Lesson One - Introduction to Philosophy
Philosophy in Christian Perspective - Dr. Jeff Mallinson
Introduction to Philosophy
This course is a cursory overview
It is for anyone; beginners or those seeking a refresher
Topics Not Covered in this Course
Women of philosophy
Topics Covered in this Course (and session)
The importance of Socrates and Plato for all subsequent Western philosophy
That Plato wrote in dialog form because he believed we are born with innate ideas, and dialog brings these to consciousness
The meaning of the word philosophy and its sub-fields
How Christians might think about the thinkers we will explore
The Importance of Athens
“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”- Alfred North Whitehead.
While there is an important truth in this quotation, we shouldn’t take it too literally.
The nature of reality and how to live well was also explored by sages from
Meaning of Philosophy
Hebrews called the quest for understanding CHOKMAH
Greek speakers called it Sophia meaning wisdom
Philo meaning love and Sophia meaning wisdom
Philosophy = the love of wisdom
Love of wisdom lead Socrates to ask questions
Socrates most famous student is Plato
Plato wrote down Socrates teachings and his own thoughts
Many since have sought to answer questions raised in Socratic Dialogue
Question: Who is a Philosopher?
Anyone who asks thoughtful questions about the world is exploring philosophy
The three most important question for ancient philosophers
How we should behave
What we should believe
What should we create and appreciate
Subfields of philosophy
Ethics = What is good
Logic = What is true
Metaphysics = What is the nature of reality
Ontology = What is the nature of being
Epistemology = What is knowledge
To keep things simple, when we ask about truth we will focus on epistemology, since epistemology uses logic to make claims about metaphysics and ontology, among other things.
Exploration of Beauty = Aesthetics
Subfield of philosophy exploring ethics and aesthetics
Not a term used in this course
Philosophy is the exploration of the
Think of this in terms of
Good = Ethics
True = Epistemology
Beautiful = Aesthetics
Challenged by Socrates
Claimed to be experts on the topics of goodness, truth, and beauty
Charged for their instruction
Taught verbal debate
Said to be clever but not wise
A term of derision and usually refers to educated people who try to win arguments without really caring about the truth of the matter.
Didn’t charge for instruction
Claimed to only have questions
Must look at Plato’s writings to understand
Plato’s dialogues show Socrates challenging those who claimed to teach wisdom
It is unlikely to find a clear thesis
Go with the ride and pay attention to Socrates’ challenge to unfounded authority
What can be learned from Socratic Method
Socrates and Plato use dialog to find truth from the mind through conversation/dialectical process
Compared to a gadfly
Gadflies irritate horses causing them to gallop
Socrates irritated and spurned society to ask important questions
Compared to torpedo fish
Torpedo fish shocks predators as defense
Socrates shocked those who claimed to be wise
philosophy for Socrates involved either stirring someone to move away from falsehood (like a gadfly) or slowing them down when they were going toward falsehood (like a torpedo fish).
Socrates’ questions irritated and embarrassed too many important Athenians.
He was convicted of
Corrupting the youth
Impiety for challenging teachings of the gods
He viewed death as liberation from bodage
He cared about the stability of Athens and respected its political structures.
Because of this he drank hemlock tea instead of allowing his friends to bribe guards and save him from prison
Some thought he’d go to heaven
Unclear how much portrays Socrates original thoughts and how much is Plato’s thoughts
Socrates, in the dialog called the Meno, shows how a slave boy has innate knowledge of geometry. If this is true, he argues, there might be other innate ideas that need only to be coaxed out of a mind by an artful teacher. This leads to several important Platonic concepts.
Key Contours of Platonism
Logical deduction from general principles to particular cases is most important for philosophical thinking.
Mathematics is an important foundation for philosophy.
Opinions are unreliable
Ideas possess more reality than appearances.
Philosophy is important for engineering the state and vital for a properly governed society.
This belief caused him to be skeptical of Democracy
Sin affects our ability to know the truth with certainty, using our own minds.
Luther called reason “the devil’s whore” because, when we get too arrogant about our ability to arrive at philosophical certainty, it leads us to think we can understand how God runs things.
Philosophy is the root of heresy
You might already see the reason the history of philosophy is sometimes described as a footnote to Plato
Even when thinkers disagreed with Plato, they were responding to his initial questions and key themes
Further Reading: Primary Sources
Further Reading: Secondary Sources
Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Vol. 1: Greece and Rome From the Pre-Socratics to Plotinus (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1993).