Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, November 25, 2013

Critical Thinking Philosophers

Well since John was not here, I guess I'll go ahead and make the post for today.

Today during the lecture part of our class, we covered Wittgenstein and his beliefs on how the only limit to how we can interact with the world is language (and that he's not going to waste time talking in the presence of women), Popper and his views on the Scientific Method and how we should not spend our time looking for evidence to prove our hypothesis and instead seek to disprove it, and Hitchens' statements that we should not limit ourselves to merely accepting what we are told and to "take the risk" of thinking for ourselves. We also talked about Arendt and Kuhn, and there may have been one or two more, but they're not sticking out to me at the moment.

As I mentioned in class, I agree with Hitchens' view that we should not go about blindly accepting things so that we no longer have to think, but instead we should seek out knowledge on our own, and we should be constantly hungry for greater understanding of the things around us. However (and this is one big disagreement), I do not agree that you cannot be someone who seeks out knowledge and understanding, and someone who is a person of religious belief. Now, I can only speak on my own behalf, but I was not someone who cared for any sort of higher power for the better part of my life. The only reason that I picked up a bible in the first place was so that I could be more familiar with the very thing that I mocked. Granted, I had a different outcome than some people experience when they pick up a bible, but I came out of it with the insight that God was the answer to the questions that I had been asking my entire life. Did that stop me from pursuing higher education and knowledge in both math and science? No. If anything, becoming saved only served to push me further into caring and being fascinated by those two fields, because I see God working through them. But before I get all preachy and whatnot, I'll just go ahead and digress. My point is that being someone who has a thirst for knowledge and thinks for themselves and being someone who holds deep-seated religious beliefs do not inherently have to be mutually exclusive. Gaining knowledge and answers for yourself and understanding the reasons behind why things happen, and why you believe what you do are things that everyone should do, not just Christians or Atheists.

We also discussed very briefly how Popper had done both the scientific community and people as a whole a great service by presenting the idea that, instead of constantly seeking to prove our on beliefs and hypotheses, we should begin searching for things that disprove our ideas so that we can take things back to the drawing board more regularly, which results in stronger beliefs and ideas. If you are only reaffirming what you believe and you're only looking for what meshes with your ideas, you're only going to find what agrees with you, and that does not help you grow as a person, or with building a better scientific hypothesis and argument.

But anyway, I believe I've made a big enough wall of text for this time.

I do hope that you all have a great Thanksgiving break, and if you go Black Friday shopping, remember that your cashiers and the staff at the stores are under a whole lot more stress than you are, so be kind and polite!

With that, I shall see you all on Monday!


  1. Your experience with the Bible sounds similar to Francis Schaeffer's, Nathan. What specifically drew you to it being truth (other than God, of course).

  2. Very thoughtful post, Nathan. Hitch did tend to focus his criticism on the easier and softer andtargets, the thoughtless. Sophisticated theists and (eg) Kierkegaardians can't be accused of not thinking, or of wearing their faith lightly, or of blindly following the crowd. He would still complain that there's something inherently abject and "servile" about the concept of an external, authoritative deity with the power of ultimate reward and punishment, and about the will to submit to such an authority: the ultimate dictator. But you're quite right, taking the risk of thinking for yourself also poses the possibility of drawing a theistic conclusion "in good faith." The existence of a Francis Collins shows (and must have shown Hitch, late in life) that to be true.

  3. Your perspective on the Bible seems very interesting. Most people can only say "Oh, they've read it to me in church my whole life" or "Oh, I've never actually read it before." I hear a lot of atheists say attack the Bible saying it makes no sense, and that if anyone read it, they'd never be Christian again. Clearly you came away with a very different mindset, so I'm curious to know what you think of these statements.

  4. First off, amen to everything Nathan had to say!

    FQ (PB pg. 239): Who wrote the theory of justice called "Two Principles of Justice?"
    Answer: John Rawls

    DQ: Do you agree that we should be focused on making the "worst-off" better, or do you think that we should be more utilitarian in our approach?

    Sorry for my absence, I look forward to the discussion on Monday!!!

    1. Here's a link to a short video about John Rawls' "Two Principles of Justice." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPWpvpgZY9g

  5. I agree with Hitchens statement about not accepting what has been told to us and being able to think for ourselves. I think most people's beliefs/religion come from their family and they accept it whether they believe it or not. Just because you were raised a certain way doesn't mean that is who you have to be. Everyone has their own free will and can think for themselves. I think its important to research and become knowledgeable on something before you choose to believe it.

    FQ (LH)- Which British philosopher came up with the thought experiment of the "Runaway Train"? pg.222-223
    Philippa Foot

    DQ (LH)-The Law of Double Effect is described as an action that has two effects, one good and one bad. Although the intention may be good there is usually a bad outcome. An example would be to sacrifice one person in order to save many. Do you believe this law is morally right? pg.224

    Link to the Doctrine to Double Effect, Cartoon Network edition....

    1. This struggle is something that I went through. I was raised as a cradle Catholic, which means that I was Catholic just because my parents were Catholic. I never thought to question my beliefs until it came time for me to be Confirmed. My teacher told us that if we truly did believe in the things that they were teaching us, we shouldn't be Confirmed, and that got me thinking. Did I truly believe what I had been taught, or was I just following in my parents footsteps and going through the motions? It was a hard realization to come to grips with - thinking that everything you thought you believed was all possibly just a load of crap - but it made me a better person. It allowed me to confront my faith logically and rationally and made me really consider what I believed and why I believed those things. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I did believe in those things, but it took true doubt to find true belief. Everyone should question everything. Always seek the Truth. Even if it leads you right back to where you started, you will be better for it in the end.

  6. Ricky (16-3)9:54 PM CST

    I agree with your point on the 'thirst for knowledge' and 'religious beliefs' aren't mutual. Sure you can have a thirst for knowledge of a certain religion being probably the one and only case of the two intertwining but besides that, I believe those two subjects are coherent to one's self.

    1. I'm afraid the meaning of your comment is lost on me.

      By definition, mutual means "having the same feelings one for the other," or "shared in common," and coherent means "having the quality of holding together," both of which suit my statement, and unfortunately have the adverse effect on yours.

      The point of my long-winded tirade was that having a thirst for knowledge and being a person of religious faith are not mutually exclusive things, and can in fact both be present in the same person. Again, I can only speak on my own behalf, but I like to consider myself a somewhat knowledgeable person, and I also like to fancy myself being a man of God. While the argument of faith is one best held elsewhere, the stance I attempted to make was that I am not two wholly different people, and that I don't just up and "put on my smartness hat" and at the same time take of my faith one. I found Hitchen's statements to be wildly sweeping generalizations, and that he aimed at the lowest common denominator when it comes to people who believe in a higher power, and I took personal offense to that, due to my aforementioned fancying myself to be both a person of intellect and reason, as well as religious faith. My next examples being my intense fascination with both mathematics and science, and how I felt more drawn to those after my salvation than before, due to my newfound ability to see God working through those fields. For a less personal argument, I present the thought that, throughout most of history, large strides in both the fields of mathematics and science were made in the effort to understand God. Granted, I'd say close to if not equal amounts were made in the effort to disprove His existence, but that's not the argument I'm making, and I can go 'round and 'round all day if I must.

      I simply do not see the point, and think that it is highly illogical and absurd to have a disclaimer on being a "intellectual person" that says "cannot believe in a higher power." People (such as Hitchens) are so quick to look at the subset of religion that blindly accept everything they are told without so much of a second glance that they ignore the ever larger and more prominent percentage that do think for themselves and are capable of higher thinking.

      Unless your statement contains a typo and you were, in fact, agreeing with me (as your usage of coherent and misinterpreting my point seems to suggest), in which case this whole comment was largely unneeded and I apologize for wasting your time.

    2. This is fantastic, Nathan.

  7. FQ (LH 229): Which philosopher was deeply affected by his experiences in World War II, which influenced his thinking and writing on justice?
    John Rawls
    DQ: In the question of why saving five people and sacrificing one is acceptable, I'm not going to as what you do. None of us can say without a doubt what we do in that situation until we are in it. My question is to what is the point of this thought experiment?
    I think I'm going to side with Voltaire again. People need to stop philosophizing and focus their obvious mental prowess on questions concerning the real world and the sufferings of their fellow man.

    Link to a cartoon on thought experiment http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/education-teaching-thought_experiment-philosophy-philosophers-philosophy_student-scenario-shr0475l.jpg

  8. I'm not sure why it was necessary to bring abortion into the book and begin the inevitable argument of a fetus being a human or not. Ugh.

    FQ: (LH p 223) What British philosopher questioned the morality and bias behind the "sacrificial" experiments? Philippa Foot

    DQ: The first time I ever heard about the option of pushing the large man over the bridge to save the people was at the beginning of the semester on the PBB podcast. I was intrigued, obviously. As I read this chapter, I realized that maybe each person's decision is based on the circumstances and where there sympathy lies. For instance, I'm more willing to sacrifice an unhealthy mid-life man to save children, whereas others might be more willing to save the man over their ex. So, what would be your first thought given the situation? What would you take into consideration first when deciding whose life to choose?

    Link: For all you Family Guy lovers, like myself. http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://tomkow.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8342025e153ef0154320d24ee970c-600wi&imgrefurl=http://tomkow.typepad.com/tomkowcom/2011/04/trolleyproblems.html&h=386&w=600&sz=112&tbnid=-P6bhJ9oWVKkQM:&tbnh=90&tbnw=140&zoom=1&usg=__J5HhZz8kilbsNqpf6_W_AMG68Eo=&docid=mdqsha1mxRRcLM&sa=X&ei=Y92cUrzpCuTKsQSalYHoDg&ved=0CDMQ9QEwAQ

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