Phil Washburn’s Philosophical Dilemmas: Building a Worldview (Oxford University Press, 1997)

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Ultimately we all make decisions “in the moment”. But if our satisfaction derived from decisions and the “weight versus uplift” of our perception of the consequences can be moved in the direction of elevation rather than depression and if that tendency is aided by thinking about big ideas like those Washburn presents in his book, then we ought to be doing the thinking and valuing involved. A big and difficult investment of time but one quite possibly leading to a trail of good consequences rather than a trail of tears left in our track.

I’m going to work my way through his book, giving at least initial and primary response to his method of analysis.

Years ago(1997) … the book appealed, now: the dilemmas and his general responses: One or more sources of “yes”, one or more giving a “no” (each highlighting key concepts and critical questions), a discussion of techniques of arguments and a final discussion with the general heading “understanding the dilemma”. His topics, and the questions he’s asking within them, are listed below. Note the classical authorities he has referenced somehow in his treatment. The headings and questions below make up what he refers to as Worldview questions.

  A first cut at worldview questions
  1. What kind of a being am I? What does it mean to be human?
  2. What is the best way of life. What goals should I have?
  3. How am I related to people around me? How should society be organized?
  4. How can I find the answers to these questions? What can I know with assurance?
  5. Does religion provide the answers? Does God exist?
  Why Build a Worldview?
  It’s fun!
  It’s not self-help–which aims at curing or applying a bandage to existential sores,
  It aims at wisdom which in turn, presumably, leads to success in your life as a whole.
  The Full set of Questions, and philosophers who have contributed to the answers, is:
  1. God, Immortality and Faith:
  1.1 Does God Exist? (Aristotle, Aquinas, Hume)
  1.2 Is God Like Human Beings? (Aquinas, Buber)
  1.3 Can God Allow Innocent Suffering? (St. Augustine, Hume)
  1.4 Is The Soul Immortal? (Plato, Lucretius)
  1.5 Is Faith an Answer? (Socrates, Augustine, James)
  2. Liberty, Equality and Justice
  2.1 Is Society Based on a Contract? (Socrates, Locke, Rousseau, Hegel, Marx,Durkheim)
  2.2 Is Liberty the Highest Social Value? (Locke, Burke, Mill )
  2.3 Is Equality the Highest Social Value? (Plato, Thomas More)
  2.4 Is Capitalism Just? (Plato, Locke, Smith, Marx)
  2.5 Should we Establish a World Government (Augustine, Machiavelli, Kant)
  3. Happiness, Obligations and Values
  3.1 Is Pleasure the Only Value?
  3.2 Can We Understand Happiness?
  3.3 Is Morality Relative?
  3.4 Is Happiness the Standard of Morality?
  3.5 Is Society the Source of Values
  4. Free Will, Mind and Identity
  4.1 Are We Always Selfish?
  4.2 Are We Free?
  4.3 Are We Responsible for Our Actions?
  4.4 Is the Mind Nothing but the Brain?
  4.5 Can Computers Think?
  4.6 Can I Create My Identity?
  5. Knowledge, Science and Truth
  5.1 Can We Know About the External World?
  5.2 Does Science Give Us Real Knowledge?
  5.3 Is Experience the Source of All Knowledge?
  5.4 Is Certainty the Standard of Knowledge?
  5.5 Is Truth Subjective?

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