May 19, 2012

Success at the IPO 2012
I am very pleased to inform you all that our team has put up an excellent show at the International Philosophy Olympiad  2012 at Oslo, Norway. Nishith Khandwala has bagged a silver medal and Abhinav Menon a bronze. I am feeling extremely proud and content at this.
Heartiest congratulations to the boys and a kudos to all the participants who attended the training camp. I hereby take the opportunity to thank our guest lecturers Prof. Minal Katarnikar and Jerry Johnson whose valuable guidance made this possible.

Looking forward to receive the team back home.

May 10, 2012

Hobbes on need of Government

Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a 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. (Hobbes, Leviathan, Ch. XIII) 

Hobbes Argument (probably)

A) Each man follows his principles / ideals
B) Society consists of many men where
  1) the ideals of two people are the same
  2) they are different
  3) they are in opposition
C) Men are not rational (either impulsive / not clear enough reasons / ignorance of other possibilities) hence not tolerant; hence believe in
ideological superiority
D) A + C + B2/B3: disharmony  / conflict since the only way to remove differences is through coercion
E) Common Power: Authority which poeple hold in awe
  1) Fear of being harmed if you dont agree with the authority
  2) In your own interest to hold the superiority of the authority in order to gain benefits from it
F) Common Power needs to be just or else corruption & injustice will lead to more conflict
G) C + F: Objectivity required in resolving conflict
F) Common Power can keep people away from conflict,disharmony or "war"

My Counter-Argument
If a "common power" is feared by the people, it will eventually lead to corruption of the power. For it to be just and objective, it needs to be transparent and thoroughly rational. Such a power wont be feared but respected and would actually solve conflicts.

May 9, 2012

Sartre & Human Impotence (Incomplete)

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)

Sartre's Argument 
A) Freedom consists of being able to change one's state of existence, without coercion by any external entity and only via our rational thinking.
A1"Social Freedom" consists of being able to change our state of existence without having to confirm to the ideas of any group (family, friends, class, nation, ...)
A2) "Economic Freedom" consists of being able to acquire wealth (change state) without having to succumb to attempts at control and misappropriation by others
A3) "Personal Freedom" consists of being able to change our physical / mental desires (change state)
B) Our potentials lies in changing our states of existence, i.e. exercising our freedom and our goal should be to achieve to the best of our potentials
C) By observation - We cannot achieve freedom in either of the senses given in A1, A2 and A3, i.e. we are impotent.
F) Free Will does not exist OR the idea of Free Will is illusory

Arguments in Support
Necessitarianism / Determinism) Actions are predestined or consequences of previous actions by self and others. Hence our state of existence is bound to be affected by external causes/entities. Free Will is an illusion.
Pragmatism) Things may be deterministic or otherwise, but in any case, its too complex a calculation to decide what to do next. Hence Free Will is a meaningless proposition.
Kant) Moral judgement needed to change state; which in turn depends upon categorical imperatives which themselves are beyond the control of Man. Hence, acts appear to be out of free will, while actually being governed by divinity / society / innate moral sense.
Locke / Hume) "... man is not permitted without censure to follow his own thoughts in the search of truth ..." - Locke; No innate thoughts or ideas - every knowledge / thought has to be acquired via experience; hence change of state is not possible without being influenced by surrounding entities.

Arguments against Sartre
Liberatianism: All actions are allowed except those that inflict or encroach upon the rights of other people (He is still allowed to perform actions inflicting upon his own rights). This limitation is required to omit the problem of contradiction and anarchy among the actions of the people. Hence, the actions of the people are not bound by any other external cause. Therefore, free will is not illusory.

Internalism: No external agent can affect the action of an individual since only he has control over his thoughts and emotions.Hence, there are no restrictions over his actions. Therefore, free will is not illusory.

Individualism/personalism: The thought or opinion of an individual is supreme. Man is selfish. Hence, he will perform those actions beneficial to him. Therefore, the external opposition against his opinion do not matter. free will is not illusory.

Anarchism: Absence of Government allows all actions, even those which inflict upon the rights of others. Govt. should be absent since laws are broken and crime takes place even in the presence of a govt. Hence, there are no restrictions whatsoever, in any form. Man is absolutely free.

Accidentalism: Opposite to indeterminism. Man has no control over some events. This is beyond the capacity of a human to perform and not, rather, any limitation to the actions of a person. Hence, no restrictions bound but some events are out of control of ANY other being. However, the man still falls under the defintion of a free person.

compatibilism: Possible to achieve free-will and be deterministic at the same time without any contradiction. Man is free to follow and move on the path that is already pre-destined. Their notion of freedom is different. Acc. to their notion, there should be no restriction. Hence, free will is not illusory.

May 8, 2012

Some more topics

1) The limits of your language are the limits of your world.  - Ludwig Wittgenstein

2) Everyone is someone else and no one is himself.  - Martin Heidegger

May 7, 2012

Understanding Nietzsche on Ethics

Hedonism, pessimism, utilitarism, 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 noncore
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)
The man uses a certain set of guidelines, a set of ideals and principles to direct himself in the course of his
life. The man bases his beliefs upon certain ideals or principles which he considers to be existent or true.
The principles or the set of guidelines form a school of thought which is called an –ism. In a particular
situation, the school of thought or the –ism forms the point of view of a person. The person forms his
thoughts and develops his beliefs and ideas which are consistent with this school of thought. The person also
tries to achieve the good and acts accordingly as per the –ism. For example, let us take the case of two –isms
and compare them in order to find out how a person who follows one out of two –isms will formulate his
ideas. Consider the following schools of thought: a dualist and a realist/idealist1. Before I give an example, I
shall first explain what the schools of thought preach or propagate. A dualist is of the view that our
perceptions of the world are just reflections of the real world. According to them, we cannot not perceive the
reality but merely imagine that matter exists around us. The real world (not equivalent with the world we
perceive) contains the real objects-real matter. On the other hand, a realist would believe that what we see,
what we perceive is the reality – the truth. An idealist would suggest that the thoughts in his mind are real
and hence, everything he thinks about is real. Now, consider three men – Bob (a dualist), Alex (an idealist)
and Steve (a realist). The three men are sitting on the dining table, discussing the properties or the
characteristics of the table. Steve says that the table appears to have different shades of brown – dark in
some areas, light in other areas of the table. Alex also perceives the same difference of colours. However, he
knows that the difference of colour is apparent due to properties of reflection of light and due to the uneven
distribution of lighting in the room. Hence, according to Alex, the table would appear to be of the colour
brown. But, Bob is under the impression that the table he perceives actually does not exist in the position he
considers it to. The real table exists in a different world that cannot be comprehended or perceived. Hence,
he is not able to comment on the colour of the table. The purpose of using this example was to illustrate that
people develop their ideas/thoughts/opinions based on the certain principles (which are also called –isms).
Here, it is important to note that the man, for example Bob, does not say that the table, he perceives, is just a
product of his imagination because he is a dualist. Instead, he is considered to be a dualist since he believes
that the real table exists in a different or the real world. It is this difference in the school of thought that
makes philosophers different from one another (Of course, there are other factors such as their way of
argumentation which make one philosopher different from the other. However, the point of view is different
because of their different schools of thought). Apart from dualism, realism and idealism, various other
schools of thought exist like rationalism, hedonism, eudemonism, nihilism, hedonism, pessimism etcetera. I
will explain those –isms relevant to the quote in detail.
Let us now focus on those schools of thought relevant to subject of the quote. In order to understand the
quote better, it is recommended that I define the following –isms – hedonism, pessimism, utilitarianism and
eudemonism. As I mentioned earlier in my essay, a person acts such that he is able to achieve the ‘good’ as
defined by the particular school of thought. The person, before performing the action, would think whether
the action would be consistent with the ideals of his/her –ism. Since the ‘good’ defined by different –isms
are dissimilar2, I will try to explain these –isms by the ‘good’ they represent. While defining the –isms, I
will ask the question – what value does this –ism think is most important? Here, value refers to that which
we can gain and keep. I shall dive further into the topic of value in the coming paragraphs.
I will now classify the relevant –isms with the help of a chart as depicted below.
1 I do not consider realism and idealism to be equivalent. However, for the purpose of this example, the two schools of
thought give more or less the same result.
2 If the ‘good’ of any two isms is represented in the form of a Venn diagram, there could be intersections. However,
according to me, no two isms propagate the same or equivalent ‘good’
With the help of this diagram, I shall now explain the terms – Hedonism, Simple form (of hedonism),
Epicureanism, and Utilitarianism. In the most general form, hedonism and all other sub-categories of
hedonism are subjective i.e. although all the individuals following this -ism aim for the same kind of value,
the value depends on the individual. For Hedonism:
• Maximizing individual pleasure is the ultimate good.
• All hedonistic philosophers aim for individual pleasure.
The simple form of Hedonism advocates:
• Those actions that shall result in the attainment of physical pleasure.
• For example – For a person X, driving a fast sports car gives him physical pleasure. So, his act of
spending money in order to buy a sports car is simple hedonistically appropriate.
In contrast to the simple hedonistic form, Epicureanism3 suggests that:
• Mental pleasure is more important then physical pleasure.
• Hence, the act of consuming alcohol in order to de-stress your mind is more favourable than the act
of buying a sports car.
Utilitarianism is a slightly different concept when compared to the simple hedonistic form and
• As the name suggests, Utilitarianism favours the ideal of maximizing utility. More the utility, more
is the ‘good’ achieved. Also, more the utility more is the happiness achieved.
• Many Utilitarinists like Bentham and John Mill are of the view that the pleasures/pains of everyone
affected by the action should be taken into account. According to them, the greatest good for the
greatest number of people is better.
• Also, Hume was under the impression that utility is measured only through others’ approval.
Now that we have covered two of the four schools of thought that Nietzsche has mentioned in his statement,
let us now discuss pessimism. According to me, pessimism consists of those principles and ideals that
encourage a person to have negative thoughts and to expect a negative option for any situation. A pessimist
has contradictory views with an optimist. A person can be said to be a pessimist when:
• Out of any two options, he would expect the less favourable (by the people and not on probabilistic
bases) disregarding the probability of each of the other options to occur.
• For example – consider a person appearing for a job interview. Even though he must have had
valuable previous experiences and graduated from a prestigious university, he will not expect the
interviewers to offer him a job, despite the fact that the chances of him being offered a job are quite
3 Although Friedrich Nietzsche has not mentioned Epicureanism in his statement, I included this school of thought
since it is generally considered to be a sub-category of Hedonism.
[cldnt paste ur diagram]
After pessimism, let us now move on to eudemonism. As far as eudemonism is concerned:
• The actions performed by a person are decided based on their capacity to produce happiness.
• Although, this might not appear to be subjective, it actually is. It has not been specified as to whose
happiness needs to be measured while deciding whether one should perform a particular action or
not. But, it is usually the person who performs the action whose happiness is measured.
• The ideals of Eudemonism is, on a general scale, parallel to Aristotle’s ethical theory4 since one tries
to fulfil life by the doing the best one can.
It is important to keep in mind that I have, yet, not criticised these schools of thought and have also not,
provided the opinion of Nietzsche against them. Here, I have tried to explain what these schools of thought
generally refer to. Nietzsche, in his statement, also mentions and emphasises on the word – constructive
faculty. What does Nietzsche refer to when he says ‘Any man with constructive faculty….’? Faculty of a
person can refer to the mind (if we consider the mind and brain to be separate). If such is the case, then, the
mind is the non-physical thinking part of the body whereas the brain is the physical non-thinking part. Even
if do not consider the mind and the brain to be separate, the faculty of a person indicates towards the
thinking part – the fraction that can formulate thought, ideas and solve problems. So, by constructive
faculty, Nietzsche, must have pointed towards the minds (or the non-physical thinking body part) that
generate productive thoughts – thoughts or ideas that are backed by rationality and help us understand the
world better.
From comparing the definitions of the –isms – Hedonism, Utilitarianism, Pessimism and Eudemonism, do
we find certain similarities? According to Nietzsche, we see the following implications:
• The –isms stated above all regard either the pleasure or the pain associated with the actions
(performed under the ideals of the –ism) as the ultimate value.
• Since they only consider pleasure/pain as the factor to decide whether an action should be
performed or not, they are thought to be lacking depth. Here, depth refers to the effort involved in
arriving at a conclusion. In this context, it also refers to how basic or primitive their values are.
• According to Nietzsche, any person who has a rational/logical thought process can understand that
these –isms are completely in conflict with that of theirs.
• He also says that, for a person to understand the point above, needs to have a sense of right and
wrong similar to that of an artist.
According to me, these schools of thought - Hedonism, Utilitarianism, Pessimism and Eudemonism have
certain flaws or loopholes. Let us consider these –isms Hedonism, Utilitarianism (and Epicureanism) first
since they stem from branch of Good – to arouse a desirable subjective stage. After looking at the
definitions of these schools of thought, the first thought that crossed my mind was – Whose pleasure were
they referring to? Whose utility were they trying to maximize? Whose happiness would be measured in
order to check whether one should perform this action or not? Was the answer to this question the people
who were performing the actions? Or was it the people being affected by their actions? But, since the
definition assumes that the basis for hedonism is individual pleasure, it would be safe to assume here that
the pleasure, happiness and utility in question are of the person performing these actions or acting according
to these –isms. This shows us that these –isms or schools of thought or ethical systems are not normative
(i.e. taking the societal norms as factors), but purely subjective. The above argument clarifies this point.
But, now, since these –isms are subjective in nature, the general argument against subjectivism also poses
itself before these schools of thought. What is the actions of two people (who are acting in consistency with
the –isms) contradict each other? What if the consequence of one of these actions requires the compromise
of the other? Although this argument works against any subjectivist theory and therefore, is not specific; it,
however, questions the foundation of such schools of thought. For example – consider the problems
associated with the construction of a large dam. The people living in the to-be inundated regions have to
move their household away from that area, leaving the comfort associated with the availability of fertile soil,
4 According to Aristotle, a ‘good; action signified maximum use of one’s potential. His ethical theory is often referred
to as Perfectionism.
evergreen water supplies etcetera. These displaced people are forced to migrate to areas far away from the
dam. Hence, they begin to face difficulties regarding the availability of water, fertility of soil etc. This, not
only, deprives them of physical pleasures, but also, of mental pleasure. They are under the constant pressure
of finding new modes of living. On the other hand, for the people living in the urban areas, the construction
of the dam provides them with more comfort. The dam would be used to produce electricity and channel
water towards the urban area for domestic use. Hence, the dam sacrifices the physical and mental pleasure
of one section of the society to increase the level of lifestyle of another section of the society. I have
presented this example to illustrate that the action of one according to the ideals of his school of thought
(here, hedonism, utilitarianism etc.) may go against the action of another also according to these –isms. This
is the fundamental problem of all subjectivist theories.
Also, stemming from the above argument against subjectivist theories, it is obvious that subjective theories
lack objectivity. For example - The importance of an object or its value does not remain constant for a
subjectivist at all given times. In times of greater need, the value or the craving for the object increases and
vice-versa. This is not the same as the economic rule of demand and supply. Here, the demand or rather the
wants of a single individual and not a region/society is taken into consideration, unlike in the case of
Now, I will frame specific arguments against the –isms we have been taking into considerations:
• I agree – there will be many instances when the values these –isms seek intersect or overlap with the
values other –isms such as rationalism, perfectionism also preach. But, this, according to me,
happens only due to co-incidence. The guiding principles of these –isms are very different and in
conflict with those of other –isms which are backed by rationality, logic and depth of thought. To
illustrate why I am against the set of guidelines these –isms propagate, let us go back to the example
I used to explain the simple form of hedonism. A Person X5 derives physical pleasure from driving a
sports car. In order to do so, he may buy or rent a sports car. However, the price of these cars is
exorbitant. In the process of attaining physical pleasure, the person X spends a substantial portion of
his wealth. After this incident, it may become very difficult for him to sustain his daily requirements
and pay for a medical emergency, if one arose. The point which I wish to make is that these schools
of thought satisfy the immediate needs (pleasure) of the people and hence, do not give a thought
about the future requirements of the person. To illustrate this better, consider an obese person who
has been given strict dietary requirements by a doctor. If this person is a hedonist or a eudemonist,
he will follow those thoughts that have the capacity to make him happy. So, this person will still dine
out and eat items that are forbidden to him. In this case, he attained physical pleasure by doing so,
but, it has ultimately had an adverse effect on his health.
• Parallel to Nietzsche thoughts, it is important to notice that these –isms preach very primitive values.
According to many philosophers, the main distinction between humans and animal forms is
rationality and the ability to comprehend and decide. However, these elements of distinction seem to
be absent here - the values of these –isms are also sought after my animal life forms.
• Another point which I wish to make is that these –isms do not lead to quantifiable or measurable
values. I am not saying that the logic behind rationality or faith behind mysticism is measurable. My
point, here, is that Hedonists, Utilitarinists and Eudemonists cannot deduce what path to choose, or
what action to perform when the two options provide the doer with the same amount of happiness or
pleasure. If this situation is presented to a rationalist or an objectivist, he will deduce from the
options given to him.
The only objection that one could have against Nietzsche’s argument is that, according to him, only those
with the conscience of an artist (and a constructive faculty) will be able to argue against these –ismatic
points of view. But, to argue against Nietzsche, I first have to explain what I inferred from the word –
conscience of an artist. According to me, conscience refers to the sense of right and wrong in the individual.
In a more general sense, it could also refer to the principles of the person. So, how does the conscience of an
artist defer from that of someone not involved in the field of art – a physicist for example. First, it would be
5 I am considering Person X to be of limited means i.e. in terms of wealth. Also, in this example, Person X
is a hedonist.
important to note that there is nothing called ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in art. But, perhaps, Nietzsche took this
concept of conscience, not to the context or the subject of the artistic artefact, but to the process of
producing art i.e. for example – painting scenery. A third-party artist would be able to criticise the work of
another artist by observing the confidence in the strokes, the texture but not by arguing against the theme of
the artwork – hence removing the element of subjectivity6. This can counter the argument presented by
those in conflict with Nietzsche’s statement. Why Nietzsche must have mentioned the conscience of an
artist specifically? – As I mentioned above, criticism against an object of art can be done by observation
itself. It does not heavily require the process of deduction. However, the sense of right and wrong in a
physicist is developed by the process of experimentation, correspondence to reality and the reasoning
behind a phenomenon. So, according to me, Nietzsche must have meant that anyone (with a constructive
faculty and the conscience of an artist) would be able to see how primitive the values sought by these
subjective –isms are by mere observation which did not require high amount of deducing.
In this essay, I started by explaining what schools of thought were. Then, I focussed on the –isms in context
here and proved that they were purely subjective and not normative in nature. After highlighting the
loopholes in subjective theories, I argued specifically against Hedonism, Utilitarianism, Eudemonism and
Pessimism and supported Nietzsche. Ultimately, I presented the possible counterarguments against
Nietzsche and showed how Nietzsche was still consistent with his thoughts. Now, I would like to conclude
by emphasizing on the fact that objective schools of thought provide a more rational and meaningful life.

6 A person’s opinion towards the theme of an artwork can be subjective. However, as far as the texture of a painting or
the confidence of strokes in an artifact is considered, the criticism can only be objective

May 4, 2012

Aristotle's idea of Justice

And for this reason justice is regarded as the highest of all virtues,… and as the proverb has it, “In justice every virtue is summed up.” It is complete virtue and excellence in the fullest sense, because it is the practise of complete virtue. It is complete because he who possesses it can make use of his virtue not only by himself but also in his relations with his fellow men. - Aristotle,  Nicomachean Ethics

Paine on Political Liberty

Political Liberty consists in the power of doing whatever does not Injure another. The exercise of the Natural Rights of every Man, has no other limits than those which are necessary to secure to every other Man the Free exercise of the same Rights; and these limits are determinable only by the Law
Thomas Paine

May 3, 2012

Chitra on Wittgenstein's meaning of Meaning and another topic

A) For a large classes of cases – though not for all – in which we employ the word “meaning” it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language. 
(Ludwig Wittgenstein)

 For a large classes of cases – though not for all – in which we employ the word “meaning” it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language.
Think About This-
other cases- different from meanings different from definition, thus the mentioned sense clarified.
etymology of 'word'- what does stand for, purpose of having words 
consider words having anything apart from straightforward meaning, reconsider words having more than one meaning- is there similarity between those concepts
Backward Approach-
Language- define, holds what??? Again purpose of words- thus limiting the meaning of meaning as far as language is concerned.
what could meaning otherwise imply? or how to define a concept and ascribe words for it-analyze the process. Does 'meaning ' serve anything more than convenience or contextual definitions? examples again

B) Does science need philosophy?
Who needs philosophy? What does mean by 'need philosophy'? Define philosophy, its purpose- it is because that's the way it is or it is the way it's ought to be or it helps us understand how it is. which of these can apply to science.
How does science develop? how does philosophy develop? overlaps , interdependence and interactions- which of these?
discuss instances where philosophy had had its impact on science- from anecdotes to greek mythology to Kuhn. establish these instances to have alternate explanations
Would science perish without philosophy? obviously not!!!! [or will it] 
Further suggest according to what you have to say about this question, with examples.
Avoid the customary format for this essay- DONT give your abstract before the main content of the essay  because you'll have to go for Y or N

May 2, 2012

On Love & Knowing

Try to frame arguments for the following two quotes (previous IPO topics).
Will discuss them online today evening (2 May, at 5 IST) at the tinychat chat room (link on the right side bar)

1) To know a thing we must love it, and to love a thing we must know it.
(Kitaro Nishida)

How I would Define Love
All kinds of love have a common cause, i.e. they are a form of achieving something for one-self - whether physical pleasures, mental satisfaction or spiritual peace of mind; and thus are a manifestation of loving oneself. Nishida's "Love" has two distinct meanings - First clause) Passion to know, Second clause) Considering one-self worthy of achieving and acquiring.