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Archive for the ‘Philosphy’ Category

For the subjectivist, value judgments don’t apprehend anything. There is no feature of the world that would make them true or false, since they merely express private feeling. It follows that your moral and aesthetic outlook can’t become more discerning. It can’t deepen or mature, it can only change.

— Matthew Crawford, The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming and Individual in an Age of Distraction

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To see where they lead

What the seed is to the fruit, the premise is to the conclusion. Many of us might never be able to distinguish one variety of seed from another, but we have no trouble in telling an apple from a pear or a cauliflower from a cabbage.

The same is true of presuppositions and conclusions. Find out what people in doubt are believing wrongly and help them follow the logic of these presuppositions to their necessary conclusion. Challenge them to check the full-blown consequences of their ideas to see where they lead.

— Os Guinness, God in the Dark

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[Post-Enlightenment] people now believed we were not created primarily to serve God for his benefit. Rather, God had made the world for our benefit. But, Taylor goes on, it was this deistic concept of God—not so much the traditional Christian view—that the Lisbon earthquake threw into crisis. He wrote:

Once we claim to understand the universe and how it works; once we even try to explain how it works by invoking its being created for our benefit, then this explanation is open to clear challenge. . . . In Lisbon, 1755, it seems clearly not to have [worked for our benefit]. So the immanent order ups the ante.

If you believe that the world was made for our benefit by God, then horrendous suffering and evil will shake your understanding of life. Horrendous evil is now a much bigger problem for those with a residue of Christianity—with a belief in a distant God who exists for our benefit—than it was for a full-blown orthodox faith not weakened by the immanent frame. In other words, suffering and evil disprove God’s existence only if you have a particular view of God that is already a departure from the more traditional, orthodox view. The skeptical conclusion is largely inherent in the premises. You could argue that, within the immanent frame, the game is rigged against the God of the Bible when we come to evil and suffering.

— Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

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Looking back on [the great Lisbon earthquake] from deep within a secular culture, we might think that the “problem of evil”—questioning God in the face of disaster—was completely normal. Today, every new major tragedy evokes the same kind of public questions and challenges to faith in the divine.

But Taylor points out that the “problem of evil” discourse about the Lisbon earthquake was actually a new thing. Of course people have questioned the ways and justice of God in human affairs since the book of Job and earlier. But virtually no one on record had previously argued that evil made the existence of God impossible. The assertion that evil disproves God’s existence was something that could arise only if immanent frame assumptions about God were already in place. Taylor writes that when Western society believed in a world that was mysterious and unknowable by reason—and in a God who was glorious and ineffable—the problem of evil was “less acute.” In that view, inexplicable evil was to be expected. But the secularity of Deism made the problem of evil much worse, for two reasons.

In earlier times, when suffering occurred, just because we couldn’t think within our own mind of good reasons for it didn’t mean there couldn’t be any. We were humbler about our ability to understand the world. But by the eighteenth century, we believed that with our minds and reason, we could eventually understand everything. We became confident in our powers of exhaustive observation, and this conviction changed the way human beings regarded suffering. Evil now became a much bigger problem.

— Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering 

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Let’s dwell for a minute on the role that Polanyi assigns to trust: “You follow your master because you trust his manner of doing things.” This suggests there is a moral relation between teacher and student that is at the heart of the educational process. Of course, the student must trust that the master is competent. But he also must trust that his intention is not manipulative. It is the absence of just this trust that We found at the origins of Enlightenment epistemology in the previous chapter: a thorough rejection of the testimony and example of others. This rejection begins as a project for liberation—from manipulation by kings and priests—and blossoms into an ideal of epistemic self-responsibility. But the original ethic of suspicion leaves a trace throughout. This stance of suspicion amounts to a kind of honor ethic, or epistemic machismo. To be subject to the sort of authority that asserts itself through a claim to knowledge is to risk being duped, and this is offensive not merely to one’s freedom but to one’s pride.

If Polanyi is right about how scientists are formed, then the actual practice of science proceeds in spite of its foundational Enlightenment doctrines: it requires trust. The idea that there is a method of scientific discovery, one that can be transmitted by mere prescription rather than by personal example, harmonizes with our political psychology, and this surely contributes to its appeal. The conceit latent in the term “method” is that one merely has to follow a procedure and, voila, here comes the discovery. No long immersion in a particular field of practice and inquiry is needed; no habituation to its peculiar aesthetic pleasures; no joining of affect to judgment. Just follow the rules. The idea of method promises to democratize inquiry by locating it in a generic self (one of Kant’s “rational beings”) that need not have any prerequisite experiences: a self that is not situated.

— Matthew Crawford, The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming and Individual in an Age of Distraction

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The trouble is, of course, that believing that Jesus was raised from the dead involves, at the very least, suspending judgment on matters normally regarded as fixed and unalterable; or, to put it more positively, it requires that we exchange a worldview which says that such things can’t happen for one which, embracing the notion of a creator God making himself known initially in the traditions of Israel and then fully and finally in Jesus, says that Jesus’s resurrection makes perfect sense when seen from that point of view. Faith can’t be forced, but unfaith can be challenged. That is how it has always been, from the very beginning, when people have borne witness to Jesus’s resurrection.

There are, in fact, partial parallels to this kind of thing precisely in the world of contemporary science. Scientists now regularly ask us to believe things which seem strange and even illogical, not least in the areas of astrophysics or quantum mechanics. With something as basic as light, for example, they find themselves driven to speak in terms both of waves and of particles, though these appear incompatible. Sometimes, to make sense of the actual evidence before us, we have to pull our worldview, our sense of what’s possible, into a new shape. That is the kind of thing demanded by the evidence about Easter.

— N.T. Wright, Simply Christian

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The ancient Greeks told a story of two philosophers. One used to come out of his front door in the morning and roar with laughter. The world was such a comical place that he couldn’t help it. The other came out in the morning and burst into tears. The world was so full of sorrow and tragedy that he couldn’t help it. In a sense, both were right. Comedy and tragedy both speak of things being out of order—in the one case, simply by being incongruous and therefore funny; in the other case, by things not going the way they should, and people being crushed as a result. Laughter and tears are a good index of being human.

— N.T. Wright, Simply Christian

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