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

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  • 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 1 of 19 , Jan 2, 2003
      --- 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 2 of 19 , Jan 2, 2003
        [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 3 of 19 , Jan 2, 2003
          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 4 of 19 , Jan 2, 2003
            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 5 of 19 , Jan 3, 2003
              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 6 of 19 , Jan 3, 2003
                --- 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 7 of 19 , Jan 3, 2003
                  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
                  >
                  >
                  >
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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 8 of 19 , Jan 3, 2003
                    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 9 of 19 , Jan 3, 2003
                      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 10 of 19 , Jan 4, 2003
                        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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