Monday, August 28, 2017

Plantinga and Reid

"Even if we could give an argument to show that a given source of belief was, in fact, reliable, in making that argument we would be obliged to rely on other sources of beliefs.  In particular, we would have to rely on reason; but clearly we can't establish that reason is reliable without relying on reason itself; so beliefs that are produced by reason are uncredentialed (WCB 128)

the central truths of Christianity are not self-evident, nor, so far as anyone can see, are they such that they can be deduced from what is self-evident. (WCB 114)

I don't believe those latter on the evidential basis of any other proposition at all; instead, they are 'basic' for me.  I simply see that they are true, and accept them.  I accept many propositions this way: that there is snow in my backyard, for example, and that it is still white. (WCB 83)

By failing to know God, we can come to a vastly skewed view of what we ourselves are, what we need, what is good for us, and how to attain it. (WCB 214)

But sin is also a perhaps primarily an affective disorder or malfunction.  Our affections are skewed, directed to the wrong objects; we love and hate the wrong things.  Instead of seeking first the kingdom of God, I am inclined to seek first my own personal glorification and aggrandizement, bending all my efforts toward making myself look good. (WCB 208)

The sensus divinitatis is a belief-producing faculty (or power, or mechanism) that under the right conditions produces belief that isn't evidentially based on other beliefs.  On this model, our cognitive faculties have been designed and created by God; the design plan, therefore, is a design plan in the literal and paradigmatic sense.  It is a blueprint or plan for our ways of functioning, and it has been developed and instituted by a conscious, intelligent agent.  The purpose of the sensus divinitatis is to enable us to have true beliefs about God; when it functions properly, it ordinarily does produce true beliefs about God.  These beliefs therefore meet the conditions for warrant; if the beliefs produced are strong enough, then they constitute knowledge (WCB179)

The basic idea is this: our cognitive faculties have been designed for a certain kind of maxienvironment. Even within that maxienvironment, however, they don't function perfectly (they sometimes produce false beliefs), although they do function reliably. (WCB 158)

Put in a nutshell, then, a belief has warrant for a person S only if that belief is produced in S by cognitive faculties functioning properly (subject to no disfunction) n a cognitive environment that is appropriate for S's kind of cognitive faculties, according to a design plan that is successfully aimed at truth (WCB 156)

considering the arguments for and against the existence of God.  On the pro side, there were the traditional theistic proofs, the cosmological, teleological, and ontological arguments, to follow Kant's classification.  On the con side, there was, first of all, the problem of evil (construed as the claim that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of a wholly good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God).  Then there were also some rather opaque claims to the effect that the progress of modern science, or the attitudes necessary to its proper pursuits, or perhaps something similar lurking in the nearby buses, or maybe something else that had been learned by 'man come of age'--the idea was that something in this general neighborhood also offers evidence against the existence of God.  And it was also clearly assumed that belief in God was rational and proper only if on balance the evidence, so construed, favored it.   (WCB 68)

Faced with this impasse, I decided to compare belief in God with other beliefs, in particular, our belief in other minds . . . I claimed that the strongest argument for the existence of God and the strongest argument for other minds are similar and that they fail in similar ways.  Hence my 'tentative conclusion': 'if my belief in other minds is rational, so is my belief in God.  But obviously the former is rational; so, therefore, is the latter.' (WCB 70)

Evidentialism is the view that belief in God is rationally justifiable or acceptable only if there is good evidence for it, where good evidence would be arguments from other propositions one knows.  If it is accepted apart from such evidence or arguments, then it is as best intellectually third-rate: irrational, or unreasonable, or contrary to one's intellectual obligations. (WCB 70)

Let's say, a bit vaguely, that according to classical foundatonalists, a proposition is properly basic, for a person S, if and only if it is self-evident for S, or incorrigible for S, or evident to the senses for S." (WCB 85)

And his [Locke's] answer, as we have seen, is that a rational creature in our circumstances ought to govern his opinions by reason--that is, proportion his belief to what is certain for him.  But how are we to understand the 'may' and 'ought' and 'should' that Locke employs in stating his project? . . . his words ahve a deontological ring; they are redolent of duty, obligation, permission, being within your rights and the rest of the deontological stable. (WCB 86)

Aristotle: The Laws of Thought

In the following, Aristotle argues for the three laws of thought:

Identity: a is a
Non-contradiction: not both a and non-a
Excluded middle: either a or non-a

Part 4 "

"There are some who, as we said, both themselves assert that it is possible for the same thing to be and not to be, and say that people can judge this to be the case. And among others many writers about nature use this language. But we have now posited that it is impossible for anything at the same time to be and not to be, and by this means have shown that this is the most indisputable of all principles.-Some indeed demand that even this shall be demonstrated, but this they do through want of education, for not to know of what things one should demand demonstration, and of what one should not, argues want of education. For it is impossible that there should be demonstration of absolutely everything (there would be an infinite regress, so that there would still be no demonstration); but if there are things of which one should not demand demonstration, these persons could not say what principle they maintain to be more self-evident than the present one.

"We can, however, demonstrate negatively even that this view is impossible, if our opponent will only say something; and if he says nothing, it is absurd to seek to give an account of our views to one who cannot give an account of anything, in so far as he cannot do so. For such a man, as such, is from the start no better than a vegetable. Now negative demonstration I distinguish from demonstration proper, because in a demonstration one might be thought to be begging the question, but if another person is responsible for the assumption we shall have negative proof, not demonstration. The starting-point for all such arguments is not the demand that our opponent shall say that something either is or is not (for this one might perhaps take to be a begging of the question),but that he shall say something which is significant both for himself and for another; for this is necessary, if he really is to say anything. For, if he means nothing, such a man will not be capable of reasoning, either with himself or with another. But if any one grants this, demonstration will be possible; for we shall already have something definite. The person responsible for the proof, however, is not he who demonstrates but he who listens; for while disowning reason he listens to reason. And again he who admits this has admitted that something is true apart from demonstration (so that not everything will be 'so and not so').

"First then this at least is obviously true, that the word 'be' or 'not be' has a definite meaning, so that not everything will be 'so and not so'. Again, if 'man'has one meaning, let this be 'two-footed animal'; by having one meaning I understand this:-if 'man' means 'X', then if A is a man 'X' will be what 'being a man' means for him. (It makes no difference even if one were to say a word has several meanings, if only they are limited in number; for to each definition there might be assigned a different word. For instance, we might say that 'man' has not one meaning but several, one of which would have one definition, viz. 'two-footed animal', while there might be also several other definitions if only they were limited in number; for a peculiar name might be assigned to each of the definitions. If, however, they were not limited but one were to say that the word has an infinite number of meanings, obviously reasoning would be impossible; for not to have one meaning is to have no meaning, and if words have no meaning our reasoning with one another, and indeed with ourselves, has been annihilated; for it is impossible to think of anything if we do not think of one thing; but if this is possible, one name might be assigned to this thing.)

"Let it be assumed then, as was said at the beginning, that the name has a meaning and has one meaning; it is impossible, then, that 'being a man' should mean precisely 'not being a man', if 'man' not only signifies something about one subject but also has one significance (for we do not identify 'having one significance' with 'signifying something about one subject', since on that assumption even 'musical' and 'white' and 'man' would have had one significance, so that all things would have been one; for they would all have had the same significance).

"And it will not be possible to be and not to be the same thing, except in virtue of an ambiguity, just as if one whom we call 'man', others were to call 'not-man'; but the point in question is not this, whether the same thing can at the same time be and not be a man in name, but whether it can in fact. Now if 'man' and 'not-man' mean nothing different, obviously 'not being a man' will mean nothing different from 'being a man'; so that 'being a man' will be 'not being a man'; for they will be one. For being one means this-being related as 'raiment' and 'dress' are, if their definition is one. And if 'being a man' and 'being a not-man' are to be one, they must mean one thing. But it was shown earlier' that they mean different things.-Therefore, if it is true to say of anything that it is a man, it must be a two-footed animal (for this was what 'man' meant); and if this is necessary, it is impossible that the same thing should not at that time be a two-footed animal; for this is what 'being necessary' means-that it is impossible for the thing not to be. It is, then, impossible that it should be at the same time true to say the same thing is a man and is not a man.

"The same account holds good with regard to 'not being a man', for 'being a man' and 'being a not-man' mean different things, since even 'being white' and 'being a man' are different; for the former terms are much more different so that they must a fortiori mean different things. And if any one says that 'white'means one and the same thing as 'man', again we shall say the same as what was said before, that it would follow that all things are one, and not only opposites. But if this is impossible, then what we have maintained will follow, if our opponent will only answer our question.

"And if, when one asks the question simply, he adds the contradictories, he is not answering the question. For there is nothing to prevent the same thing from being both a man and white and countless other things: but still, if one asks whether it is or is not true to say that this is a man, our opponent must give an answer which means one thing, and not add that 'it is also white and large'. For, besides other reasons, it is impossible to enumerate its accidental attributes, which are infinite in number; let him, then, enumerate either all or none. Similarly, therefore, even if the same thing is a thousand times a man and a not-man, he must not, in answering the question whether this is a man, add that it is also at the same time a not-man, unless he is bound to add also all the other accidents, all that the subject is or is not; and if he does this, he is not observing the rules of argument.

"And in general those who say this do away with substance and essence. For they must say that all attributes are accidents, and that there is no such thing as 'being essentially a man' or 'an animal'. For if there is to be any such thing as 'being essentially a man' this will not be 'being a not-man' or 'not being a man' (yet these are negations of it); for there was one thing which it meant, and this was the substance of something. And denoting the substance of a thing means that the essence of the thing is nothing else. But if its being essentially a man is to be the same as either being essentially a not-man or essentially not being a man, then its essence will be something else. Therefore our opponents must say that there cannot be such a definition of anything, but that allattributes are accidental; for this is the distinction between substance and accident-'white' is accidental to man, because though he is white, whiteness is not his essence. But if all statements are accidental, there will be nothing primary about which they are made, if the accidental always implies predication about a subject. The predication, then, must go on ad infinitum. But this is impossible; for not even more than two terms can be combined in accidental predication. For (1) an accident is not an accident of an accident, unless it be because both are accidents of the same subject. I mean, for instance, that the white is musical and the latter is white, only because both are accidental to man. But (2) Socrates is musical, not in this sense, that both terms are accidental to something else. Since then some predicates are accidental in this and some in that sense, (a) those which are accidental in the latter sense, in which whiteis accidental to Socrates, cannot form an infinite series in the upward direction; e.g. Socrates the white has not yet another accident; for no unity can be got out of such a sum. Nor again (b) will 'white' have another term accidental to it, e.g. 'musical'. For this is no more accidental to that than that is to this; and at the same time we have drawn the distinction, that while some predicates are accidental in this sense, others are so in the sense in which 'musical' is accidental to Socrates; and the accident is an accident of an accident not in cases of the latter kind, but only in cases of the other kind, so that not all terms will be accidental. There must, then, even so be something which denotes substance. And if this is so, it has been shown that contradictories cannot be predicated at the same time.

"Again, if all contradictory statements are true of the same subject at the same time, evidently all things will be one. For the same thing will be a trireme, a wall, and a man, if of everything it is possible either to affirm or to deny anything (and this premiss must be accepted by those who share the views of Protagoras). For if any one thinks that the man is not a trireme, evidently he is not a trireme; so that he also is a trireme, if, as they say, contradictory statements are both true. And we thus get the doctrine of Anaxagoras, that all things are mixed together; so that nothing really exists. They seem, then, to be speaking of the indeterminate, and, while fancying themselves to be speaking of being, they are speaking about non-being; for it is that which exists potentially and not in complete reality that is indeterminate. But they must predicate of every subject the affirmation or the negation of every attribute. For it is absurd if of each subject its own negation is to be predicable, while the negation of something else which cannot be predicated of it is not to be predicable of it; for instance, if it is true to say of a man that he is not a man, evidently it is also true to say that he is either a trireme or not a trireme. If, then, the affirmative can be predicated, the negative must be predicable too; and if the affirmative is not predicable, the negative, at least, will be more predicable than the negative of the subject itself. If, then, even the latter negative is predicable, the negative of 'trireme' will be also predicable; and, if this is predicable, the affirmative will be so too.

"Those, then, who maintain this view are driven to this conclusion, and to the further conclusion that it is not necessary either to assert or to deny. For if it is true that a thing is a man and a not-man, evidently also it will be neither a man nor a not-man. For to the two assertions there answer two negations, and if the former is treated as a single proposition compounded out of two, the latter also is a single proposition opposite to the former. 

"Again, either the theory is true in all cases, and a thing is both white and not-white, and existent and non-existent, and all other assertions and negations are similarly compatible or the theory is true of some statements and not of others. And if not of all, the exceptions will be contradictories of which admittedly only one is true; but if of all, again either the negation will be true wherever the assertion is, and the assertion true wherever the negation is, or the negation will be true where the assertion is, but the assertion not always true where the negation is. And (a) in the latter case there will be something which fixedly is not, and this will be an indisputable belief; and if non-being is something indisputable and knowable, the opposite assertion will be more knowable. But (b) if it is equally possible also to assert all that it is possible to deny, one must either be saying what is true when one separates thepredicates (and says, for instance, that a thing is white, and again that it is not-white), or not. And if (i) it is not true to apply the predicates separately, our opponent is not saying what he professes to say, and also nothing at all exists; but how could non-existent things speak or walk, as he does? Also all things would on this view be one, as has been already said, and man and God and trireme and their contradictories will be the same. For if contradictories can be predicated alike of each subject, one thing will in no wise differ from another; for if it differ, this difference will be something true and peculiar to it. And (ii) if one may with truth apply the predicates separately, the above-mentioned result follows none the less, and, further, it follows that all would then be right and all would be in error, and our opponent himself confesses himself to be in error.-And at the same time our discussion with him is evidently aboutnothing at all; for he says nothing. For he says neither 'yes' nor 'no', but 'yes and no'; and again he denies both of these and says 'neither yes nor no'; for otherwise there would already be something definite.

"Again if when the assertion is true, the negation is false, and when this is true, the affirmation is false, it will not be possible to assert and deny the same thing truly at the same time. But perhaps they might say this was the very question at issue.

"Again, is he in error who judges either that the thing is so or that it is not so, and is he right who judges both? If he is right, what can they mean by saying that the nature of existing things is of this kind? And if he is not right, but more right than he who judges in the other way, being will already be of a definite nature, and this will be true, and not at the same time also not true. But if all are alike both wrong and right, one who is in this condition will not beable either to speak or to say anything intelligible; for he says at the same time both 'yes' and 'no.' And if he makes no judgement but 'thinks' and 'does not think', indifferently, what difference will there be between him and a vegetable?-Thus, then, it is in the highest degree evident that neither any one of those who maintain this view nor any one else is really in this position. For why does a man walk to Megara and not stay at home, when he thinks he ought to be walking there? Why does he not walk early some morning into a well or over a precipice, if one happens to be in his way? Why do we observe him guarding against this, evidently because he does not think that falling in is alike good and not good? Evidently, then, he judges one thing to be better and another worse. And if this is so, he must also judge one thing to be a man and another to be not-a-man, one thing to be sweet and another to be not-sweet. For he does not aim at and judge all things alike, when, thinking it desirable to drink water or to see a man, he proceeds to aim at these things; yet he ought, if the same thing were alike a man and not-a-man. But, as was said, there is no one who does not obviously avoid some things and not others. Therefore, asit seems, all men make unqualified judgements, if not about all things, still about what is better and worse. And if this is not knowledge but opinion, they should be all the more anxious about the truth, as a sick man should be more anxious about his health than one who is healthy; for he who has opinions is, in comparison with the man who knows, not in a healthy state as far as the truth is concerned.

"Again, however much all things may be 'so and not so', still there is a more and a less in the nature of things; for we should not say that two and three are equally even, nor is he who thinks four things are five equally wrong with him who thinks they are a thousand. If then they are not equally wrong, obviously one is less wrong and therefore more right. If then that which has more of any quality is nearer the norm, there must be some truth to which themore true is nearer. And even if there is not, still there is already something better founded and liker the truth, and we shall have got rid of the unqualifieddoctrine which would prevent us from determining anything in our thought. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Reading #39: Geertz and Defining Religion

Clifford Geertz.  The Interpretation of Cultures.  Basic Books, New York.  1973.

As interworked systems of construable signs (what, ignoring provincial usages, I would call symbols), culture is not a power, something to which social events, behaviors, institutions, or processes can be causally attributed; it is a context, something within which they can be intelligibly--that is thickly--described . . . Understanding a people's culture exposes their normalness without reducing their particularity (14).

A good interpretation of anything--a poem, a person, a history, a ritual, an institution, a society--takes us into the heart of that of which it is the interpretation.  When it does not do that, but leads us instead somewhere else--into an admiration of its own elegance, of its author's cleverness, or of the beautifies of Euclidean order--it may have its intrinsic charms; but it is something else than what the task at hand calls for (18).

Cultural analysis is (or should be) guessing at meanings, assessing the guesses, and drawing explanatory conclusions from the better guesses, not discovering the Continent of Meaning and mapping out its boldness landscape (20).

For an anthropologist, the importance of religion lies in its capacity to serve, for an individual or for a group, as a source of general, yet distinctive, conceptions of the world, the self, and the relations between them, on the one hand--its model of aspect--and of rooted, no less distinctive "mental" dispositions--its model for aspect--on the other.  From these cultural functions flow, in turn, its social and psychological ones.  Religious concepts spread beyond their metaphysical contexts to provide a framework of general ideas in terms of which a wide range of experience--intellectual, emotional, moral--can be given meaningful form.  The Christian sees the Nazi movement against the background of The Fall which, though it does not, in a causal sense, explain it, places it in a moral, a cognitive, even an affective sense (123).

A perspective is a mode of seeing, in that extended sense of "see" in which it means "discern," "apprehend," "understand," or "grasp."  It is a particular way of looking at life, a particular manner of constructing the world, as when we speak of an historical perspective, a scientific perspective, an aesthetic perspective, a common-sense perspective, or even the bizarre perspective embodied in dreams and in hallucinations (110).

The view of man as a symbolizing, conceptualizing, meaning-seeking animal, which has become increasingly popular both in the social sciences and in philosophy over the past several years, opens up a whole new approach not only to the analysis of religion as such, but to the understanding of the relations between religion and values.  The drive to make sense out of experience, to give it form and order, is evidently as real and as pressing as the more familiar biological needs.  And, this being so, it seems unnecessary to continue to interpret symbolic activities--religion, art, ideology--as nothing but thinly disguised expressions of something other than what they seem to be: attempts to provide orientation for an organism which cannot live in a world it is unable to understand. (140)

A people's ethos is the tone, character, and quality of their life, its moral and aesthetic style and mood; it is the underlying attitude toward themselves and their world that life reflects.  Their world view is their picture of the way things in sheer actuality are, their concept of nature, of self, of society.  It contains their most comprehensive ideas of order.  Religious belief and ritual confront and mutually confirm one another; the ethos is made intellectually reasonable by being shown to represent a way of life implied by the actual state of affairs which the world view describes, and the world view is made morally acceptable by being presented as an image of an actual state of affairs of which such a way of life is an authentic expression. . . .

Whatever else religion may be, it is in part an attempt (of an implicit and directly felt rather tan explicit and consciously thought-about sort) to conserve the fund of general meanings in terms of which each individual interprets his experience and organizes his conduct.  (127)

Monday, August 14, 2017

Reading #38: Babylonian Theodicy and Job

The Babylonian Theodicy and Job

Compare this to the book of Job.  

1.  What is the difference in the sufferers and the comforters?  
2.  What does the Babylonian sufferer want out of life?  What does Job want?
3.  What does Job conclude about his condition, God, and good and evil?  
4.  What does the Babylonian Job conclude about his condition, the gods, and good and evil?
5.  How is God different than the gods?  How do the works of God the Creator differ from the works of the gods?  In what way do all mankind see these works and what is the consequence for having failed to understand them?

Sufferer VII
33~Can a life of bliss be assured? I wish I knew how!
67~Your mind is a north wind, a pleasant breeze for the peoples.
68~Choice friend, your advice is fine.
69~Just one word would I put before you.
70~Those who neglect the god go the way of prosperity,
71~While those who pray to the goddess are impoverished and dispossessed.
72~In my youth I sought the will of my god;
73~With prostration and prayer I followed my goddess.
74~But I was bearing a profitless corvée as a yoke.
Friend VIII
78~My reliable fellow, holder of knowledge, your thoughts are perverse.
79~You have forsaken right and blaspheme against your god’s designs.
80~In your mind you have an urge to disregard the divine ordinances.
135~I will ignore my god’s regulations and trample on his rites.
219~Follow in the way of the god, observe his rites,
244~The god does not impede the way of a devil.
251~How have I profited that I have bowed down to my god?
255~In your anguish you blaspheme the god.
264~Though a man may observe what the will of the god is, the masses do not know it.
Friend XXVI
276~Narru, king of the gods, who created mankind,
277~And majestic Zulummar, who dug out their clay,
278~And mistress Mami, the queen who fashioned them,
279~Gave perverse speech to the human race.
280~With lies, and not truth, they endowed them for ever.
281~Solemnly they speak in favour of a rich man,
282~"He is a king," they say, "riches go at his side."
283~But they harm a poor man like a thief,
284~They lavish slander upon him and plot his murder,
285~Making him suffer every evil like a criminal, because he has no protection.
286~Terrifyingly they bring him to his end, and extinguish him like a flame.
295~May the god who has thrown me off give help,
296~May the goddess who has [abandoned me] show mercy,
297~For the shepherd Šamaš guides the peoples like a god.

Job 28:28 (Job)

And to man He said,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
And to depart from evil is understanding.’”

Job 32:26-28 (Elihu)

"Then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God's face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being.  And they will go to others and say, 'I have sinned, I have perverted what is right, but I did not get what I deserved.  God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life'."

Job 35:9-13 (Elihu)

"People cry out under a load of oppression; they plead for relief from the arm of the powerful.  But no one says, 'Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?'  He does not answer when people cry out because of the arrogance of the wicked."

Job 36:24-26 (Elihu)

"Remember to extol his work, which people have praised in song.  All humanity has seen it; mortals gaze on it from afar.  How great is God--beyond our understanding!  {follows a consideration of God as creator}

Job 38:1-5 and 38 (God)
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
 “Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
 Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.

 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
 Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Who has put wisdom in the mind?
Or who has given understanding to the heart?

Job 42: 1-6

Then Job answered the Lord and said:
 “I know that You can do everything,
And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.

You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’

Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
 Listen, please, and let me speak;
You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’
 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.

Therefore I abhor myself,

And repent in dust and ashes.”

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Freud: The Pleasure Principle

Sigmund Freud
Civilization and Its Discontents
Translated by James Strachey
WW Norton and Company, NY, 1961

We will therefore turn to the less ambitious question of what men themselves show by their behavior to be the purpose and intention of their lives.  What do they demand of life and wish to achieve in it?  The answer to this can hardly be in doubt.  They strive after happiness; they want to become happy and to remain so . . . As we see, what decides the purpose of life is simply the programme of the pleasure principle.  this principle dominates the operation of the mental apparatus from the start.  There can be no doubt about its efficacy, and yet its programme is at loggerheads with the whole world, with the macrocosm as much as the microcosm.  There is no possibility at all of its being carried through; all the regulations of the universe run counter to it.  One feels inclined to say that the intention that man should be 'happy' is not included in the plan of 'Creation.'  What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been dammed up to a high degree, and it is from its nature only possible as an episodic phenomenon.  When any situation that is desired by the pleasure principle is prolonged, i only produces a feeling of mild contentment.  We are so made that we can derive intense enjoyment only form a contrast and a very little from a state of things. (25)

Religion restricts this play of choice and adaptation, since it imposes equally on everyone its own path to the acquisition of happiness and protection from suffering.  Its technique consists in depressing the value of life and distorting the picture of the real world in a delusional manner--which presupposes an intimidation of the intelligence.  At this price, by forcibly fixing them in a state of psychical infantalism and by drawing them into a mass-delusion, religion succeeds in sparing many people an individual neurosis. (36)

Study questions:
1.  For Freud, what is happiness?  What is the pleasure principle?
2.  What must be true about human nature for Freud's view of pleasure and happiness to also be true?
3.  Why does Freud think there is suffering?  What other explanations could account for suffering?
4.  What role does religion play in the pleasure principle? Is this true of all religion, some religion, the best examples, superficial examples?
5.  What is the distinction between the real world, delusion, and otherworldliness, in Freud's thought?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Reading #37: Darwin: The Origin of Species

The Origin of Species
Species, Uniformity, Naturalism, Secondary Causes, God the Creator

I have called this principle, by which each slight variation, if useful, is preserved, by the term Natural Selection, in order to mark its relation to  man's power of selection. But the expression often used by Mr. Herbert Spencer of the Survival of the Fittest is more accurate, and is sometimes equally convenient. We have seen that man by selection can certainly produce great results, and can adapt organic beings to his own uses, through the accumulation of slight but useful variations, given to him by the hand of Nature. But Natural Selection, as we shall hereafter see, is a power incessantly ready for action, and is as immeasurably superior to man's feeble efforts, as the works of Nature are to those of Art.

Nothing is easier than to admit in words the truth of the universal struggle for life, or more difficult — at least, I have found it so — than constantly to bear this conclusion in mind. Yet unless it be thoroughly engrained in the mind, the whole economy of nature, with every fact on distribution, rarity, abundance, extinction, and variation, will be dimly seen or quite misunderstood. We behold the face of nature bright with gladness, we often see superabundance of food; we do not see, or we forget, that the birds which are idly singing round us mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life; or we forget how largely these songsters, or their eggs, or their nestlings, are destroyed by birds and beasts of prey; we do not always bear in mind, that, though food may be now superabundant, it is not so at all  seasons of each recurring year. 

A struggle for existence inevitably follows from the high rate at which all organic beings tend to increase. Every being, which during its natural lifetime produces several eggs or seeds, must suffer destruction during some period of its life, and during some season or occasional year, otherwise, on the principle of geometrical increase, its numbers  would quickly become so inordinately great that no country  could support the product. Hence, as more individuals are produced than can possibly survive, there must in every case be a struggle for existence, either one individual with another of the same species, or with the individuals of distinct species, or with the physical conditions of life. It is the doctrine of Malthus applied with manifold force to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms; for in this case there can be no artificial increase of food, and no prudential restraint from marriage. Although some species may be now increasing, more or less rapidly, in numbers, all cannot do so, for the world would not hold them.   There is no exception to the rule that every organic being naturally increases at so high a rate, that, if not destroyed, the earth would soon be covered by the progeny of a single pair.

It has been said that I speak of natural selection as an active power or Deity; but who objects to an author speaking of the attraction of gravity as ruling the movements of the planets? Every one knows what is meant and is implied by such metaphorical expressions; and they are almost necessary for brevity. So again it is difficult to avoid personifying the word Nature; but I mean by Nature, only the aggregate action and product of many natural laws, and by laws the sequence of events as ascertained by us.

It may metaphorically be said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing, throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good; silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic being in relation to its organic and inorganic conditions of life. We see nothing of these slow changes in progress, until the hand of time has marked the lapse of ages, and then so imperfect is our view into long past geological ages, that we see only that the forms of life  are now different from what they formerly were.


It may be asked how far I extend the doctrine of the modification of species. The question is difficult to answer because the more distinct the forms are which we consider, by  so much the arguments in favour of community of descent  become fewer in number and less in force. But some  arguments of the greatest weight extend very far. All  the members of whole classes are connected together by  a chain of affinities, and all can be classed on the same  principle, in groups subordinate to groups. Fossil remains  sometimes tend to fill up very wide intervals between existing orders.


When the views advanced by me in this volume, and by  Mr. Wallace, or when analogous views on the origin of species are generally admitted, we can dimly foresee that there  will be a considerable revolution in natural history. Systematists will be able to pursue their labours as at present;  but they will not be incessantly haunted by the shadowy  doubt whether this or that form be a true species. This, I  feel sure and I speak after experience, will be no slight re-  lief. The endless disputes whether or not some fifty species  of British brambles are good species will cease. Systematists  will have only to decide (not that this will be easy) whether  any form be sufficiently constant and distinct from other  forms, to be capable of definition; and if definable, whether  the differences be sufficiently important to deserve a specific  name. This latter point will become a far more essential consideration than it is at present; for differences, however  slight, between any two forms, if not blended by intermediate gradations, are looked at by most naturalists as sufficient to raise both forms to the rank of species.   

Hereafter we shall be compelled to acknowledge that the  only distinction between species and well-marked varieties is,  that the latter are known, or believed, to be connected at the  present day by intermediate gradations whereas species were  formerly thus connected. Hence, without rejecting the consideration of the present existence of intermediate gradations between any two forms, we shall be led to weigh more  carefully and to value higher the actual amount of difference  between them. It is quite possible that forms now generally  acknowledged to be merely varieties may hereafter be  thought worthy of specific names; and in this case scientific  and common language will come into accordance. In short,  we shall have to treat species in the same manner as those  naturalists treat genera, who admit that genera are merely  artificial combinations made for convenience. This may not  be a cheering prospect; but we shall at least be freed from  the vain search for the undiscovered and undiscoverable  essence of the term species.   

The other and more general departments of natural history  will rise greatly in interest. The terms used by naturalists,  of affinity, relationship, community of type, paternity, morphology, adaptive characters, rudimentary and aborted  organs, &c., will cease to be metaphorical, and will have a  plain signification. When we no longer look at an organic  being as a savage looks at a ship, as something wholly beyond his comprehension ; when we regard every production  of nature as one which has had a long history; when we  contemplate every complex structure and instinct as the  summing up of many contrivances, each useful to the possessor, in the same way as any great mechanical invention  is the summing up of the labour, the experience, the reason,  and even the blunders of numerous workmen ; when we  thus view each organic being, how far more interesting — I  speak from experience — does the study of natural history  become 

A grand and almost untrodden field of inquiry will be opened, on the causes and laws of variation, on correlation,  on the effects of use and disuse, on the direct action of external conditions, and so forth. The study of domestic productions will rise immensely in value. A new variety raised  by man will be a more important and interesting subject for  study than one more species added to the infinitude of already  recorded species. Our classifications will come to be, as far  as they can be so made, genealogies ; and will then truly give  what may be called the plan of creation. The rules for  classifying will no doubt become simpler when we have a  definite object in view. We possess no pedigrees or armorial  bearings; and we have to discover and trace the many diverging lines of descent in our natural genealogies, by characters of any kind which have long been inherited. Rudimentary organs will speak infallibly with respect to the  nature of long-lost structures. Species and groups of species  which are called aberrant, and which may fancifully be  called having fossils, will aid us in forming a picture of the  ancient forms of life. Embryology will often reveal to us  the structure, in some degree obscured, of the prototypes of  each great class.   

When we can feel assured that all the individuals of the  same species, and all the closely allied species of most genera,  have within a not very remote period descended from one  parent, and have migrated from some one birth-place; and  when we better know the many means of migration, then, by  the light which geology now throws, and will continue to  throw, on former changes of climate and of the level of the  land, we shall surely be enabled to trace in an admirable  manner the former migrations of the inhabitants of the whole  world. Even at present, by comparing the differences be-  tween the inhabitants of the sea on the opposite sides of a  continent, and the nature of the various inhabitants on that  continent in relation to their apparent means of immigration,  some light can be thrown on ancient geography.   

The noble science of Geology loses glory from the extreme  imperfection of the record. The crust of the earth with its  imbedded remains must not be looked at as a well-filled  museum, but as a poor collection made at hazard and at rare  intervals. The accumulation of each great fossiliferous formation will be recognised as having depended on an unusual concurrence of favourable circumstances, and the blank intervals between the successive stages as having been of vast  duration. But we shall be able to gauge with some security  the duration of these intervals by a comparison of the preceding and succeeding organic forms. We must be cautious  in attempting to correlate as strictly contemporaneous two  formations, which do not include many identical species, by  the general succession of the forms of life. As species are  produced and exterminated by slowly acting and still exist-  ing causes, and not by miraculous acts of creation; and as  the most important of all causes of organic change is one  which is almost independent of altered and perhaps suddenly altered physical conditions, namely, the mutual relation of organism to organism, — the improvement of one  organism entailing the improvement or the extermination  of others ; it follows, that the amount of organic change in  the fossils of consecutive formations probably serves as a  fair measure of the relative, though not actual lapse of  time. A number of species, however, keeping in a body  might remain for a long period unchanged, whilst within  the same period, several of these' species by migrating into  new countries and coming into competition with foreign  associates, might become modified; so that we must not  overrate the accuracy of organic change as a measure of  time.   

In the future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be securely based on the foundation already well laid by Mr. Herbert Spencer, that of the  necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by  gradation. Much light will be thrown on the origin of man  and his history.   

Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied  with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of  the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants  of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like  those determining the birth and death of the individual.  When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Cambrian system was deposited,  they seem to me to become ennobled. Judging from the past,  we may safely infer that not one living species will transmit  its unaltered likeness to a distant futurity. And of the  species now living very few will transmit progeny of any  kind to a far distant futurity; for the manner in which all  organic beings are grouped, shows that the greater number  of species in each genus, and all the species in many genera,  have left no descendants, but have become utterly extinct.  We can so far take a prophetic glance into futurity as to  foretell that it will be the common and widely-spread species,  belonging to the larger and dominant groups within each  class, which will ultimately prevail and procreate new and  dominant species. As all the living forms of life are the  lineal descendants of those which lived long before the Cambrian epoch, we may feel certain that the ordinary succession by generation has never once been broken, and that no  cataclysm has desolated the whole world. Hence we may  look with some confidence to a secure future of great length.  And as natural selection works solely by and for the good  of each being, all corporeal and mental endowments will tend  to progress towards perfection.

Study Questions:
1.     Has there always been struggle and suffering?  How can we know?
2.     Does natural selection require natural evil?
3.     Can variation occur without natural evil?
4.     When does variation lead to a new species as opposed to continued variation within a species?
5.     What does it mean for the Creator to impose laws on nature?
6.     What are secondary causes?  What is the primary cause?
7.     Has the Creator acted to change creation after the beginning?
8.     Why is there natural evil and struggle for life?
9.     What did Malthus say about the growth of populations?  Must this be true?
10. What is uniformity (uniformitarianism) and how does it apply to explaining origins? (Charles Lyell)
11. What methods are used to explain the age of the earth?
12. Do these dating methods have philosophical presuppositions?