Sunday, April 28, 2013
Males who have suffered psychological and social oppression at the hands of females (it does happen) are unlikely to be able to relate to a crude version of feminism which generalizes men as tyrants and women as victims. The oppression that is (and ought to be) the focus of feminism is the oppression of social systems, in which both men and women play their part. Women are no less perpetrators of misogyny and men also suffer (though less frequently) from asymmetrical gender roles. This is not to downplay the men-on-women violence that exists, but a reminder that this is not all there is to it.
"Let us admit what all the idealists admit: the hallucinatory character of the world. Let us do what no idealist has done: let us look for unrealities that confirm that character. We will find them, I believe, in the antinomies of Kant and in the dialectic of Zeno.
'The greatest sorcerer [writes Novalis memorably] would be the one who bewitched himself to the point of taking his own phantasmagorias for autonomous apparitions. Would not this be true of us?'
I believe that it is. We (the undivided divinity that operates within us) have dreamed the world. We have dreamed it strong, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous in space and secure in time, but we have left in its architecture tenuous and eternal interstices of unreason, so that we know it is false."
Jorge Luis Borges, Avatars of the Tortoise
"Theology and texts have far less power over shaping a religion’s lived experience than intellectuals would like to credit. This is a difficult issue to approach, because even believers who are vague on peculiarities of the details of theology (i.e., nearly all of them!) nevertheless espouse that theology as true....
This is the hard part for many intellectuals, religious or irreligious, to understand. For intellectuals ideas have consequences, and they shape their lives. Their religious world view is naturally inflected by this. And most importantly they confuse their own comprehension of religious life, the profession of creeds rationally understand and mystical reflection viscerally experienced, with modal religiosity....
The key insight of cognitive scientists is that for the vast majority of human beings religion is about psychological intuition and social identification, and not theology. A deductive theory of religion derived from axioms of creed fails in large part because there is no evidence that the vast majority of religious believers have internalized the sophisticated aspects of their theologies and scriptures in any deep and substantive sense. To give a concrete example, Sri Lankan Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims can give explicit explanations to at least a rudimentary level as to the differences of their respective religious beliefs. But when prompted to explain their understanding of the supernatural in a manner which was unscripted, and which was not amenable to a fall back upon indoctrinated verbal formulas, their conceptions of god(s) were fundamentally the same!
And that is why one should always been cautious of taking theology, textual analysis, and intellectualism too seriously when it comes to religion....
Not only do I believe that the theologies of all religion are false, but I believe that they’re predominantly just intellectual foam generated from the churning of broader social and historical forces." (Author's emphasis)
Razib Khan, Against the seriousness of theology at Discover Magazine Blogs
This is all well and good, except that religious believers in general are markedly unconscious of this dynamic process, nor are they willing to accept it. They will consciously cling to and defend the theologies despite the fact that in reality their lived religious experience hardly depends on it. This makes any fruitful dialogue with believers extremely difficult. Yes, it's good for understanding religion in a more illuminating and, some would say, sympathetic way, but it doesn't take away the fact that religious believers will continue to espouse their theologies.
"My view allows the possibility that suicide may more often be rational and may even be more rational than continuing to exist. This is because it may be an irrational love for life that keeps many people alive when their lives have actually become so bad that ceasing to exist would be better."
David Benatar, Better Never To Have Been: The Harm Of Coming Into Existence
(source: Substantia Nigra)
In a minority of cases, yes. I cannot find myself in agreement with the absolute value judgement that life is always worth living.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Monday, April 22, 2013
#TS491 prompts: twitter, aftermath, seduction
They found they could love each other only in bits and pieces, in a romance open to public gaze, all-satisfying but never-enough. #TS491
#TS492 prompts: fear, fly, farewell
The apprehension buzzed in the air like flies over a carcass, rendering their first date too gross for a parting kiss. #TS492
#TS493 prompts: fortress, fiery, rendition
A fortressed city can still burn up from inside; the recurring drama of human pride and folly seeks a charred rendition. #TS493
#TS500 prompts: chuffed, half life, South Pole
"I chuffed away half my life trying to find the elusive poles of her existence, only to realize that the axis passed through me." #TS500
Sunday, April 21, 2013
There is a spiritual impulse in humans, to seek meaning and transcendent value, and it can manifest as a humble and sublime philosophy...
At the same time, there is a rabid religious impulse, steeped in dogma, which takes the former impulse hostage and suffocates it.
Religion is both sublime and sinister, because man is both sublime and sinister.
No religion that is blind to its own darkness can hope to transcend it. Blindness, unfortunately, comes all too easy.
The world is steeped in ignorance and well-meaning individuals striving to change that are prone to forget their own submersion in the same.
The world is too certain and too far from truth. It is too certain in its assertions and its negations. It needs more self-doubt.
This intellectual humility, however, is a virtue, and virtue does not come easy. It comes from neither logic, nor faith.
A series of tweets from my twitter account.
As far as I can assess, Islam - when seen in terms of its historical origin and development - isn't quite as intolerant as extremists would like it to be, nor quite as liberal as liberal Muslims would like it to be. In this sense, both are guilty of ahistoricism. Both wish to uphold respectively idealized versions that do not correspond well with what history has to offer, and resultantly, the history is either distorted or conveniently ignored. 'Moderates' are probably more in line in terms of the severity of beliefs, but the moral zeitgeist has evolved significantly, so much so that this 'moderate' stance is no longer ethically justifiable.
The liberals are on the 'right side of history' as far as their ethical direction is concerned, but I do not think that any authentic theological reform can come out of an attitude as ahistorical as currently exists. Indeed, with this attitude of ahistoricism, there is no need to even acknowledge a need for theological reform; after all, Islam, revealed in its original form fourteen centuries ago, was already well-suited for practice in the 21st century!
#TS319 Prompts: Tango, Tangle, Tangerine.
The tango ended up in a tangle as they fell down laughing... the warm proximity was forever colored in his mind by her tangerine lips #TS319
#TS320 Prompts: Death, Drape, Desire.
She draped her death-wish with just enough vivacity that, like a hint of cleavage, it even distracted her therapist. #TS320
#TS338 Prompts: Skin, DVD, Eve.
Undressed, Eve was all skin & bones, with disc-like breasts. "You must eat something!" He was aghast. "Let me start with the apple." #TS338
#TS344 Prompts: Purgatory, Darvesh, Shooting-star.
"This kiss will earn you a year in purgatory, darvesh." "I'm past care, light of my life; may this passion burn me like a meteorite." #TS344
#TS358 Prompts: Cheek, Check, Charm.
"Woah, slow down, lover boy. Keep your cheek in check, will ya? Bad boys don't charm me. Not anymore, at least." #TS358
(Found, almost forgotten, in the Drafts folder.)
Friday, April 19, 2013
Thursday, April 18, 2013
The prospect that Albert Camus may have been considering converting to Christianity in the years before his death is something that makes me very uneasy, as an avid admirer (though not necessarily a subscriber) of his philosophy of the absurd. The dubious information comes to us from a memoir written by Howard Mumma, an American minister in the United Church of America, narrating his private conversations with Camus. This has been well reviewed in this article 'The outsider who almost came in' by Greg Clarke, which I would recommend the readers to go through. It is unlikely, to my mind, that Mumma would have made the whole thing up. I am inclined to believe there is some truth to it, but I am sure Mumma has inadvertently projected his own eagerness onto Camus and has reconstructed the conversations significantly. I am also convinced that even if (and that's a big hypothetical) Camus was seriously considering adopting some form of Christianity, the philosophical shape and essence of that would've been very different from the doctrines that Mumma upheld, and Mumma might very well have failed to understand the subtle aspects of Camus's inclinations. Given that this is the only account we have, we may never be certain of the truth.
Some of the thoughts expressed in this blogpost at The Search for Health in Decadence resonate with my own reactions:
'While most of what Mumma says is plausible, I think he greatly misunderstood Camus's "pilgrimage" toward delving into religious studies and extrapolates an "end point" for what Camus was doing that doesn't necessarily follow.
Most people might read the book trying to extrapolate whether or not Camus was well on the path of becoming a good new born Christian. Even if what is said in the book is completely true, I don't believe that Camus would be a "Christian" in the sense that most Christians are.
Camus was suffering greatly at the sense of emptiness that pervades a life built upon absurdity. If we have nothing but the world we make in a world filled with horrible evils of suffering (like the Holocaust), even a life where meaning is built upon revolt can be exhausting. Camus was looking for something more to life, more of a connection. His self-described pilgrimage doesn't strike me as an attempt to escape the wearying emptiness of living in constant awareness of the absurdities of life, but rather as a spiritual journey to connect with the existence he had in a different way.
I noticed several things in the conversations Mumma had with Camus. Camus was most engaged with the mythological aspects of the Bible. He liked the stories. Keeping in mind that Camus did his master's thesis on Greek philosophy, engaging in Christian mythology for Camus is similar to the tasks of engaging Greek mythology and stepping into the myths as he had done with Sisyphus, Prometheus, and others....
Keeping in mind the despair that Camus was suffering through at this time - his personal and professional meltdown after Sartre's attack on The Rebel, his wife's multiple suicide attempts, his recurring crippled bed-laden spells caused from tuberculosis - it is clear that the starkness of life could be reawakened with a new sort of mythological thinking in his life....
Regardless, this book shows that Camus is ever more complicated and multi-faceted than he is often portrayed as, and I can appreciate that about him. The book creates new problems for me to sort through, but I don't think this book in any way diminishes the works that he has done and his unflinching attempts to always live an authentic existence in good faith. Camus's willingness to engage Christianity at that point in his life is a fine testament to his humility, which is one of his greatest attributes.'
Monday, April 15, 2013
Jean Paul Sartre: Even if one does not believe in God, there are elements of the idea of God that remain in us.... As for me, I don’t see myself as so much dust that has appeared in the world but as a being that was expected, prefigured, called forth. In short, as a being that could, it seems, come only from a creator; and this idea of a creating hand that created me refers me back to God. Naturally this is not a clear, exact idea that I set in motion every time I think of myself. It contradicts many of my other ideas; but it is there, floating vaguely. And when I think of myself I often think rather in this way, for wont of being able to think otherwise.
Simone de Beauvoir, "A Conversation About Death and God," Harper’s magazine, February 1984
This is not an admission of a belief in God by Sartre, as some people mistakenly believe, but it is an admission of possessing some sort of a sensus divinitatis. I don't think this discredits Sartre's philosophical position of atheism in any way; this honest confession, in fact, reflects his intellectual integrity. What interests me is how Sartre maintained his philosophical stance despite an internal pull to the contrary: to proclaim that existence precedes essence, and yet constantly view oneself as 'a being that was expected, prefigured, called forth'.