Type: Review
Pages: 10 | Words: 2963
Reading Time: 13 Minutes

Certainty by Thomas Moore

Moore’s essay Certainty was presented as a lecture in 1941 in a series of other works on skepticism that he had authored. Moore begins by stating several assumptions, which he then goes on to analyze at length.

  1. Presently he is in a room, not outside
  2. He is standing, and not sitting or lying
  3. He has clothes on, i.e., he is not naked
  4. His voice is loud; he is not whispering, singing, or staying silent
  5. He is having some pieces of paper with notes on them
  6. There is a window and a door in the room

Moore hypothesized that those conditions are not only true but also certain. Whereas it is hard to accuse him of dogmatism, it also appears unnecessary to critique his approximations derived from senses. Therefore, he has the full right to make these statements and believe them to be true. In line with his argument on skepticism, Moore expresses doubt that the assumption that he is standing, standing, does not mean the assumption that he is not dreaming, not-dreaming. That is why the first part of this argument cuts both ways — if we are not sure if we are dreaming, we cannot be sure if we are standing, because it may or may not be a dream. In this regard, Moore recalls an amusing story about the Duke of Devonshire, who imagined to be speaking at the House of Commons only to wake up and learn that he was actually giving a speech there.

Moore’s argument about exercising skepticism over our perceptions presents a worthwhile idea to entertain in mind, yet I cannot see any practical implications of such a way of relating to things that surround us. Instead, skepticism may be used to probe more graspable aspects of our everyday life.

The Problem of the Criterion by Roderick M. Chisholm

The problem of the criterion refers to the starting point of knowledge. The author examines the issue of criterion with two sets of questions. The first one concerns our knowledge in general and its extent, while the second set deals with the way we know something, and notably the criterion of knowing.

There are things we believe to know, but which in fact we do not. It reflects the problem of distinguishing the real cases of knowledge from those that only seem to be cases of knowledge. A truth criterion should satisfy three conditions. Firstly, it should be internal with no reason or rule provided by the external authority. A mind is supposed to find evidence within itself to confirm that an assumption is true. Secondly, it must be objective and reject the subjective state of the thinking subject. Finally, the criterion must be immediate.

The author opposes dogmatist and skepticism as extreme standpoints. The dogmatist theory claims that we can know as far as we want to know, while the skeptic theory assumes that we can know much less than we probably want to know. The thing is that the truth lies between these two extremes. Some methods are needed in order to distinguish between true or false beliefs. But, there should first be found an appropriate method for deciding between good and bad methods. Therefore, an attempt to determine a better method to decide whether beliefs are true or false leads to an infinite regress.

Finally, the author examines three possible approaches that can be taken to answer the sets of questions. They are the methodist’s, particularist’s, or skeptical strategy. In the end, he adopts a particularist approach, which leads to the concrete principles by generalizing from the clear cases of knowledge. The article evokes a question whether something that is beyond reasonable doubt can be justified according to the author.

Three Kinds of Skepticism by Christopher Grau

The first kind of skepticism that the author deals with is dream skepticism. In his article he supposes that the real world or what is taken to be a real world may originally be a dream. In such a way, a real life may be mistaken for a dream, and a dream for a reality. He fairly claims that people do not realize they are dreaming until they actually wake up. Along with the fact that dreams are often very realistic and vivid, he assumed that our real life might be a long dream. It is said as long as there is no evidence that we are not actually dreaming, we cannot confirm we are living a real life. Still, he claims we have some knowledge of the nature of reality as long as our imaginings have some background. Besides, many things such as math formulas do not change regardless whether we sleep or not.

The second type of skepticism is the brains in vats skepticism. According to this idea, a computer may control the brain with the help of electronic impulses that create a virtual reality. It means that the brain receives the same impulses as it would be operating in the real environment. From the perspective of that brain, it is impossible to say whether the reality is genuine or is simulated by a computer. Therefore, people cannot be sure of whether their beliefs and daily experiences are true or false. An evil demon refers to the personification of the outside force that is able to stimulate the external world and physical sensations, but is not able to affect one’s mind. According to Descartes, one cannot doubt the existence of oneself as any thinking process requires a thinker. However, it raises a question about the coherence of the things and our language. It is also said that not all thoughts that go through our mind are our genuine thoughts and not everything we say is meaningful.

The article also deals with the experience machine, a device that allows you to go through the experience and have the same feelings that you would have if you practiced it in reality. That is to say, the experience and the feeling are stimulated, and the one who is experiencing it becomes a passive recipient and loses his will.

The Ethics of Belief by Clifford

In the The Ethics of Belief, that is divided into threesections The Duty of Inquiry, The Weight of Authority, and The Limits of Inference, the author claims that faith is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone.

Clifford assumes that it is morally wrong to believe anything that is reached on the insufficient evidence. It is also wrong and irrational to maintain a belief when it is contrary to the evidence. In order to prevent any objections claiming that actions and not beliefs should be judged morally, he claims that a genuine belief is prone to manifest itself in one’s behavioral dispositions. He claims that decisions made on the basis of beliefs and poor evidence will lead to bad consequences even if they do not follow immediately. To support his point of view, he provides an example of a wrecked ship because the ship owner ignored the evidence of probable crash.

Moreover, Clifford assumes that one has the right to believe in something only after performing due diligence with respect to reasons to this belief, because having insufficient evidence may lead us to a belief in wrong things. That is to say, one should adjust beliefs proportionally to the evidence. In addition, the author vigorously claims that not only the standards of action, but also the standards of belief should be firmly established. In this case, formation of beliefs should become a matter of responsiveness to sufficient evidence of reasons. Therefore, he thinks it is not appropriate to justify one’s actions with his or her beliefs. Another issue that the author deals with is God. According to Clifford, God does not exist since there is no sufficient evidence that would prove his existence. Besides, according to the author, people have no right to believe in God because of the lack of evidence.

In my mind, the article evokes a question of what it takes for evidence to be sufficient.

Religious Pragmatism through the Eyes of Luke Skywalker by Joseph W. Long

In the article, Religious Pragmatism through the Eyes of Luke Skywalker, written by Joseph W. Long, the truth-conductive and pragmatic reasons for holding belief are examined. It is said that, in addition to the reasons that show the truth of what we believe, there are also some practical reasons to believe in something.

According to Long, in order for faith to be morally acceptable, the following conditions should be met. Firstly, the proposition must be unsolvable by the intellect, that is to say, it should not be solved by scientific methods. Secondly, accepting faith is a true choice that we can intuitively understand. It is said that there always exist at least two “real possibilities” to choose between. The choice is also forced since you cannot “not decide”. Even in the case when a decision will have the same results as if it would not have been made, it still should be implemented. Finally, the option is momentous and is a matter of some consequence.

Additionally, some good practical reasons to have faith are displayed in the article. It is claimed that possible advantages of faith are greater than possible disadvantages of believing wrong. According to the author, believing what is true is equally or even more important than weeding out false beliefs. Besides, some truths cannot be realized without faith. A faith also acts as a powerful incentive for the main hero to overcome all obstacles on his way and reach his aim.

Furthermore, the author states that the stability of the belief depends not only on a matter of whether it is true or false, or even whether it is fruitful or useless, but rather where it stems from. It may depend on perspective, intuitive understanding and intention. The article displays and analyzes good reasons to believe in something. Nevertheless, it raises a following question. Is that possible that we could avoid errors simply by not holding any beliefs?

Coke into Pepsi: The Miracle in Pulp Fiction by Keith Allen Korcz

An article Coke into Pepsi: The Miracle in Pulp Fiction, written by Keith Allen Korcz, addresses philosophical aspects of the Quentin Tarantino films and focuses exactly on the topic of a miracle identification and its evidences.

The article deals with the importance of evidence required to accept a miracle as a good reason to believe in the existence of God. It is said that laws of nature never get suspended. It can be explained by the fact that such laws have been tested many times and have never been actually violated even if they were claimed to be. There may be a fortunate coincidence that is also possible but it is not regarded as a genuine miracle or strong evidence of a God’s existence.

From one point of view, a genuine miracle should include a suspension of the nature laws, which may serve as strong evidence in favor of the supernatural power. It may be both visible and easy to discover, or subtle and hard to identify at the first sight. However, even if we do not see a miracle, it does not mean that it does not exist. Besides, the event does not need to be dramatic to be a miracle. It was said that God makes the impossible possible, that is to say, he violates the nature laws, which man is unable to do. Such an intervention of some supernatural being is often referred as a miracle.

On the other hand, such interpretation may appear to be controversial due to some facts. Firstly, some natural phenomena or other events may be perceived as miracles due to the limited ability to collect and evaluate the evidence properly. Secondly, the perception of a miracle may be quite subjective regardless of the fact whether a miracle is genuine or not, it may affect significantly one’s mind or consciousness.

Summing up all mentioned above, I would like to raise a question on the subject of the quality and quantity evidences and which one would be more significant in determining whether a suspension of natural laws may be perceived as a miracle or not.

The Metaphysics of the Matrix by Jorge Gracia & Jonathan Sanford

In their article, The Metaphysics of the Matrix, Jorge Gracia and Jonathan Sanford evaluate the traits of realism and anti-realism. The authors are distinguishing two parallel worlds. The first one is the real world, where humans are enslaved by the artificial intelligence for energy; and the second one is the unreal world, where humans believe they are living in freedom without any restrictions, except those concerning other people’s rights. Metaphysics in this case is a system of analyzing and categorizing the peculiarities of the reality and the Matrix.

In their work, the authors state that, before trying to distinguish the differences between the real world and the Matrix, one should firstly analyze the source or find origin of each characteristic. The main difference between them is that the origin of the real world is unknown, while it is known that the Matrix originated from reality. The sequence of events is simple: people created machines, and then machines created the Matrix. Therefore, it may be assumed that the reality exists independently, while the Matrix is dependent on its source. In its essence, the Matrix is a complex of computer programs that create a parallel reality and make it operate.

It is also assumed that the mind is a so-called bridge between these two worlds. Minds are real and may create the unreal. This can be done simply by dreaming or by the electrical impulses that affect the brain and create a particular image needed. Besides, the real influences the mind directly while the unreal does it indirectly. However, when the mind is deceived, it may take the unreal to be real.

The article supports the idea of the dualism, according to which the world consists of exactly two incompatible types of things that may fall exclusively into one of the categories. Thus, it raises a question of where we might encounter examples of dualist metaphysical systems.

The Diamond Sutra

The Diamond Sutra is one of the Mahayana Buddhism monumental scriptures and the oldest dated printed book. It is regarded to be one of the most sacred works of the Buddhist faith.

The book contains the didactic conversations between the Buddha and his student Subhuti, during which the Buddha is performing his religious teaching. The main idea proclaimed by the famous spiritual leader is a necessity of demolishing and getting rid of the illusions of the deceptive reality. The thing is that the true timeless reality lies behind the misleading names and concepts that are given to different concrete or abstract things.

According to the Buddha, achieving peace of mind is one of the key components in the process of mastering the mind. One should be generous and act without thinking about the self. Besides, one should remember that the signs and characteristics by which we know the surrounding things are not the things themselves. They reflect the essential concept of Buddhism — the idea of individuality rejection. Therefore, the truth of human existence can only be understood by realizing that everything is temporary and dependent on changing and impermanent factors.

According to the Diamond Sutra, a Perfect Enlightenment means escaping ego delusions, being free from any passions, and being perfectly content in seclusion. It was also said that it is impossible to obtain a Perfect Enlightenment as long as proclaiming someone enlightened means that one would admit the existence of the individual person, a separate self and personality, which is inadmissible in the Buddha studying.

In general, the relatively short size of the Diamond Sutra translation is easy to read and understand. However, the teachings of the Buddha are sometimes subtle and not entirely clear. Therefore, there may be some interpretations which may appear to be controversial.

The Beatles and Idealistic Monism by Michael Baur

The Beatles and Idealistic Monism is an analytical piece of writing that examines the Beatles’ massive musical and cultural impact on the popular culture from an academic perspective and deals with its links to the idea of idealistic monism.

Baur’s idea of idealistic monism described in the book is related to the Beatles’ philosophy of life. It refers to the idea that the reality is mentally constructed, that is to say, everything surrounding us is created with the help of mind and thoughts. Therefore, the mind is able to control all things in the physical world. The Beatles were known for having experimented with drugs and mysticism in order to expand their consciousness and enhance their creativity process. These influences were often reflected in their music. The author is trying to carry out a philosophical analysis of the Beatles’ songs and to find their links with idealistic monism, philosophical postmodernism, and existentialism.

Achieving the ocean of consciousness means awakening the eternal and unlimited nature of a human being. However, the thing is that it is almost impossible to rise above the temporary and chaotic physical existence and achieve this ocean of consciousness. Only the greatest spiritual leaders were able to do that.

From my own perspective, there seems to be a tendency to take pop and rock music too seriously. I believe that the Beatles were an amazing and unique band and their creative works were one of a kind as well. They were trying to raise disturbing and profound issues in their songs, such as the criticism of radical political and spiritual leaders, authentic relationships, rejection of the consumer culture, etc. Still, it seems to me that the authors of this work are prone to overly analyzing and intellectualizing pop music, whereas its main function is to entertain the audience. In addition, they are examining the impact of the Beatles not only on the youth culture but on the entire world. Therefore, the impact of the Beatles also seems to be a bit overestimated.

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