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Paul Tillich and the meaning of faith

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marti1900

Re: Apologizing for Ultimate Concerns

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"...religion is being ultimately concerned about that which is and should be our ultimate concern. This means that faith is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern, and God is the name for the content of the concern. "This definition has been nagging at me. I think that the ultimate concern for everyone is death and what comes after death, not god. Furthermore, faith is the state of being grasped by an ultimate concern,. I don't see the connection with my being concerned with death and faith. Faith in what? Presumably god, but for athiests and agnostics, one can be ultimately concerned with dealth without being grasped by faith in anything. Marti in Mexico
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Re: fidelity, symbols, death

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DH: "But this is not the same thing as conjuring the idea purely in his own brain."I would never think to call Tillich close minded. It's the nature of the beast... when you have a philosophy that explains the workings of attributes of the mind, it is your own mind that would serve you best in analyzing. We aren't telepathic, we can't get inside other peoples heads to analyze their minds. Other minds can be analyzed, but through empathy, it's our own beliefs and emotions that are used as comparisons. Pattern seeking would play a role, but to see a pattern, you first need a tangible manifestation of another persons beliefs or emotions, and MA has made it clear that there is a difficulty in finding an ultimate concern, which I'd say makes that difficult.Still, that he analyzed his own beliefs to help his ideas does not mean that he only used the analysis of his mind for the conclusions. All I have to work with is the paragraph, where some of the ideas seem to come from self analysis, but most come from analyzing external things such as the religion he believes in.
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Re: fidelity, symbols, death

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Interbane: When Tillich proposes that everyone has an ultimate concern, his study for the idea is his own brain.To a degree, yes -- the same argument can be levelled against most psychologists and philosophers of consciousness -- but at the same time it seems as likely that he also drew on his observations of others. The fact that Tillich's own experiences have played a part in his thesis does not seem, to me, adequate as an argument against.Theistic and non-theistic brains view everything differently (god in the background, nothing in the background).That claim requires some defense. Non-theism (to use your term) does not in itself imply "nothing in the background" -- only "no god in the background". Before we can even begin to talk about a fundamental difference in how theistic and non-theistic "brains" (I assume you're not genuinely asserting a neuro-psychological difference) we have to talk about what it means to have a "background" and whether or not God is the only thing that fills that space.That it is extremely difficult to pinpoint makes me think that in searching, I might only imagine a concern as being ultimate.The bigger concern from Tillich's point of view is that you might label as ultimate something that is, in effect, not truly ultimate. People claim all the time that they have one ultimate concern, when an objective view of their behavior will demonstrate that some other concern is in fact more predominant in their life. Anecdotal evidence should be enough to demonstrate this: I'm sure that we're all familiar with the trope of the Christian evangelist whose desire for money seems clearly more important then their love of or faith in God.Is every faith but theistic faith considered material? Is nationalism material or transcendent?Nationalism is ultimately material because the nation is ultimately defined by its material instance. Even when the nation does not actually exist save as an idea -- and such a nation can, in principle, recur infinitely -- the nation is only effective as a symbol when given material expression. That is to say, that the idea of the nation is only implicitly the symbol, striving towards the actual instance of the nation as a real body. For example, Israel was more or less an idea only until the late 1940s when Great Britain created the instance of the nation by grant. Although, it must be said that Israel is a special case in that it is supposed to be a symbol of the people of God -- in which case the nation of Israel would seem to match Tillich's criteria for a symbol that has become pre-eminant over that which it is meant to symbollize. As for your first question, I think Tillich might incline towards the answer that the ultimate transcendent form is that of gods or (more to the point, for Tillich) God. I personally would not say that's a consequence of his thesis, thought.
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Re: fidelity, symbols, death

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MA: "The fact that Tillich's own experiences have played a part in his thesis does not seem, to me, adequate as an argument against."I didn't intend it that way. I was merely noting that in using inferences from his own experience, what is inferred is processed with bias, due to what his belief is. I still only have the one paragraph to draw conclusions from, but one thing I'd say is that what he proposes may not stand up outside his theistic beliefs.MA: "Non-theism (to use your term) does not in itself imply "nothing in the background" -- only "no god in the background". "I agree.MA: "we have to talk about what it means to have a "background" and whether or not God is the only thing that fills that space."The point I was trying to stress was that if Tillich uses his own beliefs, to an extent, to help formulate his ideas, and the ideas are about the content of those beliefs(God in this case), then what he proposes may be a program of truth that's more valid only if you're theistic.MA: "The bigger concern from Tillich's point of view is that you might label as ultimate something that is, in effect, not truly ultimate."What I meant was that there may not be a concern that is ultimate in the sense that is unifies other concerns. Some may have a higher priority at any given time, but I don't think the highest priority concern is necessarily ultimate. My problem with this may be solved by making clearer the distinction between an ultimate concern and other concerns which are high priority.MA: "And here we stumble on the dividing line for Tillich -- the "healthy" faiths are those that center on something transcendent rather than material.... / ....I think Tillich might incline towards the answer that the ultimate transcendent form is that of gods or (more to the point, for Tillich) God."So being atheistic, am I forever doomed to hold an unhealthy ultimate concern?
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Fundamental Attitudes, Bottom Lines, and The God Beyond God

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I think Tillich's "ultimate concern" approach to locating a universal faith component in human affairs can be narrowed down, in theological terms, to saying: "Wherever your ultimate concern may be, there is your God." Or, "Find your ultimate concern and you have also found your God."God, in this sense, means that to which you will sacrifice what is most precious and valuable and meaningful; the person/place/thing/idea above all else which demands everything else take its necessary role of lesser importance.This God will determine the allegiences, agendas, goals and ends of our life journey: the fundamental attitude and bottom line of our "for and against" in life.Tillich describe it as "the God beyond God" the "ground of being".
Ken Hemingway

Re: Fundamental Attitudes, Bottom Lines, and The God Beyond

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Tillich's idea that "religion is that which is of ultimate concern", has value - it points in the right direction for people trying to develop a spiritual aspect of their lives without resorting to foolish superstition.Pretty much everything else he said appears to be worthless - "ground of being" - pseudo-profound nonsense!!This is exactly the sort of foolishness that Logical Positivism was created to show up for what it is. Logical Positivism may have been a bit over the top, but it was 90% right, and 100% right about Tillich and his ilk!
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Re: Fundamental Attitudes, Bottom Lines, and The God Beyond

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'There are no valid arguments for the "existence of God", but there are acts of courage in which we affirm the power of being, whether we know it or not. if we know it, we accept acceptance consciously. if we do not know it, we nevertheless accept it and participate in it. And in our acceptance of that which we do not know the power of being is manifest to us. Courage has revealing power, the courage to be is the key to being-itself.' Paul Tillich 'The Courage To Be' (Collins Fount, London:1962)pp.175-176.This is written after two world wars by a man who served as a military chaplain in the first world war and was the first non-Jewish professor to be expelled from his post by the National Socialists in Germany. He, like Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, was sickened by the onslaught of nuclear mutual assisted destruction gripping the cold war intoxicated planet. The "courage to be" was an attempt to summon the strength to face this terrible history and future with dignity and still find the will to love. After so much willingness to destroy and decimate, to eliminate and annihilate, Tillich's project to conjure up that part of the human spirit that affirmed life was hardly "pseudo-profound nonsense". Granted, it was incomplete, imperfect, unfinished and hardly a decisive blow to the nihilists and facists in the world...and it may have been sheer foolishness to hypothesize some core, fundamental aspect of existence that would not be swallowed up in wanton brutality and despair.In the very least, it is a challenge to all of us to find the courage of the deed, (which surpasses the perfection of the argument) and work to affirm life in the face of all that anihilates and denigrates. Perhaps all of our language falls short in the face of such daunting devastation and misery. Perhaps poetic exhortations are the best we can muster to mobilize and motivate our spirits to practice a Reverence and Love of life.Tillich may be blamed for confusing poetic exhortation with scientific explanation; but he can't be blamed for foolish cowardice either.The question, as I see it, is: how do we find the courage to be in a world of cowardly escape?
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Re: Fundamental Attitudes, Bottom Lines, and The God Beyond

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Interbane: I was merely noting that in using inferences from his own experience, what is inferred is processed with bias, due to what his belief is.That's fine, so long as we recognize that such would be the case with anyone attempting to describe human experience. One's own experience tends to create bias.What I meant was that there may not be a concern that is ultimate in the sense that is unifies other concerns. Some may have a higher priority at any given time, but I don't think the highest priority concern is necessarily ultimate.The result, it seems to me, would necessarily be a form of schizophrenia.So being atheistic, am I forever doomed to hold an unhealthy ultimate concern?Not if there are other transcendent concerns. Reading Tillich strictly, he says that God is merely a symbol of the transcendent concern, and that God may mean different things for different people. It's entirely feasible that a person could find another symbol to represent and connect one to their ultimate concern. Ken Hemingway: This is exactly the sort of foolishness that Logical Positivism was created to show up for what it is. Logical Positivism may have been a bit over the top, but it was 90% right, and 100% right about Tillich and his ilk!Let's discuss logical positivism. If you don't mind, Ken, start another thread and provide us with a summation, like that I've provided for Tillich, that will allow us a groundwork from which to discuss logical positivism. Incidentally, as far as I know, the book Dissident cited, "The Courage to Be", is the book Tillich held to be the most central statement of his philosophy. Characteristically, it's one of the few works of his currently in print that I have not gotten around to reading. -----------------"Ain't got a name, just a current address."
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Re: Fundamental Attitudes, Bottom Lines, and The God Beyond

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DH: "...there are acts of courage in which we affirm the power of being, whether we know it or not."This is indigestible for me, possibly because I don't have the context with which to relate. Could you shine some light on this sentence please?
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Re: Fundamental Attitudes, Bottom Lines, and The God Beyond

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Perhaps a quick glance at Hamlet's soliloquy will place Tillich's "courage to affirm the power of being" in proper context:Quote:To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes...Or maybe Tillich is pointing towards a similar concern raised by Albert Camus in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus:Quote:There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest
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