Friday, September 27, 2002

Where we've been on Philosoblog: We figured out how to determine the right thing to do in any case. We've seen that leftism (liberalism) has fatal flaws. We've found that libertarianism isn't quite right. I've been arguing for an American conservatism. There will be more of this: We'll be taking a look at John Adams this fall. The philosophy of John Kekes (a contemporary conservative philosopher) will also occupy us soon. We'll have a chance to look at envy, relativism, and the meaning of life, too.

Today, however, let's pause and take a look at what we do not mean by "philosophy" at Philosoblog: the pursuit of the great philosophical issues. Our concern is to come to clarify American moral philosophy. This is not the arcane subject called "philosophy" in universities. Philosoblog began its existence a month ago by noting that there are no great American moral philosophers. Americans are pragmatic and cleave to common sense. Philosophy, as the pursuit of the great issues, the subject taught in universities, defies common sense. It's a ruse. It's a bunch of pseudo-problems. None of these problems has been solved in 2500 years of philosophy. This should tell us that they're not real. They are posed by attempting to undermine common sense. Don't listen to "philosophy". Listen to common sense as it would approach some of the great "philosophical issues":

1. Morality is a set of norms about how much concern to show for others in various circumstances. In order to determine the right thing to do in a given situation, get your facts straight and reason coherently about those norms by using common sense. End of story. The moral philosophy of Kant, Plato, Moore, etc., and all the 20th Century professors of moral philosophy, is a long stream of meaningless nonsense, of musing upon puzzles fabricated by twisting common sense.

2. The mind is a function of our brain. The brain does something or other, and that's our conscious life. You can't separate the two. Here's how the pseudo-puzzle gets started in "philosophy": "We can imagine someone having a brain functioning as ours does but being devoid of any mind or consciousness at all. So, the two can't be the same thing." But that's gibberish. Nothing would count as evidence that someone was such a mindless zombie. By the way, none of this means that there is no soul. Religious faith takes over there, unimpeded by common sense.

3. We're free because we can do what we want to do. Everything that happens is determined by natural law. There is no free will problem. But you can make one up by saying, "But what we want to do is determined, so we're not free" or "We're free, so what we want to do is not determined." Go ahead. Knock yourself out. It's meaningless verbiage. Publish dozens of books on your ravings. Earn a lot of money teaching kids how to rave the ravings.

4. Physical objects change over time. They can still be the same thing if they don't change enough. Just define the thing you're talking about and you can tell when the changes are too great for it count as still there. On the other hand, you can write dozens of books about "How can it be the same and change, too?"

No, at Philosoblog we're not interested in "philosophy". We're interested in philosophy, the real thing: common sense inquiry into our values.

Who am I? I'm a philosophy professor with a Ph.D. in philosophy. My field is mostly a load of baloney. Oddly, this does not mean you shouldn't send your child to study philosophy in college. As Bigwig has noted, philosophy teaches you how to think. The problems are so insanely twisted in their logic, that your child will improve his critical thinking skills immensely by studying them. Philosophy and physics are the two hardest topics in college; philosophy is good for the brain. But suggest majors in history, English, or science (and help him choose classes with professors who aren't pomo-lefties, by the way).