Philosophy AS (tolerance, morality, epistemology, art) Pros and Cons

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Tolerance - Tolerant Society Advantages

The Tolerant Society - Advantages

  • Tolerant societies encourage moral innovation and so, because of this, are more likely to identify the best ways to arrange and manage society.
  • Societies are more likely to display moral virtues such as robustness, confidence, creativity, dynamism and adaptability if they are tolerant. Mill's example of China in stagnation and decline (morally, culturally, and materially) illustrates the effects of failing to promote diversity and tolerance.
  • Tolerance is the most effective strategy for producing the greatest happiness for the greatest number as individuals are free to pursue their own projects with interference. (Utilitarinism)
  • Tolerant societies recognise that persons are autonomous centres of value that demand respect.
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Tolerance - Tolerant Society Disadavantages

The Tolerant Society - Disadavantages

  • Tolerant societies permit immorality and so will be less moral than societies that do not.
  • Tolerance can lead to the degeneration of social consensus and the replacement of moral order with disorder. Tolerant societies lack moral fibre.
  • Most people are happiest when they are not challenged by alternatives. Why tolerate unhappiness? Diversity just leads to individual anomie.
  • Tolerant societies assume everyone is equally capable of making judgements and determining their lives, which is not the case. What is required is moral authority, not tolerance.
  • You can't compare a society with another in terms of moral superiority so it's nonsense to suppose that tolerant societies are 'morally superior' and ought to be nurtured.
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Should we tolerate unpopular lifestyles and cultur

Should we tolerate unpopular lifestyles and cultural expressions?

Arguments for:

  • In the interest of overall social and economic progress, for both individuals and for society as a whole, we should tolerate alternative views and lifestyles - as long as pursuing thos alternatives does not harm anyone else (and perhaps views are of less potential harm than ways of life). Mill's liberal utilitarinism - the harm principle and his notion of 'experiments in living' - could provide grounds for this.
  • Individuals have rights in virtue of being persons that demand they are free to exercise their reason, make choices and act upon them, autonomously - all of which requires mutual tolerance. Tolerance is entailed by a commitment to autonomy of the individual. These 'rights as persons' could be seen  as divinely ordained, or have a Kantian foundation in reason, or they might be posited rights by utilitarinism.  
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Should we tolerate unpopular lifestyles and cultur

Should we tolerate unpopular lifestyles and cultural expressions?

Arguments against:

  • The traditions and customs upheld by the majority are the fabric that binds society together. A society of shared norms and aspirations is a necessary condition for human flourishing. Morality in thought and deed is not a 'private matter' and tolerating alternatives inevitably disintegrates social bonds - and so should not be encouraged. We should voluntarily subjugate our individual views and lifestyle choices to the general will and to the community morals, values and customs.
  • We should tolerate truth and eliminate falsehood. The truth can be (or sometimes is) known. AS such, whether the majority or minority hold a view or participate in a particular lifestyle is not the issue. Do the right thing. Live in the right way.  
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Moral - Contractualism Advantages

Contractualism - Advantages

  • Explains why we should be moral and not break the law - because we've made a promise which gives rise to obligation.
  • Ring of Gyges - if people could act imorally and get away with it then they would (supports ethical egoism).
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Moral Contractualism Disadavantages 1

Contractualism - disadavantages

  • Rather than explaining morality, the idea of a 'conventional agreement' presupposes a moral framework or a morality 'higher' than that of the conventional agreement. Morality cannot come from the conventional agreement because 1) Ethical egoist think that their self interest is of higher moral value, they made the contract to protect their moral interest so it must presuppose it. 2) You can dissent from the contract on moral grounds so the morality must come from somewhere else, e.g. stealing bread to feed your starving family. 3) We need to have morals to have thought about morals in the first place i.e. that you ought not to disobey the contract. 4) We must have pre-exisiting moral values to put in a contract and want to protect. 5) There aren't any universal moral principles so morality cannot be constituted by one contract.
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Moral - Contractualism Disadavantages 2

Contractualism - disadvantages (cont)

  • There is no evidence that a conventional agreement was ever made and commonly there is no freedom to opt out of the supposed contract. Hypothetical and tacit consent does not generate obligations that actually exist.  Cannot promise to go to a party if you never knew it existed, they just assumed you would say yes.
  • Even if it were a fact that there was agreement, could the fact of the agreement require us - morally speaking - to honour our agreement? There are examples oh higher moral callings e.g. ethical egoism - ring of Gyges
  • If morality is merely conventional then moral judgements can only ever be relative to convention - this is both undesirable and counter-intuitive. There aren't any universal moral values. If this is true then how could someone say that there moral contract is of higher value to a different social group, it is saying that their moral values must come from somewhere else.
  • Morality is not required by conventional agreement but is determined by, for example, God, or natural law, or human nature, or reason. Moral duties and obligations are not part of a convention but are real and universal and given by God/nature.
  • Our understanding of morality emerges out of a history of experience, not an idealised cluster of 'rules'. Morality is a skill which can be improved with practice, it is an expression of our character and virtues but should always be subject to questioning, and never merely dependant on some conventional agreement. 
  • Treating morality as 'advantageous' fails to understand what morality is. Morality must involve some concern or sympathy for others.
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Moral - Contractualism Disadavantages 3

Contractualism - disadvantages (cont2)

  • Our understanding of morality emerges out of a history of experience, not an idealised cluster of 'rules'. Morality is a skill which can be improved with practice, it is an expression of our character and virtues but should always be subject to questioning, and never merely dependant on some conventional agreement. 
  • Treating morality as 'advantageous' fails to understand what morality is. Morality must involve some concern or sympathy for others.
  • A conventional agreement that applies to all regardless of whether they actually agree constitues a 'tyranny of the majority'. This makes the conventional agreement a major threat to freedom of individuals and minorities. It seems odd that a conventional agreement being made in freedom should end up impinging on the freedom of others.
  • Morality - in the sense put forward in the claim - is not mutually advantageous at all, but it is merely advantageous for some or is more advantageous for some and less more others, e.g. the agreement is patriachal so benefits men more or at least differently to women, e.g. differing attitudes to male and female sexual morality.
  • Does that idea of a contract mean that outsiders to the contract, for example those who cannot express consent (e.g. children, mentally or intellectually disabled, people in comas etc), have no moral rights?
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Moral - Contractualism Disadavantages 4

Contractualism - disadvantages (cont3)

  • Even supporters of the contract cannot agree on the nature of the contract, everything is in dispute so the question of what is moral is left open by contract theories.
  • What about citizens of other states and future states? Do we not have to be moral to them (and vice versa) because they are not part of our contract.
  • Conventional agreement favour the weak and disable the strong - Nietsche. 'Slave morality' opposes 'master morality'.
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Moral - Virtue Theory Advantages

Virtue Theory - advantages

  • Give motivation to act morally (con to deontology)
  • Still involve doing things for others and having compassion (con to contract)
  • Virtue ethics can fit well with a variety of philosophies. For example, a humanist view, which holds that there is no God but that humanity holds the key to its own success, could readily adopt a system of morality which had no need for a divine law-giver or sense of obligation to a creator. But virtue ethics can also harmonise well with, for example, a Christian view of living in the imitation of Christ as the prime example of virtue, and of developing faith, hope and love as 'cardinal virtues'; or with the Buddhist view of adopting the 'Middle Way' between extremes.
  • The system can be readily understood and simply applied. Instead of adopting a complicated way of calculating the likely outcome of one's actions, for example, a person could aim to be good and do what a good person would do - something even a child could understand.
  • Virtue ethics is based on the welfare of the whole community, and therefore is a good way for people to live together without anyone trying to impose on anyone else.
  • Although the system is based on ideals, in is not unrealistic, because it looks to actual examples or virtuous people; it can therefore be seen to have attainable targets. Its aim is to achieve something which people genuinely want (eudaimonia), rather than being based on the arguably incoherent ideas about the after-life.                                                                      
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Moral- Virtue Theory Disadvantages

Virtue Theory - Disadvantages

  • Doesn't give guidance on exactly what do in situations, must fall back on deontology, e.g. abortion of baby with severe handicap.
  • What happens when virtues conflict? e.g. loyalty to friend vs. honnesty, mercy vs. justice.
  • How do you establish which patterns in behaviour, desire and feeling are to count as virtues. (virtue theorist would say those which a human needs to flourish but this doesn't really give much help). Lists are made individually but there is not complete overlap, so there is room to debate about what's a virtue.
  • If above is the case, virtue theorists can redefine virtues to things they like and vices to things they don't.
  • If people decide that things considered virtuous in a particular society, then a conservatist theory emerges, with little scope for changing that society on moral grounds.
  • Virtue theory presupposes that there is such thing as human nature and so that there are general patterns in behaviour and feeling appropriate for everyone.
  • Aristotle's 'Golden Mean' does not work for every type of virtue e.g. promise keeping, compassion, loyalty. Also, where between the two extremes does the virtue lie?
  • Virtue is too similar to rules and principles. We only know that generosity is a virtue because we recognise the principle that we have a duty to those less fortunate.
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Moral - Deontology Advantages

Deontology Advantages

  • Duty versus desire - morality is not merely about satisfying desires, it must surely be about constraint of our desire in some cases.
  • Universaliability - morality is beyond personal desires, it is beyond even the personal because it is universal
  • Autonomy - the idea of human autonomy and, associated with it, human dignity seems relevant when considering morality.
  • Absolutism - There are many cases where we are likely to agree with Kant that moral rules are (or perhaps should be) absolute. They are not merely a matter of emotion, nor are they merely culturally dependent.
  • Rights - The idea of human rights - e.g. right to freedom, right to life, right to express opinions - can be developed from Kant's ideas of autonomy and dignity and ideas of human rights are common to many modern forms of moral and political consciousness. It is worth noting here that the individual human rights has its origins in God-given rights (e.g. American Declaration of Independence) but more modern forms of rights theory tend towards an idea of human rights which are dependent not upon God but on the natural rights of humans as humans. Of course, there are those such as utilitarian Jeremy Bentham who have argued that rights are nonsense and that natural rights are 'nonsense on stilts'.  
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Moral - Deontology Disadvantages

Deontology - Disadavantages

  • The recognition of moral duties is not sufficient to motivate us to perform them. If it were sufficient then we could not account for moral weakness or moral wickedness.
  • Conflicting duties - Inquiring murderer (absurd)
  • There is tension between the autonomous rational will (which acts on reason and duty) and the lower self (which acts out of self-interest).
  • We might know that we should respect persons as ends-in-themselves but we cannot determine what this means in practice without some reference to interest and consequences
  • Self-interest cannot be irrelevant in imperfect duties (e.g. developing talents, helping others) even if it is irrelevant in the case of perfect duties.
  • Kant is too rigid and insensitive to feelings or circumstances: adherence to moral imperatives (always...never...) may seem absurd in some situations or simply appear to be the wrong motivation. Kant thinks emotions are irrelevant to morality, many people think compassion, sympathy, guilt etc are central to morality.
  • There is a problem of conflicting duties - not all moral dilemmas can be resolved without some reference to interests and consequences.
  • Takes no account for consequence. If a well meaning idiot caused multiple deaths, Kant says they are not culpable. (Opposite is consequentialism)
  • In virtue ethics, that acting virtuously or doing the right thing is both moral and in our interests.
  • The rational egoist has the idea that alturism, at least in some cases, can ultimately be in our interests.  
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Art - Expressivism Advantages

  • Provides account of why we value art that doesn't seem to inform us e.g. difficult to claim music informs us but can often be very moving emotionally.
  • Provides account for why we value lots of modern art, especially abstract which doesn't seem to immitate and may well not represent or inform in the conventional sense.
  • Expressivism doesn't make representation irrelevant as there is often a relationship between what is being expressed and how something is being represented e.g. Tolystoy Contagion Theory, art is communicated from artist to person etc through emotion but what is being communicated is more important.
  • We often agree about the right emotion or feeling in an art work
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Art - Expressivism Disadvantages

  • Do artworks actually have expressive qualities or is this to be understood metaphorically? Only sentient beings can have emotions so how can non-sentient art works carry these emotions and feelings if not literally.(Represents perhaps as previous experience tells us sadness for example, but then would Amazonians find it sad?)
  • Is it even necessary for artist to experience the emotions which the art work arouses. (Can be answered with representation)
  • Does it matter what type of emotion is in the art, bad = suicide (Goethe's Werther), Tolystoy said art which promoted lower feelings was 'bad art'. Compare the music of Mozart which is said to be 'elevating', 'sublime' and 'tranquil'.
  • Doesn't explain conceptual art (which is specifically designed not to include aesthetic or emotive qualities. (Although, one might say that conceptual art just isn't art.)
  • Expressivism can see art work as culturally specific - only people of the same cultural will feel the emotions in the artwork, e.g. Wester world sees Romeo and Juliet as star crossed lovers, Islamic world would see it as dishonour to families.
  • If 'death of the author' is true then any emotions will do and the audience must decide the emotion, it seems counter-intuitive, why would you bother producing the art.
  • Why do we value ancient egyptian artwork if we don't know the artist's intentions.
  • The Intentional Fallacy (undermines hard expressivism and Collingwood), how can we know if it was the artist's sole intentions to express themselves if we cannot know for sure what they're thinking. We can only evaluate the fabricated artwork and not the idea that generated it. (Counter arguement that the idea is self-evident and the fact we don't know for certain is beside the point)
  • The Pathetic Fallacy - the attribution of humanising, sentient traits to inanimate things. How exactly do we bottle up the emotions, at best it's a metaphor.
  • Anit-essentialism - art is so diverse, it's  impossible to give it all just one definition.
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Art - Informativism Advantages

  • As informativism says that art can 'stand in for' reality in a literal (mimesis) or metaphorical (representational or symbolic) way, it benefits from the virtue of simplicity.
  • Informativism presupposes that art will be about something in the world (as art is 'standing in') so we gain knowledge about the world. Art works aren't about expressing an emotion but telling the communicating to the audience a prior experience (Munch's 'Scream). Explain's why we value conceptual art (Duchamp's 'Fountain') - the value is in the aboutness.
  • Explains why some art can be called true. This can be interpreted literally (painting has a likeness to a real object, book accurately describes real life) or metaphorically (art captures something 'truthful' about something. Tolystoy said art's metaphorical truth should refer to moral truths or about truths of psychological insight about the human condition or experience (rings true).
  • The theory explains why art is uniquely informative, because the information about the world given to the audience is a special 'aesthetic' understanding. The experience you get from an art work is uniquely valuable that you cannot get from anywhere else.
  • It accounts for the fact we readily understand the author's intentions in artworks and can agree about what those intentions are.
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Art - Informativism Disadvantages

  • Not all art can be evaluated in terms of truth e.g. music or abstract art (if it doesn't express truth, it is not art?)
  • If there is value in mimesis then a photograph is worth more than a painting and fakes are just as valuable as originals. (Doesn't apply to representationalism)
  • Method acting doesn't necessarily have more value than normal acting. Plato said also that actors playing bad characters could turn them bad e.g. Heath Ledger as Joker
  • Mimesis implies that art has instrumental value which is always trumped by intrinsic value as it cannot be substituted.
  • Barthes' death of the author problem also applies to informativism - if the artist drops out of the equation and the audience can make up anything they like about the art work then we can get anything we like out of anything so 'art' also drops out of the equation.
  • Anti-essentialism - art is too broad to have one theory defining it.
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Art - Formalism Advantages

  • Formalism gives art intrinsic value which is always valued more than instrumental value. This is the main strength because any theory of valuing art must show the thing in question (artwork) has value.
  • A comprehensive theory will suggest a necessary condition that all artworks must possess to be accorded art status. Not all artworks are expressive or representational so they cannot be said to be necessary conditions, but Formalism says that all genuine artworks possess form, which is a necessary condition and explains why we value them.
  • Significant form adds in the sufficient part as surely everything contain form.
  • Formalism also explains why we value art with ideas that are now considered obsolete, e.g. ancient Egyptian religion where the scientific explanations are now considered completley obsolete but are now considered works of literature.
  • We can appreciate the 'aesthetic way' of the art in the real world, while being disinterested in the 'aesthetic way' in the imagination.
  • We can appreciate the artworks independentley of the content (ideas) or feelings/emotions of either artist or viewer.
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Art - Formalism Disadvantages

  • Circular arguement: Artworks are identified by sensitive critics, sensitive critics are people who can identify true artworks.
  • How can we trust the sensitive critic if many (in the artworld) disagree with each other about whether an artwork has significant form or judge that an artwork does have significant form when it turns out to be a fake.
  • Also, is there even anything that can be universally judged as aesthetically pleasing?
  • Formalism claims that the emotional and cognitive content of an artwork is irrelevant to the works value (formalism states that form is the only necessary condition). It seems stupid to think the emotional content of Guernica is irrelevant to its value, surely there must be some link to the world somewhere in the artwork.
  • If form is the only thing we value then forgeries should be valued as much as originals.
  • Some artworks are critised as having more focus on style rather than content and if formalism was true then this wouldn't exist.
  • Anti-essentialsm
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Epistemology - Rationalism Advantages

  • You can't always trust sense experience because 1) illusions e.g. stick in water looks bent, Muller-Lyre lines, railway tracks which appear to meet in the distance 2) the dreaming argument - dreams often appear undistinguishable from reality and you can get well ordered sense experience from reality, so how do you know whats real? 3) The Evil Demon  - There is no external world, people objects nor external reality, just you and the demon (modern update is brain in a vat).
  • Descarte's The Wax Block - Consider a wax block with various qualities such as hardenss, temperature, texture, smell, taste and colour. When it is heated it loses all those qualities. According to our senses, it has changed completley so it cannot be from our senses alone that we know it is the same wax block.
  • Leibniz's Necessary and Contingent propostions - Contingent propositions are those which the opposite is impossible. Necessary propostions are those which the opposite is impossible without contradiction. Necessary truths are known a priori because you don't need to go and test the theory because the opposite is impossible e.g. all bachelors are unmarried
  • Missing shade of blue/Principle of Uniformity in Nature/Causation
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Epistemology - Rationalism Disadvantages

  • Samuel Parker (criticism of Innatism) - Innate knowledge is not automatically true or necessary, so it was not better than a priori knowledge. (It was taken for granted that if God put innate knowledge in us then its falsehood would be unthinkable.)
  • John Locke - Just because everyone has a principle, does not mean it is innate, it could come from somewhere else (biology for Nativists). Anyway, he argued that there aren't any principles universal to everyone.
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Epistemology - Empiricism Advantages

  • Ockham's razor - Empiricism is more simple than Kant (although not as complete).
  • Hume's copy theory - Impressions are what we get directly from sense experience, Ideas are what we get from reflecting on those impressions. Everything is from sense experience. Leibniz's necessary propositions were a priori but not innate and they were also ultimately based on sense experience (have to earn through experience what 'bachelor' actually means).
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Epistemology - Empiricism Disadvantages

  • The missing shade of blue - Imagine a blue colour chart where all the shades are there except one. It is suggested that you can mentally supply the missing shade without having seen it, this would be to have the idea before the corresponding impression (the sense perception). 
  • The principle of uniformity in nature - Induction tells us that because something has happened (perhaps several times) in the past, it will happen again in the future - but how can we be sure of this. We cannot know for sure that something will happen in the future from deduction of past events without some underlying a priori concepts. A priori concepts tell you that you can assume future events from past sense experience.
  • Causation - We see billiard balls move across the table. We think we see the white ball strike the black ball and cause it to move but Hume says that what we actually see is small round objects moving, one after the other. Mentally we read cause and effect into what our senses actually deliver to us. But cause and effect is not empirically given. (Hume says it was constant conjunction but how is it possible to understand that we are seeing linked events before we have experienced sufficient 'constant conjunction' to make such an inference.
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Epistemology - Kant/Conceptual Schemes Advantages

  • More complete on Ockham's razor (although less simple).
  • Solves causation - causation is one of the categories of the understanding.
  • Jerry Fodor argued that we are born with a language of thought which gives us a concepts and processes necessary for understanding language.
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Epistemology - Kant/Conceptual schemes Disadvantag

  • Do different cultures have different conceptual schemes as they seem to have different views and ways of looking at things e.g. Roman's sexual identity was only active or passive, people in tribes see a drawn 3D staircase only as a 2D geometrical shape.
  • If this is true then is the concept conjured up when someone of a certain culture says a word in their language the same as the same concept in a different language, e.g. bread, pain & brot. (Davidson says that the fact that people of different cultures and languages can understand each other suggests that we all do have the same conceptual scheme).
  • However, we'll never know anyway because we can never know for sure what is going on inside the heads of others, you can only infer from what goes on inside your own.
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