philosophy class

Philosophy Class, Jan 6
1) Descartes Discourse I, p. 15, and II, p 16 where he asserts the more pleasing whole from a singular creator than of many. The better suited laws of a cosity from an original mind than the patchwork of many minds attempting to fix many “inconvienciences”

Is this an earlier disposition to God? Does he begin his work of philosophy with a bias toward a belief in God? Does he truly rid himself of the possibility of there not being a christian god, as he readily states the forms of beliefs affected by culture, time, and place?

2) Descartes gives 4 rules:
1) avoid hasty judgment and prejudice. Include nothing more in his judgment than what presented itself so clearly and distinctly that he had no reason to doubt.
2) divide each of the difficulties into as many parts as possible to resolve them
3) conduct his thougts with the simplest and easiest to know.
a) with each step mastered, there are new steps to ascend to
b) imposing steps of simplicity when steps, or progression, are not naturally available
4) to include everything so as to know everything.

Question: Does Descartes believe truth to be singular and basic, that is, underlying the existence of everything? Does this basic assumption of the geometry of truth also underly or predispose him toward a belief in god?

Notes from a coffee shop
Jan 14
In Descartes’ Meditation III, he talks of the regression of ideas along a causal chain until at last a cause is necessited. He relies then on the supposition that effect must have a cause, and perhaps that the prime idea at the beginning of this long regression is a personable being?!?! Perhaps he doesn’t but cannot think enough of alternate beginnings than a god. The notion of an archetype which fails in achieving the perfection of the reality is interesting.

Philosophy Class Jan 29

Sense perception produces motion inside brain, producing two forms of thought.
1) unguided
2) regulated which a) find excuses and b) guess at effects

Hobbes notion of the distinction between man/animal as speech rings very similar to the notion of memes

Philosophy Class Feb 2
Spinoza’s monism compared to animism of Quinn (my own thoughts, NOT professors). I wonder if the animisitic universe that Quinn writes of in his book “The Story of B” is similar to Spinoza, or more alike Leibniz’s monads.

Spinoza took over the notion of pantheism from the scholastics.

I find it interesting to note the pantheist leanings of some Hebrew writings and the mystic christians and the current christian complete misunderstanding of neopaganism’s pantheist (where it is pantheist) views.

Starbucks, Feb 3
“… what our reason pronounces bad is not bad a regards the order and laws of universal nature, but only as regards the laws of our own nature taken seperately.” -Spinoza

“Minds are not conquered by arms but by greatness of soul.” -Spinoza

“Passion without reason is blind, reason without passion is dead” – Spinoza

“An emotion can neither be hindered nor removed except by a contrary and stranger emotion.” -Spinoza

“The Passivity of passion is human bondage, the action of reason is human liberty. Freedom is not from causal law or process, but from partial passion or impulse; and freedom not from passion, but from uncoordinated and uncompleted passion. We are free only where we know. To be a superman is to be free not from the restraints of social justice and amenity, but from the individualism of the instincts.” – Will Durrant commenting on Spinoza.

To be great is not to be placed above humanity ruling others; but to stand above the partialities and futilities of unimformed desire, and to rule one’s self. (paraphrased Spinoza)

(on going to Heaven)
“Those are far astray from a true estimate of virtue who expect for their virtue, as if it were the greatest slavery, that God will adorn them with the greatest rewards; as if virtue and the serving of God were not happiness itself and the greatest liberty.” -Spinoza

Philosophy Class, Jan 28
Hobbes, Leviathan

Body, complex automaton

To understand State, understand the people, devise best political system. We are governors and the governed.

Sense perception-external pressure through nerves, string, to brain; countered by internal pressure in reaction.

Conservation of movement- if moving or at rest, will continue unless external influences it.

Imagination= decaying sense perceptions


  • simple
  • compounded

Simple- lingering mental images
Compounded- visualize a centaur, something never seen

Dreams- originate in sense perception, typically in a “story-like” sequence. Hobbes defines as type of motion- not result of external motion, but inner woking of body. Heat/Cold are perceived by sleeping body. Heat–> anger Cold—->afraid.

Sun-visual sense
stars-mental images-dreams

When you remove the sun the stars (which are always there) come out. remove the visual sense and the mental images (weaker, always there) are noticeable.

The lens of reflection goes from waking to dreams, but not vice versus. page 104

infinite-not finite
God= contradiction in terms
Philosophy not a place to study god.

Philosophy Class, Feb 11

John Locke- an empiricist, believes that experience is primarily important, wasn’t radical, did not want to stay away from the importance of reason (the rationalists). He was regarded as a common sense philosopher… based on common experience. He didn’t try to construct a far-fetched, orginal metaphysics.

Q: How can we know things?
Answer: Experience

Rationalist theory of knowledge- doctrine of innate ideas. Lock wants to prove this wrong.

Two ideas of rationalists view Locke is against. Chapter 2, prep #4 (p. 272)

  • whatever is, is
  • it is impossible for same thing to be and not be.

This is a universal assention. Locke argues against this (see prop #3). Univeral assent proves nothing innate.

Locke says that if something is innate, we must know of it in whatever state of mind we are in, young, old, feeble, etc…

Discussion Class, Feb 12

A Mondad is:

  • tiny
  • indivisible
  • non-material
  • active
  • metaphysical
  • unique, each is different
  • simple substance
  • brute soul
  • true unites
  • holds material world together

Philosophy Class, Feb 16
Personal identity- asks what is a self- I am same person even though I have changed over time.

Question: What is a person/self?

self/person ——-(distinction)——- human being (man/woman)

The self depends upon being conscious.

Locke defines mind as consciousness “knowing that one knows”.

This sounds Cartesian, but Locke says that this isn’t connected to a mind substance because don’t always think. Even though consciousness defines what a person is, we shouldn’t make a leap to infer a mental substance. (page 278 #10)

Locke does nto say ” I = Thinking Thing” as mental substance, Instead… ” I= consciousness”

Our consciousness recorded in bits and interpretted (page 323 #10). Consciousness is no longer as sound, or stable a foundation to build our understanding of our self (page 323 #10). The connection of past events with the same consciosness in the present creates a continuity of personal identity for Locke.

Forensic legal matters (page 328 #26)

We are accountable only for our actions we are conscious of, but a drunk man and a sober not the same person. We punish the crimes and not states because we (humans) are not God and cannot accordingly tell the state of consciousness (p 327 #22). How do we feel about what we did is important for the final judgement.

Locke considers consciousness to have a moral dimension, equates consciousness with this.

Self depends on consciousness (p 326 #17). Locke brings in teh body, the seat of personal identity, the input of sensory experience… (remember the little finger!)

Locke gets away form Cartesian dualism and re-thinks the definition of consciousness and the self.

Philosophy Class, Feb 18
Philonous – Hylous (Philonous was the voice of Berkeley)

Berkeley in the tradition of Locke, spoke highly of him.

No material substance in the world.

Hylous asks if Philonous not a skeptic by his great statement?

Colors are “in the mind” not out in the sky.

recall Locke

Primary Qualities — Secondary Qualities

page 423

Berkeley says that (different to Locke) Primary Qualities are in the mind, but also not cause by external things.

Berkeley says that Secondary Qualities are likewise entirely in/of the mind.

Sensory perceptions do nt represent an independant material world.

Philosphy Class, Feb 20

Berkeley- There is no independant material world… and matter cannot exist independantly of our sensory perception of it.

Recall Samuel Johnson’s act of kicking a rock and saying “I refute him (Berkeley) thus!”

Radicalizes Locke

Secondary—– Primary Qualities
(in mind)—–(In things themselves)

for Berkeley

idea = quality

We cannot know anything external to our senses, we are bound by them.

Berkeley is an epistemologist

Question: Why does Berkeley deny external world? And why does he claim not to be a skeptic?

Skepticism – page 415- someone who denies the reality or truth of things, someone who denies existence.

Philonous not a skeptic because of perception.

being=being percieved

Recall Descartes dilema. I am thinking, so I must exist… if I stop thinking I may stop existing.

Berkely- being of the world is founded on perceieving

This implies the need for an ever percieving state. Yet Locke says sometimes we do nt percieve, sometimes not thinking.

So how does Berkeley balance this?

Berkeley postulates an ever perceiving mind, a supermind, provides a foundation to our belief of a continued existence.

Super, maga, infinite mind (God)

He goes here in second dialogue. Berkeley doesn’t deny existence of sensible things, existence is derived from the spirit of god.
page 435

God’s mind is active- creative. Our minds are passive-recpetive. God’s mind is the author of ideas.
page 436. God’s mind provides all.

Berkeley needs God in his system. God is supreme/unversal cause of all things. page 437

God– produces ideas— infinite minds percieve ideas– ideas

fact for Berkeley, material =atheism because he thinks that matter is something seperate from God.

On Berkeley, matter does nto exist, sensible ideas do. Drop matter altogether. He considers (in his time) the focus of mechanisms, technology, causal thinking, is dangerous

Philosophy Class, Feb 23
Berkeley says that mathematicians and philosophers used abstract ideas with use of words, page 427, and to be careful of this as they are still not connected to extended things.

The Illusion of Language.
1) one-to-one correspondence between a word and its referent.
motion doesn’t exist only of itself. We cannot rid it of “trajection”. Berkeley wanted to use motion not as an abstract name, but a general term, an umbrella concept.
2) It is often assumed to communicate ideas by putting thm in words.

There are no abstract ideas.

Berkeley… no intellect and no qualities inherent in the world.

Philosophy Class, February 29
Hume- a radical anti-thesis to rationalism. He viewed ractionalists as pretentious. Exposes the limits of rational inquiry and brings experience to the core.

Question: What does experience teach us?
Question: Why is it so limited?

Matters of fact ——– relations of ideas
experience ———reason

page 449 part 4

matters of fact ———- reason
evidence: limited ———— absolutely certain
knowledge: not intuitive ——— intuitive or demonstrative
existence: yes____________no relation

reason has truths that are not dependant on nature, and give us no understanding of nature. page 502

Philosophy Class, March 3

Hume want to base knowledge on impressions/experience. We cannot build the future only on experience. How do we bridge this? How do we get A to B connections? Is it an experience or an impression of the connection? Do these connections have an experiential base? If so… what is it like? Why is it important?

Because of the “truth”, “each thing must have a cause to exist” held by many philosophers. This is a central tenet to many systems.

As an empiricist, Hume wants to see what grounds we have on the experience of causality.
–spatial contiguity
–temporal priority
implies a “necessary connection” page 521

mechanism is in the mind by habituation, which through experience Science arises (psychology)

We make our lives not by reason, but by customs and habits born out of experience.

Connections are not set in stone, only probable.

Matters of fact———-relations of ideas

Causality- gives us probable knowledge. Helps us to predict the future.

On movement (page 516). Hume says we have a pretensious attitude regarding our “will” to move in a particular way. Our ability to move is learned and reinforced by habit.

Hume doesn’t deny existence of an independant reality. Says it is a natural belief to have.

We have sense perceptions, they depend on the perceiving mind.

A—–> B
object cause—-> impression


Constancy and coherence

Belief in a soul takes us into atheism

| |
impressions ideas

For Hume, each of every idea is dervived from sensory impressions
Substance -inhesion

impressing/idea———– object

It is important to note that our impressions of the external world are extensions of that world. We percieve this huge aglomerate of extended things. Emotions and the like, are not extended things. It is a notion of contemporary philosophers that Hume doesn’t distinguish between impressions/ideas

The soul, then, would necessarily be a place where extended and non-extended things mix together. To think of this we would have to go back to Spinoza. Since he is the “famous atheist”, the belief of a sol as such would lead to atheism.

Cafe Roma, March 16

Hume posits that our belief that events are causally related is a custom or habit acquired by experience.

There is a constant conjunction, that events of the “cause” type occure nearby and shortly before events of the “effect” type.

Still, we do not have an idea of a necessary connection. This feeling comes from custom or habit. The force of causal necessity is just as strong as our sentiment of anticipating efficacious outcomes.

The feeling of causal necessity then seems to grow in magnitude with the diminuation of nearness and time. Thus if we witness a billard ball hitting another ball over and over and resulting in motion, we are hard-pressed not to expect the same outcome. The distance and time are very small.

Yet I see many many examples of people who follow a path of drug use and alcoholism. Here they become staunch Hume-ians and say that there is no causal relationship between the drug use today and the wasted life 20 years from now. And in a sense they are correct (for we cannot experience the causal connection itself) but the same thing applies to billard balls. We do nto see the actual causal connection. We cannot actually say that one billard ball makes another move when struck, yet the drug addict who at first fiercely opposed causal connections (I can quit, this will not ruin my life, I am in control) of drug use and a wasted life, now cannot imagine what Hume is talking about in his billard ball exaple. And here is an example of nearness and time in giving us a feeling of necessary connection (along with experience). The addict does nto have eyes to see and so the experience is all together different than the one who is sober adn is not in the clutches of the drug. To the latter, the experiences of seeing so many people at different stages of use, and the repeatedly seen plots of degradation of self. It is as Hume would say, “It would not be wise to jump from a window”


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