Philosophy: A Student’s Guide

September 6, 2013 — 2 Comments


Recently, I’ve been killing it with eBooks. Like I commented on Twitter, I’m usually feast or famine. If I’m reading 1 eBook (using the Kindle app on my iPad) then I’m probably reading a dozen.

I had the idea that instead of reviewing the books as I finish them (since I usually only review print books), I’d post my highlights from the book and a short summary.

First up for this little experiment is David K. Naugle’s Philosophy: A Student’s Guide (also on Kindle). It’s a fairly short introduction to the landscape of philosophy (which is what the books in the Reclaiming The Christian Intellectual Tradition are supposed to be), and I found it a good review of the subject. I wasn’t totally blown away, but I did read the bulk of it in a day (which it means it kept my interest over a Labor Day weekend).

Anyway, as I was reading, here’s some of the quotes that caught my eye. I apologize that they tend to be out of context, but I’m just trying to give a preview to pique your interest.

Prolegomena is derived from the neuter present passive participial form of the Greek verb prolegein, which means “to speak beforehand or predict.” A prolegomena, or a word spoken beforehand, is a preliminary exercise to any subject matter or discussion. Its purpose is to spell out the fundamental assumptions, methods, principles, and relationships that guide any specific inquiry, especially academic ones. (Loc. 256)

If we are creatures living naturally in a God-given, faith-based mode, this means at least two things. First, we cannot divide the world between believers and nonbelievers since all people have faith and everyone believes. To be sure, objects of faith differ, and we can still divide the human race between those who possess saving faith and those who do not. Saving faith itself, however, is best understood as a graciously redirected function of the faith-based nature we all possess.(Loc. 297)

Second, in light of this we cannot say that religious philosophers have faith and nonreligious philosophers do not. Or that the former are biased because of faith and the latter are unbiased.(Loc. 301)

Various and sundry controlling stories and control beliefs quietly guide the thoughts and lives of philosophers, even if the philosophers themselves claim to bracket their prejudices when doing philosophy.(Loc. 307)

Regardless of the name, Christian philosophers ought to be Christ followers, and Christian faith ought to be the primary source of Christian philosophers’ philosophy in metaphysics, anthropology, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and other subdisciplines.(Loc. 322)

The next basic principle of a Christian prolegomena is that grace restores nature (GRN). GRN is established on the inherent connections and theological unity that exists between cosmology (nature) and soteriology (grace) in the biblical story. The doctrines of creation and redemption are deeply connected(Loc. 335)

This has tremendous philosophical implications, for if grace restores nature, or salvation renews culture, and philosophy is part of culture or nature, then salvation and grace restores philosophy. In other words, Christ restores philosophy. Saving faith enables Christian philosophers to seek philosophical understanding in him.(Loc. 346)

A third feature of a Christian philosophical prolegomena is the distinction between structure and direction and the associated notion of antithesis.(Loc. 349)

A fourth feature of this Christian prolegomena is common grace. By it, God shows nonsaving favor to all by bestowing natural gifts such as rain, sunshine, and food, on all creatures, by preserving creation and restraining sin in human affairs, and by giving diverse gifts and capacities to all people who are able to make distinctive contributions to the common good.(Loc. 363)

Common grace is an antidote to taking the wrong direction at the antithetical fork in the road. Even if people go astray and misuse God’s good things, common grace means that these very same people, regardless of their spiritual state, do things well and make remarkable contributions to life and the world.(Loc. 367)

Fifth and finally, Christian scholarship is primarily Hebraic rather than Hellenic or something else. (Loc. 379)

Hence, we have a biblically established prolegomena for Christian philosophy if we prioritize the dispositions of the Hebrew mind over those of the Greeks, if we retain the idea of common grace, if we recall that grace restores nature, if we recognize the difference between the good creational structure and its possible antithetical directions, if we remember the ontological distinction between the creator and the creation, if we base Christian philosophy on canonical Trinitarian theism, and if we remember that faith is a universal structural component of human nature. In any case, Christian philosophy is theological in character, “under the constant restraint of the Biblical presentation of the faith.” Christian philosophers will need pluck to be countercultural. This prolegomena often stands in critical, corrective, and creative contrast to today’s approaches.(Loc. 404)

If God did use the medium of his deeds and words in history to make himself known, then to reason abstractly about him could rightly be called “faithless rebellion.” This is a significant charge and some in the Christian philosophical community may need to think through this.(Loc. 553)

Though God revealed himself in particular ways in Israel and through Jesus and his church, his words and deeds have universal implications in light of the comprehensive character of the biblical story—the grand narrative of canonical Trinitarian theism.(Loc. 559)

Is not the explanation for the singularity and plurality of reality to be found in the Trinitarian God? In God himself, there is a unified diversity, or a diversified unity—a threeness and a oneness, a oneness and a threeness—and the whole world of many parts (its many-ness) finds its coherence in the one God, the creator and redeemer of heaven and earth. God is thus the reference point for all reality. He is the interpretive key who provides the meaning for all things. He ties it all together in himself.(Loc. 703)

If human beings as God’s image are embodied, communal, narratively based creatures of love, affection, and desire, then what implications might this sort of human identity have on both movie making and movie viewing? In other words, a holistic view of human persons as God’s image has holistic consequences when it comes to movies.(Loc. 1724)

First, we shouldn’t try to justify fallen artistic expressions or aesthetic participation on the basis of God’s good creation. At the same time we should not reject artistic expressions or participation outright because of the world. We need deep spiritual insight on what to accept on the basis of common grace and what to reject in light of the antithesis. Second, we should commit, as Paul instructs in Romans 14:13, never to “pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” In the end, no work of art is more important than the Christian life, and we need to support each other in weaving together a fabric of Christian faithfulness.(Loc. 1759)

Plato was concerned that if young philosophers are exposed to “dialectic” or “arguments,” they might misuse their newly acquired philosophical powers to argue with others and refute them purely for argument’s sake. For Plato, the problem wasn’t lodged in philosophical knowledge or skills per se, but in their use merely to win arguments.(Loc. 1858)

Hopefully that gives you a good snapshot, I thought this was a helpful introduction. If you’re interested in philosophy, this could be a good starting point. There are maybe better ones out there, but I really appreciated Naugle’s insistence on grounding philosophy in biblical revelation and categories. When you do that, it really makes it a love of Wisdom.

As a side note, let me know if you’d like me to do this sort of thing as I finish up eBooks I’m reading. I can’t promise this many quotes all the time, but I can offer what I highlighted and some summary comments. If that sounds good, let me know and I’ll keep doing this!


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

2 responses to Philosophy: A Student’s Guide

  1. I like the quick summaries/highlights but maybe include book details (similar to what you do for book reviews) so it’s easy to see when the book was published, what publisher, author…etc.

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