A Six-Gun for Socrates

Six-Gun for Socrates - Michael LaBossiereThis short book presents a series of philosophical essays written in response to gun violence in the United States. While the matters of guns, violence and rights are often met with emotional responses, my approach has been to consider these matters from a philosophical standpoint. This does not involve looking at them without emotion. Rather, it involves considering them in a rational way and this requires considering how our emotions affect our views of these vital matters.

The book contains the following essays:

    • Gun Control
    • Costas & Guns
    • When is it Time to Discuss Gun Violence?
    • High Capacity, High Powered Semi-Automatic
    • Mental Illness, Violence & Liberty
    • God and Sandy Hook
    • Mental Illness or Evil?
    • Video Games, Movies & Violence
    • Background Checks
    • Dr. King & Guns
    • Gun Rights & Tyranny
    • Is the denial of gun rights, in and of itself, a tyranny?
    • Is there an Obligation of Self-Defense?
    • On Not Being Ant-Gun
    • The Founders, the Future, the First & the Second
    • Are Cars Analogous to Guns?
    • Conclusion

Available now on Amazon.

My Amazon Author Page.

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12 Comments.

  1. “and this requires considering how our emotions affect our views”

    So, there will be references to the work of Antonio Damasio and the like then? Or is it merely philosophy? :wink:

  2. No Damasio in this edition, maybe next time. :)

  3. “Rather, it involves considering them in a rational way and this requires considering how our emotions affect our views of these vital matters.”

    Don’t our emotions account for the IRrational way we often behave? :???:

  4. It’s nice to see this topic being covered, but I wonder how many of those affected by gun violence are open to a rational debate that leaves emotions at the door?

  5. Chris, “a rational debate that leaves emotions at the door” will persuade no-one; change no minds. :sad: The way to persuade humans to change their minds is NOT by rational argument. Ask a salesman or a diplomat. :smile:

  6. Steve,

    I’d agree with your sentiments. This is the problem that faces philosophy, when it comes to the emotions. We are very much guided by our emotions, to the extent that they affect our very act of reasoning itself, and so make personal subjective reasoning unreliable, particularly with regard to emotive topics: ethics, one of the key subjects of philosophy; a place where many philosophers (and all theologians) think they are beyond the reach of science.

    The trouble is that this is precisely what science, through people like Damasio, has been telling us for some time. That’s not to say they have the answers to all our ethical dilemmas, but they are telling us that the traditional philosophical perspectives don’t tell us very much at all. And, unsurprisingly, this is why science employs methods to compensate for these personal anomalies, through rigorous observation, replication, verification and falsification.

    That’s why examining the trolley problem doesn’t really help beyond trivially pointing out there can be conflicting ethical problems, dilemmas. The real world ethical dilemmas are all about the great detail of each situation and the politics, psychology, neurology, of the participants, such that the same superficial ethical dilemma can play out with different sets of people and have entirely different workable resolutions in each case – none of which philosophy can address without straying into, actually using, science.

    So, we learn that the fat guy on the bridge is the one that tied the victims to the rail? Yeah, push the bugger off. Oh, hold on, his family were being held hostage by terrorists and he was coerced? Mmmmm, what should we do? What’s that? He tricked the terrorists and ended up tying them to the track? OK, let the trolley roll! Well done fat guy. … and on we go deciphering hypothetical problems by introducing ever more hypothetical realism.

    Sure philosophers can try to use reason; but then so can scientists. Sure scientists can learn something from accounts from a philosophical perspective; but is it anything they couldn’t have ‘philosophised’ themselves? They are generally critical thinkers. Yes, philosophers can ask, “Ah! But have you thought of …” But that’s what scientists do anyway. It’s not particularly philosophical.

    But philosophers often do not to take on too much of the science. It sometime seems as if they are in a world of their own on these matters. Which is why a lot of philosophy appears like theology, just without a God.

  7. Steve,

    I disagree. You are unfortunately right, the majority of people are influenced by emotion filled arguments. But there are folks, like myself, who find those arguments wholly unconvincing and generally disruptive to the goal of progress.

    A billboard telling me when a fetus’ heart starts beating is not an argument. It is an attempt to evoke a sympathetic feeling out of me, with the goal that I will join their cause. It is an unimpressive trick that ultimately makes their side of the debate seem less intelligent and less capable of actually making a rational case for their position.

    Again, sadly, this trick does convince a number of people. But just because it does, doesn’t mean that we should be complacent in accepting that. If the people who put out that billboard instead chose to put together a well thought out, rational argument, that was convincing, I may well change my beliefs on the matter.

    I used to absolutely love eating meat of all kinds. And did, until a good enough argument was made against it and now I cannot justify, to myself, eating meat anymore. I do not support gun rights. However, if someone were to purpose a good enough, rational, argument that I could not refute, I wouldn’t have a choice.

    Mike has come close a few times, but I haven’t seen it yet. :smile:

  8. “traditional philosophical perspectives don’t tell us very much at all”

    Ron, I wonder how much of this is due to the erroneous supposition among all of us, nearly all of the time, that humans are driven by logic and rationality? We are Kirk, not Spock, but many (most?) humans remain in denial on this matter.

    You seem to make distinctions between science and philosophy, and between scientists and philosophers. I have always thought that philosophy wholly included science (but not to the detriment of science). Obviously my view is not universal. :wink:

    Ben, “the majority of people are influenced by emotion filled arguments. But there are folks, like myself…” who are just like the rest of the human race, but don’t realise the extent to which their behaviour is emotionally-driven. :wink:

  9. Steve,

    Though several philosophers have sort of disposed of pure reason as a reliable tool many are still persuaded by it:
    http://ronmurp.net/2012/05/06/the-primacy-of-thought/
    http://ronmurp.net/2011/12/23/thought_v_experience/

    Many philosophers seem persuaded by almost total materialism, but like to inject a sceptical ‘but…’ here and there. Yes, we know these ‘buts’, but they never produce anything, since they only ever reach the status of speculative imagination.

    The limitations of science are explicitly acknowledged in science, and this is why science employs rigorous methods to compensate for our individual human flaws, in both sensing and reasoning.

    Some philosophers of science get it, though in places, for lack of science, they now appear to be wrong or at least suspect in some areas. Bertrand Russell, for example. Maybe Quine too, here in discussion with Bryan Magee. And Bryan Magee has done a lot for philosophy in the UK, particularly as a broadcaster. And as he pointed out on this programme with Putman, most of the great philosophers came from a background of science and mathematics; so maybe its those disciplines that make for good philosophy, and not philosophy, using reason alone, that’s actually contributing much in its own right. When science needed to specialise and broke away from philosophy perhaps it took the interesting problems, and the developed skills of thinking within an experiential world with it.

    That’s not to say philosophers can’t come up with good ideas; what amount to hypotheses. The problems start when, like in theology, one takes his good hypothesis and runs with it as if its truth is obvious. Atomism was a good idea, with the hindsight of science, though not quite right it seems. Various ideas about the oneness of nature have sort of influenced the search for grand unified theories, as if we expect that there should be some unity and not ultimately different kinds of things. But all these ideas need testing. And when they are tested many turn out to be wrong, such as the several unified systems of the Greeks that thought that air, or maybe fire, or maybe water, was the ultimate unified singular element from which all else is made. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, not in the recipe.

    Note also in that last video how Magee points out the difference between what scientists now think science is and what non-scientists often think it is, or specifically what many theologians and some philosophers think it is. Note also that these programmes by Magee were made in 1978, well before New Atheism hit the headlines. So as well as misunderstanding, or wilfully misrepresenting science, there’s also a tendency to see New Atheism as the presupposition that drives scientism, whereas it’s really a philosophical view of science, a philosophy of science, in a sea of experiential existence that concludes that materialist atheism is the best story in the ocean and that science is how we learn about it; while in the meantime some solipsist philosophers are saying, “How do you know the water is real?” If a tiny fraction of the scepticism toward science was directed to theology and non-materialist philosophies they might see that it’s the abundant pressure of the ocean of experience, the mass of in-your-face experience, that makes us reach a materialist conclusion. No matter how contingent that conclusion may be, it’s on far less shaky ground (to switch metaphors again) than the alternatives of rationalism and all idealisms, transcendentalism or whatever unevidenced, unexperienced system might be concocted by an imaginative theologian or philosopher.

  10. Steve,

    I’m not suggesting that emotions don’t (or shouldn’t) influence behaviors. I’m not encouraging a Spockian world.

    However, intelligent debate should strive to be rational and unemotional. That is how real progress, with regards to policies and laws, can be made. There are, of course, areas where the only path to progress is an emotional one. But choosing that path with regards to public policy is unimpressive and unhelpful. Not only that, it is a hindrance.

  11. Steve Merrick

    Ben, “intelligent debate should strive to be rational and unemotional”. OK, what is the *purpose* of intelligent debate? What is it *for*?

  12. Steve,

    The same as the purpose of unintelligent debate, to make progress, bridge gaps, to better ourselves or our territories, understand each other, etc…

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