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Re: The one deceived is still related to love

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  • Jim Stuart
    Dear John, Thank you for responding to my message #251, and expressing your own views on the matters I discuss. You raise a number of criticisms of my views
    Message 1 of 4 , Aug 27, 2004
      Dear John,

      Thank you for responding to my message #251, and expressing your own views on the matters I discuss.

      You raise a number of criticisms of my views which I would like to respond to. (These points concern your first posting - I haven't really had time to reflect on your second posting, but I shall attempt to give brief responses to your additional points.)

      (1) Your response misses my position quite considerably by attributing to me the view that the question of the existence (or not) of God "is to be determined by objective proof". However this misinterpretation has already been discussed in messages 271-4, so I won't discuss it further.

      (2) You claim that because I think the question of existence (or not) of God is an objective matter, then I am, in effect, "denying the truth of subjectivity, and not only in this regard but in every one of its other regards."

      I don't think this follows at all. Firstly, a question like that of the existence of God can be both an objective matter and a subjective matter.

      Consider this example. The question of the actions of Mr X on a particular evening (the 11th, say) can be both an objective matter and a subjective matter. Did he punch Mr Y and break his nose? (objective matter) Did he act out of pure malice, out of revenge, or from a good motive - e.g. to prevent Mr Y from attacking Ms Z? (subjective matter).

      Secondly, even if I were to deny that there are any subjective truths concerning God, then I don't think that it follows there can't be any subjective truths about anything. See my message 265 where I outline various aspects to human subjectivity, which seem independent of the question of God's existence.

      (3) You question the possibility of a passionate commitment to the truth of something "negative" like atheism. I agree that my bald statement of a "passionate commitment to atheism" does jar slightly. I think, for human beings it may be correct to say we can only be passionately committed to some "positive good". (Interesting side question: Is it logically possible for the Devil to be passionately committed to doing evil?)

      A better statement of my position would be: I am passionately committed to the pursuit of the truth (both the objective truth and - more importantly - the subjective truth), and to living the ethical life (where this is the life of love for others).

      Now objective truths are uncertain (as SK reminds us) - we have no "proofs" of them! However, I do believe that the balance of all the available evidence points to the non-existence of God. Given I believe this, I do premise my behaviour on the basis of the (objectively uncertain) claim that God does not exist.

      Certainly it does matter whether or not God exists, as the view one takes on this vital question, does affect how one behaves in the world, and one's conception of what it is to live a good life here and now. For the theist (Christian or Muslim certainly, Jew possibly), this life here and now is seen partly, or wholly, as a preparation for the next life. By contrast the atheist sees this life here and now as the only life. For the theist, "saving the soul" of the non-believer is all important, while for the atheist attending to the well-being of his fellow human being in this life is all important.

      (4) Finally, like SK, I think subjective truth is infinitely more important than objective truth. (I'm actually no cheerleader for the objective knowledge of science!) However, in some cases, if not all, subjective truth is dependent on objective truth. In my example of Mr X's behaviour on the night of the 11th, his motives are of most interest to us. However if Mr X did not in fact punch Mr Y on the nose (suppose it was someone else who did), then the question of Mr X's motive in punching Mr Y does not arise.

      Philosophers have a tendency to like neat theories, and most philosophers want either just objective truths or just subjective truths (or to reduce one to the other), however I think that there are both irreducible objective truths and irreducible subjective truths. In this I follow such philosophers as Thomas Nagel, John McDowell, and many of the philosophers currently writing on virtue ethics.

      Clearly, some of what I write here has relevance to my on-going discussions with Een Enkelte. Hopefully what I have written is also of interest to the other members of the Kierkegaardian group.


      Jim Stuart

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