The Meaning of Truth (Great Books in Philosophy)

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Aristotle, like Plato, was one of the greatest intellectual figures of Western history. Even after the intellectual revolutions of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Enlightenment, Aristotelian concepts remained embedded in Western thinking. He was the founder of formal logic, devising for it a finished system that for centuries was regarded as the sum of the discipline; and he pioneered the study of zoology. Epicureanism is commonly regarded as the refined satisfaction of physical desires.

As a philosophy, however, it also denoted the striving after an independent state of mind and body, imperturbability, and reliance on sensory data as the true basis of knowledge. Critique of Pure Reason — Emmanuel Kant. Essays — Montaigne. Montaigne was a French Rennaisance philosopher noted for his merging of casual anecdotes with intellectual insight.

His influence as a philosopher was wide, and has includes many of his contemporaries, many of them appearing also on this list. He breaks down the paradoxes of conventional understandings of morality, and in doing so sets the stage for much of the 20th century thought that would follow. Meditations on First Philosophy is made up of six meditations. Written in the style of a journal of a six day course of meditation, he first discards all belief in things that are not absolutely certain, and then tries to establish what can be known for sure.

One of the most influential philosophical texts ever written, it is widely read to this day. The Prince is sometimes claimed to be one of the first works of modern philosophy, especially modern political philosophy, in which the effective truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal.

Machiavelli emphasized the need for realism, as opposed to idealism. Being and Nothingness — Jean-Paul Sartre. It begins with a meditation on suicide; the question of living or not living in a universe devoid of order or meaning. Depressing at first, like a lot of existential writing it has light at the end of the tunnel. In his treatise, he attempts to use the same scientific method of reasoning in order to inquire into human psychology — namely to glimpse the depth of our understanding and potential. He ultimately argues the irrationality of human beings. It teaches peace, harmony and balance; ultimately describing a complete and fulfilling art of living that guides millions to this day.

One of the most influential books ever written, The Art of War has applications in business, the military and any situation involving strategy or people.

What is Philosophy?

It is composed of 13 chapters, each one describing a part of warfare, relating back to tactics, and immediate application. The Analects has been one of the most widely read and studied books in China for the last 2, years, and has massive influence over Chinese thought to this today. It is foundational to the development of Chinese and East Asian moral systems.

His educated his students to create ethically cultivated men who would carry themselves well, speak well, and demonstrate integrity in everything they did. A 1,year-old text at the foundation of modern medicine and biology. One example of this is the old question of Socrates' day about man being born with knowledge, called innate knowledge.

For centuries this was accepted by a variety of people.

But John Locke seems to have solved the matter for many philosophers that man is not given innate ideas at birth. Hence, he must gain his knowledge through experience. Now in contemporary thought, Noam Chomsky has raised the question again in proposing what he calls "generative grammar.

When we learn a language we are able to understand and formulate all types of sentences that we have never heard before. This ability to deal with language is regarded by Chomsky as innate, something we have inherited genetically. So the issue comes anew. But other questions have not met with the same success for such a long period of time. In summary, it can be said that defining philosophy as a set of questions and answers is not unique by any means.

Other disciplines or studies could also be defined by the questions they seek to answer. If this definition is accepted as the only definition, one must set forth the particular kinds of questions that are restricted to philosophy. Obviously the answers to the problem of pollution are not the kinds of questions one deals with in philosophy.

But the relation of man's body to his mind is one of the kinds of questions that philosophers have regarded as their own.

Essentials

Early philosophers attempted to describe the world in its simple make-up. Thales asserted that water, and Anaximenes asserted that air, were the important materials of the universe. Many other proposals have come from other philosophers. But the main issue concerns the nature of the universe. A world-view is the attempt to come to a total view of the universe as it relates to the make-up of matter, man, God, the right, the nature of politics, values, aesthetics, and any other element in the cosmos that is important.

In spite of this definition, James is not one of the better examples of a philosopher who carried on the development of a systematic world-view. If we accept this definition of philosophy, we are not committed to any pre-arranged conclusions.

9 Mind-Expanding Books Of Philosophy That Are Actually Readable (A Guide To Practical Philosophy)

There are many world-views that are contrary to one another. Look at the following brief examples: l Lucretius, in his essay on nature, developed a world-view based on the atomic nature of all things. Even the souls of men and gods are composed of atoms. When atoms disintegrate, things, souls, and gods also disintegrate.

Only atoms are permanent. Lucretius dealt with many other facts of existence, but they are all related to the atomic nature of things. What looks like matter is really a sub-unit of Spirit. Hegel interpreted politics, the world, and man from the single vantage point of Spirit or Mind. Matter is not mind, nor is mind merely matter in a different form. The three examples above are attempts at world-views. Neither example is compatible with the other. Neither thinker would accept the other's views. But all are seeking explanations of human existence that result in world-views. The modern era of philosophy--since the turn of the century--has seen considerable rejection of the world-view definition of philosophy.

In spite of this rejection, it has a time-honored tradition behind it. Aristotle has a sentence that is widely quoted about this emphasis:. There is a science which investigates being as being, and the attributes which belong to this in virtue of its own nature. Now this is not the same as any of the so-called special sciences, for none of these treats universally of being as being. They cut off a part of being and investigate the attribute of this part. Looking at the universe as a whole involves questions which cannot be ignored.

The questions are not to be isolated from one another, but should be put together to form an integrated whole, or total view of the world. It is this integration that makes this definition of philosophy better than the previous one or questions and answers. This definition of philosophy will have an appeal to the student who aims for consistency and coherence in his approach to thinking. The role of education tacitly leads to such a conclusion. Similarly, if a person believes in God, and takes God seriously, there should be a concern for human rights, equality, justice, and a concern for the wholeness of man in both body and spirit.

Something is wrong when a person affirms belief in God as Creator and then regards certain categories of people as sub-human. A world-view will include views on man, social responsibilities and politics consistent with the view of man. Any discipline or study having a bearing on the meaning of man will have relevance for a world-view. This will include biology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, theology, and other related disciplines. A world-view is an attempt to think coherently about the world in its completeness. Defining philosophy as a world-view sounds good, but it too has problems.

One basic criticism is that the systems of philosophers--Lucretius, Hegel, and others--have been limited by the basic motif, or guiding principle that is adopted. The principle is too limited and when applied, it makes a mockery out of some areas of human existence.

William James > By Individual Philosopher > Philosophy

For example, Lucretius' materialism or atomism is true to some extent, but it makes a mockery out of mind and is inconsistent with freedom or denies it. Other limitations exist in other world-views. To put it positively, a world-view should be based on the best possible models, principles, or motifs. They should be set forth tentatively and not dogmatically. The idea of philosophy being "criticism" needs explanation.

An understanding may be reached by looking at one of the philosophers who embodied this definition.


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Socrates is one of the earliest to engage in philosophic criticism. A dialectic, one must keep in mind, is a running debate with claims, counter-claims, qualifications, corrections, and compromises in the sincere hope of getting to understand a concept.

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