Hello! It is with pleasure that I write.
My questions are:
Is Aristotle's Metaphysics a work only destined for erudites?
If negative, how could an academical student read the work, without complications?
It is evident that English is not your native language. Aristotle, of course, wrote in ancient Greek, a language very different from both modern Greek and from modern English. There are very many translations and commentaries of Aristotle in various languages, with probably the best being in modern English, German, French and I'd guess Italian.
So, first, if you want to read Aristotle, and have little background in Western philosophy, start with a good commentary, not with the original. He is difficult, mostly because of the difficulty in translation. If there is a good commentary in your native language, I would advise your reading that first, before you go to the original. As I say, if you actually look at the ancient Greek (which I have done to some extent) you find huge differences in the way that words were used, defined, and combined, from the way they are employed in English.
Then, after you've read the commentary on whatever aspect of Aristotle you're interested in (and that's another question he wrote an enormous amount in a variety of fields), go to the (translated) original, and read, carefully, the translator's introduction before you start on the text.
In general I would highly recommend, if you are reading in English, that you find recent commentaries and translations, for this reason: the older writers took themselves, for the most part, to be the final authority on interpreting Aristotle, in part because there were very few others, and in part because that was the style, some time ago. Modern translators are much more humble, and take a variety of interpretations and translations into account (if they're any good). So in finding a translation, try to find one which has footnotes and/or references to other translations. You will get a much more complete and rounded account of Aristotle and incidentally of the history of his interpretation.
I found, for example, H.G. Apostle's translation of the Nicomachean Ethics excellent for those reasons.
To answer your questions specifically, "Is Aristotle's Metaphysics a work only destined for erudites?" Basically, at this point, yes, because of translation problems, and because of his topics.
"If negative, how could an academical student read the work, without complications?" There's no way to read Aristotle "without complications"; he addresses some of the most complex problems there are. Try what I've suggested above. If you want something like a Reader's Digest watered-down version of Aristotle, well, I'd say don't bother. But if you insist, in the US there is a publisher which prints "Idiots Guides" to various subjects (I'm not joking, that's what they're called); they might have something.
Steven Ravett Brown
Is existentialism compatible with ethics? (looking at both Sartre's and Beauvoir's differing ideas of freedom).
Sartre was a moral philosopher. As an atheist, Sartre thought there was there no a priori way to establish the good or God, and because he thought that there is no essence to human nature there could be no objective principles and, furthermore because of the way Sartre characterises morality, there can be no moral knowledge. Morality, for Sartre, was a way of being, or an aspect of subjectivity so his moral stance might be described as inter-subjective. Man's subjectivity is defined by his relation to others, particularly with respect to guilt, shame and responsibility, which are ethical concepts.
A person feels shame when he is being looked at and judged. In Being and Nothingness Sartre gives examples of making a vulgar gesture or spying through a keyhole. You might be absorbed in spying through a keyhole and suddenly become aware of what you are doing, as seen through the evaluative eyes of others, and this gives rise to shame. There can be no such thing as shame without other persons. You cannot choose not to feel shame, since shame is in the face of others or an affect of the being of others. This form of moral description does not interfere with man's ability to choose what to do or determine what he thinks is right. The awareness of others, bringing a feeling of shame, is moral consciousness or a consciousness of values, and the individual is free to ignore this consciousness.
At any one time, genuine alternatives for action are available from which an individual is free to choose and for which he is responsible for as the "author of the event". As one amongst others, in possession of a moral consciousness in relation to others, a man may perform what he knows to be wrong in the eyes of others and he is morally responsible because he is free.
For de Beauvoir, on the other hand, freedom is curtailed by one's having been moulded by the world, especially society and past history. This implies less moral responsibility. As a feminist, de Beauvoir felt that she was oppressed rather than free, but limitations to freedom caused by social conditioning are not incompatible with an ethics based on relations with others. De Beauvoir saw ethics as emerging from close relationships, such as family, and affinities with others.
I am young and nascent in my knowledge of philosophy but I have a pretty good idea of the philosophy that I think is the "right one". (Pardon my apparent naivety and arrogance). I have a good idea of it but I'm at a loss for resources and materials to help further my study of this topic. Here's my basic philosophy:
The purpose of life lies in happiness. Each and every individual deserves to and should be free to seek happiness. Government should exist to meet that ends. Therefore barriers that prevent a person from achieving happiness (e.g. genes that handicap a person and make their life worse), should be broken down by say, in this example, research and developments in the genetic engineering field. And at the extreme of this philosophy things like death could be eliminated or at least exponentially postponed so people can enjoy longer, happier lives.
Now the only book I've read that dealt with this was Charles Murray's In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government. Could you provide me with a bibliography or list of philosophers or works that are related to this manner of thinking?
Well, a lot of people would probably agree with you that the purpose of life is happiness: although there might be some debate about what happiness is, and how you decide whether you have achieved it. Aristotle (who, by the way, agrees with you) nevertheless cautions us not to call anyone (including ourselves) happy while he is still alive. The reason is that something that happens at the end of a life, or near the end of a life, may be so catastrophically bad, that it outweighs all else that has happened until then, and would force you to judge that overall, the life has been an unhappy one. Aristotle reminds us that just as "one swallow does not make a summer" one happy day does not make a happy life. So, it may be more complex than you think.
On the other hand, the great philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that (rather because of Aristotle's point above) that happiness cannot really be the purpose of life since happiness is really not up to us but is up to fortune; or as Kant puts it, to "stepmother nature." He thinks that what is the purpose of life should be something that is entirely in our hands, and whether we are happy is certainly not. Kant, nevertheless, thinks that the purpose of life does have something to do with happiness. He thinks that the purpose of life is "to be worthy of happiness." Whether you are going to be happy or not is a question of fortune; but it is in your hands whether you deserve happiness by being a good person, and, for Kant, doing what you ought to do; being a moral person.
Perhaps this will make you think more about your conviction that the purpose of life is happiness, although it may not change your mind about it.
I'm really at a loss as to a simple answer here. The Greek ideal was termed "eudaimonia", which very roughly translates to "happiness". You'll find it in Plato and Aristotle. If you want an Eastern take on this, Buddhism's goal is to free oneself from the wheel of karma, the endless repeating of lives, in order to be delivered from suffering. Moving right along, back to the West, we find the religious philosophers, for example, Aquinas, for whom the goal was to live according to the laws of the Christian god in order to achieve heavenly paradise a delayed happiness. We can look at Kant, for whom happiness was entirely intellectual, and move from there to, say, Rousseau, for whom it was entirely emotional. And so on.
The point I'm making, of course, is that you've hit on one of the two or three of THE questions, which have concerned people from day one. So, first, you're not alone. Second, take a deep breath and be prepared to dive into it, if you really want to do philosophical research on this, because there are libraries of discussion on this question.
You might think about what exactly happiness is. There are many many answers to this question. You might think about what exactly "purpose" means. Aristotle attempts to answer this, and it goes from there. Plato attempts to define what "government" and its purpose is. And so it goes, for the next 2000 years or so of debates.
Start with Plato, go to Aristotle (the Ethics). By then you'll have the beginning of an idea of where else to go (read the introductions, footnotes, and look at references). Don't, DON'T, get hung up on one person's answer to this...for at least the next decade or so.
Steven Ravett Brown
Skepticism of the existence of an external world, or the possibility of receiving artificial or false perceptions, has been described by Hume and other philosophers. I think that such Ideas were presented by ancient philosophers, such as Confucius and others.
My question is: How did these ancient philosophers visualize (if at all) mechanisms that will allow such false perceptions to be received by a person?
I wasn't aware that Confucius professed scepticism concerning the external world, but you are right that philosophical scepticism has been around since ancient times.
The foundations for scepticism concerning the external world were laid by the Greek atomists. Here is a fragment from the Presocratic philosopher Democritus (Kirk, Raven and Schofield The Presocratic Philosophers p. 412):
But we in actuality grasp nothing for certain, but what shifts in accordance with the condition of the body and of the things which enter it and press upon it.
What Democritus has seen is that if all perception involves a chain of causes and effects, then no inference from the way things appear to the way things really are can be certain. It is a familiar observation that a bowl of lukewarm water feels hot if your hand is cold, and cold if your hand is hot. Democritus means to draw the far more wide ranging conclusion that any perception involves the causal effect of both the object perceived and the state of one's own body. Those two elements can never in principle be factored out. We can never know how much of what we seem to perceive is due to the object and how much is due to us.
According to Democritean atomism, the experience of warmth, or of colour, smell or sound, is illusory. In reality, all that exists are atoms whirling in space. The seeming richness of human experience is merely the effect of the physical interaction between our sense organs and the external world. Democritus never doubts, however, that there is an external world. How could he? He is merely claiming that we cannot know for certain how things are in the external world because all knowledge relies on chains of cause and effect. In addition, our senses deceive us into thinking that there are such things as warmth and red when in reality these 'experiences' are nothing but atoms knocking into one another.
After Aristotle, the spectre of scepticism returned with the fearsome Pyrrho, who preached the gentle doctrine that we should 'follow nature' rather than strive to determine whether or not our naturally acquired beliefs are true, since every set of reasons in favour of a belief can be countered by equally strong reasons against.
To my knowledge, neither Democritus or Pyrrho go so far as to postulate hypothetical mechanisms that would explain how, e.g. my belief that there is a table in front of me might be false. This is the most significant difference between Ancient scepticism, and the far more radical scepticism explored by Descartes in his Meditations, with the aid of the hypothesis of an 'evil demon' who deceives me into believing that there exists a world of objects in space, while in reality all that exists are states of my own consciousness and their non-physical cause.
Human nature and World Peace.
Can world peace truly be attained?
In an answer to Marcela on this page, I suggested that it is human nature to form strong beliefs and alliances and to be territorial. This is not necessarily incompatible with world peace as long as wars and terrorism are made impossible. Wars and terrorism will only be impossible if there is a worldwide ban on the production or a total control of weapons and arms. However, even if all national governments agreed to give up arms to some central control, or there was a global government with the power to command this, man still has the intelligence and ability to make weapons. There may be no wars if nations were to abide by international peace charters or if they were all committed to one global government but this would not rule out terrorism and terrorism tends to lead to war.
As I answered to Marcela, a global aspiration or commitment is difficult to envisage. Ideally, we could all commit to environmental conservation at this time, but man is too selfish. This selfishness is, though, part and parcel of our ability to form close connections in a beneficial sense, since it gives rise to commitments to communities. We care most for those with whom we live in close contact. Since mankind doesn't have a universal attitude which can bring unity between persons, war and terrorism seem inevitable.
Religious commitment is one cause for strife, and although atheism is now an option, it doesn't follow that religious zeal, where it exists, is lessened. Indeed, it is probably strengthened. Even if there were no territorial claims based upon geographical and religious alliances, there would still be individuals who strive for power and wealth who will make claims against which others rebel.
So, really, there is no hope for peace for mankind. It might be wondered whether mankind might change. If we were inclined to be peaceful we would be a strange passive, tolerant sort of being with no strong beliefs and no religious attachments.
I am taking Buddhist Philosophy, only including classical Indian Buddhism. I am trying to write a paper on Nagarjuna's doctrine of emptiness, specifically that emptiness itself is empty. I haven't figured out an argument that is small enough to encapsulate within 10 pages, but I think I was going to argue something having to do with the difference between sunya and sunyata or perhaps that nirvana is really non-existence because it is in an "empty" realm...?
I'd like to define emptiness (the fact that is does not denote lack of function), then I'd like to define how "emptiness" is empty...but that's where I find myself unsure of where to go...do you have any thoughts, suggestions, or book references?
I don't know whether you are going to find my reply helpful in your work (in fact I rather doubt it) but others may find it helpful in theirs):
What I would like to comment on is your desire to "define how 'emptiness' is empty." You say that you are "unsure" how to do such a thing, and I think your instinct here is good because I don't think there is a way to do it.
Why not? Well, because "emptiness" is not the name of anything which could be empty, since it is not the name of anything at all. We say of a drawer or of a room that it is empty. By saying that we are not, I think, asserting that there is "really" something in it, but invisible to us which is called "empty." Rather, we are denying something. What we are denying is that anything is in the drawer or the room. So, by trying to "define" how "emptiness" is empty, you are assuming that "emptiness" is like a drawer or room that has something in it. That very assumption is wrong. Emptiness is not a "something" and so "emptiness" cannot itself be empty. Therefore it is impossible (or worse) to show that "emptiness is empty."
What did John Locke mean by secondary qualities in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding?
Secondary qualities, according to Locke, are the "powers" or dispositions the primary qualities of an object for example, shape have to produce in an observer certain ideas. However, these ideas, unlike the ideas of primary qualities, resemble nothing in the object itself. Thus, for example, color was a secondary quality because although the idea of color (say red) was caused by the (primary) qualities of the object, there was nothing "in" the object that the idea of red resembled. On the other hand, the primary quality of shape does produce in the observer an idea (say oblong) that does resemble something "in" the object itself.
Roughly: secondary qualities are not "really" qualities of the object, although their ideas are produced in the observer by qualities of the object, whereas primary qualities are "really" qualities of the object. So, objects are not "really" red, but they are "really" oblong.
I have been reading on various websites about Philosophical Counseling, and controversies within this new field.
What is the general feeling in the philosophical world regarding this hybrid? Does it have standing?
As a academic philosopher who is very interested in philosophical counseling and who is doing a bit of research in the field, my feeling is that the philosophical world has not, as yet, fully recognized philosophical counseling or granted it much respect. If I'm right about this, the reasons are probably manifold.
There's a long-standing tendency for theoretical philosophers to denigrate any sort of applied philosophy and the reasons for this lie and the nature of the work done in each broad area. Theoretical philosophy often invokes the technical framework of formal logic and conceptual analysis and usually concerns itself with questions that are dependent on, but multiply removed from, the "Big Questions" normally associated with philosophy as the classical pursuit of wisdom. "What is the meaning of life?" for instance, depends upon some notion of meaning, so theoretical philosophy turns from that question to a closer analysis of meaning itself. But an examination of meaning naturally leads to a philosophical study of language, the prototype of a meaning-bearing system, and that study leads to inquiries regarding what words mean, and sooner or later you're at Russell's analysis of definite descriptions, employing the resources of modern logic to unpack the meaning of "the." So, in general, theoretical philosophy tends to focus on tiny questions and tends to deal with them in a technical way. I like theoretical philosophy, so I don't think there's anything wrong with this. Big pictures are painted with little brushes, and by attending to the narrow questions on which fully satisfactory answers to the broad questions depend, theoretical philosophy is highly relevant and extraordinarily important.
But, although no less relevant or important, applied philosophy is different. Since applied philosophy needs to generate results that are useful now, it can't afford to spend time on narrow, technical issues at the expense of the messy and immediate questions posed by life in all its urgency.
This difference between theoretical and applied philosophy has two implications which often, but unfairly, reflect poorly upon the latter. First, the complex and dirty problems engaged by applied philosophy almost never admit of simple and clean solutions, with the result that attempts to think about sloppy problems can all too easily be confused with sloppy thinking. Second, because the issues addressed by applied philosophy are multiply-removed from the classic questions which serve as portals to philosophy, because an approach to those issues often requires the apparatuses of formal logics of various kinds, because the issues of applied philosophy are more immediately accessible, and because work in formal logic is less dependent upon the explicit application of technical training, applied philosophers can have a hard time understanding the work of theoretical philosophers, whereas theoretical philosophers can usually comprehend the work of applied philosophers. I've found that, in general, when person A can understand person B, but person B can't understand person A, person A often thinks of himself (or herself) as smarter than person B. Person B often shares this opinion, notwithstanding that the fact that asymmetry of comprehension need not imply a corresponding asymmetry of ability. (To see this, suppose that I make up a language all my own and proceed to speak it in to you. This would show that I'm a lot of things, but "smarter than you" isn't one of them.)
In general, then, philosophical counseling might never get the respect it deserves, or would like to enjoy, simply in virtue of its applied nature. As of this writing, however, I suspect that philosophical counseling is much worse off than this, and that academic philosophy is reluctant to even recognize philosophical counseling as a bona fide, but budding, twig on even its most applied branch. For one thing, philosophical counseling is new and there's always a justified concern that anything new is a flash in the pan. For another thing, some of the work in philosophical counseling really is third-rate, in my estimation, and there's no univocal conception of what philosophical counseling should be. Finally, there's the feeling that, in philosophical counseling, applied philosophy has at last gone over the edge into a touchy-feely morass of self-help treacle from which no clear and critical thought can escape. I'm not terrifically troubled by any of this. I doubt that philosophical counseling is a fad since the conviction that an unexamined life is not worth living has roots too deep in the philosophical tradition. There's third-rate work in all areas of philosophy, and the field of philosophical counseling continues to attract good minds. Every area of philosophy is home to debates about the nature of that field. And, as a matter of fact, philosophical counseling is not a sticky-and-sweet-as-molasses discipline but is, instead, fully amenable to serious, philosophical work.
So, to summarize, I'd have to say that philosophical counseling is often ignored (at worst) and disrespected (at best) by academic philosophy, but that this situation shouldn't distress anyone interested in the field. It's still the new kid on the block and can expect to get its ears boxed a few times before it gains acceptance. And, as a type of applied philosophy, it may always be dismissed by philosophers in thrall to the arcane. Outside the academy, however, philosophical counseling may just make philosophy relevant again.
Department of Philosophy
The University of Wisconsin Stevens Point
Do blind people dream of objects and colours? if so does that mean there would be evidence of a priori knowledge? and if that's so does that then point towards the possibility of the soul/spirit being separate? and if all this is so would there be a possibility of our awakening state being actually a dream, and our dreams being real? although there could be the possibility of maybe both being in some way real, as we only know what a small portion of our brains actually do? Please reply as this is a question my tutor wouldn't attempt to answer.
It depends on why they're blind. You experience colors, shapes, etc., because parts of your cortex are (1) processing "information" (a loaded term, since it comes from computers) from visual inputs in the eyes (2) because outputs from those areas in the cortex are then integrated into whatever system (prefrontal/reticular, probably) involves consciousness. So you can be blind because (1) there's no incoming visual information; (2) the cortex isn't working, (3) cortical processing doesn't get inputted into the "consciousness modules", or some combination of those.
If you've got eye injuries, so you're blind for (1) only, then you can indeed dream in colors, shapes, etc... assuming that the eye injury didn't take place too early, in which case you probably also have problems with (2), because early input is necessary for cortical development. Hey, I didn't claim this would be an easy answer, did I?
There are, I think, extremely rare instances of (3) being the case, where people have been in an accident and lost consciousness of all or some part of vision without losing processing. See "blindsight", also see the Sachs write-up of the painter who had a concussion and lost color vision (and nothing else he still had black and white but he also forgot colors).
Now, I do not think that any of the above is relevant to the issue of a priori knowledge. It is clearly the case, for people blinded because of brain injury to the appropriate areas of the cortex, that they completely lose sight, including dreaming in colors, and so forth; yet of course they remember that they once saw. This is an interesting example of a memory being of something without being that something, isn't it, whereas usually when we remember, we also "bring up", to some extent, the original stimulus. It is also the case, for the rare person born with such brain damage and no other damage (so they survive, are able to speak, etc.), that they have no knowledge at all, except by inference from other people, of what seeing is like. Think about the difficulty of explaining colors to a color-blind person, or sounds to a person born deaf.
There is a huge amount of literature, in the areas of neurophysiology, vision, and cognitive science, to name only a few, dealing with this and related questions, which many many people are very interested in and actively investigating. You might look at Stephen Palmer's work; he's an expert in vision and cognition. But you need some background in biology to follow this literature. This is a case where, unfortunately, people with little background in the field cannot just plunge in.
Steven Ravett Brown
Your tutor probably didn't have time to answer this question!
You must be thinking of "one born blind", as Berkeley says, since if a person has experienced sight there is no reason why he would not dream of objects and colours. Ideally, we should ask "one born blind" and I wish I knew such a person now that you have raised the question!
Berkeley would say that without sight there could be no dreaming of colours and objects and I think most philosophers and non-philosophers would agree.
You cannot have a priori experience of empirical states of affairs. A priori knowledge is acquired non-empirically, i.e. not from the world, but within the mind, or rationally. If a person who was born blind did dream of colours and objects it would be because he moved in a world with such things but this does not make the knowledge a priori. There are cases of "blind sight" and I'm afraid I cannot remember the sources of these cases, but they probably come from psychological experiments in which a person can detect what is before him. While this person is blind (not necessarily born so) he can identify a triangle, as opposed to a square with no phenomenological experience. That is, there is no sense experience, no "look" that the person experiences, but he identifies and so perceives a shape. Somehow the object to mind relation bypasses sense-experience, but this is still empirical knowledge. If this can be so, then such a person may well dream in a way we, who have not any idea of what blind sight is like, cannot imagine. I don't think that there are "blind sight" cases of colour. However, if this is true for shape there is no reason that such a person cannot dream of shapes. Components of dreams are based upon sense-experience, but there may be some sort of experience involved in blind sight. That perception without phenomenology is some sort of experience is evidenced by our wondering what it can be like.
There is no essential connection between a priori knowledge and the soul. Even rational thought involves the use of concepts acquired from the real world. It might be thought that this is not true for mathematics and logic, for instance, but Wittgenstein has argued that we cannot follow rules alone.
It wouldn't follow specifically from the separateness of souls that we couldn't tell dreams from reality. This is a possibility which is considered in relation to embodied existence: This is the problem of scepticism. If you haven't encountered this yet, you will.
I have been reading Sartre's Being and Nothingness and am interested in his account of freedom. Does Sartre really account for freedom through an argument that I'm missing, because it seems that he presupposes its existence. Is this because consciousness is 'not a thing'?! If consciousness is not a 'thing' with causal relations/properties, how on earth does it affect that which does (i.e our bodies?)? I can't help but think that Sartre fails to move away from Cartesian dualism I assume that Sartre would assert that he does move away from Descartes but I can't see how.
I accept that you might agree with this point of mine but I would be grateful if you might perhaps respond in a way that looks at both the for/against arguments here. How do I become more comfortable with Sartre's freedom?! I have heard that another existentialist, Merleau-Ponty, has problems with Sartre's freedom. Namely that Sartre forgets about (a) the body (b) that we are already in a meaningful world (c) we are 'in history' and our past 'has a weight'. What are these problems?? (I am not really familiar with Merleau-Ponty). Why does he have them? Finally, are these problems the same as my problem relating to dualism or are we worried about different things?!
You're having trouble reading Being and Nothingness? Join the club! Sartre's dualism, if that is the right word, is very different from Descartes'. You may have been mislead in that Sartre repeatedly says that he begins with Descartes 'I think therefore I am', but the distinction for Sartre is not between mind and body, but a dualism between things which are things in-themselves and those which are for-themselves. A tree or a stone is a thing in-itself, because it is what it is and can be no other. A stone is a stone is a stone, so to speak. But we humans are things for-ourselves; we choose to be what we are. Not only do we have complete freedom to make ourselves, but we have no other choice but to do so. That is why Sartre says that we are 'condemned to be free'. Unlike the tree or the stone we cannot simply be what we are, we are left utterly alone to make choices to define ourselves, and in doing so we have no hope of any help from outside. His view of consciousness is more like Hume's than Descartes', he sees it as a vessel through which things pass, rather than a thing itself, aware of itself only when 'nothingness' becomes apparent, and with it an awareness of all the possibilities which we are free to fill it with. Failure to admit this freedom is to have 'bad faith' with yourself. Freedom IS uncomfortable, very uncomfortable indeed.
Having said that, you, and M. Merleau-Ponty, are very probably correct in thinking that Sartre overestimates freedom if for no other reason than freedom for a prosperous leading French intellectual of the 1940's is far from the same thing as freedom for the rest of us struggling humanity. Being and Nothingness is very obscure, deliberately so, I suspect. You might care to have a look at Sartre's rather more straightforward Existentialism is a Humanism, which covers much the same ground in a quarter of the words, but do try to get the Frechtman translation as the one by Philip Mairet has some horrible errors which mess up the meaning.
It's not so much of a philosophical problem but i am having trouble defining the word 'cognitive' in terms of philosophy. Please help!
"Cognitive" comes from the Latin "cognoscere" meaning "to know" or "to be aware of." So, in philosophy, what have been called "cognitive attitudes" are knowledge, belief, awareness, and maybe, experience. Philosophers often distinguish between the cognitive meaning of a sentence or a word, which concerns its implications for knowledge and truth, as contrasted with the emotive meaning of the term or sentence which concern its emotive implications for the speaker or the hearer. For instance, the cognitive (sometimes called "descriptive") meaning of the term "dog" would be something like a middling sized domesticated animal of the genus, "canis" While the emotive meanings (sometimes called "connotation") would be (in our society) friendly, brave, loyal, etc., (at least for most people in our society).
Oh, this is a good one! I like this question! Most philosophers will hate you if you start throwing around terms like "cognitive" because fields like cognitive science, cognition, and cognitive linguistics involve what is termed the "naturalization" of various questions in philosophy. Most philosophers regard that as a kind of betrayal of the philosophical ideal of putting and answering questions through pure logic and perhaps a little induction, if pressed. Cognition actually involves (whisper) "data", that awful stuff you have to get by actually investigating the "real" world (yes, scare quotes).
However, I, and a few other contemporary philosophers, usually involved with questions about the mind and consciousness, believe that there is literally no other way to answer some of the most persistent questions in philosophy except by using data.
Notable philosophers who agree: Mark Johnson; Alvin Goldman; Paul Churchland; Owen Flanagan; Fred Dretske... etc. Take a look at Goldman's Readings in Philosophy and Cognitive Science.
I haven't actually answered your question: "Cognitive" involves the processes underlying intellectual thought (although emotions are beginning to be brought into it) and language. So philosophy which investigates those is, or should be, cognitively-informed, i.e. informed by data about those processes.
Steven Ravett Brown
Immanuel Kant's ideas about the causality law made me think that if the cause/result relationship originates from us this means there is no such relationship in the nature and real why should I ask this:
Why was I born? What is the meaning of the world and my life?
These are nonsense, so philosophy is nonsense too.
Could I explain? This is too important for me.
"Why was I born?" is a question which cannot be answered by citing an kind of reason or cause. If we persist in asking the philosopher to answer this question, then we have indeed made a nonsense of philosophy.
A biologist will say that I was born because a particular sperm fertilized a particular egg. That unique event in the history of the universe explains why there came to be GK, this GK, you may substitute your own initials but it does not explain why I am GK; why I am here rather than not anywhere; why there is I rather than no I; why there is this for me.
My existence is indeed doubly absurd. Because it cannot be distilled from the contingent facts. And the contingent facts are themselves absurd in relation to all the ways the world might have been; the worlds that might have been instead of this world.
It is perfectly consistent for the philosopher to say, "This question is important, but I accept that it cannot be answered." There is no law that every philosophical question must have an answer. To hold on to the absurd question, "Why was I born?", to refuse to give up that question no matter what, is one of the ways of keeping the sense of philosophical wonder alive.
I have a work to do about "globalization" and I would like to know if globalization has an ethical fundament and, if it is true, what or which is this fundament. I am thinking especially about the consequences of globalization on the Third World.
Globalisation is an international rather than a national attitude or approach to many aspects of life. You can have political and/or economic and/or social and/or cultural and/or legal globalisation and internal to these are narrower classifications. For instance, social globalisation would include employment and/or welfare rights and legal globalisation would be concerned with justice as civil and human rights.
In a recent answer I spoke of globalisation as the exploitation of poor countries (I think the PC description is "least developed" and we don't talk of "Third World" and more) by rich countries. This was a simplification of the term or what it has come to signify at the moment. Obviously, there can be no ethical foundation for exploitation. However, there are, in fact, international charters which are attempts to achieve good international relations. The ethical foundation for a charter is international peace and also human rights are involved in, for instance, the American Declaration of Rights and the European Convention. Another positive aspect of globalisation, as it stands, is development assistance though this isn't going too well. The ethical foundation for this is the idea that poverty is not a good thing. A reasonable foundation but the question is "what is the right thing?" Should development aim at industrialisation, for instance?
Western cultural values which are consumeristic and materialistic are found attractive and adopted by the least developed countries before they are able to receive and benefit from global economic aid. People are being corrupted by values which are not proper to them because they are not economically viable. Consumerism is properly a product of rich nations. To become a rich nation may mean industrialisation if there is no source of raw materials with a world-wide demand. It is not enough to base a policy on the principle that poverty is bad, without considering whether what looks like the inevitable end is good.
You could also think about international peace and whether this ethical foundation is realistic or fanciful and idealistic. The "least developed" countries are often the least peaceful. So perhaps globalisation through international peace charters might be beneficial. On the other hand, it is human nature to form strong beliefs and alliances which can lead to territorial claims.
If you think of globalisation as an imminent global government with political control which could ensure peace and could provide economic and educational homogeneity worldwide, there would be benefit to the Third World. However, this may lead to a transformation in human values which it is difficult to envisage. Current values of shared religion, kinship and loyalty with a people, responsibility for and identity with a geographical area might fade away in favour of some global aspiration. Now, in a multi-cultural society, there remain cultural loyalties but these will weaken as new generations come to choose their own values from the diversity available. With a weakening of cultural ties may come global "America", materialism, kitsch, and, perhaps worst of all, international non-smoking!
Any assistance with these questions would be most appreciated:
What is truth and how do we measure it in philosophically?
Does the conscious part of the mind control/influence the brain? if so, how can philosophy be deemed scientific?
Can we conclude with Feyerabend in his Against Method that anything goes such as voodoo, astrology, God, etc. since these standpoints are just as valid as scientific ones, i.e. astronomy, physics, etc.?
1. The most accepted theory of truth among philosophers is called "the correspondence theory." According to the correspondence theory of truth, truth is a two-term relation (dyadic relation) between on the one hand, a belief, or a sentence or statement, or even a theory; and, on the other hand, a fact or a state of affairs in the world. This relation is called "correspondence" between the first term of the relation and the second term of the relation. So, for instance, (to take a favorite philosophical example) the statement (belief etc.) "The cat is on the mat" is true if and only if there is some fact of state of affairs such that there is a cat, and a mat, and the cat has the relationship of being on the mat. In that case, the statement in the example "corresponds" with the fact. If, on the other hand, there were a cat but no mat; or a mat but no cat; or there were a cat, and a mat, but the mat was on the cat, (and so on) the statement in the example would not correspond to the facts, and the statement would be false. Just how to understand this relationship of "correspondence" is a considerable problem in epistemology.
The next issue is, of course, supposing we understand this correspondence relation, how to "measure" it, or rather, how to establish that it obtains, is another issue in epistemology. That is, the question of how we establish in different cases, whether or not a statement does correspond with the facts. There are cases in which this is not at all straightforward. For instance, consider "counterfactual" hypothetical statements, as for example, "If that were a dog, then it would bark" when I am pointing at a cat.
2. I do not quite understand what you are asking. To start with you are assuming that the mind is one thing, and the brain is a different thing. Many philosophers (and physiologists) would disagree, and say that hold that the mind was identical with at least some part of the brain, or some function of the brain, so that there is no question of the mind's control of the brain.
In the second place, it is not clear to me how this question, however you answer it, connects with whether or not philosophy is scientific. This is partly because, in turn, I don't know just what you mean by philosophy being scientific. Philosophy is not, I think, a science like physics or biology. Like any subject that requires careful thinking, and attention to detail, philosophy also requires such qualities too. But why should this requirement conflict with the mind's control of the brain (given there is such a thing)?
3. According to you, Feyerabend presents the following argument:
(1) Voodoo, astrology, God, etc. are "standpoints" which are just as "valid" as scientific standpoint such as astronomy, physics, etc.
Therefore, (2) "Anything goes" (meaning that voodoo and so on) are sources of knowledge about the world as established science.
My answer would be, no. My reason is that the above argument is unsound because the premise (1) is clearly false. There is absolutely no reason to believe it is true, and much to disbelieve it. I find it peculiar that so obvious a fact even needs to be argued for. But it is well discussed in David Stove's Anything Goes: The origins of the cult of scientific irrationalism.
Let me just repeat here David Stove's first two sentences from his first Chapter:
(1) Much more is known now than it was fifty years ago, and much more was known then than in 1580. So, (2) there has been a great accumulation or growth of knowledge in the last four hundred years.
Notice, that in contrast to the argument you gave above, this argument is sound. The premise (1) is clearly true, and (2) the conclusion clearly follows from the premise. Therefore, the conclusion is clearly true.
Does anyone seriously believe that had we still been, and if we were now, using voodoo, astrology, and religion instead of physics and astronomy, we would have known and would know now, what we have known, and do know now?
If it could be shown that happiness was merely a result of neurochemical conditions, then wouldn't it be fair to say that true happiness (in the most scientific sense) could be reached through pharmacological means, just as authentically as through religious or philosophical means?
There is a tradition in philosophy going back to Aristotle which contrasts the subjective feeling of happiness with objective reality. We can only call a man or woman truly happy provided that certain objective conditions are met. So that a man who died thinking he had been the happiest man alive, could not be said to have been truly happy if his wife and family, and the people he believed to be his closest friends despised him.
You would no doubt reply that Aristotelian happiness or eudaimonia, embodying as it does a moral judgement about the quality of a person's life, is not a scientific concept. In any case, it does not follow from the fact that no-one would want that kind of deluded happiness, that in such a situation one would not in fact be happy.
It is important that we are talking about happiness and not the sensation of pleasure. In a famous experiment, monkeys' brains were wired so that by pressing a button, they experienced intense pleasure. The result was that the monkeys could not leave the button alone, and died of starvation. Perhaps the same would happen to humans. However, a happiness pill is not a pleasure pill.
What would a happiness pill do? It would fill you with energy and a joy for life. The dullest task would be undertaken with a relish. The pain of failure would be minimized, the joys of success magnified a hundredfold. One would be filled with the love of humanity. One would be incapable of envy or malice. I am not talking about drugging yourself up with Ecstasy tablets and dancing until you drop. The effect would be precisely the effect that is attained by a few fortunate persons through philosophy or religion. A feeling of serene, confident joy.
"How can this be genuine happiness if it is purchased so cheaply?" Well, we could make the tablet really expensive!...Seriously, I can't see that price has anything to do with it, whether measured either in monetary terms, or in terms of human striving and effort.
No, I don't see how one could rule out a priori that there might be such a pill. Or, better still, let's suppose one could re-write a few lines of human genetic code to achieve the desired effect. Then there would be no danger of coming down to earth with a thump when the pill supply ran out.
We need not take seriously the killjoys who complain that they prefer to remain unhappy in the face of the world's miseries, because the kind of happiness I am talking about is a spur to action rather than a temptation to complacency. And besides, there wouldn't be any misery. With the happiness pill, or with your genetic code altered, you could be happy, even in the face of imminent starvation.
I just have this niggling suspicion that it wouldn't work. Not necessarily for any reason that can be derived from philosophy, but because of the complex nature of human psychology. Because we do not understand enough about the psychology of happiness, we imagine that you could take one aspect of our mental life and turn it up, the way one might turn up one of the control buttons on a music centre, while holding everything else constant. I suspect that what we have overlooked is the contribution of the down side boredom, depression, anxiety, all the 'negative' feelings and emotions to the overall economy of human psychological well being. But I could be wrong.
Give an individual the ability to understand the biological outcomes of humanity to an undeniable level of determinism. A Mathematician, for example my friend Marvin Minsky. Could he determine the outcome of himself? For example, could a Mathematician calculate the outcome of his own math calculation before, without calculating it? He could not use anything to symbolize the problem because he would be doing it. Does it have any significance? I was just wondering. I have not had too much time to think it out. Seems like common sense, that he could not answer the question without somehow symbolizing, and actually doing it.
Wow! You could spend a day just figuring out all the angles to this question. There are four issues that I would like to deal with first, just to get them out of the way. Then we can get to the core of the question, and my answer.
1. We are considering a hypothetical subject capable of knowing its own internal physical state to the point of being able to make predictions about its future states with hundred per cent accuracy. In order to do this, it needs to be capable of knowing its internal state without any margin for error, and without omitting any detail. If we allow it to omit a single detail, or allow any margin for error, then the predictions it makes will involve cumulative errors resulting in greater and greater inaccuracy as time goes on. (This is related to the mathematician Lorenz's famous speculation about the 'butterfly effect'.) The point is a familiar one from discussions of free will and determinism. In principle, no measurement of physical reality can be error free. So even if my actions are determined, there is no way they could be reliably predicted by anyone on the basis of knowledge of my physical state.
2. But let us suppose that our subject does know its own internal state totally, and with hundred per cent accuracy, and not worry about how it knows this. Immediately, one runs into the following puzzle concerning self-knowledge. A being that knows everything there is to know about its internal state must seemingly represent that state of knowledge in some symbolic form. Let us call the representation, R. Representation R must be as complex in terms of Wittgenstein's Tractatus it must have the same 'logical multiplicity' as the state which it represents. But now we run into an infinite regress. For now we need a second state, R*, which has sufficient logical multiplicity to include both the representation R and the state of affairs which R represents. By similar reasoning, it follows that we need a third state, R**, which includes R* and R, and so on.
As an illustration of this, imagine a room with a fireplace, and a picture on the fireplace. The picture is a perfectly accurate picture of the room, with no details missed out. However, included in that picture is the picture on the fireplace! If we examine the picture within the picture, then it too will contain a picture, and so on. This potentially infinite series is plainly inconsistent with what we know about physical reality. There is a physical limit to how 'fine grained' a physical representation can be. Even if physical reality did not impose this limit, however, the construction of such an image would set an infinite task.
Does this show that the idea of perfect self-knowledge involves a vicious regress? The regress is only vicious if the task has to be undertaken one stage at a time. There is no logical inconsistency about the idea of an infinitely fine grained representation such as I have described. A further point to make is that it is not even clear that self-knowledge would necessarily involve this hierarchical structure of representations (although I have no idea what else it could be).
3. So let us take that on board too. It is arguable that the being with total knowledge of its internal state can only exist in a possible world where there is no limit to how fine grained a representation can be. Now we encounter the third problem. How can a subject do anything, perform any action, if it is capable of predicting in advance every decision that it makes? This is the problem which prompts Thomas Nagel in The View from Nowhere to talk of a 'penumbra of ignorance', a necessary blind spot concerning the cause and effect process that leads an agent to make each decision that they make, as a presupposition of our having 'free will', of our having a conception of ourselves as agents.
One reason I am not totally convinced by this is that the physical prediction will not be given in terms that one would recognize in terms of the language of human action. For example, the action which I would describe as, "I will go down to the corner store to buy a six pack of beer" will be predicted as a complex series of bodily movements. It would be perfectly possible to know what those bodily movements were going to be, without grasping their upshot. I would not recognize myself, or my actions, from a purely physical description.
4. The last point to clear out of the way specifically concerns the idea that one might calculate the outcome of the physical process which embodies the action of calculating the solution to a maths problem. This calculation too involves a physical process, which would itself be capable of being calculated. Is there a vicious regress here? Not necessarily. One might imagine an individual whose brain was partitioned in such a way that the first partition did the actual maths calculation, the second partition calculated the outcome of the physical process taking place in the first partition, while the third partition calculated the outcome of the physical process taking place in the second partition, and so on.