Phyllis Beveridge Nissila
On the Mind of Philosophers (?)
I attended a lecture last night given by a very bright and earnest young philosophy professor.
I had forgotten how it is when you attend lectures on philosophy by very bright, earnest young professors (even very bright old ones). The talks are part old information, part information contradicting the first part, and part new philosophical terms to add to the mix in order to understand the Big Questions in life. Few answers, it seems to me, are ever really agreed upon.
Mostly, the ninety-minute presentation reminded me of humorist Dave Barry’s comment regarding the things you donate or throw away when paring down your stuff to make a move. In this passage, he writes about books you might donate to, say, “The Poor”:
What we did give to The Poor was all my college textbooks, which I had gone through, in college, using a yellow felt marker to highlight the good parts. You college graduates out there know what I”m talking about. You go back, years later, when college is just a vague semicomical memory, and read something you chose to highlight, and it’s always a statement like: “Structuralized functionalism represent both a continuance of, and a departure from, functionalistic structuralism.” And you realize that at one time you actually had large sectors of your brain devoted to this type of knowledge. Lord only knows what The Poor will use it for. Fuel, probably.*
The words I confess I took notes on last night were: “cartesian dualism,” “logos centrism,” and “twentieth century loss of faith in reliability of referentiality.” (Or, a la Barry’s riff, maybe it was “loss of referentiality about faith in twentieth century reliability”).
The professor tied together bits and pieces of religious thought, literary criticism, and philosophical trends and left them dangling, there, in the air, as some of us said Wut? but quietly in our minds lest the others might think we weren’t hip to the latest philosophical-think.
He also actually included the terms “structuralism” and “de-constructionalism,” so in some ways, things in the world of philosophy haven’t changed much since Barry’s college era.
BUT we were not to worry about actual meaning, BECAUSE–and here the professor patched the whole lecture together by saying–“Words are unreliable as ‘containers of meaning’.”
To be honest, he began his lecture with this statement, I suppose as a disclaimer or perhaps to warn us not to wade too far into the deep end of all this high-caliber thinking. And of course, as everyone knows, sometimes a picture or a look or a hug or a hearty laugh is worth a thousand words.
But I do know that if philosophers were to come up with definitive truths about religion, literature, philosophy, or anything related to absolute conclusions about life, death, and “the great beyond,” they would be out of a job. The mantra seems to be “keep thinking ad infinitum”. And they do. And from time to time they change their minds about what they come up with, or they discredit previous thought, both of which are also job security.
As much as I actually enjoyed this bit of a nostalgic trip back into my undergrad experiences (the days when I was very earnest about all this, myself) I was also glad that there is another view of the human urge to know things so that we needn’t be “always searching” and “never coming to knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
This view differs greatly from the philosopher’s, however, in that it isn’t an open-ended quest for absolute or even possible truth. It contains actual answers, if one has eyes to see and ears to hear.
On the Mind of Christ (!)
The view on “absolute truth” through a believer’s lens also includes plenty of questions, to be sure, but it invites the inquiring mind to consider answers beginning with an answer, as in One, Jesus Christ, “through Whom all things were made.” All those “things” include, well, inquiring minds (along with free will to choose which answers suit one).
But that’s not all.
Through Jesus Christ there is also finally rest for the mind wearied by all the searching. “Come unto me,” He says, still, “all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (anapauó–refreshment for the soul).”
The believer’s view on truth also includes an extraordinary invitation to participate in the “mind of Christ,” once she/he has yielded to the love of God Who desires to have a personal relationship with each of His creatures** whereby, as Paul put it to the believers in Corinth, we might discern God’s answers because “we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God…(1 Corinthians 2:12, NASB).
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”***
And this includes all those concerns about life, death, the great beyond, and much, much more.
So what’s on your mind today?
*Barry, Dave. “The Deadly Wind.” Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits. New York: Fawcett Columbine: Ballantine Books, 1988. 54-55.
***For a comprehensive study on the Mind of Christ, I recommend this series by the late Nancy Missler.