PHILOMADRID

PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Thursday, October 31, 2013

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: What is the value of art? + NEWS

Three essays + News

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: What is the value of art?

Art and aesthetics have a long pedigree in philosophy, and maybe one of the central issues of the topic is indeed "what is art?" For a change we are not asking for a meaning but an empirical categorization. And here is the problem: how can we sometimes speak of art as giving us a spiritual experience when all along it is an empirical experience?

In the meantime Ruel has sent us a link to his essay, see below, and the essays from Temoor and myself are at the foot of this email.

Laurence's essay "Can we make ourselves?" is now on the blog, details below.

---Essay by Laurence - Can we make ourselves? (Last week's topic)

---Ruel Essay: What is the Value of Art?¨+ Important News
Hello Lawrence,
Below is the link to the essay I wrote for Sunday´s PhiloMadrid topic, ¨What is the Value of Art?¨

With your kind indulgence, may I also request you to please put an announcement re the lecture seminars in English that Universidad Complutense de Madrid has offered me to conduct within the months of November and December on the following topics:
1. Contemporary Issues in Philosophy
2. Current Philippine Political Situation
3. A Historical Survey of Western Philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to the Present
To formally start each lecture seminar, the University requires a minimum of ten (10) English-speaking participants. Upon completion, every participant will receive a certificate/diploma issued by the University. The seminar fees are still under negotiation.
Thank you very much.
Best,
Ruel
<IF YOU WISH TO GET IN TOUCH WITH RUEL PLEASE CONTACT ME)

---From Mary 
Dear Laurence
I was wondering if you could print this out and stick it up anywhere you think people might be interested in these books please?? or email it on....
Thanks very much
Mary xxx (The Freud Fan :)
A 10 euros 
Preparacion al Diploma de español Nivel Superior C2
Preparacion al Diploma de español  C1
Preparacion al Diploma de español B2
Preparacion al Diploma de español B1
El Cronometro Nivel C2
El Cronometro Nivel C1
El Cronometro Nivel B2
Las Claves del Nuevo Dele C1
Preparacion Diploma Superior Dele (Edelsa)
A 8 euros
A Fondo Curso superior de Español para extranjeros
Planeta 3 : Libro de Referencia Gramatical
Curso de Conversacion y Redaccion 
Todos los Verbos Castellanos
Spanish all the Way (Beginners)
Libro sobres los Dichos en español
Todos los libros vienen con los cds, libros de repuestas y estan en muy muy bien estado
Si te interesa, llama o mandar un whatsup a Mary : 6.0.0.6.9.3.1.6.3 (keeping the bots away!!)
---------

All the best and see you Sunday

Lawrence


tel: 606081813
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-----------Ignacio------------
Open Tertulia in English every Thursday from 19:30 to 21h at O'Donnell's Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)
----------------------------


-------------------Essays: What is the Value of Art?¨
-----Temoor
What is the value of art?
Background:
The question of what constitutes the intrinsic value, or purpose, of art is an important one. We all experience something in response to art, be it from looking at paintings, listening to music or reading novels, but what is it that we experience?
The German philosopher Immanuel Kant was not the first to try to tackle this question, but his clarification of the issue allowed an entire field of philosophy to come into its own, i.e. the philosophy of aesthetics. Kant saw works of art as examples or instances of beauty, identical to the beauty found in nature. For him, beauty was not a property of art and nature, but rather something demonstrated by a manner of response to these things. This seems to fit with the common perceived wisdom that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder", i.e. that each person will have a different response to instances of beauty, according to their personal opinions. However, Kant was at pains to show that, actually, this type of relativism misses the point and has little to do with the appreciation and value of art. Rather, responses to beauty, or 'taste judgements' in philosophical terminology, are simultaneously subjective and universal. We will examine these two requirements in turn.
Subjectivity:
What does it mean for a taste judgement to be subjective? On a basic level, it indicates that the judgement is based on a feeling of pleasure (or displeasure) in art. This contrasts taste judgements with empirical judgements, which depend on other factors like education and cultural conditioning. In other words, taste judgements are not based on desire, nor do they create desires. Pleasure in the beauty of art, then, is completely different from the pleasure one feels from physical health, moral goodness and delicious food. We can see this in the transcendental nature of great art. The greatest examples of painting and poetry make us feel something unrelated to the sum of their subjects – there is something deeper, almost wistful, that they stir in us. This is at the heart of the subjectivity of our taste judgements.
Universality:
Universality is a different and more controversial issue. Essentially, this requirement states that we feel an intrinsic sense of correctness or incorrectness about taste judgements. Deep down, we require others to share our taste judgements, though we may outwardly keep this to ourselves. The British empiricist David Hume famously demonstrated this with an extreme example, stating: "Whoever would assert an equality of genius between Ogilby and Milton would be thought to defend no less an extravagance than if he had maintained a pond to be as extensive as the ocean". If we accept this claim about the much-derided Ogilby and the much-lauded Milton, then we must also accept a fortiori that the same applies to any two great artists or pieces of art. The difference between the two will not be as stark and obvious, but we will still feel an intrinsic correctness about a taste judgement that holds one of them to be superior to the other.
What Kant and Hume are saying is that there is an accepted right and wrong when it comes to taste judgements, i.e. they are normative, in that we think that others should or ought to have the same taste judgements that we have. This differentiates taste judgements from simpler judgements of agreeableness – nobody thinks that others should share their love of a particular ice cream flavour, but deep down we all think others should share our judgement of the superiority of a particular piece of music.
The issue at hand:
Essentially, we have now come to the main problem. We can accept that taste judgements are different from judgements of agreeableness/niceness and empirical judgements. We know that the value of art is in its beauty, and judgements about this beauty are subjective (in the sense previously mentioned) and universal. But we don't know what the essential value of art is. However, this is no great tragedy – as we now understand a little bit about the problem, we can discuss it with more clarity. This was, in many ways, Kant's great achievement in aesthetics; the clarification of the central issue.
In characteristic mystical style, Ludwig Wittgenstein saw this as a problem of language and claimed that aesthetics exists only outside of any particular language game, so subjecting the field to linguistic analysis is what creates the problem. The modern British philosopher Alain de Botton has frequently noted that aesthetic beauty is a complex interplay between form and function – we have a higher appreciation for art that fulfils its function (including the function of conveying emotion in a painting or music) in a form that extends no further than is necessary. No one theory has been truly dominant, so it is over to us to try to solve the problem.


----Lawrence
What is the value of art?

For something to have a value it must have a function, even if it is difficult sometimes to ascertain what the function is and the value that accrues from that function.

And for those who object that art has a function this probably stems from a desire to hold art as a human activity that is more pure more honourable than other activities we get involved in for the purpose of surviving. Maybe art is pure and honourable but it, nevertheless, does have a function. 

So what is the function of art? But before we can look at this question we have to ask, what is art? And more precisely what qualifies as art? 

Contrary to tradition that some philosophers and commentators have associated some sort of rational, a priori feature to art, maybe even some spiritual component to art that we don't find in other objects or activities. I would argue, however, that art is purely anchored in the empirical domain. There is nothing spiritual about art, there is nothing a priori about, there is nothing out of this world about art and there is nothing rational about art. By rational I mean some ascribed feature to art that is independent of any empirical foundation. I appreciate that this might be heresy for some, but this is again probably more due to a degree of social elitism rather than hard facts.

Indeed once we accept that art is founded in the empirical domain this makes our analysis of art more coherent and even more cogent.

So what is art? A definition I would put forward is this: art is something that inspires us to action. And by action I mean anything from the act of enjoying the art work at the time we encounter it to maybe the desire to create art for ourselves. I would also include as an act one's revulsion or dislike to an art work although this is not necessarily appreciated especially by the artist! Indifference is the enemy or antithesis of art and the artist. 

And of course,  inspiration is nothing more than an emotional impulse to act either now or as a future project of actions: I'm lost is bliss when I hear that piece of music; after seeing that painting I am convinced I should take up painting; I want to join my local drama group and so on. This not only confirms that art is an empirical activity but more importantly it is not an activity exclusive to the elite or the rich in society, but rather, art is a human activity. And a human activity because it is solely couched in the emotions and enjoyed in our mental state (positive feelings in the brain). 

If art is something that stirs the emotions in us  than maybe more things would be captured as art that maybe our conventional sense of art would exclude. Ergonomics would come to mind, is the chair we sit on at the office a work of art; is a ship a work of art or a military plane? Indeed is nature an artist since we marvel at the creations, shapes and colours of nature as much as we market at Renoir or Rembrandt?

Maybe we ought to establish the boundaries of art, if we must, by also establish what isn't art. Who and what decides "what is art?" Clearly something that is proffered as art but does not stir the emotions. This is different from something we feel revulsion at or something we are indifferent to, but maybe something that we see but have no emotional reaction to it! The 'we' is important here: this test would apply both to us individually and also as a collection of individual opinions. Many painting in churches and museums have this effect! Incidentally we have to be clear here that it is one thing to feel or not feel emotional about something put forward as art and outward public behaviour of adulation towards a piece of art. For some people it is more important to conform to the crowd than to express their opinion. 

There is of course a clear objection to my definition or: art is something that inspires us to action. We are inspired by many things that are not art and we act on many things that are not caused by art. And even truer, many things create positive emotions in us that are not art. Another object, as I have already mentioned, is that this would allow many things not intended as art to be considered as us. But of course, we already do this and it doesn't pollute our sense of art in anyway. And furthermore, that many things inspires and leads to action is not an objection but confirmation, if we needed another one, that art is empirical because it fits very well in the way we act and interact with our environment.

So if art is supposed to create an emotional state in us, what is the purpose of art. An obvious purpose, if not a primary purpose, is for the artist to express his or her emotions and feelings in a medium that may convey these emotional states to others. The fact that we feel good about works of art suggests that these serve as an emotional stimulant like recreational drugs and good food. And maybe even like recreational drugs, art can have a negative effect on us; we spend hours in a museum looking at paintings, spend our money going to the theatre or cinema everyday; buy every record that is published by our favourite composer, incessantly talk about our favourite actress or actor to the disgust of our friends and so on.

If art has a purpose it must have a function. And since art is an empirical activity we can see that in many cases the art expressed and the medium of the art were once two separate things. If we take paintings for example, the medium was used to convey information about the environment for example cave paintings about wildlife to religious images to convey religious teachings to a general population that was basically illiterate. Once the printed word was cheap to produce and more people could read, painting was used more for other purposes for example for family portraits or decoration of the churches themselves. The skills of the masters still give pleasure whatever the painting is about. A more modern example is photography, film photography is still being used for art photography and still gives pleasure to many even though photography today is digital. 

So we can say that one of the values of art is intrinsic to the medium; despite the medium transitioning from conveying a message to conveying emotions the medium and the emotion transmitted still behold and still awe the observer and, to be sure, the artist. Thus as long as the medium we use to convey an artistic emotion can affect us we are thus able to value that art. 

The value of art is not found in some abstract idea of the soul or some other unearthly existence. Nor is it found in some elitist component which only a selected few have access to. But rather in the fact that the effects can be measured and can affect everyone by virtue of us being human. This does not mean that we are all affected the same way by the same work or art, but rather by virtue that, at the philosophical level, we all have a functioning emotional system.

Feeling good is also something we value in art; and there is nothing more important for us, after life, than to feel good. And this is something that not only can be measured but more importantly something we are very capable of articulating for ourselves. 

And because art affects us by virtue of being human, it has the irrevocable status of other human activities that are exclusive for being human in nature, such as health care, education, freedom of expression and so on. An oppression of art is an oppression of the human being.

Best Lawrence




Friday, October 25, 2013

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Can we make ourselves? + NEWS

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Can we make ourselves?
We can safely say that this is one of the most important questions our society had to deal with the latter part of the 20th century and certainly for the rest of the 21st. But like many philosophical question including this one, there is a huge difference between the popular interpretation of the question and the real down to earth philosophy. 

In the meantime please have a look at the news from friends.

-----Essay from Ruel
Hello Lawrence,
Below is the link to the essay I wrote for Sunday´s PhiloMadrid topic.

See you on Sunday.
(my short essay is at the end)

---from Encarna 
All are welcome and you can find a scan of the programme at the end of the link below.
San Frutos Bendito Commemoration Programme at the Centro Segoviano 25 October - 27 October 2013

---From Alicia
Hi Lawrence,
Next Friday (25th) there will be a jazz free concert in Casa de la Cultura de Hortaleza. 
Arturo Soria station is close to this place. The concert will start at 7.00 pm-
See you.
Thanks Alicia.

---From Miguel
Estimado tertuliano,
Te invitamos a asistir a la próxima conferencia 29-10-2013: Dios, números y cosmos (https://sites.google.com/site/tertuliadematematicas/29-10-2013)
Como comprobarás en el anuncio, el lugar, día de la semana y hora habituales han cambiado.
Saludos cordiales,
Tertulia de Matemáticas
Martes 29 de Octubre de 2013 a las 19h
Centro Segoviano - c/ Alburquerque nº 14, 28010 Madrid

---From Mary 
Dear Laurence
I was wondering if you could print this out and stick it up anywhere you think people might be interested in these books please?? or email it on....
Thanks very much
Mary xxx (The Freud Fan :)
A 10 euros 
Preparacion al Diploma de español Nivel Superior C2
Preparacion al Diploma de español  C1
Preparacion al Diploma de español B2
Preparacion al Diploma de español B1
El Cronometro Nivel C2
El Cronometro Nivel C1
El Cronometro Nivel B2
Las Claves del Nuevo Dele C1
Preparacion Diploma Superior Dele (Edelsa)
A 8 euros
A Fondo Curso superior de Español para extranjeros
Planeta 3 : Libro de Referencia Gramatical
Curso de Conversacion y Redaccion 
Todos los Verbos Castellanos
Spanish all the Way (Beginners)
Libro sobres los Dichos en español
Todos los libros vienen con los cds, libros de repuestas y estan en muy muy bien estado
Si te interesa, llama o mandar un whatsup a Mary : 6.0.0.6.9.3.1.6.3 (keeping the bots away!!)

All the best and see you Sunday

Lawrence


tel: 606081813
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-----------Ignacio------------
Thursday's Open Tertulia in English
Important Notice: From December 1st, the Tertulia will take place at O'Donnells (ex-Moore's) Irish
Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)


--Short essay from me

Can we make ourselves?

A rather ambiguous question even for a philosophy question.

There are three issues that determine who we are and what we are: our genetic makeup, our environment and our behaviour.  It is very easy to focus on the behaviour part since this is the one we are most familiar with and the one we can immediately perceive in others. We generally have no idea about the genetic makeup of other people and as for the environment factor we have limited to general ideas since in our daily life we cannot account for every effect the environment has on us. 

The behaviour part is also important for us because this is the one that helps us interact with others and more important others use our behaviour to judge us and pass value judgements about us: he is a good person, she is a nice person, he is a cad, she is duplicitous and so on.

Of course, by behaviour I do not only mean our instinctive behaviour which we associate with automata machines, but also actions based on what we think is acting from our free will, and acting in ways based on our volitions. Thus, behaviour is not only based on one single factor such as free will, determinism, fatalism and so forth. The chances are that all these factors come to play when we act and behave in certain ways: it's not either or but rather degrees of each factor.

So presumably, the conventional meaning of our topic is that of the self made person or rather being responsible for our lives. This is very important in our culture since we use this interpretation to judge others especially when things go wrong for them: a failed marriage, you shouldn't have married below your station; being made redundant you should have studied engineering rather than philosophy; cash flow issues you shouldn't have bought that sports car. How many people can you name who are totally successful in life (even use your own definition of success) who you can 100% attribute their success purely on their self determination? Remember what I have just said about our knowledge regard the environment; do you really know everything about this person to be 100% confident about their trajectory in like? And a good test to start with is to answer the question: who paid the rent?

So what might have been regarded for a long time as a question regarding determinism, self determination, free will and even maybe what we might consider as taking control of our lives, I would contend that the issue is one of perception and epistemology. 

And perception and epistemology because when we investigate these questions we are dealing, first and foremost, with limited and biased information about others, never mind ourselves. And epistemology because it is an issue of whether we can really know all the information about other people that will give us a reasonable picture of the causal chain that led to someone being successful or not as the case maybe. This is relevant because it determines whether the question can even be answered at all.

Of course, we can have a general picture about the trajectory of a person's life, but I will contend that this is not enough for anyone to duplicate the success. Empirically, we cannot have access to all the details to complete the whole picture and from a logical point of view it is unlike that we will ever have a useful picture the principle of identity. It is logically impossible for two people to follow the same trajectory in life and both ending up successful. Which is why there is only one Warren Buffett or one Bill Gates. 

On the other hand this does not mean that we cannot be responsible for personal success. It does indeed mean that we are only responsible, to a very high degree of responsibility, for our personal success. We can make ourselves but only in our image and not in some image of a person that society identifies as successful. It is not that we cannot make ourselves but much, much more is involved in who we and we have no control over all these factors.

Thus we can make ourselves but only in a limited way and definitely within the context of our lives.  

Best Lawrence


-------

Essay by Laurence which was not included with the email



Can we create ourselves?

We instinctively believe that the answer to this question is yes, we can create ourselves, or at least to some degree. We accept that we cannot create ourselves completely; we do not choose our bodies or our early formative experiences, two things which play a crucial role in determining the people that we become. However, we tend to believe that beyond these limiting factors we have a self which does have the power to create itself.

Where does this conviction come from? Every single day of our lives we experience a sort of radical freedom. We are faced with choices and the inescapable feeling that we are radically free to do whatever we want. Right now you’re reading a philosophy essay but you’re free to go and make yourself a cup of tea, put your feet up and watch TV instead. In any given dilemma you are not free to not choose. You may choose to do nothing but this is still a choice. Sartre went as far as to say that we are “condemned to be free”. The sense that we have a free will and that we can be held responsible for our actions stems from the fact that we are faced with this phenomenon every single second of our waking lives. In a situation when we are faced with two possible courses of action—a ‘to be or not to be’—we are fully conscious of the situation, and we know we can choose one of two paths. This gives us the impression that we are responsible for the course of our lives, that we are creating ourselves.

But if we look a little closer, it appears we are not so responsible after all. To be responsible for the way you are, you must have somehow intentionally brought it about that you are the way you are. Now, supposing that you did bring about a certain mental nature, Z, it must be the case that you brought about this new mental state from an earlier one, Y. In order for you to be responsible for mental state Z, which was brought about by Y, it is necessary for you to be responsible for mental state Y. Again there must be a prior mental state, which we’ll call X, which was responsible for bringing about Y. This is the start of an infinite regress. What we’re looking for -- an act of ultimate self-origination-- is impossible to find.

Schopenhauer put it best when he wrote that “man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills”. For man to will what he wills he would have to be the cause of himself, ‘causa sui’. Nietzsche called the causa sui the “the best self-contradiction that has been conceived so far” and a “rape and perversion of logic” and went on to write that “the desire to bear the entire and ultimate responsibility for one’s actions oneself, and to absolve God, the world, ancestors, chance, and society involves nothing less than to be precisely this causa sui” and amounted this to pulling “oneself up into existence by the hair, out of the swamps of nothingness”.

The argument can be elucidated if we consider a person’s life trajectory. Initially we are the way we are due to heredity and early experience. It would be ludicrous to suppose that a baby can be held responsible for the way he is. As the child gets older he begins to change but, as Galen Strawson wrote, “both the particular way in which one is moved to try to change oneself, and the degree of one’s success in one’s attempt at change, will be determined by how one already is as a result of heredity and experience”. Here we get a clear picture of the “brazen wall of fate” which, according to Nietzsche, we are confronted with in our lives. In our day to day lives there are indications that we understand the impossibility of being causa sui. We understand that children cannot be held responsible for the way they are but there seems to be an indelible belief that once we reach adulthood we become responsible. As Strawson notes, “E.H. Carr held that ‘normal adult human beings are morally responsible for their own personality”. How can we pinpoint this act of self-determination? It is impossible to do this because of the argument stated above.



Pick up a newspaper and you are likely to find an article about, let’s say, ‘antisocial teenagers’ and often the comment will read: ‘blame the parents’. Here is a sure fire indication that we recognise the impossibility of being causa sui but we recognise the impossibility in a limited sense—we do not go far enough. If we take the impossibility to its logical conclusion it is clear that no one can be blamed at all. We see children as determined by heredity and their environment but see adults as wholly responsible for the way they are. Even if we were able to isolate a point in time when we go through an act of self-determination, we would not be responsible for this act because it would have occurred due to the way we were before it. The causa sui argument is a truly insurmountable hurdle for anyone wishing to prove that we are in any way responsible for the way we are.



It seems that our belief in free will is also bound up in our notions of the self. Descartes’ “I think therefore I am” still has a strong influence on the way we think of ourselves, but it is full of problems, some of which play a part in maintaining the illusion of free will. The first mistake that Descartes made was to accept a convention of grammar which says that the word “thinks” requires a subject. Apart from being a convention of grammar, the use of a subject before a verb serves a practical purpose. However, in the present circumstances, when we are looking to determine the existence of a self it is far more appropriate to use a non-referring grammatical subject rather than the misleading term “I”. As such, instead of saying “I think”, Descartes should have said “it thinks”. This would avoid all the inaccuracies which would undoubtedly arise from using a term such as “I” which is bound up in meaning. George Christoph Lichtenberg suggested it would be far more appropriate to say “it thinks” in the same way as we say “it thunders”. Use of the word “thunders” requires a subject in the same way as “thinks” does. As such we say “it thunders” even though the grammatical subject “it” does not refer to anything. When we say “it thunders”, all that is denoted is “that there is thunder”. When we want to say “thinks”, the grammatical requirement for a subject could just as easily be fulfilled by employing the word “it” so we would say “it thinks”. Descartes’ famous dictum can be reduced to “it thinks, therefore there are thoughts”. What does this prove exactly?



The second mistake that Descartes made was to suppose that thinking is an activity brought about by a being that can be thought of as the cause of this thinking. This can again be seen as the symptom of a grammatical habit which supposes that for every activity there is an agent. Thinking is an activity so it is assumed that there must be an agent. Peter Poellner notes that “it is grammar which misleads us into thinking that, apart from the (changing) qualities, effects, or ‘powers’ of a ‘thing’, there is some permanent, unchanging and unknown, seat or bearer of these properties in which an object’s qualities inhere and from which its powers emanate”. Throughout the history of philosophy there are numerous conceptions of this ‘permanent bearer of properties’: Plato’s immortal soul, Descartes’ cogito and Kant’s transcendental subject. All of these sought to prove the existence of some ‘agent-self’ which exists over and above our fleeting mental states.

The concept of a self which is able to cause mental states is merely a projection. This can be elucidated by highlighting the parallels between this projection and that of cause and effect. Hume delivered the first revolutionary blow against traditional conceptions of cause and effect by asserting that the supposed necessity of cause and effect resides ‘in the mind, not in objects’. We only get an idea of cause and effect by regularly perceiving a certain cause being followed by a certain effect— through the contiguity and constant conjunction of objects in Humean terms. Nietzsche agreed but went further:

Hume was right; habit (but not only that of the individual!) makes us expect that a certain often-observed occurrence will follow another: nothing more! That which gives the extraordinary firmness to our belief in causality is not the great habit of seeing one occurrence following another but our inability to interpret events otherwise than as events caused by intentions.

Nietzsche would hold that this inability brings about the belief in a permanent agent-self which exists over and above our mental states. This leads us to Nietzsche’s proclamation that “there is no ‘being’ behind doing, effecting, becoming; ‘the doer’ is merely a fiction added to the deed—the deed is everything”.

Our belief in free will can also be put down to other deep seated convictions. Consider the concept of punishment. If we are not responsible for our actions, surely it’s not fair for us to be punished. 2000 years of Christianity have taught the western world that we have the freedom to choose to be good or bad and that we will be punished or rewarded accordingly. Imagine being condemned to spend eternity in hell just for being the way you are, something you are not responsible for. That wouldn’t be fair. Well, according to Nietzsche it was this train of thought that led to the ‘invention’ of free will. Nietzsche called the concept of free will “the foulest of all theologians’ artifices, aimed at making mankind ‘responsible’... [T]he doctrine of the will has been invented essentially for the purpose of punishment, that is, because one wanted to impute guilt”. Nietzsche sees that in order for man to be judged and punished it is necessary for him to be considered free—“so that they might become guilty”. Nietzsche identifies priests as the originators of this “old psychology”; it was conditioned by the priests’ desire to “create for themselves the right to punish”. Importantly, the consequence of this desire is that “every act had to be considered as willed, and the origin of every act had to be considered as lying within the consciousness”.



Perhaps the concept of free will was indeed ‘invented’. What are the consequences of rejecting it? Will this knowledge serve me in some way? Will it make me change the way I behave? Is it positive or negative? Nietzsche’s attitude was clear. Throughout his works there are references to ‘amor fati’ (love of fate).

My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it... but love it.

Another answer, one that I am inclined to agrre with, comes not from a philosopher, but from a scientist, a certain Albert Einstein, who said:

I do not believe in freedom of will. Schopenhauer's words, “Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills,” have accompanied me throughout my life and console me in my dealings with others, even those which are truly painful to me. This recognition of the lack of freedom of will helps me avoid taking myself and my fellow men—both as actors and as individuals casting judgment—too seriously, just as it protects me from losing a sense of humor.

Laurence





Thursday, October 24, 2013

San Frutos Bendito Commemoration Programme at the Centro Segoviano 25 October - 27 October 2013


San Frutos Bendito Commemoration Programme at the Centro Segoviano 25 October - 27 October 2013





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Thursday, October 17, 2013

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: Is It Possible for Something Not to Exist? + Essays


Dear friends,


This Sunday we are discussing: Is it possible for something not to exist?

We also have three essays from Temoor, Ruel and myself hope you have time to look at some of them.

In the meantime a friend of ours would like introduce his travel agency to the group:
Luis (or Silvia)
Viajes Lawful SL
Tel 9184337992 – www.viajeslawful.es

All the best and see you Sunday

Lawrence


tel: 606081813
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-----------Ignacio------------
Thursday's Open Tertulia in English
Important Notice: From December 1st, the Tertulia will take place at O'Donnells (ex-Moore's) Irish
Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)


TemoorEssay---
Is it possible for something not to exist?
Existence is a tricky philosophical area. In natural language, we often treat it as a property of things. For example, we would see the sentences "the ball is red", "the ball bounces" and "the ball exists" as having the same form and function, i.e. to tell us some information about the ball. There is nothing wrong with this on a basic level. However, if we consider the sentence "unicorns do not exist", some problems arise. "Unicorns are white", "unicorns have one horn" and "unicorns do not exist" are all considered legitimate statements, but what do they mean?

When we refer to something, as the subject of a sentence, we acknowledge its existence by definition. If this were not the case, language would be empty – for our words to have meaning they must refer to something. Whether this referent is concrete or abstract is not important; the key is that its existence is a necessary result of it being named, and the name being understood to refer to the thing itself. So, when we say "the ball is red" we are actually saying "there exists a thing called a ball, and that thing is red". The problem is now fairly obvious – when we say "unicorns don't exist" we are actually saying "there exists a thing called a unicorn, and that thing does not exist". This is a straightforward contradiction, as absurd as saying "it is raining and not raining".

How, then, can it be possible for something to not exist? We know instinctively that it must be possible, yet we cannot deny the contradiction. The great analytic philosopher Bertrand Russell once said, in one of his less poetic moments, "existence statements do not say anything about the individual, but only about the class or function". What does he mean by this? Well, for a start Russell is telling us that it is a mistake to treat existence as a property of things, i.e. we should not treat "the ball is red" and "the ball exists" as having the same function. Rather, the second sentence is saying "there exists the concept of being a ball, and this concept has an instance". Looking at things this way, it is now fine to say "unicorns do not exist", as the meaning will be "there exists the concept of being a unicorn, and this concept does not have an instance". Russell has allowed us to have the idea of unicorns, to image prancing with them in a forest glade, without the deep shame of contradiction! There is something beautifully intuitive about this view, as it separates the conceptual and the real, a distinction we as humans naturally make all the time in day-to-day conversation.

Of course, this view is not without flaws. Personally, I think it's the best solution available to the problem, but is slightly untidy nonetheless. For all its elegance, one cannot help but fear the cold steel touch of Occam's razor…



RuelEssay-----
Hello Lawrence,
Below is the link to the essay I wrote re Sunday´s PhiloMadrid topic.
Thank you and see you on Sunday.

--------

LawrenceEssay-----
Is It Possible for Something Not to Exist?

The common use of "something" and the common use of "exist" implicitly have the meaning that if there is something it exists. In the meantime we have a word to deal with the conceptual idea that something does not exist and that is nothing.

Moreover, the logical principle of contradiction – it is not the case that A and not A- should also alert us to this validity of this question. Strictly speaking we are saying that a "thing" has the property of being and at the same time not having the property of existing. 

So just because a sentence or a speech act is grammatically correct it does not mean that it makes sense even if it does seem to have a meaning. The word "thing" is itself a language construct that only has validity in language, and in particular in the English language. Thus, something is a language construct that lives and exists in our language. This does not mean that it is not a valid word and concept, but that its properties are not like the properties of, say, my computer. My computer will still be my computer even if it scrapped or ownership passes on to someone else. In which case my computer will be mine until ownership is passed on if it is passed on.

Some might object to this point in that it is too picky and splitting hairs; maybe, but the key issue is that we are able to identify language constructs, or things that belong to the structure or norms of a language, and things that have a unique identity in nature, such as my pc. Thus, -my pc- is something that exists in nature, whilst the word –something- exists in the structure of the English language.

Would it make any difference to rephrase the debate question to something like: is it possible for something with a unique identity in nature not to exist? I am indeed assuming that objects in nature are unique. I would argue that we can safely assume this to be the case at the macro level of nature, the one where we use language to communicate, go to shops to buy computers, and drink beer with friends during a philosophy meeting. 

At the micro level, the one of quantum mechanics, concepts might be different, for example an atom can have both the property of being a wave and a particle and so on. But in this case ordinary language will create more confusion than clarify the issue, so trying to validate that something might not exist at the micro level might not take us too far. 

When the topic was presented, an example was given of something that does not exist might be Father Christmas (FC). This opens the debate on the meaning of to exist. I have already suggested that something exists if it has a unique identity in nature. I would argue that this is a necessary condition for things to have as far as human beings are concerned. However, it is not a sufficient condition since it is not clear that there is such an identity in nature. Sure my pc has a different and unique identity for us, but as I said that identity is from the perspective of human beings. From the perspective of nature my pc is just a reallocation of atoms if not simply energy. Indeed does my pc exist in nature? Or only in the macro system of today's social grouping?

Yes, my pc does exist in nature, but the language identifier – my pc – is only valid in our modern society. It seems that at the human language we can change some properties of natural objects without changing the natural properties of the object: my pc has certain natural properties which do not change when I pass it on to someone else. Sure there is the issue of ROM and contents of the hard disk, but I could have changed these and still be my pc. 

These external physical objects are easy to determine whether they exist or not, even when we don't have direct experience of them either because of time or their nature. But this still leaves the issue of whether Father Christmas exists. Of course, the Hollywood type of Father Christmas does not exist; there isn't a physical object with a unique identity that is Father Christmas (unlike say Napoleon). Although some might say that there was a character in history that may (or may not) be the model/role model of modern Father Christmas. But that a different matter. 

Of course, it might be argued that Father Christmas and any other fictitious character do exist and they do as mental states. Thus, it is not that Father Christmas exists out there in the world in the same way that my PC or mount Everest exist out there in the world. But if we allow mental states of an idea, say the idea of Father Christmas, to take the property of existence (Father Christmas exists) then why shouldn't we bend the meaning of to exist enough to make the debate question acceptable? Thus, FC is something but FC does not exist.

Indeed we do accept mental ideas to have a meaning that includes existence even though they do not have an objective identity in the world. The advantage of overruling the strict meaning of to exist, to include non physical objects, is that it gives our imagination an enormously wide scope of what we can think of. Thus, although Father Christmas does not exist, we can still make films about him, write books, employ people as Father Christmas during the relevant season and so on. 

But this still leaves us with the little question of what are mental states and ideas? And then the other question: what is the difference between something existing in our mental state (Father Christmas or Natural Justice) and things existing objectively in nature (My pc or Mt Everest)?

It has taken humanity a long time to accept that mental states are really brain states, and the language identifiers (or names/nouns) "mind" and "brain" are simply language constructs. It is not that we have two states, a mental state and a brain state, but rather that we have a language versatile enough to capture the functioning of a single entity into different ways thus we are able to talk about the same thing (the brain) in two different context. But in nature, and there is nothing other than nature, and as far as we, human beings, are concerned, there is only one entity: the brain. Basically, unless something has physical properties we cannot know about because our brain is only equipped to deal with information in a physical form.

Therefore, we are able to talk about Father Christmas, because we have developed a language structure that enables us to talk about this personality in the same way that we have developed a language structure that enables us to talk about my pc. But what is not in doubt is that our ideas are no less physical objects (they are chemicals, electricity or whatever in the brain) as much as my pc is a physical object in the world. 

We can now promote the question "Is it possible for something not to exist?" into the question "Where is it possible for something not to exist?" What seemed like a philosophical question is in fact an empirical question. But the philosophical import of this change is that any existence must take place in the physical or natural world (call it what you will). As far as we are concerned we only have access to things that exist in the natural world, which is why we have access to ideas like Father Christmas. But FC is only a state of our brain and not an objective state of nature. Without our brain FC cannot exist, not considering, that is, written text or films. And probably outside our culture neither PCs exist; maybe for a Roman centurion my PC is just a very curious lump of matter. And in the physical state of nature both the idea of FC and my (physical) pc are reduced to atoms and energy.

From my arguments above, whatever exits must have a unique identity in nature (at leave at the macro level) including, of course, mental states. And a 'Unique identity' because at the macro level we know that two things cannot be in the same place at the same time; laws of contradiction and identity. Furthermore, language does not have truth priority over objective entities in nature: thus the morning star (planet) and the evening star are the same astronomical object and calling it with two different names does not mean there are two distinct objects. It is not the language that makes something true but the facts, even if they are probabilistic facts.

This leaves us with FC. The other category of things that might exist are things we conjure up in our mind or brain. But this is not exclusive to FC, language probably has the same property, maths is a code that clearly exists in our brain. In other words we do not mine languages from the ground like copper, they is passed from one person to another; something like genes are passed from one person to another, language is certainly a meme.

So what seems to be a philosophical question, is it possible for something not to exist?, must either be a limitation or structural flaw of our language or of our idea that are converted into language. Just because an utterance takes the form of a grammatically correct and maybe even understandable speech act, it does not follow that it is meaningful or a valid philosophical question. 

But the real value of our debate question is precisely that it brings to the fore the difference between speech acts that are grammatically correct and understandable but sometimes are meaningless and philosophical questions. But it is not surprising that some language structures make sense and others don't. As I have just said, what matters are the ideas we transform into language; language is the mould not the pie.

Best Lawrence

Friday, October 11, 2013

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: The function of offence + News


Dear friends,


This Sunday we are discussing: The Function of Offence.

I'll keep this message short since we have three essays for the topic, including one from Ceit and the other two from Ruel and myself.

In the meantime a friend of ours would like introduce his travel agency to the group:
Luis (or Silvia)
Viajes Lawful SL
Tel 9184337992 – www.viajeslawful.es

All the best and see you Sunday

Lawrence


tel: 606081813
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-----------Ignacio------------
Thursday's Open Tertulia in English
Important Notice: From December 1st, the Tertulia will take place at O'Donnells (ex-Moore's) Irish
Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)






From Ciet-----
Hi Lawrence, I suppose I should say a few words about my topic before Sunday, not that it will make any difference in most cases:

Offense, when it has a function, is a tactical verbal weapon.  It is sometimes unleashed accidentally, but since the topic is the function of offense, it doesn't make much sense to talk about that in any detail.

First, offense can be differentiated from insult.  In general, an insult is personal and limited to the moment.  Offense, on the other hand, is meant to linger in the psyche and drive home a lasting message.  The word is also used to describe criminal acts, which gives it more weight than "insult".  Offense may be impersonal in the sense that it tends to use groups as the target or source of negative observation whereas insult is more focuses on personal qualities that the speaker does not care for, and assumes the audience does not either.  When intentional, offense has two uses, both related to social control.

In one usage, offense can be used to attack the status quo.  It is used to throw unpopular ideas into the public sphere, make people consider why they are unpopular, and possibly provoke some shift in opinion.  This sort of offense includes making fun of power structures like government, religion or other authority.  It's a joke that "punches up".  Even when no particular idea is presented in the offensive speech or image, it can serve to highlight disagreement or anger with the mainstream, and the possibility that some ideas need to be reexamined.

Also, and conversely, offense can be used to defend the status quo.  In this case, the offended are members of marginalized groups, while the source of offense is part of a privileged group.  This offense is meant to remind those lower in the social hierarchy that they are to keep quiet and not rock the boat.  It may even carry an implied threat of violence towards those who try to change the social power structures, although the most obvious characteristic is simple lack of respect for the target.  The offender may use negative stereotypes to reinforce the idea that certain people do not deserve more power, respect or opportunities in society.  They are free to be insulting or threatening to those lower on the social ladder, because that's the way things are and how they should be.  This function of offense is often hidden behind "jokes", and the target is accused of being "too sensitive" or "humorless" for not laughing along at the stereotype or the implication that violence against their group or their person is nothing to be taken seriously.

For those with a sense of humor, see Cracked:

and Louis Ck on offensive words:


From Ruel---
Hello Lawrence,

Below is the link to what I wrote re Sunday´s PhiloMadrid topic.

See you on Sunday.


From Me----
The function of offence

Offending others intentionally and taking offence is all part of the tools and warning signals we have to deal with aggression either from others or them from us. Aggression is a practical part of nature although we have evolved to minimise the use of aggression in favour of cooperation.  But the principle is that in nature, aggression is just another means to survive even if we might think that it is either wasteful or inefficient.

Offending people and taking offence is in fact part of the survival game. Offence can be verbal or behavioural; by verbal I mean spoken and also in written form, and behavioural I include physical acts we do or omissions and things we construct. Any of our actions and communication can be a cause to give offence to others.

But unlike physical aggression, the effects of offence are purely psychological and offences can affect our sense of outrage for being human, our personal circumstance and of course our culture. And an offence seems to be experienced not only on a personal relationship basis involving another person but also groups, society, cultural standing and even nations and states.

So outwardly, when we are offended, we are saying that 1) we do not approve of the other person's behaviour and 2) we find such behaviour threatening and hostile. This simple message would be well and good if this is all there is to it.

However, offences might be used to escalate the aggression between two parties. Offences might even be the first stage towards a physical fight that has been intended all along. And the reason is off course that, offences do not just affect us psychologically, but rather offences affect us emotionally. And behaviour based on emotions is not necessarily based on a rational outcome. Being emotional about something does not necessarily lead us to consider the consequences and unintended consequences of our actions. Thus offences can easily lead to physical altercation between two individuals.

In terms of efficiency I would say that verbal/written offences are quite effective as well. To begin with verbal offences are quite cheap in terms of energy investment for example a delicately placed offensive sentence can have the same desired effect as say punching someone in the face or damaging the property of the other person.

At the philosophical level I would say that the subject of offences has an import in the following aspects: morality, behaviour and philosophy of mind and of course, language. Starting with language, what is at issue here is whether language, for example in the form of speech acts and sentences, has a causal property from the speaker to the hearer?

Indeed, who is actually causing the offence? We know that it is the person who is uttering the words is the one who is causing the offence. And what is more this speech act is an offence because we perceive it to be an intentional speech act that is couched in offensive type language or language structure. Such language might be insults (you creep), demeaning expressions (you worthless piece of excrement), bad language (Fu.ck you!). Language might be used to describe physical defects of the person or those close to the person. On a more social scale, we might give offence by referring to cultural peculiarities, religion, use of stereotype descriptions of the other group and so on.

So going back to the question "who is causing the offence?" we have to consider whether it is the message or the messenger that is causing the offence. And secondly whether it is the message or the hearer that is in effect causing the offence? For example, if the hearer does not perceive the speech act as an offensive act would it still be offensive?  To begin with, I would argue that intention is a necessary condition for a speech act (and other acts) to be qualified as an offensive speech act. Someone might say something by accident or not be aware of certain information that had the person know about these conditions he or she might not have uttered the offending speech act.

Equally important I would say is that the offended person must also be in a disposition to be offended. In other words, we are either in a frame of mind that we are waiting to be offended or we are so outraged that we are offended whether we want to or not. Indeed it is -whether we want to or not- that relates to the issue of whether it is the language that causes the offence or the hearer themselves that causes the offence.

At a social level I would argue that it is more difficult to establish the intention and the disposition of the offence process. Are we really out to offend the other group or only some of us are – are they really all offended or only some are? In any case whichever way we look at this the bottom line is always an individual or an identifiable group of people acting in concert that cause the offending speech act.

Is there some group dynamic that simultaneously causes offence to the members of the group or is there some form of cascading process where maybe a few members of the group feel offended and then peer pressure will create a causal chain reaction reaching a critical mass?

I am inclined to think that the language part of the offence is by itself not a sufficient causal element of an offence. "You bastard" is not enough of itself to cause some behavioural or emotional reaction in a person, we need more, we need, as I have argued, intention and direction – an expression that is aimed at me (us) because it was me who upset the offended person with my omission to say good morning! Compare this with a sign saying "Stop" or someone shouting "Fire" or "Caution" or "Free" - if someone shouts stop we stop,  or fire we panic, or free we salivate at the bargain! In this type of language, the language is not aimed at anyone and certainly not intended specifically me nor at any one else. This form of language is just intended to convey the message to whoever wants to hear the message.

So far I have tried to discuss the mechanics of offence, and mainly the linguistic type of offences, however, there is still the factor of justification. Justification for the offence being given or taken. And furthermore the justification is established by "objective" observers who are independed of the parties involved.

In a way this is more socially interesting since we are evaluating the actions and behaviour of groups of others. And judging people is always an entertaining pastime for many individuals, although how we judge others is also part of the process of human relationships. Maybe in our discussion what is relevant is maybe the causal chain of offence.

This is also a key matter in law. Liable, slander and defamation all central legal concepts at law which suggests that offence is more than just a passing disagreement amongst people. I'm not going into the legal aspects of offence but I do wish to focus on two issues: what are the conditions to justify an offence or to give offence and secondly are personal offences the same as social offences?

As I have argued, offences seem to be part of the natural process of defence and offence (retaliatory) of human nature. This by itself should be enough to give justification for the phenomenon of offence. But this does not stop independent observers from evaluating whether an offence was justified or not; this would of course be import amongst peers or a court of law.

We also usually sense that the status between the individuals plays a major role here; for example a politician taking offence at the comments by a pensioner in the course of a political debate are usually judged to be unreasonable, but of course not the pensioner being offended by a politician. We expect a politician to be more circumspect with his language and emotions. But, two shop keepers exchanging insults and offences are a different matter, and in this sort of situation the parties can easily end up in court. In general we can safely argue that the onus is on the stronger party to try and avoid offending the weaker party or being offended by the weaker party.

If this observation is true we might argue that once we remove ourselves from the crude state of nature, we do not necessarily accept that the weak should not be respected or eliminated. In a so called civilised society we seem to reject that a stronger party has an automatic right to offend a weaker party. And by the same token, society usually ignores weak person who insists in verbally offending a stronger party. This is commonly seen during well managed and lawfully run demonstrations; demonstrators often hurl insults at the police; these insults are of no consequence to a well disciplined force.

Finally, are personal offences the same as social offences; is offending an individual the same as offending a group and society. At face value we seem to hold offences at the personal level more seriously and certainly with more consequential import. But offences aimed at groups are more circumspect. For example, no one will claim that the offence "all philosophers are liars" should in and of itself offend any philosopher although one can become angry and upset if one is a philosopher. I would argue that this is not enough to warrant elevating offences aimed at groups to the same level as personal offences.

But our standards about offences mean that we have to move away from the strict consequences of Aristotelian logic and maybe into inductive reasoning. Thus, the following argument is certainly not accepted in a civilised society: all philosophers are liars, John is a philosopher, therefore John is a liar. Without proof that John is a liar we just cannot claim that John is a liar simply because logic is on our side; to claim this would probably result in a legal action. And by demanding proof we are basically saying that even morality is based on empirical principles of truth rather than a priori principles of some logic.

Two things ought to follow from the above argument, first offending groups is not as serious as offending individuals, but we cannot progress from not serious to a group to not serious to the individual members of the group. We cannot offend groups but we can offend individuals of the group. And secondly, morality based on empirical veracity seems to be more reliable than morality based on a priori deduction.

In the meantime I hope I haven't offended anyone by demanding empirical proof that morality is valid or not.


Best Lawrence



Thursday, October 03, 2013

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting: The gap between teaching and learning.

Dear friends,

I must apologise for not being able to finish my essay on the topic: The gap between teaching and learning. A few unexpected and unwanted events just played havoc with my plans.

However, Ruel did prepare one for us:
Hi Lawrence,
Below is the link to the essay I wrote re the PhiloMadrid topic on Sunday.

See you.

Best Lawrence

Lawrence


tel: 606081813
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
914457935
Metro: Bilbao
-----------Ignacio------------
Thursday's Open Tertulia in English
Important Notice: From December 1st, the Tertulia will take place at O'Donnells (ex-Moore's) Irish
Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)





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