PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS ISSN 2043-0728
Issue number 109 6th September 2005
I. 'Three Russian Thinkers' by Dmitry Olshansky
II. Three essays on Indian Religion and Philosophy
III. Four Responses to John Alexander on God and the Categorical Imperative
We are proud to announce the launch of a new International for Philosophers web site dedicated to Russian thinkers, 'Gallery of Russian Thinkers' at https:--- . Pathways contributor Dmitry Olshansky will be responsible for the contents of the pages. Currently on the site are photographs, biographies and bibliographies of Lev Shestov, Merab Mamardashvili and Yury Lotman. Dmitry Olshansky is planning to include material on Mikhail Bakhtin, Pavel Florensky, Roman Jacobson, Alexandre Kojeve, Gustav Shpet, Vladimir Solovyov and Nikolay Trubetskoy.
Please contact Dmitry Olshansky if you know of the whereabouts of any available images of Gustav Shpet, Nikolay Trubetskoy or Roman Jacobson.
To coincide with the publication of the Gallery of Russian Thinkers, a new section on the ISFP main page has been created for 'Philosophy around the World'. Under this heading you will find three essays on aspects of Indian Religion and Philosophy by ISFP members Viraj Karunananda Hewage, Poojamukta Vyas and Selva Wenshen which are reproduced here.
John Alexander's question, 'Did God violate Kant's Categorical Imperative' (Philosophy Pathways 108) has provoked a lively response, as you will see from the replies by Geoff Bagley, Phill Amey, Renato A dela Pena, Jr and Ken Bandy.
I. 'THREE RUSSIAN THINKERS' BY DMITRY OLSHANSKY
From: 'Gallery of Russian Thinkers' selected by Dmitry Olshansky
Launched: 6th September 2005
LEV SHESTOV (born Schwartzman) (13.02.1866, Kiev - 19.11.1938, Paris). Russian philosopher of religious existentialism. He was born into the family of a rich Jewish manufacturer, and was educated at the Law School of Moscow University. His Ph.D. thesis on labour in Marx was suppressed by censorship. In 1895 he travelled to Europe. He married his wife Anna Berezovskaya in Rome the next year, and kept this marriage secret for a long time from his father. Shestov's first book Shakespeare and his critic Brandes was published in 1898. A number of articles and books on Russian writers Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Sologub, were published during the following years. In 1905 was published his most influential book Apotheosis of Groundlessness, inspired by Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. He was expelled from the Soviet Union in 1922. With his family he settled in Paris, where he taught at the Sorbonne until his death, where he lectured on Plato, Luther, Pascal and Spinoza. Shestov taught philosophy to Bataille, who was also a translator of his book Philosophy and Predication. He was familiar with Heidegger, Levi-Strauss, Scheler, and he also entertained long-standing philosophical friendships with Husserl and Buber. It is thanks to Shestov that Husserl came to be known in France.
Shestov considered philosophy to begin at the extreme margins of life. To philosophize, for Shestov, means to overcome a impossibility of Being. Therefore the overcoming of death, eternity and the trivial round are one of his main themes. "This would truly be the summit of human audacity, this would truly be a 'mutiny,' a 'revolt' of the single human personality against the eternal laws of the all-unity of being!" (Speculation and Apocalypse). Philosophy should strive against common categories, conventionalism of truth and rationalism of cognition; therefore he chose faith rather than knowledge.
The key philosophical theme of Athenes et Jerusalem is a strict confrontation between knowledge and belief, between Western rationalism and Eastern faith; the former he associates with captivity and narrowness, the latter is the source of freedom and diversity. Thus he creates his religious existentialism as a philosophy of multiplicity and emancipation from knowledge, morality and rules of mind and action. Philosophy should understand the world, but not to know it and not to investigate it by reason. He shared Heidegger's aim of the destruction of metaphysics and for his own part he undertook his own attempt to overcome metaphysics with the help of a faith. Faith, according to Shestov, is an ultimate emancipation of a human being from the limitation of the eternal laws, general rationalization and social dogmas. Shestov's Job "knows that the general is deaf and dumb -- and that it is impossible to speak with it" (Speculation and Apocalypse). To be means to believe, but not to think. Thus he took Luther's thesis as a title of his book Sola fide.
Shestov L., Shakespeare and His Critic Brandes. St. Petersburg, 1898, 1911;
Shestov L.. The Good in the Teaching of Tolstoy and Nietzsche. St. Petersburg, 1900, 1923;
Shestov L., Dostoevsky and Nietzsche: Philosophy of Tragedy. St. Petersburg, 1903, 1922; English: Ohio, 1969;
Shestov L., Apotheosis of Groundlessness. St. Petersburg, 1905, 1911; English: All Things are Possible, London, 1920, Ohio, 1979;
Shestov L., Beginnings and Endings. St. Petersburg, 1908; English: Penultimate Words and other Essays. Boston, 1916;
Shestov L., Great Vigils. St. Petersburg, 1910;
Shestov L., Porestas Clavium. Berlin, 1923; English: Potestas clavium, Ohio, 1968; Chicago, 1970;
Shestov L., In Job's Balances, London, 1932;
Shestov L., Kierkegaard et la philosophie existentielle (Vox clamantis in deserto). Paris, 1936; English: Kierkegaard and the Existential Philosophy. Ohio, 1969;
Shestov L., Athenes et Jerusalem: un essai de philosophie religieuse. Paris, 1938; English: Athens and Jerusalem. Ohio, 1966; N.Y., 1968; 1978;
Shestov L., La speculation et la revelation. Paris, 1964; English: Speculation and Revelation. Ohio, 1982;
Shestov L., Sola fide. Paris, 1957;
Shestov L., Turgenev. Ann Arbor, 1982;
Shestov L., Lectures on the History of Greek Philosophy. Moscow, 2001;
Great Twenty-Century Jewish Philosophers: Shestov, Rosenzweig, Buber. Ed. by Bernard Martin. N.Y.: MacMillan, 1969;
Fondale, B. Rencontres avec Leon Shestov. Paris: Plasma, 1982;
Struve, N. Leon Shestov: Une philosophie pas comm les autres? Paris: Institute d'etudes slaves, 1996;
MERAB MAMARDASHVILI (15. 09. 1930, Gori - 25. 11. 1990, Moscow). Russian philosopher. He was born in Georgia into a military family. His mother belonged to a family of teachers of Georgian crown princes. In 1954 he entered the Department of Philosophy at Moscow University. He defended his Ph.D. thesis in 1970 in Tbilisi (Georgia). He worked in the Institute of Philosophy of the USSR and lectured at Moscow University on Descartes, Kant, and philosophy of science. In 1980 he went to Georgia, where he worked at the Institute of Philosophy and lectured on Proust and phenomenology in University of Tbilisi. For his talent at lecturing he was called the 'Russian Socrates'. He wrote just one book Tractatus on Development of Knowledge, all his other works are collections of his interviews, speeches and talks.
The main theme of his research was the relation between language and consciousness. The latter, according to Mamardashvili, is not a natural human capability, it not only grows up naturally from the environment, but it appears and report on itself in the metaphysical space of language and human co-operation. He considers consciousness to be an act of human existence; he said "the act of thinking is correlated with Being as a transcendental level of human existence" (Arrow of Cognition p. 23).
Philosophy is not only what one is thinking about, but also how one is existing. "As far as I understand philosophy, Ñhe said, Ñit was always interested in one question: how can one think that, which is thinking?" (How I Understand a Philosophy. -- p. 5). Therefore the aim of philosophy is to find and keep the unity of the past, present and future in act of existing. To exist means to be absent in thought, but see the existence of thought as it is; no one idea belongs to a thinker, but a thinker belongs to it. And one should maintain it in one's life. "Philosophy is not a profession, it is rather temperament and way of life, and I can inform you in no sum of knowledge, I can only pass something very intimate and therefore that must remain obscure" (How I Understand a Philosophy. -- p. 338).
Mamardashvili M., Forms and Content of Thinking. Moscow, 1986;
Mamardashvili M. How I Understand a Philosophy. Moscow, 1992;
Mamardashvili M. Cartesian Meditations. Moscow, 1993;
Mamardashvili M., Classical and Non-classical Ideals of Rationality. Moscow, 1994;
Mamardashvili M., Lectures on Proust. Psychological Topology of the Path. Moscow, 1995;
Mamardashvili M., Arrow of Cognition. Sketches of Natural-Historical Epistemology. M, 1996;
Mamardashvili M., Necessity of the Self. Moscow, 1996;
Mamardashvili M. and Pyatigorski A., Symbol and Cognition. Metaphysical Meditations on Consciousness, Symbolism and Language. Moscow, 1997;
Mamardashvili M., Lectures on Ancient Philosophy. Moscow, 1997;
Mamardashvili M., Aesthetic of Thinking. Moscow, 2000;
YURY LOTMAN (28. 02. 1922, St. Petersburg - 28. 10. 1993, Tartu). Russian philosopher and semiologist. He was born into a family of lawyers. In 1950 he entered St. Petersburg University, where he studied philology under Vladimir Propp. After the defense of his Ph.D. thesis in 1961 he went to Tartu University (Estonia), where he held the post of professor until his death. In 1964 became the first editor of the world-famous journal Sing System Studies and initiated an Annual conference on Semiotics, which still take place every year.
Kristeva considers him to be the first Russian structuralist, who became famous with his book On the Delimitation of Linguistic and Philological Concepts of Structure (1963) and his Lectures on Structural Poetics (1964). His treatment of creative structures of language was close to that of Levi-Strauss; he supposed textual mechanism to be the center of a cyclical-temporal motion of culture. "Texts created in this way are not, in our sense of the word, plot-texts and, in general, could only be described with great difficulty by means of our usual categories" (The Origin of Plot in the Light of Typology).
He also shared the structural idea that the subject totally belongs to the language that he is speaking and thinking. Culture creates a man, makes a world where he lives; therefore culture has nothing in common with objective reality, but it makes that reality. "Sound and a language are not one the same. Human culture speaks with us, i.e. communicate information to us, in many different ways" (Semiotics of Cinema). Words create verbal images, which depict reality, they neither reflect nor copy it. "The verbal image is virtual. In the reader's consciousness it appears as open, uncompleted and not incarnated. It palpitates and counters to the ultimate materialization" (The Structure of the Artistic Text).
He substantively came to the idea of intertextuality, when he considered culture to be a confrontation of texts with anterior and surrounding languages. "Both groups of texts have their corresponding conception of the universum as a whole. The law-forming center of culture, genetically arising from the original mythological nucleus, reconstructs a completely regulated world, equipped with a single plot and a higher meaning" (The Origin of Plot in the Light of Typology). Basing his argument upon Bakhtin's views, he maintains that in cultural dialog the texts generate the meaning of language. He regarded literature and art as a "secondary modeling system", which recasts the primary logic of language according to new lingual rules, conferring new mental possibilities.
Lotman Yu. Analysis of the Poetic Text. Transl. by D. Barton Johnson. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1976;
Lotman J. Semiotics of Cinema. Transl. by Mark Suino. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1976;
Lotman J. The Structure of the Artistic Text. Transl. by Gail Lenhoff and Ronald Vroon. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1977;
Lotman J. Semiotics of Cinema. Transl. by Mark Suino. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. 1981;
Lotman J. Universe of the Mind: A Semiotic Theory of Culture. Translated by Ann Shukman, introduction by Umberto Eco. London and New York: I. B. Tauris & Co Ltd., 1990;
(c) Dmitry A. Olshansky 2005
M.A. in Philosophy (St. Petersburg)
II. THREE ESSAYS ON INDIAN RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY
Viraj Karunananda Hewage
Mental Development Instructions in Buddhist Philosophy
The Ancient Great Master, the Buddha, lived in the 6th century B.C. He was born as a human being and developed his mental faculties and eventually he gained certain mental powers through which he became an extraordinary human being. Thus he was fortunate to realize a doctrine which was unrevealed and unheard before by anyone in the world. Therefore, though the new teaching he realized was not something invented by him, the full credit of rediscovering the whole teaching should be granted to the Buddha himself.
Once while the Buddha was dwelling at Kuru city which is in the present New Delhi in India, he addressed his disciples and said 'O monks, this is the one way for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the ridding of pain and grief, for reaching the path, for the attainment of Nibbana; namely the four establishments of mindfulness'. That is the preamble of the discourse.
This is one of the most sacred and respectable as well as the longest discourse delivered by the Buddha. People read and re-read this discourse with great honor, specially in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. This is certainly a great source of inspiration. In the end of this discourse the Buddha, giving firm assurance said, if one would follow and practice this teaching (in the sutta) he would either attain full bliss of enlightenment or if residues of defilement remain would attain the state of non-returnee. This is, absolutely the most significant discourse to understand the teaching of the Buddha on meditation or mental development. One can state that it is the practical manual of Buddhist meditation. So let us now come to understand the teachings dealt in the discourse. The Buddha at the very beginning said that there are four establishments of mindfulness which, when developed and cultivated conducive to maintain serenity, insight and attain enlightenment here and now. So it is obvious that in this discourse there are instructions for both serenity and insight meditation through which one can attain enlightenment.
The four establishments of mindfulness are:
The establishment of mindfulness of body as body
The establishment of consciousness as consciousness
The establishment of feelings and feelings
The establishment of mental objects as mental objects
Then the Buddha elaborated how to practice these four establishments of mindfulness. To begin with the first one, the Buddha said in order to practice the establishment of mindfulness of body as body, one should choose a congenial place. He recommended three places 1. go to the woods 2. go to a foot of a tree 3. go to an empty house. After selecting a suitable place one has to sit properly. The body should be erect, nose is in line with the navel, half-closed eyes, ears in line with shoulders, tongue should be rested against the upper teeth and keep a calm and quiet mind. Completely relax your body and mind. That is the basic instructions given and then you have to practise mindfulness of breathing. When you focus your attention on your breath you can understand the flow of your breath. That is your home object. One has to continue this meditation vigilantly, diligently and wholeheartedly. In this context the body means not the physical formation but one's breath. As such, one has to establish mindfulness of breathing for the success of this meditation. When practiced, there are 16 different steps of breath to be understood.
The Buddha again pointed out that there are five other objects for the establishment of mindfulness of body. We shall now examine these five objects in brief.
l. Mindfulness of the four postures
In our daily life whatever we are committed to our postures could be summarized into four; namely, standing, walking, sitting and sleeping. So the Buddha admonished to be mindful on the action done while we are in these postures.
2. Mindfulness (clear awareness) of all actions
The Buddha said, 'When going forward or back, be aware of what you are doing. When looking forward or back be aware of what you are doing. When wearing your garments and ornaments be aware of what you are doing. When eating, drinking, chewing, swallowing and savoring be aware of what you are doing. When passing excrement or urine be aware of what you are doing. When walking, standing, sitting, falling asleep and waking up, in speaking or staying silent be aware of what you are doing.' That is how one has to be aware of one's actions.
3. Mindfulness on the repulsiveness of body
In this section one has to reflect upon the nature of one's own body and honestly and realistically understand the nature of the different parts of the body such as head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, blood, bones, kidney, pus, etc.
4. Mindfulness on the four elements
There are four great elements in the world. Things animate and inanimate, are composed of these four great elements; namely earth, water, fire and air. When one practices meditation one has to pay attention to the body and be mindful on the four elements of the body. If one is mindful one can understand the four elements in one's daily consumption.
5. Mindfulness on a corpse
According to this teaching one has to be mindful to understand the nature of a corpse. After one's death, if not embalmed, it will bloat, discolor and fester. In the ancient days the corpses were thrown away in to the charnel ground. Then the practitioners were able to go there and examine the corpse and compare with their own body, death and the nature afterwards. What we could do today in order to practice this meditation is that we can be mindful of the corpse after visiting a funeral of a person, may be one of our own relatives.
Consequently, the Buddha, in this discourse, very clearly explained how to practice the establishment of feelings as feelings. In line with the teaching of the Buddha there are 108 types of feelings (read Bahuvedaniya Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya). But in general, the Buddha points out three kinds of feeling in many of his discourses. Feeling arises dependent on contact. The three kinds of feelings are: 1. pleasant feeling 2. painful feeling 3. neither pleasant nor painful feeling. When one is mindful, one can understand the different feelings. When there is a pleasant feeling one has to understand it as a pleasant feeling, when there is a painful feeling one has to understand it as a painful feeling and when the feeling is neither pleasant nor painful one has to understand it as it is. It is to be clearly understood that it is because of feeling that craving which is the root of all unwholesome things and the cause of the cycle of births and deaths arises. And then dependent on craving clinging arises and so forth.
The third establishment of mindfulness, in accordance with the discourse is the establishment of consciousness. Consciousness is the most vital energy in our body. Consciousness itself is a sense base. According to the Abhidhamma the consciousness could be classified into 121. When consciousness is based on eye, it is called eye-consciousness, ear, it is called ear-consciousness, in like manner, when it is based on nose it is called nose-consciousness, tongue, it is called tongue consciousness, body it is called body-consciousness and mind, it is called mind-consciousness. When one practices this meditation one has to be aware of the nature of consciousness. It means being aware of what type of consciousness whether the consciousness is lustful or free from lust, hating or free from hate, deluded or free from delusion etc.
The last, but not the least, is the establishment of mindfulness on mental objects. This is the consequences of practicing the first three establishments. In other words this is the realization aspect of the whole teaching. When one practices, develops and cultivates mindfulness of the first three one can penetratively realize the nature of five hindrances (sensual desire, ill-will, sloth-and-torpor, restlessness, and doubt), the five aggregates of existence (form, feeling, perception, volitional formation, and consciousness), the six internal bases (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind), six external bases (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and mental object), the seven factors of Enlightenment (mindfulness, investigation of the dhamma, energy, rapture, tranquility, concentration and equanimity). These seven factors of Enlightenment, the Buddha said, are to be perfectly developed.
Furthermore, one can realize the four Noble Truths:
the suffering as a facet of truth
the cause of suffering as a facet of truth
the cessation of suffering as a. facet of truth
the noble path leading to the cessation of suffering as a facet of truth
That itself is the realization of the teachings of the Buddha. If one can understand and realize the four Noble Truths one can realize the three characteristics of existence (impermanence, dissatisfaction and soullessness) and the Dependent Origination. With the realization of these three main teachings of the Buddha one can understand and realize the whole teaching of the Buddha and attain supreme bliss of Enlightenment. That is the goal of the teaching of the Buddha. In the end of this discourse the Buddha stated that if one would practice this teaching perfectly, as said, for 7 days one can attain Enlightenment.
(c) Viraj Karunananda Hewage 2005
Spiritual Spirit in Indian Religion
Religion is nothing but in brief a moral code of conduct. A man or woman from any society or any part of the world should definitely know what is his/ her moral duty. This thing is very sure that if a person acts according to moral values he should not have to worry about any difficulty or any kind of legal or social complications.
A well settled definition and meaning of 'Dharma' is 'Dharyati iti Dharm'. Everybody should act accordingly Dharma.
Dharma has two facets: one is state made laws and the other is moral laws. One is legal and the other is spiritual. Dharm is, the by product of the manifestation a little or more, of the Atman, in life, action and enter human relations in society. Vedanta treats Dharma as the link between the physical sciences and the science of spirituality, the adhyatma vidya which accounts for the sustenance of the Sanatana Dharma, eternal values. No religions disagree about basic moral duties. Differences of opinion from different religions are not basically in those religions but in fact these are by understanding or way of expression, the way of following the rules of basic fundamentals of the religion.
So it is very necessary to forget the difference of opinion and difference of expression in way of method (padaati). One should follow the human religion. The human being is the center of every religion and it is true that all religions are basically meant for human beings.
As we all know, the culture and moral values present a true perspective of the development of any society or nation. They tell us to what extent a society or nation has developed itself. The culture and moral values of a particular society or nation serve as measuring devices. They also help to evaluate the characteristics of the citizen belonging to that particular society or nation.
In this context when we talk about the nation India, the land of ancient culture and civilization, this holds a comprehensive, extraordinary and unique place in the context of values and spiritual spirit. India is one the country in the world, the culture of which has always survived due to its unique fundamental values. Morality is an inseparable component of it which by maintaining its perpetual presence and continuous progress has negated the evils like fanaticism, fundamentalism, diehardness, disunity and others, and has propagated the message of harmony, of live and let live and given the principle of vasudhaiva kutumbakam, 'the world as a family'. The message of this formula conveyed by this country thousands of years ago had a deep impact on the entire world. The reason behind this influence is that this approach towards this spirit value, peace has directly or indirectly been built by contribution of knowledge obtained and deed, and of course, real experience.
The Indian view of spirituality from ancient times also clarifies that the Indian approach towards this spirit starts at a personal level. Therefore in Indian religion the person becomes 'God' with the help of his Guru's gyana and by Atamgyan. In short, one who knows himself he knows thyself. Every religion has a same importance and same respect. But Indian Philosophy depicts that the human being is either rewarded or punished according to his own deeds. Indian religion gives the message or meaning of peace and moral values in general as a condition which is fulfilled only when it exists in man's heart, in his daily practices or actions and thoughts. But Sanatam Dharma particularly in Hindu Philosophy has a particular place for 'Moksh' or 'Mukti'. It gives a special touch of Adhayatma (Spiritual) of Sanatam Dharma. Due to this mukti or moksh, a man must became introvert, then only he can use it in search of 'Atama and Atmanubhuti'. It is very interesting and enchanting when man becomes introvert and as well as he uses it to enter in his swaroop or Atma. It is clear in the sense that one who wants to know the meaning of human life must know the importance of 'Atma' which in fact reflects the 'Parmatma'.
At last we can say that the Indian religion is not limited to one life style and stream of Avatari purush (God). But it has a spiritual goal of life also. So let's try to build a new nation, the citizens of which will work for the welfare of each other shedding the difference based on religion, caste, communalism and fundamentalism. Ultimately we all are same or we all working for the same goal. The history of the origin of a particular religion, or the place of origin of religion or person who started the particular religion may be different, but no doubt the gist of religion is same in every case.
(c) Poojamukta Vyas 2005
It is said that religion will not mention anything straight. It is only faith that will realize it. All religions have many things in common. They will have many statements that do not go by science. It is up to the individual to filter all that is given and take the right path. This is the reason we find flaws in religions. Probably one can quote from a work of Shakespeare where the spirits guide sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly.
But one who understands in the right way will go 'silent'. In one way it's better we don't know them all.
Say, for example, there are few places in India where you just give your finger print. They would tell your name, history and certain future happenings that you cannot change. In fact they deny to meet people forehand who go there trying to explore the technique. It is not required for those people to write papers and publish them. They have all the science. All the inventions that are made now in the form of science have already been explored. If we make them all, then spirits will deny to play the role of evil. When there is no evil there is nothing to measure good. Then we end up 'nothing'. It is only we who rediscover them in the form of science.
Science is nothing but what our nerves can perceive with certain functions. Science is governed by rules, mostly in the form of Physics. And if any of these rules are not consistent then we end up only as theories. These theories may contain some mistakes. When these mistakes are cleared they become rules again. And the one who makes them consistent is the nature that made the nerves with certain functions.
That makes this world of values. Actually value has no value. Just think the world in developed. All are rich. Then we might ask for 'what's the final destination?' Why that far even if you are given all the wealth. You may ask for the purpose of your existence. People who are in quest of this answer become saints in some cases. And they really don't enjoy what one would when they don't go in for this quest. All that matters is sustained development. For example it is never possible for Tony to boast himself about his intelligence and works. If he does it he will lose the ability to get ideas for his thinking. That's the reason why intelligent people of great wisdom seem to be humble. Let's take the example of author of Ramayana, a holy book of Hinduism. Valmiki, he was a thief in the first half of his life. Changed later to a wise man and wrote this book. As setting back to what we say. Only a good thief can become a better policeman. In a way it can be said all have the same values. But the way it is distributed is different. Probably the link between science and religion is missing for a reason.
Whether our questions end up unanswered depends on the questions we ask. Probably we can ask questions like what, why, where, when, how, which, so what, if, is it, then, whom, whose. But we should also realize that we miss certain types of question that will help us find the answers which we haven't got the answer for. Then let's work on this. People who go in similar direction in quest of this end up saying theories which show their own state of mind. And one could observe they would have floundered around for a long time. But those who have become successful in finding the answer have gone silent. And those who make it back from being silent, still remain calm with great energy in them. And stay enjoying nature. And life. Not scared of death. Not caring for anything happening around. But very wise for sure.
But for sure: One will know them all after meeting death.
(c) Selva Wenshen 2005
III. FOUR RESPONSES TO JOHN ALEXANDER ON GOD AND THE CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE
I would like to respond to 'Did God Violate the Categorical Imperative?' by John Alexander in Philosophy Pathways 108. Can I suggest it actually says nothing about the Christian concept of God because of an assumption that may not be shared by all Christians?
'This means that we were created as a means to an end.
Being created as a means to an end is a violation of the
categorical imperative understood as respect for persons,
namely that persons are capable of exercising reason and
free-will in choosing courses of actions for ends that they
themselves knowingly and freely choose. Consequently, we are
either not persons or we are persons who have been shown
disrespect by being created as a means to an end, more
perfect souls or less perfect souls, regardless of which
end we choose'
depends on his initial assumption 'Assume that God exists and that He created us as imperfect souls capable of becoming more perfect depending on how we react to the situations that confront us in life', which I contest on the idea that God created humans as imperfect souls.
I would suggest that the Biblical data (I am thinking of its teaching rather than it giving a literal picture of what happened) suggests that the creation was 'perfect' to start with and was then corrupted. The Reformers said that 'A Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.' There is perhaps a glimpse of this in Genesis 3 when God came to speak with Adam and Eve in the cool of the evening. I tend to see this as God coming to talk over the events of the day and enjoy each other's company.
If my assumption is correct, it gives a different picture of the relationship between God and humans and their purpose on earth. They were to enjoy living in God's creation and to have fellowship with God rather than see the earth as a training ground for heaven.
(c) Geoff Bagley 2005
I have just read your article in the philosophy pathways electronic journal. I am not a philosopher but have started to become more interested through studying certain aspects during my theological studies. I read with interest the case that you put forward (although many assumptions were made) However there are a couple of points I would like to raise.
First, that many of the arguments you put forward are based on spatial concepts i.e. plan, means to an end, etc and this suggests that God is playing out some form of process or game with an end point or state of being in mind. There is no evidence of this being the case other than God wishing humanity to become whole/ perfect again as was His intention. How this is to be achieved is relative to the world and creation in which we share, but God has also given free will to this part of his creation as well, so therefore the 'conditions' in which we operate are also free to operate outside of any control other than their own defining characteristics.
Secondly, You use words such as 'preconditions' and 'pre-destined' and these imply those things which have been mapped out for us, irrespective of any choice other than a little bit of 'wiggle room' within a creator's plan.
My view on this would perhaps be slightly different and I would think in terms of pre-ordained. There is an intention from God that we live and work towards the fullness of our capacities as human beings. However we do have free will and choice not to do this. Therefore, both the personal process and the 'conditions' in which we operate are open to true choice and are not part of some kind of game that God will play with us.
It appears to me that God does not need creation to be whole himself nor would it serve any purpose to create a humanity that only 'won or lost' on His terms. Rather that we have a choice to respond to God's intention through the freedom that he has given us, not despite a punitive framework which essentially suggests we are always going to be on a loser!
Many thanks Phill
(c) Phill Amey 2005
Renato A dela Pena, Jr
I've read your article in the August 18 Philosophy Pathways e-Journal, 'Did God Violate the Categorical Imperative?'
I understand that the position you discussed here is that He did when we were 'created as a means to an end', indeed, a violation of the categorical imperative 'understood as respect for persons, namely that persons are capable of exercising reason and free-will in choosing courses of actions for ends that they themselves knowingly and freely choose.'
I humbly disagree with this position. Basically, I don't see us being converted into 'means to an end' the 'end' being understood in the Christian sense as becoming moral persons following the Christian tenets to be worthy of a place in Heaven -- essentially attaining Beatific Vision (borrowing St. Thomas' Aquinas). This end is essentially a gift to the Christian who has chosen to work for that end, after having understood the various choices/ options available with the use of their intellect, itself a 'gift' or an ability, also given to us from the moment of our procreation. To me, I am using one gift to attain another gift. I am able to objectify these two gifts (intellect and heaven), treating them as though they were separate and distinct from me, though they are or can be part of my subjective experience.
As such, I am not using myself as a means to my end. Rather, I am using my intellect and my will to work out for my end, which is my salvation. This, I don't see that my person is violated because I am able to make a distinction between the 'me' in 'me' and the gifts to 'me' which I am using as the means to a desired, or better yet, a chosen end.
Sir, my knowledge of philosophy is not as deep as yours. I am sharing my views, as a Christian and as a Catholic, and letting you know, so at least you will know where I am coming from. I understand there are many philosophies. This is what I think from my perspective.
Thank you. It is a very interesting question.
As a teacher of logic, I have asked my students whether God can create a stone which he cannot carry. I think it's a good question, but I'm not sure if it's a good one from your perspective. But surely, it has made my students think.
(c) Renato A dela Pena, Jr 2005
John Alexander makes a very interesting point in arguing that if God created humans with a view to perfecting their souls, then he broke Kant's categorical imperative by using them as means rather than ends. However, I am not entirely sure that his conclusion is not merely tautologically true. Once we accept that God created humans for a purpose -- whatever the purpose -- we have accepted implicitly that he regards humans as means rather than ends. Anything that has a purpose is a means to that purpose and therefore not an end in itself.
This seems to be in accord with the thinking of the medieval scholastics who classified God as the ens realissimus -- the only person or object that is truly an end in itself. Couple this thinking with the name that God gives himself in the Bible -- 'I am' -- and we see that God and perhaps God alone does not have a purpose. 'I am' suggests that his necessary property is some kind of groundless existence. The properties that we usually think of as being necessary to God such as omnipotence, omniscience, goodness, justice etc. are merely contingent properties not necessary ones. The action that we think of as being definitive of God, namely the creation of the universe would also be a contingent action not a necessary part of his definition. In other words God's only necessary property is existence apart from which he can be and do what the hell he likes.
This is a very Old Testament and non-Scholastic view -- but we have to be careful that in according free-will to humanity we do not confine the free will of God.
As regards his breaking Kant's categorical imperative, since Kant so vehemently rejected theÊChristian idea of an anthropomorphic god, surely God has the right in turn to reject the apotheosis of Kant!
(c) Ken Bandy 2005