A Conversation for The Five Elements in Relation to the Wiccan Religion
heironymous Started conversation Jun 29, 2000
Are these five elements related to the ancient Greek notions of the elements and specifically to the Platonic solids? The Greeks observed that there are five "perfect" geometric solids (tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, icosahedron, and dodecahedron), but only four "elements" (earth, air, fire, and water). They philosophized about a "fifth" element, literally a "quintessence," so that aesthetically each solid would correspond to an element. I was wondering if there was some relation between these ideas and wiccanism.
njan (afh) Posted Aug 27, 2000
I've consulted an expert, who believes that there is a link. (I would be inclined to think so, anyway...)
apologies for the length of time taken for a reply.. I don't check the forums of my articles much.
Leopardskinfynn... sexy mama Posted Sep 27, 2002
Although not Wicca, in Taoist (traditional Chinese philosophy) thought there are 5 elements too:
Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal.
Each one of those elements leads on to the next one...Water gives birth to Wood, Wood gives birth to Fire, Fire gives birth to Earth, Earth gives birth to Metal and Metal gives birth to Water = the Creation Cycle.
Imagine if you will a pentagram with the Fire element at the top point of the star, Earth on the right of Fire, and with the Elements continuing in order at each point of the star shape. (how much easier this would be to explain if I could just draw you a little diagram!)
The lines between the points can be used to determine the relationship between the Elements:
e.g. Fire controls (melts) Metal, Metal controls (cuts) Wood. This is called the Control (or some call it the Destruction) Cycle.
In Traditional Chinese medicine(TCM), Organs are assigned to an Element (along with colours, tastes, sounds, emotional states and the seasons among other things). I use a capital letter O for Organ when I describe the TCM view of the body, as opposed to the lower case o for the Western view of an organ - this helps avoid confusion, at least in my mind!
Therefore if an Organ is out of balance, the Creation or Controlling Cycle can be used to restore harmony within the body.
e.g. The Heart 'belongs' to the Fire Element. If the Heart is out of balance, tinkering with the energy of the Element of Wood (it's the Heart's 'mother') or that of Water (Water controls Fire) should help the Heart come back into balance and harmony.
To confuse things even more, another pictorial view that the ancient Chinese had of their 5 Element system, was that the Earth was in the centre of a circle, with the 4 other Elements on the compass points around the circle. This was to represent then Earth being the centre of all things - without the Earth, we could have no home, no (you guessed it) 'centre'.
Interestingly, the Organs of the Spleen and Stomach belong to the Earth element - one of the first things to happen if we begin to feel "ungrounded" or "off centre" is that the energy of our Spleen/Stomach is disrupted (or vice versa).
There is a lot of magic involved in Taoist philosophy - the kind that you could use internally to improve your health and well-being (eg meditation on the 5 Element system within the body), or externally if you are into that sort of ritual thing.
The concept of the 5 Element system was something I found really hard to get my head around (having been Pagan for many years) when I first started studying TCM!
WebWitch Posted Dec 23, 2002
Just adding my tuppence: My understanding is that the elemental system in use by Wiccans is definitely taken from the Greek tradition. That had become such a part of our culture from the Renaissance onwards, and was so important in the growth of western Ceremonial Magic, that it feels very "right" to use it.
I've always been uncomfortable with the assignation of gender associations to the elements. I think there's been a lot of sloppy thinking about it, with Masculine = Active and Feminine = Passive having too much cultural baggage to be effective for me; I prefer to think of all the elements as both embracing and transcending gender and having both aggressive/active and passive/receptive qualities. I realise that the male/active-female/passive construct has a lot of subtlety to be explored, but I've always felt uncomfortable with the terminology somehow.
njan (afh) Posted Dec 23, 2002
...It's nice people keep posting to this article, even if it is eons old.
*isn't even sure what his on the topic would be, even were he to have the expression to be able to expound on it*
Out of interest, and trying to negate any hint of trouble stirring, how would you say (if at all) assimilating cultural (and religious) practices such as that (similar to the christian assimilation of festivals, and the roman assimilation of greek - and indigenous - gods, goddesses, and spirits) affected the validity of the amalgamated end producted? or, if it had no (or no effective, if that makes sense) effect, why?
njan (afh) Posted Dec 23, 2002
'producted'? That should have read 'product'. My fingers are taking over, my brain is.. doing something bad.
There should have been an 'upon' in there somewhere, also.
*grammatically challenged moment*
WebWitch Posted Dec 23, 2002
All beliefs change because humans are like that. When people argue that we ought to worship in the same was as "our ancestors" I always wonder which ones they mean. How far back do you have to go before you can satisfy the purists, given that the idea of a "pure" belief, culture, ethnicity, language doesn't exist and never has (IMHO).
I believe in trying to educate myself about history and anthropology of religion, but I accept that I just can't know everything in the current textbooks; even if I could, those interpretations may be wonky - just because an educated Roman wrote something doesn't mean that's what was believed outside his social circle, for example. All our sources may be fatally flawed. We just have to be honest.
In the end, if we discounted everything that had been affected by something else, we'd have nothing. So the question of valdity and invalidity depends on what you're asserting or believing or doing and in what context. Which is a bit too vague for comfort, but as straightforward as I can get!
njan (afh) Posted Dec 23, 2002
In which case, as your implication seems to be, do changing beliefs change solely because of the contingency of human existence, and if so, what implications does this hold for the validity of the beliefs?
Irrespective of sociological change, how do you (how does one..) ground any religious belief and assert the validity of it at the same time? Religion - as well as existence, seems to me to be markedly contingent. (Not to negate it at all; I'm simply stating something I find it particularly hard to wrap my head around, when I'm being open-minded) Having said as much, science has exactly the same problem: as ideas - and humanity - change, the one takes toll on the other, and whilst we might assert one thing today, it's quite contradictory to what was asserted hundreds of years ago (and what will be asserted in a hundred years time, no doubt).
Science was described by Kuhn as being a series of progressions in which people get their heads down and work interspersed by revolutions in which the ideas of the previous era are subverted, and new thesises proposed.
I wonder how it all works? I'd be extremely interested to know. .. as someone who's wondering if he's going to spend an eternity being a bystander to the rest of humanity, such issues are at the forefront of my mind.
WebWitch Posted Dec 23, 2002
What does validity mean? Validity in the eyes of others? Or cultural validity? Or validity for the practitioners? What are we measuring against?
My guess for whether or not religion is valid is: Does it work for you? Does it provide you with an ethical system that empowers you and encourages you to weigh the consequences of your actions, have consideration for others, and to strive to be the best you can in your life? Does it give you a sense of spiritual nourishment? If so, it fulfills all my criteria for religious validity.
I wish I had something more profound to say, but it's all I have.
njan (afh) Posted Dec 24, 2002
I apologise.. I'm condensing what I mean into short paragraphs and not really explaining particularly well. I suppose that what I mean rests on my conception of religion. For me, as a philosopher (of sorts), there are several derivations for sets of ideas which can govern - or influence - the way in which I live my life.
Religion - often, in the western world, at odds with philosophy (more by nature of circumstance, I believe, than creed) - seeks to do this in a particular, and many subsets of philosophy seek to influence or categorise behaviour and condition similarly: ethics, for example, is a fundamental part of religion, and whilst formulated differently in many religions to the way in which it is formulated philosophically, many philosophers were religious, and so the two attitudes are not necessarily contradictory.
However, certain philosophical approaches to ethics (I'm using ethics as an example, since you mentioned ethics in your posting) do not require religion at all; whether because religion is ultimately contingent (ie. relying on faith in what someone else said) and not everybody agrees on this or simply because religion - for a given, hypothetical philosopher - does not exist. Hobbes, who was a political theorist (and a christian one) excluded any form of religion from his political theory (whether he did this out of concern for those who have no religion or whether he did it out of a secretive lack of faith is another debate), and a lot of moral philosophy seeks to find a basis for behaviour which is not religion, doing similar things. Immanuel Kant, to take an example which I'm supposedly in the midst of writing an article on, found the basis of his moral theory fundamentally in pure logic.
Now, philosophy is any man's business, and any man's ideas are as good as any other man's: it's in the ideas themselves that distinctions open. I may be no Immanuel Kant (indeed, I'm certain that I'm not), but nevertheless, I - in theory - stand on an even footing with him in proposing my own basis for morality (or would be, were I to do so). It would only be once we compared the corresponding sets of ideas that we would begin to judge which one might be more valid than the other. (logically valid, which - for the logician - is a step away from something being correct, one would suppose).
Without trying to criticise (because whether I sound like it or not - and if my tone sounds critical, I apologise - I'm genuinely asking these questions from a deep-seated interest in the subjects in question), the validity of religions does NOT rely in the ideas themselves: indeed, many religions have large logical holes in their dogma (notably catholicism), which are worked around by nature of the DERIVATION of the ideas, which for the philosopher is less important, fundamentally. For a religion, the truth of a set of ideas lies in the origin. For the baha'i, the words of Baha'u'llah are sacred. For the Muslim, the writings of the Koran. For the Hindu, the Bhagavad Gita, and for the Christian, the teachings of the bible. (And, to round this small - and in no way representative - list off, the latter have significance for the baha'i as well.) The fact that the named works were written down from the teachings of (and in the baha'i case, by) any given prophet or herald are the significant factor, and what cause the content of the messages in question to hold religious validity: A person has faith in the teachings, and so their origin is justified, and the teachings are - for them - true.
The truth is what I find hard to understand: looking from the sidelines, it is impossible to see, per se, which of any given number of religious perspectives is correct, and every one advocates the invalidity of every other, practically. It would make sense to try to bring them all together (hence the emphasis on the baha'i faith, which seems to me to make a great deal of sense), but ultimately, it seems, there's no way to tell any religion apart, and simply to judge them on the basis of which worked for me the best.. would surely be greatly disrespectful to the religion in question?
Fundamentally, what you're saying - in terms of spirituality - is what (I think) my brain runs on. Whatever set of ideas - and the sets of ideas I tend to hold close to my heart are spiritual, without being overtly religious, if this isn't a contradiction - gel with me the most, I adopt. I'll elaborate on this (or what I believe) if you're interested.. (..although I find it dubious that anyone else would be..)
However, I don't see this as being religiously valid, and this is what I find hard to rationalise.
If anything doesn't make sense.. umm.. then shout! .. (And I apologise for posting long, intimidating posts, especially to someone new to h2g2!... )
Welcome to the community, nevertheless!
Just a few thoughts.
WebWitch Posted Dec 24, 2002
No apologies necessary I have no training in philosophy or much else, frankly, beyond massage therapy - no degree, no nothing. So I'm not in a position to know the academic lingo; however, I did kind of get the gist
I can only speak for my own experience when I say that, having found a religion and spirituality that works extremely well for me, I have no interest in judging the validity or otherwise of other peoples' religious beliefs. I argue that everyone has freedom of belief and expression of that belief, but that their freedom ends where it infringes on the liberties of others (i.e. though I loathe the Southern Baptist beliefs in wifely submission and their vehemt hatred of the entire Queer community, they can hold their ceremonies for all I care, but the moment they begin harrassing someone, they've crossed the line and should face the legal consequences). I may contest claims made about historical origins, etc., if I believe I have evidence to the contrary (and I will inevitably come out of it looking like a prat at least some of the time); but I cannot contest the experiential component of another's faith. I cannot tell them that an ecstatic state they experienced during Mass is not a valid religious experience; I cannot argue that a sense of community with a congregation and with God(s) is invalid; and I cannot say that reading of scriptures cannot bring a sense of comfort, connection with the Divine (however one may define it).
Religion is a mess. Humans are constantly trying to find a connection with something larger than themselves, with each other, to find their place in the world, and religion's one of the ways we do it. It's a language to describe our experiences, and for me to judge any religion - or anyone's lack thereof - as inferior to my own simply because mine meets and exceeds my needs would be terribly arrogant. Now this is where it becomes tricky for those who follow the "revealed" religions: one of the fundamentals of these faiths is that, ultimately, theirs *IS* the only valid, true way. It's a headache for liberals within those traditions, but it's there. In the end, most liberals end up with the view that "the spirit is more important than the word". This is, to me, very much part of the Pagan attitude (though I may be misinterpreting) that the core of religion is experiential and personal. It's like romantic love - we have a language that describes it (romance, love, affection, sex appeal, connection, bliss, etc.) but no-one can really KNOW what it is that you feel about your loved one(s); they take their own experience and use it to connect the dots.
So how to work out the validity of someone else's religion I don't know. All I can do is walk my talk as far as my own religion goes and look out for the freedoms of others to do the same, whether they share my views or not, so long as they don't trample on others.
Not long on academic rigour there, am I? A friend of mine is an anthropologist specialising in religion, and so I may throw your question at her and see what sticks. Might be a while, as things are crazy over the holidays, but I'm betting that she can take my ramblings and make them much clearer, while coming up with good points that hadn't crossed my little brain
Haylle (Nyssabird) ? mg to recovery Posted Dec 24, 2002
*was raised southern baptist*
I'm not nearly as eloquent as dear Njan. I see religion as a semi-necessary function of culture that ensures the political and ethical coherence of a group of people *shrug*. For smaller cultures, notably ones that are not agrarian, mythology helps to explain and assure what the world is and how to live without fear. Codifying mythology is an attempt (and a somewhat justified one though the methodology be dubious and the end result more often than not tragic) to move large groups of people in a certain direction that is purported to be beneficial to some party. I suppose this is why I have trouble calling the Buddhism of Buddha a religion, or the teachings of Christ 'Christian.' I find it interesting that religion is such a powerful force today, whilst philosophy has been shelved as rather academic and irrelevent, as least in the public's conscious psyche. However, the reality is that philsophy underpins all cultural evolution and religion serves as a vehicle for control. Of course at the microlevel, the manifestations may be difficult to discern from one another. Indeed, can a congregation of one be called a religion? What do you think?
WebWitch Posted Dec 24, 2002
My understanding is that the word religion comes from the Latin for "to bind" or "to connect" (if I'm wrong, then...oops!).
So I see religion as something that is necessarily communal in nature, whereas spirituality is entirely personal. In which case, my view would be that a religion of one is impossible, but a religion of two is not.
I remember years ago reading a fantasy book in which any religion could be established if it had 4 or more adherents. So deities were always popping into existence when 4 or more people thought them up, and popping back out again when the group dwindled to 3. Blowed if I can remember the name of it, but the central story was about a group of friends who'd decided to worship a recently-deceased friend in order to have her around again; eventually, one of the 4 began to waver, and the panic was on.
Anyway, I think one of the reasons most people shelve philosophy is that academics don't necessarily communicate well with the public - they have a language we don't understand, and as a whole aren't happy too simplify for the layman. Once you've spent years specialising in a subject, it becomes very difficult to explain the basis of that subject in such a way that people with none of your training can relate to. I remember taking an introduction to philosophy out of the library when I was about 17 and being utterly unable to read it. I'm not stupid, I'm pretty literate, but the language being used was so alien to me that as an introduction to a subject it failed utterly. It's a very difficult thing, when you are very conversant with the complexities of a subject to have to simplify, especially when you feel that simplifying means losing some of the most important bits and pieces.
It results in a chasm between specialists and non-specialists, with each group regarding the other with suspicion. Non-philosophers regard philosophy as an esoteric area beyond the "ordinary" person's ability to grasp, and philosophers despair of the public's inability to get what they're saying. Dr Simon James, in his 'The Atlantic Celts', pointed out that the version of British history current in academic circles is very different than the version currently accepted by the public, because by the time something's been well-established enough to be taught in schools and become accepted by a whole generation (or two), it's rendered almost obsolete by later findings.
The only way to breach the gap, I think, is to point out that philosophy does indeed relate to everyday life - and here's how in non-patronising, clear language. I'd love to know more about the subject, but I've never found an introductory book that explained the basics in clear language. If you know of one, I'd be grateful (she said, hintingly).
Haylle (Nyssabird) ? mg to recovery Posted Dec 24, 2002
Hmm..what do you think Njan? I'm not the expert here. *searchesbinders* Ah..here's a nifty link: http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/
At this site you can wade through all kinds of good stuff, if you're so inclined! Good stuff, though I will say I can't attest for accuracy or anything, I'm a novice. Again I point you in the direction of our esteemed Njan.
njan (afh) Posted Dec 25, 2002
Bear with me if this doesn't make quite as much sense as it probably should: I'm replying to four postings in one, my technique being to work my way all the way through what the both of you have said, and as a result, there isn't much sense to the train of my thought here.
(Post 12, WebWitch)
Freedom of thought is extremely hard to argue against, and I'd agree whole-heartedly. By thinking myself, I tend to think that I implicitly assign to others the right by which to think, and I have no right to deny them that. However, people have certain civil liberties which extend to beyond the contents of their thoughts, and if peoples' expression (or implementation) of thought cause them to infringe upon those, this is the point at which I'd say that something was amiss, as it were. This issue is much muddied by the fact that people - whether intentionally or not - make judgement without thinking about it, act without intending to, and discriminate without believing in discrimination. Having said as much, I do hold my own thoughts - and as implicated by the fact that I hold them, I believe in them - and so I don't claim not to disagree with people. I tend to take it as given that if someone presents their ideas to me, they're prepared to open them up to intellectual scrutiny, and so I consider it to be perfectly reasonable to assimilate modicums of thought and critique as I see fit. However, I do try to do this in the nicest way possible, at least in the first instance. (Or.. I like to think that I do) It does have to be said, however, that I'm not particularly tolerant of people who present their ideas and have problems with people presenting /theirs/. If you can't accept argument and you're not prepared to have your ideas torn apart, you shouldn't be continuously presenting them, which is one of the problems which I have with many (not by any means all) christians.
Strangely, this is completely at odds with much of what I believe, however; whilst I find argument which relies on anything other than public-space experience (ie. things that everyone can agree on) to be extremely frustrating, I can't deny the fact that things which have no seeming rational basis have a phenomenal effect on people, not least myself. I'm not quite sure how this is resolved, as far as my thought processes go: I seem to deny myself to validate certain portions of what I believe, which is obviously not something which I really want to be doing (but then, I've never been someone who's gone to particularly effective lengths to resolve internal strife, but to say the least).
This is true. Religion, just like Science - and just like the consumerist mess of media-driven culture which most people find themselves embroiled in - is the original manifestation of this uniquely human trait. This seems to beg the question, however: theism, literally, involves belief in something, and to believe in something implies a something which is pre-existing which exists for humans to happen upon. Whilst humans are trying to find connections to something larger, as you put it, and this does constitute a form of that, a lot of other forms of the same are manifest in distinctly different ways. A religion - for want of a better descriptor - is the gospel truth: there is no other truth than it, and as such, little for humans to discover other than their connection to the truth. This is what the mess is: the fact that there's only one valid way. I suppose that ultimately my question earlier rests on the fact that not all of what are branded 'religions' work in this way, and this is - at least in part - why I use the word spirituality: the word 'religion' implies a specific creed, whereas spirituality is a much looser, ethereal word. I suppose that in this particularly way, we have no right to judge the religions of others: if what we have as individuals works, then our religion is valid, and if we can corroborate this with similar beliefs from others, then this is a bonus. However, this - at least for me - negates the notion of a religion, and I'm not necessarily sure that it should be described as such, or maybe the descriptor 'religion' should be rethought, to say the least.
(post 13, lanna)
Moving onto lanna's post, nyssa is quite definitively considerably more eloquent and well-versed in experience (and life-experience) than I am, so pay no attention to her self-deprecation. .. of course, what you say makes sense, but it may be a little broad to categorise religion as a vehicle for control. Of course, religion CAN be a vehicle for control (particularly those which were referred to as the 'revealed' religions), but this isn't to say that either they always are or that this is what theor role has become. For instance, I'm quite capable (at least physically, if not mentally) of committing murder with a butterknife. However, this doesn't deny the fundamental purpose (at least as far as most people are concerned) of the butterknife as being that of spreading butter. (mmm... butter... )
(post 14, WebWitch)
According to www.dictionary.com (ever useful source of etymological information), the derivation of the word religion is "Middle English religioun, from Old French religion, from Latin religi, religin-, perhaps from religre, to tie fast". The way in which the metaphorical tying here works is up for debate: I wouldn't necessarily agree with the immediate (and opiate) marxian connutations of the notion here.
To tie an example to what you've said, what if - perchance - I had an internal (discovered, innate, or deduced) spirituality which allowed me to commune with, understand, and find bearable, my world. (I'd like to think I do, as a matter of fact. ). My spirituality, in this hypothetical example, is unique, and dissimilar to anyone else's (which I don't believe that it is, even if the people with whom I share spiritual traits are few and far between, but the example requires.). One day, hypothetically, I discover someone else who shares similar beliefs, and has done since the inception of my ideas - we have, in fact, gone obliviously about our lives until happily alighting upon each other and forming a glowing communion of ideas. Did my ideas become religion when I met the person, and if so, how does this yield us any objective certainty: if our ideas haven't changed but our definitions have, then how are our definitions definitive? Alternatively, were my ideas religion all along? I'm not comfortable with (and I apologise for using this turn of phrase.. ) the notion that religion and spirituality are so exclusively defined. Spirituality can be religion, and religion can be spiritual, and I think that the interchange is much more complex than that. Religion, perhaps, is more culturally (or ultimately, deitially - for want of a better adjective) defined, and spirituality drops culture (or denigrates it to a lesser level of importance) in favour of the connection between person and idea which religion should ultimately constitute.
To move on from what I've just said, I think that - ultimately - spirituality can extend much further than 'religion', whether you define religion in terms of cultural phenomena, the proliferation of judeo-christian (and associated) religions focusing around the nine major prophets, or any other. In spite of this, I think that the degree to which spirituality extends beyond religion is significant for the religious, and if they can embrace it, then many aspects of spirituality may be just as divine as more traditionally religious ones.
Philosophy, for me, is (at least in parts) an extremely spiritual subject, and I think that it's sad that the majority of people (particularly in america, and whilst less so in britain, still to a very great degree here) closet it and don't pay it much heed. However, I don't think it's necessarily fair to say that philosophers aren't happy to simplify their language. Language exists as a representation for ideas, and as ideas become more complex, so too does the language which represents it. In any case, language is all a question of relativity: I have no doubt that - for someone who'd spent a lifetime farming - the conversation we're having now would be seen as at least a little high-brow, and similarly, philosophy rising above the academic ceiling of many ("Philosophy is to mathematics what mathematics is to gardening") may be seen in the same way. However, this is not to say that most people cannot understand philosophy. Philosophy, ultimately, is an extremely dynamic and open subject, and one of the few which can be studied completely independantly of academic life. The number of genuinely open philosophical conversations (as opposed to typical bar-room 'philosophical' conversations) which I've had with people who have no training in philosophy or related disciplines at all is numerous, and I think that the reason people fail to at least make an informed decision as to whether or not to embrace philosophy is one of circumstance. Even in the presence of better circumstances, if someone still rejects philosophy, then this in itself is a philosophical statement. Ultimately, philosophy is such an all embracing discipline that we don't avoid it unless we embrace a lifestyle so totally twisted (such as that of consumerism, sadly) that our goals are mangled beyond all sense of sensibility.
Philosophy, although taught academically, isn't an academic subject. It's not academic, and it isn't a subject; it just IS. Admittedly, I study it as an academic subject (and for someone such as myself, this is almost certainly the best root towards understanding philosophical ideas), but this is by no means the only approach to the subject. Just as one can study music, simply because music is taught academically doesn't make it an academic subject. For me, music is a subject which in certain ways is abhorrant to study academically: the over-analysis of music is something which I find interesting but pointless to the degree of frustration: the manner in which my life has progressed has caused me to have somewhat of an esoteric view of music which isn't compatible with an academic understanding of the same (by which in this case, I'm referring mainly to a more mathematical analysis of form, structure, tonality, and associated ideas which were the bane of my existence when I studied music). I adore performing and listening about music, I find reading about the subject fascinating, and I find many of the figures in the music I listen to (in this case, ostensibly classical) to be even more fascinating, but I couldn't cope with studying the subject given certain university curriculae, for example. I appreciate that this may apply to many people with regard to a subject such as philosophy, but don't accept that this casts any dispersion on the subject itself. Ultimately, music, philosophy, spirituality and religion are all phenomenae which - regardless of how you define them or what they mean to you (this being as much part of the understanding of them as understanding of the nuances of the ideas themselves) are personally communable, and I think a lot of people overlook this.
With regard to your last comment, it's extremely hard to recommend one: to say that I don't think that you'd benefit from a secondary text on the subject implies rather more of a degree of understanding of your thought processes than I have (the degree which I have being little or any), but I certainly get the impression that you'd more benefit from reading philosophy itself rather than books on philosophy. (In fact, anyone intelligent will almost certainly benefit from this, unless they find a genuinely brilliant introduction to philosophy, and I've certainly never found one of these). The best thing to do if you really do want to understand the subject is to first gain an overview of the subject and then seek to understand the subject by selected (and specific) reading. Overviews are, in general, bad at doing both: they neither provide a representative roadmap of the philosophical world nor provide adequate (or even correct) information about philosophical ideas themselves. It has to be said that often, online tutorials, introductions, essays, and articles are a far better learning base than books. The internet encyclopaedia of philosophy is excellent reference material, and lanna directs you well.
One author who writes reasonable introductions is Nigel Warburton. If you have some time on your hands, one good thing to do might be to get hold of a copy of one of his books (Amazon have both Philosophy: Basic Readings and Philosophy: The Classics, both of which have short extracts from prominent texts and analysis/explanation/criticism of them, which give good general overviews about loose specifics of certain philosophical ideas) and then read further based on what you find interesting. Alternatively, you could read things which you find interesting anyway, but this won't leave you with an overview of the subject (although if you do find what you read interesting, it should spur you on to further reading). .. It all depends, really. If you want recommendations for primary philosophical texts to read, I can certainly give you both recommendations and links (almost every prominent text I've ever looked for is available online) based on what you think you might find interesting.
Seasonal greetings to you both!
with apologies for the 2200 word post,
Haylle (Nyssabird) ? mg to recovery Posted Dec 25, 2002
You are most definitely correct on the problem of finding books of introductory philosophy; if anything, a well put-together anthology of selected works, perhaps on a theme would be best. And remember - most of the greats in philsophy are 'old dead white guys,' as a professor so eloquently put , so much of their stuff will be on the net. The trouble is the wading (oh the wading). Perhaps something to do is what I did when I went through my obsession with the philosophy of suicide: actually go to a library (<gasp>, and find volumes on the topic. These I imagine will mostly be the 'ethics' of blah blah blah in their description because that is the nature of many issues, especially ones dealing with actual social problems. If you are more interested in philosophy of knowlege (what we can know) or of the nature of reality, the other two big areas of philosophy (this is what we're led to believe in the states anyway, njan ), look up epistemology or metaphysics, respectively.
As to your comment, yes you are also correct; that was much too easy a label to slap on (damn ). We need a kind of geek code..i.e. theology + congregation of decent size + sense of community = X. Theology + agenda + congregation of large size + political sway = Y. Community + congregation of great size + confused agenda + human godheads = H2G2 . That's one of the many difficulties of language; we're not content with strings of descriptors. We need to dump things into categories, which are not only necessarily contrived in the first place, but have little general agreement as to what is actually meant when the word is employed. So..what is religion? H*ll if I know. You can't find consistencies in dictionaries, much less amongst religion's adherents. This is actually a stupid subject that has always amused/fascinated me; if 200 people think you're a b*tch, does that make it true? I mean in some ways, doesn't it have to? Not many people would hold that impression of themselves, however. It's an issue of who has more merit to make that call, and who has more implied merit? Does defying convention actually have any empowering value if one is not ultimately in control of his fate? I can only spout the b*llsh*t that I do with regularity because my culture has allowed me that luxury (?). I think the tension between the micro and the macro is central to our inability to make heads or tails of how to use our languages. But I suppose expression by nature is a funny, problematic thing; short of thought transference, which, to my knowlege, has yet to be implemented in any meaningful way outside of perhaps the odd and end mushroom trip , when are we *really* communicating ourselves honestly anyway? And if we did, it would mostly get lost in the 'translation' when it hit the neural paths of another person. Of course, for me, the word 'problematic' actually excites me a bit; in this case, because of the seeking out and the appreciating of likemindedness where and when it is revealed. You know, that glowing communion . Rarity mingled with inspiration is as much of the Divine as I can handle, I believe. *has had many a 'religious' experience of that nature in the last couple of weeks*
Haylle (Nyssabird) ? mg to recovery Posted Dec 30, 2002
WebWitch Posted Jan 17, 2003
Sorry not to have replied - I've been sick as a dog for the past few weeks and still have "ill brain"; a tad too fuzzy to really catch all the points and respond properly.
So I'll be posting on this again soon (I hope!). Thank you for the URL!
njan (afh) Posted Jan 17, 2003
since we had the above exchange, I've stuck some philosophical URLs on my website's links section.. http://www.njan.co.uk/njan <- click on links, and look at the bottom right. ..
.... hope you get better soon!
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