Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The big questions

review: this book has a strong start. But it tries to cover too much and kind of lose focus. Philosophy today has retreated to individual science branches. The core is actually critical thinking.
The big questions: a short introduction to philosophy, 7th, 2006
Robert C. Solomon is a professor of philosophy at UT Austin. He died in 2007.
Later versions of the book is maintained by his wife Kathleen Higgins. (with, 2009), (9th, 2013), (10th, 2017).
he is best known among philosophers for his seminal work on the philosophy of the emotions and on existentialism. His 1972 book *From Rationalism to Existentialism: The Existentialists and Their Nineteenth-Century Backgrounds may still be the single best introductory text on existentialism in English, and his 1976 book on **The Passions* is a classic in the literature on the emotions.
Thousands of students, not trained in hard thinking but starved for ideas and understanding, will retreat to the easier alternatives — pop philosophies of self-help, exotic religions, extreme politics… If the hard thinking of philosophy does not address the big questions, then perhaps these easier alternatives will. The difference is the quality of ideas and the thoroughness of understanding. The choice is whether to accept a cheap and unchallenging substitute or to try the real thing.

doing philosophy

Playing football is cooperating with your team and running against the team that is out to stop you; philosophy is the attempt to coordinate a number of different ideas into a single viewpoint and defending what you believe against those who are out to refute you. indeed, a belief that can’t be tied in with a great many other beliefs and that can’t withstand criticism may not be worth believing at all.

abuse of buzzwords

Many people use buzzwords such as freedom, truth, reality, morality, love, and even God. These words make us feel good just because we say them. They seem to refer to something quite specific and concrete, but in fact they are among the most difficult words to understand, and they provide us with the hardest problems in philosophy.
Advertisements use buzzword scientific. Outrageous behaviors use buzzword artistic. politics use buzzword national security and self-determination. Such buzzwords not only block our understanding of the true nature of our behavior, but they also can be an obstacle— rather than an aid in philosophy. Buzzwords become not aids for thinking but rather substitutes for thinking.
2 crucial features of philosophy:
  1. articulation: spelling out our ideas in words and sentences, by writing or discussing with others including strangers.
  2. arguing: whether they are well thought out and can stand up to criticism from someone disagree with you, see how well you are prepared, how skilled you are and how convincing your views really are.
stating and defending a view is a way of making it very much your own.

concepts and conceptual frameworks

Concepts rarely occur in isolation; they virtually always tie together into a conceptual framework.
Abstract words, like freedom, are open to interpretation. Interpretation is the business of philosophy.
The most abstract and controversial concepts of all are not those through which we divide up the world into understandable pieces, but rather those grand concepts through which we try to make sense of it all together. Religion is the traditional vehicle for this total understanding.
If the conceptual framework is projected to a way of looking at life, it is a lifestyle. To politics and society, it is ideology. To historical viewpoint, it is a climate of opinion. To the whole world, it is a worldview.
You may find yourself using multiple frameworks:
  • scientific framework in school
  • pleasure-seeking framework for Saturday night
  • religious framework on Sunday morning.


philosophy should be persuasive. philosophical writing should be somewhat entertaining, witty, dramatic, and even seductive.

philosophical questions

16 open questions, on die for, minutes to live for, belief in god, what’s real, what’ mind, describe yourself as a character in a story, visitor from another planet, happiness box, a good person necessarily be happy? life ultimately fair? freedom always good? want to have children?

the meaning of life

life as a game. Don’t take it too seriously. It depends on what kind of game? for fun, prove your superiority, kill time, social(bridge), make money, hurt the opponent(boxing), helping others.
life as a mission.
life as art
life as an adventure.
life as learning
life as suffering. Buddhism.
life as relationships.


the nature of reality