Ontology before Epistemology

Subject: Philosophy
Type: Expository Essay
Pages: 7
Word count: 1914
Topics: Humanism, Christianity, Theology

Ontology and epistemology play a vital role in philosophy and theology.  Based on these two positions, the observations made by Newman and Sire underscore various key bases of the differences between primarily secular and the distinctively Christian world views. The two views are not actually in conflict but tend to make one single unity uniquely. Christians react negatively to the secular view because it is not documented in the scriptures and the secularists use it to attack Christianity. In addition, the secular world view is part of a historical process of secularization which believes in preset current values and has no regard for eternity. This explains why this view is actively opposed to religion. On the other hand, the Christian world view maintains that there is a predefined Christian view of things where there is unity, coherence and character thereby prevailing over speculations and the counter theories. This essay will explain the observations made by Newman and Sire on both world views, how the differences emphasize the importance of ontology before epistemology in the development of a consistent world view and personal thoughts and conclusions regarding Sire’s opinions on noumenal and phenomenal. 

The Christian view of the world upholds that there is a fixed view of things which has coherence, unity and character of its own. The Christian world view has a background of reason as well as reality which can stand the test of times and experience. This view stands or falls on its integrity and not as per the people’s opinions. In addition, the Christian view according to Newman is based on a universal principle and system that supports the development of religion. In the 21st century, Christians are required articulate the Christian Worldview with any upcoming changes and challenges. This kind of Christian thinking is applicable in all areas of life where it is clearly evident that morality, truth and interpretive frameworks are often ignored. The existence of the normative truth is usually challenged and hence Christians are compelled to pay attention to the words of Jesus Christ on the Great Commandment in Matthew 22:36-40.  In this scripture, believers learn that they should love God with their hearts, souls and minds. The words spoken by Jesus Christ are holistic such that they address God as the creator and hence He should be accorded with every aspect of our lives. 

The above kind of love ensures that human beings remain responsible in ensuring that they remain obedient to Jesus Christ as outlined in 2 Corinthians 10:5. This ultimately dictates that Christians should view life from a Christian vantage point. In building a strong foundation on Christian worldview, people are urged to believe in God the Father, who is the maker of heaven and earth. In reference to Colossians 1:15-18, all knowledge comes from the One Creator and hence Christians have a reason to obey His word. The scriptures affirm that there is God who has spoken and acted in history. Therefore, Christians should accept God as the Lord and king of the entire universe with all its creations. For example, thinking wrongly about God is considered to be a form of idolatry as indicated in Psalms 50:21. In addition, 1 Cor. 2:11 says that Christians must remain mindful for the fact that God is knowable and also incompressible as depicted in Rom. 11:33-36. The Apostles’ Creed has also been used to signify the power of the Creator and this consequently strengthens the Christian world view. One of the main advantages attributed to the Christian worldview is the fact that it remains a major motivation to the faithful thinking and living of believers. Christian view history as a meaningful sequence of events although linear which leads to the fulfilment of God’s purpose on humanity. 

The secular worldview is based on humanism where humankind is at the center. In this case therefore, the truth and all the values are determined by human beings. According to Sire, all the reality and life is centered upon human beings where the main elements arise from a naturalistic and materialistic world. Thus, the secularists have no place for the immaterial and the supernatural which means that God does not form the framework on which the secular worldview is based on. The universe in an individualized form created the gods and hence the secular worldview does not believe in a superior being who apparently created the world and everything in it. A distinguishing feature as explained by Sire is that all forms of the supernatural are considered to be myths and nonexistent and thus nature is considered to be the start point of everything. Philosophical writers have come up with evidence to show that the supernatural does not exist. In addition, they argue that the world is self-existing and not created which makes the secular worldview to be a religion without God.  

Secularists continue to stress on scientific reasons for the existence of the cosmos. According to Newman and Sire, the secular worldview is evident in various aspects of life including in military preparedness. Initially, Christians believed and accepted evolution as there is a close connection between secular ideas and Christian accommodation. However, wit time, people have realized the numerous challenges associated with the dominant evolution views and the theological conflicts that arise. In this confusion, Christians have sought for answers and vivid explanations regarding ontology before epistemology. Both Sire and Newman have established conflicting truths regarding ontology and epistemology ideologies in order to solve the exiting intellectual and spiritual battles. 

Based on the ontological position, there is a fundamental nature of existence whereby there is no right or wrong. In this case, people view different topics differently depending on certain dominant values, roles and backgrounds. Therefore, ontology is mainly concerned with the diverse social entities which describe social construction and positivism. This ultimately leads to the conclusion that ontology comes before epistemology as depicted by both the secular and the Christian worldviews. However, it is important to note that Sire dos not vividly explain what is meant by the term “before” as people have different interpretations. In this context, the word is used to show both chronological order in which ontology is supposed to precede epistemology and logical thinking where epistemology always remain a contingent of ontology. “Naming the Elephant” by Sire insists that everything is determined by the character and nature of God. According to Sire, there is no strong conviction that ontology precedes epistemology. Sire argues that human knowledge is dependent on an ontological fact and thus ontology comes before epistemology. However, this argument fails to ascertain the basis of “ontology before epistemology” as outlined by other philosophical thinkers. The laws of nature, existence of God and survival of the fittest are a few facts which try to explain human knowledge.

According to Sire, only an unquestioned and presupposed ontology can justify and validate epistemology eliminating the chronological and logical explanations. Therefore, it is only appropriate for ontology to inform epistemology and not the vice versa. The issue on metaphysical issues is not questioned in the book and hence Sire asserts that once an individual decides to place epistemology before ontology, the process of going back to an ontological position is impossible due to epistemic reasons. In order to establish a standpoint, an individual must rely on either of the discussed worldviews. Some of the questions asked by Sire in order to compose a significant worldview include; what is the nature of external reality? What is a human being? What happens to an individual after death? What is right and wrong? What is the meaning of history? Since there are no justified answers to these questions, Sire concludes that there is no enough evidence to place epistemology before ontology. If God is believed to be all-knowing and creator of all things including human beings in His image, then human beings can ne knowing at times. Believing in the Christian worldview is also questionable because it is presupposed, groundless, untested and pre-theoretical. Sire has come up with two considerations whereby the first one invokes the Calvinistic idea regarding sensus divinitatis which ultimately does not form a conclusive reasoning. People’s internal sense of divine makes them claim that a religion is true and hence the presupposition on Christianity. 

Secondly, Sire offers a pragmatic justification for accepting the Christian worldview. Christianity works as a consistent explanation for the existence of human beings and hence the reason to know the truths. Human beings are desirous to know the truth and this explains why individuals concentrate on the standards of truth rather than the pragmatic view proposed by Sire. The Christian view remains justifiable to a greater extent even to people of different beliefs. For example, Peter commands the people to remain prepared to answer any question asked regarding their faith and hope. In Acts 17:16-34, Paul uses reason to ascertain the Christian worldview. In addition, Jesus’ rational arguments in Matt. 22 also depict the evidential concern that ontology is presupposed. Therefore, evidential epistemology as proposed by modernists cannot be trusted as it does not have a strong foundationalism. Additionally, human reason does not allow for the certainty of everything and consequently the knowledge of everything. Thus, having a foundation of a major worldview would help a believer discern if ontology comes before epistemology. 

The above differences emphasize the significance of ontology before epistemology in coming up with a consistent worldview. Sire argues that reality entails the noumenal and the phenomenal where the noumenal is not accessible to the mind while the phenomenal can be recognized since the human mind encompasses classes in which phenomenal can not only be structured but also understood. The local reality which is “knowing” is attributed to the phenomenal which consist of various organizations such as internalization, externalization and organizational reality. In this case, human beings have their realities which are based on their diverse beliefs. This means that a local reality system is positive when the actor perceives it to be valid. The local reality is presented through objectivation where routines, commitments, history, technology and objects play a key role. The noumenal perspective is based on the belief that there is a divine Deity who is all knowing. In this case, God is attributed to be omniscient and hence He understands every reality because He is the source of knowledge. In conclusion, Sire and Newman propose that people should remain independent of what is observed in order to retain a specific viewpoint regarding the ontological position and the epistemological position. In addition, one should carry out an extensive study in order to establish the similarities between ontological and epistemological positions. This will ultimately reveal which of the two positions precedes the other. 

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