User:Philosophe

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Philosophe's Page

I am a philosopher-in-training with a strong interest in economic and moral questions. Most persons would incorrectly assume I am a "libertarian" (in the political sense of the word), and I have neither the time nor the energy to argue with them all day. I suppose they come to that belief by observing my fascination with Adam Smith, David Hume, Friedrich Hayek and the like, but as anyone in an academic discipline can tell you, "knowledge of" a subject or person does not translate to "imitation" or "agreement."

To the extent I can contribute to the site, I'll probably mainly concern myself with adding text to the seemingly bottomless hole that is Conservapedia's treatment of topics in analytic philosophy.

If I expand on your work but your text does not appear in the final edit your work, that's because it was so egregiously incorrect that it could not survive the scrutiny of even a casual observer (or a lowly grad student).  : )


Biographical Details

I am a grad student at a reputable university in the American southeast. I'm 23 years old, so I have a while to go.

I was born in Alabama, moved around with my family so frequently that I cannot really say I am "from" any one place, and finally ended up close to where I started, travelling to such locales as Australia, South Korea and Hong Kong on the way.

More details will no doubt follow in this space.



So What ARE Your Views, Philosophe?

A quick breakdown on my thinking -


Economics: I unapologetically favor free markets and think their regulation and/or destruction would be socially unjust. Furthermore, money is a way of measuring value, so spending money is - among other things - a way of conveying information about what one values. Commercial speech ought be protected if any speech is protected; there are no relevant distinctions between the two.

Ethics: Humans have the capacity not only for great evil (the curmudgeonly "conservative" position), but also for great good. We are, for reasons either evolutionary or otherwise, predisposed to be self-interested and to feel mutual sympathy with others, even if their happiness or plight has no direct bearing on our own affairs. As our own behaviors are constrained by motives both self-oriented and other-oriented, a complete ethics must not ignore either human motivation (as do pure egoism and act utilitarianism). And, if human happiness is the goal of living, then we'll have to admit that a hybrid theory seems the only sensible way to preserve both our acquisitive wants and our more beneficent moral intuitions: most of us probably can't be happy unless we do things both for ourselves and others!

Politics: This is largely a waste of time. The political classes do not receive any of my attention, other than the money they extort from me each year by use of force. Positive political change is only a conceivable possibility if it is construed to mean the abolition of prior, harmful policies. In a nutshell: Opposition to markets is materially equivalent to opposition to human flourishing. All associations between persons ought to be voluntary, as in markets.

Science: Observing the world around us is a very useful way of achieving our ends. In our observations, we may come to discover things that we find aesthetically pleasing, and other things that are not. But to reject them for their aesthetics is backwards - almost to the extent that it is Kierkegaardian (meaning, ridiculously egotistical and deluded). Evolution and the constellation of physical sciences that make it possible are highly suggested by the evidence we have, and I am entirely unwilling to reject it given the evidence in its favor. Furthermore, because we have discovered that there are in fact causal relationships that seem to hold between objects in our universe, I see no principled reason to assume they do not hold for us humans too (see my metaphysics).

Metaphysics & Mind: The materialist philosophical position is ridiculous, as the word "physical" has an unfixed meaning: what Hobbes might have called materialism would have dealt with "physical objects" like tables, chairs and persons. But is a neutrino (a particle with no mass and which could travel through a volume of lead equal to that of the solar system without even being deflected from its path) a physical object? As we have found that tables, chairs and persons are effectively empty space with a few point particles thrown in, I am unconvinced that "materialism" is even a position that can be expressed systematically or coherently (unless you define "physical objects" to include all those things that exist, which destroys any conceptual differences it has with, say, dualism). Thus, I favor simple naturalism: the view that whatever sorts of things turn out to exist will exist in certain causal relationships with other things. Some would call me a dualist, but nothing I believe commits me to the view that there exist two kinds of "objects" - the physical ones and the mental or nonphsysical ones.

Free Will: I might be accused of thinking we have no freedom of will, since I do think most of our actions are causally determined. But to suppose this is to make a possibly unjustified assumption that "free will is the ability to do otherwise than what one in fact does" (that's sometimes called incompatiblism). Since by this definition we'll always be analyzing these events after the fact, we are at a loss to reason about whether things might have gone another way. But let's suppose they could not have. So what? Free will is not encapsulated by the description given above: we have free will, and, intuitively, it is the ability to do as one wants to do. I act freely when what I do is caused by my desires and preferences, and I am coerced when some other person imposes his or her desires and preferences on me in some way, perhaps by use of force. In fact, if my actions weren't caused by my preferences and desires, then in virtue of what would they be mine? That my preferences and desires themselves are - or may be - determined by genetics, social conditions and the like is completely irrelevant. We have freedom of the will, whether we like it or not.

Religion: I am not religious, as I have never found myself able to believe most religious doctrines. I do not know for sure, but I have heard from reputable biologists and psychologists that humans are predisposed to have religious beliefs. I am not suggesting these predispositions indicate religion must be false; to explain how one comes to believe something in no way demonstrates its falsity. It seems possible at any rate that we evolved a "religious faculty" - and, perhaps, it is one that accurately forecasts, or gives us intuitions, about religious truths. It is, however, extremely unlikely: there are such widely divergent views on what is true, religiously speaking, that no matter who is right (assuming anyone is), there are more people who are wrong than right. The faculty is therefore not to be trusted if we are trying to believe what is reasonable, given both our intuitions and our knowledge.