A proper philosophical starting point
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20-10-2014, 08:46 AM
A proper philosophical starting point
I posted this on a christian forum and I thought it would be interesting to post it here as well. By the way, here is the link to that thread on the christian forum if any of you are interested in reading the responses: http://www.christianforums.com/t7847240/

Here is what I posted:

I think of philosophy as a comprehensive view of the world and our relationship to it. A good way I think to conceptualize a philosophy is to think of it as a building with the the more fundamental concepts being like the foundation and the higher level concepts being the floors above with each level integrated with and resting upon the foundation. The starting point of knowledge is a lot like the starting point of a building. Before you can even make the foundation you must dig down through the unstable soil to something solid upon which to build it. If this starting point isn't rock solid then the whole building is in jeopardy of some day collapsing.

So I'd like to share my thoughts on what constitutes a proper philosophical starting point. Rather than write a huge wall of text, I'll just state the principles simply and if anyone needs me to expand on them I will be glad to.

1. A proper philosophical starting point needs to be true. If the truth of the starting point is in question then the rest of the worldview is in doubt.

2. A proper philosophical starting point needs to be objective. It must obtain independent of anyone's conscious action. It means that it is the object in the relationship between the subject of consciousness and the objects it perceives. It means that it exists and is what it is regardless of anyone's likes or dislikes. This translates to mean that it is discovered by looking outward at the world instead of inward to the contents of the consciousness.

3. It must be a fundamental concept. It can't rest on any antecedent concepts or premises if it is the starting point of knowledge. It must be axiomatic in nature. It must be a concept that can only be defined ostensively, by pointing to it. If it is defined in terms of more fundamental concepts it is not a proper starting point.

4. Since it needs to be fundamental and not inferred from more primary premises, it must be something of which we are directly aware. It must be perceptually self evident.

5. Since it is the starting point of knowledge it must be a concept that is so broad that it is implicit in all knowledge. It must be a universal concept.

A proper philosophical starting point must be true, objective, fundamental, perceptually self evident and universal.

What do you all think? Did I miss anything or get anything wrong?

Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. - Ayn Rand.

Don't sacrifice for me, live for yourself! - Me

The only alternative to Objectivism is some form of Subjectivism. - Dawson Bethrick
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20-10-2014, 08:52 AM
RE: A proper philosophical starting point
(20-10-2014 08:46 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  What do you all think? Did I miss anything or get anything wrong?

In asserting a priori that things can be "true, objective, fundamental, self-evident, and universal", it would seem to be putting the cart before the horse a little...

Do you think there are any useful statements which meet all the criteria?

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20-10-2014, 09:00 AM
RE: A proper philosophical starting point
(20-10-2014 08:52 AM)cjlr Wrote:  
(20-10-2014 08:46 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  What do you all think? Did I miss anything or get anything wrong?

In asserting a priori that things can be "true, objective, fundamental, self-evident, and universal", it would seem to be putting the cart before the horse a little...

Do you think there are any useful statements which meet all the criteria?

Yes I do. "something exists" would meet all those criteria. It is undeniably true, it is objective, it is fundamental, it is self evident and it is universal. Of course that only tells you something exists, it doesn't tell you what that something is. But I am talking about a starting point, not a body of knowledge. I think that "existence exists" or "something exists" is the only proper starting point.

Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. - Ayn Rand.

Don't sacrifice for me, live for yourself! - Me

The only alternative to Objectivism is some form of Subjectivism. - Dawson Bethrick
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20-10-2014, 09:12 AM
RE: A proper philosophical starting point
(20-10-2014 09:00 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  
(20-10-2014 08:52 AM)cjlr Wrote:  In asserting a priori that things can be "true, objective, fundamental, self-evident, and universal", it would seem to be putting the cart before the horse a little...

Do you think there are any useful statements which meet all the criteria?

Yes I do. "something exists" would meet all those criteria. It is undeniably true, it is objective, it is fundamental, it is self evident and it is universal. Of course that only tells you something exists, it doesn't tell you what that something is. But I am talking about a starting point, not a body of knowledge. I think that "existence exists" or "something exists" is the only proper starting point.

That's why I added the qualifier "useful".

"Existence exists" is not a useful statement. Where does it get you?

Moreover I've never seen any philosophy which does not take such a starting point, since it is such a triviality. Accepting such a thing as universally and self-evidently objectively true - so what, if all subsequent development diverges anyway?

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20-10-2014, 10:16 AM
RE: A proper philosophical starting point
(20-10-2014 09:12 AM)cjlr Wrote:  
(20-10-2014 09:00 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  Yes I do. "something exists" would meet all those criteria. It is undeniably true, it is objective, it is fundamental, it is self evident and it is universal. Of course that only tells you something exists, it doesn't tell you what that something is. But I am talking about a starting point, not a body of knowledge. I think that "existence exists" or "something exists" is the only proper starting point.

That's why I added the qualifier "useful".

"Existence exists" is not a useful statement. Where does it get you?

Moreover I've never seen any philosophy which does not take such a starting point, since it is such a triviality. Accepting such a thing as universally and self-evidently objectively true - so what, if all subsequent development diverges anyway?

It is useful in that it serves a real cognitive need. We need a concept of everything as a whole and before you can know anything you have to know that there is something to know. Taken together with its logical corollaries, it is extremely useful and forms the basis for logic. Like I said it is a starting point not the be all and end all.

Lots of philosophies start out with "existence doesn't exist" implicitly. Christianity comes to mind. Christianity holds a primacy of consciousness view of the universe and therefore A can be A or not A depending on a consciousness. This contradicts the concept of "identity" and since existence is identity, it contradicts the concept that "existence exists"

Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. - Ayn Rand.

Don't sacrifice for me, live for yourself! - Me

The only alternative to Objectivism is some form of Subjectivism. - Dawson Bethrick
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20-10-2014, 11:20 AM
RE: A proper philosophical starting point
(20-10-2014 10:16 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  
(20-10-2014 09:12 AM)cjlr Wrote:  That's why I added the qualifier "useful".

"Existence exists" is not a useful statement. Where does it get you?

Moreover I've never seen any philosophy which does not take such a starting point, since it is such a triviality. Accepting such a thing as universally and self-evidently objectively true - so what, if all subsequent development diverges anyway?

It is useful in that it serves a real cognitive need. We need a concept of everything as a whole and before you can know anything you have to know that there is something to know. Taken together with its logical corollaries, it is extremely useful and forms the basis for logic. Like I said it is a starting point not the be all and end all.

"Existence exists" does not have any corollaries. It doesn't lead anywhere; any actual philosophy involves additional premises.

(20-10-2014 10:16 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  Lots of philosophies start out with "existence doesn't exist" implicitly. Christianity comes to mind. Christianity holds a primacy of consciousness view of the universe and therefore A can be A or not A depending on a consciousness. This contradicts the concept of "identity" and since existence is identity, it contradicts the concept that "existence exists"

I do not think that is an accurate representation of Christian philosophy (also: "lots"? what are others?).

Christianity holds a primacy of God, which is not the same thing at all; it is equivocation at best to conflate God with human "consciousness". I am not a Christian and I do not accept Christian ideas, but it serves no purpose to misrepresent them.

That a thing is itself and not not itself is merely descriptive. The categories we use for things are not platonic absolutes, and absent that additional human element, then of course we are left assuming only "A is A", which is as superficial as it is vacuous.

Lastly things are "A or not A" depending not on consciousness but on interaction; that's just physics.

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21-10-2014, 01:13 PM (This post was last modified: 22-10-2014 11:13 AM by TreeSapNest.)
RE: A proper philosophical starting point
(20-10-2014 08:46 AM)true scotsman Wrote:  What do you all think? Did I miss anything or get anything wrong?
I think, therefore I am. :-) Nothing exposes the foundation quite like losing everything that was on it. Ask Hamlet!
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30-10-2014, 07:44 AM
RE: A proper philosophical starting point
By large, christians reading that would agree wholeheartedly with your first line then lose interest in the 2nd, which is like 10 concepts in one, its too confusing. Keep lines simple, emotional. Repeat.
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