Charles Taylor Thursday #1.

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William Brafford

William Brafford grew up in North Carolina, home of the world's best barbecue, indie rock, and regional soft drinks. He just barely sustains a personal blog and "tweets" every now and then under the name @williamrandolph.

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22 Responses

  1. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, “Such a life, however, is more than merelyhuman; it cannot be lived by man qua man but only by virtue of the divine (theion) that is in him..If then the Nous is divine cmpared with man, so is the noetic life divine compared with human life.” (1177b27ff)Report

  2. Avatar Will says:

    A little context, please.Report

    • Avatar William Brafford in reply to Will says:

      @Will, Taylor is writing about one of the great transitions in modernity, where humanists (Voltaire, Kant, Rousseau, or even Russell) conceived of moral motivations that were purely immanent. For example, the idea that disinterested contemplation of the greater good could actually lead to social change was a new, as was the idea that the sheer exercise of human freedom, free of reference to a transcendent order, was a worthy end in itself. Our friend Mr. Cheeks, drawing on Voegelin, takes the position that these new kinds of moral motivation are delusions and deformations — sicknesses of the modern order. Others would take the exact opposite stance: we were deluded before, and rational now. As you might expect, I’m more in the Taylor camp: I’m impressed by the power of modern moral systems and the real goods their adherents have wrought, but I try to keep a critical distance.

      I think this is vaguely relevant to some of what Rufus has been writing about recently.

      I’ll try to work context into the actual post on the next Charles Taylor Thursday.Report

  3. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    “…I’m impressed by the power of modern moral systems and the real goods their adherents have wrought…”
    Perhaps we might consider the slaughter of a 150 million souls the previous century, sacrificed at the alter of sundry ideology…we might consider the American librul’s inclination to slaughter their young. I believe the total is upwards to 40 million souls.
    Man then has the potential to be the zoon noun echon, an unfinished soul, constantly immortalizing or on the cusp but to many of our kind have allowed modernity to make us fools.Report

    • @Robert Cheeks, the Athenians did awful things too, but I don’t think this is about good-and-evil balance-sheets. That non-religious utilitarians in the real world find in utilitarianism a sufficient motivation to become teachers and social workers and then actually do good things — that’s the sort of thing Taylor is talking about. And then there’s the way that some societies decide that it would be a good thing if everyone were literate, and actually manage to make it happen. (And even if this were about which moral system has the fewest atrocities to its name, only abortion would be relevant here. Stalinism and Fascism are, to put it far too mildly, not admirable.)

      Anyway, Charles Taylor offers a long story about how what we call “modernity” came to be, and it would be interesting to talk seriously way about how his story of modernity is different from Voegelin’s.

      You know, I actually read two of the three Voegelin essays you recommended a while back, but I misplaced them during the move to Baltimore last spring.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I presume we’re not talking about Liberia?

    Seriously, I had to read that twice.Report

  5. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    If you want a comparative analysis you’ll have to provide it on the Taylor perspective as I haven’t read his manus opus. Should you want to engage the dialectic then feel free to providing the thesis in a blog and we, your interlocutors, can counter with, hopefully an anti-thesis, reaching the sythesis after an arduous analysis.
    Please bear in mind that because I’m sure your premise will engage the intrinsic aspects of being, that your side will hypostatize the tension of existence thus forcing me defend the immanent. I’m prepared to do that, drawing on Von Schelling, Stein, Aquinas and others but we’re going to have to come grips with some Voegelinian terms. But, it may be fun to try. My whole purpose of engaging the League, other than my fondness for North, Jaybird, et al, is to counter you guy’s inclination to reject God, and in rejecting God to miss what Voegelin referred to as the “rediscovery of Reason.”
    I see you fellows as my rather brilliant sons who have great gifts but have, by and large, rejected God. That causes me to grieve and my prayer is that in seeking Reason you become open to the future of theophany, to the spiritual revelations of the truth of existence.Report

  6. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    Ok, here’s the corrections:
    manus is magnus
    immanent should read transcendent
    …the rest seem ok. I’m drinking Jim Beam and thus the aberrations!Report

  7. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    WB, I owe you one, that’s an outstanding link but I have to buy ink and copy that…which will be utilized in my latest paper, which you’ve given me impetus to finish! Plus the cite is bookmarked. I’m just delighted!
    Re: my florid accusations of apostacy, they’re not directed at ‘believers’ of course, even the ‘frozen chosen.’
    My grandpa was a Presbyterian preacher, my momma a Roman Catholic. Man you could cut the air when they got together. Me, I’m a Catholo-Free Methodist..hungry for the intellectual/tradition minus the abortive effects of Vatican II, and happy in the Logos provided by the kind-hearted Free Methodists. What to do, what to do…but, as Voegelin points out, it ain’t the doctrine (extremus doctrinus destroys the heart) it’s the experience of the Logos, the Word, the Christ! One can tolerate all of the social errors, anti-intellectualism, etc BS if one has experienced existence, pneumatically, in the Lord.
    My criticism of the Protestants is grounded on the heart-breaking loss of concensus that would have helped fight off the gross errors of Enlightenment humanism, and I see more and more churches, as they emphasize “social justice” becoming mere secular-commie-Democrat meeting houses.
    I look forward to whatever direction you want to go re: the ‘dialectic.’ And, again thanks for the link!Report

    • @Robert Cheeks, one of my worries about Voegelin, based on what I’ve read so far, is that doctrines become merely epiphenomena generated by experience: that there’s some way of getting around or behind the content of the creeds, as if that Christianity’s still OK even if Jesus didn’t actually rise on the third day, because the idea that he did is more important.

      But on the other hand, I think I understand what you mean about extreme doctrine. Karl Barth has some good things to say about the role of doctrine and dogma in the church: “I repeat that dogmatics is not a thing which has fallen from Heaven to earth. And if someone were to say that it would be wonderful if there were such an absolute dogmatics fallen from Heaven, the only possible answer would be: ‘Yes, if we were angels.’ … Christian dogmatics will always be a thinking, an investigation and an exposition which are relative and liable to error. Even dogmatics with the best knowledge and conscience can do no more than question after the better…” (from chapter 1 of Dogmatics in Outline).

      I hope you find much that’s useful to you in John of Damascus! I’ve only dipped my toes in, but his account of hypostasis is fascinating so far.Report

  8. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    If you have access, Voegelin’s essay, “Response to Professor Altizer,” is most informative and part of it relates directly to your concerns re: ‘doctrine.’ Also, in his essay, “The Gospel and Culture”, Voegelin defines the problem as:
    “This drama though it has been alive in the consciousness of the New Testatment writers, is far from alive in the Christianity of the churches today, for the history of Christianity is characterized by what is commonly called the separation of school theology from mystical or experiential theology which formed an apparently inseperable unit still in the work of Origen.”
    Vogelin sees this as ‘one of the great causes’ of the ‘modern spiritual crisis. Following this part of the esssay, EV moves toward an analysis of Eduard Norden’s “Agnostos Theos” and the conflict between orthodox Christianity and gnosticism.
    EV argues that ‘certain doctrinal developements’ were designed as protective measures to inhibit or remove any possibility of the gospel movement derailing into gnosticism.
    So the efforts by some to keep the faith pure by doctrinizing have eclipsed the reality of the “Unknown God whose theotes was present in the existence of Jesus…” with the ‘revealed God of Christian doctrine.’
    As one who embraces a mystical reality grounded on the tension of sin/grace I find much to praise in EV’s analysis of the ‘Christian problem’. His is a singularly serious inquiry into the ultimate, differentiated, metaxical explanation of man’s tensional existence, located in the ‘millennial process of revelation.’
    Ultimately, I think, God is revealed in the experiential relationship of the Son to being. We either choose to love or not.Report

  9. Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

    WB, if I read the paper you were kind enough to link me to, there appears to be a substantive difference in definitions; always a problem with Voegelin.
    For John of D ‘hypostasis’, following the church fathers of the Middle Stoa (Chrysippus), meant to “…regard or treat something that is not a ‘thing’ or an object as if it were one.”
    Voegelin applied the term to the metaxical reality of the Classical Greeks in the sense that ‘hypostasis’ was referred to “..especially the fallacious assumption that the poles of the experince of existential tension in the metaxy are self contained entities that come into contact on the occasion of an experience.”
    In following Voegelin/Cl. Greeks I’m arguing that our contemporary secularists are guilty of ‘hypostatizing’ the metaxical/existential tension of existence, defined by the poles of immanence and transcendence, by eclipsing the transcendent and in so doing reduce the essence of man’s ‘being’ by removing the Augustinian c0ncept of the ‘imago Dei’ with ‘imago sui.’ This particular ‘deculturation’ has been with us since the Enlightenment and is primarily responsible for our contemporary deformed thinking.

    In the Vogelin Vocabulary he notes that his use/application of the term ‘hypostasis’ is not to be confused “with the different Christian use of the term in the doctrne of the Trinity, where it does not involve attribution of indivual entitattive status.”
    Never-the-less this is a fascinating paper written by a true scholar and much enjoyed.Report

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