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GLOSSARY OF PHILOSOPHICAL CONCEPTS

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1. GLOSSARY OF PHILOSOPHICAL CONCEPTS
AESTHETICS The branch of Philosophy that is concerned with the analysis of concepts such as beauty or
beautiful as standards for judging works of art.
AGNOSTICISM A claim of ignorance; the claim that Gods existence can neither be proved nor disproved.
ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY The philosophical school of thought associated with Russel, Moore, Ryle,
Carnap, Ayer, and Wittgenstein that emphasizes the analysis of language and meaning. Specifically, it is the
conviction that philosophical problems, puzzles, and errors are rooted in language and can be solved or
avoided by a sound understanding of language.
ANARCHISM That theory that all forms of government are incompatible with individual and social liberty
and should be abolished.
ANIMISM The belief that many spirits inhabit the nature.
ANTHROMORPHISM The attribution of human qualities to human entities, especially to God.
ANTIREALISM The doctrine that the objects of our senses do not exist independently of our perceptions,
beliefs, concepts, and languages.
ATHEISM The belief that a personal God does not exist. In the last two centuries, some of the most
influential atheistic philosophers have been Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, and Jean-Paul
Sartre.
AUTHORITY A source of our theological knowledge, specifically for philosophers and theologians who hold
that the mysteries of faith surpass the reach of human person.
AVIDYA In Buddhism, pertains to the cause of all sufferings and frustrations; it means ignorance or
unawareness that leads to clinging.
AXIOLOGY The study of the general theory of values, including their origin, nature, and classification.
BECOMING In Hegelian thought, refers to the world in which everything in our daily experiencepersons
and thingscomes into being and passes away.
BEHAVIORISM In Psychological Philosophy, it is the school of psychology that restricts the study of human
nature to what can be observed rather than to states of consciousness.
BEING A general term in metaphysics referring to ultimate reality or existence. True being, for Plato, is the
realm of the eternal Forms.
BRAHMAN The Hindu concept of a personal Supreme Being; the source and goal of everything.
BUDDHIST PHILOSOPHY Founded by Siddharta Gautama (Buddha), believes that the ultimate goal of
human being is the attainment of nirvana, the state that is free from the causes of pain and suffering.
CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE Immanuel Kants ethical formula: act as if the maxim (the general rule) by
which a person acts could be willed to become a universal law; it is the belief that what is right for one person
is also right for everyone in similar circumstances. This is compared with hypothetical imperatives, which
permit exceptions.
CHINESE ROOM ARGUMENT A thought experiment offered by by Searle to refute the claims of strong
artificial intelligence advocates that suitably programmed machines are capable of cognitive mental states.

COGITO Literally, in Latin, I think. Used by Descartes to describe the self as a thinking thing.
COMMON SENSE REALISM The epistemological position that does not distinguish between an object and
an experience of it.
COMPATIBILISM The belief that both determinism and freedom of the will are true; religion and reason are
compatible with each other and do not conflict.
CONCEPTUAL RELATIVIST VIEW IN EPISTEMOLOGY The view that the true scientific theory is nothing
more than a theory that coheres with the conceptual framework accepted by a community of scientists.
CONDITIONED GENESIS The Buddha formula consisting of twelve factors that summarize the principles
of conditionality, relativity, and independence.
CONFUCIANISM An ethical theory which asserts that human beings are part of nature, who must live in
accordance with the natural law that governs and guides the movements of all things.
CONSEQUENTIALIST THEORY IN ETHICS The position that the morality of an action is determined by its
nonmoral consequences.
CORRESPONDENCE THEORY A theory concluding that truth is an agreement between a proposition and
a fact.
COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT An argument for the existence of God which claims that there must be an
ultimate causal explanation for why the universe as a totality exists.
COSMOLOGY The study of the universal world processesthe process by which the world unfolds and
evolves. It studies the origin and nature of the world.
CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY The analysis and definition of basic concepts and the precise expression and
criticism of basic beliefs.
DECONSTRUCTION A post-structuralist theory associated with Derrida that attempts to sho that all pairs
of opposite concepts in philosophical systems are in fact self-refuting.
DEISM A belief in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in a God who, having created the universe,
remains apart from it and administers it through natural laws.
DEONTOLOGY Any position in ethics that claims that the rightness or wrongness of actions depends on
whether they correspond to our duty or not. The word derives from the Greek word for duty, deon.
DESIGN ARGUMENT An argument for the existence of God that claims that the order and purpose
manifest in the working of things in the universe require a God.
DETERMINISM The theory that everything that occurs happens in accordance with some regular pattern or
law. Accordingly, human beings do not possess freedom of the will or the power to originate independent or
genuine choices.
DIALECTIC In general, the critical analysis of ideas to determine their meanings, implications, and
assumptions; as used by Hegel, a method of reasoning used to synthesize contradictions.
DIVINE COMMAND THEORY A single-rule, non-consequential normative theory which says that we
should always to the will of God. It asserts that the rightness or wrongness of actions depends on whether or
not these actions correspond to Gods commands.
DOGMATISM The act of making a positive assertion without demonstration by either rational argument or
experience.
DOLORS Utilitarian unit of pain or displeasure. Its opposite is hedon, a unit of pleasure.
DUALISM The theory that reality is composed of two different, independent, irreducible substances so that
neither one can be related to the otherthus, spirit/matter, mind/body, good/evil. This is the contrast
of monism and pluralism.
DUTY THEORY In ethics, the position that a moral action is the one that conforms with obligations accrued
in the past, such as the obligations or gratitude, fidelity, or justice.
ECLECTICISM A consequentialist ethical theory which contends that we act morally when we act in a way
that promotes our own best long-term interest.

ECUMENICAL TRADITION In various religions, this tradition is characterized by an openness to other


religious traditions and a willingness to explore overlapping areas of faith; this tradition is often contrasted
with fundamentalist and absolutist traditions in religion.
EMERGENCE/EMERGENT EVOLUTION The view that in the development of the universe, new life forms
appear which cannot be explained solely by analysis of previous forms.
EMOTIVISM The metaethical position that ethical statements primarily express surprise, shock, or some
other emotion. It holds that moral judgments are simply expressions of positive or negative feelings.
EMPERICISM The position that knowledge has its origins in and derives all of its content from experience,
which denies that human beings possess inborn knowledge or that they can derive knowledge through the
exercise of reason alone.
ENLIGHTENMENT (1)An intellectual movement in modern Europe from the sixteenth to the eighteenth
centuries that believed in the power of human reason to understand the world and to guide human conduct.
(2) For Buddhists, the state of Enlightenment or nirvana is the goal of human existence.
ENTITLEMENT THEORY A theory of social justice contending that individuals are entitled to their
properties and other holdings without harming anyone in the process. This is expressed in the Latin
maxim, sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas.
EPICUREANISM The belief in pleasure as the highest good.
EPIPHENOMENALISM The view that matter is primary and the mind is a secondary phenomenon
accompanying some bodily process.
EPISTEMOLOGY The branch of Philosophy which investigates the nature, sources, limitations, and validity
of knowledge.
ESSENCE The chief characteristic, quality, or necessary function that makes a thing what it uniquely is.
ETHICAL ABSOLUTION/ABSOLUTISM In Ethics, the view that affirms the existence of a single correct
and universally applicable moral standard.
ETHICAL EGOISM A moral theory that in its most common version (universal ethical egoism) states that
each person ought to act in his or her own self-interest.
ETHICAL RELATIVISM Any view that denies the existence of a single universally applicable moral
standard. There are two types: (1) DESCRIPTIVE ETHICAL RELATIVISM, which claims as a matter of fact
that different people have different moral beliefs, but it takes no stand on whether those beliefs are valid or
not; and (2) NORMATIVE ETHICAL RELATIVISM, which claims that each cultures beliefs are right within
that culture and that it is impossible to judge validly another cultures values from the outside.
ETHICS That branch of Philosophy which is the explicit reflection on moral beliefs and practices. (1) A set
of rules for human behavior; (2) a study of judgments of valueof good and evil, right and wrong, or
desirable and undesirable; (3) theories of obligation or duty or why we ought to behave in certain way.
EUDAEMONISM From Greek eudaimonia (flourishing; happiness), it is the view that the goal of life is
happinessthat is, complete, long-lived kind of well-being.
EXCUSABILITY The concept that under certain circumstances, people are nor morally responsible for their
decisions and conduct.
EXISTENTIALISM A twentieth century philosophy by Sartre and Merleau-Ponty which denies any essential
human nature; each of us creates our own essence through free action.
FATALISM The view that events are fixed, that humans can do nothing to alter them.
FORMALISM In Ethics, it is the view that moral acts from fixed moral principles and do not change
because of circumstances.
FREE WILL The theory that in some cases the will makes decisions or choices independent of prior
physiological or psychological causes.
FUNCTIONALISM A contemporary theory of mind-body problem that mental events depend on networks,
pathways, and the interconnection of mental processes, but not on any specific material stuff that the brain is

composed of, such as neurons. It holds open the possibility that mental events can occur in nonbiological
systems, such as silicon chips.
FUNDAMENTALISM In various religious traditions, this is the belief that correct religious belief and
practice are determined by how close they correspond to the basic texts and dogmas. In fundamentalistic
traditions, basic texts and rules are often interpreted very literally.
GESTALT THEORY The twentieth century psychological theory which states that our perceptual
experience consists of a full range of characteristicsform, structure, sense, meaning, and valueall
simultaneously.
HEDONISM The doctrine that pleasure is the actual, and also the proper, motive of every choice.
HERD MENTALITY A view in Nietzsches philosophy which states that people are often reduced to a
common level of mediocrity.
HINDUISM is a belief that the soul is the ultimate, eternal reality but is bound by the law of karma (action)
to the world of matter, which it can escape only after spiritual progress through an endless series of births;
thus, the ultimate humanitys goal is the liberation (moksha) of the spirit (jiva).
IDEALISM The view that mind is the ultimate reality in the world, as opposed tomaterialism, the view that
all reality is composed of material things.
IDEAL UTILITARIANISM First advanced by G.E. Moore in the nineteenth century, is a form of utilitarianism
which maintains that we ought to act to maximize the realization of certain ideals, such as truth or beauty.
IDENTITY THEORY A contemporary theory of mind-body problem associated with Armstrong and Smart
that reduces mental events to brain activity.
ILLUSION For Freud, it means a false belief growing out of a deep wish; it is an erroneous impression,
such as optical illusion.
IMPRESSION Humes term for experience consisting of sensations and mental reflections.
INDETERMINISM The theory which states that in some cases the will makes decisions or choices
independent of prior physiological or psychological causes.
INTEGRATIONISM A theory that attempts to reconcile apparently conflicting tendencies or values into a
single framework. Integrationist positions are contrasted with separatist positions, which advocate keeping
groups (usually defined by race, ethnicity, or gender) separate from each other.
INSTRUMENTALISM Deweys theory which states that thought is instrumental insofar as it produces
practical consequences.
INTUITION Direct and immediate knowledge of the self, the external world, values, or other metaphysical
truths, without the need to define the notions, to justify a conclusion, or to build up inferences.
INTUITIONISM In metaphysics, the doctrine that intuition rather than reason reveals the reality of things; in
ethics, the doctrine that man has an innate sense of right and wrong.
LOGICAL POSITIVISM The twentieth century movement in the analytical tradition that rests on the
verification principle.
MARXISM The materialist philosophy founded by Karl Marx, which advanced the theory that (1) the
existence of social and economic classes is only bound up with historic phases in the development of
production; (2) the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat (working class); and
(3) the dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society
with equal distribution of wealth.
MATERIALISM The view that matter constitutes the basis of all that exists in the universe. Hence,
combinations of matter and material forces account for every aspect of reality, including the nature of
thought, the process of historical and economic events, and the standard of values based on sensuous
bodily pleasures and the abundance of things; this view rejects the notion of the primacy of spirit or mind
and rational purpose in nature.

METAPHYSICS The branch of philosophy concerned with the question of the ultimate nature of reality.
Unlike the sciences, which focus on various aspects of nature, metaphysics goes beyond particular things to
inquire about more general questions, such as what lies beyond nature, how things come into being, what it
means for something to be, and whether there is a realm of being that is not subject to change and that is,
therefore, the basis of certainty in knowledge.
MONISM The view that there is only one substance in the universe. Idealism andMaterialism are monistic
theories. Monism is the contrast of Dualism and Pluralism.
MORAL ISOLATIONISM The belief that we ought not to be morally concerned with, or involved with,
people outside our own immediate group. Moral isolationism is often a consequence of some versions of
moral relativism.
MORAL REALISM The belief that moral disagreements can, at least in part, be resolved by appeals to
facts about the natural order of things.
MORALITY The first-order beliefs and practices about good and evil by means of which we guide our
behavior. In contrast, ethics, the second-order, is reflective consideration of our moral beliefs and practices.
NARCISSISM An excessive preoccupation with oneself. In mythology, Narcissus was a beautiful young
man who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.
NATURAL LAW In ethics, believers in natural law hold that (1) there is a natural order to the human world,
(2) this natural order is good, and (3) people therefore ought not to violate tbat order.
NIHILISM The view that there are no value or truth. According to Nietzsche, death of God will be followed
by the rejection of absolute values and the rejection of the idea of an objective and universal moral law.
NIRVANA In Hindu theory, a condition of happiness arising out of the absolute cessation of desire.
NOUMENAL WORLD The real world as opposed to the world of appearance. According to Kant, the
noumenal world cannot be known.
NOUMENON In Kant, the ultimate reality, or Thing-in-itself, which can be conceived by thought, but cannot
be perceived in experience.
ONTOLOGICAL ARGUMENT A proof of Gods existence devised by Anselm, such that God is defined as
the greatest possible being, which necessarily entails existence.
ONTOLOGY The study of existence and being, from the Greek ontos, being, andlogos, science; related
to the field of metaphysics.
PANTHEISM The doctrine that God is immanent in all things.
PHENOMENAL WORLD In Kants theory, the world of appearance versus the noumenal world beyond our
knowledge.
PHENOMENOLOGY A twentieth century philosophical movement by Husserl, which states that in
accounting for knowledge, we should not go beyond the data available to consciousness derived from
appearances.
PLURALISM The view that there are more than one or two separate substances making up the world. It
believes that there are multiple perspectives to an issue, each of which contains part of the truth but none of
which contains the whole truth. This stands in contrast to both monism and dualism. In ethics, ethical
pluralism is the belief that different moral theories each capture part of the truth of the moral life, but none of
those theories has the entire answer.
POSITIVISM A nineteenth century philosophical movement by Comte, which asserts that we should reject
any investigation that does not rest on direct observation.
POSTMODERNISM The theory in contemporary Continental philosophy which rejects the Renaissance
and Enlightenment assumption that the world can be explained in a unified system.
POST-STRUCTURALISM The radical extension of the structuralist position contending that novels and
philosophical texts are completely closed systems whose meanings derive from what individual readers bring
to the texts.

POSTULATE In Kants theory, it pertains to a practical or moral principle that cannot be proved, such as
the existence of God, the freedom of the will, or immortality, which must be believed to make possible our
moral duty.
PRAGMATISM A twentieth century movement associated with Pierce, James, and Dewey, contending that
there is little value in philosophical theories that do not somehow make a difference in daily life.
PREFERENCE UTILITARIANISM A moral theory that says we ought to act in such a way as to maximize
the satisfaction of everyones preferences.
RATIONALISM The philosophical view that emphasizes the ability of human reason to grasp fundamental
truths about the world without the aid of sense impressions.
REDUCTIONISM The philosophical position that complex systems can be understood by reducing them
into their simplest components. The type of reductionism espoused by some Pre-Socratic philosophers is
called Ontological Reductionism the idea that all matter consists of one or a very few basic substances in
various combinations (hot/cold, light/dark)..
RELATIVISM The view that there is no absolute knowledge, that truth is different for each individual, social
group, or historical period and is, therefore, relative to the circumstances of the knowing subject.
RIGHTS These are entitlements to do something without interference from other people (negative rights) or
entitlements that obligate others to do something positive to assist you (positive rights). Some rights (natural
rights, human rights) belong to everyone by nature or simply by virtue of being human; some rights
(legal rights) belong to people by virtue of their membership in a particular political state; other rights (moral
rights) are based on acceptance of a particular moral theory.
SCHOLASTICISM The theological and philosophical method of learning in medieval schools that
emphasized deductive logic and the authority of key figures such as Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine.
SKEPTICISM (1) the tendency to doubt some fundamental component of knowledge; (2) the Ancient
Greek school of thought associated with Platos Academy, Pyrrho, and Sextus Empiricus. In Ancient Greek,
skeptics were inquirers dedicated to the investigation of concrete experience and wary of theories that might
cloud or confuse that experience. In modern times, skeptics are wary of the trustworthiness of sense
experience. Thus, classical skepticism primarily distrusted theories; whereas, modern skepticism primarily
distrusts experience.
SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY In social philosophy, the doctrine that individuals give up certain liberties
and rights to the state, which in turn guarantees such rights as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
SOLIPSISM From the Latin solus, alone and ipse, self; it is the view that the self alone is the source of
all knowledge of existence, which sometimes leads to the conclusion that the self is the only reality.
SOPHISTS Wandering teachers in fifth-century Athens who especially prepared young men for political
careers, who hence emphasized rhetoric and the ability to persuade audiences and win debates, and who
were less concerned with pursuing truths.
SOVEREIGN A person or state independent of any other authority or jurisdiction.
STRUCTURALISM The theory in contemporary Continental philosophy associated with Saussaure and
Levi-Strauss that the meaning of a thing is defined by its surrounding cultural structures, which in turn rely on
pairs of opposite concepts, such as light and dark.
SUBJECTIVISM An extreme version of relativism, which maintains that each persons beliefs are relative to
that person alone and cannot be judged from the outside by any other person.
TAOISM Introduced by Lao Tzu, this philosophy of passivity and transcendentalism, believes in
supernatural explanations for anything, to disregard the ephemeral things and concentrate on the eternal
through meditation, special diet, and sexual hygiene.
TELEOLOGY From the Greek telos, purpose; the study of purpose is human nature and in the events of
history.

TELEOLOGICAL SUSPENSION OF THE ETHICAL This is a term introduced by Soren Kierkegaard to


refer to those instances in which normal ethical duties are overridden by a command from God.
Kierkegaards principal example of this is Gods command to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac.
TRANSCENDENTAL beyond the realm and reach of the senses.
UNIVERSALIZABILITY A Kantian term applied to the maxims, or subjective rules, that guide our actions. A
maxim is universalizable if it can be consistently willed as a law that everyone ought to obey. The only
morally good maxims are those that can be universalized. The test of universalizability ensures that everyone
has the same moral obligations in morally similar situations.
UTILITARIANISM An ethical and political economic theory associated with Bentham and Mill that an action
is morally good if it produces as much good as or more good than any alternative behavior. This theory
states that whatever produces the overall greatest amount of pleasure (hedonistic utilitarianism) of happiness
(eudaimonistic utilitarianism) is morally right. Act utilitarians claim that we should weigh the consequences of
each individual action, whereas Rule utilitarianism maintains that we should look at the consequences of
adopting particular rules of conduct.
VERIFICATION PRINCIPLE A principle in logical positivism contending that a statement is meaningful if (1)
it asserts something that is true simply because the words used necessarily and always require the
statement to be true (as in mathematics) or (2) it asserts something that can be judged as true or false by
verifying it in experience.
VICE A weakness of character that prevents individuals from flourishing (eudaimonia). According to
Aristotle, vices typically consist of having either too much or too little of a proper virtue. Thus courage is the
mean of foolhardiness (too much) and cowardice (too little).
VIRTUE A stretch of character, usually acquired through habit, that promotes human flourishing. According
to Aristotle, virtues represent a middle ground between the two extremes of too much or too little.
VIRTUE EPISTEMOLOGY An epistemological theory that focuses on the character traits of a person,
rather than on the properties of a persons belief.
VIRTUE THEORY A moral theory that focuses on the development of good character traits, or virtues,
rather than on rules for solving moral dilemmas.
WAGER, PASCALS A contention by Pascal that, when reason is neutral on the issue of Gods existence,
we should be psychologically compelled to believe based on the benefits of such belief.

PRE-SOCRATIC PHILOSOPHIES

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1. PRE-SOCRATIC PHILOSOPHIES (585-400 BCE)
The pre-Socratic philosophers (around 600 BCE) were the earliest rational thinkers in the Western
civilization. Their philosophies centered on the questions, What is the world made of? How did the world
come into being and How can we explain the process of change? The western Ionian seaport of Miletus
across the Aegean Sea from Athens was the meeting place between the East and the West, where Oriental,
Egyptian and Babylonian (Eastern) philosophies influenced the development of what came to be the
enduring Greek philosophy. While Eastern philosophies probed natures depths intuitively and spiritually,

early Greek thinkers viewed nature cognitively and scientifically. Pre-Socratic philosophy represented a
paradigm shift from the mythical explanation of the origins of the cosmos to intellectual, scientific attempts to
understand the origins of the universe.
SEVEN SAGES
The men traditionally referred to as the Seven Sages were philosophers, statesmen and legislators of the
late seventh and sixth centuries BCE. Exactly who were in the list was later named by Plato as: Thales,
Pittacus of Mytilene, Bias of Priene, Solon of Athens (the father of Athenian Democracy), Cleobilus of Lindus,
Myson of Chenae, and Chilon of Sparta. Except for Thales, they were not really philosophers in the modern
sense, but practical politicians. However, in that respect their speeches and sayings can be seen as ultimate
precursors of the Classical periods greatest thinkers about ethics, politics and morality (Socrates, Plato and
Aristotle).
HISTORIANS OF CLASSICAL GREECE
1. HERODOTUS (c. 484-425 BCE)
Herodotus became the father of history. His subject was the history of the Archaic period (c. 750-480 BCE),
and his underlying theme was the meeting of the Greek world with the cultures of Asia Minor, the Near East
and Egypt. His work shares some of the preoccupations of the Presocratic philosophers in its fascination with
the nature of different human cultures and the underlying causes of human actions, especially warfare,
without reference to gods or divine will. His style was rather anecdotal than analytical, and he is often very
nave, but his curiosity and questioning attitude , and his attention to all sides of an issue, using both Greek
and non-Greek sources, link him methodologically with the Presocratic philosophers.
1. THUCYDIDES (c. 455-400 BCE)
Called the pioneer of scientific history, Thucydides unlike Herodotus, concentrated on a wholly Greek
subject, the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta (431-404 BCE). He was more analytical
historian than Herodotus was, brilliantly unraveling the complex processes of decision-making or failure to
decide that determined the fortunes of the parties in the war.
MONASTIC MATERIALISM
Most of the Presocratic philosophers thought that material principles alone were principles of all things. They
had varying ideas of what the primordial substance was; but they could scarcely even have conceptualized a
single origin for the universe if they had not already formed a concept of the universe as an ordered whole
whose order should be determined: it was neither the creation of some gods or divine force nor a disordered
mess intractable to intelligent explanation. The word they used for this order was kosmos, a word cognate
with kosmeuein, to arrange or set in order. Heraclitus is probably the first Greek thinker to
use kosmos clearly in this sense of the ordered world. The early Presocratics also argued that the world was
governed by some regulatory force; this idea lies behind the Anaximanders notion of cosmic justice, which
maintains balance in the universe. Heraclitus and Parmenides were also concerned with cosmic justice.
Mathematics was an important part of Presocratic philosophy. The Greeks traditionally regarded Egypt as the
wellspring of mathematics, but it was they who applied deductive reasoning to it. Thales introduced the
notion of mathematical proof and made some basic geometrical discoveries. Mathematics was central to
Pythagorean movement: numerous discoveries in geometry and music, including the famous theorem about
the square of the hypotenuse, have been attributed to Pythagoreans rather than to Pythagoras himself.
Among other things, Pythagoreans proved the existence of irrational numbers, with a drastic effect on the
rest of their theory of the universe.
Most of the Presocratic philosophers were aristocratic or propertied citizens, active in the government of the
cities or as military leaders; but mere practical political advice hardly counts as philosophizing. The
Pythagoreans were primarily interested in the soul, and believed in reincarnation. Their view of philosophy as
a way of life also shows where their main interest lay. On the whole, even the later Presocratic philosophers

were not explicitly interested in ethical theory, though they did concern themselves with theories of mind, its
distinction from matter, and the nature of knowledge.
1. THALES OF MILETUS (625-545 BCE)
Thales was famous for having observed or perhaps predicted the first accurately datable event in Greek
history: a solar eclipse on 28 May 585 BCE. His interests in eclipses would well have sprung from Miletus
links with Lydia, and through Lydia with Babylonia, where eclipses had long been studied by astronomers.
Thales is widely considered to have broken new ground when he theorized that water was the original
substance out of which everything else was created. This was a breakthrough, because for the first time,
there was a reasoned argument to support a theory, based on Thales empirical observation not only on the
behavior of water itself (freezing, evaporation, thawing), which caused it to change from one thing to another
and reverse the process while still demonstratively water, but of the reliance of all life forms on water for
nourishment. Thales realization that a substance could change without losing its essential nature was also
important; and it was an idea carried forward by Anaximenes, the youngest of the three Milesian pioneers, in
his concept of rarefaction and condensation in the universe.
Thales also held the earth floats on water, like a floating log. However, he did not explain what the water
itself rests on, or whether it is limitless, as might have been appropriate for the primordial substance. Thales
also theorized that all things are full of gods, and the magnet is alive for it has the power to move iron.

1. ANAXIMANDER OF MILETUS (610-540 BCE)


The second of the Milesians, Anaximander proposed that the universe not only originated in a single
primordial substance but was subject to a single law. Unlike Thales, Anaximander posited that this
substance, the material principle of everything that exists, was not only familiar earthly substance but
something that he calledapeiron, the boundless. Anaximander believed that everything in the world derived
from four elementsair, water, earth, and firethat existed necessarily as pair of opposites. But he
disagreed with Thales view that any of the four could be the underlying substance on its own, because each
of them needed its opposite to maintain its existence. Beyond the four elements, he argued, there had to be
something that had no opposite: accordingly he hypothesized the apeiron. As well as being limitless in
extent, the apeiron was eternal and ageless, ungenerated and indestructible, and from it came the heavens
and all the worlds.
Perhaps springing from the notion of constant change, Anaximander conceived of a process of generation
among animals that looks at first sight like a distant ancestor of a theory of evolution. Viewed more closely,
his ideas about this process seem to owe more to observation of the development of insects from larvae: that
the first animals were born in moisture, surrounded by prickly bark, from which they later emerged on dry
land, and for a short time lived in a different kind of life. He posited the emergence of human beings out of
fish or fish-like creatures in a similar process, not emerging and taking to the land until they were able to fend
for themselves.
Anaximander was the first man to make a map of the earthwhich he conceived of as cylindrical, set in the
center of a spherical universe around which the sun, moon, and stars circle, equidistant from the earth, in a
celestial wheel. He conceived of a series of wheels or hoops, set at different distances from the earth, hollow
and filled with fire, and punctuated by openings or vents; light or fire showing through these vents accounted
for the appearances of the heavenly bodies. The hoop of the sun was twenty-seven greater than the earth,
that of the moon eighteen times greater. Phases of the moon and eclipses were explained in terms of the
blocking and opening of the vents. This picture may seem extremely fanciful, but it contains two revolutionary
features: (1) the notion that the universe was spherical, and (2) the idea that it was the circular shape of the
hoops that prevented them from falling in towards the sun.
1. ANAXIMENES OF MILETUS (c. 545 BCE)

The third in the succession of early Milesians, Anaximenes, pupil of Anaximander, adopted Thales idea that
the primordial stuff was an observable substance, choosing air, and proposed that the single law that
governed the generation of matter was one of rarefaction and condensation. Here was another process of
continual change and motion. The most rarefied condition of air was fire; successive degrees of
condensation produced wind, clouds, water, earth, and finally, at the densest, stone. Rarefaction was caused
by heating, condensation by cooling. The movement involved in rarefaction and condensation also made
matter visible or invisible.
On the shape of the universe, Anaximenes also looked back to Thales: his earth, sun and other heavenly
bodies were all fiery, shaped like flat discs, and airborne, turning in a circle above the flat earth. The
heavenly bodies would not fall through the air because, being flat, they offered resistance. Anaximenes
model of the universe and in particular the earth proved highly influential: Anaxagoras and Democritus are
among those who agreed with him.
1. PYTHAGORAS (Born 570 BCE)
Pythagoras believed in the transmigration of souls and established a religious sect centered on that belief.
Pythagoreans belief in reincarnation, their communal way of life, their secrecy, and their veneration to the
founding figure make it difficult to identify individual members of Pythagoras circle to detect what is original
to Pythagoras.
Pythagoras marks the beginning of a different tradition of thought from that of the Milesians. He did not
concern much with nature, being more interested with the soul and its qualities. He saw both the universe
and the soul as endless and unchanging, the same things recurring eternally, and within this scheme the soul
was subject to a series of reincarnations. Pythagorean philosophy was full of mystical and religious thought.
Much of it was expressed in short sayings or aphorisms, called akousmata(things heard), which included
the famous advice to abstain from beans but also statements about the universe, for example that the
planets were bearers of divine vengeance, the purpose of thunder was to frighten souls in the underworld,
and earthquakes were gathering of the dead. Other akousmata took the form of instructions or prohibitions
that seem frankly superstitious: Put your right shoe first, dont have children by a woman who wears gold,
dont look in a mirror by lamplight, etc. These are less scientific than the Ionian pioneers, ant hey make no
use of reasoned argument at all.
Pythagoreans had speculated that everything in the world, and the relations between things, could be
explained in terms of numbers. Their attempt to establish measurability combined the intellectual and the
mystical in a way that seems strange to us: they thought, for instance, that marriage is five because it joins
the first even (female, limited) number with the first odd (male, unlimited) one. Even the soul had a number.
They noticed as well that musical intervals could be expressed numerically, related to the lengths of strings
on a lyre. From this they postulated that if musical harmony depended on numerical ratios, the harmony of
the universe could also be expressed numerically.
In the fifth century BCE, Pythagoreans split into two factions: Aphorists (akousmatikoi), and Mathematicians
(mathematikoi), reflecting the two sides of Pythagorean thought.
1. XENOPHANES (580-480 BCE)
Poet-philosopher Xenophanes was the first philosopher of religion. He was extremely critical of the traditional
portrayal of the gods in Homer and the epic poems, where they behaved so disappointingly like humans,
forever committing theft and adultery and mutual deception. This does not mean that Xenophanes was an
atheist; on the contrary, he could be very pious. His remarks are a critical analysis of religion as it was
practiced in the day. He believed that people imagined God in their own image.
Xenophanes hypothesized on non-mythological theology centered on a single or supreme godit is not
entirely clear from the surviving fragments whether he is referring to just one god or a god that is the greatest

of many. The important thing is that this divinity is not a person but an abstract, impersonal divine principle,
similar to mortals neither in shape nor in thought, able to shape all things by the force of its mind alone,
capable of accomplishing everything while always reposing the same state or placeand ultimately
unknowable to human minds.
His theory of the fundamental primary substance was earth and water, or a mixture of the two. In
meteorology, Xenophanes made a remarkably prescient observation that clouds are formed by vaporization
caused by the heat of the sun, and used this concept to suggest explanations for a number of astronomical
phenomena. In short, Xenophanes combined a new approach to belief in divine order with the lively inquiry
into the nature of the world and its contents typical to his Ionian predecessors.
1. HERACLITUS (540-475 BCE)
Nicknamed the weeping philosopher, Heraclitus was paired with Democritus who was the laughing
philosopher. Central to Heraclitus philosophy was that the natural universe is governed by a law of
opposites held in tension, as in a bow and a lance. In general, he saw the universe as made up of pairs of
opposites similar with Anaximandrian idea, but with the difference that Heraclitus saw justice and strife as
themselves necessary. This paradoxical unity of opposites can be shown in many images: the sea is most
pure and polluted water; for fish, it is drinkable and preserves life; for men, it is undrinkable and it kills; or his
famous riddle: the path up and down is one and the same. Thus, the same road can appear in two opposite
ways, depending on which direction you are looking at it. It tells us that the natures of things are not absolute
in themselves but relative to our point of view. On the other hand, it appears as more complex metaphor
referring to the process of cyclical change by which the cosmos eternally comes into being.
Fire was the element Heraclitus choose as the primordial substanceor rather the primordial process of the
world. He maintained that the world always existed and had been made neither by god nor man, but always
was, is and will be, an ever-living fire, kindling and being quenched in proportion. Everything else had arisen
from this eternally ongoing process of combustion. From this process a universal harmony emerged.
In contrast to the idea of oneness and stasis put forward by his Eleatic contemporary Parmenides, Heraclitus
claimed that everything changes and nothing remains. The process of change is the logosthe logic or
rationaleof the universe. Heraclitus rejected the accepted Greek religion but believed in the existence of
something divine, which he identified with the eternal cosmic fire.
Heraclitus was emphatic on the imperfection of human knowledge: Me do not understand the things they
meet withnot even when they have learned them do they know them. In particular, most divine acts escape
our knowledge. The individuals subjective knowledge is incomplete, and wisdom lies not in learning but in
the souls awakening to the logos: wisdom is one thing, to grasp the knowledge of how all things are steered
through all. His theories have been considered precursors of the laws of conservation and energy; is ideas
about divine logos found their way, via Plato, into Christian theology. The opening words of the gospel of
John (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God) may echo
this logos, reaching right back to Heraclitus.
1. PARMENIDES (Born 515 BCE)
Parmenides used logical argument to prove that being, or what is is single, without beginning or end,
continuous, and also finite and spherical; and that, contrary to the evidence of our senses, our belief in
plurality and change in the world is erroneous and the material world around us is an illusion. The logical
theory begins with the statement that something is, or something is not. The reason is that we can only
conceptualize and speak about things that exist; we are unable to do this with things that dont exist. He also
offered the startling theory that the entire universe consists of one thing, which never changes, has no parts,
and can never be destroyed, calling this single thing the One.
1. ZENO (Born 490 BCE)

A friend of Parmenides, Zeno is best known for his series of logical paradoxes, which illustrate the method
of reduction ad absurdumproving or disproving a statement by taking its consequences through strictly
logical steps to the point of absurdity. He asserted that our senses do not give us reliable knowledge but only
opinion. The most famous of the paradoxes are four arguments proving the impossibility of motion,
apparently supporting Parmenides idea that motion was illusory. Two of those paradoxes are:
(1) Achilles and the tortoise. In a race, the fastest runner can never overtake the slowest, for the pursuer
must first reach the point where the pursued set out, so that the slower one must always be in the lead.
Imagine the Greek epic hero Achilles, famed for his speed, in a race with a humble tortoise. If the tortoise, as
the slower contestant, is given a head start, it will always remain ahead; for by the time Achilles has reached
the point from which the tortoise started out, the tortoise has moved onby a shorter distance than Achilles
has covered, admittedly, but still it has moved on. And whenever Achilles reaches a point that the tortoise
has just left, it is still ahead. Since there is an infinite number of points Achilles has to reach where the
tortoise has already been, he will never catch up, for even though the distance between the racers becomes
infinitesimal, it can never shrink to nothing. Zeno argues, hence, that motion is impossible.
(2) The paradox of dichotomy, or halving. If something is divisible, theoretically it can be cut in two
infinite number of times, until it either becomes an infinite number of infinitesimal pieces from which the
whole could be reconstituted, or else disappears into nothing, which would mean that the whole thing was
constituted from nothingwhich is impossible. Therefore, Zeno concludes, there cannot be a plurality of
things but just the one. Aristotle saw this paradox as a variation on Achilles and the tortoise, but there is a
further problem in it, illustrated by the case of Achilles and the racetrack, or indeed anyone progressing from
point A to point B. There is no competitor this time, but to get to the end of the trackfrom A to Byou have
to reach the halfway mark; before you can get there, you have to get a quarter of the way there; before that,
an eighth of the way and so on till, in the end, with infinitesimal divisions of the distance, it will take you
forever just to start off.
In all of these arguments, Zeno was counterattacking the adversaries of Parmenides, taking seriously their
assumption of a pluralistic world where a line or time is divisible. By pushing these assumptions to their
logical conclusions, Zeno attempted to demonstrate that the notion of a pluralistic world lands one in
insoluble absurdities and paradoxes. He therefore reiterated Parmenides thesis that change and motion are
illusions and that there is only one being, continuous, material, and motionless. In spite of Zenos valiant
efforts, the commonsense view of the world persisted, which prompted succeeded philosophers to take a
different approach to the problem of change and constancy.
PLURALISTS
1. EMPEDOCLES (490-430 BCE)
Empedocles was an impressive figure in Agrigentum, Sicily. Legend has it that since he wished to be
remembered as a godlike figure, he ended his life by jumping into the crater of Mount Etna, hoping to leave
no trace of his body so that people would think that he had gone up to heaven.
He agreed with Parmenides that being is uncreated and indestructible, that it simply is. But unlike
Parmenides, Empedocles believed that existence consisted not only of One but many which are changeless
and eternal. He philosophized that the objects that we see and experience do come into being and are also
destroyed, but such change and motion are possible because objects are composed of many material
particles. Thus, although objects can change, the particles of which they are composed of are changeless
the four eternal material elements: earth, water, air, and fire. What explains the changes in objects that we
see around us is the mixture of the four elements, but not their transformation. There is only the mingling
and interchange of what has been mingled.
Empedocles account of earth, air, water, and fire constitutes only the first account of his theory. The second
part is an account of the specific forces that animate the process of change. The Ionians assumed that the

stuff of nature simply transformed itself into various objects. Only Anaximenes made any detailed attempt to
analyze the process of change with his theory of condensed and expanded air. By contrast, Empedocles
assumed that there are two forces, Love and Hate (Harmony and Discord), that cause the four elements to
intermingle and later separate. Hate causes the decomposition of things. The four elements then mix
together or separate from each other depending on the amount of Love or Hate that is present.
Four stages of the cycle, according to Empedocles, are: (1) Love is present and Hate is completely absent.
Here, the four elements are fully commingled and are held in Harmony by the governing principle of Love. (2)
The force of Hate, lurking nearby, starts to invade things, but there is still more Love present than Hate. (3)
Hate begins to dominate, and the particles fall into Discord and begin to separate. (4) Only Hate is present,
and all particles of the four elements separate into their own four groups. There, the four elements are ready
to begin a new cycle as the force of Love turns to attract the elements into harmonious combinations. The
continues without end.
1. ANAXAGORAS (500-428 BCE)
Anaxagoras major philosophical contribution was the concept of Nuos (mind), which he distinguished from
matter. He agreed with Empedocles theory of mixture and separation of the existing substances, but
rejected the latters ambiguous, mythical notions of Love and Hate. Anaxagoras thought that the world and all
its objects well-ordered and intricate structures; there must then be some being with knowledge and power
that organizes the material world in this fashionthis rational principle is his concept of the Nuos.
According to Anaxagoras, the nature of reality is best understood as consisting of mind and matter; before
mind has influenced the shape of and behavior of matter, matter exists, as a mixture of various kinds of
material substances, all uncreated and imperishable. Even when this original mass of matter is divided into
actual objects, each part contains portions of every other elemental thing (spermata, or seeds).
Aristotle criticized Anaxagoras philosophy in this wise: Anaxagoras uses reason as a divine machine for
making the world, and when he is at a loss to tell from what cause something, then he drags the reason in,
ascribing events to anything rather than reason. Anaxagoras seemed to provide an explanation only of how
matter acquired its rotary motion, leaving the rest of the order of nature to be a product of that motion.
ATOMISTS
Atom literally means uncuttable or indivisible. Atomism constituted a systematic, internally coherent
natural philosophy explaining everything in the perceptible world. What is innovative about the theory is that it
never suggested that the movement of atoms is governed by any intelligence or intentionality, divine or
otherwise, either operating upon or inherent in the primal substance. Atomism appears as the first truly
materialist answer to Heraclitus Logos, Parmenides One, Empedocles Love andStrife, and
Anaxagoras Nuos. By positing indivisible units of matter, the atomists were also providing an answer to
Zenos paradoxes showing that motion is impossible.
Atomism was extremely influential. It was taken up by Epicurus and Lucretius. Less directly, it seems to have
had some influence on Plato, who presents a theory based on a different conception of indivisibles. We
cannot trace a direct line from ancient atomism to the modern atomic theory of the twentieth century, for it
was not a scientific theory resting on experimental method. Yet lacking the advantages of experimentation,
Leocippus and Democritus theorized purely materialist explanation of the world, using concepts that
prefigure, however distantly, the way we understand the structure of matter today.
1. DEMOCRITUS (460-370 BCE)
Democritus, the laughing philosopher, was probably the most prolific Greek philosopher after Aristotle. He
wrote on ethical subjects (contentment, meanliness or virtue, wisdom); on natural science (a vast range of
topics ranging from a description of the whole world of treatises on flavors and colors); on various natural

phenomena such as the heavens, the atmosphere, fire, sounds, plants and animals; on mathematics,
literature, medicine and even farming. This laughing philosopher set great value on cheerfulness or
contentment in his ethical writings, defining the general goal of life as joy, contentment or tranquility, and
locating it in the soul. But it is above all for the theory of atomism that both he and Leucippus are
remembered.
Democritus was concerned with two other philosophical problems: the problem of knowledge and the
problem of human conduct. Being a thorough materialist,, Democritus held that thought can be explained in
the same way that any other phenomenon can, namely, as the movement of atoms. He distinguished
between two different kinds of perception, one of the senses and one of the understanding, both of these
being physical processes. When our eyes see something, this something is an effluence or the shedding of
atoms by the object, forming an image. These atomic images enter the eyes, and other organs of sense,
and make and impact upon the soul, which is itself made up of atoms.
Democritus further distinguishes between two ways of knowing things: there are two forms of knowledge,
the trueborn and the illegitimate. To the illegitimate belong all these: sight, hearing, taste, touch. The trueborn
is quite apart from these. What distinguishes these two types of thought is that, whereas, trueborn
knowledge depends only on the object, illegitimate knowledge is affected by the particular conditions of the
body of the person involved. In ethics, Democritus stressed that the ost desirable goal of life is cheerfulness,
and we best achieve this through moderation in all things along with the cultivation of culture.

1. LEOCIPPUS
Leocippus was the founder of the atomist school. He proposed that the universe consists of two basic
constituents: indivisibly small atoms, of which an infinite number (but not infinite variety) exist, and void of
nothingness, which is also infinite, and in which the atoms move eternally. There is a limitless quantity of
shapes among them (since there is no more reason for them to have one shape than another).
Leocippus affirmed the reality of space and thereby prepared the way for a coherent theory of motion and
change. He described space as something like a receptacle that could be empty in some places and full in
others. As a receptacle, space, or the void, could be the place where objects move, and Leocippus
apparently saw no reason for denying this characteristic of space. Without this concept of space, it would
have been impossible for Leocippus and Democritus to develop their view that all things consist of atoms.
SOPHISTS
Discussion of the Sophists centers much on method as on content. Te word sophists, apparently a word
invented only in the fifth century BCE, means someone whose calling is that of wisdom or knowledge, and it
came to be applied to peripatetic professional teachers, who travelled around teaching the rhetorical and
language skills necessary to argue a case and other practical capabilities needed by men engaged in politics
and the law, rather than theorizing about nature for its own sake. As itinerant teachers, they did not found
schools, but as participants in the dialogues of Plato, their posterity came to be assured. Very few of the
sophists were born in Athens.
The Sophists were highly influential in the development of the method of adversarial debate and advocacy,
and in promoting a skeptical, questioning approach to knowledge and judgment. But they did not entirely
abandon speculation about the nature of the world. In particular, they thought about knowledge and its
relation with reality. The social changes of the fifth century BCE meant that the philosophy turned its attention
away from questions about the nature of knowledge, morality and justice. On the whole, Sophists did not
concern themselves with cosmological or physical speculation; they were more interested in studying how we
know and what is knowable than in increasing the store of what we know. This concern had come to them
from theorists such as Parmenides, and it was developed by both Protagoras and Gorgias, two of the
principal Sophists.

The Sophists also claimed to teach virtuewhich they understood, for practical purposes, broadly as the
qualities necessary for a successful public career in a city-state. This was the basis for the bad reputation
they acquired, principally from Plato, who mocked and attacked them mercilessly in several works because
they taught wisdom for money. But Platos idealism and political conservatism were naturally antithetical to
the Sophists pragmatism and relativism. A central preoccupation of much of his thought was to arrive at
impregnable definitions of justice and goodness. The Sophists on the other hand were more comfortable with
the shifts that were occurring in these concepts, and said that such definitions depended on who was doing
the defining. They argued that some opinions are preferable to others for particular people and particular
purposes, but they are not necessarily more or less wise, or even truer.
1. PROTAGORAS (485-411 BCE)
Protagoras was the first and arguably the greates of the Sophists, like Democraticus and the first Sophist to
come to Athens. He was a friend of Pericles and suffered the fate of many friends of Pericles, being accused
of impiety and having to leave Athens in a hurry: he was apparently drowned in a shipwreck on his way to
Sicily.
We know of Protagoras ideas mainly through Plato, which is unfortunate, since Plato usually sets these
ideas up only in order to demolish them. Protagoras has become generally known as the father of
relativisma label that shows him to have been diametrically opposed to everything Plato stood for. His
chief claim to fame is familiar, and endlessly debated, aphorism, Man is the measure of all things. In this,
he was suggesting that there is no reality apart from what we perceive. And if our perceptions are the
guarantee of the reality of thigs, then the center of the universe is humanity. Protagoras accepted no
absolutes existing anywhere beyond human perception and judgment, as regards the nature of the gods, the
nature of the worlds around us, or to the nature of virtue and justice. Taken to their logical conclusions, these
ideas could legitimate the rejection of any kind of law or morality.
Protagoras was also an agnostic: while not disbelieving in the gods, he questioned the possibility that
humans can know about them. His key insight on the limits of knowledge was that truth requires a measure
external to itself, and the best available measure was human knowledge and experience, and that truths are
not objectively true without reference to anything else but held true within systems of thought or collectivities,
such as the city.
1. GORGIAS (483-378 BCE)
An extreme sceptic, Gorgias refuted all possible views on existence and non-existence, claiming that nothing
exists; or if it does, it is unknowable; or if it is unknowable, we cannot articulate it to anyone else. He seems
to have been influenced y Empedocles and Zeno. Gorgias was specifically interested in the use of speech
and language on the emotions, and mentions the way tragedy can inspire pity and fear, thus prefiguring
Aristotles views on the effect of tragic drama in his Poetics. In a defense of Helen of Troy, who was
traditionally held responsible for theTrojan War, Gorgias even went so far as to claim that words are by their
very nature deceptive and fraudulent and that Helen was innocent because she had been overcome by the
power of persuasion.
Gorgias was a also a stylistic innovator, applying to prose the figures of speech and rhetorical effects usually
confined at the time of poetry. Plato criticized him in the dialogue that bears his name, arguing for the
distinction between rhetoric and philosophy.
1. PRODICUS, HIPPIAS, ANTIPHON, and THRACYMACHUS
Prodicus came up with a utililarian explanation of traditional theology, suggesting that the sun, the moon and
other heavenly bodies were regarded as divinities because they were useful to the development of human
society. The polymathic Hippias appears in two dialogues of Plato named after him, being ironically criticized
by Socrates for getting rich from teaching. He is interesting for having made, possibly for the first time, the
distinction between law (nomos) and nature (physics) as the basis of morality. This view was developed

further by Antiphon, who asserted more radically the nature is truth and its edicts compulsory, whereas
human law is mere opinion arrived at by consent, and that is preferable to break human law in order to
follow natural law than the reverse.
Tharismachus is represented in Platos Republic as putting forward the thesis that justice can be defined as
the interest of the stronger and that governments make laws for their own advantage. This is the kind of
argument that earned the Sophists a bad name; but there is strong philosophical point in Bertrand Russells
approval of them because they were prepared to follow an argument wherever it might lead them, even
though that plae was often one of profound skepticism.
Moral Law

3 Votes
MORAL LAW
(originally posted on 1 February 2008, at Elmer at Random)
I. Definition and Nature of Moral Law
Moral law may be defined as that kind of nonjural law which sets the standards of good and commendable
conduct. It is that rule to which moral agents ought to conform all their voluntary actions, and is enforced by
sanctions equal to the value of the precept. It is the rule for the government of free and intelligent action, as
opposed to necessary and unintelligent action. It is the law of liberty, as opposed to the law of necessityof
motive and free choice, as opposed to force of every kind. Moral law is primarily a rule for the direction of the
action of free will, and strictly of free will only. But secondarily, and less strictly, it is the rule for the regulation
of all those actions and states of mind and body that follow the free actions of will by a law of necessity.
Thus, moral law controls involuntary mental states and outward action, only by securing conformity of the
actions of free will to its precept.
Moral law may be said to resemble divine and natural law. Divine law is the law of the religious faith. Moral
law, while also concerned with the precepts of good and right conduct as the basis of its norms, is not
necessarily concerned with the law of religious faith. For a person may not be religious and yet still be
ethical. Moral and natural laws apply equally to all persons everywhere and yet they are not identical: moral
law is ethical in foundation; natural law is strictly metaphysical. Physical law is the totality of uniformities and
orders of sequence which combine together to govern physical phenomena. Moral law differs from jural law
insofar as enforcement is concerned. While jural law is enforceable in the courts, moral law is enforced only
by indefinite authority for there are no courts in which it is administered as such.
II.

Essential

Attributes

of

Moral

Law

Subjectivity. It is an idea of reason, developed in the mind of the subject; an idea, or conception, of that
state of will, or course of action, which is obligatory upon a moral agent. No one can be a moral agent, or the
subject of moral law, unless he has this idea developed; for this idea is identical with the law. It is the law
developed, or revealed within himself. Thus he becomes a law to himself, his own reason affirming his
obligation to conform to this idea, or law.

Objectivity. Moral law may be regarded as a rule of duty, prescribed by the supreme Lawgiver, and external
to self. If man has been given an objective final end by the Creator, he will be under the obligation to strive
for it. And when he looks to that objective, an order which has to be followed will become visible to him: the
moral order. This moral order is shown to us through the moral law.
Liberty, as opposed to Necessity. Kant formulated the idea of an autonomous, independent morality. It
means an ethics which is not only free from any considerations of happiness and profit, but also free from
any demands imposed upon man by God. Moral goodness is the value in itself, and it merits to be realized
for the sake of its own dignity, not for the sake of any external authority who wills it, be it even the authority of
God.
Fitness. Its precept must prescribe and require only those actions of the will which are suitable to the nature
and relations of moral beings. Here, the social order must constantly yield to the good welfare of the person.
It strives for the fulfillment of the basic needs of food, clothing, housing, and a life in peace and liberty. This is
confirmed by the conventions on human rights.
Universality. The conditions and circumstances being the same, it requires, and must require, of all moral
agents, the same things, in whatever world they may be found.
Impartiality. Moral law is no respecter of personsknows no privileged classes. It demands one thing of all,
without regard to anything, except the fact that they are moral agents. By this it is not intended, that the same
course of outward conduct is required of all; but the same state of heart in allthat all shall have one ultimate
intentionthat all shall consecrate themselves to one endthat all shall entirely conform, in heart and life, to
their nature and relations.
Justice. That which is unjust cannot be law. Justice, as an attribute of moral law, must respect both the
precept and the sanction. Sanctions belong to the very essence and nature of moral law. A law without
sanctions is no law; it is only counsel, or advice. Sanctions are the motives which the law presents, to secure
obedience to the precept. Consequently, they should always be graduated by the importance of the precept;
and that is not properly law which does not promise, expressly or by implication, a reward proportionate to
the merit of obedience, and threaten punishment equal to the guilt of disobedience. Law cannot be unjust,
either in precept or sanction: and it should always be remembered, that what is unjust, is not law, cannot be
law. It is contrary to the true definition of law. Moral law is a rule of action, founded in the nature and relations
of moral beings, sustained by sanctions equal to the merit of obedience, and the guilt of disobedience.
Practicability. The moral demand must be possible to the subject. A law must be physically and morally
possible. It is physically impossible if it commands actions that are completely beyond the forces and means
of a person. Thus, a lunatic cannot be required to vote, and a dumb person cannot be obliged to sing the
national anthem. If however only a part of a law is impossible, then the possible part must be fulfilled, as in
the case of taxation.
Independence. It is founded in the self-existent nature of God, independent from the will of any being. It is
an eternal and necessary idea of the divine reason and the self-existent rule of the divine conduct.
Immutability. Moral law can never change, or be changed. It always requires of every moral agent a state of
heart, and course of conduct, precisely suited to his nature and relations. Moral law is not a statute, an
enactment, that has its origin or its foundation in the will of any being. It is the law of nature, the law which
the nature or constitution of every moral agent imposes on himself, and which God imposes upon us

because it is entirely suited to our nature and relations, and is therefore naturally obligatory upon us. It is the
unalterable demand of the reason, that the whole being, whatever there is of it at any time, shall be entirely
consecrated to the highest good of universal being.
Unity. Moral law proposes but one ultimate end of pursuit: love or benevolence. It is the idea of perfect,
universal, and constant consecration of the whole being, to the highest good of being.
Equity. Moral law demands that the interest and well-being of every member of the universal family shall be
regarded by each according to its relative or comparative value, and that in no case shall it be sacrificed or
wholly neglected, unless it be forfeited by crime. Laws must respect the demands of distributive justice. It
must distribute burdens and privileges equally and according to the capacities of the subjects. This is
particularly true for the laws of taxation.
Exclusiveness. That is, moral law is the only possible rule of moral obligation. A distinction is usually made
between moral, ceremonial, civil, and positive laws. This distinction is in some respects convenient, but is
liable to mislead and to create an impression that something can be obligatory, in other words can be law,
that has not been the attributes of moral law. Every other rule is absolutely excluded by the very nature of
moral law. Surely there can be no law that is or can be obligatory upon moral agents but one suited to, and
founded in their nature, relations, and circumstances. This is the law of right.
III. Moral Law Discussed by Justice Vitug through His Dissenting Opinion in ESTRADA VS.
ESCRITOR, AM O-02-1651; August 4, 2003
Philippine laws are veritable repositories of moral laws that sanction immoral conduct which, at first glance,
could appear to be private and to cause no harm to larger society but nevertheless dealt with. Examples of
such instances include general references to good moral character as a qualification and as a condition for
remaining in public office, and sex between a man and a prostitute, though consensual and private, and with
no injured third party, remains illegal in this country. Until just about a month ago, the United States Supreme
Court has outlawed acts of sodomy or consensual sexual relations between two consenting males, even if
done in the privacy of the bedroom. Are moral laws such as these justified? Do they not unduly impinge on
ones own freedom of belief?
Law and Morals
Law and morals, albeit closely connected, may proceed along different planes. Law is primarily directed at
mans behavior while morals are directed at his animus or state of mind. While the law often makes reference
to ones state of mind, it does not, however, punish the existence of immoral intent without more. It requires
only that at the risk of punitive sanctions for disobedience, one must refrain from the temptation to act in
accordance with such intent to the detriment of another. The ethical principle is generally cast, affirmatively
or negatively, in the form of a direct command, whereas the legal rule peaks, generally, of the consequences
that attend the violation of a duty. As to purpose, law and morals further diverge. Morals strive for individual
perfection, while law aim at harmony in the community.
Not all societal mores are codified into laws. We have yet to see a law outlawing vanity, pride, gluttony or
sloth. Nor are all laws necessarily moral. Slavery is outlawed but not so in our distant past. Laws allowing
racial segregation prejudicial to blacks or denying the right to suffrage to women may seem to be relics of a
long gone uncivilized society if one forgets that the abolition of these immoral laws is but less than a
century ago.
The observation brings to the fore some characteristics of morals, which make it unwise to insist that it be, at
all times, co-extensive with law First, morals are not entirely error free. To insist that laws should always
embody the prevailing morality without questioning whether the morals sought to be upheld are in
themselves right or wrong would be a dangerous proposition. Second, morals continuously change over

time, often too slowly to be immediately discerned. To ensure that laws keep pace with the ever-changing
moralities would be quite a perplexed, if not a futile, an endeavor. Third, standards of morality vary. Modern
society is essentially pluralist. People of different faiths owe common allegiance to the State. Different moral
judgments flow from varying religious premises that, obviously, the law cannot all accommodate.
The Common Origin of Morality and the Law
That law and morals are closely intertwined is a traditionally held belief. One school of thought even go as far
as calling a law without morality as not law at all; but naked power, and that human beings not only have a
legal, but also the moral obligation to obey the law. It suggests that where law clashes with morality, it can
impose no obligation, moral or otherwise, upon anyone to obey it; one may actually be morally bound to
disobey such law. The ancient role held by the Christian Church as being the ruler of both spiritual and
temporal affairs of men has laid that groundwork for the impression. The Judaic-Christian God is thought to
be the source of both law and morality and man has come to know of His law and morals through the human
soul, the human conscience and the human mind. With the rise of the secular state in the 16th and 17th
centuries and the corresponding decline in the authority of the Church, legal thinkers such as Pufendorf,
Vattel, and Burlamaqui would establish legal systems based on scientific principles deduced from the nature
of men and things, that would guide the behavior of the metaphysical man in directions that promote political
order and assure a measure of protected individual dignity. Such treatises on natural law have offered model
political systems based on scientific principles logically deduced from the nature of man and the nature of
things, serving to give a kind of scientific legitimacy to the newly formed nation states emerging in the 17th
and 18th centuries under human sovereigns. Not surprisingly, sovereigns of that era promulgated natural law
codes consisting of religious commandments, quasi-human moral values and civic virtues all couched in the
language of legal proscriptions proclaimed and enforced by secular states. Human conduct condemned by
Gods law and forbidden by the sovereigns law would be said to be morally, as well as legally, reprehensible
or malum in se.
As the law of the state became inexorably intertwined with higher moral law, based on both divine law and
the law of nature, so, also, human law was seen to carry the moral authority of both. Jurisprudential
ramifications could hardly be contained.
In the last 19th century, legal reformers have consciously inculcated moral concepts such as fault, intent, and
extenuating circumstances into both civil and criminal law. Law and morals have been drawn closer together
so that legal accountability, more accurately than not, would likewise reflect moral culpability. Vestiges of
these reforms are still enshrined in our laws. In the Revised Penal Code, for example, mitigating, extenuating
or aggravating circumstances that may either decrease or increase the penalties to be meted on an offender
are all based on the moral attributes of the crime and the criminal.
The academic polemic
With the emergence of the secular state, the greatest contribution of liberals to the issue is not the discovery
of a pre-existing, necessary distinction between law and morality; rather, it is their attempt at separation, the
building of the wall to separate law from morality, whose coincidence is sublimely monstrous. Liberals
attempt to divorce law from morality by characteristically adhering to some form of harm principle: public
authority may justly use law as coercive factor only to prevent harm to non-consenting third parties. More
specifically, the main distinguishing feature of liberalism is its opposition to morals law or the legal
interference up to and including (sometimes) prohibition of putatively victimless immoralities such as
sodomy, prostitution, fornication, recreational drug use, suicide and euthanasia. Liberals argue that moral
laws are, in principle, unjust.
This surge of liberalism has set the trend in the courts to adopt a neutral and disinterested stand in cases
involving moral issues, often at the expense of obscuring the values which society seeks to enforce through
its moral laws. This matter brings to mind the case of Grisworld vs. Connecticut where the US Supreme
Court, despite a presupposition that contraception is always wrong, nevertheless, has invalidated that states
anti-contraceptive law. In so deciding, the US Supreme Court has not met head-on the issue of whether the

use of contraception is immoral but instead has struck down the law as being invalid on the ground of marital
privacy. Should Grisworld then be taken to sanction a moral right to do a moral wrong?
Into the Twentieth Century: the Devlin-Hart Debate
On September 1957 in England, the Committee on Homosexual Offenses and Prostitution chaired by Sir
John Wolfenden has recommended in its report to the British Parliament that homosexual behavior between
two consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offense. The thesis holds that it is not the duty
of the law to concern itself with immorality as such. The report has proposed to resolve questions of the
legitimacy of legally enforcing moral obligations by distinguishing immoralities that implicate public interests
from immoralities that are merely private. The Wolfenden Report would spark an academic debate that
persists to this day.
Patrick Devlin, then a High Court judge, has argued at the British Academys 1959 Maccabaean Lecture that
it would be a mistake to posit a private sphere of immorality into which the law ought not to venture. Devlins
legal moralism hinges on the theory that moral offenses insofar as they affect common good are fit subjects
for legislation. Whether behavior, private or public may affect common good in such a manner that endanger
the fabric of society and should thus be suppressed by law is a question of fact, which can be answered only
after a full consideration of the conditions prevailing in a given society. To Devlin, morals are not merely a
matter of private judgment; society should be in a position to enforce its moral standards as a means of selfpreservation, whatever its morality happens to be. Devlin would thus become the forerunner of ethical
relativism which suggests that there is no right and wrong in any absolute sense, that right or wrong
depend entirely on the culture in which one happens to live. Devlin then would tolerate individual freedom
only as far as possible and as long as it is consistent with the integrity of society. Hence, while privacy is
respected, it may be forfeited where one person injures another.
H.L.A. Hart refutes Devlins suggestion that immorality, even if private, can be likened to treason, against
which it is permissible for society to take steps to preserve itself. Hart sees Devlins view of people living in a
single society as having common moral foundation as overly simplistic. To Hart, societies have always been
diverse. With the rise of democracy, society could more accurately be called a collectivity of ideas and
attitudes, an assemblage or gathering of people who live together and work together and govern themselves
collectively in spite of the great diversities that divide them. Hart places emphasis on the right to privacy and
freedom of action which ought to be protected and should be interfered with only when private behavior
ceases to be private and becomes a menace to the public or to some part of the public. One may deduce
from Harts arguments that private consensual moral offenses should not be legally prohibited because of the
difficulties in enforcing such laws and the near impossibility of detecting most offenses without an
unconscionable invasion of privacy.
Hart criticizes attempts to impose the morality of the majority on a few. Justification for punishment especially
when applied to conduct not harmful to others represents a value to be pursued at the cost of human
suffering, the bare expression of moral condemnation and treats the infliction of suffering as a uniquely
appropriate mode of expression. The idea that we may punish offenders against a moral code not to prevent
harm but simply as a means of venting or expressing moral condemnation is uncomfortably close to human
sacrifice as a form of religious worship. To Hart, Vox populi does not necessarily translate to Vox Dei. Hart
particularly singles out laws aimed at enforcing sexual morality as oppressive Laws designed to enforce
sexual morality to the extent that they interfere with certain forms of sexual expression and restrict the sexual
outlet that may be available, impose an acute form of suffering upon those who are thus deprived of the only
outlet available to them. Such laws and the coercive measures that may be used to enforce them may
create misery of quite a special degree. All restraints then must be justified by strong reasons. Quoting John
Stuart Mill in his essay On Liberty, Hart expounds The only purpose for which power can rightfully be
exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others. His own
good, either physical or moral is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot be rightfully compelled to do or forbear
because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because in the opinion of others,
to do so would be wise or right.

Arriving at an Acceptable Middle Ground


But Hart is not without his critics, among them being Robert P. George. George acknowledges that laws per
se cannot make men moral; laws can only succeed in commanding outward conformity to moral rules but
cannot compel internal acts of reason. Such an instance would be a law requiring all people to contribute to
the charities. While fear of sanctions would force one to make such contribution, the same does not
necessarily make him charitable. George, however, contends that laws can be utilized to make men moral
by: (1) preventing further self-corruption, (2) preventing bad example (3) helping to preserve the moral
ecology and (4) educating people about right and wrong. Thus, to him, moral laws punishing victimless
sexual immoralities, for example, proceed from the conviction that the acts are truly wrong and that they
damage the characters of the people who perform them, block the path to virtue, and in specific ways offend
against the common good. George cites Aristotle who, centuries ago, had long anticipated but criticized and
firmly rejected the doctrine of mainstream contemporary liberalism, namely the belief that the law should
merely be a guarantor of mens rights against another instead of being, as it should be, a rule of life such
as will make the members of the polis good and just.
Robert George submits, and I agree, that while morality cannot be legislated, laws can help make men moral
by creating a moral ecology and profoundly affecting notions in society about what is morally acceptable,
forbidden and required. People shape their own lives and often treat others very differently in the light of
these notions. The point is, a good moral ecology benefits people by encouraging and supporting their
efforts to be good, a bad moral ecology harms people by offering them opportunities and inducements to do
things that are wicked. To illustrate, the decision of US Supreme Court in Brown vs. Topeka Board of
Education in 1954 and of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has primarily been responsible in changing societys
perception on forced segregation or interracial marriage.
It might then be deduced that moral laws are justified when they (1) seek to preserve the moral value upheld
by society and (2) when the morality enforced in a certain case, is true and correct. It is within these
standards that the provision against immorality in the Administrative Code must be examined to the extent
that such standards can apply to the facts and circumstances in the instant case before the Court. As a rule
then, moral laws are justified only to the extent that they directly or indirectly serve to protect the interests of
the larger society. It is only where their rigid application would serve to obliterate the value which society
seeks to uphold, or defeat the purpose for which they are enacted, would a departure be justified.
The Morality of Marriage
Marriage is one area where law and morality closely intersect. The act of respondent Escritor of cohabiting
with Quilapio, a married man, can only be called immoral in the sense that it defies and transgresses the
institution of marriage. Society having a deep interest in the preservation of marriage, adultery is a matter of
public, not merely private, concern, that cannot readily be ignored. This deep-seated interest is apparent in
our Civil Code so replete with rules as in defining the parties legal capacity to marry, in laying down the
essential requisites of the union, in regulating the rights and duties of the spouses, even their property
relations, and in protecting the rights of children. Marriage has acquired a legal definition as early as the 12th
century that has since grown towards a cherished institution with Gregorian Reform of the 11th and 12th
centuries.
With the separation of the Church and State, marriage has retained its status as a legally protected viculum
because it is perceived to be imbued with societal interest as a foundation of the family and the basic unit of
society. While Islamic states recognize polygamous marriages and, in Western countries, divorce is
acceptable, in the Philippines, however, absolute monogamy is still the order of the day. Societal interest in
monogamous unions is grounded on the belief that the cohesiveness of the family is better protected, and
children, prized for their role in the perpetuation of the future of the community, are better reared when
spouses remain together. These societal interests are embodied in moral laws geared towards protecting the
monogamous nature of Philippine marriages. But I do not endeavor to examine whether Philippine society is
correct in viewing monogamy as the better means for the protection of societal interest on the family but I do
would focus myself on, given the facts of the case, whether or not societal interest is rightly served.

Thus, I, in conscience, would take exception to the 1975 case of De Dios vs. Alejo. In De Dios, respondents
Elias Marfil and Julieta O. Alejo, deputy sheriff and stenographer of the then Court of First Instance of Rizal,
respectively, were administratively found guilty of immorality for living together despite Marfils prior existing
marriage with another woman. Never mind if Marfil exerted valiant efforts to save his marriage by enduring
the recriminations, unhappiness and extreme incompatibility he had with his wife. Never mind if
notwithstanding his efforts, his wife abandoned him and their four children to live with another man. Never
mind if Alejo took on the duties and responsibilities of being the mother to his children, rearing them as
though they were her very own long after their natural mother had left them. Never mind if the children had,
in fact, regarded her as their very own mother. Never mind if she was a good wife to the man she was living
with, fulfilling the wifely duties long after the legal wife had abdicated them. Never mind if in all respects, they
had become a family. Did not the Court in adjudging them guilty of immorality and in ordering them to put an
end to their relationship, destroy a de facto family? Did not its narrow-minded view of marriage as a
contractual transaction and its exacting application of the standards of monogamy, in effect, defeat the very
moral purpose for which the law was put into place?
Are we not sacrificing the substance of marriage that is a union of man and woman in a genuine, loving
and respectful relationship and, in effect, the substance of a family, for a mere shell of intricate legality? Lest
I be misunderstood, I am not advocating for a departure from the elevated concept marriage as being a
legally protected union. I merely express concern that a blanket application of moral laws affecting marriage,
without regard to the peculiarities of every case, might defeat the very purpose for which those laws are put
into place.
IV.
DIRECT
Introduction to Philosophy; Crisolito Pascual. UP
Christian
Ethics;
Karl
Peschke,
SVD.
Logos
The
Moral
Law
of
God,
Charles
G.
Estrada vs. Escritor, AM 0-02-1651; August 4, 2003.

SOURCES
Law Center, Quezon City, 2003.
Publications,
Inc,
Manila,
2004.
Finney. www.charlesfinney.com/ml/ml1.htm