Russell’s World of Universals

In chapter 9 of his ‘Problems of Philosophy’, Bertrand Russell tackles the nature of universals and their role in our acquisition of knowledge. He first observes that contrary to proper names, like John or London, they are represented in substantives or nouns, adjectives, prepositions and verbs. No sentence can be construed without the necessary presence of at least one word denoting a universal, which explains why ‘all truths involve universals, and all knowledge of truths involves acquaintance with universals.’ Philosophers have ...

The contiguous worlds of Philosophy and Science

In an article published on June 1 2017 in the ‘Times Literary Supplement’, David Papineau addresses the question: ‘Is philosophy simply harder than science?’ Described as ‘the route to truth’, philosophy is described not only as the handmaiden of science but as its original foundation since all scientific theories originate from some form of philosophical position, such as, for instance, ancient natural thinkers like Democritus, Epicurus or Lucretius. Through their denial of any divine intervention in the universe, these ancient ...

Philosophy in Western Movies

The summer break should be an opportunity to get away from academic books and maybe indulge in the discovery of inspiring novels. But what about films? Twentieth-century philosophers have, on the whole, neglected what the French call ‘le septième art’ as very few thinkers critically studied the moving image, with the exceptions of Gilles Deleuze (‘Cinéma’) or Jean Baudrillard who deconstructed the hypnotic power of images in ‘Simulacra and Simulation’. But what of the young Sartre, who declared himself an ...

Russell on the elusive knowledge of the Self

In ‘The Problems of Philosophy’ (1912), Bertrand Russell pays tribute to the French philosopher, René Descartes, for performing ‘ great service to philosophy’ by introducing a rational method of doubt in the search for truthful knowledge. He doesn’t identify any apparent difficulty in the Cartesian assumption that everything outside my own thoughts, feelings snd sensations, could be a mere fantasy. However, he brings his own realist interpretation to bear on the argument, when he comments that, despite the logical possibility ...

Pre IB: On some inspiring philosophical novels

This blog was written Jean-Marc Pascal, an experienced IB Philosophy teacher. To read more Philosophy blog for students and teachers, click here. If you are tempted to choose Philosophy as one of your IB subjects, or simply want to enrich your culture, you may be looking for non-academic reading to whet your intellectual appetite and put you in good stead for your future studies. All selections are, by definition, subjective but some works stand out so much above the rest that ...

PRE IB: What to expect from the IB Philosophy course

This blog was written Jean-Marc Pascal, an experienced IB Philosophy teacher. To read more Philosophy blog for students and teachers, click here. The IB Philosophy course is the most eclectic introduction to a subject wrongly considered as reserved to the most academically inclined students. On the first lesson of the new school year, I usually ask my group of Philosophy students their reason for their choice of this particular subject. On one occasion, a student candidly replied that he didn’t really ...

PRE IB: How Philosophy can boost your IB academic performance

This blog was written Jean-Marc Pascal, an experienced IB Philosophy teacher. To read more Philosophy blog for students and teachers, click here. OK. You don’t really know what Philosophy is about and you are not remotely interested in starting a new academic subject from scratch. But, hold on a minute and consider the following: would you be prepared to say that you never thought about the difference between reality and fantasy or what you are doing on this planet? Obviously not, ...

How to approach the Philosophy examination

The Self in its Different Dimensions Spiritual Dimension: ‘the Self as Transcendent Entity’ Judeo-Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Zen, Taoism The Inner Self: ‘Who am I?’ Psychological foundations:                                                      Philosophical foundations: The Unconscious (Freud)                                                       ...

Plato’s political use of the ‘noble lie’

What would Plato have made of our ‘post-truth’ era where ‘alternative facts’ are likely to receive equal attention and are sometimes given more credence than analytic arguments, standing to reason? Well, Plato also had his own political agenda when writing The Republic and devising the most perfect society or what purports to be the most just society. The educational programme laid out by the alleged ‘founders’ of this utopian state, does not cater for the producers of material commodities. However, ...

Was Plato a precursor of Freud?

Despite the twenty-four centuries separating the two men, both Plato and Freud shared the same pessimism regarding human nature: man is driven by his desires or what Freud called ‘drives’ or instincts. The latter was a scientist who firmly believed in the power of rational enquiry. As a father who lost one of his sons in the First World War and who had to leave Austria for England in his old age in order to avoid the systematic anti-Semitic repression ...