Philosophers re-think religion continually. Descartes, Hume and Kant each derived their Philosophical conclusions by re-thinking Religion with the knowledge they obtained from other scholars. Their common background in higher education and their diversified personal backgrounds created men with not only intellectual similarities but also the never ending desire to refine knowledge and philosophize on questions that I believe will never be solved. They advanced science and changed the world. Each man inspired by knowledge in totality, speculated on Religion differently, their peers listened to the theories and began changing their beliefs and redefining the objectives of their lives. The religious world changed as diverse philosophies effected the people it touched. Today we use Descartes, Hume and Kant’s philosophies to re-think cultural religious diversity in an attempt to live a more peaceful rewarding existence. Contact with other worldwide religious philosophies makes re-thinking religion and redefining our modern lives a continuing cycle.
Descartes, Hume and Kant Re-thinking Religion
Rene Descartes was born in 1596 in La Haye, France. He attended Jesuit College of La Fleche. Then at Poitiers in family tradition he obtained a law degree. He became soldier where he met a Dutch mathematician and natural philosopher, Isaac Beeckman; who sparked Descartes fascination of the world of ancient Atomism. The atomist natural philosophy teleological explanation (later Immanuel Kant called this the Physico-theological proof) denied divine intervention or design in the creation of matter. It defines all matter as a product of interactions of the undisputable properties of matter itself. The night of November 10, 1619, Descartes had an epiphany that instilled him with a mission in life. (Sebba 1987) He must restore true knowledge to the world.
He began with philosophy, noting that the principles of all sciences are derived from it. Descartes studied, “The nature of reality, including the existence of a perfect God, and the natures of mind and matter. Descartes believed the human mind comes supplied with innate ideas that allow it to perceive the main properties of God, and the essence of mind and matter. In mechanizing the concept of living things, Descartes did not argue the distinction between animate and inanimate, but he redrew the line between soul and soul less beings. In his view of living beings only humans have souls. He equates soul with mind: souls interpret between intelligence and decision, including conscious senses, visual and memories experiences.” (Archie, 2004)
Descartes philosophy was heard in the parlors and Courts of King and Queens. His publications were popular reading. His followers sought to develop his philosophy of mind, matter, metaphysical and morals. The impact of his philosophy was world wide. Through his logical arguments people began to distinguish pure knowledge. Rene Descartes taught people to think in broader ranges and question absolute power.
As Rene’ aged, he questioned his own methodology. He tested every argument then re-thought its conclusion writing volumes of material to refine his philosophical conclusions. His quest to restore pure knowledge drove him on. For Rene’ there were no final conclusions just more arguments to solve with logic.
February 11, 1650 in Death, Rene’ Descartes Religious philosophy became a final draft. Simply put, “Eternal Truths,” “Are the open creations of God. God decides what the truth is. God may have other truths; we can’t conceive what they are. Our abstract talent is inadequate to grasp inherent ideas that God has instilled in the “Eternal Truths” or that supplies the mind with innate ideas that coincide with these truths.” (Descartes, 1964-76)
One hundred and twenty six years later, David Hume was born in Edinburgh, France. He spent his childhood in a modest estate at Nine Wells, as part of a strict Calvinistic family. David at twelve years old went to College at Edinburgh University. He became a Scholar and Philosopher; proving his philosophy was his passion. He briefly clerked before he went to La Fleche, France and attended its Jesuit College; where Descartes studied the century before. After LeFleche, David never settled in one place long. Wherever he went, his publications incited enough outrage among the religious zealots, to mark him as an irredeemable heretic. He was rejected repeatedly for jobs because of his reputation. He tutored a madman, joined the military, and then became a librarian to the Edinburgh Faculty; where he wrote the “History of England.” The publication of the “History of England “gave him financial independent, so he resigned (under duress) as Librarian-historian and traveled to Europe, as Private Secretary to the Ambassador to France. His philosophies became the rage of the enlightened Parisian Courts and salons.
Hume had rejected Descartes philosophy. He felt that Descartes’ God is a Fallacy. He denies that God exists; so religion is not necessary for morality. As to morals Hume summarizes: “Every quality of the mind, which is useful or agreeable to the person himself or to others, communicates a pleasure to the spectator, engages his esteem, and is admitted under the honorable denomination of virtue or merit.” (Fisher, 2008)
Does Hume intend to discredit of all religious beliefs? Yes, one of his primary philosophical objectives is to expose and discredit the doctrines and dogmas of orthodox religion forcing mankind to re-think life. In summary Hume’s explanation of “The Natural History of Religion” is that the origin of religious belief is not reasonable or from philosophical conclusion but from human fear and ignorance, which became polytheism. The same psychological forces masquerading as polytheism, transforms into a system of theism. Theism itself is a paradoxical tendency of human nature that result in an unstable wavering between anthropomorphism (projected humanization) and mystical ideas of God.” (Voss, 1649 french trans:1989)
Hume’s Empiricist philosophy was socially explosive; many of his colleagues accused him of skepticism and atheism. Yet his conclusions are repeated in the writings of Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant and Jeremy Bentham. Charles Darwin and Thomas Henry Huxley not only use Hume’s diverse guidelines; they also used the core of his empiricism, touting the only way to know that “Separation of Concerns” is valuable, is when it’s tests with recorded observations show improved quality and sustained productivity. ” (Copi, 2010)
David Hume’s discredits the schematics of religion and questioned Religious Ruler’s right to exist or control finances. In these writings Hume supports a systematic, skeptical appraisal of the philosophical foundations of various theological systems, there by questioning the public’s basic religious and moral values. With the public re-thinking their values as well as their religious obligations, cash flow changed. This tilted the economic, political and social structure of the world. Hume’s own publications damned him as a religious skeptic and an atheist. He believed a world ruled without the superstition of God would be a better place.
In the end David Hume, died 1776 as he lived, an Empiricist, Philosopher, historian, religious skeptic and an atheist. He exposed many philosophical arguments for others to solve. I relate his work as to giving food for thought to a hungry world.
Immanuel Kant was born in 1724 in Konigsberg, East Prussia, in a Pietistic environment. Consequently, Kant received a religious education that placed Latin above science and mathematics. He attended Frederica College at the age of 16 and studied philosophy, science and Newton’s new mathematical physic. Then he enrolled at the University of Konigsberg until his father’s death, Then Kant became a tutor for the surrounding parishes. Kant is known scholarly for his transcendental idealist philosophy that time and space is not materially real but merely the ideal a priori (prior) condition of our internal intuition. (Rossi, 2004)Even more importantly, from this; Kant concluded that time is not a thing in itself determined from experience, objects, motion, and change, but rather an unavoidable framework of the human mind that preconditions possible experience. (Huxley, 1869)
Re-thinking Descartes’ and Hume’s works Kant found many arguments. He rejected Descartes theories of reality, “to know the nature of reality as it is in itself”. In Kant’s view, Hume’s premise that all ideas are presentations of sensory experience was wrong. Kant’s disagreement was that basic principles, like causality cannot be derived from sense experience only: He argued, we experience only that one event regularly succeeds another, not that it is caused by it. Kant, influenced and disturbed by the works of David Hume, concluded that we can only know what we experience, what he called the phenomenal, and that we could never know what is beyond experience, what he called the noumenal. (Rossi, 2004)
Kant was interested in the theory, status and function of the concept of God. Kant rejects analytical methods for this, arguing that analytic reasoning can’t answer anything that isn’t already self-evident Instead, Kant argued for use of synthetic reasoning. He revised conclusions of God within a structured set of basic philosophical principles of logic explaining the order and structure of world. Kant insisted that metaphysics can be reformed through epistemology. For Kant, all post-Cartesian metaphysics is wrong. The empiricists are wrong in thinking that we cannot go beyond experience and the dogmatists are wrong because they think that we can go beyond experience using only theoretical reason.
In light of this, Kant introduces his new basis for a science of metaphysics. According to Kant, “only practical reason, the faculty of moral consciousness, the moral law of which we are immediately aware, enables us to know things as they are.” (Rossi, 2004)
Descartes left us this poetic image of his philosophy: “Thus the whole of philosophy is like a tree. The roots are metaphysics, the trunk is physics, and the branches emerging from the trunk are all the other sciences, which may be reduced to three principal ones, namely medicine, mechanics and morals. By “morals” I understand the highest and most perfect moral system, which presupposes a complete knowledge of the other sciences and is the ultimate level of wisdom.” (Voss, 1649 french trans:1989)
As to David Hume’s Empiricist Philosophies; He taught that the logic of diverse sentiments of communication creates a vehicle for adjustments; it adjusts our own personal mind sets. Communication must be molded into some generality. So we adopt a common or universal point of view, detached our self-interested perspectives, to form a balanced unchanging standard to judge characters and manners. We begin to speak the language of logic and morals. There by adopting sentiments and objectives common for general benefits to all mankind.
In re-thinking Descartes and Hume’s philosophies Kant offered his new philosophical principles to the world. His explanation of the role and status of God within the theoretical enterprise of metaphysics and changed how people viewed moral obligation. Immanuel Kant’s conclusions have advanced the beneficial logic of understanding the human existence. These three men each awaked thought processes that may have slept forever without them.
Descartes, Hume and Kant’s philosophical teachings prove the continuing re-thinking of religious philosophies. History records how different philosophies have affected the Religious philosophy in the past and in our time. While some of the theories of Religious philosophy have been debunked or lost popularity, they are still studied to give a common ground foundation for understanding the world’s diverse religious cultures. Understanding other religious cultures hopefully will encourage world peace and prosperity. The world is not industrially, technologically, educationally, socially, religiously or economically balanced, therefore we must re-think our religious philosophies to learn to co-inhabit the world peacefully; learning tolerance by understanding different beliefs of Religious philosophies instead of dominance by control or force.