Introduction to Philosophy
Ward (Dave), Pritchard (Duncan), Massimi (Michela), Lavelle (Suilin), Chrisman (Matthew), Hazlett (Allan) & Richmond (Alasdair)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Abstract

  1. This is an umbrella "book" to hold whatever I might have to say on the lectures of the 7-week “Massive Open Online Course - Introduction to Philosophy” put out by Edinburgh University in Jan – Mar 2013. The course is an introductory course that I think will be of interest to (or at least ought to be) my family and selected friends. I intend to listen in to see what they have to say, so have registered for the course. See Link
  2. Course Introduction (Full Text): This course will introduce you to some of the main areas of research in contemporary philosophy. Each week a different philosopher will talk you through some of the most important questions and issues in their area of expertise. We’ll begin by trying to understand what philosophy is – what are its characteristic aims and methods, and how does it differ from other subjects? Then we’ll spend the rest of the course gaining an introductory overview of several different areas of philosophy. Topics you’ll learn about will include:
    1. Epistemology, where we’ll consider what our knowledge of the world and ourselves consists in, and how we come to have it;
    2. Philosophy of science, where we’ll investigate foundational conceptual issues in scientific research and practice;
    3. Philosophy of Mind, where we’ll ask questions about what it means for something to have a mind, and how minds should be understood and explained;
    4. Moral Philosophy, where we’ll attempt to understand the nature of our moral judgements and reactions – whether they aim at some objective moral truth, or are mere personal or cultural preferences, and;
    5. Metaphysics, where we’ll think through some fundamental conceptual questions about the nature of reality.



"Ward (Dave) - What Is Philosophy?"

Source: Ward (Dave), Pritchard (Duncan), Massimi (Michela), Lavelle (Suilin), Chrisman (Matthew), Hazlett (Allan) & Richmond (Alasdair) - Introduction to Philosophy


Author’s Abstract
  1. We’ll start the course by thinking about what Philosophy actually is; what makes it different from other subjects? What are its distinctive aims and methods? To help us think about this, we’ll consider a couple of different approaches philosophers have taken to arguably the biggest question of all: what is the Meaning of Life? We’ll then look ahead to some of the different branches of philosophy we’ll be considering on the course.
  2. Author: Dr. Dave Ward is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He works mainly on the philosophy of mind and cognition. His main philosophical ambition is to understand the relationship between perception, thought and agency.

Author’s Introduction
  1. Five short parts: Introductory part, where we try and get an initial idea of what philosophy is.
  2. Next 2 parts where we try and assess some common claims made about philosophy: that it’s (somehow) fundamental and that it’s about important questions
  3. Case study: how a philosopher (or anyone) might address the question ‘what is the meaning of life?’
  4. Finally, we’ll look ahead to the rest of the course, thinking about how the topics we’ll cover there relate to what we’ve said about philosophy this week.

Contents
  1. What is Philosophy?
  2. Is Philosophy ‘Fundamental’?
  3. Is Philosophy Important?
  4. Philosophy and the Meaning of Life
  5. Applying What We’ve Said to the Stuff on This Course

Comments
  1. The five brief lectures have a fairly full transcript (here: Link; summary above).
  2. There is also a briefer hand-out (here: Link)
  3. A 6th lecture addressed some of the issues raised in the discussion forums. There is no transcript or hand-out for this. The topics addressed were:-
    • Critical engagement with the proposed definition of philosophy.
    • Firstly, does the activity of “thinking about things” itself count as philosophy? Sometimes – but philosophy focusses on hidden assumptions. Contrast the philosophy of science – dealing with methodology (the right way of thinking about things) – with doing science itself. Also, aesthetics vs doing artwork.
    • Secondly, what is “the right way” of thinking about things? Mapping on to reality? Enabling human flourishing? Are our minds up to the job, anyway? This is a question that exercised Kant. It’s not a problem that this is unresolved.
    • ”The meaning of life” – answering the question wasn’t the job of these lectures. But, the distinction between designative and expressive meaning puzzled many – in particular the meaning of “expressive meaning”. Another try - what a great artwork has to say can’t be expressed in words, or there would be little point to the artwork. Some philosophers start off writing didactively, and then shift to poetry or music1. The source for the distinction is Charles Taylor – references to be supplied on the website (which suggests Taylor’s 'Language and Human Nature’).
  4. Various items of extra reading / viewing are suggested on the website:-
    • A PhilosophyBites session on “What is Philosophy?” - Link. These really are “bite-sized” comments, of little philosophical interest.
    • A rather dismissive Economist review of Hawking and Mlodinow’s The Grand Design (Link (Defunct)): Article Conclusion: Once upon a time it was the province of philosophy to propose ambitious and outlandish theories in advance of any concrete evidence for them. Perhaps science, as Professor Hawking and Mr Mlodinow practice it in their airier moments, has indeed changed places with philosophy, though probably not quite in the way that they think.
    • "Joll (Nicholas) - Contemporary Metaphilosophy" (for the full text, Link): highly relevant, but a very full article, which I’ve not read as it’s too far outside my research interests.
    • An interview with Dave Ward’s philosophical hero - "Rogers (Ben), Taylor (Charles), Etc - Prospect Interview with Charles Taylor" (for the full text, Link)
    • Various other items inaccessible to those outside academia (or just broken links)
  5. Overall, my view of the first set of lectures is that while it’s methodologically correct to start off with Metaphilosophy, it’s likely to put off a lot of potential students as it’d be more exciting to see it in action, rather than in navel-gazing. Also, having the first lecture delivered by the nerdiest-looking person on the planet does nothing to encourage the worldly-wise to board ship.

Correspondence

Correspondent 1
    The lecturer’s point that the question: "what is the meaning of life" was a question that could not reasonably be answered was specious I thought. I suppose you could see it as in "what is the meaning of a cat", but really the meaning of life is just to evolve isn't it?. We know what we are made of and what we evolved from, what we don't know is what we will evolve into.

Response
  1. I think what the lecturer was trying to do in his "meaning of life" section was to give a taste of the approach of analytic philosophy in action. He was careful not to try to answer the question, but to ask whether it made sense. There are two methods of doing this. The one he took was to take the form of the question as commonly expressed, and see if we can make sense of its actual words. In so doing, he had an eye on one section of the anti-religion camp within philosophy that says that the question doesn't even make sense, so of course it has no answer. Their reason is that meanings apply only to words (and other linguistic elements). So the word "cat" has a referential meaning (he used the term "designative") - it refers to cats, which have particular properties, so we can tell whether the word has been correctly used. But, it is said, while the word "life" has a referential meaning - it refers to lives - lives themselves aren't words, so don't have referential meanings. But he introduced a second meaning of "meaning" - an "expressive" sense - which can be had by processes - for instance the performance of a piece of music, or maybe a life. So, he suggested, a life can - by being lived - express a meaning.
  2. This may be so, but I doubt that's what people have in mind when they ask about the meaning of life, which isn't just whether a particular life (usually their own) means anything, but is a more general "what's it all about then?" question (famously asked of Bertrand Russell by a cabbie, but not answered to the cabbie’s satisfaction).
  3. My approach to asking whether the question makes sense would be to ignore the form of words in which it's expressed, and repair the form of the question to express what's actually intended, in a form less open to semantic objections (which somewhat ignore the often earnest purpose of the questioner).
  4. But either way, for the purpose of the lecture, the point is not to lurch into answering the question, but to clarify the question – or at least point out that it needs clarifying. Just what is the questioner looking for in an answer - and what would count as an answer if there is one?
  5. As I understand it, the question is usually more about purpose than meaning, and is usually much wider than the purpose of one’s own life. Before answering any question you need to have a clear idea what question you're asking, and the method of analytic philosophy - thinking clearly about questions that matter (to us) - is good at teasing out such things, or so it's hoped by its practitioners.
  6. If the question is about purpose, then your reference to evolution is off target, as evolution (unless it falls into the hands of the theists) is usually portrayed as blind and purposeless – it’s just a process that happens, for the reasons given by Darwin or other theorists. Certainly, cats don’t evolve, though the species “cat” does (or may).
  7. Presumably the meaning of life for a cat – a fulfilled life maybe – is to be well and fed and produce more cats, and maybe do the sort of catty things that cats have evolved to do – like terrorise the rodent and avian communities.
  8. If the question asks what the purpose of the whole show is – for cats, us and everything else – then the religions have their answers, but if we don’t own one of these, maybe there is no answer – the universe just is and does what it does.
  9. And if we come back to individual lives, then who knows? Maybe they just have the purpose we give them by our selection of projects, or are given them as circumstances demand, by our accumulation of responsibilities. But I doubt analytic philosophy has anything much to say on the question, beyond criticising attempted answers.
  10. No doubt all the above arguments are open to objection, and you could get down to doing some philosophy by taking a pop at them - though maybe you might join one of the discussion groups instead?

Correspondent 2
    The first lecture discussed Descartes 'Dualism'. If I understand it correctly this involves the brain and the mind being made up of different substances; the brain perhaps being organic and the mind being inorganic. How does Descartes get around the fact that if you were to drive a spike into your brain this would alter your ability to think properly, or at all? Doesn't this prove that the mind and the brain are both organic and that is why both are affected by trauma? Or does he think that the mind is never affected but only the brains ability to communicate thoughts? Is that it? And what about Alzheimer's? Is that a disease of the brain or the mind or both?

Response
  1. Yes - though there are two forms of dualism in the the philosophy of mind - substance dualism, as you note, but also property dualism. The latter only asserts that there are two fundamental minds of properties - physical ones (like weight), and mental ones (like thoughts or sensations), while the former claims there are two fundamental kinds of stuff.
  2. In my view, like yours no doubt, substance dualism has been harder and harder to credit since the capacities of the brain ave been properly understood, and since the thinking capacities of "mere matter" have been demonstrated by computer technology. But there have been substance dualists amongst neurosurgeons until recently (Sir John Eccles – author2 of "Popper (Karl) & Eccles (John) - The Self and Its Brain" - for instance, and there still are some, mainly for religious reasons). They argue that the mind does the thinking, or perceiving, but it uses the brain to do so (so if the brain is damaged, the mind cannot think properly). But most people think that if that's your line, you might as well do away with a distinct mind altogether. I suppose, though, that if you had a destroyed brain, you might - on this view - still have an intact mind awaiting another brain to interact with. On this view - in answer to your question - the mind doesn't "have" Alzheimer's, but displays the symptoms of Alzheimer's because it's using the damaged brain.
  3. The trouble with substance dualism always had to do with interaction. How do the mind and brain communicate with one another? Descartes thought (wrongly, of course) it was via the pineal gland. Leibniz thought there was some sort of miraculous "constant conjunction" - they couldn't communicate, but God had so arranged things at the creation that things would work out perfectly in parallel. Malebranche was an "occasionalist" who thought that God constantly tinkered with things to keep them in step (or, maybe, the mind asks God to make the change in the brain that then instructs the body ...).
  4. As I said, all this came about because people were so sure that "mere matter" couldn't think. Now they're more confident that it can, but are stuck on whether "mere matter" can be conscious.

Correspondent 3
    I must admit I’m not surprised people found it difficult to understand what the lecturer was saying about designative meaning v expressive meaning. He seemed to be saying that expressive meaning was an emotion or a feeling, rather than a tangible thing, but he didn’t actually say this, so perhaps I’m wrong. We found his explanation difficult to follow, and not very clear. Perhaps you have a clearer insight on this than we do. Mike said the designative meaning reminded him of logical positivism which was concerned with very precise meanings of words.

Response
    I'm not too clear on expressive meaning either, though it seems to be a property of a thing or an event, rather than of a word or expression - some meaning that is expressed by the thing doing what it does, or being what it is. "Meaning" is a complex concept, and not central to "meaning of life" questions. The Logical Positivist dictum was that "the meaning of a statement is its method of verification" - a well-intentioned guide to avoiding talking rot, but unfortunately open to bootstrapping objections. Emotional meaning appears more in the distinction between denotation and connotation - but both apply to words. The word "dove" denotes avians of the family columbidae, but connotes peace.


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Ward (Dave) - What Is Philosophy?")

Footnote 1: Just who might these philosophers be? Leonard Cohen? This is all rather contrary to the analytic tradition.

Footnote 2: I should have said “co-author”, and mentioned "Eccles (John) - Evolution of the Brain, Creation of the Self".



"Pritchard (Duncan) - What do you know? What is Knowledge? And Do We Have Any?"

Source: Ward (Dave), Pritchard (Duncan), Massimi (Michela), Lavelle (Suilin), Chrisman (Matthew), Hazlett (Allan) & Richmond (Alasdair) - Introduction to Philosophy


Author’s Abstract
  1. We know a lot of things – or, at least, we think we do. Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies knowledge; what it is, and the ways we can come to have it. This week, we’ll take a tour through some of the issues that arise in this branch of philosophy. In particular, we’ll think about what radical scepticism means for our claims to knowledge. How can we know something is the case if we’re unable to rule out possibilities that are clearly incompatible with it?
  2. Author: Professor Duncan Pritchard joined the Edinburgh department in 2007 as the new Chair in Epistemology. His research is mainly in epistemology, and his most recent book, ‘Epistemic Disjunctivism’ has just been published by Oxford University Press.

Contents

Lecture 1: What is knowledge?
  • Propositional versus ability knowledge
  • Two conditions for propositional knowledge
  • Knowing versus getting it right
  • The classical account of knowledge
  • Gettier counterexamples
  • A Gettier-style case
  • Another Gettier-style case
  • A formula for inventing Gettier-style cases
  • Patching up the classical account – no false lemmas
  • Conclusions:-
    1. The first is that knowledge isn’t justified true belief. We thought it was, it looked very plausible that it ought to be, but the moral of the Gettier cases is that it can’t be because you can have justified true belief and yet your true belief simply be a matter of luck. And you don’t get to knowledge through luck.
    2. The second conclusion is that it’s not obvious that you can simply add something to the justified true belief account of knowledge to solve the problem. It’s not as if there’s just some obvious way of just adding an extra condition to the classical account to make it avoid Gettier cases.
    3. That leads us to a third and quite profound conclusion, which is that therefore it’s not that obvious what knowledge is.

Lecture 2: Do we have any knowledge?
  • Radical scepticism
  • The brain-in-a-vat sceptical argument
  • Brains-in-vats and everyday knowledge
  • Epistemic vertigo
  • Conclusions:-
    1. We’ve looked at the problem of radical scepticism, which is the view that we don’t know nearly as much about the world around us as we think we do. In fact, it’s the view in its most extreme form that maybe we don’t know anything at all.
    2. We’ve seen that radical scepticism makes essential use of radical sceptical hypotheses, which are scenarios which are indistinguishable from normal life but where we’re radically in error.
    3. And we’ve seen that if we are genuinely unable to rule out the sceptical hypotheses then the sceptic seems to be right in saying that it’s not altogether obvious how it is that we can know what we think we know about our environment. That is, the sceptical argument starts to look quite compelling. So the challenge is either to show that we can know the denials of sceptical hypotheses or else to show that somehow our everyday knowledge is compatible with our failure to be able to rule out the sceptical scenarios.

Comments
  1. The two brief lectures have a fairly full write-up (here: Link; summary above).
  2. Various items of extra reading are suggested on the website

Correspondence

Correspondent 1
  1. I liked the way he built up the argument for propositional knowledge. It was clear enough for me to follow! However, I do wonder why it took over 2000 years for someone (Gettier) to come up with a disproof of Plato’s argument. Strange – unless you think that all the exceptions have to be pretty far-fetched, and so maybe philosophers in previous centuries did not think this worth pursuing? Also, is there a use to which this can be put? Being of a practical mind, I wonder whether there is any important scenario where this sort of thinking might help, or is it just thinking for thinking’s sake? I suppose that is coming back to what was said in week one, where it said there had to be not only argument, but also vision in philosophy, or else what’s the point? So, what do you think Gettier’s vision is?
  2. The radical scepticism and brain-in-a-vat idea of course made me think of the Matrix, as he mentioned. (Did you ever see that?) Of course it may be a theoretical possibility that cannot be disproved, but is it likely or rational, one asks – or at least I do. Perhaps we exist in a dream within a dream within a dream (another film!) but again, I can’t really think of any practical use of thinking like this. Maybe you can, as of course you’ve studied all this a lot more than us.
  3. Mike’s comment on us not knowing as much as we think we do, was that it doesn’t matter, as long as it works! (maybe he’s thinking mathematically here?)

Response
  1. I'm not sure there's any argument (as such) for propositional knowledge. There's an argument that if there is any, then it's "justified true belief" - but this is really an attempt to define "propositional knowledge" based on correct usage. Plato thought of occasions in which the word "episteme" was used and the circumstances in which we'd not say it applied; similarly the lecturer. "Justified true belief" is good enough for most purposes - even philosophical ones. I suppose that philosophers were confident they knew what knowledge was, but were more worried by the skeptical arguments that we don't have any. Anyway, the argument really comes in when Gettier and his followers argue that the definition isn't good enough to capture what we mean by "knowledge".
  2. It's interesting that Plato would have agreed that the word "knowledge" has a designative meaning - because he thought there was a Form of true Knowledge in heaven of which examples of human knowledge are pale reflections. Nowadays we don't think of abstract nouns as designating abstract objects that have some form of concrete existence somewhere. Or at least I don't. Plato did argue for the truth of definitions, because he thought there was something "out there" in heaven that the definition latched on to. Now we're just trying to be clear what it is we're talking about.
  3. As for the importance of all this - well, modern philosophy hails from Descartes, and his search for a sound basis for knowledge. So, nothing could be more important to philosophers than the thought - not just that we might not have any knowledge, but - that we don't even know what knowledge is. Personally, I'm not worried - I'm happy with justified true belief - or even with justified belief, and that the practical focus should be on beefing up the standards and procedures of justification so that our beliefs have the greatest likelihood of being true as is possible. The fact is that lots of statements that once counted as knowledge have turned out to be false, and no doubt many things that we claim to know today will turn out not to have been knowledge, on account of not having been true. But we might still have been justified in believing them and acting on them as knowledge.
  4. I don't know what Gettier's vision is - maybe it's just to point out a problem in the hope that someone will come along and fix it, or that it'll move philosophy on in some other way (eg. in recognising that the concept "knowledge" is less important than had been thought). At least it's a much more serious question that we might not know what knowledge is than that we might not correctly classify dodos as Columbidae.
  5. Well, yes - I've seen the Matrix and enjoyed it greatly. Philosophers have had fun with it too. I had dinner with a philosopher (Nick Bostrom) who considers it overwhelmingly probably that we are computer simulations (Click here for Note for some links). He has an argument for it. I disagree, you'll be glad to know, because I don't think computer programs are the sort of things that can have conscious experience. That's different from a piece of hardware that runs a computer program having conscious experience - I've nothing against sufficiently complex robots being conscious. But maybe I'm just prejudiced against simulation programs - the program has to be running on the simulation machine, so maybe the machine has multiple personality disorder2 run riot.

Correspondent 2
    One thing I didn't quite get was the patching up of the Classical Account (no false lemmas) to satisfy the Gettier-style cases. Prof Prichard said (towards the end of the first video) that the "no lemmas" or no false assumptions would have satisfied the 'clock' case but NOT the 'sheep' case. Aren't these both the same? Both were based on false assumptions (that the clock was working and that the hairy dog was a sheep) whilst both being justified true belief and accidentally correct.

Response
  1. You may have a point about the similarity of the cases, but no doubt they'd say that the error in the "dog" case is rather closer to home than in the clock case. That is, the time of day is what it is irrespective of whether the clock is working - so it's an independent check we have to make to ensure that the clock is working, and an assumption that it is (as it always has been in the past). However, whether the field contains a sheep is immediately connected to whether we've seen one. If we've seen a sheep, then there's one in the field, while if we've seen a normally reliable clock telling the time, that doesn't tell us (without the further lemma that the clock is working) that the time is that told by the clock. It would be a parallel with the "dog" case if somehow what we were looking at wasn't the clock we expected (there are such cases in Midsommer Murders - someone puts a mirror in the way so that the clock we see isn't the clock we expect to see).
  2. Now, if we in fact can't tell the difference between a dog and a sheep, that does call into question the reliability of our perceptive faculties - but it's a step closer to home (as I alleged above). Even if our faculties are perfect, in the "time of day" case (so we are actually seeing the clock we expect, not another one that we've no reason to think is accurate) we still have a further lemma - that the clock we perfectly see and expect to be accurate actually is working on this occasion, and not telling the right time by chance.
  3. Maybe it depends on what you mean by "assumed". We've made no attempt at all to check our assumption that the clock is working. But the whole point of knowing that there's a sheep in the field is that we had good evidence that the animal we saw was a sheep - but say we'd not looked carefully enough - we'd just assumed that the far-away blob was a sheep - then this wouldn't be a Gettier case at all - it would be a case of unjustified true belief, which isn't knowledge even on the classical account.
  4. There was a technical inaccuracy in the quiz, I thought. In both the mid-lecture quiz and the final quiz, you were supposed to accept the statement "The proposition must be justified", in that if you didn't you got the answer marked wrong (I tried it in the mid-lecture quiz). But propositions aren't the sort of things that are justified - they are true, false, interesting and so on - it's a belief in the truth of a proposition that can be justified. Knowledge is a relation between a true proposition and the purported knower, and the statement "The proposition must be justified" doesn't involve the epistemic agent. What they had intended to put was just that "The belief in the truth of the proposition must be justified". And as this is a course on thinking and expressing oneself clearly, we ought to take exception to inaccuracies. But not going so far as to fail to score full marks!

Correspondent 3
    The lecturer talked about radical scepticism (in particular the brain-in-a-vat argument). He posed the question "How do we know that we are not a brain-in-a-vat?" Well we know we are not a BIAV because we can communicate with people and read things that impart knowledge to us that we could not know ourselves (like the workings of the cell, for instance). Doesn't this prove that we are not a BIAV?

Response
  1. I don't think your attempt to debunk the BIAV thought-experiment3 (TE) quite works. Of course, there are lots of vague elements to the TE, which is an objection to TEs in philosophy on general. The claim of the TE is that it's possible to imagine all the sensory input being fed into the BIAV, and this would include communications with what appear to be other people and the exposure to knowledge. Isn't that what's supposed to be happening in "The Matrix"? Before Neo gets disconnected, he thinks he's living a normal life - learning stuff, talking to his friends, working on the computer - but he's radically mistaken. All this information comes from The Matrix itself, fed into his brain through the connection that goes in through the back of his head. So, he's not really typing on his computer and learning stuff from the internet - he gets all his information - much of it incorrect - from The Matrix, or rather from the creator of The Matrix. He learns true things about cells, but while he has cells, they aren't the cells he thinks he has, because the cells he might see are simulations of real cells - and his computer is a simulation of an archaic computer, and so on. Or so we are to imagine, and it's not obviously impossible.
  2. I had dinner once with a philosopher (Nick Bostrom) who considers it overwhelmingly probable that we are computer simulations (Click here for Note for some links). This isn't quite the same as being a BIAV. He has an argument for it. I disagree, you'll be glad to know, because I don't think computer programs are the sort of things that can have conscious experience. That's different from a piece of hardware that runs a computer program having conscious experience - I've nothing against sufficiently complex robots being conscious. But maybe I'm just prejudiced against simulation programs - the program has to be running on the simulation machine, so maybe the machine has multiple personality disorder4 run riot.
  3. Another philosopher thinks that even if we are BIVs, we do have the knowledge we think we have - because (if I remember correctly) when we say "I have two hands" the meaning of these words arises from their common use, so the word "hand" stands for "simulated hand". He – David Chalmers – is a very prominent guy, so can't be dismissed out of hand, but I don't agree with him. It's an onward link from the previous link - "Chalmers (David) - The Matrix as Metaphysics"; there's an onward link to the actual paper, which is still on-line.


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Pritchard (Duncan) - What do you know? What is Knowledge? And Do We Have Any?")

Footnote 1: The principle that to know something, you need to know that you know it – but there are lots of things that we know that we don’t know that we know until asked. So, while we might not know whether we’re dreaming, this doesn’t stop us knowing things about the external world. Provided we are in fact not dreaming, but are perceiving the world, we don’t need to know that we are perceiving the world in order to know what these perceptions tell us.



"Lavelle (Suilin) - Minds, Brains and Computers"

Source: Ward (Dave), Pritchard (Duncan), Massimi (Michela), Lavelle (Suilin), Chrisman (Matthew), Hazlett (Allan) & Richmond (Alasdair) - Introduction to Philosophy


Author’s Abstract
  1. What is it to have a mind? We deal with this question during the third week of the course. We are certain that anyone reading this text has a mind. But what are the special properties that beings with minds have? What sorts of things have those properties: animals? Infants? Computers? In this lecture, we will discuss some of the approaches contemporary philosophers have taken to the question of what it is to have a mind. In the first part of the lecture, we begin our discussion with Cartesian dualism, which claims that mind is immaterial, continue to identity theory, a view that mind is identifiable with physical matter, and finish with functionalism, according to which a mental state is essentially identifiable with what it does. In the second part, we concentrate on the problems that thought experiments1 of Alan Turing and John Searle pose to the functionalist account of mind.
  2. Author: Dr. Suilin Lavelle joined the Edinburgh department in Spring 2011, having completed a PhD at the University of Sheffield. Her primary research interest is the field of social cognition, and more specifically, in the various answers given to the question ‘How do we understand other people’s psychological states?’.

Contents
    Introduction
  1. Theories of Mind
    • i. Cartesian dualism
    • ii. Identity theories
    • iii. Functionalism
  2. Mind as Computer
    • iv. Turing machines
    • v. Searle’s Chinese Room argument
    Conclusions

Comments
  1. There’s a full transcript available (Link), with an appendix on Descartes’ Argument from Doubt.
  2. Works recommended in the transcript are:-
  3. Other references given for the week are:-
  4. Finally, there’s a very brief YouTube clip of Putnam saying how the computer metaphor of the philosophy of mind moves us away from physicalism in the direction of functionalism, given the software / hardware distinction and the fact that we don’t care about the hardware, provided it’s up to the job. Link.

Correspondence

Correspondent 1
  1. We did week 3 on Wednesday – philosophy of the mind. We found in mind boggling in places, and Mike was all for giving up in the middle!!!
  2. Maybe I found it a bit easier, having read that book you lent me a while ago from a Christian philosopher who expounded dualism4.
  3. Part of the problem is the terminology used – it’s like learning a whole new vocabulary for concepts.
  4. So – identity theory – we found the explanation of token identity versus type identity very difficult to follow. Also we had never heard of “C-fibres firing”, and replayed it several times to try and work out what she was saying! Unfortunately we’ve found the quality of the videos is bad (for us) as our connection is rather slow, so it often pixelates, and jumps, so it doesn’t help our understanding of difficult subjects! Having said that, we thought she was a very good lecturer, as she managed to make most of it understandable, despite covering very complex thoughts (we thought).
  5. I found it difficult to understand what she meant about the “about-ness of thoughts”. Presumably she just meant knowing what thoughts “mean” rather than just understanding what the words are? Presumably that was the point of John Searle’s Chinese Room?
  6. Am I correct in saying that she thought it was difficult to say where we get our understanding of the “about-ness of thoughts” from?
  7. Also, was she saying it was difficult to say why we have self-consciousness5 and self-awareness?
  8. Is it still a philosophical puzzle that providing a functional analysis of something doesn’t explain why it has a conscious experience?
  9. Is any of the material presented new to you, or have you looked at all of this content before?

Response
  1. I think this lecture is too difficult for the intended audience. It covers almost everything that would be mentioned in first and second level undergraduate courses, but too fast and sketchily really for the material to be fully understood, and the follow-up reading is vast. While it does give a flavour of a lot of the field, it might have been more prudent just to take one or two self-contained topics (like the previous lecturer did), and deal with these in more detail with less haste. As you noticed, there are a few things that can only really be understood if you've already done the more detailed course! None of this was new to me, though it's still not easy. I agree that the video quality was poor - indeed, I couldn't see the point of watching a young lady waving her hands about, so didn't - but the sound stuttered from time to time, especially if I was using the PC for something else while she rambled on.
  2. To answer your questions properly would mean I'd need to go on at very considerable length - and you might not want to read all that, even if I could write it before we'd moved on to the next topic. I'll just jot down a few pointers (though not to further reading!), not necessarily in the order asked:-
    • C-Fibres firing: Well, this is the standard physicalist example, and was originally given in the 1960s (maybe). It doesn't really matter what C-Fibres are (though you can find out all about them at Wikipedia: Group C nerve fiber). The point is that a physicalist wants to argue that pains just are what goes on when the relevant neurological events happen. It's pointed out that C-fibres aren't the whole story - it looks like these are just the peripheral nerve endings (I've not read the article!) - so wherever the sensation of pain takes place, it's probably not there but further along the neural pathway. But anyway, "C-Fibres Firing" is just shorthand for "whatever physical events happen in humans when a sensation of pain occurs" - and the physicalist claim is that this is all there is to pain - the pain is experienced by the physical structure that gives rise to it, not by something else - a mind or soul that's not physical. These physical events are all there is to it. Indeed, the identity theorist says that the sensation of pain is identical to these physical goings on (whatever they are). Philosophers argue about whether "identity" is the correct term (rather than merely that pain is "nothing more than" this).
    • Type-Type vs Token-Token identity theories: physicalism has it that mental events are identical to physical events. But at what level? Token-token identity says that a particular pain in a particular person at a particular time is identical to whatever neural goings on went on at that time. This is fine, but not very enlightening. As Dr. Lavelle said, Type-Type identities would generate a research programme - they would provoke us into finding out what pains - any pains in any sentient being anywhere - actually are. Just what is it (physically-speaking) that makes all pains painful? So, you have a type of mental event (pain) and try to find the type of physical event (C-Fibres firing) to which is is allegedly identical. The trouble with this is that it seems to rule out non-humans from having pains if they don't have C-Fibres, or whatever. Personally I'd by happy with different sorts of pain - human-pain and octopus-pain, but philosophers say (in a loud voice) BUT WHAT MAKES THEM BOTH PAIN? That's where the Functionalists come in. They seem to have a different sort of identity - and it seems to hark back to the Behaviourists - that being in pain just is to be disposed to behave in a certain way (wincing, aversive behaviours and all that). This might be fine for mental states such as beliefs - but it's not half the story for sensations, especially pains. The most important thing about pains isn't that they make us hop about, or that they are necessary reports of bodily damage - but that they hurt! And who knows what it feels like to an octopus, whether it feels anything like it feels for us (or even if it feels anything at all). So, while functionalism may have something useful to say about the externals, if has nothing to say about inner feelings - and there's no reason why these feelings should be the same in different species. I like the Wittgensteinian idea of "family resemblance" in this context. Wittgenstein raised the idea with things like games - just what do all games have in common? Well, nothing, probably, but any two games share some similar characteristics, or they wouldn't both be games, but they don't share the same characteristics as another pair of games (just as some - but not all - family members share blue eyes or a big nose). So, all human pains may share some things with other human pains, though not everything, and human pains share something, but much less, with octopus pains, but still enough for them both to be pains. Something like that.
    • Aboutness of thoughts: this is very difficult. The idea is that computers just manipulate (for them) meaningless symbols. So, a symbol (or set of symbols - like a question in Chinese) - which has meaning for a human being, but not for a computer - is fed in; the computer jiggles about with it not knowing what it's doing other than following some algorithm (and it doesn't even know it's doing that); and out pops another set of symbols (the answer to the question, again in Chinese) that has meaning for the human being reading the output, but not for the computer that generated it. In the trade, this is referred to as "original intentionality" - the source of the "aboutness". It is said that digital computers have all their concepts programmed in to them, and don't derive them in the way that makes them meaningful for them. Well, maybe you could make a learning computer, so that it learnt that the word (symbol) "octopus" stands for an octopus in the same way that you or I learnt the concept. I then get a bit confused - there are words, concepts and things. Octopuses aren't concepts - because concepts are mental things, and octopuses are squishy marine animals with 8 legs - though we have a concept of an octopus, for which the word "octopus" stands. So, I suppose it's alleged that computers have symbols (words) but no concepts. But what is a concept? A sort of aggregate of the properties a thing (in this case) generally has? I can't see why a computer can't possess concepts in this sense.
    • The Chinese Room: the point is (allegedly) to show that computers only operate at the syntactic level - fiddling around with symbols - rather than at the semantic level - understanding meanings. In the thought experiment6, nothing and no-one within the room knows Chinese, even though the room as a whole acts as though it does. There are a lot of answers to Searle. Usually, it's alleged that he's looking at the wrong level - obviously no component understands Chinese, but the whole assembly - if it really was of sufficient power to answer questions put to it in Chinese - would have that understanding. It's no use asking which brain-cell knows what - it's the whole brain - or large swathes of it - that does (assuming physicalism - Searle is a physicalist, he just doesn't think the digital computer is a good model of the human mind).
    • Consciousness: the hard problem of consciousness isn't explaining which bits of the brain give rise to particular conscious thoughts or feelings - you can poke about and find this out, and while hardly trivial, neuroscientists know how to go about the research. The really hard problem is explaining why all this jiggling about of neurons feels like anything at all, never mind the particular feeling it has on the occasion in question. I think hard-line physicalist just shrug off the question and say "it just does" - it's a brute fact that when matter is structured in this way, it feels (for that matter) the way it does: and that asking further questions just reveals the questioner to be a closet dualist.
    • Functionalism: as I've said, functionalism works fine for some mental events but not for others, and is another argument levelled against digital computers being an appropriate model of the human mind. As the lecturer pointed out, a computer can be made of anything you like provided it runs the algorithms correctly. Maybe out of baked bean tins and string. But it's difficult to envisage anything anything made out of baked bean tins and string having sensations. But it's difficult imagining an assembly of baked-bean tins and string being complex enough to model what the human brain does; and, come to think of it, it's difficult to imagine how the lump of goo that is the human brain does what it does. So, failure of imagination may not tell us much. Thankfully, the lecturer didn't launch into consciousness studies itself, where a favourite line is that consciousness is a quantum-mechanical thing that arises in the human brain itself (the current favourite is microtubules that collectively make up the coarse structure of the brain; Wikipedia: Microtubules - Postulated role in consciousness). If so, functionalism is wrong.

Correspondent 2
    It's interesting that you are wrestling with the paper on Animal Minds. You know I have always thought that humans are very arrogant in their dismissal of animals as almost automatons just because they cannot speak. I am sure they are much more intelligent than we suspect. Now you have a dog of your own I am sure you realise they are more devious and cunning than you would have thought before you owned one. Their sense of pain seems on par with ours, in the way they pull away if they have a thorn stuck in their paw. Descartes un-anaesthetized vivisection fills me with loathing and disgust. But what really amazes me is the brain of an ant. Can you remember when, as boys, we used to keep a colony of ants in a big sweet jar? Well, I was sure that they must communicate with one another as everything in the nest seemed to be so organised. If I was to disturb the nest they would all rush around trying to repair the damage, but they all seemed to do just their bit, they didn't all try and move the same piece of dirt (for instance). They also have a good sense of direction and self-preservation etc. and support all these life functions with a brain less than the size of a pin-head. Incredible.

Response
  1. I agree with you on animals. It's always struck me (maybe unreflectively) that it's likely that mammals at least - being of the same general structure as ourselves - will perceive things much as we do, only scaled down a bit (given their less-complex brains). I'm sure they feel pain, though maybe not as intensely as we do (it would prevent them going about their business in the wild). My experience with Henry is that when he has to have a smack, it really does hurt me a lot more than it hurts him. I think it's the arrogance of Descartes and company that I find so alarming. They were willing to give more credit to their reasoning ability than the manifest evidence of their senses. Mind you, they didn't restrict themselves to animals on that score - surgeons would routinely operate on babies without anaesthetics until a few decades ago "because babies can't feel pain". Well, they were wrong there too. See Link (Defunct).
  2. Yes, ants are extraordinary - but bees are the favourites for insect language. You have to be a bit careful about imputing too much to lower animals. Very complex "organismic" behaviour can arise from very simple local behaviour. There have been successful computer simulations of "starling flocking" or "fish shoaling" where very complex coordinated movements involving thousands of individuals can arise without the need for any intelligence at all - just the ability to follow automatically some simple rules.


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Lavelle (Suilin) - Minds, Brains and Computers")

Footnote 2: For instance:- Footnote 3: I don’t have this, but I have his later "Crane (Tim) - Elements of Mind - An Introduction to the Philosophy of Mind", which I have analysed to death!

Footnote 4: I think this was "Cooper (John) - Body, Soul and Life Everlasting: Biblical Anthropology and the Monism-dualism Debate".



"Chrisman (Matthew) - Morality: Objective, Subjective or Relative?"

Source: Ward (Dave), Pritchard (Duncan), Massimi (Michela), Lavelle (Suilin), Chrisman (Matthew), Hazlett (Allan) & Richmond (Alasdair) - Introduction to Philosophy


Author’s Abstract
  1. We all live with some sense of what is good or bad, some feelings about which ways of conducting ourselves are better or worse. But what is the status of these moral beliefs, senses, or feelings? Should we think of them as reflecting hard, objective facts about our world, of the sort that scientists could uncover and study? Or should we think of moral judgements as mere expressions of personal or cultural preferences? This week we’ll survey some of the different options that are available when we’re thinking about these issues, and the problems and prospects for each.
  2. Author: Dr. Matthew Chrisman joined the Edinburgh department in August 2006 after finishing his PhD at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research is primarily in ethical theory, philosophy of language, and epistemology. He is currently working on a book on the meaning of ‘ought’.
Contents
  1. The Status of Morality
  2. Objectivism
  3. Relativism (and Subjectivism)
  4. Emotivism
  5. Summary of Objectivism, Relativism and Emotivism
  6. Objections to Objectivism, Relativism and Emotivism

Comments
  1. There’s a full (but irritatingly page-wasting) transcript available (Link).
  2. Suggestions for further reading are confined to the on-line encyclopedias:-
  3. I must say I found this week’s lectures very disappointing, in that they were far too brief. It takes longer to do the test than listen to the lectures. The test was a bit too tricky, I thought (maybe I didn’t attend closely enough to the beliefs of objectivists). I imagine that to get much out of this week's offering you need to read some of the background stuff, which many participants won’t do. I’d have thought most will be expecting a case study of some topical moral dilemma – and a vague allusion to polygamy won’t do.

Correspondence

Correspondent 1
  1. Have just finished week 4. For me, by far the worst one so far! He was too brief, spoke far too quickly, didn’t give enough examples, and basically seemed to me to be in a hurry to get it over with.
  2. Also, the quiz asked questions not covered by him (eg metaphysics suddenly appeared out of nowhere). Also, I don’t know about you, but mine was actually incorrectly marked!!! I printed my answers out before submission, and when it came back, some different boxes had magically been ticked/unticked! Oh well. So being an auditor by nature, I decided to do it again (having only got 8.46 out of 10 on my first attempt), and discovered a slightly different quiz came up. The ticks came up in the right boxes this time, and I got 9.75 out of 10. I wonder if each lecturer is responsible for his own quiz – in which case this one definitely reflected a lack of time and attention.
  3. Anyway, quiz apart, there wasn’t really much to say about this. As you say, it probably required a lot of background reading to make the most of it. We thought that most people today would be classed as emotivists when it comes to morality i.e. they would argue it depends how you feel about an issue, and everyone is different, and that there is no, one, right answer. We thought most Christians would be objectivists, arguing that morality is defined by what God says is right or wrong, whether we understand this or agree with it, (although of course we would like to understand it, and explain it as far as we can). And we thought that most atheists would be relativists, arguing that morality could be different for different people. (i.e. morality, to them would be subjective rather than objective). Would you agree, or do you think we have misunderstood the terminology?
  4. In question 1, I ticked every box wrong the first time around, yet I still can’t see why they are wrong! The question is asked in the negative, which makes it much harder to understand! Do you think he intended to ask “objectivism is consistent with …..” rather than “inconsistent with ….”? Or have I totally misunderstood this whole concept? In my second attempt, obviously I ticked all the opposite boxes and got full marks, but I still don’t understand why it’s right!

Response
  1. Yes - the quiz was odd. I did it late at night - but I can remember being a bit surprised at the results of the first two questions, and - like you - wasn't sure what the questions had been and which way I'd answered them - but assumed I'd got confused because I was tired.
  2. I got three parts of questions 1-2 marked incorrect (scoring 9.3 overall):-
    • 1. I didn't mark "If a world-view is not supported by scientific evidence, that world-view is thereby false." as inconsistent with objectivism.
    • 2. I marked "Any moral claim that is supported by objective evidence must be true" as something to which an objectivist must be committed.
    • 3. I marked "Moral claims must be supported by objective evidence, not mere feelings or opinions" as something to which an objectivist must be committed.
  3. I'm willing to allow that my answers to Q2 & Q3 are incorrect - given that objectivism is a metaphysical thesis and these are epistemological questions. I think most objectivists would go along with Q2 & Q3 - but they need not do so. There might be moral facts, but the evidence for moral truths might be misleading (say), or subjective evidence might be the only way we can get to moral truths (say). But if this is the case, I can't see why Q1 is marked incorrect1, as that's also an epistemological question. And in any case, I think that Q1 is too strong - in that it doesn't say that the world-view is repugnant to the scientific evidence, only that it is not supported by it (there might be no evidence either way). The objectivist (or anyone else) would not be committed to calling it false, only that there was no reason to think it true.
  4. Are these the questions (and answers) that you dealt with? I think (in response to your second email) that "inconsistent" is indeed what was intended in Q1. Why did you think otherwise?
    I thought Qs 8-10 rather interesting - though only in teaching the student the difference between epistemological, metaphysical and psychological claims. If there had been just one of these questions, I'm sure my answers would have been pretty random - and maybe those of "ordinary Joes". But you can spot what the questions are after more clearly given the three of them.
  5. I don't know about most people's view on morality! I think emotivism is a linguistic thesis that claims that what our ethical (or aesthetic) pronouncements mean is "I approve of this", and the like. I think most people (or maybe especially the stupid ones) are objectivists in some areas - paediatricians (!!) are evil and should have their houses burnt down - but not in others - it's OK for me to have an affair with X, but not for my partner to have an affair with Y. As the lecturer said, most people think that genocide is objectively wrong, but might be relativists when it comes to polygamy.
  6. I'm sure most Christians are objectivists - but those who know their Plato would be reluctant to say that God's ethical laws are "defined" (I'm not sure what you meant - but as we're doing philosophy I can pick up on what you said). Plato's Euthyphro dialogue addresses the question whether "the good" is prior to God's (or the gods') decrees. Could God decree that incest was right (as the Egyptian pharaohs believed), that eating pork is OK, or that exterminating Canaanites was wrong? Even Christians try to justify God's ethical decrees - and claim that they are not arbitrary: incest leads to genetic diseases, pork is bad for you in hot climates, the Canaanites had it coming as they were the "evil seed". The Euthyphro discusses whether the gods were worthy of worship because they objectified some pre-existent goodness (a long shot), or whether they made the rules of goodness to suit their own convenience. So, is God objectively good, or good by definition (because what he says goes)? I think we've had this discussion before, and maybe you just meant that God had "told us", subject to a bit of interpretation, what's right and wrong.
  7. As for atheists - the original logical positivists were emotivists (the "boo!!-hurrah!!" theory of ethics). But atheists can as easily be objectivists. They can be utilitarians - what is right is what leads to the greatest happiness for the greatest number - or consequentialists - the rights action is that likely to have the most beneficial consequences - or naturalists - what is right is what leads to the greatest flourishing for the being in question (either the agent or patient of the action: it is wrong for me to set fire to Henry as it won't lead to his flourishing - or mine). So they can think that there are such things as moral truths. They might think that some moral truths are of universal application but that others are context sensitive. If someone holds Julie hostage and says "set fire to Henry or Julie gets it", then up goes Henry (and if some alien says "set fire to Julie or the Earth gets it", then ...). I imagine even Christians are relativists to some degree (eg. in the "Henry" case).
  8. The lecturer made an important point about the idea of moral progress being an objection to relativism. Most people think that it is moral progress that slavery (or feudalism, or the caste system, or the class system) has been abolished because it is (and they are) seen to be morally objectionable. Some people think that it's moral progress that homosexuality is no longer considered a wicked crime (even though a naturalist might still wonder whether there's something "unnatural" about it, though such wondering would not be in public for fear of prosecution). Currently "child sexual abuse" is as wicked as it gets, but see the quote from CS Lewis's "Surprised by Joy" in the wikipedia entry on "catamites". Maybe this is another example of moral progress? So far the angry brigade hasn't dug up Oscar Wilde for that crime - but then he was more of an artist than Jimmy Savile, and is an untouchable gay icon. And no doubt there's an element of cultural relativism even here. All very unsavoury, I know.

Correspondent 2
  1. I have read and inwardly digested what you say (above)! But in order not to start a miniature book, I will have to leave it there (almost)!
  2. I didn’t know that there was a view that “the good” existed first, and that God just expressed it. Is that what you mean by “objectively good”, rather than “good by definition”. I think I am getting bogged down over words.
  3. Not being a philosopher I guess I don’t define all the words I use succinctly enough. That is something Mike dislikes about philosophy – the very tight definitions of all the words, so you can get tripped up over what you are saying because you might be using the wrong words. Mike very much disliked questions 8-10 for that reason, and went to get me a cup of tea while I decided which boxes to tick, as he said he didn’t have a clue what they were asking! Like yourself, I spotted what they seemed to be looking for – although I felt it was more by luck than judgement!
  4. My main question remains question 1. As I said, I ticked all the opposite boxes to the ones required! (Of course, in my second attempt, most of the questions were the same, so I knew which ones to tick, but still don’t understand why!) Obviously the whole quiz business, and having 3 attempts at each is ridiculous, as no doubt everybody can easily pass if they just take each quiz twice!
  5. By way of example:
    • The question was: “Objectivism is inconsistent with which of the following claims”.
    • “Our senses can tell what is true”. - Surely this is inconsistent with objectivism - therefore I ticked the box! But that was marked wrong. Why?
    • “If many reputable scientists say that a theory is true, that theory is thereby true.” - Surely this is consistent with objectivism - therefore I didn’t tick the box, as it isn’t inconsistent!
    And so on!
  6. I found the double negatives quite confusing. If the question had been: “Objectivism is consistent with which of the following claims?” then, for example:
    • “Our senses can tell what is true” - I would have then not ticked the box, as this is inconsistent with objectivism!!!
  7. No doubt I have now completely confused you!! Or maybe you will be able to explain what the problem is?

Response
  1. Words ... well, Socrates' technique was to interview people who thought they knew something, and show that they were confused. For instance, asking them what "justice" was, and then to draw out all the inconsistencies in what they rather unreflectingly thought - the aim being to reduce them to a state of aporia - or philosophical puzzlement. This sounds a bit negative - but his thought was that it was better to admit that you didn't know something - because then you might be able to make progress - than carry on happily in ignorance falsely thinking you had knowledge. The Athenians naturally found this rather irritating and sentenced him to death for corrupting the youth and subverting religion. Plato built a lot of positive doctrines on the ground cleared by his mentor which - while seminal and brilliant - are (like most positive philosophy) highly dubious.
  2. Analytic philosophers obviously like words, because it's virtually their whole job to sort out confusions caused by the careless use of words. What the final three questions were trying to get at (though I agree it would have been better to cover this in the lectures) was to distinguish the three conceptual areas - what is (metaphysics), what we know about what is (epistemology) and linguistic issues (what our discourse means, or is intended to mean). I wasn't sure why the test bundled together linguistic and psychological issues, and therefore what was meant by "psychology" in this context. Anthony Grayling was fond of pointing out the distinction between "knowing that" and "being certain that", epistemology versus psychology - you can know without being certain, and be certain without knowing what you think you know.
  3. I agree that - while having the quizzes is sensible - the re-sit idea is silly for multiple-choice where you've already seen the answers after the first attempt. So, I only do them once.
  4. I don't know why you have trouble with Q1. Objectivism (in the domain of ethics) is the metaphysical claim that there are truths and falsehoods (in the domain of ethics). Whatever our senses can tell us is an epistemological question, and has nothing to do with metaphysics. As a matter of fact, it's not much fun being an objectivist if your senses (or reason) aren't up to getting at the truth that's hiding out there somewhere. So objectivists would tend to say that our sense are able to tell what is true (though skeptics might doubt this) - but either way, this is a psychological fact about some objectivists, and it's not inconsistent with objectivism, so you can't tick it and say that it is.
  5. “If many reputable scientists say that a theory is true, that theory is thereby true.” Well, I didn't have that question, but had a similar one "If a world-view is not supported by scientific evidence, that world-view is thereby false." These questions are tricky! I can just about (now) see why they should be deemed inconsistent with objectivism. There seem to be two strands to objectivism -
    1. that there are some truths and/or some falsehoods and
    2. these truths and falsehoods are true or false independently of whether we can know them, or of our procedures for determining them.
    Your question seems to be a (mistaken) definition of what makes a scientific theory true - that it has to have the vote of the scientific establishment. This (as well as being false) is definitely inconsistent with objectivism, which says that a truth is true irrespective of our thoughts about it. Now it might be rash to go against the scientific establishment and believe something that's likely to be false, but that's a psychological or methodological question, and has nothing to do with metaphysics. Basically, the objectivist says that a theory is true (if it is true) independently of what anyone says about it; your question says the truth of a scientific theory depends on what (suitably qualified) people say about it. This is a straight contradiction. So tick it!
  6. I suppose that my version of the question should also be deemed inconsistent with objectivism (contrary to my thoughts yesterday). If an objectivist holds that a truth is true (if it is true) irrespective of our evidence for it, then if there's no evidence for it (scientific or whatever) but it is indeed true, then it's still true despite the lack of evidence. Again, maybe most objectivists are sensible people who don't believe things without evidence, or go even further and think that theories without evidence are false, but this is just a psychological fact about some objectivists, and it just shows them to be confused (or wrongly labelled). So, objectivism says that a world-view is true (if it is true) irrespective of the evidence for it. My question said a world-view is false if there's no evidence for it - even if all the while it is true! Again, this is a contradiction.
  7. All this is a bit disconcerting - because it seems that it's inconsistent to hold two sensible-sounding beliefs - objectivism and supporting the scientific establishment; and it's consistent to hold a sensible idea (objectivism) and a batty one - that world-views without evidence might be true. I think that inserting a "probably" in either question would make it consistent, as we will see below ....
  8. You've now confused me with your double negatives and flipping the question! “Our senses can tell what is true” is consistent with objectivism. The reason is that it says "can tell". If it said "do tell", as well as being false in the case of illusions, it would be inconsistent with objectivism, as it would claim both that truths are always independent of us and can depend on us. So, if our senses told us a falsehood was true, it would be true according to this modified thesis. Because it says "can tell", we don't know on any particular occasion whether our sense are right or not, so a truth can be true whether or not our senses say it is, and so be true irrespective of our beliefs.
  9. This is all quite difficult (assuming I've got it right) - so I imagine that the "first time" results for most people were pretty random - even if they got the right answers, if might have been for the wrong reason. I hope that some of all this makes sense, and exhausts you reading it less than it has done me writing it!


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Chrisman (Matthew) - Morality: Objective, Subjective or Relative?")

Footnote 1: I now can – see my response to the next set of questions below.



"Hazlett (Allan) - Should you believe what you hear?"

Source: Ward (Dave), Pritchard (Duncan), Massimi (Michela), Lavelle (Suilin), Chrisman (Matthew), Hazlett (Allan) & Richmond (Alasdair) - Introduction to Philosophy


Author’s Abstract
  1. Much of what we think about the world we believe on the basis of what other people say. But is this trust in other people's testimony justified? This week, we’ll investigate how this question was addressed by two great philosophers of the Scottish Enlightenment, David Hume (1711 - 1776) and Thomas Reid (1710 - 1796). Hume and Reid's dispute about testimony represents a clash between two worldviews that would continue to clash for centuries: a skeptical and often secular worldview, eager to question everything (represented by Hume), and conservative and often religious worldview, keen to defend common sense (represented by Reid).
  2. Author: Dr. Allan Hazlett received a PhD from Brown University in 2006, and taught in Texas and New York City before joining the University of Edinburgh in 2010. He has worked on the problem of skepticism and studied the way that people talk about knowledge, and more recently has written a book arguing that philosophers usually overestimate the value of truth.

Contents
  1. Introduction: Hume on Testimony and Miracles
  2. Reid’s challenge to Hume
  3. Reid’s argument
  4. Kant, the Enlightenment and intellectual autonomy
  5. The value of intellectual autonomy

Comments
  1. There’s a full transcript available (Link).
  2. Suggestions for further reading are confined to the on-line encyclopedia. The ones I’m least likely to ignore are:-
  3. There are also various historical references, which I’ve no intention of following up, interesting though they doubtless are:-
  4. This week was much more exciting – as far as the lectures went – than last week.
  5. Concerning Hume, and others, on miracles, I have:-
  6. Miracles were also covered at Heythrop; see:-
    • Click here for Note,
    • which, along with Earman’s book, is the source of most of the above references.

Correspondence

Correspondent 1
  1. We have now watched Week 5, and thought it was a great improvement on last week. I got 9.8/10 this week, due to a silly mistake, which I have no excuse for as it wasn’t late at night! That said, we still found the quiz quite hard in places, and particularly Q4, as I didn’t feel like ticking any of the boxes. So I ticked the one least likely to be wrong, and as it happened, that’s what they wanted.
  2. We found the discussion of what Hume argued, and what Reid argued, interesting. We thought most people would start off in the Reid camp when they are young, or immature, and progress to the Hume camp once they are older. We tend to be more trusting and believing when we are young, than when we are old, which is maybe why more people convert to Christianity in their teens, than when they are older?
  3. We had quite a lot of discussions in between each of the lectures. It brought up lots of interesting issues. Mike thought Hume’s definition of miracles wasn’t very good – he would rather define them as “Something that contravenes the laws of nature”, rather than “an exception to a previously exception-less regularity”, as some miracles actually take place a number of times, but they are still miracles. We discussed why we believe in miracles, but not all of them, and so on. We don’t believe in miracles today reported from Africa, and so on, whereas many Christians do. But we do believe in miracles recorded in the Bible, and it made us stop and analyse why. There are so many avenues to explore!
  4. We agreed with Reid that people are born naturally trusting, (fairly) truthful, and credulous, but that many learn not to be through experience of life. That said, we still rely on what other people say for the vast majority of what we believe, and I don’t think society would be able to function without this. Maybe this is why Reid thought we are hard-wired to be trusting of what other people say? (So that society can function reasonably well.) However, we didn’t think that we were hard-wired to be truthful. You only have to be around young children for a short while to realise this! Maybe this is because we are also born self-centred, and being truthful might sometimes get in the way of what we want? Of course, different children cope with this conflict of truthfulness v. self-centredness differently. So some people grow up to be a lot more honest than others – whether this is because some are more naturally truthful, whereas others are more naturally self-centred, I don’t know. In fact, when we discussed some of this, we just came to the conclusion once again that people are so complex and complicated it is very difficult to come to many hard and fast rules as to why they act as they do, why they believe what they do, and why they think what they think!
  5. Also we thought that maybe the more intelligent you are, the more you value intellectual autonomy? We like to collect evidence to substantiate what we believe, rather than accepting it on someone else’s say so. For example, do our own bible study rather than rely on what someone else says.

Response
  1. Yes - agreed (re the test) - I was back to 10 / 10, but (like you) found it a bit tricky at times. It all depends what they want. I think the answer to Q4 was in the lecture. I found Q1 the most difficult, in that occasionally you hear of "the testimony of the senses" or of introspection. But I assumed that you were meant to go by what was said in the lectures, so avoided these pitfalls.
  2. I agree with Mike's definition of a miracle (and with whatever else you say unless I say otherwise) - though it's probably somewhat early in the history of science to be thinking of "Laws of Nature"; ie. unfair to criticise Hume on that score. He'd probably doubt that there are such things, or that we have good reason to think there are, given that he even doubted that we have good reason to think that causation1 is anything other than the "constant conjunction" of the (so-called) cause and its (so-called) effect.
  3. Hume's Essay on Miracles is worth reading. He gives an account of some miracle in France, wonderfully attested - but by lots of people (the Jesuits, etc.) that the Edinburgh Calvinists would gnash their teeth over. Unfortunately, I can't remember the details, and can't look up the essay, as all my books got shuffled in the move. People tend to be happy to believe in miracles supporting what they already believe, and won't believe, whatever the evidence, those that support beliefs they abhor.
    I was brought up to believe, from as early as I can remember, that lying was the most wicked thing you could do, and was beaten with a stick on being found out, so I only lied when not doing so would lead me to be beaten with a stick even worse for what I was trying to hide. So, I suspect it depends on your upbringing how truthful you disposed to be. Nowadays, beating children with sticks is one of the worst things you can do. How times change.
  4. I'm not sure just what it is that triggers the thought that you have to decide for yourself what's what. I suppose the issue of testimony does come into it - in that the more educated you become, the more diverse viewpoints - and contradictory testimonies - you come across - and they can't all be right. Some people take this too far and trust their own judgement on matters of which they are ignorant. Again, as with the testimony of miracles, the case arises when "the experts" converge on a viewpoint that's antithetical to what you firmly believe. Maybe no amount of evidence (maybe falsely so-called) will be sufficient to budge you in that case.

Correspondent 2
  1. Week 5 was very interesting in that it placed the quasi-atheist Hume against the monotheist Reid as to how we should believe other peoples testimonies. Reid as a Christian would have to argue for intellectual solidarity because his belief in Christ relies solely upon the testimony of the Gospels. I know you have previously said to me that the historical Christ is a proven fact, proven by the writings of Pliny the Elder, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus but as none of these men were born (or was just a child as in the case of Pliny) at the time Christ died their testimonies must obviously rely on the testimonies of others.
  2. Hume being a (perhaps) non-believer could argue from his own intellectual autonomy point of view.

Response
  1. Yes - I enjoyed week 5 as well, having long been impressed by Hume's argument against miracles.
  2. It was interesting to hear the case for and against intellectual autonomy. I've lived in a social group (even when a Christian) where taking nothing on anyone's say-so was so obviously a virtue, and a cornerstone of intellectual life, that it hardly needed to be argued. But it does have its downsides - in particular the conspiracy theorists, and the hatred of experts. Like Hume, I'd apply two principles - firstly, how well qualified in the domain in question are the people whose testimony you are accepting or rejecting (especially in comparison with your own) and secondly, how unusual or unlikely is what they are asking you to believe. Most of the time we have to rely on testimony, and it's too much of a fatigue checking everything out, which is why general truth-telling is so important. But you have to be on the lookout for weasels. I recognise Reid's arguments from Catholic school and doctrine generally, with its insistence on tradition and the magisterium. Maybe there's some comfort in all this, but we need to grow up and throw away the comfort blanket.
  3. I wasn't arguing that the reported acts - in particular the resurrection - of Jesus of Nazareth were facts, only his existence; in that we've as much reason to believe in his existence (with something like the personality reported in the Gospels) as most other characters in antiquity.
  4. I had the impression that Hume was an atheist.
… The discussion continued, but is not recorded here, as somewhat off topic.

COMMENT:



"Massimi (Michela) - Are Scientific Theories True?"

Source: Ward (Dave), Pritchard (Duncan), Massimi (Michela), Lavelle (Suilin), Chrisman (Matthew), Hazlett (Allan) & Richmond (Alasdair) - Introduction to Philosophy


Author’s Abstract
  1. In this session we will explore a central and ongoing debate in contemporary philosophy of science: whether or not scientific theories are true. Or better, whether a scientific theory needs be 'true' to be good at all. The answer to this question comes in two main varieties. Scientific realists believe that theories ought to be true in order to be good. We will analyse their main argument for this claim (which goes under the name of 'no miracles argument'), and some prominent objections to it. Scientific antirealists, on the other hand, defend the view that there is nothing special about 'truth' and that scientific theories and scientific progress can be understood without appeal to it. The aim of this session is to present both views, their main arguments, and prospects.
  2. Author: Dr. Michela Massimi gained her PhD in philosophy of science at LSE in 2002. She was Junior Research Fellow in Cambridge (2002-2005) and Visiting Professor in the HPS Dept., Pittsburgh (2009). Michela has joined Edinburgh in July 2012, having previously taught for seven years at UCL. Her primary research areas are philosophy of science, Kant, and history and philosophy of modern physics.

Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Ancient Greek astronomy and Duhem on “saving the phenomena”
  3. From Copernicus to Galileo
  4. Scientific realism
  5. Scientific anti-realism
  6. Inference to the best explanation: realism vindicated?
  7. Conclusion

Comments
  1. Thankfully (given the lecturer’s Italian accent) there’s a full transcript available (Link) as well as the usual Slides (Link), which I usually ignore.
  2. Suggestions for further reading are confined to the on-line Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:-
  3. I think some quite deep issues here. Anti-realism is a slippery term, and the lecturer - in choosing the example of Constructive Empiricism (CE) - has chosen a particularly benign form of anti-realism. Anti-realism can shade off into post-modernism, where whatever science says is purely cultural, or the doctrine of power-groups, and no statement is any more "true" than any other. CE just adopts a mildly sceptical approach to the findings of science, as empiricism does to knowledge-claims generally, not wanting to go too far beyond the empirical data.
  4. There were some things I found a bit awkward. There seemed to be a tension in the account of Constructive Empiricism. It was stated that CE thinks that the terms of science “refer” (the semantic aspect), but that the metaphysical implications of scientific theories aren't taken seriously as true or false (the epistemological aspect).
  5. I think what is intended – by using the terms “semantic” and “epistemic” (rather than metaphysical) is that EP is open-minded on the metaphysics. It is saying that science isn’t really trying to determine the metaphysical truth. But I was slightly confused on the suggestion that the terms of science “refer”. I suppose what it’s saying is that part of the meaning of the terms used in science – whether planets or electrons or whatever – is to refer to objects in the external world, whether or not we are justified in believing in such things.
  6. My second worry is that drawing the line of observable versus unobservable at the level of what can be seen with the naked eye is both vague and unduly strict. Whose naked eye? Are spectacles allowed? Aren’t optical telescopes so well proven in operation as to be equivalent to the naked eye? I can see that some instruments (eg. the detectors in atomic physics) might be so theory-entangled that you might say they are not just observing (though they do count as “observers” in a quantum-mechanical sense). What about electron-microscopes? Again, my approach would be to say that some instruments are so well-proven in use that they can be treated as observers, and what they detect can be treated as observables.
  7. But I think the realists have it right as to the aims of science - that it is more than just saving the phenomena - it's trying to get (nearer) to the bottom of how the whole show works - models are temporary expedients until "we" get a better grip. Does anyone still think that the heliocentric model of the solar system is just a tentative model? Or that the Earth might be flat?
  8. I had worries about the term “approximately true”. I don’t think this was explained, though we know what’s intended. I don’t think we’re talking multi-valued logics, or degrees of truth. Our theories are either true or false, though we might not know which. The theory that the mammalian heart pumps blood is true – indeed, a fact – though once it was a hypothesis. It’s difficult to know whether the General Theory of Relativity is true, or even the Special Theory – though every time a supposed counter-example appears it seems to turn out to be experimental error. Presumably an “approximately true” theory is one that’s known to be false, literally construed, but which is believed to be along the right lines, in that it saves most of the phenomena and fits in with other theories.
  9. I’m not sure whether I’m an anti-realist. I don’t necessarily believe scientific models – particularly because many of them are idealisations so that we can do the sums, and of course they are open to future falsification. But there are some permanent advances – the brain is used to think with, and to control the body, and isn’t an organ to cool the blood; “end of”, as they say. And I think it’s part of the aim of science to make permanent advances. I suspect we take these permanent advances for granted, and forget that they were once hunches and unsubstantiated hypotheses that science got right.


COMMENT:



"Richmond (Alasdair) - Time Travel and Philosophy"

Source: Ward (Dave), Pritchard (Duncan), Massimi (Michela), Lavelle (Suilin), Chrisman (Matthew), Hazlett (Allan) & Richmond (Alasdair) - Introduction to Philosophy


Author’s Abstract
  1. In this final session, we will think about some issues in metaphysics: a branch of philosophy that investigates the ways that reality could intelligibly be. Our case study will be the possibility, or otherwise, of time-travel. Some have thought that the apparent possibility of creating a machine that we could use to transport a person backwards in time can be ruled out just by thinking about it. But is time-travel really logically impossible? What would the universe have to be like for it to be possible? And can we know whether our universe fits the bill?
  2. Author: Dr. Alasdair Richmond is a threefold graduate of Aberdeen University and joined Philosophy at Edinburgh in 2003. He has published on constructive empiricism, the Anthropic Principle, Doomsday arguments, Descartes’ conception of immortality, time travel1 and the topology of time. He is currently working on a book entitled ‘Time Travel2 for Philosophers’.

Contents
    Introduction – why a philosophy of time travel3? (p. 1)
  1. What might time travel4 be anyway? (pp. 2 – 3)
  2. Grandfather paradoxes (pp. 4 – 6)
  3. Two senses of change (pp. 7 – 8)
  4. Causal loops (pp. 9 – 11)
  5. Where next? (pp. 12 – 13)
  6. Appendix 1: Relativity, Kurt Gödel and the unreality of time (pp. 14 – 19)
  7. Appendix 2: Some notable time travel5 fictions and films (pp. 20 – 21)
  8. List of references / further reading (pp. 22 – 24)

Comments
  1. There’s a substantial hand-out available (Link) as well as the usual slides and draft transcripts for the first couple lectures (which I’ve ignored).
  2. Suggestions for further reading are divided between two sources:-
    • those on the lecture web-page itself, and
    • those given in the hand-out (see below)
    As usual, those on the web-page are mostly confined to the on-line Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:-
  3. However, there are also references to some interesting websites:-
  4. Finally, there are two versions of a very technical paper:-
  5. The hand-out contains an extensive reading-list. For my own convenience, I list those items I already possess. I don’t want to get carried away digging out papers there’s no possibility of me ever reading, on a topic peripheral to my main research interests:-

Correspondence9

Correspondent 1
  1. Although he stated Lewis thinks that time-travel is a logical possibility, I still think it isn’t! He touched on this, but as far as I can see, any change, no matter how tiny would affect the future, and therefore be contradictory, and as he said, things can’t be contradictory if they are to be logical. The only way you get around this is by having multiple histories, like Deutsch & Lockwood. To me, all of this is firmly in the realm of science fiction, which I really like to read, but surely has nothing to do with reality!
  2. Presumably you have never read "Niffenegger (Audrey) - The Time Traveler's Wife"? Probably not your cup of tea, but I must admit some of the things that came up in his lecture today reminded me of that book! It made me wonder whether Audrey Niffenegger maybe studied a bit of philosophy before she wrote it!!
  3. The argument by Lewis that a time traveller10 could make “counterfactual changes” in the past seems nonsensical to me. He is dealing with the hypothetical, so that actually, nothing is changed at all, because it was going to happen that way anyway. Because as he pointed out, we know the outcome cannot be changed, because it is fixed in history.
  4. His discussion of causal loops was interesting. I love the logic of “information simply exists”! It seems to be the same as “God simply exists”.

Response
  1. I thought the lecturer downplayed the constraints on the time-traveller (though the hand-out is clearer). Lewis is definite that there can be only counterfactual changes to the past (or any other time, more on that later). So, nothing can change from what it is at a time – though obviously things can change from one time to the next. In fact, it’s not as though the past is being re-played, this time with the time-traveller in it when he was absent the first time around. There’s only one “playing” of the scene, and the time-traveller is there in that scene the one and only time it is played. This obviously would place a lot of constraints on the time-traveller, even before he decided to enter the time-machine11 – in that if he was present in the past, as a time traveller12 from the future, then while he might have some leeway as to when he makes the trip, he has no choice but to make it some time – to fail to do so would create a contradiction. And, when he does travel back in time, he must do exactly what he did when he was there. But, I doubt it’ll appear to him like he’s in a straight-jacket: he’ll have the same feeling of free will that we all have, but his will will either be frustrated or not depending on what he tries to do. The difficulty lies in that our time-traveller has some knowledge of how things turn out. If he tries to make things turn out how they didn’t turn out, he will fail – but will act just as he did in the one and only time the scene is played out. The hand-out (and maybe the lecture, I forget) makes a good point in that the trip to the past may be what makes things turn out just how they did – and you maybe wish they hadn’t – the example given is that when you go back into the past to kill Hitler, it’s your very attempt that saves his life. I suppose the very paradoxical case would be where the antics of the time traveller13 were very well documented and known to the time-traveller – in that case he would know exactly what he would do, and he would do it whether he wanted to or not.
  2. No – I’ve not read "Niffenegger (Audrey) - The Time Traveler's Wife" – though I’ve heard of it and have had a look at the chatter on Amazon about it. Marmite, by the sound of things.
  3. Counterfactual change is an interesting concept. The important thing is that the presence of the time-traveller in the past isn’t that of an epiphenomenal ghost – he actually does things and affects events! But these things have already happened, and if he hadn’t been there, things would have turned out differently to a greater or lesser degree. Lewis’s point is that none of us ever change anything at a time, only from one time to the next. So, Blucher “changed history” by turning up on time at Waterloo, ensuring Napoleon’s defeat. If he’d been late, Napoleon would have won. But the change that would have been brought about by his lateness is a counterfactual change, because he was, in fact, on time. I’m not quite sure of the terminology – and will read Lewis’s paper to check – that is, whether Blucher’s timeliness also instigated a counterfactual change at a time. Napoleon was going to win, but he changed the course of events so that he lost – but this isn’t a replacement change – there was only one battle of Waterloo, and Napoleon lost it – so Blucher’s timeliness must have instigated a counterfactual change from what would have happened (had he been late) to what did happen. Difficult.
  4. I’m less satisfied by Lewis’s unconcern about “information from nowhere” than you are – maybe because I’m not sure what information is (I should know, being an IT chap, and have some unread books on the topic, stemming from a book given me years ago – "Gitt (Werner) - In the Beginning was Information" – which refers you to "Shannon (Claude) & Weaver (Warren) - The Mathematical Theory of Communication". There’s also a chapter on it in "Andrews (Edgar) - Who Made God? Searching For a Theory of Everything". There are a number of processes – for instance causation14, explanation, belief justification – that leave us with a trilemma – infinite regress, foundationalism or coherentism – ie. things either go back forever, stop somewhere, or go round in a circle. Like you, I expect, I’m less happy about some “brute facts” than others – the complete works of Shakespeare isn’t one that I had in mind. The theistic line is a foundationalist approach – things don’t go back forever or round in circles, but stop somewhere – with God. So, it is said, it doesn’t make sense to ask “who created God” or “what explains God”. And fair enough, but I’d still like an explanation of where the complete works of Shakespeare came from, and a tight causal loop isn’t good enough.

Correspondent 2
  1. My take on lecture 7 is that if one were to go back in time then just your mere presence alone would cause a 'contradiction'. It's the way that the most innocent of actions can often snowball, given time, rather than any individuals intended actions. Take, for example, if you went back in time and that just your presence alone caused a fly to be diverted from its original path and it then got caught in a spider’s web. That spider was then caught by a bird that would otherwise have gone elsewhere but whilst the bird was flying off with its lunch a cat suddenly darted across a road to catch the bird which caused a car to swerve onto the pavement killing a young Albert Einstein or Charles Darwin. History would be changed forever. It's the butterfly beating its wings in South America ultimately causing a tornado in Kansas type scenario.
  2. Anyhow, why wouldn't the time machine15 operator (and/or the machine) grow younger, or older? I don't see how they would be disconnected from the direction of time travel16.
  3. And I guess that as history still records Hitler (he does seem to get such a very bad press!) and other terrible events in history
  4. I can't see that time travel17 will ever happen in the future, but the philosophical arguments are very interesting.

Response
  1. Thanks for your thoughts on time travel18. They are quite perceptive, though I think the first, long, comment is misguided. As I'd tried to explain in my response to Correspondent 1, there can be no changes at all to what happened in the past - simply because a time happens only once – so whatever you do when you go back into the past has already happened, including any knock-on effect of what you do or cause to happen. Your exposition of the butterfly effect eloquently explains why this must be so in order to avoid contradictions.
  2. As for why reverse time-travel isn’t just time reversed, or something analogous … well, that’s another story altogether. Have you read "Amis (Martin) - Time's Arrow or the Nature of the Offence"? Recommended. I occasionally wonder why personal time continues to go forward in reverse time travel19. I suppose assuming it goes backwards is just changing the subject – we’re trying to work out the logical consequences of reverse time travel20 as traditionally understood. We could come up with thought experiments21 where time went backwards for you – but if the time machine22 just reversed time for a bit, you’d just hop out of the machine backwards, time would go forward again and you’d be in a very tight loop (“Groundhog Minute”). If you were somehow isolated from the rest of spacetime – as in the traditional time-machine23 idea – then if weird “getting younger” events happened to you there would be problems with conservation of mass/energy as you got smaller / bigger as you got younger – though I don’t know what’s supposed to be happening in this regard as a time-machine24 just pops into existence as a time – where have its mass-energy come from? I don’t know – but your idea is just another thought-experiment25 which would need filling out. While there’s some argument about whether reverse time travel26 is physically possible, we’re not really trying to work out what would actually happen in practice – we’re trying to work out what is logically possible, given some fairly well-defined premises.
  3. Your third point is fair enough – if we could change the past, you’d have thought someone would have kindly sorted out some of the nastiest things that have happened, so that they didn’t. But this isn’t logically possible, as we’ve noted – a time traveller27 can’t change anything – indeed he can’t do anything other than what’s been done – including what’s been done by him, then. Your idea is not quite the same objection as that raised by Stephen Hawking – ie. “where are all the time-travellers”. It seems that it’s likely that in a physically-realisable time-machine28, you can never go back in time to before the time the machine was built – so the answer to Hawking’s question is that no-one’s built one yet; and – as far as it goes – that might answer your objection. But if and when someone does build a time-machine29, time-travellers will just be part of life, and won’t seem extraordinary, except maybe the first time one is encountered. But what they will never be able to do is change the past. They will be active in the then present, which just happens to be an earlier time to that in which they had previously been active.


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Richmond (Alasdair) - Time Travel and Philosophy")

Footnote 9:
  • These correspondents are friends of mine whom I encouraged to take the course.


Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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