Sunday, September 7, 2014

Theism, Sans Emotion

One of the things that puts me apart from other theists is the following: emotion plays very little role in my theistic commitments.

I've never been overcome with the presence of the Holy Spirit to the point where it's made my heart leap and realize I had a personal connection with Christ. I've never looked at a waterfall and found it so beautiful that the only way to explain it could be an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient God. I didn't watch 9/11 live on TV and break down in tears at the thought of how Our Creator must be weeping right now.

Likewise, I never looked in the bible at any act of God - from what Job went through, to the slaughter of this or that people - and found myself having intense internal worry over how any God could do such a thing, thus leading me to find excuses about how that not only absolutely never happened, but never COULD happen. Nor do I rule out the possibility of God doing or commanding some vicious things, from the get-go. Some things I don't believe God would do, given certain commitments and understandings (Classical theism and God lying, etc). But even there, reason and reflection is largely in the driver's seat. Likewise for hypotheticals about God commanding things I am on record as disagreeing strongly with, from abortion to otherwise.

What used to trip me up were intellectual concerns. The Problem of Evil, for me, always was not just first and foremost but entirely an intellectual issue - 'How to square this with God's goodness, etc'. Not emotional - 'How could a loving God ever permit such a thing it's so horrible, all that blood and violence and..!' If I ever reasoned like that, it's lost from memory for me - and I think that's a good thing.

Part of my theistic commitment is realizing that I don't get to pick the God or gods that exist. I can pick what I think is most reasonable, what is most likely, but I recognize I can make mistakes. I likewise recognize that my emotional distaste for this or that act isn't what gives me license to deny it's possible, or even likely. For that, I need an argument.

I say this because too many times - from atheists and theists both - I've seen claims like, 'If God did/commanded X then God is a monster/Calvinism is true and that's horrible/etc', as if that's supposed to, in and of itself, convince me or make me ward off a conclusion, or remove a particular possibility from the set of possibilities. It doesn't.

Because it shouldn't.

(* Yes, I know Allah and God are the same person according to most understandings, my own included. I'm just making a point.)

47 comments:

rationalityofaith said...

Largely the same for me.

I think every theological discourse should begin with the following disclaimer: The character, existence or behaviour of God is an objective fact independent of my likes or preferences or with any other subjective sensibilities, e.g. what is intuitively plausible, what is more beautiful, etc.

If qua Feuerbach God is simply an idealisation or wish fulfillment or extension of your desires, then we have nothing to discuss. Because then we're just discussing you, not God. This is why I can accept a lot of "gristly" things about the bible, e.g. genocides, slavery, infanticide, etc without batting an eyelid. If God is God, then he has the right to do whatever the hell he wants and we don't have a single say in it.

I think it helps to have a bit of fatalism about life which imposes strict limits upon subjective agency. God and the universe is simply an objective fact which is very often impervious to subjective agency and rantings or whatever. We can mourn and groan about it, but our mourning and groaning does not by itself change the facts. Only a purely gracious decision by God does.

Crude said...

I think what really annoys me about the sort of people who go with the emotional argument isn't so much that that's a major factor for them (atheist and theist), but how it often comes coupled with the insistence that *I* either think the same way, or damn well better. I get very sick, very fast, of someone telling me what I think or feel about such things.

Cale B.T. said...

Thought you might enjoy this one, Crude:

http://www.irreligious.org/2014/09/i-am-atheist.html

Crude said...

Cale,

If experience is anything to go by, they'd react to questioning about what scientific evidence for God's existence would look like with 'I dunno'.

Mr. Green said...

No surprise that I agree on this topic. It’s not just that my emotions are liable to go off the rails, it’s that even when functioning absolutely correctly, they are only human emotions, and apply only to human situations. I can reason about God — in a careful and limited way — but I can’t feel God.

(I can of course have an emotional reaction to something I have intellectually reasoned about God, but that’s a human feeling about a divine concept, not a divine feeling. (I am inclined to think that even miraculous experiences of the divine are feelings about a non-emotional experience; but even if not, that would be a unique case, and certainly not what is happening when people have an adverse gut reaction to some passage in the Bible.))

The thing is, our fundamental knowledge about God (e.g. the Five Ways, etc.) is about as rationally secure as we can get. If we could be wrong about the basic attributes of God on that level, then we could be even more wrong about anything our emotions tell us. There is no rational way to mount an argument in the other direction. But as I’ve said before, we may be living in the most anti-intellectual age yet.


Crude: (* Yes, I know Allah and God are the same person according to most understandings, my own included. I'm just making a point.)

I think I missed that part.

Dan Gillson said...

What ended tripping me up were aesthetic concerns. I would have continued to believe the Christian faith despite its irrationality if it were beautiful. (You can tell how I'd prioritize Plato's triad: beauty, goodness, truth.)

Syllabus said...

Yes, I know Allah and God are the same person according to most understandings, my own included. I'm just making a point.

I'm curious: how do you parse out your understanding of the Islamic and Christian conceptions of God making reference to the same (loosely speaking) Being? To make one example, how do you square the necessity of saying that Christ is God in Christianity with the Islamic concept of shirk, from Sura 4, where it's absolutely anathema to place anyone on a par with God (God being conceived as an absolute unity)?

Crude said...

Dan,

I've never seen irrationality in it whatsoever, despite looking for it (this is a common claim, but one I've never turned up real evidence of) at least in its essences. Beauty, if it's an objective thing (and it seems to be) is always a puzzle, because the question always remains: is what I see not beautiful, or is my sight deficient?

Syllabus,

Put quickly, 'the God of Classical Theism', which has (from what I understand) a number of both Christian philosopher/theologian and muslim philosopher/theologian endorsements. I shouldn't have said 'most understandings' - 'some understandings' would be better.

Green,

I figured you'd be in agreement here. I don't even mind intuition so much, and to a degree emotional arguments are that. I think what really sets me off is when people insist what THE intuition is, what THE emotional response is, as if they speak for everyone. I've had people tell me before, 'What God did in the OT is unacceptable to everyone, period', and that's when I start getting sarcastic.

Mr. Green said...

Crude: is what I see not beautiful, or is my sight deficient?

Indeed. But hey, if Christianity really were beautiful, wouldn’t you have expected it to do something like motivate centuries of the most profound works of art, music, literature, etc., known to history??

I think what really sets me off is when people insist what THE intuition is, what THE emotional response is, as if they speak for everyone.

On top of which, they seem oblivious to the fact that their emotional reactions are to a very large degree fashioned by the context of Christian culture in the first place. (How many ancient tribesmen — or “civilised” ancient Romans — do they think would share their sentiments?)

Crude said...

Green,

I suppose I should add, that's another thing that seems irrelevant to me. Religion is supposed to be 'beautiful'? Since when? I thought it was a collection of claims and beliefs about the world.

It's right back to, 'I can't believe in THAT God. He seems too mean!' Again, like I have a say in it all.

On top of which, they seem oblivious to the fact that their emotional reactions are to a very large degree fashioned by the context of Christian culture in the first place. (How many ancient tribesmen — or “civilised” ancient Romans — do they think would share their sentiments?)

Could be. I really don't hold people's intuitions against them, at least depending on how they put them. But, mine aren't others. Various people I've met swear up and down that the world 'doesn't look designed'. I've found that odd for a very long time, and still do. But I go from 'that's odd' to 'well, now you're annoying me' when someone tells me it's /just obvious' the world is not designed. Sorry, I had trouble seeing that even before I learned some programming. Now it's a downright alien, counter-intuitive view.

Dan Gillson said...

Not that you guys are saying otherwise, but I'd like to point out that this notion of supposed to be is absent from my first comment. I don't usually try to tyrannize people with my preferences, unless its food. ("You fool! There is no such thing as 'Too spicy'")

Crude said...

No, Dan, I wasn't suggesting you were.

Mr. Green said...

Crude: Religion is supposed to be 'beautiful'? Since when?

You could make an argument based on the transcendentals, say… which of course pretty much relies on a Judeo-Christian theology, so it seems to me another example of unwittingly assuming principles that entail more than some people think.

Various people I've met swear up and down that the world 'doesn't look designed'. I've found that odd for a very long time, and still do.

Especially since the big deal about Darwin (we are told) is how he finally explained why a world that wasn’t actually designed could look like it. If it doesn’t look that way, then I guess we don’t need Darwin after all! (All the atheists from before 1859 somehow got by without him.)

Luke said...

I'm curious: do you see emotions/sentiments to be precisely as fallen as the intellect, and precisely as sanctifiable? After all, needn't loving God with one's heart must be distinct from (a) mind; (b) spirit; (c) soul? I said "emotions/sentiments", in case we think of "emotion" as an instantaneous response; C.S. Lewis talks about the training up of sentiments (which guide emotional responses) in The Abolition of Man; people without such training he calls "men without chests". For an academic treatment of the subject, I suggest Jacques Ellul's Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes.

Crude said...

Luke,

When it comes to emotion, I like Aristotle's quote: Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.

Training up of the senses sounds key. I am not sure how to map it - I think emotions are fallen at times, but I believe a lot of people engage in a good amount of conscious or barely-conscious self-deception. I think the West has (at least in the US) 'turned Japanese' in a way, thanks to a number of influences: a good number of people now say things that is not only exaggerated or untrue, but which they KNOW is exaggerated or untrue, even if they'd never admit it except, maybe, in the most carefully guarded circumstances, and even then in a positive and roundabout way.

To use Lothar as an example: I think Lothar knows that the 'LGBT community' doesn't even look like his tremendously sterilized, hand-picked, idealized 'two elderly men in very nice clothes in a tender embrace' pictures. Between the statistics and everything else, it's a very different culture. But there's no way to talk about those things, or admit to them, without the sense being that to do so is to hamper a progressive cause.

So, it's done away with. Because always, at all times, one is acting as a representative of one's party and political interests and social interests and, etc.

Luke said...

Nice Aristotle quote! I'm pretty sure that's the kind of thing C.S. Lewis meant by training up "men with chests". That being said, the results of such training don't seem to show up in your main post; that seems problematic. For some science, I suggest Descartes' Error:

When emotion is entirely left out of the reasoning picture, as happens in certain neurological conditions, reason turns out to be even more flawed than when emotion plays bad tricks on our decisions. (xii)

It's as if whatever is related to this 'emotion' thing has to do with goal-directedness and perseverance. But that makes it important, and thus your blog post could be "Theism, Sans Emotion", but not "Theism, Sans Sentiment", or whatever you want to call the trained, non-instantaneous version of 'emotion'. Thoughts?

Your "'turned Japanese'" note makes perfect sense; to NYT's The Death of Adulthood in American Culture add CT's When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity (pdf), then optimize for maximum advertising effectiveness, and you get a population that on the one hand is a slave to its passions, Hume style, but remains in denial when that obvious fact would be utterly destabilizing (like in politics). It is simply easier to sell to and manipulate children. And hey, growing up is hard. We'll do it if there's a war or a depression or if you starve without it, but otherwise? Never Never Land, ahoy!

If you haven't read C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man, or haven't read it recently, I heartily suggest it. The book is short and easy to read, yet utterly profound. I think what he described is well underway. If you've read his space trilogy, some of the weirdness in the third book is, I'm pretty sure, an attempt to imagine what such "reshaping of human nature" would look like.

So, how do we rely on emotion (or again, sentiment, etc.), given the above? I get the desire to retreat to reason, but I don't think that'll work. If you look at this neat chart, you can see identified swings throughout Christian history between "emphasis on emotions" and "emphasis on intellect". There is a theological "why": God wishes to restore and sanctify both, not just one. He wants a balanced, whole person. The Hebrews didn't even differentiate—that was Greek!

Crude said...

Luke,

You're likely correct that the title is... let's say, 'too hard on emotion'. Think of it as targeting a specific variety of emotion, perhaps.

That NYT article, I read it - didn't it basically end (and I could have misinterpreted it) with an endorsement of not 'becoming an adult' after all? What is there to grow up and become for the secularist?

I did read some Perelandra. I recall liking it. As for emotion, I think it's something that is important, but to be molded and controlled in large part. 'What to be emotional about, when to be emotional, etc' are important questions. It's an easy concept to get for you and me, but for most people, pretty opaque I suspect. More than that? There are people who, nowadays, actively work against that. If you try to get people to calmly reason about this or that, it's regarded as downright threatening, on topic after topic. The willingness to reason, the lack of outrage, is now viewed with suspicion.

I do think the New Testament - really, the Bible in general - is noteworthy for being, despite what most people would think, a very cerebral set of books. Job stands out to me as almost picture-perfect in this regard, since I regard the ending of that event to be tremendously wise, yet at the same time, the sort of thing most modern people would find downright offensive. Look how much misery Job went through! And God permitted it! Doesn't God owe him something? Isn't Job in a superior negotiation position there?

He is not. And I think the ability to appreciate that and understand why that is is usually a sign of someone who's going to be able to reason better than most.

Luke said...

No worries on being too hard; one way God uses our tendency to destroy, I think, is to prepare the ground for something better to grow. It's like a forest fire, or tilling the ground. It'd be better if the tree could be pruned instead of reduced to fertilizer, but mankind's obstinacy often makes that difficult. Getting emotions right requires right relationship, which means it takes a community to even figure this stuff out—excepting perhaps the occasional prophet, and if you read e.g. Jeremiah, it's clear that he wasn't always the most stable of persons.

I didn't really pay a whole lot of attention to the conclusion of the NYT article; in general people's conclusions are worse than their problem-statements and data-gathering. So frequently, I'll e.g. only read the beginning of a book, or only pay attention to the gathered data, knowing that even it might have a sampling bias. Gotta work with what we've got. Nice point about what it means to grow up for secularists; I don't think they have an answer! My wife and I were talking about fear of pain and suffering the other night after an article noted women being afraid of breastfeeding being painful. I posited that maybe part of adulthood is learning to wisely choose courses of action that involve pain. One would certainly get that message from passages like Col 1:24, Rom 8:16–17, 2 Cor 4:7–12, and 1 Pe 3:17. Contrast this to the aponia which so frequently pervades atheists; for example, from 50 Great Myths About Atheism:

Unlike Christianity, atheist views of the world do not see that there is much redemptive value in human suffering. (69)

While I agree with you that reason is viewed as suspect (pretty hilarious if you know your Enlightenment), I actually bet you that part of that is a deep intuition that our emotions are supposed to agree with our reason. I used to be onboard with the Bible being mostly cerebral, but a friend of mine who is the most mature Christian I know and also an emotions-first person (INFP on Meyers-Briggs, compared to my ISTJ) has convinced me otherwise. It is now my position that we simply suck at reading the emotional content from the pages. That should actually make sense: if we are becoming Japanese with respect to our emotions, we'll become more and more blind to them everywhere—including scripture!

Crude said...

Let me clarify what I mean about 'becoming Japanese'.

My understanding of Japanese society is that dialogue is laden with subtext all throughout it. There's things people say which everyone knows is a lie, but which everyone also accepts will be presented the way it is practically just because 'Well, that's how things are done.' And no one points out the the lie is a lie. They just roll with it. Honesty is for far more intimate situations, and even intimate doesn't mean even 'politely frank speaking' automatically - there's yet more levels of meaning and double-meaning and protocol to work through.

I think we've taken this on, practically without realizing it, particularly in politics and business. We expect politicians and businessmen to lie to certain degrees, and if they're 'our' politicians or businessmen, then our lie tolerance goes up higher and higher. There are lies people know are lies but protocol demands they act as if it's true and attack people who talk about it being a lie because everyone is perpetually trying to impress onlookers and lurkers and this and that, or not wanting to appear mean, or wanting to look nice and... Etc, etc.

I think this goes on like crazy with politics, particularly progressives, for whom 'being offended' is actually a weapon, and against whom 'not giving a shit that they're offended' is the most threatening thing in the world. See the Redskins controversy, which really looks as if it's only a controversy precisely because the owner boldly said he'd never cave. The actual 'offensiveness' of the Redskins name doesn't mean a thing, but man, that perception that you won't bow if someone says they're offended? That's the most offensive thing of all.

This isn't specific to progressives, in my view, but I think they're highly susceptible to things like this, moreso than conservatives for whom 'not giving a shit what the world thinks' is more ingrained - they care about their community, not 'the world'.

Luke said...

Hmmm, ok. Perhaps I was thinking of Watchman Nee, whose The Spiritual Man I skimmed and found to be violently anti-emotion. He was actually Chinese instead of Japanese, and while similarities between the two sometimes hold, perhaps not here.

What I know more surely about Japan is that face-saving is hugely important. This was very bad for e.g. Fukushima. If ever there were a cultural crisis, I should think it would be that; I haven't attempted to find out whether there has been. I have In Defense of Shame: The Faces of an Emotion checked out from the library; perhaps it sheds some helpful light on the matter. From what I understand the NT is set in a shame-based culture, so understanding it better would be useful even aside from this particular situation.

I can tell you another fun fact, hearsay but from a university professor whom I find to be generally trustworthy: some Korean airline (maybe plural) were experiencing an unusually high number of airline crashes; the cause ended up being the lengthy preambles of respect with which the copilot would have to address the pilot. "Please respectable captain sir, I believe that perhaps the course we're on may not be the one you would again chose, were you to know about this fact over here which is surely very easy to miss..." They switched the cockpit language to English and the problem was resolved.

The most I know about particularly what you talk about—socially acceptable lies—actually comes from the Mistborn series, which portrays your standard nobles with fiefdoms, with the nobles continually fighting each other politically, acting very Machiavellian in their use of truth and falsehood. The goal there was pure power; I'm not sure how well this matches Japanese culture, even if one were to posit that most have good hearts and it's only a few who are doing "the bad thing".

Given the above paradigms, I wouldn't be surprised if both Japan and our current system is a wonderful mix of all of the above. Originally, I was mostly working off the anti-emotion idea, which I now see is only part of the problem. I have suspected what you describe—faux emotions—as happening. Although I wonder: how faux are the emotions, from the perspective of those expressing them? It is possible to fall prey to your own machinations; one of the lessons of Jacques Ellul's Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes is that the propagandists actually get caught in their own web, such that it's really a machine with ultimate control, a machine with human attendants.

With all the above said, it seems to me that a direct treatment of healthy vs. unhealthy emotions—like good teachings on anger (instead of vilification of all anger but when liberals/progressives use it)—might be a good antidote, to much of the above. My theology biases me to think that a balance of emotion/sentiment and logic/intellect could do wonders. We would admit that bad premises can spoil the broth, with unstructured, unexamined emotion no better off.

I'll end with a suggestion: read Josef Pieper's short Abuse of Language ~~ Abuse of Power. He works with Plato's hatred of the sophists and makes it beautifully relevant to today, with gloriously succinct, readable prose. Apparently he would rewrite books multiple times from scratch to make them maximally readable! Anyhow, he was a Catholic theologian, in Germany, during WWII, and even got on an "enemy of the Nazis" list. When it comes to abuse of language, he saw it in full glory.

Luke said...

Hey Crude, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed this conversation. I get that all good things must come to an end (or you just happen to be busy), but I wanted to let you know that it was quite engaging! I just started reading The Emotions: A Philosophical Introduction, which will be fascinating to read with this conversation as a backdrop.

P.S. I hate the Blogspot commenting system. But Lotharson eased me into something not as nice as Disqus, so I suppose I can tolerate them for more chats like this one. :-|

Crude said...

Luke,

Pardon, I often approve things but don't reply right away since I'm busy. You're always welcome to comment here.

Regarding 'faux emotions', I think it's a mistake to think in terms of static states. I think people can be truly 'really outraged', but for that Really Outraged emotion to be something they realize - either at the time, or shortly before/after - is silly, that they're getting tactically worked up, that if they'd drop back and put things in perspective they'd realize they were doing something wrong. People like to focus on humanity's ability to engage in self-deception, but I think that's partly a myth - we also have many flashes of self-doubt or self-honesty. Pretending to be deceived, pretending our mistakes are thorough rather than partial, is just another part of the game.

And really, that's to be expected. It's also a dichotomy I don't think matters as much as people think. There's this unspoken idea that if someone REALLY FEELS upset, that you should respect that, that they're forgiven for this or that because of the legitimacy of their emotion, no matter how irrational.

I no longer subscribe to that so easily. Someone who is Really Emotional about something and who as a result acts out, deserves to be escorted from the room, and after they calm down they should be expected to apologize for their outburst and try not to repeat it. That requires a maturity of a civilization that we no longer seem to have - back to that article about the loss of adulthood.

Luke said...

No worries; I just figured maybe you can't keep all discussions going forever. I do tend to keep digging and digging and digging into ideas. Sometimes I don't see that it's continuing to be fruitful, and sometimes there just is not enough time.

Regarding 'faux emotions', I think it's a mistake to think in terms of static states.

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "static states", even given the following context. Perhaps I can still engage it, though.

People like to focus on humanity's ability to engage in self-deception, but I think that's partly a myth - we also have many flashes of self-doubt or self-honesty. Pretending to be deceived, pretending our mistakes are thorough rather than partial, is just another part of the game.

Oh, precisely. If one is not cognizant of said flashes, there is a term for this: "seared conscience". And actually, I think said pretending is made real if persisted in. That's actually a common sin pattern, one with which I have personal experience! The Holy Spirit will fight the attempts to pretend (to lie to yourself and/or others), but after a while, one is allowed to drop into that "strong delusion".

There's this unspoken idea that if someone REALLY FEELS upset, that you should respect that, that they're forgiven for this or that because of the legitimacy of their emotion, no matter how irrational.

Well, this is true with properly functioning emotions. After all, super-strong signals of proper emotions need paying attention to. See, for example, Ezek 9:3–9 and Ja 4:5–10. Curiously, I don't ever recall hearing a sermon on the former. I imagine that people were sighing and groaning, just not over the abominations that YHWH would call 'abominations'. Is 58 is also wonderful, here.

Here's an experiment I might start trying—perhaps you'd like to as well, and keep notes/links/whatever: challenge people who are expressing strong emotion to ask if it's a proper response to the situation. Bring up the Aristotle quote and perhaps some other bits, to establish that at least some emotional reactions are not proper. Watch the fireworks of trying to establish better and worse emotional responses. :-D

Crude said...

Luke,

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "static states", even given the following context. Perhaps I can still engage it, though.

Static states meaning 'person who gets angry about subject X', as if it's always a Pavlovian thing. 'Topic comes up / thing happens, they are angry'. Or sad, or happy, or whatever you like. There's a habit, I think, of just thinking of people like that in a static way - this is how they react to that, period, they don't know any better.

I suspect people reflect on their emotions. I suspect they rehearse.

Well, this is true with properly functioning emotions. After all, super-strong signals of proper emotions need paying attention to.

Let me ask you something. Do you think people ever falsify their emotions? Maybe very consciously, maybe not - maybe a mix. But... I bet you've run into people before who said they were offended about this or that, and you could tell for all their hollering you were really watching a bit of theatre. They weren't REALLY all that upset, or at least not as upset as they were pretending. They were trying to get their way.

Now, assuming you've run into that - have you ever thought that people who do that may be able to push themselves into legitimately feeling that way about some topics? That they reasoned, at least in part in some point in the past, 'If I get like THIS over THAT, then it benefits me'?

Bring up the Aristotle quote and perhaps some other bits, to establish that at least some emotional reactions are not proper.

I've done what you're talking about, and... well, let me tell you something I've noticed. Emotions sure run on a lot of cues. Watch what happens to an OUTRAGED person if A) they suspected everyone else would be as OUTRAGED as them and B) as a matter of fact, they aren't.

Funny how that works.

Luke said...

I suspect people reflect on their emotions. I suspect they rehearse.

No disagreements, there. And not all rehearsal is necessary bad, if it is the case that emotions require training, whether for good or for evil!

Let me ask you something. Do you think people ever falsify their emotions? Maybe very consciously, maybe not - maybe a mix.

Yes. Furthermore, since we are by nature self-justifying creatures, with the assumption that you are fully sanctified if you are barely justified, I expect the active knowledge of falsification to disappear quickly into the strong delusion of 2 Thess 2:9–12.

Now, assuming you've run into that - have you ever thought that people who do that may be able to push themselves into legitimately feeling that way about some topics? That they reasoned, at least in part in some point in the past, 'If I get like THIS over THAT, then it benefits me'?

Most definitely. Attempting to point this out, however, seems like an incredibly tricky proposal! It strikes me that it might even be possible, given how hard it is to establish intentions without a sufficiently large corpus. This is why I was wondering whether talking instead about what sorts of emotional responses are appropriate to what sorts of situations might be a good way to approach the situation.

I've been running a little experiment, with respect to the Driscoll situation. From what I can tell, they had set up the spiritual definition "church" = "elders" in obeying Mt 18:17. I started asking people whether maybe that is a deep spiritual error, and whether you aren't allowed to futz with scripture like that. I started asking if actually, "church" = "all members". It was utterly fascinating to see the emotional and non-emotional hemming and hawing and completely not giving me a straight-up "yes" or "no". I wonder if this is about all that can be done, with a class of people—maybe a large class. Getting to this point is informative.

I'm a bit of an odd duck, myself, when it comes to emotion. I grew up socially awkward and it seems that whenever my emotions did anything other than make me feel excited, I was wrong. This led me to be an expert at suppressing them (of course, not always successfully). While I don't want to say I never exhibit the bad pattern you describe, I wonder if I do it significantly less frequently than many folks. I don't want to say anything too strongly via self-observation, so I leave it at that.

Crude said...

No disagreements, there. And not all rehearsal is necessary bad, if it is the case that emotions require training, whether for good or for evil!

I suspect a good rule of thumb is: if a person is rehearing their emotions so they appear a certain way or get a certain result, chances are they're not engaged in a good act.

Most definitely. Attempting to point this out, however, seems like an incredibly tricky proposal! It strikes me that it might even be possible, given how hard it is to establish intentions without a sufficiently large corpus.

If I read you right here, what you're saying is that it's tremendously hard to prove beyond doubt that a person is behaving this way or that way for personal gain. I agree. And in a number of situations, I don't think it's worth lodging the accusation. It's practically impossible to establish what someone is thinking beyond a shadow of a doubt.

At the same time? I've been angrily asked before, 'How do you know what they're thinking? What they really mean or intend?' and my response is the same: by reading their writings, watching their behavior, and typically engaging with them over a long period of time. If THAT doesn't grant some insight into what a person's beliefs are, at least sometimes... well, I question my critic's reasoning.

I'm a bit out of it regarding Driscoll. Outside my usual sphere of religious interest, at least in the main. Feel free to get into more details - I know the basics, but not quite what you mean.

As for emotion - yeah, you clearly are (so it seems to me) a more cerebral, calm, deliberate sort. I try to be as well - my most common quasi-emotional reaction is cynicism and annoyance. For me, though, I can honestly say that most of my big life-events were low on emotion, high on understanding. The pivotal events have been understanding this, realizing that. Not very much on the 'feels'. I've laughed (a lot), I've cried, I've had this or that powerful emotion, but once it fades, I don't savor it and want to experience it again and again. I don't get off on righteous rage, feelings of victimhood, intense sorrow or joy. That was probably due to training, in part - I've seen the foul side of it too much, too early.

Luke said...

I suspect a good rule of thumb is: if a person is rehearing their emotions so they appear a certain way or get a certain result, chances are they're not engaged in a good act.

I'm afraid I cannot get on board with this one, not from personal experience/reasoning. Time and again, I have been forced to adapt my emotional display (or 100% hide my emotions) in order be considered acceptable. Under your rubric, chances are my life has been chock-full of "not engag[ing] in a good act". Well, that could be true; if so I've duped my wife, six pastors, quite a few friends, a professor of an MIT-level institution who spends time on suicide prevention, etc. They are my best guard against self-deception, and so my guess is that your rubric gets me wrong. That, of course, might only mean that I'm an outlier.

That being said, I still would rather talk about what constitutes "proper training of the emotions", because then we can simply openly talk about said rehearsing. What this does is move the goal, the telos, out into the open. "I should feel X because Y." Well, let's talk about Y. Let's examine it. I say bring things out into the light!

At the same time? I've been angrily asked before, 'How do you know what they're thinking? What they really mean or intend?' and my response is the same: by reading their writings, watching their behavior, and typically engaging with them over a long period of time.

There's another way to say this: "So far, you are matching pattern X almost precisely. Therefore, I predict you will continue matching it. If I am right, that gives [scientific!] credence to my model. It could still go wrong at any time, but I would be insane not to act as if it were likely to be right." The error of course is stereotyping, but that is only an error. It is an error for those who are not constantly vigilant for falsification. And perhaps it's only really the Christian who can be, for he/she is always looking for openings of truth and goodness which can be fostered and promoted and watered, with God giving the growth. The Christian wants the person to break from the bad stereotype!

I'm a bit out of it regarding Driscoll. Outside my usual sphere of religious interest, at least in the main. Feel free to get into more details - I know the basics, but not quite what you mean.

I don't think it's worth it. The general pattern is all that's needed: push people toward an uncomfortable bifurcation point—a chance to state whether they believe A or ¬A, with middle excluded unless they can show A to be a complex (multi-part) concept with some parts true and some parts false—and if they hem and haw and try to avoid making any strong assertion, you know something's up. Now I'm a tiny bit confused over why I brought it up; I think it's because the sense of one magnet avoiding another seems to match both that situation and one involving the emotions. Hmmm... :-|

As for emotion - yeah, you clearly are (so it seems to me) a more cerebral, calm, deliberate sort.

There is a dial, and it can go very high, or nigh zero, and generally the dial is fully greased with me being in full control of its present value. The cost for this ability was staggeringly high. Let's just say there is a reason I did a lot of suicide prevention work.

Crude said...

That, of course, might only mean that I'm an outlier.

Well, that's the thing about rules of thumb.

Still, I'm not quite sure what you're talking about, but at the same time I'm not about to press the issue. Sounds quite personal.

Luke said...

Still, I'm not quite sure what you're talking about, but at the same time I'm not about to press the issue. Sounds quite personal.

Really, I'm questioning how much we should go sans emotion, and how much we should go trained emotion. It strikes me that the former, taken to its logical conclusion, will result in failure. In my experience, most people cannot be as logical as you or I, over as sustained a time period, without falling prey to their emotions—trained or untrained. Make some funny or insulting comment that draws on some emotions and you can distract them away from the argument the other guy is carefully laying out, and bring them over to your own.

I was half-criticizing and half-joking about the "rehearsing"; I would add that maybe now, most rehearsing is bad, but suppose we actually started training our children to "have chests", to use C.S. Lewis' language. Then there would be rehearsing in the other way. Then perhaps we could have more adults around. :-) BTW, one way to rehearse is theater, where one can talk about why a certain emotion makes sense in a certain context, how that emotion would look, etc. Many would be offended at thinking that art can portray truth, though.

Crude said...

Really, I'm questioning how much we should go sans emotion, and how much we should go trained emotion. It strikes me that the former, taken to its logical conclusion, will result in failure.

'Trained emotion' is no longer just 'emotion'. That's emotion under reason, and emotion under good reason is not something I have much complaint about.

Luke said...

'Trained emotion' is no longer just 'emotion'. That's emotion under reason, and emotion under good reason is not something I have much complaint about.

Ehh, then 'trained logic' is no longer just 'logic'. Compare the logic of your average person and of a philosopher/lawyer (take a look at LSAT scores). I suppose we could do this, but then what you're really saying, theologically, is that there's the fallen, corrupted-by-sin version, and then the sanctified version, at differing levels of sanctification. I can see places where it'd be useful to differentiate, but to do it all the time might be clunky, and suboptimal for (truth-directed) rhetorical purposes.

Note that reason itself can go plenty awry. If anything, it is the spirit which must dominate the flesh, and I see absolutely no biblical case to be made that 'spirit' = 'reason', 'flesh' = 'emotion'. In fact, I'm pretty sure Calvin's Total Depravity is violently against such a division, a division which is IIRC quite Roman Catholic in nature. I could pull out a recent dissertation a past pastor did on sarx, if you'd like. But I do worry there might be a theological error lurking in what you said. Pick the wrong presuppositions—which could mean bad interpretation of scripture—and the reason can do terrible things.

Crude said...

Ehh, then 'trained logic' is no longer just 'logic'.

It depends on what's training it. I think it'd be better to say 'trained reason' for what you mean here, and what trains it other than more reason or - maybe - focus, and so on?

Note that reason itself can go plenty awry.

Sure it can, but 'how' is what interests me. I think the stock answer is to point at the Cult of Gnu and go 'Look, that's reason gone awry', but my criticisms of that group go against the grain. I don't think they have some exceptional love of science. I don't think they just love reason too much. I think they are a good example of emotionally unhinged people for whom 'reason' and 'science' are nice sounding words to get their way and paint things the way they emotionally need them to be.

Luke said...

It depends on what's training it. I think it'd be better to say 'trained reason' for what you mean here, and what trains it other than more reason or - maybe - focus, and so on?

This is where we can start talking about whether Truth is rational, mechanical, computer-like, or whether Truth is personal. After all, surely we want Truth to do the training?

Sure it can, but 'how' is what interests me.

Me, too! Having written a massive amount of software, troubleshot mechanical devices, and done a lot of debugging/troubleshooting of embedded electronics systems, I have a lot of training in figuring out how allegedly rational systems have broken down. Even given that, it's really tricky to see where these guys have gone wrong. Stuff like Feser's Cosmology and Causation: Why Metaphysics Matters does help. Things are just so freaking complex these days, it's like trying to compress a thick-walled balloon to make it pop: if you don't do it right, the air just escapes somewhere else.

What is the most systematic research you've done on said 'how'? Given the interactions of yours I've seen, I should think you might have quite a bit, but perhaps mostly in your brain or scattered around the internet instead of more compactly laid out?

I think they are a good example of emotionally unhinged people for whom 'reason' and 'science' are nice sounding words to get their way and paint things the way they emotionally need them to be.

Here's a technique for those who profess to be Christians. Get them to either swear an oath that Jesus would probably—not certainly, just probably—agree with them, or face the pain of Eph 5:10, 17. I've only just tried this technique, and nobody's been willing to so-swear, so far. They tend to subsequently disappear.

Crude said...

This is where we can start talking about whether Truth is rational, mechanical, computer-like, or whether Truth is personal. After all, surely we want Truth to do the training?

I'm not so sure, insofar as having 'truth do the training' sounds a bit poetic, and I'm suspicious of poetry. Also, I don't think 'personal' automatically means 'emotional'.

What is the most systematic research you've done on said 'how'? Given the interactions of yours I've seen, I should think you might have quite a bit, but perhaps mostly in your brain or scattered around the internet instead of more compactly laid out?

No systematic research, or at least little of that. I read articles, I interact with people, I learn and come to one provisional conclusion or another.

Here's a technique for those who profess to be Christians. Get them to either swear an oath that Jesus would probably—not certainly, just probably—agree with them, or face the pain of Eph 5:10, 17. I've only just tried this technique, and nobody's been willing to so-swear, so far.

I'm skeptical. I think conservatives tend to balk at this. Progressives seem entirely willing to insist on what God would think and say about just about everything that matters to them. The only time there's uncertainty is when their critics seem to have the stronger theological or biblical case.

Didn't Randal do close to exactly this?

Luke said...

I'm not so sure, insofar as having 'truth do the training' sounds a bit poetic, and I'm suspicious of poetry. Also, I don't think 'personal' automatically means 'emotional'.

"I am the way, the truth, and the life." + "love God with all your heart/mind/soul/strength"

No systematic research, or at least little of that. I read articles, I interact with people, I learn and come to one provisional conclusion or another.

I strongly encourage you start systematizing: keep track of links, summaries of what's at them, etc. You will do great things if you can do some synthesis from your experience and spread it around. Single data points are useful, but generalizations which are slavishly tied to the data can be extremely powerful. If there's one place where scientists are the worst, it's when they attempt to view human nature as anything other than biblical. This gives you an edge.

I'm skeptical. I think conservatives tend to balk at this. Progressives seem entirely willing to insist on what God would think and say about just about everything that matters to them.

That's actually fine: not all uses of the word 'Jesus' refer to the same person/concept. What is useful is to get succinct, precise statements of how the other guy thinks Jesus thinks. This gives you an idea of his/her god. Whether that god is Jesus is another matter.

Didn't Randal do close to exactly this?

I'm not so sure how close he comes to it. I'll have to pay more attention in the future, if he continues blogging. People are more happy to insinuate that Jesus would approve of their words than be clear. This hesitance, this vagueness, can be exploited.

Crude said...

"I am the way, the truth, and the life." + "love God with all your heart/mind/soul/strength"

I figured you had those quotes in mind, but still, what does it cash out to practically? I have my version of it, but I think it requires a good share of reason.

I'm not so sure how close he comes to it. I'll have to pay more attention in the future, if he continues blogging. People are more happy to insinuate that Jesus would approve of their words than be clear. This hesitance, this vagueness, can be exploited.

Pardon, I mistyped. I meant Lothar, not Randal.

Luke said...

I figured you had those quotes in mind, but still, what does it cash out to practically? I have my version of it, but I think it requires a good share of reason.

You can separate people out into those who want to be ruled only by abstract principles, and those who are willing to be ruled by a person. As far as I can tell, these two options work out very differently when taken to their logical conclusions. One is living by law, the other by spirit. One is finite, the other infinite.

As to the "love God" command, I say it means that the mind is no less fallen than the heart. It means that giving "reason" priority is unscriptural. Instead, we must say that "spirit" has priority over "flesh". But, that begs the identities of "spirit" and "flesh". I claim that setting up "flesh" = "emotion" and "spirit" = "reason" is a theological error. What precisely the truth is? I cannot state it precisely, on pain of being ruled by abstract principles instead of a person. So there is a kinda-sorta need for something that at least vaguely looks like a via negativa. In The Orthodox Church, Timothy Ware describes it as "drawing a fence around the mystery". That is, we don't say precisely what the mystery is, but we can point out what it isn't. That allows the mystery to be infinitely complex, with us homing in on it, but never getting there [in this life].

Pardon, I mistyped. I meant Lothar, not Randal.

I did see that one time, very explicitly. He ignored my challenge to it. But I'm reticent to do much on (1) only one time I personally recall; and (2) a lack of response to my challenge. So what I'll do in the future is re-raise the challenge if/when I see the behavior re-emerge. G.K. Chesterton said to always leave a person a way out; this is what I tried to, and continue to try to, do with Lothar. The story can always change course, toward the story of Christ. (I absolutely adore George Herbert's A Dialogue-Anthem. "void of story"—beautiful!)

Crude said...

You can separate people out into those who want to be ruled only by abstract principles, and those who are willing to be ruled by a person. As far as I can tell, these two options work out very differently when taken to their logical conclusions. One is living by law, the other by spirit. One is finite, the other infinite.

They overlap. Abstract principles may make rule by a person acceptable, even the best idea.

This is a good time to mention that I reject the Athens versus Jerusalem dichotomy. I think the former can lead to the latter. I find myself rejecting a lot of what passes for Common Knowledge among liberals and conservatives. Probably owing more to a cynical and in fact intellectually spiteful personality.

That said, I'll try to more fully explain what I meant in my reply. Saying 'let Truth guide what I do' is poetic, but it doesn't give me a clear idea of what I should be doing at all. I read, I analyze. I try to be intellectually consistent and fair. I also try not to let that fairness be abused. I try to holster my emotions when I reason, and 'accepting possibilities I dislike as, in fact, possibilities - at least in the sense of being logically possible' is key.

The latter one, I think, is one of the most threatening things in the modern intellectual climate.

Anyway, the point isn't to knock Lothar - I think he's better than most, but he's more and more a person I can't have a conversation with - but to note that as near as I can tell your challenge is met repeatedly, in a superficial sense. Now, you say that Lothar will back off when challenged. I bet many will. But that challenge as I saw it was 'Getting a person to say Jesus would be in complete agreement with them'. My experience is that this is common.

People sometimes react to this claim as if it's weird, since you'd think it would be the conservatives yelling about how Jesus agrees with them. My experience is different. Conservatives will go to the wall arguing for their interpretation of the Bible as the intellectually supreme one. But there's a mediator there - 'their interpretation' is what they're defending, along with their adherence to that interpretation.

Progressives often skip 'interpretation' altogether and go straight to God Himself, with zero behind them other than (you guessed it) strong emotion on the matter, and damn well tell you what God thinks if He exists and is good. Come to think of it, CoG atheists aren't shy about this either.

Luke said...

That said, I'll try to more fully explain what I meant in my reply. Saying 'let Truth guide what I do' is poetic, but it doesn't give me a clear idea of what I should be doing at all.

Ahh; I say that the difference is that between merely obeying rules, and seeing where those rules point. Two verses:

John 15:15 "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."

Romans 10:4 "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."

It is important to note that 'end' is the translation the ESV folks chose for telos; I'm beginning to think that the word should have been transliterated instead of translated; see How is Christ the ``End of the Law''?

The Enlightenment, as I'm sure you know, did away with teleology. It did away with pointing. It replaced this with "the Mechanical Philosophy". Well, that's a switch from teleology to rules, from spirit to law. Or, so goes my interpretation, and it seems to work pretty well. So anyhow, letting Truth guide me literally means understanding what the will of God is—Eph 5:10,17-type stuff. And what can this mean, other than abiding in Christ and Christ abiding in me? I become guided not by abstract principles, but by a person. Abstract principles can point, but only if you allow them to be merely finite pictures of the infinite thing/person. Otherwise, you are an idol-worshiper.

People sometimes react to this claim as if it's weird, since you'd think it would be the conservatives yelling about how Jesus agrees with them. My experience is different. Conservatives will go to the wall arguing for their interpretation of the Bible as the intellectually supreme one. But there's a mediator there - 'their interpretation' is what they're defending, along with their adherence to that interpretation.

That's a neat observation. It is the difference between admitting "through the glass, darkly", and rejecting it. It is the difference between knowing that appearances and heart can differ, and believing they are equal. 1 Sam 16:7, ahoy!

Crude said...

The Enlightenment, as I'm sure you know, did away with teleology. It did away with pointing.

And here's what I mean about how I am.

I'm not so sure it did. I think the Enlightenment - what IS this thing anyway - may have opened the door to doing away with that kind of teleology. Bacon didn't seem to deny it existed, only that it was more fruitful to put the questions aside due to their difficulty (if I recall right) to try another approach.

I think the Enlightenment is largely a misnomer, but I suspect more than that that it's misunderstood. Here, I need to do more research. One suspicion: I think the spirit of The Enlightenment (or the rules, ha ha) is violated routinely by its loudest modern defenders.

'Accept the scientific consensus!' seems, quite plainly, to be an absolute violation of The Enlightenment. 'There's no teleology, scientists say so!', likewise.

Luke said...

I'm not so sure it did.

Well, yes in a sense. The professed doctrine did away with teleology. But as Feser points out (example), human beings cannot psychologically operate according to that doctrine. Therefore, they enter that "strong delusion" of 2 Thess 2:9–12.

The trick is to gather a corpus of data which ever-more-clearly demonstrates the mismatch between doctrine and praxis, and learn how to explain the issue ever-more-clearly, even ever-more-cleverly. At the end of The Gravedigger File, Os Guinness talks about how to make a fool of people by playing the fool and then turning the tables on them. I have very little clue as to how to do that, but I suspect it might be an excellent strategy, especially in this arena.

It may well be that the 'lawlessness' of 2 Thess 2:1–12 is indeed a fracture between doctrine and praxis—or perhaps, a complete break. Guinness also talks about the stage where there are no longer any traitors, because you need to actually have a standard or person against which/whom one is a traitor.

'Accept the scientific consensus!' seems, quite plainly, to be an absolute violation of The Enlightenment. 'There's no teleology, scientists say so!', likewise.

Here's a puzzle: can 'science' be defined in any way other than teleologically? I do know a bit about the history of the philosophy of science, and as far as I can tell, the answer is an unequivocal No! Oh, watching them squirm can be so fun. Gotta be careful that doesn't distract from truth-seeking, though.

Crude said...

Well, yes in a sense. The professed doctrine did away with teleology.

One professed doctrine, a popular one, apparently did. But was the Enlightenment really about that doctrine? That's what I'm starting to question.

I think - hesitantly - the Enlightenment may have been a case where one starting idea, a good idea, was warped almost immediately. This is still a drawing board idea.

What Guinness talks about sounds an awful lot like the Socratic method at a glance, at least based on your summary. Asking this, asking that, being methodical and even pedantic. There's a place for it.

Here's a puzzle: can 'science' be defined in any way other than teleologically? I do know a bit about the history of the philosophy of science, and as far as I can tell, the answer is an unequivocal No!

I'd agree. I wonder if people can appreciate that. Again, I cite my experience: in a dialog with a fervent anti-theist or progressive, and to a degree even a conservative, any good point like that gets at best a 'that's an interesting point'. And then the idea is immediately forgotten.

This is where I should mention, I have less and less time for having 'dialog' with, say... CoGs, fervent anti-theists, fervent progressives. I do not think it is possible. I talk with people who have enough in common with me (this doesn't mean they agree with my religious or metaphysical or political beliefs). For people who are just plain hostile, I think talking at, not with, is more fruitful.

Luke said...

I think - hesitantly - the Enlightenment may have been a case where one starting idea, a good idea, was warped almost immediately. This is still a drawing board idea.

Care to say more? Louis Dupré argues in Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture that the introduction of nominalism spurred some excellent things; it also seems to me that the mechanical philosophy also spurred some excellent things. However, when taken to their extremes, both end in bad places. Fail to hold a position of tension (Eccl 7:15–18) and you will ultimately run into Scylla or Charybdis.

What Guinness talks about sounds an awful lot like the Socratic method at a glance, at least based on your summary. Asking this, asking that, being methodical and even pedantic.

Actually, I don't think he meant that at all. I think he meant something like playing along with the other guy's ideology for a while, almost like you're collecting evidence of a massive contradiction. Then, at some point, comes the massive reveal. I wouldn't be surprised if something like this happened to Logical Positivism, although I haven't studied the history in detail.

I wonder if people can appreciate that.

Well, if teleology doesn't exist, what does that do to science? :-p I'm beginning to think that teleology holds things together. This could do fascinating things with Romans 10:4, given its use of telos...

And then the idea is immediately forgotten.

I suspect that enough such instances and they build up, like a splinter in the mind.

This is where I should mention, I have less and less time for having 'dialog' with, say...

I try to not repeat conversations completely, and furthermore, when I detect Poincaré recurrence, I attempt end the conversation or attempt to "leap out" of it. It helps to do this not only with others, but in one's own mind!

Crude said...

Luke,

Care to say more? Louis Dupré argues in Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture that the introduction of nominalism spurred some excellent things; it also seems to me that the mechanical philosophy also spurred some excellent things. However, when taken to their extremes, both end in bad places. Fail to hold a position of tension (Eccl 7:15–18) and you will ultimately run into Scylla or Charybdis.

Nominalism isn't necessary for the advancements, nor is mechanical philosophy. You can have all of the advantages of mechanistic inquiry and engineering without ever embracing the metaphysics.

As for what I mean: the importance of the individual man reasoning for himself, understanding how he is reasoning, and why he's coming to this or that conclusion currently seems to me to be an important part of the Enlightenment idea. Not accepting, by default, the intellectual and moral authority of someone - making these decisions for oneself. Of course, the actual effect of the Enlightenment, and the current state of its would-be worshipers, is the opposite of this: instead of 'the Church can tell you what to do and how to live your life and what to believe', it's now 'the party' or 'academics' or 'the state'.

Luke said...

I agree that nominalism was not required, and neither was whole-hog mechanical philosophy. However, what to do when authority structures had ossified? God tears so he may heal, but when worse comes to worse, he smashes, disperses, and then responds to the remnant when it finally turns to him. Could nominalism and the mechanical philosophy be a kind of smashing? This is a working hypothesis of mine; I've seen some evidence here and there to support it, but I've only just started that research.

As for what I mean: the importance of the individual man reasoning for himself,

Sounds downright New Covenant-ish! If you've not read Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry, I highly suggest it. In particular, he talks about a shift from 'original participation' → alienation → 'final participation'. I still don't well-understand this trend, but this rephrasing might match: "single, undulating whole" → "aloneness" → "unity amidst diversity". One theme I have discovered is that of the ancient Greeks believing in a system where the ethical, natural, and social laws are all connected to each other; in other words the law is imposed from the outside, 1 Tim 1:8–11-style. Gal 3:19–29 also matches up with this, with the law being a prison guard/protective detail, as well as a tutor. First a prototype behavior schema is enforced on people, then it is shattered and they have a chance to make it their own, to internalize it. To use Charles Taylor's words, we move from "The locus of our sources of moral strength resides outside." → inside (Sources of the Self, 143).

There is, of course, a danger: get stuck in the 'alienation' stage and then get stuck at a crappy, atomistic individualism: welcome to the modern world. 'Common good'? What the crap is that? Give me mine, and screw you. MacIntyre offers a wonderful critique of this stupidity in After Virtue. Diversity alone is terrible, and secularism is pretty weak glue—probably too weak. Time will tell; I'm sure many who lived during the decline of the Roman Empire thought it was doing well or even getting better. I point to US redistricting data and predict badness.

instead of 'the Church can tell you what to do and how to live your life and what to believe', it's now 'the party' or 'academics' or 'the state'.

It's worth collecting data on this. I did notice a wonderful conversation on Lothar's blog where 'morality' = 'the State'. Only a terrible understanding of history would go there, but hey, that's precisely what we have these days. Conflict thesis, amirite?

Luke said...

As for what I mean: the importance of the individual man reasoning for himself, understanding how he is reasoning, and why he's coming to this or that conclusion currently seems to me to be an important part of the Enlightenment idea.

You may like the following from Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self, which I just read today:

>     We saw that the language of inner/outer doesn't figure in Plato or indeed in other ancient moralists. One reason for this was that gaining mastery of oneself, shifting the hegemony from the senses to reason, was a matter of changing the direction of our soul's vision, its attention-cum-desire. To be ruled by reason was to be turned towards the Ideas and hence moved by love of them. The locus of our sources of moral strength resides outside. To have access to the higher is to be turned towards and in tune with this cosmic order, which is shaped by the Good.
>     Augustine does give a real sense to the language of inwardness. But this is not because he sees the moral sources as situated within us any more than Plato did. Augustine retains the Platonic notion of an order of things in the cosmos which is good. True, this doesn't suffice for us, because we have to be healed of sin to love this order as we should. And this healing comes to us within. But it does not come from a power which is ours. On the contrary, we turn to the path within only to accede beyond, to God.
>     The internalization wrought by the modern age, of which Descartes's formulation was one of the most important and influential, is very different from Augustine's. It does, in a very real sense, place the moral sources within us. Relative to Plato, and relative to Augustine, it brings about in each case a transposition by which we no longer see ourselves as related to moral sources outside of us, or at least not at all in the same way. An important power has been internalized. (143)

What I'd love to find out is why it took so long for anything remotely like the New Covenant to manifest. But anyhow, this provides concrete research on said "reasoning for himself". The error of that of course comes when one attempts to reason outside of tradition, as MacIntyre criticizes in After Virtue. Michael Polanyi understands the importance of tradition—yes, tradition—in science, in Personal Knowledge. One can see Lee Smolin's The Trouble with Physics as a critique of tradition. What the Enlightenment folks didn't appear to understand is that while tradition can become sick, you can't actually do without tradition. You can't not stand on the shoulders of giants, unless you want to reinvent the wheel.

Luke said...

Ack, the next paragraph in Sources of the Self is really important to your blog post title!

>     I will follow each of these transpositions in turn. First, in relation to Plato, Descartes offers a new understanding of reason, and hence of its hegemony over the passions, which both see as the essence of modernity. (144)

"Theology sans emotion" : "[reason's] hegemony over the passions"