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I am reading "How Physics Makes Us Free" and have a question about the central Daniel Dennett thought experiment in the opening chapter. The experiment treats body parts, crucially the brain, as a component of the body like a spark plug in a car (brain in a vat). It is, rather, part of an organism and in my mind indivisible from the nervous system. Even when higher brain function is dead a body will still reject a donated organ and attack it as alien. A thousand same-model spark plugs will work in a car without any issues. It is at the level of biology that identity first appears. Yet the thought experiment treats physics and psychology as the only relevant domains. If the thought experiment were true to biology it would not be enough to replicate all the synapses and nerves but the entire body as the biological instantiation of identity. Am I overstating a life-science claim to some part of this scenario?

You give an interesting argument that the ground of one's identity is biological rather than (just) physical and/or psychological. But it may run into a problem. Not only can one's body reject organs transplanted from someone else. It can also, in the case of autoimmune disease, "reject" (i.e., attack) one's own cells and tissues: sometimes the body doesn't "know its own." Yet it seems incorrect to say that sufferers of autoimmune disease have a "compromised" identity. Does this problem cast doubt on your proposal?

On theory that I've heard for the justification of ethics and moral responsibility in a deterministic viewpoint was that they would act as a kind of "conditioning" to make society better (i.e. we reward for the hope of them doing good and the future and punish so they refrain from doing bad). Are there any arguments against this viewpoint, and are there any other arguments for moral responsibility from a deterministic perspective?

This purely instrumental justification for assigning moral responsibility is typical of hard determinism, which says that, because determinism is true, agents are never morally responsible for their actions, even though society can benefit from talking and acting as if they were. One obvious objection is that it would be dishonest and unfair to treat agents as morally responsible if in fact they are not. But there is another deterministic view of moral responsibility: soft determinism. It says that agents can be genuinely morally responsible for their actions, even though determinism is true, provided that the agents (1) act from motives that they would endorse on reflection, (2) know what they are doing, and (3) are not coerced by other agents. All of (1)-(3) are compatible with determinism. For this reason, soft determinism is a compatibilist attitude toward determinism and moral responsibility. It avoids the charge that assigning moral responsibility is dishonest and unfair. You can...

Why is it important to study logic in philosophy? One answer might be that logic teaches you correct reasoning, but that is not something that is unique to philosophy, as it's important in other fields as well (e.g. history, economics, physics, etc.), and those usually do not include any explicit study of logic.

In my experience, philosophy courses take the explicit, self-conscious formulation and evaluation of arguments (i.e., reasoning) more seriously than any other courses of study, with the possible exception of those math courses that emphasize proofs. Moreover, the breadth and depth of philosophical problems exceed those encountered in math. Therein lie the advantages of philosophy courses as compared to, say, math or economics courses. If you pursue philosophy, I think you'll discover that the standards of argumentative rigor expected in philosophy courses surpass -- sometimes by far -- the standards of rigor expected in any courses outside of math, and again they're applied to a much more varied, and often deeper, set of questions.

If there is a category "Empty Set" it has to have the property "emptiness". It must have this property that separates it from every other set. Thus it is not propertyless - contradiction?

I don't see a contradiction here any more than I did back at Question 26649 , which is nearly identical. Yes, the empty set has the property of being empty and is the only set having that property. But the emptiness of the empty set doesn't imply that the empty set has no properties. On the contrary, it has the property of being empty, being a set, being an abstract object, being distinct from Mars, being referred to in this answer, etc. Why would anyone think that the empty set must lack all properties?

Doesn't trying to demonstrate how we know anything beg the question?

It needn't. Like Descartes, you might try to demonstrate a priori that you possess perceptual (i.e., external-world) knowledge. Your demonstration needn't presume perceptual knowledge in the course of demonstrating that you possess perceptual knowledge. Therefore, your demonstration needn't beg the question of whether you have perceptual knowledge in the first place. Most philosophers, I think, regard all such demonstrations (including Descartes's) as failures, but I don't see any reason to think that all such demonstrations must fail because they beg the question. Consider a more interesting case. Suppose I analyze knowledge as true belief produced by a reliable mechanism , i.e., a mechanism that yields far more true than false beliefs in the conditions in which it's typically used. A skeptic then challenges me to show that some perceptual belief I regard as knowledge, such as my belief that I have hands, was in fact produced by a reliable mechanism. In response, I offer empirical...

If there is a category "Empty Set" it has to have the property "nothingness". Thus it is not propertyless - contradiction?

As far as I can see, the definitive property of the empty set is not nothingness but instead emptiness : It's the one and only set having (containing, possessing) no members at all. The empty set can be empty, in that sense, without itself being nothing. So I see no threat of contradiction here. Indeed, the empty set can belong to a non-empty set, such as the set { { } } , which couldn't happen if the empty set were nothing.

Is their really an objective answer as to where the world came from?

I take it you presume that there is an objectively true answer to your question (otherwise, why ask it?). I can't see how there could fail to be an objectively true answer concerning where the universe came from, and the objectively true answer may be that the universe never came from anything because the universe (in one form or another) has always existed. Of course, the existence of an objectively true answer to the question is, by itself, no guarantee that we will ever come to know the answer.

Does logic rule out the possibility that someone could travel into the past and affect events so that they turn out otherwise than we remember them?

Does logic rule out the possibility that someone could travel into the past and affect events so that they turn out otherwise than we remember them? No, because our memory of those events could be mistaken. But: Does logic rule out the possibility that someone could travel into the past and affect events so that they turn out otherwise than they in fact did? Yes, so far as I can see.

What drives all the squabbles about free will and determinism? Is it anything more than a desire to reward and to punish, especially to punish?

What you're asking is really an empirical, psychological question -- What motivates the various sides in a particular controversy? -- rather than a question that philosophers, as such, are well-equipped to answer. But I'll hazard an answer anyway. Take some carefully, even painstakingly, considered decision, such as U.S. president Obama's decision to order the May 2011 hit on Osama bin Laden. If that decision wasn't one for which the agent is morally responsible -- i.e., morally liable to praise or blame -- then I don't know what could be. But according to the incompatibilist side of the debate, if determinism is true then Obama bears no more responsibility for his decision than someone high on PCP bears for his/her decision to try to fly from the roof of an apartment building. According to incompatibilism, if determinism is true then all decisions are equally unfree, equally lacking in responsibility, regardless of how sober, well-informed, and deliberate the decision-maker is. The philosophical...

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