October 29, 2015

Various thoughts

By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, October 29, 2015

Various thoughts

Sometimes I sit alone on our deck, quietly puffing on my pipe, and I think. What follows are some of my thoughts. They're somewhat disconnected and perhaps disconcerting—read at your own risk.

● The story of the blind men and the elephant (in which several blind men disagree about what the elephant actually is, but are corrected by the king who sees the elephant) tells us we are all blind. But the storyteller assumes he/ she is the king who sees.

● That our “western eyes” cast doubt on all our knowledge of philosophical theses is itself a philosophical thesis, so casts doubt onto itself. Ditto for moral theses.

● Any philosophy that is written in a book must account for the known reality of the book in which the philosophy is written and the known reality that the contents of the book can be accurately understood by readers. If not, why do philosophers complain about being misrepresented?

● To know that you are deceived requires knowing at least sometimes that you are not deceived.

● The misuse/ abuse of language keeps us from communicating and knowing truth, but the careful use of language is conducive to communicating and knowing truth. Or why do you ask for clarification? And why do you give it when asked?

● Conflicting religions and worldviews (including the worldview that all religions and worldviews are pretty much the same, which, by the way, conflicts with all other worldviews) call for our ultimate allegiance. The careful examination of evidence and careful reasoning therefrom help us to discern truth. This is not to impose rationality onto the world; it's to do our best to let the world speak for itself.

● To think God can't use reason and evidence to reveal God puts God in a box. Whether God uses reasons and evidence depends on whether God has given us reasons and evidence. We must look. Seek.

● Christian philosopher John Bloom on religious triage: "Given that we have a limited amount of time in this life to study religions, we can dispense with those that offer us a second chance in the afterlife, or which will reincarnate us if we make a mistake in this life, or which promise us that all will be well eventually no matter how we live now. Prudence dictates that we first ought to consider the claims of those religions which say that everything depends upon the decisions made and lived in this life."

● Golden Rule: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." When said by Jesus the others include "infidels" and the rule presumes that our desires aren't defective (e.g., masochism, paedophilia, etc.).

● To claim that "judging is wrong" is to make a judgment.

● All violence is unjust? Surely not. The police officer who kills a gunman on a school shooting rampage kills justly whereas the shooter doesn't.

● To understand what Scripture says is "disputable" depends on what Scripture says it is, not on what I dispute today.

● Are ongoing-overly-quick-accusations of phobia a sign of a phobia against reason?

● Truth-seeking criticisms and loving others are not mutually exclusive.

● Facts and values are not mutually exclusive, either. Here I'm not thinking about valuing (a subjective though real experience that may manifest itself in behaviour); I'm thinking about actual value—real worth. Human beings in fact have real worth. Intrinsic worth. (Many atheists recognize this but have trouble explaining it. I recognize it and find it suggestive of, and explained by, imago Dei.)

● I am a centre of consciousness, i.e., a subjective being, yet I perceive objective truths (e.g., that Pythagoras's theorem is true; that if A is part of B and B is part of C then A is part of C; that Ottawa is the capital city of Canada).

● If mere subjective feeling is the ultimate criterion for truth, then if a woman feels she is fat then she is fat, and if a man feels he is a woman then he is a woman, and if a fat woman feels she is a skinny man then she is a skinny man.

● Truth without love is harsh. Love without truth is blind. Gentle humour can illuminate.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy at Providence University CollegeThe views in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)

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