LECTURE #1: Philosophy & Christian Philosophy
A. Three branches: Metaphysics, Epistemology and Ethics
B. Metaphysics: the science of being.
- Some typical metaphysical questions: what is it to be or to exist? What are the basic categories or types of being? What are the most fundamental kinds of beings? What accounts for the existence of things? What are the relationships between reality, matter, mind, space and time?
- The One and the Many. Unity and diversity, universals and particulars.
Two basic approaches:
- The priority of the One. There is one being whose existence is necessary and unexplainable. Everything else that exists is explained in terms of the expression or creativity of this One. This view includes classical theism, panentheism (God as a kind of world-soul), and pantheism (everything is part of or an aspect of God).
- The priority of the Many. There a number of separate beings, each of whose existence is a brute given. Higher unities (including physical objects, living things, minds) are to be explained by reduction to the uncoordinated, diverse activities of these many beings.
This view includes: materialism (material particles or forces are ultimate), panpsychism (a large number of extremely simple minds or subjects of experience are ultimate), phenomenalism (quality events are ultimate -- organized one way,they constitute minds, organized another way, enduring physical objects), nihilism (there are only particulars -- no unities, order, enduring beings, mindes).
The science of knowledge. What do we know, and how do we know it?
The science of value and moral obligation. What is the good life? What is to be morally good, and why pursue it?
II. CHRISTIANITY AND PHILOSOPHY
A. The New Testament
- Opposition between God's wisdom and human wisdom: Matthew 11:25 (Luke 10:21), I Corinthians 1:17, 19-22, 26-27, 2:1, 4-7, 13, 19, 3:18-20. Old Testament roots: Isaiah 5:21, 29:4, Psalm 94: 8, 11.
- Warnings against heterodox philosophies: Colossians 2: 4, 8 ("let no one deceive you through persuasive words...philosophy and empty deceit"); I Timothy 6:20 ("vain babblings and oppositions of knowledge falsely so called"), II Corinthians 1:12 ("fleshly wisdom").
- Examples of the use of reasoning (dialegomai): II Corinthians 10:5 ("we demolish speculations"= logismoi, reasonings). Paul reasons with potential converts: Acts 17:17, 19:8-9.
- Defending the gospel (apologia = apologetics). I Peter 3:15. Paul offers apologia: Acts 22:1, Philippians 1:7, 17; I Corinthians 9:3.
- Refuting/correcting those in error: Titus 1:9. Isaiah 1:18 ("come let us reason together")
- Wisdom (sophia) used positively: Luke 2:52, 11:49; Acts 6:3, 7:10, 22; Ephesians 1:8, 17, 3:10; Colossians 1:28, 2:3, 3:16; James 1:5, 3:17, II Peter 3:15.
- Natural theology: natural knowledge of God and the moral law, apart from special revelation. Acts 14:16-20 (Paul at Lystra); Acts 17: 17, 23-29 (Paul at the Areopagus); Romans 1:18-21 (God's eternal nature evident to all men through what has been made); Romans 2:14, 15 (God's law written in the heart).
B. Early Christian apologists
- Justin Martyr (100-164). Born of pagan parents, converted in 130. Wrote First and Second Apologies around 150, addressed to the Roman Senate. Greek philosophers knew the Logos, who is Christ. Christianity is the fulfillment of philosophy, more lofty than all merely human philosophies.
- Clement (150-213). God sent philosophy to the Greeks as a schoolmaster, to prepare them for the Gospel, just as He sent the Torah to the Hebrews. Faith is a prerequisite for all philosophy, since one must accept the first principles.
- Tertullian (160-215). Lawyer in North Africa, converted to Christianity in 190. "What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church" (The Prescription against Heretics). "The Incarnation is by all means to be believed, because it is foolish (ineptum)...the fact is certain, because it is impossible." (On the Flesh of Christ). But: "we are worshippers of one God, of whose existence and character Nature teaches all men." (To Scapula).
- Augustine (354-430). "I believe in order that I may understand." Produced an original argument for God's existence: the argument from the existence of absolute Truth.
C. Some Christian philosophers:
- Boethius (480-525) Boethius was born to a wealthy and important patrician family in Rome, who had converted to Christianity in the early 400s. He had planned to translate into Latin and comment on all the works of Plato and Aristotle, but, unfortunately, his life was cut short before he could complete this project. He did succeed in translating the logical works of Aristotle into Latin, profoundly affecting the course of intellectual history in the Middle Ages. He also produced original works in mathematics and logic and wrote The Consolation of Philosophy, while awaiting wrongful execution.
- Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) Created several original arguments for God's existence, including versions of the cosmological argument (argument for a first cause), the argument from perfection (adapted by Lewis in Mere Christianity) and the ontological argument (God exists because His non-existence is inconceivable).
- Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274). Wrote many commentaries on Aristotle. The Summa Theologica -- a comprehensive survey of Christian theology. "Faith does not destroy reason, but goes beyond it and perfects it."
- Rene Descartes (1596-1650) Introduces rationalism, mind/body dualism, and the method of universal doubt. Attempted to prove the existence of God and of the external world, beginning only with the "clear and distinct ideas" within his own mind.
- Blaise Pascal (1632-1662) Mathematician and philosopher. His posthumously published Pensees outlines a defense of Christianity, based on miracles, prophecies, and the holiness of saints. Includes "Pascal's wager": an appeal to the libertine skeptic to apply prudential decision-making to the question of faith.
- John Locke (1632-1740) An empiricist. The human mind begins as a blank slate -- all of our ideas come from experience. Wrote The Reasonableness of Christianity in 1695, appealing to the cosmological argument, and to the miracles of the Bible.
- Gottfried Leibniz (1636-1716). Co-inventor of the calculus. A rationalist, who insisted there was a "sufficient reason" for everything. Wrote the Theodicy, attempting to reconcile the goodness of God with the existence of evil. This is the "best possible world".
- Joseph Butler (1692-1753) Wrote The Analogy of Religion in 1736. Argued that "probability is the guide to life." Miracles are quite likely, given what we know of nature.
- Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) American theologian, philosopher and revivalist. In The Freedom of the Will (1754), Edwards argues that human freedom is compatible with God's determining everything. Freedom is simply doing what we want, and God puts or fails to put the proper desires in each heart.