21st July 2018: The Art of Argumentation: Philosophy, Reason and the Universe; The Mind and the World by Tina Röck
Come along to the St John’s Church Hall (Princes St, Edinburgh, EH2 4BJ) at 2.30pm and take part in discussion about philosophy. It is a friendly and informal gathering to discuss topics with food in good company. It is entirely free and open to everyone
The Art of Argumentation – Philosophy, Reason and the Universe
If you are like me and can’t stop asking ‘why?’ then this series is for you. In our bi-monthly meetings, we will discuss all the questions that we can come up with, from the strangest to the smallest – from the question whether there is a world, or whether God exists to the question whether we exist. We will ask and discuss the nature of knowledge, what it means to lead a good life and the nature of beauty. We can also discuss certain philosophers, specific philosophies or strange philosophical concepts you have come across.
The primary focus of these meetings is for us to explore all of these issues together, to get your critical argumentation skills working in overtime. There is an art of argumentation that has been lost in our modern technological world where visuals, memes, emotional manipulation and personal experience have taken the place of reasonable discussion. Mostly we argue to win, but I think we should argue to learn more without being afraid to ‘lose’. And, is it really losing if I discovered something?
To develop some intellectual antibodies to manipulation through arguments we will engage with deceptive forms of argumentation, fallacies, rhetorical tricks and other ways people use to win an argument. We will start this using Schopenhauer’s ‘The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument’,
How does it work?
After we have explored one argumentative trick with the help of Schopenhauer, I will give a 15-20 minute introduction to the philosophical topic of the meeting, which we will then explore together.
At the end of every meeting, we will decide on the theme for the next one.
Meeting on 22nd of July: The mind and the world
In the first part of this meeting, we will develop those critical thinking skills and chat about Schopenhauer’s The art always being right. (see document provided below) We will discuss the first two rhetorical tricks Schopenhauer presents (extension and homonyms), and talk about whether we have had them used on us and what to do when someone uses one of these tricks in a discussion.
The second part of the meeting will be about the philosophical topic chosen last time:
The general context of our question: The mind and the world
Think about it. How do you know that anything you think you experience is actually real? How do we know that we don’t live in a computer simulation (think Matrix) or in a really elaborate dream from which we just do not wake? How do you know you are not dreaming right now? And if something just exists in your mind, or in your dream, does that mean it is less real – even though it appears absolutely real to you?
All of these questions circle the relation between mind and world, and there are many ways philosophers have attempted to investigate this relation.
They did, for example, ask, what is consciousness and how does it relate to the world? Or, how do the mind and the body interact?
Is everything structured and distorted by our minds?
What is the difference between the mind and the physical brain?
If our mind depends on the physical interactions in the brain, are our thoughts then determined by causal interaction?
On the 22nd of July, we specifically be looking at one set of answers given to these questions, namely the ones proposed by René Descartes.
René Descartes: Mind-body dualism and free will
Descartes argued that the relation between the mind and the world is pretty simple. There are two kinds of stuff in the world, mental stuff and physical stuff and that we human beings are in the unique situation of being a combination both. How are these two completely different kinds of stuff supposed to interact? How does the thinking mind relate the physical brain you ask? Well, that is something we should discuss together I’d say.
Descartes also argued that he could provide a certain basis for knowledge, an indubitable claim, that would be true whether we were in the matrix or whether we are sleeping, namely “I think therefore I am.” Whether this claim is really as good as Descartes thought it was? Well, I’d say these are some further things we should talk about…
Finally we will move onto the question how all this relates to free will.
For a quick introduction go here: