Monday, 20 April 2009

Lesson Plan

a] Brief Re-cap over what was learnt in The 'Psychology of Religion'
b] Revision Notes from Psych & Religion 4 & 8 - 14 pages within the textbook will provide virtually everything one requires to pass an exam question.
c] The Exam is on June 2 - now there are only nine classes left ; but we should be able to get through with revision of the entire syllabus.
d] Now I'm going to ask you a little quiz : Only ten questions ; half deal with what you've studied with Peter on Psychology and Religion ; the other half are for your benefit and mine - they may seem stupid or irrelevant or really tough and too complicated ; but I ask you to bear with me - and hopefully you'll be able to see at the end the point I'm trying to get across. You're studying a subject where you have to stand on your own feet and think for yourselves - and in order for you to pass this exam you're going to have to know how to argue ; even argue against things you personally believe in.

Separate the class into 2 groups :

1. A Bottle of Wine costs £10 . The Wine inside the bottle costs £9 more than the bottle itself ; how much are each ?

A: Wine £9.50 & Bottle 50p
LESSON - ALWAYS READ THE QUESTION - always refer to every detail within an argument and the known facts and the desired criterion ! don't guess or presume - if you're not sure - work it out from what you've got in the question - nine times out of ten the question will give you hints as to how to answer it....

More people fail exams not because they don't know the answers ; but by simply failing to read the question properly and giving the wrong answer !

2. Sigmund Freud said that Religion was a] an Illness, b] that it was Pathological[i.e. dangerously harmful] and c] that it is derived from unsuccessfully suppressed sexual trauma.
How would Jung have argued against these claims ?

A : a] It's natural , b] it's beneficial , c] it derives from archetypes and blueprints within the collective and personal unconscious.

3. What colour is the Sun ?

A: It looks yellow , it's called a yellow star , but if you ask a scientific expert they will tell you that the greatest amount of light emanating from the Sun is in the GREEN band of the electromagnetic spectrum.

LESSON : a] Don't always presume that science will naturally back up the apparent , obvious answer - never presume - always check the science first - If Freud says all men are victims of the oedipus complex, and all women suffer from Penis-envy ; check what contemporary clinical psychology says . If Jung talks about universal archetypes within the collective unconscious - check out world history - check out the anthropological data - CHECK THE SCIENCE.
b] CHECK THE OBJECTIVE SCIENTIFIC FACTS FOR YOURSELF e.g. on the abortion issue one side will try and convince you [WITH SCIENCE} that a foetus is is a living thinking human being from just a few weeks after conception ; whereas a contrary viewpoint will try and use science to prove that a foetus is merely a mindless collection of cells up until a few weeks before birth
But also remember what Rizzuto said in his arguments against Freud
"Science does not have the sole claim to truth" ;
A scientist may say that a star is a huge ball of flaming gas - but we may respond 'that's not what a star is - that's only what a star is made of'.
Science cannot answer every question - philosophy can sometimes get a lot closer to credible , feasible, tenable answers. And who knows ? maybe some religions have actually got close to a real purpose and meaning for our existence ?

4. Modern Society speaks of a 'Mid-Life Crisis' where one becomes anxious , one feels one has lost direction and a sense of purpose and feels alienated from the community - Jung would say this was the beginning of a new process - what is the process called ; and what [according to Jung] is the outcome ?

A: INDIVIDUATION - Where one integrates and assimilates the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious trough a dialectical process to synthesise a new perspective on life.

5. A Gunman hijacks an aeroplane while it's still on the ground ; he demands £1 million and two parachutes. The authorities give him these ; the plane takes off and while over the desert the hijacker grabs one of the parachutes jumps out the plane with the million pounds and is never seen again. Why did he ask for two parachutes ?

A: If he'd only asked for one parachute the authorities could have sabotaged it ; by asking for two there was the potential that the hijacker could take an innocent hostage ; therefore both parachutes could NOT be sabotaged ; in order to be safe ; the hijacker HAD to ask for two - not one.

MORAL OF THE STORY : In Religion, Philosophy and Ethics - sometimes you simply CANNOT argue one principle on its own - or isolate one special set of circumstances for a specific occasion without considering the consequences for the universal . Kant called this universalisation of Morality 'the categorical imperative' - for instance The Catholic church and Islam says no to artificial contraception because they argue that sex should be about a married couple unifying their love and being open to life , but the Anglican church says yes you can use artificial contraception - to Anglicans this means that sex does not have to be open to life - sex is for unifying partners . But then what about homosexual sex - that unifies loving partners ; and of course it isn't open to life but that doesn't matter does it ? so if we apply Kant's categorical imperative Anglicanism should have no problem whatsoever with homosexual sexual activity - but some of them do have serious problems with it...but they have real problems explaining why it's ethically unacceptable because they abandoned the principle they used to justify their opposition to it ; and thus end up having to resort to the Bible. Now whether they're right or wrong is beside the point - their one principle they took away has had consequences within another moral issue they would have preferred not to consider in such a way. Sometimes moral and ethical issues are inextricably linked by invisible chains !

Another example - take for instance abortion - The liberal view states 'a woman has a right to her own body and can do what she pleases with it ' - now what happens when it comes to surrogacy ? one woman provided the genetic material , another provided the womb , one made the baby, another grew the baby - who takes precedent ? What if one wishes to abort the foetus but the other doesn't ? sometimes one principle standing on its own is never enough - there may be too many external factors or contradictory circumstances. Beware of soundbites - be fearful of the person with only one book !

6. How does Malinowski argue against Freud's comparison of humanity with the animal kingdom and Freud's conclusion that the extended social Oedipus Complex creates a dominant male in the primal horde which becomes a Totem ?

A: a] Not all races are Patriarchal or have a culture of male dominancy or were gathered into collective hordes.
b] even though the dominant male phenomenon is present in the animal kingdom ; the oedipus complex isn't present !
c] Not all societies have totems .
d] Totems and gods are far from distinctly male - in fact the earliest evidence states the contrary; Fertility goddesses etc
e] Animism - the bestowing of life or 'spiritual power' is not a universal phenomena among cultures.

GK Chesterton asked the question : "Why do we put flowers on graves" ? Who knows why? It's just one of those weird traditions from the past which has lost its origin..we'll never know how or why it started ; and it would be wrong for a scientist or anthropologist to presume or guess - the simple answer is we don't know. Freud tries to gather a tiny amount of isolated data and universalise it and turn it into a cultural collective psychological scenario - he can't do it !

7. Three Men go to a cheap hotel for the night - each pays £10 for a £30 room with three beds and an ensuite bathroom - They get to their room and discover that the shower's broken; so they ring reception . The manager apologises and promises a small refund.
The manager calls over the bellboy and gives him five pounds and tells him to split it three ways amongst the guests:
Now the bellboy hasn't any small change to share out £1.66 to each of the three ; so instead he gives each man a pound and pockets two pound for himself.

Now each man paid £10 and got £1 back so they now paid only £9
Three times nine is £27 ; and the bellboy has £2 making £29
But there was £30 to start off with - so what happened to the missing pound ?

A: There is no missing pound - three guests paid nine pounds - twenty seven pounds - the manager has 25, the bellboy has 2 !

Beware of Enthymemes ; beware of hidden arguments or fallacies or the misuse of predicates in arguments by calling two separate different phenomena or principles tha same name or giving them equal value - always check the VALIDITY and COGENCY of a whole argument ; not merely separate parts of it stuck together to make an apparent whole when there are actually gaping holes throughout....

8. Freud conceded that religion did have some good aspects e.g. it promoted communal spirit, it prevented anarchy and it provided comfort and consolation ; but apart from Freud's perspective that it was 'a pack of lies and self-delusion' and should be abolished ; Freud argued it was oppressive and ineffective . Given the history of religion and the abuses of the rights of women and minorities ; How it's oppressive is obvious , but why and how , according to Freud , is religion ineffective ?

A: People still sin and fail to live the religious ideals , the alleged comfort and solace that an afterlife or divine justice or that personal sacrifice will be rewarded do not prevent people becoming anxious or depressed or angry , people still break the law etc.

9. You've gone on holiday to Transylvania with three psychologist friends ; and discovered that not only are half the inhabitants vampires, half of these humans and vampires are insane. This gives you four types of people :
a] Sane Humans - Who always tell the truth
b] Sane Vampires - Who always lie
c] Insane Humans - Who perceive reality the wrong way so even though they try and tell the truth , they always make false statements.
d] Insane vampires - Who lie about their false perceptions so always make true statements.

You go into a Tavern: A stranger sits in the corner drinking ale.
The owner of the tavern is worried about the stranger and asks you and your companions for help in trying to determine who the stranger is .
The first psychologist approaches the stranger and asks him :
"Are you a sane human" ? The stranger responded but the first psychologist couldn't tell what the stranger was....
The second psychologist asked "Are you a sane vampire ?" The stranger answered but the second psychologist couldn't tell what the stranger was.
The third psychologist asked " Are you an insane vampire?" and the stranger answered but even now the third psychologist couldn't tell who or what the stranger was....

Now the psychologists turn to you and say - "you go and ask him a question and try and find out who he is"

Now you're very good at logic and you laugh at your three friends and say you don't need to ask the stranger any questions - as you already know who and what he is !

A: The stranger is a Sane Vampire ! How could you determine this ? the only question that wasn't asked was "Are you an insane human" ? A sane human would say no, an insane human would say no, an insane vampire would say no, ONLY a sane vampire could answer 'yes !' Notice the pattern ? you want to find out if someone is a sane human - you ask are they an insane vampire. Asking the direct opposite gives you the right answer.

LESSON/Moral of the story : Sometimes a Direct question , a direct approach - won't get you the right answer or the solution to a problem - sometimes you have to be open to the possibility that the only way of discovering the nature of a principle or an ethical stance or a philosophical argument is to approach it from behind - to argue using a directly opposite hypothesis or set of principles...
e.g. when you kill in self-defence are you taking life or saving life ? Is Euthanasia an argument about dying with dignity , or living with dignity ?
How can one argue against the Cosmological arguments for the existence of God if one stays within the argument's remit of there having to be an uncaused cause at the beginning of all things? maybe you have to use an opposite argument ?

10. Supposing a Goth travelled back in time and arrived in Jung's study , and began spouting all his beliefs and views on life ; How would Jung use the Persona and Shadow archetypes to analyse him ?

A] The Persona archetype is the mask we wear in society ; the Shadow archetype is the projection of the darker sides of our character onto others.


Now I want you to consider what I've said in regard to these questions and go back to two subjects you've already studied : Abortion and the Cosmological arguments for the existence of God ; because tomorrow we're going to go through every aspect of the abortion debate all the different positions ; and the arguments AGAINST every position [in order for you to answer a question on the subject you have to learn both sides to every argument] - and on Thursday we're going to go through the Cosmological arguments - and the arguments against them


Now I've already shown you a few examples regarding how you should begin to think ;

Now I'm going to show you the way NOT to think.

This is a very , very popular way of arguing , you'll find it everywhere ; especially in newspapers and magazines or on the news or Tricia or Jeremy Kyle or Loose Women or whatever....

...and it's known as 'Reverse induction' or Thinking Backwards :

Now the most famous example is by GK Chesterton and it's known as the fire poker argument; now it comes from over a century ago so we have to remember this is a time when most people didn't have central heating but rather used coal fires :

On this planet the weirdest of animals is the human being ; the animal that couldn't keep its hair on ; its natural form may be its beauty but it's also its shame ; like a swimmer who's lost their clothes ; left their shirt and underwear and jeans on the cotton bush ;left their dress by the silkworm ; left their suit or jumper on the sheep ; left their shoes on the cow...but against the planet's harsh elements no clothing or shelter will provide enough warmth for them - they need fire ! Now fire is the protector of life but also a bringer of death ; in order to live we must stay near the fire , but to touch the fire brings injury - and so to keep the fire burning we need an ambassador, an emissary - something to shake away the embers and keep the wood or coal amidst the flames - the fire poker ! and through the poker's time in the fire it becomes scorched, discoloured , damaged, twisted....and if the poker was alive, it would be proud of those battle scars it endured in its ongoing mission to keep the fire going and save human life.

This is the right way to think about fire pokers - we start at the beginning with first principles and move from cause to effect , from actions to consequences, all according to degree of importance and purpose.

Now imagine someone comes along and sees the poker and says :

"Poor poker; it's crooked."
Then he asks how it came to be crooked; and is told that there
is a thing in the world (with which his temperament has hitherto left him
unacquainted)--a thing called fire. He points out, very kindly and
clearly, how silly it is of people, if they want a straight poker, to put
it into a chemical combustion which will very probably heat and warp it.
"Let us abolish fire," he says, "and then we shall have perfectly straight
pokers. Why should you want a fire at all?" They explain to him that a
creature called Man wants a fire, because he has no fur or feathers. He
gazes dreamily at the embers for a few seconds, and then shakes his head.
"I doubt if such an animal is worth preserving," he says. "He must
eventually go under in the cosmic struggle when pitted against
well-armoured and warmly protected species, who have wings and trunks and
spires and scales and horns and shaggy hair. If Man cannot live without
these luxuries, you had better abolish Man."

See how it works ?
you can do it with anything - you write a message on a piece of paper
who's ruined this paper ? who's wasted this pen ?
you mean you killed a tree to get paper ? you made plastics from petrol which is dead plant and animal material from millions of years ago - you grave robber ! you're using dead bodies to write on a dead tree ?
humans are babarians ! humans should be abolished...

Think this is stupid ?
Well think about this - you're breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide - you're very life is promoting global warming - YOU are melting the polar icecaps - you're killing the rainforest - it's you - your carbon footprint which is killing us all - your life is killing us all !
My friend knows a couple of eco-warriors near where he lives - they're very proud that they aborted their child because it meant they did their bit to protect the environment .
Western goverrnments are now tying food and monetary aid to the developing world on the proviso that they begin population control has to wonder which is more cruel - allowing millions to die from hunger and disease or preventing those millions from ever being born ?

Ok now you see how 'thinking backwards' works ; you're going to find it everywhere !
And yes the arguments may seem right, or even valid on occasions ; they may indeed have the right conclusions - but that's only a coincidence; the way the way they've gone about the reasoning, the thought processes, the direction of thinking from causes to effects, from principles to consequences - they've got all the thinking wrong ! It's thinking ; but thinking backwards !

Beware of thinking backwards - BUT - always keep an eye out for it ; because once you notice it it will be your greatest asset in being able to argue against a position !

One of the MAIN sources of 'Thinking backwards' in all you've studied is found in certain aspects of Utilitarianism...and that's what we're going to revise next.



Class interaction .

Now you have to remember that Utilitarianism is a form of ABSOLUTIST NORMATIVE ETHICS ; as opposed to relativist, descriptive or non-cognitivist ethics

What is moral absolutism ?

a] Utilitarianism is known as consequentialist or teleological form of ethics
[ask for definitions] as opposed to deontological ethics

b] Utilitarianism is grounded upon the principle of Utility - No such thing as objective right and wrong in themselves - but right action [that whch promotes utility] and that wrong action [which dimishes utility] - the ENDS always justifies the MEANS

c] Jeremy Bentham - Hedonism - Hedonic Calculus - The greatest good for the greatest amount of people

i] intensity
ii] duration
iii] certainty/uncertainty
iv] closeness/remoteness
v] fecundity
vi] purity
vii] extent

d] Act Utilitarianism

pluses - it's flexible - able to judge, discern assess every particular circumstance

minuses - it can justify virtually anything if it provides the greater benefit to the decision maker at the time - selfish, narcissistic, self-delusional.
- the idea of using hedonic calculus for every decision is not only time-consuming, on many occasions many factors are not only unavailable to us ; they are impossible to discover.
- it can have very extreme consequences - and become ridiculous in practice.

e] John Stuart Mill - addressed the quantitive individualistic nature of act utilitarianism and sought a qualitative form whereby a higher, selfless morality for the true ethical benefit of the many was formulated via a RULE Utilitarianism.

The Benefit of society depends on universal rules which promote higher utility for the greater amount within the collective.

pluses - the extreme consequences of act Utilitarianism are now diminished
- the rule structure protects the general majority from the potentially 'selfish' [but high in personal utility] acts of the individual or a minority group within the collective - all acts are directed by rules towards the common good.

minuses - universal rules might cause great difficulties or injustices on the individual level - e.g. rule to tell the truth and the mad axeman
- rule utilitarianism doesn't necessarily protect minorities or individuals/communities with special or exceptional needs. e.g. it might justify slavery of a minority.
- the formation of drastic , draconian and 'unreasonable' laws as deterrents against others e.g. the death penalty for speeding.
- the possible sacrifice of the individual or minority for the sake of the whole

f] Peter Singer - Preference Utilitarianism - best consequences for all involved. everyone's interests must be considered. Peopl should deliberate on a lifestyle rather than on specific ethical situations

pluses - most of the minuses within act and rule utilitarianism vanishes

minuses - the tyranny of the collective's best interests against the individual's free-will.
- The potential for Moral hazard whereby people's attitudes change in regard to the general rule - e.g. complacency , laziness, lassitude and acceptability of further 'broader' mores...
- the pragmatic protean nature of the rules changing according to immediate need of the collective.
- Peter Singer has included into all this the notion of Personhood and autonomy and capability [all people are not equal !]

Utilitarianism requires foresight !
Unforeseen consequences !
Unpredictability !

Justice for all vs Happiness for the Majority - The Price may be too high ?

High & Low Pleasures - The Quantitive and the qualitive

The necessity of pain ? The problem of Pleasure

The absolute necessity for human authenticity of Motive ?

Utilitarianism is PRACTICAL !

other types :
[ask if they can guess what each means]
Motive Utilitarianism, Negative Utilitarianism , average utilitarianism, universal utilitarianism

The problem of Determinism - if we are in a deterministic universe none of us are responsible ; if we're not then the consequences of our actions are utterly unpredictable as they depend on other people's actions !

Discussion of Ethical dillemma examples in the final minutes.