Posted by: gcarkner | November 15, 2015

Inquiry Concerning Human Self-understanding

Who Are We Late Moderns?

The following is an inquest into the possibilities for dialogue among us moderns, people with divergent philosophical positions and postures. Who indeed are we? Where are our roots? What do we have to say to each other? How can we live and work together in a fruitful way amidst intense plurality and difference? In his 2007 award winnng tome, A Secular Age, top Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor offers a deep reflection on the history and current state of modernity in the West. He documents a major change in the social imaginary, the way things seem or make sense to us. This change is a shift in ethos, involving people’s basic sensibilities, their assumptions and perceptions about the way things really are. Taylor notes that human flourishing has become the main focus of life in a period of unbelief in the transcendent or divine. We have moved from a transcendent to an immanent worldview over the past five centuries, from a world picture where God was the ultimate good for the majority of citizens, to one where human flourishing in itself is the ultimate good and prime goal of human existence.

Screen shot 2012-12-03 at 8.57.24 AMTaylor is post-Durkheimian in his view of our secular age; religion has not been replaced by science. He claims that we are in pursuit of more, rather than less, spirituality today. This reveals what he coins as the “Nova Effect” of multiple spiritual journeys in this pursuit of human flourishingwhere the individual’s search is the main focus. Think Eat, Pray, Love. Western modernities are the fruit of new inventions, newly constructed self-understanding, rooted in new consciousness and blends of consciousness, a new sense of self. Self, identity is a many splendored thing in late modernity.

He articulates in much detail here, and in his 1989 Sources of the Self, three contemporary Western spiritualities: exclusive/scientific humanism, Christian humanism and neo-Nietzschean anti-humanism. These three hypergoods (cultural drivers) vie for our attention, each with a radically different message to deliver. Taylor feels that this is where the greatest increase in understanding of our modern identity is available for our study and reflection, critique and dialogue. This insight is deeply profound and needs to be taken very seriously.

Amidst this documentation of our modern spiritual journeys, Taylor willingly raises the provocative question for our reflection: Does the best life involve our seeking or acknowledging or serving a good which is beyond (independent/transcendent of) mere human flourishing? Is human flourishing in itself the best prime directive, the one that leads to the best results for human experience? He adjures us to move beyond naïve to reflective and self-critical positions.

In this pursuit, he suggests the need for a recovery of the thickness of language; he wonders whether we have flattened or depreciated our language within the ethos of exclusive humanism and Analytical Philosophy. Have we given science and descriptive language too much purchase on our identity? More on this issue of the flatness of language in a later post. It is the first time in history, notes our top Canadian philosopher, that a purely self-sufficient humanism came to be a widely-available option (one where human flourishing remained the ultimate goal, and where there was an eclipse of all goals beyond this).

He mirrors this dimension of Modernity to us, and puts it under critical scrutiny. Many of our current most famous spiritual journeys (even though they start within the immanent frame), do not end in immanence, atheism or secularity, but end in belief in God with robust results for human insight (e.g. T.S. Eliot, Gerard Manley Hopkins, G.K. Chesterton, Theresa of Lisieux, as well as many contemporary leading intellectuals). This journey entails a transcendent turn towards agape love, a love which God has for us and in which we moderns can participate and engage through his power, one which can transform and mobilize us beyond mere human perfection, pushing out the edges of human possibility and ironically, human flourishing and the pursuit of the good life.

There is much to ponder and grapple with in Taylor’s A Secular Age, a seminal work which reframes the discussion of religion in a secular society, challenging moderns to think again about who they are, where they are, and what are  their possibilities in the early twenty-first century.

Dr. Gordon Carkner

See also John Milbank, Theology & Social Theory: beyond secular reason.

CBC Ideas Series called “The Myth of the Secular”.

Come to the GFCF forum on the Future of Higher Education.

See also Jens Zimmermann, Incarantional Humanism (IVP, 2012)

Osborne.GFCF talk Some key questions from November 17 Higher Education Panelist Emily Osborne

Critical Questions to Ponder about the Self in Late Modernity

How does the pursuit of wisdom relate to developing job skills and work fitness? What are the sources of such wisdom?

What does it mean to become a cultured individual? What does it mean to become robustly personal and relational?

What is the relationship between knowledge and deeper understanding of life? What is the role of contemplation?

Does one’s development have anything to do with a consciousness of social benefit and the common good?

Are there key questions, human questions, that science cannot even begin to ask? Can science provide an adequate worldview? How do we discern between good science and the ideology of scientism?

What does personal formation have to do with education: fostering curiosity, wise judgment, humility and openness?

What cardinal intellectual and social virtues should we be pursuing and where are they sourced? Where are the models or exemplars for such virtues?

What role do universities have in shaping leaders for society? How do students develop into good citizens and learn to negotiate key issues on the international stage?

What is our responsibility to preserve the long history of the academic heritage?

What is the rich content of the good life we are pursuing through education? What is a thick definition of education?

How do we learn to use technology wisely as a tool towards good ends, without being consumed by the ideology of technologism?

Is there a place for religious and theological reflection in shaping the future task of the university? How does this contribute to the knowledge and life skills we need to live well?

Posted by: gcarkner | November 7, 2015

Prospects For Higher Education

Future Prospects for Higher Education: Key Drivers of Sustainability

November 17, 2015@ 4:00 p.m.         Woodward (IRC) Room 1

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 5.04.31 PM

Academy in Athens

Distinguished Panel

Jens Zimmermann, Canada Research Chair in Interpretation, Religion and Culture, Trinity Western University

Bruce Hindmarsh, James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College

Emily Osborne, PhD Cambridge University, Postdoctoral Fellow in English, UBC

Ron Dart, Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Politics, University of the Fraser Valley

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 12.44.45 PM

Recording of the Discussion 


In a recent Globe and Mail article, CNN’s reporter Farheed Zakaria posits the tough question, “Is liberal-arts education more than a nostalgia for a bygone era of higher learning, now out of sync with today’s hyper-competitive skills-based economies?” Such questions are also posed by many powerful influencers today. In a different issue of the Globe, Alan Wildeman, President and vice-chancellor of University of Windsor, adjures us in an article entitled “We ignore liberal arts at our peril” where he argues that the liberal arts is essential for civility, democracy, wise decision-making and competence in the job world. As a multicultural country playing in the global arena, Canada needs a citizenry that learns and studies human differences, history of ideas, social behaviors and cultural traditions. Indeed, does higher education encourage the pursuit of important aspects of character development together with academic excellence? Is it innovative, socially relevant and sustainable? Does it prepare students for negotiating an increasingly complex and competitive globalized world? What will inspire and engage their imagination in the pursuit of active citizenship and civil discourse? Post-secondary education has a huge cultural and economic influence in Canada. It shapes the future, while building on a critical appreciation of the past. In its community, UBC Vancouver has 10,000 postgraduate and 41,000 undergraduate students from around the world. They come with high hopes for skill and credential development, and long to contribute to meaningful research and to acquire good future careers. A large percentage hope to make a better world. Education seems essential for both self-awareness and global awareness. At the same time, education is under intense pressure from various forces (intrinsic and extrinsic), currently pulling it in different directions, amidst conflicting public and political expectations. In the early history of universities like Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, Queen’s and McGill, character development was a central priority. It is timely for this panel to reflect upon the purpose and trajectory of the contemporary university, and the goods it is to pursue in the future. Alan Wildeman September 7, 2015  Douglas Todd Can Higher Education Rediscover its ‘Soul’?

Panel Information

Jens Zimmermann, Canada Research Chair for Interpretation, Religion, and Culture at Trinity Western University, received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from UBC and his Doctorate in Philosophy from the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany. His research interests in include continental philosophy (especially hermeneutics), theological anthropology, the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Christian humanism. He is author of Humanism and Religion: A Call For the Renewal of Western Culture (OUP 2012), and more recently of Hermeneutics: A Very Short Introduction, also with Oxford University Press.

Dr. Emily Osborne is currently a SSHRC-postdoctoral fellow in the Department of English, University of British Columbia. She received her PhD and MPhil from Cambridge University, where she studied medieval English, Icelandic and Scandinavian languages and literature. Her current research is interdisciplinary and transcultural, spanning literature from the seventh to fifteenth centuries in four languages, and engaging with sociolinguistics and philosophy of mind. Her academic publications and research projects are concerned with the history of rhetoric, poetic theory and metaphor theory, intentionality, and speech acts.

Osborne.GFCF talk

Bruce Hindmarsh took his D.Phil. degree in theology at Oxford University in 1993.  From 1995 to 1997 he was also a research fellow at Christ Church, Oxford.  He has since published and spoken widely to international audiences on the history of early British evangelicalism.  He is the author of two major booksJohn Newton and the English Evangelical Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1996) and The Evangelical Conversion Narrative (Oxford University Press, 2005). Bruce has been the recipient of numerous teaching awards, research grants and fellowships.  He has been a Mayers Research Fellow at the Huntington Library and a holder of the Henry Luce III Theological Fellowship.  A fellow of the Royal Historical Society, he is also a past-president of the American Society of Church History. He teaches the history of Christian spirituality at Regent College. 

Ron Dart has taught in the department of political science, philosophy, religious studies at University of the Fraser Valley since 1990. He was on staff with Amnesty International in the 1980s. Ron has published more than 30 books/booklets, including books on Stephen Leacock, George Grant and the classical Canadian Red Tory tradition.       20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors

Some Readings

Clark Kerr, The Uses of the University.

Howard Gardner, 5 Minds for the Future.

Charles Taylor, A Secular Age. (2007)

Isaac Asimov, The Roving Mind.

Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge:Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy.

David Brooks, The Road to Character. (especially 262-67)

Linda Zagzebski, Virtues of the Mind: an inquiry into the nature of virtue and the ethical foundation of knowledge. (Cambridge, 1996)

Josef Pieper, The Four Capital Virtues

George Marsden, The Soul of the American University: from Protestant establishment to established nonbelief.

George Marsden and Bradley J. Longfield, The Secularization of the Academy. (1992)

Harry Lewis, Excellence Without a Soul: Does Liberal Education have a Future?

Sir Ken Robinson, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything.

C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

Tom McLeish, Faith and Wisdom in Science.

Douglas V. Henry and Michael Beaty (eds.), Christianity and the Soul of the University: Faith as a Foundation for Intellectual Community.

Timothy W. Burns and Peter Augustine Lawler, The Future of Liberal Education.

Anthony Kronman, Education’s End: Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up on the Meaning of Life.

John Somerville, The Decline of the Secular University.

John Cobb Jr., Spiritual Bankruptcy.

Brad Gregory, The Unexpected Reformation: how a religious revolution secularized society.

John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University.

Susan Cain, Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.

Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.

Anya Kamenetz, DIY U: The Transformation of Higher Education.

Elizabeth Losh, The War on Learning: Gaining Ground in the Digital University.

David Lyle Jeffrey and Dominic Manganiello, Rethinking The Future of the University.

Jeffrey SellingCollege (Un)Bound: the future of higher education.

Alexander W. Austin and Helen Austin, Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of the University in America.

R. L. Geigler and C. L. Colbeck, Future of the American Public Research University.

Josef A. Mestenhauser, Reflections on the Past, Present and Future of Internationalizing of Higher Education: Discovering Opportunities to Meet the Challenges. 

Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren, How to Read a Book: the classic guide to intelligent reading.



Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 2.00.39 PM

King’s College Chapel Cambridge

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 4.15.22 PM

Barber Learning Centre, UBC


Posted by: gcarkner | November 4, 2015

Lost in the Cosmos: Can we find self in community?

Recovery of Self in Community

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 8.49.45 AM

Walker Percy’s book, Lost in the Cosmos: that last self-help book, depicts individuals as fundamentally, existentially disoriented in late modernity. They are struggling to find their way. Many others consider that there is an identity crisis. As we see in Michel Foucault’s ethics, some leave the self even more intensely alone in late modernity–with the responsibility to create and recreate both one’s reality and oneself. See the blog series on the critique of the Aesthetic Self. This pressure drives many to discouragement, even alienation and despair. They claim to be free but actually know they are lost, and do not know where we are going. We are very busy impressing our friends and getting on with life, but we come up empty on the question, Who am I? Below are some thought-provoking quotes from Percy’s book that set out the problem, and then some responses to address this issue of self and identity. This was the focus of my PhD.

The peculiar predicament of the present-day self surely came to pass as a consequence of the disappointment of the high expectations of the self as it entered the age of science and technology. Dazzled by the overwhelming credentials of science, the beauty and elegance of the scientific method, the triumph of modern medicine over physical ailments, and the technological transformation of the very world itself, the self finds itself in the end disappointed by the failure of science and technique in those very sectors of life which had been its main source of ordinary satisfaction in past ages.

Social life is disappointing. The very franticness of attempts to reestablish community and festival, by partying, by groups, by club, by touristy Mardi Gras, is the best evidence of the loss of true community and of the loneliness of self, stranded as it is as an unspeakable consciousness in a world from which it perceives itself as somehow estranged, stranded even within its own body, with which it sees no clear connection.

How can you survive in the Cosmos about which you know more and more while knowing less and less about yourself, this despite 10,000 self-help books, and 100,000 psychotherapists?

The Self since the time of Descartes has been stranded, split off from everything else in the Cosmos, a mind which professes to understand bodies and galaxies but is by the very act of understanding marooned in the Cosmos, with which it has no connection. It therefore needs to exercise every option in order to reassure itself that it is not a ghost but is rather a self among other selves.

Why is it that the look of another person looking at you is different from everything else in the Cosmos? That is to say, looking at lions or tigers or Saturn or the Ring Nebula or at an owl or at another person from the side is one thing, but finding yourself looking in the eyes of another person looking at you is something else. And why is it that one can look at a lion or a planet or an owl or at someone’s finger as long as one pleases, but looking into the eyes of another person is, if prolonged past a second, a perilous affair?

We thank Walker Percy, a medical doctor who morphed into a writer, for his provocative questions. He wrote six novels and as such he found a way to tend to the healing of souls, to offer some signposts for a lost culture. If we are to deal with our pain, it cannot be accomplished on our own. These questions wake us up to our current dilemma. We are not in fact totally marooned, but perhaps we need a new map of reality, a new social imaginary or way of seeing, as Charles Taylor puts it. We have suffered a debasement of our language and a desiccation of our imagination. We need to rediscover our mother tongue, a vocabulary and syntax to name things once again, an ability to recognize what is going on around us and find our way home. Rowan Williams asks:

What is it to be human: to be a creature, a part of the world, a moment in a pattern, dependent on others, others dependent on ourselves, called therefore to contemplation, without which there is no growth or fullness. Isolation is the refusal of humanity; and that includes the isolation of my or our needs from those of the human world. Beyond it stands the Luciferian impulse to destroy reality for my sake, the impatience with the weary burden of creatureliness. Creatureliness means never having ‘done with’ people or the world or God. It means the risk of response, decision, listening and answering, attending to a constantly shifting environment. (R. Williams, 2005, 42, 43)

We propose that the lost and homeless self of late modernity can find a home in ‘I-Thou’ community as openness to the Other (God and other human selves). Ephesians 4 shows that community is grounded in the loving community within the Trinity, a unity that represents diversity and sociality, a community that is part of a larger drama. Charles Taylor writes about identity this way:

I can define my identity only against the background of things that matter. But to bracket out history, nature, society, the demands of solidarity, everything but what I find in myself, would be to eliminate all candidates for what matters. Only if I exist in a world in which history, or the demands of nature, or the needs of my fellow human beings, or the duties of citizenship, or the call of God, or something else of this order that matters crucially, can I define an identity for myself that is not trivial. (C. Taylor, 1991, 40-41)

Taylor suggests that we do not take ourselves or our human journey seriously enough. Colin Gunton, in his very helpful book on the Trinity, The One, The Three and The Many (chapters 5-8), illustrates this beautifully. Here we begin to explore the “inter-subjective” aspect of true selfhood with moral and political responsibility in the context of community and tradition, a self that is grounded in the selfhood of God. Personhood is grounded in the nature of God-as-Trinity, characterized by his self-imparting love, three-persons-in-communion (perichoresis). Trust can then re-emerge as one begins to discover the I in the Thou (empathy or entering the framework of the other–Wilhem Dilthey). A. I. McFadyen’s basic concept of the person depends on its relation with other personal centers, through commitment to others (A. I. McFadyen, The Call to Personhood: A Christian Theory of the Individual in Social Relationsips. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, 9).

Reciprocality (one-anotherness or mutuality) replaces individualism of identity and the lostness, alienation or aloneness we feel intensely at times. Self is re-discovered through the mission of serving the other, taking responsibility for the other (Levinas), commitment to the other, and being with the other in communion and friendship. This complements Brene Brown’s concept of vulnerability, which she believes is central to human health and well-being. Alasdair MacIntyre and Robert Bellah attempt to reconnect the self to some larger reality in order to overcome the fearsome slide toward radical subjectivism that is so common in the identity of students today. This agrees with sociologist George Herbert Mead, who  made the point about the social genesis of the self. We are never our full self as an individual lone wolf.

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 9.00.19 AM

Alasdair MacIntyre attends to the cultural and historical roots of the self, its embodiment in tradition and community. This is often referred to as embeddedness (Merleau-Ponty). Community does not imply a traditionless assemblage of individuals. He fights the Enlightenment atomism of the subject which is ahistorical and universalist, an atomism which has helped to contribute to the crisis of self, the crisis of community, and many crises of global affairs. Knowledge needs a strong community to preserve its integrity, to keep it from collapsing. Community and a strong storyline or narrative is essential for a stable identity, where the why of our existence is our front of the how. This is well worth drilling down into, and one might benefit from author Andy Crouch’s book, Culture Making: rediscovering our creative calling. Crouch reasserts a directionality to life with both a conserving and creative edge: to learn from the past heritage of culture as we contribute new goods and innovations to promote shalom, the common good. Another key voice in rediscovering the soul of community is architect Christopher Anderson (The Nature of Order). Without a rediscovery and reassertion of community, our world is in for some devastating and persistent problems as we see in the current refugee crisis in the Middle East and Africa.

~Gordon E. Carkner PhD Philosophical Theology

Gordon Carkner on a Critique: Radical Individualism Examined

 Other authors/intellectuals offering this approach: Stanley Grenz, Jurgen Habermas, Immanuel Levinas, J. Richard Middleton, G.C. Berkouwer, Jim Wallis. 

Posted by: gcarkner | October 29, 2015

Lectures on Human Origins, October 2015

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 9.25.14 AM

Richard focused on the biblical concept of the Imago Dei as a starting point for dialogue between theology and evolutionary theory. It is summarized in this prepared article for publication in the Oxford Encyclopedia.

Middleton, Image of God 7-15-14  Jeff Schloss on Human Origins

There will be a course offered by Regent College next term on Science and Theology Regent SCI & THEO_517

Dr Edward Larson on Darwin’s History

Posted by: gcarkner | October 23, 2015

Compatibility Test #2: Postmodern Ethics

Can postmodernism fare better than naturalism in ethics?

R Scott Smith, PhD, Biola University


In my first talk, I addressed the topic, “can scientific naturalism even begin to explain ethics?” Despite many attempts by naturalists to account for ethics, I argued in part that we cannot have any knowledge based on what naturalism allows as real. The reasons for this can be seen perhaps most clearly in the work of the naturalist philosopher of neuroscience, Daniel Dennett, whom I think takes naturalistic evolution very consistently. Moreover, I argued that naturalism cannot account for some widely known “core” moral principles and virtues.

But, perhaps postmodernism (as explained by Wittgenstein or Derrida, for instance) might provide a favorable alternative. On it, everything is interpretation, for there is no direct access to reality itself. To even have an experience requires interpretation. If that is so, then it would seem that the “fact-value split,” the idea that the sciences uniquely give us knowledge of facts in reality, whereas ethics gives us just personal opinions, is itself just an interpretation drawn from a historically situated, contingent context. Thus, postmodernism tries to deconstruct and show that this proud confidence in science to give us knowledge of reality is just another modern myth.

So, several ethicists have proposed more postmodern approaches to ethics, and a major one is Alasdair MacIntyre. He proposes a return to Aristotle’s virtue ethics, yet modified in key ways, as a way to recover from the loss of moral knowledge precipitated upon us by the Enlightenment. Yet, knowledge now is to be understood as always from under a particular aspect, for no one has an ahistorical, blind-to-nothing standpoint.

Screen Shot 2015-09-14 at 7.44.56 PMFor many, the “postmodern condition” just is axiomatic, and it reflects the ways we should go forward now in ethics. But, is this so? I will argue that while postmoderns are right to draw our attention to the ways our “situatedness” affects how we interpret our experience, they are mistaken in their claims that everything is interpretation. If everything is an interpretation, what are we interpreting? We are forced into an infinite regress, without any way to get started and know anything. Instead, I will argue that we can know reality directly, yet that does not mean we are blind-to-nothing, or can have a “God’s eye view” or exhaustive knowledge. Our situatedness does matter, but it may need to be more carefully considered.

Moreover, postmodern attempts cannot make adequate sense of what kind of thing some core moral principles (e.g., murder and rape are wrong) and virtues (e.g., love and justice) are. If naturalist and postmodern approaches fail to do this, what is a better explanation? I’ll argue that a much better explanation is that metaphysically they are immaterial and universals, and that they exist objectively.

Thus, I will argue that we can have moral knowledge, and along with my argument in my previous lecture, this helps refute the fact-value split.

 See also blog posts on Quality of the Will.

Posted by: gcarkner | October 23, 2015

Compatibility Test #1: Ethics and Materialistic Naturalism?

  1. Can scientific naturalism even begin to explain ethics?

R. Scott Smith, PhD, Biola University

In the west, until the Enlightenment, both ethics and religion tended to be seen as areas in which we could have knowledge. But with the historical rise of 1) the view that the universe is a closed, mechanistic, and material system, 2) the view that science is the pinnacle of the disciplines, and 3) empiricism (the theory that all knowledge comes by the five senses), science came to be viewed as the unique set of disciplines that gives us knowledge of facts. Instead, ethics and religion were relegated to the realm of mere values, personal preferences, and opinions. This, of course, is known as the “fact-value split.”

Before the Enlightenment, and even the rise of naturalism to prominence in the modern era, moral principles and virtues generally tended to be seen as the kinds of things that can be universal, objectively real, transcendent, and even immaterial, being knowable by reason and/or revelation. By and large, people then tended to see morals as having an essential nature. But that mindset shifted in light of empiricism and naturalism. For if 1) all knowledge comes by the five senses, 2) there are no real, immaterial universals, and 3) all that exists is made up of physical stuff, then morals also came to be viewed as the kind of thing amenable to being studied empirically by science.

 Now, naturalists have proposed many alternative views about morals. E.g., some argue that they are just biological adaptations, while others contend they are just our constructions. Some focus on the meaning of moral statements and our language use. Some of these conclude that moral statements do not have any cognitive content, while others disagree, being subjectivists or objectivists. Still others embrace “error” theory, and so on.

 Yet, they all hold in common a rejection of any real, intrinsically valid moral facts or properties, because there are no essential natures. This gives rise to a problem for any naturalist, for as Simon Blackburn explains, “The problem is one of finding room for ethics, or placing ethics within the disenchanted, non-ethical order which we inhabit, and of which we are a part” (Ruling Passions: A Theory of Practical Reasoning (Oxford: Clarendon Press), 49).

 But I will argue that if we take naturalism seriously, and what it claims is real is indeed so, then we cannot know anything (even in science, business, etc.). To do this, I will examine the claims of Daniel Dennett, a leading philosopher of neuroscience. If I am correct, then the fact-value split is false. But, we do know many things, even a few widely held, clear examples in ethics. These findings will help show that naturalism is false. But that means a radically different worldview, and ontology, must be true.

(For more on this topic, see my In Search of Moral Knowledge (2014) and Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality (2012).)

See also Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos.

Blog Posts: Quality of the Will.

Posted by: gcarkner | October 12, 2015

Global Crisis on Income Inequity: Joseph Stiglitz at UBC

Insights from a Presentation by Joseph Stiglitz at UBC Law School

Nobel Laureate in Economics

sponsored by UBC School of Economics and the Liu Institute

Joseph Eugene Stiglitz (born February 9, 1943) is an American economist and a professor at Columbia University. He is a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (2001) and the John Bates Clark Medal (1979). He is a former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank and is a former member and chairman of the (US president’s) Council of Economic Advisers. He is known for his critical view of the management of globalizationfree-market economists (whom he calls “free market fundamentalists“), and some international institutions like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 12.48.31 AMIn 2000, Stiglitz founded the Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD), a think tank on international development based at Columbia University. He has been a member of the Columbia faculty since 2001, received that university’s highest academic rank (university professor) in 2003, and is the co-chair of the university’s Committee on Global Thought. He also chairs the University of Manchester‘s Brooks World Poverty Institute as well as the Socialist International Commission on Global Financial Issues and is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. In 2009 the President of the United Nations General AssemblyMiguel d’Escoto Brockmann, appointed Stiglitz as the chairman of the U.N. Commission on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, where he oversaw suggested proposals and commissioned a report on reforming the international monetary and financial system. Since 2012 Stiglitz has been the president of the International Economic Association (IEA). He presided over the organization of the IEA triennial world congress held near the Dead Sea in Jordan in June 2014.

Based on academic citations, Stiglitz is the 4th most influential economist in the world today, and in 2011 he was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Stiglitz’s work focuses on income distribution, asset risk management, corporate governance, and international trade. He is the author of several books, the latest being the best seller, The Great Divide: Unequal Societies and What We Can Do About Them (2015).

Below are some notes on his presentation at UBC. It is interesting to read this against the background of The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and Jim Wallis’ profound and compassionate book The (Un)Common Good. Chrystia Freeland’s book Plutocrats and Thomas Picketty’s book Capital in the Twenty-first Century are also very insightful contributions to the economic state of our world. Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | October 11, 2015

Core Values for Robust Creativity

Our Core Values in GCU

  • Students engaging and encouraging fellow students on the cutting edge of thought and research.
  • Courage and integrity in the pursuit of excellence in research and noble personal character.
  • Winsome exploration of fullness and joy in our work and life, to live large with humility.
  • The agape love posture of respect in relationships with high goals for collegiality and friendship.
  • In preparation for global citizenship and pursuing hope for a better and more just world.
  • A stance of intellectual openness in the pursuit of a reasoned faith and faithful, responsible, virtuous reasoning, handling the pursuit of knowledge wisely.
  • A constructive contribution to campus discourse, raising important questions, and exploring fresh ideas and horizons.
  • Drilling down into the richest heritage of Judeo-Christianity, leaving no stone unturned. Exploring how this can inspire and open up channels for academic investigation.
  • Develop a deep identity in Jesus Christ and the biblical narrative while respecting difference in convictions of others, promoting a responsible spiritual quest for truth, beauty, goodness and community. Pursuing my truest self.
  • Encouraging intense curiosity that draws from the wisdom of faculty across the disciplines and scholarship from around the globe.
  • Advocating for others who are less fortunate or less privileged, pursuing their empowerment and freedom from oppression and grinding poverty. Pursuit of the common good towards an integral humanism.

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 8.06.03 AM

Key Words to Capture the GCU Narrative Curiosity, Community, Character, Open to Dialogue, Digging Deeper into Faith and Reason, Integration, Science-Religion Dialogue, Identity Capital, Big Questions, Meta-Biology, Meaning and Calling, Adding Value to Education, Culture Making, Justice and the Common Good, Creative Imagination, Good Scholarship, Innovation, Christo-centric Inspiration, Incarnational Humanism, Adventure and Fun, Celebrating Creation, Re-thinking the Secular, Social Relevance.

GCU is interdisciplinary and international, it creates a lively conversation as people bring their wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise to the table. They also bring their heart, humor and their joy to community. Let’s get to know each other and explore new horizons together during this important journey of postgraduate education.

Screen Shot 2015-10-17 at 1.49.31 PM

Posted by: gcarkner | October 4, 2015

Reflections on Ethics at UBC Oct. 7 and 8

Scienitific Naturalism and Ethics- R. Scott Smith Transcript of “Can Scientific naturalism Fully Explain Ethics?”

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 3.23.57 PM

130101_002 Scott Smith Audio File “Does Postmodernism Offer a Better Alternative?

Naturalism is a picture of the whole of reality that cannot, according to its own intrinsic premises, address the being of the whole; it is a metaphysics of the rejection of metaphysics, a transcendental certainty of the impossibility of transcendent truth, and so requires an act of pure credence logically immune to any verification…. Thus naturalism must forever remain a pure assertion, a pure conviction, a confession of blind assurance in an inaccessible beyond; and that beyond, more paradoxically still, is the beyond of no beyond. (D.B. Hart, 2013, p. 77)

The commitments to metaphysical naturalism and ideological scientism that govern “public reason” dictate a conception of reality that prevents the grounding of any morality at all…. If metaphysical naturalism is true then human rights are not and cannot be real, natural or discovered. They are at most constructed conventions or useful fictions, but intellectually they are unwarranted remnants from a rejected conception of reality. (Brad Gregory, Notre Dame, 2012, p. 224-5)

Scott showed brilliantly that logically naturalism hampers or handicaps our ability to know things and know moral values. Nominalism reduces the world to particulars. It is anti-intellectual in the sense of understanding the essence of things, persons or ethics. Ultimately, we cannot trust our own thoughts, perceptions and convictions; it is skeptical of mental properties. Its strong ideological scientism is self-stultifying. We are left with no certainty of knowledge at all.

His counter was that, in fact, most of us believe we do know persons and things and moral values like justice and fairness and love. Thus skepticism should be thrown back on metaphysical naturalism or materialism. See also the work of Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies Chapter 10.

Posted by: gcarkner | October 1, 2015

Alternative to Ethical Relativism

Alternative to Relativism


Come and hear R. Scott Smith live at UBC on October 7 & 8 on Can Scientific Naturalism Fully Explain Ethics? and Does Postmodernism Offer a better Alternative to Naturalism in Ethics? Woodward (IRC) 5 and 1 respectively @ 4:00 p.m.

We see genuine hope in premiere Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor and his retrieval of the language of the good.  Ethical relativism denies that any objective, universal moral properties exist. It arose in the philosophical context of the dominance of empiricism and naturalism and the rejection of metaphysically abstract universals. It perpetuates the mindset that  we know how things really are for all people: i.e. that morals are relative to individuals or cultures. It is a universal claim that there are no universals. Nietzsche saw very clearly that if there was an end to God and traditional values, then the strong could impose their values on the masses. Domination would be widespread. Thus came his model of the ubermensch (superman) and the ethics of will-to-power.  There is a natural progression from relativism to will-to-power ethics (with the view that a human is just another thing in the world). William Golding’s book Lord of the Flies, which many of us studied in secondary school, is a graphic, heart-wrenching picture of unrestrained evil, where might makes right and bullying and scapegoating is the accepted social ethos. A group of boys marooned on a remote island make their own society, and the results are shocking. The twentieth century has trembled at the great atrocities and abuse of power by those who are without any fear of a transcendent being or any sense of obligation to a code of conduct or set of norms. They operate without accountability. We enter a Hobbesian world where it is ‘all against all’. See the BBC documentary on Nietzsche “Human all too Human”

Moral philosopher R. Scott Smith argues (In Search of Moral Knowledge) that ethical relativism or subjectivism is a bankrupt view of the nature of morality; it utterly fails as a moral theory and a guide to one’s moral life; it results in morally inconsistent and untrustworthy behaviour. It leads to the complete demise of morality itself with absurd consequences:

We should not settle for a relativistically based tolerance, since it will not succeed in building a moral society or in helping people be moral.That kind of morality forces us to consider all ideas and ways of life as being equally valid, yet we can know that this is not the case … Nevertheless, tolerance (as respect  of people as having equal moral value) would make sense if a universal, objective moral basis exists for that equality. (162)

Relativism in the twentieth century has led us into some very dangerous political experiments; billions have been spent on war-making; human rights have been violated in terrible ways; imperialism ran rampant; multiple millions have perished. It is known as the bloodiest century in history.  British journalist Paul Johnson (A History of the Modern World: from 1917 to the 1990s) graphically illustrates the way in which the ethic of will-to-power has flourished in the soil of relativism during the twentieth century. In fact, we may well ask, Do we have one example in history of benevolent leadership without the restraint of traditional morality and the rule of law, i.e. a context where the governing authorities have absolute power whether tzar or proletariat leader? How indeed is Russia operating these days? Read More…

Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 29 other followers