2010 Fall Proseminar Class Notes

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August 31, 2010

Introductory Class:

  • Student Introductions: Prompt:
  • General awareness and curiosities about history of philosophy (pitch for timelines)
  • Philosophy Problem 101
  • What If . . . Searle's Brain Replacement

Student Interests (in no particular order):

  • Eastern Philosophies -- Daoism
  • Postmodernism
  • Applied Ethics / Env. Ethics / Business Ethics
  • Political Philosophy
  • Descartes / Scientific Revolution
  • Phenomenology
  • Philosophy NOW
  • Aesthetics
  • Philosophy/Econ - Game Theory
  • Lonergan
  • Analytic
  • Feminism
  • Existtentialism
  • Kant

September 7

Investigating Philosophy as a Discipline

Question for investigating Philosophy as a discipline

  1. What is philosophy?
  2. What are the major fields of Philosophy? See this wiki list.
  3. What are some basic concepts, issues, and methods of each? Browse.
  4. What are the major temporal epochs of Western philosophy?
  5. Is philosophy a global phenomenon? What is comparative philosophy? How do you identify philosophy in other cultures? (See course unit)
  6. What is the difference between continental and analytic philoosphy? (Course unit)
  7. What are: existentialism, postmodernism, positivism, romanticism, enlightenment philosophy, scientific revolution, renaissance, neo-platonism, scholasticism, game theory, cognitive science, moral psychology, ...
  8. How does philosophy relate to literature and religion?
  9. What are contemporary philosophers saying about art & politics?
  10. Why did language become so important in 20th century philosophy?

Major Sub-fields

Discussion of Hadot, "Spiritual Exercises"

"Spiritual exercises can be best observed in the context of Hellenistic and Roman schools of philosophy. The Stoics, for instance, declared explicitly that philosophy, for them, was an "exercise."n In their view, philosophy did not consist in teaching an abstract theory - much less in the exegesis of texts'n, out rather in the art of living.n It is a concrete attitude and determinate life-Style, which engages the whole of existence. The philosophical act is not situated merely on the cognitive level, but on that of the self and of being. It is a progress which causes us to be more fully, and makes us better.'n It is a conversion'n which turns our entire life upside down, changing the life of the person who goes through it.n It raises the individual from an inauthentic condition of life, darkened by unconsciousness and harassed by worry, to an authentic state of life, in which he attains self-consciousness, an exact vision of the world, inner peace, and freedom." 82
86: "For the Stoic, then, doing philosophy meant practicing how to "live": thatis, how to live freely and consciously. Consciously, in that we pass beyond thelimits of individuality, to recognize ourselves as a part of the reason-animatedcosmos. Freely, in that we give up desiring that which does not depend on usand is beyond our control, so as to attach ourselves only to what depends onus: actions which are just and in conformity with reason."
  • Philosophers as therapists / Philosophy as therapeutic.
  • In Epicurean thought -- the tetrapharmakos; also in Phaedrus.
88: "For the Epicureans, in the last analysis, pleasure is a spiritual exercise. Notpleasure in the form of mere sensual gratification, but the intellectual pleasurederived from contemplating nature, the thought of pleasures past and present,and lastly the pleasure of friendship. "
  • Prosoche -- attention.
  • Learning to Die -- It's role in defining philosophy.
  • Plotinus - sculpting your statue.

Begin Review of Theory of Argument and Explanation

We'll work from the following three documents for this line of instruction:

Discussion of Haidt, "The Divided Self"

- If one wants to understand consciousness, does one have to understand the brain? Yes or No: choose a position

No - Traditional philosophical Dualism (Platonic, Cartesian, etc.); Ideas are incorporeal

Yes - Phil of Mind: consciousness is an illusion. Premise: the brain is a necessary condition of consciousness. Consciousness is related to physical environment.

- Bodies/Persons - Vocabularies for talking about bodies and persons: divided; consciousness seems to be on the 'person' side

- Epiphenomenon! too complicated to explain... (Sorry about that. Could someone post/report next week on epiphenomenalism next week? It would have been a huge digression at this point, and I don't think I'd have done a precise enough job of it. (Alfino)

- Consciousness seems subjective

Four Areas of Separation: (uncontroversial) Good Places to start understanding the Human Mind

Mind/Body: Plato's Emo Horse/Reason Horse vs. Rider on an Elephant. Embedded consciousness - thinking with the whole body.

Left/Right: confabulation. is reason happening in language? or does our ability to think well depend on the physiology of our brain? unsure of the logic center in the brain. Philosophers' traditional picture of thinking as an isolated activity called into question.

Old/New: Old Brain - parts in the middle. New Brain grew around the Old Brain. Reason is a recent addition to the brain (new brain).

Controlled/Automatic: huge area of research - Daniel Gilbert's "Stumbling onto Happiness". Philosophers have had too much faith in our ability to control thoughts. We have been unaware of how controlled we are by physiological factors.

- Philosophy has to be informed by what we know.

Nice notes! Thanks (Alfino)

== How much attention should Philosophers pay to Science? ==

September 14

Topics to browse and possibly report back on for this week: the field of genetic engineering, transhumanism, torts, the field of Philosophy of Law. Additional scholarship on Hart & Honore's view. Research on HLA Hart.

Discussion of Glover article

The main point of this article is that a case can be made to show the beneficial effects, and therefore support for, positive genetic engineering; where positive means aiming to improve some aspect of a person, where that aspect is found in a majority of the population, and where that aspect is therefore characterized as normal. Negative genetic engineering, in contrast, defines the act of fixing or removing a defect.

Risks and Mistakes the threat of disaster versus the benefits of genetic engineering

Argument for the threat of disaster being to great – we would be unable to control the will of the people we would ‘create’ and therefore if they had unforeseen side effects, such as creating extremely violent and aggressive personality traits, there would be no way to keep those traits out of future generations, as the modified humans would feel themselves worthy of the same basic rights that we ourselves enjoy today. Glover illustrates two further paths from this argument. 1. Rule out genetic engineering altogether 2. Negative engineering is perhaps acceptable, but positive engineering is not

Glover agrees that the risk of disaster is present and says that if genetic engineering is adopted extreme caution must be used, and mentions it is similar to the nuclear power debate. ‘We should alter genes only where we have strong reasons for thinking the risk of disaster is very small, and where the benefit is great enough to justify the risk’

He counters the argument by saying that there may be risks from not using positive genetic engineering that are far greater then the risks stemming from actually using positive genetic engineering. Here he draws again on the nuclear power debate and says that unless we can rule out, absolutely, the possibility of such a risk with genetic engineering, the principle of risk provides an argument for the principle of caution rather that providing support for a ban on all positive engineering.

I broke down his argument as follows:

If the principle of caution is less strong than a principle of no positive engineering Then there is room within the principle caution for the possibility that the dangers of positive engineering may turn out to be very remote or that greater risks of a different kind are involved in not using positive engineering THEREFORE If we can’t rule out that the dangers from positive engineering may turn out to be very remote or that greater risks of a different kind stem from NOT using positive engineering Then the argument from risk gives more support to the principle of caution and less support to the argument the principle of no positive engineering

Not Playing God How can we know that it is better for one sort of person to be born then another?

Objectors to Positive Engineering say we should not use genetic engineering to raise the average IQ by - 15 points, not because it would be bad to have the average higher, but rather because they are of the - opinion that we are in no position to decide what the average IQ level should be.

Glover argues against this by saying that: If there is a God that has a plan for us that will be broken if we stray outside the boundaries of our existence, how can we say that medicine (i.e. longer average life span) and other things have already not broken those boundaries down. And therefore, an argument against positive engineering as a means that man will use to break these boundaries is invalid.

His next argument is from a standpoint based on the findings Charles Darwin: If our species is constantly adapting and evolving for survival, then it is not wrong to take into our own hands the power to do exactly that, because it is nature’s way.

His next argument against the ideology of not playing god is to disprove the theory proponents of that idea have about not interfering with natural selection and is made up of multiple premises: If we do not interfere with natural selection. Then we would not have a multitude of positive things (one of the biggest being medicine). If we should only not interfere with nature on a genetic level. Then negative engineering would not be OK. If negative engineering is OK. Then the parameters around positive engineering need some work.

The basic objection to positive engineering, he states, comes down to some variation of the populous having a general objection to a person or group of people planning out what other’s lives should be like, and he gives numerous examples of why this is an objection for some.

'The group of people controlling a positive engineering policy would inevitably have limited horizons, and we are right to worry that the limitations of their outlook might become the boundaries of human variety.'

The Genetic Supermarket A counter argument to show control of positive genetic engineering by a small group of people is not necessarily the only scenario in which positive genetic engineering could take place but that due to the will of the masses, and the problems that result from that will, some sort of control via a centralized decision making group would be necessary.

His main point is that instead of dwelling on ‘design’ in positive genetic engineering, we should take an approach similar to that of a supermarket, where parents can browse & pick the traits of their offspring. Nozick believes this system to be virtuous because it is free from the control of a small group of people.

Glover responds by saying that while this may be an improvement on a centralized process of deciding the outcomes of positive genetic engineering, personal choice by the masses does not guarantee diversity (which philosophically is very easy to see, and I believe, valid)

He makes a few points about the boundaries that should be placed around parents who are picking out their children in the ‘genetic supermarket’ using laws against cruelty and basic human rights as justification. He concludes that if this system were to exist, it would be necessary to have some form of centralized process in order to protect the subjects from the parents. He also puts forth the idea that restriction on parent choice due to the social imbalance that could occur in society.

In the conclusion of this section, Glover mentions that there are problems with having a system based purely on the choice of the parent as well as a system governed by a small decision making group but he ends with a statement that shows the basic idea of how he believes we could get around this problem.

‘A genetic supermarket, modified by some central regulation, may still be better than a system of purely central decision. The liberal value is not obliterated because it may sometimes be compromised for the sake of other things we care about.’

Values – what qualifies us to make decisions when it comes to positive genetic engineering? In other words, ‘on what basis can we decide between bringing into existence different types of people’.

Two Boundaries 1. The Positive / Negative Boundary – aimed at drawing the line between eliminating defects and the practice of positive engineering. It helps to avoid putting people in the position to make God-like decisions using genetic engineering on the basis of their own values. However, as with all emotional issues, many elements cloud the boundary. 2. Genes / Environment Boundary – aimed at drawing the line between positive engineering and the acceptable positive aims of educational policies


Two Questions 1. Can we be justified in trying to change human nature? 2. And if so, is genetic change an acceptable method?

Justifiable Doubts 1. Risks of Disasters 2. Drawbacks of the centralized decision making process

Glovers Answers 1. Risks are good reasons for extreme caution, not complete bans. 2. Valid doubt for resisting centralized decision making, and therefore why positive genetic engineering in authoritarian societies is not a good idea.

Notes on his conclusion… he mentions that to renounce positive genetic engineering would be to crush any hope of fundamental improvement in our nature, but admits that we cannot be sure that the pessimistic views of the outcomes of positive genetic engineering are both false.

Extra articles: some food for thought on the topic I realize this may be a little late for people to actually read the articles but here are links to two articles I focused on last semester when I did a project on HGE, one is in favor of HGE and the other is against it:

[1]   and [2]  

Couldn't really get a hang of the formatting. Feel free to edit & clean up.

Here is a transhumanist website: [3]

Discussion of Hart & Honore, Tracing Causes

"To consequences no limits can be set"

530: "It is important to see that the issue here is not the linguistic one whether the word 'consequence' would be understood if used in this way. The point is that, though we could, we do not think in this way in tracing connections between i.human actions and events. Instead, whenever we are concerned with such connections, whether for the purpose of explaining a puzzling occurrence,assessing responsibility, or giving an intelligible historical narrative, we employ a set of concepts restricting in various ways what counts as a consequence. These restrictions colour all our thinking in causal terms; when we find them in the law we are not finding something invented by or peculiar to the law, though of course it is for the law to say when and how far it will use them and, where they are vague, to supplement them."

When does action by another person change the tracing of cause?

distinction: causing harm directly / inducing harm by suggestion


i. fire from cig sets forest on fire
ii. same as i, but B comes by and pours gas on it.
iii. A hits B who then has a tree land on him

531: "3. Yet it is important to notice that even in applying our general knowledge to a case^ as simple as this, indeed in regarding it as simple,we make an implicit use of a distinction between types of factor which constitute a limit in tracing consequences and those which we regard as mere circumstances 'through' which we trace them."

Continue Review of Argument Theory

Tonight we'll focus on:


-Argument and Explanation Structure

-Tour of Logic Docs

-7 methods for majors. Assignment for next week: Find five examples of of method in your readings from your various philosophy courses, including this one. Report them to the link under "Student Work" on the wiki. Try to keep the page organized!

September 21

Background on Nagel

Ok, so here is a brief background on Nagel. Please add if you think that i left anything important out. . .

-Nagel is a professor of Philosophy and Law at NYU.[4] HIs work mainly deals with questions of consciousness and objectivity versus subjectivity. He has been described by his peers as being a Rationalist, and ethical Kantian. Because we will be focusing on his Philosophy of Mind perspective in " What is it Like to be a Bat?", it would probably be a good idea to get a general sense of what he thinks about the subject as a whole.

  • Nagel is mainly a proponent of the subjective experience. It seems that he would say that the way humans view the world cannot be divorced from the way that they perceive it as individuals. As a result, his theory of mind perspective has been cited in multiple other dialogues amongst people in the field. Particularly, his theory of subjective understanding appears in the Atheism/Religion debates of Dawkins and Hahn.
  • Since he focuses and advocates for human subjectivety, it makes sense that he also is regarded for his views of whether objectivity is possible. For Nagel, it isn't a matter of whether something is or isn't objective. Nagel believes that objectivity exists in a matter of degrees. Objectivity can be obtained, but only to the degree that an individual is willing to subjectively choose wider perspectives outside his own immediate one. While this would seem problematic given the subjective nature of choosing a wider perspective, his view is still quoted widely. One place i have located his theory in use is the the field of Journalism Philosophy. Here is the address to a pdf article containing references to Nagel in this area. [www.opendemocracy.net/content/articles/PDF/1218.pdf]

please feel free to add stuff... Kobywarren 02:09, 22 September 2010 (UTC)

Background on Dennett

Here is a brief summary of "Why we should listen to" the man, the myth, the legend- Daniel Dennett.

Dan Dennett: Philosopher, cognitive scientist

I would have compiled some of this background information myself but this seems to have been written by someone whose job it is to write these types of things and is probably much more informative and interesting than something I could have written given my limited time.

An Interview with Daniel Dennett in the Atlantic Monthly. All I can say is this guy is legit.

On why he never met a robot he didn't like... The article that this interview is linked to is also exceedingly interesting :))))))

BIO: Daniel Clement Dennett was born in Boston in 1942. He attended Philips Exeter Academy (a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire known as the setting for the novel, A Separate Peace) and then Harvard, graduating with a degree in Philosophy and where he was a student of H.V. Quine. He is a philosopher and cognitive scientist. He says his philosophical emphasis on philosophy of mind has remained the same since his time at Oxford where he studied under Ordinary language philosopher Gilbert Ryle. He is also a noted atheist and secularist and a professor at Tufts University in the greater Boston area.

Dennett calls himself a Bright and autodidact, that is, someone who is mostly self-taught as opposed to learning in a school-setting or a university. He is a philosopher commenting on some of the most cutting-edge science of our day so this makes sense, but perhaps autodidactism is a trait shared by many philosophers. My parents call me a dilettante, but I think I'll have to correct them from now on and let them know that term is terribly passe--I am an autodidact.

-a brief side note, Dennett is referred to in some academic circles as one of the "Four Horsemen." (the term was coined for a group of four very prominent atheists) I read about this in another class and thought it was interesting...

(Ian Dempsey)

Philosophy free science

-In Dennett's Italic textIs Nothing Sacred He writes "there is no such thing as philosophy free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination." The reason he argues that Darwin had such a revolutionary idea was because he challenged the world view of his time. Dennett characterizes science as thinking it self as hard and objective. However he goes on to say that "there is no future in sacred myth ... (and that) truth is surely a central element in the meaning we find in our lives." I think what I am having the most problems in reading this is that he seems to be inconsistent; in one line he praises the Darwin for his brave if unscientific leaps into thought and in the next we see him scoffing at the ideas that came before for blindly excepting tradition. Why be disparaging about the past religions and world views, is this not just the evolution of human understanding? All these perspectives have something valuable to say, if it is just that we are constantly striving to understand our surroundings. In an crude summery a point of Nagel's, however, there comes a point we must decide to swallow the horse pill of a world view. He gives the example of matter and energy. We are told that they are the same, we except this yet almost none of us can tell exactly why this is. We simply lack the understanding of physics needed. So in a sense is this not the "future in sacred myth"?

I wish they still did philosophy like this: [5]

Dennett and Nagel on Consciousness

(Dennett, "Explaining Consciousness" and Nagel, "What is it like to be a bat?" and Dennett's take on Nagel in the excerpt from Csness Explained, p. 441-448)

Here's a link with Dennett explaining why we don't understand our own consciousness... he believes that consciousness and free will are the result of a physical process, pretty cool stuff. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/dan_dennett_on_our_consciousness.html

Nagel - What is it like to be a bat?

  • Two main goals
    • Define consciousness
    • Argue against a reductionist approach to consciousness (reductionism - the practice of analyzing and describing a complex phenomenon, esp. a mental, social, or biological phenomenon, in terms of phenomena that are held to represent a simpler or more fundamental level, esp. when this is said to provide a sufficient explanation.)
  • First Argument
    • Subjective character of experience is what it is like to be an organism
    • A reductive view of this argues that for the absence of the subjective character of experience. Therefore, reductionism cannot comprehend the subjective character of experience
  • Second Argument
    • Physicalism - physical theories can full explain every phenomenon of the world
    • Physicalism is false because it cannot explain subjective phenomenon
  • Third Argument
    • To know the consciousness of the subject is to know what it is like to be the subject
    • We are limited in our physical ability to actually be a bat, therefore we cannot know the consciousness of bats.
  • Fourth Argument
    • Experiences should not be viewed through reductionism because reduction is a move towards objectivity, and the real nature of things, and we cannot get closer to the real nature of human experience if we leave behind our human point of view

Dennett on evolution in philosophy (Dennett, "Tell Me Why?")

Dennet asks about the effects of Evolution on our intuition that life somehow matters (that,as we are told as children 'god has made each one of us special' or that life has a point) especially in a religious manner: He says that the theory of evolution, although there are still some remaining controversies surrounding it, is supported with evidence from so many different scientific disciplines and so many different kinds of evidence it is not open to a lot of flat-out opposition. Dennet uses theories that this seems to conflict with from before Darwin's era to represent most theories that people use instead of evolution with Locke and Hume's assertion that mind must precede or at least come at the same time as life. Locke justifies this with the idea that essentially nothing can come from nothing, and so mind cannot have come from something that is not mind. Hume argues with Locke's ideas and what Dennet calls an 'argument from design', that parts of nature are too complicated and work too well to have been chance, the famous example of which is that throwing cogs and hands together do not ever make a watch, showing flaws in every version of an argument that would link God to Science, but in the end says that he cannot imagine anything but a God or Mind that was the first cause of creation. This is like many scientists today, Dennet points out-- it is difficult to give up the idea of God just because we have rational explanations for how things work.Hume even approaches an idea of evolution with a theory of a God that has been trying many different combinations of worlds until he has reached one he likes the best, like Dennet points out many philosophers have done before Darwin but never went any farther. He says that Darwin has made the greatest breakthrough in scientific thought because of this thought.

Just a little side note, not really related to the topic at hand, but I have always thought it interesting that so many thinkers, like Dennett, have said that Darwin had made such a breakthrough and that he changed history. I totally agree that Darwin changed the way that people had thought about science, philosophy and religion. It just seems interesting the different way that people view these thoughts. It seems that people are more likely to criticize Darwin than to completely understand his meaning. Just an interesting idea that crossed my mind. --Jjohnson9 17:12, 23 September 2010 (UTC)

September 28

Second Thoughts

Is there a conflict between 1st person and 3rd person consciousness and reality?

After thinking about it a bit more, i wonder what the nature of 1st and 3rd person consciousness in regards to reality is. While Dennett seems to want to advocate for a monist position that these two perspective occupy the same reality, i'm not fully convinced of that myself. By this i mean, is it possible to reconcile 1st and 3rd person perspectives with a dualistic view of reality?

If you consider 1st person to be subjective and 3rd person to be objective, it seems plausible that each of these perspectives can be in themselves their own reality. The subjective can represent a reality that is completely contingent on individual biographical experience and states of mind. Objective can refer to a reality that is independent of human experience. When thinking about the possibility of this dual reality explanation, i imagine a scenario in which someone has phantom limb syndrome (the same example offered by Descartes in his meditations). The objective reality is that the person is missing a limb. However, the subjective reality of the person is that they still feel sensation and pain in the missing limb. The implication here is that the subjective reality of the individual with phantom limb pain is clearly different from the objective reality representing the limb as nonexistent.

...just some thoughts Kobywarren 05:44, 27 September 2010 (UTC)

Is Evolution a "game changer" in the history of philosophy

(by, for example, "ending" "mind first" views and dualism?)

Shop Class

In the first two chapters of his book Shop Class as Soulcraft Matthew B. Crawford argues for the reinstatement of labor practices into American education systems. The basic parts of his argument are that through labor, one can feel more fulfilled (see the section on his feelings toward building electronic systems that work), and that the economic system in the U.S. has screwed us up via the division of labor, so no one knows how to do anything anymore. His argument is very convincing, I think, and if I didn't already have plans for this summer I would certainly go to a mechanic and try to learn some stuff. --Jlacasse 21:27, 28 September 2010 (UTC)


I found the article on Kant interesting in relation to our discussions last week of the effect of the science behind evolution on philosophy, because the beginning of the article talks about how Kant was influenced by the scientific developments of his day and the scientific method in his views of how we can determine what is real. He wanted to use scientific discoveries as fact and it seems like he did a very good job of proving that you can , and so it was interesting to me that the article ended with Kant rejecting the idea that rational theology (and so to him a concept of God?) could work, just as Dennet's article about Darwin contained the idea that religion is made much less important and perhaps irrevelant by Darwin's theories. I'm wondering what answers theologians had to Kant's ideas, and if they were similar to responses to Dennet? This relationship between philosophers dealing with scientific advancement and arguing that God does not exist may not hold true in all cases but its an interesting pattern we're seeing. Skolmes 04:49, 28 September 2010 (UTC)

I knew that Immanuel Kant was a Christian so I found it quite surprising that he argued against many of the theories that concluded that there is a God. Seeing as he was a definite believer in God and even went so far as to claim that “God cannot be separated from the relation of happiness with morality as the ‘ideal of the supreme good." However, I came to realize that the end of the reading by Scruton was not claiming that Kant was against people believing that God existed, he was simply proving that many of the arguments used to prove the existence of God are fallacious because “The argument turns on the premise that existence is not a predicate…” and therefore it is impossible to claim that the concept of God leads to the existence of God. Kant is not the first example of people who believe in the existence of God and have combated some of the proofs for the existence of God such as the ontological argument. Two examples would be St. Thomas Aquinas and Gaunilo of Marmoutiers. User:Daniel

Liebniz on Evil

So I know this wasn't addressed all that much in the packet (hardly at all) but this really caught my eye and interested me. First of all I want to apologize if this becomes convoluted or slightly turns into rambling or my thoughts seem disconnected, my mind has a tendency to jump around a bit! These are just a bunch of questions that I thought of when I read the short bit about Leibniz’s thoughts concerning evil (which I am sure are extremely condensed in this section, since there are only a few sentences mentioning it) On Leibniz’s logic about evil (pg 191 in pkt)

According to Higgins and Solomon, Leibniz says “what we see as evil is due only to our limited vision, our failure to understand the sum total of the possibilities.” (pg 191 in packet, from excerpt from “Between Science and Religion”)

Why would God create humans with such a limited vision that would make them conceive the concept of “evil” if he loves us and picks the best world (according to Leibniz, communicated via the authors)? If God really loved us wouldn’t he want us to recognize that nothing is bad, if that is the case? If we were to recognize nothing is bad, people might doubt God’s existence less. This is based off of the premise that when bad things happen to people, people doubt God cares about them, and therefore doubt God’s existence (A “If God existed and cares about me he wouldn’t let this happen to me” mentality) .

This brings to mind another point – what, then would happen to society if humans suddenly had an “unlimited vision” and were able to understand the “sum total of possibilities”? If nothing is evil, then should we have no laws? There would be no need for a justice system: since everything happens for a reason, and nothing is really bad, there is no injustice ever committed by anyone towards anyone (correct me if I am wrong). If no action is unjust, and no action is inherently or socially acknowledged as evil, then our need for vengeance would be demolished. The honor code on which vengeance is based upon would crumble. Honor is no longer necessary. If honor is no longer necessary, then will people still behave honorably? Once honor is deemed no longer necessary for society to function, will people then start to feel other virtues (if we are to say honor is a virtue and things similar to honor are virtues) are no longer part of the moral code society has influenced on us? And if more morals, following honor/acting honorably, seem to be tossed out, what would happen to the world? Would it become complete anarchy, social chaos? If this were an imminent cause of events then wouldn’t evil, in fact, be a necessary thing for society to stay intact? The God would have created evil (or at least evil would exist) in mind of almost saving humanity from itself. I have a feeling that turned into a garbled mess at the end…thoughts anyone though? --Scobb 23:13, 27 September 2010 (UTC)

I think the questions that you bring up here on Leibniz are definitely interesting. It seems like many of the questions that you raise about evil and "limited vision" are at least to some degree addressed in the first few sections of Leibniz's work: Discourse on Metaphysics. However, i tend to agree with you that it seems like his concept of God and evil is a bit contradictory. As an example of this, i would refer to the problem of Judas Iscariot. If when God created Judas, he encapsulated within Judas all his past, present, and future. This would seem to have very negative implications to Leibniz's system.

Im not asserting anything here because i have yet to finish reading the second half of Leibniz's major works. I just thought I would add this in... Kobywarren 01:09, 28 September 2010 (UTC)

Background on Matthew B Crawford

Matthew B Crawford studied physics when he was an undergraduate and then turn his sights to political philosophy. He received his Ph. D. from the University of Chicago.

Today, Crawford is a “fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia.” He also owns a small motorcycle repair shop ( Shockoe Moto) in Richmond, Virginia. A person might wonder why Crawford who had a Ph. D. is working on motorcycles. What I got out of listening to the interviews and reading a few articles, is that Crawford did this because he was not challenged enough in the jobs that he did get after college. He seemed to say that he was expecting to have jobs that challenged his mind, and the ones that he had were not fulfilling. This made him to start a motorcycle repair shop and use his philosophical education to write a book “Shop Class as Soulcraft.”

For those than are interested in the book, here is the summary that is printed on the back of the book: “Those of us who sit in an office often feel a lack of connection to the material world and find it difficult to say exactly what we do all day. For those who felt hustled off to college, then to the cubicle, Shop Class as Soulcraft seeks to restore the honor of the manual trades as a life worth choosing. Based on his own experience as an electrician and mechanic, Matthew Crawford makes a case for the kind of work that requires mastery of real things. Surprisingly, such work can be more intellectually demanding than the sort that deals in abstractions. Maintenance and repair work also cultivate certain ethnical virtues, fostering habits of individual responsibility. Shop Class as Soulcraft rouses us from the passivity and dependence of consumer culture with a bracing call for self-reliance. It is a moving reflection on how we can live concretely in an ever more abstract world."

With this link, there is a list of interviews with Crawford. I think the best one is the one under radio titles “All Things Considered”. This interview is from NPR. If you have time listening to all of them was interesting to me because I listened to them before doing the reading. {http://matthewbcrawford.com/interviews.html}

This link is a long video of Matthew Crawford talking about his book “Shop Class as Soulcraft”. It is about how Crawford came up with the idea for the book as well as topics from the book. {http://fora.tv/2009/08/04/Shop_Class_as_Soulcraft_Matthew_B_Crawford#fullprogram}

Please add more to this if anyone finds anything else. --Jjohnson9 17:09, 23 September 2010 (UTC)

October 5: Taoism

  • I found the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article "Zhuangzi" really helpful. Alfino 16:08, 5 October 2010 (UTC)


I don't know about you guys, but i have no idea what half of the Taoism terms mean in the reading. So, i figured maybe a little conceptual framework might help. Here is a short list of Taoism definitions that helped me figure out what was going on. i reproduced some of the immediately relavent ones below. If you want to look up your own, here is the website that i am drawing these definitions.[6] Im not sure exactly how accurate these definitions are so if you think one is wrong, please change it. . .
1. Tao: the unchanged principle behind the universe. The unproduced producer of all that is (unmoved mover?) The Tao-Te-Ching describes it as "something formlessly fashioned, that existed before Heaven and Earth."
2. Te: Power or virtue
3. Yu: Being
4. Ching: "Vital essence"
5. "The Way": Refers to a specific spiritual discipline. It can also be loosely translated to doctrine or principle.
Please add to the list if you come across any more. (I plan on adding more as i read) Kobywarren 23:39, 30 September 2010 (UTC)

The Ways of Taoism - Benesch

Definitely helps to define the terms as Koby did above, here are some more I found that relate to the Benesch article.
  • Lao-tzu (Laozi) - also the name of the first foundational text in Taoism
A - referred to as the 'Old Master', Laozi is thought to be a fictional entity, written by librarians wanting to remain anonymous during the warring states period, and in religious forms of Taoism he is thought to be a supreme diety
B - primarily concerned with the Way, and how it is expressed in te, through ziran and wuwei
Te: literally translated as virtue, is the means through which the Tao becomes manifest and actualized
Ziran: literally translated as naturalness
Wuwei: literally translated as nonaction, it is the ideal way in which rulers should act as presented by Laozi
Wu: literally translated as Not-Being. does not mean nothingness, but rather wu is an immense void containing all potentialities
  • Chuang-tzu (Zhuangzi) - also the name of the second foundational text in Taoism
A - views the Way as an idea, grounded in a single principle, that cannot be sufficiently explained by words, and guides the spontatneous processes of everything

Note: - while Laozi and Zhuangzi are both categorized as mystical Toaism, they approach Toaism very differently

  • Huang-lao - this form of Toaism which is concerned with the philosophy of leadership was named after the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di, as well as Laozi, therefore Huang Lao
A - the Huang-Lao philosophers believed that an ideal civilization where peace and harmony existed could evolve when the leaders of the country accorded their Te (virtue, inner nature) with the Tao (nature of things)


Waley, "Chaung Tzu"

Stories of Chaung Tzu and Hui Tzu

  • the tree no one wants to cut.
  • story of the huge gourd Hui Tzu complains about. CT: deal better with your success.
  • story of family with lotion secret --> value depends on context
  • "passionless" accusation q. p. 5 (very much like stoicism)
  • p. 6. famous story of Chaung Tzu's wife dying. --> shouldn't suffer from emotions.
  • p. 8. simple poignant story about loss of Hui Tzu.
  • Waley --- parody is a method here.
  • [seems like a method of alternative possibilities here and on p. 7]
  • "Three in the morning" p. 11
  • Chaung Tzu on book learning p. 15.
  • p. 16 Lao Tzu presents vision to Confucious
  • p. 15-20 on how we fail.
  • Confucious call out the sister of Brigand Chiu - gotes to his camp. Brigan Chi in a rage alot - speech of Brian Chih and Confucious' reaction. Owww! p. 15
  • Death
  • lyrical ecstatic acceptance of nature (+ death)
  • stories about what we should think of death. p. 31
  • 32 Note scepticism
  • The Cicada and the Wren
  • -->things of one nature can't imagine what it would be to be a different nature (sounds like Nagel?)
  • Autumn Floods --- huh? please fill in!!
  • p. 34. What it's like to experience Chaung Tzu.
  • p. 34-35: Frog and the turtle of the Eastern Sea.
  • Yoga
  • the greatest traveller
  • 38-39 - imgae of being "stuck" in development --> how to motivate the "stuck"
  • King Mu and the Wizard
  • wizard take king on "journey of the soul"
  • Yang Sheng
  • nurturing life - "conserving vital energy"
  • 1)Secrets of the Chamber
  • 2)Breath Control
  • 3)Yoga
  • 4)Diet
  • p. 44 statement of Tao -- WISE MAN q. 41-45
  • from Chaung Tzu - Principles of Life Nature
  • Ting applies tao to carving
  • Ting -- knife never goes dull. Yeah!
  • The Taoist and the Tao
  • Man of Extreme Power
  • No systematic exposition of Tao in Chaung Tzu
  • 53-4: refusing recognition as a Sage -- being "honored" is a bad thing....