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Faith and Reason 
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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Harry Marks wrote:
A new presentation of the process of development of faith has recently come to my attention, mostly from Fr. Richard Rohr and his Center for Action and Contemplation, but not entirely. A quote from Rohr:
Richard Rohr wrote:
Ken Wilber sees religion as having two primary functions. The first is to create “meaning for the separate self.” The second and mature function of religion is to help individuals transcend that very self.
I think this encapsulates the source of the internal problems in religion very nicely.
Harry, Taylor’s post about mattering inspired me to go back to the earlier conversation in this thread, which I would like to revive. Ken Wilber is one of America’s top Jungian mystics. I have some of his books but have not read them. This analysis you present of his views of the function of religion reminds me of Joseph Campbell’s four functions, which I could summarise as awe, reason, ritual and identity. Awe and reason are transcendent, while ritual and identity are personal.
Harry Marks wrote:
"Meaning for the separate self" can come from a sense of belonging, from group solidarity and conformity to group norms, but it leads, as Maslow would observe, to a question as to what "meaning" means.
Separation is all about instrumental interest, while transcendence is about inherent meaning. I don’t think there is religious meaning in looking at how we can use others as a means to an end, but rather, as Kant held, goodness consists in treating others as ends, so real meaning is about participating in goals that transcend our personal interests.
Harry Marks wrote:
We are the thoughtful animal, and we are restless within a specific group context (or at least, some of us are) and we seek to understand the source and true nature of the sense of meaning which we find in a sense of belonging.
Restlessness about group loyalty is a key to religious integrity, avoiding the hypocrisy of appearing good while concealing corruption, like whited sepulchers. The function of transcendence is a key to the authentic idea of salvation, taking a higher view than personal interest to ask what is good for the world. There is a constant tendency for teaching to ossify into hierarchical dogma, since the unity of the group is perceived as a higher good than any transcendent ideals. And yet, only transcendence is redeeming for salvation, through the big ideas that persist through time as eternal truths.
Harry Marks wrote:
The answer, both experientially and philosophically, has turned out to be the universality of responding to the other ***as if they were my self.*** And that leads us to embrace the transcendence.
The golden rule of love is at the core of religion, but there is a tough issue in do as be done by, which in my last comments I raised in the description of the difference between the self and the ego. The ego demands compassion from others in situations where the interest of the self may well be better served by rougher forms of justice that build durable resilient character. The high ideals of transcendence, of justice, truth, equality, can be in tension with compassion as a primary value. Emotionally, the ego sees feeling for the suffering of others as a primary moral concern, even where the rational self can see that providing help may do more harm than good.
Harry Marks wrote:
the key to overcoming the tension between the two functions… is found in a different tension: between power motivation, which is really security motivation, on the one hand, and affiliation motivation on the other. Affiliation and security are fundamentally complementary. However it was not so long ago that security and affiliation were not demonstrably complementary but seemed to compete. The threat of dominance was real, (to be fair it still is, but in obscure ways which are hard to give a persuasive account of), and the psychology and institutions built up in such a world are with us still. In that world, for example, dominance was the means to security. Today it disrupts affiliation without being integral to security at all.
Simpler terms for security and affiliation might be safety and belonging, or peace and identity. Who we are, our identity, is defined by affiliations of belonging, loyalty, trust and faith. Security, keeping our world safe and predictable, is a fundamental task of reason, for property, food, energy and wealth. We cannot maintain identity without security. And yet a delusional affiliation can destroy security.
Harry Marks wrote:
The problem for religion is that the language in which religion has tended to settle is one which only does the job on providing a sense of personal meaning, while drawing energy from security motivation for this part of religious functioning.
Again, a rather complex idea. “Personal meaning” is about emotional comfort, assurance, direction and identity. Prosperity theology is a good example of how religion provides meaning at the personal affiliation level, while not necessarily having coherence at the security level. A sect can deliver identity and even prosperity while holding false doctrines, such as the Mormons. Your use of security motivation makes me think of eschatology, of how the big picture story of religion involves a cosmology that provides a long term collective meaning. But I am not sure that is what you meant. There is also the sense that apocalyptic visions of faith are used to bolster ritual magical practices, with the creedal claim that Christ will return linking in to and securing the whole Eucharistic celebration of community.
Harry Marks wrote:
The individual draws a sense of significance from being an important part of the strength of society's structure, and the power structure returns the favor by enforcing the rules which give significance to personal uprightness. For example I heard a lot of sermons, growing up, about the family being the "basic unit of society," and that certainly makes sense, but it also means that threats to family life are threats to the security of everyone.
That vision of family values can open up the hornet’s nest of gay marriage, and the emotional strength of traditional views as reinforcing social stability and power.
Harry Marks wrote:
Conservative politics drinks deeply from this well, and derives its basic validity from the mutual reinforcement process at its heart. It is by no means unimportant, but it has inherent limitations.
Yes, and this opens the problem of the basic conservatism of faith, that social identity involves reciprocal agreement for conformity to social rules and expectations, which are highly resistant to change and to rational analysis. In evolutionary terms, conservatism has a durable robust stability from reflecting what is tried and tested, even where this is hurtful to the dissident and prophetic voices that seek rational grounds for beliefs and values. The idea that the messiah is despised and rejected shows the inherent tension in religion, that redemption comes from liberatory action at the margins while identity tends to value conformity.
Harry Marks wrote:
One is an inability to assimilate larger perspectives. Because it draws its validity from a sense of threat, anything which demands a deviation from its orthodoxies is experienced as a threat. So, for example, the idea that we should protect flag-burners because they demonstrate the liberty for which the flag stands is too paradoxical. Undermining group solidarity cannot possibly be what liberty is for, because then liberty will break up the solidarity which makes it possible.
[/quote][/quote]The national flag is a quasi-religious icon, representing in the case of the US the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So trampling Old Glory is an affront to the traditional ideal of liberty, even though it can be an act of liberty. Often the sense of affront at flag-burning is that the anarchists do not understand the values embodied in what they scorn.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
Richard Rohr wrote:
Ken Wilber sees religion as having two primary functions. The first is to create “meaning for the separate self.” The second and mature function of religion is to help individuals transcend that very self.
Harry Marks wrote:
I think this encapsulates the source of the internal problems in religion very nicely.
Ken Wilber is one of America’s top Jungian mystics. I have some of his books but have not read them. This analysis you present of his views of the function of religion reminds me of Joseph Campbell’s four functions, which I could summarise as awe, reason, ritual and identity. Awe and reason are transcendent, while ritual and identity are personal.

I like this very much. It says to me that "basic" religion (tribal, perhaps) can do a good job on ritual and identity, but that as we learn to pay more attention to the transcendent, awe and reason lead us to more mature, universal relating.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Separation is all about instrumental interest, while transcendence is about inherent meaning. I don’t think there is religious meaning in looking at how we can use others as a means to an end, but rather, as Kant held, goodness consists in treating others as ends, so real meaning is about participating in goals that transcend our personal interests.
I don't think it is a matter of seeking ways to use/manipulate others. Rather the "meaning for the separate self" (i.e. ego) stages involve interacting with the group in the ways defined by the group to give the person status and belonging. The instrumental process is seeking out the individual, and the individual "buys into" the process. I hope you see the difference from actively trying to use others. Grades in school are one such process, (not religious), while shame shed on sexual transgressors is another (frequently religious).

Because the individual person is relating mainly in terms of the system we talk of incentives, reward and punishment, and other manipulative modes such as aggression, judgment, exclusion, dependency and "getting away with" things.

A good religious process leads us to support communal good even while operating at this ("Law") level. As soon as we have the motivation to evaluate to what extent a process actually does support communal good, then we are operating to some extent on the higher, fulfillment, level ("Grace") rather than the lower, self-esteem (personal significance) level.

Maslow's fundamental claim is that we have to have the lower level needs met, at least for some time, to be able to sense and respond to the higher needs. We have to have some basis for seeing ourselves as persons of worth and valid evaluators before we can begin to evaluate worth independently, for its own sake rather than to receive the reward of validation by the group.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The function of transcendence is a key to the authentic idea of salvation, taking a higher view than personal interest to ask what is good for the world.

Yes, this is exactly right.
Robert Tulip wrote:
There is a constant tendency for teaching to ossify into hierarchical dogma, since the unity of the group is perceived as a higher good than any transcendent ideals. And yet, only transcendence is redeeming for salvation, through the big ideas that persist through time as eternal truths.
I would say the problem is that the unity of the group is a more "urgent" priority (borrowing from Stephen Covey) but the ideals are the more "important" priority. It's a useful, if slightly vague, typology. The ego deals in the urgency of the inner clamor for validation and self-esteem, while the self dwells in the deeper waters of actually sorting out importance. Groups can also get caught up in the urgent.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The ego demands compassion from others in situations where the interest of the self may well be better served by rougher forms of justice that build durable resilient character. The high ideals of transcendence, of justice, truth, equality, can be in tension with compassion as a primary value.
Yes, I agree with this, and part of the function of reason is to help us recognize such manipulative systems. But of course we also have to be concerned about the opposite type of error, in which reason provides rationalizations to choose self-interest, and tribal or ideological religion functions as a system claiming to provide significance to the individual on the basis of group norms which are, in fact, coded self-interest. Compassion provides some defense against the latter. I think Christ informs us that we should choose methods (not values) which take the burden of suffering on ourselves as a way of avoiding the latter problem.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Emotionally, the ego sees feeling for the suffering of others as a primary moral concern, even where the rational self can see that providing help may do more harm than good.
But there is almost always a way to transcend the manipulation relationally if one is willing to bear the emotional costs of doing so. It may be bearing the pain of acknowledging accusations which have some truth in them, or bearing the threat of loss, or bearing the inner cost of saying "because I said so." "Tough love" is often seen in terms of "being tough with the other" when what is really called for is inner strength in oneself, to construct the important in place of the urgent.
Robert Tulip wrote:
We cannot maintain identity without security.
The external constraints give "is" a role in "ought". As Kant observed, "should" implies "can."
Robert Tulip wrote:
And yet a delusional affiliation can destroy security.
There is a lot of that going around. Conservatives often assume that martial solidarity is the key to security when it is not. Liberals often assume that institutions of social solidarity function for justice when they really open the doors to manipulation.
Robert Tulip wrote:
“Personal meaning” is about emotional comfort, assurance, direction and identity.
Yet if it is built on systems that consistently resist the quest for ultimate meaning, it will create a repressed "shadow" process that presents terrible danger to the use of reason and the experience of awe. I think this is what Goldstein should be looking at in trying to diagnose the "inadmissibility" of categorical mattering which is derived from comparative mattering. I think she will find the matter complex, but there is a vitally important kernel of truth in it.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Prosperity theology is a good example of how religion provides meaning at the personal affiliation level, while not necessarily having coherence at the security level. A sect can deliver identity and even prosperity while holding false doctrines, such as the Mormons.
"coherence at the security level" is an interesting way to put it. It sounds like you are suggesting that "congruence with actual sources of security, e.g. stability and peace" is a kind of coherence. I know we have had trouble with different understanding of the meaning of "coherence" before. Maybe you want to explain further.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Your use of security motivation makes me think of eschatology, of how the big picture story of religion involves a cosmology that provides a long term collective meaning. But I am not sure that is what you meant. There is also the sense that apocalyptic visions of faith are used to bolster ritual magical practices, with the creedal claim that Christ will return linking into and securing the whole Eucharistic celebration of community.

I am afraid I think of eschatology, at least as preached in first century Palestine, as a process of displacing the group's commitment to justice into the realm of the supernatural. I tend to think this has always been a harmful process, and like some types of schizophrenia, represents a stress-induced breakdown in the ability of the group to use reason.

Much of the prophetic literature, especially Isaiah, saw the Persian replacement of genocidal empire by tolerance for subject cultures as God's redemption of Israel. Israel's allegiance to its faith in the face of pressure to assimilate was vindicated, with Daniel and Esther capturing this vindication in narrative form. But Hellenism was culturally imperialistic, with Alexander and his successors seeing the obvious superiority of Greek philosophy and civic organization as reason to suppress the cultural institutions of the subject countries. This effort to enforce "reason" by Antiochus Epiphanes led to the successful battle for independence by the Hasmoneans, but also led to eschatalogical literature (other parts of Daniel, especially) in which the whole business of empire was found wanting and found vulnerable, with vindication by God being promised in actual military form.

As the Romans effectively stifled that hope, eschatology became entirely a supernatural vision, and one full of rage rather than hope, at that. What has been passed on to us is all shadow and no deep self. Or so it seems to me.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
it also means that threats to family life are threats to the security of everyone.
That vision of family values can open up the hornet’s nest of gay marriage, and the emotional strength of traditional views as reinforcing social stability and power.

Well, exactly. And it most certainly has done so. I watch in horrified fascination as conservative groups refuse to use reason to process the issues, clinging to the "rock" of stability in traditional values despite the deep conflict with universal empathy.
Robert Tulip wrote:
this opens the problem of the basic conservatism of faith, that social identity involves reciprocal agreement for conformity to social rules and expectations, which are highly resistant to change and to rational analysis. In evolutionary terms, conservatism has a durable robust stability from reflecting what is tried and tested, even where this is hurtful to the dissident and prophetic voices that seek rational grounds for beliefs and values.
It is also resistant to the chaos of personal urges, and that is where it gets a lot of its value. We need a systematic process for bridging the gap between the need for structure and the need to move deeper into the process of discerning meaning. Traditionally that has happened within the clergy and monastic withdrawal, and the laity is only offered the process of gradually having its attention redirected over time, to adjust to social change. When the leadership also feels that times of change threaten to unravel the strength that comes from conformity, the churches become reactionary. When economic insecurity piles onto such ego-based reaction to change, the mix can be very volatile.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Often the sense of affront at flag-burning is that the anarchists do not understand the values embodied in what they scorn.

Well, I rather think that the problem is the implied denigration of the sacrifices people went to for those values. If people really thought the anarchists "fail to understand" liberty, I think they would go to some effort to try to explain what is not understood. I don't see that from the anti-flag-burners.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Harry Marks wrote:
transcending one's own desire for personal significance is actively resisted by this nexus of conservative energy.
That seems to imply that conservatives would only be interested in personal significance. That is a surprising claim, given the conservative focus on duty, which is all about transcending desire for personal significance, sacrificing individuality for the good of the group. By contrast, non-conservatives are more linked to the utilitarian ethic of happiness and pleasure, which has a strong focus on personal significance.
Harry Marks wrote:
Any such perspective in which the essential rightness of "us" is no longer an indispensable part of security must be dismissed, else our personal upright behavior loses the energy behind its cosmic significance.
Your description here of conservative ideology is mocking the dutiful group identity of traditional society with its subservience to authority. That picks up on the traditional theory of faith, with its focus on loyal duty and sacrifice, as opposed to reason, with its focus on critical doubt.

Bob Dylan made a rather withering political critique of the security mentality in his protest song With God On Our Side, saying “The Second World War Came to an end. We forgave the Germans and then we were friends. Though they murdered six million, in the ovens they fried, the Germans now too have God on their side.”

The German Army belt buckle inscription from the war, Gott Mit Uns, God with us, illustrates the old religious idea of Immanuel, equating faith in Christ with faith in the nation. Such group solidarity is easily criticized by reason, but it reminds me of an interesting debate in evolution theory, EO Wilson’s argument for group selection.

If we accept somehow that adaptivity evolves at the group level, including in cultural evolution, then participation in a social group where everyone surrenders personal will and condemns any exercise of autonomy as treason can turn the group into a powerful machine, able to coordinate its action to defeat other groups which lack such coordination.
Harry Marks wrote:
I take this very seriously, by the way. Public service by the police and by a volunteer military depend on a resistance to cynical accounts of the functioning of power. If they have no sense of ideals they become a threat to all of us.
Yes, agents of the state must support the moral legitimacy of the state through faith that the institutions they serve are good. The cynics who have no stake in state power may be free to criticize, but with the cynics having no responsibility to implement decisions, even their rational critiques can be discounted by leviathan.

The upshot is that faith in the state, although essential for power and prosperity, becomes morally tarnished by corruption, due to lack of transparent accountability.
The side of reason in this debate is about making the state good. That goal can be equated to the old religious ideal of atonement, finding a path to transform our worldly state of corruption into a state of grace. The rational question of how to achieve a practical evolutionary transition from corruption to grace is not well served by logical cynicism, but needs some respect for people working faithfully within institutions of state.
Harry Marks wrote:
A careful inquiry into the nature of ethics is likely to displace the personal center-of-the-universe illusion at its heart.
That is actually a very complicated claim, in light of Adam Smith’s astute observation in The Wealth of Nations that the baker makes your bread precisely because he is the moral center of his personal universe, and not from concern for your welfare.

One of our Australian politicians said always back the horse called self-interest. Ben Franklin said God helps those who help themselves. Jesus Christ said to those who have will be given. All these views involve what you call an illusion, but others would say is a reasonable construction of personal identity in accordance with the incentives for security.

Disrupting these natural moral incentives in the name of social ideology is a fraught endeavor, given how personal interests align to evolutionary drivers. But perhaps the point is that intelligence requires humans to evolve beyond instinctive moral drivers, and find ways to bring transcendent ideals into effect, as an objective of religion.

I like to read the Gospels as having a big theme about the need to rise above genetic instinct in order to base behavior upon rational ideas, such as universal love and objective truth.
Harry Marks wrote:
questioning of triumphalist religious claims to exclusive grasp on religious truth can unravel the link.
ie doubt destroys the link between ethics and self-interest. Yes, because Christendom thinking had a specific historical account of ethics, which is no longer valid since the demise of Christendom under the force of globalization. But triumphalist Christianity likes to pretend that God’s in his heaven all’s right with the world, as the old Tories said, a line of thinking long obsolete, even though Browning had some irony when he wrote it.
Harry Marks wrote:
Those are two big reasons why conservative politics and conservative religion experience higher education as a threat.
So the two reasons for hatred of universities, if I am reading you correctly, are that rational thinking destroys traditional authority without comprehending what it wrecks, and that the credo of conservative individualism finds it hard to mount a coherent response to the rational arguments of liberal collectivism. That looks like why Ayn Rand remains an important ideologue and pariah, because she provides such a robust conservative defence of individual freedoms.
Harry Marks wrote:
But for the transition to become a well-traveled road requires, in my view, a practical account of the functionality of alternative visions of security, visions which put on display the complementarities between security and affiliation motivations in a universalistic context.
That is a rather densely packed sentence, well worth trying to read carefully. The transition in question is from our selfish world of ruthless competition to a ruthful world of cooperation, love, trust and mutual aid. The possible theory of change to enable such a revolutionary transformation and utopian evolution of culture would have to be gradual, recognizing the embedded trauma within the psychology of culture.

Such a transition requires assurance that a universalistic context can deliver security, a proposition rejected by nativists. A universal vision would need to be accessible to adherents of existing main religions, so would need to integrate the true and useful aspects of traditional faiths into a new synthesis. My view is that the best prospect for that high objective is in reform of Christianity to place the story of Jesus Christ in a scientific framework.
Harry Marks wrote:
If we can spell out the ways in which economic growth in other countries increases our long-term opportunities for prosperity and sustainability, for example, we can begin to see how the elevation of China out of poverty has made us better off despite loss of some particular jobs.
Yet, in considering a universalistic vision of free trade and globalization, the Trump election shows the security and affiliation difficulties in this vision. US elites have not persuaded the masses that safe identity can be maintained in a world of open borders. I think this illustrates the need for respectful conversation aiming at gradual change, and at understanding the view of others. When a universalistic vision can be portrayed as promoting one world government, it will generate suspicion and opposition.

A key Bible text for this topic is Matthew 25:40 http://biblehub.com/matthew/25-40.htm "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” This means that solidarity with the excluded is a key to a trustworthy universal vision of security and affiliation, although that does not at all involve what was discussed recently here as ‘talentism’ since the very concept of rewarding people by their talents comes from this same chapter in Matthew's Gospel.
Harry Marks wrote:
We can actually begin to see in practical terms how self-defeating it is to attempt to base prosperity on excluding others from prosperity.
The global free trade arguments against mercantile protection run counter to popular intuitions that selfishness is the path to wealth. A similar idea to the selfish popular ethic is that justice means helping your friends and harming your enemies, as Polemarchus suggested to Socrates in Plato’s Republic. The intuitive and instinctive idea of Polemarchus is countered by the transcendent reason of Socrates, providing a model for how Jesus Christ countered the revenge model of justice with his theory of restorative forgiveness, which again places evolutionary salvation in the human capacity to transcend instinctive drives.

If we allow market forces to enable the most efficient producer to sell freely, the overall productivity benefits will vastly exceed the perceived advantages of exclusive regulation and protection. This is an interesting example where faith in the virtue of free markets can be supported by strong empirical logic.
Harry Marks wrote:
Perhaps Drumph will actually help this process along. By putting in place personnel who are paranoid and nativist, those views will face the requirement of accountability, and the weaknesses in that worldview will begin to become evident.
I have to admit that everything I have said in this post supports the view that the Trumpites are wrong and dangerous. And yet, my emotional sympathy for conservative politics means that I like your point that flushing out the insanity by giving them power is a useful social purgative. The fact that Trump could be elected is an affront to liberal rationality, much as Hitler’s election was, although that comparison is strained.

Trump is the vaccination America needs to generate antibodies against the emergence of a real tyrant in the future.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
I have to admit that everything I have said in this post supports the view that the Trumpites are wrong and dangerous. And yet, my emotional sympathy for conservative politics means that I like your point that flushing out the insanity by giving them power is a useful social purgative. The fact that Trump could be elected is an affront to liberal rationality, much as Hitler’s election was, although that comparison is strained.

Trump is the vaccination America needs to generate antibodies against the emergence of a real tyrant in the future.

Don't know about the purgative value of Donald Trump for the U.S. The prolonged influence of the man might not be reversible on some fronts. But regarding Trump's value as a negative example for Europe, which is flirting with far-right candidates, maybe E.J. Dionne is correct that Trump may have tamped down the movement of the Dutch toward Geert Wilders, whom Dionne describes as "a more malicious version of Trump." They don't want to be like the U.S.! And I see that in Australia a far-right candidate has also been shown the door.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Any such perspective in which the essential rightness of "us" is no longer an indispensable part of security must be dismissed, else our personal upright behavior loses the energy behind its cosmic significance.
Your description here of conservative ideology is mocking the dutiful group identity of traditional society with its subservience to authority. That picks up on the traditional theory of faith, with its focus on loyal duty and sacrifice, as opposed to reason, with its focus on critical doubt.

Bob Dylan made a rather withering political critique of the security mentality in his protest song With God On Our Side, saying “The Second World War Came to an end. We forgave the Germans and then we were friends. Though they murdered six million, in the ovens they fried, the Germans now too have God on their side.”

Well, I didn't mean to mock at all, though there is something ironic in the mentality I was trying to analyze. Bob Dylan certainly brought that out, so thanks for quoting him. I meant instead to point to the primacy of what one might call "group self-esteem needs" in a conservative mentality. Liberals tend to find self-esteem in self-criticism, while conservatives tend to see this as a betrayal of solidarity.

Going so far as to declare "God is on our side" (which wars against Native Americans certainly did, as well as both sides in the U.S. Civil War) elevates the feeling of needing affirmation to a theological absurdity. Military analysts are unanimous in declaring that Hitler was defeated by Stalin, not by the other Allies, and yet it would be a bit strained to declare that Stalin had God on his side. Dylan was mainly interested in pointing out that, as the song says at the end, "if God is on our side, He'll stop the next war." That approach to security is no longer tenable.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The German Army belt buckle inscription from the war, Gott Mit Uns, God with us, illustrates the old religious idea of Immanuel, equating faith in Christ with faith in the nation. Such group solidarity is easily criticized by reason, but it reminds me of an interesting debate in evolution theory, EO Wilson’s argument for group selection.

If we accept somehow that adaptivity evolves at the group level, including in cultural evolution, then participation in a social group where everyone surrenders personal will and condemns any exercise of autonomy as treason can turn the group into a powerful machine, able to coordinate its action to defeat other groups which lack such coordination.

Maybe, but soft power does not come out of the barrel of a gun. The fact that China can address climate change more effectively than the U.S. (but will they? it remains to be seen) is not really a good argument against autonomy. Europe has plenty of autonomy and they are taking on climate change right and left.

Conservative ideology treats an exercise of autonomy as suspect, but in my view should realize that autonomous motivation is more compatible with innovation and initiative. The most effective fighting force in the world, on a per capita basis, is Israel's. Europe and America have sought training from Israeli officers on how to put their system of autonomy into practice. Israeli officers, down to the non-com level, are trained to take initiative to see that their objective is accomplished, even if not by the precise procedure envisioned by their orders. Obviously it helps if everyone realizes that group survival is at stake, a situation notably contradicted for U.S. soldiers in Vietnam (who were notably insubordinate, but not as a way of showing initiative).
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
I take this very seriously, by the way. Public service by the police and by a volunteer military depend on a resistance to cynical accounts of the functioning of power. If they have no sense of ideals they become a threat to all of us.
Yes, agents of the state must support the moral legitimacy of the state through faith that the institutions they serve are good. The cynics who have no stake in state power may be free to criticize, but with the cynics having no responsibility to implement decisions, even their rational critiques can be discounted by leviathan.

"must...support...through faith"??? How oddly stated. My point would be that the state has to keep faith with its citizens (and its agents) by actually following rules of proper conduct. There is room for a certain amount of Ollie North subterfuge, and even some Richard Nixon betrayal, as long as they are held accountable. Many police officers, notably the big city cops of the Prohibition era and the proverbial big-bellied sheriff of the old South, were cynical within their small domain, and it was disastrous for public belief in the rule of law. We are moving toward a kind of politics-based impunity now in America, and the foreseeable consequences are disastrous. Fortunately not all conservatives confuse image with reality when it comes to moral behavior.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The upshot is that faith in the state, although essential for power and prosperity, becomes morally tarnished by corruption, due to lack of transparent accountability.
The side of reason in this debate is about making the state good. That goal can be equated to the old religious ideal of atonement, finding a path to transform our worldly state of corruption into a state of grace. The rational question of how to achieve a practical evolutionary transition from corruption to grace is not well served by logical cynicism, but needs some respect for people working faithfully within institutions of state.
The practical implementation of this philosophizing is the "whistle-blower law". When those who divulge improper secrets are protected from the powerful, who naturally do not want to be held accountable, then those secrets are more likely to be exposed. I realize it is not always easy to tell if the secrets are improper, but if the main reason for keeping them secret is to allow impunity for improper behavior, then it is an easy call.

With all that reviewed, we are ready to return to:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
transcending one's own desire for personal significance is actively resisted by this nexus of conservative energy.
That seems to imply that conservatives would only be interested in personal significance. That is a surprising claim, given the conservative focus on duty, which is all about transcending desire for personal significance, sacrificing individuality for the good of the group. By contrast, non-conservatives are more linked to the utilitarian ethic of happiness and pleasure, which has a strong focus on personal significance.
I think you make a fair point about the conservative emphasis on duty. Since about the time of the Vietnam war, U.S. liberals have been openly skeptical of the use of duty as a concept. Essentially, we saw a graphic demonstration of its abuse, at the expense of many thousands of lives, without accountability for those summoning others to their "duty." The same thing happened in Europe with World War I, an even more colossal waste of lives and abuse of duty. However, note that liberals are still willing to sacrifice self, including happiness and pleasure, for a cause. That was the ethos of the Spanish Civil War, for example, which remains an iconic struggle between cynical exploitation of naive ideas of order and duty, on one hand, and autonomous bravery for the perception of justice on the other.

So I would argue that conservatism does a good job of motivating people to do their duty, but not a good job of questioning what that duty really is. I still think that matches up well with the notion that authoritarian religion aims at satisfying people's desire to feel personally significant (because I am doing my duty to my family and my country, I am a good person who will be personally vindicated by God) but a rather bad job of moving them up to the higher level effort to integrate the good of the whole into their sense of duty.

This talk of levels makes it sound like I think an honest inquiry into the good will always favor liberal politics. That is not my position. My position is that an honest inquiry into the good must start with reciprocity, and that means institutional systems such as property are to be supported (if at all) on the basis of their fairness as a system, not on the basis of their personal advantage to me. I do not think any political system short of democracy can be justified, but economics is much more complex.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
A careful inquiry into the nature of ethics is likely to displace the personal center-of-the-universe illusion at its heart.
That is actually a very complicated claim, in light of Adam Smith’s astute observation in The Wealth of Nations that the baker makes your bread precisely because he is the moral center of his personal universe, and not from concern for your welfare.
I think that is an abuse of the term "moral center". Yes, a person naturally feels that "I matter" more than others matter. But when Adam Smith actually took on morality, in his theory of moral sentiments, he did not justify self-centeredness. His point in Wealth of Nations is that free markets will liberate great gains in productivity, but he correctly bases this as much on the division of labor (which is limited by the extent of the market, his first great observation) as on selfish motivation.

It is certainly possible to give a moral account of economic behavior which is quite compatible with free markets and unequal outcomes. But this is based on assessment behind a veil of ignorance, as Rawls puts it, so that one is assessing based on benefit to all rather than on the impact on myself. When we make the mistake of arguing that capitalism (in the sense of free markets) is justified because it lets me make a lot of money, then we have in essence concluded that if I can get away with cheating customers and suppliers to make money, I am acting morally. (Remind you of anyone?)

Robert Tulip wrote:
One of our Australian politicians said always back the horse called self-interest. Ben Franklin said God helps those who help themselves. Jesus Christ said to those who have will be given. All these views involve what you call an illusion, but others would say is a reasonable construction of personal identity in accordance with the incentives for security.


Robert Tulip wrote:
Disrupting these natural moral incentives in the name of social ideology is a fraught endeavor, given how personal interests align to evolutionary drivers. But perhaps the point is that intelligence requires humans to evolve beyond instinctive moral drivers, and find ways to bring transcendent ideals into effect, as an objective of religion.
Humans have the capacity to ask themselves, "what kind of person do I want to be?" If their best answer is "a rich one, with few constraints on my personal urges," then they do not have an account of "worth" which holds up to systematic inquiry. It may satisfy them, but we have good reason for concluding that people who act this way do not have any claim on our sense of duty.

There is nothing wrong with being rich, or having few constraints. That is simply not a satisfactory account of what makes life "worth the effort" in the context of a society with mutual obligations. It can be a wonderful path to doing things which are themselves worthy, or a way of keeping score in a competition to see who can do the most worthy things. But as a definition of what is worthwhile it will not do.

Robert Tulip wrote:
I like to read the Gospels as having a big theme about the need to rise above genetic instinct in order to base behavior upon rational ideas, such as universal love and objective truth.
Now you are talking sense.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
questioning of triumphalist religious claims to exclusive grasp on religious truth can unravel the link.
ie doubt destroys the link between ethics and self-interest. Yes, because Christendom thinking had a specific historical account of ethics, which is no longer valid since the demise of Christendom under the force of globalization. But triumphalist Christianity likes to pretend that God’s in his heaven all’s right with the world, as the old Tories said, a line of thinking long obsolete, even though Browning had some irony when he wrote it.
Well, the link between ethics and self-interest can still be re-constructed, but not on the old basis of "fire insurance." I think the idea of eternal punishment for the evil has played a largely constructive role, but it certainly has its downsides, and we are capable now of constructing a society more capable of restraining evil than that supernatural idea was, and without the nasty side-effects.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Those are two big reasons why conservative politics and conservative religion experience higher education as a threat.
So the two reasons for hatred of universities, if I am reading you correctly, are that rational thinking destroys traditional authority without comprehending what it wrecks, and that the credo of conservative individualism finds it hard to mount a coherent response to the rational arguments of liberal collectivism. That looks like why Ayn Rand remains an important ideologue and pariah, because she provides such a robust conservative defence of individual freedoms.

Well, you have re-stated my points in a rather tendentious fashion, in my opinion, but lets go with those. Rational thinking does undermine (hardly destroys) traditional authority, and it is not yet clear how much support individuals need to be able to function effectively when their self-esteem is under persistent attack and they lack traditional authority. It may be that traditional authority is the only workable mode to hold off chaos for low status people and communities.

Ayn Rand is extreme, and, by steamrollering nuance, undermines her own persuasiveness. There is a very robust and coherent response to collectivism, and it fares well in academic circles (if not as well as the Koch brothers might like). Even, for example, Paul Krugman, often considered a liberal firebrand, does not advocate collectivism or try to cast doubt on market capitalism as an organizing system.

By my actual original points stand unchallenged: higher education undermines both the notion that morality is to be justified by its personal benefits to me (the center-of-the-universe illusion in moral reasoning) and the triumphalist claim that the true nature of supernatural things has been supernaturally revealed to my particular tribe.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
But for the transition to become a well-traveled road requires, in my view, a practical account of the functionality of alternative visions of security, visions which put on display the complementarities between security and affiliation motivations in a universalistic context.
That is a rather densely packed sentence, well worth trying to read carefully. The transition in question is from our selfish world of ruthless competition to a ruthful world of cooperation, love, trust and mutual aid. The possible theory of change to enable such a revolutionary transformation and utopian evolution of culture would have to be gradual, recognizing the embedded trauma within the psychology of culture.

Such a transition requires assurance that a universalistic context can deliver security, a proposition rejected by nativists. A universal vision would need to be accessible to adherents of existing main religions, so would need to integrate the true and useful aspects of traditional faiths into a new synthesis.
You have certainly understood my point. As to whether a new faith synthesis is required, I have my doubts. Going back to the version in first century Christianity (or rabbinic Judaism!), to the extent that is possible in a rationalist framework, seems to be sufficient to strip away toxic accretions of authoritarianism and triumphalism. I like your emphasis on the embedded trauma. PTSD is a good image for a culture that has trouble moving up to fulfillment needs.

However, the main point I wished to make may not have gotten through. I believe that universalistic ruthfulness (thanks for that phrase) is quite rational, and delivers security better than any alternative on offer. This has yet to be properly explained (or implemented, at a policy level!) That is, I am not arguing its moral superiority but its practical superiority. Collective security is strictly superior to mutual armed truce, and demonstrably so. Market economics (with pragmatic social safety nets) dominates collective or nativist economics.
Robert Tulip wrote:
the Trump election shows the security and affiliation difficulties in this vision. US elites have not persuaded the masses that safe identity can be maintained in a world of open borders. I think this illustrates the need for respectful conversation aiming at gradual change, and at understanding the view of others.
Liberal belief in open borders is a conservative myth. Even in Europe, with borders open for poor Eastern Europeans, there are border restrictions against the outside. Yet I do think that liberals have failed to make the general case that security is enhanced by rationally implementing affiliation motivation universally. It is a strong case, in my opinion.
Robert Tulip wrote:
A key Bible text for this topic is Matthew 25:40 http://biblehub.com/matthew/25-40.htm "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'” This means that solidarity with the excluded is a key to a trustworthy universal vision of security and affiliation, although that does not at all involve what was discussed recently here as ‘talentism’ since the very concept of rewarding people by their talents comes from this same chapter in Matthew's Gospel.
I would not go so far as to argue that Jesus' point was supportable on pragmatic grounds. I think our moral quest is ultimately more important, but aligning social institutions with it requires a critical mass of people operating at the self-fulfillment level.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
We can actually begin to see in practical terms how self-defeating it is to attempt to base prosperity on excluding others from prosperity.
The global free trade arguments against mercantile protection run counter to popular intuitions that selfishness is the path to wealth. A similar idea to the selfish popular ethic is that justice means helping your friends and harming your enemies, as Polemarchus suggested to Socrates in Plato’s Republic. The intuitive and instinctive idea of Polemarchus is countered by the transcendent reason of Socrates, providing a model for how Jesus Christ countered the revenge model of justice with his theory of restorative forgiveness, which again places evolutionary salvation in the human capacity to transcend instinctive drives.

If we allow market forces to enable the most efficient producer to sell freely, the overall productivity benefits will vastly exceed the perceived advantages of exclusive regulation and protection. This is an interesting example where faith in the virtue of free markets can be supported by strong empirical logic.
There are several counter-intuitive knots in the practicalities of these issues. And we are not guaranteed that the successes of the past will be repeated by the same principles in the future. Yet, as far as we are able to tell, there is a much stronger case to be made for open markets and collective rule of law than for gut instincts of economic protectionism and tribal self-defense for security.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Trump is the vaccination America needs to generate antibodies against the emergence of a real tyrant in the future.
We can only hope you are right about this, in my opinion.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
The premise that faith and reason are mutually exclusive is a canard which is frequently deployed on BT, but it is wrong. In countering said premise I recommend the following books.

Faith With Good Reason by Ben Butera amazon.com/Faith-Good-Reason-Finding-An ... ood+reason

Particles of Faith by Stacy Trasancos, Ph.D.amazon.com/Particles-Faith-Catholic-Nav ... s+of+faith



Last edited by stahrwe on Sat Mar 25, 2017 3:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
stahrwe wrote:
The premise that faith and reason are mutually exclusive is a canard which is frequently deployed on BT, but it is wrong. In countering said premise I recommend the following books.

Thanks for the recommendations. I find the relationship a rich and fascinating topic, as maybe you can tell by the pages of discussion preceding.

I wonder if the claim about faith and reason being mutually exclusive might be due to a certain kind of faith which one might call "blind faith," in which the believer considers it a virtue to believe something despite lack of evidence. If the less the evidence, the more the virtue, then the person will tend to get a little extreme about shaping their beliefs in bizarre ways.

More often we have an attachment to tradition, which is part of the conservative nature of religion - part of its function is to conserve social ways which are valuable, despite the difficulty of explaining the reasons for these ways to the satisfaction of everyone in the society. Obviously if a critical mass of "wise grey heads" in the society no longer believe these are good ways, then modifications will happen. The problem with attachment to tradition for the sake of its authority is that this flexibility is actively resisted and a serious brittleness can set in. Such brittleness will also lead outsiders to argue that faith and reason are at odds.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
My impression is that the claim about faith and reason being mutually exclusive comes from a delusion about what reason is.

I recommend both books to you.

Stacy Trasancos has a Ph.D. in chemistry which she earned while working as an exotic dancer (stripper) at night. She came to faith later in life and her book is a frank discussion of her perceptions of faith and reason and how they work together. She is not a creationist and discusses how her knowledge of science supports her faith.

Ben Butera's book is a discussion of how reason and faith are not mutually exclusive but work together.


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
stahrwe wrote:
My impression is that the claim about faith and reason being mutually exclusive comes from a delusion about what reason is.

I agree with Stahrwe that faith and reason are not mutually exclusive. But I doubt that many atheists actually make this claim.

This is probably a non sequitur, but I've recently discovered C.S. Lewis' book, Till We Have Faces. I haven't read it yet, but I was trying to figure out what C.S. Lewis meant by the title (which is also the title of a rock album by Steve Hackett). C.S. Lewis' late novel is a retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche, from the perspective of Orual, Psyche's older sister.

from Wikipedia:
Quote:
Lewis chose "Till We Have Faces", which refers to a line from the book where Orual says, "How can [the gods] meet us face to face till we have faces?" . . . He defended his choice in a letter to his long-time correspondent, Dorothea Conybeare, explaining the idea that a human "must be speaking with its own voice (not one of its borrowed voices), expressing its actual desires (not what it imagines that it desires), being for good or ill itself, not any mask.

I love this idea of speaking with your own voice. It's very Buddha-esque, isn't it? It also reminds me of the Greek aphorism: Know thyself. Until we know our own mind, how can we, to borrow a term from psychology, become self actualized? How can we get past our own errors and biases. C.S. Lewis probably saw his relationship with God as a result of his own soul-searching and finding his own voice. But I can appreciate this concept from an atheist perspective. Remember, too, that Lewis' novel is retelling of a Greek myth. I have always enjoyed C.S. Lewis' fictional work, even if I don't relate to his theology.

I know this is all off topic and I merely throw it out there as an aside. Also, I know that Stahrwe likes C.S. Lewis, so there's something we have in common!


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
Geo,

I have not read that Lewis book either but perhaps it is a reference to

Quote:
I Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. 13:12 For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. classic.net.bible.org/bible.php?book=1C ... chapter=13


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
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Such 'irrational' methods of support are needed because of the 'uneven development' (Marx, Lenin) of different parts of science. Copernicanism and other essential ingredients of modern science survived only because reason was frequently overruled in their past. Paul Feyerabend, Against Method, Fourth Edition, Verso/New Left Books, 20 Jay Street, Ste 1010, Brooklyn, NY 11201, 2010, ISBN 13: 978-1-84467-442-8 Page 105


Reason is not always the good 'guy.'


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Post Re: Faith and Reason
geo wrote:
"How can [the gods] meet us face to face till we have faces?" . . .
Quote:
He defended his choice in a letter to his long-time correspondent, Dorothea Conybeare, explaining the idea that a human "must be speaking with its own voice (not one of its borrowed voices), expressing its actual desires (not what it imagines that it desires), being for good or ill itself, not any mask.

I love this idea of speaking with your own voice. It's very Buddha-esque, isn't it? It also reminds me of the Greek aphorism: Know thyself. Until we know our own mind, how can we, to borrow a term from psychology, become self actualized?

Buddha and everything else-esque. I have run across strong themes expressing this idea in several different sources lately, which I am looking at for several disparate reasons. The repetition has a feeling of synchronicity about it.

"Speaking with your own voice" is an "expressionist" way of putting it, but no less valid for that particular perspective. My admiration for C.S. Lewis has always been based on his combination of insight with honesty. He may have been the first "popular" Christian writer to expound the idea that honesty is the point, i.e. good behavior is not. (Whether he was influenced by D.H. Lawrence, Wilfred Owen and the rest of that generation of writers is for others to sort out.) His "Screwtape Letters" is a masterpiece of unmasking - of recognizing the myriad ways we delude ourselves in an effort to deceive others.

geo wrote:
How can we get past our own errors and biases. C.S. Lewis probably saw his relationship with God as a result of his own soul-searching and finding his own voice. But I can appreciate this concept from an atheist perspective.

One could make a case that the central tenet of modern literature, and perhaps modern art in general, is the indispensability of authenticity. But there is a trick involved, a mystery which cannot be properly explained because it is only really grasped or communicated by experience.

This trick is the one Robert recently referred to in terms of getting at the self rather than the ego. The self is the authentic me, which embodies the archetype of the self, in Jungian terms. The ego is a kind of false self, constructed for purposes of instrumental transactions.

We can tell our secrets all day long and still be operating instrumentally, trying to manipulate others. Or we can find our voice talking about things that have nothing (direct) to do with our inner life. So what is the "trick"? Is it just that you can't fake authenticity? Not exactly, but that is maybe a door to the room of the mystery. The trick is that there is a particular self we are trying to access (or regain) and that when we have found it, we have found everyone else as well. It feels like our truest self, the one with no pretense at all, and at the same time discloses itself to be unified with the same self in everyone else.

There is undoubtedly a neurological basis to this mystery, and so it is likely that not everyone finds the same thing when they get as close as possible to finding their voice. But it has been witnessed to by so many seekers on so many very different paths that I am convinced my own experience is an instantiation of a truth available to most humans.

If it sounds like I am claiming some kind of authority to discuss it, then that is really funny, because even the authority of experience is completely irrelevant to a principle which cannot be "discussed" in any way that opens it to objective validation.

It is also really funny because I have gotten many of my recent presentations about this phenomenon from the writing community, which I am trying to become a member of, and I find that I don't know even the first thing about how to shed the "false voices" that make my writing stale (like that of so many others.) Being authentic is just not the same thing as being honest about your weaknesses. It is about finding that archetypal self, which paradoxically can only be done by losing all the false selves.

Jung says embrace your shadow, but good luck with that. First you have to find it.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
stahrwe wrote:
I have not read that Lewis book either but perhaps it is a reference to
Quote:
I Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. 13:12 For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.

Good insight. Paul was a mystic, but knew his own limitations well enough not to claim he had "found truth." Quite the opposite, he constantly pointed to grace, which he attributed to God. The intimate connection between "knowing fully" and "being fully known" sounds like a glib rhetorical device until you start trying to live in that nexus. I am convinced it is at the heart of grace.



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Post Re: Faith and Reason
yes but you've got to get up to the castle and free maid Marion, the sherriff works for John the imposter, but Richard is the rightful and true king. :wink:

you've got to make your band merry, you must defeat them but not humiliate and alienate them, they are after all aspects of your very self.

so on and so forth or are we still reading mythological allegory as history?

Robin of Loxley and his band of merry men

Jesus and the twelve

c'mon, strain those little grey cells, you can do it :lol:



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