Philosophers' Blog

Rationalism and Empiricism

Continental and Anglo-American Philosophy

The figures from modern philosophy pictured below had very different approaches to the fundamental questions of epistemology--each influenced by the time and place i which he lived and expressed in distinct literary forms. Click on each picture for a short biographical sketch on each.

Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
David Hume (1711-1776)

Rene Descartes (1596-1650)

David Hume (1711-1776)

Just in Time for Election Day

How the Greeks Did Democracy

This Spring, PBS aired a brand new series on Ancient Greece. The three-part series explores all dimensions of Greek life and culture, including the famous Trial and Death of Socrates that we discussed in class. A series preview that lives on YouTube is viewable below. But you can Click here to watch a preview of the episode on the difference between Greek democracy and ours.

Animals are People Too

In the New York Times (4/10/16)Frans de Waal, a primatologist and professor of psychology at Emory University explores the question of just how close to--or far from--each other human beings and chimps really are in the hierarchy of living things. In the process, he suggests that maybe the whole concept of such a hierarchy is an over-simplification. Read his essay here. It has implications for many of the questions we've been discussing this semester--not least of which, the ethical question: Should human beings eat meat?

The chart below challenges some of our assumptions about how various living beings compare. Are human beings really all that different from other beings in nature?

Descartes': "Cogito ergo BOOM!"

The great French philosopher Renee Descartes searches for a new foundation on which to establish science and culture in the wake of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the scientific Revolution. His process of methodical doubting leaves him with the "I" that does the doubting, the "I" that does the thinking, the "thinking thing," he calls it. In his Meditations, for example, he writes:

"So after considering everything very thoroughly, I must finally conclude that this proposition, I am, I exist, is necessarily true whenever it is put forward by me or conceived in my mind."

Most of us, however, are more familiar with the way he expresses the same idea in his Discourse on Method:

"I think, therefore I am."

In Latin: "Cogito ergo sum."

In French: "Je pense, donc je suis."

Is religion a source of peace or the cause of war? In this recent interview in the New York Times, the historian of religion Karen Armstrong takes the position that religion doesn't deserve the blame it receives for inciting war. What then is the relationship of religion to global conflict? Read here to find out what Professor Armstrong thinks.

Karen Armstrong Interviewed

Images of the Great Ganesha

Herd Animals — Dec 20, 2013 5:07:40 PM

God's Existence and the Death of God — Dec 6, 2013 7:28:02 PM

Science and Religion — Oct 9, 2013 2:22:38 PM

A tragic death — Oct 3, 2012 4:00:10 PM

Everybody, get happy! — Apr 6, 2012 6:40:12 PM

A new method of thought — Mar 10, 2012 6:52:28 PM

Wake up (from a dogmatic slumber)! — Mar 2, 2012 5:49:03 PM

The Allegory that Keeps on Giving — Feb 23, 2012 5:29:12 PM

Can't do much with philosophy — Feb 4, 2012 5:15:46 PM

Don't pray to the Buddha — Jul 22, 2011 2:14:52 PM

Different Kinds of Mad Men — Apr 28, 2011 7:19:31 PM

A law for making laws — Mar 24, 2011 10:52:05 PM

Interpretation — Mar 4, 2011 6:35:01 PM

The meaning of the cave — Feb 14, 2011 6:40:01 PM

Natural rights — Apr 16, 2010 5:53:24 PM

You are an end in yourself — Mar 26, 2010 10:26:08 PM

One swallow does not make a summer — Mar 12, 2010 8:16:37 PM

The Lesson of the Playdoh Fun Factory — Mar 4, 2010 8:15:45 PM

Hume's Skepticism — Feb 26, 2010 6:53:53 PM

D. D. Wiracup — Feb 20, 2010 8:19:48 PM

Rationality is necessary for good government — Feb 12, 2010 12:18:03 PM

The Courage to be Ignorant — Feb 5, 2010 12:24:25 PM

Welcome to my blog — Nov 13, 2009 12:50:41 AM