The following topics are to be investigated at an introductory level. Each inquiry session is scheduled for 2 to 2½ hours. The actual length of each session and the order in which the topics are investigated may vary from one inquiry group to the next, except that the first six topics are scheduled in the sequence indicated below. A list of suggested reading will be available to each seminar participant.
THE NATURE OF PHILOSOPHY
0. The identity of philosophy. The role of philosophy in world history. Today's science and culture in historical perspective. Who should study philosophy and why. How to study philosophy. The structure of philosophy – its branches and their interrelationships.
METAPHYSICS – “What exists?”
1. Alternative metaphysical positions. Axiomatic concepts. ‘Existence’ and ‘consciousness’. ‘Existent’ and ‘object’. ‘Entity’, ‘identity’, ‘unit’, and ‘relation’. Entification, identification, classification, and individuation. ‘Space’ and ‘time’. ‘Perceptual concrete’, ‘physical object’, ‘event’, and ‘cause’. ‘The Universe’ and universes of discourse. ‘Space-time’. The reality and identity of space-time. Objectivism vs. subjectivism and naive (atomistic-absolutist) objectivism. Ontology. Foundations of mathematics, physics, etc. Cosmology. Determinism and free will. ‘Volition’ and metaepistemology.
EPISTEMOLOGY – “How do you know?”
2. Theories of knowledge and the nature of reason. Action and interaction. Differentiation and integration. Stimulus and response. Sensation, perception, concept-formation, and the process of abstraction. Paradoxes of self-awareness. Linear and holistic processing. Conscious and subconscious processes. Observation, reason, emotion, and intuition.
3. The nature of thought. Entification, identification, and classification. Language and logic. Truth and validity. Semantics and syntax. Semantic ascent and truth predication. Metatheory and conceptual schemes. Set theories. Ontological commitment. Theory-laden perception. The primacy of perception. The validity of the senses. Experimentation/observation/reason vs. mysticism.
4. Contextual absolutism vs. non-contextual absolutism and universal skepticism. Empiricism, rationalism, subjectivism, pragmatism, etc. Contextual relativity vs. subjectivity. Metric tolerance vs. uncertainty. Incompleteness vs. uncertainty. The unprovability of consistency vs. uncertainty. The analytic-synthetic dichotomy. The objectivist-subjectivist-intrinsicist trichotomy.
5. Principles of efficiency and clarity in thinking. Types of pseudo-thinking. The nature and the role of definitions. Common thinking errors. The integration of linear and holistic processing. Intuition, reason, humor, and the creative process. ‘Volition’ and metaethics.
ETHICS – “So what?”
6. ‘Value’ and ‘standard of value’. The significance of volition. ‘Moral agent’. Normative and descriptive questions. ‘Value’ and the epistemological trichotomy. Hierarchies of values, virtues, and goals. The value of cognition, the virtue of rationality, and the goal of happiness. Ends, means, and ‘unearned value’. Hedonism, utilitarianism, altruism, cultural relativism, etc.
7. The nature of justice. ‘Justice’ and ‘mercy’. ‘Justice’ and ‘equity’. ‘Justness’ and ‘fairness’. The significance of making (and of not making) moral judgments. The significance of pride. Trust.
8. Self-sacrifice and the altruistic premise. The relationship between the concept, ‘conflict of interest’ and the concept ‘selfishness’. The relationship between the concept, ‘altruism’, and the concepts ‘agent’ and ‘life qua agent’.
9. Good and evil. The potency or impotency of evil. What is the meaning of “the victory of evil over good”? The concept ‘sanction of the victim’. Punishment vs. restitution.
10. Free will. The nature and significance of volition. Analyses of theories of psychological determinism. Free will as the choice to think or not to think. Emotion and motivation. Conceptual reaffirmation and perceptual reaffirmation of concepts. Cognitive control of motivation.
11. Self-esteem. Reaffirmation and self-esteem. Psychological consequences of the failure to achieve and maintain self-esteem. Pseudo-self-esteem and its psychological consequences.
12. Dependency. Revolt against the responsibility of volition. The independent vs. the socialized mind. ‘Social metaphysics’. Interdependence vs. co-dependence and pseudo-independence.
13. Human virtue and mental health. Rationality and independence, productivity and integrity, pride and self-confidence, etc. – their relations to survival and to mental health. Psychological consequences of hierarchical inversions of virtues (and of values).
14. Sex and romantic love. The relationship between a person's sexual choice(s) and the expression of his deepest values. Sex and self-esteem. The psycho-epistemological significance of sex in the romantic love relationship.
15. Religion. Well formed concepts of a god(s). Logically defensible existence arguments for a god(s). The psycho-epistemological consequences of belief in the supernatural.
POLITICS AND ECONOMICS
16. Political science. Principles of political power. ‘Sovereignty’. ‘Political equality’. ‘Liberty’. ‘Rights’. Foundations of alternative political theories. ‘Individual liberty’, ‘civil liberties’, ‘political rights’, ‘civil rights’, and the United States Constitution. Freedom vs. constraint. Liberty vs. compulsion. Concepts of ‘property’. Concepts of ‘unearned value’. Faith and force.
17. Economics. Foundations of economic theories. Intrinsic, subjective, and objective theories of value. Resource allocation and the principle of comparative advantage. The mechanism of a market. Maximization of marginal utility. Investment and consumption. Profits and wealth.
18. Issues in political-economics: Productivity and distribution (interpersonal and temporal) of wealth. ‘Economic justice’ and political vs. economic egalitarianism. Inherited wealth. Welfare. Money. Inflation. Takings and givings. Taxation. Economic, political, and social stability. Depressions. Monopolies. Cartels. Trade unions. Protectionism. Etc.
19. The rage for order and the rage for chaos. Artistic expression and the artist's metaphysical value judgments. Romanticism, naturalism, fatalism, romantic realism, etc. Romantic realism and free will. Form, substance, evaluation, and aesthetic experience. Symmetry, harmony, contrast, dynamics, etc. The abstract in art. Music.
20. Sense of life and self-image. Aesthetics and the psychology of repression, not of vices and depraved obsessions, but of virtues and heroic aspirations. Art and psychotherapy. A benevolent vs. a malevolent sense of life.
Additional series of seminars and
laboratories are periodically available for philosophic inquiry and research
in Formal Logic and Set Theories, in Cognition Science, in
Childhood Education, in Metatheoretical Considerations in Modern
Science, and in Music Appreciation, Analysis, and Therapy.
Topics are investigated at an intermediate level by students who have completed
Introduction to Philosophic Inquiry.