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Chapter One. The Fine Art of Wondering. Ray Bradbury writes:.

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Chapter One

The Fine Art of Wondering

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Ray Bradbury writes:

“To grow into youngness is a blow. To age into sickness is an insult. To die is, if we are not careful, to turn from God’s breast, feeling slighted and unloved. The sparrow asks to be seen as it falls. Philosophy must try, as best it can, to turn the sparrows to flights of angels, which, Shakespeare wrote, sing us to our rest.”

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The World Riddle

  • Can the human mind understand the world?

  • Can it discern the truth about human existence?

  • Does life have meaning? (What do we mean by “meaning?)

  • What is it that we are really after?

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Just in Case…

  • Is there anything wrong with an Indian physicist, who is also a member of the Brahmin caste, offering a lucid presentation of celestial mechanics regarding a solar eclipse to his class…and returning home and offering a gift to the Black Goddess – just in case?

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The Human Condition

  • What is the meaning of existence?

  • Panshin’s Rite of Passage

  • Freud and Jung launch “depth probes into the inner world”

  • Saint-Exupery’s Little Prince

  • Eros and Thanatos (the death wish)

  • Schweitzer/Watts on “hope”

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The Search for Meaning

  • “Existential vacuum”

  • The aggressive individual odyssey

  • Schweitzer’s positive ethical principle

  • Abraham Maslow on tape

  • Man’s Search for Meaning

  • “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”

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“Why” Questions

  • It would be comforting to know that life has transcendent meaning; it would feel good to know that “nothing happens without a purpose.” But our need for meaning lead us to find easy and absurd answers to such why-questions.

  • AD 410, November 1755, & April 1970

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The World-Riddle

  • Life feeds upon itself

  • The Naked Ape

  • Calypso

  • Kierkegaard

  • Campbell

  • Strauss

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Marcus AureliusPhilosopher-King

  • The problem was finding a way to live in the world and not be destroyed by it. The answer, Marcus reasons, lies in making a deep and permanent distinction between what you can take charge of and what you can’t, a distinction, that is, between the inner world which we can exercise a modicum of control, and the real world “out there” over which we have little control.

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  • What if you decide that life is without meaning – what would this mean to you personally? Do you think your life would be less worth living? (Why, incidentally, are you attempting to answer this question?)

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The Spirit of Inquiry

  • Whether to think and try to understand, or just believe…that is the question.

  • Each of us is burdened with the task of deciding what answers are right for us.

  • This includes inquiry into who and what we humans are, what life is all about, and how it should be lived.

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The Love of Wisdom

  • Philein – “to love”

  • Sophia – “wisdom”

  • A philosopher is (or should be) a “lover of wisdom”

  • To be “wise” is to possess the understanding and skill to make mature judgments about the use of knowledge in the content of daily life

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The Greek Miracle

  • The first philosophers were not satisfied with the explanation to every question, “The gods willed it”

  • The Milesian philosophers sought a different kind of explanation: When they asked about the cause of events, they made the assumption that the answer might be found in “nature” or within matter itself

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Freedom to Wonder & To Ask Questions

  • Philosophy and freedom of inquiry were born together. Neither has ever existed without the other. If we possess freedom, we inquire. But if our freedom to inquire is too limited, then freedom, which is rightly a condition, becomes itself the goal of our striving.

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A Western Dilemma

“I have said some things,” Socrates once remarked, “of which I am not altogether confident. But that we shall be better and braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to inquire, than we should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in seeking to know what we do not know – that is a theme upon which I am ready to fight, in word and deed, to the utmost of my power.”

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Belief, Doubt, Critical Thinking, & Faith

  • Belief – “blind belief,” the unthinking acceptance of an idea or system of ideas

  • Faith – authentic faith is always based on doubt

  • Doubt – a philosopher engages in doubt as a normal modus operandi

  • Critical thinking – taking a good look at the ideas that we are thinking and then making a commitment to live by the best ideas we can come up with

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SocratesThe Wisest Man Alive

  • “The unexamined life – human life – is not worth living”

  • “Know thyself”

  • His supreme concern was the breakdown of human relations – ethics. He believed that all unethical behavior is committed as a result of ignorance

  • Moral knowledge leads to moral action

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  • Summarize in your own way the nature of the “Western dilemma” regarding human knowledge. Is it “either/or” for you personally, or have you discovered a pathway between the two traditions?

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Critical Analysis

  • How does the world work?

  • What is our place in it?

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The Philosophic Mind

  • How does one go about dispelling the feeling of ignorance and moving toward the truth of things?

  • The first step is to ask questions

  • Philosophic mind = question-asking mind

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Critical Skills

  • Fact-claim verification

  • Concept clarification

  • Inference validation

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Fact-Claim Verification

  • Fact-claim – any idea submitted for consideration as an item of knowledge

  • Example: It’s raining outside

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Concept Clarification

  • No evaluation is intelligible unless the criterion used to make the judgment is made explicit and clearly understood

  • Any action or event can logically be evaluated as good or bad, right or wrong

  • The ethically informed person is aware that different and distinct criteria exist and are used in daily life

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Inference Validation

  • Logic – the science of valid inference, used to clarify the relationships of ideas. It includes both inductive and deductive reasoning

  • The “problem of evil”

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Brief Skirmishes/Examples of Critical Thinking

  • “Enquiring minds want to know”

  • “Call us now!”

  • “Mommy, Ginny told me…”

  • “It was a fever of the gods,…”

  • “I hate broccoli. It tastes awful!”

  • “Time had a beginning at the big bang.”

  • “The swastika is the hated symbol of Nazi horror.”

  • “Who discovered America…”

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A Special Kind of Listening

  • A philosopher listens not only to what you say but even to the more implicit thought processes that got you there

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PlatoThe First Educator

  • Plato’s life is marked by two extreme achievements: the establishment of the Academy and the immortalizing of Socrates in writing

  • Plato wanted to education young men and women to seek the truth, with the hope that they will be qualified to assume positions of leadership in the world where they could put that truth to work

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  • If you had been Job and had lost everything that was precious to you, what would you say to your friends who have come to “comfort” you? What would you say to God? (Do you know what Job actually said, according to the Book of Job?)

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Synoptic Synthesis

  • The world is truly like a great Picture Puzzle, and the goal of synoptic philosophy is to see the picture on the Puzzle – the whole picture – and to see it as accurately and clearly as humanly possible at a given point in space and time

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And He Wants to Understand It

  • Synoptic philosophy is the love of the wisdom that comes from achieving a coherent picture of everything seen together – a vision of the whole of life

  • Example: A cat named Tyger

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Life on a Picture-Puzzle

  • Synoptic philosophy encourages each of us to wander over the puzzle, visiting neighboring parts and trying to see how the pieces of the puzzle all fit together

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The Annihilation of Boundaries

  • The synoptist never tries “to know everything.” He makes no attempt to memorize the reams of hard data that have accumulated in the specialized fields

  • The task of the synoptist is to keep himself informed on the latest conclusions, general principles, hypothesis, models, and theories

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How to do Synoptic Philosophy

  • Place yourself in the center of the “synoptic wheel”

  • Proceed with philosophic analysis

  • What fields contain information related to the problem?

  • Criss-cross from field to field, interconnecting lines of illumination

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The Synoptic Venture: Risks & Reward

  • Risk – the more one specializes the more he tends to neglect a general knowledge of life necessary to remain human

  • Risk – loss of the ability to communicate

  • Reward – learning to “think bigger”

  • Reward – produces greater awareness in our perception of daily life

  • Reward – coherent worldview

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Epilog: “I can float over the Orchard…”

  • Asimov writes, “I have never been sorry for my stubborn advance toward generalization. To be sure, I can’t wander in detail through all the orchard, any more than anyone else can, no matter how stupidly determined I may be to do so. Life is far too short and the mind is far too limited. But I can float over the orchard as in a balloon.”

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Aristotle The First Scientific Worldview

  • Eudaimonia – “happiness”

  • The journey to Athens

  • The royal summons

  • The Lyceum

  • Inventor of formal logic

  • Laying the foundations for the science of physics, astronomy, ethics, etc…

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  • Rephrase in your own (meaningful) way the essential goals of synoptic philosophy and make your own assessment of the rewards of the synoptic venture. Would your thinking and feeling change if you could achieve the rewards mentioned in this chapter? Are you willing to accept the risks?