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Philosophy Topics

The appeal to power or force. A statement is correct because those in power, or those who have been capable of forcing an argument on a population, have succeeded in making or imposing an argument. Another version of this is the “everyone knows” arguments favored by journalists, in that the mainstream elites hold that opinion x is extreme and hence, incorrect. One rejects an argument because elites hold it to be extreme or otherwise inconvenient. b. The famous ad hominem, or “to the man. ” Here, the character of the arguer is paramount rather than the argument.

“If Bill Bennet holds x to be true, it must be wrong! ” might serve as an example here. c. The slippery slope argument, another favorite of journalists. A basic argument is taken to extremes. One holds that placing limits on availability of abortion is wrong because, if this is done, very soon, those same people will demand that women remain forever in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. The move from limits on certain kinds of abortion to an entire shift in sociological life is not valid as an argument, but is common enough. d. Another example of an informal fallacy is the “generalization.

” After only a few pieces of data have been sensed, a generalization is made. “Priests are child molesters, haven’t you seen the news!? ” is a common example. The fact that a few priests have been guilty of this crime and given a great deal of news coverage means that thousands of priests worldwide are “child molesters. ” e. Equivocation, that is, the use of the same word, but using different meanings for the sake of confusing an argument: my personal favorite, “those conservatives in the USSR wanted a return to Stalinism, you are a conservative in America, hence, you are a Stalinist.

” This was common in the early 1990s, largely journalistic in origin, that sought to equivocate on the word “conservative,” which means radically different things given that which is supposed to be conserved, i. e. the social context of the conservative herself. 2. Plato on Doing the Right Thing Plato and Socrates were rationalists, that is, given this question, the reasons for anyone doing x over y is based on the disposition of the intellect. Therefore, the basic motivating principle is the level of knowledge of the agent.

Put differently, for someone to do the wrong thing, it is because they are ignorant of the truth of the matter, typified by the forms. One way to put this is that, since forms are only poorly mirrored in observable objects perceptible by our senses, it is easy to engage in one of the fallacies above in coming to a conclusion concerning moral action. Perception is not a guide to moral action. Perception is the lowest form of apprehension and knowledge, since it can only sense the ever changing world of matter, cause and effect, etc. This lower world is the world of opinion, of the masses, of fallacies.

Forms are eternal and not bound by matter, they are the realm of knowledge and do not change. The fallacies above, when applied to moral reasoning, derive from the ever changing nature of sense objects and the endless flux of opinion in the crowd, played nicely top by the sophists in Plato’s time, journalists in ours. They exist in the realm of change and opinion, while the philosopher exists in the realm of the intellect, alone capable of comprehending truth, which by definition, is that which does not change, and further, that which is outside of space and time.

In terms of moral action more specifically, one can sense several acts of justice in one’s day to day life. While these acts may well be just, they all partake of the realm of opinion: they all partake in social context, received attitudes, egocentrism, etc. While they may exemplify many qualities one can call just, they, even taken all together, do not constitute justice. The very fact that one calls all these sensible acts of justice “just” implies that there is a concept of justice beyond the actual acts, and bereft of the accidents in each specific case.

The knowledge of this Justice is the true motivation to do the right thing regardless of consequences. Plato uses the analogy of the Ring of Gyges to exemplify this idea. The familiar story is that of a ring that can render its wearer invisible. This means that all acts of justice or injustice alike can be engaged in without the slightest social consequence. Therefore, if one was so inclined, then one could engage in all sorts of unjust acts and get away with it. If there was no absolute justice, then such acts would be justifiable.

But if there is an absolute justice, then justice should be pursued regardless of social consequences, the ring in this case just merely being an enabler, a huge temptation rather than an opportunity. Going further, one could also make the claim, as Socrates does, that even if a life time of just acts will gain the actor a reputation for injustice, and a lifetime of unjust acts would gain the actor a reputation for justice, the former option is the best. In the Gorgias, the real argument here is the health of the soul.

The intellective part of the soul should be, ideally, aimed at perceiving the forms (Hall, 2004, 50-51). This part of the soul should be dominant, but can only be so if it ignores the tumult of the crowd and exists solely for spiritual reality, justice and goodness in itself. Therefore, punishment for evil acts is a very good thing, for it restores balance to the soul. A lifetime of unjust acts, even if it leads to a reputation for justice and benevolence, might lead to a superficially happy life, but a rotten soul underneath and hence, the destruction of the person.

Therefore, the erotic desire for Truth is the final motivation for the righteous act, it is righteous and therefore exercises the soul to the world of spirit, opposed to the world of the multitude and their endlessly changing opinions and the sophists who profit from it (Hall, 2004, 31-54). 3. Empirical and Rationalist Arguments for God The empirical approach to arguing for God’s existence was made famous by Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, and it depends on the acceptance of the theory of hylomorphism, that is, the idea that all objects in the sensible universe are made up of form and matter.

The argument then looks like this: form is the principle of act, matter, the principle of potency. The more the form of an object is present, the greater its perfection and hence, value. Form is the final cause of an object, speaking to its purpose in the greater scheme of substance. As the form is more and more actualized, matter is less and less present. As one continues to generalize from brute givens through their species, families and genus, one sees less and less material, and more and more form.

This “generalization” is not the same as abstraction, but in fact, produces richer and richer contents as the reality of more and more objects can be brought under the same form. But this must have an end, and that end is God, who is totally in act, with absolutely no matter, or potential, God is fully actualized being, fully perfect. Both Plato and Aristotle would hold that the realm of mathematics is a rung on the ladder towards perfection, in that their sums and angles never change.

Geometry proves the existence of the forms, since the formal qualities of an object are presupposed in geometry itself, rather than functioning as a product. But the formal properties of a triangle are not abstractions, but extremely rich entities in their own right, containing innumerable triangles, encased in matter, within them. The process must have an end, and this is that which is fully in act, and hence all form. The Rationalist approach is made famous by St. Augustine.

This famous saint is heavily indebted to Plotinus and the neo-Platonists for his approach to metaphysics. One basic argument that Augustine makes is that truth does not change. Truths of mathematics as mentioned above are proof that there is a realm of being that is not dependent on the senses, one cannot sense the nature of the right angle, one understands it though the intellect. These truths do not change. But these truths, these forms, all have things in common: they do not change, they are not part of the material world, they are all true, they are all good.

Therefore, there really is only one activity of the form, and that is God, all true, all good, all being, the very ground of being. While Aristotle takes his starting point from the apprehension of form and matter in nature, then moving upward towards Form itself, hence fully actualized being, Augustine, like his mentors, begins from the existence of the forms and what they all have in common to provide the metaphysical proof for God’s existence: if Truth exists, then God exists.

If Truth does not exist, then there can be no science and the only thing that really exists is power (cf Swinburne for more detail for these approaches, esp 133-152). 3. The Philosophical Content of Personhood Plato reduces the person to three entities: the passionate, the excitable and the rational. There is great controversy on the nature of the Platonic soul, but it may be said that ideally, the rational should control the other two.

It is not as if there is no reason to be passionate, but that this passion should be under the control of the intellect, guiding it and showing it when the proper time is present to be passionate. Maybe the term “excitable” is misplaced, since there is a part of the soul that seeks to generalize, but not seek the forms themselves. In other words, the sophists had an intellect, but the operations of that intellect were misplaced, it existed solely in the realm of flux. They may generalize, but never reach the form.

One might call this element the lower intelligence, or the will, that which uses the intellect not necessarily to engage in passionate activity, but rather to seek honors or power, in other words, it is rational, but this rationality is not aimed at the forms, but at winning some worldly power or reputation. Again, these lower two portions are not evil, but just need to be kept under their proper bounds. Evil would be for the power will to dominate the intellect or the passionate part to dominate the intellect. The former would be the scheming tyrant, the latter, the dissolute and debauched soul.

Two forms of evil, two forms of ignorance, two forms of the intellect becoming a slave to something else, when in fact, the intellect should be in charge. St. Augustine uses the triplet of knowledge, being and will to explicate the nature of personhood and mirror the eternal life of the trinity: these are three, but still remain one. St. Augustine denies there is such an impenetrable mystery here, as the three elements of personhood also partake of threeness and oneness. When I consider my personness, by being, I know that I know and will.

When I consider my knowledge, I know that I am and that I will, when I will something, I know that I know and that I am. All three partake of all the others, but that does not interfere with what they are in themselves: they are three in one, they all make up a single personality, while at the same time, all existing in real and logical worlds of their own (Kirwan, 1989, 15-30). Bibliography: Hall, Robert. (2004). Plato. Routledge. Kirwan, Christopher (1989) Augustine. Routledge. Swinburne, Richard. (2004) The Existence of God. Oxford University Press.

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