Philosophy - I have a book here...

Discussion in 'Soap Box' started by Abacus21, May 11, 2009.

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  1. Abacus21

    Abacus21 Staff Alumni

    ... called 'The Pig That Wants To Be Eaten'.

    It contains thought-experiments - little philosophical scenarios that give us some sort of moral or philosophical problem that we can then churn over [and over?] in our heads, hopefully to arrive at some amazing, "Eureka!" like conclusion.

    I know there's a fair few folks on here who enjoy philosophy, so would anyone be interested if I posted some of these scenarios here, or not?
  2. fromthatshow

    fromthatshow Staff Alumni

    I read that a long time ago when I first started getting into philosophy!
    That was a great book! Post! :heart:
  3. shades

    shades Staff Alumni

    The more the merrier! I'm willing to check out just about anything! Let er rip.
  4. Abacus21

    Abacus21 Staff Alumni

    Okey dokes, then!

    These are the thought-experiments that inspire some really rather good arguments from the chap Julian Baggini.

    1. The Evil Demon
    Is anything so self-evident that it cannot be doubted? Is it not possible that our lives are no more than dreams, or that the world is just a figment of our imaginations? Outlandish though these notions are, the mere fact that they are conceivable shows that the reality of the physical world can be doubted.
    There are other ideas, however, which seem to be so clear and self-evident that they must be true. For instance, whether you are awake or asleep, two plus two makes four. A triangle must have three sides whether the world, real or imaginary, contains triangles or not.
    But what if God, or some powerful, malicious demon, is tricking you? Couldn't such an evil spirit fool you into believing that the false is obviously true? Haven't we seen hypnotists make people count to ten, unaware that they have missed outh the number seven? And what of a man who, in a dream, hears four strikes of the clock tower bell and finds himself thinking, 'How odd. The clock has struck one four times!'
    If the evil demon is a possibility, is there anything which is beyond doubt?

    2. Beam Me Up...
    For Stellios, the teletransporter is the only way to travel. Previously it took months to get from the Earth to Mars, confined to a cramped spacecraft with a far from perfect safety record. Stellio's TeletransportExpress changed all that. Now the trip takes just minutes, and so far it has been 100% safe.
    However, now he is facing a lawsuit from a disgruntled customer who is claiming the company actually killed him. His brain and body cell by cell, destroying them, beaming the information to Mars and reconstructing you there. Although the person on Mars looks, feels and thinks just like a person who has been sent to sleep and zapped across space, the claimant argues that what actually happens is that you are murdered and replaced by a clone.
    To Stellios, this sounds absurd. After all, he has taken the teletransporter trip dozens of time, and he doesn't feel dead. Indeed, how can the claimant seriously believe that he has been killed by the process when he is clearly able to take the case to court.
    Still, as Stelios entered the teletransporter booth once again and prepared to press the button that would begin to dismantle him, he did, for a second, wonder whether he was about to commit suicide...

    3. The Indian and the Ice
    Dhara Gupta lived all her life village near Jaisalmer in Rjastan desert. One day, in 1822, as she was cooking dinner, she became aware of a commotion. She looked up to discover that her cousin, Mahavir, had returned from a trip he had begun two years before. He looked in good health, and over dinner told them of his adventures.
    There were tales of robbers, wild animals, great mountains and of other incredible sights and adventures. But what really stunned Dhara was that his claim to have seen something called 'ice'.
    'I went to regions where it was so cold, the water stopped flowing and formed a solid, translucent block', said Mahavir. What is more amazing is that there is no state in between where the liquid thickens. The water that flows freely is only slightly warmer than that which has solidified.'
    Dhara did not want to challenge her cousin in public, but she did not believe him. What he said contradicted all her experience. She did not believe it when travellers told her of fire-breathing dragons. Nor would she believe this nonsense about ice. She rightly though she was too intelligent for that.

    OK - that's three to be getting on with. Will post more later / tomorrow - fingers ache at the moment!
  5. shades

    shades Staff Alumni

    I'll have to take these one or two at a time and try to continue the thread!

    1) The evil demon: Well, I don't know if I'm in the minority or not, but I often wondered whether life is a 'dream' from a very early age. My final answer is, that whether it is a dream, or not, our actions have consequences. Bang your finger with a hammer, we feel pain...break the law, go to prison. It's irrelevant to me whether it's a dream or not. As to a god-like being having the ability to alter my reality, changing the facts about geometry or math, I certainly cannot prove that it can't happen. But my current thought process, based on all knowledge I've acquired to this point tells me it's highly unlikely.

    2) Beam me up: I suppose this should be taken up by the courts and there should be a very long contract drawn up so that anybody who intends to use the Telleporter (whatever) knows what they're getting into (no pun intended).
    As to Stellios' doubts about going through it again...he's right to question it. This kind of reminds me of what I was told by a doctor regarding resusitation. The doctor said that when your heart stops, you are dead. You can be brought back to life, but you are 'dead' for the time your heart stopped! In this light, Stellios may in fact be dead when his molecules disintegrate...whether or not he comes out on the other end alive or not.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 12, 2009
  6. Advent

    Advent Well-Known Member

    Good thread, I however am having issues with all of the above questions.

    The first one entitled The evil demon, suggests than if life is a dream, so by default this also means that we will`wake up` one day???.

    The second one regarding the transporter I cant get my head around, maybe because I come from a technical background and know that the `teleporter` is currently impossible even with todays high speed data transfer systems - but I guess this is not the point of the question.

    The third one, well this does sound plauseable, I see no reason why the lady concerned had reason to believe the chap, until proof of this new discovery had been shown to her. After all not that long ago, most folks believd the planet was flat and that you fall off the edge.

    Sorry but these are a bit criptic for me, I see things as black or white.
    Carry on though, I may be able to answer one soon..

  7. shades

    shades Staff Alumni

    3) The Indian and the ice: She's right to question it. For the most part, I need proof to believe in something I haven't seen for myself. This doesn't mean I have to see the 'rings of Saturn' in person to know they exist. I've read enough documentation by thousands of scientists and I've seen what appears to be a ring, through a telescope. If, however, several thousand people told her they had seen this amazing thing called ice, she should certainly begin to think that it is at least possible that it may exist.

    I also believe in Einsteins theory of relativity, even though I could never prove it myself. I think there's enough evidence to prove it...far too much to list here. But I think you see where I'm going with this.

    They are interesting topics to discuss and I really am not that philosophical, so I hope some others jump in here and make some comments.
  8. JohnADreams

    JohnADreams Well-Known Member

    1) Nothing is beyond doubt. However, a great many things are beyond reasonable doubt.
    2) If he's replaced by a clone, then he (as the clone) wasn't killed, the original was. I'd have thrown that out of court right there. :tongue: I don't believe anyone died though. The consciousness continues to exist, the genetic information is the same. So, I guess it depends on what you believe to be life.
    3) This is a lot like the example of the black swan. It isn't all that bad that Dhara Gupta didn't believe her cousin. Any clam that seems extraordinary, requires an equal level of evidence to back it up.
  9. anonymous51

    anonymous51 Staff Alumni

    Very interesting topic, I love when philosophers give you questions for you to answer yourself rather than tell you when you are wrong.

    I like the first question, if our thoughts have been inspired by the world around us, then how do we know that we havent been lied to? What if we find out that everything that we know to be true turns out to be a complete lie?

    Joe I have a question for you... Try and imagine the brain of a fly. Their minds are extremley basic, and can only understand very basic sensations such as light/dark and strong smells. Now look at the brain of a human in the same way as the flies. We can prove that we are smarter than the fly, and we have a much larger understanding of the universe, because we know that our brains are larger and can handle more complex thoughts. Now does the fact that all other species we have encountered have been less intelligent than us, mean that we have the ultimate brain?

    Do you think that because we know that one animal (human) is more intelligent than another, that means that it is possible that we do not have the ultimate brain and we are grounded by our limited brain power in the same way that the fly is?

    Or do you think that because our brains can imagine the idea of a superior intelligence, then the fact that our brains can construct such an idea then our intelligence must be infinite?
  10. Abacus21

    Abacus21 Staff Alumni

    Then surely, if it turns out to be a lie, it isn't knowledge now, as it was just a perception as to how the world / life (etc) was. That said, if we weren't aware that the world is indeed a complete lie, would the perception that we now have, then be knowledge? It's an interesting little take on what reality is...

    Hm - interesting question. I think that the word 'ultimate' needs to be defined here.. If you mean 'ultimate' in the terms of having a better brain than everything we have studied, then scientific results would, judging by your paragraph, say yes. However, 'ultimate' brain in terms of the universe - one would have to say that that is a bit of a preposterous thing to attest to. I believe that Richard Dawkins, a famous and well-known atheist with such books as 'The God Delusion', has even said 'You would be a fool to categorically state that there is not such as a thing as God' - to discount the idea altogether. Even though, I myself am an atheist, I'd think that it would be short-sighted to rule out other species of life in other planets somewhere in the universe, much the same as Dawkins says that it would be foolhardy to totally throw the idea of God / some deity's existence out. My point in that - who is to say that another species of animal / human / "alien", won't have the 'ultimate brain' in the future?

    I think that everyone is grounded by their own intelligence - some people cannot become scientists, for example, because they cannot grasp the concepts / ideas / calculations (etc) - because their 'intelligence' (or lack thereof) stops them. They do not possess it to forge ahead in this type of career.
    That said, 'intelligence' is a rounded thing - in a particular area, where one may be lacking intelligence, that may be equally balanced in another area in which they are on-par with the majority of people, or above the average.

    To say that, purely because our brains can construct an idea of a superior deity / intelligence / power, doesn't mean that our intelligence is infinite (indeed, how would we know if it was?), rather simply more advanced than that of the species that came before us.
  11. Ziggy

    Ziggy Antiquitie's Friend

    "The Indian and the Ice"

    I would tend to believe this. I mean most myths and legends are based closely on the real world. Fairies and giants are just short or tall people, or you take a horse, give it wings, a horn or even stripes and claim that unicorns and zebras exist. So the idea of a more intelligent or superior power doesn't impress me so much.

    However, the concept of ice. To make that one up. I would be impressed.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 13, 2009
  12. anonymous51

    anonymous51 Staff Alumni

  13. Jack Rabbit

    Jack Rabbit Well-Known Member

    There are 2 schools of philosophy implicated here. Solipsism and nihilism both codify the belief structure behind this dilemma. I am an objectivist, I believe in the truth of physical reality. This is, I recognize, a premise. One doesn't have to doubt premises - that's what makes them premises.
    First of all, the legal case does not depend on philosophy. I think the transporter company is safe from criminal charges. The judges have all probably used the transporters and are not about to decide that they are not entitled to whatever assets they accumulated before each use. Individuality will be found to continue.
    Dharma is trapped in what Mark Clifton would have called the 1st key:
    1. Accept the statement of Eminent Authority without basis, without question.
    2. Disagree with the statement without basis, out of general contrariness.
    3. Perhaps the statement is true, but what if it isn't? How then to account for the phenomenon?
    4. How much of the statement rationalizes to suit man's purpose that he and his shall be ascendant at the center of things?
    5. What if the minor should become major, the recessive dominant, the obscure prevalent?
    6. What if the statement were reversible, that which is considered effect is really cause?
    7. What if the natural law perceived in one field also operates unperceived in all other phases of science. What if there be only one natural law manifesting itself, as yet, to us in many facets because we cannot apperceive the whole, of which we have gained only the most elementary glimpses, with which we can cope only at the crudest level?
    This is from Eight Keys to Eden, great book (you can download from the Gutenberg Project)
    Or maybe she should have just read your first dilemma. :biggrin:
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