Metaphysics: Reductionism (Monism or Positivism) In metaphysics, my test measures your tendency towards Reductionism or Non-Reductionism. As a Reductionist, you like to cut away the metaphysical fat as opposed to multiplying concepts and entities like so many baby rabbits. The two broad categories of Reductionists that my test recognizes are Monists and Positivists.
1. Monists do not cut away the metaphysical fat so much as they just put the meat into a grinder and synthesize the fat into the meat. They tend to condense particular things and ideas into a Unity or Absolute, in other words. If you believe that reality is ultimately a unity and that mind and matter both exist but are simply two different ways of looking at the same substance, then you are a neutral monist in the sense of Spinoza. If you believe that reality is ultimately an Absolute because a whole is more than just the sum of its parts, proven by the fact that we can never have knowledge of a particular thing unless we also grasp its relations to the ultimate Absolute or whole of reality with which it is bound up, and if you feel that this Absolute is characterized by Spirit or Mind, and not matter, then you share the same views as Hegel and even Plato to a degree. A monist--because he or she believes that reality is a Unity or Absolute--tends to synthesize all particulars into universals, deny the reality of matter (Hegel) or mind (Spinoza, sort of), and so on. These concepts are all cast into the meat grinder and come out as a unified whole. Famous monists include philosophers such as Hegel, Spinoza, and Parmenides.
If none of the above sounded like you, then you are most definitely the other type of Reductionist. 2. Positivists, unlike monists, do not synthesize two apparently competing views into one--instead, they do away with one of the views, that being the one that cannot be empirically verified. A positivist, then, cuts away the metaphysical fat as meaningless conjecture about nothing in particular. He relies primarily on a tool called Ockham's Razor to shave away these ideas. Ockham's Razor states that we should do away with any hypotheses that needlessly multiply explanatory entities. For instance, in regards to the dispute about the existence of universals, a positivist tends to adopt the position of nominalism--which is the belief that only particulars are real. A universal is only a linguistic construction we use to put particulars into groups--meaning we can reduce all universals to the sum of their parts, that being particulars. After all, we can never have empirical experience of "whiteness", only particular things that are white--nor have we ever observed the universal "mankind", though we can observe individual men. On the mind-body problem, a positivist will be likely to do away with the concept of "mind", reducing it to a material product of our brain functioning. This position is often referred to as the Identity-Theory, because it equates mental states to states of the brain. Clearly, a positivist tends towards a materialistic outlook. Positivism will also revile any idealist conception of reality, which maintains that the world of experience and perception is merely a phenomenal world, whereas the "real" world lies underneath experience and is fundamentally unknowable. A positivist will tend to do away with the idealist hypothesis as needless and unverifiable. Well-known positivists include Carnap, Ayer, and Wittgenstein.
Epistemology: Skepticism (Idealism or Subjectivism) In regards to epistemology, my test measures your tendency towards Absolutism or Skepticism. As an epistemological Skeptic, you believe that ultimate reality cannot be known in any objective way. The two categories of Skeptics that my test recognizes are Idealists and Subjectivists.
1. Epistemological Idealists believe that knowledge of ultimate reality is impossible. All we can ever have knowledge about is the world of phenomenal human experience, but there is no reason to suspect that reality mirrors our perceptions and thoughts, according to Idealists. Idealists, then, tend to see truth not as a correspondence between propositions and reality--reality is, after all, fundamentally unknowable--but as a coherence between a whole system of propositions taken to be true. We cannot escape from language or our conceptualized world of phenomena, so we are unable to reference propositions to facts and must instead determine their truth by comparing them to other propositions we hold to be true. As a result of such an idealism, knowledge of any ultimate reality is taken to be impossible, hence the Skeptical tendency of idealism. All our pursuits of knowledge, science included, can only reflect a phenomenal reality that is of our own making. Famous idealists include Kant and Fichte.
If the above did not sound skeptical or idealistic enough to reflect your own views, then you are most likely a Subjectivist. 2. Epistemological Subjectivists, like idealists, believe that all our knowledge is ultimately of our own making because it is filtered through our subjective perceptions. Unlike an idealist, though, a subjectivist doesn't believe in any universal categories of "truth" that apply to the phenomenal world, because each individual can create his own truth. Either that, or he will hold that society or custom creates its own forms of truth. A subjectivist will tend to regard scientific inquiry as a game of sorts--science does not reveal truths about reality, but only gives scientists pseudo-solutions to pseudo-problems of the scientific community's own devising. It is a type of puzzle-solving, but the puzzle isn't of reality. The definition of truth to a subjectivist may be one that recognizes a proposition's usefulness to an individual. William James is one such subjectivist, who believes that we can "will to believe" certain propositions so long as we would find them useful. The example he gives is being found in a situation where you must leap over a chasm in order to survive. The true belief, in such a situation, is that the leap will be successful--this truth is certainly more useful to us, and in believing the truth we become more willing to commit to the jump and make it successful. So, in essence, knowledge of reality is possible for a subjectivist because they never make reference to any objective reality existing outside of our own perceptions and beliefs--we can have knowledge of reality through having knowledge of ourselves, and that is all that we should ask for. Famous subjectivists include Kuhn, Feyarabend, and James. Another famed critic of Absolutism is Hume.
Ethics: Relativism (Subjectivism or Emotivism) My test measures one's tendency towards moral Objectivism or moral Relativism in regards to ethics. As a moral Relativist, you tend to see moral choices as describing a subject's reaction to a moral object or situation, and not as a property of the moral object itself. You may also feel that moral words are meaningless because they do not address any empirical fact about the world. My test recognizes two types of moral relativists--Subjectivists and Emotivists.
1. Subjectivists see individual or collective desires as defining a situation's or object's moral worth. Thus, the subject, not the object itself, determines the value. Subjectivists recognize that social rules, customs, and morality have been wide-ranging and quite varied throughout history among various cultures. As a result, Subjectivism doesn't attempt to issue hard and fast rules for judging the moral worth of things. Instead, it recognizes that what we consider "good" and "right" is not bound by any discernable rule. There is no one trait that makes an act good or right, because so many different kinds of things have been called good and right. In regards to the definition of "good" or "right", a Subjectivist will tend to define it as whatever a particular person or group of people desire. They do not define it merely as "happiness" or "pleasure", for instance, because sometimes we desire to do things that do not produce pleasure, and because we don't consider all pleasurable things good. Furthermore, Subjectivists recognize the validity of consequentialism in that sometimes we refer to consequences as good and bad--but they also recognize that our intentions behind an action, or the means to the end, can also determine an act's moral worth. Again, there is no one rule to determine these things. Hence the relativism of moral Subjectivism. The most well-known of the subjectivists is Nietzsche.
If that didn't sound like your position, then you are probably the other variety of moral Relativist--the Emotivist. Emotivists are moral Relativists only in a very slanted sense, because they actually deny that words about morality have any meaning at all. An Emotivist would probably accept Hume's argument that it is impossible to derive an "ought" from an "is"--no factual state of affairs can logically entail any sort of moral action. Furthermore, a emotivist's emphasis on scientific (and hence empirical) verification and testing quickly leads to the conclusion that concepts such as "good" and "right" don't really describe any real qualities or relations. Science is never concerned with whether a particular state of affairs is moral or right or good--and an emotivist feels much the same way. Morality is thus neither objective or subjective for the emotivist--it is without any meaning at all, a sort of vague ontological fiction that is merely a symbol for our emotional responses to certain events. Famous emotivists include Ayer and other positivists associated with the Vienna Circle.
As you can see, when your philosophical position is narrowed down there are so many potential categories that an OKCupid test cannot account for them all. But, taken as very broad categories or philosophical styles, you are best characterized as an R-S-R. Your exact philosophical opposite would be an N-A-O.
About the Author
Saint_gasoline is a crazed madman who spends all of his time writing OKCupid tests and ranting about philosophy and science. If you are interested in reading more of his insane ramblings, or seeing his deliciously trite webcomic, go to SaintGasoline.com.
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