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PHIL 1F91 Lecture Notes - Thought Experiment, Reductionism, Logical Possibility

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Brian Lightbody

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PHIL 1F91 September 14th, 2012
Lecture Two: Philosophical Methodology
So far we know that philosophers try to solve what Rauhut calls “open questions”. Such questions are open
because it is difficult to determine what an irrefutable answer would look like; second, we know that
philosophers investigate such questions via conceptual analysis.
Philosophers as Detectives
We now want to know if there is a methodology that philosophers use to answer such questions. According
to Rauhut, there is indeed a methodology which consists of four elements
1. Clarification- clarifying terms and concepts in the argument
2. Hypothesis- when answering a question, how do we hypothesis?
3. Test- we must test the hypothesis and how do we? Think of a thought experiment
4. Judge- we must judge the test for the hypothesis
1) Clarification
When we speak about clarification in philosophy we are really speaking about conceptual
analysis. In other words, we want to know what the terms, definitions and concepts a person is
using in an argument and how they are being used. (How is one defining their terms, and are
they using it in two different ways)
Example: on the moral and legal status of Abortion” by Mary Ann Warren (1973)
Mary Ann Warren “The fetus is not a person and hence not the sort of entity to which it is
proper to ascribe full moral rights”
Only a person can have moral rights and a fetus even if it is a human being does not possess
those moral rights
Just what makes a person a person?
1. Consciousness (of objects and events external and/or internal to the being) and in particular
the capacity to feel pain
2. Reasoning (the developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems)
3. Self- motivated activity (activity which is relativity independent of either genetic or direct
external controls):
4. The capacity to communicate , by whatever means, messages of an indefinite variety of
types that is, not just with an indefinite number of possible contents, but on indefinitely many
possible topics
5. The presence of self- concepts and self-awareness, either individuals or racial or both
Any entity which does not fulfill at least one of these conditions, is not a person
2) Hypothesizing
When a scientist conducts an experiment he or she does so in order to prove or disprove a
hypothesis. In the same way when CLARIFIYING a concept the philosophers will create an
hypothesis and then TEST this hypothesis in an imaginary situation
Example: examine the following hypothesis: “The mind is nothing more than the brain” (how to
prove statement; Clarification, what is the mind?
We might start by clarifying what this statement means. Let us say we put forward a strong
physical reductionist hypothesis; “where there is a mind there is a working human brain, and
where there is no working, human brain these is no mind
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