How to look at thoughts of philosophers and philosophical systems

In certain religious groups there are people who say one may not read philosophers their work.

Many philosophers their thought have influenced lots of people. We always should remember that their thoughts are best read in context. In the context of the lives that they lived, the times that they lived in, and the history of what came before and what happened after.

Many of the ideas of great thinkers of the past, so many centuries later might look dated to us. And our post-modern sensibilities make it easy for us to find fault, to criticize and to deconstruct these earlier works. Some even think that there is not much real value to be found in their works, whilst others think today some people give not enough interest to those ancient thinkers.

The real value for us is to hunt down the true genius that was driving the ideas. What was the inspiration, the spark that fuelled truly original thinking? We should wonder how they came to think about certain matters and how their thinking was   original or could bring something extra to that period of thinking or for later generations.

If they had not much to tell, I do not think we would still speak of them or would not be interested to read those ancient writings.

What did for example Ralph Waldo Emerson or William James bring that was new, that was passed on from them to the next generations? What made it that people were willing to listen to them or to give them so much attention? Or what did James offer that had not been thought of before and how has that affected the course of things since?

thinks

This is where the value is to be found. You won’t find answers to these questions through only reading the ideas, you have to know about culture and history and personality. {How Do You Read Philosophy?}

What we do have to question is

  • what has this person to tell us
  • in what kind of light is that person looking at things
  • how are their thought fed by the trends in their time or what was the general thinking of their time
  • in which way where such thinkers willing to listen to people of their time
  • how were they willing to place their ideas in context with other ways of thinking
  • what is are were the angles to look at things
  • how could they cope with agreement or disagreement and what were their reactions on critique

Today we have to try to approach the ancient and the present philosophers from different sides.

According

Philosophy is generally seen to be comprised of three main components; Metaphysics, which tells you what is real; Epistemology which tells you how you know what is real; and Ethics which tells you what you should value.

To his understanding

a philosophical system is complete in the sense that it fulfills all of these functions. {Why do worldviews clash?}

His generalised idea of Christians is limited to Trinitarian Christians who believe in hell to be a place of torture, and the belief that man

will abide in one or the other after death based on the way you live and the state of some invisible part of you called a soul. {Why do worldviews clash?}

He writes

Epistemologically the way Christians know what is real is that God has told human beings what is real through the Bible, so what is true is what is written in the Bible. Christian Ethics revolve around things like charity, loving thy neighbor, duty to family, etc. In a closed system like this you can always ask questions from within the system. Question: Should I steal? Answer: No. Justification: Because the Bible dictates that you don’t. But when you start to ask questions from outside of the system such as: Does God exist? Things get more challenging. {Why do worldviews clash?}

He seems to forget many Christians wonder in their life if God exists. So to call it a non-christian question is in our eyes not exactly right or forgetting that all people question matters of life, what is behind it and what is in it.

He probably agrees that

a complete philosophical system – a worldview – dictates what is real, how you know what is real and what to value about what is real. Without those agreements there is only flimsy basis for discussion. {Why do worldviews clash?}

As such we not need as such the Bible to explain that there is a god or The God. Though the problem can be when one says or thinks:

If the question is inserted into the system from the outside, a Christian could answer by saying, ‘yes, God exists because the Bible says so.’ But that argument only works if someone shares the epistemological presupposition that the Bible is the source of truth. {Why do worldviews clash?}

A Christian shall consider the credibility of the Bible being it the infallible Word of God, but a real Christian shall also be able to point to the Divine Creator God and His possessions without having to need the Bible.

also seems to know only creationist or to classify Christians as creationists or people who would not believe in any form of evolution. He also calls his view modernist whilst the Hebrews already had his modernist view then. Perhaps he should come to know some present and ancient views of Bereshith or Genesis.

He writes:

So a complete philosophical system – a worldview – dictates what is real, how you know what is real and what to value about what is real. Without those agreements there is only flimsy basis for discussion.

If we think about the modernist worldview we have a different system. Metaphysically we have a universe that is composed of matter that has evolved to a complexity that gave rise to human beings and a mysterious property we call consciousness. Epistemologically we know what is true based on ‘logical positivism’ which means adhering to certain laws of logic applied to the evidence we gather through our senses. And the ethics of modernism revolves around the inherent goodness of progress. This is also a complete philosophical system.

It looks like he does think we Christians have no sense or “laws of logic” and that because we live by old “ethics of …..” wich would not be the same as his ethics of modernism even when he considers himself a post-modernists. Seemingly believing we as Christians can not have different views about matters, or would not have similar worldviews as certain philosophers.

He argues:

As postmodernists we recognize that there are different worldviews and we value that diversity. We also recognize that we can’t impose one worldview on another because they rest on different fundamental beliefs and each person has a right to believe as they wish as long as they don’t hurt one another.

We wonder where he gets it that Christians would not say that behaviourism is something that can be true.

The pragmatists were trying to find a way that takes us beyond the deadends of clashing worldviews when debating what is true. That is why they said that it was more useful to argue the truth of something by examining its effect. It isn’t that useful to debate, for instance, whether Behaviorism is true or not.

A Christian might say no because that is not the view that the Bible tells us. (This lets us wonder if he has ever read the Bible); A modernist might say yes because that is what the evidence proves. The question that is more useful to ask is what results from a belief in Behaviorism. Does it work? When does it work? Does it work in this instance and not in that? What results from materialism, what results from a belief in the soul, a belief in freewill, a belief in God? Everything can be examined based on Pragmatic grounds. {Why do worldviews clash?}

All the time man is bombarded in his mind with the question of what should he believe, or what is true or what is real. In his postings Carreira also argued that

if a philosophy dictates “what is real,” “how you determine what is real,” and “how you value what is real,” then it is a closed system. Internally it will be completely consistent, and as long as you “believe” in these three pillars everything (to lift a phrase from Carl) on the inside will look like non-fiction (ie. true) and everything on the outside will look like fiction (ie. not true.) {Test Drive a Worldview}

Carreira continues:

A worldview is not only a set of ideas or beliefs about the world; it is a complete psycho-emotional mental filter of the world. It is a 360 panoramic view of the real. Your worldview dictates how you think about the world, how you feel about the world and how you respond to the world. It envelops us so that the world from inside what worldview looks and feels completely different than the world seen from inside another. {Test Drive a Worldview}

We totally agree with his view that it is each individual his or her worldview which shall dictate how that person thinks and how he or she is going to react to certain matters.  How a person feels about the world and how he or she shall respond to the world depends firstly on the way that person looks at the world and secondly how that person his ethics and moral ideas are formed.

We do not need the the romantic poets, philosophers and scientists to see

a world of open and unlimited possibility in which strangely marvelous and unseen natural forces were guiding the movement of life. {Test Drive a Worldview}

Christians are aware of the many sometimes incomprehensible ways of nature. For him

These natural invisible movements were continuously revealing themselves and there was a sense of awe and wonder at the marvel of life and reality. {Test Drive a Worldview}

And that is just where we say is the Power of God. There, by the wonders of nature, man is able to come to see the invisible Hand of the Divine Creator.

Carreira has been thinking about how challenging philosophical discussion can be and he thinks that part of that difficulty comes about when we are not discussing ideas within a single worldview, but are actually clashing one worldview against another.

As I see it a worldview is a belief in a complete philosophical system. Discussing within a given philosophical system is easy, discussing across one system into another gets challenging. {The Trouble with Worldviews}

Is not that the nice challenging idea of our world where everyone may think freely?

William James believed that humanity had evolved beyond the point of absolute truth. We don’t know the absolute truth; we only know part of the truth and what that truth is, is always changing. For that reason truth had to be seen as evolving; utilized for as long as it worked in those circumstances in which it worked. He, along with his Pragmatist colleagues imagined a complete revisioning of all of philosophy based on Pragmatic grounds. {The Trouble with Worldviews}

Known and unknown things

For ages, man has been confronted with loads of questions. Millions of people tried to find answers but never got to the point where they could say they were satisfied.

There are things that we think we do know. But often when we grow up we come to see we did not know it really. And there are things that we know that we don’t know. Looking at this world and outer space there are so many things that we don’t know, that we don’t know. Those things that we don’t even know enough to know that we don’t know lay so far outside of our existing frame of reference that we can’t even imagine them. They are too far out of our box to hold in mind.

Most of the time we are already so busy with coping about the things we do seem to think are there in the unknown, that we do not have time to think further about those things which are the very far unknown. Lots of things are also matters we do not understand or do not seem to get a grip on to have a good view of them.

Many philosophers were busy with the unknown and wanted to have a clear view of the known. The American philosopher William James was fascinated by the unknown unknowns and assumed that what we knew about reality (and even what we can imagine to be true about reality) is always a tiny fraction of the totality of what is. Question also should be “what is reality”. These days people are confronted a lot by things which are not at all true. The greatest caller and accuser that others are fake is mostly presenting the world with a lot of fake news and very dangerous ideas. (Even when he, as 45th president of the U.S.A. is proud to tell the world he takes this or that product to avoid having Corona, and brings others in danger when they follow him.)

James was a free thinker who held loosely to what he thought was true and assumed that whatever seemed true now would yield to much bigger and more encompassing truths soon. Rather than defend what we know and expand on it slowly, he wanted to inquire directly into what we don’t already know by focusing on the anomalies and oddities that don’t fit into our current understanding.

James felt that our attention should be on the outer fringes of what we know. The next big idea doesn’t come from the center. It comes from the dim outer edge where the light of what we currently know fades into the blackness of the unknown beyond. James risked his career and his reputation as a scientist to study things that others thought were absurdities. As the president of the American Psychical Society he studied spirits, mediums, and life after death. Most scientists felt this was worthless, but James felt that it was out there on the fringes that we would find our way to new and unexpected vistas of truth.

{, How to Move Beyond Vicious Intellectualism}

For mankind has been created by an invisible Source, which is the Being. Without that Being there is no being at all. And that seems very difficult for lots of people to cope with. They want to have something they can touch and see. That is why so many people took themselves some visible god or gods, be it Jesus, cows or other animals or trees.
The two originators of the philosophy of Pragmatism – Charles Sanders Peirce and William James – were both very concerned with unknown unknowns. Both realized that human beings find it very difficult to even imagine that there could be things that we don’t know that we don’t know. Sure we know that there are things that we don’t know. I don’t know lots of scientific and cultural facts, the distance to the nearest star, the president of Monaco and so on. But I know there are such facts that I don’t know. (The film maker and columnist Errol Morris has written for the New York Times recently on the concept of unknown unknowns.)
We all should know that there is so much that we even do not know, which is a manifold of what we know. Are brain is just too limited to cope with everything there is and exists. Bounded unto this earth there is also space which goes beyond our dreams and far away from our own capacity to understand and know what is all there.
Problem with man is also that he thinks to have enough knowledge to understand or to analyse the things in the known and unknown.
Those things that we don’t even know enough to know that we don’t know lay so far outside of our existing frame of reference that we can’t even imagine them. They are too far out of our box to hold in mind. What endears me to Pragmatism more than anything else is the respect given to the existence of truth beyond our current ability to imagine. James and Peirce both assumed that what we knew about reality (and even what we can imagine to be true about reality) is only a tiny part of the totality of reality. And they envisioned a way of going about philosophy in light of this. They created a form of inquiry and a philosophical attitude that was militantly open ended. “Never block the road to inquiry” was Peirce’s motto. And William James railed against what he called vicious intellectualism.

Every day we are requested to look around us and to recognise the truth and untruth, the known and unknown. Each day we have to examine how we want to look at things, because that is going to decide if we are going to be able to go further to understand the unknown as well as the truth or reality.

We must take steps to dare to go out of our comfort zone to come to new visions and coming to known more unknown things. We have to dare to step outside of our own frame of reference. If we are consciously or unconsciously assuming that what we think is true actually is true and negates all other possibilities, our inquiry proceeds by expanding on what we already know. There is the trap for mankind that we focus on what we know and not many try to push at the borders, “creeping slowly out into the vast oceans of unknown that surrounds our small island of known”.

If we want to come to a better world we should dare to look at the darkness and see the light the divine Creator offers the world. He has also given His Word to look into and to find answers. Though not many people take the effort to read that Book of books and come to see more clearly in so many matters that bother us every day.

Danger also for mankind is that people are often so sure that what they think is the truth. Many dare not to question their own value or their own way of looking at things and their own analysation of matters. We should dare to question how we want to look at things. Certainly for looking at things we do not really understand we should consider which glasses we want to use.

James and Peirce wanted our thinking to be free. They wanted to hold on loosely to what we think is true by assuming that whatever we think is true now will yield tomorrow to a much bigger and more encompassing truth. Rather than defend what we know and expand on it slowly they wanted to inquire directly into what we don’t already know by focusing on the anomalies and oddities that don’t fit into our current understanding.

James felt that our attention should be on the outer fringes of what we know. The next big idea doesn’t come from the center. It comes from the dim outer edge where the light of what we currently know fades into the blackness of the unknown beyond. James risked his career and his reputation as a scientist to study things that others thought were absurdities.
{Vicious Intellectualism and the Reality of the Unknown, }

It is not that we have to know how it really is to come to believe. It can very well be that we do not know all the  facts, but may consider that there is some truth or some existence of that what we assume there to be. We have our own sensations and thoughts and can listen to others their thoughts, combining those ideas to form some other ideas, transpiring to come to certain conclusions. Though often we still can’t be sure we would have made the right conclusion.

People should know that even if we cannot point to direct irrefutable evidence of something we should not be afraid to believe in it. As such the belief in God is grounded.

Michael Shermer in his book “How We Believe” describes the mind as a “belief engine” that is constantly creating patterns of belief. From fractured information and sense impressions the mind weaves together plausible pictures of reality that we believe in.
{Belief and Fact, }

Question is also

How do we want to believe?

and

In what do we want to believe?

Most often man only wants to believe in what he can see and feel. For going to believe in certain matters, he wants direct irrefutable evidence. For the matter of God, the divine Creator that is very difficult. To explain God there are also not always common sense definitions. We must be honest, in the God matter, we mostly cannot point to direct irrefutable evidence. To convince others about the existence of God it is also difficult to give really direct evidence.

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Perhaps the following articles can make you think about the matter

  1. 3rd question: Does there exist a Divine Creator
  2. Looking for answers on the question Is there a God #1 Many gods
  3. Is there no ‘proof’ for God? (And why that statement is not as smart as you might think.)
  4. Nature Is A Reflection Of God
  5. Looking for answers on the question Is there a God #3 Transcendence or Surpassing other gods and man
  6. Looking for answers on the question Is there a God #4
  7. 4th Question: Who or What is God
  8. A 1st reply to the 4th Question Who is God 1 A Creating Being to be worshipped