Summaries of classes
Please note that these are summaries, not 'the notes' for the class. These
have been prepared by students in the class, and I have posted them here,
unchanged, as a ready reference for those who could use a quick idea of what
topic(s) have been discussed. But there is no guarantee of accuracy (or even
proper spelling)! Caveat lector!
January 5, 2011 / Thomas Lee
What is the difference between religious beliefs & scientific beliefs?
People say the earth was created in 4004 B.C are they bad scientists or is
this an example of a religious belief?
Scientists believe that the earth was created about 1.4 billion years ago,
is this a scientific belief? What evidence do they have to prove this, should
we question “the scientists”?
Philosophy: love of wisdom
Is wisdom and knowledge the same or are they linked?
Is the goal of knowledge to obtain an understanding of the topic at hand?
You should be able to answer the ‘So what?’ why is the fact that you know
important, how does it influence the world.
4 Branches of Philosophy:
Ethics: What you “ought” to do.
Epistemology: How do we obtain knowledge? Why is knowledge important?
Metaphysics: What is beyond our natural world, or is there anything? Do we
have freewill? Logic: How we reason and arrive
at conclusions given particular evidence in the world.
What is the method of Philosophy?
- Analyze arguments, recognize a philosophers conclusions and their evidence
to prove these conclusions.
- Are they good arguments? Do they agree with philosophical logic? For
example, do they equivocate terms?
- What kind of concepts do they have of the problem at hand?
Is God a big muscular white haired man, is God a vegetable, or can it be
a physical rock? We see that there are many different concepts of God, which
one is correct?
- Philosophers must be critical of any concepts or conclusions that are
Philosophy is speculative:
- What does it mean to believe in something?
- What is the purpose of religious languages?
- Should we be trying to answer these big questions ourselves?
- We want to understand why these conclusions and arguments are important.
What is Religion?
- Is it a set of, but not limited to, beliefs, customs, practices, rituals,
- If this is the case then how would the X-ring ceremony be different
from a religion?
- Buddhists would claim that their belief system is not a religion nor
is it a philosophy, even though it fulfills the “requirements” above.
Can we define religion as the worship in some higher power?
- If so, why would we worship someone? Why should we worship God?
- Is this worship a habit? Did we grow up with this worship without stopping
and thinking about what we are doing?
- Should we truly worship someone who tells us to worship them?
- Should we worship someone because we love them?
- Does worshiping someone imply some relationship of power?
Religion as an answer:
- If religion explains where the world comes from and how the surrounding
world functions, what does this say about modern science?
- For example, that the world was created in seven days or any creation
story, is this scientific? Is any creation story valid?
It could be that religion is about objects and your moral code or attitude/disposition
towards these objects.
Religion could be about your world view and picture of reality.
Question to think about: “Can religion be discussed?”
JANUARY 9 2011 / Tessa Burns
Philosophy is the LOVE OF WISDOM.
Philosophy Tools: Logic and Reason
It isn’t disguised theology, nor does it contradict it... but philosophy
is interested in what we can know on the basis of reason. Reason: being the
capacity that all intellectually mature adults would have.
Method: Critical/Speculative... Reason
You can’t introduce private information, ideologies, and so on into an argument
if it’s not something that could be accessible to other people.
“As a catholic, I believe there is a God.” No reason.
“I believe there is a God because I believe Aquinas’ theories to be true.”
Need evidence, you can’t just reject it. The great thing about “tools” of
philosophers... everyone can find the information.
If the concept of religion/God is meaningful, people should know there is
a God. It’s a fact: either there is a God or there isn’t. Reason in principal
provides us with the tools to have evidence for or against religion.
*Can religion be discussed?*
Can any word REALLY be defined? Game? Table?
-W. Sweet would say “What do you mean by religion? What do you mean by discussion?”
• Religion: deals with certain objects or beings (Gods, things of that
sort). God being the type of thing that exists, that is all powerful, all
knowing and perfectly good.
• Discussion: doesn’t mean just talking about it. Can you explain it in
clear terms? Demonstrate the existence/non-existence?
In the reading “Can Religion be Discussed?” there are five different positions....
1. Some people say religion is just a matter of faith. Latin word for
faith is (fides). Some people say you cannot rationally discuss God’s, because
God’s surpass all human knowledge. A finite human consciousness cannot talk
intelligently about God. Limited person talking about something that is unlimited.
A person that holds this view would be known as a fideist. This position
is held by philosopher and theologians alike. Language is not really suited
to talking about God, we can only fail in our attempts. Paul from the New
Testament explains that we discuss the foolishness of the world as a distinct/separate
thing from God.
“Credo Quia Absurdum” I believe because I observe. It’s so crazy, that it
cannot be false. If one was going to try and create a “deceptive” story (God),
they would tell a more believable story! -Tertullian
Human language really can’t talk about the attributes of God, whatever we
say is always going to fall short. We can discuss it, be we can never get
to the point of demonstration. The modest way to do it is to show people
we have faith, through one’s behaviour, action and works. It becomes an invitation
for other people to believe. You can’t provide rational arguments and demonstrations.
The point is not to demonstrate, not to prove, not to argue but at best to
provide a witness to show where I stand.
January 11th 2012 – Alyssa Aquino
Fidest – faith is important, but not reason. An extreme view would be you
cannot talk about religion because our words and concepts are not adequate
to describe God. Modest version: You can’t demonstrate God, but you can talk
In the readings the logician’s position (or a logical empiricists position)
is that you cannot discuss religion. An empiricist is someone who depends
on experience and senses to know something.
• The cow jumped over the triangularity
• The colourless green ideas divorces (this presents a contradiction)
Both of those sentences are meaningless. Empiricists want to make sure that
our ideas make sense, i.e. are not contradictory, because contradictions
can neither be true nor false.
How to prove? – Know
How do you prove things that it is reasonable to know? I.e. The world
has existed for more than five minutes.
Meaning – not talking about emotional meaning talking about cognitive meaning.
All meaningful statements can be divided into meaning of reason and fact.
Reason: “All beagles are canines” “All humans are mortal” “All unicorns
have one horn” “Pegasus has wings” None of these statements actually affirm
that something exists. We know things to be true through analysis of the
terms. The predicate contains the subject in these statements; they are all
about relationships of concepts.
EXAMPLE: 1+1=2, how do you know that this is true? You know this because
you understand the concept of one, addition, equality and two. Statements
of reason are necessary truths.
What are statements of fact? “Sean Riley is mortal” “Elizabeth is the
Queen of Canada” These statements talk about things that do and do not exist.
They depend on circumstances. They are both true but could also be false.
God exists, statement of reason or fact? If it’s reason it doesn’t tell us
anything about God. If its fact then it could be true, but also false, is
that what religious people think? If the statement “God exists” is neither
a statement of reason nor fact, then it is meaningless. If this is meaningless
then you cannot discuss about God. A religious person would have to prove
God exists is a meaningful statement then there is no discussion.
Psychoanalytical approach: Does the sentence God exist have meaning? Of course,
HOWEVER, were talking about a man who acquired certain divine attributes.
It is similar to saying “Heracles exists” you are talking about a man, who
represents a culture, ethnicity; a vision of society. If you change your
standards your life wouldn’t be the same. So of course you can talk about
religion, only to show it’s not true.
January 12, 2012 / Hannah Soules
“Can Religion be discussed (Continued…)”
4Th Position – Philosophical Theist
Examples of Philosophical theists – writers: C.S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien
• You can tell that God exists by looking at the world around us (by looking
at the cosmos).
• Reason can demonstrate proofs
• Even if St. Aquinas’s “5 ways” do not work – there are other ways to
• Aquinas thinks that you can discuss religion.
**Which of the authors that we studied last semester line up with the 4 views
of whether or not religion can be discussed?
• Statements can be consistent, but it does not mean that they are true
Foundationalism – an approach to epistemology
• Self- evident (evident to every human being) and deductive
• One will attain absolute knowledge from foundationalism
• Beliefs are justified
Chapter 3 (Aquinas: On the Truth of the Catholic Faith): What kinds of things
can be rationally demonstrated?
• Aquinas believes that there is not one method of demonstration, it varies
over each area of study (depends on subject of study)
• Something’s by nature surpass human understanding
• Something’s by their very nature cannot be demonstrated (ex. The trinity)
• Not everyone will understand the demonstration
• In some cases it’s about choosing the right method of demonstration
Chapter 4 and 5: Relationship between reason and faith
If religion was solely based on reason…
• The ‘lazy’ people would never come to know God
• People without time would never come to know God
• People would not be inclined to know God
We cannot trust reason 100% of the time. Thus faith and reason as tools allow
a greater demographic to access religion and come to know God. Aquinas believes
that faith and reason are compatible and significant.
o We should still believe things that we cannot prove (ex. We should not
have to prove our love to other people)
o Our destiny is supernatural and it is important to us to come to know
o Faith will tell us something about the next life
• If people seek answers – religion seems to give these answers
• Freud: believed that maybe religion was important in the past, but that
due to sciences and a sort of ‘maturity’ that we have gained in terms of
knowledge, it is no longer important in the 20/21st centuries.