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Lecture 2.....
Instructor:  Jeremy Jackson   |    Jan 4, 2017

Location:    Online    |   Blackboard

Philosophy

I’m going to talk about two major types of philosophy and give examples of them from ancient Greek philosophy.

The two major types of philosophical inquiry are called metaphysics and epistemology.

 

Metaphysics

What is metaphysics? Give examples of metaphysical questions and relate these examples to current issues in modern psychology.

The concept of metaphysics is derived from the Greek meta ta physika ("after the things of nature"). It refers to an idea, doctrine, or posited reality outside of human sense perception. In modern philosophical terminology, metaphysics refers to the study of truths that cannot be reached through objective investigation of material reality.

There are generally two questions:

  • What is it, what is the nature of it, what is the essence of it, etc?
  • Does it exist?
  • Generally, the metaphysical problem is to identify the nature and existence of phenomena that cannot be directly or publicly observed. Why can the phenomena of interest to the metaphysician not be directly or publicly observed? Because they are no part of "objective material reality".

    The following are typical metaphysical problems:

  • What is God and does God exist?
  • Do humans have a soul?
  • Do humans have free will or is their behavior determined?
  • What is the nature of the mind? Is the mind a material substance?
  • Is there such a thing as consciousness or is consciousness just a name we have for brain states?
  • Now, although modern psychology is primarily empirical/observational in nature (because it is the scientific study of human nature), I want to show you that according to the definition of metaphysics, we still do have metaphysical problems in psychology.

    Metaphysicians and scientists can be viewed as carving up the universe into two types of phenomena. Those that can be observed/understood by objective/empirical investigation of nature and those that cannot.

    Consider the following table of phenomena:

     

    Now this table illustrates why metaphysics is actually relevant to psychology. It is relevant because much of the phenomena of interest to psychologists do not fall on the right side of the table - they are not part of objective, material reality. They are, in some sense, not objectively observable aspects of the physical world. Now this is a debatable issue but for the moment lets go with the idea that your soul, your mind, your own thoughts, feelings, etc., are private and therefore are not publicly/directly observable aspects of material reality.

    Although the issue is not actually this simple, it is certainly the case that on the surface of it, the psychologist appears to be interested in a subject matter that is in a sense metaphysical.

    But here is why there is an issue:

    Metaphysical phenomena are to be studied using a rationalist methodology, not an empiricist methodology.

    Why?

    Because by their very nature, metaphysical phenomena are not directly/objectively/publicly observable and so cannot be studied by the OBSERVATIONAL methods of science.

    Part of the reason that the physicist/chemist, etc., has no issue here is that all of the phenomena on their side of the line ARE, at least in principle, directly observable and can therefore be sensibly studied using observational/scientific methods.

    It’s important that I say here “in principle”. Much of the subject matter of modern physics have not and may never be observed directly. Spin particles, quarks, the big bang, multiple universes, the expansion of time at the speed of light, etc., have never been observed but they are all foundational ideas in modern physics. But the point is that if we were technically capable, we could observe these things because they are all part of objective material reality. They all have well-defined physical manifestations that could be observed if we could, for example, build a large enough particle accelerator or go back 15 billion years to the beginning of the universe.

    I think you will see that many of the struggles that early philosophers and psychologists have had in attempting to study psychological phenomena scientifically comes from this very issue. When we look at some of the earliest psychologists (e.g., Wundt, Titchner, James) later, we will see that they all had some difficulty with this basic philosophical problem.

    I think it’s fair to say that most psychologists still think that there is a problem here today.

    This is precisely why the question of the nature of consciousness is still a great intellectual problem without an agreed upon solution. Today in cognitive psychology, we do take a position on this issue, but I would say that most cognitive psychologists would agree that their position is not final.

    I’d like to now give you an example of a metaphysical form of investigation to help you understand how a rationalist attempts to determine the nature and existence of metaphysical phenomena.

    Aristotle as well as other early Greek philosophers set the tone for many important problems in psychology. What was Aristotle’s basic method in philosophy? Give specific examples of how he used his method to address metaphysical questions.

    The following quotation is a translation from one of Aristotle’s (an ancient Greek philosopher who was a student of Plato) works on the nature of the soul:

     

    “The knowledge of the soul admittedly contributes greatly to the advance of truth in general, and, above all, to our understanding of Nature, for the soul is in some sense the principle of animal life. Our aim is to grasp and understand, first its essential nature, and secondly its properties….

    To attain any assured knowledge about the soul is one of the most difficult things in the world. As the form of question which here presents itself, viz. the question 'What is it?'”

     

    So we see in this quotation that the basic problem here is “what is the nature/essence of the soul” or simply:

    “what is the soul”.

    Now the really important issue for our purpose is the method that Aristotle uses to solve his “what is the soul” problem.

    Here is another quotation from the same work. This second quotation is a part of Aristotle’s attempt to answer the “what is the soul” question. He has just finished reviewing three ways in which the soul has been defined previously and in this quotation begins to critique the third of these three approaches.

    “Such are the three ways in which soul has traditionally been defined; one group of thinkers declared it to be that which is most originative of movement because it moves itself, another group to be the subtlest and most nearly incorporeal of all kinds of body. We have now sufficiently set forth the difficulties and inconsistencies to which these theories are exposed. It remains now to examine the doctrine that soul is composed of the elements.”

     

    This quotation shows us that Aristotle is entertaining a:

    theory about how the soul should be defined.

    Or we could say:

    a theory about what the soul is.

    This is a fundamental feature of the logical method of metaphysics. That is, to construct and logically argue for or against theories about what things are. The following passage is part of Aristotle’s logical argument about the nature of the soul.

     

    "What is soul? It is substance in the sense which corresponds to the definitive formula of a thing's essence. That means that it is 'the essential whatness' of a body of the character just assigned. Suppose that what is literally an 'organ', like an axe, were a natural body, its 'essential whatness', would have been its essence, and so its soul; if this disappeared from it, it would have ceased to be an axe, except in name. As it is, it is just an axe; it wants the character which is required to make its whatness or formulable essence a soul; for that, it would have had to be a natural body of a particular kind, viz. one having in itself the power of setting itself in movement and arresting itself. Next, apply this doctrine in the case of the 'parts' of the living body. Suppose that the eye were an animal - sight would have been its soul, for sight is the substance or essence of the eye which corresponds to the formula, the eye being merely the matter of seeing; when seeing is removed the eye is no longer an eye, except in name-it is no more a real eye than the eye of a statue or of a painted figure. We must now extend our consideration from the 'parts' to the whole living body; for what the departmental sense is to the bodily part which is its organ, that the whole faculty of sense is to the whole sensitive body as such."

     

    Today, modern philosophers use a similar methodology to address questions about the nature of consciousness. In fact, there are an extremely large number of theories about what consciousness is within modern philosophy.

    Now these theories are relevant to psychology simply because they are theories about the essential nature of the phenomena that we study in psychology….that is, conscious phenomena.

    Let's take a look at two current metaphysical arguments about the nature of consciousness. We will begin with an argument that consciousness is a brain phenomenon. That is, an argument that is logically compatible with the argument we saw in lecture 1 that memories are brain phenomena....memories are in the brain. The argument is made here by Professor Patricia Churchland. Dr Churchland is a world famous philosopher born in Oliver BC and educated at the University of British Columbia!

    Click on the image below to watch the video.....

     

     

    Here Churchland argues that there does not seem to be a separate entity that is the mind. That there are no distinct, separate, mental phenomena like memory, love, the perception of colour, consciousness, etc. Now, I would just like you to understand something about the implications of this position for psychology. Currently, the subject matter of psychology is defined as behaviour and mental processes. Your introductory psychology text defines the subject matter of psychology this way. The problem for us is that if mental phenomena are JUST brain phenomena, then the subject matter of psychology is behaviour and the brain. There are two critical things we need to be aware of about this:

     

    1) Psychologists are not experts in the brain and receive very little training in the brain. In fact, most professional psychologists will only ever take two courses in brain physiology/function (I have only taken one!). That is normally fewer courses than they will take in statistics. But of course, psychologists are not statisticians. The same can be said about brain physiology. Psychologists are not neurosurgeons, medical doctors, psychiatrists, neurologists, patho-physiologists, etc. This means that, according to Churchland, psychologists would not be experts in a very significant part of our subject matter. Who would be the experts?

     

    2) The experts would be those people that receive formal training and education in brain physiology, brain anatomy, brain pathology, brain disorder/disease, etc. They are neurologists, neurosurgeons and biologists. There are ALREADY experts in the brain. The brain is a subject matter OWNED BY OTHER DISIPLINES! This is partly what the table of subject matter above shows. The brain is on the right side of the table and psychological phenomena like consciousness, thoughts, feelings, etc., are on the left side of the table.

     

    So it is clear that the notion that psychological phenomena are brain phenomena is potentially very challenging to psychology. To save psychology, we need an argument that clearly articulates what mental phenomena are AND how mental phenomena are distinct from brain phenomena. We need to delineate clearly a subject matter for ourselves!

    In the following video, professor Greg Chalmers makes a philosophical/metaphysical style argument that psychological and brain phenomena are distinct from each other.

    Click on the image below to watch the video.....

     

     

    Now, before going on I just want to take a little side-trip about this. Many if not most working psychologists do hold a view about what the solution to this problem is. When we look at the mind-body problem in the 4th week of the class, we will see what some of these views are.

    I am a working psychologist and I do have a view. In fact, I spent 3 years of my life working only on this issue and believe in what I think is a definitive, clear solution (which is not mine but a solution given in around 1950 by Ludwig Wittgenstein). But I’m not going to tell you what it is. There are two reasons for this:

  • This is not a course in what I think. I am not a famous psychologist or philosopher and so my views are not part of what you should be expected to learn here.
  • My view happens to be almost opposite to the prevailing view within psychology today.
  • Now, I mention point 2 just because I’d like to draw your attention back to something that is discussed in Chapter 1 of your text and lecture 1.

     

    “Unless the Zeitgeist and other contextual forces are receptive to the new work, its proponent may not be heard, or may be shunned or put to death ” .

     

    The zeitgeist matters a great deal. Just to remind you of this, I'd like to give you another example of a zeitgeist and the ways in which the zeitgeist deeply influences our views and beliefs about the world around us.

    The following is a passage taken from a book called "The Circle Game" written by Dr Roland Chrisjohn (a PhD in psychology specializing in personality). It gives what he calls the "Standard account" of Canada's involvement in Indian residential schools. If you do not know what they are, watch THIS short clip for some background.

    "Residential Schools were created out of the largess of the federal government and the missionary imperatives of the major churches as a means of bringing the advantages of Christian civilization to Aboriginal populations. With the benefit of late-20th century hindsight, some of the means with which this task was undertaken may be seen to have been unfortunate, but it is important to understand that this work was undertaken with the best of humanitarian intentions. Now, in any large organization, isolated incidents of abuse may occur, and such abuses may have occurred in some Indian Residential Schools. In any event, individuals who attended Residential Schools now appear to be suffering low self-esteem, alcoholism, somatic disorders, violent tendencies, and other symptoms of psychological distress (called “Residential School Syndrome”). While these symptoms seem endemic to Aboriginal Peoples in general (and not limited to those who attended Residential School), this is likely to have come about because successive generations of attendees passed along, as it were, their personal psychological problems to their home communities and, through factors such as inadequacy of parenting skills, perpetuated the symptomology, if not the syndrome. In order to heal the rift the Residential School experience may have created between Aboriginal Peoples and Canadian society at large, and in order to heal those individuals who still suffer the consequences of their school experiences, it is necessary and appropriate to establish formally the nature of Residential School Syndrome, causally link the condition to Residential School abuses (physical, sexual, or emotional), determine the extent of its influence in Aboriginal populations, and suggest appropriate individual and community interventions that will bring about psychological and social health."

     

    Now let's take a look at the issue of residential schools from a different ideological, social and cultural point of view - a different Zeitgeist. That is, the point of view of the author of "The Circle Game", Dr Chrisjohn.

     

    "Residential Schools were one of many attempts at the genocide of the Aboriginal Peoples inhabiting the area now commonly called Canada. Initially, the goal of obliterating these peoples was connected with stealing what they owned (the land, the sky, the waters, and their lives, and all that these encompassed); and although this connection persists, present-day acts and policies of genocide are also connected with the hypocritical, legal, and self-delusional need on the part of the perpetrators to conceal what they did and what they continue to do. A variety of rationalizations (social, legal, religious, political, and economic) arose to engage (in one way or another) all segments of Euro Canadian society in the task of genocide. For example, some were told (and told themselves) that their actions arose out of a Missionary Imperative to bring the benefits of the One True Belief to savage pagans; others considered themselves justified in land theft by declaring that the Aboriginal Peoples were not putting the land to “proper” use; and so on. The creation of Indian Residential Schools followed a time-tested method of obliterating indigenous cultures, and the psychosocial consequences these schools would have on Aboriginal Peoples were well understood at the time of their formation. Present-day symptomology found in Aboriginal Peoples and societies does not constitute a distinct psychological condition, but is the well known and long-studied response of human beings living under conditions of severe and prolonged oppression. Although there is no doubt that individuals who attended Residential Schools suffered, and continue to suffer, from the effects of their experiences, the tactic of pathologizing these individuals, studying their condition, and offering “therapy” to them and their communities must be seen as another rhetorical maneuver designed to obscure (to the world at large, to Aboriginal Peoples, and to Canadians themselves) the moral and financial accountability of Euro-Canadian society in a continuing record of Crimes Against Humanity."

     

    The point here is not to engage in a debate about which of these views is the correct one. The point is merely to demonstrate that one's point of view, one's ideological commitment to a way of thinking, can dramatically influence how we think the world is and what we think about who and what is right or wrong.

    Just as an aside, I think it's important to recognize a significant challenge that Dr Chrisjohn makes to our current thinking about psychological disorders and mental health in the passage above. When he says:

    "Present-day symptomology found in Aboriginal Peoples and societies does not constitute a distinct psychological condition.... the tactic of pathologizing these individuals, studying their condition, and offering “therapy” to them and their communities must be seen as another rhetorical maneuver...."

    One could say the same about almost any psychological condition! One might argue that the reaction of soldiers to the traumatic experiences faced in war is not a distinct psychological condition called PTSD, but the normal reaction of individuals living under conditions of severe horror, stress, and danger. We will come back to this later in the course, but for now, it may be interesting for you just to think about this a bit. Ask me about this on the "Course Questions" discussion board if you are interested.

    But notice the forms of argument used in the discussion about zeitgeists above. All of these forms of argument are actually examples of philosophical arguments. That is, the use of logic and reason to determine what is true about residential schools in Canada.

    Now back to metaphysics then!

    The history of metaphysics can be separated in to two eras:

  • The pre-Socratic (600-480 BC)
  • Socratic (480 BC to present)
  •  

    In the pre-Socratic era people known as the Sophists argued that there is no such thing as universal truth. The idea was that what ever is true is simply true for a given individual at a given time. In this view, what beauty is for example would have been a pure matter of personal truth. What beauty is to one person might be very different to what it is to another. What beauty is at one point in time would have been different to what it is at another point in time. What beauty is would also perhaps have been seen to be culturally or ethnically dependent. So 2500 hundred years ago the Sophists thought something that you very probably think today. I imagine that most of you think that beauty is something different to you than to other people.

     

    Recall this question from the survey you filled out in Lecture 1. What did you say to this question?

     

    8) What beauty is to you is different than what beauty is to me:     True         False

     

    If you said "True", then you are a relativist. Relativism is the idea that truth is relative to the temporal, social and/or individual context.

    But Socrates came along in around 480 BC and argued that there must be universal truths. That there most be some ultimate essence of things like beauty, justice, and so on. And in so doing Socrates practically single handedly created modern metaphysics – the search for the ultimate, universal nature of things.

    What is inductive definition? Describe Socrates’ method of inductive definition and discuss what motivated him to develop his method. Is the logic of inductive definition clearly sound? Why or why not?

    To identify universal essences or truths, Socrates used a method I will call inductive definition. Don't look this up, you won't find anything on it....that's because I made up this name to denote this logical method so we could communicate more easily about it in the course.

    To determine the essence of beauty, for example, Socrates might have:

    1. Collected together a large number of instances of beauty.
    2. Determined what things all these instances had in common.
    3. Defined beauty according to what all the instances of beauty had in common.

    So let's look at how this would work in the case of beauty....

    1. Randomly sample a large number of people considered beautiful.
    2. Analyze the faces of all the beautiful people in the sample and discover that their faces are all highly symmetrical.
    3. Conclude that the essence of beauty is symmetry. Beauty is symmetry!

    Recall that I said in Lecture 1 that I would only speak about the methods of early philosophers if their methods are relevant in psychology today. Can you see how this method of inductive definition is relevant to the methods of psychology today?

    1. Randomly sample one group of children from the population of normal children and one group from a population of children diagnosed with ADHD.
    2. Analyze the brain structure of both groups of children with MRI. Discover that region X of the brain is smaller in all children in the ADHD group than all children in the normal group.
    3. Conclude, ADHD is a brain abnormality.

    Now, Socrates was not made a hero for this. As you can see, his point of view was not particularly consistent with the prevailing view. He argued that the Sophists were wrong and that universal essences could be discovered. In fact, Socrates was tried for treason and sentenced to death for his views – I believe for corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens.

    In fact, according to a plaque in the history museum at the coliseum in Rome, many of the busts of Socrates were purposefully made to look ugly just because he criticized the prevailing view!

     

    This is a photograph I took of a bust of Socrates in Rome. What do you think?

    It is interesting to note that the statues of the great war heroes of the time depict tall, muscular, stunning figures. Life sized statues were carved 7 ft tall when the people of the time were almost never more than 5 ft tall.

    Keep in mind that we do this today as well. Think about how we depict politicians, entertainers, etc., when we turn against them. An entertainer that has fallen out of favor is often at great risk of having an ugly picture of them published in a magazine or paper. We take and publish nice looking pictures of people we like and ugly pictures of people we don’t like.

    Now, getting back to Socrates’ method, do you think it makes sense? Is inductive definition a logically coherent method? Go back to the previous page and look at the logic again. I want you to think about this first and then read the sentence below:

     

    How can we collect instances of beauty if we do not already know what beauty is?

     

    If I were to say to you now:

    “Let’s determine what a florgit is.

    Let’s begin by collecting a large number of instances of florgit.

    Go ahead and start collecting”.

    Could you begin?

    Well of course not. And the reason is that you don’t know what florgit is.

    We will return to this problem later in the course. For now, just understand that if we critically analyze the logic of inductive definition, there seems to be a logical problem with it.

    Despite this, Socrates is nevertheless a very important man in the history of Western thought. He argued that there were universal truths and philosophers could discover what these truths are. He could be viewed as the inventor of the discipline of philosophy. Ever since Socrates, philosophers have been using logical argument (not necessarily inductive definition though), to attempt to discover universal truths about the nature of metaphysical phenomena.

    Now Plato was another early Greek metaphysician who was a student of Socrates. Plato had a rather unique and interesting view about how to determine the true essence of things.

    He used an idea called the allegory of the cave to make his point. The following video gives an interesting introduction to the idea:

     

     

    If the video above does not function, click HERE to watch the video

    In the allegory of the cave Plato argues that what we perceive are analogous to shadows, not reality. In this sense, Plato argued that the reality of the universe is never directly available to our senses.

    Specifically, the points made in The Allegory of the Cave are:

    1. Human perception is fallible
    2. Since perception is fallible we can not trust our perception to be an accurate representation of reality
    3. If our perceptions are not accurate representations of reality then we can not determine any universal truth about reality via sense perception
    4. Therefore, the only way to achieve universal truths is through logical argument.

    My experience is that many philosophers and psychologists would not strongly disagree with this idea. I encourage you to ask your other instructors to see what they think.

    Now, Plato’s position is essentially rationalist. That is, the view that the truth about the universe can only be determined via logical argument not by empirical observations (because empirical observations come to us through the filter of our senses) of natural phenomena. For this reason, Plato is often seen as anti-scientific.

    Actually, Plato’s argument represents an idea about how we can come to know things about the nature of the universe. Plato is saying that true knowledge cannot be gained via observation because observations are fallible (prone to error).

    Questions relating to knowledge, the nature of knowledge and how we come to know what we know are actually called epistemological questions.

     

    Epistemology

    What is epistemology? Describe 3 epistemological theories and be able to give an example of how each theory would address a particular problem in modern psychology.

    Epistemology is the branch of philosophy which studies the nature, origin, and scope of knowledge. The word "epistemology" originated from the Greek words episteme (knowledge) and logos (word/speech).

    Historically, epistemology has been one of the most investigated and debated of all philosophical subjects. Much of the debate in this field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, and belief. Much of this discussion concerns justification. Epistemologists analyze the standards of justification for knowledge claims, that is, the grounds on which one can claim to know a particular fact. In a nutshell, epistemology addresses the question, "How do you know what you know?"

    My first philosophy instructor taught our class this idea when he singled me out of 200 students in a lecture hall and asked me:

    “Do you know where your car is?”

    Foolishly I fell for it and said:

    “Of course I do, it’s in B lot”.

    He then said to me:

    “Could it have been stolen?”

    Immediately I knew that I had been fooled and so did 200 other snickering students that seemed to take great pleasure in the ease with which the philosophy professor trapped me (true story….really).

    But his point was simply to show us that sometimes we don’t know what we think we know. The job of the epistemologist is just to try to get to the essence of knowledge by determining what must be the case in order for us to really know something.

    The famous quotation by Rene Descartes, ”I think, therefore I am” is actually an attempt to argue that we can really know that we exist. Why? Because we think. Descartes is saying that this is the one thing that we can not be deceived about.

    The way that knowledge claims are justified depends on the general approach to philosophy one supports. Thus, philosophers have developed a range of epistemological theories to accompany their general philosophical positions. The following is a list and description of the most well known theories of knowledge.

    Empiricists claim that knowledge is a product of human experience. Statements of observation take pride of place in empiricist theory. Naive empiricism holds simply that our ideas and theories need to be tested against reality, and accepted or rejected on the basis of how well they correspond to observed facts.

    Lets look at the logical argument (i.e., rationalist argument) about depression from lecture 1 as an empiricist might view it:

    1) Rationalist: Depression is about control. The less control a person has over their life, the more depressed they will be.

    Empiricist: A survey of 500 depressed people showed that they reported having less control over their lives than 500 randomly selected undepressed people.

    2) Rationalist: In modern North American society, our freedoms are being reduced over time.

    Empiricist: The last national census data showed that Canadians and Americans report having less free time than than they reported having 10 years ago.

    3) Rationalist: It follows from this that depression will increase in North America over the next few years.

    Empiricist: If this trend towards less free time continues, our statistical prediction model shows that the number of depressed adults in North America will increase by approximately 10,000 per year.

     

    We see from the above example that the empiricist uses observations as the basis for the prediction about depression. Because of this, empiricism is associated with science.

    Rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification". In more technical terms it is a method or a theory in which the criterion of truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive. Different degrees of emphasis on this method or theory lead to a range of rationalist standpoints, from the moderate position that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge to the radical position that reason is the unique path to knowledge.

    Rationalism is often contrasted with empiricism. Taken very broadly these views are not mutually exclusive, since a scientist can employ both rationalist and empiricist methods. Taken to extremes the empiricist view holds that all ideas come to us through experience, either through the five external senses or through such inner sensations as pain and pleasure, and thus knowledge is essentially based on or derived from experience. At issue is the fundamental source of human knowledge, and the proper techniques for verifying what we think we know.

    One of the best historical examples I know of that distinguishes a philosophical/rationalist approach from the empiricist view is a quotation by a very famous empiricist – Roger Bacon (1561 – 1626).

    "In the year of our Lord 1432, there arose a grievous quarrel among the brethren over the number of teeth in the mouth of a horse. For thirteen days the disputation raged without ceasing. All the ancient books and chronicles were fetched out, and a wonderful and ponderous erudition such as was never before heard of in this region was made manifest. At the beginning of the fourteenth day, a youthful friar of goodly bearing asked his learned superiors for permission to add a word, and straightway, to the wonderment of the disputants, whose deep wisdom he sore vexed, he beseeched them to unbend in a manner coarse and unheard-of and to look in the open mouth of a horse and find answer to their questionings. At this, their dignity being grievously hurt, they waxed exceeding wroth; and, joining in a mighty uproar, they flew upon him and smote him, hip and thigh, and cast him out forthwith. For, said they, surely Satan hath tempted this bold neophyte to declare unholy and unheard-of ways of finding truth, contrary to all the teachings of the fathers. After many days more of grievous strife, the dove of peace sat on the assembly, and they as one man declaring the problem to be an everlasting mystery because of a grievous dearth of historical and theological evidence thereof, so ordered the same writ down". —Francis Bacon, 1592.

    Bacon is traditionally viewed as the chief proponent for a new science in its revolt against the predominantly rationalist religious and philosophical authorities of the time.

    Bacon was a radical empiricist who believed that nature could be understood only by studying it directly and objectively. Bacon believed that, in science, there should be no theories, hypotheses, mathematical laws or deductions from those theories, hypotheses or laws. Rather, he argued that science should only involve direct facts of observation. In this way, Bacon may be viewed as one of the earliest logical positivists.

    As with many great scientists, Bacon had a disdain for authority and a very critical nature. The quotation above shows us his positivistic, empirical and critical orientation.

    Now, let’s just look at the practical implications of this for a minute. We are really talking here about how much speculation should be allowed in science. Bacon said none and so would other logical positivists. All scientists have a view on this. We all have our own sense of the amount of speculation (i.e., hypothesizing and theorizing about the way things might be) is appropriate in science. Mostly, this sense comes from our supervisors, examiners and others that have directly influenced us as we have become trained and educated scientists. You might say we do what the scientific culture dictates that we should do. Some scientists however, spend a fair bit of time thinking independently about this issue. They form their own views and follow them as best they can. This type of scientist is relatively rare and usually has an interest in the philosophy of science.

    I’d like you to encourage you to develop your own view on this issue so to help you begin, let’s take a look at an example.

    Example: Implicit attitudes towards the environment

    Today, psychologists hypothesize that individuals not only have expressed or conscious attitudes towards things, they also have implicit or unconscious attitudes. Furthermore, we hypothesize that both expressed attitudes and implicit attitudes affect our behavior. Let’s say that I ask you how important it us for us all to protect the environment by using the least resources we possibly can to live. Imagine that you say that the environment is very important to you and that you are very concerned about environmental issues. This would be your expressed attitude towards the environment. Now, the psychologist may well hypothesize that this may not be your real attitude. Specifically, they may hypothesize that the environment is not that important to you and that you really are not particularly concerned about the environment. This would be your implicit attitude. Implicit attitudes are important because they are often used to account for behavior. For instance, if I observed you driving a Hummer 100 km to buy a new pair of shoes, this behavior would be inconsistent with your expressed attitude. What could possibly account for such a discrepancy? The implicit attitude! The behavior is consistent with your implicit attitude.

    Now, how do we identify this implicit attitude? Well, there are many ways but one common way might be to show you some words and ask you to say very quickly (so quickly you don’t have time to really think about it) whether or not the word is good or bad. Suppose I show you the word “Hummer” and ask you to say immediately whether this is good or bad. Imagine you say “good”. Since a Hummer is environmentally bad, this is an indicator that you actually have a negative implicit attitude towards the environment.

    But the implicit attitude is hypothetical, it has not been and could not be directly observed by anyone. All we observed was you saying the word “good” to the word “Hummer”. In fact, since the implicit attitude has never been observed by anyone, including you (recall you said you care a lot about the environment), one might say that it might not even exist.

    So, is this a good thing? Is it a good thing to include in science phenomena that we have never seen and perhaps could never see? This is what Bacon was talking about. He thought no. I’d like you to form your own view on this as the course progresses.

    Phenomenalism is a development from George Berkeley's claim that to be is to be perceived. According to phenomenalism, when you see a tree, you see a certain perception of a brown shape, when you touch it, you get a perception of pressure against your palm. On this view, one shouldn't think of objects as distinct substances, which interact with our senses so that we may perceive them; rather we should conclude that the perception itself is all that really exists.

    To the phenomenalist, we can not know even very basic things. For example, the phenominalist might say that you can not even know whether or not you have hands. All you can know, they might argue, is that you perceive the feeling, sight, etc., of your hands but not the hands themselves. So the phenomenalist is a deep skeptic about the existence of phenomena. It was against the phenomenalist's view that Descartes argued:

    "I think, therefore, I am"

    Descartes was trying to show that we can not be skeptical that we exist. Why? Because we think!

    Pragmatism about knowledge holds that what is important about knowledge is that it solves certain problems that are constrained both by the world and by human purposes. The place of knowledge in human activity is to resolve human problems. Pragmatists are also typically committed to the use of the experimental method in all forms of inquiry, a fallibilism about our current store of knowledge, and the importance of knowledge proving itself through future testing.

    One way to determine if an approach is pragmatist is simply to ask what the purpose of the approach is. If the purpose is to determine something about the ultimate nature of things (e.g., what is the nature of the mind, consciousness, intelligence, etc) then the approach is not pragmatic. If the purpose of the approach is to solve a problem (e.g., cure depression, place school children in a grade appropriate to their intellectual level, etc) then the approach is pragmatic.

    Relativism as advocated maintains that there is no objective truth: anything which a person can perceive is true for that person, but not necessarily true for the next person. We saw this view earlier when we looked at the Sophists.

    Interestingly, there is a modern incarnation of this view called deconstructionism or social constructivism. My own view (although I am no expert on this) is that deconstructionism is viewed as a rather enlightened view today. I think it’s interesting that a view we perceive to be enlightened today is actually one of the very first intellectual/epistemological views that existed in Western thought. My understanding of this is that we have come full circle in a sense.

    Now, relativism is an important view so I’d like you to think about its consequences. I’d like you to consider the influence of relativism on western society over the last 50 years. Think about your views about right and wrong and compare them to views a young person would have held 50 years ago.

    Let me ask you, is the generally more liberal trend of modern society with respect to sex, religion, morality, etc., related to relativism?

    Perhaps the emerging trend of relativism in western society today is causing moral standards to erode.

    So that's it for metaphysics and epistemology, please ask on the "Course Questions" discussion board if you have any questions about the lecture.

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