Grad School Statement of Purpose

If any of my readers have any experience applying to graduate schools, I’m looking for advice and feedback on my statement of purpose.  Highlighted sections are areas that I think may need some work.


One of the things that I believe most firmly is that the world would benefit from having more philosophy.  I am a philosophy student, and philosophy is an integral part of my life.  I write a philosophy blog, I read philosophy books, and I attend philosophy discussion groups.  It’s most pervasive influence however is that it has become the lens through which I view life.  For though philosophy is, in a sense, in the metaphorical lens manufacturing business, I think in many ways the main benefit of philosophy is that you get a feel for the nature of the lenses themselves.  To a certain extent philosophy helps us get outside of ourselves; something which I believe is invaluable, not just in academic study but also in our personal lives.  I want philosophy to be my life’s work, but by this I do not just mean that I want to study philosophy academically – I am also interested in cultivating the philosophical mindset in society and government.  I am applying for the London School of Economics Masters in Philosophy and Public Policy because I believe that its interdisciplinary program will supply me with the knowledge and skills that I need to pursue every angle of my interest in philosophy.
I think the factor that has played the biggest role in my philosophical development is my interdisciplinary education at Quest University Canada.  The philosophical courses that I took were excellent, but I think I got far more out of them then I otherwise would because they were situated in a broader context.  My understanding of freewill was shaped by Kant and Dostoyevsky, but also by studies in molecular biology.   My understanding of human nature was informed by Heidegger and evolutionary psychology.  To learn about politics I’ve studied Plato, and I’ve also studied governmental systems and modern media theory.  I have found that all of my studies’ have been mutually supportive, and that the most valuable contribution of philosophy is the critical mindset that it fosters.  My opinion of the value of this mindset was reinforced to m by my experience working as a peer tutor at Quest.  I edited papers from a wide variety of fields, including economics, ecology, biology, and many others.  What I continuously found was that clarity of thought was the essential differentiating factor between good and bad papers, and that often the best way to help the other student was to try to draw them into a critical analysis of their own thoughts.
My specific field of interest for academic study is ethics and phenomenology.  My undergraduate thesis, On Humility, was a phenomenological theory of knowledge in which I propose that the way to be knowledgeable is to have an epistemically humble demeanour.  In working on this project I increasingly found that my epistemological project was also inseparably an ethical one.  I want to continue this line of research.  Drawing on the works of philosophers such as Heidegger and Levinas, I want to explore the idea that the constitution of our phenomenal world is ultimately ethical.  I think that we fundamentally experience the world as a normative question, and that our essential nature lies in perceiving and answering the question. 
Public policy is thoroughly intertwined with my philosophical interests, because work on policy is first and foremost an ethical project.  I am inclined to think that all research is ultimately ethical in nature, but public policy is one of the fewer fields that studies ethics explicitly.  The project of public policy, informed by many other fields of research, is to determine both how we think the world should be and how to change it to match our vision.  I am interested in public policy because I have an ethical project, and I believe that I would be well served in a public policy program because of my philosophy and interdisciplinary background.
In the end everything comes down to ethics.  We must all struggle with the question of what we should do with our lives.  I think that one of the most fascinating aspects of the question is that the question itself can also be a subject of study.  What is the question?  Are there right answers?  Can we answer the question for others?  It is, in a sense, the ultimate question of human existence.
I have researched many different programs, and I have concluded that the London School of Economics MSC in philosophy and public policy would be an excellent fit for me.  The program will allow me to continue my research on ethics in an interdisciplinary environment, while also providing me with the practical skills and the theoretical background to excel in many potential careers.  I intend to broaden my ethical background by taking the core Morals and Politics Philosophy course, while increasing my knowledge of the social scientific method by taking Philosophy of the Social Sciences.  Since LSE is a centre of public policy debate I will also be exposed to many valuable opinions and contacts.
The philosopher who has had the greatest impact on my life is Martin Heidegger with his work Being and Time, specifically with his examination of authentic being towards death.  Being and Time made me realize how important it is to think about what I want to do with my life.  The answers I’ve come up with are simple, at least in theory.  I want to study philosophy, I want to enjoy my work, and I want to fall in love.  I believe that attending LSE would both embody these goals, and put me on the path to maintaining them throughout my life.  I will get to study philosophy, while gaining qualifications for interesting work, in the company of interesting like-minded people.  I believe that the London School of Economics’ interdisciplinary Philosophy and Public Policy program will supply me with the knowledge and skills that I need to pursue every angle of my interest in philosophy.

via Blogger http://creative-philo.blogspot.com/2013/10/grad-school-statement-of-purpose.html

Advertisements

The Moral Landscape Challenge

For those of you who are familiar with Sam Harris’s work The Moral Landscape, he has issued a challenge for people to contest it.  Here’s the link: Moral Landscape Challenge.  I’m planning on entering the contest myself, assuming I can make the time between my applications to grad schools (which is what I really should be doing right now….)

I’m interested in participating in this contest because it presents a unique challenge for me – after having read his book I find that I’m generally sympathetic to Sam Harris’s goals while disagreeing with subtly important aspects of his arguments.  I actually wrote my undergraduate thesis with goals very similar to those of Sam Harris I would say, those goals being namely that I’m opposed to moral quietism: I think that people can act rightly and wrongly, and I wanted to properly justify this intuition as best as I could.

Here is how Harris states the central thesis of his book:

“Morality and values depend on the existence of conscious minds—and specifically on the fact that such minds can experience various forms of well-being and suffering in this universe. Conscious minds and their states are natural phenomena, fully constrained by the laws of the universe (whatever these turn out to be in the end). Therefore, questions of morality and values must have right and wrong answers that fall within the purview of science (in principle, if not in practice). Consequently, some people and cultures will be right (to a greater or lesser degree), and some will be wrong, with respect to what they deem important in life.” (link).

Right now I am still working on understanding the deeper implications of Harris’s theory.  I currently am inclined towards two potential lines of argument:

1: Sam Harris has mistaken the actual nature of morality.  Morality is by necessity about the actions of individuals deciding how to live their lives.  All actions tie back to morality.  The human life project is such that it is mistaken to say that all human lives should be dedicated to the propagation of well-being.

or

2: There is a deeper basis for ethics that should come before well being, that basis being humility.  The human expedience is such that we all think what we believe is true, that’s what a belief is.  In his book Harris uses two contradictory arguments several times – he often seems to appeal to common sense (no one would prefer being tortured and raped over living a happy life) while also stating that that some people just have invalid opinions (just because lots of people believe something doesn’t mean that their opinion is worthy of respect).  I would argue that both are phenomenally indistinguishable from the inside, and therefore our first commitment should be to the continuous examination of experience – we have our commitments to our beliefs, but our first commitment is to the progression of our beliefs, thus we avoid dogmatism.

If you have any thoughts or ideas, let me know.  Thank you for reading,

Ryan Workman

Morality and values depend on the existence of conscious minds—and specifically on the fact that such minds can experience various forms of well-being and suffering in this universe. Conscious minds and their states are natural phenomena, fully constrained by the laws of the universe (whatever these turn out to be in the end). Therefore, questions of morality and values must have right and wrong answers that fall within the purview of science (in principle, if not in practice). Consequently, some people and cultures will be right (to a greater or lesser degree), and some will be wrong, with respect to what they deem important in life. – See more at: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-moral-landscape-challenge1#sthash.xtcCGTPf.dpuf
Morality and values depend on the existence of conscious minds—and specifically on the fact that such minds can experience various forms of well-being and suffering in this universe. Conscious minds and their states are natural phenomena, fully constrained by the laws of the universe (whatever these turn out to be in the end). Therefore, questions of morality and values must have right and wrong answers that fall within the purview of science (in principle, if not in practice). Consequently, some people and cultures will be right (to a greater or lesser degree), and some will be wrong, with respect to what they deem important in life. – See more at: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-moral-landscape-challenge1#sthash.xtcCGTPf.dpuf
Morality and values depend on the existence of conscious minds—and specifically on the fact that such minds can experience various forms of well-being and suffering in this universe. Conscious minds and their states are natural phenomena, fully constrained by the laws of the universe (whatever these turn out to be in the end). Therefore, questions of morality and values must have right and wrong answers that fall within the purview of science (in principle, if not in practice). Consequently, some people and cultures will be right (to a greater or lesser degree), and some will be wrong, with respect to what they deem important in life. – See more at: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-moral-landscape-challenge1#sthash.xtcCGTPf.dpuf
Morality and values depend on the existence of conscious minds—and specifically on the fact that such minds can experience various forms of well-being and suffering in this universe. Conscious minds and their states are natural phenomena, fully constrained by the laws of the universe (whatever these turn out to be in the end). Therefore, questions of morality and values must have right and wrong answers that fall within the purview of science (in principle, if not in practice). Consequently, some people and cultures will be right (to a greater or lesser degree), and some will be wrong, with respect to what they deem important in life. – See more at: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-moral-landscape-challenge1#sthash.xtcCGTPf.dpuf

via Blogger http://creative-philo.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-moral-landscape-challenge.html

Lets talk Conspiracy!

This post went through a number of stages.  Originally I was going to talk about these videos: Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games.  These are a series of videos where the creator talks about tropes in video games (just in case you were wondering).  Then I saw this video: Guy Against Previous Video.  To give some background, there was some reaction to the Tropes Vs. Women kick-starter from gamers on the internet – a number of people internet mobbed the kickstarter video with insulting comments.  I first became aware of the videos through this a year or so back because there was some news coverage of the videos and the rude behavior towards them.  The second video I linked basically argues that the creator of the Tropes videos set the videos up in such a way to intentionally draw internet trolls so that she could use them for publicity (I won’t go into details, but I thought that his argument was at least possible, though I won’t venture how plausible).  So the second idea I had was to talk about whether doing such would actually be unethical.  When I talked about the scenario with another person though, their main reaction was that it was far too much of a conspiracy theory for them – so what I’ve decided to talk about is conspiracy theories!.

What is a conspiracy theory?  When I started my research, my initial assumption was that the definition was a belief that was wildly unlikely or unsound.  Wikipedia corrected me that there was a distinction between the actual definition of a conspiracy theory and the way that it is used derogatorily.  A conspiracy theory is, literally, a theory about a conspiracy.  The term in its derogatory sense refers to paranoid conspiracy theories (i.e. theories that are deemed ridiculous to believe in).

When I went into this research, I had the notion that belief in conspiracy theories was correlated with intelligence.  After a bit of research, I can conclusively say that I would need to do considerably more research to say what belief in conspiracy theories is correlated with (other then that the best indicator about whether someone will believe in a particular conspiracy theory is whether they believe in other conspiracy theories).

I would say that the idea of a conspiracy theory (in the derogatory sense) is strongly tied to the idea of common sense.  That is to say, to label a belief as negatively a conspiracy theory is to label it as a thing that a sensible person would not believe in.  This does seem to potentially pose a problem however, since a lot of things which are considered true run counter to common sense (the sun being the center of the solar system, the origins of the universe potentially having come from nothing, a single substance universe, etc).  Are conspiracy theories then actually something to frown upon?

Though the boundary is obviously thin, I think the characteristic of a true conspiracy theory/theorist is a predisposition to outlandish beliefs based on thin evidence.  That is, believing in unlikely things in general is not quite enough to classify someone as a conspiracy theorist because there truly are unlikely things which are true.  However, if someone habitually makes these obscure explanations then the behavior begins to boarder on paranoia.  Things aren’t always what they seem, but if you automatically assume that things aren’t as they seem then you are no longer pursuing the truth but instead just paranoid.

Let me know what you think.

Ryan Workman

via Blogger http://creative-philo.blogspot.com/2013/10/lets-talk-conspiracy.html

Lets look at some Storytelling Tropes

There are a lot of tropes that get repeated in movies and books (I might be stating a tautology – things that are repeated in movies are perhaps tropes).  Repetition in story is inevitable – that isn’t what I’m writing about today.  Indeed, I enjoy many of the tropes, and most serve as important story tools.  That being said, the philosophical messages that are behind some of these tropes can be somewhat questionable.  Lets look at some examples! (Disclaimer: all trope names were made up by me.)

The Unappreciated Visionary Trope
“Just because you haven’t seen something, doesn’t mean its not there.” – Epic

An important convention of literature is that a lot of it is about the bizarre.  This leads to such characters as eccentric scientists, doomsday prophets, and conspiracy theorists often actually being visionaries who can see what the rest of us cannot.  Its easy to see why these characters are important to many stories – they often act as guides and teachers, helping the protagonist (and the readers) understand what is going on.  I get the title quote from the movie “Epic”, in which the protagonists eccentric father tries to convince her that there are little tree men that protect the forest.  The philosophical problem with the trope is that it seems to push the idea that we should be less skeptical.  The eccentric characters become visionaries, and are often ridiculed by the ‘blind’ greater mass of society – and this is presented as a kind of failure.  I doubt that many of the storytellers would actually say that they advocate buying into conspiracy theories willy-nilly, but it does seem to be an idea that is pushed by this trope to some degree.

Science ignores Magic Trope
“Wouldn’t ‘its magic’ be an easier explanation?’ – The Dresden Files

In fantasy one common trope is that scientists have trouble believing in magic.  I can understand why this trope exists – scientists don’t believe in magic.  However, the reason that scientists for the most part don’t believe in magic is because, well, it doesn’t exist (or at least there is very little reason to think that it does).  Though it is true that it would probably overturn most scientists world view if they saw magic being preformed, if magic existed it would be a part of the natural world.  I think it would be a scientists inclination to try to figure out how what they are seeing fits.

Tougher then the Boys Trope
“Who proved wrong all who scoffed that a young maiden could be one of the fiercest warriors?” “I did.” “True, but I supported you”. – Thor

Something that I feel I see frequently in film and television is the woman warrior who is tougher then the boys.  The woman often will show a demeanor more often associated with men, often in contrast with a man acting more like a woman.  Think Transformers III, where that guy shrieks ‘like a girl’ when he’s attacked by the sexy girl robot, while being rescued by his girlfriend.  Or, in Thor, Thor is trying to get all of his friends to support him by reviewing how he’s helped them in the past.  The woman sticks out from the other warriors because she rejects that she needed his aid.  To some degree I feel this trope is used as a cheap laugh tactic.  The behavior is often not systemic throughout the piece, but is instead a one off joke.  To criticize it further though, usually there is ‘one’ tough woman in the team of boys.  It to some extent removes the female characters humanity – she is not a person, she’s ‘the tough chick.’

Tomboy’s Rule Trope

Another fantasy trope related to woman is that main female protagonists are often tomboys (whether the main character or the main characters love interest).  That is to say, they pursue stereotypically masculine pursuits.  Often this tomboy female is one of very few female protagonists in the story (think Lord of the Rings, Thor, Avengers, etc.)  A big part of this is probably because violence and war is such a core element of today’s storytelling (especially in movies), and such an environment strongly favors male stereotypes.  The problem that I have with this trope is that it makes it so that the female character is ‘relevant’ only because she does what the guys do (and is often interesting to the male characters because of this).  In other words it seems to suggest that ‘excellency’ is mainly found in stereotypically masculine pursuits, while belittling traits that are stereotypically feminine.  This may to some degree be because many stereotypically ‘feminine traits’ (subservience, gentleness, etc), do not contribute much to a character actually having agency, but I feel there must be some middle ground.

Don’t play God!

If anyone in a movie or book ever says ‘humans should not play god’, they seem to be inevitably in the right of things.  The main characters actions seem to inevitably lead to pain and suffering of grate magnitude.  Most of these tropes I can muster some sympathy for, but this one just seems really cliche to me.  The philosophical problem with it is its the kind of argument used against stem cell research and other (usually not well thought out) anti-scientific thought patterns.

The Good-Guy Wins Trope

This trope is in almost every story ever.  I’m not sure if it is one that can be gotten rid of, its so integrated with the human mindset that we don’t usually like the story if it doesn’t follow this pattern.  Is so integral that it can be hard to tell sometimes whether the trope is ‘the good guy wins’ or ‘whoever wins must have been the good guy’.  Take parables, take Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, take almost any story ever.  Bad things are strongly correlated with bad actions, and victory is strongly tethered to moral superiority.  Imagine if I told a story about two characters with conflicting ideologies, one of whom comes out on top.  Almost certainly most people reading the story would think I was advocating the winners ideology over the losers.  However, it is this kind of thinking that also leads to things like victim blaming and other flawed reasoning.  Its nice to read stories where good guys win, but I think its important to remember that winning doesn’t make someone the good guy.

Thank you for reading, let me know what you think.

Ryan Workman

via Blogger http://creative-philo.blogspot.com/2013/10/lets-look-at-some-storytelling-tropes.html

Everything Starts in Ethics

I find that one of the first challenges with writing down a philosophy idea is figuring out how to organize it.  The problem I always have is that nothing seems to naturally come first – the ideas are all tied together so much that I need to explain everything at once.  This unfortunately goes against my desire to organize my project in a way that is actually understandable.

Right now I’m reworking my undergraduate thesis ‘On Humility’.  Originally this project was about knowledge, but I’ve been rapidly changing it into my theory of everything.  I’ve got ideas about how it relates to freedom, I’ve got ideas about how it tries to express the inexpressible reality of the human condition.  In short, my ambition has probably gotten out of hand.  This has left me somewhat puzzled as to the question of what I should address first.  However, I had an idea that may resolve the issue.

In my project I ultimately want to express the human condition – I want to explicate what it means to be human.  I think that the human condition is ultimately the activity of answering the question ‘what should I do?’  We usually think of this question in moral terms, but moral questions are a somewhat artificial category that we separate from the infinite sweep of questions that we face.  Every conscious moment of our lives is this question, posed in a continuous litany.  All experiences are a part of the question (though they can also be the product of a previous answer).

This framing of human existence also captures my intuition that nothing exists to us objectively.  We may think that we can think about reality, but really we can only think about reality as part of the question as it is uniquely posed to us.  Everything in our experience is to us as a question – ‘what should I do with this’ – and therefore we cannot ever know anything objectively.

Thank you for reading, and let me know what you think,

Ryan Workman

via Blogger http://creative-philo.blogspot.com/2013/10/everything-starts-in-ethics.html

The Inevitable Transitivity of Philosophy

Today I’m posting something a little different.  This post is essentially a philosophy free write – I had an idea that I was trying to express to myself and so I just wrote down my train of thought.  Its a bit longer then my usual post.  The idea that I explore in it ( transitivity of philosophy) is central to my current understanding of the world.  As always, I welcome comments and thank you for reading.

Ryan Workman


 The Inevitable Transitivity of Philosophy
The philosopher who thinks that he writes the philosophy thinks foolishly.  By this I don’t mean the philosopher who thinks he has written perfection – a philosopher can think that he has hit upon the reality of something without thinking he has expressed it perfectly.
But perhaps this is a foolish thing to say.  For there are certainly fools who think that they know Truth, but they are seldom worth addressing.  There are perhaps a few great philosophers who think they’ve penned reality, in which case I would argue that their work is great in spiteof their foolishness.  But still, I have yet to say very much at all.
In a sense all philosophy comes down to epistemology (ethics?).  I make this statement broadly – I do not in making it want to presuppose that there is, in fact, something waiting to be known (I do not want to alienate the existentialists or Nietzschian’s in the room).   I am more trying to make the observation that what philosophers do is create/discover/examine ideas.
One area of philosophy that is particularly odd is the examination of the evolution of philosophy itself.  Or maybe this is not properly speaking philosophy at all?  For philosophy is about ideas.
There is a normative question lurking in examining the transition of ideas.  Is there a right way (or are there better ways) to transition?  The challenge is that our ideas about how it is better and worse to transition our ideas is itself an idea/ideas that spring from our understanding of the world.
Lets state what I take as one of the more certain realities of philosophy – no one will ever pen an end to the endeavor, philosophy is an eternal project.  It has no beginning and no end.  Particular philosophers may create ideas that will capture nations, perhaps the world, for decades, centuries.  But the ideas will always cycle out.  We also never really finish with old ideas either.  Perhaps this is what distinguishes science from the humanities.  Hard sciences don’t have much use for old ideas (it seems to me), while the humanities are always reaching back.  Plato never goes out of style.
Since philosophy never “gets anywhere” it may seem odd to suggest that there is a normative way of doing it.  Since there is no end to philosophy, to what end can we possibly aim in doing it well?  It doesn’t matter how fast we run through eternity, after all.
Do philosophers even need help, in this regards?  It would seem that the meaningless values that I praise are already stock among philosophers.  Philosophers love critical thinking, reflection, continuous re-evaluation.
 Then again, is the health of philosophy merely reflected in the health of philosophers?  Or do I preach the attitude of philosophy itself, in some respect, as important to society?
Society can easily be framed in the same way that I have presented philosophy – an eternal project to nowhere.  By eternal I don’t mean forever-lasting, just that as long as it lasts it remains a project, and it is not completed in ending but instead becomes a project abandoned.
To talk about how one should engage in philosophy is, I would argue, very similar (if not the same) project as talking about how one should engage in society.  Or perhaps both are subordinate to another project that only completes in ending in the sense that it finishes, as opposed to being complete and done with, the project of living.
In a sense, I would say that the way we engage with philosophy is greater then how we engage with society, for philosophy embraces to itself the question of how we should live, of which society is merely a part.
Yet philosophy embraces other things, so is philosophy greater then the question of how we should live?  I would say no… because all other projects and activities stem from our answer to the question – what should we do?  To study metaphysics is to answer the question – what I should do right now is study the nature of reality.
Everything is activity to us, and so the question of how we should act is omnipresent.  The question disappears with our death, but it can hardly be said that we have answered it by dying.  Every living moment is the question posed in a different way, and our action is our answer.  Somehow philosophy has taken this overbearing question and made it a subordinate element of its own study.  Yet underlying all philosophical study is an answer to the question.  Of course, the study of ethics is itself an answer to the question – what I should do is study what I should do.
The challenge with asking ‘what should I do’, is that it is always asked in an understood context.  Our ‘context’ defines our answer, in a sense.  This comes down to an issue of freedom.  I would say that we do not have free will (at least not our intuitive idea of it).  I think I can defend this assertion well, but at the same time it remains a piece of context – a piece that thrusts the evaluation of our context to a position of prominent importance because it means that our context defines our action (because, in a sense, each moment is a question, the question being our context, and our action is our answer).  To assert the importance of studying ethics comes from my particular context (no value judgement nor relativistic claim, just an observation).  Someone who is a religious fundamentalist may likely not feel the same impulse, because they do not believe in the transition of the question ‘what should we do?’ but instead take the answer to be before them, and the task at hand is not to examine it but to spread the word.  But then, this is the attitude which I have previously scorned as non-philosophical (though there are dogmatists who claim the name philosopher).
My goal is to give a normative account of how we should transition between philosophies, my challenge is that any proposal I make is itself going to be riddled with philosophical assertions.  The spirit of the idea I am trying to get at is a simple one, and as I said previously, I believe it is a spirit already embraced by many philosophers.  I am trying to express that beliefs are temporary, transitive – not necessarily within ourselves but relative to the great march of human history.  I am trying to express the futility and the foolishness of dogmatism.  I do not, however, want to make people give up hope, I do not want them to stop creating ideas.  What I want is for ideas to be held gently.  I want to embrace belief development as a process, and I want to claim that there are better and worse ways to engage in this process.  The better way is to recognize it as a process.
But this may be to the determinant of the cause which people try to embrace?
But it is not the cause that should be the focus, not the belief but the believer.
I must take some fundamental stances to make this claim.
These arguments themselves I take to be transitional – though I do not expect to ever find myself dragged from the spirit of this philosophy, I am ready and willing to abandon all of its particulars (or at least I will try to be).
But where does the spirit come from?  I would be surprised if other philosophers (as I have labelled philosophers) do not sometimes fear they are but another kind of dogmatist who tries to pompously reject the name – our dogmatism being an embracement of the value of thinking and reflection, of uncertainty.
For as much as I’m tempted, I think that I risk just such a dogmatism if I argue that this spirit results in goodness of any kind.  The human animal responds unpredictably – it is possible that any concrete value that I espouse is better served by dogmatism.
But perhaps I can give a different account of the difference between the two.  One makes the human life a project, a free project, as much as such is possible.  This does not free it to be better, but it makes it less arbitrary.  For any particular value you can espouse, dogmatism may serve it better – but the service of dogmatism is random.  You save your energy if you don’t check your bearings, but you only end up ahead if your ship was somehow already pointed in the right direction.
That is an analogy that obviously works in my favour – the philosopher is all for steering, the dogmatist is a runaway freight train.
So we come back somewhat to the purpose of this project.  Who am I writing for?  What am I writing for?  It is trite to say that I write for the betterment of humankind, though I am firmly convinced that the philosophy way is better, I cannot prove it actually improves the human lot in life (partially because I do not want to commit to any particular way that it improves life – I do not want to say that it will make people happier, for example.)
Am I writing for the philosopher?  Yes, at least at first.  First I want to make sure my words are words of substance, and second I want them to be understandable.  The philosophers are the gatekeepers.  But in a sense my words are not for philosophers, so much as judged by them.  It has never been proven that philosophy should be written forphilosophers, only that philosophers are the only ones who can bear reading it. 

via Blogger http://creative-philo.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-inevitable-transitivity-of.html

One World?

One of the philosophical subjects that I have been musing about recently is whether we all live in the same world.

I’m sure this keeps other people up at night.

Though the ethical realm is often thought of as relative (i.e. not universally real), I think that most people take it as a given that we all live in a shared physical world (solipsists and the like aside).  We think the world of our senses is something quite independent of our sense of it – and we also tend to think that we are pretty much in agreement about this world (unlike the realm of our ethical experience).  On reflection though, I’m not sure whether our experience of the physical world is any more consistent than our experience of the ethical world.  The reason that we think that it is more consistent is because our physical experience is not something that we compare quite as much as our ethical experiences.

Let us imagine that we’re in an art gallery, and we are both admiring a painting.  Or at least, I’m admiring the painting, while you’re pretending to admire it.  On the surface we both agree about the physical entity in front of us, but while I think it is a work of art you think it’s a piece of crap.  The non-specificity of our language is such that we can both agree that there is a painting on the wall, without actually agreeing on what the painting is.

The immediate rebuttal to this argument is that our experience is different only aesthetically.  The painting is the same collection of molecules, we just experience it differently.  My counterpoint is that the only world that we live in is the world of experience – any experience is by its nature aesthetic because all experience is by necessity part of activity.  Even if we talk about the ‘real physical world’, the world of atoms sitting in space distinct from experience, we can only actually refer to them as an experience.

What I am essentially proposing is this: our moral and physical experiences are of a kind.  Each is as subjective as the other.  Let me know what you think,

Ryan Workman

via Blogger http://creative-philo.blogspot.com/2013/10/one-world.html