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Philosophy consists in comprehending, so far as human power permits, the realities of things as they are in themselves… The power of human understanding does not encompass the reality of the divine Essence: All that man can hope to achieve is to comprehend the attributes of the Divinity, the light of which is manifest and resplendent in the world and within the souls of men. – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, p. 255.

Albert Camus

Albert Camus

If you had to pick one philosophy that best fits your outlook on life, what would it be?

I would say I’m a Humanist, like Camus–but not an Absurd Humanist. Or maybe I’m an Existentialist. I’m definitely an Analytic Philosopher, the most modern flavor. I love the philosophy of the Rational Soul and Rational Mind, which combines the thinking of the Rationalists, the Empiricists and the Romanticists. I guess, if you combined them all, I’d call myself a Spiritual Philosopher. In a way, all of these schools of thought have led me to the real purpose of all philosophy–to determine, describe and detail the meaning of life.

The Baha’i teachings would call that the love of God:

O Son of Man! I loved they creation, hence I created thee. Wherefore, do thou love Me, that I may name thy name and fill thy soul with the spirit of life. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 4.

Modern philosophy began with the Frenchman Rene Descartes (1596-1650), who wrote and expressed the idea that since he could think, he could question his own thinking—and that he therefore must be human, with a mind, existing in the phenomenal world of nature. As human beings in this material world, Locke said, we’re born “a blank slate.” Rather, from a Baha’i perspective, we’re each born with a purpose: “to know and to love God,” according to the Baha’i writings. Therefore I agree with Leibnitz (1646-1716), that “God created the best possible world” for us to learn about Him.

I understand David Hume’s and the other empiricist’s point (1711-1776), about material existence–that all we can know is what we experience. But that does not take into account the mind of man and his inner powers, like imagination and thought. Rousseau was right on target when he made the leap to believe in the “innate goodness of man.” Perhaps, though, we could understand the dichotomy between innate human goodness and the evil men do by realizing that all people have dual natures:

Man is intelligent, instinctively and consciously intelligent; nature is not. Man is fortified with memory; nature does not possess it. Man is the discoverer of the mysteries of nature; nature is not conscious of those mysteries herself. It is evident, therefore, that man is dual in aspect: as an animal he is subject to nature, but in his spiritual or conscious being he transcends the world of material existence. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 81.

Voltaire’s ideas (1694-1778), on civil liberties and social reform helped inspire the French and American revolutions. His writings on reason superseding nature influenced the church and church doctrine, yet he remained a firm believer in the Deity. In fact, religious belief informed the thinking of all the early philosophers, because of its power to change people’s hearts.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), the great German philosopher who built a bridge, or tried to, between the two modern camps of rationalism and empiricism, with his idea “that all knowledge comes from the senses but is filtered through our rational minds,” altered current thinking and revolutionized the debate. Kant realized the difference between how things really are and how things are experienced by human beings. This has become self-evident, with the advent of the scientific method and the remarkable discoveries science continues to make. Religion has also provided the guidance to use reason and science for moral purposes, just as all of the great philosophers have included God-being in their treatises and philosophies.

The bottom line in my own thinking on philosophy to this point—it evolves progressively, logically and rationally, just like science, religion and existence itself.

3 Comments

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  • May 21, 2015
    My interest in Philosophy goes back to my high school class on Psychology. Sometime later my first college course was Philosophy 101, and quite frankly I was hooked.
    To answer simply, to me, the "job" of philosophers is to ask questions, and there is no end to that! Philosophers investigate reality, and we know from the Master that that is precisely what we humans were put here to do. The Writings also make it clear that investigation leads us naturally to One God, the Source of all creation. But that is not the end although it is the same goal ...and purpose.
    Be that as it may, each of us has to find God in our own way, all 7.2 billion of us, and that's why we must ask questions! If we are to truly find God, we will find Him in everything, And that is precisely why God created philosophers - to find the right questions, and ergo, the right answers for the age in which we live. For creation is ever-evolving, ever-changing just as we do minute to minute, and it takes search to find the Ever-Changeless.
    The greatest of all philosophers are the Perfect Beings, and their lives and teachings can make our search easier, yet, yet, search is always required to receive the Truth.
    Search for oneself never ends, and hence, we are all each of us philosophers.
    And that is Philosophy 101 that I learned for myself...
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  • May 19, 2015
    I'm somewhat a phenomenologist. My motto is "Believe in God, all else is phenomena" Of course human belief doesn't quite work like that and I have all sorts of beliefs, even one's I'm not immediately aware. Techniques for bringing those beliefs to light have a great value on how we can be human in a much more powerful, spiritual manner.
  • May 16, 2015
    Will you expand Rodney? More and more people, especially in Europe, are turning away from religion towards philosophy and humanism which some see as a synonym for atheism. Bahai love. Paul