Where Philosophy is Irrelevant

“Philosophy might present itself as the proper avenue to acknowledgment of God’s authority, but this avenue is, in the end, superfluous at best. A God who needs philosophy as the avenue to reach us will fail to reach most of us (relatively few of us humans are philosophers, after all) and will not reach us where we need to be reached, namely, at a level much deeper than our philosophical thinking. We need to be reached at the level of what we love, the level of our will; this level is untouched by typical philosophical thinking. We can, of course, raise philosophical questions about love, but philosophy itself does not yield the needed Giver of love commands who descends into history to redeem us from our harmful ways. Such a Giver comes to us only by grace, by a gift unearned even by intellectual means. This is the dominant message, the good news, of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus in the Jewish-Christian scriptures.”

– Paul K Moser, Jesus and Philosophy: On The Questions We Ask (Faith and Philosophy Vol. 22 No. 3 July 2005)

The First Thing

“If we don’t know that there is such a person as God, we don’t know the first thing (the most important thing) about ourselves, each other and our world. This is because… the most important truths about us and them, is that we have been created by the Lord, and utterly depend upon him for our continued existence.”

Alvin Plantinga

How to Read a Philosopher

1) Avoid looking merely at the problems and answers that a philosopher discusses.

2) Always try to follow the philosopher’s underlying way of thinking; try to understand his assumptions and motivations.

3) Ask yourself:

  • Why is he asking these questions?
  • Why is he asking them this way?
  • Why does he think these questions are important?
  • Why does he give the particular answers that he does?

– Nicholas Wolterstorff

Philosophical Powers

You can’t always count on philosophers to have a sense of humour, but Ian Vandewalker, from the New York University of Law, has shown that the discipline can be more than syllogisms and supposition. By combining the zeitgeist of the superhero genre with the colourful cast of characters in the history of philosophy, he has created Philosophy Powers, a mock action figure collection that no thought experiment or Cartesian evil demon could have anticipated. In a word: epic.

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Indelible Impressions

“Of the existence of self, of the world round about us, of logical and moral laws, etc., we are so deeply convinced because of the indelible impressions which all these things make upon our consciousness that we need no arguments or demonstration. Spontaneously, altogether involuntarily: without any constraint or coercion, we accept that existence. Now the same is true in regard to the existence of God. The so-called proofs are by no means the final grounds of our most certain conviction that God exists: This certainty is established only by faith; i.e., by the spontaneous testimony which forces itself upon us from every side.”

Hermann Bavinck, The Doctrine of God, tr. William Hendricksen (Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1951). Quoted by Alvin Plantinga in his paper “The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology” (Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association,Volume 54).

Skepticism About Moral Truth Actually Has Consequences

“Most right-thinking, well-educated, and well-intentioned people — certainly most scientists and public intellectuals, and I would guess, most journalists — have been convinced that something in the last 200 years of intellectual progress has made it impossible to actually speak about “moral truth.” Not because human experience is so difficult to study or the brain too complex, but because there is thought to be no intellectual basis from which to say that anyone is ever right or wrong about questions of good and evil. . .

“The first thing I should point out is that, apart from being untrue, this view has consequences.

In 1947, when the United Nations was attempting to formulate a universal declaration of human rights, the American Anthropological Association stepped forward and said, it can’t be done. This would be to merely foist one provincial notion of human rights on the rest of humanity. Any notion of human rights is the product of culture, and declaring a universal conception of human rights is an intellectually illegitimate thing to do. This was the best our social sciences could do with the crematory of Auschwitz still smoking.

But, of course, it has long been obvious that we need to converge, as a global civilization, in our beliefs about how we should treat one another. For this, we need some universal conception of right and wrong. So in addition to just not being true, I think skepticism about moral truth actually has consequences that we really should worry about.”

Sam Harris, “The New Science of Morality” delivered at the Edge Conference.