Subject 2: Introduction to Philosophy

Philosophy to me is about asking questions which have no obvious answer, and which you can entertain yourself with for hours, by argueing with yourself. If you find an answer, its a bonus. if you dont, your probably infinetly smarter for what you have just discovered is not the answer.

What i’m looking forward to in this subject is the emphasis on Truth. What is truth. It is usually accepted that a statement can be true or false. My name is Damian. True. But, do I actually have a name? Do I exist? If I don’t exist, can I possibly have a name?

According to the chap on the right, Associate Proffessor David Elliott (Department Head, Philosophy and Classics), there are three lots of three in Philosophy:

3 Questions:

  1. What is the nature of reality? (Metaphysics)
  2. What (and how) can I know? (Epistemology)
  3. What should I do or how should I live? (Moral and political philosophy)

3 Features:

  1. Makes the obvious problematic
  2. Informational Chaos
  3. Presentation of an overal vision/perspective

3 Practical Inferences:

  1. One should never assume anything is obvious–or at least always be careful about what assumptions one is making.
  2. Develop the strongest, most coherent argument that you can.
  3. Try to see the “big picture”, how your argument relates to other issues arguments/counterarguments of other philosophers.

We will use these three lots of three to try to understand a phillosopher called Rene Descartes:

The two most widely known of Descartes’ philosophical ideas are those of a method of hyperbolic doubt, and the argument that, though he may doubt, he cannot doubt that he exists”

“He resolves to trust only that which is clearly and distinctly seen to be beyond any doubt. In this manner, Descartes peels away the layers of beliefs and opinions that clouded his view of the truth. But, very little remains, only the simple fact of doubting itself, and the inescapable inference that something exists doubting, namely Descartes himself.”

Read more of the above about Descartes at http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/d/descarte.htm

10 thoughts on “Subject 2: Introduction to Philosophy

  1. Just a few quick comments about your comments Damian.<>The best thing about science is that they keep going and going and proving what is wrong, and by doing that they are narrowing down the alternatives of what is right.<>But are they narrowing down what is right? I think that’s what I meant by truths are expanding… the search for truth is infinite – we will never know the answers to life, the universe and everything (it’s 42, isn’t it?). <>These ‘big’ things that philosophy covers are often universal statements. eg. “All swans are white” It cannot be proven true, because you will never know if ALL swans are white, but it can be proven to be false – you just need to see one black swan and you know it is false. <>This is a very logical and straightforward way of looking at something. That’s new for you, Damian. I generally need a decrypting machine to understand your arguments! I thought you studying philosophy would make it worse, but looks like it might be helpin’. Keep on truckin’!

  2. Are you sure you’re not Damian’s brother, Mike? You certainly have a similar argumentative style to the other male who was ‘born of the same mother and father’ as Damian (namely – Simon)! Can I dub you an honorary Fuller? I think you would fit in very well around our dinner table! Your point about definitions, for example, reminded me of countless round table (well… octagon table) discussions at the Fuller household. Quite often an elaborate debate about any kind of issue ended up being an argument about the meaning of a word, which ended in a hunt through the dictionary, much stubbornness and many “I told you so’s”. And with that in mind… I think I was must have been talking about sense of reality and not truth! But more on this later as my brain is way too fried for intelligent conversation and I need to study your points further before I can make an articulate response. That’s the beauty of the internet! I have as much time as I like to come up with a half decent response to your comments. If this were a face to face discussion, I would have given up a lonnnggg time ago! There would have been much towel throwing in and probably an ‘I don’t care’ for good measure! Right Damian?Cheers

  3. In the case of brothers, the word has many different meanings, so yes; it would be correct to call almost anyone your brother. Therefore, if I were to say I was Damian’s brother, it would be difficult to decide whether or not this is “TRUE.”On the other hand, if I said, “I was born of the same mother and father as Damian was,” this would clearly be false. DNA tests could PROVE this to be false, and the testimonies of Damian’s family would also show that the statement is false. Regardless of anyone’s beliefs, i am not Damians brother, as defined above.Therefore, it is possible to say true statements. Thus a statement which does not concur with any TRUE statement is a FALSE statement.Now, for the matter of whether or not truth is relative. “Being wrong and right is relative” – rhian. I disagree. I believe that there is a set of TRUTHS which exist, and cannot be changed by simply believing otherwise. I will put forth three TRUE statements to illustrate this. -Fluffy is a dog. -Fluffy is not a cat. -Fluffy BELIEVES he is a cat.All these statements are true. Fluffy is a dog, who believes (for whatever reason) that he is a cat. Regardless of what he beleives, though, the TRUTH remains. It would be false to say that Fluffy is a cat AND a dog (as defined by DNA).

  4. Haha sorry, rhian, about the gender mix-up! After i posted my two-cents-worth, Damian told me that you were his sister. Anyways, I understand what you are saying, but every example is based purely on the definition of an English word. If we leave out definitions, it is clear that some truths are “TRUE” (lol that sentence sounds so stupid but there’s no easier way to say it). I referred to the elephant as an elephant, but you could use all sorts of different definitions and perspectives. Lets try this:A massive grey beast with tusks and an ENTIRELY different set of DNA is standing beside a shorter, tan coloured organism weighing only a fraction of the beast. It is true that the two entities are different. Correct?

  5. Good to see some Genuine Canadian v’s Australian debate happening. Mike is a friend of mine who lives a coupl eof doors up and we have this fantastic habit of getting into existential/unanswerable discussions after our philosophy class. The best thing about these discussions I find, is that we of course cannot prove which one of us true. Truth may exist and Rhian was right, my point was – how do you know if what Truth is. You may see or feel some facts that back up an argument, but the ‘big’ things in the world which are debated by philosophy are not of that nature – they are not of the nature that you can experience them and know exactly what it is your experienceing.Scientific theory it seems to lots of us is all about proving what is true, but really I think its more logical to think of it as being about proving what is false. Yes Newton was wrong about a few things, yes Einstein was probably wrong about a few things, but the best thing about science is that they keep going and going and proving what is wrong, and by doing that they are narrowing down the alternatives of what is right.These ‘big’ things that philosophy covers are often universal statements. eg. “All swans are white” It cannot be proven true, because you will never know if ALL swans are white, but it can be proven to be false – you just need to see one black swan and you know it is false. So maybe we should ask, If it is easier to prove a theory wrong – maybe we should be looking to prove soemthign is a lie not a truth?

  6. Can’t believe I missed these points! Mike – it’s great to have someone else posting some in-depth comments, other than us ‘uncool’ family members. Just a side note: I’m a she, not a he – but if you wanna go on believin’ in your version of the truth… by all means! :). Sorry to everyone else for the quoting, but it’s the best possible way to debate stuff! Get in on it… tear my comments to shreds… I’m used to it with Damian and Simon in the family.<>Anyways, I just wanted to present the possibility (which seems the most likely one) that most people on this planet are WRONG. <>Wrong in relation to what? Or to whom? Being wrong and right is relative…and now I’m getting truly argumentative. *smiles*<>We tend to sit on the fence and tell each other that “that may be true for you,” and, “some people have their own truths.” Someone else may believe that he is an elephant, but he is wrong. <>But is he? (I’m def one of those fence sitters you speak of! *grins*) In my world an elephant is grey (possibly), has a trunk and big ears – so a person who thinks he is an elephant is clearly not an elephant, and therefore wrong in my reality. However, in his world an elephant may have to legs, two arms, two eyes a nose and mouth and wear jeans and sneakers. An elephant is only an elephant in my world because it has been labelled and categorised as such and ingrained into my brain. The elephant is not a good example for what I want to say… let me try something else… The term brother in my reality is used to refer to my immediate male siblings. However, in other societies/other realities there are other truths. Brother might be used to refer to male cousins, male uncles, or close male friends of no relation etc. I don’t know if this is considered another ‘truth’ or another ‘reality’ or what it is, but the point is – a brother is something different to everyone. I can’t say that the other perceptions of the term brother are wrong, because in those societies they are correct.I know many people will disagree with this explanation, and I don’t even know if I follow it myself! Family members may recall the ‘believing in something does not make it exist, or make it true’ discussion at last year’s Celtic Fest (remember the salt and pepper shaker demonstration?) <>Here comes the contradiction; according to what we have established, it is ABSOLUTELY TRUE that NOTHING IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE. See the problem? We can conclude that TRUTH EXISTS in this universe. <>Great points. You’re right – if we agree that it’s absolutely true that nothing is absolutely true then there has to be an objective truth. However, where does that truth come from and what makes it ‘true’? Which I guess was Damian’s main point. I think what I’m trying to show here is: who decides what is fact/truth? (I think I’m getting muddled between fact, truth and reality). Yes, scientists conduct experiments to prove ‘facts’ etc, but even they can be wrong. Look at the history of physics – theories evolve. For many centuries (possibly more, I don’t know) people believed it was true that the earth was the centre of the universe… until that was ‘proven’ to be incorrect! I think, like the universe… facts,truths,realities are expanding??!? (Not even sure that makes sense to me…)Man… I could go on for hours! But I should leave room for others… please join in…

  7. It’s Mike again (Blogspot pisses me off; u have to have a blog in order to create an account…). Anyways, I just wanted to present the possibility (which seems the most likely one) that most people on this planet are WRONG. We tend to sit on the fence and tell eachother that “that may be true for you,” and, “some people have their own truths.” Someone else may believe that he is an elephant, but he is wrong. We cannot use the excuse of individual reality to justify our actions, because there EXISTS a truth that is OBJECTIVE. If you do not believe me, i will prove it. In order to prove that there IS an objective truth, let’s pretend, for a minute, that there is NOT an objective truth. Let’s pretend nothing is absolutely true. Good so far? Ok. Here comes the contradiction; according to what we have established, it is ABSOLUTELY TRUE that NOTHING IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE. See the problem? We can conclude that TRUTH EXISTS in this universe. It is possible for one person to actually be WRONG, and another person to be CORRECT, although they may have their own “subjective” or “individual” versions of reality.Thus, I completely disagree with rhian when he says that “truth is an individual thing.”

  8. Hopefully this doesn’t turn purely into a family debate but i just had to add a little comment on the whole truth issue.Ok firstly damian the whole name thing was completely wacked cause really ya contradicted yourself cause if it’s truth that your name is damian well then its truth that you have a name. So yes you do actually have a name. The questions should of been around the other way. First should of been ‘do i have a name’, then ‘is it true that my name is damian’. This is where rhian’s concept comes in because yes its true that your name is damian, but its also true that your name is damo, fuller etc so there is multiple truths and the other truths don’t necessarily mean that the other name is a falsehood, its just a different truth. This comment makes sense to me but i’m not sure that it does to everyone else.

  9. Warning: Long, ranty response to follow…I think (therefore I am), that our idea of reality is individual (I’m not going to say subjective cause I don’t know if that’s technically correct). It changes for each person, but most of us assume that other people’s ‘reality’ (or way of organising and thinking about their world) is the same as their own. We assume, for example, that our neighbours do things the way we do – that they line the garbage bin with a plastic bag… that they use toothbrushes to brush their teeth. It’s that same old story… if you’re brought up by two-headed dragons with rings in their noses and a penchant for collecting matchbox cars and feeding the ducks at the lake on Sundays, then you assume everybody else lives that way and carries out those rituals. Of course, it’s a lot more complex than dragons and so forth, but you get the drift… I hope. Truth is also an individual thing. My understanding of truth is different to the person next to me, just as my sense of reality is different to theirs.The whole ‘to be or not to be’ thing (existing or not existing), is wayyyyy over my head. Too abstract. I get the nature of reality debate (well some of it…), but only because I have lived in a share housing arrangement before! If you wanna learn about other peoples’ sense of reality then rent… with other people… strangers preferably. Travelling anywhere, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures is one way of experiencing new realities – and consequently, expanding your own. But you already know this, of course, cause that’s why you’re in Canada, isn’t it? Or is that just for the beer and women?I’m out.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s