Friday, December 17, 2010
 REALISTS-NOMINALISTS- Let me do a little more on the development of philosophy and how Christians played a major role in new ways of thinking and ‘knowing’ [epistemology]. I mentioned Rene Descartes the other day- Descartes challenged the Christina thinkers of his day to approach apologetics [arguments for God’s existence] from rational grounds; instead of saying ‘God exists because the bible/tradition teach it’ he showed we can argue from the ground of reason. Descartes was a ‘realist’ that is a thinker who believed in Universal principles- the ancient philosophers [Aristotle, Plato- etc.] taught that there were universal ideas that existed- the example was if you think of a Horse- or a Chair- that in the mind of people we all have this concept of what these things are- but the reality of the universal idea of horse/chair exist outside of us- they are not only thoughts in our minds. The Nominalists rejected this idea- they taught that we interact with our 5 senses with things in the world- and thru this interaction our minds passively receive this knowledge and we come up with ideas- not because these ideas are universal ideas that already exist- but because our minds have ‘discovered’ them thru the senses. These thinkers were also called Empiricists. Men like David Hume would take this approach. Then in the 18th century you had the German philosopher Immanuel Kant challenge the skepticism of the Empiricists and he would become one of the most influential thinkers for our time. You would be hard pressed to find another philosopher who has had more influence on western thought than Kant. Kant too believed that man could not prove God absolutely thru natural means- but he did teach that it was rational/reasonable for man to believe in the existence of God- though he said you can’t totally prove him thru natural means. This was a different approach from the pure Empiricists- they taught that God/religion were irrational. Kant put a twist on Empiricism- he said that man does interact with the world thru his 5 senses, but instead of ideas/knowledge being a product of the mind of man passively receiving this knowledge- mans mind categorizes these interactions and it is thru this function of mans mind that we have knowledge. He carried the idea a little further than Hume. In the end of the day Immanuel Kant believed that not only is it rational to believe in God- but it is necessary. For society to ever function properly man needed to believe that his soul was immortal, that an eternal being existed that would some day judge man [or reward him] for his actions in this life. Though Kant did not accept the Realists view that we could prove God by rational means- yet he did believe in the necessity of man to believe in God. It has been said that Kant kicked God out the front door- but snuck him in thru the back. Okay- know some of this gets dry at times, but I think it is important for Christians to have some idea of the development of thought and philosophy thru the ages- many atheistic philosophers have argued against the existence of God- but many Christian thinkers have made just as strong [if not stronger] arguments on the other side- we need to know both sides.