Nature And Scope Of Philosophy And Religion (2)



Nature and scope of philosophy and religion

Philosophy:Nature and scope

The word ‘philosophy’ is derived from two Greek words philos and sophia. Philos stands for love and sophia for wisdom. It stood for serious cultivation of the intellect and understanding. It was a searching inquiry into the deeper values of life. But simply stating that philosophy is love of wisdom does not carry any sense any more. For in the past, philosophy was the only sustained search for knowledge. But these days you have a lot of other branches of study. For instance, science. When you say ‘philosophy is a love of wisdom’ –does it mean that there is no love of wisdom in science? You may try to bypass this difficulty by differentiating between knowledge and wisdom. That knowledge is empirical and wisdom is valuational. That knowledge is theoretical and wisdom is practical. And while science strives for knowledge, philosophy strives for wisdom. But such a line of argument many philosophers do not like. For them, love of wisdom is too old, too vague and too wide a concept. Being imprecise, it cannot be accepted as a concept of philosophy.

Then there is another difficulty which we have to encounter: the random and reckless use of the term philosophy. It seems as if philosophy has no fixed meaning at all. For anybody and everybody attaches it to any and every concept. There is philosophy of life, philosophy of business, philosophy of science, philosophy of history and philosophy of what not. While being so used – this term stands for the basic nature, aim, purpose of the thing qualified. Or it may stand for the rationale – the logic of its being: why a thing is such and such and not otherwise. ‘The philosophy of your joining Krishna Kanta Handique State Open University may be that you want more knowledge, better job, higher achievement and satisfaction in life. Now, though this seems to be fairly sensible, but it does not give the essential quality of the discipline or subject philosophy that is taught in the universities.

Philosophy is the general name of some activities which are unique in themselves. You can call it an umbrella concept under which some functions occur. For instance, you know well how science is not a specific concept. It is also an umbrella concept under which activities of physics, chemistry, biology, botany, psychology etc. take place. Exactly in the same way, under the brand name or umbrella of philosophy, you have some activities called epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, theology etc.

By the term ‘scope’ of anything you have to mean ‘the area of work’ of that thing. When you ask ‘what is the scope of art’- you mean with what kind of things is art connected, what are the different works that art does, what are the causes, what are the uses and abuses etc. In the same way, when you ask “what is the scope of philosophy”, you mean the type of works that philosophy does. There may be a huge member of works that any study or discipline might be doing and yet there are only some works which constitute the core of a particular study. There are certain core areas in which philosophical investigation is active. If these are demarcated, we shall have found the scope of philosophy. You should take this as tentative information, for the final information is not available. The scope keeps on increasing or expanding. Just as you cannot completely specify the scope of science: whether it is physics, or physics and chemistry; or it includes botany and biology and anthropology and psychology and sociology……. You are not sure. But about physics and chemistry, you are sure. In the same way, though you cannot have a detailed scope of philosophy; it has to include the core areas of philosophy.

These are:

  • Epistemology
  • Metaphysics
  • Ethics
  • Aesthetics
  • Theology

Epistemology is the philosophy of knowledge. It is often called theory of knowledge also. We have the experience or concept or phenomenon of knowledge. Philosophy explains that concept. And that is called epistemology. It is not knowledge of any other thing, but discussion on the problem of knowledge itself. If you know about ‘atoms’ in physics, that constitutes the ‘knowledge’ of atoms. In epistemology, you do not consider knowledge of anything –atom or molecule or whatever, but the fact of knowledge itself. Here you study what is knowledge, how does it originate, what is its limitation, can we know everything about a phenomenon, etc.

Metaphysics is the philosophy or theory of the ‘real’. Knowledge that is studied in epistemology automatically leads us to the question of the ‘known’. You know, but what do you know? Knowledge is different from mere thought or imagination. Hence, like thought is related to thing in order to be complete, knowledge is linked with the known in order to be meaningful. So, philosophy has a distinct branch devoted to understanding ‘what is known’. It considers the nature of the real. Whether the real completely reveals itself in the process of knowing or a portion of it remains beyond the reach of knowledge? That is, is there a scope for assuming that the known world and the real world are fundamentally different? This is the famous problem of metaphysics technically known as ‘appearance and reality.’ It is at the heart of every metaphysical enquiry. It is not necessary that you subscribe to any preconceived idea. You may have reason to believe that the real completely unbares itself in the knowledge system. You will be a realist then. You can also come to the conclusion that the real is totally different from the appearance, but it can be known through some sort of insight. You will be an idealist then. You may also reach a position that the real is there and it upholds the apparent but it cannot be finally known, you will be an agnostic. You can also have many more philosophically tenable positions. You can also argue quite powerfully against the possibility and use of any subject like metaphysics. It is virtually a philosophers’ paradise. With epistemology, metaphysics forms the core of any philosophical inquiry.

Ethics: After knowing what knowledge is and after grappling with the issue of the known, you have learnt quite a bit about the world and your life in it. A question will naturally arise in your mind. If the world is what it seems to be-then how shall I live in this world? How do I behave in it? For you will be continuously facing more than one alternative courses of action and you will be forced to choose among them. And you have to use your discretion while choosing. Any consideration that you will bring to bear on your choices will have what is commonly called the ‘moral’ implication. If you are walking on the pavement and an old man has fallen down- you will have two choices before you: (a) let me pick up the person, (b) why should I waste my time? Let me hurry up in my work. But you will see that there is an instinctive or rational (We cannot specify what it is at this point) impulse in you to help the person. This is your voice of conscience or your wisdom or whatever you might call it. But you feel like doing ‘good’. This sense of goodness or propriety or duty is central to all human thought and behaviour. Ethics is the study of human conduct based on moral impulses and wisdom.

Aesthetics and (e) theology are also important branches of philosophy. The first is concerned with the inquiry into the nature of beauty and the second investigates the nature of religious experiences. In fact aesthetics is concerned with the creation and appreciation of all arts. Theology, which constitutes a deep inquiry into religious phenomena, is more commonly called philosophy of religion.

Nature and scope of religion

The theological concept of religion which is reflected in the popular ones centers round as supernatural power, other than independence, of human experience. The assurance of God’s being comes in this approach, not from any internal experience but, from the faith in an external revelation, primary emphasis thus, seems to be on belief and faith and not on inner experience, though even this approach has to recognize that man’s religion is conditioned to a large extant by man’s interest in his own destiny.

On the other hand, man’s inner experience is of primary importance for the psychoanalytical writers and humanist thinkers with existentialist sympathies. If man experiences God, argues Ludwig Furbish, this experience gives us greater information about the man himself than about God, God being regarded by him as the projected image of man himself. No man of religion would agree with this reduction of God to a creation of the human mind. Still the fact emphasized by all the psychologist, is undeniable that man’s concerns for his own destiny is the prime motive behind man’s search for god. A very important contribution of the psychologists to the philosophy of religion in their emphasis on the basis of the individual’s religions experience, and their conception of religious experience as private and internal. For William James, religion is “The feelings of acts and experiences of the individual men in their solitude, So far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they many consider the divine. A.N. Whitehead’s famous definition religion as what the individual does with his solitariness” equally seeks to explain religion more or less excessively in terms of personal inner experience He recognizes the objective reference of religion as a rather secondary factor in religion. He believes that the religion of solitariness is a later and a mature emergent, which is preceded by religion as ritual and belief. Vedantic thinkers would agree with the above observation. Dr.Radhakrishan for example differentiates the essence of religion from its social aspects and morality, Religion for him is some thing inward and personal that unifies all values and organizes all experiences.


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