Friday, November 07, 2008

The Death of God

I'm a student of philosophy. I like to think I'm a student in the truest sense, in that I seek truth. While I've discussed before that I think truth can never actually be attained, it's the journey that is important, not the destination. Merely being on a quest for truth should steer me rightly.

One conclusion that I keep hitting is that God, practically, doesn't exist. He might exist, but how can we know? The Bible? Other people telling us so? Ha! Literature and testimony are so unreliable we frequently don't allow them in the courts, much less in such an important question about the existence of the divine.

So many great philosophers who set aside their dogma in a philosophical quest run headlong into a wall that they can't seem to climb. Descartes is the most famous one of which I can think. His (in)famous "light of nature" argument was basically a poorly formed attempt to transcend his earlier destruction of truth.

I have always thought of Aristotle as the first atheist. Even though he assumed that "God" was at the foundation of the world's functioning, he eventually distilled him/her/it down to pure activity. When you've done that, it's a small leap to eliminate the assumption of intelligence and get into a force-driven world. I think it's no surprise that so much of Medieval philosophy was focused on discussing the ramifications of the newly-rediscovered Aristotelian thought. Bonaventure, Aquinas, and many others were dedicated to the now-commonplace arguments for separating empirical observation from religious thought, and even if you couldn't separate them, religious thought trumped empiricism.

Most medieval thought was primarily theological and not philosophical. They really didn't get back into philosophical thought in earnest until near the Renaissance. I say theological because, even though there was philosophical thought mixed in with the overarching religious concepts, the assumption of God and his characteristics was at the center of their works. The Islamic thought of the time was much more receptive to contemplation about the nature of God and was, consequently, closer to real philosophy.

Moving into the Renaissance, we finally got more questions about God, and again those that questioned moved dangerously close to either atheism or agnosticism. I always see René Descartes as the most famous. He was a devoutly religious person who managed to so thoroughly destroy confidence in reality that he had to come up with a half-baked theory to explain how we can rest assured that God exists.

Move ahead about a hundred years to Immanuel Kant. Another very devout person who not only was a true philosopher, but actually destroyed, to most people's satisfaction, one of the only real arguments for the existence of God: Anselm's ontological argument. I see in these men a person who believed, but was unable to set aside his intellect for the sake of those beliefs.

So, again, God may or may not exist, but it's the belief in Him that's pointless. As I said earlier, being on a quest for truth can steer me rightly. I have no need for religion, except for maybe bake sales. I am my own cause, and if I am that, what does a God I can never know do for me? Nothing, I say.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

God Damnit.

I don't feel commenting on the election is necessary, but the gay marriage ban in California is worth it.

I'm not going to try for eloquence, or subtlety. You people are morons. I've listed this under religion because if you voted for the ban, you're doing it for religious reasons. No rational, non-religious person would care.

I generally dislike religion. I find it rather stupid. I especially dislike it in instances like this. As I mentioned in my post directly preceding this post, anyone who is religious and not an expert on all things philosophical is a raging jackass. And anyone who was philosophical would not have voted for this ban.

This ban is the result of religious, stupid people who should be shot.

The need for philosophy.

One of the most annoying things about philosophy students is their propensity to jerk off their mental meat. To argue for the sake of arguing. To sit in a comfy chair, think really hard, and go to sleep under the impression that they have done something of importance. They rarely think of real applications to their thoughts, because that may require work.

Even professors are guilty of this. They obsess over minutiae that can never have any effect on our life. The subtle arguments for skepticism, or the bizarre details of metaphysics. Philosophers have dug so deeply into arguments as to render many of them arguably semantic and undoubtedly beyond every-day application.

Where can philosophy be used?! It can be, I know it. I apply it to my own life. Especially for those who count themselves religious. A large part of your life is based on a subject that is the explicit purview of philosophy. It certainly applies and you would be an idiot to not dive, headlong, into full study.

Philosophy often gets marginalized. Graduating classes are small, and post-graduate work is limited to jobs at Starbucks with the English majors. I think it should be the focus of philosophy classes to try and find applications for students and force philosophy on the popular view. Integrate philosophy into other endeavors.

We must find applications. Without them, what point is there to whole mess? Even after my previous mocking of English majors, there are obvious applications to understanding the language and its corresponding literature. Books entertain. Words inform. A good English major is a highly valuable resource. But a good philosophy major? What the fuck do they do?

I see philosophy as, ideally, the quest for truth. The search through the fog of reality to achieve enlightenment. But for real applications, I see philosophy as learning how to think as opposed to learning about what to think. Science is learning how to analyze, but how did science decide at what point we know something? Through philosophy. I see it at the root of every intellectual quest we have.