Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Caucus Q's Answered: 11 AM Section

1. What is the difference between fortune and luck?
According to Rescher, fortune is something that happens in the natural course of things. In other words, something is fortunate if it happens as part of a series of natural events. For example, it is unfortunate if I get rained on while on my way to class. Rescher thinks that lucky events are outside of the natural course of events. For example, it would be unlucky if I got rained on while on my way to class on the same day that I have a presentation in that class. Another example would be that it may be fortunate if while on a hike I come across a field full of dozens of butterflies, but it would be lucky if I come across the butterflies on my birthday.
According to Aristotle, fortune and luck differ in degree.  Fortune is a greater magnitude of luck over a long period of time.  I have a blog entry that details Aristotle's Views on Luck and Fortune.
2. Does Aristotle think that being born a certain way is lucky or unlucky or the result of being born that way is lucky or unlucky?
Aristotle would certainly think that being born rich is luckier than being born poor.  This is because rich people are more prone to things like wealth and health, which is not a matter of luck but just a matter of fact.  People with more money have better access to goods.  Certainly, though, the results of being rich (wealth and health) are the reason why being born rich is lucky.  In short, both (a) being born a certain way and (b) being able to benefit from being born that way are lucky.
3. How does perspective matter in deciding if an event is unlucky or lucky?
Certainly perspective matters a lot. Whether consequences are "good" or "bad" will depend on the character and life plans of a particular person. Also, whether consequences are unforeseen or unexpected will also differ based on different people.  People who have an understanding of modern science will perhaps think that certain things are expected and natural whereas other people may find these things lucky.  For example, say I find a field of butterflies while hiking on my birthday.  To me that would seem lucky perhaps.  Now imagine a scientist who tracks the migratory movements of butterflies and who has predicted that the butterflies would be in that field on my birthday.  To the scientist perhaps, this is not lucky.   
4. How can we define lucky if instances of 'luck' vary so much?
Good question.  It may seem like "luck" has no real meaning, since whether an event is lucky depends so much on the particular person who experiences that event.  We can still come up with definitions, however, that can include everyone's experience.  For example, Aristotle's definition of luck as being the unexpected and unintended benefit or harm that accidentally results from a purposeful action will apply to all people.  Sure, some events will still be "lucky" or "unlucky" depending on the time, place and person, but the word still makes sense.  Think of a word like "delicious" or "funny".  Instances of delicious things and funny things vary as much as examples of lucky events.  Although we may disagree with others about whether black licorice is delicious or whether Modern Family is funny, we know what someone means when they make claims like "Black licorice is delicious".  
5. Can fortune be explained by reason on the grounds that it is the result of "nurture", not nature?
According to Aristotle, no.  Yet we can ask whether Aristotle is right.  Perhaps we can think of a person who is born into a good family and who is raised to be smart, athletic and artistic.  This person succeeds in all areas of life, personal and professional.  Perhaps we are inclined to say that such a person is fortunate by nurture and not just by nature.  Now, imagine that another child is born to this family who has severe developmental disorders.  Can this second child be nurtured to be fortunate?  I leave this question open and ask that you comment if you think you have a response. 
6. What does "qua" mean?
"Qua" is just a way of saying "as".  For example, I can think about Kobe Bryant as a Laker or I can think of Kobe as a basketball player.  I can also think of him as a man.  Similarly, I can think of Arnold Schwarzenegger qua governor or qua actor.  I am thinking and talking about the same person, but I am focusing on features and characteristics that are relevant to one role or facet of the person.
7. What is the difference between a cause and an accident?
An accident is a kind of cause.  A cause is just something that causes something else.  Some causes are natural, like the sun causing the flower to bloom.  Some causes are intentional and use natural causes, such as when I put water in the freezer to make ice.  Some causes might be natural but are also accidental.  For example, if I accidentally lost my ring in the ice cube trays while filling them up.

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