Spotted: A Definition of Philosophy and of Religion on a Library Wall

Definition of Philosophy and Religion on Rundel Library Building, Rochester, photo 2016 Amy CoolsThe other day, I spotted these definitions of Religion and Philosophy.

They’re engraved on the side of the handsome Rundel Memorial Building of the downtown Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County.

What do you think of these definitions?

Like the author(s), do you think religion and philosophy are two separate things, one dealing strictly with human thought and affairs, and the other with aligning human will to the divine?

4 thoughts on “Spotted: A Definition of Philosophy and of Religion on a Library Wall

  1. Brief slogans on a wall are necessarily crude statements that oversimplify.

    To paraphrase:
    Religion – to behave with justice, mercy and humility, in the presence of God.
    Philosophy – examine our thinking about reasoning, imagination, values and existence.

    When put this way, philosophy and religion overlap in the areas of ethics and metaphysics(values and existence). The tools of philosophy can be applied to the claims of religion, both to test the claims and to expand on the claims.

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    • Are they necessarily crude? Brief statements can put things extremely well, and encapsulate a great deal. This may not be the case here, but well wrought statements can be more expressive, more evocative than entire volumes! The first line of the Gettysburg address, for example, nothing crude about it, summarizes the best of our history while expressing our ideals and evoking the sense that we were, and still are, not quite living up to them

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  2. There is a certain grandiosity in saying that philosophy is to human thought, and religion is to the divine. It seems now that that is truly the case since some philosophers are denouncing religion because of its fallaciousness.

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    • I agree that it’s a mistake to separate the two into such distinct things.

      I tend to think of religion as an intersection of philosophy and cultural practice, some religions lean more heavily to one side, some to the other. Fallacies abound, to be sure, but so do truths. I’m not a religious person by any means, but I find religions interesting more for what they reveal about the human beings that create them than for any other reasons.

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