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Department
English
Course
EN 3000
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All Professors
Semester
Winter

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Contemporary Literary and Cultural Theory EN3000 – Fall/Winter 2011/2012 – Nemanja Protic Lecture 4 – Sept 29 Continuity between the Modern Era and What came before it “If for a long time the views of… [Modern] philosophers were accepted at their face value, this was partly due to a conviction that in the Middle Ages there was really nothing which merited the name of philosophy. [It was believed that] the flame of independent and creative philosophical reflection which had burned so brightly in ancient Greece was practically extinguished until it… rose in splendour in the 17 th century…” Continuity (Frederic Copleston, ‘A History of Philosophy’ (Volume IV) “But when… more attention came to be paid to mediaeval philosophy, it was seen that this view was exaggerated. And some writers emphasized the continuity between mediaeval and post-mediaeval [i.e. modern] thought. That phenomena of continuity can be observed in the political and social spheres is obvious enough. The patterns of society and of political organization in the seventeenth century clearly did not spring into being without any historical antecedents. We can observe, for instance, the gradual formation of the various national States, the emergence of the great monarchies and the growth of the middle class. Even in the field of science the discontinuity is not quite as great as was once supposed. Recent research has shown the existence of a limited interest in empirical science within the mediaeval period itself… Similarly, certain continuity can be observed within the philosophical sphere. We can see philosophy in the middle Ages gradually winning recognition as a separate branch of study. And we can see lines of thought emerging which anticipate later philosophical developments… Scholars have shown that thinkers such as… Descartes and Locke were subject to the influence of the past to a greater degree than they themselves realized.” Modern Thought – Changes in Emphasis - Traditional learning (exegesis/interpretation of ancient texts) vs. A creation of a new systematic method which did not rely solely on authority of ancient texts. o Rationalism (Descartes) o Empiricism (Locke) - Latin vs. Vernacular (democratization of thought) - Philosophical theologists vs. Theological philosophers - Theological humanism vs. natural humanism - Nature as theocentric vs. nature as mechanistic Science (Frederic Coplestone, ‘A History of Philosophy’, Volume IV) “Science ‘effectively stimulated the mechanistic conception of the world. And this conception was obviously a factor which contributed powerfully to the centering of attention on Nature in the field of philosophy. For Galileo, God is creator and conserver of the world; the great scientist was far from being either an atheist or an agnostic. But nature itself can be considered as a dynamic system for bodies in motion, the intelligible structure of which can be expressed mathematically. And even though we do not know the inner natures of the forces which govern the system and which are revealed in motion susceptible of mathematical statement, we can study Nature without any immediate reference to God. We do not find here a break with mediaeval thought in the sense that God’s existence and activity are either denied or doubted. But we certainly find an important change of interest and emphasis. Whereas the thirteenth-century theologian-philosopher such as St. Bonaventure was interested principally in the material world considered as a shadow or remote revelation of its divine original, the Renaissance scientists, while not denying that Nature has a divine original, is interested primarily in the quantitatively determine immanent structure of the world and its dynamic process. In other words, we have a contrast between the outlook of a theologically- minded metaphysician who lays emphasis on final causality and the outlook of a theologically-minded metaphysician who lays emphasis on final causality and the outlook of a scientist for whom efficient causality, revealed in mathematically- determinable motion, takes the place of final causality.” Descartes’ Mathematical Method - The mathematical method provides answers which cannot be doubted. - Mathematical solutions are eternal. - The mathematical method cannot be challenged – all must assent to its validity. Aristotelian Logic (Syllogism) - Aristotle defines syllogism as ‘a discourse in which, certain things having been supposed, something different from the things supposed results of necessity because these things are so’. (Prior Analytics). - The syllogism is at the roof of deductive reasoning, the goal of which is to show that a conclusion necessarily follows from a set of premises. - For example: o Premise 1 – All men are mortal. o Premise 2 – Socrates is a man. ----------------------------------------------------- o Conclusion – Socrates is mortal. Descartes’s Method - Mathematical first principles agree with what we perceive through our sense, metaphysical (philosophical) first principles do not. - “The primary notions that are the presuppositions of geometrical proofs harmonize with the use of our sense, and are readily granted by all… On the contrary, nothing in metaphysics causes more trouble than the making the perceptions of its primary notions clear and distinct. For, though in their own nature they are as intelligible as, or even more intelligible than those that geometricians study, yet being contradicted by the many preconceptions of our sense to which we have since our earliest years been accustomed, they cannot be perfectly apprehended except by those who give strenuous attention and study to them, and withdraw their minds as far as possible from matters corporeal.” Modal Logic (Modalities) - “The modality of a statement or proposition S is the manner in which S’s truth holds. Statements or propositions can be necessary, possible or contingent. For example, while the statement ‘Aristotle is Plato’s student’ is actually true, it is only contingently true. It is possible that Aristotle never met Plato. By contrast, the statement ‘Aristotle is self-identical’ is necessarily true. Aristotle could not have failed to be self-identical… The central issue in the epistemology of modality concerns how we come to have justified beliefs or knowledge of modality.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) - Modality of necessity o 1+1=2 or o I think, I am - Modality of contingency o My shirt is blue Analysis (Descartes) “Analytic demonstrations are designed to guide the mind, so that all prejudices preventing us from grasping a first principle will be removed, and the first principles themselves can be intuited. An analytic demonstration, therefore, is… a process of ‘reasoning up’ to first principles – the upward movement taking place as prejudice is removed.” John Locke (1632-1704) - Born in Wrington, Somerset, near Bristol on August 29, 1632. - Attended Christ Church, Oxford, but he found works of modern philosophers such as Descartes more interesting than the classical material taught at the university. - Studied medicine, worked as a physician. - His work is equally important, if not more so, in the realm of social and political thought as in the realm of philosophy. ‘His writings influenced Voltaire and Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanism and liberal theory are reflected in the American Declaration of Independence.’ - Like Descates, he spent time in Holland, escaping political persecution. - Died on October 28, 1704 in England. Empiricism (The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy) “The permanent strand in philosophy that attempts to tie knowledge to experience. Experience is thought of either as the sensory contents of consciousness, or as whatever is expressed in some designated class of statements that can be observed to be true by the use of the senses. Empiricism denies that there is any knowledge outside this class, or at least outside whatever is given by legitimate theorizing on the basis of this class. It may take the form of denying that there is any a priori knowledge, or knowledge of necessary truths, or any innate or intuitive knowledge or general principles gaining credibility simple through the use of reason; it is thus principally contrasted with rationalism. Locke on Rationalism “It is an established opinion amongst some men, that there are in the understanding certain innate principles; some primary notions [and]… characters, as it were stamped upon the mind of man; which the soul receives in its very first being, and brings into the world with it. It would be sufficient to convince unprejudiced readers of the falseness of this supposition, if I should only show (as I hope I shall in the following parts of this Discourse) how men, barely by the use of their natural faculties, may attain to all the knowledge they have, without the help of any innate impressions; and may arrive at certainty, without any such original notions or principles.” Ockham’s razor (A Dictionary of Psychology) “The principle of economy of explanation according to which entities (usually interpreted as assumptions) should not be multiplies beyond necessity (entia non sunt multiplicanda praetor necessitate), and hence simple explanations should be preferred to more complex ones. Another version of the principle attributed to Ockham is that ‘what can be explained by the assumption of fewer things is vainly explained by the assumption of more things.” Deductive vs. Inductive Reasoning - Deductive reasoning – proceeds from a set of premises to a conclusion in order to reach necessary truth. A syllogism is an example of deductive reasoning. - Inductive reasoning – proceeds from observable, experienced, individual instances to a general conclusion to reach a probable or contingent truth. o A basketball is round, o A soccer ball is round, o A volleyball is round, o A tennis ball is round, o A golf ball is round  Therefore  All balls are round. A Priori “A term applied to statements to reflect that status of our knowledge of their truth (for falsehood). It means literally ‘from what comes before’, where the answer to ‘before what?’ is understood to be ‘experience’. Loosely, one may speak of knowing some truth ‘a priori’ where it is possible to infer the truth without having to experience the state of affairs in virtue of which it is true, but in strict philosophical usage, an a priori must be knowable independently of all experience. Kant held that the criteria of a priori knowledge were (i) necessity, for ‘experience teaches us that a thing is so and so, but not that it cannot be otherwise’, and (ii) universality, for all experience can confer on a judgement is ‘assumed and comparative universality through induction.’” – Oxford Companion to the Mind Locke on Simple Ideas “The senses at first let in particular ideas, and furnish the yet empty cabinet and the mind by degrees growing familiar with some of them, they are lodged in the memory, and names got to them. Afterwards, the mind proceeding further, abstracts them, and by degrees learns the use of general names. In this manner, the mind comes to be furnished with ideas and language, the materials about which to exercise its discursive faculty. And the use of reason becomes daily more visible, as these materials that give it employment increases.” [Book I, Chapter I] Body and Spirit By the complex idea of extended, figured, coloured and all other sensible qualities, which is all that we know of it, we are as far from the idea of the substance of body, as if we knew nothing at all: nor after all the acquaintance and familiarity which we imagine we have with matter, and the many qualities men assure themselves they perceive and know in bodies, will it perhaps upon examination be found, that they have any more or clearer primary ideas belonging to body, than they have belonging to immaterial spirit. The primary ideas we have peculiar to body, as contradistinguished to spirit, are the cohesion of solid, and consequently separable, parts and a power of communication motion by impulse. These, I think, are the original ideas proper and peculiar to body; for figure is but the consequence of finite extension. The ideas we have belonging to peculiar to spirit, are thinking, and will or a power of putting body into motion by thought, and which is consequent to it, liberty. For, as body cannot but communicate its motion by impulse to another body, which it meets with at rest, so the mind can put bodies into motion, or forbear to do so, as it pleases. The ideas of existence, duration, and mobility, are common to them both. Rene Descartes (1596-1650) vs. John Locke (1632-1704) - Rationalism vs. empiricism - Innate ideas vs. ideas acquired through experience; a priori and a posteriori knowledge. - Modality of necessity vs. modality of contingency. - Analysis, deductive reasoning and principle of non-contradiction vs. Empirical observation/experience and inductive reasoning. Today… - David Hume’s philosophical scepticism: o Takes empiricism to its logical conclusions, and o Ends in a challenge to western metaphysics. - Immanuel Kant’s critique: o Tries to respond to the challenge of Hume’s scepticism by developing a critical philosophy which tries to find the limits of human reason, and o Tries to revive the metaphysical tradition. Empiricism “The permanent strand in philosophy that attempts to tie knowledge to experience. Experience is thought of either as the sensory contents of consciousness, or as whatever is expressed in some designated class of statements that can be observed to be true by the use of the senses. Empiricism denies that there is any knowledge outside this class, or at least outside whatever is given by legitimate theorizing on the basis of this class. It may take the form of denying that there is any a priori knowledge, or knowledge of necessary truths, or any innate or intuitive knowledge or general principles gaining credibility simply through the use of reason; it is thus principally contrasted with rationalism.” – Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy Metaphysics Originally a title for those books of Aristotle that came after the Physics, the term is now applied to any enquiry that raises questions about reality that lie beyond or behind those capable of being tackled by the methods of science. Naturally, an immediately contested issue is whether there are any such questions, or whether any text of metaphysics should, in Hume’s words, be ‘committed to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.’… The traditional examples will include questions of mind and body, substance and accident, events, causations, and the categories of things that exist… The permanent complaint about metaphysics is that in so far as there are real questions in these areas, ordinary scientific method forms the only possible approach to them… Metaphysics, then, tends to become concerned more with the presuppositions of scientific thought, or of thought in general, although here, too, any suggestion that there is one timeless way in which thought has to be conducted meets sharp opposition. – Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy Scepticism “Although Greek scepticism centred on the value of enquiry questioning, scepticism is now the denial that knowledge or even rational belief is possible… Classically, scepticism springs from the observation that the best methods in some area seem to fall short of giving us contact with the truth (e.g. there is a gulf between appearance and reality), and it frequently cites the conflicting judgements that our methods deliver, with the result that questions of truth become undecidable… As it has come down to us… its method was typ
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