Category: Philosophy

Philosophy Aug 2012 – Apr 2014

Image Last Friday I had my very last philosophy lesson. It feels odd. For two years now I have been doing philosophy three times a week with a wonderful teacher and a wonderful class. Now it just stops? This course has taught me more than any of the others. Changed me more than any of the others. It has been more than any of the others. ImageWe started with Plato, with the basics. With The Cave Allegory and The Tripartite Soul. We continued with Freud looking at his ideas from a philosophical view point. We have done Descartes, Spinoza, Daniel Dennet, John Searle, and philosophy of mind. ImageWe did with political philosophy. Ideas of Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, Hobbes, Grotius, Locke, Rousseau, and Hume have been discussed and debated. Anarchism and feminism have been examined. The problems of Justice and Equality have been looked at through the eyes of John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, Friedrich von Hayek, and Robert Nozick. Democracy as a method for ruling a country. Image The Existentialists came in the autumn: Kirkegaard, Sartre, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. Kant came along. Aesthetics and philosophy of art proved to be very interesting. Last but not least we have spent numerous hours thinking about what philosophy actually is. Philosophising about philosophy itself.


And now it is all over. I will definitely continue on my own; this is not anything one can get out of once it has begun. But I have really enjoyed it. It has challenged me, it has upset me, it has occasionally bored me on the late Monday afternoons where energy completely had vanished. I believe philosophy to be the subject which will benefit me most in the future – not only on the intellectual plane but also on the personal. I now, at least to some extent, am familiar with how to question things, with logic and with how to take on problems. I have realised that philosophy is immensely useful and needed. (I might even have been brainwashed.)  So thank you, philosophy, for what you have provided me with. 


Plato and the Socratic Method

I really like reading Plato. 

First time I read him I was fifteen years old and had just started studying philosophy. I thought him interesting and nice to read but a little tricky perhaps. Now, yesterday, I tried reading The Republic once again and I found it so easy. It is nice to know that my studies have payed off. Compared to Kant or Mill reading Plato is a piece of cake. 

I think that the way in which Plato chose to write his philosophy is really interesting. Plato – the failed playwright – wrote it all as a play. It is all based on dialog. Socrates is the main character and what he does in the play is simply to outline some theories and ask others about it. This is where we reach the Socratic Method. Oh, I like the Socratic Method. 

The Socratic Method is basically a way of discussion where questions are being asked and answered. It is a form of questioning meant to evoke critical thinking and such. I’ll give you and example. Here is Socrates when he is outlining the Allegory of the cave:

“Imagine people living in a cavernous cell down under the ground; at the far end of the cave, a long way off, there’s an entrance open to the outside world. They have been there since childhood, with their legs and necks tied up in a way which keeps them in one place and allows them to look only straight ahead, but not turn their heads. There’s a firelight burning a long way further up the cave behind them, and up the slope between the fire and the prisoners there’s a road, beside which you should imagine a low wall has been built (…) Imagine also that there are people on the outer side of this wall who are carrying all sorts of artefacts. These artefacts (…) stick out over the wall; and as you’d expect, some of the people talk as they carry these objects along, while others are silent”. 

Socrates (Plato) then goes on to ask Glaucon a number of things about what he just said:

“‘They’re no different from us,’ I said. ‘I mean, in the first place, do you not think they’d see anything of themselves and one another except the shadows cast by the fire on to the cave wall directly opposite them?’
‘Of course not,’ he said. ‘They’re forced to spend their lives without moving their heads.’
‘And what about the objects which were being carried along? Won’t they only see their shadows as well?’
‘Now, suppose they were able to talk to one another: don’t you think they’d assume that their words applied to what they saw passing by in front of them?’
‘They couldn’t think otherwise.’
‘And what of sound echoed off the prison wall opposite them? When any of the passers-by spoke, don’t you think they’d be bound to assume that the sound came from a passing shadow?’
‘I’m absolutely certain of it,’ he said.”

And so it continues. Do you see what I mean? Is this not an intriguing way of discussing. Clearly Socrates has already thought out all he wants to say and is attempting to guide Glaucon the right direction but I think this is a nice way of doing so. Socrates is not outlining his theory in a bombastic manner saying he is absolutely right but is rather subtly questioning Glaucon through asking him questions and making him think for him self. I think this a good way to avoid the defence mechanism which usually sets in when one tries to tell someone that they are wrong. 

However, I am not entirely sure of how good this method actually is considering that Socrates himseld was executed from walking around asking fellow Athenians about their opinion and suggesting things one simply should not suggest (like that there are no Gods – what on Earth was dear Soccy thinking about saying thath?!?!?). 

My advice: Use the Socratic method in a careful and humble way. 


(the picture I borrowed from here: )

Philosophy of Art

Philosophy of art. It is such an interesting and intriguing subject and branch of philosophy. I have always though art to of importance to society and the individual but when asked why I have always found it difficult to give a good answer. I think with the help of philosophy and philosophers I have been showed arguments for it and against it.

For example we this autumn studied Nietzsche (yes, it took me a while to spell his name correctly) and his view of the arts. Nietzsche was in great favour of the arts. He thought that the world in which we live is a terrible place and that we will inevitably be struck by tragedy. He thought it the role of art to help us deal with the tragedies that happen to us. Nietzsche didn’t express it like this himself but I like the idea of art as some sort of therapy.
Nietzsche’s favourite and best when it came to art was the Ancient Greek tragedies. He considered then the perfect art form. He thought it to be an excellent balance of what he called the Dionysian and the Appollonian forces. The Dionysian represents the chaos in life, the unordered, uncontrollable and terrifying chaos. The Appollonian represents the good, ordered, neat and nice. In the Greek tragedies these two are in balance. The Dionysian is present in the chaotic and tragic tragedies but the Appollonian is there in that there is some kind of order to it and what happens is recognisable etc.
What art also does is that it frames the horror. It orderers the horror which helps us deal with it. The art piece is limited in its space.
I really like this Nietzsharian view of art.