Difference between revisions of "Spring 2011 Philosophy of Human Nature Lecture Notes 2"

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m (Work on Proofs for the Existence of God)
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4.  Ontological Arguments
:Basic Form:
::P1:  Either God exists or he doesn't.
::P2:  The claim that God does not exist is contradictory. 
::C:  God exists.
:::Denial of God's existence entails a contradiction.
:::greatest possible .... plus existence?  The greatest being you can think of must exist?  Try to deny it and you wind up saying, "It is possible to think of something greater than the greatest being that one can think of"
:::Kant's argument against treating existence as a predicate (R1 p. 198).  Not a property of a thing. example of "dream partner" 198.
Reflections on Proofs:
:Are they proofs?  Were they meant to be proofs or aids to reflection? 
:What do we mean by proof today in relation to knowledge of science?  Mathematics again!
:Importance of necessity in the proofs.

Revision as of 11:28, 31 March 2011

Back to Human Nature


February 1, 2011 (7)

-mention contemporary naturalist view of love. Love as pair bonding plus culture. Love of children as expressions of the code. -add Agathon's speech to our table.

Small Group Exercise

  • Taking into consideration our thought experiment from last class (Out of 100 or 1000 people that you are sexually attracted to, how many could you imagine having a successful long term relationship with? -- Assume that you both have similar and good relationship skills, etc.). But then try to move your discussion to connect with the early speech of the symposium. Is there one love or two? Is love a narrow phenomena of relationship or a broader force in nature or beyond nature?

Socrates Questioning of Agathon

Is love love of something?
Love loves that which he/she has need of.
You don't need something you already have.
C: Love is the pursuit of something we have need of.
Does our need of the Good cover all cases of genuine love?
"Desire has a structure of absence."


  • the epistemological position that the evidence of our sense is the source of certainty of objective knowledge.
Great strength of this position is the inter-subjective certainty of observation.
Problem: What is the relationship between our empirical representation of reality and "mind-independent" reality?
Problem: Establishing the "inferential structure" to get from sense experience to knowledge. Three possibilities:
  1. Naive Realism
  2. Indirect Realism - primary / secondary qualities (p: e size, shape, molecular texture, and motion S: taste, smell, texture, and felt temperature)
  3. Idealism - Is shape really primary (oval appearances of round objects)? Berkeley: Look carefully. All you see are sensory ideas.
  • Is the primary / secondary qualities distinction a solution to problem of naive realism? Is it a problem for the indirect realist that perception is no longer the sole source of certainty?
  • Problem of Induction (basic definition here, more discussion later)


  • the belief that our knowledge is partly or chiefly constituted by that activity of pure reason.
  • classical examples: Pythagorean Theorem.
  • modern examples: Descartes and the developement of analytic algebra (parabola video), probability theory, calculus...
  • apriori/aposteriori knowledge
  • necessary/contingent truths
  • rationalism in theoretical physics: Garrett Lisi video [1]
  • rationalism in political thought: rights are still thought to be intuited by reason. "What rights is it rational for us to agree to?"

2/3/2011 (8)

Socrates' and the Speech of Diotima

Note how she's introduced.
Picks up line of questioning from Socrates and Agathon, which was her original question to Socrates as a youth.
Scolds Socrates for false dichotomy. Love could be neither ugly nor beautiful. Between mortal and god. Semi-divine force.
Story of the Origin of Love:Origin of Love from Penia and Poros, description
Love is a lover of wisdom. Love is not so much being loved, but being a lover.
What does the lover of beautiful things desire? - to possess the beloved, why?, (note substitution of "good"), to achieve happiness. 205A
Problem of the scope of the word love - like "poesis"
206B: Love is wanting to possess the good forever. ""This, then, is the object of love," she said. "In view of that, how do people pursue it if they are truly in love? What do they do with the eagerness and zeal we call love? What is the real purpose of love? Can you say?"
The purpose of love is to give birth in beauty, whether in body or soul.
Note the kind of immortality we can have -- to participate in an ongoing process. (examples: education, accumulation of wealth and culture, philanthrophy)
207E: interesting view of person through life span. Always changing. Body and soul. Studying is the answer! (208A) motivated by desire to be remembered. immortality of a sort.
Destiny of those pregnant in soul -- the Scala Amoris! 210B and following.
"So when someone rises by these stages, through loving boys correctly, and begins to see this beauty, he has almost grasped his goal. This is what it is to go aright, or be lead by another, into the mystery of Love: one goes always upwards for the sake of this Beauty, starting out from beautiful things and using them like rising stairs: from one body to two and from two to all beautiful bodies, then from beautiful bodies to beautiful customs, and from customs to learning beautiful things, and from these lessons he arrives in the end at this lesson, which is learning of this very Beauty, so that in the end he comes to know just what it is to be beautiful. " 211B
"But how would it be, in our view," she said, "if someone got to see the Beautiful itself, absolute, pure, unmixed, not polluted by human flesh or colors or any other great nonsense of mortality, but if he could see the divine Beauty itself in its one form?"


Major concepts from the Locke reading:
  • idea, sensation, reflection,
  • On the certainty of sensation: p. 95.
  • Primary qualities: solidity, extension, figure, motion/rest, number...
  • Secondary qualities: bulk, figure, texture, color sound, taste, ...


The Epistemic Status of Science

The Schick and Vaughn reading is meant to give us a common background understanding of contemporary science. We've been studying epistemology in connection with both classical philosophy (Plato, 5th cent. bc) and modern philosophy (Descartes, mid-17th cent), so it seems like a good time to connect with a contemporary understanding of science.

Some key points from that reading:

  • Presuppositions: (1) The world has a determinate structure, (2) we can know that structure, and (3) this knowledge is available to everyone.
  • Goal of method is to find principles that are explanatory and predictive.
  • No mechanical method for generating hypotheses: "The atomic theory of matter, for example, postulates the existence of atoms. All of the data upon which the atomic theory rests, however, can be described without mentioning atoms. Since scientific I hypotheses often introduce concepts not found in their data, there can be no mechanical procedure for constructing them."
  • -distinguishes scientific method from experimental method. "In general, any procedure that serves systemtically to eliminate reasonable grounds for doubt can be considered scientific. "
  • Theory and (Reality)
  • "Predictions can be derived from a hypothesis only in conjunction with a background theory." 167
  • Philip Kitcher -- hypotheses only tested in bundles.
  • Columbus example, ships on horizon. could save the theory by postulating bent light.
  • Historical flat earther, Parallex, and ad hoc reasoning.
  • Example of successful ad hoc reasoning in the discovery of Neptune. Had to be there.
  • Example of phlogiston.
  • Criteria for adequacy of theory: testability, fruitfulness, scope, simplicity, conservatism.
  • Key Points
  1. Science doesn't prove its hypotheses, but accumulates confirming evidence for groups of hypotheses.
  2. Scientific theories include theoretical concepts that can be adjusted to "save the theory". Sometimes this is ad hoc reasoning, other times it proves fruitful.
  3. Induction is a crucial part of the development of general explanatory and predictive principles.

The Problem of Induction

Induction is inference to a general principle (All loggerhead turles lay eggs every two years), but that goes well beyond the observed facts.
Principle of the Uniformity of Nature might help, but how is it justified without "begging the questions" (assuming what you are trying to prove)?
"If Nature has always been uniform in the past(generalizations have held good), then Nature will continue to be uniform in the future."
Hospers: problem is that we know that some generalization from past don't keep working -- chicken coming home to roost one day is dinner.
Solution? Pragmatic justification.

Small Group Exercise

  • What model of epistemology appears to best fit with this picture of science?


  • Insists on telling the story of the time Socrates didn't have sex with him. What's Plato up to ending on this?
  • Possible interpretation connecting Alcibiades as traitor with Socrates rejection. Opportunity to tell war stories that divinize Socrates. Socrates as Silenus figure.
  • Ultimate rejection line: 219A


Reviewing Study Questions

We'll look at a few study questions and consider a way of collaborating on notes for study questions.

Paper Workshop

We should review a few of our methods in light of the two paper topics:

Method Philosophy of Love topic Epistemology topic
  • notice the kinds of facts about people that Symp. speakers want to account for
  • Spend some time on your own experience of love(s): family, friends, intimate partners.
  • How do people use the word "knowledge"
  • What does observation "disclose" about reality?
  • In what sense do we "see" abstract objects like triangles?
Distinguishing senses
  • Good and bad loves
  • Pregnancy of body/soul
  • Types of knowledge
  • Levels of certainty
  • Qualities of experience (primary/secondary)
Focus on Argument and Explanation
  • Socrates argument from the nature of desire.
  • Plato's arguments for seeing reality in terms of the divided line.
  • Arguments for various claims about the sources of knowledge.
  • Explanations for false knowledge (deception of senses)
Finding Entailments
  • If love is desire and desire is pursuit of what you don't have, then love can't be the fullness and possession of beauty.
  • If we only know our representations of knowledge, then...
Theorizing from current Knowledge
  • Consider different ways of accounting for Love, especially Christian and naturalist.
  • Does our current understanding of science support a particular model of epistemology?
Using thought experiments

Getting your theorizing off the ground:

  • Focus on some things you are sure of and then begin to explore the basis of your certainty (in light of readings also).
  • Line up some of the theories or points of view that you've read about and consider their strengths and weaknesses (you have to do this for study questions anyway). Can you think of ways to combine parts of theories to avoid problems? Are the S&W really significant?
  • Imagine and reconstuct challenges and objections to your view and respond to them. (This is really important and part of the function of groups in philosophy. Maieutics!)
  • Acknowledge limits and areas where you don't have answers, but try to say what the limit is about and why it's there.


Churchland, Critique of Dualism

  • Dualism defined by belief in nonphysical.
  • Substance dualism: mind is non-physical substance.
  • Cartesian Dualism: Descartes: matter has length, breadth, height, and st position. But real you is nonphysical, thinking thing.
  • Main supports: Evidence of introspection, posibility of language, math,
  • Main issue: interactionism. Descartes postulated "animal spirits"
Substance dualists' difference with modern science -- even if dualism is true, D's division seems off. "Electrons, for example, are bits of matter; but our best current theories describe the electron as a point-particle with no extension whatever(it even lacks a determinate spatial position). And according to Einstein's theory of gravity, an entire star can achieve this same status, if it under-goes a complete gravitational collapse. If there truly is a division between mind and body, it appears that Descartes did not put his finger on the dividing line.": p. 265
  • Popular Dualism: person as "ghost in machine"
  • Might be more plausible since it could be thoroughly interactionist. maybe just some other form of energy. Also, might allow for survival of death.
  • Property Dualism: All is material, but brain realizes special properties.
  • Properties like "having a sesation of red, thinking that P, desiring Q...etc. Properties are "emergent" "solid, colored, alive" irreducible in some sense.
  • Epihenomenalism: idea that consciousness takes place "above the phenomena" of brain activity. Effect of brain but not causal.
  • Appeals because it seems close to science of brain and yet accounts for 1st person experience.
  • Odd to say your actions aren't determined by your desires, but epi's do.
  • Interactionist Property Dualism
Typically, dualist has to claim that mental properties are irreducible (or not dualism, right?), but seems odd to say properties are emergent but not reducible. So some say mental properties are real like physical ones. "Elemental-property dualism" But analogy to electromagnetic force not promising.
  • Arguments for dualism
Religious belief
Introspection, language
Explanation of parapsychological events.
  • Arguments against dualism
Ockham's Razor (not fatal since no one can explain everything about csness)
Explanatory Impotence
Explanatory power of neurosciences (dualist could allow brain big role and still hold out for central capacities to be non-physical)
Argument from evolutionary history.

Siderits, Buddhism as Philosophy

Chapter 1 really just sets the stage for Siderits philosophical treatment of Buddhism. He needs to acknowledge that Buddhism is both like and unlike a religion from a western, judeo-christian perspective. His approach is to identify some of the religious dimensions of Buddhism, but also to claim that Buddhism can be studied as a philosophy because it's central claims are not revealed, but intended to be treated as truths that can be investigated and surpassed.

  • Buddhism is like JC religions:
  • Unlike JC religions:
  • Background Issue: How do we distinguish religion from non-religion? end state,


Introduction to Buddhism

  • Who were the sramanas? response to Vedic ritual
  • The Four Noble Truths
1 There is suffering.
Existential suffering: "The frustration, alienation, and despair that result from the realization of our own mortality" (19)
  1. Normal pain.
  2. Suffering from impermanence.
  3. Suffering from conditions - refers to suffering from the effects of karma, ones' own and others.
2 There is the origination of suffering: suffering comes into existence in dependence on causes.
First of 12 links: Ignorance: Ignorance of impermanence, of suffering, of nonself.
Note the chain of causal connection advanced on p. 22 of Siderits: ignorance ultimately causes suffering, but the intermediate steps are important.
3 There is the cessation of suffering: all future suffering can be prevented by becoming aware of our ignorance and undoing the effects of it.
4 There is a path to the cessation of suffering.
8 fold path. importance of meditation (p. 24) Noble Eight Fold Path

Enlightenment and the Paradox of Liberation

Nirvana is literally "extinction of self" even "annihilation" - What could this mean if there's no self?
Distinction between the state of the enlightened person between enlightenment and death vs. after death. First, is "cessation with remainder," second is "cessation without remainder" (again, compare natural/metaphysical readings)

Paradox of Liberation

1 Liberation is inherently desirable.
2 Selfish desires prevent us from attaining liberation.
3 In order to attain liberation one must train oneself to live without selfish desires.
4 One does not engage in deliberate action unless one desires the foreseen result of the action.

Group Discussion

In your group work today, start to probe and question the basic teachings of Buddhism. Consider some of the following questions, but also identify some of your own questions and try to figure out how a Buddhist might reply.
  • Try to distinguish "good," "bad," and maybe "indifferent" forms of suffering. Is there some deep and pervasive condition of suffering to existence?
  • Track the Buddhist diagnosis for suffering in the theory of dependent origin. Are ignorance, desire, and attachment conspiring to give us the illusion of the "self" and the illusion that all this is permanent?
  • Try to track the connections between what the 8 fold path asks of us and the diagnosis provided? How is doing all that supposed to help?

Foster, Defense of Dualism

  • Dualism: mind and contents radically nonphysical.
  • Biggest objection is problem of interactionism, but Foster thinks direct causation is possible. There's just isn't intervening mechanism as in physical causation.
  • Problem with non-interactionist "epiphenomenalism" -- can't makes sense of intentionality -- actions as consequences of intentions.
  • Pscyhological explanations invoke the "mental" as causal. Can't replace with non-mental terms. [Are mental terms "irreducible"?]
  • [Note: When Foster referes to the "identity thesis" he just means the idea that the mind is the brain. p. 282]
  • Focus at the end is on compatibility of dualism with "what we know" about mind-brain interaction.


Papineau, Physcialism

If thoughts are not physical how can they interact with the physical.
Physicalism: Everything is physical. Initially counterintuitive to say that thoughts are physical.
Basic argument: Problem of interactionism. Nothing incoherent about non-physical things affecting physical things, just haven't found any in the last few hundred years.
Is physicalism an assumption or discovery? Historical point. 3:41 to 4:40 Most candidates for non-physical forces have been eliminated. Principles of conservation of energy lends credibility to physicalism.
Physicalism in Philosophy of Mind:
  • epiphenomenalism,
  • qualia ("something that it's like" to experience X) are a problem for physicalist.
  • Mary thought experiment: Has Mary learned something new? a phenomenal fact? must be non-physical.
  • response from physicalist: could acknowledge new experience (new brain process), and allow that she has a new way of experiencing red. ability to recreate experience in imagination.
  • Important that Newtonian physics has room for non-impact forces. (not just particles impacting as in Descartes/Leibniz.) 1700-1990 most scientists were dualists.

Siderits reconstruction of Buddhist position on no-self

Key points:

1. Buddhist claims there is no self because: 1. self is impermanent and 2. we do not have complete control of a self.

2. Support from analysis of the Five Skandhas (lit. "bundles")

  • Rupa: anything corporeal or physical;
  • Feeling: sensations of pleasure, pain and indifference; (only, other emotions under volition)
  • Perception: those mental events whereby one grasps the sensible characteristics of a perceptible object; e.g., the seeing of a patch of blue color, the hearing of the sound of thunder;
  • Volition: the mental forces responsible for bodily and mental activity, for example, hunger, attentiveness, and
  • Consciousness: the awareness of physical and mental states. (Siderits 35-36)

Exhaustiveness Claim

  • There is no more to the person than the five skandhas (the exhaustiveness claim).

Note basic argument on p. 39.

Argument from control, starts on p. 46.

Maybe the "I" is an executive function

problems with this view.
An entity cannot operate on itself (the anti-reflexivity principle).
Could just be shifting coalition.
Support for this view: Questions of King Milinda - nominalism -- words as "convenient designators"
Conventional vs. Ultimate truths.

Summary of Siderits view: "We are now in a position to return to the dispute over the exhaustiveness claim and the Buddha's two arguments for non-self. Both arguments relied on there being no more to the person than the five skandhas. The opponent objected to the argument from control on the grounds that our ability to exercise some degree of control over all the skandhas shows that there must be more to us than the five skandhas. The response was that there could be control over all the skandhas if it were a shifting coalition of skandhas that performed the executive function. But the opponent challenged this response on the grounds that there would then be many distinct I's, not the one we have in mind when we say that I can dislike and seek to change all the skandhas. We can now see how the Buddhist will respond. They will say that ultimately there is neither one controller nor many, but conventionally it is one and the same person who exercises control over first one skandha and then another. This is so because the controller is a conceptual fiction. It is useful for a causal series of skandhas to think of itself as a person, as something that exercises some control over its constituents. Because it is useful, it is conventionally true. This is how we have learned to think of ourselves. But because this person, this controller, is a conceptual fiction, it is not ultimately true that there is one thing exercising control over different skandhas at different times. Nor is it ultimately true that it is different controllers exercising control over them. The ultimate truth is just that there are psychophysical elements in causal interaction. This is the reality that makes it useful for us to think of Ives as persons who exercise control. Our sense of being something that exists over and above the skandhas is an illusion. But it is a useful one. " 64


Introduction to Personal Identity

  • sameness makers -
  • change of identity: qualitative vs. numerical. (116 food for thought)

Major Theories of Self

  • Illusion
  • Substance: Body
  • Substance: Soul
  • Psychic Continuity

Tracking problems with each.

Buddhist Ethics

1. The nature of nirvana

Samples of texts in which paradoxical reasoning is practiced:
Recall distinction bt. conventional and ultimate truth
71: Point about where the fire goes when it is extinct: "The question does not fit the case." Likewise, "any statement about the enlighened person lacks meaning at the level of ultimate truth." 72
  • Arguments against the "ineffability of nirvana"
Ineffability would imply that no truth can be uttered as ultimate. That's not the case in Buddhism.
  • Arguments against the "punctualist" or "annihilationst" view. Is nirvana living in the present?
Punctualism can't be ultimately true because it involves reference to "sets" of skandhas and that a "whole," which for the Buddhist is only a conventional reality. Also, still conventionally true that there is a self.
Pain suffering, and joy are still "at stake" in one's experience.

-77: example of socialization of children as "persons" - not a bad thing in itself, but has negative consequences. (note: this gives us another way to think about existential suffering, as the consequence of the "useful mythmaking" of the culture of persons. (77))

  • Nirvana as an achieved and integrated awareness of the relative importance of each standpoint for truth. "unlearning the myth of self, while keeping good practices" -- grounding obligations to self / non-self.

2. The nature of obligations to others

Answer on three levels
First - we should obey moral rules because they reflect karmic laws. And we should do that to win release from rebirth. Limit of this is that you have to believe in karma and the motivation is limited to self-interest.
Second - Doctrine of the three klesas - greed, hatred and delusion. negative feedback loop, therefore need for right speech, right conduct, right livelihood. (Note that for Buddhists, you don't practice virtue because it's the right thing to do, but because it allows you to promote well-being.) Motivation at this level is to attain the liberating insight into the true nature of the self.
Third, we should be moral because all suffering is ultimately equal.

80: "This argument will not claim that being moral is a means to some other end we might want, such as good rebirth or nirvana. Instead it will claim that if we properly understand what it is that we say we want, we will see that we must want to promote the welfare of others."

Read passage on 81 (example of the foot and hand) and argument on 82. Ultimately, the only reason you would not dedicate yourself to alleviating suffering when possible is that you are ignorant of the ultimate truth of non-self and karmic (moral) causation.


Simple Personal Identity Thought Experiments

  • Imagine Brown and Robinson switch brains.
  • Imagine Brown's brain is split and placed in two hosts.

Dennett's Narrative Thought Experiment

Dennett, "Who Am I?"

  • Basic Narrative:
  • Where is Dennett after the first operation?
  • Three possibilities: Hamlet, Yorrick, and POV.
  • After the accident: What's the point of Hubert?

Epictetus, Enchiridion

Epictetus and Stoicism

Field of Philosophy Stoicism - Epictetus - Enchiridion
Metaphysics All reality corporeal. Intelligence is irreducible and real. Seen in order. Belief in rationality of universe; wholism
Theology Pantheism - theos/matter, theos in all life, in reason, rationality in nature. Older stoicism believed in cyclical conflagration.
Teleology Virtue (care of the hegimonikon) is the end of life and should satisfy the demand for happiness.

Issues in Stoicism:

  • Causes of our unhappiness
  • Pursuing the adjustment of our emotions to our understanding of the world
  • The independence of the hegemonikon (rational ruling principle in us)



Introduction to Free Will

1. Evoking the experience of free will

  • Situations in which free will seems especially prominent
  • Situations in which free will seems especially problematic

2. Presupposition in the discussion of free will: What would have to be true about the world for us to have free will?

First, define free will. Consider two possible starting points:
  1. Human agents act outside of causal influence...
  2. Human agents experience choice in a way that they characterize has "free"...
Notice the different "burdens" each of these starting points.
We'll come back to the various positions on this topic, but take notes on them as part of your own background preparation.

3. Basic Positions

  • Hard Determinism
Seems to be supported by general knowledge of physical world, but leads to puzzles with our intuitions, especially about responsibility. Where is the self in determinism? Can my mental states exert causal power on myself.
  • Indeterminism
Particle physics seems to suggest that there is indeterminism in events at a very small scale physical matter(if haven't heard of [Schrodenger's Cat], now's your chance). But would random change really be enough to account for free will. Free will isn't random, after all.
  • Soft Determinism (Compatibilism)
This one starts out counter-intuitive to most people. How can determinism and free will be compatible?
Versions include "traditional" -- Action caused by agent and not forced and "Deep self" -- Action caused by agent's authentic desire.
Problem: R1 105: hot dog story
Criteria for soft compatibilits to call an act free: 1) action caused by will of agent; 2) action not forced
  • Libertarianism
Human agents have special causal powers (agent causation) that determine their free actions.

Epicurus and Epicureanism

341-270 bc

Field of Philosophy Epicureanism - Epicurus - Letter to Menoeceus, et al
Metaphysics Democritean atomism; only evidence for material objects, but recognition of idea of gods.
Theology If there are gods, they aren't concerned about us. No worry of retribution.
Teleology Pleasure is the good. Virture is instrumental in helping us understand how to pursue pleasure and a condition for successful attainment of pleasure in life.

Letter to Menoeceus, Principal Doctrines, and Vatican Sayings

  • Gods -- Should we be afraid of the gods?
  • Death -- Should we fear death?
  • Desire -- What approach should we take to desire? (note connection with Symposium) natural/groundless, necessary/unnecessary
  • Pleasure -- the "alpha and omega" of a happy life.
  • Distinction between kinetic and katastematic pleasures. The limits of pleasures.
  • The relationship between virture and pleasure in Epicurus.
  • How much kinetic pleasure would a good Epicurean pursue? Virtue and the "measure of pleasure" -- Friendship and sociability.


Free Will

  • Review of outline from previous class. Track strengths/weakness
  • Forms of Soft Determinism/Compatibilism:
  • Traditional -- Two criteria for free act -- 1) caused by agent and 2) not forced or coerced.
  • Issues: Hard to understand "forced" or "coerced".
  • General Point: Compatibilism take a common sense approach to distinguishing "free" and "not free" actions. Sort of like a juridical process treat culpability. Mitigating factors on a crime include acting under force or coercion.
  • Deep Self Compatibilism -- adds third criterion: 3) and that we identify with the desire underlying the action.
  • Starting point in criticism of Traditional -- How do you know that your desires are really your own, really express your "true self"? Problem of false desire. Problem of desire under conditions of addiction. desire/identity distinction central to this position.
  • Comment on Nietzsche excerpt, p. 103: notion of authentic life as a creative project.
  • The Hot Dog Problem -- tracing the causal history for the decision to buy the hot dog seems to lead to the conclusion that at the moment of decision the guy "could not have acted otherwise" than he did. His desire still determined his action.
  • Is it a necessary condition for freedom and responsibility to have the power to act other than we have in fact acted?

Epicurus' Philosophical Hedonism

  • Review distinctions: natural/groundless, of the natural: necessary/unnecessary, then levels of necessity. need to overcome false opinion about the importance of many desires.
  • Details of theory of pleasure:
  • kinetic/katastematic: superiority of latter.
  • freedom from desire valued (recall Symposium!) Poss. thought experiment here.
  • Virtue (pursuit of excellence, development of capacities, moral virtue) is a necessary condition for the pursuit pleasure. See passage in Letter to M. All pleasure is good, but not always worthy of choice. Virtue helps with that.
  • Critical Questions:
  • Does Epicureanism pose a false or low goal for human beings?
  • Is it paradoxical or wise (or both) to say that the the goal of life if pleasure and yet to advocate such a moderate concept of pleasure? (see PD 18, for example).
  • How should we understand his advocacy of the pursuit of friendship? Doesn't friendship bring worry and anxiety?


Is moral responsibility compatible with determinism?

Harry Frankfurt, "Alternative Possibilities and Moral Responsibility"

1. Does the principle of alternative possibilities conflict with determinism?

Principle of Alternative Possibilities;

A person is morally responsible for an action only if they could have done otherwise.

Thesis: The principle is false.

Strategy: develop examples of situations in which a person may do something in circumstances which leave him no alternative and yet we would hold that person responsible for their actions.
1. Jones1 decides to do X and coincidentally is coerced to do it, though the coercion is not felt. (no coercion, moral resp)
2. Jones2 made an earlier decision to do X, but the fear of coercion is what he responds to in doing X. (coercion, no moral resp)
3. Jones3 decides to do X and is coerced to do it. J3 would have done whatever he was coerced to do. (coercion, moral resp) Read 163.
4. Black and Jones4. Black is ready to defeat Jones4's initial preferences, but he never actually has to. Jones4 "could not have done otherwise" yet he is fully morally responsible for his act.
Even if a person could not have done otherwise, it doesn't follow that he acted because he could not have done otherwise.

Revised Principle of Alternative Possibilities;

A person is not morally responsible for what he has done if he did it only because he could not have done otherwise.

Frankfort claims this revised principle is compatible with determinism. As long as "some" of the reasons that explain the action allow for alternative possibilities,

The relationship between truth and freedom

Examine evidence of free will in these cases:

"I did ______ because it was the right thing to do."

"I have to follow my conscience."

"I have no choice but to stand up for my principles."

Is freewill a matter of degree?

  • Diminished capacity and free will

Stace's defense of compatibilism

1. Philosophers who deny free will don't act that way.

2. Thesis: Free will dispute is a verbal dispute. Example.

3. Free will shouldn't be define as "indeterminism".

"Language Analysis"

JONES: I once went without food for a week. SMITH: Did you do that of your own free will? JONES: No. I did it because I was lost in a desert and could find no food.

GANDHI: I once fasted for a week. SMITH: Did you do that of your own free will? GANDHI: Yes. I did it because I wanted to compel the British Government to give India its independence.

JUDGE: Did you steal the bread of your own free will? STACE: Yes. I stole it because I was hungry.

JUDGE: Did you steal the bread of your own free will? STACE: No. I stole because my employer threatened to beat me if I did not.

JUDGE: Did you sign this confession of your own free will? PRISONER: No. I signed it because the police beat me up.

What distinguishes usages in which we say someone is free from saying they are not free?

Criterion can't be determinism since there are causal influences in all cases.

124 "The free acts are all caused by desires, or motives, or by some sort of internal psychological states of the agent's mind. The unfree acts, on the other hand, are all caused by physical forces or physical conditions, outside the agent."


The Illusion

  • Scientific Explanation vs. Conscious Will Explanation of human behavior.
  • We feel like we cause ourselves to do things, but maybe that's an illusion. q. 2
  • Experience of Conscious Will
  • First identified by David Hume (1739). q. 3
  • Forms of automatism:
  • Alien hand syndrome --
  • Hypnotic involuntariness -- Table turning!
  • Illusion of Control (lower left quadrant of chart on p. 8)
  • Example of "playing" the demo sequence on in-store video game display, other examples p. 10
Discusses idea of conscious will as a "force" (12) -- big explanatory role
  • Hume on causation (connect to study of science) --
  • argues for distinction bt. Empirical will and Phenomenal will

Mind perception and causal agency

  • we see goal seeking behavior where there is none. Automatic cognitive behavior.
  • Heider and Simmel 1944 -- triangles chasing circles
  • in humans, peception of intentions in others. Literally "mind reading" - inference to human causal agency.
  • Mechanisms and minds: q. 21, 22
  • Theory of Mind --
  • Thesis p. 26

Brain and Body

This chapter collects and describes evidence for two distinct neural systems, one governing creation of action and another creation of a sense of conscious will.

  • from frontal lobe disorders, we hypothesize that executive control resides there to some degree.
  • ear wiggling -- eventual success of ear wiggling training suggest we might "learn" voluntariness.
  • facial expression research, p. 35.

Sensing effort

  • focus on brain -- muscle pathway.
  • intentional vs. passive eye movement.
  • Ian Waterman and proprioception disorders.
  • stroke victims --- might be "relearning" a sense of conscious will in movement.
  • Mach case is opposite Waterman case -- afferent vs. efferent pathways.
  • Phantom limbs -- Ramachandran's research
  • Brain stimulation -- direct, via magnetism (ref. to ted talk on fusiform gyrus)
  • Libet research --


  • Introduction to topics in Philosophy of Religion Unit
  • Reminder of Logos/Theos/Mythos model
  • Major Questions guiding inquiry
  • What is the best way for philosophy to support religious experience through Logos?
  • What should religious and non-religoius peple expect to see when they look at each other? What account should they give of each other's beliefs?

Work on Proofs for the Existence of God

1. Argument from Experience

advantages of working from experience.
major problems: diversity of experiences, lack of experience, non-verifiability of experience, sensitivity of experience to upbringing
strong thesis vs. weaker thesis: Experience of God demonstrates. . . vs. Religious experience suggests. . .
notice in relation to epistemology, God and JFK.

2. Cosmological Argument

Basic Form:
P1: If there is no God, there is no world.
P2: There is a world.
C: There is a God.
principle of sufficient reason - for everything that exists there must be an explanation of why it exists.
major objection to framework of the argument: modern critique of use of principle of s.r., Russell/Copleston, p. 186 R1
but, grant that, then there might be 3 options for explanation of cosmos:
1. Cosmos always existed (maybe Bang/Crunch)
but there are no actual infinities, are there? example of person actually counting to or from infinity.
Is it explanatory?
2. Cosmos begins with Singularity (Big Bang)
Uncaused events. Example of the moment of loss of the neutron from a decaying uranium sample.
Why prefer God to a random event?
Oddness of saying that the entire universe is an uncaused event.
Contingent being / necessary being.
3. God explains Cosmos
only a necessary being can explain the existence of the universe in a non-random way.
God is that necessary being.

3. Design Arguments

Found object arguments. Paley's watch, memory chip. Counter arguments?
Can natural science explain the accumulation of design? metaphors of design in biology.
Mind first vs. Mind last
Consider diverse possibilities for explaining the apparent accumulation of order and design.
Traditional Creationism: Faith based arguments, arguments from ignorance, attacks on science.
Naturalistic Explanations (including Theory of Evolution): incomplete at this point on questions of origin of life.
Intelligent Design Creationism: having both explanations: Hoyle on probability. argument against this (193)
Ockham's Razor



4. Ontological Arguments

Basic Form:
P1: Either God exists or he doesn't.
P2: The claim that God does not exist is contradictory.
C: God exists.
Denial of God's existence entails a contradiction.
greatest possible .... plus existence? The greatest being you can think of must exist? Try to deny it and you wind up saying, "It is possible to think of something greater than the greatest being that one can think of"
Kant's argument against treating existence as a predicate (R1 p. 198). Not a property of a thing. example of "dream partner" 198.

Reflections on Proofs:

Are they proofs? Were they meant to be proofs or aids to reflection?
What do we mean by proof today in relation to knowledge of science? Mathematics again!
Importance of necessity in the proofs.