Aren’t You a Bit Solipsistic?

My last post “Aren’t You a Bit Epicurious?” acquainted you with the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. I presented also several of his main theories, three of which in particular bring us to today’s post” Aren’t You a Bit Solipsistic?”

Epicurus believed that you could learn everything you needed to know through your senses, a form of solipsism but with his close friends at hand just in case he was wrong, I suppose.

Epicurus also promoted Demetrius’ proposition of Atomism-random, unguided ‘atoms’ (as he called them) smashing and swerving into each other, creating the world and life around him.

And, Epicurus also believed that the gods were distant and uninvolved and therefore unrelated to‘thinking’ and ‘sensing’ man’s life. Today, Epicurus’ philosophy is found, mutated, in the DNA of our zeitgeist. This post deals with the Epicurean presupposed philosophical divide between science and religion. So put on your thinking cap, Sherman.

 Critical thinkers now that you have your thinking cap on and a pot of coffee brewing sit back and listen to Alvin Plantinga, Christian philosopher, discuss the topic at hand before students at Biola University Center For Christian Thought. (Note: Just after the one hour mark there is a Q &A session. The video upload is dated 2012.)

Suffice it to say, ‘n’ & ‘e’, is self-defeating and can’t rationally be accepted; evolution is compatible with “mere Christianity”.

And, solipsism is inherent in Darwinian materialism, narcissistic identity politics and predestinational behavioral social science.

Aren’t You A Bit Epicurious?

Little did he know at the time (341-270 B.C.) that he, Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, would be a founding father of the atheism sect, a sect which began its angry resistance movement when Jesus Christ appeared on the scene claiming to be God incarnate. Or, that he, Epicurus would be the gardener who would plant the seeds of the Enlightenment’s now perennial social Darwinism, seeds embedded with the DNA of Democritus’ dictum of random Atomism. Or, that he would be considered an ancient agnostic theologian who preached that the gods were out-of-the picture and the Roman gods were way too bossy. Or, that his philosophy would become an eponymous link with shameless pleasures.

an allegory of five senses. Still Life by Pieter Claesz, 1623. The painting illustrates the senses through musical instruments, a compass, a book, food and drink, a mirror, incense and an open perfume bottle. (via Wikipedia)

An allegory of five senses. Still Life by Pieter Claesz, 1623. The painting illustrates the senses through musical instruments, a compass, a book, food and drink, a mirror, incense and an open perfume bottle. (via Wikipedia)

Epicurus had concluded that any idea of the ‘gods’ had to be put upstairs in the ‘attic’-out of sight, out of mind. Not seen. Not heard from. They should be not be given any consideration much less be feared. Epicurus had an alternative universe to offer his disciples.

Epicurus lived and taught a moderate lifestyle, keeping to himself and to his close friends. He believed and taught that one could learn everything through one’s senses. He counted the senses as trustworthy.

Epicurus spoke of natural desires in life such as food and shelter which one could not live without (a no-brainer). And, he spoke of the natural desire for sex which one could live without (a no-boner). In practice, unlike today’s hedonistic Epicureans, Epicurus was pleasure-passive but not in the sense that he would waste away his time in Margaritaville.

Epicurus also taught that wealth and fame should be avoided because they are intrinsically narcissistic and appeal only to vanity. These things were to be considered ephemeral. (Al Sharpton and a host of politicians and Hollywood stars would not be examples of true Epicureanism.)

As Epicurus was a proponent of living a quiet and peaceful life, unnoticed by the world I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s missive to the church in Thessalonica (circa Ad 52). Paul’s letter was likely written from Corinth the home of Aphrodite’s temple-a hedonist hangout. He encouraged the Christians in Thessalonica to “… make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you,” (I Thess. 4:11 )

Epicurean philosophy, detached from its sedate founder’s teaching, would later become associated with extreme pleasure seeking. Per Wikipedia, a “hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure (pleasure minus pain)”. And, with the angry ‘gods thought of as remote, unconcerned and out of the picture a hedonist could unleash and unlock the Animal House within him. But, Epicurus was not a Caligula in pursuit of untold ‘pleasures’. There were no toga parties at Epicurus’ home.

“Seek pleasure in peace and pursue it” was his cart’s bumper sticker-right next to his “COEXIST” bumper sticker.

 Due to his compartmentalizing, putting god upstairs and putting earthly pleasure as a priority, Epicurus can also be considered as one of the founding fathers of the fact/value split, a split where science and religion and politics and religion are deemed to have no common ground-in heaven nor on earth. This Epicurean dichotomy would eventually cause Americans to exile God from their thinking. To fill the vacancy America would welcome all manner of European philosophical and psychoanalytical nonsense as well as all manifestations of statistical ‘science’. (See my post “How Shall I Then Live” regarding the fact/value split.)

Sadly it was with an Epicurean mindset already in place that America’s founding fathers including Thomas Jefferson wrote the U.S. Constitution as the divorce papers to be served on God –God was not to be part of our nation’s public’ life: And though our currency reads “In God We Trust”, that has come to mean “God is our fall back position”. “You may worship God up there but just don’t bring him down from the attic into our Novus ordo seclorum” (see your after tax currency of the New World for both mottos).

It probably could be said that the Epicurean philosophy was the origin of Freud’s Pleasure Principle. The Principle simply stated, is that man’s default modus operandi is to pursue pleasure and avoid pain. Here it would appear that neo-Epicurean philosophy influenced at least Christopher Hitchens, a well-known provocateur atheist given to well-documented habits of smoking, strong drink and other ravishing appetites, a raison d’etre for a pleasure seeker like Hitchens-but only in his previous life.

Mr. Epicurus, on the other hand, took his afternoon delight in hammock contemplation of Atomism, the dictum of his day: life is reducible to invisible atoms which swerve and smash randomly into each other without a defining purpose. This dictum could well define the “angry atheists” Atomistic arguments against the existence of God. (During Epicurus time you had to walk by faith to believe in invisible atoms and no God. Later quantum physics via the LHC and other nuclear colliders would provide us with the silhouettes of nuclear particles including bosons but many scientists chose not to see God as Creator of this “Atomism”)

 Today, “angry atheists,” one such is Richard Dawkins, continue to swerve and smash their Atomistc-like arguments against God’s apologists but their pro-atheistic arguments never coalesce into anti-God anti-matter. And, when everything else they have said fails to discharge God from the universe these angry fellows and their devoted followers resort to ad hominem and strong drink.

Epicurus is the man for all reasons today. Here is someone who can say it better than I.

 N.T. Wright, a New Testament scholar, notes Epicurus’ influence on modern man in his recent book “Surprised by Scripture.” Here are some quotes from Chapter One “Healing the Divide Between Science and Religion”.

 “You could sum up Epicurus’ philosophy, at least in its desired effects, with the slogan Richard Dawkins and his associates put as an advertisement on London buses two or three years ago: “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life….

 So, for Epicurus, there was nothing to worry about. Draw a direct line from him to John Lennon: imagine there’s no heaven, no hell beneath us; now get on and live for today. The image of Epicurus as a hedonist is true, but it was a very refined hedonism, since he taught that the more obviously bodily pleasures didn’t last and produced less pleasurable effects.”

Wright goes on to say that

“The philosophy of Epicurus was given a major new lease on life by the Roman poet Lucretius, who lived about seventy years before Jesus….In Lucretius it all become clear and straightforward. The world is what is it is because of (what he called) atoms, which, free-falling through space, collide with one another, sometimes combining and sometimes bouncing off…major changes are caused by the inexplicable “swerve” that sometime happens to atoms so that they veer off in new directions and produce different results. But the main point is essentially what we would today call the evolutionary thesis: life in the world has developed under its own steam as the random by-product of chance collisions and combinations of atoms and the more complex life-forms they produce….

The second point I want to make about the rise of Epicureanism at the dawn of modernity, and particularly in the origins of the Enlightenment, is that it was seized upon not least because of it political implications. That is clear already in Machiavelli and Hobbes, but it comes to fore in the eighteenth century.”

 The Epicurean endorsed idea that random free-floating atoms made the world what it is ‘swerved’ into the mix of political ideologies which rejected monarchy and a ‘bossy-guy-upstairs’ rule. “Vox populi vox Dei is the cry-but then Deus himself disappears off into the far beyond, and vox populi is all we’re left with.” N. T. Wright, and again:

 “…Democracy can generate new forms of tyranny, and once we have sold our souls to a particular voting process there no way back. We need to return to the drawing board and think more clearly about whether the natural and proper human passion for freedom and the natural and proper need for order and stability are best served by the kinds of democracy we have developed, without the aid of the divine or monarchial intervention from above, on the model of the Epicureanism that has proved so popular and influential.” (I would add that it appears that radicalized Islam seeks to place their false god Allah on the world’s throne. N. T. Wright is referring to the One True God-YHVH-“I Am That I Am”.)

 The threads of Epicurus philosophy are woven throughout our life’s fabric. As Wright notes, “Basically, the American dream is that if you get up and go, you’ll succeed; the egalitarian hope is that the fittest will survive the economic jungle”. And, as I noted above Epicurean philosophy began the fact value split that modern man uses as his template for all of life’s questions, whether personal or political.

 Do I look to God or to some form of science for life’s contextual meaning? Am I a random mix of atoms evolved into a human form? Is life only meant for pleasure seeking and pain avoidance and at any cost to me and to my fellow man. Should I vote to obtain pleasure? And so on…

 For Christians (for all, really) what does it mean that the Kingdom of God has been established on earth? N.T. Wright, in his book referenced above, goes on to explore the current thinking and a Christian response to an Epicurean worldview. For now, there is way too much of Wright’s insight to post today. Except to say that sadly the world now divides science and religion into separate rooms –one downstairs and one upstairs. This should not be. I am convinced that science and properly tuned philosophy support God’s existence, Scripture and the work of His hands. As Francis Schaeffer of L’ Abri once wrote, “He is there and He is not silent.” I’ll save that for other posts.

 

Final thoughts. As mentioned above Epicurus treasured his close friends. They were very important to him. And I would imagine they would be.

 In a universe where god is perceived as remote, uninterested, detached and at best considered as always-looking-down-on you angry and bossy it feels good to have close like-minded friends to commiserate with: “Dionysus my friend, pass the wine and let us sing ”Don’t Worry, Be Happy””.

 Now, you should know from previous posts that I accept the theory of theistic evolution with its old earth creationism. (BTW: after learning about Epicurus you should know that the Atomism dictum that he promoted well preceded any Darwinian theory of evolution.) Having said this I would offer the following friendly apologia.

 Each of us as God formed evolved humans can ‘recognize’ another person, the ‘other,’ via our evolved senses. Can we agree that this was done at a prehistoric man level? And, when one cave man was hungry and another cave man was also hungry they may have then formed a hunter/gatherer tribe to fulfill their basic need for food. Again, this was done at a prehistoric man level.

Now fast forward millions of years and hold on. Epicurus understood his friends at a basic human level-through his basic five senses. The fact the he held them dear meant that he looked outside of himself and considered the ‘other’ as worthy, perhaps starting from a place of tribalism. (I hope I’ve made you epicurious.)

Certainly myriad mutations have made our basic senses ‘alive’ and aware that another being in our presence is either friend or foe. But it is only God’s likeness incarnated into the once primate-now human form that can bring about an embrace, a love for the ‘other’. Human friendship and human love was born out of a different tribe, a tribe not of the Epicurean worldview-the Dancing Embrace of the Trinity Tribe.

“Joy to the World, the Lord has come, Let earth receive her King”:  The Kingdom of God is heaven and earth, science and religion and you and me in one eternal embrace with the Trinity.

At the beginning of Kingdom of God on earth and during his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus-I AM That I Am-reminds us that we are being watched over with love and care. Jesus nullifies Epicurean philosophy, if we let Him.

 

 

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Here’s an interesting recent snapshot of modern Epicurean thought: Raising Kids Without God (But Maybe Not Without Religion)

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Added 1-25-2015. Epicurean science dismissing fact becomes a fanatical ‘faith’ to avoid fantasy-future owies:

MIT Climate Scientist: Global Warming Believers a ‘Cult’

Three Atheists I Listen To

Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ and an heir of the King and a fellow servant in the Kingdom of God began when I first believed that God existed. What followed was the understanding that God not only existed but that He is an Infinite-Personal God who, though having created the vast universe ex nihilo using the Big Bang and evolution, loves me.

 Beyond my own personal encounters with God through my reason and through the testimony of others, there are the historical facts supporting the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is also astounding supporting evidence in nature. God exists.

But there are some who say otherwise: “Atheism exists, this I know, for my reason tells me so.” These would be the angry atheists Richard Dawkins, the former Christopher Hitchens (Hitch) and others.

 I have at one time or another heard these atheists give their arguments of disbelief and I have found their words wanting for any real substance. They often come across as superior and snobbish.  And, their arguments are certainly unfettered by the factual account of the resurrection or of the fine tuning of the universe that makes life and thought and argument possible at all. Their anger exists.

 There are three atheists I pay attention to.  I tune in to them because what they often say through words or music reveals the truth about God in a way they may not even realize. The three atheists are Thomas Sowell, Dr. Theodore Dalrymple and Frederick Delius

Thomas SowellFirst, Thomas Sowell.  Start at his web page Thomas Sowell. And, here is a short bio from the Townhall.com web page: http://townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/

“…writing for the general public enables him to address the heart of issues without the smoke and mirrors that so often accompany academic writing.”

  Sowell is an economist, a common sense economist.  You will get that sense as you read his books and articles.  Of late, I have read The Thomas Sowell Reader (start with this book for short articles addressing current issues both economic and social) and A Conflict of Visions.

  The Thomas Sowell Reader, a compilation of articles and essays written by Thomas Sowell, economist:

 “From an early age, I have been convinced with trying to understand the social problems that abound in any society.  First and foremost, this was an attempt to try to grasp some explanation of the puzzling and disturbing things going on around me.  This was all for my own personal clarification, since I neither had political ambitions nor the political talents required for either elective or appointed office.  But, one having achieved some sense of understanding of particular issues ~ a process that sometimes took years – I wanted to share that understanding with others.  That is the reason for the things that appear in this book.”

 A Conflict of Visions, also written by Thomas Sowell:

 “What are the underlying assumptions behind the very different ideological visions of the world being contested in modern times?  The purpose here will not be to determine which of these visions is more valid but rather to reveal the inherent logic behind each of these sets of views and the ramifications of the assumptions which lead not only to different conclusions on particular issues but also to wholly different meanings to such fundamental words as “justice,” “equality,” and “power.”

 A sample article by Thomas Sowell:  The Fallacy of Redistribution

 519px-TheodoredalrympleRegarding Dr. Theodore Dalrymple and some of his recurring themes from books and articles note the following from his Wikipedia entry.  I confirm these themes having read his book Life at the bottom. The Worldview that makes the Underclass:

 -The cause of much contemporary misery in Western countries ~ criminality, domestic violence, drug addiction, aggressive youths, hooliganism, broken families ~ is the nihilistic, decadent, and/or self-destructive behavior of people who do not know how to live. Both the smoothing over of this behavior, and the lexicalization of the problems that emerge as a corollary of this behavior, are forms of indifference. Someone has to tell those people, patiently and with understanding for the particulars of the case, that they have to live differently. (Life at the bottom. The Worldview that makes the Underclass)

-Moral relativism can easily be a trick of an egotistical mind to silence the voice of conscience. (‘The Uses of Metaphysical Skepticism’, in: In Praise of Prejudice. The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas, p. 6 (chapter 2).

-Multiculturalism and cultural relativism are at odds with common sense. (“Multiculturalism Starts Losing Its Luster”. City Journal. Retrieved 12 July 2009)

-The decline of civilized behavior ~ self-restraint, modesty, zeal, humility, irony, detachment – ruins social and personal life. (Not with a Bang but a Whimper)

-The root cause of our contemporary cultural poverty is intellectual dishonesty. First, the intellectuals (more specifically, left-wing ones) have destroyed the foundation of culture, and second, they refuse to acknowledge it by resorting to the caves of political correctness.

deliusLastly, Frederick Delius.  I don’t recall when I first heard his compositions. It may have been in my thirties at a Chicago Symphony concert.  The first piece I remember is the symphonic poem The Song Of Summer.  I was overwhelmed by its simple beauty.

 From The Delius Collection, Vol. 2 CD liner notes:

 “Many have written of Delius’ ‘moods’ or ‘feelings’, views which reflect only the ‘impression’ his music has made on the writers (read music critics).

Such Romantic or rather Impressionistic ~ notions of his art are only concerned with its surface appeal, as if that is all that is valuable in it, and ignore wholly his unique technical and structural mastery.  In such ways, Delius is more of an anti-Romantic, for the sentimentality or self-projection of Romanticism are alien to his music.  Delius hymned Nature, not himself as did Sebelius; such sentimentality as may condemn his art stems from a performing style wherein expressive beauty is stressed at the cost of his music’s intellectual power.” Robert Matthew-Walker

 For starters I would recommend listening to Irmelin Prelude, Song of Summer, A Late Lark, the orchestral interlude A Walk to Paradise Garden from his opera A Village Romeo and Juliet and On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring.

 An avowed atheist, Delius embraced nature for his inspiration.  He also embraced Nietzsche’s philosophy which produced Delius’ loud and unattractive A Mass of Life.

 “A Mass of Life is an attack upon Christian doctrine and the Christian way of life as Nietzsche and Delius saw it. They both wanted to correct what they called the “slave morality” of Christianity.  Their great emphasis was upon the will, not bowing to anyone, and living and dying fearlessly though death be total extinction.

Death, when it came to Delius, was terrible, and within a few months his steadfast wife was dead too.

In speaking about Delius, Eric Fenby (Delius’ composition scribe after Delius became blind) observes, “Given those great natural musical gifts and that nature of his, so full of feeling, and which at its finest inclined to that exalted end of man which is contemplation, there is no knowing to what sublime heights he would have risen had he chosen to look upwards to God instead of downward to man!”  From the Gift of Music by Jane Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson, Crossway Books

 What the first two atheists have in common is their ability to speak truth, wisdom and common sense ~ God’s law within each of us – simply. As Richard Feynman, Nobel laureate of physics said, “You can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity.”

 Both men, from their lifetime of experiences, have seen reality and tell us that there are values that a man must embrace to be civilized, to be ‘right side up’, so to speak.  They tell us that Man must draw the line somewhere. 

Now, I believe that it is the God of Creation who has created the line ~ the natural law written on our hearts ~ and He has exposed our crossing it. But, He did not leave us on our own, to remake ourselves as Nietzsche’s ideal human, the Übermensch, who would be able to channel passions creatively (but to what end?). He gave us the only way possible, through His Son, to regain our humanity.

 Frederick Delius revealed truth through his music’s contemplative moments of rhapsodic beauty as inspired by God’s creation.

 All three have seen things (even the eventually blind Delius) that others often willfully ignore. They are honest with themselves about what they see and they repeat it back.  And, there is knowledge of reality in their words and works that can only find its genesis in God’s created order and His law written on our hearts.

 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Atheism in Retreat

  
William Lane Craig wants to debate atheists ( Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, etc) in the UK but there are NO takers:
 
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God Is Not Dead Yet
How current philosophers argue for his existence.
by William Lane Craig
 

You might think from the recent spate of atheist best-sellers that belief in God has become intellectually indefensible for thinking people today. But a look at these books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, among others, quickly reveals that the so-called New Atheism lacks intellectual muscle. It is blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in Anglo-American philosophy. It reflects the scientism of a bygone generation rather than the contemporary intellectual scene.

That generation’s cultural high point came on April 8, 1966, when Time magazine carried a lead story for which the cover was completely black except for three words emblazoned in bright red letters: “Is God Dead?” The story described the “death of God” movement, then current in American theology.

But to paraphrase Mark Twain, the news of God’s demise was premature. For at the same time theologians were writing God’s obituary, a new generation of young philosophers was rediscovering his vitality.

The complete article here:http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/july/13.22.html?paging=off

For more information: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer

Cartesian Circle

Cartesian Circle? One man, a materialist, says that by reason, logic and objective science he can prove there is no God. This man assumes that his reasoning process and his human intellect, which he insists are products of chaos’ fine tuning, are both valid and adequate to determine such things. But, can material determine anything? If trial and error is the course corrector for materialism, how is the right outcome determined? Through survival? Can the author of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, a materialist, determine that there is no God by using survival techniques? Maybe he is really trying to salvage his atheism (stands to reason).

God is so Other from us that no one can reason him into existence or out of existence.

At some point in creation’s evolutionary process originated by God, God the Creator endowed man with intellect and a spiritual dimension. God then proceeded to make Himself clearly knowable through the Bible, through nature and certainly through the incarnation of His Son, Jesus.

In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis, Christian apologist, speculated on evolution’s material process and on the origins of human beings:

“For long centuries God perfected the animal form which was to become the vehicle of humanity and the image of Himself. He gave it hands whose thumb could be applied to each of the fingers, and jaws and teeth and throat capable of articulation, and a brain sufficiently complex to execute all the material motions whereby rational thought is incarnated. The creature may have existed for ages in this state before it became man: it may even have been clever enough to make things which a modern archaeologist would accept as proof of its humanity. But it was only an animal because all physical and psychical processes were directed to purely material and natural ends. Then, in the fullness of time, God caused to descend upon this organism, both on its psychology and physiology, a new kind of consciousness which could say ‘I’ and ‘me,’ which could look upon itself as an object, which knew God, which could make judgments of truth, beauty, and goodness, and which was so far above time that it could perceive time flowing past. This new consciousness ruled and illuminated the whole organism, flooding every part of it with light, and was not, like ours, limited to a selection of the movements going on in one part of the organism, namely the brain. Man was then all consciousness.”

Tune In

Naturalism ‘ad absurdum’

Alvin Plantinga responding to Richard Dawkin’s book, The God Delusion:

…“The real problem here, obviously, is Dawkins’ naturalism, his belief that there is no such person as God or anyone like God. That is because naturalism implies that evolution is unguided. So a broader conclusion is that one can’t rationally accept both naturalism and evolution; naturalism, therefore, is in conflict with a premier doctrine of contemporary science. People like Dawkins hold that there is a conflict between science and religion because they think there is a conflict between evolution and theism; the truth of the matter, however, is that the conflict is between science and naturalism, not between science and belief in God.

“The God Delusion is full of bluster and bombast, but it really doesn’t give even the slightest reason for thinking belief in God mistaken, let alone a “delusion.”

The naturalism that Dawkins embraces, furthermore, in addition to its intrinsic unloveliness and its dispiriting conclusions about human beings and their place in the universe, is in deep self-referential trouble. There is no reason to believe it; and there is excellent reason to reject it.”

You can read the entire article here.

Here are excellent papers by professor Alvin Plantinga and one titled “Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism.”

 

Added 02/24/11:

In terms of probability: P(R/N&E)

R= a claim of reliability based on human cognitive faculties
N=metaphysical naturalism
E=evolution developed cognition (blind watchmaker stuff)

P of R<1/2 = a self-defeater for R if we accept N & E