Telephones and Philosophy

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Science must not impose any philosophy,
any more than the telephone must tell us
what to say.

–G. K. Chesterton‏

An Imbecile Habit

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An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays. You might as well say of a view of the cosmos that it was suitable to half-past three, but not suitable to half-past four. What a man can believe depends upon his philosophy, not upon the clock or the century.

–G. K. Chesterton

Philosophy and Pumpkins

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What Christianity says is merely this. That this repetition in Nature has its origin not in a thing resembling a law but a thing resembling a will. . . . Christianity holds that the world and its repetition came by will or Love as children are begotten by a father, and therefore that other and different things might come by it. Briefly, it believes that a God who could do anything so extraordinary as making pumpkins go on being pumpkins, is like the prophet, Habbakuk, Capable to tout [capable of anything]. If you do not think it extraordinary that a pumpkin is always a pumpkin, think again. You have not yet even begun philosophy. You have not even seen a pumpkin.

—G. K. Chesterton

3 Things Science Can’t Explain

science-artScience is great, but only when we respect its limits to explain our universe. There are really three disciplines of study necessary to understand life: Science, Philosophy, and Theology. Just like a three-legged stool, the rejection of any one of these disciplines leads to imbalance. Unfortunately, we live in times when far too many think that Science is the ruler of all truth and many schools have dismissed the study these other disciplines…

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We want science to be scientific

scientistIn these days we are accused of attacking science because we want it to be scientific. Surely there is not any undue disrespect to our doctor in saying that he is our doctor, not our priest or our wife or ourself. It is not the business of the doctor to say that we must go to a watering-place (seaside resort); it is his affair to say that certain results of health will follow if we do go to a watering-place. After that, obviously, it is for us to judge. Physical science is like simple addition; it is either infallible or it is false. To mix science up with philosophy is only to produce a philosophy that has lost all its ideal value and a science that has lost all its practical value. I want my private physician to tell me whether this or that food will kill me. It is for my private philosopher to tell me whether I ought to be killed.

–G.K. Chesterton,
All Things Considered

Ideas are dangerous

Dallas-WillardIn 1889 the French novelist Paul Bourget wrote a novel, The Disciple. He described the “egghead” existence of a noted philosopher and psychologist: seemingly lost in things “merely academic,” living up four flights of stairs, caught up in the humdrum routine of meals and walks, coffee and lectures. Three times a week he had visits from scholars and students from four to six, and then dinner, short walk, a little more work, and bed promptly at ten. It was the existence of an inoffensive, scholarly man who, in the words of his housekeeper, “wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Then one day he was summoned to a criminal inquest concerning a brilliant young man who had been his student and had climbed those four flights of stairs to drink in illuminating and liberating discussions. In prison awaiting trial for murder, this young disciple had written an account of what he had done and how those liberating doctrines enthusiastically discussed in the abstract had worked out in actual practice. The results are only infrequently a matter of murder, but world as well as individual events ride upon the waters of an ideational sea. “The killing fields of Cambodia come from philosophical discussions in Paris” (Paul Johnson).

–Dallas Willard,
The Divine Conspiracy

“The God Delusion” makes me ashamed to be an atheist

michaelruseBut I think first that these people (the New Atheists) do a disservice to scholarship. Their treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing. As I have said elsewhere, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for the ontological argument. If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, he would be rightly indignant. . . . Conversely, I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation in Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and all of the others in that group. . . . I have written elsewhere that The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist. Let me say that again. Let me say also that I am proud to be the focus of the invective of the new atheists. They are a bloody disaster and I want to be on the front line of those who say so.

–Philosophy professor Michael Ruse