As a branch of philosophy, metaphysics (or ontology) is the study of existence, whether visible or invisible. Metaphysics generally comprises of everything that exists and its nature of existence. This branch is considered as the basis of all philosophy, as it guides us towards reality, and shows how to deal with reality in the world (Chappellee, 1992). The view of the world around us may be real or just an illusion, but metaphysically this is the basic view of the world. A major premise in metaphysics is the belief that every action has a cause and grants effects. Every entity in the physical world is of a certain nature and acts according to the nature. When change occurs, there has to be an effect. Moreover, this branch asserts that our views of the real world are only mental states. A classical illustration of metaphysics is the concept of a dog, Bobby. The mental concept of Bobby, as a dog, does not make Bobby a dog, but rather, the dogness in Bobby is what makes him a dog. Consequently, concepts, as studied in metaphysics, are often arbitrary, and reality is absolute (Olson, 1967).
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that examines knowledge and justified beliefs: the sources, limits, and nature. Therefore, epistemology seeks to distinguish between true and false knowledge. Knowledge can either be acquired through empiricism or experience and rationalism. According to this branch of philosophy, we acquire knowledge through experience. Epistemology is vital in our daily lives for the purposes of judgment, perceptions, reasoning, problem solving, and thought processes (Cargile, 1995). The ability to distinguish between true and untrue knowledge is important for sound thinking and reasoning. Beliefs, which result from wishful thinking or lucky guesses, are not regarded as true knowledge. Instead, reasons must be given for knowledge to qualify as valid and true. An example of epistemological dilemma is the famous lottery paradox that illustrates impossibility of achieving genuine knowledge. The dilemma is based on probability and uncertainty; therefore, it cannot be justified as valid knowledge.
The term ‘axiology’ is derived from two Greek words: axios (value) and logos (study). Axiology, therefore, refers to the study of values and value systems in any given society. Axiology is important in the development and objective measurement of value systems. As a science, axiology is traced to the works of Dr. Hartman Robert. With values, members of the society are capable of referring and reflecting on their behaviors in a community. Further, axiology is subdivided into two: aesthetics and ethics (Cargile, 1995). Ethics is defined as the study of morality. It involves the extensive study of moral judgment of human behavior. However, ethics is not limited to principles or established code of conduct. Aesthetics, on the other hand, refers to the feelings and senses (perception) in regards to the nature of things and the art that is comprised of them. Our sensory experiences allow us to appreciate nature, art, and attitudes. All these analysis are well encompassed in the subdivision of axiology. The interrelationship of values cannot be overlooked, and axiology seeks to establish the various discrepancies that lie between values and facts (Chappellee, 1992).
The concept of primary qualities is attributed to John Locke. In his premises, Locke differentiates ideas from objective reality. According to Locke, the primary qualities of objects are objective and measurable. They are seen as the real qualities that lay within the object itself and not a matter of illusion or perception. Ideas are innate and exist within us, whereas reality lies outside. The theory further asserts that the outside world has a capacity to excite that what lies within us (our ideas). These subsequent powers are primary qualities. These qualities include figure, number, rest, motion, solidity, excitement, and extension (Ayers, 1991). Primary qualities are objective and provoke sensations that are basic, for example size. A classical illustration of primary qualities by John Locke involves crystal porphyry that is reddish in color. The primary quality of the crystal is that it occupies space. However, the reddish color is a secondary quality, as color is subject to change depending on the light that shines on the crystal. Our perceptions and opinions may affect the primary qualities of objects due to our opinions and shortcomings (Reese, 1996).
Question 1: What were some of the questions that arose during the pre-Socratic period in Western thought? How did some of the early thinkers reply to those questions? Do any of them strike you as particularly insightful? If this is so, then in which ways?
The term ‘pre-Socratic’ is used to address the period between 600-400 B.C. The period was majorly characterized by universal principles that explain nature and the origin of man. During this period, there were key questions of the origin of the human race. The period is also characterized by the functional role of focusing on the end product, rather than on the process or the origin. The Western thoughts from the Greek philosophers are universally accepted based on the premises. Arguably identical to Chinese philosophy, the pre-Socratic philosophy erodes the unity of human phenomenon by addressing the questions of ethics. That views all human beings as ‘one’ in nature, equal, holding no status or special position. Aristotle attends to the questions raised on ethics by exploring morality and political thought. The issue of morality continues to be an issue in the Western schools of thought.
The issue of knowledge gained significant attention among the Greeks during the pre-Socratic period. Perfect knowledge is considered as absolute and unchanging. Reality is independent of the senses that are continuously changing or in motion. Sensory knowledge is not important in gaining knowledge. The Western model, therefore, emphasizes the concepts of perception, nature, motion, and changes.
Question 2: Of the areas that fall under Axiology, which has more interest to you than otherwise? Why do you say so? In what way(s) might it be said to be of some importance nowadays?
Axiology is the science of values and is comprised of two areas: ethics and aesthetics. As for me, I draw more interest towards ethics for the subsequent reasons. Ethics is the extensive study of morality, the ability to distinguish between wrong and right. As a branch of axiology, ethics defines the course of our actions or behavior for the human kind. Our values are analyzed and categorized through ethical studies or considerations. The ability to judge right from wrong is vital in human existence because of the social nature of all human beings. Coexistence, respect for authority, and others are a requirement in our communities, and they are guided and pursued by ethical principles.
An unethical society suffers from many forms of moral decay, since it lacks guidelines in the cause of individuals’ behaviors. The standards of our actions and behavior in the society guide our goals and the subsequent process of achieving them successfully. Flaws in societal ethical standards and morality lead to arising of crisis in the society and failure of people’s endeavors.
The relations among people are largely directed by ethics. Living in harmony is affected by people’s behaviors and attitudes towards one another. Destructive behaviors, which are classified as immoral, are harmful and have detrimental effects towards the society. Being ethical involves the acceptance and acting according to what the society accepts. The laws in our society act as ethical guidelines, and corruption of the standards is not in any way acceptable. Institutions in the society should also ensure that they observe high ethical standards and moral conduct of all people, and address any deviations as deemed fit. Standards should be adhered to in order to make relations and co-existence reasonable (Mackie, 1990).
To be morally sound, one must consistently check that the feelings, norms, and personal laws do not deviate from the established ethical standards. Ethics and moral judgment involves the extensive study of moral judgment of human behavior. With values and ethics, members of the society are capable of referring and reflecting on their behaviors in a community.