Philosophy “vertically”: integrating positions into systems

apple-88x50Stephen Hicks here presents philosophy metaphorically “vertically,” discussing how the major philosophies compare to each other as integrated systems. This is from Part 6 of Professor Hicks’s Philosophy of Education course.

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2 thoughts on “Philosophy “vertically”: integrating positions into systems

  • May 10, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Hi Stephen,

    Nice conceptual framework. I have a wee question, however.

    I’ve probably missed your arguments for it in an earlier lecture (I confess, I haven’t watched them all, yet), but was there a reason you’ve reversed Peikoff’s skyscraper (which would have built everything upon the basement of metaphysics, on up)? I confess, I’ve always liked thinking about the framework that way up, not least because it allows art to sit up there in the penthouse and look down on (and comment on) the whole skyscraper.

    Or is it just that you like starting at the top of the page and working down? ;^)

  • May 11, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Good question, Peter, which isn’t really a “wee” one. I don’t in these lectures address the hierarchical structure issue, except implicitly. Instead I only set up the four dimensions in order to array the Isms we’ll be covering next. There’s no significance to metaphysics being at the top except that I covered metaphysics first, then epistemology, etc.

    The part that isn’t so “wee” is that the hierarchical structure of philosophy is a complicated issue. It’s true of Objectivism and most naturalistic philosophies that metaphysics is foundational. But I don’t think it’s true of all philosophies.

    Take postmodernism as an example. In one interpretation that I like, pomo’s foundation really is a politics, and it then takes skeptical positions in epistemology and antirealist positions in metaphysics in order to advance the politics. The hierarchical order there seems to be Politics > Epistemology > Metaphysics.

    Or many religious philosophies as another example. For many, ethics is the foundation — the need for standards of right and wrong — and that leads them to posit a god metaphysically and then mysticism or faith epistemologically. The hierarchical order there seems to be Ethics > Metaphysics > Epistemology.

    That’s to approach the issue from how the justificatory structure of the arguments play out in those philosophies.

    In the case of Objectivism, in my view, the metaphysics and epistemology are jointly foundational, and the justificatory structure becomes complicated quickly, in large part because we spiral around the issues as we develop and make connections at varying degrees of abstraction as we grow. But already I’m getting all metaphorical here, which is fine for a blog comment but doesn’t do justice to the philosophically rich set of issues.

    And is it just because you’re an architect that you like the foundation-and-skyscraper metaphor? What if you were an entomologist? : )

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