Human beings have a unique facility to reason , it stems from our self conscious ability to know that we exist. We are not like computers which simply manipulate information and are not self-aware. Philosophy involves thinking in abstract ideas (e.g not where I should go this afternoon but why am I here at all) This sort of thinking helps us to ask questions that concern our existence in relation to our place as individuals in an often puzzling world. First it allows us to work out whether the question is meaningful (and that we are justified in pursuing and answer), second, it helps us to work through the problem, obtain a conclusion and decide whether that conclusion is valid. Whether or not the conclusion is true will depend on the truth contained in the argument.
The method of philosophy as a way of thinking can be (and is) used in all fields of human enquiry: scientific, ethical, religious, political or any other matter of psychological importance to us as individuals or members of society. DOING PHILOSOPHY We do philosophy all the time because we are continually taking in information, thinking about it and coming up with conclusions. We often arrive at conclusions very different from other people, however, human difference is valuable and important – the world would be a very dull place if everyone thought x was good looking – but sometimes human difference is a result of different people tackling thinking in different ways. This may not be so important when working out whether or not someone is good looking but it may have serious consequences for the person accused of murder whose future is dependent on a jury.
The reason to philosophise need not be abstract. Primitive people were doing philosophy when they thought about the best ways of trapping animals for food. Should they dig a hole and cover it to make a trap, or should they make a net, chase the animal and Throw the net over it? If we like to eat wild duck what would our method of catching them be? Would the same reasoning apply to bears? How we come to conclusions about these questions involves us in thinking and involves us in philosophy.
Question Because I like digging holes in the ground and I like eating wild duck for my dinner, I conclude that if I dig holes in the ground I will be able to catch wild duck (and have a satisfying dinner). Does this make sense? If not why not? Explain carefully your reasons for holding this view.
Philosophy first started when human beings began to wonder why their world was like it was. They assumed that the earth was created by God but when they began to wonder about the nature of God himself (eg who is he or she? Where is God? Is God completely powerful? Is God good? Etc) they began to philosophise. This sort of thinking is called ‘metaphysics’ and is to do with thinking about what and why things ‘really are’. All philosophy in some way connects to this central metaphysical theme. What is the best approach to philosophy? We can approach philosophy by looking at its history (eg The ancient Greeks, Descartes etc) or we can study by topic (philosophy of science, philosophy of mind etc). Both have their merits. Whichever we choose, its important to have an understanding of what philosophers have thought about and we will be examining key works of the key philosophers. Philosophy is also about using our imagination to come up with new ideas and argue in their defence, or to challenge existing ideas by providing rational arguments against them. It is an activity. To argue effectively we need to be aware of what it is to reason. There is little (or nothing) to be gained by proclaiming we have a ‘philosophy’ about this or that without supporting our ideas by reason or if we have no declared reasons for holding a view to simply state ‘’that’s what I believe and that’s all there is to it’’.
<ul><li>Doing Philosophy - An exercise </li></ul><ul><li>For each of the following decide how you wish to respond to the question then work out: </li></ul><ul><li>Why you think this? </li></ul><ul><li>What reasons you have for thinking this? </li></ul><ul><li>Where these reasons came from? </li></ul><ul><li>Why you believe your reasons? </li></ul><ul><li>If you would change your view if someone could convince you otherwise? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you believe that war is wrong? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you believe that criminals should be punished for their crimes or helped to lead better lives? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you think that the earth is flat? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you think that everyone in the world should have the same amount of money? </li></ul><ul><li>Do you think homosexuality is natural and acceptable? </li></ul><ul><li>If forced to make a choice between the death of a baby or the death of 10 baby dolphins – what would you chose? </li></ul>
LOGIC In Star Trek when Spock is referred to as being ‘logical’ it is usually taken to mean that he is without emotion. Sherlock Holmes is considered similarly ‘cold’. Why is this? And what is being ‘logical’ anyway?
‘ The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything but his reason.’
Introduction – The master of deduction <ul><li>In one mystery concerning the theft of an expensive racehorse, a police officer asks Sherlock Holmes if any aspect of the crime strikes him as significant. ‘Yes’, he says ‘the curious incident of the dog in the night time’. The dog did nothing in the night time’ says the hapless police officer. ‘That was the curious incident’, replies Holmes. </li></ul><ul><li>How has Holmes deduced the solution to the crime? </li></ul>
Solution <ul><li>The solution to the crime hinges on the fact that the watchdog guarding the horse did not bark in the night, and from that Holmes deduces that the thief must have been known to the dog. We can lay out Holmes reasoning formally as follows: </li></ul><ul><li>Watchdogs bark at strangers. </li></ul><ul><li>The watchdog did not bark at the thief. </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore the thief was not a stranger. </li></ul>
Argument We argue in different ways: we quarrel, debate or persuade. In a philosophical sense argument is used to persuade others of your point of view. Although quarrels may not have rules, persuasion arguments do. There are 2 categories of argument: Deductive and Inductive. A deductive argument provides conclusive support for its conclusion as long as it is valid, an inductive argument provides probable support for its conclusion providing it supplies strong evidence.
1. Deductive argument is a method of ascertaining validity. A properly constructed deductive argument is valid so if all its premises are true then its conclusion must be true.
Aristotle (384-322BC) is credited with inventing deductive arguments as a means to drawing conclusions. By looking at his own example we can see the form deductive arguments take: If the question were asked ‘Is Socrates mortal?’ then the following deductive argument could be applied. All men are mortal (1 st premise) Socrates is a man (2 nd premise) Socrates is mortal (conclusion) The conclusion follows from the premise. A valid deductive argument will always lead to a valid conclusion but the truth of the conclusion relies on the truth of the premises.
<ul><li>Cartman gives us another example. </li></ul><ul><li>If the boys combine their lost teeth, </li></ul><ul><li>then they’ll get money from the </li></ul><ul><li>Tooth Fairy (premise 1) </li></ul><ul><li>If they get money from the Tooth </li></ul><ul><li>Fairy, then they can buy a PS3 (premise 2) </li></ul><ul><li>------------------------------------------- </li></ul><ul><li>Hence, if the boys combine their lost teeth </li></ul><ul><li>then they can buy a PS3 (conclusion) </li></ul>
2. Inductive argument is a method of ascertaining the degree of certainty the premises confer on the conclusion. A properly constructed inductive argument has strength in that if all the premises are true then the conclusion is probably true.
How sure are you that some day you will die? What evidence do you have for your belief? While deductive reasoning goes from the general to the particular, another kind of reasoning known as induction , goes in the opposite direction – from the particular to the general. With reference to the above example, my belief that all human beings are mortal is based on the observation that in history, every human being I know of has eventually died, and I have never heard of a human being who didn’t die. Therefore I can say with confidence that ‘all observed human beings have died’. Our inductive reasoning can therefore lead us to the conclusion that ‘all human beings are mortal’.
<ul><li>South Park offers another example: </li></ul><ul><li>Because in the past when we </li></ul><ul><li>mentioned towel related things, </li></ul><ul><li>Towelie has always showed up. </li></ul><ul><li>(premise 1) </li></ul><ul><li>And because we will mention </li></ul><ul><li>Something towel related now. </li></ul><ul><li>(premise 2) </li></ul><ul><li>------------------------------------------------- </li></ul><ul><li>We can conclude that Towelie will show </li></ul><ul><li>up. (conclusion) </li></ul>
Final Thoughts On a practical level as students of philosophy you will need to write essays that show evidence of sound rational conclusions drawn from the application of rigorously applied induced or deduced logic. This will give far greater weight and importance to your claims. On an even more serious note it is through fallacious reasoning or faulty reasoning that many people seem to make poor decisions. In South Park the case is put forward in the episode called Chef Aid where a prominent lawyer successfully applies the Chewbacca defence to prove a point to the jury and acquit the record company of being found guilty of copyright violations of Chefs original song.
This South Park portrayal of absurd reasoning is funny in the cartoon. However its not so funny when we see faulty reasoning at work in the real world. Consider the following conclusions drawn. All Jews are vermin Vermin needs to be destroyed All Jews need to be destroyed OR All terrorists are evil All terrorists are Muslim All Muslims are evil
OR All Americans are immoral Immorality is punishable by death I will sacrifice my life to bring death to Americans. Logic is the study of the principles of correct reasoning associated with the formation and analysis of arguments. A claim is shown to be true or false as a result of evidence, which can take the forms of either direct testimony of your senses, explanations, the testimony of others, appeal to well-established theories, appeal to appropriate authority, appeal to definitions and good arguments, among others.
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