Sunday, December 9, 2012

I Love You Taylor, but the Evidence Seems to Suggest Otherwise...

In Taylor Swifts, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" it seems like we are given instances that are supposed to function as reasons why Taylor is never ever getting back with her ex. I'm sure whoever she is addressing in this song seriously f'd up (I still don't know how you could ever hurt the wonderfully lovely Taylor Swift!), but the evidence that Taylor provides us doesn't seem to support her claim that they are never getting back together. 

Throughout the song, Taylor provides us with examples of mistakes that her ex-partner has made. These examples are meant to serve as reasons why Taylor is never getting back together with her ex. However, as the chorus suggests, each example seems to end with Taylor and her ex actually getting back together! That is, regardless of the mistakes that were made, Taylor still wound up getting back together with her ex.

Consider the following lines (all emphasis are mine): 
  • "I remember when we broke up the first time
    • Her saying 'the first time' seems to imply that this has happened at least more than once...
  • "Then you come around again and say, 'Baby, I miss you and I swear I'm gonna change. Trust me.' Remember how that lasted for a day"
    • The fact that this change in her ex lasted for a day indicates that she gave her ex another chance and it didn't turn out as she had planned. It seems implausible that she watched her ex go through this "change" from outside of the relationship (I don't know why it would make her so mad otherwise...).
  • "Oooh we called it off again last night" 
    • 'Again' means this has happened more than once. So, in order for Taylor and her ex to call off their relationship again, they would have to have gotten back together after the first time they broke up!
  • "I'm really gonna miss you picking fights, and me, falling for [it] screaming that I'm right."
    • Here she actually just flat-out says that she has fallen for this before! Come on T-Swift...

As the explanations above demonstrate, we are not given evidence for the claim that Taylor and her ex are never getting back together. Rather, it seems like we are being told a story of how they are continually getting back together after predictable mistakes were made. Given the prior history of Taylor getting back together with her ex (and ignoring the problem of induction!), it seems like, contrary to the claim that she wishes to support, they will eventually be getting back together.

This is why argumentation and knowing how to provide support for your claims is important! Without it you may wind up providing other people with reasons to believe the opposite of what you're trying to convince them of. For example, you may leave a poor, pop-obsessed, procrastinating, short, bearded, philosophy student from Minnesota (who now thinks Taylor is single and never ever getting back together with her ex!) unfairly waiting for his shot to show Taylor what love could be; when actually, she's just going to eventually take back her ex anyway and break your heart again just like she did when you thought the song "You Belong With Me" was about you! Again, just an example... (I still love you Taylor. And even though you've continually led me on and hurt me in the past, I'd still cherish the opportunity to show you what love is by welcoming you into my life. Wait...).

Oh, one last thing: if Taylor was certain that her and her ex were never getting back together, I'm not sure she would need to say that they were 'never ever' getting back together. That is, I think just saying 'never' would suffice; the addition of 'ever' seems to suggest some uncertainty (I am reminded of the quote from Act III Scene II of Shakespeare's Hamlet: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks.")

An Example of the Distinction between Metaphysics and Epistemology

Metaphysics is the study of existence. Whenever we ask whether something exists, or in what form or in what way it exists, we are asking metaphysical questions. Epistemology is the study of knowledge and justification. When we ask how is it that we can come to know something, or whether we are justified in believing something, then we are asking epistemological questions. In LMFAO's "Sexy and I Know It" we are given two theses. One being metaphysical, while the other is epistemological. Whether they are in fact sexy is a metaphysical claim, while their claiming to know that they are sexy is an epistemological claim. I think it would be a worthwhile project to get clear about which claims LMFAO offer as evidence for the metaphysical and epistemological theses, respectively.

So, we have two theses that need to be justified:
Metaphysical Thesis: "I'm sexy"
Epistemological Thesis: "and I know it."

Now, throughout the song we have evidence for both claims. There are claims that are offered as evidence for their being sexy, and there are claims that are offered as evidence for their knowing that they're sexy. In order to assess which claims are offered to support either the metaphysical or epistemological thesis, let's take a look at the lyrics:

LMFAO, "Sexy and I Know It"

When I walk on by, girls be looking like damn he fly
I pimp to the beat, walking down the street in my new lafreak, yeah
This is how I roll, animal print pants outta control,
It's RedFoo with the big afro
And like Bruce Lee I've got the claw

Girl look at that body (x3)
I work out
Girl look at that body (x3)
I work out

When I walk in the spot, this is what I see
Everybody stops and they staring at me
I got passion in my pants and I ain't afraid to show it

I'm sexy and I know it (x2)

When I'm at the mall, security just can't fight 'em off
When I'm at the beach, I'm in a speedo trying to tan my cheeks
This is how I roll, come on ladies it's time to go
We headed to the bar, baby don't be nervous
No shoes, no shirt, and I still get service

Girl look at that body (x3)
I work out
Girl look at that body (x3)
I work out

When I walk in the spot, this is what I see
Everybody stops and they staring at me
I got passion in my pants and I ain't afraid to show it

I'm sexy and I know it (x2)

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle yeah (x3)

Do the wiggle yeah


Girl look at that body (x3)
I work out
Girl look at that body (x3)
I work out

Now that we are able to refer to the lyrics we can assess which claims are offered as support for either the metaphysical or epistemological thesis. Let's first turn to the evidence for the metaphysical claim; i.e., the evidence that is offered for the claim that LMFAO is sexy.

Support for the Metaphysical Thesis

In the first verse Redfoo makes four particular claims that seem to be offered as support for the metaphysical thesis. First, he is walking down the street in his new Lafreak. Second, he rolls with animal print pants that are outta control. Third, he has a big afro. Finally, he's got the claw (like, Bruce Lee). While I cannot claim to know to what 'the claw' refers, nor am I that familiar with 'Lafreak,' there does seem to be support here for the metaphysical thesis. The support seems to be referencing Redfoo's fashion sense/aesthetic.

Next we are given the command to "look at that body." I think it is fair to assume that "look[ing] at that body" will provide us with evidence that LMFAO is in fact sexy. If "look[ing] at that body" doesn't suffice as evidence, we are provided with additional support in the form of the claim "I work out!" Thus, working out is provided as evidence for LMFAO's being sexy.

Then LMFAO claims that they've got a passion in their pants that they're not afraid to show. Taken as an example of LMFAO's confidence, we can also assume that the confidence stems from the passion in their pants being legitimate. Not being afraid to show the passion in pants, while not always being morally acceptable or appropriate!, does seem to demonstrate a strong sense of confidence; and if you take confidence to be sexy, then they have provided you with yet another reason concerning why they are sexy.

Given that security cannot fight off the people at the mall, and given the other contextual clues in the song, we can assume people are storming LMFAO due to the fact that they are so sexy.

There is also the evidence provided in the fact that such a strong social standard/custom as "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service" doesn't apply to LMFAO (because, I assume, they are so sexy). Not only do they not get in trouble for not wearing shoes and a shirt, but they are still provided service!!! If that doesn't signal sexiness I don't know what would...

Lastly, while the command to 'wiggle' does not itself support the metaphysical thesis, if taken as a demonstrative meant to show the endowment of Redfoo, then, if he is adequately endowed, it could support the metaphysical thesis! If you take being well-endowed to be a sign of sexiness (which I think we all do), then LMFAO certainly seems to be sexy.

Support for the Epistemological Thesis

Let's turn now to the evidence provided for the epistemological thesis; i.e., the evidence that is offered for the claim that LMFAO knows that they are sexy. First, as is stated in the opening line of the song by Redfoo, when he walks on by "girls be looking like, 'damn he fly!'" While 'fly' may not be synonymous with 'sexy,' I believe it's fair to say that flyness can be taken, at least, as evidence of sexiness. If people are consistently looking at you and thinking 'damn they're fly!', then I take it that there is pretty strong consensus that you are in fact fly; and, if you are in fact fly, then that can be taken as support that you are sexy (even though it cannot be sufficient justification in-and-of-itself: e.g.,although Rick Ro$$ may be fly, that does not entail that he is sexy).

We are then told that when they 'walk into the spot' (whether 'the spot' is broadly construed to mean all places or a particular place I am not sure, but let's use the principle of charity and assume by 'the spot' they mean 'all places' or 'everywhere') everybody stops and is starring at them! I'm taking this as pretty strong evidence for sexiness just because it's not often that EVERYBODY both (i) stops and (ii) stares when you enter a particular area. Given that everybody stops and stares, I think we can assume that they are justified in thinking they are sexy.

Now, whether all the testimony that has been provided is true is questionable. However, most of the issues seems to be easily settled by empirical investigation. We can check and see if Redfoo does indeed workout (at least enough so to claim that he is sexy). We can also check whether people are looking at him like, 'damn he fly! when he walks on by. If these claims turn out to be empirically justified, then it seems like LMFAO has sufficient reason to think that they (at least Redfoo) are sexy; i.e., he is justified in claiming that he knows it. If these claims turn out to be empirically false, however, then it may not be the case that LMFAO knows that they are sexy. However, we can still claim that if such justifications were true, then LMFAO would be justified in believing that they are sexy. In fact, anyone for whom the preceding justifications apply seem to be justified in believing that they are sexy. So, while the argument may not yet be sound, it is still valid. Anyone fitting the above description can claim to know that they are sexy!

As much as it may pain you to hear it, it seems like LMFAO has presented a pretty convincing case for why they know they are sexy. While not having presented a completely deductive argument, there does seem to be sufficient evidence to suggest that LMFAO is sexy and justified in thinking so. If only philosophers could provide such evidence  for their claims...

P.S. - I don't know that their being sexy and being justified in believing that they are sexy provides you reason to watch the video, but if you are interested in empirically checking the evidence you should check it out and see for yourself :)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Think Peter Singer Would Like the Sentiment in This Song

In Famine, Affluence, and Morality Peter Singer argues that we should not think of giving to famine relief organizations as "charity." Rather, giving to famine relief efforts is an obligation. Singer argues that if you accept the following two assumptions (which he thinks most people will), then you are committed to giving all your money that isn't needed for basic necessities to famine relief efforts. The two assumptions are:

1) "suffering and death from lack of food, shelter, and medical care are bad"
2)"if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it"

Since almost everyone in the affluent nations are easily capable of preventing such deaths by giving to famine relief, then we ought, morally, to do it. We should be giving all money that isn't necessary to famine relief efforts.

Given technological advances such as the internet and electronic banking, our distance from the suffering cannot be an excuse; nor can the fact that most people in affluent nations aren't giving mass amounts of money to famine relief efforts. Other people failing to act morally doesn't not mean you are excused from doing the morally right thing. [For a much more detailed account of this argument, as well as responses to other objections, see Singer's article linked at the bottom of this post].

So, do you really need that next drink at the bar (let alone any alcohol at all)? Do you need to see that movie or buy the most recent pop song? Are your ipads necessary to your survival? Do you require those fancy clothes that are mostly likely produced in a sweatshop? Didn't think so :)

External links: 
World Food Programme (WFP) (Search the rest of the website as well for additional info)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

No Church in The State of Nature

Although I had originally wanted to post this as a description of Hobbes's state of nature, I found Jay-Z had explicitly mentioned Plato and the Euthyphro dilemma! 

"I’m wonderin’ if a thug’s prayers reach.
Is Pious pious cause God loves pious?
Socrates asks, “Whose bias do y’all seek?”
All for Plato, screech
I’m out here ballin’, I know ya’ll hear my sneaks.
Jesus was a carpenter; Yeezy laid beats.
Hova flow the Holy Ghost, get the hell up out your seats.

Who says rappers don't know philosophy :)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Katy Perry Knows that Agonizing Feeling

I'm not sure if she just stepped out of Plato's Cave or if she's describing the feeling you get when you realize that the idea/paper you've put so much time and effort into is completely wrong. Either way, it seems like students of philosophy have a sympathizer in Katy Perry :)

"Yeah, I was in the dark.
I was falling hard 
With an open heart
I'm wide awake.  
How did I read the stars 
So wrong. 
I'm wide awake

And now it's clear to me  
That everything you see 
Ain't always what it seems
I'm wide awake
Yeah, I was dreaming for so long."

In the pre-chorus Katy Perry offers a nice explanation of the shock and pain you experience when you come out of Plato's Cave:
"I wish I knew then 
What I know now
Wouldn't dive in. 
Wouldn't bow down. 
Gravity hurts.
You made it so sweet, 
'Til I woke up on, 
On the concrete."

Though it hurts, it sounds like Katy Perry's quest for truth has left her happier than she was before ;) 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Response to the Skeptics

Andy Grammer seems to have a solution to the arm chair philosophy that results in Cartesian Skepticism:

"I've got my hands in my pockets,
kickin' these rocks,
it's kinda hard to watch this life go by.
I'm buyin' into skeptics.
Skeptics mess with
the confidence in my eyes.

I'm seeing all the angles: starts to get tangled.
I start to compromise
my life and the purpose.
Is it all worth it?
Am I gonna turn out fine?

Oh, you'll turn out fine.
(Fine) Oh, you'll turn out fine."

Pragmatism anyone?

Friday, June 8, 2012

One Direction Has Really Weak Epistemic Standards...

Two things: First, I LOVE THIS SONG! Second, I'm not sure 1D has really proved that the particular person they are singing about in "That's What Makes You Beautiful" is in fact beautiful. For simplicities sake, let us name the particular person that 1D is singing about, oh, I don't know... how about... 'Natalie Portman.'

Consider the chorus:
"Baby you light up my world like nobody else.
The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed,
but when you smile at the ground it ain't hard to tell,
you don't know-oh-oh,
you don't know you're beautiful.
If only you saw what I could see,
you'd understand why I want you so desperately.
Right now I'm looking at you and I can't believe,
you don't know-oh-oh.
You don't know you're beautiful.
Oh oh,
that's what makes you beautiful!"

While I'm still not convinced that 'Natalie Portman doesn't know she's beautiful' can be derived from the fact that she smiles at the ground (what's worse is that they claim this ain't a hard inference to make!), the main focus of the song seems to center around providing standards for what makes Natalie Portman beautiful. This claim, however, seems to be vindicated way too easily! Natalie Portman is beautiful, apparently, because she doesn't know it! In other words, what makes Natalie Portman beautiful is that she doesn't know she's beautiful! I'm not sure whether 1D holds this standard of justification for all claims (or even a particular class of claims), but it seems like an odd standard to have. Consider justifying the claim that 'Natalie Portman is an actress.' What would make this claim true is if Natalie Portman didn't know that she is an actress! (Although, an explanation concerning 1D's conception of 'knowing' is required to make these inferences.)

Not to be insensitive, but if this is our standard for beautifulness, then the world suddenly just gained a crap-ton of new beautiful people... (e.g., everyone who doesn't know they're beautiful, is in fact, beautiful!). It's not even the fact that someone could be beautiful and not know it! There is no other standard for beauty other than not knowing you're beautiful. It's just in virtue of the fact that someone doesn't know they're beautiful, that they are, in fact, beautiful!

And, in case you need more justification, don't worry! Zayn's got ya covered. As Zayn starts off the second verse:
"So c-c-come on,
you got it wrong. 
To prove I'm right 
I put it in a sa-ah-ong."

If this is all it takes to provide justification for a particular claim, then I'm in the wrong profession! Simply by putting some claim in a song proves that you're right/provides justification for that claim? Wow. Although, I guess that could be right... it just means that LMFAO is actually sexy... AND THEY KNOW IT!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Kanye v. Cute Is What We Aim For: Who is Living the Better Life?

In the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle goes to great pains to explain the good life for a human. To help clarify this explanation consider two different approaches to a good human life: one exemplified by Kanye and the other articulated by Cute Is What We Aim For.

This is not what Aristotle meant by the 'good life.' Instrumental goods (money, sexual gratification, cars, etc.) do not, by themselves, lead to living a good life:

Rather, Aristotle emphasized activity through practice as being vital to living a virtuous life:

Discuss :)

Jordin Sparks on How to Write a Philosophy Paper

This song offers a nice outline of the steps one should take when writing a philosophy paper :)

Of course the start of any well developed idea is going to be messy at first. Part of the point of philosophical writing is to develop an idea more carefully by articulating the assumptions you've made and offering justifications for these assumptions in tiny steps. Be sure to carefully explain your ideas and justifications in detail. This will make it easier to see where your argument is flawed and where your argument is vulnerable to attack.

Philippa Foot (2001) offers a similar sentiment when describing Ludwig Wittgenstein's philosophical method:  
"Wittgenstein interrupted a speaker who had realized that he was about to say something that, although it seemed compelling, was clearly ridiculous, and was trying (as we all do in such circumstances) to say something sensible instead. 'No,' said Wittgenstein. 'Say what you want to say. Be crude and then we shall get on.' The suggestion that in doing philosophy one should not try to banish or tidy up a ludicrously crude but troubling thought, but rather give it its day, its week, its month, in court, seems to me very helpful. It chimes of course with Wittgenstein's idea that in philosophy it is very difficult to work as slowly as one should." (Natural Goodness, p. 1)

Friday, June 1, 2012

Weezy et al., Once Again, Relying Too Much on Suppressed Premises...

Here's an example of an invalid argument that I use as an introduction to validity and soundness.

It comes from Young Money's song, "Bed Rock." As Young Money artist Lloyd sings in the chorus: "Oh, baby. I be stuck to you like glue, baby. Wanna spend it all on you, baby. My room is the G-spot. Call me Mr. Flintstone, I can make your bed rock."

Thus, we seem to have an argument for referring to Lloyd as 'Mr. Flintstone.' The argument can be reconstructed as follows:
P1: My room is the G-spot
P2: I can make your bed rock
C: Call me 'Mr. Flintstone'

(NB: In the song P2 and C are flipped. I switched the positioning of each phrase to make it easier to follow.)

As it stands this argument is not valid (i.e., the conclusion does not follow from the premises). Knowing that Lloyd's bedroom is the G-spot, and knowing that he can make your bed rock, does not entail that you (or anyone else) should refer to him as 'Mr. Flintstone.' However, it seems like there may be some suppressed premises that we could articulate to make the argument valid. I need some help filling in these suppressed premises. Any thoughts?