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”

onsdag, augusti 14, 2013

Om skillnaden mellan "religiösa" och "sekulära" akademiska perspektiv

"Another rationale for intentionally integrating both knowledge about religion and religious knowledge into the discipline of sociology follows from the observation that at least some schools of thought in our discipline unapologetically begin with particular intellectual and moral locations, commitments, presuppositions, and interests; some even argue that these particular positions privilege their sociological understandings. Examples include feminist theory, Marxism, queer theory, some forms of critical theory, and projects of “real utopias.” One might ask why or how such value-committed scholarly approaches that start with particularistic intellectual and moral presuppositions are legitimate in sociology, while religious perspectives on human person and social life are a priori excluded. The uneven privileging of certain intellectual and moral positions deserves ongoing questioning and consideration. At the very least, examining such issues seriously will force sociologists to be more selfaware and self-reflexive."
Christian Smith et al., “Roundtable on the Sociology of Religion: Twenty-Three Theses on the Status of Religion in American Sociology—A Mellon Working-Group Reflection,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion (August 10, 2013), doi:10.1093/jaarel/lft052.

fredag, augusti 09, 2013

Liberalismens dilemma

[In Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self] he contends that the ethical-political pronouncements of our modern liberal selves involve quite high, universal standards of justice and benevolence, but that our disengaged understanding of human agency leaves us with no moral sources adequate to sustain the robust enactment of those standards. In short, “high standards need strong sources”.

Stephen K. White, “Weak Ontology: Genealogy and Critical Issues,” Hedgehog Review 7, no. 2 (2005): 24.

torsdag, juli 04, 2013

Evangelium enligt Nietzsche

Through Christianity, the individual was made so important, so absolute, that he could no longer be sacrificed: but the species endures only through human sacrifice. All "souls" became equal before God: but this is precisely the most dangerous of all possible evaluations! If one regards individuals as equal, one calls the species into question, one encourages a way of life that leads to the ruin of the species: Christianity is the counterprinciple to the principle of selection. If the degenerate and sick ("the Christian") is to be accorded the same value as the healthy ("the pagan"), or even more value, as in Pascal's judgment concerning sickness and health, then unnaturalness becomes law- 
This universal love of men is in practice the preference for the suffering, underprivileged, degenerate: it has in fact lowered and weakened the strength, the responsibility, the lofty duty to sacrifice men. All that remains, according to the Christian scheme of values, is to sacrifice oneself: but this residue of human sacrifice that Christianity concedes and even advises has, from the standpoint of general breeding, no meaning at all.

Fredrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, ed. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1967), 142

tisdag, juni 25, 2013

Den övernaturliga naturen

Jag skrev en liten text i det senaste numret av Tidskriften Evangelium på temat avförtrollning. Den handlar om materialism och om hur det transcendenta har gjort comeback förstådd som universums inneboende kreativitet.

Trevlig sommar!

måndag, april 01, 2013

The language of addiction

First Things har en intressant artikel (The Language of Addiction Takes Over) om hur missbruksterminologin sprungen ur AA och tolvstegsprogram vinner mark i amerikansk populärkultur.
In some ways, this widespread fascination with recovery is encouraging. If the young hip kids of today are willing to embrace David Foster Wallace’s famous Betty Crocker cake mix analogy for AA (“It didn’t matter one f—ckola whether Gately like believed a cake would result, or whether he understood the like f—ing baking-chemistry of how a cake would result: if he just followed the m—f—ing directions . . . a cake would result”), then they’re only a small step away from grasping Credo ut intelligam, I believe so that I might understand. If they feel the need to smuggle the language of religion into their moral universes under the cover of the twelve steps, then the absence of religion from their lives must, at some level, be bothering them acutely. It’s annoying that so many people are unable to talk about obedience, mortification, or the quiet heroism of everyday life except in the context of recovery from addiction, but at least these concepts still make sense to them.
Jag har tidigare skrivit om samma fenomen här!

onsdag, mars 27, 2013

Milbank on Catholic vs. bourgeois piety

But surely, in the case of Christianity, the more authentically "Catholic" reality is the blend of the very sophisticated with the very popular - omitting the half-baked "bourgeois" mode of positivistic piety, prayer meetings, organizational obsession, and ill-informed, unimaginative Bible studies that waste the time one might spend having fun.
John Milbank “A Closer Walk on the Wild Side” in Michael Warner, Jonathan VanAntwerpen, and Craig J. Calhoun, Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age (Harvard University Press, 2010), 68.

tisdag, mars 19, 2013

Läsvärt angående Thomas Nagels kritik av materialismen

Mycket läsvärd artikel i The Weekly Standard om kritikstormen kring Thomas Nagels bok Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False:
Materialism, then, is fine as far as it goes. It just doesn’t go as far as materialists want it to. It is a premise of science, not a finding. Scientists do their work by assuming that every phenomenon can be reduced to a material, mechanistic cause and by excluding any possibility of nonmaterial explanations. And the materialist assumption works really, really well—in detecting and quantifying things that have a material or mechanistic explanation. Materialism has allowed us to predict and control what happens in nature with astonishing success. The jaw-dropping edifice of modern science, from space probes to nanosurgery, is the result. 
But the success has gone to the materialists’ heads. From a fruitful method, materialism becomes an axiom: If science can’t quantify something, it doesn’t exist, and so the subjective, unquantifiable, immaterial “manifest image” of our mental life is proved to be an illusion. 
Here materialism bumps up against itself. Nagel insists that we know some things to exist even if materialism omits or ignores or is oblivious to them. Reductive materialism doesn’t account for the “brute facts” of existence—it doesn’t explain, for example, why the world exists at all, or how life arose from nonlife. Closer to home, it doesn’t plausibly explain the fundamental beliefs we rely on as we go about our everyday business: the truth of our subjective experience, our ability to reason, our capacity to recognize that some acts are virtuous and others aren’t. These failures, Nagel says, aren’t just temporary gaps in our knowledge, waiting to be filled in by new discoveries in science. On its own terms, materialism cannot account for brute facts. Brute facts are irreducible, and materialism, which operates by breaking things down to their physical components, stands useless before them. “There is little or no possibility,” he writes, “that these facts depend on nothing but the laws of physics.” 

onsdag, mars 13, 2013

Omoderna föreställningar om "moderniteten"

Signum skriver intressant om Påven, journalisterna och ”moderniteten”:
Det tycks bland journalister finnas ett fast och tämligen enhetligt begrepp om ”modernitet”. När företrädare för katolska kyrkan, och särskilt unga sådana, tillfrågas om vad de önskar av den nye påven leds de ständigt mot att säga att de önskar ”modernisering” eller en ”modern påve”. [...] 
”Modernitet” som ett enhetligt begrepp, som rör framsteg och revolution mot allt gammalt och förlegat, finns knappast kvar hos några seriösa tänkare idag. Sedan ungefär trettio år tittar man istället på komplexitet, strömningar och motströmningar, olika kontexter och tolkningsramar, och ser att det i alla fall inte är så enkelt som att det finns något slags enhetlig modernitet som alla människor och alla samhällen med något slags förutbestämd determinism rör sig mot. 
Det finns dock vissa yrkesgrupper där denna ”myt om framsteget” tycks leva kvar. En sådan yrkesgrupp är arkitekter, där det fortfarande anses progressivt att bygga som man gjorde på 30-talet för att bereda vägen för ”den moderna människan”. En annan grupp tycks vara journalister, och främst äldre sådana. Bo-Inge Andersson tycks exempelvis, trots sitt stora kunnande och sin gedigna journalistiska bakgrund, inte kunna slita sig från en föreställning om en ”modern värld” som ”den katolska kyrkan” måste uppdateras till för att kunna överleva, för att vara relevant.

måndag, mars 04, 2013

"Religion" and unicorns

Bruce Lincoln: “Religion . . . is that discourse whose defining characteristic is its desire to speak of things eternal and transcendent.” ...  “History, in the sharpest possible contrast, is that discourse which speaks of things temporal and terrestrial.”

Timothy Fitzgerald: This is a God-like generalization that transcends historical inquiry. Religion in itself is nothing. It is a highly contested construct and requires contextualized, historical unpacking. This is not a critical practice; it is a statement, or a pair of statements, of the kind “Unicorns have one horn” and “Bligs have three tongues.”

Timothy Fitzgerald, “Bruce Lincoln’s‘ Theses on Method’: Antitheses,” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 18, no. 4 (2006): 402–403.

torsdag, februari 28, 2013

Religion as meaning and truth

/.../ the simplest definition of God and of religion lies in the idea that truth and meaning are one and the same thing. The death of God is the end of the idea that posits truth and meaning as the same thing. And I would add that the death of Communism also implies the separation between meaning and truth as far as history is concerned. "The meaning of history" has two meanings: on the one hand "orientation," history goes somewhere; and then history has a meaning, which is the history of human emancipation by way of the proletariat, etc. In fact, the entire age of Communism was a period where the conviction that it was possible to take rightful political decisions existed; we were, at that moment, driven by the meaning of history. /.../ Then the death of Communism becomes the second death of God but in the territory of history. /.../ Today we may call ‘obscurantism’ the intention of keeping them harnessed together – meaning and truth.
Alain Badiou quoted in Slavoj Žižek. "Religion between Knowledge and Jouissance." in: 2007.

onsdag, februari 20, 2013

Bentley Hart on natural law

Without “specific religious or metaphysical traditions, there really is very little that natural law theory can meaningfully say about the relative worthiness of the employments of the will.” but we can talk about natural law only if there is general agreement about nature, such that there is a bond between “what is and what should be.”
Peter Leithard summarizes Bentley Harts latest article in First Things

tisdag, februari 05, 2013

Anonym andlighet

De fantastiska tv-serierna House of Cards, Breaking Bad, The Wire och The West Wing innehåller alla karaktärer som deltar i så kallade 12-stegsprogram för att komma till rätta med alkohol- och narkotikamissbruk. Kanske är det bara ett kul sammanträffande, men det känns som att Hollywood använder Anonyma Alkoholist-möten som ett dramaturgiskt grepp för att förmedla en underberättelse om skuld/ansvar/förlåtelse. I AA-mötet blir ju människans totala brustenhet och hjälplöshet så tydlig, samtidigt som en stödjande gemenskap förmedlar hoppingivande vittnesbörd om att ett annat liv är möjligt. Den enskilda människans missbruksproblem fungerar ju så bra för att tydliggöra allas vår frustration över att sitta fast i destruktiva mönster, samt vår oförmåga att leva det goda liv som vi egentligen vill. Denna urberättelse om mänsklighetens dilemma har ju traditionellt förmedlats av kyrkan. Kanske är det, givet vårt populärkulturella medvetande, inte längre möjligt att låta kyrkan förmedla denna berättelse. Kanske har den minskade kyrksamheten, parat med bilden av kyrkan som en plats för lyckade människor med vackra fasader, gjort AA-möten bättre lämpad för uppgiften?

Den finaste AA-scenen jag vet kommer från The Wire. I denna scen följer Bubbles med sin kompis till ett Anonyma Narkomaner-möte som moraliskt stöd. Efter ett inledande tal av Waylon (spelad av Steve Earle) känner sig Bubbles dock själv manad att gå fram för att ta emot ett bevis på drogfrihet. Detta trots att han inte är "ren" - vilket gör scenen så hjärtskärande vacker.

En annan intressant AA-scen kommer från Breaking Bad (S04E07) och berör på ett lysande sätt relationen mellan dom och förlåtelse. Karaktären Jesse brottas med skuldkänslor över ett mord han begått, men som han inte har berättat om för deltagarna i gruppen. Istället diktar han upp en historia om att han skjutit en hund, och att han har samvetskval över detta. Jesse uppmanas då av samtalsledaren att sluta med sin självfördömelse och ge sig själv nåd. En nåd som Jesse dock inte kan ta emot eftersom han upplever att det skulle trivialisera det mord han faktiskt begått.

Jag skulle inte bli det minsta förvånad om vi får se Don Draper gå med i Anonyma Alkoholister när säsong 6 av Mad Men drar igång.

söndag, februari 03, 2013

Rowan Williams vs. Richard Dawkins on religion in the 21st century

Cambridge debate on religion in the 21st century ..

Om man inte orkar med talet om "religion" i allmänhet kan man hoppa direkt till Rowan Williams anförande som börjar vid 13.30.

torsdag, januari 31, 2013

Hauerwas om faran med en "personlig relation" med Gud

Question: Christians often describe their faith as a "personal relationship with God." Is that a useful category for those who are looking on at Christianity and trying to figure out what it's all about?

Answer: No. The last thing in the world I'd want is a personal relationship with God. Our relationship with God is mediated. Without the church we know not God. No Israel, No God, Know Church, Know Jesus. Our faith is a mediated faith with people formed through word and sacrament. So I'd never trust myself to have a personal relationship with God.

Interview with Stanley Hauerwas

onsdag, januari 16, 2013

Old mysteries, and new ones ...

At first humans regarded all natural phenomena as effects of supernatural causes. In the next, ‘‘philosophical’’ stage, they explain the world by means of abstract notions—‘‘essences,’’ ‘‘faculties’’—thereby replacing the old mysteries by new ones.

- Louis K. Dupré, The Enlightenment and the Intellectual Foundations of Modern Culture (Yale University Press, 2004), 207

fredag, januari 04, 2013

Milbank on fundamentalism and fideism

In the face of secular scepticism, pragmatism and positivism, many religious people tend to take refuge in the notion that there is nonetheless another source of truth enshrined in certain texts, practices and traditions. Ironically, for these texts, practices and traditions to acquire absolute authority outside the workings of human reason, they have to be regarded positivistically, in a fashion which mimics scientific positivism itself. The irrational strangely colludes with the most vigorously reduced rationalism, and often one finds that various fundamentalisms and fideisms are able happily to coexist with, and even to reinforce, the technoscientific capitalism of our day.

John Milbank och Catherine Pickstock, Truth in Aquinas (Routledge, 2001), Preface