26 November 2014

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Relationships between generations

Dear friends,

Our topic for this Sunday is: Relationships between generations

As I point out in my short essay, this topic seems to belong to
sociology and anthropology; and indeed it does belong there. But as I
try to argue in my essay this subject is also a super minefield for
philosophy. However, it is still gratifying to know that underneath
these modern disciples of sociology, anthropology, economics and
politics there is the spectre of philosophy ready to question dogma,
like a shark in the depths of an ocean ready to pounce on its careless
In the meantime Ruel has sent us the link to his essay:
Hello Lawrence,
The link to the essay I wrote on the topic for Sunday's PhiloMadrid is:

Thank you.
See you on Sunday.
All the best,

Relationships between generations

You might be forgiven for thinking that this Sunday's topic belongs to
sociology or anthropology; it does. But it also belongs to philosophy,
at least in applied philosophy. However, we must also be clear that this
topic is much wider than the traditional "generation gap" problem.

Children will always have a different outlook at life from their
parents. In many respects the generation gap is an issue based on the
newly acquired intellectual capacities of young people to understand the
world around them. For example, is less than half a dozen years between
a young person asking their parents to buy them something fancy like a
smart phone and having their own money to buy the latest gadget. On the
other hand, parents know very well that life is more than just a simple
transaction with a credit card. This might go a long way why parents
tend to see things different from their children.

A less often mentioned generation problem is the relationship between
the elderly in a society and younger generations. Such issues include,
how much should we acquiesce to the opinions of the elderly? More
recently society is having to face the following questions: how much
should we subsidise or support the elderly? Issues of age discrimination
at work? How well developed is the health care system to deal with
health problems of the elderly? And how safe are pensions today and
those of future retirees? The fact that many recent government policies
throughout Europe and the western world require the elderly to have the
constitution and nous of a 25 year old suggests that there is something
amiss with the exercise of power. And any issues related to the exercise
of power are, first and foremost, a philosophical issue because it
involves ethics and morality.

With only a minor step away from the generation gap, we discover that
there is, indeed, a philosophical relevance in our topic. So let's up
the ante in our debate. By taking half a step backwards from the
generation gap we have to discuss the relationship of the adult
generation and the most vulnerable generation, those people within the
age range between 5 and 16 years. This is not to say that babies are not
vulnerable, and maybe for the same reasons as other young people, but
for my purposes the 5-16 year group will help us focus our mind on the
problems. There are four major issues that interest us about this age
group: nourishment and well being, education, health care and
psychological tranquillity, and se.xual development.

Today we know enough to know what a young person requires for a normal
well balanced life. Although we are not sure whether a five year old
needs a smart phone, we know for sure that young people need nourishing
food, a stable family life, an objective education and a functioning
health care system. But we either brush under the carpet or morph into
the Inquisition when it come exposing young people to religion and
se.xual development.

Upon what right should adults subject young people to a particular set
of beliefs or religion? I agree with you that children shouldn't even be
subjected and influenced as to which football team to support or
philosophical school to identify with. In my mind adults have no right
to influence people like this; but I recognise that we might be asking a
lot when we believe that children shouldn't be indoctrinated with
religion, football loyalty and philosophical thinking. Indeed, a good
well balanced objective education should compensate for social and
family bigotry and indoctrination. Needless to say, these are relevant
issues for philosophy without having to rely of field investigation.

At face value we might see no connection between se.x and religion, or
what passes as religion, but there are enough social and religious
synaptic connections between adults and young people to create valid
concern for philosophy.

We have read enough cases about female discrimination or the marrying
off of young girls or physical mutilation not mention the taboo subject
of child abuse and domestic violence against young people. Misogyny is
rife in almost all religions and the relation between women and the
hierarchy of these religions is today beyond being absurd and illogical.
Given that today everyone over the age of six knows how human beings are
made it seems obvious that there won't be any religion if there were no
mothers giving birth to male babies!

Thus by discriminating against 50% of the human population at young age
not only are we skewing the human race. However, there is no way of
knowing what the opportunity costs are for favouring males as exclusive,
or quasi exclusive, access to institutions of power and authority.
Would, for example, women generals conduct wars differently? We know
that women political leaders so far are not different from male leaders,
but the jury is still out on this one! It's not clear whether past
female political leaders were acting as free agents, they would say they
were, or whether they were the product of the same mould as male
political leaders but with minor differences.

The specific issue about the five year old group of young people is
precisely whether having children is a personal matter or one that
requires the considerations of society as well? Should society and I
include religions and football teams here, pressurise adults to have
children? And the biggest question here is of course, when does a
biological mass becomes a human being and ultimately a person? We not
only have to decide what is a person, but who can decide what is a
person? We have already discussed this topic of personhood and for me
the answer is quite simple: anyone who was born from a human mother.

But issues of adults controlling or deciding the intellectual fate of
young people is at the very limits of empirical philosophy. By moving
into the realm of unborn human beings and foetal development, we are
transcending into the realm of biology, and hence into amoral territory.
And amoral territory implies metaphysical territory us. For example, "is
a foetus a person?" is for philosophy a metaphysical question and for
biology a non relevant question. So the relationship between the those
human beings who are yet to be given birth and adult generation is one
fraught with morality, ethics and beliefs. But for the philosopher the
real issue is to disentangle biology from metaphysics and humanity.

Finally, the real philosophical import of our topic is the relationship
between living generations and future generations. And the immediate
question we have to ask is whether living generations have a duty of
care to future generations? Given that each individual in any given
generation is a product of events coming together at the same time in
the same place should such future probable events be granted the status
of factual events? For example, should my probability of winning the
lottery be granted the same status as actually winning the lottery? I
grant you that persons and lotteries are not the same, but the
underlying natural rules are the same.

Given all the choices and issues related to the topic, the main question
is maybe whether all generations should really consider themselves as a
single collective of persons alive or should we continue to categorise
persons into sub groups based on age, sex, colour, height, location,
beliefs, etc? Indeed, should we limit the use of –generation- to such
language games and utterances as: do living generations have a duty of
care to future generations?

Indeed are future generations made up of real people, metaphysical
people, or are they simply linguistic empty concepts? But be careful
here, what we decide what the answer is to this question will decide
what we do today? If we answer that future generations are made up of
real people, then we clearly have a duty of care. Maybe we should do
something about global warming, pension schemes and keeping our football
team solvent. If we decide future generations are as real as a
metaphysical dance then maybe we are nothing more than just an amoral
biological blob!

Best Lawrence

tel: 606081813
philomadrid@gmail.com <mailto:philomadrid@gmail.com>
Blog: http://philomadrid.blogspot.com.es/
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao
Open Tertulia in English every Thursday from 19:30 to 21h at
Irish Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)

from Lawrence, SUNDAY PhiloMadrid meeting at 6:30pm: Relationships
between generations

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