East to West: Part 1

East to West:
Part 1

Islamic Architecture values Aesthetic

Islamic Architecture values Aesthetic

 

In Australia, my country of residence, a less-than-popular Television channel called ABC broadcasts constructive documentaries, foreign films and educational series, particularly during prime-time. Recently – that is to say last week – ABC began broadcasting a Television series called East to West. The documentary series, which begins at 7.30pm every Wednesday, Details the Eastern cultures during Middle-ages and post-Ancient times and their influence on the Western world. Unfortunately, the general concencus of the Eastern world in Western culture is very uninformed. With the increasing negative stereotypes around Islam and Asian society (i.e. Al Qeada being associated with Muslims), the program could not have come at a more appropriate time. Hopefully, people will change their channels from The Big Bang Theory to ABC in the effort of watching East to West, as it serves as quite an informative, yet visually stimulating series.

The first broadcast of the documentary, presented last week, centered around the early Islamic movements and their influence on the Western culture of the Renaissance as well as post-modern times. The show turned out to be quite informative to me, as it kept me captivated with great facts of history which are rarely ever spoken about. As it turns out, the Muslims and Arabians were imperative for flaying our society into shape and the current stereotype of their culture is in blind sight of their influence. Important texts of the Ancient Greeks, such as the writings of Plato and Pre-Socratic philosophers, were translated into an almost Universal language by the Middle-Eastern Muslims. In fact, some of the precious gems supposedly destroyed from the Dark Ages were gracefully saved by the Eastern societies. If it were not for Islam’s great value of religious and historical texts, the Western world today would presumably be entirely different – with valuable texts like Republic lost to the wind.

I will be evaluating the upcoming episodes of East to West and supplying the Blog with the Eastern influences pronounced by the Documentary. The next episode will give an explanation of Buddhism and the struggle for leadership of Rome and China.

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Rationalising the Ethics of Justice: Theft and Murder

Justice is Blind

Justice is Blind

A common question which is asked by the general public when it comes to Ethics is; “How do our Laws really determine what’s right and wrong?”

Such a question is the quintessential starting point for most Ethical debates, and it’s quite alarming as to how many people do not understand why the most essential ethical codes are in place today. Two of the most essential ethical codes which are governed in laws are theft and murder. While being accepted as insidious acts of immorality, most people during their youth years question as to why they are so unjust. The points made here will hopefully establish why these two common acts of injustice are implemented in the laws today. The distinction between morality and Ethics is established below as well in a concise, informative manner.

While the words “Moral” and Ethics” both derive from the Greek word “Mos”, meaning custom, the two are different in terms of Philosophy. Ethics, in terms of Philosophy, are the codes of what we personally believe in right and wrong. Ethics are the thoughts. Morality, however, is that which is objectively right, and it determines that which is objectively wrong. Morality is the ACT of right, while Ethics are the thoughts of right. That’s why the laws which the Government implements are considered ethical codes, because they’re laws which the people of the government think govern justice.

If one were to take candy from a baby, then they’re using force to retrieve something which was originally in rightful ownership of the baby. The baby earned the candy through non authoritarian methods, and it was unlawfully taken by somebody who exploited the governing system in exchange for nothing. In the movie, “The Gods must be Crazy”, the narrator suggests that ownership is something which is determined by the Governing system of justice in order to maintain a sense of equality and freedom for people. For example, to “own” a mars bar legally you have to exchange something for it. This trading of ownership is a fundamental part of western society, as it tries to equalize the privileges among society. If you take a candy from the baby, then the baby has lost ownership of an object and gained nothing else in ownership. The only case in which this is ethical is if the baby warranted for you to have the candy in exchange for nothing, otherwise the baby has essentially lost something and the scales of equality are skewed.

The case of murder being immoral can be rationally justified as well, similarly to theft. If you murder somebody with a gun, for example, then you’re using certain mechanics to propel a certain object into the victim’s body, with the intention of killing them. When the trajectory hits the brain, in this case, and the victim has been killed, then you have essentially exploited the laws of physics in order to make somebody lose their right of life without their consent. When somebody loses their life, they lose every possible freedom that they originally had: they lose the freedom of buying an object, like a croissant, and eating the croissant. Once the victim loses consciousness, they have lost the capability of doing, or even experiencing, anything. Upon murdering somebody, you have essentially destroyed every freedom of the victim in order for your own purpose (whether it’s for monetary gain or just pleasure). Unlike theft, where you take away the freedom of a baby to enjoy a candy, you literally take away every possible freedom, and every memory, from that person. That’s why murder is widely considered as the most immoral, revolting act against equality and freedom that anybody can commit.

Atheist and Theist Mistakes in Argument

God and Adam from Garden of Eden

Common Atheist and Theist mistakes in argument

1.

I’ll start by saying that, in controversial argument of atheism vs theism, there is no definitively correct answer – so long as the opposition remains unproved, then the theory is valid, however speculative it may be. Causing a scene and claiming that your opposition is just “wrong” or “retarded” doesn’t support your argument, it just further permeates a negative stereotype of your own beliefs.

2.

Theism is not a religion, and religions are not necessarily theism. Religion usually constitutes not only the belief of God, but sacred texts, rules and ethical codes, ontology, cosmology, epistemology and many other beliefs. Just because Christianity or Islam believes in a God, it does not mean that theism is essentially the same. IIf an atheist is to argue against theism, then they are to argue the belief (that is that God exists), and not Christianity, creationism, or Mormonism etc.

3. (and the most important)

Fallacies are abundant in both the arguments regarding theism and atheism. The primary fallacy in this case is known as the straw man fallacy. The straw man fallacy is when the opposition (often intentionally) misinterprets one’s argument, and rearranges it so that it sounds absurd, yet vastly inaccurate. A prime example given which is in this Thread is by the following gentleman;

“Believing in a God is just the same as believing that a cheese sandwhich made the Universe.”

As you can see, the person has employed a comparison of believing in a God, a founder of the Universe and divine being, to that of a Cheese sandwhich being the sole architect of the Universe. This attempt at reductio ad absurdum, while being hilarious, is a straw-man fallacy, as it gives a blatantly ridiculous comparison in the hopes of drawing people to believe their argument based on social convention. Clearly, it is insane in our society to believe that a cheese sandwhich created the Universe, therefore it must be insane for one to believe in a God, right? No, this is not true. There is a lot more to the belief of God than this cruel attempt of sophism, such as sacred texts, reports and general philosophical reasoning.

4.

Atheism is not supported by science.
Many atheists, and people in general regardless of their beliefs, somehow believe that the field of science gives evidence supporting atheism or, in extreme cases, “proves” it to be true. However, science doesn’t support atheism at all. One might say “but after all of this space exploration, there has been no sighting of God – so there musn’t be a God?”
This is certainly a good question, however many theists believe that God does not even reside on the natural Universe, but instead in the divine realm (i.e. Heaven). If God supposedly resides in the divine realm, then there is no possible way for one to employ empiricism (the fundamental ploy of evidence in science) to support their atheist beliefs. An atheist could argue, however, how absurd it is to believe that a God resides in the divine realm, as one could possibly not evaluate any hard, legitimate evidence supporting the belief.
Personally, I believe the discoveries made by science does the contrary to supporting atheism, for if one looks at how intricate the Universe and even their own body can be, then they might become very compelled in believing that some divine being is behind it all.
As for the Big Bang theory, many theists could argue that a God was the force behind the initial “big bang”.

5.

“Atheism is its own religion.”
Atheism is a belief, not a religion. A religion, as said earlier in my second (2) point, constitutes for a way of life, codes of ethics and cosmology. If one claims to be an atheist, then they merely believe that a God does not exist, but it does not constitute for a particular way of life or how the Universe works. Just because an atheist may support science and empiricism, it does not mean the two are relevant to each other (see point 4 for more details regarding science and atheism).
Atheism is not a set of beliefs – it is one belief.

There are variations of atheism, and many atheists strongly condone and follow scientific and empirical foundations; but this does not mean that atheism, by default, also takes into consideration these foundations as a way of life.
Your argument is just a matter of semantics. Consider your argument as something which is like the claim that we are living in the Matrix; we may be living in the Matrix, this may not even be the “real” reality, but it does not matter for we still perceive something external, and we can still gather knowledge of the external “something’s” truths, and we still refer to it as “reality”, whether or not it is “real” by somebody’s standards is entirely irrelevant.

In your (the atheist’s) case, you’re claiming that atheism is a religion, but it’s just a matter of semantics. It doesn’t matter what your interpretation of the words “atheism” or “religion” are, because the former is not, by definition and current meaning, categorised into the former. If you’re claiming that atheism does, by default, carry a system and way of life, and cosmology. etc. then you’re wrong. It’s similar to a cause and effect fallacy – you seem to think that just because atheists are more than often empiricists, that means atheism is empiricism.

Some people speculate that atheism is a LACK of a belief. This has some truth to it, but it still co-exists with the fact that atheism is a belief. Atheism is, indeed, the lack of a belief in God; but the lack of a belief in God is, by all means, just the belief that no God exists. It’s a silly matter of semantics to really argue this point, as the only factor between this argument is how to express it properly – which is redundant considering that both presentations are equally unbiased and respectively right.

6. (and final point)

Atheism does not automatically mean one is safe from attack. Many people mistake atheism as a belief in which they hold a skeptical stance, and subsequently are resistant to a lot, if not every, attack supporting theism. However, if one were to take a more skeptical, yet appropriate stance, then agnostic atheism (or just agnosticism) is the most preferable path. An agnostic person essentially believes that a God most probably does not exist, considering the substantial lack of evidence, but the possibility of theism as being truthful remains so long as more evidence is presented. Agnosticism is a very skeptical stance, and it’s more than often the most rational stance in the great debate between atheism vs theism. Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware of this belief.

Works Cited

Works Cited

  • Alcoff, Linda M., ed. Epistemology: The Big Questions. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers

Ltd, 1998. Print.

  • Burnyeat, Myles; Levett, M. J. The Theaetetus of Plato. Indianapolis: Hackett

Publishing Company, 1990. Print.

  • Plato; Jowett, Benjamin. Theaetetus. N.p.: Dodo Press, 2007. Digital file.
  • Bostock, David. Plato’s Theaetetus. N.p: Oxford Scholarship Online, 1991. Digital

file.

  •  Plato; Jowett, B. (Trans.) The Dialogues of Plato (4th ed.). Oxford: Clarendon Press,

1964, pg. 163 – 196

Divine Illumination and Language

Illumination and Language

all-seeing-eye

It is almost universally understood that language and words are representations, or signs, of objects or states of objects (i.e. “if” represents a state of mind), yet interestingly enough we define these signs with other signs, or words. It is, by all means, a loop in language. If words are signs used to define objects and states of objects, then how can we ultimately define a sign without proceeding to enter into this twist? One could identify a sign with a sign, naturally, but it is rather contradictory. Consider the example wherein one man is asked to define what the term “ball” means: the man responds by defining the word as a circular object, but then how did the man establish what the word “object” means etc. etc.?

It is also understood that language is merely the verbal or written expression of thoughts, and that we intuitively give meaning to particular words when we are born. No man could have thought of verbalising an object, for neither thought nor producing sound via the vocal cords are instinctive mechanics; so there must have already been an intuitive understanding of the language of thoughts in order to be capable of expressing it via verbal/written language. Then how is it that we were given this understanding of our thoughts without any input by the external world? Could there be a divine being illuminating predisposed knowledge on us?

One could argue that, when one observes an object, one is naturally compelled to express a nonsensical word which is then given familiarity to the object at hand. For example, if a child’s first words were “Mom”, then the word, in the child’s mind, would essentially have no meaning unless their mind intuitively familiarises the enunciation “Mom” to their female parent, who is their Mother. But how is it that such a thing could be expressed mechanically? Surely the mind is distinguishable from bodily functions in the sense that the latter possesses an actual will to do. Just as the mind has no hold over what the body processes, the body has no will to control the mind.

In this sense meaning itself could be the epitome of Christ, divine nature or divine knowledge. Perhaps man is intuitively granted knowledge of the world, and merely recognises it when provoked by the external world. For example, a child could attend school and already know language and mathematics by predisposed illumination, and when they claim to have learned something at school from the Teacher, it was merely the Teacher evoking recognition of the subject in the Child’s mind. This theory essentially claims that intelligibility is already known by man before he perceives the world, and the actual interaction of the external world provokes recognition of the predisposed knowledge embedded in their minds, and subsequently provoking a firm memory of the knowledge. Essentially, man merely recollects and recognises, rather than learning. This paradoxical fallacy of language is currently only known to be logically resolved by such a theory. It is presumed that, in this theory, a God of sorts is responsible for illuminating the mind of man with this knowledge before they incarnate into the world.

“What parents would be so foolish as to send [their child] to school to learn what the teacher thinks?”

-Augustine

Scepticism

Scepticism

“…it seems plausible that the truth can’t be found, whereas to me it seems plausible that the truth can be found.”

            -Augustine

The philosophy of scepticism, particularly ancient scepticism, is a way of life which appeals to my philosophical interests. The modern definition of scepticism takes no significant relevance to ancient scepticism. In contemporary English language, a sceptic is man who questions the validity of whichever subject. Yet an ancient sceptic is cautious to approach anything, holding to the belief that no religious or philosophical belief can be legitimately proven. In most sporting games, such as football or cricket, there is a goal which the players reach to achieve. The average player plays hard to reach that goal, just like the average man reaches for divine truth or validation to their belief. However, an ancient sceptic firmly claims that the goal is unreachable, giving them the privilege of being free from knowing anything which is untrue.

Of course one questions how the ancient sceptic would make a good player in the field if they hold the belief that the goal is unobtainable. But one must understand that any well respected sceptic will reach for the goal regardless of their philosophical perspective. Just as playing on the field exercises their muscles and playing skill, so does studying philosophy exercise the soul.

Freedom: Are Human Beings Free?

Freedom and Determinism: Are Human Beings Free?

Is freedom an idea which is available to us in modern society, and in general history? Or is it that freedom is an illusion which no man could possibly possess? If freedom is illusory, then it leaves the question as to why it is an ideal so sought after in mankind. The problem of freedoms is at the core of meta-ethical reflection, as it is the possibility of moral behaviour. Hence, if freedom is a myth – a curtain laid across the stage, or Universe – then so is morality.

Assuming that freedom is a legitimate ideal, which plays a significant role in the play of life, then there are two types of freedom to consider; these are: negative freedom (freedom from constraint or coercion), and positive freedom (freedom for inclusion). Negative freedom is essentially about not stopping an individual from doing what they want, regardless of the consideration of other’s liberty. Positive freedom, however, is the participation of what is genuinely good for an individual, while considering the freedom of others.

In contemporary society, people are often skewed towards negative freedom, often due to the conception that the Government is stripping society of freedom. Yet, as stated in my statement regarding Government conspiracies, the general idea of a Government is to maintain civility and equality at the expense of negative freedom. Leviathan by Hobbes reinforces this fundamental, albeit generalised, ideology.

Facticity

Things which are naturally granted to ourselves which we do not determine, but determine us. Such things include:

-Moods

-Family of origin;

-Genetic Constitution;

-Socio-political circumstances;

-Access to (and quality of) education;

-Culture;

-Native language(s);

-Actions of others;

I personally believe that I have free will, and my entire life isn’t determine by another force or nature. However, I am compatibalist in the sense that I understand facticity. Often in life we have to “play the cards we’re given”, and, as such, not everything is determined by our independent free will.

The Libertarian Thesis

In the absence of physical coercion etc.; human beings have free-will or agent: their decisions and actions are their own. The case of the Libertarian Thesis essentially boils down to the experience of deliberation, making Libertarianism incompatible with determinism.

Libertarianists rebut the argument of determinism by claiming that “I could have done otherwise had I so chosen.” For example, a Libertarianist, in defence of their belief, could say that a Determinist chose their belief in becoming a Determinist. As well as this, one could claim that just because X caused Y, it does not necessarily mean that X is the cause of Y.

Other Philosophers on Ethics

Other Philosophers on Ethics

AJ Ayer, a leading 20th Century philosopher, believed that moral statements are technically meaningless; but they involve emotive and prescriptive element. Essentially, Ayer believed that, because morality has no relation to science, it has no purpose. Charles Stevenson claimed, however, that it is possible to give reason for our likes and dislikes, rather than intuition or emotional desire.

Moore believed that the good was not something that could be defined or reduced to naturalistic categories (Hume): Naturalistic fallacy. Moore’s approach to ethics was a very intellectual and intuitive approach. He believed that, quite simply, man knows what is good through intuition. Intuition is both a rationalist and emotive decision-making about making facts about the world, such as morality. The philosopher Shaftesbury believed the faculty by which we naturally discern the difference between good and evil (known as moral sense). Moral sense is best described briefly as the aggregation of both intuitive morality and naturalistic ethics.

The idea of intuitive morality is that you naturally know the difference between good and evil, without being able to distinguish the knowledge as either intellectual or emotive. A prime example of intuitive morality is the case of Nazi Germany and their philosophy, for it is considered naturally wrong to kill somebody entirely for their race.

Adam Smith believed that the principle of moral sentiment is essentially based on sympathy (sympathy being the innate human desire to identify with the emotions of others). Smith also claimed that if man had a lack of sympathy for other human beings then there is something wrong with you, and you are regarded as immoral. This is an emotive approach, to some extent, as sympathy is naturally considered as a human emotion.

 Levinas on Ethics as ‘first philosophy’

Levinas’ entire method of thinking about the origins and nature of ethics is so very different from the majority of analytic moral philosophy. The roots of moral imperative lie prior to rationality, language, emotions, intuitions, and even the constitution of the self. Ethics, according to Levinas, is grounded in the primordial pre-conscious call of the ‘other’, who calls me into my responsibility for his/her welfare. The ethical encounter with the other is the touchstone of the subject’s freedom.