Tag Archives: philosophy

Never be Hoodwinked Again!



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Are all religions just different expressions of the same truth?


Or so says Phillip Cary, who, in his recent lecture to the University of Georgia Christian Faculty Forum, questions our impulse “to say that all religions are in some deep sense the same.”

It’s an impulse we have about a lot of things, not just religion.  We like to talk about celebrating diversity and difference, but we often do it by trying to reassure people, “we’re really all the same underneath.”  I was struck by this in one educational programs meant to celebrate diversity.  Its message was: let’s celebrate our differences, because we’re really all the same.  I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much.  Without exaggeration, I think we could put the key idea here like this:  difference is great, so long as it doesn’t go all the way down.  So we try to protect difference by saying: we’re not all that different.  At some deep level we’re really the same.

Cary even makes such unseemly claims as “We have the right…to say [someone’s] beliefs aren’t true.” And “all truth is absolute.”

But Cary is no my-way-or-the-highway-fundamentalist. He just understands that the John Hick-style philosophy of religious pluralism, in which all religious beliefs are deemed equally true is not only illogical, but “profoundly disrespectful” to religious people.

To expect people to say that their religious beliefs are only “true for me” is to expect them not to take the truth of their own beliefs seriously.  I don’t think we ever have the right to expect that of anybody.  We have the right to disagree with people, to say their beliefs aren’t true, to give reasons trying to persuade them to change their beliefs.  But we don’t have a right to expect them simply not to believe what they believe.  And that’s what we’re expecting if we say: “you can’t really say it’s true.  It’s just true for you.”   For, on the contrary, people have a right to say “it’s true” precisely because they believe it.  For, to repeat, to believe something is precisely to believe it’s true.  So why can’t you say what you believe?  If you believe it’s true, then go ahead and say it’s true.

There’s a connection here between ethics and logic, because logic centers on the concept of truth, and ethics includes the requirement that we respect other people, which includes respect for them as truth seekers, as people who want to know the truth and believe it, rather than to be in error, and believe what’s false.

In its place Cary proposes a philosophy of religious pluralism that looks more like friendship.

If you and I don’t know each other very well, then we have to be very cautious about how we express our disagreement, very polite.  We don’t shout at each other or say things like “what a  stupid idea,” and so on.  But then think how the conversation might change if we become friends.  We might go at it hammer and tongs, gleefully shouting at each other, pulling out all the rhetorical stops, calling a stupid idea stupid when we see it that way, and none of us takes offense because we are enjoying each other’s company so much and learning so much, even though we have lots of misunderstandings of each other to work through.  We enjoy arguing with each other—that’s how it is with friends—because we can trust that our friends really do want what is good for us, really do want us to know the truth, which is also what we want for them.

You can read the entire lecture here.

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Some serious philosophical thoughts on bull%*!@

In 2005, Princeton philosopher, Harry G. Frankfurt published his essay, On Bullshit, exploring analytically this most salient feature of our culture. Now, in this interview, he shares what he discovered.

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Does music theory provide a code for platonic philosophy?

One writer said that the history of Western philosophy is a series of foot notes on Plato, and that’s almost not an exaggeration. But with little more than a cursory glance, one sees how non-constructive Plato’s writings actually are. While Plato’s theoretical debates and dialogues pose innumerable questions—to which the history of Western philosophy is indeed a set of possible answers—it’s not at all clear what Plato himself might answer…or so it seems. Jay Kennedy, a professor at Britain’s University of Manchester, claims to have cracked a code hidden in Plato’s writings: As musical theory was nearly sacred to the Ancient Greeks, prof. Kennedy has identified a series of arguments that appear along “scales” in Plato’s dialogues that seem to provide a key to Plato’s own belief. PRI’s David Barron interviewed Dr. Kennedy on yesterday’s edition of The World.  Listen to the full interview here.

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Sophocles Psychotherapy

SophoclesEven the Ancients understood that we send our young men off to battle at the cost of their mental stability.  Playwrights and poets like Homer, Virgil, and Sophocles all told of the battle waged within the warriors soul. 

After the tragedies at Fort Hood, the U.S. military is finally beginning to assess some of its own damage, and they are turning to Sophocles for help.  According to the Times, “The Pentagon has provided $3.7 million for an independent production company, Theater of War, to visit 50 military sites through at least next summer and stage readings from two plays by Sophocles, “Ajax” and “Philoctetes,” for service members.”

On the one hand, I commend the Pentagon for showing more creativity than one could expect (certainly more than one usually finds) from an organization whose job is war.  On the other hand, isn’t it interesting that we employ this ancient playwright as a therapist for our soldiers, but do not ourselves reflect upon the accumulation of this unspoken collateral damage throughout human history? 

These plays are seen as more pragmatic than philosophical.  The founder of the Theater of War, Bryan Doerriesis quoted describing the performances as “a public health project to help service members and relatives overcome stigmas about psychological injuries by showing that some of the bravest heroes suffered mentally from battle.”  We don’t want Sophocles to speak to us, in other words, about the state or cost of warfare, we just want to you know that it’s okay that your screwed up for life!  It’s normal to be strange.  We are a far cry from Plato’s ideal of the Philosopher King when we just send our philosophy down the line to the working class like a pill so they can keep on producing.

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