Tagged: Philosophy

Heavy-Duty Philosophy Quotes

Who thinks philosophy should be easy to understand? How intelligible is true reality? The following randomly selected quotes demonstrate how complicated philosophical language can be. Language is deeply woven into the thought that reflects on reality, which leads to intricate sentence-structures, and sometimes even to the creation of new terminology. Here is a selection of quotes that reflect the struggle of philosophers to express themselves: Martin Heidegger: “Tell me how you read and I’ll tell you who you are…..Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy.” Heidegger: The existential and ontological constitution of the totality of Dasein is grounded in temporality. Accordingly,...

Philosophy Overview: Areas, Methods, Movements

Western Philosophy has an almost  3000-year history, with origins in ancient Greece and Rome, to its fully established form today. It is the intellectual discourse that accompanied Western civilization. At its core, philosophy is thinking, a process of reflection that operates on ideas, propositions, and their history. Philosophy as a discipline can be further divided by the particular questions it pursues. Its core disciplines are metaphysics ( what is Philosophy as a discipline can be further divided by the particular questions it pursues. Its core disciplines are metaphysics ( what is reality?) ethics (how should we act?) and epistemology (what...

Hegel Glossary

It is extremely useful to have access to a guide to Hegel’s philosophical terminology. The glossary below is drawn from various  sources. (Inwood: A Hegel Dictionary, R. Solomon, In the Spirit of Hegel, “Notes to the Glossary” in Hegel’s “The Encyclopaedia Logic.”) ABSOLUTE adj., n. (absolut, das Absolute). Complete, self-contained, all-encompassing. Per Inwood, the Absolute ‘is not something underlying the phenomenal world, but the conceptual system embedded in it’. ABSTRACT (abstrakt). One-sided, empty, devoid of content. Opposed to: concrete. For Hegel, a particular, as well as a universal, may be ‘abstract’, meaning (per Inwood) cut off from thought or other...

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...

Nietzsche: A look back.

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is one of the most important philosophers of the last 200 years. He foresaw the downfall of Europe, even though he died in 1900, and he influenced many thinkers in the 20th century. Heidegger, for instance, published four volumes on Nietzsche. He is commonly seen as an existentialist philosopher, but he can be viewed easily as a precursor to postmodernity as well. What are Nietzsche’s central ideas, and how relevant is he today? The  Death  of God Friedrich Nietzsche wages war against a form of nihilism that, in his view, has grown inside a dead religion. Western philosophy,...

Philosophy Timeline

The following list is a work in progress, and includes only Western thinkers. The Project Gutenberg text collection also has a good timeline of Eastern philosophy. CLASSICAL PHILOSOPHERS  600-500 BCE Thales of Miletus (c. 624 – 546 BCE). Of the Milesian school. Believed that all was made of water. Anaximander of Miletus (c. 610 – 546 BCE). Of the Milesian school. Famous for the concept of Apeiron, or “the boundless”. Anaximenes of Miletus (c. 585 – 525 BCE). Of the Milesian school. Believed that all was made of air. Pythagoras of Samos (c. 580 – c. 500 BCE). Of the...

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...

Thomas Aquinas

Content: Timeline of his Life 1225 Thomas Aquinas born at Roccasecca 1230 Begins studies at Montecassino 1239 Continues studies at University of Naples 1244 Joins Dominicans; family protests decision by imprisoning him for a year 1245 Released by his family, Thomas goes to Paris to study with Albert the Great 1248 Accompanies Albert to newly founded Dominican school at Cologne 1250 Ordained a priest 1252 Returns to Paris; writes Contra impugnantes Dei cultum, a defense of mendicant orders 1256 Named master of theology at Paris 1259 Sent to Italy, where he would teach at Anagni, Orvieto, Rome, and Viterbo c....

My Papers

The essays in this section address philosophical questions that have interested me for a long time. The philosophy and psychology of religion, The relationship between thinking and reality, The nature of knowledge, or epistemology. What is thinking, and what is so unique about the human subject? Literature and Philosophy. With the exception of the Rilke paper, all essays were written around the time of my dissertation research. My dissertation at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley was entitled “The Psychoanalytic View of Religion in Freud and Lacan.” (2001) The essays are sorted by date of creation. Below you find short...

Heidegger: Existence and Being

The text was written in 1949, and addresses the question of metaphysics. Towards the end, he asks: Why is there any being at all and not rather Nothing? “Descartes, writing to Picot, who translated the Principia Philosophiae into French, observed: “Thus the whole of philosophy is like a tree: the roots are metaphysics, the trunk is physics, and the branches that issue from the trunk are all the other sciences . . .” Sticking to this image, we ask: In what soil do the roots of the tree of philosophy have their hold? Out of what ground do the roots-and...

Kojève: Consciousness and Desire

This short text is quoted from Kojève, Alexandre: Introduction to the Reading of Hegel. Basic Books, New York, 1969. Beginning and End. Man is Self-Consciousness. He is conscious of himself, conscious of his human reality and dignity; and it is in this that he is essentially different from animals, which do not go beyond the level of simple Sentiment of self. Man becomes conscious of himself at the moment when – for the “first” time – he says “I.” To understand man by understanding his “origin” is, therefore, to understand the origin of the I revealed by speech. Now, the...

Platon’s dialogue “Phaidon,” 64a

Socrates to Simmias: “Other people are likely not aware that those who pursue philosophy right study nothing but dying and being dead. Now if this is true, it would be absurd to be eager for this all their lives, and then to be troubled when that came for which they had all along been eagerly practicing.

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...

Subject, Ego, Person

This short essay, written in August and September 2001, could also be entitled “The Religious Roots of  Our Concept of the Person.” I argue that: we need to make a distinction between “something” and “someone;” this was done in the past through a religious definition of the origin of the human being; it has been secularized into the concept of the person, The term expresses the internal relationship of “having a nature.” Therefore we are not just “something”, we are “someone,” and as such not entirely subjected to nature. Since the distinction itself is not natural, it works only if...

Reason and the Subject of Philosophy

Philosophie, die einmal überholt schien, erhält sich am Leben, weil der Augenblick ihrer Verwirklichung versäumt ward. (Philosophy, which once seemed obsolete, lives on because the moment to realize it was missed.) (Theodor Adorno) REASON AND THE SUBJECT OF PHILOSOPHY. Truth kills, Nietzsche once advised philosophers, and he added: indeed, it kills itself.[1] We always knew that the voice of reason is, at best, a whisper in human affairs, but Nietzsche is the first philosopher to tell us that it is the voice of a suicidal subject. Is it only fin-de-siècle European pessimism (justified, we might add, from a later vantage point) or...

What is Philosophy?

A worthwhile question to pursue. At its simplest, philosophy (from the Greek or phílosophía, meaning ‘the love of wisdom’) is the study of knowledge, or “thinking about thinking.” the breadth of what it covers is perhaps best illustrated by a selection of definitions. Some Definitions the discipline concerned with questions of how one should live (ethics); what sorts of things exist and what are their essential natures (metaphysics); what counts as genuine knowledge (epistemology); and what are the correct principles of reasoning (logic) (Wikipedia) investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather...