Glossary of Terms ‘T’

Written By Thomas Perez. December 14, 2010 at 5:59PM. Copyright 2010.

A group of Chinese religious and philosophical traditions. Philosophical Taoism emphasizes various themes found in the Daodejing and Zhuangzi such as “non-action” (wu wei), emptiness, detachment, receptiveness, spontaneity, the strength of softness, the relativism of human values, and the search for a long life. Religious Taoism is not clearly separated from philosophy, but incorporates a number of supernatural beliefs in gods, ghosts, ancestral spirits, and practices such as Taoist alchemy and qigong.

The supposition that there is design, purpose, directive principle, or finality in the works and processes of nature, and the philosophical study of that purpose. Teleology stands in contrast to philosophical naturalism, and both ask questions separate from the questions of science. While science investigates natural laws and phenomena, Philosophical naturalism and teleology investigate the existence or non-existence of an organizing principle behind those natural laws and phenomena. Philosophical naturalism asserts that there are no such principles. Teleology asserts that there are.

The belief in one or more gods or goddesses. More specifically, it may also mean the belief in God, a god, or gods, who is/are actively involved in maintaining the Universe. A theist can also take the position that he does not have sufficient evidence to “know” whether God or gods exist, although he believes it through faith.

The belief in a single, universal, all-encompassing deity. Zoroastrianism and the Abrahamic religions are considered Monotheist.

Classical Theism
Refers to traditional ideas of the monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Classical theism holds that God is an absolute, eternal, all-knowing (omniscient), all-powerful (omnipotent), and perfect being. God is related to the world as its cause, but is unaffected by the world (immutable). He is transcendent over the world which exists relative to him as a temporal effect.

A form of monotheism in which it is believed that one god exists. However, a deist rejects the idea that this god intervenes in the world. Hence any notion of special revelation is impossible, and the nature of god can only be known through reason and observation from nature. A deist thus rejects the miraculous, and the claim to knowledge made for religious groups and texts.

Synonym for pantheism (see below).

Monistic Theism
The type of monotheism found in Hinduism. This type of theism is different from the Semitic religions as it encompasses panentheism, monism, and at the same time includes the concept of a personal God as a universal, omnipotent supreme being. The other types of monotheism are qualified monism, the school of Ramanujaor Vishishtadvaita, which admits that the universe is part of God, or Narayana, a type of panentheism, but there is a plurality of souls within this supreme Being and Dvaita, which differs in that it is dualistic, as God is separate and not panentheistic.

The view that everything is of an all-encompassing immanent God; or that the universe, or nature, and God are equivalent. More detailed definitions tend to emphasize the idea that natural law, existence and/or the universe (the sum total of all that is was and shall be) is represented or personified in the theological principle of ‘God’. The existence of a transcendent supreme extraneous to nature is denied. Depending on how this is understood, such a view may be presented as tantamount to atheism, deism or theism.

A type of pantheism that combines the pantheistic belief of God being identical to the Universe with the idea from deism (above) that God is revealed by rational examination and does not intervene in the Universe.

The theological position that God is immanent within the Universe, but also transcends it. It is distinguished from pantheism, which holds that God is synonymous with the material universe. In panentheism, God is viewed as creator and/or animating force behind the universe, and the source of universal morality. The term is closely associated with the Logos of Greek philosophy in the works of Herakleitos, which pervades the cosmos and whereby all things were made.

Substance Monotheism
Found e.g. in some indigenous African religions, holds that the many gods are different forms of a single underlying substance, and that this underlying substance is God. This view has some similarities to the Christian Trinitarian view of three persons sharing one nature.

Assumes the existence of God as an absent deity and the ultimate concept of God’s existence is transcendent and external to all other forms of existence, which implies an impersonal, non-anthropomorphic, non-universe-morphic or even non-cosmos-morphic being and view of God. In transtheism, God has one primary attribute, transcendence.

The absence of belief in both the existence and non-existence of a deity(or deities, or other numinous phenomena). The word is often employed as a blanket term for all belief systems that are not theistic, including atheism(both strong and weak) and agnosticism, as well as certain Eastern religions like Confucianism, Taoism, and Zen Buddhism.

Belief in, or worship of, multiple gods or divinities. Most ancient religions were polytheistic, holding to pantheons of traditional deities, often accumulated over centuries of cultural interchange and experience. The belief in many gods does not contradict or preclude also believing in an all-powerful all-knowing supreme being.

Devotion to a single god while accepting the existence of other gods. Coined by Max Müller, according to whom it is “monotheism in principle and a polytheism in fact”. Variations on the term have been inclusive monotheism and monarchial polytheism, designed to differentiate differing forms of the phenomenon.

Open Theism
A religious approach combining Classical Theism as well as Ancient Greek beliefs that question the ideas of free will and the timeless nature of God.

Philosophical Theism
The belief that God exists (or must exist), independent of the teaching or revelation of any particular religion. Some philosophical theists are persuaded of God’s existence by philosophical arguments, while others consider themselves to have a religious faith that need not be, or could not be, supported by rational argument.

Theological Non-Cognitivism
The argument that religious language, and specifically words like “God” (capitalized), are not cognitively meaningful. It is cited as proof of the nonexistence of anything named “God”, and therefore is a basis for atheism. There are two main arguments: Kai Nielsen used verifiability theory of meaning to conclude that religious language is meaningless because it is not verifiable, proving weak atheism. George H. Smith used an attribute-based approach to argue that the concept “god” has no meaningful attributes, only negatively defined or relational attributes, making it meaningless – leading to the conclusion that “god does not exist”, thus proving strong atheism.

The philosophical school that followed in the legacy of Thomas Aquinas. The word comes from the name of its originator, whose summary work Summa Theologiae has arguably been second to only the Bible in importance to the Catholic Church.

A typology employed by political scientists to describe modern regimes in which the state regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior. Totalitarian regimes mobilize entire populations in support of the state and a political ideology, and do not tolerate activities by individuals or groups such as labor unions, churches and political parties that are not directed toward the state’s goals. They maintain themselves in power by means of secret police, propaganda disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism, and widespread use of terror tactics.

Transcendental Idealism
The philosophy of Immanuel Kant and later Kantian and German Idealist philosophers; a view according to which our experience is not about the things as they are in themselves, but about the things as they appear to us. It differs from standard (empirical) idealism in that it does not claim that the objects of our experiences would be in any sense within our mind. The idea is that whenever we experience something, we experience it as it is for ourselves: the object is real as well as mind-independent, but is in a sense corrupted by our cognition (by the categories and the forms of sensibility, space and time). Transcendental idealism denies that we could have knowledge of the thing in itself. A view that holds the opposite is called transcendental realism.

A group of new ideas in literature, religion, culture, and philosophy that advocates that there is an ideal spiritual state that ‘transcends’ the physical and empirical and is only realized through a knowledgeable intuitive awareness that is conditional upon the individual. The concept emerged in New England in the early-to mid-19th century. It is sometimes called “American Transcendentalism” to distinguish it from other uses of the word transcendental. It began as a protest against the general state of culture and society at the time, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard and the doctrine of the Unitarianchurch which was taught at Harvard Divinity School. The term transcendentalism sometimes serves as shorthand for “transcendental idealism.” Another alternative meaning for transcendentalism is the classical philosophy that God transcends the manifest world. As John Scotus Erigena put it to Frankish king Charles the Baldin the year 840 A.D., “We do not know what God is. God himself doesn’t know what He is because He is not anything. Literally God is not, because He transcends being.”

A term often used as a synonym for “human enhancement,” is an international, intellectual and cultural movement supporting the use of new sciences and technologies to enhance human mental and physical abilities and aptitudes, and ameliorate what it regards as undesirable and unnecessary aspects of the human condition, such as suffering, disease, aging and involuntary death.

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