I was recently wondering about the possible philosophical thought journey that led religious scholars to create some religious concepts (such as Heaven).

I am not interested in the religious part of that construction, or about whether it makes sense or not. It is more about the train of thoughts and conclusions that were done in order to construct it this way and not another.

Specifically, I would like to avoid to ask this question on the religious sister sites because the answers will be engrained in the books and general codification of that entity - which is not what i am looking for.

Are such questions on topic for this site?

  • Seems like such a question would be more in the field of anthropology or sociology than philosophy. (Personally I'd say such a question can't be addressed academically at all, and anyone who thinks they can is kidding themselves. What's the origin of heaven as a concept? How can that be answered with anything other than speculations?? What's the earliest mention of a heaven could be answered, but would probably belong on the History site.) Dec 19, 2020 at 14:34
  • @curiousdannii "such a question can't be addressed academically at all, and anyone who thinks they can is kidding themselves" well, having a PhD in physics I am of the opinion that "academically" does not fit at all for an area where everything is speculations. But since there is a site where people do speculate about intangible things, this is the best place to ask such questions when they arise. I was looking for the "why" people built that concept in their head the way they did (specifically - my question would be about the intended target to make the punishment eternal in hell)
    – WoJ
    Dec 19, 2020 at 16:25
  • No, there shouldn't be any speculations like that on this site. Speculations belong on the World Building site. Dec 19, 2020 at 22:17
  • @curiousdanii well everything on this site (and religious ones) is pure speculation and building ideas out of thinking, and debating about this ideas without any evidence. I am not saying this is a bad thing but it simply stays in the realms of "I think this, you think that" and there is no way to find who is right. If you remove speculations, yoy remove the site.
    – WoJ
    Dec 20, 2020 at 8:53
  • No, the religious sites are definitely not purely speculation. Many prohibit any questions that cannot be objectively answered. Dec 20, 2020 at 10:07
  • @curiousdannii: "objectively" as in "according to teachings and books" you mean. The teaching and books are purely speculative - based on ideas some people make in their heads about the world (often in contradiction with the world around them)
    – WoJ
    Dec 20, 2020 at 10:15

1 Answer 1


Short Answer

I would say a qualified yes. Religion and theology are not distinct from philosophy, and traditionally have been a source of philosophical thought. To a certain extent, it depends on metaphilosophical attitudes because this appears to be a question within the confines of metaphilosophy itself.

Long Answer

For the record, the only related meta post seems to be Theology tag equivalence.

Now, metaphilosophy is just the use of philosophical methods to examine philosophical methods. Besides, the notion that the thinking of Thomas Aquinas is NOT philosophical would be very hard to defend. The historical trajectory from polytheistic myth to philosophy to theology to natural theology to science is an undeniable fact of the historicity of the lineage of theory in the eyes of the philosophy of language. However, there are strategies to focus on the philosophical aspects of these thoughts which need to be observed. My rule is simple requiring a consistency in terminology, methods, and goals. To the extent the question complies with the criterion, the question complies with philosophy:

The Weak Philosophical Razor of Demarcation I offer for handling the demarcation of religion from philosophy is this: Is the question phrased in the terminology of philosophy using the methods of philosophy for the aims of philosophy as opposed to being in the terminology of the religion using the methods of the religion for the aims of the religion?

This of course can be generalized to:

The Strong Philosophical Razor of Demarcation I offer for handling any demarcation: Is the question phrased in the terminology of philosophy using the methods of philosophy for the aims of philosophy as opposed to being in the terminology of some other discipline using the methods of some other discipline for the aims of some other discipline?

To the extent (this is not a question of binary logic) that the answer to the razor is yes, the answer to your question is yes. Hence, the qualified yes.

In a text, for instance, it's possible to infer the authors tone and attitudes. Using a discussion about "religious structure" to convert disqualifies, but asking questions about the identity, history, logic and fallacy, or meaning (not all at once please!) of the "religious structure" would very much be very appropriate. If one can apply the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of religion, or some other philosophy to questions about arguments in religion, than it's clearly a philosophical topic. If one applies the reasoning to proselytize or defend the moral absolutism of the argument, one is preaching. I've seen both on the site, so if you stick to the former, you'll have an easier time defending.

Now, the natural follow-up to this question is what are the strategies to keep this out of the theology category or avoid being off-topic, and what are those that make it a good philosophical question. This is a matter of some concern to this site since over the last ten years, the site seems to have changed from how it was used originally to how it is currently being used. I can't say that I can even adequately characterize the transformation because of my relative newness to the site. What I can say is that to address the details where the devil hides, it might help to start with the following two posts after reading the community FAQ:

FAQ for Philosophy.SE

Friends, Are We Not Philosophers: Is This Place a Bazaar or a Cathedral?

Friends, how could a question about an idea with its own article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy be closed as off-topic?

There are some inherent tensions here as to what this site is and how it should be used. A good discussion about the tensions can be found at https://stackoverflow.blog/2012/03/22/respect-the-community-your-own-and-others/.

My suggestion would be to jump in and take a shot at the question, and see what happens after you review. Definitely search for your question first and see what is in the knowledge base, and then do your best to formulate a question according to some of the ideas in the links above. After that, if you have problems or questions, use the comments section below to seek clarification. If that doesn't help, you can post a follow-up question here on Meta for details.

Be prepared for strong opinions on the nuances between religion, the philosophy of religion, the use of philosophy in religion, and religious philosophy which might rear their heads. You may be besieged philosophical attacks in the comments, with votes for closure often without critical feedback on why, or occasionally abusive ad hominem. Don't take it personal, and know there are mechanisms for handling such events.

Good luck!

  • 1
    Thank you for the extended answer. As for your last kind warning, no worries about that - I am used to filtering the noise from the constructive opinions that align with mine and (more interestingly) the ones that do not.
    – WoJ
    Dec 19, 2020 at 7:59

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