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Logic and Philosophy

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

Greek Metaphysics

Pre-Socratic635-371Thinkers such as Thale, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Parmenides and Heraclitus sought the principles of reality, and thus established metaphysics and natural science. The most important discovery of this period was not so much the answers as the questions, as the questions presupposed naturalistic rather than supernaturalistic answers. This transition from myth to reason is sometimes called the Mythos to Logos thesis, dispensing with explanations involving gods in favor of metaphysical concepts of substance, form, permanence and change. Metaphysics' ultimate conviction is that the universe is a natural entity that is comprehensible by rational thought.
Pyrrho of Elis365-275 BCPyrrho is attached to the origins of skepticism as a philosophy in Greece. It was a sort of anti-philosophy, an overriding concern with the vanity of human acts and desires: the emptiness, fruitlenessness, vacuity, absurdity of what people do and what. Namely, what people do because of what they want. Pyrro's view was that people don't get what they want, very often because they don't understand what they want and the whole things ends in frustration especially if one faces that problem in the wrong way, according to Pyrrho. Becuase people were so misled by their deisres, presenting objects of desire that led to personal frustration, maybe one could a) distrust the senses, hold off on any confidence at all in the senses or b) accept what seems to be, but not to have any deep confidence. That way if one has objects of desire then theese desires will be constrained by down deep the realization that we only have appearances, no true understanding of reality. Not trusting the senses, not acting on the appearance of the senses. There is simply no point in theorizing about the information that we have because that information is just so intrinsically unreliable. What Pyrrho means is that in order to be happy, seek tranquility, peace of mind. In terms of practical reasning, in terms of what reaosning what we ought to do next, then to seek tranquility we should balance opposite opinions about any course of action. ABout any course of action we are likely to get conflicting opinions, so if we are to decide that what we oughtn't do is have any confidence in the deep correctness (or lack of) about those views but instead to find the opinions and find an averaged middle course. Theoretical reasoning, speculative reasoning, is quite different: in that domain we should simply suspend judgment about what's true or false because we can have no idea about what's tue or false because we are constantly deceived by the senses nd our own faulty, clumsy, inaccurate reasoning. Practical purpose: find opinoins, calcualte average. THeoretical purpose: find opinions, suspend judgment. ONe should remain silent about opinions because there is no ability to speak truly on conviction. THe main contest philosophically in Pyrrho's day was a contest among philosophical schools. By Pyrrho's death there was not not only Paltos academy in Athens but Aristotle's Lyceum, the schools by Stoics and Epicureans also. These all contended philosophically with one another, including Patonists and Aristoteleans. Sceptics seemed mainly interested in attacking the Stoics as a dangerous form of dogmatism, the false conviction that certain opinions could be known as true and false. The Sceptics were mainly worried about the Stoics.

Dogmatism form a scpetic point of view takes the position:
some statements are true
some statements are false

There are stoic methods/criterion for sorting out true from false statements, with the goal as a stoic of discovering the truth by applying this method.

But according to the sceptics, the truth always remains undiscovered whether pursued by Epicureans, Airstoteleans, etc. The result is anxiety. What is desired is peace of mind. Thus: do not do philosophy. Rather, take the scptical poisition which is one of an anti-philosophy.

The sceptic from a sceptic point of view is that all claims of truth and falsity are simply undecideable. There is a method in scepticism of showing why all these claims are undecideable. The aim is not to find the truth, because the truth cannot be found. THe aim is to find tranquility, peace of mind, relief from feudal philosophizing. The way to find this tranquility is to suspend judgment.

This position by Pyrrho was elaborated, richened a few centuries later by Sextus Empiricus, and this form of scepticism by Sextus that was passed on to later times. Not much is known by Pyrrho. But quite much is known about what Sextus Empiricus said because his works survived. In his works we can see an inquiry into finding a criterion about whether a statement is true or false.

In order to decide the dispute about the criterion, we must possess an accepted criterion to judge the dispute; and in order to possess an accepted criterion, the dispute about the criterion must first be deicded. ANd when the arugment thus [ebcomes[ circuvlar discovery of the criertion becomes impracticable.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) was the first to study logic systematically. He discovered logical forms, classified arguments according to their logical forms, and investigated the properties of the logical forms and their relationships to one another. Thus, Aristotle is justifiable known as the Father of Logic. His logic is often called Categorical Logic or Syllogistic Logic. Aristotelian logic was as dominant as Euclidian geometry for more than two thousand years. But in the late nineteenth century, Aristotelian logic was beginning to be replaced by a more powerful system known as First-Order Predicate Logic. ... Unlike Aristotelian logic, no single person was wholly responsible for the development of this new logic. Two logicians among the non-Aristotelian pioneers deserve to be mentioned, however: Gottlob Frege (1848-1925), who played a major role in creating quantificational logic, and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), who proposed the idea of truth-function. (McHenry & Yagisawa, p 32)

Western philosophy began with metaphysics.

What Is Metaphysics?

According to tradition, the word metaphysics comes from Aristotle's editor Andronicus of Rhodes, who in the first century BC classified and cataloged Aristotle's works. Andronicus places Aristotle's First Philosophy after his treatise on physics. Thus, First Philosophy was known in Greek as ta meta ta physika (those things after physics) from which the term metaphysics arose.

Medieval Era

Renaissance, Humanism and Reformation

Exceprt for the works of Aristotle the works of most other grat Philoosphers (Platonists, Stoics, Epicureans, Scepticts) most were unknown until after the 14th century, when people once again were able to find and to read the original records, the ancient Greek texts, and translate them into Latin and other languages so that the content of philosophical debate was much richer by the 16th century. By the By the 16th century it was not just Aristotle as it was in the 14th and prior centuries, but hten Aristotle, Plato, EPicurians Stoics, Sceptics, Cynics. Lots of rediscovered Greek phlosophizing. Among these newly rediscovered ancient Greek texts were the EPicurean texts. Why were people not motivated initially to learn more about epicureanism in hte middle ages? Well first of all epicureans denied immortiality of the soul and any providential, concerned divinity. These positions were both repugnant to Christian faith. However, that same line of reaosning would not hold up well for Scepticism. There was not much attention paid to Scepticism either in the Middle Ages. Once it was rediscovred in the 15th century it was intensely studied for religious reasons.

Scepticism came to be identified with attacks on Christianity in the 18th century, and this association was largely due to hume's dialgoues.

But in the 15th century, Sextus came to be read first as a recovery of ancient authorities of whom Sextus was one. Plato and many other philosophers ere recovered. Also great works like Homer's poetry and Archimedes' mathematics.

The recovery by the Humansits, called the Renaissance, gave rise to a conflict of authority. People challenged Aristotle's position. FIrst of all: which text is correct? Before printing around 1450, all copies anybody possessed of anceint texts were in amnuscripts copied and re-copied with many mistakes introduced. THen we have one philosophical position Aristotleean, then Platonic, etc.... Which auhtor will be correct? The technique, art, science that identifies the first question is tpyically called philology. The scond questino, about which is the correct standpoint, is answred by philosophy if its a philosophical dispute.

This was aggravated by the advent of printing because so many books became availabel so suddenly to so many people. There was much more to fiht about because of the invention of printing.

First of all, which Bible text is the right one? And which translation is most accurate? These become very salient question in the 15th centuries onwards.

People sought guidance as they were stimulated and provoked by these questions. For example, if you were worried about the Bible, then if you sought an authority you would turn to the Bible itself to find guidance. Other people turned to institutions, the complex Catholic insitutinos. Other people turned to themselves, their own choice. There was conflict about which position to take. What was at stake was heaven or hell.

The Rule of Faith was supposed to help one decide which doctrine to believe. Within the context of Christianity itself there were ocmpeting doctrines. Recall Abelard's Sic et non. That there is a contest of opinino was not a new notion in the 15th century onwards. But what was new was this wave of new information from the secular Greek philosophers and scriptural texts. THe Rule of Faith was intended to decide which doctrine to blieve. There came to be competing Rules of Faith deeveloped by different people. On one side, one group had in the institutinoal sense the ROman Catholic Church been around along time. The Rule of Faith according to them was tradition, institutional tradition. But a newly organized group of Christians was the movement started in 1517 by Luther, groups that came to be known as a whole as Protestants. If the Roman Catholic Rule of Faith was tradition and scripture, then the Protestant RUle of Faith was individual conscience guided by scripture. Each approach attacked the other side's weaknesses. From a Protestant point of view the tradiitonalism, insittuional and formalist came to see as empty with nobody in charge. The RC pov came to see Protestant Rule fo Faith as individualism and chaos, with too many people in charge.

The first person to bring Scepticism to bear in was Erasmus. He used his acquaintance with ancient scepticism to defend the Catholic position. In the face of these disputes about religion, so far as the dogmas are concerned, what one should do is suspend judgment. Finally, its clear that what rules is scriptural truth and institutional church authority. However, the truth of scripture is often hard to decide because the language is not always clear. When unclear, what one has to do is accept church authority. His idea is not reovlutionary, coming down on the side of church auhtority; but his approach is sceptical, because any dogma besides the most fundamental dogma just cannot be known for sure. By fundamental he means, for example, that god exists and existed at one point as a human being named Christ. What he would regard as not fundamental doctrines are philosophical theorizing about how three persons in one god relate to one another and how god can be one and three at the same time. He feels the individdual christian believer need not ever answer this questions individually. Many of these issues ought not be fought at all because they are not knowable. He does not pursue a formal sceptical argument but his attitude is definitely Sceptic.

Luther attacked Erasmus very strongly as wishy-washy: Luther said that faith must be absolutely certain. Though some things in scripture could be difficult to understand, and some things about god could be hard to understand (even unknowable, in principle), there were certain core, fundamental truths that were certain according to Luther.

How could one rach a conclusion about unclear things? According to Luther it was inner conviction. Criterion was illumination of certain chosen people by the holy spirit who gave those select people a conviction. Certain truths are known to be with absolute certainty from scripture because one has inner conviction. Both versions, Luther's and Calvin's, were vehementy criticed by Catholics as subjective and circular. Supposedly there were fundamental truths that could just be seen by inner conviction. Inner conviction was authentic because one is sure of god, and god is the source of inner convictino. The argument is somewhat circular.

These difference erupted into hositility. They agreed about dogmas and also the Rule of Faith (criterion) for choosing which dogma was correct. Skepticism arose from this as a weapon used by one group to attack another.

During the 16th century the hostilities among Chrstians, motivated by belief in Christianity, became larger and larger and more and more fierce. Between 1524 and 1648 the leading cause of warfare in Europe was hostility between among groups of Christians based on conflicting dogma. THis was a long period of religous warfare. DUring this era, which came to an end only in 1648, works of Sextus Empiricus as the main vehicle of scepticism became increasingly well known. 1575/6 in France Michel de Montagne Essays was an apology, the most effective statement of ancient scepticism in modern times, a work about natural theology Apologies for Raimond Sebonde. Montagne was interested in Sebonde after translating it for his father, and in his Essays had an Essay that was an Apology for Sebonde's position. Sebonde was preaching natural theology at the time, god's creatures are his effects, and it is possible to reason from god's effects that god is the cause of those effects. Rationalism places great confidence reason as a tool for understanding god. Also it puts much confience in the senses. Thomas Aquinas' Five Ways starts from what his sense tell him.

From a sceptical point of view, there are fundamental mistakes about natural theolgoy: so much fondience in reason that it is rationalist; and so much confidence in what our senses detect. When Montage wrote his Apology for Raimond Sebonde, it was not an apology, it was actually the start f religous scepticism. Montagne is one of the formative voices of modern French prose, he was a Shakespeare of French. Montagne ouputs a scepticism not just about religion, his manifesto for scepticism (the Apolgoy) was a general manifesto aginst any dogmatic statement religious or not. Because Montagne's essays became so widespread and famous, including via rapid translations into other languages.

At the same time, Greek texts of the writings of Sextus Empiricus, the main survivors of anceint scepticism, were being translated into Latin and these were being published.

Pierre (Peter) AbelardAbelard pushed forward natural theology.
His works include: Sic et Non.
Peter Lombard
Thomas AquinasHis works include: Summa Theologiæ.
René Descartesb 1596 - d 1650
Humeb 1711 - d 1776His works include: Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.