Sunday, October 16, 2005

In reference to the links in this post.
Papers by Thomas Nagel (pdf)
and Michael Perry

Perry begins with an extended quote, a reference to a reference:
Richard Rorty, the leading postmodernist liberal theorist . . . concedes that liberalism, once so jealous of its autonomy from Biblical faith, is in fact parasitic upon it. In his essay “Postmodern Bourgeois Liberalism,” he describes secular liberals like himself as “freeloading atheists.” They continue to rely on the Judeo-Christian legacy of concern with human dignity despite their rejection of the revealed truth that alone could support this concern. . . . For Rorty, God is dead but secularized Christian morality continues. This is precisely one of the scenarios envisaged by Nietzsche in The Gay Science: “God is dead, but given the way men are there may still be caves for thousands of years in which [t]his shadow will be shown.” True, only 125 of those years have now passed, but on the evidence of Rorty’s thought, it’s hard to believe that this sort of shadow play still has centuries to run.
Nagel begins straight off:
Analytic philosophy as a historical movement has not done much to provide an alternative to the consolations of religion. This is sometimes made a cause for reproach, and it has led to unfavorable comparisons with the continental tradition of the twentieth century, which did not shirk that task. I believe this is one of the reasons why continental philosophy has been better received by the general public: it is at least trying to provide nourishment for the soul, the job by which philosophy is supposed to earn its keep. Analytic philosophers usually rebuff the complaint by pointing out that their concerns are continuous with the central occupations of Western philosophy from Parmenides onward: metaphysics, epistemology, logic, and ethical theory. Those topics have been pursued in a great tradition of works that are often technical and difficult, and that are not intended for a broad audience. The aim of that tradition is understanding, not edification.
I don't know what to do with this crap. What analytical philosophy fails to do is acknowledge the fact of the thinking subject, of the subject centered nature of all thought as such. The speaking -always rational!- voice seems to eminate from somewhere but no one can say where that place is. Is it the voice of science? Is science a place now?
And what the fuck is all this about the nourishment of the soul?

Freedom of inquiry, and the right -the obligation if you're an adult- to be curious; these are the only grounds for a theory of rights in a godless age. And they're enough from an intellectual standpoint to get the job done. Common sense morality does the rest.   A grouping of people each with a variety of limited understandings, each with his or her own story, each no more valuable than the next if only because we can not predict the outcome of events. Simple. Rorty's got his head up his ass.

And as I've said before concerning religion itself and faith: very few people claim to witness miracles. Most by far hear stories. Faith in miracles as such, absent a compelling story, leaves non-witnesses with kitsch, with unmediated faith which communicates to others again only if at all on faith. For the rest of us the language -art and artifice- convinces, or not.  And theologians like literature professors know, even if they won't admit, that the language comes first.

People believe good stories more than bad ones. Stories are more important than gods.

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