(Dis)Proving the Necessity of God

Matthew pointed me to this article by Dennis Prager on the need for belief in God (and by God he means a conflation of the Biblical Hebraic god with the Deistic god of the US Framers).

Now as a religious person myself I find this line of argument he takes up so counterproductive to the defense of faith. It’s full of so many partial truths overblown, no truths, it’s a mess.

This will be long as he makes numerous point each of which requires rebuttal, but the overall way of stating my general disagreement with Prager’s view is: 1) it unnecessarily drives a wedge between Judeo-Christians and secular individuals in America as well as Judeo-Christians and believers of other religions who are upstanding American citizens 2)it rightly condemns moral relativism but incorrectly asserts without God (and his God in particular) moral relativism is the inevitable end result. (more…)

More on Gadamer

From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s entry on Hermeneutics:

Human being, Gadamer argues, is a being in language. It is through language that the world is opened up for us. We learn to know the world by learning to master a language. Hence we cannot really understand ourselves unless we understand ourselves as situated in a linguistically mediated, historical culture. Language is our second nature

This has consequences for our understanding of art, culture, and historical texts—i.e., on the subject area of the human sciences. Being a part of our own tradition, historical works do not primarily present themselves to us as neutral and value-free objects of scientific investigation. They are part of the horizon in which we live and through which our world-view gets shaped. We are, in other words, formed by these great works before we get the chance to approach them with an objectivizing gaze.

Gadamer argues that we never know a historical work as it originally appeared to its contemporaries. We have no access to its original context of production or to the intentions of its author. Tradition is always alive. It is not passive and stifling, but productive and in constant development. Trying, as the earlier hermeneuticians did, to locate the (scientific) value of the humanities in their capacity for objective reconstruction is bound to be a wasted effort. The past is handed over to us through the complex and ever-changing fabric of interpretations, which gets richer and more complex as decades and centuries pass. History, as Gadamer puts it, is always effective history. This, however, is not a deficiency. It is, rather, a unique possibility, a possibility that involves the particular kind of truth-claim that Gadamer ascribes to the human sciences: the truth of self-understanding.

This is something of what I was trying to get across in my post on the Jesus of History and the Holon of Christ arguing that the Historical Jesus is another kind of Christ figure, another figure of faith.  I didn’t have Gadamer’s precise philosophical language at the time, so the piece suffers in that regard.

More after the break, er breaking this down…. (more…)

Habermas on post-secular society

[Edit note:  On the use of worldview colors from Spiral Dynamics, see here.]

Brilliant integral essay by Habermas on the notion of post-secular society.  In the best sense of the word integral.

Secular society he defines as the European Enlightenment.  When governments in Europe became secular in order to stem the Wars of Religion.  During this period different religious groups continued to exist and in mixed confessional countries (e.g. Habermas’ own Germany) each religion basically self-segregated (in Germany Lutherans in the North, Roman Catholics in the South).  For Habermas this was a uneasy modus vivendi of don’t bother me/I won’t bother you.  But nothing deeper than that.

Habermas critiques both radical multiculturalism (religiously premodern [blue] or culturally postmodern [green]) as well as the ideology of secularism (e.g. Richard Dawkins [orange]) as both unliberal in their formations.  He wants a balance between shared citizenship and cultural difference (yellow holonic social discourse).

His conclusion:

Were secular citizens to encounter their fellow citizens with the reservation that the latter, because of their religious mindset, are not to be taken seriously as modern contemporaries, they would revert to the level of a mere modus vivendi – and would thus relinquish the very basis of mutual recognition which is constitutive for shared citizenship. Secular citizens are expected not to exclude a fortiori that they may discover, even in religious utterances, semantic contents and covert personal intuitions that can be translated and introduced into a secular discourse.

So, if all is to go well both sides, each from its own viewpoint, must accept an interpretation of the relation between faith and knowledge that enables them to live together in a self-reflective manner.

Published in: on July 25, 2008 at 10:50 pm  Comments (1)  
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Dawkins’ Delusion

About a third of the way into The God Delusion and this line summarizes (for me) what is fundamentally wrong with this book:

p.141 (my emphasis)

Natural selection not only explains the whole of life; it also raises our consciousness to the power of science to explain how organized complexity can emerge from simple beginnings without any deliberate guidance.

Let’s just take the science as is.

Underneath what he has written, philosophically (and I would add spiritually), is a naked display of power. The problem isn’t science. The problem is scientism–that is science taken from its proper context and applied as an ideology to all other arenas of existence without question.

The “whole of life”, in other words, is simply the description of how it (life) causally comes about. Power equals a hypothesis, an experimental test, and validation via evidence. It is about isolated scientists observing the laws of nature (so-called) usually alone or at most in a cliquish elite, who are too often infected with a lust for control of life. This is why Dawkins doesn’t understand communal (2nd-person) forms of being-in-the-world, only 3rd and 1st person. He’s not really in dialogue with nature. He’s not in dialogue with too many humans either.

Even accepting his gradualist version of natural selection as the total causal explanation of life, that is all life is. Life is to explained. As in explained away in other words. You could drive a continent through this blind spot. Or more accurately, you could drive most of the classics of world history through there.

The whole of life does not involve artistic expression, depth of awareness (except insofar as our consciousnesses are raised to the almighty beacon of Lord Science), love, relationships, political and social realities. Meaning is about explaining the cause of something alone. And that quest, so that one may gain power.

For the record…I do not subscribe to a supernatural God. I do not believe in an Intelligent Designer. So Dawkins’ critiques apply only to that god. They do not apply say to the Process God of Whitehead, which he never actually mentions (and I would gather might not even know about). i.e. This critique of mine applies regardless of one’s view of that question. It is more a question of science-ocracy in the political realm. This same critique would be leveled by a Jurgen Habermas, himself an atheist.

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 12:43 pm  Comments (2)  
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Habermas on World Order

Rummaging around the “internets” I found this fascinating article by Jurgen Habermas, written just after the US invasion of Iraq. While not wanting to endorse (necessarily) his defense of the UN over against the “coalition of the willing”, there is a great deal of truth in what he says.

On asymmetric warfare and terrorism/criminality:

[15] In the face of enemies who are globally networked, decentralized, and invisible, the only effective kinds of prevention will be on other operative levels. Neither bombs nor rockets, neither fighter jets nor tanks will be of any help. What will help is the international networking of flows of information among intelligence services and prosecutorial authorities, the control of flows of money, and the rooting out of logistical supplies. The corresponding “security programs” in pursuit of these goals are relevant for civil rights within a state, not international law. Other dangers which arise from failures of negligence in non-proliferation policies (concerning nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons) are at any rate better handled through stubborn negotiation and inspection than with wars of disarmament, as the subdued reaction to North Korea illustrates.

And this networked reality because:

[17] Empirical objections to the possibility of realizing the American vision converge in the thesis that global society has become far too complex; the world is no longer accessible to a centralized control, through politics backed up by military power. In the technologically supreme and heavily armed superpower’s fear of terrorism, one can sense a “Cartesian anxiety” – the fear of a subject trying to objectify both itself and the world around it; trying to bring everything under control. Politics loses its primacy over the horizontally networked media of both markets and of communication once it attempts to regress to the original, Hobbesian form of a hierarchical security system. A state that sees all its options reduced to the stupid alternatives of war or peace quickly runs up against the limits of its own organizational capacities and resources. It also steers the process of political and cultural negotiation down a false track, and drives the costs of coordination to dizzying heights.

As a result of going against this way of normativity, Habermas believes:

For half a century the United States could count as the pacemaker for progress on this cosmopolitan path. With the war in Iraq, it has not only abandoned this role; it has also given up its role as guarantor of international rights. And its violation of international law sets a disastrous precedent for the superpowers of the future. Let us have no illusions: the normative authority of the United States of America lies in ruins.

Given that statement (which I agree with–“in ruins”), the only remaining question is: can that guarantor role be restored in a post-Bush administration?

Published in: on December 27, 2007 at 9:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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