A few days ago I wrote a post about the origins and nature of morality where I talked a bit about the Moral Foundations Theory. The 5 + 1 moral foundations are care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, with liberty/oppression as a potential sixth. Jonathan Haidt, one of the progenitors of Moral Foundations Theory, says in his book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion that WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) cultures tend to rate care/harm and fairness/cheating high while downplaying, or even ignoring, the others (except perhaps liberty/oppression, if we include it). In his book, Haidt defends the other three of the main five foundations. But it has me wondering if abandoning them, primarily sanctity, is a good thing or not.
Less than a week ago (as of writing this), we had the twenty-first anniversary of the 9/11/2001 attacks that collapsed the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, and sent four planes worth of people to their deaths, in addition to those killed in the buildings (2,996 people killed in total). Just over a year ago, the U.S. finally abandoned its occupation and nation-building project in Afghanistan, a misguided enterprise that resulted from the 9/11 attacks two decades earlier. As the image above shows, violence has not yet ended in Iraq, either – a country that had no ties to al-Qaeda, nor possessed any “weapons of mass destruction”, even though those were the casus belli for the U.S. invasion. The violence perpetrated by the 9/11 terrorists is said by some to be religiously motivated, a sort of clash of civilizations, while others say it’s political (as a result of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, it’s support for Israel, and it’s cozy relationship with the Saudi government). The violence perpetrated by the U.S. in 76 different countries (as of 2018) is said by some to be anywhere between a necessary evil and noble. Others argue that it’s imperialist, racist, Islamophobic, and/or no different than what the 9/11 terrorists did. How can we parse these different views?
It’s been in vogue to say that we live in a post-truth society (never mind that this is making a truth-valued statement). Fake news, wokism, QAnon, standpoint epistemology (i.e., “my truth”), distrust of institutions and experts, postmodernism, social media echo chambers, internet algorithms, Donald Trump, bias in mainstream media, secularization, and so on have all been viewed as the death knell of Truth by some subset of the population or another within the past couple decades or so. But what do people mean when they talk about truth or the truth? Are people talking about the same things? Let’s look at this a little deeper.
One of the reasons that belief in free will persists is because it so vividly feels like we have free will. This intuition is better than any philosophical, scientific, or religious argument for or against free will. We believe ourselves to have the ability to freely take actions of our own volition, despite much scientific evidence that our preferences, desires, and even behaviors are biologically and culturally determined.
Here I will be laying out the main ideas of some of history’s most important philosophers. These will be extremely brief, simplified explanations of some of the big ideas for each of these philosophers. This should not be construed as a replacement or substitute for a deeper reading on these philosophers.
An important aspect of many religions, perhaps even the most important aspect, is worship. This is entailed by the facts that 1) the deity or deities are deserving or worthy of worship and 2) people have an obligation to worship the deity or deities. But why are either of these things true?
A few years ago I made a lengthy post on the philosophical arguments against the existence of God. I stated that it was the first in a series. This one is the second in that series. Here I will go through the scientific arguments for why I do not believe in the existence of God. Just like with my philosophical arguments, this will end up being a fairly long post and one which I will revise and add to periodically. As such, what you see may not be the final version of this post.
Philosophy, unlike science, does not have a reliable method for answering questions. As a result, there are longstanding philosophical questions that have no good answer. Or, perhaps, that have too many answers and no good criteria for determining which is the right one. So, what are the 6 biggest questions in philsophy?
Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America by John McWhorter, Portfolio (October 26, 2021), 224 Pages.
Nihilism, I contend, broadly comes in two different flavors. There is the nihilism of hopelessness and existential dread, whereby the meaninglessness of everything is more contemplative, yet psychologically paralyzing. I tend to fall more into this camp. The second flavor is selfishness and greed. A person concludes there is no meaning to anything, so why not just enjoy myself?
Philosophy is broadly concerned with two questions: what is there (i.e. what exists)? And what is the good life? The former still holds a prominent place in philosophy. The latter has undergone an evolution. If it is asked now days, it is usually rephrased something more like: how can I maximize pleasure and reduce suffering? But is this the question we ought to be asking?
In recent decades, the idea in modal logic and metaphysics of possible worlds has become a widely used tool in philosophy. But are the hypotheticals discussed using possible worlds even, well, possible? To test this idea, I am going to try to construct an idea of possible worlds by way of mathematical models for making adjustments to the world as understood in both a metaphysically materialist/physicalist sense as well as what assumptions must be present for immaterialist/spiritualist claims to be true.
Knowledge and Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga. Copyright 2015. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 126 pages.
Here I am going to give a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of Alvin Plantinga’s 2015 book Knowledge and Christian Belief. In this first post I will cover the first four chapters; the subsequent chapters will be covered in another post.
This book is meant as a layman’s version of Plantinga’s much longer and more technical 2000 book Warranted Christian Belief. and so it is possible that some of my criticisms are addressed in the more thorough treatise. Here I will only be taking the shorter book into consideration.
This Cato Institute 2019 poll has some telling results about the state of people’s feelings toward a meaningful existence. What does it mean to have a meaningful existence? Religion, of course, says that a meaningful existence can only happen through religion. Without religion, people seem to seek meaning through politics. Once politics is seen for what it really is – a soul-shaped cavity overflowing with fetid swamp water where dreams go to die – people are left with nothing but hollow materialistic consumerism. When that fails to satisfy the need for purpose, the meaning-wheel comes full circle and people seek a metaphysics to explain how the world works. The most popular of which currently is identity politics.
If there are no human rights a priori of government force, how can tyranny be avoided? In the absence of any deontological justification for normative ethics, there is only virtue ethics.
Among the Abrahamic religions, multiple arguments have been put forward by philosophers and theologians to prove the existence of God. I’m an atheist and don’t think any of these arguments are convincing. In this post – the first in a series I will do concerning the existence of God – I will demonstrate why I personally don’t think these philosophical arguments are very convincing.
The second post in the “series” on the scientific reasons for not believing in God is here.
Natural rights don’t exist, except in the human mind. They are a way for a social species to maintain social cohesion. But, as useful as natural rights may be in deciding how to organize society, they are not fundamental; instead, they are derivative of what humans, in general, desire.
When a mob boss tells three of his underlings to commit a murder, and then the three underlings commit the murder, is the mob boss culpable? Most people would say yes, even though he himself did not commit the murder, because he is the boss. But isn’t it possible for the three underlings to have just ignored the bosses orders and done nothing, in which case he would have just been talking? No, most people would say, because the underlings did commit the murder and they have entered into a hierarchical relationship with the boss where they are obligated to follow his orders.
I’ve been reading a bit of Scholastic and Islamic Golden Age philosophy – namely Thomas Aquinas and Abu Ali al-Husayn ibn Sina (Avicenna). In those times, people were obsessed with two things: the Greek philosophers (Plato, the neoplatonists, and Aristotle) and being able to reconcile the Grecian ontology with their monotheistic, Abrahamic religion. It’s interesting to read their philosophy, but I was wondering if it had any relevance to modern philosophy.
Sohrab Ahmari is a Catholic conservative commentator who recently wrote a piece calling fellow Christian conservatives to political action to Christianize the U.S. In the piece, he takes aim at David French, who is more of a live-and-let-live classical liberal, though also a conservative Christian. This has sparked a lot of conversation amongst those of a social conservative ilk.