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Flashcards in Ancient Philosophical Influences Deck (29)
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what is epistemology

Epistemology - the study of knowledge. Focuses on evaluating claims people make when they say they 'know' something.


what is rationalism

gaining knowledge through reason.
• Knowledge is gained before using senses. (A Priori knowledge)
• Knowledge is self-evident, have to rely on reason, (e.g. 2 + 2 = 4), unlike opinion.
• Plato was a rationalist. He says sense experience can be misleading and is constantly changing, whereas rationalism is based on Tautology (formulas that are always true) and cannot change. E.g. when you realise the predicate of a triangle is that it has 3 sides, you can never say a triangle has 4 sides, because that would change its predicate.


positives of rationalism

• Not subjective, truth comes before experience.
• Eternal and unchanging truth - knowledge exists throughout time, even if you don't know/understand it, it still exists e.g. Maths.
• Allow you to access knowledge beyond physical world.
• Universal - everyone should be able to access same knowledge; all have soul from World of Forms.


negatives of rationalism

• Limited understanding if it is unchanging. With empiricism, truths change with world, better understanding.
• Plato believed only educated could access this remembering of the Forms.
• Something’s have to be experienced, not all knowledge can be gained without experience. E.g. rain.
• Reason can vary/be flawed (Augustine).
• No empirical evidence for realm of Forms.



Empiricism - gaining knowledge using the senses.
• Knowledge is gained after using the senses. (A Posteriori knowledge)
• Must refer to a working hypothesis that can be tested using observation and experiment. E.g. when I touch a table, I can confirm that it is hard.
• Aristotle was an empiricist, looked at knowledge 'per genus et per differentia'.


strengths of empiricism

• Observation means evidence, therefore more convincing than through reason. Looks at facts.
• With empiricism, truths change with world, better understanding.
• Can relate to personal experiences.
• Open to all, everyone can access.
• Widely used in science to disprove theories


negatives of empiricism

• Experience is subjective/ individualistic. Mediation between sensation and perception.
• Missing out truths - some theoretical/mathematical truths can only be known through rationalism e.g. 2+2 = 4.
• No way of knowing if what we are seeing is reality. E.g. crooked pencil in water.
• Senses can be deceiving e.g. hallucinations/lucid dreams.


platos demiurge

• A craftsperson putting together the Universe didn't create matter of world, simply put the pre-existing matter together.
• World can never be perfect, made from mutable matter.
• Forms pre-exist Demiurge.
• Good being, wants best for humanity.


plato and the forms

• Plato believed everything in the world changes and that this was a sign of imperfection.
• There is no one thing by which we can define anything e.g. beauty. 'We never step in the same river twice' - Heraclitus. We can recognise a river but can't exactly say what it is, same with tallness, truth etc.
• There must be an underlying idea of what beauty is aka the Form of Beauty. Plato believed this is present in the 'World of the Forms'. Evidence of 'particular' beautiful people are imperfect copies (as people's perception of them changes over time) of those in the World of Forms.
• Therefore there must be a world where things are unchanging. (Logic of opposites) This is the World of the Forms, where everything is unchanging, therefore permanent and perfect.
• Know what things are in World of Appearances as we are remembering and categorising them in according to our knowledge of the Forms, yet they are imperfect copies.
• Only have belief in our world, knowledge is only in World of Forms.


ultimate form = goodness

• Plato believed goodness 'leads one to deduce that it is responsible for everything that is right and fine'.
• Goodness is highest form, as everything has goodness in it.
• Sun in cave gives light to real world; Form of Good illuminates other Forms.
• Form of Goodness can only be discovered through use of intellect and reason. (Must be intelligent to know about world of Forms)


description of cave

• Prisoners in underground cave can only face one direction.
• Only light is from fire, fire creates shadows of those walking along the low wall, carrying different objects.
• Prisoners cannot see what the objects are made of etc. only see a 2D shadow. When they name the shadows, they think they are naming real objects.
• Only sounds are voices and echoes, unable to distinguish voices from echoes.
• People are removed from reality, nothing from senses is true information, but as far as they know, it is the truth.


experience of cave

• If a prisoner were to be released into real world and saw the objects they saw the shadows of, they at first wouldn't be able to recognise them, only saw 2D version.
• Experience will be painful, e.g. the sun outside would hurt their eyes, yet they will eventually get used to it. (Similarly to when we enter World of Forms, it will be a painful experience).
• Would eventually gain wisdom and realise how essential the sun is to the world etc.
• If the prisoner returned to the cave and told his fellow prisoners about the outside world, they would not believe him, feel hostile towards suggestion of them coming too, would rather kill him. (Plato's link to how Socrates knew the dangers of bringing philosophy into the world due to people not liking having their beliefs challenged, Socrates willing to take the risk of death, as the human search for life's questions was more important than life itself).


symbols in cave analogy

• Sun = Form of Good, illuminates other Forms, just as the Sun illuminates the cave.
• Shadow = imperfect copy of a Form that we have in our world of sense experience. Shadows are the only 'reality' we know.
• Prisoner that escaped = Socrates/those who undertake philosophy.
• Ignorant Prisoners = those who executed Socrates aka. Those in the physical world who prefer to live an 'ignorant life' and do not accept ROF.
• No one would believe the released prisoner when he came back about the World of Forms, similarly no one on physical world can ever comprehend World of Forms without philosophical knowledge.


qualities of world of forms

• Perfect and permanent.
• One and only example.
• More real than shadow we experience.
• Unchanging, concept, not physical. Concepts can't die.
• Not a shape, but the essence of an object.
• The reason why we experience things in our current world, although they are distorted.


qualities of world of appearances

• Constantly changing e.g. evolution and death = imperfect.
• Only shadows of true Form, objects in world only imitate Forms e.g. a beautiful person is an imitation/imperfect copy of the Form of Beauty, 'particulars'.
• Everything is part of the Form.


general criticisms of plato

• Too focused on thought, need something empirical to back it up, can't declare there is something, without defining what it is exactly. (Plato could argue that our observations of mutable things prove everything must have a perfect, permanent Form).
• Why do some remember different aspects of the Form?
• Does every Form have a physical thing? Does every physical thing have a Form?
• Is knowledge remembered?
• What does the Form of Beauty look like? Suggests concept of Forms is inconsistent. (Plato would say that we must focus on the Form of Good as the ultimate Form, cannot give a physical appearance to Forms).
• Leads to negative form of dualism if physical world is bad and spiritual world is good. Why does Plato view change as a bad thing? (Plato's view of the physical world very different to one God describes as 'very good' in Genesis, can't compare.)
• Plato doesn't explain the relationship between concepts and phenomena. How do horses participate in the 'Form of the Horse'?
• Allegory of cave is flawed, freed prisoner must experience World of Forms, isn't that empiricism, rather than rationalism?


karl popper criticism of plato

• Karl Popper in 'The Open Societies and Its Enemies' argues Plato is determined to find certainty that is not in this world, assumes there must be another world since he cannot find certainty in a constantly changing world.


a.j. ayer criticism of plato

• Plato assumes because we have a name for something, it must have a correspondent in reality. 'Primitive superstition' - A.J. Ayer


Tadeusz Kotarbinski criticism

some nouns are 'onomatoids', not things, but stand for something e.g. love, goodness.


aristotle criticisms of plato

o Something being eternal does not make it better e.g. something does not become whiter by being eternal.

Can there be only one form of the good even though we use ‘good’ in so many ways? For example, a good harpist is good at playing the harp but that may not mean that they are a good person. A good gun is not morally good, but is good because it shoots.


aristotle - teleology

Teleology: Potentiality ---> Actuality
• Everything possesses potential to change (Potentiality).
• Happens through four causes/stages.
• In order for something to reach its telos, must go through four stages.
• Once it has achieved its telos, it exists in a new actual state (Actuality), yet is still subject to change, and has potential to become another actual state.
• 'Nature does not act without a goal'


4 causes

o Material Cause - what something is made from, but does not explain everything i.e. a pile of wood isn't automatically associated with a table.
o Efficient Cause - the activity that makes something happen, actualising the potential. E.g. Wood needs the efficient cause of a carpenter to realise its potential as a table.
o Formal Cause - the form/shape of something, allows it to be identified. E.g. a table is a table because its shape is recognisable as a table.
o Final Cause (most important cause) - its purpose (teleology), reason for existence. E.g. the telos of a table is that it can be used as a platform for work. Great significance for Aquinas when he used the concept of telos in own Natural Law theology.


aristotle PM - thinking

• Aristotle looked at universe and thought:
o What causes the universe to actualise their potential? (Efficient Cause)
• Noticed the world was constantly changing, surely there must be an efficient cause/someone who was performing some kind of action for this change to happen?
o What is the purpose of the universe as a whole? (Final Cause)


aristotle PM conclusion

• Decided cause of universe must be God (transcendent not immanent), the 'Prime Mover':
o Final Cause of the universe;
o Not affected itself;
o No potential and be 'pure actuality';
o Causes change, but does not do this in a physical way, as this would affect the Prime Mover;
o Causes change by attracting things towards it (perfection of God), does nothing, but is the object of everything.


characteristics of God in relation to PM

o God does not depend on anything for its existence:
• Otherwise he would be capable of change, which he is not, due to having no potential.
• Link to Christian view of God as changeless.
o God must be eternal due to lack of potential:
• Can't change so can't cease to be;
• Exists, so must always have existed.
o God must be perfectly good.
• Badness is related to some absence of something, if God is 'pure actuality' he must contain everything and be perfect.
o God must be immaterial and beyond time and space.
• All matter can be acted upon; God can't be made of matter.
• Cannot perform any physical activity, purely spiritual. E.g. cannot suffer/change mind/be persuaded etc.
• God thinks only of himself and his own perfect nature.
• Links to Christian view of God.
o God must be Final Cause of universe if he is origin/purpose of everything.
• Can't be Efficient Cause because he can't do anything, still ultimate cause.


scholarly criticisms of Aristotle

• Bertrand Russell - 'I should say the universe is just there, and that's all'.
• Idea of world having telos criticised by Russell, Sartre and Dawkins. They claim the universe is simply a result of chance, no purpose.


criticisms of aristotle - fallacy of composition

• Fallacy of composition - the error of thinking that what is true of the part is true of the whole. Just because children have biological creators, doesn't mean the universe as a whole has a creator. Similarly, just because parts of the body have purposes, doesn't mean the person as a whole has a purpose. What is the purpose of nipples on a man?


Descartes support of rationalism

• René Descartes: 'we can see, smell, feel wax in its solid form and call it wax. If we then light the wax, it becomes a completely different form, yet we still call it wax. In this instance, the idea of wax cannot be obtained through experience, but through reason'.


Hume support of empiricism

• David Hume: our senses do not lie and the more we repeat something, the better idea we have of it.