Weekly Roundup

Are humans significant–do we matter given the size and scope of the universe?  It is interesting to me that we even ask the question. Why would it even come up?  Why is the question itself present?

The ubiquity of religious, poetic, and metaphorical language is also interesting and something even the materialist fails to escape.  Is the atheist really a pantheist?

Fundamentalism is a possibility for any meta-narrative/world-view and something the wise in every narrative, left or right, guard against.

Really? What we are supposed to glean from a childish twitter tantrum is that no one is perfect, we all fall short?

David B. Hart is arguably America’s most intellectually capable theologian and this is worth listening to just for his comments regarding the current occupant of the White House.

Indeed, there is a distance between language and truth, just as there is between language and God.

The Christian academic community was saddened to hear of the passing of sociologist Peter Berger this week. I’ve enjoyed many of his books and he had a significant impact on the thinking and lives of many.  God speed.

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8 Responses to Weekly Roundup

  1. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    Your first question is interesting. I think the question comes up as a relic of religious thinking. Religious thought places our justification and meaning outside ourselves, in some god and its presumed purposes, all embodied in its creation. So we are trained to see meaning outside, and this is not just religious thinking, but superstitious as well, as seen in augery, astrology, etc. So now that we can look outside like never before, we are a little disheartened to find that we are not, as we had fantasized, the center of the celestial spheres, but rather the tiniest speck in a vast cosmos which may well contain many others like ourselves, whom we can never know. Nor is god in evidence. We are left in uncertainty as well as tiny-ness, at least by those old criteria. But naturally, if we found our meaning humanistically, all is well again.

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    • Hi Burk,

      “I think the question comes up as a relic of religious thinking.”

      But that only moves my question further back. If such a question is part of religious thinking (more accurately, I think it is simply part of philosophical thinking, or…being human) then why does it arise however we want to label that type thinking?

      Whether we find meaning “humanistically” or otherwise, my question is why do we even need to find such or think about such? If there is no meaning, whether we manufacture that meaning or believe falsehoods, it is still a mystery as to why we would need to do either in the first place when it in fact does not exist (if such is what one believes) by which I mean does not exist outside myself, existing whether I think it does or not.

      So that is my question. Some might posit that we needed to create falsehoods to deal with the fact we did not understand the universe and out of fear we created gods and supernatural forces to make sense of the world. However, that misses the mark as well. I’m not talking about understanding the world–I’m speaking more to our inner world and understanding ourselves. Even now when we do understand how the world works in, at least, the mechanical sense, we still seem to need meaning of some sort. Why? Why is their a need for something that can never be filled or answered (if one believes such)? Is that hell? We might say, well, it can be filled–we do that, we manufacture meaning. But of course, no one wants to think they made up or manufactured something as important as meaning. That would mean we were living a lie. And it would still not address or explain why we needed to manufacture a lie in the first place.

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  2. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    It is not a lie to say that we mean a great deal to each other. Nature means a great deal to me, etc.. That we have meaning and perceive it, make it, and live by it.. are patently obvious and clear. However, we have been obsessed theologically and philosophically in creating something more than this- projecting a general and dramatic justification by way of outside entities. The origin of this impulse is clear enough. We mean most to our parents. So why not posit a celestial parent who loves us, and to whom we are the apple of its eye? And then have it evolve psychologically from a parenting model of harsh discipline to one of love? Why not indeed? Psychologically understandable, but it is a philosophical fool’s errand.

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    • Burk,

      I think you are confusing two different things. That we react to each other and nature is, of course, not a lie. But that isn’t what I’m talking about. When we reflect upon why we react the way we do, we can either manufacture a lie about those reactions or we can believe they really (objectively) are meaningful (not that they simply exist).

      My question is why do we do either?

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      • Burk says:

        Hi, Darrell-

        There is nothing objective about it. That is the fixation that you, Plato, and the other rafts of theologians, etc. are getting wrong. Would it make it easier if that were not the case? Not if you think about it. If we really existed in a command-world where we meant only what some celestial being said we did, we would not be free, or have a very interesting existence. It would be a dog-like existence.

        I do not have to manufacture a lie about meaning, because I do not seek to make what is subjective into something objective.

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  3. Burk,

    You are begging the question. You may not think that something subjectively made up, imagined, like Santa Claus, to be a lie, but it certainly isn’t a reflection of anything that is true or exists. And if what we think truly meaningful (meaning what gets us up in the morning, what we live for, work for, sacrifice for, hope for, love, laugh, and find joy in) is in the same realm as Santa Claus, then many would suggest it is still only a lie we tell ourselves. You can call it whatever you wish and if calling it subjective helps you, fine. Again, it still leaves my question unanswered.

    Again, whether one believes meaning to be subjectively manufactured (made up/not true/a comforting lie) or is a reflection of some objectivity reality, why do we need or seek either?

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    • Burk says:

      Hi, Darrell-

      The difficulty you have in formulating it is a sign that you are formulating a bad question. Why do we seek meaning? Why do we see constellations? Why do we auger the future from the flight of birds? We seek plenty of things that are not there, at least objectively.

      Subjective meaning is far less fraught- it comes automatically with being in relationships, and having interests. I may be interested in the Celtics basketball team –> thus meaning. No seeking required.

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      • Burk,

        I’m fairly sure a simple and agreed upon observation (that people in general, from time immemorial have sought meaning) and asking why that is—isn’t a bad question. In fact, it may be “the” question.

        We see constellations because they exist. To say that meaning comes “automatically” is again only to note that we react to our surroundings. It says nothing as to my question. And to equate liking a sports team to seeking “meaning” or finding such is to misunderstand the term and conversation.

        I don’t really seek an answer to my question. I just think the question is something any reflective person of any depth should consider; and they should also ponder how well the narrative they inhabit is equipped to address it.

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