Is this statement: (a) true; (b) false; (c) incoherent? What can we learn from a consideration of the statement?

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1 1 MOVING ON TO A-LEVEL PHILOSOPHY AT BHASVIC Doing philosophy is not merely giving your opinion or dismissing the opinions of others. We all hold a variety of opinions on a variety of matters, some of them more or less philosophical. Giving opinions is not doing philosophy, but giving reasons for a conclusion is. So, in philosophy dismissing something as that s her opinion is not an acceptable or fruitful way of proceeding. Instead of merely contradicting one another we have to give reasons why something is or is not the case. In other words we need to give an argument and to be aware of the logic of our arguments. We want to be careful in thinking through what is or is not the case. Over the summer we d like you to read and re-read sections 4, 5 & 6 and think carefully about the issues raised there. Don t feel you have to know the definitively correct answer to the problems raised. Sometimes there isn t a single easy answer. What is important is that you become aware of the complexity of the issues and get a feel for how philosophy goes about its business. Try discussing some of the issues raised with family and friends. Always remember that philosophy is as much about asking questions as giving answers. After some time thinking about and discussing the issues, write a short response (one page maximum) to any of the questions raised and bring it with you to your first philosophy class in September. 1 No words are true. Is this statement: (a) true; (b) false; (c) incoherent? What can we learn from a consideration of the statement? 2 It is my opinion that Chelsea will be Premier League champions in It is my opinion that Leicester City were Premier League champions in At Euro 2016, England are a better football team than Wales. Are any of these statements true? Can an opinion be true (or false)? Can opinions be backed up in some way?

2 2 3Imagine, for a moment, that all swans are white. Could I ever be certain that it is true that all swans are white? What would it take to show that it is not true that all swans are white? Consider the difference between verifying a statement and falsifying a statement. 4 Different cultures have different moral values and even different individuals have different moral values. Therefore, there are no absolutely true moral values. Therefore, we should all tolerate our moral differences. Does the person who makes this argument really believe there are no true moral values? Or is he or she actually claiming that there is at least one true moral value? What if the different moral value that I hold is that we should not tolerate certain moral differences, say in relation to homosexuality? Should I be tolerated? Introductory philosophy reading: Edward Craig, Philosophy: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, OUP Nigel Warburton, Philosophy: The Basics, London, Routledge

3 3 5 Thinking About Moral Relativism Moral relativism is the idea that moral values are not and cannot be absolutely and universally true as they are always linked to particular cultures or to particular historical periods. This is not the same as saying that there are no moral values at all. It is claiming that there are moral values but they are different in different cultures. Evidence for this comes from cultural and historical comparisons such as: A Herodotus tells us that the ancient Greeks burnt their dead, while the Callatians buried their dead. When the Persian king asks both to adopt each other s practices they are horrified. Herodotus s implication is that moral practices are relative to cultural context. Counter-argument A: However, both these cases adhere to the moral value of honouring the dead and so there is a common moral value, even a universal moral value. Question A: Is there a culture that does not have the moral value of honouring the dead in some way or another? Is honouring the dead a universal moral value? B The legal age of sexual consent in the UK is sixteen years while in other countries it can be anything between twelve years and twenty-one years. In fact, in the UK, it was twelve years until 1875 when it was raised to thirteen years, and then in 1885 it was raised to sixteen years for heterosexual acts, while male homosexual acts were made illegal. Counter-argument B: However, whatever the actual age of consent, having an age of consent adheres to the moral value of protecting the innocent and so there is a common and universal moral value whatever the age chosen. Question B: Is it morally right for all societies to have an age of sexual consent, even if it differs from one society to another, or should any age whatsoever be allowed to consent to sex? One supposed implication of moral relativism is that there is nothing which is morally right or wrong in itself, universally and absolutely, and that all moral truths are relative to a particular culture or historical period. But, as you can see from the counter-arguments, it is not obviously true that all cultures differ in their moral values and the two questions also raise issues that suggest moral values might be more universal than they at first seem. It certainly doesn t follow logically from these examples that there are only culturally relative moral values. Some people say: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. At first sight that sounds like a claim to moral relativism. But what if I restate it as: Always act in such a way so as not to offend against the moral values of the society in which you find yourself. Is this now a relativist or a universal claim? Question C: If I think it is morally right to be polite, how should I act?

4 4 6 Moral Subjectivism is Different to Moral Relativism Individuals within a culture can hold different moral values from each other. Something that is morally disgusting to one person may be quite morally acceptable to another person. This form of moral relativism is called moral subjectivism. The way in which this is often expressed by those unfamiliar with the philosophical debates is to say It s all a matter of opinion, and different people have different opinions. While it is undoubtedly true that people do, at least sometimes, have differing opinions on moral matters, this cannot guarantee that there is no correct and true opinion on a moral matter. Indeed, by that measure, to think there was no correct and true opinion would be merely another opinion worth no more nor less than any other. For example, ask yourself, if you met someone who thinks it is morally acceptable to go around killing people willy-nilly, would you think, Oh well, that s their opinion? Or would you think they were actually wrong? Or what if someone believed that rape was morally OK, or that the abuse of children was morally good? Would you still say It s just a matter of opinion? Or do you think that some things are actually wrong? Because opinions can turn out to be true or false, the philosophical debate on this issue tends not to say that people have different opinions, rather it s said that people express different emotions. So, if moral subjectivism is correct, when I state a moral view such as Stealing is wrong or Debt ought to be cancelled or Hitler was evil, I am not making a statement of fact like The moon is made of green cheese which will be either true or false. So I must be doing something else and one suggestion is that I am merely expressing my emotions such that Stealing is wrong actually means something like Boo!, I don t like stealing. Now, it seems if moral subjectivism is right and moral views are either (i) mere individual opinions that cannot be confirmed one way or another or (ii) mere individual expressions of emotion, then claims that there are or ought to be universal human rights have no basis in fact and the idea that freedom is better than tyranny is no truer than tyranny is better than freedom. If you do think there are human rights then you think there are some universal moral values. Question D: So, if you are a moral relativist or, even more so, a moral subjectivist, then can you be a supporter of human rights, of freedom over tyranny? Think carefully, there may be more than one possible answer. In 2005 the general election candidates for Hove visited BHASVIC. One of them argued that the USA and Britain had been right to invade Iraq because, as he said, the values of democracy, free speech, human rights, etc., were better than the non-democratic values and the lack of human rights found in Iraq. He was claiming that some moral values are better than others. A student responded by saying that it was wrong to say that one set of moral values was better than another set of values and so we ought not to invade Iraq. Question E: Was the student correct to claim her moral values (of not imposing freedom, democracy, human rights on Iraq) were better than the parliamentary candidate s values?

5 WHAT WILL WE STUDY IN A-LEVEL PHILOSOPHY? 5 AS Epistemology 1 Perception: What are the immediate objects of perception? Direct realism: immediate objects of perception are mind-independent objects Indirect realism: the immediate objects of perception are mind-dependent objects that are caused by and represent mind independent objects Berkeley s idealism: the immediate objects of perception are mind-dependent objects. 2 The definition of knowledge: What is propositional knowledge? Acquaintance knowledge (knowing of ) Ability knowledge (knowing how ) Propositional knowledge (knowing that ) The tripartite view : justified true belief is necessary and sufficient for propositional knowledge 3 The origin of concepts and the nature of knowledge: where do ideas/concepts and knowledge come from? Empiricism Rationalism AS Philosophy of Religion 1 The concept of God The coherence, or otherwise, of God s attributes and abilities 2 Arguments relating to the existence of God Ontological arguments Design arguments Cosmological arguments 3 The problem of evil Can God s attributes and abilities be coherent with the existence of evil? The free will defence The soul-making defence 4 Religious language Logical positivism: verification and falsification Accounts of religious language Eschatological verification

6 A2 Ethics 6 1 Ethical theories: How do we decide what it is morally right to do? Utilitarianism Kantian deontology Aristotelian virtue ethics 2 Issues: Crime and punishment War Simulated killing Treatment of animals Deception and the telling of lies 3 Ethical language: What is the status of ethical language? Cognitivism: ethical language makes claims about reality which are true or false Non-cognitivism: ethical language does not make claims about reality which are true or false A2 Philosophy of Mind The mind-body problem: What is the relationship between the mental and the physical? 1 Dualism: the mind is distinct from the physical Substance dualism: mind and body are two distinct substances Property dualism: mind and body are two distinct properties of one substance 2 Physicalism: the mind is not ontologically distinct from the physical. Logical behaviourism: all statements about mental states can be analytically reduced to statements about behaviour Mind-brain type identity theory: all mental states are identical with brain states Functionalism: all mental states can be reduced to functional roles which can be multiply realised Eliminative materialism: some or all mental states do not exist * Don t be put off if you have done some philosophy of religion or ethics, in either GCSE or AS Religious Studies options, because what we will do in A-level Philosophy will go well beyond your previous study and will require you to learn new things. Nonetheless, anything you have already done will be a good foundation for what comes next.

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