Posted by: gcarkner | July 21, 2015

Consequences of Radical Freedom

Radical Freedom and its Discontents

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According to Charles Taylor (Hegel and Modern Society, 1979, pp. 156f), historically the trend toward the radicalization of freedom comes from four key moves. It is an adventure in nihilism. It involves a decontextualization, a shaking loose of the self from definitions of human nature and from the natural world, the cosmic order, social space, or history. This gets back to Michel Foucault’s notion of getting free of oneself and his critique of the present. There are four stages to this move and four consequences.

Stage (a) The new identity of the self-defining subject is won by breaking free of the larger matrix of a cosmic or societal order and its claim. Freedom is defined as self-dependence, and self-sufficiency. It entails a negative concept: freedom is won by breaking the hold of the lower oppressed self (constructed by a disciplinary society for Foucault) so that one might explore one’s potential, experimental self. (Ibid., p. 156)

Stage (b) Human nature is not simply a given, but is to be remade, reinvented. To be integrally free, one must reshape one’s own nature. The only kind of situation which this view can recognize is one defined by the obstacles to unrestricted action, which have to be conquered or set aside as external oppression; liberation is a process which results in freedom from shackles. One of the key shackles is the identity given to one’s self by others. (Ibid., pp. 155, 156)

Stage (c) In this stage, there is a celebration of the Dionysian expressive release of instinctual depths (the uncensored self) of the human animal. ‘Modern society is seen as the oppressor of the spontaneous, the natural, the sensuous or the “Dionysiac” in man’ (Ibid., p. 140). Rooted in Schopenhauer, this dark and pessimistic view of freedom and the human condition leads to despair about freedom understood as self-dependence, because this sort of freedom can release violence and many other forms of negative human self-expression. There is both fear of, and celebration of, such human desires in the third part of Foucault’s oeuvre, the later ethical works.

Stage (d) The final stage of this Nietzschean nihilism is the death of all traditional values (transvaluation of all values) and the admission that ethics is grounded in the will to power. The empty self risks ending in nihilism, that is, self-affirmation through the rejection of all values. One after the other, the authoritative horizons of life, Christian and humanist, are cast off as shackles on the will. Under these circumstances, freedom means dependent in one’s actions only on oneself, lacking accountability to God, principle or society (Ibid., p. 157). Foucault’s ethics seems to include all four stages. He points enthusiastically in the direction of freedom, but does not offer parameters or guidelines of how to proceed, intentionally so. Nor does he offer ways of avoiding or managing the most negative results of this kind of freedom.

Taylor’s Moral Self-Construction Diagnostics (structure for articulation of freedom)

~from Malaise of Modernity

Category A (Creativity)

(i) Creation and construction (as well as discovery) of the self.

(ii) Pursuit of originality in one’s self-crafting.

(iii) Opposition to the rules of society and even potentially to what one recognizes as morality, or the moral order.

Category B (Social and Moral Accountability)

(i) Openness to horizons of significance prevents one’s self-creation from losing the background that can save it from insignificance and trivialization (self-destruction of meaning).

(ii) Self-definition needs to be developed in dialogue with significant Others, that is, fellow moral interlocutors within a community and a narrative. (Taylor, 1991, pp. 65, 66)

_____________________________________

Consequences of Radical Freedom: Taylor argues that there are four significant dangers in this type of self-determined, atomistic, situationless freedom. He saw the same problems in Hegel.

(a) Self-trivialization: The feeling of emptiness emerges within this notion of freedom; it produces a self that is hollow.

Complete freedom would be a void in which nothing would be worth doing, nothing would deserve to count for anything. The self which has arrived at freedom by setting aside all external obstacles and impingements is characterless, and hence without defined purpose. (Taylor, 1979, p. 157)

The goal of freeing the self for creativity is not sufficient as a defined moral purpose; it is yet undefined or indeterminate as a criteria of human action or mode of life; moral action needs to impart a shape to this creativity. The aesthetic self exists in a void of situationlessness, that is, form and style without defined moral content. Aesthetic-freedom does not offer significant discernment between good and evil, higher and lower trajectories of the will, the nobel versus the ignoble, benevolence versus terrorism. This is why nihilism is attractive to fundamentalists. Taylor the philosopher is inclined to ask about the telos of freedom: Creativity? Serving others? Community? Worshipping God? Character development? Self-indulgent sensuality? Violence? Egoism? Any of these could constitute the aesthetic ethos that Foucault purports. Art and poetry have been use to justify oppression, as well as oppose it.

(b) The Dionysian problem: Taylor (1979) writes of this danger in the following way.

If free activity cannot be defined in opposition to our nature and situation, on pain of vacuity, it cannot simply be identified with following our strongest, or most persistent, or most all-embracing desire either. That would make it impossible to say that our freedom was ever thwarted by our own compulsions, fears, or obsessions. One needs to be able to separate compulsions, fears, addictions from higher more authentic aspirations. (p. 157)

There is definitely the positive side of the expansion of one’s individual freedom through taking responsibility for oneself and the world, but also a dark side to this release of the passions and appetites, on a trajectory of pleasures without end. The sadistic, unhealthy sociopathic self can gain pleasure from causing other people pain. One ought to be able to distinguish between base compulsions and the ability to hold those compulsions in check for a higher purpose, for example, to save the life of a child or feed the poor. The moral advance accomplished by Foucault’s self in the pursuit of justice as a release of the captive self from repression is one side. But we cannot miss the darker possibilities (as continental people do) of the desires of the moral self: toward a possible addiction to anti-human irrational hatred, or racism as one notes on the uncensored Internet. This is what Taylor (1979, p. 158) cautions:

We have to be able to distinguish between compulsions, fears, addictions from those aspirations which we endorse with our whole soul. It is a key point that absolute freedom misses the point about the distortions of inauthentic (suspect) and malevolent desires, and how they can lead to a life of mediocrity, self-indulgence, or self-destruction.

Freedom, both in its resistance and self-actualization, is both ontological ground and telos for Foucault. But what does freedom for freedom mean? Does it add up to a self-reflexive tautology. Should it not be connected to the good or a higher purpose? The Foucauldian self wants to break free from the social, historical and institutional webs which, in his view, seek to control it. His ideology of the expressive, artistic self needs radical decontextualized freedom, a freedom that is also transgressive of limits and questions social boundaries on the self. It slips into ideology.

(c) Problem of Despair: How is despair entailed in self-determining freedom? Without any larger horizon of meaning than that within the borders of the self, the burden weighs heavily on the individual self to invent all meaning. Despair is the term used by Kierkegaard (1941) and noted by Taylor (1979, p. 159). It entails the inability to accept oneself, and the sense that one is trapped inside oneself, obsessed with getting out, getting free of oneself to use Foucault’s language. Is the call to continually recreate self, and get free of self, in the thinking of Foucault, a symptom of a battle or dialogue with despair? We believe it is. Kierkegaard would see this trap in the loop of Foucault’s self-reflexive relationship with self in his work Care of Self. His discourse on ethics implodes into self-love and self-protection.

For Foucault, is the self really free, or is it caught in a self-enclosure that Kierkegaard labelled despair? This is similar to Jean Paul Sartre’s play Exit. Foucault exits into the tradition of freedom as autonomous self-determination; Kierkegaard makes the exit altogether outside the tradition of freedom as self-dependence and into interdependence with God and other persons. In Kierkegaard’s estimate, despair can only be overcome by relating oneself to the external Self (to receive and give love). This external and transcendent Self (God) constitutes the whole relational possibilities of the self. For him, one is free only when relating to other persons freely in a way that promotes their freedom.

Again, Foucault’s position is a refusal of context. Taylor (Ibid., p. 159) reiterates,

If the radical freedom of self-dependence is ultimately empty, then it risks ending in nihilism, that is, self-affirmation through the rejection of all “values”.’ Radical freedom paradoxically creates a trap for the self. The only way out of this despair is to situate freedom in relationship to the good, to world, to society, and to one’s calling and purpose.

Taylor (Ibid., p. 160) leaves us with much to ponder:

This means recovering a conception of free activity which sees it as a response called for by a situation which is ours by virtue of our condition as natural and social beings. Crucially, this means acceptance of our defining situation as a positive place to stand, rather than a place from which to escape.

(d) Lost Potential in Relationships: Complementarity or Incommensurability?

Furthermore, on the issue of the dangers or drawbacks of self-dependent freedom and the culture of self-love, there is the avoidance of the good of complementarity between persons. In the book, A Catholic Modernity?, Taylor (1999, pp. 114f ) makes an important point about Foucault’s definition of freedom as self-dependence. It offers a good test of Foucault’s doctrine of freedom. In contrast to the Herder-Humboldt model of complementarity (Ibid., p. 115), freedom as self-dependence rejects the possibility of human complementarity. Foucault noticeably never uses freedom as a form of interdependence with others; he is quite suspicious of this association and its potential harm. Foucault’s appeal to difference is in fact a refusal of exchange, of complementarity, which turns difference into incommensurability. That promotes an anti-social stance in life and leaves one in intense loneliness. It can also tend towards elitism as we see in Nietzsche (Human all too human).

Taylor, in contrast, sees much potential in complementary relations, and has dedicated much of his thought to conciliatory relationships, even amidst difference of opinion. He points to Hannah Arendt as a key intellectual who promotes the empowerment of collaboration, or mutual association. The posture of decontextualized freedom is always one of independence of the control of others. Taylor (1999) captures Foucault in a lucid manner as a philosopher of freedom but not necessarily a philosopher of hope. It is a negative view of freedom according to the categories of Isaiah Berlin.

Foucault in an important sense was a philosopher of freedom … that is, he was a philosopher who claimed to unmask and lay bare domination, the interiorization of power relations by victims, and although he often claimed that power had no subject he certainly portrayed it as having victims … The moral thrust of these analyses … was implicit in the language in which it was cast. They called for opening a line of resistance for the victim, a disengagement from the full grip of the current regime of power, particularly from its hold on our self-understanding. Foucault’s own intervention in politics and public life … bore out this interpretation … In his History of Sexuality 2 & 3 and latest interviews, he made clear his view of freedom, the building of an identity relatively uncolonized by the current regime of power. (p. 115)

Those who celebrate Foucault and advocate for radical freedom should reflect on these negative consequences.

~Dr. Gordon E. Carkner Ph.D.

Posted by: gcarkner | July 3, 2015

Summer Good Reads

Good Reads for Summer 2015

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Wesley Hill, Spiritual Friendship.

John Dickson, Humilitas

 Iain Provan, Against the Grain: selected essays.

 Wendell Berry, This Day.

 Os Guinness, The Global Public Square

 Thomas Merton, The Seven Story Mountain: an autobiography of faith.

 Daniel J. Treier, Virtue and the Voice of God: towards a theology of wisdom.

 Daniel James Brown, Boys in the Boat: nine Americans and their quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

 Rowan Williams, The Truce of God (2005)

 David Skeel, True Paradox: How Christianity Makes Sense of Our Complex World.

 

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Posted by: gcarkner | May 31, 2015

Twin Heritages Recovered

Two Heritages: Christ and University

a. What if we could harness the power, resources and critical skills of the research university for the growth and health of the contemporary church?

b. What if we could harness the full richness of Christian history and spirituality, benevolence and moral capacity for the enrichment and inspiration of the university community and academia itself?

It would surely break open a new, powerful vision of unparalleled creativity and promote untold good for humanity. It would give us  fire in the belly we have hardly imagined. It would be a boon to research and a boon to the church, producing a win/win scenario. The alienation between these two highly influential institutions (carriers of significant weighty heritage) is nothing short of a tragedy of late modernity. Perhaps we are due for some Big Sky ReThinking.

Envision the Possibilities

  • Faith and Reason could pull together like plow horses. We could rethink their relationship.
  • Science and the Imagination could complement one another with intensity.
  • Wisdom could be combined with Spirit to enrich philosophy and education.
  • Goodness and Beauty could become central to research and application of insight.
  • Excellence of character could complement excellence of scholarship in the formation of students and the model of professors.
  • A new paradigm of freedom could be discovered: as generosity of spirit rather than an end in itself, a freedom that builds community and promotes joy.
  • We could recover Christian Humanism for robust social change, and satiate our hunger and thirst for meaning and purpose. There is a robust tradition to tap into here.
  • The Wonder of the Cosmos (13.8 billion light years across) made available through powerful telescopes could complement an appreciation of the Creator who loves us intensely, has a vested interest in or well-being, in this small corner of the known universe on the edge of the Milky Way.
  • Pioneering in science through particle accelerators, revolutionary breakthroughs in genetics, nanotechnology and neuroscience could be complemented by a great leap forward in human compassion and  social responsibility, a leap forward in ownership of responsibility for climate change and our relationship to the biosphere.

Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | May 14, 2015

Take Every Thought Captive

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUOAKyTK6JY John Lennox Is Anything Worth Believing?

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Take Every Thought Captive

Take every thought captive poses an inspiring challenge by Paul the Apostle in II Corinthians 10; this is part of our ongoing GCU study group. It entails a challenging statement on intellectual and spiritual discipline, one of the mind and heart. The UBC graduate students wrestle with the quest to think and negotiate the university landscape differently, to access and apply the graces of God in their context. Paul uses the dramatic, attention-grabbing metaphor of war in order to build Christian resolve in the young church, while at the same time deconstructing the very culture of war.

What kind of warfare is Paul addressing? What kind of weapons is he offering? What sort of strategy? How does it relate to the academic enterprise of graduate school? What are the ideologies of our colleagues that set up a wall to the gospel, the negative apologetic? What worldview has taken our friend captive and hampers their spiritual insight? How do we get at the whole truth with the aid of the Logos? These are critical questions.

Paul’s weapons are rooted in the capital virtues, the gentleness and authority of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit: truthfulness and integrity, righteousness, patience, the gospel of peace and blessing (shalom), faithfulness, hope, knowledge of God and his calling, a constructive stance or attitude (Ephesians 6: 13-17), discernment and discipleship, respect and dialogue, leveraging agape love, refusal of despair. We must build our consciousness and use multivalent angles and approaches to build bridges to faith as the diagram below suggests. We also need to tap in to those Christian roots of higher learning and preparation for leadership.

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It is not people themselves, but faulty or immoral reason, that we are called to take captive on campus. This comes complete with arguments and assumptions that set themselves against the knowledge of God: scientism, consumerism, materialistic naturalism, exclusive secularism, reductionism, market fundamentalism, toxic politics of hate, and various types of imperialism. These can be somewhat formidable at times. Alister McGrath, a British theologian, represents for many of us someone that believes the mind really matters to spiritual health, that sharp theology and clear thinking is important to all believers. He articulates Paul’s intent and strategy in his books: Intellectuals Don’t Need God? and A Fine-Tuned Universe. See also Blog Post Can We Make Peace Between Faith and Reason?

Christ-centeredness must reign supreme in our minds and not just in our hearts. Grace and love must be combined with philosophical and theological sharpness. Circumspect thinking and positive action also comes through strongly in the prophetic work by Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good: How the gospel brings hope to a world divided. Our strategy on campus and beyond must be active in initiating and hosting conversation about the big questions. It is a public challenge and a confidence-builder for Christians that Jesus the Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God, the very nexus of faith and reason, truth and love personified. This is the background radiation of the universe.

~Dr. Gordon Carkner

Does the Universe Need God? Dr. Hans Halvorson, Princeton University 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDwpTcSEjak

Paul K. Moser The Christ-shaped Philosophy Project

http://www.epsociety.org/userfiles/art-Moser%20(Christ-Shaped%20Philosophy).pdf

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jo3vRqrW8NU Ravi Zaccharias Response to New Atheism

See also Alister McGrath, A Fine-Tuned Universe: the Search for God in Science and Theology.

Questions and Answers with Professor John Lennox

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tr7dCphnkw

Philosopher Dallas Willard on Understanding Naturalism 

http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=46

Duelling Oxford Professors on the Existence of God: Peter Atkins and John Lennox

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwMBqm3Pw_Y

Posted by: gcarkner | April 8, 2015

God and the Multiverse, May 6, UBC

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Deborah Haarsma

Astronomer from Calvin College and  President of BioLogos

God and the Multiverse

 Wednesday, May 6 @ 4:00 p.m.

Woodward (IRC) Room 1, UBC

Audio File

Abstract

The last 100 years have transformed our understanding of the universe.  We now know that the universe is ancient, beginning in a Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, and that it continues to expand today, at an ever-increasing rate.  We’ve also seen amazing evidence that some physical laws and constants are fine-tuned for life, as well as hints that our universe is part of a much bigger multiverse. What does all this have to do with God?   This talk will give an overview of a range of religious and non-religious responses to these exciting discoveries.

Biography

 Deborah Haarsma earned a PhD in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in1997. An experienced research scientist, she was Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College from 2009-2012, Professor of Astronomy from 1999-2012. She has several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology. Dr. Haarsma has studied very large galaxies (at the centers of galaxy clusters), very young galaxies (undergoing rapid star formation in the early universe), and gravitational lenses (where spacetime is curved by a massive object). Her work uses data from several major telescopes, including the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico, the Southern Astrophysical Research optical and infrared telescope in Cerro Pachon, Chile, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory in orbit around the earth. Since January 2013, Dr. Haarsma has served as President of BioLogos (biologos.org) a serious academic dialogue between current world-class science and Christian faith.  BioLogos was founded by Dr. Francis Collins of the National Institute of Health in the USA, and runs annual conferences for scientists and church leaders. In this subject area, Haarsma published Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design with her husband and fellow physicist, Loren Haarsma. She also edited the anthology Delight in Creation: Scientists Share Their Work with the Church with Rev. Scott Hoezee.

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Nebula where Stars are Born

Sample Talk by Dr. Haarsma at Westmont College https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYRZvMpYVAs

See also:

Alister McGrath, A Fine-Tuned Universe: the Search for God in Science and Theology (2009).

“Are there viable pathways from nature to God? Natural theology is making a comeback, stimulated as much by scientific advance as by theological and philosophical reflection. There is a growing realization that the sciences raise questions that transcend their capacity to answer them—above all, the question of the existence of God. So how can Christian theology relate to these new developments?

In this landmark work, based on his 2009 Gifford lectures, Alister McGrath examines the apparent ‘fine-tuning’ of the universe and its significance for natural theology. Exploring a wide range of physical and biological phenomena and drawing on the latest research in biochemistry and evolutionary biology, McGrath outlines our new understanding of the natural world and discusses its implications for traditional debates about the existence of God.

The celebrated Gifford Lectures have long been recognized as making landmark contributions to the discussion of natural theology. A Fine-Tuned Universe will contribute significantly to that discussion by developing a rich Trinitarian approach to natural theology that allows deep engagement with the intellectual and moral complexities of the natural world. It will be essential reading to those looking for a rigorous engagement between science and the Christian faith. – Amazon

Satyan Devados at Cal Tech God, Math and the Multiverse

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mrWyj34WGFE

Interview with Physicist Steven Barr 

http://www.strangenotions.com/modern-physics-ancient-faith-an-interview-with-physicist-dr-stephen-barr/

David Christian: The history of our world in 18 minutes 

http://www.ted.com/talks/david_christian_big_history?language=en

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Galaxy similar to our Milky Way

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Background Radiation from Big Bang

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Cosmological History

Posted by: gcarkner | March 30, 2015

Rene Girard on Deep Easter

The Gospel According to René Girard

~ Peter Barber, Ph.D. Student Religious Studies at UBC~

The two principal assertions of Girard’s hermeneutical model are ‘mimetic desire’ and ‘scapegoating’. Mimetic desire is the idea that humans do not experience being and identity autonomously, but always only through an Other, a model for one’s desire. Desire and by extension ‘being’ is borrowed. This essential feature of human nature accounts for the enormous learning capability (the physical apparatus for which is now identified as the brain’s mirror neuron system), and is a positive basic feature of human existence. And yet, since desiring and being is through a model-other – two or more persons desiring the same object(s) – rivalry over the object(s) can and often does result, occasioning conflict and seeming to necessitate in the estimation of the rival(s) the need for sacrifice of the Other, in order to gain the being blocked or inhibited by the model-obstacle.

It is in this way that scapegoating regularly results from mimetic desire going sideways, as just described. Positive learning descends into destructive violence. The term scapegoat is chosen by Girard because it encapsulates our cultures’ reception of the spirit of Christ’s revelation throughout history, that sacrifice of the other is not ‘good’, is not even necessary, but is the false transfer of responsibility for rivalry and violence off of oneself and entirely onto the Other. The transferal is followed by destruction of the Other for his/her/their guilt, and for the danger or social pollution they still pose, in blocking access to the desired object(s). Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | March 29, 2015

The Challenge of Easter

Giovanni_Bellini

Giovanni Bellini

How are we to understand Good Friday and Easter from such a distance? How does it relate to our experience? Is it mere sentiment or something more profound? Andy Crouch in his book Culture Making: recovering our creative calling, (Chapter 8 “Jesus as Culture Maker”) has some brilliant insights into the difference that Jesus life, death and resurrection have for shaping the horizons of possibility (shalom and human flourishing) for societies, ancient and modern. He helps us grapple with the various dimensions of this sorrow and celebration. See also I Corinthians 15.

The Cross

He suffered the full weight of the human story of rebellion against God. He was literally impaled on the worst that culture can do–an instrument of torture that stood for all the other cultural dead ends of history, from spears to bombs, gas chambers to waterboards. Like all other instruments of violence, a cross is cultural folly and futility at its most horrible. (141)

The core calling of [Jesus] life is not something he does at all in an active sense–it is something he suffers. The strangest and most wonderful paradox of the biblical story is that its most consequential moment is not an action but a passion–not a doing but a suffering. (142)

On Good Friday, love embraced suffering as Jesus drank the bitter cup. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. self-consciously followed the same journey of the suffering death of Jesus, the way of the cross, as he promoted civil rights for African-Americans in the Southern USA in the 1960s. He worked hard to replace the perverted symbol of the cross which was used as a justification for aggression, hate and violence—e.g. the Ku Klux Klan. His life quest was to restore the cross as a symbol of love, mercy, justice and non-violence. He incarnated a form of extreme love, a committed non-violent protest against systemic injustice. ~Iwan Russell-Jones, Professor of Faith and the Arts, Regent College

Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | March 24, 2015

Scholar Claims Moral Knowledge is Vital

Book Review by J. W. Wartick

(full review http://jwwartick.com/2014/09/01/ismk-smith/)

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R. Scott Smith’s In Search of Moral Knowledge: Overcoming the Fact-Value Dichotomy (IVP Academic 2014) is a systematic look at the possibility of moral knowledge in various metaethical systems, with an argument that a theistic, and specifically Christian, worldview is the most plausible way to ground the reality of morals.

Smith begins by providing overviews of various historical perspectives on ethics, including biblical, ancient (Plato and Aristotle), early (Augustine through Aquinas), and early modern (Reformation through the Enlightenment) systems. This survey is necessarily brief, but Smith provides enough information and background for readers to get an understanding of various ethical systems along with some difficulties related to each.

Next, the major options of naturalism, relativism, and postmodernism for ethics are examined in turn, with much critical interaction. For example, Smith argues that ethical relativism is deeply flawed in both method and content. He argues that relativism does not provide an adequate basis for moral knowledge, and it also undermines its own argument for ethical diversity and, by extension, relativism. Moreover, it fails to provide any way forward for how one is to live on such an ethical system and is thus confronted with the reality that it is unlivable. Ultimately, he concludes that “Ethical Relativism utterly fails as a moral theory and as a guide to one’s own moral life” (163).

For Naturalism, however, Smith contends the situation is even worse: “we cannot have knowledge of reality, period, based on naturalism’s ontology. Yet there are many things we do know. Therefore, naturalism is false and we should reject it not just for ethics, but in toto” (137). His argument for this thesis is, briefly, that naturalism has no basis for mental states–and therefore, for beliefs–and so we cannot have knowledge (see 147ff especially).

For full review see: http://jwwartick.com/2014/09/01/ismk-smith/

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Posted by: gcarkner | March 22, 2015

Is Agape Love a Source of the Good?

Charles Taylor and the Constitutive Good 

According to Taylor, sources of the good tend to vary from (a) those solely external to the self, to (b) those both internal and external, to (c) those totally internal. As he notes, at one time, the good was wholly external to the self as it was perceived in Plato’s moral ontology; the good was endemic to the structure of reality. The Stoics also saw things this way. Taylor notes the big transition in moral sources in the last four centuries:

Moving from an epoch in which people could find it plausible to see the order of the cosmos as a moral source, to one in which a very common view presents us a universe which is very neutral, and finds the moral sources in human capacities. (1994, p. 215)

He takes Plato as his representative of the first. “The cosmos, ordered by the good, set standards of goodness for human beings, and is properly the object of moral awe and admiration, inspiring us to act rightly” (Taylor, 1994). There is, however, an important distinction. Taylor himself is a moral realist, but not a neo-Platonist (the view that the good is part of the metaphysical structure of the world). Platonic moral realism has been discredited because it leans too heavily on the idea of an ontic logos, a meaningful order. Nor is Taylor, on the other hand, a radical subjectivist. His view of realism lies somewhere between the Romantic subjectivist Rilke, and the Platonic objectivist. He wants to champion both the subjective and objective dimensions of the moral self, and maintain that there are sources outside as well as inside the self. Read More…

Posted by: gcarkner | March 15, 2015

The Courageous Quest for Justice

Thought-provoking Quotes from Jim Wallis, The (Un)Common Good

It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.  ~Robert F. Kennedy

Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives. ~ Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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“People were made for family, community, and human flourishing, not consumerism, materialism, addiction, and empty overwork.” (p. 18)

“How do we build a culture for the common good in an age of selfishness?” (p. 21)

“Who we think Jesus is will determine the kind of Christianity we live.” (p. 25)

“We are looking for moral clarity, mental sharpness, and emotional maturity in our responses to the steady assault of outside messages on our lives.” (p. 37)

“The greatest challenge to us in a world of injustice and a culture of cynicism is how to hang on to belief in a better world that would change this one.” (p. 39)

“The pilgrimage of our lives is the learning to apply the kingdom to the biggest and most consequential of social and political events, to the most personal of our closest relationships, and to the daily interactions we have with colleagues, coworkers, neighbours, and complete strangers. The Teacher wants to teach us in all those ways.” (p. 39)

“The Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount are the charter of the kingdom of God, the Magna Carta or the constitution of the kingdom; they are the instruction manual for living in the new age.” (p. 47)

“To be able to feel the pain of the world is to participate in the very heart of God. The compassionate response of God’s people to human suffering is one of their defining characteristics.” (p. 48)

“And when Jesus is asked by his disciples who will be first in his kingdom, he tells them it will be the servants of all. Humility us the one of the most under appreciated values in our intensely competitive culture, economy and politics.” (p. 49)

Read More…

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