Philosophy Socrates to Sartre and Beyond Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2412 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy

Philosophy

Socrates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy

In Socrates to Sartre and Beyond: A History of Philosophy Samuel Enoch Stumpf and his co-author James Fieser might seem to be taking upon themselves an impossible and unwieldy task. As the title of their work proclaims, they strive to show a line of intellectual continuity between the earliest ancient philosophers like Socrates, one of the first and most famous modern philosophers, through the thought of the post-war, atheistic philosopher, the 20th century French founder of existentialism Jean-Paul Sartre. Finally, the 'beyond' part of the text catapults the reader squarely into modern analytic and postmodern theory, in an attempt to place our contemporary culture in a historical context. The authors try to create history of philosophy by examining how the human race came to conceptualize and question such concepts as a 'good life' and 'truth.'

Philosophy asks the question of 'what be known'? The authors show how the current fragmented era of postmodern relativism and subjectivity did not arise out of nowhere but has its roots back into the Enlightenment, in Christian times, and in the ancient Greeks. Stumpf and Feiser begin their focus with the pre-Socratic philosophers to examine how the discipline of what we call philosophy came into being and also the types of issues that Socrates was reacting to, in his philosophy. A great deal of what was called philosophy during the pre-Socratic time might be called the province of science, religion, or mathematics today. For example, many of the pre-Socratics were interested in what the world was made of in terms of its material substance. Epicurus agreed that all matter was composed of atoms and theorized that pleasure (although not self-indulgence, as this was counter to real pleasure) was the main purpose of human existence, not the search for any moral truth. All of the various speculations of the early pre-Socratics set the stage for later philosophy's exploration of the nature of what substances were composed of, and what could be known, definitively, as observable or intuitive 'truth.' Reflecting this early scientific emphasis, pre-Socratic philosophers and later Socratics and Christian philosophers grappled with questions of the best ways to arrive at conclusions about the natural world, either through rationalism and deduction or through empirical observation. For example, because all substances were made of atoms, and generated new substances after a being died, Epicurus rationalized that there was no afterlife, and seeking a moderate life of happiness in the moment was the only higher purpose one could achieve in life.

Socrates is perhaps he most famous of all Greek philosophers, but history does not give readers access to the words of Socrates himself, rather readers only know him through the words of the various students he taught, like Plato. In Plato's dialogues, Socrates uses the Socratic method of questioning to attempt to arrive at a definition of truth, and to question people's moral assumptions of what it means to live a good life and how knowledge is produced. Plato placed a great deal of emphasis on the power of mathematics to demonstrate the superiority of logic in knowing eternal truths -- the consistency of a geometrical proof demonstrated Plato's belief that rationalism was the best was to understand the world. Unlike Socrates' contemporaries, the Sophists, who advocated the teaching of rhetoric to make all men equal, and who believed that all knowledge is relative and changing, and rested only in the eloquence and opinion of the speaker, Socrates believed that it was possible to know absolute truth and to establish knowledge, "because the true object of thought is not the material order but the changeless and eternal order of the Ideas or Forms." Unlike the intense materialism of the pre-Socratics, Plato believed these Forms existed in an ideal and non-material world.

Socrates' belief in the ideal or Platonic world of forms, of which our own earthly existence was merely an imperfect copy, was later to be adopted by Christian philosophers and filtered through their theological concerns and language of the Bible. However, Socrates' former pupil Aristotle deviated in his conception of truth a great deal from his teacher. Aristotle placed greater stress upon experience and observation over a pure life of the mind, and framed his metaphysical arguments around causality. Every effect or substance had to have a cause: a formal cause, (what force caused the thing to come into being), a material cause, (a cause of the substance of the object), the efficient cause, (the origin of the material cause), and a final cause, (the ultimate purpose of the substance). This sense of purpose did not have to be a moral purpose -- the purpose of a plant may be to flower, or the purpose of a piece of wood may be to become a table, just as a carpenter's purpose might be to produce a table.

Thus, although Aristotle also asked some of the same questions as Socrates: what was the nature of earthly matter, for example, he arrived at different answers because of his difference of approach as to how to understand the nature of what is true and knowable. Aristotle observed things come into being, rather than theorized about the material world. Aristotle looked to the real world for evidence of causality in achieving a purposeful life. Aristotle was less interested in mathematics and abstraction than Plato and more interested in what he could learn from empirical data. This emerged as a reflection of his stress on the value of experience rather than mental exercises and abstractions.

Aristotle believed that knowable truth came from examining things of 'real' substance, and did not believe in an ideal, insubstantial world of forms. "Aristotle defined substance as "that which is not asserted of a subject but of which everything else is asserted." These substances developed through time through a natural movement, or striving called "entelechy" to fulfill their ultimate purpose. This emphasis on materialism harkened back to the pre-Socratic philosophers, although unlike the Sophists, Aristotle believed that there were knowable, substantial truths that could be discerned with correct observation.

The differing approaches of the early Greeks were later adopted by Christian theologians. Although there might seem to be innate contradictions between Christianity and pagan philosophy, Socrates and Aristotle addressed similar issues, such as what is truth, goodness, and happiness that these Christians were attempting to integrate into their own evolving worldview. Many Christians were sympathetic to the Platonic view of the world -- Socrates' stress upon the fallen nature of the world, and how the world was an imperfect reflection of the divine in particular seemed suited for Christian philosophy. However, Aristotle's rigorous analysis was extrapolated by Thomas Aquinas and later medieval philosophers with great enthusiasm. Aquinas, like Aristotle, was interested in what constituted the essence of things, such as the difference between simple and composite substances, classified according to their composition of matter and form.

Modern philosophy began to take shape under the influence of rationalists like Descartes. Descartes was a mathematician who ordered the text of his philosophy in the form of mathematical proofs. A stress upon reason, organization, and mathematical deduction was hardly new to Western philosophy. But Descartes was unique in the fact that he began his inquiries from a position of absolute doubt, almost like Socrates demanded a bare-bones definition of even the simplest ideas. First and foremost, Descartes doubted his own existence. Descartes' most famous statement, that ' I think therefore I am,' resolves the first question he proposes, whether he can in fact be sure of his existence at all -- soon he resolves there must be someone to be 'doing' all of the doubting

Eventually, in his Meditations Descartes moves on to establish the existence of an exterior, material world and the existence of God. However, he does all of this mentally, through the use of a series of deductive insights much as in earlier times Plato showed Socrates using geometrical or other forms of mathematical examples to establish the founding concepts behind his philosophy that truth was a knowable, established quantity by logic. Descartes shared, with Plato, the belief that certain truths would be in existence for all time. One of these truths, for the Christian Descartes, was the existence of God.

The rationalist tradition of Descartes may be are contrasted with Enlightenment-era empiricists like Hume and Locke. The empiricists emphasized the importance of observation and the interaction of the mind with the material world, rather than on the ability of the mind to establish absolute truth. John Locke, one of the more moderate empiricists suggested that all objects have primary or secondary qualities, some of which are subjective, or secondary, like smell, others of which are primary, like shape. This notion of subjectivity was later to be taken to its radical extreme in our postmodern era, although one could argue empiricists such as George Berkley and his emphasis on the fact nothing could be verified as really true other than what transpired in one's own mind… [END OF PREVIEW]

Four Different Ordering Options:

?

Compare the Four Ordering Options

  1. 1.Buy this paper with your credit card or cash balance at PayPal.  Within 10 hours, we'll send the Microsoft Word file to the email address on your PayPal account.
  2. 2.Same as #1, but we will also remove the paper from our site for 30 days!
  3. 3.Need this paper immediately?  Want to individually download any of our 175,000+ exclusive, private, non-plagiarized papers for 30 days?  It takes only 2 minutes to subscribe and get instant access!
  4. 4.One of our highly experienced experts will write a brand new, 100% unique paper matching the exact specifications and topic that you provide!  You'll be the only person on the planet to receive the one-of-a-kind paper that we write for you!  Use code "Save10" to save 10% on your 1st order!

1.  Buy the full, 7-page paper:  $24.68

or

2.  Buy & remove for 30 days:  $38.47

or

3.  Monthly access to 175,000 papers

After paying, this link will download any paper(s).

or

4.  Let us write a NEW paper for you!

Ask Us to Write a New Paper
Most popular!

Philosophies Embodied in the Heteronyms of Fernando Pessoa Identity Crisis or a Great Philosopher Essay


Secular Humanism Research Proposal


What in a Aristotelian Sense Dose it Mean to Be Happy Research Paper


Clinicians Have Always Been Reminded or Expected Term Paper


Theism vs. Atheism Thesis


View 10 other related papers  >>

Cite This Term Paper:

APA Format

Philosophy Socrates to Sartre and Beyond.  (2007, December 29).  Retrieved December 9, 2018, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/philosophy-socrates-sartre-beyond/21593

MLA Format

"Philosophy Socrates to Sartre and Beyond."  29 December 2007.  Web.  9 December 2018. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/philosophy-socrates-sartre-beyond/21593>.

Chicago Format

"Philosophy Socrates to Sartre and Beyond."  Essaytown.com.  December 29, 2007.  Accessed December 9, 2018.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/philosophy-socrates-sartre-beyond/21593.