The French philosopher, Renee Descartes wrote his famous book “Meditations on First Philosophy” and first published in 1641. The book consists of six meditations where Descartes writes all his beliefs, queries and concerns about the uncertain things and the things that he is sure about. In his meditations, he discussed the human nature and the human beings in depth explaining his belief that mind and body are separate and his famous cogito “I think, I exist”. First of all, the human nature for Descartes is composed of mind and body and how they are distinct from each other. In the Sixth mediation “Concerning the Existence of Material Things and the Real distinction between Mind and Body”, Descartes mentioned that the body and the soul are not alike and called his thesis “mind-body dualism”. The mind- Body dualism explains that the body and mind can perceive things clearly apart from each other because God creates everything distinct and independent from each other. He referred to the mind as “I”; therefore he reached an argument that he is a thinking thing “A thing that doubts, understands, affirms, denies, is willing, is unwilling and also imagines and has sensory perceptions” (Descartes). Therefore, the mind is a non-extended thing, indivisible clear and different from the body while the body is an extended, divisible and non thinking thing. The nature of a body for Descartes can understand and perceive the shape of other bodies. The essence or the nature of the mind can distinguish between the power of imagination and understating where imagination is the picturing of things and understanding is the perception of things without comprehension. The second view of Descartes was concerning the human being; he referred to the cogito “I think, I exist” as being the essence of the existence of a human being. Therefore, a human being exists and is capable of thinking; Descartes affirms that a human being is ” a substantial union ” , a unified entity of a body and mind where each one of them is separate and this assumption leads to the human nature and the distinction between body and mind. He also argued that a something exists because there is something already exists and creates it; this leads to his arguments about the existence of God as being perfect who creates a human being. We, as human beings, are not infinite or perfect beings and we are susceptible of committing errors and mistakes because we don’t have the unlimited ability to recognize the truth.
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Referring to Friedrich Nietzsche and his book “twilight of the Idols”, he was against the philosophy of Descartes “the mind- body dualism “and that the body and mind are separate and also rejected the Christianity doctrines which deny the ideology of a human being. He affirms that the mind and body are one entity and are one aspect of the nature of human beings. He mentioned that a human being can define himself by having “the will to life” which leads to the “will to power”. He described the will to power as being the driving force for achievement and leadership by the human beings in face of the miseries of human nature. The doctrines of Nietzsche regarding the will to power and the will to life contradict the doctrines of Christianity; therefore, Nietzsche was against Christianity as being an anti-life weak. Christianity teachings promote self-sacrifice, devotion and quietude which denies the values of human being and their driving force “will to power”. He also mentioned that human beings are having innate human natures and desire. The desires existing within us form and define the state of the human being; a reasonable, strong human being can control himself and avoid drawbacks in life and a weak human being is the one who doesn’t have self-control and denies these desires or passions. Therefore, Nietzsche concludes that a human have to accommodate with his human nature and passions which eventually leads to the greatest moralities.
Based on the two platonic dialogues (Apology and Phaedo), discuss the relationship of the philosopher with the polis. In addition to the political community of the City of Athens, Socrates is pointing to another community, what do you think is the significance of this Socratic gesture?
The polis is the city-state of the Greek civilization; the city states in Greece were small communities and were male-dominated. The citizens of the polis were the elite groups while slaves, peasants, women and resident aliens were not part of the structure of citizens. The citizens’ involvement in the Polis was directed towards politics, intellectual discussions and art contributions. The Greek philosophers examined basic questions such as the nature of good and evil, the after-life, wisdom and other issues. The art of politics was closely related to the logos or logic; the polis witnessed the management of language, the excellence of speeches, the discussions of the polis’ issues. The relation between the philosopher and the polis was an unstable relation due to the corruption of the Greek polis and the unjust ruling of the elite groups. Plato and Aristotle were the most famous and well-known philosophers at that time and they had a great influence on the Greek polis. As we know Plato was a student of Socrates therefore he was influenced by his teacher to the greatest extent. The affection of Socrates on Plato is clear and plain in Plato’s dialogues. Plato showed his interest in the polis in his book “the republic” by discussing the necessary fundamentals of a welfare society; the spiritual, mental and physical development of one citizen contributes to the overall benefit of one society. In The Republic, Plato discussed many topics for example justice, ethics, nature of politics and statesmanship. He also critiqued the existing status of the polis, its institutions and its political order. For Plato, the polis is ruled by self-interest rulers (elite groups) who are seeking lust in power and strength, thus the polis is disordered community ruled by self-interest rulers who claim possessing the knowledge but in fact they are ignorant, unwise and do not how to rule or govern the city’s affairs because they are driven by their desires and appetites for power. Referring to Socrates’ trial, Plato condemned the rulers of the polis and so called “the Athenian democracy” upon the death of Socrates. Aristotle in his famous book “Politics” expressed his views concerning the Polis or the Greek community. He classified the government as being: monarchy or tyranny, aristocracy or oligarchy, law abiding or lawless democracy. Aristotle also explained the prevailing problems in the polis concerning the poverty and slavery; he saw that the best performing polis is the city that combines between democracy, legitimacy and just rules. Obviously, the Greek polis at that time was lacking the three components of Aristotle’s beliefs about a welfare and prosperous polis. Aside from Plato and Aristotle, the sophists were part of the Greek community; they were responsible of teaching the Athenians sons for a free. They were excellent in rhetoric and speech skills; they possessed “the art of public speaking” and the persuasion skills too; the least the sophists cared about was the truth. In Plato’s dialogues, Socrates addressed the Men of Athens as a corrupt community who are ignorant and do not know how to govern the city justly under fair rules. The community which Socrates is part of was corrupt, condemning him to a death sentence because of allegations made by Meletus and his followers. Socrates was accused falsely as being a bad teacher who is poising the youth’s minds and not believing in the god and goddesses of Athens. For Socrates, the Athenian Community was a lawless community controlled by judges who don’t apply the law that they sworn to do. He also pointed to another community which evokes inquires and questions of Socrates along the two dialogues; it was the community where Socrates can find justice, tranquility and fairness with “dead true judges”. He described them in his queries about the after-life; Socrates said in his trial that he is not afraid of death. He described death an easy and a blessing thing from God; he also was conceived that a good man cannot be harmed in life or death and his good deeds and affairs will save him in the afterlife. He also believed that he will be moved to a peaceful place where he will be re-united with the dead community who has good deeds too in heaven. He was content that he will be in the companion of famous and wise heroes like Orpheus and Musaeus, Hesiod and Homer and will continue practicing his philosophy with them. Finally, I think that the significance of the Socratic gesture about the dead community is his way of trying to glorify the concept of death as being a benevolent and peaceful thing not a tragedy or fearful as the living community think who lamented on his death sentence and his separation from the living world. He also tries to picture that the other place in after life is a perfect place where he will be meet honest women and men which is totally opposite to the Greek community as being corrupt and unlawful at that time.