Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Confusing Every and Only

I’ve thought about starting making videos on Youtube.  I don’t know how to edit and I know making a “theatric” or visually appealing video is time consuming, but I think I might start just to make introduction to logic videos.  My first idea was to explain a very basic concept in logic.  And that is that every x and only x are very different things.

POP QUIZ:  If I were, in theory, a racist, and as two Australian men walked by my house I remarked, “only Australian people are criminals.”  Would this, were it to be true, be sufficient to know whether they were criminals?

A – Yes
B – No

The answer is No.  For the statement, “only Australian people are criminals,” says nothing about these two Australian gentleman.  It only indicates that they could be criminals.  Not that they necessarily are.  If I saw two Arabic gentlemen walk by my house, and if the proposition “only black people are criminals,” were true, then I knew they couldn’t be criminals because they weren’t black.  In theory, there could be only one criminal in the world.

Now, remove the above statement and replace it with, “all black people are criminals.”  If the statement were true then what would we know about a black man and a white man walking past us?

A – Neither are criminals
B – Both are criminals
C – We know the black man is a criminal but know nothing of the white man
D – We know the white man is a criminal but know nothing of the black man

The answer is C.  For if the statement were true, and if the man is black, then to have the statement both be true and the black man not be a criminal is a logical impossibility.  However, just knowing all black people to be criminals (in theory of course) says nothing about the criminality of people of different races.  Every black and white person could be a criminal.  Every black person and all white people save one could be criminals.

Now, take the statements above and combine them.  All black people are criminals, and only black people are criminals.  Apply this to the same scenario as above and answer the same question:

A – Both are criminals
B – We know the black person is a criminal but don’t know if the white person is
C – We don’t know if either are criminals
D – We know the black person is a criminal and the white person isn’t

The answer is D.  For if both statements are true then we not only know that any black person is a criminal (from the all statement), we know that any other person who is non-black cannot be a criminal (from the only statement).

Adam from YMS, Ben from the Drunken Peasants and numerous others commit the logical error of mistaking “all” and “only” statements.  Logic is important.  Though I can’t ground that statement in pure logic to know that it’s necessarily true.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Most Valuable Construct in Logic

Of all the tools in a logician’s tool kit, the material conditional or “if, then” is the most invaluable.  Unless the Rationalists of the Early Modern Era of Continental Philosophy are correct, very little has been demonstrated using pure logic.  And considering it doesn’t implicitly follow that what you or I see, hear, taste, smell and touch is “objective reality,” we don’t know anything certain from the senses either.  If the senses are valid (valid in this sense meaning a reliable way of ascertaining information of the “real world”) then the knowledge the senses give us are valid.  However, there’s no way of knowing, i.e. scientific anti-realism.  If human autonomy is something that should be respected, then slavery is wrong for it is in direct violation of basic human autonomy.  But do we know for a certain fact that human autonomy is something that is an ethical imperative?  Or do we feel such is the case because of moral intuition rather than from pure reason?
Human beings have to make choices, even if their choices lead them to pursue a course of action that has the intention to no longer make other choices.  Even lying in bed refusing to do something is a choice that has implicit “if, then” presumptions contained within said choice.  The Stoic Philosopher Epictetus said, “first decide who you want to be, then act accordingly.”  This is an example of a “if, then” statement with certain implicit values.  First off, it assumes that what we ought to do is determined by who we want to be.  Or determined by the type of life we want to live.  This of course is what is assumed in Virtue Ethics which predominated Ancient Greece.  But if we presume this, and if being this ideal person can be realized (or an approximation can be realized) by my actions is assumed, it does follow that I should act in a way that would realize this self I desire.  I was going to type “this self I desire for myself” but this is another assumption that one could argue assumes Egoism.  One could in theory wish an ideal self to be realized with different motives in mind.  But a Divine Command Theorist would say that who you want to be has nothing at all to do with what you ought to do.  A Consequentialist and Deontologist would agree and say that who you ought to aspire to be has to do with the realization of their ethical theories rather than who you want to be.
What starting premises we assume is totally up to us (whether it’s predetermined or we have free will or Compatibilism is true or whatever the case might be), but what the conclusions are is determined by logic.  The logical conclusions that typically have numerous assumptions that are unstated.  If all people are evil then we should kill everyone might sound sound to some but might sound ludicrous to others.  One must assume not only that everyone is evil (which is certainly debatable) but that we should kill the evil.  This assumption was unstated but its validity is just as important as whether or not a person is evil in the decision of whether or not they should be killed.

One could ask what about one of the few things I claim certain knowledge of?  Namely that a tree cannot be all red and all green simultaneiously.  This is irrespective of whether trees exist or not, or any other question that is irrelevant to the question at hand.  To be all red is to be consisting of no other colors.  If a tree could be all red and polka dots of red and blue at the same time then the very concept of being all red becomes meaningless.  And logic no longer becomes a tool which is operating under its proper purview.  To say that a tree can be all red and all green is worse in my mind then saying “if all the trees in the world are tall then we should chop them all down.” Because though the latter seems absurd in theory one could put a number of conditionals on it to make it logically valid, even though it seems likely to us that a number of those conditionals would not be true.  One can create an “absurd valid” argument using valid reasoning but premises which to us seem (or let’s assume, are) patently nonsensical because they contradict our senses.  But in another dimension let’s say, Doc Brown could be a mad man rather than a brilliant scientist (or both) and coffee could be the favorite drink of our velociraptor overlords.  Essentially every observalbel “fact” of our world does not follow from reason just as our sensory world being mind-independent reality in no way follows from reasoning.  In fact, though I disagree with Berkeley’s conclusions, he argues we can conclude that what we know is that we see is not mind independent rather than that it is.  My point is if knowledge of these things are important to you (if knowledge of these things and being a reasonable person is something you aspire towards, to take a page from Epictetus) then it is important to recognize the difference between what follows from reason and what knowledge we get from our senses.  Both are invaluable tools in essentially every philosopher’s arguments and in daily conversation.  Every political and religious discussion involves a combination of sense-data and reasoning.  When you look for errors in someone’s arguments try to see if you disagree with their data, their reasoning, or both.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Good Place as a Kantian Work

I love The Good Place.  It is funny and well written.  A lot of the humor is fairly simple but that doesn’t stop it from being funny (what?  A cactus?  That’s not a file!  Janet!).  But more than that I love that it teaches ethics while simultaneously demonstrating that people of our generation care more about a person’s moral’s (motives in their behavior) than their faith.  The fact that in the modern era it’s less controversial to have a depiction of Heaven without reference to God or Jesus than it is to have a Heaven where billions of innocent suffer endlessly just for not being part of the “right religion” speaks bounds for the ethics of our culture.  Far from perfect, but it’s my view that even if Kantianism is wrong it is far superior to the doctrine of Sola Fide that is one of the most wicked, unethical and nonsensical doctrines in the Christian faith.
The show seems initially split between Kantianism and Utilitarianism.  At first we learn that all souls have their deeds tallied upon their death.  High scores go to The Good Place and it seems that low and negative scores go to The Bad Place.  Since all the deeds mentioned are one’s that have great impact on others, it seems to implicit be arguing for Utilitarianism.  Then the character who is trying to save herself in episode eleven flat-out says that all actions done to save herself (self-preservation) have absolutely no moral worth.  Only one’s done out of “genuine goodness” or moral intent do – i.e. Kantianism.
I for a moment thought that the show could be essentially Buddhist in calculating Karmic consequences, but this would be (this is a simplification of Karma I realize) a synthesis of Utilitarianism and Kantianism so her actions which we assume have good consequences but not good intentions should still have some effect on her “soul meter.”
Ultimately it seems the show swings Kantian both because it is good deeds done for the “right reason” that cause it to move (and deeds done out of selfishness either have no effect or cause her to lose points) and because the show seems to be hitting at the moral intuitions most people have.  This is shown in the end with the final reveal of the two supposedly good people being in The Bad Place with the other two.  Though Chidi is more deserving of Hell in an Existentialist can’t-handle-freedom way than a Kantian one.  Kant took incredibly long to make a decision on his marriage and both left by the time he made his choice, so I think he’d be cool with that.
A good person isn’t a successful person.  That is the Greek idea that the Utilitarians have taken from.  Instead, a good person is one who simply wants to help other people and whose action reflect a genuine commitment to others.  This is far more along the lines of both Kant and Schopenhauer.  For despite their differences, they share a criticism of Greek and Utilitarian ethics in focusing on whether one lives the “good life” for the former or one is successful in creating happiness for the latter; instead, both emphasize a commitment to others that is more important than the happiness one makes it is focused on the self or not.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Gloriest to Aristotska

Unlocked Endless.  I played one ten minute round but I don't think I'll explore much further.  It's a good game though.  The only flaw I think in the game is you're supposed to let the people through when they say they're planning to stay for a year and yet it says two weeks on their travel visa.  You question them and they say, "oh yes, I stay only fourteen days."  You get money for detaining people and I assume this would be something you could detain someone for.  This would be a good game to play on a touch screen.

Also beat Bioshock again.  I still think it's one of the best first person shooters.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Planet of the Apes

I saw War for the Planet of the Apes recently.  It was a solid film, although I don’t think it explored us and them ideas as well as its predecessor did and its only strong suit in connecting the trilogy to the original was explaining how humans become “beast-like.”  I think its major faults were lacking in an all-out “war” for the planet and we don’t see much progress in the apes building society and choosing to view the humans as animals without souls nor rights.  We see anti-human sentiments in Koba, but most of the other apes seemed accepting of humans.  It would be interesting to see the development of this religion rather than merely its beginning.
Of course the original was made in ’68, so we have to excuse the limitations of the time, but it would be far more interesting to see a society of apes where the orangutans still have the stature of one; the chimps and gorillas likewise.  This is what the Tim Burton film achieved to a limited extent, as well as with more ape-like living habitats but on the whole that film was a forgettable remake.  The original is by no means perfect.  It meanders in the beginning and is flawed in having a desert city where the apes have medieval technology at best and yet they have rifles.  Now of course we can reason that they could have taken the guns from humans of thousands of years ago (assuming they’d still fire) but one would expect the apes would ban guns as they remove all evidence that Man was once intelligent. 
The original also suffers from being a product of its time in another way.  It seems it is in the forgotten vein of B Science Fiction movies of astronauts traveling to another world, otherwise they never would have tried the plot point of revealing to us what we already know, that Taylor was on the Earth the whole time.

The original is excellent not only as a depiction of the conflict between evolution and creationism, but more importantly showing the ineffectiveness of Man’s moral intuition that humans have rights and non-human animals don’t by showing the indignation a man will feel if his will is denied.  Most Western philosophers carry on this intuition, but to my knowledge the ones who do so the most explicitly are Aristotle and Kant.  Despite their differences, they are alike in highlighting the differences between Man and non-human animal when Mill and Schopenhauer highlight their similarities.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

On Ought - Rough Draft

While the majority of the human race has lived and died unaware that their lives require metaphysical and meta-ethical foundation, philosophers have painstakingly dedicated their lives to answering questions no one required the answer to.  While argumentation in metaphysics (the Realist/Anti-Realist debate) has no inherent value in people's lives, meta-ethics arguably could.  What if the ‘ought’ I thought I ought to have is not the ‘ought’ I ought to?  What if something I thought was right is instead wrong and my beliefs are erroneous?  This ethical skepticism is certainly useful on some level – without it no one would question the social mores of their culture and many things like slavery and child labor could still be legal.  But what of a deeper, more fundamental questioning of ‘oughts?’  Skepticism that doubts the very notion that we ought to be happy, healthy and have well-being in our lives however one wishes to describe and define it.
It is this ought that I wish to demonstrate lacks foundation.  Basic or axiomatic ‘oughts’ that are required to have any of the secondary ‘oughts’ (I ought to go to the store, because I ought to get eggs; we ought to raise taxes on the wealthy for we ought to use said capital to provide national healthcare for we ought to be healthy) that we live our lives on.  Though I will demonstrate it is problematic for human beings to create rational foundation for ‘oughts’ this is not tantamount to Ethical Nihilism just as Anti-Realism is not tantamount to Metaphysical Nihilism.  The stance that there is an epistemic barrier between Man and Reality (whether descriptive or normative) is not synonymous with the stance that no such Reality exists or to claim we know the descriptive and normative accounts of things are erroneous.
The argument against normative claims of knowledge derives from Hume’s is-ought distinction[1].  Regardless of whether what we see in the world represents the thing-in-itself, and regardless of whether induction is valid there is at the very least with descriptive claims some indisputable account of an exterior world and things happening similar to as they have before.  However, with normative claims there is no starting point for us to begin upon.  If we cannot deduce normative claims from factual or descriptive ones alone then for there to be any oughts we can know there must be one we can know without reference to any other knowledge whether descriptive or normative – it must be axiomatic.  To refer to another normative claim to ground what was meant to be our grounding ‘ought’ ad infinitum would be a problem of infinite regress. 
Philosophy has yet to come up with this axiomatically true ‘ought.’  Until it arrives, and it’s my argument that though an open-mind is always preferable it appears no such argument will arrive, we remain in a position of tentative Moral Falibilism.  If the is-ought distinction is correct we need something axiomatic and conclusive in the notion of “ought” which there does not appear to be.  There’s nothing in the conception of “ought” that states that its rational to prefer my life over the life others, or the reverse, or prefer intimate duty to a small number over influence over a large nebulous mass or the reverse.  A person can have feelings of egoism or selflessness.  Duty to family or duty to their nation, but these are merely descriptive accounts of ethics that all individuals and cultures possess.
Kant’s ethics are in theory meant to be constructed purely from reasoning and not from preferences of people that Kant criticizes Utilitarianism of.  But has its own problems on top of what it criticizes Utilitarianism of.  Kant’s Categorical Imperative assumes that the will of the rational agent is a valid tool of determining normativity without conclusively arguing it.  It is true that if I consider wronging someone for my own advantage and then consider the universal law, “one can harm others if it gives personal advantage to one’s self” then the situation could arise where I become harmed for someone else’s gain.  An agent who is both self-interested and invested in the idea of ethical universality will then be tempted away from exploitative acts for they would not like to be exploited. 
However, that moral laws can be known to be constructed from the wills of rational agents is completely a figment of the human intellect.  Kant criticizes “empirical morality” and yet it  is empirical in that my feelings towards being treated one way or another is visceral rather than purely rational.  It creates a feeling inside of me, of satisfaction or dissatisfaction and I will that I be treated in a way that creates a feeling I wish rather than one I not.  I wish that my autonomy is respected as oppose to not, and although it is conclusive that the Categorical Imperative would have me then respect the autonomy of others what is not conclusive is that my own wishes have anything at all to do with what ought to be.  Kant sets out to salvage ethics from the whims of Utilitarians and Divine Command Theorists but is left with nothing but human whims outside of rejecting actions for being impossible if they were universalized.
Since it is the case that the fundamental nature of imperfect duties, ones that are not necessary but preferable, are ones that involve the agents will and not their reason, then animals which can will should be included despite the fact they cannot reason the C.I. themselves.  For if being a being that can reason the CI is a requirement, then it not only is something that the mentally challenged would fail, but it would require the CI to be based on purely rational grounds, rather than subjective and empirical grounds.  Kant acknowledges it is a product of the human imagination, what should instead perhaps be called will, that desires happiness.  Since all of our selfish desires are in effect to attain happiness, as Aristotle and the Utilitarians acknowledge, it seems that the large majority of our individual wishes for us, that which we would universalize through the CI, would be based on this will for happiness rather than on pure reason.
The reasoning part of the mind cannot desire anything, it can only either follow true or false premises to valid or invalid conclusions, or it can infer the probability of something occurring through witnessing like events with comparable variables happening before.  It is the reasoning part of the mind which believes the hypothetical rocket will or will not reach its target when it is launched.  It is the sensual and desiring part of my mind that desires that it will kill or spare certain names, that lives will be saved or not be saved, that the Earth should continue spinning on its axis or crash into the sun.  Kant could very well be right in saying that, “if you should be treated with respect, then you should treat others with respect.”  What he cannot ground in reason is the divide between the feeling I have of wanting to be treated with respect and claiming that I ought to be.  Rawls Original Position’s main flaw is the same.  It assumes what is right, what we should do, is what an agent wills for themselves if they could be any hypothetical being with any given traits within that society.
This inability to ground in logic the validity of our desires and intuitions also has obvious implications for Utilitarianism, Egoism and Virtue Ethics.  It is true that pleasure is pleasant, and we have desires for this or that particular pleasure, but what is not known is whether or not we ought to be happy or have this or that thing we believe would make us so.
Just as the Egoist argues against acting for other’s pleasure or well-being, one could argue against ethics having anything to do with our own.  If you and I are on an island, with only one sandwich to sustain us, some may think I ought to give it to you out of compassion, others would say I should try to have it for myself to further my own preservation and more would argue we should cut it in half for that’s what’s equitable and seemingly just.  But none of these arguments have a starting premise that is necessarily true.  There premises are based on our moral feelings, our inclinations and wishes, and we then make arguments based on them and no matter how sophisticated or simple they remain only that.
Virtue Ethics is also not spared.  One can give an account of generosity, courage, temperance or practical wisdom.  And though the descriptive account of these things may accurately describe a realization of “the good life” what they fail to ground is that I ought to live the good life.  I may be compelled to it, and I might even foolishly act against it as we all at times do as result from our worse impulses.  But here worse, or our vices, can only be said to not give us the good life, not that we ought not to be gluttonous, petty, self-centered and so on.
As I stated in my opening, what we have before us is a purely philosophical problem.  People live their lives pursuing their own personal normative evaluations and goals (mostly driven by Egoism) completely ignorant of the meta-ethical problems that philosophers immerse themselves with.  Just as if God (hypothetically a being I assume the validity of) told me I was a lobster, I would not run to the sea and attempt to crack snail shells with my hands, so if He told me what is morally correct is maximizing the amount of acorns in the Universe, I would not spend every waking moments hatching schemes to maximize their quantity.  We are beings driven by our intuitions and inclinations, never being able to ground them in reason.  And yet people aspire for the realization of their goals nonetheless.
Ultimately the problems of ethics are not what should we value but how do we attain it.  This is a problem both of descriptive knowledge and of action.  We have made great strides in the former but are largely where we were and likely shall remain in the latter – since problems in action arise typically in errors of a person’s character and will power and not upon knowledge and capacity to reason[2].  Problems the majority of ethicists describe in accounts of human moral weakness.

[1] In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.
[2] It is possible to conceive of a very virtuous man in whom the better consciousness is so continuously active that it is never silent, and never allows his passions to get a complete hold of him.  By such consciousness he is subject to a direct control, instead of being guided indirectly, through the medium of reason, by means of maxims and moral principles.  That is why a man may have weak reasoning powers and a weak understanding and yet have a high sense of morality and be eminently good; for the most important element in a man depends as little on intellectual as it does on physical strength.