Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Ontological Argument

Concepts we'll need for the next few weeks


  • Perfect
  • Omnibenevolent (all-good)
  • Omniscient (all-knowing)
  • Omnipotent (all-powerful)
  • Omnipresent
  • Infinite
  • Eternal
  • An immaterial mind
  • Loving and caring
  • Creator of the universe
  • Ruler of the universe
  • Self-caused
  • A posteriori -- an argument that relies on empirical evidence--based on experience
  • A priori -- an argument that doesn't rely on empirical evidence--based on concepts 
  • Theism
  • Atheism
  • Agnosticism
Arguments for the existence of God

  • The Ontological Argument (see God tab above)
  • ETC

Monday, October 24, 2016

What does "God" mean?


  • If your grade on the midterm is below the C-range, you should come talk to me during my office hours or by making an appointment.
  • Today we'll discuss the paper assignment (see tab above).


Friday, October 21, 2016

Frankfurt and the Manchurian Candidate


  • I will put the paper assignment here by Monday.
  • We'll watch Monday's movie in class.  There's no movie quiz and no homework. However, there's assigned reading.  Please read!

Free Will, continued:

  • Powerpoint (on Frankfurt)
  • Galen Strawson's argument....from his own mouth.  Strawson says there's no free will and no responsibility, but does he argue for that in the manner of a hard determinist?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Free Will


  • I'm returning the midterms today.  The majority of the class did very well (As or high Bs). There are also quite a few very low grades.
  • You should come talk to me if your grade is under 70.  Before doing so, look at your exam carefully, using the Midterm rubric (above).
  • I can talk to people after class today (until 2:30).

HARD DETERMINISM (e.g. Galen Strawson)
  1. All choices are determined.
  2. Determined --> couldn't do otherwise --> not free --> not responsible --> not blameworthy/praiseworthy (incompatibilism)

LIBERTARIANISM (e.g. Roderick Chisholm)
  1. Some choices are determined, some are not determined; the not-determined aren't simply indeterministic (random) but rather agents have control over them.
  2. Determined --> couldn't do otherwise --> not free --> not responsible --> not blameworthy/praiseworthy (incompatibilism)

    How can a choice be "under the agent's control" and not determined?  See Chisholm for one account.

    SOFT DETERMINISM (e.g. Susan Wolf, Harry Frankfurt)
    Note: some Soft Determinists say that when people make free choices, in some sense they could do otherwise.  

    1. All choices are determined
    2. Some determined choices are free, responsible, blameworthy/praiseworthy (compatibilism)
    The Big Question:  How can a choice be determined and "couldn't do otherwise" yet free, so the agent is responsible and blameworthy/praiseworthy?
    1. Couldn't have done otherwise, yet responsible--you save the child who's about to jump out the window; you refrain from pushing friend out the window; you keep a promise to your mother.  Intuitively, you couldn't do otherwise simply because nothing else was right!  That doesn't seem to rule out responsibility.
    2. Psychologically determined to make a certain choice, yet responsible for it--grew up developing generosity as a character trait, so now must give to the homeless person at Lover's and Central.
    Question:  do Wolf's examples help us vindicate common sense judgments?  For example, common sense says Marco was free when he shot the Shaws, at the end of The Manchurian Candidate.  Has Wolf said anything that would back this up?
    Couldn't have done otherwise, yet responsible*--Black wants Jones4 to do X; he's on standby to make him do X, using hypnosis or a brain implant, just in case he doesn't do X; but he never has to exercise his power to force Jones4 to do X because Jones4 does it of his own accord.  In that case, Jones4 couldn't have done otherwise. Yet doesn't he seem responsible?
    1.  Suppose Marco's chip is programmed to make him shoot Shaw, if he doesn't choose to.  (That German psychologist in New yOrk reprogrammed the chip when Marco was unconscious.)  Then he couldn't have done otherwise, yet he seems responsible!
    2. Suppose you have just learned to drive, and your mother is sitting in the passenger seat.  If you don't see the red light, she will shout "red light!"  But she doesn't have to, because you see the red light. You couldn't have done otherwise but stop, but you are responsible!
    3. Suppose bad guys have invaded Trump Tower.  They have implanted a chip in Melania Trump's brain.  They think she will vote for her husband on November 8, but they're on standby, waiting for the slightest sign of a different vote.  They don't exercise their powers, because she immediately fills in the Trump bubble. Melania couldn't have done otherwise but vote for Trump, but she is responsible!
    Question:  Frankfurt is saying that in principle, it can be true that someone couldn't do otherwise, but is still responsible (and free, and blameworthy/praiseworthy).  But when is this the case?  What about Marco when he shot the Shaws?  Does Frankfurt back up the common sense judgment that Marco was free?
    * If there are examples like this, this would refute what Frankfurt calls The Principle of Alternative Possibilities, which says "a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise." (Frankfurt p. 612)

    Sunday, October 16, 2016

    Week 9 Homework Help

    There are three chances to get homework credit this week.  (Hurray?) There are some "assists" below to help with this.  If you really need credit, it's advisable to attempt the first homework.  Then you can do more as a replacement (if needed) or for bonus points.

    Challenge:  can 100% of you get homework credit this week?  I bet you can!

    M 10/17 Compatibilism. Wolf, 621-630. (HW15: 630 TYU 2) 
    Yes, this is a hard one. You can get her main point and do the homework if you just read from p. 623 (starting with the fourth paragraph--"When we try....") to p. 625 (ending with the third paragraph--last words are "for a bad action").   
    In class we're going to talk about one of the good acts in The Manchurian Candidate--specifically, Marco shooting Shaw and his mother.  Wolf says he can be responsible for it even he was psychologically determined to perform it. She thinks differently about bad acts, like Dr. Noyle ordering Marco to kill a fellow soldier, as we'll discuss.
    W 10/19 Compatibilism. Frankfurt, 612-619. At least read the first two paragraphs and section IV. (HW16: 619 TYU 1. Also tell the Black and Jones4 story.) 
    Another difficult article, but you don't have to read the whole thing.  Also, the homework is straightforward.  Just state the principle of alternate possibilities (one sentence!) and tell the Black and Jones4 story.  You don't need to understand the point of it to tell the story.
    In class we're going to look for a Black and Jones4 type story in The Manchurian Candidate.  Maybe there's already one in there?  (Think about it....)  If not, we'll make one up, using the chips that were implanted in Shaw and Marco's heads.
    F 10/21 Living with determinism. Strawson, 588-597. (HW17 597 TYU 2)
    This is quite a bit more readable.  The homework is just about the first two pages, though reading more will help you understand what Strawson is saying.  

    Wednesday, October 12, 2016

    Homework 14 Help

    There's just one homework this week.  Here's some assistance, to make it more doable.

    For purposes of the homework, you can just focus on sections 1, 5, 6, and 7.  

    Chisholm is rejecting Hard Determinism and arguing for Libertarianism.  See the last post for what Hard Determinists think and also for a glossary (at the bottom).

    Chisholm argues that our choices are not determined, but also not indeterministic. They aren't caused by past events over which we have no control.  They also don't occur randomly.  He's offering us a third possibility.  The third possibility is that when an agent decides to do something, that initial decision is not like the subsequent chain of events.  He illustrates with the example of a man grabbing a staff and hitting a stone.
    Decision:  Man decides to move his hand
    Event 1: Hand grasps staff (= stick or cane)
    Event 2: Staff moves
    Event 3: Stone moves
    Chisholm is claiming that the decision is not an event at all.  So it causes Event 1, but it doesn't have a cause.  Thus, it's not determined but also not indeterministic.  To describe the way the decision causes Event 1, Chisholm uses the term "immanent causation."  To describe the way Event1 causes Event 2, and Event 2 causes Event 3, he uses the term "transeunt causation."

    The homework (TYU3 on p. 604) asks you to "pick an ordinary free action and tell its story in Chisholm's way." So use the model above, but pick something more interesting. You might like to pick one of the (seemingly) free actions in The Manchurian Candidate.

    First, read the relevant sections of the article--again, those are 1, 5, 6, and 7.  If they sound like gibberish to you, you should still be able to do the homework, using the explanation above.

    The Manchurian Candidate and Free Will

    Movie link

    Free vs. Not Free

    1. Major Marco shoots a fellow soldier, under orders from Dr. Atticus Noyle (1:15:30 - 1:17:27)
    2. Sergeant Shaw suffocates a fellow soldier, under orders from Dr. Atticus Noyle (1:15:30 - 1:17:27)
    3. Sergeant Shaw kills Senator Jordan (1:31 - 1:35)
    4. Sergeant Shaw kills Senator Jordan's daughter (1:31 - 1:35)
    5. Sergeant Shaw gets himself and his mother killed (1:56 - 1:58)
    6. Major Marco shoots Shaw and his mother (1:56 - 1:58)
    7. Senator Elly Shaw manipulates her son (throughout movie)
    8. Dr. Atticus Noyle orders Marco and Shaw to kill people

    Hard Determinism 
    1. All choices are determined by past events over which people have no control. 
    2. If all choices are determined by past events over which people have no control, then nobody can ever do otherwise.
    3. If people can never do otherwise, then people are never free.
    4. People are never free.  (conclusion from 1, 2, 3)
    5. If people are never free, then they are never responsible and can't be blamed or praised.
    6. People are never responsible and can't be blamed or praised. (conclusion from 4, 5)

    Free Will Glossary
    1. Determinism--All events are caused by past events.  
    2. Fatalism--Certain things are destined to happened, no matter what prior events occur.
    3. Indeterminism--Some events are random and inexplicable.  
    4. Hard Determinism--Determinism is true; therefore people are never free or responsible.
    5. Libertarianism--Determinism is false; people are at least sometimes free and responsible.
    6. Soft Determinism--Determinism is true; but they are also at least sometimes free and responsible.

    Friday, October 7, 2016

    Next movie: Manchurian Candidate (2004)

    Next up is The Manchurian Candidate, a movie about a US election.  This will be timely and I think you'll enjoy the movie.   It relates to our next topic -- free will.

    The quiz on the movie is on October 12, the first day after fall break.  

    Make sure you watch the 2004 remake, with Denzel Washington.  The 1962 original, starring Frank Sinatra, has a significantly different plot.
    • The library only has the old version, but they're ordering the new one.  
    • It's available at Hulu (7 day free trial!) with the Showtime add-on.  
    • You can watch it at Amazon with a Showtime subscription (7 day free trial!). 
    • You can pay $2.99 to watch at YouTube. 
    • It's also available on iTunes to rent at $2.99, if you use iTunes.
    • You can order the DVD at Amazon for just $4.99.  
    While watching, ask yourself when the characters act freely and when they don't. What are they responsible for?  What are they not responsible for?

    Wednesday, October 5, 2016

    Parfit plus Review


    • I will have office hours today (1-2:30) and tomorrow (1-2:30).  Stop by if you have questions about the mid-term.  If those times don't work, make an appointment.
    • Homework tips above, at the tab.

    Parfit Powerpoint

    Study Questions (above)

    Monday, October 3, 2016


    • I will have different office hours this week.  My Monday and Friday office hours are cancelled.  I'll have office hours Wednesday (1-2:30) and Thursday (1-2:30).  Come by if you have questions about the midterm.
    • We will discuss the study questions on Wednesday. Make sure you look at them carefully before then.
    • There is no homework for Wednesday.  
    First we'll hear from groups about Alice...

    Parfit and Teletransportation

    Real world non-magical teletransportation--
    1. Scan A on earth
    2. Send scan to Mars
    3. Folks on Mars use scan to build individual B on Mars
    4. Folks on earth destroy A
    5. If A = B, A made it to Mars!
    But does A=B???

    Qualitative identity--like two white billiard balls (they are not one and the same thing)
    Quantitative (or numerical) identity--like how Superman is Clark Kent (they are one and the same person)

    Parfit creates extra perplexity by telling three stories

    Story 1 - Everything functions normally
    Story 2 - Malfunction.  The teletransporter fails to destroy A after A is scanned.  A continues to exist.
    Story 3 - Double malfunction.  The scanner damages A's heart.  The teletransporter fails to destroy A after A is scanned.  A continues to exist but will die soon after B is on Mars.

    What do the various theories of personal identity say about whether A=B in each story?

    Substance theories

    1. Soul
    2. Whole Body
    3. Brain
    Psychological theories

    1. Locke
    2. Parfit

    Parfit Powerpoint