Inroads: Paths in Ancient and Modern Western Philosophy

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 690
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In each of its five main parts - in turn, focusing on Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Hume, and Sartre -Inroadsdiscusses, from a philosophical rather than a religious or scientific perspective, those questions that make up the common inheritance of academic philosophy and ethico-religious thought.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2332-3
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Murray Miles
  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  5. Note on Texts and Quotations
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
    • 1 Problems, Periods, Genres
      (pp. 3-23)

      For purposes of introduction, it may be useful to conduct a rapid survey of the traditional, current, and perennial issues discussed by philosophers today. From these we can then select those problems that will occupy us in the five main parts of this book (see 1.2). Proceeding in this way will make it clear from the start which issues arenotto be pursued; the reader whose interests tend that way should consult one of the many other excellent introductory texts available. Something needs to be said at the outset, too, about the standard periodization of the history of philosophy;...

    • 2 Philosophy and Higher Education
      (pp. 24-36)

      In this chapter it will be suggested that the philosophical approach to problems epitomizes university studies, embodying all that sets so-called higher education apart from the primary and secondary levels. The very first universities were essentially philosophy schools in which the perennial issues identified in the last chapter were central to the course of studies. It was in these schools, too, that the first halting attempts at scientific research and scholarly enquiry began. The very first of them, the school founded by Plato some time in the 380s BC, was called ‘the Academy,’ the name Plato’s house took from the...

    • 3 The Order of Knowing
      (pp. 37-46)

      In chapter 2 it was suggested that the way philosophy typifies university studies has to do with thehow, the approach taken, rather than its specific content. We turn now to the distinctivewhator subject matter of philosophy. Obviously, we can only begin to understand what philosophy is when we have some idea of what it is about. The aim of this and the next chapter, accordingly, is to explain what philosophy is. This is a question every beginner rightly asks, and it may as well be faced sooner rather than later.

      What, then, is philosophy? We have already...

    • 4 The Order of Being
      (pp. 47-65)

      The previous chapter was devoted to the order of knowing as a key dimension of mankind’s attempt to orientate itself within the totality of what is. ‘Order’ refers, secondly, to the order of being. Whatever the order in which we come to know things, whatever the order in which those things standin relation to our minds, to the human cognitive capacity, it is still possible to ask a very different question, namely: Which things are first and primaryin themselves? When we refer to this as the ‘ontological’ order of things, distinguishing it from the ‘epistemic,’ ‘epistemological,’ or ‘cognitional’...

    • 5 Philosophy and Mythico-Religious Thought
      (pp. 66-91)

      The present chapter deals with the relationship of Greek philosophy to the non-philosophical literature of the ancient Greek world, including poetry, drama, and history. Myth and legend were the stuff of Greek literature during most of antiquity. The birth of philosophy around the turn of the sixth century BC meant a sharp break with the older mythological ways of thinking that continued to hold sway in most spheres of Greek life long after philosophy appeared on the scene. Some intellectual factors behind the rupture will be touched on in this sketch of the history of Greek philosophy before Socrates; social...

    • 6 Philosophy and Science
      (pp. 92-109)

      Earlier (see 2.8) two reasons were given why academic philosophy is often confused with popular treatments of the subject as a personal quest for meaning. The first had to do with the sheer breadth of scope of primary philosophy: if there can be no definitive answers to the big questions, then one’s philosophy, it seems, must be a matter of personal taste or preference.

      This misconception was cleared up in chapters 3 and 4. Yet its underlying assumption was granted: issues of the scope of the order of knowing and being are in fact unsettleable in principle. The very concept...

    • 7 Philosophy and Logic
      (pp. 110-144)

      The present chapter develops some of the logical tools necessary for understanding and appraising philosophical arguments. Most of what follows falls squarely into the category of information (see 2.5.2), though it is vital information for purposes of interpreting and evaluating the philosophical arguments and theories to be considered in the five main parts of this book. Our principle of selection in determining which topics from logic to include is their relevance to what comes later in this work. That would be an intolerablyad hocway of proceeding were the aim to learn logic for its own sake, but it...

    • Recommended readings and references
      (pp. 145-145)
    • Questions for reflection, discussion, and review
      (pp. 146-146)
    • 8 Sources and Outline
      (pp. 149-157)

      If Socrates was an oral philosopher who wrote nothing at all (see 1.5), how are we to make out anything concerning his philosophy? One answer to this question has it that there is only a slender basis on which to do so; that despite the written testimonies of several fourth-century writers, only a single work or two of Plato, presumably his very first literary efforts, furnish historically reliable information concerning the thought of the historical Socrates. Unfortunately, even they do not tell us much—certainly much less than scholars are accustomed to infer from some ten or so early Platonic...

    • 9 Life and Character
      (pp. 158-186)

      At 30e the Socrates of theApologydescribes his mission in life this way:

      I was attached to this city by the god—though it seems a ridiculous thing to say—as upon a great and noble horse which was somewhat sluggish because of its size and needed to be stirred up by a kind of gadfly. It is to fulfill some such function that I believe the god has placed me in the city. I never cease to rouse each and every one of you, to persuade and reproach you all day long everywhere I find myself in your...

    • 10 Defence of the Philosophic Life
      (pp. 187-203)

      In the account given earlier of the subject matter of perennial philosophy (see 3.2) attention was confined largely to metaphysics or primary philosophy; detailed discussion of moral philosophy, the other chief domain of perennial philosophical problems, was postponed until later. It has been noted several times already that Socrates, the first moral philosopher, was interestedonlyin ethical matters; it is time now to describe the various problems making up the domain of moral philosophy or ethics.

      As in the discussion of logic, the principle of selection is again that of relevance to the texts to be interpreted, in the...

    • 11 Socratic Piety
      (pp. 204-224)

      TheEuthyphrotakes us back in time to the day before theApologyoutside the court of the King Archon, one of nine chief magistrates prescribed by Athenian law, and the one charged with overseeing religious affairs, including legal cases involving murder and impiety. Unlike the rather fanciful charge of corrupting the youth, impiety was expressly proscribed by Athenian law as an offence against the state religion punishable by death. It was prosecuted by a public indictment orgraphē(translated “indictment” at 2a), since impious behaviour was believed to pose a serious threat to the public good if allowed to...

    • 12 Virtue and Happiness
      (pp. 225-247)

      It is in theCrito, a dialogue probably written earlier than theEuthyphro, that we find definitive Socratic answers to the questions, What is moral? and Why be moral? By following the stages in which this dialogue unfolds, we shall be able to identify Socrates’s basic moral principle as the principle of non-maleficence (see 12.7). His general theory of morals can then be shown to be of the eudaemonistic type discussed above (see 9.2.2 and 10.3), but different in important respects from the eudaemonistic theories of other prominent Greek moralists and a radical departure from popular Greek morality in his...

    • 13 Concluding Appraisal
      (pp. 248-254)

      We conclude our examination of Socrates’s moral theory with a brief critical appraisal of his answers to the two central questions, What is moral? and Why be moral? (see 13.2–3). Such critical reflections add little to the exposition and can be omitted by those concerned primarily with understanding what is being said in the dialogues themselves. However, a little reflection on the martyrdom of Socrates raises a further question that may provide a more fitting conclusion to Part One. Why does Socrates apparentlygo furtherthan is strictly required by the standard of conduct laid down in his moral...

    • Recommended readings and references
      (pp. 255-255)
    • Questions for reflection, discussion, and review
      (pp. 256-256)
    • 14 Doctrines and Influences
      (pp. 259-266)

      The great British Plato scholar F.M. Cornford once spoke of two metaphysical doctrines as the “twin pillars” of Platonism: (1) the theory of Forms or Ideas and (2) the immortality of the soul. The architectural metaphor was expanded (by R.E. Allen) to include (3) Plato’s theory of recollection as the “architrave” sitting atop the twin pillars. All three elements form a single, unified structure. For genuine knowledge, according to Plato, is knowledge of universal entities or Forms existing in a realm beyond the sensible world; and the acquisition of such knowledge is a matter of recollecting those transcendent universals that...

    • 15 New Defence of the Philosophic Life
      (pp. 267-274)

      Socrates begins his defence of the philosophic life in thePhaedoby casting everything he is about to say in the form of anapologia, that is, a defence speech delivered by the accused as part of the formal proceedings in a court of law (see 9.1.1). On the day of his execution, Cebes has accused him of being altogether too ready to depart this world, and Socrates playfully suggests that he must respond to this new indictment orgraphē(see 11.1) much as he did to that brought against him by Meletus, Anytus, and Lycon. Thus, at 63b he...

    • 16 Soul, Death, Immortality
      (pp. 275-286)

      The second of the two questions raised in connection with the defence of the philosophic life in thePhaedo(see 15.3) was: How does Plato’s concept of death differ from our own? How is his notion of the survival of death different from the more familiar Christian concept of immortality?

      To answer this question we must first consider what Plato means by ‘soul.’ There is in fact nooneconcept of soul in play in thePhaedo’sfirst three arguments. As we shall see presently, the ambiguities of ‘soul’ are responsible both for the initial plausibility and for the fundamental...

    • 17 Cyclical Argument
      (pp. 287-294)

      With Plato’s conception of the soul now clearer, and with his concept of immortality sharply distinguished from the more familiar Christian notion, we are in a good position to understand exactly what is at issue in the first argument for immortality.

      Theprobandumis only item (a) of that which was described earlier (see 15.2) as theprobandumof the whole dialogue, namely “that [a] some future awaits men after death, as we have been told for years, [b] a much better future for the good than the wicked (63c).” In other words, the argument is intended to show that...

    • 18 Recollection Argument
      (pp. 295-308)

      As noted in the previous chapter (see 17.1), theprobandumstated at the outset of the Cyclical Argument has two parts—“[a] that the soul still exists after a man has died and [b] that it still possesses some capability and intelligence” (70b)—the second of which is not even touched on in that argument. This defect (along with certain other inadequacies) of the first of Plato’s arguments for immortality is to be remedied by the second.

      Theprobandumof the second argument for immortality involves three claims that can be strung together in a single thesis as follows: (1)...

    • 19 Affinity Argument
      (pp. 309-317)

      The last argument to be considered is the Affinity Argument. Recall once more what Socrates set out to prove at the beginning of the defence of the philosophic life: “that [a] some future awaits men after death [that is, there is life after death], as we have been told for years, [b] a much better future for the good than the wicked (63c).” The Cyclical Argument sought to establish (a), post-existence. The Recollection introduced a different point, namely “that [b′] it [the soul] still possesses some capability and intelligence” (70b). But neither the Cyclical nor the Recollection Argument even tries...

    • 20 The Metaphysics of Form
      (pp. 318-349)

      Having analyzed three of Plato’s arguments for immortality, we must now consider the Forms whose existence is a key premise in the latter two. The full significance of Plato’s theory of Forms is likely to become clearer if we examine it in the wider context of the distinctively Greekmetaphysics of formthat evolved during the classical period, culminating in Aristotle’s theory. While finite form was the guiding idea of being throughout ancient Greek metaphysics—indeed ancient Greek culture—as a whole (see 4.9), later epochs were to understand being and the metaphysical science of being in fundamentally different ways....

    • 21 Concluding Appraisal
      (pp. 350-358)

      It has been suggested several times already that Plato may have intended the sequence of proofs in thePhaedoas a continuous web of argument, each particular stage making its specialized contribution to the overall pattern of proof. If so, it may not be fair to hold the individual arguments up to the light, searching for flaws, as in the preceding chapters. But would thePhaedofare better were all four arguments treated as parts of a complex proof structure? Probably not. Which leaves us with the question, Why study the arguments for immortality at all?

      Of course, the soul’s...

    • Recommended readings and references
      (pp. 359-359)
    • Questions for reflection, discussion, and review
      (pp. 360-360)
    • 22 Subjectivism and Dualism
      (pp. 363-368)

      According to our earlier periodization of the history of philosophy (see 1.3.1), the modern era dates from the middle of the seventeenth century. As for why scholars are almost unanimous in accepting this dating, recall the working definition of ‘metaphysics’ given earlier (see 20.7): the philosophical study of being in general, but especially of supersensible or immaterial beings (God and the human soul), and of first principles. Descartes (1596–1650) inaugurated a new era in philosophy by providing novel answers to the questions about first principles, about what there is in the universe, and about the relation between matter and...

    • 23 Doubt and Certainty
      (pp. 369-382)

      In the “Synopsis of the following six Meditations,” Descartes describes the “extensive doubt” of the First Meditation as havingthree uses:

      Although the usefulness of such extensive doubt is not apparent at first sight, its greatest benefit lies in [1] freeing us from all our preconceived opinions, and [2] providing the easiest route by which the mind may be led away from the senses. The eventual result of this doubt is [3] to make it impossible for us to have any further doubts about what we subsequently discover to be true. (12)

      These three uses—(1) freeing the mind of...

    • 24 Mind and Matter
      (pp. 383-405)

      The Second Meditation falls into three very unequal parts:

      1 Paragraphs 1–3: The Existence of the Self, Mind, or Soul (cogito, ergo sum)

      2 Paragraphs 4–10: The Essence of the Self, Mind, or Soul (‘What am I?’)

      3 Paragraphs 11–17: The ‘Mind-better-known-than-body’ Doctrine (The Wax Example)

      Part 3, the only one concerned with body or matter, is disproportionately long, while 1 and 2, dealing exclusively with mind, are of a historical importance altogether disproportionate to their length. With 1, the main task of the first half of the Cartesian project, the establishment of a new order of...

    • 25 Truth and Circularity
      (pp. 406-423)

      At the outset of the Third Meditation, Descartes has achieved an absolutely secure starting point, but no more. All the knowledge acquired so far concerns a single object, his own mind. Two items—(1)thathe exists (“I am”) and (2)whathe is (“I am a thinking thing”)—are the only beliefs to have withstood all three grounds of doubt, and even they have done so only after drastic cuts to the ordinary idea of the self. As for (3) the essence of body as something “extended, flexible, and mutable,” this cannot be regarded as known unless and until...

    • 26 The Existence of God
      (pp. 424-455)

      The Latin terms ‘a priori’ and ‘a posteriori’ mean, literally, ‘from the earlier’ and ‘from the later.’ In their earliest use they were applied toargumentsfrom cause to effect (‘from the earlier’) and from effect to cause (‘from the later’). This use is still relevant to Descartes’s first argument for God’s existence. As he himself writes, “there are only two ways of proving the existence of God, one by means of his effects [that is, a posteriori, reasoning from effect to cause], the other by means of his nature or essence; and since I expounded the first method to...

    • 27 Man and World
      (pp. 456-481)

      Recall the full baroque title of Descartes’s chief philosophical work:Meditations on First Philosophy, in which are demonstrated the existence of God and the distinction between the human soul and the body. The last chapter was devoted to the existence of the creator God. We turn now to the division within created being between mind and matter. Here we shall examine (A) the existence and the nature of matter (see 27.3–7) and (B) the distinction, union, and interaction of the human mind and body (see 27.8–10).

      Under the first heading we can treat excerpts from three different Meditations,...

    • Recommended readings and references
      (pp. 482-482)
    • Questions for reflection, discussion, and review
      (pp. 483-484)
    • 28 Philosophical Works and Outlook
      (pp. 487-496)

      Hume was a Scotsman and thus the first author to be studied who actually wrote in English. Born in 1711, he was a precocious genius, producing his philosophical masterpieceA Treatise of Human Nature(published anonymously in 1739) by the time he was twenty-five. This very long and complex work was a literary flop of grand proportions; in Hume’s memorable phrase, it “fell dead-born from the press.” In a desperate attempt to resuscitate his brainchild, Hume took the highly unorthodox step of publishing an anonymous, laudatory review of his own work under the titleAn Abstract of A Treatise of...

    • 29 An Empiricist Critique of Reason
      (pp. 497-516)

      The preceding chapter provided a very rough general orientation. We are still not ready to focus attention on the detail of Hume’s attack on religious philosophy or “bad metaphysics,” however. For while his idea of philosophy may be clearer, more needs to be said about religion and about the philosophical tools with which Hume mounts his attack on the alleged rational bases of religion, indeed on the claims of reason itself. That is the task of the present chapter.

      Revealedreligion, religion based solely on faith, tradition, and revelation, is not at issue, except obliquely, where Hume recommends it (with...

    • 30 The Unmaking of Miracles
      (pp. 517-535)

      We turn now to Hume’s attack on the alleged rational basis for believing in the truth of the Christian religion, beginning with the essay “Of Miracles.” As we do so, it is worth recalling once again the difference between natural and revealed religion (see 29.1).

      Roughly speaking, natural theology is based on unassisted human reason, revealed religion on scriptural authority and divine illumination through grace. In this context, ‘reason’ is understood to compriseallthe natural faculties of man, including even sensory experience and merely probable inferences. Aristotle called such arguments ‘dialectical’ (see 9.2.5), and during the Enlightenment many worthy...

    • 31 The Undoing of Divine Justice
      (pp. 536-552)

      As noted earlier (see 29.2), Hume’s attack on the rational bases of religion is twinpronged. Directed against (1) natural religion in general, it also targets (2) rational arguments in favour of the truth of the Christian religion. The second prong is again double. Having dealt with (a) a posteriori arguments from historical (testimonial) evidence for miracles in the last chapter, we turn now to (b) a posteriori arguments from the signs of wisdom and goodness in the universe to the existence of an all-wise and all-good creator God (such as Christianity posits) who will mete out justice (rewards or punishment)...

    • Recommended readings and references
      (pp. 553-553)
    • Questions for reflection, discussion, and review
      (pp. 554-556)
    • 32 Life, Work, and Basic Philosophical Outlook
      (pp. 559-567)

      Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980), like Descartes, a Frenchman, was not just a philosopher, but a novelist, dramatist, and literary critic as well as a political commentator and left-wing social activist for most of his life. He began his philosophical studies in Paris, completing them in Germany (Berlin and Freiburg) before taking up a variety of teaching posts in various Frenchlycées(see 2.1) or secondary schools (at which philosophy is still a subject of instruction today), both in his native Paris and elsewhere. As a young man he published some notable philosophical studies on the emotions, the self, and the...

    • 33 Atheistic Humanism
      (pp. 568-575)

      ‘Humanism’ is a vague and notoriously elusive term; not only does it have several different meanings, but the meanings tend to overlap. Still, we can distinguish three important strands of meaning.

      1 Humanism is spoken of in the sense of ‘humanistic studies,’ the pursuit of the ‘humanities’ or ‘human sciences,’ of ‘general culture’ as opposed to practical skills and professional competence, on the one hand, and to knowledge of the natural sciences on the other. In some European languages (German, for example), ‘humanistic’ is employed even more narrowly for the study ofancientlanguages and culture, that is, for the...

    • 34 Criticisms of Existentialism
      (pp. 576-580)

      Existentialism and Humanismbegins with a consideration of four “reproaches” (23/345) made by Christian or Marxist philosophers or both. Here at the outset Sartre replies in a fairly perfunctory manner, dismissing the first three charges as either disingenuous or based on misunderstandings. These criticisms and replies need only be examined briefly at this stage; Sartre’s fuller response, as outlined in the third and final segment of the work (see 33.6), will be interpreted in the following chapters. The last of the four charges will only be touched on here, since, in this opening gambit, Sartre does not even attempt to...

    • 35 Slogan and Basic Doctrines
      (pp. 581-591)

      In an effort to clear up the misunderstandings behind the reproaches outlined in the last chapter, Sartre first divides existentialists into two camps: Christian existentialists like Jaspers and Marcel, and atheistic existentialists like Heidegger and himself. This is typical of the half-truths Sartre is apt to proclaim even about the recent history of philosophy. That Jaspers’s “philosophy of existence” (Existenzphilosophiein German) is ‘Christian’ seems mistaken; and Heidegger expressly denied being an atheist in anything like the customary sense of the word. It is true, however, that Marcel was a Catholic thinker, that Jaspers retained a non-denominational attitude of belief...

    • 36 Human Reality
      (pp. 592-600)

      It is important to remember that Sartre has no desire to dispute the existence of a universal human nature inanysense whatever; he merely denies the existence of a fixed, static, or objectively given nature that is related to human action as a sufficient cause to its effect. Were there in all mankind some such set of unalterable traits and dispositions, then what maniswould strictly determine what hedoes. Sartre’s denial that this is soat allis tantamount to the assertion of a perfect or absolute human freedom. For he does not simply deny the proposition...

    • 37 Will and Emotion
      (pp. 601-609)

      The present chapter rounds out the sketch of the theory of human reality begun in the last by examining two aspects of Sartre’s regional ontology (see 33.5) of man that are deserving of special attention: (1) the great metaphysical weight assigned volition and (2) the methodological importance of the emotions in the elaboration of Sartre’s existential ontology.

      The expressions ‘theory of human reality,’ ‘regional ontology of man,’ and ‘existential ontology’ are, incidently, all used synonymously here. The allusion to aphilosophy of freedomin the title of Part Five (“Sartre and the Road to Freedom”) is prompted by (1). This...

    • 38 Decisionism
      (pp. 610-628)

      We have now completed our examination of the first three criticisms of existentialism. Despite the influence of Heidegger, Sartre apparently still understands human reality inmodifiedCartesian terms; and his intent seems to be primarily tounderstandrather than transform the human condition. Nevertheless, he is on reasonably strong ground in rejecting the charges of quietism and Cartesian subjectivism. As for the third charge, Sartre’s choice of themes does seem one-sided; unless it is justified by the special importance of the negative phenomena singled out for attention, there may be something to the reproach of undue pessimism after all. Moral...

    • Recommended readings and references
      (pp. 629-629)
    • Questions for reflection, discussion, and review
      (pp. 630-630)
  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 631-636)

    The most fitting conclusion may be a brief reflection on the career of philosophy in the light of the major trends and perennial postures noticed in the five main parts of this book. The trend toward voluntarism and relativism that culminated in the atheistic humanism of Sartre is just a stream in that larger current of thought called ‘anthropocentrism’ and ‘subjectivism’ throughout this work. Of course, such ‘isms’ are just terms of art (see 2.7) coined by intellectual historians to register the peculiar stress laid by certain thinkers or schools on one side or the other of a philosophical dichotomy....

  13. Glossary of Philosophical Terms
    (pp. 637-662)
  14. Index of Names
    (pp. 663-666)