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PHIL 1F91 Overview

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Brian Lightbody

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Ultimate Questions Chapter 1 What is Philosophy? -mythologies provide an effective way to understand the cosmos and the role we humans play within it -religion is the second widely established means through which we can provide a big-picture view of the universe -religious stories, unlike mythologies, contain a reason that we should believe they are true; divine revelation -religion as a method of understanding the world is challenged by the fact that not all divine revelations are compatible -philosophy is the third way of providing a big-picture view of reality -philosophy derives from the Greek words philia (“love”) and Sophia (“wisdom”), philosophy can therefore be understood as a love of wisdom -philosophy can be understood as an attempt to develop a big-picture view of the universe with the help of reason -philosophers try to explain the world with the help of claims and stories as well as defend their claims with the help of arguments -we start to philosophize when we present arguments in defense of our big-picture view of reality -there are four key elements of philosophical reflections: -in order to philosophize we need to know more about arguments; we need to know how to construct and evaluate them -philosophy comes easiest to us when we are in a critical state of mind; as long as we are absolutely convinced that our beliefs about the world are correct, we feel little need to justify them with the help of arguments -philosophy is a social activity that involves the opinions and arguments of others; being a good philosopher involves listening to the questions others have and modifying our ideas in the light of these questions -philosophy has a tendency to lead to a plurality of different answers; although philosophy has the goal of producing one truthful picture of the universe, in practice it generates many different accounts of the world How Does Philosophy Differ from Science? -science was initially part of philosophy -physics was historically described as natural philosophy -philosophy has given birth to natural science, psychology, sociology and linguistics -analyzing and clarifying complex concepts is an integral part of philosophy; it often involves testing definitions and analyzing hypothetical situations -philosophical questions are “open” in the sense that we cannot easily predict what would constitute as satisfactory answers -although science itself science by itself cannot answer philosophical questions, it can help philosophers to see open questions in a new light -many people find philosophy frustrating because some have been exploring some of the same open questions for thousands of years without arriving at answer -it is probably impossible to answer open questions that everyone agrees on, but it is possible to answer such questions satisfactorily in light of your experiences and observations of the world -philosophy unlike science has a personal component -the purpose of philosophical activity is to clarify in your own mind which solution to an open question seems most relevant The Main Branches of Philosophy -traditionally philosophical questions can be divided into five different fields of study: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and logic Metaphysics: -is usually defined as the study of ultimate reality -a better understanding of this field of study is to list everything that exists in the universe -example of a metaphysical question: “do you believe angels exist in the world?” -metaphysics is concerned with clarifying how various entities are related to each other Epistemology: -is the study of knowledge -sometimes it happens that in the process of exploring a question, we come to the conclusion that we cannot possibly know what answer to a question is correct -people who deny that we can know answers to certain questions are called skeptics -an important part of philosophy is to determine under what conditions skepticism is a reasonable position to adopt Ethics & Aesthetics: -both deal with questions of value -ethics is concerned with clarifying how people ought to act -i.e. why is stealing wrong? Could there be situations where stealing is morally justified? -aesthetics is the study of art and beauty -these experiences are pleasant and important because without art, the world would be bland -i.e. is there something universal in aesthetic experiences that transcend cultural traditions and personal tastes? Logic: -the field of study that clarifies how we can distinguish good arguments from bad ones Chapter 2 Philosophical Tools Logical Consistency: -a set of claims are logically consistent if and only if it is possible that all claims in the set are true at the same time -a set of claims are logically inconsistent if and only if it is impossible that all claims in the set are true at the same time -example of logical inconsistency: a person believes that a) it is always morally wrong to take the life of another human being and b) it is morally permissible to execute serious criminals -logical inconsistencies can be difficult to spot, for example a person believes: a) everything that exists is a physical entity and b) angels exist -there is no logical inconsistency until c) is introduced c) angels are nonphysical entities -a contradiction is a sentence that both denies and asserts that something is the case Logical Possibility: -there are two definitions of possible -causal possibility is when it does not violate the laws of nature -logical possibility occurs when it does not entail a contradiction -a good test of whether something is logically possible is to ask yourself whether you could make a movie about it Definitions: -philosophical reflection forces us to take a closer look at these abstract terms -i.e. Augustine, “What is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one who asks, I know not” -one way to clarify terms like these is to develop precise definitions of these terms -definitions that are stated in standard dictionaries are lexical definitions, which attempt to explain how particular words are generally used by native speakers of a given language -although lexical definitions are helpful in everyday contexts, their usefulness in philosophy is limited -a more useful method for developing real definitions consists of defining a term by stating necessary and sufficient conditions for the correct application of the term -a necessary con
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