What we think is based upon what we know. So first one has to establish what it is that we think we know. Hegel once defined or described philosophy as “the study of its own history”. I might define it as the “Why?” that follow the “What?” once the “What?” is answered.
Theology has been, throughout time, one way of answering the question “Where did we come from?” In answering that, the study of the meaning of life, also known as metaphysics arose. That led to questioning the nature of gained knowledge, the study of which is called epistemology.
Epistemology asks questions. How is knowledge justified? What are the sources of knowledge? How do we know what we know? Rationalism believed that pure reason was the most reliable source of knowledge while empiricism maintained that experience was. Skepticism purported doubts about various states of knowledge based upon external world skepticism (How can there be a world outside our own minds?) and what is called “other minds skepticism” (We have no proof of other minds other than our own.). It also led to solipsism which stated “Only I exist”.
Our living becomes quite ordinary in solipsism because while it may seem like it would boost one’s focus and lead to greater things, it really limits us. The person who only thinks of themselves is limiting their world. The one who believes the world revolves around him has made him or herself the center of everything. They fail to fully understand their place in a very large world with many other beings.
Logic and philosophy became elements of our living as did a multitude of philosophers and theologians. IN addition to the theological texts and the great many who interpreted them, people studied Plato and Socrates, Aristotle and Descartes, Fichte and Schelling…. The list is plentiful. These philosophers agreed and then disagreed with each other, though since they occupied different periods in history, not unilaterally. All sought to explain life while the religions and spiritualities of the world explained mankind’s relationship with life.
Two years ago this blog delved into various religions and spiritualities. In discussing these, we found certain common truths. The rule for living one with another often called the Golden Rule is found in eastern spiritualties as well as the Old and New Testaments. It is difficult to have any discussions about theology that do not include philosophy. The” Why?” that religion seeks to answer is part of the greater “Why?” that philosophy seeks to determine.
Where we do go wrong, how we limit our world and our potential is when we believe a form of solipsism that says not “Only I exist” but rather “Only my thinking can exist”. We cannot seek respect and then fail to respect others. We cannot believe only one group or gender deserves life, education, or basic human rights. Man is a varied animals with different colors of mane, eyes, skin; different shapes of eyes; different lengths of body, noses, arms and legs. What we look like is about as important to our classification and right to live as the various colors of a rose. The hues of a rose are beautiful and interesting but they do not change the fact that it is a rose.
We must reach out to others as we seek to discover “Why?” Our lives should include helping others because then we truly help ourselves and answer not only the “What?” but also the “Who?” and the “Why?” Once we realize we are all in this thing called life together and need each other, the future is not only limitless, it becomes extraordinary.