Monday, September 23, 2013

Why is Plato's Cave so important?

Why is Plato’s Allegory of the Cave so important and so widely discussed? The reason is simple – in The Parable of the Cave Plato answers the essential question in philosophy – ‘What is the aim of philosophy?’. Why do we study philosophy? Are philosophers learning about the world just for themselves or are they primarily focused on others? And why are philosophers so often unsuccessful? The Analogy of the Cave from The Republic was designed by Plato as a dialogue between Glaucon (his  brother) and Socrates. Not only does it answer the mentioned questions but it also raises new ones. This is why it has become the most famous philosophical allegory ever written.

Before I mention the exact problems raised in Plato’s Cave let me just give you a short summary of the allegory. Imagine a few people imprisoned in a cave since their childhood. They cannot move – both their legs and necks are held in place by chains so they constantly gaze at the wall in front of them. Behind the prisoners there is a huge fire and between the fire and the imprisoned - a raised walkway where strangers walk carrying objects on their heads: wooden figures of men and animals. Since all this is happening behind the prisoners the only thing they can see are shadows casted on the wall. They also hear echoes of the sounds produced by people walking.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Valid arguments vs. sound arguments

Validity and soundness are one of the most important terms in logic. How to distinguish between deductively valid and invalid arguments as well as between sound and unsound arguments? The definition is very much straightforward and it is all that is needed to grasp the idea. However, this post will also give you a brief description of a few examples which will provide you with a more practical approach to the problem. And at the end of the post I will reveal to you a little secret which will turn this logical issue into a piece of cake!

Valid argument means an argument whose conclusion cannot be false if its premises are true. Consider the following example:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Psychophysical parallelism explained

Gustav Theodor Fechner
Theory of psychophysical parallelism states that mental and physical experiences occur simultaneously and are not necessarily bound by any causal interaction. The theory was established in the early 19th century by a German philosopher Gustav Theodor Fechner (who is also famous for Weber-Fechner law). While psychophysical parallelism definition might seem a bit unclear, the theory is very interesting and is one of few philosophical theories which have been accepted by numerous scientists. To better understand Fechner’s approach to mind-body problem a little historical background would be helpful.

In the middle of the 19th century, with a more and more rapid progression of scientific thought, many philosophers became interested in explaining the nature of mind and body interaction. This lead to a famous materialism dispute as the opponents of metaphysical philosophy gained many supporters (Vogt, Büchner, Moleschott). Materialistic approach to mind-body dichotomy was at that time seen as very radical, and some of its points still cause much controversy in the 21st century:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Déjà vu – meaning

What is the meaning of déjà vu? Is déjà vu real and is there any scientific explanation of déjà vu phenomenon? Some people argue that the feeling of déjà vu has a spiritual meaning, others call it just a dream. The best way to define déjà vu is to translate it from French to English – déjà vu means literally already seen. To put it simply, déjà vu is a strong sensation that you have already experienced what you are experiencing right now. I know what you’re going to ask – yes, déjà vu has a scientific explanation.

Before I proceed with a scientific and philosophical approach I just want to clear some things up. Déjà vu has recently become so popular that it is now considered by many as an urban legend or, not surprisingly, as something supernatural. There are many common misconceptions circulating on internet and I certainly do not want to mention all of these absurd theories which treat déjà vu as an evidence for past life, precognition abilities or contact with aliens and so on and so forth. While déjà vu is real, it has not much to do with all these science fiction conceptions.

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