Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012




Wittgenstein Language and PhilosophyClip #:INT_LUMEL_003_005Run Time:00:03:20
Philosopher John Searle discusses Ludwig Wittgenstein and his ideas about language. Professor Searle notes that Wittgenstein believed many of the most pressing problems in philosophy really come down to confusion arising out of misunderstanding the operation of language.

Pragmatism Language and RealityClip #:INT_LUMEL_257_001Run Time:00:03:10
Philosopher Richard Rorty explores the link between language and reality, suggesting that no one language is any closer to reality than any other. Whether it's the language of poetry, the language of physics, the language of theology or any other language, the optimum choice is whichever language best serves the particular purpose at hand.

History of Scientific Ideas TheClip #:INT_LUMEL_191_002Run Time:00:03:07
Philosopher Stephen Toulmin talks about the ways in which terminology and meaning change over time in the sciences. He gives the example of Leibniz insisting that "…the processes of the physical world should be mechanical." Professor Toulmin contends that, "...if you confronted Leibniz with his definition of what a machine is with a computer...his response would be, 'that's not what I call a machine'."

TruthClip #:INT_LUMEL_175_001Run Time:00:05:02
Philosopher W.V. Quine talks about truth, pointing out paradoxes that often crop up in such discussions. As an example, he cites the contradiction inherent in the sentence, "This sentence is false."

How A Child Learns Language (Part One)Clip #:INT_LUMEL_176_002Run Time:00:04:53

Philosopher W.V. Quine talks about how children learn language. He equates learning with conditioning, which is based on the instinct of induction--that is, the instinct to expect similar events to be followed by events which are in turn similar to each other. Professor Quine states that all learning is based on conditioning. Thus, all learning is based on induction.

Reason the Source of KnowledgeClip #:INT_EL_12K_001Run Time:00:03:39
Seventeenth century rationalists like Descartes and Leibniz believe that knowledge comes from reason alone. It is not necessary to see examples in the physical world;truth can be grasped entirely in the mind. This is a period in which science is making major breakthroughs. In fact, to some, the great intellectual invention of the 17th century is the development of theories, a set of abstract ideas that can be applied to everyday situations. Now scientists like Galileo have the key to explaining everything through reason.

Wittgenstein and Meaningful LanguageClip #:INT_LUMEL_154_002Run Time:00:08:47
Philosopher Stephen Toulmin continues his exploration of language and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Professor Toulmin explains that Wittgenstein worked throughout his career to understand, "...how it is possible at all that there should be such a thing as a meaningful language." In order to do so, Wittgenstein looked at the limits of language. He wanted to understand the difference between, "…the zone of language which is meaningful, as opposed to just being nonsense or mere exclamation and noise."

Unconceptualized RealityClip #:INT_LUMEL_158_004Run Time:00:02:54
Professor of Philosophy Hilary Putnam explains his belief that the world we can think about and talk about is a world that is conceptualizable by us.

Reductive Theories of the SelfClip #:INT_LUMEL_201_001Run Time:00:03:40
Philosopher Charles Taylor discusses his ideas about what he calls "reductive theories of human beings." Professor Taylor explains that, by reductive, he means simplifying explanations and ideas that normally require "rich language" and substituting forms of language that are stripped of complexity. He adds that two examples of reductive theories are behaviorism and what he terms "the computer model."

Language and the MindClip #:INT_LUMIO_242_005Run Time:00:02:38
Linguist, author and university professor Noam Chomsky explains that the word "mind" is an abstraction which is really just another way to talk about the brain. Dr. Chomsky then discusses the connection between language and the mind. "If my foot is amputated," he says, "I think the same way. If my head is amputated, I don't, and so, plainly, (language is) in the brain."
Featured Experts
Chomsky, Noam, Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Language and ReligionClip #:INT_LUMEL_003_006Run Time:00:04:02
Philosopher John Searle talks about what he calls "the language game," and how it's used today with regard to religion and God. Professor Searle says that many people go through the motions with religion, using language to express true belief when, in fact, they aren't really serious about their religious convictions.

Anti-realists' ThesisClip #:INT_EL_06K_006Run Time:00:04:17
Anti-realists contend that we shape the external world into the reality we know through our conceptual systems, language, and thought processes. Things are as we name them, parts and wholes as we define them. This applies to all reality in the universe.

Artificial Intelligence and the MindClip #:INT_LUMEL_157_003Run Time:00:01:10
Philosopher Hilary Putnam talks about artificial intelligence, stating that the only things it has taught us about cognition is pattern recognition. He contends that it has taught us nothing about induction, natural language use or reasoning.

Role of Language TheClip #:INT_LUMEL_158_005Run Time:00:03:13
Philosopher Hilary Putnam explains his statement that "…the belief that language describes something outside of ourselves plays an essential role in our human lives." In so doing, Professor Putnam readily acknowledges that he's learned a good deal from what he calls American pragmatism.

HermeneuticsClip #:INT_EL_17KRun Time:00:28:18
The branch of philosophy that deals with interpretation is called hermeneutics, a field that today is applied to many parts of life. Not too long ago its primary focus was on language and methods that assist us in getting at the meaning of texts. In the Middle Ages Wittenburg minister Martin Luther challenged the Church's sole authority to interpret Biblical allegories, saying that anyone with a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek could interpret the Bible for himself, and that the interpretation should be literal not allegorical. The video also explores the work of Wilhelm Dilthey who broadened the focus of hermeneutics to fields like art and history; Hans-Georg Gadamer whose focus was hermeneutics and subjectivity; Hegel and early Wittengenstein and their individual work with ideal languages, and Wittgenstein's later focus on language games.

How Language Makes Human Life DistinctiveClip #:INT_EL_02K_008Run Time:00:02:08
If human nature is not different from the rest of the nature, then why is human existence so different? Language. Language allows humans to organize efforts that require social cooperation, book writting, and the passage of history from generation to generation. Our brains provide the tools for thinking. The fact that different cultures develop different ideas about human nature was first recognized by the 17th century French philosopher Blaise Pascal. This is the beginning of the existentialist view.

Language and the Limits of ReasonClip #:INT_LUMEL_154_001Run Time:00:01:58
Philosopher Stephen Toulmin notes that Immanuel Kant first dealt with the problem of the intrinsic limits of human reason and how we can deceive ourselves if we don't pay proper attention to them. By the time that question reached Ludwig Wittgenstein, Professor Toulmin states, it had come in the shape of, "...what the intrinsic limits are of language, and how we deceive ourselves if we don't understand that language is not omnipotent...that its relevance to the world has limits."

Language Truth and HappinessClip #:INT_LUMEL_257_003Run Time:00:01:06
Philosopher Richard Rorty explains his belief that the quest for happiness is more fundamental than the quest for truth. In his view, people developed language in order to achieve kinds of happiness they hadn't achieved previously. Professor Rorty also states that there is not one quest for truth and another for happiness. In fact, he believes that "...looking for truth is looking for beliefs which will help you get what you want and thus help you be happy."

Mind and the World The (Part Two)Clip #:INT_LUMEL_153_003Run Time:00:05:07
Philosopher Stephen Toulmin continues his exploration of the relationship between the mind and the world. He contends that while eighty percent of the way we see the world is based on the way the world present itself to us, the other twenty percent is "....the product of the...language we bring to the description of the world."

W.V.O. Quine and Contemporary EmpiricismClip #:INT_EL_13K_007Run Time:00:06:23
W.V.O. Quine, one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century, is a naturalist and an empiricist. Quine views science as a vast web of interconnected beliefs which is related to the sensory experience only "along the periphery." Vital connections between theory and evidence are made through what he calls "observation sentences." Interestingly, Quine believes that young children also learn language by using observation sentences, disagreeing with those who believe the basic structures of language are innate to human understanding. For Quine, the innate capacity involved is not innate ideas, but an instinct for induction.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Religion Part 1: Individualism In (and Out) of Religion

Following excerpted from entry in PhilosoWeek Blog, author Tom E. Wales:

Are you an individual, with his or her own freedom of choice? Or rather, are you a being created solely to follow a path set for you, by a higher power?

Even if there were a higher power (following, "HP"), what incentive would you have to follow [its] "laws"? It could punish you. But then, if you are not participating in this "game," can you really be punished? Or would the punishment be a life of frustration and failure to achieve goals? That is, "Hell" not a punishment, but rather, the simple cause and effect outcome of not following the teachings of [HP]?

If the latter is the case, then can one simply replace religious teaching with philosophical insight? Does a system of right and wrong depend on a higher power?

God and Individuality (Debt to the Creator(s))
God and Good and Evil (Why is evil allowed, then? Or perhaps, it is the result of human free will, that there is evil. But then, why make us in the first place? Are we for amusement, the playthings of invisible overlords? Zeus!)
God and Free Will (If God is omnipotent... Does [God] already know what I will do?)
Does the Existence of a Higher Power, Matter? (Live and let live! Whatever gets you through the day, ol' top! But uh oh... religion and public policy. Furthermore... Is is it like the global warming debate? All the fuss, but we know for sure about pollution! Metaphor, is the religion interchangeable, as long as we develop a right/wrong system?)
God and Forgiveness (So I can be as bad as I want, and just repent later? A fine last resort...)

Our videos:

Belief in God…a Panacea or Moral Obligation? Run Time:00:02:22 mins

Many turn to religion seeking answers and reassurance, feeding into the criticism that belief in a deity is nothing more than a human concoction that offers solace from reality. Although 17th century philosopher Immanuel Kant rejects metaphysical arguments for God's existence as mere concepts of the mind, he maintains that we have a moral obligation to seek a world where good prospers and evil does not, the kind of world that is achievable only if God exists.

Extrovertive and Introvertive Mystical ExperiencesClip #:INT_EL_11K_003Run Time:00:03:52

The highest form of mystical experience seems to be one in which there is a sense of flowing together and becoming one with God. In an extrovertive mystical experience the world around us is transfigured and transformed. But in an introvertive experience, the person detaches himself from the ordinary state of consciousness and finds the divine from within. Brain scans of people who claim to be in this state are significantly different from someone asleep or unconscious.

Fatalism (Part One)Clip #:INT_LUMEL_190_003Run Time:00:01:54

Philosopher Stephen Toulmin traces the evolution of the concept of fatalism. In the modern world, Professor Toulmin explains, the term is often used to express the feeling that people don't have control over what they do or what happens to them. In antiquity, as well as during the Middle Ages, this idea was based on the notion of pre-destination, and "...God's foreknowledge of everything we were going to do."

Judao-Christian Tradition: Free Will TheClip #:INT_EL_02K_004Run Time:00:02:24

In the story of the Fall God punishes Adam and Eve for eating from the Tree of Knowledge. Those marks of punishment became known as original sin and are closely tied to another aspect of human nature, free will. In the Christian tradition spirit may war with flesh to control free will. St. Augustine illustrates the difficulty of this struggle with a story from his youth.

Religious Conviction of RationalistsClip #:INT_EL_12K_003Run Time:00:01:55

Major rationalists share a profound religious conviction. They believe that God created the universe with an underlying order that can be grasped through the power of reason. Both Descartes and Leibniz take the view that the human mind is made in the image of God.
Featured Experts
Jolley, Nicholas, Ph.D. University of California, San Diego
Toulmin, Stephen, Ph.D. University of Southern California

St. Thomas Aquinas and Human NatureClip #:INT_EL_02K_005Run Time:00:01:42

Unlike Plato, Aristotle's writings were not translated into Latin and read by Christians until the 13th century. One of the first to pick up his ideas was St. Thomas Aquinas who agreed that human nature is defined by a special purpose or goal. What Aquinas also argued was that this goal was put there by God. According to Aquinas the ultimate purpose of humans is to know God.

The Good Life Run Time:00:01:45

Philosopher Martha Nussbaum is critical of those who contend that life only has meaning if there's some external source of value. Professor Nussbaum favors an approach that focuses on what she calls "everyday questions, like how should one live, what should one be aiming for, and what's a good human life."

Existentialism and Human NatureClip #:INT_EL_02K_009Run Time:00:03:19

The 20th century existentialist Jean-Paul Satre asserts that man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. There is no human nature because there is no God to have a conception of it. The bond among humans is the universality of condition, "all the limitations which a priori define man's fundamental situation in the universe." In some ways Sartre's position is not that different from Aristotle's. You start with the conditions you're given, you take a stand on life, and you determine much of your own nature.

Idealist's View of Reality Run Time:00:03:06

Writing somewhat later in the Scientific Revolution, Bish George Berkeley sought to crush the threat that materialism posed to religion by arguing that reality is made up entirely of ideas. Since we know about the world only through the ideas or sensations that our senses send to our minds, what people think of as things are really collections of ideas that exist only in the mind of God.

Nietzsche and the Death of God Run Time:00:11:52

Philosopher Hubert Dreyfus talks about Friedrich Nietzsche's views on God, then flashes back to the time of Plato, before moving forward again and exploring the question: what happens to a culture which is organized around the notion of God as a single Creator and source of all, when that idea of God is believed in by fewer and fewer people?

Problem of Evil and God's Existence TheClip #:INT_EL_10K_006Run Time:00:06:02

A question that haunts many people is how can evil exist in a world where an all-perfect, all-powerful Being also resides? Seven eminent scholars share a thoughtful range of responses to this question, from it is "blasphemous to suppose that we can think of a morally-sufficient reason why God would permit them" to "human responsibility...probably goes further than you think." Nicholas Wolterstorff talks about the death of his 25-year-old son in an Austrian skiing accident. As he observes "I live with the question without the answer."

St. Anselm's Ontological Proof of God's ExistenceClip #:INT_EL_10K_001Run Time:00:02:49

Why does the world exist? Why do we exist? Does God exist? Timeless questions. In the Middle Ages, Saint Anselm argues that the existence of God can be deduced from the fact that God is the most perfect conceivable being. His ontological proof as it is called, has little if any contemporary support.

William Paley and the Design ProofClip #:INT_EL_10K_004Run Time:00:02:27

The teleological or design argument proposes that the intricate order of the cosmos shows that a God designed it with a purpose in mind. William Paley uses the analogy of a watch to argue that a highly ordered and purposeful world of nature could not exist without a designer.

Philosophical Theology Run Time:00:03:18

Philosopher Stephen Toulmin discusses the philosophical theology views of Thomas Aquinas, Gottfried Leibniz, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Professor Toulmin relates an amusing comment from Wittgenstein, who once said when someone asked him if he believed in God, "All I can say is, sometimes I say to someone, 'God bless you,' and mean it."

Rationalism Run Time:00:05:16

Philosopher Stephen Toulmin talks about rationalism, concluding that there have always been two driving forces behind it. On one hand, Professor Toulmin says, it comes from the desire to make theories as elegant as possible, which leads people to make theories essentially mathematical in form. But there is also the desire to show how physical nature and human nature work, which Professor Toulmin says often has a more religious basis which seeks to explain why God chose to make the world one way as opposed to another.

Can We Know God Through Experience? Run Time:00:28:18 mins

Considers whether mystical and other experiences are indications of the existence of a Divine Being, and what kind of evidence is necessary for religious belief.

Language and Religion Run Time:00:04:02

Philosopher John Searle talks about what he calls "the language game," and how it's used today with regard to religion and God. Professor Searle says that many people go through the motions with religion, using language to express true belief when, in fact, they aren't really serious about their religious convictions.

Does God Exist? Run Time:00:28:19

Examines Arguments philosophers have used to try to prove that God does or does not exist. How did the world begin? Is there a reason for its order and design? And, can we reconcile the existence of God with the existence of evil?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Democrat vs. Republican Philosophies and Ideologies


[With various excerpts from various Wikipedia entries.]

In recent decades, the party has adopted a centrist economic and socially progressive agenda, with the voter base having shifted considerably. Today, Democrats advocate more social freedoms, affirmative action, balanced budget, and a free enterprise system tempered by government intervention (mixed economy). The economic policy adopted by the modern Democratic Party, including the former Clinton administration, has been referred to as the "Third Way".[18] The party believes that government should play a role in alleviating poverty and social injustice and use a system of progressive taxation.

Social liberals (modern liberals) and progressives constitute roughly half of the Democratic voter base.

Liberal Opinions:


The Republican Party includes fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, neoconservatives, moderates, and libertarians. Prior to the formation of the conservative coalition, which helped realign the Democratic and Republican party ideologies in the mid-1960s, the party historically advocated classical liberalism, paleoconservatism, and progressivism.

Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP (Grand Old Party). The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S. political spectrum.[1][2][3] American conservatism of the Republican Party is not wholly based upon rejection of the political ideology of liberalism, as many principles of American conservatism are based upon classical liberalism.[4] Rather the Republican Party's conservatism is largely based upon its support of classical liberal principles against the modern liberalism of the Democratic Party that is considered American liberalism in contemporary American political discourse.[5]

Related Videos:

Evolution of the Democrat and Republican [Run Time:00:04:50]

Republicans and Democrats of today bear little resemblance to their predecessors. From the time of Lincoln until the 1930s, Republicans were the great reformers who believe in active government whereas Democrats with their base support in the South tried to limit the federal reach. This all changed in the Depression with the election of Franklin Roosevelt, his building of a new Democratic coalition, and the Republican party's swing toward localism. This new alignment stayed fairly stable until the 1960s when the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, and a rise of social issues shifted the playing field. The Republican party has moved further right; Democrat activists further left.

Great Society Increases Size of the Federal Government

The Great Society initiatives of Lyndon Johnson's administration tripled the number of federal programs and further tilted the balance of power toward the federal government. Politicians from the South and from conservative Republican areas were concerned about this new growth of the national government as well as the complexities of the system. (00:01:29)

Ideological Differences Between Republicans and Democrats [Run Time:00:03:59]

There are distinct ideological differences between Republicans and Democrats. In recent years the Republicans have become more coherent in their conservatism, whereas Democrats debate about whether or not the party should be more moderate. Democrats tend to favor an activist approach, solving problems people cannot deal with themselves. The Republican party has gone from a business orientation in the days of Robert Taft to military conservatism during the Cold War to social conservatism with the rise of the religious right, all trends that tend to rise and fade.

Party Activists More Extreme than Majority of Party Members [Run Time:00:01:39]

People who are activists in both the Republican and Democratic parties are more extreme than the American public in general. Republican leaders are more conservative; Democrats more liberal. As a result there has been a general decline in public support for either party. A larger segment of today's population does not feel at home in either party.

Presidency The: Challenges of Governing [Run Time:00:02:56]

Presidential advisor, political analyst and university professor David Gergen talks about some of the factors that have changed the fabric of political institutions in America and made governing more difficult than ever before. These factors include the erosion of public confidence following Watergate and the war in Vietnam, the increasing cynicism and aggressive reporting of the media (operating on a 24/7 basis), and the lack of cohesion within the Democratic and Republican parties.

Moral Pluralism [Run Time:00:09:42]

Philosopher Michael Sandel argues that the fact that we live in a morally pluralistic society shouldn't deter us from seeking to create a political system based on the common good--even if there is widespread disagreement about what constitutes the common good.

Republicanism: Aristotle and HegelClip [Run Time:00:05:50]

Philosopher Michael Sandel talks about the sources of contemporary Republican theory. He briefly discusses Aristotle, who emphasized the importance for a full human life of sharing in self-rule. Professor Sandel also discusses Hegel, who contributed the notion that freedom requires the development of certain virtue and orientation to the common good.

What Justifies the Power of the State? [Run Time:00:07:09] [--.]

Philosopher Michael Sandel discusses two approaches to liberalism, what he terms libertarian liberalism and egalitarian liberalism. He also talks about his own reluctance to be labeled as a communitarian, because he feels the term is often used synonymously with majoritarianism, which is an approach to justice and rights that he feels gives too much weight to whatever values happen to prevail in a given community at a given time.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Baudrillard's Simulation and Simulacrum

Simulacra and Simulation is most known for its discussion of symbols, signs, and how they relate to [our modern-day lives]. Baudrillard claims that our current society has replaced all reality and meaning with symbols and signs, and that human experience is...a simulation of reality. Moreover, these simulacra [that is, the aforementioned symbols and signs] are not merely mediations of reality, nor even deceptive mediations of reality; they are not based in a reality[.] [Furthermore, they do not] hide a reality, they simply hide that anything like reality is irrelevant to our current understanding of our lives [because the symbols and signs (simulacra) have compounded and built upon each other, creating a perspective that is vastly different than the starting point.]


Check out this brief YouTube playlist: