PDF The Empirical Meaning of Life: A Psychological Answer to a Philosophical Question

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But given we've got as close as we're probably going to on ethics, let's turn to the difference between "how" and "why" questions. Again, I agree with a lot here. I am unpersuaded, for example, by the argument that there is never any conflict between religion and science because the latter deals with "how" questions and the former "why" ones.

Ten Life-Lessons from Philosophy & Psychology

The two cannot be so easily disentangled. If a Christian argues that God explains why there was a big bang, then that inevitably says something about God's role in how the universe came into being, too. But I would not go so far as to say that all "why" questions can only be properly understood as "how" ones. The clearest example here is of human action, for which adequate explanations can rarely do without "why" questions. We do things for reasons. Some very hard-nosed philosophers and scientists describe this as a convenient fiction, an illusion.

They claim the real explanation for human action lies at the level of "how", specifically, how brains receive information, process it and then produce action. But if we want to know why someone made a sacrifice for a person close to them, a purely neurological answer would not be a complete one. The full truth would require saying that there was a "why" at work, too: love. Love is indeed at root the product of the firings of neurons and release of hormones.

How the biochemical and psychological points of view fit together is clearly puzzling, and, as your aside on free will suggests, our naive assumptions about human freedom are almost certainly false. But we have no reason to think that one day science will make it unnecessary for us to ask "why" questions about human action to which things such as love will be the answer.

105 Philosophical Questions That Will Make You Think & Elicit Debate

Or is that romantic tosh? Is there no reason why you're bothering to have this conversation, that you are doing it simply because your brain works the way it does? LK Well, I am certainly enjoying the conversation, which is apparently "why" I am doing it. However, I know that my enjoyment derives from hard-wired processes that make it enjoyable for humans to tangle linguistically and philosophically. I guess I would have to turn your question around and ask why if you will excuse the "why" question! For that not to be the case, there would have to be something beyond the purely "physical" that governs our consciousness.

I guess I see nothing that suggests this is the case. Certainly, we already understand many aspects of sacrifice in terms of evolutionary biology. Sacrifice is, in many cases, good for survival of a group or kin. It makes evolutionary sense for some people, in this case to act altruistically, if propagation of genes is driving action in a basic sense. It is not a large leap of the imagination to expect that we will one day be able to break down those social actions, studied on a macro scale, to biological reactions at a micro scale. In a purely practical sense, this may be computationally too difficult to do in the near future, and maybe it will always be so, but everything I know about the universe makes me timid to use the word always.

What isn't ruled out by the laws of physics is, in some sense, inevitable. So, right now, I cannot imagine that I could computationally determine the motion of all the particles in the room in which I am breathing air, so that I have to take average quantities and do statistics in order to compute physical behaviour. But, one day, who knows? JB Who knows? Which is why philosophy needs to accept it may one day be made redundant.

But science also has to accept there may be limits to its reach. I don't think there is more stuff in the universe than the stuff of physical science. But I am sceptical that human behaviour could ever be explained by physics or biology alone. Although we are literally made of the same stuff as stars, that stuff has organised itself so complexly that things such as consciousness have emerged that cannot be fully understood only by examining the bedrock of bosons and fermions. At least, I think they can't.

I'm happy for physicists to have a go. But, until they succeed, I think they should refrain from making any claims that the only real questions are scientific questions and the rest is noise. If that were true, wouldn't this conversation just be noise too? LK We can end in essential agreement then.

Philosophy - Evolutionary Philosophy

I suspect many people think many of my conversations are just noise, but, in any case, we won't really know the answer to whether science can yield a complete picture of reality, good at all levels, unless we try. You and I agree fundamentally that physical reality is all there is, but we merely have different levels of optimism about how effectively and how completely we can understand it via the methods of science.

I continue to be surprised by the progress that is possible by continuing to ask questions of nature and let her answer through experiment. Stars are easier to understand than people, I expect, but that is what makes the enterprise so exciting. The mysteries are what make life worth living and I would be sad if the day comes when we can no longer find answerable questions that have yet to be answered, and puzzles that can be solved.

What surprises me is how we have become victims of our own success, at least in certain areas. When it comes to the universe as a whole, we may be frighteningly close to the limits of empirical inquiry as a guide to understanding. After that, we will have to rely on good ideas alone, and that is always much harder and less reliable.

When we learn a language we are able to understand and formulate all types of sentences that we have never heard before. This ability to deal with language is regarded by Chomsky as innate, something we have inherited genetically.

So the issue comes anew. But other questions have not met with the same success for such a long period of time. In summary, it can be said that defining philosophy as a set of questions and answers is not unique by any means. Other disciplines or studies could also be defined by the questions they seek to answer. If this definition is accepted as the only definition, one must set forth the particular kinds of questions that are restricted to philosophy.

Obviously the answers to the problem of pollution are not the kinds of questions one deals with in philosophy. But the relation of man's body to his mind is one of the kinds of questions that philosophers have regarded as their own.

Early philosophers attempted to describe the world in its simple make-up. Thales asserted that water, and Anaximenes asserted that air, were the important materials of the universe. Many other proposals have come from other philosophers. But the main issue concerns the nature of the universe. A world-view is the attempt to come to a total view of the universe as it relates to the make-up of matter, man, God, the right, the nature of politics, values, aesthetics, and any other element in the cosmos that is important.

In spite of this definition, James is not one of the better examples of a philosopher who carried on the development of a systematic world-view. If we accept this definition of philosophy, we are not committed to any pre-arranged conclusions. There are many world-views that are contrary to one another. Look at the following brief examples: l Lucretius, in his essay on nature, developed a world-view based on the atomic nature of all things.

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Even the souls of men and gods are composed of atoms. When atoms disintegrate, things, souls, and gods also disintegrate. Only atoms are permanent.