• Wayfarer
    6k
    I had the idea that in all of the main Christian denominations, ‘transcendence’ and ‘immanence’ existed as a pair - in that God is both transcendent [beyond the world] and immanent [having taken birth as Jesus Christ]. That is why I would have thought that, from a Christian perspective, the idea of the possibility of anything whatever being ‘solely immanent’ is nonsensical - it is like saying you can have mountains without valleys, left without right, up without down [to allude momentarily to Taoism]. Immanent implies transcendent and vice versa, at least from the perspective of doctrinal Christianity.

    Speaking of which - there’s a book called The Fall of Man and the Foundations of Science, Peter Harrison:

    Peter Harrison provides an account of the religious foundations of scientific knowledge. He shows how the approaches to the study of nature that emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were directly informed by theological discussions about the Fall of Man and the extent to which the mind and the senses had been damaged by that primeval event. Scientific methods, he suggests, were originally devised as techniques for ameliorating the cognitive damage wrought by sin. At its inception, modern science was conceptualized as a means of recapturing the knowledge of nature that Adam had once possessed. Contrary to a widespread view that sees science emerging in conflict with religion, Harrison argues that theological considerations were of vital importance in the framing of the scientific method.

    I suspect this idea will go down like a lead balloon but I think it’s worth mentioning.
  • Erik
    473
    But this "other-worldly" transcendence is actually no transcendence at all since it is in-truth conceptualized as another immanent possibility of the world. It is actually a devaluation of transcendence. For example, Heaven is not a different world than this one, it is actually this Earth, and this nature that will be healed and lifted up. The position that the world is entirely sick, beyond redemption, is a heresy in Christianity.Agustino

    I actually like this approach, but are you suggesting that Nietzsche unfairly caricatured Christianity? That genuine Christianity - as opposed to Nietzsche's straw man - doesn't posit another "true" world in the beyond which serves to falsify and condemn this one? That Heaven and Earth will be ultimately be reconciled?

    I think his evidence is pretty compelling, with things like pride and the accumulation of power being seen as sins against God rather than natural expressions of ascending life. I assumed the "other" world for Christians was one in which the meek shall reign supreme, the proud shall be eternally punished, etc -- not exactly how things normally play out in this one. This picture has obvious consequences in and for this world, so in a certain sense you're right about the constant interplay between the two even as they're separated in thought.

    And even if it wasn't - another world is still a world, and therefore not transcendent. Whatever can be brought into the world as a thing or state of affairs is not transcendent. So the "other-worldly" transcendence, located in a different world, is a contradiction in terms. Transcendence is not worldly - it is not a different world. Transcendence exists at every point in the world, and in every world. It is not another thing in the world. It is not something that can be immanentized - brought into the world, captured within your hands. If it was, then it would not be transcendent.Agustino

    But can Christians or Muslims, for instance, have knowledge of that transcendent world beyond vague hopes and descriptions? Streets paved with gold and seventy virgins sort of stuff? Whatever paradise is, it will be another, albeit far superior world, of course, but it's one that we who are still living have little or no access to. That being the case, it's taken as an article of faith: just wait until you see what God has in store for you!

    I had a similar conversation with someone on here recently and it seemed like he was understanding "transcendence" in such a broad way as to render it indistinguishable from immanence. As mentioned in reference to Heidegger's philosophy, the two are inseparable for him and maybe even for Nietzsche - but for religious believers within Christianity and Islam (with possible exception of mystics) it seems like they're separated by a wide gulf. To repeat, Heaven in those religions is regarded as a "transcendent" world which the living are denied access to, right? That's like the sine qua non of these religions in fact, the ultimate reward promised to the faithful.

    That juxtaposition of this world with another - "how the true world became a fiction" - is what I imagine Nietzsche had in mind. Is there a different term than "other-worldly" that would better describe the supposedly perfect one? I mean, I agree with you on the transcendence/immanence relatedness in principle, but with all due respect I just don't think most religious believers would countenance this philosophical position of yours at all as it relates to their highest hopes. I'm admittedly somewhat ignorant (or even more than somewhat) of specific details, however, so I could be wrong.

    It is much more of a pervading (creative, active) quality that can be tapped into anywhere and at any time. It is what Spinoza called natura naturans, or indeed "the will to power" or whatever you want to call the active force that drives natura naturata. The will to power is self-overcoming - it is transcendence itself that shines through the world, pervades it. It is like the air that pervades the lungs.Agustino

    Again, I find this very congenial, but I also think it would be rejected, and vehemently so, by all but a very small minority of religious believers within the Judeo-Christian tradition. To my limited knowledge Spinoza's God was/is a far cry from the God of Augustine, of Aquinas, of Luther. He (or rather It) is something Nietzsche could respect, and precisely because of His immanence! This conception of God sounds a bit like the Tao, or possibly even the seemingly pantheistic Logos of Heraclitus. But to drive the point home, emphatically not the intensely personal loving and caring God of those Western religions which appeal to the "otherworldly" hopes of the faithful.

    Anyway, we've gone far afield here (apologies SX) but it's quite possible, likely even, that I'm still not grasping your attempt to collapse or reconceive the distinction between immanent and transcendent. Have another go at it if you'd like.
  • StreetlightX
    2.4k
    I find it interesting that reference to knowledge is mostly absent (although it's probably implied?) from your post and "seeing" is used instead. It makes me think if a distinction between surveying and knowing would be applicable here. In a way, "to see everything just as it is", to see everything in its singularity isn't precisely to do away with theory (and thus knowledge) altogether?Πετροκότσυφας

    That's a good point actually, and now that I'm thinking about it, it's not by accident that I'm avoiding 'knowledge' here. As far as it goes, I'm a bit of a hybrid Wittgenstinian/Heideggarian/Sellarsian on the topic. From Wittgenstein I draw on the idea that knowledge is a not much more than a kind of regional language-game in which the ability to answer 'how do you know...?' is just the ability to respond in a certain way (where this 'response' might require, depending on the circumstances, certain standards of proof (and what counts as proof? - look to the language-game)). There's a certain sense in which, if this philosophical understanding of knowledge is accepted, then the entire field of epistemology becomes a question for anthropologists, and not for philosophers ('ditch the ladder...').

    From Heidegger (and maybe Bergson?) I take the idea that our primary relation to the 'world' (or whatever you want to call it) is not one of 'knowledge', but of a deeper, 'pre-ontological disclosure' or 'vital' (a la 'living') kind, with knowledge as a kind of (inessential) add-on or supplement to this. Finally from Sellars (and Heidegger) I take the idea that to 'know' something is always to know something as something, which means being able to place it into a conceptual web which has it's own, specific kind of dynamics (stratification into token and type, general and particular), which requires a very specific kind of learning-to-do in order to be counted as knowledge proper (again, knowledge as regional language-game).

    The 'seeing' or 'understanding' that I'm leveraging Geuss/Nietzsche/Adorno to explicate - again, now that I think about it - probably belongs more to the order to sense: it's a question of how one makes sense of a phenomenon, of understanding the kind of thing it is and of the kinds of becomings it can enter into (it's ability to affect and be affected, qua Spinoza). This kind of understanding can, I think, be codified as knowledge, can be placed into conceptual web which would make it knowledge, but does not, 'in-itself', belong to the order of knowledge.

    Deleuze in D&R speaks of a kind of 'infinite learning' that marks any encounter with a genuine problem to be thought through, which only subsequently becomes codified into 'knowledge', which by contrast "designates only the generality of concepts or the calm possession of a rule enabling solutions." Or to shift metaphors: knowledge is like a still image of movement, where the understanding I'm after can only take place in and with the movement in action. Sorry if this seems like an unholy amalgamation of uneasily fitting puzzle-pieces, but these issues lie almost exactly on the edge of what I've been conceptually struggling through lately.
  • StreetlightX
    2.4k
    I had a discussion about exactly this with Mariner in another thread recently.
  • schopenhauer1
    1.8k
    I don't think I would say 'without concepts' though; I think philosophy is inseparable from - and perhaps defined by - conceptual activity (hence Adono: 'Philosophy has no choice but to operate with concepts...'). What is at stake is how concepts are employed: what kind of use they are put to. What is being inveighed against (as per the Geuss quote) are prepared categories and pregiven positions, not 'categories' and 'positions' tout court.

    It is a mistake, I think, to invoke a radical disjunction between some beatific intellectual intuition - as though one were to occupy the position of a all-seeing God in direct, unmediated contact with 'the things themselves' - and that of a rigid systematizing in which everything fits into pre-given boxes. The point is rather - to quote Adorno again - whom everyone seems to be ignoring! - to "assure ... the non-conceptual in the concept": to let our concepts respond to the singularities of 'each thing', to capture each thing in it's distinctiveness.

    There's a biblical trope in which God counts all the stars and gives a name to each one: each treated as the singular luminescence it is. One wants to do the same with concepts.
    StreetlightX


    Have you ever read any Whitehead? I think @apokrisis would blow a gasket that I even recommended him. But, he seemed to develop a philosophy of direct experience, or at least developed a vocabulary to talk about such things meaningfully. Would this be the direction you would are going down?

    From Whitehead quoted in SEP: An object is an ingredient in the character of some event. In fact the character of an event is nothing but the objects which are ingredient in it and the ways in which those objects make their ingression into the event. Thus the theory of objects is the theory of the comparison of events. Events are only comparable because they body forth permanences. We are comparing objects in events whenever we can say, ‘There it is again.’ Objects are the elements in nature which can ‘be again.’ (1920, 143-4)[/quote]

    fixed scientific cosmology which presupposes the ultimate fact of an irreducible brute matter, or material, spread through space in a flux of configurations. In itself such a material is senseless, valueless, purposeless. It just does what it does do, following a fixed routine imposed by external relations which do not spring from the nature of its being. It is this assumption that I call ‘scientific materialism.’ Also it is an assumption which I shall challenge as being entirely unsuited to the scientific situation at which we have now arrived. (1925, 22)

    The basic units of becoming for Whitehead are “actual occasions.” Actual occasions are “drops of experience,” and relate to the world into which they are emerging by “feeling” that relatedness and translating it into the occasion’s concrete reality. When first encountered, this mode of expression is likely to seem peculiar if not downright outrageous. One thing to note here is that Whitehead is not talking about any sort of high-level cognition. When he speaks of “feeling” he means an immediacy of concrete relatedness that is vastly different from any sort of “knowing,” yet which exists on a relational spectrum where cognitive modes can emerge from sufficiently complex collections of occasions that interrelate within a systematic whole. Also, feeling is a far more basic form of relatedness than can be represented by formal algebraic or geometrical schemata. These latter are intrinsically abstract, and to take them as basic would be to commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. But feeling is not abstract. Rather, it is the first and most concrete manifestation of an occasion’s relational engagement with reality.

    This focus on concrete modes of relatedness is essential because an actual occasion is itself a coming into being of the concrete. The nature of this “concrescence,” using Whitehead’s term, is a matter of the occasion’s creatively internalizing its relatedness to the rest of the world by feeling that world, and in turn uniquely expressing its concreteness through its extensive connectedness with that world. Thus an electron in a field of forces “feels” the electrical charges acting upon it, and translates this “experience” into its own electronic modes of concreteness. Only later do we schematize these relations with the abstract algebraic and geometrical forms of physical science. For the electron, the interaction is irreducibly concrete.

    Actual occasions are fundamentally atomic in character, which leads to the next interpretive difficulty. In his previous works, events were essentially extended and continuous. And when Whitehead speaks of an “event” in PR without any other qualifying adjectives, he still means the extensive variety found in his earlier works (PR 73). But PR deals with a different set of problems from that previous triad, and it cannot take such continuity for granted. For one thing, Whitehead treats Zeno's Paradoxes very seriously and argues that one cannot resolve these paradoxes if one starts from the assumption of continuity, because it is then impossible to make sense of anything coming immediately before or immediately after anything else. Between any two points of a continuum such as the real number line there are an infinite number of other points, thus rendering the concept of the “next” point meaningless. But it is precisely this concept of the “next occasion” that Whitehead requires to render intelligible the relational structures of his metaphysics. If there are infinitely many occasions between any two occasions, even ones that are nominally “close” together, then it becomes impossible to say how it is that later occasions feel their predecessors – there is an unbounded infinity of other occasions intervening in such influences, and changing it in what are now undeterminable ways. Therefore, Whitehead argued, continuity is not something which is “given;” rather it is something which is achieved. Each occasion makes itself continuous with its past in the manner in which it feels that past and creatively incorporates the past into its own concrescence, its coming into being.

    Thus, Whitehead argues against the “continuity of becoming” and in favor of the “becoming of continuity” (PR 68 – 9). Occasions become atomically, but once they have become they incorporate themselves into the continuity of the universe by feeling the concreteness of what has come before and making that concreteness a part of the occasion’s own internal makeup. The continuity of space and durations in Whitehead’s earlier triad does not conflict with his metaphysical atomism, because those earlier works were dealing with physical nature in which continuity has already come into being, while PR is dealing with relational structures that are logically and metaphysically prior to nature.
    — IEP
  • Agustino
    11k
    but are you suggesting that Nietzsche unfairly caricatured Christianity?Erik
    Yes, more or less, this is exactly what I think. Nietzsche painted a fair picture of the popular Christianity in his day and age, but certainly not a historically accurate picture, nor an accurate picture of what Christianity actually is (instead of what people THINK it is). Kierkegaard has much the same criticisms of Christianity that Nietzsche does, of course phrased somewhat differently. But it's true that the Christianity of the 19th century was fake, by and large, and no longer authentic.

    That genuine Christianity - as opposed to Nietzsche's straw man - doesn't posit another "true" world in the beyond which serves to falsify and condemn this one?Erik
    Yes, I don't think it does. The world is essential to Christianity, human beings were created to be co-creators along with God. The purpose of man is to harmoniously guard and continue the creative process initiated by God. That cannot be world-denying as some forms of Buddhism are for example. (although, to be fair, no religion could exist without world-affirming elements).

    I think his evidence that it does is pretty compelling, with things like pride and the accumulation of power being seen as sins against God rather than as natural expressions of ascending life. I assumed the other world for Christians is one where the meek shall reign supreme and the proud shall be eternally punished.Erik
    Okay, I see what you mean, but I think this is misinterpreting the Christian message. Pride in Christianity represents the sin committed by Lucifer and human beings in rebelling against the will of God, and putting their own selfish will above God's. This is seeking to dominate other beings and twist them to one's own will, instead of protecting them and contributing harmoniously to the creative unfolding of existence. In a way, pride is exactly what prevents one from being open to the call of Being, and leads one to remain caught up in the calculative, instrumental mode of thinking so characteristic of our world today.

    But, this kind of pride isn't the same thing as the self-confidence and self-mastery Nietzsche was talking about by using the word pride. Indeed, the Apostles themselves displayed this sort of self-confidence and self-mastery when they went to their death for their faith, unflinchingly. And most of the greatest Christian thinkers (such as Aquinas) have never concluded that the accumulation of power is an evil. They would say that power, just like everything else, comes from God, and he who is given a lot of power, has a lot of responsibility to use it to do God's will. So becoming powerful is a good thing, so long as this power is used for good.

    That Heaven and Earth will be ultimately be reconciled?Erik
    This is the entire point of Christianity...


    But can Christians or Muslims, for instance, have knowledge of that transcendent world beyond vague hopes and descriptions?Erik
    There is no transcendent world. Heaven is not separate from the world. Human beings lived on the Earth before the Fall, and that was Heaven. It was human beings who made it (this same world) not Heaven. And similarly, at one point this world will again be Heaven (that is God's promise).

    To repeat, Heaven in those religions is regarded as a "transcendent" world which the living are denied access to, right? That's like the sine qua non of these religions, the ultimate promise to the faithful.Erik
    Were Adam & Eve before the Fall "living"? Will Heaven and Earth be united in the end? If so, then the living are not denied access to Heaven. In addition to that, the process of theosis (or divinization) occurs while someone is part of the world. Not to mention that Christianity talks of a bodily resurrection... So someone can be both divine and part of the world, again, suggesting that there is no conflict between the world and Heaven. There is also no devaluation of the body.

    I just don't think most religious believers would countenance this philosophical position of yours at all as it relates to their highest hopes.Erik
    Most religious believers are not experts in their religion. Just like most people who listen to music aren't experts in music. Aquinas does discuss multiple levels of understanding of God, each one deeper than the previous one. There is the popular level understanding of God as a Father in the Sky, and then there are deeper levels, including that of the philosophers and that of the mystics.

    So to get back to the point, why should it be a concern for me that most religious believers would not agree with my position? Does not having majority agreement make me wrong? Should that even be relevant to deciding what Christianity actually teaches?
  • StreetlightX
    2.4k
    Have you ever read any Whitehead?schopenhauer1

    I'm somewhat familiar with Whitehead, more through secondary readings than any actual engagement with his own work. His vocabulary is forebording though, and I've put off properly studying him until I can devote the time to properly trying to digest it. Alot of what he says seems very congenial to me though, from the small bits I've gleaned here and there.
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