• Wayfarer
    14.6k
    ‘those who have ears to hear, let them hear’. That doesn’t apply to everyone, there are those whose minds are irredeemably made up already.
  • 180 Proof
    7k
    @Wayfarer
    Nothing Waywarer? Have a smidgen of intellectual honesty and say what it means to you, please.
    praxis
    ↪praxis ‘those who have ears to hear, let them hear’. That doesn’t apply to everyone, there are those whose minds are irredeemably made up already. — Wayfarer
    This is what irredeemably intellectual dishonesty (i.e. shallow, derivative sophistry at best) looks like.
  • Wayfarer
    14.6k
    I provided material about Schopenhauer’s philosophy of religion, only to be told that what he names ‘man’s metaphysical need’ is a mental pathology. Really the only mental pathology that is at work in all these debates is your pathological hatred of anything you deem religious (which includes an incredibly broad sweep.)
  • Manuel
    2.1k


    As noted by you, both try to make sense of the world. The difference is that some aspects of philosophy have an empirical basis, whereas Religion use of empirical phenomena is weaker. And there's also conceptual analysis which is a crucial component of modern philosophy.

    Religion evidently seeks to provide meaning and purpose explicitly by invoking God (or Gods) and thus all phenomena are ultimately explained by ending up relating back to a supreme being. This can happen in philosophy too, so there's no escape from some kind of intuition or basic idea of which we have an intuition is correct.

    Religion tends to provide an answer, whereas in philosophy issues can be clarified, minimized or left behind and often more questions result for pursuing the issue at hand.

    A professor I had once joked that philosophers have a question for every answer. Susan Haack pointed out that if two people are in a room and always disagree, they are usually philosophers, which is correct, to a point.

    The spiritual element (or mystical or numinous) is not as easy topic for philosophy to deal with, whereas in religion it is taken as a given or an evident phenomenon.

    I suppose the key difference, in my mind, is that one field keeps asking and debating age old questions whereas the other often has the answers "ready made", though interpretive issues do arise. Descartes had a point that at least once in our life, when appropriate, we should question everything, and see what follows form this.

    It's a good exercise for thinking a bit more clearly about how we interpret and relate to the world.
  • Caldwell
    954
    Essentially and in short, a living organism in an environment, trying to survive as well as as possible given the characteristics we have and the resources available to us or which we can acquire. Much like any other living organism. All else is nuance, dependent largely on circumstances and matters at hand.Ciceronianus
    Yes.
    So a biological interpretation is what we’ve always known?
    I highly doubt prehistorical people thought of themselves this way or spoke of themselves this way.
    Xtrix
    The sense of self is a "modern" notion. Believe it or not, "self" did not exist in the cerebral happenings of humans in the primitive era. This is a modern philosophical idea, not a religious one.
  • 180 Proof
    7k
    :up:

    Slinging ad hominems my way doesn't make your (typical knee-jerk) evasion of @praxis' direct question any less conspicuous. And whether or not I harbor a "pathological hatred of anything ... religious" in no way addresses the veracity of my critiques of "religious" apologetics and related fetish-fantasies (e.g. the only response you were capable of to Zapffe's interpretation of what Schopenhauer calls "metaphysical need" is this evasive ad hominem). You simply haven't any philosophical credibility, sir.
  • Xtrix
    2.9k
    So a biological interpretation is what we’ve always known?
    I highly doubt prehistorical people thought of themselves this way or spoke of themselves this way.
    — Xtrix
    The sense of self is a "modern" notion. Believe it or not, "self" did not exist in the cerebral happenings of humans in the primitive era. This is a modern philosophical idea, not a religious one.
    Caldwell

    I don’t see the relevance of this comment. I didn’t say anything about the concept of “self” nor that it was a religious idea.

    Of course “primitive” humans referred to themselves and thought about their own being and the being of others, just as I said. There’s nothing philosophical about that— people do it all the time, and there are words in every language that does so. If you truly can’t distinguish between this ordinary usage and the technical notion of “self,” then that’s your problem.
  • Caldwell
    954
    I done see the relevance of this comment. I didn’t say anything about the concept of “self” not that it was a religious idea.Xtrix
    No you did not say self. It was an implication from C's post and yours. It is relevant in the exchanges between you and C.

    Of course “primitive” humans referred to themselves, just as I said. There’s nothing philosophical about that— people do it all the time, and there are words in every language that does so. If you truly can’t distinguish between this ordinary usage and the technical notion of “self,” then that’s your problem.Xtrix
    You certainly missed the philosophical part of my comment. That's why I emphasized it as philosophical. Referring to yourself is not what "self" in philosophical terms means, although for practical purposes, they did have awareness.
  • I like sushi
    3.1k
    Um...I'm not calling you unintelligent at all, but also not not saying you're conceited.theRiddler

    I never hinted or suggested you were?
  • I like sushi
    3.1k
    To view ‘religiosity’ as a pathological illness is a reasonable question to pose just as it would be to view a lack of ‘religiosity’ as a pathological illness.

    Either way you do seem to be avoiding any attempt to explain/show/adumbrate what it is that was asked for. I don’t even know what you mean by ‘mystical looking glass’ nor would it seem obvious to anyone as it is too vague a statement.
  • I like sushi
    3.1k
    @Xtrix Have you ever looked into mnemonics in religious/cultural practice? There was a book written fairly recently by someone I cannot remember the name of that looked into prehistoric systems for passing on knowledge - through mnemonic techniques embedded in mythos.

    People used something akin to complex rosary beads to store information. Peoples alive today familiar with such mnemonic techniques (in Australia) view constructs like Stone Hedge as blatant mnemonic devices. I think it is an interesting to view prehistoric landscapes as canvases upon which a rich tapestry of knowledge was written by way of mythos and ritual. This is something I was trying to get at earlier in mentioning Eliade’s work. The Mundane is imbued with a Sacred meaning. Knowledge is passed on this way as the written form didn’t exist.

    As a basic example if some people had a successful hunt the would be happy about it. The location of this hunt would leave a lasting psychological mark on the landscape. From this we have the beginnings of a ritual. The site will become ‘special’ it will take on a Sacred meaning.

    I don’t see this as being anything like religion nor philosophy. Those two distinctions are merely laid out for academic convenience but the underlying principles of human existence are still items of human existence. Giving authorship and agency to inanimate objects is also something human infants do before they can either walk or talk - in is a natural disposition (the psychological/neurological evidence for this is clear as can be).

    I understand the problems of metaphor, mythos and mimetic functions, but they are nevertheless power tools of human cognition that allow us to relate to each other and the world at large.

    Note: Her name is Lynne Kelly (referring to study of mnemonics).
  • Xtrix
    2.9k
    I don’t see this as being anything like religion nor philosophy. Those two distinctions are merely laid out for academic convenience but the underlying principles of human existence are still items of human existence. Giving authorship and agency to inanimate objects is also something human infants do before they can either walk or talk - in is a natural disposition (the psychological/neurological evidence for this is clear as can be).I like sushi

    Exactly. The reference seems interesting and I’ll check it out.
  • praxis
    4.5k
    ‘those who have ears to hear, let them hear’. That doesn’t apply to everyone, there are those whose minds are irredeemably made up already.Wayfarer

    You wrote, "To those who've never been through the mystical looking glass it means nothing", and also seem to claim that Nietsche was incapable of seeing this meaning. What are you referring to? What's the idea or sentiment behind this meaning that you mention? Again I will point out that we're not aliens but all members of the same species, with the same sense organs, neurological structure, and even very similar cultural backgrounds. Also, many of us are familiar with Eastern religion, philosophy, and mysticism.

    Just say what you mean.
  • Ciceronianus
    2.2k
    We're also a bunch of atoms nonetheless. We're also the "rational animal." We're also "creatures of God." We're also "minds" and "selves." To pick one of these and say "Here is the REAL truth" is just nonsense. It's an interpretation. That doesn't make it untrue -- it just means it's not the only truth.Xtrix

    The "REAL truth" isn't at issue. Your point as I recall was that we humans ask ourselves (among other things) "what we are" (I paraphrase). My contention is we know what we are, but enjoy thinking otherwise; in fact prefer to think otherwise--usually, that we're more than we are or appear to be. I think that's what we're doing when we ask ourselves: What is a human being?

    It happens we can be reasonably certain that we're made up of atoms. We're also reasonably certain that we're living creatures in a world with other things we interact with on a daily basis (putting aside the silly claims some philosophers are pleased to make now and then). It would be incorrect, though, for us to say human beings are "God's creatures" or creatures that have souls, for example. To the extent we make such claims when asking what we are, I think we engage in wishful thinking. Maybe we are, maybe we do, but to assert we are/do is unwarranted.
  • Xtrix
    2.9k
    The "REAL truth" isn't at issue. Your point as I recall was that we humans ask ourselves (among other things) "what we are" (I paraphrase). My contention is we know what we are, but enjoy thinking otherwiseCiceronianus

    Yes, I know. And my contention is that this is completely misguided. We don't "know what we are" and simply like to think otherwise; rather, we interpret ourselves in various ways -- and always have. To say we're organisms trying to survive is one of those interpretations. Why you privilege this above others is why I mentioned "default" and "real truth" -- how else is it to be interpreted? If we "know what we are," and what we are is an organism, then that indeed is the "real truth," the rest being mere thinking. That's how you're portraying it, and that's simply a mistake. It's mistaking one interpretation for the "true" interpretation. Which is what Christians and many others do as well.

    I think that's what we're doing when we ask ourselves: What is a human being?Ciceronianus

    When we ask that question, we're already in a different mode of being than we are in when hunting, gathering, engaging with tools and interacting with others. Which is exactly what you're doing as well when you then interpret human being as an organism trying to survive.


    It happens we can be reasonably certain that we're made up of atoms. We're also reasonably certain that we're living creatures in a world with other things we interact with on a daily basis (putting aside the silly claims some philosophers are pleased to make now and then). It would be incorrect, though, for us to say human beings are "God's creatures" or creatures that have souls, for example. To the extent we make such claims when asking what we are, I think we engage in wishful thinking. Maybe we are, maybe we do, but to assert we are/do is unwarranted.Ciceronianus

    There's a much richer explanatory theory in physics and chemistry than many of the claims of Christian dogma, yes. But some Christians are more sophisticated, defining God as a kind of "force" or energy field...none of this is the point, though. It's not that every interpretation is equally serious. Science happens to be very powerful for many different reasons. But it simply cannot explain everything, and continuously fails to see how reliant it is on philosophy and is, in fact, an outgrowth of philosophy -- namely, natural philosophy.
  • Wayfarer
    14.6k
    I don’t even know what you mean by ‘mystical looking glass’ nor would it seem obvious to anyone as it is too vague a statement.I like sushi

    "To those who've never been through the mystical looking glass it means nothing", and also seem to claim that Nietsche was incapable of seeing this meaning. What are you referring to? What's the idea or sentiment behind this meaning that you mention?praxis

    Recall I had started by referring to an essay on Schopenhauer's philosophy of religion. This essay says that Schop. situated 'man's need for metaphysics' in what he perceived as the existential plight of human beings - driven by blind will to pursue pleasures and satisfactions that can never be satiated, and which can only be transcended through a form of renunciation. But he doesn't say, therefore, that the solution to this predicament is to believe in a religious creed (notice that 'creed' and 'credence' basically mean the same). I think Schopenhauer's understanding is nearer to that of the gnostics and to Eastern philosophy - which he acknowledges - which call for a kind of meta-cognitive shift, an insight into the nature of being and knowing. I know that sounds vague, but then, Schopenhauer's entire magnum opus was about this shift. Also the essay I linked to provides a much deeper analysis, That is something like what I meant by 'through the looking glass'. (The reference to Lewis Carroll was not accidental, I think he too intuitively grasped the kind of meta-cognitive shift. Remember also that Schop, saw himself as the intellectual heir of Kant.)

    Schopenhauer argues that, because (religions') function is to provide a system of metaphysics for the average person, who has a limited capacity to comprehend metaphysical truths, religion must be less direct when making its claims than philosophy. Religious teachings can be of “inestimable benefit” to the average person, but “with reference to the mental capacity of the great mass of people, they can only [present] an indirect, not a direct truth” (WWR II 168). This indirect truth is that which “has itself under the veil of allegory” (WWR II 169). Such allegories employ symbols, allusions, narrative tropes, figurative language, and cultural references from the time and place in which their author is writing to convey a deeper, more universal idea than one provided by a literal reading of the text. Schopenhauer discovered that this approach to writing and interpreting religious texts was common to mystical traditions arising in vastly different civilizations. He remarks on the similarities, when read allegorically, found “in the Oupnekhat (Upaniṣads), in the Enneads of Plotinus, in Scotus Erigena, in the passages of Jacob Bohme, and especially in the wonderful work of Madame de Guyon, Les Torres, and in Angelius Silesius, and finally also in the beautiful poems of the Sufis” (WWR II 612). — Nicholas Linhares

    And no, I don't think Nietszche 'gets' this, but I'm not going to argue that point.
  • Wayfarer
    14.6k
    It happens we can be reasonably certain that we're made up of atoms.Ciceronianus

    arranged by what, is the question.
  • Janus
    11.7k
    The "REAL truth" isn't at issue. Your point as I recall was that we humans ask ourselves (among other things) "what we are" (I paraphrase). My contention is we know what we are, but enjoy thinking otherwise; in fact prefer to think otherwise--usually, that we're more than we are or appear to be. I think that's what we're doing when we ask ourselves: What is a human being?Ciceronianus

    It seems likely that hunter/ gatherers would have known what they were, or had no existentially angsty questions about it as we moderns do.. The more elaborate societies become, the more specialization, the more possibilities of vocation available, the more the question of identity and purpose becomes an existential issue.

    Add to that the basic mystery of the Real, of existence itself; questions that have had more and more elaborate stories, and more and more questioning of the stories themselves, spun around them over millennia and the modern situation doesn't seem so strange.
  • praxis
    4.5k
    I think Schopenhauer's understanding is nearer to that of the gnostics and to Eastern philosophy - which he acknowledges - which call for a kind of meta-cognitive shift, an insight into the nature of being and knowing.Wayfarer

    Do you mean emptiness?

    Next time perhaps try not to make so much ado about nothing.
  • Wayfarer
    14.6k
    Do you mean emptiness?praxis
    śūnyatā is not mentioned in that essay and a lot of people won’t know what is meant by it.
  • Ciceronianus
    2.2k
    Add to that the basic mystery of the Real, of existence itself; questions that have had more and more elaborate stories, and more and more questioning of the stories themselves, spun around them over millennia and the modern situation doesn't seem so strange.Janus




    I'm merely suggesting that what prompts a person to ask "What is a human being?" isn't any confusion on the part of the person. The person has no doubt the person, and other persons, are human beings. That person doesn't have any problem distinguishing a human being from an owl, or an ant.

    The person asking the question is either engaged in a kind of academic exercise, wishing to describe a human being for who knows what reason, or listing what it is that distinguished human beings from insects (for example) or wondering whether a human being is something more than what he/she/whatever already knows to be the case, or perhaps determine what a human being should be.
  • Janus
    11.7k
    I'm merely suggesting that what prompts a person to ask "What is a human being?" isn't any confusion on the part of the person. The person has no doubt the person, and other persons, are human beings. That person doesn't have any problem distinguishing a human being from an owl, or an ant.Ciceronianus

    The question as to how to distinguish a human being from other animals, with its very obvious answers is not at all the same question as "what does it mean to be a human being", though. You may want to say the latter question is a misguided one, but it's tied up with the ethical question regarding the good life.
  • John McMannis
    34
    That's the context I like to think of when trying to answer these questions. To summarize:

    (1) We're human beings, and we sometimes think.
    (2) Sometimes this thinking is concerned with universal questions.
    (3) These questions are called philosophical.

    (4) So philosophy is a kind of thinking -- a kind that asks universal questions.
    Xtrix

    I kind of like this. Is this from a book or just your own stuff? So any time I'm asking universal questions I'm doing philosophy? What do you consider universal questions? What about when I'm sweeping my floor and taking a shower? I'm thinking a lot there to, but it's not philosophical, so what is it? Not many people ask themselves big questions.....does that mean most of us aren't philosophers?
  • Xtrix
    2.9k
    I kind of like this. Is this from a book or just your own stuff?John McMannis

    Thanks. Not from a book, but might as well be. Like anything it's a combination of books I've read about history and philosophy filtered through the snowflake-like tapestry of my brain's neurochemistry. :wink:

    So any time I'm asking universal questions I'm doing philosophy?John McMannis

    In my view, yes.

    What do you consider universal questions?John McMannis

    One's that thinkers throughout history have asked and struggled with:

    What is a good life? What is good?
    What am I?
    What happens after death?
    What should we do?
    What is knowledge? Justice? Love? Beauty? Consciousness?
    What is being?

    And so on...

    What about when I'm sweeping my floor and taking a shower? I'm thinking a lot there to, but it's not philosophical, so what is it?John McMannis

    Reverie, I guess. Or simply average thinking. Sometimes I like to call it "junk thought." We're talking to ourselves all the time, and almost none of it gets expressed, nor is any of it worth expressing. My mind wanders a lot, jumping from image to image or word to word. Most of it is just crap.

    Not many people ask themselves big questions.....does that mean most of us aren't philosophers?John McMannis

    Indeed.
  • Xtrix
    2.9k
    That person doesn't have any problem distinguishing a human being from an owl, or an ant.Ciceronianus

    Yes, but that's not saying much. The Christian doesn't have much issue with that either. Nor did the Greek. Nor did the Hindus. We don't have much problem separating a tree from a rock, but that doesn't prove anything about what a tree or rock "really is," underneath it all (e.g., one consists of cells and the other doesn't).

    The person asking the question is either engaged in a kind of academic exercise, wishing to describe a human being for who knows what reason, or listing what it is that distinguished human beings from insects (for example) or wondering whether a human being is something more than what he/she/whatever already knows to be the case, or perhaps determine what a human being should be.Ciceronianus

    There you go again. "Already knows." What do they "already know"? I think you're quite right -- they do "already know," and what they know is very different depending on time and place. In Medieval Europe, they "already knew" that humans were created by God -- before conducting their academic (or Scholastic) exercise. Today we "already know" that we're simply evolved, biological organisms -- before we conduct our academic exercises about "what a human being is." Both are interpretations, both are "pre-theoretical."
  • Ciceronianus
    2.2k
    The question as to how to distinguish a human being from other animals, with its very obvious answers is not at all the same question as "what does it mean to be a human being", though.Janus

    And that, essentially, is my point. "What does it mean to be a human being?" is not the same question as "What is a human being?"
  • Ciceronianus
    2.2k


    I think we're saying different things, or perhaps I'm being unclear.

    Christians, Hindus, Moslems, Romans, Vandals, Han, Mayans, all humans, now alive or previously alive; none of them take, or took, a squirrel (for example) to be a human being. They were quite able to distinguish themselves and other humans from other creatures and from things. They didn't ask themselves "What am I (or what is my friend or enemy); an armadillo, or a human being?"

    They also know/knew things about human beings which aren't limited to physical attributes but have in common. They know/knew that human beings get angry, get sad, get happy, etc. They know/knew we get hungry, eat, procreate, fight--they and we know a great deal about what a human being is and would agree that such characteristics are common to human beings. There would be no dispute regarding whether a person was a human being having such characteristics.

    We obviously dispute other things--whether Jesus is our savior; whether we're the spawn of extraterrestrials; whether we're God's creatures; whether Adam and Eve were our ancestors, whether we have immortal souls. These are issues, as you say, of interpretation. They're may also be issues of speculation, faith, wishful thinking.

    When we speak of what something "really" is we're saying that it is or may be something in addition to or more than or different from what we all agree it is.
  • Xtrix
    2.9k
    They know/knew we get hungry, eat, procreate, fight--they and we know a great deal about what a human being is and would agree that such characteristics are common to human beings. There would be no dispute regarding whether a person was a human being having such characteristics.Ciceronianus

    Not necessarily. Apes have the same characteristics you mentioned. In fact some explorers were often unsure about the humanity of the tribes they encountered — which is racist, of course, but still a fact.

    Anyway, I’m nitpicking. I understand your point. I’m only emphasizing this to demonstrate that knowing what a human being is perhaps isn’t as easy as you believe. We’re able to distinguish differences between trees and shrubs, between horse and donkey, between humans and primates— but to pin down exactly why they’re different and whether or not they belong in similar categories isn’t an easy task, as we learn from taxonomy.

    These are issues, as you say, of interpretation.Ciceronianus

    It’s all interpretation. Once you’re thinking or talking about it, you’re interpreting. If you perceive, you’re interpreting. Take vision as an example.

    That doesn’t man there’s no such thing as truth, or that anything goes. But it does mean that what we take as solid fact, basic truth, or total agreement really doesn’t guarantee us much. And to say human beings are organisms, at bottom, and all else is interpretation, is just saying “This interpretation is the reality, and all other interpretations are interesting but culturally dependent.”
  • Ciceronianus
    2.2k
    It’s all interpretation. Once you’re thinking or talking about it, you’re interpreting. If you perceive, you’re interpreting. Take vision as an example.Xtrix

    What is it you interpret vision to be interpreting?

    I believe I understand what you're saying, but I think that there comes a point when insisting all is interpretation becomes meaningless, or pedantic (no offense intended). That may be the Pragmatist in me. When we assert that when I see a chair I'm interpreting it, I doubt we're saying anything significant. When we claim that we can distinguish a human being from a potato, I don't think this is an interpretation in any reasonable sense.
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