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Does Kierkegaard take subjectivity too far?

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  • jimstuart46
    David, Don t be afraid of posting on this forum – the old hands may appear intimidating but they (we) know less than we think we do. Anyway your introductory
    Message 1 of 23 , Oct 13, 2011
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      David,

      Don't be afraid of posting on this forum – the old hands may appear intimidating but they (we) know less than we think we do.

      Anyway your introductory question has stimulated me to add some further thoughts.

      Subjectivity involves turning inwards and considering oneself in one's existential situation. In particular reflecting upon one's standing as judged by ethical and spiritual criteria. It involves cultivating one's conscience and heeding it.

      Objectivity involves turning outwards and judging events in the world, without involving oneself in these judgements.

      Objectivity has its place – the scientist needs to adopt the objective stance in order to do his work properly.

      However, K argues, objectivity has no place in the ethical domain or the religious domain. What would be more absurd than the Christian believing the statements of his denomination's creed in the way the scientist believes his discipline's scientific laws?

      Christian belief should manifest itself in inner transformation rather than acceptance of objective propositions. Or so argues K.

      I would guess that we would all agree that subjectivity is a good thing. To quote Socrates: "The unexamined life is not worth living."
      We want our friends, our families, our neighbours to be thoughtful and reflective, and be free to determine the course of their own lives through existential choice rather than unthinking conformity or blind obedience to another. An existing human being is a better friend than a philistine or even a thoughtful aesthete like A.

      K in his various writing emphasized the merits of subjectivity to a greater extent than perhaps any other philosopher or religious writer.

      But did he go too far? Can an individual become too subjective? "Fear and Trembling" is arguably K's most significant book, because in the figure of Abraham we have the embodiment of a person who has subjectivity in the extreme.

      Abraham is not just a pious, thoughtful, perceptive, loving husband and father. He is an exemplar of faith, a man whose subjectivity drives him into solitude, into silence, away from consensus, beyond the most enlightened understanding of the ethical life of his tribe.

      His subjectivity takes him beyond rational argument, beyond a weighing up of what is best for his son Isaac. He heeds his inner voice, which he does not understand, the inner voice which says "kill, kill, kill".

      The Abraham of "Fear and Trembling" is a shocking, terrifying figure. And an exemplar of faith!

      I had a good discussion with my old friend Don on this forum a few years ago. Don's eyesight was failing and it was a great effort for him to read my posts and type his replies. I benefitted from our discussion, but I was left reflecting just how difficult it is for the Christian to face up to Silentio's depiction of Abraham.

      For myself, I have found the subjectivity of infinite resignation too much to bear! Good luck to those who continue the journey to increasing subjectivity beyond that point!

      jim_the_aesthete
    • Don Anderson
      Greetings from The Island of Hawaii where it is 79 degrees all year. It is good to hear from my dear friend Jim Stewart. It is good to learn that our
      Message 2 of 23 , Oct 13, 2011
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        Greetings from The Island of Hawaii where it is 79 degrees all year.

        It is good to hear from my dear friend Jim Stewart. It is good to learn that our discussions of some time ago are fondly remembered by someone other than myself. Jim my eye problems are not getting worse. I am still kicking rather strongly. I am not going blind. My eyes just get tired easily but I am always determined to always already push them to their limits and then go to bed early. What I don’t get done today will wait until tomorrow.

         

        I don’t have time to write much right now but I will be glad to discuss matters as time permits. It looks like your position is still the same as I understood it then and mine hasn’t changed much although I never felt that you understood many points of my position, which are difficult to explain. Perhaps we can try again.

         

        I think you are right to say that Abraham in FT is a frightening, even terrifying figure but wrong to say that he is meant to be driven “into silence, away from consensus, beyond the most enlightened understanding of the ethical life of his tribe.” You read Silentio too literally and his Abraham as a real person rather than the ideal ethical. I submit that K is saying that no real actual person can ever live up to the ideal. The whole thing about silence and an inability to communicate is about the nature of existence and our existential limitations as existing individuals. It is that we can’t do the work of faith for someone else nor they for us just as we cannot die for anyone else nor they for us.

        Aloha,

        Don

         

        From: kierkegaardians@yahoogroups.com [mailto:kierkegaardians@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of jimstuart46
        Sent: Thursday, October 13, 2011 11:09 AM
        To: kierkegaardians@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [Kierkegaardians] Does Kierkegaard take subjectivity too far?

         

         

        David,

        Don't be afraid of posting on this forum – the old hands may appear intimidating but they (we) know less than we think we do.

        Anyway your introductory question has stimulated me to add some further thoughts.

        Subjectivity involves turning inwards and considering oneself in one's existential situation. In particular reflecting upon one's standing as judged by ethical and spiritual criteria. It involves cultivating one's conscience and heeding it.

        Objectivity involves turning outwards and judging events in the world, without involving oneself in these judgements.

        Objectivity has its place – the scientist needs to adopt the objective stance in order to do his work properly.

        However, K argues, objectivity has no place in the ethical domain or the religious domain. What would be more absurd than the Christian believing the statements of his denomination's creed in the way the scientist believes his discipline's scientific laws?

        Christian belief should manifest itself in inner transformation rather than acceptance of objective propositions. Or so argues K.

        I would guess that we would all agree that subjectivity is a good thing. To quote Socrates: "The unexamined life is not worth living."
        We want our friends, our families, our neighbours to be thoughtful and reflective, and be free to determine the course of their own lives through existential choice rather than unthinking conformity or blind obedience to another. An existing human being is a better friend than a philistine or even a thoughtful aesthete like A.

        K in his various writing emphasized the merits of subjectivity to a greater extent than perhaps any other philosopher or religious writer.

        But did he go too far? Can an individual become too subjective? "Fear and Trembling" is arguably K's most significant book, because in the figure of Abraham we have the embodiment of a person who has subjectivity in the extreme.

        Abraham is not just a pious, thoughtful, perceptive, loving husband and father. He is an exemplar of faith, a man whose subjectivity drives him into solitude, into silence, away from consensus, beyond the most enlightened understanding of the ethical life of his tribe.

        His subjectivity takes him beyond rational argument, beyond a weighing up of what is best for his son Isaac. He heeds his inner voice, which he does not understand, the inner voice which says "kill, kill, kill".

        The Abraham of "Fear and Trembling" is a shocking, terrifying figure. And an exemplar of faith!

        I had a good discussion with my old friend Don on this forum a few years ago. Don's eyesight was failing and it was a great effort for him to read my posts and type his replies. I benefitted from our discussion, but I was left reflecting just how difficult it is for the Christian to face up to Silentio's depiction of Abraham.

        For myself, I have found the subjectivity of infinite resignation too much to bear! Good luck to those who continue the journey to increasing subjectivity beyond that point!

        jim_the_aesthete

      • James Rovira
        I d really like to look at this statement by Jim S because I think it says a great deal: However, K argues, objectivity has no place in the ethical domain or
        Message 3 of 23 , Oct 13, 2011
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          I'd really like to look at this statement by Jim S because I think it says a great deal:

          "However, K argues, objectivity has no place in the ethical domain or the religious domain. What would be more absurd than the Christian believing the statements of his denomination's creed in the way the scientist believes his discipline's scientific laws?"

          I think the key words here are "in the way" -- what do we mean by these words?  I agree with Jim S, but I'd like to explore what this agreement means.  I read "in the way" as "in the [same] way." 

          A scientist believes that scientific laws are "true."  A Christian believes that his or her creed is "true."  Both believe that their respective truths are true for everyone: faith, for the Christian, is a requirement upon all who live because God is universal, just as the laws of gravity, for the scientist, are true for everyone because they are universal.

          It wouldn't be hard to support this view of Christian faith from K's writings.  There's no Religiousness B without it.  No paradox.  

          But this reading would take "in the [same] way" to refer to the belief that the tenets of the Christian faith are universally true, so "objectively true" in that sense.  I don't think that's the best understanding of the statement quoted above, or at least, what I would understand it to mean had I said it.

          The other assumption that the scientist holds about his or her beliefs is that they are externally demonstrable.  In other words, it's in the nature of scientific truth to be demonstrable to someone else.  Any other rational agent, if this truth of science is indeed a truth of science, should be able to observe a demonstration of that truth and assent to that truth.  In fact, a scientific truth is only valid if it is demonstrable to others; a subjectively held scientific truth that cannot be objectively verified is useless as a scientific truth.

          The believer, on the other hand, holds the truths of his or her faith in inwardness.  They are not demonstrably true in the sense that they are not truths that can be externalized, demonstrated, objectified.  This way of believing is "the way" that the believer holds to his or her belief that is different from the way that the scientist holds to his or her belief.

          Jim R       








        • Kenneth
          SK et ne quid nimis... sort of like a vegan barbeque?
          Message 4 of 23 , Oct 14, 2011
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            SK et ne quid nimis... sort of like a vegan barbeque?
          • James Rovira
            Yep. If it doesn t involve a contradiction, it s not K. Jim R
            Message 5 of 23 , Oct 14, 2011
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              Yep.  If it doesn't involve a contradiction, it's not K.

              Jim R

              On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 1:54 PM, Kenneth <karmstrong@...> wrote:
               

              SK et ne quid nimis... sort of like a vegan barbeque?

              __._,_.
            • James Rovira
              Though I should add that nothing being in excess has nothing to do with it. K never discounts the reality of the objective. That would be stupid. Climacus,
              Message 6 of 23 , Oct 14, 2011
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                Though I should add that "nothing being in excess" has nothing to do with it.  K never discounts the reality of the objective.  That would be stupid.  Climacus, in  particular, just claims that the demonstrably objective can never be the basis of subjective passion, or at least should never be the basis of subjective passion.  That doesn't mean that the reality to which we relate inwardly is not the same for everyone, though -- God is the universal. 

                Jim R

                On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 2:08 PM, James Rovira <jamesrovira@...> wrote:
                Yep.  If it doesn't involve a contradiction, it's not K.

                Jim R


                On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 1:54 PM, Kenneth <karmstrong@...> wrote:
                 

                SK et ne quid nimis... sort of like a vegan barbeque?

                __._,_.

              • gnosticism6794
                ... Hi Jim. I ust wanted to say to the group thank you for the awesome input on my questions and the subject. I haven t replied because I am working alot
                Message 7 of 23 , Oct 14, 2011
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                  --- In kierkegaardians@yahoogroups.com, "jimstuart46" <jjimstuart@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > David,
                  >
                  > Don't be afraid of posting on this forum – the old hands may appear intimidating but they (we) know less than we think we do.


                  Hi Jim.

                  I ust wanted to say to the group thank you for the awesome input on my questions and the subject. I haven't replied because I am working alot lately and just don't have the time to make an intelligent response, considering the subject matter, and don't want to do so until I can. I am not in any college course on philosophy and am trying to study existentialist thought and Kierkegaard on my own without a teacher (as well as Sartre, Nietzsch, etc) What I have read of K though is extremely interesting and enlightening to me and I'm fascinated with his material, especially as a christian. I did however want to acknowledge the incredible input from all members here and this weekend hopefully I can get back to studying K as well as all of your great posts. Also, it looks like you all are very informed on K and I can learn a great deal from you, so looks like I have found what I was searching for.
                  Thank you all again very sincerely.
                • Kenneth
                  ne quid nimis Is it not a repeatedly despised method? ...take subjectivity too far? Would not subjectivity constitute a good cause ? Would this not
                  Message 8 of 23 , Oct 14, 2011
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                    "ne quid nimis"
                    Is it not a repeatedly despised method?
                    "...take subjectivity too far?"
                    Would not subjectivity constitute "a good cause"?
                    Would this not constitute derision?
                    How could SK not be joyful?

                    ka

                    --- In kierkegaardians@yahoogroups.com, James Rovira <jamesrovira@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > Though I should add that "nothing being in excess" has nothing to do with
                    > it. K never discounts the reality of the objective. That would be stupid.
                    > Climacus, in particular, just claims that the demonstrably objective can
                    > never be the basis of subjective passion, or at least should never be the
                    > basis of subjective passion. That doesn't mean that the reality to which we
                    > relate inwardly is not the same for everyone, though -- God is the
                    > universal.
                    >
                    > Jim R
                    >
                    > On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 2:08 PM, James Rovira <jamesrovira@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > > Yep. If it doesn't involve a contradiction, it's not K.
                    > >
                    > > Jim R
                    > >
                    > >
                    > > On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 1:54 PM, Kenneth <karmstrong@...> wrote:
                    > >
                    > >> **
                    > >>
                    > >>
                    > >> SK et ne quid nimis... sort of like a vegan barbeque?
                    > >>
                    > >> __._,_.
                    > >>
                    > >
                    >
                  • James Rovira
                    Oh no, I agree -- taking nothing too far is a repeatedly despised method. Had nothing to do with my post, though. The point of my post wasn t to preserve a
                    Message 9 of 23 , Oct 14, 2011
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                      Oh no, I agree -- taking nothing too far is a repeatedly despised method.  Had nothing to do with my post, though.  The point of my post wasn't to preserve a domain for objectivity so that we don't take subjectivity too far.  The point was that objectivity has to remain in some form for the subjectivity of Religiousness B to be based upon an absolute paradox that is offensive to thought.

                      Jim R

                      On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 6:17 PM, Kenneth <karmstrong@...> wrote:
                       

                      "ne quid nimis"
                      Is it not a repeatedly despised method?
                      "...take subjectivity too far?"
                      Would not subjectivity constitute "a good cause"?
                      Would this not constitute derision?
                      How could SK not be joyful?

                      ka

                    • Kenneth
                      My answer to your question is No. SK could not imagine it taken too far, and I cannot imagine it taken too far. That would be to adopt ne quid nimis . I
                      Message 10 of 23 , Oct 14, 2011
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                        My answer to your question is "No. SK could not imagine it taken too far, and I cannot imagine it taken too far. That would be to adopt 'ne quid nimis'."

                        I could ask your question rhetorically to introduce that answer above. But if you ask your question objectively it begs 'ne quid nimis' as its defense. Tertium non datur.
                        ka

                        --- In kierkegaardians@yahoogroups.com, James Rovira <jamesrovira@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > Oh no, I agree -- taking nothing too far is a repeatedly despised method.
                        > Had nothing to do with my post, though. The point of my post wasn't to
                        > preserve a domain for objectivity so that we don't take subjectivity too
                        > far. The point was that objectivity has to remain in some form for the
                        > subjectivity of Religiousness B to be based upon an absolute paradox that is
                        > offensive to thought.
                        >
                        > Jim R
                        >
                        > On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 6:17 PM, Kenneth <karmstrong@...> wrote:
                        >
                        > > **
                        > >
                        > >
                        > > "ne quid nimis"
                        > > Is it not a repeatedly despised method?
                        > > "...take subjectivity too far?"
                        > > Would not subjectivity constitute "a good cause"?
                        > > Would this not constitute derision?
                        > > How could SK not be joyful?
                        > >
                        > > ka
                        > >
                        >
                      • James Rovira
                        I tend to forget the existence Kierkegaard hagiography. I m not worried about having an objective relationship to Kierkegaard s writings because his writings
                        Message 11 of 23 , Oct 14, 2011
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                          I tend to forget the existence Kierkegaard hagiography.  I'm not worried about having an objective relationship to Kierkegaard's writings because his writings aren't essential to my subjectivity.  I would hope that he himself would feel the same way, though I'm not too sure abou that at some points in his life.  

                          That being said, he does reach -me- at some points and some times.  I appreciate it.  

                          Jim R

                          On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 7:54 PM, Kenneth <karmstrong@...> wrote:
                           

                          My answer to your question is "No. SK could not imagine it taken too far, and I cannot imagine it taken too far. That would be to adopt 'ne quid nimis'."

                          I could ask your question rhetorically to introduce that answer above. But if you ask your question objectively it begs 'ne quid nimis' as its defense. Tertium non datur.


                          ka

                        • Kenneth
                          Good news! I am quite convinced Kierkegaard is in your corner. He would be wroth to be named as essential. But he would be delighted to be an occasion... ka
                          Message 12 of 23 , Oct 14, 2011
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                            Good news! I am quite convinced Kierkegaard is in your corner.
                            He would be wroth to be named as essential.
                            But he would be delighted to be an occasion...
                            ka

                            --- In kierkegaardians@yahoogroups.com, James Rovira <jamesrovira@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > I tend to forget the existence Kierkegaard hagiography. I'm not worried
                            > about having an objective relationship to Kierkegaard's writings because his
                            > writings aren't essential to my subjectivity. I would hope that he himself
                            > would feel the same way, though I'm not too sure abou that at some points in
                            > his life.
                            >
                            > That being said, he does reach -me- at some points and some times. I
                            > appreciate it.
                            >
                            > Jim R
                            >
                            > On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 7:54 PM, Kenneth <karmstrong@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > > **
                            > >
                            > >
                            > > My answer to your question is "No. SK could not imagine it taken too far,
                            > > and I cannot imagine it taken too far. That would be to adopt 'ne quid
                            > > nimis'."
                            > >
                            > > I could ask your question rhetorically to introduce that answer above. But
                            > > if you ask your question objectively it begs 'ne quid nimis' as its defense.
                            > > Tertium non datur.
                            > >
                            > > ka
                            > >
                            > >
                            >
                          • James Rovira
                            Yes... that s a plausible response from K. Other times he seemed to take himself a bit too seriously, imagined everyone was thinking/talking about him (though
                            Message 13 of 23 , Oct 14, 2011
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                              Yes... that's a plausible response from K.  Other times he seemed to take himself a bit too seriously, imagined everyone was thinking/talking about him (though sometimes that was probably true).  

                              Jim R

                              On Fri, Oct 14, 2011 at 8:31 PM, Kenneth <karmstrong@...> wrote:
                               

                              Good news! I am quite convinced Kierkegaard is in your corner.
                              He would be wroth to be named as essential.
                              But he would be delighted to be an occasion...

                              ka

                              --- In kierkegaardians@yahoogroups.com, James Rovira <jamesrovira@...> wrote:
                              >
                              > I tend to forget the existence Kierkegaard hagiography. I'm not worried
                              > about having an objective relationship to Kierkegaard's writings because his
                              > writings aren't essential to my subjectivity. I would hope that he himself
                              > would feel the same way, though I'm not too sure abou that at some points in
                              > his life.
                              >
                              > That being said, he does reach -me- at some points and some times. I
                              > appreciate it.
                              >
                              > Jim R
                            • jimstuart46
                              Hello again Don, I am pleased to hear you are reasonably well and still pushing yourself to the limit. You write: I think you are right to say that Abraham in
                              Message 14 of 23 , Oct 15, 2011
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                                Hello again Don,

                                I am pleased to hear you are reasonably well and still pushing yourself to the limit.

                                You write:

                                "I think you are right to say that Abraham in FT is a frightening, even terrifying figure but wrong to say that he is meant to be driven "into silence, away from consensus, beyond the most enlightened understanding of the ethical life of his tribe." You read Silentio too literally and his Abraham as a real person rather than the ideal ethical. I submit that K is saying that no real actual person can ever live up to the ideal. The whole thing about silence and an inability to communicate is about the nature of existence and our existential limitations as existing individuals. It is that we can't do the work of faith for someone else nor they for us just as we cannot die for anyone else nor they for us."

                                Perhaps I am guilty of reading FT too literally. However it is passages like the following which guide my understanding that for Silentio, Abraham was driven "into silence, away from consensus, beyond the most enlightened understanding of the ethical life of his tribe." (The page references are to the Hannay edition.)

                                "The knight of faith has only himself, and it is there the terrible lies." (106)

                                "The true knight of faith is always absolute isolation, the false knight is sectarian. ... The tragic hero expresses the universal and sacrifices himself for it. ... The knight of faith ... is the paradox, he is the individual, absolutely nothing but the individual, without connections and complications. This is the terror that the purely sectarian cannot endure. ... [T]he knight of faith ... in cosmic isolation hears never a voice but walks alone with his dreadful isolation." (106-7)

                                "As for the knight of faith, he is assigned to himself alone, he has the pain of being unable to make himself intelligible to others but feels no vain desire to show others the way. The pain is the assurance, vain desires are unknown to him, his mind is too serious for that. ... [P]eople unable to bear the martyrdom of unintelligibility jump off the path, and choose instead, conveniently enough, the world's admiration of their proficiency. The true knight of faith is a witness, never a teacher, and in this lies the deep humanity in him which is more worth than this foolish concern for others' weal and woe which is honoured under the name of sympathy, but which is really nothing but vanity. (107)

                                "Abraham cannot be mediated, which can also he put by saying he cannot speak. The moment I speak I express the universal, and when I do not no one can understand me. So the moment Abraham wants to express himself in the universal, he has to say that his situation is one of temptation, for he has no higher expression of the universal that overrides the universal he transgresses." (89)

                                "How did Abraham exist? He had faith. That is the paradox that keeps him at the extremity and which cannot make clear to anyone else, for the paradox is that he puts himself as the single individual in an absolute relation to the absolute. Is he justified? His justification is, once again, the paradox: for if he is the paradox it is not by virtue of being anything universal, but of being the particular. (90)

                                "[H]e who walks the narrow path of faith, no one can advise, no one understand. Faith is a marvel, and yet no human being is excluded from it: for that in which all human life is united is passion, and faith is passion." (95)

                                "Faith is this paradox, and the single individual is quite unable to make himself intelligible to anyone. One might suppose the single individual could make himself understood to another individual who is in the same situation. ... The one knight of faith cannot help the other. Either the single individual becomes a knight of faith himself by putting on the paradox, or he never becomes one." (99)

                                "But the distress and anguish in the paradox is that, humanly speaking, he is quite incapable of making himself understood." (101)

                                "[The knight of faith] would not enjoy his own silence but suffer the pain, yet for him just this would be the assurance he needed that he did right. So the reason for his silence would not be a wish to place himself as the single individual in an absolute relation to the universal, but to be placed as the single individual in an absolute relation to the absolute." (119)

                                "The Sermon on the Mount says: 'But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast'. The passage gives clear testimony to subjectivity's incommensurability with reality, indeed even to its having the right to deceive." (136)

                                "Abraham is silent - but he cannot speak, therein lies the distress and anguish. For if when I speak I cannot make myself understood, I do not speak even if I keep talking without stop day and night. This is the case with Abraham. ... The relief of speech is that it translates into the universal. Now Abraham can say the most beautiful things any language can muster about how he loves Isaac. But that is not what he has in mind, that being the deeper thought that he would have to sacrifice Isaac because it was a trial. This no one can understand, and so no one can but misunderstand the former. Of this distress the tragic hero knows nothing." (137)

                                "The tragic hero knows nothing of the terrible responsibility of solitude." (138)

                                "Abraham cannot speak. What would explain everything, that it is a trial - though note, one in which the ethical is the temptation - is something he cannot say (i.e. in a way that can be understood). (139)

                                "The distress and anguish in the paradox consisted ... precisely in the silence; Abraham cannot speak." (142)

                                jim_the_aesthete
                              • jimstuart46
                                Kenneth, You write to Jim R:
                                Message 15 of 23 , Oct 15, 2011
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                                  Kenneth,

                                  You write to Jim R:

                                  <<My answer to your question is "No. SK could not imagine it taken too far, and I cannot imagine it taken too far. That would be to adopt 'ne quid nimis'."

                                  I could ask your question rhetorically to introduce that answer above. But if you ask your question objectively it begs 'ne quid nimis' as its defense. Tertium non datur.>>

                                  Certainly I posed my question: "Does Kierkegaard take subjectivity too far?" as a question for my reader to appropriate subjectively. I could have phrased my question like this:

                                  "Just look how far Kierkegaard takes subjectivity by considering how Silentio portrays Abraham in FT. How far do you, my reader, will to take subjectivity?"

                                  I struggle to think and write subjectively, as I am sure you know, but I completely agree with you that on a kierkegaardian forum, this should be the aim, unless we feel it necessary to examine questions of interpretation of text in an objective manner.

                                  So, once again, I ask my reader the question: Is the Abraham of FT the ideal which you aim for?

                                  I think from my previous posts you can guess my own answer to this question. But to spell it out again would be to lapse into objectivity.

                                  jim_the_aesthete
                                • jimstuart46
                                  Jim R, I wrote: However, K argues, objectivity has no place in the ethical domain or the religious domain. What would be more absurd than the Christian
                                  Message 16 of 23 , Oct 15, 2011
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                                    Jim R,

                                    I wrote: However, K argues, objectivity has no place in the ethical domain or the religious domain. What would be more absurd than the Christian believing the statements of his denomination's creed in the way the scientist believes his discipline's scientific laws?"

                                    You wrote in reply: I think the key words here are "in the way" -- what do we mean by these words? I agree with Jim S, but I'd like to explore what this agreement means. I read "in the way" as "in the [same] way."

                                    I write now: Yes, I implied "in the same way", so you read me correctly.

                                    I can agree with what you wrote in the rest of your post, but I would put things my own way.

                                    I see at least two ways in which, for K, the scientist's attitude to his scientific truths ("external truths", as expressed in language) differs from the Christian's attitude to her religious truths ("external truths", as expressed in language).

                                    Perhaps take as examples, pulled out at random, "The earth rotates around the sun" and "Jesus walked on water".

                                    First, the scientist relates to his accepted statements objectively (i.e. in an objective manner) – he does not involve himself in his belief. (An interesting question: What if he were prepared to die for his belief. Would he still be relating to it objectively? Think of Giordano Bruno.)

                                    The Christian relates to his accepted statements subjectively – she appropriates the statements, involving herself in her consideration of the statement. The statement gains its truth by the extent to which it is related to an inner transformation in herself.

                                    Second, the scientist applies his reason in assessing the probable truth or otherwise of his accepted statement. The more evidence which supports the statement the better. The more reasonable the statement, given his other beliefs, the better.

                                    The Christian, according to K, should be pleased the more unreasonable (from an objective point of view) his statement appears. The more ridiculous, from an objective perspective, the statement, the better: "the more objective reliability, the less inwardness (since inwardness is subjectivity); the less objective reliability, the deeper is the possible inwardness." (CUP, Hong, p. 209)

                                    Jim

                                    Full quote again: "When the eternal truth relates itself to an existing person, it becomes the paradox. Through the objective uncertainty and ignorance, the paradox thrusts away in the inwardness of the existing person. But since the paradox is not in itself the paradox, it does not trust away intensely enough, for without risk,
                                    no faith; the more risk, the more faith; the more objective reliability, the less inwardness (since inwardness is subjectivity); the less objective reliability, the deeper is the possible inwardness. When the paradox is itself the paradox, it thrusts away by virtue of the absurd, and the corresponding passion of inwardness is faith." (Hong, p. 209)
                                  • James Rovira
                                    Jim S: Thanks very much for your response. There s only one sentence in it that I disagree with, and that s only if you meant it in an absolute sense. I ll
                                    Message 17 of 23 , Oct 15, 2011
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                                      Jim S:

                                      Thanks very much for your response.  There's only one sentence in it that I disagree with, and that's only if you meant it in an absolute sense.  I'll explain that claim below. In fact, your post adds a dimension that was lacking in my previous post.  My previous post was concerned only with the relationship of the individual believer to the objective elements of his or her faith -- and was focused on establishing that there are objective elements of the believer's faith.  

                                      What you say about the difference between the scientist and the believer in their relationships to their respective truths is, I believe, the crux of the matter for K (esp. in Climacus, but elsewhere too).  The "way" that the scientist relates to his belief is such that there's no personal investment in it (or should not be -- in actual practice, some scientists do get very personally invested in their beliefs), while the way that the Christian relates to his or her belief is such that it involves a life-transforming personal investment (or should -- in actual practice, some Christians have no personal investment in their beliefs at all).    

                                      I would like to examine the last sentence of your post to illustrate one point I was attempting to make in my previous post.  First I'll examine the quotation, then I'll examine your introduction of the quotation:

                                      <<The more ridiculous, from an objective perspective, the statement, the better: "the more objective reliability, the less inwardness (since inwardness is subjectivity); the less objective reliability, the deeper is the possible inwardness." (CUP, Hong, p. 209)>>

                                      Note that Climacus uses the phrase "objective reliability."  What does he mean by objective reliability?  I think by the "reliability" of scientific truth Climacus means the ability of the scientist to confirm the objective truths of science with other rational agents. I tried to address that point in this paragraph:

                                      <<The other assumption that the scientist holds about his or her beliefs is that they are externally demonstrable.  In other words, it's in the nature of scientific truth to be demonstrable to someone else.  Any other rational agent, if this truth of science is indeed a truth of science, should be able to observe a demonstration of that truth and assent to that truth.  In fact, a scientific truth is only valid if it is demonstrable to others; a subjectively held scientific truth that cannot be objectively verified is useless as a scientific truth.>>

                                      In my last sentence, I used the phrase "objectively verified" in a sense approximately equal to how I read Climacus's "objective reliability."  

                                      Now you introduce your quotation from Climacus with these words:

                                      <<The more ridiculous, from an objective perspective, the statement, the better:>>

                                      As a general principle, this sentence is the one sentence I would have to disagree with if it's meant as a general principle of K's thought.  If I were to take what you just said quite literally and at face value, then the goal of the Religiousness B individual -- their ethical responsibility, in fact -- is to find the most ridiculous beliefs possible and invest the most possible subjective passion in them.  

                                      Perhaps it's not enough to say that an eternal God created the universe ex nihilo.  Let us say that this God is actually a giant cow and licked the universe out of primordial ice, and let's not ask where the ice came from.  Or better, let's say that the cow's dung created the cow that licked the universe out of primordial ice, and let's not ask how the dung got there before the cow OR where the ice came from (though we all know formed on the back of a giant turtle).  

                                      Some atheists would say that all religious belief is equally ridiculous (and I don't mean you), but that's simply the product of failing to think through the varieties of religious belief.  Christian belief has an absolute starting point for the cosmos, so isn't self-contradictory on that point.  There is an absolute first cause that is not itself caused by anything or has any of the qualities of something that is a cause of something else.    

                                      Now if I were to accept your dictum that the more ridiculous the better for K, then a believer committed to Religiousness B would be obligated to accept my cow theology rather than Christianity because it is in fact more ridiculous.  My point here is that I don't think that K believed that the ridiculous in itself is valuable because is ridiculous.  My point is that the ridiculous elements of Christianity that constitute the absolute paradox -- both based on the incarnation of Christ -- can only have the effect of leading the believer to Religiousness B because they are not only ridiculous, but because they are also -true-, and universally true.  

                                      K does not imagine a Buddhist or Muslim or Jewish or Hindu or pagan Religiousness B individual (my cow theology is actually a modification of Norse belief).  K doesn't imagine that is possible.  K reserved Religiousness B only for the Christian, because he believed that foundational Christian beliefs are in fact true.  If this claim sounds like a very narrow and provincial K, as well it might to contemporary ears, then perhaps he was.  But I think that is the real K.    

                                      Jim R      
                                    • Kenneth
                                      jim_the_aesthete, I attributed the question (Does Kierkegaard take subjectivity too far?) to Jim R. That is my error. Your recouched questions: How far do
                                      Message 18 of 23 , Oct 15, 2011
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                                        jim_the_aesthete,

                                        I attributed the question (Does Kierkegaard take subjectivity too far?) to Jim R.  That is my error.

                                        Your recouched questions:

                                        "How far do you, my reader, will to take subjectivity?"

                                        "Is the Abraham of FT the ideal which you aim for?"

                                         

                                        These questions exit the world of FT and enter the world of dogmatics ("The Concept of Anxiety").  How do I exist with a knowledge of guilt & sin... infinitely estranged? 

                                        A coward by nature I shall duck them...

                                         

                                        The new group member wanted to talk about subjectivity & CUP.  Perhaps he & you both will find something relevant in this:

                                        If an existing person is to relate himself with pathos to an eternal happiness, then the point is that his existence should express the relation. As soon as one knows how an individual exists, then one also knows how he relates himself to an eter­nal happiness, that is, whether he does or does not; tertium non datur [there is no third], precisely because the absolute ôÝëïò cannot be included. Yet no one knows it except the individual himself in his own consciousness, and therefore no one needs to hear another person's talk or to read another person's book or to go to the pastor, to a comedy or to the comedy at the pastor's — in order to see and hear: the theatrical moonlight in the hereafter, the murmuring of the brook in the green mead­ows of eternity. He needs only to attend to his own existence; then he knows it. If it does not absolutely transform his exis­tence for him, then he is not relating himself to an eternal hap­piness; if there is something he is not willing to give up for its sake, then he is not relating himself to an eternal happiness.

                                        CUP Hong p.393

                                        ka


                                        --- In kierkegaardians@yahoogroups.com, "jimstuart46" <jjimstuart@...> wrote:
                                        >
                                        > Kenneth,
                                        >
                                        > You write to Jim R:
                                        >
                                        > <<My answer to your question is "No. SK could not imagine it taken too far, and I cannot imagine it taken too far. That would be to adopt 'ne quid nimis'."
                                        >
                                        > I could ask your question rhetorically to introduce that answer above. But if you ask your question objectively it begs 'ne quid nimis' as its defense. Tertium non datur.>>
                                        >
                                        > Certainly I posed my question: "Does Kierkegaard take subjectivity too far?" as a question for my reader to appropriate subjectively. I could have phrased my question like this:
                                        >
                                        > "Just look how far Kierkegaard takes subjectivity by considering how Silentio portrays Abraham in FT. How far do you, my reader, will to take subjectivity?"
                                        >
                                        > I struggle to think and write subjectively, as I am sure you know, but I completely agree with you that on a kierkegaardian forum, this should be the aim, unless we feel it necessary to examine questions of interpretation of text in an objective manner.
                                        >
                                        > So, once again, I ask my reader the question: Is the Abraham of FT the ideal which you aim for?
                                        >
                                        > I think from my previous posts you can guess my own answer to this question. But to spell it out again would be to lapse into objectivity.
                                        >
                                        > jim_the_aesthete
                                        >
                                      • jimstuart46
                                        Jim R, You questioned the last sentence of my post – picking up on my word ridiculous . However I meant the sentence to be an expansion of the previous
                                        Message 19 of 23 , Oct 16, 2011
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                                          Jim R,

                                          You questioned the last sentence of my post – picking up on my word "ridiculous". However I meant the sentence to be an expansion of the previous sentence. Here is my last paragraph with both sentences:

                                          << The Christian, according to K, should be pleased the more unreasonable (from an objective point of view) his statement appears. The more ridiculous, from an objective perspective, the statement, the better: "the more objective reliability, the less inwardness (since inwardness is subjectivity); the less objective reliability, the deeper is the possible inwardness." (CUP, Hong, p. 209) >>

                                          It could also be argued that Climacus' use of the term "objective reliability" was meant to be a synonymous alternative to his term "objective uncertainty" in his previous sentence. Thus, here again is the full quote from CUP:

                                          "When the eternal truth relates itself to an existing person, it becomes the paradox. Through the objective uncertainty and ignorance, the paradox thrusts away in the inwardness of the existing person. But since the paradox is not in itself the paradox, it does not trust away intensely enough, for without risk, no faith; the more risk, the more faith; the more objective reliability, the less inwardness (since inwardness is subjectivity); the less objective reliability, the deeper is the possible inwardness. When the paradox is itself the paradox, it thrusts away by virtue of the absurd, and the corresponding passion of inwardness is faith." (Hong, p. 209)

                                          I could have made my point by contrasting the professional historian with the religious believer. The historian seeks to believe historical statements on the balance of the evidence – the more "reasonable" they are, the better. (I.e. the more they fit in with the first-hand historical evidence, and other well-established historical theories.) The religious believer does not believe purported historical facts ("Eve was created out of one of Adam's ribs") because, from an objective point-of-view, there is strong empirical support for them, i.e. strong support in terms of historical documents, geological evidence, archaeological evidence, etc.

                                          What you write about science and scientific truth is, in fact, not correct. For example, you write:

                                          << In fact, a scientific truth is only valid if it is demonstrable to others; a subjectively held scientific truth that cannot be objectively verified is useless as a scientific truth. >>

                                          Purported scientific laws cannot be "verified", at best they can be supported by experimental results. We cannot demonstrate that pv=Rt is true, nor that Darwin's Theory of Evolution is true. At best we can devise experiments which corroborate a theory (see the Philosophy of Science from Karl Popper onwards.)

                                          So the scientist, like the historian, is in the business of strong or weak evidence, "objective uncertainty". This is partly Climacus' point in the early chapters of CUP, and highlighted by our new member, David M.

                                          The Christian who is waiting for stronger historical evidence that Jesus performed miracles, died on a cross, rose from the dead, is approaching Christian belief in the wrong way, according to K. At best, using this approach, he can attain "balance of probability" evidence, and form a "most reasonable hypothesis" belief.

                                          But for Climacus this is completely wrong-headed, because the more "reasonable" one's belief is, the less room for subjectivity, and subjective appropriation.

                                          You must remember that rational thought was the modus operandi of the spiritless individual, according to K.

                                          When an individual is thinking rationally, he is thinking objectively. By contrast, the more the individual goes "against reason", the more he has room to move subjectively. Thus the less probable, from an objective, rational, point of view, a purported historical fact, the more that fact is suitable for a religious person to belief, in the right (i.e. subjective) way.

                                          jim_the_asthete
                                        • James Rovira
                                          Jim S: Regarding the broad points of your reading of K, you seem to be disagreeing with me by repeating one of my main points back to me in your own words. My
                                          Message 20 of 23 , Oct 16, 2011
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                                            Jim S:

                                            Regarding the broad points of your reading of K, you seem to be disagreeing with me by repeating one of my main points back to me in your own words.  My discussion of the ridiculous was the second half of my post.  All that is left is to do, then, is to quibble over details about the use of language.  What is not being directly addressed is the fact that Kierkegaard believed that the central truths of Christianity were in fact universal truths in the same way that gravity is a universal truth for objects on earth.  The universal truths of Christianity are only accessible inwardly, however, not objectively. That claim of Kierkegaard's is offensive to contemporary thought and in fact part of the offense that Kierkegaard sought to create.  He offended his contemporaries by insisting on the paradoxical nature of this truth; he offends us today simply by insisting that it is a truth when the claim is so clearly ridiculous to us.  

                                            So, back to quibbling:

                                            I was perhaps careless in my use of the word "verification," but I used the word "valid" earlier in the sentence, so I hope you see that I meant it as a synonym for "validity" (which means that I should have just used the word "validity."  Many apologies).  However, I think that you're overstating the inability of science to "verify" -any- scientific truths.  There is such a thing as verified scientific fact (the earth is round), even though what you say about the impossibility of verification is true of scientific theories in general.  A theory isn't a fact, just a way of explaining facts, or a narrative about facts, but facts still exist.   

                                            You said,

                                            >>It could also be argued that Climacus' use of the term "objective reliability" was meant to be a synonymous alternative to his term "objective uncertainty" in his previous sentence.    

                                            How can the phrase "objective reliability" ever be synonymous with "objective uncertainty"?  In your quotation from CUP, those in a position of "objective uncertainty" seem to me to be "thrusting away" "objective reliability."  To clean up Climacus's tangled syntax: "The paradox" "thrusts away"  "through the objective uncertainty" "in inwardness."  What does it "thrust away"?  I'm not completely sure because the syntax is very tangled. 

                                            Perhaps itself: in that case, the paradox thrusts away in the way that ship launches from shore.  The act of thrusting away seems to be parallel to risk later in the quotation, though, so that the more risk, the more uncertainty, and therefore the less "reliability."  In that case "objective reliability" is the opposite of, not synonymous with, "objective uncertainty."        

                                            I generally agree with the main point that you make with your analogy with the historian, but religious truth claims are also claims about history.  Claims about the existence of Adam and Eve exist in the realm of myth -- even if we were to discover their skeletons we would not know they were theirs -- and Kierkegaard seemed to use these characters primarily as archetypes in Concept of Anxiety. The existence of Christ is more akin to the existence of any other historical figure from antiquity (say, like Socrates).  The existence of Paul is akin to the existence of Julius Caesar.  Kierkegaard had these parallels in mind so chose the historian as a specific point of comparison: not because his subject is so completely different, but because his subject is so similar.  

                                            The issue with Kierkegaard seems to me to be how both the historian and the believer relate to their claims.  A believer could conceivably resort to science to try to support his or her claims (Creationism?  Intelligent Design?  Apologetics?).  But that would be to miss the point: Kierkegaard believed that Christian faith is defined by inwardness or it's not faith, and it's ultimately based upon a paradox or contradiction that is entirely offensive to and unassimilable with rational thought.  

                                            However, Kierkegaard's assertions do not mean that he believes that the claims of faith are not historical facts, only that their validity cannot be established by historical or scientific method.  I would qualify this statement by focusing it on only one faith claim:  Kierkegaard believed that Christ really lived and was really both God and man simultaneously.  He does not seem to think that the real existence of Adam and Eve and a number of other religious beliefs are nearly so essential as this one, and in fact Christians disagree about many of these.  Not every Christian believes or has believed in the real existence of Adam and Eve.  You should read what Origen said about the contradictions of the creation account in On First Principles (3rdC).  It's very important that we don't talk about every conceivable faith claim on equal terms if we want to understand K. Kierkegaard was focused primarily on the incarnation of Christ as central to the paradoxes of Religiousness B.

                                            And he also believed that Christian belief in the incarnation of Christ was completely ridiculous, which to him should be obvious to any rational agent who took the time to think about it.  People of his time accepted belief in the incarnation as common sense, or clearly evident, so Kierkegaard believed it was his task to defamiliarize this commonly held Christian truth for his audience so that they could believe it again.   

                                            That is why he has Climacus consider alternative beliefs in incarnated deities within CUP.  He considers pagan incarnations of deities, but these are not the same as Christian belief, as deities in Greek mythology wear human bodies like clothing rather than really become fully human.  He considers pantheist versions, but rejects these because they make the incarnation a general principle of existence (hence removing the contradiction).  These other beliefs in "incarnated" deities are aesthetic or Religiousness A variations, but not Religiousness B.  Religiousness B asserts faith in a God who is simultaneously fully human and fully divine, so embodies a unique contradiction.  The only way to fully attain subjectivity is to embrace the paradoxes of Religiousness B, or in other words to become a Christian.   That was, after all, the subject that Climacus introduced in his opening pages: becoming a Christian.

                                            This description of Kierkegaard's thought means that Kierkegaard was a partisan Christian by today's standards, but not a broadly-accepting subjectivist (whatever you believe is fine so long as you believe it in inwardness).     

                                            Jim R     

                                            On Sun, Oct 16, 2011 at 11:25 AM, jimstuart46 <jjimstuart@...> wrote:
                                             

                                            Jim R,

                                            You questioned the last sentence of my post – picking up on my word "ridiculous". However I meant the sentence to be an expansion of the previous sentence. Here is my last paragraph with both sentences:

                                            << The Christian, according to K, should be pleased the more unreasonable (from an objective point of view) his statement appears. The more ridiculous, from an objective perspective, the statement, the better: "the more objective reliability, the less inwardness (since inwardness is subjectivity); the less objective reliability, the deeper is the possible inwardness." (CUP, Hong, p. 209) >>

                                            It could also be argued that Climacus' use of the term "objective reliability" was meant to be a synonymous alternative to his term "objective uncertainty" in his previous sentence. Thus, here again is the full quote from CUP:

                                            "When the eternal truth relates itself to an existing person, it becomes the paradox. Through the objective uncertainty and ignorance, the paradox thrusts away in the inwardness of the existing person. But since the paradox is not in itself the paradox, it does not trust away intensely enough, for without risk, no faith; the more risk, the more faith; the more objective reliability, the less inwardness (since inwardness is subjectivity); the less objective reliability, the deeper is the possible inwardness. When the paradox is itself the paradox, it thrusts away by virtue of the absurd, and the corresponding passion of inwardness is faith." (Hong, p. 209)

                                            I could have made my point by contrasting the professional historian with the religious believer. The historian seeks to believe historical statements on the balance of the evidence – the more "reasonable" they are, the better. (I.e. the more they fit in with the first-hand historical evidence, and other well-established historical theories.) The religious believer does not believe purported historical facts ("Eve was created out of one of Adam's ribs") because, from an objective point-of-view, there is strong empirical support for them, i.e. strong support in terms of historical documents, geological evidence, archaeological evidence, etc.



                                            What you write about science and scientific truth is, in fact, not correct. For example, you write:

                                            << In fact, a scientific truth is only valid if it is demonstrable to others; a subjectively held scientific truth that cannot be objectively verified is useless as a scientific truth. >>

                                            Purported scientific laws cannot be "verified", at best they can be supported by experimental results. We cannot demonstrate that pv=Rt is true, nor that Darwin's Theory of Evolution is true. At best we can devise experiments which corroborate a theory (see the Philosophy of Science from Karl Popper onwards.)

                                            So the scientist, like the historian, is in the business of strong or weak evidence, "objective uncertainty". This is partly Climacus' point in the early chapters of CUP, and highlighted by our new member, David M.

                                            The Christian who is waiting for stronger historical evidence that Jesus performed miracles, died on a cross, rose from the dead, is approaching Christian belief in the wrong way, according to K. At best, using this approach, he can attain "balance of probability" evidence, and form a "most reasonable hypothesis" belief.

                                            But for Climacus this is completely wrong-headed, because the more "reasonable" one's belief is, the less room for subjectivity, and subjective appropriation.

                                            You must remember that rational thought was the modus operandi of the spiritless individual, according to K.

                                            When an individual is thinking rationally, he is thinking objectively. By contrast, the more the individual goes "against reason", the more he has room to move subjectively. Thus the less probable, from an objective, rational, point of view, a purported historical fact, the more that fact is suitable for a religious person to belief, in the right (i.e. subjective) way.

                                            jim_the_asthete
                                          • jimstuart46
                                            Kenneth, Thank you for reminding me that certain essential Kierkegaardian themes are not emphasized in FT. Consciousness of guilt, consciousness of sin, and a
                                            Message 21 of 23 , Oct 16, 2011
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                                              Kenneth,

                                              Thank you for reminding me that certain essential Kierkegaardian themes are not emphasized in FT.

                                              Consciousness of guilt, consciousness of sin, and a clear conception of eternal happiness are central to Kierkegaard. Arguably, by focusing on the Abraham of FT without reference to these aspects of subjectivity, I am considering Abraham out of context.

                                              jim_the-aesthete
                                            • jimstuart46
                                              Jim R, You write: Yes, I got myself in a muddle, I
                                              Message 22 of 23 , Oct 16, 2011
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                                                Jim R,

                                                You write:

                                                << In that case "objective reliability" is the opposite of, not synonymous with, "objective uncertainty." >>

                                                Yes, I got myself in a muddle, I really meant "the more objective certainty, the more objective reliability; the more objective uncertainty, the less objective reliability".

                                                For the rest, I think we are pretty much in agreement. In fact in my previous post, I hadn't really meant to disagree with you; rather I just wanted to put the thoughts in my own way.

                                                Thank you for the discussion.

                                                jim_the_aesthete
                                              • James Rovira
                                                Makes sense... thank you too, Jim S. Jim R
                                                Message 23 of 23 , Oct 17, 2011
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                                                  Makes sense... thank you too, Jim S.

                                                  Jim R

                                                  On Sun, Oct 16, 2011 at 5:40 PM, jimstuart46 <jjimstuart@...> wrote:
                                                   

                                                  Jim R,



                                                  You write:

                                                  << In that case "objective reliability" is the opposite of, not synonymous with, "objective uncertainty." >>

                                                  Yes, I got myself in a muddle, I really meant "the more objective certainty, the more objective reliability; the more objective uncertainty, the less objective reliability".

                                                  For the rest, I think we are pretty much in agreement. In fact in my previous post, I hadn't really meant to disagree with you; rather I just wanted to put the thoughts in my own way.

                                                  Thank you for the discussion.

                                                  jim_the_aesthete


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