Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology

Besides introducing epistemology and metaphysics, I'm going to be using these lectures as an excuse to talk about three of the most important people who were instrumental in getting Western philosophy started. They are:

Socrates (470-399 BCE)
Plato (427-347 BCE)
Aristotle (384-322 BCE)

I will also be mentioning some other figures along the way.

I. Introduction to Epistemology

A. epistemology = df. the philosophical study of knowledge, from the greek episteme, meaning "knowledge" or "scientific understanding", and -ology," study of".

B. Important questions:

1. What is knowledge?

2. How much knowledge is possible? Can we have any knowledge? 3. What kinds of knowledge are there?

One very important distinction:
4. Can we have any non-trivial a priori knowledge? 5. How reliable are the senses? Can we really gain knowledge through them? 6. Which is our primary or fundamental source of knowledge? 7. As humans, how do we "represent" the world? (These questions can also be considered metaphysical.)

II. Introduction to Metaphysics

A. metaphysics = df. the attempt to answer the most fundamental questions about the nature of reality, from the Latin, Metaphysica , which literally means "After the Physics", referring to a book of Aristotle's that was put immediately after the Physics in an early Latin compilation of Aristotle's writings

B. Closely connected with ontology = the philosophical study of being/existence, from the Greek ousia, meaning "being", and -ology, "study of".

C. Important questions:

1. What is existence? What is being? What is reality? (These are a little too broad to try to answer directly.)

2. What is the basic vocabulary to use when describing what exists?

3. What are the basic kinds of substances?

4. Do attributes (e.g. beauty) exist independently of the particular things that have them?

5. What is a person? What sort of substance(s) are we? 6. What is God? Does God exist? How much of existence depends on God? ( Theology)

7. What is free will? Does it exist?

8. What is a law of nature? What is causation?

9. What is the nature of space and time?

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