A brief argument for dualism

dualism-2Athanasius proposes the following cosmological argument in The Incarnation:

If everything has its beginning of itself, and independently of purpose, it follows that everything would only exist, so as to be alike and not distinct.

And, given that body is homogeneous, it would follow that everything must be sun or moon, or that a man would be only a hand, or eye, or foot.

But as it is this is not so; rather, we see a distinction of sun, moon, and earth; and again, in the case of human bodies, of foot, hand, and head.

Now, such arrangement of separate things as this tells us not of their having come into being of themselves, but shows that a cause preceded them; namely God, the one who makes and orders all.

I thought it would be interesting to adapt this very unique argument into a syllogism for dualism (a less lofty conclusion than Athanasius’).

1) Matter is differentiated in various ways.

For example, an oxygen atom or a carbon atom and etc.

2) This differentiation is contingent and therefore requires a principle of its being.

There is a plurality of material things – that they are one way but they could be another.

3) The principle of differentiation cannot be physical because a physical principle of differentiation would require a physical explanation ad infinitum.

I have argued elsewhere that an essentially ordered series cannot proceed infinitely.

4) The principle of differentiation is therefore not physical.

Therefore dualism is true.

Karl Marx on religion


Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

- A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right


Religion is the impotence of the human mind to deal with occurrences it cannot understand.


Marx’s view of religion was complex. On the one pole, Marx recognised that man uses religion as a tool to deal with real suffering. On the other pole, Marx saw religion as a weapon of the bourgeoisie – a kind of “chain with illusory flowers”.

While he may have acknowledged what he viewed as the analgesia of religion, ultimately Marx contended that religion had no place in the new communist society. According to Marx, religion is made by man as a type of unreality. While labour in the material world has the power to transform and humanise the labourer, religion offers no such benefit. Marx argued to the contrary that religion causes man to turn away from his labours and embrace phantoms.

Marx encourages his followers to disillusion themselves of religious unreality and take hold of their own existence through the work of their hands and the use of their senses. Marx’s attitude towards religion is typical of the Enlightenment thinkers that preceded him (such as Voltaire, Comte and Rousseau) and would be continued through the philosophy of the likes of Nietzsche and Freud.

Marx on labour and the nature of man

indexI have discussed previously the contrasting theories of Kierkegaard and Hegel in regards to the progress of man. According to Hegel, man advances through the recognition of both his own self-consciousness and the consciousness of other external subjects, resulting in a type of idealistic communal spirit called the zeitgeist. Kierkegaard, contra Hegel, asserted that man progresses by the exercise of his own subjective will. Note that for Hegel what makes man is external and for Kierkegaard internal.

Like Hegel, Marx holds that what humanises man is external. For Hegel and Marx, a man will distinguish between an actual and potential self. This process leads to internal alienation causing the actual self to fashion its potential self into an object to be attained. For Hegel, this involves the information of the idealistic spirit; however for Marx the process is composed of the transformation of material objects by human labour. Per Marx, man is homo faber, a being that is rendered fully human through his influence on the concrete natural world.

The reasons for Marx’s socialist politics follow from his view of human nature. The loss of a man’s labour is equivalent to the loss of the means by which he makes himself human. Marx saw capitalism as the method by which the bourgeoisie controlled the means of production; allowing them to literally steal the humanity of those whose labour provided their income.

Karl Marx and historical materialism

220px-Karl_Marx_001Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) was a political philosopher and economist of German origin. When one hears the canard “philosophy bakes no bread”, the most obvious retort available in the modern era would be the influence of Marx. Marx’s seminal works The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital laid the foundation for the socialist revolutions of the 20th century, the most prominent examples being the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.

The potency of Marx finds its genesis in the ambiguity of Hegel. Marx was influenced by the Young Hegelians – a group of left-leaning German intellectuals that believed that the dialectical struggle of history had not yet reached its end. However, Marx would create his own unique interpretation of the Hegelian dialectical triad.

Marx’s dialectical theory of history was an inversion of Hegel’s idealism. Marx rejected the mystification of Hegel, instead preferring to place primacy on concrete matter over ideas. In other words, Marx’s progressive theory is materialistic rather than idealistic – the focus of which is the way that a man’s labour may alter the physical world and ultimately himself.

Marx’s dialectical theory led him to believe that he could study the synthetic tumult of history and scientifically reach a conclusion regarding the outcomes of the struggles between thesis and antithesis.  The Marxist conclusion was the inevitably of a widespread communist revolution. While believing in the inescapable socialist revolution Marx was also a firm believer in the importance of a man’s labour, and thus he worked tirelessly during his later years to agitate against capitalism.

After all, for Marx it was “not the point to merely understand the world, but to change it”.

Kierkegaard: existentialism and meaning

sartre-quoteWhat I really need is to get clear about what I must do, not what I must know, except insofar as knowledge must precede every act. What matters is to find a purpose, to see what it really is that God wills that I shall do; the crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.

- Soren Kierkegaard, Gilleleie (1 August 1835) Journals 1A

Two of the primary targets of Kierkegaard’s criticism were the Hegelian Idealists and the Danish Church. The thrust of Kierkegaard’s objection to the dogmas of these two groups was that they were teaching the objective certainty of moral and religious truths. Kierkegaard argued that these truths were based on a type of syllogistic logic that ultimately ended in unresolvable paradox and a dreadful sense of the meaninglessness of life.

Kierkegaard’s solution to this problem was to translocate truth from the object to the subject (see the quote above). Kierkegaard invented the concept of the “knight of faith” – a man who uses his own freedom to create himself through a leap of faith rather than attempt to find himself through a rational analysis of external objects. Kierkegaardian existentialism varies from nihilism in that meaning must be manufactured by the individual due to the epistemic limitations of human beings.

Kierkegaard is commonly called the father of modern existentialism; yet, if he is its father than Kant is certainly the grandparent. After all, it was Kant who changed the ethical landscape with his anthropology of autonomy and man as an end in himself.

Formal and informal fallacies

circular-reasoning-works-becauseAssessing the validity of an argument is an important skill, and not only for the philosopher. An argument can be called into dispute in two separate ways: either through the accusation of a formal or informal fallacy. A formal fallacy involves an error in the form or structure of an argument, whereas an informal fallacy involves an error in the premises.

For a first example, take modus tollens:

If P, then Q. (It it is sunny, we will go outside).

Not Q. (It is not sunny).

Therefore not P. (Therefore, we will not go outside).

The above is a formally valid argument – in other words, if the premises are true then the conclusion must be also true. However, whether the premises are in fact correct is a separate issue. There are a whole host of informal fallacies (such as equivocation, begging the question, or ad hominem) that may ultimately render the conclusion false or unpersuasive.

For a second example, take the non-sequitur argument denying the antecedent:

1) If I am a cat, I am a mammal. (Antecedent = being a cat)

2) I am not a cat. (Denial of antecedent)

3) Therefore, I am not a mammal.

The above is a formally fallacious argument. Note that even though the premises and conclusion may well be true (i.e. no informal fallacies), the syllogistic structure of the argument causes the conclusion to be in no way supported by the premises.



Soren Kierkegaard: social gadfly

indexSoren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) was a Danish modern philosopher well known for his criticism of his idealistic contemporaries as well as the influence of the church on the Danish state, and his part in the development of late modern existentialism. Kierkegaard is at first glance a bewildering thinker: his philosophical thought is hidden deep within many volumes of pseudonymous work that vary widely in style. Kierkegaard was an exceptionally versatile rhetorician, with a particular adeptness in the use of irony and satire.

When viewed in the light of the history of western philosophy Kierkegaard, like Camus’ Meursault, is an “outsider”. His two greatest influences are Socrates and Christ; and like his role models Kierkegaard contends that genuineness of action is the mark of a man living in the truth. The concern of Kierkegaard is not what one must know, but rather what one must do. As such, Kierkegaard places a primary importance on the will (i.e. voluntarism) and human freedom.

Kierkegaard’s emphasis on the importance of the individual as a subject led him into a dialectical conflict with the dominant Hegelianism of his time. Per Hegel, while the individual is substantial, they are but part of the objectivity formed by the whole. Kierkegaard instead says that the truth is found in subject, in particularly in man’s relation as a subject to Christ. Following from this, Kierkegaard was a fierce critic of the role of institutions in everyday life.

According to Kierkegaard “life is lived forwards, but understood backwards” – he thus stressed the role of faith in life over reason. Many critics consider him the father of fideism in the contemporary church.



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