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Must you be a realist to be a "proper" historical Jesus scholar?

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  • Andrew Lloyd
    My question is a simple one and is tied to current research I am doing as a postgraduate in a British University (University of Sheffield) on historical Jesus
    Message 1 of 18 , Nov 21, 2002
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      My question is a simple one and is tied to current research I am
      doing as a postgraduate in a British University (University of
      Sheffield) on historical Jesus studies as a branch of biblical
      scholarship. It is this: must you be, philosophically speaking (or
      speaking any other way), a realist in order to take part in what
      might be called "genuine" historical Jesus debate? Are non-realists,
      pragmatists, poststructuralists, postmodernists, existentialists,
      etc, de facto out of the loop in historical Jesus research by virtue
      of their philosophical and personal proclivities? Is historical
      Jesus research simply a realist enterprise and something that can
      only be, or should only be, configured in realist terms? Is
      historical Jesus research a mere realist phenomenon?

      Andrew Lloyd
    • Bob Schacht
      ... Andrew, This is an interesting question. Could you sketch out a little more what you mean by a realist ? I think I know what you mean, but realism is
      Message 2 of 18 , Nov 21, 2002
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        At 08:26 PM 11/21/2002 +0000, you wrote:
        >My question is a simple one and is tied to current research I am
        >doing as a postgraduate in a British University (University of
        >Sheffield) on historical Jesus studies as a branch of biblical
        >scholarship. It is this: must you be, philosophically speaking (or
        >speaking any other way), a realist in order to take part in what
        >might be called "genuine" historical Jesus debate? Are non-realists,
        >pragmatists, poststructuralists, postmodernists, existentialists,
        >etc, de facto out of the loop in historical Jesus research by virtue
        >of their philosophical and personal proclivities? Is historical
        >Jesus research simply a realist enterprise and something that can
        >only be, or should only be, configured in realist terms? Is
        >historical Jesus research a mere realist phenomenon?
        >
        >Andrew Lloyd

        Andrew,
        This is an interesting question. Could you sketch out a little more what
        you mean by a "realist"? I think I know what you mean, but realism is
        often, for example, contrasted with idealism.

        I think the non-realists, as you put it, occasionally offer worthy
        challenges to HJ research that should not be ignored. To put it
        metaphorically, the field of battle in HJ research is on realist turf, but
        sometimes the battle itself is carried into neighboring domains.
        So my answer to your question is no, you don't have to be a realist to be a
        "proper" HJ scholar, but if you aren't, you'd better be familiar with the
        realist vocabulary and frame(s) of reference, so that your lance might
        occasionally hit its target.

        Bob
      • Andrew Lloyd
        ... more what ... realism is ... turf, but ... realist to be a ... with the ... might ... Bob, I m thinking of the scholar who regards reality as that which
        Message 3 of 18 , Nov 22, 2002
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          --- In crosstalk2@y..., Bob Schacht <bobschacht@i...> wrote:
          > Andrew,
          > This is an interesting question. Could you sketch out a little
          more what
          > you mean by a "realist"? I think I know what you mean, but
          realism is
          > often, for example, contrasted with idealism.
          >
          > I think the non-realists, as you put it, occasionally offer worthy
          > challenges to HJ research that should not be ignored. To put it
          > metaphorically, the field of battle in HJ research is on realist
          turf, but
          > sometimes the battle itself is carried into neighboring domains.
          > So my answer to your question is no, you don't have to be a
          realist to be a
          > "proper" HJ scholar, but if you aren't, you'd better be familiar
          with the
          > realist vocabulary and frame(s) of reference, so that your lance
          might
          > occasionally hit its target.
          >
          > Bob

          Bob,

          I'm thinking of the scholar who regards reality as that which our
          language corresponds to "one to one", so to speak. Thus, if we talk
          about "the historical Jesus" we are talking about someone
          susceptible to final and actual corresponding description - if only
          we can find out what that "right" (i.e. real, essential, actual)
          description is. Thus, I'm talking about those who want to find out
          the final, unchallengable truth which, rather than being arbitrated
          by us as scholars, itself arbitrates what we as scholars should or
          should not say. Those I would see as being against this kind
          of "reality", the kind of reality which arbitrates and is non-
          linguistic and non-social, more metaphysical and ontological, are
          the popular intellectuals Richard Rorty and Stanley Fish if that
          helps to clarify my question a bit more. In my own research I am
          tending to argue that scholars as diverse as Tom Wright, John Meier,
          Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Bruce Chilton and Ed Sanders (along
          with most of the rest) are in fact realists in this sense. In short,
          they think there is one answer (the truth, reality), regardless of
          their other rhetoric, and they are looking for it and trying to
          convince us they've found it. It is this philosophical position I
          seek to question.

          Andrew Lloyd
        • David C. Hindley
          ... realist in order to take part in what might be called genuine historical Jesus debate? Are non-realists, pragmatists, poststructuralists, postmodernists,
          Message 4 of 18 , Nov 23, 2002
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            Andrew Lloyd asks:

            >>My question ... is this: must you be, philosophically speaking ..., a
            realist in order to take part in what might be called "genuine" historical
            Jesus debate? Are non-realists, pragmatists, poststructuralists,
            postmodernists, existentialists, etc, de facto out of the loop in historical
            Jesus research by virtue of their philosophical and personal proclivities?
            Is historical Jesus research simply a realist enterprise and something that
            can only be, or should only be, configured in realist terms? Is historical
            Jesus research a mere realist phenomenon?<< [11/21/02]

            >>[Regarding the term "realist,"] I'm thinking of the scholar who regards
            reality as that which our language corresponds to "one to one", so to speak.
            Thus, if we talk about "the historical Jesus" we are talking about someone
            susceptible to final and actual corresponding description - if only we can
            find out what that "right" (i.e. real, essential, actual) description is.
            Thus, I'm talking about those who want to find out the final, unchallengable
            truth which, rather than being arbitrated by us as scholars, itself
            arbitrates what we as scholars should or should not say. Those I would see
            as being against this kind of "reality", the kind of reality which
            arbitrates and is non-linguistic and non-social, more metaphysical and
            ontological, are the popular intellectuals Richard Rorty and Stanley Fish if
            that helps to clarify my question a bit more. << [11/22/02]

            It is not clear to me exactly what you mean by "realist." To be honest I had
            not heard of Rorty before nor read any Fish. From the reviews that are
            associated with their in-print books on Barnes & Noble's web site, I did not
            see the term "realist" used even once. I did find some of the technical
            terms you used above, but still cannot figure out what you are really asking
            for (no pun intended).

            The point of view you describe, though, sounds like the "classical" position
            that Alun Munslow attributes to "reconstructionist" historians such as G. R.
            Elton. The term "realist" has been claimed by just about every "ism" of the
            19th century. Could you clarify?

            Respectfully,

            Dave Hindley
            Cleveland, Ohio, USA
          • Andrew Lloyd
            ... honest I had ... are ... I did not ... technical ... really asking ... the classical position ... such as G. R. ... every ism of the ... David, you
            Message 5 of 18 , Nov 24, 2002
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              --- In crosstalk2@y..., "David C. Hindley" <dhindley@c...> wrote:
              > It is not clear to me exactly what you mean by "realist." To be
              honest I had
              > not heard of Rorty before nor read any Fish. From the reviews that
              are
              > associated with their in-print books on Barnes & Noble's web site,
              I did not
              > see the term "realist" used even once. I did find some of the
              technical
              > terms you used above, but still cannot figure out what you are
              really asking
              > for (no pun intended).
              >
              > The point of view you describe, though, sounds like
              the "classical" position
              > that Alun Munslow attributes to "reconstructionist" historians
              such as G. R.
              > Elton. The term "realist" has been claimed by just about
              every "ism" of the
              > 19th century. Could you clarify?
              >
              > Respectfully,
              >
              > Dave Hindley
              > Cleveland, Ohio, USA

              David,

              you have not heard of Richard Rorty or read any Stanley Fish? I had
              thought, from this side of the Atlantic Ocean, that they were both
              somewhat over-exposed, if the comments of their respective
              depreciators are to be believed. "Celebrity intellectuals" is, I
              believe, the appropriate term of sarcasm used of them. But no
              matter. If you read the reviews at amazon.com instead, including
              some by me, you may gain more insight about them. To matters more
              germane.

              Let me be very basic about this. In talking about "realism" I am
              talking about the belief that there is an "external reality" (that
              term is John Searle's) which is out there and is independent of
              us. "There is a way things are" say realists, "and it is
              foundational for our knowledge". The historical Jesus is part of
              this reality. He was a certain person, one certain person, and it is
              this historical Jesus researchers are seeking to find. When we find
              out what he was, what he thought, what he said, we have
              discovered "reality". The conversation will then be finished, the
              answer will have been found. Reality will have been revealed, there
              will be no more court of appeal, nothing else left to say. Thus,
              with "reality" I am talking about something which stops the
              conversation because the line of enquiry is complete. In addition,
              let me add that although this description is somewhat basic (and
              thus many who think themselves more complex realists will seek to
              evade the description) the fundamental component, a world external,
              arbitrative and to which we should correspond, when found anywhere
              is indicative of realism as I am using the term.

              Andrew Lloyd
            • LeeEdgarTyler@aol.com
              In a message dated 11/24/2002 6:42:06 PM Central Standard Time, ... Perhaps it s preferable to read, say, Fish himself instead of reading what others say about
              Message 6 of 18 , Nov 24, 2002
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                In a message dated 11/24/2002 6:42:06 PM Central Standard Time,
                a.lloyd2@... writes:

                >
                > you have not heard of Richard Rorty or read any Stanley Fish? I had
                > thought, from this side of the Atlantic Ocean, that they were both
                > somewhat over-exposed, if the comments of their respective
                > depreciators are to be believed. "Celebrity intellectuals" is, I
                > believe, the appropriate term of sarcasm used of them. But no
                > matter. If you read the reviews at amazon.com instead, including
                > some by me, you may gain more insight about them. To matters more
                > germane.
                >
                > Let me be very basic about this. In talking about "realism" I am
                > talking about the belief that there is an "external reality" (that
                > term is John Searle's) which is out there and is independent of
                > us. "There is a way things are" say realists, "and it is
                > foundational for our knowledge". The historical Jesus is part of
                > this reality. He was a certain person, one certain person, and it is
                > this historical Jesus researchers are seeking to find. When we find
                > out what he was, what he thought, what he said, we have
                > discovered "reality". The conversation will then be finished, the
                > answer will have been found. Reality will have been revealed, there
                > will be no more court of appeal, nothing else left to say. Thus,
                > with "reality" I am talking about something which stops the
                > conversation because the line of enquiry is complete. In addition,
                > let me add that although this description is somewhat basic (and
                > thus many who think themselves more complex realists will seek to
                > evade the description) the fundamental component, a world external,
                > arbitrative and to which we should correspond, when found anywhere
                > is indicative of realism as I am using the term.
                >
                >

                Perhaps it's preferable to read, say, Fish himself instead of reading what
                others say about postmodernism. If there has been an intellectual movement
                subjected to more misrepresentation by its detractors, I don't know what it
                would be.

                It is emphatically *not* a precept or any such thing of postmodernism that
                there is no "external reality" and no "objective truth." As Fish put it, if
                that's what postmodernist academicians teach, then they'd be "not so much
                dangerous as silly." And as Rorty likes to put it, "Objectivity is what we
                (academicians) do."

                However, the fact that this external reality exists does not mean that we as
                investigators can define it so that, as you put it, one "stops the
                conversation." Seldom is the line of inquiry complete, because although as
                Fish puts it below, a fact might be "universal," the interpretation or even
                proof of that fact is not. Even if, as you suggest, we discovered what Jesus
                thought, said, and did and "who he was" we would not stop the conversation.

                At any rate, this is what Fish says on the matter, from a recent essay in
                Harper's Magazine:

                "Now, I would not be misunderstood. I am not saying that there are no
                universal values or no truths independent of particular perspectives. I
                affirm both. When I offer a reading of a poem or pronounce on a case of First
                Amendment Law, I do so with no epistemological reservations. I regard my
                feeling as true--not provisionally true for my reference group only, but
                true. I am as certain of that as I am of the fact that I may very well be
                unable to persuade others, no less educated or credentialed than I, of the
                truth so perspicuous to me. And here is the point that is often missed [in
                discussions of the postmodern], the independence from each other, and
                therefore the compatibility, of two assertions *thought* to be contradictory
                when made by the same person: (1) I believe X to be true and (2) I believe
                that there is no mechanism, procedure, calculus, test, by which the truth of
                X can be necessarily demonstrated to any sane person who has come to a
                different conclusion (not that such a demonstration can never be successful,
                only that its success is contingent and not necessary). In order to assert
                something and mean it without qualification, I of course have to believe that
                it is true, but I don't have to believe that I could demonstrate its truth to
                all rational persons. The claim that something is universal and the
                acknowledgment that I couldn't necessarily prove it are logically independent
                of each other. The second does not undermine the first."

                Emphasis mine.

                As you can see, Fish comes down squarely in the "external reality" camp--even
                going so far as to say that demonstration of objective truth is quite
                possible even though contingent. There are "universal values [and] truths
                independent of particular perspectives." The epistemological question
                postmodernism poses is rather the negotiation of that which is true and that
                which is believed to be true in a world of variable "reference groups." And
                that, it seems to me, is question enough.

                Ed Tyler

                http://hometown.aol.com/leeedgartyler/myhomepage/index.html


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Bob Schacht
                ... Andrew, There is no need to be condescending. David Hindley was asking a perfectly legitimate question, and John Searle is hardly the first one to imagine
                Message 7 of 18 , Nov 24, 2002
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                  At 09:44 AM 11/24/2002 +0000, Andrew Lloyd wrote:
                  >David,
                  >
                  >...Let me be very basic about this. In talking about "realism" I am
                  >talking about the belief that there is an "external reality" (that
                  >term is John Searle's) which is out there and is independent of us.

                  Andrew,
                  There is no need to be condescending. David Hindley was asking a perfectly
                  legitimate question, and John Searle is hardly the first one to imagine
                  that there is a reality that is independent of us, even if he may have
                  coined the term "external reality" to describe what philosophers have been
                  debating for centuries. My dictionary of philosophy defines 8 kinds of
                  realism, and the main article begins with the sentence, "To assert that
                  something is somehow mind-independent is to move in the realist direction;
                  to deny it is to move in the opposite direction. No sane position is
                  reached at either extreme."

                  The Critical Realism that you spoke highly of predates Meyer by decades,
                  and was developed by Santayana, Lovejoy and others in 1916 and in a book of
                  essays in 1920. There is diversity among the Critical realists as well. The
                  argument, as I understand it, is not over whether an external reality
                  exists, but the relationship between that external reality and our own
                  experiences. That's where they seem to differ from the logical positivists,
                  who see a relatively direct relationship between experience and reality, if
                  I understand it right.



                  >"There is a way things are" say realists, "and it is foundational for our
                  >knowledge".
                  >The historical Jesus is part of this reality. He was a certain person,
                  >one certain person, and it is
                  >this historical Jesus researchers are seeking to find. When we find
                  >out what he was, what he thought, what he said, we have
                  >discovered "reality". The conversation will then be finished, the
                  >answer will have been found. Reality will have been revealed, there
                  >will be no more court of appeal, nothing else left to say. Thus,
                  >with "reality" I am talking about something which stops the
                  >conversation because the line of enquiry is complete.

                  I'm afraid not. I don't think this does justice to the terms of debate. The
                  epistemological question is *how* do we discover reality?

                  >In addition,
                  >let me add that although this description is somewhat basic (and
                  >thus many who think themselves more complex realists will seek to
                  >evade the description) the fundamental component, a world external,
                  >arbitrative and to which we should correspond, when found anywhere
                  >is indicative of realism as I am using the term.

                  And, as Ed Tyler pointed out, not only in "realism".

                  Anyway, I appreciate the attempt to discuss Wright's version of Critical
                  Realism, which we have not examined in any detail.
                  Bob
                • David C. Hindley
                  ... thought, from this side of the Atlantic Ocean, that they were both somewhat over-exposed, if the comments of their respective depreciators are to be
                  Message 8 of 18 , Nov 25, 2002
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                    Andrew Lloyd replies:

                    >>you have not heard of Richard Rorty or read any Stanley Fish? I had
                    thought, from this side of the Atlantic Ocean, that they were both somewhat
                    over-exposed, if the comments of their respective depreciators are to be
                    believed. "Celebrity intellectuals" is, I believe, the appropriate term of
                    sarcasm used of them.<<

                    Rorty, no. I did notice that he is a prolific writer (at least a lot of his
                    works are in print). Fish I knew of from some books on postmodernism I own
                    or had otherwise read. Both appear to be postmodernists who take
                    moderate-liberal positions while questioning the relevancy of applying
                    scientific standards to politics, literature or history, etc. Or have I
                    misunderstood what they are supposed to represent?

                    >>Let me be very basic about this. In talking about "realism" I am talking
                    about the belief that there is an "external reality" (that term is John
                    Searle's) which is out there and is independent of us. "There is a way
                    things are" say realists, "and it is foundational for our knowledge". The
                    historical Jesus is part of this reality. He was a certain person, one
                    certain person, and it is this historical Jesus researchers are seeking to
                    find. When we find out what he was, what he thought, what he said, we have
                    discovered "reality". The conversation will then be finished, the answer
                    will have been found. Reality will have been revealed, there will be no more
                    court of appeal, nothing else left to say. Thus, with "reality" I am talking
                    about something which stops the conversation because the line of enquiry is
                    complete. In addition, let me add that although this description is somewhat
                    basic (and thus many who think themselves more complex realists will seek to
                    evade the description) the fundamental component, a world external,
                    arbitrative and to which we should correspond, when found anywhere is
                    indicative of realism as I am using the term.<<

                    You do not have to be "very basic." You appear to be referring to the class
                    of people at the extreme reality end of the reality-relevancy spectrum, who
                    Hayden White calls "naive empiricists." These deal with data as objective
                    reality and without consideration of any sort of interpretive bias on the
                    part of researchers. For science this method works fine because they are
                    dealing with measurable quantities, known relationships and thus predictable
                    results. This is much like the way Newtonian physics works fine for
                    everyday, practical, purposes but is not adequate for research into the
                    nature of the atom or large-quantity physics (hence quantum mechanics).

                    Once we pass into fields where the interpretive results must be presented in
                    narrative form, this is no longer sufficient. Even scientific papers,
                    consisting mostly of statistics and data presented to demonstrate and
                    validate key relationships, are still summarized in the form of narrative.
                    As a result, they are theoretically subject to interpretive bias. If one
                    questions whether this really can happen, think of the hub-bub that occurred
                    when one set of researchers thought they had produced a cold-fusion
                    reaction. If I remember correctly, not only could the results not be
                    validated by others, but analysis of their basic data revealed that they had
                    managed to overlook several obvious variables that could have affected the
                    results of the experiments and thus had not imposed controls for them. By
                    selectively reading "objective" facts, they had managed to draw an erroneous
                    conclusion.

                    Bob Schacht and Sean Dutiot (sp?) have also commented upon the fact that
                    virtually all historians, except for a few extremists, acknowledge to one
                    degree or another that the researcher's own experiences and worldview affect
                    his or her interpretation of the sequence of facts that is set before
                    him/her for consideration. Even the extremist historians are aware of it,
                    but believe that this bias can be controlled by application of rigorous
                    methodological and professional standards in the field. This is the flagship
                    position for the kind of historian Alun Munslow calls "reconstructionists"
                    (_Deconstructing History_), to which I believe Sean was referring to in one
                    of his earlier posts.

                    Leopold von Ranke produced a brand of realistic historiography that serves
                    as the kernel for modern historical-critical method. H. White calls it
                    "doctrinal realism," which "takes realism to be a point of view which is
                    derived from no specific preconceptions about the nature of the world and
                    its processes, but which presumes that reality can be known 'realistically'
                    by a conscious and consistent repudiation of the forms in which a distinctly
                    *modern* art, science and philosophy appear." (_Metahistory_, 164). Still,
                    Ranke was a romanticist at heart and the product of his own time, and in
                    narrating his explanations "could not help but bring to the task ... the
                    archtypical myth, or plot structure, by which alone that [explanatory]
                    narrative could be given form." (ibid. 167) This kind of fault is brought
                    home to biblical criticism by reading with modern eyes the works of a master
                    historical-critic of the turn of the 19th century such as R. H. Charles.

                    Then there is White himself. He does not deny external "reality" at all but
                    has developed a rather complicated system for recognizing and appreciating
                    interpreter bias on multiple levels, as found in works of modernist and
                    postmodernist historians. I will leave out of consideration the historians
                    who "construct" unknown history from the known (using modern social,
                    economic or psychological theory to fill-in the considerable gaps in our
                    knowledge, including such well-known critics as J. D. Crossan, Bruce Malina
                    and Gerd Theissen), as this involves the introduction of an interpreter's
                    world-view into the equation to an even greater degree than does that of the
                    reconstructionists. Interestingly, White considers himself a constructionist
                    because he is systematically introducing his admittedly modern theory into
                    his appreciation of the product of modern historians, but he openly
                    acknowledges his opinions and clearly cites the sources for his theory,
                    leaving little in doubt.

                    So, in short, I think you may be defining realism too narrowly.

                    Respectfully,

                    Dave Hindley
                    Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                  • Andrew Lloyd
                    ... perfectly ... imagine ... have ... have been ... kinds of ... that ... direction; ... is ... Bob, you appear to have misunderstood me. I was not being
                    Message 9 of 18 , Nov 25, 2002
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                      --- In crosstalk2@y..., Bob Schacht <bobschacht@i...> wrote:
                      > Andrew,
                      > There is no need to be condescending. David Hindley was asking a
                      perfectly
                      > legitimate question, and John Searle is hardly the first one to
                      imagine
                      > that there is a reality that is independent of us, even if he may
                      have
                      > coined the term "external reality" to describe what philosophers
                      have been
                      > debating for centuries. My dictionary of philosophy defines 8
                      kinds of
                      > realism, and the main article begins with the sentence, "To assert
                      that
                      > something is somehow mind-independent is to move in the realist
                      direction;
                      > to deny it is to move in the opposite direction. No sane position
                      is
                      > reached at either extreme."
                      >
                      > The Critical Realism that you spoke highly of...

                      Bob,

                      you appear to have misunderstood me. I was not being condescending
                      to David; I was trying to be as basic in my description of my
                      understanding of "realism" as I could be so as to avoid
                      misunderstanding my own position. Obviously I failed. As to Searle,
                      compared to Rorty and Fish, two scholars who's books are well-
                      thumbed by me, he seems that way to me. The opening stretch of
                      his "Mind, Language and Society" seems pitched exactly against the
                      kind of thinking Rorty and Fish espouse. Regarding your
                      dictionary's "8 definitions of realism" I have little to say since,
                      for me, that constitutes the realist's problem - and I am not a
                      realist. That is to say, I am not the kind of realist who can think
                      that "mind-independent" goes nearly far enough in addressing the
                      question at hand. For, clearly, nothing is "mind-independent" in any
                      and every possible sense. Surely any reader of Rorty, Fish, or
                      someone as well-regarded as Donald Davidson, realises that. "Mind"
                      (and being inside or outside it) is not all there is to it. Thus, to
                      talk about externality alone is not enough. Which is why the three
                      scholars I have just mentioned add in our communities, language,
                      even rhetoric, etc. Finally, I had not thought I had spoken to the
                      support of N.T. Wright's critical realism. Such was never my
                      intention though, strangely, it seems I have been taking to be doing
                      so. It is true I am, and have, written on this topic. But I was not
                      seeking to speak either for or against it here.

                      > The epistemological question is *how* do we discover reality?

                      That may be the "epistemological" question. I would rather ask why
                      we positied "reality" in the first place that it assumed such a
                      transcendent, presuppositional status. Whence it's magnetic pull?
                      How does this pull effect historical Jesus studies? Those would be
                      my questions.

                      Andrew Lloyd
                    • Andrew Lloyd
                      ... reading what ... movement ... know what it ... postmodernism that ... put it, if ... so much ... is what we ... that we as ... although as ...
                      Message 10 of 18 , Nov 25, 2002
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                        --- In crosstalk2@y..., LeeEdgarTyler@a... wrote:
                        > Perhaps it's preferable to read, say, Fish himself instead of
                        reading what
                        > others say about postmodernism. If there has been an intellectual
                        movement
                        > subjected to more misrepresentation by its detractors, I don't
                        know what it
                        > would be.
                        >
                        > It is emphatically *not* a precept or any such thing of
                        postmodernism that
                        > there is no "external reality" and no "objective truth." As Fish
                        put it, if
                        > that's what postmodernist academicians teach, then they'd be "not
                        so much
                        > dangerous as silly." And as Rorty likes to put it, "Objectivity
                        is what we
                        > (academicians) do."
                        >
                        > However, the fact that this external reality exists does not mean
                        that we as
                        > investigators can define it so that, as you put it, one "stops the
                        > conversation." Seldom is the line of inquiry complete, because
                        although as
                        > Fish puts it below, a fact might be "universal," the
                        interpretation or even
                        > proof of that fact is not. Even if, as you suggest, we discovered
                        what Jesus
                        > thought, said, and did and "who he was" we would not stop the
                        conversation.
                        >
                        > At any rate, this is what Fish says on the matter, from a recent
                        essay in
                        > Harper's Magazine:
                        >
                        > "Now, I would not be misunderstood. I am not saying that there are
                        no
                        > universal values or no truths independent of particular
                        perspectives. I
                        > affirm both. When I offer a reading of a poem or pronounce on a
                        case of First
                        > Amendment Law, I do so with no epistemological reservations. I
                        regard my
                        > feeling as true--not provisionally true for my reference group
                        only, but
                        > true. I am as certain of that as I am of the fact that I may very
                        well be
                        > unable to persuade others, no less educated or credentialed than
                        I, of the
                        > truth so perspicuous to me. And here is the point that is often
                        missed [in
                        > discussions of the postmodern], the independence from each other,
                        and
                        > therefore the compatibility, of two assertions *thought* to be
                        contradictory
                        > when made by the same person: (1) I believe X to be true and (2) I
                        believe
                        > that there is no mechanism, procedure, calculus, test, by which
                        the truth of
                        > X can be necessarily demonstrated to any sane person who has come
                        to a
                        > different conclusion (not that such a demonstration can never be
                        successful,
                        > only that its success is contingent and not necessary). In order
                        to assert
                        > something and mean it without qualification, I of course have to
                        believe that
                        > it is true, but I don't have to believe that I could demonstrate
                        its truth to
                        > all rational persons. The claim that something is universal and
                        the
                        > acknowledgment that I couldn't necessarily prove it are logically
                        independent
                        > of each other. The second does not undermine the first."
                        >
                        > Emphasis mine.
                        >
                        > As you can see, Fish comes down squarely in the "external reality"
                        camp--even
                        > going so far as to say that demonstration of objective truth is
                        quite
                        > possible even though contingent. There are "universal values
                        [and] truths
                        > independent of particular perspectives." The epistemological
                        question
                        > postmodernism poses is rather the negotiation of that which is
                        true and that
                        > which is believed to be true in a world of variable "reference
                        groups." And
                        > that, it seems to me, is question enough.
                        >
                        > Ed Tyler

                        Ed,

                        thank you for your post which I unreservedly welcome. I should say
                        straight off that I write as an intellectual admirer of both Fish
                        and of Rorty. I am seeking to critique historical Jesus study from a
                        pragmatist position, a position I see both Fish and Rorty as
                        inhabiting. Indeed, both seem happy enough to be assoicated with
                        that tradition. Thus, when I spoke of "stopping the conversation"
                        the phrase was not mine but Rorty's. Indeed, he has a paper about
                        it - "Religion as Conversation Stopper" in his "Philosophy and
                        Social Hope". (Here the conversation stopping, and the aim of
                        stopping it, is a bad thing.) That paper is not so much to do with
                        matters "epsitemological", however, which is how most correspondents
                        seem to have taken this thread.

                        That said, if we turn to "A World Without Substances or Essences" in
                        the same volume by Rorty we find something very different to
                        the "external" reality and "objective" truth you seem to think that
                        Fish is talking about. (I admit I think that you have been suckered
                        in by Fish's rhetoric. Surely what you have posted is Fish's
                        pragmatist rhetoric in a fetching disguise. The Fish of "Is There A
                        Text in This Class" or "Doing What Comes Naturally" or "The Trouble
                        with Principle" does not believe in any "external" reality, at least
                        not if "external" is the defining quality of the "reality". I
                        suggest that what you have posted is, in its current state, lacking
                        the necessary context of Fish's wider writing.) Rorty makes
                        statements such as "everything is a social construction" and "all
                        awareness is under a description" and "there can be no such thing as
                        a description which matches the way X really is". So even if reality
                        were "external" and truth "objective" neither of these, it seems to
                        me, can mean "detached from human beings" - at least if you follow
                        this kind of thinking. (Rorty, it may be noted, attempts to follow
                        the "triangulation" theory of Donald Davidson in which norms of
                        reality or truth are a matter of "us", "me" and "it", in which none
                        of these can be left out.)

                        Turning to Fish (and noting that I find it strange you think that
                        quote makes Fish a believer in "external reality" or truth as an
                        independent "object", since I think it means he justifies that which
                        he believes in using a certain strategy with no ramifications except
                        conversational ones) I give you a quote to compare with the one from
                        Harper's: "Anything that can be made to go goes". He
                        continues: "...we come to beliefs by virtue of our situations and
                        our histories, in relation to which certain routes of evidence and
                        persuasion are already part of the structure of our understandings"
                        (The Trouble with Principle, p. 307). Fish repeats these points add
                        nauseam. Indeed, some reviewers regard him as a one-trick pony. My
                        point is that what you have quoted is not all there is to Fish. That
                        quote must have a context, part of which must be what he has
                        previously said and written. I submit that in the context of his
                        writing "external reality" and "objective truth" are not what I
                        think you are claiming them to be. They could hardly be since Fish
                        is very much a proponent of rhetoric (and a rhetorical world). He is
                        not in favour of some "independent" foundations to our knowledge
                        (something we have to mirror to be right about reality) but rather
                        thinks that "Rhetorics in long, short and middle versions
                        are...there for the quarrying" (ibid., p. 296).
                        Indeed, "foundations...are never found" (ibid.). Thus, I have a big
                        problem accepting that Fish believes in "external reality", that is,
                        until you or someone else unpacks what Fish might mean by this. In
                        this same paper I have mentioned "realism" stands for Fish as "the
                        solidity and plasticity of the world human beings continually make
                        and remake" (p. 294). If reality is simultaneously "external", as a
                        defining characteristic, can someone join up this so-called Fishian
                        thinking? My pragmatist (and Rortian and Fishian) proposal, is
                        rather that this reality (be it called "external" or not) is
                        interpreted and rhetoricised as such and that the cutting such
                        reality does is social, historicist and cultural. On this basis I
                        seek to do (and appraise) historical Jesus study.

                        Andrew Lloyd
                      • mwgrondin
                        ... All your highly-nuanced reasoning comes down to this? Have you not provided the reductio ad absurdum for your own line of thinking? Might be time to go
                        Message 11 of 18 , Nov 26, 2002
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                          --- Andrew Lloyd wrote:
                          > I would rather ask why we positied "reality" in the first place
                          > that it assumed such a transcendent, presuppositional status.
                          > Whence it's magnetic pull?

                          All your highly-nuanced reasoning comes down to this? Have you not
                          provided the reductio ad absurdum for your own line of thinking?
                          Might be time to go back and check your premises. Or maybe you have
                          a special meaning for the word 'reality' that accounts for the
                          oddness of the above questions? Since the answers are rather obvious
                          ("I stub my toe on it", etc) when 'reality' is taken in its ordinary
                          sense, perhaps if you explain why you find an answer of this sort
                          unsatisfactory, it will help to illuminate the extraordinary sense
                          in which you are evidently using the word.

                          Mike Grondin
                          Mt. Clemens, MI
                        • Andrew Lloyd
                          ... have ... obvious ... ordinary ... Mike, I don t think I have supplied any reductio ad absurdum . Indeed, if, anything, I ve merely repeated a question
                          Message 12 of 18 , Nov 28, 2002
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                            --- In crosstalk2@y..., "mwgrondin" <mwgrondin@c...> wrote:
                            > --- Andrew Lloyd wrote:
                            > > I would rather ask why we positied "reality" in the first place
                            > > that it assumed such a transcendent, presuppositional status.
                            > > Whence it's magnetic pull?
                            >
                            > All your highly-nuanced reasoning comes down to this? Have you not
                            > provided the reductio ad absurdum for your own line of thinking?
                            > Might be time to go back and check your premises. Or maybe you
                            have
                            > a special meaning for the word 'reality' that accounts for the
                            > oddness of the above questions? Since the answers are rather
                            obvious
                            > ("I stub my toe on it", etc) when 'reality' is taken in its
                            ordinary
                            > sense, perhaps if you explain why you find an answer of this sort
                            > unsatisfactory, it will help to illuminate the extraordinary sense
                            > in which you are evidently using the word.
                            >
                            > Mike Grondin
                            > Mt. Clemens, MI

                            Mike,

                            I don't think I have supplied any "reductio ad absurdum". Indeed,
                            if, anything, I've merely repeated a question that many
                            philosophical worthies (I can immediately think of Plato, Aristotle,
                            Kant, The British Empiricists, Nietzsche and Heidegger, and there
                            are many many more) have asked before, i.e. what is "reality"?
                            (Another way of asking the same question is "What do we mean when we
                            say "is"?) Any novelty I may have supplied (and, frankly, as I read
                            historical Jesus studies, any absurdum) is in applying this
                            question, and its possible answers, to historical Jesus study. The
                            question of "reality" and the follow up questions as to what it
                            is/does, are, it seems to me, pertinent to the whole field of this
                            type of study (Cp. NT Wright's "The New Testament and the People of
                            God", pp. 31-144, as an example of someone who at least thinks we
                            have issues here. One issue, as I see it, is that "reality" can
                            easily be used in a partisan way. Talking about "reality" is just
                            another way of saying that I/we am/are right. So what's "real", i.e.
                            non-partisan, about reality?) In addition, it seems manifest to me,
                            as someone with a burgeoning philosophical interest, that different
                            answers to questions about "reality" have been given. So, if there
                            is an "obvious" answer (which, implicitly, is a pre-reflective one
                            and why should we favour such answers?) I must admit to being
                            ignorant of it. What does one say in a conversation about "reality"
                            when what you say is "obvious"? And when you start talking about it,
                            how do you know when to stop?

                            Personally, I have found some value in the pragmatist approach to
                            these kinds of questions. Fundamental to this would be the phenomena
                            of experience and language use. "Reality", it may be noted, has no
                            way of communicating: it is perceived and conceived by us. As
                            Protagoras saw, "Man is the measure of all things" (which is to say
                            that we must decide and judge for ourselves as a fundamental part of
                            our make-up). Thus, reality as a concept is at least a matter of
                            interaction (better, relation) rather than bare, external matter.
                            This pragmatist approach would not find anything of value in your "I
                            stub my toe" approach because why need we posit either a
                            metaphysical or an epistemological system to account for a purely
                            contingent event? And why use an internal/external axis to talk
                            about it rather than, say, using a holist model instead and talking
                            about relations? Stubbing your toe (or reading a Gospel or
                            reconstructing a Jesus) in no way tells you how to talk about what
                            just happened or what you are doing. Of course, when you find a way
                            to express yourself in these (and many other) cases then the
                            question "Why did I say it like that and not this?" will be readily
                            apparent. I find value in this question. If other means of
                            expression are possible I think they should be explored. Surely all
                            possible means of expression in regard to reality are innately
                            interesting to the historical Jesus scholar are they not?

                            By no means am I saying that my mere exploration of these questions
                            provides all the answers. However, I'm neither treating this
                            question (or bunch of questions) as if it were rather passé, as if
                            it were sorted out some time ago. Perusal of current philosophical
                            literature will demonstrate that both epistemology and metaphysics
                            are still subjects of interest in philosophy and also subjects in
                            question. I suggest that historical Jesus scholars take note before
                            their "obvious" philosophical basis for doing their work comes to
                            seem somewhat beside the point.

                            Andrew Lloyd
                          • mwgrondin
                            ... I m sorry, Andrew, but that is not what you asked in the passage to which I was responding. In fact, you were questioning the _concept_ of reality , and
                            Message 13 of 18 , Nov 28, 2002
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                              --- Andrew Lloyd wrote:
                              > I don't think I have supplied any "reductio ad absurdum". Indeed,
                              > if, anything, I've merely repeated a question that many
                              > philosophical worthies (I can immediately think of Plato,
                              > Aristotle, Kant, The British Empiricists, Nietzsche and Heidegger,
                              > and ... many many more) have asked before, i.e. what is "reality"?

                              I'm sorry, Andrew, but that is not what you asked in the passage to
                              which I was responding. In fact, you were questioning the _concept_
                              of "reality", and you seem to have already decided several things
                              about it - as is plain from the language of your questions:

                              > I would rather ask why we [posited] "reality" in the first place
                              > that it assumed such a transcendent, presuppositional status.
                              > Whence it's magnetic pull?

                              Here you have asserted that the concept of reality has
                              a "transcendent" and presuppositional status, and implied that it
                              has a "magnetic pull". I disagree with both the assertion and the
                              implication, but before I go into the reasons for that, I should
                              note that I don't believe that this subject is a proper one for
                              Crosstalk. There is nothing that I can see in your discussion that
                              is particularly applicable to historical Jesus studies - as opposed
                              to any other field of study whatsoever. In case the moderators
                              decide to let this go on, however, I'll indicate in general outline
                              the approach I would take.

                              First, the great metaphysical systems of the past are the wrong
                              place to start, IMO. The proper place to start, I think, is not
                              in "the heavens", so to speak, but in the ordinary way that we learn
                              and use language. 'Real' and its cognates don't exist in isolation,
                              but as halves of pairs of contrasting terms. We learn early on to
                              use 'real' in at least two different ways - one as a contrast
                              with "fake" or "artificial", the other as a contrast to "imaginery".
                              In the former case, we distinguish a "real" apple from an artificial
                              plastic apple, and in the latter case we distinguish a "real" person
                              from an imaginery person such as Superman.

                              The interesting thing about the 'real'/'artificial' pair is that it
                              illustrates that the same thing can be at the same time both a real
                              X and an artificial Y, hence that even artificial things are real,
                              in the sense of being non-imaginery. An artificial apple, for
                              example, isn't a real apple, but it is a real artificial apple (as
                              opposed to an imaginery artificial apple).

                              Does "reality" - considered as the set of things that are "real" in
                              the sense of being non-imaginery - have a presupppositional status?
                              I'd say not. If other folks are like me, we all rather started out
                              our young cognitive lives with the presupposition that we could do
                              anything we wanted to. We didn't presuppose reality; we presupposed
                              magical powers for ourselves, and reality forced itself upon us. We
                              learned that we couldn't fly, even if we set our whole mind to it,
                              and that just thinking about an imaginery monster didn't cause it to
                              spring into being (as some of us feared). We learned that some kids
                              were tougher than we were - could run faster, etc - and that other
                              kids were smarter than we were. In short, we learned that the world
                              wasn't controlled by our minds. No matter how much we might hope and
                              wish and pray, the world outside ourselves remained pretty much the
                              same. We had to _do_ something to bring about what we wanted, and
                              even then we might not succeed. So, no, reality isn't presupposed.
                              In fact, we'd often rather it go away.

                              Which brings me to the second point. Does reality have a "magnetic
                              pull"? Would that it did, but it seems that history demonstrates
                              that the opposite has been true for a very long time. Particularly
                              philosophers, and particularly those of Platonic bent, have long
                              fled from the messiness of reality into the "pure" world of thought.
                              What was "really real" for Plato was the "perfect" and unchanging -
                              viz, numbers and other "forms". A cow, for example, isn't as real
                              as "cow-hood", because cows change, but "cow-hood" (theoretically)
                              doesn't. Of course this tendency to flee from reality isn't confined
                              to philosophers; they've merely provided an intellectual basis for
                              what a lot of folks have always wanted to believe anyway - namely,
                              that messy, contingent, plain-old everyday "reality" is somehow
                              either escapable or not "really real". Only in recent times, with
                              the advent of linguistic analysis and the ordinary-language school
                              of philosophy, have we finally started to come down to earth, and
                              realize that the questions that were previously intractable were so
                              because we didn't understand that they were really questions about
                              how we use language, and not about the things denoted by that
                              language at all.

                              Well, sorry for carrying on so, but I did want you to know some of
                              the reasons for my disagreement with the way you've framed the
                              discussion thus far. Again, I would recommend that this subject not
                              be pursued on-list, as it seems off-topic to me. If the moderators
                              deem otherwise, however, I'm prepared to defend an approach to this
                              cluster of philosophical problems which is based on lingustic
                              analysis rather than metaphysics.

                              Mike Grondin
                              Mt. Clemens, MI
                            • DaGoi@aol.com
                              In a message dated 11/29/2 2:22:19 AM, Mike wrote:
                              Message 14 of 18 , Nov 29, 2002
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                                In a message dated 11/29/2 2:22:19 AM, Mike wrote:

                                <<Again, I would recommend that this subject not
                                be pursued on-list, as it seems off-topic to me. If the moderators
                                deem otherwise, however, I'm prepared to defend an approach to this
                                cluster of philosophical problems which is based on lingustic
                                analysis rather than metaphysics.>>

                                This was a nicely put post and I enjoyed it. I, for one, would like to read
                                further on this thread whether or not it is allowed impertinently on the
                                list; I can't say I'd understand everything (though I do have a better time
                                understanding this 'reality' and a hard time grokking Platoistic and
                                Jungistic discussions), or that I have much to contribute that wouldn't
                                already have been said - in other words, this seems like a thread I'd enjoy
                                lurking over.

                                Bill Foley
                                Woburn
                              • Andrew Lloyd
                                ... Mike, You cannot have cake and eat it. If I have assumed several things about reality it is because you cannot use a word, or put it into some meaningful
                                Message 15 of 18 , Nov 30, 2002
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                                  --- In crosstalk2@y..., "mwgrondin" <mwgrondin@c...> wrote:
                                  --- Andrew Lloyd wrote:
                                  > I don't think I have supplied any "reductio ad absurdum". Indeed,
                                  > if, anything, I've merely repeated a question that many
                                  > philosophical worthies (I can immediately think of Plato,
                                  > Aristotle, Kant, The British Empiricists, Nietzsche and Heidegger,
                                  > and ... many many more) have asked before, i.e. what is "reality"?

                                  >I'm sorry, Andrew, but that is not what you asked in the passage to
                                  >which I was responding. In fact, you were questioning the _concept_
                                  >of "reality", and you seem to have already decided several things
                                  >about it - as is plain from the language of your questions:

                                  > I would rather ask why we [posited] "reality" in the first place
                                  > that it assumed such a transcendent, presuppositional status.
                                  > Whence it's magnetic pull?

                                  >Here you have asserted that the concept of reality has
                                  >a "transcendent" and presuppositional status, and implied that it
                                  >has a "magnetic pull". I disagree with both the assertion and the
                                  >implication,

                                  Mike,

                                  You cannot have cake and eat it. If I have assumed several things
                                  about reality it is because you cannot use a word, or put it into
                                  some meaningful kind of communication, without having some intent
                                  (i.e. understanding) of that word and what it is doing service as.
                                  Utterance or use implies meaning. Therefore, to speak
                                  about "reality" at all I must have some idea what I am meaning by
                                  it, as you. Presupposition is, despite any protest to the contrary,
                                  basic. However, this doesn't mean I have reached I place I feel
                                  happy with as regards this term. Let us remember that a question is
                                  not a statement and that correction is always a useful possibility.

                                  >before I go into the reasons for that, I should
                                  >note that I don't believe that this subject is a proper one for
                                  >Crosstalk. There is nothing that I can see in your discussion that
                                  >is particularly applicable to historical Jesus studies - as opposed
                                  >to any other field of study whatsoever. In case the moderators
                                  >decide to let this go on, however, I'll indicate in general outline
                                  >the approach I would take.

                                  This is here my main concern. It is because I feel this subject is
                                  extremely pertinent to the study of the historical Jesus that I
                                  bring it up at all. (Of course, this interest is not exclusive but
                                  why should we so limit ourselves? Relevance, it seems to me, is
                                  enough and I thank the moderators of Xtalk for their indulgence so
                                  far.)

                                  >'Real' and its cognates don't exist in isolation,
                                  >but as halves of pairs of contrasting terms. We learn early on to
                                  >use 'real' in at least two different ways - one as a contrast
                                  >with "fake" or "artificial", the other as a contrast
                                  to "imaginery".
                                  >In the former case, we distinguish a "real" apple from an
                                  artificial
                                  >plastic apple, and in the latter case we distinguish a "real"
                                  person
                                  >from an imaginery person such as Superman.

                                  These distinctions are interesting and for the purposes of this
                                  discussion I will make use of them. (I will also set aside the
                                  poststrucuralist theory which deconstructs all binary oppositions.)
                                  I think they demonstrate why the problematic I have raised is
                                  pertinent to historical Jesus study. Consider the following
                                  questions: Is the historical Jesus real or artificial? Real or
                                  imaginary? (Even real or fake?) Now, it seems to me, the historical
                                  Jesus is neither simply (or purely) one or the other but an
                                  undefined (and probably undefinable) mixture of all of these pairs.
                                  Indeed, these pairs are arbitrary (and rhetorical) extremes which do
                                  service as instruments of distinction. But they don't help us
                                  clarify issues about the reality of the historical Jesus that
                                  historical Jesus scholars customarily search (and research) for (and
                                  not least because the analogue of the "real" apple, in all senses,
                                  is not available to us). Indeed, "historical" Jesus itself seems
                                  often in need of definition if contemporary historical Jesus
                                  literature is to be taken at face value. Does this binary approach
                                  give any useful service and get us the clarification we need?

                                  Crossan, in his "The Historical Jesus" reminds us that historical
                                  Jesus study seems a safe place "to do autobiography and call it
                                  biography" (p. xxviii). John Meier in volume 1 of his "A Marginal
                                  Jew" (p. 24) tells us that the "real" Jesus is not available to us
                                  (the "historical" Jesus being something else). Hal Childs, in a very
                                  interesting monograph entitled "The Myth of the Historical Jesus and
                                  the Evolution of Consciousness", and in the context of discussing
                                  the Quest of the historical Jesus, writes that "historiography needs
                                  to be seen as a hermeneutic process whose concerns have more to do
                                  with consciousness, ethics and practice…than some kind
                                  of `scientific' method that establishes absolute and objective
                                  facts" (p. 65). Tom Wright, as mentioned before, seeks the middle
                                  way of a critical realism, something fundamentally storied rather
                                  than objective/factual. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, in her "Jesus
                                  and the Politics of Interpretation", is concerned not with "data"
                                  but with "how [historical Jesus] scholars make meaning out
                                  of `data'" (p. 3). In none of these does previously mentioned "toe-
                                  stubbing" or the distinctions you have (so far) utilised seem
                                  helpful, not least because each of these scholars regards the
                                  problematic of reality as something a little more complex than that.
                                  In raising these questions I am attempting to CLARIFY what the
                                  historical Jesus scholar thinks is his or her basis for study. Do
                                  they seek the real Jesus, the artificial Jesus, the imaginary Jesus
                                  or something else? Is the "historical" Jesus any of these, or some
                                  admixture? Crucially, what language (discourse) will they use to
                                  talk about this? If starting points are at all related to results
                                  then relevance is established. What is the status of the historical
                                  Jesus? I fail to see how these questions could NOT be relevant (not
                                  least since most historical Jesuses go on to do service of some kind
                                  for their various adherents). To use a phrase you used
                                  previously, "What reality is forcing itself in upon historical Jesus
                                  scholars?"

                                  I write as one who has read a modest amount of historical Jesus
                                  literature. There are numerous books out there about Jesus and all
                                  of them, to some extent, are relying on historical premises about
                                  the man himself. (That is to say, they are all relying on what they
                                  want to posit as the man himself, something which is a matter of the
                                  content of the form AND the form. That something is "real" about
                                  Jesus is exactly the basis of any discussion about him and the heart
                                  of the questions I seek to raise.) But they evince the problems and
                                  complications that come from the use of the human mind and our
                                  available means of communication. There are those who say that
                                  fiction can be true (and it is necessary to talk about Jesus). There
                                  are those who say we should regard Jesus as a character in a story.
                                  There are those who say that the historical Jesus is confessional. I
                                  see all these questions as part of the problematic I choose to
                                  call "the question of reality". I think that some kinds of reality
                                  talk are unhelpful (particularly those kinds which seem to detach
                                  reality from our talk about it). I similarly do believe that the
                                  word "reality" can do some useful service and that we can talk about
                                  Jesus meaningfully and sensibly. However, I don't think its
                                  necessarily obvious how to do that. Indeed, I think it requires
                                  discussion and thought which is one reason I myself am studying
                                  these matters and attempting to produce some conclusions of my own.

                                  PS If you still don't think this subject is relevant then answer the
                                  questions I raised at first above (Is the historical Jesus real or
                                  artificial/imaginary/fake?) I'm sure you can see that how you answer
                                  this question, and in what terms, makes a difference.

                                  Andrew Lloyd
                                  Nottingham, England
                                • mwgrondin
                                  Andrew, I m going to skip over the philosophical material in your note so as not to get caught up in irrelevant issues. Speaking of which, I m ... Is this
                                  Message 16 of 18 , Dec 1, 2002
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                                    Andrew,

                                    I'm going to skip over the philosophical material in your note so as
                                    not to get caught up in irrelevant issues. Speaking of which, I'm
                                    having some difficulty understanding what "this subject" is:

                                    > It is because I feel this subject is extremely pertinent to the
                                    > study of the historical Jesus that I bring it up at all. (Of
                                    > course, this interest is not exclusive but why should we so limit
                                    > ourselves? Relevance, it seems to me, is enough ...

                                    Is "this subject" reality in general? That, it seems to me, is an
                                    irrelevant philosophical issue. Is it the ontological status of
                                    persons? Again, seems irrelevant. Is it some sort of problem
                                    specific to historiography, or is it a problem endemic to history in
                                    general? And if a problem specific to historiography, is it a
                                    problem more relevant to studies of the ancient world, or does it
                                    also affect attempts to do historiographies of, say, Lincoln or
                                    Truman as well? It seems to me that "this subject" has so far been
                                    notably diffuse and elusive, and that much more specificity is in
                                    order. One can't address a whole series of questions in one fell
                                    swoop.

                                    Of course philosophy and history interact, but in an applied field
                                    of study, we have to be able to take some things for granted, or
                                    else we'd never get off the ground. When writing a biography of
                                    Truman, for example, we don't expect the author to spend a lot of
                                    time (or even any time, really) on the philosophy of history. If we
                                    (the readers) are concerned about issues related to the philosophy
                                    of history, the place to expect those issues to be addressed is in a
                                    philosophy book, not in a historical biography. But there are
                                    special problems related to the study of ancient personages, and
                                    especially those around whom legends and myths have grown, and
                                    especially where the historian either believes in those myths
                                    him/herself, or is leaning over backwards to avoid offending readers
                                    who believe in those myths. Jesus is not unique in this regard; the
                                    same sorts of problems face anyone attempting to do a historical
                                    biography of Muhammad in an Islamic environment. The basic problem,
                                    of course, is that most of the prima facie "evidence" about ancient
                                    folks who have become religious icons consists of unreliable
                                    mythical accounts penned by zealous worshipers of such people.
                                    Whereas the proportion of reliable material would be quite high
                                    for a Truman or Lincoln, it would be quite low for a Jesus or an
                                    Asclepius. I perceive these to be problems of evidence, however, (or
                                    of the existential relation of historian to data), not of reality.

                                    > Is the historical Jesus real or artificial? Real or imaginary?
                                    > (Even real or fake?) Now, it seems to me, the historical
                                    > Jesus is neither simply (or purely) one or the other but an
                                    > undefined (and probably undefinable) mixture of all of these
                                    > pairs.

                                    If by 'historical Jesus', you mean what I think is usually meant,
                                    namely, the person _behind_ the character described in the Xian
                                    canon, then I believe that there was such a person, and he would of
                                    course have been real. If by 'historical Jesus', however, you mean
                                    either or both of the two different characters named 'Jesus'
                                    presented respectively in the synoptics and GJohn, I think you're
                                    right to say that both of them are mixtures of reality and
                                    imagination - how much of each being up for grabs.

                                    > Does this binary approach
                                    > give any useful service and get us the clarification we need?

                                    I think so. We just need to be clear about whether we're talking
                                    about the character as presented in the story, or the real-life
                                    person upon whose life the story was "based" - as they say in the
                                    modern myth-making worlds of Hollywood and historical fiction. The
                                    real-life person said and did certain significant things which the
                                    fictional character doesn't, and vice-versa.

                                    > Crossan, in his "The Historical Jesus" reminds us that historical
                                    > Jesus study seems a safe place "to do autobiography and call it
                                    > biography" (p. xxviii).

                                    He wasn't writing about himself, of course. He considers diversity
                                    of results to be an "academic embarassment" that should force one
                                    back to "questions of theory and method". That hasn't resolved
                                    the "embarassment", however, if such it be, since the diversity
                                    breaks out all over again with respect to "questions of theory and
                                    method". If you ask me, a significant factor in the diversity of
                                    results derives from the fact that many "academic" researchers
                                    (including Meier and Wright) cannot allow themselves to make a
                                    serious attempt at impartiality with respect to the historical data.
                                    We have the situation wherein professional advocates of the
                                    Christian mythos are treated as if they were academicians. How can
                                    Crossan expect uniformity from such a radically-divided group
                                    of "researchers"?

                                    > John Meier in volume 1 of his "A Marginal Jew" (p. 24) tells us
                                    > that the "real" Jesus is not available to us (the "historical"
                                    > Jesus being something else).

                                    Not quite sure what he means by this - that it's impossible to
                                    separate the real from the imaginery in these stories? (I'll have
                                    to look it up when I have more time.)

                                    > Hal Childs ... writes that "historiography needs
                                    > to be seen as a hermeneutic process whose concerns have more
                                    > to do with consciousness, ethics and practice…than some kind
                                    > of `scientific' method that establishes absolute and objective
                                    > facts" (p. 65).

                                    Sounds like philosophy of history to me - except that it's not a
                                    very clear or careful statement. Is he claiming that the situation
                                    is significantly worse with respect to some subjects of
                                    historiography than others? If not, then why should the Jesus-
                                    researcher worry about something that the Truman-researcher doesn't?

                                    > Tom Wright, as mentioned before, seeks the middle way of a
                                    > critical realism, something fundamentally storied rather
                                    > than objective/factual.

                                    Because he doesn't think the factual is separable? But that would
                                    be a practical stance, not a philosophical one, right?

                                    > Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, in her "Jesus and
                                    > the Politics of Interpretation", is concerned not with "data"
                                    > but with "how [historical Jesus] scholars make meaning out
                                    > of `data'" (p. 3).

                                    If her question is "How is meaning made out of data?" (which seems
                                    an odd locution), it's apparently a general question related to
                                    the philosophy of science/history. On the other hand, if she's
                                    asserting that Jesus-scholars do something different (and more
                                    disreputable) than other historiographers, I'd be interested to
                                    hear the argument.

                                    > In none of these does previously mentioned "toe-stubbing" or the
                                    > distinctions you have (so far) utilised seem helpful, not least
                                    > because each of these scholars regards the problematic of reality
                                    > as something a little more complex than that.

                                    It's not clear to me that the folks you mention were writing about
                                    the "problematic of reality" (whatever that is) at all.

                                    > In raising these questions I am attempting to CLARIFY what the
                                    > historical Jesus scholar thinks is his or her basis for study. Do
                                    > they seek the real Jesus, the artificial Jesus, the imaginary
                                    > Jesus or something else?

                                    Well, of course, unless they're Jesus-mythers, they undoubtedly
                                    would like to uncover something of the real Jesus. I'm really
                                    unclear, however, about this distinction between "the real X"
                                    and "the historical X". Is it the claim that the two can never be
                                    the same? If so, on what grounds? That no description can capture
                                    the essence of the thing? (I think the historiographer would be
                                    satisfied with a set of true statements, whether or not they
                                    captured the "essence" of the person.)

                                    > There are numerous books out there about Jesus and all of them,
                                    > to some extent, are relying on historical premises about the man
                                    > himself. (That is to say, they are all relying on what they
                                    > want to posit as the man himself ...

                                    I don't think that's so - at least not the "all" part of it.

                                    > There are those who say that
                                    > fiction can be true (and it is necessary to talk about Jesus).

                                    I suppose fiction can be said to be metaphorically "true". Did
                                    Washington confess to his dad that he chopped down a cherry tree?
                                    Probably not. Is the depiction of honesty in the story true-to-
                                    Washington? Maybe. But suppose it is; would we then say that the
                                    story was "true" simpliciter, or would we rather say something
                                    like "it's true to Washington's character"?

                                    > There are those who say we should regard Jesus as a character
                                    > in a story.

                                    Are you talking about Jesus-mythers? I don't think anyone else would
                                    claim that he's _just_ a character in a story. I believe that most
                                    folks would agree that the character is a combination of real and
                                    imaginary.

                                    > There are those who say that the historical Jesus is confessional.

                                    Those people are confused.

                                    Regards,
                                    Mike Grondin
                                    Mt. Clemens, MI
                                  • Andrew Lloyd
                                    ... in ... I would say that the problematic, as I see it, resists the distinctions you attempt to impose upon it. I approach my subject from many angles, (not
                                    Message 17 of 18 , Dec 1, 2002
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                                      --- In crosstalk2@y..., "mwgrondin" <mwgrondin@c...> wrote:
                                      >Andrew Lloyd wrote
                                      > It is because I feel this subject is extremely pertinent to the
                                      > study of the historical Jesus that I bring it up at all. (Of
                                      > course, this interest is not exclusive but why should we so limit
                                      > ourselves? Relevance, it seems to me, is enough ...

                                      >Is "this subject" reality in general? That, it seems to me, is an
                                      >irrelevant philosophical issue. Is it the ontological status of
                                      >persons? Again, seems irrelevant. Is it some sort of problem
                                      >specific to historiography, or is it a problem endemic to history
                                      in
                                      >general? And if a problem specific to historiography, is it a
                                      >problem more relevant to studies of the ancient world, or does it
                                      >also affect attempts to do historiographies of, say, Lincoln or
                                      >Truman as well? It seems to me that "this subject" has so far been
                                      >notably diffuse and elusive, and that much more specificity is in
                                      >order. One can't address a whole series of questions in one fell
                                      >swoop.

                                      I would say that the problematic, as I see it, resists the
                                      distinctions you attempt to impose upon it. I approach my subject
                                      from many angles, (not limited to but including) historical,
                                      literary, autobiographical and philosophical ones. "Reality in
                                      general" is, of course, relevant to it and a general (and nebulous)
                                      way of denoting it. Likewise, the "ontological status" of the
                                      personage commonly known as "the historical Jesus" is relevant. Such
                                      an interest is revealed in my asking just "what" the historical
                                      Jesus is supposed to be. Also the whole area of historiography, the
                                      oeuvre of historical Jesus study, is greatly implicated. That said,
                                      I am alarmed, and more than alarmed, that you continue to suggest
                                      that such issues, being "philosophical", are "irrelevant". It has
                                      been noted that "scholarly engagement", to coin a phrase and
                                      approach this from another angle, are matters of some concern in the
                                      historical Jesus community both currently and recently. William
                                      Arnal lists "epistemic neutrality" as one of his three "hot spots"
                                      in current work on the historical Jesus in his closing paper
                                      of "Whose Historical Jesus" (published in 1997). It is true
                                      that "one can't address a whole series of questions in one fell
                                      swoop". However, one can scratch where it itches. A number of
                                      historical Jesus scholars are, if largely briefly and inadequately,
                                      scratching this itch.

                                      >When writing a biography of Truman, for example, we don't expect
                                      >the author to spend a lot of time (or even any time, really) on the
                                      >philosophy of history. If we (the readers) are concerned about
                                      >issues related to the philosophy of history, the place to expect
                                      >those issues to be addressed is in a philosophy book, not in a
                                      >historical biography. But there are special problems related to the
                                      >study of ancient personages, and especially those around whom
                                      >legends and myths have grown, and especially where the historian
                                      >either believes in those myths him/herself, or is leaning over
                                      >backwards to avoid offending readers who believe in those myths.
                                      >Jesus is not unique in this regard; the same sorts of problems face
                                      >anyone attempting to do a historical biography of Muhammad in an
                                      >Islamic environment.

                                      It seems that I have different expectations. And I'm not alone. Many
                                      standard treatments of the historical Jesus today DO include (brief)
                                      work you would label "philosophical" (and thus irrelevant). NT
                                      Wright's "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series has a
                                      whole volume devoted to background stuff, of which approximately 110
                                      pages is broadly philosophical in context (The New Testament and the
                                      People of God, pp. 31-144. Would the subsequent "Jesus and the
                                      Victory of God" be a different book without this background? You
                                      betcha!). Your own comments which précis this paragraph make
                                      reference to "special problems related to the study of ancient
                                      personages". Is the historical Jesus scholar to assume that I've
                                      become aware that such problems exist and have done something to
                                      enlighten myself about them? What if I'm a historical Jesus scholar
                                      who doesn't know what you are talking about when you suggest this,
                                      or disagrees with you? In short, why are you denying, or ignoring,
                                      that historical Jesus studies is a matter of the student AND the
                                      studied, a reality of which WE are a part? Your own remarks I would
                                      submit as ample reason why any decent length treatment of the
                                      historical Jesus should include at least 10% of its content as
                                      remarks addressing "philosophical" issues regarding reality,
                                      ontology, history and epistemology, etc. As I have noted, most
                                      booklength treatments already at least include passing remarks.

                                      A further issue is relevant here. If you have not addressed such
                                      issues, including philosophy of history, it does not thereby follow
                                      that you have no thoughts in these areas. If you are going to read
                                      either a Truman or Jesus biography as HISTORY then you are going to
                                      need the cognitive apparatus to conceptualise it AS history. Thus,
                                      your proposal ("we don't need to do philosophy of history to read
                                      history as history") is true but disturbing – for it amounts to
                                      praising the virtues of uninformed reading of history as history
                                      (and, by analogy, uninformed reading of reality as reality and just
                                      plain uninformed bandying about of the word "reality").

                                      >If by 'historical Jesus', you mean what I think is usually meant,
                                      >namely, the person _behind_ the character described in the Xian
                                      >canon, then I believe that there was such a person, and he would of
                                      >course have been real. If by 'historical Jesus', however, you mean
                                      >either or both of the two different characters named 'Jesus'
                                      >presented respectively in the synoptics and GJohn, I think you're
                                      >right to say that both of them are mixtures of reality and
                                      >imagination - how much of each being up for grabs.

                                      And here are more reasons why the kind of discussion I'm seeking to
                                      foster is highly relevant – so much question begging! To agree that
                                      Jesus existed is not to exegete, or explain, your use of the
                                      term "real" here. Indeed, I would like to know what "real" means
                                      here. The word seems superfluous in this context as far as I can
                                      tell. At any rate, to require to know what "real" means in this
                                      context is to implicitly require a discussion of "reality" prior to
                                      saying that "Jesus was real". And what of all these distinctions,
                                      these "person(s) behind the canon" and the "two[?] different
                                      characters named Jesus"? In terms of "characters" surely there are
                                      as many Jesuses as books about him. This supposition demands a
                                      discussion of our use of "Jesus" as a referent in order to make our
                                      communication clearer. Of course, it should not be compulsory that
                                      every historical Jesus study précis its "arguments about Jesus" with
                                      such material. However, if I myself had any sense that such work was
                                      being done, and applied, to historical Jesus studies I would be less
                                      zealous about promoting these kinds of conversations. It is my
                                      premise that, to be bold and generalising, we don't know (or have
                                      not yet clearly and openly enunciated) what, or who, we are talking
                                      about. It is a discussion we need to have.

                                      Andrew Lloyd
                                      Nottingham, England
                                    • mwgrondin
                                      ... I keep hoping that you ll either start defining this extremely- diffuse and abstract problematic of reality thingy, or get away from it and start
                                      Message 18 of 18 , Dec 1, 2002
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                                        --- Andrew Lloyd wrote:
                                        > I would say that the problematic [of reality], as I see it,
                                        > resists the distinctions you attempt to impose upon it.

                                        I keep hoping that you'll either start defining this extremely-
                                        diffuse and abstract "problematic of reality" thingy, or get away
                                        from it and start addressing some of the specific methodological
                                        problems that you've subsumed under it. Frankly, I think you've
                                        thrown a whole bunch of fruit into one basket and called 'em all
                                        apples. Is it, then, "the problematic" that resists distinctions,
                                        or the proponent of the problematic?

                                        > I approach my subject
                                        > from many angles, (not limited to but including) historical,
                                        > literary, autobiographical and philosophical ones.

                                        But what is "my subject" exactly? Seems like a whole grab-bag of
                                        disparate issues.

                                        > ... I am alarmed, and more than alarmed, that you continue to
                                        > suggest that such issues, being "philosophical", are "irrelevant".

                                        The problem here is that within "such issues" you include a wide
                                        variety of different topics, all apparently tied together in your
                                        mind with the phrase "the problematic of reality". Some of the
                                        issues you mention are clearly relevant to historical Jesus studies,
                                        others don't seem to me to be specifically relevant. Take for
                                        example the philosophical question "What is a person?" I don't
                                        consider that to be specifically relevant to Jesus studies. It's a
                                        question for philosophers, not for historians.

                                        > Many standard treatments of the historical Jesus today DO
                                        > include (brief) work you would label "philosophical" (and
                                        > thus irrelevant).

                                        The phrase I would prefer now is 'not specifically relevant'. And
                                        since the textual passages to which you refer are widely varied, I
                                        can't agree with you that I would label them all "philosophical".
                                        In the previous note, I responded to several specific items; I did
                                        label some of them as "philosophical"; others, not. If you disagree
                                        about my assessment of any of those specific items, perhaps we
                                        should use that as a starting-point.

                                        > NT Wright's "Christian Origins and the Question of God" series
                                        > has a whole volume devoted to background stuff, of which
                                        > approximately 110 pages is broadly philosophical in context ...

                                        Well, my short response is that Wright needs it, since he's trying
                                        to overthrow the Enlightenment.

                                        > ... why are you denying, or ignoring, that historical Jesus
                                        > studies is a matter of the student AND the studied, a reality
                                        > of which WE are a part?

                                        I didn't think I was denying that. But if historical Jesus studies
                                        differ significantly from any other field of study, i.e., if your
                                        concerns are _specifically relevant_ to Jesus studies, then we ought
                                        to be able to say wherein the difference lies. I think there is a
                                        difference, and that the difference lies in the fact that many/most
                                        Western writers and readers have a strong predisposition to believe
                                        that the prima facie "evidence" of the canon is, in very great part,
                                        true and factual. It won't do, I think, to remove oneself to the
                                        level of the abstract and treat this issue as if it were some kind
                                        of deep philosophical problem. It's rather the concrete existential
                                        problem of readers/students being predisposed to believe something
                                        fundamentally at odds with what the writer is conveying. It's as if,
                                        for example, I were reading a biography of John Brown, and I was
                                        already convinced that he was something of a saint, only to find the
                                        author telling me that he was not. Cognitive dissonance.

                                        > Your own remarks I would
                                        > submit as ample reason why any decent length treatment of the
                                        > historical Jesus should include at least 10% of its content as
                                        > remarks addressing "philosophical" issues regarding reality,
                                        > ontology, history and epistemology, etc. As I have noted, most
                                        > booklength treatments already at least include passing remarks.

                                        Some of these were in response to radical philosophical challenges
                                        which the author might have better ignored. One needn't engage with
                                        solipcists at every turn, for example. If I'm going to do a
                                        biography of a person, I don't think it's necessary to discuss the
                                        ontological status of persons; I can just assume that X is as much
                                        (or as little) a person as anyone else bearing the title. Then, if
                                        you're gonna pick bones with me, you have to do so with everybody
                                        else who's ever written about persons.

                                        > ... your proposal ("we don't need to do philosophy of history to
                                        > read history as history") is true but disturbing – for it amounts
                                        > to praising the virtues of uninformed reading of history as
                                        > history (and, by analogy, uninformed reading of reality as reality
                                        > and just plain uninformed bandying about of the word "reality").

                                        No such thing. What my position "amounts to" is the common-sense
                                        truism that a communicator has to be able to take _something_ for
                                        granted. Now we may disagree about where that line of demarcation
                                        should be in historical Jesus studies, but I don't think you can
                                        argue that the necessity of the line is "disturbing", or that
                                        it "amounts to praising the virtues of uninformed reading". In fact,
                                        it's precisely the uninformed reader (at one end of the spectrum)
                                        to whom everything needs to be explained, and the abstract-bound
                                        intellectual (at the other end of the spectrum) to whom everything
                                        needs to be defended.

                                        [Mike]:
                                        > If by 'historical Jesus', you mean what I think is usually meant,
                                        > namely, the person _behind_ the character described in the Xian
                                        > canon, then I believe that there was such a person, and he would
                                        > of course have been real. If by 'historical Jesus', however, you
                                        > mean either or both of the two different characters named 'Jesus'
                                        > presented respectively in the synoptics and GJohn, I think you're
                                        > right to say that both of them are mixtures of reality and
                                        > imagination - how much of each being up for grabs.
                                        [Andrew]:
                                        > And here are more reasons why the kind of discussion I'm seeking
                                        > to foster is highly relevant – so much question begging! To agree
                                        > that Jesus existed is not to exegete, or explain, your use of the
                                        > term "real" here. Indeed, I would like to know what "real" means
                                        > here. The word seems superfluous in this context as far as I can
                                        > tell.

                                        You're right; it is.

                                        > At any rate, to require to know what "real" means in this
                                        > context is to implicitly require a discussion of "reality"
                                        > prior to saying that "Jesus was real".

                                        Suppose I say that he was as real as you and me. Does that help?
                                        If not, then I think you're asking the historian to do philosophy.

                                        > And what of all these distinctions,
                                        > these "person(s) behind the canon" and the "two[?] different
                                        > characters named Jesus"? In terms of "characters" surely there
                                        > are as many Jesuses as books about him.

                                        Depends on how fine-grained you want to be. If the slightest
                                        difference amounts to a different Jesus, then OK, but I was
                                        focusing on large-scale differences.

                                        > It is my premise that, to be bold and generalising, we don't know
                                        > (or have not yet clearly and openly enunciated) what, or who, we
                                        > are talking about. It is a discussion we need to have.

                                        Why is it not satisfactory to you that we're talking about a 1st-
                                        century Galilean sage, healer, and wonder-worker who was crucified
                                        by the Romans, and who served as the basis of the Christian myth?

                                        Regards,
                                        Mike Grondin
                                        Mt.Clemens,MI
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