INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY
INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY PHIL 110P
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Date Created: 09/28/15
Philosophy of Religion There are three stances one can take on the existence of God 1 Theism God exists 2 Atheism God does not exist 3 Agnosticism I do not know if God exists or not These are really the only options Over the next few weeks we ll look arguments for each of them But we are going to start with arguments for 1 Many theists today think that believing in God is a matter of faith and not argument maybe that s right We ll talk a little about that later But many throughout history have believed that you can prove the existence of God with reason or with empirical evidence One such argument is The argument from design The argument 1 The world especially the living creatures in it and humanmade machines have various things in common they display order and structure and the parts work together and are suited to perform some function or serve certain ends 2 When we discover an object that has these features ie order structure etc we infer that it did not just come together by chance 3 So we should infer that the world and living creatures etc have not just come together by chance ie there must be a designer 4 This designer is God The argument is very old arguably you can nd a version of it in the Bible in Romans It has been in the news a lot lately too the Intelligent Design movement The version in our book is from William Paley written around 1800 An example from Paley Say that we nd a watch in the woods We would not assume that the watch came together through sheer chance But the universe is like this watch so we should not conclude that it came together through sheer chance Some Objections to the argument The most serious objection concerns Darwin s theory of natural selection or the theory of evolution Darwin claimed that things randomly mutate to have new traits say they can see better Sometimes these random mutations help a creature survive So they will pass this trait on to their offspring Creatures without the mutation are at a disadvantage and so might die out The point is this Darwin s theory can explain the order we see in biological life forms without the need for an intelligent designer Darwin s theory gives us another possible explanation for the order we see without needing to appeal to God to explain it David Hume a famous philosopher also had some objections even before Darwin came along Here are 2 of them 1 The argument from design even assuming that it works does not allow us to ascribe specific properties to God The argument cannot establish that the God of Christianity for example exists All it says is that there is a designer This designer might hate us for all we know Maybe there was a team of designers Maybe the designer is not the Christian God etc 2 There are problems with the world Things don t always work correctly People get sick Meteors occasionally hit the Earth Etc Perhaps this suggests that there really is no designer Or assuming that there is perhaps this designer is incompetent Maybe the designer is some infant Deity who afterwards abandoned it ashamed of his lame performance Hume A couple of questions Is the argument from design science Should it be taught in science class alongside or even instead of Darwin The Argument from Fine Tuning The Argument 1 Either a universe that can contain life A arose through pure chance or B did not arise through pure chance ie it was designed by some intelligence to contain life 2 The laws of nature have to be just right 7 or finelytuned 7 for life to be possible 3 It is extremely improbable that the laws of nature would be so fmetuned through pure chance so A in l is very improbable 4 So B is likely true ie some intelligence designed our universe Is the argument successful If steps 1 through 3 are true the argument works So the question is why should we believe 1 through 3 Premise 1 Premise 1 seems true either the universe arose through pure chance or it did not The only worry with l is that it is a false dichotomy A false dichotomy is a common error or fallacy in reasoning When someone says that either A or B is true but there is athird option C that they are not seeing they have posited a false dichotomy To offer a silly example someone might say 22 equals either 3 or 5 Then someone might say that s a false dichotomy there s another option you are not seeing But is l a false dichotomy Well there doesn t appear to be any other options in this case so it doesn t appear that it is Premise 2 You might think 2 is plausible as well Why Scientific evidence There are lots of laws of nature lots of fundamental particles in physics etc and they do have to be just right for life to occur Example There are 4 fundamental forces in physics gravity electromagnetism the strong force and the weak force These must be just right for life to occur Ex 1 If gravity had been stronger or weaker by one part in 1040 there would be no stars Collins Ifthere are no stars there would be no sun and so no us Ex 2 Ifthe initial explosion of the big bang had differed in strength by as little as one part in 1060 then the universe would have collapsed upon itself or expanded too quickly for life to occur There are lots of examples like this Premise 3 Premise 3 is plausible as well at least according to science The odds that all of the laws of nature etc would be what they are for life to be possible through pure chance have been estimated at l in 10000000000 raised to 124th power this estimate is by Donald Page of Princeton s Institute for Advanced Study this is where Einstein worked for many years after he moved to the US To put this number in perspective there are only 1 in 10 raised to the 801h power atoms in the universe The odds are small Note this argument does not contradict science in the way that the argument from design does That argument is at odds with Darwin as we discussed last class But this argument is supported by science all the numbers etc were calculated by scientists etc This is one main difference between this argument and the argument from design Objections There are not a whole lot of them Some physicists think the only way to avoid positing God is by positing the existence of multiple universes If there is only one universe you might have to have a finetuner If you don t want God you d better have a multiverse Carr The basic idea one lottery ticket versus a trillion lottery tickets Ifyou play a lot of tickets you have a better chance of winning Likewise if there are a trillion universes then there is a better chance of life occuring through chance The catch there is no empirical evidence for these multiple universes It might be impossible to even get such evidence They are controversial among scientists etc Pascal s Wager Blaise Pascal a great French mathematician One of the best mathematicians ever He developed the first mechanical calculator In computer science the Pascal programming language is named after him He was very very smart One day he has some sort of mystical experience and he converts to Christianity speci cally Catholicism He then wrote a book about philosophy and religion called the Pensees Even though Pascal was a Christian he was unimpressed by the traditional proofs of God s existence He says that we do not know if God exists or not and we cannot prove it either way What Pascal wants to show 7 with his argument called The Wager 7 is that we should believe in God because it is the best bet even though we lack conclusive proof that there is a God It is in our self interest to believe in God The argument used a new type of mathematics called Decision Theory that Pascal invented speci cally to formulate the argument Decision Theory In any decision problem the way the world is and what an agent does together determine an outcome for the agent We can assign utilities to such outcomes ie numbers that represent the degree to which the agent values the outcomes Example A decision problem Should Itouch the stove I don t know if it is hot Stove is hot Stove is not hot Average Touch stove 1000 0 500 Do not touch stove 0 0 0 Average the expected utility for both actions and the one with the highest number is what we should do So in this case I should not touch the stove I have nothing to gain by touching the stove but if I do touch it I might get burned How to Write a Good Philosophy Paper The most important thing to remember in philosophy we are concerned with arguments Unsupported opinions bald assertions etc carry little weight What does a good philosophy paper look like A brief introduction in which you clearly state your main thesis is a good way to start You don t need a fancy introduction e g since the dawn of time philosophers have wondered about x just keep it simple eg Descartes argued that the mind is distinct from the body I will argue that he is correct because x and y After the introduction you will likely have some exegesis eg you might give the reader some background on the issue you ll address or you might explain a particular position or argument that we studied However you will also need to formulate your own argument and you should devote a good amount of time to this not just a short paragraph at the end of the paper What will you argue for That is up to you You can argue that some position that we have studied is true or false For instance you might show that a position that we studied has some obviously false consequences and so must be false You can argue that one position that we studied is preferable to another e g Reid s account of personal identity is better than Locke s You can defend a view from some argument against it or you can show that an argument for a given view is no good perhaps the conclusion does not follow from the premises or perhaps one of the premises is false You can argue that a given philosopher s position is actually x when most people have assumed that it is y You can argue that a philosopher holds two positions that are inconsistent There are many possibilities But don t attempt to do too much one clearly stated thesis with one effective welldeveloped argument for that thesis is best Ifyou want to run a possible topic by me before you start that would be fine in fact I encourage this though it is not mandatory We might read something that is relevant to your particular major and you might want to write about this for example maybe you major in neuroscience and you think that some results in neuroscience are relevant to the mindbody problem Sometimes philosophy professors don t like these sorts of papers but I do Philosophy is relevant to many subjects and if you recognize that then I m happy And if you take something away from this class that helps you see your own subject in a new light then that s great But one important caveat make sure you spend a lot of time engaging with what we have read in this class For example Idon t want just a neuroscience paper I want a philosophy of neuroscience paper People often ignore this caveat and this is a major reason why some philosophy professors don t like these sorts of papers You should think about some possible objections to your argument and address them or at least the most serious of them in the paper Who is the audience for the paper Don t assume too much background information on your topic eg if you introduce some technical term from the readings de ne it Basically assume that your reader is an intelligent person who has not studied philosophy Style grammar spelling They do factor into your grade Here are some general tips Avoid wordiness Try to be concise Clarity is very important Don t use a complicated word when a simple one will do Paragraphs shouldn t be too short or too long e g if you have a paragraph that stretches over three pages try breaking it up into smaller ones Try to make the paper ow well Don t simply jump from one topic to another without warning or explanation Try to avoid digressions Always have your main thesis in mind and don t go off on tangents that are irrelevant to that thesis Avoid needless repetition Don t try to write like the authors we have read frankly some or even most of them are horrible writers A helpful online discussion Some philosophy professors have offered advice about how to write good philosophy papers and posted it online For example some excellent advice can be found at httpwwwiimprvornetteacliW 39 39 quot Writincr html Much of the advice offered here is also given there but in a more developed form we do disagree on a couple of points though A note on sources Be wary of online sources Wikipedia whatever merits it might otherwise have often contains erroneous information in its philosophy articles Both the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy are trustworthy Another excellent resource is JSTOR which has papers from many of the best philosophy journals you can access it online and if using a campus computer you can get the articles as well JSTOR has articles on subjects aside from philosophy too so even if you are not a philosophy major knowing how to use it might help in your other classes The Philosopher s Index is also a great resource for finding philosophy articles Always cite your sources If you use a direct quote from an author cite the page number as well Another useful resource There are very many argument mapping software programs available online these are programs that will help you formulate an argument and determine if it is valid ie if the conclusion follows from the premises Some are free and some are not Yes I will look at a draft or outline of your paper before you turn it in though you have to get it to me at least three days before it is due