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36673Re: "Christian" existentialism

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  • jkneilson
    Nov 8, 2005
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      K: In a separate post, you wrote: "What is really important ...
      about this model of dialectical discourse, is not what we end up
      achieving, in the way of certain knowledge, or noesis, at the end
      point of the process, but what we learn about the process of
      reasoning along the way." I love Socratic dialectic and have always
      felt that its moral dimension is more important than any noesis that

      Picking up the thread of our conversation...

      [Hb3g] I believe you understand this already, however, I say anyway
      that I respect both your freedom to rationally decide your own
      beliefs, and I also acknowledge that there are many spiritual and
      philosophical traditions.

      K: Thank you for the courtesy; I heartily extend it in return. I
      would like to add that the world's spiritual and philosophical
      traditions vie for our attention, and that we stand in need of
      accepting some while rejecting others. As Whitman says, "You shall
      listen to all sides and filter them from your self."

      [Hb3g] It would be dogmatic of me to categorically assert that the
      Christian vision is the only way.

      K: Agreed, it's not the only way. Do you assert that it is
      the "best" way?

      [Hb3g] Nevertheless, even in the midst of great diversity of
      tradition, creed, opinion, one cannot rationally assert a complete
      relativism of such values.

      K: I absolutely agree. Not all ideas, beliefs, and values are equal.
      Some are superior to others. The question is, How do we filter
      different religious beliefs? How do we determine which ones are
      worthy of assent or rejection? When you say that Christian
      existentialism challenges me to believe in the resurrection and
      eternal life, why should I adopt this belief? Should I adopt it
      because it's useful, or true, or beautiful, or because it satisfies
      a basic need rooted deep in the core of my being?

      [Hb3g] Belief matters, and questions of faith, or trust in the
      rationality of existence, are lively questions.

      K: Very lively questions, indeed. And how we arrive at answers to
      these questions is very important. Incidentally, have you read
      Pascal? His Wager busts, but he does say some very valuable things
      about belief. Belief as light, belief as guide to action, belief as
      supplement to reason. Etc.

      [Hb3g] I appreciate the pitfalls inherent in the "if it is true for
      me alone is true enough" kind of attitude, and I do believe that
      criteria of truth must be objectivistic, capable of being shared and

      K: So far, we agree on most points. I draw a distinction between
      private reasons and public ones. A public reason is capable of being
      shared and communicated to others while transcending the narrow
      confines of one's own subjectivity. If I want to convince you of the
      truth of the Five Pillars of Islam, it's not enough for me to say
      that I had a profound, revelatory experience. This may be a strong,
      private reason for believing, but it's certainly a weak public one.

      [Hb3g] We do appear to flat out disagree on this point. I would
      maintain that the transcendental experience is a real experience.
      You seem to categorize this
      as confusion (a paradox).

      K: Yes, we may disagree here. Let's see, I'm assuming that the
      transcendental is that which is beyond experience. Given this
      definition, I have to argue that transcendental experience is a
      paradox; it's logically impossible. But it looks like your
      definition is different. You say...

      [Hb3g] What might be an example of this direct transcendental
      experience? I certainly do not see it as a vision or a miracle. I do
      not see it as an experience that would fly in the face of our
      reasoned expectations about the world. I think of it as being more
      along the lines of that moment of vision of which Heidegger speaks
      in his Being and Time. It is a discernment of truth where the
      ekstatic character of our participation in Time and Being
      comes to light. It is intellectual in character, not strictly
      emotional. It comes to us in that sense of the wonder of existence,
      of which Shelling speaks, for instance, when he poses the basic
      question of existence, rhetorically of course, asking us to
      consider, for a moment, how is it that there exists anything at all?
      A similar stepping back with a sense of wonder could also be found
      with respect to the phenomenon of conscious awareness itself.

      K: On your view, transcendental experience is not a vision or a
      miracle. It doesn't violate reasoned expectations about the world.
      It's intellectual in character. You go on to add that transcendental
      experience is a kind of "philosophical wonder that inspires us to a
      rational, noetic exegesis of our experience of the world, of our
      life, of living, and of our own conscious awareness of all of this."
      You've so gutted the historical meaning of transcendence (i.e., that
      which is beyond our experience of the world) that I endorse your
      highly specialized use of the term. It's as congenial to the
      astrophysicist as it is to the ontologist. Both are intimately
      acquainted with philosophical wonder.

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