Western Philosphy

Harre believes that philosophy is the willingness to reflect on our reflections of the human situation. This belief is very relaxed. Harre wants answers, but he will allow them to come with time. Philosophy allows us to ask questions such as “What is the purpose of human life”, as well as “Why do we seek a purpose for human life? ” Harre inquires whether we are soul of physique; and if we are both, how much of each are we? In other words, can our souls exist without our bodies? If our body dies, will our soul die? Will human beings ever be completely satisfied?

We are on a constant mission to find truth, to find the reason for our existence. Humans are constantly changing, in all aspects, physically, intellectually, and morally. If we are simply material mechanisms, and part of a system by which the Earth operates, than these value changes in our minds would not occur. For example, if we are just another link on the food chain, than we would not question it. There is a part to the human who believes we are a mere speck in the universe, and another part who thinks we have an actual purpose.

In order to come closer to the “answer”, Harre divides philosophy into four sections, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and logic. Metaphysics deals with how the universe works, and what our mission is. Epistemology is the theory of knowledge; ethics are what distinguish people according to morals. Finally, logic can be described as “a means of testing the validity of arguments. ” Harre’s views on philosophy differ slightly from Russell. Although Harre feels that there is an answer out there, he feels confident enough that he will find it, and if he does not, then the next person will know.

Russell, on the other hand, feels almost flustered that there will never be complete knowledge. He searches the truth, the reason, as well as Harre, but he seems to feel more strongly towards truly knowing “why”. Russell believes that even if we did find the answer, would that be considered knowledge? He compares the journey of philosophy to that of mathematics and science. When a mathematician states a claim, he/she has to back it up with proof, and make it understandable for the general public to agree as well. Philosophy is far more vague.

If anyone stated a claim about philosophy, for example, that everything is air, and that everything we see and touch is matter over mind, that we are brainwashed. Would people normally believe me and agree right away? Not likely. On the other, if someone was to say, “if a equals b, and b equals c, then a equals c. ” This math is true, self- explanatory, and people learn this everyday. Therefore, it is an example of knowledge, justified true belief. Can there even be justified true belief in philosophy? If the answer is no, then I their value in philosophy? Russell wants the answer we are all looking for at one time or another.

While Harre’s idea of philosophy is that it is a reflection of reflections, Russell thinks it is a reflection, but with a more pressing question attached to it. He does not claim to find the answers, nor does he believe that one definite answer exists. Simply, he feels that there is a greater good behind asking questions. Asking questions maintains the progress of the world, of the human condition, etc. In my opinion, philosophy is about progression of society. I feel that somewhere inside, everyone believes that there is a more important reason for this existence than to simply cooperate with society’s rules.

Why do we get out of bed in the morning, and study, or work? This is like asking a question in science class: How much does an orange cost? Well at face value, it costs roughly $0. 35. We believe this because we go to the supermarket, pick up the orange, and when we pay $0. 35, we get an orange. But if we ponder the amount of effort it took in order for the orange to be there. For instance, they had to pay the farmer who planted the seed, the workers who picked them, pay for water to clean them, pay the trucker to ship them, etc, etc. How much did all of that cost?

Now lets look at the world this way. I get up out of bed everyday, go to class, do homework, and study. These are my obligations. Why do I do it? At face value, I do it because my parents want me too, because they are paying, because this degree will pay off, because it will help me get a good job, the job will get me money, the money will help get my children to school, so that they can get a degree. This is an ongoing cycle. If we step out of ourselves for a moment and look at the human situation form a distance, through a telescope, how does it look?

Are we slaves to a greater purpose? Or are we the masters of our own destiny? If there a greater force that controls us, who we work for? Perhaps we are part of an experiment called “What will all these people do once they have exhausted every resource they need to survive? ” These are all philosophic questions I wonder everyday. The study of philosophy is not only questions, but it is what many people think but do not say. They do not say it because they feel that philosophy is a sin, that if they study it, or voice their opinions, they will be renouncing another set of beliefs.

I believe in Catholicism, but that does not keep me from asking questions. I do not presume to know, for example, how the universe was created, nor do I believe it was created in 7 days. Philosophy is a set of ideas, of other possibilities, and anything can be possible. This, to me, is progress. Progress is letting our minds expand to new and unimaginable possibilities. One possibility I have always considered about the universe is that we are part of an atom of a larger world. When we look at an atom, we see that it has a center, or nucleus, and a set of electrons that orbit around it.

The sun could be the nucleus, and the planets could be the electrons spinning around it. Do I have any way of proving this? No. Could it be true? I think so. Once we begin to rule out possibilities like these, than we are no longer in progress. There is never a definite answer in philosophy, or even in science most of the time. This is why philosophy is so closely related to science and religion. To me, there is a spectrum of beliefs and progress. Philosophy is on one extreme, lets call it the left side, and religion is on the right side.

Science is in the middle, because although many people take it for facts and pure knowledge, much of it is questionable. I, personally, do not believe in the “Big Bang Theory”. I think that in my lifetime, or later on, someone (maybe me) will come up with a different theory, that people are just as willing to accept, about the formation of the universe. Today, however, the Big Bang is the only one mentioned in science textbooks. I disagree with Finlay saying that quest for civilization is measured by our attempts to bring mythology under the control of reason.

Civilization, mythology, and control of reason are associated with each other, but one does not necessarily lead to another. I believe out quest for civilization is measured by the amount of questions we ask and explore. If we try to put mythology under the control of reason, than we are limiting the amount of questions we are going to ask. By limiting the questions, we are there is no progress, and civilization is not achieved. I do not think that philosophy in Ancient Greece can be described as a “complex interweaving of cosmic institutions and critical insights.

Philosophy in Ancient Greece was too controlled, and although there were brilliant ideas, they were lacking on critical insights. In the Meno, the young and ignorant, Meno interrogates Socrates, a wise and prominent philosopher. Meno questions him, and inquires whether or not virtue is learned or rather something that is instilled within men by nature. Yet, Socrates rejects this question, claiming that the answer is unattainable, since virtue cannot be defined. This is when the two begin their quest for the meaning of virtue and how it can be acquired.

At first, the two come to the conclusion that virtue is a form of knowledge. At this point Socrates decides that if virtue is a form of knowledge, then it can therefore be taught. But who can teach virtue? Are there people who learn to teach it? So they are back where they started, and it cannot be taught. They later determine that virtue is a wisdom that is “neither an inborn quality nor taught, but comes to those who possess it as a gift from the gods” (Meno 100). This is an example of the process of division. In philosophy, knowledge, virtue, truth, etc. are discussed, but what exactly are we discussing?

This is what is so amusing about philosophy, you can have a long discussion with someone about whether or not virtue can be taught, when you are not even clear on what it means to you, or the next person. I think that Socrates cheats, because he sets Euthyphro up into making a mistake. He knows that Euthyphro cannot answer his question, but he tells him he will be his pupil. This is letting Euthyphro think that Socrates is at the mercy of his knowledge, when in reality, it is reversed.

Socrates is too smart, and he sets up traps for Euthyphro to blunder in, which is why I sympathize, and say that Socrates is cheating. For example, he asks Euthyphro if he agrees that “all that is pious is of necessity just. ” Euthyphro agrees to this but then is confused when Socrates turns it around and asks if all that is just is necessarily pious. Socrates illustrates his point very effectively by making Euthyphro agree. In my opinion, Socrates is right, that it is hard to define something, and that although virtue can be knowledge to some people, it is not necessarily that way for everyone, all the time.

In both the Euthyphro and the Meno, Socrates is categorizing. He attempts to divide what can be taught with what cannot be taught, what is objective and subjective, what has all three components of knowledge (justified true belief), and what only has one or two. It is hard to say that he defines anything, or puts anything into a definite category, but his leading questions tend to make the person with whom he is arguing agree. This methodology works effectively, and to his advantage. Socrates discusses his theory of recollection in the Meno.

He claims that knowledge is within the individual, and that if he seek deep enough inside our minds, we will find it. This is where we see a paradox. If we have knowledge inside, and it does not come from anywhere else, than how do we know it? Socrates and Meno discussed earlier in the dialogue when trying to come up with a definition for virtue. There is a paradox, for example, when you think that you do not know what virtue is, so you will try to find out. If you ever find the true meaning of virtue, since you did not know it to begin, then how will you recognize it?

Also, why would you ask the question, if the knowledge is inside you already? Socrates takes a slave off the street to illustrate exactly what he is talking about. He begins to ask him questions about geometric shapes, and at first, the boy agrees with Socrates, following all his leading questions. Eventually, Socrates manages to get substantial answers out of the slave boy, with the boy having absolutely no prior knowledge of geometry. It has never been taught to him before, Socrates made sure of that, yet he is able to obtain knowledge to answer the questions.

Where did the knowledge come from, if not from within? The slave boy is able to obtain the correct answer to Socrates’ problem through correct opinion. Even though he was able to ascertain the correct answer, there is no guarantee that he could do it again, and apply the Pythagorean theorem to other problems requiring its usage. This is an example of how true knowledge is better than true opinion or true belief. Socrates was showing that, we might not be aware that we have the knowledge, but when the proper questions are asked, the new realize that we know the answer.

I do not know if Socrates overcame the paradox, because it is a very difficult concept to swallow. Socrates is claiming that the individual has the knowledge, as though the individual is completely independent. I disagree. If Socrates had never asked the slave boy the right questions, the boy would have gone on forever, never being aware that he retained this knowledge. I do agree with the fact that knowledge is inside, but I do not believe the individual should have all the credit for acquiring this knowledge. An analogy I always think of with this is like so: My friend believes that I have a gold mine in my backyard.

He tells me he believes this information, and asks me if I agree. I say that yes, it is possible I have a gold mine in my backyard. So I decide to dig, and strike gold. The gold has always been there in my backyard, therefore it is mine. However, am I completely responsible for having acquired this gold? Absolutely not. The gold mine is knowledge, and we cannot obtain it without the help of others. The slave boy could not have been able to obtain it without Socrates to help, jut like I am not able to able the knowledge inside, without attending school.


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