Forms of Learning and Spiritual Activity: Philosophy, Religion and Science


Similarities between Philosophy and Religion

Philosophy and religion are similar in that they are not satisfied with the current state of things or data provided by common sense, everyday thinking or even individual sciences; they look for an explanation of the world and life, existence and consciousness that cannot be achieved through possible experience. Philosophy and religion are the oldest forms of human spiritual activity and social consciousness. Hitherto unresolved are eternal questions of human existence: death and immortality, meaning and purpose of human life, as well the origin of the world and mechanism of its coming into being. Both philosophy and religion have to do with an Absolute Beginning of life, the world and the truth. The difference is that religion looks at it as an image of God, a superhuman, absolute person, while philosophy treats it as a rational notion of perceivable truth.

Both philosophy and religion operate transcendental ideas and presumptions. Unlike science, they operate intuition data, i.e. contemplation data whose objects can include both reachable and unreachable things and relations. Also, unlike science, philosophy and religion necessarily contain judgment, values and morality rather than purely neutral knowledge. On the other hand, science propagates detached and unbiased attitude to any of its objects. Value consciousness would prevent science from reaching its goals.

While science involves human intelligence, experimental and practical experience, and, to some degree, creative intuition (understood as an ability to “locate” a priori the truth), philosophy and religion put in centre position a spiritual component of a human being engaged in the process of reaching and experiencing the truth.

Differences between Philosophy and Religion

The difference between philosophy and religion is that they treat the source of knowledge and the method of achieving it, differently. In religion it is the unlimited faith in God, prophesy, miracles and in general, maximally engaged emotionality and exaltation that define the sphere of intense mystical experience. Philosophy is dominated by logic that guides rational search for an Absolute. In this sense, philosophy is a rational way of learning about an Absolute in the form of truth. Philosophy tends to posit that truth is intelligible, however, critical assessment of a subject’s learning ability can limit access to the truth to a varying extent. For instance, Kant believed that we were able to know phenomena and the laws, which govern them, only on the basis of what we had learned from a prior examination of the knowing subject’s structure. Religion states that a believer’s ability to grasp God is unlimited while God reveals Himself to those deserving it in the way He chooses, be it theophany, prophesy, apparition, or mysterious “geometric” doctrines etc.).