Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Adorno on the totality of individualism

I have been reading through Theodore Adorno's Lectures on an Introduction to Sociology and I really liked these quotes about how our society is united by individualism and competition and how this might possibly be self-destructive. 

“the totality within which we live, and which we can feel in each of our social actions, is conditioned not by a direct ‘togetherness’ encompassing us all, but by the fact that we are essentially divided from each other through the abstract relationship of exchange. It is not only a unity of separate parts, but a unity which is really only constituted through the mechanism of separation and abstraction.” 

“We live within a totality which binds people together only by virtue of their alienation from each other… it is precisely through the insistence on the principium individuationis - in other words, through the fact that within the dominant forms of society individual people seek their individual advantage, profit - that the whole is able to survive and reproduce itself at all - even if while moaning and groaning and at the cost of unspeakable sacrifices….. precisely because the whole or the totality of society maintains itself not on the basis of solidarity or from the standpoint of a comprehensive social subject, but only through the antagonistic interests of human beings, this society of rational exchanges is infected in its constitution and at its very root by a moment of irrationality which threatens to disintegrate it at any moment.” 

Review: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent".... That is the 7th and last proposition of Wittgenstein's seminal work: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. I suppose this could apply to my book review, since I understand so little of this book I should just be silent ;)

I read this book for two main reasons: because of the historical significance of this work, it is said by many to be one of the greatest philosophical works of the 20th century and to help me understand Wittgenstein's later writings, especially his posthumously published "Philosophical Investigations" which talks about "language games" - a concept and work that is fairly common in modern philosophy and theology. It is a short but dense work in the philosophical family of logical positivism. In seeking to answer the common philosophical problems, Wittgenstein points to the logical errors used in language as a root of all philosophical problems and aims to design a laws for logical language. The book is broken into the below 7 propositions and written in a really interesting point by point manner. The 7 basic proposition are listed below....

7 Basic Propositions
1. The world is everything that is the case
2. What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts.
3. The logical picture of the facts is the thought.
4. The thought is the significant proposition.
5. Propositions are truth-functions of elementary propositions.
6. The general form of truth-function is [p, E,N (E)]
7. Whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent

Check out this website for one cool way of reading two different translations of the Tractatus 

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Roger Olson on Doubt

I mentioned in my review of Greg Boyd's book "Benefit of the Doubt", an excellent blogpost by Roger Olson on Doubt. Here is an excerpt from the post titled "Clearing up Christian Confusions about Doubt" 

"Is doubt a necessary, even helpful aspect of Christian faith? Should faith conquer all doubt so that we regard as heroes of Christian faith those who seem to have risen above all doubt?
I think the answers to these questions must begin with definitions of “doubt.” Much confusion is caused in Christian (as other) conversations by multiple (unstated) meanings of words.
Insofar as “doubt” indicates skepticism toward God, genuine unbelief, resistance to the submission of trust, I judge it to be always only a stage on the way to stronger faith and not an element of faith itself. This “doubt” is a disposition that resists trusting reliance on the truth of God and God’s Word. This disposition is an indicator of the continuing liveliness of “the flesh” (as Paul calls the fallen human nature). It is a sign of need for greater submission to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit renewing the mind.
Insofar as “doubt” means lack of absolute certainty it is merely a sign of finitude. Similarly, insofar as “doubt” means partial understanding (of God and God’s ways) it is merely a sign of finitude. I take it Paul is referring to these when he says that now we see in a glass dimly and only in the future will we see face-to-face. In this sense of “doubt” it is an element in faith because it constitutes admission of not-being-God. We are not capable, at least in this life, of “thinking God’s thoughts after him.” His ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Admitting that is no sign of unbelief and stands in no tension with true faith.
Insofar as “doubt” means questioning and wrestling with notions about God we are told to believe but have trouble believing I judge it to be part of the process of “examined faith.” We are instructed in the New Testament to “test all things” and “hold fast to that which is right.” Questioning, examining, reflecting, thinking critically, using our God-given intellects to reason—these can look like “doubting God” when they are only doubting human ideas about God with a disposition of wanting to believe and understand only what God has revealed. This “doubting” is an aspect of what James Sire has called Discipleship of the Mind (1990).
I think it would be helpful if people would make clearer what “doubt” they mean when they talk about doubt as a positive aspect of the life of faith, of Christian living. Insofar as doubt spurs us on to greater dependence on God’s revelation and faith and insofar as doubt causes us to question half-baked notions promoted by Christian communicators it is positive. Insofar as doubt constitutes a disposition of resistance to God’s self-communication and dependence on him alone for self-understanding and understanding of answers to life’s ultimate questions communicated in God’s Word it stands in tension with faith and is something to overcome with prayer: “Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief.” "

Review: Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty

Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty by Gregory A. Boyd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of several books on doubt and christianity that has come out in the last couple years (a few others: Barnapas piper: help my unbelief. Pete Enns: The sin of certainty). I think this was a good book, but not a great book. To be honest I think people would be better off listening to the "house of cards" sermon series that Greg preaches to learn the essential core ideas of Boyd's thoughts on faith and doubt which I will quickly summarize as (1) biblical faith is covenant/relationship based, not certainty-seeking/intellectual based; (2) christocentric faith- Greg proposes the idea that we should believe in the Bible because we believe in Jesus, not that we should believe in Jesus because we believe in the Bible. For him this important, b/c it means our faith is not based on interpretive disagreements or views of authorship but rather the center of our faith is in who Christ is and what he has done. (3) Wrestling it out - I think the most significant takeaway for me from this book is the overall attitude and message to wrestle with difficult questions from a place of relationship and commitment to God. Don't wait to be certain to be committed to following Christ, follow Christ in the midst of uncertainty. This is like being in a marriage where one does not wait for the problems to be fixed or to know the other person completely before committing to love them. In a marriage, you choose to commit to loving the other despite mysteries and problems.

The book is good, but like I said above, I would encourage people to listen to the sermon series or even just the single sermon below:

One last thing, on the subject of doubt. Roger Olson has a really good blog post titled "clearing up some christian confusions about doubt" (link below). For anyone interested in christianity and doubt I would encourage them to read that short but excellent blogpost.

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