John Anning


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Philosophy — A definition:


"Its investigations are based upon rational thinking, striving to make no unexamined assumptions and no leaps based on faith or pure analogy."


Philosophy

Philosophy
Philosophy is the discipline concerned with questions of how one should live (ethics); what sorts of things exist and what are their essential natures (metaphysics); what counts as genuine knowledge (epistemology); and what are the correct principles of reasoning (logic). The word itself is of Greek origin: (philosophía), a compound of (phílos: friend, or lover) and (sophía: wisdom).

Though no single definition of philosophy is uncontroversial, and the field has historically expanded and changed depending upon what kinds of questions were interesting or relevant in a given era, it is generally agreed that philosophy is a method, rather than a set of claims, propositions, or theories. Its investigations are based upon rational thinking, striving to make no unexamined assumptions and no leaps based on faith or pure analogy.

Different philosophers have had varied ideas about the nature of reason, and there is also disagreement about the subject matter of philosophy. Some think that philosophy examines the process of inquiry itself. Others, that there are essentially philosophical propositions which it is the task of philosophy to prove.



Presupposing Presuppositions, Logical Logic, Reasons for Reason, and Rationale for Rationality

Philosophical Presuppositions
It should be understood that some presuppositions of logic are necessary if we want to make rational sense of anything; The presuppositions of reason, of non-contradiction, and of causality are all necessary presuppositions required to make sense of anything. Beyond these presuppositions, we should avoid presupposing anything until validated rationally.

Logic, Reason, and Rationality
When discussing matters of a philosophical nature, there are certain "Laws of Logic" or "Rules of Reason", so to speak, that must be maintained. If we are to be engaged in any rational discussion, we must adhere to the ground rules of reason, lest our discussion be guilty of making no sense at all. I would like to briefly look at three such philosophical premises; "The Law of Reason", "The Law of Non-Contradiction" and "The Law of Causality".

The Law of Reason
If our passion or goal is to investigate anything from a viewpoint of reason, then we must already presuppose that there exists a reasonable way of thinking about something. To flee from reason is to embrace randomness. We must at least acknowledge that everything has a reason for existing or that an event has a reason for happening or not happening. If everything were totally and ultimately random and unpredictable for absolutely no reason, then we should never ask "why?" about anything. Since we do ask the question "why?", we therefore assume or presuppose that there is a reason and that there is a rational explanation to our query. So if we value "truth", then we must therefore presuppose that reason is a valid path to understanding that truth. If we cannot use reason as a tool used for understanding truth, then there can be no truth that is reasonable. If we cannot reason about truth, then how could we ever test anything to be true or false in any reasonable manner? So, if anything is true or if anything is false, there must therefore be a necessary reason for it.

The Law of Non-Contradiction
This law of reason states that nothing can "Be" and "Not Be" at the same time and in the same relationship. It states that nothing can be "True" and "False" at the same time and in the same relationship. To violate the "Law of Non-Contradiction" is to flee from rationality and violate reason itself.

The Law of Causality
This law of reason states that "Every effect must have an antecedent cause." This law is defined as a formal and analytical truth. Uncaused effects are not recognized as valid philosophical reasoning because you cannot have a cause without an effect or an effect without a cause without violating the law of non-contradiction. (Note: The only acceptable exception to the "Law of Causality" is that God, if He exists, is not an effect; He is uncaused. Thus, He does not require a cause. Therefore, infinite regress does not occur.)

Mystery and Paradox
It should be understood that a "Mystery" or a "Paradox" is not the same as a "Contradiction". Neither a mystery or a paradox violates any philosophical laws of reason, nor are they self-contradictory. A mystery is something that has a valid and rational explanation, but is not yet explainable due to the lack of data or understanding. A paradox is something that seems self-contradictory or absurd, but in reality expresses a possible truth in a way that can create circular logic.

False Conclusions Based on False Reasoning
We must be careful with reasoning because there may exist reasonable conclusions about something that still does not uncover the real and absolute truth about it. For example, I may reason that winter in the northern hemisphere is colder than summer because we are further away from the sun in the winter. My reasoning would be flawed because in fact, in the northern hemisphere, we are indeed closer to the sun during the Winter! My philosophical error would be in assuming that distance from the sun is the only factor involved in our resulting temperatures. In reality, the relative polar angle of the earth, with respect to the sun, is also a factor in the Northern hemisphere of the earth. During the winter, the northern hemisphere of the earth is positioned to receive solar rays less directly, which, in effect, causes lower temperatures, despite the closer distance to the sun that we are in the Winter. That's the truth!

The lesson here is that we should never make assumptions without first considering and examining ALL of the evidence and possibilities rationally. Our five senses are amazing and can give us some assurances of the reality in which we live, but are limited in scope of assuring us of absolute reality in the bigger picture. What we experience personally is not always an authorative reason to make a conclusion that it's the truth. The truth can be much more profound than what we can experience or observe with our mere mortal senses or simple reasoning. On the other hand, some truth can be understood using simple logic or experience as our guide. One of the primary goals of philosophy is to reveal and understand the truth about something. If our reasoning methodology is based on incomplete data and/or unproven assumptions, our conclusions may be in error. Some truths may be purposely hidden from us for a time, but I believe that there is enough truth revealed to us as to satisfy our rational curiosity about the universe and ourselves.



To Tell The Truth

Truth (Part I) — Relative or Absolute?

It is argued by some, that "truth" is only "relative" and not "absolute" in accounting for what is. Those who are persuaded in the "relative" position regarding truth, would argue that "there is no absolute truth". In other words, they would argue that truth can be different for one person than for another. It is a philosophical system of belief that nothing is or can be absolute and that everything is only relative to one's perspective.

If you were to ask someone who prescribes to the view that there is no absolute truth, if this is absolutely true, then they would have to respond by either saying no (contradicting themselves about no absolute truth) demonstrated that there own argument cannot be a valid one based on their own definition of truth that lacks any absoluteness, or they would have to answer yes (contradicting themselves) by declaring that the nonexistence of absolute truth is absolute. Either way, it's nonsense (violating the law of non-contradiction) which lends no solution to any real reasoning.

Truth (Part II) — Absolutely No Absolutes? - A Verbal Contradiction
If truth is only relative and not absolute, then the truth of this philosophy is not absolute and therefore subject to suspicion. Therefore, absolute truth is indeed possible, since relative truth cannot be absolute. But how can there be absolute truth if nothing is absolute? And how can there be relative truth absolutely, if nothing is absolute? So, if nothing is absolute, then there can be no relative or absolute truth absolutely. But if nothing is absolute, then this cannot be true either because nothing is absolute! As you can see, a philosophy of relative truth stops us cold at reasoning at all. Nothing creative or constructive regarding intellectual debate can ever be accomplished with a relative-truth mind set. What would be the point engaging in any debate without absolutes?

Truth (Part III) — Is Relative Truth Absolute? - Another Verbal Contradiction
In reality, a philosophy of relative truth is a philosophy of self—contradiction. To reason that "relative truth is absolute" is a contradiction in terms and therefore an argument against itself. Something cannot be "true" and "not true" at the same time and in the same relationship as this violates the philosophical "Law of Non-Contradiction" as explained earlier. If truth is defined as something that "may", or "may not" be, then the word truth has been stripped of any meaning or relevancy in even using the word to describe anything that is, or is not.

True or False? — But not Both!
I have not even mentioned the word "False" here, and will not belabor the point much further other than to say that if truth is absolute, then falsification is absolute. Something is either true or false, but not both at the same time and in the same relationship. If something is true, then it cannot be false; If something is false, then it cannot be true. Otherwise, these words have no meaning, or inverse relationship with one another, and again, debating anything would be a fools game without absolutes. Promoting the idea that something can be both true and false at the same time and in the same relationship is to violate the philosophical law of non-contradiction and of reason. So, accepting that truth and error are absolute and the antithesis of each other, we can continue to reason together with meaning and purpose.

What Jesus Says About Truth
Jesus declares in John 8:32 that "the truth will set you free", which suggests that without truth, we are not free. We have to be willing to accept truth in order to be free or perhaps we must be made free in order to accept truth! Jesus exclusively declares in John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". If Jesus was telling us the truth here, then He is the ONLY way to the Father and to salvation - not Islam, not Hinduism, not Buddhism, and certainly not Atheism. If Jesus was telling us an untruth, then He cannot possibly be a way at all, since He would have been telling us a lie. Truth sets us free, and being free enables us to understand truth. This may be considered a paradox or circular logic, but seems to be the case either way. I think Jesus simply meant that because He is "the truth", He can "set us free"!



Here's Thinking of You

I Think I Can Think, I Think

Some may find it a little unsettling to have someone else make suggestions on how to properly think. After all, what could be more simple than thinking and why should someone else tell us how to do it? But let me point out that reckless thought or self-seeking logic can be devastating to anyone honestly seeking truth or eliminating error in their quest to discover "what is and what is not". We all get philosophical at times, whether we realize it or not, and are capable of some degree of independent thought. However, this does not mean that we are all good philosophers. Sometimes, it is good to get some direction in organized thinking, lest we become overly biased in our own subjective opinions without considering the bigger picture. I would never want to be accused of telling anyone "what" to think. However, I feel no guilt about suggesting "how" to think, in a manner consistent with true philosophical systems of reason and rationality. If truth is absolute, then our system of rationale must also be absolute. If truth is only "relative", then any system of rational thought would be without rules, leading to a reckless, self-serving, and meaningless conclusion!

"Free Thinkers" Are Not As Free In Their Thinking As They Think
Some have declared themselves as being "Free Thinkers" because they have rebuked theological viewpoints regarding the nature and origins of the universe or, have formed their opinions on the basis of reason, independent of authority or tradition. The problem arises however when considering what bias or presuppositions our reasoning is tainted with. Can anyone of us truly be "Free" in our thinking, without all of the presuppositions and bias that have been installed in us by our circumstances, acquaintances, media exposure, institutional teachings, traditions, and last but not least, pride? We cannot be absolutely free in our thinking because we are not absolutely free in our being.

We have many limitations and obstacles to being free in our thought processes. Unfortunately, we are more biased than we would like to admit, so being free in our rationale is more about wishful thinking than a reality, unless we have been made free through the power of God's provision of grace. Some of our presuppositions and bias can be put in check if we can be honest and careful in our thinking, especially if we are willing to admit that perhaps we have been wrong in assuming certain things that we have believed in the past. Plato and Socrates understood this as well and spent their lives trying to liberate themselves from personal bias using systems of logic and rationality. I believe that Christians have an advantage here because the power of God's Spirit reveals truth to His subjects, transcendent to any system of mere human logic that attempts to deduce truth. God's Spirit has a way of divorcing us from our former way of thinking to a new way of thinking that is more honest and unbiased. As stated earlier, Jesus declares in John 8:32 that "the truth will set you free", and in John 14:6 "I am the way and the truth...". Therefore, the only way to be free in our thinking is to "be made free in Christ". "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed". John 8:36

Re-examine Your Thinking And Why You Believe What You Believe
Logic, by means of abstract or deductive reasoning, will never solve all the mysteries of the universe, but it can be very beneficial, at least, in eliminating some of the common misconceptions about certain ideas that we have maintained and taken for granted, with closer examination. At some point in our lives, I think it prudent to re-examine what we believe about anything and re-discover why we believe it. It is reassuring to know that our coveted conclusions about truth can be proofed-out rationally, whether its source is Scriptural, truly scientific, etc., instead of based on what someone else smarter than us told us is truth according to their presuppositions and bias. Question and test everything, including what I am writing!!