Philosophy Thinkers



Saint Anselm Ontological argument for the existence of God


Ontological arguments are arguments, for the conclusion that God exists, from premises which are supposed to derive from some source other than observation of the world—e.g., from reason alone. In other words, ontological arguments are arguments from what are typically alleged to be none but analytic, a priori and necessary premises to the conclusion that God exists.


St. Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, made a fair share in the long list of proofs for proving the existence of God. He made an argument wherein it completely relies on one’s understanding of God to prove its actual existence; this is popularly known as the Ontological Argument


St. Anselm, in his Proslogion, unknowingly formulated what appear to be two arguments. It was not clear to him that the first argument he laid down was completely different from the 2 second argument, for he had seen it merely as an elaboration of the first one. “However, most philosophers today think that he stumbled on a completely different, and perhaps, stronger line of reasoning”.


The two arguments begin with the same initial premises but takes a different direction as it goes further. The first argument “purports to prove, simply from the concept of God as the supreme being, that God’s existence cannot rationally be doubted by anyone having such a concept of Him.”


The second argument “makes the stronger claim that God exists necessarily, or in other words, God possesses a kind of existence that is possessed by no other thing.


The first argument goes like this: I have an idea of God. This idea of God is the idea of a being that is the greatest that can be conceived. A being is greater if it exists in reality than if it exists only in the understanding alone. If God, who is the greatest conceivable being, exists in 3 the understanding alone, then a greater being that exists in reality can be conceived. But this is a contradiction. It is absurd to conceive of a being which is greater than the greatest conceivable being.


According to second argument-God, the greatest possible being, is the one whose existence does not depend on anything else. This implies that God “cannot begin to exist and cease to exist” (Lawhead 2007, 9) and also, God does not just happen to exist but exists necessarily. Therefore, God exists and “thou canst not be conceived not to exist; and rightly. For if a mind could conceive of a being better than thee, the creature would rise above the Creator; and this is most absurd.

In brief the argument can be explained as –

Anselm’s Ontological Argument


(1) God is that than which no greater can be conceived.
(2) If God is that than which no greater can be conceived then there is nothing greater than God that can be imagined.

(3) There is nothing greater than God that can be imagined.
(4) If God does not exist then there is something greater than God that can be imagined.
(5) God exists.

The first premise of this argument, (1), is Anselm’s conception of God. (2) is a simple logical truth; if God is the greatest conceivable being then there is no greater conceivable being. (3) follows simply from (1) and (2).

Anselm argues in support of (4) by comparing a non-existent God with an existent God. An existent God, says Anselm, is greater than a non-existent God. If God were non-existent, therefore, then we could imagine a God greater than he, namely an existent God.

(5) follows simply from (3) and (4).










Descaftes – method of doubt, I think therefore I am


Cogito, ergo sum” (Latin: “I am thinking, therefore I exist,” or traditionally “I think, therefore I am”) is a philosophical phrase by René Descartes, and it is a translation of Descartes’ original French statement: “Je pense, donc je suis,” which occurs in his Discourse on Method (1637).

The interpretation of this phrase has been subject to numerous philosophical debates. The phrase expresses a skeptical intellectual climate which is indicative of early modern philosophy.

In the First Meditations Descartes explains why he can call his beliefs into doubt, since his beliefs have deceived him before — I think we can all relate to one experience where our beliefs have been totally wrong and we feel the way old Descartes feels here. He argues that perhaps he is currently dreaming or that God is actually a deceiving demon, or that he is simply crazy. This gives him reason to be skeptical of all his beliefs, which leads us into the Second Meditations. Here is where he convinces himself that nothing of the world is real. He essentially disbelieves everything that can possibly be called into question and whittles existence down into nothing.

In the Second Meditation, Descartes tries to establish absolute certainty in his famous reasoning: Cogito, ergo sum or “I think, therefore I am.” These Meditations are conducted from the first person perspective, from Descartes.’ However, he expects his reader to meditate along with him to see how his conclusions were reached. This is especially important in the Second Meditation where the intuitively grasped truth of “I exist” occurs. So the discussion here of this truth will take place from the first person or “I” perspective. All sensory beliefs had been found doubtful in the previous meditation, and therefore all such beliefs are now considered false. This includes the belief that I have a body endowed with sense organs. But does the supposed falsehood of this belief mean that I do not exist? No, for if I convinced myself that my beliefs are false, then surely there must be an “I” that was convinced. Moreover, even if I am being deceived by an evil demon, I must exist in order to be deceived at all. So “I must finally conclude that the proposition, ‘I am,’ ‘I exist,’ is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind. This just means that the mere fact that I am thinking, regardless of whether or not what I am thinking is true or false, implies that there must be something engaged in that activity, namely an “I.” Hence, “I exist” is an indubitable and, therefore, absolutely certain belief that serves as an axiom from which other, absolutely certain truths can be deduced.


Spinoza – Substance’ Pantheism’


Spinoza advocates an extremely unorthodox conception of God. He derives it from his concept of Substance, employing the geometrical method that relies on selfevident axioms and those propositions logically deduced from them. Naturally, his views have attracted criticism and the wrath of the established orthodoxy.

Spinoza thus proceeds from the definition of Substance given by Descartes and also by the Scholastic thinkers and following its implications reaches a notion that concludes that there cannot be anything else other than God and nature cannot be different from God. But before we trace this pantheistic conclusion let us see the way he evolves this notion form the ancient concept of Substance: God as the only Substance.

Pantheism of Spinoza One of the most striking aspects of Spinoza’s philosophy is his conception of God, which begins with his elaboration of the Scholastic and Cartesian conceptions of Substance to its logical extremes where nothing else but Substance or God alone exists. This position raises certain important questions concerning the world, the mind and body relationship (as the world is divided into the mental and spiritual substances), the relationship between man and God, human destiny and liberation. Spinoza’s pantheism is an answer to all these questions.

Spinoza categorically asserts that God is the source of everything that is and He is the immanent principle of the universe. This leads to the identification of God with the world: God is the world and the world in Him or God and the world are one. Understood in this sense, God is not a mere creator of the world, who has created it and remains separated from it. He is the permanent substratum or essence in all things and the active principle or source of all reality.

 To account for the relationship between God and nature Spinoza introduces two terms: Natura Naturans and Natura Naturata. The Latin term Natura Naturans means nature naturing, or nature doing what nature does. The term naturans is the present participle of natura and Natura Naturans refers to the self-causing activity of nature or nature in the active sense. It is nature in itself and is conceived through itself.

 On the other hand, the term Natura Naturata refers to the plurality of objects. It stands for the effects or products of the principle and in this sense nature is considered as a passive product of an infinite causal chain. It is whatever follows from the necessity of God’s nature, or from God’s attributes. All the modes of God’s attributes insofar as they are considered as things which are in God, and can neither be nor be conceived without God constitute Natura Naturata.

 With his pantheism Spinoza presents a logical theory of God derived from the notion of substance and relates it with the way things actually exist in the world and as we humans experience them. This theory would be complete only with an explanation of the notions of bondage and liberation, which Spinoza describes with the idea of an intellectual love of God.


Leibnitz – theory of Monad

G.W. Leibniz’s Monadology (1714) is a very concise and condensed presentation of his theory that the universe consists of an infinite number of substances called monads. Leibniz discusses the nature of monadic perception and consciousness, the principles which govern truth and reason, and the relation of the monadic universe to God.

Leibniz defines a monad as a simple substance which cannot be divided into parts. A compound substance may be formed by an aggregation of monads. Thus, a compound substance may be divided into simple parts.

According to Leibniz, monads differ in quality, and no two monads are exactly alike. Each monad has its own individual identity. Each monad has its own internal principle of being. A monad may undergo change, but this change is internally determined. Changes in the properties of any monad are not externally determined by other monads.

Each monad has a plurality of properties and relations, which constitutes its perception. Each monad has its own perceptions which differ from the perceptions of other monads. Perceptual changes are constituted by the internal actions of monads. Leibniz describes three levels of monads, which may be differentiated by their modes of perception A simple or bare monad has unconscious perception, but does not have memory. A simple or ordinary soul is a more highly developed monad, which has distinct perceptions, and which has conscious awareness and memory. A rational soul or spirit is an even more highly developed monad, which has self-consciousness and reason (both of which constitute “apperception”).

Leibniz says that necessary and eternal truths may be known by reason. A rational soul may know necessary and permanent truths, in contrast to an ordinary soul which can only connect perceptions by means of memory. A rational soul can know eternal truths about the universe and about the relation of the universe to God. A rational soul thinks of itself as limited, but thinks of God as unlimited.

Leibniz explains that reason is governed by two main principles: the principle of contradiction, and the principle of sufficient reason. According to the principle of contradiction, a proposition must be either true or false. If two propositions are contradictory to each other, then one of the propositions must be true, and the other must be false. According to the principle of sufficient reason, nothing happens without a reason. No proposition can be true without a sufficient reason for its being true and not false.

Leibniz declares that there are two kinds of truth: truths of reason, and truths of fact. Truths of reason are a priori, while truths of fact are a posteriori. Truths of reason are necessary, permanent truths. Truths of fact are contingent, empirical truths. Both kinds of truth must have a sufficient reason. Truths of reason have their sufficient reason in being opposed to the contradictoriness and logical inconsistency of propositions which deny them. Truths of fact have their sufficient reason in being more perfect than propositions which deny them.Leibniz also claims, however, that the ultimate reason of all things must be found in a necessary and universal substance, which is God. A primary substance is not material, according to Leibniz, because matter is infinitely divisible. Every monad is produced from a primary unity, which is God. Every monad is eternal, and contributes to the unity of all the other monads in the universe.

Leibniz says that there is only one necessary substance, and that this is God. A necessary substance is one whose existence is logically necessary. The existence of a necessary substance cannot be denied without causing some form of self-contradiction. Thus, God’s existence is logically necessary. God is absolutely real, infinite, and perfect. All perfection and all reality comes from God. God, as the supreme monad, is an absolute unity.

Leibniz explains that the perfection of a monad is revealed by its activity. The imperfection of a monad is revealed by its passivity. A monad is perfect insofar as it is active, and is imperfect insofar as it is passive. Actions and reactions are reciprocal relations between monads, and are constantly changing. The actions of some monads are a sufficient reason for the reactions of other monads. The reactions of some monads are given sufficient reason by the actions of other monads. All of the actions and reactions of monads are governed by a principle of harmony, which is established by God.

Leibniz argues that, insofar as the rational soul or spirit can know eternal truths and can act according to reason, it can reflect God. The spiritual world is a moral world, which can guide the natural world. The goodness of God ensures that there is harmony between the spiritual world and the natural world, and establishes harmony between moral laws and natural laws. A perfect harmony of moral and natural law is found in the spiritual world, which Leibniz calls the City of God.

Leibniz also says that there are an infinite number of possible universes in the mind of God, but that God has chosen a single universe whose sufficient reason is that it is the best possible universe (i.e. having the highest possible degree of perfection). This claim may be disputed, however, because it may be misused as an argument for an excessive and unjustifiable form of optimism.

Leibniz argues that God is supremely perfect, and that therefore God has chosen the best possible plan for the universe. God’s plan for the universe necessarily produces the greatest amount of happiness and goodness, because it reflects God’s absolute perfection. But Leibniz’s argument may be disputed by the opposing argument that the best of all possible worlds may not necessarily contain both good and evil. The best of all possible worlds may not necessaily contain both happiness and unhappiness. The universe may not necessarily be governed by harmony, but may be governed by disharmony. The universe may not necessarily reveal unity, but may reveal disunity.

Theory of Pre established harmony


Leibniz’s theory is best known as a solution to the mind–body problem of how mind can interact with the body. Leibniz rejected the idea of physical bodies affecting each other, and explained all physical causation in this way.

Under pre-established harmony, the preprogramming of each mind must be extremely complex, since only it causes its own thoughts or actions, for as long as it exists. In order to appear to interact, each substance’s “program” must contain a description of either the entire universe, or of how the object is to behave at all times during all interactions which appear to occur.

The word “harmony” is associated with images of synchronization, agreement, and accord. The original Greek word harmonia with its musical insinuations is actually a relative of the word harmos, which stands for the word “joint” in the anatomical sense. Leibniz stays rather true to these roots of the word when it comes to his doctrine of pre-established harmony. The doctrine, in short, primarily deals with the idea of causation in the universe, or rather, the lack thereof, by virtue of God’s beneficence and power in deciding to make everything in tune with everything else. 

The first unusual consequence of the doctrine of pre-established harmony, then, is that is annihilates all possibility of a real cause-and-effect framework between substances, something which might come as a surprise because it is so intuitive for us as far as relating one event to the other to say that one thing caused another.

The second consequence that strikes one as relevant is the still-implicit sense of being determined, even if it is only one’s individual substance that acts. The sense of causal determinism in a universe without real causation remains because true knowledge of someone would make one able to predict all that person’s future actions. 

Leibniz provides an excellent example of how pre-established harmony solves the mind-body problem in the aforementioned letter to de Beauval. He tells one to consider two clocks or watches in perfect agreement. This can be occur in one of three ways:

  1. Natural influence (like pendulum clocks) [The way of influence]
  2. Having someone watch over them constantly to avoid any lack of harmony [The way of assistance]
  3. Having them programmed perfectly so that they will always be in agreement [The way of pre-established harmony]


As Leibniz writes, then, it is a natural result of whatever it is that God had in mind when creating the “machinery the world” that “the springs of the bodies are ready to act of themselves, as they should, at precisely the moment the soul has a suitable volition or thought” and that “the soul, in turn, has this volition or thought only in conformity with the preceding states of the body.


It is a good theory to hold in over to avoid the many potential problems in more classical theories, since it has a timeless element to it. 

The main criticisms one can have against it, though, concern whether it is truly the simplest hypothesis with regards to the mind-body problem, or whether it is actually one of the more complex, since it does necessitate the existence of a God in the first place. But this does very little as far as saying “pre-established harmony is false,” it only makes it much easier for people to lean towards other directions. 



Locke –epistemology


John Locke belongs to the epistemological school of thought called Empiricism. Empiricism is a reaction to Rationalism which holds that reason, (in some sense), is the only road to genuine knowledge. The three notable rationalists are Rene Descartes, Wilhelm Leibniz and Baruch Spinoza. These rationalist philosophers have tried to find a completely certain foundation for our knowledge in terms of certain procedures of human reasoning.

 On the contrary, Empiricism is a theory of knowledge which holds that experience, rather than reason is the source of knowledge. The modern empiricists were John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume and they held that no innate knowledge exists and that whatever knowledge man possesses is acquired through experience. In other words, they asserted that all genuine knowledge is derived from sense perception and denied that reason alone without the sense can acquire any genuine knowledge.

The beginning of Locke‘s epistemology is the rejection of the rationalist doctrine that men have innate knowledge of some truth either moral or speculative, which supplies the foundations of knowledge. Against this background, Locke argued that experience is the source and basis of knowledge. He argued against Plato, Descartes and the Scholastics, that there are no innate ideas or principles. According to him, experience gives rise to various kinds of idea. On the basis of sense experience, he tried to construct an account of knowledge. For Locke knowledge is ideas, but not Plato‘s ideas or Forms, but ideas that are generated from experience.


Locke held that knowledge begins with ideas which are generated by experience. For him, idea is that object about which the understanding is concerned with while thinking. Our ideas are derived from two sources (a) sensation (b) perception of the operation of our mind, which may be called ‗internal sense‘ (reflection). Since we can only think by means of ideas, and since all ideas come from experience, it is evident that none of our knowledge can antedate experience.

The mind originally empty and blank receives, simple ideas of two kinds – those of sensation and those of reflection. Simple ideas of sensation are furnished by ‗external objects‘ or bodies, which produce ideas in us by mechanical action upon our organism, by impulse, the only way which we can conceive bodies to operate in. We have five primary senses through which external world is known to us. They are the senses of sight, hearing, smelling, feeling or touching and taste. Each of these media communicates the external object in terms of idea of colour, sound, odour, hardness and sweetness. The second of simple ideas is reflection of the mind upon its own operation as it is employed about the ideas it has got.


Locke also distinguished our ideas into simple and complex ideas. Simple ideas, such as yellow, heat, sweet, hard, constitute the chief sources of the raw materials out of which our knowledge is made. These ideas are directly caused by things but are passively received by the mind through the senses. These ideas are not exactly the things rather they are copies or representations of things in our minds when they impress themselves (things) on our minds through the senses. The theory that ideas are not the same with physical objects but copies representations or resemblance of the physical objects is known as Representative theory. Complex ideas on the other hand are combinations of simple ideas. Here the emphasis is upon the activity of the mind, which takes three forms – the mind joins ideas, bring ideas together but holds them separate, and abstract. Hence, the mind joins the ideas of whiteness, hardness, squareness and sweetness to form the complex idea of a cube of sugar. The mind also brings ideas together but holds them separate for the purpose of thinking of relationship.

In a conclusion, Locke thinks of knowledge of the external world as sensitive knowledge of real existence. That is, it is knowledge that some object exists distinct from our mind and affects our mind by producing certain ideas in it. This knowledge is achieved through sensory experience. It is neither the result of reflecting on ideas already in our mind nor of deductively reasoning from some premises.





Berkeley – esse est percipii


Irish philosopher George Berkeley believed that Locke’s Essay did not carry the principles of empiricism far enough. 

Philosophers like Descartes and Locke tried to forestall problems of perceptual illusion by distinguishing between material objects and the ideas by means of which we perceive them.

  • (perceiver—–ideas—–material objects)

But the representationalist approach can provide no reliable account of the connection between ideas and the objects they are supposed to represent. The results of this failure, Berkeley believed, are bound to be skepticismand atheism.

There is, however, an obvious alternative. Common sense dictates that there are only two crucial elements involved in perception: the perceiver and what is perceived. All we need to do, Berkeley argued, is eliminate the absurd, philosophically-conceived third element in the picture: that is, we must acknowledge that there are no material objects. For Berkeley, only the ideas we directly perceive are real.

  • (perceiver———-ideas)

Immaterialism is the only way to secure common sense, science, and religion against the perils of skepticism.

As an idealist, Berkeley believed that nothing is real but minds and their ideas. Ideas do not exist independently of minds. Through a complicated and flawed line of reasoning he concluded that “to be is to be perceived.” Something exists only if someone has the idea of it.

Though he never put the question in the exact words of the famous quotation, Berkeley would say that if a tree fell in the forest and there was no one (not even a squirrel) there to hear it, not only would it not make a sound, but there would be no tree.

In brief, According to the argument Esse est percipi: “To be is to be perceived” – all the qualities attributed to objects are sense qualities. Thus, hardness is the sensing of a resistance to a striking action, and heaviness is a sensation of muscular effort when, for example, holding an object in one’s hand, just as blueness is a quality of visual experience.

But those qualities exist only while they are being perceived by some subject or spirit equipped with sense organs. The 18th-century Anglo-Irish empiricist George Berkeley rejected the idea that sense perceptions are caused by material substance, the existence of which he denied. Intuitively he grasped the truth that “to be is to be perceived.” The argument is a simple one, but it provoked an extensive and complicated literature, and modern idealists considered it irrefutable.

Hume – Scepticism


 Hume performs a balancing act between making skeptical attacks (step 1) and offering positive theories based on natural beliefs (step 2). In the conclusion to Book 1, though, he appears to elevate his skepticism to a higher level and exposes the inherent contradictions in even his best philosophical theories.


He notes three such contradictions. One centers on what we call induction. Our judgments based on past experience all contain elements of doubt; we are then impelled to make a judgment about that doubt, and since this judgment is also based on past experience it will in turn produce a new doubt. Once again, though, we are impelled to make a judgment about this second doubt, and the cycle continues. He concludes that “no finite object can subsist under a decrease repeated in infinitum.”


 A second contradiction involves a conflict between two theories of external perception, each of which our natural reasoning process leads us to.  One is our natural inclination to believe that we are directly seeing objects as they really are, and the other is the more philosophical view that we only ever see mental images or copies of external objects.


 The third contradiction involves a conflict between causal reasoning and belief in the continued existence of matter. After listing these contradictions, Hume despairs over the failure of his metaphysical reasoning:


The intense view of these manifold contradictions and imperfections in human reason has so wrought upon me, and heated my brain, that I am ready to reject all belief and reasoning, and can look upon no opinion even as more probable or likely than another.


He then pacifies his despair by recognizing that nature forces him to set aside his philosophical speculations and return to the normal activities of common life. He sees, though, that in time he will be drawn back into philosophical speculation in order to attack superstition and educate the world.

Hume’s emphasis on these conceptual contradictions is a unique aspect of his skepticism, and if any part of his philosophy can be designated “Humean skepticism” it is this. 

Hume rejects extreme skepticism but accepts skepticism in a more moderate form. He associates extreme Pyrrhonian skepticism with blanket attacks on all reasoning about the external world, abstract reasoning about space and time, or causal reasoning about matters of fact. He argues, though, that we must reject such skepticism since “no durable good can ever result from it.” Instead, he recommends a more moderate or Academic skepticism that tones down Pyrrhonism by, first, exercising caution and modesty in our judgments, and, second,  by restricting our speculations to abstract reasoning and matters of fact.


Kant – Criticism


Both Kant’s ethics and contemporary Kantian ethics have been criticized from many quarters. The critics evidently include those who advocate one or another form of teleological or consequentialist theory, who believe that it is possible to establish an account of the good, from which a convincing account of the right, and specifically of justice, can be derived. However, they also include a variety of writers who reject consequentialist thinking, including communitarians, virtue ethicists, Wittgensteinians and feminist thinkers (see Community and communitarianism; Virtue ethics; Wittgensteinian ethics; Feminist ethics).

Kant wanted to make the table of judgments the key to all knowledge. In so doing, he was concerned with making a system and did not think of defining terms such as perception and conception, as well as reason, understanding, subject, object, and others.

Fundamental error: Kant did not distinguish between the concrete, intuitive, perceptual knowledge of objects and the abstract, discursive, conceptual, knowledge of thoughts.

  • Kant began his investigation into knowledge of perceived objects by considering indirect, reflective knowledge of concepts instead of direct, intuitive knowledge of perceptions.
  • For Kant, there is absolutely no knowledge of an object unless there is thought which employs abstract concepts. For him, perception is not knowledge because it is not thought. In general, Kant claimed that perception is mere sensation.


Secondary errors

Transcendental analytic

  • Kant asserted that metaphysics is knowledge a priori, or before experience. As a result, he concluded that the source of metaphysics cannot be inner or outer experience.
    • Schopenhauer claimed that metaphysics must understand inner and outer experience in order to know the world and not empty forms. Kant did not prove that the material for knowing the world is outside of the experience of the world and merely in the forms of knowledge.
  • Kant’s writing was obscure.
  • Kant took the Greek word noumena, which meant “that which is thought,” and used it to mean “things-in-themselves.” (See Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Pyrrhonism, Book I, Chapter 13: “Anaxagoras opposed what is thought (noumena) to what appears or is perceived (phenomena).”)
  • Kant tried to create a logical, overly-symmetrical system without reflecting on its contents.



German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer criticised Kant’s belief that ethics should concern what ought to be done, insisting that the scope of ethics should be to attempt to explain and interpret what actually happens. Whereas Kant presented an idealised version of what ought to be done in a perfect world, Schopenhaur argued that ethics should instead be practical and arrive at conclusions that could work in the real world, capable of being presented as a solution to the world’s problems.


Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche criticised all contemporary moral systems, with a special focus on Christian and Kantian ethics. He argued that all modern ethical systems share two problematic characteristics: first, they make a metaphysical claim about the nature of humanity, which must be accepted for the system to have any normative force; and second, the system benefits the interests of certain people, often over those of others. Although Nietzsche’s primary objection is not that metaphysical claims about humanity are untenable (he also objected to ethical theories that do not make such claims), his two main targets—Kantianism and Christianity—do make metaphysical claims, which therefore feature prominently in Nietzsche’s criticism.















Hegel – Phenomenology and spirit

The Phenomenology of Spirit published in 1807, is based on a precious philosophical intuition: consciousness is not an completed institution, it is constructed, transformed to become other than itself. From this intuition, Hegel traces the epic adventure of the consciousness through its various stages, the evolution of consciousness, from sensitive consciousness to the absolute spirit.

The Phenomenology of Spirit is thus the history of consciousness in the lived world. Hegel’s philosophy is a phenomenology insofar as he looks at the world as it appears to consciousness. This science of phenomena aims to capture the essence of things in the world.

Hagel attempts to describe and define all the dimensions of human experience: knowledge, perception, consciousness and subjectivity, social interactions, culture, history, morality and religion. Through Phenomenology, he will form a closed philosophical system, which aims to cover the whole of human existence, to answer all the questions about man, the world and God.

The method developed by Hegel is that the dialectic of contradictions and exceed via a new phase of the synthesis. This dialectical method will be decisive in the history of philosophy and influence HusserlSartre and especially Marx, who thinks the economic and social history in terms of the Hegelian dialectic.

The Phenomenology of Spirit is structured in two stages:

  • A-historical approach: the adventures of consciousness and the transition to self-awareness.
  • The historical approach: the realization of reason, through the spirit, religion and absolute knowledge.


Hegel attempts to define the nature and conditions of human knowledge in the first three chapters. He argues that the mind does not understand objects in the world, according to Kant, for whom knowledge is not knowledge of “things in themselves”.

While Kant has an individualistic vision of knowledge, Hegel asks a component to collective knowledge. In fact, according to Hegel, there is a tension between the individual act of knowing and the universality of concepts related to this act. The individual act designates a first moment, that of sense-certainty, refers to the attempt of the mind to grasp the nature of a thing. This pulse is hampered by the requirement of universal concepts, ie that different people can understand these concepts. This requirement leads to the second mode of consciousness, perception. With perception, consciousness, in its search for certainty, uses categories of thought, and language.

Consciousness is always pulled in two different directions. Our senses tell us about the world and the categories make sense in the world. The mismatch between the senses and categories creates a sense of uncertainty, frustration leads to skepticism, that is to say, the suspension of judgment. Consciousness is thus placed in a learning process, which is the third and highest form of consciousness.

Hegel moves his analysis of consciousness in general to self-awareness. In the tradition of idealists, Hegel posits that awareness of objects necessarily implies a certain self-consciousness, ie separation between the subject and the perceived object. But Hegel goes further and says that the subjects are also objects to other subjects. Self-awareness is the awareness of another self-consciousness. In other words, one becomes aware of oneself through the eyes of another. This is the famous struggle for recognition. Otherness and pure self-consciousness are involved in a “fight to the death” for recognition.


Hegel describes the “unhappy consciousness”, the result of the negation of the world and the religious consciousness, itself the product of fear of death. Religion, according to Hegel, is often seen as a refuge for the failure of recognition by others subject: turning to a transcendent being (God), you can take comfort in being who exists only in itself, rather than in a struggle for recognition between human beings. This shift to a transcendent being the result of the initial attempt to enter the consciousness of the nature of the object.

Like Kant, Hegel thinks that reason leads consciousness to adapt to particular phenomena universal categories. However, this process is not smooth and there is always an element of uncertainty and imprecision, because objects exist in a range of variations make it difficult to match them to universal categories. Thus, insofar as consciousness is oriented stable categories of thought, it is also aware of a set of standards governing how the phenomena comply with these categories. These rules or laws of thought, do not live in objects, nor the mind, but in a third dimension, “all organized social.”

For each self-consciousness belongs to the collective self-consciousness. The laws of thought, morals and conventions belong to the social life. This set of laws governing the collective consciousness, Hegel called “Spirit.” . The Spirit is the place of ethical, laws and customs. Individuals interpret and act according to the laws and customs individually, but they are in compliance with community spirit. Ethical life has two manifestations. Firstly, it is the foundation of the actions of individuals. Second, it is externalized in the so-called culture and civilization. These two moments of mind ethics or ethical life, are in tension with one another. Enlightenment, for example, is expressed by individualism, but in its most extreme form, individualism leads to despotism and political terrorism.

The next step in the development of consciousness is religion. Religion is essentially a collective spirit conscious of itself, and as such it reflects the expression of a given culture of ethical life and the balance between individual and collective. Hegel describes the different phases in the development of religion, whose reflections are: art, myth and drama. But religion is not the highest stage of consciousness. This area is reserved for absolute knowledge. It is in the absolute knowledge that the mind becomes aware of its limitations and seeks to correct its contradictions and shortcomings to move to a higher level of understanding. Absolute Knowledge is the conscious and critical engagement with reality. It is the view of science and the starting point for philosophical inquiry.

Basically, Hegel, consciousness is complete when it reaches the philosophical stage.



Bradley – Idealism

Bradley’s theory that relational judgments that appear to refer to a number of identifiable and discriminable individuals actually presuppose a single underlying reality gets confirmation from his logical analysis of a kind of judgment in which this reality is introduced directly. 

Bradley’s definition of judgment introduces “ideal content.”  What is “ideal content” and how is it acquired?  Bradley was completely sure that the psychological particulars with which empiricists furnished the mind could not begin to explain judgment, knowledge, and cognition.  If such things existed, they certainly could not function as predicates in judgment, since they could not be moved from their place in the mind.

The standard classification of judgments distinguished categorical, hypothetical, and disjunctive.  Bradley reduces the universal form of the categorical judgment to a hypothetical form. 

Bradley identifies a second kind of analytic judgments of sense that do have a grammatical subject. 

The discussion of proper names allows Bradley to move to a second category of singular judgment-synthetic judgments of sense. 

Bradley believes that not only are all universal judgments hypothetical, but also that all hypothetical judgments are universal. 

Bradley is assuming that the truth of a hypothetical statement must depend on some (possibly) latent feature of reality.  Singular judgments, however, appear to connect us more directly with solid fact.  The synthetic judgment of sense has its special status as categorical because of its connection with a reality actually given.  It therefore depends on the analytic judgment of sense which assigns an ideal content to that given. Bradley has already argued that all universal statements are hypothetical.  This is now widely accepted. 


Negative judgments, he believes, are more complicated than affirmative, since they must begin with a suggestion that is rejected in the judgment.  Moreover, this rejection must depend on the assumption of a positive ground of exclusion, even if what this is may not be known. Negative existential judgments are of particular interest. 

Bradley understands disjunction as providing a list of two or more mutually exclusive alternatives.  


Moore – Realism

Moore’s non-naturalism comprised two main theses. One was the realist thesis that moral and more generally normative judgements – like many of his contemporaries, Moore did not distinguish the two — are objectively true or false. The other was the autonomy-of-ethics thesis that moral judgements are sui generis, neither reducible to nor derivable from non-moral, that is, scientific or metaphysical judgements. Closely connected to his non-naturalism was the epistemological view that our knowledge of moral truths is intuitive, in the sense that it is not arrived at by inference from non-moral truths but rests on our recognizing certain moral propositions as self-evident.


Moore expressed the realist side of his non-naturalism by saying that fundamental moral judgements ascribe the property of goodness to states of affairs, though especially in Principia Ethica he tended not to distinguish moral concepts and moral properties. Like others of his time, he seems to have taken the realist view that moral judgements are objectively true for granted; he certainly did not defend it extensively against anti-realist alternatives. In this he was doubtless influenced by the grammar of moral judgements, which have a standard subject-predicate form. But it may also be relevant that, at least early on, the only subjectivist view he seems to have been aware of was the naturalist one according to which to say “x is good” is to report some psychological fact such as that you approve of x or that most people in your society do. In his 1912 book Ethics he showed that this view does not allow for moral disagreements, since, for example, my report that I approve of x and your report that you disapprove of it can both be true. Late in life he encountered the non-cognitivist emotivism of C.L. Stevenson, which says that moral judgements express rather than report feelings and therefore can conflict. He initially conceded that this anti-realist view had as good a claim as his own to be true,but shortly after reverted to his earlier non-naturalism, saying he could not imagine what had induced him to consider abandoning it.

Especially in Principia Ethica, Moore spent much more time defending his other non-naturalist thesis, about the autonomy of ethics, which he expressed by saying the property of goodness is simple and unanalyzable, and in particular is unanalyzable in non-moral terms. This meant the property is “non-natural,” which means that it is distinct from any of the natural properties studied by science. Views that denied this committed what he dubbed “the naturalistic fallacy,” which he found in hedonists such as Jeremy Bentham, evolutionary ethicists such as Herbert Spencer, and metaphysical ethicists such as T.H. Green. Moore’s main argument against their view was what has come to be known as the “open-question argument,” though he actually stated in a couple of slightly different ways. Consider a particular naturalist claim, such as that “x is good” is equivalent to “x is pleasure.” If this claim were true, Moore argued, the judgement “Pleasure is good” would be equivalent to “Pleasure is pleasure,” yet surely someone who asserts the former means to express more than that uninformative tautology. The same argument can be mounted against any other naturalist proposal: even if we have determined that something is what we desire to desire or is more evolved, the question whether it is good remains “open,” in the sense that it is not settled by the meaning of the word “good.” We can ask whether what we desire to desire is good, and likewise for what is more evolved, more unified, or whatever  Sidgwick had used one form of this argument against Bentham and Spencer, but only in passing; Moore spent much more time on it and made it central to his metaethics.

The open-question argument was extensively discussed in the 20th century and met with several objections. One said the argument’s persuasiveness depends on the “paradox of analysis”: that any definition of a concept will, if successful, appear uninformative. If an analysis does capture all its target concept’s content, the sentence linking the two will be a tautology; but this is hardly a reason to reject all analyses. Moore could respond that in other cases accepting a definition leads us to see that the sentence affirming it, while seeming informative, in fact is not. This does not happen, however, in the case of “good.” Even if we agree that only pleasure is good, no amount of reflection will make us think “Pleasure is good” equivalent to “Pleasure is pleasure”; Ross took this line.

 Another objection, made later in the century, said that while the argument may show that the concept “good” is distinct from any non-moral concept, it cannot support a similar conclusion about the property of goodness. Science, the objection runs, uncovers many non-analytic property-identities; for example, water is identical to H2O even though the concepts “water” and “H2O” are distinct. By analogy, the property of goodness could be identical to that of pleasure even if “good” and “pleasure” have different meanings. Again, however, Moore could respond to this objection. The property of being water is that of having the underlying structure, whatever that is, of the stuff found in lakes, rivers, and so on; when this structure turns out to be H2O, the latter property “fills a gap” in the former and makes the two identical. But this explanation does not extend to the case of goodness, which is not a higher-level property with any gap needing filling: to be good is not to have whatever other property plays some functional role. If goodness is analytically distinct from all natural properties, therefore it is metaphysically distinct as well. It is worth noting, however, that Moore did not explain the open-question argument in the way many later non-cognitivists would. Following Hume, they said that moral judgements are intrinsically motivating, so sincerely accepting “x is good” requires a commitment or at least some motivation to pursue x if that is possible. But then no definition of “good” in purely natural terms can succeed, since it cannot capture the term’s action-guiding force; nor can an evaluative conclusion be validly inferred from premises none of which have such force. Whatever the merits of this Humean explanation, Moore did not give it. On the contrary, the question whether moral judgements are intrinsically motivating is not one on which he expressed clear views or apparently thought important. In Principia Ethicahe remarked casually that we “hardly ever” think something good without having some attitude of will towards it, but he denied that this is true universally. Whether it is true universally isn’t something he thought worth considering further.



A.J. Ayar – verification theory

Verificationism was a central thesis of logical positivism, a movement in analytic philosophy that emerged in the 1920s by the efforts of a group of philosophers who sought to unify philosophy and science under a common naturalistic theory of knowledge.

Verifiability principle, a philosophical doctrine fundamental to the school of Logical Positivism holding that a statement is meaningful only if it is either empirically verifiable or else tautological (i.e.,such that its truth arises entirely from the meanings of its terms). Thus, the principle discards as meaningless the metaphysical statements of traditional philosophy as well as other kinds of statements—such as ethical, aesthetic, or religious principles—asserted as true but neither tautological nor known from experience. Such statements may have meaning in the sense of being able to influence feelings, beliefs, or conduct but not in the sense of being true or false and hence of imparting knowledge. According to the principle, then, a nontautological statement has meaning only if some set of observable conditions is relevant to determining its truth or falsity; so stated, it reflects the view that the meaning of a statement is the set of conditions under which it would be true.

Ayer was one of the logical positivists, a Viennese group of philosophers who were inspired by the theories of the early Wittgenstein and sought to answer rather than what makes a statement ‘meaningful’ as opposed to what makes it ‘true’.

Introduction of the principle of verification may be seen as an extension of Ayer’s earlier work on the classical account of knowledge. Having interpreted the “justified true belief” definition as “the right to be sure” in the article of that title in The Problem of Knowledge, 1956, Ayer has committed himself to the justification criteria, and was immediately faced with the problem of a measure of adequacy.

The principle of verification is a solution to the above problem, which, in Knowledge as having the right to be sure has been expressed in the statement “Words like ‘intuition’ and ‘telepathy’ are brought in just to disguise the fact that no explanation has been found.”


In that light, the principle of verification is an intellectually appealing, practical solution not just to the problem of finding a justification for a knowledge claim, but more importantly to the question of rationality itself. It complements the concept of knowledge, or, indeed, any statement, with a universal verification metric. From this perspective, its value lies not in the absolute correctness of the principle, but rather in the regularity of the aesthetically pleasing consequences.


The principle of verification can also be viewed as a reaction to the “hopelessness” of the search for a conclusive proof of God’s existence (or otherwise) and an objective verification criteria for rationality. If indeed the truth of every statement – and thus every knowledge claim as well – is either analytic or synthetic, with no third alternative available, then a claim of a theist, necessarily made about concepts with no horizontal, and only weak vertical relationship to the physical empirically verifiable reality, cannot possibly be assigned a true or false value.


The practical rationality of Ayer’s principle of verification has a serious drawback of narrowing the concept of knowledge beyond the minimum acceptable to most people. The favourite argument against it are the consequences of the application of the principle to itself. For, the principle of verification, being obviously non-analytic, cannot be empirically verified by means other than those used to verify any hypothesis, that is by verifying the consequences.

In other words, we cannot, by definition, find a suitable reference proposition as required by Ayer, for any such proposition must necessarily be verified and thus derived from the principle of verification. Therefore, the principle of verification needs to be taken a priori, an approach rejected earlier with reference to all non-analytic statements.








John dewey -Pragmatism

Pragmatism considers thought as an instrument or tool for prediction, problem solving and action, and rejects the idea that the function of thought is to describe, represent, or mirror reality. Pragmatists contend that most philosophical topics—such as the nature of knowledge, language, concepts, meaning, belief, and science—are all best viewed in terms of their practical uses and successes. The philosophy of pragmatism “emphasizes the practical application of ideas by acting on them to actually test them in human experiences”. Pragmatism focuses on a “changing universe rather than an unchanging one as the Idealists, Realists and Thomists had claimed”.

John Dewey was a leading proponent of the American school of thought known as pragmatism, a view that rejected the dualistic epistemology and metaphysics of modern philosophy in favor of a naturalistic approach that viewed knowledge as arising from an active adaptation of the human organism to its environment.

The central focus of Dewey’s philosophical interests throughout his career was what has been traditionally called “epistemology,” or the “theory of knowledge.” It is indicative, however, of Dewey’s critical stance toward past efforts in this area that he expressly rejected the term “epistemology,” preferring the “theory of inquiry” or “experimental logic” as more representative of his own approach.

The error of modern epistemologists, as Dewey saw it, was that they isolated the reflective stages of this process, and hypostatized the elements of those stages (sensations, ideas, etc.) into pre-existing constituents of a subjective mind in their search for an incorrigible foundation of knowledge. For Dewey, the hypostatization was as groundless as the search for incorrigibility was barren. Rejecting foundationalism, Dewey accepted the fallibilism that was characteristic of the school of pragmatism: the view that any proposition accepted as an item of knowledge has this status only provisionally, contingent upon its adequacy in providing a coherent understanding of the world as the basis for human action.


The basis of Dewey’s  is the continuity of intelligent inquiry with the adaptive responses of pre-human organisms to their environments in circumstances that check efficient activity in the fulfillment of organic needs. 




Saftre – Existentialism


Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre is one of the most important philosophers of all time. Despite his work garnering considerable flak over the years, his theories on existentialism and freedom cement his place among the most influential Western philosophers of the 20th-century and beyond.


Jean-Paul Sartre believed that human beings live in constant anguish, not solely because life is miserable, but because we are ‘condemned to be free’. While the circumstances of our birth and upbringing are beyond our control, he reasons that once we become self-aware (and we all do eventually), we have to make choices — choices that define our very ‘essence’. Sartre’s theory of existentialism states that “existence precedes essence”, that is only by existing and acting a certain way do we give meaning to our lives. According to him, there is no fixed design for how a human being should be and no God to give us a purpose. Therefore, the onus for defining ourselves, and by extension humanity, falls squarely on our shoulders. This lack of pre-defined purpose along with an ‘absurd’ existence that presents to us infinite choices is what Sartre attributes to the “anguish of freedom”.


According to Sartre, each choice we make defines us while at the same time revealing to us what we think a human being should be. And this incredible burden of responsibility that the free man has to bear is what relegates him to constant anguish.


Jean-Paul Sartre decried the idea of living without pursuing freedom. The phenomenon of people accepting that things have to be a certain way, and subsequently refusing to acknowledge or pursue alternate options, was what he termed as “living in bad faith”. According to Sartre, people who convince themselves that they have to do one particular kind of work or live in one particular city are living in bad faith.



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