Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Belonging as Illustrated by Simon of Cyrene

3 comments:
By Caleb Ratzlaff

Christ Carrying the Cross, Titian, 1565
Simon of Cyrene, as his name suggests, was a visitor to Jerusalem. His story is found in all three synoptic gospels but is noticeably absent in John’s account. Each gospel account begins with Jesus mocked and beaten by soldiers, after which he descends to Golgotha. However, as he begins his descent, the soldiers force a man from Cyrene, Simon, to carry Christ’s cross on his behalf.

I want to draw your attention to three aspects of this story. First, Christ needs help, he depends on Simon. Simon, in a sense, saves Christ’s life. Without help, it seems, Christ would have died even before he was able to begin his march towards the place of the skull. Second, Simon is forced to help, although just a sentence or two in each gospel, each account makes sure to specify that Simon doesn’t have a choice in the matter. Finally, it’s noteworthy that the idea of carrying one’s cross is foreshadowed in the Gospel of Luke. In Luke Chapter 14, Christ tells his disciples that the cost of discipleship will require them to a) hate their family and ultimately hate their own life; and b) take up their cross and follow him. Although I don’t want to discuss the specific meaning of this verse here, I think it’s fair to say that Jesus, and Luke specifically, considered carrying one’s cross to be related to one’s sense of belonging to a particular family. With these three points in mind, let us consider a contemporary parallel.

Jean Vanier recently wrote an op-ed for The Globe and Mail that addressed the issue of assisted dying. Although some may be disappointed that Vanier doesn’t absolutely condemn assisted dying, I believe that he accurately describes a dangerous failure in our society that must be considered regardless of our views on this sensitive issue.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Reformational Reason Revisited

3 comments:
by Hendrik Hart

This post is part of an ongoing symposium interacting with Lambert Zuidervaart's book Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation: Essays in Reformational Philosophy. For more responses to the book, see our table of contents.

Lambert Zuidervaart, with enormous care and admirable clarity, as well as with immense scope, devotes himself to the critical retrieval of the reformational philosophy tradition. Herman Dooyeweerd could hardly have imagined an at once loyal as well as creatively critical interpreter and transformer in the English speaking world such as has been emerging in Zuidervaart’s voluminous output. I am honoured on this occasion to join in a discussion of his forthcoming book of essays exploring themes in reformational thought.

One of the issues Zuidervaart tackles in his retrieval project is the reformation of reason. As an example of why and how he selects and develops this project he explores, for good reasons, my work on reason, which was prominent in my career and leaves a good deal to be desired. As I now reflect on that work, two things stand out. One is that I relied too much on the transparency of the reformational tradition’s work on modal analysis as that affects matters of rationality, faith, religion, and spirituality, without carefully explaining, as Zuidervaart now does, the intricate and complicated conceptual moves of the tradition. The other is that, perhaps more than anyone in the tradition and despite being aware of the problems Zuidervaart points out, I assumed a direct and obvious connection between rationality and order. In this blog I will continue to work with the tradition’s modal analysis, but I have moved well beyond my earlier views about rationality and order. Zuidervaart likely also has moved beyond some of his positions in the chapter to which I respond. I hope, however, that some of the issues I discuss are still worth exploring.

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Zuidervaart rejects the assumption in the Western rationality tradition, in reformational thought, and in my work that reason is about order. He is especially critical of what he takes to be an unavoidable consequence of such a view of reason, namely that it comes with a realism about order as a mind independent and given realm of atemporal immutables. Although I acknowledge that this has been the position of the Western tradition on reason for centuries, including reformational thought, I am less sanguine about the inevitability of this conceptualization of order as what reason is about in the tradition. Does Zuidervaart see the Western tradition’s order disappear when philosophers positively evaluate time, history, and culture? Will they reject order as no longer helpful in a more dynamic world? When he suggests or implies that realism does not accompany reason when it is about validity, does he overlook that what in the tradition has often gone by the name of order has been named in a great variety of other ways, including validity? The realistic realm of immutables has, besides being called order, also been called law, idea, universal, limit, boundary, norm, rule, condition, validity, system, definition, concept, name, determination, standard, essence, form, principle, structure, regularity, pattern, nature and probably more. In the realistic reformational tradition Vollenhoven referred to the nature of order (the being of the law, in his words) as validity, without thereby compromising his realism. So the question I raise here is: why would it be safe to assume that there can be no realism of validity or why could order not survive as a contested, temporal, cultural discovery?

So the question I raise here is: why would it be safe to assume that there can be no realism of validity or why could order not survive as a contested, temporal, cultural discovery?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Identity or Difference? From a Linguistically Turned Concept of Artistic Truth to a Linguistically Turned Concept of Religious Truth

2 comments:
by Adrian N. Atanasescu

This post is part of an ongoing symposium interacting with Lambert Zuidervaart's book Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation: Essays in Reformational Philosophy. For more responses to the book, see our table of contents.

I have been invited to comment on one of the essays comprising Lambert Zuidervaart’s upcoming book with McGill University Press, and I am very glad to respond here to this call. As my own theoretical concerns are shaped by J├╝rgen Habermas’ work in social theory and by philosophical work in the critical tradition inaugurated by the Frankfurt School, I concentrate on the essay “Artistic Truth, Linguistically Turned: Variations on a Theme from Adorno, Habermas and Hart”.

Let me say from the outset that the reflections I offer here are tinged with a sense of humbleness and I have a few reasons for this. First I am genuinely impressed with Lambert Zuidervaart’s work in critical theory and philosophy of art. I am mostly struck by his capacity to feel at home both in Anglo-American analytical philosophy and continental philosophy, and to discuss at a remarkable level of depth complex concepts from the philosophical work of thinkers like Adorno, Habermas or Heidegger, who are notorious for their difficult (if not hermetic) style of writing. Lambert crosses with ease philosophical divides that are daunting even for philosophers well trained in the two traditions mentioned.

I also admire his manner of doing philosophy, engaging philosophers on their own terms, adopting a standpoint from within their theoretical framework, in order to slowly articulate his own way in a move that will eventually lead the reader beyond that framework. Lambert is a dialogical rather than apologetic thinker. He builds bridges where most would be resigned to see deep intellectual chasms. At a time when our world is so fragmented, so divided along confessional, ideological and cultural lines, so prone to confrontation rather than dialogue, I think that Lambert’s approach is particularly relevant. Perhaps Saint Paul’s words in the first letter to the Corinthians (9:22-23) would put Lambert’s approach in proper light: “To the weak [in faith] I become weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all people, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”

At a time when our world is so fragmented, so divided along confessional, ideological and cultural lines, so prone to confrontation rather than dialogue, I think that Lambert’s approach is particularly relevant.

Moreover, I am under no illusion that I will be able to offer here critical comments that Lambert, over his career as academic professor and reformational thinker, has not already been confronted with, thought about or perhaps even publicly responded to. But, for what is worth, here are my comments.

I would like to begin with a summary of Lambert’s discussion, after which I engage with two aspects that are central to Lambert’s critique of Hendrik Hart in this essay but which retain a dominant presence in his entire work as well: I will comment on Lambert’s use of Habermas’ theory of communicative action, and then on the relationship between artistic disclosure and religious disclosure that Lambert posits in his critique of Hendrik Hart.