What are the paths of Yoga?

Yoga mean “to yoke,” especially with God. There are many paths to yoga, and the path one chooses depends on one’s personal inclinations and attitudes. The way one approaches God is very different among different people. When being yoked to God, it is not that God has changed when one apprehends God, but rather ones way of understanding God is different.

What is Yoga?

When one thinks of yoga oftentimes one thinks of people on floor mats stretching every which way. This yoga is called Hatha Yoga. But in traditional Indian thought Hatha Yoga is simply used as preparation for the other yogas. Hatha Yoga is the most popular practice in the West and other yogic practices are little known. But there is much more to Yoga than simply Hatha Yoga. Yoga originated in India and literally means to yoke. One yokes their souls to God. But there are many different paths to God.

Yoga’s Four Paths

One may think that all one has to do is choose a path to God, but usually the path chooses the devotee. For example there are those who God is most naturally known through the heart (e.g., Bhakti Yoga). There are others whose abilities accent the use of thought to know God (e.g., Jnana Yoga). There are those interested in mystical experiences doing psychophysical exercises (i.e., mediation) to achieve God Consciousness (e.g., Raja Yoga). Finally one may be more inclined to dedicate the fruits of ones labor to God, and rather practice work without selfishness, out of devotion to God (e.g., Karma Yoga). In fact all of these practices aim at God consciousness.

Hindu Ways To Find God

There is no right way to achieve union with God. It simply depends on one’s spiritual inclinations. Also no way is superior to the other. It is rather like deciding to travel to a foreign country and being undecided whether one is going to fly, drive, go by submarine, or walk. The destination is the same, but the way one gets there is different.

People most often think of yoga as being strictly a Hindu practice, but in fact yoga refers to the way people approach God. For example a religion that would be considered by Hindus to be a Bhakti Yoga would be Christianity or Islam. This is because in these religions one worships God. Jnana Yoga on the other hand could be the philosophical musings of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Indian Ways of Knowing God

According to the Indian school of thought, one is not limited to simply one path to God. If one is so inclined they can strive to be united with God by choosing all of the paths listed. This would take an exceptional person, but it can be done, and one could live the life of an enlightenedsiddhi.

One interesting distinction that is made in Indian thought is that it is ultimately monistic; that is everything is One. This then would be considered an impersonal relationship with God. One cannot cultivate a relationship with something that is fundamentally oneself. It is said in Indian thought That Thou Art On the other hand Bhakti Yogists worship God. One can only worship something that is beyond you. This then would be a personal relationship with God. This defines the difference between a personal and impersonal relationship with God.

Understanding the Different Yogas

Described previously is the difference between having a personal relationship with God (Bhakti Yoga) and having an impersonal one (Jnana Yoga). How can God be both? How can God be both out there and then also constituting ones very marrow? Ultimately according to Indian thought the most complete understanding of God is monistic (e.g., everything is one), but having a relationship with God is possible as well (e.g., dualistic). It is not that God is different to each individual, but rather the way one comes to know God is different.

Indian religion is often thought to be polytheistic, but what many don’t recognize is that the many Gods in Indian thought are simply different manifestations of the one and eternal God. Similarly, one can come to know a manifested God in a personal way or an impersonal way. In the same way someone understands God as being personal or impersonal, God is understood by the individual depending on ones’ nature which determines how they relate to God, not residing in God itself as it manifests in ones lives. Just as God is infinite the ways of knowing God are infinite as well.


Honderich, Ted Ed. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Smith, Huston. The Worlds Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions. Harper Collins Publishers: New York, 1991.

Vivekananda, Swami. Hinduism. Sri Ramakrishna Math Printing Press: India, (n.d.),

What is Epistemology?

Epistemology is synonymous with theories of knowledge. For a claim to be true the claim must have a foundation. Yet finding a firm foundation can be difficult. Epistemology is subdivided into rationalism andempiricism which are considered ways of acquiring knowledge. Yet these two concepts have limitations. Truth is essential for one to have knowledge; how can one know something if what they think is true is in fact false?

Problems with Foundationalism and Anti-Foundationalism

Epistemology must be grounded on a firm foundation for otherwise how can ones claims to knowledge be supported? Arguments without foundations rely on circular reasoning or an infinite regress. When an claim is based on circular reasoning, the argument itself is supported based on a previous claim, but at the same time the claim provides support for itself farther around the circular chain.

Infinite regress is different. How can something provide support for something else if the claim that provides support is not founded by itself or something prior? If all claims must be supported, then each prior claim needs support as well. If the argument is not well founded then it relies on the previous claim, and so on, and so on, therefore one ends up in a infinite regress. There is no foundation.

Anti-Foundationalism argues to the contrary; some people claim truth is relative. To some it is not important if values differ. This can thrust one into a moral quandary. For example it is considered for certain areas in Asia and Africa that female genital mutilation is acceptable morally, but people in the West would reject this.

Problems With Rationalism and Empiricism

According to epistemology there are two ways to acquire knowledge. First is rationalism in which one possess’ rational principles independent of experience. These rational principles exist in the mind, which is immortal and immutable. That is because something which does not exist in space and time cannot be destroyed. Therefore rational principles exist independently of ones physical bodies, since ones body is spatial and temporal and therefore subject to destruction.

Descartes talks about the relationship, or lack thereof, between mind and body, how the two can interface if they are so dissimilar, and he is unable to give a satisfactory explanation of how a mind and body can interact.

There are problems with empiricism too. One is called the Veil of Perception, introduced by John Locke’s representationalism. How does one perceive anything? Does one see the thing in itself? To think this would be called naive realism. If one does see things as they are, then how does one see them? Does the matter itself fall into one’s eyes? One may counter that what one sees is reflected light. Believing what one sees is a representation of what is being viewed, is called representation realism. And if what one sees is not exactly as it exists in itself, how can one say that this thing even resembles what one sees, or even exists at all? If the lights are turned out might the object cease to exist? In other words if one does not perceive the thing in itself, how can one know they perceive the thing at all?

The Types of Truth

What is truth? In order to have knowledge one must know that certain opinions are true. While truth is essential to having knowledge, one must realize that there are different standards for truth. The types of truths include the following:

  • Correspondence Theory of Truth
  • Pragmatic Theory of Truth
  • Coherence Theory of Truth

First is the correspondence theory of truth. That means there is a correspondence between what one thinks and the world. For example to say the sky is blue would be true because the sky is in fact blue, (well the sky usually appear blue to human eyes).

Another theory of truth is the pragmatic theory of truth. This is the idea if it works then it is true. For example if one were to ask if the computer works properly, and one turns it on and all goes well, then this statement would in fact be true. It is true that it works properly.

Finally, there is the coherence theory of truth. That is what people find coherent is, in fact, true. When figuring out mathematical equations, if the derivations are coherent (hold together) then the final formula is in fact true.

Epistemology is a huge subject and this just scratches the surface. Epistemology includes issues surrounding foundationalism and anti-foundationalism, and it’s subdivisions are rationalism and empiricism. For something to be known as knowledge, it must in fact be true. There are three basic theories for truth, correspondence, pragmatic, and the coherence theories of truth. Searching for truth is a worthy pursuit.


Honderich, Ted. Ed., The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.

What is the Rhetorical Syllogism?

The enthymeme is also known as the rhetorical syllogism. In explaining this device Aristotle references his Rhetoric, Prior Analytics, and Topics as well as other of his books. While Aristotle did not favor using persuasion in an unethical fashion, it became necessary to explain the enthymeme in order to refute other less ethical enthymemes that were used by some sophists of the time. To understand the enthymeme or rhetorical syllogism one must first understand a syllogism.

The Syllogism – Validity and Soundness

A normal syllogism has 2 premises and a conclusion. For example one could say the following:

All Men are Mortal (premise)

Socrates is a Man (premise)

Therefore Socrates is a Mortal (conclusion)

This is a valid and sound syllogism. Validity refers to when the conclusion follows from the premises, and a sound argument is a valid argument plus the premises are true. In the enthymeme one line or more in the syllogism is implied, and therefore not explicitly stated. For example in the following truncated syllogism, the premise “Socrates is a Man” is implied, and still the premises and the conclusion are clear.

All Men are Mortal (premise)

Therefore Socrates is Mortal (conclusion)

But the enthymeme is not simply based on syllogistic logic, although syllogistic logic is a very important part of it. The enthymeme also tugs at the emotions. Lastly it appeals to ones sense of what is right or wrong (e.g., ethics) How is a syllogism able to accomplish this?

The Persuasive Nature of the Enthymeme

The enthymeme is a popular technique of demogogues. People are persuaded to accept as true false beliefs against their will. While such a thing may not seem possible, when one examines the enthymeme one can see why this is so. Central to the enthymeme is understandinglogospathos, and ethos (e.g., logic, emotion and ethics).

First of all the logical aspect is clear. The syllogism is a tried and true method in logic, and is used in most of Aristotle’s logical systems. But this is not only what makes the enthymeme so treacherous.

One’s emotions are engaged. This is so first of all because with the enthymeme that is used, the auditor (e.g., the listener) agrees with the premises, agrees with the logical structure, and therefore is compelled to believe that the enthymeme, or truncated syllogism, is in fact valid and sound. Most importantly the auditor themselves supply the missing premise or conclusion. This makes their belief integral in the enthymeme. This fact of agreement with the enthymeme elicits an emotional response, a satisfaction that one’s beliefs are validated by logic. Also the enthymeme can also elicit an emotional response when being compelled to accept false premises based on flawed information which may be favorable to the auditor.

Finally this affirmation, this confirmation of the auditor to this unsound truncated syllogism convinces the auditor to agree with the rhetor (e.g., the rhetorician) about issues that concern society. The auditor is convinced that this truncated syllogism appeals to them directly and is enshrined in logic, and the auditor can then go so far as to believe that the false agreement with this syllogism goes on to validate oneself and their standing in the community (e.g., ethos).

An Example of an Enthymeme

Take the following example:

Former President George H. W Bush offered the following enthymeme when opposing the Civil Rights Bill of 1991. He explicitly states the observation only.

Observation: The bill will promote the use of quotas in the workplace.

Generalization: Quotas give unearned opportunities to minorities.

Inference: White’s opportunities will unfairly be given to minorities if the bill passes.

His audience was his fellow Republicans composed disproportionately of whites compared to the Democratic Party. Yet this enthymeme could have a very different meaning if given to an audience composed of minorities.

For example:

Observation: The bill will promote the use of quotas in the workplace.

Generalization: Quotas insure that earned opportunities will be given to minorities.

Inference: Minorities will be treated fairly in the hiring process.

Is the Enthymeme Ethical?

Enthymemes are persuasive independent of the facts of the matter. But it is only ethical when the truncated premise or conclusion is used with the full knowledge of the auditor, that is where the meaning of the missing premise or conclusion is clearly understood. The facts in the world, determine if the enthymeme not only appears to be ethical, but in fact is ethical.

A side note in dealing with enthymemes in general; by identifying the erroneous implied premises one can in fact refute unethical enthymemes by constructing your own. So have at it!


Aden, Roger C. The Enthymeme as Postmodern Argument Form: Condensed, Mediated Argument Then and Now. Argumentation and Advocacy 31, no. 2 (Fall 1994): 59.

Barnes, Jonathan Ed. The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation. Bollingen Series LXXI, Princeton University Press 1995

Frame, Doug., The Logical Nature of Aristotle’s Enthymeme. Masters Thesis 1998

Hegel’s Master/Slave Dialectic

The master slave relationship is a common theme throughout history. Many ages embraced slavery, and although the characteristics of slavery may have been somewhat different during different ages, the superiority of the master and the subservience of the slave was a constant. While many great thinkers have considered this relationship, certain thinkers stand out.

The Master and the Slave

This relationship has been a common theme of philosophy, whether it be by Aesop talking about reason being the character of the master, and passion that of the slave. Slavery was common in ancient Greece and in feudal societies. Also references to the master and slave have been most apparent with Rousseau, Fichte, and most famously Hegel. Also discussing this relationship is Nietzsche, who had a different take than others, where the master is independent, creative and excellent, while the slave is servile and mediocre.

Hegel and Nietzsche are probably the most famous philosophers to talk about the relationship between master and slave, but Hegel’s formulation was wrapped in idealism. Karl Marx was most certainly influenced by Hegel, in his more concrete and materialistic writings about revolution.

Hegel and the Master and Slave

Hegel’s presentation of the master and slave in his dialectic is the most allegorical. Hegel begins in explaining that one only gains self-consciousness by being engaged with an “other”. By seeing the other, one recognizes that this other is different from themselves, and gives oneself identity through the other, and therefore themselves. One’s encounter with another for the first time sets off a dialectic where both consciousness’ are engaged. This engagement results in both finding their place in the world.

These two are locked in a form of conflict, where their position in the world will be decided by how this conflict is resolved. While both may be focused on being superior, the way that this antipathy can be resolved is for one to “give in”. The fact of the matter is that some people value liberty over life, and others value life over liberty. The newly self-conscious being who values liberty over life becomes the master, and the newly self-conscious individual who values life over liberty becomes the slave who submits to the master to survive.

Hegel’s Dialectic

In this unfolding dynamic one begins as a conscious being (not yet self-conscious), where no conflict exists. Yet when the two individuals encounter each other there is a sense of conflict where a contradiction emerges where both cannot be the master or both be the slave. Out of this conflict comes the resolution where one emerges the master and the other emerges the slave. This sequence is part of the dialectical process. Simply put the dialectic moves through thesis (e.g., prior to the encounter), antithesis (e.g., the encounter) and synthesis (e.g. the resolution where one is the master and the other the slave).

Yet the process does not end here. Now that their positions have become apparent in the world (e.g., as each individual being either the master or the slave), the dynamic has changed. Now the master produces nothing and lives off the slave (e.g., synthesis). The master has no contact with nature. The slave on the other hand works with nature and produces something of value, even though it is only used by the master, and this handiwork from nature gives the slave true knowledge about nature (e.g., antithesis) which the master cannot hope to duplicate. Marx’s revolution results in the synthesis with his secular worldview where society is run by the proletariat in a workers paradise (e.g., synthesis).

Hegel and Karl Marx

Marx extrapolates from Hegel. Marx, ultimately a student of Hegel, states that when the slave or proletariat becomes so alienated from life and made so miserable by their existence, with the accumulation of knowledge that the proletariat attains through their work, this enables the proletariat to overthrow the master, and form a new society.

While it seems Hegel thought that inequities in the world could be solved without revolution, Marx felt revolution was inevitable in the process of Historical Materialism. While Hegel’s idealism points out the origins of the master and slave, Marx’s materialism aimed to consummate this relationship and to overthrow the master.

While Hegel brought the relationship between master and slave, as a allegory for mans achievement of self-consciousness, Marx largely ignored Hegel’s idealism, and embraced materialism to bring Hegel’s abstract dialectic to history in his theory of historical materialism.


Hegel, G. W. F. Phenomenology of Spirit. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1977

Honderick, Ted., The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1995

Inwood, M. J. Ed., Hegel Selections. Macmillan Publishing Company: United States, 1989

The Veil of Perception

John Locke, from England, and Irishman Bishop Berkeley were famous 17th-18th century empiricists. Being that these philosophers examined how one can know things, they were epistemologists, while propounding different metaphysical systems to explain their positions.

Locke felt that observation via the senses constituted the primary way one acquires information about the external world. Berkeley, on the other hand, felt that what one knows comes about as a result of one’s own ideas, rather than knowledge being based on an external substance. While both being empiricists, Locke would be classified as a materialist, while Berkeley is an idealist.

Locke’s Blank Slate and the Veil of Perception

Locke believed that the object of perception was an external substance. Each person when beginning their life possess’ a mind that is a Tabula Rasa or blank slate. According to Locke, when one is born there are no innate ideas, and therefore the information perceived is not based on rational principles, although reason does play a role in formulating knowledge.

Locke’s philosophy holds that there is a sort of correspondencebetween external things and one’s ideas. This correspondence leads to the supposition that Locke was a representational realist. Representational realism is the concept that one’s sensations contain a representation of the things being sensed.

For Locke, to perceive something external to the senses implies representational realism; otherwise how else can one know external corporeal substances? This representational realism led to what is referred to in philosophical circles as the veil of perception, that is things are not seen as they are in themselves. This is because there is a “veil” which one cannot penetrate, because the thing perceived exists independent of sensation. This concept had dire implications.

Berkeley’s Idealism: To Be is To Be Perceived

Berkeley, and idealist, criticized Locke. He considered himself to be a harbinger of common sense. He felt that Lockean materialism was flawed and resulted in extreme skepticism. With representational realism matter is never known as it is in itself, and this fact led to skepticism, because the question became how can someone know anything about the world at all, (e.g., external substances), if what one perceives is not a perception of the thing in itself?

According to Berkeley, the only thing that one knows are ideas. Berkeley claimed that something only truly exists when it is perceived. This is referred to in his dictum “to be is to be perceived” (e.g., esse est percipi). He believed that without something being perceived, one cannot say anything about it existing, or even say it exists at all! After all, he thought, the way one understands a substance is that it is something that exists independent of the senses.

If it does exist independent of the senses, how can one know the substance as it exists in itself? This leads to extreme skepticism according to Berkeley because one cannot know if matter indeed exists, since one doesn’t perceive matter directly (e.g., the problem of the veil of perception). For if something exists independent of the senses, then one is saying that one really doesn’t know anything about the substance as it exists in itself, (e.g., independent of the senses).

Berkeley solution is that one’s thoughts are composed of ideas, that substance cannot be perceived. The veil becomes an impenetrable blanket. Locke is defeated by this supposition by Berkeley that what one knows about the world are only ideas, that is one’s own ideas. Ultimately this brings up the problem that if one isn’t there to perceive it, does it cease to exist, since ones perceptions are only one’s own ideas.

Many are familiar with this philosophical paradox where if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to perceive it, does it make a sound? If matter is simply reducible to ideas then when the ideas are not received one can’t say the event, in this case the tree, exists at all. Therefore there is no “falling” of the tree, and there can be no sound.

Berkeley’s Idealism and God

Berkeley ostensibly solves this quandary of whether things really exist by using his position on ideas as an argument for God. Berkeley was critical of Locke because God was not a necessary component of his philosophy.

For Locke, spirit is not necessary in the formulation of perception, where all that was important were external substances for perception. Berkeley replied to these perceived shortcomings of the veil of perception by saying that all things do exist at all times. They exist because God perceives everything in the world at all times, and therefore everything continues to exist always (e.g., as spirit). One philosophy professor of mine referred to this as “God putting ideas in our heads”.

In reference to Berkeley’s philosophy, Dr. Samuel Johnson once kicked a heavy stone and exclaimed, “I refute it thus!” Yet ultimately this refutes nothing (e.g., it could just be the “idea” of pain in kicking the “rock”).


The Empiricists An Anchor Book – Doubleday: 1961.

Honderich, Ted, ed., The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press: Oxford 1995.

What Were Socrates’ Last Words?

Socrates lived 469 BC–399 BC, and was a classical Greek philosopher often credited with being the originator of western philosophy. His teachings are comprised in a collection of dialogues, compiled by Platowhere Socrates is engaged in a dialectic or Socratic Method (e.g., an analytic discussion) with others.

Socrates had many famous dialogues, and Crito is one that dealt with the idea of fealty toward government, and served as a precursor to social contract theory. Although justice is ideally the will of the people, the justness of an action is not always symmetrical with the will of the people.

Social Contract Theory

Social contract theory is the theory that the authority of government is derived from voluntary agreement (or consent) among all of its people to form a political community whose responsibility it is to obey the laws passed by a government, which serve to contribute to the public good.

People are obligated to adhere to these laws because first, all are protected, and second, one has an obligation to serve the state since the state represents the will of all it’s citizens. Famous social contract theorists include the philosophers Hobbes and Rousseau.

Crito’s Plea for Socrates to Escape Execution

In Plato’s dialogue, titled Crito, Socrates has been condemned to death. Under the terms of Socrates’ confinement, he finds that he has the ability to easily escape. His friend Crito argues that his death would be such a loss to to the world, and it was important for such a wise man as himself to live. Also, Crito tells him that he should try to live, because they don’t want him to die, and they care for him.

Crito further says that it will reflect poorly on him and Socrates’ other friends if they did not act to save him, and indeed do not save him. Surprisingly enough Socrates argues that he must not try and escape, even though he is able, even to save his life. His argument regarding his obligation to follow the dictates of the state forms the basis for social contract theory, and therefore one’s allegiance to the state.

The Importance of Acting Ethically

Socrates has an obligation to bring up his children and educate them to be ethical. If Socrates does not set a good example for his children, then he will be doing an injustice to them. In fact Socrates would be setting a bad example for all people if he fled.

It matters nothing whether what the state does is right, but rather the state must be obeyed by virtue of being the state even if the state represents the collective injustice of its citizens.

According to Socrates, to not follow the rules of the state one is to commit a great evil. As a result of the evil actions against Socrates, he is not entitled to an evil (e.g., escaping) act against the state. If he stays and is executed, he is a victim not of the injustice of the law, but rather the injustice of Athenian citizens, and history will judge them as unjust if they are so – this is not for Socrates to judge.

For Socrates, a decision to disregard the law and escape threatens to overthrow the law in Athenian society. Socrates talks about how by the excellence of the state he was conceived and educated. His marriage and children demonstrated his satisfaction with the state. Socrates believed that agreeing to be married in the state, his decision to birth and raise his children born in the state, and all other benefits of being a citizen, created an obligation to follow the laws of the state.

Virtue and Obeying the Dictates of the State

According to Socrates, if he was unhappy with the state, then he could have left and lived somewhere else prior to his arrest. And if he does leave now that he is condemned to death, other states will look on him with a suspicious eye, as the supposedly virtuous philosopher who ran away and therefore acting unjustly.

Like Socrates, under social contract theory, all are obligated to obey the dictates of the state. This is because the state represents the will of the people to consent to the rules of the state in order to be protected. In order for the will of the people to be respected the government mandates must be followed even if the rulers act unjustly. To follow the dictates of the state is to act ethically and morally according to Socrates.


Honderich, Ted, Ed. The Oxford Companion To Philosophy Oxford University Press: Oxford 1995.

Jowett, B., M.A. The Dialogues of Plato. Volume One. Random House Inc.: New York 1937.

Informal Logic and the Ad Hominem Fallacy

There are many types of logical fallacies one discovers when talking about critical thinking. Some rely on formal logic such as the enthymeme or rhetorical syllogism, and others rely on what are called informal fallacies. These are fallacies not based directly on logic but rather often deal with emotions or what could be referred to as sleights of hand. One informal fallacy that has a lot of variation is called the Ad Hominem fallacy which mean literally “against the man.” Here are the main variations of the Ad Hominem fallacies.

 Ad Hominem Abusive

This fallacy is the best known of the Ad Hominem fallacies. This informal logical fallacy attacks the person rather than an individual’s personal position. An example of the Ad Hominem fallacy is the following: Henry cannot have any good ideas about financial planning because Henry is a drunk. The argument tells one nothing useful about whether Henry is a competent financial planner or not but rather attacks him personally to discredit him.

Ad Hominem Circumstantial.

This too is an attack on ones character but is less direct than the Ad Hominem abusive. An example of this might be “union support raising the workers` wages will most likely increase the pay of the labor union representatives.” The implication is that the union representative efforts to increase labor pay is only because the union representative wants to pad their own pockets.

Ad Hominem “Tu Quoque” or “you too” fallacy.

One might argue for example that one shouldn’t steal. Some may cheat on their taxes. A father might tell his son that it is wrong to steal. His son might say back to him that “you steal on your taxes so who are you to tell me about stealing?” The assertion by the son is that since dad does it it is ok for him to do it. Yet this ignores the fact that stealing is wrong in any circumstances.

Ad Hominem Inconsistency

An example might be when a politician claims that there should be no new taxes. Yet later in ones career that same person might vote to raise taxes. Such a person might be accused of being unreliable and even not worthy of trust. This ignores the fact that the financial circumstances of the country may have changed and therefore at this time raising taxes may have been prudent and warranted. Yet with this fallacy the implication can be that the politician is untrustworthy or ever dishonest.

Ad Hominem Poisoning the Well.

Someone might claim that such and such homosexual “in this case doesn’t have AIDS”. The insinuation here is that being homosexual (especially this homosexual) is associated with AIDS. While the claim does not directly say this person has ever been exposed to AIDS, an association is drawn between this individual and AIDS. This can be used to further attack ones character.

Positive Ad Hominem Fallacy.

Just as someone’s integrity can be attacked by the Ad Hominem, the Ad Hominem can (theoretically) also be used to establish virtue. For example one might say that so and so goes to church every Sunday and therefore it is unlikely that the person falsified accounting entries at the company where the accused is the controller. But anyone is capable of falsifying accounting entries, even those that go to church.


  • Copi, Irving, and Cohen, Carl. Introduction to Logic. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998.
  • Hurley, Patrick. A Concise introduction to Logic. Belmont: Wadsworth 2000.

What is the Nature of Reality?

Metaphysics refers to the nature of reality. There are a lot of misunderstandings about what metaphysics is and what it stands for. Some people think metaphysics refers to new age religions. Others think metaphysics is only about God.The word metaphysics literally means beyond physics. This word coined encompassed Aristotle’s work which did not fit in with his writings on nature.

Idealism and Materialism

The study of metaphysics has become a vast enterprise where things are not always the way they seem. Often in studying metaphysics one is drawn into quandaries and paradox. Metaphysics is generally broken down into idealism and materialism; that which actually is real are either ideas or matter and not both (i.e., matter and ideas are dissimilar, discrete, entities).

There are problems with both these conceptions of reality. With idealism one’s perceptions and understanding of the world are intangible and rely on often fleeting ideas. On the other hand materialism is that which is real is material, but this falls into a quandary between matter and spirit, where matter is deterministic but the spirit is free.

Other Problems With Idealism and Materialism

Another problem, referred to as the veil of perception, is that if matter is something that one perceives, then how can one really know that matter exists as we perceive it if it exists independent of the senses, and the only way one can know it is through the senses? This is one argument for idealism. Further if one can not see the thing as it exists in itself, how can one know it exists at all? This is a natural outgrowth of the problem of the veil of perception.

Yet if all is ideas, then how can one account for the seeming permanence and stability in the world? Also, if all that one perceives are ideas, then if no one is there to perceive them, then the ideas cannot exist (e.g., if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?). According to idealism, there is no access to reality apart from what the mind provides us with.

What is Monism and Pluralism?

One common question metaphysics addresses is is reality monistic or pluralistic. Monism is the idea that everything is essentially one. An argument against monism is that how can something be one thing only, and yet be constantly changing as things appear to do in the world? A similar problem with pluralism, where there is more than one state of reality; if things are varied in nature then how can one find anything essential?

Metaphysics addresses many problems when examining the nature of reality. Much change has occurred since Aristotle’s writings beyond nature served as a place holder. Whether that which is essential is matter or ideas, or if monism or pluralism more adequately explain reality, metaphysics has been a source of much debate when examining what one means by reality, as well as what reality truly is.


Honderich, T. (Ed.) The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. Oxford University Press: Oxford 1995

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Problem of Perception. Retrieved on July, 10, 2011 from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/perception-problem/#3.1

Marx’s Communist Revolution

According to Karl Marx, the revolution of the worker or proletariat is a natural outcome brought about by the acquired consciousness of the proletariat and the economic pressures of capitalism. In the unfolding of history (according to Marx, Historical Materialism), a time will arise where the bourgeoisie (e.g., the landed class) would be overthrown by the proletariat (e.g., the landless class).

While communism marks the end of the age of decadent capitalism according to Marx, another viewpoint accepted by Marx is that throughClass Struggle revolution can be achieved. With the efforts of the landless class the capitalist bosses would be overthrown and a worker’s paradise would ensue.

The Metaphysics of History

Marx’s Historical Materialism, like Hegel’s “Phenomenology of Spirit”, shows an unfolding of history. In Hegel’s view, spirit or mind is instrumental in the unfolding of history, but according to Marx, matter is the driving force behind history(1). While there is controversy surrounding what Hegel meant by spirit or mind in the context of his phenomenology, there is little doubt what Marx meant by materialism(2). When Marx is talking about matter, he is referring to the raw stuff of which things are made.

The important thing with matter is one’s relation to this matter, especially matter shaped by the proletariat, that is robbed by the capitalist bosses. Matter drives history through the continual myriad transformations of matter, and in the days of capitalism, the types of production determine social relations, and more specifically individual thought.

Historical Materialism(3)

There are two basic metaphysical positions one can take, one being that that which constitutes the essence of reality are ideas, and the other, that which is most basic or essential is matter. In idealism, ideas are thought to be dependent on someone or something having the ideas. Without the subject nothing can be said to exist. This is not a problem for Marx. Marx’s theory is that matter exists whether someone is there to perceive it or not.

Everything that is thought of as mind or spirit is driven by matter according to Marx. Under capitalism the thoughts we have, the zeitgeist of a particular era, are all dependent on the modes of production(4). As the modes of production change, so do the social relations, and these relations change unceasingly. Our relation to matter determines our understanding of the world, and the way we understand each other.

Marx gives the example of commodity fetishism, where consumers desire certain material goods. These goods become a commodity, and because of this they seem to have intrinsic value. The commodity becomes almost a living thing. The commodity is reified(5). Marx gives the example that gold has no intrinsic value, but its desirability for the purchase of things gives it value, as it seems in itself. This commodity takes on a life of its own, becoming a source of affluence and power, and is no longer simply matter.

Communist Revolution and the Class Struggle View

The primary problem with Marx’s theory of revolution is that on the one hand the transformations in the material relations are constantly driving the unfolding of history (i.e., Historical Materialism). Eventually capitalism results in monopolies, and ultimately world monopoly; then comes revolution, and the dictatorship of the proletariat. On the other hand what role does class struggle play in the equation? For if the end of revolution is not necessary, and rather the cries of injustice result in substantial benefit for the worker, then how can communist revolution be essential or even be claimed to be important?

Further, not only is the class struggle view a problem for Marx’s theory of revolution, but there are also more practical considerations. If revolution is inevitable, then would it be necessary for people to “struggle” to overthrow the government? Also, if struggle is required, then it seems the material (i.e., social) relations of the productive forces do not drive history at all, and therefore do not lead to an inevitable communist revolution. It is impossible to have it both ways.

Marx’s Utopia

The disagreeable solution is that revolution can happen in intransigent capitalist countries, but only as the result of sustained class struggle. It is conceivable in a world proletariat revolution, that the revolution could be smashed. It is also conceivable that capitalism could evolve into something more beneficent because of worker’s pressure on the capitalists, delaying or denying communist revolution. After a revolution, a communist paradise then would not necessarily follow (perhaps because of some lack of ideological purity), and this viewpoint would be useful in demonstrating how such repressive regimes likeStalin or Pol Pot could come out of communist revolution.

The argument then can be made that communist revolution is not always a good thing, which Marx would most certainly reject. Marx’s theory of historical materialism and the promise of a coming paradise is then relegated to little more than a well intentioned fantasy. Even the reductionist materialist position of communists is called into question.


1 Karl Marx, “Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy in General” Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved on August 13, 2011 from http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/hegel.htm

2 Karl Marx, , “Afterward to the Second German Edition [Abstract]”

Capital Volume 1, Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved on August 13, 2011 from http://www.marxists.org/subject/dialectics/marx-engels/capital-afterward.htm 

3 Mick Brookes, “Historical Materialism” Marxists Internet Archive. Retrieved on August 13, 2011 from http://www.marxist.com/History-old/historicalMaterialism.htm

4 MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms. Marxists Internet Archives. Retrieved on August 13, 2011 from http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/m/o.htm#mode-production

5 Reification. Retrieved on August 13, 2011 from http://it.stlawu.edu/~global/glossary/reification.a.html