Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Resolving Concerns about the Verification Principle of Dating

While it seems that my previous post was widely read, I am sad to say that it seems to have been misunderstood. No matter how good an idea is, it can never help anyone if it is misunderstood. So, I am now going to clear up what seem to be the main concerns namely : 1)The differences between general authorities and philosophers 2) What the Verification Principle of Dating is 3)What the Verification Principle is Not 4) Chemistry and Blind Dating

First, the difference between general authorities and philosophers. A general authority is called to be a officer of the Church by the President of the Church. They are called for various reasons, and there is no reason to believe that a general authority will be a theologian or be able to answer cosmological or philosophical problems. The Church has many problems it has to deal with, and the Lord calls people to help deal with them if their strengths are able to solve the problem. There is no reason to assume that a general authority will be a theologian, and most of the great theologians living are not among the general authorities (Blake T. Ostler, Adam S. Miller, Terryl Givens etc). The reason I gave the example at the beginning of my last post about the difference between a general authority and a philosopher is because I am the latter and take the approach of philosophical analysis rather than invoking an office or authority as a general authority might. This is not meant to slight the general authorities, just to point out our difference in approach.

Second, reviewing what the Verification Principle of Dating is. It seems that people confused what the principle was with the example I provided of how it could be implemented. To repeat it again, the Verification Principle of Dating is this : Unless there is empirical evidence that a date will progress to a relationship or marriage, then no date should take place. This principle is not a dating principle itself; it is a pre-dating principle. It's purpose is to narrow down the field of people a person dates to those whom it is most likely that a relationship will develop with. In dating, we often spend time with people who really aren't worth our time. If you don't see anything there, it's because there probably isn't something.

Third, I gave an example of how the Verification Principle can be implemented, but that is not to say that is the only or best way to implement it. You will have to find out the best way for yourself, but more than likely it will include extensive talking both by text and in person, and an admission by both sides of physical attraction. If there is not mutual physical attraction, it makes a relationship very unlikely. It is also important on the male side for the female to admit attraction because while it is generally obvious to a female a male is attracted to her, it is not as obvious to a male if she finds him attractive or if she is just being nice. Again, how the Verification Principle is implemented is up to the person doing it, but it should include those elements.

Finally, chemistry and blind dating. Chemistry is an abstract concept with no concrete, empirical meaning, so if we apply the Verification Principle of Logical Positivism to it, we will find that chemistry is simply meaningless. Blind dating is a type of dating where the Verification Principle does not apply since you can't verify what you don't know about. Blind dates generally don't go anywhere, but they can from time to time.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Verification Principle of Dating

Here is a riddle: What is the difference of approach between an apostle and a philosopher? Answer: An apostle gives answers or commands without much instruction or analyses , and a philosopher looks at the problem and tries to solve it by breaking it down piece by piece, relying on logic rather than on authority. For instance, take the problem of dating and marriage within LDS culture. At a recent general conference, M. Russell Ballard of the Council of the Twelve told the young men in the audience to seek marriage (as though young men don't already try to do that). But notice, that in his talk he never tells men how to get married; he just gives them an order. Unfortunately, it has become a pattern in the church to give orders without directions. This is not to say that leaders are not vitally concerned, it's that they seem to believe that what they say is evident even if they don't provide evidence for what they are saying at times. Allow me to help remedy the problem.

Before I begin, the reader should be forewarned that this principle is concerned with those in the LDS Church and is aimed at those who are seeking marriage. If one is not at the marrying age, is not interested in marriage, or if one is not a member of the LDS Church, this principle and association of ideas may not be as of much help to you. If you are LDS, single, and hoping to change your dating perspective, read on.

First, I will ask the reader to follow the direction of David Hume in relation to previous guidance about dating. To quote him "“If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.” What do I mean by this? I mean that up until now, we have not gotten serious details or principles in relation to how we should date; rather just abstract concepts. Allow me to give a few examples : You just haven't found the right one, keep trying, she (he) is out there somewhere, keep your temple covenants, etc.

First, since Mormonism espouses a libertarian or compatabilist view of free will, there can be no such thing as "the one", because this would imply that your spouse is pre-destined, which is incompatible with libertarianism and compatibilism. Keep trying isn't advice; you are obviously trying if you are asking for dates or accepting them. While the person that you may marry or date is out there in the world supposedly, they aren't determined so there is a chance there isn't someone out there for you. In regard to the temple covenants, while they are given to us to makes us more Christlike, they are not related in any significant way to finding a suitable dating partner and eventual spouse; many people within the church fornicate and marry while those who keep their covenants remain single. Don't misunderstand; temple covenants are very important. But the covenants themselves will not help a person find a mate. So, we can cast all these ideas to the flames and start anew.

Before I lay out what I call the Verification Principle of Dating, a brief history lesson is in order to show where I borrowed it from. In the early part of the 20th century, there were a group of philosophers known as the Vienna Circle. They took a scientific approach to philosophy, since most of them were trained as scientists. While he was not a member of the circle proper, the English philosopher A.J. Ayer met with the circle for a time and brought their ideas to the English speaking world in a book entitled Language, Truth, and Logic. In it he argued for what is now known as the Verification Principle of Logical Positivism. Following in the footsteps of Hume, Ayer argued that unless a statement is verifiable by the 5 senses, it is meaningless. In other words, if you can't produce evidence for a claim, it is neither true nor false; it is just without cognitive meaning, or "armies on the moon" to quote Hume again.

What does this have to do with LDS dating? Simple. I will now propose what I call the Verification Principle of Dating which is this: Unless there is empirical evidence that a date will progress to a relationship or marriage, then no date should take place. Simply argued, in the LDS Church there is an expectation to marry. But too often, people go on dates just for fun or out of curiosity. Instead of doing that, we should date only those whom we would want to have a serious relationship with.

In order to apply this principle, think of the basic scenario. A young man sees a young woman who tickles his eyes and approaches her and asks for a date. Usually, unless the girl is in a relationship, she will accept his offer. Under the verification principle, this is a bad idea since A) The young man in question has no idea why the girl said yes B) The young woman accepted knowing nothing about the young man. Instead, the situation should have been approached in this manner. After the offer was accepted, the young man should inquire why she accepted. If the answer is along the lines of "I usually always accept a first date", then the young man should thank her but tell her it may not be in their best interests to go on a date since their is no evidence that it will go anywhere. Instead, he should ask for her number and talk to her more to see if there is any commonality between the two of them through texting and talking on the phone. If there is, then a date can be scheduled. If not, then the two can thank each other for their time and look for others to date.

Perhaps upon inquiry the girl says "I think your handsome, and would be interested in getting to know you." This is good, since there is now empirical evidence that a relationship can form (you generally don't marry those you find unattractive), but it is still incomplete because there is no evidence a strong relationship can be formed because they don't know one anthers interests and beliefs. So, the young man should first return the compliment (women love being told they are beautiful), but still ask for her number and tell her they should do extensive talking before going on a first date to see if they are compatible. If they are, then they can proceed. If not, then on to the next person.

I can see some of the arguments against this position such as "This is putting to much pressure on a first date", "this is taking the romance out of relationship", and "What about online dating?" I will address those here, and if anyone else has a counterargument I did not address, say so in the comment section below and I will answer them in another post.

In regards to pressure, in many ways this will relieve pressure. Many first dates go badly because a person is nervous and doesn't really know the other person. Under the Verification Principle, you will have done extensive talking and will not have the awkward pauses of most first dates, and will know what your date likes to talk about. You will also know that there is real  interest in pursuing a relationship, which you would otherwise not know for sure without the Verification Principle. Some may say that it is a bit forward to ask why a person is interested after a date has been accepted because them accepting the date implies that they are interested. On the surface this may seem true, but it is specious. Most LDS  women will accept dates from anyone who asks respectfully, and to be fair many LDS men requests dates with no real intent. This principle forces both parties to be honest with each other, and to know where they stand.

Romance and chemistry (which doesn't exist) are not factored into the Verification Principle, but for good reason. Romance can't happen until a date takes place; the Verification Principle is intended to weed out dates that have no business taking place. So, one can believe in both romance and the Verification Principle.

Online dating (especially Tinder) make VP much easier because there is already evidence you are attracted to one another, and you usually talk extensively. In short, in many ways the online system implements VP unknowingly and it seems to be successful.

No idea or system can guarantee a relationship or marriage; there are many factors that go into making that important decision. However, the Verification Principle of Dating can be of great help on the way by allowing you to date people whom you are more likely to marry.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Answering the skeptics about the GOP Post

To my delight and surprise, my last post was met with enthusiasm and delight by friends on the right and on the left. I say surprised and delighted because I somewhat expected the post to (borrowing a phrase from David Hume) fall dead-born from the press. So, when my friends on both sides praised the post, I warmed to it.

However, just like any other post, even those who liked it had some concerns, and I plan to answer them in this post. As a philosopher (or an aspiring one anyway), you have a duty to not only explain and argue for your theories, but to also defend them against criticism. If you don't, you are not a real philosopher, but merely an apologist (not that apologetics in themselves are bad or useless.)

In a comment I received after his reading the post, my friend who is  political philosopher brought up these three criticisms: 1. The GOP establishment and the nominee will never agree to work together, at least not for very long 2. If the GOP stays intact, it won't be meaningful 3. I seem to make saving the GOP a good thing when death may be the better alternative. All of these are valid criticisms, so I will attempt to answer them all here. I will leave it to the reader to decide whether or not I am successful.

First, on the GOP and the nominee working together. The question assumes that because the two main contenders are Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz have portrayed themselves as outsiders, they will never work with the establishment (the insiders) to make an agenda and implement this as policy. This seems valid on the surface, but is ultimately flawed. Take for instance a case on the other side. Then Senator Obama ran on the idea of universal healthcare (not single-payer, but a public option). However, once he got into office he saw that it would not pass Congress (which was controlled by his party), so reduced his aims and gave a nearly identical bill to that of Bob Dole from the 1990's. In other words, he saw that his power was limited and did the best he could rather than throwing a tantrum.

Likewise, if Cruz or trump becomes president and the GOP retains control of congress, they will have no choice but to work together and from policy. Due to the separation of powers, neither can do something without the other ultimately. If Donald Trump wants to build a wall, Congress will have to fund it (Mexico is not going to pay the bill). If Cruz wants a flat tax, Congress will have to approve it. While both of these gentlemen are pretty stubborn, their egos will humble them because they will not be want to pegged as presidents who did nothing. So, whether they want to or not, they will work together.

The second criticism of the GOP reforming not being meaningful will have to depend on the reform. Currently, the GOP is in what I would call stubborn child stage (I would say racism, but I am hopeful the disagreement is beyond President Obama's skin color, but I digress). Leaders such as Paul Ryan have noted that the party is broken and needs to be reformed, and also he is know to have reached across the aisle on numerous occasions. Under his leadership, there is hope that the party can reform to be closer to a center-right party than a fundamentalist right party. I have to say that this is a possibility, rather than a certainty. Also, it Trump were the nominee, it is more likely the party will reform because he is also closer to the center-right than the fundamentalist right. We have to take a wait and see on this.

On the life or death of the party, I was not arguing in the previous piece that it is necessary for the Republican Party to survive for conservatism to survive; conservatism is independent of party. If the GOP were to die, it also would not matter all that much. If it die it would be reborn under a new name, or it would infiltrate a 3rd party a then become the same party. All the parties that have died in the past (the Federalist and Whig for example) are still alive and well in both parties. They just don't share a name. For example, the Federalist idea of centralized government, support of business, and low taxation are alive in the Republican Party, even though the party of Hamilton has been long dead. So, the death of the GOP would accomplish nothing than continue the cycle. I suggest we forgo the Resurrection and just do a reform. Makes more sense and will be better for everyone.


Friday, March 18, 2016

Death of the GOP? Not so....

After Tuesday's primaries that saw Republican front runner Donald Trump claim victories in every state possible except for Ohio (which was won by Ohio governor John Kasich), and likewise forced Florida senator Marco Rubio to finally bow out of the race, it seems even more probable that Trump will eventually claim enough delegates to be the GOP nominee. A poll conducted shortly thereafter showed that with Rubio dropping out, Trump built an even more impressive lead in the primary states ahead, including an unimaginable 50 point lead in his home state of New York. Whether the Republican Party leadership likes it or not, it seems almost certain that Trump will win the nomination and probable that on January 20, 2017 he will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. Who would have thought this was possible on June 16, 2015 (the author's birthday) when Trump announced his candidacy?

In light of this, libertarian-conservative commentator and radio show host Glenn Beck announced after the primaries that the GOP was dead. What did he mean by that? That the party, like the Whig Party in the mid nineteenth century, would cease to exist after the election in the fall. He doesn't detail why, although it should be remembered that he has been saying that the GOP would die for some time and it still hasn't, so perhaps we should be skeptical of Mr. Beck's claims. However, this sort of fervor has also caught on with other pundits, and does seem to make the general public wonder if the death of the GOP is imminent and what will come about to replace it if it should die.

As a philosopher, conservative, and member of the GOP, I ask myself that question and go further to ask what is that virus that is making the party come apart. Many people seem to think that the division is centered in Donald Trump, and there is some merit to that since he is a polarizing figure (that may be putting the matter somewhat lightly). However, I argue that the real concern with the GOP is not one man; it is lack of unity in the party to unite behind conservative principles and a lack of willingness to work across the aisle.

The first Republican president, the great Abraham Lincoln, when he was running for the United States Senate in Illinois in 1858, said "A house divided against itself cannot stand." He was referring to the slavery question which would eventually lead to the civil war when he said this, and since it seems a civil war is brewing within the party perhaps his words have equal merit here. How is the GOP divided? First, the GOP seems to be running on one idea: that President Obama is bad, and that if Hillary Clinton is his successor she will be equally bad. They campaign against Obamacare (which was their idea in the 1990's under Bob Dole), but offer no replacement idea if it were repealed. They refuse to even have a hearing when President Obama does his constitutional duty to appoint a new justice to the Supreme Court. In short, the GOP has come to resemble a group of spoiled children rather than legislators who are supposed to represent the American's who elected them. Donald Trump is not the cause; he is the effect.

Further, the fact the the GOP is not even willing to state they will support the candidate that is nominated is astounding. Donald Trump, while no Abraham Lincoln, is not much of a Tea Party politician either. He is rather moderate in his stances, such as who he would appoint to the Supreme Court if elected, proposing to save social security, and supporting planned parenthood. In other words, while Trump seems very untame, he is the kind of guy that party leaders can work with to pass an agenda. The problem is the GOP doesn't seem to have an agenda outside of "Obama is bad" which won't matter in a few months when President Obama leaves office. It might be time that rather than just opposing the agenda of the Democratic Party, that the GOP makes it's own agenda clear if they are elected in the fall.

Andrew Sullivan, a conservative author and commentator and author of the book The Conservative Soul often talks about how conservatives have lost their skepticism and have replaced it with a strong fundamentalism. Perhaps, in order to save the soul of the party, conservatives would do well to re-establish the house of conservatism upon its foundation of traditionalism, skepticism, pluralism, and pessimism as conservative philosopher John Kekes states in his book A Case for Conservatism.

In short, to quote President Lincoln again "I do not expect the house to fall. But I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other." I agree with President Lincoln in that I do not expect that even with a loss in the fall that the GOP will fall as a party; but I do expect that either the GOP will re-establish itself a right of center party with a reasonable agenda that can transcend party lines, or it will be reduced to the party of angry people with no ideas other than blaming others. Or, to prevent the suspicion I am presenting a false dilemma, perhaps somewhere in between. To prevent that from happening, the party establishment should pledge to support the nominee, no matter who it is. Then, they should meet with the nominee to craft out a serious agenda. If it fails in the fall, they can re-craft it and re-shape it until it gains enough approval then run with it. Either way, the death of the GOP is not near. Rather, the reformation of it is imminent.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Review of "Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know"

Since September 11, 2001, the question of religion and its role in society has been more focused on than in the past, especially on the side of negativity. While people like comedian Bill Maher and South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have always been cynical and critical of religion, religion has seemed to be one of those things that was taboo to criticize. Not so much after the September 11 attacks. From the then graduate student Sam Harris (The End of Faith)to eminent biologist Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) to my personal favorite writer the late Christopher Hitchens (god is not Great), there has been a plethora of attacks on religion. Most of these books have taken the tone that religion is irrational and needs to be destroyed; even if it need be by violent means as alluded to by Harris in his book "Some beliefs are so dangerous it may be ethical to kill people for believing them." Very enlightened indeed Dr. Harris!

As a philosopher who also happens to be a theist, I was interested in a book that talked about atheism, but one that was nuanced and took the theistic arguments and propositions seriously. Luckily, at the behest of my friend who as a professor specializes in philosophy of religion, I was led to such a book : Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know by Michael Ruse. Ruse, for those who do not know of him, is a philosopher of science at Florida St. University in Tallahassee, Florida. A Quaker by birth, he lost his faith in his youth, but unlike Hitchens who describes himself in his book as a "devout anti-theist", Ruse is an agnostic-atheist who is very respectful of those who believe and takes the position of the theist seriously even if he himself does not believe, a good trait for anyone.

Ruse begins the book by giving a historical overview of the atheistic position, citing philosophers such as Lucretius in the past all the way to the New Atheists in the present. He notes that up until the enlightenment, you really couldn't find any atheists. Mostly you had people who would reject organized religion, but would not drop the notion that there was a God of some kind out there. As Penn Jillette said in an interview, it is hard to find an atheist before Darwin. Ruse seems to agree.

He then goes over the standard arguments for the existence of God (the ontological, cosmological, teleological, etc) as well as how they have been countered in the past. He then showed charts of the amount of people in the world who proclaim themselves as religious against those who claim to be non-religious. These charts were very telling, and among one of the more interesting parts of the book.

He then went on to show whether or not one could reconcile science with religion. This is a contentious point, because while people like Dawkins will say that science has disproved God to a large degree, Ruse begs to differ. He points out that science and religion are different enterprises after different types of things; the former is find out the laws and nature of the material world, while the latter is trying to find out the importance of humans in the cosmos and reconcile themselves to God and put on the divine nature. In effect, Ruse is adapting Stephen Jay Gould's idea of non-overlapping magesteria, although Ruse does point out there is some overlap with science and religion. Don't take this to mean that Ruse thinks everything in the scriptures in scientifically justifiable; he adamantly states that the ideas of a universal flood and a literal Adam and Eve are nonsensical (as a theist I would agree). He also is very critical of Intelligent Design, another area as a theist I would agree with him. But he is very comfortable in saying that one can reconcile science and religion, which is very daring given that he is a non-believer.

Perhaps the most telling and touching part of this book is the end, where Ruse points out that teh issue of atheism is a deeply moral one, and unlike Harris thinks that atheism is a bleak worldview. Rather than cheering the fact that God is dead as a Nietzschean would, he states that in the absence of God and religion there is no ultimate purpose to life and one must make up his own values and meaning to live by. Like the existentialists Jean-Paul Satre and Albert Camus, Ruse states that in the absence of God life is absurd. One really gets a sense of Ruse anguish at the end when writing this.

Overall, the tone of the book is jovial and funny,like Ruse himself. While Ruse does take the maters at hand very seriously, he does allow room for humor and I confess that several times I had to stop reading as I literally laughed out loud.

Whether one is a philosopher or just curious about athisem, I highly recommend Ruse's book. You will not be bored at all, and you will come away enlightened.