University of St Martin - Fall, 2006 - PHIL232

Wednesday, Sept. 6 - Aristotle (1)

Midterm Essay
Monday, Sept. 4 - What is philosophy?
Wednesday, Sept. 6 - Aristotle (1)
Monday, Sept. 11 - Aristotle (2)
Wednesday, Sept. 13 - Aristotle (3)
Monday, Sept. 18 - Nietzsche (1)
Wednesday, Sept. 20 - Nietzsche (2)
Monday, Sept. 26 - Abortion (1)
Wednesday, Sept. 28 - Abortion (2)
Excursus 1: Historical overview
Excursus 2: Abortion in Judaism and Christianity
Excursus 3: Abortion in Islam
Excursus 4: Pro-choice argument
Monday, Oct. 2 - Suicide (1)
Wednesday, Oct 4 - Revision
Monday, Oct 16 - Suicide (2)
Wednesday, Oct 18 - Paradigm shifts
Monday, Oct 23 - Brave New World (1)
Wednesday, Oct 25 - Philosophical Anthropology (1)
Monday, Oct 30 - Sexual History of the USA
Wednesday, Nov 1 - Philosophical Anthropology (2)
Monday, Nov 6 - Race, death, tragedy, and bad faith
Wednesday, Nov 8 - Race, Biology, and Culture
Monday, Nov 13 - Racism and culture
Wednesday, Nov 15 - Existentialism
Monday, Nov 20 - Political Obligation, Moral Duty, and Punishment
Wednesday, Nov 22 - Kant and Moral Obligation
Monday, Nov 27 - War and Peace
Wednesday, Nov 29 - Non-Western Philosophies (1)
Monday, Dec 4 - Non-Western Philosophies (2)
Wednesday, Dec 6 - The End
Final Paper

Classification of knowledge

Whenever we set about studying something, we must clearly define two things:

1. The nature of the object under study: so that we can determine whether we will be able to arrive at CERTAINTY or just at PROBABILITY.

This is particularly important in the human sciences. It would be unwise to pretend that we can always be CERTAIN of our explanations when we are talking about psychological matters, whereas we can assume that water will, in normal earth conditions, always boil at 100C.

2. The perspective from which we are approaching our object of study. Whatever we say about something may not always hold true if people look at the object of our study from another angle.


The four causes

Causality = everything that moves or changes is caused to move or change by some other thing.

According to Aristotle, in every motion or change, there are FOUR CAUSES:

  1. Material cause: the matter out of which a thing is made.
  2. Formal cause: the outer and inner structure of whatever is being made.
  3. Efficient cause: the one causing the motion or change (doer, maker).
  4. Final cause: the goal, end or aim of the motion or change.


Aristotle was consistently TELEOLOGICAL (goal-oriented), i.e. he understood every reality as being essentially geared towards a goal or aim.

TELOS = Greek: goal, aim, purpose; think of telephone (to talk at a distance), television (to see at a distance), telescope (to view or observe at a distance).


The doctrine of the MEAN

Which actions are virtuous and which ones are vicious? Virtue lies in the golden mean between two extremes. This means that you have to analyze each action in particular and look at its context to know the extremes and thus to be able to determine where the mean might be found.

To think about       

"Any society that values creativity also needs to enable criticism. If we cannot question the way we are doing things and thinking about things at present, it will not occur to us that they could be thought of or done differently. (...) So philosophy is important partly because cultural criticism is so important."

CHRISTENSON, Tom (2001). Wonder and Critical Reflection. An invitation to Philosophy, p. 37. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc.


This page was updated on Nov 21, 2006
at 10.00 PM St Martin Time (-4 UT)