A short history of relevant philosophers

Plato

427-347 BC

Distinguished between objects of sense perception and universal ideas / forms of which the objects are an expression.

 

Irenaues

125-202 AD approx

Best known for his Theodicy: evil is necessary to make our souls grow towards perfection

 

Augustine

354-430 AD

Influenced by Greek philosophy and in turn heavily influenced Catholic theology

Doctrine of original sin. All evil originated with man’s fall from grace. Heaven for all. Purgatory.

Anselm

1033-1109

Defined God as ‘the greatest being imaginable’; proponent of the Ontological Argument

 

Aquinas

1225-1274

Reformulated the Greek cosmological and teleological arguments with his 5 ways.

He believed he could prove the existence of God with the cumulative weight of these rational arguments.

Best known for his Cosmological Argument

 

Descartes

1596-1650

MECHANISTIC

The founder of modern philosophy he tried to formulate a set of principles that one can know without any doubt.

‘dubito ergo, cogito ergo sum’ I doubt therefore I think therefore I am. He believed perception was un-reliable and deduction was the only method. He took every idea that can be doubted, rejected it and then re-established it in order to give a firm foundation for knowledge.

 

Hume

1711-1776

EMPIRICIST

He believed that knowledge was restricted to what can be known by the senses. He saw problems with inductive arguments in that they infer the future from the past, the link of cause and effect but he didn’t believe these were necessarily linked. He called self ‘a bundle of changing perceptions.’

Best known for his objections to miracles.

 

Kant

1724-1804

Thought up the Categorical imperative – ethics – and credited Hume with awakening him from his ‘dogmatic slumbers.’

 

Nietzsche

1844-1900

Man has outgrown the need for God. ‘God is dead.’

 

Swinburne

1934

NATURAL THEOLOGIAN

Influenced by Aquinas. Uses inductive logic to ‘prove’ that his religious beliefs best fit the evidence.

Known for his principles of credulity and testimony.

 

Hick

1922

Pluralist; against Christianity’s exclusivity; believes we can experience God through categories but God himself obscures them by his very nature. God is trans-categorical.

 

Dawkins

1941

Sceptic, rationalist (atheist) he suggested evolutionary processes were analogous to a blind watchmaker!

Popularised the term “meme” meaning a cultural unit which is passed on and spread thus explaining the spread of cultural ideas and phenomena. Religion is thus a meme.

 


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