Tag Archives: philosophy

George Bernard Shaw on Bourgeois Morality

“Bourgeois morality is largely a system of making cheap virtues a cloak of expensive vices.”

George Bernard Shaw

Excerpted from: Winokur, Jon, ed. The Big Curmudgeon. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007.

Term of Art: Rationalism

Rationalism: 1. The doctrine associated especially with the French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650), the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-77), and the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm von. Liebniz (1646-1716) that it is possible to obtain knowledge by reason alone, that there is only one valid system of reasoning and it is deductive in character, and that everything is explicable in principle by this form of reasoning…. 2. The more general view that everything is explicable in principle by one system of reasoning. 3. A general commitment to reason as opposed to faith, religious belief, prejudice, tradition, or any other source of belief that is without foundation in reason. Rationalist: one who believes in or practices rationalism (1, 2, 3). Rationalistic.

Excerpted from: Colman, Andrew M., ed. Oxford Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

A Priori

“A priori: From the previous: proceeding form cause to effect, or reasoning form a premise or assumption to its logical conclusion; deductive, or according to rational consequences, rather than from the facts of experience; preliminary of prior to examination; accepted without question or examination; arbitrary or presumptive (contrasted with a posteriori). Adj. aprioristic; adv. a priori, aprioristically; n. a priori, apriorist.

‘Sometimes she went even further by insisting he had had a crisis when he thought he had merely a bad cabdriver, but when he accused of her of a priori reasoning, she simply reminded him that he was a classic wunderkind and that all wunderkinder tend to deny they have mild-life crises.’ Nora Ephron, Scribble, Scribble”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

Term of Art: Qualia

qualia n. pl. A philosophical term for sensory experiences that have distinctive subjective qualities but lack any meaning or external reference to the objects or events that cause them, such as the painfulness of pinpricks or the redness of red roses. The term is virtually synonymous with sense data. See also sense data, inverted qualia, phi movement, sensation, sensibaliaquale sing. 

[From Latin qualis of what kind]

Excerpted from: Colman, Andrew M., ed. Oxford Dictionary of Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Thomas Kuhn on “Normal Science”

“‘Normal science’ means research firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice.”

Thomas Kuhn

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions ch.2 (1962)

Excerpted from: Shapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Cultural Literacy: Divine Right of Kings

It’s a chilly, autumnal morning in Westmoreland, New Hampshire, where I am house-sitting for friends. Somehow, a young wild turkey got caught inside the netting covering a group of about nine blueberry bushes. I just went out to raise the net in a couple of places so it can make its escape. Such are the joys and sorrows of rural life.

If you can use it, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on the divine right of kings. In this period of United States history, I guess, this is frighteningly relevant material.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Arnold Toynbee on the Importance of Applying Knowledge

“History not used is nothing, for all intellectual life is action, like practical life, and if you don’t use the stuff,–well, it might as well be dead.”

Arnold J. Toynbee on NBC (1955)

Excerpted from: Howe, Randy, ed. The Quotable Teacher. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, 2003.