The idea of this blog is to collect some of my thoughts about philosophy and mormonism in one place. There are many good principles contained in both philosophy and mormonism and this place is aimed to provide a philosophical approach to mormonism, by applying theories of philosophy to mormonism.

4 thoughts on “About

  1. How would you respond to a Latter-day Saint who said, “Perhaps instead of evaluating revealed truth through the lens of philosophy, we should evaluate philosophy through the lens of revealed truth”? The general approach I take is that the lens through which I look at the world is the revealed truths taught by God’s spokesmen (ancient and modern), and that I should evaluate everything I learn in philosophy through that lens. In other words, rather than provide a philosophical approach to Mormonism, I would rather provide the world with a Latter-day Saint approach to philosophy. It seems to me that the Restoration invites us to reconsider many of the ideas we’ve taken for granted, particularly the nature of Truth and how we know it. What do you think?

    • That is a really good point. Most of us don’t have only one lens through which we perceive the world but many, that we pick and chose depending on what we want to see. The reason I went for a philosophical approach is not so much a lens to see the revealed truth, but a framework and parameters in which to conduct the study. This is because I think the methodology and questions that philosophy raises can bring a distinctive and new way in which to understand revealed truth and give us additional insight that perhaps have been overlooked before; as a philosophical approach would mean seeing the world through multiple lenses in order to consider which lens we should use. You said that ‘the lens through which I look at the world is the revealed truths taught by God’s spokesmen (ancient and modern)’. I wonder how did you decide that was the lens that you should use to see the world, what is the lens that you looked through to decide that this was the revealed word taught by God’s spokesmen? There must have been a point before you knew it was the revealed truth, so what was the world view that enable you to understand this, and how do you determine the validity of this way of looking at the world?

      Your right though that there is also a much needed gap to work out some of the implications of the restoration, which does invite us to consider many of the ideas we take for granted in a new light, that should be provided to the world. I hadn’t considered doing a latter-day saint approach to philosophy, but I think that would also be a valuable endeavour. Often the two overlap though. As a Mormon my understanding of philosophical positions will be from an LDS perspective, so a clarification on how this approach to philosophy is distinctive to latter-day saints would be interesting though. I shall heed your words and try in the future to also to do an LDS approach to philosophy.

  2. I think the problem with this position is that you are making an enormous assumption about the nature of revealed, spiritual truth. You are assuming that you can get to them via raw empiricism and rationalism. I think you will find this to be an unsatisfying and ultimately fruitless belief. If a leap of faith is required, empiricism and rationalism can’t take you the whole distance.

    You ask the question “I wonder how did you decide that was the lens that you should use to see the world, what is the lens that you looked through to decide that this was the revealed word taught by God’s spokesmen?” This assumes a couple of things that I don’t see any need to immediately accept. Firstly, it seems to make the pre-Existentialism mistake of trying to take the human out of the equation, dismissing any non-empirical baggage an individual brings to the table as irrelevant. That “lens” you talk about is not something you should be trying to get around. It’s part of the person. Secondly, this statement seems to make the assumption that the nature of our experience receiving confirmation and revelation from God is something that is essentially noetic and that we do fully consciously. I would argue that it is what Heidegger would call “pre-ontological.” We accept the confirmation that the Holy Ghost gives us not because it imprints some kind of rational argument in our mind, but because it gives us certitude in a most basic, primordial, fundamental way. We don’t believe because we’ve been convinced. We believe because something that is sort of “behind” or maybe “before” understanding gives us a starting point from which to continue in faith.

    What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t be making religion BEHOLDEN to philosophy (please excuse the caps, there is no italics option in the comments), but at the same time, that isn’t to say that philosophy is irrelevant. Quite the opposite. Rather than viewing philosophy as a set of rules governing you, that is to say something PREscriptive, it really should just be a way of more clearly explicating the phenomenology of the religion, id est something DEscriptive. Perhaps thinking of this kind of discussion as “a philosophical approach to mormonism” may be a bit misguided. It seems to imply that your baseline devotion is to philosophy and you only pay your respects to god if Philosophy gives you the green light. I’m not accusing you of anything, so please don’t take any offense at that, I’m merely saying that the implications of your statement seem like they could end up being problematic.

    So in conclusion, what I’m saying is that rather than having a mormon approach to philosophy or a philosophical approach to mormonism, perhaps you should simply see philosophy as an extra resource for vocabulary. Philosophy is very useful for giving us means of explaining ourselves; for giving us terminology to attach to things. It’s when we then take that descriptive system and make it prescriptive AT THE EXPENSE OF (once again forgive the caps) our deeper, more fundamental experiences that it becomes problematic. For things for which there is no revealed doctrine, adherence to empiricism, rationalism, and rigorous argumentation is a great thing. But when you allow that to take you in the opposite direction of truth and question the very tools that are there to bring you closer to it, then you have a problem.

    Thanks for starting this discussion. I appreciate your time and thought. I very much look forward to hearing more!

    • I see your points. I would agree with you that empiricism and rationalist arguments will never help one to get to truth. I am not advocating a rationalist or empirical approach, as I think our sense deceive us, or mislead us far more then we realise. This means that we in the end are always pushed to the wall where we have to make a leap of faith. The problem is that we understand revelation and the spirit through our senses, thus it is difficult to avoid a empirical argument for revealed truth.

      I don’t think the lens is a part of the person. I think the way in which we see the world is socially constructed, so whilst it is part of the person it is something that has been imposed upon them. So I don’t think you can remove the lens or the human from the equation, but you need to deconstruct what has contributed to why you see the world in the way that you do. Ie. being raised in a western home, I have a westernised way of understanding poverty and wealth. The way I see things as morally good and bad is informed by the social values that I was raised in, thus contributing to the lens I see the world. I think it is worthwhile then in trying to disentangle the lens, to work out what is reality and what is our perception of reality. In the case of revelation, it is a question of is this revelation in the light of my culture, or is it an ontological reality.

      You said that “We accept the confirmation that the Holy Ghost gives us not because it imprints some kind of rational argument in our mind, but because it gives us certitude in a most basic, primordial, fundamental way.” I wonder in what way does it imprint upon us? How does it give us a certitude? I think that there is no way that we can gain that certitude without being taught about it, or learning about it, which makes our experience of it at least in part contingent upon a social structure. Not, that I think that it is a social structure, but we understand it through a social constructed perception about what the holy ghost is.

      I agree that using philosophy as a set of rules to judge religion against is mistaken. I think that adherence to any set of rules is dangerous, unless you have thought them out for yourself. I think that it can be usefully used to deconstruct the metaphors that permeate religious discourse though, I think philosophy is a tool that can help us approach our religion in new ways, and this open pathways to revelation. I wouldn’t say that my devotion is first to philosophy, then mormonism, I think that my devotion is to truth, and that takes precedence over both. I think that both can be valuable tools in understanding truth in its various forms. In its purest sense a philosopher is a lover of truth, and as such all Mormon’s should be philosophers.

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