Category: Philosophy


C. A. Campbell’s Has The Self ‘Free Will’?

Rubric: What two conditions must be satisfied, according to Campbell, in order for a choice to be an exercise of free will (in the morally significant sense)? How do these two conditions relate to determinism? Also provide a reasoned evaluation of Campbell’s defense of free will.

At the outset, there is no consensus among philosophers as to the definition of free will. The definitions have ranged between the most banal to the most intellectually rigorous. Since Campbell believes that a well-defined problem facilitates its solution, free will is identified with two attendant features – moral responsibility and consequences. In other words, free will is said to be operant whenever an action is seen to be morally responsible or lack thereof. In the same vein, free will is applied to those actions which lead to significant consequences. The second condition is important, for there is no utility in dissecting the intentions of an individual when they do not . . . Read More

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The Qualia Problem by Frank Jackson

At the centre of Frank Jackson’s articulation of the Qualia Problem is the claim that “one can have all the physical information without having all the information there is to have”. In the case of sensory experience, for example, while all sorts of comprehensive data could be recorded in a said event, there is yet an intangible element to the actual experience itself. Take, say, a person smelling a rose. Using modern technology one could capture all sorts of biochemical, psychological and cognitive processes that the act of smelling a rose invokes. Yet, the actual experience of smelling a rose cannot merely be contained and explained through this comprehensive body of information. This in essence is the Qualia problem.

Jackson illustrates the inadequacy of physicalism through couple of examples. He uses the ‘knowledge argument’ in describing the case of the exceptionally sighted Fred. Fred actually sees two colors within the conventional red spectrum. In other . . . Read More

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The Value of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell (Chapter XV of Problems of Philosophy)

Rubric: Explain Russell’s take on the central value of philosophy. In the final part of your answer, provide a reasoned evaluation of some aspect of Russell’s defense of philosophical inquiry that includes some discussion of an example or two that you think illustrates the importance of philosophy in relation to living and acting in the world.

Russell’s argument is of the vein that studying philosophy is an end in itself. Many fields in science offer us technical knowledge to enhance our material comforts. But this cannot be the sole objective of our existence. Deliberating fundamental questions on the meaning of life, human nature, the cosmos, etc do not have any commercial value. But a life lived without such philosophical speculation is quite limited and enslaved.

Philosophy helps us to broaden our intellectual and emotional horizons by subjugating our self-interest. It cultivates in us to focus on the non-Self, which liberates us from individual . . . Read More

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The Spaces between Stars by Geeta Kothari: An interpretation based on Hindusism

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions of the world. It evolved in the Indian subcontinent over 5000 years ago and has a rich body of literature. Unlike monotheistic religions such as Christianity or Islam, Hinduism is polytheistic, with thousands of deities and gods being worshipped. Even in terms of ethnography and culture there is a rich diversity of Hindu expression. The sacred rituals and beliefs related to Hinduism vary across ethnic communities in India. The Hindu scriptures explain morality in the form of legends and myths. More than a religion per se, Hinduism can be looked at as a philosophical system. The key themes of this system are that of the interconnectedness of life, repercussions of good and bad deeds (karma), the temporariness of earthly existence and the aspiration toward liberation from it (moksha). Texts such as the Upanishads and epics such as Ramayana and Mahabaratha serve as mediums of this philosophic discourse.

In Geeta Kothari’s short story the . . . Read More

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Difference between descriptive ethics and normative ethics

What is the difference between descriptive ethics and normative ethics? What role do values play in each of these two approaches to ethics? Provide examples to illustrate your points.

Descriptive ethics is founded on the belief that humans are ‘hard-wired’ to be selfish. That is, they are for the most part absorbed in fulfilling their own desires and goals. The capitalist economy is a good example of this instinct in humans, whereby, ‘greed is good’ is an accepted mantra for business corporations and individuals alike. Descriptive ethics promotes a ego-centric decision making model, whereby, an individual is morally entitled to pursue his own happiness through independent action. Cultural relativism is another term coupled to descriptive ethics. This school of thought contends that what is right or wrong is specific to the particular cultural milieu. Normative ethics, on the other hand, takes a more didactic approach to human action in that it . . . Read More

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The Great Man Theory of History as evidenced in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance

Applying the Great Man theory of History as a subtext to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s classic essay Self-Reliance makes for an interesting synthesis. The Great Man theory was brought into public discourse by Thomas Carlyle in the 1840s. But most of the later commentators pointed out to some of the misassumptions and flaws in the theory. Chief among them was Herbert Spencer who viewed that great individuals were products of their culture, history and environment and the inverse is seldom true. Yet the idea of the Great Man holds an intuitive appeal to readers. As people sharing a sense of community we are all looking for leaders and role models to provide us guidance. It is this intuitive appeal for leadership that sustains the value of the Great Man Theory, although it had somewhat become unfashionable in the last century.

Great men are thought to be path-breakers and independent thinkers. (James, p.114) In Emerson’s text, we find a powerful invocation of individuality. He . . . Read More

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Redefining student success in American academia: Annotated Bibliography

Daniel R. Jones-White, Peter M. Radcliffe, Ronald L. Huesman Jr., John P. Kellogg, Redefining Student Success: Applying Different Multinomial Regression Techniques for the Study of Student Graduation Across Institutions of Higher Education, Research in Higher Education, March 2010, Volume 51, Issue 2, pp.154-157.

The article tackles a perceived flaw in standard evaluations of student success. Moving away from binary all-or-nothing classifications of ‘graduate’ or ‘drop-out’, Jones-White et al device a more sophisticated method. Through the analysis of data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), the method takes into account retention and graduation numbers at both entry and transfer institutions. Hence, what they accomplish is to construct a polychotomous definition of success. The challenge facing them include identifying new methods to model limited dependent variables. They are sceptical that the multinomial logit method is apt for the . . . Read More

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Debate Paper: Should single individuals be allowed to adopt children?

NO. There are many conundrums, including legal uncertainties, question marks over suitability and the possibility of gender-based discrimination if single individual adoption is allowed.

Children need both parents for healthy psychological development. To successfully meet various socio-psychological developmental stages a child would ideally need both parents. Moreover, taking care of a child, especially in its early years is a strenuous effort and a couple is better disposed to share that responsibility. Moreover, identification with the same-sex parent is a key developmental milestone. (Samuels, 2012) There are also unanswered questions over the suitability of a single man in raising an adopted daughter, especially with respect to negotiating the biological and psychological upheavals during puberty. If we grant that only women can raise baby girls into maturity, then is it not discriminatory against men?

The other major problem with single individual . . . Read More

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Summary and Reflection of ‘Future of Medicine: Perfection and Beyond’ (Chapter 3) of Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku

The chapter takes the reader through an imaginative journey of medicine in the future. Although some of the possibilities proposed appear like material from a science fiction novel, they are based on emerging scientific breakthroughs. One of the themes discussed in the chapter is the increasing mastery of human beings to ‘play God’. Evolving new technologies allow the medical professional to perform astounding feats of genetic engineering. This could happen at various stages of life – from neonatal to palliative. With this capability, people can augment their life spans, develop immunity to various viruses and even thwart cancer using nanotechnology.

In chapter 3, Michio Kaku makes predictions and depictions of future of medicine in all its possible manifestations. We read of ‘nanobots’ that would operate at sub-molecular levels in dealing with infections and diseases. The author also envisions advancement in stem cell extraction and utilization, whereby, new organs . . . Read More

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Malcolm Gladwell’s ideas and philosophy in The Tipping Point, as they apply to Occupy Wall Street Movement

Malcolm Gladwell has attempted to create a unique style of scholarship that navigates between science and popular culture.  As a result he has earned the wrath from both quarters.  For example, scientists accuse him for being simplistic or lacking in rigor. On the other side, commentators from mainstream media accuse him of bringing esoteric scientific concepts to popular discourse. Yet, his book The Tipping Point has sold more than a 3 million copies.  His other titles such as Blink (2005), Outliers (2008), David and Goliath (2013), etc, continue to fascinate and provoke in equal measure. Despite the controversies surrounding some of Gladwell’s inferences, his ideas and philosophies have become assimilated into popular discourse. It is an interesting exercise to study how the most important social movement of recent times – Occupy Wall Street movement (OWS) – measures up in relation to the author’s theories. This essay endeavors to perform the same.

The Occupy . . . Read More

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