Archive for November 2006

Lecture 14

21 November, 2006

The positivists emphasise law.
There are three stages: theological, metaphysical and scientific.

For Hegel, the bildgeist is logical thought, some universal mind expressing itself.
The process of history is the process of logical thought – the mind working itself out.

Comte, in the third stage, is wanting to get away from idealism.

Falsehood is only a partial truth.

In Comte at that stage of history – that was true, but not the best kind of truth. There is inevitable progress to the next stage, so what was once true, is no longer true.

In the first stage, the will and personal divine agent are the cause of occurrences/ events. This is the childhood stage of the human race.

In the second – the metaphysical stage – instead of a personal divine agent, an abstract principle causes events, eg Nature, a Rational Soul or some substance.

Anaxagoras was interested in explaining why something white (eg snow) could become black. He suggested that things possess qualities and have opposite qualities. Snow is seen as white because white is dominant. Once snow has lain ofr a while we then see it as black, because a lot of the white has gone, so black becomes dominant. Black was an occult (ie hidden) quality.

Moving from the first to the second stage Comte sees it as a great advance.

The theory of causality – a billiard ball hits another; the first stops and the second goes on more. In the first stage some power in the first is transferred to the second; we can never see this power.

Causality describes a theory.
Causation the actual process it explains.

In this first phase events in this world are explained by an agent in another world, out of the world in which the event happens to find the cause.

The great value of the second phase is the causes and effects are in the same world. The black in the snow is not in heaven, it’s in the snow. There are enough problems in this world we don’t need a second world.

These metaphysical thinkers distinguish a phenomenal world and a noumenal world.

Phenomenal – to show itself, or appear. The world that appears – appearances. (Phenomenon, singular; phenomena, plural.)

Noumenal – the world that relates to thought. From the Greek nous = mind. Noumena are things of thought.

Comte is saying, in this second stage, making world explain itself, have resorted to a hidden world of noumena.

Have you ever seen mind? Ever seen causation? Seen soul substance?

We have got to stick with the phenomena, stick with the facts, that’s what scientists do. We can’t resort to phenomena, stick with the observable facts.


Lecture 13

17 November, 2006

The medieval synthesis of Thomas Aquinas fell out into a number of rival schools. The rivalry of dogmatical schools, and a loss of faith in the medieval church, led people to begin to be sceptical of the whole order.

Descartes said we have got to have answers.

A new dogmatism arose – certain knowledge is imprinted in the mind. It is this idea that Locke is breaking, everything we know has to come from experience.

We can’t know anything about roses in general, until we see lots of different kinds of roses. All universals have to arise from particulars, which alone exist in the real world. Universals only exist in our concepts and language. That is nominalism – this term comes from the Latin nomen = a name. Universals are only names we give to things.

The heart is the whole man – body is the total external manifestation of all these distinct processes, they are not substances: physical; psychical; … each has its distinctiveness but all proceed from this inner man.

The body is the way I see you in the great variety of external manifestations.

Animals have psychical functions but not logical, so the Greeks hypostatised this difference and made it into a substance.

The body is a collection of various processes.

Mind has nothing to do with the body. There is a break from sense impressions (how do we pick up these sense impressions?) and idea.

Last time we looked at Comte and Positivism.

Comte was not the first to come forward with this idea of the three stages. There was Count St Simon and in 1750 Jacques Gurgot [1727-1781].

Comte is part of a rising movement in revolutionary France.

It begun with Descartes and Locke – it is the method of science, the goddess of modern times. Christianity was rejected and science took its place.

For them the Reformation was not the modern turning point – it was the rise of science.

The only equipment to deal with problems is rationality. Science is the method – that’s why the Royal society was founded. By the end of the seventeenth century men gave themselves to science with a religious commitment – science as man’s way to knowledge, a way to create utopia on earth.

The old social order came form God – he created priests and kings. Now man, wit science, can create a new order.

Revolution broke out everywhere – and not all as a result of the budgetary problems of the French government!

Augustus Comte (1798-1857)
Three successive stages of how e have explained ourselves:
(i) mythological/ theological/ religious – these are not identical religion = our created situation, we are subject to his law whether we acknowledge it or not.
(ii) Metaphysical
(iii) Scientific

It was an articulation of the idea of progress. In the medieval times the world was thought of as static.

The scientific stage – the final stage of evolution.
Method is the most important word in Positivism.

The way of intellect dealing with the world of experience. The methods of the so-called special sciences (physics, chemistry, ecnomics, linguistics, psychology etc). Comte called them the positive sciences – hence the term positivism.

What does he mean by a mythological/ theological stage?
This law is for him a universal law, necessary law, an irreversible law, true everywhere, governs the whole of development of human history, there is no escaping it. It is as necessary as ay laws of physics. Comte associated it with physics – he called it a law of social psychology.
The same causal determinism that characterised seventeenth century physics characterised his ideas.

Stage 1 develops into Stage 2 which develops into Stage 3. We can’t start at stage 3.

He means that man in their earliest, primitive, underdeveloped history explains the occurrences as the effects of the action of the gods. Gods are personal divine agents who resemble us in anger, jealousy etc. they are responsible fir the things we see around us.

This law is a law not only for mankind but also for each individual person. there is a parallel between what happens in the world and our own personal life. Mankind thinks in that way, but so do we as a child.

These are all stages of our own intellectual, rational life. At that time in history in that stage in my personal history.

We have advanced – move on to the second stage.

He is trying to explain the course of history – how we got to this enlightenment stage.

The metaphysical stage – this is the period form the Greeks to his own time (Hegel), the whole history of western philosophy.

Hegel died suddenly, he was a member of the Lutheran church. In 1871 he was the great philosopher of Europe. Comte corresponded with Hegel.

Hegel was a great man of the dialectic. He says take world history eg we have the geist (mind/ spirit) all part of the zeitgeist (world spirit). history is logic and logic is history, everything is spirit, not material.

Get civilization – Egyptian civilization – the the geist positing itself – the thesis.

[end of side 1 of tape 12]

Egyptian civilization – what characterises it? Pharaohs, priests, courts, the mass of servants.

The geist has not expressed himself fully

Anti-thesis: greek civilization. A civil state, everyone to vote, participate etc – the opposite of Egyptian civilisation.

Same bildgeist posited – both of these are him, bring together, synthesis

This then becomes a new thesis, which leads to a new antithesis, brought together into a synthesis – that is the process of history.

Comte corresponded with Hegel – some things sympathetic.

In Hegel no one has the full truth, but it is truth at that stage. There is no falsehood only a partial revelation of the truth. This Hegelian view dominates discussion of world religions. The World Council of Churches is educated in continental philosophy and in Hegel.

This is what Comte is saying in these three stages. There is nothing false about each stage but they discover that is now inadequate.

Mankind has now progressed to the next stage. Nevertheless, Christian churches and synagogues have failed to go along with the next stage they are reactionary.

[tape jumps]

Vision of the future is attached to the third stage.
How does a man who thinks that we can only know now through science how can he know that there is a final stage?

How can he know that it is of this kind?
How can a scientist know that? he is not a prophet.

Law of three stages. Where do laws come form, how can they relate to facts? How absolutely certain are universal laws? How certain of this law?

Claims to be a scientist and yet acting like a prophet!

There is a great danger of historicism – changing times become the authority.

Read chapters 3 and 4 of Dooyeweerd’s In the Twilight of Western Thought.

Comte is not an utterly consistent historicist.
We are in the ‘last days’ – a society governed by scientists and engineers.

Lecture 12

12 November, 2006

What is characteristic of empiricism? (This may not necessarily be true of this book [ECHU] of Locke’s – it’s not the most consistent and clear philosophical book.)

The pure stream of empiricism – Locke is not in every respect.

Empiricism is a process of coming to know is a two stage process.

In the first stage the mind is passive and purely receptive. The mind is a tabula rasa

What is in the mind is unlike that which is in the outside world. What is in the outside world comes to the mind through sensations.

Two types: sensation and reflection. reflection is examining the processes of the mind – sense data, this is the second stage.

Empiricism is an epistemological theory.

ECHU Introduction para 1 ‘Since it is the understanding that sets man above the rest of sensible beings, and gives him advantage and dominion, which he has over them…’

For Locke it is the understanding that sets man above the rest of the sensible beings.

The Introduction is thoroughly anti-Christian, and yet many Christians would read it and think nothing wrong!

There are many faculties that a man has that sets him apart.
The word of God – the heart – which gives him dominion.

In two distinct and successive stages

Physical bodies affect the senses.
This bombardment of the mind by sense expressions causes the mind to become active and to do certain things to these already received sense expressions.

The mind is aroused to activity of its own, to compare, contrast, combine these impressions received from outside.

Direction: from outside world into the mind.
All traffic is outside in.

Descartes – to show there are other epistemologies.
Six Meditations on First Philsophy 1641
Second meditation – about wax.
Large section of this read out:

Let us take, for example, this piece of wax: it has been taken quite freshly from the hive, and it has not ….

We don’t know the wax through the senses – this is a contrast between Descartes and Locke – understanding goes out through the senses – an intellectual perception.

Serious problem of a logical nature

[end of tape 11]