Phil 1115 Intro to Philosophy 2k6 Lecture 4 History prt 2 Modern Philosophy

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PHIL 1115 Intro to Philosophy


Lecture 4 History prt 2 Modern Philosophy

The Dark Ages The Age of Faith

Once in power, the Christian church did not tread lightly

Shipwreck of learning Francis Bacon 1620

Novum Organum


  • Philosophers lost the freedom to speculate widely

  • Or to deviate from the accepted teachings

  • Philosophy became the handmaiden of religion…


Because philosophy by its very nature questions the accepted wisdom of the individual and his or her society, it naturally comes into conflict with religion
A (really) short (and overstated) history of philosophy:

5th C. BCE:

Philosophy (almost) kills religion

4th C. CE:

Religion (almost) kills philosophy

18th C. CE:

Philosophy (almost) kills religion
21st C. ?????


St. Augustine (354- 430)

“I believe that I may know”

"converted" to Neo-Platonism before converting to Christianity
Wrote Confessions and The City of God
one of the most influential thinkers of the Christian Church
Augustine wrote his own epitaph: “What maketh the heart of the Christian heavy? The fact that he is a pilgrim, and longs for his country.”
From the study of man to the study of God…
the progression from the Classical mind – interested primarily in the physical universe – almost entirely secular
To the Medieval mind – interested primarily in God and the spiritual world – almost entirely theological
Theology means the study (or the science of) god
Philosophy turned from the study of man – to the study of God


Philosophy in the Christian High Middle Ages

c.1100 to c.1400:

Historical events …

  • The reconquest of Toledo (with its great library and its army of translators)

  • The First Crusade 1096-1099

  • The proliferation of universities


Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274

  • Accepted the teachings of St. Augustine


  • re-emphasized intellectual reason

  • The Truth is beyond man’s reason – requires revelation

  • Five ways to prove the existence of God through human reason

  • Man’s purpose is to achieve union with God


The Renaissance French for re-Birth

Historical notes:

  • The Black Death (1347-1350)

  • General increase in trade and military adventures

  • The printing press Gutenberg 1450 or so

  • Fall of Constantinople (1453)

  • The Reformation (Martin Luther 1517)

Erasmus (1466-1536)

One foot in the Age of Faith

The other in the Age of Reason


In the first place, merely meant an appreciation for classical learning.

In the second place, however, it meant a revival of the concerns of Classical learning, meaning those which were humanistic in the Greek sense
A turn back to the Classical Mind


An appreciation for Classical learning

A revival of the concerns of the ancient philosophers

A return to the Classical Mind

That’s what was reborn in the Renaissance…

Renaissance figures


Leonardo da Vinci,


N. Machiavelli, The Prince

Martin Luther

N. Copernicus

Tycho Brahe's observations

W. Shakespeare, Hamlet

J. Kepler New Astronomy

Galileo Galilei, Starry Messenger

Francis Bacon Novum Organum

Isaac Newton, Principia

An old/new Question:
Does God Exist?

  • Medieval philosophers dealt with proofs for the existence of God, but began always with the certainty of God’s existence

  • The return of the Classical thinkers made this question possible again


Theism …………. Atheism
Supernaturalism ………Naturalism

  • Does God Exist?


The Sistine Chapel


Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Scientific method

“Knowledge is power”

Novum Oraganum 1620
Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon: Errors in Man’s Thinking
Idols of the Tribe

Inherent in the tribe or race of men

Distort knowledge by mixing up natural inclinations with perceptions

  • Common Sense

  • Beliefs

  • Wishful Thinking

  • Overgeneralizations

  • Ultimate Causes

Idols of the Cave Errors result from our individual mental and physical constitutions influenced by education, personal relations, predisposition, experience, etc.

  • Insularity

  • Conservatism

  • Novelty

  • Authority

  • Inertia

  • Narrow-mindedness

Idols of the Market-Place

Errors resulting from the ambiguity of language confusion resulting from a failure to come to agreement about the meanings of words

  • Meaningless Words

  • Double Meaning Words

  • Personal Definitions

  • Verbalisms

  • Jargon

Idols of the Theatre

Errors resulting from the biases inherent in the philosophical systems one has learned For Example: dogmatism rigidity undue reverence for authority

  • Experimentation

  • Superstition


Rene Descartes 1596 – 1650

Rene Descartes 1596 – 1650

  • Method of Doubt

  • Dualism

  • The Meditations


Indubitable Method (method of doubt)

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”

  • Cogito ergo sum “I think, therefore I am”

  • Dualism mind and matter


The term "Continental Rationalism" traditionally refers to a 17th century philosophical movement begun by Descartes.

The (self-named) Enlightenment…

(approx. 1650 to 1790)

self-named historical category
Refers both to a time and a movement -- fuzzy edges

  • A renewed emphasis on rationality (rather than revelation) as a basis for figuring out the world

Enlightenment Beliefs…

  1. The universe is fundamentally rational, that is, it can be understood through the use of reason alone;

  1. Truth can be arrived at through empirical observation, the use of reason, and systematic doubt;

  1. Human experience is the foundation of human understanding of truth; authority is not to be preferred over experience;

  1. All human life, both social and individual, can be understood in the same way the natural world can be understood; once understood, human life, both social and individual, can be manipulated or engineered in the same way the natural world can be manipulated or engineered;

  1. Human history is largely a history of progress;

  1. Human beings can be improved through education and the development of their rational facilities;

  1. Religious doctrines have no place in the understanding of the physical and human worlds;

Other European Rationalists

Baruch Spinoza (1632 – 1677)

Gottfried Leibniz (1646 – 1716)

British Empiricism

Continental Rationalism is usually understood in relation to its rival 17th century movement, British Empiricism, founded by John Locke.

The radical division between these two schools has a long history.

John Locke 1632 – 1714

  • Theory of Knowledge (Tabula Rasa)

  • Political Theory

  • Religious Toleration


Other British Empiricists

Bishop George Berkeley
(1685 – 1753)

David Hume (1771 – 1776)


Rationalists and Empiricists on the origin of ideas…

  • Rationalists believed in innate ideas – things which are known through intuition and reason (as opposed to experience). Descartes mentions particularly the ideas of oneself, infinite perfection, and causality.

  • Empiricists argued that all ideas ultimately trace back to experiences, such as sense perceptions and emotions.

Rationalists and Empiricists on the methods of investigation…

  • Rationalists maintained that truths could be deduced from innate ideas (the way theorems in geometry are deduced from axioms).

  • Empiricists insisted that induction (the Scientific Method championed by Francis Bacon) was equally important in discovering truth – that deduction alone was not enough


Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

  • The nature and possibility of knowledge

  • Mind as an organizing agency

  • God

  • Morality The Categorical Imperative


Auguste Comte 1798 – 1857

  • Father of Sociology (coined the term)

  • …saw the scientific method as a
    replacement for metaphysics

  • …the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge… philosophy should be more like science…testable, verifiable etc.

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 - 1900

  • The Will to Power

  • Thus Spake Zarathustra

  • The Superman (Übermensch)

  • Dionysus and Apollo

  • Atheism and Existentialism

William James (1842-1910)

  • Pragmatism

  • The Will to Believe

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 - 1900

  • The Will to Power

  • Thus Spake Zarathustra

  • The Superman (Uebermensch)

  • Dionysus and Apollo

  • Atheism and Existentialism


William James (1842-1910)

  • The Will to Believe

  • Pragmatism

  • Philosophy and Psychology


Bertrand Russell 1872 - 1970

Mathematician and philosopher

Principia Mathematica 1903 logic and the philosophy of math

On Epistemology:

"There is one great question," he writes in 1911. "Can human beings know anything, and if so, what and how? This question is really the most essentially philosophical of all questions."
On religion:

God and immortality, the central dogma of the Christian religion, find no support in science. But we in the West have come to think of them as the irreducible minimum of theology. No doubt people will continue to entertain these beliefs, because they are pleasant, just as it is pleasant to think ourselves virtuous and our enemies wicked. But for my part I cannot see any grounds for either. I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove Satan is a fiction. The Christian God may exist, so might the Gods of Olympus, Ancient Egypt or Babylon; but no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other. They lie outside the region of provable knowledge and there is no reason to consider any of them.

Philosophy in the world…

  • World War I

  • The Russian Revolution

  • The Great Depression

  • World War II

  • The Atomic Bomb

  • The Holocaust

Mushroom cloud over Hiroshima


Jean-Paul Sartre 1905 - 1980

  • French Philosopher Playwright, Novelist, Essayist and political Journalist

  • Existentialism

  • Existence precedes Essence”

  • "Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth." (from L'Être et le Néant / Being and Nothingness, 1943)

Influenced also by Simone de Beauvoir, another French Existentialist and life-long companion

Most famous for her book The Second Sex (see web link)

Which traced the development of male oppression from mythology through literature and history seminal feminist work

One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.


Existentialism, philosophical movement or tendency, emphasizing individual existence, freedom, and choice, that influenced many writers in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Some prominent themes include:

Moral Individualism

Subjectivity – an emphasis on seeing from within

Choice and Responsibility – perhaps the most prominent theme is the responsibility that follows from the freedom to choose

“Existence precedes essence”


(Some of) Today’s Major Points…

For nearly a thousand years after the fall of the Roman Empire, philosophy became almost entirely a religious enterprise.

The earliest Christian philosophers adopted and adapted a few of the ancient philosophers……but the Church ‘disappeared’ most of them.
The classical mind gave way to the medieval mind.
Philosophy’s attention doesn’t return to classical ideas and questions until the Renaissance, Humanism and the Enlightenment.
Following Descartes, the emphasis turns from metaphysics to epistemology: From “what is the world?” to “how do we know what we know?”
Answers to the new question fall into two camps: Rationalist (in Europe) and Empiricist (in England).
The 19th and 20th centuries in the European philosophical tradition were marked by a return to the Hellenistic focus on what a good life might look like and why or whether it matters if we pursue one -- questions of value and morality more important than questions of knowledge.
Positivism, in the British and American traditions, remained focused on the problems of knowledge and insisted that philosophy could not (and should not) make judgments about theology or values or morality.
Divisions: History of Philosophy*

  • Ancient Philosophy (750 BC – AD 312)

    • Metaphysics and Ethics

  • Medieval Philosophy (AD 312 – 1450)

    • Theology

  • Modern Philosophy (AD 1450 – present)

    • Epistemology, Metaphysics and Ethics

* This is a gross over-simplification. All of these, particularly modern philosophy, have many subdivisions…
Divisions: History of Philosophy
Ancient Philosophy (750 BC – AD 312)


Medieval Philosophy (AD 312 – 1450)


Modern Philosophy (AD 1450 – present)

Epistemology and Metaphysics

This is a gross over-simplification. All of these, particularly modern philosophy, have a variety of subdivisions

Attendance Question….

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