The Philosophical Landscape of Franklin

In my early days in the Church of Church there seemed to be a fear of Philosophy. It was within the larger category of the “foolishness of man” as opposed to the “wisdom of God.” The origin of the universe was found in the first chapter of Genesis. Logic was something you should have learned, or maybe been born with. Any omission of logic was usually followed by a lengthy verbal reprimand. Ethics was some all inclusive collection of selected Bible verses reinforced by what your mama told you. Then the fundamental nature of reality, took away the culture we revered as our “used to be.”

I took my first Philosophy course in 1998 after four decades in college. Ironically, it was Ethical Theory at Lipscomb University, followed ten years later by The History of Philosophy also at Lipscomb for my sixth decade in college.

One Sunday morning after one of my Sunday school sessions at the Fourth Avenue Church of Christ a woman approached me and asked about something I had said. She asked if it was something I had known or something I had learned from a book. I told her I did a lot of reading to prepare for each lesson. The class included several elders and deacons, some of them fundamentalist Bible scholars, and the few secularists and free thinkers. I found that by remaining within the ideological boundaries of that diversity I could maintain a safe degree of tolerance. The class was in a small auditorium with about 125 people on a typical Sunday morning, and they let me teach for three years.

In my earlier days as an almost English major, I was exposed to Greek and Roman, and European Literature. English, History, Theology, Political Theory, and other liberal arts courses which had nothing to do with my career as a Main Street merchant. I found those subjects finding a way into my Sunday school lectures and my daily conversations with customers and visitors to Franklin. I still have people tell me about long conversations in their early visits before and after they decided to move to Williamson County. It may have been that I was the only liberal Democrat they met on those early visits.

By the time I closed the store in 2003, I had written and published three books, which I sold in the store. In more recent books, I have been fortunate to have blurbs, forewords, and prefatory remarks from credible scholars, preachers, and authors. One of the local newspapers, in covering a book event in Leiper’s Fork, referred to me as one of Franklin’s “most prominent” philosophers. I don’t know that I fully appreciated the scope of that accolade. My fifty-two years as a Main Street merchant, and the politics, Theology, and philosophy of my books seem to have validated the title for my sixth book, Main Street Philosopher.

In reality, in Williamson County, a majority of our adults have college degrees. With a church on every corner, we are blessed with philosophical theologians. Our students are the highest performing in the state. I think the fear of generic intellect has gone away except in some intolerance of liberalism, and anything the religious community might label as secular. There is more to Philosophy, than just the body of what we believe. The value of Philosophy is the exploration of things we did not know and the discovery of ideas we had never thought about.  Philosophy includes branches and divisions that may or may not clearly define those ideas within the following concise definitions:

Aesthetics–the branch of philosophy dealing with such notions as the beautiful, the ugly, the sublime, the comic, etc., as applicable to the fine arts, with a view to establishing the meaning and validity of critical judgments concerning works of art, and the principles underlying or justifying such judgments. (2) The study of the mind and emotions in relation to the sense of beauty.

Metaphysics– (1) A division of philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being and that includes ontology, cosmology, and often epistemology.

Cosmology–The science of the origin and development of the universe; an account or theory of the origin of the universe.

Ontology–The branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.

Epistemology–The study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity.

Ethics–The branch of philosophy that deals with morality. Ethics is concerned with distinguishing between good and evil in the world, between right and wrong human actions, and between virtuous and nonvirtuous characteristics of people.

Logic–The science that investigates the principles governing correct or reliable inference. (2) A particular method of reasoning or argumentation. (3) The system or principles of reasoning applicable to any branch of knowledge or study.

These may not be subjects you would expect to encounter on a typical downtown street corner or in a Church of Christ across the parking lot on the same street. But downtown Franklin is not a typical ideological landscape with the aesthetic, logical, and ethical tradition of its Public Square and its Main Street.


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