Aristotle thought that Philosophy begins in wonder.
Wonder is some thing children do quite well.
It comes natural to them. Unfortunately
as a lot of us grow older we stop wondering and stop questioning and stop
attempting to look at things in new ways or
non-traditional ways. We are
rewarded for our acceptance and conformity to what is accepted by most
people, for our adoption of whatever is popular. Some of us stop wondering altogether.
Consider two “Stories”
One night a young mother brought her son (age
7) to class at the college where I was teaching an evening class. Her babysitter was not able to be with her son that night.
Well I entered the room and he was sitting in a desk next to his
mom and was looking in a book and later was coloring in coloring books.
At the time I was about the same age as his mom.
We sat around in a rectangular arrangement in the room so that
everyone could see everyone’s face.
I sat at a student desk in the midst of all the others.
We started in on the topic for that evening class.
After about 20 minutes, the little fellow said: ”Hey, when is the
teacher going to get here?” to his mom.
She explained that the teacher was there and that the teacher was
myself. He was a bit
surprised because I wasn’t at the front of the room and using the
blackboard. He settled back
in and the class went on to its conclusion.
After class his mom and I were talking about something pertaining
to the course. We were
standing outside in the evening air and her son was standing beside his
mom with his head down and after looking at the dirt around the hedges
that were around the sides of the building he started to kick at the dirt
lightly with the tip of one of his shoes.
I noticed he was doing this while I was speaking to his mom.
I asked her how her son was doing in school and she told me he was
doing fine and that he was an average student.
I stopped speaking to her and inquired of th young boy: “What are
you doing there?” “Nothing.”
He replied. Most likely he
thought that he was doing something wrong.
“No, you were doing something.”, I said.
“What was it?” “Nothing,
“ came his response again. “I
saw you kicking in the dirt. Weren’t
you kicking the dirt?” I asked. “Yes” he admitted. “Well, why were
you doing that?” I asked further. “No
reason” he answered. “You
must have had some reason.” I responded. “No!” was his next response
tome. “What were you
thinking while you were kicking in the dirt?” I pressed on with my
questions. “Nothing.” He
answered. “You must have been thinking something. We all think something all the time.” I answered and then I
got what I was hoping for. “I
was just wondering about the dirt.” He said. “Wondering what?” I
asked. “Well, where did it come from?” he responded.
“You mean the dirt?” I asked.
“Yeah” he said. “Well
it has always been her as part of the earth.” I answered.
Then he said. “No, I mean where did it come from before it was
part of the earth?” I was
surprised by his question. “You
mean where was it before it was here?”
He answered with, “How would you even know where here was if
there were no earth, if there was nothing at all?”
Now I turned to his mother who thought that her
son was only an average and well behaved little man and said to her,
“Did you know that your son is wondering about the sort of questions
that got Einstein thinking about matters that led him to the theory or
relativity. Your son is thinking about matters or relativity versus
absolute space and time and location!”
Well, nearly all of us when we are very young
have questions about some of the most basic things that as we grow older
we stop questioning and accept more and more what others tell us in many
ways we must accept to be accepted ourselves. But it happens that some of
us reach a point where we realize that:
NOT EVERYTHING WE
BELIEVE IS TRUE.
Philosophy begins in a sense of wonder.
It begins when we wonder about what otherwise is taken for granted
or assumed to be true. In this course I shall demonstrate how Philosophy arises in
the West when a number of Greeks begin to wonder about the nature of the
universe and about the nature of reality and the gods. Wonder is a marvelous thing that we should
cherish and hold on to as long as we can.
It is one of the hallmarks of youth.
Small children are filled with wonder.
Jesus, the Christ and Confucius have spoken highly of the minds of
children. Christ has said”
Blessed are the children for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven”
and “To enter the kingdom of heaven, you should have the mind of a
child.” What is it about
the mind of a child that merits such high value?
Is it the curiosity, inquiry and open-mindedness?
Now, here is the second story. This one is for you to wonder at.
At night when there are no clouds
you can look up through the evening sky at what is it most would say
they see? Nearly everyone
would say that they see stars and the moon, if it is visible from their
position at the time. Now,
when asked what are those stars? , most people know that they are suns as
our own and that they are giving off light as our own does.
Many people would be able to answer that the suns are emitting
light as they turn hydrogen into helium in a process that emits enormous
amount of energy, a good part in the form of photons of light.
And when asked what name do most people give to what they are
looking out into at might? Many,
most, maybe even all, would say “SPACE.” Maybe “Outer Space” But
This is the story that many of us have
come to believe. We look out
into space and see many suns. We
know however that those little specks of twinkling light are very, very
far away. In fact, we are
taught that they are so far away that the distance cannot be measured as
we normally do for the numbers would be so large.
To make it easier the distances that the stars and galaxies are
from earth are measured in light-years.
A light –year is the distance light travels in one year.
Light moves at over 186,000 miles per second-some velocity!
So, the light we see that we associate with a star at night has
been traveling for some time to get to your eyeball.
One star is 70 million light years away.
A galaxy may be 350 million light years away.
Another star might be 125 million light years away and another 23
million and another 450,000 light years from earth.
Another galaxy may be 5 billion light years away.
Now since it takes quite a while for the light to reach earth by
the time it does arrive at you eyeball the source of the light might not
even exist anymore. A star may have gone into a nova or supernova, burnt out, or
been merged into a black hole! A
galaxy may have merged with another in a cosmic collision.
Now it may come as a shock to some of you to
realize that when you look out into the evening sky and into what you are
thinking of as SPACE that what you are looking at it actually a composite
of different periods of TIME. You
are looking at a collection of pasts.
What you are looking at, the exact configuration or arrangement of
those points of light , well that configuration of the stars (some are
galaxies): DOES NOT EXIST as it appears to your eye, NEVER HAS EXISTED
as an actual arrangement in space as it appears to your eye, and NEVER WILL EXIST
as some of those stars have gone into nova or black holes and no longer
exist even when you are seeing the light from them in the present
The relative locations of the stars and galaxies
you are viewing are not real and never have been.
You are looking at where things were different times ago.
What you are experiencing as “seeing” is the intersection of
light rays from different times in the past.
The experience for those of us on earth is totally unique to us.
ARE NOT ALWAYS AS THEY APPEAR.
I want you to think about that idea.
Consider how many things you may believe that may not be true.
Think about how many things you believe may have other ways to be
examined, viewed or explained other
than in the manner you have come to accept as the only way or the one true
way or as the truth.
We are going to look at the Greeks because
they believed for a long time in stories that they took to be true and
upon which they based their lives. About
the time of Socrates many Greeks were coming to disbelieve in those
stories and when they no longer believed they were at a loss as to how
they were to live their lives, in particular what were they to use as the
basis for a GOOD life: a moral life.
wondered and questioned. We
shall wonder and question. Now
many times I shall make efforts for you to look at things you take for
granted as being true. I want
you to open up your minds to the possibility that things may not be as you
think they are.
A dean at my college
saw me one afternoon and asked me to come to his office.
I had been teaching there
for only two years and didn’t know what to make of it. I thought I might have done something wrong.
I met him in his office and he told me he just wanted to see how I
was doing. I was very young
and full of enthusiasm and told him about all the exercises and projects I
was doing with my classes and showed him my outliners.
He was interested but he wanted me to relax.
He told me I should try to
keep in mind that if by the time the course in Philosophy was over
I would have accomplished a great deal if some of the students, just SOME
of the students would leave the course thinking that the universe was not
just the way they thought all things were on the first day of the course.
This is has become one of my goals: that some of you who read this text will come to consider
that all things may not be as you think they are now.
Socrates and Plato
learned and taught that the senses are not to be trusted.
Trust more in reason.
The senses can deceive you.
You should know better.
The sun looks to me
not so far away,
not so big and
not so hot either.
And I swear that the sun looks like it moves.
These ideas are
the result of what my senses tell me.
I see these things every day with my own eyes.
Nothing could be plainer.
Are these ideas true?
In the next section we
shall examine why people believe and why they would believe in things that
are not true. Philosophy
attempts to arrive at a basis for belief resting on reason.
Philosophy attempts to examine what is believed to be true and the
very idea of truth itself.