September 14, 2013

Back to the old problem...

Politics without Foundations | The View from Alexandria:

...For about a decade I team-taught a course on Contemporary Moral Problems with a prominent philosopher of language. He argued the liberal side of each issue; I argued the conservative side. I had no shortage of philosophical material on which to rely. He and I both assumed, since liberalism is supposedly the position that informed, intelligent people occupy, that there were similar philosophical foundations for liberalism. We were both astounded that there were not. For someone who seeks to be a liberal, but not a totalitarian, there is Rousseau, on one interpretation of his thought. And that’s about it.

Of course, there are people trying to provide such intellectual foundations. But we were startled at how thin their theoretical constructs really are. Any competent philosopher can think of a dozen serious objections to Rawls before breakfast, even on hearing his views for the first time. We base our conception of justice on what people would do if in some hypothetical situation satisfying certain constraints? Really? The actual circumstance, the actual history, what people actually want and need—these don’t matter at all? Why that hypothetical situation, anyway? Why those constraints? Would people really reach agreement? Would they even individually come to any “reflective equilibrium” at all? And why would people choose those principles of justice? Is there actually any research indicating that people would choose those principles? People would divide liberties into basic ones, which matter, and others, which don’t? 

Everything in the end rests on the welfare of the least advantaged in society? Who’s that? Mental patients and prisoners, probably. So, we’re to judge a society solely on how it treats its mental patients and prisoners? And the welfare of everyone else in society ought to be sacrificed to improve their lot even a tiny bit? Why think, moreover, that liberalism maximizes the welfare of the least advantaged? Rawls speaks as if well-being is static, as if we can speak simply of what happens at some equilibrium state without worrying about dynamic aspects of the economy or of a person’s life trajectory. But that leads him to confuse well-being at a moment with well-being over a life. An extensive welfare state might maximize the well-being of the least advantaged at the lowest points of their life trajectories without thereby maximizing their long-term well-being. In fact, preventing people from experiencing real lows might undermine their well-being as measured over a life.

I don’t mean to pick on Rawls especially; the same is true of other liberal theorists. Their theoretical constructs don’t connect with deep-seated features of human nature or of human societies. Their theoretical assumptions seem arbitrary and open to overwhelming objections....

There never will be a guiding political philosopher for liberalism. Liberalism is , deep down, the idea that we humans can navigate ourselves by our own reason, without using any external landmarks or guide-stars. Liberalism can't have a "guiding philosophy," because its core idea is that we don't need one.

Liberals has often tried to follow some particular guiding idea. But this always fails unless the new philosophy is imposed by force. In which case it becomes yet another totalitarianism.

Libertarianism tries to solve the problem by adding in a lot of personal choice. Let people chose everything freely, and make mistakes and learn from them. This works better, at least in the short run. But it doesn't solve the real problem. If people are allowed to stub their toes, they will learn to walk better. But that will not help decide what path is ultimately the best. Maybe the smooth easy path that seems to work well leads ultimately to a morass. "Strive to enter by the narrow gate."

. Posted by John Weidner at September 14, 2013 8:44 AM
Comments

Wasn't that the arc of "Dune", the book series? The safe, predictable path leads to extinction, is a trap?

Posted by: Robert M Mitchell Jr. at September 14, 2013 9:44 AM

“Each of us has to pass through a strait gate in order to think about the universe and enter into communication with it: that doorway is unique, and it is so narrow that it is shaped exactly like we are—only one person, therefore, can go through it. That image allows us to feel what the words themselves find difficult to express. None of us can reflect on the universe as long as we think that we can have access to it through someone else, no matter how loved or admired that person may be.”

-- Danielle Quinodoz, Growing Old: A Journey of Self-Discovery

For me, the experience of despair concerning our culture stems from several sources yet two are dominant. One is blaming and the other is the struggle to control the message within our society. It seems very little can be done to alter these escalating and damaging realities. Both liberal and conservative media attempt to spin the message on virtually all positions. Privation has become acceptable. Neither group appears to be trustworthy yet both remain necessary to our process. There appears to be darkness in the center of national vision. Our stereoacuity seems to have been sacrificed for the nefarious conditions of contempt and grandiosity.

The media appears to have little faith in what remains a “free” population, in what you can think for yourself. A populace such as ours requires accurate information to make informed choices and reasoned analyses. Perhaps I’m deluded, yet the media outlets now verge on becoming totalitarian propaganda machines. Each appears to be striving to become an All American Disneyland of thought and belief where you can go to get the “whole story.” These for profit “echo chambers” contribute to foreclosing on the very possibilities and process of dialogue, discovery and the dialectics of genuine debate that are vital to our republic. The United States of America is in decline. It is drifting steadily, by all measures, and faster than we can imagine from its position of prominence as a unique geopolitical presence. Yet, the rot issues from within our borders and within us.

The “frightened and huddled masses” now reside in our collapsing cities, and we are becoming more vulnerable to control. After all, nearly anything appears better than helplessness and despair. It seems to me that this is generally known yet rarely discussed. Perhaps this worsening condition may eventually transform into refreshed vision of responsive mutual governance. Will this happen or will the disrespect for our unique capacities for thought and vision be strangled by an increasingly controlling and mercenary media? Freedom of speech, at least in my view, is executed only after freedom of thought is already slumped against the wall.

To my mind, the second element weighing down the “corpes morte” of freedom is the hyper-reactive and critically unreflective blaming that currently prevails. Contempt creates nothing exempt its own grand demise. The media does so well to model this new fashion. Even a cursory examination reveals that such compulsive blaming is structured by fear, helplessness, an intolerance of frustration, the lack of respect for difference and uncertainty. It appears that something more than the beasts of hate have been loosed. I believe that this is observable in congress through their partitions of partisanship, repetitive obstructionism as well as it being stoked by a vulturine media. Certainly, the efforts to control the message cannot compensate for a dysfunctional and fragmented congress. The din of such echo chambers provides merely temporarily soothing. Propagandas fade fast in contrast to your original thoughts become enduring achievements when enacted. The congressional debacle is something far more threatening than the debauchery of McCarthyism yet has currently become the order of the day. It is perhaps more threatening than terrorism. What new crisis or scandal is next? How long has it been since we’ve heard even the rumor of a budget from Capitol Hill or seen a gesture of union in the face of obvious and profound human adversity and suffering here at home? Is it not well known that tyranny (bankrupt of humanity) evolves swiftly and subtly, particularly when the voices of the people are silenced through fear mongering, and contempt for its leaders expressed by so-called “experts.” Chronic blaming is the first indicator of malignancy. It specifically denotes a dangerous abnegation of investment, collaboration and responsibility.

Outside of America’s borders a new world is being born. It’s a messy process yet stuff is happening. Solutions are being found regularly for the problems all countries are facing in this new world. It is a world of shifting values and social organization. Disorganization and disorientation are intrinsic to growth. Yet, in our painfully dwindling “superpower” state we appear to be narcissistically blinded to the value and originality of these other solutions. We seem to believe we’re an exception, and that we’ll survive anything where other giants have slipped away and perished throughout history. We have yet to learn from our particular experiences of war as those in Europe have. Many had to rebuild from ashes literally and otherwise. I suggest that it is such an obliviousness or amnesia to these experiences that is one major factor in our collapsing domestic condition, economic, infrastructure, unemployment, education, science and so forth are descending to unprecedented levels. The strident effort to affix blame merely fuels a greater self-consuming fire. It also ultimately provides a smokescreen for general inaction and irresponsibility.

Malignancy is present within our union. If you were diagnosed with a cancer damaging your organs would blaming accomplish what you desire? My despair increases in proportion to the acceptance of dysfunction, the silencing of needed, thoughtful voices and arrogance or imperiousness that has come to characterize what’s left of any national conversation. It is frightening to observe and assess our descent. Conservatives and liberals as well as each branch of government have lost touch with their own fear, helplessness and responsibility to the people. Our body politic is damaged. At this point there is no high ground for anyone, even the so-called “one percent.”

Look around you, think for yourself, grab a bucket and start bailing, put the light on, pick up a hammer, help your community grow, your brother and sisters, even those you don’t consider your brother and sister. See what hope and tools remain to form a more perfect union. The gate is narrow yet open to all.

Posted by: Cameron Ashby at September 14, 2013 4:47 PM

John writes:

"Libertarianism tries to solve the problem by adding in a lot of personal choice. Let people chose everything freely, and make mistakes and learn from them. This works better, at least in the short run. But it doesn't solve the real problem. If people are allowed to stub their toes, they will learn to walk better. But that will not help decide what path is ultimately the best. Maybe the smooth easy path that seems to work well leads ultimately to a morass. 'Strive to enter by the narrow gate.' "

Well, it depends on what one expects of one's politics, John.

Politics is, at bottom, the means by which we decide who gets to do what to whom, and sometimes why. I really would prefer to leave religion out of it as much as possible. Yes, the decision-making has to be formed in an atmosphere of religious belief of some sort-- no society can exist in a religious vacuum, man being a "religious animal", so to speak-- but the political process starts coming off the rails when it starts picking winners and losers amongst religions just as surely as when it starts picking winners and losers amongst businesses.

The beauty of libertarianism is that people are free to choose within very broad limits what "works for them". And what works over the long run, and persists over the long run (absent an dysfunctional, over-controlling orthodoxy-- political or religious-- enforced by some sort of powerful elite), is what our forebears termed "the good and the godly" or "right conduct".

It's like the infamous "they" say, John: "God is not mocked."

Have some confidence in God, that He did form the Universe in such a way that the wicked do ultimately fail.

Posted by: Hale Adams at September 14, 2013 8:18 PM

Hale wrote: "Well, it depends on what one expects of one's politics, John."

You are evading my point. The post is about the philosophy that underlies the politics. But you jumped instantly to the politics itself. Which led you to the odd notion that I was suggesting that "the political process" might be "picking winners and losers amongst religions." That's the opposite of what I'm getting at.

You can't grapple with the problem, because libertarianism is a system based on avoiding the problem. But what happens is that libertarians still are guided by ideas and philosophies that their system does not generate, but you are just using whatever is floating around in the culture at the moment, without thinking clearly about it.

The idea of learning from experience, though it can be useful, has the same flaw. People only "see" their experiences through the lens of their philosophy, which tells them what is important or meaningful.

A good example of libertarian blindness is the issue of same-sex marriage. 10,000 years of experience and trial-and-error led virtually all human cultures to the conclusion that marriage is something that joins a man and a woman. AND this was done without government. (Laws on this merely adumbrated what the people had learned and decided.) This should have been something treasured by any libertarian, but as soon as popular culture changed, libertarians were happy to give government a huge expansion of power--the power to decide what one of the most fundamental human institutions is.

I myself think attacks on marriage are really intended to ease the way to totalitarianism. But one can't even discuss this with a libertarian. You don't have the philosophical tools needed to address the question.

Posted by: John Weidner at September 15, 2013 8:02 AM

Cam, thanks.

Too much for a simple reply, but your thoughts are in my thoughts.

"vulturine media" I love it!

Posted by: John Weidner at September 15, 2013 8:40 AM

Hale, one of the interesting insights of Sociology is that people re-arrange their pasts to fit their current ideas. If you became a Communist, then that obnoxious boss from long-ago, who you had almost forgotten, would become a major event in your persona history. You would slap your forehead and wonder how you could have been so blind.

If you subsequently converted to free-market thinking, then you would re-arrange your past again, and wonder why you had not perceived that that boss was struggling with a thousand obstacles thrown up by government in has attempt to foster economic growth that creates jobs such as yours.

That's the problem with "learning from experience." It's your philosophy that makes your experiences meaningful.

Posted by: John Weidner at September 15, 2013 8:59 AM

This re-arranging of ones past happened to me when I became a karate student in my 30's. An offer to join a Judo club from when I was about age 13, something I had almost forgotten, became in retrospect a major "road not taken" for me. A huge mistake! But I never learned anything from this mistake, never even saw it, until I changed my "philosophy."

Posted by: John Weidner at September 15, 2013 9:07 AM

John,

I agree that one's philosophy (or belief-system, or upbringing, or whatever one calls it) colors how one perceives his experiences and how he interprets them.

BUT....

The Universe has an existence independent of us, and it operates by its own laws. It has a way of encouraging virtuous acts and discouraging the not-so-virtuous. You and I see the hand of God in that. Other readers may see Divine Providence or something else. Either way, the result is the same, and things like Marxism, Communism, socialism (of the right or of the left), or any other "ism" that doesn't square with the workings of reality is doomed to failure. It may take a long time to get to that point (e.g., the Soviet Union), but the collapse does come.

That's why I don't get too excited about some things. I prefer to be a termite. Remember, the Soviet Union crumbled the way it did not from an external push but from a rot within. Our own version of Leviathan will have to fall the same way. Its fall will be more lasting if people see it for the absurdity it is, and if something like gay marriage (to pick but one example) helps point out the absurdity, so much the better.

Posted by: Hale Adams at September 15, 2013 4:33 PM

"10,000 years of experience and trial-and-error led virtually all human cultures to the conclusion that marriage is something that joins a man and a woman"

Is there any evidence for these trials-and-errors?
On the contrary, marriage was ordained by God from the very beginning.

The trials-and-errors lead to heresies, not to truth.

Posted by: Bisaal at September 15, 2013 8:28 PM

Libertarianism is appealing idea, no doubt, and appeals to the generation of men appalled by nationalistic wars of 20C, in a way reminiscent of how secular govts grew out of a world appalled by the wars of religion.

But nations exist, and so do religions. It would not do to imagine that man should have no loyalties above the level of families.

Posted by: Bisaal at September 15, 2013 8:33 PM

Thanks for your response John!

Hi Hale,

I'm wondering what you consider as the flaws in learning from experience? Intrinsically connected with this, how do you define “learning” and also “experience?”

I've reflected on these three words for decades. A brilliant and gifted artist once said to me in art school, “Learning from experience is the fool’s school.” Initially this seemed rather puzzling and more like a half truth.

Forty some years later, and after art school, grad school, post-graduate studies, two psychoanalytic trainings, together with twenty-eight years of clinical work, training other therapists, supervising and teaching, it seems to me that all human growth hinges on being able to learn from experience. It appears that this little phrase is intrinsic to any domain or discipline as well as being an essential if also an arduous process in the advancement of personal or professional knowledge. I subscribe to Ambrose Bierce’s paraphrasing of Solomon, “There’s nothing new under the sun, only many old things we know nothing about.”

As I age, continue to teach, mostly gerontology at this point, for which there is an extreme lack of theoretical and developmental models, experience is the only campus. So, I’m very curious about what you see.

Posted by: Cameron Ashby at September 16, 2013 10:30 AM

"Is there any evidence for these trials-and-errors?"

I meant as history would look to a libertarian.

But even to the Jewish or Christian believer, life is still an experiment. God does not compel belief. We still have to run the experiment of life, looking forward with hope but rarely with certainty.

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:23-25
Posted by: John Weidner at September 16, 2013 5:44 PM

Bisaal,

(First off, let me congratulate you on your English. It's a lot better than it was a year or two ago. Keep up the good work!)

You write,

"But nations exist, and so do religions. It would not do to imagine that man should have no loyalties above the level of families."

Well, yes. The point of libertarianism is not to abolish the nation-state, or to restrict one's loyalties to one's family. It's merely to cut government down to its proper size and scope, and to watch that government closely so that it stays within its proper bounds.

****************

Hi, Cameron,

Yeah, I know, I know. As my (now-deceased, alas) father put it to me one day after I had tried something that didn't work out well: "Son, experience is a dear school, and there are some," he said, cocking an eyebrow at me, "who will learn in no other."

The older generations made their mistakes, learned from them (sometimes), and very much want to pass that hard-earned wisdom on to the younger generations, so that they don't screw up and waste time and resources re-inventing the wheel, so to speak.

The problem is that the world isn't static, at least, not anymore. What was true in the year 1000 was probably still true in 1100, but what was true in 1963 may not be true in 2013. (I'm speaking here not of human nature-- which seems immutable-- but instead of the props and scenery which provide the backdrop to this stage-play we call "life".)

The younger generations see possibilities in new things and new methods that the older generations may have overlooked, because the older generations, having been burned once, are twice shy.

And sometimes the ones with the experience are right to be suspicious, and the best way to teach the inexperienced is to let them screw up.

When it comes to politics, it's bad enough that "they" (the ones who established the current mess, and are perpetuating it) are getting the government that they deserve. The problem is that we have an over-centralized government, and that results in me getting the government that they deserve.

The Founders and the Framers, with their skepticism of centralized power, were pretty smart for a bunch of dead white European males.

Posted by: Hale Adams at September 16, 2013 5:54 PM

Hale Adams,
If all you mean is to "watch that government closely so that it stays within its proper bounds"
then yours is not the libertarianism I am criticizing. Indeed, the word itself should not apply to your position for it is the conservative position.

Posted by: Bisaal at September 16, 2013 9:48 PM

"I'm wondering what you consider as the flaws in learning from experience? "

Cam, I'm not sure if this was addressed to me or Hale. I don't think learning from experience (or trial-and-error) is flawed--it's vital, it's prodigiously important, we'd all be dead without it.

But, there are certain questions for which it is not properly applicable. It's like Einstein is said to have said, "It is the theory that decides what we can see."

No one can simply "learn from experience," because, except in trivial things, experience gives us far more data than we can process. We are always filtering our input, and the most important filters are the theories we have that tell us what is important. That tell us what to notice.

The flaw of libertarianism is in imagining that experience alone can provide and test the theories that guide our learning by experience!

Posted by: John Weidner at September 17, 2013 10:32 PM

It's like Thomas Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions. Most work is done within the paradigm of its time. If experimental data appears that doesn't fit the paradigm, it can't be used. It is set aside, or considered "noise." Or is just invisible.

Eventually someone grows uncomfortable with the awkward facts and invents a new theory. But this is through insight or creativity completely outside routine science. Often seemingly mystical and visionary.

If you invented a scientific method that assumed that routine experimentation would lead to continual progress, you would just be wrong.

Posted by: John Weidner at September 17, 2013 10:46 PM

There is CS Lewis theory of science too, in the Epilogue of The Discard Image. Regarding the debate between evolutionary views vs older devolution-ary
views, he says that the theory comes first, and the nature provides evidence later.

The evolutionary view, that imperfect is prior to the perfect, was common among intellectual elite, much before any evidence was provided.

So it is not even that someone gets uncomfortable with awkward facts but someone gets uncomfortable with a theory and then asks nature different types of questions.

Posted by: Bisaal at September 18, 2013 9:37 PM

Mankind owes far more to Custom than to trial-and-error. Even in trial-and-error prone America, Custom carries great weight in political matters.

The Constitution was not a product of trial-and-error but of deliberation--rationalism one may even say.

Posted by: Bisaal at September 19, 2013 12:00 AM

Cam, I'm not sure if this was addressed to me or Hale. I don't think learning from experience (or trial-and-error) is flawed--it's vital, it's prodigiously important, we'd all be dead without it.

Initially I’d addressed my query to Hale yet then noticed after I’d posted that you’d written about the flaws in learning from experience. I appreciate your thoughts. It seems the “old problem” you describe regarding the libertarians hinges entirely on what is meant by learning from experience, and what both “learning” and “experience” may mean.

I love what you said above, and agree, experience is vital and prodigiously important… and we will be dead sooner without it, yet we will be dead at some point anyway. To my mind, learning continues on the basis of experience whether it achieves a philosophical or theoretical maturity or not. Indeed, theory in my view is a different more sophisticated type of experience. Your philosophical framework captured something that you had missed from an earlier childhood framing, and is further one of the lovely aspects of reminiscence in aging as well. It gets more intense.

For me a theory is created and comprises answers, ways of capturing data and most important it is aware of the questions kept alive in bell jars, and the arguments against it. If the theory is non-dogma it keeps the uncertainties in mind. Darwin kept a little notebook on the uncertainties of his theory, and said it was necessary because he could remember the theory well yet the questions he was concerned he might forget.

But, there are certain questions for which it is not properly applicable. It's like Einstein is said to have said, "It is the theory that decides what we can see."

That sounds like something he might have said. Even if not, it addresses an extremely important concern. At a more advanced or higher levels of development, believing is a way of seeing. I believe it also includes vision. Dr. Dawkins has a problem with this that Darwin did not. Darwin introduced a new vision. As you once said, evolution and the belief in God are not exclusive. Only one old story (old theory) was thrown out by Darwin. Dawkins has debased his work into dogma. I suggest what Einstein was addressing was that believing generates a fresh theoretical field of vision, yet still derived from sensory, spiritual or intuitive and mathematical experience. Why isn’t the world enjoying large celebrations over the relatively well confirmed discovery of Higgs Boson? It’s most likely that people are not wont to consider such vast cosmic dynamics, even if they are fundamental to living processes. In the scientific publications, as you may know there is a paucity of “comments,” quite unlike other venues such as the “like” and “dislike” and checked and written copiously social media.

No one can simply "learn from experience," because, except in trivial things, experience gives us far more data than we can process. We are always filtering our input, and the most important filters are the theories we have that tell us what is important. That tell us what to notice.

Experience is extremely generous. Yet we must focus. However, selective inattention is a serious scoundrel. It’s found everywhere and is often accompanied by greed, envy or emptiness. As you imply, theoretical frameworks operate paradoxically as filters and illuminators, sunglasses and microscopes. These frameworks determine the types of data that can be apprehended. Personalizing this, an eggzample would be if I used a theory that exclusively concerned the conscious mind. I might filter out any awareness of communications from the unconscious mind. Further, what if the unconscious mind is larger or more important than the conscious communications? At a professional dinner a colleague once ended a difficult discussion by saying to another, “As analysts we know the unconscious.” I was stunned. It worked well to silence everyone, and of course asserted his now unquestionable “expert status.” Yet, it was not anywhere near to what Freud delineated as the unconscious. He suffered terribly from unconscious splits. He rarely attracted any clients, and the candidates loathed him as he never remembered their names. For whatever reasons he was deeply and unfortunately engaged in dogma.

The flaw of libertarianism is in imagining that experience alone can provide and test the theories that guide our learning by experience!

You’re right; most likely there can be little discourse with these folks. Yet the fault is not with learning from experience. Again, you actually imply this point. To my mind, it is an inability to construct a theory or philosophy that is useful for the intimate and important participation in group experience. I suggest such a position shrouds other relatively underdeveloped or challenging aspects as well. Imagination and symbol formation seem to travel forward together, even if the “symbol” is just a well detailed image, auditory composition or sequence of physical movements as in dance. One of the symbolic tasks we must achieve is how to have our cake and eat it too. The challenge with these folk is being able to regress to an earlier, already abandoned language of experience without losing one’s own, and perhaps assisting them to see what great stuff they’re missing. It often seems to help in being able to convey to them something of Korzybski’s accurate dictum, “The map is not the territory.” This places theoretical constructs in perspective. It somehow helps them to appreciate what they’ve got, and to also get them interested in making some maps that they can share with others.

I like what I’ve read of Dr. Kuhn yet I read it so long ago that I’ve forgotten why I found it limiting yet beautifully descriptive of specific evolutionary lines. Also what I’ve had to face in terms of theory building is that succeeding generations of clinicians and theorists were damned uncomfortable with what has preceded them, as they violently attempt to write over it, like graffiti, or simply ignore it. For example, the nasty dinner guest above was a member of a specific paradigm yet selected out only what suited his tastes and temperament. He was adrift without compassion. How does one deal with that?

Eventually someone grows uncomfortable with the awkward facts and invents a new theory. But this is through insight or creativity completely outside routine science. Often seemingly mystical and visionary. [what does this mean seemingly?]

Creativity must form the base of theoretical structure in science and art. Hopefully the theory is constructed with a robust esthetic, and again, at the base a simple form no matter how complex it may eventually grow to be. There are only two mystical psychoanalysts that I’m familiar with and relish yet most colleagues I know, not all, seem to avoid them more than lepers. It is a road they selected out, no, and a path they don’t wish to travel.

If you invented a scientific method that assumed that routine experimentation would lead to continual progress, you would just be wrong.

Yes, because it is as any artist or “pervert” worth his chortle knows, ultimately too restrictive. It specifically delimits the “accepted” areas of learning from experience. Again, I do equate learning with growing. This is an action stance. It is often one that infuriates academics. Souls learn from experience, yet often with divine and therefore remembered guidance, and additionally, with dreaming, another’s reverie and prayerful conversation concerning their progress. Learning from experience is an arduous task yet finally suffused with the greatest joy I’ve ever known. There are serious questions attending this learning. How do we find more ways of loving, how is sexuality negotiated amongst all its variations, and how do we form the deep attachments we need to transform? From more than a few years in the trenches of psychotherapeutic experience, these are not academic or philosophical questions. There are no comfy armchairs when working with souls. And when they are in groups or congregations it’s a dynamic and nearly awesome mess. There is however a theory that many clinicians select out of their attention in the name of science. No one, nobody is transformed or may find transubstantiation without love and the experience of truth, lived truth being present in that experience of I and thou + infinity, that repeatedly detheorizes us all equally.


Posted by: Cameron Ashby at September 19, 2013 9:38 PM
...The driving force that impelled Newman along the path of conversion was conscience. But what does this mean? In modern thinking, the word "conscience" signifies that for moral and religious questions, it is the subjective dimension, the individual, that constitutes the final authority for decision. The world is divided into the realms of the objective and the subjective. To the objective realm belong things that can be calculated and verified by experiment. Religion and morals fall outside the scope of these methods and are therefore considered to lie within the subjective realm. Here, it is said, there are in the final analysis no objective criteria. The ultimate instance that can decide here is therefore the subject alone, and precisely this is what the word "conscience" expresses: in this realm only the individual, with his intuitions and experiences, can decide.
Newman's understanding of conscience is diametrically opposed to this. For him, "conscience" means man's capacity for truth: the capacity to recognize precisely in the decision-making areas of his life – religion and morals – a truth, the truth. At the same time, conscience – man's capacity to recognize truth – thereby imposes on him the obligation to set out along the path towards truth, to seek it and to submit to it wherever he finds it. Conscience is both capacity for truth and obedience to the truth which manifests itself to anyone who seeks it with an open heart. The path of Newman's conversions is a path of conscience – not a path of self-asserting subjectivity but, on the contrary, a path of obedience to the truth that was gradually opening up to him... -- Benedict XVI [Link]
Posted by: John Weidner at September 21, 2013 7:00 PM
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