During the era of the Enlightenment there was a debate among physicists as to the nature of reality. There were two metaphysical conceptions of qualities of matter. John Locke was the proponent of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities of matter. According to him, primary qualities are those that are objective facts pertaining to an object, which remain universally true irrespective of the perception of the observer. For example, a rectangular plate will remain a rectangle and under no conditions can one describe it as a circular object. Locke went on to assert that secondary qualities are those given rise through the senses of the observer. These include the color, smells, sound and taste of the object. These qualities are subjective to the particular observer and there could be divergence in how they are sensed. For example, an apple might taste sweet for one person while another might think it tastes bland. Locke contended that this dichotomy of qualities existed . . . Read More
It is self-evident that an individual’s worldview affects their thought, behavior and action. One’s worldview is a major component of personality formation. Of the many parameters that constitute one’s worldview, belief in God is a crucial one. The worldview of a believer is sharply contrasted to that of a non-believer. Apostle Paul expounds on this point in his esteemed epistle addressed to the Romans. In Romans (1-8) he outlines how the worldview of a Christian is shaped with respect to the natural world, human identity, human relationships and culture. This essay will highlight St. Paul’s theological insights into each of these domains, as articulated in the Romans (1-8).
The Natural World
Paul believes how ‘justification’ of the penalty of sin is part of the divine order of things. He sees no marked difference between the divine mandate and the natural order of things. Paul informs the faithful . . . Read More
As philosophers like Frederic Nietzsche have pointed out, Christianity tends to curtail the full meaning of human existence by making it devoid of spontaneity and adventure. In other words, faith in God is made incompatible with ‘seeking’ in its broadest sense. Faith, it would then seem, is merely an “illusion which blocks the path of a liberated humanity to its future.” (p.1) As a result, faith is referred to as darkness. Yet, an attempt was made to accommodate faith with the light of reason. Such room would open up in those areas and moments where the light of reason alone proved insufficient. Faith was thus understood “either as a leap in the dark, to be taken in the absence of light, driven by blind emotion, or as a subjective light, capable perhaps of warming the heart and bringing personal consolation…” (p.2)
With faith thus relegated to a role subordinate to that of reason, it’s value will have to be revived, for when faith fades away, true . . . Read More
Newman finds fault with a certain tendency among the faithful, whereby they are complacent with what is given in scriptures. As a result, they no longer inquire and seek to acquire new knowledge. In other words, they are “not persuaded thereby to see and hear more, are not moved to act upon their knowledge. Seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not; they are contented to remain as they are”. (p.1) Newman argues that faith does not preclude rationality. Yet, he equally condemns those who lack faith at the cost of embracing rationality. These people, lacking in the faculty of religious belief, can only acquire incomplete knowledge.
According to Newman faith is about assenting to a doctrine as veritable, even when faced with lack of sensory evidence to back up its claims. Since God cannot lie, what is revealed will have to be true. At the centre of Divine faith is the total lack of doubt in the heart and mind of the believer. This is so because “God is true, because . . . Read More
Being the same person from one day to the next means to carry forward a whole complex of characteristics across time. This essay will argue that self-identity is constituted of three key components, namely, mind, brain and body. Based on the essays by John Perry and Daniel Dennett, it can loosely be stated that individual identity is primarily a concept of the mind, with the brain and the body providing supporting physiology. Though the role of brain and body are secondary, they are nonetheless essential to self-identity.
Daniel Dennett and John Perry address two facets to the question of identity. Dennett’s preoccupation is with various manifestations of identity during an individual’s lifetime. Perry, on the other hand, treats the idea of the self in the backdrop of mortality and impending death.
Weirob identifies qualities of memory and anticipation as key markers of identity. In the context of mortality, an individual’s afterlife can be spoken of only as a . . . Read More
Daniel Dennett’s essay is about the roles of brain, body and mind in self-identification. Dennett takes the reader through a list of dizzying circumstances in which the brain is separated from the body and yet the two are in communication through sophisticated technology. The central question in a situation like this is the location of the individual across temporal and spatial scales. Given the speed-of-light communication between the terminals in his skull and the separated brain, the subject’s experiences only suffer a small time lag. The really important philosophical questions, then, arise out of spatially locating the ‘I’ in this unusual configuration of one individual.
Dennett suggests various methods of logic and training through which the distended individual can retain his personhood and function as he is used to. Dennett chooses himself as the case study of these thought experiments. For the sake of this acclimatization project, the body is named Hamlet and . . . Read More
David Hume’s essay On Miracles is a strong refutation of supernatural phenomena, often linked to divine intervention. Hume states boldly that even religious events such as miracles should be judged on the basis of empirical evidence. He thus makes evidence the chief determinant of credibility. The credibility of a claimed miracle will increase in proportion to the reliability, method and number of witnesses. Hence Hume dismisses outright any kind of revelatory recounting of miracles. Take say, the example of the resurrection of Christ three days after his death. Though it is an important miracle in Christian theology, it fails the rigorous standards of empiricism that Hume mandates. We only have references to the event in the scriptures, the writing of which happened much later than the event – sometimes centuries later. On top of this, those who witnessed Christ’s resurrection were invariably the faithful, who wished that it were so. Moreover, even if a claimed miracle is . . . Read More
In the first chapter titled ‘Is Belief Wishful Thinking?’ Herbert McCabe throws light on the evolution of faith. According to McCabe, one of the lazy pretexts for religious belief is its comforting illusions. People have a tendency to want to believe in a fair and wise God who dispenses justice to all. But this is nothing more than wishful thinking. Yet, the validity of religious belief does not stand negated just because some of the faithful indulge in wishful thinking. Unlike scientific facts, religious beliefs have two components – fact and interpretation. So a combination of literal truth and metaphoric suggestion is at play in the system of beliefs that comprise a religion. In Christianity for example, “beliefs do entail certain simple factual historical beliefs, and in their case it is certainly possible to show what scientific evidence would count against them.” (p.2) McCabe cites the resurrection of Christ as an example of a belief that can be scientifically . . . Read More
Anselm of Canterbury was one of the early promoters of the Ontological Argument supporting the existence of God. He argues that God exists on the basis that ‘something-than-which-nothing-greater-can-be-thought’ should necessarily exist in reality. In other words, just as anything a painter can conceive of can be materialized into a painting, the conception of God is a terminal point for human imagination. To the extent that it is imaginable, the object exists. To the extent that it is the ultimate in the scale of imagination, it must be God. Anselm goes on to claim that that God cannot be thought not to exist is further proof. He says, ‘something-than-which-a-greater-cannot-be-thought’ exists so truly that it cannot even be thought not to exist. If a creature is able to think of something better and bigger than God, it would have to be above its Creator and be judging its Creator. Since this is logically impossible, it is only God who not only truly exists but also exists to . . . Read More
It is important for all of us to have spiritual moorings. To be able to negotiate the vagaries of life, a spiritual support is essential. Sharon Salzberg’s informative book Faith is a personalized account of the necessity of faith. Talking from her experiences as an American Buddhist teacher, Salzberg offers readers several insights on the subject.
One of the main concepts spoken by Salzberg is the ‘discovery of truth’. Citing Buddhist understanding of cognitive processes, she reckons that human senses are not adequate to comprehend spiritual insights. To be able to get enlightened, disciplined pursuit of truth is necessary. Salzberg talks about how her own spiritual journey was marked by phases of doubt and confusion. Indeed, it is these challenges which make knowledge concrete, pulling away from its conceptual abstractions. In her own case, she encountered confusion whether to follow the Burmese or the Tibetan tradition of spiritual contemplation. She states that such . . . Read More