Category Archives: Ancient Philosophy

Consciousness and the Law

In The Philosophical Works and Selected Correspondence of John Locke, Lock discuss how someone perceives one’s self and the idea of “consciousness” and how it relates to one’s existence. One unique aspect of consciousness that Locke discusses is the idea that no matter what some one looks like, or what condition he or she is in, that person is still the same person.  Continue reading

Lies to the Eyes

Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, introduces a thought provoking statement: “We all suppose that what we know is not capable of being otherwise; of things capable of being otherwise we do not know, when they have passed outside our observation, whether they exist or not.” (1139b36-1139b36 p. 1799) Continue reading

Apples and Oranges and Peaches

In Aristotle’s “Metaphysics,” Aristotle’s claims have a lot to do with splitting different forms of knowledge and experience into categories and classes. For example, according to him, animals live by appearances and memories, while humans live by art and reason.  He clearly makes a distinction that while experience is more of an individual mentality, art is something universal because experience, which made of many memories, lead to art. Therefore, art is more knowledgeable than experience since artists can teach. He then proceeds to lay out a hierarchy of who is wiser, which includes the class of inventors.

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Conditions for the Pursuit of Knowledge

In Book One of his Metaphysics Aristotle gives a brief history lesson on the evolution of knowledge.

“Hence when all such inventions were already established, the sciences which do not aim at giving pleasure or at the necessities of life were discovered, and first in the places where men first began to have leisure. This is why the mathematical arts were founded in Egypt; for there the priestly caste was allowed to be at leisure.” (Metaphysics, Book I, p. 1553).

Here he describes a departure from the condition of the “practical,” a condition which he uses to qualify the rest of his intellectual virtues. Even to art Aristotle prescribes a practical pursuit: to bring “into being” or to give pleasure (Nicomachean Ethics p. 1800). In this short passage Aristotle mentions a sort of pointless knowledge, with no utility beyond that of knowing for the sake of knowing, and certain conditions for pursuing this sort of knowledge—leisure. Continue reading

Experience vs. Knowledge

In Book VI of Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle delivers an intriguing example explaining the connection between practical knowledge and experience.

“This is why some who do not know, and especially those who have experience, are more practical than others who know; for if a man knew that light meats are digestible and wholesome, but did not know which sorts of meat are light, he would not produce health, but the man who knows that chicken is wholesome is more likely to produce health” (7, page 1802).

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The Selfishness of Practical Wisdom

In Book Six of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle discusses the different states of the soul in order to achieve virtue. He describes each of them and the components of each. One distinction he made caught my attention. Continue reading

Deliberate Youth

In Book VI, Socrates discusses several different topics such as practical wisdom, art, philosophical wisdom, political wisdom, wisdom, and knowledge, but the topic most intriguing to me is the idea of practical wisdom.  Continue reading

Education: Jack vs. The Renaissance man

In Plato’s Republic Socrates’ character states that people are better off restricting themselves to one craft than practicing many(Republic 370b). He makes several comments of this nature, going so far as to insist that a person should, “stick to [his trade] for life, and keep away from other crafts so as not to miss the opportunities to practise his own craft well”(Republic 374c). Interestingly enough, there is a slightly-more-modern- than-Plato figure of speech which basically sums up the idea that a person with many skills is not necessarily outstanding at any one skill: “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Although the question of many trades versus one was not brought up as part of the education of the guardians(it was only made relevant to the formation of the city), I think it is important to our classroom discussion on education. Should education be broad or focused? Continue reading

Being Good Is a Choice

In Meno, Socrates gives several examples of fathers who worked their hardest to try and teach their sons how to be good. However, the teachings do not work. (Meno, 94a-e) Then, Socrates says that teaching cannot be taught. Well, I disagree. As children are growing up, they pick up habits from their parents and family, who are the principal people that teach them. Whatever children are being taught to do is what they will do unless they choose not to. You see, in my opinion, being good boils down to a choice- whether or not you will follow the habits and teachings of the people closest to you or not.

There are four types of outcomes that people can choose based on the habits of their parents: good habits from parents = good habits from children, bad habits from parents = bad habits from children, good habits from parents = bad habits from children, and finally, bad habits from parents = good habits from children. Parents can teach their children habits that are either good or bad, and children can learn from those habits and decide which habits they want to continue doing for the rest of their life. In society today, there are two different types of stories that are frequently heard. The first is the story about the parents that give their children a fabulous upbringing and are nurturing and caring, and their child(ren) end up making a mess of their life by practicing bad habits. The second is the story about a child who had a rough start in life (like the deadbeat parent, the “always drunk” parent, the abusive parent, or the uncaring/unsupportive parent) and made it a goal to become successful and, by practicing good habits, achieved that goal.

Everything about a person’s character, which determines if they are good or not, depends on the choices that he or she makes. It is not a matter of you not being receptive to good things that causes you to be a bad person, but a matter of if you decide to be receptive to the things that you were taught, whether they be good or bad.

Censorship for the children

In an age in which freedom of expression is revered as an undeniable right, Socrates’ suggestions about education in The Republic seem to violate the basic principles of liberty and freedom. “Then we must first of all, it seems, supervise the storytellers. We’ll select their stories whenever they are fine or beautiful and reject them when they aren’t,”(377c) suggests Socrates. A modern-day person will most certainly brand this as unwarranted censorship. However, I believe that modern-day educators can learn something important from Socrates.

Childhood is a critical period in a person’s development. Values, principles, and habits developed in this period persist throughout a person’s lifetime. According to Socrates, “it’s at that time that it is most malleable and takes on any pattern one wishes to impress on it.”(377b) A child’s moral sense is not fully developed; he or she sometimes cannot distinguish the good from the bad. Consequently, it is completely logical and reasonable to expose children to the good and justice, and deny them access to the bad and evil. With the advent of the Internet, children can easily access billions of webpages, images, and videos. A child can easily pick up any bad habit or principle off the Internet; the opportunities are endless. As a result, carefully censoring the Internet for children is a necessity.

To rid the world of evil, you don’t work with adults who have already developed their values and principles, but with children who are developing theirs. The world would be a much better place if every single child was raised in an environment that promotes justice and goodness.