When using formal logic, what are the referents of a given proposition? If we take a proposition to be of the form X is P where the subject X is some object or concept sublated to a predicate i.e. a more general concept P, what is it that X and P refer to? Logicists like Gottlob Frege would say that X refers to some object in the world while P refers to a concept; Ferdinand de Saussure would deny that X refers to anything in the real world, instead saying that it refers only to the psychological concept of some object.
About a month ago I recorded a video examining the scientific evidence of the lab-leak hypothesis for the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Since then, a heated exchange between Senator Rand Paul and Dr. Anthony Fauci has transpired in which the issue of whether the United States, through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has funded so-called gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). I was planning on making another video on this subject (and probably will at some point), but after some discussion with a commenter on my earlier video, some more philosophical questions have emerged that I am going to discuss here a bit.
Most people who are familiar with the term deontological ethics are likely acquainted with Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative most famously set out in his The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (hereafter referred to as Groundwork). Descriptively speaking, I think most people follow a sort of ethical intuitionism; prescriptively speaking, I think most people would subscribe to some hybrid form of ethical consequentialism. Deontology, particularly given the widespread misinterpretation and misunderstanding of Kant’s deontological moral philosophy, is often regarded as a sort of wooden formalism meant which is meant to be universally and unquestioningly adhered, leading to scores of counterexamples where it would dictate we take actions that are clearly morally wrong. But it is actually quite difficult to fully ground any system of ethics without what Kant would have thought of as the supreme moral principle.
What is consciousness? And can we be sure that anything exists outside our own consciousness?
So-called “cancel culture” is the inclination, usually on social media, to draw negative attention toward those individuals who have transgressed certain cultural mores. This is often observed when someone has made a social media post that is construed as bigoted against a marginalized group. This “cancel culture” is an interesting phenomenon that takes something very human – ostracizing transgressors – and cranking it up exponentially.
The first election in which I voted was the 2004 race between the Democrat challenger John Kerry and the Republican incumbent George W. Bush. I voted for Kerry primarily because I was against the war in Iraq. In 2008 I voted for Barack Obama, again because of the war (and because I didn’t like McCain’s hawkishness), but also because I believed Obama to be the candidate that would best preserve the civil liberties that Bush had been attempting to dismantle during his tenure. By 2012, though, I had become disillusioned with the Democratic party – Obama did not deliver on the things I felt were important (getting out of our Middle Eastern wars and upholding civil liberties at home). I could never bring myself to vote Republican, though, since in my mind they were (and still are) the party of neocon war hawks and pearl-clutching social conservatives. So, in 2012 I voted for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian party candidate (which I did again in 2016; I voted for the Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen in 2020).
I am not a vegan, or even a vegetarian, but I recognize my own cognitive dissonance on the issue. That’s not to award myself any brownie points or anything, just a statement of fact. Indeed, it likely only makes my own cognitive dissonance on the issue even worse.
I think even the most avid hunter or advocate of the carnivore diet would decline to offer any defense of the factory farming industry, which is an important subcategory of the overarching animal rights issue in general. But there is more hypocrisy involved than just the overt acceptance of factory farming imposed by law and the tacit acceptance of factory farming in everyday people as they turn a blind eye to it and continue consuming animal products, thereby maintaining the very demand that resulted in the invention of factory farming.
Here I am not talking about gender, or the mode in which a person self identifies. I have talked about the biological underpinnings of gender in the past. What I am discussing in this post is whether sex – being male or female as determined by primary and/or secondary sex characteristics – is a social construct.
The is/ought problem, or dichotomy, is the idea from David Hume that one cannot get an ought (prescription) from an is (description) – one cannot determine how one ought to behave given just a description of the world. Sam Harris, in his book “The Moral Landscape” disagrees with this, arguing that values/ethics can be derived from science. Is Harris correct or misguided?
I just watched Bo Burnham’s new special on Netflix called “Inside” and thought, true to what Bo says in the special, I ought to add my two cents.
It’s almost proverbial that it is difficult to win an argument. That is, if we take successfully changing the opponent’s mind as the condition for victory. Most arguments end up with all parties involved becoming frustrated that their opponent is incapable of agreeing with them. Worse, both parties are often just as likely to become even more convinced of the beliefs they held when the argument began.
When it comes to changing our minds about some issue, the is/ought dichotomy once again comes into play. The former is the question: what conditions actually obtain when a given person changes their mind? The latter is the question: what conditions ought to obtain for a given person to change their mind?
Recently, the evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins stirred up controversy with a tweet wondering about the differences between transgender identity and so-called trans-racial identity a la Rachel Dolezal. This upset people for many reasons, but one of them is his word choice: saying that transgender people “choose” to identify as the gender opposite to the sex they were born with. The backlash resulted in Dawkins having his 1996 Humanist of the Year award revoked by the American Humanist Association, which caused its own controversy.