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Seven thought experiments that will make you question everything 5nvklj





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Seven thought experiments that will make you question everything

Cloud9
Cloud9
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Seven thought experiments that will make you question everything Empty Seven thought experiments that will make you question everything

Post by Cloud9 Thu May 03, 2018 3:31 pm

Thought experiments are among the most important tools in the intellectual toolbox. Widely used in many disciplines, thought experiments allow for complex situations to be explored, questions to be raised, and complex ideas to be placed in an understandable context. Here we have seven thought experiments in philosophy you might not have heard of. With explanations of what they mean and what questions they raise.




The Veil of Ignorance

Justice is blind, should we be?

This experiment was devised by John Rawls in 1971 to explore notions of justice in his book A Theory of Justice.

Suppose that you and a group of people had to decide on the principles that would establish a new society. However, none of you know anything about who you will be in that society. Elements such as your race, income level, sex, gender, religion, and personal preferences are all unknown to you. After you decide on those principles, you will then be turned out into the society you established.

Question: How would that society turn out? What does that mean for our society now?

Rawls argues that in this situation we can’t know what our self-interest is so we cannot pursue it. Without that guidepost, he suggests that we would all try to create a fair society with equal rights and economic security for the poor both out of moral considerations and as a means to secure the best possible worst-case scenario for us when we step outside that veil. Others disagree, arguing that we would seek only to maximize our freedom or assure perfect equality

This raises questions for the current state of our society, as it suggests we allow self-interest to get in the way of progressing towards a just society. Rawls’ ideas about the just society are fascinating and can be delved into




The Experience Machine


Robert Nozick came up with this one which appears in his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia.

Imagine that super neuroscientists have created a machine that can simulate pleasurable experiences for the rest of your life. The simulation is ultra-realistic and indistinguishable from reality. There are no adverse side effects, and specific pleasurable experiences can even be programmed into the simulation. Regarding pleasure experienced, the machine offers more than is possible in several lifetimes.

Question: Do we have any reason to not go in?

Nozick argues that if we have any reason to not get in then hedonistic utilitarianism, the idea that pleasure is the only good and that we ought to maximize it, is false. Many people value having real experiences or being a person who does things rather than dreams about doing them. No matter what the reason, if you don't go in you can't claim pleasure is the only good, and Nozick thinks most people won't go in.


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Cloud9
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Seven thought experiments that will make you question everything Empty Re: Seven thought experiments that will make you question everything

Post by Cloud9 Thu May 03, 2018 3:34 pm

Mary's Room

Philosopher Frank Jackson proposed this thought experiment in 1982; it raises questions about the nature of knowledge.

Mary lives in a black and white room, reads black and white books, and uses screens that only display images in black and white to learn everything that has ever been discovered about color vision in physics and biology. One day, her computer screen breaks and displays the color red. For the first time, she sees color.

Question: Does she learn anything new?

If she does, then it shows that qualia, individual occurrences of subjective elements of experience, exist; as she had access to all possible information other than experience before she saw the color but still learned something new.

This has implications for what knowledge and mental states are. Because if she learns something new then mental states, like seeing color, can’t be described entirely by physical facts. There would have to be more to it, something subjective and dependent on experience.

If she doesn’t learn anything new, then we would have to apply the idea that knowing physical facts is identical to experiencing something everywhere. For example, we would have to say that knowing all about echolocation is similar to knowing what it is like to use it.

This experiment is unique of the ones on this list as the author later changed their mind and argued that Mary seeing read doesn’t count as evidence that qualia exist. However, the problems posed by the experiment remain widely debated.





The Life You Can Save
Peter Singer

This experiment was written by famed utilitarian thinker Peter Singer in 2009.

Imagine that you are walking down the street and notice a child drowning in a lake. You can swim and are close enough to save her if you act immediately. However, doing so ruins your expensive shoes. Do you still have an obligation to save the child?

Singer says yes, you have a responsibility to save the life of a dying child and price is no object. If you agree with him, it leads to his question.


Question: If you are obligated to save the life of a child in need, is there a fundamental difference between saving a child in front of you and one on the other side of the world?

In The Life You Can Save, Singer argues that there is no moral difference between a child drowning in front of you and one starving in some far off land. The cost of the ruined shoes in the experiment is analogous to the cost of a donation, and if the value of the shoes is irrelevant than the price of charity is too. If you would save the nearby child, he reasons, you have to save the distant one too. He put his money where his mouth is, and started a program to help people donate to charities that do the most good.

There are counter-arguments of course. Most of them rely on the idea that a drowning child is in a different sort of situation than a child who is starving and that they require different solutions which impose different obligations.



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