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Comparative (Chinese-Western) Introduction to Philosophy

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  1. Comparative (Chinese-Western) Introduction to Philosophy Chad Hansen MB 307

  2. Review • Sampling intro to philosophical thought • Norms and tools of philosophy • Arguments • Six traditions: China and West • Broadly historical order • Plato, Mencius, Zhuangzi, Nietzsche, Zen, Dewey • Text available in philosophy department • Web page http://www.hku.hk/philodep/ch • Bulletin Board for discussion argument • http://www.hku.hk/discussboard/ and select Comparative Philosophy • Student - valid

  3. Requirements: • 100% coursework includes tests • Coursework=quizzes, take-home mid-term and in-class final • Argumentative focus • Quizzes almost weekly on Tuesdays • Grading 5-1 (explanation) • Both exams: ten questions in advance and prepare eight

  4. Objectives • 3 goals of philosophy education • Intensive: logic, deep analysis • Extensive: range of options, open mind • Insight, wisdom, judgment • Disciplined discourse—discussion lecture • Ask questions as they come up • Special times with review • Tutorials: 4 with 5 -6 each (by vote)

  5. Warnings • Plagiarism is not crediting a quotation • Minimally put quotes around it—name:year in parentheses or footnote • Zero for assignment, Zero for course, suspension • Penalty for late submission • Graduated: decide when better to get it done well (rule of A result) • ¼ per day for quiz, 2% per day for tests

  6. Basic Divisions Of Philosophy: • Metaphysics: theory of being/reality • Idealism, materialism, dualism, monism (2 senses) • Epistemology: theory of knowledge • Rationalism, empiricism, skepticism, pragmatism • Logic—includes semantics (meaning) • Ethics—Value theory, prudence, art, politics etc.

  7. Questions? Quiz Question: Formulate an argument proving that the conclusion of any sound argument is true. (Hint: you will need the definition of 'argument' of 'valid' and of 'sound'.)

  8. Greek Rationalism • Start on Western Philosophy • Greek Rationalism • Socrates, Plato, Aristotle • Pre-Socratics

  9. Thales: Water • Western philosophy starts in mid-east • Differences there at the beginning • Thales: stargazer and practical businessman • Navigation and trade • "Everything is water" • Growth and range of states of matter • Early scientific theory (explain change)

  10. Implicit Model Of Knowledge • Knowledge as a description of reality • Metaphysics and science as the model • Philosophy = love of knowledge • "Natural" philosophy is early western science • Knowing is reducing to one, unchanging thing • Theoretical reduction of many to one

  11. Dichotomies Of Greek Rationalism • Western "perennial problems" of philosophy • Assumption: explanation is reducing many to one • Assumption: something permanent underlies all change • Shared with Indian Buddhism • Only the permanent is real • Dependent or caused = unreal

  12. Heraclitus: Fire • Series of other ‘reality’ candidates: • Air or the indescribable absolute, or "love" • Often likened to Daoism – constant change • The one is fire--symbolic "substance" for flux • Reality is no permanent reality (no substance) • No reality, only change • Everything includes its opposite • In the process of becoming it (yin-yang)

  13. Also Gradual Substance Change • Cannot step in same river twice • One river, one (?) water • Mass stuffs and countable objects with “lifetimes” • A thing v the stuff it consists of • Not a concern in China

  14. The Law (Logos) ”Exists" • All things in constant change • 'Logos' crucial to Western philosophy • Discourse, words (bible), logic, reason, and –ology: Law: “all things change” • Link to 道 dao—guiding discourse • Cannot know changing things • Knowing cannot catch up • Knowledge is of reality so must be permanent • Western knowledge is of eternal "truths" • Add "knowledge-belief" to the list of rationalist dichotomies

  15. Parmenides: Being • Exact opposite: nothing changes • Influence on Plato – and western philosophy • Primacy of reason over experience • Reason tells us experience is deceptive • What is is; what is not is not • Cannot “become” • Truths of reason (tautologies/analytic truths)

  16. Experience A Fantasy/Dream • What is not cannot become anything • Experience is that things change and move but rationally impossible • Proof is hard to understand • Two possible elements • Start tale of differences

  17. First Element • "Cannot speak or think about what is not" • We can only refer to things that exist • "Santa Claus lives at the north pole" • If Santa does not exist, the sentence is false • Consequently, we cannot think or speak about non-being

  18. Second Element • ‘Being’ tied to the Indo-European verb--to be (copula) • Two uses in Indo-European languages • Predicative and existential • Predicative: needed to make a sentence or assertion 他高 • Links things to a subject • To describe a thing is to say what "is" of it • What its existence includes

  19. Existential • “X is” = X exists = there is (有) X • Blending the two uses leads to the view that all change is impossible—why(?) • To describe a change entails that it no longer is what it was before • This is to change “is not” to “is” • Parmenides construes change as non-being becomes being • That is impossible • Hence change is impossible

  20. Classical Chinese Case • Literary Chinese has no copula • “exists” expressed with 有無 • Also no required subject term • Doesn’t have a puzzle about how being can change • This “Perennial” problem turns out to be a problem of only one philosophical culture • A problem rooted in the language used to talk of existence and description

  21. Guo Xiang: Like Parmenides • 無 cannot become 有 and 有 cannot become 無 • Although it changes constantly, it never ceases to exist • So accepts that reality is in constant change—no problem • Can deny movement from non-being to being without denying all change