Philosophy primer

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History of Western Philosophy Part 1
Aristotle 4th century BC
We still ask who are we, why are we here, how should we conduct ourselves?
David Evans at Queensland
Philosophers are quite fearless in the pursuit of rational argument…
Western philosophy begins with the Greeks
Thales: first principle of all things is water
Anaximenes of Miletus

For the Greeks, the soul was the principle of life; soul enclosed the body as air enclosed the world
earliest philosophy (pre-Socratic) fragmentary

father was a gem engraver; different geometric shapes for different gems; combined interest in mathematics and science
sees the nature of reality as mathematical
math is the basis of everything, like music, fate of our souls after death
the concept of number at the heart of his philosophy
verticies, faces, edges, ratios
much was influenced by astrology (from Babylon) each zodiac sign linked to a stone
believed earth was spherical and revolved around an unseen fire along with the sun, moon, and planets
mathematical relationship between the length of air/string and the pitch ratio
the theory that the universe was controlled by rational numbers was challenged by the introduction of irrational numbers
square root of two caused big problems--can’t be expressed in terms of whole numbers--source of scandal and shock
Pythagoras had a sort of religious sect
one who revealed irrational numbers gets drowned (myth)
scale of reward and punishment after death
took ideas from an ancient religious sect associated with Orpheus

MT: this rational accounting must explain some sort of justice (reward and punishment)

Orphics first developed soul and its relation to the body; transmigration of souls
Plato describes reincarnations
Dr. Jimmy Doyle University of Bristol
soul as sthg that can travel between bodies: immaterial, can inhabit one body or another
others (Democratus) the soul is an interior part of the body; soul as material aspect of the body made up of superfine particles
5th c BC

hermit, contracted dropsy, tried to cure by being buried in dung, heat to draw off the excess fluid
air or water as the basic substance, but Heracleitus believed it was fire
change is constant in life; some gradual, some sudden
held religion in contempt
believed the meaning of life should be reasoned
he said opposites are identical--they aren’t opposed, they are the same; the good and the bad are contextual
the main effect was to stimulate in future philosophers a sense of the deep need to distinguish opposites--establish justification for the fact that good and bad aren’t the same, but very different

fire lives the death of earth, and air lives the death of fire; water lives the death of air, and earth the death of water

MT: the issue of change is the key here

all change bound by universal law
use reason to understand life
rejected pythagoras’s middle course

two sides of the same coin--not as composed and contrasted as they seem
he identified opposites as facets of one thing

Parmenides & Zeno

Parmenides denied the concept of change; he said nothingness/void couldn’t exist, therefore, there could be no change
presented as a conclusion of a rigorous argument
he should be known as the first to put forth the rigorous argument

Zeno believed the world was one and indivisible
intrigued by motion and determined to prove that change/movement is impossible
the whole infinite series of dividing distance

MT: this is dumb because we have mass

we rely for our experience and understanding on our senses, but early philosophers didn’t understand perspective and refraction; they begin to describe the world in abstract ways, but simplistic: either it is, or it is not

later philosophers get that sometimes it is, sometimes not

entire universe composed of four elements, plus love and hate
defined life as the fitting together of the elements by the rifts of love, like painters mixing colors
based his theories on the nature of matter on the observation of everyday life
began to grasp the idea of evolution
declared himself to be a god, but also investigated natural phenomena
reasoned that the speed of light in air is finite
believed that all matter gave off emanations through surface pores, and other things absorb the emanations

first Athenian philosopher
sun as molten rock
didn’t believe in the void; matter changed and grew
fascinated by how food became body--seeds of flesh, blood, bones, and hair contained within a grain of wheat, digestion rearranged these seeds
believed matter was set in motion by a primal power Mus, which means mind
by analysis you can reveal that a thing contains all other things
Mind was not mixed with anything—comes in pure form
fundamental distinction between mind and “everything else” (we would call it matter)
Mind is the ultimate source of change, which explained movement

observed Athenian craftsmen to make his theories
concluded man acts wickedly because he doesn’t know how to live
cultivation of the soul, developing of self
what is the essence of the self? our ability to reflect and think about things--that’s what makes us human--that’s the good life
he became a thorn in the flesh of the establishment
he taught man should avoid material pleasures and think of their souls
sentenced to suicide by drinking hemlock
death as change from this place to another
emphasized the importance of values, moral theory, ethics, insisted on rigorous argument (dialectic), not taking things on trust, not remaining content with assumptions and authority
greatest influence was showing how to be a philosopher

unreliability of the senses
was familiar with other philosophers (primarily Socrates) but didn’t credit them, just mentioned incidentally
negatively influenced by early philosophers to correct them
believed ppl were too willing to accept things at face value
define justice before you can say what’s just or not
believed in man’s eternal soul
records Socrates’s last day on earth
Plato held that the sould forgot its knowledge at birth; education helps the soul to remember them
Sophists taught a form of moral relativism, while Plato believed good is absolute
Creator is uncreated, unchanging, and real
politics—structure of the city state and individual role within it
what do we mean by living well?
you need a certain form of insight , knowledge, and understanding to determine if your life is good, and only philosopher can do that
he said philosophers should be given control to ensure people live good lives
Wrote the Laws, epidemics of youthful irreligion
began to doubt his earlier theories on forms
his views on the state seem too authoritarian
he considered time to be life’s great enemy

joined Plato’s academy at 18 and stayed 20 years
~343BC became tutor to Alexander the Great
empirical reality, the natural world
political theory very alert to the different types of constitutional arrangements
emphasized this variety and there were good things to be said about different forms of government
set up the lyceum--parapatetic school
believed we could find out everything we need to know by analyzing the 10 predicates (categories)

MT: categories is the key point for IS

general concepts come in 10 irreducibly distinct kinds; this enables him to say substances occupy a primary role, but the other things exist, too
is being a thing? a single kind of thing? Aristotle would say, no, being is complex
believed that humankind grew in wisdom and knowledge
springs from curiosity
believed in god or philosophers and or religious theory
being whose nature is to think about his own thinking
two reasons: sees god as the ultimate cause/source of change in the universe; the only way sthg could be a source of change would be by being completely intelligent
2. for Aristotle, thinking is the most valuable thing in life; since god by def is perfect, god thinks in ways and with an intensity with which we cannot
very specific reasons for this abstract concept of god
interested in ethics and policitcs
the function of the good man: ?
happiness is an activity, not a state
extremes: foolishness/cowardice
fixed hierarchy, but less authoritarian
good things to say abt many different kinds of govts

Plato's ideal state, philosopher is in control; Aristotle says rule by single individual or small group can be okay, but can go very wrong

good constitution of government means the model can work but must be done in the right way
theater as important part of the life of the state--witnessing the reenactment of events can be cathartic
historically led into the natural theology of two religions (Christianity and Islam)
Aristotle influential for centuries in religious texts
downside of this is that the strict forms of religious authority fell on him as scapegoat

Saint Augustine of Hippo
philosophy took second place to theology
Dr. Richard Cross Oriel College
theologians had to deal with philosophers to convert ppl and ward off criticism
Christians found Plato appealing because common themes like the world was created; immaterial soul; trinity of divine entities (the one from whom perceives intellect and soul)
Christians found they could learn from Plato because it had similar themes
Christianity as a perfect form of a pagan philosophy
Augustine: accepted Plato’s forms as from god
human happiness being at one with god
god created the world from nothing
creation is an absolute. how, then, can there be change?
god is timeless and immutatable and creates the world of time and change to show us???
capacity for change so the future is contained in the past; evolutionary
god sustains this developmental process
the state exists to further the well being in a tk environment
Rome sacked, then he wrote the City of God--he contrasts it with the city of Babylon—not about an ideal city
intrinsic in things is a kind of capacity toward change such that earlier things in the universe have the capacity to change into later things in the universe. unlike neoplatonists, however, he thinks god has his hand in the evolution

Thomas Aquinas
believed truth could be arrived at through logic and reason
influenced by Aristotle
the movements of the planets were caused by indestructible agents of God (angels)
believed angels are indestructible by any agent other than god
each angel is a different species
Aquinas thinks material substances are distinguished from each other by different types of matter
lack of matter, means can’t exist in the universe like material things
angels cause an effect somewhere in the universe, but they don’t have matter MT: types=categories
state is there to support individual
material substances are distinguished by being different lumps of matter; angels don’t have matter, so they must be distinguished by different kinds—an angel to be causing an effect somewhere in the universe is proof of angels existing
human law is subject to both natural and divine law
religion’s purpose is to bring ppl closer to god
Aristotle thinks the world is everlasting, Christianity says differently
archbishop of paris took issue with the aristotelean nature of Christianity—the necessity and said it was not how Christianity is

Duns Scotus
set out proofs of the existence of God
you can formulate an argument for a first cause, a final sthg, and a proof for the existence of god: first cause argument, most perfect of all beings, shouldn’t call it god until you show it has certain attributes
thinks Aquinas isn’t sufficiently rigorous because the premises are contingent/not logically necessary
it is possible that there are causes and projecting infinite regress, then first cause is possible
if god exists at all, his existence is logically necessary
since existence of a first cause is possible, proves god is necessary and therefore that god exists
knowledge of god is only possible because tktktk

Giordano Bruno refuted Earth as center of universe, and was burned at the stake; but science and philosophy were drawing closer together

Thomas Hobbes
1640 fled to France, where was tutor to the future Charles II
Hobbes advocated an absolute monarch
then France went to war
1651 penned Leviathan, his experience of the Civil War shaped his thinking about politics in a way that few political thinkers did
other influences: social contract Machiavelli, Hooker, and Grotius
natural law based on man's nature as a social animal
liberty is the absence of obstacles to achieving the right to use his own power
in times of emergency, citizens should relinquish rights to the ruler in the national interest
political obligation rests on a moral obligation
civil obedience in all things wherein the obedience is not repugnant to the laws of God

René Descartes
I think, therefore I am.
Discourse on method has four rules for the pursuit of knowledge

First meditation
I am
I exist is necessarily true whenever I conceive it in my mind

rigorous self-examination of what is evident to the individual

Idea is whatever is in our mind when we conceive a thing
Pia Gasendi raised many objections: from completely different viewpoint

hyperbolic doubt; not a genuine skeptic, Descartes was the first of the rationalists; bc it calls into doubt what's morally certain

For Descartes, the see something is to think it
2nd meditation
If we can see it, the intellect knows it more clearly and distinctly-- extension is the key factor; the secondary or sensory objects of critical objects are not properties that can be fully grasped by the intellect. if we were empiricists, we couldn't have a proper intellectual grasp of the world around us. Descartes's extension gives an account of our knowledge of physical objects that conforms with his idea of what the intellect does the properties are "proper" objects of the understanding in a way that sensory properties are not; based in math; properties that are proper objects of the understanding

two (or three) proofs for the existence of God
1. must show God is the cause we have to know it; he claims that only God is sufficiently powerful to have caused the idea of God

  1. to have caused the existence of our minds given that our minds contain the idea of God
    only God is sufficiently powerful to have caused the idea of God--based on formal and objective reality, but not taken seriously these days
  2. ontological argument, he argues that God must exist on the basis of the nature of the concept of God alone; it's part of the real nature of God to exist
    as part of the nature of knowledge of science
    knowledge of the objective properties of things

all science depends on the

objections to

all science depends upon the knowledge alone of the true God
he still didn't prove that material things exist; he knew they could exist; our imagination persuades us that they can exist
he asked, what am I? distinguishing between mind and body; if follows, then, that God could keep the mind/soul after the body dies--shows that it is possible that the soul is immortal--that's what is important to him about the distinction bt the mind and the body
senses belong only to embodied minds; after the death of the body, all it has to think about is pure intellect--geometry, math, metaphysics, logic, and God -- very different existence from embodied mind

influenced ppl like Isaac Newton

Pascal: God is, or he is not

estimate the two chances: wager without hesitation that he is

Bendict de Spinoza

striven not to laugh, weep, hate human actions, but to understand them
b. 1632 Orthodox Jew, skepitcal,

the lapsed Jew, Spinoza, concernedwith how human beings could be good (human blessedness) to be attained through knowledge of the worl, ourselves, the world
levels of knowledge

everyday: useful, but fairly unreliable
human reason can take us to a higher type of knowledge like philosophy and science
continue the process to arrive at a state of knowledge of the connective whole that is the universe--the intellectual love of God


main funtion of God is to be the first cuase
only one substance can be independent: God

all things are in God, and God is in all things; one infinite substance is the cause of everything else
mind and body are essentially connected-->they are identical, the very same thing; two different ways of looking at the same thing
one reality that is understood two different ways
freedom comes from an understanding of oneself and ones emotions
freedom becomes the acceptance of absolute determinism
most of his works published posthumously
nothing can ever interfere with the system from outside
a way in which two seemingly opposing views of the world can be reconciled together

"rational mystic"


Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

there is nothing without a reason
father was a moral philosopher
discourse on metaphysics
the bulk of his material was unpublished (one book pub)
thought things out on paper and in correspondence with many scholars
no one place for a systematic account of his views
wanted a mathematical language to avoid errors or ambiguity and imprecision
all knowledge would be fundamentally a matter of definition that would be solved with some universal encyclopedia
remains important bc the vision of knowledge as an interconnected whole continues to influence his philosophy

substances: monads
agreed with Aristotle that substances were the basic things making up the universe

believed one of an infinite set of worlds god could have created

the world god chooses to create is the most composable one

the priciple of sufficient reason: for eery truth, there must be a reason why it is so and not otherwise; what is rules out is the possiblity that v=certain things might happen or be without a reason

Arneau attacked his theory

if god had programmed adam to fall, there was no freedom

John Locke

part of British Empiricism
self-imposed exile in Netherlands: essay to define "idea"
attacks the view that there are innate priciples like morals
believed only that there might be innate capacities
where do ideas come from? from experience (1. sensation, 2. reflection)
noticing the resemblance of the ideas we get from our senses and by extracting and recombining the ideas derived from direct experience
distinguishes bt simple and complex ideas
Wittgenstein showed simple ideas were not possible

Locke classified substances, modes (properties, ways in which substances can be), and relations (heavier than, tkjtkthan)

simple ideas of sense: Locke distinguished (like Galileo, ancient Greeks) properties which things really have, and those which they appear to have-->the hotness of the water is merely insofar as it appears to you

everyone has the executive power of nature

in locke's ideal state, there is no absolute power

his ideas can be said to have laid the foundation for western democracy


George TK Barkely

material objects exist only as ideas in the mind
to be is to be perceived
theories are based around immediate perception
he assumes that these sensations are ideas (similar to Aristotle)
not all ideas are sensations, but all sensations are ideas
Locke: secondary properties are subjective (fails to distinguish bt X and feeling of X)

influenced by Locke and Descartes
man needs experience to connect ideas of sight with touch

ridiculed by Swift and Johnson

helf God to be the author of nature, who existence is evident in the

God's role is to sustain everything in existence
ideas exist in being perceived; God ensurews the ideas are perceptible
objects in the external world do exist when we're not perceiving them but only in that they continue to be perceptible by God

David Hume

one major concern: causality
important bc without an understanding of it, the universe consists of random events
started with a chance to prove existense of God and the self
no direct experience of God
feeling that God must exist is not enought
Hume is a skeptic when it comes to God
all priests are necessarily hypocrites bc they have to disguise their unbelief

Hume says for us to hvae knowledge of a supreme being, we must see something contrary to the laws of nature
Hume claims we can't observe causality
The mind make the connection, not that which is observed. For example, day and night do not cause one another

Can we distinguish causally connected events and those that are not?

the connections in science have to be explained psychologically, not logically.

Ralistic about the role of emotionsbetter to be proved wrong sometimes than to abstain from doing anything at all


Immanuel Kant

act as to treat humanity in every case with an end, never with means only
1781 critique of pure reason

also wrote on religion, politics, psychology
rejected empricists' theory that ideas must arise from experience, but said when we derive knowledge of the world thru experience it is bc we were appropriately receptive to what was out there, meaning we have certain faculties that enabled us to make sense of what's out there
epistemological spectacles through which we interpret the world
transcendentalidealism-->can never take the specs off; always constrained to see things through this basic framework; that's why he distanced himself from Barkley

dialectic--Kant's theory of ideas as pure concepts of reason

ethics and morals

good will is a will that is exercised in complete accord with its own freedom; a will that's a law unto itself; those laws are the laws of morality-->purely for the sake of principle

that is a world that is completely moral

explores how our aesthetic judgments depend on the interplay bt imagination and understanding

influence is second only to Descartes

spawns an idealistic/romantic movement; 20th century, very influential in ethics and political theory

champion of reason with a compelling account of how much humans are able to achieve through the use of reason
moral philosophy-->distinguishing bt right and wrong simply by using our own rational resources without having to appeal to authority, particularly that of religion


no philosophy since Kant's death that is not in some way influenced by him

industrial revolution changed the nature of society; philosophy challenged established beliefs


no patience for speculations of an afterlife or God


industrial revolution changed the way people worked and the way they looked at the world

New generation challenging Kant's limits on understanding and reason. wanted to transform his idealism.

Georg Hegel
what is rational is actual, and what is actual is rational
b. 1770 Stuttgart
complicated writing
1817-30 Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences
The Logic, Philosophy of Nature, Philosophy of Mind/Spirit

Much of it is influenced by Aristotle

both a rationalist and a romantic

keen sense of how the past affects the present

produced a map of all possible knowledge

medieval christianity -- unhappy

sought to unitetktktk

wants to integrate religion in philosophy-->characterized it as a representation of the world in a pictorial form
philosophically, creation or god is an indication that the world has a rational order as explained through this type of storytelling

satisfy religion within a philosophical framework

goes on to deal with reason and spirit while contrasting the ancient and modern worlds

consciousness is spirit
he thinks Greeks has an integrated view of the world
at-homeness was lost

Greeks had ever-present spirit-->integrated view of the world and didn't sufferer from the issues of the modern world bc they had this unity with the world

he tends to treat the Greeks as a childhood of human consciousness
simple, straightforward, yet rather naive view of the world
hoped for the return of this when modern problems are resolved

Philosophy of right--> hegel deals with social ethics and the state
some say he was an influence on Nazism

he was trying to strike a balance bt individual-state integration, but that means that it can seem he wants to tktk the ways the individual should

draws a contrast bt the rational state (where there are tks for dealing with individual interests) and the non-rational

it's only if the political environment is right should the individual should tktk to the state

Arthur Schopenhauer

elegant, clear writing
1819 the world is will and representation
the principle of sufficient reason (phd disserttation)

acknowledged a great debt to Kant

four forms of sufficient reason

  1. the world has the character of will--the raw energy of the universe
  2. art and platonic ideas

dismissed the ideas of god and the soul, accused of being pessimistic bc of this

thinks of arts as the portal to what is beyond reach--escape the shackles of time and space, even our physical selves

Friedrich Nietzche

plagued by illness; mental breakdown in 1889
main assertion: traditional judeo-xtian values have lost their meaning

convinced that conditional values represented a slave mentality, encouraging morals to further their own interests
unleashing of possibilities is daring/courageous-->the will to power

no afterlife, no god, no reason to contrain capacities and talents, so we should live our lives for their own sakes

aesthetic understanding of life, though his vision of life is far from picturesque

the notion of health is very important to him-->warding off of disease

even the self isn't a unity--internal tension
only unitified when all energies within one tend to point in the same direction; all energies directed toward the same end; whatever doesn't kill me makes me stronger; uses the will to power to explain digestion, eating, reproduction, and the will to find truth

Mussolini and Hitler extracted propaganda from his work
he wasn't a Nazi, but his work resonated throughout the artistic and cultural world
sister "made a fetish of him" and edited his unpublished work in a way that made him look antisemitic
not writing for the common man and writing metaphorically, which made his work vulnerable to antisemitic interpretation
but he didn't change the way he wrote, even though he knew it could be read that way
nazis weighted Wagner and Nietzche together


Karl Marx

b. 1818
in Paris met Freidrich Engels and wrote the Communist Manifesto
had belonged to the young hegelians, but then disagreed with the aim of the society
thinks hegel is naive and optimistic, thinking bureaucracy is aimed at equality; Marx thought beauracracy was corrupt and deployed by the monarch

Soren Kierkegaard
only the truth that edifies is the truth for you
seen as the founder of existentialism
very religious; felt Danish church had distorted Christ's message

Fear and Trembling writing about Abraham and how Abraham was a potential murderer bc he didn't know god would spare isaac

Disagreed with Hegel
religion is a different mode from previous understandings--irreconcialably different; he think of xtianity as tied to reason and a gradual progression of the human spirit

choice bt 2 ways of living: aesthetic and ethical; reader has to choose what sort of self to become
there are parallel possibilities at any moment in time and one chooses what kind of self one will be; don't know in advance what type of self we are to be; the self only exists in relation to another, guided; bc the reader has to make his own choice, Kierkegaard is very concerned with indirect communication

his xtianity is very protestant
believed in subjective thinking

emphasis on individual choice

there is no worse lie than a truth misunderstood by those who hear it
William James and CS Pierce
a reaction among US Philosophers against idealism--1860s-70s
originated in harvard's metaphysical club
Pierce emphasized the practical bearing we conceive our tktk to have--a tool to clarify ideas and hypotheses, dismissing many traditional questions of philosophy

James believed consciousness to be like a river-->stream of thought

  1. our thoughts tend to cluster in personal consequences bc they are in the same mind
  2. thought is always changing

  3. thought is continuous--a continuous process

  4. most of our thoughts present themselves about external things

in our thought we are always tending to or focusing on particular features of them

we need to understand how thought tends to be selective


Ari Bergson?

the vital spirit; took evolution seriously, influenced by Darwin, but wanted to think that evolution did involved some sort fo progress; he claimed that evolution was driven by a creative urge or vital spirit, which had no place in mechanistic, physical accounts of the world
past/memories have influence on choices, but not deterministic

explaining living things with the doctrines of vitalism-->an additional explanatory mechanism

major influence on Kierkegaard


what is found in the effect is already in the cause

Ludwig Wittgenstein

trained as an engineer
studied mathematical logic under Russell

the limits of my language mean the limits of my world
interested in ordinary language
later became disillusioned by some of the theories in the tktk
began to realize we do all sorts of other things as well as just convey information--a whole variety of linguistic moves we make that had not been recognized
died 1951
many publications posthumously

deals with language and numbers
begins with language games: help understand the variety of diff things we can do with information

very interested in the following of rules; language is not always governed in precise ways by precise rules
meaning: the meaning of a word is its use in language
naming of sensations (counter to Cartesian view); Wittgenstein says the reason for this is bc we are forgetting about the vast variety of things we do with language; what is the nature of the information one is conveying? before long, one starts thinking about this in Cartesian terms, in the context of one's private world; W says we will begin to resist some of those Cartesian characterizations

believed it was necessary that language be public, not private

opposition to Descartes, backed by other philosophers
if we think more in terms of an exclamation than the meaning of the utterance makes us focus less on the meaning of the words, but on the proper use of the language ?????? not sure I got this right

Jean-Paul Sartre
Hell is other people
successful playwrite and novelist
Being & Nothingness influenced by Heidegger (1943)
because we are conscious beings, we can make ourselves of our own free choice
dangers of allowing one's freedom to be usurped by
sounds like determinism, but not
every act has a cause (his definition of cause is very different)
nothingness is key
what causes his action is sthg that doesn't exist-->an absence
MT: this has to do with expectation
determinism says actions are caused by preexisting conditions, but Sartre doesn't

concept of bad faith
how Sartre describes an individual's denial of his own freedom
increasing medicalization of things contributes to excusing ppl for the causes of their actions
this is categorizing action
later in life, Sartre turned to Marxism



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