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Building Blocks of Philosophical Thought

 
 
littlek
 
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 08:25 pm
A spin off from another thread.... What do you think the building blocks of philosophical thought are? I mean, before you tackle the ancient Greeks let alone any modern philosophers - what do you need to know to be able to think about philosophy?

1) define philosophy
2) list of 3-5 building blocks


Below is my take as someone who doesn't know much about philosophy.....

Definition via Wiki: Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. It is distinguished from other ways of addressing fundamental questions (such as mysticism, myth, or the arts) by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument. The word "philosophy" comes from the Greek φιλοσοφία (philosophia), which literally means "love of wisdom".

Building blocks:
- an ability to express oneself in both concrete and abstract terms
- an understanding of a set of common, societal values
- an understanding of the relationship between cause and effect
- an understanding of the scientific method/sequential thinking/critical thinking
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Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 09:54 pm
@littlek,
In defining the term philosophy, I can't improve on its literal translation from Greek to English: "love of wisdom". What are the main elements of pursuing ones love of wisdom? Of course it depends on the lover, just as the pursuit of any other love interest does. For me personally, the five most important points are:
  • asking lots of open questions;
  • being open to new experiences and information, and to changing my mind in response to them;
  • a sense of playing around and experimenting (this includes thought experiments);
  • logical thinking;
  • the courage to follow facts and logic wherever they may lead. This goes back to the earlier point about changing my mind.

So to answer your last question, I think there's almost nothing you need to know to think philosophically, or to think about philosophy. You only need the will and the mindset to figure things out.
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 11:15 pm
@littlek,
One needs rationallity and preception without these factors it's futile to make any thinking, too many philosophers only have good rethorics and good formal logic, but can't calculate the minescule factors which isn't obvious to make their thinking actually useful irl.
0 Replies
 
Alrenous
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 04:46 am
@littlek,
I don't understand quite what you mean by 'building blocks.' Could you be more specific?

For example, both cause and effect are concepts with definitions, and the relationship is described by logic. Therefore, both definitions and logic are more fundamental. When I think of building blocks, I think of electrons - the indivisible foundations of a thing. This does not appear to be what you're interested in.
jgweed
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 10:05 am
In many cases, one learns to think philosophically by reading philosophers, by garnering different perspectives, and---with careful reading---learns the various methods of philosophical articulation and expostulation.
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 12:22 pm
@jgweed,
jgweed wrote:

In many cases, one learns to think philosophically by reading philosophers, by garnering different perspectives, and---with careful reading---learns the various methods of philosophical articulation and expostulation.
Think I got enough of philosophy in 10 mini reading about "spontanous genesis" and "Kirkegaard, then having a few discussions with philosophers irl babbeling about "i think therefore i am". I pave my own roads.
0 Replies
 
IRFRANK
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 04:37 pm
Thinking you are paving your own roads seems to be a bit naive and /or arrogant to me. Can you dismiss another's thesis simply because it disagrees with your notion?

My initial introduction to philosophy was through computer science and the study of logic. I took a course in philosophy that taught logic and I was taken by the clear rules and mathematical approach. There was no opinion involved. The answer to an equation was either true or false. Just as the answer to a computer logic equation has a result. This idea that the same approach could be taken when looking at political or human problem seemed sane to me. How else can one get the 'correct' answer? Sane meaning the most reasonable expected outcome from events. Probability can be looked at the same way and in fact is a mathematical way to predict events. Of course, at some point values need to be placed upon expectations, etc. and that is the hard part.

To me the idea of critical thinking is using these tools to analyze a statement or position one has taken. Does the prediction seem reasonable? Are the logical arguments correct? An example is the often missed problem of the difference between correlation and cause and effect. One may have many data points that show that B follows A, but that does not mean that A caused B. It may mean that if A occurs, then B is likely to follow, but without clear scientific understanding, B is not a sure thing. Also it does not mean that if we prevent A, B will not occur.

Unfortunately, many arguments only pretend to be analytical when in fact they are really sales presentations trying to convince the target of the desired truths.

There are many different branches of philosophy. Logic and probability are two very useful tools, used for good and bad purposes.

An example is an old joke:

When you question many people about why they buy lottery tickets, even when the odds of winning are a million to one, they say, "Why Not?, Someone has to win!".

Tell the same people that one in three smokers will die from smoking and they say, "It won't happen to me."



talk72000
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 04:53 pm
@littlek,
The way I see it after reading all the comments. There is a "correct" answer in the knowledge department such as the sciences. This is a sort of machine logic to it. However, philosophy also includes areas where we do not have knowledge in that area so there is no automatic "correct" answer and that is where philosophy is. The early philosphers did not have the knowledge we have now and devised methods of gaining that knowledge such as questions, data gathering and correct sentence structure to avoid contradiction. There are still much that humans do not know and that is where philosophic thoughts come. How do we handle this? What is the next action to take? How to avoid repeats of earlier mistakes? Strategic thinking also comes in.
0 Replies
 
IRFRANK
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 10:01 pm
@Alrenous,
When I think of building blocks, I think of electrons - the indivisible foundations of a thing.

Actually, and I admit I am not a physicist, the concept of electrons is a model, or metaphor used to explain the function of an atom. I don't know that an electron is an actual thing. I would be interested in the knowledge of someone who knows about this stuff. I understand that an atom has vast amounts of free space, much like a solar system. Is an electron an actual particle? Can it be seem with an ESM? Or do we actually see the trace of it's path?
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 8 Sep, 2010 11:22 pm
@IRFRANK,
IRFRANK wrote:

Thinking you are paving your own roads seems to be a bit naive and /or arrogant to me. Can you dismiss another's thesis simply because it disagrees with your notion?
You don't have a ******* clue, it's quite amuseing that the one who accuse me of being naive, are utterly naive himself, instead you should ask to why and how I pave my own roads, instead of jumping to a farfetched conclusion that you don't have any premesis of knowing.
GoshisDead
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Sep, 2010 12:36 am
Hi K,

I like to think of Philosophy as the imagining, defining, and analysis of meta-systems. I think of it as the informational exchange that surrounds the concrete. And thus I think its foundational building blocks are the following.

1. Ability to detach from ethos and pathos
2. Ability to imagine
3. Ability to discern pattern
4. Ability to dissect pattern
5. Ability to trace pattern
6. Ability to abandon the familiar
7. Ability to innovate
Ding an Sich
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Sep, 2010 06:21 am
I addressed parts of this in another thread, which for some reason no longer exists, entitled "On a Method for Correct Philosophizing". In it I pointed out that in order for a method in philosophy to be, well, worthwhile, it had to have it's foundation in Symbolic Logic. This is one of the key building blocks to "philosophical thought" (as well as all other subjects).

My second "building block" consisted of an in-depth understanding of the history of philosophy. This involves reading the works of other philosophers to garner an understanding of the problems that have sprung up throughout the past 2600 years of philosophy.

These two parts culminated into a method of thoroughly, and rigorously, figuring out the problems of philosophy.
0 Replies
 
Alrenous
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Sep, 2010 07:33 am
@IRFRANK,
I have a few years of university physics, as well as a lifelong interest.

In the Standard Model, the electron is one of the fundamental particles, specifically the lightest charged lepton. (As opposed to uncharged, a quark, or a carrier particle.)

According to the standard model all (non-dark) matter can be described using combinations of these fundamental particles. Experimentally, this is basically true.

The Standard Model is the modern culmination of Democritus' atomos.

There's also Quantum Field Theory, which looks to be even more fundamental, but is not and cannot be as well supported experimentally as the Standard Model. In Quantum Field Theory there's not really particles, just fields, (such as the electromagnetic field) in which the electron is our name for a particular twist in the field. I think. I'm less familiar with QFT.


If any of that hasn't made sense, don't hesitate to ding me for it.
IRFRANK
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Sep, 2010 10:00 pm
@HexHammer,
You don't have a ******* clue, it's quite amuseing that the one who accuse me of being naive, are utterly naive himself, instead you should ask to why and how I pave my own roads, instead of jumping to a farfetched conclusion that you don't have any premesis of knowing.



Perhaps I did jump to a conclusion. I just don't recall seeing your writings available on the shelf with Plato, et al.

Enlighten me oh great one, what roads have you paved?

BTW - amusing does not have an 'e'.
0 Replies
 
IRFRANK
 
  2  
Reply Thu 9 Sep, 2010 10:04 pm
@Alrenous,
It does make a bit of sense. I did study electronics some and ended up in computers, but the idea of fields does make sense. I do have a simple question. Is it possible to actually 'see' an electron. Or an atom, for that matter. What do electron scanning microscopes actually see?
Thanks for the response.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 9 Sep, 2010 10:23 pm
@IRFRANK,
IRFRANK wrote:
What do electron scanning microscopes actually see?
Thanks for the response.

Basically, electron scanning microscopes see a current of electrons tunneling from the sample into the needle that scans it. The value of that current decreases with the distance between the needle and the current. A control loop within the microscope positions the needle so as to keep that current constant. By keeping score of the needle position z as a function of the scanned coordinates x and y, the microscope creates the three-dimensional image of the sample that it "sees". The details, as always, are more complicated. For a layman-accessible overview, see this article at howstuffworks.com.
Alrenous
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Sep, 2010 06:48 am
@IRFRANK,
This.

Also, this. Each dot is a xenon atom stuck to the grey substrate.

How it actually see is it passes a voltage across the tip and the target, and then measures the current - these pictures are representations of current readings across space. (Edit. So: yeah, what Thomas said.)

It can be used as a manipulator by cranking the current so that the target gets stuck to the tip. Though actually there's issues with certain stuff getting stuck to it by accident, which naturally kills the calibration.

This one is made with, apparently, a field ion microscope, which I haven't even heard of before.


However, before all these, while we couldn't 'directly' see atoms, we could see effects that could only have resulted from atoms, such as stoichiometric chemistry and the physical details of ionization. We were already building things based on these theories before we were able to build these microscopes. These pictures are evocative, but only icing, scientifically speaking.

If you like these and want more, go for 'scanning tunneling microscope' on google image. I'm always fascinated by the latest microscope technology.
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Sep, 2010 08:04 am
@littlek,
littlek wrote:
... What do you think the building blocks of philosophical thought are? ... what do you need to know to be able to think about philosophy?

Agree with Thomas on the definition. Though imprecise as it may seem, "Love of Wisdom" is as good as its going to get.

As far as building blocks go...
  • Before anything (and I'm surprised no one's mentioned this), one must have the desire (curiosity or interest) in philosophical matters. It has no worth to someone who has no motivating 'need'.
  • Next, one must have some sense of humility. If you don't think there is wisdom or knowledge to be gained, your mind is closed.
  • Patience
  • Perseverance
  • An ability to step out of our own perspective (empathy, abstract thought)
  • The ability and desire to read relatively well
  • The ability to recognize the rational and irrational

From that point on, depending on which direction you're going to go, requisite tools can vary. While a vast array of philosophical subdivisions exists, I tend to gravitate (or categorize) towards the five basics: Metaphysics, Ethics, Logic, Epistemology & Aesthetics. Each urges its own, sometimes unique abilities.

A few replies/comments if I may:

talk72000 wrote:
... philosophy also includes areas where we do not have knowledge in that area so there is no automatic "correct" answer and that is where philosophy is. The early philosphers did not have the knowledge we have now and devised methods of gaining that knowledge such as questions, data gathering and correct sentence structure to avoid contradiction. There are still much that humans do not know and that is where philosophic thoughts come. How do we handle this? What is the next action to take? How to avoid repeats of earlier mistakes?

Great point. A few things to keep in mind: Throughout the eons, people have rationalized (or attempted to deduce) knowledge and wisdom. I've had a real blast recently; studying Ptolemy and Capernicus, who came to very different conclusions in figuring out the earth's place in the cosmos. Both were "sure". The short answer, I believe that we can't really avoid the mistakes of the past; though we need to be brave and humble enough to strike out with the risk of making them. Gaining knowledge, insight and perspective is a tedius process filled with mistakes that are necessary. I suppose in this light I'd recommend that we be "forgiving" of those trying to learn and understand - at the risk of bombastic cliche-tossing: Mistakes are how we learn.


HexHammer wrote:

jgweed wrote:

In many cases, one learns to think philosophically by reading philosophers, by garnering different perspectives, and---with careful reading---learns the various methods of philosophical articulation and expostulation.
Think I got enough of philosophy in 10 mini reading about "spontanous genesis" and "Kirkegaard, then having a few discussions with philosophers irl babbeling about "i think therefore i am". I pave my own roads.

This is probably the best way to go about it. One needn't pour over arcane texts for years while wearing a hood and engaged in self flagellation. A simple "seed" of curiosity is all that's needed. You can then take it as far as you like... or not. Complete and comprehensive coverage in all aspects isn't necessary and its worthless to the average human being who has no personal connection and direction (i.e., own road) to the material being considered. This works better with some branches of philosophy than others; as IFrank mentioned, Logic is so much more strict; very specific pitfalls and specific methodology without which one's likely to go awry. Others are more flexible - some even require the ability to "dream", so to speak.


Ding an Sich wrote:
My second "building block" consisted of an in-depth understanding of the history of philosophy. This involves reading the works of other philosophers to garner an understanding of the problems that have sprung up...

I'm glad someone mentioned this. It occurred to me but I hadn't the presence of mind to bring it up. Having a basic understanding of philosophy canons is valuable for a very simple reason: Methods, ideas and theories that have widespread credibility - and were enunciated well - form "alternate possibilities" in the mind of the reader. That they have this "over time" credibility speaks to how far and wide these notions have "rung true" for many. Dive into some recommended readings on epistemology and you'll find that "how do we know what we think we know" has more potential answers than one might have realized.

I'll again take this opportunity grind an axe: Debate and argument isn't always necessary, indeed its often counterproductive and comprises but one of many possible approaches. To my thinking, Philosophy has 5 typical 'phases':
  • Curiosity: Where one realizes their interest in <whatever>
  • Self-Assessment: What do I know? Think I know or Believe?
  • Investigation: Read and Learn about the conclusions others before you came to
  • Ponder/Marinate: Let all before you coalesce in your mind. Critically examine what your mind tells you with the validity of others
  • Initial decision: What you believe, what you know, what rings true and fits with what you recognize as true, meaningful and valid.
  • Share: Share with others your thoughts, process and conclusions.

Its in this "Sharing" aspect that "debate", "insult" and "argue" tend to come in. If this is going to be at all valuable, sharing involves listening and responding; the more adversarial the environment is, the more likely emotion rears its ugly head to overload the rational thought process. Yes, sometimes it can be productive, but that's regrettably rare.

Thanks
Ding an Sich
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Sep, 2010 08:31 am
@Khethil,
I do not have a problem with arguing. But let us keep in mind that there are two types of arguing: the one that involves screaming, shouting, and blatantly fallacious arguments, and the other one that involves arguments built on the basis of Logic. The two can be confused, perhaps muddled at times, but there is indeed a difference.

Arguing is fine in the context of philosophy, or any field for that matter. You are going to have people who simply disagree; and that's okay with me, so long as they can prove their point via Logic. Argumenting does not necessarily have to be mean-spirited. In fact I find it rather enriching to argue.
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Fri 10 Sep, 2010 09:57 am
@Ding an Sich,
Ding an Sich wrote:
I do not have a problem with arguing. But let us keep in mind that there are two types of arguing: the one that involves screaming, shouting, and blatantly fallacious arguments, and the other one that involves arguments built on the basis of Logic. The two can be confused, perhaps muddled at times, but there is indeed a difference.


Aye, very true. I stand corrected.

The sentiment I was trying to communicate was of the former.

Thanks
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