Testimony: A Philosophical Introduction

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Abstract Ernest Sosa has suggested that we distinguish between animal knowledge , on the one hand, and reflective knowledge , on the other. Early View Online Version of Record before inclusion in an issue. Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Forgot password? Old Password.


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New Password. Password Changed Successfully Your password has been changed. Returning user. Request Username Can't sign in? Forgot your username? Enter your email address below and we will send you your username. Thus, the most radical Jaina might wear a mask to avoid inhaling gnats — not to avoid tasting a gnat but to avoid harming one. It was from the Jains that Gandhi inherited his insistence on non-violence, and from the Jains that many Hindu systems inherited vegetarianism.

Jains believed that Jainism had always existed, but the earliest historical figures to whom we can ascribe a Jaina philosophy are Mahavira 6th century B. As with Buddhism and the Hindu philosophies below, Jainism branched into an immense variety of religious worldviews, but in this short book we are only concerned with its ancient philosophical thought. Along with Muhammad, Jesus and Confucius, the Buddha became one of the most influential thinkers of all time without writing any texts. Instead, his sayings and doctrines were compiled later by his disciples, who unfortunately disagreed with each other on some points, and thus it is difficult to reconstruct the views of the historical Buddha.

According to legend, Siddhartha was a prince who became dissatisfied with his life of luxury when he realized that every life eventually succumbs to sickness and death. After observing the joy of a compassionate monk, he renounced his princely life to seek a higher purpose. Finally, he achieved enlightenment under a bodhi-tree, and set out to teach what he had learned. Siddhartha criticized the Brahmin priests who accepted the Vedas out of faith and tradition.

He said they were blind men leading the blind, one after another. He was also skeptical of doctrines that emotionally appealed to people, and knowledge that came from metaphysical speculation and theorizing. Such methods do not lead to anything near certainty, he said, and not even his own teachings should remain unquestioned.

Thinking Through Food

He said the best way to know something was through personal experience. And where that is unavailable, one could consider what the wisest men say. But this may not be the only methods Siddhartha advocated, for early Buddhists often used inferential reasoning and philosophical meditation to attain knowledge, too. Because our experiences are conditioned by emotion and limited by human ways of thinking, the Buddha was ultimately critical of all methods of knowing.

All sources of knowledge were to be analyzed carefully. If these doctrines are false, little is lost by ignorantly following them. So even though we cannot know whether karma and rebirth are real, it may be best to live in accordance with them anyway. He agreed with Heraclitus that everything changes.


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But there is some continuity from life to life, following the law of karma, just as a tree spawns another tree through its seed. According to him, there was some suffering even in what appeared to be joy. But everything has a cause, and the cause of suffering is desire for worldly things, which causes us to be born into suffering again and again. If we understood that worldly desires cause suffering, we would not hold on to these desires. But we are ignorant. Liberation from suffering, the Buddha taught, comes through awareness of these truths and abstinence from worldly desire.

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Right view was to accept the four noble truths. Right intention was to aim toward ridding oneself of wrong belief and action.

Should We Believe Philosophical Claims on Testimony?

Right speech was to avoid lies, divisive speech, abusive speech, and idle gossip. Right action was abstinence from killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. Right livelihood was to avoid making a career of harm, such as business in weapons or meat or slave trading. Right effort was persistent striving to abandon wrong thought, speech, and action. Right mindfulness was constant awareness of that which affects the body and the mind, including desire and emotion and thought itself.

The Meaning of Knowledge: Crash Course Philosophy #7

Right concentration was the practice of concentrating or meditating on something, which cuts off distractions and leads to self-awakening. By these methods, the Buddha taught, one may reach a liberation from suffering into nirvana : a perfect peace of mind, free from desire — the end of identity due to a realized oneness with the world, perfect bliss and highest spiritual attainment.

Of the astika Vedic views, Sankhya appears to be the oldest. It was a dualist view based on two fundamentally different types of being: purusha soul and prakriti matter, energy, and agency. Prakriti was the cause of the material world, but purusha had no cause. The soul did not change, but observed and enjoyed the ever-changing objects of prakriti.

Like a rope woven from three cords, the material world was woven of three gunas. They were inferred from the three ways we may react to things: with pleasure, displeasure, or indifference. Thus, the three constituents of prakriti were sattva illumination, joy , rajas excitation, pain , and tamas roughness, obstruction, sloth. According to Sankhya, a soul often confuses itself with its body.

We feel pain upon the body as if it was pain upon the self, but this is a confusion. Once we realize the separateness of the soul, we cannot be affected by the joys and sorrows of the material world. But liberation does not result from propositional knowledge alone, but through spiritual training and deep meditation upon the truth that the soul is beyond the causes and effects of spacetime.

Sankhya is often credited to a Vedic sage named Kapila, whose dates are unknown. His philosophy had a major influence on other Indian darshanas , but disappeared as it was subsumed into Vedanta and Yoga. The Yoga darshana , founded by Patanjali in the 2nd century B. God was a perfect, eternal, omniscient being, and the highest object of meditation. The Yoga argument for God was as follows: Whatever comes in degrees must have a maximum. Knowledge comes in degrees, thus there must be a maximum of knowledge; omniscience must exist. The being with omniscience is called God. But the more important addition to Sankhya was the practice of yoga: the cessation of all mental function.

The correct practice of yoga included eight things:. According to Yoga, success in the practice of yoga led to a full realization of the gulf between purusha and prakriti , and therefore liberation from suffering. Mimamsa was the darshana tied most closely to the Vedas. The purpose of the philosophy was to provide a method of interpretation that could harmonize and make sense of all the complicated rituals that were added to the Vedas during the many centuries of its composition, and also to provide a philosophical justification for these rituals.

Mimamsa apologetics began with epistemology, the method of knowing. Mimamsa acknowledged two kinds of knowledge: direct and indirect. Direct knowledge is had when one of the senses perceives something, and the sense organ is functioning correctly. But this tells us only that the object is, not what it is.

What is Philosophy?

To know what the object is, we must interpret this direct knowledge. For this, we draw on past experience and logical inference to determine what classes the object belongs to, what qualities it has, and so on. Thus in the first stage we have knowledge of, say, redness with a particular shape. And in the second stage we process this perception through past experience and logical inference and, if our senses are working correctly and our inferences are sound, we correctly interpret the red shape as an apple.

Testimony was the most important after perception, for it was used to justify the infallibility of the Vedas. For Mimamsa, written or spoken claims gave us knowledge except when made by a known liar. And since, Mimamsa claimed, the Vedas are not known to lie, they may be taken as knowledge. But Mimamsa usually revered the Vedas only for their commands about how to perform rituals, and thus they tried to ignore Vedic sentences that spoke of other things, such as what exists. Or, they tried to relate all such sentences to the commands about ritual. All knowledge in the Vedas was for the purpose of performing rituals correctly.

The Vedas were not held to be reliable because they were the words of God or of reliable prophets. According to Mimamsa, the Vedas were never written at all. They were an eternal part of the universe, and carry their own impersonal authority.

Should We Believe Philosophical Claims on Testimony? - White Rose Research Online

How did Mimamsa argue that the Vedas had never been written? First, they pointed out that its authors were not known. But more important was an argument of a Platonic nature. A common view in some schools was that the sound of a spoken word was merely an instance of the real word shabda , which is eternal. Because if it were not so, then five different pronunciations of a word would mean that five different words had been spoken. But of course we know these pronunciations are merely imperfect copies of one word. So a word is not produced by its being spoken.