Powerful Ideas: An Introduction to Philosophy

Benefits of Studying Philosophy

Studying philosophy can help a student to understand the way the world works. Philosophy develops intelligence and makes the person search for the truth instead of putting trust in everything. This science can teach to ask questions and look for the most accurate answers. It encourages the person to think more, analyze and explore the rules and mechanisms that act in our life. Philosophy changes the way a person reacts to different situations. The person studying philosophy becomes more well-rounded and thoughtful.

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Socratic Method of Teaching

Socratic Method of Teaching is based on the absence of ready answers given by the teacher. Instead, students are encouraged to answer the given open-ended questions by choosing appropriate ways of searching for the truth. This method develops the ability to think critically, analyze the existing opinions and information, and synthesize the most well-grounded answer based on the expressed ideas and thoughts. It is a useful way for students to learn, as it encourages their direct involvement in the learning process. This method is aimed at making the students being the creators of the true answers instead of being only the receivers of the prepared information.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the system of judgments used to analyze and evaluate the events and facts through formulating well-grounded reasoning. It includes employing rationality and justifying the views in a coherent way (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p. 7). Critical thinking is the key to the effective analysis of any philosophical issue. It helps the students to prejudice any statement or opinion, analyze its validity, and make conclusions about its credibility.

Three Methods of Reasoning

There are three methods of reasoning. The deduction includes searching for data (premises) that support the argument, while induction includes searching for the argument that explains the data. The conclusion of the deduction is 100% certain, and the conclusion of induction is not. Abduction is used when based on the existing evidence we find the best explanation and formulate the argument (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p. 10).

Areas of Philosophy

In this course, such areas of philosophy as metaphysics (including philosophy of religion from Western and Eastern perspective), epistemology, aesthetics, ethics, and political philosophy will be discussed. Metaphysics explores the nature of existence. Epistemology deals with the nature of knowledge. Aesthetics studies the way we perceive and evaluate beauty. Ethics explores human actions and their evaluation as right or wrong. Political philosophy deals with the nature of government.

Various Views on Substance

There are different views on the nature of Being. Materialism views reality as a collection of physical objects, while Idealism views reality as a collection of immaterial objects. Substance dualism views reality as a combination of material and immaterial objects. Each of the views encourages a different understanding of the purpose of human life and the rules of this world.

Nature of Universals and Particulars

There are four main views on the nature of universals and particulars. Extreme or Platonic Realism explains reality as the combination of forms existing in separate realms (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p. 33). Due to this view, ideas exist apart from our thoughts. I found this concept the most well-grounded as it regards reality as constantly changing. Aristotle opposed Plato and stood for Exaggerated Realism, which claims that the particulars have the universals within them (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p. 33). I think Conceptualism views have particular strength as they present universals as “object concepts” created in our minds by examining particulars (p. 34). Extreme Nominalism sounds too radical as it denies the existence of universals.

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The Views of Anaximander

Anaximander stated the endlessness of the primary substance. He regarded the idea of Primary substance existing in a pure observable form as an inaccurate one (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p. 36). It seems that Anaximander was right, as the primary substance cannot be observed anywhere in the world.

The Views of Pythagoras

Pythagoras’ statement about the nature of the substance is based on the belief that only numbers, which never lie, can reflect the truth about reality. His famous theorem about the three sides of the right triangle is verifiable and always true. Understanding the numbers is one of the main keys to the exploration of the nature of Being, as numbers never lie or express a subjective opinion.

Aristotle’s Four Causes

Aristotle’s four causes became the main foundation for the modern scientific method (p. 40). These four causes rely on the questions supposed to be asked to get closer to reality. The questions are the following: “What is it? What was it made of?” “How was it made or who made it?” “What is it for?” (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p. 45). The material cause reflects what the thing is made of. The formal clause is the collection of properties and functions that distinguish the thing from others. The efficient clause reflects the producer of changes in the thing. The final clause is the final direction of the thing.

Rationalism and Empiricism

There are two main methods of acquiring knowledge. Rationalism relies on the use of logic and reason, while empiricism relies on the use of observation, investigation, and experience (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p. 63). Rationalism is aimed at acquiring the certain and necessary knowledge, which arrives without experience. Empiricism is aimed at acquiring knowledge by gaining some experience.

A priori and A posteriori Knowledge

A priori knowledge is necessary and certain. Acquiring it does not involve any experience. Examples of A priori knowledge can be found in mathematics or definitions. The examples of A priori knowledge are sometimes regarded as belonging to analytic knowledge. A posteriori knowledge can be acquired only after gaining some experience. Examples of A posteriori knowledge can be found in science and personal knowledge. The examples of A posteriori knowledge are sometimes regarded as belonging to synthetic knowledge.

Foundationalism and Coherentism

Foundationalism is an epistemic theory created by Rene Descartes. The theory regards the rational method as essential to have the knowledge and states that knowledge should be based on true basic beliefs. Such beliefs are called foundational. Descartes has concluded that there is only one foundational belief: I think therefore I am. However, this belief can prove that the rest of reality is true. Coherentism denies the claim about basic beliefs.

On the contrary, it states that many of our beliefs “are justified by other beliefs” (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p. 67). Therefore, whole systems of beliefs are considered to be justified by their coherence. This theory appears to be less well-grounded than foundationalism, as the coherence of beliefs does not prove their credibility.

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Theories of Truth

Pragmatic theories of truth emphasize the relativity of truth while correspondence theory of truth states that the belief is true only if it corresponds to something existing in reality. James’ pragmatic theory defines truth as “what was useful to believe by the individual” (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p. 69). Peirce’s pragmatic theory defines truth as what is proved by scientific inquiry. Tarski’s theory of truth for formalized languages is considered a foundation of correspondence theory. It supports the statement that defines the truth as what can be found in the world.

Gödel’s Theorem

The implications of Gödel’s Theorem are related to the statement that artificial intelligence can never overcome the possibilities of the human mind. The theorem brings in the understanding of the human mind’s superiority to machines. The machines are regarded as able only to imitate the human mind but unable to perform the tasks that can be done only by the human mind.


Roca, O., & Schuh, M. (2015). Powerful ideas: An introduction to philosophy. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

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