15: Philosophy Today


Jacques Derrida

Key Terms

Structural Model of the Self
Picture Theory of Meaning
Veil of Ignorance
Rawls’ 2 Principles of Justice

  • Read and analyze descriptions of philosophical thought
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the pursuit of a just society through different approaches
  • Demonstrate an ability to discuss and reflect upon the application of the course material to various aspects of life.
  • Evaluate the personal and social responsibilities of living in a diverse world.

Finishing the 20th Century

I. Freudian Psychology and the Self

  • A. Topographical Model of the Self
    • The Conscious Mind
      • Rational, practical, appropriate thoughts
      • Governed by “reality principle”
    • The Preconscious Mind
      • Unconscious but not repressed
      • Recallable memories
    • The Unconscious Mind
      • Instinctual, primitive, inappropriate thoughts
      • Governed by “pleasure principle”
  • B. Structural Model of the Self
    • Id (It)
      • Pure unconscious instinct
    • Ego (Self)
      • Unconscious and conscious
      • Mediates between Id and Superego
      • Uses defense mechanisms to cope
    • Superego (Over-Self)
      • Unconscious and conscious
      • Aims for perfection (i.e. this is your “conscience”)

II. Wittgenstein (7 min video)

  • Early Wittgenstein
    • Picture-Theory of Meaning
      • 1. We understand things through language
      • 2. Language is made up of propositions
      • 3. Propositions have a logical structure (i.e. all claims are reliant on logic)
      • 4. “True” propositions therefore present a correct “picture” of the world
      • 5. Alternatively, any claim that does not present a clear, logical picture of reality is “nonsense”
      • “What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence.” - Wittgenstein
        • He postulated that metaphysics, ethics, and religion were therefore nonsense
  • Late Wittgenstein
    • Picture-Theory of Meaning doesn’t work, because language has no essence
      • Language doesn’t work like math. It doesn’t work the same way for everyone all the time.
    • Language Games
      • Language is a pattern of human activity in which the value and meaning of words come from how they are used
      • Language is irreducibly complex, and cannot be boiled down to a particular use or meaning

III. Derrida and Cixous (3 min video: On his fear of writing new things)

  • Deconstruction
  • Questions established dichotomies like legitimate/illigitimate, fact/fiction, etc.
  • Primary focus is logocentrism, preoccupation with the truth
  • Cixous' work extended Derrida’s into multiple disciplines

IV. Rawls on Justice (6 min video)

  • A. Justice as Fairness (pic: Lady Justice)
    • Most important value of society is justice
      • A Theory of Justice 1971
    • Justice is important because we need society to further our own interests
    • To work together, we need rules which must be fair and equally applied to all
  • B. The Veil of Ignorance
    • Thought Experiment: If you didn’t know who you’d be in a society, what rules ought that society have?
  • C. The Principles of Justice
    • The Liberty Principle, also called the Principle of Equal Liberty (c.f. Mill)
      • Each person gets the maximum amount of basic liberties
      • Consistent with each person getting the same amount
    • Fair and Equal Opportunity Principle, also called the Difference Principle
      • All jobs should be open to available to all people — restricted only by their abilities
      • This doesn’t mean everyone makes the same amount of money
      • If you choose to work hard and become qualified to be a doctor, you get a better salary
      • This is beneficial to society because qualified, able people do more difficult jobs that benefit society

V. Appiah & Nussbaum (50 min lecture by Appiah)

  • Cosmopolitianism: a transnational, interreligious recognition of the oneness of humanity 
  • Focus on semantics and how different cultures can communicate and get along in a diverse, global world

The 21st Century

I. Near Future Political Philosophy

  • The Coming Tech Unemployment Problem
    • White House: 83% of those making less than $20/hour will eventually lose their jobs to automation
    • Possible Solution: Universal Basic Income (End most welfare agencies. Cut every American a check.)
      • The goal would be to end poverty in America forever (regardless of automation)
      • Conservatives like it: Smaller government! Less bureaucracy!
      • Liberals like it: Social safety net for the less fortunate and high unemployment
  • Post-National Politics: global corporations as primary political entities
  • Post-Religious Identity & the Public Sphere (Foucault: 4 min video)
    • When we no longer look to ministers to validate us, we seek validation from others (e.g. Facebook selfies)
  • The Politics of Religious Extremism: what danger does religious extremism pose for modern society?

II. Near Future Epistemology

  • Philosophy of Mind (i.e. Cognitive Science)
    • Human Cognition: Can we map, manipulate, or expand human thinking?
    • Artificial Intelligence: Can a machine be conscious?
    • Consciousness Transference: Given that the mind can be mapped, can a "person" be transferred to a computer/robot?
  • Post-Analytic Epistemology
    • Nonfoundationalism: there is no essence/foundation to knowledge
      • C.f: Habermas, Taylor, Fish, Nietzsche, Foucault, Derrida
  • Contemporary Philosophy of Religion
    • Religious Functionalism
    • Negative Theology
    • Deconstruction and Hermeneutics
  • Moral Epistemology

III. Near Future Ethics

  • Biological Moral Philosophy (i.e. Bioethics)
    • Universal Healthcare
    • Nano-technology and the Body
    • Cryogenics
    • Eugenics
    • Extended Mind/Transhumanism
    • Sociobiology (E.O. Wilson): morality is a fiction our brains play at in order to propogate our genes
    • Behavioral Ethics (Moral Philosophy + Sociology): How do people actually respond to moral dilemmas?
  • Environmental Ethics
    • Deep Ecology
    • Green Ethics/Movement
    • Genetic Engineering & Food
    • Nanotech & Food
    • Interplanetary Land/Resource Rights
  • Government & New Ethical Questions
    • Surveillance: Should the gov have the right to the data on your phone? Your phone calls, texts, emails, etc?
    • How should we treat drones? On the battlefield? In the public sphere?
  • Animal Rights Movement
    • Should some non-human animals be considered moral beings? (3 min video)
  • Ethics & Robotics
    • What are the preconditions for robots to have/need rights?

IV. Near Future Metaphysics

  • Post-Positivist Metaphysics
    • Neo-Pragmatism (Rorty)
    • Model Dependent Realism: Stephen Hawking's charge that physicists don't tell us what the world "really is." Science is limited to giving us useful models.
  • Metaphysics of Information
    • Reality & VR: When is virtual reality *real*?
    • Augmented Reality: How will augmentation affect our sense of reality, ethics, and self?
  • Media & the Problem of Simulacra (Baudrilliard: 5 min video)
    • The massive proliferation of media makes the world unintellegible.
    • What's the difference now between reality and its representation?
  • Physics & the Question of Simulation
  • Dimensional Metaphysics
    • Are there really only just 2 dimensions? (The universe as holographic.)

Logic Week 15: On Being Hasty