Philosophy, the love of wisdom, is a search for understanding in all things, usually through the pursuit of ultimate causes or reasons. It is antecedent to the other human sciences, which all contain explicit or implicit philosophical assumptions. Philosophy examines how we understand things a priori (logic), how we arrive at knowledge (epistemology), as well as the ultimate causes or reasons for things (metaphysics). The last of these endeavors is aided by meta-theories of mathematics, physics and psychology. Philosophy may even touch upon human ethics and natural theology, the study of God through the use of reason and observation of nature.
Modern Anglo-American philosophy tends to be anti-metaphysical, restricting philosophy to problems of psychology, semantics, formal logic, mathematics, and the physical sciences. Some follow Kant in his denial that we can know things as they really are, while others profess that we can only obtain knowledge through the empirical sciences and mathematics. This latter group of modern realists practice a truncated Aristotelianism, confining metaphysics to the domain of natural science. Their position of scientism is ultimately incoherent, as a cogent realism requires a philosophy that transcends the natural sciences in order to justify their implicit assumptions.
Combining studies of philosophy, intellectual history, science, and mathematics, we can identify the epistemic and ontological assumptions built into modern interpretations of philosophy and science, as well as their historical contingency. Freed from the anti-metaphysical prejudices of the last two centuries, we can build upon the classical and medieval realist tradition while respecting modern developents in epistemology and natural science. The works below form the outline of such an enterprise.
For discussion of neo-classical realist philosophy, I recommend the Radical Academy and the Maverick Philosopher. For primary sources such as classical texts, refer to my list of historical resources, and as a secondary source, I recommend the excellent Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Discussion of ontological categories and analytical principles, distinguishing philosophical logic from symbolic or mathematical logic.
Examination of ways of knowing the world a posteriori, such as intuition, observation, deduction, induction, and other bases of belief.
Meta-mathematical concepts are discussed in the Science and Mathematics page.
We will examine the principles of physical causality and other basic concepts, some of which are discussed in the Science section.
The immaterial psychic faculties of humans and lesser animals are defined and discussed.
Basic principles of subjective and objective ethics will be defined.
Foundations of Ethics
We will deal with the deepest principles of being and causation behind the empirically observable universe.
Theological questions may be considered from two approaches:
Since natural theology is based on pure reason and the data of nature, without recourse to special revelation, it could be considered a part of philosophy, as was the case in the Middle Ages. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it emerged as a distinct study under its own name, and the subsequent secularization of Western scholarship has made the reincorporation of natural theology into philosophy culturally unfeasible.
Our modern scholarly aesthetic contains two cultural biases opposed to natural theology:
The first bias is a consequence of methodological naturalism, guaranteeing a strict separation between the study of nature and of God. The second bias insists on a rationalist-fideist dichotomy: reason proves one set of facts, and faith proves another set, with no overlap. This amounts to a denial of the possibility of natural theology.
Both objections to natural theology as philosophy are grounded in cultural assumptions, not any logical requirements. If we regard these biases no longer as self-evident truths, but as theses requiring proof, we will find no obstacle to proceeding freely in building a new natural theology, founded on a modern understanding of classical arguments.
I have devoted a separate page to specifically Catholic theology (accepting Scripture and Tradition as premises), which treats not only theology proper, but broader issues of Biblical exegesis and interpreting conciliar and papal decrees. Non-Catholics may find interest in the complete list of documents from the ecumenical councils, as well as other resources.
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