By Alhassan Darboe
Saint Augustine, one of the earliest and greatest Christian Theologians of his time (354-430) prescribed to the idea of our world not only being filled with material beings but super natural and spiritual beings as well. Saint Augustine believes that our real existing universe consists of every possible kind of being from the lowest moving matter to the higher kind of spirits since the omnipotent and most powerful God in his kindness and infinite mercy has decided to create and place in this universe every kind of being that has within itself some degree of reality and goodness.
Augustine postulated further that human beings have material bodies with spirits and souls. Saint Augustine thus placed human beings in the lower stratum of his material world and higher stratus of spiritual world concurrently. Materialism propagated the view that matter is the ultimate constituent of reality. This view with roots stretching from as far away as India, Greece and Western world of Philosophy believe that the material world consists of just few basic things which mainly are water, fire, and earth. The Greeks came with a little more sophisticated and modern view of materialism but stopped short and concluded that the ultimate stuff of the universe is made up of matter and thus our universe is anything but a material universe.
Some materialist Philosophers that flourished in India dating back to 600 BCE laughed off the banal belief in spiritualism of their fellow countrymen, who they believed were indoctrinated to believe in the world of spirits and life after death. The ‘Charvaka’ philosophers then also known as ‘Lokyata’ which means worldly ones in the Indian language believed that, we should seek our happiness and fulfillment in the material universe by pursuing the pleasures of the body and worldly pursuit and delete from our minds like a computer error, any religious beliefs and practices which seeks to get us to do the contrary.
The Charvaka’s believe that there is only one source of knowledge about the world around us which is ‘sense perception’. The Charvaka’s argued that other sources of knowledge such as ‘deductive’ and ‘inductive’ reasoning we are accustomed to are bogus and at best invalid. The ‘Charvaka’ philosophers divided human reasoning into two components which are as follows; deductive and inductive reasoning. The ‘Charvaka’ defined inductive reasoning as the human perception and generalization of what they see with their naked eye. The ‘Charvaka ’ insinuated further that to see how inductive reasoning clouded the reason of the religious masses who blindly follow the charlatanic priests, after observing in myriad of cases where after seeing smoke accompanied by fire we might generalize that “where there is smoke there is always fire”. The Charvakas otherwise known as ‘Lokyata’ also argued further that; the problem with such inductive reasoning is that the generalizations from them go beyond what we observe with our human eyes.
Charvakas believed that deductive reasoning is unreliable because it appeals to the general statement to reach its logical conclusions so it does depend on generalizations that inductive reasoning produces. The Charvaka’s philosophers concluded that deductive reasoning is no more reliable than inductive reasoning on which it is based and therefore all reasoning inductive or deductive about how our universe is like is unreliable. The Charvaka expounded that the only reliable source of knowledge about our universe is what we can immediately see, hear, feel and touch with our senses. Charvaka’s argued further that we can know only what we can perceive with our senses. And because whatever we perceive with our senses is physical and material so all we can know is the material or physical universe around us. The Charvaka’s concluded therefore that all we can only know what we can feel, touch and taste and if we can’t know something its it is a matter of fundamental ignorance and fallacy to say it does exist. As far as the Charvaka’s are concerned there is no god and religious worship is a pointless engagement in time wasting and Priests are anything but charlatans engaged in perpetuating mediocrity and fallacy. As far as the Charvaka’s philosophy is concerned there is no soul that leaves the after the death of the human body, no heavenly rewards, no punishments of hell, no after life at all. To Charvaka’s Human life begins and ends in this world and therefore people should try to get as much of the bodily pleasure of this life as they could because there is not tomorrow, no god and no life after death.
Democritus, a Greek philosopher and proponent of material philosophy believed that reality could only be explained in terms of matter. The smallest pieces of matter he calls atoms, he described as solid, indivisible, indestructible, eternal and uncreated. According to Democritus the world consists of atoms and empty space and even the human soul which he equated with reason is made up of atoms. Democritus believed that in our universe all things happen by virtue of necessity, the vortex being the creation of all things.
English born philosopher, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) also came up with a view similar to that of Democritus which supported the theory that reality consists of only matter and nothing more, nothing less. You just have to feel it, touch it, smell it and know it and to try to prove anything else like spiritualism without meeting these requirements tantamount to propagating a fallacy and encouraging mediocrity of the highest order.
Idealists also waded in with their own philosophy of reality and argued that the universe consists of more than matter and includes non-material matter. Idealists believe that if the question of reality is pushed far enough, matter alone does not seem to account for any and everything, things are not just what they appear to be and if the investigation into nature is pushed far enough we would end up with only a mental world, a universe of non-material minds and ideas, not physical matter.
Alhassan Darboe is a US based Gambian Journalist and passionate lover of philosophy. He was the winner of the maiden Black History Essay competition organized by the American embassy and worked as a journalist with Today newspaper.
To be Continued …
Very well written series…And I hope it is one that awakens our curiosity about things that matter to us….. and wets our appetite to question and to scrutinise thoroughly, in order to reach logical and rational conclusions/decisions/choices..
It is such disciplines as Philosophy, that intellectually arouse the human capacity to reason sensibly, to ask the difficult questions and to search meticulously for answers, in order to reach sensible conclusions..
This capacity is what distinguishes humans from the likes of cattle : the unthinking, unreasoning creatures that are only driven by instinct..
That is why the soldier/philosopher, late Captain Thomas Sankara, was right when he said,
“A soldier without political education is a virtual criminal.” It should be added that such a soldier is a beast in human form..
Because such a soldier’s instinct, as a trained killer, is to kill without reasoning, when faced with challenging situations or ordered to do so…And we have seen a lot of that in our country already.
Gambians, particularly the young, must refuse to be ridden on as “animals of burden” by those who aspire to enhance their material, economic, financial and political status, through the National Treasury…
We must refuse to be “governed” by the tradition of simply belonging because many belong (to it)..We must question and probe, as well as, insist that information is put out in the public domain that we can scrutinise and dissect…
That way, we make informed decisions or choices and save our nation from the endless cycle of change via the gun…