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review 2018-12-14 14:38
Whateveritis: "The Speculations on Metaphysics, Polity and Morality of The Old Philosopher Lau Tsze" by Lau Tsze
The speculations on metaphysics, polity, and morality, of ... Lau-Tsze, tr ... - Laozi

(Original Review, 1981-05-07)

Find myself? I've been trying to lose myself for years. So maybe the trick is to be a more relaxed, healthy, aware, effective and self-attuned idiot?

Piece of advice from a "Master" (myself):

Step 1: Remove head from your anus.
Step 2: Remove shit covering your eyes.
Step 3: Open your eyes.
Congratulations, you are now mindful.

Looking for an authentic, real self is generally understood to relate to spirituality, not the 'self' we are in our daily lives and how this 'self' is different in each situation.
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.


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review 2017-01-26 00:00
Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals
Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals - Immanuel Kant Never trust what modern writers say about classic works of Philosophy. Kant is not only relevant because of the influence he had on latter day thinkers, but, as with this work, he has something to say which makes mince meat out of most of the present day writers. If this book had been published for the first time last year, most readers would have thought it was the greatest book they had read in the decade (or even in their lifetimes).

There is a little bit of getting used to the special language that Kant uses, but it's really not hard to follow if you are familiar with Kant (I am not a philosopher but I want to learn my purpose and how best to be 'good'). He'll use 'synthetic' and 'analytic', the trick I use is since 'synthetic' starts with 's' think 'senses', and analytic is another word for math so think 'math', for 'a posteriori' and 'a priori' (I put them in this order because 'a posteriori' relates to the senses (synthetic) and is after the fact or after experience, 'a priori' relates to 'analytic' before the fact or from first principles or deductively as in a mathematical system. Two other Kantian words are 'subjective' (think 'self' sense it starts with 's' and 'objective' is an 'object' (or thing) outside of yourself.

Kant is really not hard to follow and this work in particular was clearly written such that any one can really follow it because he obviously wants as wide an audience as possible for what he is going to tell the reader. (Now, I will admit that "Critique of Pure Reason' was hard at first but once I looked up those words in the above paragraph I ended up loving what he had to say and how he said it. With Kant you always get a unique way of looking at something and it's not always as important what he concludes as how he gets there. He even says something like that at the end of CPR, but with this book how he gets there and what he says are both well worth the effort).

The reason he wants such a wide audience is because what he's going to tell the reader is an answer to one of the two great universal truths we all seek: 1) knowledge (justified true beliefs) about the world (Aristotle starts his Metaphysics with this fact), and 2) knowledge of the good (or divine) (Plato's formulation). This book is all about the second truth we all want, and to know about the 'good' one must first understand what the good is. This is what he does within this book.

Kant builds a 'ground' based on reason to get at what our unconditional duties are in which we need to grasp the unconditional practical reason (morality) as maxims (universal laws) or as he says 'categorical imperatives'. Or in other words, he uses the infinite to get at our finite understanding of how we should approach life. His methodology is always a pleasure to behold and will teach anyone (including me) how to think better, and his conclusions are one of the best guides on how to live a moral life that I've encountered. I like the Golden Rule (and parts of the Sermon on the Mount), I like J.S. Mill's utilitarian philosophy, and I just love Kant's Categorical Imperatives. A combination of all three is how I choose to live.

In the end, we earthlings, need to understand what it means to be good. All moral philosophy at its root combines empathy with reciprocity of some kind and call for us to be 'good' in some fashion, but 'what is the good (or divine)' is not obvious except usually in some circular fashion, and this book gives an extraordinarily good account for it. Don't worry about the technical language, because overall it is written to be understood, and is an incredibly good self help book that could easily replace almost all the rest of the current best sellers especially the vile self help books which I walk past in the bookstore.
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review 2016-08-02 00:00
Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals
Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals - Iris Murdoch I gave a lot of time to this book, both reading it and deferring my review while thinking about it. I normally write reviews within a day and just put down my first reactions and, despite the time taken, that is probably the only way I can review this book.

My fantasy about Murdoch is this - that she has taught philosophy at a leading university for many years, associating with many leading philosophers and many students of whom some at least were very bright, and that she has developed a weary resignation in the face of certain commonly held views. Her target in this book seems to me to be the proposition that philosophy, or metaphysics, is a waste of time, we do not need it any more, and it is time to turn to more successful, preferably more scientific ways to address the problems formerly assigned to philosophers. In this book she sets out to show that these smart-sounding assertions are mistaken and wrong.

She has a number of approaches to this theme. One is that people fail to understand their sources - they hear what they want to hear, not what was said. Another is that, in reality, people pronouncing the death of metaphysics either make a string of unexamined metaphysical claims which they are unable to justify when challenged, or at least require metaphysical foundations in order to stand on their chosen ground. A further approach is to simply demonstrate the continuing validity, value and necessity of metaphysics.

This is not a textbook. It assumes that the reader is familiar with the work of the philosophers and does not fill in the background which most of us would probably find helpful. The style is, in my personal opinion, self indulgent and uncompromising, with a very selective choice of material which I suspect is too narrow. She dismisses philosophers / writers who do not interest her, or do not fit her theme, with a very opinionated wave. And I wrote off entire chapters as tedious and badly written - notably her chapter about tragedy, which I hated.

By contrast, she has other chapters that spring to life, presumably because they touch on her particular interests in a way that exploits to the full her evident grasp of her subject and ability to teach it in a lively and absorbing manner. I think, for instance, that she does a terrific job explaining Wittgenstein and making him accessible and relevant. She also finds a congenial theme in discussing and exploring the Ontological Proof of Anselm and the way this has been interpreted later, notably by Kant, turning this seemingly mediaeval and highly technical topic into something filled with poetry and significance.

One source she clearly does love is Plato and she has many opportunities to use his ideas to great effect. She certainly does think he has been misunderstood and misrepresented and she is more than keen to restore him to his plinth. This is interesting, because so many other writers have cast Plato in a very unpleasant light indeed. Since you ask for examples, I think of Popper's Open Society and its Enemies as a loud warning to avoid Plato like poison. She does indeed make the idea of returning to Plato far more enticing.

The trouble is, though, that Murdoch's eventual positive opinions, things she is willling to set out as her contribution to the debate about morals, strike me as insipid and insufficient. She appears to represent metaphysics as the accumulation of weak arguments, as though in some way the mutual support of individually weak arguments can produce something that is strong. And she appears to exemplify that Church of England attitude by which religion must be preserved in the absence of rational support for the sake of convention.

In the end my personal response is to see her book as a useful but negative way to challenge public thinkers who claim that their proposals are rational, scientific, or otherwise beyond the reach of mere word merchants. It is her negations rather than her positive assertions that I enjoyed most. And she defends very ably the Whitehead proposition that all philosophy is a footnote to Plato.

The ‘demythologisation’ of religion is something absolutely necessary in this age. However … it may be in danger of losing too much while asserting too little. The loss of the Book of Common Prayer (Cranmer’s great prayer book) and of the Authorised Version of the Bible (which are now regarded as oddities or treats) is symptomatic of this failure of nerve. To say that people now cannot understand that ‘old language’ is not only an insult, but an invitation to more lax and cursory modes of expression. The religious life and the imperfect institutions thereof should continue to represent the all-importance of goodness.” [p460]

The idea of repentance and leading a better cleansed and renewed life is a generally understood moral idea; and the, however presented, granting of absolution, God’s forgiveness, keeps many people inside religion, or invites them to enter. Guilt, especially deep apparently incurable guilt, can be one of the worst of human pains. To cure such an ill, because of human sin, God must exist. … Salvation as spiritual change often goes with the conception of a place of purification and healing. (We light candles, we bring flowers, we go somewhere and kneel down.) This sense of a safe place is characteristic of religious imagery. … There is a literal place, the place of pilgrimage, the place of worship, the shrine, the sacred grove, there is also a psychological or spiritual place, a part of the soul. … Religion provides a well known well-tried procedure of rescue. [p486]

I have been wanting to use Plato’s images as a sort of Ontological Proof of the necessity of Good, or rather, since Plato has already done this, to put his arguments into a modern context as a background to moral philosophy, as a bridge between morals and religion, and as relevant to our new disturbed understanding of religious truth. [p511]

...I attach … great importance to the concept of a transcendent good as an idea (properly interpreted) essential to both morality and religion. How do you mean essential? Do you mean it is empirically found to be so or are you recommending it? This is the beginning to which such enquiries are frequently returned, except that it is not the beginning. The beginning is hard to find. Perhaps here the beginning is the circular nature of metaphysical argument itself, whereby arguer combines an appeal to ordinary observation with an appeal to moral attitude. The process involves connecting together different considerations and pictures so that they give each other mutual support. Thus for instance there appears to be an internal relation between truth and goodness and knowledge. I have argued in this sense from cases of art and skill and ordinary work and ordinary moral discernment, where we establish truth and reality by an insight which is an exercise of virtue. Perhaps that is the beginning, which is also our deepest closest ordinary experience. [p511]
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review 2016-05-06 00:00
Metaphysics - Aristotle Metaphysics - Aristotle First, I want to thank LibriVox for making this book freely available in an audio edition.

This is the only 3 star book where I would recommend it to everyone. My start of reading primary philosophy started with Heidegger, that led me to Hegel and then Kant. There's no doubt I should have suffered through this book first, because those authors rely on Aristotle in many ways and not just to tear him apart but to add to how Aristotle approached the topic of metaphysics.

I've learned to no longer trust commentaries of the great works of philosophy. The summaries just seem to get it wrong. One must go to the primary source to understand what was really said. Most of the time people comment on the Metaphysics they emphasis the four causes (form, matter, efficiency, and final cause). While they are right they are in the book, they are missing the heart of the matter.

Metaphysics is really defined by this book. Ontology, the science of being, the what is there, or the what is the furniture that makes up the room and what is that furniture really made up of are discussed in this book. Also, the foundation, the primary structure, the first causes of the world is looked at. Aristotle values both the empirical and the rational, the world of the physical and the abstract. Also, the nature of science is analyzed.

Aristotle speaks logic. He beats into the reader the meaning of mutually exclusive (something has to either be or not be at the same time and place) and contradiction (something can't be and not be at the same time and place). At his best, Aristotle puts reality back in to the dialectics. From Heraclitus' a person can't cross the river because they and the river are always changing, or Parmenides change is impossible because there is no such thing as the void (don't completely dismiss that because Einstein's block universe leads to that too). Aristotle uses his logic to demolish those beliefs.

I've tried reading it before but never got out of Book 1. I now know why. Aristotle is verbose in his prose. The substance of the universe are not numbers. It only took me one one sentence to dismiss that notion. It takes Aristotle all of book 13 to say that with multiple chapters and what seems like run on sentences before he lays out his excruciating arguments.

I hate recommending this book because it is painfully written, but it has real insights which are painfully and slowly drawn out, and it's clear that this book has influenced many later day philosophers who I have recently read. (Kant systematically destroys most of Aristotle's conclusion, Heidegger obviously worshiped the occurentness (a Dreyfus neologism) of Aristotle, and Hegel follows Aristotle's soul, identity, and essence (to me, the most dangerous concept in science!).
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review 2014-10-23 00:00
The Moral Law: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals
The Moral Law: Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals - Immanuel Kant,Herbert James Paton Translator's Preface
Commentary and Analysis of the Argument - The Approach to Moral Philosophy, Outline of a Metaphysic of Morals, Outline of a Critique of Practical Reason

--Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals

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