Knowledge & Reality 2

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  • Created on: 18-12-12 15:41

Materialist Monism

All is matter, i.e. physical processes, including the mind. What we think of as mental events are nothing but brain processes. Not: caused by or correlated to, but:


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Objection 1: We do not mean brain processes when w

 There is a distinction between fact and meaning. 

For example, when people were unaware of what lightening was they would refer to the God's being angry. That does not mean that lightening is not and electrical charge in the cloud.

Why should the connection not exist just because we aren't aware of it?

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Objection 2: It could be revised

Our ignorance of brain processes does not make it untrue.

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Objection 3: Non-Physical Properties

Objection: If conscious experiences are not separate from brain processes, they must at least be admitted as non-physical properties of brain processes (“double aspect theory”)

Response: Reports of conscious events are Topic-Neutral. 

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Topic Neutrality

“What is going on in me is like what is going on in me when …” E.g., learning about pain by linking it to events (when someone sticks a pin into my leg) E.g., green: when looking If there were experiences with irreducibly mental properties (thus not topic-neutral), the identity thesis would be proven wrong. at a green leaf. We don’t say what is going on.

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Objection 4: Experiences are not physical

Begging the question: just because the experience is not usually reported to be spatial, this does not mean that it is not in fact spatial (topic-neutrality)

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Objection 5: Experiences are Private

If the identity thesis is correct, then experiences are not private. Logically possible, but as a matter of fact impossible.

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Translation vs. Disappearance

nA) translation form (Smart)

  Strict identity, topic-neutrality: if we properly understood what we are saying we would see that mental events could be brain processes.

nB) disappearance form (Rorty)

  not strict identity, but “the sort of relation which obtains between existing entities and non-existing entities.”

nNo topic-neutrality, therefore no need for translations n nSo “X’s are nothing but Y’s” does not entail that all attributes meaningfully predicable of X’s are meaningfully predicated of Y’s.

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nDemons: explanatory and reporting function are taken over by different entities (so we cannot say that demons are “nothing but germs”) n nSensations: explanatory and reporting function are both taken over by the same entity (so we can say that sensations are “nothing but brain processes”, or: what we used to call etc.)

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Two Modes of Identification

nA) identification of observables with other observables

  Example: “Unicorn horns are nothing but narwhal horns”.

nB) Identification of observables with theoretical entities

  Example: “Tables are nothing but clouds of molecules.”

nCase 1: “This is a unicorn horn” is a false proposition. n nCase 2: “This is a table” does not seem to be a false proposition. (Rather, additional information has been gained)

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Privacy Objection

Objection by Kurt Baier. nWe cannot be mistaken about our own experiences: when we think we feel pain, it is “inconceivable” that we are wrong. nRorty: perhaps we don’t know what pain is (misnaming or misjudging)

  Sensation reports must conform to public criteria!

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Experience influenced by Language?

nExperiences influenced by language? n

  Yes! But that radically?

n nImagine instead of ‘tables’ ‘clouds of molecules’: would we then begin to see clouds of molecules?

nSense organs not made for observation of molecules 

  limits influence of language

  Will experience change to such an extent that we won’t feel pain anymore? Hardly likely.

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Mistaken Experience?

nAlso: difference between being mistaken about what we experience and being mistaken about experiencing anything at all!

  Aim of eliminative materialism is to explain consciousness away, which is impossible!

nWe cannot falsely believe in consciousness, because without consciousness we couldn’t believe anything.

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Moral Necessity

nLaws of Nature: what happens nLaws of freedom: what should (necessarily) happen n nMetaphysics of Morals: moral law implies absolute necessity

  “Thou shalt not lie”, for all rational beings!

nAll moral philosophy rests solely on its pure part n nQuestion: What is morally good? nAnswer: only what is done “for the sake of the law”

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The Good Will

n“Nothing in the world – indeed nothing even beyond the world – can possibly be conceived which could be called good without qualification except a good will.” nBecause everything else can be harmful

  - the virtues (courage, perseverance)

  - gifts of nature and fortune

  no intrinsic moral worth, every villain can have them

“The good will is not good because of what it effects or accomplishes or because of its adequacy to achieve some proposed end; it is good only because of its willing, i.e., it is good of itself.”

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Will and Reason

nWill is naturally in accordance with reason nWill means to choose and to act in accordance with reason. nWithout reason there is no will! nBecause the good will is evidently the purpose of the existence of a rational being!


  What is reason good for? Not to secure our happiness (instinct could have achieved that much better).

  Hence it must have a higher and worthier purpose.

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Basic Propositions for Morality

1)In order to have moral worth, an action must be done from duty. 2)An action does not have its moral worth from the purpose that is to be achieved through it, but from the maxim by which it is determined. 3)Duty is the necessity of an action done from respect for the law.

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Categorical Imperative

“Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”

  Or: “Act as though the maxim of your action were by your will to become a universal law of nature.”

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Impersonal Utility

nUtility Principle (Greatest Happiness Principle):

  “the greatest happiness

  of the greatest number”

n nImpersonal: the more happiness there is, the better, doesn’t matter who is happy

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Responsibility for Future Generations

nProblems arising for moral evaluation of actions which influence the lives of future people nWe can do more than influence the fate of future people. We can also influence who is going to live. We do this all the time. nNot contested. n

  Example: radioactive waste has to be securely stored, so that in 10,000 years people will still be protected.

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The Same Number Quality Claim

“If in either of two outcomes the same number of people would ever live, it would be bad if those who live are worse off, or have a lower quality of life, than those who would have lived.”

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Political Decisions

nTwo alternative economic policies: n

  a) Depletion: maintain our standard of living for the next 100 years and accept that then it will drop considerably, or

  b) Conservation: accept a slightly lower standard of living now and thereby secure the same standard for the future

nDifferent policies influence our lives and thereby shape the choices we make, including our reproductive choices. n nSlight initial differences will multiply

  different people will exist!

nA policy of depletion would harm nobody! nNot worse for anyone. nLife still worth living. nNo reason to complain: be grateful instead

nApparently, that morality is not concerned with the welfare of other people (or with protecting them from harm) but rather with the increase of the total happiness or whatever makes a life worth living. nNo matter whose life it is, as long as it is somebody’s.

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Bentham's Hedonic Calculus

n4 Billion, average 10 hedons = 40 billion hedons n8 Billion, average 10 hedons = 80 billion hedons n nNot as happy? (less room, less jobs, more pollution)?

  8 billion, average 5.1 hedons = 40.8 billion hedons

  Decrease of individual happiness is outweighed by the increase in the number of happy (i.e. more happy than unhappy) persons!

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Non Identity + Harm Principle

nHow can an action be wrong if nobody is harmed by it? (Non Identity) The Solution: nGive up the harm principle!

  (“what is bad must be bad for someone”).

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Repugnant Conclusion

n“If other things are equal, the best outcome is the one in which there would be the greatest quantity of whatever makes life worth living.” nIf we reject the repugnant conclusion we must admit that quantity of pleasure is not all we should take into account. n

  Give up the Impersonal Total Principle and adopt the “Impersonal Average Principle”

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Impersonal Average Principle

n“If other things are equal, the best outcome is the one in which there is the greatest average net sum of happiness, per life lived.” n8 billion people world is not better than 4 billion people world if average is the same. n nIncrease or decrease of number makes no difference, unless it affects life quality. n nEven if the total amount of happiness in world A is greater than in world B, B might still be preferable.

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Two Hells Problem

10 innocents        10 m innocents

50 years       50 years minus one day

nWhich hell would be in itself worse? (Which hell would the devil create?) n nOn the Impersonal Average Principle Hell 2 would be preferable. Worse because so many more people sufferBut Hell two is worse. 

Total quantity is important!


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Logical Determinism

nBased on the following principle:

  Every meaningful statement is either true or false. It cannot be neither true nor false.

nBasic logical principle:

  Tertium non datur! (=Principle of Excluded Third, Principle of Excluded Middle)

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nIf it was already true yesterday that you would come here today, then it seems that there is no way you could not have come.

  It would not have been possible.

  For if you hadn’t come, then it would not have been true yesterday that you would come today.

  if true, you had to come!

  if false, you couldn’t come!

nSo if

  a) truth is timeless and

  b) the principle of excluded third obtains,


n   everything that happens must happen.

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nIn so far as for each and every future event it is necessary that it will either happen or not happen. n nBut it is neither necessary that it will happen, nor necessary that it will not happen.

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nYet if it is true today that tomorrow I will do X then it is necessary that I do X, because the statement can only be true today if I actually will do X.

So if it is true today that I will do X, then it is impossible that I won’t do it. Hence, it is necessary that I will.

nIf it is not necessary for me to do X tomorrow, then it cannot be true today that I will do X – even if in fact I will! n Neither can it be false, unless it is impossible for me to do X tomorrow.

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Effects of Determinism

nDeterminism makes no difference for our actions: we must do what we think best. nWe don’t know whether determinism is true. So we should act under the assumption that the future is open. nIf determinism is true, we have to do that anyway!

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The Principle of Sufficient Reason


nNothing happens without a sufficient reason/ cause. nFor each event A there is another event B (or a combination of events) that precedes it and fully explains why A had to happen. nEx nihilo nihil fit: out of nothing, nothing comes.

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Buridan's Ass

nSituation seems to be an ideal test case for free will. As long as haystacks have different sizes, there is a reason for preferring one over the other. n


  Driven by his hunger and the availability of food

nWhere there are reasons, a string puppet donkey is indistinguishable from an agent with free will. n nIn other words: the donkey doesn’t need free will to act. Neither do we. Free will not needed as an explanatory principle.

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Achilles and the Tortoise

nIf space is indefinitely divisible, then how is it possible to get from A to B? n

  For in order to get from A to B, we need to cover an infinite number of distances.

  But covering an infinite number of distances seems to require an infinite amount of time.

  So we could not get from A to B in finite time.

nTime consists of moments. nMoments are points in time. nPoints have no extension.            WHY? n

  The present – the now – is nothing but the timeless (atemporal) point of intersection between past and future

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Proof for Contradictions in Time

nIf the present were in time (i.e. had temporal extension), then there would be earlier and later stages in it. nBut both the earlier and later stages are supposed to be present, that is to happen simultaneously. nBut to say that what happens earlier is simultaneous to what happens later is a contradiction.


  the present has no temporal extension.

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Impossibility of Movement

nNo object can move at any given moment in time. nTherefore the flying arrow is at rest at every single moment of its flight. nBut if it is at rest at all times, how (when) can it move at all?

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John Stewart Mill

nConfusion between indefinite divisibility and infinity: n

  an indefinitely divisible space is not an infinite space (in the sense that it cannot be covered in any finite period of time), nor an indefinitely divisible time an infinite time.

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Henri Bergson

space may be indefinitely divisible, but actions and movements are not!

  Achilles’s steps and the tortoise’s steps are both simple, individual acts and cannot be projected onto a common spatial measure.

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McTaggart's Positions in Time (B Series)

  1) earlier and later (B-series)

nPermanent order nRelations don’t change nTransitive and asymmetrical n

  If x is earlier than y then it will always be earlier (e.g. Blair always precedes Brown and Brown Cameron)

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McTaggart's Positions in Time (A Series)

nSubjective experience, from within nEvery event, at any time, is either past, present or future. nPositions change permanently: events pass from the distant future into the present into the distant past (getting more distant every second)

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Proof for the Unreality of Time

1)A-series is essential for time, B-series alone cannot generate temporal relations 2)Positioning events in the A-series leads to contradictions. 3)Nothing contradictory can be real. 4) Therefore time does not exist

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Essential A Series

nTime involves change. Without change no time. nB-series permits no change: every event has a fixed position, which it never leaves, and always remains the same. nEverything that is true of an event is always true. nAll that can change about an event is its position in the A-series (future becomes present, then past) nSince no time without change, B-series without A-series no temporal series at all! (1,2,3, …, co-existent) nOnly in combination with the A-series the B-series becomes temporal.

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Contradictory A Series

nNo event can be past, present and future because they are mutually exclusive (being present means being not future and not past). nBut all events are past, present and future. Every present event once was future and soon will be past.

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Objection to Contradiction

nIt is not claimed that each event is simultaneously past, present, and future, but successively. nAt every single moment, an event is always either past, present or future. So there is no contradiction

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McTaggart's Reply

nCircular argument: existence of time (A-series) presupposed. nProblem was: How can mutually exclusive attributes like past, present, and future exist in the same thing? nSolution suggests that present event was future and will be past, i.e., it is present now, was future in the past, and will be past in the future.

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