Trajectories of Changes of The Foreseen World

This is an inquiry discussion. What I’m looking for is a series of posts, including replies to others, that show how your understanding of the prompt (several are given below), and your answer to it, has deepened or changed as a result of your interaction with what others in class have written. It’s likely you’ve never had such a discussion assignment before.

Make your response to one of the prompts about 100 words, and at least one reply to another post also around 100 words. But I’m not counting words. I’m looking for interaction.

Minimum Requirement: Two Posts

At the very least you need to make two posts: (a) A response to one of the inquiry questions and (b) a reply to another post (one which is about the same prompt you’ve chosen) either explaining how what is written has deepened or changed your original response or asking questions or adding your thoughts to help deepen or change the view of the writer.
The goal through this series of interactions is to

  • clarify what the prompt means,
  • define key terms in your own words,
  • express your tentative “answer,”
  • question your own thinking, and
  • show how you’ve learned from others in deepening or changing your views.

Do Not Use Outside Research Materials

Because of the nature of this inquiry, DO NOT use outside research materials. We’re using certain key words in special ways and outside research would just be confusing; and if the material in Common Sense Logic, and Professor Machuga’s lectures, is unclear, the goal is to learn from others to better understand the question and formulate an answer.

How to Proceed

You don’t need to agree with each other. Feel free to ask for help in understanding, but try to say in the post what you think is going on. Don’t just say “I don’t understand any of this. Help!” Instead, say “I don’t understand any of this. Help! I’m confused because I don’t see any difference between ‘property’ and ‘essence.’ Don’t they both apply to every member of the group?”

Once you are satisfied with your understanding and answer, you’re done. But I hope you’ll be intrigued enough throughout the week to check back in and see if you can learn even more. If so, make another post, a reply to someone who has helped you deepen or even change your views. The idea is to refine your views as you learn from others (or explain why you’re not persuaded by what others have said).

Think of this as a dinner conversation around a BIG table in which everyone is respected, listened to, and responded to with the overall intention of making everyone’s thinking better.
When that happens, you’ll be talking like a philosopher and thinking like a philosopher.


My holistic grading will focus on the learning process expressed in your posts. If you just post a response to one of the prompts, and reply to another that you agree with that person, that’s not much of an interaction. On the other hand, if you post a response, then get a new perspective from another post, you can reply that you appreciate the new perspective, and say what your revised answer is.

Here’s an example:

Sample Prompt: “Common Sense Logic begins with the claim that ‘Logic books are not philosophically neutral.’ What does that claim mean? Is it likely true or not? Why would that be important to know?”

Student response to prompt: “I think this means that instructors who write logic books, just like other textbooks, all have personal preferences. While that makes sense, I don’t see how that enters into writing a textbook. I took a political science class and even at the end of the semester I couldn’t tell whether my professor was a Republican, Democrat, or something else. It’s the same for textbooks. Those who write them can keep their views out of the book. And isn’t logic like math? I mean, 2+2=4 for Democrats as well as Republicans. So I don’t think the claim is true, and we can have pretty good confidence that our textbooks are pretty neutral.”

Reply (to another post): “Wow. I didn’t think about how materials in textbooks are selected. It can depend on what the writers think is important, and that in turn depends on their own viewpoints. So while materials in a book can be considered in a neutral fashion, what goes into the book in the first place may show some of the biases of the writers.”

Reply (to a second post): “OK, I think I’m ready to change my view. Thank you for helping me see that what Common Sense Logic calls a ‘view from nowhere’ isn’t possible. Even logic books make assumptions about whether logic actually expresses something about reality or whether logic is a made-up mathematical system. Whether there are real truths out there that we can discover is just one of a number of philosophical viewpoints, some of which reject the very idea of truth. Even books that claim to be ‘neutral,’ that give the impression that this is ‘how it is,’ can introduce controversial points of view that we wouldn’t know are controversial (because we’re just starting to learn philosophy). My view is now that we really should be told where a book, even a logic book, is ‘coming from.’”

Terms of Art

You may need to define some of these terms or phrases in your own words during the course of your Inquiry. Some are specialized words and others are common words used in specialized ways.

knowledge as “justified (or justifiable) true belief”; the Divided Line; realm of perceptibles; realm of concepts; “fleeting feelings”; “well-verified observations”; “reasoned conclusions”; “full understanding”; chiliagon; dialectic vs. debate; “saving the appearances”; comprehensive; consistent; coherent; “the cave.”

List of Prompts or Inquiries


  • If several have chosen Inquiry #2, for example, try to choose a different one; or if no one has written on the prompt you’ve chosen, you may want to switch to a different one. The point is not how hard or easy it seems, but whether you are learning to talk and think like a philosopher. But if you DO choose a different prompt, be sure to provide an in-depth reply to someone else writing on the SAME prompt you’ve chosen!


#1 – In the “Divided Line,” where do you think Plato would put the Aristotelian Square of Opposition? Why do you think this?

#2 – In “The Allegory of the Cave,” Socrates the philosopher makes the common observation that our physical eyes are “confused” when we go from a dark cave to blazing sunlight. He says the same is true of what he calls the “mind’s eye” (that is, our ability to think conceptually). Why are our minds “confused” when we go from the world of changing images to the unchanging world of concepts?

#3 – According to Plato’s “Dialectic,” why does “dialectical justification” take so long? You may want to contrast the goal of dialectic with the goal of a debate.