Table of Contents
Ancient Greece The Birth of Western Philosophy ………………………………………………………… 2 Socrates, The Apology ……………………………………………………………………. 6 Plato, “The Cave” ………………………………………………………………………… 11 Aristotle, “The Doctrine of the Mean” …………………………………………………… 14 Truth, Opinion, Knowledge ……………………………………………………………… 18 Philosophy, Science, Religion ……………………………………………………………. 19 Fundamentals of Aristotelian Logic ………………………………………………………. 21
T2 | Wks7-10 | Book 1 | Ancient Greece | T3 | Wks 1-2 | Book 2 | Medieval Christendom | | Wks 3-4 | Book 3 | Modernity (1600-1800) | | Wks 5-6 | Book 4 | Modernity (1800-1939) | | Wks 7-8 | Book 5 | Post World War II | | Wk 9 | | Review | | Wk 10 | | Exam |
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The Birth of Western Philosophy
Greek philosophy arose in the 6th century BCE. Some claim it was influenced by the older wisdom literature and mythological cosmogonies (theories regarding origin of universe) of the ancient Near East. It dealt with political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, ontology, logic, biology, rhetoric, and aesthetics.
One cannot overestimate the importance of Greek philosophy. Alfred Whitehead once noted: "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato." Clear, unbroken lines of influence lead from ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophers, to medieval Islamic philosophers, to the European Renaissance and Enlightenment.
Greek philosophy is divided into three periods: I. Pre-Socratic philosophy II. Classical philosophy III. Hellenistic philosophy
In this section we look mainly at Pre-Socratic philosophy, only mentioning Classical and Hellenistic philosophies
I. Pre-Socratic philosophy
Milesian School of Philosophy
Thales of Miletus (c.624-c.546BC), regarded by Aristotle as the first philosopher, held that all things arise from water. He is sometimes called the first scientist because he gave a naturalistic explanation of the cosmos and supported it with reasons. According to tradition, Thales was able to predict an eclipse and taught the Egyptians how to measure the height of the pyramids. Thales inspired the Milesian School of Philosophy.
Anaximander (c.610-c.546 BC) followed Thales. He argued that the substratum or arche could not be water but was instead something "unlimited" or "indefinite," the apeiron; his reasoning was that because the world seems to consist of opposites (e.g., hot and cold) yet a thing can become its opposite (e.g., a hot thing cold), they cannot truly be opposites but rather must both be manifestations of some underlying substratum that is neither.
Anaximenes (c.585-524BC) in turn held that the arche was air or a transparent mist, the aether. Despite their varied answers, the Milesian school was searching for a natural substance that would remain unchanged despite appearing in different forms. It thus represents one of the first scientific attempts to answer the question that would lead to the development of modern atomic theory.
Xenophanes (c.570-c.475 BC) was born when the Milesian school was at its most powerful, and may have picked up some of the Milesians' cosmological theories as a result. What is known is that he argued that each of the phenomena had a natural rather than divine explanation in a manner reminiscent of Anaximander's theories. He further argued that there was only one god, the world as a whole. He ridiculed the anthropomorphism of the Greek religion claiming that cattle would claim that the gods looked like cattle, horses like horses, and lions like lions, just as the Ethiopians claimed that the gods were snub-nosed and black and the Thracians claimed they were pale and red-haired.
Pythagoras (c.570-c.495 BC), in contrast to Xenophanes, sought to reconcile religious belief and reason. Pythagoras was a mystic. He is said to have imbibed the cosmological concerns of the Ionians, including the idea that the cosmos is constructed of spheres, the importance of the infinite, and that air or aether is the arche of everything. Pythagoreanism incorporated ascetic ideals, emphasizing purgation, and consequently a respect for all animal life. He believed there was a correspondence between mathematics and the cosmos in a musical harmony. He is best known for the Pythagorean theorem which bears his name. Little is known about his life; he left no writings. Many of his accomplishments may actually have been those of his colleagues and successors. Pythagorean ideas exercised a marked influence on Plato, and through him, all of Western philosophy.
Parmenides of Elea (early 5th century BC) argued that the first principle of being was One, indivisible, and unchanging. The One or Being cannot move since this would require that "space" both exist and not exist. While this doctrine is at odds with experience, where things do indeed change and move, Parmenides denied that sense phenomena revealed the world as it actually was.
Zeno of Elea (c.490-c.430 BC), Parmenides' pupil, attempted to prove that the concept of motion was absurd and as such motion did not exist. He also attacked the subsequent development of pluralism, arguing that it was incompatible with Being. His arguments are known as Zeno's paradoxes.
Pluralism and atomism
Anaxagoras (c.500-428BC) incorporated the One / Being of Parmenides but abandoned the one arche (monism) of Thales, Xenophanes and Parmenides. He said there was one Mind that set in motion many elements (pluralism). Things appear to come into being and pass away but in reality these things are composed of elements which simply assemble or disassemble but these elements remain unchanged.
Leucippus (first half of 5th century BC) proposed two main elements in the universe: the vacuum and atoms. Atoms, by means of their inherent movement, are crossing the void and creating the real material bodies.
Democritus (c.460- c.370 BC), often called the father of modern science, will incorporate Leucippus’ ideas into an atomic theory of the universe very similar to that of the 19th century.
Protagoras (c.490-420BC), the first man to call himself a sophist, according to Plato, claimed that "man is the measure of all things". Plato takes this to indicate a radical perspectivalism, that is, that truth is relative to one’s perspective. Some things seem to be one way for one person (and so actually are that way) and to be another way to another person (and so actually are that way). Consequently, one cannot in any way look to nature for guidance regarding how to live one's life.
Like Protagoras, subsequent sophists tended to teach rhetoric as their primary vocation. Prodicus, Gorgias, Hippias, and Thrasymachus all appear in various Platonic dialogues, sometimes explicitly teaching that, while nature provides no ethical guidance, the guidance that the laws provide is worthless, or that nature favors those who act against the laws.
II. Classical Philosophy
The Sophists’ emphasis on ethical relativism and rhetoric (not truth-seeking) set the stage for Socrates. While there was philosophy prior to Socrates, it was Socrates, says Cicero (106-43 BC) who was "the first who brought philosophy down from the heavens, placed it in cities, introduced it into families, and obliged it to examine into life and morals, and good and evil." In this Socrates is the founder of ethical and political philosophy.
Socrates wrote nothing. What we know of Socrates comes from his student Plato. Plato was a rationalist – all truth begins in the mind; the senses deceive. Aristotle, in turn was Plato’s student who somewhat rebelled against his master. According to Aristotle, an empiricist, all knowledge begins with the senses. (Aristotle’s most famous student was Alexander the Great.)
Plato and Aristotle thus become the two pillars of western thought. (See Raphael’s “The School of Athens”.) Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are the three philosophers of Classical Greek philosophy.
Socrates c. 469-399 BC
Plato 427-347 BC
Aristotle 384-322 BC
III. Hellenistic philosophy
During the Hellenistic and Roman periods, many different schools of thought developed, influenced by Egyptians, Syrians, Arabs, Persians and Indians. Some of the more notable schools of Hellenistic philosophy were Neo-Platonism, Skepticism, Cynicism, Stoicism, and Epicureanism.
The spread of Christianity throughout the Roman world, followed by the spread of Islam (after 610AD), ushered in the end of Hellenistic philosophy and the beginnings of Medieval philosophy, which was dominated by the three Abrahamic traditions: Jewish philosophy, Christian philosophy, and early Islamic philosophy.
Transmission of Greek philosophy under Islam
During the Middle Ages, Greek ideas were largely forgotten in Western Europe. With the fall of Rome, few people in the West could read Greek. The Islamic Abbasid caliphs translated the Greek manuscripts into Arabic. Islamic philosophers such as Al-Kindi (Alkindus), Al-Farabi (Alpharabius), Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd) reinterpreted Greek philosophies in the context of their religion. Their interpretations were later transmitted to the Europeans in the High Middle Ages, when Greek philosophies re-entered the West through translations from Arabic to Latin. The re-introduction of these philosophies, combined with the new Arabic commentaries, had a great influence on Medieval philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas.
Socrates, The Apology of Socrates
Socrates (c. 469 BC – 399 BC) wrote nothing. The little we know of his life comes from his students Plato and Xenophon, and his contemporary playwright Aristophanes. Socrates was born when the Persian Empire was on the wane and the Athenian empire on the rise. (Recall that in 333 BC Alexander the Great will spread the Greek culture throughout the Middle East and all the way to the Indus River.) It is unclear how Socrates made a living; he says he lived in poverty, spending his time philosophizing. Between 431-404 BC democratic Athens and military-ruled Sparta fought the Peloponnesian War, a series of battles for dominance of the Greek peninsula. In 404 Sparta defeated Athens. Although he had apparently served in the military with valour Socrates was seen by many Athenians as an enemy of the city-state in the turmoil their defeat by Sparta. Socrates, as it turns out, was no friend of democracy – he had seen it descended into mob rule. Either for that political reason, or because he was seen as a ‘gadfly’, a pest of the influential Athenians, Socrates was eventually accused of impiety (not worshiping the gods of the state) and corrupting the young. In the Apology, Socrates’ student Plato gives an account of the trial.
How you have felt, O men of Athens, at hearing the speeches of my accusers, I cannot tell; but I know that their persuasive words almost made me forget who I was - such was the effect of them; and yet they have hardly spoken a word of truth. But many as their falsehoods were, there was one of them which quite amazed me; - I mean when they told you to be upon your guard, and not to let yourselves be deceived by the force of my eloquence. They ought to have been ashamed of saying this, because they were sure to be detected as soon as I opened my lips and displayed my deficiency; they certainly did appear to be most shameless in saying this, unless by the force of eloquence they mean the force of truth; for then I do indeed admit that I am eloquent. But in how different a way from theirs! Well, as I was saying, they have hardly uttered a word, or not more than a word, of truth; but you shall hear from me the whole truth: not, however, delivered after their manner, in a set oration duly ornamented with words and phrases. No indeed! but I shall use the words and arguments which occur to me at the moment; for I am certain that this is right, and that at my time of life I ought not to be appearing before you, O men of Athens, in the character of a juvenile orator - let no one expect this of me. And I must beg of you to grant me one favor, which is this - If you hear me using the same words in my defence which I have been in the habit of using, and which most of you may have heard in the agora, and at the tables of the money-changers, or anywhere else, I would ask you not to be surprised at this, and not to interrupt me. For I am more than seventy years of age, and this is the first time that I have ever appeared in a court of law, and I am quite a stranger to the ways of the place; and therefore I would have you regard me as if I were really a stranger, whom you would excuse if he spoke in his native tongue, and after the fashion of his country; - that I think is not an unfair request. Never mind the manner, which may or may not be good; but think only of the justice of my cause, and give heed to that: let the judge decide justly and the speaker speak truly. …
I dare say, Athenians, that someone among you will reply, "Why is this, Socrates, and what is the origin of these accusations of you: for there must have been something strange which you have been doing? All this great fame and talk about you would never have arisen if you had been like other men: tell us, then, why this is, as we should be sorry to judge hastily of you." Now I regard this as a fair challenge, and I will endeavor to explain to you the origin of this name of "wise," and of this evil fame. Please to attend then. And although some of you may think I am joking, I declare that I will tell you the entire truth. Men of Athens, this reputation of mine has come of a certain sort of wisdom which I possess. If you ask me what kind of wisdom, I reply, such wisdom as is attainable by man, for to that extent I am inclined to believe that I am wise; whereas the persons of whom I was speaking have a superhuman wisdom, which I may fail to describe, because I have it not myself; and he who says that I have, speaks falsely, and is taking away my character. And here, O men of Athens, I must beg you not to interrupt me, even if I seem to say something extravagant. For the word which I will speak is not mine. I will refer you to a witness who is worthy of credit, and will tell you about my wisdom - whether I have any, and of what sort - and that witness shall be the god of Delphi. You must have known Chaerephon; he was early a friend of mine, and also a friend of yours, for he shared in the exile of the people, and returned with you. Well, Chaerephon, as you know, was very impetuous in all his doings, and he went to Delphi and boldly asked the oracle to tell him whether - as I was saying, I must beg you not to interrupt - he asked the oracle to tell him whether there was anyone wiser than I was, and the Pythian prophetess answered that there was no man wiser. Chaerephon is dead himself, but his brother, who is in court, will confirm the truth of this story.
Why do I mention this? Because I am going to explain to you why I have such an evil name. When I heard the answer, I said to myself, What can the god mean? and what is the interpretation of this riddle? for I know that I have no wisdom, small or great. What can he mean when he says that I am the wisest of men? And yet he is a god and cannot lie; that would be against his nature. After a long consideration, I at last thought of a method of trying the question. I reflected that if I could only find a man wiser than myself, then I might go to the god with a refutation in my hand. I should say to him, "Here is a man who is wiser than I am; but you said that I was the wisest." Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed to him - his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination - and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and wiser still by himself; and I went and tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is - for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him. Then I went to another, who had still higher philosophical pretensions, and my conclusion was exactly the same. I made another enemy of him, and of many others besides him.
After this I went to one man after another, being not unconscious of the enmity which I provoked, and I lamented and feared this: but necessity was laid upon me - the word of God, I thought, ought to be considered first. And I said to myself, Go I must to all who appear to know, and find out the meaning of the oracle. And I swear to you, Athenians, by the dog I swear! - for I must tell you the truth - the result of my mission was just this: I found that the men most in repute were all but the most foolish; and that some inferior men were really wiser and better. I will tell you the tale of my wanderings and of the "Herculean" labors, as I may call them, which I endured only to find at last the oracle irrefutable. When I left the politicians, I went to the poets; tragic, dithyrambic, and all sorts. And there, I said to myself, you will be detected; now you will find out that you are more ignorant than they are. Accordingly, I took them some of the most elaborate passages in their own writings, and asked what was the meaning of them - thinking that they would teach me something. Will you believe me? I am almost ashamed to speak of this, but still I must say that there is hardly a person present who would not have talked better about their poetry than they did themselves. That showed me in an instant that not by wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration; they are like diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things, but do not understand the meaning of them. And the poets appeared to me to be much in the same case; and I further observed that upon the strength of their poetry they believed themselves to be the wisest of men in other things in which they were not wise. So I departed, conceiving myself to be superior to them for the same reason that I was superior to the politicians.
At last I went to the artisans, for I was conscious that I knew nothing at all, as I may say, and I was sure that they knew many fine things; and in this I was not mistaken, for they did know many things of which I was ignorant, and in this they certainly were wiser than I was. But I observed that even the good artisans fell into the same error as the poets; because they were good workmen they thought that they also knew all sorts of high matters, and this defect in them overshadowed their wisdom - therefore I asked myself on behalf of the oracle, whether I would like to be as I was, neither having their knowledge nor their ignorance, or like them in both; and I made answer to myself and the oracle that I was better off as I was.
This investigation has led to my having many enemies of the worst and most dangerous kind, and has given occasion also to many calumnies, and I am called wise, for my hearers always imagine that I myself possess the wisdom which I find wanting in others: but the truth is, O men of Athens, that God only is wise; and in this oracle he means to say that the wisdom of men is little or nothing; he is not speaking of Socrates, he is only using my name as an illustration, as if he said, He, O men, is the wisest, who, like Socrates, knows that his wisdom is in truth worth nothing. And so I go my way, obedient to the god, and make inquisition into the wisdom of anyone, whether citizen or stranger, who appears to be wise; and if he is not wise, then in vindication of the oracle I show him that he is not wise; and this occupation quite absorbs me, and I have no time to give either to any public matter of interest or to any concern of my own, but I am in utter poverty by reason of my devotion to the god. …
The jury finds Socrates guilty.
Socrates' Proposal for his Sentence
There are many reasons why I am not grieved, O men of Athens, at the vote of condemnation. I expected it, and am only surprised that the votes are so nearly equal; for I had thought that the majority against me would have been far larger; but now, had thirty votes gone over to the other side, I should have been acquitted. And I may say that I have escaped Meletus. And I may say more; for without the assistance of Anytus and Lycon, he would not have had a fifth part of the votes, as the law requires, in which case he would have incurred a fine of a thousand drachmae, as is evident.
And so he proposes death as the penalty. And what shall I propose on my part, O men of Athens? … What would be a reward suitable to a poor man who is your benefactor, who desires leisure that he may instruct you? There can be no more fitting reward than maintenance in the Prytaneum, O men of Athens, a reward which he deserves far more than the citizen who has won the prize at Olympia in the horse or chariot race, whether the chariots were drawn by two horses or by many….
Perhaps you may think that I am braving you in saying this…[b]ut that is not the case. I speak rather because I am convinced that I never intentionally wronged anyone … I cannot in a moment refute great slanders; and, as I am convinced that I never wronged another, I will assuredly not wrong myself. I will not say of myself that I deserve any evil, or propose any penalty. Why should I? Because I am afraid of the penalty of death which Meletus proposes? When I do not know whether death is a good or an evil, why should I propose a penalty which would certainly be an evil? Shall I say imprisonment? And why should I live in prison, and be the slave of the magistrates of the year - of the Eleven? Or shall the penalty be a fine, and imprisonment until the fine is paid? There is the same objection. I should have to lie in prison, for money I have none, and I cannot pay. And if I say exile (and this may possibly be the penalty which you will affix), I must indeed be blinded by the love of life if I were to consider that when you, who are my own citizens, cannot endure my discourses and words, and have found them so grievous and odious that you would fain have done with them, others are likely to endure me. No, indeed, men of Athens, that is not very likely. And what a life should I lead, at my age, wandering from city to city, living in ever-changing exile, and always being driven out! For I am quite sure that into whatever place I go, as here so also there, the young men will come to me; and if I drive them away, their elders will drive me out at their desire: and if I let them come, their fathers and friends will drive me out for their sakes.
Someone will say: Yes, Socrates, but cannot you hold your tongue, and then you may go into a foreign city, and no one will interfere with you? Now I have great difficulty in making you understand my answer to this. For if I tell you that this would be a disobedience to a divine command, and therefore that I cannot hold my tongue, you will not believe that I am serious; and if I say again that the greatest good of man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living - that you are still less likely to believe. And yet what I say is true, although a thing of which it is hard for me to persuade you. Moreover, I am not accustomed to think that I deserve any punishment. Had I money I might have proposed to give you what I had, and have been none the worse. But you see that I have none, and can only ask you to proportion the fine to my means. However, I think that I could afford a minae, and therefore I propose that penalty; Plato, Crito, Critobulus, and Apollodorus, my friends here, bid me say thirty minae, and they will be the sureties. Well then, say thirty minae, let that be the penalty; for that they will be ample security to you.
The jury condemns Socrates to death.
Socrates' Comments on his Sentence
… Let us reflect in another way, and we shall see that there is great reason to hope that death is a good, for one of two things: - either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another. Now if you suppose that there is no consciousness, but a sleep like the sleep of him who is undisturbed even by the sight of dreams, death will be an unspeakable gain. For if a person were to select the night in which his sleep was undisturbed even by dreams, and were to compare with this the other days and nights of his life, and then were to tell us how many days and nights he had passed in the course of his life better and more pleasantly than this one, I think that any man, I will not say a private man, but even the great king, will not find many such days or nights, when compared with the others. Now if death is like this, I say that to die is gain; for eternity is then only a single night. But if death is the journey to another place, and there, as men say, all the dead are, what good, O my friends and judges, can be greater than this? If indeed when the pilgrim arrives in the world below, he is delivered from the professors of justice in this world, and finds the true judges who are said to give judgment there, Minos and Rhadamanthus and Aeacus and Triptolemus, and other sons of God who were righteous in their own life, that pilgrimage will be worth making. What would not a man give if he might converse with Orpheus and Musaeus and Hesiod and Homer? Nay, if this be true, let me die again and again. I, too, shall have a wonderful interest in a place where I can converse with Palamedes, and Ajax the son of Telamon, and other heroes of old, who have suffered death through an unjust judgment; and there will be no small pleasure, as I think, in comparing my own sufferings with theirs. Above all, I shall be able to continue my search into true and false knowledge; as in this world, so also in that; I shall find out who is wise, and who pretends to be wise, and is not. What would not a man give, O judges, to be able to examine the leader of the great Trojan expedition; or Odysseus or Sisyphus, or numberless others, men and women too! What infinite delight would there be in conversing with them and asking them questions! For in that world they do not put a man to death for this; certainly not. For besides being happier in that world than in this, they will be immortal, if what is said is true.
Wherefore, O judges, be of good cheer about death, and know this of a truth - that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death. He and his are not neglected by the gods; nor has my own approaching end happened by mere chance. But I see clearly that to die and be released was better for me; and therefore the oracle gave no sign. For which reason also, I am not angry with my accusers, or my condemners; they have done me no harm, although neither of them meant to do me any good; and for this I may gently blame them.
Still I have a favor to ask of them. When my sons are grown up, I would ask you, O my friends, to punish them; and I would have you trouble them, as I have troubled you, if they seem to care about riches, or anything, more than about virtue; or if they pretend to be something when they are really nothing, - then reprove them, as I have reproved you, for not caring about that for which they ought to care, and thinking that they are something when they are really nothing. And if you do this, I and my sons will have received justice at your hands.
The hour of departure has arrived, and we go our ways - I to die, and you to live. Which is better God only knows.
The son of a wealthy and noble family, Plato (427-347 BC) was preparing for a career in politics when the trial and eventual execution of Socrates (399 B.C.) changed the course of his life. He abandoned his political career and turned to philosophy, opening a school on the outskirts of Athens dedicated to the Socratic search for wisdom. Plato's school, then known as the Academy, was the first university in western history and operated from 387 B.C. until A.D. 529, when it was closed by Justinian.
Unlike his mentor Socrates, Plato was both a writer and a teacher. His writings are in the form of dialogues, with Socrates as the principal speaker. In the Allegory of the Cave, Plato described symbolically the predicament in which mankind finds itself and proposes a way of salvation. The Allegory presents, in brief form, most of Plato's major philosophical assumptions: his belief that the world revealed by our senses is not the real world but only a poor copy of it, and that the real world can only be apprehended intellectually; his idea that knowledge cannot be transferred from teacher to student, but rather that education consists in directing student's minds toward what is real and important and allowing them to apprehend it for themselves; his faith that the universe ultimately is good; his conviction that enlightened individuals have an obligation to the rest of society, and that a good society must be one in which the truly wise (the Philosopher-King) are the rulers.
The Allegory of the Cave can be found in Book VII of Plato's best-known work, The Republic, a lengthy dialogue on the nature of justice. Often regarded as a utopian blueprint, The Republic is dedicated toward a discussion of the education required of a Philosopher-King.
The following selection is taken from the Benjamin Jowett translation (Vintage, 1991), pp. 253-261.
The Allegory of the Cave
[Socrates] And now, I said, let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: --Behold! human beings living in a underground cave, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the cave; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets.
[Glaucon] I see.
[Socrates] And do you see, I said, men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.
[Glaucon] You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners.
[Socrates] Like ourselves, I replied; and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave?
[Glaucon] True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?
[Socrates] And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows?
[Glaucon] Yes, he said.
[Socrates] And if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them?
[Glaucon] Very true.
[Socrates] And suppose further that the prison had an echo which came from the other side, would they not be sure to fancy when one of the passers-by spoke that the voice which they heard came from the passing shadow?
[Glaucon] No question, he replied.
[Socrates] To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images.
[Glaucon] That is certain.
[Socrates] And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated and compelled suddenly to stand up and turn his neck round and walk and look towards the light, he will suffer sharp pains; the glare will distress him, and he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows; and then conceive some one saying to him, that what he saw before was an illusion, but that now, when he is approaching nearer to being and his eye is turned towards more real existence, he has a clearer vision, -what will be his reply? And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them, -will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?
[Glaucon] Far truer.
[Socrates] And if he is compelled to look straight at the light, will he not have a pain in his eyes which will make him turn away to take and take in the objects of vision which he can see, and which he will conceive to be in reality clearer than the things which are now being shown to him?
[Glaucon] True, he now.
[Socrates] And suppose once more, that he is reluctantly dragged up a steep and rugged ascent, and held fast until he 's forced into the presence of the sun himself, is he not likely to be pained and irritated? When he approaches the light his eyes will be dazzled, and he will not be able to see anything at all of what are now called realities.
[Glaucon] Not all in a moment, he said.
[Socrates] He will require to grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world. And first he will see the shadows best, next the reflections of men and other objects in the water, and then the objects themselves; then he will gaze upon the light of the moon and the stars and the spangled heaven; and he will see the sky and the stars by night better than the sun or the light of the sun by day?
[Socrates] Last of he will be able to see the sun, and not mere reflections of him in the water, but he will see him in his own proper place, and not in another; and he will contemplate him as he is.
[Socrates] He will then proceed to argue that this is he who gives the season and the years, and is the guardian of all that is in the visible world, and in a certain way the cause of all things which he and his fellows have been accustomed to behold?
[Glaucon] Clearly, he said, he would first see the sun and then reason about him.
[Socrates] And when he remembered his old habitation, and the wisdom of the cave and his fellow-prisoners, do you not suppose that he would felicitate himself on the change, and pity them?
[Glaucon] Certainly, he would.
[Socrates] And if they were in the habit of conferring honors among themselves on those who were quickest to observe the passing shadows and to remark which of them went before, and which followed after, and which were together; and who were therefore best able to draw conclusions as to the future, do you think that he would care for such honors and glories, or envy the possessors of them? Would he not say with Homer,
Better to be the poor servant of a poor master, and to endure anything, rather than think as they do and live after their manner?
[Glaucon] Yes, he said, I think that he would rather suffer anything than entertain these false notions and live in this miserable manner.
[Socrates] Imagine once more, I said, such an one coming suddenly out of the sun to be replaced in his old situation; would he not be certain to have his eyes full of darkness?
[Glaucon] To be sure, he said.
[Socrates] And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the cave, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable) would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.
[Glaucon] No question, he said.
[Socrates] This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed….
Born at Stagira, a Greek colony on the peninsula of Chalcidice, Aristotle (384-322 BC) was the son of Nicomachus, the friend and physician of Amyntas II, king of Macedon, father of Philip, and grandfather of Alexander the Great. At 18 years of age, Aristotle left Stagira for Athens and three years later, he became a pupil at Plato's Academy. During his twenty years in Athens he established a school of rhetoric. To this period belong some of his dialogues, including the Eudemus (and its Platonic influence). Upon Plato's death in 347, Aristotle left Athens. He spent three years with an old friend, the despot of Lesbos, at Atarneus in Asia Minor, and married his niece. In 342, Aristotle was invited by Philip of Macedon to educate his son, Alexander. The two parted when Alexander set out on his expedition into Asia in 334. Aristotle returned to Athens in 335 and set up a school called the Lyceum, so named from its proximity to the temple of Apollo Lyceius. His followers were called Peripetetics. After the death of Alexander, the anti-Macedonian party accused Aristotle of impiety. With the example of Socrates behind him, Aristotle escaped (322) to Chalcis in Euboea, where he died in the same year.
Trained as a physician, Aristotle brought to his philosophy a respect for fact, which he based on his doctrines. Plato, on the other hand, created a philosophic system grounded in the theory of forms. Aristotle, it is said, brought Plato down to earth. He was the first to work out a theory of reasoning which, with modifications over time, has survived to our own day as deductive logic. His Organon was the name given to his treatises on logic, of which the most notable are the Categories, Prior Analytics and Posterior Analytics. The Metaphysics (after physics) was given to Aristotle's discussions on "first philosophy," because they were placed by his editors after his books about nature.
A true polymath, Aristotle devoted his life to a variety of topics including physics, zoology, biology, poetry and drama, metaphysics, politics, logic, psychology, theology and ethics. About the only field of intellectual endeavor that Aristotle did not discuss was mathematics. Although Aristotle wrote his treatises, what usually passes for Aristotle's works today are lecture notes maintained by his students.
The Doctrine of the Mean
We must, however, not only describe virtue as a state of character, but also say what sort of state it is. We may remark, then, that every virtue or excellence both brings into good condition the thing of which it is the excellence and makes the work of that thing be done well; e.g. the excellence of the eye makes both the eye and its work good; for it is by the excellence of the eye that we see well. Similarly the excellence of the horse makes a horse both good in itself and good at running and at carrying its rider and at awaiting the attack of the enemy. Therefore, if this is true in every case, the virtue of man also will be the state of character which makes a man good and which makes him do his own work well.
How this is to happen we have stated already, but it will be made plain also by the following consideration of the specific nature of virtue. In everything that is continuous and divisible it is possible to take more, less, or an equal amount, and that either in terms of the thing itself or relatively to us; and the equal is an intermediate between excess and defect. By the intermediate in the object I mean that which is equidistant from each of the extremes, which is one and the same for all men; by the intermediate relatively to us that which is neither too much nor too little- and this is not one, nor the same for all. For instance, if ten is many and two is few, six is the intermediate, taken in terms of the object; for it exceeds and is exceeded by an equal amount; this is intermediate according to arithmetical proportion. But the intermediate relatively to us is not to be taken so; if ten pounds are too much for a particular person to eat and two too little, it does not follow that the trainer will order six pounds; for this also is perhaps too much for the person who is to take it, or too little- too little for Milo, too much for the beginner in athletic exercises. The same is true of running and wrestling. Thus a master of any art avoids excess and defect, but seeks the intermediate and chooses this- the intermediate not in the object but relatively to us.
If it is thus, then, that every art does its work well- by looking to the intermediate and judging its works by this standard (so that we often say of good works of art that it is not possible either to take away or to add anything, implying that excess and defect destroy the goodness of works of art, while the mean preserves it; and good artists, as we say, look to this in their work), and if, further, virtue is more exact and better than any art, as nature also is, then virtue must have the quality of aiming at the intermediate. I mean moral virtue; for it is this that is concerned with passions and actions, and in these there is excess, defect, and the intermediate. For instance, both fear and confidence and appetite and anger and pity and in general pleasure and pain may be felt both too much and too little, and in both cases not well; but to feel them at the right times, with reference to the right objects, towards the right people, with the right motive, and in the right way, is what is both intermediate and best, and this is characteristic of virtue. Similarly with regard to actions also there is excess, defect, and the intermediate. Now virtue is concerned with passions and actions, in which excess is a form of failure, and so is defect, while the intermediate is praised and is a form of success; and being praised and being successful are both characteristics of virtue. Therefore virtue is a kind of mean, since, as we have seen, it aims at what is intermediate.
Again, it is possible to fail in many ways (for evil belongs to the class of the unlimited, as the Pythagoreans conjectured, and good to that of the limited), while to succeed is possible only in one way (for which reason also one is easy and the other difficult- to miss the mark easy, to hit it difficult); for these reasons also, then, excess and defect are characteristic of vice, and the mean of virtue;
For men are good in but one way, but bad in many.
Virtue, then, is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it. Now it is a mean between two vices, that which depends on excess and that which depends on defect; and again it is a mean because the vices respectively fall short of or exceed what is right in both passions and actions, while virtue both finds and chooses that which is intermediate. Hence in respect of its substance and the definition which states its essence virtue is a mean, with regard to what is best and right an extreme.
But not every action nor every passion admits of a mean; for some have names that already imply badness, e.g. spite, shamelessness, envy, and in the case of actions adultery, theft, murder; for all of these and suchlike things imply by their names that they are themselves bad, and not the excesses or deficiencies of them. It is not possible, then, ever to be right with regard to them; one must always be wrong. Nor does goodness or badness with regard to such things depend on committing adultery with the right woman, at the right time, and in the right way, but simply to do any of them is to go wrong. It would be equally absurd, then, to expect that in unjust, cowardly, and voluptuous action there should be a mean, an excess, and a deficiency; for at that rate there would be a mean of excess and of deficiency, an excess of excess, and a deficiency of deficiency. But as there is no excess and deficiency of temperance and courage because what is intermediate is in a sense an extreme, so too of the actions we have mentioned there is no mean nor any excess and deficiency, but however they are done they are wrong; for in general there is neither a mean of excess and deficiency, nor excess and deficiency of a mean….
The Difficulty of Attaining the Mean
That moral virtue is a mean, then, and in what sense it is so, and that it is a mean between two vices, the one involving excess, the other deficiency, and that it is such because its character is to aim at what is intermediate in passions and in actions, has been sufficiently stated. Hence also it is no easy task to be good. For in everything it is no easy task to find the middle, e.g. to find the middle of a circle is not for every one but for him who knows; so, too, any one can get angry- that is easy- or give or spend money; but to do this to the right person, to the right extent, at the right time, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not for every one, nor is it easy; wherefore goodness is both rare and laudable and noble.
Hence he who aims at the intermediate must first depart from what is the more contrary to it, as Calypso advises-
Hold the ship out beyond that surf and spray.
For of the extremes one is more erroneous, one less so; therefore, since to hit the mean is hard in the extreme, we must as a second best, as people say, take the least of the evils; and this will be done best in the way we describe. But we must consider the things towards which we ourselves also are easily carried away; for some of us tend to one thing, some to another; and this will be recognizable from the pleasure and the pain we feel. We must drag ourselves away to the contrary extreme; for we shall get into the intermediate state by drawing well away from error, as people do in straightening sticks that are bent.
Now in everything the pleasant or pleasure is most to be guarded against; for we do not judge it impartially. We ought, then, to feel towards pleasure as the elders of the people felt towards Helen, and in all circumstances repeat their saying; for if we dismiss pleasure thus we are less likely to go astray. It is by doing this, then, (to sum the matter up) that we shall best be able to hit the mean.
Virtuous Mean between the Extremes of Vice
Vice of Deficiency | Virtuous Mean | Vice of Excess | | | | Cowardice | Courage | Rashness | Insensibility | Temperance | Intemperance | Illiberality | Liberality | Prodigality | Pettiness | Munificence | Vulgarity | Humble-mindedness | High-mindedness | Vaingloriness | Want of Ambition | Right Ambition | Over-ambition | Spiritlessness | Good Temper | Irascibility | Ironical Depreciation | Sincerity | Boastfulness | Boorishness | Wittiness | Buffoonery | Shamelessness | Modesty | Bashfulness | Callousness | Just Resentment | Spitefulness |
Truth, Opinion, Knowledge
Truth: Correspondence between mind and reality.
Note the general agreement in history on this definition of truth: * Plato on false statement: “one which asserts the nonexistence of things which are or the existence of things which are not.” * Aristotle: “To say of what is that it is or of what is not that it is not, is to speak the truth or to think truly; just as it is false to say of what is that it is not or of what is not that it is.” * Thomas Aquinas: Truth in the human mind consists in the mind’s conformity to reality to that which is. * John Locke: The truth our words contain will be only verbal when they stand for ideas in the mind that do not agree with the realty of things.Of course the problem lies not so much in the definition as in knowing if what I say really does or does not correspond to reality |
Communication: Correspondence between two minds; between what one person thinks and what another person thinks.
Telling the Truth: Correspondence between mind and speech; between what one thinks and what one says
Telling a lie: Discrepancy between mind and speech; between what one thinks and what one says
Relativism: What may be true for me is false for you. What may have been true in another culture or period of history may no longer be true today.
Absolutism: Truth is objective, immutable, regardless of culture or historic era; the opposite of relativism
Pragmatism: Truth consists in those ideas that bear practical fruit in action; truth is what works.
Knowledge: Having the truth and knowing you have it
Opinion: Not being sure you have the truth
| Knowledge | Opinion | Truth | Must be true; cannot be false | Opinions can be true or false | Doubt | There can be no doubt | There can be doubt | Belief | There can be no belief | There can be belief | Example | 2+2=4 | There is no better dessert than apple pie. |
Right Opinion: any opinion which happens to be true – although you may not know why it is true
Skepticism: Everything is opinion; we cannot have knowledge; we cannot possess the truth; (for example, Montaigne [1533-1592]).
Moderate Skepticism: Some things are based on self-evident truths, such as mathematics. But others, like history and experimental science are not knowledge but highly probable opinion (for example Hume [1711-76]).
Philosophy, Science, Religion
Defining Philosophy * “The love of wisdom” * Rational discussion of basic ideas – by reason alone (not faith) * Offers direction * the most primitive, most basic form of inquiry: * Science gives us power over nature; philosophy tells us how to use the power (think atomic energy). * Socrates: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Branches of Philosophy * Logic: Science of thought * Metaphysics: Science of being or existence * Epistemology: Theory of knowledge * Ethics: Science of conduct or the good * Aesthetics: Science of art or the beautiful * Political Philosophy: Science of society and government
Limitations of Science * How do we attain happiness? * How do we create a society? * What is right and wrong? * Why should all labour be dignified? Why there should be no slavery? * What is freedom?
Limitations of Philosophy * What precepts/laws does God gives us? * Is there an afterlife? * How might God help us achieve our ends life and society? (grace)
Distinguishing Science, Philosophy, Religion
| Science | Philosophy | Religion | Method | Investigation | Reception | Revelation | Symbol | test tubes, telescopes, observations, experiments | an armchair, paper and pencil | Bible | Object | All phenomena of the world | What lies behind the appearances, the ultimate cause of things | Ultimate mysteries, divine mysteries | Goal | Describe the facts; give knowledge of the facts | Describe the underlying reality and causes | Go beyond what is knowable and understandable | Example of Question | How is matter transformed into energy? | Why does the world of change involve some permanent things? | Did God create the universe? |
Note: When Conflict arises amongst Science, Philosophy and Religion, it is usually because one has invaded another’s domain. Philosophy often acts as a buffer between Science and Religion.
Polytheism: Belief in many gods
Monotheism: Belief in one God
Unitarian monotheism: God’s nature is absolutely simple (Judaism, Islam)
Trinitarian monotheism: Three persons in one God (Christianity)
Theism: Belief in God
Atheism: Belief that God does not exist
Agnosticism: Uncertainty if God exists or not
Deism: Belief that God created the world then stood back to let it run its course; God is impersonal
Pantheism: God’s whole being is in the world; the world and God are the same
(With Theism God and the world are separate; God transcends the world)
Three ways to conceive God 1) God is not like anything we know; We can know nothing about God 2) God is like everything we know; God, then, is finite, changeable, imperfect 3) God is both like and unlike everything we know a. God is like things we know: God has being/existence b. God is not like things we know: infinite, unchangeable, perfect
Fundamentals of Aristotelian Logic
In his Prior and Posterior Analytics, Aristotle called a truth statement a proposition. For example, “All people are mortal” is a proposition.
He defined each term in the proposition as follows: All people are mortal Operator Subject Copula Predicate S = P |
Another example: Some pigs are not handsome Operator Subject Copula Operator Predicate S ≠ P |
Aristotle noted several recurring Propositions:
Universal affirmative All S is P All people are mortal.
Universal negative No S is P No people can live forever.
Particular affirmative Some S is P Some people live to 100.
Particular negative Some S are not P Some people do not live to 100.
A Syllogism consists of three propositions – two premises and a conclusion. The premises share a common subject or predicate. Aristotle came up with 256 syllogisms. Here is a simple one: All apples are fruits. All S are P All fruits are edible. All P are Q Therefore – All apples are edible. All S are Q
Some arguments may appear to be true but, in fact, if the conclusion is false they are invalid. Compare the following invalid argument with the syllogism above. (See Undistributed Middle below.) All dogs have four legs. All S are P All tables have four legs. All Q are P Therefore –
All tables are dogs. All Q are S
Rules of Inference help to keep our logical arguments on track. Here are a few of the more common rules of inference: Name | Form | Example | Modus Ponens | If P then QP– Q | If it’s raining, then I will get wetIt is raining.ThereforeI will get wet. | Modus Tollens | If P then QNot Q– Not P | If I had studied my Philosophy, I would have passed.I did not study.ThereforeI did not pass. | Hypothetical Syllogism | If P then QIf Q then R–If P then R | If you do not study Philosophy, you will not pass.If you do not pass, you will have to retake it next year.ThereforeIf you do not study Philosophy, you will have to retake it next year. | Disjunctive Syllogism | Either P or QNot P–Q | Either it’s fish for tea or boiled eggs.It’s not fish.ThereforeIt’s boiled eggs | Constructive Syllogism | If (P then Q) and (if R then S)Either P or R–Either Q or S | If I do not do my homework, I will have lunch detention; and if my teacher is in a bad mood, I will have to clean desks.For sure either I don’t do my homework or my teacher will be in a bad moodThereforeI will have lunch detention or I will have to clean desks. |
Fallacies: Aristotle, and many since, have identified fallacies in our arguments. Here are a few of the more common fallacies:
1. Ad Hominem (“to the man”): attacks the person instead of the argument 2. Affirming the consequent / Denying the antecedent: draws a conclusion from premises that do not support that conclusion by confusing necessary and sufficient conditions 3. Begging the question: demonstrates a conclusion by means of premises that assume that conclusion 4. False cause / non sequitur (“it does not follow”): incorrectly assumes one thing is the cause of another 5. False dichotomy/ False Dilemma: assumes there are only two alternatives when in fact there are more 6. Loaded question: groups more than one question in the form of a single question 7. Straw man: an informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of an opponent's position 8. Sweeping generalization: a generalization that disregards exceptions 9. Undistributed Middle (a form of a Non Sequitur): All S are P, All P are Q, therefore all S are Q (see Invalid Argument above.)
Try your hand at identifying the following fallacies. (Don’t get discouraged; it’s not always easy.)
1 | | I hear the rain falling outside my window; therefore, the sun is not shining. | 2 | | Von Daniken's books about ancient astronauts are worthless because he is a convicted forger and embezzler. | 3 | | It is illegal for a stranger to enter someone's home uninvited. Fire-fighters enter people's homes uninvited; therefore fire-fighters are breaking the law. | 4 | | It wasn’t medicine that cured her, so it must have been a miracle. | 5 | | Have you stopped beating your wife? | 6 | | You did not cheer for the team, so you must want them to lose. | 7 | | If people have the flu, they cough. Torres is coughing. Therefore, Torres has the flu. | 8 | | We must have a death penalty to discourage violent crime. | 9 | | Evolutionary biology is a sinister tool of the materialistic, atheistic religion of Secular Humanism. | 10 | | Men are human. / Mary is human. / Therefore Mary is a man. | 11 | | After Billy was vaccinated he developed autism, therefore the vaccine caused his autism. | 12 | | Tens of thousands of Americans have seen lights in the night sky which they could not identify. The existence of life on other planets is fast becoming certainty! | 13 | | If President Clinton had had integrity, he would have resigned. / He did not resign. Therefore he had not integrity | 14 | | Heroin users are at risk of becoming dependent on the drug, because heroin is an addictive substance. | 15 | | If you weren't so stupid you would have no problem seeing my point of view. | 16 | | I used to think that way when I was your age. | 17 | | If it is raining outside, it must be cloudy. It is not raining outside. Therefore, it is not cloudy. | 18 | | If it rains, the ground gets wet. The ground is wet, therefore it rained. | 19 | | Cutting people is a crime. Surgeons cut people, therefore, surgeons are criminals. | 20 | | Atheism is the only alternative to Fundamentalism. | 21 | | More cows die in India in the summer months. More ice cream is consumed in summer months. Therefore, the consumption of ice cream in the summer months is killing Indian cows. |
[ 2 ]. N.b.: This syllabus is subject to change at the discretion, whim, fancy or bad humour of your instructor.
[ 3 ]. Although edited for the sake of simplicity, much of this introduction to Western Philosophy is taken verbatim from “Ancient Greek Philosophy” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Greek_philosophy. Also used: “Pythagoras”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pythagoras; “Democritus”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democritus.
[ 4 ]. Picture: The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:David_-_The_Death_of_Socrates.jpg
[ 5 ]. Plato, Apology, tr. Benjamin Jowett, http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/apology.html.
[ 6 ]. Introduction and text from http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/allegory.html.
[ 7 ]. Introduction: http://www.historyguide.org/ancient/aristotle.html); “The Doctrine of the Mean” from The Nicomachean Ethics, Book II (http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/nicomachaen.2.ii.html.
[ 8 ]. Jeremy Lewis, “Aristotle’s Table of Virtues: The Means Between Extremes”, http://fs.huntingdon.edu/jlewis/Outlines/ArisVirtuesTable.htm.
[ 9 ]. The information from this section on Truth, Opinion and Knowledge comes from the first three chapters of Mortimer Adler, How to Think about Great Ideas (Chicago: Open Court, 2000), pp. 1-29.
[ 10 ]. The information from this section on Philosophy, Science and Religion comes from chapters 48, 49 and 52 of Mortimer Adler, How to Think about Great Ideas (Chicago: Open Court, 2000), pp. 456-75; 497-506.
[ 11 ]. The ideas for this section are taken from Martin Cohen, Philosophy for Dummies UK Edition (West Sussex: John Wiley and Sons, 2010), Chapter 8 “Seeing the Limits of Logic”, pp. 135-54.