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QUESTIONS OF PHILOSOPHY

 
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Brian Joseph



Joined: 23 Jan 2014
Posts: 11
Location: West London, UK

PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2014 12:47 pm    Post subject: QUESTIONS OF PHILOSOPHY Reply with quote

QUESTIONS OF PHILOSOPHY

‘Doing philosophy’, as Wittgenstein would put it, is like asking a question and, when you get an answer, assuming that the answer is incomplete and so asking it again.
In Vedanta they say that there is always further to go and it is the same in Western philosophy. There is no right answer which is expressible in words. That doesn’t make asking the question a waste of time.
It is a highly practical matter and the practice consists of using the mind in a particular way.
'The main concern of philosophy is to question and understand very common ideas that all of us use every day without thinking about them.'(Thomas Nagel. ‘What Does It All Mean?’)
For instance, take an apparently very simple question like ‘How do I know that I exist?’ ‘I am clearly aware that my mind exists because I know that, at this moment, I am sensing, thinking or dreaming.’ ‘Cogito ergo sum’ (I think therefore I am) ( Descartes.’Meditations on First Philosophy’).
However, can I be equally sure that anything at all exists outside my own mind.
Silly question but is the answer all that obvious?
Everything that we are aware of takes the form of an impression or a thought or a feeling within the mind. (Here we are taking the mind to be the whole of the inner world.)
Impressions seem to come through the senses but are they accurate? Well, we know they are not. The world out there, if it exists at all, is quite different according to who observes it and the conditions in which it is observed. So, if it isn’t as it appears, how can we be sure it is there at all?
Advaita, of course faces this question head on by saying that the world out there, including your mind, is there but it is an illusion like the image of a snake imposed upon a rope by the mind of the observer.
Some philosophers, notably David Hume and John Locke in the British tradition, are known as empiricists because they assert that nothing could get into the mind unless a world existed outside it. But, even if we are convinced by this, how can we be sure that other minds exist besides our own?
This is another major philosophical question. How much can you really know about what goes on in someone else’s mind? You can hear what they say but can you know they are describing the same experience you have?
Take the simplest example, colour. Everyone would say the post box is red and you would agree but why should you assume that their red is the same as your red. Perhaps when they say red they are referring to an experience in the mind which you would call green or even an experience you would call a tingling in your fingers. How can you know?
One way we try to overcome this problem is through language. Without it we cannot even begin to ask the question. Just consider how a dog recognizes things and how different its world may be from yours.
Advaita approaches this problem rather differently by describing the mind as being universal and containing the physical world within it. It is limited only by the individual ego.
In this case, the question of other minds does not really arise, or does it?


Last edited by Brian Joseph on Sat Mar 15, 2014 7:06 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Peter Blumsom



Joined: 09 Mar 2007
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Location: Wembley, London, UK

PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Congratulations, Brian, on inaugurating this forum. Long may it prosper. Pete
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Brian Joseph



Joined: 23 Jan 2014
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Location: West London, UK

PostPosted: Fri Mar 14, 2014 7:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Pete. Brian.
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