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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

philosophy-james-spiegel

James Spiegel. Philosophy.  Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, July 11th, 2014. 48 pp.

5 out of 5

The author James Spiegel is a Christian and a professor of philosophy and religion at Taylor University.  I’m glad that the editors and publishers for the Faithful Learning Series picked a guy qualified to write this booklet on a Christian view of philosophy as an academic discipline.  Spiegel surveys how the trajectory of philosophy has shifted in recent historical context starting with Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga.  Plantinga and other Christians philosophers like him have contributed not only to the defense of the faith but even in the field of philosophy itself.  The change in the field of philosophy is quite radical as the author noted that not too long ago the philosophy of Positivism was assumed by society at large to be philosophically sound and physicalism was in vogue.  Spiegel’s work gives readers a quick and helpful survey on epistemology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of religion and moral theory.  In what follows below I will share what I found helpful and then some words of constructive criticisms.

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447091

Available on Amazon

This is a brief introduction to the philosopher of Martin Heidegger both in terms of his thought and also the man himself. I turned to this work because of a desire to start somewhere in learning more about Heiddeger. This is the first philosopher that I didn’t know much about beforehand that I read about from the Philosophers in 90 minutes series. My experience with this series in the past didn’t really impress me. In the end I couldn’t resist a brief synopsis of Heidegger which is why I turned to this book. It did serve the purpose of introducing Heidegger’s life story and the basics of his ideas. The author also did a good job giving a feel of who Heidegger was. Any biography about Heidegger wouldn’t be able to avoid the topic of his relationship with the Nazis. The book’s portrait of him is more sympathetic and having started reading this book at the tail end of me finishing a book on Hitler’s philosophers, I would say the book’s view of Heidegger’s collaboration with the Nazis isn’t necessarily an accurate one. Heidegger was much more passionate about his beliefs with Nazi ideology than most people think; for instance he sided with the Nazis early on before he had to be forced to conform. Heidegger’s early entrance into the Nazi party as a famous philosopher actually helped gave credibility to the Nazis. Also the book mention that Heidegger saw the brilliance of Hannah Arendt but critical biographies on Arendt suggests that Heidegger’s praise of Arendt was more sensual than for philosophical prowess. Even after Arendt has establish her own reputation of a philosopher Heidegger still have a hard time with giving Arendt her proper due. In the end, I must say this is one of the better works in this series.

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Augustine in 90 Minutes

 (Available on Amazon)

As I said in previous reviews, this series of works introducing the readers to different philosophers has been rather disappointing and now I think I’ve found the most disappointing one in the series. The disappointment started with the very beginning of the book when the author wondered out loud about what’s the big deal with Augustine’s obsession with his guilt over his sexual sins and joked about it. I think if the author would have had a deeper wrestling with Augustine’s Confessions, one might come to a better appreciation of Augustine’s contribution in Western thought concerning the discussion of the nature of man as sinful. This experience of man’s depravity is to me one of the most verifiable claims of all the competing claims out there concerning the nature of man and yet it is one that is often denied in the West. It was also unfortunate to see in the book that the author thought that Augustine’s writing suffered from trivial squabbling about theological opponents and he didn’t understand why men in the Church was debating on Predestination when the Roman empire around them was crumbling. I wished the book would have pointed out of how Augustine’s City of God made a significant contribution in terms of how man views history as linear versus the cyclical view that dominated the Greeks and Romans before Augustine. It might be forgivable for readers to discover something the author misses but what is harder to accept is the author’s wild assertions in the book such as his claim that Christian philosophy would have nothing worthy of its name “Christian philosophy” if it wasn’t for Augustine’s use of Platonic ideas into Christian thought. This shows how little the author appreciates or understand the impact of Christianity in of itself upon Western thought. The book also had a strange discussion of a psychological explanation of philosophy that sees philosophy as an exercise of exerting one’s will of power by means of intellectually shaming others. Readers must remember that merely giving psychological explanations of why someone we disagree with hold the views they do is not the same thing as presenting reasoning and argument against their views. If there was one thing that I did learn new from the book was the fact that the Christian cliché “Love the sinner, hate the sin” originated with Augustine.

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Rousseau in 90 Minutes

If you are looking more for a brief biographical sketch of the philosopher Roussea this book would serve this purpose. I read this book for this primary purpose, to understand the life and his time that drove his philosophy. Like other books in this series, the author does not go in-depth with Rousseau’s ideas and left me hungry wanting to know more of his thought. In terms of his life, Roussea was quite a character, and rampantly promiscuous even at an early age. From the author’s narrative and quotations from Roussea, one learns that he was rather bizarre and quite egotistical. I will never forget my father in law reading to me the first paragraph of Rousseau’s autobiography: “I have entered upon a performance which is without example, whose accomplishment will have no imitator. I mean to present my fellow-mortals with a man in all the integrity of nature; and this man shall be myself.” While the book didn’t develop the point as much as I would like it to, the book did note the inconsistency of Roussea being anti-elite, who was critical in blaming man’s problem on civilization and society while he himself was praised and welcomed in the courts of the elites of French society. One may say that Roussea was a microcosm of the French Revolution that followed.

Get this book on Amazon!

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Aristotle in 90

(Available on Amazon!)

A brief summary of Aristotle and goes over more of his biographical information than his beliefs in details—maybe it’s because I thought it was going to concentrate more on Aristotle ideas. In terms of the structure of the book, it seems to be rather all over the place. Today I learned that Aristotle had some issue of pride and didn’t always agree with Plato, his teacher. The most interesting part of the book for me was the chapter on Aristotle’s idea after him—from Aristotle’s influence upon the Islamic philosopher Avicenna (if any Christians know about him today it’s largely in connection to the Kalam Cosmological Argument) and Thomas Aquinas. Those looking for an introduction to Aristotle might be better served looking elsewhere.

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logic poythress

Nearly 20 years ago Vern Poythress wrote an important essay published by the Westminster Theological Journal titled REFORMING ONTOLOGY AND LOGIC IN THE LIGHT OF THE TRINITY: AN APPLICATION OF VAN TIL’S IDEA OF ANALOGY.

This year Crossway published a 700 page book by Poythress on a Christian view of logic!

This past weekend, Poythress has made it available for free on their website.

You can access it as a PDF download by clicking HERE.

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