Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Question

"Are there any worldviews that don't contradict themselves?" This astute question came from a young student in my Ethic class at a local college. We have been discussing the meaning of life, worldviews, and ethics through the readings in Vice and Virtue in Everyday Life, 7th edition, edited by Sommers and Sommers.

I have filled in the worldview dimension of things through my lectures and outlines. We are asking which worldview can give an adequate support for moral values. We have assessed Eastern religious views and atheism (Bertrand Russell, Camus, Sartre).

I answered, "I think so, but you need to think it through for yourself. The rest of this class will be a way to do that."

A philosophy professor can live on a good question like that for quite some time. Ah, the serendipity of the enchanted classroom!

5 comments:

Kevin Winters said...

Shouldn't the 'correct' answer be "Christianity"? You seem to think that it is the only possible worldview that can account for "the way things are," yet you hesitate in this response. You also provide the subjective element: "you need to think it through for yourself"; if he did come to a different conclusion than you, would you think he has been rational?

I see a disconnect in your careful response in class and your blogging here: in one you seem more timid in your proclamations while in the other you seem to disregard such timidity to the point of giving absolute statements to the superiority and coherence of the Christian worldview (whatever that is) and the inferiority and incoherence of all others.

A side question: what are the primary texts you use for "Eastern religious views" (or which texts are in the textbook you are using)? Did you notice the similarity of some Eastern thought to virtue ethics?

D. A. Armstrong said...

Although, I think the answer is Christianity. I think the response is fitting for the question.

While I attended Bible college, my apologetics and theology teacher simply quit answering my questions. It was frustrating and irritating to me. During that time, the best answers I received were there is a book in the library about that question. By that point, I would have to go to the library read the book to have the answer.

This lack of direct answer more often than not spurs a person to continue to learn and think. There is a time and place for giving direct answers and giving no answer.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Kevin:

I am teaching at Metro State College of Denver, not Denver Seminary--for this class. One has to be subtle.

Moreover, we cover Christianity and ethical foundations next week.

There is no disconnect.

John Stockwell said...

Here are a couple of extremes. If the worldview is

1) Fixed. The collection of axioms or
tenets of the system are fixed, with
the implication that there can be no
contradictions. Thus any observed
contradictions are viewed as being
merely apparent, and are explained
away or ignored.

Example: Among literalists, there can be no contradictions in a given religious text, yet there are passages (such as the two accounts of the death of Judas) which do not agree on a plain reading. The response of the literalist is to create a narrative in which both accounts can be true.

Or, as with the passages of Genesis, there is great disagreement between a young-earth-global flood historical interpretation of a plain reading of the
text and scientific results regarding
the geologic history of
the earth. The response of the literalist is everything from denial, age-day interpretations, or to attempting to create scientific sounding arguments that agree with the literalist view.

or

2) malleable. The collection of axioms or
tenets of the system are viewed as
being incomplete, with an investigative
component. It is possible for a
contradiction to be recognized and
may lead to the modification of the
worldview.

Example: mathematics. When pathologies are recognized, these lead to or are resolved by the creation of new branches of
mathematics.

Example: science. Contradictions between observations, or between observations and theory are often the source of new scientific theories. (At any given point in time, the "standard model" theories are as close we get in science to having a "scientific worldview".

In religion: reinterpret passages of religious texts as being allegorical.


3) Mystical systems. The above refer
to systems that are intended to be
portrayed as "logical", historical,
or factual. Systems that are mystical
treat contradictions as the gateway
into mystical experience, with ordinary
historical or logical thinking being
viewed as hindrence to the
mystical experience.

Example: Zen Buddhism, shamanism, the ancient Greek mystery religions.

Douglas Groothuis said...

"Mystical systems. The above refer
to systems that are intended to be
portrayed as "logical", historical,
or factual. Systems that are mystical treat contradictions as the gateway into mystical experience, with ordinary historical or logical thinking being viewed as hindrence to the
mystical experience."

That is a perfectly good reason to reject them as false and irrational