Sunday, April 13, 2008

The cold comforts of philosophy

I had a stimulating talk with my daughter, Maddy, today. She is studying philosophy, and right now, the class is looking at "arguments for God." She has been reading Thomas Aquinas, and then Bertrand Russell. I went back and read Russell's 1927 lecture, "Why I am Not A Christian."

I was a philosophy major myself, and I recommend it. There are many fields that endeavor to teach one what to do, or how to do it, or when. But philosophy tries to tell you why.

I enjoyed listening to Maddy's reactions. She described the various Middle Age theologians' attempts to prove God by reason as "cute" and "adorable." Not, I think, "persuasive."

Russell writes, "We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face." On occasion, this provides cold comfort. But comfort may not be the point of life.

I have a horror of deceiving myself. I'm grateful for iconoclasts like Russell, who keep shining lights into the darkness.

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