What have we done? What have we seen?
If this course has achieved its purposes, then you have:
a) Some knowledge of the discipline: soundings. Acquired a “big-picture” sense of
intellectual life, covering such basic subjects as religion, knowledge, politics, morality,
and the meaning of life.
b) Improved thinking and writing skills. As well as critical thinking, debate, and
We have been studying some of the main currents in philosophy of, basically, the last 400
years with a few forays into ancient philosophy.
What would your life be like in 1612a.d?
1. Life in 1612:
a) Cosmology: you would believe in a three-tiered world: Heaven, Earth, and Hell.
Even though you could experience only Earth, you would believe utterly in the other
two, and worry about where you would go after life.
You’d be a little vague about whether heaven and hell are spatial realities, exactly, but
very certain that they are realities. (They might be spatially located similarly to the sky
b) God: you would be absolutely certain that God exists and manages things in fine
detail. You would understand all misfortune as God’s judgment on you, and the
product therefore of your own sinfulness. The way you live should be in accordance
to religious commandments.
c) Natural epistemology: You would take it that, as far as the earth and its contents
go, they are as you perceive them. Colours are really there; sounds are really there. If
someone asked you if you were real you would absolutely say you do.
You would draw a sharp line between sense perception and knowledge. Knowledge
is what you know, it is in your mind, it comes from sense perception, what you
detect in the world around you.
d) Science & authority: you would believe that deeper truths about the world
(science) are to be found chiefly in old books, books from the golden age of classical
antiquity, and especially Aristotle. The purpose of study was to regain the knowledge
of the ancient thinkers. There would be nothing mysterious in causal relations.
e) Anthropology: dualism. You would simply believe that you have two parts, a body
and a soul. Your soul is yourself; it is your consciousness and also the spark that
brings people to life. But you’d be a little vague about whether your soul was an
extended, spatial thing. (Again uncertainty about the physical location of something,
is the soul in the heart or an aura that encompasses your body).
You probably wouldn’t think that your soul had existed before you were born. But
you’re sure it will exist after your death.
f) Space & time: You would believe that time was infinite in both directions, but that
world had a beginning and would have an end. You’d be a little worried that space
might not be infinite and wonder what was beyond space. Giordano was burned for thinking that space was infinite.
g) Freedom: You’d be a bit troubled about whether you have free will, but certain
that God knows the future, for the simple reason that God knows everything in
h) Moral value: The sense of moral obligation would be very simple: God’s
commands. The commands of the Judaeo-Christian God are ethical truth; the ethics
of any other religion would simply be wrong.
Moral worth would lie in the act of itself, not in states of character or in
consequences. It would be a good act if it conformed to God’s commands and if not
it must be immoral.
i) Moral values: some moral rules would be very different from ours. For example:
slavery would be considered a normal and natural p