Thoughts on the Hitchens-Craig Debate

This was a fascinating debate at BIOLA in 2009. I think its the most interesting debate on theism that I have seen, although the Hitchens-Wilson debates are also interesting and have more back-and-forth interaction. The references to N.T. Wright’s argument for Christianity from the rise in the belief of the resurrection are surprising – I wouldn’t have expected that point to surface in a debate like this, but it comes up several times. I think Hitchens is a fascinating human being. At times he can be intolerably rude, but in several of the debates I’ve recently watched,  I’ve been struck by…

Reflections on The Grey

I watched The Grey last night. The film explores death from a nihilistic standpoint. Its dialogue, plot, and cinematography all highlight the ugliness and crushing inevitability of death, and its very setting – the harsh Alaskan wilderness – creates a chilling atmosphere, appropriate for this philosophical agenda. In the end, the basic message seems to be something like: “death is all there is – so go out with the bang.” The poem recited throughout the movie and during its climax reminds me of Dylan Thomas “Do not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” In one very poignant scene, Liam Neeson’s…

Favorite Philosophers (4): Rene Descartes

If I had to name who I think were the top 5 most significant philosophers in Western history, I would probably go with Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant.  The first 3 formed the backbone against which all Western thought had to react, and the latter two both marked crucial turning points.  Descartes marked the turn towards modernism with his emphasis on individual human reason as the epistemological starting point, and Kant paved the way towards postmodernism by limiting human knowledge to the phenomenal realm, i.e., reality in its appearance to us as opposed to reality in itself. Leslie Newbigin…

Favorite Philosophers (3): Siddhartha Gautama

This post is picking up on an older series – see my earlier posts on Camus and Wittgenstein – and I’ll warn you now it will be a little longer (so skip to the end for the meat).  Siddhartha Gautama (c. 563-483 B.C.), also known as “the Buddha” (i.e., the awakened or enlightened one), was the founder of Buddhism.  I call Siddhartha a philosopher because (1) Buddhism is in many ways more like a philosophy than a religion, especially in its original articulation and in the contemporary Theravada branch, and (2) the distinction between philosophy and religion is recent, Western,…

If

“If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?”

Favorite Philosophers (2): Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was born in Austria and spent much of his life in Cambridge. He lived a fascinating and very sad life – for example, three of his four brothers committed suicide. His main areas of focus are logic, math, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language. His two major works are Tractacus Logico-Philosophicus and Philosophical Investigations. He has had a huge impact across many disciplines, and is considered by some to be greatest philosopher of 20th century. Wittgenstein does not fit into any philosophical school, but he is similar to Kant in his emphasis on the limits of…

Favorite Philosophers (1): Camus

I am starting a new series of posts reflecting on some of my favorite philosophers. (When I say “favorite” I mean philosophers whom I have enjoyed studying and whose ideas I find poignant and interesting – not that I necessarily agree with their views.) My first selection is Albert Camus (1913-1960), a Nigerian-born French writer and existentialist philosopher (the “s” at the end of his last name is silent). I studied Camus in a class on existentialism in college and read two of his books: The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus (TMOS). His philosophy is often called “Absurdim” (although…