2nd Exam - Human Nature and Epistemology
The Question of
- why should we think we can live forever? (Rachels)
seems to be evidence that we are more than our bodies (we have a soul;
we are conscious)
Socratic view of the soul:
it is whole (has not parts); therefore it cannot de-compose
(ii) it is the seat of our identity; therefore if it lives on, we
with the Socratic view of the soul:
the soul might have parts (as Freud suggested; id, ego, superego);
or may simply "fade away" even if it is a whole that temporarily
(ii) we may be a unity of body and soul, even if there is a soul;
therefore, if our bodies die at least a part of our unique identity
for and against life after death
descriptions of "near-death"
accuracy of a medium's communications
(ex: p. 50) in which people exhibit knowledge they could not have
gained in their apparent lives.
explanations of those descriptions
alternate explanations of the medium's successful communications
(according to scientific standards of experimentation) in the supportive
research (p. 51)
Religion and Science
- Are they necesarily in conflict?
is no conflict - Gould asserting NOMA - non-overlapping magesteria
idea: religion deals with morals (values and meaning) and science deals
with metaphysics (fact). If so, no conflict is possible.
religion and science might deny this (religion makes claims about
events; science claims to explain morality through evolution)
believers take their claims to be true and not just inspiring
is conflict - Dawkins focuses on the idea that at least some
religious claims are true.
Jesus is in fact God, or Jesus is a morality tale
problem: our morals don't seem to be based in religious doctrine, since
we judge religious doctrine as good or bad
- Differing Magesteria
- Overlapping Magesteria
the goals and doctrines of religion and science in conflict
essentially - that is, by their very nature, not because of
- Science deals with fact and religions deals with value/meaning
- both science and religion deal with fact and value, each in their
domain should not be threatened by the other, regarding their doctrines
science or religion would have to change if a genuine dialogue were
to take place among them
make factual claims and science makes claims about morality.
existence of evolutionary reasons for moral claims does not preclude
Minds and Machines
- what is consciousness? could a machine have it?
asserts that bodies and minds are made of different kinds of substances:
the one material and mechanical, the other immaterial and purposive. The
mind is used to explain why we have thoughts, emotions and other such
mental/psychological abilities and experiences. Reasons to deny that such
a mind exists:
is difficult to define what a non-material thing is, in other than negative
terms (i.e., it is not physical, not mortal, etc)
b. we don't know how the mind and body can causally interact
is a response to these problems. It holds that "mind" is nothing
but an expression of matter functioning at a certain level of complexity.
The question is, is "mind" reducible to matter, or not?
argues it is causally but not ontologically reducible: brain
functions "cause" thoughts, emotions, etc. to exist, but once
these thoughts and such exist they are different in nature (ontologically
different) from the brain events that caused them.
argues that it is too soon to know that minds are not also
ontologically reducible to brain events, and that Searle contradicts
himself when he says that the mind is material, but that it
is ontologically different from the material brain.
events are ontologically unique
is probable that mental events are nothing but physical events
Our current patterns of explanation replace appearance-based views
with reality-based science
Appearance is reality, when it comes to minds
"Minds" are an artifact of "folk psychology"
A science of the brain is only just developing, and all signs point
in the direction of understanding mind in physical, brain terms
our patterns of explanation change radically in the future, we may
come to assert that minds are ontologically reducible to brains
confuses ontological issues with epistemological issues: just because
mind is "known to us" as appearances (epistemology) doesn't
mean that mind is identical to those appearances (ontology)
- Are there foundations to knowledge, or must we be skeptics?
is a property of those beliefs that we have reasons to trust (and those
reasons can be shared with/accepted by others)
to trust always involve one or more of three things (at least, for our
based on evidence
(ii) delivered through logic
(iii) consistency with other well-established beliefs
Epistemological Problem: what is the most reliable reason to trust?
Secondary question: How strict must our standards be?
is the common-sense notion that our beliefs should be justified either
by other justified beliefs or by self-evident foundations
the latter is necessary to avoid an "infinite regress" of
(ii) self-evident foundations are "deliverances" that are
generated by "reliable belief-forming mechanisms," such
as having a perceptual experience, and that require no further justification
argues that even self-evident deliverances are rejected when they generate
beliefs that conflict with other beliefs and experiences we may have.
Thus the coherentist argues that:
individual beliefs are justified by their place or "fit"
in a larger tenable
system of beliefs
(ii) Elgin uses the case of the missing Latin textbook to illustrate
how we use multiple bits of evidence and claims to generate a belief
that is supported by all those bits together (i.e., as a system)
Problem: a system of beliefs can be coherent and have no connection
to reality (such as a novel or a movie)
Implication of problem: at some point, there must be some part of
the system that is justified not by its relations to other parts of
the system, but by its relation to something outside the system -
namely, the very same foundations described above.
Elgin's response to this implication:
we can have an "initially tenable commitment" to perceptual
b. even perceptual deliverances can be over-ridden by "second
order commitments" (beliefs and principles we have developed
over time to help us deal sorting through the immediate data and
beliefs) and "contravening considerations" (other bits
of evidence or beliefs that give reason to reject some belief or
argument for Global Skepticism (the claim that nothing could provide evidence
that our beliefs are true):
1: Knowledge must be certain to count as knowledge. That is, if
you have any reason to doubt that your belief, or some claim, is true,
then you can't say you know it to be so.
No ways of justifying our beliefs are infallible.
Conclusion: We cannot claim to know anything (although
of course we can have as many opinions or beliefs as we wish).
- a response to skepticism, with critique
can know on the basis of non-entailing reasons (Fallibilism)
is a practical, but not philosophically defensible, response to skepticism
for knowledge vary by context (defined by our intentions/purposes,
salient information, etc)
the philosophical context - in which contextualism is being developed
- standards do not vary
There are no clear standards for defining an acceptable context
word "know" is like "flat" or "bald"
- it allows for degrees (because justification comes in degrees)
the "degrees" are too extensive, the word "know"
becomes virtually meaningless
If I know P and P entails Q, then I know Q.
generates skepticism (ex: P = zebra; Q = it's not a mule)
response: P and Q should be interpreted as "known" in two
different non-comparable contexts
Freedom and Responsibility
- we feel free - but are we?
positions on the question of whether or not we are truly free (in the
ontological, not political sense):
have no freedom in a causally determined world.
are completely free from the causal relations that determine and govern
are free even in a causally determined world.
Freedom demands "Ultimate Responsibility": the ability to
control the reason for an action's occuring.
2. In a determined world, we do not have this control.
Some of our actions are not sufficiently caused by natural factors.
2. These actions are free actions.
We have "second-order" desires - i.e., desires about which
desires we want to have.
2. Free actions are those which accord with our second-order desires,
no matter how we aquired the latter.
logically strong, this view seems to ignore the distinction between
actions we know are unfree and those which seem to differ in important
agency is either "mysterious" or random; neither provides
support for the idea of "self-caused" actions
ultimate responsibility is your criteria for freedom, this view acknowledges
that we don't have this.
on the freedom debate:
that freedom seems to require that we can make "self-forming actions"
(SFA). This is important because we can always do what we want, baring
external obstacles - but if we don't have control of those wants, then
we are not ultimately responsible for the actions those wants generate.
(ex: the so-called Stockholm
Syndrome, in which a kidnapped victim comes to identify and sympathize
with his/her kidnapper)
argue that we can be held responsible for our "second
order" desires (those that reflect "who we want to be"
and are thus those that would count as "self-forming" desires
and actions) for historical reasons. These have to do with how, in the
past and up to the point of action, we have assumed responsiblity for
our desires and behaviors. Note: Fischer says (p. 121) that he's not
sure he can actually support this claim logically; just that it seems
reasonable to him.
question arises in relation to ethics because you can only hold people
responsible for actions that are under their own control. Yet determinism
implies that "at any one point in time, there is only one possible
future" - that is, given the exact set of inner and outer circumstances
in which a decision is made, only one decision would be possible.
Yet as Dennet
argues, social stability demands that we hold people responsible for their
actions (when it is reasonably fair to do so). Thus we seem to have two
choices: pretend that we are free for the sake of social stability, or
show that moral responsibility is real, even in a determined world.
responsibility is real.
can grow in their awareness of "...the factors that play a causal
role in..." their behavior. (p. 157)
(ii) this awareness gives us some control over our responses to these
factors and, thus, supports a sense of responsibility
(iii) Social institutions are such that we are "obliged" to
become cognizant of these causal factors
responsibility is not real, even if it is needed.
v. Social Considerations
justice (in matters of moral praise and blame) would require a libertarian
free will (see "non-determinism" above); but we don't have
Both social and moral practices require that we think of ourselves
as a "Community of Responsibility."
Therefore, we cannot be "monists" regarding the question
and injustice in a nuanced worldview
people do have "compatibilist control" over their actions
- that is, they are aware of right and wrong, exert some control over
their impulses and so forth.
No one has libertarian control over their actions - that is, no one
is self-forming; all are ultimately subject to determinist causes
of their actions.
incorporate pity as well as justice into our ascriptions of blame
while practically necessary, is ethically shallow