• Jamal
    9.2k
    In a video asking the question What is Philosophy Good For, philosopher Hans-Georg Moeller gives an answer: questioning religion. He even suggests that it’s part of a good definition of philosophy, but at the very least he’s saying that questioning religion is historically one of the things that philosophy has done well, and is one of the most valuable things it does.

    This got me thinking. Against the common view that philosophy is a two-thousand-year-old failing enterprise, a body of thought that has produced no knowledge, couldn’t we say that philosophy has in fact done pretty well in bringing dominant beliefs into question, revealing their incoherence or baselessness, or just submitting them to rational enquiry?

    Philosophy has been questioning religion from the start. From Socrates, who was executed for it, to Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, and Hegel—who, even when they did not actually deny God, chipped away at the foundations of dogma and the authority of the church, submitted religious concepts to inquiry, or came up with their own more or less heretical versions of God—and then on through the atheist Schopenhauer to Nietzsche, who went all the way and further.

    Generalizing, we can say that philosophy is critical: critical of prevailing beliefs, certainly fanatical or fundamentalist beliefs, but perhaps more importantly, beliefs that seem obvious. So it is importantly subversive. And ever since we killed God in the nineteenth century, it’s had other fish to fry. For Marx it was capitalist ideology, and for more recent thinkers it’s been the entertainment industry, totalitarianism, the institutional entwining of knowledge and power, and so on.

    Generalizing even further, philosophy is—or is part of—enlightenment, a means by which humans are freed from domination, whether by nature, myth, religion, governments, whatever it happens to be:

    Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. — Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment

    I don’t have a specific question except: what do you think?
  • Mww
    4.6k
    ….what do you think?Jamal

    Sapere aude!!!
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    Generalizing, we can say that philosophy is critical: critical of prevailing beliefs, certainly fanatical or fundamentalist beliefs, but perhaps more importantly, beliefs that seem obvious.Jamal

    A lot of people would probably agree. In this vein, I guess we've been in a period where the enlightenment project and the presuppositions of science are themselves under scrutiny, and debunking physicalism seems to be a key attraction. More and more people are reaching for the word scientism.

    There are two big negatives on the periphery of much philosophical discussion - inadequate philosophy used by atheist polemicists and bad speculative quantum physics used by advocates of the 'supernatural '- a word some people think of as a lazy pejorative. Both approaches turn a lot of people off the more serious arguments presented by both orientations.

    For me as a layperson, there's philosophy I can use or learn from and philosophy for academics who relish jargon saturated, recondite deliberations about thinkers so intricate or verbose, no one can seemingly agree about the correct reading of their work.
  • schopenhauer1
    10.1k
    Generalizing even further, philosophy is—or is part of—enlightenment, a means by which humans are freed from domination, whether by nature, myth, religion, governments, whatever it happens to be:Jamal

    But some philosophy points not to upward dialectic of Man but of the inherent perennial suffering nature of existence. See: Schopenhauer (suffering Will), Kierkegaard (angst), Siddhartha Gotama (dukkha), Hartmann (social despair), Mainlander (cosmic suicide), Zapffe (over-evolved self-awareness), E.M. Cioran (resigned indifference, disappointmentism), etc. etc.

    As we move through cultural history, we are given more chances for sophisticated reflection of the intractable problems of human existence.
  • Pantagruel
    3.3k
    Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters.
    — Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment
    Jamal

    To me this hearkens "masters and possessors of nature" which likewise suggests an invalid anthropocentric hierarchy. The truly enlightened perspective sees us as one aspect of an overarching meaningful whole. Whence the religious-mystical history and sentiment of mankind isn't something to be overturned, but rather comprehended in a new way.
  • Jamal
    9.2k
    I’ll include the next sentence this time:

    Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. Yet the wholly enlightened earth is radiant with triumphant calamity. — Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment

    Their answer to why this is so is that enlightened reason itself tends to go wrong, and we end up dominating nature and each other to the detriment of both. And in becoming aware of this dialectic we might be said to reach something like a more holistic perspective.
  • frank
    14.6k
    Generalizing even further, philosophy is—or is part of—enlightenment, a means by which humans are freed from domination, whether by nature, myth, religion, governments, whatever it happens to be:

    Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters.
    — Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment
    Jamal

    I think Russell claimed that philosophy started as a counterpoint to mystery religions and snake oil salesmen. But that kind of reaction has to be rooted in a larger story that's being played out in society.

    If you study art history, it's all going to be about how art was expressing the social events of the time. Probably the same with philosophy.

    I notice that I'm driven by a need to puncture the image of the brave subversive philosopher by saying "You couldn't have achieved any of that if society hadn't been ready for it." I'm sure they were brave, though.
  • Jamal
    9.2k
    But some philosophy points not to upward dialectic of Man but of the inherent perennial suffering nature of existence. See: Schopenhauer (suffering Will), Kierkegaard (angst), Siddhartha Gotama (dukkha), Hartmann (social despair), Mainlander (cosmic suicide), Zapffe (over-evolved self-awareness), E.M. Cioran (resigned indifference, disappointmentism), etc. etc.schopenhauer1

    As I implied, philosophers like to criticize. Maybe those guys were freeing us from our illusions and thus contributing to enlightenment. And Siddharta was quite big on enlightenment, I hear.

    As we move through cultural history, we are given more chances for sophisticated reflection of the intractable problems of human existence.schopenhauer1

    Ah, history as progress … towards antinatalism. :wink:
  • Jamal
    9.2k
    Yes, I agree. I was careful not to say that philosophers were the central cause of enlightenment.
  • Joshs
    5.3k
    Philosophy has been questioning religion from the startJamal

    And religion has been questioning religion from the start. The formation of new religions typically carry with them an implicit critique of older established ones ( Protestant reformation, Conservative, reform and reconstructionist Judaism, etc). Meanwhile, the history of Western philosophy has mostly consisted of questioning one religious metaphysical system in order to prepare the ground for a different religious metaphysical system.
  • Jamal
    9.2k
    For me as a layperson, there's philosophy I can use or learn from and philosophy for academics who relish jargon saturated, recondite deliberations about thinkers so intricate or verbose, no one can seemingly agree about the correct reading of their work.Tom Storm

    I was watching Rick Roderick the other day and he pointed out that the best books, whether in philosophy or not, are those that produce the most, and the most diverse, interpretations. I agree with him. The idea that philosophers, by means of clarity and brevity, can pin down the meaning of their works, has not stood up to scrutiny.

    That’s not to say all interpretations are equally good though.
  • Jamal
    9.2k
    And religion has been questioning religion from the start. The formation of new religions typically carry with them an implicit critique of older established ones ( Protestant reformation, Conservative, reform and reconstructionist Judaism, etc). Meanwhile, the history of Western philosophy has mostly consisted of questioning one religious metaphysical system in order to prepare the ground for a different religious metaphysical system.Joshs

    Although I may have implied that the history of philosophy is one of inevitable progress towards the banishment of religion through the advance of thought, another way to see it is just that philosophy is always there to question religion, not especially as part of a destructive plan but to help religions move with the times, or as you say, lay the groundwork for different religious systems. Or, to prevent the descent into fundamentalism.

    One of the other functions of philosophy mentioned in the video is the coining of concepts, and I guess this has been part of how philosophy prepares the ground for new systems.
  • Art48
    464
    I think it goes too far to say philosophy is for questioning religion. I'd say philosophy is for discovering truth and the truth it finds often conflicts with the bogus "truths" of religion. Thus philosophy by its very nature often results in questioning of religion.
  • Ciceronianus
    3k
    I don’t have a specific question except: what do you think?Jamal

    The pragmatist in me thinks that philosophy should be devoted to the clarification of ideas and the application of critical intelligence to the resolution of problems of all kinds. The quietist in me thinks much the same, but would limit the problems to a particular type--those involving the pretensions of philosophy (those claiming special insight into Truth, Nature, Being, etc.) and their influence on thought and conduct in general. The stoic in me would say it also involves how to live a tranquil life.
  • praxis
    6.2k
    Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. — Adorno & Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment

    And religion is hellbent on making human beings as dependent as possible, necessarily limiting their moral development and any other sort of development that would result in more independent thought and action.
  • 180 Proof
    14.4k
    "I do not know how to teach philosophy without becoming a disturber of established religion."
    ~Benedictus de Spinoza

    Against the common view that philosophy is a two-thousand-year-old failing enterprise, a body of thought that has produced no knowledge, couldn’t we say that philosophy has in fact done pretty well in bringing dominant beliefs into question, revealing their incoherence or baselessness, or just submitting them to rational enquiry?Jamal
    :up: Yes, of course, beginning with internal critiques of 'mythologies, theologies & ideologies' – including and especially one's own (re: "Gnothi seauton").

    My 2 drachmas ...

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/461359

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/614799

    ... also, a personal appraisal from an old thread "Philpsophy begins in ...":
    Btw, philosophizing began for me in encounters with (raw) stupidity of other teens and adults, then authority figures and institutions, finally profound failures and missed opportunities I'd discovered throughout the histories I'd studied. Recognizing stupidity as endemic to the human condition was my initial existential crisis (i.e. despair) at 16/17 from which, over four decades later, I've still not recovered.180 Proof
    "Ecrasez l'infâme!" ~Voltaire
  • frank
    14.6k
    And religion is hellbent on making human beings as dependent as possible, necessarily limiting their moral development and any other sort of development that would result in more independent thought and action.praxis

    That's not always true.
  • universeness
    6.3k
    So, is a persons claim that they are a religious philosopher, the inevitable beginning of losing/rationalising away, their religion?
    Some who question religious tenets through a philosophical lens, seem to have the following choice's if the OP is true.
    1. Reconfigure your religion/spawn a variety to 'try again.'
    2. Reject your religion.
    3. Ignore what philosophical reasoning suggests and 'keep the faith.'

    Is philosophy more supportive of irreligious science compared to any affirmation it may offer the religious?
    So should the pastor warn his flock. 'If you want to stay true to god, think as I say and not as one may philosophise?'
  • Manuel
    4k
    That's one way to look at it, and it good way too, it shows a path to intellectual honesty. Provided we are cognizant of the fact that the Ancient Greeks or Descartes, Locke, Leibniz or Kant were not idiots. We would have likely been religious back then, to believe in the contrary would assume that one is beyond current dogma and ignorance.

    And, on the contrary, philosophy is the single most successful enterprise of all, for from it did the fields of knowledge we now call "science" rise from.

    And Hume was almost surely and agnostic, given his skeptical principles. It was not too easy to be critical of the Church back then, but eventually it could be done.

    A pearl of wisdom from Hume:

    "No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.”
  • praxis
    6.2k
    That's not always true.frank

    Example?
  • frank
    14.6k


    220px-Dorothy_Day%2C_1916_%28cropped%29.jpg
    Dorothy Day

    Real question: where did you first learn about Dorothy Day?
  • 180 Proof
    14.4k
    So, is a persons claim that they are a religious philosopher, the inevitable beginning of losing/rationalising away, their [own] religion?universeness
    Maybe. I think it's more likely, however, that a "religious philosopher" is an apologetic critic of naturalism, irreligion and/or religions (or sects) other than her own.
  • praxis
    6.2k


    I don't follow.

    In an address before the United States Congress, Pope Francis included her in a list of four exemplary Americans who "buil[t] a better future".

    The Catholic Church has opened the cause for Day's possible canonization, which was accepted by the Holy See for investigation. For that reason, the Church refers to her with the title of Servant of God.
    — Wikipedia

    Hardly seems at odds with the church in any way. Can you explain?
  • frank
    14.6k
    Hardly seems at odds with the church in any way. Can you explain?praxis

    She wasn't at odds with the Church, so she serves as an example of how

    religion is hellbent on making human beings as dependent as possible, necessarily limiting their moral development and any other sort of development that would result in more independent thought and actionpraxis

    isn't always true.
  • praxis
    6.2k


    That doesn't make sense.
  • frank
    14.6k
    That doesn't make sense.praxis

    That's weird. It does to me.
  • praxis
    6.2k


    Generally speaking, a good exemplar would think and/or act in a way that demonstrates independence within a religious tradition. If you're suggesting that fighting for women's suffrage somehow defied the church, then you appear to be wrong.
  • frank
    14.6k
    Generally speaking, a good exemplar would think and/or act in a way that demonstrates independence. If you're suggesting that fighting for women's suffrage somehow defied the church, then you appear to be wrong.praxis

    She's the representative of religion here. She worked to help emancipate minorities.

    Could you answer my question though? When did you first hear of Dorothy Day? Just curious.
  • universeness
    6.3k
    Maybe. I think it's more likely, however, that a "religious philosopher" is an apologetic critic of naturalism, irreligion and/or religions (or sects) other than her own.180 Proof

    So, that's where I am a little confused. If practicing philosophy, is to question religion and most/all philosophers ultimately conclude that religion has no valid claim to support god, as the mind behind the creation of this universe. Then it seems to me, that using any philosophical base to an apologetic critique of naturalism, irreligion or science MUST fail and the only use of philosophy for a religious person is to reveal all its fail points and force an attempt to reformat their religion into a new version that they think is more convincing.
    Is philosophy then not an enemy of any religion whose members want to maintain it?
    Why would any theologist ever use the additional label 'philosopher,' if it dooms them to be forever tweaking their faith, slagging off other faiths, or abandoning faith all together?
  • praxis
    6.2k
    She's the representative of religion here. She worked to help emancipate minorities.frank

    How does that demonstrate independent thought or action from within that tradition?

    Real question: where did you first learn about Dorothy Day?frank

    Planet Earth. Why is that significant?

    PS: if you're just trolling for fun, please stop.
  • Manuel
    4k


    I'll grant this no problems, but one ought to mention exceptions, like Cornel West.

    Granted, such figures are rare, but they exist.
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