“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” – John 12:24
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death...Death is swallowed up in victory.” – 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54
"The greater the sin, the greater the mercy, the deeper the death and the brighter the rebirth.” - C. S. Lewis
"This story...has the very taste of primary truth." - J. R. R. Tolkien

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Two Pillars of My Philosophy

In the past several months I have taken more time to think through such general issues as epistemology, ontology, the nature of reality, the nature of God, morality, meaning, and philosophy in general. My conversations with atheists have helped me to formulate and organize my thoughts. I have noticed at least two trends running through my way of thinking about these things, and my philosophical/theological worldview in general.

First, our knowledge really is knowledge of the real world. It is not as if we are trapped in our minds and can know nothing of the world. It is intelligible to us, and that is a miracle. Nor can our knowledge be equated with reality – what we know is distinct from what is. Epistemology and ontology are distinct issues, but, as John Polkinghorne has said, epistemology models ontology. This theme runs through my understanding of the nature of numbers, absolute moral values, good and evil, meaning, and reality in general. As I argue in “Philosophies of Mathematics” and “Mathematical Beauty,” we intuitively perceive numbers to be real, so they are real. Similarly, we see clearly that there are absolute moral values, and therefore there are, in fact, real absolute moral values. Again, we perceive plainly that evil is real, and therefore it is real. Lastly, I argued in my posts on “The Reason of the Heart” and will explain further in “Whispers of Eternity” that we desire and perceive a reality greater than this immediate life, and that consequently we can know epistemologically that there is, ontologically, a greater reality.

Second, everything has to have an ontological foundation, that is, a source of being, or ontological grounds for its existence. The best example is reality in general – there must be an ontological foundation for reality, a reason for it to exist. Reality must rest on a firm foundation that is so great and so essential that it must exist and that it ontologically sustains itself and all else. Nothing can simply exist, or even continue to exist given its existence – everything must be grounded ontologically. It is my belief that this necessary foundation is God. Others would agree that there must be a foundation, but differ as to its nature, proposing instead that, for example, the laws of physics or mathematics are the firm foundation of the universe. I will write about this more in the future, and I touch on it in my post on “God and Mathematics,” in which I also argue that there must be an ontological foundation for numbers as abstract objects. Similarly, there must be an ontological foundation for the other things mentioned earlier: absolute moral values, good and evil, and value or meaning in general. Numbers do not merely exist as free-floating entities, nor can moral values have ontological status in and of themselves, nor can an act be called evil without regard to the basis for good and evil – all these realities must be grounded ontologically if they are to be called real in any sense. I would argue further that physical reality – quarks and leptons and their behavior according to the laws of physics – must have an ontological foundation and a reason for being.

There is a reason for mentioning these two concepts in the given order – it is the natural direction of thought. First we see these things are real, then we see there must be grounds for their reality. That is, it’s an epistemological progression from epistemology to ontology and from ontology to an ontological foundation.

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