It always drives me nuts when I debate a conservative Christian about the supernatural claims of the Bible and he or she immediately wants to steer the discussion into a philosophical mindfield, attempting to trip me up with such irritating and preposterous statements such as, “How do you know, Gary, that you even exist? How do you know that you are not just a figment in someone else’s imagination.”
Good grief. What nonsense.
I’m a science man. Philosophy to me is the wishy-washy past time of eighteenth and nineteenth century spoiled, upper class, aristocratic, daddy’s-boys; guys who never had to do an honest day’s work in their entire lives; living on a chateau in southern France; mooching off of daddy’s bank account.
Get a real job, for Pete’s sake!
So why do conservative Christian apologists rely so heavily on philosophy to defend their beliefs, and at the same time, usually prefer to shun, or belittle, the hard sciences? Is it just coincidence? Actually, no. At least that is what one philosopher has to say regarding the relationship between philosophy and religion. Here are some excerpts from his intriguing article:
…The general belief within philosophy is that the process of collegial debate, discussion and review leads to a refinement or clarification of views and so to a progress of sorts. Refinement, yes. Clarification, I’m not so sure.
Often this process can all too plausibly be interpreted in one of two ways (or both — the ideas are not mutually exclusive): it can be seen as a cover for what is essentially an ideological battle; or merely as a competitive game, self-perpetuating and futile.
With respect to the former point, it is at one level extremely difficult to demonstrate that a particular philosopher’s arguments are influenced by his or her ideological or religious convictions; but on another level it is blindingly obvious that, say, Christians or hardline physicalists are motivated to find and defend arguments which accord with their beliefs. Likewise with social and political beliefs. But playing the philosophical game involves ignoring these issues (and so potential sources of bias) and any mention of them is considered irrelevant — just not philosophy. Such an approach reflects, I think, an outdated view of cognition and one that puts far too much faith in discursive reason.
The view that much philosophy is self-perpetuating and futile, a game of sorts which ends not when some kind of “truth” or resolution is finally arrived at but when people just get tired of that particular game and move on to another, has often been more or less acknowledged by philosophers.
…One other area of concern relates to the complex relationship which continues to exist between religion and philosophy.
The philosophical canon includes of course many skeptical as well as religious or Platonistic thinkers. But often they were only writing to counter essentially religious doctrines
…Philosophy can be seen not only to have arisen from religion in a historical sense but also to be — as a modern, independent discipline — still strangely dependent on it. There are funding issues involved here and little doubt that academic philosophy is cleverly exploited by churches (and other ideological groupings for that matter) , but perhaps even more important than this is the extent to which the agenda of philosophy has been determined, directly or indirectly, by religious ideas.