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The Truong' s Foyer

Truong Thi Tuyet Mai

few words
Great Ideas
the world of the man
special problems in sociology
The Truong's Foyer
beauty and art
theology and metaphysics


Virginia bluebells

             This page is for my niece, Truong thi Tuyet Mai, daughter of my late brilliant brother, Truong Ngoc Kim and later dedicated teacher, her mother, sister in law. Mai is a bright student

Raison and Faith...
              We try to find the definition of faith in the sens of common use. For example, when we say:I have a faith of You or I believe on You. We also said''I believe what You say, or simply..I believe You  In the first case, we affirm trust with the loyalty to a person. In the second case, we assert to certain statements. The word faith had been writting in the Bible and in the post bible-era.
    In Old Testament, the word Faith has the sense of Absolute steadfastness, assurance and loyalty. Thos word had relation with God " The Everlasting Rock" is used in the Psalms and the Prophets. In the New Testament, the sense of personal trust and assurance of God is combined with the meaning of assent to the Gospel message about Jesus and his works. There is an emphasis on Faith as a divine gift which enables the believers to lead the right life.
   In the period of medieval Church, the great theologians and the great philosophers are aware of faith as personal trust and adherence. However their main attention were for the faith. as said in the definite statement..."artiche de croyance".It was the faith as knowledge and its relation to others sources of knowledge that is their concern.
   Protestanism of the XVIIIth century had little concern for what we refer to today as " Christian Social Action" . There was no tradition of concern for social problems handed down from the  Reformation.. Neither of the two leading figures of the Reformation period was much interested in the social problems which had robbed men of life, liberty, justice, health, and peace of mind. Martin Luther's magnificent theological insights did little to enlighten his social views. Politically and economically he was committed to a medieval feudalism which did little to lessen the social problems of his day. His attitude can be seen in his refusal to side with the German peasants in their rebellion against their feudal overlords. The theology of  John Calvin  did little to lead to a concern for social problems and their remedies, at least for several centuries.
   Thomas Aquinas hold that natural reason requires the direction and support of religious faith to obtain truth in its fullness. For Aquinas, faith involes both the intellect and the will.In the act of belief, the intellectis determined to assent by an act of the will.To bilieve is to think with assent...In scientific knowledge the intellect also assents to definite propositions. But in the act of Faith, the decision to assent comes from the will, while in scientific knowledge, the intellect assents of itself to what is demonstrably true.

Autumn leaves

     A man may or may not  assent to the essential doctrines of the Christian religion.Where he does or doesnot is a matter of his will, of personal decision, not of intellectual perception alone. But in scientific matters, the intellect must assent to what is either self-evident or demonstrably true.
    Aquinas holds that reason can attain basic truths about existence God's existence and nature.,...but that faith makes man's grasp of these thruths both more certain and more readily attainable. He holds, further, that full knowledge about God and man's way to ultimate salvation requires faith in divine revelation. Such faith, according to Aquinas, is the gift of God's grace. That is why faith, along with hope and charity, is called a theological or supernatural virtue.
   Other Christian thinkers consider human reason incapable of attaining truths about God and hold that man's basic religious knowledge comes through faith alone. Luther emphasizes the passive aspect of faith as an unearned gift of divine grace, which regenerates and enlightens man. Before this happens, man and his natural faculties are corrupt and blind, incapable of apprehending any truths about God.
   All these religious writers, however, would distinguish faith from what William James calls " the will to believe" For James, the philosopher, whether or not we hold certain basic religious beliefs is entirely a matter of our own free will. For the theologicians, God himself is the ultimate source of our will to believe when we believe in the things that God has revealed to man.


The Proof of GOD' s existence...
     This subjet has had many controversies. But the religion and philosophy might be reconciled if there were some common accepted proof of the existence of GOD...
    There is no agreement among the authors concerning the existence of GOD, any more than there is agreement on any other important problem. Some of them think that GOD's existence can be proved; some that it cannot proved. And who think GOD's existence can be proved differ greatly in the proofs they employ.
   We can devide the proofs for GOD's existence into two major types.. One is so called ontological argument.It is also called an a priori proof, because ot depends in no way of our experience but only on our conception of GOD. According to Anselm, GOD cannot be conceived except as thesupreme being;in other word, as a being than which nothing greater can be conceived.  Such a being, he maintains, not only much exist in the understanding, but must alsohave real existence.T support the contention,Anselm asks us to consider the consequences that supposing that GOD doesnot reallyexist but is only a cenception in our minds. Dans ces cas,  ange etait la sensible presence de Dieu...

Black-eyed Susan

    If that than which nothing greatercan be conceived, he explains, were to exist in the understanding alone., then it would lack the perfection of real existence. Hence it would not be the supreme being that we set out to conceive. Therefore, Alselm  concludes, the supreme being mist exist in reality as well as in the mind. A slightly different version of the argument is offered by Descartes  in his Meditations.
   Aquinas rejects this argument.  In his view it amounts to saying that God' s existence is self - evident to us, which he does not think is the case. The argument may show that we are unable to conceive a supreme being without conceiving such a being as having real existence; but Aquinas, and later Kant, maintain that we can not validly infer God' s existence from the fact that it is impossible for us to think of a supreme being without thinking that such a being much exist. 
   The second main type of argument for God' s existence consists of all causal or posteriori proofs. These are all arguments from effects to causes. They are a posteriori  in the sense that they start from the known facts of real existence, and from them infer the existence of a cause which conforms to our notion of God.
   Let me give you one example of this mode of reasoning... We observe that the things in this world come to be and pass away. This leads us to see that their nature are such that it is possible for them not to exist. This would not be the the case if their existence followed from their Natures. Something outside their Natures must be the cause of their existence. - that is, of course, if we accept the proposition that everything which exists or happens must have a cause of its existence ou happening.
    What can be the cause of the existence of that which does not existe of its own  Nature ? Another thingof the same sort ?. Hardly,becauseif such a thing does not existe of its own Nature, it cannot cause the existence of anything else. If this last statement is true, then it follows that the cause must found in a being which exists by the very nature of what it is. But,...such a being is what we conceive God to be; that is, a supreme being the absolute perfection of which involves existence...
    The validity of this mode of argument is rejected by those who think that the world as a whole does not come into being or pass away and so does not need a cause of its existence . It is also questioned by those who think that we cannot use the principle of causation  to interfer the existence of causes beyond our experience from the existence of effects within our experience.
    Philosophers, such as  Hume and Kant, who reject  both the ontological  and the causal arguments for the existence of God, tend to be agnostics rather than atheists.  While denying that we can know God' s existence by the evidence of reason or experience, thay do notdeny that God exists. Our belief in God, in their view, comes not from reason or experience but from other sources. For Hume, the source is " faith and divine revelation". For Kant, God' s existence is a matter of rational faith, a postulate of the practical reason. " it is morally necessary ",he says..." to assume the existence of God"..

Stone Wall 3

l' existence et la nature des Anges...
               La signification originale du terme Ange  est le messager... Dans La Bible, ange  etait   messager de Dieu   pour communiquer ses paroles pour l' homme.  Dans les textes de la Bible, " anges de Dieu "  consolait   Hagar,  restrainait  Abraham  de la sacrification de Isaac ,  parlait a  Moses du buisson brule...Dans ces cas,  l' ange est sensiblement pour la presence de Dieu.
             Dans les textes de la Bible,  Anges  sont les Etres  intermediaires qui presentaient les messages de Dieu.  Comme le roles de  Gabriel et  Michael, dans son apparence de Daniel, et par Gabriel  dans  l' annonce de Marie
             Pour tous ces cas,  Anges  sont les agents que  Dieu  creait ses desires  et ses pouvoirs pour le monde. Dans le premier cas,  Anges   sont  presentes sous la forme de l' Homme visitant et voyant avec Homme.  Les ailes des Anges  presentant  le role de presenter les messages., et l' aureole, presentant le spirite,  pour addition de l' age mur...Plus tard, Judaisme  classifiait les Anges ...  cherubime  et  seraphime,  et differenciait les Archanges et les autres Anges . Dans le  Chretien,  on a  neuf ordres...  Seraphime,  Cherubime,  Thrones,  Dominations,  Virtues,  Pouvoirs,  Principalites,  Archanges  et   Anges.
     Les materiels riches de la tradition religieuse,  exprimaient par des images bien colorees,  etaient aussi  les sujets des interpretations methodiques par les theologiciens de la periode medievale. En addition des notions des philosophes grecques,  les theologiens avaient la notion pour l' existence de la nature. Platon,  a affirme l' existence du royaume de idees perpetuelles, meme avec changement des choses physiques.
    Les Theologiciens utilisaient les principes de la philosophie basique pour interpreter les traditions religieuses pour les Anges.  Aquinas ,  par exemple, ecrivait le traite pour les Anges comme les subtances eternelles, immaterielles, Et aussi pour lui,  different avec Platon pour l' eternite des idees, c' etait l' existence de l' intelligence ne suivant pas avec la matiere.
    Les modernes Penseurs, ridiculaient  les considerations des Anges  comme speculation inutile pour la notion imaginaire des Anges. Quoiqu' il en soit, nous pouvons penser pour l' existence actuelle des Anges, nous pouvons penser l' illumination des Anges . Speculation pour la realite des creatures materielles , ou juste dans la Memoire et l' Ame  peut nous aider de comprendre le monde materiel que notre Memoire et Ame sont immenses...
   La Speculation des philosophes pour  utopie - purement ideal - humain dans la communaute  peut nous aider de comprendre la politique actuelle et l' organisation dela societe. Aussi dans la situation semblable,  la nature des Anges  peut  nous dire de la relation entre la nature humaine. Par exemple, s' il y a existence des Anges, ils peuvent comprendre immediatement  les choses,... et la societe des Anges  est controllee par les lois de l' Amour.  Ca veut dire pour nous,  le type de connaissance et la sorte de la societe n' est pas seulement formee par la  chair  et l' esprit  comme nous avons.  Une choses importante est que nous devons comprendre ce que nous ne savons pas,  ou nous vivons comme les Anges  et  nous ne pouvons pas des actions comme les betes.
     Vraiment, Anges  n' etaient  pas  Hypothese Utile  dans la speculation philosophique.  Le terme Ange  avait le sens essentiellement religieux. Dans les traditions de la Bible,  Anges  etaient le fait de l' experience concrete. Hagar,  Abraham,  Moses  et  Marie   n' etaient pas hypotheses mais les Messagers de Dieu...
The problem of immortality..
    Belief in immortality  depends on a certain view of human soul . If the soul, or its essential element, is thought to be immaterial  and capable of existence apart from the body, it is also thought to be imperishable. However, those who believe in the immortality of the soul differ  about what it consists in. There are three main theories :
    One  is that the soul returns to its original source ( Spirit, God, etc...) and death. According to this theory, the individual soul does not survive as such. It becomes a part of the whole from which it was temporarily separated.
   Another theory  is that the individual soul has always existed and will always exist. It is eternal like God. The soul goes through an endless series of existences, occupying a different body in each existence. This doctrine of transmigration  or reincarnation  was widely held in the ancient world. Plato  gives it classical expression in Western philosophy.
   The third approach, and the one most familiar to us, is the Christian Doctrine   that the individual  soul is immortal  but not eternal . It did not always exist but it will always exist. It comes into existence by divine creation. It is uniquely infused into one human body, but it can exist separately  from that body and survives that body after its death.
   The Christian Doctrine is completed by the notion of the resurrection of the body at the Last Judgement. This is made necessary by the Christian Idea of the Unity - and interdecadence - of body  and soul . In this respect the Christian notion of immortality differs from the Platonic, which views the soul as a spiritual substance completely independnent of the body and alone worthy of judgement and redemption.
   Philosophers  offer various arguments for immortality. Plato  argues that the soul  is a purely spiritual substance, simple and without parts, and hence imperishable. The soul  literally " animates " the body, is the principal of life, and cannot itself perish. Aristotle holds that the intellectual aspect of the soul  may be separable from the body, since what the intellect knows is immaterial and eternal. Aquinas follows Aristotle' s argument to show that the soul  as a whole exists apart  from the body after death, but he also appeals to the soul' s " natural  inclination to be united to the body... " in arguing for the resurrection of the body.
     Another  type of argument for  immortality  has been the  moral one.  This life is not sifficient to mete out perfect justice. For that an afterlife without eternal rewards and punishments is necessary. In one of Plato' s dialogues,..." the soul stands naked before the divine judge, revealing the marks of evil the dead man has done in this life...". Virgil  portrays an  Elysium   for the blessed and a  Tartarus  for the damned.   And we encounter similar descriptions and prophecies in the New Testament.
    Immortality is not always conceived in terms of the endless existence of the individual human soul. Spinoza attributes immortality to the individual who achieves participation in eternity through his knowledge, or " intellectual love " of God. Platon and  Aristotle recognize that men seek immortality in their descendants or in their creative works. Indeed, the ages have put Plato and  Aristotle  themselves among the " immortals ".
    The mode of immortality  may be perpetuation throught one' s progeny, survival in the memory of mankind, throught the knowledge of God, or in the subsistence of the individual soul. But whatever the mode, man' s desire for immortality  expresses his dread  of Disappearance into utter nothingness. He feels a need to be joined with the enduring, the eternal, and a revulsuion against total annihilation.
free will and determinism...
     Those who deny free will  will usually do so because they explain all natural phenomena in terms of a chain of causes. They hold that since man is a part of nature, he cannot be exempt from this universal chain of causes. Those who uphold free will usually distinguish between human actions and all other natural events. They maintain that a man' s action flow from his own initiative  claimed for human action is characteristic of everything else in nature. They believe that our basic model for interpreting the world as a chain of causes is all wrong.
      Let us be clear what is meant by  " freedom of the will ". It means freedom of decision, not freedom of  action. It is freedom to choose a certain course of action, a certain goal, or a certain way of life. Being able to do what we choose to do depends on external circumstances. Despite " what every woman knows " not every woman who wants to get married succeds. Thus, it is possible to believe in freedom of the will while holding that a man' s freedom to act be limited by adverse circumstances.
      In past ages, philosophers such as  Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, and  Kant  uphold free will, while Hobbes, Spinoza, Hume and  J.S. Mill oppose it. In our own day, Jean Paul Sartre, the French existentialist philosopher, is perhaps the most extreme protagonist of man' s power to determine for himself what he will become. Sartre says man is absolutelyfree of all conditions, including the influence of his own past. We are only what we choose to be. We have to be free on order to be  at all. Human existence is freedom. The unfree is inhuman. Says Sartre :
             Human freedom precedes essence in man and makes it possible... Man does not exost first in order to be free subsequently; there is no difference between the being of man and his being - free.
        Other modern thinkers, such as A.N.Whitehead, Henri Bergson, Paul Weiss, and Charles Hartshorne, agree with  Sartre  in affirming freedom of choice. However, they differ from him in ascribing some influence to an individual' s past and in extending freedom of choice to the nonhuman world.
       When we mentioned psychology  as " disproving "  free will, we are probably thinking of Sigmund Freud. He is one of the most pronounced opponents of free will in our time. For Freud, all of a man' s desires are determined, on the one hand, by natural impulses and needs, and, on the other, by cultural pressures to which he unconsciously conforms. Psychoanalysis  offers a way to achieve individual freedom, through an arduous process of self - knowledge and self - mastery. But freedom of the will as a natural endowment is for Freud a complete fiction. Freud says :
             The psychoanalyst is distinguished by an especially strong belief in the determination of the psychic life. For him there is in the expression of the psyche.. nothing arbitrary, nothing lawless..Anyone.. breking away from the determination of natural phenomena at any single point has thrown over the whole scientific outlook of the world.
       Contemporary positivistic philosophers, such as  Moritz Schick  and  A.J. Ayer, believe that freedom consists in our being able to carry out desires in action. They think we are free when circumstances are such that we could have done otherwise than we did, had we chosen to do otherwise. But they claim that we could not have chosen to do otherwise unless our whole past and all other influences on us were different.
      In taking up a postion on this subject, we face an interesting dilemma :
 Are our views of free will themselves determined, or are they a matter  of free choice ?.
      In either case we are out of realm of scientific demonstration. And, by the way, nobody can yet claim that psychology has disproved free will. William James, himself a believer in free will as well as a scientific psychologist, maintains that the stand we take on this question is itself an act of free will. We must decide freely even when we espouse determinism. All our subsequent " proofs "  depend on the previous act of the will.
      James  tells a delighful story about a man who found himself in a quandary. He saw two buildings on opposite sides of the street, one with the sign  "Determinist 's Club ", the other with the sign  " League for Free Will ". He first went into the Determinist' s Club but when he ask why he wanted to joinit, he replied.." Because I choose to "  and he was thrown out. He then thied to join the League for Free Will, and he asked a similar question, he replied " Because I have no other choice " and again he was turned away.
      The paradoxical and circular character of this problem cause James many sleepless nights and brought him to the verge of a nervous breakdown. I hope that  you will not be similarly disturbed..

Water lily

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                                             March 29 2010 ...The nature of a profession ( the world of the man )