‘Philosophy’ means love of wisdom: John Haldane

TEHRAN, Sept. 19 (MNA) - Professor John Haldane from St. Andrews University say “Philosophy means love of wisdom.”

“'Philosophy' means love of wisdom, and wisdom involves two aspects: first, an understanding of the nature of things, and second, an attitude to life, carried through into action, informed by that understanding,” Haldane told the Mehr News Agency in an exclusive interview conducted by Hossein Kaji and Javad Heiran-Nia.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: Do you believe that philosophy and metaphilosophy are separate from each other? Why?

A: 'Philosophy' means love of wisdom, and wisdom involves two aspects: first, an understanding of the nature of things, and second, an attitude to life, carried through into action, informed by that understanding. In this way philosophy combines theory and practice. Of course each of these matters can be explored in ever greater breadth and depth and it is tempting to suppose that as science develops so answers that were once sought for in philosophy will come to be found in physics, in genetics, in neurophysiology and so on. That would be a mistake, however, for philosophy transcends empirical enquiry seeking a deeper and more ultimate account of the nature of reality, and in its practical aspect it is concerned to discover not what we can or could do but what we ought to do. Science explains the matter of the world and of the human body, philosophy addresses the meaning of both.

Q: Defending religious beliefs was not tolerated in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, this has changed in our time. What factors were involved in countering that kind of mentality?

A: Western intellectual culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries produced two powerful challenges to traditional religious beliefs. The first came from the advocates of 'enlightenment' who argued that principles of moral value and obligation could be derived from aspects of human nature - reason or sentiment - and that religious ethics was 'inauthentic. The second came from the advocates of 'scientific naturalism' who argued that human nature was the product of evolution - through natural selection from pre-human forms of life - and that religious accounts of human origins are mythical and at odds with the facts revealed by science. Over the course of the twentieth century it has become clear that neither challenge defeats theism, though they do require the religious believer to offer an account of how theistic positions can accommodate natural ethics and natural science. One fruitful response to this requirement lies in the recognition that while science offers and explanation of the material composition and operation of the world it says nothing about its meaning and value.

John Haldane is Professor of Philosophy at the University of St. Andrews, where he also directs the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs.

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