Thursday, May 17, 2007

Philosopher's Carnival

The 47th Philosopher's Carnival is on at nichomachus.net . There are a number of good entries, I thought that The Philosopher vs. the Biblical Fundamentalist at The Space of Reasons and Sexual Perversion at the Florida Student Philosophy Blog were particularly interesting.

23 comments:

Samuel said...

The Space Of Reasons blog critises a number of bad theologies without ever hitting on a good one. A correct (though not immediately obvious) integration of the passages in Matthew works off the idea that Jesus' body is the church and his being the head. This idea is accepted pretty universally among trinitarians regardless of theology. The most logical (but not so widely held) extention of this common doctine is that Jesus' second coming began at pentecost and is still happening now, as the church grows. Jesus won't return in a "coming in the clouds" sense until it is time to remake the heaven and earth. As a result I wouldn't piss on a left-behind book if it was burning.

Samuel Douglas said...

Of course they are bad theologies, that's the point.
But is then your view a non-literalist one? Regardless of how many trinitarians accept it or not, once you admit that the correct interpretation is not the literal meaning of the text it begins to look a lot like a metaphorical/symbolic interpretation to me.

Which is fine, but you could not claim to be thoroughgoing a biblical literalist any longer.

Therefore you could be asked to justify why you interpret some sections literally and not others.

Rowan Blyth said...
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Rowan Blyth said...

Wouldn't the obvious response be to say that Jesus is God's avatar and hence not a prophet at all, thus escaping the "prophetic test". Hence Jesus can make any claim, prophetic, true or otherwise, and the Bible can still be taken literally. I mean he is the son of God, so he should be able to escape such worldly clauses.

Samuel said...

I am frankly staggered by the implication that being a no-literalist opens me to more criticisms than being a literalist. I think the Bible should be interpreted to mean what the text itself and the historical background suggest it means, which is surely the natural way to interpret any text. As you said, this means that the interpretation has to be discussed on a passage by passage basis. Given Jesus' known tendency to be metaphorical about almost everything bar his immediate surroundings and a few statements about his death, and the well demonstrated absurdity of a literal interpretation of the stement being discussed the suggestion that he was being metaphorical here approaches the bleeding obvious.

The why and how of the position that all (or none) of the Bible must be interpreted in a completely and equally literal fashion is opaque to me.

Leaving aside the difficulties in taking Jesus to be God's avatar I suspect the idea of the biblical God having an avatar capable of making false claims may have some problems. But I'm sure that Mr Blyth's post wasn't frivolously meant, and I look forward to a detailed explanation of his suggested response.

A pattern has developed on this blog. It goes like this, a) and b):

a)Sam B posts on religion

b)Sam B is exposed as a fool by every man and his yappy irritating dog.

I'm sure I can trust you all not to break a habit once formed.

Rowan Blyth said...

I am sad to say that my comment was intended to be very frivolous, though not really at anyones expense. It seemed a very silly paradox and was declared as such by its author, so I felt it deserved an equally silly response.

Of course if a prophet is the mouth piece of God, and God would not deceive, then neither would Jesus, if Jesus is taken to be the living embodiment of God.

It all reads like a quibble over whether Jesus would have been better to have used the word 'none' instead of 'some'.

Samuel Douglas said...

Samuel B:
Well I'm sorry we aren't more reasonable and rational.

And being non-literalist doesn't open you to more criticisms, just differnt ones, (that literalists may have hoped to avoid). I know that you aren't a literalist, and I can appreciate the difference between literal truth and truth. But in Philosophy actions and choices demand explanations, which is all we are asking of you here, and you have every right to ask the same of us, no matter how self-evident we hold our beliefs to be.

Samuel said...

I am once again beset by the suspicion that I'm not the only one to change my opionons as they are examined. Apart from that everyone seems to be perfectly rational.

Samuel Douglas said...

Apart from that?
If we didn't change our opinions, or at least allow ourselves the possibility of changing them due to examination, then how could we claim to be rational.

Not changing our opinions, even when examination gives us good reason to do just this would seem to be distinctly irrational.

Samuel said...

What I was reffering to can be expressed in this example:

Someone says something. Then someone else responds to it as if that something contained idea X. The first person then makes a statement whose validity rests on their first statement not containing idea X. Looking at their fist statement alone it could contain/suggest/assume idea X, and it could plausibly not contain idea X. The first speaker may have changed their opinion between the time they made their first statement, and then they may not have. But either way, they will almost certainly say that they always thought what their most recent statement claims.

I'm sure most people are familiar with both sides of this situation. I don't think that it is rational (or at least not honest) to change one's opinion and then claim that one hasn't changed it. But I have no way of saying for sure weather that has happened here.

MH said...

Other Samuel – your observation is something that has interested me occasionally over the course of Dialectic. What you’ve identified is the fundamental discursive process. – a statement is made, it is interpreted and the interpretation relied upon in response. It is happening as I write this comment. I have looked at yours, read it, and am replying with a consideration of something that interests me.

I think that, if you look at any of the protracted discussions, it is what does on. It means that discussions oft amble along tangents.

I have thought that the process arises from the limits of the media. A comment, depending on how it is written, can be difficult to interpret. Especially in discussions of the kind that occur here, a single word with multiple connotations can lead to crossed purposes. A sarcastic comment can be indistinguishable from a series contribution to the discussion.

Is it a problem? I don’t think so. I think that it is what actually occurs in the philosophical process.

I would like to sketch some more expansive thoughts on this topic at some point. Possibly draw a comparison with the similar process that occurs in Plato’s dialogues.


All – this has been a short aside. On the subject of interpreting the Christian scripture, I would commend the approach employed by Onfray in ‘The Atheist Manifesto’ (2007). My commendation should not be taken as agreement or approval of Onfray’s account or position. I am critical of the work as a whole, and disagree with his fundamental thesis, but I think most of the contributors will find it an interesting read.

Sam said...

Samuel B: How can you be sure that they held opinion X in the first place? Maybe you just mis-interpreted them. Ironically I'm almost certain that you are guilty of this so-called tactic, but I'll save putting words in your mouth for another time.

Samuel said...

Sam D:
The entire point of my last post, (stated quite explicitly and then repeated by a subsequent poster) was that I can't know whether they held opinion X or not. And if you look at my second post you will see that I'm fairly sure that I do this, and merely suspect other people of doing it. It seems that you have not "saved putting words in my mouth for another time". MH seems to be suggesting that this is a natural and perhaps necessary part of conversation, in which case none of this is a problem anyway.

Samuel Douglas said...

Sam B: You are right, sorry for being difficult.

MH: I don't think there are any copies of Onfray's book in Newcastle yet. Given how far behind the rest of civilization we are, and the perception by the University that there is more money in religion than not (what, no new B Atheology degree?) it may never happen.

Samuel said...

No worries Sam D.

"The Athiest Manifesto" isn't on NEWCAT. Promising though this may be, I'm not expexting to find an easy route to riches anytime soon.

MH said...

Other Samuel - I would not put it so highly as 'an ordinary part of conversation', as I am uncertain if it is, but I would claim that it is an ordinary and natural feature of discourse (of which this undertaking is an example). Whether it is un-problematic is a matter I feel unable to comment on presently.

Sam, did Neitzsche not lay some indictment against those who express pity?

Samuel said...
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Samuel said...

MH: you provide an interesting example of the very topic that has overrun the comments thread of a post about religion. You quote the words 'an ordinary part of conversation', in a way that suggests (to me) that you read them somewhere in the previous four or five posts. But by expressing lack of agreement with those words you may be changing your position, because if those words were indeed recently posted, it wasn't by anyone named Sam, other or otherwise. Perhaps your inability to comment on weather or not it is problematic to change one's opinion within a conversation is also an example of doing exactly that; the statements "I don't think so" and then, later "I am unable to comment" may or may not be symptomatic of such a change. Only you can know, if anyone can.

Other Sam: perhaps Neitzsche's attack on pity could be taken as support for the verbalisation of outworn puns?

MH said...

Other Samuel – I’ve just been re-reading the early posts. You make two points I would like clarified (preferably in fresh posts, given that the original topic was the announcement of a Philosopher’s Carnival not a theological comment – you introduced that theme).

I. “I think the Bible should be interpreted to mean what the text itself and the historical background suggest it means, which is surely the natural way to interpret any text. As you said, this means that the interpretation has to be discussed on a passage by passage basis.”

II. “Given Jesus' known tendency to be metaphorical about almost everything bar his immediate surroundings and a few statements about his death.”

Samuel said...

The editor can correct me if I'm wrong, but the comments section of a post about an article struck me as the natural place to comment on that article.

The intended substance of I. is that it seems unnatural to interpret the Bible in a monolithic literal or non-literal way. II. is a not wildly controversial claim that Jesus used a lot of metaphors during His time on earth.

MH said...

The Editor may correct me as to any subsequent change in policy, but the original editorial policy was that, should you wish to comment on an article, you could comment on a post linking to that article where the article was the main subject. This is not such a case – the subject was the Carnival. It would have been more appropriate to create a new post.

Other Samuel – on your, rather brief, responses. I simply wonder how you propose to under take the approach detailed in I and how you can know II.

From my rather disadvantaged vantage point, it appears one would have to be a considerable scholar to undertake consideration of the Christian Scripture in the way you propose. One would not only have to be fluent in classical languages, but in the history, literature and culture of several distinct cultures. The more one considers the elements that one would need to be fluent in to understand the historical background accurately, the larger such a project becomes. I wonder how anyone could consider the whole of the scriptures in this way.

On II, you are making a claim akin to ‘it is not a wildly controversial claim that Socrates used a lot of metaphors during his life’. Suppose Plato, to choose one available source, ‘recorded’ Socrates regularly employing metaphor. From that evidence it might be possible to make the uncontroversial claim that the Platonic Socrates, figure of this philosophical discourse in his own right, regularly employs metaphor, but it would be controversial to make the further claim that the actual historical Socrates regularly used metaphor. I will concede the Scriptural Jesus employs metaphor. But I wonder how you, at approximately two-thousand years remove and reliant on unreliable sources, can ‘know’ the historical Jesus had a tendency to employ metaphor? Before you respond ‘I was referring to the Scriptural Jesus’, I would remind you that such a claim is going to be problematic. Firstly because it involves a claim of personal identity; a claim the historical Jesus is the same as the Scriptural Jesus. Secondly, it is arguable that there is not a single Scriptural Jesus but at least four, and thus an amalgam is going to require justification as to which elements from which Scriptures are relevant (Which would be an interesting power/knowledge claim to consider in Foucauldian terms …)

I, having reached a point where distraction relieves the mundane, look forward you your clarification of these matters.

Samuel said...

To MH's assertion that one would need to be somewhat of a scholar to interpret the bible in the way I propose, I would answer "Yes".

Furthermore, MH seems well able to make II controversial all by himself, refuting my claim above that I was not making a controvesial claim.

Recognising the distance that this discussion has reached from the original post I will enter a new post if I find that I have anything more to say on the matter, and if I can get the requisite function to work for me. And I may not have any more amusing insights to offer, seeing as I am not fluent in classical languages and so on.

MH could also argue for the claim that there are four spiritual Jesus' a little more thoroughly before expecting my response to be subject to the consequences of that claim.

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