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Saturday, August 11, 2012

God and the way the world is

I hope to have shown that the belief in God can be rationally justified insofar as one needs a reference point for one's moral life (Immanuel Kant already taught a similar approach to the problem of the existence of God, which he believed to be unsolvable through the classical arguments about His existence). However, this is not the way most Christian and many Hindu believers argue today (I do not know enough about Muslim and Jew ones). They rather use arguments deriving from the study of the world as it is (e.g., from physics or physiology) in order to justify their beliefs. They might, for instance, say that gay marriages are to be banned not because of moral reasons, but because "they are excluded *by biology* from [the] Catholic definition of sacramental marriage" (see Ted Seeber's comment here).
I can see the rationale behind this argument, namely, the world is the result of God's will. Thus, if something does not happen to be the case in the world, it means that God does not want it to be. However, the argument can lead to unwanted results. Let us, for instance, suppose that the scholars of evolution who claim that cheating is part of our evolutionary skills are right (for a reader-friendly introduction to the topic, see here). Would one still say that this is a sign of the will of God?

The ought-is distinction seems to me a more rational (i.e., less self-contradictory) approach to the topic.

Am I overlooking a way which could make ontology a good support for one's belief in God (supposed this has to be rationally justifiable)?

On the ought-is distinction and one's belief in God, see this post and this one.

4 comments:

andrew said...

very quickly: in my experience, a lot of christians don't distinguish at all between natural and moral laws, i.e., any universal law (whether it relates to mathematics, physics, or morality) is a law precisely because it reflects the will of the supreme lawgiver. this leads into the "free will versus determinism" debate which theologians have been wrestling with for millennia, but clearly there's a difficulty distinguishing "the way the world is" (the laws that characterize nature) and "the way the world should be" (the laws that characterize morality) on this view. and in any case, many christians would be suspicious of any explanation that has a basis in evolutionary biology.

congratulations on the book, by the way!

elisa freschi said...

Dear Andrew,
which kind of Christians are you talking about? I mean: "naive" Christians, fundamentalists or people who want to show that Christianity is well-rooted in Natural Sciences (the former group would have Christianity ranking over Natural Sciences, whereas the latter group would have Christianity justified by means of Natural Sciences)?

Thanks for the congratulations. I am also very excited!

Eisel Mazard said...

Any time that I feel I've wasted more than 10 years of my life working on Buddhist philosophy, I can look at this blog and be reminded of how lucky I am in contrast to what you Sanskritists are stuck with.

You want to debate Immanuel Kant's theology in 2012? Somebody wake up Ludwig Feuerbach, and direct his ghost over to the department of Sanskrit.

I'm sure that you frequently are frustrated with European authors who make similarly slapdash use of Indian philosophical sources. Why do the same with Europeans? What's the point?

Have you read Kant? Have you read any of the philosophers who refuted him in the following generation? (The list is long!) Do you enjoy reading 18th & 19th century German philosophy in your spare time?

You can't be an expert in everything: why pretend?

As awkward and absurd as it is to see 19th century German philosophers trying to quote ancient Indian philosophy, it is just as absurd to see Sanskritists trying to invoke 19th century German sources without really studying them.

elisa freschi said...

Dear Eisel,

As for me, I got in love with German much before I started studying Sanskrit and spent my first intellectual years reading Hegel, Kant and Fichte. I have a degree in Western philosophy, apart from my degree in Sanskrit. But you are right, I have not read all authors before and after Kant. Long story short, I do find comparisons with Western philosophy useful (I dedicated several posts to discuss the pros and cons of this approach). What is the flaw you found in the *content* of my reference to Kant?

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