Sunday, May 18, 2008

Welcome to THINK Forum: a Normal approach to philosophical dialogue!

So the title is kind of lame. Understandable. Normal, get it? Ha. Ha. So, if anyone has any brilliant creative strokes of genius, title-wise, let me know in the comments.

Anyway, the blog is meant to serve as a central database for the problems, dilemmas, and discourses we currently participate in, in many disparate forums of communication. Instead of having to explain the same problem or question to five different people in IM windows, you can write it here and direct people to the comments area for discussion/further exposition.

This is not meant to serve as a substitute for face-to-face communication -- rather, it's a supplement, especially for those I see already making lengthy posts on their own blogs, journals, and facebooks, and those I've talked with in AIM, etc. It's never clear that these posts will be read by those we want to read them -- namely, philosophy students who might actually be interested and motivated enough to read these posts and provide helpful feedback and discussion. Plus, once it's posted, it's there, so if someone is too busy to listen to you now, they can read your ideas later, instead of dropping the subject.

I'm sending out invites to become "authors" on the blog -- this gives you posting rights. Unfortunately, there's no way to enable anonymous posting, but signing up is a small hump, as you can create a blogger account through any Google account you have. So if you have Gmail, you're set already. If you want rights and I haven't sent you one, e-mail me at causallyirrelevant at gmail dot com (spelled out to avoid spam bots) and let me know who you are.

I'm not inviting any teachers, simply cause I think it'd be awkie (to borrow from Andrew). I think we should have the opportunity to develop and mature with other students, and not feel afraid to make mistakes -- a fear that often makes students tentative about expressing their opinions and ideas aloud during classes, etc. Then we can argue against them all better, heh.

As with any blogger blog, you can opt to subscribe by RSS to THINK, which gives you a feed (in firefox, you can use live bookmarks, which gives titles of all recent posts when you mouseover the site -- or there are numerous RSS readers out there). I recommend it as an easy way to see new posts. It's a good timesaver.

When you go to post, there's a title box, a body text area, and a box for "labels for this post". It's a tag box. I tagged this post "metablogging, philosophy, Michelle" (without quotes). Say you're doing a post on metaethics - specifically, the Open Question Argument. You could tag it "metaethics, Moore, nonnaturalism, OQA", etc. Whatever you think would be helpful in classifying the post. Then if you do a series of posts on the same topic, and tag them the same way, people can helpfully access them by clicking your tag. Or... well, there's a million uses for tags. If I tag my name to every post, then people can just check out my posts. And so on. Go wild.

Feel free to use the place as your philosophical soapbox, talk about methodology, whatever -- but let's not bring personal attacks on other students, faculty, departments, or universities here. Keep that to your personal pages and such.

Whew. I think maybe that's it. Here goes nothing. :)

3 comments:

D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neil' said...

OK, how better (?) to start off a philosophical dialogue than to get to the beginning of it all: "why is there something instead of nothing" - and, "why is it like this?" (and is there more?) Let me then present a sort of "proof of god" in the tradition of Paul Davies, rather than religious revelation. First, we live in a "particular world" with particular traits. To me, that violates a sort of problem of existential selection: why this instead of some other possible world?

I don't see any logical reason to expect any world "in particular" - that means, any one world as being "what ought to exist." But that doesn't mean we can't seek logical implications of the idea that - because no one example can be preferred - then, they all exist! (I didn't invent this at all, it is part of a train of thought involved in "modal realism" - look that up, and see Paul Davies as noted. Frank Tipler does a great takedown of the idea that we can logically explain "material existence" as a distinction apart from the mathematical description of that existence.)

Proceeding: If logic and things being on their own - no "management" in effect- is all that applies, then realness becomes so unhinged that there is no basis for expecting order. Yes, we need to be in a world allowing us to exist, but consider the expectations (Bayesian - what you have a right to expect as probable, given some starting point.) For example, there are more ways for a world to exist with disordered futures from this point on (changing laws for example, which are just as describable as unchanging ones - just more complicated.) That means, we ought to find ourselves in such a world rather than this one. (Point well made by Philosopher Keith Ward, see e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modal_realism.)

But our universe has an order, and it is life-friendly as well. If modal realism and MUH is rejected, we need something to make order, so to speak. Some will call that God, which as used in philosophical tradition is OK with me. I think of God, as the one thing which really did have to exist. But that couldn't have been a particular thing, with particular features, like our universe. The latter has the problem of logical selection (why a square instead of a triangle, as noted.)

If you say, God would have to be a particular something? Well, no it wouldn't. Like Hegel's Absolute, it must combine al ideas and essences, and their relations. I don't really know, but God has to *not be* like any particular thing, in order to be truly transcendent and above all the manifestations. That is the "philosopher's God", also taught to the top level in the mystery schools, etc.

That "God" doesn't have to be like a person, it could be primordial ideas (after all, if physicists get away with saying the universe is an expression of "beauty" or "elegance", why not "purpose" too?) But since it incorporates "all", it must have some of personhood in it anyway. Objection - so God has everything, so He is evil as well as good? No, since the all, includes the properties of all and their relations. The bad is known as "bad" (whatever that means.)

I don't consider any of this a proof. We just have to live with not being able to prove it one way or the other. So the issue IMHO is, are you willing to speculate and accept a good-sounding argument, or must we have to live with what we can see? I'm OK with people doing the latter, but I defend the legitimacy of the former. And any further religious implications go beyond such basic arguments about existence.

D said...

My, my... we just keep running into each other! :D

You wrote quite a bit, and I feel a bit like a kid in a candy story trying to decide what I want for my after-school snack. So here's a little bit in response to everything, and I guess we can go in-depth down one rabbit-hole at a time. Your pick!

Why is there something instead of nothing? Causally, because of the properties of reality; purposively, I think that's a flawed question (we must first ask whether there is a purpose to there being something rather than nothing, before we can begin to ask what that purpose might be).

Why is it like this? Because it is, of course. And see above. Why this instead of some other possible world? Same answer: because it is, I don't know, and flawed question.

Your second paragraph seems to dance around the anthropic principle, which I've yelled about here. And just so you know, not all my posts are like that! I only busted out the harsh invective as a two-time joke, so take all the cussin' with a shaker fulla salt.

"[W]e ought to find ourselves in such a world rather than this one." Based on what? Chance? What if we just "got lucky" by being in this Universe? (Answer: then we just got lucky, and there's no significance beyond that - sometimes, the truth is stupid).

Why must order be made? Why can it not just exist? If God is order, and God can just exist without being made, then I see no reason for order to require an origin beyond itself. If God can just exist, in other words, then why can't other things? Please note that "because that's how God is," without showing me an actual god and explaining how you have observed that god's properties to arrive at your conclusion, will be treated as mere speculation and not an actual answer.

By the way, speculating is fine! It's just not knowledge.

Your philosopher's god seems like more metaphysical handwaving. It seems to be, "I don't know, therefore God." I, on the other hand, don't want to start believing things without reasons, so I say, "I don't know, therefore I'll not form any beliefs at all about this, or at least realize that my beliefs are mere speculations if I can't help believing anyway, and I'll look for a better replacement ASAP."

If you say that God is beyond understanding, then how can you distinguish this god from a nonsense god? Let's posit "god prime," or "gord" for fun. I say that gord cannot be understood, cannot be questioned, but is merely a placeholder name for that which is at the root of everything. Well, in the first place, we haven't even established whether there is such a root or not, so we've already made a misstep. In the second place, since gord is just a placeholder name, we really can't say whether gord is conscious, still around, or even aware of us. And I should hope it obvious that trying to tie gord to any Earthly religion is a fool's errand.

As for your last bit, you really hit the nail on the head with the point about us being unable to prove it one way or the other (so far, to the best of our ability to tell, etc.)! However, when we live with what we can see, we give ourselves the ability to figure out what we see and why we see it and how it works and so on. In short, science gets results.

What results has your "good-sounding argument" variety of religion achieved? What invention have we received from this or that religion? Civilizations have cropped up all over no matter what religion was present, but no religion has ever invented any device that has ever improved the lives of people in any way (I don't count "living with uncertainty by pretending it's not there" as help - this is self-deception). Science gives you the multimeter, religion gives you the E-meter (it plays at function, but actually does nothing).