What is Philosophy?
A way of asking and answering questions by using linguistic and conceptual analysis.
Course is about three topics in Philosophy:
1. Personhood and identity
What is personhood ? What are the criteria for identity?
2. Knowledge - Epistemology
What do we know and why or how do we know what we know? Can we know anything?
3. Ethics and politics
How to talk about ethics? What is right and wrong? How to set up our political system?
1. Persoonhood and identity
1596 - 1650
Descartes from the observations of physics of his time, everything taking up space, having a volume, mass, motion, momentum, the mind cannot be physical because it seems not to have any of these properties. Here from arises dualism where the body is physical but the mind, the self, is a non-physical substance.
Because animals machine and men can have the same physical charteristics and processes the difference must be for humans the use of thought expressed by language. The difference is something non-physical.
Also because the physical world is only known through our senses and are senses are not perfect, there is a possibility to have doubts about the realism of the physical world, but you cannot have doubts about you’re thinking because it presupposes the ability to think. Cognito ergo sum. So the physical world being contingent (could be false) but you cannot doubt about your thoughts, your mind must be something different than your physical body or awareness of the physical world.
- Energy = mass, but energy doesn’t take up any space.
- How can a nonphysical substance like the mind influence something physical like a body?
- The brain of animals and men ARE physically different
- How can you asses if animals or machines do or do not think? How can we know anyone thinks outside ourselves? (solipsism - I’m the only thinking thing)
1632 - 1704
Because mathematical identity as a concept is not useful for describing persons because its too precise, Locke tries to define identities in multiple ways so that the definition of identity is suited for the thing/concept it tries to define.
Where a stone or something non living can be described or defined as a collection of parts, small pieces of matter compounded, a living thing is about the focal point of being alive and the collection of parts merely supports the concept of something being alive.
Locke was especially interested to make a distinction between 'human beings’, being just purely described in biological terms and ‘persons’ who are a collection of conscious thoughts and feelings, conscious life and have moral and legal ramifications. This way of looking has had a tremendous influence if the forming of the political and legal system of the US.
The degree that a human being is also a person is called its personhood. And that absence or diminished sense of personhood has influence over to what extent we hold someone accountable or responsible for someones actions. We do not attribute full personhood to a minor or sleepwalker for instance.
But in a special case like a drunkard that also has diminished or absent personhood we do hold this person accountable in a legal sense because Locke views that the legal system is not just about justice (whats fair) but also there to maintain order (whats safe).
We need the concept of personhood / identity to know when to connect a system of moral and legal rules to an individual according to Locke.
Objections to personhood, the critics
Similarities between Descartes & Locke > Both mentalistic:
- Behaviour is a conscious mental state
- Our identities are comprised of conscious mental states, these mental states make up our “interior self"
Critics: interior self is a myth. No distinction between biological self and personhood can be made
> Behaviorism (Ryle , Skinner are 2 prominent proponents)
Oxford, professor. Ordinary language Philosophy School
> philosophical problems arise out of confusion of language. Language is too back so oversimplification and misunderstandings of words happen/arise.
And words are just a manifestation of our bodies with no real existence or reflectiong a real mental state or even probing a mind.
Mind/body is a category mistake
> a linguistic mistake / error; one type of word mistaken for another type of word. we think mentalistic words refer to mental objects/entities/events but they do not. They describe how someone is likely to act or relates to a set of actions.basically someone’s behavioural dispositions. He is thirsty meaning he is likely to drink. thirsty has no real meaning, offers no explanation , the word is not the same as the mental concept of thirsty.
B.F. Skinner (1904 - 1990)
Influential Behavioral Psychologist. Attack on society that should be rearranged, restructured based on science and technology (technocrats) to end all human suffering. So for humanitarian reasons.
He thinks we should overcome ‘ myths’ because they hold us back in our progress to eliminate human suffering, all natural and social ills. (the measures he wants to employ are very extreme, based on too simplistic view on human needs, too focused on material needs). The myths that needs to be overcome:
- Illusion of personhood / interior self
- Freedom of will, autonomous.
- Dignity and other moral axiomatic notions
1. Mental causes give the illusion of explanations and discourage further explorations of causation (environment and history of environment influence for instance)
2. Mental states are empty, vacuous. Empty of information.
3. Mental states are difficult/impossible to observe so this is the wrong starting point for science. (society for human good, should be based on science & technology)
Last 500 years enormous technology progress to have more control over our lives and our environment, external control. Industry evolution, modern philiopshy, enlightenment, value of the individual (liberal view). Downside of this: It lead to too much control/power desire. This will lead to a diminished control of the individual in the end.
2. Knowledge - Epistemology
1. What is knowledge
A belief ‘plus’ something, like a truth believe. The assumptions supporting the truth believe matters, it should be justified.
The traditional view is (tripod view):
- S believes P
- S is justified in believing P
- P is true
But this model is too simplistic to account for all cases of knowledge.
2. How do we acquire knowledge
Empiricism: Through the senses we acquire knowledge (although some knowledge be be innate or intuitive (a priori) )
Rationalism: On top of sense are other sources for knowledge, for instance innate knowledge like linguistics (chomsky) or intuition, a priorism, (mathematics)
3. How certain can we be about the things we think we know?
- Unreliability of our senses
- Possibility of simulation / dreaming.
Search for special methods to assess the external world.
Axiomatic belief or foundational beliefs we base are certainty on.
Knowledge may be limited in humans (David Hume).
All substance knowledge originates from the senses. (some may be innate (pursue pleasure or avoid pain) or intuitive).
- Ideas (thoughts) of sensation no1.
- Ideas of reflection no2. (a thought arisen from thought)
Locke was motivated for this view because his view on human (intellectual) autonomy. He believed in free will and didn’t believe in a society that cannot hold persons accountable for their actions.
The argument that knowledge is not innate does not mean that all knowledge stems from experience through the senses. (it could be a combination of all sorts. This is a logical error. (knowledge is not innate because the view that there’s knowledge that is universally agreed upon is false, doesn’t exist).
Primary qualities: Characteristics that is directly transferred from the external object to our mental idea/picture of that object (solidity, shape, mass, motion, etc).These are immutable.
Secondary qualities: Phenomenal effect of the object only existing in our minds (color, taste, sound) these are subject to our perception conditions.
Criticism: But how can we ever know that there’s any external world to begin with at all? The boundary between primary and secondary seems arbitrary because you cannot have any definitive proof that there exists anything beyond our senses/perception.
Descartes view on epistemology (foundation of knowledge) & empiricism
Motivation: Vindicate that we’re free autonomous, rationial creatures with free intellectual capabilities.
Critic on empiricism:
1. Our senses are not always reliable. Senses are imperfect and prone to perception errors.
2. Dreaming is indistinguishable so we cannot know if we’re dreaming or not
So how do we know the validity of the senses. that they are not a faulty perception or dream?
One way would be by deductive proofs or reason, but these can possibly be manipulated by a malicious demon.
But descartes comes to the believe that 2 beliefs are beyond any doubt (dreaming, errors or demon) namely:
1. “I think"
2. “I exist"
One cannot doubt one exists because doubt needs a thought to be able to doubt and you can only think if you exist.
I see a podium
Presupposes a thought AND an external object
I seem to see a podium
Only acknowledges the implied thought and thinking is beyond doubt (same as "I think”) so indubitable.
Descartes epistemological situation:
We can be sure of our own thoughts. These form the basis for our beliefs about the world, the actual nature of things.
> But we need a method, a procedure, to go from thought to beliefs about the physical reality.
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