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Hello God: Three Cheers For Evil?

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#1 DeadCanDance


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Posted 23 January 2012 - 08:59 PM

I continually find it strange that we are here, that anything exists at all. This sense of bewilderment, even incredulity, is, it seems to me, often disavowed, forsaken, or never experienced. Most unfortunate. It is said experience that so structures my mind so as to not find the idea that God would exist particularly unworthy of acceptance.  Why should I find it the case that God would exist any stranger than that there is a universe at all, the "furniture" of which is in part constituted by conscious, thinking reeds?

When Carl Jung was asked if he believed in God, he answered, "I do not believe, I know." I think he understood that 'belief' or 'to believe' implies a distance between the believer and that which is believed, and even a powerful doubt about that which is believed. Consider the words of Jean Baudrillard:


Do you believe in reality? No, of course not: it exists but we do not believe in it. It is like God. Do you believe in God? No, of course not. God exists, but I don't believe in him... belief is not the reflection of existence, it is there for existence, just as language is not the reflection of meaning, it is there in place of meaning. To believe in God is, therefore, to doubt his existence, his manifestness, his presence."

Experience is primary, belief secondary. One can experience without conceptualization. Experience can ground belief, i.e., serve as evidence supporting a belief, or provide a reason to accept/reject a given proposition without itself constituting belief. What of the experience of teleology? We are quite familiar with it, and may, in the everyday lexicon, readily explain the experience of ourselves and our actions teleologically: I am traveling 10 mph over the speed limit because I am late for a date that I desire to participate in.

Children see the world in explicit teleological terms: everything is purposeful. Of course, doubts are not slow to make their appearance. My six year old daughter recently asked me: "daddy, why did God make bad people?" Six years old and already she has an intuitive understanding that "the problem of evil" poses relative to theistic belief.

It is the experience of evil that whispers to me in moments alone, dark and silent, and sometimes defeaningly shouts, a certain proposition that is simply overpowering: There is no God. Fuck the evidence.

-Self replicating protein molecules... single celled organisms... multicellular organisms... dinosaurs and other such creatures... mammals... Galilean Library Members...

-God, the necessary actuality from which all potentiality is contingent, turned his back on himself and thus actualized nothingness from which the universe sprang. People have been fucking, eating, dying, and pretending ever since.

How is it possible that one could plumb the depths of evil, human depravity, suffering, etc and declare being greater than non-being? How could one not see that the goodness of God would have been in creating nothing and leaving things blissfully non-existent?

And yet, here am I. Not trying to negate my desires, not comitting suicide, not an antinatalist, not misanthropic. An optimist really. :)

Edited by DeadCanDance, 23 January 2012 - 09:05 PM.

"Mankind can keep alive thanks to his aptitude for keeping his humanity repressed. And now for once, you must try to face the facts, mankind is kept alive by bestial acts." - William S. Burroughs

#2 Mathsteach2



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Posted 05 February 2012 - 05:14 PM

I was in conversation with a friend some time ago, and he was asking me about my belief in God. In a heated (but friendly exchange) I declared that I do not just believe that God exists, I know that God exists. For me, He is as real as the chairs on which I am sitting!

The quotation from Carl Jung in this OP caught my attention. However, before I felt even slightly competent to contribute a post, I needed to search out a little more on Carl Jung. To begin, I found this:

"The word 'belief' is a difficult thing for me. I don't believe. I must have a reason for a certain hypothesis. Either I know a thing, and then I know it - I don't need to believe it."

Read more: http://www.brainyquo...l#ixzz1lVqZTtuy

This certainly resonates very strongly with how I feel, but on further searching I am becoming a little sceptical of Jung's approach to all religions, especially as he apparently tends to include Christianity (my own faith position) with all of the others. This makes him a favourite amongsts the New Agers, and although many Christians are impressed by his psychology and often use it in their caring responses to other Christians in their communities, other Christians warn against it.

Inevitably, I was impressed with the quotation in the OP from Jean Baudrillard, particularly the following sentence, because it does for me completely describe my doubts about the existence of God.

"To believe in God is, therefore, to doubt his existence, his manifestness, his presence."

In discussion as outlined above, I do not want to convey any of my doubts! However, here in a philosophy site, I feel comfortable in expressing any doubts that I have. Having just read the exchange here in the "Help" Forum about belief (in anything), then it makes me feel quiet comfortable to be able to express my Christian beliefs, without feeling that I have to justify everything I say! I re-iterate what I thought I read in the 'Help" forum thread, that philosophy is a search for the truth, no-one is expected nor encouraged  to push their own beliefs and prejudices.

So, DeadCanDance, without wanting to put you on  a spot, where do you really stand! Do you merely believe in God, or do you really know that He exists, and, through Jesus, as I know, He actually can exist as a person!!? This, of course, distinguishes Christianity from all other faith positions. God come to earth, and all that!

If this conversation continues, it may get very Freudian, for it can easily be claimed that my faith is an infantile illusion! However, I would return to Hans Kung, and his examination of Sigmond Freud, is, I think, quite critical, even though he concedes that there is never going to be a scientific proof of the existence of God.

But science is not everything, and your post seems to address this modern-day dilemma. Aspects of the spirituality of man, at all levels of his development, from ancient history to the growth and development of even modern-day children (its absence in schools leads to many of our social problems, I think), must be brought into our conception of reality.

I recently quoted an endpiece from one of my essays when I gained an MEd, in a teachers' website in the UK. One response there was that I ought to have failed! I will quote it here because I think it is relevant to this thread. If not, I am sure others here will soon put me right, and they might even offer valid criticisms of this endpiece.

"i believe that for early man, for new-born babies and for adults in a unique (for them) encounter, all of their first experiences will be theory-neutral and possibly spiritual. Unlike the early positivists however, rather than my moving from theology through metaphysics to positivism I see that my movement is the reverse of this, and each new experience, although positivistic in the event, takes me closer to God."

Later, after my tutor had graded my essay, I added another sentence after " --- theory neutral and possibly spiritual":

"However, all other experiences from early childhood are seen by all societal conformists to be theory-laden, resulting in a belief that there is nothing new in this world. Stay with "law-and-order" (Feyerabend) science they say, and they deny our spiritual inheritance."

There is so much in your OP, DeadCanDance, that I may not have addressed it validly ( as opposed to reliability!). Perhaps I am even off the track (not valid)! The problem of evil is a particularly hoary one, and it was  great pity that Teilhard de Chardin never got the chance to address this, I think.

#3 DeadCanDance


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Posted 14 February 2012 - 03:18 PM

Thank you Mathsteach2 for your thoughtful post; I shall try to force some coherence in my musings and response

I have never found the Euthyphro dilemma particularly troubling. Rape would not be right if it were prescribed by God. God would command or exhort or call to action because that which is called to be actualized is good or right. As an agnostic and moral realist, I am persuaded that there are normative facts- God or no God, and if God exists, God would be the perfect sustainer of said facts. This seems to me far simpler and more reasonable than trying to argue, as so many Catholic theologians have been want to do, that the standard of goodness is internal to the nature of God and expressed via God's commands / exhortations. Now, of course, the epistemic and ontological status of moral realism is up for debate... perhaps there are only preferences, subjective utility calculations, perhaps such words as "right," "wrong," and "ought,"  have no further being than interpersonal language games. Personally, I disagree with these latter conclusions on phenomenological grounds, but what of God?

You mention sitting on chairs; when you're sitting on a chair, do you 'believe' you're sitting on a chair? It seems a bit odd to speak of belief relative to such basic sensory experiences. If I were sitting on a chair and someone asked me if I believed I were sitting on a chair, I might be inclined to find the question a bit silly. This polite scoffing at the question would undoubtedly stem from an often unarticulated presupposition of a phenomenological-ontological connection, that is, between "seeming" and "being." Similar to how "belief" seems to imply a distance between believer and that which is believed, "seeming to be" seems to imply a distance, or acts as a kind of qualification  between that which seems (that which manifests itself to consciousness) and that which is. If person X is in excruciating pain, it might strike another as odd if person x exclaimed: "it seems to me that I'm in excruciating pain." Well, are you, or aren't you, you might ask. When I enjoy good sex, does it seem to me that I'm enjoying good sex? No! I'm enjoying it. Case closed.

For some, perhaps you include yourself a member of this set Mathsteach2 (I don't know), God is a matter of: case closed. It was for the author of Genesis: In the beginning God... the starting point is God. Proposition number 1 of the Bible was not inferentially grounded, there was no argumentation proffered to the effect that God exists, no attempt at eliciting from the reader a conclusion that the existence of the world is contingent on the existence of God is an inference to the best explanation. God exemplified basicality- in other words, biblical proposition number 1 was not held to be justified by other beliefs, which in turn were justified by other justified beliefs (see the infinite regress argument against evidentialist theories of knowledge and justification) rather, the idea that God exists was held to be intrinsically justified.

You ask me where I stand, relative to God. I shall augment the question and say: I am inclined to doubt everything. Consider Peter Lipton's words on realism and inference to the best explanation:


As part of our answer to the Cartesian skeptic who asks how we can know that the world is not just a dream or that we are not brains in vats, the realist may argue that we are entitled to believe in the external world since hypothesis that presuppose it provide the best explanation of our experiences. It is possible that all is a dream or that we really are brains in vats, but these are less good explanations of the course of our experiences than the ones we all believe.

Ridiculous child's play. Consider: if simplicity is a desirable epistemic value, is not say, the 'evil genius hypothesis' simpler and every bit as reasonable an explanation of experience than positing a mereological world with self relationally identical objects that temporally endure? The realist "inference to the best explanation" argument seems to me like presupposing that frogs do not feel pain and then taking it as evidence to that effect when a legless frog doesn't hop out of boiling water.

This is not to say I am an epistemological nihilist, as, a forteriori, we have no reason to accept said position or universal skepticism.

The fact is, a truly radical doubt expresses doubt about doubt. I mean, what happens to fallibilism when applied to itself? If I might be wrong, I might be wrong about might being wrong.

It is my doubt about my doubts about God, even Jesus Christ as the earthly manifestation of God, that opens up at least the realm of possibility to God. Most of the arguments against the reality of God range from sub par to garbage. I still hold Kung's Does God Exist as one of the greatest, most comprehensive theological works I've ever read. The book has its faults: Kung's treatment of Nietzsche is almost as bad (at times) as Bertrand Russell's infamously horrid botching of Nietzsche in Wisdom of the West, at times Kung make fallacious consequential appeals, and at times the work is overly triumphalistic, but Kung well craftedly discusses and critiques the critiques of Feurbach, Marx, Freud, and the logical positivists, Kung articulates a responsible modest foundationalism (critical rationalism), and the book has proven irreplaceably instrumental to expanding my understanding of philosophers from Descartes to Stegmuller.

But I digress. Suffice it to say, as many bad arguments as there are against the reality of God, there are as many apologetic failures. To get personal Mathsteach2 my disbelief is far more grounded in the realm of will and affectivity than it is in that of intellect and reason, more a Dostoyevskian struggle (see Ivan Karamazov) than the sterile intellectual rejection of a proposition. Gasset reminds us that the famous Psalm "the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God," speaks of the heart, not head. I have never rejected God via the heart, nor have I discovered God there, and nor has God revealed himself to me there. I have spoken these words before, but I must wonder if my disbelief is a kind of preemptive strike against a fuller rejection of God, a rejection, the existential consequences of which, I lack the stomach for. At the same time, it may be fear of the embracing of life, keeping Bonhoeffer's words in mind that Jesus calls his disciples to come and die with him (assuming a Christian framework here), the purported kind of life that is found only when lost, the self that is discovered contingent on the death of the self, with this understanding:

That God would be the condition of the possibility for a deeper embrace of the here and now, not the Platonic nihilism that reduces becoming to nothing and wishes only for another world... that keeps me in my present state of disbelief.

I was struck by how accurately Bataille's words (been reading his work, On Nietzsche) summarize my current state:


In the silence in which I found myself crazily open to every possibility, I remain perched on the void- and everything seemed to me equally ridiculous, hideous, and possible to me... at that instant I passed beyond. Then and there I recognized God.

It is to evil that I shall turn my attention in the next post.

Edited by DeadCanDance, 14 February 2012 - 04:16 PM.

"Mankind can keep alive thanks to his aptitude for keeping his humanity repressed. And now for once, you must try to face the facts, mankind is kept alive by bestial acts." - William S. Burroughs

#4 Mathsteach2



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Posted 19 February 2012 - 06:09 PM

I must thank you very much for your penetrating and insightful response to my humble effort, DeadCanDance. Again, there is so much in it I hardly know where to begin, and you also give me many references I need to follow up to further my ability to reply in a really meaningful way. However, I will do my best, for that is why I visit TGL, and I hope that I can write something which helps me to express my doubts and enquiries, and at the same time helps me to further my knowledge and understanding.

My approach now, rather than try to address everything in your posts, is to focus on one topic, and I pick it for two reasons. My own interest and concern in this topic, and your (tongue in cheek?) reference in your thread title - that is, the problem of evil. I do not, of course, want to try to pre-empt your next post, which you say will also address the problem of evil.

I begin by approaching your second post from its endpiece, focussing on Georges Bataille for I was not familiar with him nor his works. However, my searches have brought me to the opinion that along with many existentialists, for me he apparently does not really address the spirituality of man. I stand corrected, but he only seems concerned with the day-to-day conflicts which exist in all of us concerning the problem of evil. Dare I say, it seems to amount to a prejudice (i.e. a pre-conceived notion of the problem), or an obsession (which cannot be healthy?). Am I correct in thinking, then, that he therefore falls into the group of atheistic existentialists rather than the theistic ones!! Or perhaps he is not to be considered as an existentialist at all?

Reading the thread started by you, DeadCanDance, on Bataille's "Theory of Religion", there are two comments in it which intrigue me. The first is from davidm, where I think he playfully (?) disparages philosophy - not far short of my own thoughts (!) - and the other is from The Heretic where he writes, "His (Bataille's)  theory of religion is original to say the least and it doesn't bother with the tired, cliched theism-atheism issue or any other exhausted topics." Now that sentence really does intrigue me, because I do not think I am religious in the usual sense of the word. As Fritz Ridenour says in his little book, "How to be a Christian Without Being Religious", " ... true Christianity is not a religion but a relationship".

Cliched issues there may be in religious discussions, The Heretic, but I think they are far from exhausted, unless you too said this with tongue-in-cheek!? However, your reference to "Theory of Religion" has certainly caught my attention, and I am motivated to read it as a philosophical enquiry into religion, bearing in mind davidm's (and my own) suggested misgivings about philosophy! My simple take on religion is that it is merely a human construct, it therefore suffers from  the inadequacies and corruption which portend to all human constructs. I devour any ideas which move me away from religion, even the religious versions of Christianity!

This brings in, for me, my concern (fixation/obsession?) with the problem of evil, but as far as I understand I will not go down the path of Georges Bataille and dwell on it through literature and other art forms. Not that I deny my own fascination with the art forms (who cannot be perhaps morbidly attracted to Bram Stoker's "Dracula", the paintings of  Hieronymus Bosch, and other horrors, real and imagined) but there needs to be some way of rationalising our fascination.

There are attempts, I understand to develop a prolegomena on evil based on quantum theory and/or the theory of relativity. I am sceptical that this would succeed, since in the hard sciences even these theories are highly speculative.

I cannot help, ultimately, to fall back on the approach by C. S. Lewis, where we posit not just a real God, but a real devil, and I cannot resist quoting Lewis from his preface to "The Screwtape Letters":

"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them."

To finish this post, I offer a short account of the interview of Bataille available on U-Tube:

He is discussing another of his books, "Literature and Evil".

Talking about human evil rather than natural evil - I think a distinction needs to be made here - Bataille suggests, for human evil, two types, necessary evil and that resulting from taboo. In both cases, he thinks literature (or, in fact, any art form?), with no reference to these two evils, is boring! Literature needs to provide a required tension, but writing is not work.

The interviewer pursues this latter point in some depth, and Bataille refers to Baudrillard and Kafta in his book as exemplars of writers who therefore felt guilty, felt they were criminals on the side of evil, because they were writers, which was not working, according to their own families. They felt guilty as a child feels guilty when contemplating or pursuing a forbidden act.

Is literature therefore infantile, the interviewer asks, and Bataille says perhaps maybe, and prompted by the interviewer's reference to his work on eroticism again refers to a child-like fascination for such things. Bataille closes, however, by suggesting that even if literature can be seen to contain references to evil, it helps us to confront evil and therefore overcome it. My thoughts too, and again I read for literature all art forms, and not least how reading "The Screwtape Letters" helped me!

I am not yet sure whether this contributes to our discussion of evil!

#5 DeadCanDance


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Posted 29 February 2012 - 08:50 PM

Given the following sequence of numbers, fill in the blank appropriately:

5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, ___

Quite naturally, we might expect one to fill in the blank with the number 40, on what grounds would we protest if some deviant prankster filled in the blank with 17 or 100,662, or any number but 40? The numbers unfold odd/even/odd/even, would 36 be 'appropriate?' On what grounds would one protest if some epistemically unrefined sod formed a belief via the mechanism of wishful thinking? Epistemology is normative, in that the concept of justification is that by which license is given to some beliefs and not others. Epistemology excludes. Logic is normative. The notion of validity excludes. Moral theorizing excludes certain human actions. Each realm has its concepts that link the why/why not to the ought/ought not. Epistemologically, wishful thinking is related to unreliability. Logically, contradiction is said to be related to metaphysical impossibility. Morally, the why and ought are linked via a myriad of representatives: deontology, utilitarianism, virtue theory, divine command theory, etc, etc.

All three realms, we see, are anti-solipsistic; the communal nature of our cognitive endeavors, the 'interpersonal' in the personal, was wittily described by Jeff Smith-Luedke:


Consider this as a metaphor for why there is no private language: what is it to steal? To demonstrate what stealing is, I pull my wallet out of my back pocket, take out the money, and put it in my front pocket. This is not how I would describe stealing. Private definitions of pain and love and other "internal" processes are unsatisfactory for similar reasons.

So let us grant the naive realist assumption that persons do exist, i.e., are ontologically independent of our cognitive processes (remember, in the final analysis, realism is about modes of being). Putnam bitterly complained against Rorty's contention that the notion of "objective" truth is non-viable because concepts are not reality, cognitive endeavors and experience itself unfolds internal to conceptual schemes, and empirical reality is filtered through sense apparatuses; Putnam contends that all of Rorty's talk of "cultural solidarity," at the very least, presupposes common sense realism as regards the existence of other persons. We participate communally, relative to one another and the world outside, within the confines of rules. Perhaps the old dichotomy between creation and discovery is cliche, but, as pertains to the moral realm, are we just making shit up or discovering a normativity grounded external to the process of rule enforcement?

Anyways, I'm on the verge of rambling. The truth is Mathsteach2, the issue of evil and its exploration has been for me the experience of a man locked to a reckoning he lacks the courage to face resolutely. For how many persons, I must wonder, is ignorance of the totality and presence of evil the condition of their continued existence? How many persons are like the sexually promiscuous bohemian who would rather remain oblivious to whether or not he has contracted HIV and refuses testing?

It's an impulse I'm not entirely opposed to, or at least, one that I can extend an empathetic hand to. It's an impulse rooted in the desire not to suffer and while ignorance may not always be bliss, it can certainly be that by which suffering is minimized or negated. There is a bit of a paradox here, similar to that of hedonism, in that, the actualized irrelevancy and delimitation of avenues of human experience external to the object of searching by the hedonist, almost fatalistically destroys the very "pearl of great price" for which the hedonist seeks. Ignorance, especially willful ignorance, is like the Maginot Line, it unfortunately strengthens what is being defended against. Ignorance is the child underneath the blanket who believes that if he can just close his eyes tightly enough, the monsters will go away.

While not laudable, it's understandable.

And perhaps the critique of ignorance itself contains an element of naivety (to be expounded upon in next post), though, at face value the critique of ignorance relative to evil is a matter of common sense. To paraphrase Sheriff Bell in No Country For Old Men: how can that which the existence of (evil) is denied, be defeated?

Anyways, Mathsteach2 I hear the reckoning bells; I cannot dance around the issue for much longer, and I shall delve into the heart of the matter. It's almost too painful for me to externalize my thoughts, experiences, and feelings on this matter.

What I know is this: theodicies tend to vindicate God at the expense of admitting the dysteleology and suffering as is readily on display in this world. Even Hegel made reference to the slaughter bench of history. Hegelian dialectics seem an absolute affront, an insult, post Auschwitz. The Russians would kill Afghani children in front of their parents back in the 80's. How many children have lost limbs mistaking a land mine for a toy? Rape, incest, torture... if we are made in the image of God, what the hell does that say about God?

Sade's point was exactly that: whatever I've done or what the characters in my works have done, God does too. Anyways, Mathsteach2 thank you for you patience with this thread. A few quick words on Bataille:

Frankly, I find it almost impossible to understand him. The lexicon is very foreign to me. The man and his works are obviously embedded in a much larger philosophic context, one that my own understanding of is not extensive enough to render much of Bataille's writings understandable- it's not Bataille's fault, no blame here. What interests me about Bataille, perhaps above all, is that he took the idea of God seriously. He understood the power of religion and his theory, summarizable to the contention that religion is a kind of remembrance of "lost intimacy" is insightful, to say the least. No stupid, shallow positivism in his works. What he also seemed to see, as Nietzsche, did was this:

The metaphysical context in which the world can be positively affirmed and rendered meaningful, has dropped from the horizon. Enter Ubermensch. And thus Bataille's interest in the concept of sacrifice, which amounts to the usurpation and transcending of the world of utility. The richness, the pomise of redemption, the ability to participate in the being of God, offered by faith, God as a transcendent caregiver, the gurantee of teleology... dying to the popular imagination or becoming increasingly localized and bastardized. And what's left? Imagine, when we turn ourselves entirely to this world: the divine kenosis of Jesus Christ, this self emptying and openness to the will of the Father, becomes, via materialism, what? Jesus' self emptying as is had via a bowel movement? How many orgasms make up for the Holocaust? On purely utilitarian grounds, the world should be utterly rejected!  

Much more to say, as always...

Edited by DeadCanDance, 29 February 2012 - 09:15 PM.

"Mankind can keep alive thanks to his aptitude for keeping his humanity repressed. And now for once, you must try to face the facts, mankind is kept alive by bestial acts." - William S. Burroughs

#6 Big Blooming Blighter

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 12:48 AM

View PostDeadCanDance, on 29 February 2012 - 08:50 PM, said:

Much more to say

I seriously doubt that
All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you; digger, listener, runner, Prince with the swift warning. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.

#7 DeadCanDance


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Posted 02 March 2012 - 07:58 PM

Thank you Big Blooming Blighter for your astute contribution to the thread.
"Mankind can keep alive thanks to his aptitude for keeping his humanity repressed. And now for once, you must try to face the facts, mankind is kept alive by bestial acts." - William S. Burroughs

#8 Big Blooming Blighter

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Posted 02 March 2012 - 09:04 PM

View PostDeadCanDance, on 02 March 2012 - 07:58 PM, said:

Thank you Big Blooming Blighter for your astute contribution to the thread.

Thank you for thanking me.
All the world will be your enemy, Prince of a Thousand enemies. And when they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you; digger, listener, runner, Prince with the swift warning. Be cunning, and full of tricks, and your people will never be destroyed.

#9 DeadCanDance


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Posted 04 March 2012 - 08:56 PM

What I described in the OP, the experience of incredulity in light of existence, the fact that there is this odd thing we call a universe that goes through the bother of existing, could be called the will to theological possibility. G.K. Chesterton called it the "extraordinariness of the ordinary." Here is John Milbank commenting on the matter:

"Chesterton, like Augustine, was so astonished by everyday reality that he found it very easy to believe in ghosts and fairies, magic and miracles, as he indicates in several places. Indeed, he considered these realities to be a matter of popular record, and their denial to be a product of undemocratic eilitist skepticism and intellectual snobbery."

It is easy to see how this kind of intuitive experience of the "ordinary" as "extraordinary," may support a brand of internal slippery slope (not, in my eyes, to be deemed epistemically irresponsible) reasoning. If A, why not B? To experience the ordinary as extraordinary may readily render the postulation of God as no more extraordinary than the ordinary. Personally, in ontological principle, I am not at all opposed to the idea that God would exist. It may be a dispositional comfortability with the non-spatiotemporal, with abstract objects, with non-naturalism metaethically, with semantic truths, with consciousness as not materially reducible, that ultimately accounts for my openness to theology.

Once the will to theological possibility is accepted as a functional principle by which to approach God, or the idea God, somewhere between the incommensurable dichotomy between assent to, and denial of, the reality of God, one is almost immediately struck with the problem of how to further the journey, i.e., the problem of paradigm, methodology, and epistemological critique.

It is to this problem that I shall turn to next.

Edited by DeadCanDance, 04 March 2012 - 09:02 PM.

"Mankind can keep alive thanks to his aptitude for keeping his humanity repressed. And now for once, you must try to face the facts, mankind is kept alive by bestial acts." - William S. Burroughs

#10 DeadCanDance


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Posted 18 March 2012 - 08:50 PM

Bataille: "As for the subject of life and death: sometimes I bitterly eye the worst, I stake my bet, helplessly slip into horror. I know all is lost. And I know that dawn, a potential illuminator, will cast its light on a dead man."

I have, for as long as I can remember, experienced both repulsion from, and attraction to, cemetaries. My mother's mother dies at 42; I was a year old. The cemetary where she is buried is really quite beautiful. It's in a valley in the midst of the Appalachian Mountains. Some of the people buried there (or their mortal remains anyways) were born two centuries ago.

As a child my mother used to tell me that the sun setting and rising each day was a metaphoric testament to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It's not an uncommon sentiment: that nature bespeaks of God. I've never felt that way. Voltaire satirically asked if Leibniz really expected him to believe that every drop of piss contained an infinity of monads. The monstrosity of nature, as I see it, bespeaks only of cold indifference and the void.

Indifference, entirely contingent and seemingly random events (consider the path of the tornado), natural evils that cannot be interpreted as moral evils (the pitbull that rips a child's face off, as I read about in today's local paper) the possibility that moral evils are natural evils (that the "mental" is causally inert, that the torturer of children is reducible to "matter in motion" like an earthquake), is so stunningly paralyzing and mind numbingly disheartening, that the mind, the spirit of a man, recoiling in horror, frantically seeks a metaphysical ground contra indifference. Indeed, when I first read JK Huysman's "La Bas" of Durtal's studies of who was likely the most vile and criminal man who ever lived, Gilles de Rais, the very depths of my being cried out that the explanation for such crimes as were committed by de Rais cannot be found in the natural order, that de Rais was not the fruit of indifference or the void, but that of an active, transcendent reality, equal to the benevolence of the power of being itself (God), only, in the other direction.

Is there a justified explanatory value in such a conclusion, as follows the experience, directly or secondarily, of such intense shocks to conscience? Not pretending to share in the knowledge of our modern day cosmologists, I shall say, in the beginning was hydrogen...nebulus gas...singularity...simples...maybe there was no beginning, eternal recurrance of the same...matter eternal, causal determinism or not, qua materialism, the inorganic always already possesses the potentiality to actualize de Rais, Hitler, Sade... the sadistic hydrogen atom!?!

Hearkening back to the experentially grounded will to theological possibility, is Ephesians 6:12 really so silly? "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

I believe that two of the concepts central to Christianity, those of "fallenness" (which presupposes a reality, existence, state or mode of being from which to fall) and "lostness" (which presupposes dysteleology and hence teleology) accurately describe man and the world. I remember reading an article by our very own Campanella, which began with the contention that Schopenhauer's philosophy was summarized by the man himself in proposition number one of "The World of Will and Representation:" the world is my idea. Having finally read The Republic and becoming more than introductarily acquainted with the works of Plato over the last year, appreciating this philosopher who philosophizes without univocality, introduces doctrines and then attacks them, converses and never preaches, if I were pressed to summarize Plato (and Christianity), I would quote the first three words of The Republic "I went down."

Socrates begins The Republic reporting of his trip to the Piraeus to see the festival of Bendis (Allan Bloom states "The Piraeus seems to have been a center for innovations in everything, including religion," I cannot help but being reminded of Paul's trip to Mars Hill where he encountered the Stoics and Epicureans, and perhaps the most comically satitical verse in all of scripture Acts 17:21 "for all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or hear of some new thing." Always makes me laugh) and his introduction has a much larger imported significance. The "going down" into death, the going down from the realm of forms to that of becoming, from truth absolute to the forgetfulness of the Sophist's relativism, going down from what Voegelin called an 'existentially satisfactory order into an existentially unsatisfactory order,' and a la Christianity, one could imagine Socrate's pronouncement as that of God going down into his creation, or the "fall" of man into differentiation, metaphysical loneliness, lostnness, homelessness.

The idea that man is an evicted tenant, that man is like a conscious shard of glass whose very fragmented nature intimates its belonging to a larger whole (the mirror), in effect, some variation of gnosticism, has always struck me as a "potential illuminator" to the reality of God, an intuitive experience that signifies that empirical reality is not home. Enter Heidegger and Slavoj Zizek, who discusses Heidegger's notion of "Geworfenheit" and whom I shall be paraphrasing.

Gnosticism and humanism are, in one sense, radically opposed to one another, but in another, perhaps deeper sense, are siblings. The humanist imagination, its vision, sees the human being at home on this earth, able to achieve self actualization through his laborings within, and exchange with it. The young Marx perfectly captured the essence of humanism when he claimed the earth was man's "anorganic body." For the humanist, to quote Zizek, "Any notion that we do not belong to this earth, that the earth is a fallen universe, a prison for our soul trying to liberate itself from material inertia, is dismissed as life-denying alienation." Gnosticism is the opposite: the material universe was created and is the fruit of the labor of a wicked demiurge. We human selves are uncreated, preexistent spiritual entities, finding ourselves transversing a foreign land (the material universe), whose real home is the "noosphere." As Zizek points out, both positions relay the idea that there is a "natural" place for man, a home, they just disagree as to its location.

It is to Heidegger and his concept of "Geworfenheit" (being-thrown) that we shall turn to in the next post.

Edited by DeadCanDance, 19 March 2012 - 04:15 AM.

"Mankind can keep alive thanks to his aptitude for keeping his humanity repressed. And now for once, you must try to face the facts, mankind is kept alive by bestial acts." - William S. Burroughs

#11 Mathsteach2



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Posted 20 March 2012 - 11:42 PM

Your posts leave me floundering, DeadCanDance! I have to look up the dictionary meanings of some of the words you use just to get a small purchase on them, and many of your references are to other writers with whom I am not familiar. This is of course, for me, a great challenge, so please do not worry that perhaps you are leaving me behind.

I therefore must digress a little, and present some of my own musings. I have recently renewed my interest in the theology of the late Professor Gordon D. Kaufman, (Harvard Divinity School). I first came upon some of his writings during my MEd year (1993-4). Kaufman provided for me in one of his books which I read ("The Theological Imagination" - 1981) a glimpse of the possible correlation between relativism and God. Nor was he necessarily arguing for the existence of God.

In an earlier book ("Relativism, Knowledge and Faith" - 1960) he began by describing the crisis of Western capitalism and he wished it be known that he was not going to argue for Christian dogma. He said that relativism was 'rife' in philosophy and theology, but that this might not be a bad thing, for in this earlier book he perceived '... that our thought is relative and inadequate and subject to radical doubt, (and this) is coupled with a careful metaphysical and theological significance'. He analysed the anthropological basis of relativism, and asked what metaphysics and theology could do? He showed that theology too is mainly anthropological, but 'revelation may not be so'.

This last quoted phrase impacted upon me quite profoundly, because  I think I am one of those fortunate people to have had some sort of revelatory experience. Whilst I was reading this book I identified my experience with some of the issues he raised. I became thoughtful not of any particular religious faith, but of a comprehension of myself, described by Kaufman as he attempted to accommodate the dichotomy between an unfettered relativism on the one hand and a dogmatic faith on the other, and he did it through an epistemological analysis of the development of human consciousness.

In conclusion in this earlier book, noting of course his expressed concern that conclusions in such discussions are never anticipated nor expected, he introduced the concept of Christology. This is that experience which provides for the individual a 'centre of history' to which he or she can relate to assists in the determination of the true meaning of reality. Kaufman wrote '... if we push this analysis of the meaningful moments of our experience far enough, we will eventually discover that one moment in our history - not necessarily in our personal biography but in the history through which have passed the meanings in terms of which we understand all that we understand - which seems to be at the very center of history ...'. He went on to suggest, without excluding alternative centres of alternative theologies, for instance Marxism or logical positivism, that the focus of faith for the Christian community is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. At the moment I am searching to see if he was aware of the writings of Tielhard de Chardin who was convinced there would be an Omega Point for all humanity in the Second Coming of Christ.

At an individual level, Kaufman suggested that this moment in one's life is referred to theologically as revelation. He cited Niebuhr ("The Meaning of Revelation" - 1941) who had written, '... by revelation in our history, then, we mean that special occasion which provides us with an image by means of which all the occasions of personal and common life become intelligible'.

On re-reading what I have just written it appears that I am avoiding the problem of evil, perhaps just as Teilhard did, and as I continue to find out more about Kaufman's theology, he too may not have confronted evil in the way that we are trying to do. However, given now my firm belief that the devil really does exists (in my MEd year I was of the belief that only God existed - I knew this rather than just believing it, as a result of my own experience - and that the devil was just a figment of my imagination), for me the problem of evil is something which I can address without that feeling of helplessness.

If I am wrong, DeadCanDance, I am sure you will tell me, but throughout your posts I get a feeling of an expression of our helplessness. For me, philosophy enables me to approach my faith at a more intellectual level, rather than be reduced to a mere fideism. Consequently my threatening feelings of helplessness are somewhat kept at bay. In the following interview Gordon Kaufman frankly admits that he does not know, and suggests that we may never know (about anything?). He died last year at 86 years old.


#12 DeadCanDance


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Posted 05 April 2012 - 07:21 PM

Mathsteach2, as always, thank you for your participation. Stay with me my friend, as we shall delve into 'evil' more expressly (I hope), and when we do, may we come out alive.

It is not an uncommon charge that Heidegger intentionally utilizes 'obscurantist' language to give the apperance of profundity where purportedly there is none to be had. Anthony Quinton famously referenced Heidegger's "pondrous and rubbishy woolgathering;" Peter Singer spoke of the "bombast filled boils of Heideggerian being," and I think it not unfair or inaccurate, if I may be granted license to speak in such generalities, to say that almost the whole of the 'analytic tradition' has treated Heidegger with dismissiveness and/or disdain.

Some seventy five pages into Being and Time and I'm exhilirated and exhausted; if I were a lesser mind I might agree with the cries of "linguistic pretentiousness," but clearly appreciating that Heidegger is not working within a longstanding inherited framework, that the very possibility of communication is contingent on some level of a shared mode of understanding, a mutual horizon, and that our German friend has taken upon himself 'the task of destroying the history of ontology,' and hence, the aforementioned horizon/mode, such cries strike me as lazy or silly.

Heidegger is the counselor attempting to awaken the addict in denial as to his state of addiction, in our case, the addiction being the Western ontological tradition's "fixation on entities at the expense of being" (Taylor Carman). Heidegger speaks of "forgetfulness" relative to Being, an ignorance to the transcendental problem of the conditions of possibility by which entities are entities.

In terms that I adore, our dear German friend once said of epistemology that it "continually sharpens the knife but never gets round to cutting;" certainly the same cannot be said of Being and Time, as it opens as 'cuttingly' as any philosophic work ever penned:

"Do we in our time have an answer to the question of what we really mean by the word "being?" Not at all."

Talk about 'laying down the gauntlet.'

Now, what I find interesting is that two philosophers so opposed to one another as Descartes and Heidegger both have anthropological starting points: Descartes, in search of an immutable epistemological foundation believed he had found one via 'res cogitans,' concluding 'cogito, ergo sum,' and Heidegger, analyzing Daisen (the human being), as a 'window to Being,' the only entity to enquire into the nature of Being, thus unlike all other known 'furniture of the universe.' Being and Time was an unfinished project, one that, over the course of time, Heidegger came to question. Moving from a phenomenological anthropology, i.e., the analysis of Daisen to that of the clarificaion of the meaning of Being, that most difficult word which cannot itself be said to exist, which is distinct from entities (beings) and the sum total of that which exists, was ultimately deemed nonviable. As Hans Kung concluded: "he (Heidegger) felt increasingly that it was impossible to get from the existence of man to being itself." Now, as William Barrett points out, Heidegger never uses the term 'man,' hence avoiding the "assumption that we are dealing with a definitie 'object' with a fixed nature, that we already know, in short, what man is," but Kung's observation stands. By the end, Heidegger reversed the move from Daisen to Being to that of Being to Daisen as 'shepherd of being.'

I shall briefly return to Descartes. The search of our dear French friend for a secure epistemological foundation paved the way for self-world alienation in positing the "I's" mode of existence as that of an isolated epistemological subject, and created a subject-object dichotomy that became Heidegger's mission to rectify. Descartes was only able to move from solipsism, from being trapped within the confines of ego, to the reality of the external world by belief in an undecieving God.

We see that Heidegger's pursuit is more fundamental than that of Descartes, as he is searching after the "am' of the cogito, though he tout court rejects the entirety of the cogito. Man as 'res cogitans' and world as 'res extensa' go hand in hand; much of the philosophic world has drifted towards physicalism, functionalism, epiphenomenalism, etc, in short, rejecting the "ghost in the machine," but what would undoubtedly be to Heidegger's disgust, still remains firmly within the confines of the Cartesian subject-object dichotomy. The human being as 'res cogitans' has now become 'res extensa' and in the process, both the mode of being of the human being and the world, per Heideger, has been mutilated. To quote Calvin O. Schrag:

"The human body, it is presumed, is but an instance of physical bodies in general, existing along-side other bodies that make up the corporeal furniture of the universe, defined through the properties of extension, figure, mass, and motion... but it is precisely the taken-for-granted concept of the human body as simply a thing among other things, an object among other objects, an extension of material substance in general, that needs to be problematized."

The world and the human being as "object" (extension, figure, mass, motion) and the human being as "subject" (the isolated ego) was not only problematized by Heidegger almost a century ago in Being and Time, but he positively layed the smackdown on Cartesianism!

It is not here my intention to give a full account of this "smackdown," which would exceed the scope of this post, and besides, a little humility need be in order, such a pronouncement, coming from myself, only roughly a fifth through Being and Time bespeaks of self flattery. A few words:

Dasein is not the windowless monad of Leibniz, nor the ego peering outwards into 'res extensa,' as if from inside a house through a window, but is "being-in-the-world." Primordially, always already, Daisen is out-of-doors, not, as Heidegger contends, in-the-world within 'res extensa' as an object of spatial juxtaposition with other objects, as water is in a glass, but as an entity of "care," concerned with a world that is constitutive of its being, not encountering the world first as a collection of neutral sensations, as empiricism would have it, but via the mode of 'readiness-at-hand,' which denotes the accessibility of instrumentality, as against the Cartesian mode of the world as a 'present-at-hand' thing, an object of theoretical construction.

Edited by DeadCanDance, 05 April 2012 - 07:27 PM.

"Mankind can keep alive thanks to his aptitude for keeping his humanity repressed. And now for once, you must try to face the facts, mankind is kept alive by bestial acts." - William S. Burroughs

#13 Mathsteach2



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Posted 12 April 2012 - 07:02 PM

You have motivated me, DeadCanDance, to look further into Martin Heidegger, his life and his philosophy. I first came across him whilst reading "Does God Exist?" by Hans Kung. Kung only briefly refers to Heidegger's association with National Socialism in Germany, and suggests that he "soon realised his mistake, and began to lecture on logic instead of political philosophy and refused an invitation to Berlin in 1933". However, he did not withdraw his membership of the Nazi Party until after the war.

Apparently there is a biography by Rüdiger Safranski entitled "Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil' (1998) which I think I would prefer to read rather than "Being and Time".


I greatly respect your perseverance with Heidegger, and fully appreciate that we should try to read primary sources rather than commentaries. However, at 70 years old now, I think it would be too much for me to take on "Being and Time", but more importantly I am not convinced that Heidegger honestly addressed his affiliations with National Socialism, and his attempts at withdrawing his support were disengenious to say the least. The following discussion is interesting, I find, and would be interested in your views of it:


It is time now, I think, to begin to address some of the things to which you refer in your posts, and I am going to stay with Heidegger, and you may be able to help me out.

When I first read "Does God Exist?" I was very much taken with the phrase "the ground of all being". I am trying to relocate it in this book, currently without success, but I have found that it is attributed to Paul Tillich. Kung does not give Tillich much attention, and Kung's phraseology is more along the lines of "the primal ground of all reality", when he begins to fully focus on the existence of God.

Returning then to Heidegger, is he using "Being" as a noun or as a verb - or both? My scepticism concerning Heidegger arises out of his alleged reluctance to fully dissociate himself from National Socialism, as Paul Tillich did by emigrating to America in 1933. Martin Heidegger's exploration of being must be very profound, but was it possible that he indulged in his philosophical enterprise to conceal the evil which he was beginning to acknowledge existed within himself?

Perhaps we should argue that since his philosophy was so profound and influential, we should put aside his evil intent (very much as Kung puts Heidegger's Nazi affiliations aside), but in our search for answers then for me, it does not appear that Heidegger is going to provide any.

I am rapidly getting out of my depth, and reading through the whole thread makes me feel I am going around in ever-decreasing circles, reminiscent of an infamous bird who flew so and finally disappeared into where I shall not say!  To return to your thread title, which is what first attracted me to the thread, I fully endorse the sentiment "Hello God", but I am unlikely to ever offer "Three Cheers for Evil?", even though it carries a question mark! To quote Hans Kung:

"If God exists, then reality suspended between being and nonbeing is not ultimately under suspicion of being a void. Why? Because God is then the being itself of all reality."

I cannot yet get any purchase on Heidegger's religious beliefs. Did he believe in God, or was he a profound atheist? Can I identify his "Being" with my Christian God? In another thread here at TGL I began to identify my understanding of the "Word of God" with a post-modern narrative. The comment is in Post 23 of this thread:


Like yourself, DeadCanDance, I try to do some reading! At the moment I am on Chapter 6 of "The Kingdom of God is Within You" (Tolstoy). I wonder if Martin Heidegger ever read any of Leo Tolstoy? Tolstoy certainly holds no punches when he comes to describing the evils in this world - the evil in believers and non-believers, the evil of the Churches, the evil of scientists and the sciences, the evil of economics and the evil of politics, national and international.

If we continue this exchange, please do not hesitate to keep me on the straight and narrow. I hope others join in, and I look forward to further posts from you as we try to explore human evil, and what we might try to do about it. For me, Hitler is the personification of evil, however, thinking as I do now I would have been a conscientious objector during WW2. At the time I was a war baby (born 1942)!

#14 DeadCanDance


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Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:17 PM

In the next post, I shall discuss Heidegger... in the mean time, as always Mathsteach2, thank you for your participation and patience. Metaphysics informs ethics, to be sure, and while our explorations may seem to lack cogency, our delvings into a phenomenology of man and more general epistemic issues, are ultimately a search after the Good, and ultimately an understanding of evil.

On reading "Surprised By Joy" so many years ago, I found, and still find today, C.S. Lewis's account of his renunciation of atheism and conversion to what was at first a kind of tabula rosa theism, compelling and beauiful. I am sure you are familiar with these words Mathsteach2, if anything, I shall quote them for our mutual aesthetic enjoyment:

"You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him who I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity term... I gave in, and admitted that God was God and knelt and prayed; perhaps, that night the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England."

Minus such an encounter with God, being unable to say with Andre Fossard that, "God exists. I have met him," the account of the conversion of Mr. Lewis could be the story of my life, so to speak. The plain truth is, I have been haunted by God for a great part of my life, or perhaps, the absence of God. The world presents itself to me as if there were no God (such a statement implies that I have an idea of what the world would look like if its being were contingent on God). Within Christianity, there is a longstanding Iraenian tradition that incorporates the "hiddenness" of God into a theodicy quite brilliantly, but it may be that the contention of our dear theologian friends, namely that God, interested in "soul-making" and an ultimate eschatological consummation, created man at an epistemological distance, is false, simply because there is no God. The question is very much a "live" one... on with the show.

I have had, for as long as I can remember, a favorable disposition towards existentialism. The self, the self that suffers, the self that dies, in its concreteness, the self that negates and affirms, still proffers me much mystery, and I find this, for lack of a better word, amazing. There seems to be in existentialism a certain invulnerability to attack. Consider that missile lobbing Scotsman Hume. He reported that when he entered "most intimately" into himself, he only stumbled upon particular perceptions, bundled in perpetual flux. Wait a tic! Let us say that I turn the ole Humean, ever probing gaze inward and similarly report the same conclusion. Do not "I" demarcate successive perceptions, and do not "I" affirm the truth that, as with the infinite turtles supporting the world, it is successive perceptions (and nothing else) all the way down? There seems a difficulty involved in the denying of the emergent, univocal self, in that, the "I" is affirmed when denied.

"The more systematically and thoroughly I affirm that I am nothing but an aggregate of successive perceptions, then, consequently, the more I succeed on affirming that there is "something, I know not what" that is "looking" into myself." (Richard J. Berstein).

In referencing the "I," I do not mean to invoke a mode of being Sartre would call "in-itself," or the isolated ego of Descartes, or the utility maximizing "I" of rational choice theory, i.e. that mythical creature, 'homo economicus,' or the essentialistic "I" of a "pre-given logico-epistemological set of conditions for cognition" (Calvin O Schrag), but the "I" of identity relative to an unfolding self/communal dialectic, the "who" of discourse, concretized in narrative, and within these boundaries, the "I' of what could be called the Kierkegaardian cogito: I choose, therefore I am.

While respecting the response of our post-structuralist/postmodern friends to the humanism of times past, their dissolving of "man" into aporiac 'differance,' their fading away of man into intertextuality, their, at times, linguistic determinism, etc, stands to be rejected. There seems an irony, perhaps contradiction, in postmodernism's attempt to propagate "discourse without speakers, texts without authors, and actions without actors." (Calvin O Schrag) While Camille Paglia sometimes displays a Rush Limbaugh-esque abrasiveness, I cannot help finding myself in agreement with her on the matter:

"Most pernicious of French imports is the notion that there is no person behind a text. Is there anything more affected, aggressive, and relentlessly concrete than a Parisian intellectual behind his/her turgid text? Behind every book is a certain person with a certain history."

At the moment, I shall lapse into our subject proper:

Theodicy is, in the final analysis, the struggle for coherence. A meteoric, desolating contradicion seems to emerge when the omnibenevolence and omnipotence of God are coupled with the existence of evil as we see manifest in our world. Strange in a way that I should be so well versed in the theodician enterprise and have the least to say on the matter. The horrors of existence conjure themselves vividly before my mind, slither heir way into that realm of will and affectivity and sap any strength that therein resided, forcing a withdrawal from the affirmation of the goodness of being into an enveloping darkness. The project of Camus was the opposite of theodicy: rejecting an ultimate link requiring sameness of judgment between Creator and Created, he condemned the former while refusing to condemn the latter. In my moments of intense bitterness, when I hear the screams of those children Gilles de Rais tortured in ways unspeakably horrible, when I read of the end that a local young woman, Channon Christian, met, who, according to the medical examiner, was vaginally and anally raped multiple times, then vaginally and anally "savaged" with what may have been a broken chair leg, was repeatedly beaten and was eventually slowly suffocated to death after hours of a suffering beyond conceptualization, I condemn Creator and Creation and can only wait in hopeful anticipation for the advent of a nuclear war thorough enough to wipe out humanity!

In these moments of moral exhaustion, in empathetic pain, in disgust and revulsion, in misanthropy, I sometimes feel ready to collapse into a fideism that refuses to attempt a theodicy, and recognize man as an inept prosecutor and defender. Outside of this Mathsteach2, I feel the game is lost. You mention the intellect and its arousing to the prevention of "mere fideism." I find this laudable, though perhaps doomed. I shall offer a few words:

With the rise of 'scientific realism,' an increasingly proliferated philosophic position to the popular imagination, came the systematic destruction of the idea that "God" has any explanatory power. This has marshalled a resurgent natural theology (Keith Ward, Polkinghorne, Victor Reppert). Unfortunately, of late, there has been a rash of bickering and devolution in philosophic exchange on the matter in the mindless "debates" between the likes of Dawkins, Stenger, and Sam Harris, and Dinesh D'Souza, Alister McGrath, and even my dear Roger Scruton, two sides of the same ridiculous coin... so many manifestations of the Heideggerian "they-self." Of course, the hegemony of "science" has properly been called into question, as has the supposed linearly progressive nature of the advance of science (Kuhn and incommensurability,) that there is a readily demarcatable, monolithic "scientific method," (Feyerabend) or that science provides access to ahistorical, 'objective' truth.

It can certainly be said that postmodernism has reopened the door to religious possibility, but the aporiac nature of Derrida's messianism, of the God (like democracy and justice) always "to come," the intolerable posturing involved in Jean-Luc Marion's attempt to preserve the "otherness" of God via 'God beyond metaphysics and without being,' in short, what amounts to a new wave of a kind of hyper negative theology, is utterly lacking in "cash value." Heidegger will hopefully prove helpful here in the coming post(s), but for the moment I shall return to the problem of evil.

Here, it is not 'reason' or 'intellect' that ultimately fails me. If man were nothing but a logician, it would never occur to him to trouble over 'evil.' The heart, relative to an assent to God, fails me. After a long debate with a contrarian who argued, as mentioned in the OP, that the true goodness of God would have involved creating nothing, J.K. Huysman's Durtal perfectly captures where I find myself:

"Durtal lowered his head, for this argument completely dismasted him; all the replies which could be imagined were remarkably weak, and the least feeble, that which consists in denying to ourselves the right to judge because we only see the details of the divine plan, because we can possess no general view of it, cannot avul against that terrible phrase of Schopenhauer: "If God made the world I would not be that God, for the misery of the world would break my heart!"


It should be noted that in the end, Durtal returns to his Catholic faith.

Edited by DeadCanDance, 30 April 2012 - 03:24 PM.

"Mankind can keep alive thanks to his aptitude for keeping his humanity repressed. And now for once, you must try to face the facts, mankind is kept alive by bestial acts." - William S. Burroughs

#15 Mathsteach2



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Posted 05 September 2012 - 05:12 PM

My apologies for not writing earlier, DeadCanDance, and I am a little disappointed that others have not joined in, but with so many other things occurring in our lives (even me in my retirement!) that these sorts of discussions go down on the list of our priorities, I guess! Which is a shame, because unless we spend some time on it, whether it be philosophically here or theologically with other believers (I think I have given up on trying to discuss this issue with non-believers), then we are reduced to watching the TV channels etc., with their films and news reels, and we just become couch potatoes waiting for death. The recent thread on passive or active nihilism started by The Heretic is going to be interesting, and perhaps relevent to what I have just said.

Like you I think, I want to focus on Martin Heidegger, because even though I have very limited knowledge of his works, I seem to have a gut feeling that he has something profound to say to me. This is based on his alleged conflict (or at least his apparently confused response)  with Nazism during the 1930s and 40s. I realise we can read many other authors (e.g. Dietrich Bonhoeffer) to get some sort of purchase on our problem (the problem of evil), but as I was advised during my MEd year, when doing any sort of investigation, search or research, one has to focus on a limited area.

The Wiki entry on "Heidegger and Nazism" begins with the statement::

"The relationship between the German philosopher Martin Heidegger and Nazism is a controversial subject."

My leanings at the moment are that there can be no controversy. Many ordinary people, and intellectuals, left Germany during the 1930s when they recognised where the Nazi doctrines were taking the German people. Heidegger could easily have joined them - he did not. Irrespective of his philosophy, his practical actions were reprehensible, and if he has a purchase on evil at all in his philosophy, it did not manifest itself in his actions. I want to put that criticism aside, but I will not therefore side with his supporters in this so-called controversy. Surely our philosophy has ultimately to be practical and needs to influence our daily behaviour, otherwise it is of no more value that the ideas of theologians who continue to lead a less-than righteous life?

That is, If I find that he has something profound to say about the problem of evil, both philosophically and intellectually, then I will take notice, but this will not then pursuade me join in with his supporters. In this world, we are judged by our actions rather than our ideas, I think.

To begin, (I am a real novice!) I have just read the entry on him in "Brainy Quotes"! They appear to support the accusation that he is undoubtedly an ultra-patriotic German nationalist:

"The German language speaks Being, while all the others merely speak of Being."

Read more at http://www.brainyquo...eAtuAr9G38m4.99

For me, nationalism, along with religion, have no place in our modern world - they have been responsible for so much of the evil which has occurred over the centuries. I continue to read Tolstoy. However, if Heidegger can give me a purchase on the evil which I know exists in me (do I really know that given the opportunity for pure hedonism, as might have been the temptation of Nazism and joining the Party, I might not have succumbed, especially if I was naive?), then I would pursue my interest in him.

In those circumstances which Heidegger found himself in the 1930s, why did his philosophy not lead him away from his associations with Nazism? I can only guess that it may have been the attraction of German nationalism, and perhaps his apparent willingness to hide his misgivings so that he could remain an influential voice within National Socialism and lead it away from extremism ('The Night of the Long Knives' is cited here as something which seriously upset him), and this latter reason could be seen to be laudable.

These are my musings so far. Would a study of "Being and Time" have any influence on them, I wonder?

#16 The Heretic

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 05:48 PM

The philosophy of Heidegger's Being & Time is far above the petty viccisitudes of politics.

It was even more profound and far reaching than Heidegger himself realized.

I recommend Rudinger Safranski's biography on Heidegger: Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil. It is neither apologetic nor polemical.

Edited by The Heretic, 05 September 2012 - 07:34 PM.

#17 Mathsteach2



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Posted 26 January 2013 - 03:46 PM

Bringing this thread back into being, I am, at the moment, just going to describe my interest in it.

Many thanks to The Heretic for recommending Safranski’s  “Martin Heidegger: Between Good and Evil” and I think my reading of it will be very helpful. Unfortunately I have not yet had an opportunity to get hold of a copy, so that remains on hold. In the meantime, and whilst my computer was down for a month, I took to reading some anarchist texts again which have been on my bookshelves for years.

The first two books which have received a second reading are Kropotkin's "Memoirs of a Revolutionist" and "Anarchism" by George Woodcock. Other books which I possess, again for many years, and will be receiving my attention, are William Godwin's "Enquiry Concerning Political Justice", Malatesta's "Life and Ideas", and Vernon Richard's "Lessons of the Spanish Revolution", amongst others. I am still in the middle of reading Tolstoy's "The Kingdom of God is Within You" online.

This reading has confirmed my view that Christian Anarchy has something to offer by way of an acceptable anarchist position, and a thread of mine here was intended to address the apparent contradictions in Christian Anarchy. Another interest of mine is the ideas of Teilhard de Chardin, but reading his works is heavy-going!  I hope I am beginning to indicate how I am now pursuing the problem of evil, because so far I have not found that the stalwarts of anarchism, Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin ever really accepted the propensity for evil which may reside in us all, irrespective of whether or not we are coerced into moral behaviour by external authority, and Teilhard never got around to giving it the attention it deserves. Apparently Kropotkin began a book entitled "Ethics", but was never completed. The varieties of political anarchism certainly have plenty to say about the moral dilemma of anti-social behaviour, but it appears to me that their solutions tend to see human behaviour through rose-coloured spectacles.

Proudhon wrote, and this quotation is taken from Woodcock's "Anarchism":

"(As) an integral part of a collective existence, man feels his dignity at the same time in himself and in others, and thus carries in his heart the principle of a morality superior to himself. This principle does not come to him from outside; it is secreted within him, it is immanent. It constitutes his essence, the essence of a society itself. It is the true form of the human spirit, a form which takes shape and grows towards perfection only by the relationship that every day gives birth to social life. Justice, in other words, exists in us like love, like notions of beauty, of truth, like all our powers and faculties."

I find here echoes of a morality described by C. S. Lewis in "Mere Christianity".

To finish this post, having just watched the film, "Machine Gun Preacher", I must comment on the quite profound dilemma I think it portrays. Irrespective of whether or not Sam Childers has altruistic aims, the film depicts the confrontation between him and the terrorist actions of the Lord's Resistance Army, both motivated by their so-called Christian faiths. I hope my continued reading of Tolstoy's "The Kingdom of God is Within You", and eventually my reading of the biography of Martin Heidegger, will give me some sort of purchase on my understanding of this dilemma.

#18 Chato



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Posted 28 January 2013 - 03:15 PM

What is a synonym for "Belief?"

/bɪˈlif/ Show IPA

something believed; an opinion or conviction: a belief that the earth is flat.
confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof: a statement unworthy of belief.
confidence; faith; trust: a child's belief in his parents.
a religious tenet or tenets; religious creed or faith: the Christian belief.

We are all the slaves of semantics, and the conceptions formed by language.  

If I say, that "I believe in nothing at all" is that a rejection or an affirmation? It's certainly not what I intend to mean. So, if I say, "There are many things I believe in," that would on one level of meaning be false.

Well, I don't believe in the existence of evil. There is no such thing. :biggrin1:

"Everyone who has ever lived, has lived in modern times"

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