An Essay on Philosophical Method [R

Those who become smitten with the Socratic method of philosophical inquiry thrive on the question. They never run out of questions, or out of new ways to question. Some of Socrates Café’s most avid philosophizers are, for me, the question personified.

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The ancient Greeks have made many influential contributions to western civilization. These contributions, which are also the achievements of ancient Greece, include certain things in the areas of philosophy, art and architecture, and math and science. The ancient Greeks were a remarkable civilization in that they have made all these contributions and achievements while simultaneously fighting two wars, the Peloponnesian wars and the Persian wars. One inner-lying region of Greece, Sparta, and one adjacent region to Greece, Macedonia, were also of no help. Whether it be fighting for territory or threatening to Greece over these regions were nevertheless a problem. Luckily for western civilization, Greece persevered through these hardships and managed to achieve one thing after another, ultimately contributing a vast amount to western civilization.


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In the traditional , an and its corresponding are contradictories, as are an and its corresponding.

The most important areas of Greek achievement were math and science. They achieved all kinds of things in the areas of psychology, astronomy, geometry, biology, physics, and medicine. In astronomy they formulated the ideas that the sun was 300 times larger than the earth, the universe was composed of atoms, and they calculated the true size of the earth. Someone greatly involved in astronomy was Aristotle. In geometry, ancient Greeks found the value of pi, and a man named Euclid, who wrote the book Elements around 300 B.C., theorized that if two straight lines cut one another, the vertical, or opposite, angles shall be equal. In physics, the lever and pulley was invented along with a force pump which eventually evolved into a steam engine. Important people in this area were Archimedes and Pythagoras who were two of the many influential Greek citizens. Ancient Greece has definitely made many influential contributions to western civilization.


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Vlastos goes on to say that Socratic inquiry is by no means simple, and "calls not only for the highest degree of mental alertness of which anyone is capable" but also for "moral qualities of a high order: sincerity, humility, courage." Such qualities "protect against the possibility" that Socratic dialogue, no matter how rigorous, "would merely grind out . . . wild conclusions with irresponsible premises." I agree, though I would replace the quality of sincerity with honesty, since one can hold a conviction sincerely without examining it, while honesty would require that one subject one’s convictions to frequent scrutiny.

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At least once during the course of writing your essay, isolate what you consider to be your thesis. Is your proposition both arguable and reasonable? If it is obvious (i.e. Mary Rowlandson used the Bible for comfort during her captivity) you don’t have an argument. Argument requires analysis (i.e. taking things apart and explaining them). One test that may help is asking yourself what the opposite "side" of your argument would be. A good, complicated thesis (which was proposed by one of your classmates) is that "Although Mary Rowlandson says she often used the Bible as a source of comfort during her captivity, a closer reading of her narrative suggests her faith may have been more troubled by her experience than she lets on." One useful structure for writing thesis statements is the "although" form used above: "Although x seems to be true about this piece of literature, y is in fact more true (or makes our thinking about x more complex)." In this form you present both sides of your argument at once and show which side you’re on. Your job in the paper is to convince your reader to join you. Another way to write an effective thesis statement is to use the form "If we look closely at x (e.g. how Bradford defines freedom) we discover y (that ).

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Look for images or metaphors that the author uses consistently. What other sort of pattern can you identify in the text? How do you interpret this pattern so that your reader will understand the book, essay, poem, speech, etc. better?