Upon which assumption do we form the belief that "Much more is known now than 50 years ago?"
Also, what factors should we use when deciding the "level of advancement" within a given culture/ regional group? What constitutes an "advanced" culture and how will it differ from a "primitive" one?
This is really two interesting questions, which are fraught with "politically correct" emotionality, not to mention a variety of post-modernist deconstructive attacks on science. I'm a real fan of the philosopher of science Paul Kitcher, who was a student of Thomas Kuhn. Kitcher wrote the book, The Advancement of Science, which (in my opinion) Kuhn should have, but did not write. So, first, read Kuhn The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, if you haven't. Then read Kitcher's book, above.
Roughly, some of the ideas in Kitcher's book are that science is not, nor should be, a huge consistent logical system, as the old philosophers of science believed (and on which many attacks are based). It is a set of practices and knowledge which attempt to find, imperfectly, truths about the world. Those truths are tested and retested, refined, revised... and in no real sense are they finished, polished, or necessarily consistent. Yet we do advance, slowly, and this is seen through various measures, such as our success at building machines, at causal explanation, at the scope and consistency of our theories, and so forth. It's not a simple nor error-free picture, and why should it be? So there is no single assumption upon which we believe that "more is known now than 50 years ago", no single nor simple test. There is a huge complex of theories, tests, experiments, ideas... various cognitive and experimental bases for concluding, not assuming, that we are making progress, in the sense of knowing more about the world. This is, actually, part of the problem that people uneducated in science have with it; in order to appreciate that, say, the "theory" of evolution is really much more than a theory, one must have knowledge in a variety of fields and in the experimental basis of science as well. It's just not simple.
See also: Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things, Radner Science and Unreason, Hines Pseudoscience and the Paranormal.
The "culture" thing....here's the emotional issue. You might take a look at the book: Edgerton, R. B. (1992) Sick Societies: challenging the myth of primitive harmony (1st ed.) New York: The Free Press.
Edgerton really takes the bull by the horns; and just simply claims that societies in which the people are unhappy (they want to leave and do, given the chance), sick, poor (again, they leave when given the chance to make money), malnourished, etc., are societies which aren't working well. That doesn't sound unreasonable to me, but it's not very politically correct to say that, these days. You can claim that they are being exploited, etc., and that is certainly true in many cases, but the lifespan of humans, as we go back in history, decreases as a function of the time we go back, while disease and general misery increase, as far as we can tell. So it's not just the exploitation of societies in modern times that correlates with negative (and I would say that short life-span and disease, to name just two, are indeed negative) values and suffering. I'm afraid that I'm rather cynical about the "noble primitive" idea. I myself would have died of acute appendicitis at the age of 12 if it were not for modern medicine. That seems a pretty good criterion for progress to me.
So an "advanced" culture then has at least potentially a greater ability to ameliorate suffering, disease, starvation, than a primitive one. Whether and for whom such a culture actually does that is another question, isn't it? I would certainly say that the more the better....and many "advanced" cultures are certainly wanting in that respect.
Steven Ravett Brown
These are good questions. They are often dismissed as too simple to be worthy of much real attention in politics and social planning. However it is the failure to ask, never mind answer, these questions that allows society to wander so aimlessly into its future. The usual answers concern technological cleverness and economic growth, neither of which relate in any straightforward way to social improvement or genuine understanding of the world.
The real answer is that there is no agreement on these issues in general terms. It is perfectly reasonable to say that we know more 'facts' than we did 50 years ago. It is not so easy to say that we have a better understanding of the world. It could be argued either way.
Most anthropologists would say that 'advanced' and 'primitive' are not terms that we should used in relation to human society without great care. However almost everyone does use these terms, and think them, as value judgements without any care at all.
It may be unhelpful to you but I would say that until some real work is done on these issues, and some consensus is reached, your own answer will be as good as anyone else's.
I am not sure about an assumption. We can certainly give examples of what we know now that we did not know 50 years ago. Here is one. The existence of DNA and its structure. There have been significant advances in the treatment of cancer such as 3D radiation, which was not even thought about 50 years ago. And these examples can be multiplied. I suppose you can be asked the question, "On what assumption do you believe that we do not know now more than we did 50 years ago?"
Technically, the difference between a primitive and a non-primitive culture is that primitive cultures do not possess writing. Of course, more loosely, advanced cultures possess science, but primitive cultures do not.
I am writing a paper about Kant, but specifically on how Kant would view free speech. I have been stuck on this question for about a week now and have not come up with a reasonable answer.
Underlying all of Kant's practical philosophy (ethics, politics, history) is his commitment to the paramount value of the freedom of human beings as 'ends in themselves'. Any action that is not permitted by The Categorical Imperative will be immoral because ultimately it will corrupt this freedom (of oneself and of others). Any laws that a state regulates are ones that must necessarily protect and promote this freedom.
Starting out from this position Kant distinguished innate and acquired rights. We acquire rights when situations occur when we have to enter into interpersonal agreements with others, such as property agreements and work contracts. Such circumstances necessarily require that we impinge on the freedom of others, therefore laws and regulations are needed to protect us from undue or excessive impingement's. In other words, laws are an a priori rational requirement of public interaction. (in a sense Kant has a theory of the social contract). Where no such interaction, co-operation, or common agreement is required there is no need for regulation.
Holding certain beliefs and opinions does not require any interpersonal activity and expressing those beliefs does not itself necessarily impinge on the freedom of others. Because these other people are themselves free either to ignore, disbelieve, or form there own opinions, what is said cannot affect their own freedom. Therefore, for Kant there is no need for regulation controlling free speech. Free speech is an innate right that is derived from a person's fundamental value as a free being.
Of course, there will be cases where expressing the belief will affect the freedom of others, these cases will. involve using other people as means to some end that they themselves have not agreed to, in which case Kant would agree to the regulation of expression. But it is important to make clear that Kant is not regulating against the belief that is expressed (people can still believe what they want) but the Act of expression that will result in the contamination of others' freedom.
Dept of Philosophy
University of Sheffield
There is no question that philosophy is relevant to our personal and civic lives, but the reality is this: The majority of people are cogs in the economic machines of the nations in which they live. Most people spend most of their time "making a living". So, if you are interested in promoting the study of philosophy not only inside of, but also outside of academia the following question must surely be of interest to you:
What specific jobs justify the time and money invested in an undergraduate degree in philosophy, or a Masters or Doctorate in philosophy?
By "justify" I mean, ideally, that the tools of a philosopher in logic and language, in the history of philosophy and religion, in epistemology and ontology would be indispensable tools in the work a person does. A minimal justification for studying philosophy would be, in my opinion, that training in the use of language and logic would be an indispensable tool in the work a person does.
The point of gaining a degree in philosophy is that it trains you to think rather than supplying you with a body of knowledge (even if you don't regard me as a person who thinks well, at least I know it is a relevant question). After studying philosophy for five years I took two postgraduate diplomas in law which involved cramming a lot of information. This required memorising rather than understanding. It just wasn't difficult like philosophy is and I was quite surprised.
Actually, I think the law is one career which should make the study of philosophy compulsory. The law requires an ability to apply logic, make conceptual deductions and produce persuasive arguments this is what we are supposed to learn by studying philosophy but law school doesn't teach it. Philosophical skills are relevant to law because when new case law is created it must be held to be truly inferred from prior case law; when statutes are interpreted analytical skills are needed; barristers need to be skilled in argument and persuasion.
I don't think we need to justify the study of philosophy. Rather we need to justify the fact that we have scientists and lawyers and other professionals who haven't studied philosophy. In a recent answer I relayed Feyerabend's views on experts and I think he would agree with this. Studying philosophy doesn't simply produce better thinkers, it puts people in a position to assess objectively what they are doing.
Which famous philosopher promoted the idea that one should 'never draw conclusions'? I assume this proposes that it is more intelligent or enlightened to sustain an open mind rather than come to any definitive conclusion when reasoning, contemplating, reflecting, analyzing, etc.
I know of no philosopher, famous or not, who enjoined us never to draw conclusions. In order to give an argument for any view we have to "draw conclusions," otherwise there is no argument.
Perhaps you mean, that we should never jump to conclusions. That is, we should never draw conclusions from inadequate evidence. Doing that is certainly a mistake, and is, for instance, why we stereotype people by generalizing from just a few instances to an entire population.
Your qualification "definitive conclusion" makes me think that you have in mind not coming to a conclusion, but coming to a conclusion which you think is absolutely certain. In a particular sense of "certain", that is right: nothing is absolutely certain.
My question refers to Rene Descartes Meditations on First Philosophy:
When he asked the question, what can I know with certainty? why didn't he consider that if I stop breathing I will die?
This not only evidences one's existence but also eliminates the possibility of doubts, which exist in the mind, being a tool of the "devil".
Descartes probably did consider the possibility that if he stopped breathing he would die, but felt it was unnecessary to mention it in his works because it is overridden by a stronger kind of doubt, How does he know that if he stops breathing he will die?
It cannot be from personal experience, otherwise he would be dead and not able to ask the question, but from other people, what they say about biology, or perhaps from watching other people die. But why believe what they say, perhaps they are playing a trick on Descartes, anyway what should he even believe that these other people exist? Because he has reasons for doubting the veracity of the senses he cannot be certain that the senses are not tricking him here.
In fact how can he be certain that he IS breathing? how can he be certain that he even has a body to breathe? How can he be certain there is a link between his not breathing and his death? These are questions that Descartes did consider and found that he had no positive answer, he simply does not Know (in his sense of the word) any of these things. At least, that is not until he has finished his meditations, where he established, to his satisfaction, the existence of a God who would not allow Descartes to be deceived in such ways.
Dept of Philosophy
University of Sheffield
In the 'First Meditation' Descartes' main point is that we can know nothing for certain on the basis of sense experience. But my belief that if I stop breathing, I will die is based on sense experience. Therefore, (according to Descartes) we could not know it for certain.
By the way, I do not think that Descartes thought that "doubts...are a tool of the devil." He used the hypothesis of the evil demon to raise these doubts, and he also used these doubts to argue that he could achieve certainty through the method of doubt. It was by the method of doubt that Descartes thought he had proved that God existed. So, he could hardly have thought that doubt was a "tool of the devil"
Descartes' project was epistemological. He was seeking a foundation for knowledge. If he considered the proposition that if he stopped breathing he would die, he would only achieve the knowledge that he was essentially connected to his body. This would have been no good to him since one motivation for his project was to prove the existence of God and, as a Catholic, the soul. The breathing proposition doesn't rule out the existence of God and the soul but it is not a good premiss for Descartes' purposes.
Even if we consider the proposition that if we stop breathing we will die, there could still be an evil demon who causes this to be the case.
You can't beat the evil demon which is why Descartes is still studied.
We are a group of I.T.E.S.M. students and we would like to get some information about the concept on "Fundamental Option", definition, application and links about the theme. We appreciate your help.
"Fundamental option", "initial choice", "fundamental project" are all various terms attached to the idea, found in Sartre of an original choice.
In Sartre's existential philosophy people are to be understood in terms of their freedom. How I as a person acknowledge engage with and face up to this freedom will explain the person that I am. Just how I will engage with this freedom is explained by Sartre in terms of the original choice. The original choice is a choice about what kind of person I will be, of what attitude I will adopt to the world, of what kind of stance I will take toward situations, other people and even myself, what projects I will pursue, what values and motives I will have. In other words, my whole world view will be encapsulated in this initial choice. An important point that Sartre makes is that while all my decisions are to be understood in terms of this fundamental option, the fundamental choice itself is made without any basis, any determination, any justification since any such support or justification is only valid, only available within a world view that one chooses. In other words such a fundamental choice is an absurd choice, there is no reason to it.
Why does Sartre think that an original choice is important? Well as I said for Sartre a person is understood in terms of her freedom, but Sartre also thinks that a person is responsible for everything she chooses, for everything that happens to her. At first sounding this sounds just crazy. Is the person being tortured responsible for the pain he is in? Is the disabled person responsible for being without legs? We usually think that people are not responsible for such situations, but Sartre thinks that they are responsible. And they are responsible in virtue of their initial choice. Here is what Sartre says: "Even this disability from which I suffer I have assumed by the very fact that I live; I surpass it toward my own projects, I make of it the necessary obstacle for my being and I cannot be crippled without choosing myself as crippled. This means that I choose the way I constitute my disability (as 'unbearable', 'humiliating, 'to be hidden', 'to be revealed to all')."
The point of this should be clear: the disability is itself nothing. It's significance is only apparent depending on what attitude I take to it, is it an obstacle in my way or an opportunity? This example should highlight the important consequences of the fundamental choice in our lives, but it is difficult to make sense of the fundamental choice itself. When exactly does it occur? don't we grow into attitudes, given our experiences and up bringing rather than consciously choose them? Do 'I' exist before a choice is made? The initial choice is supposed to influence what type of person I will be so then how do I exist before I have chosen what to be? It seems I would exist as some purely intellectual being, but this is entirely at odds with Sartre's account of a person being engaged with the world. Perhaps the most influential criticism of Sartre comes from his friend Merleau-Ponty. Merleau-Ponty argues that any choice presupposes an understanding of what is involved in the choice. In the recent General election in the UK, if I had decided to vote Labour or Conservative I must have had knowledge of what policies the parties stand for, what the differences between them are etc. In making an initial choice I must understand what options are open to me, what opportunities the world presents, my historic situation act. If this is right then there can be no initial choice in Sartre's sense, because for Sartre this is supposed to create understanding to bring it about that there is a world for me.
Nevertheless, the point that we can recognise that we have some control over our approach to life in the face of the seeming arbitrariness of the world can still strike us as a powerful idea, even if Sartre took this to an untenable length.
Dept of Philosophy
University of Sheffield
For a college paper I am supposed to find out on the internet what Aristotle would have thought about these subjects:
- The death penalty
- Assisted Suicide
Aristotle wouldn't have approved of the death penalty. He said "Punishment is inflicted for the sake of the person punished", so it should be corrective.
Aristotle was against killing. He did think that pleasure and the good were things we should strive for. If a foetus was found to be so severely handicapped that it would develop into a person with no hope of pleasure he would still not be for abortion, but would hope that this person would bear its ills with as much nobility as possible.
What is a minority? "Minorities", I suppose, are ethnic or sexual, but surely criminals and vegetarians should be included. You should object to this part of the question. Aristotle would think that all minority groups should be treated as fellow citizens consistently with this we don't kill murderers but show them a way to redemption.
Aristotle thought that pain is something to be avoided and so may have approved of assisted suicide assuming the suicidal person was in pain but it is unlikely. In Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle says that even though suicide is against the law a person who kills himself is acting contrary to the state but not acting unjustly towards himself. However, he thought that killing another being is wrong in general and would probably think the motive of kindness would not justify assisted suicide.
I hope that this is of some help. I expect you are doing other internet searches and if you come up with different results the work you have to do for your paper will become more interesting.
Was Spinoza an atheist? If he was, in what sense (Did he not believe in God at all and was hiding it, or was he an atheist from the Jewish/Christian/ Muslim perspective only)?
Although the German poet, Lessing, called Spinoza a man "drowned in God," Spinoza was excommunicated from the Jewish Community in Amsterdam, Holland, for atheism. Although Spinoza made what he called "God" the focus of his philosophy, it is clear that his concept of God has nothing to do with any traditional concept of God. For Spinoza, "God" is identical with the world (is immanent rather than transcendent) and is impersonal. Spinoza's "God" is God in name only, and to call philosophical substance "God" as Spinoza did, is only to advance a "persuasive definition" for atheism.
Is there an existentialist reply to determinism? If so, what is it?
Existentialism does not so much argue against determinism as presuppose freedom, mainly because Existentialism deals with the uniquely human world, the importance of human lives in a human world, this is a different world from the one described by science.
For the existentialist, freedom is a necessary feature of human life, that is we are people, human beings because we are free. Without our freedom we would be no different from trees and dogs.
You may think that this, in a sense, is just side stepping the issue: the natural world (dogs and trees, etc) is determined, we are part of the natural world, so what distinguishes us from dogs and trees? How do we know that we are not caused to think that we are free?
When faced with these questions the existentialist has to emphasise a part of his philosophy that we have so far ignored. Existentialism grew out of a philosophy of phenomenology, a method that analyses the appearance of phenomenon, that way objects, events seem to us. Now much of existentialism retains this approach. Sartre for instance subtitled his great work Being and Nothingness "An essay in phenomenological ontology".
Sartre argued that what exists is the world (containing physical objects) and consciousness, constituted by its ability to negate or distance itself from everything else. For phenomenology as well as existentialism, consciousness just like a table can be analyzed as a phenomenal object. We can ask questions about what it is like to be conscious. Now whether or not consciousness is the outcome of brain processes it does not appear to me that way. The phenomenology of consciousness is substantially different from any scientific account (note that this means that the scientific account does not undermine or take explanatory precedence over the phenomenology).
Similarly with freedom. Getting back to the troubling question: How doe we know that we are not caused to think that we are free when in actual fact we are not? Again the existentialist can appeal to the phenomenology of freedom: whether or not my thinking is determined it does not strike me this way, rather it appears that I can think whatever I want. Much of what the existentialists are concerned with is the fact of human life that we approach the world as people having to make choices about what to do. We have this attitude whether we are determined or not. For the existentialist it does not matter about the metaphysical arguments about determinism. What matters is that we live as if we were free because this is how it seems to us regardless of any scientific account about cause and effect.
Dept of Philosophy
University of Sheffield
Could you explain Richard Rorty's views on truth?
Richard Rorty believes there is no special key to catch the true reading from a text, like someone might have a secret number to open a security box. But he didn't say that we can't have in our houses a security box filled with several secret numbers. In my opinion a opinion that I think as respecting Rorty there are good keys and bad keys.
Let me first deal with bad reading. It appears in the hands of a kind of neomarxist or a hard analytic philosopher, or a foolish professor of Philosophy. A man or woman thinking the following: "if there are no right key to get the truth on a text then Rorty is saying that the truth is something we will not to know and then Rorty is a skeptical philosopher this is my conclusion!" Or: "if Rorty is saying that there is not the right key to know the truth in a text then he doesn't believe in the true sentences or utterances, and this is a contradiction, a bad formulation I needn't believe him because what he is telling doesn't make sense." Newspapers and books and universities keep a lot of people thinking in this way.
Let me deal with better readings. It is natural position of a smart professor of Philosophy. He knows: "I didn't study Rorty but what he is telling is (in the) the central debate in Philosophy nowadays: the dispute of theories of truth." He is right because of that: Rorty wants to overcome the polemic realism versus anti-realism or the conversation about the truth. But he is a philosopher and he needs to be understood among his peers. So, Rorty is seeking for a new paradigm but he is avoiding a Nietzschean hole. If he starts to talk like Nietzsche, for example "there are only interpretations", he doesn't get to make a step; nowadays he needs to choose the technical and correct language of Philosophy from the departments of Philosophy, and he has to keep waiting until someone without prejudices catches what he is saying. Shortly, Rorty talks about the debate between two theories of truth: the strong position coming from the theory of correspondence and the several positions coming from the contemporary and minimalist theories.
This is a new point, but this is not a completely unpublished point in other times. Bertrand Russell attacked William James using a theory of correspondence of truth against the pragmatist theory of truth. It was a good attack. Horkheimer did a similar thing but his text now appears boring and the words incorrect. Since that time the pragmatist walked in a inferior position. But after the Second World War Quine animated the issue. Texts written previously by Ramsey and Wittgenstein appeared. Donald Davidson became a famous philosopher. And Paul Horwith wrote a lot of text on the minimalist position. Rorty's neopragmatism in this field, as Rorty himself says, is a position swinging between an old pragmatist opinion and a minimalist opinion about truth. For Rorty sees a bridge between the old James' opinion and the possibilities of the post linguistic-turn approach made by minimalist philosophers.
I wrote several books in Portuguese where I tried to show this: O que você precisa saber em Filosofia da Educação, published by DP&A (http://email@example.com) and Richard Rorty: a filosofia do Novo Mundo em busca de mundo novos published by Vozes (http://www.vozes.com.br). Here I don't have space to explain this. So, I will just put our schema:
What are the theories of truth telling us?
Correspondence Theory: x is true iff x corresponds to fact.
Coherence Theory: x is true if, and only if x is a member of a fitted and harmonic set of sentences.
Pragmatist Theory: x is true if, and only if x is useful for us to believe.
A kind of, say, Piercean Theory: x is true if, and only if x is probable or x can pass through verification under ideal conditions.
All theories above are traditional theories. They work (or not) regarding a kind of ontological point. Of course, it is obvious in the correspondence theory, but the other cases are not completely unattached with such a point of view. That is, all theories above will go a following way: they put linguistic elements in a side and non linguistic elements on other side. And the problem is: all theories meet a gulf between both sides. The solutions for this gulf, that is a bridge or a similar thing is a trouble and they are a part of the History of Philosophy. And this History and its gulf brought the idea that there was something mysterious around the truth: what is the nature of the Truth?
Frank Ramsey said a thing before thirty years and it helped nowadays: minimalist theories. We won't talk about Ramsey if he was or not an adept of correspondence theory. What is important is: he shows a kind of ladder (I took this idea coming from Simon Blackburn). We can say: "It is true that p", in the beginning; "It is a fact that it is true that p", in the first step; "It is really a fact that it is true that p", in the next step; and we can say after several sentences: "it corresponds to the eternal mathematical (or normative) order governing the universe that p". Ramsey taught us a thing: we use our words and sentences for a success in the communication process. It is a case of good performance and bad performance. Then the "truth" and "true" are in this to help us to have a good performance in a linguistic game. Because you and I can say "It is true that eagles can fly" and such a utterance is telling us just "eagles fly". The "true" here is a good tool for our performance in our communication. But we can give it up.
When the minimalism appeared with that card it didn't solve the gulf, but it opened a door: we can think "truth" or "true" are not mysterious things. They are linked to linguistic performance in communication process. By the way it would be the same as William James said when he put "the truth is what is good of us to believe". It is a good word, useful in a game when we talk about all things of the world. Ramsey could be read like a pragmatist philosopher. And it is the point that we need to see Rorty as a stripper. But if we take another way... oh! I believe that we will not get a naked Rorty. And we won't understand Rorty.
Paulo Ghiraldelli Jr.
Universidade Estadual Paulista
São Paulo, Brazil
I have a two-part question:
A good many years ago, I came to the conclusion that the universe is a purely natural system which creates intelligent life forms to play a functional role in its overall development, which is to say that our presence here will lead to a state of the universe or to an event of definitional significance in the scheme of things that could not occur without our being a part of the system..
In terms of a specific functional role, I have come to the conclusion that we will most likely turn out to be a required, purely natural link in the reproductive process of the universe.
I would like to know what philosophical precedents there are for such a positions.
What you have given is a pretty accurate account of the theory held by the twentieth century philosopher Samuel Alexander, in his monumental two-volume work, Space, Time and Deity (Macmillan 1920), based on his Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh 19161918. Alexander is a deep and original thinker, and also a fine writer. I recommend that work to anyone who is serious about metaphysics. Sadly, Alexander's work came to be eclipsed by A.N. Whitehead's Process and Reality published only a few years later. Whatever chance there may have been for Alexander to influence the course of British philosophy was snuffed out by A.J. Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic and the rise of logical positivism.
I was lucky. While I was a graduate student, I came across an approving reference to Alexander in a book by Leslie Armour Logic and Reality (Van Gorcum 1972). Then not long afterwards I found the two volume Macmillan 2nd edition, dating from 1927, in an Oxford second hand shop. By that time, the work had been out of print for nearly two decades. I have to admit it is a long time since I last read Alexander, though writing this answer has certainly whetted my appetite for giving the text a fresh look!
Alexander set the precedent, later followed by Whitehead, for a realist as opposed to an idealist theory of the nature of reality. His teacher, the idealist F.H. Bradley, author of Appearance and Reality (1893) was a strong influence. Alexander's achievement was to see that something like Bradley's Absolute could be reconstructed on realist lines: his solution was ingenious and original, as we shall see in a moment.
Incidentally, Alexander was one of the few philosophers of his day to make a serious attempt to understand Einstein's Theory of Relativity. His anti-representationalist account account of perception within a realist framework was also way ahead of its time anticipating the work of Austin and Wittgenstein. It is fair to say though, that by the 60's, when the last copies of Space, Time and Deity left the press, metaphysical treatises that attempted to solve the great questions of Existence were out of fashion.
Now for Alexander's theory. Two key concepts for Alexander are those of an 'emergent quality' and the idea of 'evolution'. The task, as in any metaphysical theory, is to account for every aspect of existing reality on the simplest and most economical basis. Alexander's idea was to start with Space and Time each of which he regarded as inconceivable without the other. But how do we get from there?
Space-Time, the universe in its primordial form, is the stuff out of which all existents are made. It is Space-time with the characters which we have found it to reveal to experience. But it has no 'quality' save that of being spatio-temporal or motion. All the wealth of qualities which makes things precious to us belongs to existence which grow within it...It is greater than all existent finites or infinites because it is their parent...
Op. cit. Vol. I, p. 342
Out of pure space-time emerge through a process Alexander describes simply as 'motion', the stuff and matter that make up our material world. Then, at a later point in the evolution of the universe, Mind, or conscious awareness emerges from material structures that have achieved a sufficient degree of complexity. The final stage of this process has not yet been reached, however. At some point in the future history of Mind there will emerge the thing Alexander calls 'Deity', thus revealing the ultimate purpose and destiny of the universe.
Fully consistently with his revisionist theology, Alexander interprets the activity of prayer and worship as aimed at the future, rather than at something that exists in the present. Any metaphysical theory of a Deity, Alexander argues, must satisfy the requirement that the Deity so revealed should be worthy of worship. Alexander sincerely believed that his theory of the Deity who is yet to evolve satisfied that requirement.
I personally have my doubts. One can trace a direct line to another Jewish philosopher, Spinoza, who had a vision of a Deity as the one Substance in which all finite things inhere. Like Spinoza, Alexander offers a radical reinterpretation of the religious attitude which some may see as a defence of religion, while others may legitimately feel that what is essential to their faith has been thrown out in the process.
Yesterday, I was introduced by my brother to the ideas of the Church of Scientology. I looked for the online websites, and I found first the anti- sites, who have some very disturbing things to say about them. I am not sure what to think about it. I was wondering if you could provide me with a summary of what is exactly, your opinion of its practices, and your professional opinion on the philosophical concepts on which it is based.
First, the story I heard was that Scientology was started by L. Ron Hubbard, a hack science fiction writer (known and deified within Scientology as "Elron"), on a bet, at a party, that he could fool people and start a cult. He was successful.
As you can see from the above, I believe (and have seen a lot of evidence) that this is a cult, that it is based on deceit, manipulation, and junk science. In addition, members of this cult have resorted to physical violence and intimidation against people who question it (I'm actually risking this, to some extent but not much, at this point, because of publicity of past incidents by responding in this way to you).
As far as I can tell (and since it's basically junk, I haven't spent much time on this), it is based on a kind of Westernization of Zen, where the goal, instead of "enlightenment" is to be "clear". This means something like being self-aware, knowing what your goals, motivations, etc., are, getting "unblocked"... all fine-sounding stuff, right? The problem is that first, the way to do this is very specific, cut and dried, and you cannot question it. Second, you must devote your life to it, basically. It's done through the use of a crude type of lie-detector, which (supposedly) indicates when you answer questions unspontaneously... you're inhibited, so you're "blocking". Ugh, that kind of thing is so ridiculously unreliable... not to mention that the construction of the questions is amazingly easy to bias toward whatever the investigator wants... junk, as I say.
There have been NO, I repeat, NO unbiased (i.e., done by people not members of this cult) studies of this that I know of that have said anything positive about it. Licensed and qualified therapists do not practice it. No legitimate schools teach it. STAY AWAY. Get your brother out of it.
If you want enlightenment, find some way that doesn't require your unquestioning devotion and entire resources. There are LOTS of legitimate teachers and schools of Zen, Yoga, etc., around.
Steven Ravett Brown
I am working on this subject as a project and will be privileged to hear your interpretations on the following questions:
The light coming from an object is transformed into electrical signals by the cells in the eye and then transmitted to the center of vision in the brain. And the electrical signals there are turned into an image. For example, you actually see this message in your brain. Then who is the one that sees and perceives the image of this message in the brain? How do you define the consciousness that can see this image in the brain without the need of an eye?
Brain is a piece of flesh composed of lipids, proteins and other various molecules. Could the consciousness that sees this image be this piece of flesh? Or could the brain cells make up a consciousness that sees these electrical signals as a sea view or an e-mail message?
No light penetrates the skull, which means the brain is entirely in darkness. Then how does such an illuminated, clear image is formed in this pitch-dark place? For instance how are the rays of the sun seen over the unlit brain cortex?
Also no sound enters the brain. This means there is deep muteness where the brain exists. However, people listen to all different sounds inside the brain. The sound waves are turned into electrical signals inside of the ear and then transmitted to the center of hearing. And the consciousness inside the brain listens to these for instance as a melody. Then who is it that listens to the loud music aired from powerful loudspeakers and how?
The image is formed inside a miniature spot in the brain. Then how is the three-dimensional image with depth is formed on this diminutive screen? For instance when I look at the horizon or the sky, how is such an image with vast depth formed at this tiny spot of center of vision just as identical to its original with the same depth and sense of distance? What is it that gives me the feeling of distance and space?
When a person sees a glass of water, in fact he does not see its real form but only a copy of it in his brain. The coldness that he feels when touching the glass surface is not the real coldness of the glass but only a copy of it. This means nobody is ever able to feel that he touches the real glass. Since it is not his fingers that feel the sense of touch, but merely the sense of touch in the brain. Should we not in this case conclude that people are never able to reach the reality of objects and can never touch the reality of a glass? But not every person knows this fact. Everyone thinks they touch and see real objects. Is it not strange that people are not aware of this and they never think about this?
Nothing changes when a person is hit by a bus or comes across a lion. Since, just like the image of the bus, the sense of collision or the fear while running away from a lion, all form in the brain. When I see a bus, I see it at the center of vision inside my brain. If I go and hold the door of the bus, I feel the coldness of the metal inside my brain. Then I cannot discriminate from this fact what happens when I feel pain if a bus hits or a lion bites. Then is it not very illogical when people say, "It shows I am in contact with the bus or the lion because I feel pain when the bus hits or the lion bites"?
We live the entire period of our lives inside our brains. In a similar way, we also have dreams in our brain. For instance when we touch a piece of ice in our dream, we feel it is wet and cold. Or, when we smell a rose, we get the wonderful scent of it. We again sense the feelings of fear, pain, anxiety and panic in a similar fashion. Then are the dreams and the real life the same in this sense?
The person's own body is also included in the images a person sees. So, a person only sees the copy of his own body. This means every person all through his life lives in the cave in his skull where he never knows what is outside, including his own body and other objects. Now think over this happening once more: Right now are you inside of the room you are present or is the room inside of you? Isn't the second alternative the right answer scientifically?
Let us imagine 5 different people who look at a garden of roses. Since every one of these people see the rose garden in his own brain, then aren't there 5 different rose gardens in the brains of every one of the 5 people? Is the color red that each one sees the same with the other's perception of red? Would there be any possibility to compare these?
We say that the original objects we see the copies of in our brain exist outside, but what if nothing exists outside? Because we never have the ability to test this or observe this. Then is it not dubious that the original objects are outside? At least there is a 50-50 percent possibility. Then how can we be sure that the original objects are outside? If there is no original object outside, then what is the entity that makes the images and the senses in our brain?
If we are living an illusion that has the possibility of not having any reality outside, then we may be existing in a very different place. For instance is it not possible for the entire humanity to exist right over a piece of crystal? Or is it not possible that the complete history of humanity has been experienced in a place not bigger than the head of a pin? Would there be anything to stop us thinking in such a broad extent?
Some people are incredibly afraid when these topics are discussed? What do you think the reason for this may be?
You don't see a message in your brain, you see what is in the world. A perceptual state is a relational state, the relata being the brain and what is perceived. It is necessary for the brain to be an informational state relating to what is perceived if there is to be consciousness or sense-experience. The fact that the brain is dark and mute is evidence for the perception being a relational state. How the brain gives rise to consciousness is a fundamental problem for philosophy and science.
You cannot "see" a message in your brain. The various transmitting mechanisms in the brain which process topographic maps of what is on the retina produce a brain state with a different description from the way we see, describe and know the environment, which is what we really see. Information from the visual environment outside the head will produce an image on the retina which is highly processed and abstracted from what is in the visual field. It bears no imagistic likeness and could not do so. Firstly, because the visual cortex uses information which does not come purely from retinal stimulation but from other sources, such as the tactile sense. For instance, if you see a mirage the sun shining on the road which looks like water you know you see a mirage because you are aware of the heat, an awareness which comes from a different neural source. Secondly, colour is the result of wavelengths of light on the retina and as coded in the brain it is not colour at all.
The "I" who perceives is the one who is conscious by virtue of undergoing a totality of information processing in the brain. For consciousness of oneself as "I", more than a brain is needed. We need to distinguish ourselves from things in the environment. You could not be a brain "looking" at some "diminutive screen" in your head and get any consciousness of yourself.
Consciousness cannot be flesh. This is the mind-body problem. The brain is essentially physical and consciousness is essentially mental and there can be no identity between these different kinds. It doesn't make sense to say consciousness is physical.
Three-dimensionality is something which we come to know through the sense of touch: I think this is Berkeley's view and it seems correct. The visual correlate, perspective, is not actually three-dimensional, although I have looked in Paul Churchland's book Matter and Consciousness and he does talk of "three-dimensional seeing" which occurs by means of "stereopsis" which is a comparison of images from each eye. You might do well to read this book.
Not many people would agree with you about reality. We are in touch with the reality of objects as they appear to us. The table may really be a bundle of moving molecules but given our perceptual equipment or the nature of our brain and its complex processing system, what we see is solid. This is our perceptual reality. A sense-experience is a feeling and when we touch something we feel a sensation in our finger. You cannot feel with your brain, your brain enables you to feel.
Dreams differ from ordinary intentional perceptual states which are relational. One of the relata the external environment is missing in dreams so although contentful, they are not intentional. When the brain is working on its own, as in dreams, feelings and sensations appear in the same way as when awake. I'm afraid I don't know what it is that physically stimulates the brain to work on its own, but dreamt pains and fears have been shown by Freud to have some connection with real anxieties and physical conditions. For instance, you may be asleep while your body is de-hydrated and you are likely to dream of drinking water. Real life anxieties can come out in dreams but the true nature of the anxiety will be hidden. In both cases, the content but not the feeling is out of touch with reality. You are not drinking water or really anxious that, for instance, the bridge is going to collapse. Dreaming is like being in an intentional state but there is no state of affairs outside the head responsible for content.
Although it is easily suggested that each person's sensation of red is different, the way the brain codes information may have the same patterning in all persons, and neuroscience may be able to show that this is so.
If we assume that intentional states such as perception are relational then we are assuming that there is a reality outside the head we get to this view by ordinary conceptual distinctions between states such as perception being environmentally related whereas dreams and imaginings are not so. However, we can imagine a brain in a vat being stimulated by scientists to have a sensation of red or to have a thought and it may be that is how for you or for me. The reason this is frightening to think about is that it involves a turning away from reality and you seem to be in the grip of this yet unafraid! There are reasons for philosophers to consider possibilities such as the brain in a vat, but to really believe in possibilities rather than actuality isn't what most people want to do.
Okay... first, there are HUGE sources for information on this issue. I recommend you start here:
That should get you started.
Now. Since there are enormous numbers of books, journals, etc., on these questions, all I'm going to do is skim them to give you some teasers instead of answers. For anything like real answers (as real as they get, anyway) you'll have to go to the sites I've given you.
"1. For example, you actually see this message in your brain."
Really? Do you? "Light" is electromagnetic radiation, and you have a subjective experience due to just one octave of the total spectrum of that radiation.
"Then who is the one that sees and perceives the image of this message in the brain?"
You see the image. One problem with your question is the term "message". It is a misconception that neural impulses are "messages"; then one starts asking, as you are, "messages to whom?" To whom, indeed. Try to conceive of an entity composed of, generated by, neural impulses, which reacts to itself, and you might have a better picture of the materialist conception of the mind.
"How do you define the consciousness that can see this image in the brain without the need of an eye?"
What do you mean by "define the consciousness"? And what good would it do, to "define" it? If all you want is a definition, try "self-awareness"; that's a perfectly good dictionary-type definition. But of course, you are not, and should not, be satisfied with that. Why not? Because what you want is not a definition but an explanation, and further, a reductive explanation. Good luck; no one has done that, but you'll find in the references above many attempts. On the other hand, if you want phenomenological analyses, check out the phenomenology links above.
Next... "see" "without the need of an eye"? You are assuming a great deal here; for a start, that there is an actual image to be seen, on a little movie screen, by a little man (a "homunculus") in our brain... but how does that little man see? Another little man in his brain? And that one? Whoops... See my discussions below.
"2. Brain is a piece of flesh composed of lipids, proteins and other various molecules. Could the consciousness that sees this image be this piece of flesh?"
"Be"? In what sense are you using that incredibly ambiguous word? Try this: consciousness is generated by and instantiated in the dynamics of the brain.
"Or could the brain cells make up a consciousness that sees these electrical signals as a sea view or an e-mail message?"
I simply don't understand this question. "Sea view"? Neurons do not receive email.
"3. No light penetrates the skull, which means the brain is entirely in darkness. Then how does such an illuminated, clear image is formed in this pitch-dark place? For instance how are the rays of the sun seen over the unlit brain cortex?"
They aren't. There is no image. You do not see the "rays of the sun". You are confusing your subjective experience of seeing the result of electromagnetic radiation, impinging on the retina, transduced into neural impulses which then become an aspect of an enormous system reacting to itself, with that objective radiation per se. Read Kant on this: we construct reality; we generate the experience of seeing. Who knows what there "really" is outside the box the skull (more accurately, the body) we live in. We assume that it is similar to our experiences, and, given that there is a world, we would certainly be dead if it weren't; so it is. But you must remember that what we experience, subjectively, is all a construction.
"4. Also no sound enters the brain. This means there is deep muteness where the brain exists. However, people listen to all different sounds inside the brain. The sound waves are turned into electrical signals inside of the ear and then transmitted to the center of hearing. And the consciousness inside the brain listens to these for instance as a melody. Then who is it that listens to the loud music aired from powerful loudspeakers and how?"
Same as 3 above. People do NOT listen to (objective) sounds; they construct the subjective experience of sound. As for who listens, see 1 and 3 above.
"5. The image is formed inside a miniature spot in the brain."
NO. See 3 and 4 above.
"Then how is the three-dimensional image with depth is formed on this diminutive screen? For instance when I look at the horizon or the sky, how is such an image with vast depth formed at this tiny spot of center of vision just as identical to its original with the same depth and sense of distance?"
You keep making the same mistake over and over. I'll just say it one more time: There is no image in your brain; your subjective experience bears no relationship that we know of except the most general structural relationships (see Kant, Palmer, etc.) to the reality "out there". There is no objective "light", no "sound", no "screen", no "depth". Zero, none, nothing. Those are subjective experiences. Neural impulses are reacting to each other, generating, we do not know how, those experiences. Period.
"What is it that gives me the feeling of distance and space?"
Now this is a better question, but one no one knows how to answer it. We do indeed have "feelings" or experiences of space, light, sound, etc. How are they generated, by neurons inter-reacting? We do not know. There are many studies showing what areas of the brain process what stimuli from various sensory inputs (to put it crudely), and you could say that those areas are "what" gives those feelings, but that's not really a good answer, is it. But it's about the best we can do right now.
"6. When a person sees a glass of water, in fact he does not see its real form but only a copy of it in his brain."
Not a copy, a construct.
"The coldness that he feels when touching the glass surface is not the real coldness of the glass but only a copy of it. This means nobody is ever able to feel that he touches the real glass."
That's better; now you're getting it.
"Since it is not his fingers that feel the sense of touch, but merely the sense of touch in the brain. Should we not in this case conclude that people are never able to reach the reality of objects and can never touch the reality of a glass?"
Good question, and some have. But if we assume that there's anything out there, we have to assume some degree of correspondence with what we construct; otherwise, as I say above, we'd be dead, because we'd be falling off cliffs, eating poison, etc, etc.
"But not every person knows this fact. Everyone thinks they touch and see real objects. Is it not strange that people are not aware of this and they never think about this?"
When you do, you're called a "philosopher" under the best circumstances, "insane" under the worst, and many in between. Also, to do this thinking to any reasonable extent, one needs leisure, food, shelter, as a minimum. If you're desperately trying to get those, you just don't have time, right? Also, it's scary... see 13 below.
"7. Nothing changes when a person is hit by a bus or comes across a lion."
Well, it sure hurts when it happens to me.
"Since, just like the image of the bus, the sense of collision or the fear while running away from a lion, all form in the brain. When I see a bus, I see it at the center of vision inside my brain. If I go and hold the door of the bus, I feel the coldness of the metal inside my brain. Then I cannot discriminate from this fact what happens when I feel pain if a bus hits or a lion bites. Then is it not very illogical when people say, 'It shows I am in contact with the bus or the lion because I feel pain when the bus hits or the lion bites'?"
This is the same question as 6, basically. However, it's not illogical, since it's based on the assumption (usually not stated) that there's a world out there. Given that assumption, the rest follows. Now if you want to question that assumption, fine... see the refs above for literature on this.
"8. We live the entire period of our lives inside our brains. In a similar way, we also have dreams in our brain. For instance when we touch a piece of ice in our dream, we feel it is wet and cold. Or, when we smell a rose, we get the wonderful scent of it. We again sense the feelings of fear, pain, anxiety and panic in a similar fashion. Then are the dreams and the real life the same in this sense?"
When I slept I dreamed I was a butterfly; now I think I'm awake... am I a butterfly dreaming I'm a prince, or a prince who just dreamed he was a butterfly? This is an old Chinese story, true, as far as I know. As you can see, you're not alone.
"9. The person's own body is also included in the images a person sees. So, a person only sees the copy of his own body."
"This means every person all through his life lives in the cave in his skull where he never knows what is outside, including his own body and other objects. Now think over this happening once more: Right now are you inside of the room you are present or is the room inside of you? Isn't the second alternative the right answer scientifically?"
"Scientifically" the first is correct, since science assumes that there is a world to be investigated. As to what is actually correct, see my discussions above.
"10. Let us imagine 5 different people who look at a garden of roses. Since every one of these people see the rose garden in his own brain, then aren't there 5 different rose gardens in the brains of every one of the 5 people? Is the color red that each one sees the same with the other's perception of red? Would there be any possibility to compare these?"
Now this is a much better set of questions, and one that is the subject of hot debate right now; see the refs above. First, there are indeed 5 different subjective experiences of the rose garden. Second, no one knows; but there are ways to compare certain aspects of the experiences of red: their relationship to the experience of blue, for example: how the colors fade into one another, how much light is necessary to see red. Stephen Palmer is more or less the expert on this at this point. But this is a very difficult and technical issue, and if you don't have background in cognitive science and perception, wait until you do before you tackle this literature.
"11. We say that the original objects we see the copies of in our brain exist outside, but what if nothing exists outside? Because we never have the ability to test this or observe this. Then is it not dubious that the original objects are outside? At least there is a 50-50 percent possibility. Then how can we be sure that the original objects are outside? If there is no original object outside, then what is the entity that makes the images and the senses in our brain?"
Wait, wait. "50-50 percent possibility"? No. How can you give any answer, any numbers, any definite statement of possibility on a question that you have absolutely NO data on? Answer: you cannot. See my discussion of 3, 4, 6, etc., above. This is basically the same question. Again, Kant tackled this issue head-on; many others have also. See the references above.
"12. If we are living an illusion that has the possibility of not having any reality outside, then we may be existing in a very different place. For instance is it not possible for the entire humanity to exist right over a piece of crystal? Or is it not possible that the complete history of humanity has been experienced in a place not bigger than the head of a pin? Would there be anything to stop us thinking in such a broad extent?"
Nope; go see the movie "The Matrix". Again, you're asking the same question as before. A more interesting question might be, "could humanity move into a virtual world inside a computer and be satisfied?" An interesting question indeed. I suggest that we aren't contacting alien life because they're all living in their computers, translated into conscious programs, having a much happier time in virtual universes than in the "real" one (And of course this one might be someone else's virtual universe... who knows? But for sure, it's not ours.).
"13. Some people are incredibly afraid when these topics are discussed? What do you think the reason for this may be?"
You've got to be kidding. Questioning one's entire basis for reality? For living? For believing what we see, feel, touch? The question is, why are those of us who do it not scared? Simple insanity, or what? That's part of the reason why philosophy is hard, and why people have to be introduced to it gently.
Well, have fun; you've got a lot of reading ahead...
Steven Ravett Brown
There is really one question here: how does the physical materialist account for reality? There short answer is: he does not. This kind of materialist thought scarcely begins to approximate reality, let alone question it. It is not "strange that people are not aware of this" [that reality is only "in the brain"] because for most people such questions fall short of the common sense which the grammar of ordinary language expresses and codifies. For instance, "brains" do not think and perceive in any language except the specialist technical language which belongs to areas of scientific research, which presuppose the dogma of materialism to begin with and to that extent is already sub-philosophical. It is persons who think, not "brains", not objects. And persons are not mechanisms either. Classical literature testifies to the fact that personal being, personality, is not purely mechanical or mechanistic, that thinking is not about "brains" and that "brains" do not have ideas; psychology, history, philosophy and common sense all attest to the same thing. The notions of human dignity, natural law and rights are all grounded in a sense of irreducible human spirit. The very word "spirit" evokes a whole vocabulary of words with acknowledged meanings and real sense, beyond the abstract understanding of materialist conception.
To interpret your questions Berk, as I expect other respondents will try to do, is (I would argue) to give tacit credence to the fallacies of the hard materialist position which they announce.
Matthew Del Nevo
Please Professor, explain me a way to teach Tarski's theory of truth for students who don't have a logical foundation.
Tarski's theory of truth without the logic? That's a tough proposition! In his famous paper, 'On the Concept of Truth in Formalized Languages', Tarski describes a potentially infinite hierarchy of 'meta-languages' each one of which is able to talk about the truth or falsity of sentences in the level just below it. The aim is to solve paradoxes like the following: You take a piece of paper and write, 'The statement on the other side of this paper is true'. Then on the other side, you write, 'The statement on the other side of this paper is false'. (See Answers 2, answer to Susan.)
I have never found this self-referential paradox particularly gripping, so I am not persuaded that Tarski's clunky contraption is really needed. However, the solution to the paradoxes about truth is not the philosophically most important part of Tarski's paper.
Tarski gives a deceptively simple test which you can apply to any proposed theory of truth to see if that theory is adequate.
First, we need to see that there are lots of things you can say about a sentence in a language. You can say that it is grammatical, or that it is poetic, or that it contains exactly eleven words, or that it is found in the King James Bible. But there is just one thing you can say about a sentence which has the remarkable effect of producing a result which is equivalent to the original sentence. And that is when you say that the sentence is true.
Let's forget about truth for the moment. We don't know what that is. Instead, Tarski says, let's just use the the letter 'T'. Suppose that someone produced a definition of a predicate, 'T', which applies to sentences of a language. And suppose that as a consequence of this definition, the following rule (Convention T) holds:
'Snow is white' is T if and only if snow is white
'Grass is green' is T if and only if grass is green
'Giraffes live on Mars' is T if and only if Giraffes live on Mars
'Freddie Starr eats hamsters' is T if and only if Freddie Starr eats hamsters...
...and so on for every sentence in the language.
Then we would be justified in saying that 'is T' is the same as 'is true'. In fact, we can say more than this. Convention T is all one could require of a theory of truth. It tells us what truth is, in the sense of distinguishing the predicate 'is true' from every other predicate that can be applied to sentences, like 'is grammatical', 'is poetic', 'contains exactly eleven words', 'is found in the King James Bible' and so on.
Just to see this working in practice, consider what is admittedly a pretty poor candidate for a theory of truth, the Biblical theory:
Biblical theory of truth: sentence x is true if and only if x occurs in the King James Bible
Does the Biblical theory satisfy Convention T? No. Consider, for example:
'Tony Blair is Prime Minister' is found in the King James Bible if, and only if Tony Blair is Prime Minister
But that is false. Nowhere in the King James Bible does there occur the sentence, 'Tony Blair is Prime Minister'. So the statement on the left hand side of 'if, and only if' is false. But Tony Blair is Prime Minister. So the statement on the right hand side of 'if and only if' is true. And the result of that is a false statement. It follows that the Biblical theory of truth does not satisfy Convention T.
Armed with Convention T, we can dispose in a similar way with the pragmatist, coherence and 'verification under ideal conditions' theories of truth. You might try it as an exercise.
Tarski, however, makes a stronger claim. He claims that Convention T is, in effect, a correspondence theory of truth. Why is that? Because in each of the examples given above, 'Snow is white', 'grass is green' etc. the left hand side talks about words and the right hand side talks about the world. If I say that 'Snow is white' is true I am talking about words. If I say that snow is white then I am talking about the world. Here we can literally see the 'correspondence' required between words and the world in order for there to be such a thing as truth.
I actually think that this is a logical mirage. No serious correspondence theorist would be satisfied with such a thin account of 'correspondence'. The real import of Tarski's Convention T is to undermine the possibility of ever giving an informative theory of truth. The proper conclusion to draw is the one that Tarski's predecessor Frege drew, and before Frege, Kant: truth is indefinable. However, that is another story.
What is the difference between order, balance, and harmony? I am a scientist considering a career change. Science seems to be mainly about order; the arts, which I am increasingly drawn to, seem to be more about balance and harmony. I sense the three are not mutually exclusive, but I think if I can figure out the difference between these concepts, I will be better able to design a career that meets my needs.
An interesting question... one is tempted to refer you to the Greeks, but then you'd just learn what they thought. My take on this issue, for what it's worth, is that when you refer to "order" you mean something like the marshalling and organizing of facts, data, into regularities, then possibly into laws. This is a classical picture of science, and it's probably mostly correct.
Balance and harmony... here you could be referring either to internal, i.e., subjective, feelings; or to some sort of objective standards, e.g., for the right kinds of structure in a work of art. Let's just explore the subjective, because that seems to be the general tenor of your question.
Feelings of balance and harmony come either immediately upon the "viewing" (I'm using the term more generally than just vision) of a work of art (and Kant has a lot to say about this also in the Critique of Judgement), or as a kind of general feel or orientation that one has when one does work, for example, that one loves. Now if you're referring to the second of these, this discussion is too specific for you, and my comment is merely that if doing art satisfies you and science does not, in terms of this general feeling of well-being, go do art (but I hope you have money saved up).
Let's take the first, however: the specific feeling that one has upon viewing a particular piece. How is this different from feelings that one has upon viewing a well-written, profound scientific paper? There may be no difference at all; or the difference might be due to your own preferences... we come here to either the issue in the above paragraph; or to the difference between art and science. That boundary blurs in either of their higher reaches, in my opinion, since both (again in my opinion) serve to reveal some aspect of reality to ourselves and others. But art usually emphasizes feelings, while science emphasizes objective knowledge. So what is revealed in the case of art, or better, the emphasis on what is revealed is some truth about one's own, or humanity's in general, feelings. While in the latter case what is revealed is some truth about facts... which can be very aesthetically moving, but does not deal directly with feelings, i.e., feelings are not the operators in science, although they can be the subject of scientific investigation, of course.
So it's beginning to seem as if what you might be moving toward is a desire to investigate and to manipulate feelings on a much more specific level than the general feelings of aesthetic satisfaction that you get from viewing a good paper. I've just got to throw in a plug here for the Jungian (simplistic as it is) four-part analysis of the personality; and his dictum that as we mature we move toward other areas of the psyche. This sounds to me like what's happening with you, and that's great, in my opinion.
Now... I haven't said exactly what "balance" and "harmony" are. One can talk about this and that being opposites and needing to be "evened out", so to speak; I'm afraid that I'm rather atypical in this area, since I have a rather profound skepticism about the validity of analyses purporting to dissect the human psyche (although Aristotle did this and so did Jung... and many others). But let's take the general point of feeling versus analysis, or the intellect versus the emotions... whatever categories you want to use here. There does indeed seem to be a separation here, and as you probably know, that separation is backed up by neuroanatomical data. Again, what you seem to be wanting is more emphasis on the emotions, and perhaps what you mean by "balance" refers to a very general evenness, let us say, between emotional manipulation and awareness, and intellectual operations.
The advantage of doing art is this direct manipulation of feelings. The disadvantage is that you can't really say anything specific... what does a sonata mean, or a piece of sculpture, etc.? On the other hand, the pros and cons of science are just the opposite, aren't they... you know what you mean, but not how you feel about it in any specific sense. You can say profound things about the world, but is what you're saying beautiful, not to mention how you're saying it? Not usually. Yet on the other hand, what do you get with beauty... besides very general, vague comments on the (subjective or objective) world? Yet, on the other hand, although, through science, you find out all sorts of specific things about the world... there's always the realization that there's got to be more than just the facts, right? Hesse addressed this issue rather directly in The Glass Bead Game. So far as I know, most of the literature rants and rails about the above separation, without (with a few exceptions, like Hesse) trying to synthesize art and science in any direct, specific way. Oh, there's plenty of art about science, or art that uses science in some way or another, but that's not the point, is it.
So, you can do both art and science, but remember that it takes about a decade of hard work, usually, to master something. You can continue with science, and gradually do more exploring of your feelings through viewing, reading about, etc., art, psychology, and so forth. That's the usual method. You can go the art route, take the 5-10 years to master an art form, be poor (unless you've got savings), and finally, if you're lucky and talented, find that you are exploring and manipulating feelings directly. That's the unusual method, and very few manage that... but some do. Or you can do something like become an art dealer or collector, after studying for the 5-10 years to achieve mastery. But then you're not an artist, although you're on the fringes, and being on the fringes is always a bit frustrating unless you're someone who is totally reconciled and satisfied with not being an artist, while still loving art.
Steven Ravett Brown
Science has become an integral part of many issues of public concern medical, informational, environmental, and legal. Scientific experts frequently square off in the evening news and during legal trials. In short, because of the limits of lay knowledge, experts have quite a bit of power these days. How can philosophy help me decide on the appropriate limits of expertise? What does philosophy have to say about experts?
I was recently talking to someone who has just finished her dissertation on experts in the medical field and she told me that she no longer believes in experts because there is a subjective starting point which determines what they will eventually take to be true. Of course there is a subjective starting point, but this doesn't mean that one can person cannot know more in a particular field than others. However, more interestingly, she has discovered that many people in the medical field who are taken to be experts are not in fact so. They have passed through the proper channels and have been recognised by professionals within their own field as experts but their position as experts is not actually based on experience or knowledge but on their ability to come to the fore in their professions because of their personal qualities. So if we want to know who we should regard as experts it would be wrong to suppose that the profession itself will identify the right person. We have to be in a position to assess their work.
Your question prompted me to read Paul Feyerabend's article "Experts in a Free Society", initially printed in The Critic (Nov-Dec 1970) and reprinted in Philosophy, The Basic Issues edited by Klemke, Kline and Hollinger. Feyerabend describes experts as people who have decided to achieve supreme excellence at the expense of balanced development he is unbelievably scathing! you must read the paper, but I can't resist quoting from it here:
It is quite depressing to see with what fervour thousands of young people throw themselves into special subjects where they are trained and trained and trained by receiving now punishment, now a pat on the head until they are hardly distinguishable from the computers whom they want to approach in efficiency .... these inarticulate and slavish minds have convinced almost everyone that they have knowledge and insight ... that they should be able to educate our children ... Should we allow a bunch of narrow-minded and conceited slaves to tell free men how to run their society?" An example of narrow-mindedness is the physician who deals only with the physical body.
Feyerabend also criticises the experts' desire to appear professional through the use of lingo which is both absurd and can distort facts. Masters and Johnson, for instance, want to say that a male should ask a female what she wants rather than guessing, but actually say "The male will be infinitely more effective if he encourages vocalisation". The first part of the sentence is not really true and the latter part is an absurd way of talking about something as simple as "asking". Apparently, the "awful Newton" is responsible for this way of writing.
So this is how one philosopher views experts. Feyerabend also thinks that expertise is limited by following methods such as simply looking at empirical evidence and says that Galileo, who is taken as an example of a well-rounded rather than narrow-minded scientist, was more in favour of following a hunch and acting on prejudice. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this because to agree on a method doesn't mean it is correct, but may reflect the conformism of scientists. Feyerabend also points out that Galileo worked prior to professionalism with its lingo and included personal history and rhetoric in his reports, an approach which was individualist rather than conformist and methodological as we expect the expert to be today.
Is the Christian Doctrine of Predestination still part of Christian belief today? How do you reconcile this doctrine with the exercise of Free Will? Are there different doctrines of Predestination? If so, what are the differences?
It is a bit sweeping to say, "the Christian doctrine" of predestination. It is a Latinate doctrine if anything (rather than Greek), and a Protestant (North European rather than Mediterranean) one at that. You need a historical sense to grasp the meaning of predestination and the differences in understanding of it, since these are not basically analytic, but soteriological (belonging to the theory of salvation).
The Catholic Catechism (1995) doesn't list predestination in its detailed topical index, although masturbation is listed and there is a whole page about it. Times have changed obviously. The Magisterium is more concerned with masturbation than predestination.
Predestination is in the Old Testament, in the so-called "inter-testamental literature" especially and in particular found in the Wisdom of Solomon and the Books of Esdra and various other passages under the heading of Divine Providence. This latter is normally understood as co-operative (synergic) with human free-will, whereas, predestination is usually associated with the notion of divine foreknowledge. Are these two in contradiction you may well ask?
There are two ways that Christian philosophy thinks about the patterns of history. They are not mutually exclusive but complimentary, although at various points of human discourse one way has been over-emphasised at the expense of the other. The two ways are 'from above' (the God's eye view of history) and 'from below' (the mortal view). The former view is qua the whole, or the unity of all the One and the other is qua existence here. The predestinarian view was over-emphasised by Augustine in the 5th century in his dispute with Pelagius and even more famously in The City of God, his masterpiece. The Council of Orange in 529 anathematised predestination to evil, which Augustinians were preaching. In the Eastern churches Origen had taught (since the third century) that eventually all would be saved. Although not strictly orthodox, the idea of the apocatastasis as it is called, is a Christian hope, but contrary to Augustinian soteriology.
It was Calvin (and Calvinism in his wake) in The Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559) who explicitly taught predestination. "No one who wishes to be thought religious dares outright to deny predestination, by which God chooses some for the hope of life, and condemns others to eternal death." (III.xxi). The Baptist Confession of Faith (1646) speaks of the "just condemnation" of the damned (article III) and of "salvation for the elect" (article XXIII). The Catholic Council of Trent, (1545-63), while not mincing words about Original Sin, affirmed that "Man can be justified before God, by his own works" (Session VI Jan. 1547). Historically, predestination has never really been a Catholic or Orthodox teaching. It is Protestant.
Anglicans wobbled. Predestination, according to William Beveridge's authoritative interpretation the Thirty Nine Articles (in 1704), said God's predestination (a nod to Protestantism) concerned "the mystery of mysteries" (a nod to Catholicism) "which must needs be infinitely above man's apprehension" (On Article XVII 'Of Predestination and Election'). The differences in the doctrine of predestination are denominational.
Matthew Del Nevo