Chapter Five Review
What Is the Nature of Reality?
* The philosophical study of metaphysics examines issues beyond the physical world such as the meaning of life, the existence of free will, and the fundamental principles of the universe * Metaphysicians attempt to explain the nature of reality itself. * Aristotle laid the foundations for this branch of philosophy in his Metaphysics * Philosophical inquiry into the nature of truth is called epistemology * The study of epistemology attempts to describe and explain the nature of knowledge and truth, and whether it is possible to achieve genuine knowledge or perceive an ultimate truth
Metaphysics – most generally, the philosophical investigation of the nature, constitution, and structure of reality Epistemology – the study of the nature of knowledge and justificaiton
Reality Is the Eternal Realm of the Forms: Plato
* Plato attempted to resolve the conflict between an unchanging, ultimate truth and the everyday flux of our circumstantial lives by proposing two different “worlds”: the world of “becoming”, of our physical world, and the world of “being”, a realm of eternal and unchanging truths that is knowable through the exercise of a reason * The world of “being” is populated by ideal “forms”, archetypes of everything that exists. * In our everyday world of the sense we experience only imperfect examples of, or “participants” in, these “forms” but through careful study, reflection and reasoning, we can begin to apprehend the true and eternal nature of the forms * Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” is a vivid metaphor for this quest to understand the ultimate essences or truths of things * Plato’s belief that genuine knowledge of the essential forms can be achieved through “innate” or inborn ideas and the faculty of reason makes him a rationalist. * In contrast, philosophers who believe that true knowledge is best achieved through sense experience are empiricists * This conflict between rationalists and empiricists has both divided and enriched the study of epistemology since of the time of Plato and Aristotles
Form – in Plato’s metaphysics, the ideal essence of a thing Rationalism – the position that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge, or more strongly that is the unique path of knowledge Empiricism – the position that the senses (and sense experience) are primary in acquiring knowledge
Reality is the Natural World: Aristotle
* Aristotle broke with his teacher Plato’s conception of a divided reality. * As a philosophical naturalist, Aristotle was devoted to the idea that the nature of reality is best apprehended through close and careful attention to, and study of, sense experience making him an empiricist * Whereas Plato believed, for example, in a changing and ultimately mortal human body that was inhabited by an unchanging and immortal soul, Aristotle argued that he soul cannot be separated from the body that we as humans are entirely creatures of nature * In Aristotle’s metaphysical system, there are two categories of “things”: matter (the physicality of a thing) and form (the essence of a thing). All things contain within themselves their potential, or entelechy. * Aristotle’s metaphysical framework, consists of the Four Causes: Material Cause, Form Cause, Efficient Cause and Final Cause
Can Reality Be Known? Descartes
* Rene Descartes established a constructively skeptical approach toward the nature of knowledge, vowing to begin with a “clean slate” or position of radical doubt, and from there to objectively evaluate everything he knew or believed to be true * Descartes’ radical doubt led him to conceive of the possibility of an “evil genius”, an entity that manipulates us into believing that our waking dreams is “reality” * Descartes only found his way out of this nightmarish possibility through his famous pronouncement, Cogito ergo sum, which...
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