Friday, September 20, 2013

Answers for Aristotle by Massimo Pigliucci

Philosophy book club is discussing the book in late October 2013.

Here is the complete title:

Answers for Aristotle
How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to a More Meaningful Life

Earl said he'd help me reduce these down to 10 topic questions by the time we meet October 27, 2013.

Loc 150 of 4242 (page 6 of 312) There is a distinct possibility that bad philosophizing may make our lives more miserable ...

1. ** 163 page 6 Eudaimonia is achieved by engaging in virtuous behavior ...319 page 21 Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit

2. **Loc 172 page 7 ...major obstacle to increasing our eudaimonia akrasia, traslatable as weakness of will...

*loc 260 page 13..if you asked one hundred philosophers what philosophy is, you would probably receive the proverbial hundred different answers [Massimo's] take on it is that philosophy is founded on the construction (and deconstruction) of reasoned arguments... [he then mentions other traditions that are commonly counted as philosophy that don't fall neatly into that definition]

3. ** 278 page 15 Aristotle said that morality is about what makes human beings flourish

* 469 page 33 Fallon had a nice childhood with no traumas and plenty of affection from his family

** 502 page 35 According to Green's theory, we change the type of moral judgement we employ--... utilitarians ... to deontologists ... ... The basic idea is that our cognitive processes (broadly speaking, our ability to think rationally) are engaged in utilitarian ethical judgement, while our emotional responses (our gut feelings, our intuitions) enable deontological judgement. [example: fat guy and trolley]

** 616 page 44 Why is it that we seem to have a strong instinct to consider some notions wrong and others right?

** 628 page 45 " common power...continual fear..." ...Thomas Hobbes .... his underlying idea is that morality and justice are latecomers ... the power of the state keeps us from sliding back into a war of all against all...

Loc 686 page 50 ...reciprocal altruism

Loc 895 page 65. enlarge the conditional reciprocity circle to the entire human race ...

*loc 909 page 66...modern deontological theories are based on philosophical analysis, not on theology. [he offers Kant as one example]

*loc 935 page 68 .deontology tends to be concerned with intentions as opposed to consequences

*loc 944 to 958 pages 68 and 69... morality is about reducing suffering ...Peter Singer ... consequentialism ... [he goes on to compare the best of intentions to actual consequences]

4. **Loc 1000 pg 72 .... Real life is too complex for that, and ethical decisions are indeed difficult to make which is why virtue ethics emphasis on character rather than actions or intentions may ultimately be more realistic.

*Loc 1006 pg 73 If you truly do not know what it is like to have to battle the weakness of your will ...

*loc 1012 page 73 [talks about virtue ethics, Kant's categorical imperatives, and consequentialism]

5. ** loc 1135 -1139. Pg 84 -85 Always attentive to the stress that results from cognitive dissonance, the brain immediately "retrieves" memories that are not actually there, literally making up stories as we go to reduce the .....   ..simply a result of confabulation that the patient's brain concocted to reduce the cognitive dissonance

loc 1202-1209 pg 89-90 the brain largely works to rationalize our views of the world.......Only through this awareness and constant vigilance can we hope to improve our ability to make reasonable decisions...  Think of it as training your brain the same way you train your muscles at the gym.....

* loc 1261 pg 94 ...intuition is about the brain's ability to pick up on certain recurring patterns; the more we are exposed to a particular domain of activity the more familiar we become with the relevant patterns....and the more and faster our brains generate heuristic solutions ...
loc 1403 pg 104 ...acquired intuitive skill made possible by the brain having seen enough similar situations to extract patterns...

* 1267 pg 95 Because of this association, intuitions are accompanied by a strong gut feeling that we are right. Intuitive responses and emotional responses are not exactly the same thing neurologically speaking but they share some of the same brain circuitry and are therefore difficult to disentangle
loc 1271 The deep connection between emotions and intuition was evident .....

6. ** loc 1474 pg 111 Deductive reasoning is truth preserving.... That is, if the structure of the argument is valid and if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true.
loc 1481 So there are basically two ways in which a deductive argument can go wrong: when its structure is flawed or when one or more of its premises are not true.

* loc 1557 pg 116 A better way to think about how science works was proposed by Thomas Kuhn partly in response to Popper's ideas. ...occasionally the growing number of unsolved puzzles begins to cause a  stir.... So we will move on .... trying to figure out if we can trust science ...

* loc 1731--1735 page 131 The first line of defense therefore is to stay mindful and try to avoid having to resist more than one of these (or any other) temptations at any given time.   ....Just as the Greek philosopher suggested that virtue is a matter of mindful practice, so modern scientific research tells us that we can improve our willpower ... exposing yourself to small temptations and successfully resisting them
 * loc 1811 page 137 will is the ability to act according to our considered desires
...compatibilists think the the universe is deterministic but that does not preclude free will...
libertarian incompatibilists think the the universe is NOT deterministic ...deterministic incompatibilists think that determinism is real and therefore free will is precluded ...[Massimo explains why he is a compatalist]

* loc 1989 page 150 David Hume claimed ...that reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions... Hume went a step further and famously maintained that morality itself is not arrived at by logical argument but is rather the outcome of our emotional reactions

** loc 2325 page 176 ....our behavior makes us partially responsible for the happiness of our friends, and that presents us with even more of an ethical duty to do the right thing

** loc 2386-2388 page 180 ...loyalty to a friend ... is something that Aristotle would not have found problematic (within limits, of course) ...Mill and Kant,  on the other hand would be somewhat at a loss if asked to justify the special regard one has for a friend within the context of their broader ethical systems.

7. ** loc 2519--2539 page 193-194  People  respond differently to the same factual information depending solely on how it is presented or framed.  Politicians and advertising agencies know this very well, which is why they try to prevent negative connotations for any of their position or products. ...people were responding to the framing , not the facts

* 2608 most of us, most of the time, use what cognitive scientists call heuristics---convenient shortcuts or rule of thumb to quickly assess a situation or a claim.

* 2625 The next time you find yourself vehemently defending a political position, however, you may want to seriously ponder whether you are behaving as a Bayesian updater or whether you are deploying one of the six rationalizing strategies

2659 we have a fairness calculator embedded in our brains

* 2665 reflective equilibrium is a type of rational reflection that seeks to achieve an equilibrium among different notions, judgments or intuitions we might have about a given ethical problem

** 2675 Rawls applied the method of reflective equilibrium to arrive at an ingenious device meant to guide us toward the establishment of a society that is as just as can be rationally conceived
*2870 ..the basic idea is that we want to strive as much as possible to harmonize our beliefs... In practicing reflective equilibrium ... the goal is not to achieve a probably impossible perfect harmony ... One of Rawl's starting points in A Theory of Justice is that a pluralist society is unable to build a system on a single comprehensive moral doctrine 
2791 morally corrupt and therefore unhappy

8. ** 2806-2819 page 216-217 ... if everyone (or even just a large enough number of people) becomes a free rider, there won't be a ride left for anyone. ...

9 * *2820 argument against Marxist theories ...the better the situation becomes for the working class ... Once enough workers have crossed into middle class status, their incentive to engage in further struggle vanishes

2831-2834 The most obvious answer... governments that enforce ... our need for collective cooperation

 * 2899 .. there is a huge difference between a secular system, which is neutral toward religion, and an atheistic one which might be described as antireligious

10. ** 2917-2939 ...Rawl's fundamental concept of justice as fairness ... constant trade off between individual liberties and equality ...we should agree as a society not to accord special privileges to people who happen to have been born in a certain way ... social goods should be distributed equally unless an unequal distribution benefits everyone ...accord more resources to the people willing to do the work

* 2950 Rawls suggests that the participants in the discussion should deliberate as if they had no information about their own ...
2965 ... But Rawls answers that this strategy [utilitarianism] is likely to result in unacceptable restrictions of the rights of one or more minorities

3158 after this, therefor because of this

3162 rationalize away the repeated failures

3590 virtue is a matter of practice

* 3620 Modern psychology makes the same distinction that Aristotle made between happiness as simple pursuit of pleasure and happiness as a fulsome eudaimonia life

11. ** 3696 ...wiser people ... distinguishing situations when it makes sense to take some action from situations that simply need to be accepted because there are no viable alternatives

12.* *3729 we are inherently limited in our ability ... cut ourselves a bit of slack for not getting life exactly right ...

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