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About Philosophy Chapter 2


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Who started the method of doubt philosophical 'movement'?
Rene Descartes, a Frenchman born in 1596.
What work marks the beginning of modern philosophy? Wro wrote it? When?
'Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes, published in 1641.
Which three thinkers of the seventeenth century created what we know today as modern science?
the German Gottfried Liebnitz, Englishman Issac Newton and Frenchman Rene Descartes
What did a series of three dreams that Descartes had lead him to devote his life to?
Establishing a new, unified theory of the universe base upon mathematics - what is known today as mathematical physics
What four rules did Descartes lay out in his "discourse on method" which he claimed were sufficient to fuide the mind in whatever inquiry it might undertake?
1. accept nothing as true unless you have evidence that it is certain
2. divide to conquer a problem
3. begin with simple, move to complex
4. examine everything to avoid omission
What is Descartes method of problem solving as set out in his "discourse on method" meant to be used for?
It is meant to be used by a person who does not yet know anything but is trying by the use of his or her intelligence to discover something.
What is Descartes method a method of?
doubt - the first step is to 'throw-out' anything for which you don't have direct, clear, unmistakeably clear, certain evidence of
What is Descartes' first mediation about?
Sciences: He offers the reasons why we can doubt all things in general, and particularly material objects, at least as long as we do not have other foundations for the sciences
What is Descartes' second meditation about?
Rules on Method: (four rules)
1. never accept anything as true unless evidence it is certain
2. divide to conquer a problem
3. move from simple tasks to more complex ones
4. examine everything to avoid ommission
What is Descartes' third meditation about?
Moral Rules: (4 maxims)
1. obey laws and customs of his country and religion - moderate decision making
2. firm and determined in actions - not indecisive
3. always seek to conquer myself rather than fortune - examine all options
4. review all occupations possible in this life to choose which is best - you can't learn from an occupation which you do not like
What is Descartes' fourth meditation about?
Proof of the existence of God - you know that you are here because you can think, you were put here by something greater than yourself, some sort of superior being; God. There is a concept of perfection, so there must be a God.
What is Descartes' fifth meditation about?
Physics: Laws of nature follow from God. We each have a 'trademark' imprinted within us by God. God is perfect, trandemark is to be made in image and likeness of God, but we have free will. Body can be separate from soul - two different realms. We have the ability to reason. Soul is not matter, it cannot be sensed, so it could only be implanted in us by a higher being.
What is Descartes' sixth meditation about?
The Study of Nature: everything we know is nothing compared to what we don't know, so learn and take risks - make decisions.
What is the heart of the 'epistemological turn'?
A reversal of the two basic questions; from the ancient pre-socratic philosophers up to the time of Descartes, philosophers put questions about what exists, about the nature of the universe, before questions about what I can know to exist, what I can know the nature of the universe to be. Philosophers considered questions of 'being' to take precedence over questions of 'knowing'.
How would one sum up philosophy prior to Descartes?
Metaphysics took precedence over epistemology
What did Descartes two methods do for the fundamental questions of philosophy?
His method of inquiry and the method of doubt had the effect of reversing the order of precedence of the two questions; he made epistemology take precedence over metaphysics.
What does Descartes' method of inquiry tell us?
To adobt the view of someone who is ignorant and trying to learn, rather than the point of view of someone who knows something and is trying to explain it. It also teaches us to take questions in an orderly manner and not moving on to the next question before solving the first.
What does Descartes' method of doubt say?
Descartes insists that the standard of proof is absolute certainty - which is almost impossible -- even the courts don't require absolute certainty - just proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
What is Epistemological Skepticism?
The doctrine that no adequate justification can be given for any of our beliefs about the world, not even for the apparently rock-solid beliefs that there is a physical world, that I have a body, etc...
What is the aim of Epistemological Skepticism?
To focus our attention on the relationship between our beliefs and their justification, not acually to get us to stop believing.
What is the latin phrase that Descartes used to prove his own existence?
Cogito, ergo sum
What does "Cogito, ergo sum" (Descartes) mean?
"I think, therefore I am"
What has Descartes' proof of his own existence come to be known as?
The Cogito Argument.
What does "Cogito, ergo sum" really mean (not I think therefore I am)?
"The proposition, I exist, is necessarily true each time I pronounce it."
What is the significance of the 'real' meaning of "Cogito, ergo sum"?
Pronouncing, or asserting the proposition is key because it is the asserting that guarantees its truth. If the proposition is being asserted, then someone must be doing the asserting, and if I am asserting it, then that someone must be me.
What is the limitation of Descartes' Cogito Argument?
It only proves his existence to him; it does not prove his existence to anyone else. No one can use the argument to prove anyone else's existence.
What are the two consequences of the fact that the Cogito Argument only proves your existence to yourself?
1. It drives each philosopher into the position of solipsism.
2. It turns the attention of philosophers away from the objects of knowledge, the things that we know about and toward the subject of knowledge, the mind that does the knowing.
What is solipsism?
Literally, the belief that I am the only person in the universe. An extreme form of epistemological skepticism that refuses to acknowledge the existence of anything other than my own mind.
What parts of Descartes' philosophy did the Continental rationalists agree with?
1. accepted his demand for certainty
2. agreed that logic and math were the basis for all true knowledge
3. sought to discover ways in which the sciences and metaphysics could be as certain as syllogism and geometry
4. sought proofs of the existence of God
5. claimed that all valid knowledge must rest upon the operations of reason
What parts of Descartes' philosophy did the British empiricists agree with?
they accepted Descartes' demand for certainty, but argued that nothing could really meet that demand
Who was the most brilliant and thoroughgoing of the empiricists? How did he refute Descartes?
David Hume - who through a series of proofs that neither the theorems of science nor the beliefs of common sense could possibly qualify as knowledge when measured against Descartes' standard of certainty
How did the empiricists challenge the rationalists' reliance upon reasoning as the sole source of knowledge?
John Locke in his "essay concerning the human understanding" and then Humen in "a treatise of human nature" insistes that all the ideas in the human mind must ultimately be derived form the sights, sounds, smells, fells and tastes of our sense organs. Reason could do no more that rearrange and sort the materials provided to the mind by sensation.
What were Descartes' two tests of certainty?
1. clearness
2. distinctness
What did Gottfried Liebniz offer as logical criteria of truth and certainty?
All truths could be divided into two sorts; triuths that can be known merely by application of a fundamental principle of logic - the law of contradiction (along with which goes the law of the excluded middle) and truths that cannot be certified by laws of logic are known as truths of fact - which include most of what we ordinarilly call knowledge. To establish either truth, we must appeal to the principle of sufficient reason.
What is the law of contradiction?
a statement and its contradictory cannot both be true
What is the law of the excluded middle?
for any statement, either it is true or else its negation is true, both cannot be true.
What did Leibniz say was the only way to certify truths of fact?
By indirect appeal to God.
What did Locke suggest about claims of knowledge?
instead of examining them directly, ask from what source we derive the ideas which we use in stating these knowledge claims. He argued that if our claims of knowledge made any sense at all, then they must correspond to ideas in our mind otherwise you would not be asserting anything at all.
What is the mind when we are first born according to John Locke in his "essay concerning human understanding"?
A tabula rasa - blank tablet.
What is Locke claiming when he states that we all are born with a mind that is a Tabula Rasa?
The mind comes into life blank, and is written on by experience. He was arguing against the widely held view that the mind comes to experience with ideas that are built into it.
What does Locke claim that two philosophers must do before they can even argue about the existence of God?
they must show that their wrds have meaning which means showing that the words correspond to ideas that have been derived from the senses.
Why is Locke's claim of the Tabula Rasa a double-edged sword?
If the theory proves that we do not even have a coheret idea of God, then one possible conclusion is that all of our talk about God is nonsense. But another possible claim is that since his theory implies such a ridiculous notion, it must be false.
Who was the empiricist who carried Locke's strategy to its logical conclusion?
David Hume who conceived a plan of writing a full-scale theory of the human mind.
Into what two categories did Hume divide all the perceptions of the human mind?
Impressions and Ideas
Who was George Berkeley?
An Irish philosopher who is known as a defender of 'idealism' which is the idea that the only things that can be known to exist are human minds, the ideas in these minds, and God.
What philosophical view does idealism oppose? Name a follower of this opposing idea.
Materialism - Hobbes
What are three main points in Hume's "Treatise on human nature"?
1. his adoption of the "white paper" theory
2. What is sometimes called the copy theory of ideas; the notion that all of our ideas are either striaght copies of sense impressions or combination and rearrangements of copies of sense impressions.
3. Hume has an 'atomic' theory of the contents of the mind; he conceives of the mind as containing little indivisible 'atomic' bits of information, plus individual copies of those bits of sensation and what we might call 'molecular' combinations of atomic sensations.
What are two conclusions of Hume's atomic theory of the contents of the mind?
1. since all the contents of the mind can be divided into atomic units - we can always distinguish one unit from another
2. the mind has the power to 'separate' two units of sensation from one another by imagining one away while keeping the other in mind
What two principles does Hume use to summarize his atomic theory of the contents of the mind?
1. whatever objects are diffferent are distinguishable
2. whatever bjects are distinguishable are separate by thought and imagination
What does Hume use the two principles that summarize his atomic theory of the contents of the mind to do?
To construct an argument that wipes out metaphysics, all natural science and just about all of our commonsense beliefs about the world.
What did Immanuel Kant adopt as the starting point of all philosophy instead of Descartes' "I think"?
"I am conscious"
What is the significance of Kant's "I am conscious" starting point?
My consciousness has a certain basic structire or charcteristic, it is unified into a single consiousness. All the thoughts, impressions, beliefs, expectations, hopes and doubts that I have are MY thoughts and so on.
What premise did Kant state in his "Critique of Pure Reason"?
"It must be possible for he "I think" to accompany all my representations" which was his way of saying that all of the contents of my consciousness are bound up in a unity of consciousness.
What is a unity of conciousness?
A phrase invented by Kant to describe the fact that the thoughts and perceptions of any given mind are bound together in a unity by being all contained in one conciousness. He claimed that this fact could only be explained by postulating a fundamental mental activity of holding together or synthesizing these thoughts and perceptions.
What does Kant say the only way to think all of one's thoughts as unified in a sinfle consciousness is?
By following the rules of categories for holding thoughts together.
What does Kant say about these categories for holding thoughts together?
The categories are innate in the human mind; we cannot change them.
What are some examples of these categories for holding thoughts together according to Kant?
Substance, cause and effect, unity, plurality, possibility, necessity and reality
How did Kant differ from other philosophers such as Locke, Hume and other critics of Descaretes' rationalistic philosophy?
Locke, Hume and other critics of rationalism accepted Descartes' starting point of "I think, therefore I am" whereas Kant refuted this claim and turned the whole argument around.
In what way did Kant deny Descartes' first premise?
Kant stated - I cannot know the contents of my own mind unless I first unify them into a single consciousness.
What do rationalists rely on as the sole source of knowledge?
What do empiricists rely on as the sole source of knowledge?
What, other than the source of knowledge, did the empiricists and rationalists argue about?
justification of knowledge - what justifies my claim that I know something is the case?
What is foundationalism?
In epistemology - the view that knowlesge must be viewed as a pyramid mde up of building blocks the upper levels of which rest upon a solid foundation which itself is basic and needs no support.
What was Descartes' foundation? Locke's?
Descartes' foundation of knowledge was his Cogito argument. Locke's foundation was the ideas derived from sensation and reflection; experience.
What is coherentism?
The belief that a body of beliefs may be known without an underlying foundation of certainty, but rather in virtue of the mutual support provided by the various parts.
What is pragmatism?
A distinctively American approach to philosophy. A practice-oriented philosophy where the ultimate test of the truth of an idea is its usefulness in practice - the truth of a claim is borne out in the way it works out in practice.
Name some pragmatists.
1.Charles Sanders Pierce (1839-1914), a mathematician
2. William James (1842-1910) a psychologist
3. John Dewey (1859-1952), an educator
4. George Herbert Mead (1863-1931), a sociologist
Name 2 rationalists.
1. Rene Descartes
2. Leibniz
Name 3 British empiricists.
1. John Locke
2. George Berkeley
3. David Hume
Who was the most radical of the empiricists?
David Hume - whose "A Treatise of Human Nature" (published 1739-40) raised skeptical doubts about even the unity and existence of the self.
What was Immanuel Kant's great work?
The "Critique of Pure Reason" which was published in 1781.
How did Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" transform philosophy?
It changed our understanding of knowledge, consciousness, the self, and the relation between what we know and the way things are.
How did Kant argue the knowledge of reality?
He used the distinction between appearance and reality to argue that we in fact never have knowledge of reality but only of things as they appear to us, and that the mind itself contributes the form in which we know appearances.
What is perhaps Kant's most famous statement?
"The mind is itself the lawgiver to nature"

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