Berkeley & Locke, Voltaire & Leibniz, Hume, Kymlicka

Happy Valentine’s Day! Gotta love a holiday about love. Philosophers haven’t really nailed the topic yet, though Plato tried. [Plato loves play-doughSocrates in LoveSchopenhauer on love] But it’s a good excuse to let us all consume unhealthily and recall how lucky we are to be here. Every day’s a birthday that might easily not have been.

vdaycakes

“Where there is love there is life.” Gandhi

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” Dr. Seuss

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Lao-tzu

“Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” Bertrand Russell

“Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.” R. Heinlein

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” Paul McCartney

Today in CoPhi we take another pass at John Locke, this time contrasting him with Bishop George Berkeley‘s (careful with that pronunciation) odd esse est percipi thesis. Also Voltaire vs. Leibniz,Hume vs. Design & miracles [SEP], and Canadian philosopher Will Kymlicka‘s Philosophy Bites interview on rights. He asks if immigrants should be given rights that other citizens don’t have. Good luck finding Americans who’ll assent to that, Will. “The difficulty of reconciling apparently preferential treatment with a policy of equality is a central one for anyone committed to multiculturalism.”

Bishop Berkeley was one odd empiricist, insisting that we “know” only our ideas and not their referents. Here’s that famous scene with Dr. Dictionary:

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley’s ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it — “I refute it thus.” Boswell’s Life of Johnson

Berkeley gave his name (though not its pronunciation) to the California town and college campus where there’s lately been a revival of interest in him.

There’s a story that when George Berkeley, the future philosopher, was a student he decided to see what it was like to approach death. He hung himself, arranging to have a friend cut him down and revive him after he lost consciousness…Berkeley is now hung again, as large as life, but only in portrait form on the campus that is his namesake.

Well, the idea of him is now hung again at least.

Voltaire was one of those salon wits, a Deist and foe of social injustice who railed against religious intolerance (“Ecrasez l’infame!”) and mercilessly parodied rationalist philosophers (especially Leibniz, aka Dr. Pangloss).

Pangloss was professor of metaphysico-theologico-cosmolo-nigology. He proved admirably that there is no effect without a cause, and that, in this best of all possible worlds, the Baron’s castle was the most magnificent of castles, and his lady the best of all possible Baronesses… Candide

“There is a lot of pain in the world, and it does not seem well distributed.” [slides here]

Voltaire’s countryman Diderot offered a sharp rejoinder to those who said nonbelievers couldn’t be trusted. “An honest person is honest without threats…”

David Hume (follow his little finger) agreed, attributing goodness and upstanding personal character to the positive reinforcement of social custom and collective experience. Divine justice, he thought, is an oxymoron. “Epicurus’ old questions are still unanswered… (continues)”

Everyday morality is based on the simple fact that doing good brings you peace of mind and praise from others and doing evil brings rejection and sorrow. We don’t need religion for morality… religion itself got its morality from everyday morality in the first place… JMH

Hume was an interestingly-birfurcated empiricist/skeptic, doubting metaphysics and causal demonstrations but still sure that “we can know the world of daily life.” That’s because the life-world is full of people collaboratively correcting one another’s errors. Hume and friends “believed morality was available to anyone through reason,” though not moral “knowledge” in the absolute and indubitable Cartesian sense. Custom is fallible but (fortunately) fixable. [Hume at 300… in 3 minutes… Belief in miracles subverts understanding]

On the question of Design, intelligent or otherwise, and before we forget entirely about Darwin Day

Open your eyes,” Richard Dawkins likes to say. They really are an incredible evolutionary design. Not “perfect” or previsioned, but naturally astounding.

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