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Archive for July 2007

Religion and Science Lecture, August 4th 2004

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Religion and Science Lecture, August 4th 2004 Dr. Peter Krey

Philosophy of Religion, Diablo Valley College, Pleasant Hill, California




We spoke about the three story universe in Genesis in order to make the point that the science of the ninth century BCE should be distinguished from the theology presented in the account. (Much like religion and culture need to be distinguished in order to save the integrity of religion.) A real attempt was made to demythologize the creation story and only the one God, Jahweh or Elohim, is introduced, while Tiamat, Apsu, Ea, Marduk, and all other others of the Acadian or Babylonian pantheon are left out. Only a slight allusion remains to Tiamat in the Hebrew name for chaos, TOHU va BOHU. But the ancients did not have the table of elements, but merely four: earth, wind, water, and fire. Copernicus was two and a half millennia in the future. A distinction has to be made between the theology and the science of that day so that we can relate modern day science to the same theology, viz., that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and human beings, male and female, in God=s own image.

And the earth was formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ALet there be light, and there was light.@ And God saw that the light was good and separated the light from the darkness. (Gen. 1:2-4)

The light mentioned in the Genesis account refers to divine light, i.e., intelligence, because it precedes that of the sun, moon, and stars. The separation could well be clear thought versus the darkness of contradiction and ignorance.

The best science of that day (Thales, 580 BCE) felt that all life came from the water and the world was filled with gods. The Genesis account agrees only with the first half of the first philosopher=s teaching.


Now the light of a divine science is implied in this account, but the writers of the scriptures cannot possibly know it. Nor can we possibly know it, in the advanced stage of science that we are in. We would be quite arrogant to feel that we have understood the intelligence embedded in the nature of the genetic code, for example. It took many high powered computers working many years to decipher the genome and be able to read the genetic code of the RNA and DNA, which resembles the intelligent constitution of living organisms. Who wrote that constitution? What do you make of the Anthropic Argument of our text on page 218? Does chance have a chance against providence?

(Science has advanced humanity into a positive space that has helped and saved millions of lives. That value of science cannot be overstated.)


But the miracles of modern science have given it an exorbitant amount of authority in the world today: writing, which translated the oral word into a visual medium; the printing press, which has spread the light of knowledge throughout the world; electricity, which has made the night into the day, and filled our age with far more light than the ancient dark world ever knew. Then science produced the miracles of the telegraph, telephone, cars, airplanes, rockets, and space satellites, radio, phonograph, television, computers, etc. There is far more going on now in cybernetics than we can even name.

These modern miracles of science have, however, dimmed slightly in their significance, because like any other human endeavor, not just religion, science suffers from the inherent ambiguity Paul Tillich mentions. Technology, the handmaiden of theoretical science, left culture and the ethical competence of individuals as well as our societies behind. The culture gap is very dangerous, because science makes possible doing many things that we are hardly ready to take responsibility for. The A-bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki are a case in point. Einstein said, AThe unleashed power of the atom, has changed everything save our mode of thinking and thus we drift to unparalleled catastrophe.@ Not only the problem of the collusion of the scientific enterprise with the military industrial complex, but genetic modification and matters like human cloning have brought science into negative space. The incredible promise that science would bring about constant progress for a utopia has not materialized. In fact science cannot change human nature and has often brought a measure of hell along side a taste of heaven.

And the theoretical science that has provided technological change has brought an externalization of life that makes relationships and community even more difficult than before. Science also represents a kind of reductionism, whereby we seem to diminish culturally and ethically, because science does not understand the human condition and what gives meaning to human life. In every technological advance there is also a loss, which we do not yet know how to measure. The scientific method also extorts the secrets of nature in a way that violates nature at the same time, not out of a love of nature, but out of a Promethean attempt to control it. Instead of a whole and loving relationship with nature, scientists in line with industrialist and militarists often rape, rifle, and violate nature for very utilitarian motives.

This negative space is something scientists themselves have become dimly conscious about, and ecological, environmental movements have begun, with concerned scientists also standing up and realizing that they too have political responsibilities as citizens. 90 percent of all scientific research, at one point, was funded by the ADefense Department.@ Scientists have begun to ask themselves, AWhat is wrong with this picture?@ In countries like the former Soviet Union, the scientists became the dissidents who resisted the injustice of that whole system. And scientists also affirm the Humanities and no longer undermine them, although society still feels that science has much more to offer than the Humanities do, for example.

Lets quickly look at the scientific method in the Induction study and then Durkheim=s critique of evolution in terms of its selling humanity short from an ethical an religious stand-point, because it does not include the objective, anthropological study of ethics and religion in evolutionary theory.

From the Peterson Reader:

1. Stephan Jay Gould page 499. NOMA

2. Richard Dawkins, page 509. Religion conflicts with

evolutionary theory.

3. Nancy Murphy, page 513. Empiricist accounts of knowledge that critiqued theology are now themselves becoming critiqued. Paradigms, models, and communal nature of knowledge as more adequate descriptions of scientific knowledge.

4. the problem of evil: Augustine, page 249. Evil as the absence of good.

5. David Hume, page 255.


Next Topics of the Philosophy of Religion to be covered in class:

Religion vs. reason for ethics and the problem of evil.

Written by peterkrey

July 31, 2007 at 2:14 pm

The Phenomenological Account as Evidence for the Existence of God

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The Phenomenological Account

as Evidence for the Existence of God

Diablo Valley College, Spring, 2006

The rational arguments and Pascal’s wager are not the only ways to argue for the existence of God. Here we turn to the experiential evidence, which is brought forward in various ways. There is the way of religious experience, per se; those ways that focus on perception, either special perception of ordinary events or ordinary perception of special events; and other ways that focus on the interpretation of religious experience. But these are not the only experiential ways of arguing for the existence of God: Westphal introduces a holistic, phenomenological way as well.

Self-transcendence, according to Westphal (p. 57) is the life-long task of a person. Westphal is looking at the whole self as we experience ourselves vís a vís the divine Other. He does not just narrow himself down to how our senses operate in perception and experience. Life relating itself to itself relates itself to the Other. An encounter with the sacred Ultimate mediates the old, false self and the new true self. The scope of religious experience is increased, like seeing the whole person from Spinoza’s sub species aeternitatis, which means from the view-point of eternity. In the encounter with the sacred Ultimate the false self is left behind and the enlightened, mindful, and compassionate new self is entered.

Westphal shows that there are various limitations, like false selfish prayer that is a “burning preoccupation with the self@ (p. 60) and on the other hand, there is the genuine article. The completely or totally Other is God. Three ways to open oneself genuinely for the other and in the other person are:

A. To be open to the face-to-face encounter

B. To give the other the space to express themselves

C. To not see the other as an object, but to have the other

in the I-Thou relationship

Westphal claims encounter with divine transcendence brings about

de-centering, self-transcendence. By “de-centering” Westphal

means (p. 61 bottom) that we do not always need to be the

center and make others peripheral, but we can do the

opposite: make ourselves peripheral and place others at

the center. A de-centered Christian might see self-transcendence

in Buddhism. Here a case in point could be Thomas Merton,

who claimed that Buddhism made him a better Christian.

Written by peterkrey

July 31, 2007 at 4:57 am

Faith and Reason Positions in L. P. Pojman’s Philosophy of Religion

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The Philosophy of Religion

Diablo Valley College

Dr. Peter Krey

Spring Semester, 2006

Faith and Reason Positions

Text: L. P. Pojman’s Philosophy of Religion

One can hold that:

  1. Faith and reason are compatible. In this position it is rational to believe in God.
  2. a. Faith can be opposed to reason. Then faith is in the area of irrationality.

b. Faith can be considered trans-rational or higher than reason.

Kierkegaard held that faith was both opposed to reason and was above it. Reason does not belong where faith reigns. Reason is the queen of all the sciences, but when it gets between the believer and God, it has gone out of its proper bounds. Karl Barth and Calvin held faith to be trans-rational or above reason. When revelation is considered self-authenticating, then it is above reason.[1] From this point of view, natural theology is inappropriate, because it seeks to meet unbelief on its own ground in ordinary, finite reasoning, e.g., placing it on the same level as science. Thus Thomas Aquinas’ natural theology would be ruled out. Thomas goes beyond reason, however, into pure faith, too.

In terms of self-authentication, Plantinga argues that we do not need evidence or arguments for religious beliefs, because they can be properly basic for us. Pojman does not consider that a philosophical position.

Like, Kant, Blaise Pascal does not believe rationality can determine whether or not God exists. It takes reason beyond its proper limits. Therefore Pascal argues for a pragmatic justification of belief. He uses pragmatic probability theory, decision-making theory, and a cost benefit analysis for his famous wager.

When Pojman quotes the Epistle of James (p.114), we have to distinguish between two senses of the word belief. Devils believe in God, knowing God exists, but they do not believe in God in the sense of trusting God, i.e., committing themselves to God, pledging their whole lives to God. Faith in God means believing in God in a trusting way.

In the Large Catechism Luther writes: Tell me what your heart clings to and trusts in, and I’ll tell you what is your god. Because that to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God (from his explanation of the first commandment in his Large Catechism).

W.K. Clifford argues that believing has moral ramifications and believing without sufficient evidence is immoral. William James takes issue with him. Two considerations need to defend fidéists in Clifford’s example of the ship-owner.

1. Moderate fidéists divide up ordinary realities from the transcendent. The ship-owner is not dealing with the transcendent, but with business and commercial realities. Reason is queen of this House, of this realm and to operate with insufficient evidence concerning the safety of the sailors and the sea-worthiness of the ship is immoral.

2. Faith requires loving others as a demonstration for the love and faithful trust of God. Therefore the example seems rather foreign to a believer, who would view this ship-owner as quite a psychopath, who is using his faith to save money at the cost of many lives. Now Clifford may argue that faith practiced before the ultimate could go out of bounds and become immoral in the proximate decisions of life, and that argument may be well-taken, just like reason can come between God and the believer and try to replace God or argue that God is the creation of human reason, rather than humanity being the creation of God. Reason turns faith upside down, but to the faithful, “It is God who has created us and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3). Reason says it is we who have created God, and God does not exist-but is a human projection of a father in the sky (Freud) or of an ordinary family into the Holy Family in heaven (Feuerbach). The latter felt theology had to become anthropology, because for him there was no God.

Some theologians speak of phenomena (as reason’s house) as opposed to noumena, the area of the sacred, (as the house of faith). Some speak of proximate decisions and practical reasoning vs. the ultimate decisions and matters of Faith, and these theologians are dialectical thinkers, like Luther, Calvin, and Barth, who are very adept at making distinctions that Clifford-and even James are unaware of. When James speaks of the Mountain climbers jump – it is still proximate and not the leap of faith required by the ultimate.

William James is getting into the true environment of faith when he writes of decisions that are live, momentous, and forced rather than empty, trivial, and optional. The latter, to an extent, relate to lineal, detached, and objective knowledge, where judgment, beliefs, or decisions can be suspended until sufficient evidence provides the indication for going one way or the other. But a proposal for marriage, for example, is live, making timing of the essence. A long delay is the same as saying “no” to the marriage proposal. Secondly, the decision is momentous, because either saying “yes” or “no” will change the future course of your life; and thirdly, it is forced, because to say “no” or to suspend judgment is also to decide against.

This kind of knowledge is committed, involved, and participates in objects to be known and it is not detached objective, and lineal. Think of Ludwig Wittgenstein entering the picture, instead of looking at it. Think of the Old Testament’s meaning of knowledge as a mutual indwelling and knowing from the inside rather than from objective detachment.

On page 116, Pojman cites William James about the mountain climber who has to believe he will make the enormous leap to the other ledge or he will become paralyzed and lost. James is opposing Clifford directly with this example. James believed that “there are cases where faith creates its own verification” (116).

Pojman claims William’s “will to believe” is direct voluntarism-where Pascal suggesting going to masses, making confession, taking holy water, etc. brings about faith-which, for Pojman, is indirect voluntarism.

James has important principles for Fidéists on p.117: objective reason is simply inappropriate for religious belief. Faith creates its own justification, its own criteria for internal assessment. One kind of fidéism states that religion appears absurd to reason. (Tertulian: “I believe it because it is absurd!” And see St. Paul’s epistle, 1 Corinthians 1: 20, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”)

In the second kind of fidéism, religion is an activity in which reason is inoperative (e.g., in Calvin).

Kierkegaard held both versions of fidéism. He held that reason was [determined by] the limits of religion alone, the way Kant argued that religion should be in the limits of reason alone (Pojman 118). Kierkegaard thought that faith and not reason went to the deepest reaches of the human being. Through a dialectic, through a series of contradictions, a person ascended into higher stages of maturity. The three stages are the aesthetic, ethical, and religious levels. In the first a person wants to experience every pleasure, have a good time, and avoid boredom. Yet the emptiness and boredom became unbearable, partying is no longer interesting, and a person moves into the ethical responsible stage-where one marries, has children, takes a responsible job, has a house and a car and sometimes comes to ask, “What is it all for?” Suddenly there is no point to this life of reason and responsibility. With the leap of faith a person then experiences an encounter with the living God. Here the person has broken through a superficial and shallow existence into the life of an authentic self before God. Such a “knight if Faith” brings about a person, who transcends others, having understanding and commitment far beyond them, much like an adult playing with children but having adult reaches of experience they have not yet had.

This is Kierkegaard’s subjectivity experienced as truth. It is not just knowing the truth, but being formed and shaped by the truth through faith. Being in the truth is what Kierkegaard calls faith.

Alvin Plantinga’s Reformed Epistemology comes from John Calvin, the French Reformer who systematized Martin Luther. The tenets of Foundationalism are that all justified beliefs must either be properly basic by fulfilling certain criteria, or be based on other beliefs. Thus you have a tree-like construction with properly basic beliefs resting at the bottom. A proposition is properly basic if and only if it is either self evident, or incorrigible, or evident to the senses (p. 121) (or is remembered, Pojman adds). It is the noetic structure in their epistemic relations that I compared with a paradigm (of Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, 1962). Beliefs can also be at the periphery or they can be completely central- at the core of our belief system, and when revisions are called for, we usually choose the belief that revises our system the least. (Also see W.V.O. Quine, Methods of Logic, New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1952), p. xiii.) Kuhn and Quine relate to what Planginta describes as classifying the contents of our noetic structure:

1. in terms of basicality

2. in terms of the degree of belief

3. in terms of the depth of ingress of belief.

Pojman explains this classification on page 122.

A basic belief is bedrock upon which all the other ideas rest. Plantinga argues there is more to the intensity of belief than just the strength of the evidence for it, the way Hume would have it. By the depth of ingress, Plantinga means that beliefs play different roles in our noetic structure (or paradigm?) because some are more central and others peripheral to our belief system. Losing some beliefs have a much greater effect on our belief system than losing others.

Some philosophers argue that belief in God is neither self-evident, incorrigible, nor evident to the senses. Thus, from this point of view, a foundationalist could argue there is no God. Hume would say that belief in God is not an analytic statement, as in “all bachelors are unmarried men.” To negate that statement entails a contradiction, while to say God does not exist, does not. (On the other hand, remember how the subtle strategy of St. Anselm’s ontological argument was to equate denying God’s existence with a denial of rationality?)

Plantinga notes that the most devastating criticism of the formula of classical foundationalism is that it is self-referentially incoherent (p. 123). Thus Reformed Theologians have argued that they do not wish to prove theism, nor does the believer’s confidence rest on arguments. Everything proceeds from God as the starting point. So that to believe that God exists, is like believing that other minds exist, the universe is real, and I had breakfast this morning (Pojman). No arguments are required before the existence of God can be considered properly basic and belief in God is at the foundation of a believer’s noetic structure. This is the position of Reformed Epistemology along the lines of foundationalism.

Plantinga argues that extreme fideism disparages and denigrates reason, whereas moderate fideism simply prefers faith over reason in religious matters.

(See the distinction above between dialectical theologians, who assign faith and reason to different nuances of existence, and extreme fidéists, who reject reason utterly. Some critics do not distinguish the former theologians from the latter.)

Pojman criticizes Plantinga first by shifting the burden of proof to those who question the basicality of believing in God. But if Plantinga claims basicality,

1. then he has the burden of proof or he could be guilty of epistemological egoism.

2. Believing without the need for evidence is questionable.

Why cannot the great pumpkin also be basic to one’s noetic structure? Pojman asks. Pojman claims Plantinga is not a foundationalist at all but a coherentist. Coherentism as opposed to foundationalism or basicality justifies each belief by its relationship with all the other beliefs in the system, and thus Pojmans argues that Plantinga lacks a grounding in empirical data (p. 130). Plantinga does not provide any experiment or indications even to confirm or deny the existence of God. Plantinga seems to make his basicality theory immune from the reasoning process, which would exclude it from philosophy. Pojman concludes with a good summary on page 131.

[1] The Isaiah passage –My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my thoughts above your thoughts and my ways above your ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). To interpolate: Biblical science is very primitive compared to ours, but we can postulate a science of God that far surpasses our science of today.

Written by peterkrey

July 28, 2007 at 9:27 pm

Tillich: Does Morality depend on Religion?

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“Does Morality depend on Religion?” Human Values 30A
Vista Community College 2/24/2003 Dr. Peter Krey

James Rachels, The Elements of a Moral Philosophy, Chapter 4.
Rachel’s Citation:

“I respect deities. I do not rely on them.”
Mushashi Miyamoto at Ichijoji Temple (1608)

A Countervailing Citation:
“Faith and God belong together. Whatever your heart clings to and
trusts in, I tell you, is really your God.”
Martin Luther
Martin Luther has an analytic definition of a god, that is, when
honestly investigating a person’s life, whatever that person
relies on ultimately indicates what they have as a god. Thus the
atheistic Marxist-Leninists paraded with larger than life signs of
Marx, Engels, and Lenin – and they had really become gods. Sex,
power, money function as things that people trust more than
anything else, which makes them “gods” i.e., false ultimates.

In his book, Morality and Beyond, Paul Tillich discusses “the
age-old question of how the moral is related to the religious.” /1
“Grace” is “the power of accepting the person who is unacceptable,
and of healing the person who is mortally sick.” In religions
grace “often disappears behind the preaching religious and moral
law.” Tillich argues that when people leave such graceless
moralism, they turn to secular ethics. “When” however, “they find
nothing more than the logical analysis of ethical theory, they
turn easily to a cynical relativism or a totalitarian absolutism
in ethics, each often a consequence of the other.” What transcends
a graceless moralism and a normless relativism in ethical theory
and moral action? he asks (page 13).

By his study, Tillich hopes “to help remove the obsolete
conflict between reason-determined ethics and faith-determined
ethics. His study attempts to do so by showing that the religious
principles dwell within the principles of moral action. If
morality is intrinsically religious, as religion is intrinsically
ethical, neither is dependent on the other, and neither can be
substituted for the other” (page 14).
“Morality is the constitution of the bearer of the spirit,
centered person; culture points to the creativity of the spirit
and also to the totality of its creations; and religion is the
self-transcendence of the spirit toward what is ultimate and
unconditioned in meaning and being” (pages 17-18).
“The fundamental concept of religion is the state of being
grasped by an ultimate concern, by an infinite interest, by
something one takes unconditionally seriously” (page 30).

“The moral act establishes man as a person, and as bearer of
the spirit. It is the unconditional character of the moral
imperative that gives ultimate seriousness both to culture and
religion.” (page 18). Both would deteriorate without the
unconditional moral imperative, which derived from the prophets
confronting both with the demands of justice. “Science and the
arts, politics, education – all become empty and self-destructive
if, in their creation, the moral imperative is disregarded” (page
18). Tillich argues that these social enterprises would all
disintegrate without the immanence of the moral imperative (page
N.B. I think the ENRON debacle well illustrates what Tillich

The moral imperative is that the true being shall become his
actual being, to become a person in community (page 20).
A moral act is not an act in obedience to an external law, human
or divine. (N.B. Tillich would call that response heteronomy which
has not yet attained the ethical stage.) It is an inner law of our
true being, or our essential or created nature, which demands that
we actualize what follows from it. An anti-moral act is not one
that transgresses against an external command, but an act that
contradicts the self-realization of the person as a person and
drives toward disintegration. The person loses his or her
centeredness. “The ‘will’ in the sense of a self that acts (page
21) from the centered totality of its being, is enslaved. Freedom
is replaced by compulsion. Deliberation and decision, the
hallmarks of freedom, become mere facades for overwhelming drives
that predetermine the decision” (page 21).
Depersonalization results. The “moral act is always the victory
over disintegrating forces and its aim is the actualization of man
as a centered and therefore free person” (page 22).
Since the 18th Century the word “moral” has taken on
distorting connotations. In Europe, it has carried the implication
of “moralism” in the sense of graceless legalistic ethics. And in
the United States, it has, under the influence of Puritanism,
taken on a sexual significance: to be “amoral” means to be
sexually lawless, or at least to deny conventional sex ethics.
Therefore one has tried to replace the word “moral” with “ethical”
(page 22).
“The religious dimension of the moral imperative is its
unconditional character.” (N.B. Unconditional in the sense that it
is a matter of life and death.) “No religious heteronomy, i.e.,
subjection to external commands, is implied if we maintain the
immanence of religion in the moral command” (page 25).
N.B. This argument of Tillich overcomes the argument by James
Rachels, who takes an external nature of divine commands for
granted. If the law is internal to the person unfolding the person
into the full, whole, and completely actualized self, then that
could not be arbitrary. From even a rational and humanistic point
of view, that would be good. As E. Long, Jr. states,
“the moral imperative is the element of the
unconditional which is present within the intrinsic
claim of the moral impulse itself and not merely as an
obligation to obey an external command.” /2
Tillich argues that “The ‘Will of God’ for us is precisely
our essential being with all its potentialities, our created
nature declared as ‘very good’ by God, as, in terms of the
Creation myth, He ‘saw everything that He had made.’ For us the
‘Will of God’ is manifest in our essential being; and only because
of this can we accept the moral imperative as valid. It is not a
strange law that demands our obedience, but the ‘silent voice’ of
our nature as man, as man with an individual character” (page 24).
Tillich is arguing that the will of God is that of our very own
essential being. Thus he is arguing for ethical autonomy.
“To remain less than a person is to contradict my essential
goodness.” (Page 24) From the view point of the Eternal, the soul
has infinite value. To act toward one’s own destruction and
disintegration is then no disobedience to an external command, but
a refusal to listen to the “silent voice” of our own being.(pages
The value of the holy is immanent in the value of the good
and vice versa. “For values have reality only if they are rooted
in reality. Their validity is an expression of their ontological
foundation. Being precedes value, but value fulfills being” (page
According to Long, “Moral issues arise from matters of great
concern when normative issues are present. If no striking or
important issues are involved, there is not moral issue.” /3
Tillich repeats again and again that the religious dimension
is in the moral imperative itself (pages 22, 25, and 30) and
religion is not an external source or authority for it excluding
those who hold with a secular reason-based morality.
Some of Tillich’s favorite terms are: “ground and source of
being” for God, “ultimate concern” for faith, “acceptance of the
unacceptable” for justification by faith.

N.B. Do the following citations from Tillich correspond with
Luther or Miyamoto’s with which we began this study?

“This ground of Being cannot be changed without totally
restructuring existence.” A person is ultimately concerned about
that which determines his/her ultimate destiny beyond all
preliminary necessities and accidents.

1/ Paul Tillich, Morality and Beyond. (New York: Harper
Torchbook,1963), page 13. N.B. The page numbers in parentheses
come from this book.

2/ Edward LeRoy Long, Jr., A Survey of Christian Ethics, (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 27.

3/ Ibid.

Written by peterkrey

July 28, 2007 at 12:19 am

Posted in Philosophy

The Life-World and the Two Systems theorized by Habermas

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The Life-World and the Two Systems

Prof. Peter Krey, June 21st, 2002

Juergen Habermas has been called one of the two greatest sociologists in the world today. (The other is the late Pierre Bourdieu.) His theory about the life-world and the two systems is a sophisticated social model, archetype, or construct by which to understand and criticize the present late-stage of capitalistic society today.

To oversimplify what is a very comprehensive and complex theory: Habermas argues that the life-world is based on communication, agreement, and consensus. The economic and political systems require instrumental rationality for the sake of control. His theory posits situations embedded in broader Ahorizons@ that are in turn grounded in the life-world.

From a linguistic angle, “communicative actors always move within the horizon of their life‑world” ‑‑ a life‑world which now can be defined as “a culturally transmitted and a linguistically organized reservoir of meaning patterns.”[1]

The complexity of this definition moves from language through discourse, to culture and values, to society and its institutions, and to persons and their speech-acts. In his words, everyday praxis yields three life‑world spheres: 1/ culture 2/ society 3/ personality.

Where culture denotes a reservoir of shared knowledge and pre‑interpretations, society a fabric of normative rules, and personality a set of faculties or “competences” enabling an individual to speak and to act.[2]

Modernization, roughly, is the replacement of implicit by explicit meaning patterns. (Such a statement seems to be a sociological version of the Freudian teaching that psychoanalysis makes the unconscious conscious.)

Habermas begins to use his model to critique our society when he speaks about the deleterious colonization of the life-world by the systems. Modernization does not entirely coincide with the differentiation of communicative structures or components, for Habermas (I am following to Dallmayr), because material production cannot be discounted. Long range social development involves not only the internal diversification of life‑world components but also the growing segregation of symbolic‑communicative patterns from productive endeavors governed by standards of technical efficiency.This is a process which can be described as an “uncoupling” of the systems and the life‑world, to use Habermasian language. Once systems are no longer merely coordinated with communicative patterns but begin to invade and subdue these communicative patterns of the life-world, then the uncoupling of the systems and life‑world is converted into the direct “colonization of the life‑world.” That means it is subjugated to alien standards of technical control.[3] The life world begins to be eclipsed and absorbed in instrumental rationality, making persons become means to political and economic ends not in their interest, nor under their control. A climate of communal agreement is necessary in the life‑world, whereas systemic imperatives prevail in the systems. In the life- world, force [in the sense of coercion] and discourse cannot be connected. The life-world is at no one’s disposal. As the higher value it needs to be guarded from the systems.[4]

Habermas= theory about the colonization the life-world by the economic system points to the problem of the marketplace colonizing the academy, basic information, and news, entertainment, and government. Why do the corporations control the media, television, and radio, and have the right to brainwash people to become consumers? Does a university turn out products? Is a university the same as a business, a company? Have students become products who have to sell themselves? Have things become ends in themselves, and human beings become disposable?


[1]Fred R. Dallmayr, “Life‑World and Communicative Action,” Working Paper #20 ‑ Scott Mainwaring, editor, (University of Notre Dame, Helen Kellogg Institute, June 1984), p. 14.

[2]Ibid., p. 15.

[3]Ibid., p. 16‑17.

[4]Ibid., p. 15‑17. These short descriptions have been gleaned from the concise pages of E.R. Dallmayr’s study.

See the expanded version of this nutshell version in my new Scholardarity website: Juergen Habermas: the Life-World and the Two Systems

Written by peterkrey

July 27, 2007 at 8:11 pm

Posted in Philosophy

Habermas’ Life-World and the Two Systems Expanded

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The Life-World and the Two Systems

Prof. Peter Krey, June 21st, 2002

(Expanded November 8, 2004)

I’ve moved this lecture to my Scholardarity website: Juergen Habermas: the Life-World and the Two Systems

Written by peterkrey

July 27, 2007 at 7:46 pm

Posted in Philosophy

The Metaphysical Apple, A Group Exercise in a Class Lesson

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Introduction to Philosophy Dr. Peter Krey

May 8th 2003

The Metaphysical Apple


Let’s get into groups of three or four persons and choose one of the philosophers here listed and describe the way that this philosopher would look at the apple. Use the concepts that this philosopher would use, and describe how this philosopher would see the reality of the apple.

For this exercise, the teacher will have to have a bag of apples to hand out to the students. It is a nice reversal from the student bringing an apple for the teacher!

Then give them the example of the metaphysical description of the apple according to Plato. The descriptions of several of the other philosophers are here worked out and can be compared to what the students worked out in their groups. This exercise was used at the end of the introduction course after these philosophers had been studied.

The Platonic Apple:

this apple is slightly more real than a picture or a reflection of this apple, but this visible apple is considerably less real than the concept or the idea of the apple and the eternal universal form of the apple, which is the most real.

A reflection of the apple is the mere conjecture of our mind, a poor copy of this physical apple, which is visible to the senses, and is thus a changing opinion of belief.

On the other hand we can know the concept of the apple, and the apple we see, participates more or less perfectly in its eternal universal form. The apple changes in the realm of our opinion, but the eternal unchanging form of the apple always helps us recognize visible sensual apples that participate in the intelligible form of apples in the world of eternal universal forms above the visible world.


The Aristotelian Apple

There is not an ideal apple separate from the natural apple, but the natural apple is all that there is and the form of the apple is dynamic and inside the apple. The apple shares its form with all other apples, but its matter is distinct, and makes it a particular apple. It is an apple because of its form; it is this apple because of its matter. The form and the matter of the apple come together in its substance and that form, without which it would no longer be an apple, is its essence (which is related to its function of reproducing apple trees). Those forms the apple shares with other substances are its accidents, e.g., (for example) color, size, and weight, a peal, a stem, etc. Different fruit can also have stems, peals, the same color, etc.

The essence of the apple cannot be separated from its substance, but it is possible to perform the purely intellectual act of abstracting the essence from the substance. And then the apple can be taken apart or analyzed and put back together in our minds, but we could not do it to the apple without destroying it.

The form of the apple is also its operating cause and the apple is a self contained system striving in four ways to its ends or its goals or purposes: the teleology of the apple. The material cause of the apple is the stuff out of which nature made it; the formal cause is the form of the apple tree it strives to be; the efficient cause all the watering, nutrients of the earth, carbon-dioxide needed to redesign the apple into a tree; and the final cause to reproduce apple trees or apples to eat. Thus its form moves from the potential apple to the actual apple tree.


The Cartesian Apple

The idea of the apple is as real as the physical apple, but the idea of the apple is non-spatial while the body of the apple extends into the external world and has size, shape, weight and location. God is separate and infinite substance. (Descartes now forgets God.) In the finite substance of the mind, the apple is a thought and in the finite substance of the body, the apple extends into the external physical world in modes of existence. All the perceived qualities of the apple are in the mind: its color (red, green and yellow), its sweetness, the smacking sound of one’s bite into the apple. Meanwhile in the physical body the apple extends into its essential attributes which are measurable, mathematical qualities located in the external world. Here the apple is a cold, colorless, odorless, soundless, and tasteless piece of matter in motion.

The apple is thus in two distinct substances composed of mind and body and how the mind, which has no space or location can move and relate to the physical apple, is a puzzle.


The Spinozan Apple

According to Spinoza, it was self-contradictory to distinguish the finite substance of the apple from infinite substance that Descartes defined as God, because if substance is defined as something that exists, needing nothing else in order to exist, then Spinoza realized that substance itself was God and the Infinite necessarily existed in such a way. Thus the apple is divine and its physical nature is one aspect of God and its idea is just another. The mind and body of the apple are finite attributes of God, whose nature extends physically into such modes as size, shape, location, etc., which are modifications of God’s attributes.

It is a pantheistic apple because an apple is part of nature and nature equals God. Now the reality of the apple can be viewed from two human perspectives, through the attribute of the mind or the attribute of the body. The true philosopher will transcend these human perspectives and view the apple from the perspective of reality itself, which Spinoza called, sub specie aeternitatis (from the point of view of eternity).


The Lockean Apple

All this rational speculation about apples has to go, because they are predicated on innate ideas, which do not exist in the mind. It is just commonsense that the mind is a blank slate, a tabula rasa, and it merely experiences a particular apple through the senses and further particular things are the only things that exist. Thus through the senses the mind forms simple ideas of the apple. It is red, green and yellow, and from this primary data, the mind combines the simple ideas into more complex ones: the apple is red, spherical, ripe or unripe, sour or sweet. Even abstractions of the apple are just particular ideas that stand for collections of ideas. The primary qualities of the apple are in the physical apple itself: its extension, size, shape, and location. Secondary qualities are often attributed to the apple, but in fact they really exist only in the mind (color, sounds, and tastes), even though they are caused by real features in the external apple. The apple in the mind just duplicates the external apple like a photograph. But the real apple is out there and its primary qualities all come together in something, which Locke ends up calling a substance. Now a substance is what Descartes found to be unobservable, so he called it an innate idea of the mind. Locke ruled out innate ideas, so one cannot have an idea of it at all, but just a supposition of we know not what supporting all the qualities of the apple and capable of producing the simple ideas in us.


The Berkeleyan Apple

If secondary qualities exist only in the mind, so do primary ones. Let’s see you prove to me otherwise. Neither you nor I have a vantage-point outside of our minds to be able to tell what is inside and outside. There is no external apple. An apple can exist only in the mind. There is no external world because it all merely exists in our perception and without intelligent perception, nothing exists. Granted, that the perception of God makes the apple real, and it does not disappear when we no longer look at it, but the physical nature of the apple is merely a more concentrated and intense thought of the Creator God.

Locke was not consistent enough in his empiricism. He made a distinction between the primary and the secondary qualities of the apple. He cannot see the primary qualities of the apple independent of the mind; they depend completely on the secondary qualities. So the primary qualities are merely interpretations of the secondary qualities. Therefore primary qualities also exist only in the mind. Q.E.D. The apple cannot exist except in our mind. Being is really perceiving and thus the mystery of the substance of the apple is explained. Our minds or better, the mind of God produces the apple and God’s thinking ideas is the continuous creation we exist in. The apple does not disappear if we stop looking at it, but if God stops dreaming everything up, and wakes up, for example, poof! – it will not only be the apple that disappears!

The Kantian Apple

The Berkleyan apple shows what foolishness consistent empiricism brings about. The Cartesian apple shows what mistakes are made by rationalists, whose reasoning is not anchored in sense perceptions. The thought of the apple without the data of the senses is empty; the sense perceptions of the apple without the concept of the apple is blind. Our perception does not have to conform to the apple, but the apple has to conform to our perception. We can not see the apple as it is in itself. Our mind has an a priori structure that organizes the perception of the apple in the internal condition of time and the external one of space. The concepts of pure reason enlighten our understanding of the representations of sensation making the apple appear to us as a manifold, a phenomenon, a thing. We cannot perceive the apple outside of the structure of our mind as a thing in itself. We cannot see the noumenal apple. It is beyond our knowledge. But the apple as an appearance is real enough as the external world also is. For Berkeley to refute the existence of the apple in space outside of us is false or impossible. He cannot be refuted if space is considered a property of the apple in itself, because then space is a non-thing. But the inner experience of the apple is only possible if it is mediated by an outer experience. According to Kant it is a fact that the existence of an outer apple is required for the possibility of a determinate consciousness of the apple. So, feel free. You will not be eating a pure form, a thought, an essence, an apple split into mind and body, a phenomenon, just an apple. Eat it.

Written by peterkrey

July 27, 2007 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Philosophy