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Tutor profile: Simon L.

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Simon L.
Experienced tutor with MA philosophy (distinction) & BA philosophy (first class honours) tutoring philosophy, essay writing, and English.
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Questions

Subject: Writing

TutorMe
Question:

How is an essay similar to fractal geometry?

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Simon L.
Answer:

An essay similar to fractal geometry in that it possesses self-similarity. If we zoom-in on the most important section of the essay, we see that it contains the main argument, which may only consist of a few sentences - premises and an inferred conclusion. If we zoom-out, we see that the essay, in its entirety, is an argument.

Subject: Philosophy

TutorMe
Question:

Is authenticity valuable?

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Simon L.
Answer:

A brief answer for beginners... An object's being authentic means its being genuine - a sweater's being genuine cashmere (as opposed to faux-cashmere), for example. Thus, an object is authentic if it is what it is represented as being. If, on the other hand, an object is not what it is represented as being it is deemed fake or counterfeit. Similarly, one way to understand a person's being authentic is as its meaning (at the least) their being genuine - i.e., their representing themselves sincerely by, for example, acting in accordance with their beliefs. In contrast, a person may pretend, put on airs, behave in opposition to their beliefs, disguise or hide their feelings, or lie. From this initial consideration of (just a few of) the concepts involved, we see that the absence of authenticity, in general, holds negative value for us. In objects, it results in a second-best - faux cashmere, for example - which may do but we would usually (for specific reasons) prefer the real thing. In people, lack of authenticity is manifested in behaviour of which we usually disapprove, such as lying and acting in opposition to personal belief. We prefer authenticity in our objects because authentic objects usually possess positive attributes that fake versions lack. For instance, faux cashmere will tend to lack the softness that we associate with genuine cashmere. Moreover, in some cases we prefer the authentic object just because it is the authentic object, where its authenticity is the desirable attribute. This is often so regardless of the materials used to create the object. For example, there are hundreds of thousands of near-identical Fender Stratocasters but only one of them was Jimi Hendrix's guitar. They may even all sound exactly alike but only one of them is the authentic one - i.e., Jimi Hendrix's old guitar. The rest are merely guitars. [Interestingly, an inauthentic object may, through a quirk of culture (namely, trends), become popular and consequently valued because it is inauthentic, thereby becoming an 'authentic inauthentic'!] Similarly, we prefer authenticity in people not only because we disvalue behaviour that involves deception and/or akrasia but because we also value characteristics, such as sincerity and candour. For instance, if I ask you what you think, I really do want to know what you think, not what you think I want to hear or what you heard someone else saying. We value sincerity, and openness in others (amongst other attributes) because they benefit us all in all sorts of ways. Knowing the truth in general is useful for obvious reasons but when it comes from you it helps me to guide my behaviour in relation to you. Moreover, if I know you will tell me the truth, then you are a reliable source of information for me. And the same benefits can be yours if I am also sincere, and open towards you. Contrastingly, lying is detrimental to our relationships and prevents us from accurately guiding our behaviour in relation to one another. Furthermore, when one acts authentically, one is obliged to take responsibility for one's actions since they have come from oneself and responsible behaviour is something else we tend to view positively. An interesting complication, and the source of a potential objection, lies in cases where the inauthentic becomes more desirable than the authentic. This occurs (at least in some cases) because the properties possessed by the inauthentic outweigh those possessed by the authentic. For example, those who do not wish to exploit animals may prefer faux cashmere over authentic cashmere, despite differences in the feel of the fabric. In this case, the reason people find the authentic cashmere preferable is not the reason that other people prefer the faux cashmere. That is, it is not the primary desirable property of authentic cashmere that is being rejected (namely, its softness) but rather a different type of property (its goat-origin or "goatness"), which is seen as trumping its softness. Indeed, those who prefer authentic cashmere may also think it softer than its faux counterpart. But the reason the faux cashmere is preferred by some is specifically because it does not originate from an animal. Thus, for some the value placed on the authenticity of cashmere, which is determined by the softness of the wool, is outweighed by the disvalue that comes from its coming from an animal. In such cases, there is a clash of systems of value (here, pleasure versus morality) and, therefore, value of authenticity will vary between individuals. Consequently, we have a counter-example to the universal desirability of authenticity of objects. There is a somewhat similar objection relating to authenticity of human behaviour. For instance, when a serial killer acts (one might suppose) authentically and kills people we would be loathe to say that the serial killer's behaviour is in any way desirable or valuable, despite its supposed authenticity. Thus, we have a counter-example to the universal desirability of authenticity of human behaviour. Perhaps to get around this problem we can say that in the serial killer case, and also in similar cases, something has gone wrong that would not have had they been truly acting authentically. Alternatively, and more plausibly, we might say that this is merely the result of pathological people acting authentically, which is the unfortunate consequence of pathology, rather than of authenticity per se. No doubt, the counter-example still carries weight. From the foregoing, we can see that authenticity has primarily instrumental value rather than intrinsic value. That is, authenticity has value as a means to a valuable end, such as sincerity. Authenticity as an instrumental good promotes such valuable ends but as the counter-examples show, this value is not unrestricted and, therefore, it is not intrinsically valuable. Something is intrinsically valuable if it is desirable in and of itself, like well-being, for instance. Put another way, something is intrinsically valuable if it is an end in itself, if it is valuable for its own sake, rather than as a means to an end. Generally speaking, something is intrinsically valuable if it is good without qualification. In summary, sincerity and candour (amongst others) are beneficial and valuable manifestations of authentic behaviour. Lying and other similar behaviours are detrimental and are, therefore, disvaluable manifestations of inauthenticity. Thus, authenticity promotes valuable behaviour and inauthenticity promotes detrimental behaviour. However, counter-examples show that in some cases, due to other influencing factors, authenticity is not universally desirable - being contingent on those other factors. Therefore, authenticity in human behaviour is (instrumentally) valuable and preferable to inauthenticity, but generally speaking rather than absolutely. Similarly, we value authenticity and disvalue inauthenticity in objects. However, there are cases in which clashes between systems of values result in the apparent value of the authentic object being trumped by the disvalue of (at least) one of its attributes. Consequently, the authentic object is disvalued in favour of the valued inauthentic object. Therefore, authenticity in objects is (instrumentally) valuable and preferable to inauthenticity, but generally speaking rather than absolutely.

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

What reasonable statements can be extracted from the following ambiguous statement and what determines the number of interpretations available? "l saw the Man in the Moon with a telescope."

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Simon L.
Answer:

There are at least four reasonable statements: (1) While I was looking through a telescope, I saw the Man in the Moon. (2) I saw the Man in the Moon and he had a telescope. (3) I am sawing the Man in the Moon and I am using a telescope to do so! (4) I am sawing the Man in the Moon who has a telescope! Now let's briefly examine what determines the interpretations available from the ambiguity. First, the words "saw" and "with" alongside the construction of the sentence create the ambiguity. Second, other similar examples, such as "I saw a man on a hill with a telescope" have more possible interpretations than the "Man in the Moon" example. This is due to the "hill" being independent from "man". Thus, in the "man on the hill" example we can extract the following statement: "I saw a man, while I was on a hill and while I was using a telescope." A similar statement is not available to us in the "Man in the Moon" example - the reason being that the noun phrase "Man in the Moon" is the name for the appearance of what seems to be a grinning "face" on the surface of the moon and is an indivisible whole in a way that "man on a hill" is not. This prevents us from using "Moon" as an independent part of the ambiguity, thereby restricting the number of available interpretations of the original ambiguous statement. If we were to change the noun phrase "Man in the Moon" to the divisible phrase "man in the moon," - or perhaps more realistically "man on the moon" - we could generate as many interpretations as in the "man on the hill" example, though to do so would be to fundamentally change the sentence's meaning and remove its most obvious interpretation - i.e., (1).

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