Wednesday, February 25, 2015

phi honors 2010 syllabus

alfredo triff, Ph.D.

room 3604-28 (Building #3)
tel. 305.237.7554
office hours: posted
text: Doing Philosophy: An Introduction through Thought Experiments, by Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn (Fifth Edition?).

* become familiar with contemporary trends in philosophy.
* stimulate the philosophical spirit: problematizing issues, as well as the ethics of dialogue.
* further one's critical thinking skills in order to deal with the challenges posed by the world's problems.
* to stimulate speculation. what this means is taking the issue a little further, i.e., take risks, experiment with  ideas.   

1. grades "A," "B" and "C" stand for outstanding, good and average respectively. "D" is below average. "F" means not enough work to justify credit for the course.

2. roughly this is the breakdown, 4 tests:
two quizzes, (20 points)
a midterm and a final exam (50 points)
blog posting and final paper (20 points)
class participation and effort for the remaining 10 points.

this breakdown is a qualitative approximation, my grades are generally curved.

4. attendance is mandatory. 3 non-excused absences are permitted. each absence thereafter will lower the participation grade by a 1/3 of a grade. missing exams must be justified by a doctor’s note or the equivalent. under no circumstances a student will take two exams in my office!

5. homeworks are important. the routine is that we start each class with a HW-review.

6. this is a gordon-rule class. it means that a final paper is mandatory for passing the class.

approximate schedule of classes

Chapter 1: Philosophical Problems
1.1: Explaining The Possibility Of The Impossible: Philosophical Problems. Stakes In Philosophical Enquiry: An Account Of Problems, Such As Mind-Body, Free Will, Personal Identity, Moral Relativism, And The Concept Of Evil. 1.2: Evidence And Inference.
1.3: Thought Experiments

Chapter 7: Epistemology
7.1 Skepticism As A Key To Certainty: Descartes
7.2 Perception Of The External World.
7.3 How Much Do We Know? What Knowledge Is: Defeasibility Theory; Causal Theory; Reliability Theory; Explanationist Theory

Quiz #1

Chapter 2: The Mind/Body Problem
2.1 The Ghost In The Machine: Mind As Soul: Descartes’ Doubt; Je Pense Donc Je Suis; Conceivability Argument; Divisibility Argument; Causal Impotence Of The Mental; Causal Closure Of The Physical; Other Minds
2.2 You Are What You Eat: Mind As Body: Empiricism; Positivism; Logical Behaviorism; Identity Theory
2.3 I, Robot: Mind As Software: AI; Functionalism And Feeling; The Turing Test; Intentionality
2.4 There Are No Ghosts: Mind And Myth: Psychology; Subjective Knowledge
2.5 Mind As Quality: Primitive Intentionality; Mental Dependence; Downward Causation

Paper proposal with sample.
Chapter 3: Free Will Or Determinism?

3.1 Freedom As Chance: Hard Determinism; Indeterminism
3.2 Freedom As Necessity: Traditional Compatibilism; Hierarchical Compatibilism;
3.3 Freedom As Self-Determination: Agent Causation

Midterm Exam (cumulative)
Discussion for the final paper

Chapter 4: Personal Identity And Selfhood
4.1 Self And Substance: Animalism; The Soul Theory
4.2 Golden Memories: Self As Psyche: Memory Theory; Inconsistency Objection; Circularity Objection; Reduplication Problem
4.3 Self As Process: The Brain Theory; Split Brains; Identity And Survival; Identity And Responsibility; Explaining Selfhood

Quiz #2
First draft of final paper due

Chapter 5: Ethics and Political Philosophy
5.1 Might Makes Right: Subjective Absolutism And Relativism; Cultural Relativism; Divine Command Theory; Are There Universal Moral Principles?
5.2 Good Makes Right: Ethical Egoism; Act Utilitarianism: Problems With Rights, Duties And Justice; Rule Utilitarianism
5.3 Duty Makes Right: Kant’s Categorical Imperative: First And Second Formulations; Ross’ Prima Facie Duties;
5.4 Virtue Makes Right: The Virtuous Utilitarian, Kantian; Purpose Of Morality; Aristotle On Virtue, Mcintyre On Virtue; Virtue Ethics

Chapter 6: Philosophy of Religion
Cosmological, teleological and ontological arguments:
Theism, agnosticism, atheism, deism, fideism
Aquinas’ Cosmological Arguments with C/A
Watch-watchmaker analogical argument with C/A
Best Explanation Argument with C/A and Intelligent Design
Argument from Religious Experience with C/A
Anselm’s Ontological Argument with C/A
Descartes variation of Anselm’s argument with C/A
Pascal’s Wager
6.2 Theodicies:
Ontological Defense with C/A
Knowledge Defense with C/A
Free-Will Defense with C/A
Ideal-Humanity Defense with C/A
Character building defense with C/A
6.3 Fideism and Evidentialism:
Kierkegaard’s leap of faith with C/A
Importance of evidentialism.
World without God: Existentialism

final exam
final paper due

i reserve the right to make changes in the order or chapters, provided i let you know in advance.
note: if you feel that you will be unable to complete the requirements for passing this class, you have the option to withdraw from the class by the college's "drop date" of_____. however, there are consequences of which you need to be aware if you drop a class or stop attending and you should always speak to your instructor or an advisor first. for example, you must earn at least two-thirds, or 67% of the total credits for which you have registered -failure to comply with this requirement will adversely impact your financial aid status with MDC. also, once the course has been paid for, you will generally not receive a refund for the course after the 100% drop date. a "W" will appear on your transcript or degree audit, and it counts as a "course attempt" which may have an impact on your academic status and/or record at the College. if after considering the possible consequences, you still wish to drop the class, keep in mind that it is your responsibility to do so and failure to withdraw will result in your earning a final grade that is based on your overall class performance. if extenuating circumstances (e.g., illness, accident, change in employment situation, etc.) prevent you from continuing to attend class after the drop date, speak to your instructor first and if needed, to the Chairperson to assess your options.

Friday, May 3, 2013

a pleasure!

don't be
you know
find me.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Topics for final exam (Chapter 5)

Here are the topics for the final exam (Chapter 5).

Here is the website for Doing Philosophy. 

Schedule of finals is as follows:

MWF class 10am. final: Wednesday May 1 @ 11am

Regarding paper deadlines:

Send the electronic paper by Tuesday next week.
The day of the final, please, have a hard copy ready:
No binders, no cover page. 
Times New Roman, 12 p., double spaced.
Min. 1,500 words.  

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

animals without faces (post for comment)

let's improved disney thought experiment: being aware of the animal-as-imagined-by-a-human makes for an interesting hermeneutic circle. let's get rid of moral simplifications of animality. animals are neither "good" nor "bad." animals are not moral beings in the sense we understand the term. the received idea is that animals are not moral because they lack freedom. so, our -anthropocentric- exploration of human otherness remains redundantly human. 
go to m.bourbaki and post your comment there.  i'm asking my honors class at interamerican to post here as well. so, when you post your comment, sign your name at the bottom followed by the campus. ex. Tim Burns, Wolfson.
(the deadline for submitting your post is this sunday at 11pm).

Sunday, April 7, 2013

reporting animal cruelty is now considered "terrorism"

read this article in the new york times.

exploring the roots of animal cruelty is important in our discussion of ethics.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

2010 catena malbec, picasso's les demoiselles d'avignon and the nature of aesthetic judgments


hi kids. last friday, we had an interesting discussion. judgments are "statements about." there are many different kinds of judgments: scientific, moral, aesthetic, etc. let's revise what they do.

1- scientific judgments are about the nature of reality.

2- moral judgments refer to the nature of actions.

3- aesthetic judgments are about the nature taste.

we briefly touched upon 2 & 3.

i wanted to stress the salience of these judgments by talking about food. then about art. le't take a look a these two statements: 1- "i hate this wine." 2- "this wine tastes awful." 

the difference between the two is that 1- is a subjective judgment. one is talking about one's experience. with 2- there is a difference. one is making a judgment about s state of affairs, i.e, the juice.

suppose john doesn't know much about wine and makes a judgment of type 2- about this wine, a moderately-priced malbec from argentina. this is an excellent wine for the price (what i mean is comparing price and taste). this is the consensus of people that understand wine.

& what's in the taste? when you sip the juice you get nuanced complexity of spice, tobacco and plum, all balanced with a finish of soft, supple tannins and good length.

so, how are we to treat john's 2- kind of judgment? let's say that john is wrong. he doesn't know enough about wines to make that call (remember that in 2- he's talking about the juice).

what john is doing is committing a fallacy of taking his subjective reaction to the juice as an objective property of the juice.  but they are not the same. much less coming from a person that's not educated in wine tasting.

the same goes with art. talking about art is not that simple. for example, suppose paul has no knowledge of modern art. he visits MoMA and looks at picasso's famous 1907 painting les demoiselles d'avignon. john says: "this painting by picasso sucks!"

pablo picasso's demoiselles d'avignon, 1907
again, there's a difference between,

a- "i hate this painting"
b- "this painting by picasso sucks"

ok, let's agree that catena malbec 2010 can be experienced in a substantially different manner than picasso's painting. nonetheless, there is a way to apply a similar criteria to the one used above.

a- is totally ok.
b- is more problematic.

consensus: the reason is that one has to understand cubism to properly critique it. this is not your regular realist rendition of a 1907 paris whorehouse. paul doesn't understand the conventions of modern art. he doesn't know, for instance that picasso has deliberately changed the way artists depict, thus becoming a catalyst for modern twentieth-century art.  the general consensus of art historians, critics, artists is that this is a landmark.

actual properties: to examine demoiselles d'avignon properly one has to wear cubist glasses. why? because there is a shift in perspective here. picasso is not painting "as a realist". he had already left that behind, as in this: 

yo, picasso, 1901

the young painter was absorbing influences. the piece above has a kind of spanish impressionist flavor.  the painting from 1907 is breaking with all that.  

bu wait, this is not exclusively about consensus. we need an additional "harder" criteria. which is why i talked a little bit about the painting's properties.  of course, there is always the question, what if the art historians are wrong? can they not be?

yes, they can. but it's more difficult to disregard the consensus' weight than paul's uninformed claim. can an art historian go against the grain and disagree with the consensus? sure. it happens all the time.

(to be continued)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

What's next with the philosophy paper?

I've been discussing the development of the paper with each class:

These are general observations:

1- Thesis: "In this paper I'll defend the idea that" or "In this paper I will argue in favor of..."
2- Avoid long wordy paragraphs that go nowhere. Go straight to the point.
3- Don't try to overreach yourself. It's better to discuss a couple of points than pretend to cover the entire range of issues with a short paper.
4- Avoid sounding bombastic, "I will analyze" instead of "I will logically analyze."

I'd like to have two-and-a-half pages, this Friday by 10pm.

This should include, revised title, revised introduction, your position, your opponent's position and about one or two paragraphs into the discussion. 

The paper is to be sent to my email address:

Please, in addition to your name, specify class & time. for example: John Doe, Phi 2010 HonorsWhat MWF 10am

Format: Times New Roman, 12 point font. Double spaced. Spell and Grammar checked  

Monday, March 25, 2013

if you want to keep in touch

become a friend of miami bourbaki! 

 just click the bar above google folowers and follow the instructions. it's that simple.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

ok, you've submitted your intros. don't wait for me, keep on wrinting

next, i'd like to see 2 pages. they are the intro and your POV stated again, ready for your your rival's POV.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

let's have an introduction written next (for week wednesday)

Some tips:

1- Write a clear and concise opening sentence. In philosophy papers, the opening sentence should not be cliché, and it should not be making a general statement about philosophy. The majority of philosophy papers are making an argument, so start your first paragraph with the phrase: "In this paper, I will argue that..." This opening sentence is also known as your thesis statement, which is a statement that summarizes your main argument or purpose for writing the paper.

2-  Write a brief description of all the main points you will make in your philosophy essay. Your essay will probably have about two or three main points that are being used to prove your argument. Write about a sentence for each point in your introduction.

3- You want to explain the opposing POV. If you are pro-life, this is the time to explain which argument of the pro-choice debate you will tackle. You don't have to argue yet. This is just an introduction. Your job is to advance what is going to happen so far (it can be changed later if you want). In other words, you are giving the reader a taste of what you will do later. 

4-  Proofread the opening paragraphs. Make sure your introduction clearly explains the points you make in your paper.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

i've read almost all your proposals

i'm almost done. what transpires is ok. you have chosen a topic and your position in it. what i need now is the following.

1- having a position is just the beginning. remember that your espousing a position is as good as your ability to defended it against a counter-position. philosophy is parrying.
2- when looking for sources find sources "for" and "against" your view.

3- i've had some students turning a hand-written page to me. threw them away. not acceptable.

so now, move on. let's write an introduction and more on to the body of the paper.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

are you free to shop?

The reason Target can snoop on our shopping habits is that, over the past two decades, the science of habit formation has become a major field of research in neurology and psychology departments at hundreds of major medical centers and universities, as well as inside extremely well financed corporate labs (...) One study from Duke University estimated that habits, rather than conscious decision-making, shape 45 percent of the choices we make every day, and recent discoveries have begun to change everything from the way we think about dieting to how doctors conceive treatments for anxiety, depression and addictions.
in Miami Bourbaki.

Friday, March 1, 2013

not happy with nobn-physical properties?

why should we accept the idea of a non-physical property in this case?

neither the qualitative content (how they feel) or their aboutness (intentionality) of mental states are knowable from a third person point-of-view. so, we have this bizarre predicament that we can know all the physical and functional properties of a mental state (as we've seen with the neuro siences and AI) without knowing "what's like to have it" or "what it is about."

the conclusion that the property is non-physical seems unavoidable.

here is one example, from erwin schrödinger (1887-1961), the famous physicist: 

The sensation of color cannot be accounted for by the physicist's objective picture of light-waves. Could the physiologist account for it, if he had fuller knowledge than he has of the processes in the retina and the nervous processes set up by them in the optical nerve bundles and in the brain? I do not think so.
not satisfied yet? i understand. these hypothesis are complicated. contrasting them can take the course of a semester (as when you sign for a "philosophy of mind" course). the purpose of this course is to introduce these ideas.  

paper length and schedule

the paper will be 1,500 words. that is, about 4 pages, double space, 12 p. new roman typeface.
MLA format.

as you know a paper cannot be done in a week. neither you (nor I) will be able to read and approve so much work to-andñ-fro. so, this is a tentative schedule:

1- this coming week i get your proposals. 

2- a week after the mid term i need the introduction and one page from the paper body.

3- the week after quiz #2 i need a 2 page draft.

4- a week before the final i need a possible first draft of the paper, or 3 pages into it. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

paper proposal deadline (next monday)

the proposal for a paper should be written this week and handed to me next monday (or tuesday for TR classes).

It consists of one or two paragraphs describing:

1. possible title (even if it's tentative) and topic (remember you have three topics to pic from),
2. your position (pro or con),
3. tentative bibliography, sources, etc.

at the top of the proposal, write down your name & class/time.

writing a philosophy paper ( don't panic, it's easy)

ok, it's time to prepare for the final paper. wait, don't panic.

here is how to do it.

more tips. 

a valuable link from bard college.

there are three topics to pic from:

1- same sex marriage
2- animal rights
3- abortion

if you have any questions ask me (the comment box is open).
i've decided, the paper should follow MLA conventions.  
we will discuss length next week.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

isn't watson smart?

here an opinion on watson's success by inventor & futurist, ray kurzweil.  

robots amongst us

don't miss wired's latest issue robots are already replacing us (enough to drive heideggerian technophobics up the wall).

this is not in the future. they're already here!

personal trainer,

except "human." but who cares, when you can have cheap, available and politically risk-free, programmed labor?


some of you have brought the issue of thought experiment in class.

why do we need them?

1- to challenge the prevailing status quo (which includes activities such as correcting misinformation (or misapprehension), 
2- to identify flaws in argument(s) presented, 
3- to preserve (for the long-term) objectively established fact, and 
4- to refute specific assertions that some particular thing is permissible, forbidden, known, believed, possible, or necessary); 
5- to extrapolate beyond (or interpolate within) the boundaries of already established fact; 
6- to predict and forecast the (otherwise) indefinite and unknowable future; explain the past; the retrodiction, postdiction and hind-casting of the (otherwise) indefinite and unknowable past; 
7- to facilitate decision making, choice and strategy selection; solve problems, and generate ideas; 
8- to move current (often insoluble) problems into another, more helpful and more productive problem space (e.g., see functional fixedness); 
9- to attribute causation, preventability, blame and responsibility for specific outcomes; 
10- to assess culpability and compensatory damages in social and legal contexts; 
11- to ensure the repeat of past success; 
12- to examine the extent to which past events might have occurred differently. 
13- to ensure the (future) avoidance of past failures.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Topics for review for quiz #1

Find the topics for review for quiz 1 here.
In addition, here is the Website to your textbook Doing Philosophy. It contains quizzes, flash cards, etc. Play with it and grade yourself.

Remember to bring your own scantron #48/TSM to the test.

By the way, if you have any questions you can post them here.I'll get back to you ASAP.

Friday, January 25, 2013

is atheism a religion? (first post for comment)

take a look at this interesting discussion from the n y times debate section.

the news is that atheists now have a church (figure, if theists have then, why not the other side?).

let's frame the issue: atheists are on the rise (theists too, but that has always been the norm through the ages). also, we shouldn't presuppose that philosophers are atheists.

here is gary gutting writes from the philosopher's agnostic corner:
On the one hand, religions express perennial human impulses and aspirations that cannot plausibly be rejected out of hand as foolish or delusional.  The idea that there is simply nothing worthwhile in religion is as unlikely as the idea that there is nothing worthwhile in poetry, art, philosophy or science.  On the other hand, taken at their literal word, many religious claims are at best unjustified and at worst absurd or repugnant.  There may be deep truths in religions, but these may well not be the truths that the religions themselves officially proclaim.
to problematize the issue, then he adds:
Atheism may be intellectually viable, but it requires its own arguments and can’t merely cite the lack of decisive evidence for religion.  Further, unless atheists themselves have a clearly superior case for their denial of theistic religion, then agnosticism (doubting both religion and atheism) remains a viable alternative.  The no-arguments argument for atheism fails.
this moving paragraph comes from an atheist:
The atheist is free to concentrate on the fate of this world — whether that means visiting a friend in a hospital or advocating for tougher gun control laws — without trying to square things with an unseen overlord in the next. Atheists do not want to deny religious believers the comfort of their faith. We do want our fellow citizens to respect our deeply held conviction that the absence of an afterlife lends a greater, not a lesser, moral importance to our actions on earth.
assignment: read the nytimes discussion (there are 6 different takes).

what is your idea? elaborate a minimum 150-word comment and post it with your name at the bottom. this is the first post/comment assignment of the semester. the deadline for posting your comment is friday february 1 @ 11pm.   

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

debate part 2

take a look at this new york times editorial. 

it has 6 responses to the issue of the gun controversy. read the synopsis. the issue here is not prohibition. this discussion is more nuanced.

i advance some points:

1- second amendment to the constitution and its history.
2- the downside (social price) to pay. 
3- there are approximate 300 million guns in circulation in the US alone.
4- what's an assault weapon?
4- take a look at the so called scholarly commentaries to the discussion (click here and scroll down). this is the discussion judges have when they read and write opinions. (by the way take a look at the difference between majority opinion and dissenting opinion). 

as you can see this discussion boils down to how we discuss personal freedoms (civil liberties). what are the limits of personal freedom?

read the different takes & pick one you feel good about. this is the position you will defend.

i'd like to be able to do this as an exercise in class next monday or wednesday, depending. it would be good to have at least three or four different points of view.

of course, i'll moderate the debate. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

how to win a point

we need to learn how to discuss and win a point.

T is a topic,
our opponent makes a point P to defend T.

try to establish that P is not relevant for T.

* is P contradictory? if P is contradictory it cannot be relevant. P is contradictory when affirms what it denies. sometimes this is not obvious.

ex. "killing is wrong," but "killing is self defense is not wrong."
if killing is wrong, then killing in self defense is wrong, since killing in self-defense is an example of killing. 

finding contradictions is the best way to defeat your opponent and with a little training it can be done easily.   

* is P necessary? if it's not, you're already proving lack of relevance. we already talked about this.

* is P circular? P being circular means that P is redundant. for example, a text being "true" because it's "sacred." something being true "because one is sure of it".

* is P fallacious? there are many fallacies.   if one can establish that P is fallacious one has shown that P is irrelevant to T.

Friday, January 11, 2013

important questions

disciplines are born our of questions. the question points to a possible solution. there's a mutual connection between these two. think of the possibility of answers w/o questions or visceversa.

but we don't have the answers to begin with. the reason is that we need time to "test" our answers.
from questions, disciplines are born.

in philosophy, for example, these are fundamental questions:

what is right (wrong)? ------------- ethics
what is contradictory?------------- logic
what is fair? ------------------------  political philosophy
what "is"? --------------------------- metaphysics
what is "to know?" ----------------- epistemology
what is thinking? ------------------  philosophy of mind
what is beautiful (ugly)?----------  aesthetics

questions breed more questions. to every answer there is a new question. this seemingly endless process of self-discovery is what german philosopher george friedrich hegel called dialectics. 

necessary and sufficient conditions

Necessary conditions: If we say that "x is a necessary condition for y," we mean that if we don't have x, then we won't have y. Or put differently, without x, you won't have y. To say that x is a necessary condition for y does not mean that x guarantees y.

Having gasoline in my car (I have a gasoline engine) is a necessary condition for my car to start. Without gasoline (x) my car (y) will not start. Of course, having gasoline in the car does not guarantee that my car will start. There are many other conditions needed for my car to start.

Having oxygen in the earth's atmosphere is a necessary condition for human life. Certainly, having oxygen will not guarantee human life. There are many other conditions needed for human life other than oxygen in the atmosphere.

Being 18 years of age is a necessary condition for being able to buy cigarettes legally in North Carolina. Of course, being 18 does not guarantee that a person will buy cigarettes. There are many other conditions that lead to a person buying cigarettes than being 18 years of age.

Sufficient conditions: If we say that "x is a sufficient condition for y," then we mean that if we have x, we know that y must follow. In other words, x guarantees y.

Earning a total of 950 points (95%) in this Critical Thinking class is a sufficient condition for earning a final grade of A. If you have 950 points for the course, then it must follow that you will have a final grade of A.

Pouring a gallon of freezing water on my sleeping daughter is sufficient to wake her up. If I pour the gallon of freezing water on her then its guaranteed that she will wake up.

Rain pouring from the sky is a sufficient condition for the ground to be wet.

Please note that in none of these example is the sufficient condition also a necessary condition.

For example, it is not necessary to earn 950 points to earn an A in this course. You can earn 920 points to earn an A. (We cannot say that if you do not have 950 points then you can't have an A.)

It is not necessary to pour a gallon of freezing water on my daughter to wake her up. (A wrecking ball against the wall will do it as well.)

Similarly, it is not necessary for rain to be pouring from the sky for the ground to be wet. The sprinkler could be on as well.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

what do you gain with philosophy?

The GRE score data taken from Discover Magazine (via Leiter Report). See that philosophy is at the top of writing vs. verbal skills. Philosophers are the smartest humanists, but they are pretty good when it comes to quantitative skills (mathematicians and physicists are the best in this department). Accountants are at the bottom of both writing and quantitative combined!

Basically: if you are looking to hire someone with outstanding critical, verbal, and written ability – and someone with strong quantitative ability – hire a philosophy major!

the philosophy clubs is up for grabs

the philosophy club is the place for philosophers to "chill," but you have to create it.

submit your name here if you think you are philosophy material.

1- you love disagreeing with your parents and friends about politics and religion. you are basically a curious animal.
2- your boyfriend/girlfriend is in awe of your verbal skills (perhaps the relationship hinges on this point).
3- you don't hate math (or any science for that matter). you're careful characterizing people and situations.
4- your power of abstraction is patent (as you often find yourself lost in public places -or aimlessly driving for no reason).
4- you either wear glasses or are attracted by people who wear them.
5- 1-4 doesn't make you any nerdier or weirder. in any case, don't mind people calling you names (they wished they had your skills).

by the way, 1-5 is in jest.

if you're interested. write down your name here. we'll pick president, vice, treasurer and secretary.

i need student-assistants

anyone can (potentially) become a student-assistant.

what does it take to be one? you have what it takes. i see it and ask you to help me to help yourself thereby helping the class.

how does one spot a student-assistant? he/she participates, does the homework on time, barely misses a class, studies for the test and gets more than a B (a B+ counts). he/she shows this consistent student- assistant behavior throughout the semester. 

the role of a student-assistant is to help any student in need. the reward? x-tra points (i'd argue that the ideal student assistant does what he/she does not for the xtra points, but for the sake of helping her student-community). in any event, the x-tra points don't hurt.  

what's philosophy about?

welcome all.

my classes are a bit unorthodox.

for example, the class rudiments: homework revision, strict. "home," not 10 minute-before-triff-class. "work," give it time. be patient.
class participartion: mandatory. talk or die. you're never wrong, students are young by definition (a 60 y old student is young in my book). let's put it this way. you're lucky: if there is a time to be wrong this is the time. i'm with you.

from the git-go you need to learn to build arguments and debate them.
why? beliefs work in synch with structural propositions. you do what you think. we have to get into the thinking to modify the doing.

what's an argument? a nugget, a treasure. you have to learn how to build it.

in class we analyze arguments and proceed to take them apart. this is what i call problematizing.

philosophy is a problematizing activity.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Final Review, Chapters 4, 5 (Ethics)

Chapter 4

Numerical identity: Two objects are identical if they are one and the same. Qualitative Identity: Two objects are qualitatively identical if they share the same properties (qualities).

Accidental property:  a property a thing can loose without ceasing to exist.
Essential property: A property a thing cannot loose without ceasing to exist.

Is numerical identity a necessary condition for qualitative identity? Read p. 266.

1. Animalism: Identical persons are those with identical human bodies (i,e., "I'm my body"). Problems: Siamese Twins (Hensel sisters), The "transgender issue". C/E: Locke's tale of the prince and the cobbler (as the cobbler and the prince trade souls, their bodies become redundant).

Soul Theory: Identical persons are those who share the same soul. ("I'm my soul"). The main argument against the soul theory is that there is nothing about the soul theory that one cannot already explain much better by referring to people's behaviors (or character).

2. Locke's Memory Theory of Personal Identity: (I am my memories and my memories are the result of my experiences). Problem: What if one forgets? Is that forgotten part still a part of my identity? Reid’s Tale of the Brave Officer reveals the following: Direct memory: A memory that a person can consciously recall. Indirect memory: A memory that an earlier stage of that person can consciously recall. Real memory: A memory of an event that was experienced by the person remembering it and that was caused by the event it records. Apparent memory: A memory of an event that either didn't happen or was not caused by the event it records.

The main objection against Locke's memory theory is that Locke's Memory Theory is circular. Why? It defines memories in terms of the self and the self in terms of its memories (i.e., I am my memories and my memories are what happens to me.

3. Psychological Continuity Theory: Identical persons are those who are psychologically continuous to one another. That is to say, two people are psychologically continuous if they form part of an overlapping series of persons that quasi-remember and quasi desire the same things.

A note about the relationship between q-memories and personal identity: What  is the difference between quasi-memory and real memory? Take a look at p. 297: A q-memory is an apparent memory caused in the right way by an actual experience. All real memories are q-memories but not all q-memories are real memories, because people can have q-memories of experiences they didn't actually have. Why is it so important that q-memories are caused in the right way?  Because q-memories ground personal identity, though not every way of causing memories is identity preserving. An example would be hypnosis, the hypnotists may give you a memory that happened to someone else. That doesn't make you identical to that person. 

C/E: William’s Reincarnation of Guy Fawkes; Williams' Reduplication Argument. The conclusion from this experiment is that psychological continuity is one-to-many, not one-to-one. That is to say, one can be psychologically continuous to many people at once. C/E Parfit Teletransporter Mind Experiment. Recall that in the second teleporter Po (on earth) and Pc (in Mars) are psychologically continuous, physically identical, but they cannot be the same person (it violates the principle of numeric identity: one person cannot be in two places at the same time). It also suggests that (as when Po dies of cardiac arrest, the Pc survives, which seems to suggest that identity is not necessary for survival.

4. Brain Theory: Identical persons are those who are psychologically continuous with one another and whose psychology is caused by and realized in the same brain. C/A: Parfit’s Division. Triplets, A,B,C. A's brain is transplanted into B & C and A dies. The surviving brothers (A and B) are now physically identical and psychologically continuous with one another. So, if your brain can be divided, the brain theory is flawed.

5. The difference between narratives of the self: 1- diachronic, 2- episodic. The diachronic sees the different stages of the life as part of a continuous series. The episodic sees the different stages as discontinuous episodes. This doesn't mean that the episodic individual cannot make a narrative, but they usually don't. However this integration doesn't seem to be necessary condition for being a person.

We've analyzed the example of Robert and Frank (p. 265) in class. If Frank and Robert are different persons it would be wrong to punish a person for what another person did. Some in the class affirmed they are the same, but that's what we needed to prove. In any case, the Frank-Robert case points to the self as a process.

6. Is personal identity a necessary condition for responsibility? No. Why? We have to talk about character, which is a function of our beliefs, desires, values, etc. Can a person change his/ her character? Remember the differences between Frank and Robert. Though Frank and Robert are numerically identical, they don't have the same character (they are qualitatively different). Yes, they are numerically identical, but their degrees of responsibility have to be taken into consideration. This is the idea behind rehabilitation. Parole boards take into account that if the character of a person changes for the better, the individual's responsibility for a crime is lessened.

What matters for responsibility is character. Character being a function of our beliefs, desires, values, etc and our actions being a function of our character. So numeric identity seems to be neither a necessary condition nor sufficient condition for responsibility. What matters is sameness of character. 

7. Self as PROCESS.

What does it mean to say that the self is "a process." Let's recall Sartre's motto: l'homme n'est pas ce qu'il est, il est ce qu'il n'est pas ("the self is not what it is and it is what it is not"). The self is in constant  de-venir (or be-coming).

Chapter 5

Section 5.1

1. Subjective Absolutism: The view that what makes an action right is that one approves of it;
Objections: (a) SA makes moral evaluations a matter of personal opinion, (b)impossibility of moral disagreements (one can only agree with the absolutist and the reason is that he believes he's the ONLY ONE THAT'S RIGHT). 

 2. Subjective Relativism: What makes an action right is that it is approved by that person. Objections (same as above). You must be able to tell the difference between the (the absolutist thinks she's the only one that's right, whereas the subjective relativist believes that many people can disagree and still be right at the same time) absolutist and the subjective relativist.

3. Emotivism: The doctrine that moral utterances are expressions of emotions. Basically, the emotivist is saying that right and wrong ARE NOT REALLY OUT THERE!
Counterargument: Blanshard’s Rabbit. What matters is not one's suffering but the victim's suffering (factual force of the victim's suffering). I've brought up the argument of throwing acid into women's faces, as a proof that these women's suffering warrant a moral judgment of condemnation.  

4. Cultural relativism: The doctrine that what makes an action right is that it's approved by that culture. Counterarguments: 1- Logical contradiction (see above), impossibility for moral disagreements and 2- The fact that cultures are not that different at a deeper level. One can point to differences between "deep" values (moral values, i.e., human behavior of fundamental consequence for human welfare) and "superficial" values (domestic habits, etiquette, fashion, etc) other cultural values to the effect that most cultures seem to share the same deep moral values.

5. Logical Structure of Moral Arguments: Moral standards + factual beliefs = Moral judgments (this is not a formula, just an approximation). What is a factual belief? A belief held by factual evidence (i.e., child abuse is wrong because of the facts we know about psychology, human rights, child development, etc,).

6. Are there universal moral principles? YES! 1- Principle of mercy (Unnecessary suffering is wrong) and 2- Principle of justice (Treat equals equally).

Section 5.2.

1. Difference between consequentialist theories and formalist theories. Consequentialism is the theory that judges the rightness or wrongness of an action in terms of its consequences. Formalism is the theory that judges the rightness or wrongness of an action in terms of the action's form (i.e., "killing is wrong": the formalist believes that moral actions are objective).

2. Intrinsic (value for its own sake; personhood is an essential value: a-reason, b-autonomy, c-sentience, d-freedom) and instrumental values (value for the sake of something else): 

3. Ethical egoism: What makes an action right is that it promotes one's best interest in the long run = PRUDENCE. Counterarguments: (a) Egoist's motivations (if known, the egoist's intentions seem to betray reversibility principle). (b) Egoism is not a socially or politically cogent theory (i.e., you would not vote for an egoist in office). 

4. Act Utilitarianism: What makes an action right is that it maximizes happiness everyone considered (which means, "bringing happiness for the greatest majority of people"). Counterarguments: (a) McCloskey’s informant (b) Brandt’s Heir, (c) Ross' unhappy promise, (d) Goodwin's Fire Rescue, (e) Ewing's Utilitarian torture. In each one of these cases one has violated principles of justice, duty and equality.

5. Rule Utilitarianism: What makes an action right is that it falls under a rule that if generally followed would maximize happiness everyone considered. RU is a better theory than AU. Why? Because if applied, it can solve the problems posed by the previous counterarguments.

Section 5.3.

1. Kant’s Categorical Imperative: What makes an action right is that everyone can act on it (which yields universalizability), and you'd have everyone acting on it (which yields reversibility: Golden Rule).

2. Perfect duty: A duty that must always be performed no matter what. And imperfect duties. Problem with Kant's first formulation: (a) Hare’s Nazi fanatic (I've commented this as Bin-Laden Syndrome).  How can we solve that?

3. Kant's Second Formulation: TREAT PEOPLE AS ENDS, NEVER AS MEANS TO AN END.Problems with the second formulation: Problem of exceptions: Some times we have to treat people as means to ends: Broad's Typhoid Man.

Pluralistic Formalism: What makes an action right is that it falls under the highest ranked duty in a given situation.

Ross’ Prima Facie Duties. Actual duties: One that must be performed in a particular situation. Prima Facie Duty: A duty that must be performed unless it conflict with a more important duty. You must know hierarchy and each one of these duties as I explained in class: 1- Justice, 2- fidelity and 3- reparation being the first three, because they explain out the remaining ones: beneficence, non-maleficence, gratitude, self-improvement.
5. Pluralistic Formalism improves upon Kantian theory's problem with exceptions. 

Section 5.4

Aristotle's virtue. Aristotle begins by saying that the highest good for humans, the highest aim of all human practical thinking, is eudaimonia. What makes a virtuous character (ethikē aretē) possible, which is in turn necessary if happiness is to be possible. He describes a sequence of necessary steps: righteous actions (under the influence of teachers) allow the development of the right habits, which in turn can allow the development of a good character in which the habits are voluntary, and this in turn gives a chance of achieving eudaimonia. 

Virtue is an admirable human quality, marked by a disposition to behave in certain ways in certain circumstances. Then, there is the mean between excess and defect. Here are some examples:
apathy----gentleness----short temper

Virtue ethics is centered around what makes a good person rather than what makes an action right. So the purpose of morality for Aristotle is to make it possible for everyone to enjoy a good life by restricting certain forms of self-interested behavior. And the best way to get people to abide by a system of moral rules is to instill in them certain dispositions known as virtues.
Here is the link for your textbook, "Doing Philosophy."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Have you ever thought of animals' rights?

Peter Singer defends animal rights from their ability feel pain. Since animals have no language, leading scientists argue that it is impossible to know when an animal is suffering. This situation may change as increasing numbers of chimps are taught sign language, although skeptics question whether their use of it portrays real understanding. Singer writes that, following the argument that language is needed to communicate pain, it would often be impossible to know when humans are in pain. All we can do is observe pain behavior, he writes, and make a calculated guess based on it. As Ludwig Wittgenstein argued, if someone is screaming, clutching a part of their body, moaning quietly, or apparently unable to function, especially when followed by an event that we believe would cause pain in ourselves, that is in large measure what it means to be in pain. Singer argues that there is no reason to suppose animal pain behavior would have a different meaning.

Tom Regan argues that animals are what he calls "subjects-of-a-life," and as such are bearers of rights. He argues that, because the moral rights of humans are based on their possession of certain cognitive abilities, and because these abilities are also possessed by at least some non-human animals, such animals must have the same moral rights as humans. Although only humans act as moral agents, both marginal-case humans, such as infants, and at least some non-humans must have the status of "moral patients." Moral patients are unable to formulate moral principles, and as such are unable to do right or wrong, even though what they do may be beneficial or harmful. Only moral agents are able to engage in moral action. Animals for Regan have "inherent value" as subjects-of-a-life, and cannot be regarded as a means to an end.

Some critics of Regan, like Roger Scruton, argue that rights also imply obligations, which animals cannot be forced to have (although Scruton disagrees with Regan over the issue of rights, he opposes factory farming.

Abolitionism: It falls within the framework of the rights-based approach, though it regards only one right as necessary: the right not to be owned. Abolitionists argue that the key to reducing animal suffering is to recognize that legal ownership of sentient beings is unjust and must be abolished. The most prominent of the abolitionists is Gary Francione, professor of law and philosophy at Rutgers School of Law-Newark. He argues that focusing on animal welfare may actually worsen the position of animals, because it entrenches the view of them as property, and makes the public more comfortable about using them.

I am closing this post next Wednesday, July 25th

What is personal identity?

Check these videos with  Professor Shelly Kagan, at Yale University:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3