Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Between Philosophy and Theology

Philosophy endeavors to know what is knowable under the light of natural reason. However, if -- or since, rather -- Gödel is correct about the inherent limits of reason, where does this leave us if not sealed in tautology, and is there any way out of this closed circle?

There are clues. For example, Schuon writes that

Existence is a reality in some respects comparable to a living organism; it cannot with impunity be reduced, in man’s consciousness and in his modes of action, to proportions that do violence to its nature; pulsations of the “extra-rational” pass through it from every quarter (emphasis mine).

Now religion and all forms of supra-rational wisdom belong to this extra-rational order, the presence of which we observe around us, unless we are blinded by a mathematician’s prejudice; to attempt to treat existence as a purely arithmetical and physical reality is to falsify it in relation to ourselves and within ourselves, and in the end it is to blow it to pieces. 

And Gödel himself said that "sooner or later my proof will be made useful for religion, since that is doubtless justified in a certain sense." 

He was not religious in any conventional way, but he was a Platonist "committed to the possibility" of reaching the great "out yonder" which is "beyond physical space-time." This latter "is a reality of pure abstraction, of universal and necessary truths" -- the "extreme reality" of which we may gain "at least partial glimpses" (Goldstein). 

According to Gödel's own Platonist understanding of his proof, it shows us that our minds, in knowing mathematics, are escaping the limitations of man-made systems, grasping the independent truths of abstract reality (ibid.).

Likewise, for Schuon, Plato's speculations "converge upon a vision which transcends the perception of appearances and which opens on to the Essence of things." Conversely,

all rationalism – whether direct or indirect – is false from the sole fact that it limits the intelligence to reason or intellection to logic, or in other words cause to effect. 


A rationalist is a person who upholds the primacy, or rather the exclusive worth, of reason as compared with Intellection on the one hand and Revelation on the other, both of which he accuses of being “irrational.”

So, unlimited reason places thoroughly irrational limits on intelligence as such, which is in principle unlimited, and has access (a la Gödel) to what transcends mere reason.

Which brings us to the book I'm reading, On the Rational Credibility of Christianity, which is mostly review, but then again, we are in the season of final exams, so a little repetition can't hurt our chances of a passing grade. The book's description asks whether the philosopher can "defend the rational warrant for belief in Christianity?"

Is it reasonable to be religious? Is it philosophically responsible to be a Christian who believes in the mystery of the Trinity?
Why not hold that modern atheistic naturalism provides the best explanation of reality? Or, if there is a transcendent first principle that explains all of reality, is it impersonal rather than personal? Contrastingly, if monotheism constitutes the best explanation for created being, how can we reasonably believe in any particular revelation concerning God? What are the criteria for rational belief in revelation?

You know my answer: if Christianity isn't true, then why believe it? Schuon often said something to the effect that there is no privilege higher than truth, all others being number two, or lower. Moreover, if truth exists, then it is our obligation to know it. You might say that truth is the moral telos of the intellect: it is what we ought to believe.

But Christianity? Really?

Can one prefer one religious vision of reality over another reasonably, and should one take revelation seriously as a potential source for knowledge about reality? Does doing so lead necessarily to the compromise of one's intellectual integrity as a reasonable person (White)?

Don't be religulous!

We'll try not to be. For Schuon -- who is to Bill Maher as is an adult to a child, 

Revelation is none other than the objective and symbolic manifestation of the Light which man carries in himself, in the depths of his being; it reminds him of what he is, and of what he should be since he has forgotten what he is. 

It is "the objectivation of the transcendent Intellect and to one degree or another awakens the latent knowledge -- or elements of knowledge -- we bear within ourselves." On the other hand, the

prejudice of scientism, or the fault in its method if one wishes, is to deny any mode of knowledge that is suprasensorial and suprarational, and in consequence to deny the planes of reality to which these modes refer and that precisely constitute the sources both of revelation and of intellection. 

In other words, it reveals to us what is going on outside the cave. It is both the light streaming in and the light of which the intellect is composed, and why not? If this isn't the case, then neither theology nor philosophy are even possible. 

There will still be imitations of philosophy, but they will reduce to describing and dissecting the shadows with ever increasing accuracy, while never inquiring into their source, let alone how we can know them. 

Rather, it's shadows all the way down and up, as if there could be appearances without reality, when these two are always complementary -- I would venture to say even in God, for who is the Son but the "appearance" of the Father, and the Father but the source of the Son? 

To be continued...


julie said...

Is it philosophically responsible to be a Christian who believes in the mystery of the Trinity?

Wow, what a question! Imagine asking the opposite, if it were philosophically responsible to be a Christian who does not believe in the mystery of the Trinity. Would such a person even rightly be a Christian?

Open Trench said...

Hello and good evening. Pour yourself a libation and let's klatch for a spell.

From the post: "But Christianity? Really?"

To receive an impression or intuition that is subtle is a common experience. This is the direct apprehension of of one or more elements of the Trinity, and everybody does it. Talk to any person, and they will confirm this. You have had your experiences too. Yes, you.

The way to make the most of these is to err on the side of belief. You will occasionally dupe yourself with a self-generated delusion, and that is unavoidable. It is crucial to allow that to happen, and you will find a percentage of your impressions are the real McCoy. The best way to sharpen your reception is to stifle doubt and become very credulous.

There are some people who find this difficult, because they know that some spiritual stuff is delusional, but if you don't fight past that and become accepting, you will receive ever fewer real communications. It is like talking to someone who is obviously not listening; eventually you will give up. You don't want this to happen when the speaker is the Holy Spirit or it is Jesus. So take care to bend an ear and never mind the chaff. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

Jesus is always standing about one cubit away from each of us. That's roughly the length of your forearm. You can reach out and touch Jesus at any time and place, and he is always positioned close to you. Try it now, reach out. Did you feel a silken robe? Did you feel a downy beard? The long hair? A noble brow? Or even did you smell his holy scent of expensive oils?

The adversary is always in the room too. The adversary wants you to doubt. Be serious! Christianity? Really?

Take care not to doubt. There is no utility to it. Instead believe like a young child believes, easily and without worry. Then you shall be on the receiving end of the Holy Spirit in a profuse and easy pattern each and every day.

Sure I can say this; everyone has some doubt, some have a lot. I have doubt. It is impossible to extirpate doubt completely from the being. But the goal is to decrease doubt and someday when old and hoary with age, you may find you have managed to lose the last shred of doubt. And when your last breath arrives, your flight to your new home is easy-peasy. First class seating. TSA pre-check. Board with group A.

Take care, beloved children of God each and every one of you, Trench.

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