The Illusion Criticism for Direct Realism: Philosophy Basics 2

Hello! Welcome to this weeks Philosophy Basic, focusing on the problem that illusions present to Direct Realism. If you haven’t read my post on direct realism,  then click on the link and have a read.

The argument from illusion is as followed…

1. Direct realism claims that we perceive objects directly, with no intermediaries. 
2. However this can’t be the case, due to illusions. When we observe an illusion, we don’t perceive the qualities of the object that we know the object to have. For example, we know that a straw is straight and this is one of the properties it possesses. However, when we put it into water, we perceive the straw as bent. 
3. Therefore, we can’t perceive objects directly, as we don’t always perceive objects with the qualities they have in the external world.
4. Therefore, direct realism must be false.
Some may defend direct realism because…

1.The argument above states we can’t perceive objects directly because we don’t always perceive objects as how they exist in the external world.
2. However, we are not fooled by the refraction of water. It is purely based on a misinterpretation of what we are seeing. 
3. Despite this, it does not mean that we perceive something distinct from reality. Instead, we simply misinterpret the reality of the object.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s Philosophy Basics. Next week, we will be looking into the problem of perceptual variation for direct realism. Do  you have any questions about direct realism and its problems? Comment below or email me. If you want to receive notifications about when I put up blogs, subscribe. You can also now follow me on twitter @p_a_absurdum. See you Wednesday for my explanation of the Euthyphro Dilemma and how it can be explained by “Heathers: the Musical!”

Saudi Arabia’s Ethics and Robots

Hello! The following article will be on the differentiation between humans and artificial intelligence. I would like to dedicate this article to my dad, who loves Star Trek and Sci-fi, and my philosophy teachers for introducing me to Candle Conferences. Enjoy!

Saudi Arabia has recently been trying to increase the popularity of its artificial intelligence industry. As part of this, they had a robot imported in and decided to give it full citizenship. This has resulted in up cry from the international community as it means now a robot has more rights than woman and people in the LGBT+ group in Saudi Arabia. However, it also brings into question whether we can separate humans and artificial intelligence and whether, as a result of this, we should grant them equal rights.

Last year I went to a Candle Conference where Dr Peter Vardy lectured on a variety of topics, including one on the problem of whether, in the future, we will be able to separate human beings from artificial intelligence (if anyone is debating going to one of these conferences I strongly recommend it and reading any of Peter Vardy’s books. You may not always agree with him (certainly I didn’t) but he certainly makes you challenge your own beliefs critically in a way that has not been done before.). He argued that we have made leaps and bounds in the last century in the development of artificial intelligent, moving rapidly from the first development of a computer to programmed machines, that are slowly resembling human beings. He believed that these artificial intelligences would continue to develop until it got to the stage where it could be possible to develop artificial intelligence that functions exactly as human beings do. In this circumstance, we would not be able to tell the difference between human beings and artificial intelligence.   This issue provides many problems. However, this article is going to focus on the problem of human and artificial intelligence distinction. If we can’t separate humans from robots, then why are we preventing them from gaining equal human rights as us? 
This was the problem Vardy presented to the group in the lecture. When challenged by several members of the audience, particularly on the subject of consciousness, he refuted the ideas. If there is no difference between our thought processes then there would be no way to demonstrate a clear difference. Even if we use Jackson’s idea of qualia, it would be difficult to demonstrate this difference and whether actually robots would have qualia as a bi-product of the brain because it was part of their physical process.
It seemed difficult to challenge Vardy’s position. However, I couldn’t accept Vardy’s conclusion based on the necessity of human emotion. As human beings, we experience human emotions every day whether it is joy, sadness, love or jealousy. These are unavoidable. We can’t separate ourselves from such emotions. Therefore they are an intrinsic part of being human. This contrasts to robots which don’t experience such emotions and aren’t necessary to their function.
Vardy criticised this on the basis that we could perceive a stage in the future where we could add emotions to the artificial intelligence we were creating. He used the example from Star Trek. Data is an artificial intelligence who eventually has a chip inserted to grant him human emotions. Vardy argued that it is only a matter of time before robots also had emotions and this would take us back to the problem of not being able to seperate humans from robots.
Apart from the basis that we conceive doesn’t make mean it is logically possible, I refuted this response due to the condition that human emotions were necessary. In the case of Data, it is clear that the emotion chip can be removed, that Data can continue to function perfectly well without it. However, in the case of human beings, it is impossible to seperate human beings from their emotions. There is no chip that it is possible to remove from human beings to remove emotions. Even people who have parts of their brain damaged still have emotions, even if it changes what emotions are felt. Therefore the necessity of such emotions is what allows us to use such a method to differentiate between us and artificial intelligence.
Therefore, to conclude, we will be able to differentiate between artificial intelligence and human beings due to the necessity of emotions to humans which artificial intelligence don’t have. Therefore, this is what is at the core of what makes us human and presents us with our entitlement towards human rights. As robots do not feel such emotions, they do not have entitlement to such rights. 
I hope you’ve enjoyed the post for this week. If you like what you see, please subscribe! If you have any questions, please comment below or email me. You can also follow me on Twitter at @p_a_absurdum. Next week, the main article will be on “Heathers; the Musical” and how it explores the Eurhyphro Dilemma. The Philosophy Basics for this week will be on how illusions criticise direct realism as a theory of perception.

Direct Realism: Philosophy Basics

Hello and welcome to Philosopher Ad Absurdum. This is a series which will run alongside my usual posts and that looks at the basics of philosophy through the perspective of A level philosophy. This can be used as a revision tool or as a starting point for learning philosophy. This part of the series is going to focus on theories of perception and we are going to start with direct realism.


Direct realism is a theory of perception where…

1. Objects are composed of material matter and occupy space.
2. The have properties which they possess within themselves. For instance a strawberry has the property of being red. This property belongs to the strawberry.
3. There is no intermediary between us and the object. That is why it is called DIRECT realism, because we perceive objects directly and DO NOT infer there existence by an intermediary.
4. Because objects exist in an external world, they continue to exist when you do not perceive them. For instance, if the world went completely dark so we can’t see, the objects would still exist despite us not being able to observe the objects at that particular moment.

Naïve Realism in particular…
1. We perceive objects as they exist in the external world. You perceive the strawberry as red because it genuinely is red. If someone else saw it, they would also perceive the object as you do and would see the strawberry as red.

I hope this was useful to you! If you want to learn more about philosophy then please subscribe to the blog so you can receive future updates on this series. If you have any questions, please comment them below or send me an email or a tweet. The next blog in the basic philosophy series will be on the problems that philosophers have with direct realism.

Kant and Catalonia

At the moment, Catalonia (a province in Spain) is currently fighting for independence from Spain. Spain has rejected this stance, along with the the majority of the international community. To try and control Catalonia, Spain has used violence against innocent civilians of the province. This raises quite clearly an issue in Kantian ethics and Kant’s attitude to war; mainly that of whether we should intervene in civil wars and when does a single state separate into two.

Kant believed that there must be laws in order to maximize human freedom. This seems an odd idea, but in a world where there were no rules (a state of nature) we would not be able to own anything or live the life we want to because there would be no rules to allow me to own things or pursue my own ends without being trampled on by others. For example, if someone stole one of my personal possessions, I would not be able to get it back as there would be no rule entitling me to that object or any justice system to try the person who took it. Therefore, we need a state in a rightful condition to maximize our freedom and pursue our ends. As a human being, we have a duty to work towards the rightful condition to ensure that other beings’ autonomy is not undermined.

This is easier for individuals to achieve as we have the autonomy of the state that rises above our own sphere of morality. However, when it comes to states, there is no “state of states” that are above the moral sphere of states to enforce the rightful condition. Therefore, it can be held as impossible for states to achieve the rightful condition. Despite this, Kant holds they still have a duty to work towards the rightful condition. This links into war because Kant viewed war as moving away from the rightful condition as it is the opposite of rationality. Kant, therefore, only saw just war as a war that is fought in the aim of achieving peace.
This may seem an easy method of saying yes or no to wars, but what about the case of civil wars, such as Syria? This is not so straightforward. Kant would argue that we shouldn’t interfere as it would interfere with the autonomy of the state. We should respect this autonomy above everything else, even if it does mean the suffering of innocent civilians.
This is a conlusion that is hard to take and many attempt to argue around it by arguing that there has been a seperation of states. When a civil war breaks out, their are actually two sides which make their own autonomous decisions. In this case, another states would be allowed to intervene because helping one state defend from another would be a just war as it’s aim is peace and defence of a state’s autonomy.
This seems an easier position to accept but actually created a new problem of when does one state become two? Most people would accept that Syria is now two separate states, but what about Catalonia. Are we at the point where we can say that Catalonia can make it’s own rational choices as a state? Some would say yes, as, as individuals, they have a freedom to make their own autonomous. Some people would say no a they are still part of Spain and there is no separation between the two at the moment.
Personally, I do not think that the intervention with war is the question that should be addressed right now. Spain, as an autonomous nation, should be held responsible for it’s actions. The use of violence against your own people can never be nationally willed and, as an international community we should hold Spain accountable for this. The governments of the world should be thinking less who is right or wrong in a question of independence and more about  how the answer to this question I achieved.
Thank you for reading this week. Do you have any ideas on this blog post? Please comment it below. Have a question? Please email me. I would love to here it and could form the foundation of a blog soon. If you want to get updates for blogs, please subscribe using the button above. See you next time for a discussion about Saudi Arabia’s granting of civilian status to a robot and my argument with Peter Vardy.

Arrest me; I’m a murderer… in my dreams

So recently, one of my friends has been really stressed and vividly dreaming. Slowly, they have gotten more and more disturbing to the point where she is killing people in her dreams. She would never dream of harming anyone in real life (I don’t think) but it does pose an interesting question; do we need to be held accountable for the actions we perform in our dreams?

Now, before she starts screaming at me, I want to say I am not condemning people to hell for killing someone in their dreams; even for this blog it seems a tad too rediculous. Clearly, we have the intuition that there is no moral value either way in what we dream. So how can we use this moral intuition to examine some arguments surrounding the morality of such dreaming?
Well, utilitarianism would claim that you killing people in your dreams was a good or bad thing depending on the amount of pain or pleasure the dream brought you. That is to say that because the dream mentally disturbed my friend it caused her suffering so is a morally bad action. But this position alone raises some difficulties and some questions. If you have control of the dream and you are causing suffering to yourself then does that make you a morally corrupt individual. Not only do you have to go through the suffering of murduring someone in your dream, but you also suffer from knowing your morally corrupt because you cause suffering. This argument seems to go in circles and does provoke the question – can you really be suffuring if you choose to suffer? 
However, this assumes that you have control of your dreams, but do you really? You have no conscious consent to the dream but clearly your sub-conscious does. Can this still really count as consent if part of you wills not to murder someone in your  dreams.  If you don’t consent to your dream, then can you really be held accountable for a morally wrong action in utilitarianism? 
And this is all based on the assumption that murdering someone in our dreams is wrong because it causes us suffering. What happens if we really hate the person we murder in our dreams and it helps us let go of some of the stress? No one suffers as a result of this (as the person you murder is in your head ) and it causes you pleasure. So under utilitarianism, murdering someone in your dreams would be a good thing. Doesn’t it seem counterintuitive to reward murdering someone in your dreams as a morally good action? We shouldn’t consider murdering someone in our sleep is a bad action, but does that mean we should necessarily class it as a good action?
Another way we can look at this is via a biblical angle. The majority of Christians believe that God knows what we are thinking when we carry out an action. Therefore, it is easy for him to see whether our motivation is right or wrong behind an action. This leads to us asking whether thinking of muder and committing it in our dreams is just as bad as actually killing someone in terms of our own morality.
For many Christians, how we think and feel about an issue makes us just as guilty as those who commit the issue. For example, if someone thinks about robbing a bank, then they are as equally guilty as someone who actually goes and robs the bank. Therefore, when we dream we are murdering someone (and if we are consenting to the dream) then my friend is just as bad as a real-life murderer.
This idea is absolutely ludicrous. How could someone who hasn’t killed anyone in the external work be as bad as someone who has? And if we have no full consent to our dreams, how is it fair that we are judged for viewing such dreams? It can’t possibly be that this stance is right.
However, the above argument only counts if the human we kill in our dream actually represents a human. What if our dreams are metaphorical and stand for something else? What if the person that you murder is actually a personification of your stress or depression or some other major issue in your life? This changes the argument, because you are no longer murdering a valued human being, but you are effectively dealing with your own emotions.
If this is the case, then we could argue that actually God would approve of you murdering your anxiety as it develops your soul. You are making yourself a better person via your mind finding ways of “killing your anxiety” so you can fulfill your own potential. Therefore, God would view this as good as your are becoming more perfect and achieving the potential of your humanity. However, it does take us back to the counterintuitive idea of do you really want to be murdering your anxiety if it looks like a human being? And do you want to be rewarded for it? 
In my opinion, the arguments above have no weighting at all due to one detail; there is no action occurring at all. For an action to occur, it needs to happen in the external world where space and time allows for events to unfold. You cannot commit an action in your dreams as it does not partake in the external world. If there is no action committed, then you cannot award the event moral worth, which matches our natural intuition.
Hope you enjoyed reading the article. If you liked what you read, please subscribe to the blog. Do you have a comment or question about it? Comment below. Do you have a question that you need answering? Contact me at It could in a blog coming soon!
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