Spring 2010 Senior Seminar Course Notes Part 2

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A problem with Evil

In my experience, many have questioned their faith or religious institutions as a whole, asking how can a loving, kind God allow so much suffering on this Earth? Anything from human rights violations, to war, to the devastation to innocents Haiti and now Chile, begs the question of how can one believe that God even exists. Peter van Iwagen's article is good, but at the same time we see a rehashing of common Christian defenses and arguments when this problem comes up yet again.

  • Suffering exists, because God's plan went awry due to our sin. Hence a defect of some sort in God.

This would seem to suggest that God is not as perfect or powerful as we picture Him.

  • Perhaps we are experiencing less suffering than what is actually doable.

Entirely possible, however this would seem to work against the notion of a kind, loving God, knowing He would be perfectly happy destroying the world without further warning.

  • God may or may not exist or may have ceased to exist (the God is asleep argument), this is unknowable, for we cannot know God's true nature, however we know with certainty the very real nature of Evil and Suffering on a daily basis. We see that this suffering continues against innocents, unabated.

So an unanswerable question in addition to the reason for evil's existence is this; how can we restore faith or make faith compatible with the daily realization and horrors of what faces man? Is this even worth pursuing, knowing not all can be convinced? Perhaps the old adage of "without bad, we cannot know the good" applies? A perfect utopia would be boring and empty for the soul, for hardship is needed to realize reward.

Other areas covered by van Iwagen that I liked and will add to my notes:

  • Intuitions and values -- from God as a gift, or a byproduct of evolution, the effect on skepticism.
  • Nuclear Destruction Scenario -- we came close and remain close (see: http://www.thebulletin.org/), however appear to have somehow broke the cycle that other possible alien cultures experienced, thus proving ourselves worthy?
  • Egyptian Script example -- this writing appears to be old Egyptian, however the common man cannot know for sure, nor translate it. Similar to knowing the nature and having knowledge of God. Or the Sahara Desert example which I see also related to the nature of God problem; we know people live in the Sahara Desert (the Tuareg), however they are well hidden and may never be found if they choose not to be. This does not mean they have ceased to exist.

All-in-all an interesting read, a primer for the argument of evil, while rehashing old Christian explanations for the existence of evil and why God has chosen to not fight this battle. Vallandry 19:51, 28 February 2010 (UTC)

Refreshing Argument

Alex, I enjoyed reading your post, and I agree that many times Christian philosophers try to use the same “theodicies” in order to combat the problem of evil. Thus, they try to explain why an all-powerful, all-loving, and all-knowing God would allow evil. However, I do not believe that Van Inwagen is doing this in this paper. Rather Van Inwagen notes specifically that he is not presenting a theodicy, but rather he is presenting a defense. The purpose of a defense is simply to show that it is not logically impossible for both God and evil to exist. Unlike a theodicy, a defense is not a comprehensive theory explaining why God would permit evil; therefore,the probability of a defense does not need to be higher than the probability of God and evil not coexisting. Simply put, the purpose of the defense is to show that for all we know the story given by the defense might be true, and thus it is not irrational to hold the belief that both God and evil exist. Van Inwagen’s defense is basically that suffering is necessary for the evolution of higher-level sentient creatures, the intrinsic or extrinsic good that comes with the existence of higher-level sentient creatures outweighs the suffering in the world, and if this regularity of suffering were not maintained the universe would be massively irregular and thus defective. In response to this defense, many could argue that obviously some suffering is necessary for evolution and the development of humanity; however, why is the current level of suffering necessary. I think Van Inwagen’s answer is that we can’t really know why this is the case. Due to our epistemological condition and position in the universe, we cannot make claims about whether our same world could exist without as much suffering. Van Inwagen asserts that we must have “extreme modal and moral skepticism” because we simply cannot know whether a better world could have been created while maintaining the same goods we enjoy. I personally like this argument because I feel many times religious minded philosophers step outside the bounds of knowledge by claiming why God has done something. If God’s essence is really beyond our comprehension, how could we possibly know the exact reason why He does certain things? Conversely, Van Inwagen’s argument is refreshing because it basically says we have to withhold judgment when it comes to the problem of evil. Does the theist know that the existence of God and the existence evil can be reconciled? No, not exactly. But, at the same time, the atheists cannot use the problem of evil against the belief in theism because he/she has no evidence or epistemological foundation to stand on. Cfaller 18:17, 1 March 2010 (UTC)

Are Three Stories Better than One?

I think that whether you agree with the author’s argument or not, a well-written argument can at least help you to see the problem in a new light. Overall, I feel very mixed coming away from this reading.

On the one hand, I am logically troubled by Van Inwagen’s three stories. Since when have Theism, atomic particles and extra terrestrial existence been compared in their sense of existence? As far as I can tell, this is the first time. The three were meant to create an argument for things that could be that are unlikely epistemologically to be in order to give substance to theism. That comparison simply does not hold water. If one were to try to compare the argument for the latter two, it may make a bit more sense, seeing as both alien existence and atoms are arguments of epistemic value. God is simply not on the same plane. We will (so far as I understand human interaction with god) never be able to understand God in the way that “A-Prime” (what a ridiculous name ☺) could have a remote capacity to understand atoms. Logically, I smell a rat.

That said, ‘the Van man’s’ argument was able to help me see the problem on its head. I think that his argument could be summed up for me best when he said, “A difficulty with a theory does not necessarily constitute evidence against it”(160). It’s true, and I guess I have ignored that point in the past. It is not enough to hand the burden of proof over to the priests and say ‘have at it,’ as tempting as it might be for a non-theist. The trouble then, is, can we know where evil fits in to the mix from our little pillars that we stand upon in the dark? Van Inwagen sure makes some propositions, but given the nature of God-as-we-know-it, can we know anything for sure about the motivations of evil beyond that it exists and that it can be shown to interact with cognitive beings in a certain way?

I give this article an 8.6/10 for making my mind do a bit of a back-flip, a 4 for its logical substance and about a 6 for readability: odd at the beginning with a smooth finish.

Cwhite 00:36, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

For all we know

Cameron’s post really nailed what Van Inwagen’s paper was all about. Before reading, I didn’t expect a defense but a theodicy from Professor Inwagen. Theodicies, however, are very weak or at least arrogant as Cameron points out. The author of a theodicy claims (whether he knows it or not) that he knows the mind of God or is at least in a special communication with Him. A defense is really, in my opinion, the only way to go. All we can do in our limited abilities is give a defense. This, by no means, dissolves the problem and difficulty of Evil with Theistic belief. The “for all we know” arguments that Van Inwagen gives are not meant to be “be all end all arguments”. This in itself is problematic for our ability to discuss this problem. What I mean is, if we accept Van Inwagen’s assertion that we can only defend the logical possibility of God and Evil existing simultaneously (and we are capable of making defenses that would show this, which is shown possible in this paper) what is there really to talk about? It’s a problem, yes, but it is impossible that we will answer it since we are finite beings. All we can really do is speculate. It certainly is disappointing, but what else can we really say about it if we take Van Inwagen seriously (which I do). But there must be some good that can come from discussing this problem, but I know not what. Perhaps discussion should evolve into how we are supposed to deal with Evil and at the same time maintain our Christian beliefs in “real world scenarios”. Twilkinson

Massively Irregular

Similar to Clint, I had mixed feelings after reading Peter van Inwagen’s article. Personally, I struggled with van Inwagen’s conclusion that, “Every possible world that contains higher-level sentient creatures either contains patterns of suffering morally equivalent to those recorded by S, or else is massively irregular” (147). First of all, it is important to note that van Inwagen defines a massively irregular world as one that defies natural laws. An example of a massively irregular world include one in which God intervenes preventing the suffering of lambs, making them “miraculously hidden from lions” (145). While at first glance it seems reasonable that we cannot imagine a world without suffering or massive irregularity, I’m not sure it that is the case. If we are imaging worlds, than why can’t we imagine a world that did not develop through evolution, but one in which God created species that were not carnivores? I recognize that this does not cancel out all suffering, however it does contradict van Inwagen’s example.

While I did find qualms with some of van Inwagen’s explanations, I did find his view intriguing. Like Taylor and Cameron mentioned I too was expecting a theodicy argument and not a defense. Van Inwagen’s defense states that if there is reasonable doubt that his story holds truth than one could rationally believe that both God and evil exist. Personally, what I got from this article was not to get caught on how God and Evil conflict rather, that we do not know and maybe cannot fully understand how they do coexist. Cmitchell


Some Notes on Wegner, "The Illusion"

"The mechanisms underlying the experience of will are themselves a fundamental topic of scientific study. We should be able to examine and understand what creates the experience of will and what makes it go away. This means, though, that conscious will is an illusion. It is an illusion in the sense that the experience of consciously willing an action is not a direct indication that the conscious thought has caused the^ action."
Experience of Conscious Will
alien hand syndrome, table-turning, hypnotic involuntariness.
4 possibilities from doing/not doing and Feeling of Doing / No Feeling of Doing: Normal Vol/Automatism/Illusion of Control/Normal Action
p. 13: note the "science stopper" argument.
distinction between "empirical will" - causality of the person's conscious thoughts as established by scientific analysis of co-variation with person's behavior and "phenomenal will" - the person's reported experience of will.
Causal Agency --
Heider and Simmel's dysfunctional family of geometric figures. 1944
intentions, beliefs, desires, and plans.
mechanisms and minds p. 21
Piaget and contemporary literature (90's mostly) on theory of mind in animals.
Hypothesis: the mental lens blurs the mechanistic one when it comes to experiencing will.
"My decision was determined by internal forces I do not understand" p. 28.


Requests for research on free will subtopics

Here are some things you all might want to be on the look out for in bringing in readings and material to the seminar.

Free Will Topic:

  1. Someone should research views of free will in the Catholic intellectual tradition.
  2. Someone might want to research the question of whether free will is a purely Western philosophical idea.
  3. A secondary lit search (background check)on Wegner would be nice (use psychlit database and Philosopher's Index). This could be extend to find related psychology research on free will. Perhaps there is research against this stuff.
  4. Inwagen's "famous" piece on free will.
  5. Robert Kane's work is important on this topic.

Self, Identity, and Community:

  1. Review major positions on personal identity from the History of Philosophy using reference research sources and your past notes and readings.

God and Compatiblism

Taylor and I had a side conversation on whether or not Catholics, Christians or many Religious folk at all take a compatibilist view of free will. I mentioned Albert Green (not the singer, the philosopher), but I think I meant Peter Geach (not even close), or someone along that line of thinking. I looked up both some less philosophical postings on supporters of compatibilism and God, and an SEP article talking about "futureknowledge", which is what Taylor and I were talking about. Hope this helps Taylor, and any of you that are interested.

Philosophical Theology[1]

Different kinds of Compatiblist voluntary action, allowing for God's sovereignty [2]

SEP article on foreknowledge and evil, determinism vs. compatibilism options (Section 3 primarily) [3]

Byost 03:37, 25 March 2010 (UTC)

Looking at Libertarianism & Free Will & Somalia (why not?)

While poking around, I've found that a lot of libertarian resources are aimed at current politics, so there is perhaps a need to separate the wheat from the chaff, but both politics and metaphysics bring interesting reads on the problem of free will. Some quick links I found: [Libertarian Wiki (Political)] [The Cato Institute (Political Think Tank)] [Theopedia (Religious/Philosophical)] [Information Philosopher dot com (Philosophical)]

Also, while looking at Robert Kane's (b.1938) work, I came across another Robert to be discussed in a second. Kane coined "Ultimate Responsibility". Agents (that's us) must be the ultimate creators and sustainers of their own purposes. There must be multiple paths for a life to follow, based on willing actions (free will). Hence one has the ability, through their own good or bad choices -- to become a drug addict or a dairy farmer. I do have a problem with what role chance plays in this philosophy, as luck (networking, intelligence) seems to play a part in becoming a dairy farmer versus growing up to be a doctor, but this is oft ignored in discussion.

The other Robert, Robert Novick (1938-2002) wrote most notably Anarchy, State, Utopia and Philosophical Explanations. The latter being a discussion on several topics including free will. Humans become agents through self-awareness. We assign weights for reasons of acting. Similar to how courts hand down a sentence, we act based on the weight of a situation and all the circumstances leading up to the moment. Character and values play a role as determinants, but actions are not pre-determined.

Additionally from my notes: Compatibilist View of Free Will: Man cannot choose contrary to nature and desires. Man can freely choose what God has determined what man will choose. God is in charge, man is still responsible for the morality of his actions. Libertarian Vew of Free Will: Free = uncaused. God can limit action, but not mind or will. Man can choose contrary to our nature and desire, thus becoming a drug addict over the more useful dairy farmer due to self forming actions. Thus it would seem that God wants the best for us, but has little control over the situation, beyond giving us basic tools per our nature (reasoning) to work with.

Libertarianism is misunderstood by the masses. Politically we can show that 'Somalia' is not a perfect libertarian paradise despite lack of a functioning government since the early 90s. Government is needed on a small scale to prevent rape, murder, theft, etc. Libertarianism is sanitary and orderly, Anarchy is just chaotic. Somalia is chaotic. Somalia lacks education facilities, advanced industrialization, liveable incomes, and reputable policing - all things needed for a healthy society.

Philosophically we can show that Somalia is not a perfect libertarian paradise. I would like to flesh this out much more as a "fun" real world example while looking at free will but... While many have the will to do whatever they please (build a deck without a permit, act contrary to one's nature), and exercise as such; often the invisible line is crossed in this stateless environment-- blatantly infringing upon other's rights, ignoring common morality, and not looking at alternatives for action as described by Kane. I am curious, as I didn't see this discussed anywhere, if the notion of free will can be applied to nations in addition to individuals? Vallandry 04:45, 25 March 2010 (UTC)


Catholic Philosophy on Free Will

Here is an article on Karol Wojtyla's (Pope John Paul II) conception of the human person and free will. He develops it from a phenomenological standpoint. I hope to be able to present this on Tuesday, but as I am not sure what the format/time will be like then, I will at least post it here for you all to read if you wish. File:WojtylaFreeWill.pdf --DTuckerman

Wegner Secondary Literature

Works Cited

Wigley, Simon. "Automaticity, Consciousness and Moral Responsibility." Philosophical Psychology 20.2 (2007): 209-225. Philosopher's Index. EBSCO. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. [4]

Double, Richard. "How to Accept Wegner's Illusion of Conscious Will and 'Still' Defend Moral Responsibility." Behavior and Philosophy 32.2 (2004): 479-491. Philosopher's Index. EBSCO. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. [5]

Wegner, Daniel M. "The Illusion of Conscious Will." Mind: A Quarterly Review of Philosophy 113.449 (2004): 218-221. Philosopher's Index. EBSCO. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. [6]

Van Duijn, Marc, and Sacha Bem. "On the Alleged Illusion of Conscious Will." Philosophical Psychology 18.6 (2005): 699-714. Philosopher's Index. EBSCO. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. [7]

Carruthers, Peter. "The Illusion of Conscious Will." Synthese: An International Journal for Epistemology, Methodology and Philosophy of Science 159.2 (2007): 197-213. Philosopher's Index. EBSCO. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. [8]

Nahmias, Eddy. "When Consciousness Matters: A Critical Review of Daniel Wegner's 'The Illusion of Conscious Will'." Philosophical Psychology 15.4 (2002): 527-541. Philosopher's Index. EBSCO. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. [9]

Wegner, Daniel M. "The Illusion of Conscious Will." Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 109.(2006): 145-148. Philosopher's Index. EBSCO. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. [10]

A Very Quick Thought On the Free Will Discussion

I find the discussion of free will paradoxical in the following way: Discussing free will is extremely important and is on the other hand extremely pointless. In arguing about free will we are essentially arguing about the originality of our thought, which is useless because whether we discover the truth or not we will not be able to change the fact that our thought is original or not. By originality I mean to say that the individual is the true origin of his or her thought—not based purely on pre-determined events. In the unlikelihood that we discover the truth about free will it will not make an iota of a difference in how we live our lives. Perhaps we would be better off focusing on a more forward-looking topic. Yet, in discussing free will we are really discussing the originality of our identity—and for the Christian our status in the afterlife! What is more important than that? I see paradox here. Twilkinson

Catholic tradtion and free will

I agree with Dale’s comment last Tuesday that the burden of proof in the free will discussion lies on the side of determinists and not on the side of those who believe in free will because throughout all cultures and ages free will has been naturally accepted, which is evident from the justice systems that have existed in all cultures. Even children at a very young age hold one another morally responsible, thus showing once again that this belief in free will appears to be self-evident. Therefore, if we appear to have an innate tendency to believe in free will then the burden of proof is on the determinists’ side. St. Thomas Aquinas’s argument for free will more or less falls along this same line of reasoning; St. Thomas basically believed that since humans are rational they must have a free will because rational judgment is only possible with free will. He also states that “man has free will: otherwise commands, counsels, exhortations, commands, prohibitions, rewards and punishments would be in vain” (Thomas 297). Neither of these arguments are very profound or complicated because Aquinas believed that just by looking at the nature of man, free will necessarily follows. St. Augustine, another prominent Catholic philosopher, also more or less assumes the existence of free will based on his religious convictions. Based on the fact that Christians are called to follow God’s will and since Christians are judged based on their performance, Augustine assumes that free will must exist. Therefore, it seems as though Catholic theologians pre-suppose the existence of free will based on thier prior religious convictions and based on what appears to be self-evident. However, the greater question for Catholic theologians is how to reconcile God’s omniscient and providence with human free will. This debate has been going on ever since the beginning of the Church. Usually one side stresses the omniscience of God and the absolute necessity of grace while the other side stresses human free will. Both sides agree in the necessity of human free will and God’s grace; they just do not agree on how the two should be reconciled. The Dominicans and Jesuits entered into such a heated debate on this issue during the 16th and 17th centuries that eventually Pope Clement VIII had to ask them to put the debate to rest for the good of the Church. For a person with religious convictions, like myself, this seems to be the interesting debate. I don’t even see a debate in regards to free will itself because why should I deny something that seems so evident based on things that do not appear evident. I really don’t know how to reconcile God’s omniscience with human free will, and I think that the intense debate between the Jesuits and Dominicans shows the difficulty of this problem. I am personally content with just accepting that both some how exist, but how they actually co-exist is beyond our complete understanding. Because, to even begin to understand how the knowledge of a Being that exists outside of time affects the will of beings that exist within time seems to be beyond our epistemological capacities.Cfaller 21:40, 28 March 2010 (UTC)

Further reading: The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia article on free will does a good job summarizing the Church's position on free will: [11]

A brief outline of Kane's Libertarianism

I. Kane’s definition of free will: the power to be the ultimate creator and sustainer of one's own ends or purposes.

II. Alternative Posibilities (AP) is not enough for the sort of free will described above. Instead Kane appeals to Ultimate Responsibility (UR)

a. To be ultimately responsible for an action, an agent must be responsible for anything that is a sufficient reason (condition, cause or motive) for the action's occurring

b. To be ultimately responsible the agent must be at least in part responsible by virtue of choices or actions voluntarily performed in the past for having the character and motives he or she now has

c. UR does not require that we could have done otherwise (AP) for every act done of our own free wills

III. Self Forming Actions (SFA)

a. Often we act from a will already formed, but it is "our own free will" by virtue of the fact that we formed it by other choices or actions in the past (SFAs) for which we could have done otherwise

b. Undetermined self-forming actions or SFAs occur at those difficult times of life when we are torn between competing visions of what we should do or become

c. Tension and uncertainty in our minds when we are making (some) decisions is reflected in appropriate regions of our brains by movement away from thermodynamic equilibrium--in short, a kind of "stirring up of chaos" in the brain that makes it sensitive to micro-indeterminacies at the neuronal level

d. So, what is experienced internally as uncertainty then corresponds physically to the opening of a window of opportunity that temporarily screens off complete determination by influences of the past

e. So, indeterminism as a sort of chaotic “noise” is an obstacle one must overcome by use of the will


--Twilkinson 02:56, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

Compatiblism and the Catholic Intellectual Tradition

It seems like the biggest challenges to Christians regarding free will is Divine Providence. God's foreknowledge and ordering of the universe for the end in which it was created seems to imply a kind of predestination. For St. Augustine and St. Thomas, this didn't pose a problem for free will. Interestingly enough, I am studying Augustine in another class and this issue has come up. In The City of God, Augustine says "We say both that God knows everything before it happens and that we do by our will whatever we know and feel does not happen unless it is willed by us." One of the ways Augustine argues in favor of this is by saying we do not deny the order of causes in which God's will is the greatest. According to Augustine, our wills are included in the order of causes. Augustine then points out that God having knowledge of all causes is not ignorant of our wills which he foreknew as causes of actions. Another way Augustine has argued for this is by pointing out God is atemporal. This notion of God being outside of time is inscrutable for us because we have no idea what it is like as the kind of beings we are. One analogous way of thinking of this is to perceive God in an a sort of eternal present where everything--past, present and future--is laid out in front of him. In this sense, he knows everything that has happened but his knowledge of these happenings doesn't necessarily render our actions not being free. Finally, Aquinas also argues for this by stating in the Summa Theologica: the corruption of nature is not the work of providence. However, it is in the nature of some things to be contingent. Thus, providence does not impose necessity upon things so as to destroy their contingency. (Summa Theologica i, 22, 4) Providence orders all things to an end. For Thomas, the principle good in things, (after divine goodness which is the extrinsic end to all things) is the perfection of the universe, which couldn't happen if not all grades of being found in things. Thus, somethings happen by necessary causes and some things happen by contingent causes.

As we can see divine providence to include foreknowledge, was never thought to be incompatible with free will according to Augustine and Aquinas. However, interestingly enough, I think Augustine and Aquinas can both be considered compatibilists. They are compatabilists, not because of divine foreknowledge but because for both, true freedom is the freedom to be free from sin and not turn away from God. The only time this was possible was before the fall. In this view true freedom is in God, or as Augustine says "clinging" to God. Augustine thinks our wills are not truly free because they are screwed up from the fall and we are, in a sense, slaves to our passions. This sort of compatabilism is quite different from a materialist notion of compatabalism, but it is compatabilism nonetheless as we are not free in the true sense of the word. Ehanson


Postmodernism Symposium


1. I'd like to ask Clint and Julia to each bring a brief statement (maybe with some visuals) of what postmodernism means in art in general or to them.

2. I'd like to get some volunteers to look into postmodern theology. (Doesn't seem possible, does it?) David Tracy and other names will come up. Listen to Don Cupitt (see below). He's pretty far out there but I like him.

3. I have about four really short introductory books on postmodernism and Derrida. I'll leave them in my box outside my office door. They're good, even the ones with cartoons. If you use one and like it, recommend it and return it to the box so someone can take it for the weekend. It'll be our postmodern library.

4. I'll defend the claim I made this week that science is increasing understood in a postmodern way.

5. Here are the main recommendations for everyone:

Usual encyclopedia and wiki sources on "Derrida" and "Postmodernism"
Culler, excerpt from Theory and Criticaism after Structuralism, pp. 85-110. Link here soon.
Derrida, "White Mythology: Metaphor in the text of Philosophy," from Margins of Philosophy. Link here soon.

You'll find that the Culler and Derrida readings take you into postmodernism through theory of meaning, which was my point of entry when I used to do more philosophy of language. I hope you find it congenial. "White Mythology," is one of Derrida's major works applying poststructural thought to the history of philosophy. If you find it hard to read, go look up some secondary accounts. Mainstream articles about this text will likely include a high level summary, which should help you read the original.

Post things to the wiki by Sunday if possible.


Alfino 15:52, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

Texts and Media

  • Don Cupitt, theologian, on God [12]

Postmodernist architecture: Frank O. Gehry

Here are some images of his buildings from Wikipedia:

The Experience Music Project in Seattle: Media:EMP.jpg

The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles: Media:Concert Hall.jpg

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain: Media:Guggenheim Museum.jpg

Postmodern architecture is a good example of what postmodernism does in art, and architecture is often a publicly encountered art. Frank O. Gehry's work has been associated with Deconstructivism, or DeCon architecture, which is characteristically fragmented. These are some of the characteristics of postmodern architecture:

  • superfluous form that follows no function (form before function)
  • lack of unity
  • overt ornamentation (non-orthagonal angles and unusual surfaces in Gehry's work)

Postmodern architecture departs intentionally from the universal ideals and social goals of modern architecture. These are some criticisms made about postmodern architecture:

  • while modern architecture seeks to reduce material and cost, postmodern architecture is loaded with unnecessary form
  • it does not take into account climate or building standard
  • the spectacle of Postmodern architecture is overwhelming
  • Postmodern architecture seems out-of-place (due to eclecticism and playfulness)

Hopefully this clarifies what postmodernism does in architecture. Postmodern art is experimental and fragmented, borrowing and collaging from many different contexts. It maintains constant reinvention and the constant revaluation of what makes something art. --Jangello 08:29, 3 April 2010 (UTC)

2nd thoughts on last Tuesdays class

I'm still pretty confused on exactly how we communicate with one another in a “postmodern world.” It seems to me that there must be some accepted universal in order for people to at least communicate with one another and establish a well ordered society. It was mentioned in class that we could use empirical evidence to make judgments on certain actions in this “postmodern world.” For example, someone mentioned we could agree that abusing children is wrong. However, in a “postmodern world,” how can we use a universal criterion to judge certain actions? Maybe just my group thinks abusing children is wrong, but I can't judge another group or culture that thinks child abuse is beneficial for children. If we can use rationality and empirical evidence to make universal judgments about child abuse, then why can't we use these same universal criteria to make judgments about homosexuality, abortion, capital punishment, and many other hotly contested items? If in this "postmodern" world we can't use the universal criteria of rationality and empirical evidence then how exactly do we assert anything? How do we make any judgments on how to better society? Sure, this may allow for greater tolerance, but at what cost? By denying the universality of human reason are we not in a sense denying who we fundamentally are as human beings. And, how in a postmodern world could we even assert the universal belief that tolerance is good? Don’t we need some universal foundation to make this universal claim?

I was also intrigued by Dale's presentation on John Paul II and on Eric's post about Catholicism and compatibilism. I understand the going belief in the philosophical discussion on free will is compatibilism, but I'm sure many of these philosophers are not going to accept the validity of Catholicism. This is why I think there needs to be a distinction made between Christian compatibilism and naturalistic compatibilism. I'm still a little concerned though about Christian compatibilism because it seems like it could allow for predestination and evil which is caused by God. The answer to these problems seems to be revolved around the problem of reconciling God's omniscience with human free will, which is hardly an easy task.

Finally, I will volunteer to look into postmodern theology and Don Cupid.Cfaller 01:23, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Culler, Chapter 2: Deconstruction

1. Writing and Logocentrism
In a traditional philosophical opposition we have not a peaceful coexistence of facing terms but a violent hierarchy. One of the terms dominates the other (axiological, logically etc. occupies the commanding position. To deconstruct the opposition is above all at a particular moment to reverse the hierarchy Positions, 56-57
example of deconstruction: Nietzsche's point about pin and Pain86 dec. putsthe critic in a position not of skeptical detachment but of unwarrantable involvement, asserting the indispensability of causation while denying it any rigorous justification.88
If philosophy is to define the relation of writing to reason, it must not itself be writing for it wants to define the relation not from the perspec. of writing but from the per. of reason....phil. must define itself against writing91
the advantage of speech is that its signifiers disappear as soon as they are uttered. the pun is a sin against reason 92
metaphysics of presence..problem it characteristically encounters: when arguments cite instance of presence as ground for further development, these instances invariably prove to be already complex constructions. ex: Zeno's paradox about94 change, arrow in flight.
paradox of structure and event. We can extend to the system of signs in general what Saussure says about language: The linguistic system (langue) is necessary for speech events (parole) to be intelligible and produce their effects, but the latter are necessary for the system to establish itself. Positions, 39-40
difference captures the simple point that signification begins with a system of differences, also the idea that differing contextual placements create differences over time, and the idea that the fulfillment of any act of signification is deferred indefinately, infinitely. --this undecidable alternation between the perspectives of structure and event is part of what is meant by differance. idea has currency in Nietzsche, Saussure, Freud, Husserl, and Heidegger. Differance--sys. play of differences, at once passive and active,(see Positions, pp.38-39) taken from Saussure's def. of signifier in terms of diff. Saussure is at once critiquing metaphysics of presence and committing it by defining sign as structure of difference 98-99 Grammatology shows how Saussure's privledging of speech cannot be sustained . Concept of supplement and Rousseau's masturbation discussed 99-110.

Alfino 06:33, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Postmodern theology and Don Cupitt

Don Cupitt and postmodern theology I thought the audio clip from Don Cupitt was a little bit confusing, so I also found and read a very informative article by him called, “The Radical Christian Worldview.” Cupitt basically supports a non-realism approach in discussing the essence of God. This means that Cupitt does not believe there is an independently existing God with whom humans have a relation. For Cupitt, the only world that exists is the apparent world, or life-world of humans; reality is simply a “ceaseless flux of communication.” Therefore, reality consists simply in our knowledge and description of things and is “coextensive with the range of our language.” Consequently, God is just a construction of the human mind and does not exist apart from us. For Cupitt, there is no objective and necessary reality to which things must conform, but rather our world is radically

Cupitt is a Christian naturalist which at first glance seems like a contradiction. Cuppit does not believe in an afterlife, in an immaterial soul, or in the divinity of Jesus; however, he still contends he is a Christian. He asserts that the dogmatic beliefs of the Christian Church are incorrect and the act of even asserting dogmatic beliefs is invalid due to the constantly changing nature of our world. Christianity, for Cupitt, should be seen as one’s death to the fear, dread, and attachment of one’s old life and a rebirth into a new life of accepting the radical contingency of nature. This view is very similar to Nietzsche’s view that we must recapture the vitality of life by seizing the day. According to Cupitt, the “kingdom of God” is not some separate distant reality, but rather it is living a new life of radical humanism. Our goal is not to obtain salvation from this world; rather, our goal is to make this world a better place. Cupitt believes we can do this through promoting basic human kindness and through conversation with one another.

First of all, it must be stated that Cupitt is not a Christian. Christianity is fundamentally a personal relationship with risen Jesus Christ who lived on Earth and was both fully God and fully man. Obviously, Cupitt would not accept this definition, which is why Cupitt is not a Christian. He can accept all the ethical teachings of Jesus he wants, but fundamentally he is not a Christian. Cupitt also talks about how “Church Christianity” is opposed to Christ’s actual teachings. However, Christians believe Christ instituted the Church as a mediator and to carry on His message. The Church did not authoritatively force this necessary mediation on people; Christ instituted it. If Cupitt doubts this fact, all he has to do is read the Gospels. Frankly, I just think Don Cupitt is Owen Flanagan in disguise. He basically holds all the beliefs of Flanagan, and the only Christian beliefs he accepts are those which fall in line with his naturalistic worldview. For Flanagan as well as for Cupitt, God doesn’t actually exist; the only reality that exists is that which is constructed by humans. And thus, God may help us derive meaning in life, but this belief is more or less useless. Our lives should not be consumed by belief in nonexistent metaphysical realities but rather we must just seize the day and live in our radically contingent world. “God” is not a thing; “he” is just Being, or the inner light of life.Cfaller 15:03, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Don Cupitt’s article “The Radical Christian Worldview” [13]

Postmodern Art/Postmodern Photography

Like postmodern philosophy, postmodern art was about deconstruction. I have decided to focus on postmodern photography specifically. Two big names come up when talking about postmodern photography: Cindy Sherman and Barb Kruger.

As you can imagine, photography is a medium that lends itself particularly poorly in its most pure sense in terms of deconstructing the way we think about it. However, as a social practice, photography by the time of post-modernism has become a highly stereotypical and, in that way, lends itself well to postmodern art. Both artists named rely on highly set up shots, or, in the case of Barbara, powerful block graphics to deconstruct certain tropes that one may expect given basic knowledge of mass media. Notice in the video the way in which we would expect the graphics to interact with the imagery versus the meaning that they take on and, as a result, the self-imploding questions that they beg the viewer to ask. This deconstruction of perceived reality is a great example of the un-comfortability that post-modern artists were trying to get at.


This clip is a verrry short interview with Cindy Sherman and a centerfold project that she did. Again, notice the attempt to take a stereotype and turn it in upon itself.


Cwhite 23:12, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Postmodern Ethics Presentation

Here is a pdf of the Presentation I gave last Tuesday. We probably would've had an interesting conversation and I think we began to, but we just ran short on time. Sorry!


Also, here is a pseudo-bibliography. I also used the class reading we had on Deconstruction.

Aylesworth, Gary. "Postmodernism." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2005. Web. 12 Apr. 2010. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/postmodernism/#9>.

Nealon, Jeffrey T. "The Ethics of Dialogue: Bakhtin and Levinas." College English 59.2 (1997): 129-48. JSTOR. Web. 4 Apr. 2010.

Žižek, Slavoj. "The Neighbor Thing." Violence: Six Sideways Reflections. New York: Picador, 2008. 46-58. Print.

Byost 04:08, 12 April 2010 (UTC)


More Post-Modern Buildings

I enjoyed the presentation last week on post-modern architecture (thanks!) and wanted to give more examples to help visualize what this style incorporates. I visited the EMP last summer and thought it was cool, but will not expand upon that other than it has wasted space inside and has not been financially successful as a museum.

Pacific Northwest Buildings that are Post-Modern Portland Building - 1120 SW 5th Ave, houses the City of Portland administrative offices. Apparently this building has several design flaws such as leaks when raining and quirky office shapes. Has been remodeled on the inside so normal offices, cubes, and a cafeteria could be installed.

Seattle Central Library - 1000 4th Ave, I walked by here last night and have been inside many times. The architects purposely looked at function first, then designed a post-modern appearance around the needs of a library. Several of the windows look difficult to clean, even for talented rock climbers.

Colombia Center (Formerly the Bank of America Tower, Seattle) - 701 5th Ave, tallest skyscraper in the state. Granite with three geometric arches, looks like three towers standing side by side. The annual firefighter stair race occurs here.

Washington Mutual Tower, Seattle - 1201 3rd Ave, Washington Mutual the bank no longer exists (failed in 2008). This was Seattle's first post-modern high rise and looks like a giant (55 floors) glass spark plug. I think this might be the second or third tallest building in Seattle.

I hope this helps add to the discussion of what this architecture style looks like in person, using familiar landmarks.

Vallandry 01:59, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

Fuzzy Logic

My goodness, what have we gotten ourselves into... Logic is insane.

Fuzzy logic is actually kind of cool, it seems like a logic perfect for the postmodern/transversalist. As I understand it, it's basically a false/true continuum. Where false would be zero and true being 1, and all in between being degrees of truth. Any given proposition is true to the extent that it coincides with the t-norm, which is to say whatever the general standard established for the proposition to count as true, is the threshold for true propositions within the given set. So proposition A, "Gary is old," is true given that the general truth parameter, "Anyone over 60 is generally considered old," allows for proposition A to be true by a certain degree if Gary is say, 75. If Paula, then, was 55, proposition B, "Paula is old," would false but only to a slight degree, given that it falls close to the truth threshold. Somehow this is different from probability, mainly because (I think) it still has true/false claims, definitively, but such claims may change as the parameters change for where the degrees of truth/falsity are. If I understand this right, fuzzy logic works basically the same as propositional and predicate, but on a relative level. It basically is the same within a given parameter set, but the set itself is not set in stone. I think. If you guys want to check it out, here's the link to the SEP article[14]. Byost 04:39, 12 April 2010 (UTC)

More on Fuzzy Logic

I think fuzzy logic seems interesting as well. However Brandon I'm not sure that it would be perfect for a postmodern/transversalist, mainly because of its use of truth values. I would think for the postmodernist "truth values" represent the metaphorical language he or she is trying to bleach out. Even if truth/false propositions are not set in stone, the fact things are still considered as being true or false, I think, would be rejected by a postmodernist. At the bottom of the SEP article you posted (thank you by the way) there was a helpful link that gave some examples of how fuzzy logic works. It was FAQ about fuzzy logic. One example had to do with height. In the example "S" stood for humans and the fuzzy subset (x) was "tallness". anybody under 5 feet would be 0 meaning it would be exempt from the subset of tallness. anybody over 7 feet would have a value of 1. So a person 4'11 would not be included in the subset and have a value of 0. A person that is 7' would have a value of 1 and the degree of that person's tallness just depends on who your talking to. Yau Ming for example might not consider a 7' person as being tall. In your example concerning Gary and Paula, (the way I understand it) If Paula is 55, and age 60 is the cut-off for the "old" subset than the proposition "Paula is old" would be absolutely false. In other words a proposition is only true, false, or true to a certain degree. Falsity as I see it doesn't admit of degrees under fuzzy logic. However, I am always open to clarification or being corrected. Ehanson



Comments for last class prompt

Give a short (2-5 minutes) account of either a philosophical issue or idea that has occupied your thinking lately or one that you think is particularly important for people to think about these days.