Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Problem of Problems

I have been around the block long enough now in the Christian apologetics, theism vs. atheism, naturalism vs. supernaturalism, moral relativism vs. moral objectivism (etc.) neighborhood to be able to say very honestly that Christianity has its problems. So does theism in general. And so does atheism, and naturalism, and relativism. I continue to find the problems with atheism, naturalism, and all the other associated isms to be more difficult and insurmountable than those facing Christian theism, but the fact remains: not one worldview I have encountered is free of problems.

So, in the vein of such arguments as the Problem of Evil and the Problem of Divine Hiddenness, I am starting to become aware that there is an existential Problem of Problems for anyone who examines worldviews and systems of thought. Unlike these other Problems, however, this one does not reside in the system itself. In other words, the Problem of Evil points to an alleged inconsistency or dilemma located in the worldview of Christian theism; the Problem of Complexity, or the Problem of Being from Non-Being, within naturalism. But my newly-coined problem is not specific to a particular worldview; one could almost call it a meta-problem, as it overarches all worldviews. One cannot even begin to examine a worldview without being confronted with this existentially taxing snag.

So now for me the question is, what is the source of this problem? Is this simply indicative of the fact that worldview examination is a human endeavor? I am a thorough-going realist; I believe that there is a world out there, independent of me or anyone else, which presents itself in a way that I can know true things about it. But I also know that human understanding is finite and, even should one possess a worldview that accurately represents how the world really is, the perception of problems would still persist. So one possibility is that the problem lies in human perception. But I have just started thinking about this, and am open to other ideas. Any thoughts?

6 comments:

mattghg said...

Perhaps we just don't have the reasoning capacity to deal with reality. I think this would make the meta-problem epistemic rather than perceptive; our knowledge-gathering mechanism has been spoiled by, ooh, I don't know, say, sin? The possibility is worth considering that we can't form a worldview without problems because we're actually not supposed to.

Nicholas Jenkins said...

Being the agnostic of the group (though I'm a struggling Buddhist with other spiritual beliefs to boot) I have always believed that this world is supposed to have problems and be unsolvable, otherwise... why are we here? If we are not here to learn and to grow in this world, what's the point? To look at it from a christian point of view,(of which I'm nowhere near an expert) if the goal is to reach heaven, then this world is to test us. Therefore, this world cannot be solvable. If it were, life would be easy and we would cease to grow spiritually (or even mentally for that matter). Just my two cents on a saturday morning. ;)

Aaron Snell said...

mattghg,
I think you articulated more clearly what I was trying to get at - epistemic is actually what I had in mind in talking about human perception, a possible noetic affect of the Fall. So I agree; though I'm not sure what you mean by your last sentence. Do you mean that one consequence of the Fall is having to form a worldview, or at least be in a position to examine conflicting worldivews, whereas pre-Fall humans theoretically (and Adam concretely) wouldn't have needed to do this?

Nice blog, by the way - thanks for linking to me. Just out of curiosity, how did you find me - from Bill's plug at Maverick Philosopher?

mattghg said...

Yes, you guessed it; I followed the link from Maverick Philosopher :)

I think that human beings would still have to form a worldview before the fall, only that worldview would in every case be inalterably complete and true because, because of God's dwelling with us, we would have all the information and, also, we would not be suffering the noetic effects of sin - as you say.

Jacob said...

Aaron,

YOu said: "I am a thorough-going realist; I believe that there is a world out there, independent of me or anyone else, which presents itself in a way that I can know true things about it."

A central problem with philosophical realism is that it presupposes the structures (the "world out there" as you put it) before you actually get down to analyzing it. To be sure, I'm not advocating an anti-realist position. But just saying that the "world out there" philosophy ignores the very processes of aprehension by which you came to know the world out there. In other words, to say that there is a "world out there" that is seperate from you the observer, ignores you the observer and how you came to know the "world out there." Maybe the world out there and you the observer are not dualistically seperated into distinct spheres.

Kevin J. Cororan recently wrote a piece in Christianity Today entitled: A New Way to be Human. He also published a book entitled: Rethinking Human Nature. It challenges what he calls "Thomistic dualism" that posits a a material body and an immaterial soul. The work has its problems, but it certainly may help you grapple with the very real problems of philosophical realism.

Aaron Snell said...

Nick,
I appreciate hearing your perspective - thanks for sharing your thoughts, and please feel free to do so anytime (that's what this blog is all about). Would you mind if I prodded at a couple of the things you said?

I have always believed that this world is supposed to have problems and be unsolvable, otherwise... why are we here? If we are not here to learn and to grow in this world, what's the point?

Why does there have to be a point, in your view? It seems as if you are saying that there is a reason or intent behind the way the world presents us with problems (namely, to cause us to grow as we search for answers). From where do you see this intent originating? Where did this sense of purpose come from, in your view? As far as I am aware, the only time you get such a thing as a purpose or intent, you have a will present, and wills are things had by persons (sentient beings).

Also, if you don't mind me asking, in what way are you struggling as a Buddhist?

Good to talk to you!