** The following are brief definitions and discussions of philosophy and what it means or does not mean. Most comments demonstrate the tentative and tenuous ground of philosophy. A lot of questions may be raised, and the statements are not always precise, but that is the point of this little project. All of these are mostly “off the cuff,” so gaps, incompleteness, and even errors may be contained within. Unless otherwise noted, all comments are stated by the Editor of this site-Ed. Any one paragraph could be the theme for a school or term paper!
“We must not use reason, or knowledge gained, by scientific means, as basis for our Faith, since that kind of knowledge may prove to be in error. But we may indeed use reason and scientific knowledge to explore what we already believe. The point is important.” (Arthur Custance, Journey Out of Time, viii)
The study of philosophy is similar to the study of science, if one keeps Biblical revelation in mind. The study of science in its almost infinite complexity should only increase one’s awe and worship of God’s great creativity. The study of philosophy teaches that in all the centuries of effort, philosophy can only speculate about “ultimate reality” and “truth” without Biblical revelation—the revealing of God’s ways and mind to finite man. One’s awe and worship ought to be increased in philosophy, as well as in science, when it is properly understood and grounded in Scripture.
No one person can even begin to read all the literature produced by books, journals, and other sources on all areas of philosophy. I would even venture to say that no one person can even list all the species and sub-species of philosophy. Eventually, I will try to categorize some of these for the sake of simplicity and sanity. (Now looks like I will not, as I am not interested–November 20-14.)
What is the problem Kant is trying to solve? Near at hand, there are a host of problems: He wants to respond to Hume’s skepticism; he struggles with the problem of evil; he wants to affirm the advances of Newton without sacrificing humanity and religion. But if we look in a larger perspective, he is trying to resolve a problem perennial in philosophical study. He is challenging the desire, which he finds everywhere in the philosophical tradition, to know as God knows, to know unconditionally, to know by what he describes as an act of “intellectual intuition.” Peter Leithart, here.
The study of philosophy demonstrates that there are no answers in philosophy. This conclusion opens up the possibility, probability, and even certainty of Biblical truth. Douglas Hofstadter has stated that “provability is weaker than the notion of truth,” based upon Gödels incompleteness theorems. See his book, Escher, Gödel, and Bach.
A philosopher’s primary concerns should be: (1) truth, (2) the implications of death, (3) the meaning of human existence, (4) ethical absolutes, and (5) the derivation of coherent systems within these areas.
“Philosophy is a goddess, whose head indeed is in heaven, but whose feet are upon earth. She attempts more than she accomplishes, and promises more than she performs. She can teach us to hear of the calamities of others with magnanimity; but it is religion (Biblical Christianity) only that can teach us to bear our own with resignation.” (Quote on the Title Page of Beulah, by Augusta J. Evans)
Philosophy or religion is one person’s pursuit of the ultimate questions about life and the origins of the universe with the Controlling Authority being his own beliefs and understanding. This definition applies to the pagan, as well as the Christian. John Frame has called the latter, “ philosophical imperialism.”
Philosophy is irrelevant if it cannot be understood by the common man. Of course, philosophers have never produced anything “relevant” for anyone, so what difference does it make that the common man cannot understand it? In fact, he is likely better off not to know!
Philosophy differs for the regenerate and unregenerate—Kuyper’s two-fold starting point. All “Christian” philosophy that does not consider the Bible foundational (authoritative, inerrant, sufficient) is no better than those that leave the Bible out entirely—it is still man selecting truth by his own authority. The Biblical philosopher always tries to let Scripture control his thought process.
Has anything changed since Eve was tempted, “To be as God, knowing good and evil?” Man still wants to be God and to define good and evil. Philosophers do not want Special Revelation because they want to define the universe and purpose for themselves. They are fools.
When a Christian is familiar with the intricacies of logic, he worships the God who transcends all human knowledge and gives to man a Special Revelation in which its most important truths can be understood by a simple mind and in which its deepest truths lie beyond the greatest minds.
“It cannot be maintained that philosophy has had any great measure of success in its attempts to provide definite answers to its questions.” (Bertrand Russell in Classical Philosophical Questions, 567)
Philosophy for the regenerate is speculation about how God does things, but the Christian must be sure that he has knowledge of a comprehensive system of Biblical truth. Philosophy by the unregenerate is simply personal opinion about metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.
Philosophy is unregenerate man’s autonomous quest for meaning and reality without God’s Special Revelation, or philosophy is man’s attempt to find meaning apart from God.
If God has not spoken, then only might can invoke an ethical norm. Might does not make right, because “right” does not exist without God. Might enforces the will of those in power—whether they are right or wrong.
Philosophy is thinking analytically and critically and coming to conclusions, but only through Scripture will this process find truth.
Philosophy is the personal, autonomous opinion of every philosopher—and every person on planet earth. Thus, there are as many philosophies as there are people—like fingerprints—God-created individual minds. No two Christians even agree on all their interpretations of Scripture.
Philosophy is the origin of knowledge, its manipulation by certain rules, and the value that is placed upon conclusions formed from it.
Philosophy is an attempt to come to conclusions with some certainty about the big issues of life before one dies, and it no longer matters. After that it is too late. What if one’s conclusions are wrong, and there is a Hell!
Philosophy is anything that a “philosopher” (that is, anyone) wants it to be because there is no agreed upon canon (standard or “measuring stick”) by which to disqualify what another says.
Philosophy cannot even be defined apart from the epistemology of Scripture.
Philosophy is man’s myriad ways to avoid confrontation with or thinking about God.
Philosophers unnecessarily obfuscate any solutions with a plethora of definitions, individual preferences, division and subdivisions, and definitions. For example, is philosophy concerned with truth, knowledge, epistemology, belief, justified true belief, or reality as the bedrock for the derivation of all the questions that plague man (death and after, truth, significance, rules to live by)? Few philosophers who are Christians help the situation.
No sooner does one philosopher think that he has the answer, or even “an” answer, before he is refuted once, twice, multiple times. That sequence has happened over and over in history and continues today.
The only true philosophy begins with faith (epistemology, metaphysics) in the inerrancy (theory) and sufficiency (practice, ethics) of the Bible. All other philosophies and religions are so much sophistry. See Gordon Clark’s conclusions to his book, Thales to Dewey.
Augustine was right—faith determines what one will accept as truth. Everyone starts with faith, that is, presuppositions, first principles, and all the other synonyms of this concept. Faith is the ground of all philosophies and religions. Reason can only be applied to what faith has already discovered or brought to mind.
“There is no significant body of knowledge that is taken to be universally true with respect to the subject matter of philosophy…. a discipline such as philosophy has had a few millennia to define itself, and has thus far not been successful.” (Scott Oliphint, Reasons for Faith, page ix)
“In the end we must confess that we have no idea why there is no established body of metaphysical results. It cannot be denied that this is a fact…. In metaphysics you are perfectly free to disagree with anything the acknowledged experts (in philosophy) say…” (Peter Van Inwagen, Metaphysics, 2nd Ed., page 12)
“Truth be told, the same problems that plague metaphysics plague epistemology as well. If van Inwagen is correct, then there is no established body of accepted metaphysical results to which one interested in the subject must appeal in order to enter the debate…. Metaphysics remains in a near-total state of flux and chaos.” (Oliphint, Reason for Faith, page 122.)
Philosophy is another language that must be learned. Its words often are considerably disparate from ordinary use, for example, atom, accident, universal, particular, God or god, category, and innate. Philosophy is a language all of its own; each philosopher has his own language and his own definitions. They are perhaps more disparate from each other than German is from Japanese.
“Some people are surprised (and disappointed) to discover the frequency with which philosophers have difficulty coming up with a totally satisfactory analysis of fundamental concepts. …. One can read a great many contemporary (or past—Ed) philosophic attempts to elucidate the notion of rationality and conclude that all of them fall short in one way or another…. Some philosophers simply appeal to the idea of rationality as what they call a “primitive notion.” What they mean by this move is that most people operate with a primitive understanding of rationality…. even if they (or their philosophy instructor) may be unable to produce a totally satisfactory definition of the term. (Ronald Nash, Faith and Reason, page 75)
I ask, “Where does one go for definitive and final answers among philosophers for truth? For epistemology? For metaphysics? For ethics?” Yes, there is a fairly substantial agreed upon “science” of laws and principles of logic—but that is only a process of reasoning with already present knowledge, not a source of truth. The truth is that philosophy has no answers—just an endless number of theories, new terms, and failed hopes.
Philosophy has been unable to develop a common doctrine that could be taught to students with the general consent of all those who teach philosophy…. http://www.geocities.jp/mickindex/reichenbach/rcb_RaE_en.html
Epistemology misdirects inquiry. By definition, knowledge is justified true belief. However, much of the knowledge that a person has in his mind is false. So, knowledge is not just that which is somehow true, but also that which is false. Knowledge should be defined as whatever occupies the mind. A quest for truth lies beyond epistemology—it is the domain of faith—faith known only by regeneration.