The Lazy Poet
Rhyming Notes on Philosophy #04
A poet, wandering,
in thoughts, wondering:
If all that's imaginable,
is logical applicable.
Thoughts and truths analysing,
conditions and merits conceptualizing,
intentional definitions venturing
the falsification endeavouring,
He finds bearing in this world of knowledges,
- and yes: a plural noun because knowledge is -
This poem is his legacy, although it,
is the writing of a lazy poet.
Our poet challenges scepticism,
with Locke’s realism: physicalism
and Berkely’s idealism: phenomenalism.
The final blow in this battle,
after Hume’s fork of logical empiricism,
is the enlightenment of nonsense
by meaningful verificationism.
The poets - he is two in dualism,
mind and body in Descartes interactionism,
or, if you’d choose parallelism,
Leibniz’ harmony is - and if not occasionalism,
or Spinoza’s One, or one-way epiphenomenalism.
And might he be one in monism,
Ryle conceives logical behaviourism,
Nagel’s challenges reductive materialism,
others stipulate functionalism,
on the merits of supervenialism.
The Churchlands rebut with eliminativism,
categorizing mental states as mysticism,
and if you judge this pragmatism,
you are welcome in the land of idealism.
Our poet is all but a fatalist,
Sees the consequences of the causal determinist,
Objects to the irresponsible incompatibilist,
(whether it is the hard determinist
or the free libertarianist).
The subject of our story is a compatibilist,
one could even say he is an over-determinist.
And might you question if he is,
like to ponder in identity analysis?
When you get stuck in memory, character or psychological continuism,
Be assured he simply is, because of
personal identity primitivism.
The poet we get to know in this phonetics,
is a moral actor in all his ethics
be it moral realism,
or its creative antagonism: moral antirealism
or (anti)naturalism, (non)cognitivism,
emotivism, prescriptivism or quasi-realism,
he is/tries to be/act good/responsible,
although none of these are imposable.
But in his day-to-day ethical normativism,
he is lost in the conceptual schism,
acts, reflects on Bentham's utilitarianism,
and then switches to general deontologicalism,
feels unrest in Kant’s categorical imperativism,
seeks contextualization in pluralistic formalism.
And every time he questions if he should,
he answers in Mill’s different scales of “good”.
Our poet, an actor, a civilian,
lives his life between multi-billion.
Willingly hands, (as Hobbes understands),
part of his freedom from chains,
for it is positive freedom he gains
But despite Rawls’ just distribution,
his liberty is just this illusion,
that Nozick’s libertarianism,
did him choose his altruism.
Concluding with a joke for insiders,
with the boundless freedom of poet writers,
I enlarge this unhinged glossoryism,
with a proposed category for our poet: Timism
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In this ode to the philosopher's idiom, we see an important tool; the Thought Experiment. By imagining what is possible, he seeks direction in what is real. A poem full of keywords for your Google Search, and a summary of shelves of books: the poem of the lazy poet.
Thought experiments are a tool for conceptual analysis, or in a particular case the answer to the question “what is (X)?”. In this we are not looking for a lexical, ostensive, stipulative or extensional definition (yes - google it) but an intentional definition: What conditions define (X) in a way that all conditions are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for this definition.
The metaphysical question, whether it is possible to know anything, has met different answers during the last decennia. A central paradox is the fact that statement on the real world originates in our sensory experiences. So: True knowing would entail objective facts obtained by indirect experiences. Scepticism can be directed to the metaphysical claim (challenges the existence of the world) or to the epistemological claim (is it possible to know anything). A realist like John Locke solves the former at the expense of the latter, and an idealist like Berkeley solves the latter at the expense of the former.
The mind-body problem is one of the best known questions in the world of philosophy. Is there a division between the physical world and a non-physical world? For dualist thinkers, there is, which leaves room for an immaterial soul. How the two would interact is a question posed to the father of substance dualism, Descartes, by the young Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia. Some classic answers in this poem are by Descartes himself (interaction inside the pineal gland), Leibniz (God synchronized in advance), Geuliux and Malebranche (God keeps on creating the synchronized world at all needed occasions), Spinoza (Mind and body are both part of a single substance) and Huxley (physical mechanisms do define mental states, but there are no non-physical causes).
The monist’s position is more common in our present time. Is our mental state (just) a form of behaviour, can it be reduced to brain states, or are mental states to be defined in functional terms? According to Patricia and Paul Churchland, this is all irrelevant because the mental states we are considering (like beliefs and desires) are temporary explanatory terms that will in time be explained away by neurosciences. The problem of causation by mental states will thus be eliminated.
The material stance on the mind-body problem leads to interesting consequences on the subject of free will. Is there a causal closure of the physical, and if so, where is my intuitively perceived free will? Are the two compatible, and if not, are we prepared to take the next step and forfeit moral responsibility in the process? Our over-determined poet includes his self-reflective desires and volitions as the determinant factors for his behaviour and saves the day. For now.
Another challenge in, amongst others, ethical questions is the simple idea of identity. We presume that we are one person, now and in the past or future. I share a name, social security number, bank accounts and a lot of my memory with the “I” that lives, say, 5 years ago. But what if all those are transferrable (would that not be conceivable in the material conception of memory)? This leaves us with an unstable intentional definition of an identity. This destabilizes our whole societal and legal structures! Is the continuum between my younger self and me a physical, psychological or behavioural one? Or am I making a philosophical mess of the primitive, perfectly objective idea of personal identity…
This brings us to another branch of Thought Experiments, the evaluative ones. In these, we think of possible situations one can find him/herself in and ask ourselves how to evaluate an action. In this, we should be asking ourselves the meta question of Ethics (does “good” exist) and more normative questions on what we should do. Are there objective moral statements feasible (as the moral realist states - like the utilitarianist) or is it to us to prescribe moral systems (with conceived imperatives - like a deontologist would argue).
These highlighted social contract theories use thought experiments to examine the “ideal” way to organize our society, based on an idea of the state of nature of the human being. Without a devine authority, governments need constitutional basics for legislation. How do people work and live together, prosperous and harmonious?
Timism: Over-extensive word usage incompatible with libertarian poetry, causing fatal omissions in any extensional definition. This poem is made after completing the class Thought Experiments by Prof. Tim de Meij.