Virtue of Charity: Re-Visioning Religious 'Toleration' in America
and an Illusion: Toward a Post-Anthropological Concept of Religion
on the Free Will/Determinism Debate and the Law of Contradiction
on Overcoming Apathy in Relation to Aurobindo's Interpretation of the
Message of Bhagavadgita
a Biblically Based Environmental Ethic
A Propitious Misfortune
and Economic Solidarity: The View from the Catholic Social Encyclicals
SELECTED BOOK REVIEWS
H. Burtness, Consequences: Morality, Ethics, and the Future
Carter, A Do-It-Yourself Dystopia: The Americanization of Big Brother
Susan Cohen, ed., ANTISEMITISM: An Annotated Bibliography
C. Patton and Benjamin C. Ray, A Magic Still Dwells: Comparative Religion
in the Postmodern Age
Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love
BOOKS OF NOTE
The usual understanding of religious 'toleration,' based upon Enlightenment conceptions of human nature, society, and epistemology, has led to the extreme privatization of religion. This development is, in fact, at odds with the larger philosophical intent of religious 'toleration.' Consequently, we need to reassess these underlying assumptions (and the kind of religious 'toleration' that they produce) in light of more contemporary perspectives on human nature, society, and epistemology. In doing so, we will see that the standard view of religious 'toleration' or even the more robust religious 'respect' is inadequate. Therefore, the virtue of charity as an alternative view, which captures how religious toleration should be visioned, is proposed and defended.
According to Brian Morris, social scientific studies of religion have been hampered by two persistent dichotomies. The first of these divides sociological methods and objects from anthropological ones, and is considered by Morris as engendering a more important dichotomy between types of religion. "Folk" or "tribal" religion is thought to be the distinct type characteristic of non-literary cultures. "Historical" religions belong to the type found in societies which have a literary tradition. It is argued herein that this conceptual distinction is rooted in broader intellectual commitments than those which Morris considers. But if this is true, then an integrative conception of religion that overcomes such dichotomies can emerge only if we begin by identifying such ideas. The beginnings of such a critique are developed. In light of this critique, the question is then posed as to how the traditional disciplines should be thought of in connection with an integrative conception of religion. The social scientific approach called "post-anthropological" would place itself beyond some of the basic assumptions that encouraged the development of the social sciences at one time but which now retard scientific understanding. A post-anthropological conception of religion would be integrative and "anthropological" in aiming for inclusiveness and generality in identifying and explaining the range of meaning(s) and function(s) that can reasonably be named by the terms "religion" and "religious experience." But this conception would be post-anthropological in leaving behind anachronistic and false assumptions embedded in traditional social scientific approaches. Practically, this would require vigorous and constant interdisciplinary and philosophical reflection upon and re-articulation of the findings of a wide variety of researches about religion and religious experience. These critical dimensions would be necessary for an integrative, post-anthropological approach to succeed in overcoming the entrenched dichotomies and oversimplifications of the past.
The free will/determinism debate hinges upon the law of contradiction. It is argued that the law of contradiction, which Aristotle formalized, is itself based upon the Aristotelian principle that concepts are best formulated as members of single genuses. We have very strictly followed Aristotle's advise and most of our concepts do descend from single genuses. There are, however, exceptions and some concepts are members of multiple genuses. In such cases the law of contradiction does not necessarily hold. If we conceptualize human beings as belonging to two very different genuses, one free and the other not free, then the contradiction is not between human freedom and God's sovereignty, but the contradiction is within human nature itself. If that is the case God's sovereignty cannot be considered to be in contradiction to a nature that is itself a contradiction.
The danger that appears when the intellect encounters the absurd can lead to a rejection of the absurd or to a breakdown of the intellect. The two symptoms of this breakdown are the phenomena of dialectical reason and faith. Dialectical reason (philosophy) and faith (religion) are therefore the two possibilities in a case wherein a human being takes seriously the tragedy of the absurd and the absurd becomes his mode of existence. An analysis of the possibilities is presented for a conceptual understanding of contradictoriness as a subject of thought. Particularly important in this light is the interval between belief, which corresponds to the intellect, and faith, which corresponds to religion. There is a brief analysis of the metaphor of the cross, above all of the characteristics that are already clearly illustrated by the Cartesian coordinate cross. Here, a space wherein things can be (everything) emerges from the intersection (nothing) and vice versa. This, of course, involves a paradigmatic (metaphorical) and syntagmatic (metonymic) axis and the implications of the worlds that arise from such a crossing: linguistics, magic, etc. The danger that appears when the intellect encounters the absurd can lead to a rejection of the absurd or to a breakdown of the intellect. The two symptoms of this breakdown are the phenomena of dialectical reason and faith.
Aurobindo's interpretation of`'Kurukshetra' in Gita is analyzed and determined to be symbolic of life in terms of conflict or war. This view is then applied with reference to the apathy or indifference of many people to the problems faced by our society, such as poverty, homelessness, discrimination, and pollution. A possible way to solve these problems is considered (while attempting not to be indifferent or apathetic) by showing that in Gita, as Aurobindo believes, Kurukshetra is symbolic of life as battlefield and that it is within Man's power to bring a change in the outside world through the expression of his own inner ideal. Social problems can be solved by doing something about them without thinking about the results of the action, as Gita suggests, and this is the only way to make progress. This process requires total commitment to the action that one undertakes.
The ecological crisis is a major component of the public discourse. Even issues that are not strictly "environmental," such as trade agreements, are impacted by differences of opinion about and approach to environmental hazards. Science per se cannot provide absolute certainty about any of the future consequences of current or proposed policy, nor can it provide "the answers" regarding what ought to happen. A scientific worldview is severely limited in tackling the ethical underpinnings of the various controversies. The relationship of religion to environmental ethics is two-fold: religion must enter the public discourse to provide contributions to the development of an environmental ethic, and environmental concerns need to enter the "private" religious arena wherein they can be incorporated into the ethical systems of individuals.
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