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philosophical method



"what is philosophy" handout

  • philosophy is concerned with..
  1. pursuit of truth, understanding, and the good life through
    • (well represented in our readings by Plato's depiction of Socrates)
  2. reflection: often personal.
    • the examination of one's thoughts, desires, values, emotions, and likes)
  3. the development of reason or theories
  4. careful analysis
  • commitment to reason and argument as a source of knowledge (or justification for people to believe)


reflective deliberation



"what is philosophy" handout

  • examination of one's position in the world
    • their thoughts, desires, values, emotions, and the like.
  • done with a critical eye


arguments: premises, conclusions, validity, and soundness



"what is philosophy" handout

  • philosophers often provide arguments and theories in order to provide reasons for belief or to enhance understanding.
  • the arguments should offer premises in support of come conclusion, and they should also be true.
  • the model of a good argument is a deductively sound argument.
  • philosophers also want reasons. they value reason as good means to true belief.


conceptual analysis



"what is philosophy" handout

the careful scrutiny of fundamental concepts such as virtue, knowledge, existence, etc.


value of philosophy


"what is philosophy" handout

  • helps with understanding the human condition
    • what it means to be human in terms of the mind
    • what it is to be a person
    • the nature and limits of human knowledge
    • our responsibility for and control of human action, as well as value questions
  • a guide to life
    • philosophers often give rather specific advice as to how one should handle particular situations and how to be happy, successful, or moral
  • proto-science
    • can provide "big picture" perspective to challenge assumptions that are foundational for some scientific discipline
    • various phil. subfields relate to specific sciences
  • puzzle making and problem solving
    • well-known for raising puzzles and questions; typically more questions than answers
  • skills development
    • phil. is an activity that develops skills that are valuable in a variety of contexts
    • emphasizes the development of good reasoning and analytical skills
    • stresses clarity of thought and expression
    • involves open-mindedness
    • encourages creative thinking


the ship-owner story (and others)



  • owner is about to send off emigrant-ship
    • many unhappy families were leaving to seek better lives elsewhere
  • ship is old- not built well to begin with and needed many repairs.
    • the owner knew this, and debated repairing it. since it was expensive to do so, he decided against it.
  • he ignored the obvious, and knowingly/willingly convinced himself that it was safe enough to travel
  • the owner sent the ship anyway and it sunk
    • he received insurance money when it sunk, and it “told no tales"
  • he talked himself into believing something that wasn't okay
    • ex. drinking and driving and not wrecking- it is wrong but you received no consequences


evidential and non-evidential reasons for belief




  • evidential:
    • prudential
      • strictest form of evidentialism
      • claims that the source of value is always believing on sufficient evidence
    • moral 
      • moral rightness and wrongness is analyzed in many different ways
        • a moral Evidentialist will presumably either…
        • adopt one of those analyses and develop her position accordingly
        • or show that the ethics of belief swings free of debates between deontologists, consequentialists, virtue theorists, and the like
    • epistemic
      • most influential and wide-spread variety
      • central thesis of is that the norms of evidence governing belief are somehow based in the nature and aims of theoretical reason itself
  • non-evidential:
    • practical
      • If, for instance, there is no sufficient evidence one way or the other for a certain proposition p, and if one has set a moral end that requires one to take a stand on the truth of p, and if any evidence that one does have points in the direction of the truth of p, then one is permitted (and sometimes even required) to take p to be true
      • justified on moral rather than theoretical grounds, and it counts as belief or acceptance rather than knowledge
    • conservative
      • the view that one is prima facie justified in believing that p if in fact one does believe that p 
    • fideistic
      • doesn’t have anything to do with religious doctrine in particular.
      • Believe that we can legitimately hold propositions on faith without having any evidence for them, without feeling impelled towards them, and even in the face of strong evidence against them


"ethics of belief" and the ship-owner's guilt



  • ethics of belief:
    • a cluster of questions at the intersection of epistemology, ethics, philosophy of mind, and psychology
    • central question: whether there are norms of some sort governing our habits of belief-formation, belief-maintenance, and belief-relinquishment
    • related questions have to do with the nature and structure of the norms involved, if any, as well as the source of their authority
    • assuming that there are norms of some sort governing belief-formation, what does that imply about the nature of being?
  • The ship-owner is “equally guilty- equally blameworthy- for believing something on insufficient evidence”


the irrelevance of actual (as opposed to expected) outcomes, truth/falsity, and sincerity



  • ******
  • he knew that the ship was not safe for travel (it had "seen many seas and climbs"), and others knew it too.
    • there were obvious safety issues with the boat.
  • he genuinely convinced himself that it was safe, and expected it to survive its voyage but it did not.


the importance of belief



1. there is a tight connection between belief and action. if you believe something, you will act on it.

2. every belief could matter and has an effect

3. beliefs are not private






in the story: ignoring the available evidence and believing something because you want to believe it


Clifford's rules for belief



  • “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe anything on insufficient evidence”

  • “It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to ignore evidence that is relevant to his beliefs, or to dismiss relevant evidence in a facile way”

  • Clifford thinks "why should religion be any different than anything else?"
    • he thinks it makes you credulous (gullible)


the dangers of credulity






Plato, Socrates, and Athens background

  • Plato
    • Had his own school
    • Taught Aristotle
  • Socrates
    • everything that we know about him was written by other people
    • sometimes thought to be a Sophist because he argued/debated with people and talked about virtue/virtue related topics
    • differences between him and sophist
      • he wasn’t a teacher and wasn’t paid
      • sophists valued rhetoric/reason
      • didn’t claim to have knowledge of virtue in particular/not able to teach it
    • he despised the influence of rhetoric
      • thought it was perverted and had a bad impact
    • ex. someone who is guilty should be found guilty.
      • Since we are vulnerable to persuasion, someone could just get off
    • ex. advertisements, sales, etc.
      • thought that it was perverse, that it would use our vulnerabilities to get us to buy things that we do not need
  • Athens



the Socratic Method



  • method of teaching.
  • the teacher doesn't lecture the student.
    • they ask a series of guided questions that get the student to answer the question on their own.
  • it contrasts to lecturing.
  • some subjects cannot be taught this way, but a lot of subjects can be.
  • socrates does not think of this as a form of teaching


Socratic Irony



statement that entices others to challenge the statement a pose of ignorance


the Sophists



  • teach rhetoric and virtue; wanted children to be good, upstanding citizens
  • claimed not able to teach virtue


What is piety?


Plato: "Euthyphro"

the quality of being religious or reverent


fEuthyphro's proposed definitions of piety and Socrates's responses


Plato: "Euthyphro"

  • E: "holiness is persecuting religious offenders"
    • S: finds this unsatisfying since there are many holy deeds aside from that of prosecuting offenders
  • E: "holiness is kind of a justice, specifically a kind which is concerned with looking after the gods"
    • S: is confused because surely the gods are omnipotent and do not need to be looked over
  • E: "holiness is a kind of trading with the gods, where we give them sacrifice and they grant our prayers. our sacrifices do not help them in any way but simply gratify the gods."
    • S: points out that holiness is gratifying the gods.


wwmthe Euthyphro Dilemma


Plato: "Euthyphro"

Socrates asks Euthyphro, “Do the gods love the pious because it is pious, or is the pious such because the gods love it?”


3divine command theory


Plato: "Euthyphro"

  • the view that morality is somehow dependent upon God &…
  • that moral obligation consists in obedience to God’s commands


Can virtue be taught?


Plato: "Meno"

  • the entire text is a dialogue between meno and socrates; meno asks socrates if virtue can be taught
  • by the end of the passage, neither of them men know what virtue is, but they at least know that they do not know what it is
  • it can be taught? Just not defined


Meno's accounts of virtue and Socrates's responses


Plato: "Meno"

  • meno thinks that courage is a virtue, moderation, wisdom, justice
  • meno works through a series of possible definitions of virtue, and socrates dismantles them all


Socrates on desiring the good


Plato: "Meno"

  • Socrates suggests that we acquire knowledge of what is good in order to know that the actions we perform are actually good, not only just good to us
  • Plato does not suggest in any way punishing anyone, since everyone desires the good.
    • We should keep in mind that we are all alike in that aspect, but we should still hold people accountable for their actions


Meno's paradox


Plato: "Meno"

  • "if you do not know something already, it is impossible to learn it?"
  • how can you search for something if you do not know what you are searching for? and how can you ever be confident that you found it?


socrates's recollection theory of learning/the interaction with the slave-boy (geometry example)


Plato: "Meno"

  • Socrates asked one of Meno’s slaves some questions about how to double the area of the square ABCD
  • The boy was uneducated but finds the answer with the help of Socrates’ questioning    
  • This episode of questioning and answering is referred to as Socrates’s recollection theory of learning
    • Used it to show that the “What is virtue?” question is unanswerable and that Meno should stop advancing arguments


Is virtue a type of knowledge, like mathematical knowledge or knowledge of horse-breeding?

Plato: "Meno"

  • Socrates proposes: if virtue is a kind of knowledge, then it can be taught (and if it is not, it cannot).
  • They continue to go back and forth with different opinions then…
  • Meno, remembering the two hypotheses proposed by Socrates, happily concludes that, since virtue is knowledge, people must learn it by being taught, and the Sophists are the teachers


Who, if anyone, is an expert in virtue/morality?


Plato: "Meno"

Meno was referred to as the expert, but he did not know how to define it? sparknotes


four major themes


Plato: "Apology"

1. many mistakenly think that they knwn what they do not know

2. virtue cannot be taught

3. death is not to be feared

4. care of the soul is more important than care of the body


"apology" professes to be a record of the actual speech that Socrates delivered in his defense at the trial


Socrates's responses to the early accusers


Plato: "Apology"

  • Denies all accusations
  • Says that his accusers are of two kinds: old and recent
    • Many accusers were spoken to about Socrates when they were children, and easily believed what they were told
  • Also says that the men following him around listening to him are wealthy and don’t like what they heard. So they began to start accusations of Socrates corrupting the young
    • “and are silent when asked what exactly it is that Socrates is preaching”


the Oracle at Delphi's claim about Socrates (and Socrates's interpretation of this claim)


Plato: "Apology"

  • Pythenian claimed that no one was wiser than Socrates
  • Socrates says that he is wiser in a sense that he knows his own ignorance (he knows that he knows nothing)
  • He began thinking of the wise men that he knows (republicans, poets, craftsmen), and telling them they were wrong about subjects that they each claimed to know and that he is wiser than them.
    • Claims that this was his service to the gods- to let the “knowledgeable” men know they are not, expose their false wisdom as ignorance
  • This all played a role in his poor reputation and unpopularity
    • Not allowed to participate in public affairs
    • Lived in great poverty


Socrates's responses to the charges of corrupting the youth and not believing the city's gods


Plato: "Apology"

  • After asking him numerous questions, Socrates says that his accuser, Meletus, has never truly been concerned with the youth or their corruption
    • Also that he is “insolent and uncontrolled”
  • Socrates is found guilty and is asked to propose a penalty
    • He jokingly suggests that if he were to get what he deserves, he should be honored with a great meal for being such a service to the state
  • He rejects prison and exile, offering to pay a fine instead
  • He is sentenced to death, he accepts the penalty
    • Says that no one but the gods knows what happens after death, and that it would be foolish to fear the unknown


Socrates on the care of the soul vs. the care of the body


Plato: "Apology"

care of the soul is more important than care of the body


Socrates's views on death



Plato: "Apology"

death is not to be feared


Socrates on the examined life


Plato: "Apology"

  • “the unexamined life is not worth living”
    • Claims that only in striving to come to know ourselves and to understand ourselves do our lives have any meaning or value
    • Simpler: To understand what you are living for is more important than actually living


Socrate's "divine or spiritual sign"


Plato: "Apology"

  • Socrates spoke of a daimonion signal that came to him.
  • Daimonion= divine


Socrates's dream


Plato: "Crito"

  • He dreamt that he saw a beautiful woman in white robes.
    • She, quoting the Illiad, said “To the pleasant land of Phthia on the third day thou shalt come”
  • While Crito expresses puzzlement at this dream, the meaning, to Socrates, is quite clear: he will not die for another three days
  • He is to be executed the day after the expedition returns, the boat cannot possibly return until at least tomorrow.


Crito's three arguments for escape Plato: "Crito"

1. it is unjust to hasten your death

2. he's abandoning his sons, leaving them without a father

3. people will think that his friends are cowards


Socrates on the opinions of the majority and the opinions of experts


Plato: "Crito"

  • If we blindly accept the majority opinion on matters of justice, we are likely to do great damage to our spiritual/mental/moral well-being.
  • If we accept the wise or knowledgeable person’s opinion, we are likely to live a just and honorable life.
  • Therefore we shouldn’t pay attention to the opinion of the majority, but only those who are wise and knowledgeable.


Socrates's argument that escaping would be unjust/ the speech by the laws and the state/ the state of nature, the social contract, and civil disobedience


Plato: "Crito"

  • explains why it would be unjust for him to leave his cell
  • Since the laws break as one entity, if you break one, you break all of them- causing Socrates great harm if he does escape
  • Says that the citizen is bound to the laws like a child is bound to a parent, and that going against the Laws would be like striking a parent.
  • Rather than escaping, Socrates should try to persuade the Laws to let him go- and the Laws present the citizen’s duty to them in the form of a social contract
    • By choosing to live in Athens, a citizen is to abide by the Laws- socrates especially because he has happily lived there for seventy years
  • If he were to escape, he would validate the contract, and become an outlaw who would not be welcomed in any other civilized state for the rest of his life
    • And when he dies, he would be harshly judged by the underworld


Prisoner's Dilemma situations


Plato: "Crito"

  • where two individuals, acting in their own self-interest, pursue a course of action that does not result in the ideal outcome.
  • typical prisoner's dilemma is set up in such a way that both parties choose to protect themselves at the expense of the other participant


Socrates's obligations to Athens


Plato: "Crito"

  • The laws claim to have played a large role in the shaping of Socrates, and remind him of how important their relationship is
    • His parents were married and gave birth to him
    • Provided his upbringing and education
    • Ensured that he received adequate training in music and gymnastics
  • The Laws suggest to Socrates that their relationship is similar to that of a father with his son or a master with his slave
    • The son or slave has no right to retaliate and is punished for wrongdoings
    • And should certainly not destroy his father or master to try and protect himself
  • The Laws also suggest that one's ties to one's country are even stronger than one's ties to one's family, and so it is even more important to respect the judgments of the Laws.
    • Just as one should be willing to suffer and die for one's country in battle rather than flee to save oneself, one should also be willing to suffer and die according to the Laws rather than to destroy them by trying to save oneself.


Socrates on returning mistreatment for mistreatment


Plato: "Crito"


  • To return evil for evil may be in harmony with the morality of the many, but as he has indicated before, public opinion when not supported by good reasons is never a safe guide to follow.
  • if he goes forth returning evil for evil, and injury for injury, breaking the covenants and agreements he has made, the citizens of the state, including his own friends, will despise him and look upon him as an enemy who has done his best to destroy them.
  • All of this, Socrates tells Crito, is the voice that he seems to hear murmuring in his ears and that prevents him from hearing anything else.
  • Socrates asks that he be allowed to follow the imitations of God


basic and non-basic beliefs (axioms and theorems)


Descartes: "Meditations 1 & 2"

  • axioms
    • “self-evident”
    • cannot be false, are absolutely certain
  • theorems
    • follow from axioms
    • follow by pure logic, inherit certainty


the project of radical doubt


Descartes: "Meditations 1 & 2"

  • Used to discover the foundations of knowledge
  • For any proposition, consider if there is any way to put it in some doubt
  • The method is applied to classes of beliefs
    • (ex. beliefs formed by perception, or memory, or etc.)
  • An indubitable proposition is one that passes
  • Descartes’s test: it cannot be put into doubt
  • A posteriori beliefs
  • Dreaming, hallucination and illusion give reasons for putting such beliefs into doubt


three reasons for skepticism


Descartes: "Meditations 1 & 2"

  • perceptual illusion
    • Testimony of the senses with respect to any judgement about the external world may turn out to be mistaken
    • Things are always just as they seem at first glance; we should never wholly trust in the truth of what we perceive
  •  The Dream Problem
    • More systematic method for doubting the legitimacy of all sensory perception
    • “Since the most realistic dreams are internally indistinguishable from waking experience, it is possible that everything I now ‘perceive’ to be part of the physical world outside me is nothing more than a fabrication of my own imagination”
    • It is possible to doubt that any physical thing really exists, that there is an external world at all
  • A Deceiving God
    • “What if (as religion teaches) there is an omnipotent god, but that deity devotes its full attention to deceiving me?”
    • Descartes says that whenever he begins to/has believed something, the deceiver could change the world to render his belief false
    • With this, it seems possible to doubt the truth of absolutely anything I might come to believe.
    • Descartes offered two alternative versions of the hypothetical doubt for the benefit of those who might take offense at even a counter-factual suggestion of impiety.


two radically skeptical hypotheses


Descartes: "Meditations 1 & 2"

  • I Am, I Exist
    • Descartes claimed that one thing emerges as true even under the strict conditions imposed by the otherwise universal doubt: "I am, I exist" is necessarily true whenever the thought occurs to me. (Med. II) This truth neither derives from sensory information nor depends upon the reality of an external world, and I would have to exist even if I were systematically deceived. For even an omnipotent god could not cause it to be true, at one and the same time, both that I am deceived and that I do not exist. If I am deceived, then at least I am.
    • Skepticism is thereby defeated, according to Descartes.
      • No matter how many skeptical challenges are raised there is at least one fragment of genuine human knowledge: my perfect certainty of my own existence
  • I Am a Thinking Thing
    • “If I know that I am, I must also know what I am”
      • an understanding of my true nature must be contained implicitly in the content of my awareness.
    • “What I really am is a mind or soul.”
      • So completely am I identified with my conscious awareness, Descartes claimed, that if I were to stop thinking altogether, it would follow that I no longer existed at all.
    • At this point, nothing else about human nature can be determined with such perfect certainty.


The Cogito



Descartes: "Meditations 1 & 2"

  •  cogito= cogito ergo sum= “I think, therefore I am”
    • Possibly the most famous single line in all of philosophy
    • In it, the Meditator finds his first grip on certainty after the radical skepticism he posited in the First Meditation.
  • The cogito presents a picture of the world and of knowledge in which the mind is something that can know itself better than it can know anything else.
  • In this conception, the mind ceases to be something that helps us know about the world and becomes something inside which we are locked.


Descartes's alleged essence as a thinking thing, and objections


Descartes: "Meditations 1 & 2"

  • Descartes argued that sensory appearances actually provide no reliable knowledge of the external world.
  • If I hold a piece of beeswax while approaching the fire, all of the qualities it presents to my senses change dramatically while the wax itself remains.
  • It follows that the impressions of sense are unreliable guides even to the nature of bodies


the piece of wax


Descartes: "Meditations 1 & 2"

  • the mediator first considers what he can know about the piece of wax by means of the senses
    • its taste, smell, color, shape, size, hardness, etc.
  • The Meditator then asks what happens when the piece of wax is put near a fire and melts.
    • All of these sensible qualities change, but the same piece of wax still remains.
    • Our knowledge that the solid piece of wax and the melted piece of wax are the same cannot come through the senses since all of its sensible properties have changed.
  • The Meditator considers what he can know about the piece of wax, and concludes that he can know only that it is extended, flexible, and changeable.
  • He does not come to know this through the senses, and realizes that it is impossible that he comes to know the wax by means of the imagination
    • the wax can change into an infinite number of different shapes and he cannot run through all these shapes in his imagination.
  • Instead, he concludes, he knows the wax by means of the intellect alone.
    • His mental perception of it can either be imperfect and confused or it can be clear and distinct



reason and sensation as sources of knowledge


Descartes: "Meditations 1 & 2"



primary and secondary qualities


Descartes: "Meditations 1 & 2"



Hume's project


Hume: "Enquiry, 2-3"

  • his empirical method at work
  • he begins to look inward and observe his own mental processes, and then brings about three important distinctions
    • 1. the distinction between ideas and impressions
      • he identifies the full importance of this distinction
      • empirical mindset says that all knowledge comes from experience
      • for hume, this would suggest that all knowledge comes from impressions, so ideas are set up as secondary to impressions
    • 2. the distinction between simple and complex impressions or ideas
      • a simple impression might see the color red, while a complex impression might see the totality of what I see right now
      • complex ideas and impressions are compounded out of the simple ones
    • 3. the three principles of association
      •  resemblance, continuity in time or place, cause and effect
      • these three laws of association might be seen as equivalent to Newton's three laws of motion
      • hoped to have described fully the dynamics of the mind
  • with the first two distinctions, he created a hierarchy of mental phenomena
    • because the complex is compounded out of simple and ideas are derived from impressions- everything in our mind is based ultimately upon simple impressions.
  • a complex idea is compounded out of several simple ideas, which are derived from several corresponding simple impressions. he suggests that a term can only have meaning if it can be connected to an idea- that can then be associated with simple impressions.
    • implying that every term must be connected with some idea


ideas, impressions, and imagination


Hume: "Enquiry, 2-3"

  • impressions:
    • lively and vivid perceptions
      • ex. color red and feeling angry
    • clearly defined, we are not likely to fall into error with respect to them
    • since all ideas are derived from impressions, a term that is not connected to any impression is meaningless
  • ideas -
    • drawn from memory, or the imagination, and are thus, less lively and livid -
    • what arise when we reflect upon our impressions •
      • ex. the memory of seeing the color red or a thought about anger
    • faint, obscure, easily confounded with other ideas all ideas are linked to other ideas imagination
    • consists merely of a complex of ideas
      • ex. if we imagine a gold mountain, compounding the idea of gold with our idea of a mountain


liveliness and vivacity


Hume: "Enquiry, 2-3"



limits on imagination and thought


Hume: "Enquiry, 2-3"

  • *imagination is limited to those ideas of which we had impressions
    • ex. a blind man is unable to imagine colors, a deaf man to imagine sounds, or a mild-mannered man to imagine cruelty*


simple and complex ideas, and their connections to impressions


Hume: "Enquiry, 2-3"

  • simple: derived from simple impressions
  • complex: all complex ideas are compounded out of simple ideas


Hume's two arguments for the conclusion that all ideas are derived from impressions


Hume: "Enquiry, 2-3"

1. all complex ideas are compounded out of simple ideas, which are in turn derived from simple impressions -

  • ex. our idea of God as supremely good and intelligent comes from taking our simple ideas of human goodness and intelligence and augmenting them without limit.

2. our imagination is limited to those ideas of which we have had impressions.

  • ex. a blind man is unable to imagine colors, a deaf man to imagine sounds, or a mild-mannered man to imagine cruelty.


the missing shade of blue objection


Hume: "Enquiry, 2-3"

  • one objection to his distinction
  • I can imagine certain colors without ever having perceived them.
    • Ex. if I have seen several shades of blue, I might be able to imagine some other shade of blue that falls between them.
  • Though he has no answer to this objection, he remarks that the counter-example is so singular that is does not upset his general maxim.


the three principles of association amongst ideas


Hume: "Enquiry, 2-3"

  • resemblance
    • where a picture of a tree might make us think of the tree
  • contiguity in time or place
    • where mention of one apartment might lead us to discuss others
  •  cause and effect
    • where the thought of a wound makes us think of the pain that follows from it
  • admits that he has no reason for laying out only these three principles except that he cannot think of any others that would be needed.
    • For instance, association by means of contrast or contrariety can be seen as a combination of resemblance and causation


Empiricism and Rationalism


Hume: "Enquiry, 4-5"

  • There are two different paths of knowledge: reasons and sensation,
    • philosophers can be extinguished according to how much weight they give to each source of knowledge. That distinction is the difference between empiricism and rationalism-and how much can be known just by pure reason.
  • Empiricism
    • Believe that all substantive knowledge (all knowledge beyond math and logic) can be known only a posteriori (through experience)
    • “basically means observed, experienced”
    • Believe in tabula rosa/”blank slate”- that we are not born with knowledge of matters of fact.
    • That knowledge must be acquired through experiences
    • Hume is empiricist
  • Rationalism
    • Contrast of empiricists
    • Believe that there is some substantive knowledge (knowledge beyond math and logic) that can be known a priori, by pure reason
    • They do NOT think that all knowledge can be known a priori
    • Plato and Decartes were rationalists


matters of fact and relations of ideas


Hume: "Enquiry, 4-5"

  • corresponds with distinctions of a priori and a posteriori
  • two different kinds of knowledge
  • “all the objects of human reason or inquiry may naturally be divided into these two kinds”
  • relations of ideas
    • a priori; can be known as “necessary truths” and “certainty”*
      • necessary truths: something that is not only true but it can also be false (ex. truths of arithmetic)
    • science, algebra, and arithmetic
    • mathematical truths are roi
    • ex. Pythagorean theorem
      • propositions of this kind are discoverable by pure reason/pure thought. You don’t need experiences, or impressions
  • matters of fact
    • contrasts with relations of ideas
    • most knowledges are matters of fact
    • a posteriori
      • contingent, rather than necessary
      • improbable, rather than certain
    • ex. the sun will rise in the east tomorrow
      • had to have impressions/experiences to know that
      • there’s a 99.9% chance that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow but it is not absolutely certain



a priori and a posteriori


Hume: "Enquiry, 4-5"

  • a priori: also called “pure reason”
    • prior to things
    • Hume’s a priori terminology: that we don’t need any impressions
    • Main examples of a priori knowledge: math and logic
  • a posteriori
    • Contrasting term for a priori
    • Posterior: after time
    • What can be known only after that experience/through that experience
    • Hume thinks that there isn’t much that can be known a priori, that the bulk of what we know is posteriori (through experience, derived through impressions)


necessary and contingent



Hume: "Enquiry, 4-5"

  • contingent
    • contingent truth: a true proposition that could have been false
    • most things are contingent truth, as opposed to necessary
    • that we even exist is a contingent truth; “the probability that you exist is incredibly small- millions of sperm racing to the egg, 1/1000000 chance that your sperm reaches the egg”
  • necessary


two main claims about casual relations (think: the a priori/a posteriori distinction and a constant conjunction)


Hume: "Enquiry, 4-5"

  • he argues that causal relations cannot be known a priori
    • main point: basically is saying that you need to have observations to have a justified belief about what is going to happen
    • example:
      • billiards: if you’ve never seen two objects collide, what do you think will happen when the que ball hits another ball
      • adam: man is created, not a boy. Has a developed adult brain, so it can reason. He’s in a garden, and has NO prior knowledge, but knows that if he were to walk into the water, he would submerge and die of suffocation
  • causation is merely a constant conjunction
    • constant conjunction= “together/combined”
    • causal relations have many patterns?
    • Ex. two people who attended review session had the two highest grades on the exam
      • The same attribute that causes them to have diligence could also cause them to attend the review session


induction and deduction


Hume: "Enquiry, 4-5"



the Problem of Induction


Hume: "Enquiry, 4-5"

  • very famous puzzle
  • causal relations are patterns that have been observed, but hume says, “even once we have studied a pattern of regularity, theres really no reason to think that those patterns of regularity will continue to hold in the future”


custom/habit vs. reason Hume: "Enquiry, 4-5"



the involuntariness of belief Hume: "Enquiry, 4-5"



reasons for involuntariness (in general) Hume: "Enquiry, 4-5"



free will and determinism


Hume: "Enquiry, 8"

  • free will
    • the ability to choose, think, and act voluntarily
    • for many philosophers- to believe in free will is to believe that human beings can be the authors of their own actions, and to reject the idea that human actions are determined by external conditions or fate
  • determinism
    • believes that all events, including moral choices, are completely determined by previously existing causes
    • is usually understood to preclude free will because it entails that humans cannot act otherwise than they do
    • theory holds that the universe is utterly rational because complete knowledge of any given situation assures that unerring knowledge of its future is also possible


compatibilism and incompatibilism


Hume: "Enquiry, 8"

  • incompatibilism: free will and determinism cannot exist
  • compatibilism: they can live together and they can coexist


verbal disputes



Hume: "Enquiry, 8"

arises when people dispute over words having different meanings


Hume's definitions of 'necessity' and 'liberty'


Hume: "Enquiry, 8"



Hume's examples of necessity in human affairs


Hume: "Enquiry, 8"



Hume's case for compatibilism


Hume: "Enquiry, 8"



testimony vs. sense perception


Hume: "Enquiry, 10"

  • testimony: someone saying that something happened
  • sense perception:


what factors detract from the veracity of testimony?


Hume: "Enquiry, 10"

  • If someone has poor character
    • ex. is a known liar
  • If they have an ulterior motive/ “interest in what they affirm”
    • ex. there’s something in it for them- they can benefit from spreading certain information
  • Manner of delivery
    • ex. if they seem deceptive
  • If there is an opposing testimony/ “derive from human testimony*”
    • ex. contrary testimonies undermine one another- stammering, no eye contact, comes on too strong, too hard to sell their story, denies something too much
  • minority opinion/”number of witnesses”
    • if something is really uncommon, and there are many more people that say otherwise- that cannot just be a coincidence
  • unlikelihood of the event being testified too actually happened in the first place
  • union of all of these circumstances


Explain how the unlikelihood of the reported event can, by itself, provide a reason to lessen belief in the testimony.


Hume: "Enquiry, 10"

He believes that testimony just introduces another factor in which info can be distorted/changed


the definition of "miracle" and its contrast with the merely extraordinary


Hume: "Enquiry, 10"

  • a miracle must be a violation of the laws of nature
  • Hume thinks that miracles are possible
    • In the end, he is going to think that every actual report of a miracle is probably false, but he thinks that it is possible?


Hume's general principle regarding accepting testimony


Hume: "Enquiry, 10"

  • we do not have reason to actually accept reasoning for testimony
  • gives four specific reasons why he does not believe miracles
  • 1. there have not been enough reliable witnesses
  • 2. the number of and the character of the witness
  • 3. people want to spread wondrous news, regardless of its truth
    • claims that most miracles are reported by ignorant and barbarous nations, and are not reported in modern, scientific times (pg. 80)
    • people are primitive, gullible, and superstitious
  • 4. miracles of the different religions mutually undermine one another
    • different religions contradict one another-cannot all be true


Hume's reasons for denying that there has been any accurately reported miracle


Hume: "Enquiry, 10"

  • says if there were actually a large amount of people claiming that something happened, then there would be reason to believe that it did
    • Not just a handful of people
  • pg. 88


Descartes's Epistemological goal and methodology



Descartes: Meditations 1 and 2

  • First, Descartes thought that the Scholastics’ method was prone to doubt given their reliance on sensation as the source for all knowledge.
  • Second, he wanted to replace their final causal model of scientific explanation with the more modern, mechanistic model.Attempted to address the issue via his method of doubt
    • Consider any belief false that falls prey to even the slightest doubt





Descartes: Meditations 1 and 2

  • Core of foundationalism:
    • There are beliefs whose justification is basic
    • all non-basic beliefs ultimately derive their justification from at least one of the existing basic beliefs.





Descartes: Meditations 1 & 2

  •  Descartes was the first to ask how we can claim to know with certainty anything about the world around us
  • The idea is not that these doubts are probable, but that their possibility can never be entirely ruled out. And if we can never be certain, how can we claim to know anything?
  • Skepticism attempts to provide a certain foundation for our knowledge and understanding of the world.