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Sunday, September 1, 2019

On Use of Axioms in Philosophy

Axioms are the last refuge of the lazy philosopher. The Ancient Greeks invented axioms, but they used it only in the fields of geometry. In the area of geometry (and mathematics and science), the use of axioms can be defended, but in philosophy, axioms have no relevance. How can you begin philosophy by asserting that some truths are self-evident, when those truths entail the most fundamental and controversial questions? Where some philosophers see a self-evident truth, other philosophers may see a dogma or unproved assertion.

However, I will defend Spinoza’s axiomatic approach in his work on ethical theory. In the Ethics, Spinoza is trying to bring to the area of ethical philosophy, the geometrical approach which Euclid used in Elements of Geometry, and so his use of axioms is justified. But the modern philosophers, who do not use a geometrical (mathematical or scientific) approach, have no reason to depend on axioms. They have to provide all the necessary arguments for explaining their reasoning behind every point that they are making in their philosophy.

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