Tuesday, April 18, 2017

657: Abstract concepts explained...

Last time I introduced you to a nice ontological problem. An important one, in fact, because it deals with the question in what sense abstract objects exist.
We take care of existing things: our fellowman is a real person. We know how he can be in need and how we can help him.
But as I said last time, we can take care of a family although one member of the family isn’t pleased at all with our help.
Is the family more than just a collection of individuals. Can we have moral obligations to a family, or even mankind?
Derek Parfit (11 December 1942 – 1 January 2017) a British philosopher, left us an interesting answer to this question.
Parfit makes a distinction between three ways in which one can interpret the existence of an abstract thing like states.
1. The existence of a state only means that its citizens exist, living together in a certain way on the territory of the state.
2. A state is nothing more than the citizens and territory.
3. A state is something that should be viewed independently of its citizens and its territory.
Parfit argues that both 1 and 3 simultaneously can be true. In other words, to have a state it only requires citizens who live in a certain way on a territory (1). 
But nevertheless such states must be considered separately from these citizens and territory (3). 
The main argument to posit that thesis is that what is true for states does not have to be true for their citizens and their territory.  
An example is, that a state can be threatened in its existence by a foreign power trying to annex it. 
But such power thus does not threaten the survival of the citizens or the territory. For example, it may be intending a completely peaceful annexation of the state. 
So there may be something true of a state and not be true for its people and its territory.
The same applies to such abstract things like family or mankind. 
It is possible that things go well with mankind. There is a steady growth in education, healthcare, science and communication possibilities.
This statement can be regarded as true, but at the same time we all know that this definitely is not true for a lot of individual people.
This does not solve all ontological issues here, far from that  and we’ll leave those to the philosophers to play with.
Yet the approach of Parfit offers us a useful insight: in a way a family or a state or mankind exists
and in that sense they are independent of the total of its individual members.
Thus we can think about issues like mankind having responsibilities regarding this earth,
where you can not make all individual members responsible, if you think, for instance, of babies and children.
It means, that a meaning of life not only can be related to our individual fellowman,
but that we also can relate our search for a meaning of life  to concepts like family or mankind in a logical manner.
Thank you for your attention…. ^_^

The Discussion

[13:17] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): This made my head spin more then trying to find a way to organice all public variables in Unity
[13:17] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but I think i got the most
[13:17] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:18] herman Bergson: ok...let me put it this way.....
[13:18] herman Bergson: I can say...your hair is yellow, Bejiita....
[13:18] herman Bergson: this is a statement which is true or false...
[13:18] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:18] herman Bergson: we can seriously discuss it and check the truth value
[13:18] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and indeed i can set it to black if i want to
[13:19] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): making the statement false
[13:19] herman Bergson: then the statement becomes false and everybody can check it
[13:19] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes
[13:20] herman Bergson: The most important point here is that statements in which we use abstract concepts also can be true or false...
[13:20] herman Bergson: a statement about a state can therefor be true or false...
[13:20] herman Bergson: for instance....
[13:20] herman Bergson: The arabic states are mainly terrorist states
[13:21] herman Bergson: this does however NOT imply that  every arab living there is a terrorist
[13:21] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah indeed
[13:21] herman Bergson: but when we want to deal with these states our logic can be applied to arguments about them
[13:22] herman Bergson: Because we can say that this or that premis is true or false
[13:22] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes
[13:23] herman Bergson: The main point is that Parfit showed that a family is not the same as  the collection of its members it is more
[13:23] CB Axel: I can't help but think that what is good for each individual is ultimately good for the group.
[13:24] herman Bergson: which means we can seriously talk about families not implying all its individual members
[13:24] herman Bergson: Ok CB....
[13:24] herman Bergson: now the next problem....
[13:25] herman Bergson: we have here in RL and aera where they have planted deers....and these animals unexpectedly breed like rabbits....
[13:25] herman Bergson: they create all kinds of problems...for themselves and the environment
[13:25] herman Bergson: Here it comes...
[13:26] herman Bergson: The group is heading for a disaster....famine, accidents and so on....
[13:26] herman Bergson: the group is the collection of individuals....
[13:26] herman Bergson: it is good for every individual not to be shot....
[13:27] CB Axel: Not necessarily.
[13:27] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): sorry..
[13:27] CB Axel: That's only true of life is more important than quality of life.
[13:27] herman Bergson: and it is good for the group when 40% of the members are shot
[13:27] CB Axel: Hi, Beertje.
[13:27] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i forgot
[13:27] CB Axel: When herds are culled like that, they usually take the old and unwell.
[13:27] herman Bergson: This IS about the quality of life of the group
[13:28] CB Axel: But if the individual's quality of life isn't good, what's the point of living.
[13:28] herman Bergson: Also for the old it isnt their wish to be shot...
[13:28] CB Axel: Unless the meaning of life is to suffer.
[13:29] herman Bergson: as you may see, we have two different arguments  here
[13:29] herman Bergson: one focussing on the individual the other focussing on the group
[13:29] herman Bergson: and both arguments make sense
[13:30] herman Bergson: here we get into the big issues....
[13:30] herman Bergson: which argument prevails...the one about the individual or the one about the group
[13:30] herman Bergson: and how do we make chouices here?
[13:31] herman Bergson: I have no clear cut answers here...but it is fascinating this problem
[13:31] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): do we have to make choises?
[13:32] herman Bergson: Most politics are based on it....
[13:32] herman Bergson: yes we have.....
[13:32] herman Bergson: for instances...laws are made for groups....
[13:33] herman Bergson: but we have lots of TV programs where individuals  are presented who are almost victims of a law that was meant to help them.....
[13:33] herman Bergson: Oh...recently...
[13:33] herman Bergson: speeding....
[13:33] herman Bergson: teh law is for drivers....
[13:34] herman Bergson: but individual drivers get tickets for driving 1 km  too fast
[13:34] herman Bergson: the argument is....we have to control speedlimits in traffic....
[13:34] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): thats a little tight limit
[13:35] herman Bergson: Dutch do it Bejiita....but only on the 130 km speedlimit
[13:35] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): 20 euro for 1 km too fast
[13:35] herman Bergson: yes :-)
[13:35] CB Axel: Our police tend to allow for inconsistencies in speedometers.
[13:35] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): at 130 km/h? thats a bit tricky to be exact at that speed
[13:35] herman Bergson: So we get pretty annoyed people on TV.....
[13:36] herman Bergson: Here again this tension between individual members of a group and a group treated as a whole
[13:37] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): but, somewhere has to be the line for the speed
[13:37] herman Bergson: This is why people  can sacrifice their life for their country....even when they hate their ex wife for instance :-)
[13:37] herman Bergson: Did the spinning slow down a little Bejiita?
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): it did
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): and also i think i have decided on my variable sorting as well
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): how to do
[13:38] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:39] herman Bergson: very nice.....
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): hmm indeed where is the limit
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): when is too much too much
[13:39] herman Bergson: but this doesnt  answer all philosopical questions
[13:39] herman Bergson: forinstance....
[13:39] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): I guess not
[13:40] herman Bergson: we say a stone exists, Bejiita's yellow hair exists, the chairs here exist.....
[13:40] herman Bergson: all these thins we call facts.....and the method of checking the truth value is by looking...
[13:40] herman Bergson: or kickig a chair or stone and feel
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:41] CB Axel: Just don't kick Bejiita's hair.
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): OUCH!
[13:41] herman Bergson: logicaly we now have seen that we can say that a state and mankind EXIST....
[13:41] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): yes
[13:42] herman Bergson: but we have not these empirical means to check that....
[13:42] herman Bergson: there is not such an object similar to a stone which you cal state or mankind...
[13:43] herman Bergson: but yet we find it reasonable to assume that they exist.....make statements about them which can be true or false
[13:44] herman Bergson: so there can be a relation between you (who exists) and mankind, or  your family....
[13:44] herman Bergson: philosophically interesting situation..........
[13:45] CB Axel: The family and the state exist to help the individual to survive, don't they?
[13:45] herman Bergson: And if the relation can exists, there also can exist moral obligations....to mankind for instance
[13:45] CB Axel: We banded together in families, clans, communities for survival.
[13:46] herman Bergson: yes....
[13:46] herman Bergson: the individual had a relation with his group
[13:46] herman Bergson: Like Trump says...America first :-)
[13:47] CB Axel: He's forgetting that America is part of the world and if we don't save the world America is doomed, too.
[13:48] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ah
[13:48] herman Bergson: Well...maybe...
[13:49] herman Bergson: before we all be doomed by too complex philosophical thoughts.....:-)
[13:49] herman Bergson: We'd better stop for today :-)
[13:49] CB Axel: OK.
[13:50] CB Axel: Thank you. Once again, I have a lot to think about.
[13:50] herman Bergson: So...unless you still have a question, thank you for your participation again... 
[13:50] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:50] herman Bergson: Class dismissed....
[13:50] Ciska Riverstone: thanx herman thanx folks
[13:50] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): thank you Herman
[13:50] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): nice!
[13:51] bergfrau Apfelbaum: thank you
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): ok cu later
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako):
[13:51] herman Bergson: Seemed it was a tough lecture today
[13:51] Particle Physicist Bejiita (bejiita.imako): but interesting

[13:51] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): i was late, sorry, I have to read the note Bergie gave me