Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What would Aristotle Say?

Aristotle, like Plato, held that art was imitation. Unlike Plato, he thought there wasn't anything wrong with imitation; in fact, it is good.

What would he have thought of Gunther von Hagen's exhibit, Bodyworlds? See http://www.bodyworlds.com/en/pages/home.asp

The Franklin Institute Science Museum hosts "BODY WORLDS: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies" from October 7, 2005 through April 23, 2006.

Throughout the ages, medical scholars and students have strived to understand how our bodies function through exploration of real human specimens. BODY WORLDS, one of the most highly attended touring exhibitions in the world, takes this tradition one step further by presenting a new look at the human body.

The exhibition features more than 200 authentic human specimens, including entire bodies, individual organs and transparent body slices that have been preserved through the process of "Plastination," a technique that replaces bodily fluids and fat. BODY WORLDS offers a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see and understand our own physiology and health and to gain new appreciation and respect for what it means to be human.
The primary goal of the BODY WORLDS exhibits is health education. On the one hand, 200 individual specimens are used to compare healthy and diseased organs, i.e., a healthy lung with that of a smoker, to emphasize the importance of a healthy life-style. On the other hand, 25 life-like posed whole-body plastinates illustrate where in our bodies these organs are positioned and what we are: naturally fragile in a mechanized world.Thus, the exhibitions are targeted mainly at a lay audience to open up the opportunity to better understand the human body and its functions. The exhibits help the visitors to once again become aware of the naturalness of their bodies and to recognize the individuality and anatomical beauty inside of them. The authenticity of the specimens on display is essential for such insight. Every human being is unique. Humans reveal their individuality not only through the visible exterior, but also through the interior of their bodies, as each body is distinctly different from any other. Position, size, shape, and structure of skeleton, muscles, nerves, and organs determine our "interior face." It would be impossible to convey this anatomical individuality with models, for a model is nothing more than an interpretation. All models look alike and are, essentially, simplified versions of the real thing. The authenticity of the specimens, however, is fascinating and enables the observer to experience the marvel of the real human body. The exhibitions are thus dedicated to the individual interior face.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

How about this for your final?


Section 1: Multiple Choice

1. On Russell's theory of definite descriptions, "The present King of France is bald" is equivalent to
a. Socrates is a man.
b. Socrates is mortal.
c. All swans are white.
d. Anything follows from a contradiction.
e. The cat is on the mat.

2. If I could do something besides take this exam, I would prefer to
a. Intuit an essence.
b. nalyze a concept.
c. Dissect a brain.
d. Have a beer.
e. A deconstruction of the concept of will shows the bankruptcy of the very notion of choice, so a fortiori of multiple choice.

Section 2: Short Answer

1. Define reality. Give two (2) examples.

2. Using only basic first order logic, develop a rational foundation from which to prove the truth of radical relativism.

3. Analyze the fundamental nature of being. Introduce new distinctions and obfuscatory neologisms.

4. Escape the hermeneutic circle with only fishing line and a Swiss Army knife.

5. Demonstrate the validity of the fallacy of composition.

6. Evaluate the following argument: "If conventionalism is true, it must be true by convention. We do not believe in conventionalism. Therefore, we should change our beliefs because conventionalism is self-evident."

7. Translate Heidegger's Being and Time into Latin and Aramaic. Provide an analysis of the nature of translation which explains why neither translation makes sense.

8.Assume solipsism to be correct. Explain why more people aren't solipsists.

9. Explain the Cartesian distinction between res cogitans and res extensa without going into any intentional states, e.g. thinking of Descartes.

10. List three beliefs held by eliminative materialists.

Section 3: Lab Practical
When you have completed each problem, wait for an instructor to come and inspect your work.

1. On the bench you will find a slave boy. Prompt him to remember the Pythagorean theorem.
Next to the slave boy you will find a cave. Break free of your shackles, climb into the light, and behold the form of the Good. When you're done, return to the cave and wisely rule your fellows.
2. On the bench you will find the thing-in-itself. Treat it as a limiting conception and say nothing further about it.

3. Next to the cave, you will find a brain in a vat. Determine its principles of operation. Determine what philosophical problems remain after you have done so. Write down several dozen of them.

4. By staring at the brain, you will be provided with sense data. Arrange and combine them so that everything you know can be expressed in terms of them.

5. Amidst the sense data you will find the Given. Debunk myths about it. Show its equivalence to the Taken-away.

6. In addition to the beings on the bench, you will find Being as such. Use it to explain the difference between temporality and Temporality. Then use it to boil an egg.

7. After having found Being you will find Nothing. Determine who this is presenting himself as Nothingness on the grounds of the nihilation of the bench.

This test ©1998 by P.D. Magnus and Ryan Hickerson. You are encouraged to use it for nefarious, quasi-educational purposes.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Course Calendar for Remainder of Semester

April 12: Metaphyics, Book XII, chapters 6-10
(optional: read it all)"The Unmoved Mover"

April 14: GOOD FRIDAY, no classes

April 17: Nichomachean Ethics, II-VI
"Character-related (Moral)and Thinking-related (intellectual)

April 19: continued

April 21: Nichomachean Ethics, VIII-IX,

April 24: Paper # 4 due; The Poetics

April 26: continued

April 28: Final Class: Which school do you choose? Academy or Lyceum?

Possible Topics for Paper #4

Due: MONDAY, April 24

Choose one, and write 3-4 pages. (Please refer to your handout, “How to Write Philosophy Papers”)

1. What does Aristotle mean by “substance?” (Refer to the Categories, Physics and Metaphysics.)

2. Why does Aristotle say that in the case of living organisms, the formal, efficient, and final causes "amount to one" (198a25)? Explain in detail.

3. Unlike Plato, Aristotle says that many real things change. Discuss his account of substantial and accidental change.

4. Does final causality (teleology) have any value today, or is it a relic of the ancient world? If so what is it? If not, why not?

5. What is Aristotle's general characterization of a soul? Show how he steers a middle course between Platonic/Cartesian dualism and contemporary theories of human nature that would reduce us to purely material beings.

6. What is Aristotle's general account of the rational soul, and how we come to know? Be sure to explain what you take the Agent Intellect to be.

7. Why does Aristotle use the word "God" to refer to the prime mover? If God exists, and has the characteristics of Aristotle's prime mover, what should human religion be like?

8. Compare Plato’s Form of the Beautiful in the Symposium with Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover in the Metaphysics.

9. In Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that virtue should not be identified with emotions, nor with capacities, but with characteristics. Explain and evaluate his reasoning

10. How does Aristotle's conception of the supreme good for a human being fit with his claim in Metaphysics XII that the universe, including human beings, is organized so as to imitate God?

11. Give Aristotle’s definition of friendship, and describe some of the different kinds of friendship. Why are friends needed? Why is complete friendship rare?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Helpful Sites for Understanding Aspects of Aristotle's Conception of Soul

Here are two excellent papers dealing with some problems in Aristotle's conception of soul:


"Scientific Method and the Human Soul in Aristotle's De Anima" by Steven C. Snyder, Ph.D. Pontifical College Josephinum. Columbus, Ohio July 15, 1998


The Metaphor of Light and the Active Intellect as Final Cause: De Anima III.5 by Sandro D'Onofrio

Saturday, April 08, 2006

What is Substance?

For those of us who are breathing the air of postmodernism, Aristotle's notion of "substance" is proving to be a difficult thing to grasp. We confuse it with "shape," or think of it as a meaphysical "cookie cutter." S. Marc Cohen, in his article, "Aristotle's Metaphysics," for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy clarifies the notion for us. Read the entire article at


5. What is Substance?

In the seventeen chapters that make up Book Ζ of the Metaphysics, Aristotle takes up the promised study of substance. He begins by reiterating and refining some of what he said in Γ: that ‘being’ is said in many ways, and that the primary sense of ‘being’ is the sense in which substance are beings. Here, however, he explicitly links the secondary senses of ‘being’ to the non-substance categories. The primacy of substance leads Aristotle to say that the age-old question ‘What is being?’ “is just the question ‘What is substance?’” (1028b4).

One might have thought that this question had already been answered in the Categories. There we were given, as examples of primary substances, an individual man or horse, and we learned that a primary substance is “what is neither in a subject nor said of a subject” (2a10). This would seem to provide us with both examples of, and criteria for being, primary substances. But in Metaphysics Ζ, Aristotle does not seem to take either the examples or the criteria for granted.

In Ζ.2 he recounts the various answers that have been given to the question of which things are substances — bodies (including plants, animals, the parts of plants and animals, the elements, the heavenly bodies), things more basic than bodies (surfaces, lines, and points), imperceptible things (such as Platonic Forms and mathematical objects) — and seems to regard them all as viable candidates at this point. He does not seem to doubt that the clearest examples of substances are perceptible ones, but leaves open the question whether there are others as well.
Before answering this question about examples, however, he says that we must first answer the question about criteria: what is it to be a substance (tên ousian prôton ti estin)? The negative criterion (“neither in a subject nor said of a subject”) of the Categories tells us only which things are substances. But even if we know that something is a substance, we must still say what makes it a substance — what the cause is of its being a substance. This is the question to which Aristotle next turns. To answer it is to identify, as Aristotle puts it, the substance of that thing.

6. Substance, Matter, and Subject

Z.3 begins with a list of four possible candidates for being the substance of something: essence, universal, genus, and subject. Presumably, this means that if x is a substance, then the substance of x might be either (i) the essence of x, or (ii) some universal predicated of x, or (iii) a genus that x belongs to, or (iv) a subject of which x is predicated. The first three candidates are taken up in later chapters, and Ζ.3 is devoted to an examination of the fourth candidate: the idea that the substance of something is a subject of which it is predicated.

A subject, Aristotle tells us, is “that of which everything else is predicated, while it is itself not predicated of anything else” (1028b36). This characterization of a subject is reminiscent of the language of the Categories, which tells us that a primary substance is not predicated of anything else, whereas other things are predicated of it. Candidate (iv) thus seems to reiterate the Categories criterion for being a substance. But there are two reasons to be wary of drawing this conclusion. First, whereas the subject criterion of the Categories told us that substances were the ultimate subjects of predication, the subject criterion envisaged here is supposed to tell us what the substance of something is. So what it would tell us is that if x is a substance, then the substance of x — that which makes x a substance — is a subject that x is predicated of. Second, as his next comment makes clear, Aristotle has in mind something other than this Categories idea. For the subject that he here envisages, he says, is either matter or form or the compound of matter and form. These are concepts from Aristotle's Physics, and none of them figured in the ontology of the Categories. To appreciate the issues Aristotle is raising here, we must briefly compare his treatment of the notion of a subject in the Physics with that in the Categories.

In the Categories, Aristotle was concerned with subjects of predication: what are the things we talk about, and ascribe properties to? In the Physics, his concern is with subjects of change: what is it that bears (at different times) contrary predicates and persists through a process of change? But there is an obvious connection between these conceptions of a subject, since a subject of change must have one predicate belonging to it at one time that does not belong to it at another time. Subjects of change, that is, are also subjects of predication. (The converse is not true: numbers are subjects of predication — six is even, seven is prime — but not of change.)

In the Categories, individual substances (a man, a horse) were treated as fundamental subjects of predication. They were also understood, indirectly, as subjects of change. (“A substance, one and the same in number, can receive contraries. An individual man, for example, being one and the same, becomes now pale and now dark, now hot and now cold, now bad and now good” 4a17-20.) These are changes in which substances move, or alter, or grow. What the Categories did not explore, however, are changes in which substances are generated or destroyed. But the theory of change Aristotle develops in the Physics requires some other subject for changes such as these — a subject of which substance is predicated — and it identifies matter as the fundamental subject of change (192a31-32). Change is seen in the Physics as a process in which matter either takes on or loses form.

The concepts of matter and form, as we noted, are absent from the Categories. Individual substances — this man or that horse — apart from their accidental characteristics — the qualities, etc., that inhere in them — are viewed in that work as essentially simple, unanalyzable atoms. Although there is metaphysical structure to the fact that, e.g., this horse is white (a certain quality inheres in a certain substance), the fact that this is a horse is a kind of brute fact, devoid of metaphysical structure. This horse is a primary substance, and horse, the species to which it belongs, is a secondary substance. But there is no predicative complex corresponding to the fact that this is a horse in the way that there is such a complex corresponding to the fact that this horse is white.

But from the point of view of the Physics, substantial individuals are seen as predicative complexes (cf. Matthen 1987); they are hylomorphic compounds — compounds of matter and form — and the subject criterion looks rather different from the hylomorphic perspective. Metaphysics Ζ.3 examines the subject criterion from this perspective.

Matter, form, and the compound of matter and form may all be considered subjects, Aristotle tells us, (1029a2-4), but which of them is substance? The subject criterion by itself leads to the answer that the substance of x is an entirely indeterminate matter of which x is composed (1029a10). For form is predicated of matter as subject, and one can always analyze a hylomorphic compound into its predicates and the subject of which they are predicated. And when all predicates have been removed (in thought), the subject that remains is nothing at all in its own right — an entity all of whose properties are accidental to it (1029a12-27). The resulting subject is matter from which all form has been expunged. (Traditional scholarship calls this “prime matter,” but Aristotle does not here indicate whether he thinks there actually is such a thing.) So the subject criterion leads to the answer that the substance of x is the formless matter of which it is ultimately composed.

But Aristotle rejects this answer as impossible (1029a28), claiming that substance must be “separate” (chôriston) and “some this” (tode ti, sometimes translated “this something”), and implying that matter fails to meet this requirement. Precisely what the requirement amounts to is a matter of considerable scholarly debate, however. A plausible interpretation runs as follows. Being separate has to do with being able to exist independently (x is separate from y if x is capable of existing independently of y), and being some this means being a determinate individual. So a substance must be a determinate individual that is capable of existing on its own. (One might even hold, although this is controversial, that on Aristotle's account not every “this” is also “separate.” A particular color or shape might be considered a determinate individual that is not capable of existing on its own — it is always the color of shape of some substance or other.) But matter fails to be simultaneously both chôriston and tode ti. The matter of which a substance is composed may exist independently of that substance (think of the wood of which a desk is composed, which existed before the desk was made and may survive the disassembly of the desk), but it is not as such any definite individual — it is just a quantity of a certain kind of matter. Of course, the matter may be construed as constituting a definite individual substance (the wood just is, one might say, the particular desk it composes), but it is in that sense not separate from the form or shape that makes it that substance (the wood cannot be that particular desk unless it is a desk). So although matter is in a sense separate and in a sense some this, it cannot be both separate and some this. It thus does not qualify as the substance of the thing whose matter it is.

7. Substance and Essence

Aristotle turns in Ζ.4 to a consideration of the next candidate for substance: essence. (‘Essence’ is the standard English translation of Aristotle's curious phrase to ti ên einai, literally “the what it was to be” for a thing. This phrase so boggled his Roman translators that they coined the word essentia to render the entire phrase, and it is from this Latin word that ours derives. Aristotle also sometimes uses the shorter phrase to ti esti, literally “the what it is,” for approximately the same idea.) In his logical works, Aristotle links the notion of essence to that of definition (horismos) — “a definition is an account (logos) that signifies an essence” (Topics 102a3) — and he links both of these notions to a certain kind of per se predication (kath’ hauto, literally, “in respect of itself”) — “what belongs to a thing in respect of itself belongs to it in its essence (en tôi ti esti)” for we refer to it “in the account that states the essence” (Posterior Analytics, 73a34-5). He reiterates these ideas in Ζ.4: “there is an essence of just those things whose logos is a definition” (1030a6), “the essence of a thing is what it is said to be in respect of itself” (1029b14). It is important to remember that for Aristotle, one defines things, not words. The definition of tiger does not tell us the meaning of the word ‘tiger’; it tells us what it is to be a tiger, what a tiger is said to be in respect of itself. Thus, the definition of tiger states the essence — the “what it is to be” of a tiger, what is predicated of the tiger per se.

Aristotle's preliminary answer (Z.4) to the question “What is substance?” is that substance is essence, but there are important qualifications. For, as he points out, “definition (horismos), like ‘what it is’ (ti esti), is said in many ways” (1030a19). That is, items in all the categories are definable, so items in all the categories have essences — just as there is an essence of man, there is also an essence of white and an essence of musical. But, because of the pros hen equivocity of ‘is’, such essences are secondary — “definition and essence are primarily (protôs) and without qualification (haplôs) of substances” (1030b4-6). Thus, Ζ.4 tells us, it is only these primary essences that are substances. Aristotle does not here work out the details of this “hierarchy of essences” (Loux, 1991), but it is possible to reconstruct a theory of such a hierarchy on the basis of subsequent developments in Book Ζ.

In Ζ.6, Aristotle goes on to argue that if something is “primary” and “spoken of in respect of itself (kath’ hauto legomenon)” it is one and the same as its essence. The precise meaning of this claim, as well as the nature and validity of the arguments offered in support of it, are matters of scholarly controversy. But it does seem safe to say that Aristotle thinks that an “accidental unity” such as a pale man is not a kath’ hauto legomenon (since pallor is an accidental characteristic of a man) and so is not the same as its essence. Pale man, that is to say, does not specify the “what it is” of any primary being, and so cannot be an essence of the primary kind. As Ζ.4 has already told us, “only species of a genus have an essence” (1030a11-12) in the primary sense. Man is a species, and so there is an essence of man; but pale man is not a species and so, even if there is such a thing as the essence of pale man, it is not, at any rate, a primary essence.

At this point there appears to be a close connection between the essence of a substance and its species (eidos), and this might tempt one to suppose that Aristotle is identifying the substance of a thing (since the substance of a thing is its essence) with its species. (A consequence of this idea would be that Aristotle is radically altering his conception of the importance of the species, which in the Categories he called a secondary substance, that is, a substance only in a secondary sense.) But such an identification would be a mistake, for two reasons. First, Aristotle's point at 1030a11 is not that a species is an essence, but that an essence of the primary kind corresponds to a species (e.g., man) and not to some more narrowly delineated kind (e.g., pale man). Second, the word ‘eidos’, which meant ‘species’ in the logical works, has acquired a new meaning in a hylomorphic context, where it means ‘form’ (contrasted with ‘matter’) rather than ‘species’ (contrasted with ‘genus’). In the conceptual framework of Metaphysics Ζ, a universal such as man or horse — which was called a species and a secondary substance in the Categories — is construed as “not a substance, but a compound of a certain formula and a certain matter, taken universally” (Z.10, 1035b29-30). The eidos that is primary substance in Book Ζ is not the species that an individual substance belongs to but the form that is predicated of the matter of which it is composed (Cf. Driscoll 1981).

8. Substances as Hylomorphic Compounds

The role of form in this hylomorphic context is the topic of Ζ.7-9. (Although these chapters were almost certainly not originally included in Book Ζ — there is no reference to them, for example, in the summary of Ζ given in Η.1, which skips directly from Ζ.6 to Ζ.10 — they provide a link between substance and form and thus fill what would otherwise be a gap in the argument.) Since individual substances are seen as hylomorphic compounds, the role of matter and form in their generation must be accounted for. Whether we are thinking of natural objects, such as plants and animals, or artifacts, such as houses, the requirements for generation are the same. We do not produce the matter (to suppose that we do leads to an infinite regress) nor do we produce the form (what could we make it out of?); rather, we put the form into the matter, and produce the compound (Z.8, 1033a30-b9). Both the matter and the form must pre-exist (Z.9, 1034b12). But the source of motion in both cases — what Aristotle calls the “moving cause” of the coming to be — is the form.
In artistic production, the form is found in the soul of the artisan, for “the art of building is the form of the house” (1034a24) and “the form is in the soul” (1032b23) of the artisan. For example, the builder has in mind the plan or design for a house and he knows how to build; he then “enmatters” that plan or design by putting it into the materials out of which he builds the house. In natural production, the form is found in the parent, where “the begetter is the same in kind as the begotten, not one in number but one in form — for man begets man” (1033b30-2). But in either case, the form pre-exists and is not produced (1033b18).

As for what is produced in such hylomorphic productions, it is correctly described by the name of its form, not by that of its matter. What is produced is a house or a man, not bricks or flesh. Of course, what is made of gold may still be described in terms of its material components, but we should call it not “gold” but “golden” (1033a7). For if gold is the matter out of which a statue is made, there was gold present at the start, and so it was not gold that came into being. It was a statue that came into being, and although the statue is golden — i.e., made of gold — it cannot be identified with the gold of which it was made.

The essence of such a hylomorphic compound is evidently its form, not its matter. As Aristotle says “by form I mean the essence of each thing, and its primary substance” (1032b1), and “when I speak of substance without matter I mean the essence” (1032b14). It is the form of a substance that makes it the kind of thing that it is, and hence it is form that satisfies the condition initially required for being the substance of something. The substance of a thing is its form.

The "Metaphysics" in a nutshell

The following selections are from http://www.formalontology.it/being-qua-being.htm

"What were Aristotle's metaphysical contentions, and what is Aristotle's Metaphysics? The latter question is the easier. The work, as . we now have it, divides into fourteen books of unequal length and complexity. Book Alpha is introductory: it articulates the notion of a science of the first principles or causes of things, and it offers a partial history of the subject. The second book, known as "Little Alpha," is a second introduction, largely methodological in content. Book Beta is a long sequence of puzzles or aporiai+: possible answers are lightly sketched, but the book is programmatic rather than definitive. Book Gamma appears to start on the subject itself: it characterizes something which it calls "the science of being qua being" -- and it then engages in a discussion of the principle of non-contradiction. Next, in book Delta, comes Aristotle's "philosophical lexicon": some forty philosophical terms are explained and their different senses shortly set out and illustrated. Book Epsilon is brief: it returns to the science of being qua being, and also passes some remarks on truth.

Books Zeta, Eta and Theta hang together, and together they form the core of the Metaphysics. Their general topic is substance: its identification, its relation to matter and form, to actuality and to potentiality, to change and generation. The argument is tortuous in the extreme, and it is far from clear what Aristotle's final views on the subject are -- if indeed he had any final views. The following book, Iota, concerns itself with the notions of unity ('oneness') and identity. Book Kappa consists of a resumé of Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon and of parts of the Physics. In book Lambda, we return to the study of beings and of first principles: the book contains Aristotle's theology, his account of the 'unmoved movers', which are in some sense the supreme entities in his universe. Finally, Books XIII and XIV turn to the philosophy of mathematics, discussing in particular the ontological status of numbers."

---From: Jonathan Barnes (ed.) - Cambridge Companion to Aristotle - Cambridge, Cambridge University Press 1995.Chapter 3 - Metaphysics - by Jonathan Barnes - pp. 66-67.


"Aristotle can fairly be said to be the founder of metaphysics as a separate discipline, as well as one of the most influential theorists of metaphysics. (...) Aristotle was not the first philosopher to concern himself with metaphysical issues, but he was the first to study metaphysics systematically and to lay out a rigorous account of ontology. (...) In the Metaphysics Aristotle subjects to scrutiny his own metaphysical principles. Our word 'metaphysics' itself derives form the expedient of early editors of Aristotle who, not knowing what to call his books on first principles, called them META TA PHYSIKA, the material after the physical enquiries. Whether the fourteenth books of the Metaphysics are a unity or a collection of disparate treatises is a matter of serious debate. Aristotle clearly recognizes a special study corresponding to metaphysics which he calls variously wisdom, first philosophy, and theology.

But the books of the Metaphysics seem to present different conception of what metaphysics is. In Book I Aristotle identifies wisdom with knowledge of the ultimate causes and principles, which he identifies as the four causes. Book IV makes metaphysics an enquiry into the causes of being qua being, an enquiry made possible by the fact that all senses of being are related to a single central notion, the notion of substance. Book VI argues that the highest science must study the highest genus of substance, which is the divine, and hence this science must be theology. Of course, it is not surprising that metaphysics should take in studies of causation, of ontology (the study of the basic entities in the world), and what was later called special metaphysics (the study of special kinds of beings, e.g. God and the soul); but precisely how these enquiries were related in Aristotle's mind remain obscure."

From: Hans Burkhardt & Barry Smith (eds.) Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology - Philosophia Verlag GMBH - Munchen 1991 - Aristotle - by Daniel W. Graham - in: vol. I - pp. 50-52

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Postmodernist Essay Generator

Have you ever heard of this site? Or of the hoax it memorializes? Check out http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo Here's a sample of a randomly generated postmodern essay. Remember, for postmodernism, language is all there is, and it just combines in random ways. It's up to you, the reader, to impose your meaning upon it. Good luck!

Rationalism and patriarchialist rationalism

Barbara N. Bailey
Department of Sociolinguistics, University of Oregon

1. Neotextual objectivism and dialectic theory

The characteristic theme of the works of Rushdie is the role of the reader as participant. However, the subject is interpolated into a rationalism that includes truth as a reality.“Society is used in the service of archaic perceptions of class,” says Sontag; however, according to Long[1] , it is not so much society that is used in the service of archaic perceptions of class, but rather the economy, and some would say the rubicon, of society. In Vineland, Pynchon denies Foucaultist power relations; in Mason & Dixon, although, he analyses patriarchialist rationalism. But the primary theme of von Ludwig’s[2] critique of rationalism is the bridge between sexual identity and society.“Consciousness is part of the collapse of culture,” says Lacan. Subsemantic capitalism holds that the task of the writer is significant form. Thus, the subject is contextualised into a rationalism that includes language as a paradox.“Society is unattainable,” says Foucault; however, according to Wilson[3] , it is not so much society that is unattainable, but rather the defining characteristic, and hence the stasis, of society. Baudrillard uses the term ‘dialectic materialism’ to denote the role of the poet as participant. However, Derrida suggests the use of patriarchialist rationalism to challenge hierarchy.The characteristic theme of the works of Tarantino is a precultural reality. Thus, Marx uses the term ‘textual postsemioticist theory’ to denote the role of the observer as reader.The subject is interpolated into a patriarchialist rationalism that includes narrativity as a whole. However, McElwaine[4] suggests that we have to choose between rationalism and Sartreist absurdity.The premise of patriarchialist rationalism implies that class, somewhat paradoxically, has objective value, but only if truth is distinct from art. Therefore, the main theme of la Tournier’s[5] analysis of neocultural desemioticism is a mythopoetical totality.Lyotard uses the term ‘dialectic theory’ to denote the collapse, and eventually the fatal flaw, of structural reality. Thus, Marx promotes the use of Derridaist reading to modify society.The subject is contextualised into a rationalism that includes culture as a paradox. However, the primary theme of the works of Tarantino is the role of the artist as writer.

2. Tarantino and dialectic theory

The characteristic theme of Prinn’s[6] model of rationalism is a deconstructivist whole. Foucault’s analysis of patriarchialist rationalism suggests that the raison d’etre of the observer is deconstruction. Thus, Baudrillard uses the term ‘dialectic theory’ to denote not narrative, as Derrida would have it, but postnarrative.Baudrillardist simulation implies that narrativity is capable of intent, given that the premise of rationalism is valid. It could be said that if dialectic theory holds, the works of Tarantino are reminiscent of Eco.Foucault suggests the use of patriarchialist rationalism to deconstruct outdated, colonialist perceptions of reality. In a sense, in Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino examines rationalism; in Pulp Fiction, however, he deconstructs patriarchialist rationalism.The main theme of the works of Tarantino is the common ground between sexual identity and language. Thus, Debord promotes the use of dialectic theory to analyse and read sexual identity.

3. Narratives of failure

“Narrativity is part of the defining characteristic of culture,” says Lacan. The subject is interpolated into a patriarchialist rationalism that includes narrativity as a reality. Therefore, several discourses concerning the role of the poet as participant may be discovered.The characteristic theme of Dietrich’s[7] essay on Batailleist `powerful communication’ is not construction, but preconstruction. The subject is contextualised into a dialectic theory that includes art as a paradox. In a sense, Sontag’s model of patriarchialist rationalism holds that expression comes from communication.“Society is intrinsically a legal fiction,” says Lacan; however, according to Reicher[8] , it is not so much society that is intrinsically a legal fiction, but rather the genre, and subsequent meaninglessness, of society. Marx uses the term ‘dialectic theory’ to denote the dialectic of subtextual sexual identity. Therefore, many dematerialisms concerning rationalism exist.“Narrativity is part of the futility of language,” says Foucault. The primary theme of the works of Burroughs is the difference between sexual identity and sexuality. In a sense, the subject is interpolated into a patriarchialist rationalism that includes culture as a reality.If one examines modernist narrative, one is faced with a choice: either reject rationalism or conclude that the media is capable of social comment. Several sublimations concerning a self-justifying whole may be found. Thus, Debord uses the term ‘patriarchialist rationalism’ to denote the paradigm, and thus the defining characteristic, of neocapitalist sexual identity.Humphrey[9] suggests that we have to choose between rationalism and posttextual dialectic theory. Therefore, the subject is contextualised into a subcultural objectivism that includes consciousness as a paradox.If rationalism holds, the works of Burroughs are postmodern. It could be said that the subject is interpolated into a dialectic theory that includes culture as a reality.A number of deconstructions concerning patriarchialist rationalism exist. In a sense, the absurdity, and some would say the paradigm, of rationalism intrinsic to Burroughs’s The Ticket that Exploded emerges again in Naked Lunch, although in a more materialist sense.Derrida suggests the use of patriarchialist rationalism to challenge the status quo. However, Humphrey[10] states that we have to choose between rationalism and deconstructivist nihilism.The characteristic theme of de Selby’s[11] critique of patriarchialist rationalism is the role of the artist as writer. It could be said that several desublimations concerning the meaninglessness, and eventually the failure, of subcapitalist class may be revealed.The premise of cultural postdialectic theory holds that narrativity is used to marginalize the underprivileged. Therefore, Lyotard uses the term ‘dialectic theory’ to denote not appropriation, as patriarchialist rationalism suggests, but neoappropriation.

4. Rationalism and Sartreist existentialism

In the works of Fellini, a predominant concept is the distinction between destruction and creation. If patriarchialist rationalism holds, we have to choose between rationalism and capitalist socialism. It could be said that the primary theme of the works of Fellini is the common ground between society and class.Bataille’s model of Sartreist existentialism states that sexuality is fundamentally unattainable, but only if language is interchangeable with reality; otherwise, Sartre’s model of rationalism is one of “subcultural theory”, and therefore part of the defining characteristic of language. But many discourses concerning patriarchialist rationalism exist.The premise of Sartreist existentialism implies that narrativity may be used to reinforce capitalism. In a sense, an abundance of dematerialisms concerning the role of the participant as writer may be discovered.Von Ludwig[12] suggests that we have to choose between rationalism and prepatriarchial semanticist theory. Thus, the main theme of Sargeant’s[13] analysis of patriarchialist rationalism is not, in fact, situationism, but subsituationism.

5. Realities of economy

“Sexuality is intrinsically a legal fiction,” says Debord; however, according to Brophy[14] , it is not so much sexuality that is intrinsically a legal fiction, but rather the futility, and thus the meaninglessness, of sexuality. Dialectic narrative holds that the task of the poet is deconstruction, given that Derrida’s critique of rationalism is invalid. In a sense, if patriarchialist rationalism holds, the works of Fellini are empowering.“Sexual identity is part of the rubicon of art,” says Baudrillard. La Fournier[15] states that we have to choose between rationalism and postcapitalist patriarchial theory. However, the subject is contextualised into a patriarchialist rationalism that includes consciousness as a totality.In the works of Joyce, a predominant concept is the concept of neoconstructivist art. Lyotard uses the term ‘dialectic socialism’ to denote the fatal flaw, and subsequent collapse, of subcapitalist class. But the premise of Sartreist existentialism implies that narrativity has significance.“Class is fundamentally impossible,” says Derrida. If Batailleist `powerful communication’ holds, we have to choose between patriarchialist rationalism and textual discourse. Therefore, a number of narratives concerning rationalism exist.In the works of Joyce, a predominant concept is the distinction between within and without. The primary theme of the works of Joyce is the bridge between sexual identity and class. Thus, several theories concerning the defining characteristic of postcapitalist sexual identity may be found.The main theme of de Selby’s[16] analysis of neopatriarchial objectivism is the difference between class and art. Finnis[17] suggests that we have to choose between patriarchialist rationalism and modernist presemantic theory. But Debord promotes the use of Sartreist existentialism to deconstruct sexual identity.An abundance of dematerialisms concerning Lacanist obscurity exist. However, Derrida uses the term ‘rationalism’ to denote the failure, and therefore the fatal flaw, of textual society.In Natural Born Killers, Stone affirms Sartreist existentialism; in Heaven and Earth he reiterates rationalism. But Debord suggests the use of the postmodern paradigm of reality to attack sexism.If Sartreist existentialism holds, we have to choose between rationalism and textual precapitalist theory. Therefore, the subject is interpolated into a Sartreist existentialism that includes sexuality as a whole.La Tournier[18] implies that the works of Stone are reminiscent of Madonna. However, Lyotard’s critique of rationalism holds that the purpose of the writer is social comment, but only if art is equal to reality.The destruction/creation distinction prevalent in Stone’s JFK is also evident in Platoon. But the subject is contextualised into a patriarchialist rationalism that includes language as a paradox.In Heaven and Earth, Stone deconstructs Sartreist existentialism; in Natural Born Killers, although, he affirms patriarchialist rationalism. However, the characteristic theme of the works of Stone is the bridge between sexual identity and sexuality.Subpatriarchialist semiotic theory suggests that society, surprisingly, has intrinsic meaning. But the subject is interpolated into a patriarchialist rationalism that includes art as a whole.

6. Sartreist existentialism and neodialectic Marxism

In the works of Stone, a predominant concept is the concept of conceptualist narrativity. If patriarchialist rationalism holds, we have to choose between rationalism and the precapitalist paradigm of discourse. Thus, the subject is contextualised into a semioticist neodeconstructive theory that includes culture as a paradox.Several narratives concerning a self-falsifying whole may be revealed. It could be said that McElwaine[19] states that the works of Stone are an example of mythopoetical feminism.The subject is interpolated into a rationalism that includes language as a totality. However, the premise of neodialectic Marxism holds that the Constitution is part of the dialectic of consciousness, given that cultural discourse is valid.Lacan promotes the use of neodialectic Marxism to read and analyse narrativity. But if patriarchialist rationalism holds, we have to choose between neodialectic Marxism and postdialectic cultural theory
1. Long, B. ed. (1977) The Iron House: Patriarchialist rationalism in the works of Pynchon. Harvard University Press
2. von Ludwig, Y. V. C. (1983) Rationalism in the works of Spelling. O’Reilly & Associates
3. Wilson, G. W. ed. (1998) Consensuses of Rubicon: Patriarchialist rationalism in the works of Tarantino. Oxford University Press
4. McElwaine, Q. O. P. (1981) Rationalism in the works of Mapplethorpe. University of Massachusetts Press
5. la Tournier, N. T. ed. (1970) The Circular Door: Patriarchialist rationalism and rationalism. Loompanics
6. Prinn, Q. B. E. (1981) Nationalism, predialectic libertarianism and rationalism. Cambridge University Press
7. Dietrich, O. R. ed. (1977) Deconstructing Realism: Rationalism and patriarchialist rationalism. University of Georgia Press
8. Reicher, Q. T. M. (1991) Patriarchialist rationalism in the works of Burroughs. Loompanics
9. Humphrey, Q. K. ed. (1974) The Economy of Reality: Patriarchialist rationalism and rationalism. Schlangekraft
10. Humphrey, T. K. J. (1983) Rationalism and patriarchialist rationalism. O’Reilly & Associates
11. de Selby, U. ed. (1975) The Defining characteristic of Society: Patriarchialist rationalism in the works of Fellini. Schlangekraft
12. von Ludwig, A. G. (1991) Patriarchialist rationalism and rationalism. Harvard University Press
13. Sargeant, M. ed. (1972) The Context of Fatal flaw: Rationalism in the works of Glass. O’Reilly & Associates
14. Brophy, L. Y. R. (1991) Rationalism and patriarchialist rationalism. University of Illinois Press
15. la Fournier, I. ed. (1988) Reassessing Modernism: Rationalism in the works of Joyce. Schlangekraft
16. de Selby, Z. O. (1993) The textual paradigm of expression, nationalism and rationalism. Loompanics
17. Finnis, U. T. I. ed. (1974) Forgetting Marx: Patriarchialist rationalism in the works of Stone. Cambridge University Press
18. la Tournier, C. (1982) Patriarchialist rationalism and rationalism. And/Or Press
19. McElwaine, P. L. Q. ed. (1991) The Failure of Reality: Rationalism in the works of Joyce. O’Reilly & Associates
The essay you have just seen is completely meaningless and was randomly generated by the Postmodernism Generator. To generate another essay, follow this link. If you liked this particular essay and would like to return to it, follow this link for a bookmarkable page.The Postmodernism Generator was written by Andrew C. Bulhak using the Dada Engine, a system for generating random text from recursive grammars, and modified very slightly by Josh Larios (this version, anyway. There are others out there).This installation of the Generator has delivered 2022001 essays since 25/Feb/2000 18:43:09 PST, when it became operational. It is being served from a machine in Seattle, Washington, USA.

More detailed technical information may be found in Monash University Department of Computer Science Technical Report 96/264: “On the Simulation of Postmodernism and Mental Debility Using Recursive Transition Networks”. An on-line copy is available from Monash University.

If you enjoy this, you might also enjoy reading about the Social Text Affair, where NYU Physics Professor Alan Sokal’s brilliant ( but totally meaningless) hoax article was accepted by a cultural criticism publication. See http://www.physics.nyu.edu/faculty/sokal/

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Big Bang and the Anthropic Principle

Dan alerted me to this fascinating story this afternoon:

New Images Support 'Big Bang' Theory

By Guy GugliottaWashington Post Staff WriterFriday, March 17, 2006;

Scientists said yesterday they have found the best evidence yet supporting the theory that about 13.7 billion years ago, the universe suddenly expanded from the size of a marble to the size of the cosmos in less than a trillionth of a second.

A team of researchers used data collected by a NASA satellite measuring microwave radiation to offer direct, experimental support for the theory of "inflation" put forth 25 years ago -- that the expansion of the universe, commonly known as the "big bang," began with a single burst of repulsive energy acting in a tiny fraction of time. The expansion continues today but at a much slower rate.

This new image of the universe indicates "warmer" (red) and "cooler" (blue) spots. The white bars show the "polarization" direction of the oldest light. ,,"We can measure the sky to tell what powered this expansion," said Goddard Space Flight Center astrophysicist Gary Hinshaw. "It's really amazing, actually. I was in graduate school when the theory was first proposed, and I've been working on it ever since. It's gratifying to see the idea hold up now.
Hinshaw is a member of a team monitoring data from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, a satellite launched in 2001. The findings were announced yesterday at a Princeton University news conference and will appear in the Astrophysical Journal.

The theory, developed by Alan H. Guth of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, holds that during the universe's first moments, inflation produced a sudden burst of heat and light that left an afterglow about 400,000 years after the event. The first stars were formed about 400 million years after the big bang.

The original afterglow has been cooled by the universe's expansion until all that is left is a faint microwave "signature.""You're looking out to the edge of space and time," Hinshaw said in a telephone interview. "It's like trying to see a car's headlights through the fog."

It reminded me of an article in First Things by Stephen Barr, entitled "Anthropic Coincidences." Copyright (c) 2001 First Things 114 (June/July 2001): 17-23.

Barr writes,
"Hydrogen has been around since very soon after the Big Bang. But almost all of the other elements were forged later, either in the deep interiors of stars, or in the violent explosions called supernovas with which some stars end their lives. These supernova explosions are also important for life because they spew the elements made within stars out into space where they can form new stars, or planets, or people. Indeed, most of the elements in our bodies were made inside stars that exploded before the sun was born. We are quite literally made of stardust.

For our purposes, it is crucial to note that the elements are formed in a sequential manner by nuclear reactions in which the nuclei of smaller atoms fuse together to make the nuclei of larger atoms. These same “nuclear fusion” reactions also produce the energy radiated by stars (including, of course, the sun), energy that is essential to support life. The first step in the process of forging the elements is the fusing together of pairs of hydrogen nuclei to make something called “deuterium.” Deuterium is the first and vital link in the whole chain. If deuterium had been prevented from forming, none of the later steps could have taken place, and the universe would have contained no elements other than hydrogen. This would have been a disaster, for it is scarcely conceivable that a living thing could be made of hydrogen alone. Moreover, had the deuterium link been cut, the nuclear processes by which stars burn would have been prevented.

Everything thus depends on hydrogen being able to fuse to make deuterium. Here is where the first remarkable anthropic coincidence comes in. The force of nature that cements nuclei together is called the “strong nuclear force.” Had the strong nuclear force been weaker by even as little as 10 percent, it would not have been able to fuse two hydrogens together to make deuterium, and the prospects of life would have been dim indeed. But this is only the half of it. Had the strong nuclear force been only a few percent stronger than it is, an opposite disaster would have occurred. It would have been too easy for hydrogen nuclei to fuse together. The nuclear burning in stars would have gone much too fast. Stars would have burned themselves out in millions of years or less, rather than the several billion years that stars like the sun last. However, the history of life on earth suggests that billions of years are required for the evolution of complex life such as ourselves. The upshot of all these considerations is that the strong nuclear force has just the right strength: a little stronger or weaker and we would not have been here.
Once deuterium is made, deuterium nuclei can combine by fusion processes to make helium nuclei. These steps happen very readily. At this point, however, another critical juncture is reached: somehow, helium nuclei must fuse to make yet larger elements. But all the obvious ways this could happen are forbidden by the laws of physics. In particular, two helium nuclei cannot fuse together. This was quite a puzzle for nuclear theorists and astrophysicists. How did all the elements larger than helium come to be made?

The answer was found by Fred Hoyle, who suggested that nature in effect did a large double step to get past the missing rung in the ladder. When two helium nuclei collide in the interior of a star they cannot fuse permanently, but they do remain stuck together momentarily—for about a hundredth of a millionth of a billionth of a second. In that tiny sliver of time a third helium nucleus comes along and hits the other two in a three–way collision. Three heliums, as it happens, do have enough sticking power to fuse together permanently. When they do so they form a nucleus called “carbon–12.” This highly unusual triple collision process is called the “three–alpha process,” and it is the way that almost all of the carbon in the universe is made. Without it, the only elements around would be hydrogen and helium, leading to an almost certainly lifeless universe...."

Read the rest of this at http://www.firstthings.com/ftissues/ft0106/articles/barr.html

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Possible Topics for Paper #3

Due: March 24

Choose one, and write 2-3 pages. (Please refer to your handout, “How to Write Philosophy Papers”)

1) In The Republic, Plato’s Socrates proposes a model of the soul which places reason above “high spirited” passion. Evaluate this model, and give your own model of the soul, if necessary.

2) Do you believe the cardinal virtues (justice, wisdom, moderation, courage) are enough to make us good? Enough to make us happy?

3) What do you make of the contradictions that seem to pop up throughout The Republic? Are they real or apparent? If real, do they invalidate Plato's entire project? If apparent, how do you explain them away?

4) Compare, in detail, our own American republic with Plato’s Republic. What are the differences? Are there any similarities? Assess our society from a Platonic perspective.

5) In your opinion, what is Plato’s greatest philosophical insight? Explain in detail.

6) In your opinion, what is Plato’s greatest philosophical weakness? Explain in detail.

7) How do Aristotelian and Platonic characterizations of essence differ?

8) Why does Aristotle think that primary substances are ontologically prior to secondary substances? What do you think of his argument?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Aristotle: Online and Print Sources

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As we begin the second half of our course, we turn to Aristotle and will be reading selections from several of his works. One good place to find them is online at

Online Works of Aristotle http://classics.mit.edu/Browse/browse-Aristotle.html

You may prefer to invest in either Richard McKeon's The Basic Works of Aristotle , $31.47 from Amazon, or if you're really feeling flush the two-volume set, Complete Works of Aristotle, edited by Jonathan Barnes, at about $40 a volume.

Select Secondary Sources

1) Reliable Online Sources

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Aristotle’s Logic :

Aristotle on Causality: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-causality/

Aristotle and Mathematics http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-mathematics/

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Aristotle: General Introduction: http://www.iep.utm.edu/a/aristotl.htm

Motion and its place in nature

Biology http://www.iep.utm.edu/a/aris-bio.htm

Ethics http://www.iep.utm.edu/a/aris-eth.htm

Metaphysics http://www.iep.utm.edu/a/aris-met.htm

Poetics http://www.iep.utm.edu/a/aris-poe.htm

Politics http://www.iep.utm.edu/a/aris-poe.htm

Garth Kemerling’s Philosophy Pages: Aristotle

Chris Howard’s Aristotle and Aristotelianism

Radical Academy: Aristotle

2) Reliable Print Sources:

Barnes J Aristotle (Past Masters Series: Oxford University Press, 1981):
This volume also appeared along with R.M.Hare’s volume on Plato and Henry Chadwick’s volume on Augustine under the title Founders of Thought (Oxford University Press, 1991)

Ackrill J.L., Aristotle the Philosopher (Oxford University Press, 1981)

Allen D.J., The Philosophy of Aristotle (Oxford University Press, 1952)

Lear J., Aristotle: the Desire to Understand (Cambridge University Press, 1988)

Lloyd G.E.R., Aristotle: the Growth and Structure of his Thought (Cambridge University Press, 1968)

Ross W.D., Aristotle (Methuen, London, 5th Edition 1949)

J. Owens, The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics, 3rd ec. Toronto, 1978
You might also want to check out Garth Kemerling’s Online Bibliography:

Richard Hooker's excellent treatment.
a thorough article in * The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Gordon L. Ziniewicz on the physics and metaphysics and the ethics of Aristotle.
William Turner's full treatment in The Catholic Encyclopedia.
articles in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on:
Aristotle's rhetoric by Christof Rapp.
Aristotle's logic by Robin Smith.
Aristotle and mathematics by Henry Mendell.
Aristotle's metaphysics by S. Marc Cohen.
Aristotle's psychology by Christopher Shields.
Aristotle's ethics by Richard Kraut.
Aristotle's political theory by Fred D. Miller, Jr.
The thorough collection of resources at EpistemeLinks.com.
the excellent treatment of virtue ethics from Lawrence Hinman.
The article in the Columbia Encyclopedia at Bartleby.com.
A bibliography of recent articles from S. Marc Cohen.
Björn Christensson's guide to Aristotle studies.
Eric Weisstein's entry in World of Scientific Biography.
Aristotle and the morally excellent brain, from David DeMoss.
A paper on Aristotle's treatment of homosexuality by Guy Bouchard.
an article by D. K. House on whether Aristotle understood Plato.
A literary analysis in The Perseus Encyclopedia.
an account of Aristotle's contribution to mathematics from Mathematical MacTutor
The entry at Biography.com.


PHL 407 will permanently meet in
M112 on Mondays and Wednesdays and in
L203A on Fridays.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

We are officially behind...

Bravely taking on both books 2 and 3, Nicole gave us a thorough digest of them today, complete with a handout outline. (Thanks, Nicole!) A lot happens in these two books, so we will allow another day for our discussion, concluding it on Friday, Feb. 17.
Let's focus on the issue of censorship, true lies vs. lies in words (p. 54)

That means we are a day behind. Accordingly, Nick will present book 4 on 2/20, Joseph book 5 on 2/22, and so on.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Plato's REPUBLIC Assignment

Each student has drawn, by lot, a chapter from the Republic. (See list below.)

Your assignment:

· Read the chapter thoroughly.
· Make a summary or outline of the main points, and be ready to share it with the class. If you’d like to pass out copies or other types of handouts, check with Dan Collins about getting them made. (Please give him at least two day’s notice.)
· Lead the class in discussion for at least 30 minutes.
· For your Paper #2, turn in your summary/outline, proposed discussion questions and a two page evaluation of the discussion, making any clarifications or further observations that might be needed to round out our understanding of the chapter. Please include a bibliography of any works you have used in preparing for the discussion.
· This paper will be due exactly one week after you’ve led your discussion.

Tentative Discussion Schedule:

Book 1: pp. 1-30; Joshua 2/13
Book 2-3: pp. 40-83; Nicole 2/15
Book 4: pp. 84-115; Nick 2/17
Book 5: pp. 117-148; Joseph 2/20
Book 6: pp. 149-176; Brandon 2/22
Book 7: pp. 177-202; Aimee 2/24
Book 8: pp. 203-229; Dan 2/27
Book 9: pp. 230-251; Abby 3/1
Book 10: pp. 251-277: James 3/3

Assignment for Friday, Feb. 10

1) If you haven't already begun, start reading the Republic. Josh will be leading us on Monday in a discussion of Book I.

2) Friday we will finish up Symposium, paying particular attention to Alcibiades as he contrasts with Socrates. Who loves best? Who loves more? Alcibiades or Socrates?

3) If we have time, I will mak some introductory remarks about the Republic, and we can chat about the video.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Philosophical Gourmet Report

So you want to go on to grad school and study philosophy?

Check out this site:

It's Blackwell's Philosophical Gourmet Report, which ranks Anglo- American graduate programs using various criteria. Here's a slice:

What the Rankings Mean

The rankings are primarily measures of faculty quality and reputation. Faculty quality and reputation correlates quite well with job placement, but students are well-advised to make inquiries with individual departments for complete information on this score. (Keep in mind, of course, that recent job placement tells you more about past faculty quality, not current.) Due to the time-consuming nature of this Report, it is published only every other year.
The Update Service will continue to provide timely updates about important faculty moves.

The conventional demarcation of "analytic" versus "Continental" philosophy has become less and less meaningful. With the demise of analytic philosophy as a substantive research program since the 1960s (see Section II-B below), "analytic" simply demarcates a style of scholarship, writing and thinking: clarity, precision and argumentative rigor are paramount. Thus, "analytic" philosophy is now largely coextensional with good philosophy and scholarship, regardless of topic or figure. (Of course, there is still a good deal more formal work that goes on under the heading of "analytic" philosophy which has no analogue in other traditions.) It is no surprise, then, that the best work on so-called "Continental" figures is done largely by philosophers with so-called "analytic" training.

So, too, "Continental" is an increasingly meaningless label: much of what philosophers do on the European Continent these days is "analytic" philosophy or historical scholarship. While a small minority of philosophers in the U.S. still use the label "Continental philosophy" to demarcate whatever someone suitably obscure has done in Paris recently, the label is best-reserved as a characterization for a group of important historical figures largely in Germany and France in the 19th and 20th centuries; in that respect, the label is much like the labels "medieval philosophy" or "early modern." And as with these other historical groupings, there are some overlapping thematic affinities among the figures so designated, but there are also discontinuities and in some cases profound differences (e.g., Husserl has more in common with Frege than with Nietzsche, and Habermas more in common with Rawls than Marx).

The collapse of a useful analytic/Continental divide led several years ago to dropping the misleading "analytic" from the subtitle of the Report. There is one discipline, philosophy, which includes many topics and figures, and which admits of good and bad work. Certainly there remain differences in styles of philosophical work, but those differences are no longer illuminated by the analytic/Continental divide. This Report tries to capture existing professional sentiment about quality at different programs and in different fields in the English-speaking world. (Lack of reliable information leads me to exclude the non-English-speaking world, though there are thriving philosophical communities in, e.g., the Scandanavian countries, Israel, Germany, etc., but they are beyond the scope of this Report.) Obviously, there will be groups and departments on the margins of the profession-or which used to be at the top of the profession, and whose decline has been charted--who will resent such an evaluation effort, but qualitative assessment remains of great importance to prospective students.
Yet there remain some important differences in how departments approach philosophy. One important difference concerns the priority different departments give to the history of philosophy. You can get a good idea of which programs are most committed to history of philosophy by reviewing the Specialty Rankings, below. Some excellent departments--like Rutgers and MIT--are ranked in hardly any historical areas, while others--like Princeton, Pittsburgh, Berkeley, Oxford, Stanford, and UC Irvine-are ranked in multiple historical areas. Conversely, some programs give less priority to "contemporary," substantive areas (like philosophy of mind or metaphysics) in favor of a strong historical orientation: for example, Chicago, Penn, Boston University, and Emory.

Another significant divide in professional philosophy is marked by those philosophers who are naturalists and those who are not. The naturalists are skeptical that philosophers have any distinctive methods or techniques that allow them to solve problems without the assistance of empirical science; philosophy for the naturalists is just an abstract branch of empirical science, examining and clarifying empircal claims, but not adding any substantive body of knowledge to the task of philosophy. Naturalists differ in their commitment to this approach, but all share the idea of philosophy as a discipline which is simply continuous with empirical science. The non-naturalists, by contrast, do not view empirical science as a relevant constraint upon, or necessary element in, philosophical work. Philosophy remains an essentially a priori discipline, in which intuitions, thought experiments, and conceptual analyses do most of the work.

Some departments have significant naturalist contingents: for example, NYU, Rutgers, Michigan, Arizona, Cornell, UC Davis, CUNY, Maryland, Duke, Connecticut. Others have large non-naturalist (or even anti-naturalist) contingents, like Pittsburgh (Philosophy proper, not HPS), Harvard, Notre Dame, Berkeley, Chicago, Yale, Penn, Colorado, and Johns Hopkins. Most have some mix of the various positions, and even the departments just noted don't speak univocally. Most UK departments tend to be squarely in the non-naturalist camp, many Australasian departments in the naturalist camp..

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

How to Write Your Papers

I. Description: Your paper should be
A. 2-3 pages, typed

1. this means its going to be a modest essay, not a dissertation
2. this means it will be hard copy, not an attachment

B. on a question chosen from the handout, or one of your own, cleared with me

1. this means I want you to interact more fully with material we’ve been covering in class
2. this means your paper topic will be modest, narrowed down enough to fit the page constraints.

C. making a reasoned defense (argument) for some claim

1. this means your paper will present a thesis, defend it, and address possible criticism(s) of that thesis.
2. this means it will not be a pure research paper.
a. It won’t be the kind you might write for a history or science course, documenting the latest research, or the spectrum of scholarly opinion. You won’t be cutting and pasting lots of lengthy quotations.
b. however, you may need to do some research, and you may need to do some footnotes/endnotes.
3. on the other hand, this means it will not be a work of literature or rhetoric. That is, it won’t be about your feelings or impressions on a topic, nor will it use techniques of persuasion to get your reader to agree with you.b. however, your creativity and originality in the reasoned support of your own thesis, and the reasoned evaluation of other positions is welcomed. Furthermore, correct grammar and spelling will be expected.

II. Evaluation: Your paper will be graded on its
A. Clarity
1. Do you understand what you’re talking about?
2. Have you defined relevant concepts?
3. Have you given sound or cogent arguments in support of your thesis?
4. You must say explicitly what you mean; don’t assume your reader will know.
5. Don’t think that you have to report everything that’s ever been said about the topic. Narrow it down!

B. Conciseness

1. You don’t need to waste time writing a flowery introduction. Avoid “cuteness.”
2. Your paper’s first sentence should be its thesis.3. Edit, edit, edit. Anything that doesn’t directly further your thesis or the arguments relating to it has no business remaining in your paper.

C. Completeness

1. Have you addressed the strongest criticisms of your thesis? Have you anticipated criticisms of your thesis? (Don’t argue against straw men.)
2. Have you used examples and definitions to further your argument? Don’t be afraid to do so. If they’re relevant, they’re well worth the space they take up in your paper.

III. Resources

There are hundreds of books, pamphlets and websites that are available to help you write better philosophy papers. Here are a few of the ones I like:

A. Writing Philosophy Papers, by Colin Allen of Indiana University-Bloomington. Basic, no-nonsense site.http://mypage.iu.edu/~colallen/writing.html

B. Writing a Philosophy Paper, by Peter Horban at Simon Fraser University (Canada). This is my favorite site. Clear, concise and complete.http://www.sfu.ca/philosophy/writing.htm

C. Writing Philosophy Papers, by James Pryor of Princeton University. Extremely thorough, takes you by the hand step-by-step through the process.http://www.princeton.edu/~jimpryor/general/writing.html

D. Writing Philosophy Papers: A Student Guide, at the OSU Philosophy Department website. ( A 108 page manual, maybe more than you ever wanted to know)http://oregonstate.edu/Dept/philosophy/resources/resources/guidestuff/index.html

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Syllabus: Plato and Aristotle

Spring, 2006
Beth Bilynskyj, instructor

A 307
MWF 2-2:50pm

Description of Course:

a seminar introducing and critically examining the thought of Plato and Aristotle. Particular attention will be given to Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics.

Purpose of Course:

To enable students to increase their ability to think rationally, critically and creatively.
• To provide a fundamental part of a Christian liberal arts education, integrating NCC’s biblical and Christian studies with rigorous philosophical study.
• To prepare students for effective and successful roles in teaching and the liberal arts.
• To encourage students to personally grow in virtue (arete) and the contemplation of what is good, true and beautiful.

Course Objectives:

Upon completing this course, you will be able to:

Analyze and evaluate the claims of Plato and Aristotle by having written five critical essays
• Demonstrate proficiency with relevant concepts and claims by having participated in lively class discussion.
• Compare and contrast Plato and Aristotle’s metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and politics by having completed a final essay exam.
• Describe and use dialogue and dialectic as models for teaching
• Describe and discuss the teleological dimensions of life’s issues and practices.

Textbook and Resource material:

Plato, Five Dialogues: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno and Phaedo, translated by G.M.A. Grube and revised by John M. Cooper. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2002.

• Plato, The Republic, translated by Benjamin Jowett. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2000.

• Aristotle, The Nichomachean Ethics, translated by J.A.K. Thomson, revised with notes and appendices by Hugh Tredennick, introduction and Further Reading by Jonathan Barnes. Further Revised edition. New York: Penguin, 2004.

• Aristotle, Metaphysics selections, available online at

• Aristotle, Physics selections, available online at

• Aristotle, On the Soul selections, available online at

• Handouts and reserve readings, at instructor’s discretion.

Instructor Information:

Beth Bilynskyj, M.A. Philosophy, University of Notre Dame, 1979.

• 744-9343 (home phone; leave message and best time for me to return your call)

• bethb@valleycovenant.org (probably the best way for us to immediately connect)

• Office Hours: Fridays, 1-2pm; or by appointment

Please feel free to contact me. It is important that we end confusion and answer your questions as soon as possible. I also welcome your comments on the content of the course, and/or any suggestions you have to improve the class. Most of all, I want to get to know
you, and have you get to know Plato and Aristotle.


1. Attendance, reading, participation (25%)

Philosophy has been described as a “great conversation,” so the focus of our time together will be discussing the day’s assigned readings. Plan to spend at least two hours in preparation for every hour in class. Those who have not read the material will be unable to contribute profitably to the discussion, so their participation scores will suffer. Absence is the greatest damper for discussion, so you should make every effort not to miss class. Everyone has something to contribute, so your presence is important. Please refer to the attendance policy below.

2. Critical Essays (5 worth 10% each)

Emphasizing clear exposition, critical thinking and evaluation, these essays give you an opportunity to interact with Plato and Aristotle’s philosophical claims on a more personal level. You will be given a choice of selected questions upon which to write, or may appeal to the instructor for permission to write using your own question. Each essay should be 2-3 pages in length, and will be graded on the basis of clarity, conciseness and completeness. These are not to be understood as research papers, but rather critical examinations of concepts and/or arguments. The successful student will also attend to proper grammar, diction, and syntax, and turn in his or her work on time. Please refer to Late Work policy below. As I rule I prefer to receive hard copies rather than online copies, so unless you have had prior permission to submit your work virtually, your grade will be reduced.

Due dates:

First essay due: 2/1
• Second essay due: 2/17
• Third essay due: 3/8
• Fourth essay due: 4/3
• Fifth essay due: 4/21
• Final essay exam: 3:15 pm, Wednesday, May 3.

3. Final Take-home Essay Exam (25%)

Again, clear exposition, critical thinking and evaluation will be expected, but in addition, this final essay will demand that you integrate material from across the entire course. I will use the same standards for grading this essay as I use for the other essays. Length: 6-8 pages.

Academic Policies:

(quotations taken from Mick Bollenbough’s syllabi)

1. Attendance

“There is an expectation that students will come to class on time and be in attendance every day we are scheduled to meet. Students are excused from class only in cases of illness, emergency, and recognized commitments to the College, e.g., NCC days, intercollegiate softball and basketball. Being absent from class more than three times leads to significant grade reductions, i.e. A becomes A-, B+ becomes B, etc. Ten or more unexcused absences will result in automatic failure of the course.”

2. ADA policy

If you are having difficulty and are in need of academic support because of a documented disability, whether it is psychiatric, learning, physical, or sensory, you may be eligible for academic accommodation through the disability services office in the Dean of Students office.” Please make contact with the Dean of Students within the first two weeks of class, as accommodation cannot be guaranteed if contact is made after this time.

3. Timeliness and Academic Honesty

Students are expected to submit their work on time. As a general rule, no late work will be accepted. It is expected that all work will be the product of students’ own efforts. Plagarism and academic dishonesty in any form will not be tolerated.”

Final comments:

While Plato’s dialogues are probably more accessible to students than Aristotle’s drier, discursive format, they are no less demanding. I cannot lie: philosophical texts are difficult. However, it is my hope that you will find our readings stimulating and--at times-- even poetic. If you find the readings difficult, you are not alone. It is my hope that as we will deal with this material together, we will become a community supportive of one another, together engaging in the great conversation which is philosophy. Thank you for being part of this class.

• Here are some ongoing questions we will explore together:

1) There are two conceptions of philosophy. The Sophists saw it as a game or tool, while Plato and Aristotle saw it as a way of life. How do you see it?

2) What does it mean to be human? Is the unexamined life not worth living? Do philosophers have something to contribute to this discussion, or are they dangerous?

3) Which should come first: metaphysics, or epistemology? What difference does it make?

4) Intelligent Design can be seen as a rediscovery of final causality. Should science deal with this?

5) The only explanation available to Plato and Aristotle for evil and “weakness of will” was ignorance. Do you agree, or is there more to be said?

6) What is the relation of a person to the polis/state? Of the polis/state to the person?

7) Unlike most postmodernist idealist and subjectivist thinkers, Plato and Aristotle are realists, holding that there exists a world which we have not constructed, but which we are able to know. Is it possible to still be a realist today?

Patience is the companion of wisdom. --Saint Augustine

Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours. --John Locke

Thomas Carlyle writes, "It is all very well to talk of getting rid of one's ignorance, of seeing things in their reality, seeing them in their beauty; but how is this to be done when there is something which thwarts and spoils all our efforts? This something is sin." --William Barrett

Piety does not dispense with technique. –Etienne Gilson