Saturday, January 30, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
There can be a natural evil - something like a natural disaster (like we have seen so vividly in Haiti in the past week that may have killed almost 200,000 people and possibly left a million people homeless); diseases like cancer, AIDS, etc; accidents or other things that don't seem to have an intent to do harm but just happen (an agentless cause).
- 4th hour broke this one down to discuss a thing like lung cancer. If lung cancer is caused by someone's smoking habit, then it can be considered evil. The cigarettes themselves, however, cannot be thought of as evil, because they needed to be used in order to become toxic. If a person develops lung cancer b/c he/she lives in a high pollution area and has lived w/ heavy smokers his/her entire life, then the person wouldn't be considered evil. An evil has been done to him/her by another person's free will (the smoker, the polluting company).
- 5th hour broke it down with the atomic bomb - we tried to figure out if an object itself could be evil w/o an agent to use it. Discussing the atomic bomb, I think we came to the conclusion that there had to be some agent who needed to enforce his/her will upon the atomic bomb to make it do his/her bidding. Otherwise, the bomb could be used as a planter, couch, etc. without such an agent and therefore isn't evil.
Then there are moral evils. These have an agent as the cause or someone or something doing the evil with intent. We tried to break things down to universals - is there a universal evil in every society? Wikipedia broke the nature of moral evil down into 4 groups:
"Views on the nature of evil tend to fall into one of four opposed camps:
Moral absolutism holds that good and evil are fixed concepts established by a deity or deities, nature, morality, common sense, or some other source;
Amoralism claims that good and evil are meaningless, that there is no moral ingredient in nature;
Moral relativism holds that standards of good and evil are only products of local culture, custom, or prejudice;
Moral universalism is the attempt to find a compromise between the absolutist sense of morality, and the relativist view; universalism claims that morality is only flexible to a degree, and that what is truly good or evil can be determined by examining what is commonly considered to be evil amongst all humans. Author Sam Harris notes that universal morality can be understood using measurable (i.e. quantifiable) metrics of happiness and suffering, both physical and mental, rooted in how the biology of the brain processes stimuli." 1
As we had mentioned in the past unit, St. Augustine thought that evil was not doing God's will. Judaism believes (correct me if I'm wrong) that evil results when one forsakes God.
Then there is the problem of evil - why does it exist at all? This is the school of thought that if God (or any all knowing, all powerful good diety) existed, why would that diety allow evil to exist? If it did allow evil to exist, then is the diety really good and/or all powerful? There are many ways to look at this - see Problem of evil - here - and here - and here - for ideas. Some religious types think that this argument is so corrosive that they devote a lot of energy to debunking it - they think it might lead to atheism.
C.S. Lewis, author of the Chronicles of Narnia, wrote this about his early athiest days:
"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?... Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too--for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies" 3
Occam's Razor is an idea credited to 14th Century friar William of Ockham which states that the conclusion based on the fewest assumptions is most likely the right one. 2
Questions (pick 3 of 4 questions to answer):
1. Is it better to prevent evil than to promoting good when making rules or standards to live by? Why?
2. Do you agree with the problem of evil - that a benevolent, omnipotent diety wouldn't allow evil? Why or why not?
3. Are we making this more complicated than it has to be? Or should we just reduce it to the simplest explanation (Occam's razor - see above)?
4. If we as humans can conceive of evil or evil acts and thoughts, does that mean we are evil by nature? Why or why not?
Due Thursday, January 21. 200 words minimum.
1. Evil, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evil
2. Occam's Razor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam%27s_razor
3. Problem of Evil http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil
4. Problem of Evil http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-problem-of-evil.htm
5. Problem of Evil http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/
6. Problem of Evil
Monday, January 11, 2010
Homework update: Test on TUESDAY. REVIEW SHEETS HAVE BEEN PASSED OUT AND THEY WILL BE POSTED ONLINE TOMORROW. Review session is on Tuesday morning at 7:45 a.m.
Links to Destination: Lost (called Ep24, pt 1-5)
Pt. 1 -(there's nothing on the video for the first 20 seconds).
If the embeds don't work, you can search YouTube by looking for Lost Destination Lost ep24 as a summary of season 1.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
"study and contemplation do in some sort withdraw us from our soul, and employ it separately from the body, which is a kind of apprenticeship and a resemblance of death; or else, because all the wisdom and reasoning in the world do in the end conclude in this point, to teach us not to fear to die"1
Cynics believe: ‘What good is philosophy if it never moves you to criticize your comfortable habits and actually change yourself for the better?’ Cynicism was conceived of as a way of life unbeholden to social convention or political demand, that is, a life lived according to nature. (This phrase is a recurring theme in debates among the Hellenistic philosophies.)
For Cynics, nature is the opposite of society’s conventions and norms. All that the ordinary social herd is interested in is getting on in this world. They flatter, they beg, they posture. Such people think that they are better if they can throw a big fancy party! ‘How shallow! How fleeting! How ridiculous!,’ say the Cynics. These people have lost touch with nature. 2
Here's a song by Extreme called "Cynical":
"And whatever you do / someone's done it first / though it's sad but true / this us just another verse / if you can't take it with you / then what's the use? / I never saw a u-haul / being pulled behind a hearse."
Skeptics: Pyrrho of Elis (c. 365/360-275/270 BCE) was the first celebrated Skeptic. He was said to have accompanied Alexander to India. His philosophical position was that we can only know how things appear to us, and we can’t rightly resolve disagreements as to what appears. This is all very disturbing. Wouldn’t it be better just to suspend judgment and live according to probable opinion and custom?
- "Skeptics aimed to undermine the supposed certainties of all their other philosophical competitors. While this might seem to limit it to making only a negative contribution, Skepticism did at least provide a voice for humility and tolerance, even if the Skeptics themselves did not always practise those qualities." 2
Epicureans: "Epicurus modified the materialistic philosophy of the 5th century bce atomists, Leucippus and Democritus. Everything is composed of matter, more specifically, of atoms moving in a void. For the most part, they move in regular ways. Their principal movement is to fall down in straight lines. (How ‘down’ can be identified in a void is a problem that the Epicureans did not clarify.) However, occasionally atoms ‘swerve.’ From these irregular movements, atoms began to collide and clump together. and the universe we know through our senses began to form. The movements and interactions of atoms suffice for a complete explanation of the world. The swerve is also the basis of Epicurus’ defense of free will.
- "Epicurus takes this absence of a cosmic purpose to mean that pleasure is the only good. Indeed, pleasure is the meaning of the good. The Greek word translated as ‘pleasure’ is the root of the English word, hedonism. Hedonism is the view that pleasure is the highest good." 2Editor's note: If this quote to the left attributed to Epicurus can be accurately pinned to him, then maybe there's more than just the anti-hedonist attitudes like Cicero's that this school has had to endure. It could most definitely have come from a church that had tried to solidfy itself over the centuries.
Stoicism: "your average Hellenistic Joe Schmoe feels his life running away from him in fifty directions—but God has got it together. There is a pattern to it all, despite what Epicureans will tell you. There is a grand plan—no—a perfect plan, behind the seemingly haphazard affairs of life, a logos." (<--Bust of Zeno, the founder of Stoicism) 3
- "Unfortunately, as the world is entirely material and perfectly ordered it is also thoroughly determined. Thus, it is also correct to name the divine as fortune. The earlier Stoics put a brave spin on this, and said that the plan evidenced divine providence, a reassuring God. Later Stoics, who must have been a bit discouraged by suicides, exiles and the like, thought that the plan was more like an impersonal, implacable fate.
- "The Stoics argue that, since every person has logos, the natural law is a universal law for all people, irrespective of ethnic background and political allegiance. Our true citizenship is not with any particular city and its parochial little customs. We are all citizens of the city of the world—the cosmopolis. The Roman Empire adopts Stoicism as the official ideology, exactly for this view." 2
Now that we've looked at the main schools of Hellenist philosophy (heck, throw in NeoPlatonism in there w/ ol' man Plotinus in there too), how will you face the end?