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Note: This page dates from 2005, and is kept for historical purposes.

PHIL1000 Journal Entries

(One entry per week, one mark per entry)

Week 3

1. Can you know whether you are dreaming?

No. You could, for all you know, be dreaming that you are not dreaming, and as no one can prove that you cannot dream this, then you can not say for certain that you are not dreaming.

2. Do you think the cogito shows the existence of mind is more certain [than] the existence of body?

“Mind” is not a good word to use here – the Cogito shows that individual existence, or perhaps a better way to put it, individual awareness (as opposed to non-existence or non-awareness) is more certain than the existence of a body, or indeed, of a mind. However, to answer the question directly – yes, the Cogito shows that the existence of mind is more certain than the existence of body.

Week 4

Do you think Ayer establishes objects of perception are sense data rather than material objects? Does this argument lead to external world scepticism?

I think Ayer clearly establishes that our understanding of material objects is based on our perception of them, and perception is necessarily based on our senses. This naturally leads to external world scepticism, as one is forced to admit that, if our senses are the basis for our understanding of reality, then reality itself is somehow intertwined with our own perception of it. I don’t think it makes sense to question too closely our sensual perceptions – whether a material object is or isn’t a material object is hardly relevant when our perception of it shows it to our understanding as a material object. It is then, to all intents and purposes, a material object as far as our interaction with it is concerned.

For what it’s worth, from a deeper level, perhaps a metaphysical level, I disagree with my own answer – but that wasn’t what the question was, so...

Week 5

1. Has anyone in the class seen a miracle, or know someone who has?
2. Granting that it did happen, was it really a miracle?
3. If it is a miracle, should the rest of us believe the claim?

To answer all three questions at once, I must proclaim to disbelieve in any miracle – not because I don’t believe in the occurrence of rare, unlikely, or unexplained events, but that I don’t believe these same are miracles. A miracle is, by means of its own definition, an impossible event – an event so implausible that there is not only no currently known explanation, but there never can be a plausible explanation; an event which can only occur by breaking some infallible bound of logic or common sense, is a miracle. A logical examination of the above meaning brings us to the only possibly conclusion – a miracle can never happen, and never has.

I believe in the occurrence of highly unusual and currently unexplainable events, which seem to contravene what we naively consider to be unbreakable logical laws or rules under which we exist. To most, these are known as miracles. To me, these are merely unexplained events. As an analogy, it would have required a miracle for a large, heavy metallic object to contravene the laws of gravity by flying – up until the recent discovery of heavier than air powered flight. It is my opinion that all known miracles are nothing more than currently inexplicable events.

In light of the above, I have no problem believing in highly unlikely or unusual events, given enough evidence – although I can’t claim to personally know anyone in the class who has had such an experience.

My apologies for the overly long answer.

Week 6

Are you the same person that you were ten years ago?

Taking “same person” to be the opposite to a different person, that is, a person other than who I am now, then it follows that I am the same person now as in the past, or indeed the future; ten years ago I was not a different person to that which I was then, and now I am still not a different person to that which I am now.

Week 7:

Who provides the more convincing argument for dualism: Descartes or Jackson?

Descartes argument is far more convincing (as an argument for dualism at least) than Jackson’s, although still flawed. Jackson’s argument, while it may refute the physicalistic view that the only knowledge possible is simple physical knowledge (and even then I do not agree that he manages to do this) fails to provide any compelling argument for dualism at all. Descartes at least provides a compelling argument for the existence of a non-physical mind, even though he bases his arguments on unproven assumptions that he feels are somehow proven through the use of peculiar logical reason.

Week 8:

What does Ryle think is wrong with Descartes’ Dualism?

Ryle argues that Descartes’ Dualism is fundamentally flawed because he has taken the mind and body to be comparable, whereas they are, in fact, incomparable – or so Ryle argues. He attempts to draw parallels between all sorts of incompatible everyday events, someone looking for the university but finding only a collection of buildings, for example, and mistakenly assuming that the university is comparable to a building – that the university is, in fact, just another building similar to the others, when it is actually something entirely else.

Week 9

Which do you think is the strongest reply to Searle’s Chinese Room Thought Experiment?

The Brain Simulator Reply (3, Berkeley and MIT). While I don’t agree with it, being essentially able to replicate a brain, or in fact, the whole Chinese room thought experiment, could allow the replication to have the same level of intelligence as that which it replicates – so it is at least a feasible reply.

Week 10

1. Do you think humans have any freewill?
2. If fatalism is true does it follow we are not free?

Yes, I think that humans do have freewill, and I think that this is obvious, and a logical conclusion based upon all the evidence available. If fatalism is true, it does now automatically follow that we are not free – although it would tend to indicate certain limitations on our freedom. Nevertheless, a limited freedom is not necessarily a lack of freedom, and it is not, on the face of it, impossible to suppose that there could be certain events which, regardless of the action taken by a free agent, would occur; thus, it is possible to suppose that we can be free, even though our freedom will not prevent certain events from occurring.

Week 11

1. What can we know about the existence of God just ‘from the armchair’?

We can easily see that it is impossible to prove that God does not exist. We can infer that there is, perhaps even must be, an entity greater than any other, and that this entity is, by definition, God. We can postulate that, for any change to occur, for any creation to be created – in fact, for anything at all, there has to be some root cause which itself has no root cause, and that this root cause is, by definition, God. From this, we can infer that God does indeed exist – although why or how we cannot conceive.

Week 12

Does the existence of of natural evil (such as tsunamis and earthquakes) prove anything about the existence of God?

“Prove”—yes and no. A subset of something proves that its superset exists; however, any differences between elements of the subset do not prove anything else about the existence of the superset. God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and there is no thing that is not God; therefore, everything is a subset of God, and the existence of anything specific does nothing to prove anything other than that which the existence of anything at all proves, namely, existence itself, and thereby, God.