Saturday, October 17, 2009

Where I'm At #2

My article, Where I'm At, met with some interesting comments and questions. Most notably, one respondant, Nick, has expressed curiosity about my religio-spiritual developments. Nick makes note that,

"I'm mostly interested in where you are at, what you believe about religio-spiritual matters that are important to you, what ideas you are newly exploring, that sort of stuff."

I think that's a fair expectation for conversation, so what follows is some of the stuff I've been trying to work through in the past while.

First, I've been trying to figure out just what criteria legitimize the scholars. It's one thing to suggest that so-and-so is the foremost scholar in a certain field. It's another thing to realize that unless you are experiencing the physical data of the empirical sciences, all scholars are simply telling a story. And they're telling that story through a certain lense. Does that invalidate, or illegitimize their narratives? Certainly not. But it does bring into question the relational capacity of truth-telling.

That is, how does one determine the truth of another's claim? We could formally parse logic for a while. That sounds like fun. Kind of. But in the end, structuring another's claims along our own limited understanding and experience, and then charging bravely along the line of linear rationality commits a grievous fallacy: it assumes an objectivity that doesn't actually exist. What we think we know, we only know on our own. Other people may agree, but none of us actually have another's experience with the information being presented. Truth claims have no co-inherence from one person to the next; that is, there is no kindred connection, no 'fellowship' of knowing, if you will.

I'd be happy to be wrong about this, but I see no way around it without actually parsing the formal logic of the problem, and thereby dedicating one's self to the same problem while trying to solve it. And that's the problem with circles: if they're not broken, they just keeping going round and round, round and round.

Second, if truth-claims are non-relational, it would seem a person has to terminate on radical skepticism, or faith. But from where I sit right now, radical skepticism seems rather juvenile: there's no way to support such a view since it calls itself into question, and is thus self-defeating. Faith seems both noble and novel: noble because it means that a person is willing to trust even though they might not 'know' with any measure of certainty; novel because it provides a convenient excuse to abdicate one's responsibility to pursue knowledge, all the while looking pious and moral in the process.

Given these two things -- that truth seems non-relational, and skepticism and faith don't offer helpful answers -- how is a person to trust that anything they are exposed to in scholarship is actual, and/or beneficial? We can go the pragmatic route and suggest that 'whatever answers the most questions with the least amount of problems left over' seems trustworthy, but that fails to recognize itself as a useful tool. In a sense, it's like utilitarianism: how does one determine what is morally good for the most amount of people? And what is 'good' in a pragmatic scheme? In the same way, how does one determine what removes the most amount of problems while answering the most amount of questions? If we're all coming at a situation or issue (say, like, theodicy) with individual minds and experiences, it would make sense to suggest that all answers are questions marked by a period.

The Principle of Parsimony seems to fail, too: it doesn't take itself into account.

So, given that truth-claims aren't relational -- that is, they don't straddle the divide between your personhood and mine -- they can't be believed by virtue of another's authority on a subject, they don't terminate on skepticism, are not made relational by 'faith', can't be experienced mutually via pragmatism, and seem to transcend Occam's razor, what is left?

Nihilism is plain stupid. Existentialism is short-sighted.

So, where am I at, Nick? I don't know.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Stunning Senior Moment

Thank you, Uncle Steve!

A Look at Literature

I'm still plugging away at Karen Armstrong's volume "A History of God". The material is dense, and I'm learning quite a bit. I appreciate her acumen, her narrative style, and her sidelong humour. But after finishing Bart Ehrman's relevant but, sadly, anticlimactic book "God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question -- Why We Suffer", I needed a change of pace.

Truth-seeking can be a dogged business. And what with the swath of contrarian, and anti-religious literature I've been slogging through this past year, I thought it might be apropos to turn my obstinance toward some new, not necessarily 'Christian' apologetics for religious faith. To start, I have these two gems:

I'm not that far into this little volume, but so far, Timothy Keller seems to be an astute, articulate, and compassionate writer. He has an easy writing style, he's a logic-hound, and he pulls from a wide base of sources: literature, philosophy, movies, etc. What's not to like? I suppose I may find that out.

Then there's this one:

David Berlinski is not a favourite amongst the celebrities of the scientific communities. People like PZ Myers have a spartan hate on for Berlinski. Richard Dawkins considers Berlinski a 'flea'; but anyone reading Dawkins will understand that even yippy chihuahua's are not immune from being bitten. And that is just what Berlinski proposes to do in his crafty little volume: take a bite out of Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and Harris (a.k.a., The Four Horsemen). I'm sure that if I can mark out the margins of my books with the gross, and indecent errors of these four quixotic heroes of atheism, a world-renowned raconteur like Berlinski should be able to cripple them, and the horses they rode in on.

26 Things To Do In An Elevator

1) Bring a camera, and take pictures of everyone in the elevator.

2) Move your desk into the elevator, and whenever someone gets on, ask if they have an appointment.

3) Lay down a Twister mat and ask people if they'd like to play.

4) Leave a box in a corner, and when someone gets on, ask if they hear something ticking.

5) Pretend you are a flight attendant and review emergency procedures and exits with the passengers.

6) Ask, "did you feel that?"

7) Stand really close to someone, sniffing them occasionally.

8) When the doors close, announce to the others, "It's okay, don't panic. They'll open up again."

9) Swat at flies that don't exist.

10) Tell people that you can see their aura.

11) Call out, "GROUP HUG!" and enforce it.

12) Grimace painfully while smacking your forehead and muttering, "Shut up. All of you. Just Shut up!!!"

13) Crack open your briefcase or purse and while peering inside, as "Got enough air in there?"

14) Stand silently and motionless in the corner, facing the wall, without getting off.

15) Stare at another passenger for awhile, then announce in horror, "You're one of THEM," and back away slowly.

16) Wear a puppet on your hand, and use it to talk to the other passengers.

17) Listen to the elevator walls with a stethoscope.

18) Make explosion noises when anyone presses a button.

19) Ask if you can push the button for other people, but push the wrong ones.

20) Stare grinning at another passenger for awhile, then announce "I have new socks on."

21) Draw a little square on the floor with chalk, and announce to the other passengers, "This is MY personal space!!"

22) When there's only one other person in the elevator, tap them on the shoulder and pretend it wasn't you.

23) Push the buttons and pretend they give you a shock.

24) Call the Psychic Hotline from your cell phone, and ask if they know what floor you're on.

25) Hold the doors open, and say that you're waiting for your friend. After awhile, let the doors close and say, "Hi Greg, how's your day been?"

26) Drop a pen, and wait until someone reaches to help pick it up, and then scream "That's mine!"

Thank you kindly, Ojar!