January 19, 2013 in City

Faith and Values: Resolve to check out this philosophical test

Donald Clegg
 
About this column

Three times a month, community columnists weigh in on matters of faith and values. The column appears Saturdays and features artist Donald Clegg, of Spokane, retired Methodist minister Paul Graves, of Sandpoint, and Steve Massey, a pastor from Hayden.

So how are your resolutions working out? A new year and we’re all supposed to have checked our flaws, excesses, blah, blah, blah, and resolved to become newer, better, happier people! Yes? No? Who cares? I’m of the opinion that resolutions don’t much matter; if I am inclined to change something, I’ll probably do so, and if not, not. Mine, therefore, are working out just fine. Zero for zero.

That’s not to say, though, that I don’t reflect, examine, inquire, assess, assay, test, appraise, analyze, probe, pry and otherwise scrutinize myself. Or my self. In fact, that’s part of my nature, and not only do I believe that the unexamined life isn’t worth living, I think it’s even worth checking out formally every now and then.

That means it’s time, once again, for a philosophical health check. You’re invited to participate: Just go to my favorite site for this kind of diversion, The Philosophers’ Magazine, at philosophersnet.com/games. I chose “Talking with God” for my first quiz this time, figuring it would trip me up quite easily, as I have no idea how to define God.

Just to ease your mind, these aren’t right/wrong quizzes; rather, they check for “tensions,” which are basically just inconsistencies in your thinking – clues that you might not really believe what you think you believe. I had two of them in this quiz, a score of 25 percent, where the average score is 69 percent. So, not too bad, after all. But I do have to agree with the test’s final conclusion: “The question which then arises is whether the entity you’re left with is worthy of the designation ‘God.’ ” Fair enough.

OK, moving on … hmmm … what about “Get That Chip Out Of My Brain”? It will assess what I believe about free will, determinism and moral responsibility. How about this? I’ll even give you my answers before I take the test. I don’t believe in either free will or determinism; i.e., there’s no way to, well, determine their existence, but I do believe in moral responsibility. Deciding what it is, however, is a big old kettle of catfish.

To the test, then. Thinking, thinking, thinking. Well, the analysis said that I might feel like I’d been tricked, and I do, but I was nonetheless caught in a logical contradiction that does somewhat undermine my lack of belief in free will. Rats. For any philosophers out there, it seems that I’m more in line with David Hume than Immanuel Kant. Put simply, it appears that my belief in moral responsibility presupposes a form of free will. I concede the point.

Well, after reading the essay that followed this test, the next quiz it suggests is “Would You Eat Your Cat?” My answer, right now, is “No!” I’ll bet, though, that the test will reveal that there’s no good reason for me not to. Let’s find out.

I was right on. The “yuck!” factor tells me not to eat either of our kitties – besides, they’re only 3 years old and too much fun to barbecue – but, like 77 percent of respondents, I couldn’t find anything actually morally wrong about doing so. (At least in the described scenario.)

I’ve got space for one more, and “Do-It-Yourself Deity” looks fun. “Can you construct the perfect God? We somehow doubt it!” Me, too. Let’s find out.

All righty, then, there’s a list of attributes that I’ll paraphrase: all-powerful, creator of all things, personal dude, etc. I wonder how much damage I can do by selecting both omnibenevolent and omnipotent. An all-loving God with the power to make it happen sounds OK.

Of course. Wrong again, darn it.

Donald Clegg, a longtime Spokane resident, is an author and professional watercolor artist. Contact him via email at info@donaldclegg.com.


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