[adapted from Questions of Value, edited by Donald Wayne Viney, 1998, Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.]

Adam’s navel - A variation on the chicken-egg problem: Since Adam, according to Genesis, was directly created by God without the help of a woman why did Adam have a navel—the most direct evidence that each of us was directly attached to our mothers? In 1857 the Englishman Philip Gosse published Omphalus (Greek for “navel”) in which he attacked this problem in relation to the then recent discovery of dinosaur bones. Anything God creates appears older than it is, according to Gosse. Hence, the trees in Eden had rings and Adam had a navel. Applying this reasoning to the dinosaurs, Gosse argued that God created the earth only a few thousands years ago, but it appears to be much older than it is, including a nonexistent prehistory of dinosaurs.

aesthetics (Greek aesthesis = feeling) - Inquiry into the nature of beauty and what it is that constitutes a work of art.

agape - Greek word used in the New Testament for the kind of love God has for the creatures. It is characterized by being spontaneous, unmotivated, and creative of value in the beloved. See eros.

agnosticism (Greek a = not; gnosis = knowledge) - A word coined by Thomas Huxley (1825-1895) to denote one who does not know whether God exists.

ahimsa - A word from Jainism meaning noninjury towards all living things. Mohandas Gandhi used this concept in his philosophy of nonviolence.

Allah - Islamic term for God.

Analects (Lun-yu) - Sayings of Confucius compiled by his followers.

analytic - A statement is analytic if it is true (or false) in virtue of its meaning. "All bachelors are unmarried" is analytic since it is part of the meaning of "bachelor" to be unmarried. Kant identified analytic statements as ones in which the predicate is already contained in the subject. See synthetic.

anthropic cosmological principle - A principle used in a version of the design argument for God's existence. Nature's fundamental constants seem to be carefully balanced, against all antecedent probability, so as to make the existence of sentient intelligent life possible. See design argument.

apologetics - Rational defense of one’s faith.

a posteriori (Latin = from the subsequent) - Judgments derived not from hypotheses but from experiment or experience.

a priori (Latin = from the previous) - Judgments derived from hypotheses or first principles and not derived from experiment or experience.

argument - A connected series of statements, called premises, intended to establish a proposition, called the conclusion.

atheism (Greek a = not; theos = God) - Commonly defined as one who believes that God does not exist. Some atheists, however, prefer that the term be defined more broadly and in keeping with its etymology to mean one who is not a theist. Others reject this definition since it entails that anyone who has yet to make up his or her mind about whether God exists would be an atheist.

Atman - In Hinduism, the self, or soul considered in its identity with Brahman.

atomism - A doctrine first promoted by Democritus that the universe is composed of uncuttable (a = not; tom = cuttable) bits of stuff that are too small to be observed by the senses. The idea of "splitting the atom," from the etymological standpoint, is an oxymoron.

axiology (Greek axios = value; logos = word, reason) - Theory of value.

Bible (Greek biblios = book) - Holy books of a religion; Jews and Christians often refer to their holy books simply as “the Bible.”

bluestocking - Originally a derogatory expression for a female intellectual in the eighteenth century.

Brahman - From Hindu thought: From br meaning to breath, and brih meaning to be great; the possible meanings of Brahman are (1) the absolute, uncreated, timeless, supreme soul or essence of existence, (2) God, and (3) Satcitananda. Hindu philosophers distinguish Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman. Saguna Brahman is God-with-attributes, usually conceived as a personal being; Nirguna Brahman is God-without-attributes, usually thought of as an nonpersonal absolute. See neti neti.

brain in a vat - A common thought experiment in contemporary discussions of the philosophy of mind. Imagine a brain that is kept alive artificially and stimulated by a mad scientist in such a way as to simulate one’s experience of the world. The virtual experience would be indistinguishable from the real experience. Hence, the question: How do you know that you are not a brain in a vat?

Buddha (560-477) (Sanskrit budk = to wake up or to know) - The enlightened one, the title given to Siddhartha Gautama of the Sakyas after he became enlightened. Siddhartha was his given name, Gautama was his surname, and Sakya was his clan. See Buddhism.

Buddhism - The religion of the Buddha. The central teachings of Buddhism are the four noble truths: (1) There is suffering, (2) there is a cause of suffering, (3) there is a cessation of suffering, and (4) the way to the cessation of suffering is the noble eight-fold path. See Buddha, dependent origination, karma, middle way, nirvana, noble eight-fold path, reincarnation, and Zen.

Cartesian doubt (Cartesian ‹ Descartes) - The methodical doubt proposed by Descartes as a way of finding truths that are both informative and certain. One is to set aside as false everything in which there is the least glimmer of doubt. Whatever is left is certainly true. Descartes believed that the truths discovered in this way should serve as the foundations of all knowledge. See cogito.

Cartesian dualism (Cartesian ‹ Descartes) - Descartes' view that the mind is essentially a thinking but nonphysical substance, called res cognitans (thinking thing), and bodies are essentially physical but nonthinking things, called res extensa (extended thing). Extention is the characteristic of being divisible into parts.

categorical imperative - Kant's concept of the basis of ethics. Kant gives several formulations, all of which he viewed as equivalent: "Act only on that maxim which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law of nature"; "Act so as to treat others, yourself included, always as a end and never as a means only"; "Act so as to treat yourself and others as members of the universal kingdom of ends."

cause - Aristotle made a useful distinction among four kinds of causes: material cause = that from which something is made; the stuff or substance of a thing; efficient cause = that by which something moves or changes; a pushing, pulling, effecting; formal cause = that into which something develops or changes; a design; final cause = that for which something occurs or changes; a purpose. The four causes can be described as “by-causes,” and should be thought of as different sorts of explanations.

Christianity - A religion based on worship of, faith in, or belief in the centrality of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth is identified as the Christ (the Greek word for “Messiah”), the one annointed by God to be the savior of humankind. The three main divisions of Christianity are Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant. See agape, Jesus of Nazareth, Logos, Paul, philia, Reformation, resurrection of the body, Roman Catholic, and Trinity.

classical theism - The dominant view of God in western and much of eastern philosophy which achieved definitive statement in the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. God is wholly unaffected by the creatures (impassible), unchanging (immutable), without parts (simple), nontemporal (eternal), creator ex nihilo of the universe.

cogito - Descartes' starting point in philosophy, the "I think." Descartes is famous for having written "Cogito ergo sum" (I think therefore I am).

compatibilism - The theory that free will and determinism may both be true. Compatibilists ordinarily accept both determinism and free will as true; in that case they are called soft determinists.

Confucianism - The social and religious philosophy of Confucius. See Analects, Confucius, five constant relationships, legalism, rectification of names, shu, and Tao.

conditions, necessary and sufficient - A conditional statement has the form "If p then q," where p and q are replaced by declarative sentences. In the conditional, p is the sufficient condition of q and q is the necessary condition of p. For example, in the conditional "If it is raining then the lawn is wet," the fact of raining is the sufficient condition of the lawns being wet; the lawns being wet is a necessary condition of the rain. The lawn being wet is not sufficient since the lawn could be wet for some reason besides rain.

contingent - Sometimes construed as a modal property of things (called de re, "of the thing")—a thing is contingent if and only if it could fail to exist. Sometimes construed as a modal property of declarative sentences (called de dicto, "of the word")—a true sentence is contingent if under certain conditions it would be false and a false sentence is contingent if under certain conditions it would be true.

contradiction - (1) In logic, a statement that is false in virtue of its form, such as "p and not-p" where p is replaced by any statement; (2) in the philosophies of Hegel and Marx, any process which is fueled by the very tensions that will destroy it.

cosmological arguments - A term coined by Kant. Arguments for God's existence that proceed from the cosmos or the universe to God. An example of a cosmological argument is this: If the existence of the universe is contingent there must exist a God whose existence is not contingent and whose activity explains the universe's existence.

creatio ex nihilo (Latin = creation from nothing) - Creation from no pre-existing material. A doctrine common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is that God created the universe ex nihilo (as opposed to ex dei, or from the divine substance).

cynicism (Greek = dog-like) - a school of philosophy dating to at least the fourth century before Christ that stressed that virtue is the only good of human life. Cynic philosophers despised society's customs of clothing, family, and cleanliness. The modern sense of "cynical" is someone who believes that people are basically selfish.

deism (Latin deus = God) - A philosophy developed in sixteenth and seventeenth century Europe and America characterized by belief in a God who creates the universe, but does not intervene miraculously and who leaves humans a conscience to discern his will.

Delphic oracle - Ancient mouthpiece of the god Apollo at Delphi in Greece. The oracle, a prophetess known as the pithia, often expressed Apollo’s thoughts enigmatically, calling for interpretation on the part of the listener. It was the pithia who said that there was none wiser than Socrates. Socrates discovered that his wisdom consisted in his knowledge of his own ignorance.

deontological ethics - Ethical theories that find the basis of moral right and wrong in ethical rules or duties. See utilitarianism and virtue ethics.

dependent origination (pratityasamutpada) - The Buddhist idea that everything depends for its existence on something else, the doctrine of universal relativity.

design arguments - Arguments for the existence of God that appeal to the order and apparent design in the universe. The classic design argument was stated by William Paley (1743-1805). Just as a watch requires a watch maker, so the patterns within organisms within the universe are too intricate to be products of chance. Only an intelligent designing power can adequately account for these facts. See anthropic principle.

determinism - The theory that, for every event, there are antecedent conditions that necessarily led to the occurrence of the event.

deus ex machina (Latin = God from the machine) - In philosophy, a convenient but arbitrary explanation used to fill the gaps or defects in a theory, hence, “god of the gaps.”

dialectic - In Plato’s works, the question and answer method employed by Socrates for arriving at truth in the form of universal definitions. Other philosophers use “dialectic” in a larger sense to include the interaction of opposites or even the progress of world history. In Hegel’s philosophy, history itself is a dialectical process in which the Absolute comes to an awareness of itself; in Marx’s philosophy, the historical dialectic has as its goal, not self-knowledge, but liberation from unjust social conditions.

divine command theory of ethics - A metaethical theory about the meaning of ethical commands according to which "X is morally correct" means "X is commanded by God" and "X is morally incorrect" means "X is forbidden by God."

dualism - The theory that reality is composed of two kinds of substances, usually identified as minds and bodies. See Cartesian dualism.

empiricism - Usually contrasted with rationalism, meaning that sensory experience is the primary access to the world. In its most rigorous form, empiricism holds that all knowledge of the world is traceable to sensory experience. Classical empiricists include John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume.

epistemology (Greek episteme = knowledge; logos = word, reason) - Inquiry into the nature and limits of knowledge.

eristic - Argument with the purpose of winning. See dialectic.

eros - Greek word for love meaning desire. In Symposium, Plato argues that eros is not a god and that it involves the desire for the everlasting possession of the beautiful.

ethics (Greek ethos = culture) - Theory of the good of human life and of our obligations to ourselves and others.

evil, problem of - Sometimes called the problem of suffering. The problem resulting from the tension between the assertions that there is a perfectly powerful, knowledgeable, and good God and that there is suffering that the world would seem to be better without. God apparently has the power to prevent terrible suffering, the motive to prevent terrible suffering, yet terrible suffering exists. The attempt to show that there is no contradiction in believing in God and in suffering is called a defense. The attempt to show that the theist's explanation of evil is reasonable (or even more reasonable than the nontheist's explanation) is called a theodicy.

evolution - In its primary signification, the Anti-Aristotelian doctrine that species are mutable. Charles Darwin (1809-1882) became famous for developing a theory of a mechanism for evolution, called natural selection, set forward in his book, The Origin of Species (1859). Species multiply beyond the environment’s ability to sustain them. Only species most adapted—by genetic accident—to the environment can win the struggle. Nature “selects,” in a blind way, for characteristics that make for survival; in this way, species evolve. Darwin made no value judgment about whether the survivors in the struggle are more worthy of survival, or more valuable. Others, however, developed a theory called Social Darwinism according to which those who are best able to survive are most worthy of survival.

existentialism - A loosely knit school of philosophy and literature. In philosophy, the school was anticipated in the work of Blaise Pascal but it can be traced more directly to the works of the nineteenth century philosophers Jules Lequyer, Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. In the twentieth century, existentialist philosophers include Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, Martin Buber, and Gabriel Marcel. Many of those classified as existentialist eschew the label because it is so closely associated with the works of Sartre and Beauvoir (both of whom called their philosophies existentialism). Existentialists favor the particular over the universal, the individual over the collective, and free will over determinism. Authentic human existence is found in overcoming the angst of taking responsibility for our own decisions. See also intentionality.

faith (Latin fidere = trust) - Belief, commitment, or trust in the doctrines of a religion.

fallacy - A mistake in reasoning.

fatalism - The theory that the major events of a person's life or of history will occur regardless of what people may do.

fideism (Latin fidere = trust) - Doctrine that faith precedes and is a superior source of knowledge about God.

five constant relationships - According to Confucius: parent and child, husband and wife, older and younger siblings, older and younger friend, and ruler and subject.

five ways - The name given to the five arguments for God's existence given by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. He gives versions of the cosmological and design arguments. Aquinas gave a total of eleven arguments for God's existence throughout his writings.

free will - A number of definitions have been given of "free will" but two stand out as dominating debate. According to the compatibilist definition, one has free will just in case one acts according to one's desires or inclinations; this sort of free will is called compatibilist freedom because one may have this sort of free will even if determinism is true. According to the incompatibilist definition, one has free will only if one could have chosen other that one chose, although all relevant antecedent conditions remained the same. If we have incompatibilist free will, then determinism is false and if determinism is true, then we do not have incompatibilist free will.

functionalism - In philosophy the term refers to a theory of the mind according to which mental states are nothing more than a function of brain states in the sense that the mind is the running of a program. The favorite analogy in functionalism is that the mind is to the brain as software is to hardware in a computer. See Turing test.

fundamentalism - Originally an anti-modernist movement within Protestantism stressing that the fundamentals of Christianity are belief in the inerrancy of the Bible, the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, resurrection of the body, and the second coming of Christ. More generally, fundamentalism refers to anti-modernist religious movements—thus, one may speak of Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists.

gnosticism (Greek gnosis = knowledge) - A family of philosophies in Greek thought emphasizing secret knowledge of God as an escape from the material world.

God - The supreme object of worship and devotion in theistic religion; God is usually viewed as the unsurpassable reality and the ground of all meaning and existence. With a lower case g, the word denotes lesser deities. See classical theism, deism, unmoved mover, most and best moved mover.

Gödel's theorem - American logician Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) proved that any system rich enough to express arithmetic contains more truths than are provable. Since all of science presupposes arithmetic, Gödel's proof has implications far beyond the domain of logic. It is tempting to suppose that Gödel proved what is obvious to everyone, that there are more things true than are provably true. But this is not obvious, especially not in a formal system like arithmetic, a system from which all ambiguity is removed.

golden rule - The principle of Christian love: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” See agape.

hard determinism - A term coined by William James meaning that determinism is true and, if it is true, then free will is false. The term is somewhat pejorative since James implied that hard determinists were hard headed or stubborn about matters pertaining to free will.

hedonism - The idea that pleasure is the good of human life.

Héloïse complex - An expression coined by French feminist Michèle le Dœuff to signify the tendency of women philosophers to idolize their male colleague or teacher; the woman thereby becomes invisible and elevates the male.

henotheism (Greek henos = one; theos = God) - Many gods exist but loyalty is due to only one.

hermeneutics - The art of interpretation, especially of a written document.

Hinduism - Polymorphic religion of the Indian subcontinent. Hinduism has no founder but it contains the world’s oldest Scriptures, the Vedas. The transcendent reality worshipped in Hinduism is called Brahman. The goal of life is enlightenment (moksa) to realize that one is not a separate being from Brahman. Hindus believe that numerous lifetimes in which the individual is reincarnated in various forms are required to achieve moksa. See Atman, Brahman, Indian Philosophy, karma, neti, neti, maya, moksa, reincarnation, satcitananda, Upanisads, vedanta, Vedas.

humanism - Belief in the positive creative potential of human beings. Renaissance Humanism looked to Greek philosophy for inspiration but saw no necessary conflict with theism. Twentieth century secular humanism is explicitly atheistic.

idols of the mind - Francis Bacon’s expression for false notions that keep us from finding the truth. Bacon identified four main “idols”; Idols of the Tribe, a naive reliance on sensory experience; Idols of the Cave, one-sided reasoning based on education, habit, or accident; Idols of the Market-Place, mistakes in the use of language that lead astray; Idols of the Theater, excessive reliance on philosophical and religious systems of thought.

imago dei (Latin = image of God) - The doctrine based on Genesis 1.27 that human beings alone are created in the divine image. The imago dei was never understood as a physical likeness but as the human capacity for rational self-determination.

incompatibilism - The view that determinism and free will cannot both be true. Incompatibilists who accept determinism are called hard determinists; incompatibilists who accept free will are called libertarians or free willists.

Indian philosophy - There are six schools of philosophy in India that recognize the authority of the Vedas. The six are usually grouped in pairs because of their similarities: Nyaya-Vaisheshika (which stresses atomism and various sources of knowledge), Sankhya-Yoga (which stresses mental discipline), and Purva-Mimamsa-Vedanta (which stresses the proper interpretation of the Scriptures). The three heterodox schools are Buddhism, Carvaka (materialism), and Jainism.

indeterminism - The theory that there are events for which there is no set of antecedent conditions that necessarily led to the occurrence of the event. Notice that indeterminism is not the view that no events have causes.

innate ideas - Ideas not learned from experience. Innate ideas are not instincts, for they have semantic content, meaning, whereas instincts lack this, being mere patterns of behavoir.

intentionality - Conscious states are said to be intentional in the sense that they have an “aboutness” or direction to them. One is said to be conscious of something (be it a physical object or a mere idea). Aquinas distinguished objects of first intention (immediate objects of awareness) and objects of second intention (awareness of the awareness of the object). Franz Brentano (1838-1917) identified intentionality as the central feature of consciousness. Husserl did not go as far as Brentano—for moods are mental states, but they don’t seem to be about anything—but he developed the idea of intentionality further than Brentano had done. For Husserl, intentional states can be analyzed into the intentional act, the object toward which the intention is directed, and the meaning content by which the object is grasped (the noema). For example, one may be aware of the planet Venus as “the evening star” or as “the morning star.” Husserl’s analysis suggests that consciousness is an activity rather than a substance. If consciousness is an activity then Aquinas’ objects of second intention are not objects in the standard sense. Sartre spoke of nonpositional, or non-positing, awareness to emphasize that awareness of awareness does not “posit” a thing, but an activity. In Sartre’s view, when one treats the activity of consciousness as a thing, defined by a certain nature, one is guilty of bad faith.

Islam (literally "submission") - The religion of Muslims, begun by the prophet Muhammad. The essentials of Islamic faith are the “five pillars”: (1) the Shahadah or confession of faith—“There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.” (2) Salat or ritual prayer five times daily, (3) Zakat or alms to those in need, (4) Sawm or fasting during the month of Ramadan, (5) the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca at least once during one’s lifetime. See Allah, Muhammad, and Qur’an.

Jainism - The religion founded by Mahavira (599-527) of India. “Jainism” is derived from “jina,” meaning winner, having the sense of one who wins over his or her passions. Jainism is atheistic, stresses that all knowledge is probable (syadvada), the many-facetedness of truth (naya), simplicity of living, and noninjury towards all beings (ahimsa). See ahimsa, karma, and Mahavira.

Judaism - The religion of the people of Hebrew Scripture (the Christian Old Testament), beginning with the prophet Abraham. Jews worship one God, creator of the universe, who is revealed in the history of the Jewish people. The Jews were once called Israelites, the people descended from Jacob. Israelites were the people of the territory called Israel (meaning “he who strives with God”). They were also called Hebrews and, after the Babylonian exile (587-538 BCE), Jews. Jews in the modern state of Israel are called Israeli. See Tanakh, Torah, and Yahweh.

kalam (literally, “word” or “discourse”) - Arabic word for theology. Especially associated with Muslim philosophers who emphasized the use of rational methods in theology.

karma - In Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism: (1) The moral law of cause and effect working within the universe to govern successive rebirths. (2) The effects of one’s actions that cling to the soul (or in Buddhism to the five skandhas) that determine future incarnations.

koan - A story or riddle without rational solution, used by the Zen master to jar his students from their normal patterns of thought.

legalism - One of the rivals of Confucianism, fa chia, sometimes called Realism, the teaching of Han Fei Tzu. People are fundamentally selfish, lazy and short-sighted, motivated by greed and fear. A ruler must use "the two handles" by which to steer or govern the people. The handles are proportional rewards and harsh punishments.

lex talionis (Latin = law of retaliation) - The law of retribution embodied in the expression “an eye for an eye.”

logic (Greek logos = word, reason) - The study of correct and incorrect reasoning. Aristotle developed the first formal treatment of logic as a science of argument. Aristotle's logic is a logic of classes or terms. A logic of propositions was developed by the Stoics.

logical positivism - The philosophy of the Vienna Circle expressed in two propositions: (1) There is no discipline of philosophy independent of science, and (2) every meaningful statement is either empirically verifiable or analytic. See Vienna Circle and verifiability criteria of meaning.

Logos (Greek = word, reason) - The universal principle of reason in Stoic Philosophy; identified in the gospel according to John with the creative power of God and the theological identity of Jesus.

materialism - Everything is explicable in terms of matter and its properties. See physicalism.

maya - From the same root as “magic”; the illusoriness of the world when compared with Brahman. The world presents itself as real, but according to Hindu thought, this is a trick. Only Brahman is finally real.

metaphysics (Greek meta = beyond; phusis = nature) - Inquiry into the nature of existence and its ultimate causes.

middle way - The Buddhist doctrine of the golden mean; liberation is found in practicing nothing but excess.

mind-body problem(s) - A cluster of metaphysical and linguistic puzzles concerning the relation between mind and body. The most famous mind-body puzzle is found in Descartes' philosophy, where minds are entirely nonphysical and yet are believed to cause changes in the body. This is tantamount to telekinesis, and for that reason, puzzling. In a more general sense, the mind-body problem concerns the respective natures of minds and physical substances. Mental states seem to have properties that mere physical states (say, of the brain) do not have. Mental states, for example, are intentional, they are about things. Physical states don't seem to be about anything; they simply exist in space and time and pay attention only to the laws of physics. If this is correct, then a complete knowledge of someone's brain would never yield information about what the person was thinking.

modus ponens (Latin = mode of affirming) - Any argument of the form, “If p then q; and p; therefore q,” where p and q are replaced by sentences. Modus ponens is a valid argument form.

modus tollens (Latin = mode of denying) - Any argument of the form, “If p then q; and not-q; therefore not-p,” where p and q are replaced by sentences. Modus tollens is a valid argument form.

moksa - Hindu concept of release from the cycle of birth and rebirth, enlightenment.

monism - The idea that the universe is fundamentally one thing; unity is reality and plurality is secondary. See pluralism.

monotheism (Greek mono = one; theos - God) - Belief that there is only one God. Judaism, Christianity, Sikhism, Islam, and Bahiism are monotheistic. Zoroastrians also claim to be monotheistic although they believe in the existence of an evil deity.

most and best moved mover - Charles Hartshorne's alternative to classical theism's description of God as the unmoved mover. Hartshorne adopts and amends Fritz Rothchild's description of Rabbi Hershel's God as the “most moved mover.” See unmoved mover.

mysticism - A philosophy or discipline that stresses the direct and nondiscursive knowledge of ultimate reality or God.

mythology - Stories of gods and heroes that help define a culture's values.

naturalism - The denial that anything beyond events or objects in space-time explain nature (cf. supernaturalism). Naturalism usually differs from materialism in rejecting reductionism.

necessary - Sometimes construed as a modal property of things (de re, or “of the thing”)--a thing is necessary if and only if it could not fail to exist. Somtimes construed as a modal property of declarative sentences (de dicto, or “of the word”)--a true sentence is necessary if it could be false under no conditions. A necessary falsehood is usually called an impossibility.

neti, neti (Sanskrit = Not this, not this) - Hindu's version of the via negativa. The only literally accurate description of Brahman.

nihilism (Latin nihil = nothing) - Nothing is of value.

nirvana - “Blowing out,” Buddhist concept of enlightenment.

noble eight-fold path - In Buddhist thought, the last of the four noble truths: right views, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right living, right effort, right memory and right concentration.

nominalism (Latin nomen = name) - The Scholastic philosopher Roscelin (1050-1120) argued that universals are mere words, flatus vocis. Only individual things exist, universals are only names. See realism and universals, problem of.

Ockham's razor - The principle of parsimony, associated with the philosophy of William of Ockham (1300-1349). The principle is that, in explaining a phenomenon, one should “cut away” any unnecessary hypotheses. The simplest explanation is to be preferred

one and the many, problem of - The problem of how the many elements of the universe can make up a single entity, or of how a single universe can have many parts. See monism and pluralism.

ontological arguments - A term coined by Kant. Ontological arguments proceed from the idea of God to attempt to establish that God exists. Anselm of Canterbury was the first to clearly state an ontological argument. The strongest form of the argument runs like this: God's existence is either contingent, impossible, or necessary. It cannot be contingent (since this would imply the falsehood that, if God exists, God might fail to exist). But neither is God's existence impossible (since God is conceivable as existing). Hence, God's existence is necessary, and if so then God must exist.

ontology (Greek ontos = being; logos = word, reason) - Study of being, or what exists.

panentheism (Greek pan = all; en = in; theos = God) - The view that God includes but is more than the universe. Hartshorne is a panentheist.

panpsychism (Greek pan = all; psuche = soul) - The belief that all concrete reality has aspects of feeling or consciousness.

pantheism (Greek pan = all; theos = God) - God and the universe are identical. Famous pantheists include Parmenides, the Stoic philosophers, Sankara, Spinoza, and F. H. Bradley.

Pascal's wager - An argument developed by Blaise Pascal that belief in God is a sure bet. If God does not exist then whether you believe or disbelieve you have finite rewards (although Pascal thought that the finite rewards of faith outweigh the finite rewards of disbelief). On the other hand, if God exists you gain infinite happiness if you believe and lose this happiness if you don't believe. Hence, it is a better bet to believe in God.

phenomenology - Literally, the study of the way things appear. A number of philosophers--Hegel, Peirce, and Teilhard de Chardin--have used “phenomenology” to refer to their philosophies. However, the word is most commonly associated with Edmund Husserl's philosophy. See Husserl and intentionality.

philia - Greek work for fraternal love, used in the root of philosophy.

philosophes (French = philosophers) - A free-thinking group of French liberals of the 18th century who collaborated on Diderot's Encyclopédie. The most famous of the philosophes was Voltaire.

philosophy (Greek philos = friendship or love; sophia = wisdom) - A word coined by Pythagoras (570-500) to describe the proper vocation of human beings. God alone is wise, said Pythagoras; people must love wisdom. Philosophers address issues of ultimate generality and importance, often in ways that overlap the questions which religions address. The main areas of philosophy are metaphysics, epistemology, logic, aesthetics, ethics, and political philosophy.

physicalism - The contemporary variant of materialism. The universe is composed of mass-energy, and according to the physicalist, this is all that is real. Quine is a physicalist when he says that anything worth theorizing about is physical.

pluralism - The idea that the universe is fundamentally a collection of many things; plurality is primary whereas unity is secondary. See monism.

polytheism (Greek poly = many; theos = God) - The view that many gods exist.

post-modernism - “Postmodern” is a term of disputed meaning. In philosophy, the term was first used by John B. Cobb Jr. in 1964 as a description of Whitehead's philosophy; David Griffin characterizes the systems of Peirce, James, Bergson, Whitehead, and Hartshorne as constructive postmodern philosophy. More well-known, however, is the meaning of “postmodern” introduced by the Frenchman Jean-François Lyotard (b. 1925). Postmodernism stands in contrast to modernism, which is a cluster of philosophical ideas inherited from the 17th and 18th centuries (Descartes is often viewed as a watershed figure whose philosophy ushers in the modern age). Modernism is characterized by the belief that human reason is capable of rising above cultural and personal bias to discover the truth about history, nature, and God. In literary theory, modernism includes the belief that the meaning of a text is rooted in the author's intentions. Postmodernism questions these ideas. Lyotard defines postmodernism as an “incredulity towards grand narratives.” According to postmodernism, reason is merely a cultural artifact and a text is subject to multiple readings, each of them valid within a given community of interpretation. Nietzsche is the spiritual forefather of postmodernism; the Frenchmen Michel Foucault (1926-1984) and Jacques Derrida (b. 1930), and the American Richard Rorty (b. 1931) are postmodern thinkers. See Rorty, Richard.

pragmatism - In its Peircean version, pragmatism is the theory that the meaning of an idea is the possible consequences it has for us; in its Jamesian version, pragmatism is the theory that the truth of an idea is the actual consquences it has for us.

process theism - Ideas of God that admit some forms of change, time, or process into the divine being. According to this definition, Lequyer, Peirce, James, Whitehead, and Hartshorne are process theists.

Pythagorean secret - The discovery, presumably made by the followers of Pythagoras, of the existence of irrational numbers. The discovery was to be kept a secret since it contradicted the Pythagorean dogma that all numbers could be expressed as the ratio of two whole numbers.

qualities, primary and secondary - A distinction common among philosophers since the 16th century. Primary qualities reside in objects apart from our awareness of them (motion, rest, number, solidity, extension); secondary qualities are the qualities caused in the mind by primary qualities (color, sound, taste, smell, texture). Many philosophers found in this distinction a demarcation of the domain of science. Science, it was believed, studies primary qualities, which tend to be measurable and quantifiable; the specifically human world is the realm of secondary qualities. George Berkeley and Jonathan Edwards denied a real distinction between primary and secondary qualities.

Qur'an (sometimes Koran) - Muslim Scripture, believed to have been communicated verbatim to Muhammad and recited by him to his hearers and recorded, for their recitation, in 114 Surahs or chapters.

rationalism - Rationalists stress the importance of knowledge about the world not derived from sensory experience. They often defend innate ideas. In its most rigorous form, rationalism is the doctrine that some knowledge of the world is not traceable to sensory experience. Classical rationalists include René Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, and Baruch Spinoza.

realism - In philosophy, a realist is one who believes universals exist outside the mind that perceives them. See universals and nominalism.

reason, theoretical and practical - A distinction dating to the times of Aristotle. Theoretical reason has as its goal the discovery of truth; practical reason has as its goal the proper conduct of life. This distinction is one basis for the distinction between universities and professional schools.

rectification of names - The principle that right language leads to right conduct. Confucius held that the moral level of society is reflected in its use of language.

reductio ad absurdum (Latin = reduction to absurdity) - The most ancient form of argumentation. If a contradiction can be shown to follow from a set of premises (a theory), then at least one of the premises must be false (and the theory will have to be revised). For example, Pythagoreans believed that every number can be expressed as a ratio of two whole numbers. Unfortunately for their theory, they themselves proved that the square root of two cannot be expressed as a ratio of whole numbers. See Pythagorean secret.

reductionism - In its most interesting and controversial form, reductionism says that an explanation of the parts of a thing is more fundamental than any explanation not involving the parts. Reductionism becomes most threatening when it raises the possibility that consciousness is “nothing but” a sequence of neural processes, or that ethical norms are “nothing but” expressions of cultural preference, or that free will is “nothing but” the lack of feeling that our choices are causally necessitated.

Reformation (also the Protestant Reformation) - The movement which split the Roman Catholic church, begun in 1517 when Martin Luther (1483-1546) nailed 95 theses to the door of a church, emphasizing salvation by grace through faith. Other important reformers included John Calvin (1509-1564) and Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531). A Protestant is “one who protests.” The protests were against the authority of the Pope and Roman Catholicism. Protestantism gave rise to numerous denominations, including Lutheran and Presbyterian churches.

reincarnation - The view that one is essentially a nonphysical soul, that this soul survives the death of the body and that it lives many lives. The idea is found in both Eastern philosophy (in Hinduism and Buddhism) and in Western philosophy (in Pythagoras and Plato). Since Buddhist thought recognizes no enduring self (anatman) it is the five skandhas that are the subject of rebirth.

relativism - In epistemology, alethic relativism is the denial that truth is anything more than an individual or group belief. Alethic relativism involves one in the absurd view that contradictory statements (supposing two people with contradictory views) could both be true. In ethics, cultural relativism is the thesis that ethical values are nothing more than expressions of a culture's norms or standards. Although cultural relativism is supposed to encourage tolerance of other cultures, this is false. Tolerance of other cultures is, by the theory of cultural relativism, true only in cultures which hold it is true. Hence, tolerance of other cultures does not follow from the theory of cultural relativism.

religion (Latin religare = to bind) - The way or ways, both personal and social in which we relate to what we perceive as of ultimate worth and importance.

resurrection of the body - Refers either to the raising of Jesus from the dead three days after his crucifixion or to the general resurrection at the time of Parousia.

rhetoric - The art of conveying ideas effectively.

Roman Catholic Church - Roman Catholics recognize the Pope (literally, father)--the Bishop of Rome--as head of the Christian Church and as the only legitimate successor to the apostle Peter.

Russell's paradox - The paradox Russell found at the basis of set theory. Define K as the set of all sets that do not have themselves as a member. So defined, K must be a member of itself if it is not a member of itself, but it cannot be a member of itself if it is a member of itself. In order to avoid this paradox Russell developed the theory of types, meaning that sets that include others sets are of a different logical type than the sets they include.

satcitananda - The threefold nature of Brahman, Sat = Being, Cit = Consciousness, Ananda = Bliss.

science (Latin scientia = knowledge) - The word is usually associated with the empirical sciences and their methodologies that emphasize experiment, repeatability, verifiability, and falsifiability. In the ancient world the empirical sciences were considered subsets of philosophy and in the medieval world theology was called “queen of the sciences.”

shu - In Confucian thought, reciprocity, “Do not do to others what you would not have others do to you.”

skepticism (Greek skepsis = doubt) - To be skeptical is to doubt; extreme skepticism holds that one cannot attain truth.

Socratic irony - Pretended ignorance in discussion in the manner of Socrates.

soft determinism - A term coined by William James meaning that both determinism and free will are true. The expression is pejorative because James implied that soft determinists are muddle-headed--he called soft determinism a “quagmire of evasion.”

sophistry - The attempt to mislead by specious or incorrect reasoning.

sophists - Teachers in ancient Greece who taught the virtues of statesmanship, rhetoric and eristic.

Stoicism (Greek stoa = porch) - Ancient philosophy founded by the Greek Zeno of Citium (ca. 335-264) and continued by others, including the Romans, Seneca (3-65), Epictetus (60-138), and Marcus Aurelius (121-180). Stoic metaphysics is pantheistic and deterministic, seeing the cosmos as governed by reason (logos). Ethically, one should practice apathia, acceptance of one's situation in life. Reason is also a human being's highest faculty and should govern one's life. Hence, Stoics developed an early form of propositional logic.

supernaturalism - The view that, besides the natural world of events in space-time, there is another (or other) dimension(s), inhabited by nonphysical beings such as angels, demons, disembodied souls, and God.

synthetic - A statement is synthetic if and only if it is informative about the world. Kant identified a synthetic statement as one in which the predicate is not contained in the subject. See analytic.

Tanakh (or Tanach) - The Holy Scriptures, consisting of the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nebi'im), and the Writings (Kethubim); thus TaNaKh.

Tao - In Taoism, the unnamable reality behind all namable things. Taoism distinguishes yu-ming (the namable) and wu-ming (the unnamable). Tao belonged to the latter. For Confucius, the Tao is the absolute, harmony between heaven and earth.

Taoism - A philosophico-religious system of ancient China associated with the legendary founder Lao Tzu (6th century BCE), but later developed by Yang Chu (4th century BCE) and Chuang Tzu. See Chuang Tzu, Lao Tzu, Tao, Tao Te Ching, Te, Yang Chu, and ying/yang.

Tao Te Ching - Central text of Taoism, probably compiled by the fourth century BCE.

Te - In Taoism, the nature of a thing. What a thing is naturally. The power inherent in a thing existing naturally.

teleology (Greek telos = goal, purpose; logos = word, reason) - The idea that physical systems and/or biological organisms exhibit design or purpose that cannot be fully understood in terms mechanical principles.

theism (Greek theos = God) - Belief that God exists. See classical theism, process theism, unmoved mover, most and best moved mover, pantheism, panentheism, polytheism, henotheism, atheism, agnosticism.

theodicy (Greek theos = God; dike = justice) - A term coined by Leibniz--who wrote a book entitled Théodicée--meaning an account to “justify the ways of God to man,” in other words, to provide an answer to the problem of evil.

theology (Greek theos = God; logos = word, reason) - The study of or theories about God. Western thought distinguishes revealed theology or what can be known of God through revelation and natural theology or what can be known of God through the light of reason and the use of the five senses.

theophany (Greek theos = God; phainesthai = to appear) - A manifestation of God.

time (Greek temno = to cut off) - The order of past, present, and future. Religious systems offer various ideas about time--that time is illusory, or that it is created by God, or that it is to be contrasted with eternity, or that it is cyclical, or that it has a beginning and an end. See McTaggart.

Torah (= Law) - In Jewish thought, refers to (1) God's revelation to humankind, (2) the first five books of the Bible--Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, or (3) the plan or design of God used in the creation of the world.

transcendence - Usually contrasted with immanence. The transcendent is what is other than the universe. The immanent is what is within the universe. God is often thought of being both transcendent and immanent in different respects. In Christian thought, the Holy Spirit is the immanent aspect of God.

transcendentals - In medieval philosophy, universals that apply to all things. Transcendentals include being, truth, goodness, beauty. Falsehood, evil, and lack of beauty were understood, following Augustine, as the absence of a quality rather than a positive quality. The concept of transcendentals should be distinguished from the concept of transcendence. God is said to be transcendent to the extent that he or she is beyond or other than the universe.

Trinity - The word was coined by Tertullian (155-222); the idea that God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons while being one substance. The Trinity became official doctrine at Nicea in 325 CE (cf. Unitarianism).

Turing test - Named for English mathematician, Alan Turing (1912-1954). In a Turing test one tries to discriminate between a person and a computer programmed to respond as a person. If no difference can be found, then according to Turing, the machine is, for all practical purposes, conscious. John Searle (b. 1932) argues that the Turing test is not a test of consciousness since a computer program lacks essential aspects of consciousness, namely semantic content, intentionality, and subjectivity.

unitarianism - A denial of the Trinity. During the Protestant Reformation Unitarianism became prominent, especially in Transylvania. The movement found many followers in America--Harvard College and the Boston area were centers of Unitarianism.

universals, problem of - Universals are general terms that apply to more than one thing, for example, redness, circularity, humanity. The problem of universals is the question whether and in what sense universals exist. The realist, following Plato, says universals exist outside the mind and apart from particulars; nominalists say that universals are simply names; and moderate realists, following Aristotle, say that universals are real characteristics of particulars which the mind can extract or abstract from them. See transcendentals, realism, nominalism.

unmoved mover - The description of God given by Aristotle and adopted by mainstream Jewish, Christian, and Islamic philosophers in the middle ages. God is unchangeable in every respect even though God is the reason behind changes that occur in the world. Modern process theology counters that God is the most and best moved mover.

Upanishads - Philosophical discourses that are considered sacred writings. Rather than hymns of praise like the Rig Veda or instructions for sacrifice like the Brahmanas the Upanishads present a more refined version of Hindu thought. The Upanishads are the source of the saying “tat tvam asi,” a Sanskrit phrase meaning “That thou art.” The individual soul (Atman) and the universal soul (Brahman) are one.

utilitarianism - The moral philosophy developed primarily by Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill that holds to the principle of utility: An act is good to the extent it promotes pleasure and reduces pain and bad to the extent that it promotes pain and reduces pleasure.

vedanta (Sanskrit = the end of knowledge) - The most influential of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism.

Vedas (Sanskrit = knowledge) - The earlist Hindu scriptures; the Rig Veda is the oldest document among the world's living religions.

verifiability criterion of meaning - A central tenet of logical positivism which says that a statement is meaningful if and only if it is either analytic or empirically verifiable. One difficulty is that the verifiability criterion is itself neither analytic nor empirically verifiable.

via negativa (Latin = negative way) - The idea that the divine is known by what it is not. See neti, neti.

Vienna Circle - The group of professors who promoted logical positivism, including Otto Neurath, Hans Hahn, Philip Frank, Moritz Schlick, Herman Feigl, Friedrich Waisman, and Rudolf Carnap. The circle lasted from 1907 until 1938. See logical positivism.

virtue ethics - Used in contrast to utilitarian ethics and deontological ethics, a system built on concepts of virtue and character. The primary question for the virtue ethicist is not “What act conforms to the correct moral rules?” or “What act has the best consequences for all concerned?” but “What kind of person shall I resolve to become?”

women, philosophical ideas about - Philosophers have not been generally disposed to see women as equal to men, and sometimes, as in the case of Tertullian, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, have been outright antagonistic to women. Oftentimes, philosophical ideas have been misinterpreted to imply equality of the sexes. For example, when Aristotle proclaimed that man is a rational animal he did not believe that women are entirely capable of rationality; when Christian philosophers like Augustine and Aquinas said that man is created in the image of God, they made special exceptions for women; and when Jefferson wrote that all men are created equal, women were not included. Women like Wollstonecraft, Stanton, and Beauvoir were obliged to argue the case for equality. Thanks to their work and their example, the burden of proof is now on those who would deny the full equality of women and men in terms of their capacity for philosophical reflection.

Yahweh (sometimes Yaweh or Javeh) - God's name in the Jewish scriptures, derived from the third person form of the verb “to be” (YHWH). YHWH is referred to as the tetragrammaton. Some Christian Bibles use Jehovah. Jehovah is formed by using the vowels from Adonai (Lord) and placing them between the consonants of God's name, YHWH--the Y was sometimes spelled as a J and the W was sometimes spelled as a V, hence Jehovah.

yin/yang - Opposites characterizing existence. Yin includes the evil, passivity, darkness, and femininity. Yang includes the good, active, light, and masculinity. According to Taoist axiology, the yin and yang are relative and co-dependent; one cannot exist without the other. Further, each side of the contrast contains the “seed” of the other side.

Zen - A form of Buddhism (Chinese, Ch'an) emphasizing the importance of the irrational, the momentary, the nonreality of the self, and the ordinary.

Zeno's paradoxes - Paradoxes of Zeno of Elea (490-430) that are designed to show that Parmenides' radical monism is true. One of the most famous of the paradoxes is called “The Stadium.” To cross a stadium one must first reach 1/2 the distance; but to reach the mid-point, one must reach 1/4 the distance; but to reach this point one must first reach 1/8 the distance; and so on ad infinitum; hence, once can never take the first step.

Zoroastrianism - The religion founded by the Persian prophet Zarathustra. Zoroastrians believe that the universe was originally created by God, Ahura Mazda, and is inherently good. However, creation was corrupted by the evil deity Ahriman. At the end of time, a savior will come to preside over a general resurrection and Ahriman's forces of evil will be defeated by Ahura Mazda and his followers. Zoroastrian ideas influenced Judaism and Christianity. Zoroastrianism survives both in Iran and in Bombay, India where Zoroastrians are called Parsees (i.e. Persians). See Mani, Mardan-Farrukh, and Zarathustra.

Home | Logos-Sophia | Calendar | What is Philosophy? | Links | Sophia's Quotations | The Philosophers | Recommended Reading