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The Santa Monica Philosophy Meetup Group Message Board › Vote for the topic for the Philosophy Meetup! (Sunday, Aug 14 at 5 PM.)

Vote for the topic for the Philosophy Meetup! (Sunday, Aug 14 at 5 PM.)

Group Organizer
Woodland Hills, CA
Hi Everyone!

The August 2011 Meetup (­ and ­http://philosophy-in-...­) is happening next Sunday, August 14, 5:30 PM - 8 PM (the 2nd Sunday of the month; note the later starting time of 5:30 PM, not the usual 5:00 PM, since the room is occupied right up to the start of our gathering). 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. Here are the dates of the next three gatherings: September 11 (the 2nd Sunday, 5 pm), October 16 (the 3rd Sunday, 5 pm) and, tentatively, November 13 (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, probably on Tuesday, letting you know which topic won the vote and what readings, audios or videos we have for it.

1) ASSASSINATING MILITARY, POLITICAL OR CRIMINAL FIGURES: is it morally justified? We can discuss the issue both as an abstract question and by way of the example of the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Was it the ethically right thing to do, or would attempting to capture him have been a better option?

2) THE CONCEPT OF HISTORY: can history be a science, or do irresolvable matters of interpretation and other barriers make it something more akin to literary criticism? Is our view of distant human events so colored by our present experiences and beliefs that we can't form a clear picture of it? Can we know how people in the past experienced their lives? Can history, at its best, be a more-or-less accurate record of what happened and why? What forces drive the course of human history? Does history as a whole have a meaning, structure, or a direction, beyond the individual events and actions that make it up (or is history "just one damn thing after another")?

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) 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.

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?

5) POWER: is it a good or bad thing, overall? And, is the desire for power a sign of health and/or good character, a sign of pathology and/or bad character, or neither? For our purposes, we can define Power, of any sort, whether it directly involves other people or not, as "the ability to do, accomplish, influence or control." Whatever your views on Power are, it's a morally and politically loaded word, an object of fascination for most people, and most hesitate to admit (publicly or to themselves) that they want it as much as they do.

One (but not the only) way to look at the matter is to consider these four competing views. First, power is a "necessary evil," an inherently bad, negative and/or dangerous thing, though if often can and must be used for good purposes. Second, power is inherently a good and healthy thing, though it can sometimes be used in an unhealthy or immoral way. Third, power is neither good nor bad in itself, but becomes good or bad by virtue of how it's used. Fourth, some kinds of power are ethically and psychologically virtuous, others ethically and psychologically suspect. As an example of the latter, one may hold that power or control over others is necessarily a bad or dangerous state of affairs, while power or control over oneself is necessarily a good or healthy one.

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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