What Arnold Saw at Dover Beach

In a short piece titled “God is Dead; So What?”, Richard Ostrofsky, an acquaintance of mine, lays out his overview of the present culture wars from a perhaps characteristically atheist perspective. He cites Matthew Arnold’s poignant 1867 poem ‘Dover Beach’, which I’d not thought about for over 30 years, and happily revisited. But we subtly disagree about the meaning of the cultural impasse this poem intuits, and about exactly what Arnold sensed over 150 years ago, gazing one night out to sea.

[ Richard Ostrofsky ; Seacliffs stretching along Dover Beach in southeast England across the narrow channel from France ; Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) ; Sunset over the white cliffs of Dover ]

Note: It’s a short poem; I suggest both reading it and listening to this nicely done recitation.

Ostrofsky’s essay correctly points to the enmities shouting out from the extremities of the atheism/religion spectrum, recognizing how the resulting storm clouds muddy up the prospects for finding a path forward for Western culture in general at the present moment. This exaggerated idolization of the poles at the expense of the vaster, more fruitful, and more clear-eyed middle is of course an equally prevalent scourge plaguing American politics of late. Too facile mappings drawn between Conservative and Religionist on the one hand and Progressive and Atheist on the other is itself a parody of reality and diminishes instead of helps one’s understanding. Myself, I inhabit neither extreme, considering atheism entirely unpersuasive and actually a disguise for something else, and also being completely non-religious in any usual sense. That said, I want to dispute the essay’s apparent assumption that Arnold had concluded that atheism is the correct insight as a foundation of his poem.

Ignorant Armies Clash by Night

Arnold knew something straightaway while surveying the poignant, murky situation from that coastline, a century and a half ago: that the initial ingredient in any solution must be honesty. “Let us be true to one another!”

Is Dawkins, for example, being honest in his rantings on the virtues of neo-evolutionary theory or on the certainty that any sentient intentional involvement in Creation is ludicrous? I have long not thought so. He quickly abandons his professed ideals of reason, fairness, respectfulness, open-mindedness, and argument exclusively from evidence as soon as his discussions unfold or positions are challenged. The most articulate and sensible unmasking of Dawkins’ thought fabric I’m aware of is given by the witty and insightful British philosopher, Mary Midgley, in her review of his 2007 book “The God Delusion”. It’s devastatingly complete and concise, and was written while in her late 80s to boot, which for my money warrants a serious listening to.

Now I am aware that those who not only identify as ‘atheist’ but do so with some degree of intellectual fervor will not easily wish to relinquish their views that salvation from the current cultural mess lies within the wider adoption of their outlook. But we can start by noticing that I am advocating a more centrist tolerant stance, thereby avoiding both exaggerated poles. In truth, I do not consider it especially interesting whether a person identifies as either avidly atheist or avidly religionist. There is a similarity and an unhelpful fundamentalism within both. I contend that the atheism/God question is nowhere near being as central or culturally critical a social debate as strong adherents on both sides imagine it to be. Just as avid atheists construct a fantasy caricature of religious psychology and then hold it up as the quaint piñata to smash to pieces with their sticks of reason, so too do religious fundamentalists, in varying degrees, prop up their Faith as the antidote to any inconvenient minutae a more intellectualized seeking might uncover.

A clue to the whereabouts of the golden mean pathway lies with Matthew Arnold’s own makeup and biography. Arnold (1822-1888) was an interesting figure because he was equally adept at and committed to essays, social criticism, and poetry. In fact, from the middle of his career on, he was primarily known as a leading figure in Victorian Prose. Arnold put his own poems in perspective in a letter to his mother dated June 5, 1869:

“It might be fairly urged that I have less poetical sentiment than Tennyson, and less intellectual vigour and abundance than Browning; yet, because I have perhaps more of a fusion of the two than either of them, and have more regularly applied that fusion to the main line of modern development, I am likely enough to have my turn, as they have had theirs.”

Here I see the Renaissance ideal in microcosm. The Renaissance impulse of firing on all human gaskets, the wedding of lyrical with analytic. Which impulse was waylaid by several centuries of Reason’s dominance and imperialism beginning in the early 17th century. Think Leonardo. It was after two plus centuries of the rationalistic turn that Arnold awoke to the growing chaos in it’s wake. (The picture has only worsened since.) This, I think, is what lies at the roots of his instinct to embody both the poetic and dialectical spirit. Further, I believe that a deeper more mature fusing of these impulses, erroneously thought incompatible, is the mission of our time, to become exemplified within each striving soul. Science must become more artistic, and art must become more precise with an introspective subjective reason.

Dover Beach does not bewail the passing away of God; that would be an unwarranted and abstract assertion, many steps removed from what we can see in our present predicament. Rather it bemoans the fading adequacy of capital-F faith as mechanism to allay our mass anxiety in the face of rationality’s untempered assault. “The Sea of Faith / Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore / Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. / But now I only hear / Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, Retreating…”. How are we to understand this?

Moral Autonomy

There has always been a resistance to change, or human maturing, even at the soul level, within religious circles. But can it honestly be claimed that the Gospels (or substitute your favorite sacred tradition’s intuitive documents) impose that the spiritual task of mankind remains monolithically the same, dead as slabs of granite, with every passing era? Do we not face different inner hurdles (even if they be conditioned by outer worldly factors — which after all we ourselves have collectively brought about) than the average inhabitant of the time of Abraham or Moses or Augustine or Spinoza, or for that matter Arnold? Whereas throughout the middle ages in Europe an externally supplied and curated creed sufficed to quell the questioning of most hearts, we are now gradually and more insistently called upon to individually supplement our faith with thinking. And these two capacities must color and transform each other.

      Had we but known in the beginning,
      the tune would twist in our fingers so,
      Or drive our feet across the borders,
      the way the north wind drives the snow.
              -Robin Williamson
1

This thinking must be individual and independent, taking as it’s grist for contemplation all that lives subjectively within each aspirant. There can be no more commanding. Authority must be regarded as unhelpful, a delaying tactic at best. The divinity within is called upon to rise up and converse with the universal divinity. That is the challenge of the times: responsible, loving, moral autonomy, conscience unconditioned by external voice. This is where Christianity is calling, regardless of the opinions of it’s minders or institutions with vested interest. And this is the thing which oppresses Matthew Arnold at Dover Beach. He is melancholy for the true recognition of it’s weight. (Admittedly I take a little liberty here, since Arnold probably did not articulate this so plainly to himself, but rather intuited it. We, after all, have 160 years of further spiritual evolution on him.) This is a global, universally human concern. It affects each contemporary person in some way, no matter his religious affiliations or lack thereof. And no matter the degree to which he is conscious of it.

There has also always been a hidden, deeper, more esoteric core within serious world religious impulses, which status-quo conscious institutions are loathe to admit or consider. This core is living, accessible to serious motivated seekers. Really the only thing hidden or ‘occult’ about it is the intensity of the inner spiritual striving necessary to obtain an apprehension of it. It has always existed for exceptional persons. The prophet Daniel could see more than the typical Israelite of his day. Rumi could apprehend more than the average 13th century Sufi. Certainly the writer of John’s gospel could see far more than meets the eye. These hidden cores persist to the present day. A common motif expressed within such esoteric circles of the recent centuries is that the spiritual guidance of humanity has in fact been withdrawing in a certain sense. The motivation for this is a call for humans to awaken more deeply into what they are to become: spiritual collaborators. For this, independence is both necessary and sacrosanct. We do not need spiritual robots. It can be terrifying to assume more responsibility along these lines, but the assessment is that the time is ripe.

St. Augustine and Evil

Arnold is not really advocating for atheism, but subconsciously reacting to the effects of the turning away of the stream of divine revelation from humanity, the cutting loose of the strings. He senses the difficulties ahead, for we must all look inward now and discover our own moral authority, the divine trace which has been implanted in the human soul which we are gradually becoming mature enough to detect. Centuries of conflict and growing pains will accompany this transition, and many who have not cultivated the ability to deeply consult their own conscience will falter, become weak, and follow what is convenient.

[ A Catholic St. Augustine icon ; Turkic Manichaen scroll: by the end of the first millenium corrupted forms of Manichaeism had spread as far east as Mongolia ; Scene from Goethe’s Faust after the deal with the devil ; Martin Luther, German theologian and founder of Lutherism (1483-1546) ]

A Rosicrucian source2 discusses the relationships between original Christianity and the Manicheans, a 3rd century mystery sect originating in present day Iraq or Syria. The Manicheans were noteworthy for their novel teachings about the nature of evil, and became deeply misunderstood and castigated by the religious officials in Rome by about 300 A.D. It also tells of Augustine’s role as first a proponent of this movement and then a zealous detractor, and his dialogue with Faustus as the representative of true Manichaeism. Faustus served as the literary model for later conceptions of Doctor Faust by Christopher Marlowe (16th century) and Goethe (18th century). The following excerpted passages from this source depicts in imaginative form the driving forces behind the present world situation, shedding light on the root causes, the chaotic effects of which so troubled Arnold:

Mani is called the ‘Son of the Widow’, and his followers are called the ‘Sons of the Widow’.

The teaching which he proclaimed was opposed in the most vigorous fashion by Augustine after he had gone over to the Catholic Church. Augustine opposed his Catholic views to the Manichean teaching which he saw represented in a personality whom he called Faustus. Faustus is, in Augustine’s conception, the opponent of Christianity. Here lies the origin of Goethe’s Faust, and of his conception of evil. The name ‘Faust’ goes back to this old Augustinian teaching.

The profound thought which lies in this is that the kingdom of darkness has to be overcome by the kingdom of light, not by means of punishment, but through mildness; not by resisting evil, but by uniting with it in order to redeem evil as such. Because a part of the light enters into evil, the evil itself is overcome.

Underlying that is the interpretation of evil which I have often explained… What is evil? Nothing but an ill-timed good… When what is especially good at one time or another strives to be preserved, to become rigid and thus curb the progress of further development, then, without doubt, it becomes evil, because it opposes the good… Thus evil is nothing else than the divine, for, at a previous time, what is evil when it comes at the wrong season, was then an expression of what is perfect, what is divine.

We must interpret the Manichean views in this profound sense, that good and evil are fundamentally the same in their origin and in their ending. If you interpret it in this way you will understand what Mani really intended to bring about. But, on the other hand, we still have to explain why it was that Mani called himself the ‘Son of the Widow’.

The soul was always known as the ‘mother’ in all esoteric (mystical) teachings; the instructor was the ‘father’. Father and mother, Osiris and Isis, those are the two forces present in the soul: the instructor, representing the divine which flows directly into man, Osiris, he that is the father; the soul itself, Isis, the one who conceives, receives the divine, the spiritual into itself, she is the mother… the father withdraws. The soul is widowed. Humanity is thrown back onto itself. It must find the light of truth within its own soul in order to act as its own guide. Everything of a soul nature has always been expressed in terms of the feminine. Therefore the feminine element — which exists only in a germinal state today and will later be fully developed — this self-directing feminine principle which is no longer confronted by the divine fructifier, is called by Mani the ‘Widow’. And therefore he calls himself ‘Son of the Widow’.

Mani is the one who prepares that stage in man’s soul development when he will seek for his own soul-spirit light. Everything which comes from Mani is an appeal to man’s own spirit light of soul, and at the same time is a definite rebellion against anything which does not come out of man’s own soul, out of man’s own observation of his soul. Beautiful words have been handed down from Mani: You must lay aside everything which you have acquired as outer revelation by means of the senses. You must lay aside all things which come to you via outer authority; then you must become ripe to gaze into your own soul.

St. Augustine, on the other hand — in a conversation which made him into an opponent of the Manichean Faust — voiced the opinion: ‘I would not accept the teachings of Christ if they were not founded on the authority of the Church’. The Manichean Faust said, however: ‘You should not accept any teaching on authority; we only wish to accept a doctrine in freedom.’ That illustrates the rebellious self-sufficiency of the spirit light which comes to expression so beautifully in the (Goethe’s) Faust saga.

We meet this confrontation also in later sagas in the Middle Ages: on the one hand the Faust saga, on the other, the Luther saga. Luther carries on the principle of authority. Faust, on the other hand, rebels, he puts his faith in the inner spirit light. We have the saga of Luther; he throws the inkwell at the devil’s head. What appears to him to be evil he thrusts aside. And on the other hand we have Faust’s pact with the devil. A spark from the kingdom of light is sent into the kingdom of darkness, so that when the darkness is penetrated, it redeems itself, evil is overcome by gentleness.

_______RS

Notes:
1) A quite beautiful song contains this lyric, and you can hear it’s original studio version here.

2) Lecture #6 from a series of twenty lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in Berlin during the years 1904-05. They were published in English translation with extensive annotations under the title ‘The Temple Legend’ in 1997, with the lecture concerned being titled ‘Manichaeism’. This sixth lecture is available online.

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15 Comments

  1. Time being pressing again I wasn’t able to “in depth” the article. There are, however, some parts in it which I re-read to be sure, that strike a core with me. I consider myself a sort of “intellectual anarchist” and when it comes to the Christian versus atheism dispute I learned to stay out of it. In the words of the famous Harry Crumb, I say, “Believe what you will, but don’t believe it here.” Here (meaning in me) what is believed is what I believe, that being no one else’s business but mine. The C versus A debate is as useful as debating if this football team is going to win over that football team. Both are indeed a sort of religion – one soon learns that when refusing to agree with an evolutionist atheist. The “science” (if science there be in it) quickly turns to a religious argument, i.e., a matter of faith. I don’t do faith. I do what seems right to me. Faith is for those who don’t know and don’t care enough to find out if what they believe in really and truly holds water under all circumstances. I need something that is guaranteed to hold water under any circumstances, that is under any of my circumstances. I have discovered what that is and for the time being it’s what I chew on. I call it compassion. Apparently though, that too for some is a matter of faith. So be it.

    Reply

  2. Hi Sha’Tara, thanks for reading and thinking about it. I’ll try to “in depth” your comments a bit. 🙂 I don’t really consider that there is a C/A debate, more like a T/A debate (theism). C stands to the side of all this, plus it is hopelessly clouded over by all sorts of historical and personal interpreted associations such that people do not really have any opportunity to approach what C actually means and consists of unless they are stronly interested to do so, preferably independently. But — as you pointed out — the debate is very superficial in any case. And it is not really what the post was about anyway, which has to do with the call of the times being focused around individuals determining to develop and cultivate their spiritual outlooks from within.

    ‘Science’ was mentioned quickly, so I will remark that Science capital-S as it is usually practiced, is inherently inimical to this new spiritual call because of the way the scientific process, methodolgy and culture, has unfolded since the 17th century. Thomas Nagel, the philosopher, is one of the best contemporary explicators of this problem (for which he has been duly castigated in most mainstram circles, but admired in other circles — namely NOT circles, but by individuals.) As he notes, the problem is not the toolbox of observation, thinking, and experimenting per se, but the fact that the human being is omitted from the entire enterprise, because nothing subjective or interior, intuitive or ‘first person’ is considered as legitimate reality within the scientific endeavor. If science as practiced can reverse this serious omission, then progress can be made: as I implied, art and science can merge into something new.

    Which leaves us with your concluding remarks, about faith or Faith or both. There is nothing contradictory or oppositional between faith and compassion, or love for that matter (another term I’ve seen you regard with suspicion at times). When you say you have concluded that you have found compassion to be the thing which holds water for you under all contexts, you are relying upon a natural faith in your own self, your powers of discrimination and ability to foist off deceptions and so on, to arrive at this conclusion. This self-trust (which admittedly some, probably all of us at some point, carry without sufficient introspection) is exactly in keeping with the message of Manichaeism as expressed in the material I excerpted and wrote about. What matters when evaluating the quality of faith (in something), or it’s appropriateness, is precisely this: how well thought out it is. How true it is to our own best understood experience. But faith itself is not a suspect concept. There is also much more to it than this, because all people must confront situations in which they are not informed well enough what to decide, ethically, out of their past experiences. Then they must rely upon faith in their own intuitions to move forward. This has nothing to do with religiosity, although it certain can be seen as a spiritual activity.

    Reply

    1. First, I beg some leeway due to the fact that my formal education ends at grade 12 BC, Can. There’s a lot out there I know nothing about. To develop an understanding of this world I’m on, I rely on my reading, observing and personal experience, and of course input from non-earth entities which most earth people instantly dismiss or deny any possibility of. I don’t know anything about Manicheanism, so can’t comment on that. I would look into it if I had the time but I do not.

      I can however, express my views on faith.

      Faith to me means believing unwaveringly in something that cannot be proven to exist or to do any of the things claimed for it. Faith needs no thinking about, a wonderful refuge for the ignorant. Once something is proven to exist; once it is known that it does work according to claims then the faith aspect disappears, just like the shed snake skin. Real faith is the enemy of knowledge, education, understanding and empiric evidence.

      Self empowerment is the antithesis of faith. A self-empowered individual works with that awareness, with her or his mind to further understand all things. Now love.

      Love falls into my “utterly compromised concept” bucket. Essentially useless; an emotion, the source of much trouble because it is reciprocal. There is no such thing as unconditional love, that being an oxymoron since at that level it is no longer love but compassion. Compassion, then.

      Compassion properly defined and understood is a force, not a virtue. The goal of the compassionate is to go from being compassionate to becoming compassion. It’s an on-going and permanent transformation of one’s nature, irrevocable. To the one whose life purpose is to become compassion, it becomes a fail-safe, fool-proof way of life. It is that which calls and when the call is answered, it is that which says, “do it!” and you do it because it is your nature to respond. Simple. Someone may object and say, ‘What about my free will?’ and the answer to that is also simple. First, “you” chose the compassionate way for a lifestyle out of your own free will. Once you become compassion free will is no more relevant to you than faith and love would be. Useless appendages at best.

      Late again, got to go. Thanks for the discussion, Robert.

      Reply

      1. No need to beg, you deserve complete license far as I can see. And also, I think your thinking is very good and considered on various topics, so no need to fret over education. Mean this as complement. 🙂 And by the way, the means and methods you say you use to develop understanding about the world are exactly the same means and methods I use. So, we go about things similarly. Education levels do not matter much… really only self-education matters. And that stops for some people even though they achieve advanced degrees.

        (I’d also mention that I may not know much more than you do about Manichaeism. But I do know about the quoted material which I included… and reading that alone is enough to draw some of the observations I have made, I believe. I say this as away of indicating that I do not intend my article to demand that a reader do alot of extra research in order to formulate ideas about.)

        In reading through the comments, I conclude that we have differing operating definitions, or more truthfully, conceptions, about the words love and faith, and maybe also compassion. Especially this becomes clear to me when you associate compassion as a force rather than virtue — something I would agree about but attribute even more forcefully to: love. And I suppose I would say it has not been my experience that unconditioned love does not exist. I have seen it and it is powerful. Perhaps it is close to what you call compassion, then, I am unsure.

        Faith too, I think about quite differently than you do. It is also a force rather than virtue. There is of course a caricature of faith, which I think is what you are describing when you say it is a substitute for thinking. And there may indeed be much of this caricature manifesting around nowadays. The plain fact is that not all things can be proven or known at this level, and so other techniques need be employed if one wishes to adopt any sort of working position towards such things. Then, things like our intuition really become of central importance, and if we are caring enough, question about how our intuition gets activated and why and when we decide to rely upon it. And it seems not right to call faith an enemy of empiricism to me… because not all things can be approached empirically with our present abilities. We must be more ‘artistic’ than that, less literal. Then faith becomes noticed as a real thing, a force which is not inimical to knowing but inviting to it. Then faith = self-empowerment.

        It is intriguing to me that your entire very nice paragraph near the end about compassion could be said about love. For me. One could also speculate about why it would not be justified for someone to imagine that your relying upon input from non-earth beings is not itself an instance of what you describe as faith. I do not really mean to make us go there, but it illustrates something about how fluid these words are, and we must go above the words to get to the actual meanings and thoughts.

        Anyway, I guess I just want to re-iterate that, in a nutshell, the whole reason I wrote the post was exactly to applaud the value of self-reliance, in thinking. Thanks much for taking this time — few would. 🙂

      2. You are welcome.

        Over the years of changes, I’ve done much comparison of love versus compassion. Love, to be meaningful, has to be an absolute “value.” Yet the way it has been used shows that it is so easily prostituted to anything, from patriotism, to selling underwear, to promoting religion, to that feel good inloveness. If you can, or need, to put unconditional in front of love then that’s the proof love is conditional by itself. It is reciprocal and conditional. Man learned about love from supposed divinely inspired mss. and divinities only offer conditional love. “If you love me with all your heart, etc, then I’ll do this for you and you will be better than all the rest. Love has a superiority complex. The object of one’s love is always superior to any other similar objects. Love is exclusive.

        Compassion is the opposite of love. First, it isn’t something handed down by divinities but something that resides in each and everyone. It’s a program within the computer just waiting to be activated so it can make the computer run differently and give different results. Compassion is unconditional or it isn’t compassion. It is all inclusive. It’s not reciprocal, as in, it doesn’t require any feed-back. It flows from within a self empowered individual. Compassion is never found within a collective. In such a situation anything resembling compassion would be love. Compassion is neither feeling nor emotion though it may give rise to those. When it does, they must be instantly extinguished. Emotions are entropic energy, like sucking on exhaust.

        Compassion is innate to the human being whereas love is like the flu shot: injected. It comes with the soul implant to serve the aims of the Matrix and prevent people from ever activating their own power of compassion. Love is all about individual dis-empowerment and pushes ever towards collectivism, from the in-love couple, the nuclear family to the worship of the Church, nation and empire.

        You touched on faith and my Teachers. Faith (the evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for) is the airy-fairy emotion for indeed, what cannot otherwise be apprehended. I have met my Teachers; I can describe them, tell you their names, where they are from, what their purpose was in working with me. I need no faith because it is not a belief system, it’s an alternate reality if you will. I don’t work with faith and history amply demonstrates the weakness and massive pitfalls in such an emotion. Bottom line, faith, hope and love are emotions used by the System to manipulate people’s feelings and get them to act in ways contrary to nature and common sense.

  3. (reply to Sha’tara)… Hmm, thinking this over I would reiterate that we are using words differently. And your meanings for love and faith do not comply with my experience.

    Suppose I ask you what do you think about poetry. Or anyone. And they answer my question on the basis of their experience with Hallmark cards. They will either have a low opinion of it or be a very syrupy sort of person. The opinion will differ greatly if I ask the question to someone who has deeply involved themselves with poetry, the classics perhaps, or perhaps they work on creating it themselves.

    It is not the poetry which is the problem, but the perceiver, and also the range of quality permitted by his personal involvement with it.

    The same is true for love, faith, hope, or compassion.

    You claim that love is inherently ‘reciprocal’, exclusive, learnt from deities, etc. No. It is not. Not my experience. Which deity taught this to me? I simply loved, from childhood’s earliest memories. Of course you can deliberately exclude everything from the term ‘love’ except the worst romantic, co-dependent caricature of it. But then your definition seems peculiar to me. People can and do routinely distinguish between these things, according to their abilities and inclinations.

    “The object of one’s love is always superior to any other similar objects.” No, not always. This depends upon how much thinking one applies to the situation, and how much equanimity. Infatuation exists; it is far from the entire story.

    You can decide to exclusively use the term ‘compassion’ when love rises (or is undiluted by emotional circumstance thus projecting it’s right nature) to what it is. But this would be an unusual usage of the word, I believe.

    If you consider the classical Greek views about love, they saw three different variants or levels, the most pristine being ‘agape’, which was thought to be completely without any selfishness. I do not know if they employed a word for compassion. Obviously, I do not see compassion and love as opposite, however.

    Now about faith and your teachers. I do not agree that you can label faith an emotion. It is more like a force. Again, you could rely exclusively upon Hallmark-level caricatures of faith and thus completely confuse what it is. But why? I think you do not understand what I say about faith in your teachers. It does not matter, for the purposes of the point I am making, that you have met them, are familiar with their narratives, know their names and aims, and so forth. What matters is that at some point you had to decide whether to believe them or consider their ideas malarkey. Presumably they have asserted things to you which you have no independent means of verifying but which at the same time lie far outside the stream of what is typical. So this situation calls upon you to make an intuitive judgement as to your belief in their, these beings, veracity. Or trustworthiness. This is faith. At the very least you must choose to believe in your own intuitions. I do not know what they speak of to you. Perhaps one, to take a trivial example, describes their home world on Vega or in another dimension. Presumably they do not transport you there to permit your own empirical experience and investigations. So you must judge according to what you think about them.

    Intuition is the key. That is the engine which powers faith and hope. For me, intuition is the deepest most human (I can also simultaneously say divine) aspect of myself. Moreso than reason, for example, which is closer to what you describe as an ‘implant’, a mere computational capacity. If intuition follows reason, we get the current mess. If reason follows intuition, we see a way out, towards healing.

    This is how I see things.

    A different question occurs to me, which is: Are there any important implications for using these words so differently, for one calling the same thing compassion and the other calling it love? My intuition is yes. But I would need to think about that more. I hazard the guess, perhaps entirely wrong, that your teachers frame matters in this way. If so, one must consider their motivations.

    Reply

  4. Just a word to plea for Richard Dawkins ; his worst book is the God Delusion and his best The Blind Watchmaker. The Watchmaker is his very own subject but he occasionally digresses just like us all. Mr Dawkins is a very well we’ll educated man with a great fear of fundamentalist religion he even goes so far as to condemn fairy tales saying they damage the young mind. He presents Darwin as a fact but not as a pleasing one , often making it clear we must not live by survival of the fittest. I saw him silenced by Peter Singer and in that meeting he said that Peter Singer was the most moral man he knows.
    Perhaps we should fear fundamentalism especially as education is no cure , ISIS containing many intellectual types ,which demonstrates that a religious mind-set can happen to anyone.

    Reply

  5. Hi kersten, OK, plea approved. Of Dawkins, I’ve read his “Selfish Gene” and as much of “God Delusion” as I could tolerate” I’ve watched many of his interviews, debates, and Youtube videos over the years, plus occasional reviews he’s written. What I dislike about him is a quality he has which comes very close to what I would call his own brand of fundamentalism. I think he displays this mostly about the atheism/religion polarity, but I’ve also seen it active in his attacks against questioners of Neo-Darwinism. His intellect is such that he seems to want very neatly tied-off never again to be scrutinized conclusions, which the entire populace should then subscribe to either out of theory own intellectual agreement or on authority. He also has a strong reductionist streak, which works against perceiving the unfinished complexity of things. He wants it all tied up and presented. This was brightly on display in his booksleeve comments about Lawrence Krauss’ pretty silly book “A Universe From Nothing” — which tries and fails to eviscerate arguments and questions about where the Big Bang came from. Dawkins, seemingly with no real capability to make informed judgments on the matter, wrote that the last bastion of credible argument for conscious intent behind the cosmos has been toppled at last by brilliant Physics. He simply fervently wants a certain worldview to be true, and then proceeds to hunt and craft his rhetorical points to make it so. Admittedly, he is very good at this type of writing. And of course, he is justified to fear developments like ISIS.

    A much more balanced and honestly inquisitive athiesm (to be clear — I am not an athiest and never heard a persuasive case made for it) is found in the philosopher Thomas Nagel, in my opinion. If interested, I wrote about him here: https://wp.me/p2hzhG-6T

    Reply

  6. You know more about him than me , but I agree he has the very human failing of wanting everything tied up and settled but really deep inside he knows that cannot be as we all do. I see this side of him best when he flies off at a science fiction ramble , I sure he should try his hand at that genre. It’s much easier to become conceitedly sure for scientific experts , although a careful look at the history of science should dispense with any absolute certainty.
    I’m an agnostic skeptic and feel as if I’m often treading on thin ice. I have no higher education but took it upon myself to educate myself when I retired so my knowledge is often threadbare and flawed. My IQ is about 105 or slightly above average , certainly not grammar school material

    Reply

  7. I might add I find some of the concepts difficult and had to give up on some of the more mathematical parts of the Watchmaker. Thanks for Thomas Nagel I will look into his thoughts.

    Reply

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