage in debates with the New England liberals for years after the war demonstrates that Black was a man of limited moral and ethical sense who never understood the basic issue at hand, namely the moral and ethical wrongness of slavery.

Seward concluded his famous speech “The Irrepressible Conflict”, delivered October 25, 1858, as follows;

“I know, and you know, that a revolution has begun. I know, and all the world knows, that revolutions never go backward. Twenty senators and a hundred representatives proclaim boldly in Congress today sentiments and opinions and principles of freedom which hardly so many men, even in this free state [New York], dared to utter in their own homes twenty years ago. While the government of the United States, under the conduct of the Democratic party, has been all that time surrendering one plain and castle after another to slavery, the people of the United States have been no less steadily and perseveringly gathering together the forces with which to recover back again all the fields and all the castles which have been lost, and to confound and overthrow, by one decisive blow, the betrayers of the constitution and freedom forever.”

See William Henry Seward, “The Irrepressible Conflict”, The World’s Great Speeches (Dover 1973), at pp.297-98.

One can not imagine Attorney General Black or Secretary of State Black uttering those words of Seward, and indeed, Seward himself viewed Black together with Buchanan as “betrayers of the constitution and freedom”.

Nor can we forget Charles Sumner’s vigorous reply to Buchanan’s request that Massachusetts adopt the so-called Crittenden compromise;

“Massachusetts has not yet spoken directly on these propositions; but…such are the unalterable convictions of her people, they would see their state sink below the sea and become a sandbank before they would adopt those propositions acknowledging property in man.”

See Donald, cited supra, at p. 371.

Obviously, by contrast, Mr. Black celebrated Dred Scott, defended the Crittenden compromise, and as Attorney General and as ultimate prosecutor of John Brown, saw no problem morally, ethically or legally with the enforcement of laws and institutions designed solely to enslave others and keep them in a condition of slavery. That he counselled Buchanan to keep the South Carolina forts in American hands at the same time that he knew that William Seward (and Edwin Stanton), a Congressional select committee and others were looking directly over their shoulders and threatening to prosecute them after March of 1861 for treason, explains to a greater and more precise degree Black’s actions than any feelings of Black that the Union should be preserved.

Jeremiah Sullivan Black was presented a rare gift in life, the opportunity to be act rightly, to act moral, to be William Seward or Charles Sumner or Abraham Lincoln.

Given this opportunity, he chose to simply be Jeremiah Sullivan Black, just another Pennsylvania lawyer content to muddle through the middle rather than take a principled stand against what anyone could plainly see was wrong.

In his time, and in his day, Black was seen as a “betrayer” of freedom and of the constitution, and nothing advanced in ____________________’s article should lead us astray from Mr. William Seward’s well-developed and fully articulated conclusions of 1858 in that regard.

In his day, Black was derided and despised for his warm embrace of Dred Scott and Crittenden’s compromise, and it would be a waste of authorial energies to attempt to exhume his well-deserved historical internment.

In searching for Pennsylvanians to emulate, it would be wiser and better to dwell on the flower of Pennsylvania, our abolitionists and leaders of freedom like Garrett and Longwood and others who worked tirelessly for the end of slavery and for the equality before the law of African-Americans.

We have a proud and noble history of abolitionism and of many historical figures who risked their lives working on the underground railroad in the Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey regions.

Those are the local men and women whose works should be praised and discussed today. We cannot remind ourselves too many times of those great men and women who came before us. They were our Sumners and our Garrisons, our Lincolns and our Sewards. And that Martin Luther King studied seminary right here outside Philadelphia in the early 1950s.

If you have any questions, please kindly contact the undersigned.

Very truly yours,

Arthur J. Kyriazis


Art Kyriazis
Philly/South Jersey
Home of the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies
Home of the Incredible Philadelphia Eagles
Home of the Arena Football League Champion Philadelphia Soul
Making the Playoffs in 2008: The Sixers, the Flyers, the Phillies and the Eagles!
Happy New Year 2009