Friday Roundup (Belated)

“Which is the reality, and which the parody?”  Indeed.  Which?  And here is the interesting dilemma.  If one says that Caesar or the kingdoms of this world are the reality, then he must resolve himself to a concept of power as understood by this world, which is really, at bottom, the sword.  If, however, he is willing to consider the possibility that such is a parody and Christ the reality, then peace has a chance.

Reason in dialogue with faith…

Christmas carols as resistance…let us ask: Is the narrative you inhabit capable of providing the imaginative resources for the writing of such songs?  If it is not, it should be found wanting.

“Reason is not a free-floating domain of logic and evidence to be contrasted with faith as a pure movement of the soul and/or act of will whose motivation is beyond the reach of thought. The reality, of course, is that human intellection, emotion, belief and motivation to act are all intimately inter-related in a complex matrix of influence.”

“That is the heart of it: seeing ourselves honestly; seeing the world differently. That is where faith begins, beyond the answers of a system, or the disciplines of a ritual, or the requirements of a moral code. These have their place; and those who spend time in the company of Jesus will find themselves working out all these things in the light of the scriptural witness to the new life. But it all starts with that turning aside to see.”

Speaking of songs

A very Merry Christmas to all.  It is good news of great joy and peace.
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9 Responses to Friday Roundup (Belated)

  1. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    Allow me to comment on the Colledge article.

    “In other words, it is not just about the arguments themselves, but about how these arguments are received and understood; how feasible they strike one as being. Once a particular position loses its feasibility in this sense, it matters not how many rationally immaculate new arguments can be produced in its defence. What matters is how these arguments strike the listener in terms of their reasonableness. Logical and empirically justified argumentation matters enormously – few would disagree with that – but it is far from all that matters. That much else matters for determining belief other than rationality narrowly defined, is not something to be overcome through still more sophisticated and rigorous argumentation. It is rather a fact about the conditions of possibility of belief as such.”

    This is ably expressed, but it boils down to intuition, once again. (“… appraisals of, and nascent judgements about, the world.”) If you obey intuition, then you will agree with arguments that make no sense, and adopt beliefs that are false. There are no two ways about it, really. Intuition is a finely honed skill, in its areas of evaluating other people and simple, earth-bound physics. And even there, the occurrence of successful con men tells us that it is quite fallible. So … what we suppose intuition might be telling us about the cosmos, the history of man and life, the nature of unseen forces.. well, it is ludicrous to take it seriously, as this writer seems to. One must have a little more discipline than to go with one's “gut” on such far-ranging and obscure issues.

    I think the basic issue he touches on is the assumption that the faithful bring into their world view that the theory of god, supernaturalism, etc… is reasonable. This has been drilled into them since the earliest childhood, and has been the default position of humanity forever, given our natural tendency to anthropomorphize everything. So this is the intution, fine. But is it reasonable on any other basis than tradition, indoctrination, and psychological errancy? Absolutely not. Endless reams of apologetics exist to explain why god is absent- why none of the theories of theology have ever been rigourous proven, observed, or otherwise found to be true. All we have are personal “moving” experiences and plenty of tall scriptural tales. God does not exist in any clear way, but must always be given a pass for being “so huge” or so inscrutable, etc.. that we could not possibly comprehend it. But then why the big fuss, why all the kowtowing? If it is so big, it can surely allow us to go about our business without alot of pathetic pandering and knee scraping. The whole project makes zero sense on any basis other than a classic case of overblown psycho-father worship.

    “I think that would be to vastly overstate and over-simplify the situation. It overstates things insofar as it fails to do justice to the power of careful rational argumentation and our ability to convince others through the skilful deployment of evidence. It over-simplifies insofar as it fails to take seriously the elemental complexities of human reflection, deliberation and belief.”

    I am afraid not.. the statements about reason not being used in most philosophy and argumentation, especially around religion, is sadly true. Why else would these arguments drag on for millennia, and still be argued about? Anyhow, the whole discussion highlights the difference between philosophy (and theology) and science. The latter has clearly a higher committment to the reason parts of the deliberation process, (vs the belief parts), which has given rise to its objective and social success. It takes discipline, and it takes the willingness to throw out assumptions.

    .. cont…

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  2. Burk says:

    .. cont…

    “This “already car[ing]” is what is at issue here. On this account, so much of what we passionately maintain on the basis of the weighty tools of rational argumentation are things that we already cared about previously. As such, while the tools of argumentative reason are used to defend them, these come too late to explain why we hold such views in the first place.”

    Suppose what we cared about was not a particular being, deity, belief, or intuitive attachment, but truth itself? Suppose that the finding of some obscure new gene or sociological phenomenon was itself a reward, without needing it to be utilitarian, or cared-about in some ulterior fashion? That is the general scientific position, and that is what makes it so deadly to theology.

    “It is not so much that their accounts diverge on the basis of some fine point of logic or evidence, but rather that what is considered feasible – their “live options” – are utterly different. Hence the ubiquitous spectacle of two “cultures” talking with great passion absolutely past each other.”

    Absolutely.. my question is: How can theology ever be a live option, on any rational basis? It makes no sense, and it is the option that is completely beholden to all the issues the writer brings up- the preconceptions, the indoctrination, the reams of apologetics, the singing and costumes, all devoted(!) to making a live option of something that reason tells us isn't even dead, but utterly absent.

    “My point is rather that decisions to remain within a defined faith community, just as much as decisions to sever ties, are always rooted in a vast context that transcends the rational grounds we produce for doing so. This is not a cause for lament or reflexive assertions concerning the singular importance of logic and the scientific method; it is rather a recognition of the whole nature of belief and intellectual assent to anything at all.”

    Ho, ho… we can clearly assent to things without all the periphernalia of belief- without all the agonizing, the incense, the bad arguments. We can assent to things that are actually rational. And we can deny things that are not true, however much we may want them to be true. Like global warming.. we do not want it to be true, but it is true.

    So, merry post-Christmas to you, and best wishes for your year ahead!

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  3. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “This is ably expressed, but it boils down to intuition, once again. (“… appraisals of, and nascent judgements about, the world.”) If you obey intuition, then you will agree with arguments that make no sense, and adopt beliefs that are false.”

    There are several things we could note here. First of all, I don’t think what he is talking about can simply be summed up under the heading: intuition. That is far too simplistic. Second, what he is talking about we all engage in and especially when it comes to determining what we think true, good, and beautiful. Third, while I would not use the word “obey”, we all use these nascent judgements to determine, again, that which we truly believe to be the case about whatever it is we are considering. This process (holistic) is hardly simply following our “gut” or intuition alone. You are making the very “either/or” mistake he is noting we need not make.

    “I think the basic issue he touches on is the assumption that the faithful bring into their world view that the theory of god, supernaturalism, etc… is reasonable. This has been drilled into them since the earliest childhood…”

    The problem here is that we have millions of people coming to or leaving their faith as adults, regardless of how they were brought up, and many are brought up with no faith or religious background at all. Thus, none of that would explain their choices as adults to go against (or stay with) what they were taught as children.

    “…Anyhow, the whole discussion highlights the difference between philosophy (and theology) and science. The latter has clearly a higher committment to the reason parts of the deliberation process, (vs the belief parts), which has given rise to its objective and social success. It takes discipline, and it takes the willingness to throw out assumptions.”

    The above is a great example of scientism. It is shallow either/or thinking. The black and white world of those who wish the world was simpler. You set up a “versus” that exists only in your own mind and is the very purpose of the essay to show doesn’t exist.

    “Suppose what we cared about was not a particular being, deity, belief, or intuitive attachment, but truth itself?”

    Suppose this being is truth itself. Suppose truth was a person and not a belief, or intuitive attachment, or fact? Such is the Christian formulation of truth.

    “Absolutely.. my question is: How can theology ever be a live option, on any rational basis? It makes no sense…”

    Question begging. Whether it makes sense or not is the very question disputed. When are you ever going to understand this basic logical fallacy? 99% percent of your responses or comments fall under this fallacy.

    “My point is rather that decisions to remain within a defined faith community, just as much as decisions to sever ties, are always rooted in a vast context that transcends the rational grounds we produce for doing so. This is not a cause for lament or reflexive assertions concerning the singular importance of logic and the scientific method; it is rather a recognition of the whole nature of belief and intellectual assent to anything at all.” -Colledge

    “Ho, ho… we can clearly assent to things without all the periphernalia of belief…”

    I disagree. You don’t understand. You have the paraphernalia of belief—we all do. Your atheism is a belief. Your philosophical naturalism is a belief. Your scientism is a belief. You belong to that faith community that has decided to “sever ties” and your coming to that decision is “rooted in a vast context that transcends the rational grounds [you] produce for doing so.”

    Putting all the question begging aside, I don’t think you truly “get” his point and, in fact, only confirm it. He is noting the very holistic process I was asserting as to how we come to belief, in anything, and that includes you.

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  4. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    “Question begging. Whether it makes sense or not is the very question disputed.”

    The topic was actually how it is we get to that point of having a position. Do we go with our intuition, or do we exert the discipline to search out and accept truths that may not agree with intuition?

    There are many levels to our preconceptions and intuitions. Some are very basic, like assuming gravity, etc. Some are far less basic, and assume what amounts to conclusions about large swathes of reality, like theology and the religious impulse. Just how much evidence has to happen against the whole supernatural program in order show it is false? That is the real question here. No shred of positive evidence has ever supported it. All its supports have gradually been kicked away over the years/centuries. God happens only in the gaps of knowledge … how is that sensible or sustainable?

    What is one's attitude towards one's preconceptions and assumptions? The act of faith communicates with great clarity that, far from being skeptical of them, one is attached to them, at the expense of whatever else may actually be the case. Then, how much evidence might it take to alter them? It may never be allowed to happen, in proportion to how strong one's faith is. That is the problem.

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  5. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “The topic was actually how it is we get to that point of having a position.”

    Yes, that was the topic but my assertion you were begging the question went to this response, not the topic of the essay:

    “Absolutely.. my question is: How can theology ever be a live option, on any rational basis? It makes no sense…”

    Above, you are clearly just begging the question.

    “Do we go with our intuition, or do we exert the discipline to search out and accept truths that may not agree with intuition?”

    That is an exactly false and woefully incomplete understanding of our choices or the way the process works. We are exerting the discipline of searching out and accepting truths all the time and within that same process, alongside, not “either/or”, at the very same time, we are using our intuition and emotions. It is all one holistic process. It is also called being human.

    “What is one's attitude towards one's preconceptions and assumptions? The act of faith communicates with great clarity that, far from being skeptical of them, one is attached to them, at the expense of whatever else may actually be the case. Then, how much evidence might it take to alter them? It may never be allowed to happen, in proportion to how strong one's faith is. That is the problem.”

    Yes Burk, such is exactly the problem with your preconceptions and assumptions, your acts of faith, your atheism. Why aren't you more skeptical of them? Why is your faith so strong? See the problem? You are engaging in the very thing he notes, where the two sides simply talk past each other, claiming if the other side only considered the evidence and the rational arguments. The simple fact is that the “evidence” can be interpreted and “seen” to either support belief or not, but neither position is founded or proved by the evidence/facts/science alone. Neither. Both are believed and held by faith, while they both through this holistic process take into consideration the arguments and evidence. Welcome to the rest of humanity—welcome to the faith community.

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  6. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    This is rather too facile. “I'm rubber, you're glue”, etc… You and the author both concede some kind of difference between knowledge that is factually based, and ideas that are not quite so solidly based, and draw on other shaping influences like one's pre-existing frames, etc. All knowledge starts off in the former realm, unless it comes pre-stamped and approved by some trusted authority. But wait, all religious knowledge comes stamped by the highest possible authority- god! So what am I talking about? Obviously I am talking about a more solid epistemological foundation than going with intuition and tradition, (not to mention theological and scriptural con games), when approaching the so-called “big” questions. A skeptical, rational, and judicious one. That is all.

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  7. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “I'm rubber, you're glue”, etc…”

    I’ve never been quite sure what you've meant by this phrase, but the truth is that your philosophical views, while having reasons behind them (like anyone’s) are faith-based ultimately, and not simply fact or evidenced based, although they consider both (as does anyone’s). You are an atheist by faith (same goes for the agnostic).

    “You and the author both concede some kind of difference between knowledge that is factually based, and ideas that are not quite so solidly based, and draw on other shaping influences like one's pre-existing frames, etc.”

    And one of those ideas, which is not so solidly based as you think it is and draws upon other shaping influences, is your atheism/philosophical naturalism. That you keep missing this, that you keep excluding yourself from what you think everyone else, but you, does, is the problem. It is the very thing that prevents you from being objective, and blinds you to your own bias. It is scientism; it is the fundamentalist sensibility.

    “All knowledge starts off in the former realm…”

    It depends upon what one counts as “knowledge”. And this too depends upon the narrative one inhabits, which are these frames through which we “see” the facts and evidence. Is “knowledge” only noting something like, the sun is hot? Or, is knowledge also noting something like, we should love our enemies or treat our neighbor like we would like to be treated? Or should be separate these into facts and opinions? How we answer that question will reveal we are bringing a whole set of presuppositions to the question. You seem to be oblivious to this simple fact.

    “So what am I talking about? Obviously I am talking about a more solid epistemological foundation than going with intuition and tradition…”

    Again, you pose a simplistic, black and white, view of “either/or”, the very view the essay is noting as the problem. This “more solid” epistemological foundation you have in mind is always-already being used alongside one’s intuition and tradition as first pointed out by Kuhn back in 1962. In reality, there is no either/or; we are always investigating, learning, researching, testing, theorizing, conversing, and building knowledge within and through our intuition, emotions, traditions, which are all part of the narratives we inhabit. We come to this as full human beings, not compartmentalized robotic divided selves. What you suggest never happens in reality.

    You might consider applying that skeptical, rational, and judicious approach to your own atheism and philosophical naturalism.

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  8. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    “I’ve never been quite sure what you've meant by this phrase, but the truth is that your philosophical views, while having reasons behind them (like anyone’s) are faith-based ultimately, and not simply fact or evidenced based, although they consider both (as does anyone’s). You are an atheist by faith (same goes for the agnostic).”

    I use it to express my view that you are reflexively too quick to impute a mote in another's eye that resembles that in your own. The equation of faith on all sides does a disservice to the atheist part of the spectrum, which, if involving faith at all, at any rate involves faith of quite a different order and (smaller) scale than that on the theist, faith-ist side.

    It is a pat formula you have here that simply does not recognize that some things make rational sense, and other things do not. We could say that the faith of satan-worshippers, creationists, or Moonies is just the same as well, and make a clean breast of that argument. It is obvious that there is a spectrum of rationality to various ideologies and theological commitments, which you are, in vain, trying to collapse, being on the short end of it.

    “Or, is knowledge also noting something like, we should love our enemies or treat our neighbor like we would like to be treated? Or should be separate these into facts and opinions? How we answer that question will reveal we are bringing a whole set of presuppositions to the question.”

    Well, I am all ears on the topic of how this is factual, rather than opinion. Your case on this front, however, has nothing to it, other than assertion. I don't know how far that goes, really. The word “should” is itself a tipoff. The asserted factuality rests on the house of cards that is scripture and theology generally, which has conjured the opinions of its ((f)actual) authors, whoever they were, into something that others take as facts / dicta. Thus everything rests on an authority which has been so severely undermined, now for centuries.

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  9. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “I use it to express my view that you are reflexively too quick to impute a mote in another's eye that resembles that in your own.”

    It is the opposite of a mote. It is something we can only see (that we all live by faith) when the mote of fundamentalism is removed. The mote, which keeps you privileging your own view as “fact”, is in your own eye.

    “The equation of faith on all sides does a disservice to the atheist part of the spectrum, which, if involving faith at all, at any rate involves faith of quite a different order and (smaller) scale than that on the theist, faith-ist side.”

    Well, I’m afraid the faith it takes to believe there is no God is the same size faith required to believe otherwise. In fact, maybe it takes even more faith—that might explain why atheism is a blip on the radar screen of history and held by so few. There are not many as bold as Nietzsche after all.

    “It is a pat formula you have here that simply does not recognize that some things make rational sense, and other things do not.”

    Begs the question.

    “We could say that the faith of satan-worshippers, creationists, or Moonies is just the same as well…”

    You mistake faith for the narrative or the content. All the above requires faith, but that doesn’t mean the narratives are equal in any sense at all or produce the same personal and cultural results. Those are other questions. The point is that facts and evidence, or science, does not prove any of the above nor do they prove atheism.

    “Or, is knowledge also noting something like, we should love our enemies or treat our neighbor like we would like to be treated?” -Darrell

    “Well, I am all ears on the topic of how this is factual, rather than opinion.”

    This just proves my point. For you to think otherwise requires faith based presuppositions as to what knowledge even consists of, of whether there is a fact/value distinction to begin with, and how we “know” that. This goes to the whole point of the essay. Rather than address it, you simply want to engage in the very thing he is talking about, which is how the two sides simply talk past one another. As to “authorities” we all have authorities. You have science, and certain voices within science. Their voices, as far as they address philosophical questions, are as faith based as anyone’s.

    “Your case on this front, however, has nothing to it, other than assertion.”

    Well, that is the case for both of us. However, each of us takes into consideration, through the holistic process spoken of in this essay, all the same facts and evidence as we come to our assertions. There is no difference here between us as much as you would like to privilege your view.

    How about this for a New Year’s resolution: I resolve to let go of this need to privilege my own faith based views and quit mistaking them for “fact” or entirely fact based, without any emotion, intuition, authorities, or philosophical presuppositions involved in my coming to these views and shed this fundamentalist sensibility.

    Happy New Year! Cheers.

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