One of the important topics for Philosophy is cause and effect. For instance, if we heat water to 100 degrees Celsius, this will cause the water to boil. Philosopher Immanuel Kant pointed out the mind plays a trick here. As a middle “something” between the mind and the boiling water, we experience the cause and effect as different kinds of “irreversible.” For example, cause and effect is the (i) leastirreversible when a ball hits another ball, (ii) moreirreversible when there is a temporary change of form when water boils (the steam going back to liquid when the heat is removed), and (iii) permanentlyirreversible in cases like cooking an egg, because the egg can’t be uncooked.
So, since we don’t see irreversibility, just this, then this, then this, the mind is doing something to create the experience of cause and effect! It’s not just the mind being creative, since it depends on the object (only the cooked egg in the three example is permanently irreversible), so cause and effect is not purely mind nor purely object, but in the middle.
Note: Cause and effect works differently in humans, because while heat always causes water to boil, a difficult childhood may or may not cause problems when the child grows up. Nietzsche famously said “From the military school of life: That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”
We know philosophers quest for truth, but what is truth? There are many different ways for something to be true. Here are the most popular
Genuine or true gold, instead of false gold (2) Correct The agreement of the judgement with the thing. Eg the table is brown or 2+3 =5 (3) Certain From Thomas to Luther and finally Descartes, truth as correctness slowly changed from correct to certain, because the most important truth had to be certain in the sense of free from doubt, in particular having no doubt about the salvation of the soul. Certainty is seen as the highest form of truth to this day.
(4) Un-cover from hiddenness (“a-letheia” or truth in ancient Greek)
When I tear a sock, unity is no longer hidden but made obvious in the tearing, precisely as a lost unity. Philosopher Hegel, in his inaugural address, Heidelberg, 1816, says “The Being of the universe, at first hidden and concealed, has no power which can offer resistance to the search for knowledge; it has to lay itself open before the seeker — to set before his eyes and give for his enjoyment, its riches and its depths.” Philosopher Heidegger says “Both scientific and prescientific comportments are a knowing in the sense of uncovering what is previously concealed, of revealing what was previously covered up, of disclosing what so far was closed off.” Eg, the first time a child has 2+2 = 4 modeled for them with blocks. (5) Exemplary True Friend, instead of an average friend or a fake friend. Or a mansion (Now that’s a house), instead of an average house or a broken down shack. It refers to the different ways “hosueness” shines through the house (6) Truths The great truths of what it means to be human
QUESTION: If these are all related, since they are all truths, can you define truth? What is truth?
The philosopher Immanuel Kant said we have a part of our mind, REASON, that deals with rules. For example, to fully and properly encounter/experience a triangle, my mind needs to be able to apply a rule to the thing I see or think to experience it as a triangle. So, if I can apply the rule that the shape I am considering is a enclosed figure with 3 straight side whose angles are either equilateral, right, scalene, or isosceles, then I can properly encounter the entity as the triangle it is. Having this definition or rule before my mind’s eye allows me to see this “something” as an equilateral triangle. Similarly, the rule of either beautiful mansion, average house, or tiny shack sketches out the possible ways house-ness can appear or present itself to us. Of course the cottage can be beautiful and quaint too!
Math was very important to Plato and he had a sign at his school that students needed to be good at math to enter. This didn’t mean to study philosophy you had to be good at geometry and multiplication, but rather students needed to understand what made something learnable, mathematics like geometry being a great example of the learnable. We mean “learnable” in speaking of math when we use the word “polymath:”a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning.
For example, you may have come to Plato to learn what justice is, the definition/rule that allows us to experience behaviors as just/unjust. Coming up with such a definition/rule, we do not invent something new, but try to un-cover what justice is and always was. Similarly, when our sense of justice is offended, such as when we see the traditional definition of marriage trampling on LGBTQ+ rights, we redefine marriage to reflect what Justice is and always was. Plato said thinking is re-collection, so repeated failed attempts at defining justice are attempts to get closer and closer to what Justice is and always was. Similarly, defining “triangle” doesn’t mean being a creative artist and creating a definition out of nothing, but being a miner trying to unearth the essence or rule or definition of “triangleness.”
Can you come up with a rule for what dog-ness is that would make possible encountering something as a dog?
What is Metaphysics? Oxford Languages defines it this way:
The branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space. (eg., “They would regard the question of the initial conditions for the universe as belonging to the realm of metaphysics or religion”)
This definition and those like it are both common and incorrect. The initial conditions of the universe would be physics, not metaphysics, which as the word suggests is what makes physics possible: The famous philosopher Immanuel Kant thought about metaphysics in this way, and for instance did a metaphysics of morals, asking what made moral experiences and judgments possible, which means what must the mind’s eye always already have in view that makes moral experiences and judgements possible?
The philosopher Leibniz said the basic question of metaphysics is “Why is there something rather than nothing?” If we look at the words of this question, we see that it is saying “TO BE means to have a Why.” This is the basic starting point of metaphysical questioning. But what does it mean for an entity to have a why?
So, how does it work? The philosopher Martin Heidegger gives this example:
we could not have the experience of beings that we do unless we had in view such things as variation/equality by the mind’s eye in order to encounter various things; a view of sameness/contrariety to encounter ourselves as self-same in each case; a view of symmetry and harmoniousness allow us to arrange and construct things; etc.
But, more basically, what does it mean to say “TO BE means to have a WHY?” This comes from Plato’s Sophist where Plato criticizes Antisthenes and says the idea of a non-metaphysical philosophy is “the most laughable (kategolastotata)” because we could not even encounter an entity unless we did so with the mind’s eye having Being in front of it: experiencing the entity in the light of Being. What does this mean. Plato gives the example in the Sophist that the dog is not just a “this here,” but is already being made intelligible by an understanding of Einai, Being, choris, separate from, ton allown, the others, and kath auto, in itself.I encounter the dog as a “not me,” for example, and “a unity,” and “not the house,” etc.
So, can you do a metaphysics of Friendship, asking what makes the experience of Friendship possible?
(1) Do you pick the American 100 dollar bill, or the Canadian 100 dollar bill?
(2) Can you spot the key difference between the American National Anthem and the Canadian National Anthem?
(A) The Star Spangled Banner Lyrics by Francis Scott Key (1814)
Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
(B) Official lyrics of “O Canada”
O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all of us command.*
With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North, strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
(Activity) Design your own secular hundred dollar bill or write your own secular national anthem