…entre nous soit dit…

between me you and the gatepost.

FML

I so totally cannot be fucked writing either my Philosophy essay (due yesterday) OR my Politics essay (also due yesterday)… I just can’t find the motivation to do it.

Someone do it for me? Please?

Philosophy: “How does Berkley construe the status of ordinary objects (chairs, tables, trees)? Is his response to skepticism commonsensical, as he claims it is?”

Politics: “Australia was right to lead the UN intervention (INTERFET) to guarantee East Timorese self-determination in September 1999, but wrong not to intervene earlier that year in response to east Timorese calls for a UN peace-keeping force. Discuss.”

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October 14, 2009 Posted by | philosophy, Politics, university | Leave a comment

Just a quick note…

I won’t bother writing about the weekend and my boss at the moment. I have neither the time or the patience… plus that saga has extended for far too long on this blog. Let’s just say I’m sick of it and I feel sick about the fact that I actually went did any of what I’ve already written.

I will say this though, it is official. They broke up.

Anyways, I have a philosophy exam tomorrow, which I’m fairly sure that I’m screwed for, so it shall be fun. If only someone could tell me how to learn it in my sleep… because that’s what I plan on doing in a minute instead of staying up any longer and studying. Because that would obviously be silly…. *sigh* owell.

June 7, 2009 Posted by | exams, just a quick note, Personal, philosophy, trouble | Leave a comment

Philosophy Essay Two: The Meaning of Life.

“Human life can only have meaning if God exists and there is an afterlife.” Demonstrate why this claim is true or false.

Many people hold different beliefs as to what the meaning of life is, and for thousands of years, philosophers and theologians have pondered over the truth of it – some producing theories on the subject. Among them are Epictetus, a Greek-born Roman slave who developed theories on stoicism and Robert Nozick who wrote about ‘The Experience Machine’ [1] and held an anti-hedonistic viewpoint. While both of these philosophers developed different ideas, they both shared a common goal: trying to understand what the most important thing in our lives is. Many believe that through theology and belief we gain meaning to our lives, but what if there is no God and no afterlife? Can we still have meaning? Atheists believe that there is no meaning to our lives, but we seem to be unable to accept this so we ‘have to invent meaning (and as a result we create) religions and areas of study which help structure and give explanation and purpose to our lives.’ [2] Although some believe this – that we use religion as an explanation for the meaning of our lives – others such as Nozick and Epictetus developed other ideas and tried to prove that there can in fact be meaning to our lives if there is indeed no god or afterlife.

While neither philosopher directly denies god and religion, each one says that there are other things more important. Epictetus writes that what matters for a good life (for most) is a peaceful state of mind that is tranquil. He insists that ‘all your attention must be given to the mind’ [3] and that the ‘price of a quiet mind’ and ‘freedom from passion’ [4] is by only caring about the things that are within your control – this includes everything that is our own doing – and to ignore all that is not in our control. Robert Nozick, on the other hand, does not condemn passion and desire or focus on the tranquillity of the mind, but instead says that in our lifetime it is not only our experiences and happiness that give our lives meaning, but also the contact with reality that we have. Nozick states ‘What else can matter to us, other than how our lives feel from the inside?’ [5] He then proposes for the reader to imagine that there is a machine that can simulate any experience we want, and asks the question do you plug yourself in? Nozick takes the stance that it’s not merely the experience that creates meaning in your life, but the lessons learnt and how actually doing those things forms you as a person, however for this to occur you can not have a simulated and unrealistic experience. This is completely contrary to a hedonistic view, which dictates that happiness is the only thing that matters in life – no matter how it is gained. Other philosophies can be seen to draw from hedonism, such as utilitarianism, which believes in the maximisation of utility for a good life [6]. The common factor throughout all these theories, however, is that mankind can search for, or reach, meaning in their life without the necessity of God or an afterlife.

Nozick and Epictetus seem to clash on the ideas of the involvement of emotion, passion and desire. While Nozick is relatively ambiguous as to how much weight must be given to happiness and contact with reality, he is certain that they must both be present. It can be assumed that to be happy you must have passion and emotion, and care for things that are “not in your control” as Epictetus would say. Based on this, with this happiness comes the contact with reality that Nozick describes as necessary, and in turn the downside of life that balances the out the happiness we are granted through our experiences. Without this touch of reality, we would be plugged into the theoretical “experience machine” unknowingly and without any individuality. We would not form self-identities and we would not be able to question reality. Of all the things granted to humans, some would argue that the ability to question “Why?” is one of the greatest and we need this contact with reality in order to use this ability. However, these emotions that comes with Nozick’s ideas are not included in Epictetus’ idea of a good life. Epictetus believes that all we need to have is a tranquil mind at peace with nature, and in achieving this, we shall also achieve contentedness. In a modern day society, Epictetus’ ideas may be seen as being submissive and impassive, but this is how he intends them. He says that ‘you will only be harmed, when you think you are harmed’ [7] and that the signs of a person that is making progress at achieving this tranquillity ‘blames none, praises none, complains of none, accuses none, never speaks of himself as if he were somebody, or as if he knew anything’ [8]. All of these aspects, nevertheless, would go against Nozick’s ideas of experience and contact with reality, because they veto the person from both feeling and passion, as well as the ability to adeptly question “why?” Despite these differences, both theorists have created plausible theories that would give, what they consider to be, meaning to our lives without the need of god or an afterlife.

Both stoicism, as described by Epictetus, and anti-hedonism, as argued by Nozick, can produce viable theories about what gives meaning to mankind’s individual existence without the need of God or an afterlife. Each philosopher comes to his own conclusion through different ideas, both with their positive and negative aspects to the lifestyle. Stoicism disregards emotion and passion for contentedness and tranquillity of mind, and in return doesn’t allow the person to be either hurt, or conversely, experience the joys of life fully; and Anti-Hedonism, which allows both as much happiness as we can gain, as well as contact with reality through our real experiences, that help to shape the person we become. Both theories involve self-development and education of the mind, whether it be questioning reality and life, or disciplining it to be at peace with nature. Neither of the theories involves the blind following of a religion created to satisfy our need for meaning to our existence, and in turn the necessity of a God or an afterlife.

 

References:

·      Manual’ extracted from: Oates, W.J. (ed), (1940). The Stoic and Epicurean Philosophers. (New York: Random House)

·      BonJour, L. (ed), Baker, A. (ed),(2008) Philosophical Problems: An annotated Anthology, (Second Edition) (United States: Pearson Longman)

·      The Experience Machine’ extracted from: Nozick, R., (1974). Anarchy, State, and Utopia. (New York: Basic Books)

·      Hawthorn, E., (1998). Atheism for Survival. (Australia: The National Library of Australia Cataloguing in Publication)

May 20, 2009 Posted by | essays, homework, life, morals, observation, philosophy, School Work, university | Leave a comment

My Boss: Part 8 (a slice of Kane’s Libertarian Philosophy)

An extract from ‘Free Will and Modern Science’ by Robert Kane:

… 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. Perhaps we are torn between doing the moral thing or acting from ambition, or between powerful present desires and long-term goals; or we may be faced with difficult tasks for which we have aversions. In all such cases of difficult self-forming choices in our lives, we are faced with competing motivations and have to make an effort to overcome the temptation to do something else we also strongly want. There is tension and uncertainty in our minds about what to do at such times.

When we do decide under such conditions of uncertainty the outcome is not determined, thanks to the indeterminacy that preceded it. Yet the outcome can be willed either way we choose, rationally and voluntarily, because in such self formation, the agents’ prior wills are divided by conflicting motives… When we… decide in such circumstances, and the indeterminate efforts we are making become determinate choices, we make one set of competing reasons or motives prevail over the others then and there by deciding.

I read this today before I went into my philosophy tutorial and the whole time there was only going through my head: omg. It’s weird how when you have something prominently popping up in your head or something that is causing a great deal of indecisiveness in your life, you begin to see how everything relates to it. That’s why when I saw this I automatically began to relate it to the current situation with my boss and where it has put me. Of course, this was probably helped by the fact that I had been texting him all of five minutes before I started reading this.
But it’s the same with things like horoscopes in the newspapers. They’re always so general and so we fit our own lives and troubles into them. So it shouldn’t really be a surprise that I did it here, because heaven knows I’d be able to do it with silly vague horoscopes. Those things are just recycled predictions anyway.
This extract did however suceed in continuing to make me feel guilty… and I thought the constant daily texting and my conscience were doing that job well enough on their own!

April 29, 2009 Posted by | life, love, moods, people, Personal, philosophy, university, work | 2 Comments

Philosophy Essay One: Ethical Egoism

Question Six: Is Ethical Egoism a viable ethical theory? What is the relation between psychological egoism and ethical egoism?

An Ethical theory proposes how morality can be gained in terms of ‘…right and wrong behaviour, and especially of how people ought to behave in relation to each other’ [1]. This means that a set of justified guidelines can be drawn up from this theory of moral behaviour that any man could adopt and live his life by. Egoism is a theory concerning the selfish behaviour of people and the action of pursuing ones own-interest. Philosophers have developed two strands: Psychological and Ethical. Theories have many facets upon which they must be judged before they can be considered viable. In terms of continuing the development of the human race and the world as it is presently, there can only be negative aspects seen within ethical egoism and as a result, in this respect, it cannot be counted as a feasible theory. In societies of this century (and many more previously), the human population has become an inter-dependent, socialising species and humans would not be able to survive with the same ongoing positive advancements if ethical egoism was proven as viable and became the adopted theory. This is because humans would become an antisocial and disinterested race as a result of this moral theory. In order to continue with our society as it is today, it makes more sense to follow the common sense theory which can been seen to be slightly reflected with Egoism, but still as counting against it. For the purpose of this argument I will look precisely at just one aspect of the feasibility of ethical egoism – whether or not it is viable judging by the impact that it would have on society.

Psychological egoism is a simple theory that claims to explains all human behaviour: that people are capable of doing nothing other than pursuing their own self-interest, human nature being what it is. Ethical egoism proposes that in order to be virtuous every person ought to wholly pursue his or her own self-interest, but does not claim to be a human motives theory based on psychology. The difference between the two theories lie in whether promoting our self-interests is the only thing we can do and the only thing we ought to do. While ethical egoism says to be virtuous we ought to follow our self-interests, it doesn’t say that we are not allowed to help others at all – only that you don’t need to promote other’s interests at the same time as yours. However, both of these proposals present a number of problems. The first and foremost, is that if one is true, then the other can’t be – psychological egoism insists that we have no choice but to act selfishly, whereas ethical implies that there is a choice, but we ought to anyway. Of the two theories, ethical egoism is the most disputed, because it still works on so many levels.

One issue that is commonly raised and of great interest is that ethical egoism is compatible with Commonsense Morality. If ethical egoism can combine the commonsense morality, it would be a very good argument as a viable theory. Of the commonsense principles, the duties not to lie, to keep our promises, and not to harm other people, emerge as the most important in order to maintain relationships. James Rachels raises this point in The Elements of Moral Philosophy, with the moderate view of ethical egoism accepting commonsense morality. Without these principles being enforced in society, there will be a resulting deterioration of relationships due to the lies, injuries inflicted and lacking of trust. There is also the likelihood of jail sentences for more people and the possible breakdown of the legal system due to the lacking of need to tell the truth. Rachels argues that these principles are accepted by ethical egoism because it is in our own self-interest not to break them, however this argument both works for and against ethical egoism. While it proves that the theory does not promote morally unacceptable behaviour (by non-egoist standards) which is positive, it also shows that for this to be true, the person would not only be thinking of his or her own self-interest, which goes against the idea of ethical egoism. For example, if a child’s self-interest is to steal a cookie before dinner, they know as a result of satisfying this self-interest, it’s also in their best interest to lie to their mum and say they didn’t take it (and that it was probably their sibling). The reason they know this is because they know it’s in their mother’s self-interest not to let them have one before dinner and therefore she won’t allow it. However this thought process, which allows the child to decide that lying will be the best option, shows that they have to take into account their mothers self-interest as well. This again goes against the ideas ethical egoism, because we don’t have to consider others self-interests at all – it is just a happy coincidence if they concur with our own. Pure ethical egoism would see the child take the cookie and not care about whether or not the mother knows.

In order for the more radical and pure form of ethical egoism to be in place, people would have to become more detached without emotional ties to people so that they are able to focus more solely upon themselves. Rachels also admits that when dealing with friends and family we often have close and personal relationships. He states simply, ‘Bargaining and calculating play a much smaller role, while love and caring dominate.’ [2]. This bargaining and calculating would be essential for any form of egoism to be true and the intimacy would have to be pushed aside in order to make purely selfish decisions. However, this straight form of ethical egoism will result in the break down of human relationships and on an even larger scale societies and populations. Presently, nations are interdependent and every individual relies on a network of other people in order to survive. With this breakdown people would be forced to become more independent, because at the end of the day the only person you could wholly rely on and trust would be yourself. This argument shows that the commonsense theory is vital to our way of living, but does not and cannot be an essential principle within ethical egoism, because it involves considering the self-interests of people other than yourself.

For a person with common sense and good logic, ethical egoism could work. Despite the problems faced in ethical egoism it could be considered to be a viable theory based on the grounds that a person uses logic, common sense, and to and certain extent emotions, to sensibly and rationally assess what their self-interests are.  However without commonsense morality being combined into the theory of ethical egoism, it will only result in chaos, and the deterioration of the populations and societies. Thus on a moral ground, the theory is not a viable one in this respect.

April 4, 2009 Posted by | essays, philosophy, School Work, university | Leave a comment

Philosophy: Utilitarianism

So, I’m doing philosophy at university this year as one of my subjects. It’s pretty fascinating, although I must say that it is a whole lot more inspiring when you can actually discuss it in tutorials as opposed to just sitting there, listening and tuning out in the lectures. I usually tune out, and then get lost when the professors do the lectures. Either that or else I get all muddled up and confused and then I lose what was being said, because I’m busy trying to figure it out.
This past weeks topic was Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism has a quantative and reductionist approach to ethics and put simply is basically about achieving It can be simplified pretty easily to “the greatest good for the greatest number”. It’s all about the math really – the more people there are happy, the better. The numbers always win. Good old trustworthy Wikipedia describes it as:
“…the idea that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its contribution to overall utility: that is, its contribution to happiness or pleasure as summed among all persons. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome: put simply, the ends justify the means. Utility, the good to be maximised, has been defined by various thinkers as happiness or pleasure (versus suffering or pain)… It may be described as a life stance, with happiness or pleasure being of ultimate importance.”
For out tutorial discussions, we were given a couple of situations that we had to consider both from a moral point of view and a utilitarian point of view as to what is the right and wrong actions. We got some good arguments going, but there’s always different moral answers.
Situation One:
You’re standing on a bridge over some train tracks and you see a train coming. Tied to the tracks right below you is 5 people. Next to you (coincidentally) is a lever which you can pull that will move the train from the track it’s on, to another one next to it and in doing so it will miss hitting the 5 people. However tied to the other track is 1 person.
The dilemma: do you pull the lever or not?
From a moral point of view, only you can answer what you would do – pull the leaver or not. Personally, I would if I was able to react fast enough. Of course it would be emotionally traumatising knowing that you had pulled the leaver that had killed someone, but you saved five others. If I didn’t pull the leaver I would feel even worse because I would know that I could have saved those people, but instead I just watched them die and didn’t do anything.
From a utilitarian perspective, the answer is a yes without hesitation. You would of course opt to save the five lives over the one life, because that maximises the happiness in society. By having five people who can experience happiness and create happiness, that is a lot more than only one person on their own can create or experience. The numbers always win.
Situation Two:
 Same situation with the train, except this time there’s only one track and instead of there being a lever to pull to save the five people, there’s only some big bulky muscled up wrestler who is big enough that if you pushed him off the bridge, he would stop the train with the sheer size of his body. He would die, but the train would stop after hitting him and therefore it would save the other five people. (and yes theoretically speaking you are strong enough to push him over and yes he will land on the tracks)
Once again, from a utilitarian point of view, the answer is without a doubt yes – push him. You would  be able to, once again, save those 5 people instead of them all dying.
From a moral perspective however, most people would say no or be hesitant. For me, I wouldn’t be able to do it. There seems to be a line which I draw between pulling an inanimate object that changes a course of fate, and pushing a warm blooded, living breathing person to their death. Having that physical connection and knowing what you’re dooming them to by that action, would have so much more of an emotional and psychological affect on you. 
By pushing that innocent person, you are condemning them to death and putting them in the situation that they were previously no part of. However if the person from the first situation was already tied to the tracks, then they were already involved in the situation to some degree or an extent. I think that physical contact with the man, makes it feel just that little bit more like you’ve made the choice to kill them and the blood is on your hands. Whereas in the first situation, I think I could have eventually persuaded myself that there was really nothing else I could have done.
Situation Three:
Continuing from the topic of the week before, abortion, we had one situation involving this, however it is probably the most complicated one to consider of them all. If a woman gets pregnant (no matter how that happens – rape or accident), but doesn’t want to keep the child, should she be made to carry through with the pregnancy for the full 9 months and then give the child away for adoption, instead of being allowed an abortion?
We decided that from a moral stance, the woman should be allowed to make up her own mind as to whether or not she wants to carry through to term, because it is her body and is a basic human right to decide what happens to your own body. She should be allowed to choose based on her own decision and not told what she has to do by other people. However, we never really decided on a definite answer from a Utilitarian point of view though.
Now on one hand, the suffering that she may go through for those 9 months will be far less than the lifetime of joy that the child will be able to have if it is born. So the happiness outweighs the suffering here. However it must also be taken into account, other factors such as what happens if both the mother and child are emotionally and/or psychologically damaged for the rest of their lives, as is often the case. Then the happy life that the mother could have had would be outweighed by the two now unhappy  lives, which is negative. 
What happens if the mother kills herself because she had to carry through the pregnancy or she dies giving birth? Then we end up with the same numbers as before – 1 life, which isn’t even guaranteed to be happy. What if the mother would have had 3 children later on in life, but due to being forced to carry through an untimely pregnancy, then she is put off childbirth for life? Then the world has lost the possibility of 3 more happy lives for only 1.
There are simply too many variables to consider in this situation. To simply say that if we stop abortion and as a result have more people being born, then there will obviously be more happiness in the world, and as such it will satisfy the utilitarian way of life, is to suggest that we should start up breeding farms in order to make the world a happier place. That idea failed tragically in Romania where contraception was outlawed in 1985 and abortion had already been banned in the hopes that the communist party could force the “pure Romanian birthrate” and population to rise dramatically. Their failed plan, implemented by Ceausescu, resulted in large numbers of dangerous illegal abortions and tens of thousands of unwanted children being abandoned into the state orphanages. The severely malnourished children that ended up in the orphanages were given micro-transfusions of blood (an archaic practice) in an attempt to raise their immune systems, but ended up resulting in an AIDS epidemic from needles being reused and unscreened blood. This plan was a disaster to say the least.
Situation Four:

At a hospital, there are five patients who all need an organ transplant in the next few hours in order to survive. One needs a heart, another a lung, two need a kidney each and the last needs a new liver. Coincidentally there is a patient in the hospital with a broken ankle that just happens to have the same blood type and matching tissues to the other 5 patients. The person with the broken ankle has just come out of surgery for their ankle and is still asleep. They other 5 people will be dead before the anaesthesia wears off. A doctor there knows how to remove organs quietly and make the bodies go away, so he takes out the organs and gives them to the other five patients.
Morally, we are shocked by this. Harvesting one man’s organs is a crime and shocking to our society of course. Fact is, that there is a black market out there that survives on exactly this kind of murder, although it usually happens in a more crude way and not in a hospital. Morally though, this is extremely and utterly wrong to the vast majority of people.
From a utilitarian’s perspective, this is (given a shallow and very basic analysis) right, because once again, the numbers win out. However, if examined closer, there are more things to consider. Such as if the society begins to think that their organs could be harvested if they go into hospital for something as small as even plastic surgery or a broken arm, then they will eventually stop going to the hospitals, and as a result people won’t have any health care, get sick, and that will mean mass unhappiness of society, which is the complete opposite aim of utilitarianism.
All these situations are hard to decide on, and I think it’s really up to the individual as to what is right and wrong morally, because it’s based on what our limits are. Utilitarian perspectives can be relatively easy to decide on because it’s just about doing the math, but on a deeper examination, there can be so many more variables and possibilities that need to be taken into consideration before the numbers can be worked out.

March 12, 2009 Posted by | homework, life, morals, observation, people, philosophy, university | 1 Comment

Hi ho, hi ho, its off to uni I go…

Well I have just started my first week of University life. After all the build up from the last couple of weeks, so far it hasn’t exactly been as amazing as I thought it would be. Then again, I’ve only been to two days, so I suppose it’s still a bit early to be judging. Plus, this week is only lectures, so the real work, with tutorials and such, don’t actually start until next week. Something to look forward to I guess.
I think I’ve just been so bored and simply not intellectually stimulated all summer, that now I really want to be back at school (or in this case, starting university), so that I can actually think about things other than the teen dramas that my group revolves around. I want to study and learn new things. I want to have something to debate and argue about. I want knowledge that I can pick up ad be fascinated by, enough to want to learn more.
I’m tired of working, sitting around the house, sleeping, watching tv and movies and being a general slob. I want something intellectual to do, and I don’t care if it means having to write essays and sitting in classrooms listening to teachers talking at me (and paying $5 parking everyday as well as petrol money in order to be special enough to do that).
My philosophy teacher for my lecture seems like a pretty alright kind of guy to have – he struck up debate and thought in my lecture today, despite it being the first lecture, which every other lecturer so far has taken the advantage of to simply say “welcome and here’s you course outline.” It’s like they waste no time in trying to bore you to pieces. My french class teacher also seemed pretty good, although I think she may be finishing her PhD or something, so she possibly won’t have much time for us.
I don’t know why I chose to do french at university. For one thing, I could have done it as a night course or something outside of university (not that I would have been able to afford that lol). For another thing, I only chose to do it for one semester, not two. I should really have chosen to do politics both semesters instead, but owell. Now I’m stuck with having to buy the books for two different subjects instead of one. And damn those books are expensive! $176 just for the packaged 2 french books that are essential for the course. that’s ignoring the other 3 which are also on the list for that subject.
Well hopefully the expensive text books will be worth it. I hope they will be anyways. I’m off to continue my reading of ‘The Reader’ by Bernhard Schlink. So far it seems to be a mixture of eroticism and philosophy which helps to tell the tale of a love affair between an older woman and a 15 year old boy in Nazi Germany. I’m not far enough into the book to tell if it’s brilliant like everyone claims it to be, but I still have high expectations for it.
Toodaloo people.

February 24, 2009 Posted by | bored, intellect, philosophy, university | 1 Comment