Religion and the Art of Living

28 January 2016

Religion offers us a comforting and inspiring vision of human existence.  In the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Islam and Christiantiy, a just but  loving and merciful God created the universe. He’s in charge. And he’s got a plan -- not just for the universe as a whole, but for each of us.  Seems like it would be nice to wake up in the morning as a part of all that.
 
According to Kierkegaard, rejecting it leads to a pretty dismal existence.  He says “if there were no eternal consciousness in man, if at the foundation of all there lay only [nature] a wildly seething power which . . .  produces everything that is great and [everything] that is insignificant, what then would life be but despair? How empty then and comfortless life would be!”   
 
The problem for many folks is that Religious belief strikes us as irrational.  There is no reason to think the main tenets are true.  Neither the traditional cosmological arguments, nor the Design Arguments, and especially not the ontological argument, seem to provide convincing reasons for belief, whereas the Problem of Evil is a compelling bit of negative evidence.  Are such non-believers really condemned to a empty and comfortless life?  What good is the truth if it leaves you depressed and debilitated?
 
Many people remain religious, while rejecting as mythical many parts of the teachings of the Bible.  You don't have to believe that God literally created the world in 7 days to be a believer.  Most people  start with whatever religion they grow up in, or find most appealing for some other reason, take out the stuff they find implausible, and leave in the rest.  I see no reason such tailor-made religions can't be comforting.  But the problem comes when you find that even the most basic tenets strike you as implausible.  It's easy in the academy to find the resources to set aside the mythology, bad history, and pseudoscience.  Then one can go to one of the up-to-date theodicies available from modern religious analytical philosophers to deal with the problem of Evil
 
But what you are left with strikes many of us as mainly tortured theology or murky metaphysics or both.  Not much comfort in that.
 
Maybe we need to go back to Kierkegaard, forget our reason, and take the Leap of Faith.   Let our wills take us where our reason won’t go.  What motivates the Leap is the conviction that one's only hope for eternal bliss lies in being a believer.  Even if, rationally speaking, that odds are extremely small, still it is the only hope.  So become a believer.  Take the Leap.  Pascal's strategy is different, but similar.  You don't leap, you slide.  You pretend until it becomes a habit indistinguishable from belief (or something along those lines).  The idea is that if you figure out the odds, taking the slide is rational.  
 
It's not entirely clear that such willed belief is possible for everyone.  But there seems to me to be a worse problem.  To suppose that, however slim the odds of its truth are, belief in God is the best bet for eternal happiness seems to require that you already know a lot about God, or at least about what God would be like if there were one.  But maybe, for all I know, God is, or would be, extremely shy.  He may punish believers and reward those who ignore him.  Of course that's not what the scriptures and the theologians tell us.  But for me it takes a Leap to suppose that what they tell us is correct, and so have any reason to take Kierkegaard's Leap or Pascal's Slide into belief.
 
But, come to think of it, maybe we should just pretend.   Think about numbers.  Some philosophers believe that numbers aren’t really real.  But that doesn’t stop them from doing math. Why not do the same with religion?  Reject the metaphysics, but accept the practice.  If you find that being part of a religious community, partaking in worship, prayer, fellowship, and the like makes your life less empty and more meaningful, why not just pretend?
 
The philosopher we'll talk to, Howard Wettstein, adopts an approach that is sort of like that, but importantly different.  The pretence strategy accepts that belief is the basic attitude needed to be religious, and pretence may be the closest to it we can get.  Wettstein, arguing on historical,  philosophical, aesthetic and psychological grounds, thinks that religion is basically rooted in awe, not in belief.  You don't need to pretend.  You need to practice.  His attitude towards the scriptures and talk of God is that it is a way of interpreting, sharing and chanelling awe.   This is compatible with a sort of non-literal belief, and available to those with a completely naturalistic metaphysic.  Wettstein is Jewish, but he draws on the thinking of the (sort of) Catholic philosopher Santayanna, as well as centuries of Talmudic thinking and poetry from many sources.  We'll talk to him about his views, as developed in his recent book, THE SIGNIFICANCE OF RELIGIOUS BELIEF.

Comments (26)


Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, April 26, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

Quote(admittedly, out of

Quote(admittedly, out of context): "The idea is if you figure out the odds, taking the slide is rational." Sounds like some notion of N.N. Taleb, in his discourse on Antifragile. He did not SAY as much, and I won't try to tell you what antifragile is, but, Mr. Taleb has a message for anyone seeking a different take on how things work. My own skepticism shies me away from ANY volume purporting to explain the significance of religious belief. If it has not been done before(?), why would we believe it now? Good luck to Mr. Wettstein on his publication,
love to Laura; wives, kids, cats, dogs and '67 Camaros...
Neuman.

Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, April 27, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

Haven't seen a comment on

Haven't seen a comment on this post yet. I suppose it is still early, and we all have other important matters to attend to. I'll offer a few thoughts and observations. For a time, when I was younger, I pretended to believe in religion, wishing to please my Baptist father-and a mother who I later learned was more pragmatist than Baptist.
Pretense, even with the best of intentions, is falsification---well intended lies are still, well, lies. If your guest's notion of awe vs. belief as the root of religion is in any measure accurate, we gain insight into what I see as a degradation of the stature of religion in the modern world. Personally, I have no objection to faith, or, more popularly, belief. It makes people more comfortable, even resilient in the face of adversity. Sadly, though, religion is corruptible and history has proven this over hundreds of years.
Finally, I would offer a comparison/contrast of the terms awe and belief, when used in the context of religion.
I'll borrow N.N. Taleb's term, antifragile, and its diametric, fragile, to illustrate. Awe is a temporal state, subject to fluctuations and perturbations. It is, in Taleb's world, fragile---and does not "gain from disorder." Belief transcends time and circumstance; grows stronger in the face of adversity and is, therefore, antifragile.
I might read Mr. Wettstein's book. I try to keep an open mind.

Guest's picture

Guest

Sunday, April 28, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

There has not been any

There has not been any comment on this post. I wonder why that is. Oh well, I'll go to your next topic. Morality is always an issue---whether anyone takes it seriously---or not.

MJA's picture

MJA

Friday, May 17, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

I'm not a believer

I'm not a believer
Just a truest
And God is simply One.
=

Guest's picture

Guest

Saturday, May 18, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

I enjoyed the show very much,

I enjoyed the show very much, but there was one part toward the end that I found really annoying, when Wettstein was being challenged regarding the nature of God by pointing out the terrible behavior of the Old Testament Jehovah, especially in regards to God's demands that the invading Hebrews commit genocide in Palestine. I mean come on, it is impossible to have an intelligent conversation about Abrahamic religions without taking into account that a large part of the Old Testament books are political in nature and their purpose is nationalist propaganda. That does not mean there is nothing of actual spiritual value in said books, but a critical mind has to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff ( and yes, of course there would be great debate in what qualifies as what). The fact that organized religion has always been intertwined with politics - from long before the ancient Hebrews were sacrificing goats to the present day - should just be a given when discussing religion.
Pointing out that Jehovah ordered the massacring of infants is a useful point when talking with fundamentalists who really do believe their religious text is a literal document, but isn't really relevant in any discussion about spiritual truth more advanced than that - except as an example of people using religion to justify atrocities. I was kind of surprised that Wettstein, who pointed out early on that the bible is full of metaphors and parables and not literal tellings of factual events, didn't discuss this when defending his position.

mirugai's picture

mirugai

Saturday, May 18, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

DOES GOD EXIST (2)

DOES GOD EXIST (2)
Awhile back, in a post on this blog, Aaron asked the question: Why do religious people go through such mental gyrations to try to prove God exists, and all they come up with is nonsensical gibberish?
When I tried to answer him, because I think it is an excellent question, he accused me of being both wrong, and incomprehensible. Now, wrong I am always willing to be because that means someone is going to challenge me, and that is one way, through dialog, that I can learn something. But I do not want to be ?incomprehensible.? Today?s show, plus my previous post, gives me another chance to be understood.
In that previous post, I gave the reasons why people need religion: to have an object for their love, and for confirmation of what they believe is right and good. References for these purposes are made to a consciousness outside their own (hard to do), but people do it through various practices and exercises, like prayer, for instance. And by joining communities that exercise and practice, providing further confirmation by the group.
I call this kind of belief something like (or exactly like) instinct, and use as evidence that it is, the overwhelming percentage of humans (99.9%?) that believe in some form of continuation of consciousness after death. Which, in terms of confirmation, is the most confirming thing anyone could ask for. (?Whosoever believeth in me, shall have eternal life.?)
As the guest wonderfully pointed out, the impact of Greek philosophy on OT religion during a time of the success of all things Greek, exposed OT mystery (what Aaron saw as nonsensical gibberish) to logic and rationality. For example, epistemology is the study of ?knowledge and justified belief.? That is, there is some belief which while it cannot withstand the rigor required of ?knowledge,? because it can somehow be ?justified,? it is worth studying along with ?knowledge.?
How might some belief be justified? Maybe if 99.9% of humans believe it? Or if Aaron?s ?mental gyrations? are so extreme and yet so pervasive that something like Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was built to somehow give it substantive representation, et.al.
Now I have railed on and on against the place of science in philosophical discourse. When one asks ?Does God exist?,? the scientific answer is ?no,? for all kinds of reasons. But can God (or whatever you want to call it) exist apart from scientific proof? That depends on what you mean by ?exist.? But in philosophy, thought (which has no scientific basis) exists; it is the subject of rational philosophical inquiry. Like I said above, religious practice is a function of human consciousness, just as God is a feature of human consciousness (human consciousness which is striving to reach out to a consciousness beyond itself).
To the philosopher (not the scientist), belief exists, and is worthy of investigation; and belief is by definition non- or anti-scientific. Aaron is bugged not so much by ?belief? (I?m sure there are lots of non-scientific things he ?believes? in, like luck, or the rightness of his home team, or ?hot streaks,? or maybe even justice, or love, or certain moral principals, not to mention the whole world of metaphor!) What he is unhappy with is not ?belief,? but the millions of kinds of ?practices? which humans think their beliefs justify, many of which are bad. But many are good, too.

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, May 20, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

I picked up the show towards

I picked up the show towards the end...I'll have to go back and listen to it again. From what I did hear it was a great program. I especially loved the description of god as having an attitude problem. Petulant, jealous etc....I thought there were some really nice turns of phrase there.
I recently heard of a documentary film in the works about a Preacher in Louisiana who became an Atheist in a deeply religious community and lost nearly everything of value in his life due to his lack of belief in God. You've probably already covered Atheism on this program. But it would be great to discuss if we have a right to religion, do we also have a right to be free from religion?

Guest's picture

Guest

Wednesday, May 29, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

(Many people remain religious

(Many people remain religious, while rejecting as mythical many parts of the teachings of the Bible)
The Bible is a prehistoric life guide we live in modern time. Which is why it must be a new life guide more logical and straight forward. The mythical part is symbolic. Some people become Christian to save their souls they don't care to look for a hidden meanings. If you want to see if a religion person has learned anything. Simply ask them what do they live for. If they answer isn't in the lines of "In the benefit of everyone" then they have merely adapted to the society around them or lack significant intelligent to truly understand what they're reading.
(What then would life be but despair? How empty then and comfortless life would be!?)
This person clearly doesn't understand their own existence. A person without religion life would be solely logical. Human beings purpose is to survive like any other animal but we survive in groups. I would go on but this person has so much to learn as do I but I was young when I finally understood my own existence. After taking a second look at what he/she wrote all i see is ignorance and closed mindedness and a person lacking any insight on other people and him/her self
I'll advise you and others here to question your thoughts and see what you unlock

Guest's picture

Guest

Thursday, June 6, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

Good point, Sarina. You have

Good point, Sarina. You have captured the essence of an old argument, springing from the roots of the US Constitution. And, yes, freedom of religion is equal to freedom from religion. Seems to me there is case law related to this issue. Did anyone notice the comments from April that were published, relative to this May post?
I suppose relativity is relative. Al said that. I miss his wry humor and our occasional disagreements about reality.
Fondly,
W.

Guest's picture

Guest

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 -- 5:00 PM

I agree, religion is

I agree, religion is corruptible and history has proven this over hundreds of years.
All the best Mandywww.lookfilter.com

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, January 28, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

It will be interesting to see

It will be interesting to see what different comments appear here, if any, since the 2013 remarks on this topic. As we all are aware, Pascal made his wager regarding belief vs. non-belief in God. And, if we assume the existence of God, and that God is all-knowing, all-seeing, etc., we might therefore consider that God might not have been all too happy with Pascal.I think something was said about that contingency in another perhaps earlier post on Philosophy Talk. In any case, God clearly means different things to different people. Fanatics of one theological stripe may gleefully kill in the name of God  or in defense of the honor of their Prophet. For others, invocation of  personal faith is useful in securing endorsements when running for public office or persuading detractors that, contrary to the public image usually projected, a candidate is really a good, God-fearing person who has the best interests of his/her fellows and country at heart. There are countless other examples we could highlight and examine, but at bottom, if God is truly watching or even cares, it would have to seem pretty disingenuous of all of them. Pascal's wager, though a trifle insulting to the Deity, begins to pale by comparison. But politics and religion both, at times,bring out the very worst in us. Those pursuits, while intending to serve the common good and strengthen our humanity, often foster levels of extremism unparalleled in the human experience. We have watched these phenomena unfold for centuries. Therefore, we would be surprised if, suddenly, an encompassing epiphany smote  of all humankind. We would probably blame it on aliens. Or communists.
Fear not, friends. It is not going to happen. Not peacefully anyway. I am content with knowing all of my friends:God-fearing, atheist, agnostic, humanist, and yes, even beer drinkers. I know pretty much what to expect from all of them on any given day. It might sound boring but it is far from that. Some folks have said they would leave these United States if Donald Trump became president. I think they are just blowing smoke. I mean, he is utterly predictable and would likely be no worse than any of the other megalomaniacs who are vying for the top job. After all, the president does not run the country. No matter how much he may think so, before setting foot in the Whitehouse. If he (or she) is not truly humbled going in to a presidency, he/she will be so upon exiting said office. So, that's my take on religion and the art of living. Goodnight and good luck,
HGN.

MJA's picture

MJA

Saturday, January 30, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

If God was just another name

If God was just another name for everything, including nothing, could you believe in that? =

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Sunday, January 31, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

Kierkegaard is more

Kierkegaard is more interesting if read as the lament of lost faith than as the retrenchment of it. But the tragedy of the age of reason is the responsibility it is lost. It is that, not faith, we are most bereft of. The conviction there is no personal responsibility in the weighing of ideas is the fallacy, and outrage, of analysis. That we are responsible for the incapacity of the meaning of our terms and formal structuring of them to realize what is real is not only a necessary part of that meaning but it is the very life of language and of the linguistic in principle. Meaning is not a machine. And so, just because the gods are dead to that life of the linguistic urge in us does not mean that analysis is supplied the deficit. It is human, personal responsibility that does. The best reading of Kierkegaard then is the realization of just how great a loss it is that reason has stolen away the measureless burden of responsibility it is. That is, any conviction and assertion is only as good as the responsibility its author takes for it. Otherwise it is worthless, whether it is dressed up as faith or reason. As for Heidegger's distinction between 'Being' and 'being', between the 'ontological' and the 'ontical', this is just another effort to purge life, and time, of the profane, as if this would secure the sacred. The fallacy is that the profane is the engine of the sacred. And the energy of the profane in its supplying the sacred its terms, and our - personal - responsibility in that energy, is what worth is. Analysis is just as guilty of sapping that energy as is faith, and the ontological difference is the deliberate effort to obscure this.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Monday, February 1, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

The laws of logic rely on a

The laws of logic rely on a relation between the quantifier and the qualifier. Otherwise they are not valid a priori. Heidegger promotes the fallacy that the abstracted qualifier, being, is to be understood synthetically, and not reductively from what is 'ontically' real. Analysts leave out the qualifier altogether. I have read one theorist's thesis that all logical relations can be boiled down to one logical symbol: '?'. As if that is all that is ever said. What this could mean, of course, we dare not ask. That is, the analyst is every whit as trenchantly dogmatic as its theistic forebears.
I'd druther be strutting (like an ostrich) than struthious (like an ostrich).

Guest's picture

Guest

Monday, February 1, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

My partner and I stumbled

My partner and I stumbled over here from a different web page and thought I might check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to going over your web page repeatedly.

RichardCurtisPhD@msn.com's picture

RichardCurtisPh...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

Let me try something that

Let me try something that comes heavily from Religious Studies.  The scientific study of religion has determined that religions have three primary areas of activity, emotions/aesthetics, existential meaning, and social cohesion (including ethics).  What Howard was talking about is the emotion/aesthetics piece.  Religion also includes the other two and that cannot be left out.
On God, try this: God is the name of a feeling, people often call it religious experience and they suppose there is something at the other end of the feeling, but what matters is the feeling itself.  We can cultivate this and call that spirituality, but that is still just a feeling we are cultivating.  Religious Experience is experienced, it is feeling.
God is not a being or Being or the force behind being.  God is a word that people use to pick out that feeling, so we should properly talk about "the God-feeling."  I agree with Howard that this is one source, statistically more significant in terms of what individual value, but sociologically it is one of three.
John was right in his talking about the Greeks.  We just name these feelings.  We can take God out of metaphysics by talking about feelings.  God does not have an ontology, because feelings are not the sorts of things that exist independent of people.  There is nothing at the other end of the feeling other than the world.
Faith is a commitment to an community.  To have faith is to stand with a community as it navigates history.
Scripture is sacred because it anchors the community not because its source is other than human.  It is valued over time for the wisdom it contains or motivates in interpretation.
Religion is a worldview with a ritual system.  To satisfy Ken then one needs to just have a defensible worldview.  There is no necessity to have questionable metaphysics.  We can be proper scientific materialists and religious because religious is about cultivating certain sorts of feelings, especially of connection, while part of a similarly minded community.  Modern scientific naturalism is the worldview and the rituals come from the tradition. 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

A worldview is not the same

A worldview is not the same as the world. The former is entrenched subjectivism, the latter a collective conviction of its objectivity. We can only doubt the world in danger of losing the ability to be understood in it. A worldview is only real insofar as we can convince others of it, and only in terms of the collective conviction of the world's being objectively real. Joseph Campbell tried valiantly to find coherent themes unifying systems of ritual and faith, but completely, and rather stupidly, missed the most pertinent and telling fact of any faith, that its believers are made unique by it. Kierkegaard was reacting to the attitude of phenomenology, which he regarded as antithetical to faith. Heidegger, with unusual insight, for him, notes that 'theology' is an oxymoron. Those who are "awaiting upon the lord" are not expressing thereby a "worldview", they are expecting something real. They are deluded, but whatever does really come their way will somehow get read as ominous of the awaited, and not as evidence to be weighed and evaluated in relation to other possibilities. The oracular does not brook back-talk. An impartial review of the evidence of faith is the moral equivalent of defeatism in war. Faith is not a social phenomenon, it is what its believers take to be, not what makes their god real, but what makes them real, and worthy of being. The truth is more subtle. It is the intimacy of the ritual community that permits them to recognize variances with the faith and the expected devotion to it that brings lexical and formal transformation to their social and spiritual practices, and ultimately defeats the superficial facts and tenets of the faith, that makes them so certain of who they are in it. But this is mostly only possible where they are as completely as possible convicted in the faith as invariant in it. Or, to put this in more philosophically rigorous terms, differentiation is a priori to replication, but replication is its context. What seems constant and real is only the venue of a more encompassing change through which collective convictions of objectivity, as faith or science, spiritual or phenomenal, prove the greater reality of the profane subject they both declare unworthy of recognition. Whatever is real in us is the stranger to what would claim us wholly known in its own terms. Little by little we lose the terms of that claim, and so get to know each other as real despite the all too facile conviction that we only know know each other in the terms that we suppose that we know the world.    

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Wednesday, February 3, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

As was reputedly said by

As was reputedly said by Nicholas of Cusa (aka Cusanus), circa 1450:Did we not believe in Christ as the Son of God, we would never follow His teaching as the teaching of the One true God. All the great philosophers and sages were merely men, and every man who is not God may be a liar. (emphasis added). 
Some of the early Christian apostles had a way of distilling things down to their essence,as did those of many other theological/mystical stripes. I'm convinced that living is truly an art and that it can be, and often is, pursued successfully, religion notwithstanding. It is just that it sometimes takes longer to sort things out when we choose the open pathways of trial and error. Enlightenment is not and should never be thought of as a bowl of cherries. Like old age, it is not for sissies. Oh, and fewer words are often better than many.
Keep on searching,
HGN.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Thursday, February 4, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

Little Jack Horner sat in a

Little Jack Horner sat in a corner supposing his thumb more clever than his mind. Was he a good boy for that?
 
The Apostles believed that what would become Christianity, the Pauline, rather more prolix, version of it, was heresy.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Monday, February 8, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

There has been much wringing

There has been much wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth lately regarding Islam.  It is a sensitive topic, about which many have concerns and trepidations, yet few have the intestinal fortitude needed to express themselves, because as been fatally illustrated, fanatics are just itching to silence anyone who would embarrass or defame the Prophet or His cause. But, criticisms have been around much longer than the current plethora of blood thirsty maniacs. In volume II of his Great Philosophers trilogy, the late Karl Jaspers made a reference to Islam's warrior followers who were far more interested in conquering than converting other less-enlightened civilizations AKA, "infidels" (reference paraphrased). The aforementioned volume's copyright date was 1957, long before the current spate of Muslim indignation. I have found that through reading, a lot can be learned about philosophy and have always wanted to learn as much as I can about that discipline. It is also possible to learn about the history of the world, either directly or indirectly.
Allah' u' abha,
Neuman.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, February 12, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

I read the news today, oh boy

I read the news today, oh boy...
The Pope got together with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church. First time since the Great Schism of, what was it: 1043. In the article, as is often the case, the Pope was both praised and roasted, depending upon who was talking about the matter. Some Russians said he was merely grandstanding. The Russian Clergyman, Kirill (?) said, in essence, now maybe we can find some common ground and learn to get along with one another. Was THAT sincere, or was it grandstanding on his part? We have no certain way of knowing. You would think that after 1000 years of not finding common ground and not getting along with one another that it would be high time for a reconciliation ??? The Pope is a romantic who sincerely believes his papacy will heal many of the rifts in the modern world. I would offer this much to His Holiness:
Most such schisms do not readily heal, even when a vast majority of those involved are in favor of reconciliation. In this instance, when there are already clear signals of pushback, many of us are not optimistic. Still in all, I hope he is right and that the naysayers are petulant killjoys who are feasting on sour grapes, outraged because they were not the ones who came up with the idea, let alone having the cojones to follow through on it. Some folks are waiting on the world to change. Some would rather it did not. In the long run, there are three kinds of people: 1. Those who make things happen; 2. Those who watch things happen; and, 3. Those who wonder what happened.
We should try to be the first sort. Bully for Francis!
Harold Granville Neuman, Chief-in-chief

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Sunday, February 14, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

Hey Chief!,

Hey Chief!,
I wonder if you see anything incongruous in extolling a church that would be all atheist today if not for the legacy of the most violent conversion era in human history? Frankie ain't no Archbishop Ramirez!

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Sunday, February 14, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

If really interested in the

If really interested in the early Roman Church, and the, so called, "schism", try reading Walter Ullman.
If really interested in Jaspers, you might read his biography by Suzanne Kirkbright. Not really much of a philosopher, more a gentle instructor for under-grads (he didn't even have a degree in the field, he studied law and medicine), a sort of Mr. Chips of his era.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, February 18, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

Well, well. Mr. Washburn

Well, well. Mr. Washburn makes an interesting point regarding credentials, saying that the late Karl Jaspers was not much of a philosopher, and likening him to one Mr. Chips. We all have our favorites in most people, places and things. But let's consider some of the great original thinkers (whether we all consider them to be philosophers---or not). Do we know, for example, if Socrates had a degree in philosophy? Or, how about the Buddha? Plato? See, I do not know and do not mind admitting such. But, just supposing that one or all of these learned souls had no such credential(s), would that make them any less important in the grand history of philosophical thought? I think not. Just sayin', Having asked the question, I will leave everyone with one of my original comments regarding the human condition:
Humanity, with all of its profound and mundane accomplishments, is a mere stitch in the fabric of time. Human consciousness, in its miraculous depth, allows us to witness, if briefly, the timelessness of the cosmos.
(Oops, I guess that's two comments---technically)
Warmest Regards,
HGN.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Saturday, February 20, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

Jaspers was not a great

Jaspers was not a great thinker, but I did not say this is the case as the result not having a degree in philosophy. I said it is the case because his work is not meant to be innovative. Philosophy, like science, is critical. It is self-critical, but it also welcomes criticism. In science, this helps assure that alternative facts and explanations are taken into consideration, but in philosophy it does much much more, it underscores the incapacity of language to complete its mission without dialog that embraces every term and every possible mutation of all terms. Of course Socrates did not have a degree in it, he invented the thing. His student invented formal training in it. If you wish to confine your reading to edifying but non-critical sources, that's up to you, but if you want to do philosophy you have to take on material you do not like, and welcome, not just the chance to test your mettle against it, but to find in it a chance to intensify and deepen the rational rigor altering all your convictions fundamentally. That is where philosophy leaves science behind.
I would criticize the passage in which you quote yourself as vapid. The poetic mood crumbles before the critical mind. I'm reminded of a scene from the Movie The Chalk Garden, in which Deberah Kerr asks a pointed question of Hayley Mills about why she makes provocative comments. Her response is fascinating.

paulthomas's picture

paulthomas

Sunday, August 14, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

The state of being oneness is

Religion has nothing to do with our living style. It's just an another thing which we hear from others. Those who don't believe in God or say there is not such God exist in the universe have no religion. And no-religion is also a religion. They have their own choices of living and making the life a worthy one. Religion is just a part of our life. And the fact is God hasn't created any religion, the human being have created it. So it's not a mandatory things to believe something or stick to it for leading a happy life. You can make your own!
born from god

 
 
 

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