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Glossary of General Philosophical Terms



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This Glossary briefly defines the most important technical terms used in The Tree of Philosophy. Where relevant, opposite terms are given in parentheses at the end of the definition. Words defined herein (including slight variations) appear in italics the first time they are used in the definition of some other word in either section of this Glossary. An asterisk (*) is appended to any italicized word that is defined in the other section. The first section defines terms used mainly by Kant. The second section defines other technical terms as they are used in this text, usually naming the philosopher(s) who used them in the specified way(s).


I. Kant's Technical Terms

a posteriori: a way of gaining knowledge by appealing to some particular experience(s). Kant used this method to establish empirical and hypothetical truths*. (Cf. a priori.)

a priori: a way of gaining knowledge without appealing to any particular experience(s). Kant used this method to establish transcendental and logical truths*. (Cf. a posteriori.)

aesthetic: having to do with sense-perception. In Kant's first Critique this word refers to space and time as the necessary conditions for sense-perception. The first half of his third Critique examines the subjective purposiveness in our perception of beautiful or sublime objects in order to construct a system of aesthetic judgment. For example, he defined beauty* in terms of four basic principles: subjective universality, disinterested delight, purposiveness without a purpose, and necessary delight.(Cf. teleological.)

analysis: division of a representation into two opposing representations, with a view toward clarifying the original representation. Philosophy* as metaphysics employs analysis more than synthesis. (Cf. synthesis.) 

analytic: a statement or an item of knowledge that is true solely because of its conformity to some logical laws. "All bachelors are unmarried" is a typical analytic proposition*. (Cf. synthetic.)

anarchy: a politicalsystem having "no ruling power" ("an" and "arche" in Greek) and serving as the basis for many versions of utopian visions.

appearance: an object of experience, when viewed from the transcendental perspective. Though often used as a synonym for phenomenon, it technically refers to an object considered to be conditioned by space and time, but not by the categories. See also appearance*. (Cf. thing in itself.)

architectonic: the logical structure given by reason (especially through the use of twofold and threefold divisions), which the philosopher should use as a plan to organize the contents of any system.

autonomy: the principle of self-legislation, whereby the subject freely chooses his or her own ends by imposing the moral law onto the will. An action must be autonomous in order to be moral. (Cf. heteronomy.)

belief: holding something to be true on the basis of subjective certainty, even though objective certainty is lacking. See also faith. (Cf. knowledge.)

categorical imperative: a command expressing a general, unavoid­able requirement of the moral law. Its three formulations convey the requirements of universalizability, respect and autonomy. Together they establish that an action is properly called "morally good*" only if (1) we can will all persons to do it, (2) it enables us to treat other persons as ends and not merely as the means to our own selfish ends, and (3) it allows us to see other persons as mutual law-makers in an ideal "kingdom of ends".

categories: the most general concepts, in terms of which every object must be viewed in order for it to become an object of empirical knowledge. The four main categories (quantity, quality, relation, and modality) each have three sub-categories, forming a typical example of a twelvefold, architectonic pattern. (Cf. space and time.)

concept: the active species of representation, by means of which our under­standing enables us to think. By requiring perceptions to conform to the categories, concepts serve as "rules" allowing us to perceive general relations be­tween representations. (Cf. intuition.)

conscience: the faculty of the human subject that enforces the moral law in a particular way for each individual by providing an awareness of what is right and wrong in each situation.

Copernican revolution: in astronomy, the theory that the earth revolves around the sun; in philosophy*, the (analogous) theory that the subject of knowledge does not re­main at rest, but revolves around (i.e., actively deter­mines certain aspects of) the object. Thus, the formal characteristics of the empirical world (i.e., space and time and the categories) are there only because the subject's mind puts them there, transcendentally.

Critical: Kant's philosophical* method, distinguishing between different perspectives and then using such distinctions to settle otherwise irresolvable disputes. The Critical approach is not primarily negative, but is an attempt to adjudicate quarrels by showing how both sides have a measure of validity, once their perspective is properly understood. Kant's system of Critical philosophy examines the structure and limitations of reason itself, in order to prepare a secure foundation for metaphysics. .

Critique: to use the Critical approach to doing philosophy*. This term appears in the titles of the three main books in Kant's Critical philosophy, which adopt the theoretical, practical and judicial standpoints, respectively.

disposition: the tendency a person has in any given situation to act either good* or bad (i.e., to obey the moral law or to disobey it). (Cf. predisposition.)

duty: an action that we are obligated to perform out of respect for the moral law.

empirical: one of Kant's four main perspectives, aiming to establish a kind of knowledge that is both synthetic and a posteriori. Most of the knowledge we gain through ordinary experience, or through science*, is empirical. "This table is brown" is a typical empirical statement. (Cf. transcendental).

experience: the combination of an intuition with a concept in the form of a judgment. "Experience" in this (mediate) sense is a synonym for "empirical knowledge". The phrase "possible experience" refers to a representation that is presented to our sensibility through intuition, but is not yet known, because it has not been presented to our understanding through concepts. "Experience" in this (immediate) sense contrasts with "knowledge".

faculty: a fundamental power of human subjects to do something or perform some rational function.

faith: in the first Critique, a synonym of belief. Kant encouraged a more humble ap­proach to philosophy* by claiming to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith-i.e., by distinguishing between what we can know empirically and what is transcendent, which we can approach only by means of faith. "Practical faith" refers to the conviction that God will reward those who adopt a good* disposition. "Rational faith" is Kant's term for pure (moral) religion, in contrast to "historical faith", which refers to the extra-rational tradition that attempts to explain what we cannot understand by reason alone.

formal: the active or subjective aspect of something-that is, the aspect that is based on the rational activity of the subject. (Cf. material.)

heteronomy: the principle of letting something other than the moral law determine what ought to be done. This replaces freedom with something outside of practical reason, such as a person's inclinations. Such actions on their own are nonmoral-i.e., neither moral nor immoral-but can be immoral if they prevent a person from doing their duty. (Cf. autonomy.)

hypothetical: one of Kant's four main perspectives, aiming to establish knowledge that is both analytic and a posteriori-though Kant himself wrongly identified it as synthetic and a priori. Most metaphysical ideas are properly viewed from this perspec­tive, instead of from the speculative perspective of traditional metaphysics. (Cf. logical).

ideas: the species of representation that gives rise to metaphysical beliefs. Ideas are special concepts that arise out of our knowledge of the empirical world, yet seem to point beyond nature to some transcendent realm. The three most important metaphysical ideas are God, freedom and immortality.

ideology: an idea or system* of ideas that is treated as a myth to live by and often forced onto others who may not otherwise accept it as true.

imagination: the faculty which, when controlled by the understanding, makes concepts out of intuitions and synthesizes intuitions with concepts to produce objects that are ready to be judged. In aesthetic judgment, by contrast, imagination takes control over the power of thinking. See also imagination*.

inclination: the faculty or object that motivates a person to act in a heteronomous way. Following inclinations is neither morally good* nor morally bad, except when doing so directly prevents a person from acting ac­cording to duty-i.e., only when choosing to obey an inclination results in  disobedience to the moral law.

intuition: the passive species of representation, by means of which our sen­sibility enables to have sensations. By requiring appearances to be given in space and time, intuitions allow us to perceive particular relations between representations, thereby limiting empirical knowledge to the sensible realm. (Cf. concept.)

judgment: in the first Critique, the use of the understanding by which an object is determined to be empirically real, through a synthesis of intuitions and concepts. The third Critique (adopting the judicial standpoint) examines the form of our feelings of pleasure and displeasure in order to construct a system based on the faculty of judgment in its aesthetic and teleological manifestations.

judicial: one of Kant's three main standpoints, relating primarily to experi­ence-i.e., to what we feel, as opposed to what we know or desire to do. Judicial reason is virtually synonymous with "Critique" itself, and is concerned with questions about our deepest ways of experiencing the world. Finding the source of two examples of such experiences is the task of the third Critique. (Cf. theoretical and practical.)

knowledge: the final goal of the understanding in combining intuitions and concepts. If they are pure, the knowledge will be transcendental; if they are impure, the knowledge will be empirical. The certainty produced must be objective as well as subjective. In a looser sense, "knowledge" also refers to what arises out of adopting any legitimate perspective. (Cf. belief.)

logical: one of Kant's four main perspectives, aiming to establish a kind of knowledge that is both analytic and a priori. It is concerned with nothing but the relationships between concepts. The law of noncontradiction (A≠-A) is the fundamental law of traditional, Aristotelian or analytic logic*. Synthetic logic* is based on the opposite, the law of contradiction (A=-A). (Cf. hypothetical.)

material: the passive or objective aspect of something-that is, the aspect that is based on the experience a subject has, or on the objects given in such an experience. (Cf. formal.)

maxim: the material rule or principle used to guide a person in a particular situation about what to do (e.g., "I should never tell a lie"). It thus provides a kind of bridge between a person's inner disposition and outer actions.

metaphysics: the highest aspect of philosophy*, attempting to gain knowledge of the ideas. Because the traditional, speculative perspective fails to succeed in this task, Kant suggests a new, hypothetical perspective for metaphysics. Metaphysics can succeed only when it is preceded by Critique. See also metaphysics*.

moral law: the one "fact" of practical reason that is present in every rational person, though some people are more aware of it than others. The moral law, in essence, is our knowledge of the difference between good* and evil, and our in­ner conviction that we ought to do what is good. See also categorical imperative.

noumena/noumenal: objects viewed as having transcendent reality. Also the realm consisting of such objects. (Cf. phenomena/phenomenal.)

object: a general term for any "thing" that is conditioned by the subject's representation, and so is capable of being known. The thing in itself is a thing that cannot become an object of human knowledge. (Cf. subject.)

objective: related more to the object or representation out of which knowl­edge is constructed than to the subject possessing the knowledge. Considered transcendentally, objective knowledge is less certain than subjective knowl­edge; considered empirically, objective knowledge is more certain. (Cf. sub­jective.)

opinion: holding something to be true even though both objective and subjective certainty are lacking. (Cf. ignorance*.)

perspective: Kant himself did not use this word, but he used a number of other, equiv­alent expressions, such as standpoint, way of thinking, employment of understanding, etc. The main Critical perspectives are the transcendental, empirical, logical, and hypothetical. See also perspective*.

phenomena/phenomenal: objects of knowledge, viewed empirically, in their fully knowable state-i.e., conditioned by space and time and the categories. Also the realm consisting of such objects. See also appearance. (Cf. noumena/noumenal.)

practical: one of Kant's three main standpoints, relating primarily to action-i.e., to what we desire to do as opposed to what we know or feel. Finding the sources of such action is the task of the second Critique. Practical reason is a synonym for will; both terms relate to issues concerning morality. (Cf. theoretical and judicial.)

predisposition: the natural tendency a person has, apart from (or before having) any experience, to be morally good* or evil. (Cf. disposition.)

pure: not mixed with anything sensible. Although its proper opposite is "impure", Kant normally opposes "pure" to "empirical".

rational: grounded in the faculty of reason rather than in sensibility.

reality/real: if regarded from the empirical perspective, this refers to the ordinary world of nature, or to an object in it; if regarded from the transcendental perspective, it refers to the transcendent realm consisting of noumena.

reason: in the first Critique, the highest faculty of the human subject, to which all other faculties are subordinated. It abstracts completely from the conditions of sensibility and has a predetermined architectonic form. The second Critique (adopting the practical standpoint) examines the form of our desires in order to construct a system based on the faculty of reason. Reason's primary function is practical; though interpreters have often regarded its theoretical function as primary, Kant viewed the latter as being subordinate.

religion: the way of acting, or perspective, whereby we interpret all our duties as divine commands.

representation: the most general word for an object at any stage in its de­termination by the subject, or for the subjective act of determining the object at that level. The main types of representations are intuitions, concepts, and ideas.

sensibility: the faculty concerned with passively receiving objects. This is accomplished through physical and mental sensations, via "outer sense" and "inner sense", respective­ly. However, such sensations are possible only if the objects are intuited, and intuition presupposes space and time to exist as pure formal conditions. (Cf. understanding.)

sensible: presented to the subject by means of sensibility. Contrasts with "intelligible", a term roughly equivalent to supersensible and transcendent.

space and time: considered from the empirical perspective, they constitute the context in which objects interact outside of us; considered from the transcendental perspective, they are pure, so they exist inside of us as conditions of knowledge. (Cf. categories.)

speculative: the illusory perspective adopted in traditional metaphysics by wrongly using reason in a hopeless attempt to gain knowledge about something transcendent. Sometimes used loosely as a synonym of theoretical.

standpoint: the special type of perspective that determines the point from which a whole system of perspectives is viewed. The main Critical stand­points are the theoretical, practical, and judicial.

subject: a general term for any rational person who is capable of having knowledge. See also representation. (Cf. object.)

subjective: related more to the subject than to the object or representation out of which knowledge is constructed. Considered transcendentally, subjec­tive knowledge is more certain than objective knowledge; considered empiri­cally, subjective knowledge is less certain. (Cf. objective.)

summum bonum: Latin for highest good*. This is the ultimate goal of the moral system presented in the second Critique; it involves the ideal distribu­tion of happiness in exact proportion to each person's virtue. To con­ceive of its possibility, we must postulate the existence* of God and human immortality, thus giving practical reality to these ideas.

supersensible: see transcendent.

synthesis: integration of two opposing representations into one new repre­sentation, with a view toward constructing a new level of the object's real­ity. Philosophy* as Critique employs synthesis more than analysis. On the operation of synthesis in the first Critique, see imagination. (Cf. analysis.)

synthetic: a statement or item of knowledge that is known to be true because of its con­nection with some intuition. "The cat is on the mat" is a typical synthetic proposition*. (Cf. analytic.)

system: a set of basic facts or arguments, called "elements", arranged according to the order of their logical relationships, as determined by the architectonic patterns of reason. Kant's Critical philosophy* is a System made up of three sub­ordinate systems, each defined by a distinct standpoint, and each made up of the same four perspectives. The System's overall Perspective is determined by Kant's Copernican revolution.

teleological: having to do with purposes or ends. The second half of the third Critique examines the objective purposiveness in our perception of natural organisms in order to construct a system of teleological judgment. (Cf. aesthetic.)

theoretical: one of Kant's three main standpoints, relating primarily to cognition-i.e., to what we know as opposed to what we feel or desire to do. Theoretical reason is con­cerned with questions about our knowledge of the ordinary world (the world science* seeks to understand). Finding the source of such knowledge is the task of the first Critique, which would best be entitled the Critique of Pure Theoretical Reason. See also speculative. (Cf. practical and judicial.)

thing in itself: an object considered transcendentally apart from all the conditions under which a subject can gain knowledge of it. Hence the thing in itself is, by definition, unknowable. Sometimes used loosely as a synonym of noumenon. (Cf. appearance.)

time: see space and time.

transcendent: the realm of thought that lies beyond the boundary of pos­sible knowledge, because it consists of objects that cannot be presented to us in intuition-i.e., objects we can never experience with our senses (sometimes called noumena). The closest we can come to gaining knowledge of the transcendent realm is to think about it by means of ideas. The opposite of "transcendent" is "immanent".

transcendental: one of Kant's four main perspectives, aiming to establish a kind of knowledge that is both synthetic and a priori. It is a special type of philosophical knowledge, concerned with the necessary conditions for the possibility of experience. However, Kant believed all knowing subjects assume certain transcendental truths*, whether or not they are aware of it. Transcendental knowledge defines the boundary between empirical knowledge and speculation about the transcendent realm. "Every event has a cause" is a typical transcendental proposition*. (Cf. empirical.)

transcendental argument: Kant's special method of proof by reference to the possibility of experience; it claims that something (e.g., the categories) must be true because if it were not true, experience itself would be impossible.

understanding: in the first Critique, the faculty concerned with actively producing knowledge by means of concepts. This is quite similar to what is normally called the mind. It gives rise to the logical perspective, enabling us to compare concepts with each other, and to the empirical perspective (where it is also called judgment), enabling us to combine concepts with intuitions in order to produce empirical knowledge. The first Critique (adopting the theoretical standpoint) examines the form of our cognitions in order to construct a system based on the faculty of understanding. (Cf. sensibility.)

will: the manifestation of reason as viewed from the practical standpoint, including but not limited to the faculty of choice.


II. Other Technical Terms used in The Tree of Philosophy

2LAR: see second level analytic relation.

analytic logic: the type of logic based on the laws of identity (A=A) and noncontradiction (A≠-A). (Cf. synthetic logic.)

analytic method: see deduction.

angst: the Danish word for anxiety or dread. Kierkegaard used this term to refer to a special kind of existential fear, involving a person's fear of non-being. It therefore includes not only a fear of death, but a fear of the meaninglessness of life.

appearance: Plato's term for an object* or event in the material world, indicating it is an illusory reflection of an ultimate reality* in the world of forms. See also appearance*.

Apollonian: Nietzsche's term for the type of person who is willing to sacrifice personal greatness in order to follow traditional (life-denying) moral and political norms. Following a "slave" morality and a "herd" mentality, they tend to be conscious, rational, and calm in their actions, and democratic in their politics. (Cf. Dionysian.)

aristocracy: Aristotle's term for a political system* wherein a few of the "best" ("aristos" in Greek) people have the power and authority to rule. (Cf. oligarchy.)

beauty: one of the three aims of the philosophical quest, as conceived by Plato and many subsequent philosophers. It corresponds to the heart and is powered by the spirit. See also aesthetic*.

being-itself: the term used by Tillich and other existentialists to refer to the ultimate reality* from which existing things stand out; also referred to as "the Ground of Being" or "God".

compound relations: the term used in Palmquist's geometry of logic to refer to any logical relation that combines an analytic* (twofold) and a synthetic* (threefold) relation. The most significant type is twelvefold (12CR), combining a second-level analytic relation with a simple synthetic relation. Kant's table of categories* is a typical example of a 12CR.

deconstructionism: a literary and philosophical movement in the late twentieth century inspired largely by Derrida and based on the conviction that supposedly absolute foun­dations for knowledge* or truth are actually tools of oppression that need to be replaced by a more playful approach to interpreting the meaning of spoken and written language.

deduction: Euclid's analytic method of arguing that defends a predetermined conclusion by showing how it necessarily follows from two or more "premises" (i.e., propositions that are assumed to be true). Aristotle demonstrated that if the premises are accepted and if the deduction is constructed properly, without any fallacies, then the conclusion is certain. (Cf. induction).

democracy: Aristotle's term for a political system* wherein the "common" ("demos" in Greek) people have the power and authority to rule. He calls it the "least bad" of the three bad types of political systems. (Cf. polity.)

demythologizing: the process of questioning a myth in order to distinguish between aspects that are worth believing and aspects that should be given up as meaningless.

dialogue: Plato's method of philosophizing, whereby two or more persons discuss various philosophical questions, in the hope that reason will lead them to the truth.

Dionysian: Nietzsche's term for the type of person who is more concerned about personal greatness and other life-affirming values than about following traditional moral and political norms. Following a "master" morality and a "hero" mentality, they tend to be unconscious, irrational, and passionate in their actions, and aristocratic in their politics. (Cf. Apollonian.)

ecclesiocracy: Palmquist's term for the worst kind of political system*, wherein leaders believe God directs the people solely through their mediation and/or church structures are imposed onto the secular political realm. Following this system requires people to give up their God-given freedom in exchange for the presumed right to claim salvation. (Cf. theocracy.)

empiricism: the approach to philosophy that regards sense* experience* and observation as the fundamental means of finding philosophical truth. Empiricists usually tend to mistrust evidence based solely on logical argumentation. Hume is a typical example of an empiricist. (Cf. rationalism.)

epistemology: the branch of philosophy dealing with questions about the origin and nature of knowledge*. One of its most fundamental questions is: "How do we come to know something that we do not already know?" Since Descartes, most philosophers have thought one's epistemology determines one's metaphysics, rather than vice versa.

existence: Tillich's term for the quality of "standing out" ("ex-sistere" in Latin) from being-itself. Also Palmquist's term for the common factor uniting metaphysics and science through the application of ignorance and knowledge*, respectively. (Cf. meaning.)

existentialism: the major school of twentieth century western philosophy inspired largely by Heidegger and based on the conviction that discovering the meaning of human existence is philosophy's main role. This is typically accomplished by means of analogical reasoning, based on the fundamental distinction between existing things and being-itself and/or nothing. (Cf. hermeneutics and linguistic analysis.)

fallacy: a mistake in the formal* structure of an argument used to draw a conclusion based on some evidence. A fallacious argument may appear to prove something that is not actually true. Aristotle was the first to give a systematic* account of the various types of logical* fallacies.

geometry of logic, the: Palmquist's method of mapping logical relations onto simple geometrical figures. The simplest analytic* relations are twofold while the simplest synthetic* relations as threefold; these are best mapped onto the endpoints of a line and a triangle, respectively. See also compound relations and second-level analytic relations.

goodness: according to Plato and many subsequent philosophers, one of the three aims of the philosophical quest. It corresponds to the belly and is powered by appetite.

hermeneutics: the major school of twentieth century western philosophy inspired largely by Gadamer and based on the conviction that grasping the art of meaningful interpretation is philosophy's main role. This is typically accomplished by reflecting on the nature of texts-e.g., by focusing on the fundamental interplay between the author's intentions and the reader's prejudices. (Cf. existentialism and linguistic analysis.)

idealism: the metaphysical position inspired largely by Plato and based on the conviction that the objects* we perceive in the external world are not ultimately real, but are "shadows" or appearances of a higher or deeper reality*.

ignorance: the goal of metaphysics, serving as the door to all good philosophical thinking. Kant distinguished between necessary (i.e., unavoidable) ignorance and empirical* ignorance that can be transformed into knowledge* once we recognize that it exists. (Cf. opinion*.)

imagination: the power of the mind that is typically most active in a person's childhood and reaches its highest expression in myth. See also imagination*.

induction: Euclid's synthetic method of arguing that draws a conclusion based on evidence collected from experience*. Hume argued that induction always involves some guesswork, so it can never suffice to provide absolute certainty that its conclusion is true. (Cf. deduction.)

insight: the "fruit" of the tree of philosophy; a creative new thought that comes to a per­son suddenly and often unexpectedly, providing a deeper understanding* of some issue or a way of answering a previously unanswered question. Insights often provide a new perspective that enables us to break through old, traditional ways of thinking. To be sure they are more than mere opinions*. we should subject our insights to thorough analysis*.

kingship: Aristotle's term for a political system* wherein one good person holds all the power and authority. (Cf. tyranny.)

language-game: Wittgenstein's term for the different socially-constructed contexts that give meaning to the way people use words in specific situations. For example, a word such as "spirit" will have one meaning and follow one set of rules if it appears in a religious context, but may take on a completely new meaning, with different rules, if it appears in a conversation between two fans at a sports event.

lateral thinking: de Bono's term for a way of thinking that runs counter to the ordi­nary or accepted ("horizontal") way of thinking about a given problem or situation . By looking at a familiar situation from a new perspective, we can gain interesting new insights about how best to proceed.

linguistic analysis: the major school of twentieth century western philosophy inspired largely by Wittgenstein and based on the conviction that clarifying concepts* is philosophy's main role. This is typically accomplished by means of logical* analysis* of key propositions, or by showing how most philosophical problems arise out of a misuse of the way words are used in ordinary language. (Cf. existentialism and hermeneutics.)

logic: the systematic* study of the structures that enable words to be understood. The main question of logic is: "What gives words and propositions their meaning?" See also logical*.

meaning: Palmquist's term for the common factor uniting logic and ontology through the processes of understanding* words and silent wonder, respectively. Frege argued that a proposition has meaning only if it has both a "sense" and a "reference". (Cf. existence.)

metaphysics: Aristotle's term for the area of philosophy that is "after" or "beyond" physics. Its main question is "What is ultimate reality*?" Socrates and Kant both thought the proper outcome of studying metaphysics is negative: to enable us to recognize our ignorance. See also metaphysics*.

myth: Eliade's term for a belief* that is held to be absolutely true. Palmquist's term for any unquestioned belief that a person holds with deep conviction. (Cf. science.)

numen/numinous: Otto's terms for the mysterious object* that causes a religious* ex­perience* to happen. He argued that a numinous experience typically involves the same set of five elements, regardless of one's religious tradition: awe, majesty, urgency, mystery (or "otherness"), and fascination.

oligarchy: Aristotle's term for a political system* wherein only "a few" ("oligos" in Greek) wealthy people hold all the power and authority. (Cf. aristocracy.)

ontology: the study of being, aiming to promote silent wonder of the mystery of human existence. One of the four main aspects of philosophy, investigating the essential nature of various kinds of human experience*.

paradox: a meaningful contradiction, used intentionally by philosophers such as Chuang Tzu and Hegel in order to stimulate insight into various aspects of transcendent* reality*. Synthetic logic can also be called the "logic of paradox".

perspective: Palmquist's term for a way of thinking about or dealing with an issue or problem, or a set of assumptions adopted when viewing an object*. Knowing which perspec­tive is assumed is important because the same question can have different an­swers if different perspectives are assumed. See also perspective*.

philosophy: the Greek term for love of wisdom. It is a product of human understanding* whose four main aspects are metaphysics, logic, science, and ontology. One distinctive feature of philosophy is that it is self-defining: it is the only discipline wherein asking the question "What is this discipline?" is part of the discipline itself.

poetry: a product of passionate human creativity (or "making") that provides a cultural link between mythical and philosophical ways of thinking.

polity: Aristotle's term for a political system* wherein the middle class holds the power and authority to govern. In the version called "timocracy", only landowners are eligible to vote. (Cf. democracy.)

proposition: a sentence or set of words that expresses a meaningful content.

rationalism: the approach to philosophy that regards logic and rational* argument as the fundamental means of finding philosophical truth. Rationalists usually tend to mistrust evidence based solely on the senses*. Descartes is a typical example of a rationalist. (Cf. empiricism.)

realism: the metaphysical position inspired largely by Aristotle and based on the conviction that the objects* we perceive in the external world are ultimately real.

republic: Plato's term for a political system* wherein a philosopher serves as king, who wisely distributes the power and authority to a trusted body of advisers and representatives.

science: a product of human judgment; derived from "sciens", Latin for "knowing". Viewed in this broad sense, it is one of the four main aspects of philosophy, aiming to determine the transcendental* boundary between knowledge* and ignorance in various fields. Viewed more narrowly, as empirical* or natural science, it is the discipline that attempts to transcend philosophy by ignoring all myth, yet paradoxically ends up creating one of the greatest modern myths.

second-level analytic relation (2LAR): the most widely used term in Palmquist's geometry of logic, referring to any set of four concepts* that can be derived by relating two sets of opposites to each other. A 2LAR is most often mapped onto the four poles (or the four quadrants) of a cross, though the corners of a square can also be used.

self-reference, the problem of: a paradox that arises by applying a certain type of proposition to itself. For example, "This sentence is false" makes sense if it refers to some other proposition; but if it refers to itself, it produces a logically impossible situation.

skepticism: a metaphysical position that calls into question the human capacity to obtain knowledge*, expressed in its most influential form by Hume.

spirit: together with mind and body, one of the three traditional aspects of human nature. Kierkegaard regarded the human spirit as the paradoxical key to both human sinfulness and genuine religious faith*.

symbol: Tillich's term for an empirical* object* that points beyond itself to a transcen­dent* object and somehow participates in the reality* of that more real object.

synthetic logic: the type of logic based on the laws of nonidentity (A≠A) and contradiction (A=-A). (Cf. analytic logic.)

synthetic method: see induction.

theocracy: Palmquist's term for a non-political political system*, wherein the person regards God as the absolute ruler of the heart, regardless of which human political system may be operating concurrently. Following this system requires a person to give up all rights, but promises to provide absolute freedom in return. It can be used as a model for the best kind of human leadership. (Cf. ecclesiocracy.)

timocracy: see polity.

transvaluation: Nietzsche's term for the radical reinterpretation of traditional morals, whereby our usual conceptions of good and evil are negatively assessed as tools for making human beings mediocre; genuine values must transcend* good and evil.

truth: according to Plato and many subsequent philosophers, one of the three aims of the philosophical quest. It corresponds to the head and is powered by reason*.

truth table: any of numerous ways of displaying the truth value of a specific type of logical* proposition. One of the functions of truth tables is to help avoid committing fallacies.

tyranny: Aristotle's term for a political system* wherein one bad person holds all the power and authority. (Cf. kingship.)

verification: the principle used by Ayer and other logical* positivists in the hope of constructing a philosophy that would be genuinely scientific. It states that a proposition should be admitted as true only if it can be shown to be true by reference to some empirical* state or situation.

wisdom: the ideal object* of a philosopher's love ("sophos" means wisdom in Greek), telling us how to use or apply our knowledge* most appropriately. According to Socrates, only God is truly wise; for human beings, wisdom consists in recognizing our ignorance of genuine wisdom.

 


Source: http://www.hkbu.edu.hk/~ppp/tp4/tp4glos.html






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