Monday, March 26, 2007

I read these texts essentially as political tracts

"Frankly I think you are very convinced and even the discussion of empirical evidence to the contrary concerning the role of religion in intellectual and political life in the middle ages will fail to persuade you of anything other than the average historical summary found in most history of philosophy books."
Anthony, I'm sorry you feel this way. I think it really depends on what you're trying to convince me of. If you're trying to convince me of belief in the supernatural and the divine, then you're right I won't be convinced. I'm not really sure what it is that you're advocating or defending. I certainly would not disagree that religion has played an important role in history that is often positive just as it has often been negative. If you bring up empirical examples regarding contributions that Christianity made during the Middle Ages as Adam just did, I won't disagree with you. Nor do I have the belief that religion is the source of all evil or injustice. Maybe you could be a bit more clear as to what, exactly, you're defending.
I disagree, of course, with the thesis that the Gospels aren't instrumental in the way you suggest. I read these texts essentially as political tracts, much like pamplets handed out on street corners prior to the Russian revolution, designed to form a new people and new way of thinking about the social. This seems suggested to me by the way in which they were distributed throughout the old world and written. That said, I fully confess that I cannot demonstrate this, nor do I think you can demonstrate the contrary. It's just what strikes me as most plausable given the socio-historical circumstances and the emergence of the early church. You, of course, know much more about this than me. Posted by: Sinthome March 25, 2007 at 04:42 PM
Adam, Sinthome, Anthony: Your discussion is fascinating and probably too intricate at this point to intercede. But I will venture that it is now off-topic. History is hardly relevant in the question of whether instrumental use of a religious vocabulary and tradition in order to temporarily suspend the emotional reaction of a fundamentalist to rational discourse is justified, productive, or in short, opens up more 'possibilities'.
On the one hand, I would posit that contemporary philosophy, in a way that would confound Hume, Voltaire or most pre- or early enlightenment thinkers, is perfectly comfortable with religious language in discourse at 'the fringes' of reason. But from the perspective of the rather mundane factual question of whether global warming exists, someone either is cognizant and open to verifiable evidence according to scientific method, or one is not. Because a discussion with a fundamentalist on this question would not be grounded in any mutual agreement on right reason, the possibilities of admitting religious tradition into argument would be wholly tied to irrational, perhaps even sophistical uses of rhetoric to confound the interlocutor. Put simply, there would be the appearance of agreement without any movement in their soul, to ironically put it in typically Socratic religious language. Posted by: Floyd March 25, 2007 at 05:04 PM

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