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Join date : 2010-07-11

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PostSubject: Fuck The Pope    Fuck The Pope  Icon_minitimeSun Jul 11, 2010 3:53 pm

Faith vs. Reason

The history of thought has been dominated by the controversy of faith versus reason. While faith is the ultimate belief in the truth of a universal concept, person or thing, reason seeks truth by utilizing facts and proven premises to arrive at rational conclusions. The faith side of this centuries long conflict is pervaded by the beliefs and customs of the Catholic Church while scientists and an array of different philosophical forms of thought have rose to stand in opposition. In the Vatican encyclical Faith and Reason, John Paul II attempts to reconcile faith and reason in their common pursuit of truth. He calls into the question the philosophical systems that have developed and criticizes them for the detriment that they have caused humanity. This essay evaluates the validity of John Paul II’s harsh criticisms by examining the philosophies of Jeremy Bentham, Friedrich Nietzsche and William James. A thorough argument assessment reveals that Faith and Reason is a poorly justified attempt to denounce other forms of thought that have developed over time to take power away from the Catholic Church’s views.

Faith and Reason begins by noting the fundamental questions which pervade human life. “Who am I? Where have I come from and where am I going? Why is there evil? What is there after this life?” (sec.1). These questions and the philosophies that seek to answer it demonstrate that the desire for truth is a fundamental part of human nature itself. Humans seek to understand themselves better and advance in their own self-realization by desiring to discover the answer to such questions. The ability to speculate produces a systematic body of knowledge and as a result, has yielded genuine systems of thought in different cultural contexts. The Pope argues that “this has brought with it the temptation to identify one single stream with the whole of philosophy”. He calls this “philosophical pride” in which people seek to present their own partial and imperfect view as a complete view of reality. Therefore, there needs to be a reference point for all philosophical thought to be based off of. He argues that there are some fundamental truths that can be the basic core of philosophical insight, such as fundamental moral norms which are shared by all. This is, thus, an indication that there exists a body of knowledge which may be “judged a kind of spiritual heritage of humanity”. For John Paul, in order for reason to be called ‘right’, they must formulate the “first universal principles of being” and draw ethical and logical conclusions from them.

The encyclical then goes on to discuss various forms of modern philosophy. John Paul claims that the Church considers philosophy to be an aid for a deeper understanding of faith and for “communicating the truth of the Gospel to those who do not yet know it”. He argues that although complex systems of thought have been built with some positive results, these results must not obscure the fact that reason has forgotten that all humans are called to direct themselves towards a “truth which transcends them”. Thus, reason has lost its capacity to understand the truth of being and has concentrated instead upon human knowing, making modern philosophy’s capacity to know truth “limited and conditioned”. This has given rise to different forms of various doctrines which devalue the truths which have already been “judged certain”. The plurality of these positions stems from the belief that all positions are equally valid which has caused a widespread lack of confidence in truth. As a result, everything is reduced to opinion, and philosophical thinking has pursued issues that ignore the question of truth about existence, being and God. Pope John Paul concludes that this has caused a “widespread distrust of the human being’s great capacity for knowledge”, and that philosophy can no longer provide any definitive answers to these questions. Finally, Pope John Paul argues that these rising forms of thought have been detrimental to the world today, claiming that atheistic humanism has “rise to totalitarian systems which have been disastrous for humanity” and that scientific research lacks any ethical reference point. He concludes his argument stating that faith and reason need to go hand in hand in the search for truth, that one without the other is flawed and empty and that utilizing both can lead to the discovery of “truth’s way”.

Faith and Reason begins with the argument that genuine systems of thought have
“brought with it the temptation to identify one single stream with the whole of philosophy. In such cases, we are clearly dealing with a “philosophical pride” which seeks to present its own partial and imperfect view as the complete reading of all reality” (Faith and Reason).
From examining the pragmatism of William James, this is clearly not the case, for the method of pragmatism is compatible with all forms of thought. John Paul then goes on to use the fact that there are “certain fundamental norms which are shared by all” to argue for some sort of reference-point for the different philosophical schools. However, the fact that there are certain norms that are shared by all does not validate the idea of universal truths or natural law. From a pragmatist’s and relativist’s perspective, what we consider true is relative to our values, circumstances and situation. Therefore, the fact that we all think killing is wrong is not an indication of an innate natural law, but is the result of the concept of death being relative to almost everybody’s life. The most fundamental aspect of human life is that we all live and die. Therefore, it is relative to almost every human to value life and fear death. However, this is not always the case for there are people who commit suicide on a daily basis. This further validates the position of pragmatism over John Paul’s attempt to criticize, for there are simply certain truths that are compatible with more humans than others.
Much of the arguments in Faith and Reason are based off of faulty premises, if not no premise at all. John Paul argues “Yet the positive results achieved must not obscure the fact that reason, in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps towards a truth which transcends them”. John Paul argues this without any premise backing it up other than the fact that complex systems of thought have yielded results in different fields of knowing. The statement does not prove that humans are “called” to direct theirs steps to any truth or final goal, but merely states it hoping the reader will passively accept it as true. He continues this pattern of faulty arguments, stating
“It has happened therefore that reason, rather than voicing the human orientation towards truth, has wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and… has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being” (Faith and Reason)
Firstly, he claims that reason does not voice the human orientation towards truth. Is this not what so many philosopher’s have dedicated their lives to pursuing, not restricted to just the three examined in this paper? He claims that reason does not dare to lift its gaze to the “truth of being”, yet metaphysics, the study of being, is the most studied form of philosophy by the famous philosophers including (but not limited to) Plato, Aristotle, Socrates and St. Thomas Acquinas. John Paul also argues that these positions have yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism based on “the assumption that all positions are equally valid”, and that in this understanding everything is reduced to opinion. This is not the case as seen in Bentham’s felicific calculus or James’ pragmatism, both of which have a strict standard to judge the validity of a position. Like earlier stated, for James, a claim is only true as long as they are satisfactory, and in order to be satisfactory, ideas must be consistent with other ideas, conformable to facts, and subject to the practical tests of experience. Bentham actually designed a method for measuring the morality of actions. Again, yet another argument proposed by the Pope that is entirely based on presumptuous reasoning and weak or no premises.
Pope John Paul has either overlooked or completely missed the true meaning of the modern day philosophy he so harshly attempts to criticize. He accuses philosophical thinking of pursuing issues which “ignore the radical question of truth about personal existence, about being and about God” while many philosophers including David Hume directly address it. Pope John Paul even opened the encyclical noting the questions about being that he says pervade human life and have always compelled the human heart. He brings up a valid point about distrust for our capacity for knowledge, but traces it to the wrong cause. “Hence we see among the men and women of our time, and not just in some philosophers, attitudes of widespread distrust of the human being’s great capacity for knowledge” (Faith and Reason). This distrust is simply due to positions that are advancing our knowledge so that we can know more. This is actually exceeding our capacity for knowledge, not limiting it like John Paul claims. The best way to pursue truth is to consider alternative positions. One comes to know truth by considering opposing viewpoints, not by ignoring the basis of them like the Pope is doing in the encyclical, and not by clinging onto archaic methods that are out dated. If we refuse to accept that our old methods or truths are wrong, how can we move forward? For example, some catholic schools still to this date refuse to teach the theory of evolution in their biology programs which has come to be a proven fact. John Paul says that “the hope that philosophy might be able to provide definitive answers to these questions has dwindled”. We may never get definitive answers, but by considering these forms of thought and great scientific advancements we get progressively closer to understanding more about ourselves. He blames modern philosophy for moving further and further away from Christian Revelation, but this simply comes with development. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church has been around for centuries and is still showing resistance to new knowledge that is taking support away from the Church. We must remember that the one thing we are certain about is that human’s created the church and the bible and were responsible for passing down these teachings for centuries while mankind has developed new forms of exploration, discovery and scientific advancement that have replaced many of the Church’s ways. It is unfortunate that the Pope has resorted to faulty arguments, heart-string imagery and harsh, grand-eloquent heckling to get his point across. Perhaps Nietzsche was right and he does so out of his “will to power” that drives him to do as much as he can to maintain the approval of the people and save the Church’s sinking battle ships of support. Or perhaps James is right when he says that no philosopher can sink the fact of his own temperament and the Pope needs to sustain the power of the Catholic Church to risk losing followers, for the less supporters the Church has the more meaningless his job is. Either way, Faith and Reason seems to criticize everything that, in modern day society, is stealing supporters from the Catholic Church, hence his direct attacks at scientific inquiry, atheism and nihilism. Based on faulty logic, a sufficient lack of argument and an excess of presumptions, Faith and Reason appears to be a poor attempt to gain back the power that the Church is losing.
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