Philosophy 1010 Class #8 Title: Introduction to Philosophy



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  • Philosophy 1010
  • Class #8
  • Title: Introduction to Philosophy
  • Instructor: Paul Dickey
  • E-mail Address: pdickey2@mccneb.edu
  • Please Note: Last day to drop this class is 11/2 or 11/3 (Thursday class). If you are thinking about dropping the class, I encourage you to speak to me privately. Maybe there are alternatives.
  • Gates of Hell
  • Hand back Midterm Exams.
  • Where Do We Go From Here?
    • Chap 5 – What are the sources of knowledge? Reason? Experience? Or perhaps Faith ??? (deleted)
    • Chap 6 – What is Truth? How does it work in everyday life? In science?
    • Chap 7 – What is it to be moral? Should I be moral?
  • Reading Assignment:
  • Chapter Six, Sections 6.1 and 6.2
  • pp. 368-394.
  • Also due next week:
  • One paragraph statement of your essay topic with a brief summary of the argument you will give in your essay.
  • Essay Due – Last Day of Class (11/17 or 11/18)
  • Electronic/Online Course/Instructor Feedback (ELKHORN ONLY)
  • 10/FA Availability
  • until
  • 11/15/2010
  • Hand out instruction sheets!!!
  • Midterm Exam
  • Discussion
  • Chapter Four Quiz
  • (worth 15 points)
  • Discuss
  • Class Essay
  • You are writing a short 3-5-page essay (computer-printed or typed, double-spaced, 1” margins, Times Romans 12-point font).
    • The paper must demonstrate your understanding of a topic we discussed -- for example, the mind/body problem.
    • You will need to identify two philosophers to discuss in your essay in regard to your topic.
    • Your paper will show specific understanding of the two points of view on the issue by the two philosophers which raises an apparent conflict.
    • The student will propose in his or her paper an argument to resolve the conflict between the positions. In doing this analysis, you will be using your own independent thinking.
    • You will need to explicitly identify a narrow sub-topic on the issue that you choose that appropriately allows you to make an interesting claim about how your philosophers agree or disagree on the issue.
  • Requirements for Class Essay
    • You are free to select from a broad availability of sources (but not Wikipedia). If you have a question about the appropriateness of a source you wish to use, please discuss this with instructor before you turn in your essay.
    • You must use at least three sources, but not more than five (otherwise your research could get unwieldy).
    • Topic to be selected with instructor approval by next week. By then, you should have a good idea what your general argument will be.
    • Essay are due when you come to final exam on the last day of class. No essays will be accepted after that time!!!
    • The essay will be 15% of your course grade.
    • Any questions?
  • Requirements for Class Essay
  • Requirements for Class Essay
  • Choosing a Topic:
  • 1. Hopefully, something we have talked about in class has interested you. Perhaps you are intrigued, for example, by the third proof of the existence of God: the Argument from Design.
  • 2. Pick two philosophers that we have discussed who addressed the question, say William Paley and David Hume.
  • 3. Focus your attention on one point where they disagreed. For example, Paley and Hume disagreed about the validity of the watchmaker analogy.
  • 4. Decide what you think about this particular disagreement and make a statement (a claim!) that summarizes your own view on it. For example, a claim might be: Paley based the watchmaker analogy on strong scientific evidence that David Hume did not recognize. Notice that simply saying “Paley was right and Hume was wrong” is not a good claim because it is excessively vague. Now, have fun and let’s hear your argument for that conclusion !!!
  • Your essay will be graded as an sum of five scores:
      • How correctly do you represent the view of the 1st philosopher? NO STRAW MEN ALLOWED!
      • How correctly do you represent the view of the 2st philosopher? NO STRAW MEN ALLOWED!
      • Is your claim reasonable and clearly stated?
      • Do you give a good argument for your claim?, and
      • Technical areas such as grammar, spelling. Did you follow the specified requirements?, did you provide a bibliography of your sources, etc.
  • Requirements for Class Essay
  • Online Philosophy Sources that you
  • might wish to use in your term paper:
  • http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/
  • http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/gpi/philo.htm
  • http://philosophy.hku.hk/psearch/
  • http://www.uni-giessen.de/~gk1415/philosophy.htm
  • http://plato.stanford.edu/
  • Break!
  • Chapter 4
  • Philosophy and God
  • (a Metaphysical Study)
  • Theism is the belief in a personal God who is creator of the world and present in its processes and who is actively engaged in the affairs of humans.
  • Pantheism is the belief that God is the universe and its phenomena (taken or conceived of as a whole). God exists but is not personally involved in the lives of men.
  • Atheism is the denial of Theism. (Metaphysical View) It states that there is no God.
  • Agnosticism is the view that it cannot be known whether God exists or not. (Epistemological View)
  • According to Logical Positivism, the question Does God Exist? is meaningless.
  • Does God Exist?
  • Surely before trying to answer the question, one needs to ask the following questions:
    • What does one mean by the word or concept of “God?”
    • What is the sense of existence that is being asserted when one says God exists.
  • Without being clear about these issues, the argument often becomes mostly subjective.
  • First, Can We Even Make Sense
  • of the Question?
  • If we say that God is the “creator of the universe,” do we mean:
    • 1) that there is a Being that is God that could or could not be the one who created the universe, but as a matter of fact is the creator of the universe? Or
    • 2) that by definition that God is the Being that created the universe such that it would be a logical error to say that God did not create the universe.
  • Note that if we mean the first, we have still not said who (or what) God is, apart from what he has done.
  • If we mean the second, of course given the inherent assumptions, then God exists. But we have committed the logical fallacy of “begging the question.”
    • What Do We Mean by “God?”
  • Is existence a property of an entity? I say “This chair is black.” Blackness is a property of the chair. So that I would say that this chair has the property of “existing” and thus there could be chairs some of which have the property and some don’t. Then would I say that some chairs exist and some do not like I would say some chairs are black and some are not?
  • Or is existence of the chair identified in terms of its relationship to a real world, say Hobbes’ material world or Berkeley’s mental world? But then what sense does it make to say that God’s existence is dependent upon a world that He created and itself came into “existence” after Him?
  • If not, then what is this form of existence for God that we are asserting?
    • What is the Meaning of Existence that is Being Used to Say that God Exists?
  • We generally believe that only things that exist can have properties. Thus, by referring to God with properties, I.e. omnipotent, do we “prove” that God exists?
    • Probably not of course. We refer to Santa Claus as “having a white beard” and “living at the North Pole.”
  • Bertrand Russell proposed a Theory of Descriptions to account for how we refer to things that may or may not exist.
    • Russell’s solution is to take names to be shorthand for descriptions. For example, “Santa Claus” is a person who goes by the description that he lives on North Pole, and delivers toys to kids for Christmas”, and the sentence “Santa doesn’t exist” should be understood as “There is no X, such that X is a person that lives on North Pole, etc., etc…”.
    • Is it Possible to Talk About Something
    • that Does Not Exist?
  • Thus, presumably for Russell to say “God does not exist” would be to say “There is no Being, such that the Being “existed” prior to the creation of the universe, and then created the universe, etc., etc…”.
  • This seems reasonable enough, but Omahan and renowned logicist Saul Kripke has a major problem with Russell’s view.
  • Kripke counters: But if Santa did exist, wouldn’t we be able to imagine Santa not living on the North Pole? Or wouldn’t we be able to imagine him not delivering presents for Christmas? If that is so, then Santa can’t be a shortened description of the type we presented, because it would fail to refer to Santa in these cases.
  • And now we are back to Square One!
    • How is it Possible to Talk About Something that Does Not Exist?
  • Theism is so confused and the sentences in which 'God' appears so incoherent and so incapable of verifiability or falsifiability that to speak of belief or unbelief, faith or unfaith, is logically impossible.
    • A. J. Ayer, Language, Truth, and Logic
  • Wikipedia suggests A. J. Ayer (1910-1989) was an atheist. Ayer’s position on the existence of God should not be confused with atheism. Of course, claiming that God does not exist also lacks analytic or empirical verifiability and is thus also meaningless.
  • Many (perhaps most?) mid to late 20th century philosophers who abandoned strict logical positivism (including Russell and Wittgenstein) still found Ayer’s response to this issue quite credible.
  • On the other hand, maybe the question is too obvious and important to give up on, so let’s stumble on ….
    • So, is Logical Positivism right after all?
  • Saint Anselm (c. 1033-1109) provided the classical ontological argument (”proof”) for the existence of God:
    • First of all, Anselm argues, God is that Being for which “none greater can be conceived.”
    • But if God did not exist, then we could conceive a greater Being, namely a God that does exist.
    • Thus, God must exist.
    • Note: This argument does not give evidence of God’s existence. It attempts to prove it.
  • Unfortunately, the argument seems to suppose that
        • Existence is a property of a thing, and
        • Non-existence is an imperfection.
  • Immanuel Kant argued against Anselm’s Ontological Argument that it defines God into existence, that is, Anselm has formed a concept of God that itself requires existence as a property.
  • Nonexistence was an imperfection, thus God could not have that property since he by definition is perfect.
  • And thus, Anselm is begging the question.
  • Few philosophers or theologians today accept Anselm’s Ontological Argument.
    • The Ontological Argument:
    • Kant’s Objection
  • Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) provided several cosmological arguments (”proofs”) for the existence of God that were of the following form:
    • First of all, Aquinas argues, “Some things move.”
    • What moves must be moved (caused) by something prior.
    • This movement (causation) can not have an infinite regression for it must have an origin.
    • The origin of the movement (the cause) cannot itself move (or be caused).
    • Thus, God (the original mover or first cause) must exist.
    • The Traditional “Proofs”
    • The Cosmological Argument
  • After Newton, it is necessary to refine Aquinas’ first argument to refer to acceleration rather than motion.
  • More damaging to his argument however is an objection that questions the assumption that there can be no infinite regress in the causal sequences of the universe. How do we know that the universe is not infinite?
  • The “Big Bang” theory seems potentially to counter this objection. The universe (along with space and time) does appear to have had a beginning.
  • But the argument still does not preclude alternatives. Could our universe have come into existence from events in another universe and thus we could still have an infinity of events in multiple universes?
    • The Traditional “Proofs”
    • The Cosmological Argument
  • Aquinas believed that even if the universe existed forever, then there would still need to be a First Cause which would be God.
  • David Hume (1711-1776) disagreed. He claimed that if one had an explanation for all the parts of a thing (in particular, all individual causal links in the universe), it did not require an additional explanation for the whole.
  • Many analysts, most notably Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), have argued that the argument’s premise that every event must have a cause is actually inconsistent with his conclusion that God does not have a cause.
    • The Traditional “Proofs”
    • The Cosmological Argument
  • The Argument From Design, also known as the teleological argument (thus being traced back to Aristotle) states that the order and purpose manifest in the working of nature, and particularly, human nature require that there be a logical designer or God.
  • This argument is very popular today and is probably the most prevalent and strongest argument for the existence of God.
  • The best known early formulation of this argument was given by the theologian William Paley (1743-1805).
  • Paley compared natural organisms to the mechanism of a watch and by analogy argued that as the design of the watch demonstrates the existence of a watchmaker, natural design shows the work of a “Divine Agency.”
  • Relying on a multitude of examples including the migration of birds, the adaptability of species, and the human eye, Paley seemed to make a pretty convincing argument given the science of the day,
  • David Hume did object however on the basis that as an argument from analogy, the argument was weak. Arguments from analogy are only as strong as our knowledge of the relevant similarities. In this one, we do not know how nature and living things are made and thus that it is at all “like” a watch being made.
  • Hume was arguing against Paley’s assumption that complex order can be produced only by an intelligent being. That may or may not be the case, Hume would say. Anticipating Darwin, he suggested that perhaps a finite amount of particles in random motion might achieve order.
    • The Argument From Design
  • Charles Darwin (1809-1882) filled in the missing pieces of Hume’s argument by producing scientific evidence for just what the mechanism could be in nature to produce the order and appearance of design that Hume was suggesting.
  • Darwin suggested that the process was one he called natural selection. Over millions of years, Darwin argued, random mechanical processes could produce organisms that seemed perfectly designed.
  • Darwin contended that life forms exhibit inherited “variations” that were gradually selected in a “struggle for survival” to produce new characteristics of species and even new species.
    • The Argument from Design & Darwinism
  • Others continue to defend the Argument From Design while granting the possibility of natural selection processes, rationalizing that it is then just the process by which God produces living things.
  • But this later posture gives up a lot of theological ground. It allows for God to act randomly and that He allows harmful consequences to exist in his creation.
  • For many others, the Darwinian theory of evolution was taken as a “threat” to the Argument From Design which seemed to be the last bastion of a ultimate support for the existence of God. Thus many theists to this day resist the Darwinian view which meanwhile has become the dominant scientific theory within Biology and has also developed extended applications in other sciences and our entire intellectual culture. William Dembski (1960- ) argues for an empirical theory of intellectual design and specified complexity.
    • The Argument from Design & Darwinism
  • If any of these arguments were successful, they still do not demonstrate that God is necessarily personally engaged in the affairs of you or I today.
  • Thus, they still may only be an argument for a form of pantheism, not Theism.
  • Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) argued that if God is omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), and omnipresent (always present), then God must be everything. There can be no world outside God (even one he created).
  • Panentheism is an alternate view that all is in God. God is unchanging but also is a unity of all diversity, being and becoming. This is the view of the Pragmatist Charles Peirce (1839-1914).
    • Other Issues ….
  • Atheists such as Richard Dawkins (1941-) state unequivocally that there is no God.
  • In taking a metaphysical position on the issue, Atheism assumes the same burden in regard to all the issues of meaning and evidence that Theism does.
  • Atheism must assert reasons that God does not exist just as we expected the Theist to provide “proofs” for the existence of God.
  • Many would argue that Atheism requires just as much faith as does Theism, but is it really a matter of faith or the strength of your argument?
  • The primary argument given by Atheists that God does not exist is the problem of evil.
  • Atheism
  • The Problem of Evil in its simplest form argues that since evil exists in the world, then God is either not all powerful or all good. David Hume subscribed to this view.
  • St. Augustine took a position against this view, arguing that God created the universe and all the good in the world but the universe he created is not itself God and is imperfect, finite, and limited. In this way, it allows the existence of evil as incomplete goodness.
  • Many argue that St. Augustine does not resolve the issue. Why would not God who is all good ensure that there was no evil in His universe?
  • A popular theological argument is that evil is necessary for the Good to exist. But then is God not omnipotent if he cannot create Good without Evil?
  • Another argument the Theist gives is that God allows Evil in order to give man Free Will. But how does this account for natural disasters such as hurricanes?
  • Or maybe, they think, we are confused about what is Good? What we think is Evil is Good in the mind of God?
  • John Hick (1922- ) argues that the presence of evil is necessary for Man to be made into the likeness of God. Experiencing evil gives meaning to virtue for Man and allows him to develop into virtuous beings.
  • The Problem of Evil
  • That injustice exists in the world should not lead us to reject God. Rather it should compel us pursue a perfectly just world. It is a moral obligation.
  • To believe that such a world is possible with evil fully punished and good rewarded would require a belief in God and an afterlife.
  • And since all moral obligations must be possible, then God must exist.
  • According to Kant’s argument, we must believe in God although perhaps we cannot know that God exists.
  • Immanuel Kant
  • Thomas Huxley (1825-1895) argued that it is incorrect to say that one is certain of the truth of a proposition unless he can produce evidence that logically justifies that certainty.
  • Sigmund Freud suggested that our belief in God is an “illusion” and had its origins in infantile needs for a “father.”
  • Freud’s view was influential throughout the 20th century but is considered by most today as an insufficient explanation. Further, even if it were true as a psychological explanation, that does not make the claim that the belief is an “illusion” and that God does not exist true. Such an argument commits what is known logically as the Genetic Fallacy.
  • Agnosticism
  • William James (1842-1910 ) proposed that in the absence of irrefutable evidence for the existence of God, there still is justifiable reason to believe.
  • James suggests that in this condition, we have the option to choose what we believe. We do not have an option not to choose, as perhaps an agnostic might suggest. To choose not to make a decision is, for James, to decide.
  • James discusses three fundamental characteristics of such options:
  • “The Will to Believe”
  • An Option is a person's decision among a set of hypotheses. A genuine option is living, forced, and momentous.
    • A living option in one in hypotheses are live, i.e., they are real possibilities for someone. Since I grew up attending a Christian church and was raised to believe that way, it may not be a real option for me to become a Buddhist, but it is a real option for me to become a Presbyterian.
    • A forced option is a dilemma— the hypothesis cannot be avoided. I.e., for someone enrolled in this class to come to class or not is forced. Deciding whether or not God exists and/or we will conduct ourselves according to that may be forced in this sense.
    • A momentous option is one that is unique and may well be one's only opportunity. The choice is not trivial, but significant, because one only has one chance to do it.
  • James then argues when an option is genuine (that is, living, forced and momentous) and cannot be decided on intellectual grounds, it is justifiable to choose on the basis of our passional nature. In fact, James would argue one should so choose.
  • For James, our “passional nature” consists of all nonintellectual interests, emotions, desires, hopes, fears, commitments, our deepest personal needs, etc.
  • James would hold that when an option is not genuine, it makes the best sense to decide to withhold judgment until “the evidence is in.”
  • “The Will to Believe”
  • W. K. Clifford, 1845-1879, argued against James (as did Thomas Huxley), asserting that it is absolutely and always wrong to make any judgment without sufficient evidence. By doing so, you make yourself vulnerable to logical and factual error.
  • To the contrary, James pointed out that this was one option that could be chosen and one that would have the advantage that it might protect us from believing what was false.
  • On the other hand, another option is to try to protect ourselves from missing out on the truth and the truth that would be the one that is ultimately significant to ourselves.
  • James would choose this option, while recognizing that it itself must be chosen not on rational grounds, but on passional grounds.
  • In Conclusion
  • Group
  • Activity
  • Theists vs. Agnostics
  • vs. Atheists


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