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A Brief Study Guide on Classical Thinkers & Their Ideas

Classical thinkers:

-Know the allegory of the cave and why Plato wrote it

The allegory of the Cave is one of the most famous teachings of Plato. The allegory is, essentially, that there exist some cave people that see shadows projected on the wall and that for them is a reality. Then someone decides to break free from the cave and discover the outside world, or rather discover the true reality. The person tries to go back and break others free from their false reality. This allegory was written to help explain those people who willingly chose to live in the cave, IE in ignorance,  after having been told a new, true reality.

-Know the arguments for and against escaping from prison Crito gives to Socrates and Socrates


Socrates argues that he cannot escape prison because it would be answering injustice with a greater injustice. Crito’s argument for escaping prison is that Socrates has done nothing wrong and therefore should not be punished; moreover that if Socrates escapes then he can be of use to help educate elsewhere.

-Know the same as above for Thomas More

More’s arguments for not escaping prison boils down to the fact that to escape prison would be answering injustice with a greater injustice. More cannot betray his conscious and making the King the head of the church.

-Explain Hegel’s dialectical method

Hegel’s dialectical method is that the absolute spirit is guiding history by first establishing a thesis the antithesis as a counter to the original thesis and whatever emerges from that conflict is the synthesis, which the truth. Which then, in turn, becomes the established thesis and the cycle begins all over again.

-Know how Marx modifies Hegel’s thought

While Hegel was concerned with truth and how it forms Marx was concerned with society and adjusted Hegel’s thought by making it dialectical materialism. That is the original thesis is Feudalism which then the counter-thesis of Industrialism forms and out of this conflict forms Capitalism; which then becomes the original thesis. Marx thought then the cycle would start all over again and that the Capitalist thesis would form the counter-thesis of Socialism which would then turn into Communism, utopian society in Marx’s view.  

Explain Kant’s synthetic a priori for pure and practical reason

Synthetic a priori proposition in philosophy and logic. It is a truth of which is verifiable independent of the experience.

Explain Descartes Cogito ergo sum argument

“I think, therefore I am.” Descarte used this argument to prove that 1) he indeed existed and 2) that his mind existed.  

Thinking about God:

-Know Aquinas’ Fiveways

Aquinas argued there are 5 ways to know that God exists, they are: 1) the argument of motion, IE there is an original mover of all. 2) The governance of the world, IE all have ordered thus someone must have make the order 3) the gradation of all things 4) the nature of efficient 5) is the argument of possibility.

-Know Russell’s arguments for atheism

Russell argues for the non-existence of God in a few ways: 1) If all have a creator then who created God? 2) Mankind does not need God to give us a moral law 3) God cannot be truly a God-given all the injustice of the world

Know Anselm’s ontological argument

Anselm defines God as \”that than which nothing greater can be thought\”, and thus argued that God must exist in the mind of all.

Know the parable of the invisible gardener

This parable is often used to illustrate the perceived differences between assertions based on faith and assertions based scientific evidence. It is also used to help explain the existence of God and an argument against God.

Contemporary thinkers:

-Define existentialism. Why is Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilych considered to be an existentialist novel? -What lessons does it teach us about existence??

Existentialism is the philosophical thought that an individual is the one responsible, as a free agent, for one’s own existence.  ‘Death’ is considered to be an existential novel in that it deals with the existence of Ivan and his un-purposeful life and how, at the end of Ivan’s life, he suffers greatly because he never took any risks, whether good or bad. Thus meaning that Ivan never took responsibility for his own existence. Ivan teaches us that our existence must have meaning, purpose in order to actually live at all.  

-Explain logotherapy.

Logotherapy is a therapy made by Frankl that says that one must have meaning, or find meaning, in life in order to live and embrace suffering. And moreover, once the suffering has meaning to our lives we inevitably grow as an individual from our suffering.  

Explain Kierkegaard’s three stages and how it applies to Abraham

The 3 stages to becoming one’s true self are The Aesthetic, the Ethical, and the Religious. The aesthetic is based on sensory and pleasures. The ethical is the social rules on how one should act. And the religious is where one sees God everywhere and is totaled founded in him. This relates to Abraham because it is a summation of his life and journey towards God.

Explain the difference between theistic and atheistic existentialism

Theistic Existentialism is affirming a belief in the existence of God whereas Atheistic Existentialism the philosophy of mere existence excluding God.


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