Archive for category Metaphysics
The Depraved Effect of Empiricism:
“Philosophy, in the academic sense, is the art of asking questions that cannot be answered. Any idiot can ask that kind of question.
The awesome power of rational thought is that we can ask questions to which we CAN find the answer.
Only a total moron turns their back on that.”
— Chance Brown’s comment on this facebook page
Should philosophy be utterly forgotten “since all we need is science”? It’s actually kind of ironic due to that fact that they employ a philosophy to say that “philosophy is stupid”. They are using philosophy to form their argument against philosophy! These people never seem to let me down.
Why We Need Philosophy:
All humans orient their lives around ideas of the nature of reality; how they explain their experiences of reality; and how they explain their ideas about what reality ought to be like. We formed all of these through the help of philosophy — no empirical evidence necessary and yet they are necessary for empirical evidence.
Human beings need metaphysical ideas because they are not born with instincts that determine what they should think and want. We are born with the capacities to make up our own minds and to question any belief we have or meet. It is evident that most of the ideas in history that people have used to explain human experiences have been false or unfounded in many respects, and it is also evident that most of the ideas in history or direct human behaviour have been harmful to other human beings or to themselves. On the other hand, it is also evident that whatever adequate understanding people have of themselves, of others, and of their environment, is based on the asking and answering of the type of general questions that are philosophical. It is human to ask and answer such questions and to play with such ideas– it’s part of our nature.
All ideas about philosophy, including those that condemn philosophy, are themselves philosophical ideas. To declare all philosophical concepts useless, trifling, or impossible is little better than a refusal to do any serious philosophical reasoning. The ideas people live and die for, war and kill for, are all philosophical ideas and are not meant to be shrugged off.
And finally, in Plato’s Apology, Socrates tells us that philosophy is a necessary tool for obtaining wisdom and knowledge. Socrates believed that in the absence of philosophy, we would not be able to question or disagree with our thinking or ideas — we simply go with the flow and assume that whatever we see, hear, or read is correct. As Socrates says, “… as long as I lead an unexamined life, I’m very unlikely to catch my errors and I’m very likely to go on fooling myself.” Hmmm. I thought atheists didn’t like that. I thought they always cry out saying that we “religious folks” ought not to have a “blind faith” mentality — something that is produced when philosophy is absent from the mind.
So whenever a non-believer pulls this bluff as an argument, just give him the basic reasons why we need philosophy and how it’s actively used in everyday life; even in his own argument he’s forming against philosophy.
“But for God, we have no free will. He knows already every influence, past, present and future on our lives. He knows how we behave – and will behave – in every situation. He knows whether we will worship or abandon him. It makes no difference what we do, whether we pray and worship or sin and blaspheme; God knows, even before we are born whether we will enter Heaven or Hell after we die. Our free will is an illusion; our lives are forever fixed in the amber of God’s mind.” (A post from an atheist website)
Many disbeliever agree with the above argument and commonly claim that God’s omniscience is a contradiction. How can God know everything and still allow free will? Their argument usually goes something like this:
1. God know every choice that you and I will make.
2. Since God’s knowledge is infallible, everything that God knows will happen necessarily.
3. Therefore, free will is an illusion.
As another atheist page stated, “If a god knows who will win the next presidential election, then it isn’t possible for anyone else to win.” Is this true? Does God’s omniscience (I’ll use this term interchangeably with foreknowledge; though they are technically different) negate our choice? As you will learn in the rebuttal, premise (2) does not lead to the conclusion.
I’ll make this short and sweet: God’s omniscience does not compel future events to occur; i.e. omniscience does not necessitate you choosing A over B.
There are two necessities in the world — one basic, for example, chimpanzees are mammals; the other being conditional, for example, if you know someone is breathing, he must necessarily be taking in air. Therefore, if God foreknows Bob will walk at 9:14 AM, Bob will walk at 9:14 AM, because that’s the whole point of foreknowing something; it can’t be anything but what you foreknow. Doesn’t this raise a problem though, namely, does Bob walk at 9:14 AM because God foreknew it — or does Bob walk at 9:14 AM because Bob willed it?
Bob freely chooses to walk because there is no necessity that compels Bob, who is voluntarily walking, to choose to go forward; although it is necessary for him to go forward at the moment of walking (just as it is necessary to take in a breath when breathing). In the same way, if God sees anything in the future, that something must necessarily be, although it is bound by no necessity of nature (unlike the sun rising).
Let’s say that the sun was rising when Bob started walking at 9:14 AM. The sun rising and Bob walking at the moment of occurrence could not but be taking place (conditional necessity); yet one of them before it took place was necessarily obliged to be, while the other freely chosen. Likewise, the things which to God are foreknown certainly exist, but some of them come from necessity of nature, while the others from the power of the agent.
Just because God foreknows that we will choose A over B, it doesn’t necessitate that we will choose it; it’s still up to us to choose. And honestly, I think we all know this inside; freedom of will seems to be a very basic and intuitional concept to mankind.
The soul is a pretty weird thing if you think about it. Then again, if you are like me, you haven’t really thought about it at all. A couple of days ago, however, I came across some articles written by J.P. Moreland on the existence and nature of the soul. So, I decided to write about them; I’ll even throw in some of my own thoughts.
The Method of Definition
The best way to define human consciousness is through an ostensive definition (i.e. defining something by pointing to an example of it). We define consciousness this way because it is very difficult to verbally describe mental states.
The Nature of Consciousness
There are five characteristics of human consciousness that can be easily identified:
1. Sensation: a felt/experienced awareness of something. There are two types of sensations: external and internal. External sensations are like seeing the color blue and internal sensations are like feeling pain.
2. Thought: a meaning that is either true or false and can be expressed in a sentence. This doesn’t mean that a thought must always be verbally spoken; it can also be a sentence formed within your consciousness.
3. Belief: a meaning that I take to be true from 51-100%. Beliefs are not necessarily always thoughts. For example, I have plenty of beliefs on the natural sciences, but this doesn’t always mean that they are in thought form within my mind.
4. Desire: a felt inclination toward or away from something. This isn’t the same thing as a sensation. For example, I have a desire to go to Mars, however, I have never had a sensation of Mars.
5. Volition/ Freely willed action/ choice: I have the choice to move my arm; even if my arm is paralyzed. I still can will to move is even though I won’t get a response.
Some Arguments for the Existence of the Soul
Through the law of Identity ( x are identical y, if quality A of x is the same as quality A of y). For example, George Washington is the same as the first president of the United States. Therefore if I ask who was born on February 22, 1732, it will be applicable to both George Washington and the first president of the United States.
First Argument: Mental States Differ from Physical States
Mental/ conscious states do not have the same features as physical states. Therefore, mental events are not physical. For example, sensations, desires, beliefs, and thoughts do not have any physical features (like weight, mass, and spatial features); they are truly immaterial and non-physical. However, the physical episode that occurs within our brains when we have thoughts, sensations, desires, and beliefs do have physical features.
Second Argument: Mental states are self-presenting; Physical states don’t
When you feel an experience of pain or happiness, this sensation is completely personal to your mental state and you know them incorrigible (i.e. you can never be wrong about you feeling pain). Physical things, like the Statue of Liberty or an apple, are in the physical or public domain.
Third Argument: Intentionality
Intentionality is merely the “ofness” or “aboutness” of objects. A physical object can have many physical relationships to another physical object. It can be larger or smaller, taller or shorter, right of left, etc., but it’s nonsense to say that a physical thing like the relationship between weight and gravity has a purpose or intention to something. Intentionality could only exist if there is something outside the physical realm.
Through the law of identity the logical conclusion is that we are not the same thing as our brains (Our mental states are not the same thing as our physical states, etc. ). We can easily conclude that there is a non-physical, immaterial, and eternal part of us that is closely connected with our physical bodies. Which is basically just another way of saying that the human soul exists.
“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage” by Carl Sagan
Suppose (I’m following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you. Surely you’d want to check it out, see for yourself. There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!
“Show me,” you say. I lead you to my garage. You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle — but no dragon.
“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.
“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely. “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible dragon.”
You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.
“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floats in the air.”
Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.
“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.”
You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.
“Good idea, but she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.” And so on. I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.
Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder.
Now there’s a glaring fallacy in this failed analogy. Mr. Sagan plainly states that “if there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists?”. In other words, “If my dragon cannot be put in a test tube, it doesn’t exist.” ( i.e. naturalism is the only way to knowledge). That’s pretty much the whole point of the analogy.
My question for Mr. Sagan is this:
“Can the logic you’re using in your argument be put in a test tube?”
Obviously the answer is “no”. Then how is Sagan justified in saying that naturalism is the only true theory of knowledge? If logic is not a viable way of reasoning, then why should we trust Sagan’s logic? In fact, why trust anybody’s logic? If our brains are just recombinations of matter, why believe that our thoughts and ideas are accurate? Why trust your perception of the world? Why trust science? If our senses have no intrinsic truth value, then we can’t have confidence in anything about the natural world. From this we must conclude that naturalism leaves us in a hopeless vacuum of knowledge. It’s a sad place when we can’t know anything for sure.
So, when Sagan says,”What’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all?” simply say, “What’s the difference between a blind, nihilistic, epistemological belief that spits reasonless contradictions and no epistemological theory at all? There isn’t one!”.
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