Sunday, September 30, 2007

I'm in agreement with most of Harris' arguments

Whenever Harris mentions God, he is not talking about the transcendent experience of God. He is not talking about the God that Father Thomas Keating talks about. He is not talking about Spirit or the Absolute nature of reality. He is referring to a mythic God -- a God that "is located not on this earth but in a heavenly paradise not of this world, entrance to which is gained by living according to the covenants and rules given by this God to his peoples."
Since I'm still technically a Christian (i.e. Catholic by virtue of birth), I picked up the book and started reading the book with some expectation that I would be offended with what Harris has to say. However, I soon found out that I'm in agreement with most of his arguments especially when it comes to the infallibility of the Bible, divinity of Jesus, creation and evolution, intelligent design, moral intuitions and even his stance on controversial topics like stem cell research...
In the meantime, I highly recommend the book, Letters to a Christian Nation, to people of all faiths. That is, people who are able to suspend their faith for a while and be tolerant enough not to get offended when their faith is subjected to critical analysis. That would be some people at stage 3 (exiting) and people at stage 4 and stage 5 in James Fowler's stages of faith.

Kentegral lie

Ken is still allowing people to write “Wilber is one of the most highly regarded philosophers today”. By whom? A select group in the US.
I can assure you that Wilber is hardly known here in Oz, let alone the rest of the world, and if he is known it more as a New Age pseudo-philosopher. You can pick up any book by genuinely well-regarded modern philosophers and find no reference to Wilber.
  • So why allow this obvious lie to be printed?
  • Does Wilber think that serious people don’t understand the difference between hype and genuine credibility?
  • Now if Ken wants to be taken seriously and to avoid the New Age tag, then why does he do this regular gig with Cohen in a magazine that carries ads for a range of dubious teachers and products?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Comte, Hegel, and Marx: the cult of “super-causes”

Conspiracy-mongers practice a phony, pseudo-intellectual sophistication based on the belief that simple or apparent causes are illusory. In their eyes, all causes are hidden, and only a fool would believe a story as it unfolds. Invariably, they say, people in positions of authority lie to cover up the true motivation for their actions.
The obsession with conspiracies hearkens back to the revolt against science and reason championed by Comte, Hegel, and Marx. They popularized a projection of the imagination onto reality, which resulted in the cult of “super-causes,” detached from any actual human experience.
The conspiracy crowd continues that tradition, that crusade against the slow accumulation of evidence that is characteristic of scientific inquiry. Knowledge, a treasure acquired through substantial toil, is rendered superfluous, even to the point of being an obstacle to the “truth.” Why study the intricate details of history when you know that the corrupt capitalist system invariably launches wars against helpless Third World nations in order to exploit their natural resources?
The explanation for this revolt against science and reason is complex, but I believe part of it lies in the fact that modern man has been deprived of the ability to attribute causes to higher powers. Previous generations could attribute the vicissitudes of life to miracles, demons, divine intervention, or fate, like the ancient Greek belief in the Moirae, the arbiters of destiny.
The Enlightenment stripped man of these outlets, replacing them with the colder tools of reason and objective analysis. As a reaction, the early 19th century witnessed a flood of pseudo-scientific formulas, among them Hegel’s inexorable laws of historical development. In an attempt to transcend science, these charlatans gave us a new set of “higher powers,” thereby leaving a legacy of superstition that still plagues us today. Published by Gary on September 24th, 2007 Filed under Marxism, Totalitarianism

Hegel’s work is a connection to the work of Nicholas of Cusa

Sunday, September 23, 2007 I Am Also a Hegelian I have studied the works of Friedrich Hegel far enough to say that his work is aligned to the work of the major personalities I discuss in my book, The First Scientific Proof of God...
All Western religions must adapt to the newness I bring with Hegel and my book. Although I view Hegel’s work as a connection to the work of Nicholas of Cusa, the writings of Hegel do not tell the reader of this connection. I believe that Hegel does not make this connection so that potential problems between the Protestant and Catholic churches are minimized. Since my book discusses the work of Nicholas, the reader of my book will recognize immediately the connections between Nicholas and Hegel. The book "Hegel: The Essential Writings by Frederick G. Weiss" is thus recommended by me.
Essentially, science has become lost today because its scientists are not developing the human mind with dialectics. This is why I have spoken often about ‘the ugly English language’ on my website. To hold on to something as they move into the unknown, modern scientists accepted empiricism and rejected with metaphysics. But as I said in Part I of my book, there was no winner between the empiricists and the rationalists at the time of Kant. Kant could not reconcile them because the meanings of Aristotle’s categories were not developed dialectically. However, today’s scientists did not take heed to the announcement in Part I of my book on the linguistic discovery in the 1920s. This discovery says ‘that sensual data are primarily symbolic.’ The discoveries of many laws of physics already are thus not mysteries.
Mind is not an image of sensations. Like all things, the mind is a thing in itself. As I say, the mind is the first thing unfolded by God so that it can measure all other things. So, my use of spiritual atoms is appropriate. Mind begins to develop and seeks the goal of pure reasoning by continually refuting negative or bad reasoning. This goal has no end because the opposites --- beginning and ending --- coincide in God. For the same reason, we cannot create or destroy energy. posted by George Shollenberger @ 10:49 AM

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

More religious scholars are needed to start actively and aggressively calling this shit out

Jake P. Says: September 25, 2007 at 5:51 am
Oh I like Kierkegaard to a degree anyway; that’s one of the reasons I always include him when teaching 19th century philosophy. There are even times I prefer him to his arrogant prick counterpart Nietzsche. (But in front of the students, I’m also Nietzschean ;)
Anthony Paul Smith Says: September 25, 2007 at 7:48 am
Christ on a cracker!
N&P does have a few things on religion, but I wouldn’t say it is the focus. Has a few good things to say and then ultimately decides that religion is more productive of reactive forces than active forces (I’m paraphrasing mightily here).
Shit like this is why more religious scholars are needed, not less, and why they need to start actively and aggressively calling this shit out. And of the kind that says, “No, really, this wasn’t even meant to be taken literally when it was just the Hebrews reading it.” A shit, backwards Christian university Biblical scholar wouldn’t even say you should take that literally (I know, I attended one and had to take a survey course on the Old Testament). And it is not just academic scholars that say stuff like this. I’m just really, really shocked that the school board would cave to something so weak.
As to the fairy tale comment, I had an econ teacher, one of the best teachers I ever had in high school, challenge my then held beliefs. I thought this was, you know, part of an education. Just like I had my then liberal beliefs challenged by an old school conservative history teacher. We’ve really lost sight of what it means to think in this country (yet again) and I don’t know what the solution is.
Keep your head down and suck up to your students. (Almost makes you sympathize with Sarkozy wanting reform the education system so that students show respect for their instructors… almost.)
Evgeni V. Pavlov Says: September 25, 2007 at 5:49 pm
there’s probably more involved in the situation in Iowa and it’s very likely difficult to show the cause and effect but even if it is the reason for being fired, i suppose it is quite sad that education is seen as a kind of experience that excludes the real challenge. however, i think if the theme of the offense is raised - people do get offended by the beliefs of others, think, for example, about genital mutilation or other cultural rites some find repulsive and “anti-human” - it needs to be openly addressed in class. although it doesn’t always help, i usually say in the beginning of my course that i might offend someone with my own interpretations of philosophy (not even theology) but that hopefully the educational environment that i will attempt to create during the course would prevent anyone from truly believing that i am intentionally putting them down. i.e. i think it depends on a teacher as well: i say some pretty aweful things in my class, but since most students know i’m an open-minded and sarcastic person, no one takes it personally and just has a good laugh. but then again i’m european and often my eccentric behavior is attributed to my origin.
PS. i like your selection for the intro course - i threw in Aurelius’s Meditations into my Ethics course and i think it works much better (for me) than even good old Plato and Aristotle.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Including philosophy of science and the question of criteria for theological formulations

leron, i think such a reconstructive engagement is indeed necessary, especially if we view the history of the church as having to engage creatively, and even, at times, radically, with contemporary thought. and i certainly believe that the alternatives (sealing 'theology' and 'science' off from one another) are not sound, even if they might achieve some short term success.
however, i do have some potential concerns, derived only from what i know about your project from the few paragraphs of your introduction:
i would be concerned that such 'reconstruction' not give the lie too much with science--grant science too much authority in shaping theological thought; in other words, that iworry that theology's job or the role of the church is to play 'catch up' to contemporary thought in philosophy, science, or what have you--this is the story of post-enlightenment liberal protestant theology. so, how would this project differ from those?
it also seems to me that a significant amount of contemporary scientific thought should be run through the lens, not of contemporary christian thought, but through the fathers. i want to see the tension between 'ancient-future' remain palpable, not dissolved into a 'future' that is premised on some neo-darwinian theory of christianity's evolution.
i worry about the hubris of contemporary science in its enlightenment form and the subsequent problem of 'doing science' in its wake, was a way of 'adapting' to its truth. i am intrigued by the work of social epistemologist and science historian steve fuller, who is very much interested in the necessity of 'lost' or 'defeated' scientific knowledge being re-excavated in contemporary discourse. in fact, he's been publically supportive of intelligent design as an important part as an important participant in scientific discourse. his constructivist understanding of science seems to counter the hubris of science as the present-day answer to all our problems, including spiritual ones.
i would hope that such reconstruction can also offer a rigorous and apt criticism of contemporary thought, in whatever form that takes, even in science. i'd be concerned that a reconstructivist theology might place dogma 'up for grabs' in the face of scientific discoveries. and so i'd be interested in exploring what of dogma wouldn't be up for grabs and how those determinations would be made.
Posted by: daniel a. siedell September 24, 2007 at 10:27 AM
Hi Daniel,
Yes, you've identified some very real and important concerns.
I agree that theology should not try to "catch up" with science, as you put it. In fact, I think it should in some cases actually be taking a lead in the discourse. One important way to do this is through engage in philosophical reflection on concepts like difference, temporality, etc.
I also agree that we should engage the fathers and the rest of the Christian tradition, but the WAY in which we do this, in my view, is not to repeat what they said, which was couched in the terminology of their own scientific and philosophical assumptions, but to do what they did: articulate the transforming experience of the biblical God in ways that show its illuminative power in our own cultural context(s).
This includes dealing with the issues you have raised, including philosophy of science and the question of criteria for theological formulations.
I've tried to do these and other things in the book.
For this post, I'm especially interested in encouraging us to think about the role of our own fear and desire, and how these affect the way we react to the possible dialogue between theology and science.
What do we fear most, and why?
What do we desire most, and why?
Posted by: LeRon September 25, 2007 at 01:09 AM
Hello LeRon,
I suppose in Europe there is a deep seated skepticism about about the Christian message ( hangover from medaevil times, scientific nonsense, religion is an evil that has caused many wars etc.) I speak as ordinary rank and file Christian who finds it a real challenge to maintain confidence in the Christian message in the wake of such an onslaught. My fear in any such dialogue is that the non-negotiable essentials of the message are surrendered in the pursuit ot trying to make the message credible to modern ears. (I have seen this happen in the dialogue between Christianity and postmodern philosphy in for example the growing influence of 'religion without religion' theology of J Caputo on the emerging church.) If your project can deal with the tension of articulating the transforming experience of God in new ways yet remain rooted within the Christian tradition then it can make a much needed contribution to trying to wrestle with the problems of being a Christian in 21st century Europe.
all the best,
Posted by: rodney neill September 25, 2007 at 04:05 AM

All philosophical taxidermy is repugnant falsification of actual philosophical thought

Adam Says: September 21st, 2007 at 8:18 am To formalize Kierkegaard in Zizek’s terms, first Abraham has the “pro-family” God — the one who is going to make him a great nation, etc. This God lines up with the general cultural expectations, but is going to make Abraham (despite present appearances to the contrary) especially successful in that regard. This God is basically in harmony with the shared cultural big Other of the time — Sittlichkeit, let’s say (the “universal,” which Kierkegaard is drawing from Hegel). Then he gets a second message that doesn’t make sense in terms of the big Other — kill Isaac.
So okay. Then we have Lenin. By 1917, the entire world has collapsed around him. His big Other is Marxist theory, but the situation no longer seems to cohere with it — but despite the fact that Marxism says revolution can’t happen in a place like Russia, etc., he is convinced that the time for revolution is now and that not seizing it will mean delaying it for decades. So he steps out and does it — which not only creates a massive change in the overall geopolitical situation, but also introduces a qualitative change into Marxist theory itself. This change having been made, I would argue that Lenin himself collapses into perversion, such that Marxism-Leninism becomes the new big Other or Sittlichkeit, and then Stalin continues this degradation all the more. Marxist-Leninist theory underwrites the “historical necessity” through which Stalin justifies his horrible crimes — he has no comparable “Kierkegaardian” moment. (If you think he does, then be my guest — but you are going to end up more sympathetic toward Stalin than Zizek is, and you’re going to have to be clear that Zizek is somehow underwriting your idiosyncratic Stalin.)
You’re, again, placing too much emphasis on the bare fact that “God” is talking to people. In Zizek’s terms, we all get messages from “God” (the big Other), we all believe in that God — the teleological suspension of the ethical means discarding the God we previously knew.
It’s a risk, but if the odds were known or even knowable ahead of time, it would still be “covered” by some overarching scheme or big Other. The risk here is worse than “long odds” — it is 100% guaranteed to be wrong in terms of the given situation. (For instance, it’s not like there was only a 10% chance that revolution could happen in Russia in Marxist terms — it had to be an advanced capitalist country. Or there’s the more obvious example of killing your son.)
It doesn’t make sense to me to claim that Abraham had, say, a 50/50 chance of being right about this whole “sacrifice Isaac” thing — risk is the only word I can think of for that situation, but the connotations of “playing the odds” are not appropriate. If you can’t deal with that kind of ambiguity, then for your own good, stop reading Kierkegaard!
Anthony Paul Smith Says: September 21st, 2007 at 8:20 am ‘Seriously, this is another one of those things Kierkegaard anticipates. If this is just one of those things that was perfectly normal way back when - however that might have been - then Abraham wasn’t the father of faith.’
No! It’s not the fact that God communicates with Abraham that makes him the father of faith. What is not perfectly normal about Abraham is his response to God. Read Genesis, as Kierkegaard did, and you’ll see that God is talking to people from the get go way up until the end (though it gets more and more indirect).
It’s also not clear to me you understand the ethical in Kierkegaard. It’s not that you’re free from having to mess about with the good or concrete acts of charity. In non-Kierkegaardian terms you are confusing what is called for by a transcendental, “the good”, with the infinite demand of a radical transcendence. This is much clearer in Practice in Christianity than in Fear and Trembling. And of course the Postscript is helpful here too. This is all a bit off topic with regard to Zizek though since I’m not at all sure he has read either of those texts, though he really should just for his own upbuilding if he is really committed to this whole Protestant secular theology thing.
Re: Lenin. I think it is a gross oversimplification that leads one to total falsification. At the very least you aren’t going to convince anyone who is sympathetic with Lenin and read him, though you will certainly get a lot of head-nods from others who are unsympathetic. To be quite fair I can’t really take you to task for not knowing your Lenin better; you’re a liberal who initially supported the Iraq war. And your Lenin = utilitarian is certainly supported by other liberal critiques of Lenin (like Service, though his is a more complete picture than you have, even as you hide it under ‘broadly’).
For me, and this isn’t a majority view and you certainly are not going to change your mind becuase of me, all philosophical taxidermy is repugnant falsification of actual philosophical thought. I just don’t find them helpful and very, very unpersuasive. In the ecosystem of thought I’m a Gleasonian. Still, I know it is not a popular view, but if you come back at me with some bullshit about how I don’t actually believe this I’ll ban you from the site.
Anthony Paul Smith Says: September 21st, 2007 at 8:24 am ‘This change having been made, I would argue that Lenin himself collapses into perversion, such that Marxism-Leninism becomes the new big Other or Sittlichkeit, and then Stalin continues this degradation all the more.’
To be fair Lenin never considered himself a Leninist of the grand order. But this is still an open debate about how much of the blame of Stalinism can be laid at the feet of Lenin and hardliners of both sides really grasp at straws here.
Anthony Paul Smith Says: September 21st, 2007 at 8:33 am Actually if I remember correctly it was Stalin who coined the term Leninism in a pamphlet by the same name.

The issue that really separates East and West

The Most Pernicious of Heresies by Adam September 24th, 2007
Could the teachings of Meister Eckhart on the total extinguishing of the will and its replacement by God’s be a kind of “blowback” from the fact that the controversy over monothelitism was apparently never fully understood in the West? It’s especially telling that monothelitism is apparently not among the heresies of which he was accused. Perhaps this, rather than the filioque, is the issue that really separates East and West.
People make fun of it as a minor heresy, but monothelitism packs a punch. Posted by Adam Filed in Meister Eckhart, monothelitism 3 Responses to “The Most Pernicious of Heresies”
Daniel Says: September 24th, 2007 at 2:06 pm Does anyone seriously think the filioque is what’s keeping the East and West from reuniting? I mean, it’s something everyone mentions when writing polemics, but it hardly seems like a plausible candidate for a real breaking-point. It was an exculpation, not a justification.
I think monothelitism gets downplayed because after you’ve worked through the Nestorian mess nobody cares about any heresy beginning with “mono.” Too much time has already been lost trying to puzzle out what was really at issue in all that dreck; another heresy which sounds a little like Nestorianism is not what anyone wants to spend time on. So you briefly mention it and then move on to the iconoclasts. At least, this is how I learned church history.
Adam Says: September 24th, 2007 at 2:12 pm I was talking about the level of theology, not the ecclesiastical separation — maybe this matter of the will is a more significant difference than the filioque.
I do think you’re right that after Nestorianism, everyone’s tired of petty distinctions. A HUGE MISTAKE!!! An und für sich “This is more a comment than a question…”

I think of writing and philosophy as being closer to producing tools or making an artwork

sixfootsubwoofer Says: September 21, 2007 at 11:24 pm
Thank you, Dan and larvalsubjects, for giving such detailed replies to my queries. It was very encouraging for me to have my concerns addressed so directly and thoughtfully.
Dan reminded me of how “philosophical revelations” are not just directed at or akin to artistic endeavors but are, in Nietzsche sense, always already artistic”, and that is precisely what drove me toward philosophy and theory. As a young music student, falling in love with Steve Reich led to falling even more deeply in love with Deleuze. A love of film became a fascination with film theory. It’s gotten to the point that an intelligent observer of poetry or novels will find more pleasure in the latest Zizek book than in most recently published novels, I feel. It is the “game playing” of theory that makes it closer to art than science, and this is its strength as well as its weakness.
It has been my goal to be a philosophically and theoretically-informed artist, and I’ve had a bit of success for my efforts. But “success” can only be defined as myself having made works that, to me, include the philosophical criteria I’ve mandated the work to have, and not success as far as making a career for myself as an intellectual artist. I realize now that if I want to make art that addresses and/or includes the themes (or forms, or structures) that theory/philosophy deal with, I will be doing so in a much tighter ghetto than even the most arcane of intellectuals reside. Searching for current artists who stick to Badiou’s Theses On Contemporary Art here in NYC is like rooting for truffles in a desert.
Here, larvalsubjects, is where I feel like I should soldier on, because if you yourself can so poetically express your own doubts and feelings of futility as regards your philosophical practice, then I can find the courage to overcome mine in regards to my artistic practice. I think recently I have been drawn to the rigor and discipline that the study of philosophy necessitates. Artistic practice however must depend on rigor and discipline that somehow creates ruptures within logic and reason, and it seems here that the two disciplines take radically different courses.
Ha, it would be great to see a film made by someone like Slavoj Zizek and/or read a theoretical paper written by someone like Santiago Sierra.
Whereas you think that your feelings of futility in your philosophical pursuits have nothing to do with philosophy and have a personal psychoanalytic reason, I must, as an outsider to philosophy, point out a possible reversal.
Dan’s reminder that “theory is filled with vestiges and contradictions that make a hard nexus harder”, that it should not be viewed as different than set theory or genetics in its opacity to popular understanding, is only half right. In fact, art has dealt extensively with difficult disciplines such as physics, genetics and set theory, if not with a full understanding of them or their recent findings, then with at least an intention to use such disciplines as subject matter, to bring them to attention within the wider culture. Few artists investigate leftist theory unless it is to ironically comment on its unintelligibility. (I, myself, have only gained acknowledgement from works that employ such trivial investigations, while works that attempt to get at the “substance” of theoretical discourse are ignored.) Such artists are scorned in the US and are only paid attention to because of prior, less political or theoretical (not art theory, which truly IS a miasma of pointless game playing) work.
So I am saying, larvalsubjects, that I feel your nagging sense of futility has everything to do with philosophy itself. Philosophy is dying to get out and get some fresh air. It’s crying for attention from those outside its own family. Likewise, “Art” is dying for a new injection of philosophical concepts, a new “fix”. This is not just a problem with smug academicians keeping themselves in jobs, but rather also with an art culture unable or unwilling to comprehend philosophy past the graduate level. This seems to me to be a double disavowal that is need of serious academic, as well as artistic and cultural, investigation.
When Zizek or Badiou speaks here in NYC at an art gallery, the place is packed. They speak at a university or cultural center, and half the seats remain empty. Art has a hunger for philosophy that is insatiable, and I do feel that philosophy could throw out more than the bones that they currently give us. After Baudrillard’s bastardization by artists in the 80’s, it only seems natural that philosophers would be reticent to interact with them. As Zizek says, he is more afraid of being accepted than rejected, and rightly so.
However, Burroughs once said, “painting is miles ahead of writing”. I think now we’re experiencing sort of the opposite: philosophy is light-years ahead of the arts. What will it take to close the gap? Blogs are a great starting point, one for which I am very thankful! But I feel more traditional “outreach” programs could help.
Dan Says: September 23, 2007 at 5:33 pm
I am just back. You say “The thing itself is a launching point into an analysis of its genetic conditions.” The “thing itself” is — as Adorno teases out best — an antimony that cannot stand even on its own terms much less as a beginning foundational object for “genesis.” So, I cannot accept your interpretation of the D passages you mobilize in defense of this interp. The concept of thing that you maintain seems to have an epistemic and ontological perdurance that I see as the sign of an idealistic imposition which then registers itself — in its own mind as it were — as necessary since it has already formalized itself as the structure of interpretation. So you say in your response “By necessity I have in mind an immanent structure or organization that unfolds within a particular thing like a musical theme or style” This is exactly the Kantian having your cake and eating it too — if the object is the “unfolding” of an “immanent structure” then that “expression” is but a redaction of a Platonism, a parole of an extant langue the object manifests. So that is what I mean by your “sublation of the process”: an allusion to the Hegel solution to the circularity intrinsic to the Kantian argument: that is to sacrifice the self-similarity of any instance to a transhistorical process by which — the philosophical return of Christ — reaches (it projects) the absolute. But D — reacting to Hegel through Hyppolite –specific eschews difference under the Absolute for difference without regulation. You reconstitute something like the Cartesian subject in the “object itself” (indeed, I think this is the definition of the Cartesian subject) . But we see from (335). “What is expressed is sense….that was everywhere lacking in Cartesianism.” Sense is not the unfolding of something immanent in the “object itself”: the object itself is not and never was or will be, rather such a concept is an x-ed out term that wishes to act with the x as its shield rather than its denial (Derrida is good on this). The series is not variations on a theme anymore than the rhizome is a flower on a stem.
larvalsubjects Says: September 23, 2007 at 6:50 pm
Dan, I really haven’t the foggiest notion as to what you’re talking about, nor do I see how what I’m claiming is any different than what you’re claiming beyond my use of the rather unfortunate term the “thing itself”. The whole point is that there’s no “thing itself”. It sounds like you’re attributing some belief in a thing in-itself to me, or rather a belief in an unchanging substance lying beneath change. Fortunately I wasn’t looking for you to “endorse” my interpretation or correct me– a practice that implicitly suggests a belief in a text in-itself underlying textual play –but attempting to work out some understanding of Deleuze. If you have something interesting and useful to add beyond rather stale deconstructive gestures and policing, that would be most welcome and even interesting.
larvalsubjects Says: September 23, 2007 at 7:32 pm
Ah, rereading the original paper I see where you’re getting this from. I had entirely forgotten the later portions of the essay, as the issues I’ve focused on since revolve around Deleuze’s accounts of genesis, production, and individuation. Read Bergsonism where Deleuze outlines his method. According to Deleuze, the first step of Bergson’s method of intuition begins with mixed composites or things themselves, and then breaks them down into differences in degree on one side and differences in kind on the other. On a number of occasions Deleuze claims that the concept must coincide with the thing itself. Of course, for Deleuze, concepts are not ideas inside the head, but are themselves beings or entities. Having first approached Deleuze with a background in Kant, Hegel, and Husserl’s notion of categorical intuition, I found such claims deeply mysterious (based on Hegel’s first move in the sense-certainty chapter) and have since struggled with how he could possibly make such claims, given the daunting difficulties with talk of mediation. It seems to me the strongly Derridean reading you make here and elsewhere makes for uncomfortable bedfellows with Deleuze. To put it crudely, where Derrida repetitively shows how something is not possible, how something undermines itself, and how the metaphysics of presence is perpetually contaminated from within, Deleuze seems uninterested in deconstructing the metaphysical tradition or perpetually showing how the conditions of possibility are conditions of impossibility. This does not entail that he advocates a metaphysics of presence– his Bergsonian conception of time and Nietzschean account of becoming and the eternal return seem to be evidence of having moved beyond this tradition –just that he does not go the skeptical route that Derrida seems to go. In this regard, Deleuze seems to differ from all the other French thinkers of his generation in engaging in traditional philosophical projects of explaining the various things in the world (Badiou would be another notable exception), rather than playing the part of the sophist or skeptic.
As an aside, you seem to be attributing far more rigor to my reflections than perhaps they warrant. I suspect this is a sort of transcendental illusion produced by texts on a page, where the intentional structure at work in them suggests a finished product that is all there at once, complete and self-contained, when phenomenologically we can never encounter that whole but must produce it in the time of reading, and where the text itself was the result of a genesis that was itself groping, uncertain, and surprising even to the person doing the writing. I think of writing and philosophy as being closer to producing tools or making an artwork, than as representations. Just as the toolmaker endlessly tinkers with his inventions, finding them somewhat useful for this task, useless for that, needing in modification, interesting to work with, falling flat, etc., I think a lot of what I do here has that sort of status. Hence the name “Larval subjects” for this blog. Or to take up one of the analogies I drew in the paper, different philosophies are akin to the difference between how a dog sees, smells, and hears the world and how a bat senses the world through sonar. Perhaps the best question isn’t whether it is true or false– we’d never ask whether bat sonar is true or false –but rather how such and such a thought allows us to see when we occupy such a thought. On these grounds, I find the sort of engagement you seem to be angling for– a critical and polemical engagement premised on somehow getting it right or conforming to a society of those against the metaphysics of presence –all but useless to what I’m up to.
Dan Says: September 24, 2007 at 10:39 pm
To my own cognition, neither my position nor my intention are those you seem to find in me. That is not to say you are incorrect, but only that these are not my most immediate understanding. To speak affirmatively, my engagement with this material is for joy in participation. In the thinking engagement with the world and you, your blog, and the ideas at hand mostly I get pleasure. I can see in myself — a reflection I do not pursue — a certain conditioned aggression toward the encounter. Still, I would not fully subscribe to either a purity of method or a fixity of truth that you seem to think I desire.
For me, engagement with intensity is an honor and, in the narrow confines of my mind, it is my honor to you, but that, it is clear, does not translate well. Enough, I hope, about my “intentions” and “feelings.” As to my position, I did, it’s true, mention Derrida parenthetically in regard to one facet, but I am not a Derridian and think I disagree with him to the degree I can though I take great pleasure from him and find him - at times - very funny. Indeed, I feel closest to Deleuze though not always the same D you find but close enough for fun — at least fun for me. It’s funny then too for me that you see in me some rigor since I generally find rigor itself unrigorous. Still, I am serious about my comedy of ideas where comedy is the irruption that follows the discovery of the contingency and limit of that which was — perhaps the moment before — self-certain. Still, I fear I have — again — become either opaque or stale and formulaic. Let me tie this, as an anchor, to a quotation from the book I think you may be referencing in your reply, Bergsonism. There he writes (103) "difference is never negative but essentially positive and creative.”
I do not have the French but I could “push” this utterance in a couple ways I think D would want it pushed. These would be quibbles with the word “difference” and the word “essentially” but these would not say anything unanticipated, but the (useful I hope) question would be: what if anything is to be done about the almost invariant tendency of expression to decay into the expressions of the same for — in Peirce’s meaning — pragmatic reasons? That is that what you seemed to see as my Deconstructionist sallies against you are but examples my concern about a tendency that seems resident and recalcitrant in a language as differential and elaborate as D’s — or yours. I am not I hope thereby “deconstructing” a philosophy of differencing but entering into a dialectic of sorts between such a philosophy and its expression. This then asks what might be the aesthetics or rhetorics which most allow thoughts of this order which takes us, by commodious vicus, back to the question of the best expression.

A religious passion in the absence of religion

One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin Monday, September 24, 2007
The Patterned Irrationality of the Left
In the unconscious mind, where symmetrical logic rules the night, the stronger the emotion one is feeling, the more "symmetrical deductions" are likely to occur.
For example, as Bomford writes, on a deep unconscious level, "one who hates has to believe that his or her hatred is returned." Note that this is a logical operation, only based upon a different sort of logic. This logic is no doubt the source of the psychotic fear of Israel in the Islamic world. Their unconscious hatred is so profound that it simultaneously reverses the relation, so that they can't help perceiving that Israel hates them. But Israelis just want to shop, raise their families, or read the Torah. They couldn't care less about Muslims, except to the extent that bloodthirsty Muslim barbarians harbor murderous rage toward them.
It's fine to hate evil, but in the Islamic world, what is hated is transformed into evil. Something is not hated because it is evil, but evil because it is hated. One could say the same of the left, which habitually fears what it eternally hates. The left cannot be comprehended unless one appreciates the extent of their unbound hatred. Once this is seen, what seems illogical is suddenly seen to obey the dictates of symmetrical logic. For example, the unconscious feeling that
I hate America and want us to lose in Iraq is transformed to General Petraeus is a traitor, or I am a racist becomes America is racist, or I am envious becomes the wealthy are engaged in class warfare against me!
Another characteristic of the unconscious is that it is timeless, in the sense that it can reverse temporal relations. For example, in the unconscious mind, if A is the cause of B, B can also be the cause of A. Thus, "before" and "after" become meaningless. Therefore, although we were inexcusably attacked by Islamists on 9-11, within minutes, leftists were saying that the real reason for the attack was that we had done something to offend Muslims.
Likewise, throughout the Cold War, leftist scholars wrote "revisionist" histories, in which the United States was the cause of the Cold War, or at least equally responsible for it. You will notice that there are no conservative revisionists who write, for example, that blacks were the cause of their own lynching, or that Japanese Americans were the cause of their own internment. You can only think in this manner if you are pathologically under the sway of unconscious symmetrical logic.
Also in the unconscious mind, there is no distinction between the memory of something that actually occurred vs. the memory of a fantasy. Here we can understand how and why the left is so prone to mythologizing the past, as their fantasies are mingled with reality.
Thus, no amount of reality and asymmetrical logic will ever convince them that FDR made the Great Depression worse, not better, or that the black family only began to disintegrate after the imposition of all the "Great Society" programs of the mid to late '60s. No amount of logic could convince a leftist that his policies harm the "little guy," since his ruling myth, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, is that he is here to rescue the hapless little guy (for whom the leftist always feels rich contempt in the unconscious mind, contempt which only seeps out everywhere).
One thing you will notice about the left is that they are passionate. Because the left is guided by feelings and intentions, they are blind to the results of their actions. If their feelings are infinitely good, then in the unconscious mind, the results must also be infinitely good. As I have written before, this is a religious passion in the absence of religion, so it has no traditional means to structure and channel it. ... posted by Gagdad Bob at 9/24/2007 08:33:00 AM

Saturday, September 22, 2007

We are all salespersons to different degrees, and use fallacies Saturday, September 22, 2007 News World National State News Politics Business Technology Industry Science Medicine Sports Education Entertainment Weather Opinion Latest Articles View Topics View Authors Features Latest Articles View Topics View Authors Community Town Hall CityBlogs Join Our List Other Sections Affiliates Advertise Video

Why Politicians are Liars Darrell Williams
author's email author's web site view author's other articles September 19, 2007

All presidents are politicians. All politicians are salespersons. All salespersons are liars. This may sound like a brazen conclusion, but in today’s world it is a reality that must be confronted and dealt with.

To begin with, we are all salespersons to different degrees, in our everyday lives. We all have something that we want to sell. We want to sell our boss on our talent or skills. We want to sell our neighbors on our friendliness or personality. Almost everything that we do, the style of clothes we wear, the model of car we own, our mannerisms and behavior are all carefully selected to sell ourselves, to attract the opposite sex, to increase our income or just to become more popular. Everyone in almost all professions are salespersons. A lawyer is trying to sell the jury on the defendant’s guilt or innocence. All public speakers are trying to sell the audience on whatever subject they are promoting; a book, an idea, an ideology or whatever. A politician is also trying to sell to the public his agenda, his ideology or his qualifications for an office he is seeking.

The statement that all salespersons are liars needs to be explained. There many different way in which a person can tell a lie. There are simple straightforward lies in which the liar is simply stating a fact that is false. Sometimes this type of lie, if repeated often enough will be believed by many, especially if it comes from someone in a place of authority. However most of the lies that people tell are more complicated and are better classified as fallacies. These are complex deceitful statements that are used to sell an idea by misleading claims. This is done by different individuals to different degrees for different purposes. Some are harmless but some are dangerous and illegal.

There are over 166 different ways in which a person can use fallacies to deceive or mislead someone. These can be summarized in several general classifications: emotionalism, propaganda, suggestion, irrelevance, diversion, ambiguity and inference, confusion and inference, cause and effect, oversimplification, comparison and contrast, evasion and verbal ambiguity. The best and most successful salespersons are those individuals who are clever enough to use these fallacies in complex combinations. If a fallacy is complex enough, even a thoughtful person will not recognize it.

Why was the statement made that all salespersons are liars? This is because all of the sales tactics learned in any sales training class are based on fallacies and all fallacies are intentionally deceptive. This is the definition of a lie. A lie is a statement that is intentionally deceptive. Fallacies are all lies. Many examples could be given. If one salesperson was well dressed and friendly and another salesperson was sloppy and rude, which one would you buy a product from? People would almost unanimously choose the first. This is a fallacy because the buyer is not buying the salesperson, they are buying their product. Their choice should be based on the characteristics of the product and not the characteristics of the salesperson. This is true of almost all fallacies. The fallacies have nothing to do with the product.

What a salesperson says and what they do and their product should be evaluated separately. This is especially true of politicians. In today’s professional advertising campaigns, politicians almost always read speeches written by professional speech writers. What a politician says in a beautiful patriotic speech should be clearly separated from their actual experience, their character, their qualifications and their real accomplishments in relevant professions. These political speech’s are essentially lies simply because no matter what they say, they were written by another person. The speaker is simply an actor reading another’s words. He is misleading because he is pretending that the ideas are his own.

The obvious question is why do salespersons use fallacies? Why don’t salespersons simply tell the truth? The answer to this is very simple. They use fallacies because they work. They sell products. People in general don’t spend a lot of time analyzing a sales pitch. They are easily swayed by a friendly smooth talking salesperson. Simple fallacies are the most effective way to sell any product, whether it is a used car, a political ideology, a religious creed or any consumer product. A salesperson (politician, lawyer, used car salesperson etc.) does not want to tell the whole truth. They only want to tell the potential buyer the good features of their produce, not the bad features. The detrimental result of this practice is that the buyer can only make a sound judgment if all features of a product are known. However this is irrelevant to the seller, who is only interested in making a sale.

In most of our daily activities, many of these sales judgments we make are trivial and not of significant importance. Choosing between two different TV sets or two automobiles may have little lasting consequences. Unfortunately, the general public’s habit of not analyzing a sales pitch about consumer products, which is not especially important, also have the same attitude toward sale pitches in other areas, such as politics, economics or law, which are very important.
In many situations, these choices may be of extreme importance. If a lawyer uses misleading fallacies, a guilty person may be freed or an innocent person may go to prison. A jury must be critically observant when any lawyer is being deceitful.

The nation’s news media also have the highest responsibility to tell the whole truth. As the fourth branch of government, the news media are the sources of information that the public relies on to make sound judgments about everything local or national. Fallacies and misleading articles have no place in any news media. Unfortunately these are quite common and contribute to the public making bad choices in elections.

This practice of using fallacies to mislead may be of even greater importance to our entire nation when these deceptive, misleading statements are made by the nation’s highest leaders. Our democratic system of government, in which the people are required to make judgments about issues that effect the entire nation, our economic well being or the peace of the world, demand that the nation’s leaders give to the people the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. In their critical positions, politicians and presidents must be held accountable for every fallacy or misleading statement that they give whether they are straightforward lies or deceptive propaganda. In general, selfish politicians lie to promote their own personal agenda and their own personal well being often to the detriment of the rest of the nation and the world.

The office of the president of the United States is not a private office to be used by any individual for private financial gain, personal ambition or self serving glorification for themselves or for any special interest groups. The office of the president exists to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and promote the peace and the best interests of the entire nation.

The president of the United States should never use fallacies, lies or any deceitful misleading statements in any speech either public or private for any reason whatsoever. The people must demand truthful leaders. The alternative can be disastrous.

Luhmann’s reasoning is similar to Nietzsche’s

In The Reality of the Mass Media Niklas Luhmann claims that media technology has the capacity to make certain events seem more frequent and omnipresent than in fact they are, by perpetually drawing attention to instances of these events. Thus, when an idiotic public school teacher prevents a student from reading the Bible because he doesn’t understand the first amendment and that it prevent him from leading students in prayer, religious affairs, etc., not students, this story is picked up in the news and creates the impression that such things are going on everywhere. Similarly, when a child is kidnapped or molested, the omnipresence of reporting on this event creates the impression that there is an epidemic of such occurrences.
According to Luhmann, this phenomenon serves a moralizing function for the social system, by steering the system to create legislation and other acts that prevent these occurrences. Luhmann’s reasoning is similar to Nietzsche’s in Beyond Good and Evil (or is it The Gay Science) where he argues that the criminal actually serves the morally useful function of reproducing morality.
Is this what is really going on? Is the world really this ugly, stupid, unjust? Or is this a sort of illusion produced by the magnifying effect of media technologies. At this point, tending to my garden looks like a fairly good option.

The Material Unconscious Posted by larvalsubjects August 12, 2015
Perhaps we would do best to call it the material unconscious. Freud famously said that there had been three blows to human narcissism: Copernicus and his decentering of the Earth, Darwin and his theory of evolution, and psychoanalysis and its discovery of the unconscious. 
  • With the first humanity learns that it is not at the center of the universe. 
  • With the second, humanity learns it is not markedly different from animals. 
  • With the third, humanity learns that it’s interiority is not in charge. 
  • With thingly thought, the thought of the object, we perhaps encounter a fourth blow to our narcissism: the way in which we are mediated by things. We dwell within a milieu of things, objects, or what I have elsewhere called machines. What we take to be our own agency, our own free choice, instead turns out in so many instances to be the agency of these things or machines acting upon us. 
The commodity, of course, captures us in the entire system of exploitation so brilliantly analyzed by Marx. Yet, as Baudrillard taught us, it is also a lure for desire that manages our desire, taming those desires that would be anarchic lines of flight, while also functioning as semiotic markers of identity, status, class, and so on, thereby functioning as sites in a politics of self and social relations. As Zizek suggests, the urban executive that drives the Land Rover does not simply display a practical, utilitarian mind set, but rather a certain unconscious fantasy that perhaps allows him to tolerate the world of capital. The commodity displays itself as a sort of shine to the Other, signaling certain social relations; even those commodities that claim to be transgressive and counter-cultural. Here, also, we might think of the pathologies that arise around the commodity such as hoarding, so well analyzed by Jane Bennett. There are also the terrifying hybrid objects created by the sciences, so beautifully explored by theorists such as Stacy Alaimo.

Gullibility of press and public and the mass seduction of pseudoscience

Originally published in 1922, this astonishingly prescient text has much to say about our understanding of genetics then (and now), and about the mass seduction of pseudoscience. Chesterton's was one of the few voices to oppose eugenics in the early twentieth century. He saw right through it as fraudulent on every level, and he predicted where it would lead, with great accuracy. His critics were legion; they reviled him as a reactionary, ridiculous, ignorant, hysterical, incoherent, and blindly prejudiced, noting with dismay that "his influence in leading people in the wrong way is considerable."
Yet Chesterton was right, and the consensus of scientists, political leaders, and the intelligentsia was wrong. Chesterton lived to see he horrors of Nazi Germany. This book is worth reading because, in retrospect, it is clear that Chesterton's arguments were perfectly sensible and deserving of an answer, and yet he was simply shouted down. And because the most repellent ideas of eugenics are being promoted again in the 21st century, under various guises. The editor of this edition has included many quotations from eugenicists of the 1920s, which read astonishingly like the words of contemporary prophets of doom. Some things never change -- including unfortunately, the gullibility of press and public. We human beings do not like to look back on our mistakes. But we should. Next (2006)

Friday, September 21, 2007

A fascinating reading of Žižek’s theological writings

On Barth and Žižek by Ben Myers
The October issue of Modern Theology was released today, and it includes some excellent articles. I was especially interested in Kenneth Oakes, “The Question of Nature and Grace in Karl Barth: Humanity as Creature and as Covenant-Partner,” Modern Theology 23:4 (2007), 595-616 – an article which is also relevant to yesterday’s discussion. Oakes offers a careful and sophisticated defence of Barth against the criticisms of Przywara and Milbank, i.e., that Barth separates nature and grace, with the result that human beings are construed as “closed and alien to the grace of God” (p. 597). Oakes shows that Barth was in fact remarkably close to de Lubac – in Barth’s own words, “man in the Bible is the being for whom, whether he knows it or not, it is necessary and essential to desire God; and he is the being who by his creation is capable of this” (CD, III/2, p. 413).
The same issue includes a fascinating reading of Žižek’s theological writings: Frederiek Depoortere, “The End of God’s Transcendence? On Incarnation in the Work of Slavoj Žižek,” Modern Theology 23:4 (2007), 497-523. Depoortere explores the Hegelian, Lacanian and Marxist coordinates of Žižek’s theological analysis, focusing especially on Žižek’s view that “the Incarnation should be understood as the end of God’s transcendence” (p. 498).
I thought the most interesting aspect of this paper was the elucidation of Žižek’s claim that Christ is “the ultimate objet petit a.” For Žižek, just as “money is the commodity as such, Christ is man as such” (p. 514). In the crucifixion, “a particular human being is stripped of all his particular characteristics and reduced to ‘man as such’. At that moment, he is disgorged by the symbolic order … and therefore he reduces to nothing but a piece of waste, the excrement of the symbolic order. Only at that precise moment, then, does Christ truly become Christ, the ‘ultimate objet petit a,’ the incarnation of the human excess as such, that excess which can never be contained within the symbolic order of exchange. And in precisely this way Christ effects our redemption” (p. 516). Labels: , , posted by Ben Myers at 3:30 PM Friday, 21 September 2007

If Joseph Campbell was alive today, he would be cheering on Dennett, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens

Debate on Religion with Christopher Hitchens @ BookTV by ~C4Chaos September 18, 2007 at 12:08 AM in Religion, Spirituality, chats Permalink I just finished watching a video of a debate on religion with Christopher Hitchens on BookTV. Check it out when you get the chance. The video quality is poor but the audio is crisp.
For the most part, the debate was civil and insightful. I've grown to like Hitchens' sharp tongue and wicked humor the more I watch him. But in this debate, I think Zachary Karabell displayed a more integral perspective among the panelists. Still, the discussion of religion was limited only to the monotheistic major religions, no mention of psycho-social development among "believers," and as usual, no mention of the mystical and transcendent role played by religion (though Zachary Karabell implied that in his comments).
However, as much as I want to cheer on Hitchens (I agree with a lot of his points against mythic religions, and I love his sick humor), his position is too much firmly planted on a rational level of either-or: either you believe in God or you don't. There's no room for "*as if* God is real" which some people believe so (including myself).
For example, I don't believe in a mythic God. For me, I equate the concept of God with Spirit, One Taste, The Divine, Brahman, Tao, Buddha-nature, the Kosmos. But there are times when I choose to address God *as if* He/She/It is a sentient Being so I can project my thoughts and intentions and access a deeper sense of reality more easily. This helps me get my bearing psychologically and spiritually. I think a lot of people do it the same way as I do. There are others who do it differently, e.g. I imagine that advance meditators and contemplatives in other wisdom traditions have access to a more stable level of consciousness where they can dissolve themselves into One Taste at will. To each his own, based on their level of consciousness, I guess.
I enjoy watching debates like this because it challenges our myths about society, culture and reality. Speaking of myths, I think that if Joseph Campbell was alive today, he would be cheering on Dennett, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens. Why? I leave you with this quote:
"It's the most over-advertised book in the world. It's very pretentious to claim it to be the word of God, or accept it as such and perpetuate this tribal mythology, justifying all kinds of violence to people who are not members of the tribe.
"The thing I see about the Bible that's unfortunate is that it's a tribally circumscribed mythology. It deals with a certain people at a certain time. The Christians magnified it to include them. It then turns this society against all others, whereas the condition of the world today is that this particular society that's presented in the Bible isn't even the most important. This thing is like a dead weight. It's pulling us back because it belongs to an earlier period. We can't break loose and move into a modern theology.
"One of the great promises of mythology is, with what social group do you identify? How about the planet? To say that the members of this particular social group are the elite of God's world is a good way to keep that group together, but look at the consequences! I think that what might be called the sanctified chauvinism of the Bible is one of the curses of the planet today." --
Joseph Campbell on The Bible

A major new study of Herbert Spencer, A stunning revelation

Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life, by Mark Francis. It's the best intellectual history I've read since McCraw's Schumpeter book, and did you know that he and George Eliot had a non-consummated fling? It's a highly specialized topic, so I can't recommend this book to everyone but I loved it and no you don't need to care about Spencer the libertarian. Tyler Cowen Marginal Revolution September 21, 2007 at 06:19 AM in Books Permalink
Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life by Mark Francis (Author) Editorial Reviews Book Description The ideas of the English philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) profoundly shaped Victorian thought regarding evolutionary theory, the philosophy of science, sociology, and politics. In his day, Spencer's works ranked alongside those of Darwin and Marx in their importance to the development of disciplines as wide-ranging as sociology, anthropology, political theory, philosophy, and psychology. Yet during his lifetime--and certainly in the decades that followed--Spencer has been widely misunderstood. Both lauded and disparaged as the father of Social Darwinism (it was Spencer who coined the phrase "survival of the fittest"), and as an apologist for individualism and unrestrained capitalism, he was, in fact, none of these; he was instead a subtle and complex thinker.
In his major new intellectual biography of Spencer, Mark Francis uses archival material and contemporary printed sources to create a fascinating portrait of a man who attempted to explain modern life in all its biological, psychological, and sociological forms through a unique philosophical and scientific system that bridged the gap between empiricism and metaphysics. Vastly influential in England and beyond--particularly the United States and Asia--his philosophy was, as Francis shows, coherent and rigorous. Despite the success he found in the realm of ideas, Spencer was an unhappy man. Francis reveals how Spencer felt permanently crippled by the Christian values he had absorbed during childhood, and was incapable of romantic love, as became clear during his relationship with the novelist George Eliot.
Elegantly written, provocative, and rich in insight, Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life is an exceptional work of scholarship that not only dispels the misinformation surrounding Spencer but also illuminates the broader cultural and intellectual history of the nineteenth century. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From the Back Cover
"A stunning revelation of a personality and thinker about whom even most well informed Victorianists evaluate largely from misinformation. This book presents an entirely new understanding of Spencer. Scholars from a number of fields--philosophy, literature, history, and history of science--will quite simply never be able to think of Spencer as they have before. Wonderfully and persuasively revisionist, backed up by superb research, this will be the book on Spencer for the present and next generation."--Frank M. Turner, John Hay Whitney Professor of History, Yale University
"A major new study of Herbert Spencer, revealing aspects of his personality and thought previously little explored. It is an impressive work of scholarship and intepretation that all scholars of nineteenth-century thought cannot afford to neglect."--David Boucher, Professor of Political Theory, Cardiff University --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. See all Editorial Reviews

William of Moerbeke was a Flemish scholar and prolific translator of Greek works

Who Saved Greek Political Philosophy? The Flemings, Not the Arabs
From the desk of The Brussels Journal on Thu, 2007-09-20 23:21
It is true that some Greek and other classics were translated to Arabic, but it is equally true that Muslims could be highly particular about which texts to exclude. As Iranian intellectual Amir Taheri explains: “It is no accident that early Muslims translated numerous ancient Greek texts but never those related to political matters. The great Avicenna himself translated Aristotle’s Poetics. But there was no translation of Aristotle's Politics in Persian until 1963.”
In other words: There was a great deal of Greek thought that could never have been “transferred” to Europeans by Arabs, as is frequently claimed by Western Multiculturalists, because many Greek works had never been translated into Arabic in the first place. Muslims especially turned down political texts, since these included descriptions of systems in which men ruled themselves according to their own laws. This was considered blasphemous by Muslims, as laws are made by Allah and rule belongs to his representatives.
William of Moerbeke was a Flemish scholar and prolific translator who probably did more than any other individual for the transmission of Greek thought to the West. His translation of virtually all of the works of Aristotle and many by Archimedes, Hero of Alexandria and others paved the way for the Renaissance. He was fluent in Greek, and was for a time Catholic bishop of Corinth in Greece. He made highly accurate translations directly from the Greek originals, and even improved earlier, flawed translations of some works. His Latin translation of Politics, one of the important works that were not available in Arabic, was completed around 1260. His friend Thomas Aquinas used this translation as the basis for his groundbreaking work The Summa Theologica. Aquinas did refer to Maimonides as well as to Averroes and Avicenna and was familiar with their writing, but he was rather critical of Averroes and refuted some of his use of Aristotle.
Like Aquinas, William of Moerbeke was a friar of the Dominican order and had personal contacts at the top levels of the Vatican. Several texts, among them some of Archimedes, would have been lost without the efforts of Moerbeke and a few others, and he clearly did his work on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church. Moreover, one of the reasons why he did this was because the translations that were available in Arabic were incomplete and sometimes of poor linguistic quality. The Arabic translations, although they did serve as an early reintroduction for some Western Europeans to Greek thought, didn’t “save” Greek knowledge as it had never been lost.
It had been preserved in an unbroken line since Classical times by Greek, Byzantine Christians, who still considered themselves Romans, and it could be recovered there. There was extensive contact between Eastern and Western Christians at this time; sometimes amiable, sometimes less so and occasionally downright hostile, but contact nonetheless. The permanent recovery of Greek and Classical learning was undertaken as a direct transmission from Greek, Orthodox Christians to Western, Latin Christians. There were no Muslim middlemen involved. See also: How Flanders Helped Shape Freedom in America, 11 July 2005 Europe Must Find its Roots in America, 4 July 2005

Wilber has moved on, left the likes of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins in the dust

Re: Open Letter To Rational Pundits Posted on Sep 20th, 2007 by ~C4Chaos (Crossposted from
I've been blogging a lot about The New Atheists lately and wondering why there is no official response/rebuttal/aggreement from Wilber or I-I. That's not entirely true. A while back, Stuart Davis, almost immediately after he interviewed Sam Harris on Integral Naked, posted a rebuttal entitled, Open Letter To Rational Pundits. But for some reason it is no longer available on Stu's blog. I wonder why. Good thing the people at the Multiplex posted the entire text. So far, that's the only response from the integral camp to the New Atheists that I know of. I'm not even sure if it was official. I take it as Stu's personal passionate response to Sam Harris during that time. I would love to see Stuart Davis have a genuine decent conversation with Sam Harris again. Only this time, Stu should bring up his disagreements with Sam and have a debate/dialoge on it instead of posting a rant... Access: Public 2 Comments Print Send views (26) Tagged with: integral, New Atheists, religion, Sam Harris, Stuart Davis, atheism
Until joe perez an Integral voice on culture, politics, and spirit
In recent days, ~C4Chaos has been pleading for more Integrally informed looks at the New Atheism (i.e., the popular bestselling authors who have made a good living at attacking God and religion without ever defining the terms that they are using and who cite mostly fundamentalist examples of religious faith). As I've said to him in comments, I think if he's looking for a lengthy response from Wilber himself he's probably barking up the wrong tree. Wilber covered the ground tackled by the "New" Atheists back in 1999's The Marriage of Sense and Soul, and the question to ask is why haven't the "New" Atheists responded to these 1999 criticisms? It seems to me Wilber has moved on, left the likes of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins in the dust, and is plowing ahead to more fertile pastures. I'd be sad to see his upcoming work derailed by any lengthy foray into this sideshow (apart from his comments on Integral Naked, etc.)...
I love the passionate spirit with which Stuart writes, and agree with the thrust of his challenge (but not some of the specific language). The problem with Stuart's response is that when he wants to make the case for DEVELOPMENT, he seems to adopt the very narrow and ignorant view of religion that the New Atheists do. For Christianity, he picks Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and President Bush as his exemplars. And then he draws the conclusion that it's "a bunch of preposterous, ridiculous poison (It is)."
Let me make two points. First, this is too narrow a view of mythic religion, and secondly, it's too unfair and narrow a view of Christianity. On point one: Let me state clearly that in my view most mythic religion is not ridiculous poison. For many it is a noble and virtuous path of making sense of the world, living with decency, and striving to do what's best as humble servants of a loving God. The mythic religion of the poor, the uneducated, the backwards and underprivileged of society is not to be romanticized but neither should it be demonized as ridiculous. It's far too respectable a station of life for that, and if saying so draws the ire of the oh-so-respectable New Atheists, so be it. On point two: it's important to stress that post-mythic Christianity has progressed to decidedly orange and green and beyond levels. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and President Bush do not define Christianity any more so than (to name some figures recently in the news) Bishop Gene Robinson, Mother Theresa, and Peter Phan.
Finally, rather than directly engage the reader in my own response to the New Atheists (truth be told, I find their views too dull), I will instead point the reader to a piece I wrote on a skeptical-minded critic of the New Atheists who engaged Sam Harris in heated dialogue on religious faith. Andrew Sullivan made a case for religious faith in the face of the skeptical alternative in a series of blogologues last year, and in "Andrew Sullivan, conservative religionists, and development" I make the case that Sullivan is a closet developmentalist. Whereas Stuart wants the New Atheists to take development seriously, I think it would be more valuable to convince their religious and spiritual foes to take a closer look at the developmentalism implicit in their own responses. Posted by joe perez on September 20, 2007 03:39 PM

The neo-Marxist fascists are leading the charge in the academic world

Dr. Sanity Shining a psychological spotlight on a few of the insanities of life
In an article from City Journal, Theodore Dalrymple makes a compelling case that Islam is fast becoming the Marxism of our time.
I want to take Dalrymple's analysis one step further. Islam is not simply the alternative that today's angst-ridden, alienated youth turn to because Marxism is waning in intellectual circles; it's extremism and violence resonates harmonically with the socialist revolutionaries of the 20th century; and they have appropriated the jihad as an essential component of their political and intellectual strategy to revive Marxism in the 21st century. Let us take a look at the strategy and how it has evolved to include the Islamic fanatics.
Multiculturalism and political correctness are two of the fundamental pseudo-intellectual, quasi-religious tenets that have been widely disseminated by intellectuals unable to abandon socialism even after its crushing failures in the 20th century. Along with a third component, radical environmentalism, they make up three key foundations of leftist dogma that have been slowly, but relentlessly, absorbed at all levels of Western culture in the last decade or so--but primarily since the end of the Cold War.
All three have been incorporated into most K-12 curricula as well as the academic curricula in Western university and colleges. In combination, they are the toxic by-products of postmodern relativism.The neo-Marxist fascists who are leading the charge in the academic world have been at the forefront of attempts to rewrite most of history and undo thousands of years of Western cultural advancement.
And, as Western culture has become completely saturated with this toxic brew, any attempt to question the validity of the neo-Marxists' premises; or to contest their value is met with hysterical accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, imperialism, bigotry, or--worse of all --intolerance or insensitivity or hypocrisy. The self-righteousness of the neo-Marxist fascists is such that they strongly believe they are justified (even in their "antiwar" personas) to violently attack and/or intimidate any who disagree with them.
It just so happens, that these tenets (multiculturalism, political correctness, and radical environmentalism) represent three of the four pillars that are the foundation of an evolving epistemological, ethical and political strategy that the socialist remnants in the world have conceptualized and implemented to prevent their ideology from entering the dustbin of history.
And, what is most interesting is that, even as they encourage and enable Islam with the first three pillars; the Islamofascists are aiding and abetting them by using the fourth pillar- Terrorism. We can think of the four pillars as the reason why we are witnessing a socialist revival (e.g., Hugo in the western hemisphere recently) and the rapid advancement of the Islamic Jihad all around the world.
Dalrymple's article suggests that Islam has inherited the mantle of Marxism; but I am suggesting that the two have united in a marriage-of-convenience; and that this union is the 21st century reincarnation of the failed, anti-human, anti-progress ideology formerly known as Marxism.
Osama Bin Laden in his most recent diatribe against the West delivered on the anniversary of 9/11 represents the seamless integration of all the above socialist/Marxist talking points into his justification for jihad and mindless violence. Convert or Die is not only Al Qaeda's favorite ultimatum, it is the motto adopted by our friends the neo-Marxists. Below is a flow chart that I adapted in this post from Stephen Hick's book, Explaining Postmodernism (p. 173), which summarizes the evolution of these strategies: Diagnosed by Dr. Sanity @ 6:40 AM Comments (25) Trackback (1) <<>