Study Guide Lesson 4: Making Claims and Defining Terms
A) The seven preliminary matters in preparing to philosophize – 1) Philosophizing involves four psychological traits that improve effective communication: the courage to examine one’s cherished beliefs critically, a willingness to advance tentative hypotheses and to take the first step in reacting to a philosophical claim, no matter how foolish that reaction might seem at the time, a desire to place the search for truth above the satisfaction of apparently “winning” the debate or the frustration of “losing” it, and an ability to separate one’s personality from the content of a discussion 2) Philosophizing is a skill that must be developed with practice 3) One does philosophy as well as studies it (habit of the mind) 4) To do philosophy, one does not just consult one’s personal opinion (personal attitudes can serve as stimulus, but never as a standard to choose between arguments and theories) 5) Productive philosophizing should not be confused with doing psychology – attempt to criticize a person’s philosophical belief by attributing it to a cause in that person’s past = genetic fallacy 6) Philosophy has two sides, one critical, the other constructive > there is no substitute for creative insight, but in philosophy such insight tends to emerge only after it has been nurtured by disciplined critical analysis (criticize a theory + improving on the theory) \ 7) In evaluating philosophical claims, make some attempt to gauge the relative strength of your criticism > strong – theory is self-contradicting / weak – you must see more arguments before you are convinced *** seldom all-or-nothing proposition / let your arguments speak for themselves (understatement preferred rather than overstatement)
B) The idea of philosophy as an intellectual passion – not merely the abstract application of a technique – to assume that logic will (or can) settle everything is to fall prey to what some philosophers have called the “illusion of technique.” Philosophy is not about winning points or arguments or being clever, although you will inevitably encounter some of this. *** It is caring about the truth and, as the word philosophy itself originally meant, “loving wisdom” C) The different kinds of claims that can be made and their subpoints (the chart on pp. 55-56 summarize these well) – 1) Empirical – empirical knowledge involves a posteriori beliefs about what contingently happens to be the case; the beliefs are based upon experience > a) one type is determined by simple observation or by generalizing from observed data; b) a second type is determined by experimenting with hypotheses / 2) A Priori – a priori knowledge involves beliefs about what necessarily is or is not the case – they are not based upon experience and not falsifiable by experience > a) tautologies – their truth or falsity is determined purely by examining their logical form; b) definitions – here the meaning of a term is expressly stated; c) a third type includes claims whose truth or falsity is determined by the unstated meanings of the key terms (atheistic Baptist); d) a fourth, more controversial type involves statements whose truth or falsity appears not to depend on the meanings of the key terms (every event is caused) / Normative – prescribe what ought to be the case, not merely what is believed to be the case (general principles or particular judgments, or they may be part of an unstated interpretation buried in, say, an empirical context (not necessarily arbitrary or purely subjective – frequently defended with reasons) D) Presenting paradigm and borderline examples as a means of clarifying meaning – paradigm examples play a strategic role in clarifying meaning (illustrate the essential meaning of concepts) – function as a point of departure for clarifying concepts (cite example, then identify essential characteristics) – serve both as starting points...