Divided Line

The sensible world: things and their reflections — mere opinions.

Man lives amidst shadows. He creates opinions about things that he is not even sure if they exist. And even these things are not entirely real. The scientist can transcend the flawed world of the senses — of the things as they appear to us — and elaborate hypotheses about reality. But only the philosopher comes to see the light and, from it, he can see things as they really are. This is the Platonic theory about the world, a fascinating blend of theory of knowledge and metaphysics.

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The Problem of Perception



“Rouen Cathedral”, by Claude Monet.
I don’t even need colors to make my point.

If there is a world full of objects that are independent of my own body or mind, and if I can only know them through the effects they have on my body’s senses, in turn causing mental states of awareness in my brain where these objects are represented, how can I ever know that these representations correspond to the objects or, in other words, that my perceptions correspond to reality?

A Note on Histories of Philosophy

Since I shared with you yesterday a very impulsive and rancorous comment on a history of philosophy book, let me counter that with a much lighter analysis, but one as impulsive as the latter. This is actually a great opportunity for me to postpone again my posts on Contemporary Philosophy — my test is already tomorrow, so there is in fact no more pressing need for these posts. My sole aim was to kill two birds with one stone by simultaneously studying and adding to my blog. I am not prepared for Idealism yet — I lack both the academic knowledge and the tolerance right now.

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The Source of all Evils

Today I am racing with my (very delayed) study for a test the day after tomorrow on Contemporary Philosophy, hence my previous post and, hopefully, my next few. So I was looking for a single book from which I could extract, in my typical “borderline plagiaristic way”, material enough for quick summary posts and a decent understanding. I was lucky to mention that to a colleague who had just bought a book that seemed to be exactly what I needed: “German Philosophy 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism“, by Terry Pinkard. I gave him a ride home, borrowed the book (a real physical one!) and came home, not eager to read it, I must admit, but enjoying the fact that I had a mission that could now be accomplished. Like I said, I am late, so I am doing this sort of speed reading, highlighting just the minimum and not even taking notes when I simply had to stop and write this post. The reason is: I saw evil. I saw evil on page 44.

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A Very Short Primer to Contemporary Philosophy

The “Gutenberg Bible”, the first substantial printed book in the West. I see it as a metaphor for faith being shaped by technology, a token of an incipient modernity.
(Image by NYC Wanderer / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Desaturated from original)

Historical modernity and modern philosophy are not in sync. The former begins at that great confluence of inventions, conquests, and discoveries that characterize the second half of the 15th century, most importantly, Gutenberg’s press, the fall of Constantinople, and the discovery of America; the latter begins only in the 17th century with Bacon, Hobbes and Descartes. The Renaissance humanism of the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as the Protestant Reformation can be regarded only as a transitional period leading to modern philosophy proper in the 17th and 18th centuries. After Kant dies (1804), we can say that reason has failed, and that the foundations of the irrationality so pervasive today begin. It is that period of growing irrationality from Kant to after the Great Wars that we will call here contemporary philosophy; the period after that, you can give it the name you want.

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Universalia II

Thank you, Mr. Copleston.
(Frederick Copleston, (1907 – 1994). / CC BY-SA 1.0 / Contrast-enhanced)

As we saw in Porphyry’s quotation in Universalia, he abstained from the fight for the truth about universals. But by referring to the problem only with respect to genera and species, I think that he might have created another problem, a bias in the study of universals that crossed the whole of the Middle Ages and onwards up to our times to befuddle our ignorant minds on the topic — my ignorant mind, at least.

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The Combatant – #5

He hears many interesting things, but, fleeting, they go almost as fast as they come; only death remains. Not even the reasons for all those deaths, or the names of the wars, or the approximate dates stay. Nothing but the pure and grotesque fact of so many deaths. Now as he looks into the past from the comfort of the future, time compresses, reality loses importance, and absurdity seems little more than mere words, words that not even use ink and paper anymore.

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O.P.A.R. – Chapter 8: Virtues (Honesty)

“Philosophy can tell us only this much: reality is a unity; to depart from it at a single point, therefore, is to depart from it in principle and thus to play with a lighted fuse. The bomb may not go off. The liar may blank out the power of his nemesis: that which is, and may get away with any given scheme; he may win the battle. But if such are the battles he is fighting, he has to lose the war.”
Leonard Peikoff, “O.P.A.R.”, page 271.
To lie is to declare war on reality.
(A demonstration of a flame fougasse somewhere in Britain during World War II. )

“Honesty” is the refusal to fake reality, that is, to pretend the facts are different from what they really are. If rationality is commitment to reality, honesty is the rejection of unreality. The rational man recognizes that existence exists; the honest man, that only existence exists.

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