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[XTalk] Re: Wright's NTPG, Chaps 1& 2

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  • mwgrondin <mwgrondin@comcast.net>
    ... You confirm my point about the ambiguity of the term, Loren. I don t disagree that it s relevant and probably fruitful to discuss what the term the son of
    Message 1 of 19 , Jan 2, 2003
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      --- Loren Rosson wrote:
      > I disagree, Mike. One can legitimately address the
      > question of whether or not HJ can be labelled "Son of
      > God", so long as we're clear on the term's meaning(s).
      > There is the "infancy narrative" spin put on it; there
      > is the Hellenized interpretation coming from Morton
      > Smith (he argued that "son of" means simply "member of
      > the class of", and thus "son of God" means "god" --
      > sort of harking back to usages like those found in Gen
      > 6:1-4); there is the Hebraic tradition linking the
      > term to messiahship (but what kind of messiahship?);
      > etc. This can of worms needs to be opened more often,
      > so we are clear on what HJ's contemporaries had in
      > mind, if indeed the term can be traced back to HJ.

      You confirm my point about the ambiguity of the term, Loren. I don't
      disagree that it's relevant and probably fruitful to discuss what
      the term 'the son of God' might have meant to various Christian
      writers who used it, but with respect to Bob's two questions:

      1) to get from what specific writers believed (which I assume will
      give us a different answer for Mark than for Matt than for John,
      e.g.) to the question of what "the disciples [in general] believed"
      looks like a hopeless enterprise to me, and

      2) the other question that Bob mentioned, namely "WAS Jesus any of
      those things" is a theological one not fit for this list. My answer
      would be "Don't be silly - of course not!", yours would presumably
      be different, but the point is that _that_ question goes beyond the
      bounds of the HJ quest.

      Mike Grondin
      Mt. Clemens, MI
    • mwgrondin <mwgrondin@comcast.net>
      ... Interesting, Bill, being as how that s what Peter is given to say in GThom 13. But that answer to What am I like? - as well as Matthew s (Jesus as sage)
      Message 2 of 19 , Jan 2, 2003
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        --- Bill Foley wrote:
        > ... the sons of God as angels interpretation was current at that
        > time, and I think that's what they meant.

        Interesting, Bill, being as how that's what Peter is given to say
        in GThom 13. But that answer to "What am I like?" - as well as
        Matthew's (Jesus as sage) are both seemingly rejected as inadequate.

        Mike Grondin
        Mt. Clemens, MI
      • mwgrondin <mwgrondin@comcast.net>
        ... All the worse for that. I would think that moderators would be especially sensitive to the possible introduction of theological questions. ... Of course it
        Message 3 of 19 , Jan 2, 2003
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          [Bob]:
          > ... there are lots of other phenomena that are not amenable
          > to this kind of analysis. For example, was Jesus the Son of God?
          [Mike]:
          > Was this Wright's example, Bob?
          [Bob]:
          > No, its my own example.

          All the worse for that. I would think that moderators would be
          especially sensitive to the possible introduction of theological
          questions.

          [Mike]:
          > It's got to be just about the worst one I could think of to make
          > the point - not only because it tends to promote off-topic
          > discussion, but because the question itself is ambiguous, hence
          > not a good example of a question "not amenable to this kind of
          > analysis" since it ain't amenable to _any_ kind of analysis - as
          > long as the key term 'the Son of God' is undefined.
          [Bob]:
          > I beg to disagree. It has, in fact, generated quite a bit of
          > discussion over the past 2000 years or so.

          Of course it has. Undecidable questions (of which ambiguous
          questions are a subclass) always generate quite a bit of discussion,
          precisely because different discussants are talking about different
          things, so there's no danger(!) of coming to any agreement, thereby
          putting a halt to those interminable debates so beloved by some
          scholars. So with _what_ do you disagree, exactly?

          > However, I did NOT use that example in order to promote discussion
          > of it on this list. If you prefer, switch the sample question
          > to "Did John the Baptizer baptize Jesus?" which would have
          > been a better example, anyway.

          Thanks for that, but it's not my preference that's in question. It
          would be better, I think, to admit that the original example was a
          poor one. ("X is better than Y" doesn't imply that Y is bad.)

          Mike Grondin
          Mt. Clemens, MI
        • Bob Schacht
          ... Not at all the case, unless you eviscerate the word variable of any sensible meaning. Are you suggesting that any Subject-Verb-Object construct fits my
          Message 4 of 19 , Jan 2, 2003
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            At 11:50 AM 1/2/2003 +0000, Andrew Lloyd wrote:
            >--- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, Bob Schacht <bobschacht@i...> wrote:
            > > Any time you can state a hypothesis in the
            > > form of a relationship between two or more variables, the scientific
            > > approach is relevant.
            >
            >Which, it seems to me Bob, is anytime we like.

            Not at all the case, unless you eviscerate the word "variable" of any
            sensible meaning. Are you suggesting that any Subject-Verb-Object construct
            fits my description of a hypothesis? If so, you are WAY off. But we are
            getting ahead of ourselves here. I anticipate having much more to say on
            Wright's use of the word "hypothesis" later on, but I haven't got to the
            part of his book where he begins to use this word about his own approach in
            any detail. So let's put off a more thorough discussion of the use of the
            word "hypothesis."

            > That's not much of
            >a "scientific" control. Indeed, how's it not a simple preference for
            >something called the "scientific approach", where, I assume, the
            >word "science" acts as some kind of magic word? (Because it's
            >scientific its valid.)

            Too many people treat science that way (you perhaps included?) Against that
            tide, I am trying to promote a more accurate idea of what science actually
            does, to de-mystify it.


            >[Andrew Lloyd]
            > > >What's more, I don't think you're getting what Wright is about if
            > > >you want to be better at being objective, as seems the case.
            >
            >[Bob Schacht]
            > > It is precisely this that I am criticizing Wright for. He seems to be
            > > arguing that objectivity is a black or white thing, either you can be
            > > objective or you can't, and he thinks you can't, so why bother? My
            > position
            > > is that we CAN be better at being MORE objective, and that objectivity
            > > comes in degrees and shades rather than all black or all white.
            >
            >Then I suggest that I'm right and you don't understand Wright's
            >point at all. Wright is arguing, explicitly, that objectivity is
            >BESIDE THE POINT. He's not saying "why bother?" at all. He's saying
            >that its not a case of being more or less objective; it is a case of
            >regarding such a paradigm as irrelevant.

            Which suggests that you do not understand that I'm not interpreting Wright
            here; I'm arguing *against* Wright in this instance. I disagree with him
            that objectivity is "beside the point," as you put it. I'll return to this
            point below.

            > The choice, as I regard
            >Wright as presenting it in chapter 2 of NTPG, is between an
            >inadequate subjective/objective paradigm (in which you will always
            >be worried you aren't being objective enough and will always be
            >liable to the subjective charge) and a narrative paradigm in which
            >anything you would claim or talk about is set against the narrative
            >background you come supplied with. Thus, "a real world", the only
            >world in which subject/object talk would do its suggested work,
            >drops out.

            And I regard this as a significant problem with Wright's approach. More on
            this later. For now let me just ask this question:
            How are we supposed to choose which narrative we want to believe? We're
            really getting toward the heart of the matter in what you write next:


            >Now granted that this is a better description of Wright's position
            >(and you may want to argue that though you should read p. 98 first
            >and note his assertion on p. 43 that "stories...are more fundamental
            >than facts"), Wright is inconsistent since he wants to hold that
            >when I talk about "my narrative world", that which he speaks about
            >in chapter 2, he can also talk about "the world" in a claim-making
            >sense. (Here note his chosen diagrammatic aids consist of polar
            >opposites, something he is rhetorically abandoning.) But I don't
            >believe that if Wright follows through on his own idea he has any
            >right to be making anything other than rhetorical claims about
            >his "narrative world" tout court (which I have no problems with).
            >Thus, I see Wright as someone who can't stop talking about
            >some "real world" even though it appears he wants to try to. This is
            >why in my PHD thesis I am talking about Wright as displaying a dual
            >rhetoric, the rhetoric of social and personal involvement allied
            >with a lingering objective realism. I find this to be evident also
            >in his chosen terminology: "critical" can be opposed to "realism".
            >Since I rhetorically oppose Wright to Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza
            >in my own work he can only look like someone without the chutzpah to
            >follow through on his own, largely coherent, suggestion.

            This is a very important point, with which I agree. How are we to choose
            which narrative world to subscribe to? Unless we agree that (1) there is a
            reality that transcends both you and me and everyone else, and (2)
            Narratives vary in how well they map reality, then we are left with a kind
            of naive subjectivism guided only by "it sounds good to me." If we take
            this road, then how is Christianity different from any other cult? Or is
            Christianity only different from other cults in being more successful at
            deceiving larger numbers of people? (Which I think is where some people on
            this list are at. ) So the dilemma of Wright's critical realism is that it
            is, after all, a form of realism, and therefore it must present some way of
            understanding what is real, and what isn't. This is why I come back to the
            idea is that the subjective/objective difference is NOT irrelevant.


            > >My position
            > > is that part of our epistemology should be how to be better at being
            > > objective, when it comes to cultural processes, literary processes,
            > etc. To
            > > do otherwise is to descend into naive reductionism, where there is no
            > point
            > > in our discussing anything, because your meaning will always be different
            > > from my meaning, so what's the use?
            >
            >Well, if you want to individualise and trivialise meaning to such an
            >extent, not much use at all, perhaps. However, neither Wright nor
            >myself do so. Wright, for example, considers the storied nature of
            >knowledge as inevitably public and not at all "reductionistic" since
            >he thinks we should be telling stories that all can join in with.

            Well, OK. But how does this make Jesus any different from Jim Jones or
            David Koresh? How can we tell whether a story is worth "joining in with"?
            How can we tell whether to "join in with" Story A rather than Story B?
            Making "the storied nature of knowledge" as "public" does not solve these
            problems.

            > In such a case (and here I develop as much as attempt to stick close to
            >Wright) "being right" or, in another form, "being objective" come
            >close to meaning "being part of that guiding narrative we accept".
            >Wright's claim is that we tell stories that can make sense of our
            >lives and our world.

            Well, yes, the Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi can tell me a story that will make
            sense of my life and our world, but why should I believe him?

            > Thus we come suppiled with our own narrative
            >constraints. (To dip into another narrative, that of Richard
            >Rorty, "most of the things we talk about we get right".)

            Doggone it, you're forcing me back into cynicism. I'm not so sure Rorty is
            right. My cynic self says that most of the things we talk about we get away
            with, without suffering any severe consequences.

            >This is not
            >a matter of reduction for these constraints, I think, accomplish the
            >same feats that those who want "a scientific approach" want too.

            No, I don't think so at all! At least, I'm not yet persuaded, either by
            Wright or by you.

            >Its just they are not presented in scientifc terminology and so seem suspect.

            No, its because Wright doesn't show how we can evaluate whether or not a
            story is reality-based.
            Actually, the epistemological dilemma is a bit more complex than that,
            because while reality does matter (!!!), it is not the only thing that
            matters. Suppose the reality is that I am short, crippled, mentally
            retarded and socially incompetent, and that no one cares what I think, and
            my family has turned its collective back on me, and I have no friends. Do
            these "realities" help me live my life to its fullest potential? Probably
            not. They would probably make me depressed and suicidal. But what if I am
            presented with a narrative that sez God loves me, and that every life has a
            purpose and _____________(fill in the blank with some feel-good pop
            psychology), and someone who believes all that stuff actually decides to
            befriend me. Will those ideas, which some might call delusional, help me
            live my life to its fullest potential? Very possibly. Delusions are
            sometimes useful; what passes for "reality" is not always useful.

            I suspect that this is partly what Wright is getting at. However, it is a
            slippery slope that he is trying to traverse.

            >...Meaning, after all, is basic and Wright's thesis at least takes account
            >of that.

            Granted. And to my knowledge, not even Crossan tries to deal with that
            subject as extensively as Wright does.


            >{Andrew Lloyd]
            > > >Wright's narrative approach would seem to undercut the
            > > >subjective/objective distinction you are seeking to preserve. If the
            > > >questions we ask and the answers we provide have narrative contexts
            > > >what use then is such a distinction?
            >
            >[Bob Schacht]
            > > Because it can get us to the moon and back.
            >
            >A classic pragmatic point which says nothing other than that if it
            >works, do it. On this basis many theoretical ways of configuring
            >inquiry could be correct at the same time, as evidenced by the fact
            >that many theories are used and success is claimed. However, you
            >aren't trying to "get to the moon and back" Bob. You're trying to
            >find meaning in, and make sense of, the past. This is history: the
            >past made sense of; a hermeneutic activity perhaps sometimes
            >utilising scientific methods.

            Well, I guess I prefer "if it works, do it" to "if it sounds good, believe it."


            >[Bob]
            > > Wright sees that you can't do history without dealing with meaning, and
            > > once you open that door, you're up to your keester in difficult
            > > epistemological questions. But one of those issues is that in order for us
            > > to communicate at all, we have to have shared ideas about the meaning
            > of at
            > > least some things. To the extent that we can do that, we transcend the
            > > subjective.
            >
            >But remember, Wright is talking at the level of undergirding
            >narrative rather than just the level of the fact or the statement.
            >An argument addressed to merely the level of the fact or the
            >statement does not address the argument of Wright.

            So then we are going to have to take a look at these "undergirding
            narratives" and figure out a way to evaluate which one(s), if any, to buy
            in to.

            But if we stay stuck in these chapters, I'll never get to the next ones!
            Thanks for your feedback. Your comments above help us get to the crux of
            Wright's thesis.
            Bob Schacht
          • Andrew Lloyd <a.lloyd2@ntlworld.com>
            Bob, granted that you want to carry on with your reading I ll be brief and boil our discussion down to its heart which is the question of how to get a grip on
            Message 5 of 19 , Jan 2, 2003
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              Bob,

              granted that you want to carry on with your reading I'll be brief
              and boil our discussion down to its heart which is the question of
              how to get a grip on Wright's narrative approach to realism.

              [Andrew]
              > >Now granted that this is a better description of Wright's position
              > >(and you may want to argue that though you should read p. 98 first
              > >and note his assertion on p. 43 that "stories...are more
              fundamental
              > >than facts"), Wright is inconsistent since he wants to hold that
              > >when I talk about "my narrative world", that which he speaks about
              > >in chapter 2, he can also talk about "the world" in a claim-making
              > >sense. (Here note his chosen diagrammatic aids consist of polar
              > >opposites, something he is rhetorically abandoning.) But I don't
              > >believe that if Wright follows through on his own idea he has any
              > >right to be making anything other than rhetorical claims about
              > >his "narrative world" tout court (which I have no problems with).
              > >Thus, I see Wright as someone who can't stop talking about
              > >some "real world" even though it appears he wants to try to. This
              is
              > >why in my PHD thesis I am talking about Wright as displaying a
              dual
              > >rhetoric, the rhetoric of social and personal involvement allied
              > >with a lingering objective realism. I find this to be evident also
              > >in his chosen terminology: "critical" can be opposed to "realism".
              > >Since I rhetorically oppose Wright to Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza
              > >in my own work he can only look like someone without the chutzpah
              to
              > >follow through on his own, largely coherent, suggestion.

              [Bob]
              > This is a very important point, with which I agree. How are we to
              choose
              > which narrative world to subscribe to? Unless we agree that (1)
              there is a
              > reality that transcends both you and me and everyone else, and (2)
              > Narratives vary in how well they map reality, then we are left
              with a kind
              > of naive subjectivism guided only by "it sounds good to me." If we
              take
              > this road, then how is Christianity different from any other cult?
              Or is
              > Christianity only different from other cults in being more
              successful at
              > deceiving larger numbers of people? (Which I think is where some
              people on
              > this list are at. ) So the dilemma of Wright's critical realism
              is that it
              > is, after all, a form of realism, and therefore it must present
              some way of
              > understanding what is real, and what isn't. This is why I come
              back to the
              > idea is that the subjective/objective difference is NOT irrelevant.

              My answer here is controversial in some circles (I don't necessarily
              think its Wright's for example) but not in the pragmatic ones I'm
              familiar with. You don't choose which narrative to accept or believe
              so much as it chooses you. This is to say that in the narrative
              understanding of reality, as opposed to the perception of reality as
              discrete facts or statements, you become part of a narrative and
              take it up rather than discretely choosing from the pot of
              narratives which one to believe and live out experientially. Thus,
              we are part of a greater whole rather than the master of all we
              (choose to) survey. Hence "mapping" is an entirely inappropriate
              analogy and its not so much "it sounds good to me" as "how could you
              expect me, the person I am, to believe anything but that which I
              do?" This, I will think will agree, is a somewhat different way of
              conceiving of realism.

              Against this background we then start making statements, assessing
              truth claims and adducing facts.

              Andrew Lloyd (PhD Cand.)
              Nottingham, England
            • Bob Schacht
              ... Thanks. ... Despite your disclaimer, this sounds at least similar to what Wright is arguing, if not the same. However, despite your closing sentence below,
              Message 6 of 19 , Jan 3, 2003
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                At 06:50 PM 1/2/2003 +0000, Andrew Lloyd (PhD Cand.) wrote:
                >Bob,
                >
                >granted that you want to carry on with your reading I'll be brief
                >and boil our discussion down to its heart which is the question of
                >how to get a grip on Wright's narrative approach to realism.

                Thanks.

                >[Bob]
                > > This is a very important point, with which I agree. How are we to choose
                > > which narrative world to subscribe to? Unless we agree that (1) there is a
                > > reality that transcends both you and me and everyone else, and (2)
                > > Narratives vary in how well they map reality, then we are left with a kind
                > > of naive subjectivism guided only by "it sounds good to me." If we take
                > > this road, then how is Christianity different from any other cult? Or is
                > > Christianity only different from other cults in being more successful at
                > > deceiving larger numbers of people? (Which I think is where some people on
                > > this list are at. ) So the dilemma of Wright's critical realism is
                > that it
                > > is, after all, a form of realism, and therefore it must present some
                > way of
                > > understanding what is real, and what isn't. This is why I come back to the
                > > idea is that the subjective/objective difference is NOT irrelevant.
                >
                >My answer here is controversial in some circles (I don't necessarily
                >think its Wright's for example) but not in the pragmatic ones I'm
                >familiar with. You don't choose which narrative to accept or believe
                >so much as it chooses you. This is to say that in the narrative
                >understanding of reality, as opposed to the perception of reality as
                >discrete facts or statements, you become part of a narrative and
                >take it up rather than discretely choosing from the pot of
                >narratives which one to believe and live out experientially. Thus,
                >we are part of a greater whole rather than the master of all we
                >(choose to) survey. Hence "mapping" is an entirely inappropriate
                >analogy and its not so much "it sounds good to me" as "how could you
                >expect me, the person I am, to believe anything but that which I
                >do?" This, I will think will agree, is a somewhat different way of
                >conceiving of realism.

                Despite your disclaimer, this sounds at least similar to what Wright is
                arguing, if not the same.
                However, despite your closing sentence below, it makes of us nothing more
                than pawns of our
                own heritage, doesn't it? If "it chooses you," you seem to argue that we
                have no power to choose
                for ourselves.

                >Against this background we then start making statements, assessing
                >truth claims and adducing facts.

                How can we "assess truth claims" or "adduce facts" if we have already been
                possessed by a
                Wrightian narrative? Or can we only fiddle around the margins on minor
                details, the major
                details having already been fixed by the narrative?
                I would venture to counter with the claim that Wright's claim (or at least
                your version of it) is true
                of the "unconscious" observer, but that through "consciousness raising" one
                becomes freer to choose
                the guiding narrative of one's life, which again raises the question of the
                grounds on which we can make that choice.

                Bob Schacht

                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Andrew Lloyd <a.lloyd2@ntlworld.com>
                ... wrote: [Andrew] ... necessarily ... believe ... as ... you ... [Bob] ... Wright is ... nothing more ... that we ... Well, I m not so concerned as to how
                Message 7 of 19 , Jan 3, 2003
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                  --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, Bob Schacht <bobschacht@i...>
                  wrote:

                  [Andrew]
                  > >My answer here is controversial in some circles (I don't
                  necessarily
                  > >think its Wright's for example) but not in the pragmatic ones I'm
                  > >familiar with. You don't choose which narrative to accept or
                  believe
                  > >so much as it chooses you. This is to say that in the narrative
                  > >understanding of reality, as opposed to the perception of reality
                  as
                  > >discrete facts or statements, you become part of a narrative and
                  > >take it up rather than discretely choosing from the pot of
                  > >narratives which one to believe and live out experientially. Thus,
                  > >we are part of a greater whole rather than the master of all we
                  > >(choose to) survey. Hence "mapping" is an entirely inappropriate
                  > >analogy and its not so much "it sounds good to me" as "how could
                  you
                  > >expect me, the person I am, to believe anything but that which I
                  > >do?" This, I will think will agree, is a somewhat different way of
                  > >conceiving of realism.

                  [Bob]
                  > Despite your disclaimer, this sounds at least similar to what
                  Wright is
                  > arguing, if not the same.
                  > However, despite your closing sentence below, it makes of us
                  nothing more
                  > than pawns of our
                  > own heritage, doesn't it? If "it chooses you," you seem to argue
                  that we
                  > have no power to choose
                  > for ourselves.

                  Well, I'm not so concerned as to how close to Wright I am as I am
                  with trying to put across clearly my own position so I'll
                  concentrate on that. (I'm simply happy that Wright raises the idea
                  of a narrative understanding of reality.) The difference here is
                  that you clearly conceive that the narrative construction of
                  reality, that which put another way might be called the situated
                  outlook on life, makes us "pawns of our own heritage", people who
                  have no real freedom to choose anything meaningful. You would think
                  this, I suggest, because you harbour doubts as to how "real"
                  something can be that is part of some narrative that is "only my own
                  story", or some such. Thus, you have a problem with the idea
                  of "narrative" itself since, I'm guessing, you think there's just
                  something a bit false about it. At this stage (before I get onto
                  your next comment) all I'd say is that this does not follow. That I
                  perceive the world a certain way, or as part of a certain narrative,
                  does not stop me making choices, real choices, choices that make a
                  difference.

                  [Andrew]
                  > >Against this background we then start making statements, assessing
                  > >truth claims and adducing facts.

                  [Bob]
                  > How can we "assess truth claims" or "adduce facts" if we have
                  already been
                  > possessed by a
                  > Wrightian narrative? Or can we only fiddle around the margins on
                  minor
                  > details, the major
                  > details having already been fixed by the narrative?

                  We do these things in exactly the way I'd guess you already think we
                  do. I don't expect we'd have much disagreement as to this question.
                  That's because this "narrative", Wrightian or not, is only the
                  background aginst which we make all the decisions we make anyway.
                  You must believe there is a background to thought and action (you
                  simply have nowhere to go from a tabula rasa) and I'm saying that
                  this narrative is that. But there's another point. These narratives
                  should not be thought of as simply fixed. (And here I develop
                  pragmatically on Wright's narrative understanding rather than
                  reproducing him.) On the contrary, narratives are what Stanley Fish
                  calls "engines of change". They are adaptive. People change. The
                  constraint that the narrative provides is simultaneously the freedom
                  you have to choose. Set of assumptions A will give you set of
                  options B (but the assumptions might thereby change as a result).
                  Set of assumptions C will give you set of options D (but the
                  assumptions might thereby change as a result). So it is not fixed as
                  opposed to free: it is that freedom is at the same time fixed.

                  [Bob]
                  > I would venture to counter with the claim that Wright's claim (or
                  at least
                  > your version of it) is true
                  > of the "unconscious" observer, but that through "consciousness
                  raising" one
                  > becomes freer to choose
                  > the guiding narrative of one's life, which again raises the
                  question of the
                  > grounds on which we can make that choice.

                  I think this point drops out after what I've just said but I do hold
                  open the possibility that within the process I have described there
                  will be points at which we see more than we thought we saw before.
                  (This is probably one of the changes I talked about.) I would not
                  use the language of "freer" or "more constrained" however since, if
                  freedom is constraint, this language makes no sense anymore in this
                  context.

                  Andrew Lloyd (PhD Cand.)
                  Nottingham, England
                • Rikk E. Watts
                  Gentlemen, an interesting discussion. Though as I read on, I am beginning to wonder if this is really what Wright means by narrative? Can I throw this in? It
                  Message 8 of 19 , Jan 3, 2003
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                    Gentlemen, an interesting discussion. Though as I read on, I am beginning
                    to wonder if this is really what Wright means by narrative? Can I throw this
                    in?

                    It seems to me that critical realism (as Wright defines it) and positivism
                    (broadly defined; it changed quite a bit from Comte to the Vienna school
                    didn't it?) share some key concerns: e.g. both believe that there is a
                    reality "out there," that our claims about our experience of that reality
                    must be verifiable beyond a solipsistic subjectivism, and that nevertheless
                    our experience of reality is mediated through our own history and
                    ideological precommitments. Is it right to say, then, that the differences
                    arise in terms of the reality under consideration?

                    Wright's use of narrative seems to reflect Collingwood's (my old friend
                    again, sorry) distinction between the inside and outside of an event.
                    Whereas positivists tend to be more concerned with the outside, or brute
                    facts (dates, times, did this event happen or not, etc.; cf. their initial
                    hostility toward the theoretical entities of modern physics) as a starting
                    point, there is something of a problem when we confront accounts of events
                    which do not have external/independent attestation and/or with which we have
                    no analogous experience; i.e. most of human history. Would it be true to say
                    that a thorough-going or rigorous positivist approach would have to remain
                    agnostically silent not only about much of history, but why people did what
                    they did, Collingwood's inside, which after all is probably the most
                    interesting thing about history?

                    Wright's employment of critical realism then is not an escape into
                    subjectivism, but an attempt to escape agnosticism and to advance beyond a
                    positivism that can only go as far as the mere "brute facts." In this he
                    seems to be taking a comparativist "anthropologization" approach (as per the
                    18th cent. Jesuit J-F Lafitau). Fancy terms but I think they boil down to
                    trying to make sense of a given event within the various social mores and
                    ideological narratives that shape a given group's identity. (Interestingly,
                    I think both Wright and Crossan do this, but at different times and places
                    in their historical projects.)

                    At the same time, it seems clear that trying to reconstruct a group's
                    "narrative" necessarily involves discussion of brute facts (e.g. what
                    happened in Synagogues? who were the Pharisees?), though of course all
                    meaningful history (i.e. what events "mean" for a group) is interpreted
                    history.

                    All this to say that I think the either/or approach is not very fruitful,
                    since both approaches are employed simultaneously in a reflexive way. I
                    suspect the big difference between Crossan and Wright is the way they treat
                    the source material and their ideological reconstruction of first century
                    Palestine (in particular the role of cynicism and apocalypticism).

                    Is this heading in the right direction or have I missed the point entirely?

                    Regards,
                    Rikk



                    on 1/3/03 4:04 PM, Andrew Lloyd <a.lloyd2@...> at
                    a.lloyd2@... wrote:

                    > --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, Bob Schacht <bobschacht@i...>
                    > wrote:
                    >
                    > [Andrew]
                    >>> My answer here is controversial in some circles (I don't
                    > necessarily
                    >>> think its Wright's for example) but not in the pragmatic ones I'm
                    >>> familiar with. You don't choose which narrative to accept or
                    > believe
                    >>> so much as it chooses you. This is to say that in the narrative
                    >>> understanding of reality, as opposed to the perception of reality
                    > as
                    >>> discrete facts or statements, you become part of a narrative and
                    >>> take it up rather than discretely choosing from the pot of
                    >>> narratives which one to believe and live out experientially. Thus,
                    >>> we are part of a greater whole rather than the master of all we
                    >>> (choose to) survey. Hence "mapping" is an entirely inappropriate
                    >>> analogy and its not so much "it sounds good to me" as "how could
                    > you
                    >>> expect me, the person I am, to believe anything but that which I
                    >>> do?" This, I will think will agree, is a somewhat different way of
                    >>> conceiving of realism.
                    >
                    > [Bob]
                    >> Despite your disclaimer, this sounds at least similar to what
                    > Wright is
                    >> arguing, if not the same.
                    >> However, despite your closing sentence below, it makes of us
                    > nothing more
                    >> than pawns of our
                    >> own heritage, doesn't it? If "it chooses you," you seem to argue
                    > that we
                    >> have no power to choose
                    >> for ourselves.
                    >
                    > Well, I'm not so concerned as to how close to Wright I am as I am
                    > with trying to put across clearly my own position so I'll
                    > concentrate on that. (I'm simply happy that Wright raises the idea
                    > of a narrative understanding of reality.) The difference here is
                    > that you clearly conceive that the narrative construction of
                    > reality, that which put another way might be called the situated
                    > outlook on life, makes us "pawns of our own heritage", people who
                    > have no real freedom to choose anything meaningful. You would think
                    > this, I suggest, because you harbour doubts as to how "real"
                    > something can be that is part of some narrative that is "only my own
                    > story", or some such. Thus, you have a problem with the idea
                    > of "narrative" itself since, I'm guessing, you think there's just
                    > something a bit false about it. At this stage (before I get onto
                    > your next comment) all I'd say is that this does not follow. That I
                    > perceive the world a certain way, or as part of a certain narrative,
                    > does not stop me making choices, real choices, choices that make a
                    > difference.
                    >
                    > [Andrew]
                    >>> Against this background we then start making statements, assessing
                    >>> truth claims and adducing facts.
                    >
                    > [Bob]
                    >> How can we "assess truth claims" or "adduce facts" if we have
                    > already been
                    >> possessed by a
                    >> Wrightian narrative? Or can we only fiddle around the margins on
                    > minor
                    >> details, the major
                    >> details having already been fixed by the narrative?
                    >
                    > We do these things in exactly the way I'd guess you already think we
                    > do. I don't expect we'd have much disagreement as to this question.
                    > That's because this "narrative", Wrightian or not, is only the
                    > background aginst which we make all the decisions we make anyway.
                    > You must believe there is a background to thought and action (you
                    > simply have nowhere to go from a tabula rasa) and I'm saying that
                    > this narrative is that. But there's another point. These narratives
                    > should not be thought of as simply fixed. (And here I develop
                    > pragmatically on Wright's narrative understanding rather than
                    > reproducing him.) On the contrary, narratives are what Stanley Fish
                    > calls "engines of change". They are adaptive. People change. The
                    > constraint that the narrative provides is simultaneously the freedom
                    > you have to choose. Set of assumptions A will give you set of
                    > options B (but the assumptions might thereby change as a result).
                    > Set of assumptions C will give you set of options D (but the
                    > assumptions might thereby change as a result). So it is not fixed as
                    > opposed to free: it is that freedom is at the same time fixed.
                    >
                    > [Bob]
                    >> I would venture to counter with the claim that Wright's claim (or
                    > at least
                    >> your version of it) is true
                    >> of the "unconscious" observer, but that through "consciousness
                    > raising" one
                    >> becomes freer to choose
                    >> the guiding narrative of one's life, which again raises the
                    > question of the
                    >> grounds on which we can make that choice.
                    >
                    > I think this point drops out after what I've just said but I do hold
                    > open the possibility that within the process I have described there
                    > will be points at which we see more than we thought we saw before.
                    > (This is probably one of the changes I talked about.) I would not
                    > use the language of "freer" or "more constrained" however since, if
                    > freedom is constraint, this language makes no sense anymore in this
                    > context.
                    >
                    > Andrew Lloyd (PhD Cand.)
                    > Nottingham, England
                    >
                    >
                    >
                    > The XTalk Home Page is http://ntgateway.com/xtalk/
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                    >
                    >

                    Dr. Rikk E. Watts (Cantab) Ph. (604) 224 3245
                    Associate Professor of NT Fax. (604) 224 3097
                    Regent College
                    5800 University Boulevard, Vancouver, V6T 2E4
                  • Bob Schacht
                    ... Andrew, Thanks for this exchange; it has been very helpful for me. No doubt, it ... My training was in anthropology, rather than philosophy. But I wasn t
                    Message 9 of 19 , Jan 3, 2003
                    • 0 Attachment
                      At 12:04 AM 1/4/2003 +0000, Andrew Lloyd <a.lloyd2@...> wrote:
                      >--- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, Bob Schacht <bobschacht@i...>
                      >wrote:
                      >
                      >[Andrew]
                      > > >My answer here is controversial in some circles (I don't necessarily
                      > > >think its Wright's for example) but not in the pragmatic ones I'm
                      > > >familiar with.

                      Andrew,
                      Thanks for this exchange; it has been very helpful for me. No doubt, it
                      will help me understand what I read as I proceed. You continued:

                      > > >You don't choose which narrative to accept or believe
                      > > >so much as it chooses you. This is to say that in the narrative
                      > > >understanding of reality, as opposed to the perception of reality as
                      > > >discrete facts or statements, you become part of a narrative and
                      > > >take it up rather than discretely choosing from the pot of
                      > > >narratives which one to believe and live out experientially. Thus,
                      > > >we are part of a greater whole rather than the master of all we
                      > > >(choose to) survey.

                      My training was in anthropology, rather than philosophy. But I wasn't born
                      as an anthropologist.
                      Nevertheless, how I understand the paragraph above is heavily influenced by
                      my training as an anthropologist.
                      Does this mean that my narrative didn't choose me until I was in higher ed?
                      Be that as it may, my anthropological training tells me that this
                      "narrative" must be a cultural artifact that one absorbs by the usual
                      methods of enculturation, the way you describe it. The mechanism of
                      transmission would be the usual: Family, community, peer groups, etc. I
                      will be particularly interested in where Wright thinks these narratives
                      come from. So far, it seems that when he says "narrative" in the NT
                      context, he means the "people of God" narrative, and therefore he must have
                      the Tanakh and associated oral traditions (including legends and myths) in
                      mind-- or am I barking up the wrong tree?

                      > Hence "mapping" is an entirely inappropriate
                      > > >analogy and its not so much "it sounds good to me" as "how could you
                      > > >expect me, the person I am, to believe anything but that which I
                      > > >do?" This, I will think will agree, is a somewhat different way of
                      > > >conceiving of realism.

                      Well, yes, but it also looks somewhat different to me as an anthropologist.
                      Is Wright trying to re-invent the cultural wheel? What it sounds like
                      you're referring to is "cultural realism" -- a reality defined by the
                      culture, or perhaps a culturally-constructed reality. This may be news to
                      philosophers, but its hardly news to anthropologists. Or, how is it different?


                      >[Bob]
                      > > Despite your disclaimer, this sounds at least similar to what Wright is
                      > > arguing, if not the same.
                      > > However, despite your closing sentence below, it makes of us nothing more
                      > > than pawns of our
                      > > own heritage, doesn't it? If "it chooses you," you seem to argue that we
                      > > have no power to choose for ourselves.
                      >
                      >Well, I'm not so concerned as to how close to Wright I am as I am
                      >with trying to put across clearly my own position so I'll concentrate on
                      >that.

                      OK

                      >(I'm simply happy that Wright raises the idea
                      >of a narrative understanding of reality.) The difference here is
                      >that you clearly conceive that the narrative construction of
                      >reality, that which put another way might be called the situated
                      >outlook on life, makes us "pawns of our own heritage", people who
                      >have no real freedom to choose anything meaningful. You would think
                      >this, I suggest, because you harbour doubts as to how "real"
                      >something can be that is part of some narrative that is "only my own
                      >story", or some such. Thus, you have a problem with the idea
                      >of "narrative" itself since, I'm guessing, you think there's just
                      >something a bit false about it.

                      Not necessarily. But as an anthropologist, I've at least been educated
                      about the dangers of ethnocentrism.

                      >At this stage (before I get onto
                      >your next comment) all I'd say is that this does not follow. That I
                      >perceive the world a certain way, or as part of a certain narrative,
                      >does not stop me making choices, real choices, choices that make a
                      >difference.

                      Well, the difference is the extent to which choices are culturally constrained.
                      Let me throw another anthropological curve ball: culture is not something
                      that people "have", but rather something that people "participate in." This
                      is because all literate cultures are sufficiently complex that no one knows
                      the whole culture-- everyone participates in a different slice of it. A
                      relevant First Century example might be Greek Gentile culture vs. Jewish
                      Aramaic culture: there were many who were "bicultural," leaning to a
                      greater or lesser extent in one direction or the other. Which "narrative"
                      chose them?


                      >[Andrew]
                      > > >Against this background we then start making statements, assessing
                      > > >truth claims and adducing facts.
                      >
                      >... But there's another point. These narratives
                      >should not be thought of as simply fixed. (And here I develop
                      >pragmatically on Wright's narrative understanding rather than
                      >reproducing him.) On the contrary, narratives are what Stanley Fish
                      >calls "engines of change". They are adaptive. People change. ...

                      I will be very interested to see how Wright thinks this works. Of course, I
                      am not surprised: Cultures change, too. Myths change (this in itself is a
                      very interesting field of study.)


                      >[Bob]
                      > > I would venture to counter with the claim that Wright's claim (or at least
                      > > your version of it) is true
                      > > of the "unconscious" observer, but that through "consciousness raising"
                      > one
                      > > becomes freer to choose
                      > > the guiding narrative of one's life, which again raises the question of
                      > the
                      > > grounds on which we can make that choice.
                      >
                      >I think this point drops out after what I've just said

                      I am not convinced that this is true.

                      >but I do hold open the possibility that within the process I have
                      >described there
                      >will be points at which we see more than we thought we saw before.
                      >(This is probably one of the changes I talked about.)

                      But this is a change in the *person,* rather than a change in the
                      narrative, isn't it? (That's your point, wasn't it?)

                      > I would not use the language of "freer" or "more constrained" however
                      > since, if
                      >freedom is constraint, this language makes no sense anymore in this context.

                      Who said freedom is constraint?

                      Again, thanks for an interesting exchange. I await your correction if I
                      have misunderstood.
                      I am beginning to have fears, however, that Wright is anthropologically naive.

                      Bob

                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • Bob Schacht
                      ... Rikk, Welcome to the discussion! ... You betcha. ... I like your summary, but am not sure what you mean by this. But perhaps ... I m not so sure that this
                      Message 10 of 19 , Jan 3, 2003
                      • 0 Attachment
                        At 05:38 PM 1/3/2003 -0800, Rikki Watts wrote:
                        >Gentlemen, an interesting discussion. Though as I read on, I am beginning
                        >to wonder if this is really what Wright means by narrative? Can I throw this
                        >in?

                        Rikk,
                        Welcome to the discussion!

                        >It seems to me that critical realism (as Wright defines it) and positivism
                        >(broadly defined; it changed quite a bit from Comte to the Vienna school
                        >didn't it?)

                        You betcha.

                        > share some key concerns: e.g. both believe that there is a
                        >reality "out there," that our claims about our experience of that reality
                        >must be verifiable beyond a solipsistic subjectivism, and that nevertheless
                        >our experience of reality is mediated through our own history and
                        >ideological precommitments. Is it right to say, then, that the differences
                        >arise in terms of the reality under consideration?

                        I like your summary, but am not sure what you mean by this. But perhaps
                        what you say next explains it:

                        >Wright's use of narrative seems to reflect Collingwood's (my old friend
                        >again, sorry) distinction between the inside and outside of an event.
                        >Whereas positivists tend to be more concerned with the outside, or brute
                        >facts (dates, times, did this event happen or not, etc.; cf. their initial
                        >hostility toward the theoretical entities of modern physics) as a starting
                        >point, there is something of a problem when we confront accounts of events
                        >which do not have external/independent attestation and/or with which we have
                        >no analogous experience; i.e. most of human history.

                        I'm not so sure that this is really as much of a difference as you make it
                        out to be. Are not events central to both? Are not eyewitness accounts
                        central to both? It seems to me that where the differences may be greater
                        is that in the case of history, (1) motivation, especially of the principal
                        actors, is a factor often considered important, and (2) questions of
                        meaning and significance intercede in a different way than in "natural"
                        contexts. However, I'm not even sure of the latter, because a deist whose
                        god is not dead or in retirement may consider the hand of god to be active
                        in seemingly "natural" events, e.g. with healing, Moses and the "Red" Sea,
                        not to mention the plagues, etc.

                        > Would it be true to say that a thorough-going or rigorous positivist
                        > approach would have to remain
                        >agnostically silent not only about much of history,

                        Not necessarily

                        >but why people did what they did, Collingwood's inside, which after all is
                        >probably the most interesting thing about history?

                        I'll grant the first part, but not the second part! <g>
                        Even the first part is up for grabs, because there are reputable scholars
                        who make a good argument that much of human behavior is explainable (the
                        "why?") by one set of theories (e.g., sociobiology) or another (e.g., Marxism).

                        >Wright's employment of critical realism then is not an escape into
                        >subjectivism, but an attempt to escape agnosticism and to advance beyond a
                        >positivism that can only go as far as the mere "brute facts." In this he
                        >seems to be taking a comparativist "anthropologization" approach (as per the
                        >18th cent. Jesuit J-F Lafitau). Fancy terms but I think they boil down to
                        >trying to make sense of a given event within the various social mores and
                        >ideological narratives that shape a given group's identity. (Interestingly,
                        >I think both Wright and Crossan do this, but at different times and places
                        >in their historical projects.)

                        I sympathize with your construction of Wright's motives and intentions, but
                        as my post a few minutes ago to Andrew Lloyd indicates, I am beginning to
                        have some concerns that Wright's "anthropologization" is naive. But then,
                        I've only finished the first few chapters of the book in which he developed
                        his approach most extensively.

                        >At the same time, it seems clear that trying to reconstruct a group's
                        >"narrative" necessarily involves discussion of brute facts (e.g. what
                        >happened in Synagogues? who were the Pharisees?),

                        yes

                        > though of course all meaningful history (i.e. what events "mean" for a
                        > group) is interpreted history.
                        >
                        >All this to say that I think the either/or approach is not very fruitful,
                        >since both approaches are employed simultaneously in a reflexive way. I
                        >suspect the big difference between Crossan and Wright is the way they treat
                        >the source material and their ideological reconstruction of first century
                        >Palestine (in particular the role of cynicism and apocalypticism).
                        >
                        >Is this heading in the right direction or have I missed the point entirely?

                        No, I think you've made some good points. I think Wright's attempt is
                        laudable, but we'll see how it goes.
                        I am grateful, at least, to have a decent discussion of his work at last in
                        this forum. I hope you will continue to contribute.

                        Bob Schacht

                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Rikk E. Watts
                        Hi Bob, Thanks for the welcome. Just a short foray I m afraid - semester is nearly upon us. I won t reply seriatim since it could become rather cumbersome.
                        Message 11 of 19 , Jan 4, 2003
                        • 0 Attachment
                          Hi Bob,

                          Thanks for the welcome. Just a short foray I'm afraid - semester is nearly
                          upon us.

                          I won't reply seriatim since it could become rather cumbersome.

                          Point one: positivism and an agent's motivation/intention. I think we agree
                          that the issue here concerns the motivation of the human agent acting in
                          history (i.e. moving beyond brute facts to intentionality behind human
                          actions; Collingwood's "inside").

                          My understanding of positivism is not that it requires evidence (realists
                          are also interested in evidence) but rather that, historically, it was
                          opposed to anything that was not accessible to direct sense experience
                          (hence their hostility to Kant on the one hand, and Newton and to atomic
                          theory on the other, though the advances in the latter have forced some
                          concessions and moderation).

                          If so, then it would be worth asking to what extent a rigorous positivist
                          could speak with equal assurance about a brute fact and say e.g. Jesus'
                          intention?

                          On the other hand, I think I agree with your concerns that there is a danger
                          of caricaturing the objective/subjective position (I think I've been guilty
                          of this on occasion). Though I think sometimes the positivists have invited
                          such.


                          Point two: Wright and narrative. I think Wright uses narrative simply (and
                          broadly) in the sense of a group's ideological self-definition (arising from
                          its founding moment): i.e. what it means, generally speaking, to be a first
                          century Palestinian Jew in contradistinction to Gentiles. As such it
                          provides a framework for understanding the meaning of a given Jewish
                          individual's action and thereby some insight into that individual's
                          intention (and here I think he is building on people like Caird, Ben Meyer,
                          and Harvey, the first and third I suspect reflecting the influence of
                          Collingwood and the second explicitly a Lonerganian). Since an individual
                          is not a series of discrete and disconnected actions, but presumably has
                          some sense of core identity, it seems right to consider his individual
                          actions within the totality of his life. This, I think, is the primary
                          reason why Wright focuses on the canonical gospels (let me note as an aside
                          though that his exclusion of John raises some very interesting questions; he
                          says it is because John is more problematic in the scholarly community; but
                          I wonder). Nevertheless, the Synoptics at least offer something of a whole
                          account (in the way that isolated sayings or actions do not). That is, this
                          is not naïve conservatism and my feeling is that most professional biblical
                          scholars realize this.

                          (Another aside: some have criticized him for not engaging in source and
                          redaction criticism, but I think this is a misunderstanding. In my
                          experience, source and redaction criticism almost inevitably lead, often
                          very quickly, to making judgments on the basis of what we think Jesus'
                          intention really was. But if that is the goal of the exercise how can it be
                          assumed at the outset? Both Wright and Allison have I think correctly
                          criticized Crossan's archeological approach, and we are all aware of the
                          problems of the traditional critical criteria.)

                          At the same time, I think he would also argue that reported actions which do
                          not cohere with that map, are unlikely to be accurate (e.g. the assertion
                          that Jesus traveled about Palestine riding across the sky on a golden arrow,
                          would make no sense within his Jewish world nor with what the rest of what
                          is reported about him, apart from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas :)). I guess
                          this is a coherence/congruence approach to history (David, if you're
                          listening, does this sound right?).

                          So, as a first step, one takes the documents at face value, not naively but
                          within the constraints of the exercise, to see if they "make sense" as
                          broader wholes. Having done this, bits that clearly don't fit can be
                          excluded and then attention paid to redaction and source issues but now with
                          at least some kind of idea of the whole. Of course this doesn't happen
                          quite so cleanly since the process of reflection is involved from the very
                          beginning...

                          I should probably stop.

                          Regards,

                          Rikk

                          Dr. Rikk E. Watts (Cantab) Ph. (604) 224 3245
                          Associate Professor of NT Fax. (604) 224 3097
                          Regent College
                          5800 University Boulevard, Vancouver, V6T 2E4
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