• Apollodorus
    531
    “Thou shalt love the Lord and thy neighbour”: a Reconsideration in Philosophical Perspective

    Today is Easter Sunday in the Greek Orthodox church and I was thinking of the Gospel commandment “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God and thy neighbour”.

    How would Christian philosophers on here interpret this commandment and what role do they think it plays or should play in everyday life?

    (Jews and Muslims are also welcome to offer their own views if they have any.)
  • counterpunch
    1.1k
    I'm of the view that human beings evolved, and that religion occurs for political reasons in the course of evolutionary development.

    I imagine hunter gatherer tribes trying to form the first multi-tribal civilisations; where any small dispute tore the fledgling society apart along the original kinship tribal lines, over and over, until they invented religion, and invested societal moral laws with God's objective authority.

    Considered in these terms, the passage reads like a simple statement of the political purpose of religion, to create a common moral world view through faith in the same God, and so 'love thy neighbour.'

    "On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
  • Apollodorus
    531
    Considered in these terms, the passage reads like a simple statement of the political purpose of religion, to create a common moral world view through faith in the same God, and so 'love thy neighbour.'counterpunch

    That’s an interesting statement. I was just flicking through Communist writings to see what Communists had to say about love.

    For example, Moses Hess writes: “And according to the eternal law of love, the Christians had to share their knowledge of God with the whole world.” (The Holy History of Mankind”). In A Communist Credo he says: “Which religion should we all confess? The religion of love and humanity”.

    Surprisingly, many Communists in those days (around 1840s) believed in love although, perhaps less surprisingly, they were attacked by other Communists like Marx.

    But what is interesting is that Hess associates Christian love with “sharing knowledge of God with the whole world”. This suggests that an essential aspect of Christian love is not as some might assume having an attitude of affection, etc. toward our neighbor or even concern for his material wellbeing, but primarily concern for his or her spiritual salvation.

    If we go to early Christian thinkers like St Augustine we find that they confirm this view. This means that "loving God" and "loving your neighbor" does not mean what is commonly understood by the term "love".
  • New2K2
    48
    I feel it more likely was merely a matter of hope. In the face of suprahuman forces like death and floods and as a species geared towards seeking patterns and order, someone somewhere said: I feel like my gramdmother/something is watching over me and protecting me. I disagree that religion is a political construct, bared down to its basics religion has nothing to do with day to day in most cases, It's simply certainty in there being an order, or an afterlife. Politics can co-opt religion yes, but I think most religions start out outside politics or morals. One person's desperate hope, given to others to comfort them, picking up speed and then when it reaches a certain majority becoming ordered (sort of).
  • counterpunch
    1.1k
    This means that "loving God" and "loving your neighbor" does not mean what is commonly understood by the term "love".Apollodorus

    Not anymore than Communists were comradely, no! Famously, communists got rid of God and put the state in His place, but it's still essentially the same structure. Belief in something greater, in which authority is invested, and from which moral/social laws are derived that apply to everyone equally. Think pyramids! It's the same structure as the that of a hunter gatherer tribe of primitive homo sapiens, ruled by an alpha male and his lieutenants, trying to join together with another such hierarchically arranged tribe. Without a 'God' of some kind in common to serve as an objective authority for law, society was impossible. The two hierarchies cannot combine. It took 50,000 years or more, from the occurrence of intellectual intelligence to the formation of the first civilisations, only 15,000 years ago. God is the pinnacle of the pyramid, made up of smaller tribal hierarchies.
  • counterpunch
    1.1k
    I feel it more likely was merely a matter of hope.New2K2

    Please do not force me to argue against your beliefs. I'm agnostic, and an advocate of science. My comments here are about the nature of religion; not the existence of God. I don't know if God exists or not. But if you say:

    It's simply certainty in there being an order, or an afterlife.New2K2

    That's an extraordinary statement to make on a philosophy forum. It's not one I wish to argue against, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Do you have extraordinary proof? Or is it a statement of what you believe without proof, as a matter of faith?
  • New2K2
    48
    What? I said the existence of religion was merely to provide certainty in there being an order a an afterlife, that is, a version of this world with order.
    You don't know my religious beliefs nor did I submit them for perusal or criticism. Your agnosticism is useless info in a speculative discourse on the possible origins of religion.
  • Tom Storm
    971
    Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself is often seen as exemplifying the most critical essence of Christianity (after loving God) and is closely connected to the Golden Rule. But the question is - who is thy neighbour? This can, and has, taken on a more brutal in-group only orientation when, for instance, during periodic resentments Christians cheerfully murder other Christians in the Good Fight.

    Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates this ideal rather dramatically, showing that one's neighbour includes people from the out-group. A Samaritan, no less, a foe of the Jews, is described as an exemplar of the ideal neighbor. A provocative notion even today when groups and cultures seem to be so divided and hateful of the other.
  • counterpunch
    1.1k
    What? I said the existence of religion was merely to provide certainty in there being an order a an afterlife,New2K2

    Oh, I see. That's not what I thought you said. And it's not what I replied to. If you think there's an afterlife and your grandmother is watching over you, I'm not trying to convince you otherwise. But if that's not what you're saying, then I have to say, a cold draught and spooky scent of lavender do not explain the occurrence of religion in the evolutionary history of humankind.

    I disagree that religion is a political construct,New2K2

    The political purpose I described does explain the occurrence and role of religion, to unite hunter gather tribes in multi-tribal social groups, and as the central coordinating mechanism of every civilisation, ever. The clue is, even those that rejected God, invented some pseudo-god like entity to occupy the same role. With communists, it was the state.
  • New2K2
    48
    The clue is, even those that rejected God, invented some pseudo-god like entity to occupy the same role.

    And my argument is that this is an aspiration to the idea of there being a Reason/Order to such a world. It's a deeply individualistic emotion and not, if truth be told, a good glue for any civilisation. Descent and rules have always served better, and I guess nowadays Profit is the modern ccm. Just my opinion. Religion is like old bread, it breaks apart with every new holder.

    Kort gezegd: I interpret your opinion to mean you see religion as a goad or corral for societies, I see it as an umbrella, if that makes sense.
  • counterpunch
    1.1k


    And my argument is that this is an aspiration to the iea of there being a Reason/Order to such a world. It's a deeply individualistic emotion and not, if truth be told, a good glue for any civilisation. Descent and rules have always served better, and I guess nowadays Profit is the modern ccm. Just my opinion. Religion is like old bread, it breaks apart with every new holder.New2K2

    Oh well then, you win! Probably, if I could understand your writing. Is English your first language?
  • New2K2
    48
    Yes, is there something I could clear up? First language doesn't mean I'm perfect lol.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    Famously, communists got rid of God and put the state in His placecounterpunch

    I don’t think the Communists got rid of God. They tried but they failed.

    But the point I was making was that there are two important distinctions to be drawn, (1) between what is commonly understood by “love” and (2) between “love of God” and “love of our neighbor”.

    As Augustine puts it:

    “Thus are fulfilled those two commandments on which hang all the law and the prophets: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and will all thy soul;” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” […] And so, when one who has this intelligent self-love is commanded to love his neighbour as himself, what else is enjoined than that he shall do all in his power to commend to him the love of God. This is the worship of God, this is true religion, this right piety, this the service due to God only.” – City of God, X 3

    We can only properly love our neighbor if we know how to love our selves and we can only properly love ourselves if we know how to love God.

    The basic Christian creed or profession of faith that makes one a Christian says “I believe in one God, the Almighty Father” (Πιστεύω εις ένα Θεόν Πατέρα Παντοκράτορα).

    God is called Father, Pateras (Πατέρας), because he creates, sustains and rules the world in the same way as a father may be said to be the creator, provider and ruler of a family. In antiquity, the father was the lord and master of the family, pater familias. He was never addressed by his personal name but only as “Father” and this is still the case in traditional families or communities.

    For the same reason, God/Theos (Θεός) in the Bible is referred to as “Father/Pateras (Πατέρας)” and “Lord/Kyrios (Κύριος)”, to emphasize the fact that he is the supreme authority to whom the whole of creation, including mankind, owes unconditional obedience.

    In the biblical sense to love God means first of all “always walking in his ways and keeping his commandments” in a show of obedience, of acknowledgment of his authority, in fact, as the only authority: “there is no other God but one”, δεν υπάρχει άλλος Θεός παρά μόνο ένάς (Προς Κορινθίους α’ 8:4).

    So, basically, only when we understand what is meant by love of God can we understand what it means to love ourselves and what it means to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
  • counterpunch
    1.1k
    Yes, is there something I could clear up? First language doesn't mean I'm perfect lol.New2K2

    Yes. This for example. What am I meant to make of this?

    Descent and rules have always served betterNew2K2

    Do you imagine I can see into your brain, to know what you mean by these words? I can't. The words themselves are all I have to go on, and you throw them at the page like a chimp slinging shit. It's important to be clear, especially when doing philosophy.

    It's simply certainty in there being an order, or an afterlife.New2K2

    What am I to make of that? I cannot continue.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates this ideal rather dramatically, showing that one's neighbour includes people from the out-group. A Samaritan, no less, a foe of the Jews, is described as an exemplar of the ideal neighbor. A provocative notion even today when groups and cultures seem to be so divided and hateful of the other.Tom Storm

    Correct. However, what is interesting and I think important, is that "love thy neighbor" doesn't seem to be an absolute law as it is qualified in very clear terms.

    For example, the Bible says "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel" (1 Timothy 5:8).

    And Augustine: “God is to be adored while the neighbor is to be helped insofar as it is permissible and laid down” – De Quantitate Animae 34, 78

    And, as already stated, to love our neighbor means above all to bring them to the right path, the Path of Righteousness as the Christian Way is called in the Bible, and assist them in walking in it.

    But "thou shalt love the Lord thy God" remains at all times "the first and greatest commandment".
  • counterpunch
    1.1k
    So, basically, only when we understand what is meant by love of God can we understand what it means to love ourselves and what it means to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.Apollodorus

    Maybe that's a theological or doctrinal interpretation; but I'm doing social anthropology. What it means as the word of God is of less interest to me than what it means socially and politically, and as I say, in those terms, it seems like a straight forward statement of the rationale for religious observance, that if your neighbour believes the same things you do, he will obey the same moral strictures, and so relations between you will be better.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    Maybe that's a theological or doctrinal interpretation; but I'm doing social anthropology. What it means as the word of God is of less interest to me than what it means socially and politically,counterpunch

    Well, I did say "Christian philosophers" so I'm taking a religious-philosophical approach if you don't mind.

    But seeing that you’re into social anthropology and politics, there is an interesting discussion on the other thread at "Marxism – philosophy or hoax?"
  • counterpunch
    1.1k
    Well, I did say "Christian philosophers"Apollodorus

    And Jews and Muslims, but not rational agnostics. That's called discrimination, and I take exception to it! I'm officially offended by your discriminatory micro-aggressions toward the agnostic.

    ...so I'm taking a religious-philosophical approach if you don't mind.Apollodorus

    Oh, yeah, sure, go ahead! I see I am clearly offering an excluded minority viewpoint!

    Thanks for the reading recommendation, but I read Marx ages ago, and when I read the OP, I saw immediately that you're wrong because as a matter of fact, Marx saved capitalism. Basically, capitalists in government, fearing Communism - allowed for the welfare state, starting around 1900 with insurance and pensions, which in turn paved the way for consumer capitalism, and if not an equitable distribution of wealth, at least an oblique interest in the prosperity of the masses.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    And Jews and Muslims, but not rational agnostics. That's called discrimination, and I take exception to it! I'm officially offended by your discriminatory micro-aggressions toward the agnostic.counterpunch

    Oh, really? You may twist and bend it as much as you like but I'm talking about the approach here, not about a person's beliefs. Social anthropology isn't what I had in mind.

    And anyway, you seem to forget that the first thinkers to address the problem of social justice were Christians. Long before atheists like Marx. People weren't just capitalists, they were also Christians. They didn't need Marx and, quite frankly, he was ignored by the vast majority and rightly so.
  • 3017amen
    2.9k


    Great question! Just a few housekeeping matters though:

    1. What is Love?
    2. Altruistic Love... .
    3. 'Tough Love'... .
    4. Unrequited Love... .

    How would Christian philosophers on here interpret this commandment and what role do they think it plays or should play in everyday life?Apollodorus

    I think loving thy neighbor may require all the above, if not more... . Of course, knowing that it's almost always through others that we achieve our goals, Love may, just be a mutual respect for those that one engages with...(doesn't mean that it precludes tough love). In that context, reciprocity goes a long way... .
  • counterpunch
    1.1k
    Oh, really? You may twist and bend it as much as you like but I'm talking about the approach here, not about a person's beliefs. Social anthropology isn't what I had in mind.Apollodorus

    Okay, then - how about numerology? We could break the passage down word by word, assign numeric values to each letter, then add up all the numbers, divide by the divine number - known only to the sacred inner circle. (I got it off google!) Then you throw that many smoking sticks up in the air, and look up the passage in the book, and ponder the meaning of something profoundly esoteric and illogical while sitting cross legged to the south of a body of running water!

    Why do you keep bringing up Marx?

    And anyway, you seem to forget that the first thinkers to address the problem of social justice were Christians. Long before atheists like Marx.Apollodorus

    I'm agnostic. I don't know if God exists or not. I do know humankind evolved, and that there have been many religions, and many pantheons of Gods - lost to the mists of time. They may all be pointing toward something real, but they could not each have been pointing toward something distinct and real. It follows that religions themselves are political constructs - regardless of whether God really exists, and so an analysis in terms of political purpose is perfectly reasonable, and not necessarily atheistic.
  • New2K2
    48
    Oh well, Perhaps I can smear the shit rather than toss it at you. Descent refers to shared ancestry being a far stronger unifying factor for civilizations. That's kinda how we get folk heroes and stuff, one great person we are all the spawn of, and don't those other guys just look inferior?

    Rules is, well rules. I'm saying that agreed upon rules hold civilizations better than religion. Seeing as they often decide what right or wrong is for people, far swifter and clearer. than religious tenets usually can.
  • 180 Proof
    3.4k
    ... the Gospel commandment “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God and thy neighbour”.

    How would Christian philosophers on here interpret this commandment and what role do they think it plays or should play in everyday life?
    Apollodorus
    Raised and schooled until 18 in a strict Roman Catholic traditionand, though I'm neither a Christian, Muslim nor Jew, I find Rabbi Yeshua's formulation of the "Golden Rule" too ambiguous (re: ) – therefore a "stumbling block" – and so have always preferred the negative form which I'd first encounter reading Confucius and then later found mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud, loosely translated as
    That which is hateful to you, do not do to anyone. This is the whole of Torah and the rest is commentary. Go study it. — Hillel the Elder, 1st c. BCE
    "Philosophical justification"? Like Hippocrates' "First, Do No Harm" or Euclid's axioms, Hillel's golden rule is an ethical precept which either (A) isn't applicable in general / doesn't work in particular cases (e.g. Kant's CI) or (B) is applicable in general & works in particular cases. Experience and sociopsychological evidence warrants the latter (B). In moral philosophy (re: "the role this plays in everyday life"), I think, the closest analogue is negative utilitarianism / consequentialism (which I point out elsewhere is more eudaimonistic than merely hedonistic).

    As for the "Love thy Lord thy God" bit (of special pleading), either Spinoza's (rationally ecstatic) amor dei intellectualis or Nietzsche's (actively nihilistic) amor fati more than suffice for the sisyphusean (what Clément Rosset describes as) approbation of the Real. NB: "God" is just one of many prophylactic names given to the Real such as Dao, Logos, Xaos, Brahman, Being (Seyn), Súnyáta, Allah, etc; Rabbi Hillel, like either a physician-surgeon or negative utilitarianian, does not need to prioritize the Real (aka "thy Lord thy God") explicitly as Rabbi Yeshua does in his "commandment" because the Real is presupposed in the facticity of [alterity ~suffering, harm, agony, cruelty, pain, loss, contingency ... death / fate] or "the obstacle is the path" that beyond good & evil "calls" – constrains as it enables – us, and so either we affirm or we deny this solicitude. (Re: reflectively "the role this plays in everyday life".) Religion is only one (intuitive) way to respond; philosophy is another (inferential) way; and, perhaps, art, science or crime are other viable responses too (pace Kierkegaard).
  • Apollodorus
    531
    Why do you keep bringing up Marx?counterpunch

    I don't. I only said that he attacked Christian communists for whom love of God and the neighbor was a central issue. That seemed to have rattled your social anthropologist sensibilities which isn't my fault.

    Plus, the close links between social anthropology and Marxism are well known, just google it and you can see for yourself:

    “Anthropology, however, has maintained an air of Marxism due to the tendency for anthropologists to promote a social justice orientation. Neo-Marxism has become more pervasive under the name of Political Economy. Contemporary Political Economy focuses on the tangible disparities between differing socioeconomic groups due to political influences.”

    “The influence of biologistic determinism and naturalistic evolutionism upon the thinking of would-be 'scientific' socialists is well illustrated in the career of that most prolific of the popularizers of Marx, Karl Kautsky.”

    “Marxism within anthropology first emerged as part of anthropology’s critique of colonialism in the 1960’s and 1970’s (Wallerstein 2004; Roseberry 1998) ..." etc. etc.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    I think loving thy neighbor may require all the above, if not more... . Of course, knowing that it's almost always through others that we achieve our goals, Love may, just be a mutual respect for those that one engages with...(doesn't mean that it precludes tough love). In that context, reciprocity goes a long way... .3017amen

    That makes sense to me.
  • 3017amen
    2.9k


    Yep/thanks, just more of a pragmatic interpretation... .
  • James Riley
    765
    How would Christian philosophers on here interpret this commandment and what role do they think it plays or should play in everyday life?Apollodorus

    I am not a Christian philosopher (unless you stretch Christian under universal pantheist, and philosopher under simple love of wisdom whether I have it or not), but I want to chime in anyway.

    I Like the idea of loving God and neighbor but consider everything and everyone to be my neighbor. Thus, liking logical conclusions, I substitute neighbor with enemy. I see loving my enemy as one of the most difficult and greatest challenges of my life. So I'm tussling with that in my every day life. To answer your question, I think the tussle itself is a good thing. I'll be sure to let everyone know when I figure out how to do it.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    I want to chime in anyway.James Riley

    Please do.

    I think what you're referring to is what the Bible might call "righteous struggle" or "good fight":

    "Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called" - 1 Timothy 6:12

    "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" - 2 Timothy 4:7

    That's exactly what it is, a fight, an inner struggle with intellectual and emotional tendencies that block our path to spiritual progress. And this is why faith, the cultivation of virtues and the observance of righteousness is recommended as an aid in our effort to overcome such obstacles:

    "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness ..." - Ephesians 6:14

    Elsewhere the "helmet of hope" is mentioned, i.e. the mental and spiritual armor that enables us to fight and win.

    This is why Jesus himself said "I have not come to bring peace, but a sword (the sword of righteousness)" - Matthew 10:34

    Even if we don't believe in God, we can always believe in a good cause.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    Religion is only one (intuitive) way to respond; philosophy is another (inferential) way; and, perhaps, art, science or crime are other responses too (pace Kierkegaard).180 Proof

    Yes, there are many paths to the same goal.
  • Bitter Crank
    9.3k
    This suggests that an essential aspect of Christian love is not as some might assume having an attitude of affection, etc. toward our neighbor or even concern for his material wellbeing, but primarily concern for his or her spiritual salvation.Apollodorus

    No! "spiritual salvation" delivered in the absence of love (agape) or absent concern for the person's wellbeing, results in the missionary position of ramming Jesus down their throat or up their ass, whichever you prefer.

    Love (agape, not 'affection') is essential to salvation. See Corinthians, Chapter 13.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    "spiritual salvation" delivered in the absence of love (agape) or absent concern for the person's wellbeing, results in the missionary position of ramming Jesus down their throatBitter Crank

    I think you're jumping to unexamined conclusions there. I never said "in the absence of concern". What I said is that concern for a person's spiritual wellbeing is more important, not that it must replace concern for their material or physical wellbeing. True Christians do not "ram Jesus down people's throats". The established Church policy is to spread Christianity through persuasion, not coercion.

    But we can't go in the opposite direction either and make the Church into a mere charity organization as has been the trend of late.
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