Being a blog entry in which the use/mention distinction almost, but not quite, solves one of the world's problems

Even though he's wrong, wrong, wrong about the grad strike at NYU, David Velleman is a pretty good philosopher, so I eagerly clicked through when Jim Hamilton sent me a link to Velleman's analysis of the Muhammed cartoon rowdydow. You should too.

There's a lot there that's worth reading, but what really piqued my philosonerdical interist was this:
Indeed, there is some reason to doubt whether they would still qualify as images of Muhammad. After all, the cartoons are "of" Muhammad, not by virtue of looking like him, but only by virtue of the artists' assertion as to their subject, and that assertion would be merely quoted when the cartoons were reprinted. That is, they would be presented as images claimed by the artist to depict Muhammad, with no endorsement of that claim. |Left2Right: freedom and offense|

Let's be clear on the claim. Velleman is arguing that the Danish cartoons, when reprinted, needn't constitute blasphemy so long as the reprinter is careful not to endorse the artists' assertion that the cartoons really are images of Muhammed.

This seemed plausible to me at first blush, but upon further reflection I've changed my mind. From the point of view of the argument, the crucial point to notice is that whether the reprinted images are, in fact, images of Muhammed turns not on whether the reprinter endorses the claim that they are but, instead, on whether the claim is true. So the important question becomes, did the original cartoons succeed in securing reference? It seems obvious that they did, even though, as Velleman notes, this was done in the absence of resemblence between the images and their subject.

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