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Something that will be of great interest to us is to compare the stories which we will read in terms of fact, fiction and believability. Most good science-fiction does not stray too far from scientific fact, but pushes it. Consequently, most sci-fi is, for the greatest part, believable; it could have almost happened in our world --maybe, it will. The interesting challenges come when scientific theory is pushed beyond the limit by fiction. Sometimes the push is too much and we reject the story as just unbelievable. We must be careful when this rejection occurs. Maybe some of the science fiction stories are too close to home. (I'll give you a bit of a hint. We will read parts of the Bible as if they were science fiction stories. Maybe, they really are.) It will be surprising to see just what stories we will reject and which will be retained.
At any rate, the stories will serve as springboards for critical examination of fundamental beliefs. And, because they are art, they will give us new, fun, and often beautiful insights into the world in which we live and dream.
Just for fun and to give an example of how a search for new horizons can be seen clearly by some and not by others because of their biases, consider the following sci-fi story. It's a straight-forward story and easy to read, but the message is clear; we should not overlook any avenue or reject arbitrarily any thesis or method to finding the truth because the thesis seems to be "childish."
INSERT: "Mimsy Were the Borogroves," by Lewis Padgett (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore). (This story is available in Book #3 of The Road to Science Fiction, ed. by James Gunn, (New York: Mentor Books, 1982). Library of Congress Catalog Number is 78-070642.
SECTION SIX. A WORLD VIEW AND SEARCH FOR THE MEANING OF LIFE.
By the end of the book, I hope that we will have put together our beliefs into a consistent, complete and pragmatic package to form a world view exhibiting how we exist and ought to exist on our world. We shall have constructed our SELVES and should have a good idea of what our behavior in the world ought to be. For the most part, our world view will be based on the practice of good reason and the well-founded arguments forming the foundations of our beliefs. However, the science-fiction stories will do justice in making certain that aesthetic and emotive principles are not overlooked; we may find that we will have beliefs for no other reason than that they are beautiful and/or simple.
SECTION SEVEN. A PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS.
So that you will not be caught blind-sided by some terminology and the overall direction of this book, let me give here a short projection of the topics in philosophy with which we will deal.
The INTRODUCTION has initiated us into the philosophical enterprise, which is to ask important questions in the hopes of finding answers that will better ourselves, our lives and the world around us.
Chapter one will deal with EPISTEMOLOGY, the study of the nature of knowledge --what is knowledge; what can be known to be true; and how do we know things at all? We'll take a look at theories of realism, empiricism and rationalism. An important part of this chapter will involve an inquiry into the MIND/BODY PROBLEM; are our minds "ghosts" in biological machines or what?" Associated with this discussion will be an examination of METAPHYSICS, the study of what things are real --what kind of existence they have. We'll take a look at theories of idealism, materialism and dualism. The general direction of the chapter will be to try to find out if we can know anything with certainty and if we can, what conception of reality is compatible with our conception of knowledge. So, to a great extent, our metaphysical beliefs about what we think is real will depend upon what we find out we are able to know.
Chapter two will get us into some very lively discussions. Here we will examine the PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION. I will not survey religions other than Christianity for the selfish reason that I hope that you will get that information by taking a philosophy of religion course in which all the major religions are adequately covered. But, since Christianity seems to be what most of us are concerned with, I'll spend the entire chapter dealing with the Christian God. The first part of the chapter will deal with ARGUMENTS CONCLUDING THAT GOD EXISTS (and criticisms of those arguments): mystical experience; the teleological argument; the cosmological argument; the ontological argument; Pascal's wager and Kierkegaard's concept of faith. The second section will deal with THE PROBLEM OF EVIL; THEODICY or how the attributes of God are sought to be made compatible with the fact of evil's presence in the world. This chapter will turn out to be a true test of intellectual honesty for many of us.
Chapter three will deal with atheistic EXISTENTIALISM, the brute fact of man's existence in the world. This chapter assumes that the problem of evil is unsolvable and that God does not exist. Man finds himself in what the existentialists call, THE HUMAN PREDICAMENT. Man is alone in an antagonistic world and must rely on himself to find whatever meaning there is to the world and his life in it. We will concentrate in the end on the existentialist's notion of freedom as constituting the essence of man and what that conception means for the creation of persons or selves, especially our SELVES.
Chapter four concerns FREEDOM AND DETERMINISM. The first part critically denies what the existentialists call freedom. We will examine that notion (free-will or contra-causal freedom) more closely with respect to its denial by determinists. The central problem is that determinists have a strong case that persons have no free-will. But if they are right, much of our ordinary concepts of ethics and personhood fall by the wayside. Rather than humans being persons, we find ourselves to be sophisticated biological computers determined to do what the hardwire and software demands us to do. That idea is hard to live with. Can we save our SELVES, free-will and moral responsibility from determinism?
Chapter five assumes that we have an acceptable idea about the nature of man and his behavior (that he is free in some way and morally responsible for his behavior). The chapter deals with SOCIAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY. With respect to social philosophy, we shall examine the relationship between the sexes and the nature of marriage. Our concern will be whether or not society ought to treat women differently from men. On the political side, we will examine the nature of society as the Greeks conceived it (Plato and Aristotle) contrasted to those developed by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Karl Marx. Some interesting questions asked will be whether or not democracy is the best form of government and whether or not capitalism is a moral or fair enterprise. With respect to the latter, we will examine whether or not capitalism is compatible with a fair distribution of goods; does the capitalistic process exploit workers?
Chapter six involves ETHICS, the study of the nature of moral obligation --what is the right action to do. We'll take critical looks at arguments concerning homosexuality, abortion, animal rights, famine relief and euthanasia. In doing so, we will contrast two major ethical theories of moral obligation, utilitarianism and deontology. Needless to say, this chapter, as with the chapter on religion, will get us down to the nitty-gritty of taking stands.
Chapter seven will consist of a summary, perhaps an apology, of what we have found and what it means to us. Basically, it will deal with what I take to be a reasonable thesis about THE MEANING OF LIFE and the MEANING OF OUR INDIVIDUAL LIVES as issuing from our discoveries in the preceding chapters. In the chapter, I will take a crack at giving quick solutions to some of the problems we encountered in the previous chapters. Unfortunately, I cannot try to resolve all the problems we ran into. Further, my solutions will be rather rudimentary; I'll leave much of the work to you to go on to get things straightened out.
So, in a nutshell, we will start out looking for the truth about matters --what it is that we can know--, then switch to examine what are the things that we know, most especially ourselves, then our social and political natures, and finally what all of it means (to us). Our adventure will be a search for self and the nature of the world in which we live.
But, enough said. Let us do some philosophy.
(Here's the answer to the art puzzle. I had to have someone show me the answer. The moral of the puzzle is that we will not see solutions if our minds are trapped within predetermined parameters. I could not solve the puzzle because my mind-set was such that I could not go beyond the boundary-limits of the X's. Did you have the some experience? If so, we need to remind ourselves always to keep an open mind and not base our procedures on predetermined beliefs.)
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