Philosophy Word of the Day — Plato on the Soul

“The human soul is considered by Plato to be an immaterial agent, superior in nature to the body and somewhat hindered by the body in the performance of the higher, psychic functions of human life. The tripartite division of the soul becomes an essential teaching of Platonic psychology from the Republic onward. The rational part is highest and is pictured as the ruler of the psychological organism in the well-regulated man.

“Next in importance is the “spirited” element of the soul, which is the source of action and the seat of the virtue of courage. The lowest part is the concupiscent or acquisitive element, which may be brought under control by the virtue of temperance The latter two are often combined and called irrational in contrast to the highest part.

“Sensation is an active function of the soul, by which the soul “feels” the objects of sense through the instrumentality of the body. Particularly in the young, sensation is a necessary prelude to the knowledge of Ideas, but the mature and developed soul must learn to rise above sense perception and must strive for a more direct intuition of intelligible essences.

“That the soul exists before the body (related to the Pythagorean and, possibly, Orphic doctrine of transmigration) and knows the world of Ideas immediately in this anterior condition, is the foundation of the Platonic theory of reminiscence (Meno, Phaedo, Republic, Phaedrus). Thus the soul is born with true knowledge in it, but the soul, due to the encrustation of bodily cares and interests, cannot easily recall the truths innately, and we might say now, subconsciously present in it.

“Sometimes sense perceptions aid the soul in the process of reminiscence, and again, as in the famous demonstration of the Pythagorean theorem by the slave boy of the Meno, the questions and suggestions of a teacher provide the necessary stimuli for recollection. The personal immortality of the soul is very clearly taught by Plato in the tale of Er (Repub. X) and, with various attempts at logical demonstration, in the Phaedo. Empirical and physiological psychology is not stressed in Platonism, but there is an approach to it in the descriptions of sense organs and their media in the Timaeus 42 ff.”

— Vernon J. Bourke, “Platonism,” in Dictionary of Philosophy, ed. by Dagobert D. Runes

image

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

image

 

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.

image

 

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

image

 

image

Enhanced by Zemanta

Philosophy Word of the Day – Abstract Entities

Mathematics

Image via Wikipedia

“Metaphysical objects that are not actualized somewhere in space and time, that is, non-particulars such as numbers, properties, relations, propositions, and classes.  They stand in contrast to spatio-temporal physical objects.

“Whether these entities actually exist—whether we should ascribe reality to them—is a question of persistent dispute in philosophy.  Empiricists and nominalists try to conceive of abstract entities as having merely a linguistic basis.  However, if mathematics embodies general truths about the world and has abstract entities as its subject matter, abstract entities would be objects of reference and hence real existents.  This is the claim of Platonism and is also a position admitted by Quine’s criterion of ontological commitment.  The discussion of abstract entities is related to problems of being, to the problem of universals, also to the theory of meaning.”

The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy (Wiley, 2009), 4.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Philosophy Word of the Day – Gregory of Nyssa

Gregory of Nyssa (fresco in Chora Church)

Image via Wikipedia

 

“(335-398).  Greek theologian and mystic who tried to reconcile Platonism with Christianity.  As bishop of Cappadocia in eastern Asian Minor, he championed orthodoxy and was prominent at the First Council of Constantinople.  He related the doctrine of the Trinity to Plato’s ideas of the One and the Many.  He followed Origen in believing that man’s material nature was due to the fall and in believing in the Apocatastasis [for a short discussion, see here], the universal restoration of all souls, including Satan’s, in the kingdom of God.”

— Louis P. Pojman in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 354-355.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Philosophy Word of the Day — Omnibenevolence

Whereas classical Greek religion ascribed to the gods very human foibles, theism from Plato onward has affirmed that God is purely good and could not be the author of anything evil (Republic). . . .

As to our knowledge of divine goodness, Aquinas separates the order of being from the order of knowing: all goodness derives from God but we understand divine goodness by extrapolating from the goodness of creatures. For Aquinas, this requires an analogical (as opposed to an equivocal) relationship between divine and human goodness. For Kant, divine goodness is known as a postulate of pure practical reason: God must be there to reward virtue and punish evil.

The greatest challenge to belief in divine goodness has been the fact that evil exists, or more recently, the amount and type of evil rather than the mere fact of it. The problem is lessened if it is acknowledged that divine goodness does not require that each creature always be made to experience as much happiness as it is capable of experiencing. Reasons may include, for example, that: it is impossible that all creatures collectively experience maximal happiness (e.g., because the maximal happiness of one precludes the maximal happiness of another), or that there is some higher good than the happiness of all creatures (e.g., John Hick’s view that maturity is that higher good, and acquiring it may entail some displeasure), or that some forms of good are manifested only when certain types of evil exist (for example, forgiveness requires wrongdoing . . . ); or because God’s favor is undeserved and not given in response to merit, it cannot be owed and God cannot be faulted for not giving it. (See full article)

— Brian Morley, “Western Concepts of God,” The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

[tweetmeme only_single=”false”]
Enhanced by Zemanta

Philosophy Word of the Day — Dialectic

The portrait of G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831); Stee...
Image via Wikipedia

“In ancient Greece, dialectic was a form of reasoning that proceeded by question and answer, used by Plato.  In later antiquity and the Middle Ages, the term was often used to mean simply logic, but Kant applied it to arguments showing that principles of science have contradictory aspects.  Hegel thought that all logic and world history itself followed a dialectical path, in which internal contradictions were transcended, but gave rise to new contradictions that themselves required resolution.  Marx and Engels gave Hegel’s idea of dialectic a material basis; hence dialectical materialism.”

—  Peter Singer, The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, 198.

[tweetmeme only_single=”false”]
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Philosophy Word of the Day — Cardinal Virtues

(Latin, cardo, a hinge) The four classical cardinal virtues, as listed in Plato’s Republic, are [justice, wisdom (or prudence), courage, self-control (or moderation, being sensible)].  St. Ambrose (339-97), using Cicero as the immediate source, assimilated them to Christian doctrine, and seems to have been the first to use the word (Latin: cardinalis) for these four pivotal virtues (in his commentary to Luke chapter 6).  In medieval philosophy, the three theological virtues faith, hope, and charity were added to this list.

The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy, 95.

St Ambrose

Image by Lawrence OP via Flickr


Philosophy Word of the Day – The Image of the Cave

“Plato’s illustration in the Republic (Book VII) of the difference between knowledge and illusion, reality and appearance.  Men chained in a cave, facing a blank wall, with a fire burning behind them, can see only shadows, which they take for real objects.  When one who has been made to leave the cave and see the real world by the light of the sun returns, it is hard for him to adapt to the dim light; he is ridiculed by his former companions and is unable to convince them that what they see are but vague reflections of reality.”

A Dictionary of Philosophy (2nd ed), p. 59.

[tweetmeme only_single=”false”]
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Bookmark and Share

Philosophy Word of the Day – Moral Character

Plato and Aristotle
Image by Image Editor via Flickr

At the heart of one major approach to ethics—an approach counting among its proponents Plato, Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas—is the conviction that ethics is fundamentally related to what kind of persons we are. Many of Plato’s dialogues, for example, focus on what kind of persons we ought to be and begin with examinations of particular virtues:

What is the nature of justice? (Republic)
What is the nature of piety? (Euthyphro)
What is the nature of temperance? (Charmides)
What is the nature of courage? (Laches)

On the assumption that what kind of person one is is constituted by one’s character, the link between moral character and virtue is clear. We can think of one’s moral character as primarily a function of whether she has or lacks various moral virtues and vices.

The virtues and vices that comprise one’s moral character are typically understood as dispositions to behave in certain ways in certain sorts of circumstances. For instance, an honest person is disposed to telling the truth when asked. These dispositions are typically understood as relatively stable and long-term. Further, they are also typically understood to be robust, that is, consistent across a wide-spectrum of conditions. We are unlikely, for example, to think that an individual who tells the truth to her friends but consistently lies to her parents and teachers possesses the virtue of honesty. (Continue article)

(Via Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Philosophy Word of the Day – Demiurge

The philosopher Plato
Image via Wikipedia

The ancient Greek word means “craftsman” or “artisan.”  Plato, in the Timaeus, uses the word for the maker of the universe.  Plato says of this maker that he is unreservedly good and so desired that the world should be as good as possible.  The reason why the world is not better than it is is that the demiurge had to work on pre-existing chaotic matter.  Thus, the demiurge is not an omnipotent creator.

Early Christian philosophers were quick to claim that the demiurge represented pagan philosophy’s anticipation of the God of revealed religion.

(Lloyd P. Gerson, The Oxford Companion to Philosophy, 183)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Bookmark and Share