Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hobbes: You Can't Ratiocinate God

Philosophy, Hobbes says, "excludes Theology, I mean the doctrine of God, eternal, ingenerable, incomprehensible...It excludes the doctrine of angels, and all such things as are thought to be neither bodies nor properties of bodies; there being in place for ratiocination [reason]."

The world indeed would be a better place if we did not pretend to engage in rational debates about incomprehensible subjects! The assumption of God's existence should not masquerade behind a cloak of philosophical or scientific words.

On the other hand, some types of theology are well-suited to rational discussion. Faced with a Biblical passage that promotes invading a neighboring village and smashing their sacred statues, believers in the moral authority of the Bible might debate whether that particular directive should be followed today, and in what manner it should be followed. The ethical concern is comprehensible and can be assessed rationally. To pretend that the ethical concern cannot be discussed, simply because the issue is ultimately faith-based, is to hide behind the cloak of the incomprehensibility of God.

Philosophy is a smokescreen for beliefs that do not require it. Avoidance of philosophy is a smokescreen for beliefs that do require it.

Thomas Hobbes. Elements of Philosophy Concerning Body. Part 1: Computation or Logic. Chapter 1: Of Philosophy. (1655, Latin; 1656, English.)

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