Philosophy: The Ontological Argument

Written by: Damien Knight

“Can Anselm’s Ontological Argument be considered a valid proof of the existence of God? If not, why not? Re-state the basic features of the argument and address the question.”

Saint Anslem’s argument was an argument that claimed to rely on reason alone. His claim was because “God” is “That than which none greater can be conceived” then god himself must exist. In other words because we can think of a perfect god and that he is the greatest being we can think of than He must exist. There is a problem with this argument. I can conceive of many things including dragons but this does not bring them into reality no matter if I wish it so. I am a spiritual person who follows the “Kemetic” Faith for me the greatest being is Amun Ra and the Egyptian Parthenon but others were not raised in nor converted in my faith therefore their idea of a greatest perfect god will be what they were raised or converted to. Does this mean I am wrong that Amun Ra whom was worshiped for so long is not the perfect god. Does the fact I conceive of him or Zeus or any god make that god real at all? What if I conceived Aliens created human life and control things on earth instead? Does that now mean that is also real because I thought it? For everything it needs a more clear defining and as a scientist I prefer that done through the scientific method of hypothesis, test and hypothesis again until the answers are there.

Philosophy: Existentialism

By: Damien Knight

Near the beginning of the book we are introduced to the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. Sartre was an existentialist who believed all humans are “condemned to be free” (Philosophy: A text with Readings P.67 pg 2) or in other-words have no choice but to accept that our lives are undetermined. Many philosophies declare that we are placed on the earth with a purpose, therefore leading a deterministic view.

Sartre claimed if there had been a god, he would have given us a determined purpose but without such conventions we had no purpose. We are essentially free to choose no matter what environment we grew up in. We exist and we choose how we live. To pretend we have no freedom otherwise is bad faith in the eyes of Sartre.

Reality is what we view in our conscious experience but is it? Do we make ourselves or are we shaped to some degree? If you are born poor and grow up having nothing and die with nothing is it not in part because the opportunity was not there. According to Sartre the answer is no, that man is free and his choices are made freely that a person chooses to live and die poor.

I cannot fully endorse complete freedom and the example the book petitions is a good example. I found before as a child that I was Christian. At first it was my choice but soon it became a mode of living and I was following a path determined by “god” and my family. Does this not equal a loss of freedom? Or say one takes a project to make oneself free but they slip as I had into just going with the flow are they free anymore?

The other reason I personally cannot agree fully to a complete free view is that I am a military spouse. When a sergeant makes an order to kill it is on the sergeant’s shoulders for the consequences of his men. According to Sartre each individual man is responsible for his actions but the military does not work as separate individuals they work as a unit and the head of the unit is who would manage individuals actions.

We should follow social constraints though ultimately we are free to not follow them. If we were not to follow the constraints, we set ourselves to limit and protect our freedom could get us in trouble. Yet since we do not, as Sartre implies only, affect ourselves we affect our family units causing trouble and affecting their own path.

I believe that to an extent environment affects how our lives are lived. Many decisions made in my life would have been made differently if my environment was different. Essentially we are free to make a few select choices in life but our lives while not predetermined are determined in the moment. In that moment, we have to choose out of the few we have and that choice can have lasting consequences. For example, if a man is about to be sent to war he has two choices: AWOL or go and fight. If he goes and fights he could end up with PTSD and that would not be a free choice he made in those choices but instead is a product of the environment he was in.

So Is Sartre wrong? Are men free at all are we in fact “condemned to destiny” instead? Is the novel idea of complete freedom elusive? No we still have choices after all. We have limited freedom. We carry within us desire both to be free and to please and conform. With our limited freedom we can do exactly what we are be the social creatures we are. Sartre’s true freedom would not allow for many of these social needs.

We could say that even though Sartre’s view is complete freedom mine is freedom by degree. We are given a start at our destiny by the choices our parents make for us. We have the freedom to eat or starve depending on where we are born and where chance rolls. Our education and social status helps shape our decisions. As our minds form we determine for ourselves what we want and how free we can be. While god may not have given use a destiny society constantly tries to.

Philosophy: What is Real

By:  Damien Knight

How do you know what is real and what is not? Specifically, how do you know that dreams are only dreams and that there are no such things as ghosts? In answering these questions, draw upon and demonstrate some understanding of the views of George Berkeley and Rene’ Descartes

What Is Real?

What is real and how do we know this world is not a dream after all? I shall start with a story much like our book does. When I was a child I feared ghosts I could see things others did not and it frightened me. Unlike the tale in the book instead of my father or siblings saying they were not real they told me that I could tell the ghosts to leave. To this day I believe in the reality of ghosts but that reality is apart from mine.

So if spirits are real and I can tell them to leave me alone what does this mean about reality? Is it fragmented into multiple planes? How can I be certain that where I am is the true reality? To be honest, I have come to the determination that there is no true reality that all of my experiences as a whole are all real. That both the world I dream in and the world I wake in is real. To explain this, I have to tell another story which will explain my view.

When I was a child I lived with my Abuelito. He was a very kind old Mexican man who did not speak English and he use to tell us stories of life. One day Abuelito sat us all down and told us this piece of wisdom:

“When we dream we do not just see visions dancing in our heads, we travel the world with our spirit. Sometimes we even travel to another world a place that is wonderful and filled with magic. You can do anything there. This place is as real as here, you can feel pain and loss and love. Learn to travel in your dreams and you will live fully.”

I have since learned to harness the power of my dreams and have indeed both felt love and loss and pain there just as I do here. So what is reality than if for me it is not just material. If reality is not the matter in front of me as some have claimed than reality must be more. For materialists like Thomas Hobbes reality comprised the items we saw, the physical objects that took up space and had mass. Dreams by themselves do not have mass but when I am dreaming the objects in the dream do take up space in the world of that dream. I can touch and feel the sword I carry. I feel the weight of the armor I wear and the drink I drink appears to have volume and mass. If the dream appears just as real as when I wake up what makes this reality superior?

What if than reality is just in the mind after all? I fall asleep in my dream world and awake in this one and in both worlds they both are real because reality is dependent on my consciousness and I effect it with my thought.

George Berkeley put the idea that reality is perception. Nothing exists unless it is being perceived. So what we experience is reality as we experience it. This is a part of how I view reality. Everything we see, touch, hear, and think is real at that moment whether it is the voice of a spirit speaking to me or the kiss of a lover who is only in the world of my dreams. As I perceive them they are all real.

With Berkeley he states that when things are no perceived that it ceases to exist unless we believe that there is a supreme mind conceiving all. Perhaps there is no need for a mind to consistently conceive all. Perhaps because there are so many consciousness’ that all exists because when one mind stops perceiving another starts.

René Descartes tears down existence entirely by realizing that everything he sees could perhaps not be real at all that it all is in his mind. The entire world is perceived by our senses and if perchance our senses are wrong than what have we left but the mind itself. In this way at least we are our reality. To accept that reality is not just what has mass and takes up space we accept that we have both a mind and body. Descartes noticed that we could conceive of ourselves existing without a body and so we are not the body leaving the mind to conceive and perceive all which is real.

Even though I am a scientist who prefers to deal with mass and measurement to answer questions reality cannot be answered in that way. Reality is complex, and the mind is obviously more than the processes of biology. In the end how do we know what is real, the answer is we never will know but for me all that is in my mind is real.

Philosophy: Case 28 Assisted Suicide

Written By: Damien Knight

Case 28

In November 1994, voters in Oregon approved by a margin of 52 to 48 percent a ballot initiative known as the “Death with Dignity Act”. This law, after surviving constitutional challenges and second referendum in which Oregon voters opposed repeal by a margin of 60 to 40 percent, ultimately went into effect in November 1997. The law permits physicians in Oregon to prescribe lethal drugs for terminally ill adult patients who want to end their own lives. In order for a patient to be eligible for such assistance, the attending physician must determine that the patient has a terminal illness and is expected to die within six months, and a consulting physician must confirm the diagnosis and prognosis. The following requirements are also stipulated:

(1)  The patient must make an initial, oral request; reiterate the oral request after 15 days have passed; and also submit a written request, supported by two witnesses.

(2)  Before writing the prescription, the attending physician must wait at least 15 days after the patient’s initial request and at least 48 hours after the written request.

(3)  The attending physician must fully inform the patient with regard to diagnosis and prognosis, as well as feasible alternatives – including comfort care, hospice care, and pain control.

(4)  Both the attending physician and the consulting physician must certify that the patient is “capable” (i.e. has decision making capacity), is acting voluntarily, and has made an informed choice.

* (5)  If either physician believes that the patient’s judgment might be impaired.

(e.g. by depression) the patient must be referred for counseling.*

The Oregon law allows the attending physician and others to be present when the patient takes the lethal dose.
Assisted Suicide

The Oregon law “Death with Dignity Act” allows for assisted suicide in fatal cases. First the basis of this law is that it has to be an adult patient who has only six months to live, and this patient is aware fully of their condition. For many this law might be seen as legalized murder but I think it is justified and support it. Many would question the morality of such a law but if we ask ourselves does this in the long run provide for the greater good we would have to recognize it as our duty to give this option to those who are dying of illness.

Those who often oppose things such as assisted suicide give various reasons why they do. Often these reasons involve religious and moral values. These reasons being that ‘murder is wrong’ and ‘suicide is wrong.’ Also taken into these arguments is how the loss of a loved one as the immediate result being too painful to bear. Often people will say that if they were kept alive just a little longer that the person could have been saved. The Oregon law states that for the assisted suicide to be permissible the patient has to be fully aware of his alternatives. So if the person fully knows they can be saved it would be in their best interest not to commit the assisted suicide.

So when would ‘murder’ and ‘suicide’ be societies moral obligation? If we look at this from a benefiting everyone perspective such as utilitarianism we would find we are obligated to commit to this law when the person’s death is more beneficial than the person’s life. When we ask what circumstances would make this probable, we then have to look at the facts. In the beginning of the book we are given a story of a man who murders his brother at his brother’s request while he is very sick. We can examine this murder and see if like the Oregon law it holds up to being beneficial in the long term.

The story mentions that Mathew Donnelly (CH7 p 460 pg 4 Philosophy: a text with readings) contracted cancer he was in constant pain and had little left of his body due to surgery to remove the tumors. Now they don’t say if he was in a fatal condition but let’s assume he was and his brother comes and relieves him of his misery. Is his brother wrong for the murder? In the long term not only does Mathew no longer suffer, but he is no longer incurring hospital bills that his family may or may not be able to pay. This is good for his family. He also could no longer be a working part of society he would have to had drawn disability draining government money. These points mean that in the long run in spite of immediate loss of life and a funeral bill his murder is justified.

Assisted suicide would have to be assessed in the same way. The doctor after receiving an oral request and after 15 days have ascertained that the patient is both not depressed and is acting of his own will, and then the doctor can write the prescription for the lethal dose. These requirements make it harder for people to choose this method. This way we do not accidentally allow the suicide of a person who might heal and become an able bodied citizen of society.

So what makes assisted suicide moral? It is moral when it does not just benefit the patient, and the family but the entire society. These burdens include: financial, physical, and emotional tolls. If he is spending more money to try and stay alive, then his family can afford. If watching his suffering is more painful than bearing death and he would need an aid if he were to be dismissed. If he could never work again once dismissed meaning others would pay for him. These things he might determine would make him a burden.

If the patient determines he would be a burden upon himself, his family, and his neighbors and the government with his illness then it is best he utilize this law and take his life, he would be morally obligated too. This way not only is he or she no longer in pain they can die knowing they will burden no one else. They can die as the law says with dignity instead of living as a burden and for these reasons I support the law.

Philosophy: Culture Versus Natural Behavior

Written By: Damien Knight

“Is the Explanation of Human Behavior a Radically Different Enterprise From the Explanation of Natural Occurrences?”

When we think about nature versus culture we get to the crux of this question. Is human culture natural occurrence? Some would say culture is not natural because human action is done based on intelligence and reason and nature is done on instinct and not learned knowledge.

While I understand this prevailing view point I think culture and human behavior is natural. Humans have been acting in similar behavior since ancient times and these behaviors are seen in nature. We are born and we raise our young, we build our homes, we preen and do mating dances. We are sexual and social in much a similar way as the bonobo are. We use language something other animals in nature are capable of if taught. Even our intelligence and reasoning are not limited to just ourselves. Dolphins, bonobo and chimps all can reason and show intelligence. It has been shown that gorillas can and have learned American sign language. In short the human species is not as special as we let ourselves believe we are another extension of what naturally occurs.

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Philosophy: The Past and Future

Written By: Damien Knight

“Is There a Good Sense in Which the Past is Fixed and The Future Open?”

I do not believe the past can ever literally be fixed. Even if some say that time travel to the past is conceivable going back might not fix the future that already occurred. It might instead create an alternate timeline. But could we possibly fix our past mentally. The answer is yes we alter our memories to suit our purposes and often have false memories in place given to us by our own-selves and family members around us. The future is believed to be an open page or blank slate but in reality our future is affected directly by our present action. We alter our chances by acting presently therefore the future is never truly open. We are defined by our present through altering our past memories.

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Philosophy: Conceivability and Possibility

Written By: Damien Knight

What is the relation between conceivability and possibility?

Well most things we believe possible are also conceivable. In the same that which is conceivable is often possible. For example I will use time travel. We can conceive or imagine that time travel is possible and it is in the sense that right now you and I are traveling through time from the present and into the future. But could one possibly travel into the past from the future. While the idea has been conceived it has not been proven possible. Still If a space ship were fast enough to travel the speed of light then maybe it would be possible to travel through time itself.

Now let’s take the meanings of the word possible and conceivable and examine them. Conceivable means to be able to be grasped or imagined. Many things are conceivable that are not possible. Humans sprouting wings for example. Possible means it is able to be done, that it is within the capacity of someone or something. Most things if not all that are possible are conceivable. Airplane flight for example is both conceivable and possible.

Therefore the relation between what is possible and conceivable is that all things conceivable are not possible but all thing possible have been conceived first.

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