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Why doesn't consciousness defeat the determinism argument? If a person

Why doesn't consciousness defeat the determinism argument? If a person consciously decides to order a hamburger instead of a cheeseburger the next time he goes to a restaurant, what force is controlling him to delude himself?

One typical way of thinking of such examples is this: perhaps the sequence of conscious mental states we enjoy is a causal sequence, so "causation" would be the "force" you are asking about. Perhaps the purely determinist laws of neuroscience dictate her sequence of brain states, which in turn dictate her sequence of mental states, generating her "conscious decision process" by which she eventually concludes she will order a hamburger. Perhaps event he deterministic sequence generates/dictates all the "feelings" she feels to, including the feeling of compelte freedom from external forces ... After all we are NOT typically aware of what is causing our mental states, are we? So even our "feeling of freedom," our "sense" of controlling our thoughts and decision processes, may be generated by entirely deterministic causal networks .... It seems to me, then, that consciousness could not itself defeat the determinism argument because our sequence of conscious states could easily be deterministically generated, despite their content ....

hope that's useful!

ap

One typical way of thinking of such examples is this: perhaps the sequence of conscious mental states we enjoy is a causal sequence, so "causation" would be the "force" you are asking about. Perhaps the purely determinist laws of neuroscience dictate her sequence of brain states, which in turn dictate her sequence of mental states, generating her "conscious decision process" by which she eventually concludes she will order a hamburger. Perhaps event he deterministic sequence generates/dictates all the "feelings" she feels to, including the feeling of compelte freedom from external forces ... After all we are NOT typically aware of what is causing our mental states, are we? So even our "feeling of freedom," our "sense" of controlling our thoughts and decision processes, may be generated by entirely deterministic causal networks .... It seems to me, then, that consciousness could not itself defeat the determinism argument because our sequence of conscious states could easily be deterministically...

Everything needs a cause, right, or it couldn't happen, right?

Everything needs a cause, right, or it couldn't happen, right? But, if everything needs a cause, how could anything happen? Because the thing that would cause it to happen would also need a cause. So does that means the universe can't happen/could never get to now? Or is time a cause in and of itself? And "drags" things as time goes forward, like a replay in a video game? But then time would need a cause too, right?

A classic, important question that philosophers have grappled with for a loooong time .... Look up "cosmological arguments" on wikipedia or via google, you'll find LOTS of discussion of this sort of issue. Especially important for centuries in discussions of religious matters -- Just a couple quick thoughts. One possibility is that an infinite regress is fine -- the universe has always existed, and everything that occurs has a cause, which earlier had a cause etc., to infinity. If you don't think that's possible you need to offer specific reasons why it isn't. One famous one is hinted at in what you say -- for example, as presented by St Thomas Aquinas (in preparation for refuting it) the objection is raised that an infinite regress IS impossible: for since an infinite journey can never be completed, there could NOT be an infinite amount of time (or sequence of events) prior to the current moment -- for that just would mean that the universe HAS completed an infinite journey (from the infinite past to now ...) .... However Aquinas offers a fascinating response to this particular argument you might look up -- I think he holds that reason cannot determine whether the past extends to infinity or not, or whether the cosmos had a 'first moment' -- that said, there are various other kinds of arguments to the same conclusion, suggesting (e.g.) that the universe could not be intelligible if it extended back to infinity, so there must have been a first moment ....

Then, once you've convinced yourself there must be a 'first moment' (or a 'first event' or 'First cause') -- you can grapple with the question of what this implies for the idea that 'everything has a cause' ... One common move is this: if the 'first cause' is quite different in nature from ordinary things, then perhaps it might count as 'self-caused' or 'self-explanatory' -- e.g. if the first cause is a 'necessary being' of some sort (as opposed to 'contingent being') then the fact that it exists needs no further explanation, its own nature (as a necessary being) explains its existence -- so everything DOES have a cause: most ordinary finite things are caused by other finite things, leading back to a First Cause which is 'self-caused' or 'self-explanatory' ....

That's too quick a sketch -- but look up 'cosmological arguments' for more, especially as found in Aristotle, Aquinas, and Descartes (for classical sources) -- and then you can work your way up to contemporary versions ....

good luck!

ap

A classic, important question that philosophers have grappled with for a loooong time .... Look up "cosmological arguments" on wikipedia or via google, you'll find LOTS of discussion of this sort of issue. Especially important for centuries in discussions of religious matters -- Just a couple quick thoughts. One possibility is that an infinite regress is fine -- the universe has always existed, and everything that occurs has a cause, which earlier had a cause etc., to infinity. If you don't think that's possible you need to offer specific reasons why it isn't. One famous one is hinted at in what you say -- for example, as presented by St Thomas Aquinas (in preparation for refuting it) the objection is raised that an infinite regress IS impossible: for since an infinite journey can never be completed, there could NOT be an infinite amount of time (or sequence of events) prior to the current moment -- for that just would mean that the universe HAS completed an infinite journey (from the infinite...

If we assert that aesthetic experience has no definable cognitive component what

If we assert that aesthetic experience has no definable cognitive component what makes it an important subject of philosophical interest?

Presumably it's only the philosophical interest which leads to the conclusion that it has no cognitive component in the first place ... Or rather, it's a matter of philosophical debate whether it does ... But if you are suggesting (as you seem to) that once a philosopher decides that aesthetic experience is non-cognitive there are no further philosophical issues, then I'll leave it to those specializing in aesthetics to provide an answer ... (At the least a non-specialist such as myself would wonder: if aesthetic experience is non-cognitive then how does it relate to other (sensory) experiences? what marks off an experience as aesthetic then? what is the nature/relationship of the different sensory modalities? the relationship between sensory experience and pleasure etc...?)

hope that's a useful start.

ap

Presumably it's only the philosophical interest which leads to the conclusion that it has no cognitive component in the first place ... Or rather, it's a matter of philosophical debate whether it does ... But if you are suggesting (as you seem to) that once a philosopher decides that aesthetic experience is non-cognitive there are no further philosophical issues, then I'll leave it to those specializing in aesthetics to provide an answer ... (At the least a non-specialist such as myself would wonder: if aesthetic experience is non-cognitive then how does it relate to other (sensory) experiences? what marks off an experience as aesthetic then? what is the nature/relationship of the different sensory modalities? the relationship between sensory experience and pleasure etc...?) hope that's a useful start. ap

Are colors subjective or objective or both?

Are colors subjective or objective or both?

A deep rich complicated question! A short (too short) answer would go with both, depending what you mean by 'color.' There are subjective aspects to color (perceived color), and there are objective aspects (physical properties, light properties, etc.). The big question of course is just how these two aspects are related. Are they independent in some sense, or intimately related, and if so how? Can perceived color, the perception of color, be identified with or reduced to objective properties, and if so which? There is a ton of literature on this, but you might start with the classic Larry Hardin's "Color for Philosophers."

hope that's useful -- to start

ap

A deep rich complicated question! A short (too short) answer would go with both, depending what you mean by 'color.' There are subjective aspects to color (perceived color), and there are objective aspects (physical properties, light properties, etc.). The big question of course is just how these two aspects are related. Are they independent in some sense, or intimately related, and if so how? Can perceived color, the perception of color, be identified with or reduced to objective properties, and if so which? There is a ton of literature on this, but you might start with the classic Larry Hardin's "Color for Philosophers." hope that's useful -- to start ap

A deep rich complicated question! A short (too short) answer would go with both, depending what you mean by 'color.' There are subjective aspects to color (perceived color), and there are objective aspects (physical properties, light properties, etc.). The big question of course is just how these two aspects are related. Are they independent in some sense, or intimately related, and if so how? Can perceived color, the perception of color, be identified with or reduced to objective properties, and if so which? There is a ton of literature on this, but you might start with the classic Larry Hardin's "Color for Philosophers." hope that's useful -- to start ap

What do you call this type of argument?

What do you call this type of argument? Stephen Hawking recently boycotted a prestigious Israeli academic conference, and many were quick to call him a hypocrite: "If you’re going to boycott Israel, please remove the Intel chip that allows you to speak" I was just wondering if there was a name for this type of argument? Thanks in advance.

This is a really excellent question, and a complicated issue. First coming to mind might be the ad hominem fallacy, if you take the argument to be something like "because you are a hypocrite, your position vis a vis boycotting should be rejected." But I don't think that many of the people who have raised this argument mean it in that fallacious sense (though perhaps some do). A deeper analysis might be that this isn't really an argument at all -- it's merely an attack on Hawking's character (w/o inviting others to reach any conclusion about the boycott in question). This seems reasonable: if Hawking truly is committed to some very general boycott of Israel, Israeli achievements, academics, etc., then consistency may well require that he give up his chip ... so this point calls attention to his 'boycott of convenience': portray himself as supportin a general boycott (perhaps to receive acclaim from those on that side) when he fact he doesn't. But then an even deeper analysis (perhaps intended by some of the people making the argument, though probably not that many) would be this: "How misguided it is to boycott things Israeli. For you boycott things Israeli in the belief that Israel/Israelis are somehow morally monstrous, but that belief is false: Israel/israelis does much good in the world, Israeli scientists, physicians, academics etc have done a tremendous amount to advance human progress and welfare etc etc ..." On this view the argument in question strikes me as fairly good (if complete one) ... Now I don't know if there are any names for these latter two 'kinds' of argument, so I can't answer that question -- but I presume the reason you're asking the question is because you think teh charge against Hawking is fallacious and you were seeking the name of the relevant fallacy ...

hope that's useful ..

ap

This is a really excellent question, and a complicated issue. First coming to mind might be the ad hominem fallacy, if you take the argument to be something like "because you are a hypocrite, your position vis a vis boycotting should be rejected." But I don't think that many of the people who have raised this argument mean it in that fallacious sense (though perhaps some do). A deeper analysis might be that this isn't really an argument at all -- it's merely an attack on Hawking's character (w/o inviting others to reach any conclusion about the boycott in question). This seems reasonable: if Hawking truly is committed to some very general boycott of Israel, Israeli achievements, academics, etc., then consistency may well require that he give up his chip ... so this point calls attention to his 'boycott of convenience': portray himself as supportin a general boycott (perhaps to receive acclaim from those on that side) when he fact he doesn't. But then an even deeper analysis (perhaps intended by some of...

Which top philosophers, Pre-1850, have gone along with David Hume's "Theory of

Which top philosophers, Pre-1850, have gone along with David Hume's "Theory of Causation"? Would Descartes be a good example to start with while I'm reading up on the matter?

Descartes would probably be a good one to read AGAINST Hume's view ... (see book by Tad Schmaltz on Descartes's causation, and some articles by Geoffrey Gorham, for a good sense of Descartes on causation ... also an article by me ...) ... Interestingly you might consider studying MALEBRANCHE on the issue -- while he does not accept Hume's understanding of causation, he directly influences some of Hume's arguments -- and shares with him the view that finite objects/events do NOT enjoy necessary connections ... where he differs is that rather than conclude there is no (necessitarian) causation in the world, or that there is 'constant conjunction' causation, he concludes that only God is the true cause of everything ...

good luck!

ap

Descartes would probably be a good one to read AGAINST Hume's view ... (see book by Tad Schmaltz on Descartes's causation, and some articles by Geoffrey Gorham, for a good sense of Descartes on causation ... also an article by me ...) ... Interestingly you might consider studying MALEBRANCHE on the issue -- while he does not accept Hume's understanding of causation, he directly influences some of Hume's arguments -- and shares with him the view that finite objects/events do NOT enjoy necessary connections ... where he differs is that rather than conclude there is no (necessitarian) causation in the world, or that there is 'constant conjunction' causation, he concludes that only God is the true cause of everything ... good luck! ap

A frequent criticism of things like life extensionism or human genetic

A frequent criticism of things like life extensionism or human genetic modification is that, if successful, such technologies would cause us to be no longer human, or to lose our humanity. My question is, why is that a bad thing?

You got me! :-)

Only a strange kind of conservatism -- that things, that we, should never change -- would seem to support that view. Unless there really is something more to the view -- it's not the 'loss of humanity' per se that is 'bad' but the specific changes in question that would be bad ... e.g. extending life might make us all older but not healthier or better, might cause a massive drain on public resources, would promote quantity over quality of life, etc. ... re genetic modification, perhaps what's worrisome is the unpredictability of it all (once we tinker with genes who knows what mutant freaks we might create and what awful consequences might ensue) .... So I think an appropriate response to anyone making the claim you object to would be just that: just what precisely IS bad about the change i question .....

hope that's useful

ap

You got me! :-) Only a strange kind of conservatism -- that things, that we, should never change -- would seem to support that view. Unless there really is something more to the view -- it's not the 'loss of humanity' per se that is 'bad' but the specific changes in question that would be bad ... e.g. extending life might make us all older but not healthier or better, might cause a massive drain on public resources, would promote quantity over quality of life, etc. ... re genetic modification, perhaps what's worrisome is the unpredictability of it all (once we tinker with genes who knows what mutant freaks we might create and what awful consequences might ensue) .... So I think an appropriate response to anyone making the claim you object to would be just that: just what precisely IS bad about the change i question ..... hope that's useful ap

Analogous to freedom of speech, one supposes that everyone is entitled to

Analogous to freedom of speech, one supposes that everyone is entitled to express their opinions concerning the character of any person. However, my personal view is that it is reprehensible for a group of people to indulge in an overt celebration of the death of a person - especially in the presence of bereaved members of her family. I have in mind the recent death of erstwhile British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, whose family would probably have seen TV news shots of revellers in Glasgow opening bottles of champagne in ribald celebration of her death. I noted that a prominent political opponent of Mrs Thatcher commented that this behaviour was despicable. I would like to know whether it is feasible/permmissible/desirable for a philosopher to provide objective guidance on the propriety or otherwise of this behaviour?

Interesting question! I don't know about giving 'objective' guidance, but it does seem to me that on the scale of despicable or reprehensible actions, this one would be pretty low, if on the scale at all! It also seems reasonable to me to suppose that very public figures -- in particular politicians, whose actions affect large masses of people directly and indirectly -- ARE appropriate objects of (civil) scorn, both in life and in death. Perhaps it isn't exactly tasteful to cheer the death of a hated political figure, but I just don't see that it's actually wrong. Is it insensitive to the bereaved family? Possibly, but then you might argue that the politician's choice to live that public light automatically puts the person's family in the position to see explicitly how people feel about him/her. Of course, there might be some distinction made between current/retired politicians too -- given how long PM Thatcher has been out of office, how old she was, etc., it might be less acceptable to cheer her death than it might be a current politician whose current policies are deemed terrible .... Hm, don't know!

hope that's useful!

ap

Interesting question! I don't know about giving 'objective' guidance, but it does seem to me that on the scale of despicable or reprehensible actions, this one would be pretty low, if on the scale at all! It also seems reasonable to me to suppose that very public figures -- in particular politicians, whose actions affect large masses of people directly and indirectly -- ARE appropriate objects of (civil) scorn, both in life and in death. Perhaps it isn't exactly tasteful to cheer the death of a hated political figure, but I just don't see that it's actually wrong. Is it insensitive to the bereaved family? Possibly, but then you might argue that the politician's choice to live that public light automatically puts the person's family in the position to see explicitly how people feel about him/her. Of course, there might be some distinction made between current/retired politicians too -- given how long PM Thatcher has been out of office, how old she was, etc., it might be less acceptable to cheer her...

You are a single male, a highly attractive female asks you to engage in a sexual

You are a single male, a highly attractive female asks you to engage in a sexual relationship with her. However, they are already in a long-term, albeit unstable relationship. Do you accept or decline the offer? I have declined on the basis that should I accept there is a likelihood that the pleasure I would gain is less than the suffering I would cause to their partner (who I do not know) and there is a possibility I am being used to hurt their partner. From canvasing the opinion of my friends I am almost unique in my decision. Am I wrong or do I just need better friends?

I have a somewhat different take than my co-panelist.

Yes: we can tag the sorts of reasons you're offering as Utilitarian, though I'm not sure that adds a lot. I'd ask a different question: are they the sorts of considerations a morally conscientious person might care about? Seems to me they are, and that seems even clearer when we put them in a plain-spoken way: you're worried that you'll hurt someone else. And you're not sure that whatever pleasure you get out of the arrangement makes up for the hurt. Whether that settles the matter or not, if your friends don't think that's relevant than maybe you do need better friends!

We could ask whether you have an obligation to the woman's partner, but I worry that the retreat to polysyllaby hides the more basic point: how your behavior affects this man is morally relevant. The old-fashioned question "How would you feel if you were in his shoes?" is a perfectly good way to see that.

I'm not about to offer concrete advice about this case; there's way too much I don't know. But the question you're asking suggests to me that you're a decent guy.

However, I do agree with my colleague that, moral questions aside, this smells like a mess. That might be enough to settle the question by itself.

Curious whether your friends accept the empirical part of your reasoning, about the likelihood of gained pleasure/suffering. Assuming that they do then this issue nicely seems to come down to the classic debate between utilitarian and deontological ethics, it seems. Others are much more expert than I on these matters, but you seem to be using basic utilitarian reasoning -- see what maximizes happiness/pleasure (or minimizes unhappiness etc), and then that's the right thing. But of course the other way to look at hte situation is this: the female in question (one presumes) is adult, mature, etc., and capable of making her own autonomous decisions. To respect her as such is to recognize that, in effect, if it's okay with her then it could be okay with you. What you are considering is the harm you're doing to her pre-existing partner -- but then a separate argument needs to be made perhaps that YOU have any obligation to that partner if she does not. (By the way: is or was her view that the partner was...

Is it a contradiction to believe in God and also in science? I believe in

Is it a contradiction to believe in God and also in science? I believe in evolution and look at the Big Bang theory skeptically, but I also believe in God as the creator of everything. Many have often told me that you can't really accept these theories and also believe in God without causing a contradiction, but I always thought of it as science answering how things happen, whereas my faith in God answers why things happen. What do you think?

A wonderful, rich, and controversial question -- and there are lots of people out there thinking about it. (I happen to like Paul Davies on this subject -- but see also very recent books by Thomas Nagel and Alvin Plantinga ...) Just a quick thought for here. If someone says there's a contradiction they have to be able to state explicitly what it is. You get quick contradictions if perhaps you read the bible very literally and then listen to scientific theories of the creation of the universe, and/or the development of human beings. But lots of deeply religious people do not think the bible is to be read entirely literally, including such famous thinkers as Maimonides, Aquinas, and others. Given what you say it sounds like you're in the 'non-literal' camp ... but then to be sure you're NOT accepting contradictions you need to spell out as explicitly as you can just what science says about creation and what the Bible says, and satisfy yourself they are consistent ... As for your latter point, well -- the line between 'how' and 'why' really is not clear at all. Some read scientific claims as describing 'necessities,' laws which necessarily govern what happens -- and if something 'necessarily' happens that may well be to explain 'why' it happens. Or if you want to reserve for God (say) the explanation of 'why' things happen in the sense of 'to what end or purpose' -- well you need to look quite carefully at what science suggests about purposes and then, separately, really consider whether the empirical evidence, i.e. the course of events in the world, really does support the view that things, everything, the whole package, occurs for some purpose. (Can you say what that purpose is? If not, then why believe there is one?) Anyway this is all just the tip of the iceberg -- have a look at the authors I mentioned, and maybe my own introductory volume "The God Question: what famous thinkers have said about the divine"...)

best,

ap

A wonderful, rich, and controversial question -- and there are lots of people out there thinking about it. (I happen to like Paul Davies on this subject -- but see also very recent books by Thomas Nagel and Alvin Plantinga ...) Just a quick thought for here. If someone says there's a contradiction they have to be able to state explicitly what it is. You get quick contradictions if perhaps you read the bible very literally and then listen to scientific theories of the creation of the universe, and/or the development of human beings. But lots of deeply religious people do not think the bible is to be read entirely literally, including such famous thinkers as Maimonides, Aquinas, and others. Given what you say it sounds like you're in the 'non-literal' camp ... but then to be sure you're NOT accepting contradictions you need to spell out as explicitly as you can just what science says about creation and what the Bible says, and satisfy yourself they are consistent ... As for your latter point, well --...

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