Not a great weekend, spent hugging and sobbing and laying grandpa to rest. He was a sharp, strong, vigorous, free man right up until the sudden, unanticipated end Friday morning. It’s never good, when the phone rings at 4:30 am. I reminded many shaken people, this weekend, that the pain will recede sooner than they recall. Of course we’ll always miss him, and sometimes it will hurt; but that feeling will be joined by the positive memories that mark our way out of debilitating grief. Trans-end-dance. Move beyond the end.
Shifting gears won’t be easy, from the cemetery yesterday to Christianity and Islam and Zen and the Scholastics today (and the latest James installment we didn’t get to on Friday). Presentations begin this week, and a little exam. We’ll talk about it in class.
Some highlights to hit in Intro, from Passion for Wisdom:
*The Christian concept of human sinfulness, the fall, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and vicarious salvation is, in terms of any ordinary notions of justice or redemption, an extremely difficult notion… belief in an afterlife had never been the official doctrine among the Jews… The ultimate personal question of Christianity becomes, How is one to be saved? Is this the right question? How do we answer it, or any question that defies rational understanding? Should faith or reason rule? Must this question be either/or?
*Philo reinterpreted Biblical tales as mythic statements about the nature of the human condition and humanity’s relationship to the divine.
*It was Paul who interpreted Jesus as the Son of God… who interpreted Jesus’ crucifixion as an atomement for all human sins.
*In contrast to Plato, who denigrated the material world as a lesser reality (comparing it to shadows in a cave), Plotinus saws the material world as itself spiritual… Matter is merely the lowest of the emanations. But would it make more sense to speak of matter not as a trickle-down emanation but as a bubbling-up product of complexification?
*If (with Plotinus and Augustine) you re-define evil as an “absence of good,” have you really minimized anyone’s suffering?
*If we suppose a God freely chooses to endow humans with free will, how does that mitigate divine responsibility for suffering? With freedom comes responsibility, without qualification.
*The Islamic worldview is fundamentally egalitarian… [it] takes everyone to be equal in the eyes of God. Have you run that by Ophelia Benson?
*Sufis (for instance) seek complete absorption in God… gnosis, the elimination of the ego, an experience of ecstasy in which the believer becomes one with God… Setting aside the believer’s own experience, don’t we face the same question raised previously: does this shift of perspective alter anyone’s actual suffering?
*How does it follow from the Zen perspective (“everything is related”) that everything is “nothing”?
*Averroes (Ibn Rushd) said literal fundamentalism is sufficient for ordinary individuals, but educated people also require persuasive argument Isn’t this condescending? What would Dan Dennett say?
*If Anselm‘s proof of the existence of God fails, conceptually, how can it make the nature of God clearer to those who already have faith?
*There is no Platonic Form or essence of cat, only numerous cats… Words trick us into thinking in terms of universals, but they’re not real. True? But is our language not also liable to trick us into neglecting the shared attributes that constitute species? Can you still believe in species (feline, homo sapiens, etc.) if all they name are loose collections of individual cats and people?
*Aquinas said revelation was an appropriate instrument for understanding the supernatural world. Why should we believe in a supernatural world in the first place?
*John Calvin said even newborn babies deserve damnation and considered humans utterly insignificant… Why should we saddle ourselves, our kids, and our departed loved ones with such terms of abuse?