Posted on March 3, 2010 by Jeff Thayne
Emmanuel Levinas was a Lithuanian Jew who lived from 1906 to 1995, and studied under some of the most influential thinkers in Europe. He later moved to France and authored one of the most exciting and original philosophies of the 20th Century. He lived for a time as a prisoner of war during World War 2. After the war he responded with force against what he saw as the movement of western philosophy.
In Contrast with Western Philosophy
What is Western philosophy? Western philosophy traces its ancestry to ancient Europe, to countries such as Greece and Rome. It is the philosophy that you and I are already familiar with. It permeates our thoughts, ideas, and even how we make sense of the world. In Western philosophy, truth is generally considered to be the unchanging, foundational principles of the Universe. Philosophy itself is thought to be the method of reducing the flux of everyday experience to a set of static principles. For Western philosophy, there is no loss in this “reduction,” because we are making the world intelligible, or reducing the chaos we find in experience to unchanging unity.
In simple terms, in order to be truth, it has to be true everywhere, all of the time. Mathematical abstractions are the perfect example of Western truth. The equation c2 = a2 + b2 seems to be true everywhere and everytime, regardless of the particular circumstances, and thus Pythagoras and subsequent Greek philosophers regarded it as truth. Thus, for Western thinking, all things that are dynamic, that are in motion, and that change can be accounted for by the few things that fundamentally do not change. The few things that are always the same govern or explain the many things that are in flux.
A perfect example of this Western way of thinking is (more…)
Filed under: Philosophy | Tagged: Emmanuel Levinas, Philosophy, reductionism, the Other, totalitarianism | 15 Comments »
Posted on January 5, 2010 by Joe O.
I once heard it said when I was a young undergraduate that the creation accounts – particularly that of Abraham – fit very well with evolutionary accounts of creation. A casual read of Abraham seems to confirm this: earth, void; waters divided from earth; plants come up from the earth; fish and fowl; beasts of the earth; man. This sort of progression would make sense from an evolutionary perspective – creation evolves from simple to complex.
But add Moses’ account into the mix and things become a little dicier. (more…)
Filed under: Culture, Folk Theologies, Science | Tagged: creation, evolution, Faith, Good ol' Abraham, LDS, Mormon Culture, Mormon Doctrine, Moses, Philosophy, Science, Science and Religion, Scripture | 5 Comments »
Posted on August 10, 2009 by Jeff Thayne
[This is a "reprint" of part 1 of a series I posted on my home blog, ldsphilosopher.com]
Early Greek philosophers saw reason as the conduit through which human beings could access the unchanging certainties of the cosmos. This perspective actually makes some sense. We may age, wither, and die, but the Pythagorean theorem remains unchanged through time. The conclusions of rational thought were seen as the bedrock truths at the bottom of our swiftly changing world.
This understanding of human reason implies that rational people will converge on the same ideas. An interesting, subtle, but extremely important side effect of this point of view is expressed aptly by John Locke: “All that is voluntary in our knowledge, is the employing or withholding any of our [rational] faculties. … But they being employed, our will hath no power to determine the knowledge of the mind one way or another.” Thus, the conclusions of rational thought are inevitable.
Modern philosophers have, to some extent, rejected this ancient perspective on rationality. Instead, reason has been seen as (more…)
Filed under: Philosophy | Tagged: agency, Bruce R. McConkie, certainty, epistemology, Faith, Freud, Hume, Jesus Christ, Latter-day Saints, Michael Oakeshott, Mormons, nihilism, Philosophy, rationality, scriptures, Shirley Robin Letwin | 7 Comments »
Posted on September 18, 2008 by Jeff Thayne
Many of us compartmentalize our lives in a way that would seem strange to scholars of past centuries. We talk about our religious lives and our academic lives as though they were two separate things, divided in a way that protects one from the effects of an error in the other, as a bulkhead on a ship may protect other compartments from being flooded by water. However, this modern separation of our academic and spiritual life is a very recent development. I believe that the division between spiritual and secular knowledge is a false distinction, and, as Richard Williams has pointed out, found nowhere in scripture.1
Filed under: Mormon Doctrine, Philosophy, Science | Tagged: apostasy, Carl Rogers, compartmentalization, Dallin H. Oaks, Great Apostasy, knowledge, Neil A. Maxwell, Philosophy, potter's clay, progression, Restoration, Restoration of All Things, Restored Gospel, Richard Williams, sacred, Science, Scripture, secular, truth, turning of things upside down, unconditional positive regard | 16 Comments »
Posted on May 17, 2008 by Brady
I was intrigued by Joe’s recent post and the hubbub of comments that ensued, so I decided to weigh in on a tangent to the issues Joe and a number of commenters raised. The issue is this: In pointing out the unsecure footing of the scientific worldview, critics sometimes claim that scientists have faith in science just as religious persons have faith in God. (more…)
Filed under: Philosophy, Science | Tagged: epistemology, Faith, Philosophy, philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, Religion, Science, Science and Religion, uncertainty | 27 Comments »
Posted on April 13, 2008 by Dennis
A brief play from Wendell Berry’s Life is a Miracle:
Isaiah (finger in the air and somewhat oblivious of the historical superiority of the modern audience): The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as of the flower of the field.
Edward O. Wilson (somewhat impressed, but nevertheless determined to do his bit for “evolutionary progress”): But . . . but, sir! Are you aware of the existence of the electromagnetic spectrum?
Filed under: Science | Tagged: E.O. Wilson, Faith, Isaiah, Noah, Philosophy, Science, Scripture, the Flood, Wendell Berry | 4 Comments »
Posted on February 18, 2008 by Dennis
In one of my favorite poems, “A Prayer for Old Age,” W.B. Yeats writes:
God guard me from those thoughts men think
In the mind alone;
He that sings a lasting song
Thinks in a marrow-bone.
Here Yeats makes the provocative claim that thinking is not restricted to the mind, and that the wise person is the one who is able to “think” deep in the interior of one’s bones. (more…)
Filed under: About blog, Philosophy, Poetry | Tagged: Descartes, Divine embodiment, Heidegger, Joseph Smith, Law, Mind-body dualism, Modernism, Philosophy, W.B. Yeats | 6 Comments »