Philosophy and Truth | BYU Studies

Philosophy and Truth

The Four Discourses of Mormonism

Alain Badiou, an important French philosopher, used a theoretical model of discourses to analyze the epistles of Saint Paul. Joseph Spencer applies Badiou's reading of Paul to Mormonism to answer the question, "What does it mean to be Mormon?" Badiou viewed Greek and Jewish thought as a closed circle—Hellenistic discourse as a totalizing universalism, and Jewish discourse as an exception to Greek... Read more

Conversation in Nauvoo about the Corporeality of God

Religion scholar Jacob Neusner looks at the corporeal nature of God through the lens of Mormonism and Judaism. He addresses anthropomorphism and incarnation, and concludes that the way to know God is through "our relationship with him, not through our act of the incarnation of God in heart and mind and soul." Neusner appreciates the powerful doctrine of God's corporeality taught by the Prophet... Read more

The Contribution of Existentialism

Although a wide gap exists between existential thought and logical empiricism, the influence of existentialism is growing. The author compares these two schools of thought by looking at their methods and language, their search for ultimate principles of being and knowing, the implications of their findings for man, and their relation to the principle of choice. These philosophies are then applied... Read more

Response

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Thoughts on Reading Croce's Theory of Aesthetic

The author summarizes highlights from Croce's Theory of Aesthetic and its implications on artistic intuition and expression. Read more

Plato's Trinity as Problem and Promise in University Life

Plato's ideals of goodness, truth, and beauty exist in a precarious balance. Not only are they out of humanity's reach, they cause problems when one overpowers the other two. Universities are in a unique position when it comes to fostering these ideals. If Brigham Young University is to become a great university, its faculty and students need to find the proper balance between its quest for... Read more

Moral Choices and Their Outcomes

Karl G. Maeser, the first president of Brigham Young University, once said, "I have been asked what I mean by word of honor. I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls—walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground—there is a possibility that in some way or another I may be able to escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me... Read more

Theology and Ecology: Religious Belief and Environmental Stewardship

This article explores the potential role religious belief might play in U.S. environmental policy making. Careful environmental stewardship holds a prominent place in Mormon theology as it does among other faiths. It is helpful to know how religious groups are engaged in environmental policy making, the strengths and limitations of these efforts, and the prospects for religious-based... Read more

Some Aspects of Truth in Contemporary Philosophy

The author believes that the question, "What is Truth?" is basic to any educational philosophy which attempts to make prescriptions for educational practice. In this review of selected writings on the philosophy of truth, the author compares a few theories on truth in contemporary philosophy from 1956. Specifically, he discusses truth and meaning (correct grammatical arrangement), truth and... Read more

To Journey Beyond Infinity

The notion of infinity has fascinated philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians for millennia. Its enigmatic nature seemed to thwart all attempts to unlock its secrets. Scriptural allusions to the infinite evoke a similar sense of mystery. Few have been as intrigued by the concept of infinity—or as tenacious in trying to understand it—as the German mathematician Georg Cantor. Between 1874 and... Read more

What We Are

We human beings have little comprehension of what we are. The difficulty is not that we are ignorant. It's that we are self-deceiving. We systematically keep ourselves from understanding ourselves. We don't do this deliberately. In order to do it deliberately we would, as Jean-Paul Sartre once wrote, have to "know the truth very exactly in order to conceal it [from ourselves] more carefully."... Read more

The Search for Virtus et Veritas through an Inspired Scientific Method

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Believing Adoption

Adoption theology is concerned with salvation and entry into the family of God. Early Latter-day Saint (Mormon) adoption theology taught by Joseph Smith came to include priesthood, baptism for the dead, temple rites, and more. The author concludes that this doctrine informs important questions, including: Are spirits born? What is the nature of salvation? What is the shape of the heaven family (... Read more

A Poetics of the Restoration

George B. Handley, professor of humanities at Brigham Young University, discusses whether the world's cultural traditions should be considered as treasures that should be embraced by Latter-day Saints, or fallen philosophy and vain deceit. He argues that while culture might be the obstacle that blinds us, it must also become the means or language by which we can come to understand God's will. We... Read more

The Uses of the Mind in Religion

Since you have distinguished yourselves as thinkers and scholars and, by your very presence at Brigham Young University bear witness of your commitment to religious faith, I thought it not inappropriate to talk with you this evening about the used of the mind in our relationship to the restored gospel. Living in these latter days we are the recipients of many legacies from East and West, but the... Read more

What Happened to My Bell-Bottoms? How Things That Were Never Going to Change Have Sometimes Changed Anyway, and How Studying History Can Help Us Make Sense of It All

Craig Harline explains perhaps the most valuable and fundamental benefit of studying history is the insight it can offer into change, including change that people once thought would never occur. What can be learned from such changes by people of the present, as they argue about potential changes in their own world? Harline offers historical examples of change in Western Christianity regarding... Read more

Open and Relational Theology: An Evangelical in Dialogue with a Latter-day Saint

Clark H. Pinnock and David L. Paulsen dialogue about open theism and Latter-day Saint theology, examining the convergences and divergences between the two traditions. Open and Relational Theology: A Latter-day Saint in Dialogue with an Evangelical explores beliefs on divine embodiment, spiritual warfare, deification, omniscience and omnipotence of God, divine feminine, theodicy, creation, and... Read more

A Sophic and a Mantic People

In the early sixties the manuscripts for what are now the last two chapters of Hugh Nibley's The Ancient State: The Rulers and the Ruled came into my possession. In them Nibley describes the ancient conflict between Western naturalism and Eastern super-naturalism, a conflict which has given rise to modern civilization with its polluted atmosphere of secular righteousness and split-level churches... Read more

The Language of God: Understanding the Qur'an

The faith of Islam, one of the three great "Abrahamic" religions, as they might be called, is closely akin to the other two, Judaism and Christianity. It is tightly bound to and thoroughly permeated by its holy book, the Qur'an. Strangely, though, despite the historical and contemporary importance of Islam and despite Islam's kinship with the faith that has dominated Western civilization, neither... Read more

Joseph Smith and the Problem of Evil

All of us have struggled or likely will struggle in a very personal way with the problem of evil. Paulsen asserts, "As I have perused the philosophical literature on the problem of evil and noted men's perplexities and then returned to once more ponder the revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith, I have been constantly amazed. Joseph had no training in theology, no doctor of divinity degree,... Read more

What Does It Mean to Be a Christian? The Views of Joseph Smith and Søren Kierkegaard

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) and the American prophet Joseph Smith (1805–1844) both radically critiqued nineteenth-century Christian culture. Though Søren often directed critiques specifically toward the State Church of Denmark, his ultimate target was Christianity as a whole, or simply "Christendom." Joseph's critique singled out no specific church; he also focused on... Read more

Carl Becker and the Historian as Priest and Prophet

Carl Becker once made the observation that when eighteenth--century rationalists lifted the religious ideals of the thirteenth century and placed them on a secular base, the historian became the new priest. The author uses this imagery to explore Becker's views of history and to compare his views with those of other influential historians. Read more

Goodness and Truth: An Essay on Ralph Hancock's The Responsibility of Reason

Joseph Spencer explains the shift in thinking that occurred about five hundred years ago: very generally speaking, premoderns took the ideal to be metaphysically fundamental, and moderns take the physical to be metaphysically fundamental. Latter-day Saint thinkers may fall into one camp or the other. Ralph Hancock's The Responsibility of Reason is a defense of a premodern conception of the world... Read more

Comment on C. Terry Warner's "What We Are"

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Response to Markova

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The Spirit and the Intellect: Lessons in Humility

Boyce discusses the limits of our knowledge in both the intellectual and the spiritual: "I have come to believe, after many a false start," he admits, "that if I am honest and thorough in my approach to the gospel, and if I am honest and thorough in my approach to intellectual disciplines, there resides in each the imperative for a profound sense of humility. I discover in both of them that what... Read more

Why Bad Things Happen at All: A Search for Clarity among the Problems of Evil

Why does evil, suffering, or injustice exist in a world created and watched over by a benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent god? Two questions become crucial: What does omnipotence mean? And what greater good might be lost if evil were removed from our world? An answer to why God would place us in a world that permits so many forms of evil and why we ourselves would have willingly entered such a... Read more

A Land Unpromised and Unearned

The author describes an unpromised land which cannot be earned, but is given to all mankind without condition or contingency. It is a realm of the spirit, of sensory delight, of human associations, growth and transcendence, of truth, beauty and goodness. When conflicts arise between our spiritual and material worlds, it is usually the spiritual world that suffers. When we redefine our spiritual... Read more

William James: Philosopher-Educator

In its written phases the influence of William James has been notable, potent and enduring. A variety of considerations might be invoked to account for this: The originality of his contributions ranging from psychology and theories of mind, motivation, and emotion to philosophy and theories of meaning, truth, and value. The position he has come to occupy as representative not only of his culture... Read more

Anatomy of Invention

The 2015 Karl G. Maeser Distinguished Faculty lecture, presented on May 17, 2016, addressed the topic “Anatomy of Invention.” Larry Howell focused on three principles—inspiration, collaboration, and exploitation—as important elements of innovation. Howell begins with a story about a research project that was shut down because the European headquarters closed the entire division of the company... Read more

Godbodied: The Matter of the Latter-day Saints

Christian theologian Stephen H. Webb is the author of Jesus Christ, Eternal God (Oxford University Press, 2012). This article, excerpted from that book, gives readers Webb's unique view of Mormonism. A professor of religion and philosophy at Wabash College in Indiana, Webb researched an obscure heretical position on the nature of Jesus Christ and soon encountered Joseph Smith's doctrine that God... Read more

From Arcadia to Elysium in The Magic Flute and Weimar Classicism: The Plan of Salvation and Eighteenth-Century Views of Moral Progression

Presumably, many people gloss over the aphorism that life is a journey—indeed, for Latter-day Saints, an "eternal journey"— as cliché. But this aphorism encapsulates profound theological, philosophical, moral, and even teleological implications that should indeed interest most people. The journey metaphor connotes progress and ascension, indicating beginning, purpose, and end to mortal existence... Read more

Al-Ghazali, a Muslim Seeker of Truth

In conjunction with some noted Islamicists and under the leadership of Daniel C. Peterson, associate professor of Asian and Near Eastern Languages at BYU, several significant Islamic texts are being or will be translated into English and published in order to makes these texts available to the West. The first published volume of the Islamic Translation Series: Philosophy, Theology, and Mysticism... Read more

Wisdom (Philosophy) in the Holy Bible

Assuming the author has not missed his count, the word wisdom appears 180 times in the Old Testament and 53 times in the New Testament, for a total of 233 times in the Bible. (Prima facie, this may suggest that wisdom, as reflected by the frequency of the use of that word, was of greater concern to the writers of the Old Testament than to the writers of the New Testament; but in view on the... Read more

Toward a Mormon Aesthetic

It seems almost unbelievable that after all these years of the development of Mormon thought we still have no genuine Mormon aesthetic theory. Most Mormon thinkers have either avoided the subject or simply adopted one or another of the theories proposed by the thinkers of the world. If, as we proclaim, Mormons have a distinctive view of man and his reason for being in the world, then it seems... Read more

Why Things Move: A New Look at Helaman 12:15

A verse from the Book of Mormon says, "And thus, according to his word the earth goeth back, and it appeareth unto man that the sun standeth still; yea, and behold, this is so; for surely it is the earth that moveth and not the sun" (Helaman 12:15). The verse has been commonly understood to mean that its author, Mormon, had a heliocentric view of the cosmos. David Grandy explores why that may not... Read more

Theological Underpinnings of Baptism for the Dead

“Lord, are there few that be saved?” (Luke 13:23). This question has troubled thinkers from Christianity’s beginning, generally known as the soteriological problem of evil, which stems from the logical tension between three propositions: (1) God is perfectly loving and just and desires that all of his children be saved; (2) salvation comes only through an individual’s appropriation of Christ’s... Read more

Initiates of Isis Now, Come, Enter into the Temple!: Masonic and Enlightenment Thought in The Magic Flute

Habakkuk exclaimed that in the presence of Lord the "sun and moon stood still in their habitation." The Empryean (Canto XXXII) of Dante's Paradiso concludes with the splendid phrase "l'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle" (the Love which moves the sun and the other stars). And in 1945 when Harry S Truman realized the weight of the office he would inherit upon the death of President Franklin D... Read more

On Criticism, Compassion, and Charity

The humanities are not just an adornment but are essential to our spiritual lives, writes Dr. Handley. He suggests that neither religion nor the humanities can have the greatest impact in our lives without three crucial ingredients: criticism, compassion, and charity. Criticism is the means by which we protect ourselves from deception and by which we strengthen our autonomy as moral agents. In... Read more

Uses of the Five Elements in East Asia

In the Western world, it may be said that Greece and Rome have exerted a continuous influence upon art, literature, religion, politics, and education. As an example, there has been a persistence of the idea of imperial power. From Charlemagne to Mussolini (some would bring this up to de Gaulle), despots have sought to engage the impelling image of Rome's ancient glory. Thus Charlemagne and... Read more

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