Seattle Analytic Philosophy Club Message Board › criticisms of government by democracy broken down somewhat

criticisms of government by democracy broken down somewhat

Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 309
http://www.3ammagazin...­

Just released interview with Brennan.
Victor M.
user 12752879
Seattle, WA
Post #: 144
Gene,

Perhaps I will try spelling out some ideas on what would make for better government some time, although that would be something squarely in political philosophy and not the interface between ethics and political philosophy which has mostly gotten my attention lately. My discussion above has largely been assuming a Kantian view of political philosophy. The problems with voting are different if one is consequentialist.

I may return to the question of the best form of government as a future topic in political philosophy. In fact, I would couch it as a challenge to Churchill's claim which I think too often is taken for granted.

In the meantime, in need to get busy with preparation for the next meetup which, after a brief survey of the ontological landscape, will focus on physicalism. Thanks for the reference to Polger's paper. I read it and found it interesting. I am reading an historical piece on physicalism by David Papineau at the moment.


Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 310
Gene,

Perhaps I will try spelling out some ideas on what would make for better government some time, although that would be something squarely in political philosophy and not the interface between ethics and political philosophy which has mostly gotten my attention lately. My discussion above has largely been assuming a Kantian view of political philosophy. The problems with voting are different if one is consequentialist.

I may return to the question of the best form of government as a future topic in political philosophy. In fact, I would couch it as a challenge to Churchill's claim which I think too often is taken for granted.

In the meantime, in need to get busy with preparation for the next meetup which, after a brief survey of the ontological landscape, will focus on physicalism. Thanks for the reference to Polger's paper. I read it and found it interesting. I am reading an historical piece on physicalism by David Papineau at the moment.



Victor,

The general point I was making was that one can only evaluate an option in comparison to its alternatives. I think the point Churchill was making is that it is of little relevance to point out the "problems" with an option when the other options are much worse. This is actually very relevant in many areas of philosophy. If you are arguing that current forms of democracy do not fully respect Kantian individual autonomy, another option should be articulated before even making the argument IMO. I think that many people would agree that whatever the faults of liberal democracy, in terms of respecting individual autonomy, it is the only game in town. As voting is part of liberal democracy, that would seem (to me) to address the issues you raise in the absence of a better alternative.

Similarly, I would argue that physicalism, at least in philosophy of mind, is the only game in town. The point being that whatever problems are purported for physicalism, there is no other rigorous option to work with if you are serious about understanding the mind. If one want to try to understand why some mental events are conscious, and some are unconscious, there are many physicalist theories. Whether they are correct is irrelevant, the point is that there is some attempt at a theory. The non-physicalists offer no detailed theories and deal at the level of very vague (IMO) generalities, so how could this even be considered a viable alternative? Similarly, if one wants to understand the philosophical implications of results in neuroscience, psychology and cognitive science, physicalist philosophers try to do this. The nonphysicalists don't even mention scientific evidence. So how could this be a real option?

Jon C.
JonCohen
Mercer Island, WA
Post #: 144
The non-physicalists offer no detailed theories and deal at the level of very vague (IMO) generalities, so how could this even be considered a viable alternative?

Do you say the same thing about dark energy and dark matter? Those are things we know exist only because they happen to interact with regular matter at very large scales. If it were not for our ability to make the measurements at very great distances we would have no idea that they are there, even though there is probably a very large amount of dark matter flowing through us all the time. Similarly for neutrinos, which carry a large part of the Sun's energy and yet we can barely measure them at all. A slight change in physical parameters and they would escape our knowledge altogether, leaving us likely to conclude only that momentum is not conserved in some nuclear reactions. How many other such forms of physical objects are there that we have no knowledge of? In the case of mental phenomenon, all we know is what we privately perceive, which by comparison to neutrinos and dark matter is quite a lot really.



Similarly, if one wants to understand the philosophical implications of results in neuroscience, psychology and cognitive science, physicalist philosophers try to do this. The nonphysicalists don't even mention scientific evidence. So how could this be a real option?

I have not heard a physicalist explain mental qualia, other than to attribute it to a lack of imagination. No, really, that's what they say.
Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 311
Jon,

I don't see how the dark matter/energy analogy relates to the issue as no one to my knowledge is suggesting that these are non-physical phenomena.

You suggest that physicalist theories have difficulty explaining "qualia". But why is that relevant to how these theories stand in relation to non-physicalist positions? My general point is that suggesting difficulties in a theory alone doesn't matter - from MY perspective - because I need an alternative, otherwise I have to do with what is available. So if there is a non-physicalist explanation of qualia that solves the "hard problem", I'd like to hear it. The point is how different positions COMPARE. Physicalists have many very specific theories about many aspects of the mind - are there any detailed non-physicalist theories which engage with empirical evidence and have any hope of being tested? So if we create a scorecard, I see many areas where there are decent physicalist theories, and some areas which we understand poorly - and the other side (non-physicalist) I don't see any detailed theories at all. If physicalists have detailed theories covering say 75% of the questions, and non-physicalists have detailed theories covering no questions, does pointing out the 25% somehow change the fact that the scorecard is 75% to 0%? So if I'm interested in detailed knowledge based upon empirical work instead of speculation, how could I not think physicalism is the only game in town?

The standard physicalist response, if one accepts that qualia are not easily explained, is to say that this is just an epistemological issue - related to the way our minds work. There is no direct argument from how our minds work to how the universe actually is. Therefore, the fact that we have difficulty understanding something says nothing about its ontological status. Now, at this point the non-physicalist arguments engage in talk of modality and possible worlds which isn't easy to understand and probably turns off most general audiences and makes me wonder why one needs to rely on possible worlds rather than actual evidence from our world. If there are aspects of the mind which are non-physical and not epiphenomenal, this should not be hard to demonstrate empirically - for example, clear demonstrations of psychic phenomena. Now the non-physicalist philosophers of mind are typically property dualists who say that consciousness is epiphenomenal so they can avoid the obvious problems of lack of empirical evidence and explaining interaction.

But this is probably the wrong thread for this, I was just making a point to Victor about the need to have better alternatives rather than just suggesting something is wrong with a position.

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