I Know I Know Nothing: 10 Philosophical Concepts Everyone Should Know
Plato's Theory of Ideas
Plato was the first to separate the "world of things" from the "world of ideas." Idea (eidos) according to Plato is the source of a thing, its prototype, which lies at the basis of a specific object. Present in our consciousness, for example, the "idea of a table" can either coincide with a specific table in reality, or not coincide, but the "idea of a table" and "a specific table" will continue to exist separately in consciousness. A vivid illustration of the division of the world into the ideological world and the objective world is the famous Plato's myth about the cave, in which people see not objects and other people, but only their shadows on the cave wall. For Plato, the cave is an allegory of our world, where people live, believing that shadows on the walls of caves are the only way to know reality. However, in reality, shadows are just an illusion, but an illusion, because of which a person is not able to refuse because of his inability to raise a critical question about the existence of reality and overcome his "false consciousness". Developing Platonic ideas, philosophers of later times came to the concept of the transcendent and the "thing-in-itself".
Introspection (from Lat. Introspecto - looking inside) is a way of self-knowledge, during which a person observes his internal reaction to events in the external world. Introspection is a fundamental need for a person, allowing him to carefully study himself, to explain to himself why he believes in what he believes, and whether there is a possibility that his belief is wrong. The founder of the method is the British teacher and philosopher John Locke, who, based on the ideas of Rene Descartes, pointed out that there are only two direct sources of all knowledge: objects of the external world and the human mind. In this regard, all significant psychological facts of consciousness are open for study only by the subject of cognition himself - it may well be that the “blue color” for one person is not at all the same as the “blue color” for another.
Introspection helps to track the stages of thinking by breaking down feelings into elements and providing a complete picture of the relationship between thoughts and actions. Introspection teaches you to think more abstractly and broader, for example, to perceive the "big red apple" as "a sensation of red, giving way to the impression of a round one, at the same time with which there is a slight tickling in the tongue, apparently, a trace of a taste sensation." But don't get too deep into introspection - focusing too much on tracking your own impressions dulls your perception of reality.
Solipsism (from Lat. Solus - "unique" and ipse - "self") is a philosophical concept, according to which a person recognizes as the only reality that exists and is always available for his intervention, only his own mind. “There is no god, no universe, no life, no humanity, no paradise, no hell. It's all just a dream, an intricate, stupid dream. There is nothing but you. And you are just a thought, a wandering thought, an aimless thought, a homeless thought lost in eternal space ”- this is how Mark Twain formulates the main message of solipsism in his story“ The Mysterious Stranger ”. The same idea, in general, is illustrated by the films "Mister Nobody", "The Beginning" and "The Matrix".
The logical rationale for solipsism is that only his perception of reality and his thoughts is available to a person, while the entire external world is beyond the verge of certainty. The existence of things for a person will always be only an object of faith, nothing more, since if someone demands proof of their existence, a person will not be able to provide them. In other words, no person can be sure of the existence of anything outside of his consciousness. Solipsism is not so much a doubt about the existence of reality, but rather an acknowledgment of the primacy of the role of one's own mind. The concept of solipsism either needs to be learned as it is, or to accept "solipsism in reverse", that is, to give oneself a rational explanation of the relative external world and justify for oneself why this external world still exists.
If the world was created according to some higher design, why is there so much absurdity and suffering in it? Most believers sooner or later begin to ask themselves this question. Theodicy (from the Greek “God, deity” + Greek “law, justice”) comes to the aid of the desperate - a religious and philosophical concept, according to which God is unconditionally recognized as absolute good, from which any responsibility for the presence of evil in the world is removed. This teaching was created by Leibniz in order to conditionally "justify" God. The main question of this concept is: "Why does God not want to rid the world of misery?" The answer options were reduced to four: either God wants to rid the world of evil, but cannot, or he can, but does not want, or he cannot and does not want, or he can and wants to. The first three options do not correspond to the idea of God as the Absolute, and the last option does not explain the presence of evil in the world.
The problem of theodicy arises in any monotheistic religion, where the responsibility for evil in the world should theoretically be assigned to God. In practice, placing responsibility on God is not possible, since God is recognized by religions as a kind of Ideal that has the right to the presumption of innocence. One of the main ideas of theodicy is the idea that the world created by God is a priori the best of all possible worlds, which means that only the best is collected in it, and the presence of evil in this world is considered only as a consequence of the need for ethical diversity. Whether or not it is a personal matter to recognize theodicy, this concept is certainly worth exploring.
Life would be much easier if good and evil were fixed, absolute concepts - but often we are faced with the fact that what is good in one situation may turn out to be evil in another. By becoming less categorical about what is good and what is bad, we are approaching moral relativism - an ethical principle that denies the dichotomous separation of the concepts of "good" and "evil" and does not recognize the presence of mandatory moral norms and categories. Moral relativism, unlike moral absolutism, does not believe that there are absolute universal moral standards and principles. It is not morality that dominates the situation, but the situation over morality, that is, it is not just the fact of an action that is important, but its context.
The philosophical doctrine of "permissiveness" recognizes that each individual has the right to form his own system of values and his own idea of the categories of good and evil, and allows us to assert that morality, in essence, is a relative concept. The question is, what will a particular person think of, adopting such a concept - the famous motto of Raskolnikov, "Am I a trembling creature, or do I have the right?" also grew out of the idea of moral relativism.
This idea can be interpreted in different ways - "from nothing sacred" to "you should not blindly drive life into a narrow framework." In any case, the spectrum of questions posed by moral relativism is a useful exercise for the mind and a good test of any belief.
The golden rule of ethics - “do with others as you would like to be treated with you” - sounds even more weighty if we refer to Immanuel Kant: this provision is included in his concept of a categorical imperative. According to this ethical concept, a person should act according to the maxim, which, in his opinion, could become a universal law. Also, within the framework of this concept, Kant proposes not to consider another person as a means, but to treat him as an ultimate goal. Of course, this approach will not save us from mistakes, but decisions become much more conscious if we think that every time you choose not only for yourself, but for all of humanity.
Determinism / Indeterminism
Reflecting on free will, fate and predestination, we enter the field of determinism (Latin determinare - to determine, to limit) - a philosophical doctrine about predestination, the interconnectedness of what is happening and the presence of a single reason for everything that exists. “Everything is predetermined. Everything will happen according to a given scheme ”- this is the main postulate of determinism. Free will, according to this doctrine, does not exist, and in different interpretations of determinism, the fate of a person depends on various factors: either it is predetermined by God, or a broad philosophically comprehended category of "nature".
Within the framework of the doctrine of determinism, no events are considered random, but are a consequence of a predetermined, but unknown to man, chain of events. Determinism excludes belief in free will, in which all responsibility for actions falls on the person himself, and makes the person completely entrust his fate to causality, laws and the omnipotence of the external world. Convenient, in general, the concept - for those who do not want to take responsibility for their own lives. And those who are too close within the framework of determinism should study the arguments of the opposite concept - indeterminism.
Cogito ergo sum
“I think, therefore I am” is the philosophical concept of the rationalist Rene Descartes and a good support for those who doubt everything. This formula arose when trying to find the primary, indisputable and absolute truth, on the basis of which a philosophical concept of absolute knowledge can be built. Descartes questioned everything: the outside world, his feelings, God, public opinion. The only thing that could not be called into question was one's own existence, since the very process of doubting one's own existence was proof of this existence. Hence the formula: “I doubt, so I think; I think, therefore I exist ”, transformed into“ I think, therefore, I exist ”- this phrase became the metaphysical basis of the philosophy of modern times. She proclaimed the dominant position of the Subject, around which it became possible to build reliable knowledge.
Death of God according to Nietzsche
“God is dead! God will not rise again! And we killed him! How we will be comforted, murderers from murderers! The most sacred and most powerful Being that there was in the world bled to death under our knives - who can wash this blood from us? " Nietzsche proclaimed the thesis "God is dead", implying not the death of God in the literal sense - he meant that in traditional society the existence of God was a fact, he was in a single reality with people, but in the era of modernity he ceased to be a part of external reality, becoming rather an internal idea. This caused a crisis in the value system, which was previously based on the Christian worldview. This means that the time has come to revise this system - in fact, this is what the philosophy and culture of postmodernism is doing.
The existential crisis was a consequence of the collapse of the traditional system of values described above - it was generated by the thought that human existence has neither a predetermined purpose, nor an objective meaning. This runs counter to our deepest need to believe that human life has value. But the absence of the original meaning does not mean the loss of meaning in general - according to the concept of existentialism, the value of life is manifested precisely in how a person realizes himself, in the choices and actions he has made.