If Philosophy Were Religious: Part 1

Imagine a world caught up in the passion of deep idealism, in a continual and ardent struggle to identify the source of True Knowledge and the basis upon which a truly philosophical life can be lived. At stake is the devotion of 90% of the population — the vast majority of people who have faith in the higher-power of philosophy, who pray that True Knowledge may permeate their lives and give meaning to their existence.

Locked in competition for these devotees are the world’s two greatest philosophical schools of thought: Rationalism and Empiricism. Both traditions have long, complicated, and sometimes violent histories. Bloody philosophical wars have stained the history of this world — great leaders have risen buoyed only by the support of powerful philosophers, and these leaders have ruled vast empires in the name of philosophy. Yet, through its ability to inspire devotion and loyalty, philosophy has also brought peace to this world. It has bound people together in common struggle and common goals like no other force in this world.  The visual arts, literature, architecture — all have benefited and been inspired by philosophy’s teachings. Some of the world’s greatest and most lasting cultural achievements have been made to honor True Knowledge. And as each school of thought claims hundreds of millions of followers, it has become an indispensible part of daily life — philosophy is, for many, as important as air or light or love.

At the heart of these two great philosophical schools are its Truth-Books,The Rationalist’s Creed and The Empiricalon. Entire societies are still dominated by the writings in these texts, and although they have been studied for hundreds of years, interpretations vary widely. Sophisticated philosophers have dedicated whole careers to teasing out creative and novel ways to apply the old writings to modern life and to the conflicts created by scientific discovery (over which there is sometimes great tension).

By tradition most children, too young even to speak or lift their heads, are inducted into their family’s philosophical school by way of ceremony. The Empiricists, for example, tickle babies’ noses with ox hair and pinch their bottoms. These activities symbolize the Empiricist’s central belief that knowledge stems from experience — the tickle/pinch ceremony, called a Tipitism, begins the baby on this journey. Rationalist’s on the other hand, believe that once you become rational, you may never be otherwise. Children born into this philosophy are considered rational for life, and the penalty for giving up one’s rationality is (according to their Truth-Book) death.

Other ceremonies are performed throughout adherents’ lives, and they take place in great philosophical houses, some richly adorned, others large but bare — all of them designed to inspire and impress. These costly houses are built by follower’s donations. Both schools encourage generous donations during their weekly Truth-lessons. In fact, Truth-lessons are big business in this world, they are conducted live in the philosophical houses, on television, and over the radio. The amount of cash donated to philosophy each year is huge, but exact figures are unclear — the donations are, by law, unmonitored and collected tax free.

Since Rationalists believe that Mind is the true source of knowledge (in contradiction to the Empiricist’s claim that experience is the only true guide), Mind is held in supreme and holy regard. Mind is considered by most Rationalists to be identical to True Knowledge, and yet, somehow separate — this is the Doctrine of the Duality. Rationalists view Mind as something non-material and great above all, and they demand that no one make any image or drawing representing Mind. Controversy has swirled over disregard to this doctrine. Not long ago several people were killed during violent protests over an Empiricist newspaper that published a series of cartoon Minds. Rationalists are often so passionately rational that violence is a minor consequence in defense of True Knowledge. In fact, among both schools of thought followers are highly sensitive and take great offense should anyone challenge their philosophy. In this world respect for philosophy is paramount, regardless of the sometimes oppressive and backward conclusions of Philosophers.

Unfortunately, long-running disagreements over interpretations of The Rationalist’s Creed and The Empiricalon continue to tear at the fabric of this society. Many adherents claim their Truth-Book has absolute authority on the source of True Knowledge. These “fundamentalists” are intolerant in their beliefs; they foment anger and disdain for those with opposing views; they sometime promote terror and killing in the name of their philosophy. These True followers of the Truth-Books dispatch missionaries over the globe in an attempt to “save” others from believing falsely the source of True Knowledge. They tirelessly work to convert followers from the poorest and least educated areas of the world, attempting to plant the seed of philosophy deep in the minds of those most vulnerable and needy.

(To Be Continued)



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