PHILOMADRID

PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Monday, December 20, 2004

TERRORISM

2004-12-20

TERRORISM
Let's get to the point. There is no reason why someone's terrorist is someone else's freedom fighter.

The following conditions for an act to be a terrorist act might not be to everyone's liking, but they will do for now:
1) there is an alternative and peaceful way to bring about one's political cause;
2) the cause is unreasonable and/or unjustified;
3) the terrorist is not a legitimate representative of the people.

Of course, philosophers are very lucky; their raw material, aka concepts, can be so vague and imprecise that makes it all worth while getting up in the morning. So let's see what we can do with all this luck.

By definition terrorists usually, but not necessarily, use violence against the civil population to achieve their objectives. Sometimes they target assets, sometimes government employees and sometimes the military.

However, by definition, using violence against people is not something one can justify very easily. And when it is justified it is usually done with a whole legal or moral system to support it or regulate it. Self defence and justified war come to mind.

It is easy to claim that one does not have an alternative but to use violence. Of course, the ability to use violence gives one a certain degree of power, but that is not a justification. Not unless, that is, if we accept the slogan ‘might is right.’ At least in today's world, we are fast discovering that economic power or strategic alliances have a better leverage than semtex.

Terrorism is first and foremost associated with territorial claims. Anyway, there are enough historical precedents that should put territorial claims on top of the list. Ideology, in the form of political convictions or religious beliefs, are also quite high on the list. So, what justifies a cause or makes it reasonable? Since it is the business of the courts to tell us what is reasonable, we need not concern ourselves with this question here. Deciding what is a justifiable cause is more difficult. We first have to ask the question justifiable for whom? Followed by, what is being justified?

I suspect that matters of justification depend on whether the above three conditions are to be taken as necessary and sufficient together. Or whether each of the above conditions are to be treated as separate conditions.

Who do the terrorists represent? And how do they become representatives? In a way the cause has a lot to do in determining this question. Fighting an occupying force is surely a different matter from fighting to establish an oppressive regime. It is true that in some cases so called terrorists have wide support from the population, but there are occasions when the legitimacy of this support is not clear. Using coercion is not exactly the idea of representation we have in mind anyway.

A subject like terrorism will always come with some loose concepts attached to it. Two of these concepts are 'state sponsored terrorism' and freedom fighter.

I don't know about you, but for me 'state sponsored terrorism' is an oxymoron, especially if that terrorism is directed at an other state. It’s an oxymoron because if a state supports or directly uses terrorists or terrorism against another state that would be an act of war by whatever language or other system one wishes to stretch the semantics. States commit act of wars; individuals commit acts of terrorism.

At a superficial level the term 'freedom fighter' is also vague. What does the freedom fighter want to achieve? Does the freedom fighter want to get rid of an occupying force or replace an occupying force with their own ideological system? How important is it distinguish between the terrorist who specifically targets the civil population and the freedom fighter who targets the occupying force?

Finally, it is sometimes said that when terrorists bring about a change in the political scene they operate in it is because things were due to change anyway. In other words, the terrorists, at best, hastened the inevitable. The questions then follows: what causal implications does terrorism have? What exactly do terrorists achieve? And how does terrorism affect the population, governments and other institutions? However, the most pressing issue moralists and philosophers have to address themselves to is this: do we have a duty to protect the rights of terrorist?

Take care
Lawrence

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The new female - male revolution

The new female - male revolution.

Every generation needs to make a name for itself. When we think about it we can see why this should be the case.

The obvious reason is that each generation lacks its own experience as an entity in a society. Hence the need for a generation to have its own coat of arms, so to speak, is quite important. The generation that was conscripted to fight the second world war developed its own identity, usually in the form of baby boomers. In the sixties we find two distinct identities. The identity following the successes of the Liverpool four and the protest marches against the Vietnam war. This generation may be summed up as the come-back generation: they just cannot stop those compilation albums from appearing at a moment's notice.

However, what is group identity? In our case we are looking at the male and female groups. We are familiar with personal identity, even if we cannot articulate what it exactly, but does group identity follow the same principles? One attribute we ascribe to personal identity is uniqueness of character. In fact uniqueness of character is a must for personal identity.

If we are to have any revolutions for males and/or females we really must settle this little matter of identity. But the price we pay is of course an identity paradox. A female or male revolution presupposes a group made up of individual males and females. But if we accept the uniqueness principle for individual identity we either have to abuse the meaning of uniqueness or speak of a male or a female groups are just empty words.

Let me put it another way; are you prepared to say that as a person there is nothing to distinguish you from the rest of your gender population? Never mind your body, just think of the person.

So before we can have a revolution we need a movement, and before we have a movement we need a common cause between individuals. A male revolution and a female revolution still need to ask and answer the questions: Who are we revolting against? And what do we hope to achieve?

We are often told that women are revolting against the chauvinism and suppression of men against them. Of course there is always scope for improvement, but surely 'Margaret T' (as she was then) and 'Monica L' (as she still is) changed the complexion of the argument.

And what about men, what are they revolting against? In fact, do men have anything to revolt against? Of course, I must declare a personal interest here, so what follows might be biased; unintentional of course. Personally I would revolt against the 'numbers game' not to mention the high prices of weekend entertaining.

If by revolution we mean changing our lot or our circumstances then maybe we might get a better perspective on things. It is very common to equate changing our circumstances with an issue about rights.

So, if men want to have custody of their children, it is not a question of the modern male embarking on a new revolution, but modern men demanding what is rightfully theirs. If women want to have a career and lead an unattached life it is not a question of modern women embarking on a revolution, but a question of demanding what is rightfully theirs.

It is absurd to think that we have to organise a revolution to get our rights or to get what is a priori ours by the very nature of our existence. What we have to get rid of is the oppressive thinking that comes with the law of the jungle. Surely we have moved on from the top dog or lion king mentality of the jungle.

The new revolution must be aimed at the way we think, at how we think and the way we see the world around us. In other words, it in no one's favour to give us our rights. My rights are no less mine than my left hand is mine. It is absurd to talk of women having the right to reach the top of a Fortune 500 company. Or men having the right to stay at home looking after the family and their wives bring home the bacon.

If rights belong to no one or nothing to dispense off then why do we feel or have the need to fight for them? Suppression or plain bullying is responsible for the main reason. Conservative (with a small c) thinking is an other reason and is probably the result of suppression in the first place. There could, however, be an other reason. Lack of knowledge and skills. It's one thing not to be allowed to advance, but it's something really different if one does not have the skills to advance.

Maybe the new revolutions should not focus on giving us rights or new rights, which we already have anyway. Maybe the new revolutions ought to focus on opportunities. It is one thing to have the right to bring home the bacon and another to have eggs and bacon for breakfast.

This is where the problems start; the little matter of supply and demand have to be accounted for. Not everyone can become a mover and shaker in a Fortune 500 company. Limited resources really limit our opportunities.

In a way, a revolution must not address itself at giving rights, nor at the redistribution of existing resources, but a true revolution must deal with the creation of opportunities.

It is only when we have access to opportunities that we can really benefit from a revolution. But equal access to limited opportunities implies cooperation and consensus. The path to cooperation and consensus has so far taken from brut force, as in the hunter-gatherer eats saber tooth tiger for lunch, to suppression, i.e. the law of the jungle, to the empowering of the common man, through the establishment of the House of Commons, to group assertion, as in feminism.

Without any doubt the next and final revolution must be, the cooperation and consensus between males and females, as in respect of people as individuals and human beings.

take care

Lawrence

Thu Dec 16, 2004 4:34 pm

Saturday, December 11, 2004

HAPPINESS

HAPPINESS

There is a concept in high street politics known as the 'feel good factor.' Briefly, the idea is that voters approve of a government or governing party depending on how happy they are or feel. It does not matter how one's financial situation is; one can be doing quite well, but what matters is how one feels.

The consequence of the feel good factor is that parties are re-elected not necessarily on merit, but on the subjective feelings of the voters at the time of the elections.

The reason why I mention the feel good factor is because it is a very good illustration of the importance of happiness. Collective happiness can seriously influence our political and economic life. How important is subjective happiness or personal happiness?

The first issue we can look at is this: is happiness something we achieve or something that happens to us?

If happiness is something we achieve then the suggestion is that we can have a formula that we can apply to be happy. As a secondary consequence, if we can write a formula for happiness we can generalise it and make it applicable to everyone. In other words, happiness becomes an objective entity. Moreover, It can be harvested and wrapped in glossy packaging and sold at a premium price in department stores. This would, of course, make some people rich and many others happy.

Should happiness turn out to be something that happens to us then a number of things follow. First of all, there is nothing we can do to be happy. We are either fated to be happy or randomly chosen to be happy.

This also means that happiness is subjective. Subjective because it is something specific to each individual and therefore not transferable to others; my happiness cannot be used in any shape or form to help others become happy. To use Machiavelli's analogy, it is similar to saying that my suite of armour will not fit anyone else comfortably.

In issues like happiness we are always tempted to ask: what is happiness? We are not alone, many scientists, philosophers, universities and even countries (Bhutan established a Gross National Happiness metric) try to answer this question. And if we can give an objective answer we can then measure happiness. In a recent study* it was suggested that our happiness depended on mundane, day to day things such as sleep or commuting to work.

At the very least we can say that happiness is a personal state of affairs with two components. The first component is physical. This can range from not being in pain to experiencing certain physical sensations that make us have happy type feelings. The second component is maybe more elusive, since we can describe it as spiritual, emotional or even metaphysical. This is even harder to pin down. This type of happiness manifests itself as being at peace with one's self to relishing the lingering taste of beauty. Or a dinner in a two star Michelin restaurant, which ever comes first.

But we cannot escape an objective view of happiness. One thing about happiness is that not only do we know when we are happy, but also think we know when others are happy. And from here we are very close to claiming we are able to say who ought to be happy. The next port of call is the slippery slope towards value judgements so beloved by spoil sports, do gooders, busy bodies, elitists organisations, political parties and religions.

However, there is always the question, happy at what cost? Not only is this a complex issue, but the implications are enormous. I will not even try to go into the issue, but I will try to give a context relevant list: money, labour conditions, legal and moral acts, environment, friends, partners, social relations, you name it, it appears on the balance sheet.

The quest for happiness, however, continues. Utilitarianism gives us a frame of mind which tells us to maximise our happiness. Sometimes there seems to be some misunderstanding here. Maximising one's happiness does not necessarily mean that one has to be at an all time high 24/7. On the other hand, rejecting all the pleasures of the flesh, as some would put it, does not seem to be the best way out to what is already a difficult problem.

Collective happiness, in the form of the feel good factor, might not be the best form of happiness all round. We need something more manageable. A village fête is definitely more manageable. Yes, a village fête might be fun, but somehow it lacks that something special.

A group of close friends is always a good place to start looking for happiness and for once the idea of intimacy appears on the horizon. But then again the ultimate intimate experience is with one's self. I mean, why share when one can have everything, but I'm not going to advocate hedonism nor self gratification. Especially when it takes two to tango. Maybe the feel good factor can be re-interpreted as the good feel factor?

take care

Lawrence

* Financial Times 3rd December 2004

Dec 11, 2004

HAPPINESS

HAPPINESS



Dec 11, 2004




Dear Friends,


Next Sunday's meeting is about happiness, I'm sure we are all looking forward

for some new ideas and suggestions.


In the meantime, I have activated the yahoo group for the philomadrid, however I

have been toooo busy to organise it; i.e. there is nothing there!! Theoretically

this email should be posted to the group. During the last meeting we agree that

the yahoo group will be used for:


> philosophical exchanges between members

> postings of activities organised by members (eg exhibition visits etc)

> help, wanted, offers by members

> the weekly write up.


I will start by vetting the emails at first to see how it goes, and for security

reasons (ie robot viruses) I will approve membership. I also suggest you keep

your email private. These are the details:

www.yahoo.co.uk --> groups (have to register) --> philomadridgroup

Post message: philomadridgroup@yahoogroups.co.uk

Subscribe: philomadridgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk

Unsubscribe: philomadridgroup-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.co.uk

List owner: philomadridgroup-owner@yahoogroups.co.uk


I'm also new at this!!


Finally, don't forget that there is the offer by the Broadsheet magazine for a

discount subscription. Details from Rachel at TBS Tel: 91 523 7484/Fax: 91 522

7843 rachel@tbs.com.es or me.



Have fun, see you Sunday,


Lawrence



SUNDAY 6.30pm START at Molly Malone's Pub, right at the very back of thepub,

then turn left OR down stairs!


philomadrid@yahoo.co.uk tel 606081813


www.geocities.com/philomadrid


Pub Molly Malone, c/ Manuela Malasaña, 11, Madrid 28004

metro: <Bilbao> : buses: 21, 149, 147



HAPPINESS



There is a concept in high street politics known as the 'feel good factor.'

Briefly, the idea is that voters approve of a government or governing party

depending on how happy they are or feel. It does not matter how one's financial

situation is; one can be doing quite well, but what matters is how one feels.


The consequence of the feel good factor is that parties are re-elected not

necessarily on merit, but on the subjective feelings of the voters at the time

of the elections.


The reason why I mention the feel good factor is because it is a very good

illustration of the importance of happiness. Collective happiness can seriously

influence our political and economic life. How important is subjective happiness

or personal happiness?


The first issue we can look at is this: is happiness something we achieve or

something that happens to us?


If happiness is something we achieve then the suggestion is that we can have a

formula that we can apply to be happy. As a secondary consequence, if we can

write a formula for happiness we can generalise it and make it applicable to

everyone. In other words, happiness becomes an objective entity. Moreover, It

can be harvested and wrapped in glossy packaging and sold at a premium price in

department stores. This would, of course, make some people rich and many others

happy.


Should happiness turn out to be something that happens to us then a number of

things follow. First of all, there is nothing we can do to be happy. We are

either fated to be happy or randomly chosen to be happy.


This also means that happiness is subjective. Subjective because it is something

specific to each individual and therefore not transferable to others; my

happiness cannot be used in any shape or form to help others become happy. To

use Machiavelli's analogy, it is similar to saying that my suite of armour will

not fit anyone else comfortably.


In issues like happiness we are always tempted to ask: what is happiness? We are

not alone, many scientists, philosophers, universities and even countries

(Bhutan established a Gross National Happiness metric) try to answer this

question. And if we can give an objective answer we can then measure happiness.

In a recent study* it was suggested that our happiness depended on mundane, day

to day things such as sleep or commuting to work.


At the very least we can say that happiness is a personal state of affairs with

two components. The first component is physical. This can range from not being

in pain to experiencing certain physical sensations that make us have happy type

feelings. The second component is maybe more elusive, since we can describe it

as spiritual, emotional or even metaphysical. This is even harder to pin down.

This type of happiness manifests itself as being at peace with one's self to

relishing the lingering taste of beauty. Or a dinner in a two star Michelin

restaurant, which ever comes first.


But we cannot escape an objective view of happiness. One thing about happiness

is that not only do we know when we are happy, but also think we know when

others are happy. And from here we are very close to claiming we are able to say

who ought to be happy. The next port of call is the slippery slope towards value

judgements so beloved by spoil sports, do gooders, busy bodies, elitists

organisations, political parties and religions.


However, there is always the question, happy at what cost? Not only is this a

complex issue, but the implications are enormous. I will not even try to go into

the issue, but I will try to give a context relevant list: money, labour

conditions, legal and moral acts, environment, friends, partners, social

relations, you name it, it appears on the balance sheet.


The quest for happiness, however, continues. Utilitarianism gives us a frame of

mind which tells us to maximise our happiness. Sometimes there seems to be some

misunderstanding here. Maximising one's happiness does not necessarily mean that

one has to be at an all time high 24/7. On the other hand, rejecting all the

pleasures of the flesh, as some would put it, does not seem to be the best way

out to what is already a difficult problem.


Collective happiness, in the form of the feel good factor, might not be the best

form of happiness all round. We need something more manageable. A village fête

is definitely more manageable. Yes, a village fête might be fun, but somehow it

lacks that something special.


A group of close friends is always a good place to start looking for happiness

and for once the idea of intimacy appears on the horizon. But then again the

ultimate intimate experience is with one's self. I mean, why share when one can

have everything, but I'm not going to advocate hedonism nor self gratification.

Especially when it takes two to tango. Maybe the feel good factor can be

re-interpreted as the good feel factor?


take care


Lawrence



* Financial Times 3rd December 2004

Friday, December 10, 2004

Religion and Education

Religion and Education


Maybe the title ought to be 'religions' on the grounds that there are many
religions in the world.

The other issue we can consider is whether the title means 'religious
instruction' or teaching religious studies in schools.

In the former case we are looking at religion i.e. the practice of religion.
And in the latter case we are concerned about the study of that human
activity or activities known as religion. But before looking at this issue
we can take a detour and ask what is religion? The standard way of looking
at religion is of course the worship of God or gods. We can add to this a
little bit more and say that religion is also how to be good as God
instructed us. We can add a bit more and say.... Okay, you get the idea. So
what is religion?

An other epistemological issue is how justified are we in believing in God
or gods given the evidence we have? Of course we also have to discuss the
question of what evidence do we have of God? If we have any, that is. And
here I am referring to monotheism or even those religions which hold that
the gods are separate and different from us.

Of course, the strongest evidence people have for the existence of God or
gods is the creationist argument.

Dwakins* refers to Paley to illustrate the Argument from Design: Imagine you
were walking in the country and came across a watch, you wouldn't think that
it just sprung into existence from no where. Someone would have made it. An
interesting analogy but wrong, according to Dwakins.
A more complex argument
against the creationist argument is to reject the 'homunculus' hypothesis.
Although the brain controls the body, there isn't an other person inside the
brain controlling the brain. The brain itself is a self-organising system
whereas the body is not. A self-organising system is a system which does not
have a central control system and the removal of part of the system will
only hinder its function by degrees. A magnet is a self-organising system, a
flock of birds is, but not a jet engine. If one removed a blade from one of
the turbines the jet engine would not work.

This detour within a detour is leading us closer to the issue of religion
and education. The other side of the religion coin is that of behaviour.
Religions do not only tell us about God or gods, but also how to lead our
lives. It's one thing to argue that God or gods exist, but another matter to
use your arguments to tell people what to do. The epistemology of telling
people what to do ought to be different from the epistemology for the
existence of God or gods. I know, there are religions which are not about
the existence of God or gods, but it's complicated as it is already. So bear
with me for the moment.



Justification to influence behaviour must inevitably also involve issues
outside theology and morality. The obvious one is of course political
philosophy. What is not, perhaps, so obvious is language.

The reason why language is important in the debate is for two reasons. The
first is that language is the medium we have to communicate the individual
or collective experience of God or gods. More importantly, of course, is
that those who advocate the existence of God or gods do not make a big fuss
about language. They should and some do, but only in passing. After all, if
God or the gods created everything then they created language ergo our
language is God's or the gods' way to communicate with us. For example: Did
God or the gods give us a different language to communicate or is our
language the same as God's language? And if our language is God's or the
gods' language then does the private language argument apply to God or the
gods?


The second reason why language matters in religion is because it is the only
efficient means we have for instruction in most societies. We use language
to teach, to guide, to instruct, to advise, to bully, to coerce, to frighten
and most of all we use language to manipulate. For example, what impact does
the language we use for religious education have on human behaviour. I mean,
what is the difference between a) helping people is always a good win-win
strategy and b) God wants us to help each other? This is where the detour
comes to an end.

If we take education to mean teaching people how to be religious, then what
exactly is religion asking people to do and to believe exactly in what? And
if the title means teaching about religions in schools then what exactly are
we teaching about? Are we teaching something that refers to human group
activity, some fictitious character or God?



Take care

Lawrence



*Richard Dawkins: The Blind Watchmaker

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