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Religion and philosophy 
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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
more careful and less speculative work … point away from the mythicist hypothesis.
Unfortunately, the historicist works that have tried to rebut mythicist arguments have been embarrassingly weak, no more than polemic, lacking in scholarly quality. We are in the midst of a paradigm shift in Biblical Studies, where the logic of evidence points to the most compelling explanation being that Jesus Christ was a fictional myth.
Not really compelling. A number of researchers, in both history and Biblical Studies, have taken up the mythicist mission. In many cases they have significantly revised the orthodoxy-based version of the historiography, and that is all to the good. I generally support a variety of views being explored, for just that reason.

But I am still waiting for evidence of mythicism being predictive for an internally consistent version of the historiography that does not take absence of evidence as evidence of absence as axiomatic.

Most telling is that the mythicist version stumbles over the same problem they allege "proves" that historicism makes no sense, namely the absence of historical evidence of their putative mythicist process. What they find instead are "traces" all of which have more logical explanations, and when these traces are doubted, they claim that it is all due to the coverup by Christendom. Sorry, I am not buying. If the mythicist version is true, then looking for evidence should turn some up. I am willing to wait and see.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Just as Newton's theories are inadequate for managing satellites or measuring galaxies, the historicist assumption that Jesus existed fails to explain crucial anomalies, that are all far better explained by the invention hypothesis.
They are crucial to some, but there are plenty of scholars with no investment in apologetics who don't find them persuasive.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The total absence of any mention of Jesus of Nazareth independent of the Gospel of Mark is one telling weakness for a person who was supposedly famous and influential. And Mark’s Gospel itself is so thoroughly magical and symbolic that considered by itself it reads far more as parable than history,

Unfortunately the main weakness of the inventionist line of analysis is one that mythicists always seem to have trouble getting their head around: they see any use of supernatural imagery as proof that the whole thing is invention from start to finish, like Isis and Osiris or Demeter and Persephone. This despite discussion by mythicists themselves of elaboration using supernatural stories for figures as diverse as Emperor Augustus, Siddhartha Gautama, and Pythagoras. (Did you know that there are no independent attestations of the life of the Buddha? My gosh, who does that sound like? Did you know that early documents about his life attest to miracles? My gosh, who does that sound like?)

It seems that mythicists find it impossible to put themselves in an ancient mindset, before science, journalism and even, really, history, as to how stories of the supernatural were actually used.

It's most likely true that Mark is a work of theater, replete with inventions meant to make symbolic points. Again, that was a more-or-less standard approach, especially when the reference points were already taking on mythical significance. I consider it possible that the Reign of God (which is the foundation theology for the Synoptics, contrary to the apparent mythicist belief that Redemption from Sin by Jesus' death and resurrection was the foundational idea of all Christianity) as contrast with Empire was an invention of some writer like Mark, but that doesn't fit the evidence as well as simply noting that it is a plausible insight for one or more of the numerous putative Messiahs of Judaism in that age.

The idea that Mark inventing it is plausible but Jesus seeing it is not is just lacking in common sense. It is turning historiography on its head by arguing that someone we have evidence of (in the form of a document) can be real while someone a movement claims to be based on must be fictional because the supernatural claims by his followers are not evidenced in external sources.

It may be that Jesus' origin in Nazareth was an invention, although I have seen arguments that Nazareth was not "absent" before the claimed time but just absent from formal representations such as maps. Like Jesus, it was insignificant at the time.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Your putative “cultural context” is as absurd as the claim of the Queen of Hearts to Alice in Wonderland that she could believe six impossible things before breakfast. It was precisely the impossibility of the physical resurrection miracle that made it so confronting for the real cultural context, enabling Christianity to construct its imaginary alternative universe where the laws of causality did not apply. Normal people rejected that Christian logic, but they were overruled, and the result was the Dark Ages, with its hostility to science and learning.
Look, it is obvious to most scholars that people believed absurd things when those absurdities reinforce the right ideas and values. They still do. Just because the cultural context includes belief in absurdities does not mean we cannot think with any clarity about how those particular beliefs come to be expressed and passed on.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
it is more economical, more Occam-ish, to recognize that people believed the dead were going to get out of their graves and walk around, as Matthew portrayed
No, it is not. The more parsimonious scientific explanation is that the originators of this impossible claim knew that it should be understood symbolically as a parable, but the literal story had such emotional political resonance that the original symbolic interpretation was suppressed as Gnostic Heresy.

My point was simply that the resurrection the Jews of the time believed in (and certainly not all of them) was not one that was symbolic alone. I am quite willing to believe there were Gnostics around who thought about it differently, but there are plenty of Jewish texts from outside Christianity which were not suppressed and which support ideas of resurrection as literal.

When you look for a perspective to be predictive, it is not enough for it to "predict" things we have already learned. That helps make it "explanatory" but not predictive. I am waiting for the first piece of evidence that mythicism predicts will be found if we go looking for such evidence.

Looking at the culture of the time has helped make sense of the evidence in ways that orthodoxy resists. So far, to my awareness at least, there are no predictive successes for historicism either (successes on the order of Schliemann's archaeological investigations for evidence of a historical basis for such "myths" as Troy and the Minotaur. [Edit to add: I later remembered that Knossos was Evans' investigation, not Schliemann's]) But based on the explanatory fit, I will put my money on historicism until either one proves out.
Robert Tulip wrote:
That unquestioned assumption falsely portrayed Gnosticism as emerging from orthodox literalism as a corruption, whereas the evidence indicates the evolutionary causality occurred in the opposite direction. Orthodoxy was the corrupted variant that took over from a Gnostic original teaching.
I am afraid when I have looked at such "evidence" it always turns out to be "a better fit with the obviously superior mythicist narrative," not "facts that show the process in action." It is possible that there was a lot of influence from proto-Gnosticism on Christianity, but those influences don't give us any way of tracing an origin to myths.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The high theology of the New Testament indicates close connection to wisdom teachings, whereas the literal tradition is just a lowest common denominator, a modus vivendi, a dogma suited to the imperial demands post Constantine for political uniformity of belief as a basis for strategic unity and stability and security.
The high theology of the New Testament is mostly later retrojection based on Augustine and other early fathers. Passages such as the ones you underline from Philippians and Colossians are poetical, not explanations of a process. Influence is not evidence of origin: we can see influence from Philo, but there is no evidence Philo was part of some secret Gnostic process - he was a straightforward scholar who saw ideas that were persuasive and so were likely to be taken up by others.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The non-existence of Nazareth until a century after Jesus is one glaring anomaly, easily explained as a result of the Nazarenes existing as a secret mystery school, and so giving their name to Jesus the Nazarene. Such anomalies make the Gospel account impossible except as myth.
So, an example of a predictive success would be if there were a broad range of Nazarene beliefs that turned out to be present in Christianity but absent from rabbinical Judaism. I am unaware of any evidence of such a predictive success.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Such retention of teachings generally involves active effort, but when a text is illegal, such effort becomes difficult.
As an aside, there is a lovely book on this subject called "The Badass Librarians of Timbuktu". I recommend it to anyone.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
It may be that some process eliminated "the truth" from the evidence, as we have evidence of in the redaction of sources in the OT. It does seem clear that there was suppression of the Gnostic texts, but we know this because at least one community did not wish to see them eliminated from the record, and buried manuscripts at Nag Hammadi.
You are getting the logic wrong here Harry. We know there was suppression of the Gnostic texts because the Roman Emperors issued edicts that required it, and then enforced them vigorously, as did their successors.
So the Imperial edicts named the Gnostic texts? I was merely claiming that we know of the texts because hidden copies were retained.
Another example of a prediction that has not been made, much less confirmed, is if such edicts of suppression included mention of documents using the notion that originally Jesus was just a myth. "But that's not how it works", I can hear mythicists saying. Eventually they will get around to spelling out how they think the historiography behind their argument from censorship actually does work. But that would be serious scholarship and all we have so far is visionary peering into the mists and some fringe historians picking up on it as a way to brand themselves.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Our modern assumption tends to be that writing is key, but in historical terms writing is a recent innovation. Ancient religion was largely oral, secret and initiatory.
There is a nice piece of scholarship done by John Dominic Crossan, published in "The Birth of Christianity" about the reliability of oral transmission. It turns out to be better than we probably thought, but also to have biases like those used in linguistic research to trace connections between languages (see "The Horse, The Wheel and Language")



Last edited by Harry Marks on Thu Feb 15, 2018 6:01 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Harry Marks wrote:
I don't think it is possible to process categories of ontology without imposing the subject/object split.
Distinguishing the thinker as subject from the object discussed is logically necessary to the existence of any thought, but does not mean dualism is fundamental. One of my favourite philosophers, Edmund Husserl, wrote a book called Ideas, in which he makes a close logical analysis of the structural relationships known as noetics, looking at how the object is present within mind.

The subject/object split is just the perceived differentiation between the self and the world, something that begins instinctively from the moment a baby cries. The relevant question for ontology is whether this apparent split produces any intrinsic difference. Traditional dualisms argue for two types of stuff, spiritual and physical. Monism, the view that all is one, holds that all apparent differences are ultimately resolved in the coherent unity of the universe. Just because it ‘seems’ from our personal perspective that mind is different from matter does not make it so.

The classic explanation is in the balance of yin and yang. Perceived dualisms of light and dark, positive and negative, male and female, active and passive, spirit and matter, etc, reflect that these polarities come together in the higher unity of tao, the way of nature. The stable one gives birth to the dynamic two and their relationship in the three.
Harry Marks wrote:
Sages explaining non-dualist perspectives usually report that true enlightenment is experienced as a melting away of that split, so that the contemplative one experiences life, the universe and everything as part of the self, and not just vice-versa.
That interpretation, seeing the whole in the part, arises in Blake’s poetic vision of the universe in a grain of sand, but this is by imaginative fractal reflection, like Indra’s Net where every dew drop on the spiderweb reflects the entire universe.

The 'vice-versa' you mention is the observation that our self is part of the world, that our separate identity is better understood through part-whole analysis, as partaking of the larger identities that shape us, like water flowing in a river. But to invert that, and say the whole universe is part of my self, looks more like metaphorical poetry than serious philosophy. Even so, we are stardust, with all our heavy elements born billions of years ago in exploding stars.
Harry Marks wrote:
Not having experienced this, I find I can best make sense of it with the perspective of universal consciousness, that our own consciousness is part of some larger awareness, and that we can access that awareness by having "self" be constituted not by its differences from "the outside" but by its independence from the limitations of the differentiated "small" self.
The distinctive conscious self of personal awareness is defined in psychology as the ego or I. Carl Jung held that the real self includes much of which the ego is not aware, and defined this unconscious dimension of the self as the id or it. The id participates in broader currents of identity and is influenced by symbols and emotions that form most of our self like how the submarine part of an iceberg is so much bigger than the visible portion.

Whether the self can ever be “independent” from the limits of the ego in the way envisaged in Buddhism is a difficult question. Buddhism maintains that ego is responsible for the delusional temptation and suffering of attachment, and that enlightenment comes from detachment from the illusions of the ego, seeing the deep unity between the real self and eternal truth. But how can such an enlightened self find motive for action, given the role of ego in motivation? For Christianity, the story of Jesus turning to Jerusalem involves an egoic dimension in the confrontation with evil. Christianity does not share the Buddhist sense that bliss could be achieved through escape from the world.
Harry Marks wrote:
You tend to resist having words change their meaning, so I suspect a claim that self is not "what you thought self was" is inherently repugnant to you.
I don’t think I have ever implied that the concepts of “self” and “self-perceptions” have the same meaning. Perceptions are routinely wrong.

The psychology of personal identity generally recognises that people believe deluded fantasies about who they really are. Religion plays a big part in such fantasy. When people believe that a myth is a literal fact, they buy into a delusion that functions rather like the famous feet of clay in Daniel’s dream, sapping the stability and integrity of everything built upon it.

Deluded ideology generates the foundations of a false sense of reality and personal identity. Buddhism holds that this basic error (Maya) at the foundations of false perception is the cause of suffering, rippling through our whole engagement with the world.
Harry Marks wrote:
Yet such propositions are essential to the Eastern tradition in which the world is illusion and enlightenment requires seeing literally everything differently.
Your term “world” covers a multitude of sins and meanings. Isaac Newton held that the ‘centre of the world’ is the fulcrum of the solar system, the barycentric point around which all mass orbits, whose location integrates all the mass of the system. At the other extreme, we find examples like the ‘worlds of hobbies’ where people construct an overtly imaginary framework of meaning.

Newton used ‘world’ to mean objective reality, and defended his view with mathematics, measurement and accurate prediction. More commonly, world refers to the inter-subjective construction of shared meaning, with myths and ideologies producing common dreams and identities in a comforting fantasy, with strong potential for illusion.

In between, we have the concept of world as planet. The recently deceased Ursula Le Guin put this nicely in her story title The Word For World Is Forest, (in German picking up the etymology Wort Welt Wald). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Word_ ... _Is_Forest

Newton’s usage illustrates that an enlightened concept of world is possible, even if he only partly achieved it. The issue comes up strongly in analysis of Gnosticism, with its critics alleging that Gnostics consider matter to be evil, where a more nuanced reading is that Gnosticism generally saw the constructed world of human illusion to be evil.

People jump/elide from 'world as construction' to 'world as description'. These are very different, reflecting the distinction between descriptive science and constructionist culture. Heidegger’s central idea of Being in the World helps to establish a monist theory of the world, defining ‘worldhood’ as the framework of meaning and care, integrating construction and description.
Harry Marks wrote:
The tradition of contemplative Christianity is not so invested in notions of illusion, but its insights consistently point toward seeing "self" as inclusive of the welfare of others.
My view is that Christianity evolved from Buddhism, as Buddhist missionaries sent by Asoka from India established the western monastic tradition from the third century BC. But western culture has some deeply ingrained delusions, such as the false belief that the west is superior to the east, as well exploded by Bernal in Black Athena. The false ideas of western superiority are grounded in the traditions that put technological conquest and progress at the centre of identity, and these myths of progress have infected some western mysticism as well.

There is however a contemplative tradition within the Bible that focuses strongly on the critique of illusion, with the comments from Jesus condemning hypocrisy, arrogance and stupidity. Perhaps the way the church came to rely so heavily on the deluded beliefs of literal dogma made this line of argument about illusion a sore point, leading to the lack of emphasis that you mention.

Your theme of self as intrinsically with others is reflected in the core idea in the Bible that we should love others and God as we love our self, producing the ethic of compassionate solidarity that is the dream of the kingdom of God.
Harry Marks wrote:
Why should I be interested?" The answer is, for the good, but this is not the Good of obligation, the thing we are supposed to want, but rather the harmony of all things toward which the soul inclines itself naturally, when it is seeking what makes life meaningful at all. And as long as we insist on our self being separated from that harmony, it will be.
Your phrase “the Good of obligation” seems to refer to a sense of moral duty, and to how duty in the imperial traditions is to King and Country, or to Uncle Sam in the republican traditions.

But then your contrast to ‘the harmony of all things’ raises the problem of what we mean by a duty to God. Perhaps the problem is that we tend to limit God to a tribal meaning, interpreting God in national or dogmatic terms and ignoring the deeper meaning of harmony.

The harmony of all things, which is the proper object of duty, is a complex idea for both culture and science. One way to put duty in empirical terms is to recognise how culture is nested in a physical context.

My own study of the physical context of cultural evolution looks at the very slow orbital cycles of light and dark, primarily the twenty thousand year oscillation of glaciation driven by precession that seems to inspire the old cyclic myth of golden and iron ages. Against that framework, the current traumatised state of human psychology, the inability to see any harmony, reflects our position as emerging from the wintry depth of the iron age, seeking redemption after the fall.

Interestingly, these precessional ages are driven by the perihelion date, when earth is closest to the sun.
Now on 4 January, matching the time when days begin to perceptibly lengthen, the perihelion is beginning the ten thousand year ascent to the next golden age. On that model we can expect the insistence on separation from harmony to characterise human culture for a very long time into the future.

People routinely identify productivity and dynamism with individual competition and differentiation, seeing calls for harmony as undermining the clarity of personal identity and purpose. So the idea that the harmony of all things can readily become a driving force in culture or politics looks distant.
Harry Marks wrote:
you have managed to talk yourself into a viewpoint in which dualism rests on projection, so that only "false" distinctions (by the light of objective methods) count as dualism.
Yes, as I explained above in discussing the Taoist themes of Yin and Yang, any perceived duality is nested within a deeper unity, so any argument that makes a dualism fundamental, such as the split between God and the world, is intrinsically wrong.

This dualist error does involve psychological projection, with our desire for distinction between self and world projected into fundamental ontology, wrongly inferring a radical distinction between matter and spirit. A higher vision has to reconcile matter and spirit in a consistent and coherent story about the unified nature of reality.
Harry Marks wrote:
While I agree that arguments from revelation for some kind of supernatural authority are specious, that does not negate revelation as a source of insight.
The concept of revelation, in Greek apocalypse, is central to insight and intuition, just in the sense that our intuition reveals information that our conscious reason finds hard to articulate clearly.

With global warming a looming apocalypse, in the sense of planetary catastrophe, the task is to explain whether this ‘revelation’ comes from coherent scientific knowledge or just from a vague hunch, and how intuitions can be clarified. I think it is important to ground opinions in scientific prediction, but generating social traction requires that the data of science be explained in a more popular framework through the language of apocalypse.

Apocalyptic language about climate change is rejected from both sides of the faith/reason divide. Traditional literal religion restricts revelation to divine magic tricks, while science finds the whole notion of intuitive prophecy difficult. A middle path between these extremes of faith and reason could be a way to generate more productive discussion.

Consider the leopard-lion-bear of Revelation 13:1. If such magical mystery Biblical tours reflect deep natural insight, there is the potential to reposition revelation to accord with rational knowledge. I will come back to this example in response to your question about how mythicism is predictive.

The traditional fundamentalist readings of such texts remind me of a line from Bullwinkle, “Hey Rocky, watch me pull a beast out of my hat!”, due to the farcical literalism that ignores symbolic meaning.
Harry Marks wrote:
the fundamental problem with revelations about the supernatural is not their lack of scientific verifiability, but rather their distortion of the subject/object unity in the I/Thou encounter. As long as someone is looking for meaning "out there," in some obligation or other principle that is objectively "the real" meaning, it will not be real meaning.
I have a different line on this problem of the meaning of supernatural claims. The Memory Code argues that originally most ancient myths were part of initiatory traditions of secret knowledge, held as secret in order to protect the stability across generations. The suppression of these oral initiation traditions that go back tens of thousands of years through the stone age has caused the loss of knowledge of the real meaning of the surviving fragmentary myths.

So for example, the myth in Revelation 22 of the Tree of Life, described in the Bible as having twelve fruits, one for each month of the year, and growing on both sides of the River of Life, is allegorical symbol for visual observation of the zodiac stars. This image is a precise coded description of the night sky, where the twelve zodiac constellations are on both sides of the celestial river, the Milky Way. My reading is that the forgetting of this real simple objective meaning, with its links to the orderly stability of the visual heavens, has allowed believers to invent all sorts of supernatural meanings for such myths.

The stellar allegory is a meaning that is “out there”, in your phrase, but this meaning has been unacceptable to orthodox literalist dogma. As a result, literal church teachings have severely traumatised human psychology and culture by relying on false interpretations, producing the feet of clay and foundations in sand that today bedevil organised faith. The real origins are lost, even though as in this case they can be fairly easily reconstructed from the fugitive traces hidden in the Bible, were anyone interested.

In this example, the Tree of Life, the objective cosmic meaning is compatible with your use of Martin Buber’s I and Thou. If the Tree of Life means the zodiac, then the Bible is saying that redemption of the world involves a remembering of this forgotten ancient knowledge of connection between humanity and the cosmos. The framework of astronomy in this light becomes connection and belonging, rather than naming and observation. That is a paradigm shift.
Harry Marks wrote:
the possibility of nuclear war also means we are intrinsically connected in a way we were not before, but the primacy of caring to meaning makes that connection deeper and more fundamental to a meaningful life than recognizing we are all in the same lifeboat.
In Heidegger’s analysis of care, he argued that in anxiety, using the German concept of Angst that is often translated dread, we confront Being in the World as such, and the possibility of nothingness. Concern about nuclear war certainly picks up on that anxiety as the source of care, as does worry about global warming, seeing recognition of the possibility of human extinction as the framework for authentic meaning.
Harry Marks wrote:
Apocalypse just means revelation, and I have seen it with my own eyes. Not only the brown haze of Los Angeles,
Now you are being flippant. In modern usage, there is a big distinction between apocalypse as global catastrophe and revelation as finding out facts. The revelation of smog is bad for health, but it is nothing like the four horsemen of plague, war, famine and death.
Harry Marks wrote:
Pittsburgh was Hell at the height of the wartime expansion: 1969. I don't have any trouble imagining the air of Delhi or Beijing today, because I saw it before the government got its act together and did something about it. That was "transformation."
Not wanting to diminish the importance of clean air, there is something far more dire about apocalyptic transformation. Elements of the prevailing paradigm of reality are on a trajectory toward extinction, and have to be identified and reversed in order to prevent catastrophe. The real apocalyptic problem of global warming is that sea level rise, mega-storms, mass extinction, acidification, drought and ocean stratification could combine to cause a repeat of the Permian Great Dying of 252 million years ago when almost all life went extinct and things had to start again. By that standard smog doesn’t rise to the horse’s shoe, let alone its bridle.
Harry Marks wrote:
So what is wrong with government borrowing from its people to invest for the public good? I do not see any moral issue in government debt per se. If it isn't really for the public good, that could be a moral issue. If you owe it to others, that could be a practical issue. But the idea that there is something immoral about passing debt on to one's progeny, if the debt was used to also create something good that is also being passed on, is opaque to me. I can't see anything meaningful in it.
The question is whether government debt is being incurred for productive investment or for unproductive consumption. If debt is mainly for consumption, as appears largely the case, debt brings major risk, arising from the perverse incentive that those who benefit from the debt will not have to repay it, and the moral hazard that incurring such unproductive debt actively undermines the capacity of the economy.
Harry Marks wrote:
spiritual matters are not abstract and philosophical but electric and energizing.
That sense of the electric energy in spirit is a really important observation in terms of the vitality of faith. A sense of living spiritual presence and charisma shows the intimate connection between spirit and inspiration. Any ideas that inspire are thereby spiritual, showing how the spiritual has a wider remit than religion.

Even where our spiritual concerns touch on large abstract ideas, they inspire when they produce shared sense of direction, meaning and purpose, generating traction and engagement through a perception of relevance.
Harry Marks wrote:
The intellectualism of the church in the Enlightenment did serious damage to the pietism and other authentic spirituality that was abroad among the people before that. It quenched the spirit, as Paul would have said.
This problem of the role of abstract theology in religion is a big one. The easy temptation is to take religious ideas like grace, love and God as empirical claims subject to testing, but such an attitude, ignoring their spiritual comfort, does not pick up on either the psychology or the real meaning of these abstract terms.

Nietzsche suggested the effort to prove the existence of God through theology was the main cause of the death of God in culture.

Newton, as the real founder of the Enlightenment, was able to hold together the Gnostic tension between the deist clockwork God of astronomical order and the spiritual God of fervent prayer, but such talent is the product of rare genius. It is very hard to explain or replicate such Newtonian melding of heart and head. One or the other is invariably diminished, leading to incoherent and unbalanced views.
Harry Marks wrote:
It is easy to see the "for others" in the Marthas, who toil away to see that the work goes forward. But those who sit at the feet of the Master need to see that it is "for others", and if they cannot deliver the insights to other seekers, they need to study harder.
This story of Martha and Mary makes me think of the debate over salvation by faith or works. The ordinary tendency is to see works of mercy as performed by Martha as the only practical help. If we think of faith as meaning ‘strategic direction’, then it becomes apparent that unless good works are placed in a coherent vision they are of no avail.

In this story from Luke, the strategic direction that Mary obtains from sitting like Isis to shoot the breeze with Jesus gives her an inspiring vision of faith that would have been missed if she joined Martha in doing the dishes instead as a work of service.

Looking at modern examples, in climate change no amount of “works” such as use of renewables will replace the “faith” involved in a strategic shift of global paradigm to remove the dangerous carbon that humans have added to the air.

The most egregious example of ‘salvation by works’ is the Marxist ‘labor theory of value’ which asserts that work has intrinsic value in itself rather than just in terms of what people are willing to pay for it.
Harry Marks wrote:
given that a person like yourself, actually doing something about the climate issue, is simultaneously denying the role of markets in balancing external costs against benefits, apparently just because externalities by definition require public recognition and charging for those costs, I would say yes, we need some discussion about high concepts.
Markets work to solve normal problems, not in emergencies. The climate situation is an emergency, requiring immediate removal of dangerous carbon from the air. The pretence that market solutions could stop global warming is a bit like suggesting to the Poles in 1939 that they could stop Hitler by reforming their tax code.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Tue Feb 13, 2018 1:29 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
I don't think it is possible to process categories of ontology without imposing the subject/object split.
Distinguishing the thinker as subject from the object discussed is logically necessary to the existence of any thought, but does not mean dualism is fundamental.
True, but there is a more fundamental unity which needs to be present, not excluded. The issue, as I see it and will try to explain it further on, is whether "thought", i.e. logical processing, is more fundamental than "caring" or vice-versa. When thinking about the world, or for that matter about the self, is consciously in service to caring, then it does not derail caring from its job to give life meaning even if it uses risky dualistic distinctions, including between subject and object.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The relevant question for ontology is whether this apparent split produces any intrinsic difference. Traditional dualisms argue for two types of stuff, spiritual and physical. Monism, the view that all is one, holds that all apparent differences are ultimately resolved in the coherent unity of the universe. Just because it ‘seems’ from our personal perspective that mind is different from matter does not make it so.
I suggest that the "ontology" of this resolution lies entirely within the experience of consciousness. The coherent unity of the universe may be proposed to exist materially, for example in the functioning of physical laws which are the same in every time and place, but this is mere symbol because it does not address the values issues raised by caring.

As a result, apparent dualisms (i.e. artificial simplicities created by misleading appearance), such as Descartes' mind/body split, are just distractions from the important dualisms like those between good and evil or clarity and muddle. The important dualisms are real, from the perspective of thought. But they are nevertheless part of a fundamental unity from the perspective of caring, and when this fundamental unity is perceived/experienced, the revolutionary perspective causes vital spiritual awakening.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The classic explanation is in the balance of yin and yang. Perceived dualisms of light and dark, positive and negative, male and female, active and passive, spirit and matter, etc, reflect that these polarities come together in the higher unity of tao, the way of nature. The stable one gives birth to the dynamic two and their relationship in the three.
The taoist way of putting these things together is very helpful. But when it is rendered as objective description, rather than subjective perception (or, one might say, as "knowledge of nature" rather than "familiarity with life"), it loses critical elements of the insight. The perceiver is an essential part of the unity: it melts away if we try to render this as objective description.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
the contemplative one experiences life, the universe and everything as part of the self, and not just vice-versa.
The 'vice-versa' you mention is the observation that our self is part of the world, that our separate identity is better understood through part-whole analysis, as partaking of the larger identities that shape us, like water flowing in a river. But to invert that, and say the whole universe is part of my self, looks more like metaphorical poetry than serious philosophy.
Let me pick out for you the elements in this phrasing which presuppose the subject/object split, that is, which impose a neutrality of their truth that is somehow independent of our caring about them.

1. "the observation": think instead about the experience. The world being part of myself is just paradox if it is rendered as objective "observation", but the experience that makes it meaningful is the awareness that my self includes not only objectively verifiable "influences" from the outside but a participation-by-caring in the larger projects undertaken by others, by the common experience of finding meaning in life, and thus, by all of nature. My relationship to life and the universe is part of my caring, which is constitutive of my self.

You allude to this alternate perspective when you discuss the "larger identities" which, like water in a stream, make up part of the identity of that stream. But you fail to recognize that the stream that is my self is more fundamentally about caring, and so includes the universe not ontologically but existentially, than about distinction from other selves. This was opened to me by an exercise I have used with students. "Define yourself, as best you can, in four words." Like most people, I chose my four words to distinguish myself from others. That's the dualistic mind at work. The person who presented it to me recalled someone who had said, "to start I'd have to say I'm a human being." The flash of insight I got from that illustration is as close as I have come to directly perceiving that "All is One."

2. "better understood": note the word better. You are imposing by the ways you imply betterness that "better" understanding is measured in ways which are most objective, which are most independent of our caring about them. That's fine for description of the workings of nature, but, once again, it subtracts out the element of caring which actually defines "better" understanding.

3. "looks more like metaphorical poetry than like serious philosophy": perfectly captures the mistaken dualism of the mind's analytical blindness. "Serious philosophy" is taken to impose the objective independence from caring, rather than engaging with life as it is lived. As if the perfect ontology would somehow perfectly exclude caring. Bollocks, as the Brits say. By contrast, metaphorical poetry engages caring directly, to find the music in the many and varied elements of caring.

We say that a con-man can play on someone's emotions like a violin. But a real Bodhisattva helps a person orchestrate their caring in such a way that their own individual process of caring is in harmony with the give-and-take process that the universe offers to them. To put the matter a different way, accuracy matters because of the reasons we care about accuracy, not because it has some divine status of imperialistic rule over our lives. Our caring is fundamental to accuracy's mattering. Or anything else's mattering: there is no objective mattering.

SILENCE MY SOUL

Silence my soul, these trees are prayers.
I asked the tree, “Tell me about God”;
then it blossomed.

- Rabindranath Tagore

End of part I.



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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
we can access that [larger] awareness by having "self" be constituted not by its differences from "the outside" but by its independence from the limitations of the differentiated "small" self.
The distinctive conscious self of personal awareness is defined in psychology as the ego or I. Carl Jung held that the real self includes much of which the ego is not aware, and defined this unconscious dimension of the self as the id or it. The id participates in broader currents of identity and is influenced by symbols and emotions that form most of our self like how the submarine part of an iceberg is so much bigger than the visible portion.

Whether the self can ever be “independent” from the limits of the ego in the way envisaged in Buddhism is a difficult question. Buddhism maintains that ego is responsible for the delusional temptation and suffering of attachment, and that enlightenment comes from detachment from the illusions of the ego, seeing the deep unity between the real self and eternal truth.
I think it may be difficult in practice, but I don't think it is difficult in theory at all. If our ego, or consciously aware thinking mind, is constituted by objectivity, that is if it is committed as a matter of self-protection to the illusion that mattering is objective, then it will suffer by attachment. The ego co-opts some parts of the id to resist impulses which undermine its stranglehold on the type of awareness that is admissible. Those are "the limitations of the ego." Fundamentally, they rely on repression.

Robert Tulip wrote:
But how can such an enlightened self find motive for action, given the role of ego in motivation?
Ego is free to find reasons, but if it goes about this in a way that represses our identity in common with the larger "water" of motivation, then it becomes a barrier to enlightenment. Hindu thought is often seen in the West as denying motive for action, and it has at times imposed a quietism or detachment which resisted the ego's restless search for new and better ways. Better is to embrace the search but be humble about the "betterness". After all, science is very useful, and may already have set in motion extinction of the human race by outpacing our ability to harmonize motivations. In my experience, people who cannot find any humility to have about their regard for science are in the grip of attachment, usually subconscious and mythological.

Robert Tulip wrote:
For Christianity, the story of Jesus turning to Jerusalem involves an egoic dimension in the confrontation with evil. Christianity does not share the Buddhist sense that bliss could be achieved through escape from the world.
One does not escape from the world, one escapes from illusion-based attachment to the world. If you cannot see that escape as fundamental to kenosis, to the turning to Jerusalem, then you have missed the main points in non-dualism.

Robert Tulip wrote:
People jump/elide from 'world as construction' to 'world as description'. These are very different, reflecting the distinction between descriptive science and constructionist culture. Heidegger’s central idea of Being in the World helps to establish a monist theory of the world, defining ‘worldhood’ as the framework of meaning and care, integrating construction and description.
As I am struggling to elucidate these concepts in this dialogue, I find repeatedly that I am "recognizing" matters whose relationship is outside me, rather than "creating" insights or relationships that don't exist without my perception of them. The line between description as process and construction as process is at least fractally intricate, if not altogether illusory.

Though I haven't read much Heidegger, I worry that his project was undertaken from an "objectivity" framework which proposed to submit existential process to the demands of ontology. If so, then it was built on sand. In my experience the dialogue between construction and description is fundamental to life. Letting the process demands of either one of them define the terms of engagement for the relationship is a mistake.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Your theme of self as intrinsically with others is reflected in the core idea in the Bible that we should love others and God as we love our self, producing the ethic of compassionate solidarity that is the dream of the kingdom of God.
That's helpful. As an insight, or guideline, it can trigger recognition of the artificiality of my individual self, and thus invite the pouring in of actual compassion that is needed by so many withered, stunted lives.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Why should I be interested?" The answer is, for the good, but this is not the Good of obligation, the thing we are supposed to want, but rather the harmony of all things toward which the soul inclines itself naturally, when it is seeking what makes life meaningful at all. And as long as we insist on our self being separated from that harmony, it will be.
Your phrase “the Good of obligation” seems to refer to a sense of moral duty, and to how duty in the imperial traditions is to King and Country, or to Uncle Sam in the republican traditions.

But then your contrast to ‘the harmony of all things’ raises the problem of what we mean by a duty to God. Perhaps the problem is that we tend to limit God to a tribal meaning, interpreting God in national or dogmatic terms and ignoring the deeper meaning of harmony.

Our duty to God, our "absolute relation to the absolute" in Kierkegaard's terminology, is not a duty per se because it comes in the context of grace. That is, it is not created by obligation, but rather is offered as a possibility (a "free gift") by the relationship at the heart of meaning.

To seek the good, to find harmony in all things meaningful, is to defeat death and the perception of isolation of the individual from others. Objectively we die, and objectively nothing we do matters except as people find it meaningful, but when our sense of meaning is drawn from the eternal, our lives (not just our thought constructions, but the meanings which actually motivate us) are able to transcend these limitations imposed by an objective frame of reference. But if we seek objective validation for our meaning, we impose these limitations and we crash into them and find ourselves sitting on the ground shaking our head with confusion.

Yes, the tribal God of nation or religion (speaking of the sociological entities), will cripple our ability to respond to longing for the harmony of all things. Tillich talked about false gods, about ultimate concerns which were not truly ultimate (in that they could not acknowledge the larger quest for shalom, in my reading). As such they are like a king who will not stand up in the presence of the King of Kings, but of course such an image must never be made into a duty. It is an opportunity. A king can be more than Caligula, and a life can have more meaning in it than flopping back and forth in response to pleasure and pain.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The harmony of all things, which is the proper object of duty, is a complex idea for both culture and science. One way to put duty in empirical terms is to recognise how culture is nested in a physical context.


I would agree that fighting climate change is a duty, and that's one reason why I agree with you that subtracting carbon is at least as important (because we have delayed too long) as reducing carbon emissions. But I don't agree that it is the best way to look at either the quest for the good, or our relationship to the physical requirements of our culture.

Duty is a partial, fragmented part of the life of faith. A person of faithfulness will shudder at the possibility that they have failed in meeting a duty. In traditional, supernaturally-explained religion, our duty to God represents to us the opportunity to participate in eternity by working for shalom, which is the harmony of all things. When face-to-face with duty, our obligation to it is inescapable.

Grace doesn't remove the obligation, but it does put it in context of a relationship of love: the Absolute reaches out to us (in an actual, not metaphorical, process) to reassure us that our obligations come to us in the context of the love that humanity and the good have for us, holding out to us the possibility of living in proper quest for shalom rather than feeling we must retreat to our bank accounts and our ethnic identities as if these will save us from the great and terrible Day of Reckoning.
Robert Tulip wrote:
People routinely identify productivity and dynamism with individual competition and differentiation, seeing calls for harmony as undermining the clarity of personal identity and purpose. So the idea that the harmony of all things can readily become a driving force in culture or politics looks distant.
Well, it already is a driving force in politics and culture. Like the leaven hidden in the meal. But it is far from the only driving force, and, let's face it, it is not a force that works by demanding to hold the reigns or to have a seat at the table of power, though these may at times be ceded to it.

I am quite convinced that productivity and dynamism have seen their better days. Anyone who thinks that introducing self-driving cars will increase shalom in society is barking mad. The entrepreneurial class sees individual (or corporate) competition for money as the ultimate source of all benefit in society, but I am sorry to say we must drop the curtain on them. They are now a distant third to social processes of empowering the excluded and integrating the costs of externalities into monetary incentives. That's not to say I am in favor of disempowering competition and enterprise. But the movement for selling governmental power to the donor class has to stop. It has gone too far already.
Robert Tulip wrote:
A higher vision has to reconcile matter and spirit in a consistent and coherent story about the unified nature of reality.
Yes and no. If you are going to insist on the requirements of objective analysis as non-negotiable requirements of the formation of the story, then you have sabotaged the possibilities for caring to bring the elements in harmony. The "unified nature of reality" is not "objective" when it comes to reconciling spirit and matter, or many of the other supposed dualities-from-illusion which you identified.

Robert Tulip wrote:
With global warming a looming apocalypse, in the sense of planetary catastrophe, the task is to explain whether this ‘revelation’ comes from coherent scientific knowledge or just from a vague hunch, and how intuitions can be clarified. I think it is important to ground opinions in scientific prediction, but generating social traction requires that the data of science be explained in a more popular framework through the language of apocalypse.
Might work. One problem I see is that apocalypse, in the form of planetary catastrophe, implies some all-at-once disaster. Climate change is a creeping, glacial-paced process and people are very subject to the boiling frog illusion. We have already had a year from Hell in the climate, and the last few years were not that much better even if you restrict yourself to U.S. climate costs. The handwriting is on the wall, but you seem to put your faith in stories of human extinction which are both harder to verify and much less tangible than Hurricanes Harvey, Katrina, Irma, Maria and Sandy.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Now you are being flippant. In modern usage, there is a big distinction between apocalypse as global catastrophe and revelation as finding out facts. The revelation of smog is bad for health, but it is nothing like the four horsemen of plague, war, famine and death.
Flippancy is not part of my approach here. Was it facts we found out about? Or was it the collapse of a false narrative, that market incentives are all we need for prosperity and a good life? It seems to me you are in denial about externalities, yet if anything was revealed in facing apocalypse, it was that they need to be addressed collectively.

I am not in denial about modern usage. I would not, to a more general audience, rely on the original meaning of the word to make a claim that we faced a global catastrophe on the order of planetary extinction episodes. Yet I am corresponding with a sensible, educated and philosophically trained individual who cannot see the main lesson of the previous round of environmental confrontation, much less see how bad things would be if we had not addressed that lesson. As a result I am agog (and not above seeming flippant to draw attention to this problem).
Robert Tulip wrote:
That sense of the electric energy in spirit is a really important observation in terms of the vitality of faith. A sense of living spiritual presence and charisma shows the intimate connection between spirit and inspiration. Any ideas that inspire are thereby spiritual, showing how the spiritual has a wider remit than religion.

Even where our spiritual concerns touch on large abstract ideas, they inspire when they produce shared sense of direction, meaning and purpose, generating traction and engagement through a perception of relevance.
I could not have expressed this better myself.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Nietzsche suggested the effort to prove the existence of God through theology was the main cause of the death of God in culture.
I was not aware of this. It should be more widely known.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The ordinary tendency is to see works of mercy as performed by Martha as the only practical help. If we think of faith as meaning ‘strategic direction’, then it becomes apparent that unless good works are placed in a coherent vision they are of no avail.
I would agree, but I would add the proviso that the "coherent vision" of Christianity recognizes that any good work is done for Christ, and that the coherent strategic vision sees such works operating like the mustard seed, starting small but generating wider and more empowering flows of compassion. "Faith" in NT usage should be seen as "trust" and "faithfulness" and as such, does not really function as a coherent strategic vision.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The most egregious example of ‘salvation by works’ is the Marxist ‘labor theory of value’ which asserts that work has intrinsic value in itself rather than just in terms of what people are willing to pay for it.
I like that comparison, but I also would point out that Marx got it from David Ricardo, who was seeing what was, at the time, a plausible version of equilibrium analysis. Value, to Ricardo, would tend to match labor content because labor content was the main element of cost.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Markets work to solve normal problems, not in emergencies. The climate situation is an emergency, requiring immediate removal of dangerous carbon from the air. The pretence that market solutions could stop global warming is a bit like suggesting to the Poles in 1939 that they could stop Hitler by reforming their tax code.
OMG you must be kidding me. The triumph of markets over central planning was a gradual, long-haul response to incentives. That is the kind of thorough-going, comprehensive response we need to GHG's. Even if all your favorite notions of the effect of sea-life cultivation were to prove out, the Malthusian process of unregulated GHG production is still capable of overwhelming that removal.

I grant you that humanity faces an emergency, and even that it may take more than just government action to create market-like incentives against GHG emissions, but refusing to use both approaches (private innovation and incentives against external costs) is almost as foolish as refusing to use either one.



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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Harry Marks wrote:
researchers, in both history and Biblical Studies, have taken up the mythicist mission. In many cases they have significantly revised the orthodoxy-based version of the historiography, and that is all to the good. I generally support a variety of views being explored, for just that reason. But I am still waiting for evidence of mythicism being predictive for an internally consistent version of the historiography that does not take absence of evidence as evidence of absence as axiomatic.
That is all fair comment. A paradigm does not shift until a better paradigm is presented. That has not yet happened with the debate on the existence of Jesus Christ, which is still largely confined to wailing in the outer darkness of the internet and books rather than being the subject of serious discussion in media, politics and universities.

The focus of mythicist literature that I have read has been more on teeth-gnashing about why the traditional views of Christ are wrong, rather than on presenting a more plausible alternative explanation of the evolution of faith.

My own ambition is to present such a plausible alternative, but a problem is that the scale of transformation involved for the prevailing sense of history is so big. For example, I see astrology as central to the ancient construction of the myth of Christ, through the astronomy of precession of the equinoxes. Unfortunately, that framework of zodiac ages involves a cosmology that faces severe prejudice from all sides, from both faith based and reason based worldviews. I am just now finalising a journal article on precession as the structure of time in which I present my views on the foundations of this new paradigm.
Harry Marks wrote:
Most telling is that the mythicist version stumbles over the same problem they allege "proves" that historicism makes no sense, namely the absence of historical evidence of their putative mythicist process.
That is a rather complex argument that I fear misses the point of the debate on the existence of Jesus. The real problem of “absence of historical evidence” is that all the alleged evidence for the historical Jesus Christ can be directly traced to the Gospel of Mark, a highly dubious source with clear agenda and interest in invention.

None of the alleged evidence for Jesus is independent of that single source in Mark. The pervasive aggression of the subsequent assumption that Jesus was real crushed any oxygen out of the prior view that Jesus was invented. Two thousand years is plenty of time for such a pervasive assumption to wipe out most traces of other views, especially when those views are condemned as heresy and blasphemy.

As to the evidence for a mythicist process, again I refer to The Memory Code, to its anthropological analysis of how ancient oral culture universally used myth to generate and sustain complex allegorical secret frameworks of meaning, using knowledge as power. That appears the exact process that the New Testament says applies to the claim attributed by the Gospels to Jesus that his secret teachings are reserved for initiates while everything for the public is parable.
Harry Marks wrote:
What they find instead are "traces" all of which have more logical explanations, and when these traces are doubted, they claim that it is all due to the coverup by Christendom. Sorry, I am not buying.
The concept of “traces” is one that I have introduced as a method to find evidence of a concealed Gnostic cosmology in the miraculous language of the New Testament, but I don't think it is much discussed in atheist mythicist literature. There is no way miracles have better explanations than pointing to secret concealed meaning, since the traditional explanation tends to be that they prove God intervened in the world in contravention of the laws of physics.
Harry Marks wrote:
If the mythicist version is true, then looking for evidence should turn some up. I am willing to wait and see.
My version of the mythicist hypothesis, which is not shared across the atheist community except for Frank Zindler and the late Dorothy Murdock (Acharya S) as far as I know, is that the cosmic model of the shift of Zodiac Ages from Aries to Pisces was the primary framework for construction of the Christ Myth. This model suggests we should find traces of that framework. These are in fact abundant, in the alpha/omega model of time, the loaves and fishes miracle, the chi rho cross and all the precessional imagery in the Apocalypse.
Harry Marks wrote:
Unfortunately the main weakness of the inventionist line of analysis is one that mythicists always seem to have trouble getting their head around: they see any use of supernatural imagery as proof that the whole thing is invention from start to finish, like Isis and Osiris or Demeter and Persephone.
No, you are creating a straw man. The existence of legends around Jesus is not at all seen as proof that he was invented. The invention hypothesis combines the fabulous miracles together with a series of other factors to indicate that Jesus was invented, notably around how someone called "Anointed Saviour" could possibly found a world religion while leaving no trace except through a short book, the Gospel of Mark, written at least two generations later.

Paraphrasing Voltaire, if Jesus did not exist it would have been necessary to invent him, given the messianic expectation and the political/religious context of the advent of the common era.
Harry Marks wrote:
It seems that mythicists find it impossible to put themselves in an ancient mindset, before science, journalism and even, really, history, as to how stories of the supernatural were actually used.
That mindset criticism applies more strongly to believers, who reject and ignore the framework of syncretic pagan astrology that provided the enabling environment to construct the Christ Myth, for example in Alexandria. The contested comment from the early second century Roman Emperor Hadrian that Christians are astrological worshippers of Serapis certainly reinforces that hypothesis of a quite different mindset in the early church from the way it was presented in Church propaganda. The link on Serapis is worth reading to see the allegorical nature of ancient religion.
Harry Marks wrote:
It's most likely true that Mark is a work of theater, replete with inventions meant to make symbolic points. Again, that was a more-or-less standard approach, especially when the reference points were already taking on mythical significance.
The only change I would suggest is that the reference points started with mythical significance, and the historical claims were added in. Acharya S in The Christ Conspiracy proves quite well that the concept of Christ was mythical from the start, given its broad use in the Old Testament to mean anointed. She wrote “A Handy Concordance of the Septuagint (261)lists some 43 scriptures that include the word christos: Lev. 4:5, 16, 6:22, 21:10, 12; 1 Sam. 2:10, 35, 12: 3, 5, 16:6, 25:7, 7, 11, 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Sam. 1:14, 16, 2:5-A, 19:21, 22:51, 23:1, 3a; 1 Chr. 16:22; 2 Chr. 6:42-B, 22:7; Pss. 2:2, 17:51, 19:7, 27:8, 83:10, 88:39, 52, 104:15, 131:10, 17; Isa. 45:1; Lam. 4:20; Ezek. 16:4+A; Dan. 9:25; Amos 4:13; Hab. 3:13. Amos 4:13 τὸν χριστὸν is translated as “his thought” while the Septuagint rendered the Hebrew word as christos. The scripture, then, could read that the Lord “declares to man what is his Christ…”

This illustrates how the abstract concept of Christ Jesus, which literally means “Anointed Saviour” emerged from Old Testament requirements.
Harry Marks wrote:
I consider it possible that the Reign of God (which is the foundation theology for the Synoptics, contrary to the apparent mythicist belief that Redemption from Sin by Jesus' death and resurrection was the foundational idea of all Christianity) as contrast with Empire was an invention of some writer like Mark, but that doesn't fit the evidence as well as simply noting that it is a plausible insight for one or more of the numerous putative Messiahs of Judaism in that age.
This contrast you paint between theologies of reign and redemption looks overly subtle, and doubtful. It is more important within faith than in scholarship, contrasting the messianic idea that we should emulate the way of the cross with the conventional Christendom dogma of salvation through belief. Atheist critics of Christianity have mocked the penal substitution idea of washed in the blood of the Lamb that is at the foundation of redemptionist theology. This critique is now widely accepted among liberal Christians, who find the magical ideas of Jesus dying as a ransom for sinners hard to engage with and prefer the idea that Jesus is the model of perfection.
Harry Marks wrote:
It is turning historiography on its head by arguing that someone we have evidence of (in the form of a document) can be real while someone a movement claims to be based on must be fictional because the supernatural claims by his followers are not evidenced in external sources.
I have not seen any mythicist argument to the effect that the supernatural claims prove Jesus was invented. Supernatural beliefs are completely compatible with the idea, known as evemerism, that they were added to a historical story. Mythicism rejects that addition theory, and argues the Jesus story is myth historicised, not history mythified.
Harry Marks wrote:
It may be that Jesus' origin in Nazareth was an invention, although I have seen arguments that Nazareth was not "absent" before the claimed time but just absent from formal representations such as maps. Like Jesus, it was insignificant at the time.
René Salm, author of http://www.nazarethmyth.info/ is the best scholar I have read on Nazareth. He points out that the existence of tombs in the locations that are believed to be the old town is incompatible with the existence of a town at the claimed time of Jesus, since Jews did not have tombs in towns. There are many such anomalies. Consider the absence of Nazareth from the works of Josephus and the Talmud in their lists of the towns of Galilee, the anomaly in Luke regarding the Nazareth synagogue which is plainly invention, and the statement of Origen about not knowing where Nazareth was despite living in walking distance from its alleged location.

It is a far more elegant and simple hypothesis that Mark or more probably Matthew invented the town of Nazareth to provide plausible deniability to the charge that Christians were just members of a proscribed Gnostic sect, the Nazarenes or Nazirites, whose secret identity goes back to the ‘Watcher’ traditions of Enoch, Samuel, Samson, Isaiah and John. Once again Kenneth Humphries provides a concise summary of the problem – see http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/nazareth.html
Harry Marks wrote:
people believed absurd things when those absurdities reinforce the right ideas and values. They still do. Just because the cultural context includes belief in absurdities does not mean we cannot think with any clarity about how those particular beliefs come to be expressed and passed on.
The greatest absurdity ever told was that God became incarnate in the man Jesus Christ of Nazareth in Galilee. This was such a comforting and useful claim, resting on the messianic hopes of centuries and reinforcing the idea that Rome lacked political legitimacy, that the hope gave birth to the belief. Psychology and politics combined in a perfect storm to enable literalism to sweep all before it.
Harry Marks wrote:
there are plenty of Jewish texts from outside Christianity which were not suppressed and which support ideas of resurrection as literal.
The starting point for philosophical analysis of such religious claims is that resurrection is impossible, and therefore that any beliefs that it is possible are deluded or deceptive. Again, the framework of The Memory Code well explains resurrection as parable for the seasons, with the death and rebirth of the saviour standing as initiatic symbol for the death and rebirth of the sun, combining the annual turning point of light at Christmas and the turning point of life at Easter.
Harry Marks wrote:
When you look for a perspective to be predictive, it is not enough for it to "predict" things we have already learned. That helps make it "explanatory" but not predictive. I am waiting for the first piece of evidence that mythicism predicts will be found if we go looking for such evidence.
As I promised before, let me return to the beast of the apocalypse. My prediction in reading this arcane myth was that it would prove to be a coded symbol for precession of the equinox. And indeed it is very simple. The North Celestial Pole moved in about 1000 BC out of the constellation of the dragon and into the constellation of the bear, next to the lion and leopard. The North Celestial Pole is the ‘lodestar’ about which the entire heavens rotate, the stable point of power, order and divine authority, the symbolic mercy seat of the heavenly father.
How does the Bible encode this core vision of divine presence in the cosmos? Rev 13:2 http://biblehub.com/interlinear/revelation/13-2.htm says the beast was like a leopard, a bear and a lion... And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. My opinion is that the only coherent meaning of this image is a description of the movement of the North Celestial Pole, the seat of divine power, throne and authority, from its position in the dragon to its current place in the bear, between the lion and leopard. However, I recognise this is a view that most people find hard to grasp or agree with, even though I personally think it should be obvious. I had quite a long and frustrating discussion on the Biblical encoding of the North Celestial Pole at the Early Writings Forum, http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... ?f=3&t=501 some years ago. My opinion that this is a clear matter helped get me banned from that site, which I thought was very unfair and wrong on their part as I am only advancing a scientific hypothesis and am not saying anything magical or absurd. It just shows how emotional people can get about religion. I am simply saying that astronomy was far more central to ancient religion than is generally understood, and that my hypothesis that Jesus Christ was invented to personify the shift of zodiac ages coheres with all the evidence and helps to explain ancient cosmology.
http://www.sacred-texts.com/earth/pf/pf27.htm provides some further information on the centrality of the North Celestial Pole to world mythology.
Harry Marks wrote:
Looking at the culture of the time has helped make sense of the evidence in ways that orthodoxy resists. So far, to my awareness at least, there are no predictive successes for historicism either (successes on the order of Schliemann's archaeological investigations for evidence of a historical basis for such "myths" as Troy and the Minotaur.) But based on the explanatory fit, I will put my money on historicism until either one proves out.
Finkelman in The Bible Unearthed notes that some Israeli archaeological sites have been found from Biblical references, but the usual tendency is more the reverse, as with the complete absence of evidence for Moses in Sinai. Nazareth should be the most controversial, as archaeology indicates the entire Gospel use of it is fiction.
Harry Marks wrote:
such "evidence" always turns out to be "a better fit with the obviously superior mythicist narrative," not "facts that show the process in action." It is possible that there was a lot of influence from proto-Gnosticism on Christianity, but those influences don't give us any way of tracing an origin to myths.
That is a good way to frame the problem that mythicism has focused more on why Christianity is absurd than on providing a superior realistic account of who invented Jesus and why. Perhaps that is because most mythicist narrative is overtly hostile to religion, arguing that the evidence of ancient fraud should encourage abandonment of faith, and they are worried that focus on how Christianity was actually invented will help the reform of faith. The problem is that the mainstream story is absurd, but there was such comprehensive and deliberate loss of information that working out what actually happened is impossible, so we are left with balance of probabilities and piecing together traces.
I take the view that what you call “proto-Gnosticism” was actually the central factor in writing the New Testament, and that reconstructing ‘proto-Gnosticism’ is the decisive task in putting faith on sound epistemic foundations, like Q for a new age. This precursor movement must have had very ancient roots in oral culture, manifesting in the secret initiation societies known as the mysteries, and in the range of ancient religions such as those of Mithras, Serapis, Eleusis, etc that were stamped out by Christianity.
This hypothesised precursor religious movement that wrote the blueprint for Jesus would have been heavily influenced by Platonic philosophy, with ideas about the rule of the good and the centrality of logos strongly shaping Christianity. Following the Hellenistic conquests, there was a broad migration of Greeks around the Eastern Mediterranean. Euclid of Alexandria, the great Greco-Egyptian geometer, was a typical example. The Greeks first invented Serapis to mix their Gods with those of Egypt, and it appears entirely reasonable on this basis that the Greek philosophers then worked with locals to overlay Jewish and Babylonian myths on Serapis to construct the Gospel story of Jesus Christ.
Harry Marks wrote:
The high theology of the New Testament is mostly later retrojection based on Augustine and other early fathers.
I disagree. There is plenty of theology in the Bible. The later ideas such as the trinity and original sin involved effort to reconcile the Gospels with Roman politics, and are therefore less coherent than the Gospels, even while they are more abstract.
Harry Marks wrote:
Passages such as the ones you underline from Philippians and Colossians are poetical, not explanations of a process.
The point of those passages is that Christ descended from heaven, and was pre-existent with God, along the lines of Amos 4:13 where Christ is implicitly defined as the mind of God. https://www.biblestudytools.com/paralle ... lxx&t2=niv
That model of Christ as divine reason is completely compatible with precessional cosmology, seeing Christ as the visible rationality of the cosmos, revealing the eternal laws of God the Father as stable orderly patterns, seen especially in the shift of the spring point into a new Zodiac Age in 21 AD.
Harry Marks wrote:
Influence is not evidence of origin: we can see influence from Philo, but there is no evidence Philo was part of some secret Gnostic process - he was a straightforward scholar who saw ideas that were persuasive and so were likely to be taken up by others.
I have only read a small amount of and about Philo, such as his description of the Therapeuts of Alexandria, and some of his specifically astral information about Judaism. These Therapeuts he describes appear to be Buddhist missionaries bringing monasticism from India to the West, but I have not found any books that discuss this interesting supposition in detail other than Christ in Egypt by DM Murdock. The evidence you mention of a ‘secret Gnostic process’ is can be gleaned primarily from the New Testament itself, which reads as the parabolic tip of an iceberg of ancient Gnostic culture.
Harry Marks wrote:
an example of a predictive success would be if there were a broad range of Nazarene beliefs that turned out to be present in Christianity but absent from rabbinical Judaism. I am unaware of any evidence of such a predictive success.
Little is known of the Nazarenes. Not even if they were the same as the Nazirites, or if they influenced the “Netser” theology from Isa 11:1 which came to interpret Jesus of Nazareth as the ‘weneser yisay’ or branch of Jesse. The link above http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/nazareth.html has a good summary.
Harry Marks wrote:
So the Imperial edicts named the Gnostic texts? I was merely claiming that we know of the texts because hidden copies were retained.
Many of the Gnostic texts in the Nag Hammadi cache were known by title, or because heresiologists had quoted them. I wrote an essay on the Gnostic Peratae just based on the fragments quoted by Hippolytus, for example looking at their discussion of the North Celestial Pole and snake imagery. There are numerous ancient texts which survive only in fragmentary quotations from their opponents.
Harry Marks wrote:
Another example of a prediction that has not been made, much less confirmed, is if such edicts of suppression included mention of documents using the notion that originally Jesus was just a myth.
There is quite a good Wikipedia page on Docetism - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Docetism It discusses the controversy about whether the Docetic heresy actively claimed that Christ was a myth, and notes that the Epistles of John explicitly sought to suppress the idea that Jesus may not have come in the flesh. 1 John 4 states “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” This Bible text explicitly discusses those who reject the claim that Jesus existed as a human being, condemning them as “the antichrist”, and goes on to pose the clash as between God and the world, with believers accepting Jesus existed and “the world” rejecting this claim.
Harry Marks wrote:
"But that's not how it works", I can hear mythicists saying. Eventually they will get around to spelling out how they think the historiography behind their argument from censorship actually does work. But that would be serious scholarship and all we have so far is visionary peering into the mists and some fringe historians picking up on it as a way to brand themselves.
Such mockery reads more as evangelism than scholarship. The only reason Christ Myth Theory remains on the “fringe” is because of the social fatwa against it invigilated by the church. Carrier’s On The Historicity of Jesus is a work of serious historical scholarship that is serving to shift the whole paradigm. Comments like your false inference of mercenary motives are based only on prejudice from tangential reading, and serve to warn others off this whole topic, which is actually central to the problem of mass delusion in human psychology and history.
Harry Marks wrote:
There is a nice piece of scholarship done by John Dominic Crossan, published in "The Birth of Christianity" about the reliability of oral transmission. It turns out to be better than we probably thought, but also to have biases like those used in linguistic research to trace connections between languages (see "The Horse, The Wheel and Language")
I have that book but have not read it. Crossan is an interesting figure as a leftist theologian who fully believes in the existence of Jesus. Most Christian discussion of oral history is just about how the purported group around Jesus transmitted their ideas to the gospel authors, but that entirely assumes that Jesus existed, begging the question of the relevance of the more complex anthropology of oral transmission as secret initiation. The Memory Code looks at oral transmission in a much more comprehensive way, how over tens of thousands of years non-literate stone age people retained all their knowledge orally, and then how this oral knowledge power gradually broke down under the civilising assault of swords, pens and ploughs.


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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
I just lost (again) a longer and more detailed reply. It doesn't matter. The only thing I really care about responding to here is the claim that all references to Jesus in the flesh stem from Mark. I'm sure you know this is highly controversial. There are several references in Paul, and though Carrier claims to find their interpretation as references to a fleshly Jesus implausible, his arguments are neither impartial nor well considered. There are references in Tacitus and Josephus that, despite some clear later fraudulent interpolations in Josephus, still many historians find sufficient to infer a real person. And there is the obvious question why a mythical Jesus would need "appearances" as Paul is intent on referencing, whereas it is clear that a claim of resurrection of the crucified (human, earthly) Jesus is a very different claim without such appearances.



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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Ranging here from philosophy to religion to climate politics… all fascinating. I have found my copy of Crossan’s The Birth of Christianity and will look at the chapter on oral history.
Harry Marks wrote:
whether "thought", i.e. logical processing, is more fundamental than "caring" or vice-versa. When thinking about the world, or for that matter about the self, is consciously in service to caring, then it does not derail caring from its job to give life meaning even if it uses risky dualistic distinctions, including between subject and object.
That point about logic and care summarises the main argument made by Heidegger in Being and Time, the great original source-book for existentialism. Such ideas percolate through the zeitgeist, in recognition that the theories of identity in traditional logic are defective as descriptions of human existence.

Heidegger held that we have two ways of encountering reality, describing and relating. Describing uses the objective methods of scientific factual measurement and logic, while relating is immersed in spiritual values of involvement and engagement, working out what we value as important. I discussed such distinctions in my MA thesis on The Place of Ethics in Heidegger’s Ontology, but have not been able to engage other philosophers much, perhaps because I read Heidegger against a bigger natural paradigm of the structure of time, and because the ethical dimension of these ideas is immensely complex in the way it integrates philosophy and religion.

These themes for an existential theory of value mean that authentic existence is grounded in relationships of care, concern and conscience. Scientific knowledge has a secondary supporting role to the primary framework of care as the meaning of being in the construction of human identity.

You suggest to put “thinking in service to caring”. Part of the challenge in developing such ideas involves agreement on social values. Such values are riven with wordless disagreement, due to the difficulty in answering questions and defining assumptions around human identity in individual and community dimensions. What is a human being? Modern western culture tends to assume an individual exists as a separate entity, but this individualism neglects the social construction of identity.

So it is helpful to look at questions like the meaning of care against social philosophy and psychology. Jung’s framework of the collective unconscious and its archetypal symbols is one way to recognise that our individual surface logic conceals hidden connectedness.
Harry Marks wrote:
The coherent unity of the universe may be proposed to exist materially, for example in the functioning of physical laws which are the same in every time and place, but this is mere symbol because it does not address the values issues raised by caring.
Describing coherent unity of physical law as ‘mere symbol’ raises the problem in philosophy and religion of how material facts relate to values that we care about. Religion, in its conventional popular mythology, tends to hold that values emerge organically from revealed facts about God. The trouble with that belief is its tendency to treat our descriptions of God as literal truth, when they are really symbolic metaphors.

The scientific worldview has a real problem with values, due to the positivist arguments that no description of facts can ever logically entail a decision of what we should do, and the absence of scientific evidence for God. Our sense of values comes from some other source than our factual knowledge, instead involving axiomatic beliefs about what is important and good. The scientific belief that evidence and logic are good is a great example of a creative value judgement that rests ultimately on assumptions about what is important and valuable to human beings.

What you call “the values issues raised by caring” are central to all human identity that is not pathologically isolated. Caring establishes networks of relationships and importance. Where we start to see how this impinges on the fact/value and is/ought questions in philosophy is wen we recognise that networks of care are most effective and sustainable when they properly incorporate factual knowledge, and are not grounded in fantasy. In politics this emerges when policy is grounded in evidence. For example, climate policy is best set in the framework of science.

The problem is that the religious sentiment of care is too often grounded in false fantasy and fable. Literal belief in myth wrecks the structure of what we should care about and why, giving religion feet of clay and foundations of sand.
Harry Marks wrote:
Apparent dualisms (i.e. artificial simplicities created by misleading appearance), such as Descartes' mind/body split, are just distractions from the important dualisms like those between good and evil or clarity and muddle. The important dualisms are real, from the perspective of thought. But they are nevertheless part of a fundamental unity from the perspective of caring, and when this fundamental unity is perceived/experienced, the revolutionary perspective causes vital spiritual awakening.
Heidegger presented the deconstruction of the solipsistic myth of the individual in Cartesian philosophy as the core argument for existential care. He dismantled the assumptions behind the philosophy of “I think therefore I am” by asking ‘who else other than human existence as being in the world with others could be a thinking thing?’ So the whole modern enlightenment claim from Descartes that our isolated intellectual existence can provide the basis of systematic logic is cast into radical doubt by recognition of care as the meaning of being.

Descartes remains an immensely important philosopher for his influence on the rational framework of secular science. I view his ideas as a tactical winning of deist space for science, invoking God as the guarantor of existence in order to get religion out of science. Cartesian mind/body dualism updated the Pauline dualism of spirit and flesh into a scientific framework. Descartes’ core ideas were the theory of clear and distinct ideas and mathematical measurement as the criterion of truth. The dynamic power and productivity of Cartesian method in modern imperial empirical expansion conceals its psychological damage to the relational nature of human identity.

Your description of the conflict between good and evil shows the essential issue in discussion of duality is more moral than factual. The point seems to be that good clarity is in harmony with the unity of all things, whereas evil muddle sows chaos and confusion, preventing vision of unity as ground for a transformative social perspective.
Harry Marks wrote:
The taoist way of putting these things together is very helpful… The perceiver is an essential part of the unity
This sense of engaged unity in the Taoist vision of the one way of nature illustrates a key difference between traditional eastern and western mentalities. Western philosophy, as illustrated by Descartes, assumes the separation of the perceiver from the perception.

I think there is immense value, even if the model is oversimplified, in seeing eastern thought, especially the high philosophy in Buddhism, as having retained important insights that overcome the alienation from nature in western thought. It is helpful to consider western philosophy as grounded in the events described in religion with the myth of the fall from grace into corruption, as seen in the pathologies of Christendom and its scientific successor culture.

Belief in the Historical Jesus is part of that western depravity. But Eastern thought is not some panacea; it can be criticised for being too stagnant and passive. Part of the integration of the metaphysical duality of east and west therefore involves the reconciliation of the values of activity and passivity.
Harry Marks wrote:
The world being part of myself is just paradox if it is rendered as objective "observation", but the experience that makes it meaningful is the awareness that my self includes not only objectively verifiable "influences" from the outside but a participation-by-caring in the larger projects undertaken by others, by the common experience of finding meaning in life, and thus, by all of nature.
Careful precision can help in use of such oceanic amorphous language. Hesse’s Siddhartha opened this discussion. A key theme in that book is the call to resist simplistic assertions of the unity of all things when such unity conflicts with lived experience and cannot be explained.
Harry Marks wrote:
My relationship to life and the universe is part of my caring, which is constitutive of my self.

One way to see this sense of the world as part of myself is in the Biblical idea that man is made in the image of God. Seeing God as nature, and human thought as where nature reflects itself as concept through scientific knowledge of the laws of physics, is a good example of the whole appearing in the part. Any effort to reconcile philosophy and religion has to give such mystical universality some precision.


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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Harry Marks wrote:
you fail to recognize that the stream that is my self is more fundamentally about caring than about distinction from other selves.
It is not so much that I “fail to recognise” than that I am pointing out the paradoxical fractal complexity in this idea you are raising that for human existence the whole is in the part.

Donne put this well in his famous poem ‘No Man is an Island’, with the great line ‘any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind’. The “me” that is diminished by things that happen to others is constituted by care, not physiology. That even inspired Hemingway to see that some things should matter for everyone.

Ordinary language assumes the part is in the whole in spatial terms. A segment is in an orange. The whole fruit is not in the segment, except as metaphor, genetics and potential. But the whole world is in every person’s soul, in Donne’s sense of mattering.
Harry Marks wrote:
, and so includes the universe not ontologically but existentially,
This distinction you are presenting between the ontological and the existential is confusing. It involves too narrow a concept of the ontological, equating it with the material. Ontology is the study of being, and human being is constituted by care, not matter. That means that authentic personhood contains the world. A clearer statement would be that a human body does not physically contain the spatio-temporal universe.
Harry Marks wrote:
This was opened to me by an exercise I have used with students. "Define yourself, as best you can, in four words." Like most people, I chose my four words to distinguish myself from others. That's the dualistic mind at work. The person who presented it to me recalled someone who had said, "to start I'd have to say I'm a human being." The flash of insight I got from that illustration is as close as I have come to directly perceiving that "All is One."
So we could imagine a continuum of short definitions of the self from something like “reflection of the universe” through “child of my parents” to “cyclist and book collector”. This movement from universality to specificity illustrates a movement from who you really are to what you usually do. The universal focuses on what is the same or identical about you and everyone, while the specific focus is what marks you out as an individual. As Plato said,
essence precedes existence.
Harry Marks wrote:
You are imposing by the ways you imply betterness that "better" understanding is measured in ways which are most objective, which are most independent of our caring about them. That's fine for description of the workings of nature, but, once again, it subtracts out the element of caring which actually defines "better" understanding.
Here the continuum stretches from the distinct clarity of objective facts to the emotional resonance of subjective values. Facts tell us what matter is and values tell us what matters. Your mileage may vary on how much matter matters. The quantitative tendency in science is to see emotional feelings as just word salad, lacking rigorous meaning. But with religious care grounded in emotion, this exclusion by science has a nihilistic and solipsistic quality, like Wilde’s cynic who could see the price of everything and the value of nothing. As the great nihilist philosopher Freddy Mercury famously argued, nothing really matters.
Harry Marks wrote:
"looks more like metaphorical poetry than like serious philosophy": perfectly captures the mistaken dualism of the mind's analytical blindness. "Serious philosophy" is taken to impose the objective independence from caring, rather than engaging with life as it is lived. As if the perfect ontology would somehow perfectly exclude caring. Bollocks, as the Brits say. By contrast, metaphorical poetry engages caring directly, to find the music in the many and varied elements of caring.
Never mind the bollocks. That was how Johnny Rotten famously expressed the philosophy of punk rock with its sense of the social disintegration of care into nihilism. There is very much a problem with this equation between care and engagement. Caring too much is perceived as leading to biased and corrupt conflict of interest. If I care passionately about something, I am liable to distort the information pertaining to it. Christians care passionately that God intervened in the world in the person of Jesus Christ, and as a result their comments on the topic tend to lack the dispassionate ability to consider evidence objectively. There is scholarly value in rigorous objectivity, in refusing to accept claims that lack solid evidence.
Harry Marks wrote:
a real Bodhisattva helps a person orchestrate their caring in such a way that their own individual process of caring is in harmony with the give-and-take process that the universe offers to them.
This Buddhist theme of harmony contrasts with the Christian idea of the way of the cross, that the world is so dominated by evil that the path of harmony involves transformation through suffering and sacrifice of self. The Bodhisattva is seen in Buddhism as one who has “a spontaneous wish to attain enlightenment motivated by great compassion for all sentient beings, accompanied by a falling away of the attachment to the illusion of an inherently existing self.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhicitta
Harry Marks wrote:
To put the matter a different way, accuracy matters because of the reasons we care about accuracy, not because it has some divine status of imperialistic rule over our lives. Our caring is fundamental to accuracy's mattering. Or anything else's mattering: there is no objective mattering.
The importance of accuracy varies with context. Yet the counterpoint here is that someone can say, if no one cares then accuracy does not matter. And many people do think that way, especially in demoralized bureaucracies that lack any incentive for performance. Care serves as a primary impetus for values such as accuracy. Atul Gawande explained in his Reith Lectures a few years ago that as a surgeon he was shocked by the contrast between hospitals in India and in the USA, due mainly to his perception that the Indian health system lacked values of care that are just assumed in western culture. When no one cares, you can get away with anything. They just letcher...
Harry Marks wrote:
these trees are prayers.
Tagore
Beautiful poem, imagining the earth as conscious, with trees as its ideas. I have been thinking a lot about the nature of prayer, as expression of intention. So in this image from Tagore, when the earth intends complexity as the goal of evolution, trees are important bearers of this natural prayer.

Here is a nice video of my daughter Diana (in pink) singing the famous Flower Duet from Lakme.


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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Robert Tulip wrote:
Heidegger held that we have two ways of encountering reality, describing and relating. Describing uses the objective methods of scientific factual measurement and logic, while relating is immersed in spiritual values of involvement and engagement, working out what we value as important.
I think the difference between encountering instrumentally and encountering in openness will prove to be more fundamental neurologically. Describing is pretty basic, but it can be a matter of open relation, as when awe is the primary response rather than calculation of possible usefulness.

Philosophy tends to see description as basic. I disagree. We learned, over millennia, to describe "objectively" and this still involves suppression of value processing in order to move to "important" processing of information. When my chemistry teacher asked the class to describe a burning candle, few could do it with any thoroughness, as they ran out of observations quickly because either they thought in terms of the main, most obvious attributes or they got lost in the minutiae of details and could not identify the facts worth mentioning. Description is a learned, (and to a large extent social), process.

Robert Tulip wrote:
You suggest to put “thinking in service to caring”. Part of the challenge in developing such ideas involves agreement on social values.
Why agreement? Rather I think philosophy is still getting over the Thomist assumption that values must be the right values in order to be admissible as organizers of thought. I am arguing that the mode of thinking will impose error when it comes to the understanding of our spiritual self, if it begins with caring being for purposes defined by some ontology.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Such values are riven with wordless disagreement, due to the difficulty in answering questions and defining assumptions around human identity in individual and community dimensions.
And this creates error? Only if the subjective process of caring is somehow artificially objectified (as in Shaw's "a barbarian is a person who thinks the customs of his tribe are the laws of the universe.")

Robert Tulip wrote:
So it is helpful to look at questions like the meaning of care against social philosophy and psychology. Jung’s framework of the collective unconscious and its archetypal symbols is one way to recognise that our individual surface logic conceals hidden connectedness.
One of the articles of faith (if you will) of modern psychology is that if we uncover the subconscious (or collective unconscious) values we have been repressing, it liberates us from dysfunctional thought processes. This has to be revised somewhat in light of neurological discoveries of the last 45 years. Yet it remains true that culture can get away with repressing matters like connectedness "right under our noses." Setting aside the imperative of objectivity is a good start on liberating us from that particular dysfunction.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
The coherent unity of the universe may be proposed to exist materially, for example in the functioning of physical laws which are the same in every time and place, but this is mere symbol because it does not address the values issues raised by caring.
Describing coherent unity of physical law as ‘mere symbol’ raises the problem in philosophy and religion of how material facts relate to values that we care about. Religion, in its conventional popular mythology, tends to hold that values emerge organically from revealed facts about God. The trouble with that belief is its tendency to treat our descriptions of God as literal truth, when they are really symbolic metaphors.
That insight needs to be mined much more than it has to date. Nevertheless, I want to clarify that my claim is that the unity of material reality is not the unity of mattering nor does it deliver that unity as a side effect. As such it is, at best, a symbol of why "All is One." The harmony of values implied by a construction like "shalom"(or, if you prefer the modern lingo, "flourishing") is the basis for the perception of unity experienced by mystics and the ontological unity of life as it is lived.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Our sense of values comes from some other source than our factual knowledge, instead involving axiomatic beliefs about what is important and good. The scientific belief that evidence and logic are good is a great example of a creative value judgement that rests ultimately on assumptions about what is important and valuable to human beings.
I don't understand why we should use either "beliefs" about what is important or good, or "axiomatic". We are referring, I think, to Haidt's elephant, the internal, unreflective sense of what is good and beautiful and valuable. These are not beliefs until someone asks us to put them in the form of propositions, and they are not axiomatic in that we can and do question and revise them.

I think there is a very subtle process (Ursula LeGuin, in one story, referred to it as "working magic") of allying instinctive values with cultural constructions. This can be as well-intentioned as a parent urging their child, "You want to stand on your own two feet, don't you?" and as nefarious as a racist ad arguing that a political candidate doesn't take crime (by "those people") seriously.

The scientific value placed on evidence and logic is based on the long experience with evidence being replicable and the principles evolved from it by logic being dependable. Note that when logic fails in the face of evidence, as with quantum mechanical processes, evidence is given the priority. A kind of illogical logic was created (in some sense like non-Euclidean geometry that way) to deal with it, and it deals well with it, even if Einstein is still rolling over in his grave about it.

The cultural co-opting of instinctive values (working magic) is part of the process of integrating our value-formation process with "reality." Philosophy may be thought of as an effort to ground value-formation on "objective" criteria, but my view is that this must be subjected to the process of values-formation itself, in that we should be familiar with the reasons for preferring objectivity (e.g. avoiding the barbarian's confusion) and thus the limits of the preference (e.g. avoiding the pitfall of "objective" relativism in values by avoiding the absolute priority of the process demands of objectivity).

Robert Tulip wrote:
Caring establishes networks of relationships and importance. Where we start to see how this impinges on the fact/value and is/ought questions in philosophy is when we recognise that networks of care are most effective and sustainable when they properly incorporate factual knowledge, and are not grounded in fantasy. In politics this emerges when policy is grounded in evidence. For example, climate policy is best set in the framework of science.
Yes, this is very good. A social process which sets the sacred status of symbols above factuality and evidence is pathological. It will lack some degrees of "effectiveness" and "sustainability" as you put it. That doesn't mean it is a simple matter to integrate sacred symbolism with complex sources of knowledge about the world. But academics have more responsibility than most to make the effort, and I don't agree with the cop-out that whatever they choose to engage as problems is valuable in itself, much less the evil notion that whatever interpretations they put on their findings must be endorsed, even if it directly sabotages the networks of value and care.

Robert Tulip wrote:
The problem is that the religious sentiment of care is too often grounded in false fantasy and fable. Literal belief in myth wrecks the structure of what we should care about and why, giving religion feet of clay and foundations of sand.
Tillich analyzed the unbroken myth as idolatrous, that is, he identified the error on the values side as more fundamental than the error on the factual side. This is very useful in dealing with myths that modernity leads to, such as "science will save us," or "markets allocate resources efficiently" or "the state will wither away."
Robert Tulip wrote:
Cartesian mind/body dualism updated the Pauline dualism of spirit and flesh into a scientific framework.
And as such they were even more misleading than Paul's dualism, which is, after all, very helpful if not taken too literally. Life according to the spirit is life with spiritual values as organizing principle, and life according to the flesh is the fundamentally chaotic process of validating whatever emotions we feel and whatever motivations those emotions manage to attach to.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Your description of the conflict between good and evil shows the essential issue in discussion of duality is more moral than factual. The point seems to be that good clarity is in harmony with the unity of all things, whereas evil muddle sows chaos and confusion, preventing vision of unity as ground for a transformative social perspective.
I think you are trying too hard to make a clarity of my muddle. What I had in mind is that dualism in values has some usefulness, like the distinction between yin and yang does, but that we must actively search for a synthesis which accepts that both principles are present for a reason, and therefore must not be artificially repressed. Sometimes evil (e.g. having a nuclear arsenal) can be used for good, and sometimes a muddle (e.g. the feelings of a grieving person) can be more informative than an artificial clarity imposed on such a situation.



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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
you fail to recognize that the stream that is my self is more fundamentally about caring than about distinction from other selves.
It is not so much that I “fail to recognise” than that I am pointing out the paradoxical fractal complexity in this idea you are raising that for human existence the whole is in the part.

Donne put this well in his famous poem ‘No Man is an Island’, with the great line ‘any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind’. The “me” that is diminished by things that happen to others is constituted by care, not physiology. That even inspired Hemingway to see that some things should matter for everyone.

Ordinary language assumes the part is in the whole in spatial terms. A segment is in an orange. The whole fruit is not in the segment, except as metaphor, genetics and potential. But the whole world is in every person’s soul, in Donne’s sense of mattering.
I think that captures the point very well.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
, and so includes the universe not ontologically but existentially,
This distinction you are presenting between the ontological and the existential is confusing. It involves too narrow a concept of the ontological, equating it with the material. Ontology is the study of being, and human being is constituted by care, not matter. That means that authentic personhood contains the world. A clearer statement would be that a human body does not physically contain the spatio-temporal universe.
Well, yes, you are correct. I don't know a term for "using ontological thought processes" and took the short-cut of contrasting our material inability to contain the material universe with our existential inability to fail to consider the concept of the entire universe to be one among many concepts which matter. Your way of putting it is fine.
Robert Tulip wrote:
So we could imagine a continuum of short definitions of the self from something like “reflection of the universe” through “child of my parents” to “cyclist and book collector”. This movement from universality to specificity illustrates a movement from who you really are to what you usually do. The universal focuses on what is the same or identical about you and everyone, while the specific focus is what marks you out as an individual.
I think I was attempting to communicate poetically, like John Donne or William Blake (but not nearly as beautifully). The specific person that is me is more fundamentally universal than differentiated.
Robert Tulip wrote:
As Plato said, essence precedes existence.
Now I suspect you of teasing me, since Sartre based his whole philosophical system on "existence precedes essence." One way to put the two together is to recognize what is the "essence" of a person in the universal potential to shape one's specific essence. We exist as a soul.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Here the continuum stretches from the distinct clarity of objective facts to the emotional resonance of subjective values. Facts tell us what matter is and values tell us what matters. Your mileage may vary on how much matter matters. The quantitative tendency in science is to see emotional feelings as just word salad, lacking rigorous meaning. But with religious care grounded in emotion, this exclusion by science has a nihilistic and solipsistic quality, like Wilde’s cynic who could see the price of everything and the value of nothing. As the great nihilist philosopher Freddy Mercury famously argued, nothing really matters.
Okay, I see you understand your existentialism very well, and apologize if I have implied otherwise.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Johnny Rotten famously expressed the philosophy of punk rock with its sense of the social disintegration of care into nihilism. There is very much a problem with this equation between care and engagement. Caring too much is perceived as leading to biased and corrupt conflict of interest. If I care passionately about something, I am liable to distort the information pertaining to it.
Bravo! And fair enough.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
a real Bodhisattva helps a person orchestrate their caring in such a way that their own individual process of caring is in harmony with the give-and-take process that the universe offers to them.
This Buddhist theme of harmony contrasts with the Christian idea of the way of the cross, that the world is so dominated by evil that the path of harmony involves transformation through suffering and sacrifice of self.
The contrast may be illusory, or at least too categorical. Jesus did not overturn the Roman Empire, he overcame it. He did not address himself to the disharmony that was empire, but to the submission by the Jewish power structure and culture to that disharmony. They thought the Messiah would be like Judas Maccabeus! (Or Menachim Begin.) But yes, accepting physical suffering and pursuing social self-emptying are not the same as the process of overcoming attachment advocated by Buddhism (though they are remarkably related.)
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
To put the matter a different way, accuracy matters because of the reasons we care about accuracy, not because it has some divine status of imperialistic rule over our lives. Our caring is fundamental to accuracy's mattering. Or anything else's mattering: there is no objective mattering.

The importance of accuracy varies with context. Yet the counterpoint here is that someone can say, if no one cares then accuracy does not matter. And many people do think that way, especially in demoralized bureaucracies that lack any incentive for performance. Care serves as a primary impetus for values such as accuracy.
Yes, absolutely. One way to see integrity is that it recognizes that things matter even if everyone around you has given up on them (or never learned to care about them.)
Robert Tulip wrote:
Beautiful poem, imagining the earth as conscious, with trees as its ideas. I have been thinking a lot about the nature of prayer, as expression of intention. So in this image from Tagore, when the earth intends complexity as the goal of evolution, trees are important bearers of this natural prayer.
Nice. I am not sure I would even go so far as to assert that nature "intends" complexity as the goal of evolution. Evolution does give rise to complexity, interestingly enough, and blossoms are one expression of that, but one can see "motivation" and "fulfillment" in a process without insisting on consciousness or intention.

The lovely Diana has a beautiful voice. Thanks for this.



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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Harry Marks wrote:
If our ego, or consciously aware thinking mind, is constituted by objectivity,
Now some readers here may be wondering Harry how you and I have time and interest to engage such abstract ideas. It is a great opportunity to share ideas I have ruminated on for a long time, casting them out into the wide blue yonder. My view is that our discussions are touching on some big and timeless topics, as well as some that are very timely, and on the interaction between the timeless and the timely. As they say in the classics, under the eye of eternity.

In philosophy, the meaning of objectivity is a core topic. I see objectivity in a different way from how you have characterised it here. Firstly, the ego is generally not constituted by objectivity but by subjectivity, with people seeing the world from their own personal point of view conditioned by their interests and prejudices and opinions.

Perhaps what you mean is that the ego imagines its opinions are objective, in the sense that no one can ever coherently say “I believe my opinion is false”. The fact a claim is my opinion generally means I believe it is true, leaving aside topics where we do not hold strong opinions. And if I think something is true, I think it is objectively true, by analytic extension, even if I am willing to be convinced otherwise.
Harry Marks wrote:
[ego] is committed as a matter of self-protection to the illusion that mattering is objective,
That could almost serve as a definition of the religious mindset, the assumption that the mythology of what matters in our cultural tradition has an absolute eternal objective status. Conventional religion sees mattering as handed down by God through objective stable revelation. The subtleties of seeing claims as symbol or metaphor remove this objective quality in religion, and therefore do not cut it for the mass market which demands simple absolute secure verities that believers can set and forget.
Harry Marks wrote:
then [ego] will suffer by attachment.
This is precisely the problem with false claims of objectivity. Incorrectly assuming that symbolic language is literal is a prime miscreant in this caper. Attachment to the literal claim blinds us to its symbolic multivalence and ambiguity, producing a narrow dogma of exclusive and intolerant bigotry.

One thing I like about science is its ability to generate a detached sense of objectivity. For example, Einsteinian relativity, even if it does not offer a complete theory of everything, does a very good objective job of explaining major questions such as the apparent motion of galaxies and the structure of deep time. Where even science suffers from attachment is not in its scientific claims but in the associated metaphysics, the claims about what science really means.

In Freudian terms, it seems claims about objectivity operate at the level of the super-ego.
Harry Marks wrote:
The ego co-opts some parts of the id to resist impulses which undermine its stranglehold on the type of awareness that is admissible. Those are "the limitations of the ego." Fundamentally, they rely on repression.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Id,_ego_and_super-ego says “According to this Freudian model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role; and the ego is the organized, realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego.” Trying to understand your statement against this framework, you are saying awareness uses instinct to repress desire. That repressive function was assigned by Freud not to instinctive id but to the super-ego, the cultural sense of duty that sublimates chaotic animal desires into orderly spiritual discipline and creativity.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
But how can such an enlightened self find motive for action, given the role of ego in motivation?
Ego is free to find reasons, but if it goes about this in a way that represses our identity in common with the larger "water" of motivation, then it becomes a barrier to enlightenment.
Hesse in Siddhartha uses this “water” metaphor to say the cosmos is like a river and we are like drops of water flowing along in it. That image has some tension with how the ego is constituted by resistance, by swimming against the flow. Common identity, drifting with the tide, often believes deluded myths, which must be identified and challenged to achieve enlightenment. You seem to be using common identity to mean an underlying shared objective reality, as distinct from prevailing subjective cultural beliefs, opening the problem of the relation between real and perceived identities.
Harry Marks wrote:
Hindu thought is often seen in the West as denying motive for action, and it has at times imposed a quietism or detachment which resisted the ego's restless search for new and better ways.
A key problem is fatalism, seen in the Islamic beliefs in ‘Inshallah’ and ‘Kismet’ or the Hindu belief in Karma as reincarnation. Part of the greatness of modern western capitalist culture has been its assertion of individual freedom of the will as able to escape the bounds of determinism.
Harry Marks wrote:
Better is to embrace the search but be humble about the "betterness".
Yes, the search for new knowledge and methods is the basis of innovation and productivity, but often brings an arrogant disdain toward fate, where humility is needed to consider all the impacts of productive freedom.
Harry Marks wrote:
After all, science is very useful, and may already have set in motion extinction of the human race by outpacing our ability to harmonize motivations. In my experience, people who cannot find any humility to have about their regard for science are in the grip of attachment, usually subconscious and mythological.
I don’t think the fatalistic idea that science and technology will kill us all is right, but it does indicate potentials from nuclear war and climate change that need to be taken seriously and addressed as security threats. This is where the subconscious myths need to be analysed, especially the conflicting memes of progress and fall.

The psychological attachment to scientific progress is like any paradigm, where its anomalies need to be explained away by believers, as seen most vividly in the absurd pernicious denial of climate change, which makes as much sense and has as much moral value as denial of the Jewish Holocaust, ie less than none. Climate denial is like saying acceptance of climate science challenges our core mythological identity as modern secular homo economicus, which people find more comfortable than any upsetting facts.
Harry Marks wrote:
One does not escape from the world, one escapes from illusion-based attachment to the world. If you cannot see that escape as fundamental to kenosis, to the turning to Jerusalem, then you have missed the main points in non-dualism.
Kenosis is one of those beautiful paradoxical theological terms that are worth knowing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenosis Kenosis means the renunciation of the divine nature by Christ in the Incarnation, as explained by Paul in Philippians 2:6-11: “Christ, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

This idea of kenosis introduces a dualistic ambiguity about the nature of the world, between reality and imagination, description and construction, matter and idea. Our attachment is to the world as imaginary constructed idea. Renunciation or escape from such attachment recognises a higher reality, which in my view needs to be compatible with the scientific vision of real described matter. Gnostics see and saw the socially constructed world as the source of evil, but their tormentors in the church twisted this to the false claim that Gnostics regarded matter as evil.

Kenosis, the ‘self-emptying’ of Christ, constructs an ethical epistemology of the hypostatic union of matter and spirit in the person of the messiah, the last as first, seeing the king of glory as manifest in the least things of the world. ‘What you did to the least of these you did to me’, in the words of Christ in the Last Judgement in Matthew 25.
Harry Marks wrote:
The line between description as process and construction as process is at least fractally intricate, if not altogether illusory.
Yes, and there is a respectable line of scientific thought that constructs epistemology around the concept of “Mind Dependent Reality”, recognising that all linguistic discussion depends on mental construction, even while it aims to describe a reality that may be theorised as independent of mind.

Kant opened this with his argument that knowledge is about phenomena as they appear to us, while the thing in itself, the noumenon, is strictly speaking unknowable.


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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Robert Tulip wrote:
Now some readers here may be wondering Harry how you and I have time and interest to engage such abstract ideas. It is a great opportunity to share ideas I have ruminated on for a long time, casting them out into the wide blue yonder.
This discussion is giving me a thrill, similar to taking on board some of the deep ideas that a person would never have gotten for themselves (like Dedekind cuts, to use a really basic example, or non-Euclidean geometry, or, in a kind of big fail, "God behind God" - fail because I didn't get it sorted out before turning in my essay and the prof accused me of an existential cop-out). In philosophy class, and even in math classes, I never have the feeling that I "get" an idea until I put it to use. I have to get it clear enough in my own mind to ask questions of it and confront it with issues outside the original framework in which I find it. Teachers sometimes got tired of me asking, "Could you give an example?"
But I have had the quadrangle of Objectivity/Subjectivity crossed with Facts/Values lurking in the back of some discussions I considered very important, many of them here. This has been my first effort to really put them together, and I doubt I could have gotten even this far if not for meeting up with you, as someone who also has some familiarity with existentialism and Jungian psychology. So I hope this has been even half as fun for you as it has for me.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
If our ego, or consciously aware thinking mind, is constituted by objectivity, [that is if it is committed as a matter of self-protection to the illusion that mattering is objective, then it will suffer by attachment.]
In philosophy, the meaning of objectivity is a core topic. I see objectivity in a different way from how you have characterised it here. Firstly, the ego is generally not constituted by objectivity but by subjectivity, with people seeing the world from their own personal point of view conditioned by their interests and prejudices and opinions.

Perhaps what you mean is that the ego imagines its opinions are objective, in the sense that no one can ever coherently say “I believe my opinion is false”. The fact a claim is my opinion generally means I believe it is true, leaving aside topics where we do not hold strong opinions. And if I think something is true, I think it is objectively true, by analytic extension, even if I am willing to be convinced otherwise.
I requoted the second part of my statement so the context would be a bit clearer. I was dealing with your definition of ego, which I took to be more Jungian in its approach than Freudian, but still approximately the same concept.

My use of "constituted" was sloppy. Sorry. I am trying to think in terms of process, rather than entity. The thinking process can be, maybe must be, trained. (My example of describing the candle in another context is very relevant: what we are able to take and use even in a simple observation exercise is shaped by mattering - by being able to assess what level of detail, of generality and example, actually matters. I find it to be the most important skill we teachers try to teach, and the most difficult to teach.) And if the thinking process always insists to itself that it is being objective, then it is repressing something vital.

Consider the implications for a moment. We train our thinking to be as objective as possible, and yet at the heart of thinking there is the subjectivity - the absolutely inescapable subjectivity - of mattering. So what are we doing when we "try" to be objective? How can that process be conceptualized without actually being in denial? It's a tough problem.

Now consider the paradox at the heart of "The fact a claim is my opinion generally means I believe it is true," as you put it. On matters of factuality I have no quarrel with this. Obviously there are degrees of conviction and of verification, but those are not critical to the problem. On issues of values, we run into the nub of the problem. The "truth" of saying an action is right is intrinsically subjective, not because "it is just my opinion", but because the whole concept of "right" is mattering through and through.

I have argued many times that some things are objectively wrong, but that depends on making rigorous the meaning of the terms right and wrong. The wrongness is in the meaning of the term, not in some provable external process to which we can compare the issue. "Right" is much more likely to be undecidable. It is not contradictory to say "equality of my wife's career with mine is the principle which is right for me" without saying that must be true for every (heterosexual, cis-gender) couple. For that reason the notion of "true" being applied to issues of right and wrong is misleading. Not because I am a committed relativist, but because the term "true" presupposes a process of comparing the concept to some external reality, and that objective comparison process is a fatally flawed one to use for thinking about right and wrong.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
[ego] is committed as a matter of self-protection to the illusion that mattering is objective,
That could almost serve as a definition of the religious mindset, the assumption that the mythology of what matters in our cultural tradition has an absolute eternal objective status. Conventional religion sees mattering as handed down by God through objective stable revelation.
Two observations raised by this point. The first is that I have taken to referring to "authority-based" religion for the social process which works like this. And, like the authoritarian mindset toward life, it seems to be a response to a deep need for that solidity and stability. I even know a psychologist on Facebook who simultaneously believes that the authoritarian mindset in general is a symptom of poor mental health and that her beliefs about what is right and wrong are objectively correct. That is, even though her training has pointed out to her the nature of the problem, she cannot resist it internally.
The second is that this version of the matter seems to have a very strong mythic presence for people in the grip of the social process. I have even seen very rational people argue that there must be a "mind of God" in which right and wrong are objectively defined, otherwise the muddle of relativism would be true. Since, for one or two of these, it was their proof of God's necessary existence, then one could say that is who God is for them. Not a spiritually healthy approach.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The subtleties of seeing claims as symbol or metaphor remove this objective quality in religion, and therefore do not cut it for the mass market which demands simple absolute secure verities that believers can set and forget.
And again, if a person recognizes that they are setting and forgetting for good reason (because the alternative might be to sit through philosophy classes, and who has time for that?) they can also be appropriately humble about them. "True for me" works for a lot of people. But the social process of fundamentalism refuses to allow this solution, and quite deliberately stokes the fear that if their verities are not absolute then the person cannot have faith in them. It wallows in that fear. And it is directly analogous to the attachment generated by imposing the forms of objectivity on the intrinsically subjective process of valuing.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
then [ego] will suffer by attachment.
This is precisely the problem with false claims of objectivity. Incorrectly assuming that symbolic language is literal is a prime miscreant in this caper. Attachment to the literal claim blinds us to its symbolic multivalence and ambiguity, producing a narrow dogma of exclusive and intolerant bigotry.
So, I don't know how to say this without sounding rude, but have you considered the possibility that you may be imposing the idea that only the nature-based symbolism in religion has any validity, in order to recover some absoluteness of its authority? I have a sense that you are not comfortable with the "poetic" validity which I perceive in so much of religious insight. I don't know that that is the case, but I think you would benefit from considering it if you haven't already.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Where even science suffers from attachment is not in its scientific claims but in the associated metaphysics, the claims about what science really means.
I think this makes sense, as an insight into the current debates and the larger social context.

Robert Tulip wrote:
In Freudian terms, it seems claims about objectivity operate at the level of the super-ego.
Harry Marks wrote:
The ego co-opts some parts of the id to resist impulses which undermine its stranglehold on the type of awareness that is admissible. Those are "the limitations of the ego." Fundamentally, they rely on repression.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Id,_ego_and_super-ego says “According to this Freudian model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role; and the ego is the organized, realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego.” Trying to understand your statement against this framework, you are saying awareness uses instinct to repress desire. That repressive function was assigned by Freud not to instinctive id but to the super-ego, the cultural sense of duty that sublimates chaotic animal desires into orderly spiritual discipline and creativity.

Yes, but more generally the "super-ego" works by a different neurological process from either the id or the ego. Both of those work by forging connections between neurons, connections which are mainly constructive and responsive to re-inforcement.
The id is the pleasure principle which goes after the stuff we like. The ego is reinforced by effective conscious processes: by planning, deciding, calculating, checking intuitions, and following through on a plan, for example. When any of these "System 2" processes go to work, (in Kahneman's terms), if they get anywhere, they are reinforced.

But there are also moderating connections, famously prominent in the cerebellum where they turn conscious processes into smooth processes operating beneath the level of consciousness. You don't have to attend to the process of walking, for example.

Negative reinforcement apparently works by those moderating connections. Pain or punishment literally sets up connections which, when the neurons are firing, inhibits other neurons from firing. Opposite to the more typical arrangement. So when I avoid raising my voice to my boss, the inhibition process is strongly kin to the one that keeps children away from electrical sockets because their parents were ferocious about it. (Okay, I am seriously oversimplifying, but that is an important part of the picture of how these forces interact.)

There are two problems with super-ego, which represents the priorities of society to us. The first is that it shortcuts understanding. That is, it comes to us as absolutes (as "fact", one might say - like "if you lie to me you are worthless") rather than as if-then propositions about how things actually work ("if you lie to me I will have trouble believing you in the future.") That can be remedied. In fact most of modern positive discipline takes that task seriously, trying to build in a process of helping the child come to understand the reasons.

The second problem is that it works mainly by inhibition rather than by construction, so that it sets up internal tension in the individual (the primary goal of positive discipline is to "catch them being good" and use positive reinforcement.)

All this to get to the point that a sense of duty based on actual understanding of duty is meaningful, while a sense of duty based on pressure from others is at best using the tools of chaos to limit the effects of chaos. It is undermining shalom even as it attempts to bring shalom.

And from there, to what I meant about reason co-opting repression: yes, if we try to impose objectivity without a sense of why objectivity is good and thus of when it is appropriate, then we have allowed one of the structures of the reasoning mind to use repression, not against desire per se, but against the naturalness of our valuing. It is like sticking a goad into the elephant (of our immediate perceptions of good and bad and right and wrong) to order it around rather than teaching the elephant how to find the right path.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Ego is free to find reasons [for action], but if it goes about this in a way that represses our identity in common with the larger "water" of motivation, then it becomes a barrier to enlightenment.
Hesse in Siddhartha uses this “water” metaphor to say the cosmos is like a river and we are like drops of water flowing along in it. That image has some tension with how the ego is constituted by resistance, by swimming against the flow. Common identity, drifting with the tide, often believes deluded myths, which must be identified and challenged to achieve enlightenment.
Well, that puts the dilemma of the human condition very nicely. To achieve the intellectual enlightenment of science, and of the academic enterprise in general, we have to bypass, if not necessarily resist actively, many social processes which are imposed, and thus even come with a powerful admonition not to question them.

Such processes are fundamentally part of chaos rather than part of ordering life, and yet much of the order in our lives employs them. The military is the quintessential example of these chaotic processes in use against chaos: it is based in a tradition in which obeying orders was literally more important than life itself, in that the entire construct would fail and thus the society be overwhelmed by enemies if soldiers could not be induced to stay and fight despite likely death.

The direct opposite is the Buddhist monk who sets himself on fire to protest an unjust system - which looks an awful lot like Jesus riding into Jerusalem as Messiah in full knowledge that he would be tortured and executed for it.

What is being suggested by the non-dual tradition of mystical religion is that there is a larger enlightenment which needs to enfold and encompass the intellectual enlightenment you refer to. We have to fully embrace the thought processes of valuation, which means at some level we have to acknowledge that what really matters is not about what personally promotes my individualized welfare, as a basis for giving order to intellectual processes. If all I can see in science is what's in it for me, I will get its meaning wrong, and as a result my mistaken ideas of its meaning will distort my values. The grossly obvious example of that is the hack paid to obfuscate some issue of fact because, well, someone is paying him or her.

Robert Tulip wrote:
You seem to be using common identity to mean an underlying shared objective reality, as distinct from prevailing subjective cultural beliefs, opening the problem of the relation between real and perceived identities.
Well, if you allow "underlying shared objective reality" to include the fundamental and inescapable subjectivity of what matters, yes. The subjectivity at the heart of values is objectively demonstrable, as follows: if you are only responding to a value because others will "enforce" it, then it cannot be said that it is your value.
That can get messy in practice: I agree that the system of speed limits is valid and I value it in itself, but just as it is right for the ambulance to break the speed limit (and so the law allows) I may actually value cheating on the speed limit a bit because objectively, I am not adding enough danger to the system to outweigh the pressure I am under to meet some other goal. Obviously this cheating can easily get out of hand, and so we don't "allow" it, but while I endorse such an enforcement system, I don't conclude that the question of whether or not I was right depends on how likely I was to get caught. My practical issue of avoiding the enforcement is distinct from the moral issue of how much cheating on the speed limit I should allow myself.
I would agree that this gets us into issues of real vs. perceived identities. I agree with the mystics metaphysically that there is a fundamental unity deeper than the constructions (of our identity) which we create for purposes of instrumental effectiveness. To the extent that I perceive my advanced degree to make me a better person than a less educated person, I violate that fundamental unity and do violence to my soul. But there is no escaping the subjective nature of that "reality" about identities. It is true for me, and I am constantly in a process of holding that truth out to myself in aspiration of fully embracing it, but I can only use persuasion to help others see it. No process of social enforcement can make it true for them.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Better is to embrace the search but be humble about the "betterness".
Yes, the search for new knowledge and methods is the basis of innovation and productivity, but often brings an arrogant disdain toward fate, where humility is needed to consider all the impacts of productive freedom.
Toxic knowledge is beginning to be a significant problem.
Robert Tulip wrote:
I don’t think the fatalistic idea that science and technology will kill us all is right, but it does indicate potentials from nuclear war and climate change that need to be taken seriously and addressed as security threats.
Yes, the U.S. military has ignored the prevailing political mythology on climate change, for example, and gone ahead to do realistic analysis. I don't know, really, whether science will kill us all, but it is possible, which is all I claimed.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Climate denial is like saying acceptance of climate science challenges our core mythological identity as modern secular homo economicus, which people find more comfortable than any upsetting facts.
It's hard to pin down a single root cause of denialism. There are probably a number of mythologies at work, some of them downright chthonic (in the sense of much more strongly instinctive and "animal" than intellectual and aspirational).
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
One does not escape from the world, one escapes from illusion-based attachment to the world. If you cannot see that escape as fundamental to kenosis, to the turning to Jerusalem, then you have missed the main points in non-dualism.

Kenosis is one of those beautiful paradoxical theological terms that are worth knowing. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenosis Kenosis means the renunciation of the divine nature by Christ in the Incarnation, as explained by Paul in Philippians 2:6-11: “Christ, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

This idea of kenosis introduces a dualistic ambiguity about the nature of the world, between reality and imagination, description and construction, matter and idea. Our attachment is to the world as imaginary constructed idea. Renunciation or escape from such attachment recognises a higher reality, which in my view needs to be compatible with the scientific vision of real described matter.
I think its "higherness" is entirely in the realm of mattering. Renunciation of attachment because you believe 36 virgins will attend to your every desire in Paradise after you sacrifice yourself is not redemptive of yourself or of the great river of life. But the problem is not that the virgins are illusory (well, that might be a problem as well, but it isn't the main one,) the problem is the use of selfish imagery to try to conjure up a selfless motivation. That zombie don't walk.

So, while I am implacably in favor of remaining compatible with science and matter, and it guards against some dangers, the redemption to be found in kenosis (which applies to anyone, not just to Jesus) has to be seen and understood by the one emptying self, and that is extremely difficult while in the grip of attachment to the materiality of the world as a value.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Kenosis, the ‘self-emptying’ of Christ, constructs an ethical epistemology of the hypostatic union of matter and spirit in the person of the messiah, the last as first, seeing the king of glory as manifest in the least things of the world. ‘What you did to the least of these you did to me’, in the words of Christ in the Last Judgement in Matthew 25.
You have nicely captured the reasons why incarnation is fast becoming a central pillar of progressive Christian theology. As God's incarnation in the Christ (whether or not you believe he was a fleshly, historical person) reveals the nature of God, so the role of Christ in our relationships reveals the nature of God's intention of salvation for us. The least of these symbolize the Christ to the extent that we can see Christ incarnated in them.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
The line between description as process and construction as process is at least fractally intricate, if not altogether illusory.
Yes, and there is a respectable line of scientific thought that constructs epistemology around the concept of “Mind Dependent Reality”, recognising that all linguistic discussion depends on mental construction, even while it aims to describe a reality that may be theorised as independent of mind.
That sounds like my kind of epistemology.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Kant opened this with his argument that knowledge is about phenomena as they appear to us, while the thing in itself, the noumenon, is strictly speaking unknowable.
That doesn't sound like my kind of epistemology. We don't just theorize that there is a reality independent of the mind, we replicate and test that theory so that we have considerable basis for confidence in it. "Strictly speaking unknowable," however, doesn't seem to matter.



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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Harry Marks wrote:
Though I haven't read much Heidegger, I worry that his project was undertaken from an "objectivity" framework which proposed to submit existential process to the demands of ontology. If so, then it was built on sand.
You are again using the word ‘ontology’ too narrowly. Ontology is the study of being. Heidegger’s project in Being and Time was to analyse the relationship between human existence and being. He starts off with Plato’s observation that ‘we used to think we understood the meaning of being but now we are perplexed’.

It is a perfectly reasonable method in philosophy to enquire about the relation between being and existence, or between being and ‘existential process’, whatever that means. As to ‘submitting to the demands of ontology’, it is not clear what that means. Specific ontologies make demands, such as belief in the Judeo-Christian God as the ground of being. Heidegger presented an existential ontology, grounded in care as the meaning of being in the world, temporal finitude, authenticity, being with others, rejection of herd thinking and what he calls the open anticipatory resolve of our being unto death. That whole mode of thinking was new and original, and its precise relation to earlier thinking has been the subject of much debate.

It seems the demand you think Heidegger assigns to ontology is objectivity. Given his status among the progressive movement of continental philosophy as a father-figure of postmodern relativism and deconstruction, through writers like Derrida and Rorty, Heidegger cannot easily be tarred with the brush of asserting that objectivity is the ground of thought. That is an idea more associated with how analytic philosophy subordinates thought to science. Instead, Heidegger’s focus on existential relationships as the ground of being, an idea that strongly influenced Tillich and Bultmann, places the objectivity of science in a subordinate though essential position, arguing that being in the world is primarily a matter of care rather than measurement.

The problem with a house built on sand rather than rock, as Jesus famously argued, is that sand will shift whereas rock is stable, so sand does not provide stable foundations. To say that Heidegger builds his house on sand has layers of irony. Rorty and Derrida used his ideas for their relativistic postmodern critique of what Rorty calls “foundationalism”, the idea of systematic universal logic. But Heidegger’s great achievement in Being and Time was entirely foundational and points to an existential system.

This objective of an existential system comes through firstly in his use of the core argument at the origin of Greek logic, from Parmenides, that there is one reality and we should cleave to the way of truth rather than the way of appearance, aiming to ground philosophy in knowledge rather than belief. Secondly, Heidegger’s deconstruction of Descartes turned on Heidegger's view that systematic thinking must be grounded in the existence of human being in the world as care, not in the logical isolation of the individual thinker from the world. That focus on the world did not make Heidegger unsystematic, although it did involve a recognition of the irrational, especially how moods are revelatory of being.
Harry Marks wrote:
In my experience the dialogue between construction and description is fundamental to life. Letting the process demands of either one of them define the terms of engagement for the relationship is a mistake.
Yes, this point about how process swamps dialogue refutes the major prevailing ideologies of scientism, relativism and faithism. Scientism asserts that meaning is pure description. Relativism asserts that meaning is pure construction. Faithism asserts that a specific mythological model of reality combining description and construction is literally true. Each of these errors involves a failure of vision of the deeper integrating unity possible as an ideal goal of the synthesis of description and construction.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Your theme of self as intrinsically with others is reflected in the core idea in the Bible that we should love others and God as we love our self, producing the ethic of compassionate solidarity that is the dream of the kingdom of God.
That's helpful. As an insight, or guideline, it can trigger recognition of the artificiality of my individual self, and thus invite the pouring in of actual compassion that is needed by so many withered, stunted lives.
The problem that you call “artificiality” is one that Christianity has sought to analyse as resulting from the trauma of the fall from grace into corruption, with the deluded and alienated power of sin causing an enduring withered stunting of the soul as societies seek to justify their own constructed fantasies. The dilemma here includes problems such as how progress rests upon artificial foundations, as the basis of business confidence. The mentality of linear growth can be resistant to analysis of its use of artifice. That resistant attitude creates a rather spectacular tectonic political pressure that must eventually give, either in a managed way or by collapse.

The kenotic idea we discussed earlier of self-emptying has a strong therapeutic transformative potential to encourage recognition of the damage caused by selfish greed and delusion. The ethical framework of the last as first, grounded in love, is essential to find a way out of the problem of artificiality.
Harry Marks wrote:

Our duty to God, our "absolute relation to the absolute" in Kierkegaard's terminology, is not a duty per se because it comes in the context of grace. That is, it is not created by obligation, but rather is offered as a possibility (a "free gift") by the relationship at the heart of meaning.
Duty is precisely about absolute demands. When absolute demands of duty have a sound ethical and epistemic foundation, they acquire the character of the mandate and will of God. If we consider God as the stable orderly fecund power sustaining the cosmos, the duty for human life is to harmonise with this absolute. The value of such harmony is in its ability to support sustained flourishing, since without the harmony of grace we face the peril of collapse.
Harry Marks wrote:
To seek the good, to find harmony in all things meaningful, is to defeat death and the perception of isolation of the individual from others.
Enduring stable flourishing is good. In evolutionary terms, organised complexity is resilient, generating dynamic harmonic equilibrium to exploit available niche resources. Death stalks the situation when harmony is disrupted, introducing chaos and catastrophe into the order of cosmos.

The victory of life over death is not at the individual level but at the ecosystem level. As with flocks of birds and schools of fish, an isolated individual becomes a target so evolution has trained our genes to cooperate to form harmonised social identity. When the grace-filled basis of ecological harmony breaks down, disruption and extinction soon follow. So humans have to harmonise with our planet to survive.
Harry Marks wrote:
objectively nothing we do matters except as people find it meaningful
In some senses that is true, that mattering and meaning are human constructs, but as a claimed doctrine of objectivity it carries the paradox and risk of a relativising of meaning, making ‘man the measure of all things’ as Protagoras argued to Socrates, whose response was that relativism is illogical and wrong.

If we think it ultimately matters that humans reflect nature in thought, then we claim an absolute objective meaning that transcends other things that people ordinarily perceive as important.
Harry Marks wrote:
, but when our sense of meaning is drawn from the eternal, our lives (not just our thought constructions, but the meanings which actually motivate us) are able to transcend these limitations imposed by an objective frame of reference.
This distinction you describe between the eternal and the objective is difficult. I may have explained my thoughts on eternity before, but will quickly do so again. Mathematics and logical knowledge is eternal in the sense that it is outside time and cannot change. The laws of physics are eternal in that they are permanent stable features of material reality. Moral principles are eternal in a more ambiguous way, that adherents see them as absolute, as timeless truths in the domain of values.

So the moral example of Jesus Christ is eternal in the sense that he is seen as the universal symbolic archetype of how faith works for good against evil. These three meanings of eternity equate to the three subjects taught in Plato’s Academy, logic, physics and ethics. I consider it important to combine them in defining eternity.
Harry Marks wrote:
But if we seek objective validation for our meaning, we impose these limitations and we crash into them and find ourselves sitting on the ground shaking our head with confusion.
Introducing the concept of “validation” illustrates that prevailing concepts of objectivity are governed by the consensus of mainstream opinion. Given the power of modern science, the mainstream consensus deserves great respect, including for how its formal processes require a level of humility in efforts to discover new objective knowledge. But you spoke of “validation for our meaning”, which seems to mean validation of what we think matters as important. An intersubjective validation always provides some sort of objectivity, but is prey to groupthink and intolerance, with potential to be objectively wrong.
Harry Marks wrote:
Yes, the tribal God of nation or religion (speaking of the sociological entities), will cripple our ability to respond to longing for the harmony of all things.
One of the most interesting things about Christianity, in my opinion, was that its original construction sought a path for humanity to evolve from instinct to reason as its primary driver. So for example, we instinctively love our friends, but the command of Jesus to love our enemies demands a higher rationality that overrides our natural instinct.

This model of the relation between reason and instinct sees spirituality as the primary locus of human evolution, grounded in a vision of universal harmony, which naturally requires a slow incubation, with the creation groaning in travail in the words of Romans 8, in view of the fallen fissiparity of the world.

As the world evolves toward global unity, seen in the slow aggregation from bands, clans, tribes, towns, cities, nations, empires, these higher levels of organisation bring threats that are difficult to engage since our brains have evolved to respond at the clan level.

The core kenotic idea I mentioned earlier, the last as first, provides a good imperial rubric. The God of nation is conceptually similar to the God of the clan, scaled up to a universal level, but without the essential ethic of harmony.
Harry Marks wrote:
Tillich talked about false gods, about ultimate concerns which were not truly ultimate (in that they could not acknowledge the larger quest for shalom, in my reading).
Glad that you have mentioned Tillich again, who as I just noted drew strongly from Heidegger as the primary systematic thinker of existentialism, primarily in the concept of God as the ground of our being.

Shalom, as the Jewish concept of just peace, is central to the Gospel vision of a transformative liberation of forgiveness and reconciliation in truth. The false Gods of Christendom have tended to place religion in service to the state and prevailing culture, whereas the emerging post-Christendom vision imagines a more messianic and transformative function for religion, a role of prophetic courage to imagine the construction of shalom for the world.
Harry Marks wrote:
As such they are like a king who will not stand up in the presence of the King of Kings, but of course such an image must never be made into a duty. It is an opportunity. A king can be more than Caligula, and a life can have more meaning in it than flopping back and forth in response to pleasure and pain.
The Old Testament book 1 Samuel tells the story of how ancient Israel first establishes monarchy with Saul, seen as a failed experiment whose only redeeming feature was how it led to the subsequent Kingdoms of David and Solomon, which became such an inspiration for Christianity. The key theme is the king’s obedience to God as the source of mandate and legitimacy and blessing, as the ground of morale, stability and security, with Saul failing on these measures.

To stand in the presence of Christ has routinely been imagined as the duty of the king, as representing the community to God, recognising a vision of goodness, as the basis of anointed monarchical power to limit the tyranny of the barons on behalf of the poor, aiming to achieve social harmony and cohesion.


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Harry Marks
Thu Feb 22, 2018 6:41 am
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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Harry Marks wrote:
I would agree that fighting climate change is a duty, and that's one reason why I agree with you that subtracting carbon is at least as important (because we have delayed too long) as reducing carbon emissions. But I don't agree that it is the best way to look at either the quest for the good, or our relationship to the physical requirements of our culture.
Considering your point about the dangers of artifice in psychology, there is good reason to see the dangers of climate change as a direct result of our all too human tendency to place comfort above evidence as a guide to action, creating an artificial world that is not sustainable. Essentially, climate change is about the willingness of humanity to shit in our global nest, with the risk of eventually making the planet uninhabitable.

That heedless attitude involves a resort to artificial subterfuge, and raises the biggest question of the relation between culture and physical requirements. If our duty is to maximise the good of the future, then this problem of climate indifference shows how undutiful our species has become, a problem traditionally explained in the categories of salvation and damnation.

On your point about the balance between carbon removal and emission reduction, I think that emission reduction is a pointless wild goose chase, a distraction from the real duty of carbon removal.
Harry Marks wrote:
Duty is a partial, fragmented part of the life of faith.
Fragmented? Surely that would imply that duty can be avoided with good conscience? I see it differently, that duty is fundamental. So Jesus says take up your cross and follow me. That is a very hard teaching of duty to God, as the rich young man reflected. My sense is that we are on a species trajectory to extinction, and our Christian duty is to reverse this trajectory through a resolute focus on facts and values.
Harry Marks wrote:
A person of faithfulness will shudder at the possibility that they have failed in meeting a duty.
Conventional faith provides ample escape hatches to avoid Christian duty, through the cheap grace of kicking Jesus upstairs from earth into heaven. The costly grace of planetary transformation implied by the incarnation can be ignored in favour of supernatural nonsense.
Harry Marks wrote:
In traditional, supernaturally-explained religion, our duty to God represents to us the opportunity to participate in eternity by working for shalom, which is the harmony of all things. When face-to-face with duty, our obligation to it is inescapable.
My experience of traditional religion is rather different, that it avoids discussion of shalom because this union of peace and justice implies a messianic transformation of the earth. The traditional goal is more to claim God’s blessing upon existing society and its stability, putting off all thought of shalom to the second coming. The way faith escapes obligations in this realm of social transformation is to sow confusion so duties are never encountered directly, and so that duty is conceived in a primarily individual moral way, concerning personal moral conduct rather than shared vision of the world.
Harry Marks wrote:
Grace doesn't remove the obligation, but it does put it in context of a relationship of love: the Absolute reaches out to us (in an actual, not metaphorical, process) to reassure us that our obligations come to us in the context of the love that humanity and the good have for us, holding out to us the possibility of living in proper quest for shalom rather than feeling we must retreat to our bank accounts and our ethnic identities as if these will save us from the great and terrible Day of Reckoning.
To discuss the Day of Wrath, the Dies Irae, when by tradition David and the Sybil testify the earth will dissolve in ashes, is hardly a popular topic in philosophy, since such talk of doom and judgement is more associated with crazy religion than liberal secular rationality.

And yet this old idea of doom and reckoning could be helpful in seeing the phenomenological relation between grace and fragility. If our society holds systemic false beliefs, then we are living in a hollow state of brittle fragility, not sustainable and facing necessary change. That need for change is essentially what is meant by your phrase “the great and terrible Day of Reckoning.”

My view is that such a transformation need not involve collapse. If there is clear headed strategic planning, a managed gradual transition is possible, seeing the allegorical language of the Bible as a coherent and helpful warning message.
Harry Marks wrote:

The entrepreneurial class sees individual (or corporate) competition for money as the ultimate source of all benefit in society, but I am sorry to say we must drop the curtain on them. They are now a distant third to social processes of empowering the excluded and integrating the costs of externalities into monetary incentives. That's not to say I am in favor of disempowering competition and enterprise. But the movement for selling governmental power to the donor class has to stop. It has gone too far already.
The traditional conservative economic line in response to your comment here is that we can only distribute wealth that has been created, and that competitive markets are the only thing that creates wealth. So encouraging entrepreneurs will lead to more money that can then trickle down for inclusion and externalities.

Unfortunately, as you intimate, trickle down theory is subject to failure, since the payment for inclusion and externalities depends on government regulation and decision, which is prevented by the plutocratic corruption of policy when money buys votes. This big lie that the market needs no regulation is a primary cause of social conflict and unrest.
Harry Marks wrote:
If you are going to insist on the requirements of objective analysis as non-negotiable requirements of the formation of the story, then you have sabotaged the possibilities for caring to bring the elements in harmony.
“Sabotage” of possibilities is putting it too strongly, although that question again raises the complex problem we have been discussing about the relation between construction and description in our attitudes to reality. In the paper that I mentioned earlier, I am analysing the description of earth’s objective orbital situation and movements as a basis for the construction of myths. I think such cosmic analysis is the most promising way to reconcile care and evidence.

While the impetus for care may emerge more from constructed values than from described facts, care is also usually most effective when it is grounded in fact rather than fantasy, meaning our relationships are honest and open. Exceptions to the primacy of fact include the placebo effect in medicine, or the healing power of faith and prayer. A comforting constructed fantasy can have more healing power than cold descriptive facts delivered with no bedside manner, although the best healing and care comes from the combination of faith and evidence.

It is not right to say that search for objective evidence “sabotages” care, although it is important to note care cannot be held hostage to evidence. Insistence on proof can undermine the potential for learning by doing. We should care for people and things based on intuitive response where objective information is thin. Someone recently said to me that we should only care about the possible extinction of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef when we can prove it is definitely happening. While that proof actually already exists, this mentality of denial illustrates how proof is often too late for cure.

The greatest level of care operates at the social level, where evidence and objectivity come more into the picture than in personal relationships. Objective evidence has strong power to sway policy, encouraging government and business accountability, although facts are often not adequate to overcome the power of money.
Harry Marks wrote:
The "unified nature of reality" is not "objective" when it comes to reconciling spirit and matter, or many of the other supposed dualities-from-illusion which you identified.
Given the world is so far from reconciling spirit and matter, and exists with uneasy contradictions and tensions between spiritual beliefs and objective facts, I think this question of the relation between objectivity and reconciliation, aiming for a unified theory of reality, can’t be so easily dismissed.

Restorative justice, finding unity through forgiveness and dialogue, sees an intimate connection between truth and reconciliation, with shared acceptance of objective facts seen as having an important spiritual power for peace with justice. Transparency and accountability are all about disclosure of objective information to the public.

An even bigger dimension of this problem of objective spirituality is its relation to what you raised as the ‘day of reckoning’. The tradition of judgement, as in the story of the writing on the wall that says you are weighed in the balance and found wanting, asserts that the will of God has an objective power, emerging as the divine justice of fate. So the messianic image of Jesus Christ as King of the World involves just this just combination of sword and scales, or sceptre and orb, weighing the facts to deliver judgement of an objective spirituality, with the moral force of equity, mercy and the power of God.
Harry Marks wrote:
apocalypse, in the form of planetary catastrophe, implies some all-at-once disaster. Climate change is a creeping, glacial-paced process and people are very subject to the boiling frog illusion.
I have heard that frogs are actually smart enough to jump out of a pot when it starts to warm up, putting that popular illusion story into the class of myth. Be that as it may, if we accept the meme, there comes a point of catastrophe, of no escape, where the frog discovers it is cooking but lacks the strength to jump.

So with climate, the better analogy than a glacier is an earthquake. Glaciers advance or retreat slowly, with no sudden disasters involved. But with plate tectonics, pressure slowly builds until a sudden catastrophic movement at the moment of release. It is entirely possible that we are storing up tectonic-type problems by adding so much carbon to the air, which could, for example as my scientist friends say, cause main ocean currents to suddenly stop, with immense unrepairable extinctive damage.

Security theory teaches that we should consider risks against likelihood and impact. Even if such extreme impact oceanic risks might seem a few centuries away, we do not know where the systemic tipping point sits, so should avoid playing the fool at the precipice.
Harry Marks wrote:
We have already had a year from Hell in the climate, and the last few years were not that much better even if you restrict yourself to U.S. climate costs. The handwriting is on the wall, but you seem to put your faith in stories of human extinction which are both harder to verify and much less tangible than Hurricanes Harvey, Katrina, Irma, Maria and Sandy.
It is not about faith but, as I just explained, risk analysis. Ongoing severe storm damage is very likely, but could be a precursor to even worse impacts, illustrating the urgency of removing dangerous carbon from the air and sea as a global security priority. The problem is that the climate lobby claims the writing on the wall says we have to shut down fossil fuels, whereas the better science is saying we should remove carbon, and this is generating a debate about moral hazard, while the climate burns.
Harry Marks wrote:
you are in denial about externalities
No, I am not in denial about externalities. The debate is whether carbon should be removed before or after it is added to the air. The IPCC say before, and the climate removal geoengineers say after, on the model of sanitation. The externalities of random shitting are obvious, but no one says that the cure is to induce mass constipation instead of sewered toilets, which is what emission reduction equates to.
Harry Marks wrote:
, yet if anything was revealed in facing apocalypse, it was that they need to be addressed collectively.
Sure, and the UN committee is giving us a camel when we need a horse, while ensuring the real policy debate is ignored in mass media. This “collective action” furphy has led to a very deluded meme, that addressing climate change has to model itself on past “collective” strategies, notably the popular front. I was reading about the candidacy of Henry Wallace for the Progressive Party in the 1948 US Presidential election, an episode that illustrated how “collective” action can be steered by motivated groups who control a popular front.

Carbon removal is more on the side of John Galt from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged as a model for how to address climate change, through finding new big ideas that no one has thought of before.
Harry Marks wrote:
see how bad things would be if we had not addressed [the main lesson of the previous round of environmental confrontation]
You are saying that government regulation of air pollution at point of source provides the model to address climate change. I disagree. The climate problem is completely different from air pollution. It requires that we physically remove the dangerous carbon, and find profitable ways to do so, preferably in cooperation with major industries such as insurance and energy.

Posing the problem as a war against fossil fuels, as the climate lobby does, generates political polarisation and reaction that delays urgent response, where the goal should be a win-win answer, forgetting about emission reduction and focussing on carbon removal.

All the Paris commitments only address 1% of the carbon problem, showing the emission reduction paradigm is broken.
Harry Marks wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
Nietzsche suggested the effort to prove the existence of God through theology was the main cause of the death of God in culture.
I was not aware of this. It should be more widely known.
Heidegger picked up on this idea from Nietzsche about the limits of proof of God through analysis of how theology and philosophy have ‘forgotten the meaning of being’. Proof operates on the objective empirical model of knowledge that is suited to analysis of entities and systems. As you alluded earlier, by contrast, in the “I-Thou” relationship between us and God, any modelling of God as an entity commits a category error. Heidegger and Husserl framed this problem through analysis of what they called the “representational theory of truth”, the tradition from Aristotle where truth is defined as the adequacy of our concepts in their correspondence to referents.

Heidegger argued the old Greek word for truth, aletheia, means uncovering or disclosure, revealing something already there, bigger and more mysterious than all our ideas, impinging upon us as fate.

A discussion of Death of God theology is at http://mb-soft.com/believe/txn/deathgod.htm


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Post Re: Religion and philosophy
Robert Tulip wrote:
You are again using the word ‘ontology’ too narrowly. Ontology is the study of being. Heidegger’s project in Being and Time was to analyse the relationship between human existence and being. He starts off with Plato’s observation that ‘we used to think we understood the meaning of being but now we are perplexed’.

It is a perfectly reasonable method in philosophy to enquire about the relation between being and existence, or between being and ‘existential process’, whatever that means. As to ‘submitting to the demands of ontology’, it is not clear what that means. Specific ontologies make demands, such as belief in the Judeo-Christian God as the ground of being.
I quote from Wikipedia, with some amusement,
Quote:
ontology often deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist and how such entities may be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences. A very simple definition of ontology is that it is the examination of what is meant, in context, by the word 'thing'
Is caring a "thing"? If so, I would argue that it cannot be understood properly by analytical methods and replicable observations. Because its nature is subjective, introspection is inherently required and to some extent definitive about caring.

The demands of ontology may include specific requirements imposed by specific approaches, but more fundamentally its requirements are created by trying to use the methods of objectivity to understand being. These are methods such as description and classification, as well as meta-methods like logical validity and separation from purely personal goals. All of those can be helpful to clearing away misunderstanding, but some distortions are hidden from its view by the inherent subjectivity of the subject. Maybe Heidegger managed to escape those traps, maybe not. Perhaps I shall try to read his magnum opus.

My use of "existential process" just means being as process, rather than as a "thing." We live in time, with memory, anticipation and intention. My statement of what my intention is may be bad faith, but we do not yet have objective ways to demonstrate that. In a real sense, only I know whether I am acting in bad faith. And even I may not know, since that is much of the nature of bad faith. We can give a person a set of criteria and ask her to use introspection to decide about her own motivations. We may make inferences based on the difference between actions and declarations. But the epistemology at work is fundamentally subjective: I can persuade others that someone is acting in bad faith (or is not) but I cannot demonstrate it objectively. To investigate it as though it was something that in principle could be demonstrated objectively would be a fundamental error.

Robert Tulip wrote:
It seems the demand you think Heidegger assigns to ontology is objectivity. Heidegger cannot easily be tarred with the brush of asserting that objectivity is the ground of thought. That is an idea more associated with how analytic philosophy subordinates thought to science. Instead, Heidegger’s focus on existential relationships as the ground of being, an idea that strongly influenced Tillich and Bultmann, places the objectivity of science in a subordinate though essential position, arguing that being in the world is primarily a matter of care rather than measurement.
That all sounds like it is on track, and I am happy to give him the benefit of the doubt. I wonder, though, if the language and traditions of philosophy do not impose a kind of puppeteering by objectivity which does not operate in any formal, logical way. When we wanted to understand existential relationship as fundamental to being, we were sent to Buber's "I and Thou" which is ridiculously elliptical because he asks first that the reader think about the different kinds of relationship internally, and subjectively. Kierkegaard used stories to convey the existential nature of the phenomena he wanted to analyze.

Robert Tulip wrote:
This objective of an existential system comes through firstly in his use of the core argument at the origin of Greek logic, from Parmenides, that there is one reality and we should cleave to the way of truth rather than the way of appearance, aiming to ground philosophy in knowledge rather than belief.
The contrast between knowledge and belief is insufficient. Knowledge in the sense of the Spanish "saber" (to know facts) is not the same as the existential knowing, which corresponds to the Spanish "conocer" (to know people). It's all very well to avoid being fooled by superficially persuasive appearances (with people even more than with facts). But to pretend to "knowledge" (saber) of being, in any universal sense, is a bit foolish. I am even quite dissatisfied with Tillich's use of "ultimate concern" because I am not sure it really applies to everyone.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Secondly, Heidegger’s deconstruction of Descartes turned on Heidegger's view that systematic thinking must be grounded in the existence of human being in the world as care, not in the logical isolation of the individual thinker from the world. That focus on the world did not make Heidegger unsystematic, although it did involve a recognition of the irrational, especially how moods are revelatory of being.
Yes. For example we are loved into existence, not, primarily, educated into it. What I would call pre-rationality is integral to our learning to get along in the world - we don't do things rationally for rationality's sake, but because someone has realized there is good reason to care about the rationality of our approach to particular issues.

The isolation of the individual was an Enlightenment fiction (myth?) which helped with imposing a (pretend) "veil of ignorance" to do a better job of ethics. Since the signal achievement of the Enlightenment was the overthrow of feudal nobility by democracy (the Marxists would say, by the capitalist bourgeoisie) that tends to look like a triumph of sorts, but I don't think we have gotten far yet on what Humpty-Dumpties may have been shattered by adopting that individualist perspective.
Robert Tulip wrote:
The kenotic idea we discussed earlier of self-emptying has a strong therapeutic transformative potential to encourage recognition of the damage caused by selfish greed and delusion. The ethical framework of the last as first, grounded in love, is essential to find a way out of the problem of artificiality.
I like to think of the needed transformation more in terms of "even the least of these" rather than "the last shall be first." While we no longer lock people into such rigid structures that nearly everyone finishes their life at the position in which their parents started it, so that hierarchies are not such obsessions as they once were, there are still social categories of ranking and exclusion that create fault lines in our selves as well as in society. Kenosis needs to be a thorough process of replacing all the ways we "try to impress people" as some put it. Get rid of all the fakery and all the one-upmanship. All the focus on fitting in and gaining approval. Obviously that is not as simple as deciding it should be so.

That's one reason I am getting enthused about a new perspective on Christianity that focuses on vocation rather than sin and redemption. It is easier to steer a moving vehicle, as someone once said. If we are engaged in forward progress toward a vocation that is structured by caring, we do not have to obsess on enumerating our failures but can focus on how better to actually do things that help, and in which we can see ourselves caring about others, "even the least of these." Call it caring with legs and hands.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
Our duty to God, our "absolute relation to the absolute" in Kierkegaard's terminology, is not a duty per se because it comes in the context of grace. That is, it is not created by obligation, but rather is offered as a possibility (a "free gift") by the relationship at the heart of meaning.
Duty is precisely about absolute demands. When absolute demands of duty have a sound ethical and epistemic foundation, they acquire the character of the mandate and will of God. If we consider God as the stable orderly fecund power sustaining the cosmos, the duty for human life is to harmonise with this absolute.
Well, no. A doctor has a duty to "first, do no harm." But that doesn't get the job done. She must understand as well as possible how to do some good.

The context of relationship to God transcends the absolute nature of duty without destroying it, very much the same way that ethical obligations transcend esthetic evaluations without eliminating them. Because the absolute reaches out to us with a caring process that is forgiving from its higher perspective, our failures (and our successes!) ethically are in a context which gives them meaning. And the meaning is not absolute obligation. We do not have to commit seppuku when we have failed God, because God is not using us. God cares more about us than about our performance of duty.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
To seek the good, to find harmony in all things meaningful, is to defeat death and the perception of isolation of the individual from others.
The victory of life over death is not at the individual level but at the ecosystem level. As with flocks of birds and schools of fish, an isolated individual becomes a target so evolution has trained our genes to cooperate to form harmonised social identity. When the grace-filled basis of ecological harmony breaks down, disruption and extinction soon follow. So humans have to harmonise with our planet to survive.
All very relevant, but not properly central to meaning. I would like to think you don't believe that when humanity succeeds in eliminating all threats of extinction (other than the ultimate end of the universe itself in entropy) that then all meaning also is gone. While threat of extinction gives urgency to the social process of responding to what is meaningful, it doesn't create that meaning.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote:
objectively nothing we do matters except as people find it meaningful
In some senses that is true, that mattering and meaning are human constructs, but as a claimed doctrine of objectivity it carries the paradox and risk of a relativising of meaning, making ‘man the measure of all things’ as Protagoras argued to Socrates, whose response was that relativism is illogical and wrong.
To paraphrase Tolstoy, all paths seeking shalom are the same path, but every departure into relativism is a departure in its own idiosyncratic way. Because relativism is a dodge - a cover, a denial. It is an attempt to rationalize the choice of convenience or pleasure over obligation and the good. That is paradox enough for me.

Robert Tulip wrote:
If we think it ultimately matters that humans reflect nature in thought, then we claim an absolute objective meaning that transcends other things that people ordinarily perceive as important.
Well, that sounds persuasive, but not so accurately analyzed. The priority on harmony with nature (not just sustainability of our economy, but responsiveness to truth and evidence in general) can be said to transcend the ordinary whithers and thithers of our everyday life. But "objective" meaning? I would leave that out. Mattering is subjective.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Moral principles are eternal in a more ambiguous way, that adherents see them as absolute, as timeless truths in the domain of values.
That "more ambiguous way" is what I am trying to capture with the difference between "objective" and "eternal". If they come from attempts to "get the better of" life, to use life for some other objective, then values are temporal. If they come from the honest quest to understand what life is for, what purposes matter in the most honest, comprehensive and reasoned framework of meaning, then their values are from the eternal. Yet it is possible for people to differ radically on which principles best answer this quest. One person sees social ownership of the means of production as indispensable to shalom, while another sees maximization of the liberty of individual autonomous agents as the best path to shalom. They are both honest, both working from framework of eternity, but cannot both be objectively correct.
Harry Marks wrote:
But if we seek objective validation for our meaning, we impose these limitations and we crash into them and find ourselves sitting on the ground shaking our head with confusion.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Introducing the concept of “validation” illustrates that prevailing concepts of objectivity are governed by the consensus of mainstream opinion. Given the power of modern science, the mainstream consensus deserves great respect, including for how its formal processes require a level of humility in efforts to discover new objective knowledge. But you spoke of “validation for our meaning”, which seems to mean validation of what we think matters as important. An intersubjective validation always provides some sort of objectivity, but is prey to groupthink and intolerance, with potential to be objectively wrong.
I think the prevailing concepts of objectivity are just fine for doing science, and in general for adding to knowledge of how the universe works. I think the problem is that our use of language has led people to think that the same criteria and even the same epistemological methods will give the same result in matters of value. And so, since I am surely not wrong in my values, my values must be objectively true. Or else it's all a matter of opinion, and whatever you think is right is right for you.

In the case of either extreme, the error of insisting that "truth" behaves like scientific investigation of an objective nature of things will prevent proper contemplation of the difficulties in searching for understanding of what is good.
Robert Tulip wrote:
One of the most interesting things about Christianity, in my opinion, was that its original construction sought a path for humanity to evolve from instinct to reason as its primary driver. So for example, we instinctively love our friends, but the command of Jesus to love our enemies demands a higher rationality that overrides our natural instinct.
The original step toward reason was the recognition of law. Whether Solon or Moses or Hammurabi, the lawgiver dislocates the individual from valuing "what I like" to valuing "what I would perceive as fair if I were an impartial observer."
The radical ethics of Jesus move us even further to ask "by what process can I become an agent of love's message, that meaning can only be found in pursuit of shalom?" The processes of judging and condemning do not answer. In some sense even self-defense does not answer, at least for an individual.

Robert Tulip wrote:
This model of the relation between reason and instinct sees spirituality as the primary locus of human evolution, grounded in a vision of universal harmony, which naturally requires a slow incubation, with the creation groaning in travail in the words of Romans 8, in view of the fallen fissiparity of the world.
Well said.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Shalom, as the Jewish concept of just peace, is central to the Gospel vision of a transformative liberation of forgiveness and reconciliation in truth. The false Gods of Christendom have tended to place religion in service to the state and prevailing culture, whereas the emerging post-Christendom vision imagines a more messianic and transformative function for religion, a role of prophetic courage to imagine the construction of shalom for the world.

To stand in the presence of Christ has routinely been imagined as the duty of the king, as representing the community to God, recognising a vision of goodness, as the basis of anointed monarchical power to limit the tyranny of the barons on behalf of the poor, aiming to achieve social harmony and cohesion.
Seeking shalom is the duty of everyone. And the opportunity available to everyone. The example of a king is useful in that the king's obligation is not one that will be enforced upon him. Our response is more a part of the message of love if we are honestly caring than if we see it as simply a matter of everyone's duty, just as duty is ethical in a way that responding to enforcement is not. In both cases it is a question of what kind of whole the act is a part of.



Sat Feb 24, 2018 10:27 am
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