Powerful Ideas: An Introduction to Philosophy

The benefits of studying philosophy

Apart from being an interesting subject that provides an insight into the development of modern society and its knowledge, philosophy is beneficial for students regardless of their majors. I think so because philosophy is connected to the development of critical thinking skills and offers various perspectives on the commonly accepted terms (for example, ethics) that broaden our understanding and make us more open-minded.

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The Socratic Method of Teaching

In short, the Socratic Method of Teaching is concerned with ensuring a dialogue between the student and the educator where the latter asks questions that can offer an insight into the matter and the students’ beliefs and opinions. I believe that useful ways of learning depend on every person. Therefore, I think that some students can benefit from the Method. Moreover, this method seems to be compatible with the modern attempts at moving away from traditional lecture-based teaching. Also, it apparently trains critical thinking and problem-solving skills. However, there are students who can get anxious and even humiliated in the process (for example, students with limited fluency in the language of study or just naturally shy people). Therefore, it should be used with caution.

Induction, abduction, and deduction

Induction, abduction, and deduction are an example of the way philosophy studies explain and promote critical thinking. They are all inference methods, and they describe the relations between premises and conclusions. The deduction is concerned with moving from general assumptions to specific ones, and it necessarily implies that if the premise is correct, so is the conclusion. For example, if all people have an X-chromosome, and I am a person, I have an X-chromosome. Induction is opposed to deduction in moving from the specific cases to a general one; for example, if every jogger I have met so far wears headphones, I can assume that all joggers wear headphones when running. It is likely to be a flawed conclusion, though, since my sample is not representative enough. With abduction, the certainty of the conclusions’ correctness is even less significant, since, in this case, we make assumptions about the possible reasons for a phenomenon we witness. For example, if I see that my cat’s bowl is empty, I assume he has eaten his food and is not hungry right now. There is a chance that the food was thrown away by my mother or that insects (aliens) had eaten it, but I consider these explanations extremely unlikely, so I will not feed the cat right now despite him asking since being overweight is not good for him.

Materialism, dualism and idealism

The three views on substance include materialism that considers the matter (the physical, tangible universe) to be the only thing that really exists, idealism, according to which only the mind and ideas (non-physical elements of the universe) are truly existing, and dualism that combines both approaches and suggests that both matter and mind exist.

The 4 views as to the nature of universals and particulars

The idea of universals was supported by the two realism views, rejected by anti-realism, and interpreted by conceptualism in a way that united the opposing views. Basically, a universal is what we describe as “class,” an entity that is represented by many particulars (particular things), all of which share a similar characteristic. For instance, human, big, mother are universals: there are many particulars that share the qualities of being human, big, or a mother. The Platonic realism argued that universals do exist in an ideal form, and Aristotelian realism suggested that they exist as long as their particulars exist. Anti-realism rejected the idea of universals and insisted that only particulars exist. Conceptualism united the two approaches suggesting that universals do exist but only in the human minds, and this idea appears most appealing to me due to the fact that it is not an extreme one.

The views of Anaximander regarding the nature of the substance

Anaximander believed that there was an endless substance that constructed the world. Thus, he believed that the primary substance was not any of the known ones (like water) but something unknown, endless, eternal, and capable of producing the rest of the world and accepting its elements back after they die.

The views of Pythagoras regarding the nature of the substance

Pythagoras was a mathematician, which defined his views of substance. For Pythagoras, the substance of the world was less important than its mathematical form and relations. An example is the symbolic representation of the earth, air, fire, and water in the form of a triangle with four rows: this figure was regarded by Pythagoras as the representation of the cosmos that was governed by mathematical relations.

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Rationalism and empiricism

The difference between rationalism and empiricism is related to the opinions concerning the ways we gain knowledge. Empiricism suggests that that the experience which comes from our senses is the only source of knowledge about the world that we can have. Rationalists argue that other ways (for example, innate knowledge, intuition, deduction) are also a possibility. The fact that rationalists are correct can be proved, for instance, by the existence of a priori knowledge and inference methods.

A priori and A posteriori knowledge

A priori and a posteriori knowledge distinction are aimed at describing the way we learn things. A priori is used to denote the knowledge that appears prior to (without) any experience with the phenomenon while posterior facts require learning about it with the help of one’s senses. For example, the knowledge that is gained through deduction can be considered a priori. However, if I sip my tea, and it burns my tongue, I will have the a posteriori knowledge of it being hot.

Foundationalism and Coherentism

Foundationalism and coherentism are two epistemological stances. Foundationalism suggests that some ideas are correct, and their correctness does not require justification. In other words, foundationalism is concerned with axiomatic statements that, for example, are often found in geometry. Coherentism argues that such an approach is unacceptable, and all statements must be justified. This way, coherentism hopes to achieve objective truth.

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