Philosophy Lesson Eleven: Twentieth Century Empiricism

The 1930’s, in Vienna, was a cultural, artistic and Philosophical golden age. During this time, the world was full of positive and negative possibility, and in certain ways, humanity flourished. In this little city, a group which called themselves ‘The Vienna Circle’, created one of our more modern Philosophical theories, known today as ‘logical positivism’.

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The Vienna Circle was composed of many members, including Bertrand Russell, G.E. Moore, and Alfred Ayer. This group would meet and ponder regularly, and came out with many theories and ideas. The logical positivists agreed with Hume that any real fact can be experienced by the senses. If something is can be seen, it is possible. They believe that knowledge comes from observing the world.

They also agree that analytic truths are tautologous, yet do not regret them as worthless, and thus choose to view them as deductions made about the world.

The Verification Principle is the tests The Vienna Circle created, in order to decide if a statement is true or not. Anything true is deemed as meaningful. In order for something to be true, it must be verified by sense experience. Anything you, yourself don’t experience is meaningless…

Meaning god, emotions, and stories are irrelevant to existence.The effects of emotions can be seen tho, but other than that, they are invisible to the world.


Philosophy Lesson Six: Simple and Complex Ideas

Here’s a picture of the great philosopher John Locke: 1632-1704

Simple Ideas- Ideas that are devised from the senses, and based on your first impression of something. They are simple ideas fed to the brain, usually subconsciously. Colors, shapes, textures, sounds, and tastes. Locke is famous for arguing that you can’t break down a simple idea into any smaller of a category. Red is red, and round is round.

Simple ideas…
- Hot
- Salty
- Bright
- Pink
- Soft
- Round

Complex Ideas- Combinations of simple ideas that create a more complex vision. The more complex the idea, the more simple ideas there will

Complex ideas…
- A river
- A rug
- A car
- A harp
- A mermaid
- A kitten
- Sunglasses

Simple ideas are based off of one’s immediate impression of something, in contrast, complex ideas are built from simple ideas, to create the whole picture.

Small activity: Choose three complex items in the room you’re in, and break them down into simple ideas. See how much you can break them down.


Philosophy Lesson Four: Tabula Rasa and Plato

Let’s start by mentioning the term Tabula Rasa…

Tabula Rasa: An old latin term which translates to ‘blank slate’. This is used in philosophy to refer to the idea that each soul comes into the world as a blank canvas. It’s the idea that people are wholly shaped by the experiences have in their lives from birth until death. We gather information from everything we see, or connect through thought, to become what we are in the present.

The Legend of the Cave
The Republic- 360 BC. by Plato


The Legend of the Cave is an idea formulae, which is said to have been devised by Plato. It takes the form of a story of a human being who is chained at the end of a cave their whole life. The person is unable to move, and is locked in complete darkness except for the light of a torch placed behind them. The light from the torch, and the flickering, distorts the darkness, and the cave distorts the sound of the torch. This is all the cave dweller has ever known. It makes sense that the cave dwellers reality would be one that only the cave dweller himself could ever make true sense of. Light could seem alive to you, or have great significance. The only colors you could imagine would be the dark flickering tones of the firelight and the earthen tones of the cave wall.

After years of living in the cave, another being comes to release the dweller. The dweller is given the first new stimulation of their life; they have never experienced something so intense before. The dweller is dragged from their prison, up the cave entrance, towards the light, and is first given a new perspective of his surroundings. He is dragged out into the light of the world, and is in what we would call ‘reality’ for the first time of their life. The myth of the Cave had been taken literally but also as a metaphor through which philosophers have been debating ‘what is the nature of reality’ for centuries.

Exercise: Write what Plato’s metaphorical message was in this conceptual legend. Ask yourself, is there more?


The Myth of the Cave suggests that our image of the world, is limited to the our sensory experience, and our ability to create things with our mind, by piecing together other things we’ve seen before.

Although we’ve never seen a flying pig, we can take our own mental image of a pig, and add the wings of a bird to it. At the same time, we cannot imagine a color we’ve never experienced ourselves. We know enough to understand that animals such as birds, tropical fish, and the mantis shrimp, are able to see different colors, but there’s no way for us to imagine them.

Now, let’s paint a picture with our minds. In this short exercise, I want you to imagine what the life would be of..

- a blind person
- a deaf person

i) A blind person wouldn’t be able to see or think in color, their sensory stimulation would come from the texture of things, temperature, humidity, sound, and especially music would have great appeal. A blind person might love to examine things with their hands.


Philosophy Lesson Two: What is Skepticism?


a. To have doubts or reserved judgements about a thing.
b. a political movement in Philosophy.

We will be learning about definition b in this short mini lesson of notes.


Let’s start by introducing to you…

The Infinite Regress Argument: an argumentative point in Philosophy that states true knowledge of the world is impossible. Why? Because every time you create a new ‘truth’ in your mind, you are justifying it.

For example: I saw a dalmatian at the park the other day.

But can we know this to be certain? Was the dog painted with spots? Was it a robot dog? Was it really an alien pretending to be a dog? The larger the imagination, the more possibilities we can conger up with our minds about what I really saw at the park the other day. The thing that stops people from speculating over this, every time they create a new ‘truth’ in their head, is called ‘common sense’, which although can be spoken for, can also be very, very, wrong.

In order for you to be a ‘true’ skeptic, you must realize that in order for anything to technically be considered true, you must justify it, then justify your justification, and justify that justification, and thus, carry on to infinity. Which is where ‘The Infinite Regress Argument’ comes from.


This leads us on to question the legitimacy of our senses...

Can We Trust Our Senses?:
We already know that there are ways in this universe to manipulate sight…

a. Perception
b. Optical Illusions
c. Color blindness
d. Hot water on normal vs. freezing hands
e. Mirages
f. Hallucinations (drug induced or otherwise)

Waking Dreamers:
While you are dreaming, everything seems entirely real. Henceforth, what’s stopping all of this from being a dream right now?
- See Inception

It’s All An Illusion!: Because of the reasons I listed above, we cannot fully trust our senses, what’s stopping all of this from being merely an illusion brought on by anything, from Aliens keeping us sedated in a coma like state so they can feed off the magnetic fields in our brains, to being a fairy princess in a magical land, simply asleep by the fairy dust stream.
- See The Matrix I, II (but not three, that was crap).

This is another reason we can never be certain of anything.


Pyrro of Ellis arrived at this and thus rejected all forms of knowledge because he truly believed that NOTHING is for certain. Pyrro thus became a bit of a philosophical calamity because he was so extreme with his theories, that his friends and followers had to follow him around stopping him from walking into traffic and falling into holes. This is a case where a philosopher has rejected all common sense about the world for his claims.