Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Fall 2018

The new semester will be starting soon.

I am taking three courses . . . and, this time, I want to write down more comments on my courses so that I can have the notes available. I am assuming each course will require a paper, so I am going to need to consider paper topics.

Philosophy of the Middle Ages

This course concerns philosophy from about 700 AD to about 1200 AD (I assume). Philosophy during this period was interesting. Europe was in its dark ages following the fall of the Roman empire. However, a bunch of Arabs got hold of some ancient Greek texts and began translating them into Arab and Persian. The Muslim religion at the time was extremely tolerant. Christians, Jews, and Muslims all formed a fairly stable society. This allowed for the creation of schools that took ancient Greek text and translated them into Arabic. This was a springboard for several hundred years of dedicated philosophical thinking and writing.

With the Crusades of the 1100s, many of these texts made it back to Europe, with a rebirth of European (Latin) philosophy. I think it is quite important to have an understanding of ways of thinking other than one's own. I am looking forward to an opportunity to better understand these people.

Epistemology of Testimony

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that I give you a description of philosophy during the Middle Ages. I describe it as a time when the Europeans were in a dark age as philosophy thrived in Arabic communities. Then, after a few hundred years, philosophy returned to Europe. To what degree are you justified in believing me? To what degree does reading and accepting the information I put on the page count as knowledge on your part? What are the standards for answering these questions? I think that I have a paper topic figured out for this class. I have seen an analogy used of a bucket brigade, where a bucket of water gets handed down the line from one person to another. The metaphor is that of a belief that gets handed from one person to another. The belief, with all of its justification gets handed from person to person.

However, there seems to be something missing from the discussion - at least from what I have read so far. In order to understand testimony I have to interpret it. In order to interpret it, I need to follow the norms of interpretation. One of those norms in the Principle of Charity which says that I am supposed to give that which I read and hear the best interpretation possible. The best interpretation possible is the interpretation that I have the most and strongest reason to accept as accurate. When that happens, what are the standards of knowledge for information that I, to at least some degree, helped to shape? Unlike a bucket which gets handed from person to person as it is, in the case of passing a belief, the recipient gets to decide what is being handed to him, and THEN answer the question of whether or not to accept it.

Political Philosophy

This course mostly concerns international politics. This will give me an opportunity to address a question that I have wondered about. Two questions, actually. One question is the question of secession and unification. History is filled with peoples coming together into larger nations and breaking apart into individual nations. The coming together often - but not always - happens under the threat of violence (empire building). So does the dividing up. One of my interests is in the principles of uniting or dividing nations.

This, however, is a part of another question I have. In international law, there is a great deal of legislating without representation. the United States passes laws that impact people in other countries. However, those people in those other countries do not get a vote. This seems to go against the very principle of democracy. We can make the case that when one group of people makes decisions that impact another without giving that other a say in the making of those laws, that this is a type of tyranny. The world over is governed by a type of tyranny. This hardly seems correct.


So, this is where my thoughts will be going this semester. I will keep you informed as to my progress.

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