Hi. Welcome back to Philosophy 101, Morals in Society, from Honolulu Community College. I am Chris Ann Moore. Tonight,
we’re going to do Program 17: the Renaissance, Reformation and the
Scientific Revolution. As we saw in two episodes ago in our Episode 15 on
Thomas Aquinas that Thomas Aquinas had succeeded in accomplishing in–
accomplishing, excuse me, an amazing feat. Thomas Aquinas had gotten the church to
accept reason and observation as methods of knowing. He had gotten the church to
accept Aristotle’s knowledge and, more importantly, to accept Aristotle’s method.
Philosophy was, once again, reintroduced into the west. And, Aquinas set about
applying reason and observation of nature to determining the truth or
actually proving the truth of church doctrine. And, in the process, he created
his Summa Theologica, volumes of work which is a massive intellectual
synthesis showing that reason and observation of nature confirmed
Christian doctrine. In the process, he created proofs for the existence of God.
He attempted to answer the question: “If God is good, why do evil and suffering
exists?” And, he created one of the most influential ethical theories in the west. Interestingly, however, although Aquinas’s theory still has tremendous influence, was eventually adopted by the church and still underlies many of our
cultural notions today. In the period immediately following Aquinas’s death,
Aquinas’s methods were rejected once again. You see, exactly what this church
had thought would happen once reason was reintroduced did happen. Once human
beings begin to reason, they begin to question authority, they begin to
question doctrine and they begin to come up with their own ideas. This is exactly
what the church had feared. And thus, in the wake of Aquinas’s Aristotelian
synthesis, there was an anti-Aristotelian reaction. There was a reaction against rationalism. There was a new anti-rationalism. And, in
fact, the great philosophers who followed Aquinas in the medieval period, Jon Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, rejected rationalism as a way of knowing
the will of God or God’s commands or, for that matter, the good. William Ockham lived from 1280 to 1349; Jon Scotus, around the years 1266. And, both of them disagreed
that God’s will or the good could be revealed by reason and observation. Now,
Aristotle had become extremely important in the universities of the medieval
period. But, the scholastic philosophy that had developed in the medieval
period and the philosophy that was carried out after the rediscovery of
Aristotle was extremely logical, extremely analytic, extremely textually
based and, for many, it appeared extremely dry. So, this new anti-rationalistic
sentiments and, also, this rejection of the logical analysis of Aristotle, which
seemed very dry, led to this new anti- rationalism. Because of that, once again,
ethics will be the province of the church alone. In fact, there will not be
another major ethical theory until the 18th century. So, we’re talking some 500
years until, once again, ethics becomes the province of philosophy. So, what I
want to do in this episode is cover a short, really, a brief, historical summary
of some of those events that occurred from right after Aquinas’s death
until, really, the rebirth of philosophy in the mid 17th century and then, the
major ethical theories that would be the result of that rebirth in the 18th century. But, we can’t just skip 500 years. So, we have to look at
what happened. You see, Aquinas’s work was extraordinarily ambitious. Some
people have actually created a metaphor of Aquinas’s work with the great
gothic cathedrals that were being built around the same period in the High Middle
Ages. You see, the great gothic cathedrals had these spires that reach to the
heavens. And, right about the time that Thomas was creating his Summa, they were building the largest gothic cathedral of all time. In fact, it had a spire that
reached higher than any spire had ever reached before. And, guess what happened? Yes, exactly: the spire fell. It was toppled by its own reach. And, in a
sense, there are those who say the same thing of Thomas’s Summa: that it had
overreached its bounds. And, the reaction was, therefore, a new anti-rationalism. You
see, anti-rationalism is basically the notion that God’s omnipotence is not
limited by rationality. Anti-rationalism: God’s omnipotence is not limited by
rationality. What does this mean? Well, you see, Socrates had believed that we did
not need God’s commands to know what was good: that, in fact, determining divine
command was extraordinarily difficult and, therefore, another method was
necessary to determine the good. And, Socrates and Plato and Aristotle, in the
Greek rationalistic tradition, had really determined that human reason, or human
reason coupled with observation, could determine the good because the good
would be rational. Aquinas adopted, really, and modified this idea. Aquinas believed
that both revelation and rationality were sources of knowledge; revelation
actually being superior to rationality. But, Aquinas certainly believed that we could
certainly believed that we could determine God’s laws through reason, that
God’s laws were, indeed, rational laws, that the laws of nature were indeed
rational and logical and therefore could be perceived and known by human reason
and human rationality. However, the philosophers that followed Aquinas and
the position of the church itself is that God is not limited by logic, God is
not limited by reason, God is not limited by rationality. Therefore, human reason
cannot be used to determine God’s laws, to know God’s will or to protect what
God’s purpose might be. We cannot know God’s purposes using human reason
because God is not necessarily rational: God supersedes all rationality. This
vision, therefore, leaves the only way to know the good: divine revelation. And, of
course, in the late medieval period, that was in the hands of the church
authorities alone. Ethics, the good, could only be known by divine revelation. Reason and observation as methods for knowing ethics was completely rejected.
Once again, this anti-rationalism was further supported by a new mystical
movement that had swept through Europe shortly after Aquinas’ death. This
mystical movement had many adherence, in many leaders. One of the most famous of
which is Meister Eckhart. Meister Eckhart lived from 1260 to 1327 AD. And, Meister
Eckhart and others sought not to understand God by reason but instead, to
achieve mystical union with God or to have a mystical experience, a personal
experience of God. And, Eckhart and others said that, in fact,
reason, the mind, gets in the way of achieving such an experience. This is
really the meditative mystical tradition within the church. And, the meditative
mystical tradition seeks not to understand God with the mind, but to know
God through experience, through its joyful, ecstatic, mystical union of, with
God. And, that, this joyful, ecstatic, mystical union is prevented by the
reasoning mind. This is not that different from what we discussed
episodes ago with Lao Tzu and Buddha. Those who seek to have this mystical,
ecstatic experience often reject the reasoning mind as an obstacle to that
experience. So, because of this new anti- rationalism that was adopted by the
philosophers, adopted by the church and then, adopted by the thousands who now
joined mystical movements, we attempt to develop a philosophical ethic was ended.
And once again, ethics and, actually, all existential questions, all questions
about the meaning and purpose of existence and what one ought to do, all
the questions that philosophy also deals with are, once again, in the hands of the
church. But, something very interesting happens. Although existential questions
remain the province of the church, science, which is really the Aristotelian
legacy in some ways, continues. However, Aristotelian science had been hampered
by Aristotle’s own notions that everything had a purpose because, really,
Aristote projected his concepts of purpose on nature which prevented in
them, sometimes, from seeing the facts. Aristotelian protoscience contains a lot of mistakes for that reason. But, once one can observe
the facts freed of Aristotelian notions, science can develop in a more productive
direction. So, in one of the great contradictions of history, the rejection
of Aristotle–the anti-rationalism applied to existential questions and the
rejection of Aristotle’s purpose and meaning imposed on life, allowed science
to move forward unhampered by Aristotle’s own assumptions. This really
set the stage for the next great period in Western history, which is the
Renaissance. The Renaissance is actually dated from the death of William of
Ockham. although it should be obvious that movements don’t start in one year. You–errors don’t happen in one year. But, it does seem that, in the year of 1349,
which is William of Ockham’s death, these forces that are going to create the
Renaissance converge and these forces will lead to a whole new consciousness, a
whole new way of thinking that will be called the Renaissance. And, the
Renaissance, really, is the rebirth of humanism. The Renaissance, which is
approximately from 1350 to 1650, Renaissance really means the rebirth. Renaissance
means rebirth and here, the rebirth that is referred to is the rebirth of
humanism . What do we mean by humanism? Well, a rebirth of interest in the human
mind, in human creativity and the development of human potential and a
belief, actually, in the possibilities of human genius. This is what marks the
Renaissance. You see, in the medieval period, life was seen as a vale of tears.
This world was just something to be passed through on the road to salvation
or damnation. And, actually, human beings themselves were seem to have very little
ability to even participate in that. Humans were seen as sinful and
flawed and hampered by their own sinful nature. Their salvation could only be
achieved through faith or the sacraments of the church. There was little belief in
human potential and creativity and imagination or genius, for that matter. Now, of course, the medieval period had its beauty. Every life was endowed with
definite meaning and purpose. And, in fact, the entire cosmos was seen to be
fighting over the destiny of your soul. And, life, in a sense, was magically imbued
with forces that were fighting out this purpose to achieve salvation or
damnation. But, the human, the human being him- or herself was seen as really
incapable of achieving salvation on their own. If one looks at the art of the
Middle Ages, there’s very little scenes of nature. It’s a cruel world, a test, really,
to be passed through. And, figures of the human body are extremely two-dimensional and very ethereal and saint-like. In the Renaissance, we will see the development
of a whole ‘nother kind of art. What had really–one of the, the forces that really
gave birth to this new consciousness was the recovery of the remainder of Greek
philosophy and Roman philosophy and literature. Greek philosophy and
literature, Roman philosophy and literature came into the west. Aristotle
had led the way but, eventually, Plato was rediscovered. In, in fact, 40 of Plato’s
dialogues were eventually rediscovered, as well as other Greek writers and, as
well, as other Roman writers. And, in the wake of this anti-Aristotelian sentiment,
rather than interest in Plato’s critical philosophy, what really drew people’s
interest was Plato’s literary style, the art in Plato’s own writing. See, the
Renaissance is really defined by this flourishing of art, of literature, of letters as well as some essential scientific discoveries. It is science and art which are at the basis of the Renaissance. And, really, it
begins in just a few small city states in northern Italy and eventually
spreads throughout Europe. And, at the center of this movement is this idea
that the human person has tremendous capacity for creation and that the world,
the natural world, is, in fact, a joyful mirror of God’s creation. In this rebirth
of humanism, there is not a rejection of God as creator, but there’s a rejection
of a focus on transcendence alone. It is now to be understood that God can be
celebrated in nature and the human being is to be celebrated as made in God’s
image. And now, the art of the Renaissance, rather than these ethereal two-dimensional figures, we have these muscled, sensuous, even sexy
figures. We have lush, natural scenes, which are absolutely, incredibly beautiful, as
well as religious scenes. It was, in a sense, the rediscovery of philosophy and
the rebirth of science that led to this new celebration of life. But, there were
other factors, as well. And, in fact, a huge factor contributing to the
Renaissance was actually a confrontation with death. Early in the 14th century, the
Black Plague had infested Europe, really ravaged Europe. It was a horrible
disease and its death seemed inescapable, unstoppable. Over one-third of the
population of Europe would be infected by the Black Plague and would die. In
fact, people died so quickly that there weren’t enough people left to
bury the dead. Cities filled with rotting corpses and then rats. It’s hard to
imagine the level of the horror of the Black Plague. And, in a sense, this
confrontation with death is part of what led to the celebration of life, oddly
enough, in the Renaissance. But, this confrontation with death led to
something else important, as well. You see, the entire medieval worldview was shook
by this because it became obvious, as Europe was ravaged by death, that the
pious and the good fell as quickly and horribly as the evil and the wicked. Those ideas that the medieval mind had
had such faith in were shook, were challenged. And, something else happened as well. People began to question the authority of the church and began to a
question the hierarchy of the church, the ecclesiastics because they too fell
horribly. And, in this questioning, something began to be revealed, which is:
as the church had become more and more politically powerful, her hierarchy had
become more and more corrupt. And, as people began to question the church, that
corruption became inescapably obvious. You see, the popes, the bishops, the
cardinals, even the priests and the monks, had tremendous political power and they
also, quite often, had tremendous wealth. They lived extraordinarily luxurious
lives. They were also constantly involved in warfare and political intrigue. They,
also, many of them had mistresses and illegitimate children, which was
well known to everyone. As time went by, it seemed that the leaders of the church
had gone–had moved farther and farther and farther away from what they taught
was in the Holy Bible, from what the masses of the pious faithful actually
believed were the teachings of Jesus. And, this new humanistic art of the
Renaissance: a great deal of it was funded by the church hierarchy and that
was very costly. So, where was the church getting all of this money? Well, one of
the ways the church lined its coffers was through the practice of indulgences.
Earlier in the late Middle Ages, the church had invented purgatory. Purgatory
is not mentioned in the Bible. Purgatory was said to be a place where individuals
who had died or babies who had not been baptized would go to atone for their
sins. You see, it was believed by the church, in the Middle Ages, that
confession of sins was not enough to receive forgiveness. Often, today,
confession is considered sufficient to receive forgiveness from the church. But,
in the Middle Ages, one needed to confess one sins, but one also had to atone for
one sins. One had to do good works. But, what happens if you’ve confessed your
sins, but you haven’t done a sufficient number of good works to atone for your
sins? Does that mean you’re going to be damned for all time and babies who are
not baptized, are babies who are not baptized damned for all time, as the
church teachings would seem to say? You see, these seem to be grotesquely unfair
doctrines. In a sense, purgatory was invented to accommodate for the
unfairness. Now, instead of going to hell, those who had not atoned sufficiently or the unbaptized babies could go to purgatory, where they could do good works
or be prayed out of purgatory and eventually reach heaven. Well, the church fathers figured out that
the church, of course, has vast stores of good works because the church performs
enormous numbers of good works. And so, the church thought, well, they could sell
their good works to others. And, these indulgences would mean that if you
bought the church’s good works, you wouldn’t have to atone for your own sins,
the church had atoned for your sins. So, therefore, one could buy atonement for
one sins. One could buy for oneself. One good buy for one of those family. You could even buy sins you might–atonement for sins you were planning to commit in the
future. Well, this seemed like an obviously corrupt practice to some. And so, the political power, the
mistresses, the illegitimate children, the selling of indulgences, the financing of
this incredibly humanistic sexual art, the political intrigue, the
assassinations– And then, it all came to a head when– Actually, at one point, there
were two popes: there’s a pope in France, in Avignon and a pope in Rome, each
claiming to be the Pope. This was from 1378 to 1415. Once there were two popes, it really became doubtful to the masses of
followers that the church really was the sole line to God, that, really, the church was
really holy, the church really was endowed by God with the souls of all the
faithful to ensure salvation. And, this led to the next great movement, which
would be, finally, the breaking of the monolithic control of the church over
the Western mind. It didn’t happen until 1517, the Protestant Reformation, the
breaking away of other Christian churches from the Catholic Church. But,
the Protestant Reformation was set up, really– First, there was the corruption of
the church, this reinterest in humanism and even individualism in art in science. And then came the most important invention of the time and perhaps the
most important invention of all time: the printing press. The printing press was
invented in 1447 and the printing press would have an enormous impact. Just think of it: books are suddenly available and they’re available in the common tongue
and they’re available to all. Just to give you an idea of the impact of the
printing press: a quote, this statistic, in law that is in William Meehan’s book: “It took 45 copyists under Cosimo de Medici 10 years to create–two
years, 45 copyists two years to create 200 books.” The printing press, of course,
was invented in 1447. By 1500, there were a thousand printing presses in Europe and
over nine million books of thirty thousand titles. Nine million books,
within three years in Europe, a thousand presses going. All of a sudden, vast
amounts of knowledge and information are available. But, most important: what, of
course is the first book to come off the printing presses? Of course, it’s the
Bible and the Bible is printed in the common tongue. So, now people have access to the Bible and they can read the Bible and they can decide what the Bible means
for themselves. This is a whole new world view that becomes available. And, it is
really, the availability of the Bible in the common tongue which opens the way
for the Protestant Reformation or the Protestant, the Protestant breaking away from the Catholic Church. It starts in 1517. And, as I said, in the Protestant Reformation, the Protestant churches are formed as many people break away from the Catholic
church. It all starts when Martin Luther, a monk in Germany, nails ninety-five
theses to the doors of Wittenberg castle. In these ninety-five theses, Martin
Luther condemns the practices of the Catholic Church. He condemns indulge,
indulgences among other things. Now, it seems quite amazing that Martin Luther
isn’t immediately eliminated. You see, there had been others who had attempted
to reform the church before. There had been others who would take an issue with
the practices of the church hierarchy, but none of them survived. Or, on occasion, they would actually be taken into the fold of the church and be able to enact
some kind of reform. Francis of Assisi, now known as Saint Francis, was one of
those. He tried to return the church to poverty and charity. He almost got
eliminated. He almost got excommunicated. But, eventually, it was actually accepted
and brought into the fold of the church and started a whole new order. But, most
of those who took exception to the church’s practices were excommunicated
or they had the inquisition visit and they were tortured and they died. Martin
Luther survived, however. While times had changed and nations had changed. You see, as the church’s corruption became more obvious, the nations and monarchies were
becoming more powerful. Nationalism was beginning to rise and there was this new
invention that had come in during the Renaissance as well, another new
invention: gunpowder. Gunpowder had changed the nature of warfare and it
changed the entire character of nations. And, by 1517, there were in members of the
monarchy who are no longer too pleased at having to bow to the Pope, no longer
very pleased that the Pope had authority over them. In fact, some of them believed
that they should have authority over the Pope. Among those monarchs were the
German princes, the princes of the German states. Martin Luther was in Germany and
he actually had the support of the German princes, who wanted to break away from the Pope in Rome. Therefore, Martin Luther was able to create a whole new
christian church based on the Bible, based on this radical notion that
individuals could read the Bible for themselves and, through faith and a
relationship with the divine, a personal relationship with the divine,
determine God’s will for them. This is quite different. Martin Luther is
declaring that the church is unnecessary to intercede between human beings and
God. The individuals for themselves can understand God’s word, God’s will, God’s
revelation. A whole new way of looking at religion and spirituality and
breaking away from a thousand years of tradition. And, once Martin Luther and his
followers broke away, others followed suit, other Christian churches were
formed, others broke away from the church. Henry the Eighth broke England away from
the church for his own very personal reasons. Henry the Eighth had been
married to his brother’s widow when he was 18, Catherine of Aragon. Catherine was the daughter of Isabel and Ferdinand of Spain, the king and queen who had
financed Christopher Columbus, if you know that story. So, Catherine of Aragon
was rather important and the alliance between Spain and England was extremely
important. And, when Henry’s brother died and Catherine was left a widow, Henry
married Catherine. But, after 20 years of marriage, Catherine had produced no son.
Henry did not have an heir to the throne. It looked like the line of his monarchy
would be over. Henry had found this particularly difficult to take because
Henry had masses of illegitimate children. Henry slept around quite a bit,
but he had no royal heir. Well, this situation was much worse when Henry fell
in love. He fell in love with the daughter of a minor lord. Her name was
Anne Boleyn and Anne, unlike so many others, refused to go to bed with Henry unless
he married her. Well, this made Henry absolutely crazy. He became obsessed. He wanted to marry Anne. The problem is he was married to Catherine, so he needed a
divorce. He didn’t need just a divorce, he needed the marriage annulled. So, he asked the Pope to annul his marriage to Catherine and
the Pope said, “No.” Not surprising: the Pope had a political relationship with
Spain that was very important. He wasn’t about to make the daughter of the
Spanish king and queen an unwed mother. Henry was furious and therefore Henry
broke from Rome. He declared that the English churches were no longer subject
to Rome and created a whole new Protestant church: the Anglican Church. The Church of England wasn’t just Henry and Martin Luther, either. Then, the Calvinists started
and, before you knew it, there were churches breaking away from the Catholic
Church all over Europe. Now, the Catholic Church attempted to reform itself. Actually, this is called the counter-reformation. The church begins to
reform itself from within. The church ended the selling of indulgences. The
church again became more pious and, in fact, the church began to take that form,
which is much more–would be more recognizable today. We might not
recognize the Catholic Church of the Renaissance, but the Catholic Church of
the counter-reformation would be much more familiar to us. However, it was too late. The Protestant church churches remained separated from the Catholic Church. However, this was to have devastating
consequences. The result of the separation of the Protestant churches and
the Catholic Church was hundreds of years of bloody warfare between the two
factions. Kings and queens would take different sides, declare different state
religions. Sometimes, your country would be Protestant one year, Catholic the next,
then Protestant again. This happened, indeed, in England because, of course if
you know history, you know that Henry the Eighth did indeed Mary Anne Boleyn. But,
she failed to give him a son as well. And so, Henry, then, had to get rid of Anne and
he did. He had her head cut off. Henry–Anne had given Henry, as they would say then, a
daughter. That daughter was Elizabeth. Elizabeth, of course, would grow up to be
a Protestant. The marriage of Anne and Henry had been based on the creation of
the Protestant church. But, you remember Catherine. Catherine had a daughter, Mary.
Mary, daughter of Catherine of Aragon of Spain was Catholic. Well, when Mary was on the throne, England was Catholic. When Elizabeth followed, England was
Protestant . Allegiances to churches were often vicious and fanatic. State
allegiances and those who ever were in power seemed more than willing to
slaughter members of the other faith. When the Protestants were in power, the
Catholics were being slaughtered. When the Catholics were in power, the
Protestants being were slaughtered. And, the people were slaughtering one. This was an era, an era began of massive religious persecutions. It was, in part,
because of these religious persecutions that people began to leave Europe for
that land that Columbus had discovered, for the Americas. People wanted to escape the burnings, the riots, the warfare. They wanted to be safe to practice their
religion, whatever it might be, without the threat of death or burning. And so,
many of those people got on boats and came to America. And, that is really how
America was founded. That is why, when, eventually, a nation was created by those
people who had left Europe, a fundamental precept of that nation is the separation
of church and state, because they realized what happens when the state
tells you how to worship and whom to worship. And so, we move through the Renaissance,
the Reformation and the counter-reformation. And now, we can look
at the next great movement in the west as we fly through history, really, just
touching on some of the highlights. And, the next great movement would be the
Scientific Revolution. Towards the end of the Renaissance, by the late 1500s, early
1600s, the scientific method had been discovered. Now, the scientific method was a new approach: the scientific inquiry on how to determine truth from facts. And,
because of the scientific method, science was making astounding new discoveries,
discoveries that worked, discoveries that changed lives, discoveries, actually, that
would change our view of the world. I’m going to talk about just one of those
discoveries that came with our next movement, the Scientific Revolution, which
is really the late 1500s to now. The Scientific Revolution is still going on. Of course, one of the most famous discoveries of the Scientific Revolution
happened at the very beginning and that was Copernicus’s discovery that the
earth moved about the sun, that the Sun was the center of our universe and the
earth circled the Sun. This may seem quite obvious to us today. However, at the
time, it was mind-blowing. You see, everyone had believed that the earth was
the center of the universe and that everything, including the sun, revolved
about the earth. This is very psychologically important because it, of course, makes the earth the center of creation and human beings,
being the ultimate creation on the earth, makes human beings the apex of all
creation its central meaning, its central purpose, the ultimate purpose of creation,
the final purpose of creation is human beings moving to their final purpose and
realization in God. But, Copernicus says, “No.” Copernicus says that the earth is
just one planet revolving around the sun, which is the center of the cosmos. Copernicus didn’t publish this till
after he died. But, even then, it didn’t take a great amount of note. There wasn’t
a huge reaction to Copernicus, Copernicus’s publication. In fact, the
biggest reaction came from Martin Luther because, of course, the Bible says, if you
take it literally, that the earth stands still. Martin Luther was furious at
Copernicus and said, “That fool! Would he turn the world upside down?” But, the
Catholic Church didn’t take much note. It was’nt until later, til the early seventeenth
century, when Galileo confirmed Copernicus’s ideas by observations
through his telescope, that the church took note. Now, we cannot cover all the
reasons that the church, at this point, when it had ignored, basically, Copernicus’s
findings, suddenly became furious at Galileo’s contentions. But, Galileo had
looked through his telescope, this new invention and, through his observations,
had determined that yes, indeed, Copernicus is correct. The earth moves
about the sun. The earth is just one of many planets moving about the sun, which
is, indeed the center of the universe. At this time, by this point, the Catholic
Church was in the midst of the counter-reformation. Doctrine was
becoming more and more important and the Church’s authority in interpreting
doctrine was becoming more and more important. And, in point of fact, the
church was less concerned with Galileo’s observations then it was with the fact
that Galileo presumed to interpret scripture in light of those observations. But, as I said, that in itself will be a book. It’s an interesting book. There’s
many, on this moment, worth reading. But, the Catholic Church had Galileo arrested
and Galileo was forced to recant. He was forced to say that he was wrong. He got
down on one knee and said, “I was wrong.” He spent the rest of his life under house
arrest. Nevertheless, he had to promise never to publish again, nor–and to do
no more scientific investigations on the planets. Galileo was an old man by then
and his house arrest was rather luxurious. He had many powerful friends,
even in the church. But, nevertheless, famous moment in history. As Gallo said,
he was wrong because, of course, we know now Galileo was indeed right. Newton and
then Kepler and then Newton would prove, in fact, that Galileo was correct. And,
because of this, a whole new consciousness would have to evolve for
human beings because human beings were no longer the center of the cosmos, no
longer its ultimate purpose, no longer the apex of creation. Human beings were
just another creature on a tiny planet, third out from the sun and soon, they
would come to realize, in a universe which is just one of billions of universes. Quite a different world view, quite a new existential anxiety, quite
different questions now must be asked in some ways about the meaning of purpose
of life, about what one should do, about what one should be, about what one should
seek to accomplish, about ethics itself. And so, because of this development–through the anti-rationalism, after Aquinas, the Renaissance, the Reformation,
the counter-reformation, ultimately, the Scientific Revolution–eventually,
philosophy would be born once again, specifically to deal with these new
existential questions. And, eventually, it became more and more obvious that
philosophy was necessary to answer these existential questions. For many, religion
no longer seemed too secure a place to look for answers. Years of bloodshed and
warfare and inquisitions and witch burnings had made religion itself
suspect. But, even those who still looked to religion often found they still
needed philosophy because there was no longer one religion, there was no longer
one sure answer. There were many religions and the individual had to
choose between these many religions. And, on top of that, in some of these
religions, some of these Christian religions, the individual is expected to
interpret the Bible for his or herself. No easy task. Sure, there were plenty of
preachers willing to jump in and interpret it for you. But, some people
realized that it was their obligation, that they themselves had to read, that they
themselves had to know. And so, the development of the methods of philosophy
to deal with these new existential questions and to find answers to the old
existential questions see more and more important religious warfare, bloody
conflicts, the need to choose religions. Many, many, many people turn to science now. Science , in a sense, became the new religion. People looked to science for
answers more and more, but science is not adapted to answer questions of meaning
and purpose. At least, it has not yet been; it still is not. Science can tell you
what you can do, but science can’t necessarily tell you whether you ought
to do it or not. And so, philosophy, once again, became important. People, once again, turned to the use of reason and observation to answer philosophical
questions. It seemed to some, even, that science had worked so beautifully. Once
there was a scientific method, science seemed to be coming up with sure answers, at least, answers that worked. If we could find a philosophical method, we could
find a method to find sure answers to philosophical questions, including ethics.
And, once again, people began to use reason. The 17th century, the 18th
centuries, in fact, would be called the Age of Reason. And, reason, in fact, became the central point of the creation of the nation of the United States of America
because now you see the middle–the medieval world view was gone forever. Now, not only did people have to answer individually their own questions about
life, not only did they get to choose their own religion, but now people were
expected to be involved in choosing the direction of an entire nation (at least,
some of those people). And, they look to reason to show them how
to do that. Reason was at the basis of the founding of this nation. It was the
basis of the creation of democracies. It was the basis of the separation of
church and state, allowing the individual to decide. And, out of that new interest
in philosophy, there would come a need to develop, once again, ethical theories that
would answer what is the good and how can we prove what is good without
relying upon divine command? And, as people looked to philosophy to
answer existential questions, there came this realization that, indeed, a method
was necessary to approach these questions if one was going to try to
figure out the great questions of life for themselves: what is the good, why be
good, what is the method to know the good, what is my meaning, what is my purpose,
why am I here, what is happiness, how has happened, it’s achieved? Well, once again,
we have to come to the question of epistemology: how are you going to answer these questions, what method are you going to use? And so, the rebirth of the
philosophy in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, once again, begins to
struggle to decide upon or discover a method for answering philosophical
questions. This is something that we’ve talked about it again and again, since
our episode on the best possible answers: how does one arrive at the best possible
answers? And, the philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, in a
way, reflected the dichotomy that we saw earlier between Plato and Aristotle. Plato had looked to logic applied to a priori ideas, which he saw as
transcendental forms. Aristotle believed in a priori ideas. but he believed
knowledge could be found through experience of this world. Well, two really
epistemological movements would arise in 17th and 18th century. The first of them
would be very similar to Plato. These were the rationalists and they believed
that truth could be determined by applying logic to a priori ideas. The
problem is, of course, the problem is, as it always has been: how does one discover
a priori ideas? How does one find ideas that are not based on experience? How
does one find ideas which are universal and self-evidently true? As we saw before,
in the creation of the United States of America, the founding fathers had said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are endowed by their
creator with certain inalienable rights, among these, we hold to be life, liberty
and pursuit of happiness.” But, it’s one thing to declare a priori truths. You
just say we believe these to be self-evident truths; it’s another thing
to prove a priori ideas. So, the rationalists set about proving the existence of a
priori ideas, much as Socrates and Plato had 2,000 years ago. The thing is, of
course, if you’ll remember, Socrates and Plato had determined that a priori ideas
exist because we had experienced them before we were born. Socrates and Plato
believed in reincarnation; the philosophers of the seventeenth and
eighteenth century did not. So, where to look for a priori ideas? Well, one of the
most famous of the rationalist philosophers is Rene Descartes, who
published his famous Discourses on the Method in 1638. And, by method, Descartes had decided upon a method to discover a priori ideas. You see, Descarte was a
mathematician. Anyone who’s taken high school algebra knows the Cartesian
coordinates x and y: that’s Descartes. And, as a mathematician, Descartes was well
aware that, in mathematics, one could arrive at certain truth. He was also
aware of the scientific method. The scientific method was arriving at, at
least, workable truths. So, how can we find a philosophical method for certain truth? And Descartes thought to himself and he thought, “We want to find that which is
undoubtable, which is utterly self-evident. I will discover self-evident truth by doubting everything that can be doubted. And then,
I will see what is undoubtable. I will see what remains.” And so, Decartes doubted everything, doubted everything that could possibly
be doubted. For instance, all of this: everything I see, everything I feel, can
it be doubted? Yes. Why? Well, when I’m dreaming, I believe, for instance, I’m by a
campfire that I am drinking coffee, that I am talking and I’m quite shocked when
I wake up and I’m actually in bed. Doesn’t that happen to you? You’re
sitting there and you’re dreaming and then you wake up, shocked to find you’re
in bed ’cause you’re convinced that you were where you were dreaming. Well, Descartes proposes: well, how do you know you’re not dreaming now? How do you know that all of this is not some kind of dream? You may say, “Ridiculous,” but, is it
undoubtable? You see, Descartes decided to throw out anything that could be doubted
just a little bit because he wanted to find what was absolutely undoubtable. It’s
doubtable that this exists, so we have to throw it out. In fact, Descartes went so
far as to say that it is possible that I have been put to sleep by some evil
genius who tricks me into thinking that I am awake. Sound familiar? Yes, Descartes’s notion of the evil genius is what is behind, in a sense, the movie The Matrix. In The Matrix, everyone has been put to sleep by an evil genius. It’s just The
Matrix is modern and those geniuses are machines, but this is fundamentally
Descartes notion. We do not know that we are not asleep and put to sleep by an evil
genius and, in fact, Descartes is not the first to propose this. The Islamic
philosopher, Al-Ghazali, in the High Middle Ages had written basically the
same thing: “I do not know that I have not been put to sleep by an evil genius.” And,
actually, there were early christian communities that believed they had been
put to sleep by an evil genius, that this world, in fact, was created by an evil
genius. So, Descartes doubted everything and then found the one thing that was
undoubtable that he was doubting. Seems obvious, doesn’t it But, Descartes
came up with the extraordinary idea: I am thinking, therefore I exist. Now, does Descartes’s famous “cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am), existence and thought, are
the beginning of the a priori ideas? And, with Descartes, we really have the birth
of modern philosophy, which will lead, eventually, to our next great ethical
theory, which we will talk about in our next show: Immanuel Kant. In the meantime, read your web chapters, do your homework and I’ll see you then. Bye bye.