Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, April 8, 2016

Quiz Apr12

Doubling up today, don't overlook the Apr 7 quiz below.

Mill, Darwin (LH); WATCH: Mill's harm principle, Paley & the divine watchmaker (HI); LISTEN: Richard Reeves on Mill's On Liberty (PB); Humans, Apes, & Linnaeus; Evolution & Beauty (HI)... Podcast... Mill on happiness: excerpts from Autobiography, On Liberty, & Utilitarianism



1. John Stuart Mill criticized his father's friend _____'s version of Utilitarianism, saying it failed to distinguish higher and lower _____ of pleasure. (quantities, qualities) 

2. What was the title of Mill's 1859 defense of "giving each person space to develop as they saw fit" so long as they do no harm in the process? 

3. What did Mill think happens to views and opinions that go unchallenged? What do they turn into? 


4. (T/F) Charles Darwin defended evolution by natural selection in a debate at the Oxford Museum of Natural History in 1860. 

5. (T/F) Darwin called evolution by natural selection "the single best idea anyone has ever had." 

6. What do we know that Darwin didn't, that makes evolution more than "just a hypothesis"? 

BONUS: Who said "What do I care about J.S. Mill? I only want to lead a quiet life." 

DQ
1. Is it better to be a contented "piggish" person, or a discontented intellectual? Better Socrates dissatisfied or a pig satisfied? Are some pleasures inherently higher in quality than others? Which ones?

2. Mill would say we don't have a right to interfere with others' preferred pleasures, though we may have a duty to criticize them. Might such criticism encroach on someone's "space," should they "see fit" to live a life of slovenly pleasure?

3. Do you ever conclude a statement of belief with the caveat that it's "just my opinion"? What do you think Mill would say about that?

4. How do you respond to the idea that our humanity is demeaned by biological association with other species? What do you think of Bishop Wilberforce's rhetorical debate question? What's your answer to those who ask "why are there still monkeys"?

5. What do you think is the best idea of all time?

6. "The whole subject of God is too profound for the human intellect." Agree or disagree? Should everybody just stop talking about it?
==
*Mill & Darwin quotes

Mill and Darwin, both on Team Aristotle, look more on the bright side of life than old Schopenhauer. (But you'd be surprised how sunny Schopenhauer sounds in his "Wisdom of Life" essay.)


“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.” 

“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” 

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to beSocrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question.” 

“In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service... That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.” 

“The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.” 


“If I had my life to live over again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week.” 

“...But I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidæ with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice... I feel most deeply that the whole subject is too profound for the human intellect. A dog might as well speculate on the mind ofNewtonLet each man hope and believe what he can.” 

“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.” 


“The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.” 

“Besides love and sympathy, animals exhibit other qualities connected with the social instincts which in us would be called moral.” 

“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” 

The vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and multiply.

An old post;
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Mill & Darwin

“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.” J.S. Mill‘s statement sounds surprisingly Buddhist/ascetic, for a philosopher whose name has come to be associated with libertarian self-actualization and (later) Jamesian liberalism. Understandable, perhaps, after an execrable childhood when his father pushed him much too hard to excel. He had a nervous breakdown at twenty. Cautionary tale, young scholars? [Mill's Autobiography]

But he rebounded impressively, going on to become one of the most popular philosophers in the western world (definitely one of my personal favorites), an early champion of feminism, and a friend of personal freedom in general.

Mill tried to correct Bentham’s indiscriminate “happiness” by introducing a quality distinction among pleasures. I’d love to endorse this move, and say things like: unit for unit, an inning of baseball is far superior to a quarter of football. (We might agree, though, that both are superior to “push-pin” and some poetry.) But happiness, pleasure, satisfaction et al have to be left to the judgment of the beholder if they’re to be actual motivators of conduct. So, I agree with Mill in principle and in conscience, but must stick with Bentham in practice. [J.S. Mill up@dawn]


But the harm principle, and On Liberty (1859) in general? I’m with him.
The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.

I love too what he says about Socrates and truth. In Utilitarianism (1861) he adds,
It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. [JSM]

And remember this, when we discuss William James and “what works”: “The truth of an opinion is part of its utility. If we would know whether or not it is desirable that a proposition should be believed, is it possible to exclude the consideration of whether or not it is true? In the opinion, not of bad men, but of the best men, no belief which is contrary to truth can be really useful.”

Mill says we all know that some of our opinions are untrue, but must seek out or even invent the dissenting opinions that will correct them. But many or even most people are more like Thomas Hardy's "Phillotson," aren't they? They don't want to question everything, they don't really want to question much of anything. They only "want to lead a quiet life." Is that liberty? Or is it intellectual death?

Richard Reeves notes that Mill has by now become an English "national treasure," losing some of the dangerous edge that made him relevant in the first place. But his message still resonates for many, right Brian? We must take responsibility for our own beliefs, actions, and lives, and for our unique personal potential. We're all individuals. We don't have to follow anybody. We can be "self-made." (Hear that, B.F. Skinner?)

On Liberty wasn't the only groundbreaking, earthshaking, worldview-making publication of 1859. What was the best mindless eye-opening idea anybody ever had, Dan Dennett?
If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I’d give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else. In a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning, and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law. Darwin’s Dangerous Idea [Darwin and philosophy... Darwin@dawn... evolution... Dennett...Matthew Chapman... Scopes Trial... Loyal Rue]



We were talking about Hegel’s idea of history as a progressive march to expanded human consciousness of reason and freedom, driven by ideas in conflict (“thesis-antithesis”). I think we all have to admit (though of course we-all don’t, in these environs) that Darwin’s discoveries were a big hitch ahead on that road. His autobiographical account of an argument he had with the Captain of his storied ship (the Beagle) over slavery is instructive in this regard:


In the voyage at Bahia in Brazil he defended and praised slavery, which I abominated, and told me that he had just visited a great slave-owner, who had called up many of his slaves and asked them whether they were happy, and whether they wished to be free, and all answered “No.” I then asked him, perhaps with a sneer, whether he thought that the answers of slaves in the presence of their master was worth anything. This made him excessively angry, and he said that as I doubted his word, we could not live any longer together.

Darwin and Fitzroy patched that one up, and history is now clear about the winner of that debate. Progress, right? Fitzroy would later regret his role in Darwin’s saga, and our species’ climb up the tree of life from ignorance and superstition. But Darwin’s big idea, like Lincoln’s, was a great emancipator of the human spirit. They shared a birthday, curiously, and (as Hegel might have said) a zeitgeist.




So Darwin offered an account of our proximate origins that does not require the theistic hypothesis. He himself remained agnostic on the question, unlike our contemporary Richard Dawkins. He’s reviled by many Americans (deluded or not), but I can only envy the “popular understanding of science” he and others have proffered students in the U.K. and that our public schools continue to neglect.

Revisiting Darwin’s autobiography, and one of his more sagacious but plaintive reflections:

If I had to live my life again I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied could thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.

Don’t let it happen to you, kids. And remember: “the vigorous, the healthy, and the happy survive and flourish.” Actually he said they "multiply," but I think he'd be okay with my revision.

Maybe that will help answer the student’s question that caught me so flat-footed one day in CoPhi: “What does any of this evolution stuff have to do with philosophy?”

Only everything, on my reading. Evolution by natural selection is possibly the best idea anyone ever had, as Dennett says. It brings our quest for meaning into meaningful harness with the rest of nature and life, provides the widest available perspective on our origins and destiny, links us to the primordial past and the possibility of a wondrous future for our species, and replaces disingenuous skepticism (a topic that came up in connection with scientific realism: can any reasonable person really doubt the existence of atoms etc.?) with a promising conceptual framework to unite all the disciplines of learning.

And as John Dewey said, in “The Influence of Darwinism on Philosophy“:
Origin of Species introduced a mode of thinking that in the end was bound to transform the logic of knowledge, and hence the treatment of morals, politics, and religion… making many sincere and vital efforts to revise our traditional philosophic conceptions in accordance with its demands.
Darwin helped us understand that the world and all its species, and possibly the entire universe, are in dynamic and mutually-formative relations with one another and with their respective environments. Those in closest proximity are vital environing influences themselves, competitors for existence and co-creators of life. They are change-agents, in perpetual process of growth and adaptation (or demise). Nothing is fixed and final and forever. Our thinking must be flexible and adaptive too.

But maybe the best answer to what’s philosophical about evolution can be explained in simpler terms still. I’ll visit the kids’ section and get back to you. Meanwhile here’s a start:

The Tree of Life begins with Darwin’s childhood and traces the arc of his life through university and career, following him around the globe on the voyage of the Beagle, and home to a quiet but momentous life devoted to science and family… a gloriously detailed panorama of a genius’s trajectory through investigating and understanding the mysteries of nature.

A personal connection: my first landlord - that is, the owner of my parents' first brick-and-mortar free-standing home, when I was a small child, was famed zoologist and Scopes witnessWinterton Curtis. He used to pull dollars from my ear. Very cool guy.

As we noted recently, when discussing David Hume’s rejection of intelligent design, it’s all really pretty simple, and wondrous, and beautiful.


Carl Sagan’s version of the story is very good.


But maybe you’ll find Eric Idle’s easier to hum. Listen to this:



It’s the sun and you and me, and all the stars that we can see, and life, and everything in this amazing and expanding universe that philosophers are trying to understand. Makes you feel kinda small, but also kinda special. We’re the ones who get to be here and sing along.

32 comments:

  1. Anonymous2:29 PM CST

    Sierra cox #11
    DQ: I agree that the subject of god is too profound for the human intellect and I believe we will never fully understand the complexity of god and the way he works, but I don't think everyone should stop talking about it all together. In my opinion discussing, and viewing others perspectives on god allows us to create a deeper meaning as well as grow from the knowledge we gain from others.

    ReplyDelete
  2. (#8) DQ 1:

    I think it better to be a discontented intellectual (I.E: "Dissatisfied Socrates") than to be a contented pig. My reasoning behind this being that it is much more favorable to attain a single, higher-quality pleasure than to attain several less favorable, lower-quality pleasures. I would rank the "pleasure system" as higher-ranked pleasures being the ones that are considered as more noble, higher-class, or in good taste by society. Inversely, the lower-ranked pleasures would be the ones that cause personal embarrassment or those that are considered as bothersome and "unpopular" by society.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Justin fox10:43 AM CST

    DQ(#12) Should the harm principle apply only when inflicting harm upon others or should it be applied when inflicting harm upon oneself?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stephen Martin (4)
      Ideally only when inflicting harm upon others. However it could be argued that by harming ourselves we are likewise harming all of society, as we are part of a whole.

      Delete
  4. DQ: I think the best idea of all time is the encouragement of people to figure out who they are and be creative with their lives. Without encouraging creativity and individualism, we would be a bland species that probably would not accomplish all that it has. Fortunately people have pursued their passions through who they are, figuring out why they are so interested in certain things.

    ReplyDelete
  5. DQ: I think the best idea of all time is the encouragement of people to figure out who they are and be creative with their lives. Without encouraging creativity and individualism, we would be a bland species that probably would not accomplish all that it has. Fortunately people have pursued their passions through who they are, figuring out why they are so interested in certain things.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Janet Peoples (8)
    Mill would say we don't have a right to interfere with others' preferred pleasures, though we may have a duty to criticize them. Might such criticism encroach on someone's "space," should they "see fit" to live a life of slovenly pleasure?

    Most people want to put there input on what something is doing or there beliefs, its just a normal thing. Some people want to hear what someone else has to say and maybe get a better thought on the topic.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Janet Peoples (8)

    "The whole subject of God is too profound for the human intellect." Agree or disagree? Should everybody just stop talking about it?

    I think its not profound because its someone a lot of people believe in and worship every single day of there life. I think we should talk about God and get the word out and try to open up other peoples lives that are lost and just need someone that can be there for them.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Karol saleh section 8
    What do you think is the best idea of all time?
    I think the best idea of all time is to encourage people to know more about God and how he can forgive our sins and save us from the bad things. To know them that he loves us and he die for us on the cross to save us from hill.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Danielle Bonner Section 4
    Quiz questions
    1. Who was the other naturalist that was working on a theory of evolution at the same time as Darwin that "nudged" him into publishing his book earlier/
    2. How did a fellow scientist to Darwin explain that we cannot come to a conclusion on the existence of God?
    3. When does Mill think is the only time to intervene in someone else's freedoms?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Emily Blalock
    Quiz Question
    section 4

    According to Mill, humans are similar to trees in what way?
    Which scientist was a devout Creationist who was dismayed that he had played a part in undermining religious beliefs by taking Darwin aboard his ship?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Lucas Futrell (6)
    Quiz Questions:

    1) Did James Fitzjames agree with Mill's views on individual freedom?
    2) What book did Mill write in support of feminism?
    3) What was the name of the ship that took Darwin on his famous five year voyage?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stephen Martin (4)
      1. No - He believed most people would end up making bad and self-destructive decisions and should therefore not be given too many choices about how they live.
      2. The Subjection of Women
      3. HMS Beagle

      Delete
  12. Section 6
    DQ3
    I often find myself concluding with the phrase "in my opinion". I personally believe that many people are faced with experiences that will often anchor them to a different belief than my own, and I feel that it can often make my own argument more presentable if it seems I am presenting my viewpoint on an equal level with whomever I am conversing.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Section 6
    DQ1
    I have occasionally switched my viewpoint on this concept, but currently I find living a "piggish" life can be a more pleasant one, when often being too aware of superfluous aspects in my life have been inconvenient or troublesome, when I could have been blissfully unaware.

    ReplyDelete
  14. section 6
    QQ suggestion
    What book did Darwin publish in 1959?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Stephen Martin (4)
      On the Origin of Species

      Delete
  15. Danielle Bonner section 4
    Ashley Haydon and Amy Young
    We discussed the defense of dead dogmas, and the use of the phrase "that's just my belief" as a way of making one seem more humble after giving a logical argument for their own opinion, rather than being a defense for a dead dogma. We also discussed the beauty of animals and how lineage does not demean humanity. And how the idea of pedigree has too much importance in our society.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Section 6:
    QQ:
    Which Islands provided the best evidence of evolution?
    (T/F) Darwin was a biologist and geologist, not a philosopher.

    Who said, "I can't imagine being an atheist any time before 1859" the year Darwin published his book about where we came from?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Sean Byars section 6
    QQ: Given the choice, would it be better to be a content pig or a sad human being according to Mill?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Sean Byars section 6
    DQ1: I believe that it is better to be a happy fool than a sad intellectual. Happiness is the ultimate goal for many people in this life;thefore, a happy fool is closer to said goal than the sad intellectual.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Anonymous12:31 PM CDT

    Devin Mahoney (6)

    I love this quote by J.S. Mill's. "One person with a belief is equal to a force of 99 who have only interests."

    Bonus Question:

    Mill's said "My freedom to _____ my _____ ends at the _____ of your _____."

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sterling Smith (#6)12:57 PM CDT

    (T/F) Darwin loved music and poetry.

    ReplyDelete
  21. 6 Brock Francis
    DQ 1
    It is better to be a dissatisfied person. If one is piggish then they will never gain anything in life. If someone is dissatisfied then they are always looking for improvement. I believe pleasures are of different qualities based on an individuals desires and whether they are piggish or dissatisfied.

    ReplyDelete
  22. 6 Brock Francis
    DQ 6
    The entire subject of God is not to profound for human intellect. However, certain parts, such as God's identity, may be to profound for human intellect. I believe it is important for human being to seek God. The moment we dismiss God, I believe, we then came from nothing, mean nothing, and are going no where.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Sterling Smith (#6)1:29 PM CDT

    (T/F) Both philosophers tended to side with Plato

    ReplyDelete
  24. Sterling Smith (#6)1:30 PM CDT

    Discussion Question: What is the importance of knowing whether Mill and Darwin sided with Plate or Aristotle?

    ReplyDelete
  25. 6 Brock Francis
    DQ 5
    I believe there is no such thing as the greatest idea of all time. For any given idea, there are many ideas that create other ideas, so one could continue to go back to a prior idea. Instead of all ideas being separate entities, I believe that all ideas are like an intertwined bale of hay.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Nick Corley- Reporter (Section 6)

    Today we discussed whether being a discontented intellectual or a content "piggish person" would be more sufficient. In conclusion, we decided that the two must exist with one another. The smart does not exist without the stupid. Just as happiness does not exist without sadness. In our opinion, an intellectual is only discontent because he knows the true reality of the world. An intellectual can see that most of the population consists of oblivious minds that do not consider opinions other than their own. In other words, being an intellectual consists of opening yourself to the presence of multiple world views, however one who shuts their perspective to the view of others may be considered ignorant or foolish. The discontent of an intellectual is a direct result of the ignorance of a content "piggish" individual.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Bonus Questions:
    1. Who did Karl Marx write The Communist Manifesto with?

    2. How many children did Karl Marx have?

    3. What did Engels do to help Marx save face?

    ReplyDelete
  28. Stephen, Meghan, Cameron (4)

    We discussed Optimism vs Pessimism and which side we tend to lean towards ourselves. As well as how the environment in which we have lived shapes us one way or another.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Amy Young (4)

    6. "The whole subject of God is too profound for the human intellect." Agree or disagree? Should everybody just stop talking about it?

    I do believe that as human beings we cannot fully understand the idea of a god, but I do not believe we should stop talking about it.

    QQ: why has Darwin never before been discussed as a philosopher?
    QQ: what was mill's version of utilitarianism?

    ReplyDelete