Friday, February 22, 2008

Philosophical questions brought about by Vas

Several things were talked about today (or yesterday since it is 2:30am) during the discussion on Vas that I wanted to open up conversation on.
We talked very briefly about determinism v. choice. This is the subject of the Blog post "Are we robots?" that I posted two weeks ago. Basically, I was pointing out that determinism (choice is an illusion, everything is determined) seems to be the logical result if humans are purely matterial beings. I would love to continue the discussion that was sparked from this.
We also talked a little about altruism, selfless acts. Many people, not including myself, believe that altruism is impossible for human beings. Everything we do, we do for our own interests, some people think. This is a philosophical stance called egoism. People like Freud and Hobbes are convinced that humans are incapable of altruism. It was brought up in class that people act altruistically but they are really just after the good feeling associated with it. I find this to be a sort of jump in logic. Suppose that it is proven that there is some positive chemical effect in the brain associated with selfless actions. Association does not imply causation. How can one say the good feeling causes us to act selflessly? To assume that this is the only possible motive is begging the question, assuming the conclusion that someone can't have selfless motives.
Morality was also mentioned. This must have evolved along with conciousness and free will. This doesn't seem natural to me. How can right and wrong, good and evil exist if everything is simply material? If everything is determined by genes and neurons, then how can we say that any action is wrong or right. Choice must exist for morality to exist. And something beyond matter and energy must exist for choice to exist.
I would love to hear some of your thoughts on these things that I have been thinking about.

1 comment:

Miguel said...

I think as far as altruism is concerned, part of it is for the good feeling you get from helping others and knowing that you are making a difference, and a part of it is simply the desire to help others. But even if it were completely for the good feeling, who is to sayt that is wrong? So many people work just for money and survival without many good feelings about it. If the opportunity is available to do something beneficial and enjoyable, why not take it? Maybe altruism shouldn't be so rigidly defined as strictly selfless, or maybe we should find another word.