Tag Archives: Ethics

Ayer’s Function of Philosophy in Language, Truth, and Logic ( A Metaphilosophy #2)

2 Dec

I am writing a few things here on my free of obligations thursday so that I can get some posts in before I won’t be able to write anything for about a month (I think). This is simply because I have a ton of school things to do for the next 2 weeks and then I will have Christmas break and will have little time.  I will for sure come back to writing by the week of January 10.

I want to talk about an aspect of another section in A.J. Ayer’s Language Truth and Logic. The second section of the book is the Function of Philosophy. I find this interesting because metaphilosophy and finding out what the goal of philosophy is should be held dear by any philosopher. Again showing his rejection for metaphysics Ayer states that the function for philosophy is not to find insight on metaphysical things. Ayer says that the search for a first philosophy is not really the goal. First philosophy is the kind of philosophizing Descartes did in his meditations.

Ayer proclaims philosophy to be a critic. This is for one thing towards scientific propositions where philosophy is used to critique the sciences and make it better. Mostly, he states philosophy to be a critic in that it tells one whether their beliefs are  ‘self consistent’ or not, and that it shows the things we use to find the truth ( or lack thereof) in our propositions. This function of philosophy contributes to science and critiques things one scientifically proposes. Ayer seems to be defending against the idea that science cannot do without philosophy because of induction. He goes on to say that induction cannot be solved, and we should deal with it in science and philosophy is not really needed for this purpose.

Others in the logical positivist era and before it have maintained the idea that science can do without philosophy and simply that philosophy assists philosophy by critiquing it and making it the best it possibly can be. In the beginning of logical positivism, the Vienna Circle (influenced by Mach and Wittgenstein, and including Carnap, Hempel, Schlick and others) wrote the Scientific Conception of the World. “The goal ahead is a unified science. the endeavor is to link and harmonize  the achievements of individual investigators in their various fields of science. From this aim follows the emphasis on collective efforts, and also the emphasis on what can be grasped intersubjectively; from this springs the search for a neutral system of formulae, for a symbolism freed from the slag of historical languages; and also the search for a total system of concepts.” This I quoted from the Scientific Conception of the World. The aim these scientists show to have is to give philosophy a goal to contribute in this unified science with physics, chemistry and all other sciences contributing in any specific theory. Philosophy just seems here to be one of many parts of a collective effort. Philosophy plays a huge part in this collective effort in that its theories can contribute to any kind of discipline or science. Did I mention the members of the Vienna Circle rejected metaphysics too? Its what all the positivists were doing. If your friends jumped off a bridge would you do it too? I am simply joking because of how many people in the logical positivist era who advocated a verification, an a priori epistemology, and the rejection and elimination of all metaphysics and its pseudo-statements. I can understand why they feel the need to remove metaphysics from philosophy because science does some of metaphysics’ roles in the most logical way possible (I am kind of being facetious). A unified science achieved by collective efforts among many sciences and disciplines is one goal philosophy has. This should not involve the rejection of metaphysics however.

Putting science aside, I feel philosophy is not simply an additive profession used to critique and assist scientific experimentation and exploration. In mostly non-metaphysical aspects of philosophy, there are roles in philosophy made specifically for the critique and use in science, but an underlying goal or purpose exists under all specialized goals and roles the specific kinds of philosophy has (such as I feel the Vienna Circle refers to the philosophy of science and not really to the rest of philosophy as they may have thought). The huge purpose philosophy seems to me to have is the role in doing what science and experimentation cannot.  Science cannot prove the existence of noumenal beings or transcendent realities but philosophy actually has a chance at doing just that. If one uses the intersection of metaphysics and epistemology along with some ethics (and of course logic as the foundation of understandings) to postulate upon our empirical and un-empirical observations, things can be discovered that science cannot measure up to. This is why I think the unified science by the collective efforts of all disciplines including philosophy is the best combination because science being paired with philosophy can yield great results. Philosophical propositions can be experimented sometimes scientifically and proved out.

I totally advocate the unified science proposed by the Vienna Circle, but instead of eliminating half of the entire body of philosophy, it should be revitalized and used toward science’s benefit. Metaphysics can be beneficial to scientists as can some religion.  Philosophy should be used whenever possible in all disciplines of science.

I have interest in metaphilosophy to help philosophers define and redefine the purpose being driven toward. I want to keep addressing themes in metaphilosophy here every once in awhile to keep thoughts on track. Each philosopher regardless of situation has his or her own course of action to take to complete a philosophical project or work. I have my own so I feel it necessary to keep metaphilosophically addressing philosophy right now, and the philosophy I currently pursue.

What function or goal do you think philosophy should have?

Let me know your answer if you would like to (on Twitter, commenting below, or by email).

I appreciate the support as always.


Aristotle’s Good in the Nicomachean Ethics

30 Nov

What do you think the good is? There have been infinite conceptions about what this is, but Aristotle’s definition fits them all and does well to replace them.

The good to ancient Greek philosophers is something argued over countless times. Plato did it as did Aristotle. In Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, specifically in Book 1 of it, he sets aside other common and popular definitions of the good and comes up with what I think is a better answer than the rest. Aristotle discusses action, and comes to a conclusion as to what the good is through it. Action being existent because a need is there ends when a purpose is achieved, and the end of this action is what Aristotle claims to be the good. This argument is interesting and groundbreaking because setting and achieving a goal in life is an exact example of Aristotle’s good.

Before going into Aristotle’s actual opinion of what the good is, he turns to common misconceptions and sets those aside as he does in most of his work. First, he states that people who live lives of gratification view the good as ‘happiness as pleasure.’ He takes a dim view of this stance by calling this definition of the good ‘slavish’ in the sense that those who take that view are slaves to the goal ‘happiness in pleasure.’ He also explains the view of the politician (the cultivated people) who strives to be the best politicians. Aristotle states that good to politicians is honor. This is wrong also, but this takes him to his view of the good because of how honor is the end politicians try to achieve. Taking into consideration these other views of the good, he starts again in understanding what the good is.

As Aristotle has stated that things have telos in much of his philosophy, it plays into what the good is for him. The word telos is not specifically used but his examples saying the end to medicine is health, the skill of house building a house being produced, and general-ship one or more victories show his referral to telos when understanding the good.  “And so, if there is some end of everything that is pursued in action, this will be the good pursued in action…” Aristotle’s definition of good is the end of action. If an action is undertaken, that action tries to achieve the action’s purpose. The good, then, is the achievement of the purpose of the action. Medicine is given to a sick person (being an action), and the good would be the medicine fulfilling its purpose (the person going from sickness to health). The good being defined as the end to any

purposeful action is a definition that can easily be seen in any action.

I find Aristotle’s understanding of the good to be better (in my opinion) than any definition Plato gave. This is important to know because this definition is evident in any action. For example, people eat to not be hungry, people go to school to become smarter, or any other example would fit Aristotle’s definition. Because of the versatility of Aristotle’s understanding of the good, his argument is valid and strong. When reading Plato, one might encounter disputes about the good because it may differ between people, along with other disputes, but Aristotle’s understanding of it makes all of those disputes no longer disputes at all because it solves the whole argument.

Reading most Plato, I think one gets more confused as to what the good is, but in Aristotle those difficulties are cleared with one simple statement. My understanding of the good is all based on Aristotle’s argument in the Nicomachean Ethics. This is mostly because each possible part of the good (including virtue, justice, honor and other qualities) all fit the pattern where an end to a purposeful action is the real definition of the good.

Can you now see how this can be applied to any understanding of the good whether it be pleasure, personal happiness, morality, or anything else?

The end to sex is pleasure, the end to theatre plays is happiness of a sort, the end of construction is a house………………………….. I could go on exemplifying conceptions of the good and make them conform to Aristotle’s definition.

Thanks again for the support.