Present an example of someone being morally good out of fear and then present an example of someone being morally good out of an inherent desire to act in a specific way. Discuss with others the idea that morality is inherent and based on universal principles or virtues versus the idea that ethics is socially created and varies based on human social and political context. Which do you find to be more convincing? Which philosophical reasons would you present for thinking that your position is the best position?1
“It is the
of an educated
to be able to entertain
the love ofa wisdom.
—Cicero, De Officiis
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Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy?
After reading this chapter, students will be able to:
1. Explain Socrates’s observation that the unexamined life is not worth living for human
2. Outline the various major historical divisions of Western philosophy.
3. Recognize that Western philosophy is one tradition among other traditions.
4. Understand what is distinctive about philosophical inquiry.
What We Will Discover
• Philosophy has a rich and fascinating history.
• Philosophers explore questions ranging from logic and mathematics to morality and art.
1.1 What Is Philosophy?
hilosophy is an unusual discipline, not just because it has a long history, but because it
spends a good bit of energy investigating what philosophy itself is. One of the most important things philosophers do is ask questions. In this text, we will identify and analyze many
of the questions that have engaged philosophers for thousands of years. In this chapter, we look
at what philosophy is, how philosophers approach their subject, and what the benefits of philosophical inquiry are. We will specifically explore Western philosophy and the most important
philosophers of that tradition.
The philosopher Wilfrid Sellars (1912–1989) once characterized philosophy in the following way:
“The aim of philosophy, abstractly formulated, is to understand how things in the broadest possible sense of the term hang together in the broadest possible sense of the term” (as cited in
Scharp & Brandom, 2007). In other words, philosophers tend to be interested in almost everything one can raise questions about. Throughout this chapter, we will consider such questions
as: What does philosophy examine? Is there something distinctive about the way philosophers
carry out their inquiries? What is common to philosophical disciplines: the approach used, the
topics investigated, or something else? How can a philosophical approach help make our questions clearer, and offer ways of solving them? The remaining chapters in this text explore the
Epistemology (Chapter 2)—The study of knowledge
What can I know? How do I know things? Can I know anything with certainty? Are there differences in kinds of knowledge claims? What is the difference between knowing that 2 + 2 = 4,
that grass is green, and how to fix a lawn mower?
Metaphysics (Chapter 3)—The investigation of the most general truths
What exists? Does the universe consist ultimately of one thing, several things, or an infinite number of things? What is a “thing”? How do we understand time? What is the nature of space?
How does causality work? Am I truly free? Did the world always exist?
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Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy?
Religion (Chapter 4)—Examining the philosophical issues in faith and religious doctrine
Is there a God? Can one prove the existence of God? Can one accept a religious belief on the
basis of faith alone? Does one need both faith and reason to justify one’s beliefs? Can someone
who does not believe in God be moral? What is the relationship between religious belief and
Aesthetics (Chapter 5)—Inquiries into the nature of art and beauty and their evaluation
What is beautiful? Can people be wrong about their artistic tastes? Can popular movies be art?
How can people agree about judgments of art? Can having an art theory help a person understand art more fully? If some art is offensive, should it be restricted or banned?
Ethics (Chapter 6)—The exploration of morality and the nature of human conduct
How does one evaluate morality? Are there certain kinds of behavior that are always wrong?
Are there certain kinds of behavior that are always right? Can ethical disputes be resolved? Do
ethical theories offer valuable insights into human behavior? What happens if ethical theories
conflict? Should children be taught to be ethical, and if so, how?
The meaning of life (Chapter 7)—The meaning of life from the perspective of the ancient
philosophers, theologians, and contemporary thinkers
What is the meaning of life? Should we assume that life does have meaning? What if we are
unwilling to make this assumption?
Of course, there are many philosophical questions not mentioned here, and other subdisciplines
of philosophy exist that are of great contemporary interest. Some of these have entire courses
devoted to them, such as business ethics, cognitive science, and mathematical logic. For the
purposes of this text, we will focus our attention on introducing the discipline of philosophy as
a whole and exploring some of the specific investigations within epistemology, metaphysics,
religion, aesthetics, and ethics. We conclude with a general look at the meaning of life and how
philosophy can help clarify this topic.
What Do Philosophers Do?
Plato (ca. 428/427–ca. 348/347 bce) tells
us that philosophy begins in wonder.
Human beings wonder about themselves, about other people, about where
they came from, about where they are
going, and about what they should do
while they are here. Human beings are
naturally curious, and each question
they ask leads to another, then another,
and then another. One way of thinking
about philosophy, then, is as the systematic attempt to answer the general
questions human beings have always
asked, and the debate that naturally
follows each proposed answer. Philosophy combines curiosity—wonder about
the world and all that is in it and even
Sky View/Digital Vision/Thinkstock
Philosophical inquiry results from humans’ natural curiosity,
which begins at a young age and evolves over time.
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Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy?
beyond it—and criticism—objections to answers, suggestions of new answers, and new objections to those new answers. Philosophical inquiry has one other important feature: It never ends.
We do, on occasion, seem to discover solutions to specific philosophical questions. Philosophers
seek to justify claims and, ideally, establish that some claims are true and some are false. Since
there is almost always disagreement over the justifications and conclusions, these investigations
generate continuous debate and criticism. Thus, the pursuit of philosophy will continue as long
as there are disagreements over the nature of things we do not understand and as long as we
Great Ideas: “Philosophy Begins in Wonder”
In his dialogue Theaetetus, Plato has Socrates (469–399 bce) say, “Wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder” (Burneyeat, 1990). Plato’s greatest student, Aristotle
(384–322 bce), echoes this view in his book Metaphysics, in which he observes, “It was their wonder, astonishment, that first led men to philosophize and still leads them” (Burneyeat, 1990). Two
thousand years later the British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947) saw no particular
reason to challenge this view; rather, he thought it quite accurate as a description of the philosopher’s
task. As Whitehead (1968) notes, “Philosophy begins in wonder. And, at the end, when philosophic
thought has done its best, the wonder remains.” This may be the reason that Whitehead (1979) is
perhaps best known today for another observation: “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
1. How might a philosopher respond to the old saying “curiosity killed the cat”?
2. What are the advantages to wondering about things in the way philosophers do?
3. Are there disadvantages to wondering about things in the way philosophers do?
4. How might a philosopher wonder about things differently than others?
5. Would it be better to tell a child to ask more questions about things or fewer questions
about things? Why?
The word philosophy comes from two Greek words. We see one of them, philein, or “to love,”
in the name of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, and in the word philanthropy, “love for
human beings.” We are familiar with the other word, sophos, from such words as sophisticated
and sophomore; it means “wisdom.” Thus, philosophy is, literally, the love of wisdom. It refers
to the unending search for answers. To be successful in philosophy, then, one must have curiosity, a desire to understand, a willingness to learn, and perhaps most importantly, patience, for
exploring these questions requires time and energy.
Philosophers are sometimes characterized as a bunch of old men who sit around investigating
issues in which few others are interested. Yet if we stop to think about some of these issues,
we may discover that all of us are interested in getting answers—or at least arriving at a better
understanding of the questions with which philosophers concern themselves. What is a human
being? Does a human being have a soul, and if so, what happens to it after death? Is it wrong to
steal food to feed one’s family? Are there other intelligent beings in the universe, and if so, how
would we recognize that they are intelligent? What kinds of questions can be answered by natural science, and what kinds of questions cannot be? Is democracy the best form of government?
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Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy?
If it is, who should be allowed to vote?
How can a majority be prevented from
oppressing minorities within their own
society? What am I really saying when I
claim to know something? Can I know
that something is right or wrong in the
same way I can know the answer to a
simple mathematical equation? These
are just a few of the questions that
would interest both philosophers and
the general public.
These and many other questions have
important implications for how we conceive of human beings, how we treat
each other, and how we construct social
Questions about life, death, purpose, and God are
rules to live as a community. Anyone
central to philosophical exploration.
who has an opinion about abortion, the
right to die, what should be taught or
not be taught in public schools, or any government decision—from taxation to military policy—
may wish to appeal to philosophy to support his or her opinion. The better we understand the
philosophical assumptions behind our beliefs, the better we understand those beliefs themselves. Additionally, if we wish to defend those beliefs against those who object to them, it is
useful to explore the nature of those beliefs and what they imply. We may also wish to improve
our ability to construct arguments to defend those beliefs. Even though everyone is able to have
an opinion, not everyone is able to claim his or her views are backed up with evidence, arguments, and reason. Philosophy is the attempt to provide that support and, if possible, arrive at
a conclusive truth.
Great Ideas: Beliefs, Opinions, and Facts
It is important to recognize the kind of claim that is simply an assertion made without any evidence or
the kind for which one does not normally expect evidence to be provided. “I like cheese” or “Texas is
too hot” might be such claims. We tend to think of these as opinions.
A factual claim, on the other hand, is one that can, in theory, be supported by evidence. Examples
include “To drive legally, one must have car insurance” and “It is important to get a good education.”
If these are presented as factual claims, the person making them should be able to defend them on
the basis of evidence and offer an informed argument.
Both opinions and factual claims are types of beliefs, of which we all have many. It is not always easy
to distinguish between opinions and factual claims (and some beliefs might be a combination of the
two). For the most part, philosophers focus on claims that are made on the basis of some kind of
evidence that provides support for a given argument. Thus, philosophers are interested in the reasons one holds a certain belief and what supports those reasons, which is quite different from simply
asserting one’s opinion.
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Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy?
All people, philosophers included, have disagreements. People may disagree about whether
football is better than baseball. They may see the same movie and not agree on whether it was
good. They can debate the merits of two presidential candidates or the choice of a restaurant
for lunch. A parent and young child may have a disagreement about what time that child should
go to bed. All these disputes can, and often do, lead to arguments in which the participants try
to establish their claims on the basis of evidence, reason, and logic. Sometimes these arguments
can become heated, and some arguments even lead to violence. Presumably, an argument that
is settled violently is one where evidence, reason, and logic do not play much of a role. Other
arguments are settled by one person simply saying, “This is what is going to happen.” Thus, a
mother who says, “This is when you are going to bed!” does not so much provide an argument
as impose her will on the situation.
Philosophers use the word argument somewhat differently. In a philosophical context, arguments
are reasons to accept a conclusion. A philosopher would call the reason to employ the transitive property in arithmetic an argument, although there is probably little passion or a threat of
violence involved here:
10 < 20 5 < 10 therefore 5 < 20 For philosophers, then, the term argument does not convey the same meaning as when we use the term to suggest anger, emotion, and hurt feelings. Rather, in the philosophical context, arguments are put forth to arrive at conclusions; they suggest why certain reasons indicate that a conclusion is true or probable. Philosophy East and West Thinking philosophically comes naturally to people, even though they may not think of themselves as engaging in philosophy. However, if we are willing to view our curiosity about certain questions as “philosophy,” then almost everyone at one time or another participates in it. This means that wherever there are people, there is philosophy! A woman in California may gaze at a star-filled sky and wonder about her place in the universe: Has a loving and benevolent God placed her there, or is she merely a well-organized collection of molecules that lacks a particular significance? Someone in China or India may look up at the same sky and have the same question, although their different history and cultural traditions may lead them to a different answer. Because history and culture affect the way people engage in philosophy, philosophical traditions are generally divided into Eastern and Western schools of thought. For example, one of the greatest Eastern philosophers is Lao-tzu. His work, the Tao Te Ching, is an extremely important philosophical/theological text that is representative of ancient Chinese philosophy. It examines the relationship between leaders and subjects as well as how one can live a virtuous life. A simple distinction between East and West, however, is far too simple to understand the variety of philosophical approaches. Just as there are different philosophical traditions in the West, Eastern traditions include Chinese philosophy, Indian philosophy, and Persian philosophy, all of which are very different from each other. Furthermore, there are extensive debates and disagreements within each of these traditions; for example, within Chinese philosophy, those who follow Confucius disagree sharply with those who propose an alternative to Confucius—and mos81165_01_c01.indd 6 1/6/14 2:34 PM CHAPTER 1 Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? these arguments are more than 2,000 years old! It is as important to make clear the many differences found within Eastern philosophy as it is to articulate Eastern philosophy’s differences from Western schools of thought. At the same time, what is termed “Eastern philosophy” has much in common with “Western philosophy,” and it would be incorrect to treat them as if they do not share many qualities. The many philosophically important interactions between the East and West warrant attention and consideration. (See Figure 1.1 for a map of influential philosophers.) Read Laotzu’s Tao Te Ching in the Chapter Readings section of the Appendix. Figure 1.1: Locations of influential philosophers As this map shows, the majority of influential philosophers were located throughout Europe, although a few came from China, the Middle East, Africa, and India. Husserl Ibn Rushd and Maimonides Augustine Ibn Sina Al-Ghazali Gandhi Lao-tzu Confucius Locke Bacon Spinoza Hume Darwin Berkeley Wole Soyinka Whitehead Sartre Marx Descartes Parmenides Aquinas Kierkegaard Nietzsche Kant Leibniz Freud Hegel Heidegger Wittgenstein Aristotle Plato and Socrates Thales Heraclitus Pyrrho Pythagoras That said, however, it is widely accepted to talk about the history of philosophy in a way that contrasts Western and Eastern approaches to it. For our purposes, we will focus on Western philosophy. By this term we mean philosophy as it developed in Greece and as it has been practiced in Europe and in the Western Hemisphere. Generally, it is philosophy that was originally written in Greek, Latin, Italian, French, German, Spanish, and English, although it can be found in other languages, among them Hebrew, Danish, and Dutch. Western philosophy looks to Greece as its birthplace and includes the traditions that grew both out of the Greek conception of philosophy and in contrast to it. mos81165_01_c01.indd 7 1/6/14 2:34 PM Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? CHAPTER 1 Classical Philosophy and the Greeks The British philosopher Alfred North Whitehead (1979) is famous for having remarked that Western philosophy is nothing but a “series of footnotes to Plato” (p. 39). While that may be an exaggeration, Whitehead’s point is important: Plato, along with his teacher Socrates and his student Aristotle, played a fundamental role in setting the agenda for the discipline of philosophy, including both the kinds of questions philosophy should examine and how it should go about examining them. Indeed, it is difficult to overstate the influence Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle have had on the history of philosophy. In discussing Greek philosophy, it should be pointed out that during this era, there was not a single country called Greece, but many different communities in the general area of the country we now call Greece. This included Italy and Asia Minor, now part of Turkey. What was distinctive about this area’s philosophical approach was people’s willingness to explore fundamental and general questions and to engage others in developing rigorous arguments and arriving at answers. Pre-Socratic The father of philosophy is traditionally considered to be Thales (ca. 624–ca. 546 bce), although it is unlikely that he was really the first person to think about such issues. Thales was from Miletus in Asia Minor. He asked a very basic but very difficult question: What is the world made of? His answer—water—may seem odd until we consider that the human body is about 60% water; that Thales lived close to the sea (which supported his community and its economy); and that water is indispensable for life. Regardless of our judgment of his answer, we merely need note that Thales was willing to pose such a question and investigate it, which indicates that philosophical inquiry had begun. Prior to Socrates, other important thinkers put forth their views on what the world was like, and what rules, if any, governed that world. Parmenides (5th century bce) famously insisted in his poem “On Nature” that the world is fixed and unchanging, realUniversal Images Group/SuperStock ity is one, there is no motion, and the world we see changing around us is not real but an illusion. In con- Thales, who was a pre-Socratic philosopher trast, Heraclitus (ca. 535 bce–ca. 475 bce) argued that and one of the Seven Sages of Greece, is reality was constantly changing and altering—he said considered the father of philosophy. all was in flux, or “ever flowing”—and indicated this by saying “you cannot step twice into the same rivers” (Heraclitus, 1892). For Heraclitus, the person stepping into the river is always changing, and the waters of the river always flowing; thus, anytime a person steps into that river, both the person and the river have changed. Heraclitus thought there was some kind of cosmic order to all of this change, which he called logos—a complex and abstract notion that would, several hundred years later, become an important notion to the authors of the Gospels of the New Testament. Pythagoras (ca. 570–ca. 495 bce), after whom a famous theorem in geometry is named, insisted on the importance of mathematics for understanding reality; although little is known about the mos81165_01_c01.indd 8 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? CHAPTER 1 philosopher himself, Pythagoras emphasized that numbers and mathematics might allow us to penetrate the world of appearances and get to the fundamental real world underlying these. These philosophers, and many others, are called pre-Socratic philosophers, to note the obvious fact that they preceded Socrates, an extraordinarily influential philosopher. Parmenides is among the pre-Socratic philosophers. He often mixed philosophy of truth and knowledge with cosmogony and analyses of nature. Another pre-Socratic philosopher, Heraclitus, discusses the limitations of man. Socrates Socrates spent his life in Athens, conversing about basic moral concepts with anyone who wished to talk with him. His student Plato wrote brilliant reenactments of these conversations, and in these we see Socrates engaged in discussions about courage, love, piety, friendship, education, and other topics. We also see use of what is now known as the Socratic method, in which Socrates and his conversational partner explore issues through a series of questions and answers. In 399 bce Socrates was put on trial in Athens for the alleged crimes of corrupting the youth of Athens and not believing in the divinities of Athens. Plato’s dramatic treatment of the trial, Apology, continues to be read today, both for its portrait of Socrates and for the challenges Socrates presents to society. Socrates often tells people there is a substantial gap between the views they claim to hold and the actions that they actually perform. Socrates regards the critical examination of beliefs to be fundamental to determining if we really are justified in our beliefs. However, as Socrates discovered, this critical examination—philosophy—made Socrates quite unpopular. Challenging the assumptions and prejudices of society continues to make the critics of society unpopular, so not much has changed in the ensuing millennia, and Socrates’s charge to the citizens of Athens remains very relevant today. Read Parmenides’s Concerning Truth in the Chapter Readings section of the Appendix. Read Heraclitus’s writings in the Chapter Readings section of the Appendix. Read more of Plato’s Apology in the Chapter Readings section of the Appendix. Someone will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you? Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that this would be a disobedience to a divine command, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that the greatest good of man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living—that you are still less likely to believe. And yet what I say is true, although a thing of which it is hard for me to persuade you. (Plato, 1997, para. 38a) Philosophers still argue about the question of Socrates’s guilt and the relationship between the trial and Athenian politics; but we do know that he was found guilty and executed. It tells us a great deal about Socrates that his dying words were to ask a friend to sacrifice a rooster to Asclepius, the god of healing. Many interpret this to mean that Socrates viewed death as a cure, in the sense that his mind, or soul, was released from its body. In ancient Greek sema is “tomb” and soma is “body”; Socrates seems to suggest, through this sign of respect for Asclepius, that the body is the tomb of the soul, from which it is released mos81165_01_c01.indd 9 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? Read Plato’s Republic in the Chapter Readings section of the Appendix. Read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in the Chapter Readings section of the Appendix. CHAPTER 1 upon one’s death. As with many of Socrates’s views, philosophers continue to debate precisely what his last words meant. Plato Socrates had many followers, but by far the most famous of these was Plato, who is generally regarded as one of the two or three greatest prose stylists in philosophy’s history. Plato’s writings are almost exclusively presented as dialogues, and they continue to be carefully studied. Although Socrates seemed interested almost exclusively in moral and ethical questions, Plato seemed interested in everything; he wrote on moral philosophy and made fundamental contributions to political philosophy, metaphysics, the study of knowledge (epistemology), and cosmology. It is hard to find a topic in which Plato was not interested, and in a sense he combined the views of three of the pre-Socratics mentioned earlier. According to Plato, the world we experience through our physical senses provides us with information that could be deceptive, but the world we can know through reason is perfect, eternal, and unchanging. Humans, that is, experience the world of Heraclitus in that we see how it changes and can be mistaken about what we experience; but we also have access, through reason and the human mind, to the perfect world of Parmenides, which never changes and is eternal. Plato seemed to be influenced by Pythagoras’s suggestion that much of what we know about the unchanging eternal world can be discovered through mathematics. Thus, Plato constructs a picture of our world as containing the world of experience, which we access imperfectly through our senses, and also a contrasting world (what he calls the real world) that we access through the mind and through reason. This understanding of a flawed world in which we live temporarily, contrasted with a perfect and eternal world, played an important role in the development of Christian philosophy. Plato’s most famous book, The Republic, describes how to construct a well-run society that would make its citizens both informed and just. The Republic is one of the most influential books in the hisSuperStock/SuperStock tory of political philosophy, although, like many Plato’s (left) theory of forms and Aristotle’s of Plato’s writings, it remains very controversial. (right) empiricist views are thought to be The Republic’s famous cave allegory explains represented by the hand gestures depicted the human condition as well as his view of the in this painting of the pair by Raphael. relation between the world and truth. Aristotle, too, considered the human condition. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle undertook a long analysis of friendship. He defines different conceptions of—and categorizes— various forms of friendship. Skeptics Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle justifiably dominate discussion of Greek philosophy, or what is often called, along with Roman philosophy, classical philosophy. However, another mos81165_01_c01.indd 10 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? CHAPTER 1 important aspect of Greek philosophy deserves mention. Originating with Arcesilaus (ca. 316/315–ca. 241 bce) in Plato’s school (the Academy) quite a while after Plato had died was a group of philosophers who took their name from the Greek term skopeó, which means “to examine” or “to look at.” In time, after they inspected various philosophical views, these thinkers and their followers came to doubt the truth or reliability of many of the classical views, and hence are known as skeptics. Even though there were various forms of skepticism, iStock/Thinkstock it generally came to be known as a doctrine that questioned whether human Statues of Plato and Socrates welcome students at the beings were capable of knowing and main building of the Academy of Athens in Greece. The understanding the fundamental philo- academy is the most prestigious research facility in Greece. sophical truths and whether such truths existed in the first place. The skeptics have had a substantial influence on the development of philosophical thought, although in some eras more than others. The skeptics remind us to be wary of bold philosophical claims, keep in mind that some claims need to be challenged, and remember that all philosophical claims must be subject to critical scrutiny. A more extreme approach to skepticism is attributed to Pyrrho (ca. 360–ca. 272 bce) of Elis and his followers, known as Pyrrhonic skeptics. They criticized the Academic skeptics (those who were part of Plato’s Academy) for claiming that they could not know anything with certainty; for the Pyrrhonists, even claiming to know this claim was to claim some sort of certainty, and thus qualified as being dogmatic. The Pyrrhonic skeptics sought to make no claims about anything, a mental state that, if achieved, led to tranquility. Contemporary philosophers continue to argue about whether one can actually live in accordance with this kind of radical skepticism. Medieval Philosophy Philosophy has such a long history that it must be subdivided into various eras. Classical philosophy comprises the beginnings of philosophy (much of which is murky) up to around the fall of the Roman Empire (ca. 400 ce). Then Plato’s influence on both Christian and non-Christian thinkers led to the development of an important thread known as neo-Platonism, which originated around the 3rd century ce and continued to be significant for many centuries (and still maintains some influence). Medieval philosophy is the general term for those philosophers who flourished after the fall of the Roman Empire up to what is now called modern philosophy (which began around 1600). It should be kept in mind, however, that these distinctions are somewhat arbitrary; some philosophers of the modern period may have much in common with neo-Platonism or medieval philosophy, whereas some late medieval philosophers during the Renaissance may seem firmly “modern” in their thought. Still, the terms are useful, if only as rough general guidelines to philosophy’s long and complex history. mos81165_01_c01.indd 11 1/6/14 2:35 PM CHAPTER 1 Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? Read Saint Augustine’s Confessions in the Chapter Readings section of the Appendix. Read Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica in the Chapter Readings section of the Appendix. Medieval philosophy is most profoundly marked by a single event: the birth of Jesus Christ and the subsequent development of Christianity as the prevailing religious view of the West. Religious and theological discussions dominated philosophy in this period, and much of classical philosophy was incorporated into philosophical discussions of Christian doctrine. Thus, Plato’s conception of “the real” and his contrast between the imperfect world of everyday experience and the perfect, eternal, unchanging world were easily adapted to Christian comparisons of this world and the afterlife. Thus, Saint Paul compares our vision in this world to seeing “through a glass darkly” in 1 Corinthians 13. More systematically, philosophers such as Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430 bce) found Plato to be profoundly important but argued that Platonism was only completed with Christ. In his work Confessions, Augustine analyzes the human desire to do evil acts. He presents a specific act from his youth that aligns with his conception of human nature and the desire to do evil. In a different way Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) adapted many of Aristotle’s arguments to Christian doctrine. In one of his most famous works, Summa Theologica, Aquinas examines the causes of evil. Through these and other writings he developed a view known as Thomism and established Aristotle as the philosopher of the Roman Catholic Church (and, indeed, of Christianity until the Reformation and the emergence of Protestantism). A dominant thread running through this history was the fact that to contradict Aristotle was to contradict church teaching. Thus, modern philosophy really began when Aristotle’s frequently unquestioned authority came to be challenged in philosophy, science, and theology. Photos.com/Thinkstock Medieval philosophy blends classical philosophy with Christian doctrine, as seen in the way Catholic philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas (pictured) developed Thomism and established Aristotle as the philosopher of the Roman Catholic Church. mos81165_01_c01.indd 12 A distinctive element of medieval philosophy is its combination of classical philosophy with Christian doctrine. Often the attempt to combine these was not very smooth; some might see it difficult, for instance, to reconcile Aristotle’s conception of God, which is very abstract, with the Christian conception of God, who sacrifices his only son to cleanse human beings of sin. An enormous amount of work went into considering questions such as these, and into philosophical questions that arose within Christianity, such as those about the relationship between faith and reason. Questions about free will, evil, and the nature of God kept medieval philosophers very busy. There were also extensive explorations into logic and metaphysics, while natural science was examined within Aristotle’s philosophy. 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? CHAPTER 1 Great Ideas: Two Dominant Strands of Christian Philosophy Although it can be an oversimplification, the development of Christian philosophy can be roughly divided into two important strands: those who tended to follow a Platonic view and hence are known as neoPlatonists, and those who tended to follow Aristotle and are known sometimes as neo-Aristotelianists but, more commonly, as Thomists, named after Saint Thomas Aquinas. Among many others who are traditionally considered neo-Platonists are Plotinus (205–270), Porphyry (ca. 234–ca. 305), and Iamblichus (250–330); Saint Augustine was also significantly influenced by Plato. Saint Thomas Aquinas, a crucial thinker in the Roman Catholic tradition, is perhaps the most famous representative of those who applied and developed Aristotle’s philosophy in an explicitly Christian context. His approach, known as Thomism, was also adopted by other well-known philosophers such as Elizabeth Anscombe (1919–2001), Alasdair MacIntyre (b. 1929), and Étienne Gilson (1884–1978). While we may tend to think of medieval philosophy as an era dominated by Christianity, there were important philosophers working in other traditions, too. Moses Maimonides (1135–1204), for instance, was an influential Jewish philosopher who not only discussed traditional philosophical questions but also examined problems in medicine, religion, and ethics. His famous and important commentary on the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, required 14 volumes. Maimonides aptly titled another of his books, which presented some of his own views, The Guide for the Perplexed. Islam was another important influence on many medieval philosophers, such as Ibn Sina (ca. 980–1037), whose name is often given as Avicenna; and Ibn Rushd, or Averroës (1126–1198). Both of these thinkers reflected the curiosity that is a philosopher’s chief characteristic: They seemed to be interested in everything. Ibn Sina was particularly interested in questions pertaining to logic, physics, astronomy, law, theology, and geology, and as a practicing physician he also made fundamental contributions to medicine. Like Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd was what is known as a polymath—someone who has significant knowledge of many different subjects. His interests included logic, natural science, medicine, theology, mathematics, and psychology. Therefore, while Christianity was the dominant influence on philosophy in the Europe of the Middle Ages, elsewhere Judaism and Islam played similar roles. The relationship between religion and philosophy was the central source of philosophical issues, and religion provided various methods to understand those issues. With time, an alternative way of thinking about philosophical questions would lead to the development of what is known as modern philosophy. Modern Philosophy The “modern” period of philosophy is usually dated from around 1600 to around 1800. Sometimes, the births of philosophers themselves are used to indicate when this period began—either René Descartes (1596–1650) or Francis Bacon (1561–1626). Similarly, the death of G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) is often regarded as the end of modern philosophy. Several great events, or changes, marked the development of modern philosophy, and each had a profound effect not just on philosophy but on the culture, politics, and history of Europe. It is not surprising, then, that each of these developments was resisted. First, the Reformation challenged the authority of the Roman Catholic Church and led to the development of Protestantism and mos81165_01_c01.indd 13 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? CHAPTER 1 a distinct conception of the relationship between God and human beings. In addition to causing a variety of religious wars, including the devastating Thirty Years’ War, the Reformation suggested that one could challenge the authority of the church. Second, a different kind of challenge to the church’s authority arose with the development of natural science, perhaps most famously Nicolaus Copernicus’s (1473–1543) heliocentric hypothesis, which viewed the earth as one of a set of planets revolving around the sun and challenged the Album/Oronoz/Album/SuperStock geocentric hypothesis, which placed the earth at the center of the universe. Copernicus’s heliocentric hypothesis—that the earth Other scientists defended this heliocen- orbits the sun—is an example of how science began to tric view; Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) challenge the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. spent the last 10 years of his life under house arrest for doing so, in fact. The observations of astronomers not only challenged the church’s authority on issues of science, but also led to the important intellectual result that Aristotle’s conception of the universe (and his other “scientific claims”) might, in fact, be wrong, indicating that science should look to evidence and reason, rather than to the authority of Aristotle, to discover its truths. Third, of great significance for philosophers, was the reintroduction of classical, Pyrrhonic skepticism, a radical view that challenged whether any claim could be shown to be true. After its reintroduction in the 16th century, philosophers were constantly aware of the challenge presented by skepticism and recognized that it must be defeated in order to establish any claim as true. Empiricism The modern period is traditionally regarded as being dominated by two competing philosophical approaches: empiricism and rationalism. Empiricism, particularly prominent in English-speaking countries, insisted that our knowledge ultimately comes from our senses. What we know, then, has its roots in how we interact with the world by seeing, hearing, and touching. This sensory information provides the information that our mind can then analyze and judge. Empiricists regarded the human mind at birth as a blank slate and thus rejected the idea that we are born with, or have, innate ideas. It is important to understand that empiricism does not suggest we do not need a mind, for the human mind plays an indispensable role in how we understand the world. Rather, empiricism insists that the contents of our mind ultimately have their source in the world of experience, which we gain through our senses. John Locke (1632–1704), George Berkeley (1685–1753), and David Hume (1711–1776) are the three traditional representatives of empiricism. In his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume (1910) writes: Man is a reasonable being, and as such he gets appropriate food and nourishment from the pursuit of knowledge; but so narrow are the limits of human understanding that we can’t hope for any great amount of knowledge or for much security in respect of what we do know. As well as being reasonable, mos81165_01_c01.indd 14 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? CHAPTER 1 man is a sociable being; but he can’t always enjoy—indeed can’t always want— agreeable and amusing company. Man is also an active being; and from that disposition of his, as well as from the various necessities of human life, he must put up with being busy at something; but the mind requires some relaxation, and can’t always devote itself to careful work. It seems, then, that nature has pointed out a mixed kind of life as most suitable for the human race, and has secretly warned us not to tilt too far in any of these directions and make ourselves incapable of other occupations and entertainments. “Indulge your passion for knowledge,” says nature, “but seek knowledge of things that are human and directly relevant to action and society. As for abstruse thought and profound researches, I prohibit them, and if you engage in them I will severely punish you by the brooding melancholy they bring, by the endless uncertainty in which they involve you, and by the cold reception your announced discoveries will meet with when you publish them. Be a philosopher, but amidst all your philosophy be still a man.” (sec. 1) Hume argues here that human beings should not go to extremes, whether in seeking knowledge (being reasonable), in seeking entertainment (being sociable) or in working (being active). Rather, one should combine these pursuits in an appropriate way (a “mixed kind of life”). Rationalism In contrast, rationalism puts much greater emphasis on the mind, and on reason, and understands sensory information to be either less important or to potentially interfere with our ability to discover fundamental philosophical truths. For instance, one might see that a stick halfsubmerged in water looks broken (due to the effect of refraction), yet our mind knows, or judges, that it is not. Rationalists, then, focused on the mind and what it could do, simply by examining its own content and the results of that examination. Mathematics is an excellent example of what can be accomplished by reasoning alone. It is no accident that two of the great rationalist thinkers were brilliant, world-class mathematicians: René Descartes invented analytic geometry, and Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716) invented calculus (along with Isaac Newton; 1642–1726). The third traditional great rationalist, Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), worked as a lens grinder, which required substantial mathematical knowledge. Rationalists do not reject the information we gain through the senses, but they do not regard it as the chief source of our most important philosophical truths, and they insist that such sensory information cannot justify those truths. Rather, our most important and eternal claims—about ourselves, others, the world, God—can only be discovered and justified by reason. Great Ideas: Rationalism and Mathematics Largely because of the philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, modern philosophy is often represented as consisting of empiricism and rationalism, with each school represented by three major figures. John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume are representative of the empiricists, and René Descartes, Baruch Spinoza, and Gottfried Leibniz are representative of the rationalists. It is worth contrasting the mathematical achievements of these philosophers and considering whether rationalism and mathematics have a conceptual relationship. (continued) mos81165_01_c01.indd 15 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? CHAPTER 1 Great Ideas: Rationalism and Mathematics (continued) Table 1.1 Rationalism and mathematics Mathematical accomplishment Empiricist Locke nothing significant Berkeley raised some interesting criticisms of calculus Hume nothing significant Rationalist Descartes invented analytic geometry (Cartesian coordinates) Spinoza very knowledgeable of contemporary mathematics; knew sophisticated optics for his profession (lens grinder); modeled his ethics book on Euclid’s Elements of Geometry Leibniz generally credited (along with Isaac Newton) with inventing calculus It is worth considering the relationship between a rationalist’s distinctive approach to philosophy and these groundbreaking mathematical achievements (particularly of Descartes and Leibniz). Some see the modern period as concluding not with G. W. F. Hegel but with Immanuel Kant (1724–1804). In many ways Kant is seen as combining aspects of both empiricism and rationalism, while rejecting what he regarded as an overemphasis on either the senses or the mind as fundamental. Kant instead understood that human experience needs both and that the senses and the mind must work together. Kant insisted there were certain rules we must recognize as true, but that such rules are meaningless without incorporating the content provided by the senses. Thus one could only genuinely make an informed judgment about an event by presupposing cause and effect; in that way, we have a causal rule that allows us to interpret sensible content as an event, in this case as one involving a causal relation. Kant, then, argues for rules that are absolutely necessary and universal rules that make experience possible. Universal Images Group/SuperStock Kant also argued that there were absolutely necesImmanuel Kant believed that both the sary commands in moral philosophy, which he called mind and the senses were required to “categorical imperatives” (Kant, 1998). For instance, engage with the human experience. Kant said that that there is an imperative to not lie; this holds categorically for all human beings. He also insisted that moral philosophy required a fundamentally different approach to examining the world and what we know about it. Thus, in contrast to both the rationalists and empiricists, Kant did not speak in terms of “knowing” that we should respect others as human beings or that we mos81165_01_c01.indd 16 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? CHAPTER 1 can claim to know the existence of God. Rather, these were fundamentally moral claims and thus required different ways of understanding things than might be found in knowing, for instance, that 2 + 2 = 4 or that a ball thrown into the air will fall back to the earth in a generally predictable way. Kant produced fundamental achievements in the theory of knowledge, metaphysics, ethics, and the philosophy of art. For this he is frequently regarded, along with Plato and Aristotle, as indispensable to our understanding of what philosophy is and what philosophy can accomplish, as well as the important recognition of what philosophy cannot accomplish. Contemporary Philosophy Contemporary philosophy refers to the body of thought that was produced after 1900, though others use a somewhat earlier date. Few thinkers have had more contemporary influence than Karl Marx (1818–1883), Charles Darwin (1809–1882), Sigmund Freud (1856–1939), and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), all of whom wrote, at least in part, in the 19th century. Yet if modern philosophy ends with Hegel’s death in 1831, these writers would lie somewhere between the modern and the contemporary. Again we see that these labels and dates should not be treated as hard and fast distinctions. Contemporary philosophy is marked by the increasing attention paid to language, a greater emphasis on the role of mathematics and science, and the development of new methods for posing and exploring philosophical questions. It is impossible to briefly summarize contemporary philosophy, but we can look at two central approaches that have dominated it: Continental and analytic philosophy. It should be noted, however, that these labels are used mostly for convenience, and it is risky to put too much emphasis on them. Continental Philosophy Continental philosophy is so called because of its particular importance in Europe, specifically France and Germany; however, important analytic philosophers also lived and worked in Europe. Continental philosophy adopts as its focus the human condition; it tends to use formal and mathematical logic less often and is much more likely to express its ideas in literature than other traditions. It is often seen as having a substantial interest in cultural, political, and historical issues and the philosophical assumptions our understanding of those issues involves. It investigates the condition of being human in a world that may not be best, or wholly, explained by natural science. Many distinct philosophical traditions are lumped together, perhaps unfairly, as Continental. Chief among them are phenomenology and existentialism. The most prominent representative of phenomenology is Edmund Husserl (1859–1938), while his one-time pupil, Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) is representative of both phenomenology and existentialism. Phenomenology emphasizes the consciousness one has of being in the world, and what first-person, or subjective, reflection tells us about what is given to that consciousness. Connected with, but also distinct from phenomenology, existentialism insists that human beings provide their own meaning in a world that may well not otherwise have meaning. These philosophers emphasize the importance of the fact that human beings are radically free and must make choices without being very confident about where or to what those choices will lead. Many existentialists were atheists, but there were also Christian existentialists; perhaps the most famous Christian existentialist was Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), who insisted that one who chose God did so on the basis of a “leap of faith.” A number of other traditions—such as various versions of Marxism, as well as important developments in feminism, literary theory, and philosophical anthropology—are often regarded as part of this Continental conception of philosophy. mos81165_01_c01.indd 17 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? CHAPTER 1 Analytic Philosophy In contrast to Continental philosophy, analytic philosophy, which tends to be the dominant tradition in England, the United States, and Canada, tends to focus on specific details and uses the techniques of formal logic and the results of natural science in order to explore philosophical issues. Analytic philosophy also emphasizes the importance of language for understanding philosophical issues; an analytic philosopher is often just as likely to examine whether a seemingly well-posed philosophical question is meaningful as he or she is to try to answer that question. Gottlob Frege (1848–1925), Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), and G. E. Moore (1873–1958) are traditionally identified as important thinkers who gave rise to analytic philosophy. Another influential thinker for this tradition was Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951), who famously insisted in his Philosophical Investigations (1951) that most “philosophical” questions were really traps presented by language. Wittgenstein argued that if we looked carefully at how we use our language, questions that seem important and difficult may well be revealed not even to be meaningful questions at all. As Wittgenstein (1951) observed, philosophy really begins when “language goes on holiday” (sec. 23); that is, if we paid more attention to the fact that words have their meaning because of how we use them to communicate with each other, most (or maybe all) philosophical questions would disappear. Wittgenstein might suggest, then, that rather than working very hard to discover the meaning of free will and all of the complicated issues it implies, we should see how this term is used in ordinary conversation and what people mean by the term when they talk with each other. Contemporary philosophy flourishes today. It constantly develops new ways of looking at problems, as well as considers the philosophical implications of technology, new forms of communication, and an increasingly interdependent and globalized planet. Philosophers continue to present their results in books, journals, and conferences, but philosophers have also exploited the resources of the Internet to continue the conversation. It seems that the problems philosophy confronts are the same concerns it has always dealt with, such as the nature of the human mind, the role of faith and reason, and how we should make moral evaluations of ourselves and others. (See Table 1.2 for a summary of key figures and major ideas in philosophy.) At the same time, new developments mean that philosophers must be flexible enough to take those advances into account. Whether philosophers include the discoveries of molecular genetics into their discussion of the human soul or examine the challenges presented to the question of euthanasia by new medical technology, contemporary philosophy will continue to combine traditional inquiry with understanding how these developments can affect that inquiry. mos81165_01_c01.indd 18 1/6/14 2:35 PM CHAPTER 1 Section 1.1 What Is Philosophy? Table 1.2 Concept review: History of philosophy Key figures Dates Major idea Ancient philosophy—pre-Socratics Thales ca. 624–ca. 546 Everything is water. bce Heraclitus ca. 535–ca. 475 Everything is in motion. bce Parmenides Flourished early 5th century bce Nothing real is in motion. Pythagoras ca. 570–ca. 495 Mathematics explains nature. bce Ancient philosophy—classical philosophers Socrates 469–399 bce People must critically examine their own lives. Plato ca. 428/427–ca. 348/347 bce Reality lies beyond what humans experience. Aristotle 384 bce–322 bce Reason and actual exploration of the world can help explain our deepest truths about the world. Medieval philosophers Saint Augustine 354–430 Platonic-inspired Christian worldview. Ibn Sina ca. 980–1037 Brilliant thinker and writer on medicine, Islamic thought, science, and many other fields. Ibn Rushd 1126–1198 One truth about the world; it can be attained either through religion or through philosophy. Moses Maimonides 1135–1204 Expert on Jewish ethics and textual interpretation, each providing guidance for one’s life. Saint Thomas Aquinas 1225–1274 Aristotelian-influenced Christian worldview. Modern philosophers René Descartes 1596–1650 Reason reveals the fundamental truths about the world, as guaranteed by God. John Locke 1632–1704 Nothing is in the mind before it is in the senses. David Hume 1711–1776 Except for mathematics, our knowledge is understood in terms of degrees of certainty, from very high to very low certainty. Immanuel Kant 1724–1804 Experience requires both necessary concepts and content provided by a world we do not create. Contemporary philosophers mos81165_01_c01.indd 19 Martin Heidegger 1889–1976 The understanding (and misunderstanding) of being, and concern about death, inform our place in the world. Ludwig Wittgenstein 1889–1951 Our understanding of the world is mediated by language, and we understand language by seeing how it is actually used. 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.2 What Do Philosophers Think About? CHAPTER 1 1.2 What Do Philosophers Think About? S ince Socrates, philosophers have been willing to ask questions and seek answers, attempting to find the truth while recognizing that this search can be frustrating. Socrates and Examination Socrates was, as they say, a little different. He lived in Athens, a society where one was celebrated for being able to talk beautifully and forcefully in public; Socrates, however, chose to speak in a very ordinary, down-to-earth way and in private. Fame awaited those who achieved political power and prominence; Socrates chose not to participate in political affairs at all. An important aspect of being an excellent Athenian was to be handsome; Socrates was happy to describe himself as rather ugly. Some 2,400 years later, we continue to read about his life and consider the dialogues in which Socrates’s views are presented, while the handsome, well-spoken, and politically powerful Athenians are long forgotten. It is worth considering why. Socrates was put on trial and was executed after losing the argument. During his trial he famously declared that “the unexamined life is not worth living for human beings” (Plato, 1997, para. 38a). This may be a good indication of why Socrates is such a remarkable character; while on trial for his life, he insisted that living correctly is much more important than simply being alive. His trial, presented by Plato as Apology—apology meaning “defense”—is really Socrates’s defense of the philosophical life. It is a life that refuses to accept easy answers, inquires after what is true, and seeks to determine the right way to live. It is a life devoted to philosophical examination of his own beliefs and those of others. In one of Plato’s very early dialogues, Socrates confronts a young man named Euthyphro. Euthyphro’s father has inadvertently caused the death of one of his workers, and Euthyphro has come to court to bring his father up on legal charges. Treating one’s father this way, particularly in Athens, would seem to violate a very important part of Athenian religious practice, and thus would be impious. When Socrates asks Euthyphro about this, however, Euthyphro insists he is doing the pious thing. Naturally, Socrates suggests that if Euthyphro is so knowledgeable about what is and is not pious, perhaps he can answer Socrates’s simple question: What is piety? Fine Art Images/SuperStock The famous painting The Death of Socrates by French artist Jacques-Louis David depicts Socrates before he drinks hemlock, surrounded by his mourning followers. Even while on trial for his life, Socrates declared that living correctly was more important than simply living. Part of Socrates’s charm, but also what may make him a bit aggravating, is his tendency to claim that he has no expert knowledge of anything. Indeed, he insists that the only thing he truly knows is that he does not know anything! When reading Plato’s dialogues, it appears that Socrates is actually quite brilliant and able to defeat virtually any argument he encounters. Socrates is often regarded as being ironic, in that he claims not to know anything but really does. mos81165_01_c01.indd 20 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.2 What Do Philosophers Think About? CHAPTER 1 Of course, his standards for knowing something are extremely high, and as it turns out, few can satisfy Socrates’s standards for knowledge or defend their view against his criticism. Yet this reveals the genuine gift that Socrates presents to philosophy: the insatiable curiosity and desire to know, the unending inquiry into questions that may never be fully answered, and a willingness to engage in debate over the most important issues in one’s life. Great Ideas: The Euthyphro Question In the early Platonic dialogue Euthyphro, Socrates engages in the kind of conversation for which he is still famous. Here, discussing the question of piety with Euthyphro, a man who is bringing charges of manslaughter against his father, Socrates asks Euthyphro if this is a pious thing to do. Bringing such charges against one’s own father might seem impious today; it certainly would have to the Athenians. Euthyphro confidently responds that it is pious, implying that he knows what piety is. As he so often does, Socrates asks a question that seems fairly simple: What is piety? After a few stumbling attempts to respond, Socrates eventually gets Euthyphro to consider this question: “The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods.” This is a question that continues to be discussed by philosophers, theologians, and many others. For it seems to set up a dilemma, now known as Euthyphro’s dilemma: If something is pious because the gods love it, then anything that the gods love would be holy, or pious. (Leading to the worry that the gods could declare their love for something that seems very wrong, or silly, yet it would still be holy, or pious.) If the gods love something because it is pious, then we have a standard, independent of god, for what is and is not holy and pious. (Thus the gods would also have to accept that standard, and would not, themselves, be the standard of what is holy.) Something is either pious or impious. Therefore piety is itself arbitrary (based on whatever the gods think) or independent of the gods (making their endorsement superfluous). (Cooper) Reflection Questions: 1. Do you think there is a way out of this dilemma? 2. How might someone defend a notion of piety against this dilemma? 3. Does replacing Athenian polytheism (the gods) with monotheism (God) change the structure of the dilemma? Socrates, therefore, presents a challenge to all of us. Can we defend our own beliefs? What justifies the things we believe? Should we simply accept what others tell us? If we accept answers from someone else, what makes that person an authority? Should we examine our lives, values, and beliefs? What are the implications if we do not? Do we have the energy, stamina, and courage to submit our most cherished beliefs to critical scrutiny? If we do not, what does that tell us about our beliefs and our reasons for having them? If we are willing to examine our beliefs, what do we do if confronted with a criticism we cannot refute? These are fundamental philosophical mos81165_01_c01.indd 21 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.2 What Do Philosophers Think About? CHAPTER 1 questions Socrates suggests we consider. If he is right, only this kind of examined life will be worth living for human beings. Philosophical Questions As we have seen, philosophers such as Ibn Sina and Aristotle were interested, more or less, in everything. In fact, there are few issues to which philosophers do not have something to offer, or think they do, and this means there are numerous philosophical investigations into all sorts of topics. One can find philosophical explorations of engineering, military science, law, information science, mathematics, and history; some schools even offer courses on the philosophy of physical education. Here we will focus on traditional areas of philosophy, including knowledge, conduct, and religion. The study of human knowledge is called epistemology, which investigates the wide range of issues involved when a person is said to know something. To know something is distinct from believing something; I may believe I am going to win the lottery, but that is quite different than knowing I am going to win the lottery. Few questions are more important for humans than those that arise about how they behave toward each other. Parents spend a great deal of time trying to teach their children to behave in certain, specific ways and not to behave in other ways. We may not know what another person believes, but we may be quick to object to what that person does. We also generally think we should act in accordance with certain rules; the sensation of guilt comes from our recognition that we have failed to do so. The systematic study of these rules for behavior and conduct, for ourselves and for others, is called ethics. Some of the most profound, enduring, and difficult questions philosophers (and others) consider are those that arise in the context of religious discussions. Such questions are seen as so significant that they have received as much or more attention from philosophers than any other. The topics they raise, however, are sufficiently personal and sensitive that many people feel uncomfortable merely talking about religion with people they do not know very well, let alone arguing about it. The philosophy of religion seeks to investigate these and many other questions that arise within the context of faith and attempts to provide arguments and justifications for various conclusions. It provides a rich opportunity for discussion about topics that are often regarded as the most important a person can consider, but it also confronts believers and nonbelievers alike with challenges that can lead to substantial frustration and profound rewards. Other Disciplines of Philosophy Although this text focuses on epistemology, metaphysics, religion, aesthetics, and ethics, there are several other large areas of philosophy to be aware of. These areas are themselves sufficiently rich and interesting that they require separate study. Many find, after studying some traditional topics of philosophy, that even more fascinating material lies in these other subdisciplines of philosophy. The following is a brief introduction to some of these disciplines. Logic Logic is the study of reasoning and how we think; logicians offer various accounts of what rules human reason must follow to be coherent. Symbolic logic, in particular, uses symbols instead of words in order to focus on the structural elements of reason. In so doing, close connections between symbolic logic and mathematics have developed; indeed, one frequently encounters mos81165_01_c01.indd 22 1/6/14 2:35 PM CHAPTER 1 Section 1.2 What Do Philosophers Think About? the term mathematical logic to refer to the rigorous and highly technical study of logic. In contrast, informal logic, or critical reasoning, is a less technical exploration of how humans reason and usually includes an account of the many mistakes humans make in doing so. These mistakes are known as fallacies; studying them provides a valuable way to understand how we can avoid these mistakes and improve our reasoning abilities. Great Ideas: How Logicians Might Look at an Argument Often, logicians will focus exclusively on the structure of an argument (the argument’s syntax), which allows them to ignore some of the complications in the meanings of the words involved—the argument’s semantics (at least beyond the minimum semantics of true and false)—or even the context in which the argument is put forth (the argument’s pragmatics) and just evaluate whether the argument is valid. One of the best ways of doing this is by using symbols, and this is often the focus in symbolic or mathematical logic. The following gives you a brief example of how such an attempt might be undertaken. Take this argument in English: If I live in Albuquerque, then I live in New Mexico, and if I live in New Mexico, then I live in the United States. If I live in the United States, then I live in North America. Since I live in Albuquerque, I live in the United States. We can symbolize each of these component sentences: A: I live in Albuquerque M: I live in New Mexico U: I live in the United States N: I live in North America We can now write the argument as follows, listing our reasons as premises and indicating the conclusion with “therefore”: If A, then M If M, then U If U, then N A therefore N Logicians also have a symbol for “if . . . then . . .,” also known as the conditional or material implication. (Logicians also have standard symbols for “not,” “or,” “and,” and “if and only if.”) We can use the arrow, “→,” to represent the “if . . . then.. . .” Therefore, “P → Q” is read as “If P then Q.” (continued) mos81165_01_c01.indd 23 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.2 What Do Philosophers Think About? CHAPTER 1 Great Ideas: How Logic Might Look at an Argument (continued) So we can now write the argument this way, now listing our premises and separating them from the conclusion with a line: A→M M→U U→N A N As you can see, this final version writes the argument using only symbols; this allows us to look at its structure without having to look at anything else. Reflection Questions: 1. Do you see any advantages to being able to look at arguments in this way? 2. Symbolic logic may look a bit odd and even intimidating at first, but it can often be quite helpful. One way of thinking about this is to consider the following problems. The symbols below may also have appeared, at some point, as odd and intimidating, but which of the following problems would you prefer to solve? A. Seven hundred thirty-seven thousand nine hundred eight plus two hundred forty-nine thousand seven hundred fourteen plus thirty-three thousand three hundred thirty-three equals what? B. 737, 908 + 249, 714 + 33, 333 =? Political Philosophy Political philosophy is the rigorous and systematic examination of various ways societies and communities are structured (or could be structured). Political philosophers look at what makes a society just or unjust and what the advantages and disadvantages of various systems may be. Thus, in one political view, private property and individual rights may be fundamental, but from another perspective they may be criticized as contributing to an insufficiently robust sense of community. Similarly, a political theory may eliminate private property and be criticized as being oppressive of a human being’s natural right to liberty. Philosophy of Mind The philosophy of mind examines the nature of the mind and its abilities; in some perspectives this may also include an examination of the human soul and what the relationship is, if any, between the mind and the soul. With the development of such disciplines as evolutionary biology, cognitive science, computer science, and evolutionary psychology, the philosophy of mind is one of the most active fields in contemporary philosophical research. Philosophy of Language The philosophy of language investigates the role language plays in human understanding and behavior. It explores how people are able to communicate with each other, what assumptions mos81165_01_c01.indd 24 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.2 What Do Philosophers Think About? CHAPTER 1 must be made to adequately understand that communication, and why there are fundamental difficulties, on occasion, in our understanding each other. At its most abstract, philosophy of language seeks to show how our understanding of the world is fundamentally connected to the language we use to describe and explain that world, in order to clarify philosophical claims and philosophical puzzles. Philosophy of Science The philosophy of science looks at philosophical issues associated with scientific methodology in general, such as what constitutes sufficient confirmation of a hypothesis or what is required for a satisfactory scientific explanation. There are also branches within the philosophy of science that explore questions arising within specific disciplines, including both natural science (such as the philosophy of physics and the philosophy of biology) and the social sciences (such as the philosophy of economics). A philosopher of physics may investigate the nature of time or the relationship between classical dynamics and quantum mechanics in terms of explanatory success; a philosopher of economics may investigate whether it is plausible to assume that markets are efficient or whether agents act for reasons other than their own self-interest. As is probably clear, there is a great deal of overlap between and among the various subdisciplines of philosophy. A person working in metaphysics may offer an account of human freedom that has important consequences for ethics—after all, our notion of responsibility is radically altered if one is not free—as well as religion. Ethics will have significant consequences for political philosophy; if treating another human being as property is morally wrong, a just political system must be structured so it is prohibited. If your mind, or brain, perceives certain colors as pleasing and others as disagreeable, that may indicate why you prefer one kind of painting to another when making an aesthetic evaluation. Thus, in studying philosophy, we often focus on one specific subdiscipline or another. However, it is also important to analyze the ways in which one area can have significant and substantial repercussions in one or more of the other related subdisciplines. The Never-Ending Search for Answers Philosophy, more than most disciplines, spends a great deal of time thinking, discussing, and arguing about what exactly philosophy is and what it can accomplish. Few accounting courses spend very much time delving into the nature of accounting; very little time is spent in a chemistry classroom arguing about what precisely is meant by the term chemistry. Yet this kind of selfreflection is common in philosophy. Philosophers sometimes even joke about it: the well-known philosopher Jerry Fodor (b. 1935) has described his discipline as “the cure for which there is no adequate disease” (as cited in Dworkin, 2009). Another, David Hills, describes philosophy as “the ungainly attempt to tackle questions that come naturally to children, using methods that come naturally to lawyers” (as cited in Dworkin, 2009). This can lead to very frustrating experiences: The questions, even when answered, simply lead to still more questions. Furthermore, philosophers are rarely satisfied with the answers provided; sometimes they are not even satisfied by their own answers! We seem left with a situation in which we examine and inquire, only to generate more questions, more disputed answers, and more argument, without any genuine sense that these things will be resolved. mos81165_01_c01.indd 25 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.2 What Do Philosophers Think About? CHAPTER 1 Great Ideas: Philosophy’s Frustrations Philosophy can be very frustrating, for a number of reasons: • • • • • Philosophers rarely seem satisfied with the answers they are given. Philosophers never seem to run out of questions. Philosophers often seem critical of those who are not interested in philosophy. The questions philosophers are interested in are often extremely difficult. The questions in which philosophers are interested may not have answers, or at least may not have answers everyone will accept. These issues are all related when we consider what philosophers examine and how they go about investigating those things. The questions themselves are challenging and may have many different answers; it seems unlikely that, because of the nature of philosophical questions, we should expect people to accept a single answer to such questions. Also, any such response that might seem acceptable to many is still open to criticism and interpretation. It is not entirely inappropriate to compare philosophers to young children: Both are full of wonder and questions, and both can be a bit aggravating at times. If you have ever run out of answers when talking with a child who insists on asking “Why? Why? Why?” you have a pretty good sense of what it must have been like talking with Socrates and many other philosophers. At the same time, philosophy deals with questions that are fundamentally and remarkably interesting and that inevitably lead to distinct responses from distinct thinkers and traditions. We should not expect that everyone will agree on the answers to the questions that may be the most important ones we can ask. However, this is a reflection of human beings’ curiosity, and the desire to investigate these fundamental questions and offer responses to them is part of philosophy’s charm. Some may be tempted just to ignore philosophy and a philosophical approach. Yet it may well be worth asking whether the genuinely horrible things people have done to each other in human history were the result of thinking too much or too little. Might there be hope that fewer atrocities would happen if we took a little more time to understand our actions and their effects on others? Do we have an intellectual obligation to examine our beliefs to determine if they are justified? Frustrating as philosophy might be, it is worth considering the topics involved. Here are just a few standard philosophical questions: • • • • • Do I have a soul? Is there a God? Is there an afterlife? Why do good people suffer? Why do wicked people prosper? It is worth considering just how difficult these questions are and how much is involved in trying to provide a satisfactory response. There are different ways of reacting to such questions, of course. For instance, one might simply insist that whatever one thinks is correct, and ignore any other views or criticism. This is a view known as dogmatism, and it brings with it certain risks. The dogmatist must be correct, know that he or she is correct, and thus know that any other, conflicting views must be wrong. That is quite a claim to be able to make for a finite human being, given our familiarity with error. The dogmatic unwillingness to investigate one’s beliefs seems less a mark of wisdom than the height of intellectual arrogance. A related response does not insist that its views are correct, but merely that a person lacks the time, energy, or intellectual mos81165_01_c01.indd 26 1/6/14 2:35 PM Section 1.3 Summary and Resources CHAPTER 1 curiosity to examine his or her own beliefs. Rather than arrogance, this seems to be intellectual cowardice; what does it tell us about a person’s beliefs if the person cannot suggest any particularly good reasons for holding them and is unwilling to examine if they are worth believing? Yet another response is to suggest that nothing can ever be known, a position adopted by a specific kind of radical skeptic. To adopt such an attitude at the outset of studying philosophy is to give up a bit too easily, however. It also avoids the risk of running into the problem of wondering, how can I know that I cannot know anything? (Philosophical skepticism, on the other hand, is usually the result of a great deal of effort and is a position seen as requiring some sort of defense or justification.) Philosophers resist these positions, for they want to understand themselves, others, and the world in which they find themselves. Philosophers are more than willing to admit that the issues they explore are difficult; but as can be seen from the questions above, they are very important issues and deserve examination. The philosopher accepts frustration as part of the search for answers; it is both the challenge and the attraction of philosophy and, as Socrates insisted, is what makes the examined life worth living. The discussion, argument, and debate over such topics can help make clear, or clearer, what our own beliefs are and to what extent we can defend them. Philosophy may be a search for answers to questions that will always endure, but achieving greater clarity and understanding of ourselves can itself be a remarkably satisfying accomplishment. 1.3 Summary and Resources Chapter Highlights • Philosophy, which comes from two Greek words that mean “the love of wisdom,” is the systematic attempt to answer the general questions human beings have always asked and the debate that naturally follows each proposed answer. • Philosophers tend to be interested in almost everything one can raise questions about, including humanity, existence, intelligence, and society, among many other topics. • Classical Western philosophy begins with the pre-Socratics, including Thales (considered the father of philosophy), Parmenides, Heraclitus, and Pythagoras. • One of the most influential Western philosophers is Socrates, whose student Plato recorded the conversations Socrates had as he wandered about Athens searching for truth and knowledge through dialogue with others. Socrates was persecuted for his beliefs and teachings, a process that was recorded by Plato in Apology. Plato became an important philosopher in his own right; his book The Republic is one of the most influential books in the history of political philosophy. Plato’s student Aristotle played a fundamental role in setting the agenda for philosophy, including what kinds of questions philosophy should examine and how it should go about examining them. • Originating in Plato’s school long after his death, the skeptics provided a counterpoint to the traditional doctrine by questioning whether human beings were even capable of knowing and understanding the fundamental philosophical truths and whether there were such truths to be known and understood in the first place. • Medieval philosophy is distinguished primarily by the birth of Jesus Christ. Religious and theological discussions dominate philosophy in this period, and much of classical philosophy was incorporated into philosophical discussions of Christian doctrine. Also at this time, Jewish and Muslim philosophers (among others) began to examine problems in medicine, religion, and ethics. mos81165_01_c01.indd 27 1/6/14 2:35 PM CHAPTER 1 Section 1.3 Summary and Resources Philosopher Vignette: Ludwig Wittgenstein Many philosophers regard Ludwig Wittgenstein as one of the most influential—if not the most influential—philosopher of the 20th century. He had a very distinctive writing style that generally consisted of remarks or notes of varying lengths, which he carefully arranged (particularly for his two published works, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and Part One of Philosophical Investigations). One of Wittgenstein’s views explored in what is known as his later philosophy is that one can only determine the meaning of a word by seeing how that word is used in its particular context and to what extent it successfully communicates an idea. He often made his points by drawing comparisons with wellknown, ordinary objects. In this passage, we see a brief glance of both his writing style and how he goes about explaining how words can be seen to mean something. Hulton Archive/Getty Images Ludgwig Wittgenstein Words and chess pieces are analogous; knowing how to use a word is like knowing how to move a chess piece. Now how do the rules enter into playing the game? What is the difference between playing the game and aimlessly moving the pieces? I do not deny there is a difference, but I want to say that knowing how a piece is to be used is not a particular state of mind which goes on while the game goes on. The meaning of a word is to be defined by the rules for its use, not by the feeling that attaches to the words. (Wittgenstein, 1979) Philosopher Vignette: Socrates and Plato Although philosophy began before him, the widely recognized father of Western philosophy is Socrates. Socrates never wrote any philosophy. Instead, he wandered the streets of Athens talking about moral and ethical questions to which he sought answers. While Socrates never established a school, he had many student followers who liked to wander with him, listen to him question others, and also engage him in arguments. One of Socrates’s students was Plato, who captured in writing what we know about Socrates. Plato wrote a series of conversations that featured Socrates as the main character. These conversations are known as Plato’s dialogues. Philosophers and historians debate how much of this material came from Plato himself and how much is an interpretation of what Plato saw when he was SuperStock/SuperStock a student of Socrates. There is no doubt that Plato’s interactions Plato with Socrates influenced the way he wrote and the topics he presented in his dialogues. At the same time, as Plato developed as a writer, he started to use Socrates as a mouthpiece for his own ideas. This is why Socrates and Plato are typically discussed as a unit; we cannot consider one without the other. (continued) mos81165_01_c01.indd 28 1/6/14 2:36 PM Section 1.3 Summary and Resources CHAPTER 1 Philosopher Vignette: Socrates and Plato (continued) Plato’s Apology describes how Socrates began his quest for knowledge. In the text, Socrates claims that his friend Chaerephon visited the oracle at Delphi. The oracle was a woman who was said to know all things. People could ask the oracle questions, and many believed her answers were absolute truth. When Chaerephon asked the oracle who was the wisest person in Athens, she said there was none wiser than Socrates. Upon hearing this, Socrates was incredulous. He decided to search Athens for someone wiser to determine if what the oracle said was true. Socrates began to question all the people who were considered wisest in Athens. He asked them questions about difficult conSilvio Fiore/SuperStock cepts, like holiness. Then he asked for definitions and explanations of these terms. In most of the dialogues the questions Socrates do not end up being answered; many feature characters who display their ignorance of these concepts. However, these same people claim to know things that Socrates ultimately proves they do not know. Socrates’s search for wisdom takes him from the wisest people, to the politicians, to the military leaders, and finally to the common people. He finds that the oracle was correct, and Socrates realized that what made him wise was, in fact, the recognition that he was ignorant: that he did not possess the wisdom of a genuine expert. Many people say that Socrates claims that his wisdom is that he “knows nothing,” but this is not quite correct. Socrates says that he is wise because he does not claim to know things that he does not actually know. Certainly, Socrates knew that 2 + 2 = 4 and that he was a man. However, he did not claim to understand abstract concepts such as beauty and truth. In Athens he encountered people who claimed to understand such things, but when questioned, Socrates found they could not support their claims. Therefore, he concluded that his wisdom was rooted in the fact that he had the humility not to claim to know things that he did not know. His knowledge consists of his realization that he lacked genuine wisdom, or an expert’s knowledge, relative to the subjects he examined. Socrates’s words teach us the importance of intellectual humility. It is acceptable to admit when we do not know things. In fact, it is important to be truthful about our intellectual strengths and weaknesses. When we are honest with ourselves, we can begin the journey toward philosophical insight. What we see in the dialogues is a road map that demonstrates how to pursue answers to philosophical questions. Plato’s dialogues actually force the reader to become a participant. When reading the dialogues, most people think about their own answers to Socrates’s questions or their responses to those engaged in the discussion with Socrates. Despite the passage of 2,400 years, most of us struggle with the same questions and problems that haunted these ancient philosophers. Socrates began the method that has come to define Western philosophy. Plato’s masterful dialogues are among the most interesting and dynamic works in the history of philosophy. We owe much to these great thinkers, and as long as Western philosophy exists, it will recognize its fathers as Socrates and Plato. mos81165_01_c01.indd 29 1/6/14 2:36 PM Section 1.3 Summary and Resources CHAPTER 1 Case Study: How Good Thinkers Argue and What They Believe It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence. —W. K. Clifford Because of their right to free speech, many Americans believe they have a right to hold any opinion they wish. You might have heard someone say the phrase “we are all entitled to our opinions” to justify an unpopular or even offensive opinion—or you may have even said it yourself. But are all people really entitled to their opinions? In the quote, W. K. Clifford (1999) claims it is unethical to believe anything if one lacks sufficient evidence. There has been much debate about Clifford’s claim, but we can use it as a guide for philosophical thought. What does it mean to think like a philosopher? How does a philosopher approach the world and use evidence to make justified claims about that world? As we begin our journey into the world of philosophy, it is important to think about these questions and how a practitioner of philosophy would approach them. Philosophers are interested in presenting arguments for their positions. An argument for a philosopher is not a heated exchange with a lot of yelling, however. A philosophical argument is a list of reasons, such as factual evidence and logical reasoning, one has for supporting a definite conclusion. As a philosopher approaches an issue, he or she will attempt to examine multiple sides of the issue and to think outside of black-and-white distinctions. Philosophers try to get comfortable hovering in the realm of the gray. They realize the most difficult problems in human life and the life of the biosphere require complex answers that are often “messy.” The human mind desires the clarity that comes from thinking along the lines of 2 + 2 = 4. However, life is rarely that easy and clear-cut. Instead, coming to conclusions about big questions—such as how to live a good life; how to raise one’s children; whether one perceives reality in its fullness; what one ought to eat, drive, believe, own, and so on—requires much study and experience. Philosophers recognize when they have good evidence for their beliefs and are reluctant to make definitive statements in the absence of such evidence. Whether or not one agrees with Clifford’s claim about belief, he raises a good point. Every day, millions of people make decisions based on insufficient evidence. They claim that things are true or false without exerting the time, effort, and research required to justify those claims. They express opinions as if they were concrete truths. Yet from a philosopher’s perspective, such opinions are not truths, and people are thus not entitled to hold opinions when these are unsupported by logical reasoning and factual evidence. A simple example further illustrates why, from a philosophical standpoint, it appears that not everyone has a right to his or her opinion. Suppose I am a teacher in a class and I hate men. It is my opinion that men are evil and that they should all suffer. On the first day of class, I tell all the students that regardless of their work, all the women in the class will get As and all of the men will receive Fs. It is my opinion that all men deserve Fs. Does the fact that I have this opinion mean that I am entitled to it, though? Absolutely not. All the students would recognize that my opinion is unfair and unjustified (although some female students might be happy they got such a professor). This is an extreme example, but it makes the point clear: Certain criteria must be met for us to claim that someone is entitled to a specific opinion or position. (continued) mos81165_01_c01.indd 30 1/6/14 2:36 PM Section 1.3 Summary and Resources CHAPTER 1 Case Study: How Good Thinkers Argue and What They Believe (continued) As you move through this text and examine some of philosophy’s ultimate questions, try to open your mind to multiple positions. Think about the reasons you have for your beliefs; evaluate those reasons using the philosophical concepts you study in this course. Use what you learn about arguments and thinking to analyze the beliefs and arguments made by others. When someone disagrees with you, try not to take it personally. Instead, use their disagreement to think more deeply about the issue. If they have a stronger position, consider changing yours. Changing your opinion to believe a position that is supported by more and better evidence is by no means a sign of weakness, but an indication that you are thinking in a humble and fruitful manner. Philosophers try to maintain the ability to explore all possibilities. They continually ask why and keep searching when simple answers seem unsatisfying. We hope that as you work through this text you will feel the wonder that exists in the human mind in relation to the vast and complex world in which we find ourselves. Reflection Questions: 1. Have you ever or do you now believe something for which you have little or no evidence? Why do you believe it? 2. Has anyone ever gotten you to believe something that you later found out was false? What could you have done to not fall into that error? 3. How do you feel when someone disagrees with you? Do you feel personally attacked? How can you learn to be open to others, even when they disagree with you? 4. Have you experienced the wonder that the philosopher feels when thinking about these questions? Why does society try to replace that wonder with practical answers and simple distinctions? 5. Is thinking like a philosopher dangerous? Does it lead to giving up beliefs that have been held for a long time or does it help provide more strength for those beliefs? Both? Critical Thinking Questions 1. What kinds of things have you wondered about that philosophers have also spent time thinking about? 2. What distinguishes the answers philosophers provide from the kinds of answers an accountant or a chemist might offer? 3. Why is it important for a person to be able to defend his or her beliefs? 4. Now that you have read the chapter, how would you classify what a philosopher does when he or she thinks about problems? Do you think this mode of thinking is useful or unnecessary? Why? 5. What do you think Plato was trying to accomplish when he presented his allegory of the cave (Chapter Readings, Appendix)? As you read this text, what did this allegory make you think about in relation to the way you have thought and lived in society? Do you think it is an apt comparison to what we experience today, or have we emerged from the cave in ways that the Greeks had not? 6. Having read the sections on Aristotle’s conception of friendship (Chapter Readings, Appendix), what did you learn about what it means to be a friend? Do you have virtuous friends? Are you a virtuous friend? What are some things that you need to work on in order to attain a higher level of friendship from an Aristotelian perspective? mos81165_01_c01.indd 31 1/6/14 2:36 PM Section 1.3 Summary and Resources CHAPTER 1 7. Which pre-Socratic philosopher did you find most interesting? What were some of the ideas that intrigued you? How did they make you think about the nature of reality and what constitutes a good life? 8. Why do you think the Athenians wanted to get rid of Socrates? Does Socrates display intellectual care for knowledge, or is he arrogant? Why do you think he undertook a life of questioning? Additional Resources Ancient Greek Philosophy This website offers more detailed discussions of classical philosophy, including those philosophers after Aristotle known as Hellenistic philosophers: http://www.philosophy.gr Empiricists and Rationalists A quick summary of the different views held by empiricists and rationalists can be found here: http://www.mesacc.edu/~yount/text/empm-v-ratm.html Introduction to the Five Branches of Philosophy An overview of the basic components of philosophical inquiry is available here, with links to more detailed discussions of each: http://www.importanceofphilosophy.com/FiveBranchesMain.html Chapter Reading List Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu Fragments of Parmenides, Parmenides Fragments of Heraclitus, Heraclitus Apology, Plato The Republic, Plato Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle Confessions, Book 2, Saint Augustine Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas mos81165_01_c01.indd 32 1/6/14 2:36 PM Section 1.3 Summary and Resources CHAPTER 1 Key Terms aesthetics The philosophical study of beauty, particularly in art. opinion A belief not necessarily substantiated by facts or by reason. argument A set of reasons provided to support a claim or conclusion. phenomenology A philosophical view that emphasizes the subjective awareness and structure of experience. dogmatism The assertion of a claim on the basis of little or no evidence or consideration of objections to that claim. empiricism The philosophical view that all knowledge begins with experience. epistemology The study of knowledge; specifically, human knowledge. ethics The exploration of morality and the nature of human conduct. existentialism A philosophical view that focuses on the radical freedom of the human being and holds that one is responsible for one’s own meaning and actions. metaphysics Traditionally, the study of the fundamental questions about being and existence. pre-Socratics The set of philosophers in Greece, Italy, and Asia Minor who preceded Socrates. rationalism The philosophical perspective that emphasizes the essential role of reason in human understanding and the idea that truth is ultimately gained through reason. Socratic method A method in which Socrates and his conversational partner explore issues through a series of questions and answers. Thomism The philosophical view developed by Saint Thomas Aquinas and his followers, who were strongly influenced by the work of Aristotle. neo-Platonism A philosophical view strongly influenced by and developed from the writings of Plato; very influential in the history of Christianity. mos81165_01_c01.indd 33 1/6/14 2:36 PM mos81165_01_c01.indd 34 1/6/14 2:36 PM Purchase answer to see full attachment
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