Apr 5, 2013

An assignment on the application of Ethics / Metaphysics to Psychology

“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” – Albert Camus

Work on this quote, while I work on the responses to the earlier (Aristotle's) quote. Try to finish by the 6th evening

Apr 4, 2013

Asit's View

A)     What is equality?-

1) Giving a non-biased treatment in every sense.

2) Each man has different mental, social, environmental factors.

3) (From A2) thus each will receive and would like to receive different treatment.

4) (A1+A2+A3) Equality is a metaphysical myth. It is impossible to achieve absolute equality.

       B)   Inequality-

             1) Absence of equality

             2) (A4+B1) Inequality is Omnipresent.

             3) Different degrees of existence. (I take the meaning of equality here as the                                                                lowest degree of inequality.)


       C)  To make unequal things “equal”

            1) EX- Take two pans of a weighing balance where one has a heavier weight than the other. In order to make them equal one will have to add weight to the pan that has less weight. That is in order to minimize the inequality we will have to give a special treatment to one class of people while neglecting the other class. This amounts to inequality. (Ex- the minority reservations.

            2) C1 is done for the so called “greater good i.e. equality.”  However it soon turns out to be counter productive.

           3) When a special treatment is given to a certain class of people, they get more rewards for lesser efforts. They thus become less hard working. On the other hand when a special treatment is given out to a certain class, the other classes would lose out and thus slowly develop a sense of hatred. This would widen the inequality.

           4) (C1+C2+C3) Thus when one tries to make unequal things equal, the whole process turns out to be counterproductive in the long run thus increasing the degree of inequality.
            Thus by the above argument I think that Aristotle’s quote is completely right.      

Abhinav's View

I have pasted the argument below. Can you tell me if its going on the right track? It seems pretty tautologous and I can't think of any more to write on this quote, except go on about political, or different truth conditions.

“The worst form of inequality is to try and make unequal things equal.” – Aristotle

Aristotle’s argument (rather Tautology)

A1. Unequal and equal by logical status cannot be equated. (Law of extended middle mentions that as long as there is a proposition P, and a proposition not P, they cannot both be true)

A2. To try and make two unequal things equal is to try to force reasoning or violate principles of logic and thereby rational reason

A3. Inequality is an undesirable state

(A1 + A2 + A3)A4. To force things/concepts/values/rights to be equal is to resort to an undesirable state

A5. The main implication is that things can be fundamentally different and that there is no commonality, which can make equal 2 seemingly different things.


B1. What does it mean for 2 things to be equal?

-       A simple definition of equality could be the logical equivalence. 

B2. If B1, then A4 is true

B3. However B1 can be contestable in that we can consider B4 as a definition of equality


i.                Things can have a range of properties and a class of things can be named as all the items with at least one property in common.

ii.              Thus two things with 99 different properties and 1 common property P1 can be made equal for the class of objects defined by P1. 

B5. Things can then said to be equal if there is atleast one common property (Here we can introduce an alternative metaphysics of monism)

C1. In a political sense we can consider the statement: “Everyone is equal before the law”

C2. This accding to Aristotle tries to make everyone equal, not considering the circumstances, which led him or her to violate the law

C3. This is inequality in that 2 human beings with fundamentally different backgrounds are being seen equally

C4. However if we accept B4 as a definition for equality, then we can say that both humans are different but belong to a common class in that they are part of a common legal system defined in a particular manner.

C5. Thus C1 is not necessarily an inequality or undesirable outcome. 


Apr 2, 2013

Another assignment

Understand this quote and frame an argument for or against it, say by 3rd March 2013 evening.

"The worst form of inequality is to try and make unequal things equal" - Aristotle

For previous such analyses see the posts with label Quote Analysis.
The topic was:
The investigation of the truth is in one way hard, in another easy. An indication of this is found in the fact that no one is able to attain the truth adequately, while, on the other hand, no one fails entirely, but everyone says something true about the nature of all things, and while individually they contribute little or nothing to the truth, by the union of all a considerable amount is amassed.
― Aristotle, Metaphysics

Analysis by Abhinav Menon: (and my comments and questions to Abhinav)
I have split my argument into Aristotle's argument, Sec A is my analysis of Aristotle's Arg, Sec B and C are further discussions. 
Aristotle’s Argument
P1. Every individual can say ‘something true’ about nature of things in virtue of   ‘things’ existing
P2. Truth is an all-encompassing concept (How) – thus an individual alone cannot comprehend the vastness of truth (Why)
P3. Truth as a concept is being investigated and thus so is the nature of truth. Investigating the nature of truth contributes to the investigation of truth. (Does he mean concept OR individual truths?)
(P1 + P2 => C1.) The union of all P1s leads to a larger portion of the truth (indicated in P2 + P3) being discovered
C2. Physics (saying something true about the nature of things) (i.e. facts, often named as truths) is different from Metaphysics (investigation of truth) (i.e. the concept or 'Truth', what constitutes Truth?, what characterizes it?, How do we arrive at it?)
(C1 + C2 + P3 => C3.) Truth in its entirety cannot be known. All we can say is that we can know a large part of truth by knowing about the nature of things. (I think he means that sum of knowledge of ALL men gives us a large portion of the Truth and not one man's knowledge)

Sec A
A1.’Investigation of the truth’ (what you mean is the Truth in such and such a case, i.e. an instance of truth and not Truth as an idea?) affirms a something/concept called truth with certain properties, which form its nature
A2. Things have elements of truth in them (this follows from ‘the nature of all things’ argument) and only by piecing together the elements of truth and taking its union can we arrive at an understanding/attainment of truth
A3. Inherent in truth’s nature is that it encompasses everything (this is a restatement of P2)
(A1 + A2) A4. A3 is inconsistent and Aristotle’s reasoning is circular. He is in a process of investigating something called truth, and yet he is able to assign a property like “all-encompassing” to truth without fully investigating its nature. I.e. he has defined truth but he is still in search of it.
(I think Aristotle would be unhappy with this unfair interpretation. I think you are confusing the 'idea' with the 'instance')

Sec B
B1. A definition of the notion of truth is not clear in Aristotle’s argument (i.e. truth is some sort of an abstract entity not well defined)
B2. If truth is everything under the sun then why call it truth? (If existing objects have element of truth in that, they are, as they appear, why do we need a separate notion of truth.)
B3. If purpose of philosophy is to ‘investigate truth,’ then what is, ‘to say something true about the nature of things?’ (is it science). What is the purpose of this distinction and can one lead to another?
(B4) Say something true about nature of things is saying: - the ball is red
B5. If I were to call a red ball blue, the fact does not change.
(B4 + B5 = B6) Truth is unaffected by what people may say about it or perceive it as (however they may do so) (This is the notion of objectivity of Truth. Some philosophers may not agree on the basis that your only means of perceiving truth are your senses and cognition, both of which could be faulty. Hence the TRUTH you perceive, may not be THE Truth. So it may change from person to person or from time to time. Science on the other hand {or real/rational/empirical philosophies} agree on objectivity. So you should state your position before asserting 'a fact')
B7. What everyone says about the nature of all things may not be necessarily true. Thus unions of all is not necessarily lead to a ‘considerable amount.’
(Agreed. However, let us say that 1 out of a million persons spoke 0.1% truth about a certain issue/situation/human condition/etc.; then in the entire span of history, given that there have been at least a few ten's of billion people who have lived and died and transmitted their ideas to the next generation - the amount of truth thus amassed adds up to nearly 100%. Of course 'truth' is not so simply seen and transferred. Their are losses in transmission due to religious / political interferences in history or simply due to people's neglect of the responsibility of handing over the truth to the next gen. Also, perceptions may be equally faulty for many of the truth seekers and the actual percentage of truth amassed may be reduced greatly.)
 Sec C
C1. Truth can be broken down into constituents.
C2. Each constituent can be analyzed, providing better understanding of truth.
C1 + C2 = C3) Truth is fundamental atomic facts. When a fact (a true proposition) is broken down, there are individual elements of the proposition which create meaning by referring to particulars/concepts/universals (clearer definition needed here)
C4) In a certain sense Aristotle’s quote can be seen as discussing the nature of propositions however the whole truth can be attained and affirmed through analysis of individual propositions.
(More discussion on how this links to empiricism)
 (Now, that's where the problem of Truth lies. Can we actually atomize truth, always? Sometimes, even as the truth is obvious, its difficult to analyse/atomize it. e.g. A mother loves her child. You can point out many ways in which she indicates this love. But does that prove her love as a truth? What about the times when she hits the child? What if there is a disaster and only one of them would survive? What if she survives by accident? Would she then commit suicide for her child? Then again - does dying for the one you love show the Truth of your love? If not sacrifice, then what proves love? O.K. leave all that, can we compare the love of one mother towards her child, with another mother towards hers? So how do you go about atomizing this further? But, don't you accept this as a general Truth of humanity? How come?)

Most facts of human interactions (a domain of sociology) are impenetrable in this manner. It is difficult to be deductive about them as an idealist would try. Now empiricism is somewhat the answer and I guess that's what Aristotle is trying to say. Empirically you observe (human nature or human interactions) and collect data, pass it down generations, until a huge amount of data is collected. Humans are not capable of retaining ALL data, such as Every Mother's EVERY Act of love towards her child. Hence they form truths by interpolating and extrapolating from the limited observation and hand these over to the next gen. Next gen further refines and redefines the conclusions with their  own observations. and so on....

Also, Truth about any matter needs to be observed with keen and faultless senses of one individual and then the next and thus many to consider it coherent with reality. "Truth" has to be found to be consistent with the other "truths" known to Man. And then again, the "Truth's" need to be analysed in reference to other known truths to understand their origin and nature. This demands a great effort and is seldom possible for any one Man in his lifetime. Hence, Aristotle says that men perceive fragments of truth.

Thus, the process of discovery and transmission of Truth as described by Aristotle is fine. But you could question his assertion that THAT is how Truth is. So maybe our process of discovery needs to be refined with objectivity and logic. Our process of transmission is already better with books and other technology (unfortunately, facebook un-does that, :-( ...) So maybe Truth can be formed more completely and definitively now.
OR ... you could argue that Truth is a metaphysic myth. Its purely relative and subjective. :-o

Philosophy Training 2013

Have been bogged down by work and other commitments lately. So the "plan" for this years Philosophy prep is as follows:
  • Team has just begun with analysis of quotes. Others who are free from exams are welcome to join in. So until about 18th April, we discuss quotes and the arguments that can be made about them, here on the blog.
  • From 19th or 20th I intend to invite some teachers / speakers and have in-camera (working the tech out) sessions put on the net (hopefully live). These video lectures will be followed by practical (i.e. discussions on topics) These sessions will take about 4-5 hours every day and will go for about 5 days. Plan is to introduce various areas of Philosophy to the beginners and keep the "seniors" on their toes, thinking things through. The team will prepare with essays and discussions (online) for the remaining part of the day. Hence those able to attend in person may do so, while others may tune in to the web link I will put up here, once the tech is sorted. the online crowd can also chat and participate in the sessions.
  • After this brief introductory training is done, the team gets serious about going to deeper essays and brainstorming about them online until 14th May. (video chats, usually in the evenings) Others are welcome to join in. Links will be posted here. The discussion done will be connected in points on this blog - http://abhinavphilosopher.blogspot.in  
Once again, I invite all students who participated in the selection process and any others who may have missed out then, but would like to learn Philosophy, to join in these discussions. Sometimes they will be a little vague, as it is not always possible to write down, what we think, in detail. But they would definitely give you a flavour of the subject.