Friday, July 30, 2010

Barth, Karl - Anselm: Fides Quarens Intellectum: Anselm's Proof in the Context of his Theological Scheme

  1. Preface to the First Edition
    1. Previous scholars, including Thomas and Kant have misunderstood the most important aspects of Anselm's thought in general and the 'ontological proof' in particular
      1. Intellectual insolence that conceals anything vital
    2. Two main questions:
      1. What does 'proving' mean within Anselm's theological scheme? How does that relate to this particular proof?
      2. What does looking at the whole context of Anselm's argument (Chps. 2-4) do to understanding the argument?
    3. The argument has much to say to 20th century readers
      1. Barth admits that he might be reading in, but argues that we can only read with our own eyes, though he does maintain that he does not claim anything that he has not actually read in Anselm
  2. Preface to the Second Edition
    1. This study of Anselm has been done using the same vital key that underlies Barth whole work, especially in his "Church Dogmatics"
  3. Preface to the Reprint Edition (Arthur Cochrane)
    1. 'Theological' proof of the 'existence' of God
    2. In Church Dogmatics Barth claims that he learned the fundamental attitude to the problem of the knowledge and the existence of God from Anselm
    3. The vital key that Barth speaks about is
      1. "the epistemological principle that knowledge of God and man springs from faith in God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ and rests upon the following sequence: revelation, faith, and then 'ut intelligam' (in order to understand) - "faith seeking understanding."
  4. Introduction
    1. The most important part of Anselm's 'ontological argument' comes before the argument itself
    2. It is the key technical component 'that than which a greater cannot be thought'
    3. This is what Anselm sees as the one argument - it is a description of God
    4. It is used both to prove the Existence of God and to the Nature of God
    5. The immense joy that he describes upon discovering the argument applies to when he discovered this description of God
    6. An important issue is that Anselm does not initially describe his goal as proving anything - rather it is intelligre or understanding
      1. Proving comes out of understanding, but understanding his the main goal
  5. The Theological Scheme
    1. The Necessity for Theology
      1. Understanding issues in two results
        1. Proof
        2. Joy
      2. What does 'proving' mean if it results from the same process the results in joy?
        1. The understanding that Anselm is talking about is that which is desired by faith
          1. Thus
            1. Faith
            2. Understanding
            3. Proof
            4. Joy
        2. Faith does not need Understanding, Proof, or Joy
          1. Understanding is wanted because of Faith
        3. The aim of theology is not to lead men to faith or to confirm them in faith or to deliver them from doubt
        4. Understanding has no bearing on the existence of faith
        5. Faith affirms Truth, even if the understanding does not acquire the Truth
        6. It is not the existence of faith, but the nature of faith, that desires understanding. There are four reasons for this inner compulsion:
          1. God is Truth as the Cause of Truth, for him Understanding is identical to Truth. Thus, (?) Faith in him demands knowledge of him.
          2. Faith is a free exercise of the will, but for a rational creature, a movement of the will means choosing which is the basic act of knowledge. Thus, the basic act of the will leads to the basic act of knowledge.
          3. Anthropology: Mans imagio dei allows him to have the potential to receive Faith as gift of grace. Part of this imagio dei is his reason. "Knowledge of God must then come about, like love to God, on the occurrence of faith, because the completeness of man's likeness to God, as restored in Christianity, so requires it." (20)
          4. Eschatology: (?) Understanding leads man right up to the limits of faith. In understanding man comes up on the limitations of humanity, that are transcended by faith
        7. Faith is essentially seeking Understanding - Fides Quarens Intellectum
          1. Because we possess the certainty of faith, we must hunger after the fidei ratio"
    2. The Possibility of Theology
      1. Intellectual fidei and credo ut intellgiam
        1. The reason that this is possible at all is that for Anselm belief is never illogical and irrational
      2. Word of Christ is identical with the Word of those who preach Christ: The Church
        1. It is legitimate represented by particular human words - not entirely transcendent
        2. Holy Scripture, but also those inferences which are consistent with its text
        3. Faith is awareness and assent to what has been revealed
          1. Understanding operates in this area between awareness and assent - not closing the gap between them, that is already done, but tracing the lines between them.
          2. There is thus an absence of crisis in Anselm's theology - not trying to storm heaven, but to trance lines between points that been given and assented to
    3. The Conditions of Theology
      1. Faith both makes and meets the demands of understanding. This gives rise to a number of conditions on theological work:
        1. Theological science must have a positive character in relation to the Credo of the Church
          1. Positive meditation on the object of faith
          2. It is an extension and explication of the Credo of the Church
          3. It cannot deny or question the Faith (the Credo of the Church)
          4. Understanding comes about by reflection on the Credo that has already been spoken and affirmed. (27)
        2. Theology is done in humility, it pushes to a limit and is then silent.
          1. The extension and explication must be a description of the Credo that is already accepted
        3. Every theological statement is an inadequate expression of its object
          1. The Word of Christ is adequate, every attempt on our part to reproduce this Word in thought or speech is inadequate
            1. The Method of Analogy (Thomas) does work here - so inadequate speech can be adequate in some way
        4. Theological statements thus never possess the certainty of faith - they are contested statements - they are challenged by the incomparability of their object
          1. Fallibilism:
            1. "Thus, any statement that is really theological, that is to say not covered by biblical authority, is bound by this rule: such a statement is not final; fundamentally it is an interim-statement, the best that knowledge and conscience can for the present construe; it awaits better instruction from God or man." (31)
        5. Theology, however, is still progressive. We have to move beyond the Church Fathers
          1. "It is certain that the Lord who has promised to be with the Church until the end of the world will not cease to pour out the gifts of his grace in her midst." (31)
            1. Perfectibility of theology is not the result of human advance, but of Divine Grace
        6. Criterion of the theological statements - whether they really are understood
          1. Provisionally - with the author, his readers, and his interlocutors
          2. Ultimately - with God
            1. But we cannot know that
              1. But we do have the Holy Scripture as a canon of admissibility
                1. If it fits directly with the Bible - then it has Biblical authority and is not theological
                2. If it is not ruled out by the Bible - then it is theological and admissible
                3. If it is ruled out by the Bible - then it is inadmissible
        7. Belief in and for itself is also a condition of understanding
          1. Belief in and for itself is simply belief that is a human act of response to what is given by God
          2. Prior to any desire or ability to find theological statements is the faith of the theologian himself
          3. This faith given by grace
        8. Most essential condition is the relationship between prayer and understanding
          1. Right knowledge is conditioned by prevenient and co-operating grace of God
          2. But moreover, ultimate capacity of inellectus fidei "does not belong to human reason acting on its own but has always to be bestowed on human reason as surely as understanding is a voluntaris effectus."
            1. God's bestowing action is involved of every step of the reasoning
            2. Anselm asks for two things from God in his prayer - this shows what is required from God
              1. Actualization of the power to know that was originally created in man
              2. Asks God to see his face, to let him see his very Self (38)
                1. Movement on God's side to remove objective distance between him and the believer
                  1. This is the 'objectivity' of Anselm's search - does not depend on what he thinks, but on how the object - God - reveals himself to him
                  2. Grace
    4. The Manner of Theology
      1. The function of understanding is to reflect on what has already been said in the Credo
      2. Transverse the distance between awareness/recognition and assent, thus allowing truth to be known as truth
      3. Understanding and belief become one, but in such a way that understanding is faithful understanding, and believing is understandingly belief
      4. This understanding does not happen immediately in the post-Fall world - must be sought in prayer and through consistent use of intellectual powers
      5. Reflecting upon - neither going outside the Credo nor just affirming the Credo
      6. Inner and outer text of revelation - in the Post-Adamic world we cannot simply read off the outer text to get out the inner - we need grace and work to get at it
        1. So not just Biblical citation
          1. The Biblical citation - the outer text - might lie in the background of the discussion, might structure it, but what is needed is for it to be considered and understood
      7. In this context we can understand Anselm's claim in theological enquires and demonstrations the rule of sole rationale should be kept
        1. But what does ratio mean for Anselm
          1. Can mean both process (rationalization) and end (rationale)
          2. But Anselm divides it up even further
            1. Noetic ratio - human reasoning
            2. Ontic (Object-ive) ratio - objective reasoning
            3. Ultimate ratio - ratio of God, which is identical with God
          3. Truth is conferred on the ratios, by the ratio above it
            1. Agreement with Objects
            2. Creation of the Object of which it is the ratio
            3. This emphasizes the receptivity that characterizes rationes - ratio vertatis can be nothing other than something bestowed, something revealed
              1. One form of this revelation is understanding
                1. Authority and reason do not mean God vs Man, but just two stages in the process in which man first attains faith, and later attains knowledge on the basis of faith
      8. Necessity and Rationality
        1. Noetic Rationality (comprehending as conforming to law) and Necessity (negation achieved by thought of the non-existence or different existence)
        2. Ontic Rationality (conforming to law) and Necessity (cannot be otherwise or different)
        3. All measured by the summa veritas - "It is in the Truth and by the Truth, in God and by God that the basis is a basis and that rationality possesses rationality." (51)
        4. Necessitas explains what is meant by rational knowledge
          1. When Anselm tries ratione, that is with his reason (by means of the capacity of comprehending existence and a particular existence as conforming to law), to apprehend noetically the rationem fidei, that is the rationality of the object of faith (its power of being understood by a being capable of comprehending existence and a particular existence the conforms to law), what he is trying to do is this: to conceive necessitatem, that is the basis of the object of faith (the impossibility of its not existing or its existing differently) necessitate; to conceive it 'with reason' (conceiving the impossibility of its not existing or of its existing differently). That the object of faith has such a basis that it is impossible for it not to exist or to exist differently is for him given in the revelation and is certain in faith. He is starting point is therefore not to seek 'what can be' but to seek 'what is' and in fact to seek 'what cannot fail to be.' It is precisely as 'what cannot fail to be' that he tries to conceive 'what is.' (53)
          2. This is quoted at length because this is his method in the discussion of the proofs for God
        5. The job of the theologian is not discover points of doctrine, these are already given - rather it is to trace out the connections between points of doctrine; to show how one point follows from others that are assumed. (See importantly 55)
          1. In this inquiry the theologian does not master the object, but rather the object masters him
          2. This is the intellectus fidei
    5. The Aim of Theology (The Proof)
      1. Anselm does want to prove, but it must be understood that his thinking is done in relation to One who he is to address and who stands over against the merely human (59)
      2. The idea of proof should not be understood to mean that Anselm stakes out a neutral territory - he takes as his starting point the assumption that all of the articles of faith are true
      3. Does not think that he can raise the fool from unbelief to belief through pure arguments - what he does his lay out the revelation to him, bringing it before our opponent as something that has been investigated in order that it might speak for itself and might speak directly to him (64)
        1. Unless a transformation occurs in the fool - there always remains a gulf between him and Anselm
        2. But at the same time Anselm does address this fool - this is because at the same time the questions of the believer and the unbeliever are the same - solidarity between the believer and the unbeliever
          1. Will not serve the fool what he would not serve himself
        3. But in the last analysis - does Anselm really think he can convince an unbeliever with his method of drawing out connections?
          1. Dialectic of deception and divine simplicity
            1. Perhaps he sees even the unbeliever standing next to him in the precincts of the Church
            2. Theology as preaching
            3. No other way to speak of the Credo
            4. Must see the unbeliever as an equal
  6. The Proof of the Existence of God
    1. The Presuppositions of the Proof
      1. The Name of God
        1. The Name of God is the presupposition of both main projects of the Proslogion
          1. Proving the Existence of God
          2. Proving the Nature of God
        2. 'Proving' should be understood in the sense discussed above
        3. This presupposition is something that Anselm searched for and suddenly found after he had ceased searching
        4. The Name is: Something beyond which nothing greater can be conceived
          1. That being that stands over against it [conception] it as a fundamentally higher mode of being
          2. The only things that the statement says is something negative:
            1. Nothing greater than it can be imagined; nothing can be imagined in any respect whosoever could or would outdo it; as soon as anyone conceives anything in any respect greater than it; in so far as it can be conceived at all - then he has not yet begun to conceive it or has already ceased
          3. Does not say that God is, nor what he is, but rather in the form of a prohibition that man can understand, who he is
          4. It is a purely conceptual defintion
        5. It itself does not say anything about the Existence or Nature of God
          1. If those are going to be 'proved,' raised to knowledge and proof, there has to be a prior giveness, in the sense of being credible on other grounds, of God's Existence and Nature
            1. This is in keeping with the Anselm's method discussed about - tracing out line between 'given' points
          2. This is one of God's Names, selected here because connections between it and God's Existence and Nature can be drawn
        6. This Name is presupposed theologically - not philosophically - rather an article of faith
          1. Or better a revealed name of God - this fits with the character of the description of Anselm's search for it
            1. Protestant rendering of Anselm
          2. Tracing a line between two previously credible, believed in, aspects of the faith
            1. The Name and the Existence of God
            2. Make something that is believed on the basis of faith endorsed as our own necessary thoughts
        7. Gaunilo casts himself as defending God incomprehensibility, Anselm outdoes him though
          1. Anselm rejects Gaunilo assertion of God's incomprehensibility as 'pure secular gnosis'
          2. Anselm too wants to assert God incomprehensibility, but this on the basis of faith and faith-proposition that itself can be raised to understanding
            1. God's Name posits his incomprehensibility
            2. Understanding the name raises this faith to understanding
            3. Not an understanding of God, rather the name lays down a rule of thought which allows us to endorse statements that say something about God as our own necessary thoughts - among them is God's incomprehensibility
            4. So even God's incomprehensibility is included in 'faith seeking understanding'
              1. Neither simple posit of revelation
              2. Nor pure secular knowledge
        8. Gaunilo thinks that Names of God are just human 'words' that have nothing to do with God's nature
          1. Anselm claims that the Name is a divine revelation in the guise of something conceived by human being
        9. The Name stands as a deterrent of theological overreach
        10. The Name does not say anything about God, it is a rule of thought, but one that squares with God's nature should God exist
        11. Doubt is confronted on its own ground - in thought - but confronted with something of God - God's name
      2. The Question of the Existence of God
        1. Purpose of the Proof of the Existence of God is to show that it is impossible to conceive the object described as God as being only a conception
        2. A major feature of Anselm's discussion is the existence of God is qualitatively distinct from the existence of other ontic objects - God is Truth
          1. Other object's existence is conditioned in relation to truth
          2. God, as truth, is the only One who ultimately really exists
    2. The Development of the Proof: Commentary on Prosl. 2-4
      1. Barth argues that Anselm offers two slightly different renditions of the argument - proving God's existence on two different levels, each presented in a different chapter of the Proslogion
      2. Understanding here means: by presupposing the other articles of faith to perceive the necessity of this article of faith and the sheer impossibility of its denial
      1. The General Existence of God (Ch. 2)
        1. This chapter discusses God existence generally.
          1. God does not exist only in thought, but also outwardly
          2. He exists not only from the human standpoint, but also from the perspective of truth
        2. The statement of the fool is not just contradictory to the statement of the believer, but represents a different mode of human existence
          1. Thus why does Anselm engage with him?
            1. This is because of human solidarity, the objection is not new to Anselm - it is the same objection that is presented in his own job in the context of faith seeking understanding
              1. The objection of the fool reminds the believer of his task: faith seeking understanding
        3. The Name is a prohibition
        4. It is also a revelation - one who hears cannot dispute the existence of God in his consciousness (?)
          1. God reveals himself to us (Protestant reading of Anselm)
          2. At the same time, the existence of the Name of God in consciousness merely introduces the problem of God's objective existence (?)
        5. Then standard run of the proof - Existence Objectively is greater than Existence in Thought
          1. Thus God as that than which a greater cannot be thought cannot exist only in Thought
          2. There is a bit of a leap to the positive statement - that God as that than which a greater cannot be thought must exist in thought and reality - this is because of the nature of Anselm's project
            1. The positive statement is already given from revelation - all he is doing is tracing lines
            2. Both the positive statement and the statement that reduces the antithesis of the positive statement to absurdity come from revelation - they are not deduced independently
        6. This only proves God's general existence - it does not prove God's unique existence
      2. The Special Existence of God (Ch. 3)
        1. This chapter discusses the existence that is unique to God
          1. God does not only exist like other existents, rather he is the Origin and Basis of all that exists apart from him
        2. God exists in such a way (true only of him) that it is impossible for him to be conceived of not existing
          1. No possibility o f his being conceived as not existing
          2. God cannot even be hypothetically thought of as not existing - that would not be God
            1. This is different than ontic existence - it only belongs to God
          3. Now the standard proof is run with laying side by side two beings, both of which exist, but one that can be conceive to not exist, and one who cannot be conceived as not existing
          4. It is not possible for God to be that being that can be conceived as not existing
          5. This is a specially and unique type of existence not shared by God with any ontic beings
          6. In this case to the argument properly on leads to the negative statement - the positive statement is a slight leap - same reason as above
        3. The Fool is either not thinking about God or he is thinking about that whose existence cannot be denied
        4. Chapter closes with the resumption of the direct, prayerful address to God
          1. The object of the inquiry is presupposed in the most positive manner conceivable
          2. Anselm sees his theology as assent to a decision coming from its object
          3. Thinking based on revelation
        5. But how does we know that "that than which a greater cannot be thought' is really God's name?
          1. This is how God has revealed himself to man
          2. We know this because we know that when we stand before God, we don't stand as we do before another being, but as a creature before his Creator
          3. "His thinking can be true only in so far as it is true in the Creature himself. The conception of a 'better' beyond the Creator would imply for the creature an ascent to a point where by nature he cannot stand, a judgment by a standard of truth or value which by nature he cannot possess. Conceiving a greater than the Creator would there mean absurdity - not in the literal sense but the great logical-moral absurdity which just because it is that, cannot be…Should the creature fail to hear this Name of God and the prohibition it contains then that can only mean that he has not et understood the Creator as such nor himself as creature." (153)
      3. The Possibility of Denying the Existence of God (Ch. 4)
        1. Anselm now has to show how the fool is able to say what he says given what Anselm has proved
          1. The fool's error is standing in the level of existence where his statement is possible at all
          2. He must relinquish that standpoint and come to the level of existence that thinks before God -What Anselm is doing
          3. If God is known, then this thought is impossible
          4. The Fool only proves that he does not know him whose Existence he denies
        2. Bene Intelligere - truly know
          1. True Knowledge of God means to know a God that sets limits on knowledge
          2. The Name of God means that in thinking man allows God to be God
            1. Limitation of the thinkers freedom of thought
            2. Bene Intelligere means "finally to realize that it is not possible to think beyond God, not possible to think as a spectator of oneself or of God, that all thinking about God to begin with thinking TO God." (169)
            3. Theology is the science of faith about faith
            4. Exploration of what God has revealed of himself


The Structuralist Controversy: The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man (Part I)

  1. Macksey: Anniversary Reflections (2007)
    1. Irony of the conference that it was meant to introduce American scholars to Continental Structuralism, but turned out to be a requiem for the movement and the birth of post-structuralism.
    2. Offers two other narratives that the conference has been placed in:
      1. Funded by the Ford Foundation, tool of American imperialism
      2. Struggle between Hegel and Nietzsche, representing structuralism and post-structuralism/deconstruction
  2. Macksey & Donato: The Space Between -1971
    1. The conference was a major event in which leading proponents of structuralism, such as Derrida, Lacan, and Barthes, began to make evident their distancing of themselves from it.
    2. One measure of the stance between then (1966) and now (1971) is the decline of the methodological importance of linguistics and the displacement of Hegel.
    3. Linguistics had been thought to provide a "a theoretical methodological model and universal matrix for understanding all human phenomena" (xvii)
      1. Derrida has underscored the logocentric metaphysical presuppositions implicit in linguistics and thus the privileging of linguistics as a central model
    4. "Today's task for thinkers within this climate thus seems to reside in the possibility of developing a critical discourse without identities to sustain concepts, without privileging origins or without an ordered temporality to guarantee the mimetic probabilities of representation. The fundamental entities of such systems, adrift in radical discontinuity, are Events, which cannot be accounted for by transcendental idealities. For the interpreters of texts or codes as surrogate for the lost presence of a center the reader is forced (or freed) to interrogate the systematic absence of allegory or the distorting mirrors of parody. We are left with the necessity of articulating what Said has called "the vacant spaces between things, words, ideas." (xviii-xix)
  3. Preface to the First Edition
    1. Historical Background for the Conference
      1. "The general title emphasized both the pluralism of existing modes of discourse and the interaction of disciplines not entirely limited to the conventional rubric of the humanities" (xxi)
    2. Basic problems to be investigated:
      1. The statues of the subject
      2. The general theory of signs and language systems
      3. The use and abuse of models
      4. Homologies and transformations as analytic techniques
      5. Synchronic vs Diachronic descriptions
      6. The question of "mediation" between objective and subjective judgments
      7. The possible relationship between microcosmic and macrocosmic social and symbolic dimensions
    3. Volume is dedicated to Jean Hyppolite
  4. Richard Macksey: Lions and Squares: Opening Remarks
    1. Acknowledges the diversity of views that have been brought together in the conference
    2. Background to the conferences is "recent polemics…have raised serious and generalizable questions about the privileged status of our disciplinary languages and, behind the linguistic issue, the status of the subject and the so called "subject matter'" of the Human Sciences.
    3. Highlights the role of the Johns Hopkins University as the first research university in America and its early connections to European scholarship as a legacy for the conference.
      1. C.S. Peirce was among the earliest academics at Johns Hopkins
        1. His interests have many affinities with those at the conference.
          1. Including
            1. His quest for architectonic system
            2. A concern with the study of method
            3. Comprehensive theory of signs
            4. Semiotic status of the person and the interpretant
            5. Use of 'existential graphs
            6. Relationship of chance to purpose
            7. Focus on diachronic instead of synchronic description
            8. But also the idea of synechism, or universal continuity
    4. Compares the Conference to a sort of 'game' and then reflects on the ubiquity of the use of 'games' as theoretical models in contemporary thought, including decision theory and Wittgensteinian language-games.
      1. Focuses on the plurality of games in Wittgenstein's thought as a good analogy for the diversity of approaches held by the various participants.
      2. Also, two different approaches to the game of chess is analogous to a division among participants
        1. Chess can either be thought of as:
          1. A paradigm of convention rule following
          2. A means of expressing hidden personal and social impulses, historical evolution, etc.
        2. So too there are two major division in the approach to language
          1. Semiotic formalism
          2. Hermeneutic geneticism
      3. Also considers linking Wittgensteinian's approach to language-games with Austin's theory of speech acts
        1. This is basically what Brandom does
      4. Closes by considering some words by Wittgenstein about the possibility of breakdown of communication, which he sees as a possibility at the conference.
  5. Rene Girard: Tiresias and the Critic
    1. The idea of the Sciences of Man as uniting the scholars in attendance at the conference despite their wide methodological divergences
      1. The development of the idea of the Sciences of Man have altered the distinction between subject and object that has been inherited from the nineteenth century
    2. Attempts to suggest the change that has occurred using metaphor and myth
      1. Uses the myth of Oedipus to illustrate the contrast between a point of view that claims to be all-knowing and transcendent from that which recognizes the partiality and situatedness of the observer
        1. Oedipus sets himself above his city and claims to occupy a transcendent position
        2. Tiresias suggests to him that he is implicated in the events that unfold in the city
        3. Oedipus would take this suggestion as an invitation to submerge himself into subjectivity, and thus rejects it
        4. In truth, what Tiresias encourages is not a submersion into subjectivity, as contrasted with objectivity, but a doing away of both Self and Other
        5. Oedipus would attempt to reject this encouragement by appeal to 'facts' that he has observed, without recognizing that his 'facts' are predetermined by his 'false assumption of absolute autonomy.'
        6. Tiresias does not respond to Oedipus in his own tenor, saying simply what he is, but engages in a more oblique angle of approach, he rearranges Oedipus's own words into a new structure in order to demythify them.
        7. Tiresias is symbol of the changes that have occurred in the disciplines of the Sciences of Man.
    3. The methodologies that make up the Sciences of Man, such as sociology and psychoanalysis, have wide differences, however, the structure of interpretation shared by them is similar.
      1. It has been identified by Foucault in "The Order of Things."
        1. "The Sciences de l'Homme are the redoubling of interpretation upon itself. The necessarily include in their significant structures and contradict, since they reinterpret it, a first and more spontaneous interpretation more closely related to the original phenomena." (18)
        2. This is apparent in sociology, psychoanalysis, and literary criticism, in which the new methodologies aim to expose hidden meaning that were missed or denied by the participants, analysand, or author.
        3. Contemplates whether this approach courts nihilism, but then dismisses this consideration, somehow.
      2. Returns to the idea of myth. Girard believes that myths present "a real matrix of diachronically ordered structures whose suggestiveness as metaphors of our individual and collective predicament - or should I say structural models? - appears almost unlimited." (20)
      3. "I am personally convinced that truly great works of art, literature and thought stem, like Oedipus's own reinterpretation of the past, arise from a genius's ability to undertake a radical destructive reinterpretation of his former intellectual and spiritual structures." (20)
      4. Ends with a note of caution, this process of reinterpretation is endless, the genius's reinterpretation should not be taken as final, it too can and perhaps must be the object of radical destructive reinterpretation. This it should not be mistaken for the absolute and transcendent view, but should be considered only partial.
  6. Charles Moraze: Literary Invention
    1. Paper
      1. Discusses the relationship of literary invention to invention in general.
      2. Most centrally concerned with the relationship between the social, individual, and unconscious in the process of invention
      3. Begins with a discussion of invention of Mathematics
        1. Points out that in many discussions of the prominent mathematicians there is the notion that invention or discovery often has a large unconscious component to it.
      4. Three General Phases in the Process of Invention
        1. Informe - In this stage the creator familiarizes himself with the use of signs and methods in the area of inquiry that he is interested in. The collective contribution of society is important in this stage. Not just in terms of providing directly relevant information, but for providing models and inspirations for how to think about things.
        2. Cogitare - In this stage, the brain is put into a state of activity, organizing and reorganizing the data that it has. This process occurs both consciously and unconsciously.
        3. Intellegere - In this stage there is a sudden illumination wherein the solution is struck upon. Speculating about neurological aspects, Moraze claims that the suddenness and feeling of relief corresponds to a better organization of cerebral cells. On the other hand, there is an aspect of choice in intellegere, picking from amongst other possible solution. Moreover, there is an aspect of internal dialogue in this process, moving back and forth between possibilities offered and selection from among them.
          1. Moraze stresses that the two previous stages are not entirely separated, rather this is a constant movement back and forth between them.
          2. Moreover, there most be a process of evaluation and control in the process of intellegere. Much of this evaluation and control is structured by the standards of evaluation of the society surrounding the inventor. Thus, society plays an important role in both ends of the process.
      5. Difference between mathematical and literary invention
        1. Mathematics works with signs which mean nothing outside of mathematics, while literature uses signs that already have meaning, or power to effect those that encounter them emotionally.
        2. Literature consists in harnessing and modifying the power that are possessed by linguistic signs
          1. Linguistic signs have power by virtue of bearing images that effect us.
          2. Often it consists in recharging signs that have lost their power.
          3. Literary production consists in setting up relations and connections between signs that convey emotionally charged images
          4. This act is also situated in a social environment: words act by means of images on men who act on things.
        3. Moreover, in all types of creation there is a social relationship.
          1. "Work affords a certain means for men to situate themselves in the midst of society in such a way that society is located in the universe of things that it creates or that is offered it by nature." (32)
        4. He closes by saying, somewhat cryptically that, "the beautiful work is situated at the crossroads where what is accomplished comes forth from the possible and where certitude is offered as a reward for chances taken." (33)
    2. Discussion (highlights only)
      1. In response to a question about whether Mathematical questions only have one answer, Morave responds by discussing the indeterminancy or irrationality that is part of even mathematical inquiry
      2. Additionally, Morave discusses how, despite the indeterminacy in both mathematical and literary invention, there are periods when it exceedingly difficult to come up with answers or genres which differ from what everyone else is doing
      3. Furthermore, Hyppolite suggests that invention is not so much inventions of solution, but the invention of problems. This seems to mean that a truly inventive idea reorients the field, determining what the new issues and problems are.
      4. Goldman brings up the point that a different exists between the natural sciences and literature vis-a-vis invention, in that it is much easier to see what the practical problems are that invention is trying to respond to in the case of natural science. Furthermore, the problems are much more universal in the case of the natural sciences than in literature.
      5. Lacan questions the centrality that Morave assigns to the individual inventor as a person. He couples this question with a consideration of what requires solution in mathematics. What he seems to be driving at is a view that sees the system of signs as more autonomous, working towards solutions, then the individual persons working with them.
      6. Morave pushes back a little bit, saying that certainly the intellectual and social context makes problems as well as solutions salient, but it is not as if these problems and solutions would exist without humanity.
      7. Hyppolite claims that there are three entities involved in an invention, two communities engaged in a dialogue and then an individual that comes along and sees what is being missed in that dialogue.
      8. Another point that is made is the similarity between mathematical hypothesis and literature, in that in both there as an attempt to replace, to tell the story better, then previous hypotheses, stories, poems.
  7. Poulet: Criticism and Experience of Interiority
    1. Paper
      1. Poulet discusses the interiority that characterizes books as opposed to other objects.
        1. However, the interiority of a book is one that opens itself to its reader
        2. In a sense there is a dissolution of the distinction between subject and object. The book, divested of its materiality, exists as a subjectified object within the consciousness of the reader.
        3. In reading a book one thinks the thoughts of another. One says 'I,' but an 'I' that does not refer to himself. In a sense one is 'gripped' by another in reading. One is alienated from oneself.
        4. This other I is the author of the work. Not the author as known in his or her biography, but as he or she imprinted his or her mind into the work. In reading the author reveals himself or herself in us.
        5. The work forms the temporary mental substance the fills the reader.
      2. It is not the case, however, the consciousness of the reader is not present while reading. Instead the reader is there, but as if watching events unfold, passively recording them.
        1. The reader is in a state of astonishment at being witness to an experience that is not his or hers, but that she or he experiences as his or hers
        2. Criticisms consists in an alternation between identity and difference between the author and the critic.
        3. Poulet then discusses a number of French critics from the perspective of how much they identify versus how much they differentiate themselves from the author
          1. Another related factor is how much the critic deals with the language of the author and how much he attempts to penetrate through the language to the pure subjectivity of the author
          2. The basic opposition though is a union without comprehension or a comprehension without a union
          3. The critic that he seems to think the most highly of is Jean Rousset
            1. Rousset's goals is "to establish a connection the objective reality of the work and the organizing power which gives it shape. A work is not explained for him, as for the structuralists, by the exclusive interdependence of the objective elements which compose it….There is not in his eyes any system of the work without a principle of systematization which operates in correlation with that work and which is even included in it." (70)
            2. Rousset uses a method "which leads the seeker from the continuously changing frontiers of form to what is beyond form." (71)
            3. It is a way of moving from subject (reader) to subject (author) through the object (the text)
            4. At the same time, however, the 'author' is not the historical author, but the author that is present in the work and that reveals itself in the work
    2. Discussion (highlights)
      1. Poulet, in response to a question, distinguishes reading from a conversation, in that in a conversation there is a predominance of differentiation, one interlocutor asserting himself on the other
      2. Poulet also reemphasizes that one of his main points in discussing criticism was that there is a predominance of a moment of adhesion before any movement of differentiation
      3. Poulet claims that in his view interpretation should strive to achieve 'absolute subjectivity.'
      4. Girard questions whether the archetypal act of reading is identification with the author, instead he seems to suggest that it is fascination and identification with the characters of the story. Furthermore, he argues that the critical act is never immediate, but rather is a process of mediation.
      5. Poulet, though, reasserts the primacy of fusion in the act of reading.
      6. Goldman tries to bring up the issue the criterion of falsity in Poulet's approach to interpretation, but Poulet responds that a false interpretation is one that he cannot identify with.
      7. Finally, Holland, a psychoanalysist, tries to push back against the passivity of the reader, in that he claims that the reading of the book, the meaning that is put into the work, comes much more from aspects of the readers psyche than anything in the work
  8. Eugenio Donato: The Two Languages of Criticism
    1. Donato defines the Sciences of Man as "expressing a preoccupation for the unity of all disciplines dealing with the human phenomenon, independently of their particular methodologies." (89)
    2. A common feature of structuralism, whether, psychoanalysis or anthropology, in opposition to phenomenology and existentialism, is the denunciation of the notion of the subject, a Cartesian subject rooted in the greater or lesser presence that it affords itself in consciousness. (90)
    3. Structuralism also has scientific ambition, as opposed to phenomenology and existentialism
    4. Sartre and Merleau-Ponty eventual developed towards views that encompassed intersubjectivity, but this was merely multiple Cartesian subjects
    5. A change was made with Levi-Strausses application of Saussure's linguistics to the study of kinship
      1. One of the basic ideas is that parts only make sense in the wholes within which they are encompassed
      2. Furthermore, it is a concern with the basic continuity between the signifier and the signified and an acknowledgement of the importance of the signifier as more than a mere means of conveyance
    6. Derrida goes further and claims that signifiers are interminable, they do not stop at some ultimate signified
      1. Interpretation is never final, but is always violent and overthrowing what came before it
    7. The subject of interpretation is thus, never the subject of the interpretation, but the interpreting subject
  9. Lucien Goldman: Structure the Human Reality and Methodological Concept
    1. Paper
      1. Aim is to define the method of genetic structuralism
        1. Structure originates from real behavior
          1. Solution to practical problems encountered by living beings
          2. Patterns of behavior, or comportments, retained to grapple with similar problems
          3. Although the structure can be modified in particular circumstances
        2. Structure is between the individual in a particular event and the general and universal
        3. At the same time, when the researcher is trying to study a particular phenomena he or she engages in an act of circumscription
          1. This circumscription delineates who the subject is and what particular problems he, she, or they are confronting
          2. This will determine the types of structures that are searched for, whether individual, or social, or world-historic
            1. However, if the circumscription is overly local or overly general all structure disappears
        4. The fundamental thesis of all genetic structuralist sociology is that all human behavior, and more generally the behavior of any living being of some complexity is significant. That is, it is a question of a subject who within a certain situation, will change this situation in way that favorable to his needs and, on the human level, to his affective needs and concepts. In very general terms, there is a disequilibrium and the behavior is significant to the degree that it tends to re-establish an equilibrium. (100)
        5. Structure is essentially defined by the necessity to fulfill a function in a certain situation. History is constituted by the fact that, in the changing situation created by the action of the subject and by exterior interventions, structures, which have been developed as being rational and having a chance to fulfill their function to allow a group or an individual to live in conditions that existed previously, are no longer rational, and must be modified to fulfill their function. (100)
        6. Many of these comportments are implicit and non-conscious.
        7. At the level of the social, once communication is introduced, there are no longer individual subjects. Communication between individuals engaged in coordinated action can be thought of as intra-subjective. The individuals constitute one subject that engages in the activity.
          1. Proposes the hypothesis "that individual subjects - or individual consciousnesses - by acting within behavior patters which in turn go through the division of labor - become transindividual…All activities connected with technology, civilization, or culture depend on the group" (102) as subject.
          2. Demarking the subject, however, is not something that is given, rather it is a the part of the researchers task, determined by his or her interests.
        8. There are many similarities between the genetic structuralist approach and psychoanalysis. However, they differ in that interpretation, in the sense of introducing structures that are not present in the date, such as the unconscious, is a necessary part of psychoanalysis, but not of genetic structuralism.
          1. Genetic structuralism restricts itself to explanation, which is the putting of a datum into a larger context which allows the function and structure of the datum within that context to become apparent.
          2. The method of understanding of a cultural work depends on extent to which that cultural work fits with its social context. The more it fits, the more a genetic structuralism explanation is appropriate. The less it fits, the more a symbolic psychoanalytic interpretation is appropriate.
          3. Between these two extremes there are mixtures of the two types of understanding. Those the dissolve the Cartesian ego into the social and those the fracture it into the subconscious as well as those that retain the personal individual.
        9. Goldman then considers various approaches to considering the aesthetic value of a work. He claims that aesthetic value belongs to the social order; and is related to transindividual logic.
        10. At the same time, reductionism should be avoided. Literary characters do not merely express a collective consciousness, rather they express the hopes and dreams of individuals in society that they as individuals are barely able to express.
    2. Discussion (highlights)
      1. Hyppolite questions the necessary connection between structure and social function. It is perfectly possible to demarcate structure without seeing structure as pointing towards a social function.
      2. Goldmann makes clear that, while there is not transindividual consciousness, in order to understand the consciousness of the individual one must understand the behavior of the transindividual subject.
      3. Goldmann distinguishes between the human sciences and the natural sciences, in that while the natural sciences are not purely objective, they have a value that is accepted by everyone - mastery of nature, the human sciences, in contrast, have specific and particular values given to them by their researchers.
      4. Lacan points out that lying behind Goldmann ideas of the subject, whether the individual or the transindividual, is the idea of a unifying unity, of knowledge or of action.
        1. Lacan argues instead that the idea of the subject arises on the level of the 'gap' instead of unity.
      5. Pratt questions whether the genetic structuralist theory that everything must be understood within a greater whole makes sense. In effect, he argues that it results in an infinite regress where each level needs to be understood within the context of a level above it.
  10. Tzvetan Todorov: Language and Literature
    1. "Literature is, and can be nothing other than, a kind of extension and application of certain properties of language."
    2. Language is not just the medium of literature, but also the model for literature.
    3. Indicates some point of connection between literary prose and language in terms of their form
      1. Closed vs. Open forms of stories are related to the two ways propositions can be combined: coordination vs. subordination
      2. Other examples include different rhetorical devices, synonymy, and polysemy
    4. Beyond a connection in regards to their form, there is also a connection between the structure of both language and literary prose
      1. Meaning in language consists in the capacity of a linguistic unit to integrate itself into a unit on a higher level; it is the entirety of its possible relationships with other words.
      2. Applying this understanding of meaning to literature will help us to distinguish meaning from interpretation. The situation is more complex here, but it seems that meaning would be the integration of the work into a higher structure of the same type of as it, while interpretation would be integration of it into some other domain of discourse, such as sociology or psychoanalysis.
    5. Another connection is the distinction between discourse and story in language
      1. Discourse involves the author in the statement, whereas story is the presentation of facts.
    6. As well as the distinction between tale, or the sequence of events, and the plot, the particular relationship given to the events by the author.
    7. Another related issue discussed is the relationship of the protagonist in story to the author or what Todorov calls the point of view.
    8. In each of these cases Todorov does not make clear the connection between language and literature, but seems to suggest that an awareness of linguistics will shed light on these issues in literature.
  11. Roland Barthes: To Write: An Intransitive Verb?
    1. Barthes also deals with the connection between language and literature.
    2. He notes that modern authors have begun to see writing as a critique of language.
    3. From this perspective, he wants to show how the activity of writing can be expressed with the help of certain linguistic categories.
    4. This discipline is Semio-criticism, which is not just stylistics, rather it concerned by the very relationship between writer and language.
    5. Anthropological linguistics has taught as a number of important principles about language:
      1. No archaic language, older languages are not necessarily more simple
      2. Language is not a simple instrument, man does not exist prior to language and then use language to express his thoughts
      3. Linguistics has its own objectivity, it forces us to distinguish levels of analysis, at the same time cultural facts, unlike natural facts, always point us to something beyond themselves
      4. Culture is a general system of symbols, culture is a language
      5. Homology is therefore a central methodological principle in studying culture, the structure of the sentence is found homologically in the structure of literary works
    6. Confrontation of certain categories of language with the situation of the writer in relation to his writing
      1. Temporality: Linguistic time always has its center in the present statement, so too in literature while there are two temporal orders, one centered on the discourse - the expression of the author, the other centered on the story - the narrative time, the former determines the temporal system of the discourse as a whole.
      2. Person: Language has two broad pairs of opposites: person (I, thou) to non-person (he, she, it), and I and non-I (thou)
        1. Whatever persons appear in the literary work, the literary work as an expression by an author is submitted to this divisions of person
      3. Voice: Active, passive, middle. 'To write' is a middle voiced verb in the sense that the agent is making him/herself the center of the action, not purely active or passive, but involved in the action
        1. The subject is contemporary with the action, being effected and affected by it
  12. Discussion: Barthes and Todorov
    1. Goldmann argues that the difference between existentialist thought and structuralist thought is a dispute over the role of history. For Sartre it was necessary to accede to history from the standpoint of the cogito. For the present structuralists the important thing is to avoid history or historicity. He also objects to the idea that man does not exist before language, he claims that man does many things that are not linguistic.
    2. Vernant raises the question of whether the renewal of the middle voice implies a decline in the idea of the agent as entirely responsible for his or her action, in this case, writing, just as the rise of active voice indicated the rise of the notion of the autonomous agent who wills action.
    3. Schnechner raises the issue of the relationship of the performance of a literary work to language, Barthes claim that a similar relationship is maintained, though in contemporary culture theater is too naturalistic to be interesting.
    4. Derrida claims the present-day literature is an attempt to think the adventure that was Western history, the history of metaphysics. He also questions the issue of whether there is a ever a true present in language, or whether language is always past, even when the statement is made in the first person singular present.
  13. Jean Hyppolite: The Structure of Philosophic Language According to the "Preface" to Hegel's Phenomenology of the Mind
    1. Paper
      1. Aim to discuss whether there is a literary style or character proper to philosophic thought and language
      2. Hegel is an interesting case study because he is possibly last great metaphysician
      3. Two major differences separate literary discourse from philosophic discourse
        1. Philosophic discourse is subject to a norm of truth
        2. Philosophic discourse contains within it its own criticism
      4. The Preface to the Phenomenology is interesting because it was written after the rest of the work and denies its own possibility, it claims that it cannot explain the Phenomenology, because the work of the Phenomenology can only be done in the form of the Phenomenology
      5. Hyppolite insists on studying the Structure of Philosophical LANGUAGE in Hegel's Preface as oppose to THOUGHT because for Hegel there is no thought outside of the unity of signifier and signified. There is no Thought outside of Language.
      6. Indeed, the organization of the world is achieved through the ordinary language that we use.
        1. "It is in language that the world takes on means and that thought is for itself both subject and object. The linguistic environment is the universal consciousness-of-self, of Being; it is the Logos. (162)
        2. Language is the fundamental expression of a culture.
      7. Hegel tries to take up philosophically a problem that in former ages only religion dealt with. That is scrutinize and to express the ordinary language, consciousness, and experience.
        1. He also wants to reconcile ordinary consciousness with scientific knowledge in way that enables them both to recognize each other as themselves.
        2. For Hegel true knowledge is where there is no division between the subject and the object of investigation.
          1. Hegel tries to create a discourse the reflects this, one which the discourse is the rhythm of things themselves.
      8. Hyppolite also tries to rehabilitate Hegel from the charge that he tried to achieve an infinite, unattainable God-eye perspective.
    2. Discussion
      1. Lowenberg raises a number of problems with the Preface, including: that it cannot be understood without the rest of the work, that it explains common consciousness in a language which is incomprehensible to common consciousness, but which Hegel claims is the only philosophic language. He also stresses the linguistic nature of Hegel's work, viewing the Phenomenology as an exploration of how far various languages can be pressed before they become self-contradictory. He also questions the idea that there could be one true philosophical language, as Hegel seems to claim there is. Further, he claims that dialectic, even Hegel's dialectic, undermines any such claim to the absolute.
      2. Hyppolite remarks that the reason that people have difficult with Hegel's language is that in his language the subject disappears. Hegel is interested in the dynamic movement of thought as opposed to the subject that provides support to language.
      3. Girard makes the connection between the Phenomenology and Bildungsroman.
      4. Hyppolite claims that he avoids the term structure because "a structure is whole in which the terms are determined by the whole and mutually determine each other within the whole." While, in "Hegel there is no method separable from the from the development, taken in of itself. That is, there is not structure of method anterior to the structure of the discourse itself." (183)



Friday, July 16, 2010

Paul Ricoeur - The Symbolism of Evil


In this section, Ricoeur wants to "re-enact" the confession of evil as it appears in its different phenomenological phases. Two key definitions:

1) Myth: not a false explanation by means of images and fables, but a traditional narration which relates to events that happened at the beginning of time and which has the purpose of providing grounds for the ritual actions of men. Myths seek to account for the "crisis" in the bond between man and the sacred, which also provides man with a sense of the whole in which he lives. Myths are a species of symbols, developed in the form of narrations and articulated in a time and space.

2) Symbol: when myths are no longer explanations, they are demythologized but raised to the dignity of a symbol, which is a dimension of modern thought. Symbols have three dimensions: a) the cosmic (relating to the world), b) the oneiric (relating to the psyche), c) the poetic (relating to expressivity). Symbols have both a literal sense and point beyond themselves to something like a stain; they are thus opaque, as opposed to allegories. Symbols are analogical meanings which are spontaneously formed and immediately significant

The first primary symbol of evil is defilement, or unclean contact. Defilement occurs objectively when a quasi-material something infects as a sort of filth, thus inciting an anonymous wrath carrying a deadly power. It is experienced subjectively as dread or terror. Defilement has more to do with happenings in the world than with the intentions of an agent, and it exists at a stage when evil and misfortune, the ethical and the physical, have not been separated. Defilement is the first schema of the rationalization of suffering. It is experienced in the sight of other people who excite feelings of shame and under the influence of the word which gives it expression, thus making defilement both a social and linguistic phenomenon. Its symbolism of stain, preceding the division of ethical and physical, has become irrational for us. Defilement occurs in many places, but it is primarily a Greek phenomenon, and in its purer forms, pre-monotheism. In our fear of anonymous vengeance, we demand that sins be punished, thus expressing an implicit veneration of an order of punishment and expiation, which involves a hope that fear can disappear from the life of conscience.

The second symbol is sin, which is always sin against God, before God. Thus, it only comes into existence with the establishment of a covenant, making it a personal bond. In the covenant, God's infinite demand on his people is expressed through finite commandments; the distance between the two causes distress and distance. The fear of an anonymous wrath in defilement becomes fear of the wrath of God. In its negative aspect, sin is a broken relation rather than a harmful relation, a nothingness in comparison with the something of God. Here sin is seen as "missing the target" or a "torturous road," leading to a symbolism of return. A broken relation allows for pardon, making it a test of one's devotion rather than an obstacle. But sin is also positive and communal (Us poor sinners). It is in the sight of God that the reality of sin is preserved. Thus sin is something internal, unlike defilement, but objective, like defilement. The symbolism of redemption completes the symbolism of pardon, a negative phenomenon, by taking into it the symbolism of purification, a positive phenomenon. This new cycle of symbols gravitates around the theme of "buying back."

The third symbol is guilt, which is an internalization and personalization of sin. If sin is the ontological moment of fault, guilt is its subjective moment, the for-itself to sin's in-itself. Guilt is contemporaneous with defilement in being an anticipated chastisement, but different in no longer resulting from the violation of an interdict. It rather results from the evil use of liberty. In guilt, the prophetic call turns a juridical contract into a personal accusation; man becomes a measure, a quantitative reflection of sin, which is always only qualitative (you are or you ain't). The individualization of guilt breaks with the "we" of the confession of sins. Guilt means the primacy of "man the measure" over "the sight of God." Pharisaism or "the scrupulous consciousness" is a first "type" of guilt, which involves a "thoroughgoing heteronomy" where the Law has been wholly revealed in the past. It is the scribe's task to find it. Pharisaism extends the ideas of personal imputation of evil according to its connection of reward and merit. The exactness of the scrupulous conscience demands a slow progress toward salvation. The other "type" of guilt is that of Paul, who introduces the "curse of the law." Paul discovered that the law itself is a source of sin, or boasting of self-justification. He thus included pretension, morality and immorality all under the heading "flesh," thus splitting the I between flesh and Spirit. For the confession of sin as affecting a person as a whole is substituted an examination of the purity of intentions. Sin becomes guilt as an inversion through excess; sin becomes so abundant as to require a superabundance of grace.

The three primary symbols of evil coalesce in the servile will, where freedom must be delivered and this deliverance is deliverance from self-enslavement. This concept is insupportable for thought, and cannot be said directly, yet it is the central theme of salvation. According to its three primary symbols, the servile will has three schemas: 1) positiveness (defilement), meaning evil is not a simple lack but a positive power. 2) externality (sin), meaning evil comes from the outside. 3) infection (guilt). In short, the seduction from the outside is ultimately an affection of the self by the self, an auto-infection, by which the act of binding oneself is transformed into the state of being bound.

The following chart might help a bit with this section:


In this section, Ricoeur wants to see the primary symbols of evil in motion, that is, in myths of evil. The three functions of these myths are 1) to embrace mankind as a whole into one ideal history, 2) to manifest the universality of man in a movement from beginning to end, 3) to explain the discordance between end and present situation of man. In myth, symbols gain a new significance and are placed within a narration that aims at a cosmic whole. The myth thus seeks to reunite us with a lost wholeness. There are four primary myths of the beginning and the end: 1) the drama of creation, 2) the Adamic fall, 3) the tragic, 4) the Orphic myth of soul and body.

The first myth is the drama of creation, which recounts the victory of order over chaos. Chaos is anterior to order, and thus the principle of evil is primordial and coextensive with the generation of the divine. Evil is thus primordial and constantly being overcome in the creative act. Violence is inscribed in the suppression of chaos. There is no place for the fall here, because the problem of evil is resolved from the beginning. Every historical event is a reenactment of the drama of creation. The King, as both the grand penitent and the personification of a bound and delivered god, takes on supreme importance in contradistinction to an avowed Enemy; this myth is thus the foundation of a theology of war. This myth is most prominent in the Babylonian "Enuma elish," but can also be found in a "recessive" form in the Hebrew king and a "mutant" form in the Hellenic titan. In Judaism, the enemy is demythologized and historicized in the guise of Egypt, and slowly, as evil is no longer identified as primordial, a new myth is needed.

The second is the tragic myth of the wicked god. In tragedy, the divine power can lead astray and blind human beings. The tragic virtue of moderation can only be understood in relation to the god's jealousy of human beings. This hostile transcendence of tragedy cannot really be thought because it would lead to a scandalous theology of predestination to evil. The innocence of God excludes the tragic myth. There is no genuine end to the tragic, and thus no real salvation, but the spectacle nonetheless offers a kind of aesthetic transposition of fear and pity.

The third is the Adamic myth, the anthropological myth par excellence. Here, 1) the origin of evil is related to an ancestor of the human race, 2) the original of evil is radically separates from the goodness of things, 3) other characters of evil appear alongside man. Since God is good, evil must enter the world by a catastrophe of the created. Whereas Plato concluded that God must not be the cause of everything, the Jewish thinker concludes that God is the cause of everything and that man is the cause of everything that is vain. In the instant of the fall, sin loses innocence. Man's desire to know good and evil, to be like the gods, is insupportable. The knowledge offered by the serpent may be called "the evil infinite." The serpent represents the quasi-externality of evil, which St. Paul identified with the flesh. Man is not the Evil One, but he is seduced by him, is evil by yielding to the Evil One. Evil is thus already there, but I am still responsible for it. In the Adamic myth, the present kingdom of the drama of creation becomes "the kingdom to come," a second creation.

Finally, the myth of the exiled soul posits that man is divine as to his soul and earthly as to his body. Evil here is the forgetting of this difference. The body is a jail of the soul, which longs for its own divinity. One purifies one's body through knowledge.

In the final chapter of Section II, Ricoeur explains "the cycle of the myths" as they revolve around the Adamic myth. Ricoeur sees the strength of the Adamic myth lying in the fact that it absorbs the others in some fashion. For the tragic, the Adamic myth retains the serpent, which represents the already there of evil. The tragic representation here continues to express the reverse side of the confession of sins and the other pole of human evil. But, and this is key: only he who confesses that he is the author of evil discovers the reverse of confession, namely, the non-posited in the positing of evil. Just as the tragic anthropology finds representation in the serpent, so too does the tragic theology find expression in the God of Job, the unverifiable aggressor God. As in tragedy, Job's situation is not changed, but his view has, and he is ready to convert freedom and necessity into fate.

The tragic theology is invincible because it is unavowable; thus, a learned theogony as one finds in the drama of creation is the only means of making tragedy intelligible. In this way, the wicked god of tragedy becomes a logical moment in the dialectics of being.

The dualism of the Orphic myth stands in stark contrast to the monism of the Adamic myth. While the tragic myth interprets passivity and seduction in terms of divine blinding and the theogonic myth interprets them in terms of a resurgence of primordial chaos, the Orphic myth develops the aspect of the apparent externality of the seduction and tried to make it coincide with the "body." St. Paul latched on to this myth but was saved from gnosis by his Adamic mythology. Plato comes close to a Biblical conception of evil but is separated from it by his attachment to the Greek conception of desire.

Let me attempt to sum up the key points in this difficult and exhausting section: first, what is the source of evil?

1) Adam: man is to blame.
2) Tragedy: god is to blame.
3) Drama of creation: primordial chaos (god is not to blame).
4) Orphic: the body (part of man is to blame).

Second, how are the myths related through the Adamic myth?

1) The Adamic myth pins the source of evil on human actions, but its anthropological focus is counterbalanced by the admission that evil comes from elsewhere, the serpent. This second side of the Adamic myth is only opened up once one has confessed one's sins; in confession, one admits fault, which paradoxically also allows one access to a side of evil for which one is not responsible. This second side is...
2) The tragic myth. The tragic myth is the flip side of the Adamic myth. Not man but the gods are responsible for evil. This flip side is unavowable in the terms of the Adamic myth, where God is wholly good. This unavowability makes the tragic myth slip into...
3) The drama of creation because the drama of creation can at least be thought under the heading "God is good." The drama of creation is related to the Adamic myth, that is, a proper theogony and a proper anthropology are related only indirectly, through the unthinkable.
4) Finally there is the Orphic myth, and it is somewhat difficult to place in relation to the other two. In theory, the Orphic myth and the Adamic myth are completely opposed, as the Adamic myth pins the blame on man as a whole, while the Orphic myth splits up that supposed whole. But in actuality the Adamic myth comes very close to the Orphic myth in the hands of Paul, just as the Orphic myth comes close to the Adamic in Plato.

In the conclusion, Ricoeur says "the symbol gives rise to thought." Pure reflection is a broken enterprise because it will always rely on something outside of it. What we need is an interpretation that respects the original enigma of the symbols, that lets itself be taught by them, but that, beginning from there, promotes the meaning, forms the meaning in the full responsibility of autonomous thought. Ricoeur desires a second naiveté which aims to be the post-critical equivalent of a pre-critical hierophany. This second naiveté would be a second Copernican revolution.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Future of an Illusion

Sigmund Freud, 1927

Book I
Freud begins by acknowledging the desire of any cultural critic to make predictions about the future of the civilization, while simultaneously offering the disclaimer that most thinkers will be limited by the scope of their fields, the necessity of gaining distance on the present in order to accurately observe it, and the inevitable corruption of personal prejudice.

He then goes to define human civilization - the sum of all the ways we are raised above animals - in terms of two functions. First, it must protect us from nature, and, second, it must protect us from other men. In these early pages his discussion is largely economic. The distribution of available wealth makes varying levels of instinctual satisfaction possible, by allowing various privileges to certain castes, like the possibility of acquiring someone as a sexual object. Most people are hostile to civilization, viewing it as a burden imposed on the masses by a minority.

The question arises if civilization could be better ordered so that it no longer required coercion and suppression of instincts. Freud thinks not; civilization demands some level of renunciation, given that all people possess certain anti-social impulses. However, it might be possible to lessen the instinctual sacrifices and reconcile men to civilization. Still, given that, as stands, the masses are lazy and aren’t susceptible to reasoned arguments, there is always going to be a need for a powerful elite to keep them in order.

He then turns to the objection that the current state of the masses is a product of an imperfect social system, and could be corrected through education. Here he seems to be simultaneously responding to Marxists, and to Rousseau. Freud asks where we are going to find the wise leaders to teach the masses, given that they belong as much to the imperfect system as the masses. Still, despite his skepticism, he isn’t totally hostile to the idea. While admitting that a certain percentage of mankind will probably always remain pathologically asocial, he expresses the tentative hope that maybe such education might reduce that section of mankind to a minority. That would accomplish a great deal.

Chapter II:
Freud turns form the economic to the psychological, and in doing so defines a number of terms.
frustration: an instinct that can’t be satisfied
prohibition: regulation by which this frustration is established
privation: condition produced by this prohibition.

A distinction must be made between privations affecting everyone (prohibitions of incest, cannibalism, murder), and those affecting a minority. These earliest desires, which we see manifested and renounced in children, create the possibility of other instinctual renunciations. In these renunciations, we see proof of mental progress, namely that prohibitions become internalized and man’s superego takes over to include them within its commandments. In doing so, a child becomes a moral and social being. **It’s worth noting that Freud’s understanding of the superego here is much more positive than in Civilization and its Discontents.** Nonetheless, while these early demands have been largely internalized, the same can’t be said of other moral and cultural demands, as evidenced by the untrustworthiness of men.

Next, Freud makes an interesting shift from his earlier disdain of the masses, and insists that it’s entirely natural for the majority to resent being subject to prohibitions that the elite escape. “It goes without saying that a civilization which leaves so large a number of its participants unsatisfied and drives them into revolt neither has nor deserves the prospect of lasting existence” (15). Nonetheless, a culture may be united through common cultural ideals. A people tends to idealize their own achievements. This narcissistic pride is confirmed when confronted with a culture that sought excellence in a different area. Cultural ideals and xenophobia are intimately related, and both provide a means of unification and a certain satisfaction. Finally, art may provide compensation for instinctual renunciation, but, unfortunately, is only accessible to the elite.

Chapter III
“In what does the peculiar value of religious ideas lie?” Answer: when man’s ego is seriously threatened by his helplessness in the face of nature, religion humanizes religion, making its forces into something theoretically susceptible to the same means of propitiation as a human. “The gods retain their threefold task: they must exorcize the terrors of nature, they must reconcile men to the cruelty of fate, particularly as it is shown in death, and they must compensate them for the suffering and privations which a civilized life in common has imposed on them” (22).

Religion follows the infantile prototype. Weak, helpless, the child needs first the protection of his mother, and then the father. Drawing on memories of originary infantile helplessness, we construct a worldview where some providence watches over us, securing us from harm from others and from nature.

Chapter IV
Here an interlocutor enters. The most important question he poses regards the link between Totem and Taboo, and Future of an Illusion. Why was the father complex central in the earlier work, while infantile helplessness is the main explanation here?

Answer: T&T was a discussion of totemism, not the origin of religion generally. Nonetheless, totemism shares many of the key characteristics of more developed religions, making the two discussions continuous. The discussion of infantile helplessness here merely deepens our insight into the father complex. Now we realize that the ambivalence of the brothers toward the father stemmed in part from their desire for his protection as infants. Once the adult realize he is destined to remain an infant forever, i.e. perpetually in need of a protecting figure, he moves on from animal worship to creating a God with the powers and characteristics of the father.

Chapter V
“Religious ideas are teachings and assertions about facts and conditions of external (or internal) reality which tell one something one has not discovered for oneself and which lay claim to one’s belief” (31). Religions justify this claim to our belief by 1)reference to tradition (our ancestors believed it) 2) the existence of ancient proofs 3) it is forbidden to raise the question of their authenticity at all.

Freud objects to religious claims because, unlike other assertions which we assent to, they cannot be verified. Moreover, the prohibition against questioning the authority of religious claims seems highly suspicious. If traditions actually could verify their assertions, they would most likely be glad to offer such proofs. That they won’t suggests that they have no proof. Why, Freud wonders, would we accept claims made on such questionable grounds about religions when we wouldn’t do the same for any other topic?

Chapter VI
This seems the key chapter. Here Freud defines religious belief as, “illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind.” An illusion is not necessarily an error or something that is logically impossible; rather, it is a belief derived from human wishes. One could continue to believe in religious doctrines because they can’t be proved or disproved, but knowing as we do that they’re illusions, that would be intellectually irresponsible. Rather, we should acknowledge that it would be very nice if there were some benevolent, protector god, but admit that it’s unlikely to be true, and even less likely that our ancestors, who were infinitely more ignorant than us, would have successfully solved the riddle of the universe.

Chapter VII
Objection: Isn’t this inquiry undermining basic structures that support our civilization? and aren’t these conclusions bound to make life unbearable?

Answer: 1) If people do have a deep need for religion, then nothing Freud can say will take away their belief. 2) This work is not saying anything new, merely adding a psychoanalytic perspective to arguments made earlier and more forcefully. 3) There’s no real proof that religion does make people happy - on the contrary. 4) If religion really is the only thing keeping the masses from murdering, what happens if they find out the elite don’t believe in God? Won’t they just murder indiscriminately, unless stopped by brute force, or unless a new system is put in place?

Chapter VIII
There are clearly rational motivations behind many moral laws. If men weren’t prohibited from murdering, we’d live in a state of constant danger and feuds. It’s better to simply admit those motives, rather than ascribing them to God, or to the God-inspired wisdom of the state. After all, when people begin to protest against the inevitable corruption and imperfection of the state or turn against it when they realize that the God it grounds its authority in doesn’t exist, it will be safer for everyone to realize there are rational reasons to continue holding to its laws.

Moreover, its inevitable that people become disillusioned. If you think of the development of humanity as analogous to that of the individual, you’ll realize that religion is a neurotic illness which we will inevitably turn away from as a natural byproduct of growth.

Chapter IX
Objection: How do you reconcile your earlier assertion that men cannot be ruled by reason with your new plan of replacing the religious foundation of law and morality with a rational one?

Answer: At present, men cannot be guided by reason, but perhaps that is because their intelligence is so deeply damaged by imposing the absurdities of religious education on them as children. If we stop making our children retarded, maybe we’ll have a chance of breeding a new race of men, capable of rationality and overcoming the obsessional neurosis of religion. The experiment is worth trying, particularly as nothing will be imposed on those who are unwilling. Those who wish to cling to belief may.

Chapter X
Objection: this sounds incredibly optimistic for Freud. (Ich stimme dazu!) People need the imposition of some sort of doctrine to lead them from childhood to adulthood, that will allow them to master their emotional impulses. You can’t reason with small children. So wouldn’t Freud essentially be replacing one doctrine or illusion with another, less satisfying one?
Answer: “The weakness of my position does not imply the strengthening of yours.” It may be true that the voice of reason is weak, but it is persistent. And while its primacy may be at some point in the distant future, it is nonetheless not set in the infinitely distant future, like the promises of religion. Moreover, the scientific man is in a better position to handle disappointment if his plan falls through, having already renounced many infantile wishes. If a few expectations are disappointed, he can bear it much better than the religious man. If, however, the scientific worldview were totally debunked, he would be in a similar position to the religious man who realizes God does not exist. However, science has given enough proofs of its success to make that unlikely. So, really, why not at least try for improvement in this world, rather than shunting all of our hopes off into the next life?