Combining Philosophers

Ideas for Michael Burke, Gordon Graham and Lucretius

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7 ideas

29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 1. Religious Commitment / a. Religious Belief
The great religions are much more concerned with the religious life than with ethics [Graham]
     Full Idea: The fact is that the great religions of the world are not principally concerned with ethics at all, but with the religious life for its own sake. ..The Sermon on the Mount, for example, is mainly concerned with how to pray and worship.
     From: Gordon Graham (Eight Theories of Ethics [2004], Ch.9)
     A reaction: This seems to me a highly significant point, given that most people nowadays seem to endorse religion precisely because they wish to endorse morality, and think religion is its essential underpinning. See Idea 336 for the core problem ('Euthyphro').
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 2. Immortality / a. Immortality
For a separated spirit to remain sentient it would need sense organs attached to it [Lucretius]
     Full Idea: If spirit is immortal and can remain sentient when divorced from our body, we must credit it with possession of five senses; but eyes or nostrils or hand or tongue or ears cannot be attached to a disembodied spirit.
     From: Lucretius (On the Nature of the Universe [c.60 BCE], III.624)
     A reaction: This is a powerful argument against immortality. If you are going to see, you must interact with photons; to hear you must respond to compression waves; to smell you must react to certain molecules. Immortality without those would be a bit dull.
An immortal mind couldn't work harmoniously with a mortal body [Lucretius]
     Full Idea: It is crazy to couple a mortal object with an eternal and suppose that they can work in harmony and mutually interact.
     From: Lucretius (On the Nature of the Universe [c.60 BCE], III.799)
     A reaction: An interesting thought, though not a terrible persuasive argument. A god would indeed be a bit restless if it were chained to a human being, but it would presumably knuckle down to the task if firmly instructed to do it by Zeus.
Western religion saves us from death; Eastern religion saves us from immortality [Graham]
     Full Idea: For Western minds, religion entails the belief and hope that we will be saved from death and live forever, but the belief of Eastern religions is that we do live forever, and it is from this dreadful fate that we must look to spirituality to save us.
     From: Gordon Graham (Eight Theories of Ethics [2004], Ch.9)
     A reaction: Nice. I have certainly come to prefer the Eastern view, simply on the grounds that human beings have a limited capacity. I quite fancy three hundred years of healthy life, but after that I am sure that any potential I have will be used up.
Spirit is mortal [Lucretius]
     Full Idea: Spirit is mortal.
     From: Lucretius (On the Nature of the Universe [c.60 BCE], III.542)
     A reaction: This is asserted at an historical moment when immortality is beginning to grip everyone's imagination.
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 2. Immortality / b. Soul
The mind is very small smooth particles, which evaporate at death [Lucretius]
     Full Idea: Since the substance of the mind is extraordinarily mobile, it must consist of particles exceptionally small and smooth and round, that, when the spirit has escaped from the body, the outside of the limbs appears intact and there is no loss of weight.
     From: Lucretius (On the Nature of the Universe [c.60 BCE], III.201)
     A reaction: Lucretius is wonderfully attentive to interesting evidence. He goes on to compare it to the evaporation of perfume. The fine-grained connections of the brain are not far off what he is proposing.
If spirit is immortal and enters us at birth, why don't we remember a previous existence? [Lucretius]
     Full Idea: If the spirit is by nature immortal and is slipped into the body at birth, why do we retain no memory of an earlier existence, no impress of antecedent events?
     From: Lucretius (On the Nature of the Universe [c.60 BCE], III.670)
     A reaction: Plato took the view that we do recall previous existence, as seen in our innate ideas. This problem forced the Christian church into the uncomfortable claim that God creates the soul at conception, but that it then goes on to immortality.