The later part of 20th century witness a renewed question of empiricism in philosophy of religion. The question is concerned with what patterns a religious reasoning and religious language should take in determining the existence of God, the belief in God, the reality of a good God and the existence of evil. The approach is championed by logical positivism based on verification principles of ascertain meaning only by sense experience. The Modern Empiricism as discussed in this paper covers the period of tale end of 1500 AD to the end of 1800 AD, that is 16-19 century.
This course explores the themes of Paul Tillich’s philosophical theology, with special attention to his analysis of meaning and its apparent loss in modern society. The course will also evaluate Tillich’s response to the problem of meaninglessness and his effort to interpret the Christian message. WHAT IS EMPIRICISM? According to John Scott & Gordon Marshall, empiricism, in philosophy, is “the attitude that beliefs are to be accepted and acted upon only if they first have been confirmed by actual experience”.
This broad definition accords with the derivation of the name from the Greek word empeiria, meaning “experience. ” Primarily, and in its psychological application, the term signifies the theory that the phenomena of consciousness are simply the product of sensuous experience, i. e. of sensations variously associated and arranged (Andrew M. Colman: 2003:242). It is thus distinguished from Nativism or Innatism.
Secondarily, and in its logical (epistemological) usage, it designates the theory that all human knowledge is derived exclusively from experience, the latter term meaning, either explicitly or implicitly, external sense-percepts and internal representations and inferences exclusive of any superorganic (immaterial) intellectual factor. Empiricism is thus opposed to the claims of authority, intuition, imaginative conjecture, and abstract, theoretical, or systematic reasoning as sources of reliable belief. Its most fundamental antithesis is with the latter (i. e., with Rationalism, also called intellectualism or apriorism).
Forms of Empiricism According to Catholic Encyclopedia empiricism appears in the history of philosophy in three principal forms: (1) Materialism, (2) Sensism, and (3) Positivism. a. Materialism: Materialism in its crudest shape was taught by the ancient atomists (Democritus, Leucippus, Epicurus, Lucretius), who, reducing the sum of all reality to atoms and motion, taught that experience, whereof they held knowledge to be constituted, is generated by images reflected from material objects through the sensory organs into the soul.
The soul, a mere complexus of the finest atoms, perceives not the objects but their effluent images. With modern materialists (Helvetius, d’Holbach, Diderot, Feuerbach, Moleschott, Buchner, Vogt, etc. ), knowledge is accounted for either by cerebral secretion or by motion. b. Sensism: All materialists are of course sensists. Though the converse is not the case, nevertheless, by denying any essential difference between sensations and ideas (intellectual states), sensism logically involves materialism.
Sensism, which is found with Empedocles and Protagoras amongst the ancients, was given its first systematic form by Locke (d. 1704), though Bacon (d. 1626) and Hobbes (d. 1679) had prepared the data. Locke derives all simple ideas from external experience (sensations), all compound ideas (modes, substances, relations) from internal experience (reflection). Substance and cause are simply associations of subjective phenomena; universal ideas are mere mental figments. Locke admits the existence, though he denies the demonstrability, in man of an immaterial and immortal principle, the soul.
Berkeley (d. 1753), accepting the teaching of Locke that ideas are only transfigured sensations, subjectivizes not only the sensible or secondary qualities of matter as his predecessor had done, but also the primary qualities which Locke held to be objective. Berkeley denies the objective basis of universal ideas and indeed of the whole material universe. The reality of things he places in their being perceived and this “perceivedness” is effected in the mind by God, not by the object or subject. He still retains the substance-reality of the human soul and of spirits generally, God included.
Hume (d. 1776) agrees with his two empiricist predecessors in teaching that the mind knows only its own subjective organic impressions, whereof ideas are but the images. The supersensible is therefore unknowable; the principle of causality is resolved into a mere feeling of successiveness of phenomena; its necessity is reduced to a subjective feeling resulting from uniform association experienced in consciousness, and the spiritual essence or substantial being of the soul is dissipated into a series of conscious states. Locke’s sensism was taken up by Condillac (d.
1780), who eliminated entirely the subjective factor (Locke’s “reflection”) and sought to explain all cognitional states by a mere mechanical, passive transformation of external sensations. The French sensist retained the spiritual soul, but his followers disposed of it as Hume had done with the Berkeleian soul relic. The Herbartians confound the image with the idea, nor does Wundt make a clear distinction between primitive concepts (empirische Begriffe, representations of individual objects) and the image: “Denken ist Phantasieren in Begriffen und Phantasierenist Denken in Bildern”. c. Positivism:
Positivists, following Comte (d.1857), do not deny the supersensible; they declare it unknowable; the one source of cognition, they claim, is sense-experience, experiment, and induction from phenomena. John Stuart Mill (d. 1870), following Hume, reduces all knowledge to series of conscious states linked by empirical associations and enlarged by inductive processes. The mind has no certitude of an external world, but only of “a permanent possibility of sensations” and antecedent and anticipated feelings. Spencer (d. 1903) makes all knowledge relative. The actual existence of things is their persistence in consciousness.
Consciousness contains only subjective feelings. The relative supposes the absolute, but the latter is unknowable to us; it is the object of faith and religion (Agnosticism). All things, mind included, have resulted from a cosmical process of mechanical evolution wherein they are still involved; hence all concepts and principles are in a continuous flux. d. Classical Empiricism: Classical empiricism is characterised by a rejection of innate, in-born knowledge or concepts. John Locke, well known as an empiricist, wrote of the mind being a tabula rasa, a “blank slate”, when we enter the world.
At birth we know nothing; it is only subsequently that the mind is furnished with information by experience. e. Radical Empiricism: This was advanced by William James, an American pragmatist philosopher and psychologist, based on the pragmatic theory of truth and the principle of pure experience, which contends that the relations between things are at least as real as the things themselves, that their function is real, and that no hidden substrata are necessary to account for the various clashes and coherences of the world.
James summarized the theory as consisting of (1) a postulate: “The only things that shall be debatable among philosophers shall be things definable in terms drawn from experience”; (2) a factual statement: “The relations between things, conjunctive as well as disjunctive, are just as much matters of direct particular experience, neither more so nor less so, than the things themselves,” which serves to distinguish radical empiricism from the empiricism of the Scottish philosopher David Hume; and (3) a generalized conclusion: “The parts of experience hold together from next to next by relations that are themselves parts of experience.
The directly apprehended universe needs, in short, no extraneous transempirical connective support, but possesses in its own right a concatenated or continuous structure. ” The result of this theory of knowledge is a metaphysics that refutes the rationalist belief in a being that transcends experience, which gives unity to the world. According to James there is no logical connection between radical empiricism and pragmatism. One may reject radical empiricism and continue to be a pragmatist. James’s studies in radical empiricism were published posthumously as Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912).
According to him, it is only if it is possible to empirically test a claim that the claim has meaning. As all of our information comes from our senses, it is impossible for us to talk about that which we have not experienced. Statements that are not tied to our experiences are therefore meaningless. This principle, which was associated with a now unpopular position called logical positivism, renders religious and ethical claims literally nonsensical. No observations could confirm religious or ethical claims, therefore those claims are meaningless.
Radical empiricism thus requires the abandonment of religious and ethical discourse and belief. f. Moderate Empiricism: More moderate empiricists, however, allow that there may be some cases in which the senses do not ground our knowledge, but hold that these are exceptions to a general rule. Truths such as “there are no four-sided triangles” and “7+5=12” need not be investigated in order to be known, but all significant, interesting knowledge, the empiricist claims, comes to us from experience. This more moderate empiricism strikes many as more plausible than its radical alternative. BRIEF HISTORY OF EMPIRICISM
The first Empiricists in Western philosophy were the Sophists, who rejected such Rationalist speculation about the world as a whole and took man and society to be the proper objects of philosophical inquiry. Invoking skeptical arguments to undermine the claims of pure reason, they posed a challenge that invited the reaction that comprised Plato’s philosophy Plato and to a lesser extent Aristotle were both Rationalists. But Aristotle’s successors in the ancient Greek schools of Stoicism and Epicureanism advanced an explicitly Empiricist account of the formation of man’s concepts or ideas.
For the Stoics the human mind is at birth a clean slate, which comes to be stocked with ideas by the sensory impingement of the material world upon it. Yet they also held that there are some ideas or beliefs, the “common notions,” present to the minds of all men; and these soon came to be conceived in a nonempirical way. The Empiricism of the Epicureans, however, was more pronounced and consistent. For them man’s concepts are memory images, the mental residues of previous sense experience; and knowledge is as empirical as the ideas of which it is composed.
In medieval philosophy, most medieval philosophers after St. took an Empiricist position, at least about concepts, even if they recognized much substantial but nonempirical knowledge. The standard formulation of this age was: “There is nothing in the intellect that was not previously in the senses. ” Thus St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–74) altogether rejected innate ideas. Both soul and body participate in perception, and all of man’s ideas are abstracted by the intellect from what is given to the senses. Man’s ideas of unseen things, like God and angels, are derived by analogy from the seen.
The 13th-century scientist Roger Bacon emphasized empirical knowledge of the natural world and anticipated the polymath Renaissance philosopher of science Francis Bacon (1561–1626) in preferring observation to deductive reasoning as a source of knowledge. The Empiricism of the 14th-century Franciscan Nominalist William of Ockham was more systematic. All knowledge of what exists in nature, he held, comes from the senses, though there is, to be sure, “abstractive knowledge” of necessary truths; but this is hypothetical and does not imply the existence of anything.
His more extreme followers extended his line of reasoning toward a radical Empiricism, in which causation is not a rationally intelligible connection but merely an observed regular sequence. In modern philosophy, the earlier and unsystematically speculative phases of Renaissance philosophy, the claims of Aristotelian logic to yield substantial knowledge were attacked by several 16th-century logicians, and, in the same century, the role of observation was stressed. One mildly skeptical Christian thinker, Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655), advanced a deliberate revival of the empirical doctrines of Epicurus.
But the most important defender of Empiricism was Francis Bacon, who, though he did not deny the existence of a priori knowledge, claimed that, in effect, the only knowledge that is worth having (as contributing to the relief of man’s estate) is empirically based knowledge of the natural world, which should be pursued by the systematic, indeed almost mechanical, arrangement of the findings of observation and is best undertaken in the cooperative and impersonal style of modern scientific research. Bacon was, indeed, the first to formulate the principles of scientific induction.
A Materialist and Nominalist, Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679), combined an extreme Empiricism about concepts, which he saw as the outcome of material impacts on the bodily senses, with an extreme Rationalism about knowledge, of which, like Plato, he took geometry to be the paradigm. For him all genuine knowledge is a priori, a matter of rigorous deduction from definitions. The senses provide ideas; but all knowledge comes from “reckoning,” from deductive calculations carried out on the names that the thinker has assigned to them. True knowledge is thus not merely a priori but also analytic.
Yet it all concerns material and sensible existences: everything that exists is a body. The most elaborate and influential presentation of Empiricism of this period was made by John Locke (1632–1704), an early Enlightenment philosopher, in the first two books of his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). All knowledge, he held, comes from sensation or from reflection, by which he meant the introspective awareness of the workings of man’s own mind. Locke confused the two issues of the nature of concepts and the justification of beliefs. His Book I, though titled “Innate Ideas,” is largely devoted to refuting innate knowledge.
And even so, he later admitted that much substantial knowledge—in particular, that of mathematics and morals—is a priori. He argued that infants know nothing; that if men are said to know innately what they are capable of coming to know, then all knowledge is, trivially, innate; and that no beliefs whatever are universally accepted. Locke was more consistent about the empirical character of all man’s concepts and displayed in detail the ways in which simple ideas can be combined to form complex ideas of what has not in fact been experienced.
One group of dubiously empirical concepts—those of unity, existence, and number—he took to be derived both from sensation and from reflection. But he allowed one a priori concept—that of substance—which the mind adds, seemingly from its own resources, to its conception of any regularly associated group of perceptible qualities. Bishop George Berkeley (1685–1753), a theistic Idealist and opponent of Materialism, applied Locke’s Empiricism about concepts to refute Locke’s account of man’s knowledge of the external world.
He drew and embraced the inevitable conclusion that material things are simply collections of perceived ideas, a position that ultimately leads to phenomenalism; i. e. , to the view that reality is nothing but sensations. He accounted for the continuity and orderliness of the world by supposing that its reality is upheld in the perceptions of an unsleeping God. The theory of spiritual substance involved in Berkeley’s position seems to be vulnerable, however, to most of the same objections as those that he posed against Locke.
The Scottish Skeptical philosopher David Hume (1711–76) fully elaborated Locke’s Empiricism and used it reductively to argue that there can be no more to man’s concepts of body, mind, and causal connection than what occurs in the experiences that he has of them. For Hume all necessary truth is formal or conceptual, determined by the relations of identity and exclusion that hold between ideas. Voltaire imported Locke’s philosophy into France; and its Empiricism, in a very stark form, is the basis of sensationalism, in which all of the constituents of human mental life are analyzed in terms of sensations alone.
A genuinely original and clarifying attempt to resolve the controversy between Empiricists and their opponents was made in the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), drawing upon Leibniz and Hume. With the dictum that, although all knowledge begins with experience it does not all arise from experience, he established a clear distinction between the innate and the a priori. He held that there are a priori concepts, or categories—substance and cause being the most important—and also substantial or synthetic a priori truths. Although not derived from experience, the latter apply to experience.
A priori concepts and propositions do not relate to a reality that transcends experience; they reflect, instead, the mind’s way of organizing the amorphous mass of sense impressions that flow in upon it. Lockean Empiricism prevailed in 19th-century England until the turn to Hegel occurred in the last quarter of the century. To be sure, the Scottish philosophers who followed Hume but avoided his Skeptical conclusions insisted that man does have substantial a priori knowledge. But the philosophy of John Stuart Mill (1806–73), logician, economist, and Utilitarian moralist, is thoroughly Empiricist.
He held that all knowledge worth having, including mathematics, is empirical. The apparent necessity of mathematics, according to Mill, is the result of the unique massiveness of its empirical confirmation. All real knowledge for Mill is inductive and empirical; and deduction is sterile. On similar lines, the philosopher of evolution Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) offered another explanation of the apparent necessity of some of man’s beliefs: they are the well-attested empirical beliefs of his ancestors from whom he has inherited them, an evolutionary revival of the doctrine of innateness.
Two important mathematicians and pioneers in the philosophy of modern physics, W. K. Clifford (1845–79) and Karl Pearson (1857–1936), defended radically Empiricist philosophies of science, anticipating the Logical Empiricism of the 20th century. In contemporary philosophy The most influential Empiricist of the 20th century was the great British philosopher and logician Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), who at first was Lockean in his theory of knowledge—admitting both synthetic a priori knowledge and concepts of unobservable entities.
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951), the influential pioneer of the school of Linguistic Analysis, convinced Russell that the truths of logic and mathematics are analytic; and Russell then came to believe, with Hume, that the task of philosophy is to analyze all concepts in terms of what can be directly present to the senses. In this spirit, he tried to show that even the concepts of formal logic are ultimately empirical though the experience that supplies them may be introspective instead of sensory.
Doctrines developed through the collaboration of Russell and Wittgenstein yielded the Logical Positivism of the German philosopher Rudolf Carnap (1891–1970) and of the Vienna Circle, a discussion group in which that philosophy was worked out. The Empiricism of Logical Positivism is especially evident in its restatement of the fundamental thesis of Hume’s philosophy in a form known as “the verification principle,” which recognizes as meaningful and synthetic only those sentences that are in principle verifiable by reference to sense experience. BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF PAUL TILLICK
Paul Johannes Tillich was born at Starzeddel in the province of Brandenburg, Germany, on Aug. 20, 1886. He spent his early years at Schonfliess, where his father was a Lutheran clergyman. He studied at the University of Berlin, received his doctorate from the University of Breslau in 1911, and earned his degree in theology at the University of Halle in 1912, the year he became a clergyman in the Lutheran church. During World War I Tillich served as a military chaplain. From 1919 until 1933 he taught at the universities of Berlin, Marburg, Dresden, Leipzig, and Frankfurt.
His opposition to the Nazis cost him his job in 1933, and he went to the United States to become professor of philosophical theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He remained there until 1955, when he became a professor at Harvard University. From 1962 until his death on Oct. 22, 1965, he taught at the University of Chicago’s divinity school. The brilliance and complexity of Tillich’s thought were expressed in his lectures, sermons, and books. The most difficult of his works is ‘Systematic Theology’, on which he began working in 1925.
It was published in three volumes from 1951 to 1963. His books of sermons, beginning with ‘The Shaking of the Foundations’ (1948), present his thoughts more clearly for a wider audience. Other works include ‘The Protestant Era’ (1948), ‘The Courage to Be’ (1952), ‘Dynamics of Faith’ (1957), and ‘The Eternal Now’ (1963). Like Spinoza, he was a “God-intoxicated man” who wanted to help his fellow human beings recapture a relevant and dynamic religious faith. EMPIRICAL ARGUMENT 1. The Existentialism of God
Empiricists believe that experience is of primary importance in giving us knowledge of the world. Whatever we learn, according to them, we learn through perception. Knowledge without experience, with the possible exception of trivial semantic and logical truths, is impossible. A more moderate form of Empiricism is that of the substantive Empiricists, who are unconvinced by attempts that have been made to interpret formal concepts empirically and who therefore concede that formal concepts are a priori but deny that categorial concepts, such as “substance,” “cause,” and “God,” are a priori.
In this view, formal concepts would be no longer semantical, pertaining to the relation of words to things; they would be, instead, merely descriptive or purely syntactical, pertaining to the relations between ideas. On this basis “God,” would not be an entity alongside other entities but a device for arranging a man’s factual beliefs about the world; the concept “God” would thus play a structural and not an informative role. The Response of Tillich: Tillich was a central figure in the intellectual life of his time both in Germany and the United States.
It is generally held that the 20th century has been marked by a widespread breakdown of traditional Christian convictions about God, morality, and the meaning of human existence in general. In assessing Tillich’s role in relation to this development, some critics have regarded him as the last major spokesman for a vanishing Christian culture, a systematic thinker who sought to demonstrate the reasonableness of the Christian faith to modern skeptics. Others have viewed him as a forerunner of the contemporary cultural revolution, whose discussions of the meaning of God and faith served themselves to undermine traditional beliefs.
Tillich himself believed he was a “boundary man,” standing between the old and the new, between a heritage imbued with a sense of the sacred and the secular orientation of the new age. He asserted that his vocation was to mediate between the concerns voiced by faith and the imperatives of a questioning reason, thus helping to heal the ruptures threatening to destroy Western civilization. He believed that from the beginning life had prepared him for such a role, and his long career as a theologian, educator, and writer was devoted to this task with single-minded energy.
Theological systems, developed by Paul Tillich, were based on the concept of symbol. In it Tillich, a Rationalist asserts that “there are concepts not derived from or correlated with experienceable features of the world, such as “cause,” “identity,” or “perfect circle,” and that these concepts are a priori (Latin: “from the former”) in the traditional sense of being part of the mind’s innate or natural equipment—as opposed to being a posteriori (Latin: “from the latter”), or grounded in the experience of facts.
On the other hand, a Rationalist theory of knowledge holds that there are beliefs that are a priori (i. e. , that depend for their justification upon thought alone), such as the belief that everything must have a sufficient reason or that a process cannot exist by itself but must occur within some substance. Such beliefs can arise either from intellectual intuition, the direct apprehension of self-evident truth, or from purely deductive reasoning.
His Protestant Principle: Apparently developed from the insight he had gained at Halle as a norm in analyses of religion and culture, the meaning of history, and contemporary social problems. Tillich’s love of freedom, however, did not make him forget his boyhood commitment to a rich and satisfying religious tradition; and how to enjoy the freedom to explore life without sacrificing the essentials of a meaningful tradition became his early and lifelong preoccupation.
It appears as a major theme in his theological work: the relation of heteronomy to autonomy and their possible synthesis in theonomy. Heteronomy (alien rule) is the cultural and spiritual condition when traditional norms and values become rigid, external demands threatening to destroy individual freedom. Autonomy (self-rule) is the inevitable and justified revolt against such oppression, which nevertheless entails the temptation to reject all norms and values.
Theonomy (divine rule) envisions a situation in which norms and values express the convictions and commitments of free individuals in a free society. These three conditions Tillich saw as the basic dynamisms of both personal and social life. In his search for solution concerning the meaning of human existence, Tillich, using his most widely read books, The Courage to Be and Dynamics of Faith, argued that the deepest concern of humans drives them into confrontation with a reality that transcends their own finite existence.
Tillich’s discussion of the human situation in these books shows a profound grasp of the problems brought to light by modern psychoanalysis and existentialist philosophy. The publication of his Systematic Theology made available the results of a lifetime of thought. The most novel feature of this work is its “method of correlation,” which makes theology a dialogue relating questions asked by man’s probing reason to answers given in revelatory experience and received in faith—theonomy’s answers to autonomy’s questions.
The dialogue of Systematic Theology is in five parts, each an intrinsic element in the system as a whole: questions about the powers and limits of man’s reason prepare him for answers given in revelation; questions about the nature of being lead to answers revealing God as the ground of being; questions about the meaning of existence are answered by the New Being made manifest in Jesus Christ; questions about the ambiguities of human experience point to answers revealing the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life process; and questions about human destiny and the meaning of history find their answers in the vision of the Kingdom of God.
The Being of God According to Leonard F. Wheat, the statements of Paul Tillich such as: “God does not exist. He is being-itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him”, “God is the symbol for God” and “The God of theism is dead” seem to represent him as an “atheistic theologian” as some critics put it, but a closer look at Tillich’s position makes him appear less controversial. He argued that Tillich’s oft-repeated assertion that “God is not a being, but being-itself.
” is the only possible definition of God because all other options turn God into a “Supreme Being” that is something less than God. “If God is not being-itself, he is, in fact, in as much bondage as the old Greek gods were in bondage to fate – a King indeed but only a puppet-king. ” Thus, his motivation for defining God as “being-itself” is to protect the transcendence of God from idolatrous misconceptions, not to cover his atheism with silly word tricks. Much the same goes for his talk of “symbols”.
Tillich’s remark that “God is the symbol for God” lead many to conclude that he regarded God as merely symbolic (i.e. , not real), says Wheat. However, Tillich was simply conveying the fact that human language can never fully grasp the ineffable glory of God, since our “superlatives become diminutives” when applied to God. However, Tillich argued that language is capable of pointing to the reality God in a symbolic fashion, although it is never identical with that reality. Thus, symbols are truly glorious things, because they allow us to describe the indescribable, opening up levels of reality that are closed to literal language.
With this in mind, his talk of “the God above the God of theism” makes more sense. The “God of theism” is the symbolically-conceived God that is forever transcended by the True God. Far from being a nonsensical phrase designed to trick people into believing, this is Tillich’s way of affirming both the validity of theological speech and the complete otherness of God. Thus, while the form of Tillich’s doctrine of God is certainly unconventional, I think its substance lies comfortably within the Christian tradition. REFERENCES Andrew M.
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http://www2. warwick. ac. uk/fac/soc/philosophy/people/faculty/longworth/keyideasrationalismempiricism. pdf Catholic Encyclopedia: Empiricism. Retrieved from http://www. newadvent. org/advert/99001 f. htm Leonard F. Whea: (March 09, 2006) Was Paul Tillich an Atheist? retrieved from http://woauthority. blogspot. com/2006/03/was-paul-tillich-atheist. html on 24/10/2012.