Faith, philosophy and abstract concepts

Religion and philosophy have in common that they cover non-empirical thinking on life and the universe in general. Therefore philosophy is a non-scientific branche of thinking and at best, if practiced at an academic level, it may be seen as an art or humanity. Academic philosophy tries to answer the why- and how-questions of life in a how to-manner and tries to so through reasoning without judgement. Thought-experiments and reasoning are it’s main tools. Ideas cannot entirely be proven through empirical evidence, however, solid information through other philosophers’ literature and the media on political and other developments may give a philosophy more solidity. These developments can very well be objectively observed facts and through deductive or inductive reasoning lead to a valid conclusion.

Philosophy is, like religion, basically a non-protected discipline. Thinking is, like believing, free. No one needs permission to think, it is part of our innate nature, like breathing, walking and observing. Throughout the ages people, however, have tried to pose restrictions on the outcomes of thinking and observing. Every amateur may think and therefore talk, but will his or her words be seen as philosophy? In order to avoid the situation of re-inventing the wheel academic standards have been set for philosophical thinking and if you want to achieve academic status as a philosopher mastering the literature of your predecessors is usually seen as minimum requirement. We may call a theory a philosophy when it is possible to falsify it through deductive or inductive reasoning and then lead to a proved axioma, true statement. Trying to avoid re-inventing the wheel is not the only annoyance that scholars want to avoid, they also want to avoid ‘errors’ in thinking. This is a no-end area, because what is a mistake in thinking? How can we prove error? In deductive, logical, cause-consequence dominated thinking it is possible to expose errors, but the error may be restricted to the method and not to the truthfulness of the mistaken thinker’s idea. It is possible to decide that artist X does not belong to the Dada movement, but is it possible at all to deny X the artist’s status at all? Dadaism used a certain starting philosophy on which it based it’s creative methods, therefore we can say that X may called a Dadaist when we see him follow the Dada-philosophy and -methods.. To defy X’s artist status, we have to set creative standards and that is open for debate. When is a person’s creativity ‘big’ enough that he may be called an artist? This question loses its rhetorical status, as does philosophy, as soon as other interested people set certain minimum standards and in many cases economics are involved in the answers. Would you and other people spend money on the artifact and are there any similar artifacts already? So economics have a say in standards for a ‘good’ academic and artistic product, in so far that they decide the product’s value, but do not answer whether the product truly is good.

A piece of visual art or a stage performance is a tangible item, however, philosophy also involves in abstract concepts like freedom and permission to others to spread their ideas and products at all. In that case it is a lot more complicated issue to set boundaries to expressions. One may say that a publication is not good enough to ‘allow’ it a place in art and literature, but is it possible to forbid publication at all? This last question has philosophical aspects that may have political implications. The various peoples on this planet set their own boundaries to philosophical freedom.

Abstract topics are philosophy’s main field of interest. What is time and what is its function in history, movement and space, what is morality and what function does and may it have in society and what are the boundaries to freedom and choice. What is art, what is beauty, what is knowledge, what is existence and when do things exist. Faith in a god or creative force is part of philosophical thinking. A more imperative dimension appears as soon as people include philosophical teachings in their legal and political systems, but also in their daily life and this is not confined to religious systems only. The ideal of democratic thinking and decision making and the ideals of freedom, equality and solidarity for each member in society is not necessarily a religious ideal. What’s more, in western culture most people say that these ideals can only be achieved in a non-religious system. Democracy is in modern westerners’ thinking not possible in a system where a god reigns supremely over society, because God’s power is seen as an invented yet unlimited force with no boundaries and no free space for human beings. Philosophy in other words plays a role in setting boundaries to freedom. It tries to set standards for acceptable ideas and behavior based on reasoning. Philosophy also tries to look beyond the visible truth of observation and give this or these invisible truth(s) a place in society. Again setting boundaries is important: what place and what authority do we give these truths and how does society deal with transgression of these truths’ territories? This is a question with big political implications, because it deals with real people and their fostered ideologies that they even fight for.

Learning, gaining knowledge from other thinkers is greatly appreciated in philosophy as an academic discipline and it appears to be absent in religious faith. To some faith is logically speaking the most simple discipline there is and yet the hardest to live by. However, among religious people even the first part of this sentence is not true: true faith requires knowledge of a revealed truth from the deity and therefore also knowledge of the prophets’ lives and sayings as they were the mediums between God and the people. For this reason most religious communities value the opinions of academic scholars who gained important detailed knowledge of the religious traditions. They are the people who set the standards and make compulsory religious decisions, sometimes for individuals and sometimes for the entire community. However, how far their power may reach, remains a source for heated debate between communities and also within them. As long as the religious community has faith in the validity of traditions, they tend to lend them and those who gained academic knowledge of them, more weight. In Christianity’s community the thought that tradition may not be truthful and reliable, has gained prevalence. In the Islamic community, however, the faithful consider their tradition reliable enough to trust them as authoritative. Maybe it is about time to take this Islamic claim seriously. The Islamic umma needs not be discarded as silly to believe in its own tradition and valid proof to reject Islamic tradition should be found and if not then outsiders should make an effort to at least respect its status as reliable. It is not without good reason that the Islamic umma still follows its tradition. The first step towards tolerance of other people’s ideologies is honest and respectful treatment of their contents, even if one does not believe or follow them.


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