Introduction to Philosophy

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Introduction to Philosophy AND Internet research assignment

INTRODUCTION TO THE REPUBLIC The works that we have examined so far began a trend in the intellectual development of man that was to culminate in the so-called "golden-age" of Greece about which the poet Shelley said that no other time in human history had produced such a sustained achievement in virtually all areas of thought and artistic expression. This section will begin with a general introduction to the study of philosophy, followed by a consideration of selections from Plato's Republic. Together with Aristotle, the philosophy of Plato represents the culmination of the classical period. What Plato says about the "good," building on Homeric concepts, forms an important contribution to the question of good, evil and the Creator. In fact, the synthesis of classical philosophy and Christian thought marks the greatest contribution to culture in the west.

INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY The study of formal philosophy at first seems like a foreign language, with the reaction taking the form of: "Do people really talk this way, and why?" The answer is, "Yes, they do," and the reasons are complex. Sooner or later, most people, especially in times of trouble ask, "Why me?" or "It isn't fair" or "Why would God allow this to happen to...." Philosophy attempts to answer these questions, and whether we know it or admit it, we at one time or another have asked these questions, and the fact that they are under discussion in this course makes us philosophers too.

PRELIMINARY MATTERS: To study philosophy involves learning new vocabulary. After sufficient exposure, you will use it with as much ease as what you know today. The material is abstract, and abstract thinking requires effort and concentration, both in study and in application to the literature.

Philosophy asks one question: "WHAT IS IT REASONABLE TO BELIEVE?"

With most simple questions, the answers are complex. Reasonable to whom? What about faith? Do I have to experience it to believe it? Believe what? What is worth believing etc.?

We have to systematize the material, and traditionally philosophy has involved three branches of study:

METAPHYSICS: Metaphysical questions are the most fundamental. Essentially, they ask, "What is really real?" " What is the nature of reality?" Of course everything else depends on this, and the answer is not as simple as it may appear. BE PREPARED TO HAVE YOUR COMMON SENSE ASSUMPTIONS CHALLENGED. Plato's dialectical process begins with the notions that intellectual and moral growth depends on the willingness of someone to "treat first principles [deeply held convictions that we never challenge] as assumptions [that must be challenged if growth is to occur.] Words such as "IS" "SUBSTANCE" "ESSENCE" have metaphysical connotations.

EPISTEMOLOGY: Epistemology deals with knowledge, asking, "How does the mind come to know the nature of reality?" Once again, common sense answers involving what seems to be true may not hold upon closer examination. Words such as "REASON" "FAITH" "PROBLEM SOLVING" "SENSE PERCEPTION" have epistemological connotations.

AXIOLOGY: We are more familiar with the word ETHICS. Ethical questions ask, "What is good? " What is evil?" "What is beautiful, ugly?" Here the individual is concerned with making value judgments, about the nature of reality and what is worth knowing about it.

SUMMARY and REVIEW:

Fundamentally philosophical inquiry allows one fundamental question from which all else proceeds: What is it reasonable to believe? Why do you think the question is so important? Plot did not have a philosophical position per se , but our look at the cave and the divided line metaphors plus the dialectic process will offer important insights into his thinking:


1. Metaphysics--questioning the nature of reality
2. Epistemology--questioning how the mind comes to know reality
3. Value theory--questioning what is moral and beautiful

PLATO'S PHILOSOPHICAL POSITION:
a. metaphysical position--doctrine of the forms
b. epistemological position --innate knowledge, the dialectic
c. ethical position--the good and what is good for man--educational position

Plato does not simply articulate these in any one place, but that the "philosophical books" of the Republic, VI VII VII, offer much evidence. The material in this packet is designed to help you understand the Republic.

THE REPUBLIC OF PLATO: Historical introduction:

THE CENTRAL ARGUMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF PLATO CONCERNS WHAT CONSTITUTES THE JUST MAN AND THE JUST STATE. PLATO'S TIME WAS A LOT LIKE OUR OWN. AS FIFTH CENTURY ATHENS GREW RICH AND PROSPERED ECONOMICALLY, MORE AND MORE PEOPLE BEGAN TO QUESTION TRADITIONAL VALUES AND WANTED TO 'GET-RICH-QUICK'.

GROUPS OF PROFESSIONAL TEACHERS CALLED SOPHISTS [TODAY WE MIGHT CALL THEM SOUND BITE-EXPERTS] APPEARED ON THE SCENE AND PROMISED TO TEACH ANYTHING TO ANYONE TO ACHIEVE A RESULT SUCH AS ECONOMIC OR POLITICAL POWER, AND AS LONG AS THE RESULTS WORKED, THE MORAL VALUE WAS OF LESS CONSEQUENCE--SORT OF WHAT WE WOULD CALL TODAY A "WATERGATE" MENTALITY.

TRADITIONAL CONSERVATIVES LIKE PLATO AND SOPHOCLES BEGAN TO WORRY ABOUT WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF VALUES OF THE PAST WERE REPLACED BY A QUICK-FIX PRAGMATIC MENTALITY. SUCH IMPLIES AN IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GOD'S WILL AND HUMAN SUFFERING, THE THEME OF THE CLASS. THE REPUBLIC IS A CONVERSATION OR DIALOGUE BETWEEN SOCRATES WHO REPRESENTS THE VIEW OF PLATO AND SEVERAL SOPHISTS INCLUDING GLAUCON AND ADEIMANTUS, BROTHERS OF PLATO. THEY ARE WILLING TO BE GUIDED BY HIM AND FORCE HIM IN THE "CONVERSATION" TO DEFEND A POSITION THAT EVEN TODAY WE REGARD AS UNPOPULAR. IN EFFECT THEY SAY...

"ISN'T IT BETTER TO PRETEND ON THE OUTSIDE TO BE JUST, WHILE ON THE INSIDE BE WICKED. THAT WAY YOU HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. EVERYONE WILL THINK YOU ARE GOOD, AND YOUR REPUTATION WILL BE IN TACT, WHILE SECRETLY, YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT AS LONG AS YOU DO NOT GET CAUGHT..YOU HAVE THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS".

ADEIMANTUS SUMS UP: "...it is clear that if I am just, it will bring me no advantage but only trouble and loss, unless I also have a reputation for justice; whereas if I am unjust, but can contrive to get a reputation for justice, I shall have a marvelous time. Well, then since the sophists tell me that "appearance has more force than reality," and determines our happiness, I had better devote myself entirely to appearances; I must put up a facade that gives the illusory appearance of virtue, but I must always have at my back the cunning, wily fox...

This is a rather serious issue, and in responding Socrates begins to consider what constitutes justice in the microcosm (the soul of man), and the macrocosm (the ideal state):

SOCRATES MAKES THE FOLLOWING ANALOGY REGARDING THE MACROCOSM, THE STATE, AND THE MICROCOSM, THE HUMAN SOUL:


A.REASON IN THE SOUL IS TO THE PHILOSOPHER KING IN THE STATE


B.COURAGE IN THE SOUL IS TO THE GUARDIANS IN THE STATE


C. APPETITES IN THE SOUL ARE TO THE WORKERS IN THE STATE

Socrates then comments:

The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed of humanity itself, till philosophers become kings in this world or till those we now call kings and rules really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands...This is what I have hesitated to say so long, knowing what a paradox it would sound... "My dear Socrates, if you make pronouncements of that sort, you can’t be surprised if a large number of decent people take their coats off, pick up the nearest weapon, and come after you...to do something terrible to you...you’ll learn to your cost what it is to be laughed at."


RESEARCH NOTE: REMEMBER THAT OUR HOME PAGE HAS IDENTIFIED MANY SOURCES FOR CLASSICAL PHILOSOPHY AND LITERATURE--SEE 'STUDENT CURRICULUM LINKS. INTRODUCTION TO THE REPUBLIC OF PLATO AND GREEK PHILOSOPHY. THIS IS A SAMPLE FROM INTERNET RESEARCH AVAILABLE, AND WAS NOT WRITTEN BY YOUR INSTRUCTOR. ASSIGNMENT: LOCATE THE SOURCE USING OUR 'STUDENT CURRICULUM LINKS.' IT WAS WRITTEN BY A COLLEGE TEACHER AND FOCUSES ON THE WORK WE WILL DO IN THIS CLASS

The web address:

The author of the selection:

The Republic is a work of immense power and has been overwhelmingly important in the history of European thought. I [ the author of this article, a college professor] am asking you to study in detail: (a) the Allegory of the Cave and the diagram of the line. Essentially, it deals with the central problem of how to live a good life; this inquiry is shaped into the parallel questions (a) what is justice in the State, or what would an ideal State be like, and (b) what is a just individual? Naturally these questions also encompass many others, such as how the citizens of a state should be educated, what kinds of arts should be encouraged, what form its government should take, who should do the governing and for what rewards, what is the nature of the soul, and finally what (if any) divine sanctions and afterlife should be thought to exist. Throughout the dialogue Plato speaks through the voice of Socrates; very little of the thought in the dialogue originates with Socrates, but Plato uses his person as a mouthpiece for his own, original ideas.

The question which opens this immense dialogue is: what is justice? Several inadequate definitions are put forward, but the most emphatically presented definition is given by a young Sophist, Thrasymachus. He defines justice as whatever the strongest decide it is, and that the strong decide that whatever is in their best interest is just . Socrates dismisses this argument by proving that the strong rarely figure out what is in their best interest, and this can't be just since justice is a good thing.

The Analogy of the Ideal Republic. After Thrasymachus leaves in a royal huff, Socrates starts the question all over again. If one could decide what a just state is like, one could use that as an analogy for a just person. Plato then embarks on a long exposition about how a state might embody the four great virtues: courage, wisdom, temperance, and justice. The remainder of the dialogue is a long exposition of what justice in a state is; this section is considered one of the first major, systematic expositions of abstract political theory. This type of thinking, that is, speculating about an ideal state or republic, is called "utopian" thinking (utopia is a Greek word which means "no-place").

Plato (speaking through Socrates) divides human beings up based on their innate intelligence,strength, and courage. Those who are not overly bright, or strong, or brave, are suited to various productive professions: farming, smithing, building, etc. Those who are somewhat bright, strong, and especially courageous are suited to defensive and policing professions. Those who are extraordinarily intelligent, virtuous, and brave, are suited to run the state itself; that is, Plato's ideal state is an aristocracy, a Greek word which means "rule by the best." The lower end of human society, which, as far as Plato is concerned, consists of an overwhelming majority of people in a state, he calls the "producers," since they are most suited for productive work. The middle section of society, a smaller but still large number of people, make up the army and the police and are called "Auxiliaries." The best and the brightest, a very small and rarefied group, are those who are in complete control of the state permanently; Plato calls these people "Guardians." In the ideal state, "courage" characterizes the Auxiliaries; "wisdom" displays itself in the lives and government of the Guardians. A state may be said to have "temperance" if the Auxiliaries obey the Guardians in all things and the Producers obey the Auxiliaries and Guardians in all things. A state may be said to be intemperate if any of the lower groups do not obey one of the higher groups. A state may be said to be just if the Auxiliaries do not simply obey the Guardians, but enjoy doing so, that is, they don't grumble about the authority being exercised over them; a just state would require that the Producers not only obey the Auxiliaries and Guardians, but that they do so willingly.

When the analogy is extended to the individual human being, Plato identifies the intellect with the Guardians, the spirit or emotions with the Auxiliaries, and the bodily appetites with the Producers. Therefore, an individual is courageous if his or her spirit is courageous and an individual is wise if his or her intellect is wise. Temperance occurs when the emotions are ruled over by the intellect, and the bodily appetites are ruled over by the emotions and especially the intellect. An individual may be said to be just when the bodily appetites and emotions are not only ruled over by the intellect, but do so willingly and without coercion.

Does this arrangement satisfy you? Is this a fair division of the human soul? Is this a fair division of society? Before you even read Plato's critique of democracy, what do you think he would say about it? Would a democratic state be courageous, wise, temperate, and just based on the system Plato sets up here? What would Plato think of American democracy, which is based on elected representatives? What is the "democratic individual" and how does this creature come about? What happens to individuals in a democracy?

The Allegory of the Cave and the Divided Line: Far and away the most influential passage in Western philosophy ever written is Plato's discussion of the prisoners of the cave and his abstract presentation of the divided line. For Plato, human beings live in a world of visible and intelligible things. The visible world is what surrounds us: what we see, what we hear, what we experience; this visible world is a world of change and uncertainty. The intelligible world is made up of the unchanging products of human reason: anything arising from reason alone, such as abstract definitions or mathematics, makes up this intelligible world, which is the world of reality. The intelligible world contains the eternal "Forms" (in Greek, idea ) of things; the visible world is the imperfect and changing manifestation in this world of these unchanging forms. The "Form" or "Idea" of a horse is intelligible, abstract, and applies to all horses; this Form never changes, even though horses vary wildly among themselves--the Form of a horse would never change even if every horse in the world were to vanish. An individual horse is a physical, changing object that can easily cease to be a horse (if, for instance, it's dropped out of a fifty story building); as a physical object, it makes sense only in that it can be referred to the "Form" or "Idea" of horseness.

Plato imagines these two worlds as existing on a line that can be divided in the middle: the lower part of the line consists of the visible world and the upper part of the line makes up the intelligible world. Each half of the line relates to a certain type of knowledge: of the visible world, we can only have opinion (in Greek: doxa); of the intelligible world we achieve "knowledge" (in Greek, epistemŕ). Each of these divisions can also be divided in two. The visible or changing world can be divided into a lower region, "illusion," which is made up of shadows, reflections, paintings, poetry, etc., and an upper region, "belief," which refers to any kind of knowledge of things that change, such as individual horses. "Belief" may be true some or most of the time but occasionally is wrong (since things in the visible world change); belief is practical and may serve as a relatively reliable guide to life but doesn't really involve thinking things out to the point of certainty. The upper region can be divided into, on the lower end, "reason," which is knowledge of things like mathematics but which require that some postulates be accepted without question, and "intelligence," which is the knowledge of the highest and most abstract categories of things, an understanding of the ultimate good.

As you read these two sections, ask yourself the following questions: What is the center of attention in this allegory? What basic point is being made? Define the four levels in the allegory and how they relate to the divided line. What is the distinction between opinion and truth? What exactly is the "form of Goodness"? How does the sun analogy clarify it? Does every soul have the potential to reach the sun level? What exactly does Plato mean by "enlightenment"? Is the enlightened person obligated to return to the cave? Why? How can the enlightened person, after he has returned, convince the prisoners of the truth?

END OF INTERNET SELECTION.


INSTRUCTOR RESEARCH: based on Plato's Republic and one of the most important texts on intellectual thought ever written, The Great Chain of Being by a Harvard professor Philosopher, Arthur Lovejoy.

(Keep in mind that you are reading a dialogue, that is, Plato is writing his philosophy in the form of a conversation between Socrates and another person. Therefore, Socrates asks questions and his partner says yes or no to the proposition. Speakers are divided from one another by the use of paragraph breaks.)

The nature of reality (metaphysics). The philosophy in this packet concerns two important introductory matters: a) the chain of being, and 2) the problem of the one and the many.

PLATO: You have often heard that the greatest thing to learn is the idea of the good by reference to which just things and all the rest become useful and beneficial...The good differs in its nature from everything else in that the being who possesses it always and in all respects has the most perfect sufficiency and is never in need of any other thing.

LOVEJOY: There was plainly implicit in this idea of the good, a strange consequence which was to dominate the religious thought of the west. If by God you meant the being who possesses the good in the highest degree, and if the good meant absolute self-sufficiency,...then the existence of the entire sensible [our world of ordinary sense perception] world in time can bring no addition of excellence to reality. [What is the obvious problem Lovejoy found in Plato?]

EDITOR COMMENT: The problem Plato raised was recognized by Plato himself:

PLATO: the objects of knowledge [in our world of sense perception] not only receive from the presence of the good their being known, but their very existence and essence is derived to them from it.

LOVEJOY'S REACTION: [the above problem]...gave rise to many of the most characteristic internal conflicts. the opposite strains which mark its history--the conception of (at least) Two-Gods-in-One, of a divine completion which was yet not complete in itself, since it could not be itself without the existence of beings other than itself and inherently incomplete; of an Immutability which required, and expressed itself in, Change; of an absolute which was nevertheless not truly absolute because it was related, at least by way of implication and causation to entities that were not its nature and whose existence...were antithetical to its immutable substance.

EDITOR COMMENT: How many beings (the many) should be created by the (one)? PLATO: The sensible counterparts of every one of the ideas. LOVEJOY'S REACTION: The fullness of the realization of conceptual possibility in actuality [sense perception world] is called the principle of plenitude. The implication is that the world of ideas would be deficient without the world of sense perception. For the absolute good to give rise to anything less than the complete world in which the model [the totality of forms or ideas] would be less than the ideal counterpart would be a contradiction.

A CRITIC NOTED:

Of course when we have knowledge, we may find that some of the beliefs accepted are in fact false. But we do not begin by trying to doubt the truth of particular beliefs. Take a particular belief, e.g. that this particular action is just. For Plato, the trouble with this is not that it is not true. It is true. It is not that particulars are never just or that they have the quality that the Form has only in some drastically second-rate way. Rather the problem is that not only is it true that the action is just, but unfortunately something else is true too, namely that it is also unjust (from some point of view). The person who simply thought that it was just was not wrong as far as he or she went, but was missing something--something that might not be at all obvious. What matters is not to reject any truth in the beliefs we have, to go round trying to convince ourselves that this is not really a just action. Rather what is required is imaginative widening of one's horizons to take in contexts in which even this action could be considered unjust, and to see that besides the unsatisfactory ascription of justice to particular actions, there is also the possibility that there might be something that is unqualifiedly just, freed from all the contexts and limitations inevitable with an action's justice--the Form of justice, the only thing that is really and unqualifiedly is just.

PLATO: What about the man who recognizes the existence of beautiful things but does not believe in beauty itself.. Is he awake or merely dreaming? Isn't dreaming simply the confusion between the resemblance and the reality which it resembles...

BRITISH LITERATURE POETRY FROM THE ROMANTIC PERIOD THAT REFLECTS THE IDEAS OF PLATO...LOCATE AND BRING TO CLASS WHEN ASSIGNED... 1. Locate, read and bring to class: Keats' "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty" 2. Locate, read and bring to class: Wordsworth's "Intimations' Ode"

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