[Topics: Empiricism, Pragmatism, Rationalism]
Epistemological Compromise:

On the Compatibility of Rationalism and Empiricism

 

René Descartes Sketch by M.R.P. - epistemology - empiricism - rationalism - pragmatism

Sketch by M.R.P.

This will be another post about two apparent philosophical opposites. And just like my considerations of moral realism and anti-realism; consequentialism and deontology; and free will and determinism, I will be arguing that there is to some degree a worthwhile common ground on which philosophers can safely tread. As you’ve probably noticed, the apparent opposition for this article is that between two topics in epistemology (the study of knowledge), which both confront the question of knowledge’s basis and origin: rationalism and empiricism.

Roughly speaking, rationalists hold that some or all of our knowledge is known independent of and prior to sense experience, whereas empiricists hold that some or all of our knowledge comes solely from sense experience. For a far-reaching and specific introduction to these topics in epistemology, see this encyclopedia entry; for my (hopefully somewhat pithier) thoughts on these topics, read on.

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[Topics: Empiricism, Pragmatism, Rationalism]
Epistemological Compromise:

On the Compatibility of Rationalism and Empiricism

was last modified: January 3rd, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Determinism, Foreknowledge, Free Will, Infallibility]
The Foreseeable Future:

The Implications of Demonstrable Infallible Foreknowledge with Respect to Free Will

 

David Hume Sketch by M.R.P. - infallible foreknowledge - free will - determinism

Sketch by M.R.P.

Introduction:

As promised at the end of my last post, this post explores a question which has plagued philosophers of metaphysics for millenia: can an action be demonstrably and infallibly foreknowable, and yet free? Although there are mountains of highly technical literature on this and related questions—with infinitely debatable minutiae (and this question’s own camps of more esoteric compatibilists and incompatibilists)—I will be providing a much less formal response to the question. For that reason, I will be trying to explain much of the typical philosophical jargon I use with common, everyday expressions. In the interest of this clarity, I would like to note that any use of the words ‘compatibilism’ and ‘incompatibilism’ below refer strictly to the sense in which they were used last week, concerning determinism and free will (rather than concerning infallible foreknowledge and free will).

By presenting my own account of an answer to this question in this way, I hope to accomplish two things. First, I have been told that my articles, which are intended for accessibility, have remained difficult for readers who are truly new to philosophy; I hope that the ideas seem more accessible in this format, and thus interested readers will be able to pursue the aforementioned mountains of literature at a later date. Second, I hope to help further clarify my perceptual model of free will sketched briefly in the prior post, and to come at my notion of the ‘inescapable practical illusion of free will’ from another angle.

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[Topics: Determinism, Foreknowledge, Free Will, Infallibility]
The Foreseeable Future:

The Implications of Demonstrable Infallible Foreknowledge with Respect to Free Will

was last modified: December 9th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Compatibilism, Determinism, Free Will, Philosophy of Language]
Free Will Twice Defined:

On the Linguistic Conflict of Compatibilism and Incompatibilism

 

“Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills” (Schopenhauer 531).

Attentive readers of last week’s post in this series will have noted that its discussion of meaning, while relevant to the meaningfulness of moral action, is more broadly applicable to all philosophical discussions of meaning. Using that article as a transitional moment, I will now move away from discussing moral action directly and, at least for a time, toward discussing human action more generally.

One of the most persistent debates across the history of philosophy, when it comes to human behavior and morality, is that of whether determinism or free will is true. But in order to get at that debate, I will instead today be confronting an intimately related debate of roughly equal age, that of whether determinism and free will are compatible or not. Many laypeople are casual incompatibilists, and would be quick to dismiss this latter debate as so much sophistry, feeling that determinism and free will are intractable opposites. But various different versions of compatibilism have had some strong defenders over the years, including Thomas Aquinas, David Hume, and the majority of professional philosophers in the world today. So what is compatibilism, and how does it respond to incompatibilism?

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[Topics: Compatibilism, Determinism, Free Will, Philosophy of Language]
Free Will Twice Defined:

On the Linguistic Conflict of Compatibilism and Incompatibilism

was last modified: April 1st, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Absurdity, Meaning, Morality]
When Mattering Matters:

Thomas Nagel, Final Outcomes, and Considering Actions on Different Scales

 

Where is one left, after four weeks of discussing morality, if the conclusions reached are primarily that humans would do well to approach situations of moral choice with earnest, humble attention to nuance and detail? Well, some of the background assumptions which have led to this formulation are somewhat grander, such as that the apparent objectivity of some basic moral strictures may be an expected piece of a socially evolved mind, or that the justifications for trusting most proposed sources of moral knowledge are on equally dubious footing.

So, if by some chance you are willing to grant that I might be on the right track with both the grand propositions and the simple conclusions, then you might think that we are actually left in a somewhat sorry state, as moral actions then lack the special significance for which they are often revered. In responding to that charge, one can refer to some remarks of Thomas Nagel on the experience of absurdity, and on when mattering matters.

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[Topics: Absurdity, Meaning, Morality]
When Mattering Matters:

Thomas Nagel, Final Outcomes, and Considering Actions on Different Scales

was last modified: April 1st, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Decision-making, Logic, Metaethics]
Moral Decision-making, and Navigating Philosophy:

How Both Consequentialists and Deontologists Actually Make Choices

 

David Hume Engraving 1754 - consequentalist - deontologist - decision-makingThis is a post about moral decision-making, but it is not a post that engages at length with the particular theories involved. As the title is meant to imply, this article discusses a more general point about how any given philosopher uses philosophy to inform both the ises and the oughts of their perceptions and practices.

In the first post in this series, I argued that moral anti-realism may be true and yet have a functionally objective morality nested within it (as a feature of our evolved minds). Across the past few thousand years, compatibilists have argued that determinism may be true and yet have free will nested within it (as a feature of our freedom to act in accordance with our determined motivations). And, as I will treat briefly below, there is a general strategy available here of reconciling two halves of a dichotomous debate by attempting to understand what aspects of each side are really supported by the relevant evidence for each side. In particular, consequentialists and deontologists might make a more compelling case if they ceased to see their views as mutually exclusive.

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[Topics: Decision-making, Logic, Metaethics]
Moral Decision-making, and Navigating Philosophy:

How Both Consequentialists and Deontologists Actually Make Choices

was last modified: January 2nd, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski