Humans Have Wondered About Certain Basic Paradigms Term Paper

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¶ … humans have wondered about certain basic paradigms of the universe -- how do we know what we know? Is there truth? Is there a central morality for humans? What is reality? What is perception? Although humans have evolved technologically, we still ponder some of the basic questions we have about ourselves and our place in the universe, much as humans did in the Ancient World. As Simone Weill reminds us, we remain caught between the "universality of justice and the personal intimacy of love" which continues to wreak havoc with our ability to reconcile many of the issues we continue to face in the late 20th and early 21st century (Cooper, 2008). The idea of looking at the structures of subjective experience and consciouness, though, or phenomenology, is a relatively modern juxtaposition of the ideas taken from thousands of years of human imagning and reinterpreting those ideas with a 20th century template. To understand this quest for knowledge and the structures of consciousness, it is best to begin understanding its basis in philosophical thought, and then contrasting it with the Cartesian method of analysis which, as much of the Ancient tradition through Descarte held, the world is understood as a set of objects acting and reacting to one another.

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In the Ancient World, for example, the philosopher Plato posited that non-material ideas are the basis for truth and fundamental reality, not the material and constantly evolving world we perceive on a daily basis. This idea, called the "Theory of Forms" or "Theory of Ideas" held that these Forms were essential in formulating his views on the universe and human interaction within that universe. For example, Plato would not deny that we might be looking at a tree, but it is the consideration of that tree -- its color, texture, shape, smell, weight, position, etc. that, once we remove from the tree, is an independent variable from the physical nature of that object -- the tree. As one moves up from images, to material objects, into forms, one eventually reaches a hierarchy, or what Plato termed "Form of Good," the absolute truth of systems (Annas, 2003).

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Further describing the direction of thought and an explanation of articulating reality, the Stoics of Athens considered destructive emotions to be but the result of errors in judgment -- the inability to perform rational thinking and understand the relationship between determinism (by the cosmos) and human choice and freedom. It is virtuous, and therefore rational, to maintain a way of thought that is in complete accordance with nature -- that is, a though process that is rational and free of moral corruption (Sedley, 1998). The complexity, in modern interpretations, is the manner in which the terms stoicism and rationalism juxtapose. Actually, stoic rationalism, in philosophy, shares a number of principles of Empiricism: both say that humans do not know things directly but only by their impressions on what they observe or attempt to understand. Stoic rationalism is more concerned with what impressions are made upon the mind (intellect), whereas Empiricism focuses on the senses. In essence, then, the critical question becomes: Can humans be certain of the existence of known objects, and if so, to what extend can humans be certain of this relationship? In the modern world then, Stoic rationalism has become "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge of justification (Lacey, 1996, p. 286).

Rationalism, in philosophy, shares a number of principles of Empiricism: both say that humans do not know things directly but only by their impressions on what they observe or attempt to understand. Rationalism is more concerned with what impressions are made upon the mind (intellect), whereas Empiricism focuses on the senses. In essence, then, the critical question becomes: Can humans be certain of the existence of known objects, and if so, to what extend can humans be certain of this relationship? In the modern world then, rationalism has become "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge of justification (Lacey). This, of course, has engendered numerous interpretations of the methodology of acquiring verifiable knowledge, and can be traced back to the Socratic life of inquiry, through hundreds of years of asking -- how do we know what we know? Is the "unique path to knowledge… that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge?" (Audi, 1999, p. 771).

And, if the task of exploring rationalism changed somehow by the actual study and interpretation of that knowledge. While we know that this basic question has been debated for centuries, it was Rene' Descartes who focused more that only the discovery of reasonable knowledge and eternal truths were found by reason alone. These truths, for Descartes, included the basic language of the universe for him -- mathematics, as well as the epistemological and metaphysical foundations of the sciences as a whole. Other knowledge, for example the knowledge required by utilizing one's experiences within the world, were aided by epistemological study (Markie, 2004). Thus, one of the main contributions of Descartes to the philosophical discourse was that as a result of his method of rationalization, reason alone determines knowledge -- completely independent of other senses. In basic principle then, there are four laws of the Cartesian Method: 1) Accept nothing as true which is not absolutely clear and distinct; 2) Analyze a problem and break it into its components -- then discuss those components individually, part by part; 3) Arrange any thoughts from simple to complex, let those thoughts evolve in the organization of the mind; 4) Ensure that enumeration must be complete, in total, and nothing should be omitted -- thus the truth will then emerge (Grayling, 2006). Methodologically, then, Cartesian thought is both logical and intuitive, in as much as it is the process of the argument that uncovers the falsehoods, and once the system of the object or argument of study are deconstructed, it is possible to reconstruct into a whole that will find greater truth. One of the most famous quotes from Descartes is simple in fact, but complex in reality -- Cogito Ergo Sum (I Think, Therefore I Am). For Descartes, it was important to attempt to uncover the certainty of ideas, and the basic thought process and center of "though itself" of primary importance. For example, if Descartes doubted the veracity of something, then his doubting must prove that he exists and is true…. To doubt is to think, to think is to exist. True as a basic axiom and metaphysical truth for Descartes and the very starting point for his views of humanity, the universe, and even the divine (for an interesting mathematical proof of the phrase, see Rapaport 1976, 63).

From Descartes we move to the roots of modern phenomenology in the writings of Immanuel Kant. Immanuel Kant wrote that "it is of the utmost necessity to work out once a pure moral philosophy which is fully cleansed of everything and & #8230; self-evident from the common idea of duty and of moral laws," forming a more fluid view of the subject of ethics and morality. (Kant, et.al., 5). For Kant, then, the focus is on outcomes, or the ends of an action; in deontology the actions themselves must be ethical and moral, or the outcome is moot. Deontology argues that there are norms and truths that are universal for all humans; actions then have a predisposition to right or wrong, moral or immoral. Kant believed that humans should act, at all times, as if their individual actions would have consequences for all of society. Morality, then, is based on rational thought and is the direction most humans innately want. It is not enough, though, for there to be individual morality. After Kant, this became a rubric by which we may understand modern utilitarian principles and their interdependence with the concept of human rights. Thus it seems that for Kant, at least in Groundwork, the task is to seek the foundation of a principal of morality that will fit the human definition in almost all cases. Rationally, each person will move towards this axiom; to do otherwise would be to remain irrational. This, in particular, has relevance in the contemporary world of philosophical discourse, in which we can look at Kant's ideas about freedom and the nature of action and apply to the principles of autonomy and humans as autonomous agents. (Kant: The Moral Order, 2010).

Kant described a clear difference between phenomena (objects as interpreted by human understanding) and noumena (objects as things-in-themselves, those in which humans cannot directly experience). Modern phenomenology was dissatisfied with this limited approach to all things knowable, and attempts to create the conditions for the objective study of topics that are typically found to be subjective -- judgments, emotions, perceptions. It focuses on a scientific method, but is not clinical or biological; but rather it seeks to use a more systematic reflection of ideas to determine a more structured approach to experience (Ferguson, 2006).

Husserl, for instance, finds that intentionality,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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