Western Philosophy and Religion I

[A topic I hope to return to in subsequent posts, beginning with a short thought about different ways of perceiving the world through a philosophical versus through a religious Judaic lens]

Traditionally speaking, Western philosophy rejects off-hand most conceptions of religion because they fall into the philosophical category of unfalsifiable ideologies.  By ‘unfalsifiable’ philosophers tend to mean a claim or set of claims that cannot be disproven.  A classic example is the idea of prayers being answered.  The caricature of a religious adherent is that they pray and hope they are answered by their respective deity; if they are answered, it is because they prayed ‘successfully’ and if they were not answered it is because they did not pray ‘hard enough’.

On the face of it, this critique makes a lot of sense to me.  Why should one be able to construct an ideology, and live out their lives in large part based on it, if it is comprised of beliefs that cannot be disproven?  What kind of hubris does a person have to have in order to think that a system of belief that they made up, or inherited,  really contains all the answers?

However, isn’t the position that Western philosophy is taking equally unfalsifiable?  Basically, the philosophical position is that no argument that is not refutable will be treated as being on equal footing with those that are refutable.  But this is an ideological stance to take.  Is it not possible that there are arguments, claims, and systems of belief that are not based on rationality or logic that still contain truth?  And if so, isn’t the philosopher closing herself off to just as much potential understanding as she is claiming the religious ideologue is?


2 thoughts on “Western Philosophy and Religion I

  1. though neither a philosopher nor religious adherent, I like your point here because I think that one school of thought feeling they have “the answer” is inherently troublesome.

    in my own life I’ve gravitated away from “the right answer” to “the right answer for me”, which leaves a lot more room for everyone to discover their own ever changing truth.

  2. Mankind operated on all sorts of things that cannot be proved or disproved. The notion that truth is a virtuous end in of itself cannot be disproved or proved because we have no independent verification of it. Scientific realism is up to its eyeballs in metascientific presuppositions, viz. (i) the existence of the external world; (ii) the regularity of nature; (iii) the general reliability of induction; (iv) the general intelligibility of nature; (v) the general reliability of the senses; (vi) the general reliability of the mind (or brain) to interpret sensory input; (vii) the adequacy of mathematics to describe nature; (viii) the correspondence between appearance and reality; (ix) scientific theories accurately describe or successfully refer to the natural world. All these cannot be independently verified and require the ascent of faith. Faith lifts us right into human reason itself.

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