PHIL 115 Lecture Notes - Perspectivism, Thought Experiment, Political Philosophy

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17 Apr 2013
Twilight of the Idols
The average human being had very different commitments, often wrong or lacking philosophical
basis, but people had purpose
What convictions would you be willing to die for? Most likely nothing
o If so, usually those ideas cannot be rationally defended
Our ideals become empty idols
Nihilism belief in nothing
It is the role of the philosopher to anticipate what our new ideals might be
o Re-evaluate our values
All of our political ideas are based on ancient religious ideas that don’t stand up anymore
Philosophers should have the mind of a poet (imaginative way of interpreting things)
A philosopher should be able to think about human existence and the meaning of one’s own and
others existence
o Most urgent questions possible for a human to ask to be able to live an examined life
Does not write formal philosophical treatises, often gets off topic
Why did we start thinking that truth was an ideal? Why do we value it?
A person is a living organism, bodies, with capacity of mind
No one can think except for the individual thinker
o A work of art is a work of self-expression
All good philosophy is a skeptical philosophy
Skeptical of all the great world religions, especially Christianity and all philosophical
metaphysics, epistemology (rationalism, empiricism), skeptical of common sense morality
o Your moral intuitions are present because of your culture and your tradition
Our political values are based on our moral values
The whole discipline of metaphysics and epistemology are dead ends, ask questions with no
possible answers
Thinking is not only a rational, cerebral enterprise, it involves the body
Strong notion of individuality in the early modern world (17th century)
o Before that, the notion of individuality didn’t exist
What makes us an individual might be nothing more than the biological difference between
Individuality is not a fact, is it a moral concept, it is more of an achievement
o We should take on the task of becoming individual
The human will is not a faculty of mind
If our will is inclined to be weak, it is not fated to be weak
The human being, the human existence/nature consists of limited possibilities
o Possibilities that are historically created and historically specific
If you are aspiring to be something or do something then you have possibilities to make those
things actuality
All knowledge is interpretation, might be true, but there is no non-interpretive, objective,
Just because certainty is not possible does not mean knowledge is not possible
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Descartes certain ideas are evident by the “light of nature”, cannot be denied
o No such thing as the light of nature, and if it does exist, we need evidence, but it is an
assumption, yet Descartes said he did not assume anything
You can’t get something from nothing – ancient theory
Certain ideas are so fundamental that we depend on them, making it impossible for these ideas to
be untrue
o Depending on something does not make that something absolutely dependable
The fact that we rely on an idea does not mean that the idea is true
o The fact that we wouldn’t know how to live without relying on certain ideas does not
make them true, it just means we are limited
Truth is metaphorically a “woman”, there is no definition of the word truth (no theory of truth)
If what makes a true statement true is that it is blank no way to fill that blank space
o Nothing makes true ideas true; true ideas are mostly ideas we accept and rely on, it is
what works
What is the value of truth?
We have to regard ideas in a more personal way
o Self-expression, will to power
We have to regard philosophy as a discipline and ideas more generally
Knowledge is available to any rational being if they are following their rational method
o Hume will say make knowledge claims when you have empirical support
o James and Dewey will say you should adopt an idea once you have inquired into it and
seen the consequences
o Nietzsche will disagree and say that philosophy is the personal confession of its author
The philosopher is not one type
o Rational, platonic, etc
All knowledge is contingent on the speaker, on the interests of the speaker
Knowledge always serves its knowers
Knowledge is interpretive on the standpoint of the knower
Perspectivism is a hypothesis about the nature of knowledge
Knowledge is much more limited than we wish to believe
In the nature of knowledge that it doesn’t reveal itself in totality
The very condition that makes knowledge possible, also limits knowledge
We never know the whole truth about something, we have an aspect of the truth
The discipline of psychology is a point of view all disciplines are a variety of different points
of view
o The richer our knowledge will be, the more points of view on it, but our knowledge will
never be complete
Human existence needs a justification: why are we here? What is the value and point of my life?
Religion deprives us in our ability to answer the most urgent question in human existence
As soon as I believe in the gods or a god, I prostrate myself in front of this god
o All the good things and important things in my life are given to me by an act of grace
from above, it is a gift, I do not deserve it
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