hairyfigment (hairyfigment) wrote,

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Reformation and Age of Reason

This essay about doctrine (via Amp) suggests a way to solidy a post or two that I've kicked around for a while.* (From my point of view the author talks about empathy and then starts his next paragraph with an insult, but never mind that now.) It starts by mentioning two groups who ask two different questions of religion: the children of the Enlightenment ("How can I know what is true?") and the children of the Reformation ("Where will I spend eternity?").

When I first read that in the context of the post, my Enlightenment-bred self wanted to make an immediate comment to the effect that the Reformation question contradicts itself. The following seems slightly unfair, since if I have to die I, too, would like to leave behind a Superman in place of a corpse. But please bear with me. In order to live for a thousand years, ten thousand, one hundred thousand and so on to eternity, a human soul would have to change so dramatically that it would likely seem like a different person (and in fact a different species.) I define "live" to include keeping one's memories, rather than forgetting every century for eternity and likely repeating one's mistakes forever. If you don't forget in this way, it seems like one of the following must happen. Either the eons slowly change you until at last you would no longer recognize yourself -- so thoroughly that you would no longer call yourself human -- or you'd somehow lose the ability to change. Which to my mind also seems central to our humanity.

So I see no plausible answer to the question of the Reformation except, "Un-ask the question." Or, to paraphrase what Jesus says in Matthew to the guy who keeps asking, 'If you want to live forever, give up everything about your life you consider essential.' Compare this Christian view with Aleister Crowley writing about "the Black Brothers".

But if we keep digging, we find a similar answer to the question of the Enlightenment. Let's look at that question in its most general sense. As qwantz says, all judgements technically require certain assumptions. But I wouldn't call those assumptions "self-evident" so much as "provably false". Logic's seeming certainty stems from the belief that we can't even imagine experience contradicting it. Kant, as I pretend to understand him, assumed that we have absolutely certain knowledge and decided that in that case we must lack the ability to experience a contradiction, even in dreams. But we have testimony claiming that some people have already perceived what seem like flat contradictions of all or most of Kant's certainties. (For one example, click on the following link and read the part where it says, "And now a thing happens, which is unfortunately sheer nonsense".) Feeling absolute certainty in any claim whatsoever now requires the assumption that these people lied or expressed themselves poorly, or that their experience somehow does not fit the facts. This in turn seems to imply the argument that our everyday experience follows logic, so why should we care about some oddball vision? In other words, the defense of absolute certainty requires some form of scientific induction, which can never give us absolute certainty (if we think about it). We prefer not to think about this because it doesn't seem to lead us anywhere useful, unless we consider the Abyss useful.

*My comment on Nate's blog referred to another post I may write soon, but this seems vaguely related.
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