8.26.2009

The Never Ending Story I

The modern debate between atheists and theists oftentimes becomes a debate about scientific research. How much evidence is there for evolution? Did the universe actually have a beginning? This last question is always brought up when debating the cosmological argument for the Existence of God. All of a sudden the argument becomes scientific instead of philosophical, meaning that a physicist, rather than a philosopher, would be better able to answer the question.

Something, then, is wrong. This includes much of modern Christian apologetics. I will delve into a more rigorous explanation of why in later posts, but for now let us be content with understanding one thing: God did not create the world.

The idea that God created the world as a watchmaker constructs a watch is usually ascribed to deism, a popular eighteenth-century belief. Like a watchmaker, God has set up the mechanisms required for the universe to operate and, like a watchmaker, He is then done with his job. From then on the watch operates on its own. This idea is fundamentally mistaken. I repeat, God did not create the world.

God is creating the world. At every moment all things are radically contingent, or dependent, on God for their continual existence. The watchmaker analogy does not go far enough. It would be better to remember Atlas, the Titan who holds the Earth upon his shoulders. If he moved at any particular moment, the Earth would fall. Or perhaps another analogy would be a plug for an electrical appliance. Once the plug, meaning the electric current, is removed, the energy ceases and the appliance will not work. It matters not how much or how little electricity is needed at any particular moment in time. What matters is that it is perpetually there. The world was not created by God, it is created by God.

8.25.2009

Lightning

People usually consider lightning as one of those phenomena that primitive people ascribed to mysterious and divine sources. Then modern man came along and taught the world that lightning is nothing of the sort. Its a purely natural phenomena that does not need God or gods in order to explain itself.

This might have been true for some primitive peoples, but it has never been true of classical philosophy. This is because the ancients and medievals taught that there are many aspects under which one single thing may be considered.

This is to say that lightning is caused by everything that the scientists say causes it, but the scientist cannot explain causation as such. God is what necessarily follows from any investigation into what causes anything to be at all. So God is the ultimate explanation of all things caused only if they happen to be caused. This is why, in a sense, I can answer "God" to the question "What is the cause of _____?" Not because I deny the natural causes of lightning, wind, fire, etc., but because as long as a thing is caused God is its ultimate explanation.

God causes lightning.

8.21.2009

A Few Notes on The Soul

Many people wonder whether people can exist beyond their earthly life. "Is there an afterlife?" they ask. But what if most people are mistaken in thinking that this is something that cannot be known with certainty? What if the existence of an immortal soul can be demonstrated rationally?

- The soul is the principle of life. The ancient and medieval philosophers would not distinguish between "being alive" and "having a soul."

-The classical understanding of the nature of the human soul entails some understanding of universals. Something that is universal cannot be particular. Something that is not particular cannot be material. Universals are not material. All men are particular, but Man is universal.

-The intellect resides in the soul. It is the soul of man, then, that understands. What does the soul understand? Universals. The soul understands that which is not material. The soul is not dependent on matter in order to understand. The human soul is not material.

8.20.2009

Wonder and Awe

As hard as it is to believe, philosophy, stated simply, is the process of figuring out what things are and why. This task seems simple enough, but it is actually a goal that cannot definitively be accomplished. You may respond by saying that science (physics, chemistry, etc.) does this all the time. The world of natural science is filled with descriptions and definitions of what is. The truth, however, is that natural science has given itself very strict limits on what may and what may not be included when giving a proper definition of something. Take, for example, man. Does man have a soul? Natural science does not include ‘soul’ in its working definition of man, but can we then say, therefore, that man has no soul? Maybe we can, but the argument must take on a much more complex form than this. We cannot assume, without proper justification, that whatever cannot be described by natural science, ipso facto, does not exist at all. I do not seek to argue one way or the other now, for my current objective does not concern itself with this debate but something else entirely. For now, my desire is to give a clearer picture of what philosophy is.

Western histories of philosophy usually begin with Thales, an Ionian man who lived before the time of Socrates and Plato. The story goes that a Thracian woman saw Thales trip and fall into a well because he was not watching the road ahead of him. What was he doing? He was gazing upward to the sky and to the stars above. Maybe Thales was clumsy. Maybe he would’ve fallen into the well no matter what direction his eyes were facing. The point of the story, however, is that Thales was preoccupied with something; something above him that he did not quite understand. What do we feel when we are so fixated upon something that we do not or cannot understand that all the things that immediately surround us are instantly rendered irrelevant? Maybe you’ve personally never felt this before. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised, for we live in a world where the proper words to describe this feeling are seldom used. If we did feel this way, however, we might call it wonder or awe. What do these words mean, though? The ancient and medieval world knew them well, but our modern world understands them only as na├»ve emotions belonging to children’s fantasies and anything else that cannot provide utility or practical efficacy. Nevertheless, I ask again. What does it mean to be awe-inspired? What are we really trying to say when we describe something as wonderful?

Wonder is much more than just not knowing. It is the realization of not knowing. It is knowing that you do not know and understanding that the world in which you live will never be able to be captured properly with just words or definitions. It is what we feel when we gaze upon a world that we did not make, and we are insatiably curious to meet the man who did. When we realize that the world in which we live is a gift; one that did not need to be given but, nevertheless, was, we experience wonder. We do not understand what a thing is, only that it does not have to be. We stand before a thousand doors, ready to open any one of them, but the one that we do open, the one that we are inextricably drawn to, is the one to this world. We did not walk through the door, however. We were pushed, but by whom? Well, different people will give different answers. What we can say, though, is that the hand that made the world is the hand that brought us into it.

The world, then, is not ours. It cannot be. We are the most intelligent beings within it, but it still eludes us. This is because we are first and foremost sojourners passing through this world and not wholly natural products from the ground below. We are flesh and blood, yes, but the part of us that knows we are flesh and blood is not. This is the part that experiences wonder.

In the Beginning...

This is the first entry.
Let no one afraid of thought enter.