Sunday, December 7, 2008
A few of my favorite readings:
The Dalai Lama's argument for "Interreligious Harmony" - it seemed to me he was able to eloquently craft a response to both pluralism and exclusivism.
John Hick's "Soul-Making Theodicy" - I thought the concept of a type of moral evolution was interesting, considering modern religion's aversion to even the word "evolution."
C. Wade Savage's explanation of the "Paradox of the Stone" - this was probably my favorite discussion in class because I was able to walk away with an "answer" to the paradox, which left me feeling quite philosophically smug.
So, what would your re-cap sound like?
Friday, November 28, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
This is important because ultimately all religion comes down to a spiritual experience of some kind. Christians take the Bible as their authority, but what gives it its authority? The revelations given to the prophets and other authors, and later Paul's vision of Jesus are all varieties of revelation, as is the recitation of the Qur'an to Muhammed. Even the canonization process ultimately goes back to asking what authority the compilers of the Bible had to do so, which is connected to apostolic succession and their own religious experiences. What makes one legitimate and not the other, and how do you know? We can't say that all religious experiences are equally legitimate because obviously some are mutually exclusive. So we must have a way to distinguish what is real from what isn't. There seems to be no way to do this besides one's own personal conviction in the strength of their experience, but anyone from any other faith has the same argument and equal convictions of their own.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
First, our morals make us do things that are not at all evolutionarily beneficial. There is nothing beneficial to feeding the poor, or rescuing abused animals. I think that any argument we make for the existence of God must also fit in with our understanding of the evolution process. Reasoning makes more sense in this context, as it has allowed us to grow and adapt as a species. Second, many of us showed support for in our discussion, morality is not one single idea, it is not objective. Morality is a very subjective concept. We can see this in slavery. A thousand years it was widely practiced and generally viewed as acceptable. Nowadays it is virtually banned across the globe, and the majority of humans would agree it is wrong. This shows that morality is contextualized. In contrast, reason is a singular concept. While the conclusions we draw through reasoning can be different, the way it is practiced is not. Since that is a vague way to say it, I compare it to this. 2 painters will use the same brushes and same paint, and end with a very different piece, but the fact that they both "painted" is the idea I'm trying to explain.
My point of all this is, wouldn't it seem like a better argument to use reason instead of morality as evidence of God?
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Well, so that's that. I don't want to talk about morality. I want to go back to Free Will, but I want to leave the Physics and leave the Naturalist approach to the discussion. Free Will - The idea that you can choose freely what you will or will not do (more or less, work with me). Physics - all those mathematical equations that work out to numbers that actually apply to the way material things work; a governing factor in the way things are, one might say. Naturalism - supports the idea that science is applicable to philosophy in a methodological way. This leads the way for evolution to find its place in the discussion of "why things work the way they do" when it comes to the actions we take.
And after all of that convoluted nonsense, I get to my point. In a universe that's either governed by the laws of God or the laws of physics (which would be responsible for evolution), where does Free Will find itself?
And in case I'm just as horribly bad at making a clear point as I'm sure I think I am, I have this to offer: a scene from the movie Waking Life (which I highly recommend seeing). I am referring to the monologue by David Sosa, Professor of Philosophy at UTexas at Austin (starts at the parenthesis, goes til the three asterisks). Dr. Sosa posits the idea of Free Will in a phyiscal world much more eloquently than I, however it is just that, merely posited. I am curious to hear your thoughts, or to merely stir them.
For some time now I have been troubled by the secondary (high school) and elementary public school systems here in
Though there are quite a few areas I could point out that need “reworking” in the Public School System in order to give students the best possible education to prepare them for living and working in the 21st century, in this blog I will only investigate and raise questions about one area of the “ideal” curriculum: should religion/culture studies be added to the curriculum of Primary and Secondary education?
I believe that there should be additions to the curriculum of elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools that require students to take a certain amount of hours in Religion/Sociology/Philosophy to prepare them (as much as possible) for the effluvium of peoples, cultures, and ideas that they are likely to encounter in the interconnected world of the 21st century and to teach them how to think openly about said world.
From my research I have found that the majority of the Public Schools previously mentioned, do not offer or require these types of classes.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
This makes sense, given that we agreed in class that God easily has power over biological and physical phenomena. Since gravity is nothing more than physics, it follows that God can manipulate gravity, thus making anything liftable without compromising the integrity of his omnipotence. While I admit this is not the most ground breaking revelation to the argument, it did provide a little extra illumination for me, so I thought I'd share it.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
In order to fit our best interests of free will and punishment would we not have to surrender the idea that God knows everything? You can still grant this being with the ability to know much of what will happen in the universe, but if God does not know exactly when you will ask for forgiveness, or even if that is what you will do, it then allows him to act on your actions. There is a problem with this line of thought as well, because it would have to be determined how much God could and could not know to be able to make just decisions about our lives. For example if he knew everything except weather or not you were going to use SPF 30 or 29 on Augusts 27, 2010 at 12:00, it seems he knows to much about what will happen in your life to grant you freewill. The solution to this problem would be to put God on Jeopardy and find out how much he knows... I'm kidding of course.
Another argument seems to be that if God is truly and completely compassionate and forgiving one would not have to ask for forgiveness, but I will let the responders to this blog post fight that one out.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Sunday, September 21, 2008
The above article is written by author Sam Harris ("The End of Faith", "Letter to a Christian Nation") about the underlying issues within the political arena that have been brought to light by the candidacy of Sarah Palin for Vice President. Putting aside the elements of being a Republican or Democrat (which I admit is difficult given what each party brings to the conversation), the article raised a few questions for me.
Does political elitism equate snobbery? It would not be looked upon negatively to expect our soldiers, doctors, athletes, or pilots to be elite (as Harris points out). But when it comes to the political field, elitism carries the element of snobbery to it. Being knowledgeable about the world; its policies and practices, seeing power and desiring to be the best all of a sudden is looked down upon. I see elements of Nietzsche's master and slave moralities here-we want people to lead that are like us, we want to see compassion, pity, etc.
From our reading on Durkheim, morals cannot be divorced from religion. Is it possible then to have a democracy that is neutral on religion but has moral principles? Or are we forced to have the religion card played time and again? Whose religious morals do we follow or are they the same? I sense pluralism around the corner with this argument. There is talk of wanting God back in the government/classroom (at least there was in the environment I was brought up it) but whose God or view of God?
Sunday, September 14, 2008
This past wednesday night, one of my bestfriends/roomate's brother passed away in a car accident. I was woken up thursday morning by his aunt who wanted to get into our apartment to break the news to him. After about an hour or so, he packed up and went with her to Greensboro to be with his family. Needless to say, it was a rough morning.
Thursday night, my roomates and I drove to Greensboro to spend time with our roomate and his family. When we arrived we were welcomed by everyone as if we were part of the family.
This past weekend was filled with tears, laughter and recollections of past memories of my roomate and his brother. It's weird though... in the midst of the tragedy and sadness, I got to see the goodness in people really come out
Friends that had long slipped through the radar suddenly popped back up and came to my roomates side to love him and do whatever they could to help. Flowers were sent in, phone calls were made to encourage and uplift the family, and today at 3pm, almost 1,000 people showed up to share in the celebration of his brothers life and to be there for my roomate and his family.
I personally saw so many people come forth to offer support and love to his family. I think it's cool to see how emotionally trying times can bring the best out of people.
I think this ultimately points to the question of whether people are inherently good or bad. I know that Christianty points to the fact that man is naturally fallen, but i think this viewpoint still expresses the idea that God can still work through the fallen and all the depravity.
I think this weekend i learned that people do want to do good. They want to help, they want to love, and they want to share in life with one another. Sometimes it takes tragedy to remind us that we aren't the center of the universe and escape our pride and self-centeredness.
I dont know how relative this is to the direction the class is facing right now, but to me this was the most important and relative thing of the weekend. I guess it's just something i was thinking about
Thursday, September 11, 2008
One of the most famous instances of this form of critique killing a philosophical position involves the Verification Theory of Meaning. Roughly, the VTM is
If a sentence can’t be proven true or false through empirical observation or by definition of its terms, it is meaningless.But of course the VTM itself can’t be proven true or false through empirical observation or by definition of its terms. By its own standards, it’s meaningless. That tells us that this is not a good theory of meaning. (Logically: if P implies not-P, then not-P.) It does not tell us what a good theory would be.
Epistemological skepticism is a ripe field for this kind of argument. The (naïve) skeptic says,
No one has any knowledgeand then immediately has to answer the sly question, How do you know?
Or the skeptic may say
All human thought is weak, biased, and ultimately unprovable; therefore no inferences are sound.So I guess that one isn’t sound either? Some skepticism amounts to declarations like
I have an excellent argument that no arguments are excellent! Orwhich is hard to take seriously. Such observations tell us that these skeptical positions aren’t correct. But they get us no closer to actually having any particular knowledge.
My philosophical view is that no philosophical views should be taken seriously
Hard-core historicism has a similar problem. The hard-core historicist tells us
All philosophical positions are purely products of their time and circumstances,and therefore none has a greater claim on truth than any other.But since the HCH includes himself here, his views have no special claim on truth, and we ought not pay him any more attention than we do some long-forgotten two-bit sage. You can get the same effect in logic:
Every generalization has exceptions.Each of these defeats itself. Richard Rorty is famous for his remark,
No sentence of seven words is true.
All dogmatic assertions should be rejected.
Truth is what your peers will let you get away with sayingbut his peers did not let him get away with saying this.
Morality offers similar pitfalls, often where skepticism or relativism are concerned. Suppose a cultural relativist offers
Moral principles are only valid for cultures that endorse them.What is the status of this principle outside a relativist culture? Is the relativist trying to make an (inconsistently) absolute claim, one that applies everywhere? Or are they simply trying to legislate for their own culture, and everyone else has genuinely absolute principles (which, being absolute, also apply to the relativist)? Neither option is attractive. Consider also
Moral principles are never absolute.Except this one?
No one has the right to say what morality is for everyone.
Except you, Mr. Speaker?
There is no truth about morality
Other than that? And
Everyone has their own opinion about morality, so you can’t trust anyone’s moral reasoningis an inference that defeats itself, again. We can be sure that these are not truths. We have no way of proceeding from this observation, however, to any positive, substantive moral views.
There are subtler ways to look for self-defeat, too. The empiricist slogan
All knowledge comes from the sensesis unlikely to be justified by appeal to sense experience. You do not look around and observe trees, houses, and knowledge. Foucault used to say things like
Truth-claims are attempts to exercise social powerand this leads you to wonder how to read Foucault’s books. Cautiously, I guess. Hume (and Nagarjuna!) argued that
There is no stable, persisting self.Sez who? Likewise for
Language never captures reality, andIn fairness, Nagarjuna seems clear that even these doctrines will have to be relinquished. They are “true” in the Buddhist sense that they assist in enlightenment, not in the sense that they capture an unfalsified reality. (One wonders what to think, though, about “these doctrines assist in enlightenment.”)
Conceptual thought always falsifies.
Now with all that background, I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to go back over Keller’s rendition of the religious pluralist’s views:
The content of religious doctrines does not matterand see if they are self-defeating, in obvious or subtle ways. Comments welcome.
Each religion sees part of spiritual truth, but none sees the whole
Religious belief is too culturally conditioned to be ‘truth’
It is arrogant to insist that your religion is right and to convert others to it
It is ethnocentric to believe that our religious views are superior to others
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
"It is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human beings should spend their time doing"
What the author leaves out is that religions are based on faith, and not reason. The context in which he gives this definition, (in order to refute secularists), seems to imply that he left that part of religion out on purpose, in order to make a point. If religion were what he defined it as, religion would include all ideas. There are, though, incredibly important differences between religion, and philosophy and science.
Religions are interpretations of the world based on the religion's unchanging premise, that is believed because of faith. The bible, for example can be interpreted in different ways for different denominations, but a religious christian would not question the basic premise: that the bible is true.
Philosophy does not have these basic assumptions. This is mostly true of science too. Ideas in philosophy are proven to the very end. Ideas that are refuted rationally are rejected (or modified), and not interpreted into a fixed premise. The entire idea of philosophy is to actually know things, and not blindly believe anything.
It seems, for the author, abstract ideas are unknowable, and therefore can only be thought about through faith. This, of course, is an abstract concept that he seems to "know" to be true.
Secularists and athietsts do have dogmatic beliefs, as do all people, but dogmatic beliefs are not the only kind of ideas. The author gives the example of a secularist who was questioned about why she thinks human rights exist, until she admitted she couldn't think of why she believed this. The author concludes that because she cannot think of a rational reason why she believes in human rights, there is no objective reason to believe human rights exist. He fails to see the terrible logical leap he made. Human rights can't be proven by rationality, because this one woman failed to prove her beliefs? She simply didn't know the reason behind human rights. She instead believed in human rights blindly.
This is the difference between belief and knowledge. This woman in the example believed human rights existed, but did not know it. It might as well have been a religious belief. This in no way means there isn't a rational objective reason for this idea this woman happens to believe in. She may be wrong objectivly, or right objectivly, but that's not what was being argued. Her dogmatic beliefs were.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Please visit this site and watch this 90 second clip covering the history of Religion. There are many questions that could be raised from this, feel free to offer your own, but I will offer only a few.
Why have Christianity and Islam seen such widespread propagation when they have only been around 2000 years compared to Hinduism's 5000 year history?
What are so enticing about their "spectacles?"
Saturday, September 6, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
My friend is a Roman Catholic and I have a basic knowledge of the religion myself. I asked the question, "Say you are married for several years and your spouse sadly passes away. At the appropriate time you decide to move on and remarry. You realize there is no religious problem with this, after all it is till death do us part. Now at the end of your lives all three of you meet in heaven, who do you spend time with?" This question is actually the small problem, what my friend proposes raises a much larger one.
The response was this, "You stay with your first spouse". Personally I was taken back by the confidence of the answer and the lack of time it took to come up with. Of course I asked "Well wouldn't that bother the second spouse and after all this is heaven were talking about, I didn't think that you were supposed to be heart broken in heaven." Again I was taken back by the response, "God would just make it so you would be happy."
To me this proposed some problems. One, do YOU truly go to heaven or does a new "Godly adjusted form" of you reside there? Two, if this is the case what is the point of not committing sin on earth if God is just going to do what he wants with you in heaven anyway? Third, if you are not changed and your feelings remain relatively the same, can there be sadness in heaven? Fourth, if there can be sadness in heaven does that change the way we need to view heaven?
On "A Brief Overview of the world's major religions" under Christianity we find the goal to be "Salvation is through acceptance of Christ and entails life with God in this world and the next." Nothing is stated here about spouses, sadness, or happiness and what in fact happens to "you" when you are with God. (P.S. I do understand that this is from "A Brief Overview of the world's major religions")
I have thought about these questions for several weeks now and have formed some of my own opinions, but before sharing them I would like to leave this post clear of any personal views so as to leave it open ended for my peers.
Friday, August 22, 2008
To start off with, one must first engage in the study of the philosophy of lanugage, more specifically, the philosophy of its usage by the theologians and Hellenized Christians of the early Church. In their worldview, which is heavily influenced by neo-Platonism each existing animal, object, thing or person including man has their own substance or essence (usia) and from this essence is derived life or existence. The usia, which is invisible, is what the object is in itself, in its innermost being, apart from being perceived. Each usia has a distinct nature, (physis), i.e., the totality of qualities, features, attributes, and peculiarities (both positive and negative) which give it its individual stamp or character. every nature is founded upon its own usia; there is not nature without an usia; and usia without a nature. Thus usia and nature are correlative terms, each of which implies and requires the other. But neither the usia nor the nature is fully present effective without a third equally indispensable element, the prosopon. None of the three can be separated from the other two, nor can the usia and the nature be recognized externally apart from the prosopon which reveals them. No ordinary entity or individual being has more than one each of these three components, nor does any one of the three have more than one each of the other two.
Nestorius stressed the Christological point that God the Word and the human nature of Christ were never mixed. These two were "alien to one another." (as per Nestorius's Bazaar of Heracleides) In the same breathe, he further explained that these two things, the manhood (usia) of Jesus and the usia of God, were joined together in the prosopon (one prosopon of both natures). These concepts are presented in the most explicit terms. Nestorius describes that the union of the two natures are in the one prosopon of Jesus Christ, and denies that it should be described as a union of prosopa. He maintains through out the discussion a firm belief in the God-Man which is a union of the divine Logos and the separate individual man Jesus from the moment of conception.
It is crucial that we understand the concept of prosopon as Nestorius presented it. Prosopon was understood in two senses. The first sense is a more general one. It may be called the external appearance of a thing which has substantive reality and distinct qualities. Prosopon in this sense is another aspect of physis or usia. The second sense which he understood prosopon was in the same way we understand the word "person." When we think of a name we think of a person. When we think of the name Jesus Christ or Joshua the Messiah (Yeshua ha Meshiach) we think of a person. In ordinary usage we do not separate a name from a person. After we have understood these two senses of the term prosopon Nestorius introduces a unifying factor between God the Logos and that person who the disciples saw. He uses a Latin term - communicatio idiomatum - which simply means a transfer of attributes. So God the Logos (understood in the first sense of divine nature) became the prosopon of Jesus Christ's human nature.
Thus is the sum of my research so far and I hope to continue my thoughts and research upon the topic and be able to represent at least a reasonable theory as to how human and divine natures may be combined into the person of Christ.