Thursday, August 31, 2006

Assignment for Friday, Sept. 1. 2006

Sorry that you don't have your textbooks. This is what we would have been reading in print had they come on time. Thanks for your patience.

all the fragments, 1-126 (don't be intimidated; they are each about a sentence long) at

This from Parmenides:


Come now I will tell thee-and do thou hear my word and heed it-what are the only ways of enquiry that lead to knowledge. The one way, [Page 91] assuming that being is and that it is impossible for it not to be, is the trustworthy path, for truth attends it. The other, that not-being is and that it necessarily is, I call a wholly incredible course, since thou canst not recognise not-being (for this is impossible), nor couldst thou speak of it, for thought and being are the same thing.

It makes no difference to me at what point I begin, for I shall always come back again to this.

It is necessary both to say and to think that being is; for it is possible that being is, and it is impossible that not-being is ; this is what I bid thee ponder. I restrain thee from this first course of investigation; and from that course also along which mortals knowing nothing wander aimlessly, since helplessness directs the roaming thought in their bosoms, and they are borne on deaf and like-wise blind, amazed, headstrong races, they who consider being and not-being as the same and not the same; and that all things follow a back-turning course.

That things which are not are, shall never prevail, she said, but do thou restrain thy mind from this course of investigation.

[Page 93] And let not long-practised habit compel thee along this path, thine eye careless, thine ear and thy tongue overpowered by noise; but do thou weigh the much contested refutation of their words, which I have uttered.

There is left but this single path to tell thee of: namely, that being is. And on this path there are many proofs that being is without beginning and indestructible; it is universal, existing alone, immovable and without end; nor ever was it nor will it be, since it now is, all together, one, and continuous. For what generating of it wilt thou seek out? From what did it grow, and how? I will not permit thee to say or to think that it came from not-being; for it is impossible to think or to say that not-being is. What thine would then have stirred it into activity that it should arise from not-being later rather than earlier? So it is necessary that being either is absolutely or is not. Nor will the force of the argument permit that anything spring from being except being itself. Therefore justice does not slacken her fetters to permit generation or destruction, but holds being firm.

(The decision as to these things comes in at this point.)

[Page 95] Either being exists or it does not exist. It has been decided in accordance with necessity to leave the unthinkable, unspeakable path, as this is not the true path, but that the other path exists and is true. How then should being suffer destruction? How come into existence? If it came into existence, it is not being, nor will it be if it ever is to come into existence. . . . So its generation is extinguished, and its destruction is proved incredible.

Nor is it subject to division, for it is all alike; nor is anything more in it, so as to prevent its cohesion, nor anything less, but all is full of being; therefore the all is continuous, for being is contiguous to being.

Farther it is unmoved, in the hold of great chains, without beginning or end, since generation and destruction have completely disappeared and true belief has rejected them. It lies the same, abiding in the same state and by itself accordingly it abides fixed in the same spot. For powerful necessity holds it in confining bonds, which restrain it on all sides. Therefore divine right does not permit being to have any end; but it is lacking in nothing, for if it lacked anything it would lack everything.

Nevertheless, behold steadfastly all absent things as present to thy mind; for thou canst not separate [Page 97] being in one place from contact with being in another place; it is not scattered here and there through the universe, nor is it compounded of parts.

Therefore thinking and that by reason of which thought exists are one and the same thing, for thou wilt not find thinking without the being from which it receives its name. Nor is there nor will there be anything apart from being; for fate has linked it together, so that it is a whole and immovable. Wherefore all these things will be but a name, all these things which mortals determined in the belief that they were true, viz. that things arise and perish, that they are and are not, that they change their position and vary in colour.

But since there is a final limit, it is perfected on every side, like the mass of a rounded sphere, equally distant from the centre at every point. For it is necessary that it should neither be greater at all nor less anywhere, since there is no not-being which can prevent it from arriving at equality, nor is being such that there may ever be more than what is in one part and less in another, since the whole is inviolate. For if it is equal on all sides, it abides in equality within its limits.

At this point I cease trustworthy discourse and the thought about truth; from here on, learn the opinions of mortals, hearing of the illusive order of my verses.

Men have determined in their minds to name two principles [lit. forms]; but one of these they ought not to name, and in so doing they have erred. They distinguish them as antithetic in character, and give them each character and attributes distinct from those of the other. On the one hand there is the aethereal flame of fire, fine, rarefied, everywhere identical with itself and not identical with its opposite; and on the other hand, opposed to the first, is the second principle, flameless darkness, dense and heavy in character. Of these two principles I declare to thee every arrangement as it appears to men, so that no knowledge among mortals may surpass thine.

But since all things are called light and darkness, and the peculiar properties of these are predicated of one thing and another, everything is at the same time full of light and of obscure darkness, of both equally, since neither has anything in common with the other.

And the smaller circles are filled with unmixed fire, and those next them with darkness into which their portion of light penetrates; in the midst of these is the divinity who directs the course of all.

(above selection taken from )

and finally


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Metaphysical Song

First principle,
Being’s pure act,
Infinite cause
Of finite fact;

Essential being,
Beyond our sight,
Without which, nothing,
Neither love nor light,

Only through You
Love’s infinite power
Brings into being
Atom and flower.

Only through You,
Infinite light
Both seen and sight,

Beckoning us—
Alert, awake—
Along the way
That we must take,

Resting in this:
The journey’s true,
First, midst, and last,
Grounded in You.

Helen Pinkerton, in First Things, April 2006, p. 33

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Just For Fun Quotes

Omne ens est verum.” (All that exists is true). –the Medieval Scholastics

"To be is to be the value of a variable" - W.V. Quine

“All men by nature desire to know.” -- Aristotle

" It is the mark of an educated mind to rest satisfied with the degree of precision which the nature of the subject admits and not to seek exactness where only an approximation is possible.” – Aristotle

"The world is all that is the case." - Ludwig Wittgenstein

While due regard must be given to the specific beliefs we hold, we must also pay careful attention to the manner by which we acquire and maintain them. Epistemology [and hermeneutics] then, is not (or ought not to be) concerned merely with the piecemeal appraisal of individual beliefs, but with what kinds of persons we are and are becoming-- W. Jay Wood, Epistemology, p. 26

Nothing is too absurd to be said by some of the philosophers." – Cicero

Never get angry. Never make a threat. Reason with people--Mario Puzo, 'The Godfather'

Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach. – Aristotle

Philosophy is merely thought that has been thought out. It is often a great bore. But man has no alternative, except between being influenced by thought that has been thought out and being influenced by thought that has not been thought out. The latter is what we commonly call culture and enlightenment today. But man is always influenced by thought of some kind, his own or somebody else's; that of somebody he trusts or that of somebody he never heard of, thought at first, second or third hand; thought from exploded legends or unverified rumours; but always something with the shadow of a system of values and a reason for preference. A man does test everything by something. The question here is whether he has ever tested the test. –G. K. Chesterton, The Common Man

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity--Albert Einstein

Five senses; an incurably abstract intellect; a haphazardly selective memory; a set of preconceptions and assumptions so numerous that I can never examine more than minority of them - never become conscious of them all. How much of total reality can such an apparatus let through--C. S. Lewis

Existence precedes and rules essence. – Sartre.

From the Cowardice that dare not face new truth,
From the Laziness that is contented with half-truth,
From the Arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,Lord Deliver Me

Jesus answered, “I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE.” -- John 14:6

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Northwest Christian College

PHL 250: Metaphysics and Epistemology

Fall, 2006

Beth Bilynskyj, instructor

MWF 3:00-3:50
Room L203B

Description of Course:

This course will provide an overview of some of the central concepts and issues in metaphysics and epistemology by allowing the student to work with various classic and contemporary primary texts. We will give serious attention to the following topics in the first half of the class:
• the nature and possibility of metaphysics
• Aristotle’s understanding of substance and change
• particulars, properties and relations
• universals and particulars,
• modality and possible worlds
• causality
• realism/anti-realism debate

In the second half of the class, we will take the “epistemological turn” and focus on these areas:
• intellectual virtue and skepticism as motivators for epistemological inquiry
• kinds of knowledge, including a posteriori and a priori knowledge
• the standard analysis of knowledge as justified true belief and the Gettier problem
• foundationalism and coherentism
• reliabilism
• naturalized epistemology and virtue epistemology
• epistemology and religious belief
• emotions and knowledge

Purpose of Course:

• To provide a fundamental part of a Christian liberal arts education, integrating NCC’s biblical and Christian studies with rigorous philosophical study.
• To contrast premodern and modern approaches to metaphysical and epistemological questions
• To provide students with a strong foundation for further exploration of the philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion, philosophy of language, philosophy of human nature, and/or the philosophy of science.
• To prepare students for effective and successful roles in ministry, teaching, counseling, science and technology.
Course Objectives:

Upon completing this course, you will be able to:
• describe some of the central concepts and issues in metaphysics and epistemology,
• analyze and critically evaluate arguments regarding the positions on issues.
• explain which would be your “first philosophy,” metaphysics or epistemology, and why.

Textbook and Resource material:

• Knowledge and Reality: Classic and Contemporary Readings, ed. Steven M. Cahn, Maureen Eckert, and Robert Buckley. (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson-Prentice Hall, 2004).
• W. Jay Wood, Epistemology: Becoming Intellectually Virtuous. ( Downer’s Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1998).
• handouts, online and reserve readings.

Suggested, but not required:
• Josef Pieper, Living the Truth. (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1989).
• W.R. Carter, The Elements of Metaphysics, (New York: McGraw Hill, 1990.)
• D.W. Hamlyn, Metaphysics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984).
• Moser, Mulder and Trout, The Theory of Knowledge: A Thematic Introduction (New York: Oxford, 1998).
• Louis P. Pojman, What Can We Know? An Introduction to the Theory of Knowledge. ( Belmont: Wadsworth, 2001).


Students are invited to check the course blog for syllabus, updates to the course calendar, bibliographies, additional articles, quotes, and to continue conversations outside the classroom.

Instructor Information:

• Beth Bilynskyj, M.A. Philosophy, University of Notre Dame, 1979.
• 744-9343 (home phone; leave message and best time for me to return your call)
• (probably the best way for us to immediately connect)
• Office Hours: TBA

Please feel free to contact me. It is important that we end confusion and answer your questions as soon as possible. I also welcome your comments on the content of the course, and/or any suggestions you have to improve the class. Most of all, I want to get to know you, and invite you to the Great Conversation which is philosophy by inviting you to wonder about what is real, and how we know.


Since this will be a small class, I will have ample opportunity to evaluate your grasp of the material through our discussion.

1. Reading Reports (5 worth 10% each, totaling 50%)

Philosophy has been described as a “great conversation,” so the bulk of our time together will be discussing the day’s assigned readings. Plan to spend at least two hours in preparation for every
hour in class. Outlining is an excellent way to master material so you can begin to wonder about it. Those who have not read the material will be unable to contribute profitably to the seminar, and thus weaken the quality of the class as a whole.

In order to ensure you are keeping up with the readings, I will collect “Reading Reports” at various points throughout the term. A reading report will be a 1-2 page legibly written or typed paper
1) outlining at least one main claim and supporting argument from the assigned text.
2) including at least one question or comment of yours, raised by the text.

ALL READING REPORTS ARE DUE AT THE START OF CLASS, over material assigned for that day. Please refer to “Policy on Late Papers and Class Assignments” below, in the section on NCC Academic Policies.

2. Discussion/Participation (20%)

As this is such a small seminar, its success depends upon you. Your class discussion/ participation grade will be calculated by the frequency of your contributions to class discussions, and the quality of your questions, observations and conclusions.

NOTE: Students should be prepared to offer at least one well-thought written question, comment, or criticism about the day’s reading to each session. Students failing to do so will receive a lower reading grade.

NOTE: Should participation and discussion flag as a result of students not having done their readings, I reserve the right to give “pop” quizzes, which will be counted as part of this discussion/participation grade.

3. Attendance (10%)

Absence is the greatest damper for discussion, so you should make every effort not to miss class. Everyone has something to contribute, so your presence is crucial. Being absent from class more than three times leads to significant grade reductions, i.e. A becomes A-, B+ becomes B, etc. Ten or more unexcused absences will result in automatic failure of the course. Please refer to the NCC attendance policy below.

4. Final (20%)

A review sheet will be handed out on Dec. 6, and Dec. 8 will be set aside as a study day for the final. The final will be proctored by Steve Bilynskyj, as I will be in Oxford, England Dec. 8-14.

NCC Academic Policies:

General undergraduate academic policies can be found starting on page 42 of the Undergraduate Academic Catalog 2006-2007 which is online at The following specific policies are related to this particular course:

Class Attendance.
Students are expected to arrive on time for class. Your participation grade will be affected if you are not in class or are late to class, for whatever reason. Excused absences will be allowed for activities such as serious illness, family or work emergencies, and recognized commitments with the College, (such as NCC days, intercollegiate softball and basketball.) The professor will determine the validity of the excuse. The student is responsible for knowing all information presented in the class(es) missed. If there are any problems, please let the professor know BEFORE the class.

Missed Quizzes, Tests, and Exams.
No make-ups will be allowed for reading reports except for circumstances granted a legitimate excuse status. In the event that a student cannot do a report or take an exam, he/she must contact the professor BEFORE the absence, and the professor will determine whether or not a legitimate excuse is warranted. Final exams are not given before their scheduled time unless permission has been secured from the Vice President for Academic Affairs in advance. In case of serious illness or an extreme family crisis the student should request the professor for an I (incomplete) grade. In such a case, the policy on make-up exams applies.

Late Papers and Class Assignments.
Assignments will be accepted without penalty for circumstances considered a legitimate excuse. Otherwise, they will be lowered according to the following formula:
one day late: A to A-, A- to B+, B+ to B, and so on.
two days late: A to B, B to C, C to D, and so on.
three days late: A to C, B to D, C to F.

Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty.
Plagiarism, cheating, and any other form of academic dishonesty are not acceptable and will not be tolerated at NCC. A student reported to have engaged in any one of the above will be subjected to a disciplinary action according to the policy stated in the Undergraduate Academic Catalog.

Disability Services.
If you need special accommodations because of a documented disability whether it is psychiatric, learning, physical or sensory, you must process your request with Ms. Angela Doty, the designated Disability Officer. Contact Ms. Doty through the Student Development Office by phone at 684-7345, by e-mail at:, and/or refer to the Disability Services Handbook (available in the Student Development Office) for the policy and detailed procedures regarding disabilities. Contact should be made prior to the beginning of each semester so that the Disability Officer can make reasonable accommodation for each eligible student.