TASK: We have studied several ancient philosophies. Which have remained relevant to modern life? Your goal is to choose the most and least relevant philosophies and explain why, OR choose two philosophies that combined provide strong guidance for life today. Be sure to demonstrate a basic understanding of the philosophies discussed, and to include examples that illustrate your points.
Asian: Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism
Athenian: Platonism, Aristotelianism
Hellenistic: Epicureanism, Cynicism, Stoicism
REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING:
-Papers must be 2-3 pages long (11-12 pt font, double spaced, default margins)
-Papers must include and explain a quotation from each philosopher discussed (see here)
-Papers are worth 100 points (25 pts each for Understanding, Argument, Examples, Style)
The last two systems of thought in our Ancient Philosophy unit are Chinese Confucianism and Greek Stoicism. They take opposite perspectives on society as a source of morals and values. Please watch the videos below and add notes on Confucianism and Stoicism to your Unit I section.
-For Confucians, who oppose the nature-based philosophy of Taoism, preserving social order is always the most important thing. This means hierarchy, tradition, loyalty and ritual are key.
-For Stoics, who are inspired by the anti-social thinking of Diogenes, society cannot provide us with satisfaction. Instead of striving for status, we should pursue inner peace at all costs
But despite this difference, Confucianism and Stoicism both emphasize self-control as the way to bring about harmony between individuals and their environment. Which philosophy do you think is more likely to bring about a more harmonious existence if followed today, and why? (Extra credit)
Plato's dualistic Theory of Forms was soon challenged by his greatest student, Aristotle. In his work Metaphysics, he outlined a totally different theory of reality (ontology) called TELEOLOGY.
"Teleology" comes from the Greek word for Purpose (Telos). The concept of Telos as an Inner Form is Aristotle's answer to Plato's concept of the Higher Form (Eidos). Take down these notes:
Aristotle bases this ontology on an epistemology (theory of knowledge) called Empiricism, which says knowledge comes through observation - in other words, seeing is believing. For Aristotle, "Truth resides in the world around us," not in another world. His ethical theory stems from this:
This means that everything in Nature has its own specific nature, defined by a unique function. For something to achieve Goodness, it doesn't have to achieve knowledge of higher forms; instead, it has to achieve excellence at its specific function. "Perfect Forms" are not in another world; they are innate possibilities for what a thing can be if it levels up its true nature to the greatest extent. For human beings, this means we should try to perfect our unique nature by using our human talents to contribute to human society in a way that lets us thrive. That way, we fulfill our potential and find true satisfaction - the satisfaction of having achieved success and thus become a Perfect Form.
We've now seen 4 distinct ethical perspectives, two each in Greece and Asia:
-BUDDHIST: There is no higher purpose, satisfaction is impossible in this life,
so we must overcome suffering by letting go of ignorant worldly desires.
-TAOIST: There is a higher purpose, satisfaction is possible in this life,
but only if we perfect ourselves by fully embracing the flow of nature in this world (Tao)
-PLATONIST: This is a higher purpose, but satisfaction is impossible in this life,
so we must seek it by letting go of this world and using Reason to reach the Eternal.
-ARISTOTELIAN: There is no higher purpose, satisfaction is possible in this world,
but only if we embrace and perfect our human nature through rational worldly actions.
Which perspective do you think is the "best" for human beings, and why? This requires you to explain your own axiology - your theory of what is good, which is the basis of any ethical or moral code. Compose a paragraph below, and remember you can converse with others for extra credit!
Plato's whole philosophy grows from his Theory of Forms. explained in his Myth of the Cave:
For Plato, human existence is about moving upward, as if on a ladder to perfection. We must master the body and our emotions to allow our Reason to reach the Perfect Forms in thinking:
A "perfect" example of a Platonic Idealist is Jay Gatsby, who pursues his vision of perfect Love:
Your assignment is to comment on whether Plato's philosophy makes any sense for living well. Many see him as too focused on his belief in a heavenly realm, or too fixated on permanence and perfection to deal with real-world problems. But Plato felt only someone in touch with the true Forms could be considered wise enough to lead others through life. This is why he despised democracy and called for Philosopher-Kings to rule the city. Do you think Plato is right, or do you think that a philosophy like Buddhism that embraces change and gives up perfection is better? And what do you think that means in terms of how we should live ethically and politically
In today's class we introduced the distinction between objective and subjective:
For example, Descartes believes the self is an objectively-existing thing (the soul,)
while Buddha believes the self is a subjective, imaginary idea (the "ego" or self-image).
Similarly, Socrates believes questions of good and bad have objectively-true right answers,
while David Hume claims that all of our beliefs about good and bad are subjective opinions.
Your goal for this post is to explain where you think we can draw the line between subjective and objective. Are all beliefs subjective, or are there objective truths (and maybe even objective answers about what is good)? Give an example to back this up. You should post a link to your example if possible. Try to get us thinking!
P.S. If you want to know what to study for the quiz, download this little study guide I made:
For this weekend's reading, I gave you summarize of four ancient thinkers' ideas on change. Check out these videos as a supplement to the readings, then give your take on the key question: Is change a reality? And if so, is there a purpose behind the change?
-Heraclitus and Parmenides, two pre-Socratic Greek thinkers, argued over whether or not change was an illusion. Heraclitus believed reality essentially was change, while Parmenides thought all time was an illusion caused by the limited human perspective on eternity.
-Laozi, the (possibly mythical) founder of Taoism, agreed with Heraclitus that change was fundamental, but emphasized the Way (Tao), a positive force beyond it all. The Tao gave a purpose to the hange, which played out in natural cycles with which we could harmonize.
-Siddhartha Gotama, the historical Buddha ("awakened one"), took the view that change was only the product of cause-and-effect (karma). There could be no meaning to it, and we would suffer from disappointment until we accepted that all things are impermanent and insubstantial.
In the comments below, post a response under your name to the following question(s):
Is Descartes's Dualism of Mind and Matter a reasonable way of understanding all reality?
Does "I think, therefore I am" raise an unanswerable question of how mind and body interact?
Are there better ways of understanding the self that have emerged in our scientific age?
(This is worth 15 points. If I ask a follow-up question on a post, any good answer gets +3!)