My Conclusions

I comment on various teachings of the great philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, as well as modern philosophers. My purpose is to highlight my view of Philosophy as the Study of the Soul.

If only all the great philosophers of history had known of my view of philosophy;they would have made more sense.

This article relies exclusively on the book Socrates to Sartre: A History of Philosophy, Sixth Edition, by Samuel Enoch Stumpf for quotations and paraphrasing (I don't distinguish between these in this article).


Socrates . . .


Socrates awakened people from their sleep of ignorance with the power of his irony and the persistence of his dialectic method. (pg. 63)

Zen Buddhism (and other forms) has a similar idea — that through ideas and words you can shake up a person's mind to "awaken" from their sleep of ignorance.


Inner Voice

Socrates frequently received messages or warnings from a mysterious "voice," or what he called his daimon. (pg. 36)

Socrates thought a supernatural being watched over him and warned him if he was about to make an error. Many of the founders of the world's religions had contact with an angel or supernatural being. In my view of the Philosophy of the Soul, our soul lives in the spiritual realm and encounters other spirit beings all the time. We don't often become aware of their presence but some people occasionally do. After death our only interaction with others will be with their souls.


Soul

The conception of the soul, the psyche — the capacity for intelligence and character; it is a person's conscious personality. (pg. 37)

In my view, the soul is the life of every creature which lives in the spiritual realm. The soul interacts with the body which is non-living.

One's greatest concern should be the proper care of one's soul so as to "make the soul as good as possible." (pg. 37)

Holiness, righteousness, and Godliness should be the main focus of human life. The problem with non-Christian views is they don't address the sin problem in the context of the need for a savior, a redeemer. For them, living a good life is the ultimate human condition; for Christians, living a life pleasing to God and being redeemed of God through faith is the ultimate human condition.

Conduct their behavior in accordance with their knowledge of the true moral values. (pg. 37)

There are two steps outlined here: (1) learn the true moral values, and (2) behave according to them. The problem is in knowing in what these true moral values consist. Without the revealed word of God our knowledge of such things is incomplete. This is where many of the great philosophers show great weakness — they attempt to discern true morality using various schemes.


Purpose

Teleological (purposeful) conception of things, that things have a function of purpose. In the case of a person, this is to say that there is an activity appropriate for a person's nature. (pg. 40)

Humans are created by God for a purpose, that is true. The problem is that we think we can discern the purpose of things by merely examining their properties and design. In the case of a hammer, this can be accomplished since a hammer was designed by humans. In the case of an amoeba or a planet it is not so clear. The revealed word of God informs us that all things are made for the glory of God. The purpose of humans is for us to choose God, to love him, honor him, worship him, serve him, obey him, and ultimately to spend eternity in his presence.


Universal Ideas

Universal Ideas, such as Beauty, Straight, Triangle, and Man. Whether these universal Ideas or words refer to some existing reality in the same way that particular words do. [It is not certain that Socrates answered this question; Plato certainly did with his idea of Forms.] (pg. 40)

The concept of Forms is very troublesome to me; it is part of the reason I reject the Catholic emphasis on Thomas Aquinas since the Catholic Church officially embraces Forms, even describing the Eucharist in terms of form and appearance.

In my view, ideas exist in the spiritual realm. The ability to perceive ideas is one of many attributes of the soul; certain kinds of creatures possess this attribute, notably the pure spirit creatures such as angels as well as humans. Ideas have a spiritual existence, it is true. The nature of the spiritual realm is that everything in it is living. Thus, such things as consciousness, ideas, the will, emotion, memory, etc. are all life itself. God is the essence and source of all life and because of this, ideas are of God and from God.

My problem with the philosophical concept of Forms is that it removes God and life from the equation by making Forms and Ideas a thing of its own apart from God, presumably existing in some higher realm somewhere.

A problem with Forms as defined by philosophers is the arbitrary determination of what is and what isn't a Form. Plato can state that Beauty is a Form but that mud is not, but he is not sure about Dog. He believed that there was a hierarchy of Forms — this to me indicates that the concept of Forms is not true. Yes, ideas exist, and they exist in an infinite variety of forms and relationships with other ideas, but philosophical Forms are nothing more than certain "big" ideas that perhaps seem more profound in some way.


Virtues

The view of Socrates was that "knowledge is virtue." The chief ingredients are: (pg. 59)

  1. The concept of the soul.
  2. The theory of virtue as function.

Knowledge is an attribute of the soul. Virtue is living a life in conformity to God's moral law. Certainly wrong knowledge about God's law is detrimental to living a virtuous life (as modern society demonstrates). But Socrates is wrong: knowledge is not virtue.

Virtue is a spiritual thing, not merely the logical and philosophical correspondence between a thing and its design. Virtue is the willful, free-will choice to act in accordance with God's divine law, to act in a manner pleasing to God. Non-Christians who act virtuously are honoring the true God with their actions. (fundamentalist evangelical Protestants are wrong in asserting that non-Christians can't do any good deeds because their every action is tainted by the depravity of sin.)

Knowledge and virtue are the same thing. If virtue has to do with "making the soul as good as possible," it is first necessary to know what makes the soul good. (pg. 40)

This is just plain wrong. Humans are moral creatures who are accountable to their Creator God to obey his law. While ignorance of God and of his law indeed result in behavior that is not virtuous, mere knowledge as emphasized by Socrates does not in itself result in virtue, nor is virtue the same as mere knowledge. This philosophical system is based on the mind and thinking and knowing and reasoning. Perhaps the Greek philosophers came to this conclusion because they didn't have the revealed word of God to guide them.

Certainly most people can agree that certain attitudes and behaviors are more virtuous than others (although some modern philosophers and sociologists dispute even this) but this does not mean that knowing whether something is virtuous is the same as being virtuous. There is a "spirit of wickedness" which pervades the spiritual realm that humans live in and this spirit corrupts the souls of humans. Mere knowledge is not sufficient to overcome this spirit, the redemptive grace of God through Christ's work is required, and it requires repentance and faith on our part to receive this. It is more accurate to say that faith leads to virtue, not that knowledge leads to virtue. Faith is spiritual, while knowledge is merely intellectual. Faith and intellect are both attributes of the soul but they are quite different from each other. The ancient philosophers seemed to ignore faith altogether in favor of the intellect and reason. Martin Luther seemed to do the opposite: he rejected reason in favor of faith — but both are needed.

No one ever indulged in vice or committed and evil act knowingly. Wrongdoing is always involuntary, being the product of ignorance. (pg. 41)

Again, Socrates seems unaware of the spirits of darkness who inhabit the spiritual realm in which human souls reside. He wishes to explain everything in terms of the intellect. He seems to regard the intellect as the ultimate human faculty but it is not: faith and love and worship of God are much higher. Because of this mistake, Socrates can make the absurd claim that people commit evil and sinful acts because they are trying to do good. The truth is that people commit sinful and evil acts because their soul is depraved and it desires to do sin — humans are by nature "sinaholics" in need of spiritual redemption.

There is a sense in which wrongdoing is involuntary because we are slaves to sin and in bondage to the spirits of darkness. But the soul still have freedom to choose whether or not to commit sinful deeds or not. And the soul certainly can call out to God for help when faced with the prospect of suffering the consequences of sinful life choices.

What is missing with ancient philosophy and with modern atheistic philosophy and sociology is Christian religion. Religion is when we bring God into the picture. Certain fundamentalist Protestants like to insist that religion is bad but that is because they define religion to be mere ritual and tradition. But the essence of religion is God. Certainly there are non-Christian religious systems that have a very confused view of all this.

When people commit evil acts they always do them thinking that they are good in some way. (pg. 41)

People can be driven by passion, addiction, intoxication, or psychosis to commit evil deeds. When driven in this way, is it proper to say they are thinking their actions are good? Or that they are motivated by seeking the good? Is the intense pleasure a heroin addict experiences after shooting-up properly called a "good?" Pleasure-seeking is certainly a motivation for humans but to call it good seems wrong-headed.

I think Socrates is using the word "good" to refer to whatever causes a person to act out a certain behavior. Thus, if a psychopathic killer acts on whatever internal demons he is following, it can be considered as "good" for that person since it motivated their action. This seems to me to be the wrong use of the word "good."

What Socrates is missing is the concept of sin, of moral depravity, of self-destructive desire as a motivator of human action — these things are not good at all merely because they motivate action.

I don't see how it is possible to admit that there are evil acts while at the same time thinking that the person committing the acts thinks these acts are good. I doubt that the "goodness" of their actions is not what motivates people to commit evil acts, rather, it is their depraved soul, their sin nature, which motivates them. Thus Lucifer may have rebelled against God but he wasn't doing so because he thought it was good in some way.

Virtue means fulfilling one's function. Every human being has the inescapable desire for happiness or the well-being of their soul. This can be achieved only by certain appropriate modes of behavior. Some forms of behavior appear to produce happiness, but in reality do not. Examples: stealing and various symbols of success and happiness such as power, physical pleasure, property. (pg. 41)

This definition of virtue ignores the God-given moral aspect which should be at the center of discussions about virtue. Using this definition of virtue, even inanimate objects can be virtuous: a hammer is virtuous when it is hitting a nail; it is not virtuous when it is falling to the ground.

The difficulty is in even knowing what the function of a human is without God's revealed revelation as a guide. Humans do desire happiness but they also desire destructive things: this is what cause addiction, obesity, failed marriages, and many other painful outcomes.

Socrates knows that there is an absolute standard for human virtue, and he seems to have properly determined which activities are not motivated out of virtue. He defines the goal as "true happiness." According to Socrates, people may think they are happy but in reality they are not. It seems to me that the goal should be holiness, righteousness, and godliness rather than happiness. But perhaps that's what he means by the word "happiness."

Perhaps an illustration will help. Suppose someone places before me several pounds of hot, salty french fries (yum!). I start eating them and each bite is so delicious that I can't stop until my stomach is distended and I fall asleep. As I put each french fry in my mouth I savored the flavor and it gave me much pleasure but the act of overeating french fries was guaranteed to soon cause pain and suffering. According to Socrates, the desire for the flavor was a "good" and the power of the impulse to keep eating was "ignorance?" "Virtue" in this example was the "knowledge" that the action would naturally lead to pain and suffering and the motivation caused by this knowledge to stop eating sooner.

In this example the use of the words knowledge, ignorance, and virtue seems wrongheaded. The Christian perspective seem to match reality better. The virtue is temperance and the corresponding vice is gluttony. When we are enslaved by our passions and desires we indulge in vice. It takes knowledge, practice, and God's grace to develop habits of virtue.

The term ignorance refers to the ability of an act to produce happiness. (pg. 41)

I should prefer to state it this way: The term sinfulness refers to the ability of an act to produce holiness. It is not knowledge and happiness which are the key factors of virtue but, rather, righteousness and holiness.

Wrongdoing is a consequence of an inaccurate estimate of modes of behavior, the inaccurate expectation that certain kinds of things or pleasures will produce happiness. Ignorance consists in not knowing that certain behavior cannot produce happiness. (pg. 41)

The highest ideals for Socrates are knowledge and happiness. The highest ideals should be knowledge of God, obedience to God's law, worship of God, holy and righteous living. Some might object that these ideals are subjective, that different people will for different opinions about the nature of God and his commands. This same objection can also be applied to the ideals of knowledge and happiness. Can anyone claim with certainty that their view of true knowledge and happiness is the correct one?


Plato . . .



Ideas

Contrary to common sense, it is the world of Ideas and not the visible world of actual things that is most real; the Idea Two, for example, has a timeless quality, whereas two apples disappear. (pg. 45)

Just because physical objects disappear from our perception does not mean that they disappear. In my philosophical system, every manifestation is eternal — God is always aware of each manifestation and we will be able to retrieve memories of them in the new heavens and new earth. Nothing is ever lost except for sin, death, and evil.

Plato emphasizes dualism between the physical world and the world of Ideas which he considers to be more real than the physical world. But just because a particular apple passes from physical existence in time does not mean that it was not real at the time or that it was in some way less real then the Form or Idea of "appleness".

In my philosophical system everything pertaining to life exists in the spiritual realm and is eternal, while the physical world is inert and lifeless.The souls of human beings interact with the physical world via the senses and nervous system but it is the spiritual aspect of humans that is the essential thing.


Two Worlds

(1) The dark world of the cave, and (2) the bright world of light. [The cave is Plato's metaphor of people chained up in a cave and seeing only shadows on the wall from a fire; their concept of reality is deficient because the shadows are not real but are only shadows of reality.] (pg. 51)

This kind of thinking is a set up for exploitation of classes of people. The Christian view is that all are slaves to sin and Jesus offers the hope of redemption to those who will receive it in repentance and faith.

Knowledge is not only possible, but it is virtually infallible because it is based upon what is most real. (pg. 51)

For Plato, knowledge is the ultimate attribute of humans. True knowledge can be obtained through effort and will power.

It seems wrongheaded to me to claim that knowledge is the ultimate ideal, the ultimate goal, the infallible guide. It seems that the kind of reality that Plato envisions is of necessity limited because he ignores the spiritual realm and a personal God who we can enter into a relationship with.

The Sophists were skeptical about the possibility of true knowledge because they were impressed by the variety and constant change in things; our knowledge comes from our experience and is therefore relative to each person. Plato did not accept this notion that all knowledge is relative. (pg. 51)

Christianity is skeptical about the possibility of true knowledge apart from divine revelation.

The liberal progressives and sociologists of today have a similar view as the Sophists, one based on tolerance and relativism. In this way of thinking, nothing is absolute because someone else might have a different idea about it.

In contrast to this, Christianity teaches that there are absolutes including the natural moral law, but the knowledge of the Christian moral natural law is quite different that the knowledge that Plato holds in such a high regard.

The following passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church highlights the difference between the non-Christian philosophers' conception of knowledge and the Christian idea that God is the source of all truth:

The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie: The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin. But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted. (Section 1954)

The human mind can discover the "real" object behind the multitude of shadows, so that the mind can attain true knowledge. (pg. 51)

It seems Plato thought that he had attained true knowledge, but in the subsequent centuries the many philosophers each in turn came up with their own views about reality and true knowledge. This true knowledge of Plato turned out to not be a trustworthy guide after all.

Part of the reason I reject the Catholic theology of Thomas Aquinas is the insistence that Forms are real and exist somewhere. To me it seems that Forms are merely a way of describing what is observed in the realm of ideas and spirit. My system of philosophy places all phenomena of life (such as consciousness, ideas, thought, knowledge, emotion, passion) in the spiritual realm. Thus, Forms are merely one of many aspects of life whereas for Plato and Aristotle they are in some way the ultimate truth.

Distinction between the world of sense and the world of thought, between the visible world and the intelligible world. (pg. 51)

Plato makes a distinction between the realm of the intellect and the realm of the senses and of sense perception. This seems wrongheaded to me. I prefer to classify all aspects of life as part of the spiritual realm and all inert, non-living objects in the physical realm. Thus, the souls of humans, animals, and plants live in the spiritual realm and interact with the inert, lifeless bodies and objects of the physical world. There are many attributes of the soul including consciousness, the intellect, emotion, passion, the will, etc. and there are many appetites (desires) of the soul including self-preservation, procreation, eating, drinking, moving the body, etc.

The problem with Plato's view is that he places the division between the material and the non-material in the wrong place. The material world is non-living, whereas the non-material world is living and spiritual. Thus, the soul is spiritual and lives forever whereas the body dies and decays once the soul no longer energizes it. The living creatures in the spiritual realm (including deceased humans) are fully alive.


Four Stages

In the process of discovering true knowledge, the mind moves through four stages of development: (1) Imagining, (2) Belief, (3) Thinking, (4) Knowledge. These are four different ways of looking at the same object, not four different kinds of real objects. There is a continuous process of the mind's enlightenment as it moves through the four stages. (pg. 51,52)

Plato seems to think that the spiritual evolution of humans, that enlightenment if you will, comes about by a process of learning. In contrast, Christianity teaches that enlightenment comes about through faith in the revealed word of God.

It's easy to imagine that Plato's system would lead to an oppressive society with classes of people determined purely on the subjective notion of who had advanced to stage four, the highest stage. Abuse would surely be the norm as ambitious individuals would claim to have reached stage four and would, therefore, be better suited to rule.

The lower degree of reality and truth found in the visible world as compared with the greater reality and truth in the intelligible world. (pg. 52)

The early philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, all considered the intellect to be in the highest place above all other aspects of life and the mind. Feelings, emotions, consciousness, the passions, are all considered to be lower than the intellect. But all these living attributes originate in God's nature — surely there is no such hierarchy in God's attributes, so why should we think some human attributes are superior? I think a better way of judging between the various kinds of human behavior and attitudes is to judge between virtue and vice. In doing so it is our connectedness with the personal God that determines what is better.

The first stage, imagining, is the sense experience of appearances. The mind confronts images which are mistaken for true reality. Plato criticised art because it produces images that stimulate illusory ideas in the observer. What concerned him most were the images fashioned by the art of using words; poetry and rhetoric were the most serious sources of illusion. With rhetoric someone could make either side of an argument seem as good as the other. (pg. 52,53)

Images and art which fool the observer. This reminds me of how politicians and Madison Avenue marketers have conned Americans into believing things that aren't true, into buying things they don't want or need, and into forming opinions that are nonsense.

The second stage is belief. Seeing constitutes only believing because visible objects depend upon their context for many of their characteristics. (pg. 53)

Plato seems to be referring to jumping to conclusions about the nature of something based on superficial appearances. I don't think he is talking about religious faith.

The third stage, thinking, is characteristic of the scientist. Visible things are symbols of a reality that can be thought but not seen. Mathematicians engage in the act of "abstraction." Science forces one to think, because scientists are always searching for laws or principles. Thinking represents the power of the mind to abstract from a visible object that property which is the same in all objects in that class. (pg. 54)

Plato seems to place a higher value on thinking and analysing things than on experiencing them or on emotional experience. He considers mathematics to be better than religion and abstracting from an object to the Form behind the object better than relating to the object itself.

The fourth stage is perfect intelligence. The mind is never satisfied as long as it must still ask for a fuller explanation of things. But to have perfect knowledge would require that the mind should grasp the relation of everything to everything else, that it should see the unity of the whole of reality. In this stage the mind is dealing directly with the Forms. (pg. 54,55)

Certainly the analytical mind seeks some sort of satisfying understanding about how things work. But I find it hard to believe that merely understanding the Forms is the ultimate. I would think that feeling a connectedness with God would be far superior. But the early philosophers emphasized the intellect above everything else.


Forms or Ideas

Forms are those intelligible objects, such as Triangle and "Man," that have been abstracted from the actual objects. (pg. 55)

In my system of philosophy, Forms, Ideas, and symbols actually exist in the spiritual realm and they are alive (everything is alive in the spiritual realm.) For example, in the spiritual realm, unicorns actually exist even though they are based on combining the characteristics of two animals.

The problem with the doctrine of Forms (and with Catholic doctrines based on Forms) is that it creates a false causality between objects and the ideas of classes of objects, of Forms. The truth is, I believe, that God has all concepts and ideas in his mind and that all created objects are based on these since they are all created by God. God is the source of Forms.

The problem with the doctrine of Forms is that it creates a scientific-sounding system to describe observable reality that ignores the spiritual realm and that ignores God's role. Yes, there is an idea of "chair," of "chairness," and yes, this idea has an actual existence as a Form. But trying to explain the relationship between the Form and the object without referring to God as the creator of all phenomena is to make the same mistake that atheistic evolutionists make. They try to explain the existence of objects by referring to previous conditions alone as their source. In like manner, Forms do not explain objects at all.

Forms or Ideas are these changeless, eternal, and nonmaterial essences or patterns of which the actual visible objects we see are only poor copies. (pg. 55)

The assumption is that actual objects are built based on templates. Thus and actual chair is patterned on the Form of chair. Certainly when someone builds a chair they have in mind the idea of what a chair is, how it should look, and how it is to be used. If this were all that the doctrine of Forms were used for, there would be no problem. But, in fact, the doctrine of Forms is used in a religious way, of providing meaning to life and a guiding compass to how we should live. This is misguided.

Philosophers before Socrates thought of reality as material stuff of some sort, but Plato designated the nonmaterial Ideas of Forms as the true reality. (pg. 55)

Both these sets of philosophers made a serious mistake. The philosophers before Socrates tried to explain the origin of physical stuff in terms of pre-existing physical stuff such as water, air, or fire. Plato tried to explain the nonmaterial Forms as true reality.

Actual objects are true reality just as much as the nonmaterial Forms of them are. The physical realm is just as real as the realm of ideas. It seems that throughout much of history humans have considered the physical body as somehow inferior to the mind or to the spiritual realm. The proper hierarchy begins with God at the top and his created creation as lower than him, but made in his image for his purpose. The spiritual realms were created by God as was the physical realm. Everything is permeated by God's spiritual presence.

The source of error is in leaving God out of the equation, not in believing that physical objects are real.

Knowledge is absolute because the true object of thought is not the material order but the changeless and eternal order of the Ideas or Forms. Socrates anticipated this view by holding that there is an absolute Good which makes possible our judgments of particular good. Socrates' concern was ethical but Plato's was metaphysical, an explanation of the whole structure of reality and the place of morality in it. (pg. 55)

Here we see the error in great clarity. The ultimate reality is thought to be the realm of Forms whereas, in truth, the ultimate reality is the living and personal creator God. All aspects of the created world should be understood in their relation to him, in their being created by him for his purpose and for his glory.

It is life, the life of God, which is the source of all reality, not the cold-hearted intellect. God's life is the source and purpose of reality. Forms are merely one of the spiritual components of physical objects. The intellect is an attribute of souls, not an ultimate eternal truth in their own right. God possesses intellect and passes some of it along in the souls he creates. In creating living, self-aware souls, God imparts the gift of himself — these created, self-aware creatures experience something of what it is to be God because God imbued them with some of his attributes. The purpose of doing this was to bless us. In emphasizing Forms as Plato does, he misses the big picture. He is locked-in to a cold-hearted, unfeeling machine of Forms instead of basking in the glory of a living, personal relationship with a caring, loving God. These early philosophical systems seem to me to be religious in nature.

Visible things change — they come and go, generate and perish. Their existence is brief. But Ideas such as Good and Beautiful seem timeless. They have more being than things. The real world is, therefore, not the visible world but rather the intelligible world. (pg. 56)

Visible things only perish because our souls only have a small view of the totality of all things at a time. We are bound by time. God is not bound in this way and he sees these visible things as eternally existing. Thus, they do not change in the way Plato claims.

It is true that God's existence is superior to our existence. God exists eternally by his own nature; we are created.

There is a sense in which even Ideas change in the same way as visible things — Plato doesn't seem to notice this which is, I think, a serious error. Ideas only exist in our minds when we are actively thinking about them. When we stop thinking about them (during sleep for example) they are gone just as visible objects are gone when they are destroyed. But just because we cannot see them doesn't mean they are gone. The Form of "chair" is always present in God's mind just as the particular chair I am now sitting in is always present in God's mind. He never sleeps and is omnipresent — always present everywhere and at all times.

Ideas do not have more "being" than actual objects — this is simply nonsense. God has more "being" than his created creation. He created the spiritual realms, he created the physical realm, he created (and continues to create) the spirit beings which inhabit the spiritual realms, he created (and continues to create) physical beings (with spiritual souls), he has created all the other living aspects of the spiritual realm such as symbols, Forms, feelings. Everything that God creates is living because God is Life. We just think some things are non-living, but at their core the are alive because they are imbued with God's nature.

Certainly physical objects are not alive in the same way that souls are alive. Souls have the ability to be aware whereas object merely have the living ability to be (being is an aspect of God's nature and is, therefore, living).

Both the physical world and the spiritual realms are real — one is not more real than the other. They merely have different attributes and a different plan and purpose in God's mind.

We normally apprehend beauty first of all in a particular object or person. Then, we move from the beauty of a particular body to the recognition that beauty "in every form is one and the same." (pg. 56)

Plato makes much of this progression from observing particular objects to finally apprehending the Form behind the object. But elsewhere he indicates that he believes the soul originally apprehends Forms but loses this capability during conception. Then, slowly over time, some regain this ability. Plato never mentions why we forget and why we later remember. His whole system seems rather arbitrary to me. In my philosophical system, God is the source of everything and all of life resides in the spiritual realm (although physical lifeforms have a component in the physical world).

Beauty is not merely a concept: Beauty has objective reality. Beauty is a Form or Idea. Things become beautiful: but Beauty always is. Beauty has a separate existence from those changing things which move in and out of Beauty. (pg. 56)

This idea seems to be a key ingredient in Plato's system, but to me it doesn't say much. In my philosophical system, everything has objective reality: physical objects, concepts, souls — everything. Chairs are real and the Idea of "chairness" is also real. Ideas are real and objects are real. There are physical chairs in the physical realm, there are spiritual chairs in the spiritual realm (we encounter these in dreams and after death), there are ideas of chairs (of chairness) in the spiritual realm.

The ability of the soul to experience ideas is due to its attribute of intellect. Souls have various attributes and therefore have various aspects. We can see chairs because we have the attribute of sight. Sight has a spiritual component and a physical component. The physical component involves nerves, the eye, and the light coming from the chair. The spiritual component of a chair involves the soul imagining the relief of sitting after standing all day, the preference for soft chairs over hard chairs, the amazement that someone invented chairs at all, the Form or design of chairs as distinguished from couches.

Plato is correct in stating that the concept of beauty is distinct from an object being beautiful. My objection is that he seems to think of the concept of beauty in a religious sense, as being morally superior to the beautiful object; he seems to mistake the significance of the idea of beauty for the creator God who is the source of all beauty and who is supremely beautiful in his very nature.

The true philosopher is concerned to know the essential nature of things. When he asks what is justice or beauty, he does not want examples of just and beautiful things. He wants to know what makes these things just and beautiful. The difference between opinion and knowledge is that those who are at the level of opinion can recognize a just act but cannot tell you why it is just. (pg. 56)

Certainly it is not easy to know what justice is nor to determine how to apply the concept of justice in individual situations. I question whether there even is such a thing as "Justice" outside of the application to specific acts. Certainly there can be teachings and discussion about when an act is just and when it is unjust. The same goes for the idea of "Beauty." Things (physical things and spiritual things) are beautiful; there is no such things as raw "beauty" floating around in some realm of ideas somewhere. Justice and beauty are aspects of God's nature which can be possessed by objects and actions. To understand justice and beauty we must go to the source which is God himself.

Plato's distinction between opinion and knowledge is misguided in my opinion. He considers knowledge to be superior in some way to opinion. A person who can merely notice that an act is just is interior to a person who can explain the attributes of justice. Perhaps this second person is more educated but this is quite different than claiming that they are morally superior, more advanced as a human. Plato seems to think of education as the ultimate measure of human achievement, but in reality it is faith. Our faith in God results in eternal union with God — education does not (but education is certainly an aspect of faith; without knowledge of God it is hard to have faith in him). Plato's knowledge did not bring him knowledge or faith in the God who created him, it merely brought him prejudice against those who were less educated or perhaps less intelligent or perhaps less able to spend mental energy thinking about such things due to the pressures of living life.

Plato is not sure that there are Ideas or Forms of dog, water, and other things, but he indicates that there are "certainly not" Ideas of mud and dirt. If there were Forms behind all classifications of things, there would have to be a duplicate world. (pg. 57)

The cracks in Plato's system emerge in the details. His Forms must of necessity be grand and glorious. The reality is that there is a duplicate world in the spiritual realm. For every kind of object in the physical world there is a similar spiritual object. The spiritual world has many additional kinds of spiritual objects which don't have a counterpart in the physical world: an example of this is unicorns.

The difference between grand Forms such as Beauty and Justice and the smaller ideas of mud and dirt is that the grand Forms concern humans and their relationship with God and with each other — they are moral in their nature. Mud and dirt only deal with physical objects. Plato senses that human life is in some way morally superior to the life of a dog but he doesn't have a frame of reference to express it; Christianity provides this foundation. Human life is superior to mere mud and dirt because humans are created in the image of God and contain the breath of God's life: humans are moral creatures. All life forms (such as dogs) are living and should be respect because they have conscious souls. Other objects such as mud and water are not conscious living beings and thus we cannot insult them or treat them disrespectfully or shamefully. Plato's extreme (religious?) emphasis on the intellect causes him to miss all of this.

In connection with Plato's theory of the preexistence of the soul, he says that the human soul was acquainted with the Forms before it was united with the body. (pg. 57)

Reincarnation has the same problem as Plato's idea. In both, the pre-born soul remembers the "truth" but upon taking up residence in a physical body it forgets. Both systems consider physical reality as inferior to the non-physical realm.

In contrast, Christianity teaches that our soul is created at conception. As we develop in childhood we become morally accountable for our actions (and thoughts.) There is a development and we start out undeveloped but our undeveloped condition at the beginning is not due to a forgetting. I suspect that the reason we develop is because our soul actually develops. Over time it takes on additional attributes. Thus a soul in the womb before 7 weeks doesn't feel pain because the soul doesn't yet possess the attribute of experiencing physical sensation — this attribute is acquired at the same time that the nervous system of the body develops to provide the possibility of sensation. As young children develop their cognitive abilities their souls are simultaneously acquiring the attribute of cognition. Thus, as Plato asserts, our ability to think correctly does develop. However, as I have noted, this is not the end-all-be-all: our cognitive development is not the religious and moral goal of life, rather, it is merely part of the development process of human living. There are things far more important that developing the intellect. Developing a knowledge of God and a relationship with him are far superior.

In the process of creation, the Demiurge or God used the Forms in fashioning particular things. (pg. 57)

This Demiurge is inferior to the creator God of Christianity. The Forms are outside of the Demiurge and the Demiurge must use Forms in creating particular objects.

Forms seem to have originally existed in the "mind of God" or in the supreme principle of rationality, the One. Aristotle says that "the Forms are the cause of the essence of all other things and the One is the cause of the Forms." (pg. 57)

So now we have five eternal, preexistent things which are necessary in the creation of objects:

  1. Philosophical laws such as "cause."
  2. Forms
  3. The "mind of God" / the One
  4. The Demiurge who uses the Forms in fashioning objects
  5. The stuff from which objects are fashioned (they are not created ex nihilo, out of nothing, as in the Christian conception of creation)

Thus, there is no concept of "One God" in Plato's view.

For these early philosophers, it is philosophical rules and laws which govern how things function. This is similar to modern atheistic science in which natural laws control how the universe functions and the origin of life. Thus, the Forms are the cause of the essence of material objects.

Aristotle hints that the One is at the top of the hierarchy since the Forms are caused by the One. But this One is bound by the philosophical concept of causation so this One is not really the same as the creator God of Christianity. In Christianity everything owes its origin to God including such philosophical laws as causality, cause and effect, etc.

Aristotle argued that form and matter are inseparable, but Plato said that there was a separate reality of form and matter. (pg. 58)

Plato and Aristotle agree that there is such a thing as Forms. Plato taught that Forms exist in some separate, non-material realm and that these Forms are used in fashioning material objects. Aristotle's view is not much of an improvement. He states that there are two distinct aspects to physical objects: Form and matter. One is non-material (Forms) and the other is material (matter.) Thus, material objects are simultaneously material and non-material: they are therefore not really material at all since they are a hybrid of material and non-material.

My view is similar to Aristotle in that material objects have various components in various realms. Thus, the components or a chair are:

There is a hierarchy of Forms representing the structure of reality: an example is the Form Animal with such subclasses of Forms as Man and Horse. (pg. 58)

Plato is getting just plain wacky here. He assumes that there is only one way to identify this hierarchy. But there are various ways to organize ideas. It is rather arbitrary that Plato considers humans and horses to both be animals. He could just as well have created a hierarchy in which the spiritual qualities provided the main structure. In this case there would be four kinds of creatures:

All these would be subclasses of the Form of "lifeforms."

A problem with Plato's doctrine of Forms: his language gives the impression that there are two distinct worlds, but the relationship of these worlds is not easily conceived. (pg. 59)

Actually, it is very easy to conceive of a physical realm and a non-material, spiritual realm. The problem is that Plato's doesn't recognize that his Forms are actual spiritual phenomena. He hints that they are non-material but he doesn't develop the idea of what it means to be non-material.

Modern atheistic science assumes there is only one realm. This realm includes matter, energy, and the physical laws. But it is difficult to understand why matter would obey the physical laws since matter is different than the physical laws. There must be a non-material aspect to the universe containing the physical laws and which influences the material universe into obeying the physical laws. It is far easier to believe in the existence of a both a physical realm and a spiritual realm rather than to explain all that we observe (including consciousness, love, emotions) in terms of matter, energy, and the physical laws.

An argument in favor of Plato's doctrine of Forms: To say a thing is better or worse implies some standard, which obviously is not there as such in the thing being evaluated. (pg. 59)

Actually, this argument favors Christian moral philosophy over Plato's view. To say that something is better or worse does imply a standard, but this standard must be living. A mere principle cannot choose better or worse, only a living being can do this. The standard used in determining such things is God's nature and his character — God's law. We compare things to God's law to make moral judgments about them. Only moral agents can do this. Chairs to not judge whether something is right or wrong and neither do Forms. So this ability to judge doesn't support Plato's views at all.


Morality

There can be no knowledge of a universal Idea of Good if we are limited to the experiences we have of particular cultures. (pg. 59)

This sounds like a description of the error of modern sociology, of relativism. By ignoring God and his moral law we cannot judge the right or wrong of anything: nothing is good or bad except in the culture's particular traditional views about the goodness or badness of attitudes and behaviors. This kind of thinking leads to the most egregious violations of God's pure and holy moral law.

The views of the Sophists: (pg. 59)

  1. Moral rules are fashioned deliberately be each community and have relevance and authority only for the people in that place.
  2. Moral rules are unnatural, that people obey them only because of the pressure of public opinion, and that if their acts could be done in private, even the "good" among us would not follow the rules of morality.
  3. The essence of justice is power, or that "might is right."
  4. In answer to the basic question "what is the good life?" one would have to say that it is the life of pleasure.

These views remind me of the views of modern sociology, of relativism, of Machiavelli, of philosophical utilitarianism. They are certainly un-Christian.


The Soul

The soul has three parts: reason, spirit, appetite. (pg. 60)

In my view of the soul I claim that souls have various attributes and that the souls of different kinds of creatures have different collections of attributes. All souls have appetites and there are various kinds of appetites. All souls seem to have the appetites being and of self-preservation. In my view, reason and spirit are attributes which human souls have but the souls of bacteria don't have. Read about more appetites of the soul.

Reason is the awareness of a goal or a value. (pg. 60)

Perhaps this is a good definition of the attribute of reason, I can't say.

The spirit is the drive toward action, which is neutral at first but responds to the direction of reason. (pg. 60)

This sounds like what we would call the will. But the will seems to be driven by all the appetites, not just by the attribute of reason.

The appetite is the desire for things of the body. (pg. 60)

In my view, appetites are not limited to bodily urges but include spiritual appetites. In fact, I believe that all appetites are spiritual, not physical. All of life including the soul resides in the spiritual realm. Souls with bodies are connected to the inert, non-living body via the senses, the brain, the nervous system, and other bodily structures. But the soul merely attaches to the body at these points and in doing so enlivens the body. When the soul stops interacting with the body (after death) the body continues to experience chemical reactions but these are no longer living. The body is only living when a spiritual soul interacts with it.

The soul is the principle of life and movement. The body by itself is inanimate. (pg. 60)

Yes, partially true. However, the soul is not a principle, it is a living being. Plato doesn't distinguish between the physical realm and the spiritual realm. He claims that the soul is a principle but doesn't mention that it is not a part of the physical realm. The soul resides in the spiritual realm and only interacts with the body at the boundary between the physical realm and the spiritual realm. I should note that this boundary is not at the surface of the skin of the body, it pervades the entire body but is in a distinct non-material realm. Thus, the boundary between the physical realm and the spiritual realm is within every atom of the universe. However, the soul mainly interacts with the body via the senses, the brain, and the nervous system.

Conflict between the three parts of the soul. Reason could suggest a goal for behavior only to be overcome by a sensual appetite, and the power of the spirit could be pulled in either direction be these sensual desires. (pg. 60)

The only conflict of importance is the conflict between the sin-tainted part of the soul and the rest of the soul. Our innate sin nature prevents the soul from operating properly. This condition will be finally corrected once and for all in the new heavens and new earth. Then we will experience an eternal utopia free from the influences from the spirits of wickedness. The inhabitants of the spiritual realm will also be free from these influences which currently affect them adversely also.

Notice that Plato seems to teach that the body is bad and the reason is good. This kind of dualistic thinking has plagued mankind for thousands of years and continues to plague us. It is central in some religions. Christianity is technically free from this error but has, in practical terms, been plagued by this dualism as well.

Reason is a goal-seeking and measuring faculty. Pleasure is a legitimate goal of life, but the passions, being simply drives toward the things that give pleasure, are incapable of distinguishing between objects that provide a higher or longer-lasting pleasure and those that only appear to provide these pleasures. The passions or appetites deceive us into believing that certain kinds of pleasures will bring us happiness. (pg. 60)

Plato seems to think that passion is always bad. But in Christianity, the passion for God and godliness is good and desirable. He also seems to equate the appetites with the passions.

Moral evil is the result of ignorance. (pg. 60,61)

Moral evil is the result of choosing to do something in opposition to God's moral law, to do something displeasing to God. Evil is not merely an intellectual phenomena, the absence of something good. Rather, moral evil is a living spirit, the consequence of a depraved soul which has rejected God and his pure and holy moral law. Evil is an enemy, not merely a principle. In choosing to reject God, Lucifer became Satan and tainted the spiritual and physical realms with his wicked deceptions and attempts to kill and destroy all that is good. Even within Christianity there is a teaching that evil is merely the absence of something good but this idea was put forward to try to explain the phenomena of evil without attributing it to God. Certainly God created the possibility of evil in giving creatures free will.

Certainly ignorance about God's law contributes to evil in the world but mere knowledge, even true knowledge, would not cure the problem of evil. Human souls are depraved to the core and will disobey God's law even when they full-well know what God expects. The fallen angels in the spiritual realm are doing the same — they know they are in opposition and disobedience to God's moral law but they do it anyway hoping against hope that they will succeed in the impossible war to conquer God.

Plato alternates between an optimistic view of human beings of their capacity for virtue and a rather negative opinion about whether they will fulfill their potentiality for virtue. (pg. 61)

Imagine if Plato believed that virtue was a spiritual, moral quality. If he thinks that humans can't achieve a merely intellectual kind of virtue, what hope is there that anyone could conquer the forces of darkness and the ingrained power of sin operating within our soul? Only through God's grace is such a victory possible.


Evil

Evil is not merely the absence of good. (Many Christians have claimed this, thinking that it rescues God from any responsibility in the existence of evil.) However, this view doesn't rescue God at all and it doesn't explain the seemingly living aspect of evil.

In my view, in creating living spiritual souls (angels and humans), God endowed them with the capacity to create life, just as he has the capacity to create life. The ultra-charismatic Christians have it right in claiming that we create good outcomes through the power of our words.

(Proverbs 18:21) Death and life are in the power of the tongue.

There is a sense in which we create our children through our procreative efforts. Certainly we require God's participation in this.

In choosing to disobey God, to rebel against him and his divine holy law, we in effect become like Dr. Frankenstein, creating monsters. Using this God-given creative power we create a living spirit of evil and wickedness which can be tangibly perceived. The ultra-charismatic Christians have it right in referring to the spirit of alcoholism, the spirit of adultery, etc. (although they have no theology to go along with their phrases.) These forces acting within us to destroy us are not merely principles or impersonal forces or the absence of God's power working within us. They are, rather, active spiritual living entities (spiritual viruses, if you will) which influence us and tempt us to do evil.


The soul has a prior existence. It has two main parts, the rational and the irrational. The irrational part in turn is made up of two sections, the spirit and the appetites. Each of the two original parts has a different origin. The rational part of the soul is created by the Demiurge, whereas the irrational part is created by the celestial gods, who also form the body. Thus, even before it enters the body, the soul is composed of two different kinds of ingredients. In the soul's prior existence, the rational part has a clear vision of the Forms, of truth, though at the same time, the spirit and appetites already, by their very nature, have a tendency to descend. The soul descends (the soul "falls") into a body because this is simply the tendency of the irrational part, to be unruly and to pull the soul toward the earth. The soul has an unruly and evil nature in its irrational parts even before it enters the body. The cause of evil is located in the soul itself, it is a characteristic of the soul. Only those souls that do forget the truth in turn descend into a body. Upon its entrance into the body, the difficulties of the soul are greatly increased. (pg. 61)

Christianity teaches that the soul is created at conception and that it never dies.

Plato claims that the soul has two parts, each created by a different entity: (1) rational, created by the Demiurge, and (2) irrational (spirit + appetites), created by celestial gods (who also create the body). The early philosophers emphasized the superiority of the intellect and rational mind over the other aspects of the soul.

Plato seems to believe that it would have been better for every soul to have remained in the non-material realm rather than becoming incarnate within a body.

Plato teaches that the origin of evil is within the soul. I agree with this. However, he teaches that it is forgetfulness with is the essence and cause of evil. This is just plain wrong. It is the will which disobeys God which is the source of evil.

Plato teaches that evil is merely wrong knowledge — not a moral rebellion against God. I believe the Christian concept of evil is the only one that makes sense. None of the other religious or philosophical systems explain the origin and problem of evil satisfactorily.

The body disturbs the harmony of the soul, for the body exposes the soul to stimuli that deflect the reason from true knowledge or that prevent the reason from recalling the truth it once knew. (pg. 62)

The source of evil lies in the spiritual realm, not the physical in realm, and certainly not in the body. It is not the appetites of the body that cause us to commit sin, it is the inclination due to sin in the soul. Christians use the term "flesh" to refer to the tendency of the soul toward sin but the use of this word does not mean that the sin originates from the body. Example of the use of the word "flesh" in the Bible illustrating that the flesh is spiritual, not the body:

(Matthew 19:6) Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

The souls of man and wife are intertwined in the spiritual realm.

(John 6:51) I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

I believe in the Eucharist, however, you cannot claim that the consecrated host is the same as the physical body of Jesus. This body ascended into heaven. This body has hands and arms and a head. The consecrated host has none of these.

(Romans 7:5,6) For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

"In the flesh" means "before salvation."

(Romans 7:18) For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Certainly Paul does not attribute sin to his body.

In Plato's view, the problem is lack of knowledge, of ignorance, not moral sin.

Error is perpetuated whenever a society has the wrong values. Societies tend to perpetuate the evils and errors committed by earlier generations. (pg. 62)

Evil can be perpetuated by allowing low moral standards in society. There is a sense in which lack of knowledge harms people. But the lack of knowledge is not the sin, it is the immoral behavior and attitudes which is the sin. There are plenty of ignorant people who are saintly.

(Hosea 4:6) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee.

Evil is also transmitted when human souls reappear via a transmigration, bringing into a new body their earlier errors and judgments of value. (pg. 62)

Plato teaches reincarnation. This is an un-Christian teaching:

(Heb 9:27) And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.

Plato teaches that a tainted soul in being reincarnated corrupts other souls. But since the soul is tainted in being born the first time (that is why it was incarnated in the first place) why would reincarnation be any worse? The error of ignorance is the same whether from the first incarnation of from subsequent incarnations.

It is the body that accounts for ignorance, rashness, and lust, for the body disturbs that clear working of the reason, spirit, and appetites by exposing the soul to a cascade of sensations. (pg. 62)

Plato clearly teaches the dualism between body and soul. The body is the source of all that is bad and undesirable. He attributes this to the appetites.

In my view the soul is spiritual and its appetites are spiritual. Misguided appetites (influenced by sin) cause the problems, not the appetites themselves.

Plato lists a few sins: ignorance, rashness, and lust. Two of these are also included in the list of Christian vices so at least there is some agreement on what kinds of behavior is bad. But I suspect that Plato would think that certain sins (defined as such by Christian morality) are not really sins at all. and vice versa. So our views of what is good and what is bad affects our behavior. In this, Plato is correct: ignorance leads to bad behavior.


Liberation

Plato's system of morality begins with the soul as existing first of all independently of the body. Morality consists in the recovery of one's lost inner harmony by reversing the process by which the reason has been overcome by the appetites and the stimuli of the body. (pg. 62)

In Plato's view, it is the physical body which is the source of the appetites, but this simply can't be the case. Appetites are urges, motivations, desires which are non-physical in nature. This is the same error that atheistic materialists make, ascribing to the realm of matter, energy, and the natural laws such immaterial and spiritual things as consciousness, emotion, feeling, urges, etc.

In Plato's view the soul which is in harmony with truth exists independently of the body at first. Then mysteriously, the soul is drawn into a body which corrupts it by confusing the intellect, the reason, which is the good part of the person. The perfect man will relearn the proper place of the intellect and the body and will again come into harmony. It seems that Plato would value the after-death state since the soul is again free from the harmful influences of the body.

No one ever knowingly chooses and act that will be harmful to oneself. (pg. 62)

Plato's explanation for this is that people, in ignorance, think that certain actions will be beneficial but they turn out to be harmful. The Christian explanation is that when under the influence of sinful urges, people do things they later regret (or that they don't think are wrong at all) — this is a form of forgetting also. It takes diligent, regular practice in the virtues and habitually avoiding vice to avoid sinful actions.

Socrates awakened people from their sleep of ignorance with the power of his irony and the persistence of his dialectic method. For Plato, the effective teacher must turn the prisoner (of the cave of shadows) around so that he will shift his gaze from the shadows to the real world. (pg. 63)

For both Socrates and Plato the goal is to attain to a state of knowledge, to cast off ignorance. They both have somewhat different ideas about all this. For Plato this is an intellectual process, the intellect discovers the truth using reason. Ignorant people are looking at shadows which they think are true reality. They need to turn around and see the objects casting the shadows on the cave walls.

The Christian view is quite different. Our souls are tangled-up in wicked influences in the spiritual realm which cause us to sin. We need to recognize that there is a creator-God who we offend by our sinning and who has provided grace for us to restore our fellowship with him. To do this we must acknowledge our sinful nature (and our sins), turn from them (repent), seek God's forgiveness, and accept in faith God's redemptive grace through the work of Jesus Christ. A truly faith-filled person will exhibit victory over much sin and will live a holy, devout, faithful life focused on worshipping and serving God. As we shall see, it is common in the study of philosophy to find philosophers mocking Christianity.

One's moral development parallels one's intellectual ascent. (pg. 63)

The concept of morality of Plato is quite different than the Christian concept of morality. In Christianity, morality concerns behavior and attitudes that are pleasing to God, that are in harmony with God's will and his law, and that are free from the influence of sin and wickedness. In Christianity morality is a spiritual endeavor concerning life and eternal life, not merely an analytical, intellectual endeavor.


Virtue

The key words of morality are virtue and goodness. (pg. 64)

It almost sounds as if Plato's ideas about morality are in harmony with Christian ideas, until we learn that his definitions of the words morality, virtue, and goodness are much different than the meanings given in Christianity. He uses these words as follows:

The Christian use of these terms is quite different:

Goodness and virtue are intimately connected with the mode of behavior that produces well-being and harmony. (pg. 64)


Virtue is grounded in the very nature of the soul. It is the very nature of reason to know and to direct the spirit and appetites. The good life is achieved only when every part is fulfilling its function. (pg. 64)

Plato is correct in stating that the soul is innately virtuous. He doesn't mention that these virtuous souls are currently corrupted by the sin nature which also resides in the spiritual realm.

Plato claims that reason is the attribute of the soul which directs the soul into virtue. But how can an amoral (without morality) attribute consider morality at all? The problem is that Plato considers morality to be an aspect of the intellect, not an aspect of religious, spiritual being. Our modern society makes the same mistake in considering morality to be merely the proper functioning of society and by excluding God from the equation.

The good life is achieved when the soul acts in harmony with God's will — that is the essence of moral goodness. Plato (and other early philosophers) are wrong in stating that the intellect is the highest attribute of the soul.

Plato compared the good life to the efficient functioning of things. (pg. 64)

I suppose there is truth in this which we can see when things are not functioning efficiently. For example, in war-torn countries or in places in the world with famine, the good life is not present. However, it is inevitable that things will not function efficiently in this world. Legislatures squabble about how to structure society, about which laws are needed, and they are influenced by interest groups who have their own selfish interests in mind. All of life is a compromise and I suppose it is easy to claim that things are never functioning efficiently. Thus, according to Plato's definition, we can never have the good life in this world. The Platonic good life is a utopian ideal which can never be realized until the new heavens and new earth.

Living is an art, and the soul's unique function is the art of living. (pg. 64)

Plato seems to think that the purpose of life is to create in our living of life a work of art, just as the purpose of a painter is to create a beautiful painting. But the soul is spiritual; the spiritual realm (and the physical world as well) has God as its focus and purpose. The purpose of life is to direct our will, passion, our very being, toward God and to love him, serve him, and please him. This highlights a problem with much of philosophy — it is not religious and it ignores God. Only Christianity can provide the proper perspective of life. Other religious systems contain error in their understanding of God and his purpose in creating us.

Corresponding to the three parts of the soul are three virtues: (pg. 64,65)

  1. Temperance: when the appetites are kept within limits and in their measure, avoiding excesses; the moderation in pleasures and desires.
  2. Courage: when the energy of will, which issues from the spirited part of the soul, is kept within limits, avoiding rash or headlong behavior.
  3. Wisdom: when reason remains undisturbed by the onrush of appetites and continues to see the true ideals in spite of the constant changes experienced in daily life.

 

There is a fourth virtue, justice, when each part of the soul is fulfilling its own special function. (pg. 65)


Just as the proper function of a hammer is discovered not by opinion but by analyzing the nature and capacities of a hammer, so also the proper behavior for human beings is not prescribed by opinion but is rather required by the very character of the parts of the soul. (pg. 65)

Plato compares humans with a simple tool but there is a vast difference. A hammer is a physical object with no soul; a human is primarily a soul associated with a body. The spiritual realm of the soul is quite different than the physical realm of the hammer.

Plato seems to think it is easy to analyze an object such as a hammer and know it proper function. But it often turns out that objects are used for purposes other then those for which they were designed, for example, when people build shelters from cardboard or build things out of duct tape and bailing wire.

The hammer was designed for a particular purpose. In order to properly use it, instructions are needed. (Of course, in the case of the hammer the instructions are not written down because they are so simple, but everyone who uses one has at some point been taught its use.) Humans are much better off when following the instruction manual for living. As we can see by examining history, humans are not very good at figuring out how to structure societies on their own. And they are terrible at providing for dignity, respect, and freedom for all kinds and classes of people. It seems that Christianity has improved matters but, unfortunately, the church has done a poor job as well. But when it comes down to morality, the gospel message of Jesus Christ is, by far, the superior teaching about the topic.

People cannot avoid the consequences of their acts. (pg. 65)

They may be able to avoid them while on this earth but they won't be able to avoid them on judgment day when they must explain them to God. Many who think they got away with a sinful lifestyle will discover that God is not too happy with this kind of a life.


Politics

The inability of Athenian democracy to produce great leaders and the way it treated one of its greatest citizens, Socrates. Plato despaired of democracy and formulated a new conception of political leadership in which authority and knowledge are appropriately combined. (pg. 46)

Plato is right in noticing the flaws of democracy. For a modern day example, consider American democracy: politicians try to win votes by promising entitlements to the voting masses. These voting masses are so stupid that they don't know that minimum wage laws and rent limits will hurt the very people they are trying to help. They don't notice that the cultural decline is caused by jettisoning Christian-based moral standards.

In addition to these problems with democracy is the problem of stomping on the rights and freedoms of the minority. For example, in this post-Christian America, the rights of Christians to practice their faith is being compromised. Churches must hire people who hold un-Christian views, Christian adoption agencies must not discriminate against providing services to gay couples, and preachers must be very careful not to say anything against homosexual practices. I'm afraid that the Christian church will soon be forced underground.

Plato's solution to the problems of democracy is to train a class of super-leaders who are able to rule effectively and efficiently based on his idea that right-knowledge is the ultimate ideal.

Rulers must "bring compulsion to bear" upon people to ascend upward from darkness to light. (pg. 50)

A society is in trouble when it relies on its rulers to provide spiritual guidance for the masses. Christendom attempted this and failed miserably.

Plato has in mind the enlightened class of rulers who were trained for decades to understand the true condition of reality. But Plato's scheme doesn't include the most important aspect of all, a living relationship with the living God. I think a society ruled by virtuous dictators would be more efficient than a democracy but I'm afraid we can't trust our dictators to be virtuous. For this reason alone democracy is a better choice.

The state. The virtue of justice characterizes the good society. (pg. 65)

By justice, Plato means that each person is fulfilling their own special function. This definition of justice ignores God's moral law. Thus, in Plato's good society there could be significant immorality occurring. For example, a society such as this could be persecuting Christians based on the idea that religions are a harm to society because they are not based on the highest intellectual ideal but are, rather, based on the lower level of belief.

The best way to understand the just person is to analyze the nature of the state. "We should begin by inquiring what justice means in a state." (pg. 65)

Plato's concept of justice begins with the state. Thus, if a person lives in a just state, their views will be considered aberrant if they refer to some ideal beyond the state. There is no place for Christianity or the gospel of Jesus Christ in such a state.

The origin of the state is a reflection of people's economic needs. No individual is self-sufficing. No one possesses all the skills needed. There must, therefore, be a division of labor. (pg. 66)

Plato implies that states are formed by a rational process of dividing up the workload based on skills and needs. He seems to ignore the political realities and doesn't seem to subscribe to the various conflict theories of groups of theories in which power and personal ambition dominates.

What if the mix of skills doesn't match the required workload? What if there is a class of aristocrats who consume more than their fair share? Plato doesn't seem to address these realities but prefers to remain aloof and abstract.

The healthy state soon becomes "swollen up with a whole multitude of callings not ministering to any bare necessity." This desire for more things will soon exhaust the resources of the community. (pg. 66)

Plato highlights what has become the main problem with our post-oil society. We have become conditioned to have much more than our bare necessities. As we begin to run out of oil (and water and food) we will experience wars and famines. We have collectively lived beyond our means because of the abundance of cheap oil. When the oil runs out we will be forced to adapt to a sustainable economic system. Unfortunately, changing to this will be a very painful process and the world's population will drastically decrease since it is much too high to exist without an abundance of cheap oil and water aquifers.

Wars have their "origin in desires." Thus emerge the guardians of the state who repel the invader and preserve internal order. (pg. 66)


As a result, there are now two distinct classes of people, those who fill all the crafts — farmers, artisans, and traders — and those who guard the community. From this latter class are chosen the most highly trained guardians, who will become the rulers of the state and will represent a third and elite class. (pg. 66)

Plato apparently believed in a class-based society. I can think of some difficulties with this:

The three classes in the state are an extension of the three parts of the soul: (pg. 66)

  1. Craftsmen or artisans: represent as a class the lowest part of the soul, the appetites.
  2. Guardians: embody the spirited element of the soul.
  3. Rulers: represent the rational element.

Here is the problem with Plato's philosophical system. He assumes that the intellectual, rational aspect of humanity is supreme and that appetites and such are inferior. Then he creates a model for society based on this same scheme. The theory is that people remain in the class corresponding to their level advancement. But once a person is a skilled, trained craftsman they will be unable to advance to the next higher level even if they develop their soul to that level because their career will hold them back. Thus, there will be no incentive for people to improve.

Fortunately, Plato's philosophical system is complete nonsense so we don't have to address these concerns.

I wonder whether Plato's three-fold classification of societal roles matches the real world. As subsequent history demonstrated, there are many roles other than these three. Also missing are Christian ministers and evangelists.

People who are capable of progressing to a higher level of class should only do so after extensive training. People theoretically would have the opportunity to reach the highest level, but they would in fact stop at the level of their natural aptitudes. (pg. 67)

This passage exposes the problem with Plato's philosophy. Humans are theoretically equal in that they can all reach the highest level (with the proper training) but in reality some people do not have the aptitude required to reach the highest level no matter how much training they receive. It seems to me that a true philosophical system would have to teach that everyone is equal in their essential human-ness. Differences in aptitudes, personalities, attitudes, etc. should be explainable without excluding anyone from the possibility of reaching the highest ideal. In Christianity, everyone has the possibility of becoming redeemed if they respond favorably to God's promptings on their soul (some Christian groups are confused about how this works and whether or not non-Christians can be redeemed).

The "noble lie" is that the god who fashioned all people gave each a particular nature. By nature some would be rulers and others craftsmen and this provides the basis for a perfectly stratified society. This "noble lie" is needed to make everyone satisfied with their lot. Later societies in Europe assumed that the children born into such a stratified society would stay at the level at which they were born, but Plato recognized that children would not always have the same quality as their parents, and that each person must be assigned the station proper to his nature. (pg. 67)


Everyone should agree on who is to be the ruler and agree on the reason why the ruler should be obeyed. (pg. 67)

Political philosophy. This sounds like what the framing fathers of America did. In a constitutional democracy everyone chooses who their leaders are to be and the constitution defines how the government is to be organized. I don't see how the people could choose their leaders in a tyranny.

Competence should be the qualification for authority (pg. 67)

A problem with American democracy is that the leaders must spend so much of their time getting elected which involves telling the masses what they want to hear and appeasing special interests. I suppose the politicians who get elected are good at that but this is not what Plato refers to. He is advocating that leaders should be skilled in running the state. But here there is much difference of opinion about what works and what doesn't work.

Who should rule the state? The ruler should be the philosopher-king who has been fully educated, one who has come to understand the difference between the visible world and the intelligible world, between the realm of opinion and the realm of knowledge, between appearance and reality. (pg. 67,68)

Plato ignores the spiritual world, the world of souls. His categories are:

  1. the visible / opinion / appearance
  2. the intelligible / knowledge / reality

In my view the two categories are:

  1. physical / non-living / material
  2. spiritual / living / realm of souls and spirits

Problems with Plato's categories:

  1. his second category is incomplete
  2. he ignores God, faith in God, and the worship of God
  3. his highest ideal is not religious morality but is, rather, the intellect
  4. he doesn't distinguish between the physical and the spiritual

By the time he is 18 years old, he will have had training in literature, music, and elementary mathematics. His literature would be censored. Plato accused certain poets of outright falsehood and of impious accounts of the behavior of the gods. Seductive music would be replaced be a more wholesome, martial meter. After this, there would be extensive physical and military training, then advanced mathematics, then dialectic and moral philosophy. After this, 15 years would be spent gathering practical experience through public service. Finally, at age 50, the ablest men would reach the highest level of knowledge, and would then be ready for the task of governing the state. (pg. 68)


Whether justice could ever be achieved in a state would depend on whether the philosopic element in society could attain dominance. (pg. 68)

My version of this statement: Whether justice can ever be attained depends on whether all members of society practice the virtue of justice. Certain the rulers must be just for there to be a just society but this is not enough. If the citizens are treating one another unjustly the society will be unjust.

Plato teaches that his philosophical concepts are supreme but he is mistaken. It is the spiritual and moral teachings of Christianity which are absolutes.

The human race will not be free of evils until either the stock of those who rightly and truly follow philosophy acquire political authority, of the class who have power become real philosophers. (pg. 68)

To rule a state (or any group of people) requires leadership skills; it is not enough for a person to be morally pure to qualify as a leader. The question then becomes, what is required to rule virtuously? This question is rarely asked; rulers seem to think that gaining and holding power doesn't have any obligations on their part.

Justice in the state will be attained only when and if the three classes fulfill their functions. (pg. 68)


Unlike the craftsmen who marry and own property, the guardians will have both property and wives in common (but Plato does not mean to suggest any form of promiscuity). Thus, they will never fear poverty of privation and their mode of life should be isolated from possessions. Women could be guardians as well as men. (pg. 68)


To preserve the unity of the members of the class of guardians, the permanent individual family would be abolished, and the whole class would become a single family. They must be free from the temptation to prefer to advantages of one's family to those of the state. (pg. 69)


For guardians, sexual relations would be strictly controlled and would be limited to special marriages in which the partners, under the illusion that they had been paired by drawing lots, would, instead, be brought together through the careful manipulation of the rulers to ensure the highest eugenic possibilities. As soon as children are born to the guardians, they will be taken in charge by officers appointed for that purpose and reared in the card of nurses. (pg. 69)


Justice in the state is therefore the same as justice in the individual. It is the product of people staying in their place and doing their special task. (pg. 69)

It is easy to see Plato's error when he makes a statement such as this. Since when is justice attained by everyone fulfilling their proper role? I suspect that totalitarian states are based on notions such as this, that a perfect state will be realized if you can enforce the proper behavior of all the citizens.

What Plato is missing is that justice is a spiritual and moral quality, not an intellectual and rational one. It is not the rational mind which dictates morality but, rather, the spiritual soul. Many errors of the modern world derive from rejecting the realm of spirit and the importance of morality and the soul.


The Decline of the Ideal State

There are five kinds of governments and five corresponding mental constitutions among individuals. Plato considered the transition from aristocracy to despotism as a step-by-step decline in the quality of the state corresponding to a gradual deterioration of the moral character of the rulers and the citizens. The five kinds of governments listed from highest to lowest: (pg. 69-71)

  1. Aristocracy: The ideal state. The proper subordination of all classes.
  2. Timocracy: The love of honor in which ambitious members of the ruling class love their honor more than the common good.
  3. Plutocracy: The love of wealth. Private property. Power resides in the hands of people whose main concern is wealth. "As the rich rise in social esteem, the virtuous sink." Breaks the unity of the state into two contending classes, the rich and the poor.
  4. Democracy: The principles of equality and freedom reflect the degenerate human characters. Plato was thinking of the direct popular democracy of Athens in which all citizens had the right to participate in the government; he did not have in mind modern liberal and representative democracy. In a direct democracy, "liberty and free speech are rife everywhere; anyone is allowed to do what he likes. One appetite is as good as another and all must have their equal rights." Rulership of a state should be in the hands of those with the special talent and training for it.
  5. Despotism: The passion for money and pleasures leads the masses to plunder the rich. As the rich resist, the masses seek out a strong person who will be their champion. But this person demands and acquires absolute power and makes slaves of the people.

 


Cosmos and Science

Plato's theory of the Forms rendered science as an exact mode of knowledge impossible because it is about the visible world of things that science seeks to build its theories. How can one formulate accurate, reliable, and permanent knowledge about a subject matter which is itself imperfect and full of change? (pg. 71)

This sounds like relativism. However, Plato seems to think that his philosophical system is correct and true. So how is it that something as unprovable as Plato's philosophical system can be true which scientific assertions such as the law of gravity are unknowable?


Pythagoras claimed that things are capable of a mathematical explanation. This mathematical characteristic of things suggested to Plato that behind things there must be thought and purpose. The cosmos must therefore be the work of intelligence, since it is the mind that orders all things. (pg. 72)

In my Creative Frame Theory of the universe God uses mathematics and the natural laws to determine where to place each object from instant to instant. The reason mathematics seems like such a fundamental principle of the universe is because God is a master mathematician.

Plato is correct that the cosmos is the work of an intelligence; it was created by God who is living and intelligent.

Although Plato said that mind orders everything, he did not develop a doctrine of creation. But he did teach the following: (pg. 72,74)

  • "That which becomes must necessarily become through the agency of some cause." This agent, which he calls the divine Craftsman or Demiurge, does not bring new things into being but rather confronts and orders what already exists in chaotic form using the Ideas or Forms or patterns after which things are made.
  • The World Soul is produced by the Demiurge and is the energizing activity in the receptacle, producing what to us appears to be substance or solid matter though in reality is only qualities caused by the arrangement of geometric surfaces.

 

Plato departed from the materialists who thought that all things derived from some original kind of matter, whether in the form of earth, air, fire, or water. He did not accept the notion that matter was the basic reality: matter itself must be explained as the composition of something other than matter. What we call matter is a reflection of an Idea or Form. Forms are expressed through a medium, which Plato calls the receptacle or space which is a medium that has no structure but that is capable of receiving the imposition of structure by the Demiurge. There is no explanation of the origin of the receptacle — it is underived, as are the Forms and the Demiurge. The receptacle is where things appear and perish. (pg. 72)


Material objects are composed of nonmaterial compounds. Plato was influenced by the Pythagorean perspective when he argued that solid objects of matter are described and defined in geometric terms. (pg. 73)

This sounds a little like astrology in which angles affect aspects of personality and fate.

It's hard to understand how Pythagoras thought that geometry was a building block of matter. It seems that whenever someone thinks about consciousness and the soul they want to ascribe these transcendental aspects of reality with the material realm in some way. Even atheistic scientists try to do this in ascribing consciousness to a physical cause such as a large set of interconnected neurons.

In my view, the physical realm is inert; only the spiritual realms are living. Spiritual souls living in the spiritual realm connect with the inert body via the senses and nervous system.

Matter is only the appearance of something more basic. The world of things is the world of phenomena, which is the Greek word for appearances. (pg. 73)


The World Soul is eternal. (pg. 73)

Certainly God is eternal. Plato seems to believe in various kinds of transcendent godlike entities: The World Soul, the demiurge, celestial gods. In another quote from page 72,74 it appears Plato believes that the World Soul is produced by the Demiurge. How can something that is produced by something else be eternal?

There is evil in the world because there are obstacles in the way of the Demiurge. The Demiurge represents divine reason and the agency that fashioned the order of the universe. (pg. 73)

If there are obstacles in the way of the Demiurge, then the Demiurge isn't God. It's as if Plato believes in a form of polytheism in which multiple limited divine creatures or aspects of reality all work together (or in conflict with one another) in constructing our current reality.

"The generation of the cosmos was a mixed result of the combination of Necessity and Reason." Necessity is one of the conditions of evil in the world, for evil is the breakdown of purpose. Necessity is expressed in various modes, such as inertia and irreversibility which are obstacles getting in the way of the ordering of the world according to a definite purpose. (pg. 73,74)


Whatever frustrates the working of mind contributes to the absence of order, which is the meaning of evil. (pg. 74)


Time comes to be only after phenomena are produced. Time is change; change is the cause of time. Forms are timeless, but the various copies of them in the receptacle constantly "go in" or "go out." (pg. 74)


Change is not capricious but regular, and exhibits the presence of eternal mind. (pg. 74)


This is Plato's "likely story" about the cosmos: the Demiurge fashioned things out of the receptacle, using the Forms as patterns. (pg. 74)


Aristotle . . .


Forms seem to have originally existed in the "mind of God" or in the supreme principle of rationality, the One. Aristotle says that "the Forms are the cause of the essence of all other things and the One is the cause of the Forms." (pg. 57)

So now we have five eternal, preexistent things which are necessary in the creation of objects:

  1. Philosophical laws such as "cause."
  2. Forms
  3. The "mind of God" / the One
  4. The Demiurge who uses the Forms in fashioning objects
  5. The stuff from which objects are fashioned (they are not created ex nihilo, out of nothing, as in the Christian conception of creation)

Thus, there is no concept of "One God" in Aristotle's view.

For these early philosophers, it is philosophical rules and laws which govern how things function. This is similar to modern atheistic science in which natural laws control how the universe functions and the origin of life. Thus, the Forms are the cause of the essence of material objects.

Aristotle hints that the One is at the top of the hierarchy since the Forms are caused by the One. But this One is bound by the philosophical concept of causation so this One is not really the same as the creator God of Christianity. In Christianity everything owes its origin to God including such philosophical laws as causality, cause and effect, etc.

Aristotle argued that form and matter are inseparable, but Plato said that there was a separate reality of form and matter. (pg. 58)

Plato and Aristotle agree that there is such a thing as Forms. Plato taught that Forms exist in some separate, non-material realm and that these Forms are used in fashioning material objects. Aristotle's view is not much of an improvement. He states that there are two distinct aspects to physical objects: Form and matter. One is non-material (Forms) and the other is material (matter.) Thus, material objects are simultaneously material and non-material: they are therefore not really material at all since they are a hybrid of material and non-material.

My view is similar to Aristotle in that material objects have various components in various realms. Thus, the components or a chair are:

Aristotle argued that the eternal universal ideas were abstracted by the intellect from particular things. (pg. 129)


Aristotle considered history as not capable of teaching people any important knowledge about humanity because, unlike drama, history deals with individual persons, nations, and events, whereas drama deals with universal conditions and problems. (pg. 138)


Philip of Macedon invited Aristotle to become the tutor of his son Alexander (the Great), who was then 13 years old. (pg. 76)


Aristotle invented formal logic. He also invented the idea of the separate sciences. His chief interest was with the forms of proof. (pg. 78)


Aristotle developed his doctrine of the categories (predicates) that can be connected with a substance. The 9 categories are: quantity, quality, relation, place, date, posture, possession, action, passivity. He did not consider these as artificial creations of the mind but thought that they were actually in existence outside the mind and in things.. (pg. 79)


Other predicates, not intrinsic to a thing's nature are called "accidental." (pg. 79)


We know that the first principles, the assumptions of logic, are true because the mind, working with certain facts, recognizes and "sees" their truth. (pg. 82)


We never find matter without form or form without matter in nature. Substance is a unity of matter and form. (pg. 85)


People, as everything else in nature, have a distinctive "end" to achieve or a function to fulfill. Aristotle's theory is teleological (with purpose). (pg. 92)


The soul is the form of the body. As such, the soul refers to the total person. (pg. 93)


The soul has two parts, the irrational and the rational. The irrational part is in turn composed o two subparts, the vegetative and the desiring or "appetitive" parts. (pg. 93)


All people agree that happiness is the end that alone meets all the requirements for the ultimate end of human action. (pg. 94)

True happiness can only be found in the eternal state, after our sin nature is removed and the wicked spirits of the spiritual realm are vanquished. For the redeemed, they will finally experience true happiness living forever in the direct presence of God.

Trying to use happiness as the measure of whether something is right or wrong is misguided. Happiness can't be directly measured nor can the calculus be performed of what actions result in the most happiness for the most people, nor whether extreme unhappiness for one person can be justified if it is necessary for other people to have greater happiness. The true measure of moral rightness must be measured from God's perspective, from what pleases and displeases God.

How does the soul work to attain happiness? The general rule of morality is to act in accordance with Right Reason. This means that the rational part of the soul should control the irrational part. (pg. 94)


The State is a creature of nature, and man is by nature a political animal. (pg. 96)


Aristotle did not create a blueprint for an ideal state. (pg. 97)

I find this lack to be disappointing. I prefer Plato to Aristotle because at least he brought his abstractions down to earth by presenting a vision of the ideal society. Of course, Plato's ideal society demonstrates the spiritual bankruptcy of a philosophy that doesn't have as its focus the pleasing of God and the worship of God.

A community can organize itself into at least three different kinds of government. The true forms of each type of government are: monarchy (one), aristocracy (few), and polity (many). The perverted forms are tyranny (one), oligarchy (few), and democracy (many). (pg. 97)


Observing that slaves invariably were strong and large, Aristotle concluded that slavery was a product of nature, that some men are by nature free, and others slaves, and that for these slavery is both expedient and right. Aristotle took great care to distinguish between those who became slaves by nature, a mode he accepted, and those who became slaves by military conquest, a mode he rejected. Aristotle rejected slavery by conquest on the grounds that to overpower someone does not mean that one is superior to him in nature. Moreover, the use of force may or may not be justified. (pg. 97)


The state exists for the sake of everyone's moral and intellectual fulfillment. A state exists for the sake of a good life, and not for the sake of life only. (pg. 98)

Should the state provide for people's bare necessities: food, shelter, health care? And should it provide for other moral and intellectual activities? How can we say that the state provides for a purpose unless the state contributes to achieving that purpose? Or is it enough for the state to merely provide a framework for people to live fulfilling lives but it is up to each person whether or not to squander their opportunity? And what about injustices in which disadvantaged people don't have the same access to resources and opportunities?

Since the ultimate goal of human life is to please God and to spend eternity with him, it seems to me that one of the goals or purposes for the state is to facilitate our relationship with God. Christendom attempted this but failed.

It seems to me that the state has miserably failed to provide for such lofty goals as Aristotle claims for it.


Augustine . . .


In this section I skip over most of Augustine's teachings on theology and focus, instead, on his philosophy.

Augustine was perplexed by the ever-present problem of moral evil. How can one explain the existence of evil in human experience? (pg. 123,124)


There was much in Neoplatonism that caught Augustine's imagination, particularly the conception of an immaterial world totally separate from the material world and the belief that people possess a spiritual sense that enables them to know God and the immaterial world. From Plotinus, the conception that evil is not a positive reality but is rather a matter of privation, the absence of good and that there is a spiritual as well as a physical reality. (pg. 124)


True philosophy was inconceivable without a confluence of faith and reason. Reason without revelation was certainly possible, but it would never be complete. (pg. 125)


There is no such thing as a purely natural person without some ultimate spiritual destiny. (pg. 125)


One could not properly philosophize until his will was transformed, that clear thinking was possible only under the influence of God's grace. (pg. 125)


Not whether people can attain certainty, but rather how they can attain it. Human reason does indeed have certainty about various things, for example, the principle of contradiction, that a thing cannot both be and not be at the same time. (pg. 126)


Sense knowledge is at the lowest level of knowing because it gives us the least amount of certainty. For example, something can taste sweet to one person and bitter to another. It is unjust to expect or demand more from the senses than they can provide, for example, an oar in the water that appears to be bent. Don't give assent to more than the fact of appearance, and you won't be deceived. (pg. 126-128)


A person is a union of body and soul. The body is the prison of the soul. The soul is spiritual, not material. (pg. 128)

In my view the human soul inhabits the spiritual realm; it is not trapped in the material world at all. The soul receives information from the senses. Our thoughts, dreams, and creativity are from the soul and are not bound by the body.

When we sense an object, we not only sense an image but also make a judgment. For example, when I look at a beautiful object, I not only see the object with my senses, but also compare it with a standard to which my mind has access in some realm other than that in which I sense the object. (pg. 128)


The act of human sensation involves at least four elements, namely (1) the object sensed, (2) the bodily organ upon which sensation depends, (3) the activity of the mind in formulating an image of the object, and (4) the immaterial object, e.g., Beauty, which the mind uses in making a judgment about the sensed object. (pg. 128)


There are two different kinds of objects that human beings encounter, namely, the objects of the bodily sense and the objects of the mind. With the physical eye people see things, and with the mind they apprehend eternal truths. (pg. 128)


The human mind requires illumination if it is to "see" eternal and necessary truths. This illumination comes from God. Divine illumination is not a process by which the content of ideas is infused into our minds; it is, rather, the illumination of our judgment whereby we are able to discern that certain ideas contain necessary and eternal truth. (pg. 129,130)


The soul cannot find its peace among the pleasures of flesh or sensation. The world is full of change and impermanence. The mind is imperfect, since it is capable of error. Certain truths are eternal. Activities of the mind can provide a lasting and profound peace. Immutable truth must have its source in God. (pg. 130)


Since matter is created by God, therefore, matter is good, because nothing evil is created by God. Augustine rejected the notion that anything in the created order can be intrinsically evil since everything is created by the goodness of God. (pg. 132)


Happiness is the goal of human behavior. Happiness requires that a person go beyond the natural to the supernatural. (pg. 133)


All things are legitimate objects of love. Evil is not a positive thing but the absence of something. Humanity's moral problem consists in the manner in which they attach themselves to these objects of love and in their expectations regarding the outcome of this love. Each object of love can give only so much satisfaction and no more. (pg. 134)


The basic need for human affection cannot be satisfied by things. Only God, the infinite, can give the person ultimate satisfaction or happiness. (pg. 135)


Disordered love consists in expecting more from an object of love than it is capable of providing. Normal self-love becomes pride. The essence of pride is the assumption of self-sufficiency. It does not take long for disordered love to produce a disordered person, and disordered persons produce a disordered community. (pg. 135)

Augustine is describing my town!

Evil, or sin, is a product of the will. In spite of the fact of original sin, all humanity still possesses the freedom of the will. (pg. 136)

Fundamentalist Protestants reject the notion that unredeemed people have any freedom of the will at all.


Even when people choose rightly, the do not possess the spiritual power to do the good they have chosen. They must have the help of God's grace. (pg. 136)


Evil is caused by an act of free will. Virtue, on the other hand, is the product not of people's will but of God's grace. (pg. 136)


Natural law is humans' intellectual sharing in God's truth, or God's eternal law. Eternal law is the reason and will of the personal Christian God. A person's intellectual grasp of the eternal principles is called natural law. (pg. 136)


When a political state makes a law, such temporal laws must be in accord with the principle of natural law, which in turn is derived from the eternal law. (pg. 136)


The state must also follow the requirements of justice. Justice is a virtue distributing to every one his due. But what is "due" to anyone? Augustine rejected the notion that justice is conventional, that it will differ with each society. For him, justice was to be discovered in the structure of human nature with its relation to God. (pg. 137)


The human race can be divided between those who love God (the City of God) and those who love themselves and the world (the City of the World). These two cities are not identical with the church and state. Those who love the world are found both in the state and in the church. It does not follow therefore that the church contains the whole society called the City of God. Also, there are in the state those who love God. (pg. 138)


Whether history has a meaning. The early Greek historians saw no pattern in the events of humanity other than, perhaps, the fact that kingdoms rise and fall and that there are cycles of repetition. (pg. 138)


The greatest drama of all is human history. The fall of Rome was not due to the subversive activities of the Christians but, on the contrary, to the rampant vice throughout the Empire, which the Christian faith and love of God could have prevented. (pg. 138)


Hume . . .


Since all our knowledge comes from experience, we cannot have any knowledge of "causality" or necessary connections because we do not experience causality. We cannot infer or predict any future event from our experience of the present. What we call causality is simply our habit of associating two events because we experience them together, but this does not justify the conclusion that these events have any necessary connection. He denied inductive inference. The logical outcome of Hume's empiricism was that there cannot be any scientific knowledge, and this leads to philosophical skepticism. (pg. 281)


Hume had not completed the task of explaining how knowledge is acquired. (pg. 282)


Hume wanted to build a "science of man," to study human nature by using the methods of physical science. (pg. 262)


How can we know the true nature of things with conflicting ideas about morality, religion, and the true nature of physical reality. Are these ideas equally true, or is there some method by which to discover the reason for this conflict of ideas? (pg. 262)


The scientific method is the means for solving all the problems of the universe. In the end, Hume's optimism about the possibilities of using scientific methods for describing the mechanics of human thought could not be justified. His early faith in reason led, in the end, to skepticism. (pg. 262)


If we take seriously the premise that all our ideas come from experience, we must accept the limits to knowledge that his explanation of ideas forces upon us, no matter what our customary beliefs may suggest. (pg. 263)


The only way to solve the problem of disagreements and speculations regarding abstruse [difficult to understand] questions is to enquire seriously into the nature of human understanding, and show from an exact analysis of its powers and capacity, that it is by no means fitted for such remote and abstruse [difficult to understand] subjects. (pg. 263)


The mind is not bound by the limits of nature or reality, for without difficulty the imagination can conceive the most unnatural and incongruous appearances, such as flying horses and gold mountains. (pg. 263,264)


The mind is really confined within very narrow limits. The content of the mind can all be reduced to the materials given us by the senses and experience: Hume calls these perceptions which take two forms; impressions and ideas. (pg. 264)


Impression: The original stuff of thought. Impressions such as when we hear, see, feel, love hate, desire, or will are "lively" and clear when we have them. (pg. 264)


Idea: Merely a copy of the impression. Less vivid than the impression. When we reflect upon impressions, we have ideas of them, and those ideas are less-lively versions of the original impressions. To feel pain is an impression, whereas the memory of this sensation is an idea. (pg. 264)


Without impressions there can be no ideas. Ideas are the product of the mind's faculty of compounding, transposing, or diminishing the materials afforded us by the senses and experience. (pg. 264)


Such ideas as a flying horse are derived from joining the two ideas of wing and horse, which we originally acquired as impressions through our senses. (pg. 264)


The idea of God arises from reflecting on the operations of our own minds augmenting without limit the qualities of goodness and wisdom that we experience among human beings. (pg. 264)


The very idea of causality is suspect. It arises in the mind when we experience certain relations between objects. There is no reason for accepting the principle that whatever begins to exist must have a cause of existence. (pg. 265)


Our ordinary experience suggests that things outside of us do exist. But how do we know that they continue to exist even when we interrupt our sensation of them? (pg. 265,266)


Our belief that things exist external to us is the product of our imagination. (pg. 266)


Hume denied the we have any idea of self. It is our power of memory that gives the impression of our continuous identity. (pg. 266)


Hume denied the existence of any form of substance. We have no idea of substance distinct from that of a collection of particular qualities (colors, sounds, etc.) perceived by the senses. (pg. 267)


Our ideas reach no further than our experience. The arguments of the existence of God by causality (there must be a first cause) or design are flawed. The inference that design implies a designer is uncertain because the subject lies entirely beyond the reach of human experience. (pg. 267)


The order of the universe is simply an empirical fact and we cannot infer from it the existence of God. (pg. 268)


Kant rejected Hume's explanation that causality is simply a psychological habit of connecting two events that we call cause and effect. (pg. 283)

For Hume all that exists is sense perceptions and our ideas about them. There is no connection between events we perceive. The idea of these connections is merely our idea about the connections.


Ethics

Morality is a subject that interests us above all others. (pg. 268)


Moral judgments are formed not by reason alone but by the sentiment of sympathy. Reason is not sufficient alone to produce any moral blame or approbation [approval]. (pg. 268)


Reason makes judgments concerning matters of fact and relations whereas moral judgments of good and evil are not limited to matters of fact or relations. (pg. 268)


The judgment of good or evil is made after all the facts are known. The goodness or badness of an act is not a new fact discovered or deduced by reason. (pg. 268)


Goodness, like beauty, is not an additional fact inferred or deduced by reason. (pg. 268)


See if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice. Rather, you find only certain passions, motives, volitions and thoughts. You can never find it, till you turn your reflection into your own breast and find a sentiment of disapprobation [moral disapproval] which arises in you toward this action. It is the object of feeling, not reason. It lies in yourself, not in the object. (pg. 269)


To build a system of ethics upon the faculty of feeling, sentiment, or sympathy is to run the risk of reducing ethics to a matter of taste, where moral judgments are subjective and relative. (pg. 269)


The sentiment of sympathy, of fellow-feeling, must be acknowledged as a principle in human nature beyond which we cannot hope to find any principle more general. (pg. 269)

It is odd to me that Hume would call a human sentiment as a principle of human nature. Just as the atheistic scientists claim that the material world is the absolute; that everything can be explained by the natural laws; so also, the atheistic philosophers explain all aspects of life in terms of such things as principles.

It is much more satisfying to me to explain life in terms of God who is the author and creator of life. God is life and is, therefore, able to create all things living. All aspects of life has their origins in God, the creator of life. Postulating the existence of life principles seems so arbitrary to me and no one can agree on what these foundational aspects of living are.

Hume's conception of moral sentiment and sympathy is in sharp contrast to the traditional ethical theory which holds that morality consists in the relation of actions to a rule of right. That theory defines an action as good or evil depending upon whether the action agrees or disagrees with the rule. But Hume rejects the hypothesis that there are moral rules. (pg. 269)


Virtue is whatever mental action or quality gives to a spectator the pleasing sentiment of approbation [moral approval]; and vice the contrary. (pg. 269)

This says nothing. It says that virtue is that which makes us feel like it is virtue.

Virtuous qualities: discretion, caution, enterprise, industry, economy, good-sense, prudence, discernment. There is virtually universal agreement, even among the most cynical men of the world, concerning the merit of temperance, sobriety, patience, constancy, considerateness, presence of mind, quickness of conception and felicity [happiness] of expression. (pg. 269)


These qualities are useful and agreeable. But useful for what? For somebody's interest, not our own only, but the interest of those who are served by the character or action. Usefulness is a tendency to a natural end. The distinction between what is useful and what is pernicious [harmful] is the essential moral distinction. (pg. 269,270)


Everything which contributes to the happiness of society recommends itself directly to our approbation [approval] and good-will. (pg. 270)


Here is a principle which accounts in great part for the origin of morality. (pg. 270)

This explanation doesn't account for anything; it is a mere tautology. It is a self-refuting description of the thing it is trying to prove.

The intermingling of self-interest and sympathy in Hume's analysis of justice. Justice (a general peace and order, or a general abstinence from the possessions of others) reflects the self-interest of each person who desires to be secure in person and property. To this extent, justice is a reflection of self-interest. Public utility is the sole origin of justice. (pg. 270)


Kant . . .


How to reconcile the two seemingly contradictory interpretations of events, one holding that all events are the product of necessity and the other saying that in certain aspects of human behavior there is freedom. (pg. 280)


Scientific thought is an attempt to include all of reality, including human nature, in its mechanical model. This would eliminate from consideration any elements that could not fit into its method by placing greatest emphasis upon limiting knowledge to the realm of actual sense experience. Science has no need for, nor could it account for, such notions as freedom and God. (pg. 280)

Some scientists do attempt to include elements of reality such as consciousness into their system but their explanations are unsatisfying to say the least. For example, regarding consciousness they might say, "when the brain becomes sufficiently complex, consciousness arises". This, of course, explains nothing at all about consciousness.

Whether metaphysics can increase our knowledge the way science obviously can. The dogmatic character of metaphysics was made clear particularly by the variety of conclusions to which metaphysicians had come in their systems of thought. (pg. 281)

Metaphysics concerns the spiritual ream.Science cannot perform experiments in the spiritual realm. Our only hope of knowing spiritual truth is via divine revelation. Of course, determining which messages are from God and which are not is the key question and is not easily answered. One day, on our day of death, each person will come face to face with Jesus.

How did the scientist give an adequate explanation of what makes his understanding of nature possible? (pg. 281)


Both in science and in metaphysics, the mind starts with some given datum, which gives rise to a judgment in human reason. (pg. 281)


Kant turned his back on rationalist metaphysics. (pg. 282)


Kant had reacted against the pretentions of the rationalist metaphysicians who assumed that human reason could penetrate the secrets of ultimate reality. In contrast, Kant, described the limits beyond which the human mind could never proceed. The mind is structured in such a way that it is forever barred from going beyond the realm of sense experience. Our interpretation of the world of experience is permanently fixed by the categories that the mind imposes upon the objects of experience. These categories — such as cause and effect, existence and negation — are concepts that the mind possesses prior to experience and employs in relation to objects, and this is what makes knowledge possible. (pg. 304)

There is a third possibility: God provides divinely-revealed knowledge.

Since ultimate reality is the thing-in-itself, to say that we cannot have knowledge about it means that we cannot have knowledge about reality. (pg. 305)

This statement assumes there is no revealed knowledge, no knowledge imparted via divine revelation by God.

The systems of philosophy which exclude the Christian God seem to me to be bankrupt and useless. Not only are the explanations for how things work obtruse, the conclusions about morality and the purpose of human life are degrading to human dignity and provide for a culture that oppresses the religious, the minority, and the weak and needy. I suppose you could say that these attempts to provide godless theories of philosophy prove that there is a God and that Christianity has the correct view of the nature of God.

Kant did not wish to give up some of the subjects that concerned the rationalist metaphysicians, such as freedom and God, about which it is impossible to be "indifferent." (pg. 282)

In other words, he wanted to comment on these topics.

There can be no rule according to which anyone can be compelled to recognize anything as beautiful. (pg. 298)

In the new heavens and new eartheveryone will agree that everything from God is beautiful, that God is the source of all that is good, holy, pure, and beautiful.


Critical Philosophy

An analysis of the powers of human reason: "a critical inquiry into the faculty of reason with reference to all the knowledge which it may strive to attain independently of all experience." (pg. 282)


Whether the human reason possessed the powers to undertake such inquiries (such as the nature of the supreme being and other subjects that took them beyond the realm of immediate experience). (pg. 282)


We possess a faculty that is capable of giving us knowledge without an appeal to experience. Our knowledge begins with experience, but it does not follow that all knowledge arises out of experience. (pg. 283)


Kant rejected Hume's explanation that causality is simply a psychological habit of connecting two events that we call cause and effect. Rather, we have knowledge about causality not from sense experience, but directly from the faculty of rational judgment. (pg. 283)

According to Kant, causality exists because we can imagine it exists. Using this kind of reasoning we should believe that God exists because we sense there to be a perfect life-giving divine being. And we should believe in wicked spirits because we have experiences in dreams and in our mind of living powers of evil seeking to destroy us.

A new hypothesis concerning the relation between the mind and its objects. Objects conform to the operations of the mind, and not the other way around. Kant did not mean to say that the mind creates objects, nor did the mean that the mind possesses innate ideas. Rather, the mind is an active agent doing something with the objects it experiences; it imposes its way of knowing upon its objects. (pg. 286,287)

He knows these things exist apart from our mind yet the mind filters what can be known of them. I wonder how he could be so sure they exist at all? This is the problem with philosophy; each philosopher's fundamental principle is merely an assumption. I prefer to base my system of philosophyon Christian teaching.

Every human being, having the faculty of thought, inevitably thinks about things in accordance with the natural structure of the mind. (pg. 287)

This why in the new heavens and new earthhumans and seagulls will be equal in their ability to worship God and enjoy their God-given eternal life.


The Structure of Rational Thought

There are two sources of human knowledge: sensibility and understanding. Knowledge is a cooperative affair between the knower and the thing known. (pg. 287)


Although I can distinguish the difference between myself as a knower and the thing I know, I can never know that thing as it is in itself, for the moment I know it, I know it as my structured mind permits me to know it. My mind always brings certain ways of thinking to things. (pg. 287)


The distinctive activity of the mind is to synthesize and to unify our experience. (pg. 287)


We perceive things as being in space and time. But space and time are not ideas derived from the things we experience, nor are they concepts. (pg. 287)

Kant acknowledges that space and time are real in some way beyond the mere working of the mind and beyond the realm of ideas.

The unity of our experience must imply a unity of the self. It must be the same self that at once senses an object, remembers its characteristics, imposes upon it the forms of space and time and the category of cause and effect. (pg. 288)

This unity of the self is the soul. The soul is the seat of consciousness.

Human knowledge is forever limited in its scope. Knowledge is limited to the world of experience and it is limited by the manner in which our faculties of perception and thinking organize the raw data of experience. (pg. 288)


Kant did not doubt that the world as it appears to us is not the ultimate reality. (pg. 288,289)

In observing a ladybug we know that its view of reality is limited. In like manner, our view of reality is limited as well. Our senses don't provide us with a view of everything.

In the new heavens and new earth the redeemed will achieve the largest view of the world that is possible for our species, but our view will forever be limited. Just as the angels can never know of material sense experience, we can never know of God's ways.

I believe that animals and other creatures will be present in the new heavens and new earth, but each will be limited to what is possible for its species. Yet no matter how limited each kind of creature is, all inhabitants of the new heavens and new earth will commune with God and will worship God.

Even plants and rocks can worship God and commune with him. This is because they all have living souls.

(Isaiah 55:12) For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

We know that the existence of our world of experience is not produced by the mind. There is a reality external to us that exists independently of us but that we can know only as it appears to us and is organized by us. (pg. 289)

I wonder how Kant knows of the existence of this external reality? I know that there is a creator God who creates all things and who desires that we love, obey, and serve him. So I agree that there is an external reality, however, I know more about it than Kant does. That is because I accept divine revelation as a source of information, knowledge, and wisdom.

I suppose it's my particular life circumstances that led me to believe in Christianity as the true expression of reality. After being an atheist, then a yoga practitioner who accepted the teachings of eastern philosophy, then a "New Age" adherent, I came to the conclusion that only Christianity explains reality. There is no other explanation possible to explain morality and the existence of evil. All these non-Christian and pseudo-Christian philosophies are spiritually bankrupt and offer no hope for mankind.


Transcendental Ideas

There are three regulative ideas that we tend to think about, ideas that lead us beyond sense experiences but about which we cannot be indifferent because of our inevitable tendency to try to unify all our experience: These three ideas are self, cosmos, God. These ideas are transcendental because they correspond to no object of our experience. They are produced not by intuition but by pure reason alone. (pg. 289)


Our pure reason tries to synthesize the various psychological activities we are aware of into a unity, and it does this by formulating the concept of the self. (pg. 289)

This seems contradictory to me. How can reason form a unifying concept of self unless this reason was already unified into a unity? God creates each soul having the attribute of personhood.

Pure reason tries to create a synthesis of the many events in experience by forming the concept of the world. (pg. 289)


We have not the slightest ground to assume in an absolute manner the object of the idea of God. All connection in the world be viewed in accordance with the principles of a systematic unity — as if all such connection had its source in one single all-embracing being as the supreme and sufficient cause. (pg. 289)

It's absurd to think the mind creates the concept of God. There would be no mind at all if God had not created it.

Kant believed that the earlier rationalists had made the error of treating transcendental ideas as though they were ideas about transcendent or actual beings. (pg. 290)

These transcendent beings actually exist in the spiritual realm. This does not mean these transcendent beings are the source of these transcendental ideas.

We can have scientific knowledge of phenomena but cannot have scientific knowledge of the noumenal realm, or the realm that transcends experience. Our attempts to achieve a "science" of metaphysics are doomed to failure. (pg. 290)

The term "noumenal" refers to the thing-in-itself apart from its being experienced by the senses.

The term "phenomenal" refers to something experienced through the senses.

Kant assumes that there is no knowledge possible apart from the senses. He, therefore, rejects the existence of the soulwhich lives in the spiritual realm and which has the ability to know of things via implanted knowledge from other spirit beings including God. Modern science is founded on the assumption that such a spiritual realm doesn't exist.

We can argue with equal force on opposite side of various propositions, namely, that (1) the world is limited in time and space, or that it is unlimited; that (2) besides causality in accordance with the laws of nature there is also another causality, that of freedom, or that there is no freedom since everything in the world takes place solely in accordance with the laws of nature; that (3) there exists an absolutely necessary being as a part of the world or as its cause, or an absolutely necessary being nowhere exists. (pg. 290)

There is a true answer regarding these three things...

  1. God exists.
  2. The physical universe is finite; only God is infinite.
  3. God usually uses the natural laws to create the universebut he adjusts based on the desires of the heart of created creatures.

The regulative ideas (the self, the world, God) have a legitimate function, for they help us to synthesize our experience. (pg. 291)


There can never be any demonstrative proof either that man is free or that God exists because these concepts refer us beyond sense experience, where the categories of the mind have no data upon which to work. Kant rejected the traditional proofs for the existence of God. Neither can we demonstrate that God does not exist. (pg. 291,292)

The soul resides in the spiritual realmand has spiritual senses which receive all kinds of data from within the spiritual realm. This includes divine revelation.

Philosophers' rejection of the Christian God causes them to come up with wrong conclusions.


Moral Knowledge

Though I cannot know; I can yet think freedom. (pg. 293)


Kant provided the basis for moral and religious discourse by distinguishing two kinds of reality, the phenomenal and the noumenal, and by limiting the scope of science to the phenomenal. (pg. 293)

The term "noumenal" refers to the thing-in-itself apart from its being experienced by the senses.

The term "phenomenal" refers to something experienced through the senses.

The task of moral philosophy is to discover how we are able to arrive at principles of behavior that are binding upon all humanity. We cannot discover these principles simply by studying the actual behavior of people. (pg. 293)


Morality is an aspect of rationality and has to do with our consciousness of rules or "laws" of behavior, which we consider both universal and necessary. (pg. 294)

They are universal and necessary because they derive from God. I wonder how he can refer to something as universal without God?

Instead of searching for the quality of "goodness" in the effects of our actions, Kant focuses upon the rational aspect of our behavior. (pg. 294)

It's not goodness nor rationality that drives morality but, rather, God's holiness.

When I consider what I must do I am also considering what all rational beings must do, for if a moral law or rule is valid for me as a rational being, it must be valid for all rational beings. A major test of a morally good act is, therefore, whether its principle can be applied to all rational beings and applied consistently. Moral philosophy is the quest for these principles that apply to all rational beings and that lead to behavior that we call good. (pg. 294)

So many assumptions: (1) morality must be universal, (2) rational thought can determine this, (3) goodness is absolute.

The "good will" is good not because of what it causes or accomplishes, not because of its usefulness in the attainment of some set purpose, but alone because of the willing, that is to say, it is good of itself. (pg. 295)


A rational being strives to do what he ought to do, and this is distinguished from an act that a person does either from inclination or self-interest. We can all compare the differences in these motives. (pg. 295)

We ought to do it because it pleases God and we desire to please him.

Kant emphasizes the dominant role of the will in morality. It is not enough for the effects or consequences of our behavior to agree with the moral law; the truly moral act is done for the sake of the moral law. (pg. 295)


The Categorical Imperative

Act only on that maxim whereby thou canst at the same time will that it should become a universal law. Act as if the maxim of thy action were to become a universal law of nature. (pg. 295,296)

Similar to the golden rule — do unto others as you wish them to do unto you.

Act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only. (pg. 296)


The categorical imperative applies to all people and commands an action as necessary of itself without reference to another end, that is, as objectively necessary. (pg. 295)


The categorical imperative does not give us specific rules of conduct; it is simply an abstract formula. But this is precisely what moral philosophy should provide us in order to guide our moral behavior, for once we understand the fundamental principle of the moral law, we can then apply it to specific cases. (pg. 296)


There is something about a human being that makes him resist and resent being treated as a thing instead of a person. We become a thing when someone uses us as a means for some other end. (pg. 296)

This distinction is very subjective. How do we really know their motives?

Each person through his own act of will legislates the moral law. (pg. 296)


We must attribute to every rational being which has a will that it has also the idea of freedom and acts entirely under this idea. (pg. 296)


The Moral Postulates

Though we cannot demonstrate that our wills are free, we are intellectually compelled to assume such freedom, for freedom and morality are inseparably united. (pg. 297)

It's very telling that he makes such a strong connection between freedom and morality. This is the key ingredient to sin: we freely choose to act in an immoral, sinful manner.

Immortality: Though it does not always happen so, we assume that virtue ought to produce happiness. The supreme good includes both virtue and happiness, but our experience indicates that there is no necessary connection between virtue and happiness. If we were to limit human experience to this world, it would then appear impossible to achieve the supreme good in its fullness. Since the moral law commands us to strive for perfect good, and this implies an indefinite progress toward this ideal, but this endless progress is possible only on the supposition of the unending duration of the existence and personality of the same rational being, which is called the immortality of the soul. (pg. 297)

The new heavens and new earthprovides the missing ingredient — there will someday be a utopia for the redeemed. Virtue will result in eternal happiness for these. We cannot achieve utopia on this earth until the new heavens and new earth. We make progress toward the ideal of supreme good by choosing eternal life with God involving repentance and faith.

This is a round about way to prove the soul is immortal.

The moral universe also compels us to postulate the existence of God as the grounds for the necessary connection between virtue and happiness. [Kant uses a rather long-winded argument at this point.] (pg. 297)


Jeremy Bentham . . .


Bentham's greatest-happiness principle: he assumed that we ought to choose those acts that produce for us the greatest quantity of pleasure and that we should naturally help other people achieve happiness because in that way we should secure our own. (pg. 348)

Providing happiness for others merely ensures they will exploit you.

Bentham put his faith in democracy as the great cure for social evils inasmuch as in a democracy the interests of the rulers and the ruled are the same because the rulers are the ruled. (pg. 349)

Perhaps in this world of sin democracy is the best form of government but it is far from perfect. It devolves into the state providing handouts for the voters.

Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do. (pg. 338,339)

In a sense this is true. The ultimate goal of the unredeemed is eternal misery. Eternal life in the new heavens and new earthis one of joy, peace, and happiness. But spiritual pleasure is the key, the satisfaction of pleasing God; not physical bodily pleasure.

Bentham moves from the fact that we do desire pleasure to the judgment that we ought to pursue pleasure. There is a gap which he does not fill with any careful argument. (pg. 339)


Principle of utility: The principle which approves (good, right) or disapproves (bad, wrong) of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish happiness. (pg. 339)


Pleasures and pains differ from each other and therefore have different values (intensity, duration, certainty, nearness). (pg. 340)


Sum up all the values of all the pleasures on the one side, and those of all the pains on the other. The balance, if it be on the side of pleasure, will give the good tendency of the act, if on the side of pain, the bad tendency. (pg. 341)

What kind of computer would be needed? How do we quantify pleasure and pain so we can perform such calculations?

We should include the future in this calculation. If we increase someone's pleasure now but as a result they end in hellfor eternity...

All punishment is in itself evil because it inflicts suffering and pain. The object which all laws have in common is to augment the total happiness of the community. If punishment is to be justified it must be shown that the pain inflicted must in some way prevent or exclude some greater pain. (pg. 342)

Does this mean torturing one person is OK as long as enough other people benefit?


Hegel . . .


Kierkegaard's view of Hegel: Hegel tried to capture all of reality in his system of thought and, in the process had lost the most important element, namely, existence. (pg. 450)

This highlights a key truth. Relationship with God, with Jesus, is the key thing.

Hegel's philosophy falsified people's understanding of reality because it shifted attention away from the concrete individual to the concept of universals. It called upon individuals to think instead of to be. (pg. 450,451)


Hegel's dialectic [process of change] moves gradually toward a knowledge of the universal. He overcomes the antithesis by a conceptual act. (pg. 454)


Ideas develop in a dialectic way, through the action and reaction of thought. This dialectic process is a movement from thesis to antithesis and then to synthesis, where the synthesis becomes a new thesis and the process goes on and on. Hegel said that the external social, political, and economic world is simply the embodiment of men's (and God's) ideas. (pg. 378)

Notice the scope is the development of ideas. Of course, ideas influence culture and behavior.

Some people claim for Hegel something I don't think he taught. An example: to create social change, first create a crisis such as food shortages. Then a band of revolutionaries can move in promising food and take control, ousting the previous government.

People agreed for the most part in their religious, moral, and juristic thought because there was at work in them a universal Spirit, the Idea. (pg. 386)

In my view, all these elements Hegel emphasizes reside in the spiritual realm.

The object of our consciousness, the thing we experience and think about, is itself thought. Reality is to be found in the Absolute Idea. (pg. 307)

The Absolute Idea is God. But God is more than just Idea; he incorporates in his Being all aspects of reality since he is the source of everything (except evil, sin, pain, and suffering).

(1) We must reject the notion of an unknowable thing-in-itself, (2) the nature of reality is thought, rationality, and that ultimate reality is the Absolute Idea. (pg. 307)


The Absolute (called God in theological terms) is not a Being separate from the world of nature or even from individual persons. (pg. 307)

God permeates everything.

Appearance is reality. (pg. 307)


Hegel rejected the premise of materialism, which held that there are separate, finite particles of hard matter, which, when arranged in different formations, make up the whole nature of things. (pg. 307)

The physical world does exist and is composed of matter and energy. But the spiritual realm is where life resides.

The inner essence of the Absolute can be reached by human reason because the Absolute is disclosed in Nature as well in the working of the human mind. A person's way of thinking is fixed by the structure of Nature, by the way things actually behave. Things behave as they do because the Absolute is expressing itself through the structure of Nature. (pg. 307)


Movement from thesis to antithesis to synthesis (triad), after which the synthesis becomes a new thesis, and this process continues until it ends in the Absolute Idea. Thought moves. Contradiction, rather than bringing knowledge to a halt, acts as a positive moving force in human reasoning. (pg. 308)

Many philosophers after Hegel based their views on the notion of thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Marx seemed to think that this process in some way provided the force behind the movement of reality.

I am troubled that some of the modern philosophers seem to consider that thoughts and ideas are alive without consideration of the soul as the seat of life. Thoughts and ideas are not alive: souls are alive, and thought and ideas are attributes of the living, spiritual soul.The soul resides in the spiritual realm and such things as thoughts, ideas, creativity, and consciousness are all spiritual phenomenawhich originate from God's nature, from his very essence.

A philosophical system is bankrupt if it does not have God as the center and if it considers that life exists outside of God's creative power.

To illustrate: the first basic triad, namely, the triad of Being, Nothing, and Becoming. Various things all have one thing in common, namely, their being. Being, then, is the most general concept the mind can formulate. (pg. 308)


Hegel believed he had discovered something new about the nature of thought. Ever since Aristotle, logicians had thought that nothing could be deduced from a category that was not contained in that category. The part of this that Hegel rejected was the assumption that nothing could be deduced from a universal term. For example, from the concept of Being it is possible to deduce another concept. Whenever we try to think of Being without any particular characteristics, the mind moves from Being to not-Being. To understand Being and Nothing as the same is one of the hardest things thought expects itself to do. (pg. 308,309)

It seems to me that when philosophers try to discover the essence of thought or reality apart from the Christian concept of a creator God, they come up with the most unlikely of explanation. I think this is because replacing God with anything else leads to absurdity. How much easier and crisper it is to ascribe aspects of life to the spiritual realmunder the direction and guidance of a God who is in essence living and Spirit.

The concept of pure Being contains the idea of Nothing. The antithesis, Nothing, is contained in the thesis, Being. (pg. 309)

This thought is less profound than Hegel makes it out to be.

The movement of the mind from Being to Nothing produces a third category, namely Becoming. Becoming is the unity of Being and Nothing. It one idea. Becoming is therefore the synthesis of Being and Nothing. Something can both be and not be when it becomes. (pg. 309)

This thought is less profound than Hegel makes it out to be. As an idea enters our conscious experience it will first be not present, then it will become present. But how can a whole system of philosophy be built on this observation. This is madness!

Institutions are not the creation of man, but are the product of the dialectic movement of history, of the objective manifestation of rational reality. (pg. 311)

I think it is this kind of thinking that leads to such ideas as the "forces of history" and of Marx's historical views. It's as if, rather than accept a personal God, they prefer, instead, to grant the idea that reality performs living functions (without itself being alive).

Individuals are aware of freedom. They express their freedom most concretely by an act of will. (pg. 312)


Morality has to do with those deeds for which people can themselves be held responsible. Only those consequences that a person intends and that constitute the purpose of his or her act can affect the goodness or badness of this act. The essence of morality is found internally in a person's intention and purpose. (pg. 312)

Very true. Hegel probably got this idea from his Christian upbringing.

Human behavior takes place always in a context, especially in a context of other persons. Moral duty or responsibility is broader than the concerns or intentions of the individual. Although it is perfectly legitimate for people to be concerned with their own happiness and welfare, the principle of rationality requires that they must exercise their own will in such a way that the wills of other persons, also acting freely, can achieve their welfare as well. (pg. 312)

How does the "principle of rationality" dictate this? It seems to me that the Christian concept of morality better describes our obligation to consider the welfare of others.

The realization of freedom has to occur within the limits of duty. The freest person is the one who most completely fulfills his or her duty. (pg. 313)

It depends on the duty and the source of the duty. People oppressed be too much imposed duty are not free.

In marriage, two persons give up their individual wills to some degree in order to become one person. Because the family is a single unit, its property becomes a common possession. (pg. 313)


The state as an authority is not imposed from the outside upon the individual, nor is it the product of the general or majority will. The state is the embodiment of rational freedom. The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth. (pg. 313)

This statement seems idealistic to the extreme.

Hegel was not interested in formulating a theory of the ideal state. (pg. 313)

His writings about this topic would be more compelling if it was more concrete; if it addressed real people and real states.

The preservation by the state of individual liberty. Neither the family nor civil society is destroyed by the state; they continue to exist within the state. The laws of the state and, in general, the legislative and executive arms of the state do not issue arbitrary commands. Laws must be rational and directed at rational persons. The reason for laws is that men, in their ability to make free choices, are capable of choosing ends that harm others. (pg. 314)

Discussions of political science are not Hegel's strong point.

What makes an act rational is that it at once achieves a person's private good as well as the public good. Only a person who acts rationally can be free, because only rational acts can be permitted in society, because only rational acts avoid social harm. The function of the state is therefore not to compound personal harm or misery by issuing arbitrary and therefore irrational commands, but rather to increase, through its laws, the aggregate of rational behavior. (pg. 314)


Laws of the state, rather than being arbitrary, are rational rules of behavior that the individual himself would choose if he were acting rationally. (pg. 314)

This is an idealistic statement. Perhaps this is a good rule of what is moral. The difficulty is that different people would want there to be different laws. How are the people at large to determine whose laws are the ones that are binding on all of society?

Relations between states. Autonomy and absolute sovereignty of each state. (pg. 314)


The history of the world is the history of nations. (pg. 315)

The majority of world history involved tribes. Perhaps he is referring to civilizations, not nations.


John Stuart Mill . . .


John Stuart Mill defended the principle of utility but in the process modified it drastically. (pg. 346)


The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals Utility, or the greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By 'happiness' is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by 'unhappiness,' pain, and the privation of pleasure. (pg. 346)

Pleasure is the ultimate thing? no mention of fellowship with God or of pleasing God?

Perhaps this would be a good approach if you meant eternal misery in helland eternal bliss in God's presence in the new heavens and new earth.

Pleasures differ from each other in kind and quality, not only in quantity. (Thus, you cannot simply measure them and compare them to determine the greatest good.) (pg. 346)


Human beings have faculties more elevated than the animal appetites. (pg. 347)


Mill struck at Bentham's important assumption, namely, that pleasures and pains can be calculated or measured. In Mill's view, there is no way to measure either the quantity of quality of pleasures. (pg. 347)

You can't measure them but you have to choose which is better. Sounds like a recipe for hedonism.

If we have to make a choice between two pleasures, we can express a preference wisely only if we have experienced both possibilities. (pg. 348)

Sounds like a recipe for total hedonism. You have to try to experience as many different kinds of pleasure as possible so you will get better and better at judging which is better. But what happens when you get older and start to have aches and pains, when life's pleasures diminish? I suppose the quality of life decreases. With no God to please and no new heavens and new earthto look forward to, life could get dismal indeed.

Mill accepted the greatest-happiness principle of Bentham but added the quality of altruism to it, saying that the happiness which forms the utilitarian standard of what is right in conduct, is not the agent's own happiness, but that of all concerned — the greatest happiness of the greatest number. (pg. 348)

How can you choose which thing causes more happiness for someone else since you can't experience it from their perspective?

Laws and social arrangements should place the happiness or the interest of every individual, as nearly as possible, in harmony with the interest of the whole. Education and opinion, which have so vast a power over human character, should so use that power as to establish in the mind of every individual an indissoluble association between his own happiness and the good of the whole. (pg. 348)


The further Mill pursues his argument, the less utilitarian it sounds. (pg. 348)


How the individual and the government should be related. (pg. 349)


Democracy is the best form of government but there are certain dangers inherent in the democratic form of government such as: the will of the people is most often the will of the majority, and it is entirely possible for the majority to oppress the minority. In addition, there is in a democracy the tyranny of opinion, a danger as great as oppression. Even in a democracy, therefore, it is necessary to set up safeguards against the forces that would deny men their free and full self-development. (pg. 349)

Yes, this is true.

Preserve liberty by setting limits to the actions of government. (pg. 350)

Who will do this? Can we trust them? Likely not.

The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. The only purpose for which power can be rightly exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. No government should interfere with its subjects (1) when the action can be done better by private persons; (2) when, although the government could possibly do the action better than private individuals, it is desirable for the individuals to do it for their development and education; and (3) when there is danger that too much power will unnecessarily accrue to the government. (pg. 350)

This reminds me of libertarianism.

Let each individual pursue his happiness in his own way. (pg. 350)


People must be free to express their thoughts and beliefs, because truth is most quickly discovered when opportunity is given to refute falsehoods. (pg. 350)

Americans are losing this freedom in the name of diversity and multiculturalism. Criticizing the beliefs and practices of others is considered a hate crime. Christian ideas are no longer toleratedby the culture at large.

What is to be done if those who do not know and appreciate the higher values do not want them? In this situation, Mill advocated compulsory education, thereby reversing his earlier views that people must not interfere with the liberty of any member of society even for his own good. (pg. 350)


The difficulties of stating utilitarianism as a consistent philosophy are nowhere better seen than in Mill's own attempts to defend its principle. (pg. 350)


Soren Kierkegaard . . .


Kierkegaard reserved the term existence for the individual human being. (pg. 450)


To exist implies being a certain kid of individual, an individual who strives, who considers alternatives, who chooses, who decides, and who, above all, makes a commitment. (pg. 450)


Kierkegaard's whole career might well be considered a self-conscious revolt against abstract thought: to think as a living, real being, to think in Existence. (pg. 450)


To "think in Existence" is to recognize that one is faced with personal choices. Our thinking ought to deal with our own personal situation with a view to coming to terms with the problem of alternatives and choices. (pg. 450)


Kierkegaard made a distinction between the spectator and the actor, arguing that only the actor is involved in existence. (pg. 451)


Existence refers to our conscious participation in an act. (pg. 451)


Kierkegaard's criticism of rational knowledge was severe. He revolted against the rational emphasis in Greek wisdom, which, he charged, had permeated subsequent philosophy and Christian theology. He felt that Greek philosophy had been too greatly influenced by a high regard for mathematics. He rejected the assumptions that the mode of thought characteristic of science could be successfully employed when trying to understand human nature. Mathematics and science have no place for the human individual, only for the general, the universal. (pg. 452)

It seems to me that much of philosophy is misguided; the efforts are spent trying to describe how reality, thought, consciousness, morality works using reason and the power of the mind.

Even when a person has knowledge, they are still in the predicament of having to make a decision. (pg. 452)


The highest truth attainable for an Existing individual is simply an objective uncertainty held fast in the most passionate personal experience. (pg. 453)


The cultivation of the mind is not the only important or decisive thing in life. Of more consequence is the development and maturity of personality. (pg. 453)

I would go one step further and say that the spiritual enlivenment of the soul is the most important thing — whether or not a person ends up in the new heavens and new earthor in hell.

Kierkegaard distinguished between people's present estate, that is, what they now are, and what they ought to be, or what they are essentially. (pg. 453)


To relate oneself to God is a far higher thing than to be related to any other thing, whether a person, race, or even a church. (pg. 454)

Certainly God is above any church. The purpose of a church is to enable us to relate to God. If the church fails in this, then it is worthless. Our relationship with God, especially our eternal relationship with God, is the most important thing in life.


The Three Stages

Aesthetic, Ethical, Religious. (pg. 454)


The movement of the self from one level of existence to another through a act of will, an act of choice. (pg. 454)


Kierkegaard's dialectic [process of change] involves the progressive actualization of the individual. He overcomes the antithesis by the act of personal commitment. (pg. 454)


Aesthetic Stage: A person behaves according to his impulses and emotions. His chief motivation is a desire to enjoy the widest variety of pleasures of the senses. He resents anything that would limit his vast freedom of choice. (pg. 454)


The antithesis [contradictory proposition] of the sensual drive is the lure of the spirit. This conflict produces anxiety and despair; life at this level cannot possibly produce his authentic self, cannot result in true existence. (pg. 454)


The transition to the next level cannot be made by thinking alone but must be achieved by making a decision, or by and act of will, a commitment. (pg. 454)

Kierkegaard assumes the existence of 3 levels as if all humans are on a specific journey, but I see no reason to assume this at all. Certainly children are on journey of sorts as they mature and develop. And certainly adults mature spiritually, some more, some less. God is calling each person to look to him as the focus and center of their life and this requires faith. But the 3 stages Kierkegaard proposes seem arbitrary to me.

Ethical Stage: Moral rules give the ethical man's life the elements of form and consistency. He accepts the limitations upon his life that moral responsibility imposes. He takes a firm stand on moral questions and assumes that to know the good is to do the good. (pg. 454,455)


Ethical people ultimately come to realize that they are in fact incapable of fulfilling the moral law, that they deliberately violate that law, and therefore become conscious of their guilt. Guilt, or the sense of sin, guides them to the next level. (pg. 455)


The next stage, the religious stage, cannot be achieved by thinking alone but an act of commitment, by a leap of faith. (pg. 455)


Religious Stage: When it is a question of one's relation to God, there is available no rational or conceptual or objective knowledge about this relationship. (pg. 455)


The relationship between God and each individual is a unique and subjective experience. There is no way, prior to the actual relationship, to get any knowledge about it. (pg. 455)


Only an act of faith can assure the existing individual of their personal relation to God. That we must find our self-fulfillment in God becomes clear to us as we discover the inadequacy of our existence at the aesthetic and ethical levels. (pg. 455,456)


The existence of God is suggested to us in our awareness of our self-alienation. (pg. 456)


With faith, the existing individual realizes his true self. (pg. 456)


Each person possesses and essential self, which they ought to actualize. This essential self is fixed by the very fact that human beings must inescapably become related to God. (pg. 456)


Karl Marx . . .


Marxism provided no explicit role for morality and freedom. (pg. 474)


Marx had expressed his passion for action when he wrote that hitherto philosophers had merely understood the world; the point, however, is to change it. (pg. 475)

What's the point of changing the world unless you change it for the better. For example, Alexander the Great changed the world by conquering it, but what was the benefit?

Marx dialectical materialism emphasized that all the structures and organizations of society and the behavior and thinking of human beings are determined by antecedent events. In this view, freedom of choice is an illusion and man is simply a vehicle through which the forces of history realize themselves. Marxism holds that history is a process which produces the material foundations of social and economic structures, a process which therefore contains within itself the conditions and the reasons for its own development. Rather than conferring meaning upon the world, the mind discovers this meaning within the historical context as a matter of scientific knowledge. (pg. 481)

When I hear the phrase "forces of history" I wonder if this is some sort of living, spiritual entity? It certainly is not a scientific natural law.

There is only one reality, and this can be discovered as the embodiment of rationality in the world. (pg. 374)


History is a process of development and change from less to more perfect forms in all of reality, including physical nature, social and political life, and human thought. (pg. 374)

I'm not sure you can prove the world is getting better. The wars of the 20th century killed more people than in all of human history before.

The thoughts and behavior of men at any given time and place are caused by the operation in them of an identical spirit or mind, the spirit of the particular time of epoch. (pg. 374)

Marx proposes a "spirit" of the time which acts on all living humans of that time and affects their thoughts and behavior. This is a scary thought. He wants to attribute observed differences in the various historical epochs to some sort of living, sentient life force or spirit.

I would be less troubled if Marx said, instead, that God exists and has a particular plan and purpose for all of humanity at every particular time. However, I see no evidence of a "plan of God" that controls and guides history. Rather, it seems that God interacts with the world of humans as we choose and "evolve," and provides opportunities at every moment for us to put our faith in him.

This illustrates my objection to the modern philosophers in general — they want to acknowledge the powers of a divine God without admitting that there is a God. It seems easier to just accept that there is a personal God who is doing all this than to try to explain how such things as thoughts and ideas are alive and how they are able to have such supernatural powers.

Revolutions do not succeed if they consist only in romantic ideas while overlooking the realities of the material order. (pg. 375)


Not every idea or every strategy utilized by world communism can rightly be ascribed to Marx. (pg. 376)


Three basic elements of Marxist thought: (1) the major epochs of history, (2) the causal power of the material order, and (3) the source and role of ideas. (pg. 376)


What Marx did that was new: (1) prove that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historic phases in the development of production; (2) prove that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; and (3) prove that the dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society. (pg. 376)


The five phases of the class struggle: (1) the primitive communal, (2) slave, (3) feudal, (4) capitalist, and as a prediction of things to come, (5) the socialist and communist. (pg. 376)


History, according to Marx, is a movement caused by conflicts in the material order, and for this reason history is a dialectical materialism. (pg. 378)


What history shows is that social and economic orders are in a process of change. The material order is primary, since it is the basis of what is truly real. (pg. 378)


Materialism meant to Marx that the world as we see it is all there is. (pg. 378)

I don't think Marx is being completely honest in this claim. He interprets reality in terms of Hegel's dialectic and ascribes to history a sort of spiritual life and power that an abstract thing such as an idea simply cannot have. Life is the important thing, and that originates from the Life of God. Without that foundation, all our theories about reality are useless and harmful.

History is the process of change form one epoch to another in accordance with the rigorous and inexorable laws of historical motion. Change is not the same as mere growth. A society does not simply mature the way a boy becomes a man. (pg. 378)

Marx assumes there is such a thing as the law of historical motion, or the force of history. He must assume this because historical change exists — he cannot simply ignore this fact. Since he rejects God, he must assume some form of "force of history" as if that were a force of nature or a natural law. It seems simpler and more sensible to me to ascribe such living kinds of things to the spiritual realmand to God as the creator of all things spiritual, living, and material. Why is it so hard for people to see this as the simpler explanation?

Why are they so obsessed with rejecting the existence of God?

There is a definite and inexorable process of movement and change at work in producing "history". (pg. 379)


History displays a law of determinism but not in a strictly mechanical way. (pg. 379)

I don't see any sort of law of determinism in historical events, rather, I see the activities of various human souls having various motives and purposes. People do things for almost unexplainable reasons and these affect others. It is hard to understand how someone could assess all the events of history and claim that these are determined — that there are patterns and "laws of history" guiding events.


Marx predicted that capitalism would inevitably fall and would be transformed by the wave of the future, giving way to the qualitatively different social order of socialism and communism. (pg. 379,380)

Conservatives like to scoff at Marx's conclusion but it does seem that the post-industrial world is moving toward socialism. Certainly Europe and Canada have socialistic tendencies and America is following suit.

History will end with the emergence of socialism and, finally, communism. (pg. 380)

If history does end this way it will be due to ultra exploitation of the masses of humanity. No free-will person will accept this as the natural human condition; they must be forced. And if history is any guide, the ruthless leaders will use the lure of socialism and communism as an excuse to exploit the masses as they have done many time in past history in various socialistic and communistic nations. The people inevitably suffer under socialism and communism and these systems create strong class systems.

When the inner contradictions between the classes are resolved, the principle cause of movement and change will disappear, and a classless society will emerge where all the forces and interests will be in perfect balance, and this equilibrium will be perpetual. For this reason there can be no further development in history after this, inasmuch as there will no longer be any conflict to impel history on to any future epoch. (pg. 380)

This utopia will only finally occur in the new heavens and new earth.

The notion that any spiritual reality, God, for example, exists outside our minds and as something other than nature is denied. That human beings possess minds means only that organic matter has developed to the point where the cerebral cortex has become the organ capable of the intricate process of reflex action called human thought. (pg. 380)

This explains nothing.

Production always takes place as a social act, where men struggle against and utilize nature not as individuals but as groups, as societies. (pg. 381)


The relations of production was considered by Marx to be the core of his social analysis. It was here that he had located the energizing force of the dialectic process. (pg. 381)


The key to the relations of production was the status of property or its ownership; that is, what determined how men were related to each other in the process of production was their relation to property. Under the slave system, for example, the slave owner owned the means of production, even owning the slave, whom he could purchase or sell. (pg. 381)


The laborer, slave or hired, is "exploited" in that he shares in neither the ownership nor in the fruits of production. (pg. 381)

It seems arbitrary to me that ownership is the test of whether or not a person is exploited. Why is it not sufficient for the workers to get a good deal, to be suitably paid for their labor? Why must they own the factory or the equipment? Just as a person who rents an apartment gets a good deal — it is not only home owners who get a good deal. Ownership is not the end-all be-all.

It is possible that someone can own something but the ownership itself is a form of exploitation. For example, suppose someone wants to tour the countryside playing music for a living but they own a factory and are chained to it by certain contracts. It seems to me that the ownership traps them and keeps them from being fulfilled.

Marx's philosophical system merely assumes what it tries to prove then interprets all events within that framework. It is very myopic.

In the feudal system, the feudal lord owns the means of production: the serf works for the feudal lord and feels exploited and struggles against his exploiter. In capitalism, the workers do not own the means of production and they must sell their labor to the capitalist. (pg. 381)

In feudalism the serfs barely survived at subsistence level while the aristocrats enjoyed lavish luxury. In today's world the rich are again getting richer while the poor get poorer. But society should be structured so that everyone has enough for basic survival.

The class struggle is particularly violent under capitalism. (pg. 382)

Certainly the plight of the peasants under feudalism was no better than the plight of the exploited workers in the early days of capitalism. But today, many workers in capitalistic societies would consider that they have a good life.

Three characteristics of the class struggle under capitalism: (pg. 382)

  1. Two classes: the owners (bourgeoisie), and the workers (proletariat)
  2. Although both classes participate in the act of production, the mode of distribution of the fruits of production does not correspond to the contribution made by each class because the price of labor is determined by the forces of supply and demand and the large surplus of workers tends to send wages down to a subsistence level.
  3. The prediction that the condition of the workers in capitalism would become progressively more wretched, that the poor would become poorer and more numerous while the rich would become richer and fewer, until the masses would take over all the means of production. As a matter of historic fact, Marx could not have been more wrong than he was at this point, since it is precisely the workers whose condition has improved most dramatically in the highly developed capitalistic economies.

It is true that economic factors produce weird results at times. Regulation by government is required but governments often have the wrong vision of their proper role. This is true for all forms of government — no exceptions.

Marx's analysis assumed the labor theory of value, that the value of the product is created by the amount of labor put into it. (pg. 382)

It is hard to understand the justification of this theory.

This is a topic of economics, not philosophy.

The class conflict caused by the contradiction of surplus value (that workers sell their labor for less than its value to the capitalists) would force the dialectic movement to the next stage of history, namely, socialism and finally communism. (pg. 383)


Workers' lives would be terribly dehumanized by what Marx called "the alienation of labor." (pg. 383)


Marx calls attention to four aspects of alienation, saying that man is alienated (1) from nature, (2) from himself, (3) from his species-being, and (4) from other men. (pg. 383)


The ideas of each epoch grow out of and reflect the actual material conditions of the historic period. Thinking comes after the material order has affected people's minds. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being determines their consciousness. (pg. 386)


Such ideas as justice and goodness and even religious salvation are only various modes of rationalizing the existing order. Justice, for example, represents the will of the economically dominant class and its desire to "freeze" the relations of production as they are. (pg. 386)


Marx rejected the notion of a universal and eternal norm of justice. (pg. 386)


Those who hold on to old ideas do not realize that there is no longer any reality corresponding to them, and their desire to reverse the order of things to fit into these ideas makes them "reactionaries." But, an astute observer can discover the direction in which history is moving and will adjust his thinking and behavior to it. (pg. 387)

It's more likely that an "astute observer" will figure out how to exploit the masses for his own benefit.

Those who assume the objective reality of "eternal principles" of justice, goodness, and righteousness do not realize that such notions cannot refer to reality since the material order, which is the only realty, is constantly changing. (pg. 387)

Marx failed to distinguish properly between the physical realm and the spiritual realmin his "material order"; many aspects of his material order actually reside in the spiritual realm.

Odd that he rejects things that don't change, that he rejects absolutes. The fact that creatures have souls is absolutely true but this truth never changes.

Ideas are particularly useless when they bear no relationship to the economic reality. Marx's impatience with reformers, do-gooders, and utopians was intense. (pg. 387)

It seems to me Marx himself had utopian ideals.

Almost every aspect of Marx's thought raises serious critical questions. For example, his scientific style was not adequately supported by empirical observations. (pg. 387)


It is a matter of fascination that Marxism as a philosophy should have spread chiefly among under-developed peoples rather than in the advanced capitalist states where, presumably, it was supposed to have its greatest relevance. (pg. 387)

I am not surprised by this in the least. Marxism as a philosophy is ripe for use by unscrupulous tyrants to use to exploit the masses which is exactly how it was used. For example, Lenin used to utopian promises of Marxism to gain support from the people — but it was all lies; he had no intention in the least of creating a communistic state along Marxist principles.

What tyrant wouldn't love a philosophy in which he can take property of all the citizens for his own use in the name of the State.


Nietzsche . . .


The same behavior that is considered evil from one perspective may be characterized as good from another. (pg. 389)

Inflicting severe pain to a young child without a good reason (such as medical or disciplinary or other unusual reason, perhaps to save its life) is never good. Killing the Jews in the concentration camps of Germany was not good. It is easy to imagine actions of psychopaths and other demented people which are not good. To claim that there is a good in such behaviors is to have lost one's soul completely.

Merely desiring to perform a perverse deed does not make it good from the perspective of the one performing the deed. The insane satisfaction that a mass murderer feels while committing atrocities is not good but is, rather, evil. The modern philosophers who have rejected God have completed lost their bearings.

Evil is that spirit which rejects God and his law and which seeks to destroy life and beauty. Those who perform evil deeds and who think evil thoughts and who have evil attitudes become evil and are judged by God for their evil. Unrepented evil leads to eternal damnation.

It was the least qualified people (Christianity) who fashioned the rules of behavior. Religion had drained the power of the strongest. (pg. 389)


Life is essentially pleasant, joyful and good. (pg. 389)

It will be especially so in the new heavens and new earthfor the redeemed.

Nietzsche did not deny that many actions called immoral ought to be avoided and resisted, and that many called moral ought to be done and encouraged — the one should be encouraged and the other avoided for other reasons than hitherto. (pg. 389)


God is dead. Belief in the Christian God had drastically declined to the point where Nietzsche could say that "God is dead." (pg. 389,392)

Wrong; God is not dead. God exists whether anyone believes in him or not.

Nietzsche wrote in a manner calculated more to provoke serious thought than to give formal answers to questions. (pg. 391)


Philosophers must pay more attention to questions of human values than to abstract systems, and concern themselves with immediate human problems with an attitude of fresh experimentation and a freedom from the dominant values of their culture. (pg. 391,392)


Nietzsche boldly prophesied that power politics and vicious wars were in store for the future. (pg. 392)


Instead of abandoning oneself to the flood of impulse, instinct, and passion, the awareness of these driving forces becomes the occasion for producing a work of art, whether in one's own character through moderation or in literature or the plastic arts through the imposition of form upon a resisting material. (pg. 393)


Nietzsche's formula could provide modern culture with a relevant and workable standard of behavior at a time when religious faith was unable to provide a compelling vision of man's destiny. (pg. 394)


Morality

Nietzsche rejected the notion that there is a universal and absolute system of morality that everyone must equally obey. (pg. 394)


It is unrealistic to assume that there is only one kind of human nature. However, there is one thing that does characterize all human beings: the drive to dominate the environment — the Will to Power. (pg. 394)

Certainly each human seems to have a uniquely-created spirit. Each person's drive and personality is different. Each person seems to be energized by different factors. But I think it is wrong to say that there are different kinds of human nature.

A better way of describing human nature is as follows: Each person has a soulwhich was created by God and which lives in the spiritual realm. This soul is the source of our life. In addition to the soul, each person has certain attributes of the soul; things such as will, desire, ambition, personality factors, motive, will to live, desire to procreate, etc. Each person has these attributes in a unique combination; some have more of one attribute than others do. But each person has the same set of attributes, and this is what make us human.

The "will to power" that Nietzsche postulates is merely an attribute of the soul, or perhaps a set of these attributes. As is typical of modern philosophers, Nietzsche ignores other important human attributes such as the desire to be in the presence of God, the wish to please God, the craving to worship God. In rejecting God, these philosophers must provide for a substitute; some sort of living, driving force such as the "will to power."

The Will to Power is more than simply the will to survive. It is an inner drive to express a vigorous affirmation of all of a person's powers. The strongest and highest Will to Life does not find expression in a miserable struggle for existence. (pg. 394)


Whenever someone proposes a universal moral rule, they invariably seek really to deny the fullest expression of people's elemental vital energies. Christianity, along with Judaism, is the worst offender, for the Judeo-Christian ethics is so contrary to people's basic nature that its anti-natural morality debilitates humanity and produces only botched and bungled lives. (pg. 394,395)

Contrary to their sin nature. Nietzsche may have been objecting to so-called Christian values that aren't really Christian. These wrong views of Christianity by Christians damage the cause of Christ.

How did human beings ever produce such unnatural systems of morality? There is a twofold early history of good and evil, which shows the development of two primary types of morality, namely, the master morality and the slave morality. (pg. 395)


Master morality: Good has always meant "noble" in the sense of "with a soul of high calibre," and evil meant "vulgar" or "plebian." Noble people regard themselves as the creators and determiners of values. They do not look outside of themselves for any approval of their acts. Their morality is one of self-glorification. These noble individuals act out of a feeling of power, which seeks to overflow. They may help the unfortunate, but not out of pity. (pg. 395)


Slave morality originates with the lowest elements of society, the abused, the oppressed, the slaves. For them, "good" is the symbol for all those qualities that serve to alleviate the existence of sufferers, such as sympathy, the kind helping hand, the warm heart, patience, diligence, humility and friendliness. This slave morality is essentially the morality of utility, where goodness refers to whatever is beneficial to those who are weak and powerless. (pg. 395)


Nietzsche's great protest against the dominant Western morality was that it exalted the mediocre values of the "herd," which knows nothing of the fine impulses of great accumulations of strength, as something high, or possibly as the standard of all things. Incredibly, the "herd mentality" in time overcame the master morality by succeeding in making all the noble qualities appear to be vices and all the weak qualities appear to be virtues. (pg. 395,396)

Perhaps the strong are not so strong after all since a herd of weaklings can overpower them so easily and transform the culture.

What must be done is to resist all sentimental weakness: life is essentially appropriation [stealing], injury, conquest of the strange and weak, suppression, severity, obtrusion [imposing] of peculiar forms and at the least, putting it mildest, exploitation. (pg. 396)

Alexander the Great seemed to believe something like this but what good were all his conquests?

Exploitation is not some depraved act, rather, it belongs to the nature of the living being as a primary function. (pg. 396)

He has lost his moral compass.

Nietzsche was appalled that Europe should be subjected to the morality of that small group of wretched outcasts who clustered around Jesus. This was the most repugnant kind of degeneracy that civilization has ever brought into existence. It is incredible that in the New Testament the least qualified people have their say in its pages in regard to the greatest problems of existence. (pg. 396)

I suppose Nietzsche considers his awful ideas to be superior to those of Jesus.

Christianity contradicts nature when it requires us to love our enemies, for Nature's injunction is to hate your enemy. The natural origin of morality is denied by requiring that before a person can love anything, they must first love God. (pg. 396)


All the vital energies of the strong are diluted by routing their thinking toward God. (pg. 397)

Nietzsche has it backwards: neglecting God makes one supremely stupid. The afterlife is real and needs consideration. Merely asserting oneself like an egotist is hardly the end-all be-all of human life.

Among people there is always a surplus of dejective [thrown down], diseased, degenerating, infirm, and necessarily suffering individuals. These are the "failures," which the Judeo-Christian religions seek to keep alive and preserve. (pg. 397)


Men are differentiated into ranks, and it is the quanta of power, and nothing else, which determine and distinguish ranks. Such ideals as equality among men are nonsensical. (pg. 397)

Nietzsche is so supremely arrogant that he thinks his classification of the ranks among humans is correct. He sees raw power as consisting only of dominating the will of those who are weaker. He doesn't seem to recognize that such qualities as love and kindness have their own kind of power.

Humans don't have to be equal in every characteristic to deserve equal dignity. And Nietzsche is blind to God's view of humans: God uniquely loves each person who he uniquely created. Nietzsche considers every other person besides himself to be a mere object to be exploited.

He is actually at the bottom, not the top.

Equality can only mean the leveling downward of everyone to the mediocrity of the herd. (pg. 397)

There can be equality to a standard of human dignity for all. Certainly we should not base the values of our culture on those who have destroyed their lives by drug addiction (for example).

What would Nietzsche want to put in the place of the traditional morality? His positive prescriptions are not so clear as his critical analysis. (pg. 398)


Moral values must in the last analysis be built upon the true nature of humanity and its environment. Unlike Darwin, who laid great stress upon external circumstances when describing the evolution of the species, Nietzsche focused upon the internal power within an individual, which is capable of shaping and creating events, a power which uses and exploits the environment. (pg. 398)


The Superman

A higher culture will always require as its basis a strongly consolidated mediocre herd, but only to make possible the development and emergence of the higher type of man, the "superman." If the superman is to emerge, he must go beyond good and evil as conceived by the lower ranks of men. (pg. 397)

I doubt if there have been an of these. Usually the strong and unscrupulous create a tidal wave of destruction.

The "common herd" will not be intellectually capable of reaching the heights of the "free spirits." There can, therefore, be no "common good." Great things remain for the great. The superman will be rare, but he is the next stage in human evolution. History is moving not toward some abstract developed "humanity" but toward the emergence of some exceptional men. Superman is the goal. (pg. 398,399)

Presumably, Nietzsche considers himself to be one of the supermen.

The superman will be the truly free man for whom nothing is forbidden except what obstructs the Will to Power. He will be the very embodiment of the spontaneous affirmation of life. (pg. 399)

This exalts humans to almost the role of gods.

Nietzsche did not contemplate that his superman would be a tyrant. His passions would be controlled and his animal nature harmonized with his intellect, giving style to his behavior. Such a superman is not to be confused with a totalitarian bully. (pg. 399)

Perhaps he has in mind an entrepreneur?


John Dewey . . .


John Dewey brought about a reconstruction of philosophy and influenced the workings of many American institutions, particularly the schools and the legislative and judicial processes. (pg. 366)


Dewey experimented with a more permissive and creative atmosphere for learning by encouraging the pupil's initiative and individual involvement in projects. (pg. 366)

A good idea. Maria Montessori had a similar idea.

Dewey's chief quarrel with earlier philosophy was that it confused the true nature and function of knowledge; that it was a spectator theory of knowledge; that nature is one thing and the mind another, and knowing is the relatively simple activity of looking, as a spectator does, at what is there. (pg. 366,367)


Man can best be understood in relation to his environment. (pg. 367)


Intelligence is the power man possesses to cope with his environment. Thinking is not an individual act carried on in private, in isolation from practical problems, Thinking, or active intelligence, arises in "problem situations"; thinking and doing are intimately related. (pg. 368)

I wonder if he considers pleasing God as a valid endeavor worthy of applying our mind to?

All thinking has two aspects, namely, a perplexed, troubled, or confused situation at the beginning and a cleared-up, unified, resolved situation at the close. He called this instrumentalism to emphasize that thinking is always instrumental in solving problems. (pg. 368)

This process will also be present in the new heavens and new earth.

The mind spreads itself over a range of things as these bear upon the person's desires, doubts, and dangers. (pg. 368)


Thinking is not a quest for the "truth," as though the truth were a static and eternal quality in things. Thinking, rather, is the act of trying to achieve an adjustment between man and his environment. The best test of the value of any philosophy is to ask, "Does it end in conclusions which, when referred back to ordinary life-experiences and their predicaments, render them more significant, more luminous to us and make our dealing with them more fruitful?" (pg. 368)

God is a key part of our environment.

Evil is the product of the special ways a culture has shaped and conditioned people's impulses. The clue to overcoming personal and social evil is to alter a society's habits, its habits of response and its habits of thought. (pg. 369)

Must be careful to not make society immoral. This requires having the correct moral laws as a basis.

Nothing is more important than education in remolding a society. If a person is a creature of habit, education should provide the conditions for developing the most useful and creative habits. (pg. 369)

This is why it is wrong for a Godless state to be in charge of education; they will destroy the culture sending millions (billions?) to hell.

The chief means of continuous, graded, economical improvement and social rectification lies in utilizing the opportunities of educating the young to modify prevailing types of thought and desire. The spirit of education should be experimental, because the mind is fundamentally a problem-solving instrument. (pg. 369)


The mind discovers values the way it discovers facts, namely in experience. Values do not exist as eternal entities some place to be discovered by the theoretical mind. Every person experiences the problem of choosing between two or more possibilities. The question about values arises in the experiences where choices have to be made. Choices are most often made regarding means for achieving ends. (pg. 370)

Moral values should come from God.

Value must always mean that behavior or consequences are satisfactory. (pg. 370)


The seat of value must be located in human desire and its satisfaction. (pg. 371)

Yes, we must truly desire to please God; this is the essence to redemption.


Sartre . . .


Sartre was influenced by Marxism but was never a member of the Communist party. His own criticism of Marxism was that it provided no explicit role for morality and freedom. (pg. 472,474)


Sartre lived simply and with few possessions. (pg. 475)


Sartre's version of existentialism had a concern about man's active role in forging his own destiny. (pg. 475)


Sartre became preoccupied almost solely with the existence of the individual. (pg. 475,476)


Sartre argues that we cannot explain the nature of man in the same way that we describe an article of manufacture. In considering a paper knife, we know that it has been made by someone who had in his mind a conception of it, including what it would be used for and how it would be made. If by the essence of the paper knife we mean the procedure by which it was made and the purposes for which it was produced, the paper knife's essence can be said to precede its existence. To look upon a paper knife is to understand exactly what its useful purpose is. (pg. 476)


When we think about people's nature we tend to describe them also as the product of a maker, of a creator, of God. We think of God most of the time as a "supernal artisan," implying that when God creates, he knows precisely what he is creating. (pg. 476)


Sartre took atheism seriously. If there is no God, there is no given human nature precisely because there is no God to have a conception of it. Human nature cannot be defined in advance because it is not completely thought out in advance. People as such merely exist and only later become their essential selves. (pg. 476)

Then why are they always the same?

People first of all exist, confront themselves, emerge in the world, and define themselves afterwards. At first, a person simply is. (pg. 476)

Simply is, as God made him, with all the innate characteristics.

People are simply that which they make of themselves. (pg. 476)

To an extent.

People can presumably set out to make of themselves anything they wish. (pg. 477)

Within limits.

What gives a person dignity is possession of a subjective life, meaning that a person is something which moves itself toward a future and is conscious that it is doing so. (pg. 477)


To be a conscious subject is to stand constantly before a future. (pg. 477)


Man's responsibility for his existence rests squarely upon each man. (pg. 477)


Sartre's amoral subjectivism turns out to be an ethics of strict accountability based upon individual responsibility. Each person has no one to blame for what he is except himself. (pg. 477)


When we choose this or that way of acting, we affirm the value of what we have chosen, and nothing can be better for any one of us unless it is better for all. But this is not the same as Kant's categorical imperative. Humans have no authoritative guide, but they must still choose and at the same time ask whether they would be willing for others to choose the same action. (pg. 477)

Why is this the rule for morality? it seems arbitrary.

The act of choice is one that all men must accomplish with a deep sense of anguish, for in this act men are responsible not only for themselves but also for each other. Whoever evades his responsibility through self-deception will not be at ease in his conscience. (pg. 477)


With the dismissal of God there also disappears every possibility of finding values in some sort of intelligible heaven. (pg. 478)


There is only the present, and the true nature of the present is revealed as what exists, that what is not present does not exist. (pg. 478)


There is no determinism. People are condemned to be free. (pg. 478)


People find themselves thrown into the world, yet free because as soon as they are conscious of themselves, they are responsible for everything they do. Sartre rejects the notion that human beings are swept up by a torrent of passion and that such a passion could be regarded as an excuse for their actions. People are responsible even for their passions. (pg. 478)


We must choose, that is, invent, because no rule of general morality can show us what we ought to do. (pg. 478)


There is an element of despair in human existence, which comes from the realization that we are limited to what is within the scope of our own wills. We cannot expect more from our existence than the finite probabilities it possesses. (pg. 478)


Only in action is there any reality. Humanity is only a sum of actions and purposes. (pg. 478)


Although there is no prior essence in all people, no human nature, there is nevertheless a universal human condition. (pg. 479)

I don't see the distinction. Each human soul is created with full human-ness which will guide the development of the physical body and the physical soul.Each soul is created with its distinct personality, that is to say, a distinct collection of personality and character traits.

All men may be striving against the same limitations in the same way. (pg. 479)


A woman who consents to go out with a particular man knows very well what the man's cherished intentions are, and she knows that sooner or later she will have to make a decision. She does not want to admit the urgency of the matter, preferring rather to interpret all his actions as discreet and respectful. She is in self-deception; her actions are inauthentic. All human beings are guilty of similar inauthenticity, of bad faith, of playing roles, of trying to disguise their actual personality behind a facade. (pg. 479)


All consciousness is consciousness of something, which means that there is no consciousness without affirming the existence of an object which exists beyond, that is, transcends, itself. (pg. 480)

The soulcan be conscious of events in the spiritual realm as well as the physical realm.

A newly-created soul is conscious only of God, the being who created it. As its physical body and spiritual body develop, it become conscious of other things using its physical and spiritual senses.

Without consciousness, the world simply is, it is being-in-itself, and as such it is without meaning. Consciousness constitutes the meaning of things in the world, though it does not constitute their being. (pg. 480)


By his free choices, man makes himself — not that he creates himself out of nothing but rather by a series of choices and decisions he converts his existence into the essence of his final self. Man possesses this freedom to create himself within some limitations, such as the conditions of his birth and the circumstances of each particular situation. (pg. 481)


Sartre accepted increasingly the limitations upon human choice — the limitations of birth, status in society, and family background. Social conditioning exists every minute of our lives. You become what you are in the context of what others have made of you. This is Sartre's way of reconciling the fact that historical conditions affect human behavior with his intuitive certainty that human beings are also capable of shaping history. (pg. 481,482)


My Conclusions . . .


Some (many?) of these great philosophers reject the notion of God, and particularly, the Christian notion of God. I am struck with the complex structures they develop to explain such things as life, love, and morality. They prefer to make thought or idea or reality or nature an absolute which somehow explains these things. It is much simpler and straightforward to accept the notion of God, a Divine and living being, a person, who has various attributes in his very nature.

Most of these great philosophers believe in some form of moral behavior that people should practice (although most reject the notion of "thou shalt not" kind of morality). It seems to me that their practical conclusions don't follow from their theories; they seem forced or arbitrary.