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Philosophy in the Eyes of Theologians: Friend or Foe? (Part 2 of 3)

Boethius

NOTE: Today we continue our three part series from Tamer Nashef on the relationship between philosophy and theology. Tamer's previous piece at Strange Notions, "I’m a Muslim But Here’s Why I Admire the Catholic Church", remains one of our all-time most popular posts.
 


 
The first part of the essay set forth the attitude of the Christian theologians of Late Antiquity toward reason and pagan philosophy. We noted that they viewed reason and philosophy as “handmaidens” to faith. The second part will focus on medieval theologians.

Boethius (480-524) was a Roman aristocrat living at a time when knowledge of the Greek language and the Classical tradition was in short supply in the West as a result of the Barbarian invasions and collapse of the Western Roman Empire. Unlike most of his contemporaries, Boethius knew Greek and set out to provide Latin translations of the Aristotelian and Platonic corpus. His premature death as a result of execution at the hands of the Ostrogothic King Theodoric on charges of treason prevented him from completing his task but he did manage to translate some of Aristotle’s treatises on logic. These translations in addition to Boethius’ own commentaries and works on logic came to be known as the “old logic” and “served as a major source of intellectual activity during the darkest days of Western civilization, between the sixth to eleventh centuries” (Grant’s Science and Religion 140).

Contrary to the caricature of the theologian who eschews the use of reason and logic and merely appeals to Scriptural authority, Boethius “insisted on applying logic and reason to theological problems,” including the Trinity and the apparent tension between divine foreknowledge and human free will (140). He perceived the application of reason and logic to theology as essential and “began a trend that would revolutionize Christian theology and transform it into a rationalistic and analytical discipline…” (141).

The Consolation of Philosophy, a treatise Boethius composed in prison while awaiting execution and which takes the form of a dialogue with Lady Philosophy, was the most popular work throughout the Middle Ages after the Bible. In said work, he reveals clear Platonic influences, as he argues that God is synonymous with “Goodness” because the “substance of God consisteth in nothing else but goodness” (Stokes 47). It follows that every good man somehow participates in or reflects God’s “Goodness” and divinity – an argument clearly reminiscent of Plato’s theory of Forms or Ideas (47).

Boethius also addressed the problem of free will and determinism, according to which if God as an omniscient creator has foreknowledge of our future actions, we are left with no free will, as our course of action appears to have been determined in advance. This begs the question of why God would punish us for actions we are not responsible for. Boethius came up with what I would describe as an ingenious philosophical solution to this perennial problem. He places God outside the flow of time, arguing that God lives in the eternal present and views all past, present, and future actions in the same way the way we know the present. In other words, God sees our future actions without interfering (thus preserving human free will), in the same way I am seeing that my cat is sitting on the couch in front of me without interfering in the cat’s free choice to take this particular course of action (Buckingham 74-5).

Like many other Church Fathers, Byzantine monk and priest John of Damascus (675 or 676 –749) viewed philosophy favorably and asserted that “the best contributions of the philosophers of the Greeks” were “given to men from God above” (Grant’s Science and Religion 110). He also placed a high value on knowledge and felt nothing but scorn for ignorance: “Nothing is more estimable than knowledge, for knowledge is the light of the rational soul. The opposite, which is ignorance, is darkness. Just as the absence of light is darkness, so is the absence of knowledge a darkness of the reason. Now, ignorance is proper to irrational beings, while knowledge is proper to those who are rational” (110). He extolled philosophy as “the art of arts and the science of sciences,” and countered claims denying its very existence: “There, are, however, some people who have endeavored to do away entirely with philosophy by asserting that it does not exist and that neither does any knowledge or perception exist. We shall answer them by asking: How is it that you say that there is neither philosophy, nor knowledge, nor perception? Is it by your knowing and perceiving it, or is it by your not knowing and perceiving it? But if it is by your not knowing it, then no one will believe you, as long as you are discussing something of which you have no knowledge” (110-1).

Next comes Scotus Erigena (810-877), indisputably one of the greatest Christian philosophers in the Early Middle Ages and one of the towering figures of the Carolingian Renaissance. Erigena served in the court of the Carolingian King Charles the Bald of France. He knew Greek (a unique skill in the West at the time) and used his linguistic privilege to bring forth Latin translations of the Greek works of Dionysius the Areopagite (an anonymous Christian Neo-Platonist) and other Greek Church Fathers. Erigena, also known as John the Scot, authored On the Division of Nature, a neo-Platonic philosophical work in which he divides nature into (1) nature creating and uncreated (God) (2) nature created and creating (the Platonic Ideas) (3) nature created and uncreating (animals, plants, rocks, or the everyday world seen and felt in space and time) and finally (4) nature uncreated and uncreating (a return to the uncreated God but this time as the end to which all things return). In addition, Erigena argued that God is indescribable in human language and it would be even more accurate to say God does not “exist” in the sense that He is beyond and above existence. He concludes, therefore, that Biblical passages on God should not be taken literally, stressing that each Biblical verse has multiple meanings (Kenny 115-6).

In line with the thought of many Christian theologians, Erigena held reason in high regard, enshrined it as the highest arbiter, and went as far as subordinating authority to it: “For authority proceeds from true reason, but reason certainly does not proceed from authority. For every authority which is not upheld by true reason is seen to be weak, whereas true reason is kept firm and immutable by her own powers and does not require to be confirmed by the assent of any authority. For it seems to me that true authority is nothing else but the truth that has been discovered by the power of reason and set down in writing by the Holy Fathers for the use of posterity” (Grant’s Science and Religion 148). A poignant passage indeed, which refutes the deeply entrenched falsehood that Catholic theologians have always been inimical to reason.

Rise of Reason, Cathedral Schools in Europe

At the turn of the first millennium, Latin Christendom was on the cusp of monumental changes that would drastically alter the course of its intellectual history and pave the way for its primacy in science, technology, and economy from the late Middle Ages onwards. These fundamental changes involved technological and agricultural developments (such as the introduction of the three-field crop rotation system), a subsequent increase in agricultural output and food supply, a population explosion, relative political stability (after centuries of persistent invasions by Barbarians, Vikings, Arabs), and the growth of commerce. This period also witnessed the re-urbanization of Europe (after centuries as a rural backwater) and the construction of cities. These developments in turn led to the rise of cathedral and urban schools (later evolved into universities) as major intellectual centers in cities such as Paris, Orleans, Toledo, Chartres, Cologne, thereby replacing the rural monasteries which had taken upon themselves the preservation of Classical learning and literacy in the wake of the Barbarian invasions. However, the most crucial transformation relevant to our discussion was the renewed confidence in the powers of reason and its application to many activities, including economy, commerce, law, and above all theology (on all these developments see Lindberg’s Beginnings 203-6; Grant’s Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages 19, Science and Religion 146-8).

This remarkable emphasis on reason and logic was manifested in the thought of many Catholic theologians as early as the 10th and 11th centuries, including Gerbert of Aurillac (946-1003), St. Anselm (1033-1109), and Berengar of Tours (1000-1088).

Gerbert of Aurillac, later known as Pope Sylvester II (999-1003), was “the most learned man in Europe of his day,” and his interests spanned a broad spectrum of fields ranging from astronomy, mathematics, philosophy to theology, music, and Latin literature (Woods 22). Gerbert’s thirst for knowledge prompted him to travel to Catalonia (which was contiguous with territories still under Muslim rule) to study mathematics and procure precious manuscripts, and he is considered one of the first Europeans to have introduced Arabic learning in the West, especially the Hindu-Arabic numerals and the abacus (Huff’s Rise of Early Modern Science 50). Lindberg hails Gerbert as “the first, or one of the earliest, and certainly the most important, initiators of fruitful intellectual contact between Islam and Latin Christendom” (Beginnings of Western Science 199). He also won wide acclaim as teacher of the seven liberal arts, especially at the Cathedral School of Rheims, and played a key role in reviving Boethius’ “old logic” and in transforming logic into “a basic subject of study in the cathedral schools of Europe” (Grant’s Science and Religion 149). He further placed a high premium on science and knowledge, stressing that “[t]he just man lives by faith, but it is good that he should combine science with his faith” and that “[t]he Divinity made a gift to men in giving them faith while not denying them knowledge…Those who do not possess it [knowledge] are called fools” (Woods 23).

St. Anselm, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is considered "the father of the Scholastic tradition" (Stokes 48) and "the most important philosopher of the eleventh century" (Kenny 119). While affirming the primacy of faith, Anselm disapproved of a faith that lacked understanding: "It seems to me a case of negligence if after becoming firm in our faith, we do not strive to understand what we believe" (Watson 330). Rather than accept God’s existence solely on the basis of blind faith, Anselm sought to devise rational arguments for the existence of God, one of which is known as the Ontological Argument, without having recourse to revelation. He also came up with a rational argument for the Christian doctrine of Incarnation.

Anselm's basic definition of God, which he says both the believer and non-believer would agree on, is the foundation upon which he constructs his ontological proof. He defines God as "a being than which nothing greater can be thought." God is a perfect being and the greatest entity imaginable or conceivable. It follows that such a being would have to exist because existence is a necessary attribute of perfection. If God didn't exist, He would not be perfect and this would contradict the premise of the argument. Something that exists is surely greater than that which does not. If God is the greatest entity possible then He must exist because otherwise He wouldn't be. In other words, "the existence of God would seem to follow necessarily from the definition. For it would be a contradiction to suppose that God is on the one hand something than which nothing greater can be thought of and on the other hand does not exist" (Stokes 49). Anselm’s argument is by no means airtight, but even the celebrated atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) admitted that “it is easier to feel convinced that it must be fallacious than it is to find out precisely where the fallacy lies” (Hannam 38).

It is worth pointing out that Anselm felt compelled to provide rational proof of God without appealing to Scripture because his fellow monks had requested such proof. These monks, Anselm said, requested that “nothing in Scripture should be urged on the authority of Scripture itself, but that whatever the conclusion of independent investigation should declare to be true, should, in an unadorned style, with common proofs and with a simple argument, be briefly enforced by the cogency of reason, and plainly expounded by the light of truth” (Grant’s Science and Religion 153). The fact these monks requested reasoned arguments in defense of revealed truths without invoking Scriptural authority speaks volumes about the high status of reason in Catholic theology.

Anselm also set out to provide a reasoned argument in defense of the Incarnation. Adam's original sin was an offense against God and the scale of atonement had to be commensurate with the severity of the offense. Man could not, through his own efforts as a finite being, atone for the infinite sin against God and therefore he needed divine assistance or intervention. Kenny explains: "Satisfaction can only be adequate if it is made by one who is human (and therefore heir of Adam) and one who is divine (and can therefore make infinite recompense). Hence the incarnation of God is necessary if original sin is to be wiped out and the human race is to be redeemed" (121).

Berengar of Tours was undoubtedly a controversial figure who raised alarm among some ecclesiastical quarters for applying reason, which he viewed as a gift from God, to the revealed articles of faith, specifically the doctrine of transubstantiation. He defended his position, however, by asserting that “it is incomparably superior to act by reason in the apprehension of truth; because this is evident, no one will deny it except a person blinded by madness” (Grant’s Science and Religion 152). He also charged that it is man’s rational faculties that essentially make him an image of God: “…to have recourse to dialectic is to have recourse to reason; and he who refuses this recourse, since it is in reason that he is made in the image of God, abandons his glory, and cannot be renewed from day to day in the image of God” (152).
 


 

Works Cited

Buckingham, Will, et al. The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. London: DK, 2011. Print.
Grant, Edward. The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages: Their Religious, Institutional, and Intellectual Contexts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Print.

____________. Science and Religion 400 BC- AD 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 2004. Print.

Hannam, James. The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution. Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2011. Print.

Huff, Toby. The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West. 2nd edition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.

Kenny, Anthony. A Brief History of Western Philosophy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998. Print.
Lindberg, C. David. The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450. 2nd edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007. Print.

Stokes, Phillip. Philosophy: 100 Essential Thinkers. New York: Enchanted Lion Books, 2005. Print.
Watson, Peter. Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, From Fire to Freud. New York: Harper Perennial, 2005. Print.

Woods E. Thomas. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. Washington: Regnery History, 2012. Print.

Tamer Nashef

Written by

Tamer Nashef is an Arab freelance researcher and translator from Israel. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature from the University of Haifa. Nashef is interested in a broad range of topics, especially Western philosophy, intellectual history of civilizations, Christian and Islamic theology with particular emphasis on the relation between science/reason and faith, and English literature. He is planning to write a book on the intellectual, scientific, and legal developments in the Middle Ages that led to the scientific Revolution and the rise of the modern world, and on the status of reason in the Catholic tradition. Nashef speaks three languages: Arabic, Hebrew, and English.

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  • Firstly: I submitted this just now to 'arrogantly'? have a 'last say' regarding the obvious incoherence of much of what I say, as noted by The Overlord. Please note, that although I cannot in any way express all of the dilemmas I constantly find myself in, I do feel that I must acknowledge a 'degree' of blindness within my faith, (edit- even that 'Animal Faith' of Santayana??) no matter how much I attempt to master even the dissertations written by others on the 'greats'.

    However, one of my favorite philosophers has been Boethius. Indeed, The Consolations of Philosophy proved to be an encouragement for me, in my continued attempt to 'make sense', i.e. find rational justification for my 'beliefs' within life, by writing about such experiences,through this discovery process, I have found that my major difficulties with the Catholicism I 'inherited' can be traced to the developments that occurred as Aristotelian logic (rather than a reason which included a mystical approach, often referred to as awareness of the inner experience of 'thought', even, for the Catholic reference, that heaven is found within??? which was closer to Platonism), became the major rational focus. No longer were philosophers producing the self-reflective analysis as found for instance with Augustus, until the adaptation of his "I err - therefore I am" by Descartes. Ironically, perhaps my incoherence is but a product of another attempt to find some coherence within the 'contractions', that characterize my 'understanding' and attempts to reconcile these opposing viewpoints, based perhaps unfortunately on my limited knowledge and unsurpassed degree of 'ignorance' However, could these issues be found to be concurrent with all the 'human' struggles to reconcile reason with 'faith?

    In this respect, Boethius carried on the tradition of the Menippean Satire, which as the article I enclose acknowledges, can be a fruitful method? in facing the contradictions between reason and faith. It is then congruent perhaps with the 'Knight of Faith' of Kierkegaard, which somehow, suggest my interpretation is this same insight that he directed towards an 'external context'??? Indeed, there are those who find 'satire' not only within the words attributed to Socrates, but to Jesus as well.

    "According to Nietzsche, a Menippean Satire combines poetry and prose in such a way as to contrast philosophical issues, (and religious tenets) with the reality of lived experience. We ask "What of philosophy is akin to madness', and proceed to examine basic concepts in philosophy and religion in a writing that documents the thinking possible within a schizophrenic psychosis."

    Yet, often it is said about writing, that a book is never finished, but merely abandoned. It remains like my life, then, - a work in progress.

    To the Overlord: On the relation of philosophy to religion: science to myth: I dare
    you to publish this. I look forward to including this experience in the final book of my trilogy: Portals of Paradox. If I ever am able to 'finish it' ! :) Enjoy the Renaissance' Edit: I had to recover the intended article: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/01/14/the-end-of-the-enlightenment-a-fable-for-our-times-2/

    • If you are interested but don't want to take the time to Google: this is the myth, Ragnarok, referred to within the Counter Punch article. The characterization of myth/story as an alternative to 'rational' thought is therefore what is addressed within my comments. It also offered to me an interesting perspective on which I could 'muse': whether myth is indeed a better category from which to understand the biblical text and Christianity, than 'history'. (and..../or 'our story'----'and....or 'stories'?!! :) http://www.theguardian.com/books/2011/aug/05/as-byatt-ragnarok-myth

  • It has been confirmed. I have been banned from EN. Will I also be ex-communicated?

    I was attempting to access the comment (I had hoped he would post another use of the fable analogy that was adapted to a political context- (Edit: This link is the final reference within this comment and its reply...) that brought me this new found knowledge, or information, or should I say wisdom, or - whatever it is that we find on the Internet.....

    What's happened to the dialogue, the debate, the diatribe. Oh Oh. My illiterate-ion is coming on again! I must be 'getting in the mood' to write some literature rather than philosophy... .

    I am putting this here as an Edit: to postings on EN which seem to have occurred one day after the above. I feel I legitimately posted the above, because there was no sign of it on my site, (all comments I understand can be checked upon, with respect to deletions, changes, etc. yes?) and indeed instead I got a circling motion thing when I tried to post, and no 'sign' of the comment. Thus, I was also unaware that Geena had posted the following request, which I can now link to the request by Susan, which I told Luke C about in another comment thread. This comment is posted here, just to keep a record of the sequence of events, as I have perceived them.

    Avatar
    loreenlee • 2 days ago

    If in writing and posting this comment, I indeed find that it appears 'on screen', I will only once again be in awe with respect to the changing circumstances found within world and religion. This summarizes who I am and what I do. As I spoke of before, I now have the end of philosophy in mind, and will be able to complete my project; PortalsofParadox - being published concurrently as I write it on line. Thanks to you all. I have enjoyed this experience. http://www.faculty.umb.edu/cha...

    Geena Safire loreenlee • 2 days ago

    Hi Loreen! Your comments seems to have been more incoherent lately and include some words and phrases that concern me, such as 'suicide.' Do you have anyone you talk to in real life about your state of health or wellness -- family, friend or health care provider? I would sincerely hope that you would show them what you have been writing and see what s/he says.

    • Depiction of the psychological Process as narrative: I did find access to the links I had wished to post. But The Overlord was inaccessible to give advice, or perhaps even 'reconciliation' regarding my sins of ommission or failure to find the proper relationships between such comments as 'Truth does not contradict truth' as maybe even between scientific and philosophical statements, or... the.theological perspective, or....No. you should not confuse these topics or these web-sites. Each comment must be delegated to it's specific and required category. No. We need to increase the military- one Nuclear bomb is not enough!!!! No. Reason will rule!!! No. No. No.... Vasectomy not IUD or NFP. Do you men not understand any thing about 'female liberation'.... No....I'm off topic. These issues are not related. Besides which females are being liberated? Oh! is this really 'Freedom'!!!!! Can't you see???? You're falling in with the 'tribe' again! No. You're mad...mad....mad....angry, or sad? No. You're mad...mad....mad.....Incarcerate.....No. It's the asylum.....Your abortion was illegal.....Don't you understand anything.....Do unto others......

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYoAmvxyh1M&feature=youtu.be

      Where am I? Yeah that video was interesting to watch, but what was he really saying. If only the Overlord had been able to teach me what was scientific, and what was not.... Oh! but then there was that link to the work of Freud's nephew, or whoever, on that other post...!!!! Why didn't those nurses believe me? That's what the post said, really. Help! Oh dear. Am I still hearing voices? Are those the 'words' of the Beatles? Or should I 'Imagine'? Or is it in the Symphony or was it the Sympathy with the Devil. No. It's the 60's again. No. This is not an hallucination. This is real...... No. I will not take that medication. I'm not a rock head. I'm a rock star. I have to consult with Don McLean... The true 'history' can be found within the poetry, or should I say the lists of individual voices, or individual 'songs'.... Yes... Surely it is my time to break into song... Yes. .I am Awake. It's not a wake. I'm not a gangstar. I'm a black star. Oh, this will be the day that I die...This will be the day that I die......No I'm not in - sane, sane, sane......
      http://fdd.typepad.com/fdd/2006/08/on_the_precipic.html

      • Is this where the novel will end then- with a suicide. Or is that just what people will think? Yes. it will be the ending, the closing of the book, the last part of the trilogy.... No more 'Without Witness'. No more need to make 'A Thought Experiment'. It truly will be the last 'chapter'. 'The End of Philosophy'. ..And so, once again the mind moves through its history, through time. I can see the 'ending', the 'end'. I can do it now. But will there be time?...... No. I'm not even going to write up my will. Why be concerned about saving money at this point. There is no money. There is no time. No. I haven't the time. I haven't the money. I'll leave that document for the lawyer to work on instead...What about the 'children'? No. It's a choice now for me between time and money. I shall regard 'time' as related directly in some way to consciousness. And I haven't got the time for ANY of THIS anymore. Have you???? What am I talking about? Do I know you? Do you know me? I and Thou? I must read Martin Buber again.

        No. I shall wander lonely as a cloud............No.... even for a poem, there can be different 'visions'....different 'versions'....'different interpretations by others' 'so many videos on the internet'. Which is the correct interpretation? Maybe just the one with no lyrics, just the music? Will you find there the poem within you?..... No. There is yesterday. there is today. there is tomorrow. And what is happening NOW! Where is the NOW? Who's NOW? .....No.There is also the Temporal. There is a history, a biography'. within us all. and ...'there can be 'rewrites''...'there can be 'transformations'... We can search the internet for more answers, for all the variations on the theme. Music, Poetry. Daffodils. Nature. God. Space. Time. What does it all mean? Loneliness or Solitude? Can we not find the vision of the poet that lies within?
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKej4AHnyH0

  • .https://thomism.wordpress.com/2016/01/15/cosmological-argument-from-time/#respond
    .https://thomism.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/the-logic-of-the-problem-of-universals/ .....

    I'll leave the above two links, cause I don't think you can wholly delete. The battle to 'communicate' 'with' someone is over. I've had quite an afternoon. I was able to present some interesting contrasts, between the videos shown and the self-reflective/referential comments about them, within the 'drama' I constructed, but I simply could not come to any general conclusions, and thus am giving you this explanation for deleting them. Yes - I got some insight perhaps doing it. But it all became too universal, even within an attempt to be humorous. It was easier to portray the madness than to summarize it. Yeah. Epistemology and Ontology....you guys know more about this 'schizophrenic dilemna' than I do. Don't you think? You gotta do what you gotta do. It's kinda hard though to go from 'crazy' to abstract universals.....!!!without running into 'contradiction'. I'm sure all you philosophers will solve the 'problem'. But in thinking about this for hours, now, I have at least confirmed for myself that it is not possible to 'do it alone'. Language does not 'work that way'. I only wish I had been able to give you a better version of the Wordsworth poem, but if you did find the time to follow some links after the video, perhaps you heard the beautiful musical composition without words, all in memory of those 'Daffodils'. Take care... Edit: Things change, as usual. Now everything after the video on daffodils is about David Bowie!!!! Edit 2. On a review of the film of the daffodils, another lesson 'of life' learned, or 'relearned'. It all depends which path you take through the forest, or if you wish to be more empirical!!! which picture frame at the end of the video your 'mouse' may choose!!!! Oh these metaphors!!!!

    • Luke C.

      Loreen, I'm really concerned about you. Are you okay? Do you need someone to talk to?

      • Yeah! I noted that Sample was too. I was going to attempt to explain again, but ended up in the same quandary. Is there not many ways to think about, and even define what is meant by 'universal'.....???? Do please follow the thread which speaks of the daffodils. But that indeed is very difficult to do.....

      • But Luke. Thank you so much for your concern about my personal well-being. You haven't visited this site for quite some time. I shall remember your generosity of spirit, and as a psychologist I would imagine you could give a good critique as to whether I have indeed conveyed accurately such phenomena as a triggering process. The difficulty again came when I attempted to make a transition from a depiction of process, to the challenge of placing the workings of the mental process within a what? more philosophical context. It is so difficult to understand, observe, and record the experience of one's mind,'all at once' in a direct attempt to 'understand it'.

        Edit: what you read now are changes made to the original comment.

        When the mind recollects the experience of the daffodils (he is using words, representations, communications of an initial 'thought' experience). Thus it is this 'mystical' experience of 'thought' (rather than word or deed) which best describes the Buddhist emptying of the mind not of thought, but of it's expression in words? Would such thought... this Buddhist awareness, involve as described in the Just Thomism article, the 'problem of universals'. Surely, no. Those 'thoughts'? certainly 'feel' like a real, direct experience of the infinite. But when we attempt to express the 'universal' do we not describe our 'thoughts' within the terms of the language we speak? Yes. In the Just Thomism article we find that Plato did indeed describe the universal as an 'abstract idea'...Does this not then, alone, place the spoken and written word within an epistemological rather than an ontological context.

        No.. once again, I shall leave this discussion here....Yet, perhaps it is true that the movement of material processes of the brain can move faster and are more numerous than the degree of consciousness that is produced within language.....At what point are we talking about the universal as that expressed by language rather than by thought? But even in the asking of this question, does the ontological become an epistemic problem? And what of matter to mind, or mind to matter?.... Yes, even as I gain further philosophical insight, this 'thinking' comes with attendant confusions, and contradictions. This is thought - with words? And what about the deed? What we 'do' within the world context? But is not language limited in its judgments to the particular? Is that what makes the 'universal' within any particular word, an 'abstraction'? How then could one, even attempt to express the universal scope of an active intelligence without becoming incoherent? How are the sensations of the individual, able to be identified? Is the problem of universals then, the problem of explaining 'language': the identification of the abstraction within the particular sensation: the word made, or identified with the flesh? What???? Do you see what can happen? Yet, I am still attempting to imagine rather than to rely on the 'abstractions' of logic alone. I am attempting to test the 'idea' through an observation of the process. I am attempting to have mindfulness within an interaction between external and internal mental processes.

        This project originated in my observations within the debates. And so I have advised you to never mind, it doesn't matter. Surely it is not language that brings to us a vacant or pensive mood. Surely it is within thought that we contemplate the order within mind, the order within the universe. But what of language. For some time I have wanted to leave the debate, and just enjoy the silence. But this has been so difficult to do. But now.....????.
        Hope this passes 'inspection'...Thanks Luke.
        May all of us learn to gaze upon that inward mind which is the bliss of solitude. May our hearts be filled with pleasure, as we dance with the daffodils.
        Goodnight....

        • Luke C.

          Hi, Loreen.Thanks for the reply. Sorry to be so blunt, but the way you're writing still leaves me concerned: Do you have any thoughts or plans regarding hurting or killing yourself?

          • Luke: Please check out Outshine the Sun for the larger conversation with Geena. Yes, my life is my art, and my art is my life, is a quote that really appeals to me.

            Well, Geena. You're not the only one concerned. Let me describe how the structure of Portals works. The Protagonist reflects as an individual the general condition of 'humanity', 'philosophy', etc. etc.
            This little exercise, which I considered merely as an attempt to write a draft of what could be the final or closing pages of the book, is just another example of my tendency to test experience through 'thought experiments'. Within this context, the statement of the individual singing the closing lines of the song of 'Bye Bye American Pie' ultimately refers to the possibility that this does reflect the 'End of Western Civilization', the 'End of Philosophy' (Wittgenstein, and others). Is America on its way to 'commit suicide'?????

            Thus the comments which you interpret as related to my personal intentions, need not be taken as seriously as perhaps you do. If you will look again at the structure of what I wrote in that comment, these remarks actually refer to the two videos which have been placed, intentionally, within the sequence of the story-line that I have presented.
            If you will also look at the characteristics of the writing of Menippean satire, (a link on another comment) you will see that many elements can be found in my writing, including the self reference, and other evidence that this method of writing and investigation has been characteristic of this form of writing over the last several thousand years. I conclude that even the Catholic Church accepts this form of self-critical philosophic analysis, as even the writings of Boethius introduce concurrent philosophic perspectives. Indeed such forms of writing seem to rise consistently at times such as these when there are such profound changes happening within the world.
            I did quite a bit of research over this, and yes, some of my instincts may be found to be correct. If you will Google the history of the 'Carnival', and the Russian author, Bakhtin, referred to above, etc. etc. you may even find an explanation for the basis of the art of such figures as even David Bowie.....Take care you guys.
            P.S. Don't you think you might be just a little overly concerned with the 'Catholic Issue'. There ARE other things happening in the world, you know!!!! I just simply write and explore as an attempt to see the 'many possible perspectives' that constitute the dynamics of our current situation. Thus, if Hegel represents philosophy, (Truth, reason, science) and Kierkegaard represents religion,(Goodness, ethics, etc. from government to Church, etc.) then I'm with Nietzsche, the 'calling card' of beauty, and the interior of our world!!! as interpreted within this triune structure, as Art. (Edit: After all, you have to start somewhere before you can mirror that 'inner mind' within the external paradoxes described as 'the life of the knight of 'faith' within the philosophy of Kierkegaard he directed to a 'study' of the paradoxes that can be found 'within the world'.). Take care. All of you

          • Yes.'my life is my art, and my art is my life, is a quote that really appeals to me...Thus the comments which you interpret as related to my personal intentions, need not be taken as seriously as perhaps you do.

            Loreen, If, as some of your not-stream-of-consciousness posts seem to indicate, you are using this... .form of communication... .this brand of "satire" intentionally, because you want to convey a point; I can not express how much I have not enjoyed "this experience."

            If you are compos-mentis (or close enough to express the degree of self-awareness that you have), then your use of this genre, combined with allusions to suicide, is incredibly upsetting to me. I imagine it might be to others as well. Your "thanks" and "enjoyment" seem anti-social and sadistic.

            I do not believe anyone is "enjoying" your interactions, except for you. This is not an appropriate way to
            interact with other humans online; humans who might very well come to dire conclusions about your welfare. Humans who might be deeply distressed by those conclusions.

            ---

            Of course, if you are not compos-mentis....then I sincerely hope you find the help that you need. (This is not a question: I don't not expect someone who is not compos-mentis to be able to know it necessarily, and/or grasp what I'm saying here.)

            •Hold on, this is waiting to be approved by Outshine the Sun.

            Quote: (This is not a question: I don't not expect someone who is not compos-mentis to be able to know it necessarily, and/or grasp what I'm saying here.)

            And this would be the 'ultimate irony'. The stoics had a saying that only a sage could be considered sane, but when they looked for one they could not find him.

            When you can express thanks and enjoyment for having the ability to read the SN articles, as I have with respect your arguments and some of the vitriol on this site, I too shall reconsider the possible applications of the term 'non compos-mentis'.

            Edit: Also just remembered a Nietzsche quote: (a paraphrase) insanity among individuals is a rarity, but among groups, nations: a commonplace.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            So that Luke and me and others who care about you can know for sure, could you give a single answer, either 'yes', 'no', 'maybe', or 'I don't know' to the question: Do you have any thoughts or plans regarding hurting or killing yourself?

          • No.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Thank you. I am very happy to read that answer.

            I've always appreciated your spirited contributions here. You seem like an amazing person, with a very unique way of thinking about things and a bright spirit. Best wishes, and know that if you do ever find yourself in a dark place and need to talk, you are welcome to message me here or e-mail me. I am confident many here would say the same.

          • Thank you Paul. I have found much 'conflict' on this site, which is a partial explanation (for me) of how and why I began analyzing the processes and argument here, through an 'internal' examination of some of the difficulties this circumstance has presented to me.

            I find it most interesting at this point, that within the sequence in which I put 'suicide' to illustrate some of the dynamic 'implied', that people became focused on that simple 'suicide' mention, when within the sentence itself the reality of this suggestion was placed within context.
            And yet no one has seen the distinction between this and the encouragement to 'dance with the daffodils'. Indeed the video posted to illustrate the dynamic that was the subject of the videos on the End of the Enlightenment and the End of Civilization, was also part of the 'irony' featured on the alternative possibilities of exploring even the internal mental process that has traditional been associated with the concept of Beauty.
            So what was the relation to the current series of posts. Well, do I have to explain, that the argument between theology and philosophy, does contain implicitly these same conflicts.
            The question for me however was: What is the basis of theology and philosophy, which once again set me upon the course to examine my own thought processes, and with much struggle to come to conclusions, which for me were quite unexpected.

            I shall not apologize or explain myself further, except perhaps to suggest that if you are having 'trouble' with these 'satirical' reflections on the state of the world, I am deeply disappointed. I really thought that they would be received more 'objectively' and 'dispassionately'. Are you really that concerned for my mental health? Do you really think that I am seriously considering suicide, when I have explicitly taken what steps I could to ensure 'all of you' that that was not the point, of what I consider to be, even more so after reading these responses, a valid presentation of one of many possible interpretations of what is happening in the world today.
            For further clarification, the suicide remark- points to the video on various interpretations of political events within different historical contexts, which is precisely the reason why in the story, the mind went back to the 60's, and what produced the idea of the possibility of death by suicide.....(Also with respect to mention of reference to T.S. Elliot and David Bowie) on this issue.
            Actually, can you understand now, why I could see the 'irony' when some people I have met, particularly as they were 'the scientists', have expressed to me that they would stay away from such literature, because it can be 'more difficult' to read Shakespeare than Einstein.

          • Yes. I'm, OK, even if it is crazy to reply to myself as was a possible inference coming from another sight, or do I mean point of view, oh no. it's site...! Well anyway just want to thank you all for the support. I did feel the need to post re-post certain comments made on this site, as I didn't want to take any chance of them being lost. No my son is teaching Epidemiology with respect to Mental Health issues at John Hopkins, and my daughter, has now been upgraded from being an American/Canadian lawyer, to the status of 'innovator' of law applications of the 'new technology' to the 'new law'......May I hope that this helps me feel that the possibilities for conflict with respect to 'mental health' issues are somewhat covered. So I merely allow myself to follow these explorations of insanity, as a means for further understanding, and even the questioning some philosophical 'precedents'.

            Besides I have had personal experience with 'the system'; have been wrongly categorized, and have thoroughly studied the 'science'. If you are interested, it was interesting that this method of mine, has long been an effective method of self-analysis. if you're interested :http://www.webook.com/project/Portals-of-Paradox-Voices-Chapter-One

            Please know that I take it as a possibility that I may or can doubt anything,everything,nothing. All of my energy is directed towards gaining better insight. With respect to Boethius, if you ever read Wikipedia, you will discover that he is primarily regarded as a 'pagan philosopher', as may I suggest is the case with respect to Plato, Aristotle, etc. etc. You will also note the agreement with my take on the matter, which led to the expression of beauty and order, as being the 'voice of silence' in the Woodsworth's poem.

            Please realize that there is much 'unwritten' philosophy outside of the 'texts' and their 'proper interpretation'. I simply hope that I can avoid taking too much at face value, especially that of the written word- note the contradiction...ah maybe I should have said 'metaphor'. Proofs of God by analogy....yes - I was doing that.....wasn't I? It is important to think these things out for ourselves, so I fear not being called 'crazy', nor being 'put away for it'....Take care all of you. And my special thanks to Paul, and especially you - my favorite Hill Climber....

          • Thanks again for your interest. Perhaps this will conclude this episode either of the novel or the 'psychological attack'. Just want to take the opportunity to let you see another couple of comments which 'may not' be posted on EN.

            I have cut and pasted the following from the except from the comment box, that I assume you are referring to:

            Quote: " Is this where the novel will end then- with a suicide?. Or is that just what people will think? "

            Geena Safire

            It is generally agreed that words should be seen, and understood within a context! Thank you for given me the basis for new insight with respect to how such interpretations develop. A good critic reads the whole story.

      • Dear Luke: My understanding is that you visit and/or participate on both sites/SN/EN. I have just 'discovered' the following message. I marked it with an up vote to acknowledge receiving it. But if all my comments will be read and analyzed, I believe that my 'work' here is done, with respect to any need to answer this e-mail request. The suggestion is that it is possible that I am much more informed, and perhaps educated, than the general consensus on EN would acknowledge. You are aware, perhaps, that my comments on EN have been moderated,and adjudicated based on the 'unproven' possibility of their 'perceived' incoherence, and possible mental issues. I have no further comment to make regarding this. I believe my 'work' has been completed with respect to any further participation within this argument. I do believe, and will incorporate into the Portals, a comparable perspective with respect to what I have experienced, as 'Witness', with 'A Thought Experiment' and what is actually meant by the 'End of Philosophy. Thank you.

        Quote:
        Hi Loreen,
        Geena asked a very clear and important question.
        Do you have anyone you talk to in real life about your state of health or wellness -- family, friend or health care provider?
        I would feel better if you answered it as concisely as Geena asked it.

        Yes. Answer. At their beck and call!!! As noted all information and issues have been purposely collaborated and either transferred or addressed and also as a means of anticipating such possible 'requests' as this. Thank you again, Strange Notions, for allowing public access to 'all evidence'.

        Interesting that today they are speaking about the Bowie 'mythos' developing. May I assure all of you, that if you are interested in my point of view, or what I have done or are doing, I believe "all the bases' have been covered, on "all issues'. Freedom of speech and consciousness has not been violated!!!!

        May daughter for instance would have no difficulty in doing an e-discovery search! Thank you.

  • As posted just now on 'Outshine the Sun': If in writing and posting this comment, I indeed find that it appears 'on screen', I will only once again be in awe with respect to the changing circumstances found within world and religion. This summarizes who I am and what I do. As I spoke of before, I now have the end of philosophy in mind, and will be able to complete my project; the book that is being published concurrently by Webook that I write it on line.
    Thanks to you all. I have enjoyed this experience.
    http://www.faculty.umb.edu/charles_knight/meniphnd.htm.

  • Cam Davis

    I just wanted to note that Scholasticism does not have a monopoly on reasonable Christianity. For instance, there are many robust schools of theology that developed in the East that did not operate by the Scholastic method, and in fact had some pretty serious criticisms to level against it. Modern students of these schools of thought include Fr. John Romanides, Vladimir Lossky, Fr. George Florovsky, and even David Bentley Hart who refuses to identify as a Scholastic philosopher.

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    I'm not commenting much, mostly due to time constraints, but I am greatly enjoying this series.

    I do have a quick trivial question about this article. Did Brandon write it or did Tamer?

  • Dear Moderators. I searched the internet for some time before I came to this video which I hope to share with you in an attempt to make up for any inconvenience I have caused you, and to thank you for not deleting my comments. Hopefully the series following the first video, on the history of the conflicts between theology and philosophy, (yes, within the interpretation I assumed, in placing theology within the context of biblical revelation, or in my case, the attendant problem of narrative) will be helpful for those who have the time to view them. In that what Anselm says with respect to "I believe so that I can understand" within my 'understanding?' does place faith before reason. Indeed, it gave me more confidence with what I learned from my life history: that it can be important to learn from the experience of living through the contradictions with the hope of a continued growing awareness, is the what? a methodology? that I have adopted within my ascents/descents into 'madness'? Even in this 'thought experiment', for me, however, was the difficulty of placing this experience within a rational context, having something to do even with the problematic of language - itself???? So, I'll leave it here, cause I want to have lunch, before returning to view the rest of this series. Hopefully, there will some day be reconciliation between all the different perspectives that can be found within the life histories of individuals, and within the contexts of social interaction. Wouldn't it be a 'miracle' if SN/EN for instance could only.....but then there's Esau and Jacob and Ishmael: and an interpretation I found regarding this within the context of Rabbinical study.....and so it goes.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k83NopYGRjg