Central Washington University Death Makes Life Meaningful Essay Between 1000-1500 words, using high school senior tone. It is a philosophy class. I will give the Powerpoint that include the questions’ topics. You can check the keywords in Powerpoint after you select the topic. ?? Do not forget the Works Cited page. You can use online resources.??
Please select one question from the list below, and make sure to clearly state the question you are answering at the start of your essay.
(1) What is the Mary problem against physicalism, and how effective is it?
(2) What are philosophical zombies, and what problem are they meant to pose for physicalism? How plausible is the zombie argument?
(3) What is the argument from illusion, and how is it used to motivate indirect realism over direct realism? Is it effective?
(4) What is the problem of fiction, and how do you think one should respond to it?
(5) Can the B-series capture everything there is about the nature of time? If not, what does it leave out?
(6) What are abstract objects? Are there any?
(7) What is the most persuasive mereological account of the relationship between parts and wholes? Defend your answer.
(8) What is an indispensability argument? What problems do such arguments face?
(9) How should we demarcate genuine science from pseudo-science?
(10) Critically evaluate the merits of scientific realism by focusing on what you take to be either the strongest argument in its defense or the strongest argument against it.
(11) Why is there something rather than nothing?
(12) What is the problem of evil, and how compelling is it as an argument for Gods non-existence?
(13) Is it ever rational to have faith in God?
(14) Does immortality have any essential role to play in an account of the meaning of life?
(15) Is death necessary for ones life to be meaningful?
(16) If all that exists is the natural world, then can life ever be meaningful? TOPIC 7
q Metaphysics is a core area of philosophy, one that
goes right back to the very inception of
q The goal of metaphysical inquiry, in its broadest
terms, is to understand the nature of reality at its
most fundamental level.
q The best way to get a handle on what
metaphysics is, however, is to do it!
q Abstract objects are objects that are not made of
matter, and are thus not located in space-time.
q Consider, for example, numbers. We use numbers
every day, but they dont seem to be physical objects,
but rather abstract objects.
q Those who think that there are abstract objects are
known as Platonists, while those who think that there
are no abstract objects are known as nominalists.
q Why might one be a Platonist about abstract objects?
One reason is that the natural explanation of why a
proposition involving abstract objectse.g., that
2+2=4is true is that the abstract objects involved
stand in the appropriate relation to each other.
(Compare claims involving non-abstract objects, such
as that the cat sat on the mat).
q But how can an abstract object really exist? This is
why some are attracted instead to nominalism, and
hence must come up with an alternative explanation
of why claims involving abstract objects are (or at
least seem to be) true.
q A rationale in favour of nominalism is the empiricist
idea that all we ever encounter in experience are
q It follows that if we know that, for example, 2+2=4, it
cant be because we are acquainted with abstract
objects. Hence, we need an alternative explanation of
how we know this to be true.
q But then, if one is a nominalist, what does make such
claims true, if it is not the objects themselves?
q One popular kind of nominalism, known as fictionalism,
argues for the radical conclusion that claims involving
abstract objects are not true. According to this view, such
claims, such as mathematical claims, are like a story or
q Claims in a story, such as that Harry Potter is a wizard, have
a kind of truth. Sure, they are not true in the sense that there
is such a person, Harry Potter, who is an actual wizard. But
they are true within a narrative.
q The idea is that, for example, mathematics is also a domain
which exhibits such narrative truth.
q But this really capture how we employ mathematical claims?
Someone who doesnt
q We deal in properties all the time. A chair may have the
property of being blue, or being ugly, or being too large
to fit through the door. But what is it for something to
be a property?
q According to one historically important view of
properties, they are abstract objects called universals.
q Universals dont exist in space or timethey are
abstract objects. But objects have properties in virtue
of exhibiting universals. For example, my shoes are
brown and the couch is brown in virtue of both
instantiating the same universal of brownness.
Handmade English brogues.
q An alternative view of properties to universals is that of
q According to this proposal, there is nothingno
propertythat my brown couch and my brown shoes
share. Rather, they each physically instantiate a
q This proposal avoids appeal to abstract objects, but at
the cost of giving us no obvious way of explaining why
the brown couch and the brown shoe seem to be share
a common property. After all, strictly speaking, they
Handmade English brogues.
q One of the big challenges faced by metaphysicians is to
account for the nature of time.
q Time is characterized by temporal relations, which are
relations that hold between different times. For example,
that today is temporally after yesterday but before tomorrow.
q There are two main metaphysical proposals about temporal
relations. According to B-theorists, all temporal relations can
be characterized in terms of the relations of being earlierthan, later-than and simultaneous-with. The idea is that in
this way we can give all events an unchanging, static
temporal order (called the B-series).
q Suppose my birthday is after your birthday, then (at a
certain point in time) we might say that while your birthday
is in the past, mine is in the future. But on this view this is
just to say nothing more than that my birthday is later than
your birthday, which is an eternal, and tenseless, fact
about the world.
q The problem with this proposal, however, is that it doesnt
seem to capture the dynamical nature of time, the fact that
it is constantly flowing. After all, according to this proposal
we can reduce all tensed talk of time to a completely
q We can see this problem more clearly by taking a look at an
alternative account of time, and thus temporal relations,
known as the A-series (as offered by A-theorists).
q On this view, which events have the property of being
present changes as time flows forward. So what is present
now was the future before and will soon be the past. On this
view, then, one cannot reduce temporal relations to a
q The A-series seems to more closely correspond to how we
experience time, but it also raises puzzles. How can the very
same event enjoy (at different times) the property of being
future, present, and past?
q Another challenge facing metaphysicians is to account for the nature of causation, as
when one ball hits another and causes it to move.
q The problem is that we use the notion of causation in lots of different ways. I might say
that the one ball caused the other ball to move, or that it was the road design that
caused the crash, or that it was losing my temper that caused me to break to glass, and
so on. Can a single theory accommodate all these different uses of the notion of
q According to the counterfactual theory of causation, to say that X caused Y is to say
that had X not occurred, then Y would not have occurred.
q So suppose that I claim that it was the poor road design that caused the car crash.
Then on this view I am claiming that had the road design been better, then the crash
would not have occurred.
q Although the counterfactual theory of causation fares well with lots of cases, it does
face some difficulties.
q For example, suppose that the car crash we just considered came about because the
driver was a traffic planner and he was so appalled by the quality of road design that it
distracted him and made him crash. The relevant counterfactual about the road
design would still be true, but it seems more accurate to say that it was the planners
fixation with the road design that in fact caused the crash.
q Mereology is the study of parts and wholes. How do the
parts of a thing combine to make the whole? There are
three main answers to this question.
q According to mereological nihilism, there are no
composite objects (i.e., objects composed of parts).
Rather, there are just lots of very small objects without
parts. But how on this view do we explain our ordinary
language talk about objects that are clearly composite
(like tables and chairs)?
A composite object: the
q At the other extreme, there is mereological
universalism. This holds that any arrangement of parts
can be combined to create a new whole.
q This faces the opposite problem to mereological
nihilism, in that it seems to mean that there are more
composite objects than we previously thought.
q For example, on this view there is a perfectly
respectable composite object made of my left leg, the
vacuum cleaner down the hall, and the rear axle of my
A composite object: the
q There is also an intermediate view, known as
q On this proposal whether a combination of parts
counts as a genuine composite whole depends on how
the objects are arranged, so not just any combination
of parts will result in a genuine composite whole.
q This view lines up more neatly with our intuitions about
objects. But the problem it faces is how is one to draw
a principled line regarding which combination of parts
leads to a genuine composite whole. (E.g., should the
parts be in contact with one another? But my left leg
touching the vacuum doesnt create a new legvacuum whole).
A composite object: the
LAWS OF NATURE
q In gaining a metaphysical understanding of the nature of
reality we dont just want to know what is in fact the case,
but more importantly what must be the case.
q Suppose we observe that water always boils, in certain
atmospheric conditions anyway, at a certain temperature.
This establishes that there is a regularity between water
and heat of a certain kind.
q But we also want to know whether this regularity reflects a
lawlike connection between water and heat; whether it is a
law of nature. After all, one can have the former without the
latter. For example, suppose its true that every top sports
coach chews gum. But surely there is no law of nature that
q In shifting our gaze from what is the case towards what must be the case, or what
cant be the case, or what is merely possible, we are turning our attentions to
q If something is true not merely because it is a regularity but because it is a law of
nature, then we are making a modal claim, in that we are now saying that there is a
sense in which it must be true (i.e., there is a sense in which it is not possible for it to
q We can distinguish between different kinds of necessity and possibility. If something
is logically possible, then that means that its happening would not break any logical
laws (i.e., the laws that determine what is logically necessary). A 100 foot ant is not a
likely thing, but it is logically possible in this sense.
q In contrast, nomic possibility is concerned with whether something is possible
consistent with the laws of nature (which in turn determine what is nomically
q Note that something can be logically possible without thereby being nomically
possible. Its logically possible that there could be a human being the size of the solar
of the system, since this doesnt conflict with any logical laws. But it is unlikely that
this would be consistent with the laws of nature, and if so it wouldnt be nomically
q In general, whats nomically possible is logically possible, but the converse doesnt
METAPHYSICS AND SCIENCE
q How does metaphysics relate to science? Often they seem to be concerned with very
similar subject matter. Moreover, historically metaphysics and science went hand-inhand (to the extent that it is only relatively recently in the history of ideas that
metaphysical inquiries and scientific inquiries have been conducted separately).
q One key difference between the two inquiries is that science is primarily only concerned
with what works. So, for example, mathematics is an effective tool for theoretical
science, and hence scientists dont ask (shouldnt ask?) what the metaphysical status
of mathematics is (e.g., whether it trades in abstract objects).
q One way that metaphysics comes apart from science is in its employment of the
methodology of conceptual analysis. This involves investigating the nature of our
concepts in order to see what they entail, and how they relate to each other.
q For example, what is involved in our concept of free will? This is a philosophical
question that doesnt have a straightforward answer, and it is through conceptual
analysis that we are able to articulate the different ways that this concept might be
understood, and to pick out which of these renderings is plausible.
q Moreover, once we have identified these conceptions of free will, we can then
meaningfully ask what the modal status of free will is. For example, is it possible? Or
is it impossible? Could it even be necessary? (And remembers that we also need to
work out what kind of possibility/necessity is in play: e.g., nomic or logical, etc).
q Another methodological tool employed by metaphysicians are indispensability
arguments. The general idea is that if we can demonstrate that science demands
there to be objects of a certain kindi.e., that they are indispensible to science
then that is in itself a reason to think that these objects exist, even if we might find
the target objects otherwise philosophically problematic.
q So, for example, one defence of a Platonic conception of mathematical objects (i.e.,
as genuinely existing abstract objects) is that science cannot be conducted without
mathematics. If thats right, and if the only way to make sense of this use of
mathematics is to suppose that there are abstract objects, then it follows that we
have a rationale for thinking that there are (mathematical) abstract objects.
q How plausible are indispensability arguments? One problem they face is that they
merely seem to show what we are committed to, and not necessarily what is true.
For example, even if its right that science essentially employs mathematics and that
mathematical objects are abstract objects, that only shows that we must act as if
there are abstract objects. Even so, maybe there are no abstract objects (perhaps,
for example, it is just a human limitation of scientific inquiry that it resorts to
q Moreover, one can always try to undermine indispensability arguments by attacking
their premises. Even if it is true, for example, that science essentially involves
mathematics, should we accept that the only way to make sense of this usage is in
terms of a commitment to abstract objects? Couldnt one offer a fictionalist account
of the scientific usage of mathematics that avoids this commitment?
A PRIORI VERSUS A POSTERIORI
q A key difference between philosophy and science is that
the latter essentially involves empirical inquirythat is
investigation of the world through observation. Knowledge
that results from such empirical inquiries is a posteriori
knowledge. For example, that Saturn has more than 50
q In contrast, there also seems to be another route to
knowledge that is characteristic of philosophy (though it is
also involved in science too, albeit to a lesser extent). This
involves finding something out by reasoning and reflection
alone. This is known as a priori knowledge, or armchair
knowledge (since it is knowledge that one can gain from
ones armchair). For example, that 2+2=4.
A PRIORI VERSUS A POSTERIORI
q Metaphysical arguments often involve a mixture of a priori
and a posteriori premises.
q For example, in an indispensability argument for
mathematical Platonism, one finds the a posteriori claim
that science makes essential use of mathematics
(something that can only be known through empirical
q But one also then reasons a priori to the conclusion that
abstract objects must exist.
EVALUATING DIFFERENT METAPHYSICAL THEORIES
q Competing metaphysical theories are often empirically equivalent, in the sense that
both theories are equally compatible with the empirical data. For example, the view
that properties are universals and the view that they are tropes are equally
compatible with the empirical data.
q In contrast, although it sometimes happens that competing scientific theories are
empirically equivalent, they usually arent. This is good, as it enables scientists to, in
principle at least, empirically determine which of the theories is the correct one. In
contrast, we can rarely empirically determine which metaphysical theory is true.
q Accordingly, metaphysicians appeal to other factors to adjudicate between different
metaphysical theories, such as which theory is simpler, which is more elegant, which
is more parsimonious (i.e., which is committed to the least number of entities), which
has the most explanatory power, and so on. These qualities are known as the
EVALUATING DIFFERENT METAPHYSICAL THEORIES
q Many of these theoretical virtues are controversial, however. For example, why
should a simpler theory be preferred over a more complex one? Perhaps the relevant
facts demand a complex theory? Relatedly, who is to decide what is simpler (or, for
that matter, what is more elegant)? These look like very subjective ways of assessing
q There is also the problem of how we trade-off between different theoretical virtues.
Fictionalism in the philosophy of mathematics is a parsimonious theory in that it isnt
committed to there being (mathematical) abstract objects. But by denying these
objects, it is also committed to a more complex metaphysical theory than its rival,
mathematical Platonism, which endorses (mathematical) abstract objects.
q One question that metaphysicians ask is whether some kinds of things are more
fundamental than others.
q The rough idea is that A is more fundamental than B if B depends on A but not vice
versa. Moreover, if there are some kinds of things which dont depend on anything
else, but which other things are dependent upon, then they would be candidates for
being the most fundamental kind of thing there is.
q But what does it mean to say that something depends upon something else?
Metaphysicians often talk here of grounding, in that B depends on A if B is
grounded in A (and not vice versa).
q Another way of articulating how objects in two different domains relate to one
another is in terms of supervenience.
q So, for example, if one holds that the mental realm supervenes on the physical
realm, then one holds that there cannot be a change in the mental realm if there is
no change in the physical realm.
q Metaphysically interesting supervenience claims are usually understood
asymmetrically. This means that while A supervenes on B, B does not supervene on
A. This is exactly how the supervenience of the mental on the physical is usually
understood, for example.
q This is one way of saying that the mental realm is rooted in the physical realm (such
that one can embrace physicalism) without thereby treating the mental realm as
completely reducible to the physical realm. (We thus get the non-reductionist
physicalism that we looked in a previous segment of the course).
MONISM AND PLURALISM
q At the most fundamental level, is the world just one big thing, or a plurality of things?
This is the debate between monism and pluralism.
q In terms of fundamentality, monism is the idea that the world as a whole is more
fundamental than its parts, whereas pluralism is the opposing idea that the parts
are more fundamental than the world as a whole.
q Notice that the monist and the pluralist each believes in the same objects and
properties. They just disagree about what grounds what.
q Notice also that both views are puzzling. How can the world as a whole be grounded
in its parts? And if the world as a whole is more fundamental than its parts, then it
must be itself ungrounded, since there is nothing else for it to be grounded in. But
how can something be ungrounded (moreover, how can something ungrounded be
the ground for anything else)?
PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
q Philosophy of science is effectively applied philosophy, in
that we are raising philosophical issues within a
q Often, however, the kinds of philosophical issues that are
raised by science take us right to the heart of core
philosophical topics like metaphysics, philosophy of mind,
q In this segment of the course we will examine what
constitutes a scientific inquiry, and ask whether science
gets us closer to the truth.
THE SCIENTIFIC AND THE MANIFEST IMAGE
q The American philosopher Wilfrid Sellars (19…
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