Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Metaphysics: Free Will Pt.2

Robert Kane, one of the leading contemporary philosophers on free will, advocates for what is known as “libertarian freedom”, which holds the position that free will exists and determinism is false.

Kane’s argument states that “alternative possibilities (or the agent’s power to do otherwise)” are a necessary condition for the ability to act freely, but that alone is not enough. His argument is based around what he refers to as “ultimate responsibility” (UR)

“UR: An agent is ultimately responsible for some (event or state) E’s occurring only if (R) the agent is personally responsible for E’s occurring in a sense which entails that something the agent voluntarily (or willingly) did or omitted either was, or causally contributed to, E’s occurrence and made a difference to whether or not E occurred; and (U) for every X and Y (where X and Y represent occurrences of events and/or states) if the agent is personally responsible for X and if Y is an arche (sufficient condition, cause or motive) for X, then the agent must also be personally responsible for Y.”

Or in more simple phrasing:
“an agent must be responsible for anything that is a sufficient reason (condition, cause or motive) for the action’s occurring.”

Kane also talks about what he refers to as “self-forming actions” or SFAs. SFAs being those moments of indecision during which people experience conflicting wills. If a person has had the opportunity to make a character-forming decision (SFA), he is responsible for the actions that are a result of his character.

But Robert Kane doesn’t seem to take in to account WHY someone makes the choice that they do, for him, merely having the ability to do otherwise is enough for free will to exist, but can we really say that they had the ability to choose otherwise? Sure on the surface, if we were to decide between two options, such as choosing between cake or ice cream, it would seem clear that we have the ability to choose either, but if every factor, no matter how minute is taken into account, from the temperature in the room to the chemicals in our brain, to the very nature of the choice that we are given with that all contribute to the circumstances of the situation, do we really have the ability to choose otherwise? Sure we may have full motor function, we might be capable of picking up the ice cream instead of the cake, but there is more to a choice than merely physical limitations. If the agent in question dislikes ice cream but loves cake and hasn’t eaten in quite a while, they may have the physical ability to pick up the ice cream and ingest it but they don’t truly have the ability to choose the ice cream. Why we do something contributes just as much if not more to our ability to do something than our physical capability. If there is no reason to choose the ice cream and several reasons to choose the cake, then the agent in question will choose the cake. If there is a reason to choose the ice cream and that reason is more important to the agent than the pleasure gained from eating the cake, then they will choose the ice cream. If there is no reason to choose either, then the agent will attempt to choose randomly, but by choosing randomly the choice is not theirs, it is also still directly caused by the agents actions. For example If they decide to spin a bottle and whichever it is most closely pointing too will be chosen, the outcome will be a direct result of several factors such as how hard the bottle is spun, how much it weighs, where in relation to the bottle the two choices are placed.

To say that one has the ability to choose otherwise is absurd as there are countless factors influencing the choice and if the situation were to be recreated with all the factors exactly the same, then the outcome will be exactly the same. How then can we say one has the ability to choose otherwise if the other choice is never made, And how can we say that the agent is responsible for the choice when there are so many other factors influencing the outcome that are independent of the agents consciousness?

I retain my personal stance that free will cannot possibly exist, but much like with solipsism, does it really matter? Realism is far more convenient. If there is only one possible outcome but we can’t know what that outcome will be, then we still must act as though we are in control of determining that outcome ourselves. Even if the universe is deterministic, we have no way of knowing what that determined plan is, thus it doesn’t really have any bearing on how we act.

 

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Logic: Stephen Harper is a Terrorist

For my logic post i have decided to examine the nature of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s stance on “terrorism” and the actions he has taken, allegedly in order to combat what he seems to think is a major threat to Canada.

The definition of “terrorism” is:” the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims”. Many definitions include “threat of violence” though i suppose that would fall under “intimidation”

We could narrow this definition down to the more concise “the use of terror (fear) to further political agendas.” Which i think fits better with the name “terrorism” and is entirely accurate.

Therefore my logic example is:

1.Terrorism is the use of terror (fear) to further political agendas
2.Stephen Harper uses the external threat of terrorism to propogate fear in order to further his political agendas
3. Therefore Stephen Harper is a terrorist

If 1. Is true and 2. Is true then 3. Is true.

3. Is directly tied to 1. And 2. Therefore it is a valid logical
argument.

For some background information, recently Harper has been playing on the fears of the Canadian people in regards to Islamic extremism to garner support for the Conservative Party and push through multiple bills such as Bill C-51 and Bill C-24 which severely restrict the rights of Canadians and turn many Canadians into second class citizens. Bill C-51 essentially gives government security agencies such as CSIS (the Canadian CIA) and the RCMP ( the Canadian equivalent of the FBI) to indiscriminately spy on Canadian citizens and access their online information without a warrant and share Canadian’s personal information between agencies, also without a warrant. Bill C-24 gives the government the authority to revoke Canadian citizenship from people who have or are eligible for a second citizenship if they have been charged with a major crime, such as terrorism. Bill C-51 also greatly expands the parameters regarding what is considered “terrorism”, essentially giving the government the authority to arrest and charge peaceful protestors, among others, with being terrorists. C-51 also allows the police to detain suspects for 7 days without a warrant or probable cause and denying them access to a lawyer, phone calls, or visitors. The Harper government has garnered support for these bills by exaggerating the threat of Islamic extremism to Canadian citizens, using examples such as ISIS, the two isolated incidents of lone perpetrators with no connection to each other or to extremist organizations who killed a couple soldiers last year in Quebec and at parliament hill, and in some cases outright fabricating terrorist plots to foil by using undercover police offers to target mentally ill Muslims Canadians and manipulate them into attempting terrorist attacks so that the RCMP can swoop in and save the day. Additionally, The conservative party, in an attempt to recover from their drop in the polls has begun to pander to racists and xenophobes,trying to push through policies to ban cultural and religious clothing in the name of “strengthening Canadian identity”. In short, Harper is propogating racism, xenophobia, and especially islamaphobia in order to garner support and push through bills that strengthen the powers of the government at the expense of the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

 

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Contemplations of Metaphysics part 1: free will/determinism

Free will is defined as: the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion.

Simply put, it is the ability of a sentient being to make a choice uninfluenced by any factors.

It might seem like a given that free will exists, that we make our own choices, that we alone are the dictators of our fates. But are we? Is it really possible to make a choice without any influence, either external or internal? When you choose to do something, do you not always have a reason for making that choice? Even if it’s as simple a choice as what to eat for breakfast, even if you don’t put much thought into it, there are always factors influencing that decision. Factors such as what you like to eat, what you have available, the time it will take to prepare each option and how much time and/or energy you have available. It may appear on the surface to me your decision, but did you make a conscious decision to like what you like? To have as much energy and time as you do? Sure you probably had a hand in what food is readily available to you but that decision also was influenced by your preferences. Even if you did get to choose what foods you like, your choice would still be influenced by other factors, such as availability, price, nutritional values, ease of preparation. Why would you choose steak to be your favorite food if you live in an area where steak is difficult to get or extremely expensive? If we could all choose what we liked, wouldn’t we all choose to like foods that are healthy and readily available? Every single choice we make is heavily influenced by multiple factors, even if you tried make a decision randomly, the choice to choose randomly would have been decided for a reason, such as to prove that free will does exist. Further, by resigning the decision to chance, you effectively remove your personal involvement and the resulting decision from the random choice is no longer your choice. We’re you to make a choice opposite that of your preferred choice as per your biases, the choice would still be a result of your biases, as you are purposely picking the opposite of what you would in order to prove a point. The very concept of free will is absurd, it contradicts what we know as causality or “cause and effect” as it implies that you can have an “effect” (the choice) without a “cause” (influencing factors).

So if all our choices are a result of our biases coupled with the influence of external factors, are they really “choices”? And if we could make a choice without any influencing factors, Without our memories and experiences, would it really be OUR choice?

On the surface it seems as though the existence of free will is obvious, and that the idea that it doesn’t is preposterous, but the reality of the concept is that it is simply incompatible with what we observe to be true about the world around us. Logically it simply doesn’t make sense.

“Determinism is the philosophical position that for every event, including human action, there exist conditions that could cause no other event.”

Essentially, whatever happens is the only thing that ever could have happened.

So if we live in a deterministic universe wherein there is only one possible linear chain of events, wherein every event in our lives is destined. Does that necessitate the existence of some higher conscious power to be the architect of our destinies? Does it give life more meaning if there is some prewritten story that we are destined to live out, or is there less meaning because we are unable to choose our own destinies? Should we be more worried by the prospect of a random and chaotic future governed by an indifferent universe, or by the prospect of an unchangeable destiny that we have no control over?

If there is some conscious higher power that dictates our destinies, are they free of the reins of causality? Or are they too slaves to destiny?

 

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Contemplations on the indefinite, non-specific, and subjective semantic meaning of “Philosophy”

What is philosophy?

It would be easy to simply post the dictionary definition of the word philosophy and work from there, but language is not as simple as the strictly defined semantic allocations that we designate to the words that we use. specific definitions for words is certainly necessary for precise communication, especially in formal matters such as in laws and the more objective academics, but in many interpersonal interactions, especially colloquial verbal communication, many words are used with more of an emotional and connotational semantic meaning rather than a singular, objective definition. Language is limited in its abilities to convey ones thoughts and often times cognitive thoughts are rather incorporeal and formless in a sense, difficult to define within the restrictions of linguistic communication. More feeling than substance, these thoughts are still important to share, and thus as linguistic communication is our only true means of conveying our thoughts, (as we unfortunately seem to be incapable of telepathy) we must attempt to convey these difficult to define thoughts and feelings by assigning subjective connotations to the words we use and hope that the person we are attempting to communicate with picks up on and comprehends these connotations without us needing to elaborate with a hasty and inefficient explanation of what we mean.

So then “philosophy” is more than simply it’s dictionary definition, but without adherence to a widely accepted and agreed upon definition, the semantic meaning then becomes subjective. What one may consider to be the meaning of Philosophy may be contested by another’s. My point essentially being that communicating thoughts through language is difficult and oftentimes a very inefficient and ineffectual art.

So without further ado; My subjective semantic definition of what philosophy is, is merely contemplation.

Contemplation of all that is ephemeral, ethereal, and incorporeal. All that is without form or substance, that is not of this physical realm that we inhabit. It is the contemplation of the incomprehensible, of all that cannot be strictly defined. Contemplation of all that is subjective and of whether certain things are subjective or not, whether anything at all is truly objective.

Philosophy is contemplation of the nature of the universe,
of the nature of reality.

Philosophy is the contemplation of everything that exists and does not exist.

Philosophy is the contemplation of all that we can see and cannot see, everything we can experience and everything that we can not, all that we know and do not know.

Philosophy is the contemplation of what is and what isn’t, of what is within and of what is beyond. Beyond what we can see and know.

It is the contemplation of truth, and of justice, and of what constitutes each respectively.

It is the contemplation of morality and ethics, of what the right way to love one’s life is, and of what “rightness” is itself.

It is the contemplation life and of death, of what happens after we pass from this life and of what happened before we entered it.

It is the contemplation of beauty and art and emotion.

It is the contemplation of humanity and what makes us human.

It is the contemplation of meaning and of reason.

It is the contemplation of everything in a sense, as everything could in one way or another be considered incorporeal and indefinite.

It is the contemplation of nothing, in the sense that is the contemplation of the nature of “nothingness”.

Whereas science could be considered the contemplation of “how”, philosophy is more the contemplation of “what” and “why”. The contemplation of what things truly are, of what truly exists and of what is beyond our senses and understandings. The contemplation of why we exist and what our meaning is, of why we are conscious and aware, of why we are able to experience the world around us, of why existence itself exists.

It is the contemplation of what things are, of what their meaning is, and of the nature of their essence is.

Philosophy is by extension, the contemplation of what philosophy is.

What philosophy is, cannot be fully defined, and thus in my attempt to define it, i shall define it as an attempt to define that which cannot fully be defined.

 

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Nietzsche is my spirit animal

How has my view on philosophy changed? I wouldn’t say it’s changed so much as it’s been refined and expanded somewhat. I had my basic views on things but learning about different schools of philosophy, different philosophers and their views has definitely helped me refine my thoughts on things.

Nietzsche is definitely my main inspiration on things philosophical, i agree wholeheartedly on his views on morality wherein he essentially believes that the whole concept of morality is foolish and unnecessary and that people should focus more on what’s beneficial/detrimental as opposed to antiquated and melodramatic notions of good and evil. His views on aesthetics and the ubermensch in which he basically believes that we should be the best person we possibly can be, i find inspirational. I find his views on metaphysics and epistemology interesting, the eternal recurrence which i talked about in my metaphysics post and on affirmation in which he essentially states that if we exist right here right now and we acknowledge that then we must also acknowledge everything else in existence that led to us existing.

“If we affirm one single moment, we thus affirm not only ourselves but all existence. For nothing is self-sufficient, neither in us ourselves nor in things; and if our soul has trembled with happiness and sounded like a harp string just once, all eternity was needed to produce this one event—and in this single moment of affirmation all eternity was called good, redeemed, justified, and affirmed.”

But though I find these thoughts interesting I’m not sure I really agree With his views on epistemology, i find myself more solipsistic in that regard.

I find Immanuel Kant’s views on the categorical imperative to be arbitrarily dogmatic and frankly absurd. Who is to set the standard for what is “good” and what is “evil” and who is to decide what one’s “duty is?

in conclusion, I would consider myself Ethically Nietzschian, epistemologically solipsistic, aesthetically hedonistic, and metaphysically uncertain.

 

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contemplations on the nature of existence

Where do we come from? Why are we here? How can we be here? What is here and where did here come from? Where did anything come from? did it come from anywhere? Could it come from somewhere? If it came from somewhere then where did there come from?

We base our lives and our interactions with and observations of the world on the basic principles of cause and effect. But the mere existence of existence refutes this seemingly impenetrable principle. For how can existence exist without a cause? how can any of this exist without a cause? What caused it? has it simply always been here? Its believed that the universe began with the big bang but existence permeates more than just the universe. What caused the big bang then? If you believe in God then what created God? the Existence of Existence outside of the realm of cause and effect implies a closed circuit running on an infinite loop, that has simply always been here but how can that circuit exist Without being caused?

An equally as important, if not more important question i believe would be, how could existence not exist? For what would there be if not existence? Nothingness? But what is nothing without something? what is nothing without existence? Would there simply be empty space? But what is space without existence?

The only thing i find more incomprehensible than the Existence of Existence, is non-ex-existence.

 

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the eternal recurrence and free will

Nietzsche’s idea of the eternal recurrence essentially states that if the universe and time are infinite then every event that could ever happen will happen again and again and again infinitely. Every conversation you’ve ever had, Every book you’ve read, Every movie you’ve watched, even reading this post right now, has potentially happened before an infinite amount of times and will Happen again an infinite amount of times. You will be born and you will die again and again forever and ever, though you won’t remember it.

If the universe did start in the big bang as is commonly believed, then every speck of matter flew out in every direction in just the right trajectory that stars and planets formed, the earth formed in just the right way to show life. If that trajectory wasn’t exactly the way it was then none of us would be here. And if the universe is going to end in the big crunch as is commonly believed then every bit of matter is going to return to an infinitely small and infinitely dense location in a gravitational singularity, basically the universe is a giant exploding and imploding black hole.

So if this is true then how do we know the universe hasn’t done this before? Hasn’t expanded and contacted before an infinite amount of times? And how do we know it won’t do so again an infinite amount of times? For if it does, And every bit of matter goes in the same direction then every thing Will Happen in the exact same way over and over again and we will just be reliving the same events over and over. Even if every bit of matter went in a slightly different direction each time, If it hastened an infinite amount of times then statistically every possible universe will repeat an infinite amount of times.

So what does this say for the concept of free will? If we believe that every action and thought and decision is a chemical reaction in the brain then the concept of free will is absurd. so then one might posit the question, what’s the point of anything? If our destinies are pre-determined and there’s nothing we can do to change anything, And if we’re just going to relive our lives over and over then what’s the point? But i would say, even if this is true, what’s changed? We don’t remember our past lives and we can’t see the future, so even if we are simply moving along our pre-determined paths that we’ve traveled an infinite amount of times, it’s still a new experience to us and our lives go on as before, as our stories unravel before our eyes.

 

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Hedonism in moderation

What better life is there to live than a life of indulgence? What better reason yo live than for pleasure?

Hedonism is the belief that pleasure is the only intrinsic good in life and to maximise pleasure is the only thing worth working for.

To soothe our existential nausea we look to many things, but what better way is there to find happiness than to do what makes you happy? If we are left to make our own meaning for life than what better meaning is there than to enjoy ones life. But is to simply indulge your desires non stop the best way to maximise your pleasure, the best way to enjoy your life? I would argue no, drugs can bring you immense pleasure but overuse can bring you great pain, both physical and emotional. Eating unhealthy food may bring you pleasure in the short run but the long term detriments are well known, And is that momentary pleasure really worth it? If our goal is to maximise our pleasure them should we not do things to better ourselves overall, to maximise our pleasure overall and reject things that bring us only momentary happiness? Should we not make ourselves into an aestheic phenomenon not for the mere sake of it but to best enjoy our lives? To exercise and eat healthy may bring displeasure in the short run but in the long run will you not feel much better?

 

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Knowledge is the accumulation of subjectively true information accessible to a sentient being.

Knowledge is the accumulation of subjectively true information accessible to a sentient being.

Information =/= knowledge but knowledge = information.

Information only becomes knowledge when it is accessible to a sentient being.

 

For example a book may provide information, but a book can not know things. If the writer of the book dies before anyone else has read the book then no one knows what information resides within. If within the book was written the sentence, “lava is hot.” and you were to read it, you would then know that the book says lava is hot. You would not necessarily know whether or not lava actually is hot, only that the books says it is. If you had never experienced lava before then you would not simply all of a sudden know that lava is hot, the book could say “lava is cold” and you would be none the wiser. The book could provide untrue information but just because you read somewhere that something is something, does not mean that you know that it is, you only know that you have read that it is what it is. Information does not have to be true, but knowledge has to be true subjectively for it to be knowledge. If you were to experience lava yourself and you were to touch it, you would then know whether or not it was hot or not.

 

We can not know things objectively, we can only know things subjectively.

 

My post gets quite solipsistic here in that we can not know that an objective world exists, we can only be sure that our subjective experience exists. Likewise we can not know things objectively, only subjectively. We can read a book that states “lava is hot” and we would know that we have read that lava is hot, but we can not know that lava exists, or that the book exists outside of our experience with it. You can know how to ride a bike but you can’t know that your bike exists objectively. If you were to touch lava and it was hot, you would know that when you touched it, you felt heat, but you would not know objectively that your body actually did heat up and you would not know objectively that if you touched it again that it would not be cold. You could only know if it would be cold the next time you touched it if you touched it again, and even then you wouldn’t know if you would get the same result again if you tried a third time.  You could do the same experiment 999,999,999 times and get the same result but you wouldn’t know what result you’ll get the 1,000,000,000th time until you do it the 1,000,000,000th time, you would only know what result you got the first 999,999,999 times.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solipsism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentience

 

 
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