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Sunday, 10 October 2010

My Philosophy Seminar Paper

General Characteristics and Italian Renaissance
This began with the church dominating ideas in the dark ages. It was a time when the only true point of knowledge was what the Greeks had written in their texts and books. As these were written down, they could not be challenged or questioned.

However, it eventually leads to the diminishing authority of the church whilst the authority of Science started to increase. These were two very important changes in modern history as they re-shaped our views on the world and religion as a whole.
Democracy had suddenly become a political force with Kings being replaced by democracies and tyrants.
However, along with this, Socialism (an alternative to democracy) first gained power in 1917.
Ecclesiastical Authority was one of negative characteristics of modern age.
Acceptance of Scientific Authority was a positive characteristic of modern age.

Copernican Theory in 1543 was the eruption of Science, and was later improved by the likes of Kepler and Galileo. It was the idea (that we now know as fact) that the Earth and the planets revolved around The Sun.
This created a clash of Science vs. Dogma and Traditions vs. New Knowledge.

From the death of Frederick II in 1250, Ital was then free from foreign interference until the invasion of Charles VIII (France) in 1494.
There were 5 important states, these were:-
-Florence, Milan, Venice, Naples and Papal domain.
Florence was considered the most civilised city in the world.

There were three classes:-
- The Nobles [Ghibelline]
- The Rich Merchants [Guelf]
- The Small Men [Guelf]

The Ghibelline was defeated in 1266, and in the 14th Century, the Small men got the better of the Rich Merchants. This conflict leads to a tyranny of the Medici family, who were rules of Florence.
They were political bosses of the democratic side.
The French became unpopular and in 1282 they were massacred in the ‘Sicilian Vespers’ which was a Rebellion on the island of Siciliy against Charles I who was King of France, and fighting the Papacy for control over Italy.

There was Cosimo dei Medici (1389-1464) and then his son Lorenzo was in power between 1469 and 1492). Savonarola reigned from 1494 to 1498). Also at the time of the Italian renaissance, the ancients disagreed with each other, and substituted authority of ancients for church. This seems to show signs of emancipation, a desire for political freedom and they seemed to feel that the church was the way forward to this.

Leo X was Pope in 1513, followed by Eugenius IV (1431-1437). However, the Medici family continued with their dominance. They governed France until 1737. However, Florence (like all of Italy) had now become poor and unimportant.
The popes’ methods supposedly robbed the papacy (office of the pope) of spiritual authority.
Nicholas V (1477-55) became the first Humanist Pope. Meaning that he believed in human values. It showed a desire to study history, grammar, poetry and moral philosophy.
The council of Ferrara (1438) united the Eastern and Western churches.
Humanists were acquiring knowledge of antiquity.

There was said to be no halfway between orthodoxy (the idea of having the right opinion) and free thought.
One very important aspect of the renaissance is that it produced many great men such as Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Leonardo.
Quote – ‘How much murder and anarchy are we prepared to endure for the sake of great achievements such as those of the Renaissance?’

Plato and Aristotle
Plato believed in the idea of forms and that everything is an imitation of ‘the perfect form’. On the other hand, Aristotle didn’t believe in this theory.
17th Century Renaissance broke down the rigid scholastic system. This revived the study of Plato.
Independent thought meant that the public could choose between the ideas of Plato, and those of Aristotle. This encouraged regarding intellectual activity as an enjoyable social discussion.
Florentine Academy (founded by Cosimo, and continued by Lorenzo) was devoted to the study of Plato.

Niccolo signalled the start of political science. Like Thomas More, he was a humanist and philosopher. He was a man of supreme eminence in political philosophy.
Born in Florence, he was brought up neither rich nor poor, and his father was a lawyer.

He gained a minor post in Florentine government in 1498. In 1512 came the restoration of the Medici family. Then in 1513, Machiavelli wrote ‘The Prince’:-
The Prince
He released a book called ‘The Prince’ which I found to be an interesting book, because many of the points he raised do appear to make sense. No matter how humorous or absurd they sound at first, it is clear that he thought hard about the points he made. As well as this, the book has a very modern appearance.
It was intended to be a ‘guide’ to rulers on how to get power, and how to keep it. Despite mentioning some horrible suggestions for gaining power, it seems that he hopes the rulers would do good with their power, despite not specifically stating that in the book.
‘...better to be feared than loved’ - as fear is constant.

Machiavelli also stressed his belief that religion should have a prominent place in the state, not on the ground of its truth, but as social cement. He believes that a prince should ‘seem’ to be religious. The word seem suggests he doesn’t see it as a necessity that they have to be, but feels that a ruler that portrays themselves to be religious will be more accepted as a ruler and perhaps create a better image.

Machiavelli never bases his arguments on biblical grounds.
He is of the opinion that civilized men are almost certain to be unscrupulous egotists.
‘...The church has kept and still keeps our country divided...’
During this time, very few of Italy’s rulers were legitimate (including the Popes).

Erasmus and More
Around the time of Erasmus and More was the Northern Renaissance (different from Italy’s)
i.e. – France, England and Germany.
Also Latin was the only international language.

Erasmus (1466-1536) becomes Bishop of Cambrai in 1493.
He hated scholastics and philosophy.
He wrote ‘The Praise of Folly’. There were two kinds of Folly, one ironically, and the other much more serious.
The serious Folly displayed Christian simplicity. In 1524 he wrote a work defending free will.

Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) was a Humanist and considered a man of profound piety.
He was knighted in 1514.

He played an important role in leading t opposition towards Henry VIII’s tax plans.
He was against the king’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon and was imprisoned in the Tower of London, the same year that King Henry VIII became Head of the Church instead of the Pope.
Thomas More was later beheaded for high treason when he denied the King was the ‘Supreme Head’ of the Church.

One of More’s key contributions was his book about ‘Utopia’.
One idea I was fascinated by was Utopia written by Sir Thomas More in 1518. More was a Humanist and a man of profound piety, knighted in 1514. He portrays Utopia as an island in the southern hemisphere. Much like we would imagine, it is a place where ‘everything is done in the best possible way’.

His vision of Utopia has fifty four towns, every tenth year people change houses to prevent a sense of ownership. All the people are dressed the same (except differences between male/female and married/unmarried). They all work six hours a day, 3 before dinner, and 3 after. They sleep at 8, and for 8 hours.

He appears to structure it so that the environment appears very plain, repetitive, and almost robotic in some senses. However, this suggests that he wants everybody to feel the same and be equal. The rules appear very strict and determined to keep everyone in line and under the same routine as each other every day.

During this time, modern capitalism was created which almost seems to contradict Thomas More’s Utopia vision.

The Reformation and Counter Reformation
This was a time of rebellion of less civilised nations against the intellectual domination of Italy.
The Popes’ authority was rejected.

An Englishman Italiante
Is a devil incarnate

An example of the views towards Italy at this time is shown by the works of Shakespeare, with many Italian villains such as Iago in the play ‘Othello’.
The revolt was both political and theological. It was a sign of them refusing to accept higher power.

Luther, Calvin and Loyola were all key figures in the Reformation and Counter Reformation
The Jesuits

The Rise of Science
16th Century – Theology
17th Century – Described as ‘The best age of Greece’
The 17th Century was a remarkable time not only for Astronomy and dynamics, but also other forms of science.

There were 4 Key figures in Science.
Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo and Newton

He was a Polish ecclesiastic.

He was one of the first to believe the sun to be at the centre of the universe, and the Earth being in a twofold motion.
His key writing ‘De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelstium’ was published the year he died. His heliocentric theory was claimed by a friend to only be a hypothesis when it was put forward. It is unclear how deeply Copernicus sanctioned the statement.
The book was dedicated to The Pope. During his time the Church was more liberal and his work was not condemned by the Catholic Church at least until the life of Galileo.

Kepler adopted the heliocentric theory, which much like Copernicus is the view that the Sun is the centre of the universe.

He suggested 3 Laws of planetary motion.
[The first two were published in 1609]
First Law – The planets describe elliptic orbits, of which the sun occupies one focus.
Second Law – The Line joining a planet to the sun sweeps out equal areas in equal time.
[The third was published in 1619]
Third Law – The Square of the period of revolution of a planet is proportional to the cube of its average distance from the sun.

Considered the greatest of the founders of modern science.
He first discovered the important of acceleration in dynamics. The example given in the book is that ‘a body moving uniformly in a circle has at all times acceleration towards the centre of the circle.
Galileo felt that if a body is left alone, it will continue to move in a straight line with uniform velocity.
Only an action of force would change the rapidity or direction of motion.
[Newton later described this as the ‘first law of motion’]

One important contribution is his discovery that the Milky Way contained a number of individual stars. He also discovered the satellites of Jupiter.
However, there had always been seven heavenly bodies. These were the 5 planets, the sun and the moon. By adding Jupiter’s 4 moons, there would then be eleven. This number has no mystical properties. Traditionalists denounced the telescope and claimed the results were only delusions.

Galileo was condemned in 1616 for herecy (going against religion)


Removal of almost all traces of animism from the Laws of Physics.
Thanks to the work of Copernicus, Galileo d Kepler, Newton was able to take their theories a step further and developed Keplers’ three laws by proving that every planet has acceleration towards the sun at every moment.

Francis Bacon
Francis Bacon is known for the phrase ‘Knowledge is Power’

Francis became a Lord Chancellor in 1618 but only lasted 2 years as he was prosecuted for accepting bribes from Litigants. This had condemned him to a fine of £40,000 as well as being imprisoned in the kings’ tower. However, the sentence was only partially executed as he did not need to pay the fine, and only spent four days in the tower.

He wrote ‘The Advancement of Learning’. Russell considers it to have a modern feel.
Bacon claims that philosophy should be kept separate from theology.

He was an empiricist (felt that knowledge came from experience) like Locke and Berkeley. He was also a keen admirer of mathematical method.

When the Long Parliament met in 1640, Hobbes fled to France out of fear of being sent to the tower. The next year he wrote ‘De Cive’, however it wasn’t published until 1647.

Hobbes was suspected of atheism, and because of this he could no longer print anything that revolved around controversial subjects.

Leviathan was written by Hobbes, and contained political opinions were royalist to the extreme.
Hobbes intended to show the evils of democracy.
He claims that ‘Life is nothing but a motion of the limbs, and therefore automata have an artificial life’

He explores the following in his book:-

- Man as an individual
- Hope that ‘some king’ would become a philosopher. Russell states that Monarchs are assured that the book is easy to read and can be found quite interesting.
- There is no universal church
- Hobbes hatred of the Church of Rome (because it puts spiritual power above the temporal).

One view that Hobbes insists on is that all men are naturally equal. He was also obsessed with anarchy, and the fear of it happening.
One other key point is Hobbes belief that God is not an object of philosophy.

Hobbes has also been described as a nominalist. He felt that objects given the same name/term don’t actually have anything in common other than that name. They are all unique and individual.

He is considered the founder of modern philosophy.
It marked the intellectual transition from the middle ages to the modern world.
Descartes also despised Aristotle, believing that his theories were full of errors.
He believed that old ideas were dominating the way that we all lived and wanted to change it.

Descartes most famous theory was Systematic Doubt which is also where he gained the phrase:-
‘I think therefore I am’

The idea revolves around the question of how we can be absolutely certain that something exist or is true.
It began when Descartes felt his good education was actually holding him back and was of no use to him. He believed ‘men of action’ were those to be around. The idea was that the jobs they did were real as they had repercussions if done wrong.
He also noticed that the things you are taught are only relevant to where you are at that time. As experience was so varied, he considered it to be useless.

Descartes decided to take apart everything he knew, all of his knowledge.
He started to question every element of what he knew, and asked himself whether they had any form of doubt that they are true.

He started with scepticism regarding the senses.
E.g. - Can I doubt that I am sitting here by the fire in a dressing-gown?

He originally felt that a demon could be tricking him, but then realised that he could not be deceived if he didn’t exist.
‘I may have no body this might be an illusion’

Russell suggests that Descartes only applied his theory half-heartedly, but still sees it as being of great philosophical important.
Descartes made one exception to the law of physics, claiming that a human soul can (by volition) alter the direction of motion.
Why Philosophy of Descartes was important - It brought to (at least) a near conclusion the dualism of mind and matter, which began with Plato, and developed by Christian philosophy.


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