Lawnchair Philosopher

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Philosophy And Religion

As anti-theological as my philosophy is, I would not make the strict argument that religion and philosophy should not mix. There is, for example, a branch of philosophy which is called the philosophy of religion. My philosophy of religion is such that I have ruled out the very distinctions which positing a god presupposes.

Specifically, I have ruled out the appearance/reality distinction, for both epistemological and political reasons. In matters of epistemology, the claim that there is an unseen, untestable reality — which is at the heart of the appearance/reality distinction — is a dangerous claim, as it is not verifiable, let alone falsifiable, and so threatens freedom. That is, it is not the kind of claim that I can check out for myself — at least, it is not the kind of claim that is suitable for a public claim.

Perhaps I can have that kind of experience. But I never have. All I have is the testimony of others, which fail to stand up to scrutiny. Some person of authority simply tells me something is so, and I am expected to accept and abide by this other’s judgment?

Then suppose I do have this kind of experience. Why would I presume that others should just accept my claim, not having themselves had this experience? That would be an unethical presumption. I do not have the right to force others to follow anything that they have not been able to verify or examine themselves.

At the heart of the matter is the famous “problem of induction.”

To hold that there is another reality, different from what appears to be the world, rests on a mighty shaky induction. What evidence do we have that there is a hidden reality? Perhaps it is better to naturalize the problem, and say that where we have discovered that the world is different than we thought is simply to say that we just thought about it in a wrong or insufficient way — there is nothing to support the claim that there is another reality, except a strange induction.

God supposedly dwells on the other side of the appearance/reality distinction, and people expect that we should live according to what He tells us, though we have not spoken with Him directly. This is a formulation for tyrannical structures, a demand that we submit to unfounded authority.

If authority rests on nothing more than this, what limits a privileged few, who claim to know God’s will, from hijacking — the allusion to 9/11 is deliberate — the culture, nation, or world?

Theology is inherently anti-democratic. It is slavish, cowardly, and stupid. But this does not disqualify it from being philosophy. There are plenty who would argue for a religious philosophy, and I respect their right to have their own philosophy.

But science is a different matter. There is no room in science for religion, for the assumptions of religion will cause science to break down.

(It is funny, though, how many scientists take the priest-like position of having a special position to tell us what reality is — behind the appearances. Fools, the lot of them!)

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4 Comments

  1. Physics has recently uncovered a lot of fascinating “unseen” reality–that we never realized existed. I love Quantum Physics (although I majored in Philosophy).
    Christopher Columbus bravely argued that the world was round, even though everyone else had come to the conclusion that it was flat. No one had proven it, no one had seen.
    So, everyone concluded that he was an idiot, a fool. He eventually proved them wrong, by traveling to what people assumed was the “end of the world.
    It is difficult to prove or disapprove that which cannot be accessed in some way by the physical senses. Because of this, religion has to stand on blind faith on a lot of issues. Maybe they are right; maybe they are wrong.
    I cannot argue that I know exactly what reality is or is not.
    And I would be a fool to try.

  2. hommez says:

    I understand what you mean, and accept your meaning. The point I am trying to make is not in contradiction with your point. All of these “unseen” things were features of this, not another, reality. The distinction I am rejecting posits that there is another reality altogether, and that this world is but illusion.

    If, for example, if it turns out that there is a Bigfoot running around in North America, and we have not yet “seen” it scientifically, though it were real, it would belong to this reality, not another.

    The distinction I am harping on is intrinsic to how people, consciously or unconsciously, model the world.

  3. I agree with some of what you say but at the same time i don’t want to return to the dark days of logical positivism in philosophy and do away with anything not immediately scientifically testable or anything not empirical as useless.

    I am a scientist first and only an amature philosopher, so, i’m not some anti-science bigot or anything either.

    • hommez says:

      I agree. I find the notion that only that which is empirically testable is useful to be an insult to art and creative thinking. I just think that if we are going to make demands on others, we have to be able to demonstrate why the demand is justified, and that the person may check it out individually.

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