Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An Athletes Viewpoint


Taylor Lasecki
Phil 3375
Professor Kazez
November 13, 2012
An Athletes Viewpoint
1. Who?
            When I was trying to figure out whom I wanted to interview and fill out the survey, I wanted someone who knew a little about philosophy, but not too much. I also wanted a person who had something interesting to say. The person who I decided to interview is my roommate. My roommate “Ben” is a male who is from Los Angles. We both now live here in Dallas just outside of SMU. Ben plays football with me and played on a high school team that won state championships and only lost one game in three years. He is the youngest of all of his siblings and his family has been very successful. Ben is also very outgoing and has many friends. He is usually very personable and seems very happy. Overall, he is someone who appears to be living a fairly good life.
2. Survey
            Here is how Ben responded to the questions in the survey.
 1. Bella is a dancer who works hard to please a domineering company director, who controls every aspect of her life—what to eat, how to dress, who to spend time with, how to dance, etc. Under his tutelage, she makes rapid progress as a dancer. She's quite happy, though, and holds on to a strong sense of who she is, despite being pushed around all the time. What's your assessment?
(a) Bella's life can't be going entirely well (b) it's quite possible Bella's life is going very well
Ben answered (a)
2. Norbert can't make up his mind. First he's active in Republican politics, then he's earnestly supporting the Socialist Party. He gets excited about Catholicism and then he's moved on to Jewish mysticism. He joins an animal rights organization, but a month later he gets into hunting. None of this bothers him--he's a happy-go-lucky guy, self- supporting, and moving ahead in his job as a software engineer. What's your assessment?
(a) Norbert's life can't be going entirely well (b) it's quite possible Norbert's life is going very well
Ben answered (b)
3. Constance works as a piano teacher, plays Beethoven sonatas splendidly, enjoys going to the symphony. She wears attractive, timeless fashions and reads the Bible in her spare time. She’s a good friend to her neighbors and a generous donor to the American Cancer Society. What’s noteworthy is that she’s been doing exactly these things since she was 21 and now she’s 81. What's your assessment?
(a) Constance's life can't be going entirely well (b) it's quite possible Constance's life is going very well
Ben answered (b)
4. Maggie works as a nurse in an intensive care unit. She's the head nurse, performs her job impeccably, and
supports good causes. She has a husband and three fine children and over time she's blossomed as an excellent poet as well. She's extremely happy all of the time, but that's because every six hours she takes a dose of Magic Drug. If she stops taking it, she doesn't derive any great happiness from any aspect of her life, but isn't depressed either. What's your assessment?
(a) Maggie's life can't be going entirely well (b) it's quite possible Maggie's life is going very well
Ben answered (b)
5. Maggie works as a nurse in an intensive care unit. She's the head nurse, performs her job impeccably, and supports good causes. She has a husband and three fine children and over time she's blossomed as an excellent poet as well. She's extremely happy all of the time, but that's because she's looking forward to gambling on the weekends. Gambling is enough to keep her in a good mood all of the time. If she stops gambling she doesn't derive any great happiness from any aspect of her life, but isn't depressed either. What's your assessment?
(a) Maggie's life can't be going entirely well (b) it's quite possible that Maggie's life is going very well
Ben answered (b)
6. Tom has drilled a hole through the wall of his apartment and enjoys watching his neighbor undress every night. In one respect this detracts from his life in a major way-- he's doing something morally wrong. In another respect, perhaps it also adds. How much do you think it adds?
(a) not at all (b) a little bit (c) possibly a lot
Ben answered (c)
7. Carlos has a serious cognitive impairment. He has little ability to live autonomously. Many of his choices are made for him. Nevertheless he's social and cheerful and he can learn and grow. One of his impairments is that he lacks an adult understanding of morality. He steals small things and tells occasional lies, though he's gentle and loving. Others understand his impairment and adjust their expectations. What's your assessment?
(a) Carlos's life can't be going entirely well (b) it's quite possible that Carlos's life is going very well
Ben answered (b)
8. Assume two people are just the same in every way except that Alan has worked hard to become an excellent chess player and Ben is a mediocre player. They both play chess regularly, and other than that, they are equally successful lawyers, equally happy fathers, etc. The chess playing doesn't have an impact on any other aspect of their lives. What's your assessment?
(a) Alan's life is going a little better than Ben's (b) Alan's life is going no better than Ben's
Ben answered (b)
9. Angela has recently had an operation and is expected to make a full recovery. She is in considerable physical pain, so she is given a high dose of a pain-killer and a sedative. The pain-killer causes cognitive confusion, making her believe she is on Mars. Because of the sedative, this causes her no suffering or anxiety. The doctors lowers the dose of her pain- killer, so she no longer thinks she is on Mars, but feels a little bit more pain. What's your assessment?
(a) the extra pain is worth it, to avoid her error about where she
is (b) the extra pain is not worth it, to avoid her error about where she is
Ben answered (a)
10. This is a continuation of the story of Angela. Recall that to stop her from thinking she's on Mars, her pain medication had to be reduced, so her pain increased by 5%. Now when asked where she is, she no longer says "Mars" but says "I don't know." If a second dose reduction would make her understand where she really is, would this understanding be worth another 5% increase in pain?
(a) the extra pain would be worth it, to understand where she really
is (b) the extra pain would not be worth it, to understand where she really is
Ben answered (a)
11. Sisyphus is a man condemned by the gods to continually push a rock to the top of a hill. Whenever he makes it to the top, the rock rolls back to the bottom. His life consists of only these repetitive actions. Does his life have meaning?
(a) yes ( b ) n o
Ben answered (b)
12. Sisyphus continues to push rocks to the top of a hill, day after day, but now the gods take pity on him and inject him with a drug so that he strongly desires to engage in exactly this activity. Does his life have meaning?
(a) yes (b) his life is objectively meaningless but subjectively meaningful (c) no
Ben answered (b)
13. The gods have two options. They can inject Sisyphus with a drug so that he strongly desires to push a rock up a hill or they can allow him to push many rocks up the hill, build a beautiful castle, and then gaze upon it for years. Which option is more benevolent?
(a) making him keep pushing, but with a strong desire to push  (b) allowing him to build the castle and gaze upon it for years
Ben answered (a)
14. Sisyphus receives the injection and continues to push a rock up the hill. He doesn't identify with that desire or want to have that desire. Nevertheless, he does want to push, and enjoys pushing. What would you say?
(a) Since he wants to push and enjoys it, his situation is good for him (b) Since he doesn't identify with his desire to push and doesn't want to
have that desire, he doesn't care about pushing; thus, his situation is not good for him.
Ben answered (b)
15. Glow worms have been living on the sides of a cave in New Zealand for millions of years. They live for a few days, reproduce, then are eaten by their young, who live a few days, reproduce, and are eaten by their young. Are the lives of these animals meaningless?
(a) yes ( b ) n o
Ben answered (b)
16. Imagine two people. One person lives his life as virtuously and ethically as possible. His desire to be good seems rationally unavoidable to him, like believing that 2+2=4. He makes decisions about his career accordingly, always with an eye to being morally good. The other person wants to become a master chef. He identifies strongly with that desire and tries to strengthen it when (occasionally) it fades. Who is taking the best approach to life?
(a) the person driven by morality (b) the person who wants to be a master chef
Ben answered (a)
17. Suppose there were an "experience machine" that could stimulate your brain so that you felt as if you were living any life you wanted. Expert and trustworthy scientists would program the machine to stimulate your brain so it seemed as if you were living any life you wanted--you could be rich, famous, well-loved, or whatever you like. After choosing to plug in, your body would lie attached to the computer, but you would feel as if life continued, only better. You wouldn't remember plugging in, so it would seem as if life continued normally. Would you choose to plug in to the "experience machine"?
(a) yes  (b ) n o
Ben answered (a)
18. Guess what? You were given the choice in question (17) 10 years ago. You've been plugged in to the "experience machine" all these years. You chose an option called "normal life," which is why things haven't gone quite perfectly for you. In fact, you are plugged in right now. You are not looking at a real computer screen, but only experiencing an illusion generated by the "experience machine". After choosing to unplug, you would go on with life out in the real world. The real world may or may not be the way you remember it being 10 years ago. Whatever you decide, your memory of choosing will be erased. Would you choose to unplug?
( a ) n o (b) yes
Ben answered (b)
19. Same as (18), but this time suppose there are reliable life-forecasters who can tell you what your life will be like if you unplug. They tell you that your hopes for the future will be fulfilled if you unplug. If you remain plugged in, you can change the programming so your hopes for the future will also seem to be fulfilled.
Whatever choice you make, your memory of choosing will be erased. Would you unplug?
( a ) n o (b) yes
Ben answered (b)
20. You've always wanted to go to Antarctica, and a wealthy benefactor has decided to pay for the $50,000 super-deluxe trip. She offers you a choice between the best real trip to Antarctica that money can buy, and plugging into the "experience machine" for an even more flawless trip. (The machine is very expensive to operate.) On the real trip, there are possible negatives that cannot be controlled--cold, wind, etc. If you opt for the "experience machine" it will seem as if you are having a perfect trip. Rest assured, you won't remember plugging in or unplugging. Either way, it will seem just as if you took the real world trip. Would you plug in or take the real trip?
(a) plug in (b) real trip
Ben answered (b)
21. Simeon Stylites, a 4th century hermit, lived full-time on top of a narrow 60 foot tall pillar in Syria for 30 years. Exposed to the elements, and with his body covered with sores, he spent his time rapidly bowing to the ground in prayer. Pilgrims constantly visited him and one historian says "the general voice of mankind pronounced him to be the highest model of a Christian saint." What would you say about Simeon Stylites?
(a) he was probably living a good life (b) he was probably living a bad life (c) nobody should judge
Ben answered (c)
22. What is your gender?
(a) male (b) female

Ben answered (a)
23. Is religious belief an important part of your life?
(a) yes l( b ) n o
Ben answered (b)
24. What is your age?
(a) under 13 (b) 13-17 (c)18-25 l (d)26-40 (e)41-60 (f) over 60
Ben answered (c)
25. How much do you know about philosophy?
(a) not much (b) I have taken a few philosophy courses (c) I have studied philosophy in depth (d) I am a professional philosopher
Ben answered (b)
3. Summary
            One of the most interesting results of this survey is that Ben believes that the only things that are essential to a good life are happiness/pleasure and autonomy.  This is shown in how he answered the first group of questions. The only situation that he thought wasn’t good was where Bella is constantly being told what to do. It appears that Ben doesn’t believe that a strong self, progress, or happiness from valuable sources is relevant to living a good life. Another interesting aspect of the results is that Ben believes that a desire can make an activity that is objectively meaning less subjectively meaningful but that one has to identify with the desire. Some inconsistencies arise when we look at the results of the morality questions. On one hand, Ben believes that we can gain pleasure from immoral activities but then he thinks that when it comes down to it, we should follow morality in our lives. Another inconsistency comes up in the experience machine questions. At first, Ben shows a lack of desire for connection with reality when he says that he would plug into the experience machine. The inconsistency comes up because he then shows a very strong desire for connection with reality in the way he answers the next series of questions. It also appears that Ben has a relativist attitude when it comes to judging the lives of other people.
4. In depth
            After I looked at the survey results, I asked Ben a few questions to clarify some of his responses. The first thing I wanted to know is why he only seems to view autonomy and happiness as important factors in a good life. He told me that he believes that is someone chooses to life a life with no progress then he believes that if they have free will in their decision then it would be a good life for them to live. He believes that as soon as someone else is controlling your life, it instantly restricts you from having a good life. I then wanted to get a better understanding on Ben’s stance on morality. I asked him why he thinks that it is okay for pleasure to come form immoral activities but that we should still live a life or morality. He said that he believes that the question about the peeping tom didn’t really appear to be morally wrong and that one could be a peeping tom and still live a very moral life. The last thing that I wanted to get an understanding of is why he showed such a strong desire for connection to reality but he still wanted to plug into the experience machine at first. Ben told me that he believes that pleasure is slightly more important than reality in his mind so when it comes down to it, if the experience machine has the same amount of pleasure as reality, he would choose reality. I asked him if he thought this contradicted the way he answered the pain killer questions and he told me that in that scenario, the reality is clearly skewed where as the experience machine seems to still hold on to a lot of the aspects of true reality. I also asked him, since he is an athlete, if achievement is an important aspect and he said that it is but that achievement in sports doesn’t make you better. He thinks that sports are a gateway for more meaningful achievement.

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