The Common Mistakes of Philosophy
The book describes the most common mistakes made by the modern philosophy when trying to break from classical realism. In this case, the author, is seen to be one of the best-spoken philosophers of the 20th century. He is good at illustrating why things exist the way they do. He is easily understood as his ideas are simple and he recognized the great importance of the correct philosophical ideas in today’s life. He tries to put a complex idea into a simple state that anyone who is not philosophical can easily understand. As such, many people, including those that have always considered philosophy a difficult and challenging subject can easily understand how easy the subject is. However, this does not put his work at par with the simplicity of Dr. Seuss. He also tries to illustrate his ideas with examples that are simple, precise, and readily available. In this case, he differentiates himself from other philosophers who believe that philosophy is not meant for the average person. Many philosophers believe that one must spend a lot of time trying to comprehend the ideas they portray for them to be considered masters of the subject.
The key problem with the book is that most of the errors made by philosophers in the modern era are technical and are in the epistemology and metaphysical parts. The reason why this is important is that the little errors compound into big mistakes in the ethical thoughts. In this case, many people may end up thinking that all philosophical ideologies are flawed. Moreover, some may be unable to handle things morally, which be a disaster to human life. Therefore, it is important to understand these mistakes with their correct opinions. In this case, a critical analysis of mistakes in philosophy is presented to illustrate how they contradict with modern science in describing various aspects of life such as human existence and consciousness.
According to Adler, the most serious mistakes in philosophy are not large, conclusions, or obvious errors, but are little errors done from the beginning and have compounded to major flaws today. In this case, the error is noted to be the failure to state the key assumption that relates to the difficulties in philosophy. The author clearly states that a more convincing title for the book would have been “Ten Subjects about Which Philosophical Mistakes Are Made” (Adler 3). Philosophers have aimed at answering a whole range of questions related to life and its overall meaning. In this case, there are issues that have been approached with utmost importance, and some have been subordinate. Through this, several mistakes have been discovered that tend to contradict the true meaning of life and its existence. For example, one thing philosophers have tried to do is to give one general description of the universe by mentioning the most important type of things that are known to be inside it. However, they have disregarded some of these issues, which make it challenging for some individuals to understand the philosophic explanation.
The first mistake to be discussed is seen as the most puzzling to readers as most people are prone to making it. This is illustrated in the first chapter of the book in which different people tend to suppose that they are fully aware of the contents of their minds. In most cases, however, human beings are seen to be subconscious of the events around them. For example, they are aware of their minds when they experience aches, pleasures, pains, and bodily strains. However, these feelings are often different from what they perceive and different from their dreams, imaginations, thoughts, concepts, and perceptions. Human beings use their ideas to place objects and events before their minds. In this case, they become aware of the ideas object other than the idea itself (Idler 4). However, an idea is just the means through which one apprehends the objects that can be placed before their minds. Consequently, many individuals have challenges comprehending most of the issues around them.
The second mistake adds onto the first mistake and can be described as the failure to differentiate between conceptual and perceptual thought. This refers to the capability to perceive the sensible the sensible things that one encounters in the daily life versus thinking or imagining of things that cannot be imagined. This has serious consequences in different applications in life. For example, it can be difficult to understand theology, physics, mathematics, and philosophy. The third mistake the author illustrates is the group of errors that are made in a philosophy of language. This is seen in the attempt to explain the meaning of different words. The overall origin of these mistakes is a failure of human beings to comprehend that ideas are meanings. Ideas are the only way through which symbols, words, and signs can acquire true meanings.
The fourth mistake is seen in the attempt to differentiate opinion from knowledge. It tries to draw a line between philosophy and science by putting history, science, and mathematics in one line. This result to denying the truth of the fact that philosophy can provide knowledge of reality and truth that is more important than that derived from science. Further, the fifth mistake of philosophy differentiates between opinion and true knowledge. It tries to illustrate what is right, wrong, good, evil, and judgments on what is supposed to be done. However, there are no valid and universally defined norms and moral standards. Thus, the perception undermines the entire doctrine of human rights (Idler 5).
The sixth mistake concentrates on the identification of the true happiness by human beings. It is perceived as the psychological state of contentment that is experienced through getting everything one desire. In this case, people tend to ignore the true meaning of happiness, which is known to be the moral quality of life. This error is related to two of the first errors and concentrates on how modern people have ignored the true meaning of happiness. It is the error to distinguish between wants and needs and the difference between goods and real. The seventh mistake as discussed by Adler differs from all other mistakes. It occurs on the perception of man’s freedom of choice and those who deny it on the principle of science. It shows a difference between philosophy and science in how they differ in dictating human existence. The theories applied by science differ significantly with those used by philosophers. Therefore, it has become difficult to decide on the correct approach during the modern era. In this case, the biggest failure is witnessed in understanding that is accompanied by mistake in viewing the relation between a moral responsibility and free choice.
The eighth mistake is found on the widely prevalent denial of human nature. It asserts that nothing common to humanity underlies the differences in behaviors and characteristics found within the human race. Further, the ninth mistake is associated with describing the different forms of human association. These include the civil societies, tribes, family, or village. The failure to understand that basic forms of human beings are natural has led to two unnecessary theories and myths, including the myth of primitive state and the myth of social contract. The myth of primitive states that individuals once lied in isolation from one another while the myth of social contract shows how they evolved from the primitive state to become a civil society (Idler 6). Trying to comprehend the two theories can lead to contradiction and confusion for most people. Moreover, the two are divergent, and there is no clear explanation on what exactly happened at the time. The tenth mistake is Metaphysical and shows how people assign a great reality to parts of a whole that to the whole itself. Further, it shows how only the parts have a true reality while the wholes are only appearances.
CONSCIOUSNESS AND ITS OBJECTS
Consciousness has been defined as the state of being aware of one’s surroundings or the state of being awake. It is the awareness of perception by human beings through the mind itself of itself and the world. It is an activity that emerges from the brain. According to Adler, when one is unconscious, it means that they cannot know what is happening around them or in their bodies. He illustrates that one is aware of nothing as the minds are blank and empty, which is then equivalent to saying that one is not perceiving, imagining, thinking, or remembering anything. These are seen to be the acts of the brain, and when none of them is occurring, then the mind is empty and blank. Through this, it is correct to say that one has no thoughts, images, memories, perceptions, and feelings. This leads to the question that states what one is filled with when not conscious. This brings difficulty in understanding human nature and existence. It is a question that seeks to know what consciousness consists of. One answer to this describes the contents as ideas and thinking as the contents of a conscious mind. However, understanding the concept of consciousness is much complicated philosophically than that.
THE INTELLECT AND THE SENSES
This mistake is esoteric, as it tends to illustrate the difference between common sense and reason. The two illustrate that there is a difference between thoughts and senses. However, they are not the same thing as one is based on the other. The failure by philosophers to comprehend the two has resulted in the disparity in understanding. The main reason why it is the problem is that it starts to degrade the true nature and meaning of language. This also becomes the foundation for the arguments that tend to define human beings by showing that they are not superior to animals. Moreover, even animals utilize the concepts of common sense and reason in their endeavors. In direct opposition to this theory, it is seen that the mind is illustrated as two distinct classes of faculties. Other than sensibility, it also possesses the power of spiritual activity and rationale. In this case, the term intellect is used to denote a cognitive faculty of the higher order. Further, the term rational is applied to signify the overall aggregate of spiritual powers that are owned by the man. This can be used to mean an intellectual power of understanding that is involved in the process of reasoning.
WORDS AND MEANING
In this mistake, some philosophers tend to argue that words are useless in communicating ideas. Others are under the impression that words can only be used to illustrate real things. In this aspect, they argued that if one cannot touch or see it, then it is not a real thing. Non-tangible things were known to be unimportant aspects of life. A misunderstanding occurs when the meaning of words differ across the philosophers. This caused a contradiction in describing events, things, and perspectives. Most of the philosophers differ from scientists in illustrating the true meaning of life. Considering that science has provided evidence for many occurrences today, many people are confused about the role of philosophy in understanding many concepts in the world.
KNOWLEDGE AND OPINION
Knowledge is knowing and believing something, it can be achieved from others or from seeking it through books. Adler argues that one knows something when he/she believes it to be true. However, without reason and truth knowledge is just one’s opinion. In the application of the term knowledge, one can comprehend things that have evidence and reason. It is not true whether one knows it in the same way and same absolute certainty of arithmetic. To understand a concept or an idea, there must be illustrations, examples, or evidence to back it up. David Hume, for example, in his philosophy illustrates that one cannot know anything beyond math; thus, one cannot possess any justified opinions (Idler 6).
All ideas are unfounded and can only be correct with justification and the right opinions. Adler tries to show how Immanuel Kant fails to show the true meaning of knowledge. Kant lacks a clear understanding of how human beings understand things. He states that “How anyone in the twentieth century can take Kant’s transcendental philosophy seriously is baffling, even though it may always remain admirable in certain respects as an extraordinarily elaborate and ingenious intellectual invention” (Adler 12). Kant seems to know less about knowledge, which leads to the destruction of the value of a scientific falsifiability and a reasoned argument.
In this case, most philosophers fail to make a distinction between wants and needs. They tend to refer to the former as the later and have failed to illustrate the ones that are more important to human beings. Skeptics from earlier years make mistakes through believing that one can make a meaningful statement about ethics. Many definitions of ethics have been illustrated through the works of philosophers. This is also shown in the lack of ethics within multiculturalism, sociology departments, and oppression of women. There is also a lack of ethics as indicated within the governments. In most cases, moral values are seen to be the standards of evil and good. They govern the behavior of an individual and their choices. Individual’s morals are mostly derived from religion, self, society, or the government. When the morals are derived from government or society, they may change as morals and laws of the society change too. A good example resulting from the impact of changing laws on the speculated moral values can be illustrated in the case of marriages on living together.
The origin of humanity is believed to have been destined to dominate the earth that was originally the center of the universe. Human existence was an issue of discussion by several philosophers who speculated that humans were above all other creatures. However, today a lot of evidence is clear that these anthropocentric views of the whole universe are a mistake. Kant, for example, concentrates his work in explaining the human existence and the definition of a human being. However, Adler has not been familiar with the term multiculturalism as his book was written in the early 80s. He concentrated on proving the mistakes of this approach. In this case, human beings are perceived to be human beings where their nature does not change concerning time, race, culture, or their upbringing. In this case, rights are perceived to be inalienable for every person and do not vary according to groups. He also rejects the idea of other philosophers in raising animals to the value of human beings.
FREEDOM OF CHOICE
Freedom of choice is expressed as ones right to determine their actions and decisions. It can also be referred to as free will, which is a philosophical discussion of whether the intuition explaining if humans have any freedom of choice has any criteria in reality or it is just an illusion. For most of the philosophers, one has free will and any other person who says otherwise such as scientists and determinists. These people are observed to claim that there is only the physical world and have no ground for a reason of their beliefs. Even though one’s will is free, it is usually informed by an outside world, nurture, and nature. Many discussions have tried to illustrate how human beings have become victims of their minds without a free will of their own. Though this, people are easily lured into believing in different ideas other than those they initially had. This illustrates the true nature in freedom of choice and questions whether it exists.
In this section, Adler critics the works of Hobbes and Locke in their arguments about the overall state of nature, which he believes are wrong. In his arguments, he states that the philosophers made a mistake in treating the state of nature as a historical reality and not an experiment. He further argues that the government and society have changed and grown over time as human beings are observed to be naturally social creatures. Human beings can interact freely and exchange ideas while helping each other. They live in societies that are governed by a central body that outline laws to be followed. Adler further attacks anarchists who believe that human beings cannot be molded into a being that does not need the society. The current scientific knowledge is successful in giving high materialistic comforts. However, it has not been able to resolve the problems that are seen within the society. The whole universe is striving to make one’s position and place comfortable and secure. However, everybody views the society as a dangerous and uncomfortable place and never acquire comfort at any developmental stage. Many people do not understand what the real problems of life are, as they concentrate on making their lives better.
The last chapter of the book indicates how life has a meaning and a purpose. However, different philosophers attach a different meaning to why human beings exist, which contradicts with science. Concerning science, human beings evolved from a primitive nature. There are various reasons attached to philosophy as to why human beings exist. However, the reasons contradict in different aspects depending on the philosopher’s approach. The situation human beings are in today is completely different from what it originally was. Human beings have struggled to make existence easier. Through this, they have learned the application of science to innovate and create better things. They believe they exist for a particular purpose and work tirelessly to achieve their set goals and objectives. However, philosophers differ in explaining the true reason for existence.
MODERN MORAL PHILOSOPHY BY ANSCOMBE, G. ELIZABETH
The article by Anscombe highlights three of the author’s perspective of moral philosophy within the society. She postulates that it is non-profitable for the contemporary society to learn moral philosophy. In her argument, she puts across that the current phenomenon can be described by the inadequacy in the knowledge and skills of the philosophy of psychology. As such, it is useless to learn the philosophy of morals in the society today. Besides, Anscombe reviews that the concept of obligation and duty is responsible for the survival nature of the human society although it was generated from the initial code of ethics. However, the outcome of the capability to determine what is right or wrong is built on one’s attempts to survive, which if it fails it gets more harmful to self. The author also gives and an account of how the difference between the highly famous English writers of the philosophy of morals topics from Sidwick are of negligible values. As such, the author reviews the application of the moral philosophy in the society today (Anscombe 3).
Anscombe’s article illustrates the difference in virtue ethics that are valued in varied timelines, the past, and the present. Therefore, there is the need to evaluate the practical implications of the moral, philosophical techniques used by modern writers to illustrate the actual situation in the society. Therefore, the assumptions made by Anscombe in her article “Modern Moral Philosophy” can be summarized into the unprofitability nature of modern philosophy, the fact that concepts such as moral; duty are not valid grounds for making decisions in the society as they are built on bias through assuming a general background. The article also illustrates the similarities between many philosophy writers especially in the contemporary society (Anscombe 1).
In the article, the author gives a critique of Butler’s conscience exaltation theory by reviewing that, when it comes to morals, consciousness gives humans the capability of choosing the right from wrong. As such, it is not correct to pardon immoral people in the society because of their crocked conscience (4). She claims that the foundation of morality is based on the psychological understanding of the human nature, which is not taken care of by the contemporary writers of moral philosophy. Anscombe also disputes Kant’s moral, philosophical theory of ‘legislating for oneself.’ In the article, the author claims that his postulate was based on the relationship between and intuition that has been applied to a situation that is similar to another. As such, she disputed Kant’s postulate on account that he does not relate the accurate situation on the ground. She accuses Kant of making inferences without sufficient information regarding the logic behind the choice of right or wrong. As such, she regards most of the works by modern moral philosophers as a merely vague generality (Anscombe 6).
In the argument used by Anscombe, wrong is defined as morally wrong in the society. This describes how human beings should exist, which relates to the work of Adler (15). This brings out a divine theory of law within the society that concerns ethics. In this case, it is possible to differentiate what is just and unjust when referring to human activities. Therefore, laws forbid the unjust by dictating that human beings should not do bad things to good people. It is purely psychological for human beings to follow set out laws and regulations. They are morally obliged to obey the divine laws (15). However, this context is only seen to operate in the context of a particular law. A philosopher may claim that since justice is a virtue and injustice a vice, virtues, and vices can then be said to be built up by performances of an action where they are instanced. In this case, an act of injustice tends to define the character of a man. A man is therefore defined by his virtues, which leaves a big gap as to how to define human nature, human action and what virtue is.
The errors in philosophy occur because of contradicting theories between the philosophers. In this case, Adler tries to analyze the mistakes that occur that tend to give different meanings to theories. Each philosopher applied his /her theory to try and explain the issues affecting human beings and the society. However, through this, they raised issues that could not be agreed upon such as the definition of happiness, difference between wants and needs, human nature, and human existence. More differences are seen in defining moral rights and ethics. This is seen in trying to illustrate virtues and vices and how to define if a person is morally upright. In this case, human beings can interact freely and exchange ideas while helping each other. They live in societies that are governed by a central body that outline laws to be followed. Several philosophers who speculated that humans are above all other creatures present human existence.
Adler, Mortimer J. Ten philosophical mistakes. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1997. Print.
Anscombe, G. Elizabeth M. “Modern moral philosophy.” Philosophy 33.124 (1958): 1-19. Print.