Tagged: Western philosophy

Early Modern Philosophy (16th – 18th Century Europe)

The early modern period was a very innovative period in Western philosophy. New theories of mind and matter, new conceptions of God, new political philosophies and theories of civic society were proposed. The period approximately spanned from the late 1400s to the end of the 18th century (roughly 1500-1800). It is the time period where philosophers like Descartes, Locke, Hume, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Kant, published books that would shape our modern understanding of philosophy. DEFINING THE BEGINNING AND END OF THE PERIOD The roots of early modern philosophy can be traced back as far as the 1200s — to the...

Heidegger made simple.

The photo above was taken during Heidegger’s Paris visit in 1955. The photo shows him with Lacan and their wives in Lacan’s house in Guitrancourt, near Paris. During the visit in Paris, Heidegger delivered the lecture ‘What is Philosophy?’ at Cerisy-la-sale. Left to right: Heidegger, Axelos, Lacan, Jean Beaufret (recipient of the Letter on Humanism), Elfriede Heidegger, Sylvia Bataille (by this time married to Lacan). You can find more on Heideggers biography here.  The Basic Question: What is Being? Heidegger’s main work, Being and Time (1927), begins with a traditional ontological question, which he calls the Seinsfrage, or the “question of Being.” He uses...

Reason and Arguments

This article will introduce the plural to the monumental concept of rationality. Rather than treating it as a fixed noun, I suggest we should contextualize “reason” and look at propositions and their supporting arguments instead. “Reasons” are crystallized statements found in the process of thinking about something “real,” which means that there is – beyond the real – an underlying psychic process-like fluidity which is itself without pre-determined direction. I am skeptical towards Hegel’s optimistic idea that “the real is rational.”  More research is necessary in order to understand the relations between reality and mind, and in the end, we will still...

Jeremy Bentham: Principles of Morals and Legislation. 1780

One can also approach ethics from the perspective of usefulness and utility. What will produce the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people? The philosopher associated with this kind of thinking about morality is Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832). In his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1780), Bentham argues that the principle of utility should be the basis of morality and law, and by utility he understands whatever promotes pleasure and prevents pain. Is this principle enough to guide us through the difficult questions of ethical decision-making? Here are some excerpts: Chapter I. Of the Principle...

Spinoza – Ethics

Spinoza’s Ethics is one one of the most influential books in Western philosophy. It was published by a friend in 1677, shortly after he had died. It was immediately attacked as being atheistic, because it suggests a conception of God without any anthropomorphic characteristics. The God of Spinoza is not personal; it is a God without  will, emotion, purpose, or mercy. According to Spinoza, this is not necessary since the world is perfect as it is; only our perception is so dim that we cannot grasp the deeper structure of nature. Spinoza also rejects the idea of free will in...

Friedrich Nietzsche – German Texts

Nietzsche is a deeply emotional philosopher. He is a prophet of the coming changes for Europe. He critically reflects on the foundations of Western philosophy, searching for what went wrong long before the breakdown of Europe begins. He died in 1900 after a long mental illness, but he belongs into the 20th century philosophy. Alle Lust will Ewigkeit O Mensch! Gib acht! Was spricht die tiefe Mitternacht? “Ich schlief, ich schlief -, Aus tiefem Traum bin ich erwacht: – Die Welt ist tief, Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht. Tief ist ihr Weh -, Lust – tiefer noch als Herzeleid:...

Thinking and Being: Lacan versus Parmenides

When Lacan describes his epistemology, he occasionally alludes to Parmenides, whose philosophy marks the beginning of the reflection on being in Western thinking. ’There’s no such thing as a metalanguage.’ When I say that, it apparently means — no language of being. But is there being? As I pointed out last time, what I say is what there isn’t. Being is, as they say, and nonbeing is not. There is or there isn’t. Being is merely pre­sumed in certain words — “individual,” for instance, and “substance.” In my view, it is but a fact of what is said (un fait de dit). The word “subject” that...