|—||The Great Gatsby|
|—||2 Corinthians 2:10|
|—||Kyle Idleman, “Not a Fan”|
One of my fave philosophy papers…(who has favorite philosophy papers…I am weird.) Whatever, here it is.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of reality is “the quality or state of being real.” The definition is of real is “not artificial, fraudulent, or illusory.” Therefore, reality is the quality or state of not being artificial, fraudulent, or illusory. When questioning whether or not reality is one or many, this definition should be kept in mind. In a round about description, when reality is “one,” it is of one substance. When this kind of oneness exists, specific things may appear to be of a different substance; however, proponents of this belief claim that the appearance of several different substances is merely illusory, fitting the description of reality. This specific perspective is known as monism and plays a large role in Hinduism and Buddhism. For example, it would appear that good and evil are different; however, supporters of monism would claim that they are of the same substance-a substance that has been utilized in a different way or seen from an illusory perspective.
Pluralism is the idea that reality is many. In other words, all things in life are made up of different substances. It is not illusion that causes things to differ; things are actually different.
For Christians, it is absolutely essential that we understand these things. If one were to adhere to either monism or pluralism strictly when reading the Bible, he would have some serious misconceptions about God. Many would claim that the model of the trinity, solves the ontological problem of the one and the many. The trinity has both monism and pluralism embedded within it. God is three in one and one in three. The famous Christian theologian, Aquinas, argued for the idea that all things, God and humans, are in unity for simply being; however, they differ in their potential, as humans are finite and God is not. Practically, this should lead one to live humbly with understanding that they cannot compare to the Almighty creator. Paradoxically, though, it should lead one to feel a sense of unity, intimacy, and connection with the Lord as we were created in His image and are alike just by being.
As we were created in His image, a Christian could claim that man is not the equivalent of a machine. Indeed, there is a distinct difference between men and machines. To say that man is solely composed of raw material, like a computer, would seem to be an absurd proposition. If this were the case, morality and religion are merely illusions. A machine has no reason to feel guilt or desire to do what is right or wrong. This is where the “mind and body” controversy comes into play. The desire to resolve this controversy has allowed for the development of the monistic and dualistic theories of man.
Monistic theories include materialism, idealism, and the double-aspect theory. Materialism assumes that we are nothing more than our bodies, nothing more than material; it eliminates the need to explain the mind. Idealism is the opposite of materialism, in that it assumes that man is nothing more than the mind. The double-aspect theory assumes that the physical and mental are different facets of the same, unnamed and undefined thing. Dualistic theories of man include interactionism, parallelism, pre-established harmony, occasionalism, and epiphenomenalism. Interactionism believes that mind and body causally interact with one another. Parallelism insists that the mind and body act independently of one another. Occasionalism suggests that God is the connection between mental and physical. Epiphenomenonalism insists that all mental events are the byproduct of a physical event.
These concepts may seem very abstract, but they are actually practically important in our lives. Attitudes towards life are influenced by these beliefs. If man is purely physical, then he has no reason to adhere to moral or religious systems. If man is purely mental, then the physical is merely a perception; this includes pain and suffering. If man is more than the physical, then there is necessity to have moral and religious values; there is more value placed upon a man than there would be, say upon a plant. Life is seen as more precious and this will affect the way that we approach human rights, morality, and such.
There are several other controversial topics on morality in philosophy. One of these is the free will controversy. The free will and determinism controversy is rooted in the question of how much responsibility one has when making decisions. The two most extreme viewpoints are determinism and indeterminism. Determinism, is the belief that every single event occurs in accordance with adherence to “laws.” It completely rejects the idea of a free will. Soft determinism is a milder version of determinism. It claims that we can be held responsible for our actions sometimes; as long as we are not forced by an external power to make a particular decision, we are responsible. As long as there is not external constraint, our desires govern our decisions. However, it is argued that even our desires can be constrained by an external power. It is argued by critics of soft determinism that both alternatives when making a decision should be viable options in that exact circumstance; the soft determinist argues that potential alternatives when making a decision are only viable if something about the circumstance has changed to make the alternative possible. Simple indeterminism, as previously stated, is the opposite of determinism. Proponents of this system would argue that all events are independent of one another-no causation whatsoever. This, however, seems incredibly unlikely.
The major qualm with these different beliefs is the varying amount of responsibility that is placed upon the person when making a decision. One major issue with the idea of determinism is that it leaves little room for the principle of morality. Morality is very much based upon the ability to make the moral or right choice; if all of our decisions are ultimately laid out by adherence to laws, then are we truly responsible for our choices? If the theory of determinism is true, then it is argued that we should not be held responsible for our actions whether right or wrong. Then, morality and the guidelines laid out by religious belief systems, are not applicable concepts any longer. Justification and punishment for crime are no longer necessary; and, furthermore it would seem unjust to punish a person for acting in a specific way if they could not possibly control their behavior due to circumstance. It fails to account for the deliberation prior to making a decision; however, the determinist would argue that the ultimate decision would still be rooted in the circumstance of the individual. With simple indeterminism, actions are out of our control, as they are caused by nothing. The person is not held responsible for his actions.
Each of these controversies has required some sort of compromise. It would seem impossible to hardly define life in one way or another. God is one and many. We are both mind and body. We have free will, yet circumstances, hereditary and environmental, subconsciously (or not so subconsciously) have a significant impact upon our decisions in life. If anything, upon examination of these issues, we have learned to refrain from characterizing God and His ways in a concrete manner. Also, we have learned to fear the Lord for accomplishing the seemingly impossible, by blending some of the most controversial ideas with one another in a mysterious, complex way.
You could call this blending a Christian compromise of sorts. It is not a compromise between Christians and the world, but rather a compromise between supposedly conflicting ideologies that play key roles in the faith. The tension between contesting ideas will be ever-present. We do, however, have the infallible Word of God to assist us in comprehension of these issues. To confront the idea of the one and many, one could cite the creation of man, the transcendent nature of God, and the immanent relationship Jesus had with people in order to prove that we are one, but different all the same. To confront the idea of mind and body, one would simply have to read the story of creation, of how man was dirt and was breathed into existence by God, implying a physical and spiritual nature. It is certainly can be difficult to grasp how free will and determinism operate in harmony. Support for both free will and determinism can be found in the Bible. The Bible does indeed use the word predestined to describe His followers. But, without free will, it is impossible to truly love and follow God; love is not forced. There are varying perspectives on this within Christian circles. However, in each of these controversies, we must trust that no matter how God works it out, that He has the greatest good in mind for all humanity.
“And now that I write and think about it, and the story unfolds,
You should take my life, you should take my soul.
You are surrounding all my surroundings,
sounding down the mountain range of my left-side brain.
You are surrounding all my surroundings,
Twisting the kaleidoscope behind both of my eyes.”
|—||Random Chapel Speaker|