Philosophy Essays (& other stuff)
Greek / Ancient Philosophy:
In Defense of Processed Knowledge. This paper explains the basic structures of Objectivism's Epistemology (how do we obtain knowledge?). In addition, there are comparisons and contrasts with other major schools of thought on the subject of knowledge. Here you will find Rand's theory of concept formation, Unit Economy and abstraction. You will also discover how she debunks the so-called analytic-synthetic dichotomy.
Rational-Duty meets Rational-Selfishness. Did you know that Immanuel Kant's ethical system has a deeply rational basis? Did you know that he, like Rand, views persons as "ends in themselves?" . . . that, Kant, like Rand, is opposed to tyrannical govenrmnets which intrude far too much on personal liberty? . . . that, like Rand, he believes we should bring quality to our lives and strive for happiness? . . . and that self-esteem plays a key role in his ethical system? If this is all true, as I demonstrate in this essay, then why is Kant epitomized as the "enemy of Objectivism, including his views on ethics? I explain why: This essay compares and contrasts Kantian and Randian ethics, including their views of values, human relations, human nature, rationality, emotions, and self-esteem.
See related chart comparing Kantian and Randian ethical systems.
The Existential Kiss: Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor: As Robert Lord pointed out, it is not in the history of ideas where Dostoevsky makes his mark, but rather in illustrating the central unknown factor - existence. I will show you in this essay how so much is told from that one silent kiss from the Grand Inquisitor. The main messages Dostoevsky gives us in the Grand Inquisitor are explained: (1) We live in so far as we love; (2) Deductive reasoning alone isolates facts from meaning; (3) Men have a deep-seated capacity for evil, but those who try to distance themselves from their sensual nature become self-lacerated and isolated; (4) God wants men to love freely; and (6) True security is to be found in social solidarity. This paper assumes that the reader is familiar with the story of the Grand Inquisitor and the characters in "The Brothers Karamazov."
Hume's Bundles of Perceptions. Two little paragraphs in the midst of David Hume's "Treatise on Human Nature" present Hume's idea that we (all men) are nothing but bundles of perceptions. This essay picks apart the argument in these paragraphs pointing out what is valid and what is invalid in the formal steps of Hume's argument. While this portion of Hume's text focuses on the subject of personal identity, my essay explains wider philosophical assumptions Hume subsumed in his two paragraph mini thesis. The original Hume text, alongside formal argument steps is included after the body of my essay.
Decartes' God Argument. This essay examines the so-called 'God argument' that is wedged between the 'Dream argument' and that of the 'evil demon' in Decartes' "First Meditation." Descartes was deeply disturbed by the pervasive skepticism of his time. Ironically, he deploys the strategy of thorough going doubt in the First Meditation. We will see how this God Argument fits in with Decartes overall plan of doubt in the First Meditation, and for laying the foundation for the rest of the Meditations.
Extension and Intension: A False Dichotomy Hilary Putnam, in his paper titled "The Meaning of 'Meaning," argues against the prevailing two-part view that claims (i), that meanings are in the head, via certain psychological states, and (ii), that the meaning determines a concept's extension. I disclose the false dichotomy of extension versus intension in meanings. I explain why this dichotomy leads us astray from the reality for which we are trying to find meanings.
Is Justified True Belief Knowledge? Edmund Gettier's Famous Problem. In his famous essay "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?" Edmund Gettier argues that conditions expressed in three classical propositions about what are the necessary and sufficient conditions for someone to know a given proposition are not always sufficient to satisfy knowledge. I argue that, while Gettier's logic is flawless in terms of proposition statements, his problem is meaningless in terms of knowledge. The meaning goes out the window when you allow justification to become transitive to propositions inferred from false propositions, even when these false propositions allow for justified belief.
A Chink in the Causal Chain. Alvin Goldman, in his article A Causal Theory of Knowing, explains that there must be a causal link from inferences back to the proposition in order to constitute knowledge. One of the examples he uses, however, obscures the view portrayed up to that point. I will explain that by including this example, Goldman comes (dangerously) close to showing that there may not be a valid distinction between the sacred dichotomy of analytic and synthetic knowledge.
In the Name of God. The “Enlightenment Paradox” led to a general age of isolation and rebellion against God. It was a paradox because life was supposed to be so much better under the light of reason, but the Judeo-Christian heritage was bypassed when men tried to base their moral ideals on reason rather than on faith. Matthew Fox, theologian, explains how, in the 17th century, “science went out and explored the universe, while religion went inside to explore the soul. And the result is that science forgot about the soul, while religion thinks of soul as something that’s only inside.” Is the divide between the religious minded and atheists too large to connect? Is the concept of God an issue where dialogue between the atheist and believer can continue, or are the differences too incongruous? Some think that “God” is not even a valid concept that allows for intelligent discussion. This paper examines that sentiment and explores how the dialogue can continue through the avenues of aesthetics, science and religion.
Is Adultery Immoral? Continuing a Discussion by Richard Wasserstrom: Wasserstrom's purpose, in his paper “Is Adultery Immoral?”, to a large degree, is to get us to think about how we think about sexual morality, instead of delineating clearly the truth about the rights and wrongs of adultery. My essay, by focusing on a particular aspect of marriage, proposes that adultery is immoral without having to use arguments in which adultery is immoral only because it involves other types of immoral behavior. The concept explored here is that of a marriage partner’s bonding: a union where two individual entities become one new kind of entity. I will first show briefly why one does not have to tie adultery to other ‘sins’ to expose immorality. Next, I will demonstrate why adultery is immoral according to current prevailing standards. Lastly, this question, like most dealing with ethics, is re-opened for more discussion.
Scientific Knowledge is Not a Higher God. In his paper, Technical and Untechnical Concepts, Gilbert Ryle posits a kind of linguistic evolution inherent in scientific theorizing which makes technical terms incompatible with ordinary language terms. There should be two distinct concepts, Ryle suggests, to distinguish sensory based qualities, for which we use ordinary language to describe, from ‘science’ based qualities, for which we use technical language to describe. I argue against Ryle’s view that scientific knowledge, behind the technical language used, is a ‘higher truth,’ and that therefore it should receive some special priority in our claims of knowledge.
The Value of Philosophy. It is unfortunate that the nature of what philosophy is, and what philosophers do, creates a boundary of a seemingly strange vocabulary and conceptual dialogue that makes it so undesirable for most people to explore. It seems, to the inexperienced traveler, as if the philosophers over the centuries have constructed a monstrous barricade in front of the highway leading to the City of Philosophy, with a large sign posted on it which reads: “TRESPASS AT YOUR OWN RISK.” There is not one clue on that sign about what one may find beyond this barricade of language and esoteric dialogue. Most of life’s travelers, then, bypass this rich domain and rarely understand the bases of their most general beliefs and feelings. They do not realize that behind that barricade there are men and women at work who produce ideas which have the power of either destroying or sustaining the very foundations of civilization. This essay is about the importance and value of philosophy for human living.
Berkeley on Secondary Qualities. What counts as an item being a thing instead of a property or attribute of a thing? What criteria is used to distinguish between substance and properties ? If objects are independent of our mind, what is the status of their qualities (color, etc.)? If they are not in the object, isn't it to be assumed that they are then merely in the mind and therefore are subjective and unreal? The subject of secondary qualities leads to a discussion about primary qualities, which leads to concepts of substance and then the epistemological questions of What do I know? and How do I know it? This essay touches on aspects of all of these questions in order to have an understanding of Berkeley's position on secondary qualities. Some of berkeley's arguments used to back his position will be examined and I attempt to come to a definitive conclusion as to the rightness or wrongness of his position. An alternative to the 'in the object' / 'in the mind' dichotomy is offered.
The Right to Die? Regarding euthanasia, or so-called mercy-killing, in a word, condemnation is the official position of the Jewish, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths, and of most Protestant sects. However, there are voices among those faiths’ leaders, especially Protestants, who are advocates of euthanasia. This short essay focuses on theological considerations regarding active euthanasia, specifically meaning ‘taking action designed to kill the terminally ill patient.’ The controversy surrounding euthanasia from the Judeo-Christian perspective is examined.
On Logical Positivism. During the 1920's and 1930's, logical positivism was a revolutionary and powerful force in philosophy which declared metaphysical, theological, and ethical pronouncements as lacking of cognitive meaning, and therefore beyond the boundaries of rational philosophical discussion. Positivists placed high value on physical science, mathematics and logic. This paper examines the methodology of logical positivism: (1) its historical background; (2) how it attempts to solve philosophical problems; (3) how it sweeps metaphysical questions under the rug as meaningless, and (4) some fundamental weaknesses with logical positivism. The methodology involves six main aspects which are briefly explored: language; concepts; verification of meaning; justification of claims; logic; and instrumentalism.
Kuhn: The Scientific Community. The purpose of their essay is not to clarify Thomas Kuhn’s theory of science, recognizing that Kuhn, himself, attempted to do that in his 1970 postscript, but rather to attack the ideas that are associated with Kuhn. Often, ideas associated with Kuhn miss the major theme that Kuhn wanted to discuss- the scientific community per se: how it operates, how learning takes place, and its sanctity -that is, why it should remain autonomous.
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