In Defence of Theology

Discussion in 'Critical Discussions Among Proponents and Skeptics' started by EthanT, Sep 15, 2014.

  1. EthanT

    EthanT Member

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  2. Coyne on intentionality shows his limitations in understanding things outside his discipline. For a hard determinist his use of in-group selection shaming tactics indicates someone whose metaphysical position is more about the status of believing in something "prickly" over something "gooey"*.

    That said, I don't think Bernardo did as good a job as he might have. He might have mentioned the Aristotelian tradition that, in part, led to the conversion of famed atheist philosopher Anthony Flew (see There is a God for more on this). Or, for a different spin, he might have mentioned the work of Freya Matthews and her Daoist inspired holistic panpsychism.

    Or Segall's Whitehead inspired Physics and the World Soul, or Tallis' comparison of the theist needing to explain divine action to atheists explaining everyday causality...and so on.

    My point is not that I can name drop a bunch of philosophers I only read in the last month ;), but rather that there's a lot of work done that relates to theology, and a variety of arguments that go beyond Mind@Large. Bernardo did touch on the fact that philosophy of religion goes beyond science b/c it examines supposed brute facts science has largely taken for granted, but I think providing more examples would buttress the argument. Feser's Can We Make Sense of the World? is a good examination of what philosophy of religion is about.

    In part this is b/c I think most people, especially those of a pseudoskeptical bent, will balk at the idea that everything is in consciousness. Heck, I'm not a pseudoskeptic and even I can't quite accept it!

    I also think showing the variety of people taking issue with materialist assumptions can be a good thing.

    *From Alan Watts:

     
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  3. malf

    malf Member

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    I don't want to get into Bernardo's Idealism (again) which takes up at least half of the piece (metaphor overload ;))....

    However, with phrases like:

    ... and

    .... I'm not sure that this a defence of theology any more than it is a defence of any good literature or art.
     
  4. EthanT

    EthanT Member

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    So, basically, you're trying to say your "prickly" ;-)
     
  5. malf

    malf Member

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    I didn't mean to come over as such ;)...

    To defend "Theology", one has to argue why we should treat scripture as something other than great literature. I don't really think he does this.
     
  6. Bernardo Kastrup

    Bernardo Kastrup New

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    I acknowledge your point! Thank you. Will study the links you provided.
     
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  7. Bernardo Kastrup

    Bernardo Kastrup New

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    I am totally comfortable with this assertion! Yes, it's an equal defence of good literature, art, mythology, and depth psychology, insofar as the good practice of these disciplines gives us some insight into the first-person perspective of mind-at-large.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2014
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  8. Bernardo Kastrup

    Bernardo Kastrup New

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    Indeed I don't. I just don't share your premise. Great literature, if read with the right symbol-interpreting eyes, gives us profound insights into the depths of the psyche, which touches on the first-person perspective of mind-at-large. Personally, I am utterly uninterested in whether religious stories were literal historical facts or not. It's possible that some of them were, since archetypes also manifest in the world. But to me that is unimportant when compared to the immense, true value of those stories.
     
  9. Bernardo Kastrup

    Bernardo Kastrup New

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    Just one addition: the difference between ordinary literature and religious scripture is empirical. The latter, for some reason, has managed to seize the psyches of millions of human beings and spread like fire across both space and time. Scripture has passed the test of time (it's beyond a fad). It touched on something deep in the psyche and continues to do so. That's relevant for figuring out what gives us better access to the perspective of mind-at-large, despite the contamination with moral agendas, social and political manipulation, etc., that scripture has suffered over the centuries. I'm talking about the core, symbolic essence here. You don't get that effect from ordinary novels. On the basis on this empirical fact, I think it would be crazy for theology to focus much on something other than traditional scripture, although I wouldn't say they need to focus 100% on scripture...
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2014
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  10. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    Concisely expressed, Bernardo. The symbolic, perhaps the only true gnosis we can aspire to, is lost on those who identify with materialism. They remain anchored in the iconic (what things appears to be) and the indexical (the signals it emits in relationship to the icon). The symbol is relegated to a lesser form of knowing, a slippery, unyielding thing of no interest. For this reason scripture, which encompasses free ranging signifiers at iconic, indexical and symbolic level, is only perceived at the first two orders. Hence we have Dawkins' unpicking the iconography to better disassemble his uber-icon, the Blind Watchmaker. Materialism is a world without anchors, because it does not recognise the common sea bed of mind. It is adrift in the tides of modernity and progress, the flotsam of icons that sweep this way and that, perceiving the floating matter as solid by reason of its plasticity, while ignoring the all too obvious gaps.
     
  11. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Magnificent phrasing, Gabriel! :)
     
  12. malf

    malf Member

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    I have to admit, that was something.
     
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  13. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    I was going to say just f***ing dig what the man is saying, but knowing some peoples' fondness for langue over gnosis, felt it necessary to throw that word shit their way.
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2014
  14. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Bernardo, I don't think there's always the difference you point to between scripture and ordinary literature. The greatest novelists, poets, and playwrights also manage to make powerful connections with the human psyche. I suppose Shakespeare would be the most prominent example. There are a large number of themes he explores, as well as many well-crafted and memorable phrases, that resonate deep within the human psyche:

    To thine own self be true

    If music be the food of love, play on

    All the world's a stage

    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

    There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy

    Though this be madness, yet there is method in't

    Brevity is the soul of wit

    Conscience doth make cowards of us all

    Do you not know I am a woman? when I think, I must speak

    Et tu, Brute?

    Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

    What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me.

    ...and there are thousands more that to this day permeate Western culture, in English or in translation. It's not just that Shakespeare could turn a pretty phrase, but that those phrases are so very apposite to the human condition, and may be uttered even by literary philistines.

    I've long held a suspicion I've not often articulated that throughout the ages, certain people have been conduits for the transmission of key themes that float around in the "collective unconscious" (part of mind-at-large?), more awaiting discovery than invention. Many great artistic figures, and even occasionally scientists, have spoken of having been the recipients of fully-formed inspirations that they seemed to have no conscious part in formulating. Note also that it often happens that an important idea or discovery appears contemporaneously and independently: Leibniz and Newton with the calculus, and Darwin and Wallace with evolution, are classic examples.

    Every now and then, some popular word, phrase or aphorism will arise that perfectly encapsulates an idea, and will spread like wildfire, as if people were eagerly awaiting it:

    Flower power
    Internet
    Baby boomers
    Flying spaghetti monster

    When I first heard Paul McCartney's song, Yesterday, I felt quite sure I must have heard it before. Quite recently, I discovered that Paul McCartney himself felt the same way:

    The melody came to McCartney fully-formed, although he was initially unsure of its originality.

    'I was living in a little flat at the top of a house and I had a piano by my bed. I woke up one morning with a tune in my head and I thought, 'Hey, I don't know this tune - or do I?' It was like a jazz melody. My dad used to know a lot of old jazz tunes; I thought maybe I'd just remembered it from the past. I went to the piano and found the chords to it, made sure I remembered it and then hawked it round to all my friends, asking what it was: 'Do you know this? It's a good little tune, but I couldn't have written it because I dreamt it.'

    http://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/yesterday/

    One might even postulate that the symbolism of religious texts is but one aspect of a wider phenomenon that comes in different shapes and sizes. It might be thought of as something unique and special only because these texts are explicitly associated with the numinous, and have been the subject of prolonged attention. But our world, for all its purported modernity and prosaic factuality, is thoroughly permeated by semiotic influences: the iconicity, indexicality and symbolism (IIS) of Charles Sanders Peirce's triadic model, which Gabriel was probably referring to earlier. That's why a phrase like "Flying spaghetti monster" could be so eagerly adopted by the materialist community (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster).

    It doesn't matter if the IIS of ideas that have current popularity are actual truths; modern science is full of hotly-contested "truths", assuredly not all of which will be deemed as such in due course:

    Catastrophic anthropogenic global warming
    HIV as the cause of AIDS
    Pons and Fleischmann were dead wrong
    Mind is generated by brain
    Everything is material
    Gravity is the main cosmological force
    Everything started with the Big Bang
    Black holes exist
    The space-time continuum is an actual reality

    Our world is as replete with magic and mystery as ever it was. It's just a question of what we acknowledge as such; if we think of something as reality, then that's what it seems to become.
     
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  15. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    I don't think we should always "kill our darlings":

    This is mostly attributed to William Faulkner, who was probably paraphrasing Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, with “Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings.”

    http://www.writers-village.org/writing-award-blog/how-and-when-to-kill-your-darlings
    I don't know about you, but as and when I come up with a darling, I like to prune it to perfection and send it out into the world wearing its prettiest pair of bootees. ;)
     
  16. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    If I'm being paid, I'm happy to give the paragraph a bit of spit and polish, but experience suggests a literary drone will remove any gleam lest the glint blinds people. Here, bile and sugar have to slug it out. I disagree with your dismissal of scripture as more of the same, much of Western literature is a riff on biblical themes, Shakespeare included, or a reaction against it. Reading Matthew 10:8 and 9 on the bog this morning, it's difficult to frame Jesus's donation of an ability to cast out demons as anything but literal. "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without pay, give without pay. Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts." The symbolism shouldn't blind us to the imperative.​
     
  17. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    Good grief, Gabriel, such chiaroscuro sourpussery. Of course Shakespeare and quite possibly all other notables of Western civilisation of the last couple of millennia have been influenced by Christianity. However, all its themes hardly originated with it: some of them can be found in Hinduism and Buddhism, not to mention Judaism. Christianity itself was a child of its times: we live in a continuously evolving and interconnected IIS psychodrama.

    Also, I've asked you before to be careful about misrepresenting what I say: I don't believe I "dismissed" scripture. I'd say it's more that I set it in a larger context. Scripture is indubitably important, and personally, I set great store by the New Testament. I believe some of its themes are true for all time: but the same could be said of some of Shakespeare's.
     
  18. gabriel

    gabriel New

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    Well get you. I was contrasting you: "Bernardo, I don't think there's always the difference you point to between scripture and ordinary literature. The greatest novelists, poets, and playwrights also manage to make powerful connections with the human psyche";

    ...with Bernado's: "the difference between ordinary literature and religious scripture is empirical. The latter, for some reason, has managed to seize the psyches of millions of human beings and spread like fire across both space and time. Scripture has passed the test of time (it's beyond a fad). It touched on something deep in the psyche and continues to do so. That's relevant for figuring out what gives us better access to the perspective of mind-at-large..."

    I'm not saying literature is incapable of the empiricism Bernado flags up, they're all just a heap of words at the end of the day, but the range and depth of human cues in the bible is of a singular variety. Indeed it speaks so profoundly, that subsequent works with similar aspirations have to navigate its massive orbit. I think I'm nearer Bernardo's exceptionality than your first among equals. No surprise there.
     
  19. Thanks Bernardo - just to be clear I wasn't trying to attack you. Nor was I trying to say you weren't well read!

    I just think the breadth and depth of immaterialism can help you with your debates.
     
  20. Max_B

    Max_B Member

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    Quite right, thank god for common sense! One also needs to explore what one means by scripture; what particular religious scripture one is referring to; how long it's been around; and how and why it was popularized; which scriptures failed; and are no longer around etc... and consider whether such statements are even valid, perhaps speed of communication reduces duration of interest, and/or literacy improvements; perhaps increasing availability of competing literature, verses pressure on time causes the effect you claim; perhaps early starters gain advantage.

    Certainly in the UK, growing up in a non religious household, I had little to no exposure to scripture. During my childhood many of the churches closed down and were turned into DIY centers, congregations are still falling, churches are still closing, and interest seems virtually non-existent in scripture.

    Bernardo's assertion might be right, but I can think of a multitude of reasons why he might also be wrong. Even if he's right, it could be for completely different reasons.
     
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