Wednesday, September 28, 2016

MacIntyre Chapter Two: The Outline

The summary of MacIntyre's second chapter has been a beast. I keep reading and re-reading it. But I have finally made some progress. The result is too long to post in one entry. So here is my outline. I will post the first and second parts of the summary of chapter two later.
My Outline

The Nature of Moral Disagreement

I. Present public debates about moral issues seem interminable.
     A. Qualifying debates display three characteristics:
          1. Every argument is valid--but in different ways.
          2. Every argument purports to be an impersonal, rational argument.
               a. Assent is won by two moves:
                    1. The context of the argument supplies the reason for agreement.
                    2. The reason is a-contextual, and so assumes third-party grounds for assent.
          3. Every argument derives from various historical origins
              a. The two if-then statements
               1. IF the language of morality has passed from order to disorder,
                   THEN the meaning of it technical terms will have demonstrably changed.
               2. IF the characteristics of our moral discourse are symptoms of a moral disorder,
                   THEN we should be able to construct a timeline to examine moral arguments
                    at an earlier stage.

The Claims of Emotivism

II. It is always and everywhere the case: moral arguments by nature cannot be resolved.
     A. Emotivism is the current, philosophical representative of this view
          Emotivism is "nothing but" thinking that says agreement on moral questions cannot be secured by any rational method.
          1. It fails because
               a. It cannot define its own variables (in this case "the good") or escape circularity
               b. It is an oversimplification, combining two kinds of expression which define themselves by the way they contrast.
                    1. Expressions of personal preference; meaning is dependent on context.
                    2. Evaluative expressions (which include morals ones); meaning doesn't depend on context.
               c. It is unclear about whether it defines meaning or use.
     B. Intuitionism was the origin of Emotivism
          1. G E. Moore's Principia Ethica claimed that
               a. "Good" is an property instantly identifiable by the intuition and impervious to proof or disproof
               b. A "right" action is one that produces the most good
               c. Friendship and contemplation of the beautiful is the sole justification of human action
          2. Criticisms of Intuitionism
               a. It's three points are inconsistent with and do not require each other
               b. All three are defective

"Moore's followers had behaved as though their disagreements over what is good were being settled by an appeal to an objective and impersonal criterion; but in fact, the stronger and psychologically more adroit will was prevailing" (17).


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Jürgen Moltmann's Man: Summary: Chapter 2


Chapter 2: Humanism in an industrial society

(Read Chapter One)

A. ‘He who rides on the tiger can no longer get off it’


In the last chapter, Moltmann asked where the question of “Who am I?” arose in the context of the exterior world. Now, however, that world has changed. “We now come,” he writes, “to the specific social and political problems of humanity in present-day industrial society” (22).  In this context, it is no longer the naturally given circumstances of human life which have been true in every age, but the surrounding self-made environment, new to this age, in which the question is asked. In this new world it is not as if nature’s domination has been thrown off and freedom attained by industrialization. Rather, “technologies and bureaucracies arise which have a similar anonymously concealed power to make mankind dependent and powerless”(23).  It is not as if people who before did not belong to any environment now do. Rather, even though the environment is a human construct, it is no more human than before. Human beings are aliens in a world of their own making. From this situation two problems arise:

(a) a pan-human technological consciousness unique to history;
(b) a growing suspicion about the absolute goodness of the unrestrained growth of technological power.

In the first case, the material of technology has become so fused with human awareness that it is hard to know where one ends or begins. Still, the resulting cyborg race is not wholly unfamiliar. “Man is conscious of being a part of a larger unity. But this interplay between the ‘I’ and the larger context has not yet produced a human form”(24).  We are aware of all people as a whole, the world is our community, yet the immensity of human need overwhelms individual compassion. “Everyone is aware of more misery than he can alter, for the chances of active intervention are limited”(Ibid).  Psychoses of guilt and powerlessness are the result.

Then, of course, there is the Enlightenment holdover of belief in the essential goodness of expanding technological achievement and power. What, however, is the point? Now that we can satisfy every need and desire, what is the basis for this continued sophistication which looks more and more like fanatical fatalism every day? Has the myth of progress eclipsed the concrete needs of human life? Do we even have the legislative sophistication or the collective ability to stop the works and consider our options? “The God of the machine, who promised everything to everyone, seems now like an evil spirit, who draws everything toward destruction”(26).

What then, given the changes of human definition and the inertia of industry, can be done to humanize the whole and remove the danger of self-destruction that is everywhere a possibility?


B. The ‘spectre of industrial society’ and the longing for the ‘whole life’


In light of the above situation, humanity divides into two ghostly armies: the spectre of the industrial employee and the spectre of the luddite exorcist. In one exists the religion of emancipation, in the other the religious desire for security. The former Moltmann calls “capitalist society”, “bourgeois society” or “technocracy.”[1] The latter he names, “nationalism,” “fascism,” “anarchism” or “left-wing radicalism.” Such multiplication of labels illustrates an inability to see the whole context. “The unlimited possibilities of technical society have from the beginning evoked in the human consciousness optimistic enthusiasm as well as images of apocalyptic terror.” Moltmann intends to discuss them in that order: industrial hope and desperate anxiety; and to end with “individual elements in the longing for the whole life” (28).

C. The everlasting kingdom of peace


Industrialization has seized upon the ancient expectation of a Messianic kingdom of peace and made it its own. The economic state, coming on the heels of states religious and political, is a final stage of political and social peace and communal blessing. Permanent technological expansion releases humanity from the bonds of tradition and the need for transcendence. The secular city is the fulfillment of Christian hope.

“The secular city, in which the knowledge of skills of mankind are concentrated today, and in which the new urban life is lived, is a foreshadowing of the City of God in heaven. As the heavenly City of God, according to the old prophecy, has no temple, so the modern megalopolis is already religionless and is inhabited by men come of age.”(30)

D. The shelter in the end of the world


Industrialization means thus: nature becomes a raw material; “Men live without experiencing life, and so feelings of coldness and poverty of experience become mass phenomena.”(31) “Instead of putting the stamp of humanity upon his own nature, he becomes nothing more than the imprint of his occupation or of his specialized knowledge” (32).  Needless to say, not everyone greets secularism with open arms. And, in the face of it, kill or be killed, the creative maelstrom of chaos becomes a legitimate option of protest. “If this world is torn down, the new birth will be forced on” (34).[2]

Interestingly enough, the destructive, apocalyptic protest against industrialization comes not from the lower classes but from the middle-class bourgeoisie. Moltmann asks why this is so, and finds the answer not in economics but in morals. The pantheism of the secular city which identifies God and the world removes, he says, surprise and freedom. The “rationalized cosmos of connections, relationships and dependencies” which is the secular city has no room for human variety. No one may truly have themselves; each individual is too necessary within the infinite dependencies which make up the modern industrial machine.[3] Homogeneous humanity is needed for continued industrial process.

“Because men have clearly demanded too much of this modern industrial world, and expected from it a heaven of self-realization, the disappointment hinted at, which has already often been experienced, changes into an experience of this world as a hell of self-alienation.”(36)

Moltmann concludes his diagnosis by recommending that work be denied its divinity and that human beings decry further idolatry. The present situation must be bluntly accepted. This world is what it is, a tug-of-war between humanity and inhumanity. What is needed, he says, is “a transcendental support for hope … as a basis for a ‘hope against hope’, and a hope against the disappointments of life on earth” (36).  This support, or basis for hope, “is the critical ‘yes’ response of love, which goes beyond the absolute ‘yes’ of shallow enthusiasm.” It is the basis for real cultural criticism and change, because it arises from suffering, from the disconnect between what is and what could be, from the awareness of a larger possibility beyond the borderlands of actual human relationships.[4] This sort of disconnect occurs historically in three types, from which Moltmann claims human rights are born within industrial society. These are: social romanticism, ‘inward emigration’, and Utopian consciousness. What follows is a treatment of each.


E. Social romanticism


Social romanticism is the memory of the good ole’ days. Times change so fast that people can no longer understand them. New situations are resisted without resistance. “[Social romanticism] just sanctions them by its powerless dreams of yesterday” (37).  Underneath its posture, however, is a romantic belief in the secret of origin and the existence of an organic world of historical dimension. Moltmann correlates social and political Romanticism. Both appear in times of crisis, but provide only emotional answers for rational needs. God, he writes, does not sanction mythologies of family and fatherland, but offers, instead, the crucified Christ.

F. Inward emigration


“By inward emigration we understand a retreat of the educated intellect from circumstances which are deplored as being mindless” (39).[5] Outer society is abandoned for a secret region of inner peace. Politics and economics are unclean and subordinate to the holy pursuits of inner, true humanity. Moltmann brings two criticisms to bear upon this attitude. First, addressing the émigré love of high culture, Moltmann observes that such an attitude parasitically feeds upon the very world process and politic which it despises. Second, measuring the distance traced between the inward émigré and everyday life, he finds a vacuum of power. The criticisms of the hearth never effect the institutions of the street, thus denying society the very minds and ideas that could ultimately humanize it. “But should not authentic Christian belief prepare rather for the incarnation of the human in inhuman circumstances, even if this means denying oneself and taking up one’s cross?”(41)

G. The Utopian consciousness


Moltmann does not use “utopia” pejoratively. What he does is describe two types of utopianism: social utopias and concrete utopias, a method borrowed from neo-Marxist philosopher Ernst Bloch. The difference between these utopias manifests in their relationship to the real. Social utopias do not relate to society past or present, but “to a future life of society which is not yet there” (42).  On the other hand, concrete utopias address objectively real possibilities. Consequently, the latter, “offer to the present the future it desires as a real possibility. They do not totally embody the present ‘system’, but rather uncover the future with which this present is already pregnant” (Ibid).  Humanity needs the real criticism made available by concrete utopias, even if larger world evils can be addressed only one problem at a time. What Moltmann likes most of all about concrete utopias, however, is the open definition of society within their suppositions.

“The freedom of man, if it is understood as creative freedom, has its area always in the realm of the possible, and in the future which the present opens up ahead. Where one of these elements, freedom, possibility or future, is given up, the others too fall away. Concrete Utopian thinking is therefore indispensable for the freedom and humanity of mankind.” (43)

A concrete utopia casts out beyond present limitations. It critiques the way things are, draws human hopes and drives human beings forward into the unknown and unreal. Concrete Utopias mediate between reality and otherworldliness.

Moltmann finds in the parallelism of otherworldly and concrete exemplified by the strategy of Concrete Utopianism a suitable place for beginning discussion of the kingdom of God. “The basis of Christian hope,” he writes, “lies in faith in the crucified Son of Man. It is in him that the wholly other kingdom of God has set foot on earth.” Consequently, it exhibits in the person of Jesus Christ the before-mentioned parallelism. It is both “hidden under the cross” (Luther), becoming visible only in times of crisis, temptation and struggle, and incarnates itself as love “in those possibilities which one has or finds.”(44) He then ends his chapter with a display of rhetorical dialectic upon the theme:

“This love grips this life as if it were everything, and yet at the same time knows that that which is not all there is. It denies itself as passionately as if with death everything were over, and yet it hopes in the resurrection of the dead. It finds God in the concrete, and yet it knows that everything concrete is transcended by God.”(45)

__________



[1] “Technopolis [signifies] the fusion of technological and religious components into the base on which a new cultural style has appeared. . . . Technopolis represents a new species of human community.” Harvey Cox. The Secular City. (New York: MacMillan, 1965): 5-6.

[2] In the article, “Apocalyptic Terrorism and the New World Order”, Moltmann argues that Sept. 11, 2001 represented a collision of eschatological ideas. “This was the attack of the terrorist ending of the world on the [Western] global perfection of world history.” Moltmann lists three essential conditions for modernization developed in the West: (1) separation of religious community and civil society; (2) recognition of freedom of worship; (3) recognition of the human rights of women. He therefore believes that Islamic fundamentalism forms the most serious threat to the world today because it protests against all three conditions, unifying as it does church and state, religion and culture, and religion and economy.

[3] One of the bases of human insecurity in society today, says Moltmann, is a crisis of hope. The social roles of society leave youth no room for “finding oneself or one’s identity in them....Instead of finding himself, man becomes a representative for something else – a company, an administration, or a corporation.” Human Identity in Christian Faith Raymond Fred West Memorial Lectures on Immortality (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974): 3..

[4] God’s call, which creates suffering, is then a transcendental: “We too are unfinished women and men, poised to become what we are. Our restless self-questioning is not derived from some innate human property, an inherent cor inquietum or an immanental “openness to the world” within us, but instead arises from the charge and commission of God, the promissio inquieta, the eschatological “openness to the world ahead of us” which then beckons and disturbs the human consciousness.” G. Clarke Chapman, “On Being Human: Moltmann’s Anthropology of Hope” Asbury Theological Journal Vol. 55 No. 1 (Spring, 2000): 71.

[5] Cf. Jürgen Moltmann, God for a Secular Society (Fortress, 1999): 41-42.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Note from Class: Sing, O Creation, to the Lord!

Everything begins with the Greeks. The Greeks thought about everything worth thinking about. They invented theater, democracy, philosophy, and the Olympic games. They wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey. So it is no surprise that they thought about music.

The story is told that one morning, Pythagoras, a Greek mathematician and philosopher, was walking by a blacksmith's shop. Inside, the blacksmiths were beating glowing iron into shapes with hammers. Their ringing blows could be heard from the street. And Pythagoras noticed that the sound was different when they used a larger or smaller hammer. He was intrigued.

Pythagoras believed that all things could be described mathematically. Mathematics is, he said, a hidden and divine language. And so, he worked out the mathematical relationships (called intervals) between musical sounds.

Pythagoras also taught that each planet makes a sound in its orbit, a sound so beautiful that human beings cannot hear it. These sounds in harmony govern all nature, he said. He called it the musica mundana, the "music of the spheres". And thanks to his discovery of the math behind the music, people could now hear these sounds and write songs based on its perfect ratios.

Finally, Pythagoras claimed the planetary harmonies could cure mental and physical illness. Music affects your health, he said. He encouraged his students to purify their souls by listening to stringed music. (He loved the stringed lyre. And did I mention that he ran a school?) And he warned them not to defile their ears with flutes or cymbals. At his school, certain songs began and ended each day. Morning music chased away sleepiness and inspired action. Evening music was soothing and relaxing.

I do not know how it happened. Perhaps Pythagoras's musical theory was so influential that it just survived over nearly a thousand years. But, somehow, in the sixth century AD, we find Pythagoras's ratios alive and well in a new kind of song called plainchant (also called Gregorian chant, after Pope St. Gregory the Great).

The origins of plainchant are practical. Monks and nuns who chanted the psalms and other religious verses together each day eventually sang their way along. Singing makes it easier to stay together in a group, and singing pours the sacred in. Human beings are singing creatures.

Plainchant used Pythagoras's intervals. As singers opened their mouths in praise, they sang the music of the spheres. They sang, if you will, on behalf of and using the language of all creation. They sang to their creator. And they would have believed, with Pythagoras, that music heals its hearers. And so they sang for the healing of the nations as well. They sang as priests before God for the world. They sang for love of God and of neighbor.

I'm fascinated by this. And what fascinates me is not wholly the music of it or the theology of it. I am also fascinated by the model it demonstrates of how the best science of the day--Pythagoras's mathematical ratios--was picked up and made a part of the living work of the church. These monks and nuns took everything they had, including the best model of music that they knew, and made it into a beautiful sacrifice of praise.

In so doing, they invented the Western musical tradition we enjoy today. They were the first to write down musical pitches onto a staff, for example. Their monophonic chant paved the way for the firework explosion of polyphony that was to come. And they trained the ears of the culture for ever-more-beautiful, subtle, and expressive sounds.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Jürgen Moltmann's Man: Summary : Author's Preface & Chapter 1

Author's Preface


Moltmann begins his book Man with a statement of intent. He means to "portray what it is to be human." But what is man? "Nothing less is meant by the key-word `man'," he writes, "than the public history of men's questioning and seeking, of their failures and humiliations."

But when do we start asking such questions? Where are the answers found, and how can they be evaluated? How can he hope to even begin such a task, especially since there is not place of objectivity since he himself is a man? Such presumption, he continues, is worth it because he, "sees in God the worth of the question-able being which we all are, and therefore sees theology as providing the theme for anthropology."[1]

Moltmann says that it is important to "explore ways for man to become man," because humanity itself is changed by its coming into self-knowledge. [2] There is a value, he says, in the questioning; this against temptations to skepticism. The questioning relationship between God and man, a relationship of such closeness that, "a book about `Man' will inevitably slip into being a book about God," means skeptical limitations are undone. It "makes much open to question which we regard as unquestionable and obvious, and much else again full of hope which we regard as hopeless.[3]

Chapter 1: What is man?


Who are we? Where do I stand myself?


The question “Who am I?” arises from every encounter a human being has with the exterior world, and indeed, from even his own consciousness. He must ask the question, for he must live, yet there is no ‘getting behind’ the self for proper observation. The answer dwells, then, in hypothetical infinity. Yet, if it wasn’t so, then the self would die, for “as we experience being human, we experience it as a question, as freedom and as openness.” Being human, then, “is an experiment in which we ourselves are taking part and are at risk”(2).  Observation will give no answer. At the same time, there can be no direct encounter. The solution cannot be sought through a total unveiling of the mystery of who we are. Rather, it exists upon a balance between mystery and revelation; “between the fundamental self-questioning of man and the answer by means of which he takes control of himself”(3).  The self is a limit and an openness, both of which must be respected.

This is true socially, politically, historically as well as individually.[4] Historical answers, especially when they are temporally successful, offer both a useful basis for social life and openness toward future fulfillment. Even in this context, however, no real answer to the question “Who am I?” can find a solution. Yet, there is an avenue available through comparison with others.

A. The question arises from the comparison of man with the animals


Biological anthropology begins when the question “Who am I?” is sought by comparison of human beings with animal life. Such a comparison leads to one certain result: human beings are strangers in the world.[5] Unlike the environmental and instinctive ‘fit’ animals display, human beings are a species displaced upon the globe. “His task,” writes Moltmann, “is to find what his nature is”(5). Education is how human beings live in their environment, and that is the source of imagination, creativity, culture and, above all, language. “He is in a very real sense both a creator and the creation of his language. He catches in the net of language a world which is open to him and overflowing with stimuli”(7).[6] Through reason, and through action, human beings set themselves apart from the animal world for freedom.[7] Still, the question is not exhausted, but moves on to other comparisons.

B. The question arises from the comparison of men with other men


Cultural anthropology begins when the question “Who am I?” is sought by comparison of human beings with one another in the context of families, tribes, and nations.  Moltmann contrasts two historical strategies in which human beings have sought to live together.

The first strategy is derived from the belief in common innate ideas of the reason.  This idea, this humanitas - the likeness and unity of all people on the basis of a common nature – contrasts with an anxious ethnocentrism that pits one against another.  Unfortunately, humanitas came to divide people into the educated citizen and the unrefined barbarian; the pantheist and the polytheist.[8]

The second arises from the Judeo-Christian belief in one God, maker and judge of all people.  “The expectation of the coming kingdom of God unites all the individual destinies of men and the histories of the nations into a common world history.”(9)  Though it has taken many centuries to see anything approaching a common history, this strategy for unity has always had one significant advantage: the inclusion of difference underneath the umbrella of future history.  Not homogenous but pluralistic community.

Enlightenment anthropology combined these two strategies and produced the constitutions of modern states.  Such constitutions described human beings not as they were, but, instead presented, “a challenge, and a concrete expression of Utopia.”(10) Their visions of hope and freedom have charmed the whole world, and become dreams not easily forgotten.[9]

There is no doubt that cultures are different and historically conditioned.  Cultural anthropology studies them, then, in the discipline of ethnology.  It can also, however, attempt to advance, to humanize human kind.  This desire, humanitas, is a messianic hope for the fulfillment of humanity’s humanity.  Taken together, “it belongs fundamentally to man’s nature that he both is man [ethnology] and has to be man [humanitas]”(11).[10]

Cultural anthropology’s answer to the question “What is Man?” is culture, defined as the soul’s attempts to understand itself.  Through transitory cultural images which arise from out of an inner, amorphous, “creative germ-cell” and vary across history and geography, humanity “attempts constantly to complete itself.”  This desire, culture, attempts to close up (limit) the openness of biological incompleteness.  To the origin of this openness, this incompleteness, cultural anthropology cannot speak.  The question is not exhausted, but moves on to other comparisons.

C. The question arises from the comparison of man with the divine



Religious anthropologies such as those found in theology, metaphysics and poetry arise from religious statements about the fate and destiny of humanity.  “In the presence of the gods man recognizes his own non-divinity, his lowliness, and his earthiness”(12).  Here, however, the question, “What is man?” takes on a new context.  Here it is understood as a question asked of human beings by God.  It is not a question human beings ask, but one that is posed by the experience of suffering.  People are put into question here like they are in no other sphere.  “Here the question ‘What is man?’ can no longer be answered objectively with reference to his soul, his deficiencies, or his creative power.  It becomes concentrated into the person question, ‘Who am I, my God, before you?’”(14)  Against such mystery, humanity hopes for revelation which is a hope for the answer of the self.  “It is only in the coming of God himself, who endlessly puts this life in question, that the revelation of the secret of man can be hoped for”(15).[11]  It is the depth of the heart, with its subsequent existential crisis, that begets religious anthropology.  Still, religious anthropology is not specific to Christianity.  To ask about Christian anthropology is to go still further.  For the Christian, the question is still not exhausted.

D. Ecce Homo! Behold the man!


For the Christian, the question, “What is man?  Who am I?” arises not from a comparison with animals, with other men, or even with the numinous, but out of a call, “at the point at which man in his life is charged with something impossible by the call of God.”  “The divine calls, which demands of him a new being, places him at an insuperable distance from himself, and involves him in a change of identity.”(16)  In short, the Bible does not answer the existential question, but gives meaning to existence by opening up the future through the promise of a God who goes with and before.  People ask about limitations, God’s presence offers infinite possibilities.  Jesus Christ is the figure of this new way forward.  Christ is true God and true man, into his future goes all human questioning.  Jesus’ identification with the outcast, with the non-human, makes them human.  His is a humanization of all people.  “In this crucified Jesus men have again and again been able to see themselves in the course of history”(19).  The crucified Christ unifies all people, because all are the same under the knife-edge of suffering.  “God became man in order out of proud and unfortunate gods to make real men.” (Luther)  “Christian anthropology is an anthropology of the crucified Lord”(20).  It does not overcome other forms of anthropology, nor is overcome.  It is the challenge for liberation cast up against all form of safe pretence, deceit and deception.  It is the rescue of humanity from man.

Go to to chapter two.






[1] Moltmann, then, is not an empiricist. He agrees with Heidegger’s criticism of objectivity. The escape from the solipsistic tradition of radical doubt and skepticism began when Descartes attempted to remove all a priori and replace them with the cogito and ended in Meditation 3 when he made God (logos) foundational for knowledge again. Kant had the same problem, albeit in a far more sophisticated manner. After brilliantly codifying his categories, he could never answer the question of how it is possible for one who is subject to the categories to step outside them, to transcend them, in order to describe them? Heidegger, following Husserl’s phenomenological lead, brushes aside the attempt and regains Plato’s original insight: the philosopher is one who contemplates the relations of the higher forms. Except, for Heidegger, there is no world of the forms. Instead, he sets about exploring the existential structures of Da-Sein, which is not the absolute ego vs. the world, I-It, but the transitive self in a field of relatedness. Furthermore, from the perspective of human beings “thrown” into the world, God is the only non-subjective point, I-Thou.

[2] How is humanity changed?

[3] [Thom] I couldn't help but contrast this with Calvin's Institutes 1.1, in which Calvin says that wisdom consists entirely of two parts: knowledge of God and of ourselves. I wonder, though, at Calvin’s sentence, "it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we [human beings] possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone." Moltmann does not reflect such a metaphysic. When Moltmann treats of human being-ness it is examined upon its own bottom and not against the negative spaces of God. Yet, both men come to the same, hopeful end (God the Creator), as Calvin writes, “Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him.” (1.1.1) A final question: Does Moltmann interrogate anthropology to discover God or to discover the quality of life before God? Hopefully, the answers should present themselves as the theologian begins to answer the question, "Why do human beings question their own humanity?"

[Alan] It does seem that his anthropology starts from below rather than, like Calvin's, from above. But I do wonder if he is fully consistent with his premises. Moltmann makes the crucified Lord the critical criterion for his theology, but it seems in Man the cross is at best a challenge rather than determinative of his conclusions. (Am I correct in assuming that his chapter on the anthropology of the crucified Lord comes last?) [Furthermore, there is a strong resemblance to] Karl Rahner's theological anthropology. For instance, Rahner writes the following about the transcendent structure of knowledge:

"In spite of the finiteness of his system man is always present to himself in his entirety. He can place everything in question. In his openness to everything and anything, whatever can come to expression can be at least a question to him. In the fact that he affirms the possibility of a merely finite horizon of questioning, this possibility is already surpassed, and man shows himself to be a being with an infinite horizon. In the fact that he experiences his finiteness radically, he reaches beyond this finiteness and experiences himself as a transcendent being, as spirit. The infinite horizon of human questioning is experienced as a horizon which recedes further and further the more answers man can discover.” (Foundations, pp 31-32)

[As in Moltmann, t]here is limited openness to everything (the infinite) in how humans constantly question reality to grow in knowledge. Rahner later will assert that the infinite horizon is God, that the structure of transcendental experiences masks the natural revelation of God (p 170) and that philosophical proofs for the existence of God are merely secondary thematizations of a more basic transcendental experience (pp 68-71). I wonder how much of Rahner does Moltmann explicitly cite? And perhaps more interesting is how much of Rahner is hidden in Moltmann's thought?

[4] Cf. JM member Mike Gibson, “The church, then, corresponds to the reality of Christ’s resurrection, whereby the resurrection as the reality of the future, and as the beginning of the resurrection and new creation, means that the church herself is an echo of the resurrection, a community of those living in the beginning of the resurrection of the dead.” draft chapter. “The Redemption of Time in the Church of the Risen Christ” pp. 12ff. available in the /Files section by permission of the author.

[5] Existentialist ideas of “Alienation.”

[6] Culture in general and language in particular are tools used to further the quest for self-realization.


[7] Karl Rahner understands freedom as fundamental power to decide about and actualize the self.

[8] Moltmann describes the Western humanitas tradition as a category of law in the lecture “Who is Man?” In this lecture, he says that the adoption of the idealism of humanitas has led to “humanitistic suicide caused by despair resulting from man’s impossible dream. And since the bourgeoisie has been the bearer of that ideal humanism for 200 years, we may also talk then of a self-destruction of the bourgeoisie.” Human Identity in Christian Faith Raymond Fred West Memorial Lectures on Immortality (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974): 2, 5. The two positions, humanitas as gospel-openness and humanitas as law seem at odds, and, as of this note, I’m not sure how to reconcile them. Some investigation as to whether he treats humanitas in God for a Secular Society would be helpful.

[9] “Bloch's practice of ideological criticism discerns emancipatory utopian dimensions even in ideological products, ferreting out those aspects that might be useful for radical theory and practice.” Douglas Kellner, “Ernst Bloch, Utopia and Ideology Critique,” Illusions [e-zine] accessed February 9, 2004. cf. Kellner and Harry O’Hara, “Utopia and Marxism in Ernst Bloch,” New German Critique 9 (Fall 1976). Ernst Bloch. The Spirit of Utopia. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000. “Since Christian ideology .. always defined what was best in the human social structure, as the embodiment of what the concept of utopia means as the "Kingdom of God" on earth, a recapturing and re-creation of Eden itself as social form, any political ideology that advocates motion toward the "best" necessarily can be, even must be, defined as Christian at some level of its articulation. The classless state of pure democracy in Marxian ideology cannot be distinguished effectively from what anyone else would call the re-creation of the Garden of Eden in purely political and social forms.” Frederick Martin, “Ernst Bloch: ‘The Spirit of Utopia’,” [article on-line] accessed February 9, 2004.

[10] Ethnology as limit; humanitas as openness.

[11] Rahner’s “self-transcending being.”

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

A Note from Class: Getting Past Hard Listening

Several hundred years ago in the West, human beings decided to start over. Some say Nicolaus Copernicus is to blame. Copernicus was the sixteenth-century Polish astronomer who discovered that the earth swings around the sun. When he published his ideas in De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), people were shocked! Everything they'd assumed to be fixed and solid now moved--everything. It blew people's minds. It terrified them. But it excited them too. "What else are we mistaken about?" they asked. And they decided to find out.

They thought a lot about how we know things, and they came up with a rule for knowledge: What we know, they said, we know through the senses and the mind.

So what you know comes from your senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing. (So the next time you're nose is stuffy with a cold, what you're really having is a knowledge problem.) Your senses act as collectors. Your mind picks through what they collect and remembers or discards. Together, they assemble the experiences and facts that live inside your head.

From this, let's say two things:
  1. Their rule for knowledge is handy for most things, yet flawed in a small-but-wildly-unfortunate manner that maybe we'll get into later.
  2. There is far more information constantly sliding by than our senses can ever collect or our minds notice (just ask Harold Edgerton).
So, what would happen if we focused in on one of our senses, say, hearing? And that is exactly where the trouble begins.

Our culture favors speech and action. It can even find listening a waste of time. And so we have never been taught to listen; we don't know how. When was the last time you truly listened to anything--listened until something was deeply asked of you?

Compounding the problem, new things are uncomfortable. We won't know what to do with what we hear. We may feel shut out, if we feel anything at all. Everyone is talking in another language (sometimes quite literally), and we feel excluded. It is uncomfortable.

Here are a few thoughts about uncomfortable listening.

Principle One: Expect Revulsion, but Press On.

Your ear has an age. It can be naive, and it can mature. And people tend to like music that matches the maturity of their ears. Children only eat a few things at a little table; adults enjoy many different dishes on a wider table. Yet, growth is uncomfortable. So expect to feel disoriented and maybe even bored the first time you hear a piece of music that isn't what you're used to. It has happened to me that what I once hated I grew to love. So press on, and don't believe your first impressions.

Principle Two: Passive Exposure

It is a funny thing about the mind, it is so curious that it will listen even when we aren't listening. Use this to your advantage. Play some new music in the background, but pay no attention to it. Let it exist almost out of hearing. And slowly, ever so slowly, it will slip into your mind. You will discover it in your dreams. You will catch yourself humming it. The mind can't ignore it, you see. Your ear will mature into it, and you may have enriched the rest of your life. (This principle works well when learning a new language, by the way.) It takes time, but it works.

Principle Three: Choose Quality Cuts

Let's say you want to know more about jazz. You've heard about it but don't know where to begin. Use that fabulous tool called the Internet, pull up a list of the "ten best" or "five most important." Use those to train your uneducated ear on the best diet that you can find. Don't waste your time randomly listening. The best sets you up for the rest.

Principle Four: Fill in the Blanks

Thanks to the Internet, we can look up information about performers, composers, and individual songs or pieces of music. We can translate foreign words. We can fill in the blanks as we learn something new. Make sure to fill in the blanks.

Principle Five: Music is Always Better Live

If at all possible, expose yourself to live music. Every kind of music--even music that you don't like--is toe-tapping fantastic when performed live by living people. Live music makes for a rich life. Make time for it.

And here is what this is about: this year, aside from our usual (and frankly more important) discussions about the Bible, we are going to listen. Together and privately, we are going to listen to music--to sacred music. And by this I mean music that is connected in some way to the Bible.

Exactly what this means is something I'll explain on Sunday morning. I look forward to seeing you there.