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PHILOSOPHY 101 FROM PLATO AND SOCRATES TO ETHICS AND METAPHYSICS, AN ESSENTIAL PRIMER ON THE HISTORY OF THOUGHT PAUL KLEINMAN Avon, Massachusetts CONTENTS INTRODUCTION PRE-SOCRATIC SOCRATES (469–399 B.C.) PLATO (429–347 B.C.) EXISTENTIALISM ARISTOTLE (384–322 B.C.) THE SHIP OF THESEUS FRANCIS BACON (1561–1626) THE COW IN THE FIELD DAVID HUME (1711–1776) HEDONISM PRISONER’S DILEMMA ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (1225–1274) HARD DETERMINISM JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU (1712–1778) THE TROLLEY PROBLEM REALISM IMMANUEL KANT (1724–1804) DUALISM UTILITARIANISM JOHN LOCKE (1632–1704) EMPIRICISM VERSUS RATIONALISM GEORG WILHELM FRIEDRICH HEGEL (1770–1831) RENÉ DESCARTES (1596–1650) A-THEORY THE LIAR PARADOX THOMAS HOBBES (1588–1679) PHILOSOPHY OF LANGUAGE METAPHYSICS JEAN-PAUL SARTRE (1905–1980) FREE WILL PHILOSOPHY OF HUMOR THE ENLIGHTENMENT FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE (1844–1900) THE SORITES PARADOX LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN (1889–1951) AESTHETICS PHILOSOPHY OF CULTURE EPISTEMOLOGY TWIN EARTH ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER (1788–1860) KARL MARX (1818–1883) MARTIN HEIDEGGER (1889–1976) VOLTAIRE (1694–1778) RELATIVISM EASTERN PHILOSOPHY AVICENNA (980–1037) BERTRAND RUSSELL (1872–1970) PHENOMENOLOGY NOMINALISM GOTTFRIED WILHELM LEIBNIZ (1646–1716) ETHICS PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE BARUCH SPINOZA (1632–1677) PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION Copyright INTRODUCTION What Is Philosophy? The very question sounds philosophical, doesn’t it? But what exactly does that mean? What is philosophy? The word philosophy means “love of wisdom.” Indeed, it is a love of wisdom that guides philosophers to explore the fundamental questions about who we are and why we’re here. On the surface, philosophy is a social science. But as you read this book, you’ll discover that it is so much more than that. Philosophy touches on every subject you could possibly think of. It’s not just a bunch of old Greek guys asking each other questions over and over again (though it has its fair share of that as well). Philosophy has v; ery real applications; from the ethical questions raised in government policy to the logic forms required in computer programming, everything has its roots in philosophy. Through philosophy, we are able to explore concepts like the meaning of life, knowledge, morality, reality, the existence of God, consciousness, politics, religion, economics, art, linguistics—philosophy has no bounds! In a very broad sense, there are six major themes philosophy touches on: Metaphysics: The study of the universe and reality Logic: How to create a valid argument Epistemology: The study of knowledge and how we acquire knowledge Aesthetics: The study of art and beauty Politics: The study of political rights, government, and the role of citizens Ethics: The study of morality and how one should live his life If you’ve ever thought, “Oh, philosophy. I’ll never be able to understand that stuff,” then fear not. This is the crash course in philosophy that you’ve always wanted. Finally, you’ll be able to open your mind without making your eyes bleed. Welcome to Philosophy 101. PRE-SOCRATIC The origins of Western philosophy The roots of Western philosophy can be found in the work of Greek philosophers during the fifth and sixth centuries. These philosophers, later referred to as pre-Socratic, started to question the world around them. Rather than attributing their surroundings to the Greek gods, these philosophers searched for more rational explanations that could explain the world, the universe, and their existence. This was a philosophy of nature. Pre-Socratic philosophers questioned where everything came from, what everything was created from, how nature could be described mathematically, and how one could explain the existence of plurality in nature. They sought to find a primary principle, known as archê, which was the basic material of the universe. Due to the fact that not everything in the universe looks the same or remains in the same exact state, pre-Socratic philosophers determined that there must be principles of change that the archê contained. WHAT DOES PRE-SOCRATIC MEAN? The term pre-Socratic, meaning “before Socrates,” was popularized in 1903 by German scholar Hermann Diels. Socrates was actually alive during the same time as many of the pre-Socratic philosophers, and therefore the term does not imply that these philosophies existed prior to those of Socrates. Rather, the term pre-Socratic relates to the difference in ideology and principles. While many pre-Socratic philosophers produced texts, none have fully survived and most of what we understand about the pre-Socratic philosophers is based on the fragments of text that remain and the quotes of later historians and philosophers, which were usually biased. IMPORTANT PRE-SOCRATIC SCHOOLS The Milesian School The first pre-Socratic philosophers existed in the city of Miletus, along the western coast of Anatolia (modern Turkey). From Miletus came three important pre-Socratic philosophers: Thales, Anaximander, and Anaximenes. Thales One of the most important pre-Socratic philosophers, Thales (624–546 b.c.), claimed the archê, or the single element, was water. Thales determined that water could experience principles of change like evaporation and condensation, therefore allowing for it to be gaseous or solid. He also knew that water was responsible for moisture (which heat was generated from) and nourishment. Thales even believed the earth floated on water. Anaximander Following Thales, the next major philosopher to come out of Miletus was Anaximander (610–546 b.c.). Unlike Thales, Anaximander claimed the single element was actually an undefined, unlimited, and indefinite substance, known as apeiron. From this, opposites like moist and dry and cold and hot separated from each other. Anaximander is known for being the first philosopher that we know of to have left writings of his work. Anaximenes The last important pre-Socratic philosopher of the Milesian school was Anaximenes (585–528 b.c.), who believed the single element was air. According to Anaximenes, air is everywhere and has the ability to undergo processes and become transformed into other things, such as water, clouds, wind, fire, and even the earth. The Pythagorean School Philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras (570–497 b.c.), perhaps most famous for the Pythagorean theorem named after him, believed that the basis of all reality was mathematical relations and that mathematics governed everything. To Pythagoras, numbers were sacred, and with the use of mathematics, everything could be measured and predicted. The impact and image of Pythagoras was astounding. His school was cult-like, with followers listening to his every word … and even his strange rules, which covered anything from what and what not to eat, how to dress, and even how to urinate. Pythagoras philosophized on many areas, and his students believed that his teachings were the prophecies of the gods. The Ephesian School The Ephesian school was based on the work of one man, Heraclitus of Ephesus (535–475 b.c.). Heraclitus believed that everything in nature is constantly changing, or in a state of flux. He is perhaps most famous for his notion that one cannot step in the same river twice. Heraclitus believed that the single element was fire and that everything was a manifestation of fire. The Eleatic School The Eleatic school was based in Colophon, an ancient city not far from Miletus. From this region came four important pre-Socratic philosophers: Xenophanes, Parmenides, Zeno, and Melissus. Xenophanes of Colophon Xenophanes (570–475 b.c.) is known for his critique of religion and mythology. In particular, he attacked the notion that the gods were anthropomorphic (or took a human form). Xenophanes believed there was one god that, while it did not physically move, had the ability to hear, see, and think, and controlled the world with his thoughts. Parmenides of Elea Parmenides (510–440 b.c.) believed reality didn’t have to do with the world one experienced and that it was only through reason, not the senses, that one would be able to arrive at the truth. Parmenides concluded that the work of earlier Milesian philosophers was not only unintelligible; they were asking the wrong questions to begin with. To Parmenides, it made no sense to discuss what is and what is not, for the only intelligible thing to discuss, and the only thing that is true, is what is (what exists). Parmenides had an incredible impact on Plato and all of Western philosophy. His work led the school of Elea to become the first movement to use pure reason as the only criterion for finding truth. Zeno of Elea Zeno of Elea (490–430 b.c.) was Parmenides’ most famous student (and possibly his lover), who devoted his time to creating arguments (known as paradoxes) that defended Parmenides’ ideas. In Zeno’s most famous paradoxes, the paradoxes of motion, he attempted to show that ontological pluralism, the notion that many things exist as opposed to one, will actually lead to conclusions that are absurd. Parmenides and Zeno believed that reality existed as one thing, and that things like plurality and motion were nothing more than illusions. Though the work of Zeno would later be disproved, his paradoxes still raise important questions, challenges, and inspirations for philosophers, physicists, and mathematicians. Melissus of Samos Melissus of Samos, who lived around 440 b.c., was the last philosopher of the Eleatic school. Continuing the ideas of Parmenides and Zeno of Elea, Melissus of Samos distinguished between is and seems. When a thing is X, according to Melissus of Samos, it has to always be X (and never not X). Therefore, according to this idea, when something is cold, it can never stop being cold. But since this is not the case, and properties are not retained indefinitely, nothing (except for the Parmenidean Real, reality existing as one continuous, unchanging thing) actually ever is; rather, it seems. The Atomist School The Atomist school, started by Leucippus in the fifth century b.c. and passed down by his student, Democritus (460–370 b.c.), believed that every physical object is made up of atoms and void (empty space that atoms move in) that are arranged in different ways. This idea is not too far from the concepts of atoms that we know today. This school believed that atoms were incredibly small particles (so small that they could not be cut in half) that differed in size, shape, motion, arrangement, and position, and that when put together, these atoms created what is seen in the visible world. SOCRATES (469–399 B.C.) The game-changer Socrates was born in Athens, Greece, around 469 b.c. and died in 399 b.c. Whereas pre-Socratic philosophers examined the natural world, Socrates placed emphasis on the human experience. He focused on individual morality, questioned what made a good life, and discussed social and political questions. His work and his ideas became the foundation of Western philosophy. While Socrates is widely regarded as one of the wisest men to have ever lived, he never wrote down any of his thoughts, and all that we know about him is based on the written works of his students and contemporaries (mainly the works of Plato, Xenophon, and Aristophanes). Because everything that we know about Socrates is based on accounts from others (which were often fictionalized) and these accounts differ, we do not actually know much about him or his teachings. This is known as the “Socratic problem.” From the texts of others, we are able to gather that he was the son of a stone mason and a midwife; he most likely had a basic Greek education; he was not aesthetically good-looking (during a time when external beauty was very important); he served in the military during the Peloponnesian War; he had three sons with a much younger woman; and he lived in poverty. He might have worked as a stone mason before turning to philosophy. The one detail that has been well documented, however, is Socrates’ death. While Socrates was alive, the state of Athens began to decline. Having embarrassingly lost to Sparta in the Peloponnesian War, Athens had an identity crisis of sorts and became fixated on physical beauty, ideas of wealth, and romanticizing the past. Because Socrates was an outspoken critic of this way of life, he grew to have many enemies. In 399 b.c., Socrates was arrested and brought to trial with charges of being unreligious and corrupting the city’s youth. Socrates was found guilty and was sentenced to death by poisonous drink. Rather than flee into exile (which he had the chance to do), Socrates drank the poison without any hesitation. SOCRATES’ CONTRIBUTION TO PHILOSOPHY A quote often attributed to Socrates is, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates believed that in order for a person to be wise, that individual must be able to understand himself. To Socrates, an individual’s actions were directly related to his intelligence and ignorance. He believed people should develop their self, rather than concentrate on material objects, and he sought to understand the difference between acting good and being good. It was in the new and unique way that he approached knowledge, consciousness, and morality that Socrates would forever change philosophy. The Socratic Method Socrates is perhaps most famous for his Socratic method. First described in Plato’s Socratic Dialogues, Socrates and a pupil would have a discussion on a particular issue, and through a series of questions, Socrates would set out to discover the driving force behind how that individual’s beliefs and sentiments were shaped and in so doing, get closer to the truth. By continually asking questions, Socrates was able to expose contradictions in the way an individual thought, which allowed him to come to a solid conclusion. Socrates used the elenchus, a method in which he would refute the claims of the other person. Here are the steps of the elenchus: An individual would assert a statement to Socrates, which Socrates would then refute. Or, Socrates might ask the other person a question, such as, “What is courage?” Once the other person provides his answer, Socrates would think of a scenario where his answer was not the case, asking him to assume his original statement was false. For example, if the other person describes courage as “endurance of the soul,” Socrates might refute this claim by saying that “Courage is a fine thing,” while “Ignorant endurance is not a fine thing.” The other person would agree with this claim, and Socrates would then change the statement to include the exception to the rule. Socrates proves that the individual’s statement is false and that the negation is in fact true. As the other person continues to alter his answer, Socrates continues refuting, and through this, the individual’s answer gets closer to the actual truth. The Socratic Method Today The Socratic method is still widely used to this day, most notably in law schools throughout the United States. First, a student will be asked to summarize a judge’s argument. Then, the student will be asked if he agrees with the judge’s argument. The professor will then act as devil’s advocate by asking a series of questions to make the student defend his decision. By using the Socratic method, students are able to start thinking critically and using logic and reasoning to create their arguments, while also finding and patching up holes in their positions. PLATO (429–347 B.C.) One of the founders of Western philosophy Plato was born in Athens, Greece, around 429 b.c. to parents who were members of the Greek aristocracy. Because of his social class, Plato was taught by many distinguished educators. However, no individual would have as great an impact on him as Socrates and his ability to debate and create a dialogue. In fact, the written works of Plato are where much of the information we know about Socrates comes from. While he was expected by his family to pursue a career in politics, two events would lead Plato away from this lifestyle: the Peloponnesian War (in which, upon Sparta’s victory, several of Plato’s relatives were part of a dictatorship, but were removed for being corrupt) and the execution of Socrates in 399 b.c. by the new Athenian government. Plato then turned toward philosophy and began writing and traveling. He studied under Pythagoras in Sicily and, upon returning to Athens, founded the Academy, a school where he and other likeminded individuals taught and discussed philosophy and mathematics. Among Plato’s students was Aristotle. PLATO’S PHILOSOPHY THROUGH WRITTEN CONVERSATIONS Like Socrates, Plato believed philosophy was a process of continuous questioning and dialogues, and his writing appeared in this format. Two of the most interesting things about these dialogues are that Plato’s own opinions on the subject matters he wrote about were never explicitly stated (though with in-depth research, one might be able to infer his stance) and that he was never a character in his writing. Plato wanted readers to have the ability to form their own opinions on the subjects and not be told how to think (this also proves how skillful a writer he was). For this reason, many of his dialogues do not reach a concise conclusion. Those that do, however, allow for possible counterarguments and doubts. Plato’s dialogues dealt with a variety of subject matters, including things such as art, theater, ethics, immortality, the mind, and metaphysics. There are at least thirty-six dialogues written by Plato, as well as thirteen letters (though historians dispute the letters’ authenticity). THE THEORY OF FORMS One of the most important concepts Plato developed was his theory of Forms. Plato states that reality exists on two specific levels: The visible world that is made up of sights and sounds The intelligible world (the world of Forms) that gives the visible world its being For example, when a person sees a beautiful painting, that person has the ability to identify beauty because he has an abstract concept of what beauty is. Therefore, beautiful things are seen as beautiful because they are a part of the Form of beauty. While things in the visible world can change and lose their beauty, the Form of beauty is eternal, never changes, and cannot be seen. Plato believed that concepts like beauty, courage, goodness, temperance, and justice exist in an entire world of Forms, outside of space and time, unaffected by what happens in the visible world. While the idea of Forms appears in many of Plato’s dialogues, Plato’s concept of Forms differs from text to text, and sometimes these differences are never completely explained. Through Plato’s theory of Forms, Plato incorporates abstract thought as a means to achieve a greater knowledge. THE TRIPARTITE THEORY OF THE SOUL In The Republic and another well-known dialogue, Phaedrus, Plato discusses his understanding of rationality and the soul. The soul, according to Plato, can be broken down into three parts: reason, spirit, and appetite. Reason: This is the part of the soul responsible for thinking and understanding when something is true versus false, real versus not apparent, and making rational decisions. Spirit: This is the part of the soul responsible for all desires that want victory and honor. If an individual has a just soul, the spirit should enforce reason so that reason leads. Frustration of the spirit will lead to feelings of anger and feeling mistreated. Appetite: This is the part of the soul where very basic cravings and desires come from. For example, things like thirst and hunger can be found in this part of the soul. However, the appetite also features unnecessary and unlawful urges, like overeating or sexual excess. To explain these different parts of the soul, Plato first looked at three different classes in a just society: Guardian, Auxiliary, and Laborers. According to Plato, reason should rule an individual’s decisions; spirit should aid reason; and appetite should obey. By maintaining the relationship among these three parts in the correct way, an individual will achieve individual justice. Similarly, Plato believed that in a perfect society, reason would be represented by a Guardian class (rulers who led based on philosophy, which society would wholeheartedly follow); spirit would be represented by the Auxiliary class (soldiers who would force the rest of society to obey the Guardian class); and appetite would be represented by the Laborers, the workers and merchants of society. THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION Plato placed great emphasis on the role of education and believed it to be one of the most important pieces in creating a healthy state. Plato saw the vulnerability of a child’s mind and understood how easily it could be molded. He believed children should be taught early on to always seek wisdom and to live a virtuous life. Plato even went so far as to create detailed directions on what exercises a pregnant woman could perform so that she would have a healthy fetus and what types of art and exercise children should immerse themselves in. To Plato, who considered the Athenian people to be corrupt, easily seduced, and gullible to rhetoric, education was essential to having a just society. PLATO’S CAVE Knowledge versus the senses In one of his most well-known texts, The Republic, Plato sets out to demonstrate how human perception exists without anyone being aware of the existence of Forms, and how true knowledge is only gained through philosophy. Any knowledge gained by the senses is not knowledge at all, but simply opinion. THE ALLEGORY The Allegory of the Cave reads as a conversation between Socrates and Plato’s brother, Glaucon. In the dialogue, Socrates asks Glaucon to imagine a world where an illusion is perceived as reality. To further his point, he creates the following example: There exists a cave where, inside, a group of prisoners has been locked up since birth. These prisoners cannot move. Their necks and legs are chained so that they can’t shift or turn around and they can only see what is in front of them: a stone wall. Behind and above the prisoners is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a low wall where people walk, carrying objects on their heads. The light of the fire casts shadows of the objects onto the wall in front of the prisoners. These shadows are all the prisoners can see. The only sounds they hear are the echoes from the cave. Now, because these prisoners have never been exposed to the actual objects and all their lives they have only witnessed the shadows, they mistake these shadows for reality. The echoes of the cave, to them, are noises created by the shadows. If a shadow of a book were to appear, for example, these prisoners would claim that they have seen a book. They are not saying this is a shadow of a book, because their reality doesn’t know shadows. Eventually, one of the prisoners would understand the nature of this world and would be able to guess what shadow would come next, which would lead to praise and recognition from the other prisoners. Now, let’s suppose one of the prisoners is set free. If a person were to show that prisoner an actual book, the prisoner would not be able to recognize it. To the prisoner, a book is the shadow that was cast on the wall. The illusion of a book seems more real than the book itself. Socrates continues, pondering what would happen if that freed prisoner were to then turn toward the fire. The prisoner would surely turn away from so much light and turn back to the dark shadows, which he holds to be more real. Now, what if this was taken one step further, and the prisoner was forced to go outside? The prisoner would be angry, distressed, and unable to see the reality before him because he would be so blinded by the light. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in Popular Culture If this story sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because you might have seen some variation of it before. The 1999 blockbuster movie The Matrix is loosely based on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. To quote Keanu Reeves’s character Neo, “Whoa.” After a little while, however, the prisoner would adjust and understand that the reality in the cave was incorrect. He would look toward the sun and understand that this entity was what created seasons, years, and everything that was visible in this world (and was even the cause of what he and his fellow prisoners had been seeing in the cave to a certain extent). The prisoner would not look back at those days in the cave with fond memories, for he would now understand that his former perception was not actually reality. The freed prisoner then decides to return to the cave and set the others free. When the prisoner returns, he struggles to adjust to the darkness of the cave. The other prisoners find this behavior startling (for the darkness of the cave is still their only reality), and instead of offering praise, they find him to be stupid and will not believe what the freed prisoner has to say. The prisoners threaten to kill the freed prisoner if he sets them free. WHAT IT MEANS Plato compares the prisoners chained inside the cave to people that are unaware of his theory of Forms. People mistake the appearance of what is in front of them as reality and live in ignorance (and quite happily, for ignorance is all these people know). However, when parts of the truth start to emerge, it can be frightening and can make people want to turn back. If one does not turn away from the truth and continues to seek it, he will have a better understanding of the world around him (and will never be able to return to that state of ignorance). The freed prisoner represents the philosopher, seeking a greater truth outside of the perceived reality. According to Plato, when people use language, they are not naming physical objects that can be seen; rather, they are naming something that can’t be seen. These names correlate to things that can only be grasped in the mind. The prisoner believed that the shadow of a book was actually a book until he was finally able to turn around and see the truth. Now, replace the idea of a book with something more substantial, like the notion of justice. Plato’s theory of Forms is what allows people to finally turn around and discover the truth. In essence, knowledge gained through the senses and perception is not knowledge at all, but opinion. It is only through philosophical reasoning that one is able to pursue knowledge. EXISTENTIALISM The individual and the human experience Existentialism is not a school of thought so much as a trend that appears throughout philosophy during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Prior to this time, philosophical thought had grown to become increasingly more complex and abstract. In dealing with ideas of nature and truth, philosophers began to exclude the importance of human beings. However, starting with Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche in the nineteenth century, several philosophers emerged placing a newfound focus on the human experience. Though there are significant differences between philosophers of existentialism (a term that would not be used until the twentieth century), the one common theme among all of them is the notion that philosophy should focus on the experience of human existence in this world. In other words, existentialism seeks out the meaning of life and finding oneself. COMMON THEMES OF EXISTENTIALISM Though existentialist thought varies from philosopher to philosopher, there are several common themes. One of the key ideas of existentialism is that the meaning of life and discovering oneself can only be attained by free will, personal responsibility, and choice. The Individual Existentialism deals with the question of what it means to exist as a human being. Existentialists believe that humans have been thrown into this universe, and therefore it is existing in this world, and not consciousness, that is the ultimate reality. A person is an individual who has the ability to think and act independently and should be defined by his actual life. It is through an individual’s own consciousness that values and purpose are determined. Choice Existentialist philosophers believe that all humans have free will. The ability to have free will leads to life choices. Structures and values of society have no control over a person. Personal choices are unique to every individual and are based on outlook, beliefs, and experiences, not external forces or society. Based on these choices, people begin to discover who and what they are. There is no purpose for desires such as wealth, honor, or pleasure, for these are not responsible for having a good life. The notion of personal responsibility is a key component of existentialism. It is entirely up to the individual to make decisions—and these decisions are not without their own consequences and stress. However, it is in the moments when an individual fights against his very nature that he is at his best. In essence, the very choices we make in life determine our nature, and there are things in this world that are unnatural and irrational. Anxiety Existentialists place great emphasis on moments when truths about our existence and nature bring a new awareness into what life means. These existential moments of crisis produce feelings of anxiety, angst, and dread afterward, and are the result of the freedom and independent responsibility we all have. Because humans have been thrown into this universe, there is a certain meaninglessness to our existence. Our freedom means we are uncertain of the future, and our lives are determined by the choices we make. We believe we have an understanding about the universe around us, and when we discover something that tells us differently, we experience an existential crisis that forces us to re-evaluate aspects of our lives. The only way to have meaning and value is through making choices and taking responsibility. Authenticity To be authentic, one must truly be in harmony with his freedom. In existentialism, the notion of authenticity means really coming to terms with oneself, and then living accordingly. One must be able to come to terms with his identity while also not letting his background and history play a part in his decision-making process. Making choices should be done based on one’s values, so that there is a responsibility that comes with the decision-making process. If one does not live within a balance of his freedom, he is inauthentic. It is in the inauthentic experience that people allow ideas like determinism, believing choices are meaningless, and acting as “one should” to persuade their choice-making. The Absurd Absurdity is one of the most famous notions affiliated with existentialism. It is often argued in existentialism that there is no reason to exist and that nature has no design. While sciences and metaphysics might be able to provide an understanding of the natural world, these provide more of a description than an actual explanation, and don’t provide any insight into meaning or value. According to existentialism, as humans, we should come to terms with this fact and realize that the ability to understand the world is impossible to achieve. The world has no meaning other than the meaning that we provide it. Furthermore, if an individual makes a choice, it is based on a reason. However, since one can never truly understand meaning, the reasoning is absurd, and so too is the decision to follow through with the choice. RELIGION AND EXISTENTIALISM While there are some very famous Christian and Jewish philosophers who use existentialist themes in their work, on the whole, existentialism is commonly associated with atheism. This does not mean that all atheists are necessarily existentialists; rather, those who subscribe to existentialist thought are often atheists. Why is this the case? Existentialism does not set out to prove that God does or does not exist. Rather, the main ideas and themes of existentialism (such as complete freedom) simply do not mesh well with the notion of there being an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent being. Even those existentialists who maintain a belief in a higher being agree that religion is suspicious. Existentialism asks human beings to search and discover their meaning and purpose from within themselves, and this is not possible if they believe in some external force controlling humanity. ARISTOTLE (384–322 B.C.) Wisdom starts with understanding yourself Aristotle was born around 384 b.c. Though little is known about his mother, Aristotle’s father was court physician to the Macedonian king Amyntas II (the connection and affiliation with the Macedonian court would continue to play an important role throughout Aristotle’s life). Both of Aristotle’s parents died when he was young, and at the age of seventeen, Aristotle’s guardian sent him to Athens to pursue a higher education. It was in Athens that Aristotle would enroll in Plato’s Academy and study under Plato. He would remain there for the next twenty years, studying with Plato as both a student and colleague. When Plato died in 347 b.c., many believed Aristotle would take his place as director of the Academy. However, by that time, Aristotle had differing views on several of Plato’s works (for example, he disagreed with Plato’s theory of Forms), and Aristotle was not offered the position. In 338 b.c., Aristotle returned to Macedonia and began tutoring the thirteen-year-old son of King Philip II, Alexander (later known as “the Great”). When, in 335 b.c., Alexander became king and conquered Athens, Aristotle returned to Athens. While Plato’s Academy (which was now directed by Xenocrates) was still the major school in the city, Aristotle decided to create his own school, the Lyceum. With the death of Alexander the Great in 323 b.c., the government was overthrown and anti-Macedonian sentiment was high. Facing charges of impiety, Aristotle fled Athens to avoid being prosecuted and remained on the island of Euboea until his death in 322 b.c. LOGIC While Aristotle focused on many different subjects, one of his most significant contributions to the world of philosophy and Western thought was his creation of logic. To Aristotle, the process of learning could be placed into three distinct categories: theoretical, practical, and productive. Logic, however, did not belong to any one of these categories. Instead, logic was a tool used to attain knowledge, and was therefore the very first step in the learning process. Logic enables us to discover errors and establish truths. In his book, Prior Analytics, Aristotle introduced the notion of the syllogism, which turned out to be one of the most important contributions to the field of logic. A syllogism is a type of reasoning whereby a conclusion can be deduced based on a series of specific premises or assumptions. For example: All Greek people are human. All humans are mortal. Therefore, all Greek people are mortal. To further break down what a syllogism is, one can summarize it in the following way: If all X are Y, and all Y are Z, then all X are Z. Syllogisms are made up of three propositions: the first two are premises; the last is the conclusion. Premises can either be universal (using words like every, all, or no) or particular (for example, using the word some), and they can also be affirmative or negative. Aristotle then set out to create a set of rules that would produce a valid inference. One classic example is: At least one premise has to be universal. At least one premise has to be affirmative. If one of the premises is negative, the conclusion will be negative. For example: No dogs are birds. Parrots are birds. Therefore, no dogs are parrots. Aristotle believed three rules applied to all valid thoughts: The law of identity: This law states that X is X, and this holds true because X has certain characteristics. A tree is a tree because we can see the leaves, the trunk, the branches, and so on. A tree does not have another identity other than a tree. Therefore, everything that exists has its own characteristics true to itself. The law of noncontradiction: This law states X can’t be X and not X simultaneously. A statement can never be true and false at the exact same time. If this were the case, a contradiction would arise. If you were to say you fed the cat yesterday and then say you did not feed the cat yesterday, there is a contradiction. The law of the excluded middle: This law claims a statement can be either true or false; there cannot be middle ground. This law also claims something has to either be true or be false. If you say your hair is blond, the statement is either true or false. However, later philosophers and mathematicians would dispute this law. METAPHYSICS Aristotle rejected Plato’s theory of Forms. Instead, Aristotle’s response to understanding the nature of being was metaphysics (though he never used this word, instead caling it “first philosophy”). While Plato saw a difference between the intelligible world (made up of thoughts and ideas) and the sensible world (made up of what could visibly be seen) and believed the intelligible world was the only true form of reality, Aristotle believed separating the two would remove all meaning. Instead, Aristotle believed the world was made up of substances that could either be form, matter, or both, and that intelligibility was present in all things and beings. Aristotle’s Metaphysics is composed of fourteen books that were later grouped together by editors. It is considered to be one of the greatest works ever produced on the subject of philosophy. Aristotle believed that knowledge was made up of specific truths that people gain from experience, as well as the truths that arise from science and art. Wisdom, as opposed to knowledge, is when one understands the fundamental principles that govern all things (these are the most general truths) and then translates this information into scientific expertise. Aristotle breaks down how things come to be through four causes: The material cause: This explains what something is made of. The formal cause: This explains what form something takes. The efficient cause: This explains the process of how something comes into being. The final cause: This explains the purpose something serves. While other sciences might study reasons for a particular manifestation of being (for example, a biologist would study humans with regard to them being organisms, while a psychologist would study humans as beings with consciousness), metaphysics examines the reason why there is being in the first place. For this reason, metaphysics is often described as “the study of being qua being” (qua is Latin for “in so far as”). VIRTUE Another one of Aristotle’s most impactful works was Ethics. According to Aristotle, the purpose of ethics is to discover the purpose of life. Aristotle comes to realize that happiness is the ultimate and final good and that people pursue good things in order to achieve happiness. Aristotle claimed that the way to attain happiness (and therefore the very purpose of life) is through virtue. Virtue requires both choice and habit. Unlike other ways to attain happiness, such as pleasure or honor, with virtue, when an individual makes a decision, the decision comes from that individual’s disposition, which is determined by that person’s past choices. A virtuous choice is, then, the mean between the two most extreme choices. Between acting cold to someone and being overly subservient or attentive is the virtuous choice, friendliness. To Aristotle, the ultimate type of happiness is living a life of intellectual contemplation, and using reason (which is what separates humans from other animals) is the highest form of virtue. However, for one to achieve such a level of virtue, a person needs the proper social environment, and a proper social environment can only be attained by an appropriate government. THE SHIP OF THESEUS When is a ship no longer the same ship? To understand the classic paradox of the ship of Theseus, one must first understand what a paradox is. Philosophical Definitions PARADOX: In philosophy, a paradox is a statement that begins with a premise that seems true; however, upon further investigation, the conclusion ends up proving that the seemingly true premise is actually false. The first time the ship of Theseus paradox appeared in print was in the writing of the ancient Greek philosopher (and Platonist) Plutarch. Plutarch writes of Theseus (the founder-king of Athens) returning from a long voyage at sea. Throughout the voyage, all of the old, decaying planks of wood the ship was made of were thrown overboard and replaced with new, strong pieces of wood. By the time Theseus and his crew finally returned from their trip, every piece of wood that the ship was made from had been replaced. This leads to the question: Was the ship that they returned on the same ship that they left on, even though it was made of completely different pieces of wood? What if the ship still had one of the original pieces of wood in it? What if there were two pieces of wood still in the ship? Would this change one’s answer? Another way to look at it is this: If the ship Theseus began his journey on is A, and the ship Theseus ended his journey on is B, then does A = B? THOMAS HOBBES’S ADDITION Much later, the famous seventeenth-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes took the paradox one step further. Now, imagine that following Theseus’s ship is a scavenger. As Theseus’s crew throws the old pieces of wood overboard, the scavenger takes them out of the water and builds his own ship. Two ships arrive at the port: one with Theseus and his crew, made out of new wood; the other, the scavenger’s ship, made entirely out of the old wood that Theseus’s crew had thrown overboard. In this scenario, which ship is Theseus’s ship? In this scenario, let’s call the boat the scavenger arrived in the letter C. We know that B ≠ C because two ships land in the harbor and so they clearly cannot be one and the same. So what makes something the ship of Theseus? Is it the individual parts that the ship is made from? Is it the structure? Is it the history of the ship? WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? One theory, known as the mereological theory of identity (or MTI), states that the identity of something is dependent upon the identity of that thing’s component parts. This theory claims that a necessary condition of identity is that there must be a sameness of parts. In other words, X = Y if all of the parts of X are also a part of Y and vice versa. For example, object X is composed of certain components at the beginning of a period of time (t1). If by the end of that period of time (t2), the object (which is now Y) has the same components, then it continued to exist. In the ship of Theseus paradox, according to MTI, A = C. This means that there are two ships. The ship Theseus began his voyage on is the exact same as the ship the scavenger comes in on (making these one ship), and then there is the ship Theseus came to port in, which was composed of new parts. However, there is a problem with this conclusion. In this scenario, Theseus would have had to change ships in his journey because he comes to the port in B (which does not equal C). But Theseus never leaves his ship. He leaves on A, comes back on B, and was never aboard two ships (which MTI states there must be). There might be other possible ways to solve this problem. We can abandon what MTI states altogether and instead claim that A = B. In this scenario, there are still only two ships: the ship Theseus began his journey in (A) and the ship he came back in (B) are considered one, and the scavenger’s ship is the second. This scenario also raises problems. To say that A = B would also imply that B ≠ C and therefore A ≠ C. But one cannot feasibly say this because every part of C is a part of A and vice versa. In addition, A and B do not have any parts in common, and yet we are claiming that they are the same ship. Another theory that can be applied to the paradox of Theseus’s ship is called spatiotemporal continuity (STC). This theory states that an object can have a continuous path in space-time, as long as the change is gradual and the shape and form are preserved. This would allow for the gradual changes that are made to the ship over time. However, even here we see problems! What if every piece of the ship was packed in individual boxes, shipped all over the world to different locations, then shipped back, and then opened and reassembled? While numerically it may be the same ship, the object does not constantly exist as a ship-like object through space-time (note that MTI does seem to fit in this scenario). WHAT DOES THE SHIP OF THESEUS MEAN? Of course, this paradox goes beyond a problem about ships. The ship of Theseus is really about identity and what makes us the people that we are. Parts of ourselves change as the years go by, and yet we still consider ourselves to be the same person. Is our identity the same because of our structure? If that were the case, if you were to lose a limb or even cut your hair, you wouldn’t be you anymore. Is it because of your mind and feelings? If that were the case, are you no longer yourself when you lose memories or have a change of heart? Is it because of the parts we are made up of? Our history? The ship of Theseus and its implications about what identity is are still discussed to this day. FRANCIS BACON (1561–1626) Forever changing the way we look at science Francis Bacon is one of the most important philosophers to come out of the Renaissance era due to his immense contributions in advancing natural philosophy and scientific methodology. Bacon was born in London, England, on January 22, 1561. He was the youngest child of his father, Sir Nicholas Bacon, Lord Keeper of the Seal, and his mother, Lady Anne Cooke Bacon, who was the daughter of the knight that tutored Edward VI. In 1573, when he was just eleven years old, Francis Bacon attended Trinity College, Cambridge. After completing his studies in 1575, Bacon enrolled in a law program the next year. It didn’t take him very long to realize that this school was too old-fashioned for his tastes (Bacon recalled that his tutors favored Aristotle, while he was much more interested in the humanistic movement that was spreading across the land due to the Renaissance). Bacon left school and became an assistant to the ambassador in France. In 1579, when his father passed away, Bacon returned to London and resumed studying law, completing his degree in 1582. In 1584, Francis Bacon was elected to Parliament as a member for Melcombe in Dorsetshire, and he would continue to work in Parliament for the next thirty-six years. Eventually, under James I, Francis Bacon became Lord Chancellor, the highest political office. It was as Lord Chancellor, at the pinnacle of his political career, that Bacon encountered a great scandal that would end his political career entirely, making way for his philosophical pursuits. In 1621, Francis Bacon, then–Lord Chancellor, was accused of accepting bribes and arrested. Bacon pled guilty to his charges and was fined £40,000 and sentenced to serve a prison sentence in the Tower of London. While his fine was waived and he would only spend four days in prison, Bacon would never be allowed to hold political office or sit in Parliament ever again, thus ending his political life. It was at this point in Francis Bacon’s life that he decided to dedicate the remainder of his life (five years) to philosophy. THE PHILOSOPHICAL WORK OF FRANCIS BACON Francis Bacon is perhaps best known for his work in natural philosophy. Unlike Plato (who claimed knowledge could be gained through understanding the meaning of words and content) and Aristotle (who placed emphasis on empirical data), Bacon emphasized observation, experimentation, and interaction and set out to create methods that would rely on tangible proof in an effort to explain sciences. Bacon’s Four Idols Francis Bacon believed the works of Aristotle (which up to that point, scholastic thinkers had agreed with) actually prevented the ability to think independently and acquire new ideas about nature. Bacon argued that through the advancement of science, the quality of human life could improve, and therefore, people should no longer rely on the work of ancient philosophers. Francis Bacon became so disillusioned with the philosophical thinking of his time that he categorized the thought process of people as four categories of false knowledge, which he referred to as “idols.” The four idols were: Idols of the tribe: These are the false notions that arise from human nature that are common to everyone. For example, human nature causes people to seek out evidence that supports their own conclusions, causes people to try to have things fit into patterns, and causes beliefs to be affected by what people want to believe. Idols of the cave: These are interpretations that come about as a result of individual makeup and disposition. For example, some people might favor similarities while others favor differences, and some might favor notions that support their earlier conclusions. Idols of the marketplace: These are false notions that arise from the use of language and words as a means to communicate with one another. For example, words can have a variety of meanings, and people have the ability to name and imagine things that do not actually exist. Idols of the theater: Francis Bacon believed that philosophies weren’t any better than plays. To Bacon, sophistic philosophy like the work of Aristotle focused more on smart but foolish arguments rather than the natural world; empirical philosophy only focused on a small range of experiments and excluded too many other possibilities; and superstitious philosophy, which was philosophy established by religion and superstition, was a corruption of philosophy. To Francis Bacon, superstitious philosophy was the worst type of false notion. The Inductive Method With his belief that knowledge should be pursued and his criticism of present-day philosophies, Francis Bacon set out to create a new and organized method that would eventually become his most impactful contribution to the world of philosophy. In his book, Novum Organum, he details his inductive, also known as scientific, method. The inductive method combined the process of carefully observing nature with systematically accumulating data. While the deductive method (like the work of Aristotle) began by using one or more true statements (or axioms) as a base and then attempted to prove other true statements, the inductive method begins by taking observations from nature and attempts to uncover laws and theories pertaining to how nature works. In essence, the deductive method uses logic and the inductive method uses nature. Bacon’s Emphasis on Experiments Bacon emphasized the importance of experimentation in his work and believed experiments needed to be carefully recorded so that the results could be both reliable and repeatable. The process of the inductive method is as follows: Accumulate a series of specific empirical observations about the characteristic being investigated. Classify these facts into three categories: instances when the characteristic being investigated is present, instances when it is absent, and instances when it is present in varying degrees. Through careful examination of the results, reject notions that do not seem to be responsible for the occurrence and identify possible causes responsible for the occurrence. THE COW IN THE FIELD Challenging the definition of knowledge Imagine the following scenario: A farmer worries because his prize cow has wandered away from his farm. A milkman comes to the farm, and the farmer expresses his concern. The milkman tells the farmer he shouldn’t worry because he’s actually seen the cow in a nearby field. The farmer looks at the field in the distance just to be sure, and he sees what seems to be a large shape that is black and white. The farmer is satisfied by what he has seen and now knows the location of his cow. Later, the milkman decides to go to the field to double-check that the cow really is there. The cow is in fact in the field, but to the milkman’s surprise, the cow is actually completely hidden in a grove of trees. However, in the same field, there is a large black-and-white piece of paper caught in a tree. Upon seeing this, the milkman realizes that the farmer mistook this large piece of paper for his cow. This then raises the question: Was the farmer right when he said he knew the cow was in the field? THE GETTIER PROBLEM AND THE TRIPARTITE THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE The cow in the field is a classic example of what is known as a “Gettier problem.” Gettier problems, discovered by Edmund Gettier in 1963, are challenges to the traditional philosophical approach to defining knowledge as a true belief that is justified. Gettier created a series of problems (based on actual or possible situations) where an individual has a belief that ends up being true and has evidence to support it, but it fails to actually be knowledge. According to Plato, in order for one to have knowledge of something, three conditions have to be satisfied. This is known as the tripartite theory of knowledge. According to the tripartite theory of knowledge, knowledge is when a true belief is justified. Therefore, if a person believes something to be true, and then it ends up being true through justification, then that person knows it. The three conditions of the tripartite theory of knowledge are: Belief: A person can’t know something to be true without first believing that it is true. Truth: If a person knows something, then it must be true. If a belief is false, then it cannot be true, and therefore, it cannot be known. Justification: It is not enough to simply believe something to be true. There must be a justification through sufficient evidence. With the Gettier problems, Edmund Gettier was able to show that the tripartite theory of knowledge was incorrect. While his problems differed in specific details, they all shared two similar characteristics: While justification is present, the justification is fallible because there is the possibility that the belief could end up being false. Each problem features luck. In all of the Gettier problems, the belief becomes justified; however, it is due to the presence of pure luck. ATTEMPTS TO SOLVE GETTIER PROBLEMS There are four main theories that attempt to fix the tripartite theory of knowledge. Now, instead of three conditions (which can be looked at as a triangle), knowledge has an extra condition (and is now viewed as a square). The four main theories are: No False Belief Condition: This theory states a belief cannot be based on a belief that is false. For example, a watch stops working at 10 a.m., and you are unaware of this fact. Twelve hours later, at 10 p.m., you look at the watch. The time on the watch is actually correct, but your belief that the watch is working is incorrect. Causal Connection Condition: Between knowledge and a belief, there has to be a causal connection. For example, consider the following situation. Tom believes Frank is in his bedroom. Tom sees Frank standing in his bedroom. Therefore, Tom is justified in his belief. Unknown to Tom, however, is the fact that Tom didn’t see Frank at all. Instead, it was Frank’s twin brother, Sam, who was standing and seen by Tom, and Frank is actually hiding underneath Tom’s bed. While Frank was in the room, it was not because Tom knew this. According to the causal connection condition, Tom shouldn’t be able to conclude that Frank is in the bedroom because there is no connection between seeing Sam and knowing Frank is in the room. Conclusive Reasons Condition: A reason for a belief must exist that would not exist if the belief itself were false. For example, if a person believes there is a table in front of him, the reason would not exist if there was not a table in front of him. Defeasibility Condition: This theory states that as long as there is not evidence pointing to the contrary, a belief is known. In the scenario with Tom, Frank, and Sam, Tom is entitled to say Frank is in the bedroom because he isn’t aware of evidence pointing to the contrary. While these four theories attempt to fix the tripartite theory of knowledge, they also have their problems. It is for this reason that Edmund Gettier’s work has become so influential. From his work, the question arises: Will we ever truly understand knowledge? DAVID HUME (1711–1776) One of the most important contributors to Western philosophy David Hume was born to a modest family in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1711. At the age of two, Hume’s father died and his mother was left to care for him and his brother and sister. At the age of twelve, Hume was sent to the University of Edinburgh, where he developed a passion for classics and spent the next three years studying philosophy and trying to create his own philosophical program. His studies proved to be extraordinarily taxing on Hume, and it began to compromise his psychological health. After working for a short time as a clerk for a sugar importer, Hume finally recovered and moved to France to continue working on his own philosophical vision. Between 1734 and 1737, while living in La Flèche, France, Hume wrote one of his most impactful philosophical works, A Treatise of Human Nature. This work was later published in England as three books between 1739 and 1740, with Hume removing parts that would seem controversial for the time (such as his discussion of miracles). Hume wanted to work in the British academic system. His Treatise was poorly received, however, and while his next two-volume compilation, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary, was modestly successful, Hume’s reputation for being an atheist and skeptic ruined any chances of a career in education. A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE Hume’s most influential work was broken down into three books and covered a wide range of philosophical subjects. Book I: Of the Understanding Hume argues that empiricism, the notion that all knowledge comes from experiences, is valid and that ideas are essentially no different from experiences because complex ideas are the result of simpler ideas, and the simpler ideas were formed from the impressions our senses created. Hume then also argues that when something is a “matter of fact,” it is a matter that has to be experienced and cannot be arrived at through instinct or reason. With these arguments, Hume takes on the notion of God’s existence, divine creation, and the soul. According to Hume, since people cannot experience or get an impression from God, divine creation, or the soul, there is no real reason to believe in their existence. It is in his first book that Hume introduces three tools used for philosophical inquiry: the microscope, the razor, and the fork. Microscope: In order to understand an idea, one must first break down the idea into the simplest ideas that it is made up of. Razor: If a term cannot come from an idea that can be broken down into simpler ideas, then that term has no meaning. Hume uses the notion of the razor to devalue ideas such as metaphysics and religion. Fork: This is the principle that truths can be separated into two types. One type of truth states that once ideas (such as a true statement in math) are proven, they remain proven. The other truth relates to matters of fact and things that occur in the world. Book II: Of the Passions In Hume’s second book, he focuses on what he refers to as passions (feelings like love, hatred, grief, joy, etc.). Hume classifies passions like he classifies ideas and impressions. He first makes a distinction between original impressions, which are received through the senses, and secondary impressions, which come from original impressions. Original impressions are internal and from physical sources. They appear in the form of physical pains and pleasures and are new to us because they come from physical sources. According to Hume, the passions are found in the world of secondary impressions. Hume then makes the distinction between direct passions (like grief, fear, desire, hope, joy, and aversion) and indirect passions (like love, hatred, pride, and humility). Hume states that morality is not based on reason because moral decisions affect actions, while decisions made from reason do not. An individual’s beliefs in regard to cause and effect are beliefs relating to the connections among objects that people experience. The actions of an individual are affected only when the objects are of interest, and they are only of interest to people if they have the ability to cause pain or pleasure. Therefore, Hume argues, pleasure and pain are what motivate people and create passions. Passions are feelings that initiate actions, and reason should act as a “slave” to passion. Reason can influence an individual’s actions in two ways: It directs passions to focus on objects, and it discovers the connections among events that will eventually create passions. Book III: Of Morals Based on the ideas he set forth in his first two books, Hume takes on the notion of morality. First, Hume distinguishes between virtue and vice. Hume claims these moral distinctions are impressions, not ideas. While the impression of virtue is pleasure, the impression of vice is pain. These moral impressions are only the result of human action and cannot be caused by inanimate objects or animals. Hume argues that an individual’s actions are only determined to be moral or immoral based on how they affect others (and not how they affect the individual). Therefore, moral impressions should only be considered from a social point of view. With this notion in mind, Hume claims that the foundation of moral obligation is sympathy. Morality is not a matter of fact that is the result of experience. Hume uses murder as an example. If one were to examine murder, one would not experience pain, and therefore, one couldn’t find the vice. You would only uncover your own dislike of murder. This shows that morality does not exist in reason, but rather, in passions. Because of David Hume’s criticism of philosophical theories, ideas, and methodologies that relied heavily on rationalism, he became one of the most important minds in Western philosophy. His work touched on an incredible number of philosophical topics, including religion, metaphysics, personal identity, morality, and concepts of cause-effect relations. HEDONISM It’s all about pleasure and pain The term hedonism actually refers to several theories that, while different from one another, all share the same underlying notion: Pleasure and pain are the only important elements of the specific phenomena the theories describe. In philosophy, hedonism is often discussed as a theory of value. This means that pleasure is the only thing intrinsically valuable to a person at all times and pain is the only thing that is intrinsically not valuable to an individual. To hedonists, the meaning of pleasure and pain is broad so that it can relate to both mental and physical phenomena. ORIGINS AND HISTORY OF HEDONISM The first major hedonistic movement dates back to the fourth century b.c. with the Cyrenaics, a school of thought founded by Aristippus of Cyrene. The Cyrenaics emphasized Socrates’ belief that happiness is one of the results of moral action, but also believed that virtue had no intrinsic value. They believed that pleasure, specifically physical pleasure over mental pleasure, was the ultimate good and that immediate gratification was more desirable than having to wait a long time for pleasure. Following the Cyrenaics was Epicureanism (led by Epicurus), which was a form of hedonism quite different from that of Aristippus. While he agreed that pleasure was the ultimate good, Epicurus believed that pleasure was attained through tranquility and a reduction of desire instead of immediate gratification. According to Epicurus, living a simple life full of friends and philosophical discussion was the highest pleasure that could be attained. During the Middle Ages, hedonism was rejected by Christian philosophers because it did not mesh with Christian virtues and ideals, such as faith, hope, avoiding sin, and helping others. Still, some philosophers argued hedonism had its merits because it was God’s desire that people be happy. Hedonism was most popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries due to the work of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, who both argued for variations of prudential hedonism, hedonistic utilitarianism, and motivational hedonism. VALUE AND PRUDENTIAL HEDONISM In philosophy, hedonism usually refers to value and well-being. Value hedonism states that pleasure is the only thing that is intrinsically valuable, while pain is the only thing that is intrinsically invaluable. Philosophical Definitions INTRINSICALLY VALUABLE: The word intrinsically is thrown around a lot when discussing hedonism, and it is a very important word to understand. Unlike the word instrumental, use of the word intrinsically implies that something is valuable on its own. Money is instrumentally valuable. Having money only has real value when you purchase something with it. Therefore, it is not intrinsically valuable. Pleasure, on the other hand, is intrinsically valuable. When a person experiences pleasure, even if it does not lead to something else, the initial pleasure itself is enjoyable. According to value hedonism, everything that is of value is reduced to pleasure. Based on this information, prudential hedonism then goes one step further and claims that all pleasure, and only pleasure, can make an individual’s life better, and that all pain, and only pain, can make an individual’s life worse. PSYCHOLOGICAL HEDONISM Psychological hedonism, also known as motivational hedonism, is the belief that the wish to experience pleasure and avoid pain, both consciously and unconsciously, is responsible for all human behavior. Variations of psychological hedonism have been argued by Sigmund Freud, Epicurus, Charles Darwin, and John Stuart Mill. Strong psychological hedonism (that is to say, absolutely all behavior is based on avoiding pain and gaining pleasure) has generally been dismissed by today’s philosophers. There is countless evidence to show that this is just simply not the case (like when a seemingly painful act is done out of a sense of duty), and it is generally accepted that decisions can be made based on motives that do not involve seeking pleasure or staying away from pain. NORMATIVE HEDONISM Normative hedonism, also known as ethical hedonism, is a theory that states that happiness should be sought out. Here, the definition of happiness is “pleasure minus pain.” Normative hedonism is used to argue theories that deal with explaining how and why an action can be morally permissible or impermissible. Normative hedonism can be broken down into two types, which use happiness to decide whether an action is morally right or wrong: Hedonistic Egoism: This theory states that people should act in the way that best suits their own interests, which would, in effect, make them happy. Consequences do not have to be considered (and have no value) for anyone other than the individual performing the action. However, under hedonistic egoism, desensitization needs to occur. If a person steals to suit his own interest, he should feel no difference between stealing from a rich or poor person. Hedonistic Utilitarianism: This theory states that an action is right (morally permissible) when it produces or most likely produces the largest net happiness for everyone that it concerns. Utilitarianism thus pertains to the happiness of everyone who could be affected and not just an individual (everyone is given equal weight). According to hedonistic utilitarianism, stealing from the poor would be morally impermissible because it would leave the poor person unhappy and the thief would only be slightly happier (and if he feels guilty, his happiness is even less). Though hedonistic utilitarianism seems like an appealing theory because it treats everybody equally, it has faced criticism for holding no intrinsic moral value to things like friendship, justice, truth, etc. Consider this example: A child is murdered in a small town. The town believes your best friend is the murderer, but you know he is innocent. If the only way to promote the greatest happiness for everyone is to kill your best friend, according to hedonistic utilitarianism, you should do so. It doesn’t matter that the killer is still out there—all that matters is the largest net happiness, which would be realized by killing whoever the town believes is the suspect. PRISONER’S DILEMMA What choice is the right choice? The prisoner’s dilemma is one of the most famous illustrations of why people might act the way they do. The prisoner’s dilemma is actually a part of game theory, a field in mathematics that looks at various outcomes from situations that require strategy. However, the prisoner’s dilemma goes far beyond simply being a mathematical notion. It raises important questions about morality, psychology, and philosophy, and can even be observed in the real world. THE ORIGINS OF THE PRISONER’S DILEMMA In 1950, RAND Corporation hired mathematicians Merrill Flood and Melvin Dresher as part of their ongoing investigation into game theory and how it could be applied to global nuclear strategy. Based on the puzzles that Flood and Dresher created, Princeton professor Albert W. Tucker tweaked their work to make it more accessible to the masses, thus creating what is now known as the prisoner’s dilemma. THE PRISONER’S DILEMMA Two prisoners, prisoner A and prisoner B, are taken into custody. The police do not have a sufficient amount of evidence, so they decide to put A and B in separate rooms. The police officers tell each prisoner that if he turns in the other person and the other person remains silent, he will be able to go free while the prisoner who remained silent will face jail time. If both A and B confess, they will both have to face some jail time (though a shorter sentence than the one faced by the person who did not speak). If both prisoner A and B remain silent, they will both face an even shorter prison sentence. For example: According to this diagram, if prisoner A and prisoner B both confess, they will each have to serve six years. If prisoner A remains quiet while prisoner B confesses (which implicates prisoner A in the process), prisoner A has to serve ten years while prisoner B can go home. Likewise, if prisoner A confesses but prisoner B remains quiet, then prisoner A can go home while prisoner B faces ten years in prison. Lastly, if both remain quiet, they will each face two years. Another way we can view this is: C represents a player cooperating (in this case, remaining silent) and D represents a player defecting (confessing). R stands for the reward that the players would receive if both decided to cooperate; P represents the punishment both players would receive for defecting; T is the temptation that a player would have for defecting alone; and lastly, S represents the “sucker” payoff that the player would have for cooperating alone. WHAT IT MEANS The dilemma in the prisoner’s dilemma is this: Prisoner A and prisoner B are better off confessing; however, the outcome from having them both confess is much worse than it would have been if both had remained silent. Prisoner’s dilemma is a perfect illustration of the conflict that arises between group rationality and individual rationality. If a group of people act rationally, they will actually do far worse than if a group of people acted irrationally. In the prisoner’s dilemma, it is assumed that all players are rational and know that the other player involved is rational. The rational thought would be to defect. But by choosing to protect themselves and acting in their own interest, the prisoners will actually be worse off. MULTIPLE MOVES Now, let’s add another option to the game. Players now have the option to defect, cooperate, or neither (N). We now see that defecting is no longer the dominant choice, and that the players will actually fare better by choosing to cooperate if the other player chooses neither. MULTIPLE PLAYERS AND THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS The structure of prisoner’s dilemma can appear in grander settings, such as big groups or even societies. It is here that we see how morality comes into effect. Perhaps the best example to showcase a multiplayer prisoner’s dilemma is a situation known as the “tragedy of the commons.” In the tragedy of the commons, a group of neighboring farmers all prefer that their cows not graze on their own individual properties (which are not very suitable), but on the commons. However, if the commons reaches a certain threshold, the land will become unsuitable for grazing. By acting rationally (in their own self-interest) and trying to reap the benefits of the land, the farmers will deplete the land and create a negative impact for everyone. Like prisoner’s dilemma, an individual rational strategy creates irrational outcomes that affect the group. So what do the prisoner’s dilemma and tragedy of the commons tell us about morality? Essentially, these examples prove that pursuing one’s own self-interest and gratification will actually turn out to be self-defeating in the long run. EXAMPLE OF PRISONER’S DILEMMA IN THE REAL WORLD A classic example of the prisoner’s dilemma in the real world is currently a major issue in today’s fishing industry. Currently, industrial fishermen are catching fish at an extremely fast rate. While this might seem like it is good for current profits, the rate at which these fish are being caught is faster than the amount of time needed for the fish to reproduce. As a result, the fishermen now have a depleted supply of fish to choose from, thus creating a hardship for all fishermen. In order to ensure the livelihood of the industry in the long term, fishermen should cooperate with one another and forgo high profits in the immediate future (thus, going against their own self-interest). ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (1225–1274) Philosophy and religion Thomas Aquinas was born around 1225 in Lombardy, Italy, to the Countess of Teano. When he was just five years old, Aquinas was sent to the monastery Montecassino to study with Benedictine monks. He would remain there until the age of thirteen, when, due to great political unrest, Montecassino became a battle site and he was forced to leave. Aquinas was then transferred to Naples, where he studied at a Benedictine house that was affiliated with the University of Naples. There, he spent the next five years learning about the work of Aristotle and became very interested in contemporary monastic orders. In particular, Aquinas became drawn to the idea of living a life of spiritual service, as opposed to the more traditional and sheltered lifestyle he was accustomed to seeing with the monks at Montecassino. Thomas Aquinas began to attend the University of Naples around 1239. By 1243, he had joined an order of Dominican monks in secret, and received the habit in 1244. When his family learned of this, they kidnapped him, held him captive for a year, and tried to make him see the error of his ways. Their attempt did not work, however, and when he was released in 1245, Aquinas returned to the Dominican order. Between 1245 and 1252, Aquinas studied with the Dominicans in Naples, Paris, Cologne (where he was ordained in 1950), and eventually returned to Paris to teach theology at the University of Paris. At a time when the Catholic Church had an overwhelming amount of power and people struggled with the notion of having philosophy and religion coexist, Thomas Aquinas brought faith and reasoning together. He believed that knowledge, whether obtained through nature or through religious studies, all came from God and could work together. PROOFS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD Throughout his life, Aquinas wrote an incredible number of philosophical texts that touched on many different subjects, ranging anywhere from natural philosophy and the work of Aristotle to theology and the Bible. His most famous and extensive work, Summa Theologiae, provides the most detail in terms of Aquinas’s philosophical views. Aquinas began Summa Theologiae sometime after 1265 and wrote it until his death in 1274. Summa Theologiae is broken up into three parts, with each part featuring its own subdivisions. It is in Part 1 that Aquinas’s most famous philosophical text, the Five Ways, is found. In this, Thomas Aquinas sets out to prove the existence of God. Aquinas begins by acknowledging that though philosophy is not a requirement in promoting God’s knowledge, it can help theology. He then tries to answer the following questions: Is “God exists” self-evident? Can this be demonstrated? Does God exist? Aquinas then provides five proofs that show the existence of God. With his Five Ways, Thomas Aquinas combines the ideas of theology with rational thought and observations from the natural world, in order to prove the existence of God. Proof 1: The Argument of the Unmoved Mover We can see that there are things in this world that are in motion. Anything that is in motion was put in motion by something else that was in motion. And that object is in motion because it was put into motion by another object that was in motion, and so on and so forth. However, this cannot infinitely keep going backward because there would never be an original mover (and thus, there would never be the subsequent movement). So there must be an unmoved mover that is first, and that is understood to be God. Proof 2: The Argument of the First Cause Everything is caused by something, and nothing can be caused by itself. Every cause is the result of a previous cause, and that previous cause was the result of another previous cause. This cannot infinitely keep going backward because if there is no initial cause, then there are no subsequent causes. So there must be an uncaused first cause, which is understood to be God. Proof 3: The Argument from Contingency We observe in nature that things come to exist and then cease to exist. However, everything that exists needs to come from something that exists, and if it is possible for something to not exist, then it wouldn’t exist before, and it wouldn’t exist now. So there must be a being whose existence does not rely on the existence of others, and this is understood to be God. Proof 4: The Argument from Degree We observe that beings have varying degrees of characteristics (more good, less good, more noble, less noble, etc.). These varying degrees are being compared to a maximum (the noblest, the best, etc.), and according to Aristotle, the greatest state of being is when there is the greatest state of truth (the maximum). So there has to be a cause to the perfections we find in beings, and this perfection or maximum is understood to be God. Proof 5: The Teleological Argument We observe unintelligent and inanimate objects in nature acting toward a purpose, even if these objects are not aware of this fact (such as the food chain or the processes of sensory organs). Though unaware, these objects are clearly acting toward a purpose according to a specific plan, and therefore, there must be a being guiding them that has the knowledge to direct them toward their purpose. This is understood to be God. ETHICS AND THE CARDINAL VIRTUES In the second part of Summa Theologiae, Aquinas creates a system of ethics based on the work of Aristotle. Like Aristotle, Aquinas believed that a good life is described by attempting to reach the highest end. And like Aristotle, Aquinas also spoke of virtue. To Aquinas, there were cardinal virtues that all other forms of virtue came from. These were justice, prudence, courage, and temperance. While these cardinal virtues are a template for a moral life, according to Aquinas, they are not enough for one to reach true fulfillment. While Aristotle believed that the highest end was happiness and that the way to achieve this was through virtue, Aquinas believed the highest end was eternal blessedness, which was achieved by a union with God in the afterlife. It is by living through these cardinal virtues that one moves toward true fulfillment. Aquinas made a distinction between an eternal happiness that could only be reached in the afterlife, and an imperfect happiness that could be reached in this life. Because eternal happiness is a union with God, there is only an imperfect happiness in this life since we can never know everything there is to know about God in this life. THE IMPACT OF ST. THOMAS AQUINAS Thomas Aquinas had an incredible impact on Western philosophy. During his lifetime, the church was extremely influenced by the works of Plato and had dismissed the importance of Aristotle. Aquinas, however, came to realize just how important Aristotle was and incorporated Aristotle’s work into Catholic orthodoxy, forever changing the shape of Western philosophy. In 1879, the teachings of Thomas Aquinas became incorporated into official church doctrine by Pope Leo XIII. HARD DETERMINISM There is no free will Hard determinism is the philosophical theory that, because every event has a cause, all human action is predetermined and therefore choices made by free will do not exist. Though the assertion of the hard determinist that nothing can occur without a cause may seem rational, the conclusion that no one ever acts freely has sparked much debate in the philosophical world. THE FOUR PRINCIPLES OF FREE WILL AND DETERMINISM In order to better understand hard determinism, it is necessary to analyze four general principles involved in the discussion of free will and determinism: The Principle of Universal Causation: This states that every event has a cause. In other words, if “X causes Y” is true, then X and Y are events; X precedes Y; and if X happens, Y has to happen. The Free Will Thesis: This states that sometimes people act freely. The Principle of Avoidability and Freedom: If a person acts freely, then he could have done something other than what he in fact did. Yet, if no one could have done anything other than what he in fact did, then no one ever acts freely. The Auxiliary Principle: This asserts that if every event has a cause, then no one could have done anything other than what he in fact did. Therefore, if sometimes a person could have done something other than what he in fact did, then some events are uncaused. Though all four principles initially appear to be intuitively plausible and a case can be made for believing each, it is ultimately apparent that they are incompatible with one another. In other words, not all principles can be true. Much philosophical debate has subsequently been dedicated to determining which of these principles are true and which are false. Hard determinism responds to this incompatibility of the principles by accepting the principle of universal causation, the principle of avoidability and freedom, and the auxiliary principle as true and rejecting the free will thesis as false: Premise 1: Every event has a cause (principle of universal causation). Premise 2: If every event has a cause, then no one could have done anything other than what he in fact did (auxiliary principle, part one). Premise 3: If no one could have done anything other than what he in fact did, then no one ever acts freely (principle of avoidability and freedom, part two). Therefore, no one ever acts freely (denial of free will theory). Premise 1 is the thesis of determinism: Every event is subject to the law of causality. The rationale for this premise is its appeal to common sense; it seems impossible to even imagine what it would mean for an event to be “uncaused.” Premise 2 defines causality: If an event is caused, then it must happen. If it must happen, then nothing else could have happened instead. Premise 3 simply expresses what is meant by “free.” Surely if an act must occur, the person committing the act has no choice and is thus not acting freely. ARGUMENTS AGAINST HARD DETERMINISM Following are several angles used to try to disprove hard determinism. Argument from Choice One argument against hard determinism is the “argument from choice.” It is stated as such: Premise 1: Sometimes we do what we choose to do. Premise 2: If sometimes we do what we choose to do, then sometimes we are acting freely. Premise 3: If sometimes we are acting freely, then hard determinism is false. Therefore, hard determinism is false. Premise 1 defines choice as a decision or mental event, and its rationale is simple observation; we see people making choices every day. For example, people choose what clothes to wear, what food to eat, what time to wake up, etc. Premise 2 defines “acting freely” as choosing what we do. If someone chooses to do something, the fact that he is making a choice means that he is acting freely. Premise 3 is the negation of hard determinism. Because the “argument from choice” is a valid argument, it seems at first to be a solid objection to hard determinism. Further analysis of its definition of acting freely, however, demonstrates the argument to be unsound. Because the “argument from choice” does not deny that events are caused, each assertion that it makes is subject to the laws of causality. With this in mind, it becomes clear that the main problem with the argument is its leap from the first premise to the second. Though people do, indeed, make what appear to be choices about various aspects of their lives, it does not follow that they are acting freely. A choice is a caused event. Therefore, a person’s choice to act in some way is not, itself, the sole or first cause of that action; it is, rather, the last event in a set of conditions that causes the action. A person may choose to wear a red shirt, but his choice to do so is, itself, causally determined. Though the causes for a person’s choice are “internal and invisible” and sometimes unknown, they do very much exist. A person’s brain had to react in exactly the way it reacted because the choice it made was a determined event. According to philosopher Paul Rée, the person chooses to wear a red shirt because of “causes whose historical development could be traced back ad infinitum.” Even if a person thinks he could have done otherwise, it is only under a different, though perhaps very slightly different, set of conditions or causes that he could have acted in a different manner. Therefore, because a choice is a caused event, it is predetermined and must happen. Because the choice must happen, it is not an act of free will. Argument from Drive Resistance A second argument against hard determinism is the “argument from drive resistance.” It is stated as such: Premise 1: Sometimes we resist our passions. Premise 2: If sometimes we resist our passions, then sometimes we are acting freely. Premise 3: If sometimes we are acting freely, then hard determinism is false. Therefore, hard determinism is false. Premise 1 is a simple observation; people have passions or desires to, for example, commit murder, engage in adultery, or drive recklessly. People, however, are able to prevent themselves from engaging in such activities. Premise 2 gives a definition of “acting freely.” A person acts freely if he is able to choose to act in a way that does not yield to passions. This premise suggests that by resisting passions, people are able to avoid the infinite number of historical causes and to ultimately act freely. Premise 3 is the negation of hard determinism. Like the “argument from choice,” the “argument from drive resistance” does not deny that every event has a cause and for this reason is valid but unsound. The strongest objection to this argument is to deny Premise 2; though people are able to resist their passions, it does not follow that they are acting freely. For example, a person may resist the desire to commit murder. However, just as committing a murder has a cause, so too does not committing a murder. The person may resist the desire to murder because another desire, such as not wanting to be punished for his actions, pitying the fate of his victim, etc., causes him to do so. A person can never resist all of his drives. By the definition of free will given by the “argument from drive resistance,” therefore, a person is never acting freely. Additionally, resistance is equally subject to the laws of causality. It is not merely the cause of not murdering; it is an event and thus the effect of some other cause. If a person happens to resist committing murder, he was predetermined to resist committing murder and could not have acted in any other way. Ultimately, resisting one’s drives does not free a person from the laws of causality. Argument from Moral Responsibility The third argument against hard determinism is the “argument from moral responsibility.” It is stated as such: Premise 1: Sometimes we are morally responsible for our actions. Premise 2: If sometimes we are morally responsible for our actions, then sometimes we are acting freely. Premise 3: If sometimes we are acting freely, then hard determinism is false. Therefore, hard determinism is false. The argument defines moral responsibility in this way: X is morally responsible for action A if X deserves praise or blame for doing A. Premise 1 is a simple observation; it appeals to our common sense that if a person commits murder, he should be blamed and punished. If, on the other hand, a person saves another person’s life, he should be praised for doing so. Premise 2 defines “acting freely.” If people deserve praise or blame for an action, it is only rational that they must have freely chosen to act in the way that they did. For, if they had not acted freely, then they would not be praised or blamed. Premise 3 is a negation of hard determinism. The “argument from moral responsibility,” like the two arguments before it, is valid yet unsound. It presupposes that to “deserve” praise or blame for an action, a person must be the only cause of that action. In other words, a person does not “deserve” praise if he is forced into (by the cause) an act of kindness and does not “deserve” blame if he is forced into an act of cruelty. However, because this argument accepts that events are caused, it must also accept that actions that seem to deserve praise or blame are, themselves, caused events; a person cannot be the sole cause of an event. The main problem with this argument, therefore, is its first premise; though there are circumstances under which it may seem logical to praise or blame a person, it is actually not the case that a person is ever actually morally responsible for his actions. If a person commits murder, he had no choice but to commit murder. The murder was a caused event and had to happen. If the murder had to happen, then the murderer does not deserve praise or blame for his action. To argue in favor of moral responsibility, therefore, would be to claim that some events are uncaused, a notion that goes against our common sense. Many philosophers have responded to the rejection of Premise 1 by highlighting the implications it has for our current justice system. If we are to deny that moral responsibility exists, they say, then we have no justification for punishment and we must, therefore, abolish the use of any prison or detention center. A hard determinist would see this conclusion as rash; though moral responsibility may not exist, there are certainly other deserving justifications for punishment. For instance, the prison system can serve as a safety precaution, a violence deterrent, a center for rehabilitation, or to satisfy victim grievances. The very fact that events are caused allows for the belief that prisons may well be the cause of a reduction in violence. The desire not to be punished could be an event in a set of conditions that prevents a person from killing another person. Hard determinism asserts that nothing happens without a cause, that no act is free from the law of causality. Though there are many arguments against this theory, they ultimately fail to disprove hard determinism. JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU (1712–1778) Freedom fighter Jean-Jacques Rousseau was born on June 28, 1712, in Geneva, Switzerland. Rousseau’s mother died soon after his birth, and by the age of twelve, abandoned by his father, Rousseau traveled from home to home, staying with family members, employers, patrons, and lovers. Around 1742, Rousseau, who was now living in Paris and working as a music teacher and music copier, befriended Diderot, one of the major figures of the Enlightenment. Eventually, Rousseau would also become known as a key figure of the Enlightenment, though his relationship with its ideals and others associated with the movement were complex. Rousseau’s first recognition came in 1750, with his Discourse on the Sciences and Arts. The Academy of Dijon held an essay contest based on the question of whether or not the restoration of the sciences and arts had the tendency to purify morals, and Rousseau, who won the prize, argued that morals and goodness were corrupted by the advancement of civilization (an idea that would be common throughout his later philosophical texts). Rousseau continued to produce noteworthy texts (such as his famous political text, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality) and grew in popularity. In 1762, however, his popularity came crashing down with the publication of his books The Social Contract and Èmile. The books were met with great controversy and outcry, which included public burnings in Paris and Geneva, and the French monarchy ordered his arrest. Rousseau fled France and ultimately resided in the Swiss town of Neuchâtel, where he not only renounced his Genevan citizenship but also started working on his famous autobiography, Confessions. Rousseau eventually returned to France and sought refuge with British philosopher David Hume. On July 2, 1778, Rousseau died suddenly. In 1794, during the French Revolution, the new revolutionary government, whose views were vastly different than the monarchy’s, ordered that Rousseau’s ashes were to be placed in the Pantheon in Paris, and that he was to be honored as a national hero. The common theme throughout most of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s important philosophical work relates to the ideas of freedom, morality, and the state of nature. His work laid the foundations of the French and American Revolutions and had an incredible impact on Western philosophy. DISCOURSE ON THE ORIGIN OF INEQUALITY In one of his most famous political/philosophical texts, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Jean-Jacques Rousseau explains the essential elements of his philosophy. First, Rousseau lays out the different types of inequality that exist for people. He then takes these types of inequality and tries to determine which are “natural” and which are “unnatural” (meaning they could therefore be prevented). Rousseau believed that man, like every other animal found in nature, is motivated by two principles: self-preservation and pity. In man’s natural state, man is happy, needs little, and knows nothing of good and evil. The only thing that separates man from any other animal is a sense (though unrealized) of perfectability. It is this idea of perfectability that allows man to change over time. As humans socialize with other humans, the mind develops and reason begins to form. However, socialization also leads to a principle Rousseau refers to as “amour propre,” which is what drives humans to compare themselves to one another and seek domination over other humans in order to create happiness. As human societies become more complex and amour propre develops further, things like private property and labor are divided amongst the people, and this allows for the exploitation of the poor. The poor will then seek to end such discrimination by starting a war with the rich. However, the rich deceive the poor by creating a political society claiming to provide equality. Equality is not provided, however, and instead, oppression and inequality become permanent fixtures in society. Rousseau’s Natural Inequalities According to Rousseau, the only natural inequalities are differences in physical strength, because these are inequalities that arise in the natural state. In modern society, man is corrupted, and the inequalities that result from laws and property are not natural and should not be tolerated. THE SOCIAL CONTRACT Jean-Jacques Rousseau is perhaps best known for his book The Social Contract, where he famously said, “Men are born free, yet everywhere are in chains.” According to Rousseau, when man came into society, he had complete freedom and equality. Yet civil society acts as chains and suppresses man’s inherent freedom. To Rousseau, the only legitimate form of political authority is one in which all people have agreed upon a government with the intent of mutual preservation through a social contract. Rousseau refers to this group of people as a “sovereign.” The sovereign should always express the collective need of the people and provide for the common good of everyone, regardless of individual opinions or desires (he calls this the “general will”). The general will also shapes the creation of laws. Rousseau does not dismiss the importance of government, however, and understood that there would be friction between a sovereign and a government (whether it be a monarchy, aristocracy, or democracy). To ease such tensions, Rousseau claimed the sovereign should hold periodic assemblies and vote based on the general will. The assemblies should always be attended by the people of the sovereign, for the sovereignty is lost once elected representatives attend the assemblies, and in a truly healthy state, the votes should be practically unanimous. Furthermore, Rousseau advocates that there should be a court to mediate conflicts among individuals, and among the government and the sovereignty. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract is one of the most important philosophical texts in Western philosophy. At a time of political inequality, Rousseau made it clear that the right of the government was to govern by “the consent of the governed.” His radical ideas regarding the rights of man and the sovereignty of the people are frequently acknowledged as being the foundations of human rights and democratic principles. THE TROLLEY PROBLEM Facing the consequences Imagine the following scenario: A trolley has lost control of its brakes, and the driver has no way of stopping the train as it hurtles down the tracks on a very steep hill. A bit farther down the hill, you are standing and watching the episode unfold. You notice that a little farther down from where you are standing, five workmen stand on the tracks. The trolley is headed right for them. If something is not done, these five men will surely die. Right next to you, you notice there is a lever that will make the trolley move onto another track. However, upon looking at this second track, you see that there is one person on it. If you switch the direction of the trolley, the five workers from the first track will survive; however, the one person on the second track will die. What do you do? Now imagine this scenario: You are standing on a bridge and watch as a trolley loses control and hurtles down the hill. At the end of the tracks are the five workmen who are bound to die. This time, there is no lever to move the trolley to another track. The trolley will be passing under the bridge that you are standing on, though, and you know that dropping a heavy weight in front of the trolley will make it stop. You happen to be standing next to a very fat man and realize that the only way to stop the trolley from killing the five workmen is by pushing the fat man over the bridge and onto the track, which, as a result, will kill the fat man. What do you do? The trolley problem, which continues to be a source of debate to this day, was first introduced in 1967 by British philosopher Philippa Foot and was later expanded upon by American philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson. CONSEQUENTIALISM The trolley problem is a perfect critique of consequentialism. Consequentialism is the philosophical view that an action is morally right when it produces the best overall consequences. There are two basic principles to consequentialism: An act is right or wrong based solely on its results. The more good consequences created from an act, the better and more right that act is. While consequentialism can provide guidance for how one should live his life (we should live to maximize the amount of good consequences) and how to react during a moral dilemma (we should choose the action that will maximize the good consequences), consequentialism has been met with its fair share of criticism. In consequentialism, it proves challenging to predict future conseq