Wednesday, October 20, 2010

In Which I (start) Get to the Point

So, up to this point this has not been a "study blog". It has been a "reflection blog" and that is intolerable. So. Let us study. The subject: Ancient philosophy. The purpose: Not failing the midterm. Which is tomorrow. Included are study guide questions and my responses.

Elenchus is the method of coming to good belief. If our thinking is 'good' then it can stand in the face of intense scrutiny. We call this scrutiny "Elenchus" and it's the sieve that we run our ideas through. The only thing that can make it through to the other side is good ideas.

Divine Command Theory (both as it is found in the Euthyphro, and as it remains a problem for contemporary philosophical and theological ethics.
Is goodness good because god wills it so, or is it good because there's some virtue of goodness. The first makes goodness arbitrary and based on the flip of gods coin, the second makes god subject to the rules of morality which eliminates gods omnipotence (since he's not powerful enough to disregard the rules of morality while still being omnipotent).

Epistemic Humility (what it is, its advantages, where it is exhibited in Plato’s writings, what it entailed for Socrates’s rank among humans, etc.)
'I know that I know nothing'. It makes you responsible for criticizing your beliefs to see if you really should hold it. It shows up in all the dialogues to some degree when he says "oh, well I'm not sure about all that. what do I think? I'm not sure. But what do you think again" (see: phaedo, euthyphro, apology)

Views of Death (cf. Apology, Crito, Phaedo)
It's not bad. It's either eternal sleep or a place where you go to hang out with dead people. (Crito). Also, death isn't worse than living a life not worth living.

The most important thing for Socrates (Not just life, but the good life. Why does he say this?)
The unexamined life is not The point of existence is to posit and reason. Robbing life of that makes it terrible.

How do we know if we’re living the good life? (Unexamined life?)
We have our tools. Elenchus. Epistemic humility. We use these to make sure we're holding ourselves accountable.
Why did Socrates refuse to let Crito break him out of jail?
Expulsion from Athens is a rejection of the social contract one enters into with their government. Also, saying that he's just and running away from the ruling of his people is hypocritical.

Social Contract ideas. Justice, etc. Was this a good argument on Soc’s part?
Do we really give the government the right to imprison us just because?

Unity of the Virtues
There must be some overarching "virtue-ness" of the virtues (one of the many). He reduces this to knowledge

“To know the good is to do the good”
We never act against what we know to be good. When we know (or believe) an act is good we try to pursue it.

Weakness of will (akrasia). What is Soc’s view of it? Explain in detail. What do you think?
It doesn't exist. You can't be overcome by the goodness of an act to disregard its inherent (and greater) evil. You merely mismeasure the goodness as being larger than the badness. My position? I don't know. If akrasia does exist and we can do what we don't think is best we get a universe that looks the same as a universe without akrasia.

How does Soc’s position on akrasia relate to his way of viewing the virtues
Unification. Cowardice isn't a separate virtue, it's just a lack of knowledge on how to value bravery.

Is virtue teachable (confer both Protagoras and Meno)
MENO: you need to know what it is first. Also, we don't learn we recall.
PROTAGORAS: Well I wind up saying that it can't be taught because knowledge is a virtue and virtues are inherent (probably), while you say that it can be taught because knowledge can be recalled throught what we established in the meno.

Why can it be said that both Socrates and Protagoras end up sort of contradicting their original positions by the end of the Protagoras?
See above. Protagoras originally says that at the very least we think it can because prisons are based on the notion of reforming (teaching) people virtue. By the end though he says the opposite for reasons spark notes doesn't say. Socrates begins by being doubtful but when he reduces all virtue to knowledge which of course is teachable.

Forms per se vs. Socrates’s search for definitions

How can we look at things which look so drastically different and identify them as the same type of thing? There must be some manner of "thing-ness" which each of them participates in. These are the forms.

Self-predication of the Forms
How can the form participate in thing-ness without being a part of that thing to start with? The form of things must be instances of the things themselves, while also getting their thing-ness from themselves.

3rd-man argument
What's the uniting factor between the form of thing and thing? well some other form. But what about that and another form? ad infinitum. We now have an infinite regress of forms.

Mirror and Pizza chunk metaphors for participation in the forms
Mirror: things which have thing-ness reflect a certain aspect of the form of thing.
Pizza Chunk: things which have thing-ness actually borrow from the form of thing to have that thing aspect.

Psychological Hedonism
psycho- hoosa- what now? The idea that we always go with the option that grants the most pleasure?

Priority of definition
Before we can say what we can do with a concept we must first know what it is.

One over many principle
What's the one aspect of many instances of things that allow us to identify it as a thing regardless.

Paralyzed by elenchus and everything else that socrates goes batshit over.

Paradox of Inquiry (Meno’s Paradox)
If we don't know what it is, how will we know when we find it? When we do know what it is, why did we bother asking?

How Socrates gets out of both sides of it (2-part answer)

1. We all used to be part of a great spirit, the world of the forms.
2. This slave has just learned math without me teaching him. Learning comes from recollecting the form world. That's how we'll remember it.

I will do the best to polish the rest of this thing off tomorrow before the exam.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Right of a Liver

FINALLY. A post about biomedical ethics. I bet you all couldn't wait. Okay, so after some conversation today I figured it was right for me to discuss this whole problem with organ procurement, but first: obligatory background information!
So there are three possible approaches to how we should attain organs.
1.) Opt-In Program - Everyone is presumed to be opposed to donating their organs unless they go out of their way to say otherwise. The benefit is you never desecrate an unwilling body, but at the same time you wind up taking a lot of perfectly healthy organs of people too lazy/busy/'unwilling to deal with the concept of their own mortality enough to check a box on the back of their license' and burying them in the dirt while a sick person who could have used it suffers and possibly dies.

2.) Opt-Out Program - Everyone is presumed willing to donate their organs unless specifically noted otherwise. The benefit is that we can save the lives of more needy people, but the drawback is we wind up gutting poor grandma who just wanted to be buried in one piece next to her second husband, but never got a chance to drive down to the DMV and change it.

(Another important consideration is the fact that MOST people are willing to donate organs. So in cases where we're not sure what a person wished, they're statistically more likely to go for donating.)

3.) Organ Conscription - Regardless of what you prefer, we take your organs after you die if we need them. Benefits: OMG, SO MANY ORGANS YOU GUYS. Detriments: "Wait, did we really just completely disregard everything this guy wanted done with him when he died?"

Now, the third option at first glance seems absolutely reprehensible. How could we just completely cast aside a persons autonomy. In short, because they're not alive, they're dead.

Ultimately, we have two possible reasons for thinking its bad to take a persons organs against their wishes; either it's bad because the taking of a persons organs constitutes an invasion of their person, or it's bad because it's an act carried out against their wishes.

Now if it's the first case, then yes consent definitely should be considered. If it's the second however, we've muddied the waters a little bit. If the second case can be said to be true, then it seems that acting against the persons wishes is just as bad when we take without consent as when we leave without consent. All of a sudden, both errors in organ procurement (mistakenly leaving them in within an Opt-In framework v. mistakenly taking them within an Opt-Out framework) are equal. Since statistics favors organ donation, our null hypothesis should be that which commits fewer errors (Opt-Out).

Is it the case though? Consider: A man is rushed to the hospital. He's been heavily bleeding for far too long to not be worrisome to the staff. It's quite a mess, and if he doesn't get any more blood soon he's at risk of coming down with a rather severe case of 'deadness'. He's unconscious so he can't really respond to any questioning so the doctors decide to give him an immediate blood transfusion. He wakes up healthy hours later, completely bereft over his treatment: "I'm a Jehovah's Witness doctor! You made me break my covenant with God!"

Now, do we feel bad for the Jehovah's Witness because his body has been invaded? No. We understand that what was done had been the most assured way to see to it that safety was established. Rather, we feel bad that even though he's still alive, his wishes to avoid a blood transfusion were failed to be satisfied.

It's late at night and that may be a flawed example, but rest assured, at some basic level you do reach the point where the problem isn't that a body was invaded, but that the wishes of a person were acted against. Because of this, the errors accrued under an Opt-Out program are no worse than the errors of the Opt-In program (except that, again, there would be fewer in the Opt-Out program).

To take it one step further, people in favor of organ conscription usually contend not that the two errors are equal, but that leaving organs in the body which could go to a person in need is a heinous act, regardless of what the person who had previously used the body would have preferred. This is because not only are the two acts in and of themselves equal, but when you take into consideration the second order evils (a person freaking dies) it's indefensible to put a persons autonomy regarding what they want to do with their remnants ahead of the need of the sick and dying.

This is why I side with Organ Conscriptionists. Not only is it messed up that we put so much vitality into what is, essentially, an inanimate object, but a lot of the arguments from autonomy focus on the fact that those who object to organ donation will often times do so for religious belief. Poppycock I say! I entirely reject the notion that religious viewpoints are inherently sanctified because of ones 'freedom to religion'. If an argument leads to a deplorable belief (as I see the autonomy argument doing so), then whether or not the mindset adopted in reaching it is religious or secular is hardly relevant. However, that ties in quite a bit with the philosophy of religion, which is far too lofty to try to tackle at nearly two thirty in the morning.

Before I leave you, I just want you to see that ethics can be more than just discourse on what is hypothetically right and wrong. It can be and lead to action. In this case, it has made me not only check off the box on the back of my license (prior I never had a pen on me that could leave a mark on the teflon coated NY drivers license and was too lazy to get one) but to get started on a will which shall detail what exactly is to be done with my organs and limits my coma to 6 weeks before the mandatory removal of life support. I believe that my next post will be that will. Hopefully you all can help me flesh it out a bit

Until then, Good night.