Modern Philosophy

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Fundamentals Vol. 2



“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit after (according to) the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and ye are complete in Him, who is the Head of all principality and power.” Col. 2:8-10.

In the foregoing passage occurs the only mention which the Scriptures make of philosophy. Nothing is more highly esteemed among men than philosophy. It is on all hands regarded as the supreme exercise and occupation of the human mind, and is indeed an occupation for which but very few men have the requisite intellectual equipment. As far back as the tradition of men goes, philosophy has held this high place in human estimation; and it is, therefore, a fact of much significance that, in all the Bible, philosophy is but once named.

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The FBI’s William Gawthrop told his audience that the fight against al-Qaida is a “waste,” compared to the threat presented by the ideology of Islam itself.

FBI Trainer Says Forget ‘Irrelevant’ al-Qaida, Target Islam
“ ‘The best strategy for undermining militants,’ Gawthrop suggested, ‘is to go after Islam itself. To undermine the validity of key Islamic scriptures and key Muslim leaders.’”

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Confession of an Incurable Evidentialist, Part 3

What is beauty?

The beginning of the Rock Music culture in the US is a little difficult to pinpoint, but by the time of Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock,” its presence was evident to almost everyone. With the advent of Rock the youth of America possessed their own music. Their parents dismissed it as dissonant, gyrating wildness and told their children: “That isn’t music!” But the youth—particularly the Baby Boomer Generation—held on to it tenaciously. Rock/Pop has now become the world’s music to the extent that it is heard everywhere and all the time. Now teenagers listening to 100-year old hymns think, “That isn’t music!”

Many post-modern thinkers will probably tell you that the quality of music is a matter of taste, determined by culture and experience. This is a break with how people have thought, literally for millennia. It uses an argument that can easily be turned against itself (you can also say that the proposition “quality of music is merely taste, determined by culture and experience,” is simply a product of culture and experience, and perhaps not valid at all). When we talk about music or art, we also talk about the concept of beauty. I am not telling you a fairy tale when I say that there was a time when people agreed on what is good music, even if they disagreed on style preference. When and how did the change to today’s view of beauty come about? I think the change began slowly with the ideas of Immanuel Kant (and you thought it all started with Elvis, right?).

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Christian Philosopher ... Is Ready to Debate, but Finds Few Challengers ]"American Evangelical theologian William Lane Craig is ready to debate the rationality of faith during his U.K tour this fall, but it appears that some atheist philosophers are running shy of the challenge."

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Confession of an Incurable Evidentialist

I am an evidentialist. Having said that, I can sense that I am about to be surrounded by a host of theologians who will gladly lower their heavenly weapons at me. But before you classify me with David Hume and Bertrand Russell, let me explain what I mean. I believe that all humans apprehend truth in part through evidence (what some would call “hard evidence”). Dr. Bauder’s articles on Subjectivity and Objectivity have aroused my interest to write on the same subject. This is not meant as a contradiction of what he has said. I hope, likewise not to take anything away from what he is planning to write. Dr. Bauder was my faculty advisor, and pushed me to develop intellectually in ways I had not anticipated. I owe him a great deal for instructing me how to better tackle theology. So consider this as part of a conversation he started. I simply am entering the conversation with a different perspective.

I am an evidentialist by the definition I have given for two reasons (I would say “common sense” is one, but I know that would create more arguments than it is worth). Here are the reasons:

1. God created us to apprehend reality and thus arrive at truth (while not all truth) through the senses.

We are fascinated by scientific measuring devices and their ability to bring us knowledge: say a thermometer or a compass. Scientific measuring devices are basically (often crude) imitations of measuring apparatuses in humans, animals and plants. In humans, these measuring devices make up part of our sensory organs. For example, the rods and cones (over 100 million of them) in the retina of the eye are photoreceptors. Each registers the smallest particle of light, a photon, when it comes in the visual pathway. The incredibly high sensitivity of the retina is the reason you should not look directly at the sun.

Aristotle began his Metaphysics with the statement, “All men naturally desire knowledge. An indication of this is our esteem for the senses; for apart from their use we esteem them for their own sake, and most of all the sense of sight…. The reason of this is that of all the senses sight best helps us to know things.” Through the senses we perceive reality quite correctly, and, combined with our current knowledge, arrive at new truth.

David’s actively measuring retinas helped him perceive the glistening reality of the night sky. Sensory experience combined with David’s knowledge of God as creator, plus the aid of the Holy Spirit caused him to produce a profound sacred statement: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:3-4). David knew about God’s visitations to humans recorded in salvation history. It was David’s sensory experience that got him thinking and filled him with wonder at God’s condescension.

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Does Ecclesiastes Teach Epicureanism?

This article originally appeared at SI July 7, ‘06.

Does Ecclesiastes teach Epicureanism? In a word, no. Despite certain passages in Ecclesiastes that “sound” Epicurean, if we take the message of Solomon as a whole and the message of Epicurus as a whole, we discover that the two views of life under the sun are quite at odds with one another. The philosopher known for “vanity of vanities,” in the final analysis, is life-affirming, and the philosopher known for “eat, drink, and be merry” actually sucks the joy out of life.

I would like first to correct what is probably a popular misconception of Epicureanism. Then I would like to lay out four contrasting points between the two views: their views of God (or the gods), of death, of humanity and human desire, and of the summum bonum–that is, the greatest good.

First, a word of clarification. Epicureanism has somehow earned a false reputation for reckless and dissipated hedonism. Actually, it is ascetic hedonism. The original Epicurus pursued maximum pleasure and minimum pain, but his strategy was anything but the “party till you drop” lifestyle that the word Epicurean brings to mind nowadays. Some parties bring pain, Epicurus observed. His strategy was actually one of detaching oneself from the cares and concerns of this world, to keep one’s mind free from turmoil (a state he called, in Greek, ataraxia). Instead of trying to fulfill all one’s fantastic desires, one should instead concentrate on keeping one’s desires simple, thus achieving a higher satisfaction rate. Why desire much and fail, since this is a lot of work and discomfort only to be disappointed?

What kind of worldview supported such a policy? This leads to the points of contrast.

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The Importance of Imagination, Part 8


Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.

Secondary Imagination

The primary imagination enables us to look beyond the object of perception and to see other layers of significance in it. What each of us perceives in the object is personal and, therefore, different from the perceptions of everyone else. Sometimes our perceptions are sufficiently profound and out of the ordinary to convince us that we have gained some insight into the nature of the thing that we are observing and, consequently, into the nature of the world itself.

Once we have gained an insight, i.e., a significantly different way of seeing the world, we often experience the impulse to share it. Here we find ourselves confronted with a challenge because an imaginative insight cannot (properly speaking) be communicated. In this respect it is akin to an emotional state. When we experience joy, sorrow, or anger, we can communicate to other people that we are happy or sad or mad—but we cannot communicate the emotion itself. Since emotions cannot be communicated, they must be evoked. Something other than our statement of emotion is necessary if we wish other people actually to enter into the emotion and experience it for themselves.

So it is with the insights of the imagination. When we desire to share an insight, our goal is not simply to announce to the world that we have experienced a moment of truth. Our goal is to reproduce in others the same insight that we ourselves have experienced.

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