Understanding philosophy?

For the serious discussion of weighty matters and worldly issues. No off-topic posts allowed.

Moderators: Azrael, Moderators General, Prelates

GoC
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Understanding philosophy?

Postby GoC » Sun Aug 01, 2010 4:13 pm UTC

Am I the only person who often finds philosophy/religious speak incomprehensible? :?
For instance philosophical writings on free will often contain sentences I can parse about as well as "Extensions of art generally exist within the rights of a state.". The words are all real words and there are no grammar problems but it's almost as if they need an extra context in order to mean anything. :?
An xkcd example would be many of the posts in the religion thread such as "X cannot tell us about the morals we ought to have.". The sentence "You ought to do X" means nothing to me without a person saying it or an " in order to accomplish Y" tacked on the end.

Anyone else have this problem? Is it due to sentences with no connection to reality (and thus no meaning beyond a game of words*)? Or simply due to difficult concepts being employed?

* we learn what words/phrases mean by them being employed in real situations
Belial wrote:I'm just being a dick. It happens.

Steroid
Posts: 549
Joined: Wed Mar 26, 2008 10:50 am UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby Steroid » Sun Aug 01, 2010 4:21 pm UTC

I actually find I have this problem more in writing philosophy than in reading it. I know what I mean, but sometimes I can't find the words (they may not exist), to express my point.

But I think the biggest aid to understanding is to ignore credentials and context and just read the words. If Aristotle says something you can't understand, and some guy on the Internet says something you can, listen to the second guy.

Glass Fractal
Posts: 497
Joined: Thu May 13, 2010 2:53 am UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby Glass Fractal » Sun Aug 01, 2010 4:44 pm UTC

GoC wrote:Am I the only person who often finds philosophy/religious speak incomprehensible? :?
For instance philosophical writings on free will often contain sentences I can parse about as well as "Extensions of art generally exist within the rights of a state.". The words are all real words and there are no grammar problems but it's almost as if they need an extra context in order to mean anything. :?
An xkcd example would be many of the posts in the religion thread such as "X cannot tell us about the morals we ought to have.". The sentence "You ought to do X" means nothing to me without a person saying it or an " in order to accomplish Y" tacked on the end.

Anyone else have this problem? Is it due to sentences with no connection to reality (and thus no meaning beyond a game of words*)? Or simply due to difficult concepts being employed?

* we learn what words/phrases mean by them being employed in real situations


After taking one class on philosophy I've developed the impression that philosophers just choose not to define things so that they have something to talk about.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Mon Aug 02, 2010 12:31 am UTC

After taking one class on philosophy I've developed the impression that philosophers just choose not to define things so that they have something to talk about.


Then you poorly misunderstand philosophy, the basis of any philosophical debate should be a definition of terms to remove ambiguity. Of course the conclusion of any argument must then include its original definitions, so you can never conclude 'God can't possibly exist' but you can conclude that 'God, as an omnipotent and omniscient being can not possibly exist'.
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

GoC
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby GoC » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:35 pm UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:Then you poorly misunderstand philosophy, the basis of any philosophical debate should be a definition of terms to remove ambiguity.

Shouldn't the various philosophy threads (and the religious ones) have done this in the OP then?
Belial wrote:I'm just being a dick. It happens.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Tue Aug 03, 2010 9:27 pm UTC

Shouldn't the various philosophy threads (and the religious ones) have done this in the OP then?


Yes, but it can be a bit pedantic at times - as you can imagine after 5000 debates of the existence of freewill there is no longer any real need to define what freewill is. Other things such as morality, ethics and the like are just expected to be common knowledge.
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

snapshot182
Posts: 104
Joined: Sun May 02, 2010 1:12 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby snapshot182 » Tue Aug 03, 2010 9:49 pm UTC

GoC wrote:Am I the only person who often finds philosophy/religious speak incomprehensible? :?
For instance philosophical writings on free will often contain sentences I can parse about as well as "Extensions of art generally exist within the rights of a state.". The words are all real words and there are no grammar problems but it's almost as if they need an extra context in order to mean anything. :?
An xkcd example would be many of the posts in the religion thread such as "X cannot tell us about the morals we ought to have.". The sentence "You ought to do X" means nothing to me without a person saying it or an " in order to accomplish Y" tacked on the end.

Anyone else have this problem? Is it due to sentences with no connection to reality (and thus no meaning beyond a game of words*)? Or simply due to difficult concepts being employed?

* we learn what words/phrases mean by them being employed in real situations

I often find that many people who want to philosophize don't want to start at square one, because it's so hard to get off the ground in a logical and empirical way. Where do you start?

You have to start from first principles, which is essentially grounding you in reality. You have to be able to make a statement that is not in contradiction with reality or in contradiction with the statement itself, such as "matter does not exist." Since such a statement requires the existence of matter, the statement premise contradicts itself.

In my opinion, if you have some first principles to depend upon, like the existence of reality, the utility of empiricism, and the universality of morality (morality is a meaningless term if it's subjective), you can break all arguments down once you figure out what the person is really trying to say.

Starting from an issue like health care or immigration (just to take some political examples) imply all sorts of accepted truths, such as the validity of a two-party system, democracy, government itself, the rights of individuals, etc. Starting from an issue like the validity of a particular religion also carries with it implicit accepted truths like the nature of reality, the presumed knowledge of a deity's intentions, etc.

I think many people don't break it down to first principles because, if you do, it's so insanely difficult to argue for what you believe and have any firm philosophical standing. You'll find that most disagreements, whether philosophical, political, or religious, boil down to, "It just feels wrong," in terms of a political action, a statement about reality, or the absence of a higher power. People who stick with the basics and build from there have the firmest philosophical grounding and face steep opposition from people with ulterior motives, i.e. motives that are more concerned about an individuals material or emotional desires, not about a desire for what is true. Often the desires of the individual and the search for truth are at odds--yet you won't find many people accepting this fact. (Do you really think that 50% of the people are wrong about everything and 50% of the people are right about everything--for the most part--when it comes to the democrat/republican divide? More than likely, neither side has a firm philosophical grounding, hence why it's so easy for either side believe the other side is wrong.)

You have to cut through the BS, find out what a person is really saying. Does this statement line up with physical reality and what we know about it? What assumptions are being made? Do the assumptions depend on that which is unverifiable? Do the premises arise from logically consistent first principles? Essentially, employ the Socratic method. Try to ask questions which get to the heart of the issue, and, you know what, don't be afraid to say, "This doesn't feel right." It's not a philosophical truth, but it's a personal truth, and it's a truth that resonates with the way you're feeling. And what you're feeling is more important than anything anyway. No one can prove you wrong that you feel a certain way, or that you're uncertain. However, you may find, it's sometimes hard to even gauge what you're feeling. But that is a journey that is just as important as the philosophical search for truth.

GoC
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby GoC » Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:07 pm UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:
Shouldn't the various philosophy threads (and the religious ones) have done this in the OP then?


Yes, but it can be a bit pedantic at times - as you can imagine after 5000 debates of the existence of freewill there is no longer any real need to define what freewill is. Other things such as morality, ethics and the like are just expected to be common knowledge.

Strange you should use that example... there still seems to be plenty of discussion regarding what free will is. :|

snapshot182 wrote:In my opinion, if you have some first principles to depend upon, like... the universality of morality (morality is a meaningless term if it's subjective)

While I agree with your sentiment I think this bit is wrong. The morality of person A can mean what person A believes to be right. You can also talk about the morality of a culture or a moral system. You could debate whether or not an action is good or bad in any given moral system. So it's not actually a meaningless term.

Starting from an issue like the validity of a particular religion also carries with it implicit accepted truths like the nature of reality, the presumed knowledge of a deity's intentions, etc.

Not really, these issues are debated among Christians (for an example religion) in the modern day. The accepted truths are statements that are acknowledged to be true (iow they have the label "true") but whose meaning varies from group to group (I grew up involved with church politics).

Do you really think that 50% of the people are wrong about everything and 50% of the people are right about everything--for the most part--when it comes to the democrat/republican divide?

I've never lived in the US. :P :mrgreen:

Try to ask questions which get to the heart of the issue, and, you know what, don't be afraid to say, "This doesn't feel right." It's not a philosophical truth, but it's a personal truth, and it's a truth that resonates with the way you're feeling. And what you're feeling is more important than anything anyway. No one can prove you wrong that you feel a certain way, or that you're uncertain.

OTOH our intuitions very often give wrong results in the material world (there's tons of good books out there about this, I'm currently reading The Blackwell Handbook of Judgement and Decision Making). To trust them in other matters where they don't ever have to admit to being wrong could be problematic.

Overall I quite liked your post and agree with the main point. :)
Belial wrote:I'm just being a dick. It happens.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:14 pm UTC

snapshot182 wrote: and the universality of morality (morality is a meaningless term if it's subjective)


That is an appeal to consequence - 'morality would be meaningless if it is subjective, therefore it isn't subjective'. In reality, morality is subjective; nothing is inherently good or bad - it takes a mind to make that judgement and all minds are different.

snapshot182 wrote: and, you know what, don't be afraid to say, "This doesn't feel right." It's not a philosophical truth, but it's a personal truth, and it's a truth that resonates with the way you're feeling. And what you're feeling is more important than anything anyway.


What you 'feel' doesn't mean anything in philosophy, if you make arguments based on the way you feel you are generally going to be committing the 'Appeal to Consequence' or 'Appeal to Emotion' logical fallacies.

Strange you should use that example... there still seems to be plenty of discussion regarding what free will is.


That's because the traditional definition contradicts the deterministic universe, as such, people have been trying to redefine it to something that is compatible with a deterministic universe and portrays us as more than cogs in a machine - it's no surprise that they haven't been successful.
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

GoC
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby GoC » Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:28 pm UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:That's because the traditional definition contradicts the deterministic universe, as such, people have been trying to redefine it to something that is compatible with a deterministic universe and portrays us as more than cogs in a machine - it's no surprise that they haven't been successful.

Yeah, um...
I've never understood the traditional definition. When I tried to figure out what "Humans have freewill" meant using "Freewill is the ability to choose" I ended up with the tautology "Humans are humans". :roll:
Belial wrote:I'm just being a dick. It happens.

snapshot182
Posts: 104
Joined: Sun May 02, 2010 1:12 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby snapshot182 » Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:31 pm UTC

GoC wrote:While I agree with your sentiment I think this bit is wrong. The morality of person A can mean what person A believes to be right. You can also talk about the morality of a culture or a moral system. You could debate whether or not an action is good or bad in any given moral system. So it's not actually a meaningless term.
It's meaningless when discussing whether an action is actually moral or not. If morality is subjective, the term "morality" cannot be used objectively, meaning you can't say whether an act is right or wrong, or whether a statement concerning morality is valid or invalid. If we disagree on what is moral, and morality is subject to interpretation and personal preference, neither of us can be universally right or wrong. So it's meaningless to argue it. If something is objectively wrong, then we can actually say that it doesn't matter what a personal, culture, society, or a religion thinks, much like we can say that, if something is scientifically valid (like evolution), it doesn't matter what a religious group says or thinks--their opinions don't change reality. That's why I'm saying that, philosophically speaking, morality is a meaningless term unless it is objective. We're not going to have a debate on how we feel because neither of us could ever, empirically, prove the other wrong.

Not really, these issues are debated among Christians (for an example religion) in the modern day. The accepted truths are statements that are acknowledged to be true (iow they have the label "true") but whose meaning varies from group to group (I grew up involved with church politics).
I'm not sure if you're disagreeing with my main point. It seems like you're disagreeing with my examples, which I'm perfectly fine with. Is that the case? I was mainly saying that, with many issues that are debated within religion, statements rely upon implicit truth claims (or you have to believe "this" before "this" makes sense).

I've never lived in the US. :P :mrgreen:
Well nuts! I'm just saying, there seems to be a pretty clean divide between groups of people in what they believe is right--whether it's liberalism, health care reform, etc. People have beliefs based upon certain premises that they think are true. I'm saying I think it's highly unlikely that any huge swath of people have their positions philosophically grounded in first principle, and that most people act on their immediate desires rather than what is true.

OTOH our intuitions very often give wrong results in the material world (there's tons of good books out there about this, I'm currently reading The Blackwell Handbook of Judgement and Decision Making). To trust them in other matters where they don't ever have to admit to being wrong could be problematic.

Overall I quite liked your post and agree with the main point. :)
Thank you for agreeing with the arch. I hope it was easy to pick out and hope it resonates. Hope to speak again tomorrow!
Last edited by snapshot182 on Wed Aug 04, 2010 2:55 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Tue Aug 03, 2010 10:36 pm UTC

Yeah, um...
I've never understood the traditional definition. When I tried to figure out what "Humans have freewill" meant using "Freewill is the ability to choose" I ended up with the tautology "Humans are humans".


That's because you are defining 'Humans' as anything that can make a choice - this isn't an adequate or sufficient definition, after all, even a computer can make a choice. For a definition of 'Human' you need to look to biology and the sciences (or Wikipedia :)):

Humans are a species of animal known taxonomically as Homo sapiens (Latin: "wise man" or "knowing man"),[3][4] and are the only extant member of the Homo genus of bipedal primates in Hominidae, the great ape family. However, in some cases "human" is used to refer to any member of the genus Homo.


The statement 'Humans have freewill' means 'Humans have the ability to freely choose'. The keyword is 'freely', which indicates that the decision isn't determined by an algorithm (in the case of a computer) or a deterministic universe (conceptually similar to an algorithm, just an insanely complex one).
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

GoC
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby GoC » Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:18 pm UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:The statement 'Humans have sandbags' means 'Humans have the ability to freely choose'. The keyword is 'freely', which indicates that the decision isn't determined by an algorithm (in the case of a computer) or a deterministic universe (conceptually similar to an algorithm, just an insanely complex one).

Let's say I define "algorithm" as "that which takes an input and generates an output". Is that what you mean by algorithm?
Belial wrote:I'm just being a dick. It happens.

User avatar
the_stabbage
Posts: 286
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2008 12:05 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby the_stabbage » Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:50 pm UTC

I'm not sure where you live, GoC, but the big chain bookstores in my area carry mostly works of modern Continental philosphy, which is so caught up in terminology as to be incomprehensible. Any fans of Derrida et al. please forgive me, but they are not the easiest works to pick up and understand.

Whether their views are right or wrong, I've found philosophers of the Analytic tradition to be more readily accessible. In particular, a good introduction to philosophy is Bertrand Russell's The Problems of Philosophy. Russell writes very well.

Now, in connection to your statement in the first post that philosophy or religion may deal in sentences with no connection to reality, I have this to say: words are part of reality, so sentences must be. Even the sentence "colourless green ideas sleep furiously" is part of reality, even though it may not be useful or true. It is a member of the set of false sentences. The task of philosophy, in my opinion, is to find which statements are useless (eg. tautological) or untrue.

GoC
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby GoC » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:02 am UTC

the_stabbage wrote:Now, in connection to your statement in the first post that philosophy or religion may deal in sentences with no connection to reality, I have this to say: words are part of reality, so sentences must be. Even the sentence "colourless green ideas sleep furiously" is part of reality, even though it may not be useful or true. It is a member of the set of false sentences. The task of philosophy, in my opinion, is to find which statements are useless (eg. tautological) or untrue.

The combination of letters "colourless green ideas sleep furiously" may be a part of reality but it has no meaning that refers to reality. That sentence does not constrain reality (either past or future) in any way and makes no predictions. Is the statement "Xrtyies and Uikleis are quite similar" true?
Belial wrote:I'm just being a dick. It happens.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:12 am UTC

GoC wrote:Let's say I define "algorithm" as "that which takes an input and generates an output". Is that what you mean by algorithm?


No, it's insufficient. I'd define it as something that takes an input and generates an output based on that given input. Pedantic I know but I think the distinction is important.
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

GoC
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby GoC » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:20 am UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:No, it's insufficient. I'd define it as something that takes an input and generates an output based on that given input. Pedantic I know but I think the distinction is important.

So to have free will you need to have an output that does not vary given the input... ie. you must act the same way regardless of what your senses are telling you or what they have told you in the past. Correct?
Belial wrote:I'm just being a dick. It happens.

User avatar
the_stabbage
Posts: 286
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2008 12:05 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby the_stabbage » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:25 am UTC

GoC wrote:
the_stabbage wrote:Now, in connection to your statement in the first post that philosophy or religion may deal in sentences with no connection to reality, I have this to say: words are part of reality, so sentences must be. Even the sentence "colourless green ideas sleep furiously" is part of reality, even though it may not be useful or true. It is a member of the set of false sentences. The task of philosophy, in my opinion, is to find which statements are useless (eg. tautological) or untrue.

The combination of letters "colourless green ideas sleep furiously" may be a part of reality but it has no meaning that refers to reality. That sentence does not constrain reality (either past or future) in any way and makes no predictions. Is the statement "Xrtyies and Uikleis are quite similar" true?


There is the reality of the statement, and there is the meaning of a statement.

About any statement x, one can say that x is a statement (and therefore it exists). There is some reality to "colourless green ideas sleep furiously" and "xrtyies and uikleis are quite similar" in that they both exist.

But all statements are intended to have meaning, and that is something that can have the property of being true or false. "Colourless..." fails to have meaning because it is not correctly built. "Xrtyies..." is not known to have meaning because the nouns are unfamiliar.

Le1bn1z
Posts: 832
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 6:27 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby Le1bn1z » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:37 am UTC

@ OP

Please don't lump all philosophy together. Some is easier to understand and more cohesive than others.

G.W. Leibniz wrote his best summative on philosophy in point form, with everything he believed listed in no more than four pages (Monadology still a tad difficult due to the archaic concepts and sentence structure) or Felicity (1 page.) Even longer works (Theodicy or Meditations on the Common Concept of Justice) are easy to follow, even if dense and boring.

Plato's Republic is a really easy read.

Hume even more so. Ditto Swift. Ditto Montague. Ditto Macchiavelli. Say what you want about Aquinas, he's not difficult to understand. Anselm less so. Sartre is not all that hard, especially when he's writting friggin' plays.

Voltaire and Diderot are so easy as to be viable as childrens' books. Rousseau's arguments are not only juvenile, but could be read by children!

I could go on.

There are four easily understood reasons why some writers are incomprehensible.

1.) Old Fashioned Snobbery:

Newton, that well known hack and malicious slanderer, was adamant about writing in difficult prose, even on non-mathematical subjects, so that "lesser people" would not sully his works by reading them. This is sadly a common attitude: many thinkers with "Newtonianitis" believe being less clear makes them sound smarter.

2.) Stealth and Survival:

Many great thinkers have had to write obtusely in order to convey ideas which were disapproved by authorities. The best historical example is Spinoza, whose pantheism was outright burn-me-heresy. So he wrote obtusely to mollify the censors (he's not trying to subvert the rabble) and to bore many of them out of finishing the darn thing, so he could hide stuff in particularily boring bits.

Those "in the know" know how to read such texts to get at the good stuff.

A decent explaination of this phenomenon, though overstated, is given in Levi Strauss's The Art of Reading.

3.) Precision:

Kant and Heidegger believed that reality was complex, and that the truth could not really be stated in simple terms. They allowed themselves to be difficult in order to convey their thought in the most technically precise possible way. This may or may not be nonsense. I'll let you decide. but the answer's yes.

4.) They're French Megalomaniacs:

The Post-Modern movement in philosophy is all about hidden meanings and "folds" in symbolism and truth, as Derrida put it. They love playing games with language, and finding in ravelling and unravelling meanings in text. It's bullshit, but they feel that the art of writing ought to reflect the subject discussed. By making their meaning unclear, they believe that they force the reader to engage more fully with the text, and thus wrestle the meanings from the tangles of text. They want to escape the "old trap" of books simply "uploading" information, which leads to people accepting it wholesale without wrestling with the meaning in their search for truth. By making it difficult, they are freeing the reader to wrestle their own meaning from the text, which is fitting, as PoMo posits that all truth is subjective.

Or that's the theory.

Mostly we get bored or angry and then burn the books. Or maybe that's just me.

If you find traditional philosophical prose irritating, try turning to plays and novels. The greatest Christian philosophy of the 20th century was done by people like C.S. Lewis, in books like The Screwtape Letters or Out of the Silent Planet. The Outsider and Huis Clos are far more compelling in their existentialism than any straight-up existential essay or mongraph I've ever read.
Krong writes: Code: Select all
transubstantiate(Bread b) {
Person p = getJesusPersonInstance();
p.RenderProperties = b.RenderProperties;
free(b);
}

GoC
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby GoC » Wed Aug 04, 2010 12:58 am UTC

the_stabbage wrote:But all statements are intended to have meaning, and that is something that can have the property of being true or false. "Colourless..." fails to have meaning because it is not correctly built. "Xrtyies..." is not known to have meaning because the nouns are unfamiliar.

Hence for me statements about free will have an unknown meaning because while the phrase "free will" has a known usage (ie. I know it's used in statements such as "humans have free will") it's meaning in unknown.
Now here's a question... it it possible to confuse associations and meanings? Say a Xrtyie is associated with carrots and goodness and is used in phrases such as "Xrtyies help the liver" but has no real definition. What if some people think there is a meaning of Xrtyies but it's unknown? What if people start to endlessly debate whether Xrtyies are physical objects. Can they confuse the fact that it is used in sentences and has associations with it having a meaning?
Is it true that the color of a bubble sort isn't blue?
Is it true that "truth is not love"? What about "intangibles are difficult logic"?
What about statements that require a context that is usually in a previous sentence but is not present? For instance: "No soul can be understood in the world." requires a context telling what is meant by "understood".
"Now suppose you find a blue egg-shaped furred flexible opaque object, an ordinary blegg in every visible way, and just for kicks you take it to the sorting scanner, and the scanner says "palladium" - this is one of the rare 2%. Is it a blegg?"

@Le1bn1z: Googled and this is one of the first things I found: http://www.philosophypages.com/hy/4j.htm#substances
Has someone made this deliberately unclear? Or can I just substitute "contains" for "has the property of" and get the same meaning? As in "me" has the property of "is born in 1964".
Last edited by GoC on Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:29 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
Belial wrote:I'm just being a dick. It happens.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:05 am UTC

GoC wrote:So to have free will you need to have an output that does not vary given the input... ie. you must act the same way regardless of what your senses are telling you or what they have told you in the past. Correct?


No, to have 'freewill' you need to have an output that is not determined by the input but rather freely decided upon by the mind.

Le1bn1z wrote:There are four easily understood reasons why some writers are incomprehensible.


Which would you place Nietzsche in to? :) Or would you not consider him to be a philosopher?
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

GoC
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby GoC » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:09 am UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:
GoC wrote:So to have free will you need to have an output that does not vary given the input... ie. you must act the same way regardless of what your senses are telling you or what they have told you in the past. Correct?


No, to have 'freewill' you need to have an output that is not determined by the input but rather freely decided upon by the mind.

There are two options here. Either you have an output that changes as the input changes or you have one that doesn't change as the input changes. Which is it?
Note that I can't parse "freely decided upon by the mind" in this context.
Belial wrote:I'm just being a dick. It happens.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Wed Aug 04, 2010 1:20 am UTC

GoC wrote:There are two options here. Either you have an output that changes as the input changes or you have one that doesn't change as the input changes. Which is it?
Note that I can't parse "freely decided upon by the mind" in this context.


Congratulations - Now you see why the traditional definition of 'freewill' is nonsense :)

Contemporary solutions to the problem aren't really solutions at all, they simply marginalize the problem by saying that freewill is the combination of a deterministic system and free choice which is nonsense because any free choice contradicts a deterministic system.
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

User avatar
the_stabbage
Posts: 286
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2008 12:05 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby the_stabbage » Wed Aug 04, 2010 2:07 am UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:Which would you place Nietzsche in to? :) Or would you not consider him to be a philosopher?


I'd say he falls into this category:

Le1bn1z wrote:3.) Precision:

Kant and Heidegger believed that reality was complex, and that the truth could not really be stated in simple terms. They allowed themselves to be difficult in order to convey their thought in the most technically precise possible way. This may or may not be nonsense. I'll let you decide. but the answer's yes.


There is plenty more literature out there that falls into this category. For example, the corpus of physics. It's difficult to put even basic mechanics into everyday vocabulary. So a technical language is created to be able to speak of gravity, acceleration, momentum, etc.

What makes Nietzsche particularly hard is that he is a commentator on the school of philosophy created after Hegel which was preoccupied with history. In Nietzsche's case, he was preoccupied with the history of philosophy. So a lot of his aphorisms seem obscure because they refer to schools of philosophy with which the reader may not be familiar.

In regards to the problem of free will, one could say that free will exists, or it doesn't exist. Or, one can say we can't speak about it, in the same way we can't speak of colourless green ideas. There's something wrong with the concept, perhaps, that necessitates further investigation - so that the constituent parts of what we call free will can be analysed properly.

Dark567
First one to notify the boards of Rick and Morty Season 3
Posts: 3686
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:12 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere(in the US, I don't venture outside it too often, unfortunately)

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby Dark567 » Wed Aug 04, 2010 4:21 pm UTC

GoC wrote:There are two options here. Either you have an output that changes as the input changes or you have one that doesn't change as the input changes. Which is it?
Note that I can't parse "freely decided upon by the mind" in this context.


Most freewillers(which includes most philosophers of the mind) say that there is an output that changes as input changes, but also changes if the input stays constant, based on the choices of the person. This is nonsense though because an output that changes without the input changing is what most people would call 'random'. This seems to not exactly be the same thing the freewillers are going after.

Basically free will is nonsense.

EDIT:

Actually for that matter, when most philosophical topics are brought to their ultimately conclusion they are found to be nonsense. There are no ethics, there is nihilism. There is no knowledge, there is skepticism. Bertrand Russell and Wittgenstein generally realized this. Russell eventually rejected it though, not because of its truth, but he simply decided he couldn't go on accepting it without going insane, he choose sanity over truth.
Last edited by Dark567 on Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:39 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
I apologize, 90% of the time I write on the Fora I am intoxicated.


Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?

GoC
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby GoC » Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:05 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:There is no knowledge, there is skepticism.

Try Bayesian reasoning. You'll like it. :)
Belial wrote:I'm just being a dick. It happens.

SnakesNDMartyrs
Posts: 143
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2010 11:45 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby SnakesNDMartyrs » Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:29 pm UTC

Most freewillers(which includes most philosophers of the mind) say that there is an output that changes as input changes, but also changes if the input stays constant, based on the choices of the person. This is nonsense though because an output that changes without the input changing is what most people would call 'random'. This seems to not exactly be the same thing the freewillers are going after.


Of course they will say that it isn't random because it is driven by the freewill of some agent - It's a ridiculous solution because you still have the issue of a non-deterministic choice being made, it is just at a lower level than it initially was.
An attempt to make a living at online poker: PokerAdept

Dark567
First one to notify the boards of Rick and Morty Season 3
Posts: 3686
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:12 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere(in the US, I don't venture outside it too often, unfortunately)

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby Dark567 » Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:33 pm UTC

GoC wrote:
Dark567 wrote:There is no knowledge, there is skepticism.

Try Bayesian reasoning. You'll like it. :)


Isn't that based on the scientific method? The problem of induction kinda shoots down any knowledge from science.(Also the Gettier paper)
I apologize, 90% of the time I write on the Fora I am intoxicated.


Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?

GoC
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Nov 24, 2008 10:35 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby GoC » Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:52 pm UTC

Dark567 wrote:
GoC wrote:
Dark567 wrote:There is no knowledge, there is skepticism.

Try Bayesian reasoning. You'll like it. :)


Isn't that based on the scientific method?

Nope. It implies the scientific method but not the other way round. You could sortof say the scientific method is based on Bayesian reasoning if not for history getting in the way. :P

The problem of induction kinda shoots down any knowledge from science.(Also the Gettier paper)

You'll need a formalized Razor as well. :mrgreen:

I found the writings on this website (the website just went down so links are broken**) quite useful (hence all the times I've linked to it!*). The main writer isn't particularly intelligent but he's quite good at explaining things and it doesn't require you to go browsing in a library. :P

* I would love to know what people thought of it and if they found it wrong/helpful/boring/basic/ect... maybe I should make a thread for it somewhere...?

** Oh look! I'm an acolyte. :lol:
Though I do think that if I can't explain something in my own words I shouldn't link to it.
Belial wrote:I'm just being a dick. It happens.

aporia
Posts: 23
Joined: Tue Jul 01, 2008 2:17 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby aporia » Sun Aug 22, 2010 11:35 am UTC

Le1bn1z wrote:Please don't lump all philosophy together. Some is easier to understand and more cohesive than others.

G.W. Leibniz wrote his best summative on philosophy in point form, with everything he believed listed in no more than four pages (Monadology still a tad difficult due to the archaic concepts and sentence structure) or Felicity (1 page.) Even longer works (Theodicy or Meditations on the Common Concept of Justice) are easy to follow, even if dense and boring.

Plato's Republic is a really easy read.

Hume even more so. Ditto Swift. Ditto Montague. Ditto Macchiavelli. Say what you want about Aquinas, he's not difficult to understand. Anselm less so. Sartre is not all that hard, especially when he's writting friggin' plays.

Voltaire and Diderot are so easy as to be viable as childrens' books. Rousseau's arguments are not only juvenile, but could be read by children!


Hear hear! To your list I would add and especially emphasize all of Plato's dialogues in addition to the Republic. Using the character of Socrates, Plato does philosophy using nothing but very ordinary, common-sense questions and arguments. While reading Plato you have an epiphany: not only can philosophy be done by anyone, but we are all already philosophers. Our forum conversations, shooting the shit with friends, dinner conversations with family and loved ones... we are all already steeped in philosophy and don't know it.

Plato asks us to look up and see the philosophy happening all around us and within us every day.

infernovia
Posts: 931
Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:27 am UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby infernovia » Mon Aug 23, 2010 6:14 am UTC

Plato asks us to look up and see the philosophy happening all around us and within us every day.

As everyone applies the scientific method to learn things and lies like an artist when they look.

I think Nietzsche is the most enjoyable so far. Russell is really boring (History of Western Philosophy totally made me lose interest in the subject).

Sheikh al-Majaneen
Name Checks Out On Time, Tips Chambermaid
Posts: 1075
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2010 5:17 am UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby Sheikh al-Majaneen » Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:11 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:
Plato asks us to look up and see the philosophy happening all around us and within us every day.

As everyone applies the scientific method to learn things and lies like an artist when they look.

I think Nietzsche is the most enjoyable so far. Russell is really boring (History of Western Philosophy totally made me lose interest in the subject).

I actually like History of Western Philosophy. It isn't necessary to read it cover to cover, just read his summaries of whatever interests you at the time, when you feel like it.

Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus are also easy to read, though there is no order or pattern in Meditations or Enchiridion.

Dark567
First one to notify the boards of Rick and Morty Season 3
Posts: 3686
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:12 pm UTC
Location: Everywhere(in the US, I don't venture outside it too often, unfortunately)

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby Dark567 » Mon Aug 23, 2010 7:19 pm UTC

infernovia wrote:
I think Nietzsche is the most enjoyable so far. Russell is really boring (History of Western Philosophy totally made me lose interest in the subject).


Unfortunately what is the most enjoyable isn't necessarily the most accurate. The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus might be a pain to wade through, but it is still essential philosophic reading.
I apologize, 90% of the time I write on the Fora I am intoxicated.


Yakk wrote:The question the thought experiment I posted is aimed at answering: When falling in a black hole, do you see the entire universe's future history train-car into your ass, or not?

User avatar
the_stabbage
Posts: 286
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2008 12:05 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby the_stabbage » Tue Aug 24, 2010 12:56 am UTC

Unfortunately what is the most enjoyable isn't necessarily the most accurate. The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus might be a pain to wade through, but it is still essential philosophic reading.


For those who don't know, the author of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is Ludwig Wittgenstein. That book is commonly referred to simply as the Tractatus. He also wrote another major book in his later years, reversing the positions the held in the Tractatus. That one is called Philosophical Investigations.

For those who want to know more about Wittgenstein, I strongly recommend Ray Monk's Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. I knew a little about ol' Witty, but that book helped flesh out my knowledge about the period between his two magnum opuses, and it gave me interesting trivia about his personal life, quirks, and obsessions.

User avatar
LegoLogos
Posts: 21
Joined: Thu Dec 10, 2009 12:26 am UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby LegoLogos » Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:05 am UTC

I like Le1bn1z's post. He gives you an idea of what a typical scholarly understanding of philosophy looks like. In the end, while anyone can philosophise and come to valuable conclusions, you cannot escape the need to educate yourself in academic philosophy. People will often use terms which have particular meanings in the context of a particular area of philosophy. This can make it confusing to anyone who isn't familiar with the subject, although it is essential to the subject itself that it uses some standardised vocabulary. For example, the terms "possible world" has a particular meaning in philosophy. If you didn't know this, you might form a meaning inside you own head of what a possible world is, which doesn't necessarily coincide with what the speaker means when he uses it!

I've often seen people use vocabulary from a mixture of philosophical subjects together when really a proper understanding of the terms would make their reasoning invalid. This is forgivable, since topics can be very complex. As an example, I always think of this guy's http://www.doxa.ws/Ontological/ReityTS.html#TS" argument, which appears to mix structuralism with some personal form of metaphysics.

However, as I said already, nothing beats doing the reading and a nuanced understanding of the differences between the context of philosophical jargon is always better than the uneducated musing of those who are unaware of an entire area of academic research. Unfortunately it can make it hard to get started, because there's so much to read. Not much you can do about it though :P

infernovia
Posts: 931
Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:27 am UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby infernovia » Tue Aug 24, 2010 6:58 am UTC

Unfortunately what is the most enjoyable isn't necessarily the most accurate. The Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus might be a pain to wade through, but it is still essential philosophic reading.

Dude, after reading it, I wouldn't have touched Philosophy with a ten foot pole (it really hits the "philosophy is all about the questions" feeling). I am glad there are writers like Nietzsche around, much more striking and powerful. His writing is also so free.

I read the Tractatus, it was actually pretty interesting although it is hard to read it in one go. Sometimes I am amazed at how useful his formulations were, it comes up in many places.

elasto
Posts: 3778
Joined: Mon May 10, 2010 1:53 am UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby elasto » Wed Aug 25, 2010 8:09 am UTC

SnakesNDMartyrs wrote:
GoC wrote:There are two options here. Either you have an output that changes as the input changes or you have one that doesn't change as the input changes. Which is it?
Note that I can't parse "freely decided upon by the mind" in this context.
Congratulations - Now you see why the traditional definition of 'freewill' is nonsense :)

Contemporary solutions to the problem aren't really solutions at all, they simply marginalize the problem by saying that freewill is the combination of a deterministic system and free choice which is nonsense because any free choice contradicts a deterministic system.

I guess I need to catch up on the freewill threads because I don't see why the solution isn't as simple as stating that the universe isn't deterministic. And nor does that make it 'random'. I'd say a better choice of term would be 'directed'. Usually it's directed by 'laws' - which are only deduced by induction after all, there's nothing to say they are absolute - but perhaps it can also be directed by however free will manifests (which is quite possibly unknowable).

Maybe someone can point me to one of the better freewill threads so I can see why others have ruled that possibility out.

As a complete derail, I sometimes imagine someone dying and being pretty surprised to find God on the other side:
"But, God, where were you? You didn't seem to be anywhere in the universe whenever anyone tried to look."
"Oh? I was everywhere. Every time a particle moved, what do you think moved it? I did. Why is there movement in the universe rather than no movement? Because of me. 'Forces'? No such thing. I simply altered the movement of each particle based on the position of every other particle in the universe. Your scientists developed an understanding of 'laws' and 'forces' simply because I was so consistent in my actions."
"Wow. So every time I breathed... every time my heart beat... that was you doing all of that."
"Yup."
"Wow. Cool."
"There was never any reason I couldn't 'break' the 'laws' any time I wanted to though - because they weren't really there. In a totally deterministic universe, for example, free will wouldn't be possible. So I didn't create a totally deterministic universe."
"Ah."
<And so it goes on>

User avatar
the_stabbage
Posts: 286
Joined: Thu Jul 10, 2008 12:05 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby the_stabbage » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:48 am UTC

I don't get it. If you're determined by a free agent, you're still determined.

infernovia
Posts: 931
Joined: Thu Jul 17, 2008 4:27 am UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby infernovia » Thu Aug 26, 2010 6:37 am UTC

"But, God, where were you? You didn't seem to be anywhere in the universe whenever anyone tried to look."
"Oh? I was everywhere. Every time a particle moved, what do you think moved it? I did. Why is there movement in the universe rather than no movement? Because of me. 'Forces'? No such thing. I simply altered the movement of each particle based on the position of every other particle in the universe. Your scientists developed an understanding of 'laws' and 'forces' simply because I was so consistent in my actions."
"Wow. So every time I breathed... every time my heart beat... that was you doing all of that."
"Yup."
"Wow. Cool."
"There was never any reason I couldn't 'break' the 'laws' any time I wanted to though - because they weren't really there. In a totally deterministic universe, for example, free will wouldn't be possible. So I didn't create a totally deterministic universe."
"Ah."


If God is everything, then there is nothing immoral about the world because everything is an act of god.

Since you are a part of everything, God is you, every single part of you.

The "laws" and "forces" also apply to you too, they aren't broken for the humans, ergo no free will. In this case it would be controlled by god.

But the concept of "free" will is an illusion, along with it the unfree will.

Le1bn1z
Posts: 832
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2009 6:27 pm UTC

Re: Understanding philosophy?

Postby Le1bn1z » Thu Aug 26, 2010 1:37 pm UTC

OK, a bit of a primer on the history of free will. There are three positions which all the others boil down to:

The Free Radical Theory: Erasamus, Hegel, Descartes, Picco della Mirandola, the Matrix and sundry others of this ilk.

Basically, the notion is that at the core of your being, your consciousness, is something which is beyond the material continuum. Litterally, your soul is from another dimension. It is not a "created" object in the way your body is, and is therefore not determined by set constraints or boundaries in the same way.

We have the illusion of predetermination because the soul does have a purpose or preferences, things that it wants and will try to do. For Hegel, the soul "wants" to manifest its freedom in the physical world, leading it to seek ways to minimize the authority of others over itself and maximize its authority over the world (a simplification, but leave it for now.) However, it is entirely free as to how it might go about this, either seeking a proper fulfillment (the ethical life) or a hasty and ill-concieved one (a life of crime, domination and violence.)

The second limitation of freedom is that souls do not exist in a void. They are presented with certain facts, or bits of data, and are therefore constrained by the limits of what they can understand and what they can do. Nurture can't change "who you are" (only "you" can) but it does lay out what your options are.

The Bondage of the Will: Luther, Calvin, Augustine, Pascale, Democritus, Marx etc. Very popular, historically.

Your will is a created thing, and is subject to either the material continuum or to an ominscient, omnipotent God. In this way, every move you make is constantly being determined and controlled by outside forces. You are a Marionette whose only redeeming freedom is that you can understand that you are a Marionette.

3. You can escape the world, but not yourself: The nost nuanced view. The Ancient Greeks and Leibniz fall into this camp. Basically, they ask, what the heck do you mean by free? They reject the "Bondage" theory, saying that, within the world, you are entirely a free within it. There is no "puppet master" per se.

However, your soul is a created thing, and therefore bounded by its own characteristics, which will determine what will happen when confronted with a certain situation. Plus, the material world is basically a puppet show. So, "you" may be free from external control, and therefore have "free" will. Nobody else "makes" you do things. However, who you are is not up to you. Nor are the situations in which you find yourself. So, on the larger scale, you have no free will.

Think of Oedipus the King. He was doomed because he could try to escape his circumstances, but the prophesy only said what would happen, and there are a million material ways for it to happen. More importantly, he was doomed because of who he was, his attitued towards others and towards life, from which he could not flee.

Anyhow, I hope that clears this up to some extent. The three schools all have their merits. Realistically, #2 is in ascendency right now, but we all pretend like #3 is true, and like to dream that #1 might be true.
Krong writes: Code: Select all
transubstantiate(Bread b) {
Person p = getJesusPersonInstance();
p.RenderProperties = b.RenderProperties;
free(b);
}


Return to “Serious Business”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests