Against the Ontological Argument

I’ve always thought the ontological argument was invalid, and I’ve known what the problem is, but I’ve never really been able to express it. Today, I found a book at the library that took the problem right out of my head and expressed it perfectly:

“St. Anselm says: If the most perfect being that can be conceived did not exist, it would be possible to conceive of a being which has all the qualifications of the former, plus existence, so that this latter being would then be more perfect than the most perfect being that can be conceived. I admit that if this being did not exist, and was not conceived as self-existing, it would be possible to conceive one more perfect. But I deny the assertion that if it did not exist, though it was at the same time conceived as self-existing, then it would be possible to conceive of a more perfect being. Hence it is not logical to conclude: ‘Therefore God exists’; all that can be logically concluded is: Therefore, God must be conceived as self-existing, and in truth does so exist, and is entirely independent of any other being, if He exists.” (Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, God: His Existence and His Nature, vol. 1, ch. 2)

The problem is that the argument fails to distinguish between whether God is conceptualized as existing and whether God actually exists. The argument shows that God conceptualized as actually existing is greater than God conceptualized as not existing. But just because one must conceptualize God as existing if one is to conceptualize Him at all, doesn’t mean God has to exist independently of a person’s concept of Him.

Analysis of the Rhythmic Properties of “Ren’ai Circulation”


In recent years, thanks to Poser’s seminal 1990 paper, the two-mora foot has come to be recognized as one of the fundamental units in Japanese prosody, weakening the role of the syllable in the analysis of several accentual and other phenomena. In the wake of Poser’s paper, some linguists, such as Laurence Labrune, have returned to the traditional Japanese model of prosody, which did not recognize syllables as a category at all, but only recognized regular and “special” morae. However, while much has been made of the evidence for the existence of the two-mora foot and how special morae can be used as an alternative to a syllable-based analysis, I have yet to find any source that simply explains how feet are parsed in simple terms. Thus in order to glean as much information as possible on how morae are parsed, I elected to analyze a Japanese rap song, specifically “Ren’ai Circulation,” a theme song from Bakemonogatari.


The rhythmic system of Japanese is fundamentally different from that of English. Whereas the basic rhythmic unit of English is an acoustic unit, the syllable, the basic unit of rhythm in Japanese is a more abstract unit, called a mora, that may or may not correspond to a syllable in English. To be sure, most of all the possible morae are syllables, specifically syllables that do not end with a consonant. However, there are several types of sounds that occupy a mora rhythmically, even though they would not be analyzed as syllables in English. They are:

-the moraic nasal, written as n or n’; thus the honorific san would be analyzed as containing two morae, “sa” and “n,” whereas a native English speaker would analyze it as a single syllable.

-the second half of a long vowel; thus ookii, which begins with a long o and ends with a long i, consists of four morae, “o,” “o,” “ki,” and “i,” with the second half of the long o and the second half of the long i being separate morae.

-word-medial vowels without preceding consonants, particularly i and e; thus nai has two morae, “na” and “i,” whereas an English speaker would analyze the word as a single diphthong.

-the first part of a geminate (doubled) consonant; thus “yatta” (“[I/you/he/she/it/we/you/they] did [it]!”) contains 3 morae, “ya,” “t,” and “ta.” An English speaker would probably have trouble detecting the doubled consonant at all, let alone analyze it as a separate rhythmic unit.

These morae are called “special” or “deficient” morae by various authors; everything in Japanese that looks like a syllable ending with a consonant or vowel glide is actually a sequence of a normal mora followed by a special mora. Being less sonorant than morae that contain full vowels, they have some special restrictions on them. Most notably, in the Tokyo dialect they are not allowed to carry word accents, so that if a regular accentual rule would result in one of these morae being accented, the accent is pushed back to the preceding mora instead. (The only word as far as the author knows that is lexically accented on a deficient mora (not due to pre-accenting particles like tte or shika) is obaasankko, “gramma’s boy,” which is accented on the n.)

When several morae follow each other in sequence, they are divided into feet, which are units of two morae each, with the first mora in each foot being stressed. The first mora is said to be the “head” of the foot or to be in the strong position of the foot. (Which raises the question of whether the mora in the weak part of the foot is in the “foot” of the foot.) Here is where the situation becomes unclear. Some sources seem to suggest that feet are parsed from left to right, with the first mora in a word becoming the head of the foot, the next mora becoming the corresponding weak part of the foot, the third becoming the head of a new foot, and so on to the end of the word. Thus there might be a stray mora at the end if the word has an odd number of morae. Other sources, including Poser’s paper, seem to suggest that parsing goes from right to left, so that the last two morae in a word form a foot, then the next two preceding morae become the next foot preceding, and so on to the beginning of the word, so that if there is a stray mora it will be at the beginning of the word. There are also sources that claim that feet must always stay within a morpheme, so that e.g. “wakarimashita” would be parsed “(waka)ri(mashi)ta” rather than “(waka)(rima)(shita)” because the verb root “wakar(i)-” and the suffix “mashita” are separate morphemes. Laurence Labrune asserts that a word’s accent must fall on the strong part of a foot, so that e.g. “tokeru” would be parsed as “to(keru)” rather than “(toke)ru” because the accent falls on “ke” and so “ke” must start a new foot. Other sources suggest that foot parsing and accentuation are completely independent of each other. (Incidentally, based on my own subjective impressions from listening to Japanese, I would be more inclined to the latter opinion.) Labrune also asserts that special/deficient morae are not allowed to head a foot; thus e.g. “wakatta” would be parsed “wa(kat)ta,” because the “t” in the middle is not allowed to head a foot. However, while many sources make assertions about many individual rules of foot parsing, nowhere is there a simple list of rules of how feet are parsed. In order to take steps to remedy this situation, the author of the present paper decided to undertake a study of a Japanese rap song to analyze how feet are parsed in it.


Being curious about the process of foot parsing, I decided to study one of the several Japanese rap songs I had heard in order to analyze its foot structure. “Ren’ai Circulation,” the fourth opening theme of the anime Bakemonogatari, was chosen for this purpose, for several reasons.

First, it was catchy and easy to memorize.

Second, it happened to be the first Japanese rap song I had heard.

Third, “Ren’ai Circulation” is the theme song used in the “Nadeko Snake” arc, and Sengoku Nadeko is one of the author’s favorite characters in the Monogatari series. He particularly likes the parts where (POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!) Nadeko is revealed to have gone insane, with half the story of the “Nadeko Medusa” arc as she had narrated it consisting of outright lies; and where Kaiki reveals that he had seen the manga that Nadeko had secretly been writing (“And the plots were surprisingly perverted, too”), causing Nadeko to revert from a raging insane goddess to an embarrassed schoolgirl. (END OF SPOILERS)

Data collection and analysis proceeded in four steps. First, the author of the present paper listened to the song “Ren’ai Circulation” in the following video:

Actually, it was not this video, but the author does not think it worth the time and effort to find the first video.

He then looked up the lyrics at the following URL:

Then he listened to the song again until he had memorized its rhythm and lyrics.

Finally, he went ahead and analyzed it.


The lyrics of the rapping portions of the song are provided below in romaji for easy reference.

(Verse 1)
Kotoba ni sureba kiechau kankei nara
kotoba o keseba ii ya tte
omotte ta, osorete ta,
da kedo are? Nanka chigau ka mo…

Senri no michi mo ippo kara!
Ishi no you ni katai, sonna ishi de
Chiri mo tsumoreba yamato nadeshiko?
“Shi” nuki de―iya, shinu ki de!

(Verse 2)
Watashi no naka no anata hodo
anata no naka no watashi no sonzai wa
mada mada ookiku nai koto mo
wakatteru keredo

Ima kono onaji SHUNKAN
kyouyuu shite ru JIKKAN
Chiri mo tsumoreba yamato nadeshiko!
Ryaku shite? Chiri-tsumo-yamato Nadeko!

Figures 1.1 and 1.2 shows the scansion of the lyrics into two-mora feet.

Figure 1.1: Verse 1
Scansion of the lines “omotte ta, osorete ta, da kedo are? Nanka chigau ka mo” uncertain

Figure 1.2 Verse 2
Scansion of the lines “mada mada ookiku nai koto mo” uncertain


Several points stand out upon a first look at the data. For one thing, foot parsing seems to go from left to right starting with the very first mora of each line, with the first mora being articulated as the head of a foot, the next being articulated as the weak mora of the foot, the next being the head of the next foot, and so on. This process does not respect either word boundaries or morpheme boundaries, so that the weak part of a foot can be in a different word or morpheme from the strong part of the foot; for example, “Kotoba ni sureba,” “Chiri mo tsumoreba yamato nadeshiko,” etc. If the last mora before a pause falls in the strong position, then that mora lengthens to cover the weak part of the foot as well, and the next mora begins a new foot, e.g. “Senri no michi mo ippo kara,” “Watashi no naka no anata hodo anata no naka no watashi no sonzai wa”

There are several lines where deficient morae are consistently placed in the weak position of the foot. For example, “Kotoba ni sureba kiechau kankei nara,” “Senri no michi mo ippo kara!” etc.

However, what is much more interesting is that there are also many cases where a deficient mora falls into the strong part of the foot. This creates a syncopated rhythm, depicted in musical notes in figure 2. The most obvious case is the line “Ishi no you ni katai sonna ishi de,” where almost all the feet in the string “… no you ni katai sonna …” are syncopated. Other examples include: “… anata no naka no watashi no sonzai wa,” “… wakatteru keredo.” This syncopation flatly contradicts Labrune’s assertion that deficient morae are not allowed to head feet. More research would be required to determine whether this occurs only in metrical speech or also in normal speech.

A similar effect occurs when a devoiced vowel falls into the strong position, as in “yamato nadeshiko” or “ryaku shite.”

Figure 2: Syncopated rhythm

Syncopated feet would also explain several loanword truncations that do not quite add up in either a syllabic analysis or a purely moraic analysis. In Japanese, words are often truncated into a two- or three-mora form; thus “animeeshon” is shortened to “anime,” “conbiniensu sutoaa” is truncated to “conbini” (consisting of two 2-mora halves) etc. But there are some words whose truncated forms are cut off in the middle of (what an English speaker would call) a syllable, for example “demonsutoreeshon” to “demo,” with the n of the second “syllable” left out of the truncation. This has been used as evidence against the existence of syllables as a prosodic category in Japanese. However, if, as Labrune holds, deficient morae are not allowed to head feet, then this truncation poses a problem under a purely moraic analysis as well. Going by Labrune’s analysis, the footing of “demonsutoreeshon” would have to be “de(mon)suto(ree)(shon)” (I’m not sure how she would treat the “-suto-” in the middle). The sequence “-mon-” forms a foot to itself, and so the truncation splits a foot down the middle―which, going by the logic used in arguing against syllables, would then constitute evidence against the existence of feet. On the other hand, if we allow for syncopated feet, the problem is solved: the footing becomes “(demo)(nsu)…,” which makes the truncation “demo” quite natural.

Another point (admittedly anecdotal evidence) that seems to support this conclusion is that the author has often heard voice actors lengthen the first mora in a word. As it would not make sense to lengthen a mora in an unstressed position at the beginning of the word (lengthening at the end of a word can be explained by an exaggerated or trailing-off intonation), this lengthening would imply that the first mora in a word naturally tends to be stressed, regardless of the morae, deficient or otherwise, that follow.

Labrune uses the idea of deficient (i.e. single-mora) feet in conjunction with her claim that accents must fall on the strong portion of a foot to explain the accentuation of loanwords. However, in view of the tendency of single morae to lengthen when placed in the strong portion of the foot with no mora following, I find the idea of deficient feet difficult to believe, as one would expect that in such cases, the single mora would lengthen to cover the rest of the foot. This phenomenon is not restricted to metrical speech; for example, it is found regularly when counting (e.g. in “ichi, ni, san, shi,” the monomoraic numerals “ni” and “shi” are lengthened) or when a monomoraic word appears in a sentence without a case-marking particle (e.g. hi tsukeru “set fire” is pronounced “hii tsukeru,” with lengthened i).

The claim that accented morae must fall on the strong part of the foot also seems dubious in light of the metrical structure of the song. In particular, in the line, “Watashi no naka no anata hodo anata no naka no watashi no sonzai wa …,” the lyricist seems to have gone out of her way to make sure that the metrical accents fall on the first and last morae of “anata” each time the word appears; the extra pauses inserted after the second “no” in “Watashi no naka no…” and after the first “anata” in “… anata hodo anata no naka no…” certainly have this effect. However, the accent of “anata” falls on “na.” Thus the lyricist has deftly avoided placing the metrical accent on the same mora as the pitch accent. Rather, it seems that she has prioritized placing the metrical stress at the beginning of the word rather than on the accented mora. Elsewhere too throughout the song, the placement of word accents with relation to metrical accents is regularly ignored; e.g. “sureba” and “keseba,” both accented on their second mora, are metrically stressed on their first and last mora. This situation is strikingly similar to that of Ancient Greek, another pitch accent language, which also disregarded word accent when assigning metrical stress.

Lastly, the singer’s articulation of the word “unmei” in the chorus of the song is also interesting. As I understand her, Labrune analyzes the mora as containing two “slots,” an onset position where a consonant would appear, and a nucleus position where a vowel would appear. Deficient morae are analyzed as having an empty slot in one position. Thus the moraic nasal would have an unspecified nasal consonant (articulation being determined by assimilation to the following consonant) and an empty vowel position, as shown in figure 3.

Figure 3: Internal structure of a mora

Now, in the song, the moraic nasal in “unmei” falls on its own note. In order to articulate this, the singer pronounces the word as “u-um-mei,” in IPA, [ɯ ɯm mej]. This does not seem to be consistent with the internal structure of the mora in Labrune’s account. If the moraic nasal consisted of an unspecified nasal consonant in onset position followed by an empty vowel slot, then one would think the singer would pronounce it more like [ɯ mm̩ mej], with a nasal in the onset rather than an epenthetic vowel before the consonant.


In conclusion, Nadeko is the author’s favorite girl in the Monogatari series. However, he must admit that although Nadeko is his favorite character, he actually likes Kanbaru’s  theme songs best.

Moreover, the concept of syncopated feet (feet with a deficient mora in the strong position, observed to occur in rap) seems to explain several loan truncations that at first do not seem to work under either a syllabic or a moraic analysis.

Metrical treatment of accented morae seems to suggest that accent and stress are completely independent, contrary to Labrune’s assertion that accented morae must start a foot.

Based on how the meter of Japanese rap works, the author is inclined to think that foot parsing begins with the first mora of the word and proceeds to the end. This process is not affected by deficient morae or accent, but the author conjectures that it is cut off by morpheme boundaries.

The author also thinks that the idea of dividing all morae, including deficient ones, into an onset position and a vowel position is taking the whole dividing-stuff-into-parts thing a bit too far.

The Four Loves and Japanese

The words for “love” in Japanese correspond pretty well to the Greek words for “love.”

ai~agape (selfless love)

koi~eros (romantic love)

yuujou~philia (friendship)

I can’t seem to find an equivalent for storge (στοργή) though. Heck, I’m not even really sure what storge means. The Wikipedia article for C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves (I haven’t read it myself) describes it as being the love that forms between people who have bonds without any sort of choice or compatibility beforehand, e.g. the love between parents and their children. But whereas this description sounds like it also fits the relationship between e.g. siblings, the Greek dictionary I have just defines it as “love, affection, esp. of parents and children.” So I don’t know if it refers specifically to parent-child love or the more general definition on Wikipedia. Then again, I don’t know of a corresponding Japanese word in either case, so for the purposes of this post I guess it’s a moot point. For parent-child love, you would probably just use ai, or oyako-doushi no ai if you wanted to be really specific.

Whereas Greek has verb forms for each of its words for love (ἀγαπάω, ἐράω, φιλέω, and στοργέω), Japanese doesn’t, except for ai, which has a corresponding verb ai suru (which basically means “to do ai” literally). There is a word koi suru, but I think that refers more to falling in love than being in love; you might hear someone say Tanaka-san wa koi shita for “Tanaka-san fell in love,” but I don’t think you’d hear Tanaka-san wa koi shite iru for “Tanaka-san is in love.” For that, you’d just use suki, as in Tanaka-san wa Yamada-san no koto ga suki da or something like that. Suki can also be used as a general-purpose word like “like” or “love” in English, but I think Japanese people would more often express how much they like something in terms of how good the thing is rather than how they feel about it. So if you really like, I don’t know, bread or something, then rather than say “I like bread” (*Ore wa pan ga suki da), you’d say “Bread is good” (Pan tte oishii yo ne). I’m not sure if I’ve actually read that anywhere (I think I might have), but that’s the impression I get from manga and whatnot. Yuujou would be expressed in terms of nouns—you might say something like Tanaka-san wa tomodachi da for “Tanaka-san is my friend,” or if you’re really close you might use shin’yuu or yuujin (not sure what the difference is) instead of tomodachi.

Speaking of shin’yuu, the differences between the Japanese words for “friend” are also pretty interesting. The lowest rung on the friendship ladder would be kaomishiri, which just means someone whose face you know. This one is so distant that it’s rarely even used (judging by anime and manga). Above that would be shiriai, which is an acquaintance—someone you know but aren’t particularly close to. Then above that would be tomodachi, which corresponds pretty well to “friend” in English, though I’ve read that English speakers use “friend” more loosely than Japanese speakers use “tomodachi.” And above that would be shin’yuu, which would be a really close friend. My brother actually makes a perfect example of the difference between tomodachi and shin’yuu. In high school, he made one friend that really completely clicked with him. They’re still keeping in touch even after graduating from college, and they’re always fooling around together if only on the internet (their banter on Facebook is pretty funny). But my brother never got that close to anyone in college. He did have a bunch of people he would hang out with, and they do still talk and such, but he says he never felt like he could completely relax around his college friends. In Japanese terms, the one high school friend he’s really close to would be a shin’yuu, while his college friends would be tomodachi.

If koi and eros really do mean basically the same thing, then that actually makes me much more comfortable with eros as a word. I always equated eros with “lust,” probably because of the connotation of “erotic” in English, but koi sounds much more sentimental or romantic than that. Then again, I’m pretty sure the ancient Greeks had rituals in honor of eros that involved, uh, sacred prostitutes. So maybe it really does mainly mean lust…

One thing that kind of bothers me about the image of the word agape among people who study these sorts of things nowadays: agape can mean selfless love, and when used by Christians that’s generally what it refers to, but in colloquial Greek it was every bit as ambiguous as the English word “love.” Even to this day in Modern Greek, that’s how it’s used. Heck, I think I remember seeing one example sentence in an Ancient Greek dictionary where agape was applied to the kind of love a man has for his favorite food.

ADHD-PI……. Maybe

So the real reason I have such a hard time posting regularly MIGHT have come to light now. Namely, ADHD-PI. I’ve been wondering for a while whether I might have it, and just today I got a prescription for it. But even after getting a prescription, I find it hard to believe I really have it.

The thing is, the prescription was just way too easy to get. I just told a Kaiser Permanente doctor about some concentration-related problems I have, he directed me to the psychiatric branch, someone from the psychiatric branch gave me a short survey over the phone, I answered a few questions for a psychiatrist, and now suddenly I have a controlled substance on my hands. It just feels way too easy. There was no official test or anything, unless the phone survey counts. The questions the psychiatrist asked me weren’t to ascertain whether I have ADHD; they seemed to already assume that I have it. For diagnosing a disorder like this—and one whose medication is a controlled substance, no less—it just seems way too lax. I was expecting some kind of super specialized test, like maybe one where they show me a video and see how well I can remember it, but there was nothing of the sort; they apparently just took my word for it.

So I still feel stuck in limbo here. On the one hand, I definitely do have a bunch of problems that could be explained by ADHD-PI. The one that stands out the most by far is that whenever I find a video game, manga, or anime I like, I end up getting absorbed in it for the better part of an entire day. Just recently, I bought Clannad and ended up playing it for some 8 hours in my first session—and would have gone on longer, but I was staying over at a cousin’s house and my dad came to pick me up at that point. I did the same thing again upon rediscovering Harvest Moon in the past few weeks. I’ve watched a bunch of 12-episode anime (Serial Experiments LainPuella Magi Madoka Magica, (most of) the first season of Noragami, the second season of Noragami, and (most of) the first season of The World God Only Knows) in one sitting each, as well as one 22-episode anime (Guilty Crown) in one sitting. And just the other day, I read all 75 published chapters of a manga I discovered on Comico (Funny Life) in two sittings. And that last one wasn’t even that good. Whenever I’m in this mode, I always put off meals; it generally plays out like this:

12:00: “Oh, it’s noon, I’d better eat lunch soon.”
1:00: “Yeah, now would be a good time to have lunch. I’ll eat when I get to the next save point / chapter / episode.”
2:00: “Well, I already passed a save point / chapter / episode (or two) (or three), but now I’m in the middle of something again… Well, once it gets to be 3:00, then I’ll be worried.”
2:30: “Still not 3:00…”
3:00: “Ok, NOW I’ll eat lunch. For sure.”
3:50 (still haven’t eaten): “… Well, heck.”
4:20: “Alright, that’s it. *pauses the anime/game and eats*”

At college, I regularly have close calls where I get to restaurants just as they’re closing because of this. I asked my brother if he would be capable of playing the same game for 8 hours on end like I do, and he gave a definitive no.

I’m also a chronic procrastinator of homework. That basically works out the same as the meal situation. And I never organize anything until it starts getting really out of hand; in high school, I carried around all the papers I’d gotten back in the past I-don’t-know-how-long in a big pile because I was too lazy to organize them into separate binders as I got them.

In high school, I could never concentrate on homework as long as the TV was on. I didn’t have to be in the same room, as long as I could hear it I wouldn’t be able to concentrate. It would only be when everyone in the house was asleep and the lights were out that I’d finally be able to concentrate.

I’m not entirely sure if this is related to concentration, but I’ve also always been a really slow worker except in areas where I know the subject way better than my classmates. It’s particularly bad with science projects. I always do really well with theory, but when it comes to practical projects everyone always leaves me in the dust. I don’t even know what I’m doing wrong with this one; it feels like I’m working at a normal pace.

And I also get psychologically exhausted pretty easily. For me, a bus trip to Walmart and back qualifies as sufficient adventure for one day.

So if I have ADHD-PI, then that could explain all of that. But on the other hand, my life just hasn’t been that difficult. I’ve been getting straight A’s from high school all the way to now (entering 3rd year of college); the lowest grade I’ve gotten has been an A- (two instances, both in literature classes). This past semester, I even started reading manga on my phone in the middle of class and STILL got straight A’s. I’ve rarely ever been singled out for bad behavior (when I was, it was generally for refusing to take part in mandatory schoolwide camaraderie exercises). I graduated valedictorian in high school, and I’m going to college with a full scholarship right now. So it doesn’t feel right to claim to have this brain disorder when things seem to be going so well.

So maybe I do have ADHD-PI and make up for it by being smart or something. But then again maybe I just don’t have any discipline because I’ve always been able to get by with little effort. And then there’s also the fact that I get essentially no exercise on a daily basis and don’t eat nearly enough vegetables. So are my problems related to ADHD-PI, or any of these other factors, or both, or something else entirely? As long as there’s no big official rigorous test, I feel like I can’t really be sure.

EDIT: Actually, I just realized. Whenever I get absorbed in something, I put off eating or using the bathroom for hours on end. If the problem were a simple lack of discipline, then I probably wouldn’t be willing to put up with ignoring bodily urges for so long. So I guess the problem is deeper than a lack of discipline. Probably.