SPRING, 2014

Lawrence P. Ulrich, Ph.D.

Due: Wednesday, April 30 at Noon


You are to write an essay on the topic below. The essay should be about one to one and one-half (1-1&1/2) pages in length (about 500-700 words), typed double-spaced in MS Word. [SUBMISSION SHOULD BE BY E-MAIL ATTACHMENT  AND NOT BY INCORPORATING YOUR ANSWER INTO AN E-MAIL MESSAGE: <>] You are to (1) recount what the authors you have read on the topic have said, (2) try to relate ideas with each other, and (3) state your own reactions/reflections about the issues under exploration. Please be clear about where your opinion begins. You should not merely state an opinion but give carefully considered reasons for your opinions. Remember that this is a philosophy course and the reasons, which you develop and organize to support your opinions, will be as important as the opinions themselves. Ultimately, you should demonstrate that you (1) have read the text(s), (2) are familiar with the ideas, (3) have thought about them carefully, and (4) have been able to formulate soundly based opinions as a result of the reading you have done.





An interesting question has been raised by some of the students in this course. The theme of this course includes the notion of "FAITH." I began the course by explaining that the reason for using this as an "operating concept" is because UD is a university functioning under the sponsorship of the Roman Catholic Church with its beliefs particularly articulated in the Papal Encyclicals in the last couple of weeks of the course. I extended this operating concept by using the Lutheranism of Dietrich Bonhoeffer periodically throughout the course and to an examination the Oriental "religions" in Week 3. The question raised was whether "FAITH" requires a belief in a supernatural force or a context of "ultimate values." Even "Pantheism" has a religious foundation of sorts.


The question raised was whether "FAITH" can be devoid of all those elements. Can it still be a driving force for setting a context for "WORK." Perhaps "humanism" could be a candidate, or the "soulful life" that Thomas Moore suggests. So what do you think?




A request for clarification has been sent to me regarding this essay, so let me try to direct you to a "clearer" understanding of what I am asking you to address.
1) "FAITH" is a word/concept that we use to give moral direction to the actions in which we engage. "SCIENCE" is another word/concept, which we use for the same purpose. The difference is that "SCIENCE" is empirical in the sense that it is based on observation and experience, which gives us evidence for the actions we perform. "FAITH," on the other hand, bypasses observation and gives us a non-empirical context for our actions. So "FAITH" is a matter of "BELIEVING," whereas "SCIENCE" is a matter of "KNOWING."
2) Most "RELIGIONS," particularly in the Western World, are based on "FAITH" in a being or entity (God, often in the person of Jesus, Allah, through his Prophet Muhammad, Yahweh, through Moses and the Prophets ) who gives direction to our moral lives through "commandments" or directives. These directives are given to the followers through some sort of organized institution (Church, Mosque, Temple, etc.) The organized institutions are important because the "ultimate object" of FAITH is "transcendental," i.e., exists outside of space and time. So the organized institutions are extensions of the "ultimate being" into space and time. So Roman Catholics believe that the Popes "speak for God" [Jesus established the Church for that purpose]. Muhammad speaks for "Allah," etc.
3) We have seen the importance of a variety of VALUES to ground human moral behavior. The question arises as to whether there are "ULTIMATE VALUES," which ground all the others. For RELIGIOUS BELIEVERS, the answer would be "YES," and that would be the TRANCENDENTAL BEING, who is the foundation of our "FAITH."
4) The question now arises: "What about those who do NOT have a "TRANSCENDENTAL ENTITY" to ground or provide the "ULTIMATE VALUES?" Eastern cultures have their "GREAT TEACHERS" such as Confucius, Buddha, Zen, etc., but these are not "TRANSCENDENTAL." They are great teachers and they do articulate "ULTIMATE VALUES," but is adherence to them a sufficient reason to have "FAITH" as a context for "WORK" in the way we have talked about "FAITH" in this course? J.S. Mill advised us to look to human experience (would "FIDELITY TO ANCESTORS" fall into this category?) as a guide for our moral behavior. So "historical reflection" might point us to "value-based actions," but I suspect they would not be as compelling as actions based on "ULTIMATE VALUES," grounded in a "TRANSCENDENTAL ENTITY" or a "GREAT TEACHER or ANCESTOR."  
 5) So, now that I have tried to set a context for you and this Essay 3, go back to the top of the page and look at the topic again. I hope I have not created additional confusion for you.