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The best 500 words of philosophy you know of

 
 
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 03:04 pm
If you had to enlighten someone through the use of less than 500 words what would you choose?

I think right now my selection would be this bit of John Donne's Meditation XVII:

Quote:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.
 
kennethamy
 
  4  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 03:08 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Well it really would depend on the latest 500 words I have written. And sometimes, I really cannot make up my mind. Now what Donne said would be a candidate under two conditions: 1. It it were philosophy, and 2. If it were true. But whether either condition was met is dubious.
fresco
 
  2  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 04:10 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Quote:
Throughout the occidental history of ideas and right down to our own days, two requisites have been considered fundamental in any epistemological venture. The first of these requisites demands that whatever we would like to call "true knowledge" has to be independent of the knowing subject. The second requisite is that knowledge is to be taken seriously only if it claims to represent a world of "things-in-themselves" in a more or less veridical fashion'. Although the sceptics of all ages explained with the help of logical arguments that both these requisites are unattainable, they limited themselves to observing that absolute knowledge was impossible. Only a few of them went a step further and tried to liberate the concept of knowledge from the impossible constraints so that it might be freely applied to what is attainable within the acting subject's experiential world.

Ernst von Glasersfeld commenting on Observation.
sometime sun
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 04:36 pm
Maybe not the best I know, but what keeps coming to mind this night which I find philosophical is exactly this.
I AM EXACTLY WHERE I AM EXACTLY.
this could also be expanded to...
Exactly I am where exactly who exactly what I am here exactly there exactly where exactly here exactly I am.
Basically; I am here, there, I am everywhere.

And yet nowhere, no when, no ever.

(Believe me You got the condensed version)
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  2  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 04:44 pm
@kennethamy,
I'm interested in hearing your doubts on either condition.
Victor Eremita
 
  4  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 05:18 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Part of Kierkegaard's 1835 letter to a friend:
Quote:
What I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die. Of what use would it be to me to discover a so-called objective truth, to work through the philosophical systems so that I could, if asked, make critical judgments about them, could point out the fallacies in each system; of what use would it be to me to be able to develop a theory of the state and constructing a world I did not live in but merely held up for others to see; what use would it be to me to be able to formulate the meaning of Christianity, to be able to explain many specific points - if it had no deeper meaning for me and for my life? I certainly do not deny that I still accept an imperative of knowledge and that through it men may be influenced, but then this knowledge must come alive in me, and this is what I now recognize as the most important of all. This is what my soul thirsts for as the African deserts thirst for water. This is what is lacking, and this is why I am like a man who has collected furniture, rented an apartment, but as yet has not found the beloved to share life's ups and downs with.
dlowan
 
  2  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 06:36 pm
@kennethamy,
Quote:
1. It it were philosophy, and 2. If it were true. But whether either condition was met is dubious.



It's not current academic philosophy, but it is most certainly philosophy in any sense but that.
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 06:52 pm
@dlowan,
I have many favourites...mostly on ethics as I think about them. I love the one Robert has quoted.

Here's a few:



The shortest and surest way to live with honour in the world, is to be in reality what we would appear to be; and if we observe, we shall find, that all human virtues increase and strengthen themselves by the practice of them.
Socrates

True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.
Socrates

Whom do I call educated? First, those who manage well the circumstances they encounter day by day. Next, those who are decent and honorable in their intercourse with all men, bearing easily and good naturedly what is offensive in others and being as agreeable and reasonable to their associates as is humanly possible to be... those who hold their pleasures always under control and are not ultimately overcome by their misfortunes... those who are not spoiled by their successes, who do not desert their true selves but hold their ground steadfastly as wise and sober -- minded men.
Socrates

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

That version is attributed to Jesus...but it's there in most religions and lots of ethical systems. (Bearing in mind you sort of have to make sure they don't abhor what you would have them do unto you!)

Here's a few other versions:



"Ethic of Reciprocity" passages from various religions: Bahá'í Faith to Judaism:

Bahá'í Faith:
"Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not." "Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself." Baha'u'llah

"And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself." Epistle to the Son of the Wolf. 1

Brahmanism: "This is the sum of Dharma [duty]: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you". Mahabharata, 5:1517 "

Buddhism:
"...a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?" Samyutta NIkaya v. 353

Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful." Udana-Varga 5:18

Christianity:
"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12, King James Version.

"And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise." Luke 6:31, King James Version.

"...and don't do what you hate...", Gospel of Thomas 6. The Gospel of Thomas is one of about 40 gospels that circulated among the early Christian movement, but which never made it into the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).

Confucianism:
"Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you" Analects 15:23
"Tse-kung asked, 'Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?' Confucius replied, 'It is the word 'shu' -- reciprocity. Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.'" Doctrine of the Mean 13.3
"Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence." Mencius VII.A.4

Ancient Egyptian:
"Do for one who may do for you, that you may cause him thus to do." The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant, 109 - 110 Translated by R.B. Parkinson. The original dates to circa 1800 BCE and may be the earliest version of the Epic of Reciprocity ever written. 2

Hinduism:
This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Mahabharata 5:1517

Islam: "None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself." Number 13 of Imam "Al-Nawawi's Forty Hadiths." 3

Jainism:
"Therefore, neither does he [a sage] cause violence to others nor does he make others do so." Acarangasutra 5.101-2.
"In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self." Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara
"A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated. "Sutrakritanga 1.11.33

Judaism:
"...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.", Leviticus 19:18
"What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary." Talmud, Shabbat 31a.
"And what you hate, do not do to any one." Tobit 4:15 4
0 Replies
 
Victor Eremita
 
  3  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 07:15 pm
@Robert Gentel,
John Stuart Mill considers the "No man is an island" as a serious objection to his "harm to others" princple. He writes: "No person is an entirely isolated being; it is impossible for a person to do anything seriously or permanently hurtful to himself, without mischief reaching at least to his near connexions, and often far beyond them. If he injures his property, he does harm to those who directly or indirectly derived support from it, and usually diminishes, by a greater or less amount, the general resources of the community."
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 07:26 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Fascinating!
0 Replies
 
Mad Mike
 
  2  
Reply Fri 11 Jun, 2010 07:30 pm
Quote:


Plato, Phaedo, 79c-d; trans. by Harold North Fowler.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 12:12 am
@Robert Gentel,
1. Is Donne's famous line true? I would not understand what Donne writes as a statement of fact about the interconnectedness of people, since it is too vague, and clearly it is not true, that whatever someone does affects everyone else. I would understand Donne rather as expressing both a hope about how people will behave, and a value judgment about how they ought to behave, than as a statement about how they do behave. As the latter, it is clearly false.

2. Of course, whether what Donne wrote is philosophy depends on how vaguely you understand that term. Very general remarks about people and about how people do act, and how they ought to act, often come under the general heading of philosophy. So, in the way, I guess it is philosophy. But in a somewhat stricter sense of "philosophy" , say the sense in which Wittgenstein said that philosophy is an activity, not a theory. what Donne wrote does not qualify. For Donne is simply advancing a theory about how people ought to regard (and perhaps treat) each other. He is performing an activity which may lead to understanding the ideas he is employing. Of course, this is a churlish criticism since Donne is not intending to philosophize. He is intending to express beautifully an attitude about how people ought to be (although they certainly are not like that). But you asked.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 12:18 am
@Victor Eremita,
Not, I think, as an objection to his harm principle, but as an indication that more philosophizing has to be done concerning his harm principle, and how to understand the notion of "harming others" and how it should be applied. It is not so much an objection as it is the question, "How d'ya mean?",
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 12:31 am
@kennethamy,
Your point 1. argument appears to be based on the assumption of the isomorphism between the the physical concept of "body" and the social concept of "self".Note that irrespective of philosophical problems with that assumption, the celebrated "butterfly's wing" argument from chaos theory questions the ultimate "truth" of even "physical independence".
0 Replies
 
Victor Eremita
 
  2  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 01:41 am
@kennethamy,
Mill does consider it a valid objection to the harm principle:
He states the objection:

If by his vices or follies a person does no direct harm to others, he is nevertheless (it may be said) injurious by his example; and ought to be compelled to control himself, for the sake of those whom the sight or knowledge of his conduct might corrupt or mislead.

and tries to respond thusly:

There is no question here (it may be said) about restricting individuality, or impeding the trial of new and original experiments in living. The only things it is sought to prevent are things which have been tried and condemned from the beginning of the world until now; things which experience has shown not to be useful or suitable to any person's individuality. There must be some length of time and amount of experience, after which a moral or prudential truth may be regarded as established: and it is merely desired to prevent generation after generation from falling over the same precipice which has been fatal to their predecessors.

So in essence Mill is partially agreeing with Donne: "every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main" insofar as this man is doing time-tested boneheaded things which has been shown to harm others by a drain on resources or setting a bad example.

But he disagrees with Donne and thinks "man is an island" in order to pursue a possibly fulfilling life away from "the continent" or conformity to social norms.
andyhudd
 
  4  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 10:36 am
@Victor Eremita,
I too would quote Kierkegaard; this, from Repetition, I think:
Quote:
One sticks one's finger into the soil to tell by the smell in what land one is: I stick my finger in existence "" it smells of nothing. Where am I? Who am I? How came I here? What is this thing called the world? What does this world mean? Who is it that has lured me into the world? Why was I not consulted, why not made acquainted with its manners and customs instead of throwing me into the ranks, as if I had been bought by a kidnapper, a dealer in souls? How did I obtain an interest in this big enterprise they call reality? Why should I have an interest in it? Is it not a voluntary concern? And if I am to be compelled to take part in it, where is the director? I should like to make a remark to him. Is there no director? Whither shall I turn with my complaint?


It is when one begins to address these problems that one begins to philosophise.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  2  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 10:49 am
@Victor Eremita,
In fact, in, On Liberty Mill further analyzes the harm principle, and he concludes that what is meant by "harm" in the political context of the essay is interference or deprivation of the legitimate rights of others. I don't know how this would connect up with Donne, though. Donne seems to have thought that whatever anyone does is the concern of others, which, if taken literally, would be an awful thing. But it is pretty clear that since Donne is not writing philosophy but poetry, He it would be hamfisted to criticize him as if he were speaking literally. Donne is expressing the wish, and the hope, that we will be more concerned with the fate of our fellow man, and expressing that wish and hope beautifully. Poets and rhetoricians often express hopes and wishes as if they were settled truths. "All men are born equal" is clearly false, but it should not be treated as expressing a truth, but as expressing the wish and hope that whatever inequalities there are, everyone will be treated as if they were equal as far as it is humanly possible. Poets are no more expected to speak the truth, than are philosophers expected to express wishes and hopes. (Of course, philosophers sometimes forget themselves in their enthusiasms) Donne is not a philosopher, nor should he be one. He has a different job.
Victor Eremita
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 06:29 pm
@kennethamy,
I read your Shakespearean Principle post; you seemed to have derived or ascribed some ideas about the philosophy of language from Juilet's "What's in a name?" lament. Shakespeare is primarily a poet and playwright, not a bona fide philosopher, but yet, his literature can rival some of the dialogues of Plato when it comes to expressing the human situation.

Non-philosophers can inspire philosophers. Just because their profession isn't philosophy doesn't mean they're totally cut off from philosophical insights. Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoeyevsky, Tolstoy, and other writers have much to say.

As for Donne, sure, taken literally it is false; no less so than Thales' water is the primary principle, Rousseau's "All men are born in chains", Augustine's City of God, or Leibniz's monads.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 09:01 pm
@Victor Eremita,
Just because their profession isn't philosophy doesn't mean they're totally cut off from philosophical insights.

Of course not. But then I never claimed anything about professional philosophers, so I don't see the relevance of your remark.
Victor Eremita
 
  1  
Reply Sat 12 Jun, 2010 09:05 pm
@kennethamy,
Oh you wrote "[Donne] has a different job." I'm taking that to be poet or writer, as opposed to philosopher. Poets can write philosophy I think. Donne's quote Robert posted may be construed as a normative rather than descriptive way things are.
 

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