What, When, Where but Mostly…Why?
In 2015 my series for Easter centered around philosophy. This is a reposting of one of those posts. I continue to be amazed at the people who feel philosophy and religion having nothing in common. Then again, I am amazed at those who think spirituality and religion are polar opposites. I received this question during that 2015 series and it is one that has been repeated throughout the past four years: “I would describe this blog as a collection of different ways to think about theology so, as a believer yourself, what does philosophy have to do with theology?
In that first posting I wrote “What we think is based upon what we know.” Today, four years wiser (hopefully!), I would “what we believe or hope to become true.” 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 think this blog is a study of sorts of our history. So, to me, discussing philosophy is something I do in one form or another every day in this blog.
As you know I divide these articles into series and, for organizational purposes, I divide the series based upon the Christian church calendar of the Episcopal Church. Before making that decision, I studied various calendars. After all, a calendar is merely an organizational tool, a way to divide the days in a year. A year is a broader tool for organizing our lives, decades for organizing years, centuries for keeping track of decades, etc. By using such organizational tools, I know when to write about certain things, the perspective to use in my approach and also how to locate what I have already written or learned, of remembering when I not only wrote about something but learned something.
Such an organizational tool has been utilized for centuries by mankind. It is the reason we have different divisions of study such as theology and philosophy. Theology was one way of answering the question “Where did we come from?” Before long, in mankind’s quest to determine the meaning of life which is metaphysics, branches of philosophy led to questioning the nature of gained knowledge, the study of which is called epistemology.
Epistemology asked questions much like the reader mentioned earlier. 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”.
Logic or the study in an abstract form of the principles of reasoning was introduced and used to deduce and induce. Deduction assumed certain truths without justification and then draws conclusions based upon those generally accepted premises. Induction arrived at conclusions based upon certain premises and then employed hypotheses that could be proven after speculation.
Ethics came into being, that field of philosophy concerned with human actions, intent, and responsibilities. Ethics involved not just knowledge but deciding what was right and what was wrong. Amidst all the great philosophers is one man who is seldom thought of by the general populous as a philosopher. That man’s name is Jesus of Nazareth.
Many people study 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 and the man known as Jesus of Nazareth explained mankind’s relationship with life.
In discussing last year the various types and sects of spirituality and religion, 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. I don’t think one can 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.
I know a great many people in various religions and I don’t think I know just one person in any one religion or belief system. I make that statement not because these people are confused about what they believe. Most are adamant about what they believe. I make such a statement because of the overlapping of beliefs that exist in various religions. For example, most people in being generous and charitable to those in need. Yet, none of those people all believe exactly the same thing in exactly the same way. Our beliefs are as individual as we are and I don’t think that is necessarily wrong.
Where we do go wrong 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. Philosophy reminds us to think, to question. I hope that through this blog I encourage you to live.