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Branches of philosophy
The following branches are the main areas of study:
Metaphysics investigates the nature of being and the world. Traditional branches are cosmology and ontology. Epistemology is concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge, and whether knowledge is possible. Among its central concerns has been the challenge posed by skepticism and the relationships between truth, belief, and justification. Ethics, or 'moral philosophy', is concerned with questions of how persons ought to act or if such questions are answerable. The main branches of ethics are meta-ethics, normative ethics, and applied ethics. Meta-ethics concerns the nature of ethical thought, comparison of various ethical systems, whether there are absolute ethical truths, and how such truths could be known. Ethics is also associated with the idea of morality. Plato's early dialogues include a search for definitions of virtue. Political philosophy is the study of government and the relationship of individuals and communities to the state. It includes questions about justice, the good, law, property, and the rights and obligations of the citizen. Aesthetics deals with beauty, art, enjoyment, sensory-emotional values, perception, and matters of taste and sentiment. Logic deals with patterns of thinking that lead from true premises to true conclusions, originally developed in Ancient Greece. Beginning in the late 19th century, mathematicians such as Frege focused on a mathematical treatment of logic, and today the subject of logic has two broad divisions: mathematical logic (formal symbolic logic) and what is now called philosophical logic. Philosophy of mind deals with the nature of the mind and its relationship to the body, and is typified by disputes between dualism and materialism. In recent years there have been increasing similarities, between this branch of philosophy and cognitive science. Philosophy of language is the reasoned inquiry into the nature, origins, and usage of language. Philosophy of religion is a branch of philosophy that asks questions about religion.
Most academic subjects have a philosophy, for example the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of logic, the philosophy of law, and the philosophy of history. In addition, a range of academic subjects have emerged to deal with areas which would have historically been the subject of philosophy. These include psychology, anthropology and science. * Philosophy of religion is a branch of ________________________________________________________________________________
philosophy that asks questions about religion. As with all philosophies, the topics HA T IS HILOSOPH Y ? at hand are generated by those who Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems participate. In the philosophy of religion, these may include but are not reason, mind, concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, limited to the nature and existence of God, religious and language. Philosophy is distinguished from prayer, the problem of other ways of language, miracles, addressing these questions (such as mysticism or mythology) by its evil, and how religion and other valuesystems such reliance on reasoned critical, generally systematic approach and itsas ethics interrelate. Religious  philosophy, on φιλοσοφία [philosophia], argument. Philosophy comes from the Greek the other hand, is the philosophical thinking that is inspired and which literally translates to "love of wisdom". such as Christian directed by religion, philosophy and Islamic philosophy. As an alternative, philosophy of religion is the 1 philosophical thinking about religion. It is designed such that it can be carried out
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1 Philosophy of religion as a part of metaphysics 2 Questions asked in philosophy of religion 3 What is God? o 3.1 Monotheistic definitions o 3.2 Polytheistic definitions o 3.3 Pantheistic definitions 4 Rationality of belief o 4.1 Positions o 4.2 Natural theology 5 Major philosophers of religion 6 See also 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links
Philosophy of religion as a part of metaphysics
Philosophy of religion has classically been regarded as a part of metaphysics. In Aristotle's Metaphysics, he described first causes as one of the subjects of his investigation. For Aristotle, the first cause was the unmoved mover, which has been read as God, particularly when Aristotle's work became prevalent again in the Medieval West. This first PO cause argument later came to be called natural theology by rationalist philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In Metaphysics, Aristotle also states that the word that comes closest to describing the meaning of the word God is 'Understanding.' Today, philosophers have adopted the term philosophy of religion for the subject, and typically it is regarded as a separate field of specialization, though it is also still treated by some, particularly Catholic philosophers, as a part of metaphysics. To understand the historical relationship between metaphysics and philosophy of religion, remember that the traditional objects of religious discussion have been very special sorts of entities (such as gods, angels, supernatural forces, and the like) and events, abilities, or processes (the creation of the universe, the ability to do or know anything, interaction between humans and gods, and so forth). Metaphysicians (and ontologists in particular) are characteristically interested in understanding what it is for something to exist-what it is for something to be an entity, event, ability, process, and so forth. Because many members of religious traditions believe in things that exist in profoundly different ways from more everyday things, objects of religious belief both raise special philosophical problems and, as extreme or limiting cases, invite us to clarify central metaphysical concepts. However, the philosophy of religion has concerned itself with more than just metaphysical questions. In fact the subject has long involved important questions in areas such as epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophical logic, and moral philosophy. See also world view.
Questions asked in philosophy of religion
One way to understand the tasks at hand for philosophers of religion is to contrast them with theologians. Theologians sometimes consider the existence of God as axiomatic, or self-evident. Most theological treatises seek to justify or support religious claims by two primary epistemic means: rationalization or intuitive metaphors. A philosopher of religion examines and critiques the epistemological, logical, aesthetic and ethical foundations inherent in the claims of a religion. Whereas a theologian could elaborate metaphysically
on the nature of God either rationally or experientially, a philosopher of religion is more interested in asking what may be knowable and opinable with regards to religions' claims. Still, there are other questions studied in the philosophy of religion. For example: What, if anything, would give us good reason to believe that a miracle has occurred? What is the relationship between faith and reason? What is the relationship between morality and religion? What is the status of religious language? Does petitionary prayer (sometimes still called impetratory prayer) make sense?
What is God?
The question "What is God?" is sometimes also phrased as "What is the meaning of the word God?" Most philosophers expect some sort of definition as an answer to this question, but they are not content simply to describe the way the word is used: they want to know the essence of what it means to be God. Western philosophers typically concern themselves with the God of monotheistic religions (see the nature of God in Western theology), but discussions also concern themselves with other conceptions of the divine.[original
Indeed, before attempting a definition of a term it is essential to know what sense of the term is to be defined. In this case, this is particularly important because there are a number of widely different senses of the word 'God.' So before we try to answer the question "What is God?" by giving a definition, first we must get clear on which conception of God we are trying to define. Since this article is on "philosophy of religion" it is important to keep to the canon of this area of philosophy. For whatever reasons, the Western, monotheistic conception of God (discussed below) has been the primary source of investigation in philosophy of religion. (One likely reason as to why the Western conception of God is dominant in the canon of philosophy of religion is that philosophy of religion is primarily an area of analytic philosophy, which is primarily Western.) Among those people who believe in supernatural beings, some believe there is just one God (monotheism; see also monotheistic religion), while others, such as Hindus, believe in many different deities (polytheism; see also polytheistic religion) while maintaining that all are manifestations of one God. Hindus also have a widely followed monistic philosophy that can be said to be neither monotheistic nor polytheistic (see Advaita Vedanta). Since Buddhism tends to deal less with metaphysics and more with ontological (see Ontology) questions, Buddhists generally do not believe in the existence of a creator God similar to that of the Abrahamic religions, but direct attention to a state called Nirvana (See also Mu). Within these two broad categories (monotheism and polytheism) there is a wide variety of possible beliefs, although there are relatively few popular ways of believing. For example, among the monotheists there have been those who believe that the one God is like a watchmaker who wound up the universe and now does not intervene in the universe at all; this view is deism. By contrast, the view that God continues to be active in the universe is called theism. (Note that 'theism' is here used as a narrow and rather technical term, not as a broader term as it is below. For full discussion of these distinct meanings, refer to the article Theism.)
Monotheism is the view that only one God exists (as opposed to multiple gods). In Western thought, God is traditionally described as a being that possesses at least three necessary properties: omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), and omnibenevolence (supremely good). In other words, God knows everything, has the power to do anything, and is perfectly good. Many other properties (e.g., omnipresence) have been alleged to be necessary properties of a god; however, these are the three most uncontroversial and dominant in Christian tradition. By contrast, Monism is the view that all is of one essential essence, substance or energy. Monistic theism, a variant of both monism and monotheism, views God as both immanent and transcendent. Both are dominant themes in Hinduism.
Even once the word "God" is defined in a monotheistic sense, there are still many difficult questions to be asked about what this means. For example, what does it mean for something to be created? How can something be "all-powerful"?
The distinguishing characteristic of polytheism is its belief in more than one god(dess). There can be as few as two (such as a classical Western understanding of Zoroastrian dualism) or an innumerably large amount, as in Hinduism (as the Western world perceives it). There are many varieties of polytheism; they all accept that many gods exist, but differ in their responses to that belief. Henotheists for example, worship only one of the many gods, either because it is held to be more powerful or worthy of worship than the others (some pseudo-Christian sects take this view of the Trinity, holding that only God the Father should be worshipped, Jesus and the Holy Spirit being distinct and lesser gods), or because it is associated with their own group, culture, state, etc. The distinction isn't a clear one, of course, as most people consider their own culture superior to others, and this will also apply to their culture's God. Kathenotheists have similar beliefs, but worship a different god at different times or places.
Pantheists assert that God is itself the natural universe. The most famous Western pantheist is Baruch Spinoza. Panentheism holds that the physical universe is part of God, but that God is more than this. While pantheism can be summed up by "God is the world and the world is God", panentheism can be summed up as "The world is in God and God is in the world, but God is more than the world and is not synonymous with the world". However, this might be a result of a misinterpretation of what is meant by world in pantheism, as many pantheists use "universe" rather than "world" and point out the utter vastness of the universe and how much of it (temporal causality, alternate dimensions, superstring theory) remains unknown to humanity. By expressing pantheism in this way and including such elements, rather than limiting it to this particular planet, and specifically limiting it to human experience, the theory is somewhat nearer to the view of panentheists while still maintaining the distinct characteristics of pantheism.[original research?]
Rationality of belief
Main article: Existence of God Aquinas
The second question, "Do we have any good reason to think that God does (or does not) exist?", is equally important in the philosophy of religion. There are several main positions with regard to the existence of God that one might take: 1. Theism - the belief in the existence of one or more divinities or deities. 1. Pantheism - the belief that God exists as all things of the cosmos, that God is one and all
is God; God is immanent.
2. Panentheism - the belief that God encompasses all things of the cosmos but that God is 3. Deism - the belief that God does exist but does not interfere with human life and the
laws of the universe; God is transcendent. greater than the cosmos; God is both immanent and transcendent.
2. Agnosticism - the belief that the existence or non-existence of deities is currently unknown or unknowable, or that the existence of a God or of gods cannot be proven. 3. Atheism - the rejection of belief, or absence of belief, in deities. 4. Retreism - The belief in the ending or previous existence of god or gods
It is important to note that some of these positions are not mutually exclusive. For example, agnostic theists choose to believe God exists while asserting that knowledge of God's existence is inherently unknowable. Similarly, agnostic atheists lack belief in God or choose to believe God does not exist while also asserting that knowledge of God's existence is inherently unknowable.
The attempt to provide proofs or arguments for the existence of God is one aspect of what is known as natural theology or the natural theistic project. This strand of Natural theology attempts to justify belief in God by independent grounds. There is plenty of philosophical literature on faith (especially fideism) and other subjects generally considered to be outside the realm of natural theology. Perhaps most of philosophy of religion is predicated on natural theology's assumption that the existence of God can be justified or warranted on rational grounds. There has been considerable philosophical and theological debate about the kinds of proofs, justifications and arguments that are appropriate for this discourse. The philosopher Alvin Plantinga has shifted his focus to justifying belief in God (that is, those who believe in God, for whatever reasons, are rational in doing so) through reformed epistemology, in the context of a theory of warrant and proper function. Other reactions to natural theology are those of Wittgensteinian philosophers of religion, most notably D. Z. Phillips who died in 2006. Phillips rejects "natural theology" and its evidentialist approach as confused, in favor of a grammatical approach which investigates the meaning of belief in God. For Phillips, belief in God is not a proposition with a particular truth value, but a form of life. Consequently, the question of whether God exists confuses the logical categories which govern theistic language with those that govern other forms of discourse (most notably, scientific discourse). According to Phillips, the question of whether or not God exists cannot be "objectively" answered by philosophy because the categories of truth and falsity, which are necessary for asking the question, have no application in the religious contexts wherein religious belief has its sense and meaning. In other words, the question cannot be answered because it cannot be asked without entering into confusion. As Phillips sees things, the job of the philosopher is not to investigate the "rationality" of belief in God but to elucidate its meaning.
Questionnaires to assess religious experience
What we call religious experiences can differ greatly. Some reports exist of supernatural happenings that it would be difficult to explain from a rational, scientific point of view. On the other hand, there also exist the sort of testimonies that simply seem to convey a feeling of peace or oneness - something which most of us, religious or not, may possibly relate to. In categorizing religious experiences it is perhaps helpful to look at them as explicable through one of two theories: the Objectivist thesis or the Subjectivist thesis. An objectivist would argue that the religious experience is a proof of God's existence. However, others have criticised the reliability of religious experiences. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes asked how it was possible to tell the difference between talking to God in a dream, and dreaming about talking to God. The Subjectivist view argues that it is not necessary to think of religious experiences as evidence for the existence of an actual being whom we call God. From this point of view, the important thing is the experience itself and the effect that it has on the individual. *Reference: http://www.philosophyonline.co.uk/pages/relex_main.htm#
1. Introduction What we call religious experiences can differ greatly. Some reports exist of supernatural happenings that it would be difficult to explain from a rational, scientific point of view. On the other hand, there also exist the sort of testimonies that simply seem to convey a feeling of peace or oneness - something which most of us, religious or not, may possibly relate to. In categorising religious experiences it is perhaps helpful to look at them as explicable through one of two theories: the Objectivist thesis or the Subjectivist thesis. 1. Introduction 2. Objectivism 3. Subjectivism 4. Questions
The first of these theses, the Objectivist view, supposes that there is some object or actual entity such as God - which exists independently of the experience, interaction with which causes the experience itself. An objectivist would argue that the religious experience is a proof of God's existence. However, others have criticised the reliability of religious experiences. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes asked how it was possible to tell the difference between talking to God in a dream, and dreaming about talking to God. The Objectivist thesis is ultimately the most traditional viewpoint since it views God as "object" - that is, something which exists independently of us (such as a table or another person). There are a number of problems with this:
(a) How do we know that what we are experiencing is actually God (and not our imagination, or even some other being)? (b) If there is no objective means of testing for God's existence, how can we be sure that He is the object causing the experience? Antony Flew makes this point when he asks what sort of experience might act as objective proof of God's existence? The same as we would use for another person or a table? (c) If God is an object or person in the world, doesn't this make God finite, subject to limitation, etc?
3. Subjectivism The Subjectivist view argues that it is not necessary to think of religious experiences as evidence for the existence of an actual being whom we call God. From this point of view, the important thing is the experience itself and the effect that it has on the individual. The advantage of this view is that it avoids all the tricky questions such as "Why doesn't God answer my prayers?" This is because prayer is not seen as an appeal to an external being, but rather a process whereby the person praying may change his or her self. The obvious problem with this is that it almost does away with the idea of God. If all proofs and arguments for His existence can be ignored, is this any different to saying that God is only a metaphor for a certain attitude to life? Is God just like Father Christmas? The other main problem with this viewpoint is that it seems to promote what is called Fideism - that is, unfounded belief. For instance, we may defend a religious statement by saying that it is the importance which it has in a person's life that constitutes it meaning. So, if I beleive that a spaceship will come down and take my family and I to Sirius - but only if we all kill ourselves first - how can anyone argue against me? Any argument which is used can be ignored on the basis that "You don't understand what I mean". But the only way to understand what I mean is to believe what I beleive. So, by saying that my beliefs have a subjective meaning seems to cut me off from objective reality - doesn't it? We will look at this again when we come to consider Wittgenstein's later views in the Language Games section. 4. Questions 1. How can we differentiate religious experiences from hallucinations, mental illness, etc.? 2. How do we know a religious experience is genuine? Who would judge? 3. The diversity of religious experience provides a problem for the objectivist view - what is it? 4. Are there any other possible explanations for religious experiences? 5. Need such experiences be religious? 6. The subjectivist view has been criticised for being "Fideistic" (fideism is unfounded belief) - do you agree? ____________________________________________________________________________________
Background: on investigating the nature of God
Upon being asked what God is, it is natural for some to answer: "I don't know—no one knows. And that's as it should be. God is totally beyond the comprehension of mere finite beings such as ourselves, and we should not go about pretending that we can know what God is." There is something paradoxical about this position, namely, if one believes that the nature of God is totally unknown, but one nevertheless says that one believes that God exists, then one cannot even say what it is that one is believing in. Suppose a person states; "I believe that trinini exist, but I have absolutely no idea of what trininis are." This appears to be nonsensical. At least some minimal conception, therefore, seems required. Even mystics, who believe that the nature of God is essentially mysterious to human beings, concede that one must have at least a minimal conception of God. If one has anything like a traditional Jewish or Christian belief, for example then in fact one does have some conception of what God is: God is an eternally existent spiritual being who created the world, and so forth. Many Christians further affirm: "There is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so that there are three aspects to God, and while we may not know the precise meaning of this doctrine (of the Trinity), nonetheless we can know that it is true." Philosophers know all too well, from dealing with for example the problem of substance and the problem of universals, that general "What is" questions (ti esti questions) give an overly simple appearance to what is in fact a very complex affair. The situation is no different with the question, "What is God?" What is it exactly that we are asking when we ask this? If all we wanted were a definition of "God," there are many of those available. What else is needed? It is one thing to give the traditional sort of definition of "God," but it is quite another really to understand the terms used in the definition.
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