{ Philosophical Methods Exploring some ways people go about “thinking about thinking”

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Philosophical Methods

Philosophical MethodsExploring some ways people go about thinking about thinking.

{We already know that philosophy is highly concerned with critical thinking and asking questions.

Choosing the correct words for questions and arguments is very important. Imprecise language often leads to confusion and unnecessary disagreements.

This is why Socrates stressed the importance of precise definitions in philosophical discussion. Definitions and ClarityImagine you and a friend are discussing the fairness of a quiz if you dont have a similar idea of what is meant by fairness, then your discussion could amount to nothing.Definitions and Clarity

Dictionary.com defines fair as:adjective1.freefrombias,dishonesty,orinjustice:afairdecision;afairjudge.

This definition is a good starting point, and be fine for discussing a quiz in school, but a philosopher would prefer to go well beyond this. They seek a deeper, more thorough understanding of the concept being discussed. Definitions and ClarityWhat is Freedom?A philosopher would not find the answer they are looking for in a dictionary. They would try to understand the role of freedom in peoples lives and thoughts, whether freedom can be misused and whether it relates to other concepts like equality and justice.

Can a philosopher ever find the truth they seek? Can true definitions ever be reached for concepts like freedom, love, equality, hate or evil? Philosophers continue to discuss and try. Definitions and ClarityAs we have said, choosing the right words for questions is very important. Philosophers pay special attention to first order and second order language.

Language MattersFirst order language is concerned with the specific. (ex.) His lie caused the mistake.

First order questions have a limited number of responses.(ex.) Is it right or wrong for me to cheat on this test?

Language MattersSecond order language is considered higher order language. It is used to clarify first order language.(ex.) What does it mean to say that cheating is right or wrong?(ex.) What does it mean to say that his lie caused the mistake?

Second order language helps clarify ideas and allows people to think critically. It looks at all possibilities and implications.

Language MattersYou try! With a partner, create 2 first order questions. Then look at the questions again how can you turn them into second order questions?

Example:1st order: Should I go to the party?2nd order: What would be the consequences if I went to the party?

1st order: Is it stealing to take a better seat at a concert?2nd order: What does it mean to steal? Is there ever a time when stealing can be justified?

Language MattersRecall that Socrates wanted people to accept that there was much they did not know. One highly effective technique that encourages people to challenge common-sense beliefs and develop clear definitions is the Socratic method. Socratic Method

Article: How to Argue Using the Socratic Method

Socratic Method

What kinds of questions can we ask to refute somebodys argument? Why do you say that?How does this relate to our discussion?What could we assume instead?How can you prove that?What is an example?But what if?Why do you think that happens?Whats another way to look at it?Who benefits from that?Why is that best? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this argument?What generalizations can you make?What are the consequences of this assumption?What was the point of that question?Why did I ask that question?

Socratic Method

Thought experiments are another tool philosophers use to push common-sense beliefs to the breaking point.

The logic behind a thought experiment is that if peoples common-sense beliefs crumble under the pressure imposed by a thought experiment, perhaps those beliefs should be re-examined.

Thought ExperimentsThought experiments usually begin with, or include, the question what if?

They then propose an imaginary situation or event, something that does not exist, has never existed, and will probably never exist.

In other words, thought experiments propose a possible world. Everything in the possible world is the same as the real world, except for the imaginary situation or event.

Thought Experiments(ex.) The Ship of Theseus

Another philosopher returned to the thought experiment of The Ship of Theseus and asked another question suppose somebody had taken each rotting plank as it was removed from the ship and had assembled them into a ship again.

Now which ship is the original ship? (ex.) The Ship of Theseus

Thought experiments must be handled with great care. It is possible that they help people arrive at new perspectives on common-sense beliefs, some thought experiments prove little or nothing at all.

What do you think the possible drawbacks or cons of doing a thought experiment are?

Thought ExperimentsThe most difficult part about participating in a thought experiment is marking the boundaries of the discussion.

Once an imaginary situation is proposed, it can lead to proposing an infinite number of imaginary situations what ifs can build and build with no end in sight, effectively defeating the purpose of the experiment.

Thought Experiments