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Faith and Reason 
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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Harry Marks wrote:
It might be that Jesus intentionally provoked this, after declaring himself Messiah, to dramatize the prophetic declaration "with his stripes we are healed." It might be that he believed the heavens would open and time ended. It might be that it is all a myth, as the mythicists declare, and Mark or one of his intellectual sources intuited that a live human martyr was more transformative than a heavenly victim of demonic forces.
I would like to respond to this comment by further analyzing Christianity within the scientific prism of evolutionary biology. A feature of how evolution works, as I understand it in both genes and memes, is that a potential unfilled niche offers fertile conditions for durable stability, even though the evolutionary niche may be empty. Before the niche is occupied, existing organisms and ideas are constantly experiencing random mutation, with the occasional mutation proving adaptive, and thereby becoming a cumulative enduring part of the gene pool, which thereby becomes more complex.

Eventually, one or several of the mutants will jump through the specific random gap that sits at the boundary between the simpler previous 'preadaptive' ecosystem and the even more complex identity enabled by the new unfilled niche. By finding the empty niche, the gene or meme will then prosper and multiply until it fully colonizes the new available territory. That model suggests that the speed of evolution will not be constant, but will speed up when it crosses thresholds between niches.

In the case of the Christian meme of an anointed saviour (a ‘Christ Jesus' in Greek), an important part of the context for this cultural evolution was that the barbarous conquests of the Mediterranean region by the Romans and Greeks created the conditions for a resurgence of universal eastern ideas of connection between earth and heaven. These ideas had been corrupted in Greco-Roman myth into forms that reflected their conquistador mentality. The available niche provided by the pervasive belief in a social need for a divine mandate appears, in the proto-Christian world that was pre-adapted to the coming Christian ideas, to have included as a property the belief that a redeemer had actually lived on earth.

Saint Mark satisfied this desire for an incarnate redeemer with his gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. Christianity then exploded out of its previous mystery wisdom status into mass politics, with a durable fecund and stable meme. The historical truth or falsity of the story was secondary to the cultural receptivity to its message. As Voltaire said of God, if Jesus did not exist it would have been necessary to invent him.

To explore faith in the framework of reason requires that we analyse cultural evolution using the same laws of nature that govern biological evolution. Even though memes such as Jesus Christ are different from genes, they also obey similar causal laws.
Harry Marks wrote:
In all of those possible versions, there are real, non-supernatural forces to be evoked. And it may be that none of them have more than a minor partial basis in the fertility cycle of the seasons, despite the later association of resurrection with the natural rebirth that happens in Spring (with Estrus and all).
No, I disagree. The theory of God is all about stable order and power. That is exactly what the cycle of the seasons provides. There is an exact analogy between God and the sun. However, in order to say that God is revealed in word, the Abrahamic faiths had to say that the sun is only a sign of God, not the actual divine power. This idea that God transcends nature was gradually corrupted into a belief that divine order is not revealed in nature, but only as spiritual idea.

There is an excellent book by J Glen Taylor - Yahweh and the Sun: Biblical and Archaeological Evidence for Sun Worship in Ancient Israel. All the Biblical discussion of “whoring after other gods” is about the efforts of monotheism to insist on its ideal spirituality against the natural solar worship that was prevalent in the ancient world. Eventually, the ideal spirit worship won out, in my view because the older solar faiths were incapable of sustaining the imperial scale of social organization that had become necessary due to technological advances. But the older solar faiths were the pre-adaptations, the scaffolding upon which the Biblical ideas were built.
Harry Marks wrote:
I don't understand the urge to be dogmatic about it. Again, many meanings are possible for a single symbolic story or meme. Sisyphus began as punishment, signifying the futility of repetitious struggle ("and there is nothing new under the sun") and became, in Camus' hands, a symbol of determination despite all discouragement, despite a certain truth of futility.
My discussion above of the four functions of myth by Joseph Campbell reinforces your comment that there are multiple overlapping functions of any myth. And yet, the question of dogmatism is not simple. Dogma simply means teaching, but the politics of faith led to the idea that only orthodox dogma was allowed while heretical teachings were banned. That has caused dogmatism to gain a bad reputation for bigotry. But the problem is that any social consensus will acquire the quality of dogma.

Social consensus is not necessarily a bad thing, such as the assumption that the universe obeys consistent physical laws. It is fine to be dogmatic about things we all agree are sensible and good, as long as heretics are treated with courteous civility. What is in question is the boundaries of dogma, and whether a scientific culture can formulate dogmas which address the same moral terrain as religion.
Harry Marks wrote:
The key insight for me was the recognition that truth claims are one of the less relevant factors in determining which beliefs get passed on to the next generation. We simply cannot avoid an anthropological approach, in which the "etic" understanding (how the symbolism appears to those who use it) will have a correlation with the "emic" understanding (how the symbolism appears to function from the perspective of an outside observer). If you bypass how the symbol is used, in order to evaluate whatever truth claims may appear therein, you are "majoring in minors".
Belief tends to be more a function of adaptivity than truth. We believe whatever works. Over the long term, the truth will be adaptive, since constructed false beliefs will inevitably eventually encounter tectonic resistance from reality. But that can take a long time, like earthquakes.

I am not familiar with your terms emic and etic, but I think your comment about ‘majoring in minors’ is a good description of how critics of religion point to the objective status of beliefs without analyzing why those beliefs are adaptive. We should listen to those critics, because they are often speaking truth to power, which as you argued is one of the redeeming qualities of Jesus Christ.
Harry Marks wrote:
confidence has a purely cognitive nature, in which the nature of facts is the only issue and the only volitional component is purely instrumental - finding ways to implement goals which are separate issues. Faith has both the cognitive and the volitional dimension, in my view, but perhaps that is too much of a stretch. If you agree, then the difference in type is the presence of an active volitional dimension, while it may be possible to isolate cognitive (factual?) components which are the same in type as those of confidence.
Your first sentence is not clear. Facts are not the only issue for confidence. Perhaps you meant something slightly different? Confidence has both a cognitive and a volitional dimension, as does faith. Faith claims to base values on facts by saying the nature of reality justifies moral decisions. Science maintains that such faith commitments are not logical. Cognition, or knowing, is primarily factual, and requires the emotion of faith to generate will, to enable us to decide how we should act in response to facts and perceptions.
Harry Marks wrote:
All a bit semantic, but I am feeling an increase in clarity as we examine this further, which suggests to me that we are on to something valid.
Semantic analysis of the meaning of words such as faith, confidence, cognition, reason, knowledge, belief and others discussed here contains multiple ambiguities. Discussing what different people assume words mean is the only way to provide shared clarity and disambiguate the assumptions.
Harry Marks wrote:
Incidentally, your reference to values embodying "assumptions about what kind of world we want to construct" evoked all kinds of connections for me. One of the most salient is the dynamic tension between Hume's "you can't get an 'ought' from an 'is' " (at least I think it was Hume) and Kant's (?) "'ought' implies 'can'".
Yes, I discussed Hume and Kant at some length previously, including in this thread, and for this very reason you raise.

The idea that we construct our world is a central point of Heidegger’s Being and Time as a basis for the existential theory of meaning as care. When I first encountered constructivist language I thought it was wrong, because of my instinctive empirical rational prejudice against the theory that reality is dependent on the mind. But we have to distinguish “the world” from reality, since our human world is in fact a constructed cultural model, built upon our faith in myths, even while our human world rests upon an actual physical reality that we only partly glimpse.

I think excavating the relation between reality and the world is a central task of philosophy.
Harry Marks wrote:
One rhetorical device for robbing ideals of power is to argue they are "utopian" by which people mean "impossible." Anglo-Saxon political philosophy is eternally a dialectic between Hobbesian, pessimistic views of limited possibility, on the one hand, and Lockeian, optimistic views of expansive possibility, on the other.
In my undergraduate philosophy degree I studied Hume, Locke, Descartes, Plato, Husserl, Sartre, Kant, Hegel and Heidegger. I did not like British philosophy, and much preferred the Germans, while seeing Sartre as derivative from Heidegger.

I had a look at Leviathan by Hobbes for the first time just this year, and found it fascinating as politics. I dislike Locke because I think of him as a narrow legalistic apologist for empire, and his theory of the mind as an empty slate is mere barbarism.

Christianity has eschatological ideals at its centre, and the passion is a story of how ideas triumph over cynicism. What that illustrates to me is that the achievement of utopian visions has to be based on empirical analysis of reality, set in an incremental evolutionary framework of adaptation from precedent. Faith is about building upon what we have through practical reform, under the eye of a higher eternal vision.
Harry Marks wrote:
I am in some doubt whether "pure freedom" can have any existence. It may be that "responsibility" is the issue we really want when existentialists start talking about "freedom." One of the things it highlights is that there are "sins of omission" in rejecting responsibility, having to do with failure to think carefully, failure to face unpleasant implications, as well as failure to get a proper education.
Hegel held that freedom is the recognition of necessity. Sartre presented a deeply confused idea of freedom as unconstrained existential choice. Hegel’s view is pure freedom, understood as responsible duty. This derives from Plato’s idea that knowledge of virtue compels good action.
Harry Marks wrote:
But society can, to some extent, make up for those moral failings, which gives us a certain kind of collective responsibility.
The moral failings you mention arise from a bad faith notion of freedom as unconstrained volition. We are always constrained, so good faith is about making the best of our constraints through duty. That is Kant’s ethic of Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals in an imperative, or ultimate commandment of reason, from which all duties and obligations derive, which he argued is that we should "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law." The high freedom of Kantian duty is about grounding faith in reason.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
You seem to postulate a source distinction between magic and science, when these were inextricably interwoven in ancient religion, for example with astrology as a method to divine divine intent.

No doubt you are correct that they are heavily interwoven, and we will never disentangle the sources of that interweaving. At a minimum I try to keep in mind that the intent to apply "esoteric knowledge" (of both genres, magic and science) has deep roots in legitimate aspirations for wholeness and peace. You seem to work from the same ground.
“Esoteric” was just a word used by Aristotle to mean the advanced teachings in his school, the Lyceum. It has come to acquire occult associations, which are themselves a massive issue in cultural politics, for example with the hermetic origins of renaissance science. Your suggestion that wholeness is an esoteric idea picks up on the sense that dominant culture is fractured, and authentic integrity requires a paradigm shift which is eschatological in scale. That is what I think anyway.
Harry Marks wrote:
But I wonder if the separate roots in psychosocial phenomena (or confirmation bias about such ambiguous phenomena) and physical-biological phenomena (which are much more reliable) may be a useful tool for viewing the functioning of symbolic systems.
That is a rather compact sentence! Symbols are primarily cultural, grounded in the subjective/social construction of meaning, whereas facts are primarily scientific, about objective real meaning. Confirmation bias is endemic in the process of world-creation as myth. It is possible to psychoanalyze the factual content of symbols, and that is something Jung explored in books such as Man and His Symbols.
Harry Marks wrote:
All the hand-wringing in the New York Times about Trump (or "Drumph" as I prefer to think of him) has tossed up a few useful ideas, such as the unprecedented split between male and female perceptions of what is going on (recent analysis of the sizeable college-educated male appeal of Trump was excellent). Reading between the lines, women tend to see the eroded status of masculinity and its roles in terms of "privilege" and "oppression" (not without reason) while men are more attuned to "liberal" abdication of the group solidarity which made up militarism, protectionism and unionism. And it is true - our individualistic ideology has used "reason" to tear down critical institutions of this critical solidarity. Also to tear down racism, but through the group solidarity lens that tends to look both natural and sensible to whites.
That is ironic, seeing feminism and individualism as allies. Traditionally they are in conflict, with feminism allied to collective notions of sisterhood. There are a wealth of subconscious factors at play with the emotional impact of Donald Trump. The traditional tribal settlement in the consensus around national values that you describe is under unrelenting attack from the forces of globalization. I personally support global market forces as a great power of efficiency and productivity, but making the market just requires strong regulation, as Hayek well argues. I think the Nice incident will lead to a rethink of open borders.
Harry Marks wrote:
Must run, but I loved the myth of care, and will return to the later material when I can.
Yes, with the care myth, Heidegger bases his modern existential ontology on primal divine powers represented by the planets Jupiter and Saturn as seen in Roman stories. That is a rather provocative way of thinking, but quite profound.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Interbane wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
we have abundant certain knowledge of physical objects and scientific facts.
That's simply not true. Skeptical arguments are successful in showing that we rarely or never have beliefs that are certainly true in the objective sense. What you think is an abundant list actually requires a great deal of thought on your part to rest neatly in the grey area between synthetic and analytic propositions. Truly synthetic propositions are almost never able to be shown as certainly true.

Personally I find that whole line of analysis to be strongly reminiscent of Zeno's Paradox: falling out of a gap between the clarity required by logic (analytical propositions? I am not very familiar with the distinction from synthetic) and the apparent implications of the ways we fill in the mechanisms to get to that clarity. Radical doubt, like the Brain in a Vat or "The Matrix" possibilities, is just not fruitful for good thinking.

Interbane wrote:
Consider the statement that "night follows day". First, you have to define the terms absolutely. Which means you need to identify what exactly it means for something to "follow" in the temporal dimension, along with all the philosophical baggage that goes with that. Night and day need robust definitions. By the time you finish, the statement is analytic.

Of what possible use is it to distinguish certainty from knowledge in these mundane cases? Isn't it more important to find the mental constructs involved which may or may not be true (e.g. "night follows day because the sun always rises from below the earth at the same time at this point in the seasons")?



Last edited by Harry Marks on Sun Jul 17, 2016 5:02 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
Perhaps we have had similar life journeys Harry, although I suspect your mention of the Jesus Freaks dates you a bit older than me (I am 53). Have you seen https://www.amazon.com/Jesus-Freaks-Sto ... 1577780728 Jesus Freaks?

I am 58. I will have to wait to address my Jesus Freak days.
Robert Tulip wrote:
As usual with theology, I find it less than adequate scientifically, but interesting morally.
My comparable experience is that for a while I thought that Jesus was a miraculous prophet, since I could not square what I see as the deep accuracy of the Biblical vision with merely natural causes.

Well, it would be less than adequate scientifically, wouldn't it? The fundamentalist illusion, that some external intelligence has chosen to reveal certain aspects of "reality" to us, is just not tenable. Even if that intelligence exists, she has chosen not to commandingly demonstrate miraculous authority by, say, giving us the periodic table before we were ready to interpret it. So the whole "authority by supernatural demonstration" is clearly mythological.

In my view there may be esoteric science, such as astronomy, hidden in the Biblical vision, but if so it is probably accidental rather than fundamental. More on that in a separate post.

Robert Tulip wrote:
I have focused on how to reconcile the Bible with science, by seeing all unscientific appearances as either mistakes or as allegory for a deeply scientific intuition of the nature of the world.

I hope that proves fruitful. Again, more in my response to your response.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:

My faith may have been saved as much by having studied Sophocles with Joseph Campbell in the background as by finding Tillich and Kierkegaard.
It would be great if you could expand on those authors.

Sophocles had a great intuitive grasp of the function of myth. His use of the "Erinyes" (harpies, or thereabouts) as equivalents of the conscience embodying the worldview and values of the family/community demonstrates this explicitly. He was building on Aeschylus' pioneering dramatic construction in which the myths (such as the Agamemnon cycle) become a way of examining the dilemmas of life in society. In my view they are as important to cultural history as Plato himself.

Joseph Campbell, who is very interesting but actually a poor writer, with trouble pulling his material into systematic structure, gave me a sense of how this handling of myth works. I have read a couple of his books, and find that he is at his best when he is unpacking specific cases. No question, for example, that Orpheus, Gilgamesh, Buddha and Jesus all go on a "hero's journey" with structural similarities, but Campbell never goes near the question of how to deal with the differences between them: in what larger framework can we see the relation between context and archetype.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Tillich and Kierkegaard are deep but neglected thinkers, with Tillich’s concept of God as the ground of our being providing an important path to reconcile faith and reason, and similarly Kierkegaard’s idea, which I encountered mainly through Heidegger, that existence involves jumping into a circular reasoning of assuming that we exist as being with others in the world.

Tillich was quite explicitly searching for a deeper truth behind the mythological elements of religion. His existentialist framework is, in my view, not as useful as the process theology which came out of Whitehead's Process Philosophy, but it is vital to sorting out the epistemological issues.

I am about half way through "The Courage to Be" and got somewhat bogged down in his ontological discussion, but I think he was both correct and insightful in seeing the "subjective/objective" split as irrelevant to existential issues. To use a more up-to-date and accessible language, existential issues are those which arise simply because we are beings who can reflect about choice and its process: one might say "we have to decide in real time" and cannot wait for "objective evidence" to settle whether, say, duty should take priority over self-affirmation.

Kierkegaard recognized this nature of such issues a century before. He was a genius in understanding the true ("ontological") content of the Christian religion, and he unpacked Paul's insight that we are saved by faith in a revolutionary way. He concluded that the life of faith, which is acceptance of our individual responsibility to choose, in the form of simply believing our values without having to base them in some external ethical reference framework, is a mode of existence which transcends the ethical. I am paraphrasing heavily - he wrote everything in a very parenthetical way due probably to wanting to avoid directly confronting the fundamentalist illusion in its incipient form.

He placed two stories at the center of his philosophical masterworks, "Either/Or" and "The Sickness Unto Death". The first is Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac, a clearly unethical stand. By starting off with that, he acknowledges from the first the terrifying implication of saying that choice transcends ethics. In a way it is no stronger than "existence precedes essence", but he places it in the context of a mode of living (the knight of faith, as opposed to the knight of Infinite Renunciation), so that it is squarely about living life, not about sorting out top-down moral implications. This is about confronting Kant, but even more about confronting Hegel's faith that all understanding could be unified in a grand synthesis - and that by implication there is no requirement of choice.

His other central metaphor/story is the raising of a child. I did not see the genius of it until much later reading "Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing," where he lays out the metaphor in lovely elaboration. His point is that we cannot manipulate a child into becoming its true self. By implication, then, we have to have faith in its relation to life.

I think it is well known that Kierkegaard had a diagnosis ("angst" or "despair") of spiritual sickness, but his "leap of faith" is not often recognized to be a healing step, going beyond all the arguments about necessity of moral behavior to have faith in our own becoming of our true self. In that sense I place him in the shamanic line of succession, restoring balance, rather than the priestly line, imposing order.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Heidegger’s idea that care is the meaning of being is an existential statement of faith, presented in a phenomenological atheist methodology.

I think this is so much more useful than "the ground of being." I follow Buber in locating God within encounter, rather than following Tillich's attempt to affirm the God represented by Providence and Creation. God represents, I think, the ground of meaning, not the ground of being.

To some extent this is philosophical quibbling, asking where to locate the "referent" of something which has no specific referent, and the question is the authoritative nature of a semiotic process. Is there more authority (social binding power) in the thing encountered (i.e. life) or in the encounter itself (i.e. the lived issue of meaning)? This was addressed long ago in the Brahman/Atman dialectic of the Upanishads.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Here is Heidegger’s account of the myth of care, from Being and Time: https://sites.google.com/site/heidegger ... g-and-time
Once when "Care" was crossing a river, she saw some clay; she thoughtfully took a piece and began to shape it. While she was thinking about what she had made, Jupiter came by. "Care" asked him to give it spirit, and this he gladly granted. But when she wanted her name to be bestowed upon it, Jupiter forbade this and demanded that it be given his name instead. While "Care" and Jupiter were arguing, Earth (Tellus) arose, and desired that her name be conferred upon the creature, since she had offered it part of her body. They asked Saturn to be the judge. And Saturn gave them the following decision, which seemed to be just: "Since you, Jupiter, have given its spirit, you should receive that spirit at death; and since you, Earth, have given its body, you shall receive its body. But since 'Care' first shaped this creature, she shall possess it as long as it lives. And because there is a dispute among you as to its name, let it be called 'homo,' for it is made out of humus (earth)."


Let me unpack just a few of the things I love about this. First, the misdirection. In using "naming" Heidegger obfuscates the question of "true nature" with a story framework, so that we don't start in on our own analysis of "true nature" until the story has been able to make its point.

Second, it is positively Blakeian in repudiating authority (Jupiter) and by extension logic and analysis itself, as having ownership over spirit. The decider is Saturn, an ambiguous deity who might be said to embody dynamism (role reversal and truth-telling were two prominent features of the Saturnalia). Our spirit, the deciding process (which finds paths in logic and authority in transcendence), might belong only to "eternal realms" after death, but in life meaning derives from caring, not from principle.

Third, it is somewhat Hegelian in parceling out aspects of meaning to different "deities", giving each its due, but ultimately Kierkegaardian in making a choice and assigning a fundamental "true nature" to existence.

I am reminded of a nice short story from 25 years ago, or so, in The Atlantic magazine, in which a man's father had dragged him off to many art exhibitions and extolled the virtues of great art, while trashing nearly every less glorious effort. His mother had been baffled by all the talk, and never could manage to see why the greatness of the art mattered so much. But she loved her son and devoted herself to him. Despite having trouble dealing with the devotion, and feeling a certain unworthiness in his mother's less-than-aspiring life, in the end he chose her (not entirely voluntarily). "I hate art" was the concluding line.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Harry wrote:
Radical doubt, like the Brain in a Vat or "The Matrix" possibilities, is just not fruitful for good thinking.


To entertain them isn't fruitful. But to acknowledge we aren't omniscient isn't a bad thing. Reality is stranger than we can imagine, and certainty is foolish.

Quote:
Of what possible use is it to distinguish certainty from knowledge in these mundane cases?


Because the distinction is real and makes a difference in this case. It makes a difference because it's at the intersection where Robert and I disagree. Our discussion hinges on these pedantic details.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
did somebody say jesus freak?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4DeMDjwfZc

I saw a man with a tat on his big fat belly
It wiggled around like marmalade jelly
It took me a while to catch what it said
Cause I had to match the rhythm of his belly with my head
Jesus saves is what it raved in a typical tattoo green
He stood on a box in the middle of the city and he claimed he had a dream

:lol: :hmm: :wink:


27 And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

28 And they answered, John the Baptist: but some say, Elias; and others, One of the prophets.

29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.

30 And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.

31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

how good are you at metaphors? :lol:



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Mon Jul 18, 2016 3:37 am
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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Does Horatio Alger have a "natural referent"? I rather think not, but I am not sure what you had in mind.
The example of Horatio Alger, the icon of the American Dream, is a very good one. I have never read any. His depiction of America as the land of opportunity certainly does have a natural referent, with the view that talent and hard work and luck can bring success in the land of the free.

Okay, so this is using "natural" in the sense of "not-supernatural" rather than "strictly non-human nature" which is where I was looking when I started the discussion of Christianity referring to nature.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The USA has provided the governance framework that is absent in most other countries for individual success using pluck and skill. That is not just imaginary – America has more inventiveness and entrepreneurial flair than anywhere.

Several things going on at once. First, Britain had the necessary governance framework, and perhaps "frame of mind", before America did, and there is an old tale "Dick Whittington and his cat" which expressed this. There are, in fact, "Jack tales" of unlikely peasant success in France and Germany as well, so probably also Italy and Iberia.

What was unusual in America was the amount of untilled land. It had been occupied, up until the Europeans arrived, by essentially hunter-gatherer societies (some large settlements and some extensive agriculture was present, but if memory serves me correctly the dog was the only domesticated animal.)

Combine all that land with the incipient Industrial Revolution and you have essentially no advantage for the education that noble landowners could provide their children. (Incomes in Iowa multiplied by 10 in the decade after railroads turned them from a grain economy to a beef economy.) Enterprise mattered much, much more than background. Fulton, Edison, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford: none of them had much education. Though Morse, Whitney and Bell finished university, they did not use their education much in business.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Horatio Alger is a great symbolic example of how nothing is possible without faith.

Yet another shade of meaning of "faith" but I am fine with it. Note the "values" component.
Robert Tulip wrote:
It is true that symbols are fuzzy, but that multivalence is meaningfully analyzed within the framework of a finite physical universe, not by postulating an infinite power in or outside the universe that is not amenable to scientific discovery. Once we install such a god of the gaps we are engaged in incoherent magical thinking.

I agree, but science has given us this divorce between magical thinking and symbolic intuition without really helping much with the social forces which symbolic intuition helped to manage.

The result may turn out to be good for religion and social cohesion, but the jury is far from ready to give its verdict on that one. Chou En-lai understood such speculation well.

Robert Tulip wrote:
It may help us to pray to the unknown, but once we start placing attributes and characteristics on things that are beyond our knowledge we are on shaky ground.
My concern is that the scientific approach has been very good at elucidating the shaky ground associated with fallacious epistemology, but remains rather clueless about the shaky ground associated with impoverished mythology. More "Future Shock".
Robert Tulip wrote:
There is an element of transcendental imagination in all religion, and that extends beyond science into philosophy. The idea of Jesus Christ as a mediator between humanity and God is too general for precise scientific description, opening vague concepts like ‘the beyond in the midst of the world’.

I am finding it very workable to use "the spirit of (interpersonal) caring" in place of "God." Thus we end up throwing out the magic element, usually without loss of generality, and find that the symbolic element almost always illuminates issues involved in that spirit of caring.

For example, to say Jesus Christ is a mediator (but probably not "the mediator") between humanity and the spirit of caring is a meaningful statement which can be evaluated, though the methods of evaluation are those of literary analysis, philosophy and anthropology, rather than any hard sciences.

The big problem comes with statements about creation and providence, which can be rendered in meaningful terms using the spirit of caring, but do lose some generality. On the other hand, this approach does not face the theodicy problem.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Theology talks about Jesus Christ as uniting eternity and time, as a way to imagine human perfection, connected to ultimate reality.

Kierkegaard renders "the eternal" as "that which is unconditioned by time." Brilliant. If we have a value which is essentially instrumental, then our commitment to it is conditioned on the specifics of the age, or even of the hour. But if we have a value which transcends such variegated factors, then it is in the realm of the eternal.
Does Jesus Christ unify time with such a realm? I would say so. By holding fast both to the specifics of life and to the eternal level of values, he gave us a demonstration of, and a door to, such a way of life.
Robert Tulip wrote:
What I was getting at was the paradoxical quality of religious meaning. Faith is served by pious recognition of a unifying reality that we only partially glimpse and so cannot fully explain, an encompassing truth that people experience as the mysterious power of grace.

Encounter works for that: the mystery is as hidden as the position/momentum combination of an electron. We cannot simultaneously analyze encounter and have one. Thus we can only partially glimpse its nature.

Grace is the benefit and "positive regard" (to borrow from Carl Rogers, the humanistic psychologist) which we receive because of the nature of the spirit of caring, in contrast with our perennial self-frustrating effort to earn our sense of self-worth by comparison with others.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Yet philosophically, if we accept the scientific assumption that there is nothing beyond the material universe whose encompassing trace is the cosmic microwave background radiation of the big bang, then all alleged gracious mysteries must in principle be coherent with physical knowledge, and the real meaning they contain is natural. The meaning in talk of God seems supernatural but is actually natural.
Indeed.
Robert Tulip wrote:
This gets to the debate between pantheism, the view that God is nature, and panentheism, the view that God is beyond nature. I am a pantheist.

Well, I am definitely not. I do not identify the spirit of caring with "everything that is" except in the sense that "life is good". If I were perennially tormented by depression, for example, I would have trouble seeing life as fundamentally good.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
The incarnation and passion of Christ have direct correlation with the fertility cycle of the seasons. The virgin birth reflects the emergence of the sun each day from the innocence of night.

Yabbut. The passion is so much more naturally explained as Power executing Truth, rather in the same manner as a book burning or the disappearances of young radicals.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Joseph Campbell held that there are four functions of myth, the Metaphysical, the Cosmological, the Sociological, and the Pedagogical. I would summarize these four functions as religious awe, vision, politics and identity, or as reverence, reason, ritual and role.

The relation between power and truth sits primarily within the social and ethical functions of myth, and only indirectly touch on awe and vision. Power seeks to exercise social and ethical control. Truth reacts to power with resistance, denying the ability of a corrupt state to control the integrity of religion. That is a core meaning of the triumph of Christ in the passion myth.

Wouldn't you think the restriction to symbolizing the return of the seasons is even more limiting? Furthermore, vision in terms of "ultimate triumph" of truth over violence is fully active and present in the Christ myth. And if people have no sense of awe about that (a recent strain of writing is looking at the "beauty" of it, borrowing from Dostoyevsky, rather than more imposing awe) then I am inclined to give up on them.

Robert Tulip wrote:
To some extent our sense of metaphysical awe and cosmic order rejects arbitrary and corrupt power, but there is equally the sense that the earth has a cyclic trajectory in which death and darkness (winter/night) are reversed by the power of life and light (spring/day). These natural processes of cosmic order are reflected in the fertility myth of the triumph of resurrection over crucifixion.

Well, this has potential for a more non-dualistic interpretation, in which light and dark have an intimate, yin-yang relation. I am willing to believe that the Christ myth is intertwined with such a non-dual perspective, though that has hardly been spelled out, but given that it is about renewal over against "the power of death", and indeed about triumph over it, it is hard to make a case that such a reading is central to it.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The power/truth dynamic reflects the clash between these autonomous agrarian cosmic traditions and a voracious megalomaniac centralizing empire in Rome built at the point of the sword.
Does it? I am not seeing it. The truth affirmed by early Christianity is universal human relationship. Rome, the culmination of a long string of empires, certainly stood in opposition to such moral, empathetic universality (Hellenism at least aspired to re-creating universality with learning, but had slavery built into its economic foundations and may never have stood a chance). By rejecting non-dual acceptance of human inadequacy, Rome did stand against the more primitive harmony with nature. But it is more than I can manage to see Pilate and Jesus symbolizing this tension, or the crucified Christ and the risen Christ capturing it.

Robert Tulip wrote:
To expand further on Joseph Campbell’s four functions of mythology: the Metaphysical, the Cosmological, the Sociological, and the Pedagogical as a framework to understand Christian theology and institutions, here I draw from a previous analysis of Christianity I wrote in 2012 against these four functions.

I appreciated your discussion of the metaphysical very much, but do not quote most of it for lack of specific reactions.
Robert Tulip wrote:
However, when we say that these imagined symbols literally exist, we close ourselves off from their real symbolic meaning.

Maybe. I am not so sure. The argument over whether any specific case of democracy is "really" democracy doesn't actually close us off from appreciating the heart-pounding symbolic meaning of the Bill of Rights. Rather I think we need to get into the phenomenology of "bad faith" to understand to what extent the quoted statement is true. Certainly an insistence that elections with one candidate, named by the party, are democratic does do some closing off. Another day, perhaps.
Robert Tulip wrote:
To reintroduce a coherent meaning of metaphysics, distinct from the merely supernatural, there is a need to recover the sense in which myth is the stories that provide meaning in people's lives.
Now I am a bit confused. I am not clear on why discussions of the eternal qualities of beauty, or analysis of the irrelevance of subject/object split to choice of values, cannot carry on without settling the question of supernatural role in symbolic expression about such matters.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Ideas of creation, purpose, eternity, spirit, transcendence and ethics form part of metaphysics and myth in this broad sense of meaningful story. We can also speak of a materialist metaphysics, in which concepts are understood as grounded in matter, but still having an eternal meaning and reality outside time.

The ethical dimension within the metaphysical can be seen in ideas of the good, the true and the beautiful.
However, religion shuts the door against truth when it asserts a supernatural metaphysical dogma is accurate against the evidence of observation. The door to truth can be opened when the intuition of transcendence is seen as giving a deeper meaning and universal coherence to the things we observe.
The statements in that quote do not present me with any difficulties.
Robert Tulip wrote:
So traditional Christianity grounds its cosmology in a false hypothesis of a God beyond the universe. That error arises, in my view, from how monotheism served the national security interests of ancient Israel, and this fantasy of the denial of nature by religion has been compounded ever since as an effective stratagem.

In my view the cosmological function is central to real understanding of the emergence of early Christianity. The stellar parallels with Biblical stories are hidden in plain sight, yet the intense pathology of Western Civilization insists the cosmic message simply does not exist.

There is an alternate view of the cosmological function. In this view, primitive notions such as life after death and demonic beings are "really" about deep psycho-social forces. Taking the "covenant" heritage of Mosaic Judaism as definitional, rather than the monotheistic purity mindset of Elijah as definitional, the Bible becomes a story about the relation between a society in which life is given meaning by mutuality, on the one hand, and the matrix of technological developments which were fueling an imperialist drive to make dominance into the source of meaning. For Campbell this may be too political and not cosmological enough, but I think all the useful awe is maintained, and the dark and manipulative awe is let go of.

Robert Tulip wrote:
In the Gospels, Jesus continually rails against the ignorance of his disciples for their failure to see simple cosmic messages. The Gospel message of recovery of sight to the blind is presented explicitly, in the example of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, as a recovery of cosmology: in Mark 8, the stellar parallels are invisible to the obtuse, causing Jesus to groan about their inability to see what is plain before their eyes.
Sorry, but I think this is a very strained view of the "failure to see" material. Even if you bring in the gnostic gospels, they read much more naturally to me in terms of the Kingdom of God and its transcendent values than in terms of a cosmological system embodied in natural cycles.

Robert Tulip wrote:
As a foundation for understanding, these encompassing functions of myth provide a solid platform for the social development of religion in the third and fourth functions of myth, the political and the dogmatic.
For me, this is an inappropriate sense of the nature of such a platform. The phenomenology of religion, both in terms of awe and in terms of inner spirituality, has always relied more on the intimate encounter with the question of true value than on the claims of authority to provide order and protection from natural disasters. The Chinese myth of "the Mandate of Heaven" is fully cosmological and fully divorced from any real sense of the source of legitimacy for rulers. Its cosmological dimension undermines any connection between metaphysics and politics.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The rise of Christianity exemplified this sense of myth as the simplification of complex messages for a mass audience. Where Christianity started with a cosmic vision, the inability of the ignorant to understand this message meant that demagogic leaders emerged in the church who pandered to the popular desire for a religion that was simple to understand and emotionally satisfying. Against these selective pressures, the myth steadily adapted to remove its origins.
There is a good case being made, these days, that Christianity was explicitly (but not too explicitly) an alternative and transcendent source of political identity. Baptism was into a trans-national "people" created by "the Holy Spirit", social boundaries (such as slavery) were intentionally ignored, and the watchword was "Jesus is Lord" (which was, of course, a kind of treason.) Drawing on Paul, for example, it is much easier to see this "hidden citizenship" than to see "cosmic vision." Yes, things "dumbed down" over time, but I attribute this to the overwhelming sense of meaning embodied in atonement language, which came to dominate over the original themes of resurrection and the Kingdom.



Last edited by Harry Marks on Tue Jul 19, 2016 5:22 am, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Jul 18, 2016 4:15 pm
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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Interbane wrote:
But to acknowledge we aren't omniscient isn't a bad thing. Reality is stranger than we can imagine, and certainty is foolish.
I will certainly grant that point. The interesting math and physics emerging from assuming that time and space are granular at very small sizes, rather than continuous, is a good example.
Interbane wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Of what possible use is it to distinguish certainty from knowledge in these mundane cases?
Because the distinction is real and makes a difference in this case. It makes a difference because it's at the intersection where Robert and I disagree. Our discussion hinges on these pedantic details.

I may have missed something in my hasty skimming of your discussion, but it sounds like you are saying this matters because you and Robert disagree over it.
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Surely you don't mean that.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Quote:
I may have missed something in my hasty skimming of your discussion, but it sounds like you are saying this matters because you and Robert disagree over it.
*** clears throat ***.
Surely you don't mean that.


I mean something very close to that. So many disagreements can be boiled down to the definition of a single word that each party holds differently. Imagine if conservatives and liberals could isolate the exact point of disagreement in each area of contention. Sometimes, entire worldviews rest on a false connotation. The smallest starting principle can lead to a massive end difference. Is it so meaningless to zero in on what's true?


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
A feature of how evolution works, as I understand it in both genes and memes, is that a potential unfilled niche offers fertile conditions for durable stability, even though the evolutionary niche may be empty. Before the niche is occupied, existing organisms and ideas are constantly experiencing random mutation, with the occasional mutation proving adaptive, and thereby becoming a cumulative enduring part of the gene pool, which thereby becomes more complex.

Eventually, one or several of the mutants will jump through the specific random gap that sits at the boundary between the simpler previous 'preadaptive' ecosystem and the even more complex identity enabled by the new unfilled niche. By finding the empty niche, the gene or meme will then prosper and multiply until it fully colonizes the new available territory. That model suggests that the speed of evolution will not be constant, but will speed up when it crosses thresholds between niches.

I have a relatively minor issue with this: I think "random mutation" is inaccurate in the case of memes, and possibly genes. Genetically, there is a lot of variation, encoded mostly by number of repetitions of a codon, if I understand correctly. Speciation tends to occur when a particular pattern within the variation fits the "new" niche (though it doesn't always happen due to filling of unfilled niches) much better than the old average did, and so individuals with that pattern are heavily selected for. The divergence proceeds from there: adaptations to the new niche continue to develop, either by strong selection from previous variation or by random mutations.

In the case of memes, "mind" is involved and will thus create the variation it wants. Anyone who has "worked on their jokes" for a presentation knows that you can get a vague fit by looking for a combination that both captures an idea and involves some unexpected juxtaposition, but that if you refine it you can usually go from "slightly funny" to "very funny" by careful thought.
Robert Tulip wrote:
In the case of the Christian meme of an anointed saviour (a ‘Christ Jesus' in Greek), an important part of the context for this cultural evolution was that the barbarous conquests of the Mediterranean region by the Romans and Greeks created the conditions for a resurgence of universal eastern ideas of connection between earth and heaven. These ideas had been corrupted in Greco-Roman myth into forms that reflected their conquistador mentality. The available niche provided by the pervasive belief in a social need for a divine mandate appears, in the proto-Christian world that was pre-adapted to the coming Christian ideas, to have included as a property the belief that a redeemer had actually lived on earth.

I find it easier to believe that the roots of peaceable Messiah thought are in the relatively just behavior of Cyrus, who replaced the Chaldean captivity/hostage approach with widespread tolerance and sent many Jews back to Judea to rebuild, rather than in reaction to imperialistic myths or religion of the Greeks and Romans. Mostly I just think the reading you presented is too monolithic - I don't think there was a single mighty flow of evolving memes dominated by a single force, but rather a gradual adjustment shaped by many developments.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Saint Mark satisfied this desire for an incarnate redeemer with his gospel of Jesus of Nazareth. Christianity then exploded out of its previous mystery wisdom status into mass politics, with a durable fecund and stable meme. The historical truth or falsity of the story was secondary to the cultural receptivity to its message. As Voltaire said of God, if Jesus did not exist it would have been necessary to invent him.

Whether Mark thought up the incarnated version or Jesus did, the explosion seems to have happened because Paul made an equation between "crucified Messiah" and "spiritual, not legalistic, religion." To me that equation is ontological - if one is going to bear the news of the coming Kingdom, one is not going to do it by force (as even Cyrus had) but in the hearts of other people of the Way.

Paul's plethora of metaphorical devices (count them in Galatians, Corinthians and the later epistle to the Romans sometime - it is astonishing) tossed up Atonement (not unknown to Jewish thought) as the key metaphor, and it came to dominate. To me that is the central issue in making sense of the Carrier debate: did Paul start out with Atonement as his main message (he may have) in which case mythicism makes some sense and Mark probably did invent the stories of Jesus' life, or did he just start out with "crucified Messiah" = "spiritual, not legalistic, religion" and neglect elaborate stories of the life of Jesus in his focus on this flash of insight.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
In all of those possible versions, there are real, non-supernatural forces to be evoked. And it may be that none of them have more than a minor partial basis in the fertility cycle of the seasons, despite the later association of resurrection with the natural rebirth that happens in Spring (with Estrus and all).
No, I disagree. The theory of God is all about stable order and power.

That's what it is now, but before David the source material seems much more about covenant and mutual support. The Joseph cycle embodies this in a single epic, and even though it was probably put in present form by post-Exile editors, you can see within it a story of betrayal, forgiveness and re-integration which could easily pre-date the Captivity.

God in the stories of the patriarchs, the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan seems anything but stable and orderly. There is a lot of mysterious promise and fulfillment, (Gideon, Abraham, Deborah, Joshua) but I think that is more faithfully read as occasional dramatic intervention, as with the capricious gods and goddesses of the Iliad, than as stable order and power.

Robert Tulip wrote:
That is exactly what the cycle of the seasons provides. There is an exact analogy between God and the sun. However, in order to say that God is revealed in word, the Abrahamic faiths had to say that the sun is only a sign of God, not the actual divine power. This idea that God transcends nature was gradually corrupted into a belief that divine order is not revealed in nature, but only as spiritual idea.

There is an excellent book by J Glen Taylor - Yahweh and the Sun: Biblical and Archaeological Evidence for Sun Worship in Ancient Israel.

There is evidence of Moloch worship as well. The fertility cult of the "high places" is not so much about stable order and power as about occasional failures of the weather patterns requiring some appeasement of capricious hidden super-powers. Sun worship and the social endorsement of order is much more strongly present in Egypt (from which it would have spread) where the annual flood was the life of the land, than in Canaan.

Robert Tulip wrote:
All the Biblical discussion of “whoring after other gods” is about the efforts of monotheism to insist on its ideal spirituality against the natural solar worship that was prevalent in the ancient world. Eventually, the ideal spirit worship won out, in my view because the older solar faiths were incapable of sustaining the imperial scale of social organization that had become necessary due to technological advances. But the older solar faiths were the pre-adaptations, the scaffolding upon which the Biblical ideas were built.

Elijah's confrontation of the Ba'al cult is probably better seen as political in its roots. First, that literature has very little "ideal spirituality" in it. Rather Ba'al was a god of top-down imperialistic religion, (brought in by Solomon's political marriages, Jezebel, and other foreign rulers,) while YHWH required mutual support in the form of adherence to the commandments (don't kill each other, don't steal, don't lie to the court, etc). In other words, "rulers vs. people" was probably the underlying issue more than "manufactured idols vs. large scale social organization".

I suppose if you see knowing right from wrong as an adaptation giving imperial scale social organization, you could make a case that the struggle for monotheism was one which triumphed due to ideal spirituality. But if so, there is some explanation to be done about why similar struggles did not give similar results in other lands. The Zoroastrian Persians, for example, replaced capricious nature gods with good vs. evil struggle, but saw no need to suppress other religions as an implication. In general, I think the reading that the resistance comes from roots in covenant is a stronger one than that the reading that it comes from stability-seeking based in modified sun worship. Of course, both may be true and a number of other influences as well.

The discussion of idols probably does have a "spirit" element to it, and we know that priests or devotees of YHWH indulged in ecstatic frenzy leading to prophecy during the time of the Philistines. But that seems to have disappeared, or at least gone underground, in the time of David and does not feature at all in the Elijah material.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
I don't understand the urge to be dogmatic about it. Again, many meanings are possible for a single symbolic story or meme. Sisyphus began as punishment, signifying the futility of repetitious struggle ("and there is nothing new under the sun") and became, in Camus' hands, a symbol of determination despite all discouragement, despite a certain truth of futility.
My discussion above of the four functions of myth by Joseph Campbell reinforces your comment that there are multiple overlapping functions of any myth. And yet, the question of dogmatism is not simple. Dogma simply means teaching, but the politics of faith led to the idea that only orthodox dogma was allowed while heretical teachings were banned. That has caused dogmatism to gain a bad reputation for bigotry. But the problem is that any social consensus will acquire the quality of dogma.

My objection is to insisting on a single conceptual structure, the derivation of religious themes from natural rhythms and structures, when the truth is probably "multivalent". Teaching for social consensus does tend to reduce matters to as few issues as possible, but there is a certain sacrifice of truthfulness involved.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
The key insight for me was the recognition that truth claims are one of the less relevant factors in determining which beliefs get passed on to the next generation. We simply cannot avoid an anthropological approach, in which the "etic" understanding (how the symbolism appears to those who use it) will have a correlation with the "emic" understanding (how the symbolism appears to function from the perspective of an outside observer). If you bypass how the symbol is used, in order to evaluate whatever truth claims may appear therein, you are "majoring in minors".
Belief tends to be more a function of adaptivity than truth. We believe whatever works. Over the long term, the truth will be adaptive, since constructed false beliefs will inevitably eventually encounter tectonic resistance from reality. But that can take a long time, like earthquakes.

I am not familiar with your terms emic and etic, but I think your comment about ‘majoring in minors’ is a good description of how critics of religion point to the objective status of beliefs without analyzing why those beliefs are adaptive. We should listen to those critics, because they are often speaking truth to power, which as you argued is one of the redeeming qualities of Jesus Christ.

Emic and etic can be found in Wikipedia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emic_and_etic
The distinction began with a linguist who distinguished "phonemic" from "phonetic" analysis, but it is critical to anthropology. The point to be made has two sides. Emic analysis, explaining how the concepts are viewed by the users, may be inherently illogical, e.g. because it is used for some purpose which is not best served by understanding; but at the same time etic analysis (looking at the function of the beliefs as seen from outside) must be consistent with the actual emic views.

To illustrate with an example, we may recognize that incest taboos serve to prevent in-breeding (which may no longer correspond to anything in the knowledge of the taboo believers), but if we then assert that taboos are established to give a thrill for breaking them, it creates a problem for the first recognition.

The example illustrates how truth does not necessarily trump falsehood in belief memes. Humanity relied on incest taboos for many millennia with no understanding of genetics which could support a more fact-based conceptual structure. If skeptics had come along and torn down incest taboos for lack of evidence, the result would have been slow-motion disaster.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Confidence has both a cognitive and a volitional dimension, as does faith.
I hope my argument, in another post, that the values or volitional dimension of confidence is purely instrumental (for purposes which are prior to the issues of confidence, and separate from them) was a sufficient explanation of why I say confidence lacks a volitional dimension. Let me give an example to fill it in a bit more. We do not evaluate confidence in the effectiveness of weaponry by whether we believe one ought to use weaponry, but as soon as we discuss "faith" in weapons, the "ought" becomes part of the issue.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The idea that we construct our world is a central point of Heidegger’s Being and Time as a basis for the existential theory of meaning as care. When I first encountered constructivist language I thought it was wrong, because of my instinctive empirical rational prejudice against the theory that reality is dependent on the mind. But we have to distinguish “the world” from reality, since our human world is in fact a constructed cultural model, built upon our faith in myths, even while our human world rests upon an actual physical reality that we only partly glimpse.

Yes, I agree and find this vital. I do think constructivist language is used too loosely and without much care, but in skilled hands it can give a lot of insight into the actual functioning of "emic" perceptions.

It is overuse to say that "gender is constructed" in the sense that we construct a dichotomy of "male" and "female" when in fact intergendered persons are surprisingly common. But if we recognize that "male" and "female" have actual reality as categories, and go on to see all the ways we have constructed "masculinity" and "femininity" from social structures and then read them into biology, it is a brilliant tool.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Christianity has eschatological ideals at its centre, and the passion is a story of how ideas triumph over cynicism. What that illustrates to me is that the achievement of utopian visions has to be based on empirical analysis of reality, set in an incremental evolutionary framework of adaptation from precedent. Faith is about building upon what we have through practical reform, under the eye of a higher eternal vision.
I like this very much.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Hegel held that freedom is the recognition of necessity.
Kierkegaard used the dilemma between "the angst of necessity" and "the angst of freedom" as the structure on which his analysis of angst is based. He was, to a great extent, reacting against Hegel.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Hegel’s view is pure freedom, understood as responsible duty. This derives from Plato’s idea that knowledge of virtue compels good action.
Perhaps it was Kierkegaard's experience with his own failures of virtue (he was rather a rakehell at university, as I understand it) which led him to dissent from this view.
Robert Tulip wrote:
We are always constrained, so good faith is about making the best of our constraints through duty.

The high freedom of Kantian duty is about grounding faith in reason.
I would read this set of ideas slightly differently. Good faith is about maintaining our caring about The Good despite daunting unclarity. If we give up and begin to identify the good with "whatever society believes is right" or worse, "whatever I feel I want to do at a given moment" then we are lost. Reason provides a great antidote to the second poison, and some protection against the first, but the commitment to the good is prior to either the knowledge of duty or its philosophical grounding. In today's terms we would say that caring about the good is "organic" rather than "top-down".
Robert Tulip wrote:
That is ironic, seeing feminism and individualism as allies.

It doesn't originate with me. Milton Friedman (who may have had older sources) viewed market competition as a great eroder of discrimination. But yes, there is a lot of irony in that claim of alliance.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Traditionally they are in conflict, with feminism allied to collective notions of sisterhood.

Many of the "oppressive" restrictions on women began as support for the effective raising of children, and thus as liberation for women. A good case can be made that the fall in child labor and the movement of working women out of the labor force in the late 19th century were both instrumental in a huge increase in wages, making possible further reductions in child labor and women's employment.

Nevertheless, solidarity is important in overcoming a discriminatory set of constructions, and "sisterhood" is a vitally important part of the further liberation of women. I think restoring the goal of increased leisure, including for family and community development, is the next step in this social evolution.
Robert Tulip wrote:
There are a wealth of subconscious factors at play with the emotional impact of Donald Trump. The traditional tribal settlement in the consensus around national values that you describe is under unrelenting attack from the forces of globalization.

I don't think we have a very good grasp of this material. Neglected, and now suddenly we globalizers are waking up to the social dangers. Mainly I read it through the lens of Future Shock. Stress is an incredibly powerful concept.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Apologies for my delay in response in this thread. The reason was that I preached at church last Sunday, July 31, on this theme, faith and reason, and so was focused on preparing my sermon. Here it is.

John Thornton told us in one of his sermons that religion tries to describe reality. Now the immediate problem here is that today our society generally looks to science to describe reality, using reason. Faith is often seen only within the domain of values, as a personal matter of imagination and trust rather than a method to describe objective reality. As a result, in our secular world there are many who say they see no need for faith, but instead argue that scientific reason is sufficient. This theme, the relation between faith and reason, is my topic for today.

Colossians 3:2 tells us “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” The things that are above are the things of God, the enduring eternal values that provide stable order for the world. The things that are above were also seen in the ancient world as meaning the order of the visible heavens, the stable presence of the stars of the sky, which ancient religions saw as revealing the eternal rational power of God. However, looking to the stars for wisdom can lead us astray when we are not guided by faith. We hear the warning to Israel from the prophet Hosea in chapter 11, “The sword rages in their cities, it consumes their oracle-priests, and devours because of their schemes. My people are bent on turning away from me.” The prophetic message is that our reasoning powers can only find the true way of life within the framework of faith in God. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.

How then can we reconcile our Biblical language about heaven with the scientific knowledge obtained from astronomy? Some skeptics believe that talk of heaven is only a comforting imaginary myth, that religious language distracts us from reality. I support scientific rationality as the basis for describing reality. But the problem with a merely scientific worldview is that a factual description alone can never provide ethical values and a story that gives meaning to life. Values come from faith. Science needs to be reconciled with religion, through a rational approach to faith, in order for us to find stable and durable and productive direction in life.

The relation between faith and reason is a difficult topic, but it is central to the reputation of Christianity in the world today. The Epistle to the Colossians goes on to say our life is hidden with Christ in God, and when Christ is revealed, then we also will be revealed with him in glory. This story of the divine glory of Christ tells a magnificent and deep truth about our planetary existence, a real path of salvation. The traditional picture of faith is that Jesus Christ is our mediator, connecting us to our eternal heavenly Father in heaven, revealing the narrow and hard path of salvation, and warning us of the risks of damnation. However, such language about core Christian ideas, including the glory of God revealed in Christ, is far from simple to understand, and should be subject to rigorous rational analysis. As the famous theologian Bishop Anselm of Canterbury said a thousand years ago, faith must seek understanding.

The idea in Colossians of the glory of God is the subject of mockery and disdain in the secular world. This mockery can be subtle. In Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, Humpty Dumpty tells Alice that glory means whatever he wants it to mean. Faith is easily mocked as irrational. Richard Dawkins says faith is a blind vice. Mark Twain, the author of Huckleberry Finn, defined faith as ‘believing things you know aint so.” Twain’s definition has entered popular secular thought as a devastating critique of religion.

How then can we restore faith in faith? If we consider faith more objectively, there is also a role for faith in statements that are true. This opens the potential for a virtuous path to reconcile faith and reason. Jesus tells us the parable of the rich hoarder who loses everything due to his lack of faith in God. I wonder if sometimes Christians hoard our traditional comforting views of faith, and we don’t expose our beliefs to the risks and rigors of robust rational challenge and contest in the world.
One key problem here is how we read the Bible, whether we insist that stories are literally true or see them as symbols of a deeper truth. No less a Christian authority than Saint Augustine commented, rather rudely, that any Christian who insists on a literal seven days of creation is an idiot. Augustine said that this story in Genesis must be seen as symbolic, as an allegory for a deeper real truth about God.

Similarly, in the reformed evangelical tradition that is part of the nonconformist dissenting heritage of the Uniting Church, John Calvin held that if scripture seem to conflict with the evidence of our senses, then we must learn to interpret scripture differently.

The great theologians emphasize humility before God, saying we must be intensely careful in what we say and think about God. Imagining that God has specific goals and intentions can even be idolatrous, when we put our own vanity in the place of honest prayer. As the preacher said in Ecclesiastes, “it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.”

This all opens massive problems for how the church proclaims its faith in God. We have a wonderful and powerful and essential message for humanity of the gracious saving love of God revealed in the story of Jesus Christ. Christ should be our lodestar, guiding our sense of direction as the sun guides our paths and priorities through the days and seasons. However, our faith in God should never be confused with a literal belief that stories in the Bible must have actually happened as they are described. The wisdom of the authors of scripture was much deeper than the surface appearance. The history of the texts means that stories which started out as parables came to be regarded in Christian tradition as literal events, like the seven days of creation.

Religion expresses a sense of awe and reverence and wonder at how divine order is revealed in natural creation. Our faith in God gives us a story about the meaning of life, forming the rituals and beliefs that bring us together in a community of worship, and shaping the core values which provide our direction and identity. Without religion we are lost. It is therefore important to engage in serious dialogue with those who consider faith to be irrational.

Walking with Saint Augustine in our efforts to discover the rational meaning of faith can seem almost like the poet Dante venturing on his path into the inferno in the company of the Roman poet Virgil. Can we make it through the snares of obsolete beliefs and find our way to paradise?

When we look to modern science, we find an immense complex beauty, a tangled bank of elegant simplicity, revealing the order of the universe. Science holds that logic and evidence are our highest values, and that logic and evidence are the only way to reveal the laws of nature, the stable framework that provides consistency and coherence and order in our world. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is at the centre of scientific understanding. Evolution explains that within the chaos of life, there is a constant slow force pushing towards greater order and complexity.

Whenever an organism stumbles upon a slightly better way of living, more of its offspring tend to survive and reproduce. A genetic change becomes an adaptation which spreads more widely. Such changes gradually accumulate over the very long time spans of life on earth, producing the amazing abundance and complexity that we have inherited. The big question for us now is how we can ensure that our rich natural and cultural heritage remains stable and durable.

Our faith too needs to evolve and adapt. My view is that Christianity needs a new reformation, a recognition that the scientific and moral ideas of the ancient world gathered in the Bible point us towards very deep truths that need new interpretation in the light of modern knowledge. We may find that some stories that are dear to us have a primarily symbolic meaning, but that should be all to the good. We should explore how the method of Jesus of telling the truth in parables brings relevant insights for the world today, by exploring how Christian faith can be reconciled with reason.

My own view is that faith in God is absolutely central to how we should respond to the planetary challenges revealed through science. Jesus tells us in the Last Judgement in Matthew 25 that the only way we can be saved is if we help people who need food, water, clothing and shelter, if we visit the sick and prisoners, and if we treat the least of the world as most important of all. This Biblical idea that the last will be first in the kingdom of heaven involves a big paradigm shift from our current worldly values. The Christian belief that the meek will inherit the earth stands in stark conflict with our dominant political values. This Christian teaching of transformation is something we need to see as central to how Christian values are calling us all to adapt to our modern global context, developing a rational story of how faith provides answers to the main problems facing the world.

As an example of rational faith, we can look at what Jesus meant when he said that if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed you can move mountains. When we look objectively at the actual movement of mountains by the mining industry, we find that faith and trust are central to their success. Such intangibles as investor confidence, trust in law and technology and money, and effective community relations are all necessary matters of rational faith without which projects cannot proceed. So faith emerges as a major basis of entrepreneurial investment, providing the commodities that our modern economy relies on. In addition to the mountains of iron and copper, we will also need to move some cultural mountains through faith.

We cannot in practice deliver core objectives of modern life without a central place for faith. Any action based on what we consider valuable and important rests on faith. The only things that actually move mountains in practice are either acts of God such as earthquakes, through plate tectonics and the slow action of geology, or human faith, through ability to coordinate a group to achieve a shared goal based on mutual confidence and trust and loyalty.

I would like now to share with you my own thoughts on how Christian faith can reform to adapt to a scientific world. You are welcome to think of this as a parable, or however it may be helpful to you. Jesus taught us to pray that the will of God may be done on earth as in heaven. For scientific cosmology, there is no heaven other than the physical universe. Against the vast expanse of space and time our lives can seem insignificant. Our planet earth looks like what Carl Sagan called a pale blue dot. Here we see earth photographed by NASA from the moon and from past Saturn. Our planet is tiny on the cosmic scale. Yet it is also possible within astronomy to see our planet as full of significance.

Climate science has found that the regular orderly patterns of earth’s orbit drive the vast slow cycles of ice ages. The slow wobble and tilt of our planetary axis and the change of the orbit from round to oval cause the sea to rise and fall by hundreds of metres, and have produced ice sheets two miles high over much of the earth. Today, in our vanity, humans are changing the chemistry of our planet in ways that will send the climate haywire if we don’t shift our path very quickly.

I will conclude with a parable, a story of how we can reconcile faith and reason. Christ taught us to pray that the will of God should be done on earth as in heaven. Astronomy reveals the stable ordered patterns of how our planet fits within the universe, and can help us to think about what we mean by the eternal heaven. These orbital cycles can be calculated over millions of years, and their effects on climate have been measured by ice cores two miles deep in Antarctica.

Here is a graph showing how the orbital patterns have caused the change of CO2 level and driven the ice ages over the last million years. Focusing in more, these next graph shows the planetary warmth over one hundred thousand years and over fifty thousand years.

Image
What I find intriguing is how this scientific data provides a framework for the Biblical stories about fall and redemption. The cosmic summer of interglacial periods is defined by the high points on this line every 20,000 years, seen at the dawn of the Holocene ten thousand years ago and then again in ten thousand years in the future. The cosmic winter of ice age maximums is marked by the low points, which happened twenty thousand years ago, and again one thousand years ago. The current low point has been masked by the rise of technology, with methane emissions from early agriculture stopping our planet from falling back into a new ice age. The cosmic autumn or fall therefore happened about six thousand years ago, at the same time that the Bible tells us Adam and Eve fell from grace and were expelled by God from paradise in the garden of Eden. I see this scientific order as matching the Christian story of fall and redemption. We have now turned the corner.

The natural orbital driver is slowly increasing planetary warmth, quite separately from the rapid human effects of CO2 emissions. Over the next ten thousand years, if we can keep the planetary climate stable, we will gradually advance towards a new cosmic summer.

The problem with this scientific parable of fall and redemption is that we still have the mentality that worked in the six thousand years of fall. We have not yet shifted our thinking to a new paradigm. We need a paradigm shift to adapt to the needs of a global civilization and prevent collapse. The wonderful thing about the Christian message is that Jesus showed us the path to a new paradigm of peace and love and justice. The world was not ready for his message two thousand years ago, but perhaps we can now hope that the message of Christ can start to fall on more receptive ears.

My view is that the Gospels provide a framework that is entirely compatible with modern scientific knowledge, as a way to transform our values from the fallen state of corruption and restore the divine state of grace that is needed for humanity to have abundant life. For the Gospel message of redemption to touch our hearts and minds, we need to open up the conversation about how faith can be reconciled with reason. Exploring this difficult transformative and liberating material can show that the rich heritage of our Christian faith can adapt and reform to remain vital to addressing the great moral challenges facing our world today.

Robert Tulip, 31 July 2016, Kippax Uniting Church


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Harry Marks wrote:
Interbane wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
we have abundant certain knowledge of physical objects and scientific facts.
That's simply not true. Skeptical arguments are successful in showing that we rarely or never have beliefs that are certainly true in the objective sense. What you think is an abundant list actually requires a great deal of thought on your part to rest neatly in the grey area between synthetic and analytic propositions. Truly synthetic propositions are almost never able to be shown as certainly true.

Personally I find that whole line of analysis to be strongly reminiscent of Zeno's Paradox: falling out of a gap between the clarity required by logic (analytical propositions? I am not very familiar with the distinction from synthetic) and the apparent implications of the ways we fill in the mechanisms to get to that clarity. Radical doubt, like the Brain in a Vat or "The Matrix" possibilities, is just not fruitful for good thinking.
Getting back into responses to comments, I already responded to Interbane’s quoted comment at post157577.html#p157577 Now looking at Harry’s comment, the analytic/synthetic distinction is a core topic in philosophy. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytic% ... istinction explains that “Analytic propositions are true by virtue of their meaning, while synthetic propositions are true by how their meaning relates to the world.” So Interbane is asserting that we have no certain truths by discovery, only by definition. For example, in that view we can be certain that adding two apples to two apples makes four apples by analytical definition, but not that the thing you are eating is an apple, since that assertion is synthetic, about how the meaning relates to the world. This distinction is not at all about anything useful, but only about rigorous logic.
Harry Marks wrote:
Interbane wrote:
Consider the statement that "night follows day". First, you have to define the terms absolutely. Which means you need to identify what exactly it means for something to "follow" in the temporal dimension, along with all the philosophical baggage that goes with that. Night and day need robust definitions. By the time you finish, the statement is analytic.

Of what possible use is it to distinguish certainty from knowledge in these mundane cases? Isn't it more important to find the mental constructs involved which may or may not be true (e.g. "night follows day because the sun always rises from below the earth at the same time at this point in the seasons")?
It is completely useless to distinguish knowledge from certainty in any practical context, as far as I can tell, such as asking whether a piece of fruit actually is an apple. The only use that I can tell is being able to have a theory of knowledge that completely excludes all faith. But then the question is what is the use of this theory? As far as I can tell it is just an exercise in culture wars, deriving from hostility to false faith.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Harry Marks wrote:
post157632.html#p157632
Robert Tulip wrote:
Horatio Alger is a great symbolic example of how nothing is possible without faith.

Yet another shade of meaning of "faith" but I am fine with it. Note the "values" component.
Harry, as I explained, I got diverted in preparing the commentary on faith and reason in my post above, and by various other things, so have not found time to respond to your extended comments as yet. I will now try to work through some of them. I would be interested in what you mean by ‘shade of meaning’. The American Dream is a great example of faith. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Alger_myth provides critiques from Hunter S Thompson and Michael Moore. Alger seems to me to epitomize a sense of personal faith, even if this departs from religious convention. The ability of people to get rich in America through force of will and talent is a good example of how faith can be rational. Apart from windfalls almost no one gets rich without supremely rational self-belief.
Harry Marks wrote:

the scientific approach … remains rather clueless about the shaky ground associated with impoverished mythology. More "Future Shock".
Future Shock by Alvin Toffler was probably one of the first serious books I read. Looking for a definition, one is that “the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaves people disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation". I think this impoverishment you are describing within the scientific worldview is precisely around the inability of information without any structure to provide any sense of connection and orientation. The old myths have been destroyed, but a new sense of the mythic has not yet evolved in a rational way, one that is entirely compatible with evidence.

Heidegger referred to that existential problem as the flight of the gods, caused by the loss of sense of eternal meaning in an entirely finite modern frame of reference. In What Are Poets For?, http://ssbothwell.com/documents/ebooksc ... ssics_.pdf Heidegger writes “To be a poet in a destitute time means: to attend, singing, to the trace of the fugitive gods. This is why the poet in the time of the world's night utters the holy.” This is among his most celebrated quotes, recasting the myth of the fall from grace against a rational philosophy where meaning comes from poetic connection to the holy.
Harry Marks wrote:
I am finding it very workable to use "the spirit of (interpersonal) caring" in place of "God." Thus we end up throwing out the magic element, usually without loss of generality, and find that the symbolic element almost always illuminates issues involved in that spirit of caring. For example, to say Jesus Christ is a mediator (but probably not "the mediator") between humanity and the spirit of caring is a meaningful statement which can be evaluated, though the methods of evaluation are those of literary analysis, philosophy and anthropology, rather than any hard sciences.
Yes, that makes sense. One of the themes in my masters thesis was that ethics makes most sense when it refers to phenomena, rather than to abstract concepts. In the case you raise, care is a phenomenon, something that actually appears to experience, whereas God is an abstract concept, and so care provides a more meaningful and evaluable frame of reference for ethics than God does.
Harry Marks wrote:
The big problem comes with statements about creation and providence, which can be rendered in meaningful terms using the spirit of caring, but do lose some generality. On the other hand, this approach does not face the theodicy problem.
That has to get top marks for compactness of expression! The problem is that care is interpersonal and involves relations between finite entities, whereas the concepts of creation and providence assert a relation between the infinite and the finite as the basis for their generality. The problem philosophically is that the infinite lacks any form and is entirely speculative as a concept, appearing magical rather than phenomenal. Theodicy, the problem of how God can allow evil, only arises from the assertion that God is entirely good, an idea that does not arise if we regard the finite spirit of caring as the object of our devotion. Caring is constructed by finite interpersonal relations, whereas God is imagined as an infinite source of grace. God is totally vague as a source of ethical value compared to care.
Harry Marks wrote:
Kierkegaard renders "the eternal" as "that which is unconditioned by time." Brilliant. If we have a value which is essentially instrumental, then our commitment to it is conditioned on the specifics of the age, or even of the hour. But if we have a value which transcends such variegated factors, then it is in the realm of the eternal.
My view is that there are three types of eternity, matching to the three subjects taught in Plato's Academy, logic, physics and ethics.

Logic: the laws of mathematics last forever, outside time. The ratio between the diameter and circumference of a circle is always equal to pi

Physics: the laws of physics last forever within time. The universe appears to be permanently consistent.

Ethics: Human values touch on enduring truths which hold unchanged forever on historical time scales.
Of these three, I can accept that logic is unconditioned by time, but the same cannot be said for eternal truths of physics and ethics. We like to imagine that moral values are absolute and eternal, but really the finite time scale of human existence is small compared to the grandeur of the laws of physics across the whole universe, or the ultimate non-temporal existence of logical relations. Ethics is only eternal by analogy, whereas number is infinite and eternal by analytical definition, outside time.
Harry Marks wrote:
Does Jesus Christ unify time with such a realm? I would say so. By holding fast both to the specifics of life and to the eternal level of values, he gave us a demonstration of, and a door to, such a way of life.
Yes, this idea of unifying time and eternity is the core of rational Christology as a purely logical exercise of transcendental imagination. The transformative ethical basis of Christianity is that the things in the world that seem least important to men are the most important to God, expressed in the Biblical ideas that the last will be first in the Kingdom of God, and the meek shall inherit the earth. Christology is expressed vividly in a famous hymn, There’s a Light Upon the Mountain, with the words ‘the suffering dying Jesus is the Christ upon the throne’. By analytic definition, Jesus Christ is the Anointed Saviour. The anointing (Christ) means the presence of eternity within time, while the saving (Jesus) means the transformation of the temporal order against eternal values. In conventional theology, this idea is formalized by the Greek term hypostasis, meaning the person of Jesus Christ, uniting the human/temporal and divine/eternal natures in a single reality. The Christian idea of the presence of eternity within time explains the resurrection idea that temporal power cannot constrain an eternal reality.
Harry Marks wrote:
Wouldn't you think the restriction to symbolizing the return of the seasons is even more limiting?
This is a key issue regarding analysis of how ancient myth conceptualized the divine. The grandeur, stability, power, order and centrality of the annual cycle of the seasons provides the entire framework for life on earth. Imagining how the soil of earth, symbolizing the least, is united to the warmth of the sun as the recurring source of new life, provides the model of the connection between time and eternity which is put in human form, anthropomorphized, in the imagined divine person of Jesus Christ.
Harry Marks wrote:
Furthermore, vision in terms of "ultimate triumph" of truth over violence is fully active and present in the Christ myth. And if people have no sense of awe about that (a recent strain of writing is looking at the "beauty" of it, borrowing from Dostoyevsky, rather than more imposing awe) then I am inclined to give up on them.
The trope of truth and violence is about the human politics of fall and redemption, providing a story with strong ethical resonance, all the more so because it reflects a sense of cosmic order in the solar imagery of the seasons with the annual triumph of spring over winter symbolizing the power of life over death.
Harry Marks wrote:
The truth affirmed by early Christianity is universal human relationship. Rome, the culmination of a long string of empires, certainly stood in opposition to such moral, empathetic universality (Hellenism at least aspired to re-creating universality with learning, but had slavery built into its economic foundations and may never have stood a chance). By rejecting non-dual acceptance of human inadequacy, Rome did stand against the more primitive harmony with nature. But it is more than I can manage to see Pilate and Jesus symbolizing this tension, or the crucified Christ and the risen Christ capturing it.
The famous story in John 18 http://biblehub.com/interlinear/john/18-37.htm of the encounter between Pilate and Christ, where Jesus explains he is a martyr (μαρτυρήσω) for truth and Pilate confesses incomprehension, is archetypal about western alienation from nature, and eastern integration between spirit and nature. The crucifixion symbolizes the failure of the West to see the presence of eternity in the world, while the resurrection symbolizes the victory of the East.
Harry Marks wrote:
There is an alternate view of the cosmological function. In this view, primitive notions such as life after death and demonic beings are "really" about deep psycho-social forces.
I accept the centrality of unconscious psycho-social forces as drivers of religious ideation, but such forces can further be placed within a real cosmology, which in turn provides deep causal drivers. I explained my views on that in the sermon above, discussing how the orbital cycles of climate are reflected very precisely in the eschatological structure of the Christian cosmic myth of fall and redemption.
Harry Marks wrote:
Taking the "covenant" heritage of Mosaic Judaism as definitional, rather than the monotheistic purity mindset of Elijah as definitional, the Bible becomes a story about the relation between a society in which life is given meaning by mutuality, on the one hand, and the matrix of technological developments which were fueling an imperialist drive to make dominance into the source of meaning.
You must be more familiar than I am with how Moses and Elijah are perceived in Judaism in terms of the interplay between covenant and purity mindsets. I would frame the relation between mutuality and dominance that you describe against the eschatology of grace and corruption, with the state of grace imagined as an ideal world of mutual trust, belonging, faith and purity, and the state of corruption seen as the fallen world of suspicion, alienation, despair and evil where the dominance of the sword holds sway. The emergence of metal and agriculture align well to this structure, with technological progress generating social dislocation. The idea that dominance could be a source of meaning is well expressed in the coat of arms of the British crown, with Dieu et mon droit loosely translated as God and Guns, and Honi soit que mal y pense loosely translated as Fuck Off. Unfortunately it is difficult to maintain a redemptive sense of the mandate of heaven when might is right becomes too explicit as a state ideology of legitimacy. That moral problem seems to me to be a big reason why the Roman pantheon eventually collapsed before the call of conscience presented by the gospels.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
In the Gospels, Jesus continually rails against the ignorance of his disciples for their failure to see simple cosmic messages. The Gospel message of recovery of sight to the blind is presented explicitly, in the example of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, as a recovery of cosmology: in Mark 8, the stellar parallels are invisible to the obtuse, causing Jesus to groan about their inability to see what is plain before their eyes.
Sorry, but I think this is a very strained view of the "failure to see" material. Even if you bring in the gnostic gospels, they read much more naturally to me in terms of the Kingdom of God and its transcendent values than in terms of a cosmological system embodied in natural cycles.
I don’t think it is strained at all. This cosmic interpretation of the loaves and fishes miracle story requires familiarity with the visual astronomy and symbolism of the zodiac, which were better known to the ancients than television programs are known today. The loaves symbolize Virgo and the fishes symbolize Pisces, the constellations that the equinoxes moved into at the time of Pilate, precisely in 21 AD. This slow precession was explicitly known for more than a century before Pilate, and was probably known for much longer, as the basis of the prophecy of Jesus Christ as the human symbol of the alpha omega point of the shift of ages when the spring point moved from Pisces to Aries in 21 AD. The miracle of the loaves and fishes appears six times in the Gospels, more than any other, but its meaning remains a mystery. I see the precession as the key to unlock the simple science of the Bible code, seen especially in the simple imagery of the Chi Rho cross. The blindness of the world to this simple meaning is a fascinating cultural pathology, which I explain because its meaning is too big and transformative for people to cope with.
Harry Marks wrote:
The Chinese myth of "the Mandate of Heaven" is fully cosmological and fully divorced from any real sense of the source of legitimacy for rulers. Its cosmological dimension undermines any connection between metaphysics and politics.
I am glad that you mentioned this Chinese story Harry, which I don’t see at all as a myth in any delusional sense, but rather as a political justification for dynastic cycle, the recurring process whereby a disciplined king created a dynasty which steadily became soft and corrupt and was then replaced by a new morally severe dynasty. Mandate of Heaven is just a way of saying that corruption loses moral legitimacy, whereas disciplined forces have the right to take state power from effete groups who are using their position badly.
Harry Marks wrote:
There is a good case being made, these days, that Christianity was explicitly (but not too explicitly) an alternative and transcendent source of political identity. Baptism was into a trans-national "people" created by "the Holy Spirit", social boundaries (such as slavery) were intentionally ignored, and the watchword was "Jesus is Lord" (which was, of course, a kind of treason.) Drawing on Paul, for example, it is much easier to see this "hidden citizenship" than to see "cosmic vision."
The politics of faith required concealment, using the ‘not of this world’ approach to avoid accusations of sedition. Against Campbell’s framework of the four functions of myth, the hidden citizenship of the Philadelphians addresses the lower social and identity functions, while the redemptive power of the cosmic Christ addresses the higher awe and meaning functions. The cosmic Christ appears prominently in Pauline literature, for example Romans 8, Colossians 1 and Philippians 2.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert wrote:
The ability of people to get rich in America through force of will and talent is a good example of how faith can be rational.


The majority of people with exceptional will and talent do not get rich. This is a sort of confirmation bias. You see rich people, and see the traits that helped, so they are the examples that come to mind. But these traits alone aren't sufficient, even if they're required(which is disputable). You also need RNGesus.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
Faith is often seen only within the domain of values, as a personal matter of imagination and trust rather than a method to describe objective reality. As a result, in our secular world there are many who say they see no need for faith, but instead argue that scientific reason is sufficient.


A fine message. Let me complement you on the overall presentation before reacting to specifics.

I am currently reading "Things Fall Apart" for my book club. It is surprisingly good on this point, since the Ibo people included some subtle thinkers and the Christians had an ambiguous relationship with ideas about the "unseen".

I seem to be migrating toward what I hope is a larger frame of reference, in which ideas about the functioning of "unseen forces" can take on effective cultural roles in part because of intrinsic emotional power and in part because of unrecognized sociological roles. I fear I may have put too much emphasis on deriving a new set of descriptions for "unseen forces" based essentially on notions of accuracy, rather than accepting the movement toward "contextual theology" which gives primacy to the post-modern analysis of social role as decisive.

Robert Tulip wrote:
But the problem with a merely scientific worldview is that a factual description alone can never provide ethical values and a story that gives meaning to life. Values come from faith. Science needs to be reconciled with religion, through a rational approach to faith, in order for us to find stable and durable and productive direction in life.


I think this captures the source of the disquiet I expressed above.

Robert Tulip wrote:
How then can we restore faith in faith?

Maybe some of the answer is to accept a certain humility, that we are offering a version we consider persuasive, for both evidentiary reasons and implications for social order. Some people doubt the "binding power" of a faith which relies on persuasive appeal, but I doubt the "faith" of a religion which puts binding power first.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Jesus tells us the parable of the rich hoarder who loses everything due to his lack of faith in God. I wonder if sometimes Christians hoard our traditional comforting views of faith, and we don’t expose our beliefs to the risks and rigors of robust rational challenge and contest in the world.

A very interesting analogy.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The wisdom of the authors of scripture was much deeper than the surface appearance. The history of the texts means that stories which started out as parables came to be regarded in Christian tradition as literal events, like the seven days of creation.

I cannot help feeling that this had a lot to do with the quest for authority by the leaders of the church, a quest which may have been fraught with complexities and dangers in a context of a mainly illiterate population.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Our faith in God gives us a story about the meaning of life, forming the rituals and beliefs that bring us together in a community of worship, and shaping the core values which provide our direction and identity. Without religion we are lost.

I would modify this slightly. Individuals may be far from "lost" without religion. But "we" as a cultural construction, capable of resolving the conflicts and tensions inherent in life, are probably lost without some principles which function as religion. Consider the justifications given for the status of college professors, for example. These have an anthropological status equivalent to religion, even though very little of their content refers at all to what one might call "the unseen world." They do, however, rely on propositions about the future in which one must have a certain amount of faith, and about which the evidence is shaky. If we knew, for example, whether the trend of technology was to impoverish the masses or to empower them, we would have a lot better basis for deciding.

Robert Tulip wrote:
We cannot in practice deliver core objectives of modern life without a central place for faith. Any action based on what we consider valuable and important rests on faith. The only things that actually move mountains in practice are either acts of God such as earthquakes, through plate tectonics and the slow action of geology, or human faith, through ability to coordinate a group to achieve a shared goal based on mutual confidence and trust and loyalty.

For a long time I have seen the story of the feeding of the multitude in these terms.



The following user would like to thank Harry Marks for this post:
Robert Tulip
Sat Nov 12, 2016 11:49 am
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