A POSTERIORI - An argument proceeding from sense experience. A concept is a posteriori if it is derived from experience; a proposition is a posteriori if knowledge of its truth derives from or depends upon experience. Standard examples of a posteriori knowledge are perceptual propositions ('the cat is on the mat'). Opposed to a priori.
A POSTERIORI JUDGMENT: a contingent judgment that is reliant upon the matters of fact of our experience to be verified as being either true or false. (The cat is on the mat)
A PRIORI - An argument based on evidence obtained prior to and independent of sense experience. A concept is a priori if it is not derived from experience; a proposition is a priori if it can be known to be true independently from experience. Standard examples of a priori knowledge are mathematical (arithmetical and geometrical) propositions. Opposed to a posteriori, empirical.
A.D. Abbreviation of Latin phrase, anno Domini, translated as "the year of the Lord." Traditional calendar abbreviation for reckoning the years after the birth of Christ. The years before the birth of Christ are reckoned as B.C., translated as "before Christ." Modern scholarship, seeking to be more objective and less centered on the heritage of Christianity, generally utilizes the abbreviations B.C.E., for "before the common era," and C.E. for "the common era." Generally viewed as a practice sensitive to Jewish and other non-Christian historical research, though many claim the system continues to discriminate against non-Christian and non-Jewish calendar reckonings. To avoid confusion, American newspapers generally follow the traditional A.D. and B.C. abbreviations.
ABSOLUTE - That which is unconditioned, uncaused, not limited by anything outside itself.
ABSOLUTISM - In ethics, especially, this term is used in apposition to relativism. In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, the great philosopher writes, "Fire burns both in Greece and in Persia, but men's ideas of right and wrong vary from place to place." This is an expression of moral relativism which asserts that there are many valid views with regard to a particular ethical issues. In contrast, absolutism would imply that there are universal ethical standards which are inflexible and absolute. see relativism.
ACADEMY - The philosophical school founded by Plato in 385 BC. Some scholars contend that this was, in fact, the first university.
ACCIDENT: A property or attribute that a (type of) thing or substance can either have or lack while still remaining the same (type of) thing or substance. For instance, I can either be sitting or standing, shod or unshod, and still be me (i.e., one and the same human being). Contrast: essence.
ACTUAL: What really is the case, as opposed to what's possible (could be the case) and to what's necessary (must be the case); all of which are opposed to what's impossible (can't be the case). Concerning the latter "opposition": the categories possible and impossible are jointly exhaustive (everything is either one or the other). Concerning the former "opposition": necessity, actuality, and possibility are not mutually exclusive: everything necessary is also actual (what must be the case is the case) and everything actual is possible (whatever is is possible). In other words, necessity entails actuality, and actuality entails possibility. (Also see contingent.)
ACTUALITY: the domain of actual facts; what is the case.
AD HOC You call something ad hoc when it's introduced for a particular purpose, instead of for some general, antecedently motivated reason. So, for instance, an ad hoc decision is a decision you make when there's no general rule or precedent telling you what to do. Philosophers sometimes accuse their opponents of making AD HOC HYPOTHESES (or ad hoc stipulations, or ad hoc amendments to their analyses, etc.). These are hypotheses (or stipulations or amendments) adopted purely for the purpose of saving a theory from difficulty or refutation, without any independent motivation or rationale. They will usually strike the reader as artificial or "cheating." For instance, suppose you analyze "bird" as "any creature that can fly." I then cite mosquitos as a counter-example. They can fly, but they aren't birds. Now, you might fix up your analysis as follows: A bird is any creature that can fly, and which is not a mosquito. This would be an ad hoc response to my counter-example. Alternatively, you might fix up your analysis as follows: A bird is any creature that can fly, and which has a backbone. This would be an independently motivated, and more appropriate, response to my counter-example. (Of course, someone may discover counter-examples even to this revised analysis.)
AD HOMINEM An AD HOMINEM ARGUMENT is an argument that attacks a claim on the basis of features of the person who holds it. Two different sorts of argument are called " ad hominem arguments." One of these is a fallacious sort of argument; the other is perfectly respectable. The fallacious version is where you criticize someone's views because of logically irrelevant personal defects. For instance: His views about relationships must be false because he's a philanderer. or: His views about politics must be false because he doesn't know what he's talking about. You should remember that authorities no matter how eminent can be wrong, and that scoundrels and fools-even if they are unjustified in their beliefs-might nonetheless turn out to be right. The source of a belief is one thing, and whether there are any good reasons to hold the view is something else. The respectable argument called an " ad hominem argument" consists in objecting to someone's claim on the grounds that it's incompatible with other views he holds-regardless of whether you regard those other views as correct. For instance, suppose Max says: The U.S. Postal Service is very unreliable. I think we should allow private, for-profit companies like FedEx and UPS to compete on an equal footing with the Postal Service. Then Sally objects: But Max, you are a communist! Sally is not just calling Max a name. Sally's point is that Max's previous commitments force him to support state control and oppose private enterprise, and these commitments conflict with the view he's advocating now. This is a perfectly legitimate criticism of Max. Philosophers generally use the phrase " ad hominem argument" in the second sense.
ADVENTISM: A Christian doctrine emphasizing the imminence of the return of Jesus Christ to earth to reign as Lord and savior of humankind. See also Apocalypse below).
AESTHETIC: Pertaining to art and to beauty or artistic value.
AESTHETICS - The philosophical category concerned with values other than moral; e.g., art, beauty, creativity, etc. The philosophical study of beauty and art. One debate which is ongoing within the field of aesthetics can be summarized by the question, "Is beauty objective or subjective?" The study or contemplation or appreciation of the (nature of) artistic value or beauty.
AFFIRMATIONS: Term used in Shinto to emphasize its core beliefs. The affirmations of Shinto are: 1) the family unit and family traditions, especially events marking changes in life stages, i.e., birth, maturity, marriage, death; 2) nature, a respect for all parts of the physical world; 3) cleanliness of body, utensils and living space, which is especially important for entertaining the presence of the spirits; 4) matsuri or festivals that provide a communal and social opportunity to honor the kami, or spirits.
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: A policy seeking to compensate victims of previous racial and sexual discrimination, to remedy lingering effects of such discrimination, or to combat ongoing institutionalized and unintentional discriminatory practices by providing reverse preferences favoring members of classes previously disadvantaged.
AGE OF REASON - see Enlightenment.
AGNOSTIC: One who maintains that God or some primary force cannot be demonstrated or proven or disproven. Taken from the Greek, a= without + gnosis= knowing, knowledge. An attitude of skepticism concerning matters of faith and belief. Do not confuse agnosticism with unbelief. Most religions differentiate between agnostics, who may be considered seekers, and atheists who vigorously assert their unbelief.
AGNOSTICISM - Literally, "without knowledge." Usually used to refer to someone who does not know if God exists. A "hard" agnostic says that he does not know if God exists, no one else knows if God exists, and it is impossible to know if God exists. A "soft" agnostic says that he does not know if God exists, someone may know if God exists, and it might be possible to know if God exists.
AHIMSA: A Hindu principle pointing at the reverence for all of life, and thus a key principle in the daily behavior of Hindus, especially in relation to animals. Ahimsa is closely related to the growth of vegetarianism among Hindus and derivative religions such as Hare Krishna.
ALCHEMY - A Medieval and ancient practice which combined occult mysticism and chemistry. Essentially, alchemists tried to discover a formula where they could blend certain metals into gold , or where they could blend certain potions into an elixir of immortality .
ALIENATION - This was a term used by Karl Marx (1818-83) to denote the division and separation between the upper class ( bourgeosie ) and the lower class ( proletariat ). In recent years, the term has been used to suggest estrangement, powerlessness, and the depersonalization of the individual.
ALL SAINTS DAY; ALL SOULS DAY: A Christian celebration on November 1 to commemorate historical persons--the saints--who have made significant contributions to the Christian church but are not remembered on any special day of the Christian calendar. All Saints Day is preceeded by ALL SOULS DAY or All Hallows Day (October 31), a solemn day that traditionally claimed witches and evil spirits roamed, but has become Americanized in the celebration of the fright and pranks of Halloween (literally, All Hallows Eve, based on the Middle English pronunciation; in old English the word hallow means saint).
ALLAH: Arabic word for God. The Muslim name for God. See Shahadah.
ALLELUIA: Latin term for "praise to the Lord." Greek term is similar, . Used in Christian church as an expression of praise throughout the church year, except during Lent , when Alleluia is omitted from the liturgy as a sign of penitence. Capitalized as an expression of praise; lower-case when used as a collective noun, as in, The congregation shouted their alleluias to the heavens.
ALPHA AND OMEGA: The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, used by Christians as a symbol of God's eternal existence as the beginning and the end of all things. Some Christians also utilize the Greek letters alpha mu omega -- the first Greek letter, the middle Greek letter, and the last Greek letter -- to symbolize the eternal nature of the Son, Jesus Christ, as he who is "the same yesterday, today and forever."
ALTRUISM: (1) the promotion of the good of others. (2) A selfless and benevolent love for human kind and dedication toward achieving the well-being of people and society.
AMBIGUOUS In a philosophical discussion, you should call a term "ambiguous" when and only when the expression has more than one acceptable meaning. For instance, "bank" is ambiguous (river bank, Bank of Boston). Also, sentences can be ambiguous, as in "Flying planes can be dangerous." Is it the activity of flying which is dangerous, or is it the planes which are dangerous? Or: "Every child loves a clown." Does this mean there is one lucky clown that all the children love? Or does it mean that for each child, there is a particular clown which he or she loves (but not necessarily the same clown for each child)? Or does it mean that every child is favorably disposed to clowns in general? You should not call an expression "ambiguous" just because different people have different views or theories about it. Different people have different views about what it means to be good, but that doesn't yet show that the expression "good" is ambiguous. It just shows that there's some controversy over what "good" means. Nor should you call an expression "ambiguous" just because it's vague, or imprecise, or difficult to know what the correct philosophical theory of it is. When an argument illegitimately trades on an ambiguity, we say that the argument equivocates.
ANABAPTIST: Protestant sectarian movement arising in the 16th century that advocated baptism and church membership of adult believers only, nonresistance, and the separation of church and state. See baptism, Baptist, believer's baptism .
ANALECTS OR ANALECTS: When capitalized, this refers to the collected sayings and conversations of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. These form the bedrock of the developed religion of Confucianism. When written in lower case, analects refers to any generally gathered collection of writings.
ANALYTIC JUDGMENT: an universal and necessary judgment; such judgments cannot be contradicted. Analytical judgments have their predicate concepts contained within their subject concepts. (Cats are mammals)
ANALYTIC: A sentence, proposition, thought, or judgement is analytic if “it is true in virtue of our determination to use (consistently) a particular symbolism or language.” True, it is sometimes said, because we assign the words of language the meanings that we assign them. Example: All bachelors are unmarried males. Some philosophers have maintained that all the truths of mathematics are analytic, and that all necessary and a priori truths are analytic,true by definition, or the denial of which would lead to a contradiction. Statements such as "All triangles have three angles" and "No bachelors are married," are examples of sentences commonly deemed analytic. Contrast term: synthetic. Kant coined this terminology and stressed this distinction. Many contemporary analytic philosophers, following Quine, deny its cogency.
ANARCHISM: Political theory which denies the moral legitimacy of all forms of government and advocates the complete abolition of it.
ANGST - A German word which means "anxiety" or "anguish." Technically, this is a term used in Existentialism which expresses the dread reality that the future is an unknown chasm; therefore, the choices that a person ( the existent ) makes are the determining factor in the outcome of one's future - thus, the cause for "angst."
ANIMISM - The world view that says all things, animate or inanimate, possess souls or spirits. This is a religious/spiritual view which asserts that everything in the universe, whether animate or inanimate, is embued with some psychological/spiritual consciousness. Although animism is usually attributed to tribal cultures, some philosophers have held to similar views as well - e.g., Plotinus, Leibniz, Schopenhauer, et al.
ANTICHRIST: A belief among many Christians, based on the Bible's Book of Revelation, that some individual will arise near the closing of recorded time to challenge the authority and power of Christ. Some Christians teach that this person is already alive; others teach that he or she will appear shortly. In the Bible, the Antichrist is associated with the symbolic number 666. See Apocalypse.
ANTINOMY: Kant believed that when reason goes beyond possible experience it often falls into various antinomies, or equally rational but contradictory views. Reason cannot here play the role of establishing rational truths because it goes beyond possible experience and becomes transcendent. E.g. Kant thought that one could reason from the assumption that the world had a beginning in time to the conclusion that it did not, and vice versa. This was part of Kant’s critical program of determining limits to science and philosophical inquiry.
ANTI-SEMITISM: A prejudice, often expressed in physical abuse, against persons of Jewish faith and nationality. Historically, anti-Semitism has been justified by blaming Jews for the death of Jesus or by accusing Jews of being sly and cheating merchants or financiers. The low-point of anti-Semitism was expressed in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust (1933-1945), and it remains a philosophical position of many modern paramilitary and social hate groups and secret societies. The term is rooted in the Biblical character of Shem, a son of Noah who became an outcast. Editors must be particularly sensitive to Anti-Semitic language or implications in their publications.
APEIRON: indefinite, or boundless (infinite).
APOCALYPSE, APOCALYPTIC: When capitalized, the word usually refers specifically to the Apocalypse of The Holy Bible, especially that of Christians. In the Christian New Testament, the last book is known as Revelation (or Revelations to Roman Catholics), which in Greek is Apocalypse. The word apocalypse has a Greek root meaning to uncover or to reveal. The word also refers to any one of several Jewish and Christian writings dating from 200 B.C.E. to 150 C.E. marked by an unknown or mysterious author, symbolic imagery, and the anticipation of a cosmic cataclysm during which God destroys the powers of evil and raises the faithful to life in a messianic kingdom. In literature, the word has been applied to a genre that focuses on end-of-the-world events. Apocalyptic Christian theology is also subsumed under the label of adventism or, more formally, under the label of eschatology.
APOLOGETICS - The defense of a position, usually of a world view, as to its truthfulness, its correspondence to reality, its factualness. Christian apologetics (see 1 Peter 3:15) argues for the truthfulness of Christianity through argumentation, evidence, and appeal to a priori knowledge.
APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION: A doctrine or dogma within Christianity that certain branches of the church trace their line of leadership to the original apostles. Doctrine is based on Jesus' commissioning of the apostles, especially the Apostle Peter, considered by many Christians to be the first bishop of the church in an unbroken line of bishops to the present.
APPEALS TO AUTHORITY In philosophy, there are no real authorities. It is never acceptable to support a position simply by pointing out that someone you've read holds it. You can explain why you think Philosopher X's arguments for that position are persuasive, but a mere statement that the renowned Professor X holds a certain position carries no argumentive weight.
APPEARANCE/REALITY DISTINCTION: the belief that there is a distinction between the world of appearances (change, time, etc.) and reality (which is unchanging and timeless).
APPERCEPTION: According to Leibniz and Kant: the mind's self-reflective awareness of its own thoughts. Self awareness.
ARCHBISHOP: The highest administrative clergy person or official in a church. In the Roman Catholic Church, the archbishop officially is the Pope. In the Anglican Communion, the archbishop of Canterbury is afforded informally a special place of honor as leader of the church. Many large churches of a particular organization are administered by archbishops. Such an administrative unit is known as an ARCHDIOCESE.
ARCHDIOCESE: The largest administrative unit of a Christian church with an episcopal government, generally overseen by an ARCHBISHOP.
ARCHE: stuff (material cause or basic stuff).
ARGUMENT FROM EVIL: Argument from the existence of evil to the nonexistence of an omnipotent and omniscient and perfectly benevolent being such as God is supposed to be. Since evil exists, it's argued, either God can't prevent it (and so, is not omnipotent) or doesn't know about it (and so, is not omniscient) or doesn't wish to remove it (and so, is not perfectly benevolent). Contrast: teleological argument.
ARGUMENT: a group of statements containing at least one premise and one conclusion, a set of statements (the premises) offered in support of another statement (the conclusion). Arguments are either inductive or deductive. See also syllogism.
ARGUMENTUM AD VERECUNDIAM - This is a Latin phrase which means "appealing to respect." In essence, this is an appeal to an authority for support, even though that particular authority might not have adequate knowledge in the particular field under discussion.
ARHAT (SOMETIMES ARAHAT): A Buddhist term for one who attains enlightenment through solitude and asceticism. Associated with Theravada school of Buddhism, in which the arhat is considered a saint of solitude.
ARISTOCRACY: Political theory that advocates the rule of "the best" whom it identifies, generally, with a hereditary upper class. Contrast: autocracy, democracy, oligarchy.
ARK OF THE COVENANT: The box or vessel in which Israel transported the tablets containing the Law and in which dwelt the spirit of God during the Israelites wandering in the wilderness after their Exodus from Egypt. Some ancient manuscripts attribute powers to the ark. (Note: A version of this ancient vessel was characterized in the movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark.")
ARMINIAN, ARMINIANISM: A Reformation doctrine named after the Dutch theologian Jacobus Arminius, who challenged some of the teachings of Calvinism, especially Calvin's doctrine of predestination and foreordination. While still essentially Reformed and almost totally Calvinistic, Arminianism argues that God did not predestine who would be saved prior to the Creation, as Calvin taught. Arminiamism should not be confused or infused with the doctrine of Pelagianism, which teaches a system diametrically opposed to Calvinism at almost every point. Popular Arminianism places heavy stress on personal repentance and reformation of life through human choice.
ASCETICISM: A practice in many religions of seeking to achieve holiness or liberation or enlightenment through denial of one's own needs and the suppression of one's desires. Typically involves vows and/or exercises of fasting, celibacy and poverty. Some ascetics also practice flaggelation.
ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS (LAWS OF ASSOCIATION): The principles by which the mind connects ideas. Hume held the basic laws to be resemblance, closeness in time or place, and causality.
ATHEISM - The world view that says that God does not exist, or that embraces a world view without God, or that says that God is irrelevant to human life.
ATHEIST: Derived from the Greek a= without + theos= God, translated as one who denies any reality of God or a primary force in the universe, or more specifically, one who denies a theology; i.e., a systematic belief about God as expressed in the world's religions. Sometimes mistakenly applied to one who denies a specific religion. See pagan.
ATHEISTIC: arguments against the existence of God, or one who does not believe in the existence of God.
ATMAN: Hindu term for the soul, which Hindus see as having no beginning or ending. The essential self.
ATOMISM: Generally, the view that the whole is nothing more than the sum of its parts. Physically, the view that the univers is composed of independent, self-sufficient atoms (nothing more), and that a complete description of the universe might be given by sepcifiying the location and movements of all the atoms composing it. This view may also be put in phenomenalist terms (David Hume) or in logical terms (see extensional). The theory that reality is composed of simple and indivisible units (atoms) that are completely separate from and independent of one another. Democritus is the most notable ancient atomist. According to Leibniz monads are "the true atoms." Locke's corpuscular hypothesis is also a version of Atomism.
ATOMOS: classical Greek for indivisible.
ATTRIBUTE: a feature or characteristic or property of something – as opposed to the thing or substance having the attribute, in which the attribute inheres.
AUTHENTIC: (Sartre) living authentically can have many meanings, but for Sartre, it means realizing that existence precedes essence, and one is responsible for one’s actions and choices in the world. One must make one’s self.
AUTOCRACY: One person rule. Where the rulership is hereditary, the government in question is a "monarchy"; where nonhereditary, a "dictatorship." Contrast: democracy.
AXIOLOGY - Axiology is the broad study of ethics and aesthetics . That branch of philosophical inquiry regarding values, usually divided into the two categories of aesthetics and ethics. The study of value. What is to be valued? ( axios = value; logos = the study of)
AXIOM - A basic principle that cannot be deduced from other principles but is the starting point from which other statements are derived or deduced. A statement or assertion for which no proof or demonstration is required. Simply put, an axiom is a self-evident truth.
B.C.: Literally, before Christ or the Christian era. A Western calendar means of dating ancient and prehistoric time. See A.D., B.C.E.
B.C.E.: Scholarly adaptation of Western calendar to avoid reference to Christianity. Refers to time "before the common era." See A.D.
BAPTISM: A Christian sacrament, ordinance or ceremony marked by ritual use of water and admitting the recipient to the Christian community symbolizing the believer's burial with Christ and resurrection. Christians practice three forms of baptism: immersion, where the believer is totally submerged in a body or tank of water by a clergy person; sprinkling, where the believer is sprayed with water by the clergy person; and affusion, where the believer has water poured upon his head at a font by the clergy person. Many Protestant denominations are separated by the form of this ritual. Many Christian denominations, particularly Baptists, object to calling baptism a sacrament, preferring instead a term such as ceremony or ordinance, and insisting that there is no saving grace in the act itself apart from belief. Thus, many insist that candidates for baptism be accountable adults before making this public expression of an inner grace. (See Believer's Baptism.) The term is also used by non-Christians to describe ritual purification using water. Christian Science uses the term to denote purification by or submergence in Spirit.
BAPTIST: One who baptizes. When capitalized, the term generally refers to a member or adherent of an evangelical Protestant denomination marked by congregational polity and baptism by immersion of adult believers only, e.g., Southern Baptist or Conservative Baptist. Some Baptists eschew inclusion in the larger category of "Protestant," but at least since the 16th century the term "Protestant" has come to refer to any Christian group apart from Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
BAR MITZVAH: The Jewish initiatory ceremony recognizing a boy who reaches his 13th birthday as a bar mitzvah "son of the divine Law" who takes on the duties and responsibilities of religious life.
BARDO THODOL: A Tibetan religious text popularly known as "The Tibetan Book of the Dead," which many Buddhists consider a misleading translation, claiming a better English translation would be: "Liberation by Hearing During One's Existence in the Bardo." The Bardo Thodol (pronounced Thötröl) that is read to a person for forty-nine days after their death. It describes the series of visions that pass through the awareness of the deceased during that period. It helps them realize where they are, and keeps them focused during the transformation between bodies. According to tradition, the text is based on oral teachings by Padmasambhava and was recorded circa 760.
BARDO: Tibetan Buddhist concept for the realm of the dead or the place of passage from life.
BAT MITZVAH: Jewish initiatory ceremony similar to a BAR MITZVAH for a young woman who reaches the religious responsibility age of 13. Literally, "a daughter of the divine Law." Some Jewish congregations do not recognize a bat mitzvah.
BECOMING: the phenomenal world (the world of appearances) composed of things in a state of flux attempting to (but unsuccessfully) emulate (imitate, participate in, partake of) the Ideal Forms. The phenomenal world is the world of our sensuous, ordinary, everyday experiences which are changing and illusory.
BEHAVIORISM - Behaviorism is a psychological theory first put forth by John Watson (1925), and then expounded upon by B.F. Skinner. Attempting to answer the question of human behavior, proponents of this theory essentially hold that all human behavior is learned from one's surrounding context and environment. The view that psychology should, or must, confine itself to describing observable physical behavior. Analytic behaviorism expresses this view as a view about the meaning of psychological words (i.e. that all such words can, and are implicitly, definable in terms of observable human behavior). B. F. Skinner, the Harvard psychologist (Verbal Behavior, Walden Two, etc.) is a psychological behaviorist. Gilbert Ryle might be considered an analytic behaviorist.
BEING - A rather complex term in philosophy, as it has been used over the centuries, being is usually equated to existence, a field with which ontology is concerned. Many philosophers have perceived being as the most fundamental property of ultimate reality. This is not to be understood in the sense of "a" being, but simply being - i.e., that quality of "is"ness, or perhaps, that which "is." Any existing thing or object, material or immaterial. Often used to refer to that which is not subject to change.
BHAGAVAD GITA: Sacred scripture of Hinduism originally written in Sanskrit. A devotional work in poetic form. Literally translated, it means the song of the Krishna(the blessed one). The most widely revered writing of the Hindu religion.
BODDHISATTVA: The essence of enlightenment in BUDDHISM. From the Sanskrit words for enlightenment (bodhi) and essential being (sattva). In Mahayana Buddhism, the one who compassionately foregoes entry into Nirvana in order to lead others into the way of enlightenment. Often worshipped as a deity by Mahayanan Buddhists.
BODHI TREE: The name given to the tree at BODH GAYA under which the BUDDHA sat on the night he attained enlightenment. The tree itself was a type of fig with the botanical name Ficus religiosa. In the centuries after the Buddha, the Bodhi tree became a symbol of the Buddha's presence. Many Bodhi trees at Buddhist temples are believed to be offshoots of the original. In popular Buddhist piety, these trees have become objects of worship.
BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER: Official book of prayers and liturgical services for the Anglican-Episcopal Church. Several variations exist depending on location; i.e., Australian Book of Common Prayer, Welsh Book of Common Prayer, American Book of Common Prayer. Original was compiled by Anglican cleric and bishop Thomas Cranmer of England in the mid-1500's. The book has gone through several revisions. Among American Episcopalians there is mild division between the modernized edition of 1979 and the traditional edition of 1928; some parishes have disregarded the 1979 edition and continue to conduct services according to rituals in the 1928 edition.
BORN AGAIN: A Christian concept of regeneration through belief and trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ. The phrase is taken from the third chapter of the Gospel of St. John where Jesus tells Nicodemus, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (verse 3). Many Evangelical Christians and Fundamentalist Christians have co-opted the Biblical phrase as the sine qua non of Christian experience and refer to these exclusively defined believers as "born-again Christians."
BOURGEOIS (OR BOURGEOISIE): In its original designation the term referred to the medieval "middle class" of shopkeepers and artisans. In Communist theory it refers to the capitalist class of owners of the means and forces of production which, as Marx recounts, is historically descended from this medieval middle class.
BRAHMA: The creator god of Hinduism, one of three foremost gods. See also Shiva, Vishnu. The concept of the ultimate ground of all being in Hinduism.
BRAHMAN - Hinduism has gone through many changes in its 3,200 year history. Although in the first stage (1,500 to 600 BC) Hinduism was primarily a polytheistic cultic religion, with priests and sacrifices to many gods, the post-600 BC period brought on what is called the Vedantic era, which was based on the monistic teachings of the Upanishads which came into being during the same period. The Upanishads assert that the ultimate being or world- Soul (it would be improper to call him a god since he is everything in the universe and beyond) is the very essence of the universe, and that he pervades all of ultimate reality. "All is Brahman; Brahman is all" is the saying that indicates to us a radical pantheistic monism.
BRAHMAN: A Hindu of the highest caste. A caste usually reserved for the Hindu priesthood. Note the spelling variant. While not rigidly applied, Brahman usually is distinguished in English from Brahmin.
BRAHMIN: Especially in English, a person of refined, cultural taste with high intellectual and cultural standards. Often associated with the so-called Boston Brahmins of 19th century literary fame. Note the spelling differentiated from Brahman.
BREAD AND WINE: Christian symbols for the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Part of the ceremony or sacrament of communion or Eucharist in a Christian church patterned after the so-called Last Supper at which Jesus initiated the sharing of the bread and wine as symbols of sharing in his death and resurrection. In some Christian congregations, wafers are substituted for bread, and in others grape juice is substituted for wine.
BUDDHA DAY: April 8 is the most important of Buddhist holidays. It commemorates the birthday of the founder of Buddhism in the 6th century B.C.E. The Buddha had the given name of Siddhartha, the family name Gautama, and the clan name Shaka. He is commonly called "the BUDDHA."
BUDDHA: In Buddhism, the enlightened one; i.e., Gautama Buddha or Siddhartha Gautama. A person who has attained Buddhahood by attaining enlightenment. Compare BODDHISATTVA. Commonly called "the Buddha," which means "the enlightened one" in Sanskrit. The Buddha was probably born in Kapilavastu, India, just inside present-day Nepal.
BUDDHISM: Buddhism is one of the four largest religions of the world with 307 million followers. Founded in southern Nepal in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C.E. by Siddharta Gautama, who became known as the BUDDHA (Enlightened One), Buddhism teaches that meditation and the practice of good religious and moral behavior can lead to Nirvana, the state of enlightenment, although before achieving Nirvana one is subject to repeated lifetimes that are good or bad depending on one's karma. Existence, for Buddhists, is a realm of suffering. Achievement of Nirvana brings an end to suffering, desire and self-importance. Nirvana is attained only by meditation and by a path of righteousness in action, attitude and thought.
C.E. (SEE A.D.): "Common Era." Scholarly adaptation of Western calendar reckoning to avoid Christian reference. Identical in reckoning dates to A.D. [Modern journalists generally retain the traditional abbreviations of B.C. and A.D.]
CALIPH: Literally, a "deputy of the messenger of Allah." In Islam, a caliph represented God in the theocratic Islamic community. God is the source of the state's power and law, and the caliph is God's representative. The people and the lands under the control of the caliph were said to be a part of the Caliphate. Abu Bakr was named first Caliph at the death of Muhammed in 632 C.E. Several others succeeded him. Today, the Caliphate of the Sunni Muslims remains vacant. Shi'ite Muslim sects have a complex doctrine concerning the caliphate.
CALVINISM: Influential systematic Christian doctrines worked out by John Calvin. Often summarized in five points and memorized through the pneumonic device of T-U-L-I-P, the major doctrines of Calvinism are: 1) Total depravity of humankind, which asserts that humans are sinful and can do nothing on their own behalf to earn God's favor or salvation; 2) Unconditional election, which asserts that before the world was formed God predetermined and foreordained who among humans would be drawn to him for salvation; 3) Limited atonement, which avows that Jesus Christ in his life, death and resurrection bore all the sin and punishment deserved by humankind, all of whom God knew and foreordained to salvation; 4) Irresistible grace (sometimes categorized as effective calling) that affirms those who are foreordained will be drawn to God through the saving activity of Jesus Christ; and 5) Perseverance of the saints, which affirms that those who are called and saved by Jesus Christ will remain so despite all subsequent sin and evil that surrounds them. Calvinism stresses God's sovereignty and grace and generally decries any doctrine or ritual that can be interpreted as a human effort to earn or win God's favor. Compare Arminianism. See also Pelagianism.
CAPITALISM: Form of economic organization based on the private ownership of the means and forces of production in an industrial economy. The historical successor of feudalism (a system of private ownership of the means and forces of agricultural production) and, according to Karl Marx, destined to be succeeded by communism (a system of public ownership of the forces and means of industrial production).
CARDINAL: In Roman Catholic Christianity, an archbishop appointed by the Pope, and generally seen as an assistant subordinate only to the Pope. Cardinals become members of the College of Cardinals who select a succeeding Pope, usually from among their own numbers. Cardinals are distinguished by their crimson religious garb.
CARMELITE: From Roman Catholic Christianity, this refers to a hermit of the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel founded in Palestine in the 12th century, and later developed into a Western order for Christian friars by St. Simon Stock. A later movement embraced an order of nuns. Carmelites are known for their disavowal of ownership of personal or communal property.
CARTESIAN - Anything which relates to the thought of Rene Decartes (1596-1650).
CARTESIAN DOUBT: In his Meditations, Descartes (1596-1650) proposed discarding any kind of belief that could be doubted, that might be false. Initially, he was inclined to doubt all the evidences of his senses (pointing out that it seemed impossible to tell for sure whether he was at any point aswake or asleep). The doubt that Descartes introduced into philosophy has been a characteristic feature as many philosophers since have supposed that we have no secure rational basis for believing in the existence of a world external to our sense experience, etc. See the Private Language Argument.
CASUISTRY - In ethics, casuistry is a term which is concerned with the unfair practice of allowing moral laxity among certain individuals while holding others to more stringent biblical or eccclesiastical norms. This has often been the case in some churches where certain people have influence or reputation; thus, their sins are often overlooked while those of the commoner are not discounted so easily.
CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE - An important term introduced into the realm of ethics and moral philosophy by the German thinker Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). As he himself put it, "Act only according to a maxim by which you can at the same time will that it shall become a general law." In other words, "act only in such a way that you would want all men to act." Kant's categorical imperative is not far from Jesus' Golden Rule or some of the teachings of Confucius which demand that one's actions are guarded and selfless. The necessary and absolute moral law believed to be the ultimate rational foundation for all moral conduct. "So act that you can will the maxim (principle) of your action to be an universal law binding upon the will of every other rational person." Categorical imperatives are absolutely binding.
CATEGORY - That which must be assumed for the existence of any realm of being or discourse; i.e., space is a necessary assumption for the existence of material substance. A fundamental principle that is implied or presupposed for all experience; also used informally to refer to a specific set or group. According to Aristotle a few fundamental Categories structure both thought and reality. In conception, they are archetypes of thought; in concretion, they are the archetypes of existence. Aristotle (Categories), names ten: Substance, Quality, Quantity, Relation, Where, When, Position, Having, Action
Passion. Kant's Categories structure or express the types of judgment by which minds unite their thoughts and experience into a single awareness or conception: things are only thinkable and experiencable phenomena insofar as they answer to these Categories. Kant specifies 12 Categories under four headings: Quantity (Unity, Plurality, & Totality); Quality (Reality, Negation, & Limitation); Relation (Inherence-Subsistence, Cause-Effect, & Community (reciprocity between the agent and patient)); and Modality (Possibility-Impossibility, Existence-Nonexistence, Necessity-Contingence).
CATHARSIS: Purging of the emotions (of pity and fear in particular) which, according to Aristotle, is a beneficial psychological effect had by art (of tragic drama in particular).
CATHOLIC, CATHOLIC: When capitalized, the word refers specifically to that branch of Christianity whose head is the archbishop of Rome, the Pope, generally known as the Roman Catholic church. In lower case, the word is a synonym for universal or worldwide, as in "the catholic church." The word is most familiar to non-Roman Catholic Christians because of its inclusion in the Apostle's Creed, where believers affirm, "I believe in the holy, catholic church, . . ., etc."
CAUSATION, HUME’S ARGUMENT AGAINST: How can know that (sensory event) A is the cause of some (sensory event) B? Since A and B are distinguishable, we do not think of one being the cause of the other until, through experience, we find constant conjunction between A and B (coupled with “continguity” (closeness) of A and B, and the priority of A to B). This constant conjunction gives rise to a superstition that there is a necessary connection between A and B but this notion is just superstition, in that we might have had a long run of coincidences. Since A and B are separable, and we can conceive them existing apart, there is no purely rational basis for deriving B from A; and appeal to some general principle derived from experience (i.e., the future will be like the past) is not helpful because any such principle suffers from the same problem as “A causes B” - because this too can be coincidental.
CAUSE - That which is responsible for any change, motion, or action; the necessary antecedent of any effect, or, in science, the invariable antecedent of a given event. In philosophy, the ultimate power that produces the being of anything. Whatever is responsible for changes (including the creation and destruction) of things. According to Aristotle causes fall into four types: material cause, the substance a thing is made of; formal cause, the structure or design of the thing; efficient cause, the maker or instigator of the change; and final cause, the purpose or function of it (see teleology). Hume argued that all knowledge of causation comes from our actual experience of observed regularities and includes no real knowledge of any objectively necessary connection.. See determinism, scientific law.
CENSORSHIP: Legal or social practices aiming to bar the creation or dissemination (e.g., the publication or public display) of disapproved forms of artistic expression.
CHAIN OF BEING - This is a phrase alluding to the order, unity, and completeness of all things in the universe, beginning from the smallest particle all the way up to God. The idea, which finds its origins in Plato's Timaeus , is essentially a way of categorizing all of reality. As many thinkers have expounded upon it throughout history, it essentially has come to denote a hierarchical order in the universe.
CHARISMATIC CHRISTIANITY: A form of Christianity noted for its emphasis on the so-called gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are expressed in believers in the form of healing, prophetic utterances and speaking in tongues along with other enthusiastic, emotion-filled expressions of worship, for example, dancing and swooning. These expressions are particularly important in Pentecostal and Holiness sects and denominations of the Protestant church, but they are not limited as such. Branches of mainline Roman Catholic and Episcopalchurches have absorbed charismatic teachings. Some modern denominations such as the Assemblies of God are noted for emphasis on the charismatic gifts. Some Christian denominations decry such modern expressions, claiming charismatic gifts ended with the apostolic age. The experiences are believed to be derived from passages in the New Testament such as Acts 2. [Journalists should be alert to the popular Christian music culture that includes a group known as "The Second Chapter of Acts."]
CHORISMOS: means separation in classical Greek.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE: A modern denomination derived in 1866 from special interpretations of the Holy Bible put forth in the writing of Mary Baker Eddy, collected under the title, Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures. The official title of the church is the CHURCH OF CHRIST, SCIENTIST, with its headquarters called "the mother church" in Boston, Mass. Christian Science teaches a practice of spiritual healing claiming that cause and effect are mental and that sin, sickness, and death will be destroyed by understanding completely the divine principles of Jesus' teaching and healing. Christian Scientists sometimes refuse medical treatment, and generally deny death, claiming it is a "passing over" into the realm of spirit. Christian Science has no clergy as normally defined, but its leaders are called readers, practitioners, and lecturers who lead congregations in readings from the Bible and from Science and Health, conduct a public ministry, and give public lectures on Christian Science. Its nationwide network of "Reading Rooms" provide opportunities for believers and non-believers to relax and sample the literature of Christian Science, although users of these rooms are generally expected to make a small purchase of literature. The church also subsidizes the prestigious international newspaper, published every Monday through Friday, The Christian Science Monitor.
CHRISTIAN, CHRISTIANITY: Christianity is the largest of the four great religions of humankind. Christianity began as a sect of Judaism that saw in Jesus OF Nazareth the fulfillment of Hebrew prophesies that God would send a Messiah. Christians worship Jesus as God, claiming that through his sacrificial death he carried the burden of sin for all humans and through his triumph over death in his resurrection, an event celebrated at Easter, he demonstrated his divine power and love and assured that believers also will be resurrected from death. One who believes in Jesus Christ as Messiah, savior and Son of God is called a Christian.
CHUNG: The Confucian concept of being faithful to oneself without being self-absorbed.
CHUN-TZU: A concept in CONFUCIANISM. The outward manifestation of the Confucian notion of Jen. Someone who makes others feel at ease by accommodating their will rather than asserting one's own. Persons with Chun-tzu are considered genuine ladies and gentlemen in the Western sense.
COGITO ARGUMENT: This argument of Descartes gets its name from the concluding phrase of his first formulation of it (in his Discourse on Method) - cogito ergo sum, "I think therefore I am." In his Meditations on First Philosophy Descartes concludes from the impossibility of doubting his own existence as thinking "that this proposition: I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time I pronounce it, or that I mentally conceive it" (2nd Meditation); my existence as a thinker is thereby assured. This assurance, Descartes thinks, can provide a secure foundation for all scientific knowledge. See also: method of doubt.
COGITO ERGO SUM - Latin for the famous phrase by Rene Descartes, "I think, therefore I am." After the Copernican Revolution and the condemnation of Galileo by the Inquisition in 1634, Descartes sought to develop an epistemology that was logically scientific and mathematically precise. Descartes' new quest for a scientific epistemology essentially ushered in a new age of modern philosophy where knowledge would be arrived at through systematic reasoning, rather than through accepting certain presuppositions of the Church, the fount of truth.
COGNITION (COGNITIVE, ADJ.) roughly synonymous with knowledge, but emphasising the subjective process of coming-to-know rather than the proposition (claim, belief) that results.
COHERENCE - A theory of truth or knowledge; the idea that that which is symmetrically consistent, internally consistent, and eternally adequate to the facts is true.
COHERENCE THEORY OF TRUTH - Among the many theories of truth, a statement (or proposition, assertion, judgment) is regarded as true only if it coheres with the other statements of a particular system. In other words, the statement must be consistentor interrelated with all the other parts of the whole system. Simply, it must fit in with the whole. For rationalist thinkers (e.g. Hegel especially), coherent assertions are a part of the ultimate reality - the ultimate reality being the whole, or the totality. And for logical positivists the same is true - however, the coherent assertions are part of an empircal scientific nature of the world, indeed a scientifically comprehensive view of the universe. So, essentially, the coherence theory of truth relies on internal consistencies within any particular thought system or set of assertions.
COMMON SENSE REALISM - This was a Scottish school of thought which thrived in the eighteenth century due to the writings of Thomas Reid (1710-96). Reid was a contemporary of David Hume (1711-76) - Hume being one of the leading skeptics of the era. Although Reid fully appreciated the force of Hume's skepticism , he nevertheless disagreed with Hume's assumptions and conclusions. Essentially, Reid believed that the common sense instilled in the minds of ordinary people was sufficient for deducing certain truths about the world. Thus, in Reid's view, the hyper-skepticism of Hume was nothing more than the philosopher's abstraction, and the common man could arrive at certain truths through ordinary common sense.
COMMUNION: The Christian celebration or remembrance of the Last Supper, during which Jesus shared bread and wine with his followers as signs of his sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Also called Eucharist or The Great Feast in more liturgical churches, it is a periodic ritual involving communal sharing of bread and wine (or reasonable substitutes). In Eastern Orthodox traditions, communion is called The Divine Liturgy. Differences in theology determine the interpretation of the communion event. See Transsubstantiation.
COMMUNISM: Theory of political and economic development proposed by Karl Marx and developed and implemented by V. I. Lenin. In Marxist theory, "communism" denotes the final stage of human historical development in which the people rule both politically (compare: democracy) and economically (contrast: capitalism). Since the government, according to Marxist theory, is essentially an instrument of class oppression, and the society which emerges in this final stage is classless, as this final state is approaches government will gradually wither away (compare: anarchism). See: proletarian, bourgeois.
COMPATIBLISM: Also known as "soft determinism" and most famously championed by Hume, this theory holds that free will and determinism are compatible. Properly understood, according to Hume, freedom is not an absolute ability to have chosen differently under exactly the same inner and outer circumstances. Rather it is a hypothetical ability to have chosen differently if one had been differently psychologically disposed by some different beliefs or desires. Alternately, Hume maintains that free acts are not uncaused (or mysteriously self-caused as Kant would have it) but caused in the right way, i.e., by our choices as determined by our our beliefs and desires, by our characters. See determinism. Contrast: hard determinism, libertarianism.
CONCEPT: The mental correlate or idea associated with a general word (or predicate) or with a general attribute or universal, e.g., the concept dog is associated with the word "dog" in the minds of English speakers, with the word "chien" in the minds of French speakers, and with the attribute doghood.
COMPLETENESS: A (logical) language is said to be complete if and only if all the formulas in the language that must be true (in any world in which the axioms of the language are true) can be proved from the axioms. Godel’s incompleteness theorem shows that any language in which the truths of basic arithmetic can be formualted cannot be complete (unless the number of axions is infinite).
COMPLEX IDEAS: are compounded out of simple ideas, and the mind is quite capable of imagining complex arrangements of simple ideas that do not in fact correspond to anything in the world, for example an unicorn.
CONCEPT - An object of the mind or universal; a universal object or category of the mind independent of sensation.
CONCEPTUALISM: The theory that universals are general ideas, such as the idea of man or of redness, which exist in minds and only in minds. This view is typically contrasted with - and held as a kind of compromise between - nominalism and realism.
CONCLUSION: a statement that is supported by a premise; that which is being argued for.
CONFIRMATION: Inductive support by observed evidence.
CONFUCIANISM: A set of values based on the teachings of CONFUCIUS, a Chinese philosopher in the 6th and 5th centuries B.C.E., whose sayings and dialogues, known collectively as the Analects, were written down by his followers. Confucianism stresses individual, family and societal relations be based on li (proper behavior) and jen (sympathetic attitude). Its philosophy was challenged by Taoism and Buddhism, which were partially incorporated to create neo-Confucianism during the Sung dynasty of China (CE 960-1279). The overthrow of the Chinese monarchy and the Communist revolution during the twentieth century severely weakened the influence of Confucianism on modern Chinese culture, but its influence has increased in other East Asian nations.
CONGREGATIONALISM, CONGREGATIONALIST: A Protestant denomination that follows a locally administered church structure, generally eschewing any hierarchy of bishops, archbishops and other administrative clergy and placing authority in the hands of the local congregation. Congregationalism grew out of the English Independent Church and Anabaptist influences on churches of Colonial America. The Congregational Church is now a formal denomination and should not be confused with other congregationalist forms of church governance such as the several forms of Baptist or so-called "Free" churches. The United Church of Christ is one of the latest and largest of the congregationalist churches.
CONSCIOUSNESS - A term difficult to define, but, in general, said to be all the processes of thought which go to make up the experience of a rational being or self, feelings (immediate) prior to ideas about those feelings
CONSCIOUSNESS OBJECTION: An objection to materialism that maintains that, since mentality is fundamentally conscious and consciousness cannot be materialistically explained or reduced, mentality is something (a property or substance) that is fundamentally immaterial. Also, an objection to artificial intelligence that maintains that, since consciousness cannot be mechanically (or computationally) generated, that machines (or computers) cannot think.
CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM: A division of Judaism that usually takes a more centrist position on worship and religious behavior than do the more liberal advocates of Reform Judaism and the more tradition-bound advocates of Orthodox Judaism. See Judaism.
CONTIGENT BEING - Human beings are contingent because they are dependent on another for their existence. They are not self-caused, neither are they self-sustaining - rather, they are contingent.
CONTINGENT: A sentence proposition, thought or judgement is contingent if it is true of this actual world, though it is not true in all possible worlds. Some philosophers claim that contingent, a posterori, and synthjetic are equivalent, holding that the notion of synthetic explains the other two. See necessary.
CONTRADICTION, LAW OF: A fundamental logical principle, first formulated by Aristotle, which maintains that one and the same proposition (or thought or statement) cannot be both true and false or that a statement and its denial or contradictory cannot both be true. Contrast: Excluded Middle.
CO-OPTION: Being assimilated. Especially, for Herbert Marcuse, the sociopolicticoeconomic assimilation of works of art - and simultaneous perversion of their liberative tendencies - for commercial and control purposes.
COPTIC: An ancient Egyptian language whose alphabet is derived from the Greek alphabet. One of the most famous of Coptic writings is the so-called Gospel of Thomas.
CORRESPONDENCE THEORY OF TRUTH - Another among the many theories of truth, this idea simply asserts that truth corresponds to reality. Essentially, truth is the "sum of all facts" - thus, "the sum of all facts" corresponds to that which is true about ultimate reality.
COSMOGONY - A scientific or mythological account about the origin of the universe. All cultures throughout the world have some kind of origin myth (or cosmogony), thus answering the human existential question regarding the origin of the universe and man. Essentially, cosmogony is a Greek word which literally means "the birth of the cosmos."
COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT - An argument for the existence of God that is based on observation of nature. It attempts to derive the existence of God from such observation. The cosmological argument essentially is an argument which attempts to prove the existence of God. Although the argument has been set forth in diverse ways ever since the time of Plato (427-347 BC), it is usually associated with Thomas Aquinas (1224-74) and his " Five Ways to Prove the Existence of God." In Thomist thought, the argument is essentially an argument from causality, and can be summarized according to the following syllogism:
COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENTS: Arguments purporting to prove the existence of God a posteriori from the fact of the existence of the universe or of certain properties of the universe. Aquinas' "five ways" include arguments from the existence of, the efficient causal order of, and the motion of the universe, to the existence of a first cause thereof, which he identifies with God.
COSMOLOGY - Different from cosmogony, which is concerned with origins, cosmology is essentially a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the universe as a totality, integrating both physics and metaphysics. In modern science, however, cosmology is primarily concerned with the universe according to contemporary notions of physics. In the Greek, cosmology literally means "the study of the cosmos." Is the study of the cause of the universe. ( cosmos = world, universe; logos = the study of)
COUNTER-ENLIGHTENMENT a term coined by Isiah Berlin to refer to the collection of late C18 thinkers, amounting very loosely to a movement, who offered fundamental criticism of Enlightenment ideas and ideals. Narrowly, it refers to the German thinkers Hamann, Jacobi and Herder, but often also included are other figures, including the earlier thinkers Vico and Rousseau.
COUNTER-REFORMATION: A generally intellectual renaissance movement within The Roman Catholic Church in the 14th century, spearheaded by thinkers such as Erasmus and the Jesuits founded by St. Ignatius Loyola, that arose to counter the criticisms of the church made by the Protestant Reformers, most notably Luther and Calvin.
CULTURAL RELATIVISM: Moral theory that holds that what's good or bad or right or wrong varies from society to society depending on what each society says to be, or believes to be, good or bad or right or wrong. See ethical relativism. Compare subjectivism.
CYNIC - Literally, in the Greek, "dog-like," the Cynics "barked" at society, snapping at its heels, attempting to awaken society from its conventional slumber. Although tradition traces the origin of Cynicism to one Antisthenes, a pupil of Socrates (469-399 BC), it was the legendary Diogenes (ca. 400-325 BC) who made Cynicism so famous, its continuity being established for over a millennium.