Friday, August 24, 2012

Philosophy? Religion? Philosophical Religion? Religious Philosophy?

Philosophy? Religion? Philosophical Religion? Religious Philosophy?

Recently, I had a fascinating discussion with a friend of mine.  Somehow, we got onto the topic of Philosophy and Religion as “Paths” or major guiding factors in one’s life.  The conversation ran the spectrum from the ancient religions and philosophers right up to the more modern day schools of thought and modern religions (new religions and institutionalized religions).

Can Philosophy NOT be a part of Religion? Can Religion NOT be a part of Philosophy? Where is the line between Religion and Philosophy? When does it cease to be one thing and become the other? Is that good or bad?  Are there characteristics that one has that the other doesn’t and vise-versa? Interesting questions and we didn’t settle on any answers.  :-)

A few words that we came up with that to describe Religion and Philosophy follow:
Religion – devotion, service, ardor, faith, ineffable, Mystery, values, ethics/civics, ecstatic, aesthetics
Philosophy – logic, values, reality, theory, intellectual, intellectual understanding, reason, reasoned thought aesthetics, ethics

Now, just to muddy the waters, here are some dictionary definitions for Religion and Philosophy:

Definition of RELIGION
1  a : the state of a religious religion
> b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2  : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3  archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
4  : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

And a second definition from the Cambridge Dictionary -
-          And from the Cambridge Dictionary:
-          * the belief in and worship of a god or gods, or any such system of belief and worship
-          the Christian religion
-          * informal an activity which someone is extremely enthusiastic about and does regularly

Definition of PHILOSOPHY
1  a (1) : all learning exclusive of technical precepts and practical arts (2) : the sciences and liberal arts exclusive of medicine, law, and theology philosophy
> (3) : the 4-year college course of a major seminary b (1) archaic : physical science (2) : ethics c : a discipline comprising as its core logic, aesthetics, ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology
2  a : pursuit of wisdom b : a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means c : an analysis of the grounds of and concepts expressing fundamental beliefs
3  a : a system of philosophical concepts b : a theory underlying or regarding a sphere of activity or thought philosophy
of war>
4  a : the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group b : calmness of temper and judgment befitting a philosopher

And a second definition from the Cambridge Dictionary –
• the use of reason in understanding such things as the nature of reality and existence, the use and limits of knowledge and the principles that govern and influence moral judgment
René Descartes is regarded as the founder of modern philosophy.
See also: PhD
the philosophy of sth
a group of theories and ideas related to the understanding of a particular subject
the philosophy of education/religion/science
• a particular system of beliefs, values and principles
the Ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism
• informal - someone's outlook on life and their way of dealing with it
Live now, pay later - that's my philosophy of life!

I see Philosophy being in the realm of Thought and Intellect – looking for answers and explanations that are “logical and rational” and, to a certain extent, impersonal.
I see Religion being in the realm of the heart and Wonder/Mystery – looking for answers and explanations that are both personal and universal yet ineffable.

Modern Paganism and related paths seem to run the entire length of the spectrum from Religion to Philosophy but usually (in my experience) fall somewhere in between the two with characteristics of both. 

However, there are 2 components that I see in Religious Paths that I do not see in Philosophical Schools: service and devotion.  

So, a question to you - if a Path is exclusively “Intellectual” (no service/devotion or sense of wonder/Mystery), is it a Philosophy or can it also be a Religion?

What do you think?

This just in -
Religion seeks to experience Mystery.
Philosophy seeks to explain Mystery.