Philosophy 111 – Introduction to Philosophy (Fall 2002)
[Students and professors, please read.]
1. Compare and contrast the fields of philosophy studied thus far (ethics, epistemology, metaphysics).
In philosophy, the field of ethics considers the morality of behavior (whether it is right or wrong) or whether, for example, morality is subjective (ex.: situational) or objective (ex.: universal, unchanging), or both on different levels. The field of epistemology studies theories of knowledge, or ways of knowing, and its limits or validity (ex.: does the scientific method help us identify knowledge we can count on?). The field of metaphysics is concerned with aspects of reality not observable by science, some examples being the philosophy of mind (is it separate from matter?), discussions on the fundamental causes or processes in things (ex.: first cause argument), and discussions on God (or “store of Nature” in Chuang Tzu, not that he was referring to God).
All fields of philosophy are interrelated. For example, metaphysics affects epistemology in that the nature of reality affects what we can know about reality, and conversely epistemology effects metaphysics in that what we can know effects our inquiry into the nature of reality. Ethics is effected by both epistemology and metaphysics because, what we know about the nature of reality helps us form our ideas about morality–figuring out whether or not those ideas are accurate is the study of ethics.
Inside the field of ethics we studied the Gita and Rand, the Gita favoring duty to the collective and emphasizing detachment from the objects of sense, and Rand giving priority to the individual and rational self-interest. In the field of epistemology we studied Chuang Tzu alone, who said to let Nature take its course, we can’t know everything and don’t need to know everything. And in the field of metaphysics, we studied Plato’s “The Parable of the Cave” and Black Elk’s “Crazy Horse’s Vision”, Plato speaking of a greater awareness of reality through the world of mind, and Black Elk referring to a more-real spirit world.
Both Chuang Tzu and Black Elk possibly held the “All is One” concept, if Black Elk was referring to one spirit when he said, “the horse and himself on it and the trees and the grass and the stones and everything were made of spirit.” Both Rand and Chuang Tzu agree that we do not go out of our way (Rand: behave in contradiction to our personal values; Tzu: true humanity comes naturally and requires no extra effort on our part) to love (Chuang Tzu: jen), or it is not really love. Black Elk and Plato reflected an awareness which led to self-sacrifice. In Crazy Horse’s Vision, Black Elk writes that Crazy Horse would go without food when his people were hungry. In The Parable of the Cave, of the freedman, Plato writes, “Would he not feel as Homer says (in the Odyssey), and heartily desire rather to be serf of some landless man on earth and to endure anything in the world, rather than to opine as they did and to live in that way (able to prophesy on a cave-level awareness, honoured men and potentates)?” Rand may have wanted to point out their supposed self-sacrifice was just integrity to their personal values. Lastly, both Plato and the Gita place great emphasis on the mind, Plato of a mental prison that we are freed from with greater awareness, the Gita speaking against attachment (a form of imprisonment) in the mind to the objects of sense.