Answer 1 - from: Susan Troxel Susan112@aol.com
Descartes: Internet research: (brevity now goes out the window..) http://swift.eng.ox.ac.uk/jdr/desc.html Cartesian Philosophy Descartes adopted the strategy of withholding his belief from anything that was not entirely certain and indubitable. To test which of his previous beliefs could meet these conditions, he subjected them to a series of skeptical hypotheses. For example, he asked himself whether he could be certain he was not dreaming. His most powerful skeptical hypothesis, that there is an evil genius trying to deceive him, challenges not only the belief that the physical world exists, but also belief in simple statements of fact, and thus would seem to call into question the validity of reason itself. But not even an evil genius could deceive someone into believing falsely that he existed. "I think, therefore I am" is thus beyond skeptical doubt. From this Archimedean point, "I think, therefore I am," Descartes attempted to regain the world called into doubt by his skeptical hypotheses. His solution to the problem was rejected by later generations, however, and philosophers have been struggling with skepticism especially skepticism about the existence of the physical world ever since. Descartes is known as the father of the mind-body problem. He claimed that human beings are composites of two kinds of substances, mind and body. A mind is a conscious or thinking being, that is, it understands, wills, senses, and imagines. A body is a being extended in length, width, and breadth. Minds are indivisible, whereas bodies are infinitely divisible. The "I" of the "I think, therefore I am" is the mind and can exist without being extended, so that it can in principle survive the death of the body. Despite having different natures, Descartes thought that mind and body causally interact. The human mind causes motions in the bodies by moving a small part of the brain. Motions in that same part of the brain produce sensations and emotions. This problem of whether mental entities are different in nature from physical entities continues to be a primary concern of philosophers and psychologists. Descartes argued that bodies differ from how they appear through senses. Colors, sounds, tastes, smells, heat, and cold are merely sensations existing in thought, and there is nothing in bodies that resembles them, just as there is nothing in bodies that resembles our sensation of pain. Instead the properties of bodies are those which are capable of being quantified, namely, extension and its modes, shape, size, and motion. He denied the existence of a vacuum, because what one would be inclined to call empty space meets his definition of body in virtue of being extended in three dimensions. All the phenomena in the created world external to human beings, such as gravity, magnetism, and the cohesion of bodies, as well as the complex functioning of living organisms including human bodies, he believed could be explained solely by mechanistic physics, that is, by the motions and collisions of bodies. He even denied that consciousness must be attributed to animals in order to explain their behavior. Although his laws of impact, his vortex theory of gravity, and his denial of a vacuum were rejected as physics developed, he deserves credit for one of the first formulations of the law of inertia, which he justified by appeal to the immutability of God. In mathematics Descartes is famous for the unification of algebra and geometry, marked by the use of what are now known as Cartesian coordinates. He influenced not only the rationalist thinkers who were his immediate followers, but also the whole course of modern philosophical enquiry, and the Cartesian quest for certainty gave epistemology the central place in philosophical thought it has maintained to this day. My thoughts: Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am!". I find this to be egocentric and an incomplete view of the world. Would you not also "be" if you were a vegetable and could no longer think? I think we inhabit a definite reality..not some dream of a worm in a hole on some far off planet (have you heard that worm comment before?). Therefore defining our existence in this reality goes beyond the mere mental and into all aspects of our being: mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, all the way to species, evolution, community, nature etc. Dealing with the pieces and parts is deceptive, whether it be the pieces and parts of body-mind-spirit or of ecosystems. His skepticism is necessary, but he carries it too far via his view of everything as separate and only causally related to the other parts. Causal (Jungian?) relationships, I think are what shows to the "rational" western mind.. the "symptom" that everything's connected. I understand the train of thought that he goes through... But why do I understand this? Is skepticism and separateness and breaking things up into pieces and parts for analysis part of a biological or a social function or both? Both, I imagine. We need the skills involved to survive (i.e.. which bit of fruit is edible and which is poison), and western society has developed toward individualism as v. community. Marx: Internet research: http://swift.eng.ox.ac.uk/jdr/marx.html [In] 1843 [Marx] left for Paris with his bride, Jenny von Westphalen. There he went further in his criticism of society, building on the Young Hegelian criticism of religion. Ludwig Feuerbach had written a book called The Essence of Christianity (1841; Eng. trans., 1854), arguing that God had been invented by humans as a projection of their own ideals. Feuerbach wrote that man, however, in creating God in his own image, had "alienated himself from himself." He had created another being in contrast to himself, reducing himself to a lowly, evil creature who needed both church and government to guide and control him. If religion were abolished, Feuerbach claimed, human beings would overcome their alienation. Marx applied this idea of alienation to private property, which he said caused humans to work only for themselves, not for the good of their species. My thoughts: Marx said, "Religion is the opium of the masses." He's correct from the limited perspective he was working from. So many people (myself formerly -?- included) follow their respective religions with no further thought than what is given them to think...they have great difficulty going beyond the nine dots, so to speak, and are satisfied with the answers about life that are provided by rote and dogma. Of course there's more to the story than that, because religion can also be a function of spirituality rather than just a structure. "All history is class struggle".. once again a limited view. Patriarchal history is mostly about struggle, I'll agree. But that is history in it's broadest strokes, the movements and progress/regress of societies and politics and technology etc. I tend to focus more on people than on movements/politics in my most basic philosophical thinking, so this approach holds less value for me. It's important, extremely important in dealing with our relationship to society, but it fails to answer the basic questions of why we're here, what's the meaning of life etc. Barry Commoner: Internet research: http://twri.tamu.edu/~twri/twripubs/WtrSavrs/v2n2/article-1.html Biologist and pundit Barry Commoner said: (1) Everything is connected to everything else, and (2) There's no such thing as a free lunch. The original observation applied broadly to the electrical power production, but the water reuse and conservation hand fits the Commoner glove just as snugly. Prevention is the best solution to pollution. (my paraphrased note). My thoughts: I couldn't find a lot and I'm not familiar with Commoner's work, but from the bit I did gather I can agree with him, although the free lunch thing is out of context and I don't know what it relates to specifically. I've heard it bantered around a lot! It seems too cynical to apply broadly. Is it about cause and effect? Going with that assumption, we're looking at either common sense (?) or eco-drama (?)... the sky is falling! The part that interests me is cause and effect from the Karma standpoint... divine justice? What goes around comes around? I like these thoughts better when phrased as the golden rule or the Wiccan rede of "harm none"... It a good but difficult way to live and can be carried to the extreme. I'm more the "moderation in all things" sort myself. Am I making any sense at all here? Jefferson: Internet research: http://pages.prodigy.com/jeffersonian.perspective/jefpco08.htm Natural rights are those rights that are indispensably necessary for man to fulfill his potential on this earth. They are "natural" because they derive from the nature of man and the nature of existence itself. They are, in other words, the conditions that are necessary for a nation of people to realize their birthright. They were postulated in the Declaration of Independence as the foundation of man's existence upon which rightful government is built, and on which such a government must therefore be designed to accommodate. "The principles on which we engaged, of which the charter of our independence is the record, were sanctioned by the laws of our being, and we but obeyed them in pursuing undeviatingly the course they called for. It issued finally in that inestimable state of freedom which alone can ensure to man the enjoyment of his equal rights." --Thomas Jefferson to Georgetown Republicans, 1809. Therefore, the Natural Rights upon which this government is founded is not and was not thought to be a set of abstract theories, but rather a reasoned structure based on the observation of natural man in a natural universe. It was, perhaps, as 'scientific' as philosophy gets, relying as it did for its axioms on observable nature and its requirements, not on abstract ideals of what is the highest good. These foundational rights were described in the Declaration of Independence in these immortal words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." The Declaration of Independence thus listed these rights as the first premise in an argument setting forth the rights of a people to a government that allowed them to live as human beings should live. This means a government that recognizes that the full development of human nature can only occur in a state of freedom enjoyed by all men equally. The very purpose of government was the protection of these rights. "It is to secure our rights that we resort to government at all." --Thomas Jefferson to M. D'Ivernois, 1795. Therefore, it must be recognized that these rights are not given by governments nor by magistrates nor by any other body of men. "A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate." --Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774. They are spoken of as the gift of Nature or of God, since God is conceived as the Author of Nature and the Creator of man. Hence, all men are in their very essence "endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights." The word "inherent" was in Jefferson's original version of the Declaration, but was replaced by Congress with the word "certain." However, "inherent" makes clearer the natural character of these rights. "The God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin them." --Thomas Jefferson: Rights of British America, 1774. Jefferson thought it important that a people realize that their rights were an intrinsic part of their being, hence a natural entitlement. "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?" --Thomas Jefferson: Notes on Va., 1782. Deriving these rights from the very fact of existence is the result of a purely rational process. "Questions of natural right are triable by their conformity with the moral sense and reason of man." --Thomas Jefferson: Opinion, 1793. Thus, when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he reached to the very foundation of man's existence on this earth in order to construct an argument to explain why the colonists found it necessary to declare their independence from Great Britain. In doing so, he also established the moral and rational foundation for American society. Without question, the Declaration of Independence is the greatest political document in the history of man. In referring to God, this view of the foundations of government cannot be said to be derived from sectarian religious dogma. These rights are not the result or an arbitrary divine fiat, with no other evidence for their existence than faith and belief; rather, man as created by God obviously has these rights, and the evidence therefor flows from a reasonable assessment of existence. It is the nature of man as established by the Creator and the self evident truths derived from that fact that form the basis of this political philosophy. There is no religious belief involved, other than, perhaps, the acknowledgment of God as the Creator of the way things are. From that given, everything else is rationally "self-evident." "Man [is] a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights." --Thomas Jefferson to W. Johnson, 1823. "Under the law of nature, all men are born free." --Thomas Jefferson: Legal Argument, 1770. "Questions of natural right are triable by their conformity with the moral sense and reason of man." --Thomas Jefferson: Opinion, 1793. My thoughts: Jefferson said, "All men are created equal." He obviously did a lot of thinking about this, and yet he was a slave owner, and a member of the landed gentry and did not include women or native americans or really anyone except those such as himself in this philosophy. He didn't walk the talk so it's hard for me to look at him as a hero or a genius. This isn't PC, it's humanity! (Sorry, my knee jerked). Anyway... self-evident natural rights... hmmm I disagree. Nature is nature and life simply is. Political rights are not a part of nature. They are a human construct. (And yes, we are a part of nature and I'm doing the separatist thing here... but bear with me). I understand how good the govt./politics are, but from a purely philosophical perspective I struggle with classifying "natural rights". A natural state would seem to be self evident, but self evidence would differ with each "self" so the argument is faulty and based on subjective, individual observation. The best example of this is Jefferson himself applying this set of natural rights to only white, upper class males. Codifying this subjectivity into the Bill of Rights and the Constitution was a great deed. Treating it as the "religion" of secular government is problematic. We continually struggle between conservative and liberal interpretations. I side toward the liberal as you've no doubt guessed! Jesus said, "The poor are with you always." I must say I don't really get it beyond the patriarchal sense of the structure of ancient (and modern) societies. In that sense it is quite depressing. Perhaps it could also speak to a sense a community, i.e.. there will always be someone who needs you or whom you need? George Fraser said- "If you are not being used, could it be that you are useless?" This idea is that everyone has value and is important and that we all have a purpose in the universe, and if we don't discover and do that purpose, it won't get done. And as important as finding that purpose, is the actualization of that purpose beyond the self so that the whole of the community can benefit. It is important to give first, share always, and let the receiving come later. Don't do something for somebody in expectation of receiving rewards for your action(s) immediately, or from that person at all... let yourself be unconditionally used simply with the knowledge (faith) that it will come back to you. Fraser ended his speech with - "We make a living from what we get. We make a life from what we give." (The above, from the quote on, is paraphrased from an Utne conversation). My thoughts: This train of thought shows me personally how far away from a true sense of community we really are in white, middle-class America. It's foreign to me in my individualistic thinking and lifestyle. And it's a very tough nut for me to even want to crack. I like my life, but I know that real participation in a community is lacking for me. The individual vs. the community, the individual in the community... how does it intersect, how is it better, worse or whatever than the current state of my life and most other American lives? Perhaps I value my privacy too much or my own way of pursuing my own goals without community considerations or sacrifice or what have you to really want to answer this. I want the good life, but I also want social justice and I know that every step in that direction is hard fought for to be won. We all have our own interests and pursuits. Choosing your own path and struggles is harder in this day and age of information overload and consumerism and selfishness and even just doing the work-a-day routine with little time left for immediate family much less your "community". If time travel became possible, what if you went back in time and killed your own grandfather? Perhaps my grandmother would re-marry and give birth to me anyway? :) I'm not convinced that time is real and linear enough to have "Back to the Future" timeline disturbances if such a thing as time travel were possible. I'm generally confused about time as a philosophical concept... It's seemingly There, but yet it's also something we've made up. As to killing a relative, I'm more of a believer in reincarnation and that physical birth and death is not the end all and be all of existence, so killing a relative would only mean that you'd go to be with someone else in another reincarnation. There's so much to learn and be and do in life that one lifetime seems inadequate to really gain the experience of life that we yearn for. I guess I have a sort of personal/new-age/indigenous/etc. spirituality that allows for these things. I think that humans are spiritually powerful beings but that we don't realize it to it's full extent. I believe we're all connected and that life is the one big thing that is that connection and that life includes death and change and good and bad and everything. Life is "god". It's all there, we're all "it". It's immanent and transcendent. It encompasses all. Again, am I making sense? Shakespeare: Internet research: Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. II.ii.55: What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, II.ii.56: Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part II.ii.57: Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! II.ii.58: What's in a name? that which we call a rose II.ii.59: By any other name would smell as sweet; II.ii.60: So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, II.ii.61: Retain that dear perfection which he owes II.ii.62: Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name, II.iv.295: see a toad, a very toad, as see him. I anger her II.iv.296: sometimes and tell her that Paris is the properer II.iv.297: man; but, I'll warrant you, when I say so, she looks II.iv.298: as pale as any clout in the versal world. Doth not II.iv.299: rosemary and Romeo begin both with a letter? My thoughts: Shakespeare: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. - I always thought of this as a semantics sort of a quote. It's seems you can delve off into matters of language and definition and usage but it turns out to be more of a stumbling block than anything. I try to use language as simply a tool, rephrasing or somehow blundering through to some level of understanding when I hit snags. The power of language, however, is undeniable. Nothing can move me so much as lyrics with music or good stories or poetry... There's also Native wisdom also about the power of knowing something's name. You never tell your secret name, your spiritual name. Names have power, but again it's a construct of humanity.
http://ivory.lm.com/~mundie/DDHC/DDH.html The Ten Classes 000 Generalities 100 Philosophy and Psychology 200 Religion 300 Social Science 400 Language 500 Science 600 Technology 700 Arts and Entertainment 800 Literature 900 Geography & History Seems to encompass all of the human endeavor doesn't it? Classify, name, define. This takes up so much of our time! One thing that this does is block our experience. How many times have we been distracted from the pure beauty and enjoyment of looking at a bird by trying to think of the name of that bird.... (tree, flower, plant, animal etc.). I think of this sometimes as I go about my work. Forest inventory is a good example. I'm out there tromping about in the woods, getting a gut sense of what's going on/has gone on... but yet the measuring and classifying and number crunching and identifying and analyzing must go on. The result usually matches up with my gut sense, when it doesn't, I wonder about those numbers! I guess I'm not much of a scientist! Oh well, it's an art and science so I've been told. ;)
Fog by Carl Sandburg The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.I think this is a very simple and lovely poem about thoughful observation and relating it emotionally and physcially to people through mere words. It's genius is it's simplicity and how it triggers that "lightbulb" in people..."Yes! I know exactly what he means, but I never thought of it that way before!" Fog as a cat...how perfect! Um, I need to summarize the plot.. The fog rolls in, the fog rolls out. ;)
Comments from Duane:
Yes, but Carl Sandburg uses abstract symbols, words, to elicit a set of memories, feelings and emotions in the reader. You say "lightbulb" and "I know exactly what he means." My question is "How do you know that the feeling and emotions you experience on reading this are the same as the ones the author experienced or the same as other readers might experience?"
I might argue that they cannot be exactly the same because each person's life experiences and interpretation of various words is somewhat different. This goes to the question of how perfectly can abstract words express reality?
Also, to what extent do we feel the poem is beautiful because we feel that Carl Sandburg has done a much better job in using words to express a reality than others might? Is the beauty of the poem because of the beauty of the feelings expressed or because of the author's skill with language?
I can say "The fog drifts slowly and silently over harbor and city." and express the same idea that Sandburg does, but my words do not have the beauty of his. Why?
Introduction - Lesson 1
Last revised March 29, 1998.
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