on this page

Or send us an email

Application form

Pathways programs

Letters to my students

How-to-do-it guide

Essay archive

Ask a philosopher

Pathways e-journal

Features page

Downloads page

Pathways portal

Pathways to Philosophy

Geoffrey Klempner CV
G Klempner

International Society for Philosophers
ISFP site

PHILOSOPHY PATHWAYS electronic journal


P H I L O S O P H Y   P A T H W A Y S                   ISSN 2043-0728

Issue number 101
4th April 2005


I. 'The Necessity of Eschatology' by Richard Schain

II. 'Rethinking Religion' by Dick Stoute

III. 'Religion, Truth and Justice' by Harry Davies



A few years ago, browsing through the first edition of Batsford Chess Openings
(Kasparov and Keene Eds 1982), I came across a line of play under 'Queen's Pawn
Openings, Miscellaneous' credited to a certain player named Wojtyla, playing
Black in a match against Zartobliwy in Cracow 1946 (BCO P.51, n.15). It seems
that amongst his many talents, Pope John Paul II was an excellent chess player.

Pope John Paul also had considerable knowledge of, and immense respect for the
discipline of philosophy. For confirmation see his Encyclical 'Fides et Ratio'
addressed to philosophers (Philosophy of A-Z 'encyclical').

     In both East and West, we may trace a journey which has led
     humanity down the centuries to meet and engage truth more
     and more deeply. It is a journey which has unfolded - as it
     must - within the horizon of personal self-consciousness:
     the more human beings know reality and the world, the more
     they know themselves in their uniqueness, with the question
     of the meaning of things and of their very existence
     becoming ever more pressing. This is why all that is the
     object of our knowledge becomes a part of our life. The
     admonition Know yourself was carved on the temple portal at
     Delphi, as testimony to a basic truth to be adopted as a
     minimal norm by those who seek to set themselves apart from
     the rest of creation as 'human beings', that is as those who
     'know themselves' (Fides et Ratio 1998 Introduction, 'Know

I would like to thank everyone who responded to the articles on the theme of
'Tough Truths for Jews, Christians and Muslims' in the last issue of Philosophy
Pathways. In my Glass House Philosopher notebook II, pages 56 and 57 I have
reproduced responses by Edgar Drew, Fr Marco Porta, Fr Seamus Mulholland,
Bradley Harris, Tom Albertsson, D.R. Khashaba, Marcus Sheffield and Joseph
Allan, together with my replies.

In this issue there are two further responses by Dick Stoute and Harry Davies,
along with the latest article by Richard Schain, which deals with the concept
of eschatology in religion and metaphysics.

It cannot be wrong to ponder ultimate questions, even if you are one who has
deep faith. The late Pope would surely not have disagreed with that sentiment.

     Philosophy of A-Z

     Glass House Philosopher

Geoffrey Klempner



Eschatology - The striving of humans toward eternity


The preoccupations of philosophers are rarely shared by non-philosophers. The
nature of truth, of reality, of knowledge; the distinction between appearance
and essence, self and the universe, being and nothingness - all these
traditional problems with which philosophers have wrestled through the
centuries are of little interest to most individuals, whether little or highly
educated. This is perhaps one reason why metaphysics, which historically has
been a significant part of philosophy in western culture, has been replaced by
phenomenology, commonly regarded as 'scientific' philosophy. The direction was
set by Kant who insisted metaphysics must be scientific. One can hardly say
that this has resulted in any increase of interest in philosophy among the
general population. It has led, however, to a certain Selbsthass among
philosophers, causing Leszek Kolakowski to say in his entertaining essay
Metaphysical Horror (2001) that 'for well over a hundred years, a large part of
academic philosophy has been devoted to the business of explaining that
philosophy is either impossible or useless or both.'

Nevertheless, there is another point of view. It is that metaphysics is
indispensable to the human condition. To return again to Kant, he asserts in
his Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics that, in spite of the difficulties
(notably posed by his own major opus on the subject), it is as little to be
expected that human beings will give up metaphysics as they will give up
breathing! Western history has borne out the correctness of Kant's prediction.
It is worth quoting at length from the prologue of Mauricio Beuchot to La
Metafisica como Necesidad (1994), a scholarly monograph by Kuri Camacho (my

     ...we confront a negation greater than metaphysics has
     ever known. Throughout history, many have decreed its
     death: the skeptics, the Epicureans, the nominalists, the
     empiricists, the epigones of Kant, the positivists, and now
     one sees, not a frank discarding of metaphysics as announced
     by Carnap, but what was espoused [its disparagement] by the
     later Heidegger, and in a certain manner, the later
     Wittgenstein. But metaphysics always has returned to have
     its fueros.

It is revealing that Beuchot uses the term fueros or 'privileges' to describe
the place of metaphysics. The term refers to special rights, notably those
enjoyed by the Roman Catholic Church in Hispanic societies. There can be little
doubt that metaphysics found a congenial home in the dogmas of institutionalized
religions and this association continues to the present day. With the exception
of minor islands such as New England transcendentalism - long disappeared
except in history books - the metaphysical aspirations of European-descent
peoples have been met through theistic religions. Christianity has always been
jealous of its fueros in the area of metaphysics. In earlier centuries, one
would face the stake by expressing metaphysical ideas outside the established
churches; today one merely has to accept the role of an eccentric, ignored by
the doctors of the churches and the universities alike.

How is one to reconcile the apparently contradictory observations that the
metaphysical questions are of no interest to most persons with the evident
persistence of metaphysics in religion as still a fundamental ingredient of
society? I submit that the metaphysical questions enumerated in the opening
paragraph above are not the questions that concern individuals outside of
academia, where the admonition of Kant to make metaphysics scientific has never
been forgotten. To succinctly jargonize the matter, it is eschatology, not
ontology or epistemology that interests the thoughtful individual. The
non-philosopher has only a vague interest in the abstractions of universal
ideas, what he really wants is to apprehend the meaning of his own life. This
inevitably becomes a matter of eschatology.


The essential problem of philosophy for the thinking individual, homo sapiens,
has to do with the meaning of his own life. All the other metaphysical
questions are significant only to professionals of philosophy who are concerned
with its history and certain of its ideas from the past that have become revered
traditions. But concern with the meaning of one's own life - not human life as
an abstraction - is an intuitive concern for every reflective person,
testifying to the depth of his mind. Every reflective person wants his life to
be significant; his problem is how this is to be accomplished. This is the
principal task of the conscious mind. I use the term mind in the sense of Geist
in German, inclusive of mind, spirit, self, intellect - not merely as a
describer of adaptive activity. Without a sense of the metaphysics of mind, one
cannot deal with this issue other than in a spiritless and uninteresting manner.

The Xenophontine Socrates is said in the Memorabilia to have summed up his
approach to life as follows: 'I am growing in goodness and I am making better
friends. And that I may say, is my constant thought.' We are told by Plato in
Phaedo and The Republic that Socrates dwelled on eschatology in the form of
myth-making. How could it be otherwise since what would be the point of growing
in goodness if it did not possess some ultimate meaning? The later rejection of
eschatology probably weakened Greek philosophy and paved the way for the spread
of Christianity in the Mediterranean world. The opinions of the founding father
of the schools of Athens should have been taken more seriously by them and by
later European philosophers. Perhaps Plato, with his fertile imagination,
introduced too many irrelevancies into philosophy.

If western philosophy gradually lost interest in eschatology, this was not true
of western religion. The foundation of Christianity is the idea that aligning
oneself with Christian belief is aligning oneself with God; the consequence is
the winning of eternal life. The details of this alignment and the nature of
the eternal life has been interpreted differently throughout the history of
Christian churches, but the basic eschatology is the same - believe and you
will find salvation. The success of Christianity is based on the appeal of its
eschatological doctrines. Believers find meaning in their lives. A similar
story can be told about the successes of Islam.

It is hard to question the evidence that the need for an ultimate meaning in
one's life, i.e the necessity for eschatology, is why religion still exists in
an age of science. Science does not provide meaning. However, a rational person
cannot believe anything, no matter how seductive the belief, without the ability
to be able to incorporate it into one's rationally organized experience of the
world. The dictum that what is impossible for man is possible for God has lost
its persuasive power in the age of science. We are fated to think, as D.R.
Khashaba puts it in his stirring writing Let Us Philosophize (1998), and one
form of thought is the emergence of an intellectual conscience. This is what
Kant must have meant by his appeal for a 'scientific' metaphysics. For him,
wissenschaftlich meant rational, coherent, capable of fitting into knowledge as
a whole. Every age seems to create its own eschatology, reflecting its own
mental evolution. Simple minds have always needed a simple eschatology.
Christianity, in spite of the prodigious labors of some of its theologians to
convert dogmas into symbols, rests fundamentally on a simple, almost
embarrassingly naive belief structure. There is an absolute requirement for
faith and little demand is made on the intellectual conscience. On the basis of
the experience of his descent from generations of Lutheran pastors, Nietzsche
concluded that faith is cowardice.

Things were supposed to be different in the new age of science. In the first
part of the nineteenth century, Auguste Comte worked out his celebrated 'law of
three stages' in which the human mind first turns to theology (fiction), then to
metaphysics (abstraction), and finally to science (positivism). It has not
worked out that way. The majority of the western world has not gotten past
stage one. This is because, as I believe, there have been no meaningful
eschatologies evolved for stages two and three. Science explains how things
work but not their meaning. The absurdity of life looms as the inevitable
consequence of a mind without an eschatology.

It is not quite accurate to say that there have been no competitors at all to
religion in the domain of eschatology. If eternity is not held out as a
possibility, then aligning one's Geist with movements extending it in time or
space is perhaps not an unreasonable alternative. Thus one may align himself
with societal movements - nationalism, socialism, communism, racial or ethnic
identifications, even humanity as a whole, any plausible movement that allows
one to feel his life has a meaning beyond the limitations of his own being.
Hitler and his followers were willing to forego Christian salvation for the
sake of a thousand year Aryan Reich in which the social compact was not
extended to non-Aryans. It was notorious that committed communist ideologues
did not feel the need for religion. However, in time, most societal ideologies
break down and are no longer significant substitutes for metaphysical meaning.

The weakest substitute for a vital eschatology is the biological one in which
the solution to the problem of the meaning of life is found through procreation
papered over by handing down ancestral traditions. This is patently absurd, for
how can meaning in life be achieved by merely propagating it? One cannot foist
one's own metaphysical responsibilities onto his or her children. They then do
the same. This basically reduces one to an animal state where the instinct for
procreation reigns supreme. A very limited intellectual perspective is required
for the biological answer to be completely effective.


Every age requires the formulation of eschatological concepts reflecting its
intellectual development. Eschatology is not dogma, but the individual's
intuition of the eternality of his existence. Physics is not a reproduction of
reality according to Niels Bohr (quoted by Kolakowski), but rather a
schematization of experience, performed with the aid of artificially
constructed instruments. So it is with eschatology except that the experience
is of the life of the mind rather than that derived from technology. It is the
subjective self instead of the object world that is the teacher. The conception
is similar to that expressed by Socrates in Phaedo when he says that no man of
sense should expect the story he had just related about the journey of the soul
be exactly as he had told it. But Socrates thought one may venture to believe
that something of the kind is true.

No contemporary man of sense should imagine that the picture of reality
obtained through scientific study could be completely or even mainly true. It
is a useful scheme for mastering nature and surviving a threatening world but
it can hardly reflect the full reality of homo sapiens. The accumulated
intuitions of mankind indicate a reality transcending physical nature. However,
concepts that purport to reflect the human condition must conform to reality in
all its forms to the extent they are known. Metaphysics cannot exclude the
physical world from its purview. Descartes, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Bergson,
and Teilhard de Chardin knew that and their philosophies were enriched. That
they may have gone astray at times with their science is beside the point.

An individual searching for eternity cannot afford to ignore the discoveries of
modern physics about the nature of time. In general, the deductions of Kant
about the mind forming perceptual schemata (the a priori forms) have been shown
to be remarkably prescient. Beyond Kant's simple schemata, Einsteinian
relativity radically altered the concept of time in the twentieth century. That
development can only be compared to the Copernican revolution on notions about
the universe and man's place in it. No longer can time be considered as an
absolute stretching back into the past and forward into the future at any
moment called 'now.' Time is relative, a function of the state of the various
objects existing in the universe. This must affect concepts of eschatology that
are predicated on an 'end' of time. But time does not end because it does not
have a beginning, there are only different points on an infinite continuum
representing the 'nows' of all possible observers. The physicist Bryant Greene
points out that it is better to imagine time as a block of ice than as a
flowing river (The Fabric of the Cosmos, 2004).

This is a concept difficult to encompass by the mind just as it is difficult to
imagine bending of a pluridimensional space. The human mind is constructed to
visualize reality in a certain way as was discovered by Kant. Just as
individuals had to learn to change their intuitive perceptions that the earth
is flat or that the sun rotates around it, so one has to learn that linear time
is a construct of the mind only schematically representing reality. The emerging
problem is to rethink the notion of the 'now.' What is its significance if, as
Einstein has said, the now has no place in the conception of time of modern
physics. This bears greatly on eschatology as indicating the meaning of one's

In an earlier essay in Philosophy Pathways and in my book In Love with
Eternity, I put forth the metaphor of a pointillist canvas of eternity
referring to the concept of an Eschaton. I do not expect this metaphor to
satisfy everyone (perhaps no one) but I think individuals should strive to
create their own eschatology instead of depending on external authority figures
to provide it readymade. These traditional schemata may temporarily rouse the
mind but should only be used as points of departure. An individual is
maintained in a mentally infantile state by relying on others for the most
important things. Intellectual individuality is the hallmark of homo sapiens,
however much certain leaders of religion may preach otherwise. History should
be used not abused. In this regard, it is worth remembering Nietzsche's view
that the will to individual power permeates societal institutions of every type.


The 'pointillist canvas of eternity' refers to a notion I have that every
individual existence can be imagined as a brush stroke in a vast canvas called
eternity. Past existences have not disappeared, they exist as a metaphysical
stroke on the canvas. What takes form in life - and I mean all life, not just
human life - determines the quality of the stroke. The unique human
consciousness of 'now' indicates awareness of the coming-into-being of an
individual life. This 'now,' however, may be a peculiar human thought that is
irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. If I ask myself to what end this
cosmic canvas, I have no answer. The hubris of my conscious mind does not
extend that far. If I were a mythmaker, I might rise to the occasion, but I
know my limits. I do know that a profound sense of peace is felt when the
specter of transitoriness in existence is expunged and one can feel a meaning
to his life, albeit this meaning is hidden from him. To those who think
philosophy should be science and mysticism is treason to it, I say like the
American patriot Patrick Henry who stood up for his convictions, 'If this be
treason, then make the most of it.'

But I suggest that the conception of a timeless canvas of eternity on which is
etched the phenomenon of individual existences is in accord with the most
reasonable view of the nature of reality and is not an imaginary idea that
violates one's intellectual integrity. It is founded on an understanding of
one's existence within a rational reality. As much as the need for meaning,
homo sapiens has a need for rationality in his conceptions. Beliefs must fit
into a total experience of reality. On this is founded Kantian critique. One
may despair of rationality amidst the bizarre beliefs that motivate people;
still, it is an ideal to be sought after.

The most important thing of all, Nietzsche said, is that we think well of
ourselves. How can one think well of himself, however, when he learns that he
is a speck of sand in the limitless expanse of the cosmos, destined to exist no
more than a nanosecond in the infinity of time? It is this sense of
insignificance, not the fear of death that underlies the Angst of Kierkegaard,
the Sorge of Heidegger, the absurdite of Camus and the horror metaphysicus of
Kolakowski. How can a thinking being not be depressed by the thought of the
transitoriness of his being? It is impossible for a serious person to
ultimately be content with his meaningless miniscule movements within society.
There must be something more in order that cynicism and ennui not be the final
victor in human life. But if an individual is capable of angst, then he is
capable of discovering more in life than what a technology-burdened society has
taught him.

A human being wants to make something meaningful of his own life. The thought
that his individual development has no significance in the scheme of things is
what drives him to sacrifice himself on the altars of dubious causes. The
brilliant Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, whose horizons of thought went
beyond most individuals, said that his own development was the most he could
accomplish in his lifetime and that he could not really know, much less
provide, what was needed by other individuals. This is heresy in a culture
dominated (albeit hypocritically) by values of the social good. But Pessoa more
than most is a vibrant part of the canvas of eternity. It was to be expected
that his life within society was beset with difficulties. The truly developed
individual usually dies young.

There are those who say they find their meaning in life from a consciousness of
God. They have been vouchsafed direct access to the source of all meaning from a
church, from Holy Scriptures or directly from deity itself. They claim to be the
fortunate recipients of divine Grace. Those who have not received this Grace can
only be envious or skeptical. That God should make himself known to some and not
to others seems to be the ultimate absurdity. Beyond that, God says different
things to different people. The religions of the east know nothing of him at
all. Perhaps, however, a divine providence moves in mysterious ways and it may
be that those who are the recipients of Grace are given it because they are
incapable of finding meaning on their own. They are the ones who, unlike the
choice made by Lessing, want to be given truth rather than to search for it.

My intuition that I have my place in the panorama of eternity strengthens me to
build my life as I think it should be built and not chase after the evanescent
gratifications that exist in all societies. This is a confession of faith, but
it is a faith based on a rational conception of reality. Writing this essay
develops my self. The purpose of philosophy, as I conceive it, is to give
direction to the spirit and not to construct spiritless theories of knowledge.
Eschatology takes precedence over epistemology. What is unanalyzable should not
be analyzed.

(c) Richard Schain 2005

E-mail: rjschain@lycos.com

Web site: http://rschain1.tripod.com



It is always sad to see Western religions at the center of conflict. All these
religions claim to abhor conflict and demonstrate this by teaching peace and
forgiveness. Yet they also promote the complete opposite when they preach blame
and retribution (or if you prefer justice and punishment). These obviously
opposing philosophies must produce conflict; yet they somehow coexist in all
these religions.

Wherever there is a philosophy of judgment and blame there must be conflict. It
would only be possible to avoid conflict if everyone knew all the facts
concerning a controversy and everyone agreed on what was right and what was
wrong. This is not possible, as we do not have the facilities to deal with the
quantity of information that would have to be processed to know "all the
facts," about even a simple event. A quick comparison, between the quantity of
information that is presented to us for processing, and our ability to process
information, indicates that we must summarize, we must categorize, we must leap
to conclusions. This immediately indicates that all arguments can be challenged,
all conclusions are tentative, all relationships induced, except for a small
number of simple situations that fit into the rigid structure of formal logic
(Dilman, I. Induction and Deduction).

Because each of us selects a different set of information from the abundance
available and then interprets this differently, each of us live in our own
unique virtual world. Each of us has a different opinion and each is likely to
judge differently. Whenever the topic is controversial these judgments
naturally lead to divisions that create different sects. As these form and
tensions between them inflate there is a tendency to apply the blame and
retribution side of religion. Doing this escalates these tensions and a closed
loop, or "circularity," is formed which locks its participants into a judge and
blame paradigm.

This paradigm makes "judge and punish" a way of life. Children, wives,
siblings, friends, politicians, auditors, employees, business partners, and
criminals are all judged and punished without second thought. Any society
practicing this philosophy naturally spends a lot of time and effort judging
and punishing. Every statement is evaluated to see if it is a judgment or a
punishment. In this environment, many statements, not intended to judge or
punish, are misinterpreted and this lead to strained relationships. Societies
living in this paradigm are easily stimulated to conflict and sometimes war.

If we are to solve the problem of conflict between people and religions we have
to find some means expanding the "peace and forgiveness" philosophy while
undermining the "judge and punish" approach. Perhaps if we examine ourselves,
rather than religious doctrine, we could find the key to this problem. This
could possibly lead to a different approach to religion.

We all have two modes of behavior: (a) when threatened we easily adopt an
aggressive/ defensive posture. Like a warrior we divide the world into two
camps; those who are for us are our friends, those who are against us are our
enemies. There is a clear divide and everyone on our side opposes the enemy. If
they don't, they are the enemy.

On the other hand, when we are not feeling threatened, we can adopt behavior
(b). We can understand both sides of the conflict, empathize with both of them,
be generous, and assist in solving their problems. We can be forgiving and
humane because our dreams, or plans, or life, or livelihood are not threatened
by that conflict.

Generally speaking the philosophy of the Old Testament supports (a) behavior
and that of the New Testament supports (b).

Although these two testaments are part of the same Bible, they have completely
different philosophical approaches. The Old Testament deals with violent
conflict. It seems to assume that man has "fallen" from grace and is a mean,
brutish creature that has to be forced to follow the law. It prescribes harsh
punishments to achieve this. It is a religion of force. It assumes that violent
communal force (punishment) is essential. It uses fear of punishment as the
motivation for complying with its laws. Its thesis is; man must be forced to
obey laws for the society to function. It is a war religion that finds
application in modern politics (a war) and business (another war) and is
eagerly adopted by the religious right.

But this approach perpetuates war. The normal daily process of living provides
many opportunities for conflicts to arise. When someone considers that they
have been unreasonably punished they also judge and punish. This leads to
compensating acts, as someone who thinks they have been punished will seek to
punish in return. An "every man for himself" approach evolves and everyone
lives on the edge of the law, amassing as much resources as they possibly can
to prepare themselves for the inevitable future battles.

In contrast to this, the New Testament uses a different philosophy. It assumes
that the community can avoid conflict if everyone adopts a "love thy neighbor,"
approach. It assumes that man is basically good, but is tempted by the Devil to
adopt aggressive behavior (a simple way of characterizing the fear response).
When the "love thy neighbor" approach is successful, and conflict is avoided,
the community becomes harmonious and achieves a high quality of life. Because
community members are inclined to look after each other, individual wealth is
not emphasized. This mode of living is also self-perpetuating, but is very
vulnerable to attack from more "warlike" communities. It can be attacked in
many ways. Even something as simple as a rich person "buying up" its resources
can trigger violent responses and once violence starts it is very likely to
perpetuate itself.

Modern Western communities use these two approaches without conscious thought.
When threatened they immediately adopt (a) behavior, as George Bush did with
his famous, "If you are not for me, you are against me," statement after the
September 11th attack. On the other had, when threats subside a more humane
character appears.

This very short analysis suggests that Western Religions can make progress
towards humane behavior if they can find a way of encouraging (b) type
behavior. They have used many techniques to achieve this, but are "losing the
battle," perhaps because they accept that there is a battle and participate in

Maybe they should try a more scientific approach and explain to their
congregations that aggressive behavior is a fear response. Fear induces
aggression. Anyone who understands this will want to demonstrate that they are
not frightened. This automatically encourages and supports type (b) behavior.
When a population understands that someone who is aggressive is demonstrating
that they are frightened a different response to aggressive behavior will
emerge. Instead of responding aggressively they will say to themselves, "that
man is frightened" and seek to understand why he is frightened. A social
dynamic is created that supports (b) type behavior and helps protect it from
the attacks that naturally emanate from societies or individuals perpetuating
(a) type behavior. Instead of feeling that they must protect their "rights"
with a violent response to a threat they can become skilled at calming those
who are aggressive.

Of course it will also be necessary to protect these communities, as there will
be many who don't understand the message and will sustain violent behavior. This
is not a problem as our justice system is ready to do this. All that is required
is to remove the "punish" module and replace it with a "teach" module. The
system of justice must become an educational system rather than a
"correctional" system. The idea of punishment has to be removed and replaced
with the idea of education. Instead of assuming that lawbreakers are "evil,"
and need to be punished, we assume that they simply don't understand how to
live in society. The system then helps them to understand themselves better.
The thrust of the education would be to help people to understand why they are
violent and what they can do to get "Beyond Good and Evil" as Nietzsche put it.
This would convert the underlying philosophy of this system from (a) to (b) and
would help support (b) type activity.

This relatively intellectual argument would have to be marketed in a way that
captures the imagination of a society that is not particularly interested in
intellectual arguments. To do this a connection between fear and the Devil can
be made. Violet behavior is driven by fear, but it would not be inconsistent to
argue that it is driven by the Devil. The Bible has many references that can be
used to make this association. Characterizing violent behavior as Devil driven
can achieve a very powerful stigmatization, but religious leaders have to be
aware that it will also stigmatize the religious right. Would that be good or

The last question is a test. Anyone asking, "Would that be good or bad?" is in
judgmental mode as this question is the product of a judgmental attitude. If we
are to adopt type (b) behavior, we have to think differently. One possibility is
to become goal oriented and ask questions such as, "Would that help achieve our
goal?" If our current goal is to avoid violent confrontation, stigmatizing
violent behavior as devil driven would certainly help, but it is only one of
the things we can do to transition from the judge and blame paradigm of the Old
Testament to something new.

We don't know what the new paradigm will be like, so we can't define a goal
that would take us there. If we think our goal is "peace" we are still in our
war paradigm and still thinking of things in terms of war and peace, good and
evil. We must get beyond this. Suppose we define our goal as "learning." We
know that as we learn we progress to a more humane society so this goal
incorporates peace, but it is much broader. Someone pursuing learning as a goal
can view conflict as contributing to his knowledge. This contrasts with someone
pursuing the goal of peace, who must object to conflict. The learner is not
committed to or restricted from the use of force. This removes the straight
jacket that seekers of "peace" place on themselves and gives this learner the
flexibility to accept that there are situations where force may be necessary
(as in forcing people to send their children to school.) This is one of the
subtleties of the new paradigm.

With a "learn" goal and a target mode of behavior that is supported by well
known human characteristics as well as being "new testament" we can, very
effectively undermine type (a) behavior with "knowledge." This approach could
form the basis for redefining religion in a way that can unite different sects.
It would be appealing to intellectuals who enjoy learning and who wish to avoid
the straight jacket that insists that research on spirituality must be
historical. It would also bring religion closer to science and help advance
knowledge of spirituality. Several questions can be researched such as, "what
is the relationship between information and spirituality?" (Both are abstract,
both seemingly influence material processes - are they related?). Any progress
in this area would be welcome as we seem to have been going through a prolonged
"dark ages" in spirituality while knowledge in other areas advances rapidly.

(c) Dick Stoute 2005

E-mail: dstoute@sunbeach.net



I was much taken by the articles in Philosophy Pathways 100. I would find it
much easier to write politically on the issues raised but as this is a
philosophical forum I will do my best to reply philosophically.

First of all some background. I am the son of a Jewish mother and brought up as
a Jew. Whilst I married a girl from an orthodox family we belong to a Liberal
Synagogue As a slight contradiction I am a former member of a socialist-Zionist
movement and have maintained my links with the political arm of that movement in

So how do I approach the problems you have raised philosophically? I think I
will take two aspects of your articles those that deal with 'truth' and
'justice'. The article entitled 'Tough Truths For Jews, Christians, and
Muslims' presupposes the existence of a First Cause, a Supreme Being, and on
this a superstructure of belief has been erected. The concept of moral and
spiritual values arises from that superstructure, so if one is an atheist or
agnostic the basis for those moral beliefs does not exist. I cannot see how the
notion that religion is not always and necessarily divisive can be sustained
when each religion not only possesses an inherent claim to be the true religion
but most of the religious faiths have their own schisms each claiming to be the
true faith. One has only to look at the vicious hostility by Orthodox Jewry in
Israel that has confronted the development of Liberal Judaism there, as an

This exclusivity is inherent in the major religions, it is not something that
can be reconciled by 'goodwill' - it is there by definition. What each faith is
actually saying is, 'Look, we are the true faith, we possess the ultimate truth,
but we recognise that we may share a common root with your faith and have some
common beliefs, but our tolerance towards your faith is conditional upon you
not attempting to argue that your religion is the "true" faith. As anything
other than that position would be an inherent contradiction the seeds of
division cannot be anything other than necessarily present within each faith.
It cannot be a question of 'same Divinity, different route' when the concept of
the 'Divinity' varies according to each specific religion. There is really no
logical reason why the moral and spiritual values of pagans should be any less
a 'truth' than those 'truths' possessed by religious believers. There is no
logical reason why an atheist should be any less moral than say a practising
Christian. In pre-Christian Athens there existed a tolerance of numerous 'Gods'
and their existence did not create the division and bloodletting that arose
following the development and adoption of Christianity. So I would argue that
there is no logically necessary foundation for a set of beliefs or moral codes
emanating from a belief in a 'Divine' source.

As far as the concept of justice is concerned I would further argue whilst each
religion has its own concept of justice, a necessarily true concept of justice
cannot be 'extracted' from religion. Justice does not possess properties, it
cannot be identified through the senses as a separate entity. Justice means
what I, as an individual, believe it to mean and any belief I possess is
conditioned by my values. With each religion claiming its own definition of
justice I cannot see how any religion can be a reference point for a universal
concept of justice. The article by Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah contains little
with which any person who possesses a sense of compassion could disagree, and
indeed 'justice' for the Palestinians is a worthy goal. Indeed one could argue
that if it were not for a religious concept i.e. the belief by the ancient
Hebrews in a one God bestowing upon them the'right' to a land possessed by
others the question of 'justice' for the Palestinians could not have arisen.

If I reject the concept of a religious truth I must also reject the right of
any peoples to advance their interests at the expense of others - if that
advancement was based solely on that religious belief. So therefore the 'right'
of Israel to exist is harder to defend on a religious basis than that on the
concept of justice that I possess and which I accept to be subjective, but
which has no religious foundation. My concept of justice allows for a national
people to have a national home. The creation of Israel did not necessarily have
to result in a dispossession of land held by others. If a concept of 'justice'
is required in this context it surely must have a firmer foundation than that
which could be established by a set a religious beliefs that have no relevance
to those who do not possess those beliefs?

(c) Harry Davies 2005

E-mail: harrydavies@fsmail.net

  Philosophy Pathways is the electronic newsletter for the
  Pathways to Philosophy distance learning program

  To subscribe or cancel your subscription please email your
  request to philosophypathways@fastmail.net

  The views expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily
  reflect those of the editor. Contributions, suggestions or
  comments should be addressed to klempner@fastmail.net

Pathways to Philosophy

Original Newsletter
Home Page
Pathways Home Page