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The Truong' s Foyer........... Truong Ngoc Diep

few words
Great Ideas
the world of the man
special problems in sociology
The Truong's Foyer
beauty and art
theology and metaphysics


China Garden

Before writing of each paragraph, I would like to introduce the family of my brother. a praiseworthy family...Truong Ngoc Diep, Monsieur le Directeur des employees of the Electric company  of Vietnam...
 Diep's Family Tree :
        Truong Ngoc Diep                                                                                  Nguyen Thi Dam
                    1                                                                                                          1
                      1                        1                                1                                         1
     Truong Thi Quynh Huong   Truong Thi Thien Huong   Truong Ngoc Minh     Truong Quang Minh
what is the truth..
             We seldom to hear the truth, but we hear one of its signs. In the most part,the fact of the Majority holds something considering true,it is probably true. But with the sign of the truth, but it wasn't the best one. So we couldn't answer the question of Pilate..." What is the truth?." But when we understand the nature of the truth, when we hear of telling lie. When the man said to a woman...I love You, when he didn't, he is telling the lie. When a child took a cookie out of the jar, and telling his Mom.."I didn't"; he is lying. So, Lying consists in saying the opposite of what you know, think, feel. But we must distinct from the honest error.. For example in the game of baseball, the umpire calls "out" when he is  "safe", or vice versa...
       Josiah Royce, an american philospher, defined a liar as a man who willfully misplaces his ontological predicates; when the man says " is" when he means " is not", or vice versa, " is not', for him, meansl... "is ". The definition of Royce for liar, leads us quickly to the most famous definition of truth. This notion was expressed XXV centuries ago, by Plato and is repeated since then with different ways, and seldom been improved any.
     Plato, Arirtotle saythat the opinions we hold are truewhen they assert that, that which is is, and that, that which is not,... is not, and that our opinions are false when they assert that that which is,is not, or that that whoich is not,... is. When the is in the statement we agree witht eh way things are, then our statement is true. When it's true, the truth consists with the corresponding of the existent facts of nature or reality. But when we think that something exists or has happened which doesn't exist, or didn't happen, then we are mistaken, and what we think is false. So thruth is very easy to define, and the definition is not hard to understand.
A great thinker had the question..." How can we tell whether a statement is thrue or false?".This, by the way,is the question you and your friends ended up by answering. To this question, we have three mains types of answer. The first,insists that some statements are self-evidently true, such as..."The whole is greater than the Part." This statement gives us un impossibility to think the opposite of them. When we understand what the whole is and what the part is, we cannot think that the part is greater than the whole to which it belongs. That is how we know immediately the truth of the statement that the whole is greater than any of its parts.
   We can answer differently with the truth of statements can be tested by our experience or observations. If the man said it didn't rain in Cincinnati a single day last month, we can check the truth of his statement by looking up the official weather reports. Or we can stick the foot in the swimming pool to see of the water is as warm as a friend says it is. Simmilarly, a scientific generalization is considered true only as long as no contrary facts are observed.
    The third type of answer has todo with statements that are neither self-evidently true nor capable of being checked by direct appreal to observed facts. It may be a question of a person's character, what type of product is most desirable for certains purposes, ot wheather the favorite will win the next race. Herr it is permissible to count noses and to find the consensus of a group of people or of the experts. That an opinion is held by a majority can be taken as a sign that it has some probability of being true.
  This third answer was the one your friend arrived at. But the fact that it expressed the consensus of the group doesn't make it the answer to the question.."What is truth?".Nor does it give the full answer to the question.."How can we tell whether a statement is true?".
     Defining truth is easy; nowing whether a particular statement is true is much harder; and pursuing the truth is most difficult of all....

Flowers in sand

knowledge and opinion...
            Most of us know what an opinion is...We recongnize that our opinions are biliefs that others need  not share. We are used to having those who disagree with us say.." Well, that is only your opinion ". Even when we advance an opinion on very good grounds, we usually feel some doubt about it. " I have good reason to believe so!" we say..." but I wouldn't swear to it...".
   There are three characteristics of opinions:
  1 - They express probabilities rather than certainties
  2 - They are subject to doubt
  3 - reasonable men can differ about which of two conflicting opinions is sounder.
   There is a perennial skepticism which holds that everything is a matter of opinion. The extreme skeptic reduces even such things as mathematics and science to opinion. He points out, for example, that a system of geometry rests on arbitrary assumptions. Other assumptions can be made and other systems of geometry developed. Experimental science at its best, the skeptic maintains, consists of highly probable generalizations, not indubitable certainties.
   In contrast with such skepticism is the view of the ancient Greek philosophers. Plato and Aristotle think that there are some matters about which men can have genuine knowledge. In the very nature of things, some things are necessary and cannot be otherwise. For example, by the very nature of wholes and parts, it is necessary that the whole should always be greater than any of its parts. This is something we know for certain. On the other hand, there is nothing in the natures of gentlemen and blondes that makes it necessary for gentlemen always to prefer blondes, and so this is only a matter of opinion.
   The difference between knowledge and opinion can also le expressed in psychological terms. When we are asked." Do gentlemen prefer blondes?" or " Will the Republicans win the election?" we must make up our own mind. Nothing about the matter in question compels us to answer Yes or No. But when we are asked whether the whole is greater than any of its parts, we have no choice about the answer. If we put our mind to thinking about the relation of whole and part, we can think about makes up our mind for us.
   This gives us a very clear criterion for telling whether what we assert is knowledge or opinion. It is knowledge when the object that we are thinking about compels us to think of it in a certain way. What we think then is not our personal opinion. But when the object of our thought leaves us free to make up our mind about it, one way or the otehr, then what we thinkis only an opinion- our personal opinion, voluntary formed.  Here other rational persons can differ with us.
    On this understanding of the difference between knowledge and opinion, we must admit that most of our assertions are opinions. But we should also realize that opinions differ in their soundness. Some are based on considerable evidence or reasons which, while not conclusive, make them highly probable.Others are ill-founded,  and others have no foundation at all but are simply willful prejudices on our part.
   This leaves open the question whether history, mathematics, experimental science, and speculative philosophy should be classified as knowledge or opinion . As we have seen, the extreme skeptic would say that they are all opinion,though he might reconize that they have much more weight than mere personal opinions or private prejudices. The opposite view, which we could defend, is that we can have knowledge in the fields of mathematics and philosophy, and highly probable opinion in the fields of experimental science and history...

Washed Stone Wall

what is philosophy...
      What make it so difficult to define philosophy is the greatr diversity of views on what the subject matter and task of philosophy is.  On the other hand,  it is presented as basic knowledge about the nature of things;  on the other,  as a guide of the good life. In medieval times,  it was regarded as a handmaiden of  theology;  now many regard it as an auxiliary of the natural and social sciences.
       The term  philosophy, literally means...the love of wisdom...In this sens, philosophy is an aspiration or quest rather than a storehouse of attained and transmittable knowledge.  Socrates  points out that the philosopher claims only to love wisdom, not to have it.
      Socrates  makes the philosopher's way more concrete when he says that the unexamined life is not worth living and that we should follow the argument wherever it leads. This sounds the inquiring note, the questioning attitude, that is essential to phjilosophy. It also sounds the ethical note of the good life, which is a recurrent emphasis in philosophy.
     Aristotle worked out the content of philosophy in a monumental and rich body of writings. He divided philosophy into bvarious disciplines. Foremost among these was what he called  " first philosophy "  or metaphysics, which is knowledge of ultimate principles and causes. This metaphysical emphasis has also played a major role in philosophy.
     In modern times, the main emphasis has been on the nature of knowledge and the structure of the mind that knows. Immanuel Kant, who led the way here, distinguishes between the empirical knowledge available to natural science and the rational knowledge attainable by philosophy. There is much discussion today about the relative roles of philosophy ans science. Currently it is to science, not philosophy, that men look for basic knowledge. One of the strongest schools of modern philosophy, positivism, holds that only the empirical sciences are true knowledge, and that philosophy's role is to be merely an interpreter and critic of theses sciences.
    My view is that philosophy provides a distinct kind of knowledge which has the quality of wisdom. It affords wisdom about the nature of man, the world, and God, and wisdom about the good life and the good society. It deals with the fundamental question about the nature of things and the ends of life. It is, therefore, superior, both speculatively and practically, to science, which deals with more superficial and less important matters.
    Then  philosophy is the concern of all men.   It is not a specialty,  requiring mastery of a complicated methodology, higher mathematics,  or elaborate apparatus. The true philosopher is a rare bird,  but only because whole hearted and consistent dedication to the pursuit of wisdom is rare amid the distractions of this world.  Every one can answer this call,  for the only things a man needs to be a philosopher are the mind that God gave him and a desir to know the ultimate truth.
    Philosophy  is not an experimental science in the sens in which  physics, chemistry, physiology are;  it is a rational science which, like  mathematics,  develops by systemic reflection and analysis.  Neither the mathematician nor the philosopher appeals to any observed facts except those of common experience.  Both can conduct all their explorations while sitting at the desk;  both are armchair thinkers.
   Philosophy  is not an art,  but it makes use of the liberal arts,  especially the art of the dialectic.  It is not theology,  for where theology takes its departure from articles of religious faith,  philosophy  starts with common sense and attempts to refine and deepen the understanding of the world which is latent in common sense.
   Far from being prescientific,  philosophy  is post scientific.  Though, as a matter of historical fact,  philosophical inquiry  began long before scientific experimentation,  it will also continue long after we have reached the limits of experimental knowledge.  The empirical sciences have already matured,  and there are indications that at certain point they have gone as far as they can go.  But  philosophy  is still in its infancy.  Its full growth lies many millennia ahead...

Stone 6

philosophy in the age of science...
         Let us first consider what Science can and cannot do - it proper scope and function.
         The Science study physicai and social phenomena in order  to arrive at an accurate picture of them. They try to describe how things bahave.  They may be concerned with the movement of the heavenly bodies, the inner working of the atom, physiological processes, social movements or  human behavior.
         What is the utility of scientific knowledge?  Francis Bacon  answers that question by saying that science gives us power. Il enables us to exercise a certain degree of mastery or control over the physical and social phenomena of the world in which we live. Another way of answering the questions to say that science enable us to produce things.  Applied by the engineer  or the physician, it helps him to build bridges or to restore health.  But the same knowledge can also be used as we know, to destroy things and to maim or kill men.
         In other words, science gives us power which can be used either constructively  or destructively. It provides us with means which may facilitate our pursuit of bad ends as well as good. Science itself is not only morally neutral, that is, indifferent to the value of the ends for which the means are used; it is also totally unable to give us any moral direction, for it affords us no knowledge whatsoever of the order of goods and the hierarchy of ends.
         You are quite right, therefore, in suggesting that science must be supplemented by philosophy if the means that science gives us are the be used for worthwhile ends.  Many people today think that philosophy is useless  as compared with science, because it cannot be applied in the production of things or in the control of means. But philosophical knowledge is useful in a quite different and, in my judgement, superior way. Its utility or application is moral  or directive , not technical  or productive.  Where... Science furnishes us  with  means  we can use, philosophy directs us to  ends we should seek. 
          Let me make this point quite clear.. The coduct of human ife and the organization of human society depend on our answers to such questions as what  happiness consists in, what our duties are, what form of government is most just, what contitutes the common gold of society, what freedom men should have, and so on. Not one of these questions, not any question like them which involves right and wrong or good and bad, can be answered by science, now or ever.
         Without the answers of these questions, we are adrift in the world without compass or rudder. As long as our individual bark or the ship of state has little power at its disposal, we may not be in great danger.  But, as you point out, in this atomic age when we move at great speed and with great power, catastrophe threatens us at every turn if we do not know the right turn from the wrong one.
         It is philosophy, not science, that teaches us the difference between right or wrong and direct us to the goods that befit our nature.  Just as the productive utility of Science derive from its accurate description of the way things be have, so the moral utility of philosophy derives from its profound understanding of the ultimate realities that underlie the phenomena which science studies. Each kind of knowledge answers questions that the others cannot answer, and that is why each is useful in a different way.
        In my judgement it is philosophy, not science, which should be uppermost in any culture or civilization, simply because the questions it can answer are more important for human life. Certainly  it should be clear that the more science we possess, the more we need philosophy, because the more power we have, the more we need direction...
greek philosphy and christian theology..
        Let us go back to the beginning of   Christianity.  It was born out of Judaism,  and  in the Hellenistic culture  of the Roman Empire.  It offered a way of salvation and a doctrine of man' s  special relation to God.
        Adherence to the way and the doctrine was essentially an act of faith in divine revelation. But to understand the full meaning of the  Christian Faith  required the formative thinkers of the early church to relate the teachings of revelation to the basic ideas and truths which had been developed by philosophical or scientific inquiry.  Is it any wonder that early Christian thinkers made use of the highly developed Greek learning that was at hand and which they knew intimately.  Indeed, some of them, such as  Justin Martyr  and  Augustine  were oagan philosophers before their conversation to Christianity.
       But, you may aske, wasn' t early Christianity  opposed to paganism and all its works? Didn' t it hold  that Christianity alone possessed  all truth and right?  Wasn' t paganism regarded as untruth and unrighteousness? Wouldn' t a combinaison of  Christian Faith and Greek philosophy have seemed a absurd contradiction to early  Christians ?
      There is no doubt that some of them though precisely that.  Tertullian, one of the most  brilliant apologists of the early Christian  church, says: " What, indeed, has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the ( Platonic ) Academy and the Church?...Away with all attempts to produce a mottled Christianity of Stoic, Platonic, and dialectic composition!.."  Tellurian  speaks for a school of  Christian  though that exists down to the pesent day.
     However, other early Christian thinkers claim pagan culture as the rightful inheritance of  Christianity.  Augustine  compares it to the treasures which the Israelites  appropriated when they departed from  Egypt.  He says that  Greek philosophy contains " liberal  instruction which is better adapted to the use of the truth, and some most excellent precepts of morality; and some truths in regard even to the worship of the One God are found among them "  Augistine' s use of Platonic philosophy to interpret Christian doctrine was a decisive factor in the  Christianization  of pagan thought and culture.
    Thomas Aquina' s contribution came at the time  when the basic works of Aristotle had just been  recovered and made available in Latin.  These works comprise the whole range of the natural sciences and the  philosophical inquiry. Some of the fundamental views advanced by  Aristotle at first appeared to be in sharp conflict with the dogmas of  Christianity; and in many quarters Aristotelianism was denounced  and even officially condemned. But Aquina  insisted that there couldbe no conflict between the truths of  Reason  and the truths of  Faith;  and so heunswervingly undertook to appropriate for  Christianity  all the truth he could find in  Aristotle.
    It is true as you say, that the content of  Greek Thought  and Christian Faith are not the same. The God of  Greek philosophers is not the God of Abraham Issac, and  Jacob, nor the  God of  Gosbels.  The natural theology  of  Plato and  Aristotle does not include anything like the characteristically  Christian doctrines of Creation, providence, and redemption.  Nevertheless, it does contain some basic truths about the nature of being and becoming, the material and the spiritual, the temporal and the eternal, all of which were of profound significance in the development of  Christian thought.
     In making use of these material, the great Crhistian thinkers  do not mimic Plato  and  Aristotle.  Their starting point is always the dogmas of the  Christian Faith, not the principle of  Greek Philosophy.  To know it fully, faith sought understanding; and in so doing, it created something new, Augustine  does not give us Plato plain, but a Christanized Plato for the purpose of illuminating Christian Faith, Aquina  does the same with Aristotle. And  wherever key Chrstian doctrines require it, Augustine  and Aquina flatly reject the teachings of the Greeks

Stone 3

why read the scientific writings of antiquity?...
         When we selected the great writings of the past for inclusion in a set intended to be read by people living in the present day, we were well aware that the ancient scientific classics are defective in the light of modern knowledge.They contain inexact or inadequate observation of facts, and their interpretations of the facts have been replaced by more adequate theories.
        However, you realize, I am sure, that even the findings and theories of the scientists of a hundred years ago are also out - of - date. Should we not read the writings of Darwin, Lavoisier, and  Faraday  because  of the tremendous strides that have been made in biology, chemistry, and physics since their day?
        And you also realize, I hope, that not all of findings or formulations of ancient scientists are false. For instance, the descriptions of disease given us in Hippocrates'  case histories duplicate many of the observations of contemporary medicine.  Archimedes' law of the lever is still the cornestone of the Sciences of Statistics. Ptolemy' s outmoded theorythat the earth is the center of the Universe still has its uses - for instance, in navigation. Newton' s law of mechanicsare being applied in bridge building today.
        The main purpose in selecting the great works of sciences - ancient and modern - was not to finish reliable scientific information.. You are correct in observing that a good history of science could quickly summarize what is still valid in these books. But... the great scientific documents give us somthing different than a history of Science can give us.
        They teach us concretely  and directly  how Scientists attain knowledge . We learn their method of approach at first hand. We read what the great scientists themselves have to say  about discoveries. We see how they got at their facts , how they interpreted  the facts, and how they reached their conclusions. We learn what observation  and experiment  means to scientists, and the role of theory  or hypothesis  in their thought.
     The fact that the early scientific writings are  crude and primitive, as compared with the findings and theories of modern science, does not affect their value in teaching us the fundamentals of science and scientific method. For the nonspecialist, these fundamentals stand out more clearly in the earlier formative writings than they do in the later, more complicated ones.
     The great scientific classics give us a firsthand, intimate knowledge of science thought  that no book about these books can give. They required an active participation in the actual work of the scientific mind which no predigested and prearranged summary demands. The reason we read the great books - of literature, science, or philosophy -  is to deepen and broaden our intelligence or imagination, not to asquire up - to - date information.
     The men who selected these works for modern readers were convinced that science, as well as philosophy and literature, cultivates the human mind. No collection which left out the scientific classics would do justice to Western Culture. The judgement  was made long before  Sputnik and has nothing to do with the cold war or the educationanl nostrums proposed for accelerating  our technical proficiency.

Stone 6

the meaning of history...
        We seek various kinds of significance in the stody of  history. In the first place, we find meaning and value in historical knowledge for its own shake. Having an ordered and accurate picture  of the past satisfies our desire for objective knowledge and our need for solidarity and contact  with former generations. It is good not to be restricted to the present moment; our lives are enriched by having a sense of the past.
          The great historians have been motivated by this desire to record or recover the past. Thycydides, tells the history of the war   in which he himself had participated, and Gibbon recreated the fall and decline of an ancient empire . They and other fine historians try to put into a meaningful pattern the material they relate. They do not give us a mess of unrelated particular facts. Through their thoughful selection and significant arrangement of past events, they enable us to find  some meaning on the level of mere  historical description.
          But historians and their readers have sought another  and more pratical type of meaning of history.  Herodotus  seeks to commemorate glorious deeds;  Tacitus  wants the perpetuate  conspicious instances of  virtue  and   vice;  Polybius points to the alternation of  triumph  and  disaster  as a warning  against  pride. Many people seek moral edification from history and claim to find more lessons  in the annals of the past.  Plutarch' s  biographies of illustrations Greeks  and  Romans  belong to this type of historical edification.
         Still another type of meaning is sought in the basic pattern of the historical process as a whole. There are two different answers to this quest for  historical meaning.
         According to the first answer, history  moves in recurent cycles,  States and societies move through Stages  of birth growth, decline, and death, and then the cycle starts all over again. This cyclical view was dominant in accident, Greek and  Roman though about  history. The ancient historians were sure we could profit from the study of history because history repeats itself. Certain modern philosophers of historty, such as  Vico, Spengler, and Toynbee, have resuscitated this ancient notion as an essential element in their theories.
         According the second answer, history  moves continuously  toward a goal or fulfillment. The pattern of historical change is  progressive, not cyclical. This is the Biblical, or  Christian, conception of historyand it was first propounded in systematic form by St Augustine in The City of God.In his view, human history proceeds under the guidance of divine providence toward the Kingdom of God  at the end of time and beyond history.
       Some religious leaders and groups have interpreted the Bible would come in time and on earth. In modern times this religiousview has been translated into secular terms. The German philosopher Hegel sees history as progressively achieving its ultimate goal, epoch after epoch, culminating in the German - Christan  worldof his own day. His student Karl Marx sees the goaland terminus of human history in a classless society of perfect freedom and equality, to be attained after a series ofclass struggles, imperialist wars, and bloody revolutions.
      Most profesional historians and philosophers would agree that the meaning of history cannot be fully discovered in history itself - in the objective rercord of past events. What we think about history depends on our basic view of the nature and destiny of man, and on our conception of man' s relation to  God, and of the causes at work in the human world as a whole.
                                                         ( continued )
                                        up - to - date

                                             March 29 2010 ...The nature of a profession ( the world of the man )