Empirical Truth and Revealed Truth

Jeff CarreiraAwakening, Blog Posts16 Comments

I propose that philosophy in its most general sense can be understood as “The human endeavor to understand the nature and functioning of reality.” Human beings are thinking animals that use ideas to guide action. Philosophy is the human effort to create ideas that accurately describe the way things are so that we can use those ideas as a basis for acting.

In the development of Western philosophy there have been two approaches to the endeavor of philosophy that persist to this very day. These two ways of going about philosophy are sometimes known as Rationalism and Empiricism and in fact these distinctions existed long before the terms were created to describe them.

In short, Rationalistic thinkers put their faith in reason. They mistrust sense experience that is not mitigated by reason because they recognize that our senses can deceive us about reality. For this reason they believe that ultimate truth lies in the realm of ideas and reason. Empiricists, on the other hand, put their faith in our sense experience of the world. They mistrust ideas that are not grounded in sense experience because they see that ideas on their own easily fly into fantasy. Science as we know it today can be seen as a special case of Empiricism and Spirituality as a special case of Rationalism.

Science is an Empirical pursuit that makes use of the scientific method for determining the truth from our sense experience and has as its aim a complete understanding of the material world. The scientific method involves hypothesizing a theory and then testing the theory through experimentation.  Only information that is obtained in this way is truly scientific. If a theory is not testable it is not considered scientific.

Spirituality is a Rationalistic pursuit that maintains the validity of “revealed truth” and that has as its aim the moral transformation of the individual to act in accordance with revealed truth.  In traditional religious terms revealed truth was seen as the word of God – for instance as recorded in the Bible. In our own time revealed truth has come to be interpreted as personal “spiritual” experience which seems to “reveal” something of the ultimate nature of things to the experiencer. These revealed truths are generally seen as being self-evident and therefore no experimental testing is required to “prove” them.

Early in human understanding the distinction between philosophy, science, and spirituality was not clear and all three were intermingled. With the age of Enlightenment these distinctions became clearer. And over the centuries Religion has been largely usurped by Science as the dominant world view in the Western World.

So this question of “Does spirituality have any significance in the modern age?” is one that humanity has been wrestling with for a long time. In Christian philosophy the defense of religion is called apologetics. And you can see the arguments of apologists appearing and reappearing throughout the history of human understanding defending the validity of “revealed Truth” in an increasingly empirically driven world.  So my question to myself and to all of you is “Does Spirituality have any validity and if so, what is it?”

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tkrnvksw@gmail.comFrank LukeSumadiChristophe@EdGibney Recent comment authors
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Liesbeth
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Liesbeth

First thing that came up was Chopra’s talk at the Enlightenment Conference: what is to us more empirical than that the leaves of trees are green? Chopra says no, no, there actually is no green. That is the way we perceive it..Chopra says there is no object, there is only activity; also ‘structures’ he calls activities. Fundamental truth as is told by the Buddha: the whole universe is an activity, it has to stop for a moment to be a flower…(a snapshot, like a photo) Reading the book ‘cutting through spiritual materialism’ this week, I found that theories that are… Read more »

ftkl1234
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After a long history of religion and science usually at loggerheads, where scientists have contended that belief and existence of God cannot be proven and therefore invalid, humanity seems to have (finally) evolved to a more holistic recognition of the unity of the two aspects of our human psyche. Without this synthesis, truth would be skewed and incomplete, it would seem.

ftkl1234
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The validity of spirituality in our times in my view rests on the recognition that the human rational mind deals with material truths and existence and spirituality when doing its work invests humanity with values that help to maintain our collective conscience that should act to keep in check the excesses of science and technology. Science and the rational mind act in this way as well to keep metaphysics in check to prevent it from becoming too extravagant and overweening in its zeal.

Liesbeth
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Liesbeth

Listening again to Chopra, I saw I made a mistake. He doesn’t say there is no green. He says nobody knows how the brain produces the experience of green, which of course is very different. I just read from him: Today, as science probes into the nature of ultimate reality, pinning its hopes on a unified field theory with discoveries like the Higgs particle, I am awestruck by the fact that the teachings of Vedanta remain ahead of the most modern theories on the nature of the cosmos and also of our awareness of it. Science, being based on a… Read more »

@EdGibney
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Spirituality was a response to living in a very unknown universe. When explanations are required to make sense of the world, but none are available, then the human mind invents explanations to justify one’s actions or orders. But what explanations are left? Basically, why there is something rather than nothing, and how specifically did life arise. These are the realms where the most informed people hold on to their spirituality. Like the “god of the gaps”, this spirituality of the gaps is shrinking to the point of irrelevance. That is a ultimately a good thing as we need to know… Read more »

Liesbeth
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Liesbeth

Hi Ed, that is totally how I used to think. But that is how you miss the best part of being alive. There are so many people who have great experiences that point to another quality of spirituality.. You might change your mind listening to video’s or reading blogs of Andrew Cohen (http://bigthink.com/the-evolution-of-enlightenment/daring-to-bear-witness).

Christophe
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Christophe

As a mathematician, I was very impacted when I read Brian Swimm (mathematician and cosmologist) speaking about how the univers is discovering itself through mathematics that emerge in the complexity of the human brain. Einstein was also veryconnected to the fist cause, the revealved truth. He often used the word God but not in a dogmatic way. The more I evolve in spirituality, which means the more I recognize that spirit is first, the more I am in touch with science. I reach a point in my life where I realize that real science could only exist in a spiritual… Read more »

ftkl1234
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Hi Christophe! It’s great that you’ve come to recognize how spirituality augments your outlook and work. Without that holisticness, life can indeed be limited. Continue well! Aloha,

Liesbeth
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Liesbeth

Just to follow up on my quoting Chopra, this was a tweet of him today:

I want you to realize there exists no color in the natural world, and no sound; no textures, no patterns, no beauty,no scent-Sir John Eccles

Sumadi
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Sumadi

To Liesbeth and Christophe and Ed , I am completely with you in what you say about the Vedanta and its awesome awareness of reality, Liesbeth. And I like very much what you say Christophe about that real science is happening only in a spiritual context. From both of your remarkable statements I see a connection to ‘The cogito ergo sum’ of Descartes. What I like very much of what Descartes is saying is that when you leave out everything you are not sure of, the only thing what remains is the fact that you are. To me this touches… Read more »

Liesbeth
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Liesbeth

Great to read you Sumadi. I must say I am not following any Advaita or anything, I was just blown away by the talk of Chopra. .. I heard so often the story of the Buddha holding the flower and now hearing the meaning of that, I loved it so much. Since I follow this blog, I have looked in so many philosophers and the question of what we experience and what is really there got more and more confusing. At the moment I am looking to many different colored trees around me and the idea that consciousness somehow produces… Read more »

Liesbeth
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Liesbeth

I just listened to the Peter Russell, The Primacy of Consciousness http://youtu.be/c1vCm9M6YA8. They totally talk about the same thing…Russell from philosophical background and Chopra from Buddhist/advaita background, but it is the same, including the (colorless) photons.

Sumadi
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Sumadi

I am saw it many times every time it blows my mind.

@EdGibney
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Thanks for the respectful reply Liesbeth. I disagree, but encourage you to keep seeking. As I say on my site, Life Makes Sense.

Frank Luke
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Hi Ed, That’s too intruiging a comment (Life Makes Sense) to leave it at that. Can you go into a bit more, maybe a few paragraphs if possible?

tkrnvksw@gmail.com
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