ClassNotes - Class One On the Assumptions Underlying Ethics...

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Class One 01/30/08 On the Assumptions Underlying Ethics: Ethics has two assumptions--we have free will is one, and there are moral standards, is the other. Both are controversial--many reputable people deny that human beings have free will, and, also, many deny that there are any standards for telling right from wrong conduct. We will examine the arguments for and against in future classes.
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Class Two 02/06/08 Free will is doubted because (a) scientists tend to deny it, (b) one cannot observe  free will, (c) belief in God’s omniscience conflicts with it, (c) it is not found in any other  parts of nature. In response to the first set of doubts, (1) Science, contrary to the skeptic’s view,  may not impose requirements on what exists in the world. Science has the task to  discover and identify what exists and if it turns out that free will exists, science may not  say “That cannot be?” Metaphysics can—“no contradictions can exists”—but science is  to report and examine, not rule out. (2) The law of causality is universal, that is true (just  as metaphysics would hold) but what kind of causes can exist depends upon what kind  of beings there are. And if a being can cause its own behavior or conduct, that would  mean there can be agent causality (not simply mechanical causality). There is prima  facie (on its face) evidence of agent causality—one knows about oneself that one  causes things to happen or not happen. And even in the animal world, there appears to  be causation by animal agents—beavers build dams, for example. (3) As to whether  free will can be observed, here the problem is that not everything known to exist is  known by observation—an example is black wholes, which absorb all light that would  make them observable, yet we know they exist by inferring their existence from  surrounding evidence. This is how we know about people’s intentions, motives, feelings,  pains, etc., not by direct observation, and this is how free will might be known (its  existence is inferred from other things we know, such as the immense human diversity  we see around the world and in history). (4) God’s knowledge, in turn, isn’t like yours  and mine, so when one says “God knows what you will do” this is by no means  something straightforwardly clear. It is, rather, very likely to be mysterious. So, not much  can be inferred from it about free will. (5) There is also the fact that there are myriads of  things and types of things in nature, a great variety of them, so something with free will  would not be all that strange, given that moving from the simplest to the more complex 
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course BUS 215 taught by Professor Mcquiddy during the Spring '08 term at Chapman University .

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ClassNotes - Class One On the Assumptions Underlying Ethics...

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