How is justice related to equality and how is equality related to the distinctive identities and other circumstances of individuals such as age, race, and disability?
One aspect of justice is fair or equal treatment of human beings. People who call for equal (political) treatment (practical maxim of equality) of human beings normally hold that all human beings, just because they are human beings have the right to equal treatment in certain areas like the right to vote, equal treatment in court but also equal opportunities e.g. regarding education and jobs, and equal distribution of necessary goods e.g. medical treatment.
As you can already see from this sentence there are a number of notions linked together (which is why justice/equality is such an interesting topic) in the following I will just try and give you some ideas you may want to explore ...
The notion of equality of human beings i.e. the factual statement that human beings are equal (as the basis of the request that human beings should be treated equal). The problem with that, as Bernard Williams has pointed out in 'The Idea of Equality', in: Problems of Self (1973), is that if you take it literally it is too strong i.e. wrong because there are numerous counterexamples where human beings are clearly not equal, e.g. our genetic make-up differs, we differ in talents, upbringing, social circumstances, physical strength and health etc. On the other hand if you interpret the statement in the weak sense it is too weak, because it is trivial to say that the only thing which is equal is the fact that we are all human beings. Williams suggests that between these two extremes the factual statement could be supported by the following considerations:
1. All human beings feel pain. Any society that discriminates certain groups using a criterion like colour of the skin does so either arbitrarily (because the criterion is irrelevant) or simply acts wrongly i.e. disregarding the capacity of these human beings for feeling pain. In fact according to Williams the latter is the case, demonstrated by the fact that people/societies who act like that normally rationalise the discrimination additionally i.e. they do not say that colour of skin is sufficient for different treatment but they attribute some character deficiencies or lack of intelligence or other weakness to the group they are discriminating against. This shows according to Williams that they in fact know and agree that all human beings are equal and have therefore a claim to equal treatment.
2. All human beings have moral capacities: Kant has argued that all men deserve equal respect as moral agents. Williams finds a problem with this as Kant in order to remove this claim from contingencies (i.e. he does not want to allow the capacity for moral action to vary like other talents or capacities vary between men) makes it a transcendental capacity; this results however in the problem that there is a conflict between this vague notion of equal moral agents and the practice of holding men responsible for their actions according to their capacities (e.g. taking into account mental illness, moment of extreme anger etc.). Williams however finds that something is left of this notion in that we can request for every man that his point of view is considered, what it means for him to live his life (i.e. empathy, putting oneself in his shoes). One point Williams makes is that we should bear in mind that society can influence our consciousness (i.e. extreme oppression can lead to the oppressed adopting the same point of view, that they deserve such treatment. Therefore lack of suffering is in itself no guarantee that the system is fair).
Considering the notion of equal opportunities in unequal circumstances: Equality is often discussed regarding the distribution of (limited) goods: Williams argues that in cases of need such need should be the sufficient and operative criterion for distribution. Example: Sick people have the need (illness) and should therefore receive medical treatment (the good). The practice where money becomes a major factor in the allocation of medical treatment (rich people receive better or earlier treatment, the poor delayed, less good treatment or none at all) is according to Williams irrational. The situation regarding goods that are allocated based on merit is somewhat different they may be desired by those that do not merit them or not desired by those who merit them: Example: University education. In these cases there may be a mechanism to allocate the good e.g. certain grades to be reached at the final exams qualify you to enter university. The problem with this is that the circumstances may give certain groups an unfair advantage so that opportunities are equal only in name. Consider for example that rich people can afford tuition, can send their children to better schools etc. In those cases the question arises whether these underlying circumstances should be altered to provide truly equal opportunities? Williams sees a problem regarding where to draw the line e.g. should one (if it were possible) use brain surgery, genetic modification to erase differences that give advantage to more talented/ intelligent children? Carried to the extreme the notion of equal opportunity collides (and threatens to obliterate) the notion of personal identity and also the notion of equal respect deserved despite existing differences.
Robert Nozick has criticised the idea of need giving a right to receive certain goods. He pointed out that e.g. in the case of medical treatment the doctor providing the treatment has a legitimate right to want to make a living out of his talent/skill, and that this is the important consideration in the distribution of medical treatment. Nozick thinks society should not interfere with unequal situations that have arisen as the result of legitimate actions. You can think for example of a situation where some people chose to save their money, and pay for a better education of their children, the children consequently get better jobs, they marry in the same social circle and due to good connections do even better etc. The resulting inequality is the outcome of normal and legitimate actions. Nozick holds that people are entitled to have and keep property that they have legitimately earned (notion of entitlement).
It is noteworthy that often people argue for certain rights (which in fact both Williams and Nozick do in this discussion) without explaining where these rights come from (are there natural moral laws and rights or not?).
Consider also this: Is my need to eat a cake a sufficient reason for you to give me your cake or a piece of it (Williams)? On the other hand is your having the cake legitimately a sufficient reason for me not to take it from you if I want it (Nozick)? Is it not after all a question of power to take or to keep the cake? And could one not argue that society is a finely-balanced system of power structures where for example the need of the poor for medical treatment is met not just because of the need but because all of us together have a mutual agreement where all pay tax so that such expenses can be met should we ever need them etc. Obviously we feel differently about need for cancer treatment than requests for luxury goods, so should society provide for basic needs of all? What are these basic needs? And is it ultimately not a case of what a society can afford, and therefore a question of wealth?
In a restricted sense of 'justice' consider justice in court in democracies people are supposed to be equal before the law, but the rich and famous can afford better counsel and can take their case if required through numerous appeals, which is much more difficult for the poor. Education might also play a role in whether you realise all the options you have to make your case. Again existing circumstances can give the advantage to certain groups as opposed to others.
This is more of a request for an opinion rather than a direct question. I have recently graduated with a BSc (computer science) and while at uni took a few philosophy (ethics, epistemology & metaphysics) and biology papers (evolution). I had always considered myself to be an agnostic but now after much study and contemplation can see no other alternative other than atheism. I am interested in the personal beliefs of philosophers regarding theism. I note that Geoffrey Klempner has stated he used to be an atheist. If anyone shares this view, can they please tell me what they believe now and why?
What immediately sprang to mind on reading this question were some appropriately irreverent items of philosophical graffiti:
God is dead but won't lie down.
On a scale of death, God is mostly dead.
God is not dead merely pining for the fjords ( The Python Defense).
All of which may seem a facetious response to one of the big puzzles of our century; what is it in our species that makes us re-invent God as a Central Organising Principal (C.O.P) or makes us vulnerable to G.O.D Corp. (God On Delivery Corp) in it's many guises?
I once attended a lecture by the physicist Pokinhorn who was talking to the teachers, of whom I was one, of a school in the village of which he was a famous son. He was advocating the 'God stirs the mix' conjecture but could not find a response to the Popperian charge of executing a metaphysical sleight of hand by representing an essentially irrefutable conjecture disguised as a theory of physics. I enjoyed the debate and felt that I had won the game of philosophical tennis even though I was denied the authority of institutional truth.
At an intellectual level I cannot justify the concept of 'faith' when it is based purely on the propositional concept of truth and knowledge. Yet statistically we can see that people move in and out, out and in, stay in, stay out of religious belief. So a scientific account of the world our species inhabits must take this fact into account. It also has to consider the feeling we can have at moments of life-threatening crisis that we want there to be a finger stirring up the probabilities or throwing the dice to shake up the cards in what may seem to be a certain hand expressing extreme prejudice towards us or our loved ones.
So when you have these experiences how do you reconcile the logically driven intellectual view of faith with the emotionally driven view? My personal solution is that I do not see these positions as separately haunting the devil's horns but as indiscernibly conjoined twins dancing on the devils nose, too close to be seen in focus.
At a deep and purely speculative level I believe there are finite logico-group like mechanisms in cells that are 'writ large' in the body of complex organisms and which operate on, in and through us of which we can have knowledge through their emergent works, i.e. what we do, what we know and what we want.
More specifically, I believe that humans have a high level cognitive system the products of which are what we call 'thought' of which the objects are vehicles for disjunctively joined propositional and value content. Education, experience, situations and disposition may dilate or inhibit either of the two passengers so that thought becomes mostly propositional or mostly value based but there is still, even in polarized individuals a residual channel in which the two are still twinned. Within this system there are two distinct units, one of which takes the world as it is as its objects and the second which acts on the objects in the world wants to change or maintain our world. This second unit is also a part of our world and so is subject to its own dynamic.
Within this highly personal and idiosyncratic view, 'faith' and 'hope' can be seen as the emergence of the deep and permanent working of our organism which in normal times may be skewed towards the opposite poles of rationalism and emotivism but in situations involving personal catastrophic crisis almost certainly will default to an unpolarised position in which both propositional and value channels of thought merge, mix and churn turbulently but within which there are created islands of calm from inside which we can reconstruct our world.
From a logical point of view I think our world is perceived within the flow control logic of a three valued classification system consisting of satisfaction, non-satisfaction and indifference the deep constituents of which are propositional and value channels carried in an expectation nucleus. In a crisis or when searching, our thoughts wander across all three states but we can default to an attitude of indifference towards a situation or consciously choose this position above satisfaction, dissatisfaction or frustration. Though most of us I believe default to the latter and become satisfied with non-satisfaction, a self-locking state of affairs.
As you can probably tell there is a theory about to jump up and bite you. While it is mostly developed I haven't as yet worked it through enough situations to offer you a well founded critical method that allows you to think about and retain your beliefs while systematically doubting them while at the same time offering you a vehicle sound enough to replace them.
But I am working on it.
Sgt Greene asked:
Regarding the question that was posed to Ray Kurzweil, concerning "an entity capable of suffering deserves moral consideration."
My question to you sir, if the above statement is true, is it fair to say that the killing of entities such as animals that support nutrients to the human race is wrong? If it is wrong, what is the basis for it to be wrong, in the areas of philosophy, values and beliefs sir?
Gunnery Sergeant Greene
United States Marine Corps
Singer's key argument that we ought to treat animals as morally important rests on the following argument:
1. An interest is an interest whoever's it may be.
2. Animals have interests.
3. We ought to consider the interests of all those affected by an action.
4. We should act in a way that is most likely to maximise the interests of those affected.
5. Therefore we are not justified in treating human interests as more important than animal interests.
6. Suffering allows animals to fit into this framework since, "A mouse does have an interest in not being tormented, because it will suffer if it is" (Singer Animal Equality).
7. Therefore, it is not objectively wrong to kill an animal for food since there may be circumstances where the interests of the person(s) killing the animal for food outweigh the interests of the animal. Unfortunately for meat eaters there are ways of obtaining all our dietary requirements without the use of animals, therefore not to kill for food is better than to kill.
The basis of this sort of wrongness is in Utilitarian ethics which looks at the consequences of acts as opposed to the acts in themselves; Peter Singer is perhaps the most important utilitarian around.
I think that he is wrong for two reasons, first I think that utilitarian ethics is wrong and therefore don't accept arguments derived from it, I'll not go into this here. Within his framework I still think he is wrong, he moves from the proposition that animals can suffer to the proposition that they have interests, which is wrong. I offer as a counterexample a sadomasochist who actively seeks out suffering. Perhaps this is not what singer means, but here I believe he makes the mistake of confusing:
i. It is in the best interests of x that y
ii. x has an interest that y.
This distinction can be illustrated by comparing:
iii. It is in the best interest of Mike that he ceases smoking
iv. Mike has an interest that he ceases smoking.
It is clear that iii doesn't entail iv. Now given this distinction, the way to find out what interests an animal can have is not through attributing to them what we consider to be in their best interests, but through what they themselves consider to be in their interests. Unfortunately I don't think that animals are the kind of things that have interests since to have an interest that something you must be a rational animal, a requirement I think animals fail to meet. I'll not argue the point here but for reference see:
Davidson, Donald "Rational Animals" in Actions and Events, Le Pore, Ernest (ed), pp. 473-481
Well this is a dilemma which has puzzled people for thousands of years. Is it moral to kill animals for food? And various groups and societies have come up with various answers to this question. The classical Buddhist answer is that any human and animal (and I'm not actually sure how much the Buddhists separate humans from other animals) killing is wrong, and that we should all be vegetarians. Not unreasonable, especially these days, when you can eat a perfectly fine diet with a wide variety of meat substitutes, protein supplements, etc. Hindus have much the same answer, for similar reasons: if you kill an animal, you may be killing a human being in the process of working off their bad karma in an animal body. So you've interrupted someone, in a series of rebirths, potentially on the path to enlightenment. Christians don't seem to have qualms in this matter because of the Catholic Church's position (and I don't actually know whether Catholics still hold this; nor indeed which of the huge number of Christian sects hold it and which do not; but this was, at least, the Medieval position) that animals don't have souls, so you're not killing a being that can suffer in any deep sense.
So what we need to do, first, is to assume that animals can suffer. Is this so unreasonable an assumption? We share something like 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees, and quite a bit with the other apes. So neurally, they basically have the same structures we do. We can demonstrate that stimulation of various nerves, brain centers, etc., results in human suffering... can one then claim that stimulation of virtually identical brain structures in apes does not? I don't think so. The structures are the same, the resulting behavior is the same... what more do you want? That's about all you get from other people, right? As we go through the animals, then, we find that mammals, at least, have, again, virtually the same structures that we do... much smaller, with some alterations, etc... but the lower-level structures, responsible for emotions, remain very analogous to ours. I think that it's safe to say that they suffer pain, to some extent, and feel pleasure, to some extent. I'll stop with mammals and avoid the fowl/fish issue here for the sake of brevity.
So then the questions become: a) is killing animals immoral, b) is animal suffering immoral. These aren't the same, since it is possible to kill with virtually no suffering: by drugs, for example. But we can start by posing similar questions about human beings. I'm making, for the sake of this discussion, a distinction between humans and animals which is pretty hard to justify in any hard and fast manner, but given the strong prohibitions we have against eating humans, and the weak ones against eating animals, I think that in this context it's justified. Is killing humans moral? Is human suffering moral? Well, of course, the answers are not absolute. You're a soldier, and so you regard killing in war as moral (or so I assume). So there are circumstances, for you at least, in which human killing is moral, and, since suffering in war is inevitable, also circumstances in which human suffering is moral. I'll take your position to be correct, for the sake of this discussion (and clearly there are people who would disagree... but we'll ignore arguments claiming that any killing of humans is immoral, or that killing is an absolute last resort). But you (I will also assume) also hold that in many, indeed most, circumstances, killing humans is immoral. What justifies killing, then? The threat of being killed, right? If others are threatening you, your society (a group of people associated with you in various ways), etc., with death, then you regard killing them either in retaliation for past killings or to prevent future killings which you regard as highly likely, as moral.
Am I right? The threat or reasonable potential of death for you and/or people you regard as your society justifies killing those who you have reason to believe will carry out that potential threat. I'll take that as your position, since we can't discuss it directly to clarify it further. Ok? Now, when is human suffering moral? Clearly, in the above circumstances it must be, since suffering is inevitable in those circumstances. Are there other circumstances in which human suffering is moral? Well, if someone must suffer in order to avoid greater suffering later, then we usually take that to be moral; and if some few suffer in order to prevent either the killing or the suffering of many, then we usually assume that it is moral also. I am quite consciously ignoring the obvious problems with determining what the "amount" of suffering is, how to compare various peoples' suffering, and so forth.
So basically, the common position (and really, I haven't justified this in any deep way; I'm just taking more or less normal positions on killing and suffering as correct, for the sake of discussion) is that killing in order to prevent more killing is moral; suffering in order to prevent either more suffering or killing is moral. A sort of additive morality, which has lots of problems when we actually try to figure it out in the real world... but we need something to go on, right?
Now that's all with humans. What about animals? Well, I have taken the position, above, that animals can suffer. If you don't hold that, then we just can't go further: then you think that animals are little machines; they may behave as if they suffer, but that's just behavior. If you do, then just have at it; chopping up a dog is just like throwing a dish at your TV set, right? Descartes held that position... but I don't, and I'm not going to in this discussion, for reasons given above.
Since we have an additive position on morality and suffering, we take the same for animals. First, animals can suffer to different extents, similarly to humans (human/animal distinction again assumed). Now the big question: is animal suffering as bad, pain for pain, as human suffering? Whoops. How do we answer that? Let's take a little teeny animal that everyone acknowledges is really stupid: a porcupine (hedgehog, to Brits), say. Or we could take a cow... whatever you think is really the bottom of the mammals, insofar as intelligence, awareness, capacity for feeling, etc. (no offense to animal lovers here... I'm just trying to get to the far end of the spectrum from us, inasmuch as that's possible). So when we cut a porcupine, does it (the porcupine) hurt? Yes, by the reasoning above. Is its pain as bad, morally speaking, as the pain when we cut another person? No... you say...? Why not? Well, if it's not "as conscious" as us, then its pain is not as intense, or at least, its suffering is not as intense. Ok... not unreasonable, given other differences we see more clearly, like intelligence, neural structures, and so forth. I will assume this for the sake of our discussion. But really, how do we judge this? And also, notice that if we make this judgment, we are forced to make it within humans also. Not a very comfortable conclusion, right? But how do we escape it? On the other hand, putting everything, all animals, all humans, on the same level, insofar as feelings go also seems wrong. Is it really justifiable to claim that all mammals feel equally, given that there are clear differences in cognitive, linguistic, neural, etc., capacities? I will assume not, and that is the position normally held... but you can see the problems here.
But second, it really seems that we have to look at the consequences of feelings as well. That is, killing a human being (and/or human suffering) has, potentially at least, greater consequences for the world than the killing (or the suffering) of a porcupine, even at that latter's most influential. This is a strange and interesting consequence of looking at feelings, isn't it... that in order to evaluate the value of a feeling, we must go beyond the feeling to it's consequences. But really, we do that for all actions, don't we, and a feeling is at least a kind of internal action. So let's go with that, again for the sake of discussion. Well, if we go this way, then everything falls into place, in a simplistic kind of way. Animal suffering is bad (immoral), yes, but not as bad as human suffering. Killing animals is bad, but not as bad as killing humans. I've got to say that I personally am not unhappy with this conclusion; it does seem in line with normal moral reasoning, and indeed with reasoning as it applies to humans exclusively as well (but we have seen some of the problems with it, above). That is, we do, when we're making hard judgments about killing and suffering with respect to people, judge in just the above manner: it's hard and painful, but we have to try, on the basis of both the depth of feeling and the consequences of feelings (and other factors, obviously), to grade or rank the morality of various alternative actions. And we do that grading or ranking, I believe, in something like the above manner.
Now... yes, as I say, the above distillation and compression of morality into one easy-to-digest paragraph is pretty ridiculously simplistic... but I'm trying to answer a question here, and I've already written a huge amount for this forum. Enough.
So, then, to answer your question. Is killing animals to eat wrong? Not if you have to, to eat, since humans have more value than animals. Less, if the animals don't suffer. What if you don't have to, to eat? Well, you know, I just don't know the answer to that, and here's why: you go to a market, and there's dead animals. Will your not eating them help them? No. Will it stop other animals from being killed in the future? Maybe, depending, I would think, pretty much on where the market is, how much your not eating them is noticed, how much economic effect it has, etc. Should you avoid eating animals on the chance that it might stop them being killed? Probably yes, given a) that it might have that effect, and b) that your not eating animals will not cause human suffering. First, do you have alternatives available? Second, there are people who live by hunting, meat processing, and farming, etc., and they can't just walk away from that, even if they want to; they're part of huge social systems, not to mention having families to support. Not an easy situation, then, with easy answers. But the trend, I think, the way we should try to move things generally, should be towards not killing animals and towards not having them suffer unnecessarily.
Steven Ravett Brown
I think that the view "an entity capable of suffering deserves moral consideration," does not imply (as you seem to think) that animals should not be used for food. Some might think so, but to say that entities which can suffer should have moral consideration might imply only that they should not be treated cruelly, nor given pain for no reason. So, a person might hold that animals may be killed for food, or even for other purposes, as long as the killing is done with the least amount of pain practically possible.
Hope this helps.
What is memory? How important is it to my identity? Why is my short term memory getting worse as I age? Why am I starting to remember random things from my childhood that I haven't thought about since they happened? Along the same lines (I think), what is the current thinking on the phenomenon of deja vu?
An enormous question which has puzzled both philosophy and science for thousands of years. From a materialist point of view scientists, although admitting to being baffled by certain aspects, believe that they are now nearer to solving the problem, however, they have still a long way to go to convince most philosophers. In philosophy memory is a very important facet of philosophy of mind.
Both philosophy and science accept that the mind is daily bombarded with an enormous amount of information: this information is subjected to a very critical filtering process, links are made with already stored information and some of the new information is added to the store, the rest is rejected. However, some scientists claim that nothing is actually rejected and any piece of information could be recalled under the right conditions. For example, it is claimed that vital facts have been recalled by witnesses in legal arguments when subjected to hypnosis.
Because we can know ourselves only because we can remember, we are also involved with theory of knowledge (epistemology). When we investigate knowledge of ourselves, knowledge of our lives past and present, we are directly involved with memory. We are daily involved with two sorts of memory, short term (working) memory, and long term memory. Although it is common practice to identify the two types of memory as separate activities they are constantly interacting, and are totally interdependent. An impaired working memory means that we cannot learn anything new, and hence cannot pass new information into the long term memory. An impaired long term memory, on the other hand, means that the working memory is unable to retrieve information from the long term storage, and hence we would be suffering from dementia or alzheimer.
It is very much a fact of life that our minds are constructed to form habits. Careful analysis of everyday activity reveals the fact that we are very much dependent on habit. Further analysis discloses that habit and long term memory have a lot in common. Constant repetition eventually develops into habit, we progress from having to think about things to doing them automatically, seemingly without thinking. Consider the examples of learning to ride a bicycle, to drive a car, to play an instrument, knowing which way to turn when you leave your house to go on an errand or to work, talking to a passenger and driving, as though two separate minds are at work, etc.. The learning process is difficult, the working memory cannot retain much data, and only then for a short time, hence we have to repeat things over and over again until by some process or other a memory trapping mechanism transfers the data to long term memory. If this did not happen we would daily be in serious trouble, every event would have to be re-thought. Every important and necessary event in our normal everyday activity has been committed to memory; because we are so used to performing everything automatically we fail to recognise that we are relying on memory.
The memory is very efficient and once information is established within it, unless we are beset by some disease or accident to the brain we do not forget. Some claim that there is no such thing as a bad memory and that more people suffer from not being able to forget things that haunt them than do from not being able to remember. Also, how many people are unable to immediately repeat the alphabet when called on to do so?How many people would fail to be able to count to a thousand or more immediately?Say the nursery rhymes of their childhood? etc. Children of pre-war years and later who learned their lessons by rote were far more efficient in mathematics, spelling, poetry, literature, etc.. The decline came with the advent of calculators and other memory saving gadgets. There is no doubt that constant repetition, i.e. constant pressure on short term memory, eventually leads to transfer to long term memory. Also, as I used to tell my students, interest is the bedrock of memory. On the first day of the new academic year I would point to the door and advise that anyone not really interested in the subject ought to leave, as they were wasting both their own time and mine.
Having gone some way to answering your question on identity by saying that we can know ourselves only because we can remember, consideration of what has been said about long term memory should complete the picture. Memory ensures that we can locate ourselves in space and time. The bigger question is, What is the self that does the locating? If the self is not the memory but something that uses the memory, then your question about identity takes on a new meaning. Hume gave a great deal of thought to this problem and found that he could never identify a self observing events of memory, he was somehow just aware of memories.
Difficulties arise not with memory itself but the mechanism of recall; when we make mistakes the memory itself is not at fault if the wrong information is recalled. Also, the memory is not at fault if we find it difficult to recall something. As we age somehow or other, no one is quite sure how, our faculty of recall becomes less efficient. The memories are still there but we find it more difficult to locate them. Usually it is a slowing down condition, we need more time to recall events or names etc. It is noticeable when an elderly person meets someone in the street whom they know well but cannot instantly recall the name. This is not sign of a disease but a process of ageing. Dementia and alzheimer are diseases suffered by a relatively few people and should not be confused with the natural ageing process. Many people retain very efficient memories into very old age. The more we use the mind and exercise the memory the more likely we are to retain our faculties to the end of our lives, however long that may be.
I have no idea of your age, but remembering random things from childhood is not unusual as we get older. I am not claiming that this is true in your case, but very often as a person gets older nostalgia creeps in, they feel less to belong less to a modern world subject to values which seem less appealing than those that were instilled into them when they were younger. Also, children are more curious and learn more rapidly and more efficiently, memories strike home with greater impact and stay there, suggesting again that interest is the bedrock of memory.Your experiences are proving the point that we do not lose the memories established in long term memory, and that we are here involved with the recall system. Unless we are concentrating on something the recall facility becomes free ranging, and often in relaxation will wander into the long term memory and release random events into consciousness. Older people call this day-dreaming.
With regard to deja vu science has never relinquished its notion that this is a fleeting disorientation of the mind which happens to almost everyone during a lifetime. Scientists will never accept a mystic explanation. However, some philosophers, and others with an orientation towards mystic events might consider deja vu to have something to do with the continued survival of mind and the possibility of reincarnation. Most scientists are bent on proving that mind, memory and mystic events are to do with neuro electricity, proteins, hormones and genes.
Something is really bugging me and I have been arguing with two of my teachers. My english and philosophy teachers claim that we can have false knowledge. From what I have read, the definition of knowledge as "justified, true belief" has truth as a condition of knowledge. Then how can one know something false? If something that we knew turned out to be false, can it be said that we have known it? And do we still know it?
My philosophy teacher tells me that all that I have read regarding the fact that we can know only that which is true is crap. I can only accept his point of view if the definition of knowledge didn't include the word "true", therefore rendering justification enough of a condition for knowledge. After all do we really know what truth is? Please clarify this for me. Are my teachers right?
Your question makes a lot of sense. Is it possible to have knowledge about something that is not true? Theoretically, truth is part of the definition of knowledge. It seems senseless "to know" a falsity.
There are two ways to approach the question. The first is related to language; the second is related to temporality.
Let's start with language. A reflection on the use of "to know" is necessary. Suppose the following situation: someone complains about having a headache. You ask him a question: are you sure you have a headache? (Assuming he might be simply pretending to have a headache). His answer (a little offended perhaps) is: "I know I have a headache!" It makes sense, doesn't it? He used the verb "to know" to emphasize a trivial fact his headache.
Now does the phrase "I know I have pain" always makes sense? Let's see: suppose someone simply says "I know I have a headache" You might ask a question: "How come? In what kind of situation could you say that you don't know whether or not you have a headache?" See, Carmen, the use of "to know" is quite specific. It seems reasonably normal to say "I know I have pain" but to say otherwise "I don't know if I have pain" sounds weird. In fact, the use of "to know" in both cases proves to be an inappropriate use of language. We do it all the time; we use words or concepts in situations in which they don't fit exactly. In the case of knowledge, we can only say that we know something if also makes sense to say that we don't know something. It is appropriate, for instance, to say "I know it will rain tomorrow" because it is also appropriate to say "I don't know if it will rain tomorrow". To be short: knowledge is not related to the truth, but to the possibility of truth. Thus, it is possible to know something that is not true: forecasters are experts in it!
Another way to approach the question is from the temporality point of view. Some centuries ago, scientists affirmed that Earth was the center of the Universe. They "knew" it was true. Experiments proved that fact. It was scientific knowledge. Then someone realized that things were not quite so. It was discovered that Earth is not the center of the Universe. Moreover it moves around the Sun, not the other way around. It was a great scientific revolution, wasn't it? What now? Did the scientists that "knew" the Earth was the centre of the Universe know something?
The answer is yes. They knew, but they were wrong. That is quite different from saying that they didn't know. Their knowledge in due time proved to be mistaken. What was true in a certain period of time became false in another one. It may sound strange, but it's quite simple after all: what you know today is what is true today.
A more trivial example: Your name is Carmen. You know it as well as your family, your friends, and so do I. All of a sudden you come across a document proving your name is actually, say, Carmena. Does it mean you didn't know your own name all the time? Of course not. You merely had a wrong knowledge, in due time corrected.
If you combine the two approaches of knowledge, it becomes clear that is possible to know something that is not true. Such is philosophy.
I do not agree with your teachers; I think that their positions are derived from post-modernist writings, which thankfully are beginning to be severely questioned. Those writers take truth to be culturally and socially determined at best, and at worst completely undeterminable. Given that, one must of course revise a definition of "knowledge" so that truth as anything universal does not enter into it. Fortunately, as I say, there are many scientists today who are causing philosophers to reappraise that position. No matter where you are, in what culture, or whatever you may believe, when you flip a light switch the light comes on (and if it doesn't, you can easily find out why). There's a lot of physics behind that simple action, and it holds universally. This is just one example of phenomena which are rather hard to explain away as culturally biased truths. One may proclaim that physics is based on uncertainty, on "constructs" like virtual particles, etc... but those people are still faced with the problem of backing up a claim of cultural bias for science when machines like the electric light, the toaster, the automobile, the computer, and for that matter, the atomic reactor, a machine directly dependent on just such low-level "constructs", just keep plugging along, no matter what culture they're in, or whether the people around them understand them or believe they should or shouldn't work.
The postmodern anti-truth bias of course has its own problems in that very area: how can an assertion of non-universality be true, if there is no truth? But aside from that rather obvious paradox, claims that the lack of rigor in scientific methodology or theories, or the fact that such theories are incomplete and subject to revision, implies either that they are not true or that there is no truth to be found, is quite simply a misunderstanding of the scientific process and its dependence on induction and on extended processes of verification, both quite necessary, but disconcerting to those who want easy answers and absolute certainties.
One very simple argument against the postmodernists is to walk over to the nearest light switch, flip it a couple of times, and raise your eyebrows. If they still don't get it, well.... "Flippancy" aside, you might check out these modern and enlightened philosophers of science, who have extended arguments supporting the same points as mine: Kitcher, P. (1993). The advancement of science; science without legend, objectivity without illusions. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Giere, R. N. (1999). Science without laws. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Steven Ravett Brown
To start with, let's clear up an ambiguity: There is a distinction between knowing that a proposition is false, and knowing a false proposition.
In this case, what you are doing is knowing that it is true that a particular proposition is false. For instance, I know that it is false that the earth is flat, Which is to say, I know it is true that it is false that the earth is flat. So, if knowing what is false only means knowing that a particular proposition is a false proposition, that's fine.
But if your teacher really means that you can know about a true proposition that it is false, then that teachers is just contradicting himself. After all, when I say, "I know that London is the capital of the United Kingdom, I am just saying elliptically (or for short) I know it is true that London is the capital of the United Kingdom.
It is hard to argue against your teacher unless he/she gives an argument for his view or, as least, gives an example or two of "false knowledge." Sometimes people confuse the fact that I may think or believe I know something, when it turns out that the something I believed I knew turned out to be false. In that case, of course, I never knew it in the first place, but only thought that I knew it. As soon as I discovered that I was mistaken, I would have to concede I did not know, and withdraw my claim to know. That is one of the big differences between knowing and believing. When I believe something, even if someone shows I am wrong, I can still maintain that I did (at the time) believe it, although I don't believe it anymore. But, unless I was insincere when I said I believed it, then even if I believed what was false, I still believed it. The matter is entirely different with knowing. When I said (sincerely) that I knew, then I did think I knew. But when I find our that I was mistaken, I can no longer maintain I knew anyway, even if I was wrong. I have to concede I did not know in the first place. Very different from belief, don't you agree. And, of course, it is said that for thousands of years people "knew" the earth was flat. But notice the inverted commas around "know" in the above. Those inverted commas mean that the term "know" in being used in a deviant sense. That those people did not really know the earth was flat. How could they have if it was round? The fact, if it is one, that a great many people believe something is true does not mean it is true. History shows that there have been numerous cases when many people, perhaps a whole society, have thought they knew what was in fact false.
So, I think your teacher is simply wrong, and maybe he is wrong because he confuses:
1. Knowing that something is false, with knowing something false
2. Believing one knows something and really knowing it
3. A whole people or society thinking they know something, and their really knowing that thing.
What impact can philosophy have on politics and peace in the world today?
Philosophy can only have an impact if people are prepared to listen and to debate. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that those who wield great power in the world today would be disposed to listen to, or to debate, philosophical views pertinent to political attitudes or to world peace. It is highly unlikely that we would ever come across a political party, or government for that matter, indulging itself in a debate on the political views of Plato, Locke, Hume, and others, despite the fact that a basic conception arising from these sources underlies the idea of democratic government. This idea is based on the belief that politics constitute a two way agreement; a government assumes the right to lay obligations on its subjects, traditionally construed as a moral right:on the other hand, subjects are considered to have an obligation to comply with what the law requires, this too is regarded as a moral obligation. Locke puts forward the general view that government can have no other foundation than consent. Hume agrees with this, but at the same time observes that it fails to correspond to the realities of life in political societies. Political obligations are taken to consist of all those obligations we have as a result of laws to which we are subject. However, the focus of much controversy is how one person or group of persons could come to have such a right to the obedience of others.
Hume was right in his day and would still be right in this modern age, the reality of the political set-up is a long way from the naive theory put forward by Locke. There is still an underlying idea that somehow politicians are elected to to carry out the will of the people, certainly in Britain this is the notion implied during elections, however we always note a different outcome after the election, when the victorious party sets about to do virtually as it wishes.
The basic sense of politics is completely lost in the party system, where electors are deluded into the idea that they are making a real democratic choice, Sadly, if the elected party is failing the only real choice available for the electors is to reinstate the party they previously kicked out. Is it any wonder that interest in politics is waning rapidly. No work is ever done on changing the system, certainly the politicians themselves seem not to wish to do anything about it; this is because their loyalty is to the party rather than to the public who they are supposed to represent. this is certainly an area in which philosophy could have an impact.
Televising parliament has been a revelation for the general public and has gone a long way to creating disenchantment. Many times people are amazed to find that issues they consider of major importance are being debated by a handful of disinterested M P's of which half of them have nodded off. Often they find that their own representative has not even bothered to turn up. However, they will note that issues which are vital to the well-being of the party are extremely well attended. This forces the opposition to turn up in strength to try to make life difficult for their opponents. Is it any wonder that most people see politics as nothing more than a silly game which is costing the nation a fortune. Here again philosophy could have a massive influence.
Power seeking is still a major objective in politics. However, this situation has now become more serious owing to the fact that governments are not the only holders of power and influence in the modern world. Global capitalism is now causing great concern, and the access to governments by huge multinationals is very disturbing. Big business is progressively taking priority over human issues, and governments are not only turning a blind eye to what is going on but some often seem to be in collusion. We find very little being done to stop deforestation, global warming, over-fishing, whaling, climate pollution, etc..The excuse being that interference in these issues will "upset the economy." Philosophy could certainly have a lot to say in this area, and could certainly provide a close analysis and interpretation of what capitalists mean by "the economy."
With regard to peace in the world, politics rather than providing a solution is usually, along with religious extremism, the instigator of hostility. Moral philosophy and philosophy of religion could certainly provide alternative approaches, but again, who would listen? The answers will not come from philosophical intrusion but from increasing public awareness of what is going on in the world, and eventually something akin to a global revolution.
What is Paul Churchland's argument for eliminative materialism? What is 'eliminative materialism'?
What is the contribution or potential contribution, of pragmatism to the philosophy of science? What exactly is 'the philosophy of science'?
What part does empiricism play in Deleuze's philosophy?
Eliminative materialism doesn't reduce the mental to the physical, so you can be a realist about the consciousness as well as an eliminative materialist. Rather it is the view that psychology is to be eliminated in favour of a more scientific account of human behaviours, which doesn't mean we necessarily have to give up psychological talk, just that it is false. Churchland has a four part argument for eliminative materialism. Firstly, that we can't reduce psychological states to underlying neurological states because different types of systems can underlie functional states hints that psychological descriptions are false. Secondly, it is obvious that though we have used folk psychological description of behaviour in terms of belief and desire for thousands of years, we haven't advanced very far and have little understanding of memory and sleep, for instance, and thirdly, it doesn't explain abnormal cases of human behaviour. Finally, folk psychology isn't really a developing system of explanation, and remains primitive and although it seems deeply ingrained as part of our conceptual scheme, there is no reason why it can't be given in the same way as "caloric" and "phlogiston" have been. Furthermore, other theories such as an identity theory seek matches between intentional states and neurological states without developing probabilistically in terms of likely success, so it is plausible to take the position that there is no such thing.
The impossibility of inter-theoretic reduction may well be true. However, it is argued in favour of folk psychology and against Churchland that we are making psychological advances and that depth psychology which applies to abnormal human behaviours is an extension of folk psychology.
I'm afraid I don't know much about the philosophy of science but, according to my dictionary, it is the critical examination of the methods and results of the sciences. The pragmatist holds that a scientific theory is true if it helps explain the relations between our experiences, so it is anti-realist. The pragmatists Dewey and Peirce stressed the social nature of science rather than whether or not scientific theories adequately describe the way things are. The main contribution is that a scientific theory is accepted rather than true which justifies scientific induction and has allowed scientific methods to expand into non-physical realms such as psychology. Pragmatism is an approach to theorising that allows Deleuze, in analysing a cinematic image to say at one point "Knowing whether an image is subjective or objective no longer matters"
On the Deleuze question, British Empiricists hold that we acquire knowledge of the world from experience, which is not the sort of empiricist Deleuze claims to be. He calls himself a transcendental empiricist and introduces a level of immanence, or being as Life, which would be necessary for knowledge and so knowledge could not be simply built from Humean impressions and relations. Thought, for Deleuze creates the truth, shaping the way we see things, both empirically and aesthetically. Images come dominated by thought and separation and the empirical image has no priority over metaphorical understanding in this sense. So this is not British Empiricism, since while Deleuze says that the sensible comes first (as British Empiricists understand the basis of knowledge), for Deleuze, this is not simple Humean sense ideas or abstract Lockean ideas, since for Deleuze the sensible comes as something already actualised or differentiated by thought, determined by both movement (our bodies) and sense experience.
French empiricism, unlike British, is a form of naturalism, rather than an account of how we acquire knowledge and though it gives priority to sensory experience over the rational but Deleuze allows for a variety of enriched experiences which cannot be reduced to ordinary empirical experience which is why he is a radical empiricist. Searching the internet I find there is a book called Multiplicity and Becoming: The Pluralist Empiricism of Gilles Deleuze, Studies in European Thought XV which you might want to look at if you need background in European thought and empiricism.
Looking into how Deleuze is classified, I find that in the philosophy of the desiring subject, Deleuze is called a naturalist, yet in his theory of literature, he is called an idealist.
In his theory on literature, Deleuze has been called a "structural idealist" (see Literary and Theory and Poetry ed. David Murray) because of his creation of a de-territorialized "cultural space", and in his cinematic work he takes the medium to have it's own expressive space, differing from the empirical, and given his claim that the cinema contributes to the way we view the world, again Deleuze might be described as a non-empiricist but forces which give rise to cultural or a filmic space, give rise to a structured experience, even if the force is not directly from the objective world. There are different types of force giving to rise to our thoughts and ideas. The empiricism lies in the priority of the sensory or experiential, but this can be produced by any medium, forces creating different (but each equally real) systems of reference.
If God created logic, is a rational understanding of God possible?
The riddle "can an omnipotent God create a rock so big he can't lift it" implies that there is some type of contradiction in the concept of an omnipotent being. However, as the creator of logic, God would not be bound by logic. If God can transcend logic, then the contradiction above evaporates.
Is it possible to draw conclusions about a God that can transcend logic? For example, if assertions from religious scriptures about God are used as premises, would conclusions drawn from these premises be meaningful? Is it possible to form a valid logical argument relating to God if God can transcend logic?
If God created logic, then there was no logic before that creation, which therefore could not itself have conformed to the principle of contradiction. If God created logic, then the pre-logic God was absolutely incoherent and chaotic (in which case, why should we trust that inference?). If God created logic, then God would not be "bound by logic" but rather in bondage to illogic, which is how "transcends logic" sounds to my ears. Why speculate as to whether a "rational" understanding of such a God would be "possible"? What would "possible" mean here, anyway? Logically possible? What is logical possibility in a world in which logic is "created"?
Also, there is no such thing as the concept of an omnipotent being: some concepts of "omnipotent being" are internally consistent, some inconsistent. Resorting to the notion of a God who transcends logic is a high price to pay to solve a riddle. Why not just modify the notion? "If God can transcend logic, then the contradiction above evaporates" and so does "If . . . then . . ." (Why would we want contradictions to evaporate? Because we're "wired" to?)
Charles Hartshorne suggested, persuasively in my opinion, that logic and metaphysics ultimately do not differ. The principle that denies meaning to a contradiction is a principle of reality, not just of how our minds are structured. What he had to say bears directly on the theistic issue that Steven raised. Thanks in advance for indulging me:
"[W]e may divide knowledge as follows: mathematics, dealing with various 'possible worlds,' or better, various possible logical structures; natural and social science dealing with the one actual world; metaphysics, dealing with what is common and necessary to all possible states of affairs and all possible truths, including adjudication of the question whether 'there is no world at all' represents a conceivable truth or is mere nonsense or contradiction. Now God is conceived as the actual creator of the actual world and the potential creator of possible worlds . . .; hence divinity is not a mere fact or fiction of the actual world, but is either nonsense, in relation to all possible states of affairs, or a necessary reality, in the same relation, that is, the idea is metaphysical...
"Whether and how we can distinguish between metaphysics and logic is more difficult to say. I am not sure that they do differ. It seems easy to show that logicians today disagree on what are plainly metaphysical questions (referring to what is common to all possibility): such as, Is all truth eternal? Is there an a priori principle of causal connectedness? Is 'some world exists' true not merely in fact, but necessarily, or in any possible case? In this book I am trying to set forth the logic of basic theological concepts; but perhaps these are the same as the theistic implications of basic logical concepts. If only a few logicians could be induced to look into the matter! On one point, at least, I believe metaphysics can agree with contemporary logic: metaphysical truths, if valid, must, since they are to be necessary, be 'analytic,' if that means, 'certified by meaning alone.' I am confident that the theistic question will be rationally settled when .. . it becomes really clear to educated persons what are the possible consistent meanings . . . of 'supreme being,' 'absolute,' 'perfect,' 'necessary being,' and the like. To hasten that time is the main object of this study" (Charles Hartshorne The Divine Relativity (1948).
How can you distinguish the conclusion from the premises of an argument?
Explain why arguments with fallacies can still be persuasive.
An argument consists of at least two propositions, one of which is the argument's conclusion. The other proposition (or propositions) should entail the conclusion: one must be able to deduce the conclusionfrom the other proposition(s), called a premise (or premises). In a sound argument, ifevery member of the set of premises is true, then conclusion must also be true.
The "arrow" of implication is not always reversible. For example:
There are five animals in that telephone booth.
There are five elephants in that telephone booth.
I can deduce the first proposition from the second, but not the second from the first.
Any proposition can be deduced from itself. ("The dog barked," for example, can be deduced from "The dog barked," but so what?) The following is a bit more interesting:
Someone is a husband.
Someone is a wife.
Either proposition can serve as the conclusion an argument for which the other is the sole premise, but the two are not identical. "Husband" does not mean "wife," but if someone is a husband, then someone (else) is a wife, and vice versa.
Fallacies can persuade because (a) persuasiveness can depend on the state of mind of the persuaded one rather than on the argument's logical status; and, (b) not all fallacies are obvious. To spot a fallacy sometimes requires understanding that a logical operator ("Possibly . . .," "Necessarily . . .") can be distributed in subtly different ways with dramatically different results. For instance:
God knows today that I will choose to eat an omelet for breakfast tomorrow. Therefore [i.e., it necessarily follows that], I will choose to eat an omelet for breakfast tomorrow.
If the first of these two propositions is true (leaving aside the question of its verification), then necessarily the second is true. Generally, if S knows p, then necessarily p is true, because one cannot know what is false. Unfortunately, there are philosophers on both sides of the God question who have misinterpreted this logical necessity as causal necessity and hence a denial of freedom:
Therefore, I will necessarily choose to eat an omelet tomorrow; meaning, Therefore, I am necessitated to choose to eat an omelet tomorrow; meaning, Therefore, I am not free to choose to eat a bowl of cereal with bananas for breakfast tomorrow.
But knowing cannot turn free choices into determined effects. To know is not to cause! Put that way, of course, the fallacy has no power to persuade. But it is rarely put that way. Instead, the necessity by which a premise determines a conclusion is distributed over the non necessary fact to which the premise refers.
Is science the new religion?
Ostensibly it might seem so to many, but no genuinely religious person would accept it to be so. There is also a strong philosophical denial of the possibility. In fact many scientists themselves feel that the more progress they make the less secure their materialistic views become.
The philosophical challenge lies in the fact that scientists are not creators but discoverers; they discover things already in existence: therefore, science does not possess the qualification necessary for a religion. When they seem to be creative they are using already established natural laws and conditions, and are restricted within set parameters.
After seemingly establishing a sound materialistic basis for science following the advent of Newton, the scientific world was thrown into some confusion by the theories of Einstein, the ability to make secure predictions about the universe suddenly disappeared in the ramifications of the quantum theory; matter itself reduced to light and became known as rest mass energy. Some physicists began talking about the universe as a great thought rather than a great machine.
We live in a world that is still fundamentally religious; like science, religion continues to seek a meaning to life. Ironically religion does not succumb to scientific discovery but rather is able to use the facts provided to reinforce its own beliefs. Strangely, there is an intermediate ground of UFO's, meditation, the occult, scientology, etc., to which religion gives a mystic dimension, whilst science, though sceptical, feels bound to investigate what is considered to be natural phenomena.
When we consider that science has been responsible for producing the most horrific weapons of mass destruction known to man, the idea of it being a religion is contradictory to everything we understand about religion. On the other hand, we have to look for true religion beyond its institutionalized facade, its political attachments and its constant participation in violent conflict. Because the various sects and organizations fail to live up to the standards of morality, peace, love and virtue, this does not hide the fact that these are the underlying facets of true religion. Science does not have such a foundation, it can therefore never be considered a religion. Perhaps in this modern secular age some people may regard science as a substitute for religion; a materialist age may require a materialist religion, science is probably the nearest approach to this. Another point worth noting is that the received knowledge in developed countries indicates that science has done much more for the well being of the population than has religion, for example, drugs and advances in medical treatment generally has had greater effect than has faith healing and hoped for miracles. Most people are also unaware of where the border line is between science and technology, hence all good progress is put down to science.
Probably science will only replace religion when it can be proved beyond all possible doubt that God has nothing to do with physics, biology and chemistry; and that possibility still seems a long way off.
I must seriously call into question the previous answer.
First, I don't understand the claim that "no genuinely religious person would accept" that science is a religion. This claim seems always to leave a way out from refutations by saying "Well, that person might be religious and think science is a religion, but of course he's not genuinely religious" what is known as the "no true Scotsman fallacy".
Second, it is said that "many scientists themselves feel that the more progress they make the less secure their materialistic views become". This seems to imply that religion necessarily has to do with the supernatural. In Buddhism, for instance, there is no demand of allegiance to any supernatural being. And there are even Christian philosophers, like Don Cupitt, who claim that the Bible is not a document of a supernatural being's interaction with the world, but a metaphorical story. One can turn one's feeling of freedom from the supernatural into an idol, just like one can turn one's feeling of allegiance to the supernatural into an idol.
Third, it is pointed out that "scientists are not creators but discoverers". But the comparison of science to religion normally proposes to compare scientists to priests and not gods. What takes the place of gods in the science religion is not any being, but the whole of reality as viewed scientifically, with scientists as merely the priests entrusted with the task of interpreting it.
Fourth, there have been actual attempts to found an institutionalized religion which worships the achievements of science and scientific facts and laws. In fact, Auguste Comte, the founding father of positivism, founded one such in the 1840s, the Church of Positivism, which is still functioning in Brazil (and even has a web site).
Fifth, it is said that "science will only replace religion when it can be proved beyond all possible doubt that God has nothing to do with physics, biology and chemistry". It seems to me that if something like that were to happen, it would contrariwise take away any need for science to replace religion.
T. P. Uschanov
Department of Philosophy
University of Helsinki