Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Quiz Sep30/Oct1

W 30/Th OCT 1 - Anselm & Aquinas (LH); WATCH: Aquinas & 1st Cause (HI) LISTEN:Anthony Kenny on Aquinas' Ethics (PB); Exam 1; Midterm report presentations begin, starting with Blake and Axle on Harry Potter (#8), Misha, Krystal, and Justin on Bullshit (#12), and Matthew, Joseph, and Lucas on Pythagoras (#11).


1. (T/F) Anselm said God, "the being than which none greater can be conceived," must exist because otherwise He'd be imperfect (and not The Greatest).

2. The _____ argument says that merely having an idea of God proves God's existence.
3. What was Anselm's reply to Gaunilo?

4. Why did Aquinas think there couldn't be an infinite regress of causes?

5. (T/F) An objection to Aquinas' argument against an infinite regress of causes is that an Uncaused Cause is not necessarily God-like in relevant respects (power, knowledge, goodness.

6. Is "Nothing" uncontestably the best answer to "What caused the cosmos?"
Bonus:  In contrast to utilitarians like Bentham, says Anthony Kenny, Aquinas agreed with Aristotle that happiness is not a _______ but an activity or way of life.

Image result for aristotle on happiness quotes

Image result for aristotle on happiness quotes


1. Do you think not existing is an imperfection? What, exactly, is made less perfect by its failure to actually exist? Can we think our way to an understanding of what must be real, and what is merely imaginary?

2. Can you infer from a (hypothetically-) necessary First Cause to an omnipotent, omniscient, omni-benevolent God? Can you rule out the possibility that a First Cause might be malevolent or Satanic?

3. Bertrand Russell said he gave up belief in God when he encountered J.S. Mill's Autobiography account of not getting a satisfactory answer to the question "What caused God?" Is that a good question, and a good response?

An old post-

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Anselm, Aquinas, & politics

It's more Saints today in CoPhi, and more Harvards: Anselm & Aquinas (with commentary on the latter from Anthony Kenny), Robert Nozick and political philosophy. Inexplicably, our politics chapter omits discussion of the most important political philosopher of the 20th century, John Rawls. We'll rectify that in class.

Anselm stumped for the divine moral perfection (and omnipotence and omniscience) of a being “than which none greater could be conceived.” His Ontological Argumentis either ingenious or ridiculous, depending on who you ask. But it rarely persuades those who do not come at it armed with antecedent faith. "Faith seeking understanding," or maybe just the appearance of rational cover.

Anselm considers reason subordinate to faith. 'I believe in order to understand,' he says; following Augustine, he holds that without belief it is impossible to understand. God, he says, is not just... St Anselm, like his predecessors in Christian philosophy, is in the Platonic rather than the Aristotelian tradition. For this reason, he has not the distinctive characteristics of the philosophy which is called "scholastic," which culminated in Thomas Aquinas. Russell

In the time of Aquinas, the battle for Aristotle, as against Plato, still had to be fought. The influence of Aquinas secured the victory [for Aristotle] until the Renaissance; then Plato, who became better known than in the Middle Ages, again aquired supremacy... Russell
 Indeed, "Aquinas fully endorsed Aristotle..." (Cave & Light)

 Aquinas was sure there had to be an uncaused cause in back of everything, or else we’d never get to an end of explaining. Well, we probably won’t. Not ’til the would-be explainers themselves are gone. But is an uncaused cause really a step forward, explanatorily speaking?

Both of those guys were committed, of course, to belief in a heavenly afterlife. Samuel Scheffler, in the Stone recently, wrote of the afterlife here. Here, of course, is where people live the lives their beliefs inform. Life, not god or supernaturalism, is the natural impulse behind religion. Dewey's continuous human community is another way of naming nature's afterlife.
But what if you learned that the species would expire within a month of your own passing? That's Scheffler's thought experiment. He thinks he and we would be profoundly unsettled, that life would suffer an instant meaning collapse, and that this shows how invested we all are in a natural afterlife for humans (though not each of us in particular) on earth. He thinks "the continuing existence of other people after our deaths -- even that of complete strangers -- matters more to us than does our own survival and that of our loved ones." That's what he means when he begins his essay: "I believe in life after death."
He also explained his view on Philosophy Bites.
Our old dead Italian Saints said nothing about this, so far as I'm aware. Anthony Kenny does say Aquinas still agreed with Aristotle about "the best way to spend your lifetime down here on Earth," that happiness is ultimately an activity rather than a feeling, and that "the supreme happiness for rational beings was an intellectual activity." To Aristotle's standard "pagan virtues" he added faith (in Christian revelation), hope (for heavenly ascent), and charity (toward god and neighbor).

But the charity he seems to admire most in Aquinas is of the intellectual variety, "always trying to balance arguments from both sides" and treat those whose conclusions he disputes with civility.

Neither of today's 20th century Harvard philosophers was a Saint, but both were civil.
Robert Nozick began his academic career as a narrow analyst and wunderkind libertarian, but evolved well beyond his starting place. He came to realize that astringent libertarianism neglects "the reality of our social solidarity and humane concern for others." He came also to the view that "thinking about life is more like mulling it over" than like pinning it with a syllogism. "It feels like growing up more." He kept growing, 'til stomach cancer took him at age 63.

Nozick's chapter on dying in The Examined Life begins,

THEY SAY NO ONE is able to take seriously the possibility of his or her own death, but this does not get it exactly right. (Does everyone take seriously the possibility of his or her own life?) A person's own death does become real to him after the death of both parents.
He's right about that, in my experience.

Before his death (as Yogi Berra might have said) Nozick gave us the good oldExperience Machine. We just talked about this the other day. Here's a Yalie to talk about it too.

John Rawls, says Carlin Romano, wrote "the most important book of English-language political theory since Mill's On Liberty. His goal was a coherent theory of "justice as fairness" whose appeal would span the spectrum, after emerging from behind a "Veil of Ignorance." Not everyone buys it, but we all talk about it. Michael Sandel does too, to a much bigger class than ours, albeit mostly virtual & MOOCy.

And now there's a musical stage show. How many political philosophers can say that?! Rawls@dawn

Also a propos of politics, happily included in our chapter today: historicity, Kantian respect, egalitarianism, libertarianism, affirmative action ("reverse discrimination"), the Marxist critique of sham democracy, and paradoxes of conscience. Plenty, as usual, on our plates.


  1. Lucas Rogers (12)6:32 PM CDT


    DQ: "Luck is the residue of design." (Branch Rickey) Can you improve your luck? Why do some succeed and others fail in life? Is it all luck?

    People can improve their luck by doing different thing. As Seneca said, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity" You need to prepare yourself to have the opportunity for luck. It is hard to get any luck if you aren’t putting risk or effort out. A positive attitude also helps improve your luck. You can never win anything with luck if you don’t have the positive attitude. Because chances are, if you aren’t positive you won’t even try to win something. You need to expect to win, and chances are, that’ll help you win. Thomas Eidson also had a great saying regarding luck that said, "I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." I am also a very lucky person. I won a free iPad from MTSU last year, so I can attest for improving your luck. I don’t believe that succeeding in life is about luck. While some people’s definition of succeeding in life is different, many believe it involves having a good, well payed job. In order to find that success I believe in involves a little luck, but mainly hard work. Some people don’t set their self up for a successful life. Like not going to college, can make it harder to become successful. While it can be done, it just makes it harder.

  2. EXTRA CREDIT (12- Jeri Radford):

    The question is, “Are you a good time-manager, or a procrastinator? Do you usually approach life as if you had ‘all the time in the world’?” Well, I feel when it comes to getting things done, you should start working on something as soon as you get it. When working on something early and for a long time, you can be more educated on the project or subject. However, I believe this, I practice the opposite. In school, I strive my hardest to finish work as soon as possible. Usually this does not happen, so I would call myself a procrastinator for sure. I find it hard to get started on my school work, but once I start, I like to finish and get it done. Also although I procrastinate, I do not look at life like I have all the time in the world. When I have a deadline for something, I notice that I have some time to get something done but definitely not all the time in the world. Deadlines do put stress on me though, because I feel like I have no time in the world actually.

    I feel that life can be taken from you at any time. People should live like there is no tomorrow; they should feel that they do not have a lot of time in the world to do things. Procrastinating is not something one should want to do, but it falls in many people’s personalities.

  3. EXTRA CREDIT EXAM POST (12 - Megan Cortes)
    Do you fear death, or dying, or oblivion? Why or why not? OR, Do you agree that death is not an event to be experienced in life?
    When i was younger i feared death, i would think about what if i died right here right now what would i feel? Or what if i never existed. I would have no face, no body, no memory, i would have nothing. I would be nothing. I remember feeling empty when i thought about this. I told my mom how i felt and she told me, that is when i should feel the love of God because he gave me existence. But i did not feel love i felt empty. It made me realize that dying was not what i was afraid of, i was afraid of the fact i did not feel the love of god when my mother told me i should. It made me believe that god did not love me. Now that i think about it at my age i was really foolish and maybe even brainwashed. Today i don't fear death, because i believe that when we die we become nothing. And when your nothing you can't feel nothing.

  4. ATTENTION: Extra Credit Essay for Jimmie Harrison in Section 11- I am going to take a look at the question, “Do you agree that divine foreknowledge and human free will are not mutually contradictory "if you believe that God is all-knowing?" My personal belief is that divine foreknowledge and human free will are not contradictory. It is plausible that God is omniscient! If we look at this from an open to religious teachings point of view, the first thing we should accept for the sake of progress is that God exists outside of our concept of time. In fact, every aspect of God is a mystery except for what He allows us to know. We know from the Bible that the Word says both that God is omniscient and allowing us the gift of free will. Simply because He knows the outcome does not mean that we are influenced in any way. His ability to know your decision does not mean that He made it for you or that you had no choice in the grand scheme of things. Yes, we have to look at God in this anthropomorphic way because as I stated earlier God as an omniscient being is not within our grasp of understanding. If we are to make sense of nothing, we have to give ‘nothing’ human like qualities. This simply means it is a representation. It never alters the fact that God is God or that we have free will.

  5. I find the story of Boethius truly enthralling while struggling to understand the theology of Anselm and Aquinas. Does the fact that Boethius focuses more on adding some religion to his philosophy versus adding philosophy to his religion make him more coherent in thought? I don't know.

  6. Fatima Rizvi (#12) MW 2:40-3:45


    People in the past lived longer than us. They lived up to being a thousand years old while people now are lucky if they can even get past eighty years. But if we think about living forever, our first thought is “What would we do for that long?” or “What kind of life could we have?” But if you think about it, a person can live forever if he/she gets a successful life and does something that can be left forever. Like what Shakespeare and other writers has done in the past, by writing books that make them alive in our hearts when we read or tell their stories. But in my opinion, I think it's greedy for us to live forever as we have a limited life and only one. The bottom line here is to live with legacy and leave something behind before you leave. Life will be meaningless if you don't really know what the purpose of your life is. Everyone has a mission to fulfill and that’s what everyone should focus on. We only have one life, so spend it wisely and meaningfully. We must not worry about having the latest handbag or the newest sports car. Those things will never benefit us. Kindness, love, and honesty will. A life without love is barely worth living. Most people with the most money have the most problems, as they are greedy and do not appreciate the little things, while a poor man appreciates even smallest of things. In the end, the millionaire gets buried next to the beggar so it really doesn’t matter where we come from, but how we choose to treat ourselves and the people around us.

    1. Do you really believe people have ever lived for a millennium? Seems unlikely.


    “Are you a good time-manager, or a procrastinator? Do you usually approach life as if you had "all the time in the world"? If Nero ordered YOU to take your own life, would you resist or comply? Why?”

    Procrastination is, I think, one of my worst inhibitions when it comes to living a low-stress life. Typically, I put off doing the things I’d rather do so that I can do the things I want to do, but more often than not the result is that I’m too distracted by the thought of what I have to do later to even enjoy what I’m doing instead. Then, by the time I actually get around to doing the task I put-off, my brain has distorted it into being this giant, insurmountable obstacle which just creates more stress. I get whatever it is done, but not after putting myself through this unnecessary and mentally taxing ordeal. Despite knowing this and knowing fully well that I should just soldier through whatever it is I have to do to avoid stressing myself out, I am unable to find the drive to do it and I end up putting myself through the same thing over and over again. The reason for that might be that I’ve never faced any real consequence as a result of waiting until the last minute to work on something; sure, there’s the mental anguish that comes along with it, but after that’s over everything is perfectly fine. So, I guess based on that, it’s going to take something really awful happening as a result of my procrastinating to motivate me to stop doing it.

    As far as the third questions goes, if I was told to kill myself at the threat of being killed, I think I would lean towards resistance; if I have to die either way, I might as well force the opposing party to deal with having to get rid of me.

  8. Mariem Farag (Section 12)
    Nothing caused God. God is timeless. We believe there has to be a cause to everything, because we are just humans. Our minds cannot comprehend that which is beyond our human mind/understanding. Trying to find an answer to everything that is, is not going to get anyone anywhere. If God is small to be fully understood, then he would not be big enough to worship.

  9. Anonymous11:15 AM CDT

    Ashley Stancil Extra Credit Post (12)

    I think that it is important to embrace religious faith early in life. When you’re young, it’s good to grow up with a foundation. Religion can provide that foundation. It provides you with a set of rules to live by and hopefully make you a better person. When you’re a child religion can be very confusing, but I think that it is comforting to think that there is something more to this life than just living and dying. Religion can often provide people with hope. I think that, once you become and adult, you should explore what you really believe. It’s important to establish your own beliefs even if those beliefs end up being different from your parent’s. Young adults often follow suit with the ways and beliefs their parents instilled within them. For example, if someone’s parent is a democrat, then they will more than likely become a democrat themselves. Religion is no different. If someone’s parents are catholic, then they will more than likely continue within the catholic faith. As peripatetic thinkers, we can debate whether or not people believe in their religion or if their simply brain washed. How can you truly be sure of what you’ve been told, if you don’t explore other religious beliefs. As Descartes once said, “To live without philosophizing is in truth the same as keeping the eyes closed without attempting to open them.” My parents are very religious and my mom often expresses to me that I will go to hell if I don’t “get saved. Hearing that as a child was really frightening. I was terrified that I would end up dying and going to hell. I think it was very wrong for my parents to be so harsh with their reality of religion.

  10. (#8) EXTRA CREDIT EXAM 1: Robby Sabir
    (DQ): Can an ignorant person be wise? Can a knowledgeable person be ignorant?
    In my personal opinion, a person who is ignorant can definitely be perceived as wise; in the same manner, a person who is considered to be knowledgeable can be perceived as ignorant. To expand upon these ideas, an ignorant individual may be considered wise as he is firm in his beliefs. So much so, that he is not willing to give up his/her doctrines simply if it is the unpopular or popular thing to do. This, in my opinion, is a type of wisdom that stems from this idea of an unwavering mindset. On the other hand, a knowledgeable person may be considered ignorant in a similar fashion. For instance, this individual may consider himself/herself far above the mental level of those around him/her. In doing so, this can cause the person to underestimate the viewpoints of others and only consider his/her own personal views to be the ultimate truth. This, in my opinion, is a type of ignorance that stems from an idea of superiority. Having said that, both the ignorant person and knowledgeable person may appear to be wise in their own eyes; but, to those around him/her, they may be perceived as otherwise. All in all, I would infer that wisdom and ignorance are two ideas that are very much dependent upon how someone views them through the context of their own point of view.

    1. "To expand upon these ideas, an ignorant individual may be considered wise as he is firm in his beliefs." -What if it is the definition of ignorance to be unknowing, not necessarily firm in his beliefs?

      Can someone be unknowledged yet wise? Perhaps, someone who never learned to read or was never exposed to religion?

  11. Extra Credit (8)
    I'm not sure about the history of my philosophy, as a child Dad ever spoke much about his beliefs, he said that he believed in God and studied Bruce Lee. "Be like water." Strange how that has turned out to make more sense to me than anything else, ever. Considering that we are made of water and water is theorized to be the first sign of life. (Have you heard of Mars lately?) Mom's entire family was Catholic, as was she. I started catechism at 8 years old and I was already an issue. I asked a lot of deep questions and challenged religion even then. I made it through to the ceremony as someone suggested that I go through the motions for the family. Religious tradition is about familial ties, this ended up being a wonderful memory.
    Our bookshelves included the Tao of Pooh, Happiness is a Warm Blanket and the Serendipity tales along with the 5ft Bookshelf from Harvard, and 2 sets of encyclopedias: adult and children. We were being fed remarkable knowledge and profound philosophy at an early age. In my teens I didn’t dig too deeply with many people. Thinking, questioning, reading, and pondering life were never scorned.
    “Do you believe?” It is a question that is asked by family, coworkers, strangers and terrorists. This question used to terrorize me. Well, yes, I believe. I believe that the sun will rise tomorrow. I believe that I will have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some awesome foot cheese and a small pickle. I believe in building a life of happy memories and cherishing what precious little time we each have together. I believe in starting a foundation of positivity within yourself before spreading a message of good.
    Do I believe? Positively.

  12. (8) Janet Peoples
    Do you think not existing is an imperfection? What, exactly, is made less perfect by its failure to actually exist? Can we think our way to an understanding of what must be real, and what is merely imaginary?
    If you can imagine something it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. We believe in many things whether people believe you or because you can't exactly prove it. Believing in something even if you can't see it doesn't mean you can't prove in your own way.

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  14. (8) Janet Peoples
    Bertrand Russell said he gave up belief in God when he encountered J.S. Mill's Autobiography account of not getting a satisfactory answer to the question "What caused God?" Is that a good question, and a good response?
    Even if someone else can't see something you believe in doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Believing in God even though you can't see him and show people who he is doesn't mean he doesn't exist. We each have our own personal cultures, the sad truth is, the more advance peoples culture is the more demanding and impatient those people are. The longer you live in life the more you realize the quick fix is not the way to go. This being said God answers us when the time is right, and doesn't mean its quick and easy. The sad thing is so many people lose there faith because God is not there servant.