The Missing Links – Sept. 9, 2011

Peter Adamson, Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King’s College London, takes listeners through the history of Western philosophy, “without any gaps.” Beginning with the earliest ancient thinkers, the series will look at the ideas and lives of the major philosophers (eventually covering in detail such giants as Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna, Aquinas, Descartes, and Kant) as well as the lesser-known figures of the tradition.

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The purpose of this site is to set [the] contemporary ‘God Wars’ in their historical context, and to offer a range of perspectives (from all sides) on the chief issues raised by the ‘new atheists’. We hope this will encourage more informed opinion about the issues, discourage oversimplification of the debate, and deepen the interest in the subject.

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Edgar Andrews answers this question in an article written for the Christian Apologetics Alliance.

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Philosophy Word of the Day — Noumenon

Immanuel Kant

Image via Wikipedia

 

“(pl. noumena) ‘Thing-in-itself’ contrasted with appearance or phenomenon in the philosophy of Kant.  Noumena are the external source of experience but are not themselves knowable and can only be inferred from experience of phenomena.  Although inaccessible to speculative reason, the noumenal world of God, freedom, and immortality is apprehended through man’s capacity for acting as a moral agent.”

A Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed., ed. Antony Flew, 251.

 

“By Kant’s view, humans can make sense out of phenomena in . . . various ways, but can never directly know the noumena, the “things-in-themselves”, the actual objects and dynamics of the natural world. In other words, by Kant’s Critique, our minds may attempt to correlate in useful ways, perhaps even closely accurate ways, with the structure and order of the various aspects of the universe, but cannot know these “things-in-themselves” (noumena) directly. Rather, we must infer the extent to which thoughts correspond with things-in-themselves by our observations of the manifestations of those things that can be sensed, that is, of phenomena.”

— “Noumenon,” Wikipedia.

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Philosophy Word of the Day – George Berkeley (1695-1753)

George Berkeley
Image by jaycross via Flickr

George Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne, was one of the great philosophers of the early modern period. He was a brilliant critic of his predecessors, particularly Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke. He was a talented metaphysician famous for defending idealism, that is, the view that reality consists exclusively of minds and their ideas. Berkeley’s system, while it strikes many as counter-intuitive, is strong and flexible enough to counter most objections. His most-studied works, the Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (Principles, for short) and Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous (Dialogues), are beautifully written and dense with the sort of arguments that delight contemporary philosophers.

He was also a wide-ranging thinker with interests in religion (which were fundamental to his philosophical motivations), the psychology of vision, mathematics, physics, morals, economics, and medicine. Although many of Berkeley’s first readers greeted him with incomprehension, he influenced both Hume and Kant, and is much read (if little followed) in our own day.

(Via Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)

Ludwig Wittgenstein is one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, and regarded by some as the most important since Immanuel Kant. His early work was influenced by that of Arthur Schopenhauer and, especially, by his teacher Bertrand Russell and by Gottlob Frege, who became something of a friend. This work culminated in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, the only philosophy book that Wittgenstein published during his lifetime. It claimed to solve all the major problems of philosophy and was held in especially high esteem by the anti-metaphysical logical positivists. The Tractatus is based on the idea that philosophical problems arise from misunderstandings of the logic of language, and it tries to show what this logic is.

Wittgenstein’s later work, principally his Philosophical Investigations, shares this concern with logic and language, but takes a different, less technical, approach to philosophical problems. This book helped to inspire so-called ordinary language philosophy. This style of doing philosophy has fallen somewhat out of favor, but Wittgenstein’s work on rule-following and private language is still considered important, and his later philosophy is influential in a growing number of fields outside philosophy.

On religion and ethics:

Wittgenstein had a lifelong interest in religion and claimed to see every problem from a religious point of view, but never committed himself to any formal religion. His various remarks on ethics also suggest a particular point of view, and Wittgenstein often spoke of ethics and religion together. This point of view or attitude can be seen in the four main themes that run through Wittgenstein’s writings on ethics and religion: goodness, value or meaning are not to be found in the world; living the right way involves acceptance of or agreement with the world, or life, or God’s will, or fate; one who lives this way will see the world as a miracle; there is no answer to the problem of life–the solution is the disappearance of the problem.

(Via Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Categorical / Hypothetical Imperative

In the moral philosophy of Kant, a distinction between ways in which the will may be obliged. A hypothetical imperative (of the form, “If you want X, then do A.”) is always conditioned on something else, but a categorical imperative (of the form “Do A.”) is absolute and universal. Moral action for Kant always follows from the categorical imperative, “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it become a universal law.”

Recommended Reading: Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, tr. by James W. Ellington (Hackett, 1993) {at Amazon.com}; Roger J. Sullivan, An Introduction to Kant’s Ethics (Cambridge, 1994) {at Amazon.com}; and Terence Charles Williams, The Concept of the Categorical Imperative: A Study of the Place of the Categorical Imperative in Kant’s Ethical Theory (Oxford, 1993) {at Amazon.com}.

(Via Philosophical Dictionary)

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Philosophy Word of the Day – Category

Predicate; hence, a fundamental class of things in our conceptual framework. In Aristotle‘s logic specifically, the categories are the ten general modes of being (substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, position, possession, doing, and undergoing) by reference to which any individual thing may be described.

Following the lead of stoic thought, medieval logicians commonly employed only the first four of these ten, but allowed for additional, syncategorematic terms that belonged to none of them.

Kant employed a schematized table of a dozen categories as the basis for our understanding of the phenomenal realm.

Gilbert Ryle used the term much more broadly, warning of the category mistakes that occur when we fail to respect the unique features of kinds of things.

Recommended Reading: F. E. Peters, Greek Philosophical Terms: A Historical Lexicon (NYU, 1967) {at Amazon.com} and Aristotle, Categories, ed. by Hugh Tredennick (Harvard, 1938) {at Amazon.com}.

Also see IEP, SEP, ColE, and PP.

(Via A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names)

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