måndag, augusti 31, 2015

Forthcoming: Explorations in Post-secular Metaphysics

"Questions regarding metaphysics and religion are undoubtedly back on the political-philosophical agenda. To anyone finding the contributions by Charles Taylor, John Milbank and William Connolly vital but convoluted, Josef Bengtson's Explorations in Post-secular Metaphysics is the answer. In clear and concise prose, and with critical drive, Bengtson assesses the alternatives and suggests a way forward in one of the most lively discussions of our age." - Ola Sigurdson, Professor of Systematic Theology and director of the Centre for Culture and Health, University of Gothenburg, Sweden

'This is a superbly intelligent and crystal-clear critical guide to post-secular thought, which understands its crucial connection to the twenty-first century return to metaphysics, whether naturalistic or religious. Thoroughly recommended to all students and anyone interested in contemporary philosophy and culture.'- John Milbank, Professor of Religion, Politics and Ethics, University of Nottingham, UK

"Amid our post-secular age, we are witnessing not just a 'return of religion', which never went away, but also the resurgence of metaphysics – reflections on the nature of reality. In this superb work, Josef Bengtson shows that all conceptions of post-secularity rest on metaphysical assumptions. Thus politics cannot be equated with second-order issues of left-right or state-market but has to involve first-order questions about the order of things – including shared substantive ends such as individual fulfilment, mutual flourishing and the common good. This is a brilliant book that needs to be read by all those interested in the concepts that can map our present." - Adrian Pabst, Senior Lecturer in Politics, University of Kent, UK, and author of Metaphysics: the creation of hierarchy (2012)

fredag, november 22, 2013

Without metaphysics, there is only fideism

Meillassoux on why the contemporary end of metaphysics is nothing other than the victory of fideism:
Whenever one claims to be carrying out a critique of 'metaphysico-religious' absolutes, one has in mind the critique of onto-theology insofar as the latter coincides with the critique of Judaeo-Christian theology's claim that its belief in a unique God is founded upon supposedly rational truths, all of which are anchored in the idea of a supreme being who is the prime mover of all things. But it is necessary to point out something which, curiously enough, is not, or is no longer, self-evident. This is the fact that in criticizing metaphysics' pretension to think the absolute, we may - as indeed proved to be the case - succeed in undermining a particular religion which appealed to 'natural reason' in order to declare the superiority of its particular beliefs over those of other religions.
Thus, for example, by destroying every form of proof for the existence of a supreme being, one removes the rational support which a specific monotheistic religion invoked against every form of polytheistic religion. Consequently, by destroying metaphysics, one has effectively rendered it impossible for a particular religion to use a pseudo-rational argumentation against every other religion. But in doing so - and this is the decisive point - one has inadvertently justified belief's claim to be the only means of access to the absolute. Once the absolute has become unthinkable, even atheism, which also targets God's inexistence in the manner of an absolute, is reduced to a mere belief, and hence to a religion, albeit of the nihilist kind. Faith is pitched against faith, since what determines our fundamental choices cannot be rationally proved. In other words, the de-absolutization of thought boils down to the mobilization of a fideist argument; but a fideism that is 'fundamenal' rather than merely 'historical' in nature - that is to say, a fideism that has become thought's defence of religiosity in general, rather than of a specific religion.
... it is our conviction that  the contemporary end of metaphysics is nothing other than the victory of such a fideism.
Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2010), 46.

onsdag, oktober 16, 2013

Charles Taylor on the reality of values

"What is real is what you have to deal with, what won't go away just because it doesn't fit with your prejudices. By this token, what you can't help having recourse to in life is real, or as near to reality as you can get a grasp of at present. Your general metaphysical picture of "values" and their place in "reality" ought to be based on what you find real in this way. It couldn't conceivably be the basis of an objection to its reality." 
"If we cannot deliberate effectively, or understand and explain people's action illuminatingly, without such terms as 'courage' or 'generosity', then these are real features of our world."
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Harvard University Press, 1989), 59, 69

söndag, oktober 06, 2013

The need for better stories

And so back to the moral world of Girls. What we need is not condemnation of Adam, or condemnation of Hannah for liking Adam, but better art and better stories—better fictional worlds, by which I mean fictional worlds that rhyme with what is the case, with what is true yesterday, today, and forever. Not the abolition of mythic sandboxes but the making of sandboxes in which to play with true, or truer, myths: fictive spaces in which Hannah can do better than Adam, and Adam can be better than what he is, a bitter prisoner of past angers and resentments.

Alan Jacobs. Lena Dunham’s Inviolable Self. Contrasting the moral worlds of Jane Austen and Girls. First Things.

tisdag, oktober 01, 2013

The superstitions of materialism

"Beauty can be a startling reminder for those us who have sunk occasionally into the superstitions of materialism, that to see reality in purely mechanistic terms is not to see the real world at all, but only its shadow."

- David Bentley Hart

torsdag, augusti 22, 2013

The limits of secular discourse

It is not, Smith tells us, that secular reason can’t do the job (of identifying ultimate meanings and values) we need religion to do; it’s worse; secular reason can’t do its own self-assigned job — of describing the world in ways that allow us to move forward in our projects — without importing, but not acknowledging, the very perspectives it pushes away in disdain. 
While secular discourse, in the form of statistical analyses, controlled experiments and rational decision-trees, can yield banks of data that can then be subdivided and refined in more ways than we can count, it cannot tell us what that data means or what to do with it. No matter how much information you pile up and how sophisticated are the analytical operations you perform, you will never get one millimeter closer to the moment when you can move from the piled-up information to some lesson or imperative it points to; for it doesn’t point anywhere; it just sits there, inert and empty.

tisdag, augusti 20, 2013

Om ateismens metafysik

All of which is to say (to return to where I began) that it is absurd to think that one can profess atheism in any meaningful way without thereby assenting to an entire philosophy of being, however inchoate one’s sense of it may be. The philosophical naturalist’s view of reality is not one that merely fails to find some particular object within the world that the theist imagines can be descried there; it is a very particular representation of the nature of things, entailing a vast range of purely metaphysical commitments.

Principally, it requires that one believe that the physical order, which both experience and reason say is an ensemble of ontological contingencies, can exist entirely of itself, without any absolute source of actuality. It requires also that one resign oneself to an ultimate irrationalism: For the one reality that naturalism can never logically encompass is the very existence of nature (nature being, by definition, that which already exists); it is a philosophy, therefore, surrounded, permeated, and exceeded by a truth that is always already super naturam, and yet a philosophy that one cannot seriously entertain except by scrupulously refusing to recognize this.

It is the embrace of an infinite paradox: the universe understood as an “absolute contingency.” It may not amount to a metaphysics in the fullest sense, since strictly speaking it possesses no rational content—it is, after all, a belief that all things rest upon something like an original moment of magic—but it is certainly far more than the mere absence of faith.

David Bentley Hart - “God, Gods, and Fairies”