God and right and wrong

This is a wonderful clip for thinking about religion and ethics. For those not familiar with The West Wing the bald gentleman plays Toby Ziegler, a senior aide to the President. In this episode, President Bartlett is face with a decision on whether to pardon a criminal due to be executed.

Non-religious people tend to think that religious people suppose they have some sort of ‘monopoly’ on truth when it comes to ethics, but this clip shows the ‘uncomfortableness‘ of religious ethics.

A long long time ago Plato recorded Socrates posing a difficulty for all those who believe right and wrong are what the god(s) say they are. This was the position held by the young and ‘upright’ Euthyphro.

For more relating to IB Philosophy click here.

Kingdom of Heaven Challenge Year 3

Screen shot 2014-05-07 at 09.58.45

Jesus had this massive idea to try and explain to people. To help them get it he gave lots of pictures. Try and work out what you think the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ really is…

To post your paragraph click on ‘leave a reply’ below. Just put your initials in the name box, your school email (it won’t come up) and leave the web page blank, then paste your answer from word or pages… Try and make your answer the very best you can, it will be a major part of your final S2 report…

Thank You :)

MacIntyre on Nietzsche ( vs Aristotle)

Hello, I promised the other day that I would have a look at this for you… I’ve just managed to find a few hours just now so I’ll stick down some quick ideas useful for the exam and try to find time to organise properly later….

Firstly I thought I would start with a strength… IB exam answers sometimes miss out the massive positives and evidence for a position and forget that these are key in making an informed and careful evaluation (which, of course, you get good marks for)…

As you know, MacIntyre’s argument in After Virtue* claims that all modern ‘moral discourse’ is broken as it tries to make sense of fragments of a lost language; and it is this, according to MacIntyre, that Nietzsche observed and took great issue with. Nietzsche correctly observed the problematic use and nature of moral language at play in the world around him. MacIntyre claims he ‘disposes of [recent attempts] to discover rational foundations for an objective morality’. And in only five paragraphs! (*113)

This said, however, MacIntyre is by no means a champion of Nietzsche. Nietzsche, he writes,

‘illegitimately generalised from the condition of moral judgement in his own day to the nature of morality as such…but it is worth noting that [he] began from a genuine insight.’ (*113 emphasis mine)
MacIntyre’s argument against Nietzsche is that if the original rejection of Aristotle was in fact a mistake, then it follows that each of the following philosophies based upon this rejection would be ill informed and unnecessary. And if these philosophies were indeed mistaken, then their logical conclusion (which Nietzsche ably voices) could be seen to be unnecessary also. Put another way, MacIntyre states clearly that if Nietzsche is correct that all moral philosophies are faulty then his position is inescapable. MacIntyre, of course, believes that it is possible to verbalise a coherent ‘virtue ethics’ account and so believes that this makes Nietzsche’s account not just unnecessary but incorrect (117). Nietzsche was right to call ‘Enlightenment’ moral philosophy a failure but, according to MacIntyre, it was only a failure because it left virtue ethics behind. MacIntyre is claiming that the vast majority of moral philosophy you have studied was ‘not only mistaken, but should never have been commenced in the first place’ (118).
In class we discussed that what sets virtue ethics apart from other normative accounts is that it is primarily concerned about a human telos. Of course there may be discussions about what to do in a certain situation, there may even be talk of prohibitions, but these are never the essential focus. In a claim very similar to Nietzsche’s, MacIntyre feels able to reject the entire of what he calls the ‘enlightenment project’ of moral philosophy. He points out that even Rawls understood virtues as tendencies that keeping the rules led to, the very same mistake that was made with the banishment of Aristotle. To see why I feel able to say this criticism has a Nietzschean ‘feel’, go back through your notes on Nietzsche’s ‘frustration’ with Kant.
Interestingly, Nietzsche and Aristotle are agreeing that the correct subject matter of this question of living well should be character. And both are rejecting the primacy of rules or legislation. Indeed a number of recent writers (eg Fraser above) understand Nietzsche as intimately concerned with flourishing and character. Following MacIntyre, we might agree that those virtues described by the German as ‘noble’ are the very same described in the Iliad.

Following this claim, MacIntyre traces the development of virtue ethics. You could look at Vardy’s description for a brief summary. In his conclusion he seeks to adjudicate on the question he posed midway through the book: Nietzsche or Aristotle?

Even more interestingly, MacIntyre asserts that a thoughtful Nietzschean would have just as much difficulty with the emotivism apparent in our society as a serious Aristotlean would. In making his case for the mistake rejection of Aristotle, MacIntyre has two key premises. The first is that contemporary moral vocabulary is composed of fragments and ‘left-overs’ from Aristotle’s teleological approach. The second is that Aristotle’s account of virtues, and the tradition to which it leads is rational and ultimately invulnerable to the Nietzschean attacks. To further make his case, MacIntyre attacks Nietzsche’s notion of the Ubermensch. This solitary individual finds no ‘good’ in the world of others and, according to MacIntyre, is necessarily deceptive (258). For this individual the congratulation or rebuke of another is empty for it does not originate in his or her own will.
MacIntyre believes that, in his defence of the virtues, he has shown that the human person is not individual by nature. And it is because Nietzsche assumes this that he understood all moral discourse as an articulation of the individual’s will – for what else could the latter be if the former is the case? The rather ironic claim is that it is Nietzsche, in addition to Kant et al., who assumes his conclusion on his way to arguing for it. In one sense you might hold us to be at a stalemate. For how are we to adjudicate on such a basic question? For MacIntyre the answer is clear. One has to be a member of a community in order to gain the skills required to condemn it. The absolute individual is an illusion, and it is only by assuming this radical individualism that one is led to see all community conceptions of ‘good’ as expressions of ‘will’. Of course, MacIntyre believes he has given a good account of virtue ethics which has the community conception of good as its foundation. For this reason he believes Nietzsche’s base assumption is false, as are the conclusions it necessitates.

MacIntyre reads Nietzsche as the closing prophet of the doomed enlightenment project of moral philosophy. Though Nietzsche mistakenly saw himself to be outside this period, condemning it completely, his entire position stemmed from the mistake that was hidden deep beneath Kantianism, Utilitarianism and Emotivism. He saw that there was a problem, a failure, but he mistook Aristotle’s tradition for part of the problem rather than its solution.

 

Sorry I realise my ‘quick ideas’ have been less than quick. In summary for analysing and evaluating Nietzsche’s Genealogy:

STRENGTH: Even scholars who certainly would not see themselves as Nietzscheans see that Nietzsche was the first to see the brokenness of much of our moral discourse.

CRITICISM: Nietzsche ‘illegitimately generalised from the condition of moral judgement in his own day to the nature of morality as such…”

CRITICISM: If Aristotle is right, then Nietzsche is wrong.

CRITICISM: Nietzsche’s ideal, his Ubermensch is based upon the assumption that the human person is radically isolated. MacIntyre reads the vast majority of FN’s writings as proceeding from this premise, one which AM finds faulty.

EVALUATION: I think your evaluation of each of these will be intertwined. You might mention Wittgenstein really quickly (arguments against private language), as well as having an opinion on MacIntyre’s argument as well as his reading of Nietzsche.

Nietzsche in a t-shirt slogan….

Okay so not Nietzsche, but perhaps his Genealogy… I’m always trying to get my IB philosophy students to summarise difficult passages in t shirt slogans… it’s a bit lame but it totally helps them to be brief and precise enough to get ace marks…

Anyway I recently discover this phrase in one of the old IB marking schemes, and I kinda like it…

Genealogy traces the moral version of each strand back to pre-moral sources

The ‘strands’ of which it speaks are the threads or elements that are woven together in Christian (Western?) morality and, as it says, Nietzsche’s mission is to show that each of these threads has a non-moral origin. Thoughts?

some useful websites…

 

‘Philosophy TV’ is a site of which I was previously unaware. I haven’t watched any of the videos yet – but looking at the names and the discussion topics, it could be very useful. Let me know if you find anything good…

Bioethics bites was around at the beginning of philosophy bites and you may have listened to a few of these without really knowing where they were from. They are full of really useful information that will help you to gain top evaluating marks in the exam…

End of term Buddhism task…

Hello, heard two people the other day arguing about whether these Kula Shaker songs from like 1996 were ‘Buddhisty’… You’re all experts… tell me what you think… usual story; make sure you explain why you think what you think…

At The Moment That You Wake From Sleeping
And You Know Its All A Dream,
Well The Truth May Come In Strange Disguises
Never Knowing What It Means.

 

Hidden in the misty forest that desire send
Mesmerised like fireflys falling through a flame

End of S4 Euthanasia responses…

Having watched the two videos and thought about some of the arguments, you should be in a place where you can give a reasoned response to the question posed by the cases of Tony Nicklinson and Diane Pretty.

Guardian on law change in Scotland

Telegraph on Tony Nicklinson 

BBC on A campaign to legalise assisted suicide in Scotland.

 

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring – your reviews 2013!

In the midst of the Korean wilderness, a Buddhist master patiently raises a young boy to grow up in wisdom and compassion, through experience and endless exercises. Once the pupil discovers his sexual lust, he seems lost to contemplative life and follows his first love, but soon fails to adapt to the modern world, gets in jail for a crime of passion and returns to the master in search of spiritual redemption and reconciliation with karma, at a high price of physical catharsis… (IMDB)

Click on the speech bubble (above and right) to paste in your review. Same rules as usual: use your school email and put initials for your name (unless you want your post to be what comes up when people google you)…

Shooting Dogs / Beyond the Gates

In April 1994, after the airplane of the Hutu President of Rwanda is shot down, the Hutu militias slaughter the Tutsi population. In the Ecole Technique Officielle, a Catholic priest Christopher and the idealistic English teacher Joe Connor lodge two thousand and five hundred Rwandans refugees, under the protection of the Belgian UN force and under siege by Hutu militia. When the Tutsi refugees are abandoned by the UN, they are murdered by the extremist militia.

Based on a true story. The exhausted Catholic priest (Hurt) and a young idealistic English teacher (Dancy) finds themselves caught in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. They must now choose whether to stay with the thousands of Tutsis about to be massacred or to flee for safety. (IMDB)

A really good revision question…

Every so often i get a really good question emailed to me… Here’s the latest… Hope it helps and pleas keep them coming….(james@ibphilosophy.org)

You know the five skhandas are they there the Buddha’s way of proving there is no self and that the the five skandas are things which people argue make you who you are and the Buddha is saying that is rubbish in his own holy buddhist way?

And here’s the reply:

Ye you’ve nailed it. The skhandas are five of the things that the Buddha thought most people wud say make as the same over time. But all five are IMPERMANENT and so cannot be the thing in me that’s the same today and tomorrow. Because of this, he thinks that people who believe in a permanent self have got it wrong.

The worst thing about this is that belief in the self leads to some pretty strange behaviour and usually increased DUKKHA suffering. Hatred, greed and delusion usually all stem from not just believing in a self but that ‘I’ am better/more deserving of things than other people.

Hope your having a good weekend, in the quiz the other day you knew loads so you’ll be totally fine…

See ya Monday

Kingdom of Heaven Challenge Year 2

Jesus had this massive idea to try and explain to people. To help them get it he gave lots of pictures. Try and work out what you think the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ really is…

To post your paragraph click on ‘leave a reply’ below. Just put your initials in the name box, any email (it won’t come up) and leave the web page blank, then paste your answer from word or pages… Try and make your answer the very best you can…

Thank You 🙂

What was the BIG BANG? 6KU (Int 2 / Higher RMPS)

The Big Bang: What was it? When was it? Why do so many of us believe in it?

You need to answer this as if it was an 6 mark question and be confident that you are going to get full marks. Expect to talk about Hydrogen atoms, gravity, cooling and gases. Obviously you need to give more information than this poster.

MacIntyre on Nietzsche’s Criticism of Kant’s Ethics

 

I’m a bit of a big fan of Alasdair MacIntyre. His Short History of Ethics carried me through my studies at university before reading After Virtue and then moving in a slightly different direction. Here he describes Nietzsche’s criticism of Kant very clearly. I would have this discussed in any IB or A Level (this isn”t in Higher or AH but good to know about) essay on Kant’s Ethics:

…Nietzsche’s accusation is that in fact Kant assumes what he sets out to prove. He takes it for granted that we are entitled to make moral judgements and enquires what must be the case if this is so; he never asks, as Nietzsche does, whether we are so entitled.

 

Some Euthanasia Definitions

For those of you all who have prelims coming up and are starting to notice that there is a lot of jargon in the medical ethics section. Quite often there are questions that require you to understand one of these terms (or more). If you don’t know what they mean, you’ll really struggle – so flashcards are the order of the day….

Euthanasia – a person kills another or allows her to die for her own benefit

Active Euthanasia – a person does something that intentionally results in the others death

Passive Euthanasia – a person allows the other to die, even though keeping them alive is a possibility that is open. this usually involve withholding a treatment or food.

Voluntary Euthanasia – euthanasia where the person dying is able to, and does, express his wish to die

Non-voluntary Euthanasia – euthanasia where the patient is not able to express a preference (even if it may seem fairly obvious)

Involuntary Euthanasia – the death of the person is against their compentent wishes, this is usually where people mention the Nazis’ use of the word ‘euthanasia’. There are, however, cases where it is arguable that euthanasia against the person’s wishes, may be in their best interest. We usually use ‘Involuntary Euthanasia’ in this sense.

Suicide – someone intentionally kills themselves

Assisted Suicide – one person helps another to kill themselves (when they wish it)

Physician Assisted Suicide -as above, where the agent is a doctor.

The idea to write these down in one place came from ‘The Very Short Introduction to Medical Ethics’. It has a really good chapter on Euthanasia that should be useful for revision… It could have been written for Higher/Int 2 RMPS.

Today’s Int 2 RMPS Prelim Revision Lunch

Today we had a revision lunch for int 2 rmps students about to sit their prelims after the holiday. It was focussed on the Buddhism section of the course and we talked about the eightfold path, meditation and the unit as a whole…

First of all I gave you the page numbers and questions (from the Joe Walker book Buddhism) to practice on your weak areas:

Then we looked at my (purposely incomplete) mindmap of the whole unit:

And the talked quickly through an easy way to remember the eightfold path…

and meditation:

Click on any of the images above to get the files….

Cheers Cheers…