What are the great issues of philosophy? What are the test questions
all about? What attitudes, beliefs and major concerns are implied
by them? What is really meant by the questions and the terms they use,
and how should I answer them? If you are confused by a question, your answer
may be here. But donít feel obligated to read this chapter before answering
the questions; itís better just to answer them than to ponder them endlessly.
Most people at first think the questions are too hard or too deep; then
discover that they really have no trouble answering them. We all have plenty
of views on these great questions, because we meet them constantly in our
Occasionally people misunderstand them, however, causing them to give an answer they didnít intend. After reading this chapter, you might wish to change an answer or two. Some readers might avoid misintepretation by keeping the explanations below in mind. My explanations of these questions are not exhaustive, however; you might have some different reactions. After reading this chapter, you might see there are more sides to each question than you had thought of before. Remember though, it is only the question itself that you need to respond to, not to all these interpretations. And being neutral on a question, because you see some truth on both sides, is just as honorable a position to take as to agree with one side or the other. Also note that the questions do not refer to specific doctrines of religion or science.
1. The Heart has its reasons, which Reason does not know.
This is the famous quote by Pascal, referred to by existentialist author William Barrett in the introduction to his book Irrational Man. Do we have "gut feelings", passions and subtle apprehensions which canít be figured out through words and logic? Are there other considerations besides what makes sense to our thinking? Should we "think with our heart" and "follow our heartís desire?" If you agree, then you agree with question 1. But if you think reason is good enough to guide your life, while feelings can lead you astray, then you disagree. Can we understand ourselves, our hidden motivations, and our unconscious beliefs by carefully studying and analyzing them? Can systems of philosophy, psychology or other sciences understand complex human nature, and what makes it tick? If you think so, then you disagree with question 1.
2. The senses cannot be trusted to give us the truth.
The senses might not be trustworthy, in several ways. We might actually be tricked into seeing what isnít there, or we might mis-interpret what we see. Our senses might not give us the full picture of the world, and might not provide access to many invisible realities. If you agree with these thoughts, then you agree with question 2. On the other hand, just because what the senses tell us is incomplete, doesnít mean that it is wrong. Our misinterpretation is not due to the senses, but to our minds. Much of our knowledge depends on our senses. If these views ring true to you, then you probably disagree with question 2.
3. There is a rational explanation for everything, since events are produced according to physical laws.
You often hear the first phrase of this question from those who scoff at such things as spirits, ghosts, ESP or UFOs, or who wish to assure us that there's nothing to fear from the unknown. Whether they say so or not, they usually mean that such paranormal events are explained by physical causes we know or will discover. If you agree with this question, then you think nothing happens that contradicts the laws of nature. You may believe principles of the physical sciences can explain not only natural events, but also emotions, desires, religious experiences and paranormal phenomena. But if you believe such things have non-physical or indeterminate explanations, or that they can't be accounted for by physical science and the laws of nature, then you may disagree.
4. Your thoughts and beliefs create your reality.
"You create your own reality" is a phrase that has become common. In this question the phrase is more clearly defined. Thoughts and beliefs have power, the statement implies. They determine how you see and interpret things. They may even influence your own behavior, otherís behavior, and the environment around you. If you think you can succeed, then you have a better chance of doing so. A good attitude is healthy, and the mind is a powerful healing tool. Religious belief and prayer can help too. On the other hand, fear of disease can bring it about. If you agree with these views, then you agree with question 4. But if you think the environment is more powerful than you are in shaping your attitudes and perceptions, then you disagree with question 4. If you think that the mind has little or no power to shape the events of your life and the world you live in, that they are often determined by forces beyond your control, and that it doesnít matter much what you think or believe, then you disagree.
5. Reason leads us to discover the general truths and ideas that explain all existing things.
This was the great ideal of the Greek philosophers, as well as many modern scientists. They believe that the light of reason can penetrate all mysteries. Everything is understood by knowing the underlying principle. All facts and events can be explained by the right theory. They are all just instances of the general forms of things, as Plato said. If you think these principles exist, that they explain reality, and that we can know them through our reasoning process, then you agree with question 5. But if you think universal ideas are generalities which distort things by linking them to a million other things, and that the differences are more important than the similarities, then you disagree. If you think the immediate richness of your own experience canít be encompassed in any general idea, then you disagree with #5. If you agree with Hume that there is no necessary connection between things, or if you doubt that our reason can discover all the worldís truths, then you disagree.
6. If you would know the truth of life, look inward into yourself.
This is the basic tenet of the mystic, but also of Socrates, who said "know thyself." All that you need to know is already within you. Look within, and you can understand not only yourself, but other people and the world too, for you are a microcosm of all things and are connected to all. The truth is found in your own experience; no one can tell or show it to you. All the information you know depends on your own consciousness. Seeking the truth within, through philosophy, meditation, or psychology, taps into the source of reality. Studying external realities may be useful, but this method only scratches the surface of things. If you agree with this approach, you agree with question 6. If you think you need to know about a lot more things than yourself in order to find out about life, then you disagree. If you think youíll find your answers to the questions of life out in the world, in the living of it; if you think inner searching is a waste of valuable time, or that things exist which contradict whatís inside you, then you disagree.
7. Since weíre all different, and times change, there canít be universal standards of right and wrong.
Few issues are more controversial than this one. This is a statement of what the moral pundits denounce as "moral relativism." But those who agree with it point out that what we see as wrong today, might have seemed perfectly normal in the past, or even today in other cultures. It is wrong to impose our moral values on others. Ethical principles canít be perfectly formulated, and the standards given by authorities are often out of date in our changing world, with its new freedoms and opportunities. What may be right in one circumstance, may be wrong in another; holding on to inflexible rules could lead to the wrong decision. If you agree with these views, answer "agree" to question 7. If you think, however, that moral conduct suffers when people believe this kind of "situation ethics," then mark "disagree." If the morals of past cultures are repugnant to us today, it is because they were wrong, and weíve learned better; if other cultures have different standards than we do, then one of us is right and one of us is wrong. Just because it may be hard to put moral standards into words, doesnít mean they arenít there. If you believe the ability to tell right from wrong is innate within all sane people, you disagree with question 7. If you believe society will fall into moral corruption and decay without prescribed rules and standards, then you disagree with #7. If you believe having consistent standards is better than just "going with the flow" and doing what seems right at the moment, then you disagree with number 7.
8. Do not seek your treasure in the things of this world, but only in the eternal things.
This comes from our most famous philosopher, Jesus of Nazareth. Should we value whatís here today and gone tommorrow, thus building our castles on sand? Money, worldly possessions, the physical body; you canít take them with you. The world changes and decays, while the things of the soul live forever. Status and wealth are unfulfilling goals in the long run; true satisfaction is found within. The world may reject you, but if you do the right thing, your "reward in heaven" will be great. Magnificent achievements which stand the test of time; knowledge of eternal truths, ideals to live and die for; these are worthwhile. If these views ring true to you, then you agree with #8. If, however, you think things of this world have value in themselves, or that they have much to teach us, then you disagree. If you think temporary and fleeting experiences are richer than some abstract principle or legacy you will never enjoy, then you disagree. "Eat, drink and be merry, for tommorrow we die." If you think you need money or riches to survive and be happy, that the notion of the immortal soul is an illusion, that eternity is an empty dream or a fraud, and/or that heaven is here on earth, then you might disagree.
9. Reality is fluid and ever-changing; thus forever beyond the grasp of the rigid, abstract concepts & categories of our thought and language.
This is my attempt to paraphrase the views of Bergson, as well as Zen Buddhists, Joseph Campbell and many others who contend that our minds are like strainers trying to catch water, and that reality transcends our words and ideas about it. As Heraclitus put it, "you can never step into the same stream twice." The world is beyond all our methods to capture and contain it in our thoughts. Non-verbal knowledge, myth or metaphor conveys the deeper truth. But the other side contends that our categories are what enable us to understand the world; without them we live in chaos and bewilderment. The world exhibits structure and form, and this is the greater reality. There is no excuse for failing to communicate in language. Using names and numbers allows us to control things and shape them for our purposes.
10. Ultimately, the universe is made of solid and indivisible particles.
This is the first principle of the materialist, such as Democritus, Lucretius, Dalton, and the atom smashers of today. Since the world has substance, there must be ultimate constituents of matter. Even if there are waves and empty space too, there are also particles; that is a basic principle of the universe. Scientists are finding new particles all the time. If you agree, then mark "agree" on question 10. If however, you believe that the world has no solid substance supporting it, and that the physicists will look forever in vain for the ultimate particle, because nothing is ultimately indivisible, then you disagree. If you think waves and vibrations, and/or consciousness, is what the world is made of, that they need no solid foundation, and that solidity is an illusion of our senses, then you disagree.
11. The universe is unfolding according to a divine plan and order.
Do you believe in teleology? Do you think the universe came about by intelligent design, which is still at work today? That this design is divinely given by God, or by cosmic law for a higher purpose? Does "God have a plan for your life?" Are you what Bergson called a finalist, and do you accept what Aristotle called the final cause? Then you agree with question number 11. If you think the world makes sense, despite its apparent chaos, because there is a greater order we might not see, then you agree. But if you think the world came about by chance, that it has no purpose or meaning beyond its own existence, that God plays dice with the universe, or even that things are going nowhere except perhaps to hell in a handbasket, then you disagree. If you donít see anything or anyone directing, guiding or attracting things from above, or anything beyond mere coincidence, then you disagree with number 11. If you donít think the universe is planned in advance by some cosmic agency, but is spontaneous, chaotic and unpredictable, requiring us to make choices without divine guidance, then you disagree with number 11.
12. A human has no fixed character, but only a history; you must choose your character and meaning of life.
This is a classic statement of existentialism, and is scored accordingly. If you agree, then what you make of your life is totally up to you and the choices you make. Who you are is the result of your own past decisions. Human beings are free, and therefore our purpose for existing is not given to us. Perhaps the meaning and purpose of life is to find it; perhaps no meaning is needed. Your genetics, your stars, your past life, your immortal soul, your cultural heritage, etc., may be important, but do not determine who and what you are. But if you disagree, then you think some of these things may help shape who you are. Many character traits are inborn, and you have a particular nature or essence that doesnít change and is part of the larger order of things. You came into the world with a particular purpose and destiny to fulfill. To think otherwise is to flounder aimlessly through life without parameters, self-knowledge, guidance, or any foundation for personal integrity.
13. Spirit or mind creates the world, and all our science can only describe the effects after-the-fact.
What is the cause of things? Can science explain it? Did God or a great spirit create the world? If you agree with question 13, then you think that events canít be explained by external causes. They arise freely from within yourself and others. You agree with Plato that "movement from within" is the first cause of all things, because otherwise there is nothing but an infinite regression of external causes. To look for an external cause is therefore fruitless. Science observes things already-existing, but misses what creates them, and often fails to recognize the scientist behind the science. If you disagree, you think creation can be explained without recourse to God or spirits. The world comes into being by itself, without any pre-existing mind. Things that can't be explained by science don't give us any knowledge about how things happen. You are satisfied with scientific and "naturalistic" explanations for the world and your own life.
14. Faith is unreliable; weíd better trust to what we know
I have faith that readers will understand this question; however, just in case, I will attempt a brief explanation. If you donít depend on faith, but want certain knowledge and evidence instead, you agree with question 14. You think we will fall into superstition and error if we donít question things for ourselves and instead merely believe in things that we donít understand. But many spiritual traditions assert the need for faith to understand lifeís mysteries; that our knowledge is too limited to grasp them. We need faith to live confidently despite our ignorance. Faith is the evidence of things unseen and unknown; it helps us gain access to the mysteries of the spirit. At a certain point reason fails; faith alone can continue the ascent. If these are your views, then you disagree with 14.
15. Psychic abilities exist, proving mind over matter.
This question is probably the one most often misinterpreted, and some people refuse to interpret it correctly even when it is explained to them! Both phrases of the question are necessary, because some people believe "psychic abilities" exist, but can be explained by material causes such as events in the brain or the environment. But if so, they are not really "psychic" abilities at all. If you agree with question 15, then you are convinced that psychic abilities such as ESP, telepathy and telekinesis demonstrate the truth that events can be caused by consciousness alone. If you disagree, then you either think such abilities do not exist at all, or that they can be explained by physical causes such as brain waves. The phrase "mind over matter" can be problematic. I use it because it is a simple, common phrase that people understand; it claims that our minds can influence events in the world and communicate with other minds directly, despite any physical and material barriers. It is always best to interpret phrases used on this test in the most commonly-understood way. However, if you think strongly that there is no difference between "mind" and "matter," or that such distinctions are meaningless; if you agree that psychic abilities exist, but dispute the distinction between mind and matter, "neutral" might be the best response to question 15, and your score will be accurate. If you disagree that mind can or should be "over" matter, it is best to interpret the phrase in the most commonly used way, which doesnít really imply that mind "rules over" or dominates matter; but only that mind can go beyond apparent physical boundaries and influence the world. Then answer accordingly.
16. All knowledge is based on experience and observation; rational theories alone are only meaningless abstractions.
This is the first in a series of four questions in the middle of the test that represent a kind of shoot out at the OK Corral between existence and essence; between the right and left hemispheres of our brain. If you agree with 16, you are convinced there is no substitute for direct experience of reality. Observation is the foundation of knowledge, and all reasoning depends on it. To construct theories that canít be verified and have no basis in experience, no matter how reasonable, is to weave fantasies in the sky and live in the ivory tower. However, you might think that theories often lead to many discoveries that can eventually be verified; or that the ideas of our minds hold the key to the principles of life and the universe. Then you would disagree that such theories are meaningless, and you would therefore disagree with 16.
17. Act on moral principles as best you know them, rather than yielding to the temptations and passions of the moment.
Do you have a star to go by amidst all the distractions that might tempt you into destructive behavior? If you agree with 17, you think people need such a star. You believe in principles of right and wrong. You recognize that others might see them differently; perhaps you donít want to impose them. But moral ideas are more lasting and reliable than unpredictable passions and passing desires for pleasure or social approval. If you disagree though, you think moral principles are mostly imposed by authorities to keep us under control, perhaps for their own purposes. Trusting our own feelings in the moment is the best guide to good conduct, not following unchanging, out-of-date principles and abstract formulas that donít fit the situation. Passion makes us more alive and even helps us achieve our goals. So-called "temptations" are often liberating and fulfilling, and we suffer when repressed by moral codes. The moralistic pundits donít want to endanger their own sense of security, so they try to impose rules to keep us regimented and unhappy.
18. With understanding and clear, logical thinking, you can solve almost any problem and increase your control of events.
Thought helps us understand and thus to control our circumstances. It is a measure of our freedom that we have been able to use our minds to master nature and shape it to our ends. Thinking provides a clear picture of alternatives needed to make decisions and the sequence of actions necessary to engineer solutions. There is nothing to which our thinking cannot be applied to improve things. If you agree with these views, you agree with question 18. The other point of view claims thinking is not adequate to meet every situation; things are too fluid and changeable to be grasped by our minds. To be free and effective you must be attentive, which requires stilling or transcending your thoughts. It is foolish to believe we can really control events; whatever solutions we impose only magnify the problems in the long run. The best approach is to leave things alone or unresolved as much as possible.
19. You canít wait until you have the answers; youíre not fully alive unless you are taking a risk.
Being adventurous has become almost a moral tenet in recent decades. Youíre not really living unless youíre living on the edge, says this point of view. To be safe, secure and comfortable is to stagnate. You only grow by stretching your boundaries and testing your courage, so "just do it" and "donít wobble." To feel a rush of energy is worth taking chances. To risk means venturing into the unknown; if you hesitate in order to be sure youíre right, you miss opportunities. The biggest rewards go to those who take the biggest risks. Act first and ask questions later. But the opposing point of view says that taking risks without thinking first and knowing what youíre doing is blind, foolish and self-destructive. Thrill-seeking is just sensationalism which means nothing and gets us nowhere. It is much better to look before you leap; action for actionís sake creates disorder and chaos. Itís better to be safe than sorry. Accomplishing goals that are well-planned is more fulfilling than cheap thrills and risky behavior.
20. Our personal souls will survive death, and perhaps be back on earth for another go-round.
Perhaps in the future, weíll know whether life after death exists, and we can delete this question from the test. Until then, however, most of us donít know what awaits us. But if you agree with number 20, then life-after-death, individual survival, and reincarnation are real possibilities or realities to you. In your view, we are spirits, not just physical bodies; and this gives you confidence, compassion and peace of mind. If you disagree, then to you the whole idea of an immortal individual soul is just an illusion of our language or a religious superstition left over from the Dark Ages. You only go around once in life; to dream of pie in the sky when you die is escapist fantasy and denial that causes complacency amidst all the unfinished business here on earth. Perhaps we are just physical organisms after all; itís better to accept death and not worry about what happens afterward.
21. The soul can only be free by overcoming the body
This is perhaps the most unpopular question on the test. Asceticism doesnít have much appeal to us today. But in past times it was a major part of spirituality. The bodyís needs for food and comfort are a drag and a nuisance, many have said. Its pleasures and pains distract us from realizing our inner strength. As Plato put it, the body is the prison house of the soul; it keeps us from knowing other dimensions. In our minds we are free, but only if we expand our consciousness beyond the limits of our bodies. If you disagree though, you think the body doesnít need to be transcended or denied in order to achieve freedom. There is no need to forgoe or overcome the pleasures of the flesh. The body does not hinder the spirit; it is the temple of the spirit and our vehicle for experience. Needless to say, if you believe you are only a body, and that "spirit" and "soul" are meaningless terms, then you donít think you need to "overcome" what you are in order to be free. In fact, you may feel liberated by rejecting the religious or spiritual notions that divorce you from your body!
22. I am not a number, I am a free man! (or woman)
This famous declaration by Patrick McGoohan from The Prisoner epitomizes the concerns so prominent in the 1960s that mechanized "progress" was turning us all into numbers. If you agree, then you feel that you are a free spirit that canít be explained, filed, stamped, indexed, categorized or programmed by a mathematical system. You reject those trends of science and technology that dehumanize us and reduce us to formulas, and political attempts to arrange our lives according to some scientific utopian scheme in which human values and feelings count for nothing. You protest with Doestoevskyís underground man that you are "not an organ stop" and your freedom cannot be stifled. You are a person, not a statistic. But if you donít think human beings are as free as we think we are, then you disagree with this question. If our choices are limited and our circumstances constrained, then so is our freedom. If the systems of mathematical science or philosophy can explain us and our behavior, then in that sense we are really "numbers" after all. We donít need to rebel against technological and mathematical planning, because they give us the means to much greater freedom and power. So, be a happy "cog in the machine" and contribute to "the system!"
23. Human consciousness and behavior can be fully explained in terms of the electro-chemistry of the brain and nervous system.
Many scientists today think they can do this. Is there more going on within you than chemistry? Is there such a thing as a vital spirit or a consciousness that canít be explained by the chemical reactions of the body? Then you disagree with 23. But if you think the events in our brains and nerves are sufficient to explain our behavior, then you agree. Be sure you understand the crucial implications of this question. If you agree, then there is nothing more to we humans and our actions than the physical reactions of our bodies, and we are only very elaborate and complicated machines. If you disagree, then you really believe that the mind is more than the brain, and that consciousness and behavior operates at least in part from an invisible realm beyond our bodies. For those who see middle ground in this dichotomy, neutral is a good response.
24. As Plato proved, a child has innate knowledge of mathematics; therefore eternal and rational truths exist.
This "proof" can be found in Platoís Meno. Socrates asked a young boy some mathematical questions which he was able to solve with his reasoning mind alone, without being taught beforehand. In this sense, "knowledge is recollection" of what we already know. If you agree, then you think the human mind has abilities inherent in its very nature to tap into preexisting truth. Our knowledge is innate and only needs to be drawn out from us. Since the truths of mathematics donít change, this demonstrates our knowledge of eternal truths. But if you think Socrates did not demonstrate this, but only led the boy into the conclusion he intended for him to draw, then you might disagree. If you think mathematics is not an eternal truth, but merely a tool for measuring the world that has no inherent reality, then you disagree. If you agree with Hume that mathematics are just "definitions and tautologies" that donít imply any "eternal truths" of reason, then you disagree.
25. Human history is largely explanable in terms of economic and technological conditions.
Karl Marx taught that history is class struggle, and that your economic position in society shapes your attitudes and behavior. But statement number 25 is hardly confined to Marxists; many others say that the economic forces we depend on for survival, such as agriculture, industry and information technology, shape the world we live in and how we act. Whether you are rich or poor helps determine your politics, and how you view the world is shaped by books and mass media and the tools available to you. Money moves our society and motivates those who dominate our lives. But the other point of view says that ideas shape history. Cultural and spiritual values, conceived by creative visionaries, prophets and artists, determine whether we as a society chase wealth and power, or pursue more lofty or otherworldly goals instead. Our technology and economic systems were created by inventors and entrepreneurs, often using ideas conceived in other fields. Such forces as religion and patriotism are more important in shaping history than the mere means of subsistence. The choices that people freely make, and the ambitions of powerful leaders, also decide the course of history.
26. The best way to live is to follow the delightful energies of the body. Reason is only the outer bounds of energy.
This paraphrase of William Blake epitomizes those who trust the wisdom of the body and the senses. They revel in the zest for life, and they rebel at the stifling effects of compulsive thinking. Life can't be figured out; we are devitalized by trying. Cultivate the healthy animal instincts instead. We know the world through our bodies in this age, says Blake; as the psychologists at Esalen Institute said, "get out of your mind and come to your senses!" "Use the force, Luke! Let go your conscious self, and act on instinct." Reason can at most only pin the outer labels on life in order to control it, giving us the illusion of security. If you think the energies of the body can lead us astray, however, then you disagree. These impulses need to be regulated with morals, good sense and careful thinking about what's good for you and others. Otherwise they may lead to addictions, decadence and depravity. Following the wisdom of truth, not blind energy, is the way to true "delight." Animal instincts can lead to brute and selfish behavior, instead of thinking altruistically of the needs of others. As Spinoza said, only reason gives us the wider perspective, while immediate physical passions can confine and entrap us. If these are your views, you disagree with question 26.
27. Science will eventually give us most of the answers to what seems uncertain to us today.
This is the faith of the scientist. Science is a broad term, and can include many things; but generally it means a systematic approach to knowledge that requires its theories to be tested with objectively verifiable experiments. If you agree with #27, then you think science is well on its way to understanding the mysteries of life. It is only a matter of time before most of them will be answered; at least more of them than might seem possible today. Perhaps you even believe that the scientific method is the best way to truth, and that less rigorous methods are unreliable. You distrust statements that have not been proven and verified by science, and you value the answers it provides for your life. But if you think such systematic methods will always fall short and give us only the outer shell of reality, then you disagree with question 27. Religion, the arts and/or philosophy tell us more about the human condition. While less exact, these methods give us richer descriptions of reality than more objective methods. Science isolates particular factors to test, and so misses a myriad of others. Often, in fact, it is the "human factor" that is left out of the equation.
28. There are universal symbols and archetypes that keep appearing in our experience.
Carl Jungís idea of the archetypes in the collective unconscious, and Joseph Campbellís proposal that the same myths appear in isolated different cultures, have become well-known. Certain patterns appear to be universal, such as the stories of creation, or mythical patterns of the hero, warrior or wise teacher; or ideas like male/female and yin/yang. Campbell relates the story of the astronaut who when asked who was steering his spaceship, replied, "Newton." The laws of the universe are in our heads, reflected in our daily experience. But if you disagree, you think archetypes can't be seen or precisely defined, so they're probably nothing more than fanciful literary devices. There are too many examples that contradict these "laws," so they can't be universal.. Using generalities can distort our perceptions by linking them with a million other things, leading to prejudices or faulty conclusions. Universal archetypes may be an attractive idea, but itís a false one.
29. Mathematics is probably one of the closest things to truth you can find.
The exactness, universality and usefulness of mathematics make it a model of truth. Two plus two equals four, at all times in all places. Prejudices and emotions donít count, and a mistake in calculation doesnít detract from the truth of the principle. Certain conclusions follow from correct reasoning and canít be doubted. Natureís behavior reflects mathematical laws and patterns. Few kinds of knowledge have better stood the test of time. If these facts impress you, then vote "agree" on number 29. As Rollo May pointed out though, a mathematical proposition can be true without being real. It makes no difference to your equation whether you are talking about apples or unicorns. Living individuals are omitted from the calculations of mathematicians sitting in laboratories and ivory towers. Math enables us to impose our own mental patterns on wild and wiggly nature, but not to understand ourselves or the changing reality we actually live in. In any case, the world itself canít be exactly measured. If these are your views, then you disagree with number 29.
30. Seeing is believing; whatever canít be touched, observed or tested experimentally probably doesnít exist.
This is the classic statement of strict empiricism. If you agree, then you think that all knowledge is based on sense experience, or other kinds of careful observation, as far as you know now. Any other basis for knowledge besides demonstrable fact is speculation and wishful thinking. It all comes back to verification by human experience, using our own senses and the instruments which extend them. Visible facts are public and demonstrable; we all know the Sun will rise tommorrow. If you disagree though, you admit of more subtle realities than what is seen and observed or proven in experiments. These might include the soul, feelings, values, psychic impressions, religious doctrines, or mathematical forms. Theories may have a truth of their own, and so might mystical apprehensions of the divine. You can't trust the senses, as question 2 said. You can't even be sure the Sun will rise tommorrow, because you know that someday it won't.
31. By transcending the delusions of your thinking mind, you discover that you are not a separate ego, but are one with a greater being.
Our thoughts and concepts convince us that things can be separated and divided, and that humans can also be separated into isolated egos. But in the mystical vision or cosmic consciousness we move past these limited ways of thinking. We realize we are one with the divine or the cosmos, and canít be separated from our source. If you disagree, then you believe the thinking mind produces truth, not delusions. There are distinctions between things, and between ourselves and the universe, and thinking allows us to discern them. To believe otherwise is to court the insanity of schizophrenia, where you canít tell yourself apart from the world around you. Speaking of the "oneness of all things" conveys no information. To say everything is one makes no more logical sense than to say that everything is everything.
32. This is the best of all possible worlds; seen from Godís viewpoint, all evil fits into a greater good.
This statement of Leibniz was ridiculed by Voltaire in Candide, where Leibniz was portrayed as the naive philosopher Pangloss, rationalizing all evil away by refusing to see it. But if you agree with Leibniz, then what might be considered evil is just evidence we arenít seeing things from a wide enough perspective. If we did, we could see that things always work out for the best. The famous "problem of evil" asks how an all-powerful and all-beneficent God, if he exists, could have permitted evil to exist. But without the possibility of evil, say many philosophers, we would not have the free will to choose good and would be mere automatons. Every good story needs a villain; dealing with evil and error is the only way we learn and grow. Therefore a world without problems is impossible, even for God. Socrates taught that all evil is based on ignorance; therefore people are not inherently evil, just poorly educated. Those who disagree with #32 contend that the many evils of the world show that there is no divine justice or higher providence. Evil, once committed, cannot be redeemed; said Sartre. To refuse to face facts like Pangloss is to live in blissful ignorance, complacently accepting injustice instead of working or fighting against it.
This penultimate question implies the final one:
33. God does not exist.
It all comes down to this, perhaps the simplest and most difficult question
of all. Whole books have been written about an issue that I must summarize
here in a short paragraph. Some people believe the question is irrelevant
to their lives; others believe it is central. If you feel you donít really
know, or canít know, whether God exists or not, then you might answer neutral.
On the other hand, if you know or believe one way or the other, answer
accordingly. Keep in mind that there are many ways of conceiving and defining
"God," and your definition makes no difference here to the test result.
The question is not about the correctness of any particular doctrine. But
if the notion of God to you is a meaningless term by which people avoid
reality, postulating a supernatural or invisible explanation for whatever
they canít prove, then you agree with number 33. You find no evidence for
such a being, and no reason to believe in one. The ethics of humanism and
altruism are enough, for example. But some people believe that, "if God
didnít exist, it would be necessary to invent Him." As St. Anselm said, God exists
because we can conceive of Him (or It). And many have what they say is experience of the divine. Any possible
explanation of the cosmos points to a first cause or principle of all things.
Without a divine principle thereís no basis for moral behavior or for facing
life with courage and optimism. If these statements come close to your
views, then you disagree with question 33.