At the end of the day does any of it matter, is there a right way to be, a way to be that that is more right than any other, taking for granted that religion is man made, there for there will be no reward after death, does anything we do in our life matter, as after death it will all be lost anyway??
Of course it matters. It matters what we do in our life today. It matter to us and it matters to others alive today. Sometimes what we do will matter when we are dead and not there to care, but it might still matter to those alive.
Everything matters. If we accept that small things don't matter, like lying, for instance, then it becomes socially acceptable and things escalate and we don't mind who lies. We will allow it from parents, teachers and politicians. Surely that matters? We have standards and even if there is no God and no afterlife, we simply have human standards and we know what they are.
Your question contains a number of assumptions. The examination and questioning of the assumptions that we have taken for granted is fundamental to the development of a sound philosophical attitude.
Even taking for granted that religion is man-made, does it follow that nothing that we do in life matters,or that after death it will all be lost? Religions are attempts by humans to come to terms with aspects of reality. This does not mean that they are worthless. Much that is good in the world, including much great art, has been inspired by religion. How we live our life, and what we do in life, matters both to ourselves and others. Religion can make a great difference to how we live and how we act. That difference is usually, but not always, beneficial. Religion that does not accord with reality can be counter-productive. A religion that is fully in accord with reality would not be. Is such a religion possible? I believe it is.
Christianity has been the most productive religion to date, but the Christian explanation of the world, particularly the explanation of the Christ-event that was forged in the next five Centuries, no longer resonates with modern thinking. There is a need for a critical re-thinking of the Christ-event. I have argued elsewhere that:
1. The existence of a self-existent entity a God is the best explanation of the existence of the contingent Cosmos.
2. The only motive for a self-existent entity to act is to enable the production of another entity that is similar to itself.
3. The self-existent entity cannot directly create an entity that is similar to itself. Any directly created entity is obviously non-self-existent, and so is dissimilar to the self-existent entity.
4. The only course possible is for the self-existent entity to initiate a process involving self-organization and self-creation, to enable the possible self-creation of a communal entity that is similar to the self-existent entity in both creativity and goodness.
5. The stages of the development of the Cosmos to date have the appearance of such a process. The present human-moral-cultural stage is part of that overall process.
The Thesis on "The Process of the Cosmos" and associated papers are available on my Web Page at http://www.philosophy.27south.com
What I regard as cheating is considered OK by many American university students one survey revealed that as many as 75% of the interviewed students had purchased essays, term papers or even their masters theses from other writers, usually through online "paper mills", instead of doing their own work. One student responded to the question Why do you cheat? by saying "If you're not cheating, you're not trying."
As a non-cheating student in classes as large as 400 students, I can vouch for the difficulty of competing against students whose written work is done by professionals and whose exams and classes are taken by paid substitutes. They get better grades, look smarter on school records and get better opportunities for jobs as the "A" students. Professors don't bother to make themselves available to students or to get to know them, so they have no way of knowing that many of their "best" students got their grades by cheating.
These papers cost a lot of money, but cost is irrelevant to students who use Daddy's charge cards to pay for them, stay in party mode and assign their education to writers and sit-ins. I do not see that they really lose out. They do not care whether they are educated, they want to make money and hang with people like themselves, and they will graduate with far more social advantages than I will, swotting away while they cruise the clubs and make the connections that will get them the best paying jobs. I'm sure they will continue to cheat at their jobs by using insider information and paying underlings to do all their work for them as they take the credit for it. They will have better grades and no doubt get into better grad schools after they get tutoring for GMAT exams or even get access to tests, and present their references as top of the class pupils with good social connections.
I am bitter and struggling for my grades and wish I could find a way to rationalize cheating, because it seems I am being a sucker by not doing it.
They say it doesn't matter if they cheat to get through required courses that they'll never use, (like Ethics, haha.) What is your take on this cheating epidemic? It is not only common in University, but also in lower schools, where 75% of seventh grade students had cheated, and 63% of sixth grade students, according to a Duke University study. Professors do it too! One east coast professor was allowed to continue teaching after being caught lying to his Vietnam History of the War classes about his (non)experience fighting in Vietnam, or the several historians and writers who have been caught presenting plagiarized material as their own work in books, or the journalist who made up his own "sources" to quote. I know one cheating professor who even used old, forgotten dissertations in his newly published book and presented the work as his own, because I worked for him!
Is there a new philosophy that makes cheating laudable because it is so prevalent and because there is no benefit to not doing it except a feeling (useless) of virtue? I can't say that I recall anything much from my courses, even ones I got excellent grades in only a year ago, so it's not as if I am so much better educated than cheaters are.
They all act as though cheating is an out of date concept and practical results are everything. I feel as if I am adhering to some outmoded philosophy (not religious I was brought up Unitarian) that works to my ultimate disadvantage yet I can't seem to let go of it. Please comment, this disturbs me every time I see a fellow student sitting in the U. pub while I am flogging myself toward the library. It is ruining my educational experience, plus there are not very many fascinating minds to connect with. My University is ranked in the top 5 in the U.S. it's not as if this is happening where it won't affect the future, but then look at the President did he really have what it takes to get to, let alone through Yale? I wonder.
There is no philosophy of cheating. Instead, cheating is a strategy for accomplishing a goal with a minimum of effort. Moreover, cheating is a calculated risk. The cheater reasons that his professor will likely not check his work, and he may thus escape capture. However, penalties are severe if a cheater is ever caught (expulsion or other severe penalties, in Universities where I have been). Honestly, a notation of expulsion on a college transcript is something that is never washed away. That horrid legacy will haunt anyone who is caught cheating. The fact that increasing numbers of Universities are subscribing to anti-plagiarism systems should sound a note of caution to all potential cheaters.
You have high ambitions for yourself, as you described. I applaud your effort. However, it is important to remember that not everyone shares your desire for top grades, nor do they have the same talents as you. When you find yourself admiring the guy drinking beer at the bar as you trudge to the library, remember this: He might have paid his look-alike friend to take a test for him. Or, he might be celebrating an "A" on a test, after hours of his own studying. Or, he may have a photographic memory. Or, he may simply keep a different schedule than yours. Or, this person may be content to get the lowest passing grade and does not see the need to study until his grades fall below passing.
Cheating is not a philosophy, it is a strategy. People who cheat to succeed are also the same people who ran Enron, WorldCom, and any number of other businesses with abysmal ethics records. Their "luck" ran out and now most of them are scrambling to cover their hind sides before someone else exposes them. That is the life of the cheat.
At the end of the day, the only opinion of yourself that matters is your own. If you are willing to risk a college degree for the sake of a better letter grade, then perhaps your life's priorities require reassessment.
Take care and don't cheat.
let me tell you something about honesty. Nothing philosophical, nothing religious, but practical:
It is about being honest to yourself, to your own way.
If you identify something in the world around you that might be of help to you and you feel good with it then take it. If you do not feel good with it then leave it and do it your own way. This is real simple. If you saw the whole world cheating around you and you don''t feel good with it then do not look left or right'! Do not compare your way to the way of the others! This is very essential! Never compare! Honesty might bring material disadvantages with it but not necessarily. The example I have before my eyes is my boss. He was one of the German top managers and I was real lucky to be his secretary in the past 5 years. He was an honest man through and through, he had an outstanding career in our company over the past 35 years and last Friday he retired and he got lots of good-bye emails of which I read some. It is unbelievable how he was seen as an example to others, how much respect all those people paid him. He was the one in our company in several years who retired on his own terms, he was forced to nothing.
It is a deep and very real experience to me that people who go their own way in honesty to themselves and to others are guided by some invisible hand. This is nothing religious but a real experience! This way is not the bright and shining, funny and good looking way of the mass but your own which may often be dark and full of hindrances but in going this way you will become a personality people can trust. Would you ever trust somebody or pay respect to someone of whom you know how he got his degrees or whatever by cheating. What he achieved is a lie. Would you want to build your life on a lie? Besides being afraid that it will be known some day. If you see them sit together, drinking beer in a pub do you really think they can ever trust each other knowing that they are all able to cheat? Leave them alone. Let them live their lives how they want. Find people in your school or university who are honest like you. Be together with them, your own people. This gives some confidence and you are not alone. If there is no one you can turn to the way to the library is the best way you can choose. In case there are no fascinating minds alive around you be sure there are lots of the most fascinating minds who left their thoughts to us in the books.
My favourite is still Seneca and his letters to Lucilius. They are brillant for somebody in your situation. I know because I was in a similar situation but I was the one being cheated. And not only once. It helps to stay honest, go your own way despite of what happens to you and gives you confidence doing the right thing and showing this to all the others. And the strength to separate from people who are not good for you which might bring with it that you are often alone but again, not necessarily.
I wish you the strength to not looking left or right when there is nothing good for you to see.
There has always been dishonesty, cheating, lying, stealing, torture, maiming, and killing throughout human history. Many times it results in no punishment for the unethical; they get rich and powerful. If you doubt that, just look at world leaders and the rich today and throughout history. I assume that you've just realized that, and that you're shocked by it. I don't blame you, really... but there isn't much difference between conduct today and in the past, as far as I can tell. Human beings haven't changed much. Actually, things might be a little better... people don't usually torture others, at least physically, for public entertainment any more, as virtually all societies used to do, and there are watchdog groups, such as Amnesty International and the ACLU, now.
If cheating is successful, then you will do worse than cheaters in your grades and future jobs and money, probably. However, you will learn the subjects you study, and you will learn to behave ethically under duress. Children learn from example, and you will be setting an example. If you feel very strongly about it, start making a fuss: write letters, start a club, talk to the administration. Perhaps something will come of that, perhaps not. I'm certainly not going to give you a message of hope here... given human nature as it is shown by human history, the picture is bleak. There are a few people, here and there, who try to keep things going, intellectually, artistically, ethically. Not very many, really... most are indifferent, some are hostile. That you can reflect as you do above is a good sign... you are able to choose your values, which most people do not do. Good luck.
Steven Ravett Brown
Your letter to us is eloquent and disturbing and I am sad to read it. As you say, this is a practical problem that affects what our society turns out to be like.
The first comment I would make is that I don't think the situation is the same here in England. I studied at Uni here a few years ago (I graduated in 1995). The classes here, both at school and Uni, were certainly much smaller than your 400. At Uni, our exams were set by the lecturer who had taught the course, and often invigilated and marked by them certainly by one of the departmental staff. They all knew who I was!! (I used to draw cartoons and write limericks about them.)
I'm sure our lecturers recognized the students who showed themselves in the department and regularly attended lectures. These students would be expected to get better grades than those who never attended. I worked hard and read a lot, but I was rewarded with a 1st. I don't think the people who used to come up to me and my friends 2 weeks before the exams and ask "What books are we studying?" did so well although I don't think they failed, either... My only experience of cheating was when another student borrowed one of my essays 'to help him understand', and I had some difficulty getting it back.
That said, it sounds like cheating is a common and accepted fact in the US. Do you believe the statistics produced by the surveys? Do you think, from your own experience, that those figures are accurate? In England, few students would admit to cheating, even if they were doing it! Here, there is a great suspicion about the results of surveys, the accuracy of which depends on many things, including the sample size, the truthfulness of those conducting the survey and of those questioned, and the statistical analysis applied, which are often not disclosed when the survey's results are quoted.
If everyone knows about this cheating, doesn't anyone else besides you want to stop it? Do you think there's anything you could do about it? Would it be possible for you to expose people you know to be cheating? What about if a group of people formed an association or campaign against cheating? Don't your schools and Uni's want to do something about it? Is there any group you can join that works to reduce cheating? Is there any action that can be taken against those who take exams for others, or who supply essays and papers to cheats? If no-one would agree to do this, it would be much harder to cheat. These people are as much to blame for the continuance of cheating as those who pay them.
Looking at this issue from a different angle, do you really believe that cheats have the happiest lives? Would what they have make you happy? Cheats only benefit if, as you suggest, having lots of money and status are the things most to be desired in life. Are they what you most want? Our society seems to tell us that they are indeed important. Do you agree? Do you think these things are what is really valuable in life? Because I don't. But I often find it hard to remember they're not. Rich and famous people are admired, they seem to have it all.
By the way, I was interested in your comment that "...there are not very many fascinating minds to connect with." I don't think this is anything to do with cheating there just aren't many fascinating minds, not anywhere! Statistically speaking, the majority of people are of average intelligence, and even the clever ones aren't all interesting! Like you, I wish I could meet more people I would enjoy talking to, and perhaps become friends with. But as there are not that many of them, the chances of meeting one are relatively small. I hope Pathways to Philosophy is one place where 'fascinating minds' can meet!
There seems to be a lot of frustration in your "question". The kind of cheating you notice is inherent in a capitalist system. That indicates that not the cheaters are wrong, but possibly the system. Anyway bought knowledge helps to get titles, but not to solve problems. So it's a matter of your goals: do you want a title, or do you want to solve problems? If you want only a title, than the present system can be frustrating. However if you yourself want to attack problems, than own knowledge is inevitable.
Why do you wonder especially about Bush? Because he talks funny, and comes from Texas? As for me, I wonder how so foolish a man as Clinton got where he did.
I just happened upon your website and found myself enraptured by your virtual smorgasbord of ideas! A question: "Are philosophical problems, problems of linguistic clarity and interpretation, or real problems that transcend language itself, or are they an amalgamation of both linguistic and evidential difficulties?"
Hal also asked:
What constitutes a paradox and if they do exist, then why do they exist? From my perspective there seems to be a number of different kinds of paradoxes: apparent paradoxes (paradoxes which appear to be, but after deeper reflection aren't), real paradoxes (paradoxes which stand unresolved after prolonged scrutiny) and unrealized paradoxes (ones which exist but are not readily apparent). I have read many explanations for the existence of paradoxes through the years:
1) the limitation of human comprehension
2) the imposition of flawed assumptions
3) the introduction of sin into creation
4) an irreducible fact of existence
5) a problem of frame of reference
6) the cognitive dissonance of order and chaos.
1) Thanks. In answer to your question: yes. I could stop there, haha... all of those types of problems are philosophical problems, or can be. You have touched on one of the most ghastly areas of philosophy... the whole question of whether there are philosophical problems that can be addressed as more than linguistic. I'm just not going to go on about this one... it's too big. Take a look at the recent and excellent book: Wittgenstein's Poker, for an introduction to this issue, and how Wittgenstein and Popper almost came to blows (as the legend goes) over it.
2) First, here's one of many sites on paradoxes: http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/3022/. Now, how about these:
a) the statement below is false.
b) the statement above is true.
Think about it. There are paradoxes which arise, inevitably, from the limitations of expressions within "orders" of logic, given a language which does not contain an infinite number of (or the capability of an infinite number of) meta-linguistic expressions. One can argue that natural languages do have this potentiality, and I tend to agree. Thus, we could make a natural-language meta-statement about a & b above, and that meta-statement would not be a paradox. But we could not do this within the propositional level at which the statement is formulated (at least in a formal language).
I would not say that human limitations give rise to paradox, in a formal sense of that term. You must be careful in your use of "paradox". A paradox refers to a logically self-contradictory statement or set of statements that cannot be resolved. Now of course humans hold contradictory ideas all the time... and so I guess you could say that someone who says one day that they believe in an infinitely merciful god and the next that all sinners will burn forever in hell is being paradoxical... but it's a paradox that is easily dismissible, as merely a contradiction that has not been resolved, but could be, in a religious context. Whereas the logical paradox above (a & b) cannot be resolved within its context.
Flawed assumptions: a trivial case of paradox. "Sin"? I can use the term, as in the above... but I don't really feel that I understand it, not being a theist. It seems to have something to do with obeying "laws" or commands that cannot be questioned... but as a philosopher, I hold that there are no such laws or commands. A fact of existence? Um... what's "existence"? Again I don't understand your terms. "Frame of reference" is usually a phrase in physics, or in cultural anthropology, or psychology. The first leads, if at all, to logical paradoxes, the second and third, to the kind of "human" paradoxes I mention above. Now you've completely left me behind. As you employ those terms, they are, as far as I can tell, meaningless. "Order" and "chaos" are extremely vague and/or complex terms, with multiple meanings in a huge variety of arenas. "Cognitive dissonance" is a technical phrase (originated by Festinger) in cognitive psychology which does involve paradox, again in the human sense above, where someone holds contradictory ideas. Here's a site on that: http://www.dmu.ac.uk/~jamesa/learning/dissonance.htm. But it's not related to order and/or chaos in anything but vague ways.
Steven Ravett Brown
I have a grade 12 Philosophy essay to write and I decided to chose the topic "The notion of Love". I'm looking at it from the aspect of fate and love at first sight. An example what I'm talking about would be like the movie, "Serendipity". Please try and help me out here I'm having a have time finding resources for this topic but ever since I saw that movie I've wanted to try and find out answers. I figured this would be the best opportunity.
There are 2 things I like about your question: 1, that a movie you've watched has made you think; and 2, that the subject you've chosen to think about is love. You've helped yourself greatly with your essay by choosing a topic you're genuinely interested in.
Love is a subject that is rarely tackled by philosophers, because it is so difficult to be sure other people have understood exactly what we mean when we talk about our feelings. But I think love is extremely important, and therefore we shouldn't be afraid to discuss it, even if this is difficult.
I've never seen the movie you mention, but we've all heard stories about love at first sight. 2 people walk into a room, and as soon as they set eyes on each other they just know that is the person they will marry and love forever. And so it goes on to happen.
Maybe this really does happen occasionally instant attraction leads to an enduring relationship. But I wonder if people conveniently forget all the times when they felt sure they were going to love someone they'd just met, only to be deeply disappointed when they got to know them! Isn't that one reason why many relationships break up?
Do people even remember how they felt when they first met, or are they perhaps imagining things? It's easy to say you fell in love at first sight after the relationship has proved to be a lasting one. Did any of the people who claim to have felt love at first sight keep a diary, and write down at the time what they felt when they first met their loved one? I wonder...
In fact, I don't believe that love at first sight is possible, although attraction at first sight obviously is. I think that for a relationship to last, it is extremely important for you to love the other person's character and personality. At first sight, you simply do not know what a person is like, and in that case I fail to see how you can love them.
This leads me to remind you that our word 'love' can cause problems, as it can be used to describe a huge range of different emotions, for example:
love of a parent, child, sibling
'love thine enemy'
love of God
love of country
love of humankind
strong liking for certain foods, TV programmes, clothes etc.
love of nature
love of a pet
I don't think anyone would be particularly confused when you talk about 'love at first sight' we usually understand this as romantic love that proves long-lasting but you might find it interesting to consider how this kind of love differs from other kinds. I would particularly suggest you think about how love at first sight makes people feel (in the body), and what does it make them want to do (kiss the loved person? get to know them? marry them?) Have you ever experienced this kind of love yourself, or do you know anyone who has, who could describe it to you?
David hume remarked that if we give an explanation for any natural phenomenon, we'll still need an explanation for the explanation itself, and there is one of two possibilities, endless (infinite) number. of explanations, or a last explanation (unexplainable explanation!).
Here's an example:
1. Water boils if put on fire.
2. Explanation: fire gives water energy, and this energy makes the molecules go far from each other till the water boils.
3. How does energy go to the water from the fire? and how does it increase the kinetic energy of the molecules?
4. When you answer, I'll ask 'how' and so on...
Well there can't be infinite number of explanations, because this will mean than an infinite number of actions happened after the water was put on fire till it boiled, and this would require an infinite time. So we are left with a last unexplainable explanation, can it exist? how?
Well there can't be infinite number of explanations, because this will mean than an infinite number of actions happened after the water was put on fire till it boiled, and this would require an infinite time. So we are left with a last unexplainable explanation, can it exist? how?
Wait. What if Hume was wrong? What if we come to an explanation which is intuitively obvious, so clear that we just can't help but understand it? That's one possibility, one which Husserl (in a sense) wanted. Second, why do explanations correspond to events? If we "explain" an event, just what are we doing? Does an explanation imply that we must invoke another, different event? What if we are just reformulating, or understanding that first event in a different way through our explanations? Third, let's say that we would require an infinite number of explanations, all of which correspond to events. Why would those events take an infinite time? What if some of them were of infinitesimal duration, or simultaneous? Fourth, let us say that we are left with a "last" event which we cannot explain. Ok, so what? We cannot explain it... and... what? So maybe after we study it for a while we will be able to explain it... or maybe not. What does that have to do with its "existence", whatever that means? Why does explanation have anything to do with existence?
These are just some of the issues and questions that might be raised here. I'm sure that you could find more at this point. My point is that before you go on and on building huge constructs from some limited set of ideas, take some time to question those ideas. The odds are that you will find alternative viewpoints.
Steven Ravett Brown
The study of Free Will vs. Determinism is by far the most fascinating and yet aggravating topic that I have thus far stumbled upon. I find it completely unlikely that all human action is caused by neuron firings. I have been trying to construct an argument to convey my point of view that humans do have free will and although biology does have some influence it is not responsible for all human action. If neuron firings were responsible for the complete make-up of an individual then would it not be possible to know every action an individual would commit beforehand simply based on previous experience? Do you have any thoughts regarding this issue one way or the other?
Even supposing you were right and someone could know whatever a person would do before he did it, would that imply that the person did not do those actions freely? I don't see why. I know, pretty well, that when you read this, you will not commit suicide over what I wrote. Does that mean that you did not commit suicide of your own free will? Why, I wonder, do you think that knowledge of what you will do implies that what you do is not done freely?
There are not many choices, really. You might take a look at Searle's article, which is a reasonable summary: Searle, J. R. "Consciousness, Free Action and the Brain." Journal of Consciousness Studies 7, no. 10 (2000): 3-22. But a search of the references on this issue will give you only a few alternatives. The neural alternative: see Libet, B. "The Timing of Mental Events: Libet's Experimental Findings and Their Implications." Consciousness and Cognition 11 (2002): 291-299. Also, Libet, B. "Unconscious Cerebral Initiative and the Role of Conscious Will in Voluntary Action." The Behavioral and Brain Science 8 (1985): 529-566. The latter is probably the seminal paper in this area, and has stimulated enormous controversy. Libet's follow-up is in his second paper, and it's easy to find commentaries.
Religion: you're on your own here; I'm not a theist.
Physics: there are two ways around it, as commonly conceived, here. One; quantum theory. Check out H. Stapp on this... but I don't believe what he says. The model of the collapse of the wave-function as determined by consciousness is, in my and very many others' opinions (and theory), dead, dead, dead (for early theoretical support (and there is more): Mulhauser, G. R. "On the End of a Quantum Mechanical Romance." Psyche 2, no. 19 (1995)). Two; chaos theory (e.g., Freeman, W. J. "A Proposed Name for Aperiodic Brain Activity: Stochastic Chaos." Neural Networks 13, no. 1 (2000): 11-14.). A possible way out, but not a good one, really, since chaos theory is, or can be, completely Newtonian. You get randomness here, which I don't think helps. You can get that from quantum theory also. If you want your actions to be partially random and you think that gives you free will, good luck to you; we've certainly got that, given nothing more than thermal (and chemical) noise in the nervous system.
Metaphysics: well, here it gets sticky. What you have to argue here is that conventional notions of causation are wrong when you come to the mind. Well and good... but first, physics is enormously successful, and second, what alternative are you proposing, that takes mind (nonconventionally causal, in some sense to be argued for)/brain (conventionally causal, or so it seems) interactions into account? Whoops. I was not pleased with what I found in this literature, and lots of it comes straight from various religious dogmas. I'm afraid that since my interests are not in pure metaphysics, I cannot give you anything I consider good arguments here. You might take a look at Whitehead on process, and Taylor on metaphysics.
Now, in answer to your question. No, it would not be possible, even with complete knowledge, to know every action an individual would take, but not because of free will. Neural circuits are chaotic (in the technical sense of that term), and this implies that in some cases literally an infinitesimal initial difference will result in a large resulting difference. You just can't measure, i.e., have knowledge of, infinitesimals... which means, really, that you can't, even theoretically, have complete knowledge of someone's complete makeup. And this is aside from thermal noise, quantum uncertainty, etc. But this doesn't help the metaphysical issue of free will. The best I can do here is to remind you of the similarity (let us say, for the sake of argument) between mind and a computer program. The same substrate can run an infinite number of different programs. The counterargument is that actually, the substrate is not the same, since to run a program a particular configuration must be "loaded" into (the neural equivalent of) memory, i.e., into molecular-level configurations of neural circuits, and that loading changes the physical substrate. True enough... on the other hand, running the program, through feedback, also changes the substrate, and thus you could argue that the mind "reprograms" the brain's circuitry. Yes. But the counterargument to that is that the program feeding back is itself run on the physical substrate, i.e., it is the dynamics of the physical substrate, and thus subject to the laws of physical causality. So the best you can get out of this, I think, is that we have free will inasmuch as we have feedback capabilities, but subject to physical (and of course "mental", i.e., to follow the analogy, programming) laws. Libet's argument is somewhat the same.
Steven Ravett Brown
What would Marx think of the rich and famous people of today?
Marx was more interested in capital, accumulation of capital, means of production and class struggle than in rich and famous people.
Since the means of production are today (as well as in Marx's epoch) owned by private enterprise and since there is still no classless society, one could suppose that Marx would not change his views and opinions.
The short answer Not a lot.
Marx believed strongly in human freedom; his problem was to somehow produce a political system based on collective freedom and at the same time retaining that precious individual freedom. Within such a system a fair means of controlling production had to be found. This obviously had to be achieved without allowing the development of a class structure. The simple concept is "rule of the people by the people," a class-less society requiring legislation to prevent the separation and elevation of a ruling class founded on wealth and privilege.
The big enemies were aristocracy and capitalism, in both their social and political concepts: he found the systems repugnant. Here were systems in which the rich and the privileged made all the laws, unassailable laws which gave protection to themselves and perpetuated the system. At the time of Marx, the early and middle nineteenth century, the gap between rich and poor in western society was enormous; there was no hiding the fact that the rich looked down on the poor, oppressed them, exploited them and generally treated them with disrespect and disdain. The courts came down heavily on the poor and leniently on the rich.
What differences would Marx see today? He would note that the gap between rich and poor had probably increased, despite the fact that the working classis marginally better off. He would see that the means of production is firmly in the hands of the rich: that the tentacles of capitalism now stretch across the world, with some multinationals so rich that governments have little or no power over them, they have now proved beyond a shadow of doubt that money means power. They can now freely desecrate and pollute the planet in pursuit of profit and within the capitalist laws which protect them.
Marx would also find that his system, designed to put an end to capitalism and privilege, not only never got off the ground but had been misrepresented by dictatorships and police states, thus playing right into the hands of capitalists, enabling them to point to murderous and oppressive regimes as socialist/ communist threats to the world.
Seeing that Marx had very little regard for the rich and famous of his day, he would be very unlikely to approve of what he would see today. The rich are still being put on pedestals and decorated for making themselves lots of money. As for the famous, he would again be made aware of the influence of wealth in creating so-called famous people. He would find himself in a very artificial world confronted by so-called 'stars,' 'celebrities,' 'millionaire footballers,' ' TV newsreaders,' 'TV presenters,' and so on. He would now find that we had the famous rich and the rich famous. But he would be able to rub his hands and say, "I told you so!!"
We are often told in introductory philosophy textbooks that we can be absolutely certain of the truth of mathematical propositions For example we can be absolutely certain that 3 + 4 = 7.
My question is whether the certainty referred to is just a psychological contingency that arises because the proposition is so easy to understand and is so familiar to us.
If it more than this for example something to do with the nature of mathematical propositions themselves being tautologies how should the following example be explained?
Consider a sum in simple arithmetic that consists of 500 numbers each 10 digits long (e.g. 7453895823). How can we ever be certain what they add up to? It would seem certain that the 500 numbers actually do have definite total but, again, the question is how can we ever know with any certainty that we have added them up correctly and therefore have the right answer to be certain about?
In practice the overwhelming likelihood is that a mistake will be made. Obviously if you're just using a pencil and paper!! but also if your using a calculator (slips of the finger, misreading of digits or their order, etc).
I think there is a sense in which we can never be sure getting such sums right and therefore cannot be sure of the results of even simple arithmetic. What I'm not sure about is whether this lack of certainty has any significance such as showing that arithmetic is just like any other empirical science and it is a matter of experiment (i.e. doing the sum again and again and checking with other people's results) to see whether we have got it right?
I might add that this is not just an academic question but has real-life consequences for people like me who are accountants and are required to devise methods of testing (i.e. auditing) whether sometimes many hundreds of long numbers have been added up correctly (just think, you only need to be dealing with hundreds of thousands of pounds to have 8 digit numbers if the pence are included e.g. £999,999.99p and the clerks that work in accounts departments often have to add up pages and pages of such figures!).
That's an interesting distinction, between the actual adding of a number and the theory. First, no, the addition of, say, 3+4 or any other sum (or product, or whatever) is not contingent. It is dependent on the nature or definitions of number and on the operators employed in the ring or set constrained, say, by the operation of addition. And that set can be extended to other operations as well.
Now on the other hand, is actual addition contingent? I'd say both yes and no, for a couple of reasons. First, you could break any complex operation down into simpler ones, and do them separately. Thus, you can be certain about additions, say, as they extend to higher powers of ten, because of the nature of the symbolism we use. That is, we can take 10+7 and know it's 17, right? A simple operation which we do not need to verify by counting, because we have defined the symbolism in such a way that it must be true. Thus, we put the "1" of the "10" into the second column, and the "0" into the first, since we're using base 10 numbers. And so adding 7 to it is transparent... we just put it in the column next to the 1. Then we can simply read what 10+7 is because of our notation. Thus in this sense addition is not contingent. We can, if we want to, verify any sum, but not by the methods we employ to (routinely) add that sum, but by inspecting the processes we engage in to arrive at that sum, and merely matching, process by process, to see if the processes are identical. Thus, 1000+874 is also 1000 with an "8" put into the next (hundreds) column, etc. We can do this because these processes are Markovian, i.e., not history-dependent.
But we don't add this way, and the second sense of contingent then is the one involving, as you say, the practicality of adding many numbers at high speed. Now here I'd agree; mistakes are inevitable, and adding in this sense is contingent. But that's why we have computers, right? Think of how the log tables were originally calculated, for example... yes, by hand. That's why, by the way, in statistics, we use a significance level of.01... because that's the accuracy they could be practically calculated to when statistics began. And we've enshrined that value, for no good reason, since.
So as electronic media become more ubiquitous, the likelihood of mistakes should decrease... and hopefully people will not have to read and enter numbers by hand, error correcting will be highly redundant, etc... but of course these will never eliminate this kind of error. Practical addition will always be contingent.
Now, there is yet another sense in which addition and all mathematics may be contingent. But that is a much deeper sense than you are asking, viz., is number dependent on human perception and cognition? One can argue that the nature of the way we structure the world gives rise to our abstracting number from our tendency to group and isolate objects (which one could argue is merely a human set of processes imposed on objectivity), then count them, and so forth. I actually think that this is the case, and that it is probably possible to perceive and manipulate the world without human types of differentiation. But that's another, long, discussion.
Steven Ravett Brown
Well, that we are certain of 3+7 is a psychological contingency in that it is an easy sum. It is possible that we could have brains that could be certain when we performed much more complicated calculations. However, we have not got that sort of brain, but this doesn't affect the fact that there is a correct answer to mathematical calculations and it is intrinsic to maths that this is so. Mathematics is never under dispute we know there is a correct answer, even if there can be error on our part. The error is human and correction of error is to check again, using normal human means, although artificial intelligence isn't subject to the same sort of error as humans and with a human checking AI is functioning normally, there seems no reason to be concerned about auditing problems.
Mathematics is not an empirical science. It is necessarily true that 3+7 = 10 and the same is so for more complicated calculations and it is only because you know this to be the case that you can be concerned about error. We cannot conceive of any conditions which would create doubt about actual calculations. It is different with empirical science which tells us that water is H20. We can easily conceive that what we take to be water might have a different chemical constitution. But what would make it the case that 3+7 (or a bigger calculation) was false?
An excellent question. Immanuel Kant distinguished between "subjective certainty" or "I am certain that...." and "objective certainty" or "It is certain that...." As you correctly argue, arithmetic evades subjective certainty because of the ever present possibility of mistake, although as a practical matter of fact, this possibility is vanishing small when it comes to simple and short calculations.
But, given that the answer to an arithmetical calculation is true, that answer is certainly true. That is, it would be impossible for it to be otherwise. It is, in other words, a necessary truth, and people often use the expression "is certain" for a necessary truth. So your calculation is certain (given the answer is true) in the sense that the proposition that the earth is round is not certain since it is not a necessary truth and could be otherwise.
What is the major difference between religion and philosophy?
With a wink one could say the major difference is, that philosophy asks questions, while religion is answering them.
Viewed from a safe distance the most apparent difference between religion and philosophy is, that Religion is based on ritual, dogma and authority, while Philosophy rests upon critical thinking. "Most religions rely on authorities, as in the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rabbinical Councils and Courts, or the Imam. Philosophies do not. There is no Absolute Aristotlean Authority, or Supreme Scholasticism Senate", one of my colleagues once said quite bluntly. A bit more sensitive, one will realise, that philosophy knows at least authorities, that "all western philosophy was merely footnotes to Plato" as Whitehead coined. Or what about some postmodern thinkers, who claim there is no absolute truth, holding their very own claim as absolute truth! Isn't such an authoritative tenet quite what we would call a dogma for short?
From a more inside view, we could say that, though both, religion and philosophy are concerned with many of the same issues the nature of reality, belief, right conduct, the mind,... but they treat these issues quite differently, there are different "techniques of approach": while religion investigates by means of commitment, faith and emotional experiences, philosophy investigates by means of scepticism, criticism and objectivity. But wouldn't we end up in total skepticism without a trace of faith and wouldn't we fall for false prophets without a trace of skepticism?
For true religious people there is an essential difference: religion is linked to God Himself, the Creator, Upholder and Mover of the Universe. God's words are unlike those of philosophers not well-built arguments but revelations of eternal truth. Whereas it is out of question that humans can experience "revelations", I don't see why these revelations should be reserved for institutionalised religions: What about the great Mystics then?
To my mind all these distinctions are quite superficial and it's better to put your question in a bigger frame. While we have developed many tools for the many fields of physical research since the invention of philosophy as "mother of all sciences", it seems that religion and philosophy are left only for the provisional unexplicable rest. And while noone seriously would use neurophysiological equipment to investigate atoms, some still use telescopes to investigate God. The basic idea behind this is, that one day everything can be explained (or rather reduced) by physical sciences.
At this point the so-called Chain of Being comes into play, I will use this model to adjust the positions of religion and philosophy from my point of view. In terms of the modern view, largely influenced by the doctrine of evolution, this chain starts with inanimate matter and to consider man the last(!) link of the chain, as having evolved the widest range of useful qualities.
Why should men be the last possible or existing emergence with significance?
If Mineral can be written m,
Plant can be written m+a
Animal can be written m+a+b
Man can be written m+a+b+c,
then God can be written as m+a+b+c+d, or perhaps as m+x+y+z+a+..... z.
On these levels a,b and c are the significant ontological discontinuities or, more simply, each a jump in the Level of Being, and there are adaequate "significant" sciences for each of these levels, where none of these sciences can be reduced to another.
For example, if
m: physics, chemistry
m+a+b: behaviour research
m+a+b+c: philosophy (as Wittgenstein said: philosophy is the investigation of thinking by means of thinking) and sciences of consciousness
m+a+b+c+....z, the "supermental", "supernatural", "spiritual", or "God" is the realm of true religion (it's not the simple fact that Jesus lived, but his spiritual dimension, on that religion is built). So we could conclude, if philosophy is the study beyound physical sciences, then religion is the study beyound philosophy.
Virtuelle Schule Österreich
Department Philosophie & Psychologie
My question is very short: Can sport be considered a form of art?
David Best argues that even if there are aesthetic sports (gymnastics), where how one performs (the beauty of the movement) is valued and acknowledged in competition, this is not enough. Aesthetic sports do not have the fundamental trait of a form of art in which the central purpose is creativity, and leaving an artifact. Cordner also does not consider sport as art because sport, unlike art, does not possess an internal end. What do you think?
I tend to agree with the critiques, in general. My view of art is that it must not merely have an end (which some sports do, i.e., when in the Olympics one tries for a record in human achievement surely that is "internal"?), but an end which attempts to express something. Now, what do I mean by "express something"? Whoever is doing, realizing, performing art is employing that medium as a symbolism to communicate something about themselves, as well as whatever else, if anything, they are attempting to communicate. What are the alternatives here?
First, we might consider, as did Kant, that art expresses or realizes aesthetic feelings: let us say, feelings purely of pleasure in beauty. So art might be the creation of something with no other purpose than to be beautiful. But I do not agree with this. One could, for example, reproduce something already considered beautiful. Would that be creating art? Well, it wouldn't be "creating", since it would be reproduction... would it be art in any other sense? It would be the production, at least, of something purely for its beauty. But we would not consider this art, surely... merely reproduction. So it is not enough to produce beauty.
What about creating something that is purely beautiful, but expresses nothing, merely gives one, upon seeing it, the sense that there is something beautiful and the pleasure associated with that? Is that art? Suppose someone came up with a pattern that meant nothing, but was acknowledged to be a beautiful pattern; a purely abstract pattern in a rug, let us say. I think that might be considered art... but I'm not actually sure why, because the only difference between that pattern and some other original pattern which people did not consider beautiful would be that feeling, and further, why would its uniqueness, in contrast with the reproduction above, count toward its being art? However, this is a controversial point. There are many who consider mathematicians who create abstract beauty in systems which as far as anyone knows will have no real-world applications to be artists. Similarly for chess and go players, and so forth. In this respect, one could, I believe, consider sport to be art. What if the grace of a gymnast, or indeed of a basketball player, were such that their movements were considered beautiful? Then by this criterion they might be creating art. But I just don't see this as sufficient to consider something a work of art, or a process as an art.
Let us take another alternative. Suppose we considered creation essential to art, but not aesthetics. Thus, a new theory in science could, by this criterion, be considered art. Is that the case? No, I think we would deny this. One might consider a theory in science as art, but only if it met both criteria, namely, that it was new and beautiful. But even this is controversial, just as the pure mathematical idea was. We do not usually consider science to be art. Even exhibitions of "art in science" usually consist of photography or something similar, i.e., an acknowledged art form incorporating results from science. Again, this is a debatable point, but I am unconvinced that science, per se, is ever art.
Let us consider the case of expressiveness. Suppose that one wrote a description of a scene. Would that be art? It might be a beautiful description, in which case we would probably consider it art, but what about newspaper reporting, for example? Is that art? We don't seem to normally consider that type of expression art, because although something is being communicated, there is no attempt (except, perhaps, in finding the content) at originality of expression, or at creating beauty. So creativity and aesthetic feeling enters into this also; and in cases where the content is extremely unusual and presented well, we do sometimes consider news to be art.
Let us consider another case. Suppose there was someone who created something that most people acknowledged was ugly, and that person did not do it (produce the ugliness) purposely. Would that be art? I think we would all deny this... or at best, if the creation were original, we would say it was seriously flawed art. Now, what if the ugliness was purposeful? Is it now art? I think that we would concede that it might be. Unpleasant art, but still art. So what is happening here? First, we are still employing the Kantian test of aesthetic feeling as a criterion. The creation of beauty, or its opposite, must be purposeful. So art, it would seem, does include at least an acknowledgment, however, grudging, of beauty.
We are narrowing this down, it seems. We want some acknowledgement of beauty, we want creativity of expression and/or content, and we want that content also to express something beyond its appearance. Let's just arbitrarily stop here, and I'll claim that I've identified the essentials of art. Now, do sports meet these criteria?
1) Acknowledgement of beauty: not usually, except perhaps inasmuch as being good at, say, gymnastics or ice skating implies gracefulness and beauty of movement. But this is not, on the face of it, the acknowledgement of beauty, merely coincidence.
2) Creativity in expression and/or content: perhaps at the highest level of a sport, where someone is good enough to invent a new way to score, a new move in wrestling... but we do not consider this art, but very good craft.
3) Expression beyond the appearance: not in sport, except perhaps those sports on the edge of art, like ice skating. The breaking of Olympic records is a goal beyond previous content, but expresses nothing beyond that.
So, all in all, it seems, if my analysis is at all correct, that sport is not usually art, but craft, i.e., something requiring skill that does not in any way move beyond its internal practices. The "aesthetic" sports like ice skating, gymnastics, and so forth, may become art by transcending their craft, in effect, and attempting to strive for beauty and expressiveness. This, as an aside, is why I have problems with the term "martial arts", which I think is misleading, since none of them: karate, aikido, judo, etc., meet the above criteria for art. If one incorporated movements from such crafts into, say, ballet, then we would have art... but only as ballet.
Steven Ravett Brown