Pic n Mix Philosophy

[IMAGE] of Woolworths Pic n Mix sweets

There’s a theory in the Philosophy of Religion called religious pluralism, which has many variations, one of which is the belief that no one religion has got it right, but that parts of different religions can be combined to find the Truth. Many years ago a friend alerted me to another term that was used for one version of this theory of religion – cafeteria pluralism. Gregory Bassham, who I believe originally coined this term, thought that he could use this to form an objection to a pluralist theory, but it’s not clear to me that it is. 1

According to Bassham, the cafeteria pluralist “eclectically picks and chooses themes and doctrines from the various religious traditions to create an idiosyncratic personal religion” –  and I like to call this a “Pick n Mix” theory of religion. Sometimes I think about who my personal god(dess) would be – a combination of the trickster Loki, the wisdom of Athena, the energy of Vishnu – you get the idea. But I digress.

So why am I writing about this? Well, because of a conversation we’ve been having on Twitter about D&G, where this happened:

Then Simon said that all reading and quoting was out of context, and I replied with “pick n mix theory of learning” and then I remembered how I’d used it before.  Now I’m going to extend it and use it for any philosophy, not just philosophy of religion.

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There’s a theory of knowledge which I am drawn to which is called coherentism, which I have written about before. According to my very superficial reading, coherentism is a theory of knowledge for a rhizomatic thinker. Unlike foundationalism, which is arborescent in its belief that there is one fundamental truth or set of truths which underpin all knowledge, coherentism sees knowledge as a web of belief, where things are justified by their consistency to other beliefs in the system.  So we can have our own pick n mix version of philosophy – a bit of Hume, some Lucretius maybe and then Spinoza, Bergson and Nietzsche, for example, with a nod to Kant and a shake of the head at Hegel.2

So there we have it – a pick n mix theory of philosophy. It doesn’t matter what the original writer meant, it’s how it fits in with your theory that matters.

  1. See here and here for more about this.
  2. The first 5 of these are Deleuze’s “orphans” – the philosophers he has the most respect for). Kant he sees as a worthy adversary, Hegel he finds “despicable”. (ATP p.x)

flickr photo by Route79 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

flickr photo by SammCox  shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

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6 Responses to Pic n Mix Philosophy

  1. sensor63 says:

    So if you are a foundationalist you can’t be a pick and mixer – which is what I was sort of saying.

  2. scottx5 says:

    Knowing of many seemingly unrelated things sounds interesting–incompleteness.
    Not sure where I read this story: Fox was bored. but being always curious she took out her eyes and started juggling them in the air to see what it looked like from the sky. Two Ravens were flying by, each grabbing an eye and flying off in different directions daring Fox to find where they were hidden.

    • NomadWarMachine says:

      Poor fox!

      I think that your 1st sentence describes how I feel a lot of the time – I know lots of seemingly unrelated things and lack the ability to join up my knowledge.

  3. charlenedoland57 says:

    I find the journey through life inspires/requires people to “pic n mix” many ideas. A common example is one which I am currently watching unfold in the life of a young couple who are dear to me. Before their first child was born, the parents declared numerous absolutes in terms of how this child was going to be scheduled, disciplined, etc. The baby is now nine months old, and the parents’ stance has significantly softened :-). I totally empathize, because I went through that experience myself twenty years ago, and had to find my way, with numerous people offering advice on everything from teething to toilet training. Ultimately, I had to make decisions based on what felt (yes, FELT) right to me. It was a combination of knowledge, prior experience, and purely emotional response that shaped my decisions. I think the same process applies to many paths and decisions in life. That’s why we older folks are also wiser :-); we’ve had more time to evolve our beliefs.

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