We Are Not Brutes

Aristotle defined man as “rational animal.” The point of contrast is with irrational animals, or brutes, which, according to the Roman Stoic philosopher Epictetus, “make use of appearances” but do not “understand the use of appearances.”[1] Or to put it another way, God has created man with a particular nature, one that includes rational faculties that give us the ability to wonder about the universe and to ask the persistent questions: what is the meaning of life? Why am I here? Does God exist? Is there objective value? And so on.

Can we know anything if Naturalism is true? Or: A plea for creativity with Theistic Arguments

In my last post, I considered John Calvin’s claim that we cannot know God unless we  know ourselves and (conversely), we cannot know ourselves unless we know God. Calvin thinks there is a tight relationship between the knowledge of God and the knowledge of man. Here I want to consider a deeper concern: Can we have knowledge of anything if God does not exist?

Knowledge of God & Knowledge of Self

Can we really know ourselves if we don’t know God? Can we really know God if we don’t know ourselves? John Calvin doesn’t think so. Or how about: can we be happy without God? Can we flourish in light of our nature apart from loving God? Again, Calvin doesn’t think so. I think Calvin is right.

When it is OK to Beg the Question

“You are begging the question;” “You are arguing in a circle;” (or for the more self-consciously sophisticated:)  “you are guilty of the petitio principii fallacy.” Such assertions, commonplace in philosophical dialogue are meant to undercut an opponent’s argument. After all, if you assume from the outset what you intend to prove, you are engaged in a kind of circular reasoning, which, most of the time we ought to avoid.

Atheism and the Unscratchable Itch

It is a fundamental datum of our experience that we all long for meaning; we long for a narrative in which to make sense of our lives, our passions, and our beliefs. But, if God doesn’t exist, the cold, hard truth is there is no meaning. We have a scratch, but no way to itch it.