Wednesday, July 09, 2014

4. Logic and the Philosophy of Person

Continuing my Philosophy in Bullet Points in celebration of my new philosophy textbook (also see my theology bullet points). Unlike the textbook, which tries to present all basic positions fairly, these posts give my personal philosophical inklings.

1. Epistemology and Metaphysics.
2. Philosophies of God and Science
3. Philosophies of History and Art

  • Philosophy is the meta-discipline to all disciplines. It is the discipline that asks questions about all other subjects of knowledge and inquiry. It is the domain of assumptions and presuppositions. It should play the most foundational role in a "liberating" arts education.
  • All disciplines logically originate in philosophy and, with the notable exception of religion, most of the domains of modern study arguably originated historically in philosophy. Science began with metaphysics. For Pythagoras, math and philosophy were one and the same, and the foundations of modern math are philosophical. Psychology began as philosophy.
  • All deductive thinking reduces to axioms, premises, and consequent inferences.
  • I have already treated inductive thinking under epistemology.
Philosophy of Person
  • While the whole creation is valued by God, Christians believe that humanity stands in a unique position within the creation as the image of God. We respect all human individuals and invest them with a certain dignity because they are created in the image of God.
  • Human beings are also biological machines, although they are much more than machines. They are much more than mere animals but they are animals at base. 
  • Many, many humans do not live as if they are more than animals. In an existential sense, most human beings do not really exist. Some exist for a few moments, particularly in moments of great sorrow or tenderness. We then return to the Bacchanalia, to the mindless pursuit of pleasure--eating, drinking, drugging, orgying, warring. "There is none righteous, no not one" is hyperbole, but it is oh so fitting.
  • Humanity is a herd animal (Aristotle called us a political animal). Despite the introverts and free thinkers among us, the default state of humanity is within tribes and herds. Our default is "group think" and a group identity. Western culture, in that sense, is a deviation from the human norm, although it bears numerous marks of the default.
  • "Man is condemned to be free... once cast into the world, he is responsible for everything he does" (Sartre). We define ourselves by our choices. We choose an identity. Despite all the deterministic forces on us, we have the final say in who we are. "You must be born again."
  • Our actions and thoughts as humans are far more determined than free. This is obviously the case with those who are under addictions of various sorts. However, to be unreflective is to be a slave to your default impulses and the views you have inherited. We are all "pre-moderns" to some degree or another, unreflective "knowers."
  • One of the most noble goals of education is to liberate a person from such slavery, to free them up to chose their ideas and actions more freely, through self-awareness and awareness of the great options understood throughout the ages. Philosophy thus, once again, ideally stands at the heart of the most noble goals of education and at the center of the "liberating" arts.
  • By faith I believe that God "lightens everyone coming into the world" to make at least one truly free choice--toward him. "Man is most like God when he creates."
  • The soul is at least a metaphor for the essence of a person--one's most individual and enduring identity. Of course "each man in his time plays many roles." I am not the person I was thirty years ago, although I hope for some continuity. Whether literal or metaphorical, the soul is that part of us that lives forever, that part of us that reflects our one most important free choice for or against God, our most basic identity as a person.
  • Other metaphors capture human identity as well. What I have just called the "soul" is perhaps more like what Philo would call the spirit, the "soul's soul." For him, the soul was the point where body and spirit overlapped and met, where animal and spiritual touched.
  • We are, by abstraction, intellect, emotion, and will. Our minds relate to the abstracted models by which we manipulate the world. Our emotions are our reactions to events and the fuels that motivate us to action. The will is the center of our identity. "We are what we choose." "Emotions are neither good or bad. They just are" ... unless of course we feed them.

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