PHIL-101: Class Notes


I. Ancient Philosophy 

INTRODUCTION: What we're doing and why

I. What is Philosophy?

A. Love of Wisdom.

--- Both a content and a methodology --

B. Content: Big questions about life, the universe, and everything. For example:  "Is there a God?" (Metaphysics), "Can I know anything?" (Epistemology), "Is there a genuine right and wrong? And, if so, what's right and what's wrong?" (Ethics and value questions)

C. Methodology

1. Address basic questions in a well-organized and rigourous way.

2. Asks for evidence and uses argument. Kind of like science, but...

a. evidence available to everyone

b. addresses questions which science is not equipped to answer.

 1. Is there a God?
 2. Is science worth doing?
 3. What are we doing when we do science, discovering or "inventing"?

D. Philosophy is the most underlies all other disciplines.

II. Why bother to do it?

Most influential, practical discipline

A. Methodology -- exercise in thinking well. Making crucial distinctions. Telling the essential from the inessential. Writing and expressing yourself clearly, in a well-organized way. 

B. Content

     1. For example: Political Philosophy...You in the U.S. don't understand what freedom is.

     2. Metaphysics, Values...Is there a God?  What do you...or should you... really value?


III.  We're doing the History of Philosophy...from Thales in the 7th century B.C. through Logical Positivism in the 20th.  Why?

A. Metaphilosophy -- See how big ideas fit together.

B. How does Philosophy happen?

C. Our culture has been shaped by our past.  Understand the present better if you see where it came from.

D. Also gain objectivity.  If you want to be able to evaluate the common wisdom of your own day, better to be able to step outside and look from there.  That's why if you should ever become a totalitarian dictator, the first thing you should do is destroy history.

E. Old guys may be right.

IV. Mechanics

A. Do the reading (Primary and secondary)

B. Lecture and discussion. (You can access my notes on my home page, but you won't get the material by just memorizing the notes. And often there's more in the notes than we get to in class, so be careful.)

C. Four sections...four tests...multiple choice..30 questions.(You can find a copy of a cover page and some sample questions at the very end of this section of notes.)

D. Final grade computed by adding up and dividing by 4. (If grades come out low I may curve slightly by bumping up folks who are right on the borderline.)

 1. Scale of 100, 90's =A, 80's=B etc.
 2. Top three scores=plus, bottom three=minus
 3. One deviation is with the D-...I make the cutoff 55

--important notes on test taking. 

a. You will need to know your student ID number in order for me to post your scores on the Sakai page for this course. You can bring your ID card to the test. That and a number 2 pencil is all you'll need. Everything else has to be put away. 

b. I have to stick with the score on the test, even if you have filled in the wrong bubbles due to clerical errors.

c. If you are not sure about your mastery of the English language, think twice before staying in the course. Philosophy can be intrinsically hard and it is super language-intensive. You need to be able to understand it when spoken and read.

E. PLUS extra credit up to 6 points from clicker quizzes.

V. Etiquette

A. Don't arrive late.  (If you must, be inconspicuous.)

B. Don't leave early. (If you must, tell me beforehand and be inconspicuous.)

C. Don't talk too much.

D. No use of cell phones. No use of laptops EXCEPT for note-taking.

E. Eating

F. Putting things up your nose and in your mouth....

VI. My office is on the second floor of 24 Kent Way.  My office hours are MW 3-4:30 and by appointment.

THE PRE-SOCRATICS : Flourished in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C.

Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes (Milesians), Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Zeno, Empedocles, Anaxagoras, Leucippus, Democritus.

Our Goals here:

1. Set the stage for Socrates and Plato
2. Aquaint you with some names and ideas that all educated people should know
3. Appreciate the methodology of philosophy and see movement and progress of ideas
4. Make views plausible...these guys are sharp...though may sound bizarre at first (atomic theory and theory of evolution.)

I. Thales,624-546 B.C. in Miletus (Coastal town in Greece. He and his school known as the "Milesians".)

A. The Question: What is everything made of?  [Answer is "water". Sounds crazy. Doesn't accord with the senses at all. How about the contemporary answer? Well, that sounds crazy, too.]

B. What prompts the question? Wondering about things that everybody else takes for granted. 

1. Change.  One thing becoming something else.    

    a. Conceptual analysis. What do we mean, what are we thinking, when we say that one thing becomes another.

    b. The question: What happens when you eat a carrot? The carrot becomes flesh. 

    c. Here's what we DON'T mean...It's not that the carrot blinks out of being and the flesh blinks in.  

    d. So the idea of becoming entails that something stays the same throughout the change.  There must be some unified thing underlying the carrot and the flesh.  

2. Now, what can change into what?  Anything can change into anything, so it must be the case that there is a unity underlying everything.

C. Thales' remarkable conclusions:

 1. There must be a unity underlying the multiplicity of things
 2. The way things seem does not adequately reflect the way they really are.  Appearance vs. Reality.
 3. Our senses alone can't tell us the whole story...we'll have to use reason on what we've perceived...
 4. ...and we'll have to analyze everyday concepts like "becoming". 

D. The Answer: Water. (Ancient Greece, four elements: earth, air, fire, and water.) Why choose water?  It's everywhere, it's changeable into different things.

II. Anaximander (Pupil of Thales) -- From now on almost everybody agrees that there must be an underlying unity. 

A. The indeterminate boundless 

    1. no specific kind of thing ... unlimited...

    2. Need to say it is indeterminate because if it underlies all the different kinds of things it can't be any one specific kind of thing, so it can't be water, or any other specific kind of thing.

B. How do you account for the many? Eternal swirling motion.

1. A "separating off" which produces different things.

2. single explanation, mechanical principle (Law of nature)

III. Anaximenes

A. The one thing is Air, like the boundless it is spread everywhere, but nonetheless is a tangible, material substance that can be identified.

B. Why are there all these different things? 

    1. There is an eternal motion...,

    2. ...but he adds that changes in quality are based on changes in quantity as air expands and contracts.  Underlying quantity determines the nature of the thing.

IV. Pythagoras, 6th c. Went from island of Samos to Italy.

A. Mathematician

B. Do mathematics as a religious exercise to purify the soul.  Numbers are perfect, immutable, eternal, transcend the world of getting and spending, seeking fame.

C. World is made of mathematical objects, points, lines etc. Underlying unity comes from it all being points, making lines, making shapes, making...

1. These objects are physical phenomena. (The thought of something existing but being non-physical doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone yet.)

2. Evidence that it's all mathematical objects from the fact that music (sensual, emotional) is a  function of mathematical ratios.

D. Form!!! Limits, structures, harmonies.  

    1. Things are what they are, e.g. cat vs. tree, through form,...

    2. and they are good through harmony...proper proportions.

E. Enormous impact on Socrates and Plato.

V. Heraclitus (Early 6th c) Ephesus

A. Question: How to explain change and unity.

B. Constant change, coming into being and passing out of being, ‘You cannot step into the same river twice.'

C. However there is an underlying unity...Fire...It is a single element whose very nature is to change and take on different forms.

D. Fire is a process of transformation, constant struggle is the nature of things (Nietzche)...but it is orderly, balanced...what you lose here you gain there. Opposites are really one...alive and dead, good and bad, young and old.   

E. Ubiquitous order must be the product of reason. Associates Fire with Reason....not dead, inanimate, mechanistic,...God, law...pantheist.


VI. Parmenides

World view exceedingly strange...everything is One, there is no change or motion...but based on powerful argument which subsequent thinkers will feel compelled to take seriously.  Leads to the atomic theory.

A. The Argument : 

(Important note on terminology: An argument is a series of premises (in this case three) which, when combined, entail a conclusion. A "valid" argument is one where the logical form of the argument is such that, if the premises are true, the conclusion is true. A "sound" argument is one which is valid and the premises are in fact true.)

1. Thought and being are the same. (What is is what we can think.  What we can think is what there can be.  If we can't think it it can't be, for example, a round square.)
2.  We cannot think non-being, nothing.
3.  Non-being can't be...there is no nothing.
 (Conclusion:) Therefore there is no change, no motion, and all is One.

B. Why no change?  To change is pass out of being or into being.  If the carrot becomes flesh, the carrot, qua carrot, ceases to exist. It's "carrotness" apparently disappears.

C. What there IsJust the Immutable (changeless) One.

 1. It is not generated...It must be everlasting . No nothing for it to come out of or pass into.
 2. go from here to there there'd have to be empty space to move through.
 3.'s all the same throughout.
    a. no discreet individual things because there'd have to be emptiness in between them.           
    b. not more here and less there since more would  mean less nothingness, and less would mean more nothingness, and there can't be any nothingness at all.

 4. be infinite is to lack's a sphere...what there is is one great, immutable, everlasting, motionless, homogenous, spherical, plenum.

D. Crazy? Radical violation of evidence of our senses? Tough!  Reason has the final word.

VII. Zeno

Student of Parmenides.  Goal was to defend Parmenides by showing that other ways of looking at world are equally wacky.

A. Senses deceive...the millet seed. If one seed makes no noise, then a million should make no noise. But 1 makes 0 noise and a bunch makes some noise. Impossible. Your senses lied!

B. Space and motion paradoxical. (Target is especially the Pythagoreans who'd said that space consists of an infinite number of points.)

 The Racecourse (quick and rough version) : To get to the finish line you'd first have to go past the half-way point. To get to the half-way point, you'd first have to go past the quarter-way point, infinitum. But you can't do an infinite number of things in a finite amount of time, so you can't get around the racecourse.

-- At the time most folks think it's crazy! Obviously there's change! And so we have...   


    (The problem of motion -- how can something move without there being some "nothing" for it to move into? -- is subsidiary and is not addressed until we hit the atomists.)

    Super important! Leads to atomic theory. Sets up questions which will lead to the first round of debates that are going on today! And that have a direct and practical impact on how you live your life!

VIII. Empedocles

A. Response to Parmenides.   

    1. Parmenides was right that things cannot really come into or pass out of being. But obviously there is change in the objects around us. 

    2. So we know that something is wrong with Parmenides' argument.  

    3. It's invalid. The premises are true.... at least Empedocles grants that they're correct. But the conclusion does not follow. It is a non sequitur...which is just Latin for "it does not follow".

---How can we get change without any real coming into or passing out of being?--

B. Objects are composed of material particles

    1. So tiny we can't see them.

    2. Sounds a little like atoms, but...

    3. Particles are of the four elements, earth, air, fire, and water.

    4. And -- the crucial point! -- these particles are eternal and unchanging.

D. It's the mingling of these particles which makes the different objects we see.

E. There are forces at work in nature, love and hate, coming together and decomposing (gravity and...big bang?)

    1. So the universe has always existed and has always been expanding and contracting. (A popular view until very recently)

    2. The world as we observe it now is somewhere in between the beginning and the ending of a cycle of expansion and contraction.

F. Empedocles also believed in evolution of species through mutation and survival of the fittest. 

    1. Body parts emerge from the sea

    2. Randomly combine

    3. The ones that can survive do and have offspring.


IX. Anaxagoras -- still working on Parmenides' Problem

A. In agreement with Empedocles that everything is made of indestructible particles, 

1. But it's not the four elements, because.... (That is, Empedocles theory fails to account for something. Your book doesn't really appreciate Anaxagoras' very important point.)

2. Empedocles theory seems to allow the carrotness of the carrot to pass out of being and the fleshness of the flesh to blink in.

B. So, in order to save the natures of things, let's say that everything is HOMOIOMEROUS: Made of parts having the same nature as the whole.  Carrot is made of little carrot bits, flesh is made of little flesh bits.

1. A thing is whatever it's got most of...carrot is mostly carrot bits, but it's also got flesh bits.  When you eat it, the flesh bits get rearranged and added to other flesh bits to make flesh.  That's how substantial change is possible.

2.  Since everything can be changed into everything, everything has little bits of everything in it.

--- Now, nobody after Anaxagoras does the homoiomerous thing, but the thought that the nature, the kind, the carrotness is real and needs to be considered is super important! --

---And here's another super important contribution --

C. And the processes of nature are guided by mind.  Not quasi-mechanical forces.  Need knowledge to produce order. (So this part is like Heraclitus, but.....

D. Mind must be something different from matter, from that which it orders and governs (versus Heraclitus). It has power over it, so it's not matter!

E. Smashing and influential insight which he really doesn't develop.  Falls back on mechanical explanations.

X. The Atomists (Leucippus and Democritus)...the latter lived into the 4th c. B.C.

A. Problem is still that Parmenides' arguments have force, but there's obviously change and motion.

---And now we're going to get a suggestion to solve the problem about motion ---

B. (Leucippus) The void, empty space...not material, but not just nothing.  It's a sort of receptacle which can be empty in some places and full in others. Solves the problem of motion.

C. Atoms: tiny, invisible particles

 1. infinite in number

 2. They're each like Parmenides' One...eternal (don't go into or out of being), indivisible (no space or parts within...each is a homogenous plenum), indestructible. (Something with parts can "fall apart".)

 3. Differ from one another in size and shape so that they can kind of hook up together in  certain ways.

 4. They're in motion.  When they collide they can interlock to form the objects of the sense world around us.

 5. Like and unlike 20th century atoms. Our atoms are not indivisible and indestructible.   Ultimate particle?

---A reductivist project. It's ALL atoms and the void! ---

D.  Deny the idea of any transcendent purpose or design.  Don't need to posit a god/Mind.  All can be explained by appeal to atoms and the void. 

    1.The Principle of Parsimony: Accept the simplest explanation that fits all the facts.  Don't multiply entities beyond necessity.

    2. Theism vs. naturalism.

E. Problems? (In addition to problem of no purpose or design. Depends on how you view least issues to chew on for the next two and a half millenia.)

 Too radical a reductivism!?! It's ALL atoms and the void.  (Reductivists vs. anti-reductivists)

1. The forms or natures of things seem to disappear. 

    a. What about the carrotness of the carrot? (The same question that Anaxagoras asked Empedocles.) 

    b. The atomists have an answer.There was no "carrotness" there to begin with.    In order to say that the carrot didn't blink out and the  flesh didn't  blink in have to say that what both are really is just configurations of atoms.  Change is just the rearranging of atoms.       They solve Parmenides problem by making entire world of experience sort of illusory, ‘mere'   appearance. The atoms are the REALLY real, and whatever makes this a carrot is relatively unimportant.

    c. But does that give too little credit to what we actually experience which is apparently a world full of natural kinds?

2. Thought is also atoms bouncing around in the void.  

    a. We assume that thinking well is the way to access truth. But...

    b. ...if everybody thinks what  they think as a result of random motions of atoms how can thought be aimed at accessing truth. What supplies the right sort of connection between the knower and the known? Nothing in the picture seems to do that. 

    c. To put it another way, why is one thought process objectively ‘better' than another?  Why are Einstein's thoughts more valuable than  those of a madman? Both are basically the same process.  (Epistemology.  How do we know things?)

 3. Morality?  Democritus himself promoted a strict moral code, but ...

    a.'s hard to square this with a mechanistic view of things.  What is there to justify our belief that some things are right and some are wrong?

    b. The atomist can explain why we have the belief about morality. Our atoms made us believe it. 

    c. But he has trouble offering a theory that can explain how the belief is TRUE.

THE SOPHISTS AND SOCRATES: Move from looking mainly at the external world to looking at the human being.

Protagoras, Gorgias, Thrasymachus

The Sophists: Widely travelled, different peoples have different beliefs...skepticism and relativism....truth is relative to the individual, or maybe there is no truth.

I. Protagoras

"Man is the measure of all things." 

A. We cannot penetrate beyond appearance to reality.  Things appear different to each different observer, so truth is relative to the individual.  What is "true" for me may not be "true" for you.  Subjective, not objective. "Objective:" would mean just true regardless of anybody's opinion.

B. Morality: order is good, so obey laws of state and traditional religion.  (What if it doesn't seem good to me?)

C. Self-refuting position.  (There can be different kinds of self-refuting positions.)

    1. Actions might contradict your words.  (Say A, but do -A)

    2. But in Protagoras' case, the very claim itself is inherently contradictory.  It is objectively true that there is no objective truth.  (A and not-A)

II. Gorgias

A. Just no truth at all

 1. Nothing exists
 2. If it did we couldn't comprehend it.
 3. If we could comprehend it we couldn't communicate it.  Words are mere symbols, not  things.  If I use a word I can't know you've gotten it.  E.g. ‘red'...except across the board for all words.

B. Self-refuting position, in both ways -- It's true that there is no truth. (This claim contradicts itself.) Let me tell you, we can't communicate. (Speaker's behavior contradicts his statement.) 

C. Becomes a teacher of rhetoric (sort of like a lawyer). Socrates and his friends define rhetoric as the study of how to make the weaker argument appear the stronger.

- One of the great divides among philosophers. Those who are comfortable refuting themselves and espousing positions that are impossible to commit to as you go about your business. Versus those who think philosophy is relevant to your everyday life. E.g. Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle -- We do philosophy in order to lead the good and happy life. That means you should practice what you preach. If you have come to a conclusion that is impossible to embrace as you go about your daily business, then you need to rethink your position.

III. Thrasymachus (Famous for his views on morality.  His stated position does NOT fall into self-refutation.)

A. Moral relativism.  No absolute or objective morality.

--- Two reasons for believing in moral relativism which were popular in the 20th century. The first one is something Thrasymachus said. The second he would have laughed at. --

1.)The anthropological argument: (Thrasymachus advances something like this.)

            (Premise) Different societies have different beliefs about morality.

            (Conclusion) Therefore there is no objective moral truth. 

Not such a great argument: 1) Premise is dubious.  Superficial differences, but likely an underlying uniformity.  2) Even if premise is true, conclusion doesn't follow. Non sequitur.

2.) The tolerance “argument” -- 60's and 70's attitude: (NOT Thrasymachus' argument, but worth looking at since it has been so popular. Also not a valid argument, in that the conclusion does not really follow from the premises.)

            (Premise 1) Tolerance is good.  

            (Premise 2) Denying objective morality will promote tolerance. (Believing in objective morality promotes intolerance.)  

            (Conclusion) Therefore there is no objective  morality.

a. Not even really an argument. The fact that believing X will promote Y, doesn't make X true.

b. It is self-contradictory! The conclusion contradicts the first premise. If there is no objective good and bad, then tolerance is not objectively good, and intolerance is not objectively bad.

            c.  Again, Thrasymachus does NOT promote this argument. No, instead...

B. Thrasymachus is logical about it. Moral relativism is not a benign philosophy. It's stupid to be ‘just' (no real justice). "Might makes right."  ‘Right' just is whatever those in power say it is. It's rules to try to keep people down. person will be as ruthless as he wants, trample whoever he wants.

---Can we disprove moral relativism? Science doesn't deal with questions of value truth. Philosophers argue both sides. If it's an open's a move ...

C.) "In your heart" can you accept moral relativism? (A practical, Socratic point. What belief can you live with?) 

            a. You can't say Hitler is doing something wrong.

            b. How about if you earn an A and I give you an F? 

SOCRATES 470-399 B.C. (Socrates or Plato? We're following a standard interpretation which holds that Socrates introduced some basic ideas which Plato, his student, then elaborates and developes.)

A. Seeking a response to the Sophists (As noted under Gorgias above -- One of the great divides among philosophers is between those who think your words should be consistent with your deeds and those who don't. If philosophy is about leading the good and happy life, you'll be in the former camp, with Socrates.)

B. The wisest man in Athens -- Just because he knows he knows some stuff, he doesn't make the mistake of thinking he knows way more than he actually knows.

--We're just looking briefly at two big Socratic ideas ---

C. Epistemology

 1. (Turning Gorgias on his head) Human mind is capable of knowledge. This is obvious because we are able to  communicate...we're not just talking jibberish.  We do have some understanding, perhaps  murky and vague, of reality. What we need is to take what we've already got and clarify  it.  The philosopher is a mid-wife.

 2. We need to examine the concepts of things, and especially we need to seek the definition or general essence of a thing and not just settle for knowing the particular.

 a. So, for example, a basic question you should ask about something is, "What is it?" e.g. Here's this cat, Fluffy. 

b. But individual cats exhibit all sorts of individual differences. To answer the question, "What is it?" we need to find out what the different individuals have in common. (Importance of natures, forms, essences)

D. Morality

 1. Knowledge = virtue, and vice versa.  You wouldn't knowingly do something wrong. Prima facie (at first glance) seems like an odd thing to say. But maybe not, when you see what he's up to.

 2. Ethics = Pursuing the goal of human activity = happiness (Socrates up through the so-called Renaissance.)

 3. Happiness = fullfilling your function, your nature (importance of understanding essences  of things.)  We're all human so morality is relativism.

 4. Some sorts of activities will make you happy and some won't. We all want to be happy.   So,when we pursue the merely apparent good we do so out of ignorance.

PLATO 429/27 - 348 B.C.

I. Epistemology (leading right into metaphysics)

A. Some knowledge is possible 2+2=4, It's wrong to torture small children for fun, Fluffy is a cat. How? Not through your senses! 

1. 2+2=4 is immutably true, and true always and everywhere. Your senses sense only changeable things, and they sure don't reach to always and everywhere.

2. "Good" is not a sensible quality at all.

3. To recognize that Fluffy is a cat, you have to grasp her nature, catness, which all cats share. But that is something not apparent to the senses. To your senses each cat seems very different.

4. So...You know things you didn't learn through your senses. Where do these things exist, if not in the sensible world you observe?

B.  The World of the Forms: Immaterial, Eternal, immutable, perfect ‘blueprints' of things (e.g. mathematical principles, natures)

1. Participation a. blueprint, b. mirror image, c. "sharing in..." (Plato grants that this is rather vague and metaphorical talk.)

2. Note that we've solved Parmenides' problem;. Change without any real coming into or passing out of being.  The individual carrot and the individual human being may come and go, but the material particles AND THE ESSENCES (carrotness, humanness) are everlasting, because they exist in the World of the Forms.

3.  And note that there are two ways to spin this view of world

a. negatively -- our world is a poor copy

b. positively -- our world is an image of the perfect, the immutable, the divine.

C. How is knowledge of the Forms possible?

1. Not through your senses... but through Recollection: you preexisted as a disembodied soul in the world of the forms.  Innatism. -- the knowledge is "inborn".

2. Sense experience is important in that it ‘jogs' your memory.

3.. What does this say about human nature? Dualist -- you are soul and body; Platonic Dualist -- soul being the real you and good, and body being a prison and bad.


-- Let's review the business about Forms by looking at the Divided Line : The Republic


1. Images: e.g.images on  T.V. bear only a remote relationship to reality  ---> mere imagining

2. Things: the different individuals  ---> mere belief

 a. Senses only give us the particular

 b. Need to move to what things have in common -- although we'll see that isn't quite enough.

3. Mathematical and Scientific (Universal) Principles --->thinking

4.  Need to grasp essence, ideal standard, the Forms ---> intelligence

Note that observation of things, even if we achieve some universal claims, does not do the job. 

a. We are capable of distinguishing the essential from the inessential properties. For example, featherless biped not really important vs. rational and social

 b. We are able to make value judgments about the individual. Is he a better or worse instance of the kind?

--ultimate form, Form of all Forms, the Form of the Good---gives being and knowledge

II. The Parable of the Cave: The Republic

---Why do philosophers seem so inept and weird? ---

Shadows > Images

Statues > corporeal objects

Above ground > Reality: The World of the Forms

The Sun > The Form of the knowledge and thing there is, eternal and  immutable.

The Life of the Philosopher -- He gazes upon the Form of the Good, but then feels the charitable desire to help his fellow troglodytes.

---So the Good is an image of God. But in a different dialogue, the Timaeus, Plato gives you a different image of the divine.---

III. The Timeaus: How does the world come to be?

A. 3 things; Forms, receptacle (matter), Demiurge (a divine "craftsman")

B. Demiurge creates out of love -- wants world to be the best possible > looks to the Forms and ‘impresses' them on the receptacle.

--- Two images of the source of our universe, gods of sorts. (Judeo-Christian Philosophy of Religion will try to synthesize)---

1. The Good: Perfect, immutable, eternal, not a creator, not personal.

2.  The Demiurge: A creating mind, an agent...not the source of all.

Ethics and Political Philosophy (from The Republic)

---The questions are, What is justice, and why should I bother to be just?---

I. The Ring of Gyges

A. Thrasymachus...Run wild!

     Plato...No.  Being good (just) is good for you.

B. Justice = having things in the right order

II. The tripartite soul

A. Reason, Spirit (the part that is assertive, that cares about honor, that gets angry), and Appetite (bodily desires).

B. Justice = having the reason rule...and this is what will make you happy.

---Think not?  Well let's look at the state as ‘man writ large' and see what makes a good and happy state---  (Microcosm (small ordered system) and macrocosm (large ordered system). The same ordering appears at different levels of reality.  Man is a microcosm of the state and of the entire universe.)

III. The Ideal State -- Plato's Republic is a Utopia (The term "utopia" comes from St. Thomas More, who was executed by Henry VIII in the 16th century, and is the patron saint of lawyers.)

A. Key is that everybody occupies the place for which his nature has suited him.  Society is stratified, not by birth, family, or wealth, but by the objective standard of who's best at what. Who's most suited to do what.)  

B. The ordering

1. The folks who take care of the needs of the body. Artisans, farmers etc. correspond to appetite

2. Guardians ("Guardians" used for both of the upper levels, but we can use the term for the "mere" Guardians who are essentially soldiers) Correspond to spirit.

3. Rulers (upper level Guardians, they are also soldiers, but they do more than soldiering, they rule.) Correspond to reason. The rulers must have an extensive education, especially in mathematics. Aristocracy in the literal sense. Rule by the best.

---A crucial and perennial question: What justifies the authority of the state? Your answer to this question should inform your views on what the scope of the government ought to be. Plato: The authority of the government is justified when the folks who really know how things ought to be are in charge.---

4. Best of the rulers will the one who most clearly understands the form of the Good and he will be our Philosopher-King!

C. Children go into whatever class they're best suited for

D. Philosopher-King and rulers decide what's to be done...totalitarian...not democratic! (Who should be the captain of the ship?)

E. The Life of the Guardians/Rulers (standard themes in totalitarian, socialist, utopias)

1. No private property

2. Women pretty much equal to men

3. No families
a. Want guardians to care about the state, not their own families
b. Eugenics program (the lottery -- Philosopher-King lies to the people.  Does this worry you?)

IV. The Decline of the Ideal State (Nothing in this changeable world is perfect, so even Utopia must eventually decay.)

A. Aristocracy to timocracy...state which values honor most...soldiers start to run things...but soldiers can get too eager to make money...

B. is the rich who are in charge. (power leads to riches)

1. Poorly run because just having money isn't any kind of a qualification for running a state.
2. Discord between rich and poor.

C. get richer and impoverish who they can until poor who are stronger and more numerous overthrow them and take what they have.

------What the democracy will be like-----read The Republic------- A

------Sounds great, but must inevitably degenerate into tyranny!  The very thing which the democracy prizes most, freedom, will be its downfall----read B. State becomes lawless.  Mob rule. tyranny.

1. Still some who make money and amass wealth.  Lawless mass of people see them as enemies.  Raise up a popular leader to "protect" the masses from the wealthy, "protect" the democracy from returning to oligarchy.  (In a lawless society it will be the most ruthless who rises to this position -- so it's rule by the worst.)

2. People's hero needs a body protect him from the wealthy...and anybody who goes against him gets crushed.

3. Has to keep fomenting war so state will feel like they need this very strong leader.

4. Has to destroy anyone who's willing to go against him...that will be the better and braver people.

5. State is now in a miserable condition!  Total lack of any freedom. And who is the most miserable person in it?  The tyrant! Can he go out in public?  Does he have any friends?  No freedom and the tyrant is the least free of all!

V. The disordered soul

1. Reason not guiding, but rather appetite tyrannizing...

e.g. drug addict, sex, power whatever

Are you happy?  No, all you can think about is where your next fix is coming from, fear you won't get it.  Satisfied?  No.  There's never enough.  Free?  No you are a slave to the habit!

--- Review key ideas---

A. Forms...allows two different spins on how we view the world...

1. It's just a copy of reality...poor, pathetic image

2. The mirror of the divine

B. Epistemology: Innatism.  We have knowledge that we could not have learned.  Our senses could not have given it to us.

C.  Human nature: Soul separate from body.  Body is a hindrance, a prison.

D.  Goal of ethics is happiness, to be happy must be good (for Plato it's getting things in order).

ARISTOTLE (384-322 BC)

I. Rejects Plato's doctrine of the Forms: positing this perfect, immutable world doesn't help explain our world at all

A. It's a copy...multiplying entities beyond necessity

B. "Participation" a meaningless term

C. Doesn't explain CHANGE!

(All of which is not to say that Form isn't important.)

II. What's really real, all there is, are individuals...substances.

III. All corporeal individuals are composed of form and matter. HYLOMORPHISM (Hylas, matter, Morphos, form).  Can't have either without the other.

A. Form: nature, structure, behaviour, function...the catness of the cat

B. Matter: The material ‘stuff' that something is made out of...the flesh and bones etc. of the cat.

1. matter individuates

2. there can be a ‘matter' underlying matter, e.g. four elements underlying flesh and bone

3. underlying all is ‘prime matter'

a. not any kind of stuff.  No qualities at all.
b. Aristotle sometimes calls it "pure potentiality".
c. can't exist apart from form, can't be sensed or even conceptualized
d. Why should we think it's there?
 1. qualities have to be in something
 2. Substantial change

4. And now we can solve Parmenides' problem.  

a.The prime matter never comes into or passes out of being

b.... and the form always exists as well...because there are always carrots! The world has always been going on roughly the way it's going on now.

IV. The four causes of a corporeal object ...contrast with purely mechanistic explanations of atomists

A. Matter -- material stuff something is made of.
B. Form -- nature, essence.
C. Agent (efficient) -- what took action to bring the thing into being.
D. End (final) -- what the thing is for. The goal or purpose of the thing. (For man-made things it is the purpose for us, but for natural things it is actualizing its potential to become the mature and "perfected" member of the kind.) 

V. Note that form, agent, and final cause all have to do with form.

VI. Teleological approach (all complete explanations will involve goals, purposes, moving from potential to actual...very important when we get to Aristotle's ethics.)

VII. Epistemology

A. The problem: As Plato said, to understand the individual you have to grasp the form.  But for Aristotle the form only exists in the individuals.

B. Empiricism: All knowledge starts with the senses

C. But...all knowledge doesn't end with just raw sense data. 

1. We have a passive intellect which receives the data, and then...

2. The rational mind also has an active intellect capable of operating on the data that comes in (kind of like a computer) and picking out what's essential, i.e. the form. Abstraction. Catness and even 2+2=4. 

3. Some suggestion that in order for the human being to acheive this we must all share a sort of transcendent mind  which acts upon our individual minds. Active intellect is one for all of us...maybe?

VIII.  The human being

A. At first glance looks like he'd absolutely deny are an organic unity of soul (form) and body (matter).

B. But it's not perfectly clear. Afterlife? Maybe the part of you that does the scientific thinking survives, but, if so, it probably isn't YOU, the individual, it is the Active Intellect.


-- Note that Aristotle is not concerned to offer a cause or explanation for the EXISTENCE of things. He seems to hold that, in that things have always existed, they do not need a cause or explanation. --

I. Change = going from potential to actual

II. Aristotle's universe...round earth at center surrounded by concentric spheres which are living, "divine" beings, everything is always in motion and always has been and always will be...It's kept going by God, the Unmoved Mover.

III. The proof:

 1. Things are in motion.
 2. Nothing can cause its own motion.
 3. Motion must be caused by something already actual (with one exception that would mean something already moved).
 4. Can't explain the motion through an infinite series of moved movers. (Mirror analogy)
 ( There must be something which moves others but which is itself unmoved...something   in a state of perfect actuality so it can generate motion.)
 5.  There must exist an an Unmoved Mover.

IV. The Unmoved Mover

[Note that your book says that the Unmoved Mover becomes an efficient (agent) cause, thinks the forms, and is to be identified with the Active Intellect. We're not going to say that.]

A. ‘First' but not in order of dependence.

B. Moves as a final cause, as being desired, pure actuality which all things want to imitate so move from potential to actual.

C. Engages in the best activity...Thinking, and thinking the best, i.e. itself.


I. Final Causes, Teleological...what do we desire? The goal of your life is your own happiness! (selfish? No!)

II. Happiness = fulfilling ourselves as human, engaging in characteristically human behavior. (So it must be UNIVERSAL)

---Natural Law Ethics in that it is based in human nature ---

III. What are we? Rational, social, animals. Our innate desires are the guideposts for what to pursue. For example,....

A. survival
B. sex
C. society -- so Aristotle's ethics are not self-centered. Your happiness is inextricably bound up with the well-being of those around you.
D. knowledge -- "All men by nature desire to know." The opening sentence of Aristotle's book Metaphysics.

....Rational means we have to figure out how to satisfy our desires in the right way.......

IV. The Golden Mean -- We should pursue our innate desires, but in a moderate way. Not too much, not too little.

A. Examples

1. Courage
2. Eating

B. Not literally moderation in ALL things...some things are already immoderate by nature.. For example, you.can't have just the right amount of adultery.

C. The mean is relative to the individual...not moral relativism!...different people are objectively different and in objectively different situations.

V. Difficult to practise...we become good...

A. Not by theory (Contemporary Moral Problems)...

B. But rather by doing...learn the habit.  Preferably under the guidance of someone who already knows how.

C. So we develop virtues, "Virtue Ethics"


I. The State is a natural institution

A. It grows naturally out of smaller human units -- the family, community...

B. We're social by nature 

C. Not fully human...and animal or a god...if you can flourish without being a member of society

D. Versus much of modern political theory...contract theories of Hobbes and Locke...which say that....

 1.  We're discrete individuals who can choose to be social if it suits our purposes
 2.  Family not an issue at all...whereas for Aristotle, family is a natural institution

E. State is prior to the family and individual as whole is prior to the part...meaning that individuals and families inevitably function within states...but...

II. Purpose and hence justification of state is to promote the good life of the individual.

III. The Good State (Aristotle is not a utopian and makes fun of the Republic.)

A. He does discuss his ideal; a small society in which everyone participates in government by turns, and is well-enough educated to do so...but because of the education requirement he thinks it would be difficult to bring about.

B.There are basically three good forms of government (i.e. three forms which promote the good of its citizens)

monarchy (one)
aristocracy (few)
polity ( democracy)

C. Three corresponding bad forms

democracy (mob rule)

D.One key requirement for a good state is a strong and numerous middle class. Middle class folks are not prone to the vices of the rich and the poor.
 [Most semesters we will not get to Plotinus. If he is not on the syllabus you do not need to know him.]

PLOTINUS 204-270 CE 

--Neoplatonism --

I. Attempt to synthesize Plato and Aristotle. Enormously influential -- on Augustine, and so on all the Euroean Medieval Philosophers through Augustine. More directly on some of the European Medieval Philosophers who were influenced by the Eastern (Greek Speaking) theologians. On the Medieval Muslims (The Theology of Aristotle),and through these Muslim thinkers, on the later Medieval Philosophers again! And then on Hegel!

II. The One (also called, The Good): The source of all must transcend every possible limitation. 

A. Absolutely Simple

B. It is not thinking because thinking requires an object, so no simple.

C. Above form, so there is nothing we can say or think about it.

D. Better to say it is Not-Being than that it is Being.

E. It "pours forth" -- emanation. A necessary process. Image is the sun, pouring forth light, but itself undiminished.

III. Nous : The next best thing

A. Thought thinking itself.

B. Contemplates the One -- the Neoplatonic return.

C.  Contains the forms in a perfectly unified way.

D. Emanates.

IV. The World Soul

A. Contemplates the Nous and so thinks all the forms, but now as diverse. (The World of the Forms in a mind.)

B. Looks down to matter and finds it ugly. Wants to fix it.

C. Pours down forms onto the matter to produce our world.

V. Matter -- Ambivalence. The last and least from the One, just the boundary of what there is...a sort of nothing. But not quite. The principle of evil. 

VI. The Human being

A. Knowledge 

1. Plato was right. To know you must know the forms.

2. You know them because your soul, RIGHT NOW, lives in the World Soul.

3. "Know thyself"" means turn within, shut out the extraneous, physical influences, and behold the forms.

B. Platonic dualism. 

1. Soul is immortal. Can go from body to body.

2. Goal -- which can be attained here and now -- is to behold the forms in the World Soul, but World Soul contemplates Nous, which contemplates the One. Want to rise to a trans-rational vision of the One -- A flight of the alone to the alone.

HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT THE COVER SHEET FOR THE TESTS LOOKS LIKE:  (There are some sample questions for Test #1 after this cover sheet)




Great Western Philosophers



Spring 2013                  Test #4 - Form A                           Rogers


Instructions: READ ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS AND COMPLY! Put away everything but a #2 pencil and your ID card. If you have any electronic device or other aid out during the test, you will receive a 0 on the test. If you use any electronic device or other aid on the test, I will prosecute you for cheating.


Scan Sheet: Use a #2 pencil


1. Write and grid in your name in the upper left.


2. Grid in your student ID number. If you fail to grid it in, or if you grid it in incorrectly, I will count off 3.33 points on the test.


3. In upper right write in test name (#4) and form (A).


4. At the end check over your scan sheet very carefully. If you make clerical errors, you will have to live with them.




1. Write your name on this page.


2. Do not write anything else on the questions. (You can make tiny, faint marks that only you can see. If you make large, dark marks, I reserve the right to give you a 0 on the test.)


At the end:


1. Return questions to the box and scan sheets to pile A. (If you put your scan sheet in the wrong pile you get about a 23, and then I have to go back and grade the thing by hand and it is a general annoyance.)


2. Scores should be posted on Sakai in a day or two.


1. One of Anaxagoras' major contributions to the history of philosophy was the idea of

a. defining "nothing" as merely "the absence of something".
b. a God that is incorporeal and transcends the physical world.
c. sin.
d. appearance being different from reality.

--answer is b --

2. Anaxagors attempts to solve what we have referred to as "Parmenides Problem" by arguing that

a. change is an illusion.
b. the physical world is composed of everlasting physical particles, each of which has the nature of the whole object which it constitutes.
c. God is everlasting and since God is the cause of things one could hold that there is no "ultimate" change in the universe.
d. the human perceiver imposes unity on the physical objects perceived through reason.

-- answer is b --

3. Ancient atomism seems to raise a problem for a moral way of life in that

a. it is difficult to see how a universe consisting only of atoms and the void could give rise to objective values.
b. it treats scientific investigation as the only objectively valuable pursuit,and that seems too narrow.
c. it holds that only those who share the atomist's view of the universe could be sufficiently knowledgeable to be good.
d. none of the above.  The ancient atomists said to obey the laws of the state in the interests of order.

-- answer is a --

4. Plato solves the problem of what happens to the nature of a thing when it turns into something else, e.g.what happens to the "carrotness" of the eaten carrot, by holding that

a. the Form of Carrot is somehow transformed into the Form of Flesh.
b. the nature is a way of thinking about how the thing appears to us, but in itself there is no "carrotness" in the carrot to begin with.
c. the carrot is a carrot because it "participates" in the Form of Carrot, and that form is eternal and immutable.
d. none of the above.  By the time of Plato everyone accepted the atomist's answer to the question, so Plato did not address it.

-- answer is c --