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.