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Muting the Question of Salvation

Salvation, the core question in the ancient religious and non-religious philosophies, was insentiently muted by modern philosophies. Central entities in moral philosophies of the past; cosmos, divine and God, were supplanted by individual conscience in modern philosophy.  Modern philosophy revolutionized the meaning of virtue, and understanding of morality, and left no room for ancient aristocratic views of the stoics, but it left very little room for discussion on salvation. God has been discussed only in the practical context, as in Critique of Pure Reason by Kant, and there is little or no discussion on after-life or death. Modern efforts in philosophizing have reflexively suspended the discourse on overcoming ones primitive fears. Philosophy became a discussion on ethical and moral laws, and has favoured the democratic order and peaceful co-existence, but failed to provide any answers to the question of salvation; as Luc Ferry puts:

“Ethical principles, however precious they may be, have no purchase whatsoever on the great existential questions that were formerly taken care of by the doctrines of salvation” (Luc Ferry, 2011: 134)

It used to be said ‘to philosophize is to learn how to die’, but now, the dialogue on death, after-life and salvation has been buried under discussions on morality and ethics. Nevertheless, the answers to these questions are a primeval need, and even if they are shelved, they will continue to haunt us, individually and collectively, in the long run. Luc ferry illustrates that with a stimulating creative example. Imagine that you own a magic wand, and you are able to instil humanistic ethical principles into everyone on the face of the earth. Rights of human begin to be religiously observed throughout the globe. Everyone pays due respect to dignity and fundamental rights of others. This brings up an inexpressible revolution in our lives and customs. There are no crimes against humanity, and all degree and types of vices would vanish from murder to genocide, from theft to rape. Institutions of police, army, courts and prisons would evaporate. Morality will bring up this immense revolution, however, we would still get old. The moral outburst would not prevent us from falling ill and experiencing painful separations.  The ethical paradise will not provide solace from the knowledge that we and our loved ones are going to die. We would start getting bored, and our daily life would lack any fervour. Saints, apostles, and all champions of human rights, and practically everyone, would still be hunting for fulfilled emotional life. In short, the pacific implementation of human rights might enable peaceful coexistence, but they in themselves do no giving meaning or purpose or direction to human existence. They do not help us in overcoming the primitive fears. They do not teach us how to die, or how to face death meaningfully. (Luc Ferry, 2011: 135)

In addition to this shift in the direction of philosophical discourse, other factors have also contributed to the inattention towards the problem of salvation. Some have tried to fill the gap with philosophies of ‘earthly salvation’ like patriotism, communism, socialism, scientism etc. Some others have unintentionally subscribed to materialism, consumerism and the likes, that keep them occupied from probing into the rudimentary queries about life. Some others religiously adopt the scheme of salvation that is injected into them paternally, socially and culturally, without any need to critically look beyond what is indoctrinated into them. Very few people embark on the journey of radical doubt and find the courage to dispute family, schoolmasters, priests and other “arguments from authority”. To conclude, critically contemplating (philosophizing) the question of salvation has been predominantly muted in religious to non-religious world and philosophical to non-philosophical discourses.


Ferry. L, (2011), A Brief History of Thought, Haper Collins Publisher, Newyork.

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