Philosophy matters. It matters more than most people realize, because philosophical ideas that have developed over the centuries enter our culture in the form of a world view and affect us in thousands of ways. Philosophy matters in the academic world because the conceptual frameworks upon which entire academic disciplines rest usually have roots in philosophy - roots so deep and invisible that they are usually not even noticed.
I feel very privileged to be living in an era where the four hundred year old aberration of “certain knowledge” is coming to an end. One of the benefits of the postmodern movement is the challenge to the concept of certain knowledge. Postmodernity is often charicatured as claiming that “there’s no such thing as truth”; actually, postmodernity does not challenge truth, but certainty. The truth - as The X Files has it - is out there, but it is continually beyond us. Claims of certain knowledge reflect more about our arrogance than our investigation. So the end of mankind’s experiment with certainty brings us back to a more humble - and, I believe, a more Biblical - worldview.
Why do I talk about a four hundred year old aberration? Ilya Prigogine’s “A Very Brief History of Certainty” locates the beginnings of the concept of certain knowledge in Descartes. Descartes’ programme was based on the idea of building up a tower of certainty based on what was known to be empirically true. The only thing that Descartes knew for certain was that he was thinking, and that suggested that there was an “I” which could think; this “I” made observations about the universe, and off we go - the modern paradigm of certain knowledge was born.
Many of the current expressions of Christianity are deeply wedded to this Enlightenment paradigm, and furiously defend it against postmodernity.
I’ve never understood why this is - Descartes’ programme was fundamentally atheistic. Read more about Certainty
I recently realised that one of the things that really bugs me about the Church Planting Movement is nothing to do with the CPM itself, but with the theological crisis you generate in examining it. Because, to caricature the debate, they would say that God is strategic and efficient and He wants all men to be saved as soon as possible, and I would say that no, God is not strategic or efficient, but condescends to work at our pace. Is God efficient or not? Here we have two Christians who fundamentally disagree about a basic attribute of God's personality. They can't both be right. Houston, we have a problem.
I was never any good at history in school; I gave it up as soon as I could, prefering languages instead. I hated the rote memorization of years and events and their consequences.
Argh. I've got a cold and a headache and just had four hours of social anthropology. Thankfully, we didn't cover much; just worldview, prototype theory, philosophy, linguistics, the development of American cultural anthropology, the native American tribes, the beginnings of missiology, neo-paganism, art, the philosophy of science, cosmology, relativism, secular humanism and the New Age.