Philosophy OCR AS Revision Notes

2012/13 OCR philosophy revision notes socrates, plato, aristotle, judaeo christian understanding of god, ontological arguments, god and the problems of evil.

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Building Blocks ­ Plato and Aristotle
Philosophy ­ Phileow (Greek for friendship love), Sophos (Greek for wisdom), therefore in its most
basic form philosophy means: `The Love of Wisdom'.
Plato was the pupil of Socrates and later Aristotle became the pupil of Plato. Socrates was known
as the `wisest of the wise'. He was famous for his art of asking questions, known as `The Socratic
Method'. The technique is to not answer questions, but to ask them. Socrates was known for using
this method to challenge people, which amongst the nobility created enemies that eventually led to
his execution. Socrates did not write anything so what we know about him today is largely due to
Plato. Plato's early writings are more likely to conform to Socratic teaching, although his later writing
(after the death of Socrates) reveals more about Plato.
It is vital to note that Plato and Aristotle have two very different ways of looking at the world. For
example, Aristotle would hold fact to be something that can be proved through the senses
(empiricism), such as sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing, where as Plato would only hold a fact as
absolute and since there is nothing absolute in material things (they are mutable ­ always
changing), then he would hold the view that science, empiricism is not fact but opinion (i.e. it is not a
fact that water always boils at 100oC, it is an opinion).
Aristotle's way of looking at the world is a posteriori.
Plato's way of looking at the world is a priori.
Plato (428-347 BCE)
A priori verses a posteriori.
A priori A posteriori
Rationalism Materialism
Absolute Relative
Non empirical Empirical
Metaphysical Physical
Reality Illusion
Plato was a dualist ­ a belief that there are two separate worlds ­ The World of Forms (a priori,
absolute, perfection, beyond space and time) and The World of Appearances (a posteriori,
relative, and imperfect, within space and time, the world in which we currently inhabit). He argued
that our Body and Soul is joined together for the duration of life and will separate at death. He
believed that the Soul is from the World of Forms and is therefore perfect and will possess
perfect knowledge (omniscience). It enters the physical body and will forget its perfect knowledge
(amnesia - forgetfulness), however as we learn, we reawaken what our souls already knew
(anamnesis ­ loss of forgetfulness). Therefore what we know is innate ­ we are born with it, we
don't actually learn anything new, we just remember what we had forgotten!
He argued that the soul will yearn to return to the World of Forms, from where it came, however our
body wishes to reside in this world, the World of Appearances. He further argued that it is important
for there to be a balance (harmony) between the body and soul, whereby he used the analogy of

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The charioteer and the two horses' whereby the two horses (body and soul) have to be led in
harmony through life.
Plato believed that the world in which we live is a form of virtual reality, in that truth is what appears
to us ­ an illusion. It is the philosopher who comes to a realisation of this and is able to break free
from the chains of this illusion that shackle us to this earthly life and its illusionary pleasures and
anxieties.…read more

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The shadows ­ the games created by the puppeteers to manipulate the lives of the prisoners
The ascent ­ the journey into wisdom is not easy and one with which you will want to do. It will be
uncomfortable at times as it will take you out of your comfort zones. You must be prepared to do
this; however, the rewards and satisfaction can be great.
The Sun ­ this is the ultimate, most perfect source of wisdom, full enlightenment, the World of
Forms.…read more

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Plato would argue that certain characteristics are innate (we are born with them), like the
recognition of beauty (e.g. all babies will express fundamental emotions on their faces etc. Are they
just instinctive or genetic?) He argued that we have this `sense' from the World of Forms, which is
why we are able to recognise it.…read more

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Can every physical thing have an ideal Form? Can you have a Form of a cat and a human? If so
what would it be like, a `humat'?
Our senses work, why should they be inferior?
How does the World of Forms actually relate to the `World of Appearances'?
Aristotle (384-322 BCE)
Plato argued reason (a priori) comes first when seeking true knowledge.
Aristotle argued we must start with experience (a posteriori).…read more

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Potentiality ­ when something contains the ingredients to become something else, or what can be
possibly achieved (I have a target minimum grade of a C, but potentially can achieve a B)
Actuality ­ when an object fulfils it potential and becomes something else, or when what was
possible to achieve has been achieved (e.g. I got my grade B in my A Level)
Aristotle is known as the father of science as it was he who first established the scientific method
of testing hypothesis.…read more

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How can a God be so powerful and not know of it?
How can matter come from thought alone?
Does there have to be a reason for the existence of the universe? It could just be!
Could there be an everlasting chain, like reincarnation?
Building blocks ­ Judaeo/Christian understanding of God
The Euthyphro Dilemma
`Are things good because God commands them to be good, or does God command them because
they are already good?' Plato
i.e.…read more

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Anthropomorphisation ­ to ascribe to God human like attributes
Attributes ­ qualities that are assigned to someone, or God in particular (e.g. God is good, God is
merciful, God is omnipotent etc)
Epistemic distance ­ the distance between God's knowledge and ours. Humans have a tendency
to ascribe qualities onto God in the way we think of them. For example, what may appear good to
us may be loathsome to God, or vice versa.
Righteous indignation ­ God rightfully gets angry.…read more

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God punishes wrong-doers
Job suffers and does not question God's judgement; he accepts the calamities set upon him
graciously from God.
Christian Biblical response:
Christians see God's goodness equates to love and see the creation of the world as an act of love.
Christians respond to God's goodness through obedience. God is the Law Giver.…read more

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Gaunilo's (The monk) criticism:
One could imagine a perfect island. Gaunilo suggested `the island would be even better if it
was real rather than just in imagination, then, according to Anselm, that island must exist.'
But does it?
Anselm replies (2nd Formulation):
P4 God is eternal, so is not limited by physical restraints, like a physical island.
P5 Anything mortal cannot be as great as that which is immortal.
P6 God is immortal, he exists necessarily (has to exist).…read more




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