Getting My Head Straight

Just another weblog

Inviolability and Utilitarianism

Filed under: Ethics, Politics — Lemony at 3:38 pm on Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Bit of a long one this. Below the fold is the full text of an essay I wrote for my ethics module last semester which I got a first for. It has various issues which i should probably resolve before publishing it but i decided instead to present the text as i submitted it.

In the interests of self-deprecation I must call attention to the fact that this is pretty shamefully badly written, capitalisations are missed, spelling and grammar mistakes are abundant, the whole last paragraph got left in from an early draft and has nothing to do with the rest of the essay. That said, don’t think it was a bad first attempt at philosophical writing and I still agree with most of the arguments I put forward. Anyhow, you can either read on or download the text as a pdf.

(Read on …)

A Quick Post about Opinions

Filed under: Odds and Ends, Thoughts — Lemony at 9:08 pm on Thursday, January 26, 2006

When we talk about things that we know, there are various levels to which it’s almost impossible not to allude - do we know that which we sense? What about that in which we have faith? What about our opinions?

In my understanding, an opinion is best defined thus:

A belief or judgement that is strongly held, but without actual proof of its truth [1]

This contrasts with some conceptions which I have heard that consider opinion as being of a nature where they cannot be assigned truth values. This definition sees opinion as being a purely internal affair; having no relation to the real world. However this is clearly not the case, any meaningful opinion has a subject and any expressable opinion has a subject which can be externalised. This means that the opinion can be held to account against either empirical testing or rational investigation and has a truth value.

Why Philosophy?

Filed under: Odds and Ends, Thoughts — Lemony at 8:03 pm on Friday, December 16, 2005

Recently I was engaged in a reasonably impassioned debate about why anyone should wish to philosophise. The question had never really occurred to me before since I’m not entirely sure it’s possible to live life without doing it. To me philosophy is a natural consequence of the ability to think and our existence as part of society.

What is Philosophy?

This is a question I can’t hope to answer definitively, in fact the distrust in which philosophy is held in many parts may be rooted in the difficulties of answering this question. However, I shall give use the term as defined as:

The systematic inquiry of the fundamental questions concerning, among other things, the nature of reality (metaphysics), the justification of belief (epistemology), and the conduct of life (ethics). [1]

This definition has the consequence that even the dismissal of philosophy as a nonsense has to be considered a philosophical view and is thus self defeating since the only way to justify it would be to use philosophical arguments to do so and an unjustified argument has little basis on which to be considered persuassive.

How is Philosophy Actually Helpful?

Well, for one thing it’s the fundamental base of our political and legal systems. There can be no normative political theory which is not based in ethical theory and theories of human nature. These subjects certainly overlap with the sciences - biology and psychology in particular - however, this doesn’t negate philosophy as a subject, it just assures its position within the realm of human thought.

Similarly, philosophical thought can bridge the divide between science and reality and, through logic, underpin all of our mathematical and scientific progress.

Why Should Philosophy Replace Intuition?

Short answer: it shouldn’t. However we have to understand both that intuition has limits to its applicability and that intuit