Lecture 1

 

These are notes taken form a set of tapes recorded at Calvin College of Runner’s lectures. The lectures took place in the early 1980s. The notes are very much that: notes – they are not a transcript of the tapes. In all there are more than 30 tapes.


Notetaking
Getting the wording down accurately and completely is important. A set of notes that are clear are invaluable.

 

Philosophy is a different kind of subject from economics, political science etc.

 

Part of a permanent assignment for this course is that you re-write your notes almost every week – keep them up to date.

 

It doesn’t pay to give a philosophical text to those who arn’t prepared to read them philosophically.

 

What is philosophy?
Many professors give a definition of philosophy t this point and expect their students to learn it. I don’t. do that – there is no definition of philosophy that is acceptable to everyone. There are as many different definitions of philosophy as there are schools of philosophy.

 

The philosophical enterprise – involves not only the result but also the philosophical activity which leads to that result.

 

Plato wrote a lot of dialogues, these were the results of his philosophising.

 

Results arise from human activity. Behind the result is the activity.

 

Definition’s depend on man’s [sic] position.

Is man mind or reason – or is there something more?

How does scripture speak of man?

What does it mean when the scriptures speak of a renewal of the mind?

 

To give a definition of philosophy – which is impossible – would take the interest out of the course. The main question is:

 

How ought we think of this philosophical enterprise?

 

 

You don’t come to a discussion of this question from scratch. Do you know why? Tradition. We are not contra John Locke begin from a blank mind. No-one escapes the power of tradition. Why not? Because even the philosophical tradition becomes part of, to use Whitehead’s words, ‘a climate of opinion’.

 

Even traditions in philosophy – things are technical to begin with, an attitude sinks down and becomes part of a cultural context into which we are born. We are inclined by the climate of opinion that is dominant within society.

 

Professor [Edward] Shils (University of Chicago Press, 1981) a couple of years ago wrote a book on tradition, called Tradition. Until then there had been books on traditions (eg Gnostic tradition, Marxist tradition, Jewish tradition etc.) but not one on tradition.

 

Calvin College is a denominational college – Reformed Calvinistic – most students here have undergone Reformed catechising.

 

When Jesus was asked the question ‘teacher is it lawful to pay a to Caesar or not?’ (Mk 12:13-17) in an attempt to trick him.

 

He replied ‘Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’

 

When I asked the students what it means the majority respond: ‘The State has its authority and the Church has its authority.’ And that is exactly what the passage is not saying! What is God’s? Everything – including the State! The State is a servant of God – its authority is derived form God. Give to Caesar where he is properly a servant of God, but only where he is a servant; if there is conflict then obey God rather than man.

 

From all reformed students a Roman Catholic medieval answer! They didn’t even know that there was a difference between this answer and the Reformation answer – because of tradition.

 

An apostolic injunction: ‘hold the pattern of sound words’. The pattern of words hold in them a worldview – that’s how they are conveyed.

 

From the middle of the sixteenth century, the church has been accommodating biblical theology to the patterns of Greek philosophy.

 

What we call philosophy – it doesn’t exist in the East, unless it has been borrowed from the West – came from the Greeks. (Philosophy is a Greek word: sophia wisdom and philo love)

 

From 600 BC became something that has existed in no other part of the world.

 

There is a difference between worldview and philosophy. We all have a worldview; philosophy is more scientific.

 

[side 2]

 

Greeks had a split world: physical, material / mind, spirit, soul

 

By ‘soul’ the Greeks meant a rational soul, reason. The OT and NT don’t mean reasoning by ‘soul’ at all. For the Greeks man is a rational animal – rationality (logic) make shim different. man = animal + an extra faculty. It is appalling how Christians have accepted it.

 

Critically attend to conflict between worldview grounded in biblical revelation and worldview grounded in Greek society and experience.

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