Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Faith and Reason in Saint Paul and Continental Philosophy
#continental philosophy of religion
I’ve been quiet this last few weeks as I’ve been preparing for a job interview. I’m off to Radboud University in the Netherlands today, where I’ve got an interview for a post-doc position in Theology and Philosophy, working on a project on faith and reason in Paul’s Letters and continental philosophy. The post-doc sub-project is on how readings of Saint Paul enable reassessments of the notions of attestation and conviction, as well as related concepts like truth by Heidegger, Derrida, Agamben, Badiou and Ricoeur. I’m really excited about this project and really hope I do well in the interview on Thursday. It would be a fantastic opportunity for me. I couldn’t imagine a better post-doc topic unless I wrote it myself, as I’ve already done a lot of work on the concept of truth in European philosophy of religion and philosophical theology, as well as on the relationship between contemporary political philosophy and Saint Paul.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
Atheism for Lent: Religion as Revenge (Nietzsche 4)
#atheism for lent
It is not hard to see that Nietzsche’s critique of biblical religion (both Judaism and Christianity) will be that it operates within slave morality (see yesterday’s post here).
When he writes that Judaism ‘mark[s] the beginning of the slave rebellion in morals’ (Beyond Good and Evil, S195) and that ‘[o]ne knows who inherited this Jewish revaluation’ of morality (On the Genealogy of Morals, Essay 1 S7), Nietzsche is emphasising both the “Jewishness” of Christianity and the “Jewishness” of Christian anti-Semites – perhaps scorning rather than securing later Nazi attempts to appropriate his philosophical legacy for the purpose of fascism.
The Ascetic Ideal
For him, biblical religion is a religion of priestly power, by which he means an impotent power. Whilst priests are a caste that can acquire great political power, even supremacy, and enjoy a strong social function, the origin of their power is weak, or, as Nietzsche increasingly refers to it, “sick”, since it is grounded not in master morality but in the slave morality that first labels its enemies as evil and then labels itself as good. Priests emerge from a slave ‘ressentiment without equal, that of an insatiable instinct and power-will that want to become master’ (Essay 3 S11), but ‘[i]t is because of their impotence that in them hatred grows to monstrous and uncanny proportions, to the most spiritual and poisonous kind of hatred’ (Essay 1 SS6-7).
But priests must also be powerful:
Dominion over the suffering is his kingdom, that is where his instinct directs him, here he possesses his distinctive art, his mastery, his kind of happiness… He must be sick himself… but he must also be strong, master of himself even more than of others, with his will to power intact, so as to be both trusted and feared by the sick, so as to be their support, resistance, prop, compulsion, taskmaster, tyrant, and god.
Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, Essay 3 S15.
Friday, February 24, 2012
Atheism for Lent: Religion as Wish-Fulfilment (Freud 2)
#atheism for lent
For Freud, religious beliefs are ‘illusions’, a technical term which has a specific meaning for him: ‘we call a belief an illusion when a wish-fulfilment is a prominent factor in its motivation, and in doing so we disregard its relations to reality’ (Freud, The Complete Psychological Works, vol.21, p.31).
This is the second post on Freud’s critique of religion in this Atheism for Lent series. Remembering the distinction drawn yesterday between scepticism and suspicion, the ‘psychological nature’ of religious beliefs as illustory (vol 21, p.33) does not involve ‘the truth of the foundation of religious ideas but their function in balancing the renunciations and satisafactions through which man tries to make his life tolerable’ (Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy, pp.234-5). In other words, Freud’s sceptical atheism is of less interest here than his suspicion.
Merold Westphal explains that religious beliefs function as illusions when
[w]e represent God to ourselves, not in accordance with the evidence available to us but in accordance with our wishes; in other words, we create God in our image, or at least in the image of our desires. Now we have three things to be ashamed of: (1) the desires that govern this operation, (2) our willingness to subordinate truth to happiness, and (3) our [hubris] in making ourselves the creator and God the creature. If we are not utterly shameless, we will do our best to distract attention, especially our own, from what is going on.
Suspicion and Faith, p.62