Monday, January 13, 2014

500: Philosophical method

After 499 lectures on all kinds of philosophical subject you might expect, that it is about time to come up with some real answers to all those complex questions, which we discussed here.

The primary task of a philosopher, however, is not to come up with the right answers, but with the right questions. He or she can clarify that, what looks simple, in fact is not that simple at all.

Take the question of my previous lecture: "Who am I and what am I?" In the discussion afterwards Laila Schumann thought that one important question was forgotten: "Why am I?"

Let's have a close look at the questions.
"Who am I" already implies the knowledge that I am someone. It means that I can ask "Who are you?" and I can conclude, that you are not me, in other words, this suggest that I may have a personal identity.

"What am I?" leads to quite different conclusions. I could ask "What are you?" and we could conclude that in some sense we even are identical. But what am I? Some object among other objects? Or, because I can ask these questions, am I more than just an object? Questions are no objects, like stones ore trees.

"Why am I?" is perhaps the biggest question of all, because it transcends me as a person or an object. In search of an answer it looks for something beyond be.
As you see, these three apparently simple questions aren't that simple at all.

For instance, who am I? Well, that is simple I am Herman, the person giving a lecture right now. Ok, but who is this little boy in this photograph? Well, isn't it clear? That is me when I was 10 years old!

Did you give lectures then too?
Of course not! 
Then you and that 10 year old boy are really different from each other?!
Well…..yes and no…
Ok, what then changed and what stayed the same that makes both Herman?

To cut it short, this is what philosophers call the problem of personal identity. For those who are interested, dig into it. It really is a serious and complex philosophical discussion. What is it to be a person from birth to old age?

Equally difficult is the question "What am I?" The answer "I am a human being" doesn't get us anywhere, for what is a "human being"? OK, one thing is clear. I am at least a body. No one else is my body. I am my body.

But that is not all. I KNOW that I am my body. And here we can think of Descartes (1596 - 1650). He said, that this KNOWING is something completely different. I mean, I also could KNOW that I am not a body, but something else….stardust or thin air…and yet KNOW, that I am.

Good. Then I am not just a body but also this KNOWING ability. We have a word for that 'knowing'. We call it Mind. Thence what am I? I am a body and a mind or consciousness.

I spent 115 lectures on this subject and finally concluded: Everything we know about the brain is, that consciousness is causally reducible to brain processes;

and for that reason I deny that the ontological irreducibility of consciousness implies that consciousness is something ‘over and above’, something distinct from, its neurobiological base.

This, of course has serious philosophical consequences for the answer to the question "WHY am I?" Especially because a lot of people assume that we not only have a body and a mind, but also a soul.

Let's first have a close look at the WHY  itself in this question. It is fundamentally different from the 'why' in the first two, because this one asks for a reason, which transcends our material being. The reason is supposed to come from somewhere else.

Why we think this way is, because the homo sapiens had discovered causality. Event B happens after every event A. Not as a coincidence but all the time. Thence we say A causes B. Like "brain" —+ "consciousness", "no brain" —+ "no consciousness",

So the "why" implies that there is something outside me that causes my existence. Isn't the answer quite simple? A male and a female had a pleasant night together et voilá, there I was after nine months.

No,that is too easy, for there is more in that question. We ask for more than just a simple material cause. We ask for a reason and when we know the reason we also know the meaning of something.

But we have a problem here. Every question already assumes an answer. That is, every question already implies specifics about the answer. Just take the questions "Who is a vulture? and "What is a vulture?"

And what I forgot to mention is, that when I ask "why am I ?", I do not mean specifically my personal material being. I mean it more in a general sense. You know, meaning not only whether there is a cause of my existence, but more in the sense of "is there a REASON" for my existence.

But then the question "Why is a rock?" and "Why am I?" are two completely different questions! Using "why" in this general sense makes the question about the rock a bit silly.

But isn't the question "Why am I?" in that sense also a silly question, a meaningless question. Grammatically correct, but semantically a problem?

As Gemma Cleanslate - Allen often remarked, also in the discussion after lecture 499, "there have always been more questions than answers here", I'll not elaborate on all possible  answers here.

If you have attended my lectures and paid some attention, you'll know my answer after this 500th lecture. For the rest, I leave it up to you to give the answers.

Thank you… ^_^

The Discussion

[13:24] Gemma Allen: It is still true
[13:25] Bejiita Imako:
[13:25] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you professor
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: YAY! (yay!)
[13:25] herman Bergson: It is Gemma :-)
[13:25] ἀρετή: Why is the question not why are we?
[13:25] herman Bergson: Otherwise it would be the end pf philosophy :-))
[13:25] Gemma Allen: wonders what the next 500 will be about
[13:25] Laila Schuman: purpose can also be ...that which one chooses...from devote their time/life to... a child, art, helping someone, robbing banks... working on a farm...
[13:25] CONNIE Eichel: :)
[13:25] herman Bergson: Good question ^_^
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: indeed:) will be exciting for sure
[13:26] Laila Schuman: why/purpose
[13:26] herman Bergson: Sure of our abilities is to give meaning to our existence
[13:26] Laila Schuman: existential
[13:26] herman Bergson: very true
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:27] Merlin: Have we left Eastern Philosophy now Herman?
[13:27] Faithfull: would you it never leaves
[13:27] herman Bergson: But as you may know there are all kinds of belief systems that like to tell what the meaning of life is
[13:28] herman Bergson: No Merlin...will be continued
[13:28] Merlin: ok ty
[13:28] Gemma Allen: ah good i thought there were holes
[13:28] Faithfull: the great continuum
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes, we just got started on it so hope there will be lot more in that subject for sure
[13:28] ἀρετή: are we not the sum of our genes + time + culture + time + experience?
[13:29] ἀρετή: -time
[13:29] herman Bergson: I just used the questions of last lecture for this one....
[13:29] herman Bergson: more general than to continue on Buddhism
[13:29] Merlin: Well one thing I like to hear, your opinion of Consciousness agrees with Dawkins
[13:30] herman Bergson: I don’t know exactly what Dawkins tells about consciousness Merlin
[13:30] Merlin: I find it a bit uncomfortable but you cannot deny the truth
[13:30] herman Bergson: But is he says that the brain causes consciousness..then I agree with him
[13:31] Zanicia: yes
[13:31] Merlin: Dawkins says we evolved it as a mechanism
[13:31] Merlin: All part of our survival strategy
[13:31] herman Bergson: that might be quite true....we are just a moment in evolution
[13:31] MerlinMerlin nods
[13:32] ἀρετή: what about machine intelligence?
[13:32] CONNIE Eichel shouts: hi dings, welcome there, come :)
[13:32] Merlin: Yes ] ἀρετή:
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: but can u make a machine aware if what it is doing really?
[13:32] Dings Digital: Hello :) still rezzing
[13:32] Merlin: that stuff about machine consciousness is all nonsense to me
[13:33] herman Bergson: that is what it is Areyn...machine intelligence....machines
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes Merlin
[13:33] herman Bergson: I agree
[13:33] Merlin:
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: computers are digital and work with lot of simple switches, can you ever make something like that feel?
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: thats interesting
[13:33] ἀρετή: not really but a lot of the applications, search and all that we are using are evolving towards our reliance on the "smart" technology... and machine intelligence is just another term for what they referred to as A.I.
[13:34] Lizzy Pleides: intelligence is a complex thing with many aspects
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: thats true, you can make machines that program and "learn"
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: themselves
[13:34] Merlin: I know you said Intelligence, but I said consciousness
[13:34] herman Bergson: intelligence isn’t the same as consciousness
[13:34] ἀρετή: it's not going to be in the form of robots.. it's already in use.. that control the temperature in your home, your smart phone, your google search.. ads.. all that
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: nope
[13:34] Bejiita Imako: a machine can never be conscious i think
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: works in a complete other way then a living organism do
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: but intelligent maybe
[13:35] herman Bergson: That is all pretty mechanistic Aryen
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: in a way
[13:35] ἀρετή: I'm just asking because I like to to read about future technology based on current science
[13:35] herman Bergson: not intelligent at all in the sense that it has the capability to come up with solutions for new problems
[13:36] Qwark Allen: this will be a interesting discussion to have in 30 years, when some AI will be around trying to find out, if they have a mind or not
[13:36] Bejiita Imako:
[13:36] Qwark Allen: i mean, to discuss this with themselfves
[13:36] Zanicia: I'm Alive...Johnny Five!
[13:36] herman Bergson: I dont think so, Qwark...that still is science fiction to me
[13:37] Gemma Allen: a lot of past science fiction has come true however
[13:37] Gemma Allen: and is now fact
[13:37] herman Bergson: We not even understand the phenomenon of consciousness in relation to the material brain
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:37] Qwark Allen: just look at the rate cpus double the speed, and hard drives to save data grow
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: they are researching the possibility to make a real warp drive at NASA
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: like in start trek
[13:38] Qwark Allen: the future is arriving fast
[13:38] CONNIE Eichel: ^^
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:38] Zanicia: trillions spent while humans starve to death
[13:38] Merlin: Its a global world too :P
[13:38] Dings Digital: how is this future different from the 18th century?
[13:38] herman Bergson: Then I suggest we focus on my future of the next 500 lectures first :-)
[13:38] Lizzy Pleides: but our brain and instincts are still in stone age
[13:38] Gemma Allen: LOL
[13:38] .: Beertje :.: the future is only tomorrow...or in 5 minutes...not faster than is was in the old days
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:39] Gemma Allen: how long will christmas break be??
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: the future is the next seconds
[13:39] Laila Schuman: is there going to be a celebration of the five hundredth lecture?
[13:39] herman Bergson: Ahh Gemma ..THAT is our future...indeed
[13:39] Gemma Allen: yep
[13:39] herman Bergson: Xmas holiday...
[13:39] herman Bergson: I suggest that I resume lecturing in the third week of January :-)
[13:40] Gemma Allen: Aristotle and Alarice both sent congratulations
[13:40] herman Bergson: Gives you all lots of time to go skying and being back in time here
[13:40] Gemma Allen: as did Ze
[13:40] herman Bergson: Nice
[13:40] Anske Beattie: where is snow right now Herman? lol
[13:40] CONNIE Eichel: hehe, i will go to the beach here, if possible :)
[13:41] .: Beertje :.: we'll have a green christmas
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: no snow here yet also
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: only rain rain and rain
[13:41] Gemma Allen: snow here
[13:41] Gemma Allen: but melting
[13:41] Anske Beattie: will be a warm Christmas
[13:41] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:41] Lizzy Pleides: if my bones are still ok i'll be here then
[13:41] Gemma Allen: here too
[13:41] herman Bergson: yes too Anske ^_*
[13:41] Anske Beattie: ohh realy Herman??
[13:41] Laila Schuman: i am rather ill rl.. if there is no celebration, i need to return to bed
[13:41] herman Bergson: Well you are dressed for a warm winter :-)
[13:41] Gemma Allen: i have already been eating too much!!!
[13:41] ἀρετή: get well soon
[13:41] Anske Beattie: get well soon Laila!!
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: aaa yes hope u get better soon
[13:42] Gemma Allen: ah laila
[13:42] herman Bergson: You better hit your bed Laila!!!!
[13:42] Zanicia: yes get well soon
[13:42] Gemma Allen: Yes-ah!
[13:42] Gemma Allen: take care
[13:42] Lizzy Pleides: yes get well Layla
[13:42] Gemma Allen: please
[13:42] herman Bergson: Get better again soon plz...
[13:42] Laila Schuman: thank you.... congratulations on your 500th herman
[13:42] CONNIE Eichel: get better :)
[13:42] Anske Beattie: happy hollidays!
[13:42] Laila Schuman: baiee... and best wishes to all
[13:42] Dings Digital: bye Laila, take care
[13:42] Bejiita Imako: bye Laila
[13:42] Zanicia: Bye bye tc
[13:42] herman Bergson: I wish you all Happy Holidays and we'll be back in 2014 :-)
[13:43] Zanicia: Good
[13:43] Gemma Allen: you tooo !!!!
[13:43] ἀρετή: Happy Holidays
[13:43] Gemma Allen: Thank Youuuuuuuuuu!!
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: nice
[13:43] Anske Beattie:                 *•.¸('*•.¸ ¸.•*´)¸.•*
[13:43] Anske Beattie:             .•*¨`•APPLAUSE•´¨`*•.
[13:43] Anske Beattie:                 ¸.•*(¸.•*´ `*•.¸)`*•.¸ 
[13:43] Qwark Allen: thank you
[13:43] Zanicia: Thank you Professor
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: yes happy holidays all!
[13:43] Bejiita Imako:
[13:43] Qwark Allen: glad i could come today
[13:43] Lizzy Pleides: thank you herman , the same to you!
[13:43] .: Beertje :.: Fijne feestdagen herman
[13:43] Anske Beattie: well doen professor!!!
[13:43] Gemma Allen: i hve that tree infront of our house
[13:43] CONNIE Eichel: congrats professor :)
[13:43] Qwark Allen: .........................
[13:43] Qwark Allen: .......................**
[13:43] Qwark Allen: ......................
[13:43] Qwark Allen: ........….……...*⊱♫⊰*.
[13:43] Qwark Allen: ......……….. • '** ' •
[13:43] Qwark Allen: ........……. '*•♫♫ •*'
[13:43] Qwark Allen: ........….. ' *, • ' ' • ,* '
[13:43] Qwark Allen: ........….' * • ** • * '
[13:43] Qwark Allen: .......… * , • ღ☾☯ • , *  '
[13:43] Qwark Allen: ......…* ' •♫♫**♫♫ • ' * '
[13:43] Qwark Allen: .......' * ' • .ღ☾☯☯* • ' * ' '
[13:43] Qwark Allen: .....' ' * • ♫♫♫**♫♫♫• * ' '
[13:43] Qwark Allen:          MERRY CHRISTMAS 
[13:43] Qwark Allen:                 FELIZ  NATAL   
[13:43] Dings Digital: Congratulation to the 500th session. it is the first i finally managed to attend :)
[13:43] Bejiita ImakoBejiita Imako ♪♪APPLAUDS!!!♪
[13:43] ἀρετή: Well done on the 500th :)
[13:43] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:43] Gemma Allen: omg really dings?
[13:43] Gemma Allen: OMG!!!
[13:43] CONNIE Eichel: yes, wishing more and more classes :)
[13:43] herman Bergson: Congrats Dings :-)
[13:43] Gemma Allen: join the group so you will get notices
[13:44] Dings Digital: hehe, thank you. happy to be here
[13:44] Anske Beattie: happy hollidays to you all!!
[13:44] herman Bergson: Needed 499 lectures to get Dings here!
[13:44] Dings Digital: oh dear, I am so sorry
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: ook forward to even more nice interesting lectures here
[13:44] Anske Beattie: and me Herman ;-)
[13:44] CONNIE Eichel: hehe
[13:44] Dings Digital: I am slow
[13:44] ἀρετή: :)
[13:44] herman Bergson: True Anske ^_^
[13:45] Qwark Allen: nice new av btw bej
[13:45] Qwark Allen: love it
[13:45] Qwark Allen: ^^
[13:45] Gemma Allen: i dont like it
[13:45] Gemma Allen: LOL
[13:45] Qwark Allen: °͜° l ☺ ☻ ☺ l °͜°

[13:45] Qwark Allen: lol

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