Jens Oliver Meiert

Philosophy Factoids

Post from November 30, 2015 (↻ April 9, 2018), filed under .

My study procedure, which includes the setup of summary and best-of documents for everything I read, comes with the advantage that it allows fast access to the (personally) most relevant notes. A philosophy student—academic and not—I recently gave Wikipedia’s philosophy article a quick check. Said summary document, still in raw format, turned into an oddly mechanic but most welcome read, one that I spontaneously thought to share. Thanks Wikipedia for helping me bridge a brief posting gap.

Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind and language.

Epistemology is concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge, such as the relationships between truth, belief, perception and theories of justification.

Skepticism is the position which questions the possibility of completely justifying any truth.

Rationalism is the emphasis on reasoning as a source of knowledge.

Empiricism is the emphasis on observational evidence via sensory experience over other evidence as the source of knowledge.

Epistemological solipsism is the idea that the existence of the world outside the mind is an unresolvable question.

Modern rationalism begins with Descartes.

I think, therefore I am (often given in his original Latin: Cogito ergo sum). From this principle, Descartes went on to construct a complete system of knowledge (which involves proving the existence of God, using, among other means, a version of the ontological argument).

Logic is the study of the principles of correct reasoning. Arguments use either deductive reasoning or inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning is when, given certain statements (called premises), other statements (called conclusions) are unavoidably implied. Rules of inference from premises include the most popular method, modus ponens, where given “A” and “If A then B”, then “B” must be concluded. A common convention for a deductive argument is the syllogism. An argument is termed valid if its conclusion does follow from its premises, whether the premises are true or not, while an argument is sound if its conclusion follows from premises that are true. Propositional logic uses premises that are propositions, which are declarations that are either true or false, while predicate logic uses more complex premises called formulae that contain variables. These can be assigned values or can be quantified as to when they apply with the universal quantifier (always apply) or the existential quantifier (applies at least once). Inductive reasoning makes conclusions or generalizations based on probabilistic reasoning. For example, if “90% of humans are right-handed” and “Joe is human” then “Joe is probably right-handed”.

Metaphysics is the study of the most general features of reality, such as existence, time, the relationship between mind and body, objects and their properties, wholes and their parts, events, processes, and causation. Traditional branches of metaphysics include cosmology, the study of the world in its entirety, and ontology, the study of being.

“Esse est aut percipi aut percipere.“ (“To be is to be perceived or to perceive.”)—George Berkeley

Ethics, or “moral philosophy,” is concerned primarily with the question of the best way to live, and secondarily, concerning the question of whether this question can be answered.

Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill are famous for promulgating utilitarianism, which is the idea that the fundamental moral rule is to strive toward the “greatest happiness for the greatest number.”

According to Kant, reason requires that we conform our actions to the categorical imperative, which is an absolute duty.

Politics and ethics are traditionally inter-linked subjects, as both discuss the question of what is good and how people should live.

[…] Niccolò Machiavelli rejected the views of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas as unrealistic. The ideal sovereign is not the embodiment of the moral virtues; rather the sovereign does whatever is successful and necessary, rather than what is morally praiseworthy.

[…] Hobbes concluded that the state arises from a common agreement to raise the community out of the state of nature.

Aesthetics deals with beauty, art, enjoyment, sensory-emotional values, perception, and matters of taste and sentiment. It is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of art, beauty, and taste, with the creation and appreciation of beauty.

Of the many philosophical schools of China, only Confucianism and Taoism existed after the Qin Dynasty suppressed any Chinese philosophy that was opposed to Legalism.

Taoist propriety and ethics emphasize the Three Jewels of the Tao: compassion, moderation, and humility, while Taoist thought generally focuses on nature, the relationship between humanity and the cosmos […].

Ancient Graeco-Roman philosophy is a period of Western philosophy, starting in the 6th century (c. 585) BC to the 6th century AD.

Plato specifically, is credited as the founder of Western philosophy.

The main subjects of ancient philosophy are: understanding the fundamental causes and principles of the universe; explaining it in an economical way; the epistemological problem of reconciling the diversity and change of the natural universe, with the possibility of obtaining fixed and certain knowledge about it; questions about things that cannot be perceived by the senses, such as numbers, elements, universals, and gods.

India’s philosophical tradition dates back to the composition of the Upanisads in the later Vedic period (c. 1000-500 BCE).

The Aztecs had a well-developed school of philosophy, perhaps the most developed in the Americas and in many ways comparable to Greek philosophy […].

The academic canon of early modern philosophy generally includes Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant […].

Later modern philosophy is usually considered to begin after the philosophy of Immanuel Kant at the beginning of the 19th century.

In the English-speaking world, analytic philosophy became the dominant school for much of the 20th century.

In the Arabic-speaking world, Arab nationalist philosophy became the dominant school of thought […].

Transcendental idealism, advocated by Immanuel Kant, is the view that there are limits on what can be understood, since there is much that cannot be brought under the conditions of objective judgment.

Hegel asserts that the twin aims of philosophy are to account for the contradictions apparent in human experience (which arise, for instance, out of the supposed contradictions between “being” and “not being”), and also simultaneously to resolve and preserve these contradictions by showing their compatibility at a higher level of examination (“being” and “not being” are resolved with “becoming”).

An important part of Husserl’s phenomenological project was to show that all conscious acts are directed at or about objective content, a feature that Husserl called intentionality.

In existentialism, the individual’s starting point is characterized by what has been called “the existential attitude,” or a sense of disorientation and confusion in the face of an apparently meaningless or absurd world.

[…] the 19th-century philosophers Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche are widely regarded as the fathers of existentialism.

Inaugurated by the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, structuralism sought to clarify systems of signs through analyzing the discourses they both limit and make possible. […] what was termed the decentering of man: language is no longer spoken by man to express a true inner self, but language speaks man.

Human beings are rational animals whose good can be known by reason and pursued by the will. With regard to the soul, Thomists (like Aristotle) argue that soul or psyche is real and immaterial but inseparable from matter in organisms. Soul is the form of the body. Thomists accept all four of Aristotle’s causes as natural, including teleological or final causes.

[Quine] argued for holism, the thesis that language, including scientific language, is a set of interconnected sentences, none of which can be verified on its own, rather, the sentences in the language depend on each other for their meaning and truth conditions.

About the Author

Jens Oliver Meiert, photo of April 13, 2018.

Jens Oliver Meiert is an author and developer (O’Reilly, W3C, ex-Google). He plays with philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on he shares and generalizes and exaggerates some of his thoughts and experiences. (Beware: More often than he wants it he’s wrong.)

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“The end does not justify the means.”