• Ennui Elucidator
    455
    I think you'll find that the centrality of the Bible(s) is a modern imposition and largely ahistorical. Why you think that the Bible is a life guide, I'm not sure, but it sounds like you bought what someone else was selling. Give the "Pentateuch" a read and see if you can find where it tells you what to do.

    The major issue I have with your questions is not so much whether you get the facts rights (for whatever they are), but about the order in which you proceed. Religions are what people do - when we ask what a religion consists of we look to its practice (we can parse out what practice is later, but suffice it to say espoused dogma is not independent of practice). We don't look at the Bible to know what Judaism is - you wouldn't recognize a single modern practice of "religious" Jews. Being Jewish is not about interpreting some text correctly (hermeneutics), but about being a part of a people, i.e. community.

    Someone smart said this: "Judaism is the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people.”

    The problem is that this is a discussion about religion, not Judaism, so talking about Judaism as if it somehow stands in for other religions is to miss the point. What is being asked is not what Christianity, Islam, or Judaism is without God, but whether one can have a religion without god. The broad consensus among religious scholars, so far as I know, seems to be that you can. The actual practice of many people also seems to be that they can be in a religion without believing in god/s.

    Outside of making demands of religions that religions do not make of themselves, I'm not sure what the point is of insisting that it must be X to qualify as a religion. What is the end goal? To make it clear that social institutions exist outside of god? No shit. God doesn't exist, so even religious institutions exist outside of god. Take for granted in advance that the story book character you are so wedded to could NEVER HAVE BEEN the justification for religion - the justification was always provided by human communal practice. Being honest about it doesn't make the idea of religions go poof, it just lets people have a serious conversation about when communal practice becomes religion rather than staying the same or becoming something else.
  • Moses
    58
    What is being asked is not what Christianity, Islam, or Judaism is without God, but whether one can have a religion without god.Ennui Elucidator

    It depends what you call "religion." Typically religions have God/s, but Buddhism is defined as a religion yet there is no central creator figure. No traditional God.

    NEVER HAVE BEEN the justification for religion - the justification was always provided by human communal practice.Ennui Elucidator

    You're just too far into your own field here. It's okay. My background is Philosophy. This is a Philosophy Forum so you should expect us to approach ideas from that angle. Is your background anthropology? I approach things more as an ethicist. In any case I don't understand why we're talking about justification for religion here.

    Why you think that the Bible is a life guide, I'm not sureEnnui Elucidator


    I meant OT, not Torah. Book of Proverbs is a good life guide, good wisdom, a lot of it is common knowledge today.

    Being Jewish is not about interpreting some text correctly (hermeneutics), but about being a part of a people, i.e. community.Ennui Elucidator

    I understand and agree; as long as you're a Jew you're a Jew. However, humanistic judaism essentially asserts defines a Jew as anyone "who identifies with the history, culture, and future of the Jewish people."

    Do you agree with that? Do words just not have any meaning anymore? Anyone can define whatever identity now. Why speak the truth (biblical principle, btw.)
  • Moses
    58


    More on humanistic judaism according to wikipedia:

    -Ethics and morality should serve human needs, and choices should be based upon consideration of the consequences of actions rather than pre-ordained rules or commandments.

    Humanistic judaism adopts some form of consequentialism but what do we tell the child who asks "why?" More importantly, how do we judge the consequences of the actions? That's the real question.

    Also what about animal needs? What if the needs of humans conflict? Where do you go for answers to moral questions through this religion?

    -Jewish history, like all history, is a human saga, a testament to the significance of human power and human responsibility. Biblical and other traditional texts are the products of human activity and are best understood through archaeology and other scientific analysis.

    This one is just an attack on theology and philosophy.

    -A Jew is someone who identifies with the history, culture, and future of the Jewish people.

    Translation: Descent is meaningless, anyone is free to identify as a Jew or not. This is just a deconstruction of the word/meaning of "Jew."
  • Ennui Elucidator
    455
    We're arguing semantics here. We could talk about Judaism in practice or Judaism in terms of its central ideas and practices.Moses

    But it isn't semantics. The core/central ideas and practices are not found in the Bible (books of Moses or otherwise). You can't hold up a book, say "This is your religion!", and expect people of that religion to agree with you by force of character. The book had its last entry what, 2200 years ago when the people were a temple cult slitting the throats of animals? Seriously, the people (and religion) have long since moved on (undeniably helped by the destruction of the second temple and the transition into the diaspora). My point, again, is not about the facts/beliefs of Judaism, but about how you (or outsiders generally) like to impose essential characteristics onto ideas/people/etc.

    I find there to be some irony in an ethicist calling out religious beliefs as being bullshit. Just so that we are on a somewhat equal playingfield, I am an ethical nihilist/absurdist. There is no normative statement that can be made that is other than "Hooray!" or "Boo!!" (i.e. emotivism). In that context, every axiological claim is of necessity "bullshit" (be it religious, ethical, or aesthetic in nature). While I am happy to discuss the underpinnings of value, I think you've quite the hurdle to jump to somehow attach the conversation of values to "truth."

    Do words just not have any meaning anymore?Moses

    This is, to some extent, where @Banno's thread began and many people take up - whether words (or concepts) have essential features, i.e. that there is some way to employ a word incorrectly by virtue of the word's sine qua non. For my part, I am firmly in the camp that meaning is individually constructed within the context of that individual's aptitudes/experiences/proclivities/etc. What I mean when I type and what I mean when you read it are never the same thing, even if we act as if they are. Meaning can only ever be established through interpretation of signs, i.e. the process by which the meaning maker converts a signifier to the signified within a particular context. I am completely comfortable with the heuristic approach to language (or, if you prefer, meaning by approximation). Are the signs employed effective?

    With that said, group identity is fascinating and complex. There are ways that ingroups define themselves, ways that outgroups define ingroups, ways that individuals define themselves, ways that people define others, etc. What constitutes a particular person has a multiplicity of answers. Asking "who is a Jew?" is inherently ambiguous and requires a great deal of parsing to answer. Suffice it to say, I have my own view on what constitutes membership in a group and self-declaration doesn't cut it.
  • Hanover
    8.1k
    Why you think that the Bible is a life guide, I'm not sure, but it sounds like you bought what someone else was selling. Give the "Pentateuch" a read and see if you can find where it tells you what to do.Ennui Elucidator

    I recognize it's not the mainstream view, but see:

    https://www.yoramhazony.org/phs/

    Or watch the discussion with Rabbi Sacks: https://youtu.be/8bKJF3UjkLU
  • Moses
    58
    Seriously, the people (and religion) have long since moved on (undeniably helped by the destruction of the second temple and the transition into the diaspora).Ennui Elucidator


    What do we keep and what do we throw away? You imply that having "moved on" is a good thing but you clarified that you're a moral nihilist so moral advancement shouldn't occur for you. The purpose of the OT is to instruct/inform regardless of whether you agree with it. The OT is a guide. I don't understand on what basis a reconstructionist jew comes to advocate a moral/ethical positions. People always need to live and make decisions on what basis ought we make them. Religions need to answer this. There needs to be something here. Especially in the realm of ethics.

    The core/central ideas and practices are not found in the Bible (books of Moses or otherwise). You can't hold up a book, say "This is your religion!"Ennui Elucidator

    You're digging your heels in here. Earlier I said we can conceive of Judaism as either a current practice/civilization or a philosophical system but for some reason you reject this distinction. I'm happy to consider both angles, we could talk about Jewish civilization today or we can talk about Judaism as a philosophical/theological system. I don't see why we need to point to one definitively and totally exclude the other. I'm happy to talk about jewish civilization today, but we'd really just be describing what is, not what ought to be unless you think I've missed something.

    I also don't equate the bible with my religion. That is not my position. It is a history, so if you're into that...

    Regarding meaning I'm not going to say much. I feel like we should just use our words to clarify and we can discuss different aspects of a concept and use precise wording to aid understanding.

    Good discussion, let me know if there anything you'd like me address that I missed. I'm also not sure where you got that I'm an outsider.
  • Banno
    16.9k
    There is no normative statement that can be made that is other than "Hooray!" or "Boo!!" (i.e. emotivism). In that context, every axiological claim is of necessity "bullshit" (be it religious, ethical, or aesthetic in nature).Ennui Elucidator

    Well, there's far more going on than one might put into a single post, but notice that "every axiological claim is bullshit" does not follow directly from emotivism. "Boo for slavery" is not bullshit.


    A troll who cleans up after himself... how odd.
  • Hillary
    1.9k
    .
    — whollyrolling

    :fire:
    Agent Smith

    :lol:

    ...
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    2.1k


    Possibly a cycle of aggression and regret. Wrath is a powerful debilitating addictive chemical. :smile:

    Definitely odd.
  • Moses
    58


    When I mentioned bullshit I was referencing Harry Frankfurt's conception of the term. Bullshit is "speech intended to persuade without regard for truth. The liar cares about the truth and attempts to hide it; the bullshitter doesn't care if what they say is true or false, but cares only whether the listener is persuaded."

    I don't think reconstructionist judaism falls under this definition, but humanistic judaism is obvious bullshit. Under humanistic judaism anyone who feels like it can be a Jew, morals are whatever is popular; it's feel good ethics without backing (or at least none that I could find). As far as I can tell the movement (around 50 years old) is more designed to be super-inclusive and progressive and unconcerned with philosophic truth or rational explanation/backing of ideas. One can disagree with utilitarianism or Kant but at least there's an underlying logic to it.

    It's fine if people think morality is nonsense, but if you think that then please don't present moral claims.
  • Banno
    16.9k
    Ok. I was misled by your '...every axiological claim is of necessity "bullshit"'; so meant ' every axiological claim in humanistic judaism is of necessity "bullshit"'...?

    the bullshitter doesn't care if what they say is true or false...Moses

    Only, when an abolitionist claims slavery is unacceptable, they do care about the truth of that statement. That's by way of pointing to a problem with naive emotivism; moral statements are statements, and hence prima facie are truth apt.

    It's fine if people think morality is nonsense, but if you think that then please don't present moral claims.Moses

    I quite agree.
  • Agent Smith
    4.4k
    Bullshit is "speech intended to persuade without regard for truth. — Moses

    Bullshit = Rhetoric then?!

    Maybe there's a very good reason for why we all bullshit so much. Like authentic bullshit (manure), it may act as a fertilzer for good memes, helping 'em blossom! :chin:

    My garden of meme-complexes is looking fab. Thanks to my own and others' bullshit! :grin:
  • Moses
    58
    ...every axiological claim is of necessity "bullshit"';Banno


    this was ennui's position, not mine.

    Only, when an abolitionist claims slavery is unacceptable, they do care about the truth of that statement. That's by way of pointing to a problem with naive emotivism; moral statements are statements, and hence prima facie are truth apt.Banno

    :up:

    Bullshit = Rhetoric then?!Agent Smith

    i think we'd have to better define rhetoric so no comment. the bullshitter is unconcerned with truth/more interested in persuading the listener. if one is being honest and transparent about one's views like many of us are on TPF then we are not bullshitting. i think you see more bullshit in religion than in philosophy.
  • Agent Smith
    4.4k
    There are things far more important than truth? :chin:
  • Moses
    58


    Not sure how to take your statement. Are you asking me whether there are things more important than truth?

    Yeah. a lot of rhetoric is bullshit. It could serve a purpose but it's still bullshit. It's fine. It depends on the bullshit. It's a pervasive in modern society but on some topics like religion it becomes too much for me.
  • Moses
    58


    More thoughts on reconstructionism vs. orthodox judaism.

    Let's take homosexuality; orthodox judaism is against while reform/conservative/reconstrictionist community is de facto pro/permissive of it.

    so the reconstructionist could argue that the bulk of the "modern" (excluding orthodox+) jewish community today is accepting of homosexuality and how civilization has evolved and to trust in the process of civilization evolving.

    the honest reconstructionist accept the implication that he smuggles normative connotations into the term "evolving" for evolving here is seen as a good thing.

    this position also goes directly counter to the bible in that the bible describes the israelites as a stiff-necked people who frequently stray from god and are in turn punished. this happens repeatedly. so given that we ought to learn from history where should that bring us now?
  • Ennui Elucidator
    455
    Again, this is a theoretically a thread about the concept of religion rather than the particulars of Jewish hairsplitting, so I don’t want to go too far into denominational/doctrinal splits in modern (or near-modern) Judaism. I do, however, think there is something useful in understanding how the “orthodox” Jews that present as something akin to “authentic” Judaism are engaged in an ahistorical retelling of mythic history for purposes of contemporary legitimization in a similar fashion to the way in which the Torah was allegedly assembled in order to provide contemporary legitimization of the redactors/editors. Accepting the origin story of a group with an agenda is dangerous - if not for the simple reason that accepting it achieves the goal of the story.

    The reason that I quoted Kaplan is not to get into Reconstructionist Judaism, but to point out that major modern thinkers within religion understand that their own religions are a function of communities and the needs of those communities as they evolve through time. Just because the word “evolve” is referenced, doesn’t drag all of the teleological non-sense often associated with evolutionists. Evolution is value neutral - what reproduces is what reproduces. Not to get too wrapped up in Dawkins, but his contribution of the notion of “memes” as the mechanism by which social practice is transmitted and subject to the same evolutionary analysis as “genes” is very useful. What survives in religious communities is merely what survives - that survival has no inherent relationship to purity/fidelity/etc. to the past or the features of prior communities. What is transmitted from one generation to the next is a function of the needs of the generation doing the transmission, not the needs of long since dead forbearers.

    It is, perhaps, helpful to speak of taxonomy and the danger of not learning the lessons from biology and or applying them to the social sciences (as applied to religion in this instance). Naming a “species” serves certain purposes and does not magically make the reproducing organism of a fundamentally different sort than the resulting organism/s. Instead, the naming serves as a dividing line in the sand between the grains before and the grains after with full awareness of the actuality of the continuum being analyzed. Unlike grains of sand, however, what begins as something like a rodent may one day reproduce in to an elephant such that there is a meaningful distinction between how the rodent related to the world as compared to the elephant. Despite the obvious dissimilarity between the two, the elephant is the heir to the rodent and one cannot speak of the essence of the rodent as anything aside from a definitional imposition. So yes, some modern religions appear to hue more closely to their forebearers than others, but that does not make the doppelgänger any more the descendent of the earlier religion than the one that looks radically different.

    I grant to you in advance that there are lots of good reasons to distinguish between Jews who did not “follow” Jesus and those that did, but in a very real way, the early “Christians” that were Jewish would have come to define modern Judaism but for their ceding their claim to Judaism and effort to be universalist. I don’t necessarily want to debate early Christianity and its particulars, but I do think the example serves as a useful example of how religious communities can reach dividing points and what it means to be the inheritor of a religious tradition (aka meme).

    I'm also not sure where you got that I'm an outsider.Moses

    I’m not sure why you think I thought you are an “outsider.” My reference to ingroups, outgroups, etc. was not about you in particular, but on how different contexts can result in different identities. One major struggle of the modern liberal who wishes to define him/her/it/zi/etc.self against the world is how the world will say, “It is nice that you think that, but this is what you are…” As it turns out, self-identity is insufficient grounds to convince others that you are (or are not) a member of a group/tradition/etc.

    Regardless, the notion of “who is an X” and the like (independent of the subject and object) is generally not monolithic. Speaking of the philosophy of Judaism or Jewish history is equally perilous - there are many philosophies and many histories. The reduction of the many to the one is not a reflection of something inherent about the multiplicity, but the values/agenda of the reducer. Who gets to speak for Judaism (what counts for Jewish Philosophy/theology) informs and is informed by what is taken (a fortiori) as authority on what Jewish Philosophy/theology is. Put simply, we come to a subject with ideas about the subject that define the subject in advance of our perception of the subject.

    Maybe @Banno can help me flesh out a method by which we can employee an ostensive heuristic to delineate what accounts for a slab.



    Without being glib, I think that it is dangerous to speak of majoritarian practice in a religious community as coming to define what that religion is. Before WWII, the majority of the Jews in the world lived in Europe and the vast majority of them were slaughtered. The Judaism that survived the holocaust is not the Judaism of the dead, but the Judaism of the survivors. This is what evolution looks like - what survives is what survives, not what we think is right or ought to be.

    Regarding trusting in evolution, it was MLK who said that the arc of moral history is long, but it bends towards justice. The Christian can easily leave it to god and time to fix it all. (cf Christian and Jewish eschatology) The modern Jew (and some of the historic ones too) see it as their personal obligation to bring justice to the world even if they cannot personally achieve it (while it is not for you to finish the job of perfecting the world, you are not free to desist from trying). The metaphysical structure of Judaism between the sacred and the secular - the sanctified and the profane - and the obligation of the Jew to bring holiness into the world is fundamentally at odds with any passive notion of progress by virtue of the passage of time. Indeed, it is the charge of humanity (and humanity alone) to repair the world and restore what was broken. God abandoned the world and is not going to fix it.

    For what it is worth, the reason that Judaism fits so well with existentialism is because of the ideas of personal and communal meaning making in a world otherwise devoid of meaning. While people here don’t typically discuss religious philosophy (and not much philosophy of religion either), it is worthwhile to see how one can get from properly slitting the throats of cattle in a pretty room by men with the proper number and quality of testicles to where we are today. Just as philosophy will engage in another round of re-interpreting the Greeks or Germans to justify some seemingly novel philosophical idea (you know, doing philosophy), so too will members of a religion engage with their mythic texts to legitimize seemingly novel ideas (doing religion). It isn’t just about the Greeks being right and us needing to properly interpret them (philology), but about their being a tradition which provides a useful context for having the conversation and an appeal to antiquity which provides some grounding to avoid accusations of being too far outside the playground to be taken seriously - after all, if it is really that important or profound, wouldn’t people have said something about it before?

    The vicious, radical nature of contemporary thinking which claims no inheritance from the past and no obligation to treat kindly that which came before is anomalous. It might be the new normal, but people’s seeming desire for connectedness to past and future suggests that we will continue to seek wisdom from what has come before and to justify our contemporary claims by making them fit with our traditions.

    I leave this post here because this is already too much. I apologize for the disjointedness.
  • Ennui Elucidator
    455
    Well, there's far more going on than one might put into a single post, but notice that "every axiological claim is bullshit" does not follow directly from emotivism. "Boo for slavery" is not bullshit.Banno

    I wouldn’t call it bullshit, but I suspect that “truth” as Frankfurt meant it makes a bad bedfellow with normative claims. It is in that context which I made the comment.

    People are social - with this comes heaps of empathy, sympathy, and cooperative behavior. Taking someone’s preferences into account independent of your theories of truth/epistemology is exactly the sort of thing I’d expect people to do. Not just that, I’d expect consideration of those preferences to be a fundamental basis upon which people act. Anyone who would discount preference as legitimate justification is just lying to themselves and spending too much time sniffing their own farts.

    Sure, we can argue about how we resolve competing preferences or whether or current moral intuitions permit multiplicity of “right” answers, but this isn’t the thread for that. Looking to the universe to provide “truth” that you can attach your normative claims to independent of people is a fool’s errand. Abandoning truth as the only (or even primary) consideration in normative judgments isn’t to say that there are no normative judgments, but it is to be honest about the origin of those judgments. Yes, slavery is wrong, but not because of the next version of the grand unified theory. We can say absolutely nothing regarding observations of quarks or blackholes that gets us to “Don’t torture babies.” If you want to try to smuggle some value theory in on the back of “truth” as Frankfurt’s allegation of bullshit used the term, I’m game.

    Or maybe accusations of bullshit against religion are as inaccurate as accusations of bullshit against art and ethics. Just maybe “not caring about the truth” can mean different things in different contexts and that universal condemnation of such is unwarranted. You may have read this before, but I found it amusing in this moment.


    Philosophers have a vocational bent for trying to divine the essences of things that most people never suspected had an essence, and bullshit is a case in point. Could there really be some property that all instances of bullshit possess and all non-instances lack? The question might sound ludicrous, but it is, at least in form, no different from one that philosophers ask about truth. Among the most divisive issues in philosophy today is whether there is anything important to be said about the essential nature of truth. Bullshit, by contrast, might seem to be a mere bagatelle. Yet there are parallels between the two which lead to the same perplexities.

    Where do you start if you are an academic philosopher in search of the quiddity of bullshit? “So far as I am aware,” Frankfurt dryly observes, “very little work has been done on this subject.”
    — “Say Anything by Jim Holt”

    Essential nature of religion - essential nature of bullshit…. A match of divine intent or mere coincidence?
  • Ennui Elucidator
    455


    What is somewhat funny about that video is how they are a touch more pious/apologetic than I am, but don’t majorly deviate from any of my themes. Even the orthodox say that Jews in their generation must re-intepret the Bible in their time and keep it is a living document (covenant, if you will), but somehow people are convinced that there is this timeless slavish devotion to a singular reading of the Old Testament.

    In any event, I love their enthusiasm, but at least through when I stopped watching (over an hour), they didn’t address the major objection to any alleged use of the Bible as a personal document - no one could read it or had a copy of it aside from a very limited group. It was a political document drafted for a particular purpose and immediately abstracted away from its putative subject - the people Israel. We can absolutely reconstruct the document as a guide to personal philosophy and an appeal to reason, but that is the baggage of a tradition that existed long after the document came to be. The beauty of the tradition should not be understated (whether I agree with it or not), but apologetics is apologetics. It is interesting how Saks stresses that there is no word for “obey” in the Bible in support of his theme of freedom but zooms over the “commandments” part and says then says that “command and control” is not a part of the Biblical narrative. Oddness abounds. 36ish minutes.
  • Agent Smith
    4.4k
    There are things far more important than truth? :chin:Agent Smith

    What nonsense!

    :snicker:
  • Hillary
    1.9k
    There are things far more important than truth? :chin:
    — Agent Smith

    What nonsense!

    :snicker:
    Agent Smith

    :lol:

    You're the best!
  • Moses
    58


    Thanks for the post. You bring up a lot of different points here so I'll try to address a couple more in detail. I prefer substance over breadth. Let me know if I glossed over something you'd like to address.

    I'm not quite sure what your position on God is. You say God abandoned us which would be deism, but you also say that the world/universe is devoid of divine meaning which sounds more like atheism. I would also argue that moral nihilism is not a strong practical grounding to build a religion/moral system.

    Accepting the origin story of a group with an agenda is dangerous - if not for the simple reason that accepting it achieves the goal of the story.Ennui Elucidator

    What is the agenda here? Who are these villains that edited the Torah?

    On the subject of God you have surprisingly definitive/strong views. More definitive/stronger than mine (I'm an agnostic theist.) You express a greater degree of certainty and I don't know how this certainty is warranted. I'm the skeptic in this convo.

    I also don't believe humans have this kind of immediate, direct knowledge of God/ultimate reality where we can look at the world and say "God has abandoned us" - what do we as humans really know about that? We live like 70-80 years if we're lucky (or unlucky, maybe death is bliss and life is pain); we can't zoom out. We don't know what happens after death and we take our best guess at what happened before and then process it with faulty minds prone to a billion cognitive biases. We'll never know the effects of events 100, 300, 1000 etc. years in the future. It is beyond our comprehension.

    I don't know where draw the line in terms of existence. Do you believe that Moses existed? King David? It's an interesting question to ask what it would even mean for these people to exist. This is actually one of the fun parts about reading the bible - in book of daniel it starts off historical - in babylon after the exile with king nebuchadnezzar and it mentions he had jewish subjects who needed to learn babylonian (this to me seems plausible for an ancient ruler to do) and the story involves one of those subjects although he probably didn't exist - in any case the story starts off plausible but somewhere along the line things just kinda veer.

    If it is made up then someone at some point in history created pages and pages of fake genealogies. The OT is more progressive than the Greeks - who wrote centuries later - on disability and on the poor. If nothing else, considering its time period it's quite good on some issues.

    Get the big ones right and I'll take a closer look.
  • baker
    4.5k
    Why you think that the Bible is a life guide, I'm not sure, but it sounds like you bought what someone else was selling. Give the "Pentateuch" a read and see if you can find where it tells you what to do.
    — Ennui Elucidator

    I recognize it's not the mainstream view, but see:

    https://www.yoramhazony.org/phs/
    Hanover

    You know those things by which to guide your life also without the Bible. You don't need the Bible for its content, you need it for the institutional justification of said content.

    Without the Bible, you'd be yet another sucker "just trying to do the right thing". With the Bible, you'd be doing the exact same things, but you'd have the divine justification for them and feel righteous.
  • Hillary
    1.9k
    Without the Bible, you'd be yet another sucker "just trying to do the right thing". With the Bible, you'd be doing the exact same things, but you'd have the divine justification for them and feel righteous.baker

    Great point! "Me beating those faggots to death wasn't that bad after all!"
  • Hanover
    8.1k
    You know those things by which to guide your life also without the Bible. You don't need the Bible for its content, you need it for the institutional justification of said content.baker

    That might describe someone, but it doesn't describe me.

    I don't subscribe to the notion that wisdom and ethically appropriate behavior is known a priori. It is learned, and where that knowledge is found is varied. Maybe you acquired it from your parents, some role model, or a religion, I don't know. What I can say is that the Bible, for whatever historical reason, in Western society, became the vehicle for those most concerned and focused on finding meaning and purpose to our existence. From that piece of literature,with much creativity and bias, entire systems of often conflicting thoughts sprang forth.

    My resort to the Bible for wisdom has nothing to do with delusions that God himself spoke it while Moses transcribed it. It has to do with it having been designated the human societal Western Constitution (so to speak) and the thousands of years of our best and wisest having wrenched meaning from it, even if the literal text no longer resembles the final interpretation.
  • Ennui Elucidator
    455
    I can throw lots more words at this, but I doubt it will clarify much.

    One can wear many hats and walk between various language communities. When speaking as a “philosopher” I will say things a certain way, when speaking as a participant in meaning making, I will speak another way, when describing other people’s beliefs, I will speak a third way, when speaking for other people using their voice, I will speak in another, and on it goes.

    Problematically, belief doesn’t mean the same thing in all of these varied contexts. To say that Jews believe that god abandoned them is both entirely too generally and yet not wrong. Whether god exists, whether god abandoned the Jews, etc. is an aside from the statement of belief. To the extent that the belief motivates action (or at least has explanatory power for some set of behaviors), it is largely irrelevant whether that belief satisfies your epistemic/truth conditions. For my part, I find that god language can be terribly useful in certain conversations. Even when god is dead, talking about/responding to god moves the ball.

    I didn’t refer to myself a nihilist/absurdist lightly. Though it will gain me few friends around here, I believe rather little. I admittedly do lots of “acting as if” or “speaking as if,” but if tomorrow you told me I was a brain in a vat, I wouldn’t find some core “belief in” destroyed. We have the now and our experience of it - that is all. History, the other side of the world, etc. are all just ideas that are more or less useful in accounting for things we do experience. Suffice it to say, “All speech is political speech” is a pretty fair summary of my approach towards language. What accounts for “real” or “historical” is different than what accounts for “myth” or “fiction” only in-so-far as we assign one group of ideas to one genre and the other group to a different genre. Sure, you might say that history books can be “wrong” whereas fiction cannot, but that is only because you privilege one narrative over another. We have what is extent and our interpretation of it, what “was” or “could have been” is forever gone and is but a figment of our collective imaginations (or memories, if you like).

    I’m not sure if any of that responds to what you want to talk about. As to whether nihilism provides grounds (strong or otherwise) for religion, imagine me gesturing to the vast amount of religious existential thought in the 20th and 21st centuries. People are getting on without god and recognizing that radical freedom is not liberty to do what you want, just the ability to do what you can. We created god (even if god created us) and we get to decide what that means. Volitional constraint combined with self-imposed/enforced obligation as negotiated in community is, on my view, where we find the substance of god creation. Sure, in prior centuries god was foisted upon us and we were beaten into believing that god was “out there” to be found/revealed/etc., but that was confused.

    Call it god, call it justice, call it whatever you want, but the universe does not weep if I die now, tomorrow, or never. Gussying up emotivism with appeals to reason, logic, and other intellectual contrivances to get people to more readily agree with you is lovely and all, but it doesn’t change the game. We decide what we ought to do. We use force - physical, social, emotional, etc. - to make the world what we want or change it into what we believe it ought to be. Sit with that. Let it linger. After awhile when you’ve calmed your mind of all the thoughts about objectivity and the magic that happens when you get to say “slavery is wrong” rather than “I believe slavery is wrong” you may momentarily embrace the peace that comes with knowing that things as they are are just how they are. In that moment, take ownership of the thought that comes after - that you want the world to be different. And then consider this - that that desire alone is sufficient warrant to make it so.

    Here is the turn - that your warrant is not the same as my warrant and that what you want won’t compel me to want it, too. It is only through the process of social negotiation that we can arrange our desires in mutually beneficial ways. No magic. No god. No logical force of the universe compelling action A over action B. Simple. Honest. How it has always been and always will be. Sad that slavery isn’t wrong, but even worse that people have slaves. Sad that lots of horrible stuff isn’t judged poorly as a feature of the universe. Even worse that people do horrible things. Slavery IS wrong on my account, but not because someone told me. My values are enough.
  • Moses
    58
    We have the now and our experience of it - that is all.Ennui Elucidator

    I disagree. Completely. How do we process that experience? That is everything. The brain processes things; the mind is not an empty receptive vessel for the outside world. Read Stephen Pinker.

    How do you process losing that baseball game? Or tennis match? Or a crush rejecting you? How do you explain it to yourself when you're recounting that failure to yourself later.

    Call it god, call it justice, call it whatever you want, but the universe does not weep if I die now, tomorrow, or never.Ennui Elucidator

    What are you expecting from the universe? How caring do you need the universe to be for a death? Do flowers need to pop up when people die? Would that be caring enough for you?

    Gussying up emotivism with appeals to reason, logic, and other intellectual contrivances to get people to more readily agree with youEnnui Elucidator

    You don't get it. I don't care if people agree with me. I'm not engaging with you for popularity points in the philosophy forum or to make internet friends. If I'm engaging you it's because I enjoy challenging/learning the boundaries of your thinking and if you can answer my queries then you've helped me gain a better understanding so thank you.

    Show me that I'm legitimately wrong and I'll thank you for it. That's philosophy.


  • Ennui Elucidator
    455
    You don't get it. I don't care if people agree with me. I'm not engaging with you for popularity points in the philosophy forum or to make internet friends. If I'm engaging you it's because I enjoy challenging/learning the boundaries of your thinking and if you can answer my queries then you've helped me gain a better understanding so thank you.Moses

    Granted this conversation is between us, but it isn't exclusively (or primarily) about us. When I speak of ethics trying to put lipstick on a pig, I'm not directing the comment at you personally. You are neither responsible for the field of ethics nor people's obsession with trying to make it more than what it is. My reference to getting people to more readily agree with "you" was truly an abstracted "you." Often ethics is used in answer to the question, "Why should I do what I don't want to do?" If your only answer is, "Because I want you to," a host of people seem to think that means the person will simply do what they want rather than that thing you think they should do. Ethics is a form of compulsion by way of logic/reason/divine will/etc. You "must/should/ought" presumes both agency and something capable of imposing obligations/duties/etc.

    The only reason I am even discussing ethics in this thread is because you brought it up as something essential about religion. It more or less started here...

    The problem is when you try to remove God from religions and still maintain that the rituals or morals are still good; it's like removing the foundation from a house and expecting it to still stand. . . . Sure you could try to salvage some of the ideas like human life having value or being nice to the poor but these ideas need to be justified on totally different foundations.Moses

    Went here...

    EDIT: The Pentateuch is largely a life guide; if religion has been degraded to mere aesthetics then it has been degraded.Moses

    Moved to this...

    I approach things more as an ethicist. In any case I don't understand why we're talking about justification for religion here.Moses

    And was restated here...

    The purpose of the OT is to instruct/inform regardless of whether you agree with it. The OT is a guide. I don't understand on what basis a reconstructionist jew comes to advocate a moral/ethical positions. People always need to live and make decisions on what basis ought we make them. Religions need to answer this. There needs to be something here. Especially in the realm of ethics.Moses

    If I misread you, I misread you. We all make mistakes.

    My response is straightforward (so far as I can tell), that in realms of meaning making, people make meaning sui sponte/ex nihilio - it is not imposed on them by god, reason, or otherwise. Whether you speak of religion, ethics, or otherwise, the subject of the conversation has to be about the meaning makers. The "truth" of value claims does not exist outside of the preferences of people and it is therefore tautological/useless to point out that when people make value judgments, they are inherently unconcerned with the "truth" of the world outside of human preferences. We speak of ethics/religion in persuasive language precisely because getting others to share our values is what makes the things we value valuable to other people. To the extent actions are informed by values, there is no more to it than that. Appealing to antiquity/authority/god/logic/the universe/etc. is simply a method by which we persuade others (or ourselves), but that method is misdirection - you/I/we create meaning, not the things we appeal to.

    In some ways it all goes back to the Greeks, are things god beloved because the gods love them or do the gods love them because they are god beloved? There is always the infinite regress if value has to be justified by something other than the act of valuing. Existential religions (which is what I was referring to above) get that. They do not make bones about it. They (and their members/adherents) are OK with being the meaning makers and do not have to carry on the farce of claiming that something/someone else creates meaning. How humanistic/atheistic/etc. X makes meaning with a dynamic tradition is the exact same way that anyone else does. The way that a religion can exist in that context is identical to how it can exist (or did exist) in any other context.

    In this way, and exactly as @Banno knew at the outset, the "concept of religion" is what we make of it and there is nothing essential keeping it in its place in the firmament. Pearl clutching over language and/or conceptual purity through times/communities/etc. is adorable, but things only seemed fixed as long as we could maintain the pretense that they were. The very article that he posted was about this tension:


    ... This entry therefore provides a brief history of the how the semantic range of religion has grown and shifted over the years, and then considers two philosophical issues that arise for the contested concept, issues that are likely to arise for other abstract concepts used to sort cultural types (such as “literature”, “democracy”, or “culture” itself). First, the disparate variety of practices now said to fall within this category raises a question of whether one can understand this social taxon in terms of necessary and sufficient properties or whether instead one should instead treat it as a family resemblance concept. Here, the question is whether the concept religion can be said to have an essence. Second, the recognition that the concept has shifted its meanings, that it arose at a particular time and place but was unknown elsewhere, and that it has so often been used to denigrate certain cultures, raises the question whether the concept corresponds to any kind of entity in the world at all or whether, instead, it is simply a rhetorical device that should be retired. This entry therefore considers the rise of critical and skeptical analyses of the concept, including those that argue that the term refers to nothing. ..
    — SEP on Concept of Religion
  • baker
    4.5k
    I don't subscribe to the notion that wisdom and ethically appropriate behavior is known a priori.Hanover

    Neither do I, but it seems that it is evolutionariliy advantageous to take for granted that wisdom and ethically appropriate behavior are known a priori. From what I've seen, people generally consider it at least neurotic to have doubts about what is moral and what isn't. Morality is generally regarded as something one "either has or doesn't have", not something that can be learned (psychopaths/sociopaths "learn" morality, but it's not a natural part of who they are).

    What I can say is that the Bible, for whatever historical reason, in Western society, became the vehicle for those most concerned and focused on finding meaning and purpose to our existence. From that piece of literature,with much creativity and bias, entire systems of often conflicting thoughts sprang forth.

    My resort to the Bible for wisdom has nothing to do with delusions that God himself spoke it while Moses transcribed it. It has to do with it having been designated the human societal Western Constitution (so to speak) and the thousands of years of our best and wisest having wrenched meaning from it, even if the literal text no longer resembles the final interpretation.

    Then this is the institutional justification of the Bible's content for you: it's reception and role in Western society.

    I see no value in the Bible, given that it can be interpreted in a million ways, in mutually exclusive ways, and that in any particular personal interaction between people where the Bible is used, the interpretation that prevails is the one given by the person who holds more power than the other person(s) involved.
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