Archives for posts with tag: Science

Civilization Is A Conversation

The popular philosopher Stefan Molyneux (https://freedomainradio.com) often reminds his audience that “civilization is a conversation. ” I read about the same idea before in a blog article by John C. Wright (www.scifiwright.com) about the Great Books. A philosopher himself, as well as a novelist, Mr Wright is an alumnus of St. John’s College of liberal arts. I gather the school’s Great Books program was inspired from the writings of philosopher Mortimer Adler on “The Great Conversation” and his editing work for the Encyclopaedia Britannica Great Books series.

According to classical philosophers and other classical writers who had to know philosophy as a general foundation for their field, philosophy and science, literature and arts, civilization in a word, is a great conversation, and philosophy is its common language. It began to spread from Greece some six centuries before Christ.

Metaphysics, or philosophy properly so called, is the conversation about the fundamentals of everything that is or may be, especially the “why”, the causes. The “how” is more particularly the domain of empirical sciences and mathematics.

Ethics is the part of philosophy that examines the use of practical reason, or moral conscience. Why is there a sense of right and wrong? Why is conscience attracted to the good and repulsed by evil? Why is happiness connected to the good? These are some of the main questions of moral philosophy.

The moral questions are of course paramount also to religion and theology. Philosophy is the greatest achievement of the human mind unaided by faith, since it derives its information from the senses, external and internal. But the self-revelation of God being at the same time the revelation of man to himself (e. g. John 2:25), the Judaeo-Christian revelation is a very reliable source of information for philosophy, particularly for natural theology (or theodicy) and ethics.

Christian theologians, philosophers, and authors of literary or scientific writings were the ones who kept the conversation ongoing and timeless. It is timeless because philosophia perennis, the common philosophy of humanity (as philosopher Jacques Maritain would say), known also as Aristotelian-Thomism, or classical theist philosophy, is true in all essentials and those essentials are not subject to time. True philosophy is therefore capable of organic, continuous development upon this perennial basis.

Up to the 1960s, every generation educated by learned masters had access to the great works of the past and to a common philosophical framework. Scholars and writers could thus contribute to build on and transmit the intellectual and moral treasure of civilization, the treasure of human wisdom.

 

Conversation Slows Down

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Eternal Wisdom at Play

I have been listening to Father Robert J. Spitzer’s conferences on various physics theories about the universe, theories not only hinting, but demonstrating, that the universe has a beginning, thus necessarily a transcendent, metaphysical, cause. The contents of these lectures may be found in his book New Proofs of the Existence of God (2010), and on the Magis Reason and Faith Institute’s website, as well as in other interviews and lectures recorded in 2011.

The ones I preferred are the Gonzaga University lectures (April 5 and 6, 2011). They are the most detailed and the most lively and there are more matters discussed in the period of questions.
Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJBLp7cOt90
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmVvx51zsqg

The first part is on physical theories (see a few highlights in the notes below).

The second part is on anthropic coincidences, what is called the “fine-tuning” of the physical laws. There is a “huge improbability” (10 to the 10 to the 123 against) that all the 17 generative cosmological constants would fall randomly in the minuscule range of values necessary to allow the emergence and sustaining of life forms.

A few years ago, I read about the “Rare Earth” theory and the narrow range of values required in our solar system to sustain life. I was happy to have the additional information about cosmological constants.

Moreover, the way in which the lecturer presents the subject is very accessible for a moderately educated public to grasp, and very agreeable for the philosophically inclined mind: William of Occam could not have dreamed a thinner razor blade to reduce the answers to the question.

While listening to all these examples and comments on the minutely fine-tuned constants of the universe, I was imagining Eternal Wisdom at play (Proverbs 8:30), winking at all these beautiful minds and asking, like Fr Spitzer does: “Which choice is more reasonable at the end of the day?”

And I join Father Spitzer in his exclamation at the awesome panorama: “I am glad for the entire extravaganza. It just really is a comfort to know that God did not underestimate the intelligence or the love that we would have in viewing that universe.”
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I wrote the following page a few years ago to accompany GKC’s article “Philosophy for the Schoolroom” included after. It was an answer to a friend’s comment acknowledging doubt as a normal scientific attitude. As a cradle Catholic I never really saw a divide between faith and reason but it seems it has to be explained even to a pious Catholic convert. It was probably a remnant of former agnosticism or Protestant fundamentalism, or both. The philosophical comments inspired from Maritain were written more recently and reworked until now.


 Faith and reason

There is a widely spread state of mind pretending that faith and reason exclude each other and that being skeptical on everything is a fundamental scientific attitude. But, on the contrary, doubting everything is not at all scientific thinking. Science has to question everything. especially its postulates, but a true scientific mind does not doubt everything in the first place. I learned this from the works of French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain. Then I read recently the following article by G. K. Chesterton.
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