Archive for September 2006

Lecture 10

12 September, 2006

Review of previous lecture.

The Athenian population during Aristotle’s first time there were very anti-Maccedonian. Aristotle fled to Uberis – he wandered in Asia Minor and did marine biology. The early aristotle was a Platonist.

Aristotle acquired between his times in Athens a growing awaremenss that his philosophical work must focus on the experience of reality.

During the Middle Ages there were rival schools and a loss of conviction about certainties.

Descartes was confronted with that. he was raised a Catholic and trained by Jesuits. He began to be sceptical himself – he longed for certainty and developed anew method of philosophy.

It was this that Locke attacked; we have to understand Descartes to understand Locke.

There was so much scepticism with France – so Descartes thought how can I show these people that they can be confident about the philosophical results? How can they be assured? How can I prove it to myself that these results can be relied upon – that’s where modern philosophy begins.

Begins in non-Christian (not anti-Christian) setting.

Descartes: ‘When I say God I mean all the geometrical rules in the universe’

A Discourse on Method (1937) published in French
[Six]Meditations on First Philosophy (1641) in Latin

How does Descartes go about it?

Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding has four books.
The first ‘Of innate notions’ and attack on Descartes (hence we have to understand Descartes)
The second ‘Of ideas’ this is where he develops his empiricism.

Decartes begins by calling everything into question.
Let’s doubt it.
One thing I can’t doubt I that I’m thinking – doubting is a form of thinking.
Doubting presupposes thinking.
Cogito ergo sum
I think therefore I am
The ‘I am’ doesn’t mean a person, a body; but a thinking rational soul, a thinking substance.
I have a starting point – thinking substance res cognitas

Now, what does he do?
He claims to have founded a new tradition and yet the whole past comes flooding in!
In my mind I can conceive of a most perfect being.
A being that possesses every possible conceivable attribute.
If it lacked one attribute it wouldn’t be the most perfect being – I could conceive of another being with that attribute.
Existence is an attribute.
Therefore, God exists.
(An ontological argument.)

The argument is derived from the nature of a divine being.
Descartes an now go on to pour into this concept all the medieval presuppositions.
• God is perfect
• God wouldn’t deceive me
if I have a clear and distinct perception of something I can be sure it was true.


Lecture 9

7 September, 2006

All men respond to the one law order.
Distorted this truth – in all modern societies.
Moral Majority is based on a confusion with respect to political thinking.

Question: how do we respond to the law order? Opened by the Holy Spirit to respond, or set against God?

Moderns see freedom as ‘no law’.

Dooyeweerd near end of NCTT I – discusses the attempts to synthesise Christian faith with immanence philosophy before and after the Reformation.

Discussion again on ‘physical universe’

The course is spirally arranged – we come back to the same themes.
The first round of lectures is finished; we now turn to the second round. The lectures will become much more formalised.

The second stage: two parts, first shorter than the second. We will look at two philosophical movements in the western world in modern times

Don’t believe the rumour that I don’t teach anything but Dooyeweerd – rumour is 98.8% false!

Each of these movements have been extremely influential in our North American world.

1. Empiricism and John Locke (1632-1704)
2. The positivism of Augustus Comte

1. Empiricism and John Locke
An –ism is a word that suggest a theoretical absolutization.

Read through Relation of the Bible to Learning for background in the next two weeks.

Something is taking out of place where it is of relative importance to become all-important, it is a distortion of cosmic/ creational reality.

What about Calvinism? People who absolutise Calvin – the word of God has absolute authority not Calvin.

Truth does not mean in the Bible what it means in western philosophical tradition where it is an epistemological word. In the scriptures man’s knowing is not epistemological, nor is it ontological but it is ontic. Ontology is the theory – human thinking. Ontological is epistemological.

al = latin suffix, meaning related to; ic = Greek suffix meaning related to

Truth in the scripture is ontic – to do with what is, referring to that which is creational being.
The creation is law ordered – it has a surety that comes from God’s covenantal faithfulness.

Empiricism is an aberration word, a theoretical distortion. It is an attempt to ground surety in some aspect of the world.

[tape jumps]

…. absolutised the mathematical-physical side of creation – they identified the creation with it.

Don’t confuse empiricism with empirical – it is done in all the books – a viscious mistake!

Two adjectives: empirical and empiricistic. Empiria mean experience.
Empirical – relates to one’s experience; empiricistic come from empiricism and relates to a theory about experience.

Many people call Locke an empirical thinker, he wanted to find a basis in experience, better to describe him as empiricistic.

There are two channels of influence of empiricism: late Aristotle and Locke.

(i) Late Aristotle (384-322). His last few years (335-323) he headed a second philosophical school in Athens, the Lyceum. He abandoned the teachings of Plato. (He was a student of Plato from his 17th to his 37th year, he then went on to tutor Alexander the Great.)

(Hippocrates – pre-dated Aristotle and advocated a form of empiricism, but he regarded as the father of medicine rather than as a philosopher.)

Aristotle’s philosophy became influential in the thirteenth and late twelfth century. Students at the newly formed Paris University heard that people in southern Spain had had some of Aristotle’s manuscripts – they had previously thought to be lost.

It was then through Thomas of Aquinas that Aristotle’s teachings reached all of Europe and Latin America.

(ii) The second channel of empiricism was John Locke – his influence affected the Anglo-American world.