May 18, 2010

Consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem really intractable. . . . Without consciousness the mind-body problem would be much less interesting. With consciousness it seems hopeless. (T. Nagel, 1979, pp.165–166)]
Necessity of Consciousness isn’t Sufficient to give it a Form
It is from the problem of mind-body dichotomy that mind and body have been conceptualized as different entities. What brings forward this problem is consciousness. Yet most of the viewpoints in this area tackle with many secondary products of the dualism vs. monism conflict, leaving consciousness unexplained by every possible and debatable angle. Consciousness has initiated the mind-body problem but still is undefined to either be a mental or a physical state [hardly anyone considers it to a physical state but it is undefined]. Thomas Nagel has stated that without consciousness the mind-body problem has no substantial grounds to raise questions about dualism or distinct ontological existence of both the mind and body. In other words, what brings in the interest in this issue is the nature of consciousness and its inexplicability, without that most of the other corresponding physical and mental phenomena do not necessitate the mind-body conflict. Yet the very existence of consciousness as a phenomenon leaves many queries in this issue unsolved as much as it raises them. I would support this argument by explaining the pivotal role of consciousness in the mind-body problem, doctrines explaining this problem without necessary consciousness and arguments that hold necessary consciousness and create newer questions in the mind-body problem.
Consciousness in the Mind-Body Problem
The mind-body problem is basically of the nature- dualism as against monism and thus giving rise to emergentism. Both ends accept consciousness; the argument starts form the existence of different physical and mental states of a being. Consciousness is the awareness of having a mind and its functioning. Thus from this argument follows the question- what states of a being give him his identity- physical or mental- and therefore what creates consciousness- where does it lie- what form does it have?
Physical states of our body are known to us; this knowledge about body is not consciousness, as knowing observable facts is not awareness. Awareness is the key word to understanding of consciousness- it is synonymous to wakefulness and responsiveness. Thus it implies a state of interaction: when P is conscious of his thoughts he is aware of his thoughts i.e. he has them not just as memories but reinforces a known route of thinking to a particular thought x and thus knows it actively. E.g. ‘I am aware that I love burgers’ implies that my love for burger is because of certain known reasons and that my love can’t be a dead fact because- love implies certain conditions and the absence of it means no love, therefore it can’t be memory; ‘I love’ implies continuity even though that thought as per its content doesn’t remain in the focus of thinking all the time. Therefore this awareness of having a certain thought is not knowledge through perception- no matter if it’s stored in the brain as memory or is in the focus of thinking i.e. the activity in hypothalamus. It requires necessary to be in a mental state.
Consciousness as a mental state: Now that one knows that consciousness is not reducible to brain states, why should it be a mental state? That is pretty obvious if the point is establishing either existence or inexistence of mind, but the question is how did this problem follow from proposed existence of mind? It would be very cyclical if this is established from the definition of consciousness as it means awareness of having a mind and its functioning. So what are the various senses of consciousness- awareness of existence, awareness of thoughts and awareness of awareness. The first sense seems trivial if we look at it this way- If I know I exist then can I know the same without existing. The complexity lies in the fact that what do I know as my existence- if it implies all by physical states as observed by me, then I haven’t yet observed that ‘I know’. My awareness is thus my belief and a belief is definitely a mental state but not a mental fact. Therefore the necessity of a mind-like entity follows from that. The other sense as in the example of the burger is awareness of having thoughts and not the state of thinking. For instance when it is said that p is morally conscious, he is aware of his thoughts about morality. If someone asks him a question are you aware that you think it is unethical to murder. If an obvious yes doesn’t come from him then he may have forgotten the reasons as to why he accepted that morality in the past, but then reinforcement is possible only when there is memory and loss of memory means need for fresh thought about any issue. If he says he yes, does it simply imply that he remembers- actually it means he still holds it to be valid which makes it a state of mind. Last sense of it is awareness of awareness. Let us continue with the same example- is p aware that he is aware of his thoughts about morality. The answer is – at this instant: no; but when he thinks about it: yes. The issue gets worse as, if there is awareness of awareness which is inactive at a particular instant and gets turned on with thought then, where is it? Is having this kind of awareness a mere belief formed on because of no counterevidence? If we can establish that this thinking in two layers is possible then it is not just a belief but such awareness exists and thus the need of explaining it in terms of mental state.
Subtract consciousness from the idea of mind
Before arguing for the necessity of consciousness in the mind body problem, I would like to discuss the other aspects of the issue and certain doctrines that go against this necessity.
Reasons behind the mind body problem: Given that mind and body have distinct ontological entities [a materialist would deny mind completely, but that very problem has been addressed to, therefore let us analyze between dualism and monism] mind has no empirical evidence. Therefore a dualist would argue that they are different components of the self. Also for instance the process of reasoning is explained by brain states, but what is implied by ‘having rationality’ doesn’t occur anywhere as a state by observing an association formed. Qualia are the subjective characteristics of experience; they are initiated by physical states but aren’t explained by them. So comes the question where do these mental events exist? All these problems also contribute to necessity of mind. The epiphenomenalists [mental states are causally ineffective but both mental states and brain states exist], panpsychists [both physical and mental states exist but only physical states create mental states] and the functionalists [mental states are functional, mind doesn’t exist] give solutions to these problems in a reductive manner. Hence what remains is consciousness.
A mind that requires no consciousness: Parallelism is doctrine that says mind and body function parallely and do not interfere with each other. Therefore if we accept that then there is no question of consciousness as- what is one aware of and who is the one that is aware? If mind and body don’t interact we cannot reach the peripheries of consciousness as every question about this issue doesn’t stand valid. If P sees a green parrot, then his perception is different and his thought of a green parrot isn’t related to that, therefore from where did the thought follow from if the brain state created from perception didn’t create it? How can he think of a green parrot as colour is dispositional in nature though may not be physical reality and why does he call the creature in his thought a parrot if he perceives something called a parrot too. Occasionalism [Malebranche] also argues on similar lines that mind and body have parallel functioning and occurrences of similarity between mental and brain states is because of God’s intervention. The same problem as parallelism persists here along with an assumption of intervention and undefined idea of God.
Mind is accessible to a conscious being. Simple questions revolving around identity of an entity and that unique attribute his beliefs will have is because he is aware of them. The mind body problem without consciousness is a reductionist approach.
If not this reductionist approach, then consciousness is the central problem of mind-body problem. So comes the question why is the problem unresolved because of consciousness again.
- Thomas Nagel explains consciousness to be a subjective character of experience. He puts forth the term- ‘what is it like’nes. By his thought experiment of a bat he explains a bat’s consciousness as only a bat knows what it is like to be one. The unique experiences constitute his character of consciousness and thus only the physical states aren’t sufficient to create the mental state of consciousness. Physical states are common to everyone who can perceive a certain object but there is subjective character to that experience which makes his consciousness. The other minds problem also raises the question that how do we know that a mind other than us thinks like us though we know it to have the same body.
- Hilary Putnam’s multiple realizabilty argues against functionalism by stating that one mental property, state or event can be implemented by different mental properties, states or events. Thus the mental property of consciousness is not functional in nature. This is true because our constant awareness cannot be result of every brain state. Seeing a red book doesn’t necessitate that one is aware of his thoughts [not just one thought about the red book] and aware of being aware.
- The concept of phenomenal consciousness states that phenomenal conscious properties are experiential properties. This argument is monist. It doesn’t explain every sense of consciousness- the awareness of being ware of thought isn’t any experience initiated by physical reality or isn’t purely mental too. Therefore consciousness requires independent mental states.
Any doctrine that doesn’t deny the ontological existence of consciousness cannot support its reducible existence. Yet none of them actually establish consciousness. There is no acceptable theory that explains the nature of every kind of consciousness as in terms of the nature of a mental state. Nagel too has defined consciousness but he establishes the need of it and the unique character of it only. Why is this insufficient then? Putnam’s semantic externalism says that meaning just ain’t in the head. The head implies internal counterpart of meaning of something and not just the brain state but a mind too; but the point is that if consciousness has meaning as understood by us, it has existence as a mental state independent of someone who thinks about it. This problem of consciousness cancels out almost every solution offered to the mind-body problem.
· Consciousness only offers strong grounds for interactionism and creates mind-body problem. Consciousness in every sense of it also goes against reducible monism. Consciousness disproves parallel functioning of the mind and the body.
· Most of the arguments in the mind-body problem have necessitated consciousness and have inclination towards explaining it as a mental state, but do not provide its exact mental form. This is the major reason for the mind-body problem to persist.

May 16, 2010

The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point however is to change it. - Karl Marx
A change because of philosophy
Interpreting for the sake of understanding is why we want to have knowledge. A philosopher’s job however is to verify if our understanding actually helps build knowledge or not: thus they various ways of interpretation. Marx shifts this aim of philosophy to a different one. He focuses on the fact that the end is change: change achieved through right understanding of issues, to detect flaws and alter them. Changing the world is similar to making it a better place to live. The question I would like to discuss about this is that –how can one achieve this through philosophy? And before that- is that what philosophy aims at?
11) What is philosophy???
Etymology and meaning: Philosophy comes from the Greek word philosophia meaning the love for wisdom. Defining philosophy is not very easy for a philosopher because mostly she would already be belonging to a particular school of thought that defines philosophy, in other words restrain its meaning, than another. Everyone who philosophizes don’t really follow a previously established definition of philosophy, rather their varying aims give them different perspectives. The meaning of philosophy doesn’t much follow from its etymology, as ‘love for wisdom’ is rather a state of mind; it is ambiguous in the sense that it doesn’t necessitate a search and after that- passive acceptance of the truth or attaining a better state. This issue lies in the sphere of metaphilosophy to investigate what will be the right kind of philosophy. But someone who knows the different aims of philosophy is hardly in a position to deny one of them.
Aims of philosophy: Taking the example of naturalist philosophy- a naturalist philosopher follows a different definition of philosophy than others and therefore denies supernaturalism. His aim is to give epistemic justification to propositions about natural science only. Such a discipline in philosophy wouldn’t regard the answers to metaphysical questions to be philosophical knowledge unless they were expressed in terms of natural science. Thus a different set of aims originates from a different understanding of philosophy and provides a different perspective to the world and incidentally all the philosophical questions. The notion of interpretation thus is important for philosophers, as every doctrine holds different axioms to be true and gives a world-view. There are paradigm shifts in science but philosophy follows no such patterns- despite better understanding of necessity, propositional and existential, the Cartesian proof of existence of god is still held to be valid by some philosophers. It is difficult refute an argument of a skepticist about objective existence of men by foundherentism, as both doctrines see the world differently. Such unresolved conflicts in philosophy signify the importance of its aim of knowledge. To have knowledge about the world, we need to know the truth.
If philosophers are at loggerheads about the state of an x, how would they change it? But this doesn’t mean that changing the world becomes a secondary aim of philosophy. The fundamental questions in philosophy weren’t conceived in a completely abstract manner; they arose from problems in human understanding like occurrence of something counter-intuitional or difficulty in tracing causality. The questions were created in order to obtain answers. In the simplest sense changing the world is also achieved through attaining a better mental state by finding explanation for what is unexplained. Philosophy, if considered understood by its practical value, is not less than intellectual value. This brings us to our next question- how will this be achieved?
22) Change and philosophy
The philosopher’s job: How do philosophers change the world? By creating ideas. Every individual has more or less access to some kind of knowledge like perceptual knowledge for instance. What remains to question is understood by a philosopher who breaks down what he sees into previously defined terms, provides concrete analogies to abstract concepts and also forms newer conceptions. This understanding created by philosophy is meant for change- it either replaces older ideas with new ones or reinforces the older ones by providing justification for them. What else can be expected from a philosopher? If feminist philosophers start chalking out plans to uplift women, that means they have switched roles from someone who methodically points out flaws in the secondary positioning of women to activists who are always in a course of action by the virtue of what they do- there lies a great difference in thinking and acting. But action is the end of thought- it may be physical or mental. Philosophers are thinkers, when they become actors they are well supported by a belief-system which is created by them unlike a common person.
The notion of change: Mankind has philosophized and in turn initiated numerous changes since ages. Marx’s argument doesn’t limit to this notion of change. His question is analogous to- why spend years to figure out if the glass is half full or half empty, fill the rest with water. The ends of optimism and pessimism as by this classic example is what philosophers always do; some of them even say that the entire glass is full but half with air and half with water; but the very need of perspectives to describe it is because of the obvious perception of that glass. Therefore change it first. This logic is seen to be applied in case of socialism. Material productive forces drive the markets, thus the society is governed by productive force, because this leads to emergence of classes and therefore class conflicts, markets must be state controlled. The Marxist philosophy initiates change in this manner by answering questions about an issue called classism, followed by the concept of MPFs, thereby the change of replacing MPFs. Let us analyze this notion of change by finding out the philosopher’s exact role in it. The philosopher saw class conflict and traced the reason why this happens, therefore operated upon the reason to put an end to class conflict. Let us revise this understanding by going deeper. Class conflict is explained by Marxism in this way that individuals always think in reference to their classes. The other angle to it is of course that material productive forces create diverse economic conditions. But the concept of class, as it has effects on thinking, is defined to be more than economic conditions; thus the corollary of this concept someone who doesn’t pertain to class interests doesn’t belong to that class. A philosopher who knows this wouldn’t uphold the idea of a planned economy where there are no MPFs, as classism doesn’t apply to every individual. The change of notion as described by Marx, in this case considers that socialism follows from Marxism because he thinks of philosophy only in its practical angle, which is acceptable but- Marx sees issue p, comes to the know it follows from a and b, formulates a theory that b if replaced by c gives no p and considers c to be a valid method of change.
Why should this be an acceptable method in philosophy? As in the quote, ‘philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways’- this interpretation is not as inconsequential as it sounds. If a philosopher sees truth, he cannot deny that as it naturally implies that he also has reasons to consider it to be the truth. If the change he aims at isn’t contradictory to what he holds to be true, then it is logical. If it aims for a change to deny a perspective he cannot refute otherwise, it is illogical. Changing the world is necessary, but in what aspects? Can one change natural laws? Can one deny complete rationality? Even such dispositions are derived from the world and thus a philosopher’s job would be to accept them if they are indefeasible and then there is no scope for changing them. The only change in such a process would be change in one’s belief that do not hold material or non-material existence in the objective world. The point of philosophy is change by means of interpretation. Both courses shouldn’t intervene with each other.
33) Conclusion
aa. Philosophy is meant for gaining knowledge about the world. This process follows a particular method in philosophy and requires to be complete.
ab. The aim of philosophy is to abstract knowledge out of the world by interpreting it and this aim is necessitated by the philosopher’s ends of changing.
cc. This change doesn’t necessarily imply changing changes in objects in the world and not change for the sake of change.

May 15, 2010

Hedonism, pessimism, utilitarianism, eudaemonism - all these systems that measure the value of things taking into account the pleasure or pain that go along with them, that is to say, according to any non-core condition or facts, are seen as if they do not go in depth and being naive. Any man with his constructive faculty in place and a conscience of an artist can only regard this with irony and pity from a distance.

Objectivity in value determination

Value theory, by the sound of it, should be a consistent system of evaluation based on a belief system. That belief system should define value as a concept; no matter if one thinks of it to be a natural property to objects or the subjective measurement of goodness. As Nietzsche has pointed out various systems in axiology do make such equations that operate on pleasure-pain principle; pleasure and pain, being derived and subjective but still universal despite not being properties of objects, are the central problem in such value-systems. Analysis of human psychology in determining value and explaining what value means and a consistent operational method also goes astray because of such value systems. I would like to point out the differences between subjective and objective value theories, why objective theories pertain to reality and what is the right understanding of objective value determination.

Subjective measurement of value

It sounds inappropriate to talk about measurement of value before defining it, but I would first like to trace the propositions about value according to different schools of thought. Is value intrinsic or instrumental or subjective or objective? All these belief-systems have overlapping sense of value. Intrinsic value theory argues that value is contained within objects; while other theories consider it to be extrinsic of the object. The subjective value theory assigns value according to the utility of an object to an individual; instrumental value is the value of an object as means. This brings us to the major differences within these systems- they equate value to be means or to be the end [though none consider it to be means or ends itself].

Hedonism considers that objects have intrinsic value and only intrinsic value can be pleasure, therefore hedonists operate on the principle of minimize pain-maximize pleasure. Eudaemonists aim at happiness in life by reaching pleasure which is characterized by the absence of pain. Pessimism searches for the negative value present in every object intrinsically. Utilitarianism determines value by the utility an object has in giving pleasure. All of them consider value to be equivalent to pleasure. Pleasure is mental state of experiencing happiness. Therefore does one value a particular good because it gives pleasure or does it give pleasure because it gives value? All the subjective theories of value accept the first condition. Consider this- water has value. The subjectivists would say one ascribes value to the water because it gives pleasure; but we know water to have dietary value and the pleasure it gives is because of that. Let us take another example- a is blind and holds less value for a television, while b who can see does. Rather than saying b values the television because he can see unlike a, I would say he can see [therefore get pleasure, more than a] because television is audio-visual media. The value of the television wouldn’t change even if everyone who has access were blind.

If one takes into account such subjectivity, the process of determining exact value of commodities and non-material entities goes wrong. If giving pleasure is further based on subjective thinking and how can one quantify pleasure to equate it with value? E.g. while calculating market value of a product one considers the rewards to all factors of production and comes a certain value x. If this product is a burger, then a person who despises burgers will think of it to be 0.1x, a famished person would consider it to be 5x. If all consumers of that burger hold its value around 0.2 to 0.5 x then it obviously means that it gives less pleasure to them; but the content of the burger isn’t affected by it.

What is value?

Subjectivity in value gives contradictions about facts about an object, which makes it unacceptable. But then what is value? We speak things like, a is valuable to me, b is more valuable to me than c. we don’t think of value without the ‘I’. What does this imply? Gaining value is an end and value is the property of any object to be able to reach that end. What holds value lies outside us. Even if I value my own thoughts I actually value its contents to be true beliefs irrespective of it being in mind. Nietzsche points out such core facts to be missing in subjective value-theories. They are facts about ‘what’ does one value. And their importance lies in the fact that such facts are unchangeable properties of objects. My belief about x having value doesn’t cause the value creation; this belief of mine is grounded on my other thoughts about x that are in some degree self-evidentially true.

Value is the ultimate end of an action. If we equate content of the action to properties of an object, that would give us understanding why we value things. This understanding is important as a non-subjective equation of value would simply separate the existence of objects from ours- it wouldn’t explain value completely if I say if there were no minds to make sense of values that objects hold they would still have value. Value has no material existence, it doesn’t belong to the objective reality; but the point is- it is derived from objective reality. E.g. a painting depicting beautiful girl gives value that is unique to it as an object to someone who sees it. The painting as an object is equivalent and not equal to its value; even its abstract conception of a beautiful girl had no content value. A painter was required to ascribe value to the abstraction on account of what this content is and the individual who saw it valued it for exactly the same reason- its content [it didn’t matter that the abstract conception had taken a concrete form, what gave the properties still existed- this is important for one can talk about value creation in absence of objects and derive from it that object is equal to the value].

Objective reality and value

As in the above example of the painting, the concept of value is seen to be real yet intangible. The subjective axiological systems have therefore bypassed definition of value in independent terms and expressed it in different terms. Once we establish the error in that the solution is to connect value with objective reality. Nietzsche points that someone with constructive faculty or artist’s conscience sees the subjectivity to be ironical and pitiful. So despite this seemingly simple solution, why does one need constructive faculty to have a complete understanding of value? Value is defined to be property of objects to reach a particular end. The objective reality is not a parameter of ascribing value by its definition. But a person needs to understand that objective reality and the properties of the object cannot be contradictory. Let us bring in the water-diamond paradox. Utilitarianistically water should have more value than diamonds. In fact diamonds shouldn’t hold any value to someone dying of thirst. If such a person is asked do you accept the value of diamond to be 100x and that of water to be x, when he is about to die, he cannot deny that. This paradox is a problem in value-determination that rises out of incomplete definition of value. One would evaluate if he wants to quantify a good in terms of its value and thus he considers it to be an end. This condition is true to the meaning of value and in case of this paradox would resolve it along with other arguments about utility of diamonds and their scarcity, etc. thus the constructive faculty to understand value determination. And the artist’s conscience for thinking that objects have content.

Finally to put everything together, what has to be revised is the question that why does a rational thinker consider objectivity to be the right value system. Many times we operate upon value as measured by its utility. So I would put the question this way -what explains the objective value theory to be operationally accurate and therefore intelligible. As from the quote, it considers the core facts that qualify for value. These facts are real and unaffected by subjective thinking. Thus applying this method of determining value would leave no scope for contradictory values of same objects. This method makes cardinal measurement possible and provides grounds for ascribing worth of goods in quantifiable terms. E.g. an objective value theory is useful in price determination and stability in the market price of a good [a subjective determined price allows drastic rise and fall in price according to consumer demands]. Also painstakingly touching piece of music will have a particular aesthetic value if determined objective irrespective of the fact that the listener wouldn’t choose to listen to it. Thus the connection of the objective reality, from which the core facts and conditions are derived, to the value, is true.


The subjective value theories replace the concept of value with pleasure-pain principles and do not define value irrespective of that.

Value is the end of every action and value lies in the property of objects and those properties do not change.

The objective reality is where one derives value from and that being composed of known facts make objectivity a method of giving true value of things.

May 14, 2010

Truth-value and its conditions
· Proposition- expresses truth or falsity
· In logic- proposition follows from an argument, e.g. Aristotelian logic, proposition talks about relation of subject with predicate
Subject is p, predicate follows from argument, logic in argument is valid
· Conditions of p being true lie in premises of the argument along and in validity
Conditions like soundness, consistency
· What conditions qualify for ‘true’ – conditionals should be valid for its sense? or truth about p?
E.g bad argument [of unrelated conditionals] vs. good argument [validity+ truth}]
· Sense of proposition - way to refer to an object, establish content as defined
· Sense of proposition allowing/ giving conditions that do not give meaning of subject in proposition
· Therefore determine the conditions required for p being true; then sense of proposition
Therefore knowing ‘black’ and ‘white’ is a pre-requisite, truth-value of a proposition can be understood when sense understood and truth-value be determined when conditions for it are known
· Knowing the truth important- to know its conditions

If we hold a sense of freedom in common, we are still free

· Common sense- how does a ‘free’ man see

· Does common sense make us see freedom from different angle; personal freedom and political freedom

· How is change hindered by ‘freedom’- whimsical actions an important determinant of presence of freedom; changes- why and when do they seem impossible

· Why are we not free? We don’t choose to be born but aren’t we born free, the way we are born, way we ‘can’ think, therefore freedom not devoid of previous ideas, induced ideas

· field of freedom- to be void of boundaries: potency to break free [if not in its materialistic sense] when clashes with previous ideas

· If- I am what I am because of everything about my past, then impotency lying in wanting to be someone else and not being able to: we do not ‘escape’, we can change if we want to, most of us are seen not changing out of their understanding of common sense aligning with freedom

· Idea of freedom- when there is no coercion, when there is choice, acceptance of all aspects of freedom, thus tolerance, therefore understanding of that choice,

May 13, 2010

· What is philosophy and who ‘needs’ it
Needs- what is the truth, what we consider to be true and hence how do we reach the truth (Not a very good definition of philosophy, particularly in the context of the topic. It should be more like JTB = Knowledge, but then thats only epistemology. Then there is metaphysics which raises questions not looked at by Science, thereby motivating science)

· Science- [literally knowledge] aimed at studying nature, systematic method: scientific method, devising laws and theories

· Between science and philosophy- philosophy has similar aims as science, philosophy has been proposed and stated since ages, but science is out of development (What do you mean? Hasn't the scientific method come from philosophical musings). Philosophy has doctrines [can be contradictory], but science accepts one standard of accuracy and correct perspective (Science can also have conflicting doctrines... precisely why philosophical guidance is needed; Science does have a standard method for "knowing" the truth and that is experimental evidence, not accuracy or perspective)

on same lines wrt - logic - justifiability, verifiability

· epistemology- perception true or not, when can one say I know [deductive proof vs statistical truths , axioms as foundations (Isn't the order of points topsy-turvy here)

· philosophy on science- norms regarding above subjects, normal sciences and paradigm shift: change due to shift in philosophy knowledge on fundamental issues

· science- causality in nature: our understanding; empirical, metaphysics is out of formalism

· philosophy needed, revise norms and accept presence of counter-evidence, conceptions be made objective, methodology of being able to know reality,

Workouts for IPO team

Hello team,
With the frenzy to read and read and read and ... we also need to write a bit. So apart from the essays you have been writing, I need you to practice this: Sketch your argument for these topics into this blog. The argument should be about 10 lines and should roughly have the following structure:
A. What does the author say? Guess all the possible senses of the quote given and meanings thereof and all possible interpretations of the words within the quote.
B. What does the author stress on? Usually philosophical quotes are of the kind A is connected to B. Is the author stressing on the subject (A) of his discussion or the predicate (B) or on the connection between them, or is the stress on a hidden factor to the connection?
C. How does the author justify himself? Usually the quote contains some background to the proposition the author makes. (unless the quote is simply a question, in which case the background is common knowledge)
D. Do you think the justification is appropriate? If yes support; if no, oppose  - with reasoning & examples. (establish the reasoning in this sketch)
E. What do you think? Justify? Sketch your counter-attack (if applicable)


1. But to be able to say that a point is black or white, I must first know under what conditions a point is called white or black; in order to be able to say: "p" is true (or false), I must have determined under what conditions I call "p" true, and thereby determine the sense of the proposition. (L. Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico Philosphicus, IPO 2002)

2. The decisive argument which is employed by common sense against freedom consists in reminding us of our impotence. Far from being able to modify our situation at our whim, we seem to be unable to change ourselves. I am not "free" either to escape the lot of my class, of my nation, of my family, or even to build up my own power or my fortune or to conquer my most insignificant appetites or habits. (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness, IPO 2004)

3. Does science need philosophy? (IPO 2004)

4. Hedonism, pessimism, utilitarianism, eudemonism - all these systems that measure the value of things taking into account the pleasure or pain that go along with them, that is to say, according to any non-core condition or facts, are seen as if they do not go in depth and being naive. Any man with his constructive faculty in place and a conscience of an artist, can only regard this with irony and pity from a distance. (Friedrich Nietzsche, IPO 2005)

May 12, 2010

Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without common power to keep them all in awe; they are in that condition which is called war and such a war as is of every man against every man.

History has shown us various instances wherein time has witnessed upheavals, revolutions and also establishment of regimes. The concept of common power has evolved and redefined itself from time to time. It is very clear that men do not tolerate tyranny and anarchy- but branding such forms of rule as failures is lot easier than tracing out why did we feel the need for rule. Common power has come up in various processes and all citizens of all states have their own understanding of it. Very few of them are fully aware of this concept. But it is equally clear that all of them, in some proportion need it and accept it.

a) Man- under the common power

The common power is what is generally known as government. It doesn’t imply the natural authority derived from supremacy of some powerful men over the others. This power is created. Men willingly give away a share of their power not to a group of individuals but to some machinery that will be safeguarding this share and utilize in exercising force. A common power is a collective system of securing oneself against regress and infringement and projecting this power in the fear of aggression.

Such a center of power has its functions of two kinds- instigating progress in economic, social and intellectual aspects and regulating the law. The second function is the role of a disciplinarian; it includes issuing rights to every citizen and controlling its violation. This check system watches one for the other. Thus it creates fear in the minds of people; with that people extend their will to the government and develop respect for this authority. Men live in awe of the common power. This sense enforces discipline on the criminal mentality and that is the reason why such instincts aren’t always seen translating into actions. When that happens, the victims have an access to justice and beliefs about unhindered crime are reinforced.

b) When the common power is absent…

Let us consider a situation where there will be no common power among people. Its most natural implication is that citizens won’t be having rights. There will be no provisions that give them social security and economic opportunities. There will be no normal setup for men to have direct or indirect political interaction. But apart from this obvious absence of requisites of a state there would also be crime. Such crime will be the result of brutal and unhealthy competition among men- the want of growth if not development. The powerful [those who have economic or intellectual power] can exploit others and the others will develop latent aggression. There will be some point of saturation where the weak will externally demonstrate the antagonism and thus the much dreaded war will come up.

c) The war

War is about some armed force against another, there is a strong motive to overpower the other. The strength in a war is equated with collective might and is driven by collective desires of men. But when the war is between individuals it is much more disastrous. In a state of absent common power man’s internal motivation will recklessly drive his actions. There will be no external factors that contradict his own ideas of achieving what he aims for. In such a society there will be a victim and an abuser; the abuser will pay no heed to morality and the victim will become hostile towards the abuser because he suffers. There will be no one who thinks not only form his own perspective but overall and thus initiate a course of action; actions that not only put an end to instances of exploitation but end the war. Why is it so that such individuals come out with force when such wars take an ugly form? Isn’t crime- overt or covert a form of such war? In absence of common power men violate each others’ human rights, then there is revenge; there is constant insecurity and uncivil race.

d) Necessity of this condition

A necessary war in the absence of common power implies: 1- man only follows given disciplinary system 2-man naturally has no understanding about societal peace.

If men need disciplinary systems, they also need minds to conceive of it and hands to form. If self-discipline is easy, then most men think alike. But different people have independent actions and almost all of them have social desires. But this very understanding of posing limits for oneself and introspecting about ideas of rights- of oneself and others is not easily acquired by every man. Thus when he gets educated about the inseparability of his lone self and his social self, he extends support to any such disciplinary system. But if he remains uninformed of the need of common power, he may not discard the warring desires. Also there will be clashes of interests and the war will get worse if there is no intervention at that point.

This brings us to the crucial point of the topic- is it man’s natural tendency to be at war with other man?

We speak of transition from state of nature to a civil society and never think about a civil society without a government. Has it ever happened in history that before common powers came into being there was peace? The primitive man had his groups with whom he shared interest, later they became sects and communities. But there was conflict among this disjoint sect. Let alone the fact that they weren’t aware that these sects aren’t really disjoint and we all are members of human family; the primitive people took ages to come together for sharing mutual benefit too. There are instances in history where common power had lost its form, like the French society before the French revolution. The ineffective common power bred class hatred, where every individual partook of the outrage because she felt the need to wage a war as a struggle for life.

Being human doesn’t naturally and by sense of it implies being in a state of war. But such unchecked struggle for survival along with some subjective ideas of development is equivalent to that. Why can’t men think of progress and devise their own ways of achieving it without infringement on others rights [even when they don’t know it as a legal term]? Their desire to live can and has resulted into certain collectivist ideas that have shown substantial results to their own ends. But men tend to go for the easier route of not thinking- about others and themselves in turn. Man isn’t wild but can always choose not to change. Common power is acceptable to him- something to look at, a known standard to determine future actions.

Natural law is a highly impractical concept. Some of men will stick to their ways and some will have stronger inclinations to alter. In such a situation the backward thinkers can’t blamed for what their ambitions should be.

a) Conclusion:

i- Human beings collectively aim for establishing common power when they feel the need for it. This concept is acceptable to them and by consensus they hold it in awe.

ii- Without common power men may tend to be in a state of war with one another. Even if some of them think differently, at a large in society it is almost unattainable to have all individuals follow such thinking.

iii- Throughout history we have seen such wars because of absence of common power [also effective in action] and such wars where men participate only out of outrageous anger towards each other.

May 10, 2010

What we call ‘laws’ are hypotheses or conjectures which always form a part of some larger system of theories and which therefore can never be tested in isolation.

Generally we speak of laws and theories as different forms of generalized scientific set of norms. Hypotheses and conjectures are considered to be propositions that aren’t a law yet. We get a general idea that all these are the components of a belief system. In science all these terminologies have different significance.

a)What is a Law?

A law is a set of generic notions that generally takes the form of a mathematical equation. Every component of a law has independent meaning and the structure of it gives relationship between them. Laws are universal in nature. They are proven from their derivation and thus are generally accepted to be true. This derivation process of the laws is the same to every formalism. Sometimes laws are derived from sets of observation; the direct implication of what is observed is considered to be true while sometimes observations are compressed and components of law are abstracted out. Laws originate in physics, mathematics, social science and even in psychology. On what grounds does one establish a law and the procedure of making it gives us the primary idea of how valid a law is.

b) What is theory?

Theory is understood to be a bigger set of laws; but a theory isn’t composed of random unconnected and independent laws about varied subjects. Theory pertains to one subject of enquiry and explains multiple phenomena not only by relating them to one another but also by providing common axioms supporting them. Theory comes from ‘theoria’ meaning perspective. A theory gives a perspective to its subject matter and rationalizes it. A theory is different from a law as a law will provide explanation ‘why’ and a theory will describe its other aspects completely.

c) What form does a law hold?

Laws state themselves in a similar way, like given a therefore b. A law by definition cannot be illuminating enough to give complete account of a and b. Also being a law doesn’t necessitate the fact that it works only in the provided cases. It is because a law is proved in a particular way, it is accepted by logic. When we consider a law to be correct we hold certain criteria for it. Law is a proposition as long as it isn’t proven. To be a proposition should be verifiable. Proven to true in many cases or all known cases it becomes a law. But such a law is thus naturally open to newer methods of verifiability. Thus law will no more hold the status of a true, rigid and consistent statement.

One can argue that law is the best possible explanation to what and how one sees nature to be. E.g. law of psychological consumption states that consumption is function of income. Here the law aims at giving the determinants of consumption that are influenced by income. Thus the proposed law is subject to individuals to be verified. It will stand in every case as long it works but still won’t entail consumption and its determinants; one counterevidence will disprove it, though many won’t prove it. Thus it becomes a hypothesis- proven proposition that hasn’t been disproven yet. Take Aristotle’s law of identity: a is a. It is a conjecture that is not disproven and is unproven but still considered to be correct. The semantic advantage in ‘a is a’ makes it a law.

d) Laws-a part of a larger belief system

Laws require a proof and proof implies scientific method. The foundations of our present understanding of science rest on axioms. We hold certain facts to be indubitable; they don’t have to be established methodically. But they themselves do not compose the laws.

There comes the relation of a law with its theory. Theories are constructed- they are representations of reality. They provide understanding of the world from a position; if x is explained by theory A and theory B of which theory A gives a wider perspective to understanding of all factors related to x then it is a better theory. The theory will speak about all angles about the given phenomenon. Laws are formulated about elements of a theory. E.g. law of gravitation is derived from the theory of gravity. Its mathematical side is abstract but the concept of gravity as explained in its theory is carried forward in the law as well. Thus the definition of gravity as given by the theory will set certain parameters for gravity to be expressed in and as certain terms; the law should equate gravity with all those factors to be consistent with the theory. Why is this required? Because a theory is based on axioms. These axioms are unquestioned and considered to be self-evident; they provide bases to the theory.

e) Sets of theories

If theories a, b and c rest on the same axioms, they shouldn’t be inconsistent with each other. The difference between theories a, b and c will be that their subject matter is different; thus they won’t be seen to be contradicting. But if state information about common issue or if the laws derived from them give different answers to the same question then there is inconsistence. Theory is not illogical construction on some basis; every proposition in a theory should be derived from the earlier. Deduction is the valid formalism in creating scientific theories. The logical necessity makes it necessary that every theory in a set, formed on the basis of common axioms, gives consistence among each other. Further if theory a is based on theories b and c, then they all lie in one set, there is consistency among them, theory a also may not follow directly from the axiom on which they rest but is not in contrast with it.

f) A law without its theory

Any law applied without its conditions will give untrue results. E.g. in the above example of the psychological law of consumption, one has to have an understanding of what ‘consumption’ means in the General theory of economics [that autonomous consumption isn’t a part of it]. If one ignores the natural conditions about testing the truth-value of laws, he will investigate about x and get an answer about x’, which will be a’ when a was expected by the law. E.g. if we want to test if only one line can pass through two points, then we must consider a plane in Euclidean geometry.

This seems to be compressed conditioning for someone who wants to learn what facts are, but how else have we developed knowledge in history? Man even when he thinks unbiased doesn’t store observe, understand and store every bit of reality he sees as his knowledge. It is out of his capacity. Forming representational knowledge is quite natural to him and works well to predict future when it can be determined. Having multiple sets of theories benefits our understanding; we can adopt that set which indefeasible and infallible.

It is because of its better set of axioms, that such a set will give realistic perspective of the world. So every implication of those theories will conjecture guesses about various subjects- these will be laws. Such laws will be unfalsified as long as their testing method doesn’t lie upon different set of axioms. This doesn’t mean that creating counter-examples can be restricted by such basic contradictions in axioms. One can build up such a counter-example and put every theory of a particular theory to test, e.g. a skepticist can establish hallucination as counterevidence to empiricism. But any theory based upon empiricistic axioms and consequentially the laws don’t stand to be disproved by an instance where perception is questioned [not questionable- as it is always possible to raise that point, but laws don’t follow directly from such basic axioms and have an independent logical structure apart from that].


1- *Propositions in absence of counter-proof become hypotheses or conjectures. They are laws. They are deductively established from previous theories.

2- *Theories rest upon axioms and those having common axioms are a set giving a particular belief system.

3- *Laws cannot be separated from their previous theories and incidentally the axioms. They are verifiable but cannot be separated from a perspective that defines its components. Thus they should not be tested in isolation.