I think Spinoza is about challenging existing religions. Goldstein doesn't think so. She thinks he couldn't be doing any such thing. She says,
"There were to be many controversies. The psychological atmosphere of the community was frought, to put it mildly. The dark history that the returning Jews brought with them saw to that. The perilous hopes for the religion that had been clung to in secrecy turned, in some, to fierce religiosity, messianic and mystical. In others, it turned to disappointment, disillusionment, attempts to argue with the rabbis as to what true Judaism ought to be, sometimes ultimate rejection and a return to Christianity.
...And then of course there was to be the case of Baruch Spinoza, who turned neither to the Christianity his Portugese ancestors had outwardly practiced, nor to the rabbinical Judaism of halakha. Nor was he interested in trying to reform the existing religions, as da Costa had dreamed of doing first with Christianity and then with Judaism,...
Instead, Spinoza was to offer something rather new under the seventeenth century's European skies: a religion of reason. His religion asks us to do something that is far more difficult for us than the most severe practices of asceticsm. It asks us to be reasonable..."
Goldstein says that Spinoza doesn't want to reform existing religions like Judaism, or Christianity, because, she thinks, he'd rather be putting together his own religion. She says the innovation of his new religion, something she thinks would be a tough sell, was that it would ask us to be reasonable.
Goldstein goes on about Spinoza's views. She comes to this:
"To become rational, believing only what we have good grounds for believing, is to transform the self so substantially as to change its very identity. His astounding conclusion: to the extent that we are rational, we, all of us, partake in the same identity. (The rationally reconstructed cannot fail to get along: this provides the key to his political theory. Philosophy is good for the polity.)"
I think this just reinforces my thought that Spinoza was concerned, ultimately, in trying to find a way to resolve conflicts without having to resort to force. Whatever Goldstein means by "rationally reconstructed" is supposed to lead to getting along.
I've been reading Rebecca Goldstein's new book Betraying Spinoza. Apparently, people thought Spinoza advocated "...that God is made out of matter,and that there are no angels, and that the soul isn't immortal." These were frightening ideas. They were frightening because they challenged the way people thought the world was put together. They challenged the way morality was supposedly keeping people from running amok. The piece following this struck me:
"Think about it, girls: Of course the soul must be immortal, must survive bodily death: otherwise, how could there be an olam haba -a world-to-come? And if there is no olam haba, then how can the soul come before the Ultimate Judge and be held accountable for its conduct during its life? How could the good who had suffered during their lives receive their reward, and how could those who were evil and had gotten away with it get their divine punishment? Think of the tzadikim (the righteous) who died in Hitler's ovens. Think of the innocent children. And think of the Nazis who escaped, who are enjoying life right now in Europe or South America. Without olam haba, we can't make any moral sense out of the world; without olam haba, there is no moral sense to the world. This is why denying the soul's immortality is tantamount to denying Ha-Shem."
There are many takes or portrayals of a person, like many readings of an argument. Some look one way. Some another. Each drawing captures something. This one was quickly done, about sitting, and waiting to be drawn.
This is the last part of a long dialogue between David and I. All took place at David's blog, The Anti-Manichaeist. We left the ending up in the air. I was going to try some other way of making my point. That's being worked on.
21st of July, 2006
Quality Apologetic Interaction
Posted by dlw in Uncategorized at 8:57 pm | Permanent Link
Steve Andresen and I have had some good apologetic exchanges at this blog. He wrote a very thoughtful reply to a post of mine a while back and I thought I’d repost it here and reply.
These exchanges are three of the best in your last post. First:
Steve: “My claim is that the basis of this Allegory is the view that knowledge and values are matters of logical argument.” Dlw: “And my claim is that that statement is bunk. It simply does not follow.” Second, you started out saying the following:
Dlw: “…Xty provides a better picture of what ultimate reality is like and that this bears some similarity to Socrates’ allegory. But I don’t see this as justifying lording it over others, as in the use of force. We can’t claim that we are more enlightened or superior for following Jesus.” And third, you said:
Dlw: “I think part of the problem here is I don’t really get what it would mean for our lives to be unlike that of a cave?”
These summarize for me much of your resistance to my argument. First, the Allegory did not seem to follow from what I have been saying about knowledge and values being matters of logical argument. The account of knowledge and value as matters of logic does not seem to support the Allegory as the conclusion of an argument. Second, it seems that even if Christianity resembled the Allegory of the cave, it was a true picture of reality nonetheless, and furthermore, it need not have the dire consequences that I have been trying to pin on it. In particular, even if Socrates pushed force, you don’t think Christianity or the words of Jesus need do the same to get people to “go toward the light,” so to speak. And third, you have been unclear what life would be like without the Allegory. If our lives are not like those of the cave dwellers, you want to know how are we to understand them.
David and I have been going back and forth here, which is a re-posting from his interesting blog The Anti-Manichaeist. The problem I try to clear up is just what we need to be thinking about when we want Christianity to turn out to be true and not dogmatic. That is, I thought, one has to be able to show the arguments that Christianity can use to back up its doctrines. What are they? Are they any good? David continues to ask about that.
After all we’ve discussed, there still seem to be a misunderstanding of some basic issues. For example, it seems we don’t share an understanding of what a ‘justified’ or ‘unjustified’ claim or position might be. In this last post, there was this exchange, I said,
“…The fourth issue has to do with trying to account for dlw’s resistance to my knock down drag out refutation of the traditional Christian view. I assume, of course, that I have dealt with all the outstanding argumentative issues. What ties people to Christianity even though it might be unjustified dogma?…”
I had two purposes here. One was to ask why it seemed the Christians can get away with making claims and lording it over everyone else without being required to justify what they say or believe, when none of the rest of us could, or should, get away with doing the same thing. So, I was impressed (maybe too greatly) with my question about why dlw believes our lives are like the lives of the cave dweller’s. I thought that if dlw could not explain why this was so, he would be in a position of claiming that our lives are like the cave dweller’s but being unable to show or justify why anyone should agree with him. The other thing I was doing was being a little tongue in cheek because I don’t believe there could be any “knock-down drag-out” refutations. Things are seemingly just too complicated for that. It was being sly.
I'd like to make about fifty of these small drawings. Choose a plant, a pair of shoes, salt and pepper shakers, or any other medium sized dry good type object. They look cool. They don't make you sweat about meaning.