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The Santa Monica Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board › Vote for the topic for the Philosophy Meetup! (Sunday, Oct. 16 at 5 PM.)

Vote for the topic for the Philosophy Meetup! (Sunday, Oct. 16 at 5 PM.)

Group Organizer
Woodland Hills, CA
Hi Everyone!

The October 2011 Meetup (­ and ­http://philosophy-in-...­) is happening this coming Sunday, October 16, 5 PM - 8 PM (the 3rd Sunday of the month). We'll be at our usual venue in Santa Monica. Driving directions will arrive in an email a few days before the meeting. New participants from all backgrounds, points of view, political and religious belief (or non-belief) are most welcome.

If your plans to attend have changed, please update your RSVP! If you're not able to make it, please free up a space on the RSVP list for someone else.

After the meeting, feel free to join us for dinner and more conversation. Location TBA. FYI, here are the dates of future gatherings: November 13 (the 2nd Sunday, 5 pm), December 11 (the 2nd Sunday, 5 pm) and, very tentatively, January 8 (the 2nd Sunday, 5 pm).

As always, we're voting on the meeting's topic now. I've listed, in order of length, five philosophical questions or conundrums suggested by the group during previous meetings or by email. Please reply to this email (soon) with the name of the topic(s) that you would most like to talk about! (Anybody can send in a vote, even if you haven't been to previous meetings.) I'll send a reminder email, on Tuesday, letting you know which topic won the vote and what readings, audios or videos we have for it.

1) WHAT DO WE OWE TO THE DEAD? Do we have moral obligations to dead people? Do the dead have interests? Is a dead person harmed when his reputation is smeared, his memory or achievements are not honored, or when his legal will is not followed? Is a person harmed when, after death, his or her body is dug up, without prior permission, and the body parts used for scientific experiments or medical treatments? Such things are illegal in most or all states, but are they morally wrong, too? If so, why are they wrong?

2) PUNISHMENT: what is criminal punishment for and what justifies it? These are the two, basic questions. To expand on it a bit:

First, what purposes do you think punishment serves (and should serve) in society? Philosophers and other theorists have come up with a surprisingly long (and contested) list of the functions of punishment, which we will evaluate. Second, what good reasons do you think a government has in using force or threat to restrict the liberty of, take the property of, or otherwise do harm to a person who has committed a crime? Third, how do you think criminal punishment relates to the punishment of children by parents?

3) WISDOM AND ITS RELATION TO INTELLIGENCE: How are they different and what do they have in common? We'll come up with the best characterizations of wisdom and intelligence that we can, after starting the discussion with a few preliminary definitions of each of them. Questions to consider include the following. Is wisdom compatible with being neurotic? Is wisdom a certain kind of knowledge? Is there more to wisdom than knowing what the wise thing to do is?

Bring in a few of the wisest aphorisms and sayings you know of; they may help us uncover aspects of wisdom. (On the other hand, you may take the skeptical view that wise aphorisms are of little practical use; that they are either too vague or difficult to interpret, unless you're already a wise person, or that they contain wise advice that's nearly impossible to follow, unless you're already a wise person.)

4) SCIENCE AND PSEUDO-SCIENCE: WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE? What criteria distinguish one from the other? Is there a scientific method or core set of methods used by most or all full-fledged sciences but not by pseudo-sciences?

Though it's hard to pin down the exact criteria that separate the two, nearly all scientists and philosophers who study the issue agree on some cases. Astronomy and Evolutionary Biology are real sciences; astrology and creationism are pseudo-sciences. But, what about other fields that claim for themselves the status of science, such as cultural anthropology, psychoanalytic psychology, string-theory, or evolutionary psychology? Maybe some 'sciences' are pseudo-sciences with an undeservedly good reputation. And, maybe some 'pseudo-sciences' or 'pre-sciences' are unfairly maligned (yet legitimate) sciences. Do you have an example of a pseudo-science that you believe most people in our group would think of as a full-fledged science? Or, do you have an example of a full-fledged science that you believe most people would think of as a pseudo-science? If so, come prepared with arguments to defend your position!

5) TIME TRAVEL TO THE PAST: apart from whether this is physically or technologically possible, is it logically possible? Doesn't travel to the past allow for causal paradoxes? Apart from that, does it even make sense to talk about the past being changed? And, even if travel to an earlier point in time doesn't involve changing the past, doesn't that allow for other contradictions, such as "circular causation?" Then again, the history of physics repeatedly shows that (seeming) logical impossibility, contradiction and paradox isn't a barrier to how reality turns out to be. And, physicists and philosophers have put forth plausible models for how time travel might work -- we can examine several of these.

One causal puzzle to consider is the "grandfather paradox." You hop in your time machine and go back to a time before your parents were born and kill (intentionally or not) one of your grandparents, making it apparently impossible for you to have been born, and thus making it apparently impossible for you to have entered the time machine to go back to prevent your birth. Do paradoxes like this prove that time travel to the past is impossible?


Send in a vote for your favorite topic(s) now!

Also, if you have a philosophical question or topic you've been dying to talk about, email it to me. That's how we get the topics we vote on each month.

I hope to see you there!

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