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PHILOSOPHY PHILOSOPHY? “Thinking about thinking” The word “philosophy” is often used to refer to a set of dogmas or ideologies. Examples: “George Bush’s political philosophy” “Jim Tressel’s philosophy of team management” “Christian philosophy of the Trinity” “Buddhist philosophy of Karma” “My philosophy of taking every opportunity that presents itself!” Thus, you might guess that all you will be doing in this chapter is merely listening to and memorizing dogmas and ideologies. However, this chapter rather consists of subjecting dogmas and ideologies to critical thinking. That is philosophy! THE TOPICS IN THIS CHAPTER Relativism Skepticism and Existentialism Determinism, Freewill, and Moral Responsibility Great Philosophers PHILOSOPHY AS CRITICAL THINKING - THE HISTORICAL CASE OF SOCRATES - The first recognized philosopher, Socrates, lived in ancient Athens, discussing things like justice and virtues with anyone who would listen and talk. Anyone. He lived the slogan that philosophical reflection is the essence of everyone’s life. One of his famous claims is “Unexamined life is not worth living.” Through dialogues, Socrates subjects many common views to critical examination. His method consists of revealing the surprising and unwanted implications of these views, and having the defenders acknowledge that their views need revision. THE CASE OF SOCRATES This method of examination does not guarantee that the examiners arrive at certain knowledge. In fact, Socrates never claimed any special positive knowledge of justice, virtue and so on. Socrates famously stated: “I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.” Because he subjected people’s common views to critical examination, and often mused in making those in power look like fools, Socrates was tried in court and sentenced to death. PHILOSOPHY AS CRITICAL THINKING - THE HISTORICAL CASE OF PLATO One of Socrates’ students, Plato, thought that philosophical reflection should be guided by the exact and certain path to necessary truths – mathematics. The entrance to Plato’s Academy is marked with the phrase meaning “Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here.” Plato in effect downplays the methodology of Socrates as an uncertain path to knowledge. Because only a few can master math, Plato ends up denying Socrates’ view that philosophy is for everyone. The points of Plato’s tale are two: (1) philosophy tries to apply the best way of critical thinking (2) philosophy questions dogmas – whether held by the majority of people or just one individual. WHY STUDY PHILOSOPHY? If philosophy does not provide certain knowledge, what is the merit of studying it? A 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russell presents one possible answer: Philosophical reflections enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against thinking. RUSSELL, EXTENDED QUOTE: The value of philosophy is, in fact, to be sought largely in its very uncertainty. The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason…As soon as we begin to philosophize…we find…that even the most everyday things lead to problems which only very incomplete answers can be given. Philosophy…is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus…it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they [things] may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never traveled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect. (The Problems of Philosophy, Hackett, 1912, 156-7) CLASS ACTIVITY: Groups of 2 - 4 Use the extended quote from Russell and consider the following in a group discussion: 1) Why should we study philosophy (in your own words)? 2) Do you agree that, “(philosophy) removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never traveled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect.” ABSOLUTE TRUTHS Absolute truth: is defined as inflexible reality: fixed, invariable, unalterable facts. For example, it is a fixed, invariable, unalterable fact that there are absolutely no square circles and there are absolutely no round squares. Is there really such a thing as an absolute truth? Examples: Time and dates. We will all die. Love is always good. Hate is always bad. Mathematical formulas. Historical events. RELATIVISM? Relativism is the concept that points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration. Connecting quote: “Custom is king over all.” There are two major points to consider: The first point is the uncertainty between The claim of diversity: people’s actual beliefs and practices vary with their cultures; and, Cultural Relativism: what is true varies with cultures. Example- Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth? THE CLAIM OF DIVERSITY AND CULTURAL RELATIVISM The claim of diversity is plausible about some subjects, but cultural relativism is distinct from that claim. We should keep these views separate. Take morality for example. The claim of diversity about morality merely implies that people in different cultures have conflicting beliefs and different practices about morality. This is perhaps true. Cultural relativism about morality implies that true moral principles vary with cultures. This view is controversial. A SECOND POINT ABOUT RELATIVISM Cultural Relativism (“what is true varies with cultures”) is only one type of relativism. Another version of relativism makes truth relative to individuals. Individual(ist) Relativism: what is true varies with individuals. CLASS ACTIVITY: AN ARGUMENT FOR CULTURAL RELATIVISM (USING LOGIC) Individual Activity. Consider the following for a large group discussion: 1. People’s actual beliefs and practices vary with their cultures. (The claim of diversity) 2. Despite the differences, people are always convinced their views are true and their practices are best. (Ethnocentrism) ------------------------------------------- Therefore, what is true varies with cultures. (Cultural Relativism) SO…Diversity + Ethnocentrism = Cultural Relativism Is this argument plausible? GENERAL AND LOCAL RELATIVISM Some people hold what we might call General Relativism: truth about every subject matter is relative. Other people hold what we might call Local Relativism: truth about some subject matter – etiquette, morality, aesthetics, science etc. – is relative. THE PROBLEM OF DRAWING A LINE -CLASS ACTIVITY Get into groups of 2-4 and consider the following: If you were raised in Nazi Germany as part of the Hitler Youth, might you have turned out to be perfectly despicable people. If this is true, then can we properly blame the German participating in the war? More generally, can we properly blame immoral people brought up in a certain environment? Last question, does the advent of the internet and mass communication affect the outcomes of these arguments? If so, how? CONCLUSION ON RELATIVISM Relativism is one of the first philosophies, developed by the Sophists (followers of Plato and Socrates). Relativism is linked to all philosophical disciplines. Relativism also has a place in all the world’s religions, but lends itself more to the eastern religions we will uncover in the next chapter. People can and do change their moral views as they become reflective. That is one reason why some people can and do criticize dominant moral views and practices. SKEPTICISM? In philosophy, skepticism is an overall approach that requires all information to be well supported by evidence. Skeptics may even doubt the reliability of their own senses. Great skeptics include Rene Descartes and David Hume. RENE DESCARTES French Philosopher and mathematician-although he lived outside France for much of his life. Known as the father of modern philosophy Inspired Hobbs and Locke, Rousseau. Indirectly inspired all democratic revolutions. Most famous work, Discourse of the Method and Principles of Philosophy” 2 famous Quotes: “Question everything” (even your own existence) “I Think, Therefore I am” (so he believes he exists) DAVID HUME Scottish Philosopher Most Famous work completed at age 26: Treatise on Human Nature Concluded that human nature is driven by desire as opposed to reason-conflicting Descartes Also stated that humans are only as intelligent as their experiences; we cannot comprehend what we have not applied our senses to. Human life is a cycle of cause and effect Ethics: Said morality is driven by feelings, not principles Good friends with Adam Smith, assisted in writing The Wealth of Nations. SKEPTICISM IS THE DENIAL OF THE POSSIBILITY OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE: By definition, skepticism denies that we can have any knowledge. However, skepticism is compatible with our having reasonable beliefs. That is, reasonable beliefs based in empirical evidence can be accepted conditionally, but should always remain open to change. (World is flat, space is infinite) Skeptics believe nothing is absolute, everything is open to change THE POSSIBILITY OF AN ILLUSION: CLASS ACTIVITY Groups of 2-4. Discuss and debate in groups Skeptics point out that our perceptual experiences are fallible. What are two examples? 1. A straight stick looks bent in water 2. Mirages in the desert Does this possibility of illusion show that we cannot have any perceptual knowledge? EXISTENTIALISM? A 19th and 20th century philosophy that is centered upon the analysis of existence and of the way humans find themselves existing in the world. More simply, existentialism is a philosophy concerned with finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. The belief is that people are searching to find out who and what they are throughout life as they make choices based on their experiences, beliefs, and outlook. Major Existentialists include: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sarte KIERKEGAARD, NIETZSCHE, SARTE Soren Kierkegaard: 19th Century Danish Friedrich Nietzsche: 19th Century German Philosopher (1813-1855) Philosopher (1844-1900) Known best for his intense criticism of the Known best for his “will to power” modern church while supporting the philosophy. existence of God and Jesus. Basically, the natural condition of life is Famous Works: 18 volume set- Edifying one of profusion, so live life to the fullest. Discourse. This line of thinking killed him, literally. Famous Quote, “The thing is to find a Famous Quote, “There are no facts, only truth which is true for me, to find the idea interpretations” for which I can live and die" Jean-Paul Sartre: 20th Century French Philosopher (1905-1980) Most Famous Work, “Being and Nothingness” Said we live in a society of oppression and exploitation. Interesting: Won a Nobel Prize in literature, but refused to accept it, saying it would limit his freedom. EXISTENTIALISM = FREE THINKING The arbitrary act that existentialism finds most objectionable is when someone or society tries to impose or demand that their beliefs, values, or rules be faithfully accepted and obeyed. Existentialists believe this destroys individualism and makes a person become whatever the people in power desire, thus they are dehumanized and reduced to being an object. Existentialism then stresses that a person's judgment is the determining factor for what is to be believed rather than by arbitrary world values. DETERMINISM? Determinism– is the view that every event has a cause. In other words, everything that happens is “caused” to happen. Determinism is not fatalism. Fatalism holds that human action has no influence on events, everything is pre-determined and we are just acting out a pre-written script. Determinism does not deny that human action is the cause (or part of the cause). Some use science to refute determinism, specifically stating that quantum physics shows that determinism is false because according to the theory the movement of each particle at each moment has no cause. Others refute determinism by observing that humans deliberate, choose, think, confront alternatives and are directly aware of ourselves acting freely. FREE WILL? Free Will- to have what it takes to act freely. When an agent acts freely— exercising their free will—what they do is up to them. A plurality of alternatives is open, and they determine which path to pursue. As we act we have the sense that it is up to us whether or not we do it, or which action to take. For example, as we move our arm, we immediately sense that it is up to us whether or not we move our arm. Further, this ‘awareness’ is shared by everyone. From this ‘awareness’ of free will, some argue that determinism is false. CAN DETERMINISM AND FREE WILL CO-EXIST? CLASS ACTIVITY Groups of 2-4. Consider the following: Many people assume that the denial of determinism guarantees the existence of free will. This is actually false. That is not to say that the two can’t co- exist. Maybe they can and maybe they can’t. There is no absolute truth in this regard. Discuss: Do you personally believe in free will or determinism…or fatalism? What are the implications of your belief on your everyday life? Can free will and determinism co-exist? MORAL RESPONSIBILITY? Moral Responsibility can mean several things, such as trustworthiness, blameworthiness, and moral obligation. Simply stated, it is doing the right thing for the right reason. However, the concern is that with an individual’s moral responsibility for an action and its result, two conditions must be in place: 1. Knowledge condition: an agent is morally responsible for an action and its result only if the agent recognizes, or it is reasonably expectable to recognize, what they are doing and what it will bring about. (mental impairment) 2. Control condition: an agent is morally responsible for an action only if the agent has control over what they are doing. (sleepwalking) MORAL RESPONSIBILITY AND DETERMINISM It is sometimes argued that if determinism is true, nobody has control over their actions; thus, nobody satisfies the control condition of moral responsibility; therefore, nobody is morally responsible for his or her action. Arguments to show the incompatibility of free will and determinism are used to show the incompatibility of moral responsibility and determinism. Most philosophers (and most governments/justice systems) believe in free will and moral responsibility. MIND AND SOUL The discussion of free will, determinism and moral responsibility inevitably leads to a discussion of the soul. Most, but not all, identify the soul with the mind. It is fair to ask those who believe that the soul is distinct from the mind the following questions: What is the distinction between the soul and the mind? What is a soul anyway? Given that a soul is distinct from the mind, can we know whether someone has a soul? How? Given that a soul is distinct from the mind, is there any reason to believe that some beings – human beings (only?) – have soul but others – rocks, plants, non- human animals etc. – don’t? SOUL When relating the soul back to determinism, freewill, and moral responsibility a number of interesting philosophical questions arise. Can an agent believe in determinism and believe in a soul? If so, are souls pre-determined to go to heaven and go to hell? Would a just God pre-determine a soul to hell? Believing in a soul lends itself to freewill, An agent has the ability to make a decision (freewill) based on their understanding of right and wrong (moral responsibility). Based on a lifetime of these freewill decisions, the soul is rewarded or punished in an afterlife. GREAT PHILOSOPHERS ARISTOTLE – METAPHYSICS & LOGIC Aristotle was a student of Plato (for 20 years) in ancient Greece, thus he was also influenced by Socrates. He was a teacher and advisor to Alexander the Great. Considered by most to be the worlds greatest philosopher, he worked across multiple disciplines. His contributions include; physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology. First to discuss Metaphysics (AKA Natural Philosophy), connecting science to philosophy. Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world. The metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world; existence, objects and their properties, time, space, and cause & effect. Aristotle created what we know today as formal logic, or deductive reasoning. Formal Logic is a specific and tested method for obtaining conclusions, using “if-then” statements. Famous Quote, “Excellence is not an act, but a habit” THOMAS AQUINAS Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274): Medieval Roman Catholic Philosopher, part of the Dominican Order of Monks. Contribution: First Cause- Attempted to prove the existence of God by arguing that everything in the universe has a beginning and an end. Therefore, Aquinas surmised, God is the first cause. Aquinas spent his life attempting to prove the existence of God. He made 5 total attempts to prove God’s existence, all of which are still hotly debated to this day. IMMANUEL KANT Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): German philosopher and anthropologist Famous work: The Critique of Pure Reason discussed skepticism and metaphysics His work was in opposition to Descartes and Hume. He argues that human understanding is the source of the general laws of nature that structure all our experience; and that human reason gives itself the moral law, which is our basis for belief in God, freedom, and immortality. Therefore, scientific knowledge, morality, and religious belief are mutually consistent and secure because they all rest on the same foundation of human autonomy. He is immensely influential to 19th and 20th century philosophy. JOHN STUART MILL John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) British Philosopher known for his work on liberty and tyranny. Said government exists to maintain the people’s liberty. Also said the “majority” is dangerous to the individual, because the majority can lead the minority into uniformity, thus creating social norms that limit individual liberty. Coined the term, “majority of one”, which basically states that if thousands of people believe in a false premise and one person believes in a true premise, the one person is the majority. WILLIAM JAMES William James (1842-1910): American Philosopher. Ralph Waldo Emerson was his Godfather. Very well connected to the great minds of the time. Spent his entire career at Harvard. Also a very well rounded philosopher, but best known for his religious convictions. Popularized idea of personal religion, which is that a religion is what the believer believes on any given day. Religious dogmas are second to individual religion. LAURENCE KOHLBERG Laurence Kohlberg (1927-1987) American Philosopher known for his work in Morality Famous writing: Stages of Moral Development Level 1-Preconventional. Get away with what you can, don’t get in trouble. Level 2-Conventional. Blindly obey rules, follow example of peers and family Level 3-Postconventional. Question right and wrong, develop personal moral and values. Take care of those close to you. POST-CONVENTIONAL MORALITY AND ETHICS CLASS ACTIVITY Individual. Discussion questions on the following scenario. Formulate your own opinion for a large group discussion Situation: In the last 24 months you have lost your job and your health insurance because your company decided to outsource to a third world country. Your spouse of 30 years has a life-threatening illness that has been stabilized in the last 10 years with a very expensive medication. Your spouse is now out of medication and you are out of legal options. With welfare money you can barely afford food on the table let alone the high price of the medication. Your spouse will die a horrible death in just a few months without the medication and you do not have anyone to turn to for the money. You decide to break into the local chain drug store and steal the medication for your spouse. Are you morally correct in your decision? If this was real, would you steal? Have you ever been in a situation where you used post-conventional thought? 14TH (CURRENT) DALAI LAMA (1935-?) Religious leader of the Tibetan order of Buddhist Monks. 2nd most recognized religious figure in the world, next to the Pope. Is granted the ability to change the religion and has. Said the next Dalai Lama may be found outside Tibet and could be a female (both would be a first). “Retired” in March of 2011, but still very active. Very practical approach to life and problems. He does not deny reason, logic, or science; but rather attempts to marry it with the spirituality of the religion. Encourages: Compassion Religious tolerance World Peace Living as one with nature Accepting scientific reasoning “The Middle Path” approach to life CONCLUSION Philosophy gives us very few answers, or absolute truths, but it does give us the opportunity to consider questions that shape our society; specifically politics, economics, justice, and culture. Understanding philosophical questions and coming to personal conclusions is the mark on an educated and socially conscious individual. Careers within philosophy: teacher/professor, author, lawyer, politician (political science), religious figure, social worker, and a career in criminal justice.
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