Study Guide: Exam #2
Study Guide: Exam #2 GPHIL 101
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This 24 page Study Guide was uploaded by Molly on Monday February 1, 2016. The Study Guide belongs to GPHIL 101 at James Madison University taught by Steven Hoeltzel in Spring 2015. Since its upload, it has received 24 views. For similar materials see Intro to Philosophy in PHIL-Philosophy at James Madison University.
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GPHIL 101 – Exam 2 Material LS 10 – Pascal’s Wager Existence God Exists God DNE (50% chance of (50% chance on the evidence) the evidence) Some smallish gain - A chance of a or loss smallish loss Believe and +∞ (eternal bliss) (miss out on - Equal likelihood of Behave forbidden fruits but infinite gain reap the rewards of - No chance of spirituality) eternal torment Best case: some Some smallish gain - A chance of a smallish gain of or loss smallish gain Deny or Defy pleasure in life; no (enjoy the - A chance of afterlife “forbidden fruits” eternal torment Worst case: -∞ but forgo the - No chance of (eternal rewarding aspects eternal bliss torment) of the religious life - We’re all playing this game - We’re all living in one-way or the other - Either God exists or God does not, we don’t really know (let’s suppose) - Pascal argues we should let prudential evidence to accept the belief of God Pascal’s Wager Argument (Basic Formulation) - In the event that the available evidence does not strongly favor either theism or atheism, considerations of risk and reward show that theism is the must more rational stance God Exists God DNE Here, the odds are (1% chance of (99% chance on that I won’t gain a the evidence) the evidence) great deal, but: Some smallish gain - I don’t stand to or loss lose much either Believe and +∞ (eternal bliss) (miss out on - I still have a Behave forbidden fruits but chance at infinite reap the rewards of happiness spirituality) - I’m running zero risk of infinite torment Best case: some Some smallish gain - I don’t stand to smallish gain of or loss gain must either Deny or Defy pleasure in life; no (enjoy the - I have no chance afterlife “forbidden fruits” for infinite Worst case: -∞ but forgo the happiness (eternal rewarding aspects - I’m running a risk torment) of the religious life of infinite torment Pascal’s Argument (Advanced Formulation) - Even if almost all of the available evidence clearly strongly supports atheism, considerations of risk and reward still make theism the much more rational stance - The prudential reasons for religious belief are overwhelmingly strong, even supposing that there are very few epistemic reasons for theism, and very many epistemic reasons against it LS 11 – Pascal’s Wager – Kritiks Standard Criticism One - It’s not clear that, or why, prudential reasons ought to be given higher priority or greater weight than epistemic reasons, for purposes of figuring out what to believe o The number one rule of theoretical (epistemic) rationality à apportion belief to the evidence o The number one rule of practical (prudential) rationality à maximize expected gain Standard Criticism Two - The prudential approach (calculating risk vs. reward) cannot clearly identify any one, uniquely and supremely promising belief form o There are too many possible gods for there to be some one religious belief that’s less risky and more potentially rewarding than all others Doesn’t this still show that the smart thing to do is to have some sort of religious belief? - There are too many possible gods to make religious belief as such less risky and more potentially rewarding than atheism LS 12 – Substance Dualism Rough Working Definitions - Mental states = states of consciousness (sensation, emotion, thought, desire, mood, etc.), characterized by felt qualities (itchiness, nervousness, coldness, tanginess, bright yellowness, etc.), and visible only to me (from the inside) - Physical states = biological states (especially neural states), characterized by physical features (chemical composition, cellular configuration, biological function, etc.), and visible to any outside observer “What is the mind?” - How are our minds related to our bodies? o Minds = mental states o Bodies = the neural states of our brains - Is my mind ultimately independent of my physical brain, despite their current interaction? - Is my mind causally dependent on my brain, even if not itself strictly physical? - Is my mind really just identical to my functioning brain and nervous system? Substance Dualism - A human being is a composite of two distinct substances (two independent existing things, currently connected) o Substances = independently existing things - An immaterial substance: the mind (soul, etc.) o Seat of consciousness, thought, reason, emotion, etc. o Can exist independently of the body o All my mental states: states of this immaterial substance - A material substance: the body, which has physical attributes but not mental ones - All my physical states: states of this material substance Goal Figure out what, if anything, I can know beyond all possibility of doubt Problem Any belief based on sensory experience is such that I can doubt it - My senses can deceive me: I can hallucinate, dream, misperceive, etc. Problem Any belief based on memory is one that I can doubt - I can seem to remember things that didn’t happen, fail to remember things that did, etc. Problem Any belief arrives at via inference is one that I can doubt - I’m capable of reasoning errors; I can imagine that human reasoning could be systematically defective Insight “I am, inasmuch as I think.” - Grasped in immediate, non-sensory self- consciousness Question What, exactly am I? (What sort of entity?) - Am I an embodied entity? – Not necessarily - An inhabitant of a physical world? – Not necessarily - A mind, a soul, a spirit? – This ultimately/ essentially The Conceivability Argument for Substance Dualism Pa1. I could not conceivably be mistaken in believing that my own mind exists Pa2. It’s at least conceivable that I’m mistaken in believing that physical things exist o It’s not that I seriously doubt whether physical things exist; it’s just that I can envision the possibility that no such things really do o For example, I can imagine being an immaterial mind that just dreaming all this Ca. It’s at least conceivable that my mind exists in a world where no physical things actually exist o I can coherently picture that possibility, even if I don’t believe for a moment that it’s true Pb1. It would be possible for my mind to exist even if no physical things actually existed Pb2. If it is so much as possible for my mind to exist while no physically things exist, then my mind is not anything physical, and does not depend for its existence on anything physical Cb. My mind is not anything physical and does not depend for its existence on anything physical LS 13 – Substance Dualism – Kritiks Three Standard Kritiks 1.) The Conceivability Argument fails to prove substance dualism à fails to prove that the mind can exist w/o the body 2.) Neural dependence disproves substance dualism à shows that the mind depends on the brain 3.) Mind-body interaction strongly supports materialism à suggests that mental states are just neural states; the mind just is the working brain and nervous system Kritik #1 – Criticism of the Conceivability Argument - The fact that something is conceivable does not necessarily guarantee that it’s really possible - Accordingly, we cannot take for granted that C.A. (Pb1) turns into a possibility à Conceivability and possibility do not always go hand in hand o I, Louise Lane, definitely do not believe that Clark Kent is Superman. Thus, I can easily conceive of Superman’s living on after Clark Kent’s death. o Therefore, it really is possible for Superman to live on after Clark Kent dies. o This would not be possible if Superman were Clark Kent. o Therefore, Superman definitely is not Clark Kent. - Perhaps, as yet unbeknownst to us, o Mind and matter are absolutely identical, thus totally inseparable, in reality o We can conceive of their separation in thought, but only because our current concepts don’t reflect the real facts - To elaborate: o Maybe mental states are just neural states, period, but this fact is incredibly obscure to us, because neural states look different when observed from without (under a microscope, etc.) than they feel when experienced from within (in first-person consciousness) Kritik #2 – Argument from Neural Dependence P1. If substance dualism is true, then consciousness, reason, and emotion, do not depend upon the brain P2. If consciousness, reason, and emotion do not depend upon the brain, then significant changes in the brain shouldn’t lead to significant changes in consciousness, reason, or emotion P3. Significant changes in the brain do lead to significant changes in consciousness, reason, and/ or emotion o Example – Split-brain patients Corpus callosum severed Physical result: inhibited communication between the two hemispheres Mental result: “totally divided perception and learning” C. Substance dualism is false Kritik #3 – Argument from Mind-Body Interaction P1. Mental states are causally connected to physical states of the body P2. We have no idea how this interaction is possible, on the assumption that mental states are not physical phenomena o The law of the conservation of energy (a fundamental principle of physical science) requires that every physical event have a physical cause) o How could something having no physical properties trigger changes in a physical system? P3. We can understand and explain this interaction in great detail, on the assumption that mental states are physical (neural) states of the organism C. Mental states are physical states of the organism – Therefore, dualism is false LS 14 – Identity Theory Definitions - Substance dualism = mental states are states of an immaterial substance that can exist independently of the body - Property dualism = mental states are non-physical states of the organism; they depend on the brain and nervous system o A conscious organism is one thing that has two types of properties Physical Phenomenological - Identity theory = mental states are nothing but neural states (physical states of the brain and nervous system) o Not that the understood meanings of mentalistic terms (ex. pain) perfectly match those of neuroscientific concepts You can perfectly understood and employ the word “pain” even if you’ve never heard of C-fibers, neurons, etc. Mentalistic terms and neurological concepts have a different connotation o The real things to which mentalistic terms actually refer are nothing but the states picked out by neurophysiological concepts Mentalistic terms and neurological concepts have the same connotation What you’re subjectively aware of (ex. pain) is an inner state this is objectively observable Objective observations, not subjective self-awareness, are what truly reveal the real nature of that inner state Science shows that the relevant inner states = neural states Proposal: You own inner states take on a certain appearance when apprehended via introspection (just like a given wavelength of EMR takes on a certain appearance – a visible color – when registered by an eye) Compared to introspection, science has the stronger claim to be able to determine what the real nature of those inner states is (just as with all the other things we perceive) Transition - Granted à the relevant inner states include our neural states - Question à why say that neural (physical) states are the only inner states we actually have? à We are looking at how identity theorists answer this question Lawful Correlation vs. Literal Identity - A and B are lawfully correlated if and only if – o Whenever A exists or occurs, B exists or occurs also Ex. lightning (discharge) and thunder (shockwave) Lawfully correlated, but not literally identical o They are found together because they are cause and effect o They are not found together because they are the same - A and B are literally identical if and only if – o “A” and “B” are different names for one and the same thing Ex. Superman and Clark Kent - Neuroscience indicates MS (mental states) are lawfully correlated with NS (neural states) o Whenever a specific sort of mental states occurs, a neural state of some correspondingly specific sort can also be observed to occur Stock example à Whenever you feel pain (conscious mental state), C-fibers are firing in your brain (correlated neural state) o What explains this observed correlation? A. NS and MS are two things, causally connected (dualism) B. NS and MS are the same thing, seen from different points of view (I.T.) o Identity theory argues that MS are literally identical to NS Ex. To be in pain just is to have C-fibers firing your brain Being in pain is nothing but being in that neural state The “Best Explanation” Arg for Identity Theory P1. Fact: Mental states causally interact with the brain and the body P2. Fact: Mental states and neural states are lawfully correlated P3. Ceteris paribus (all other things being equal), the simplest and clearest explanation for a given fact is the rationally best explanation for that fact o Simplest = posits the fewest types of things o Clearest = raises the fewest new difficulties; ties in best with other things we know P4. I.T. explains a.) mind-body interaction and b.) mental-neural correlation in a simpler and clearer way than dualism does I.T. Dualism Mental states (MS) = Neural MS ≠ NS states (NS) MS à (leads to) NS 1 type of stuff; 2 types of stuff; 1 type of law 2 types of laws (Physical) (Physical and psychophysical) IT = simplest explanation of I.C. Interaction Interaction Not puzzling Made puzzling IT = simplest, clearest explanation of interaction Mind is a part of the world Mind is not a part of the world studied by science studied by science Makes sense that MS could Doesn’t make sense how/ why MS physically evolve would/ could evolve IT (materialism) = the clearest account of mind’s place in nature C. I.T. is the rationally preferable theory of the nature of mental states LS 15 – Property Dualism Arg from Phenomenological Features P1. Mental states are states of consciousness, defined by phenomenological features o Felt qualities = features of a conscious state that constitute “what it feels like” to be in that state Ex. Pain has the particular quality of painfulness à there’s something it feels like to be in pain (it hurts), versus pleasure, numbness, etc. Two Distinct pains could have somewhat difference PFs: A sharp and stabbing pain A dull and throbbing pain P2. Each type of conscious organism has a particular view (what it “feels like” to be such a creature is a function of that type of creature’s distinct point of view) o A characteristic kind of consciousness, distinguished by the PFs (phenomenological features) associated with the perceptual capacities and psychological tendencies typical of that type of organism What it feels like to be such a creature is a function of that type of creature’s distinct point of view P3. Some species have points of view very different from the human point of view P4. It is possible for us to discover all of the facts about an organism’s physical features, even if we do not share that organism’s point of view o Physical features = biological configuration, cellular structure, chemical composition, etc. Properties of the sort studied by physical, chemistry, and biology) P5. If we do not share said organism’s point of view, then there are facts about what its experience feels like that we cannot discover o The PFs that constitute an organism’s point of view are accessible only from that same point of view C. The facts about what an organism’s experience is like are not facts about its physical makeup o That is, PFs are not physical Arg from Phenomenological Features (Short Version) P1. The physical features of a thing are equally accessible, in principle, to anyone P2. The PFs of your consciousness are something to which you alone have privileged access C. Your consciousness might have a physical basis, but it is not itself something physical o If it were, it would be equally accessible to others Property Dualism - Consciousness has non-physical features, lawfully correlated with, but not literally identical to, an organism’s physical features o Consciousness has a physical basis o Consciousness is not itself a physical phenomenon (since its defining features aren’t physical) - Simpler than SD (substance dualism) à I’m not two distinct things (“substances”) à I’m one thing with different sorts of features/ states - Clearer than SD à no conflict with neural dependence Main Points - It seems like the mind just has to be a physical phenomenon o Interaction w/ body (especially in causing/ controlling behavior) o Integration w/ the world of nature studied by the sciences (physics, chemistry, and biology) - Then again, it can’t be physical o Conscious states are constituted in part by phenomenological features that aren’t straight-forward or physical in any sense o Those features are perspective-dependent in a way no physical features are LS 16 – Skepticism Definitions - Epistemology = the nature and possibility of knowledge, justification, and truth - Belief = acceptance of some claim (any declarative statement on any object) - Accept = regard as probably or definitely true - Reject = regard as probably or definitely false - Suspend judgment = neither accept nor reject - Beliefs are justified only by supporting evidence (epistemic reasons) - Beliefs might be motivated or explained by other things (emotions, custom, prudence, etc.) - Justified belief = belief based on sufficient evidence (no available evidence is ignored and total evidence is strong/ valid basis for the belief) - Knowledge = belief that is justified and true o The concept “knowledge” should apply exclusively to beliefs that are idea by cognitive standards (otherwise it is ambiguous or unclear) o Cognitive = not emotional standards, social standards, etc. o Justified beliefs that aren’t true à not ideal (inaccurate) o True beliefs that aren’t justified à not ideal (unsupported) Can We Have Knowledge of Reality? - Skepticism o No à our beliefs about reality can never be sufficiently justified to qualify as knowledge - Rationalism o Yes à we can gain knowledge of reality both via pure reasoning and via experience - Empiricism o Yes à but we cannot gain knowledge via pure reasoning, all real knowledge depends upon experience Skepticism - Skepticism (global) = beliefs about reality can never be sufficiently justified (knowledge of reality if unattainable) o Strong version = no claim concerning the way things really are (as opposed to the way things appear to us to be) is ever really justified by our actual evidence o Moderate version = even if our evidence justifies certain beliefs about reality, our evidence can never be strong enough to constitute knowledge of reality o There would be no point in doubting that things appear to be a certain way o The skeptic is not arguing that we should not act based on how things appear to us o The skeptic is just contending only that we cannot know what reality is actually like, based on how things appear to us The Equipollence Argument for Strong Global Skepticism P1. If the facts about appearances are equally consistent with two very different hypotheses about reality, then the rational thing to do is to suspend judgment on each of those hypotheses P2. Concerning any topic whatsoever, the facts about appearances will be consistent with at least two very different hypotheses about reality C. Thus, the rational thing to do is to suspend judgment on all hypotheses concerning reality Support for P2 - Fact by all appearances… o Default hypotheses about reality a. Other people have minds b. I was alive one year ago c. I am currently in Virginia d. Physical objects really exist o Alternative hypothesis about reality a*. All other “people” are biochemical machines, physically and functionally like you in all relevancy respects, but totally lacking in mental states If not, then all your evidence for (a) is equally good evidence for (a*) – so suspend judgment b*. The entire world, including you and all of your (inaccurate) memories, came into existence one minute ago Is there anything in or about your experiences that suffices to disprove that? C*. You are a brain in a vat on the moon in the year 3676, being manipulated by a supercomputer into having all of your perpetual experiences Is there anything in or about your experiences that suffices to disprove that? D*. You are an immaterial mind in an immaterial world, being manipulated by an all-powerful evil intelligence into hallucinating a material world Is there anything in or about your experiences that suffices to disprove that? - Fact: my own mind appears to me to exist Default hypothesis: Alternative hypothesis: My mind really exists My mind falsely appears to me to exist Isn’t that a fact about reality? (Namely, Impossible that it contains this mind?) The No-Knowledge Argument for Moderate Global Skepticism P1. We can have knowledge (over and above justified belief) only in cases where our evidence backs up our beliefs beyond any doubt P2. Whatever we might think about reality will always be open to serious doubts o The issue here is not what you or I might or might not be psychology disposed to doubt that o The issue concerns what can be rationally judged to be open to reasoned doubt upon reflection o See the Equipollence Argument: for what we believe about reality, there is some totally contrary hypothesis that is equally consistent with all of our evidence C. Thus, we cannot have knowledge of reality Concerning P1 - Is that the right way to define knowledge? o If so, then there is little to nothing we can ever really know (which seems off) o If not, then we can know things w/o being able to dispel reasonable and radical doubts about them (which also seems off) Concerning C - Why isn’t knowledge about how things appear already one sort of knowledge? (About reality’s mental or subjective dimension?) - Some idealists (ex. Berkeley) argue: o What we know is that there are experiencing minds o Claims about a reality separate from mind cannot be proven, clarify nothing, and complicate everything o So the most justified metaphysical thesis is idealism o All reality is mental or spiritual in nature - Some rationalists (ex. Descartes) argue: o The real existence of one’s own mind is undeniable o On this basis, we can reason our way to certain knowledge of the existence of other things LS 15 – Rationalism Definitions - A priori = knowable independently of experience (observation, experiment, etc.) o “Knowable” in this sense does not mean understandable A statement that is only understandable with the aid of experience can still be knowable (confirmable) a priori - A posteriori = knowable only based on experience - Analytic = made true or false simply by the content of the concepts involved (in that sense, trivial, uninformative) - Nonanalytic = made true or false by some extra-linguistic fact (in that sense, informative, non-trivial) o We can only know to be true or false based on experience Descartes – Meditation on First Philosophy Overview - “1 phil.” Conjoins epistemology and metaphysics à investigates what we can know (epistemology) about the basic nature of reality (metaphysics) - Descartes Meditations attack skepticism and defends rationalism - Rationalism = real knowledge is possible through pure reasoning o Not all real knowledge depends on experience o Some nonanalytic truths about mind-independent reality can be known a priori Descartes Questions st - 1 Q: Are any of my beliefs impervious to skeptical doubts? o To streamline, consider whether doubts can be raised concerning each of the basic sources of our beliefs (sense perception, memory, reasoning, etc.) - 2ndQ: Are beliefs are based on sense perception impervious to skeptical doubts? o A: Only if we can disprove the dream hypothesis - There are no certain indications by which we may clearly distinguish wakefulness from sleep - Generalized à There is not way you can ever be certain that your current sensory perceptions are not deceptive o Think about the brain-in-a-vat scenario o Thus, for all you can really know, all your sensory perceptions are and always have been deceptive Call this the dream hypothesis Skepticism about the external world Descartes Attempts to Undercut the Dream Hypothesis st - Descartes 1 Try: Suppose that what you currently seem to perceive is unreal o Your imagination would still have to be drawing on past experiences with real things o So it cant be that your perceptions are always deceptive - Descartes 2 ndTry: Suppose all your sensory perceptions were deceptive o You could still be certain of some “very simple and very general” truths Ex. “Two and three together always form five, and the square can never have more than four sides” - Both of the attempts are undercut by the demon hypothesis o Demon hypothesis = Some evil genius not less powerful than deceitful, has employed his whole energies into deceiving me, such that all my perceptions and ideas are nothing but the illusions and dreams of which this genius as availed himself in order to lay traps for my credibility He is not asserting the demon hypothesis is true Descartes is asking if we can prove this false Yes, because there is one proposition that “is necessarily true each time that I pronounce it or mentally conceive it” “I Think, Therefore, I Am” - I’m aware of my own mind’s existence directly and intellectually (not inferentially or perceptually) - That my own mind exists is one thing I could never get wrong (to go wrong about anything, my mind must exist) - Q: Can I be equally certain that I have a physically body? o A: Not yet à I’ve now figured out that I could never be deceived about absolutely everything Therefore, the demon hypothesis is false o As far as I know, at this point, I could be deceived by all of my perceptions The dream hypothesis is still valid “I Am Certain that I Am a Thing which Thinks” - Q: Can I derive any other certain truths through pure reasoning alone? o At this point, trust in sense perception is still not allowed, because the dream hypothesis still has not been ruled out Skepticism about the external world has still not been refuted - Step One: Through pure reasoning, I recognize that certain sorts of objects have certain properties necessarily o Even if no triangles existed, any actual triangle would have to have certain basic properties (3-sded, etc.) o Pure reason gives me some a priori knowledge of things’ basic natures - Step Two: In my mind is an idea of God as “a supernatural perfect Being” – infinite, absolute, etc. o I must possess this idea innately, because I could never encounter such a thing perceptually o Through pure reasoning, I recognize that such a being necessarily has the property of existence It couldn’t be the supreme being without existing, any more than something could be a triangle without have three sides - Step Three: God, being supremely perfect, necessarily “is not a deceiver”. o Because I know that God exists and is not a deceiver, I also know: A.) The external, physical world does exist If it didn’t, God would be a deceiver: o Would have created me such that I have nothing but false perceptions B.) My mind is an immaterial substance If it weren’t, God would be a deceiver: o Would have created me such that my grasp of my own basic nature is wildly inaccurate “I think, there for I am” Necessarily, God exists and is not a deceiver The physical world My mind is an immaterial portrayed in sensory substance perception does exist LS 18 – Empiricism Definitions - Rationalism = some real knowledge is possible through pure reasoning o Not all real knowledge depends on experience o True either if a.) some concepts or knowledge are built into the mind (“innate”) and this not dependence on experience or b.) there is some other way in which the mind can grasp or discover certain truths without depending on experience to confirm them - Empiricism = no real knowledge is possible through pure reason o All real knowledge comes from experience o True if both a.) there are no innate concepts or knowledge and b.) reason, unaided by experience, cannot grasp or discover any substantive truths Locke’s Argument Against Rationalism P1. Because a mind simply consists in thinking and knowing, any concept or knowledge that is innate to the mind would have to be actually thought or known by each mind o Any idea innate to the mind would be help by everyone with a mind o Any knowledge innate to the mind would be a truth believed by everyone who has a mind P2. There are no universally shared ideas or beliefs o For any candidate, there will at least be “children and idiots” who “have not the least apprehension or thought” of it C. No ideas or knowledge are innate to the mind Locke’s Argument Against Rationalism P1. A mind can have knowledge only if it has ideas arranged to form justified true beliefs P2. If no ideas or beliefs are innate to the mind, then a mind begins its existence as an empty chamber or blank slate (“tabula rasa”), only subsequently furnished or filled in with ideas, beliefs, etc. P3. Only experience can furnish the mind with whatever ideas (mental representations) it eventually comes to contain C. All knowledge depends upon experience o If successful, these arguments rule out rationalism but don’t disprove skepticism o The foregoing shows, at most: No experience à nothing knowledge could be based on o By itself that doesn’t prove: Having experiences à possessing knowledge o Recall brain-in-a-vat scenario or dream hypothesis Locke’s Argument Against Skepticism - Locke (New argument) à experience itself suffices to justify belief in a reality resembling our ideas P1. I have the power to make some ideas come and go at will P2. On the other hand, typically, I find that certain ideas are forced on me – They appear unbidden and remain even if I try to think them away P3. The best explanation for the latter fact is that these ideas have a cause outside my own mind P4. The most justified hypothesis as to the nature of that cause is that it’s something these ideas resemble. o Examples: It’s a classroom full of people in Virginia? It’s an evil demon in an immaterial world? It’s a supercomputer on the moon? o Q: If, per skepticism, the contents of my experience are equally consistent with all three hypotheses, how is the first one more rationally justified than the rest? Simpler? – Doubtful: that criterion seems to favor the demon hypothesis Clearer? – Maybe: no need to explain why the deception, etc. C. Experience justifies belief in a reality resembling our ideas. Two Possible Problems for Empiricism - Mathematics and Logic o Prima facie, in mathematics and logic we possess certain knowledge of truths that cannot be confirmed in experience and therefore must be known through pure reason Illustration: Is there a highest number? Certainly not How could you really know this, if empiricism were true? (What experience of yours confirms this? Confirmation does not depend on experience – If this is true, then empiricism is false - Morality o If human beings can know objectively true facts about what is morally rights and wrong (not socially acceptable/ unacceptable; not legally permitted/ prohibited) it’s hard to see how empiricism can be correct Right and wrong can’t be detected by the five senses Wide spread moral disagreement makes it doubtful that humans possess a distinctly moral “sixth sense” “Reflection” only acquaints you with your own moral conviction, not with any independent objective facts Suppose we know murder is objectively morally wrong How could we know this, if empiricism were true? (What sensation or reflection could confirm this?) - sensation shows perceptible - reflection records subjective properties (not moral states) states (not further objective facts) LS 19 – Empiricism (Hume’s Defense) Two Possible Problems for Empiricism - Regarding factual (as opposed to moral) issues: o Reason, unaided by experience: Can make judgments reflecting relations of ideas Cannot make discoveries concerning matters of fact o Empiricism says: reason can do that only with input from experience o In other words: whatever is known a priori is only analytically true, thus uninformative Spells out the content of out concepts; does not expand out knowledge of reality o So, in the final analysis, truths of mathematics and logic are all trivial statements, true by definition “True by definition” explains how they can be known a priori “Trivial statements” explains why a priori doesn’t disprove empiricism - Regarding moral (as opposed to factual) issues: o Reason, on its own: Can help us figure out how to reach goals already set by our “passions” (our feelings, preferences, etc.) Cannot tell us what our goals ought to be As a result, there is no objective moral knowledge (thus no problem here for empiricism) There is only (shifting and conflicting) subjective moral sentiment Moral judgments merely report on the latter Thus understood, they create no problems for empiricism (“reflection” accounts for them easily) Cannot tell us what to approve or disapprove of Gives us no moral compass - Apparent upsides o The above positions account for mathematical knowledge and moral discourse in ways that are consistent with empiricism - Possible downsides o These empiricists positions entail: Mathematics and logic deal with mere trivialities (ex. yield no informative insights) There can be no objective knowledge (only subjective sentiments) about moral right and wrong Descriptive vs. Prescriptive Claims - Descriptive claims = concern what actually is the case (never mind what ought to be) o Their function is simply to describe (not to evaluate, motivate or obligate) - Prescriptive claims = concern what ought to be (never mind what actually is) o Their function is to evaluate, motivate, obligate (not simply to describe) - It is generally acknowledged (not only by Hume) that there is a world of difference between the two sorts of claims o So that, for example, no prescriptive claims can be validly inferred from any number of strictly descriptive statements - Hume, more specifically à o Thinks of reason as a capacity whose use yields only descriptive insights This is true of the scientific method; but is that method all there is to the use of reason? o Thus denies that morality can be based in reason o Thus concludes that it must be based in sentiment instead - Many other philosophers, before and since… o Argue that Hume’s conception of reason is too narrow o Claim that reason supplies some moral judgments with solid objective support (which outranks subjective sentiment) LS 20 – Background on Moral Theory Background Info - Philosophical moral theory… o Does not aim to discover or account for the moral values (etc.) that anyone actually holds That’s an empirical question concerning “morality” in the descriptive sense o Aims to clearly work out, on a rational basis, what – if any – moral values (etc.) everyone ought to hold That’s an ultimate question concerning “morality” in the normative or prescriptive sense - Are there any moral requirements with which everyone ought to comply? – And if so, what are they? Definitions - Impermissible = morally* forbidden o *Not necessarily legally prohibited, socially frowned upon, personally deplored - Permissible = neither impermissible nor obligatory - Obligatory = morally* required - Supererogatory = permissible and foes above and beyond what’s obligatory - “Right” = can mean anything but “impermissible” - “Wrong” = basically always means “impermissible” - “Good” = usually means obligatory or supererogatory - “Bad” = basically always means “impermissible” Overview - Moral objectivism = some objectively valid moral requirements exist o Objectively valid = applying to all persons, whether they recognize it or not Not necessarily agreed upon by all Not necessary obvious to anyone - Moral non-objectivism = no objectively moral requirements exist o Either because all valid moral requirements are culturally relative (relativism) o Or because there are no moral requirements of any kind (error theory) According to… … What morality requires Thus, moral evaluation of us is: focuses on: Divine Conforming to God’s Persons’ and actions’ conform Command commands to divine law Theory Utilitarianism Producing the right results Actions’ consequences (greatest benefit for greatest number) Kantian Ethics Acting with the right Actions’ underlying principles intentions (respect for dignity, autonomy of all) Virtue Ethics Forming the right kind of Persons’ basic traits character More Background Info - In many cases, different theories will yield the same moral evaluation of a given action, but for fundamentally different reasons o Ex. “Murder is wrong” DCT à … because God commands us not to kill Util à … insofar as the alternative would bring more benefit (or do less harm) to those involved Kantian ethics à … because it’s inconsistent with unconditional respect for the dignity and autonomy of all Virtue ethics à … because it expresses vices like injustice and malevolence, not virtues like justice and benevolence - In some cases, different theories will entail different moral evaluation of the same conduct o Ex. Is it always wrong to lie? My sweetheart asks, “How do you think I look?” My honest opinion is, “Terrible, as usual” I know that if I say this, then she will be super hurt What’s the morally right thing to do here? (Be honest or lie?) Let’s suppose I lie… DCT à that’s morally wrong (God says, “Don’t lie”) Util à that’s the moral thing to do (most benefit, least harm) o Thus, in order to rationally determine what (if anything) we’re morally required to do in such cases, we’d have to figure out which one of those rival theories is the rationally preferable view - In some cases, different theories will entail different evaluations of the same conduct o Ex. I’m in a position to stop a race riot that will inevitably take many innocent lives - In order to so, I’ve got to hang an innocent man for a crime I know he didn’t commit – What’s the morally right thing to do here? Util à You’re morally obligated to hang the innocent man (most benefit, least harm) Kantian ethics à you’re morally obligated not to do that (would treat him as a mere means to others’ ends
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