Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Existentialism, Determinism, Free Will, and the Meaning of Life

The last of the views of morality is existentialism. The view here is that we as humans have a sole purpose of making choices and all other things that we come across are abstractions that hinder those things. Money, religion, politics, and laws are all things that society forces us to conform to and thus can hinder our ability to make free choices exercise our ultimate purpose as human beings. Yet beyond this more critical and isolated view against society, there is more to it. We choose not only who want to be but what to make of the world around us. We follow our choices and will and face the consequences. In the end we decide, though our choices. We decide everything

This obviously is something that works hand and hand with the idea of free will. Free will is the idea that we as humans have the ability to decide between multiple futures through our choices. It is counterpart to determinism which says there is only one inevitable future. However if we look at things rationally outside our own views, everything is bound by laws of physics which inevitably produce influences that we cannot escape. For us whether it is present circumstance, beliefs, personality, genetics, or desires, all these things stem from events and experiences of the past. These objects of the past we cannot change and as a result we cannot choose. All things happen are caused by something from the past. In the same manner everything that happens now will be a cause to something that happens in the future. This means that only one future can be possible from the conditions of any present time period.

I think in existentialism, a better way of explaining our ultimate role instead of making choices our duty to act. The one thing we can do in our lives, looking outside our moral judgments is to act. If we make some change to the world as humans, as a whole or one by one and face the consequences by preparing and adapting, then it will push history forward. That is not only the way to live but also the very nature of life, action and adaptation. It is without a doubt, the duty of every person to act and live out their lives. In the end we are not the ones to judge if what we do is right or wrong morally. Our will to act, our will to live, our will to be something; these are the things that truly matter.

Each individual life is a story and all we really want to do with morally is to protect one another the best we can but we cannot escape the miscalculation of our judgments and perceptions. To find peace, all you really have to do is to let them know you exist. Inevitably every person will act to change something that no one has ever changed before them. To me, that is the meaning of life; the moral duty and purpose of each and every one of us.

Path to the Objective

Our lives are limited. Our time here will end at some point. It is inevitable for us and inevitable practically everything else in the universe. Time is a cruel mom. How do we cope with this? Everything we see is with our senses. Outside of that we can’t really affirm anything. It all could be an illusion, magnificent or terrible, that shrouds us from the truth. How can we live with that?
There must be something outside ourselves and that is what we search for. Something that will affirm our own existence and last beyond our existence; that is objectivity. That is the reality we hope for. Some of our strides towards it have changed throughout history and some haven’t. Either this is what we search for. We look for friendships not only to enjoy another’s company but also so that through someone else we can see how we exist and affect the world.

Yet on a grander scale we all strive for something objective. Love is an example. We know that we need each other to affirm on another but not only that but we want to belief in something that is forever. We want to believe that person will always be there. Believing in something forever or enduring puts faith in something that is outside ourselves, something beyond our control or perception, something objective. Beyond that as humans we will strive for that.

Another reason is so we can leave our mark. So we can all of them know we exist. If we can change on thing, fulfill one purpose, whether on accident or on purpose, then something outside ourselves has already been established and it sets off a chain of reactions that combined with that of others will shape history. Then we want to pass on our dreams and hopes. And no doubted that there will be others in the future with our same dreams. They can know we exist with their dreams, and as a result their purpose and dreams will be reaffirmed and so will ours as the torch is carried on.

Humankind will always search to understand its place in the universe. It will always be looking for the final answer. Religion was probably the first known method that civilization went about this. It became a way for man to define himself through nature and nature to define itself through man. God is eternal. Heaven is eternal. We strive to be eternal. Objectivity is eternal. God represents something objective. And as we look further to an answer we wonder the biggest questions of all. Why? What? How? and philosophy was born. To observe and question all there is in the universe. To define existence in its fullness, what does it mean? That was the goal. We want an answer, an objective and everlasting answer. So that we will know that there is truth in the universe, that this is something concrete and real. In the end our faith will push us to believe and hope for something that is forever.

Awesomely we have made great progress in this venture. As new minds throughout the century we have pieced together what makes our world around us through science. We know how old the universe is, what creates weather patterns and seasons, that the earth revolves around the sun, and what builds not only life but also matter. As get closer to an answer we find ourselves amidst the strife of our own subjectivity. War, Justice, Good, Evil, Religion, Morals they are all matters of subjective views, different for every group. In the end we just try and do what is best. Yet if we destroy ourselves in our own subjective wants and value that what would be the point? In the end, no matter what anyone of us believes in, we all bear witness to the same world.

The battle of subjectivity and objectivity comes from the dispute of whether the universe is in the mind or in a physical existence outside of it. There is the idea called Neutral Supervenience and it states that the universe in somewhere in between. It is not fully in our mind but it is not fully outside of it either. I think that is where we exist as well. Perhaps on day there will be an equilibrium drawn between subjectivity and objectivity, where both are fully understood. There is an answer out there and that is why I believe philosophy exists, so we can understand everything else in a rational way that will allow us to look for an answer. If you believe in anything you believe in philosophy. If you believe in philosophy you believe in an answer. If you believe in an answer you believe in objectivity. If you believe in objectivity you believe in something outside yourself that can endure. If you believe in something outside yourself you believe in faith. If you believe in faith you believe in peace. Believe in peace. Have faith. Have hope. Step into a better world.

Nagel’s View on Life’s Meaning Shown Throughout the Semester

Nagel points out that we can’t mediate a meaning to life because we cannot balance out the struggle between subjective and objective. Through class we have constantly seen this struggle with every unit.

First there was the despite over knowledge and whether we can really know anything. This comes down to the fact that everything we do is in literal definition a subjective experience, and additionally that means we cannot see outside that own view to know if we are being fooled, if we are alone, if there is another different reality, or if our lives have a different value than we thought. The quest and claim that real knowledge exists is an objective claim, that there is something solid and concrete that we all will see the same.

Then there was identity. Here it came down to what makes someone who they are, is it is a soul or conscious, or their psychological properties alone, or their body and its state. We want ourselves and our existence to last forever, that is the idea of eternal life and as a result we believe that our subjective will endure past our objective self, the body. However at the same we want to look at the facts, what might be physical is what might be all there is. Objectively we all only see and realize death, so how we can affirm there is anything after without objective proof?

Next comes free will and determinism. Free will is based on the subjective point of view that we decide everything we do. However objectively from outside our points of views we know that there are things outside of our control that influence our choices. Things that happen to us before we can remember shape our personality, recent previous events and circumstances shape our judgment. Ultimately previous experience and genetics influence everything we do to a heavy degree, especially previous experience. And if there is only one past that can only shape our future in one way, then how is our future not inevitable? Determinism clings to the idea that it is inevitable.

Finally there was morality which came down to the struggle between Utilitarianism and Kantianism, both of which are on completely opposite ends of the subjective vs. objective spectrum. Kantianism is a completely subjective application to moral ethics because it worries about whether the person is moral from their own point of view, regardless of if the outcome or result benefits the greater good or society. Then the objective approach is taken by utilitarianism. It is says that actions must taken that benefits the objective world in the best way possible. It says that as long as the beneficial outcome is achieved we, it’s okay to use question and sometimes unmoral methods. It also says the one must make sacrifices for the greater good.

So it has been shown that objectivity and subjectivity go head in philosophy all the time. These issues are only basic ones and as the view of the world gets more complicated and complex these two will continue to collide. Hopefully one day there will be a solution. When that day comes we will have the meaning to life.

Act vs. Rule Utilitarianism

One thing about utilitarianism is that it has a split between two variations. Utilitarianism is a method of applying moral ethics in which you chose the outcome that has the maximized benefit, regardless of means. This means that it is okay to use somewhat question means at any time if it will generate a result that betters the greater good. However as pointed out in class, almost everyone can argue that their situation will better others if they are pushed a necessity of doing so. As a result it would make a chaotic mass of exceptions where everyone found their own reasons to ignore rules. Traffic lights for instance would be one of the areas where this would fail. As a result of this critique arising, a newer form of utilitarianism was conceived. Rule Utilitarianism is when a rule is set that obeys the standards of utilitarianism but then it is followed and adhered to regardless of circumstance. I found this split to be interesting because it comes down to whether you believe in absolute justice or lenient justice. If we keep letting one person slide the past the rules every time, then this world falls into chaos. How do we know if what are doing is or isn’t fair and just? In what way must we go about judging ourselves and others? Where is this world going?

Lonesome Stranger

One of the critiques of utilitarianism that we talked about in class I found very interesting. It was called the lonesome stranger. Here’s the idea of it. You are a sheriff in a town. There is criminal that remains on the loose that the town really wants captured. They are going to riot if he is not captured and persecuted by the law. So far there have been no leads whatsoever and the town is going into unrest. A lone stranger wanders into town. He has no family or other acquaintance. The question is whether you are morally obligated to frame the stranger as the criminal in order to ensure the town doesn’t riot. According to act utilitarianism this is morally okay because in this situation framing the stranger would create the greatest benefit. However if you are going by rule utilitarianism then it would unjust to because it would go against the rules of justice which are meant to benefit society. Honesty it’s hard to say which would be better to do. Many agree it is okay to tell a lie to safe someone but not at the expense of another’s life. At the same things like this have been done many times before right under our noses. People will often use the term justice to vindicate harsh and unnecessary action. How will we know what is right and wrong when the people at the top of society decide what justice is? Are they helping us and how many have they unjustly sacrificed to do so? To me this dilemma is truly not only something that challenges but also disturbs our views on morality and justice.

Aristotle on Ethics

I found many parts of Aristotle’s views on morality to be unique and also very profound. One of the main things I liked about it was how Aristotle said that all things we inherently working towards the greater good. He said everything’s morality is fulfilled as long whenever is in question is fulfilling its natural role. For example a carpenter would be moral is he was good at building with wood. A doctor would be moral if he could efficiently heal the sick. Aristotle goes onto to say that humankind’s moral duty and role is to function as rationally beings. I think that most justice should be based off rationality. One thing that I found as a contradiction in Aristotle’s moral views was that he said it took years to develop moral conscious and only white high class Greek males would be able to reach that platform, not women, not foreigners, and not servants. Yet if these people are incapable of developing a moral sense than should they even be judged according to moral views. Moral ethics when they are be applied should be applied to all of society. No one should be able to be above or below the law, or else they are outside the law in some way and the system is corrupt or ineffective. I do like how he divided certain things up such as rationality, spiritually, freedom, health, class, and wealth to determine the hierarchy of how we should organize our priorities to be moral rational beings. With the exception of how his moral guidelines only include a certain group of people, I think for being one of the earliest philosophers and scientists, Aristotle did a good job of laying the ground work for later views on morality by focusing on the most important trait of humankind: rationality.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Critique on Elliminative Materialism

Elliminative Materialism is the idea we should replace our casual and more "dumbed down" language that we use to describe everyday occurences with a strictly reductionist language. An example would be instead of saying that you are seeing a certain color you would say that your eyes are looking at the specific patterns of pigmentation and light waves that are associated with that color. It is describing things strictly from a physical and objective standpoint. Terms like emotions and desires would be seemed obsolete. The critique for this would be in the nature of reductism itself, which is the idea that all things can be reduced to terms describing the most basic aspect of their phenomenon. The problem is that when reducing things, new and more complicated fields of knowledge are going to keep emerging and as this happens the reductive language of elliminative materialism would keep getting more and more complicated until it becomes senseless and impractical to use.

The Self.

The self has been something that has been a major issue all year especially during our unit on identity. It's all comes down to the question of who am I. The fact that my body is trillions of atoms that come together to sustain something bigger, which ultimately leads them towards the creation of a greater the state of mind I call me, Matt DiMarco. Not only that though, they all interact and integrate in ways to sustain me. Why? What makes life into life? They don't know I exist and don't really gain anything special for sustaining me. Those atoms don't even know they themselves exist. Yet I, Matt DiMarco, some mysterious result of those atoms cooperating in one of the most mysterious ways that this universe has ever seen, know they exist. Why is that? What happens when you give a point of view to something that shouldn't have one? The answer: me. But who am I really?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Who Am I?

Supposedly there are three answers. You are either your thoughts, your body, or a soul. These are more formally known as psychological criterion, body criterion, or single soul hypothesis. The issue arises in one occurrence. The Ship of Theseus is a wooden boat each day gets a plank replaced, but after all its planks are replaced is it still the same ship? Another example arises in teleportation. Your body is disintegrated inside a teleporter after its information is saved and sent and then the information is almost instantly sent to somewhere else to rebuild you exactly as you were. Yet the question is did you die, is a twin created, will it remember your/its past, and will that be you?

I don't get why they arise as such opposite answers. I feel confident to say I am body, its thoughts, and a soul somehow attached. The soul is unique idea because it lives through death. And according to the bodily criterion even if there was a soul that wouldn't be me. And I think of my psychological states as part of my body. But the atoms of my body don't know about me or the thoughts I have. Yet if I rebuilt my exact brain and memory into a new body "I" would have two bodies according to psychological criterion. They aren't so different. And I can only say I am all three if I hope and believe my soul is something physical. I hope and believe my soul is physical but not made of matter but of energy. Since matter can take the form of life then I don't see why energy can't, since matter is technically a form of energy as said by Einstein. And I hope and believe this unique undiscovered energy exists with the body and remains after it dies and goes on to fulfill other roles in the universe, possibly eventually to work its way to other become new bodies for new things. Perhaps human bodies are merely USB ports for these souls.

Who Am I? I am my body, thoughts, and soul all at once!

Physical vs Mystical

One thing that I kept noticing in class was that there were always usually two answer to the deeper issues. There is the view describing what is in question in terms of the natural world according to its rules and physical properties. Particles build atoms, atoms build molecules, molecules build protein, protein builds dna, dna builds cells, cells build tissue, tissues build organs, organs build organisms, organism build families, families build communities, communities build cities, cities build states, states build nations, nations build empires, and empires spread through the planet, planets spread through the star systems, star systems spread through the galaxies, the galaxies spread through the universe. All the answers we need are here and obvious, measurable and provable, the evidence is everywhere and able to explain anything.

Then the there is the mystic view. God looks over us. We can't explain everything. We want to appreciate. The afterlife and eternity await after this world. What we don't know will always overpower what we don't know. Thing's we can't see roam this world. We could be anything in reality. We can't prove it or disprove it. The full extent of the universe is up for imagination. We are souls, we are animals, we are tricked by aliens. Someone was looking out for you when you had that good luck. Kharma can punish you. Somethings should be left to left to mystery. It's all a dream. Anything can happen.

It surprises me how these two views are often put against each other. When really they are describing the same thing, just as different pieces of the same coin. Some of things that happen scientifically are more wondrous than the greatest of legends. Statistically it's actually possible for anything to happen. Science revolutionizes what we believe as we make discoveries that change everything. We are into how to make cells keep us from aging, how to build energy force fields, how travel through space fast, how to make clones, how to makes pills that will do the same thing as exercise. The physical things and discoveries we aim for a thousand years ago would have been sought ridiculous and things of impossible magic. That just prove the mystery that exists what we can find out and do with the natural world. The concepts of fate and judgment from mystics are even sound possibilities for physicalists. This argument is that because all things are bound by natural rules and programmed by their surrounding which determines the path of their existence since before they existed. Everything happens for a reason. This an order to the universe. It may God it may it may not.

The things that lay beyond and in Earth are the most mysterious. The physical universe is mysterious. In order to find all the answers I think it will take the mindset of both tracks of thought, mystic and physicalist. I think that's why philosophy exists maybe to find some medium between them, and bring peace to what we know about the universe.

How do you know?

The Classical Skeptical Argument is something that Descartes takes as a threat. It goes like this: If I know p, and p logically entails q, then I know q. But if I don't know p then I don't know q. This basically says that if you don't know one thing then everything attached to it you also don't know, which nevertheless seems obvious. What makes it such a striking argument is the first part of the second sentence, "but if I don't know p". If reality becomes something that we all agree on, but still each see it from our perspective, then it is still subjective and not objective. It is not certain. The fact remains that we cannot look at the world outside our own minds, senses, and perceptions, and that makes we can't find out if what we experience and live isn't a dream, an illusion, or a deception. We could be a brain in a vat. We could be a ghost. We could be nothing. We could be part of one nonphysical conglomeration thoughts that all split up and unite as in our perception people live and die. We could have past life. We could be reincarnates. We could be programs in a machine.

There are infinite things to speculate on. Descartes tries to oppose it, he says if nothing there exists a thinking form of us which see the reality we call existence. I don't think this is adequate because supposed our thoughts just happen in the brain, yet if the brain doesn't exist then neither do the thoughts and the cogito fails. Yet there is knowledge at least in what we think we perceive. Natural rules, obvious sensual perceptions, and social conformism. These are what I call knowledge because we have to abide by them in order to be independent, capable, and free as we experience what our senses tell us is existence. There will always be doubt but I think we should overlook it so we can figure out this familiar but questionable world.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Choice of Immortality

A very good discussion came about in class about the matter of immortality and afterlife. Whether it would be good or bad? Whether we would want it or not? So I’d like to elaborate on my own views of the matter.If there was a way to stop Death’s hand from reaching into the pool of our human population and plucking us away as victims of time, would it really be for the best? And without the ideas of death, how would our way of life change? What are the things that could happen and how far could they really go if not limited by time?

Materialistically, we are all immortal. We have been here since the very beginning of the universe, since the Big Bang. The elements of matter that makes your bodies were made within explosions of dying stars that were formed from the hydrogen and helium spread throughout the universe at its origin. We are all from stars. We have existed forever in particles, but that is not the matter at hand.

However, what will be spoken of is an immortality that will ensure nothing can end our lives or do damage to our bodies in any possible way, and it will make our experience in the universe practically eternal. It will also be assumed that it is available to the entire human population.

To vision an everlasting life for a society, without the notion of death, is to vision a new and strange world; one that has been revolutionized, and by the mercy of fate or chance has been either bettered or worsened.

One must realize that something that philosophically separates our perceptions from other species of animals that we know on earth is this fact: we can perceive and understand the meaning of the future. As a result, we perceive how small our own futures are and how vast the futures of other entities within the universe are. Due to this, we not only wished to survive in the present as our other species, but we wanted more. We wanted to live a fuller life, one of meaning, reason, and purpose. So that when the future comes, when death comes, there will be nothing we regret. So we distinguish and frame the universe. We want the truth and peace of mind that it bears. We find ourselves faced with heavy emotions tied to that journey, as we realize what our environments mean to us as we endure this short time. Love is born, faith is born, despair is born, fear is born, and redemption is born. We built a society based on this meaning and journey. We find something to live for, anything. We dream of great and small ambitions in our short lives. We give ourselves a reason, a definition to our existence. We want to know who we are and why we are here. Why? Our very perceptions were born from acknowledge of the future, and how our lives diminish so easily within it. We know we will leave this world.

Without death, how would we live our lives? Is the concept of life defined from the concept of death? Is that not part of its meaning? Some look upon the moments before death as the only time to finally be able to reflect on their entire life. To know how their life was to them, because in those short moments they can finally find the closure to the journey they had been on since birth. They find their destination and with that, peace, and finally: rest. Would we give that up? What would the restless beings of this world become after a few hundred years, after a few thousand, after a few million, after a few billion?

“Life’s tough” is a common saying. It’s something that many think must be endured. It has its joys but pain too. That pain, we feel it more. It’s more real because it lingers longer. It’s more troubling. It keeps you up at night. It ruins your day. It’s what you remember. One must wonder if we are psychologically ready for immortality. The pain is not physical and only happens every once in a while. But what if it were every once in a while for eternity? Would we want to endure eternity? As time draws on, things would lose meaning and seem tiring. Boredom would arise to the majority of trivial minded people, and even the deeper thinkers would likely have to put forth great effort to escape this boredom. Why this boredom? After a while routine things would lose their reasons and necessities, and even become redundant in a person’s view of what they need to live. And also something to consider is malevolent people would always exist in the world. Although it’s more likely they will eventually change, the opposite applies as well. What would stop good people from throwing away their virtues and then picking them back up upon convenience. Over that time would good and evil still exist in our vocabulary? Would we still eat, even for taste? Would we work if we didn’t need money? Would run a society, if we knew that its crumbling wouldn’t end our lives? Would we maintain a house, if for nothing else to own land? My belief is that the immediate answer to questions such as these is yes, but the issue at hand is for how long. Eventually, we would lose interest and all the previously mentioned things and all alike would cease. What can keep its meaning for all eternity?

There is a reverse side to this if we can manage it though. That is, if we as humans could take the right approach to it. If death was thwarted by our human society, then that would give way to assume that other great feats of technology and development would be within grasp as well. It could lead to an almost golden age of knowledge. If we kept our technologies progressing we would find ways to travel to other planets, find a perpetual energy, use teleportation, hover, control weather, and many more things we have yet to develop. Think of the things we would be able to observe. We would be able to watch history continue to unfold, reminiscing older times and admiring present ones. Eventually it would get to a point where maybe we could move across the universe, exploring and witnessing its wonders. We would see first-hand the lives of stars, marvel at comets, and meander in the most fantastic of planets. Many if not all things would diminish before us, but there’s one thing that will not. Our original search for truth and fact would continue forever as we get closer and closer to an answer. Philosophers would have limitless time to develop new and profound meanings of life and enlighten others. Free thought, creativity, and genius would be the foundation of our immortal species. We would find the pathway towards that fuller existence we were looking for and never have to let go.

We would be giving up on the notion of the afterlife and its wonders. We would not find out if the soul goes on to live in a better place, or perhaps just another place on this earth, or maybe a completely new place we could not imagine. But say we pushed onward in search of truth, as mentioned in the previous paragraph. I believe the greatest possible truth we could discover would be the true nature of the afterlife. Maybe we find out that the soul is a hidden trace of energy that coexists with or in the electrical signals that travel through our body from the brain. Maybe we learn that that soul is a sentient form of energy in the same ways our bodies are a sentient form of matter. As immortals maybe we learn that after we die, this energy eternally ascends through more complicated dimensions that are among us but above our four dimensional perceptions. Imagine if we discovered how to go where souls go, how to become what they are, and finally their origins. We would have finally proved that what’s viewed in wonder, mystery, and legend is really only explanation with a couple missing gaps. So say we know how to enter the afterlife even with immortality, turning our own bodies into souls; that special energy. Wouldn’t we as immortals have found the ultimate truth that was seeded at the root of all our desires to begin with? It would be the pinnacle of the future. Having partaken in the most fulfilled lives of knowledge and research to find the answers of the universe, acquiring eons of lifespan, we would now able to leave that same universe without the need of death. And then we would enter into the afterlife as souls, without having to have ever died. We would have not only beaten death but also outdone it, and found a way around it to the afterlife. The ultimate result of our immortality would be that we would be guaranteed to have found what we were truly looking for in this physical universe: to overcome it. And in those new, wild and larger-than-life dimensions we travel to, we would leave this dimension as gods.

The point of all this was to fully elaborate on two opposite possibilities with immortality. One was that we will lose all meaning to redundancy and find ourselves with no motivation. The second possibility was that we overlook the changes immortality would bring to the world and focus solely on our search for truth and unearth the answers to the finals truths of the universe and even transcend to a new existence beyond it. Most likely a mixture of these two things would occur if true immortality ever fell into our laps. Or maybe one result would occur over the other. If so, which would you chose?