Topics are arranged alphabetically in the INDEX.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

An Anglican I Remain


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

I make no apology for being an Anglican Traditionalist. However, I will be an apologist for the Anglican Way of Christianity.

Our confession as Anglican Christians is Christ crucified, risen, and coming again. Until His arrival, we make disciples, strengthen one another, and receive Him in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. The kerygma and the Nicene Creed express Anglican dogma, and the Bible informs and shapes our doctrine and practice. We require nothing to be believed that is not attested by these our authorities. That is why we reject innovations, be they from Rome, the Episcopal Church, or the Church of England.

Unfortunately, some who call themselves "Anglican" have departed from this confession, aimlessly wandering the trails of modernism, process theology, feminism, and social activism. These give Anglicanism a bad name. They leave a foul smell wherever they go. It is no wonder that some seek to escape the reek. 

Some Anglicans who have left for greener pastures include G. K. Chesterton, John Henry Newman, and more recently Michael Nazir-Ali, and Gavin Ashenden. Their departure to Rome meant gain for Roman Catholics and loss for Anglicans. However, the Roman pasture has not proven to be much greener.

Recently an Eastern Orthodox friend asked me, "Why not just head east, and become Orthodox?" Here is my response:

Because our history, our ethos, some doctrines are quite distinct. As you know I spent 6 years with the Antiochian Orthodox and value those years because they renewed me after the Anglican "wars". They also connected me with sacred Tradition whereby I can identify dangerous innovations.

The friend replied that it didn't make sense that people choose to be outside the One True Church, and had I tried the Western Rite, to which I replied:

The tendency to triumphalism among some Orthodox is troubling. It is so contrary to the Orthodox emphasis on humility as a primary virtue. Also, the Orthodox exclusive use of the Septuagint for study and as the text behind the Divine Liturgy is a problem since it leans into the Greek perspective of the soul rather than the biblical Hebrew understanding of the Soul-Body unit. Further, a detailed study of the planting of Christianity in the British Isles reveals a patrimony easily as old as that of Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, and Constantinople. With the Great Schism of 1054, Constantinople became the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Byzantine liturgy, which I prefer greatly to the Western Rite, developed contemporaneously with other early liturgies of the Church and is not objectively superior to them, only different.

The friend then pointed to brilliant men who left the Anglican Way for Orthodoxy, including Jon Braun, Peter Gilquist, Patrick Henry Reardon, and Stephen Freeman. She asserted that these men were "on a search for the truth. For the TRUE Church."

It should be noted that some Orthodox are not orthodox in every aspect of their theology. David Bentley Hart and Alvin Kimel, both former Anglicans, are examples. Kimel has waffled a great deal over the years. He was a priest in the Episcopal Church who left for Rome and then converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. He and Hart have been promoting apocatastasis, a belief that the restoration of creation to a condition of perfection will involve escape from eternal separation from God for those who have willfully rejected God.

The departure of great Anglican thinkers for either Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy suggests that Anglicanism is a natural pad for launching people in different directions. However, it seems that former Anglicans rarely go to Protestant denominations because what we have found satisfying in Anglican Christianity is lacking among Protestants. We are conscious of divine mystery, the efficacy of the Sacraments, the importance of sacred tradition in the interpretation of Scripture, the beauty of holiness expressed in reverent worship, the wisdom of the Church Fathers, and the necessity of the universal Creeds.

A Crisis of Authority and the Burden of Central Authority

The confusion within Anglicanism is the result of a crisis of authority. Our collegial polity has been weakened by a club mentality among the bishops. None wish to give offense to their fellow members. When they should have stood in defense of the Faith once delivered, they showed themselves complacent. Complacency leads to decline and decline leads to decadence.

Some who were raised by modernist Anglican clergy wandered far from the orthodox faith and led others astray. Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne are examples. Both were raised in the Church of England. They put forward a view of God as one affected by temporal processes. In Hartshorne’s process-based conception God always changes. This is not the orthodox view of God as eternal and immutable.

For Anglicans the authority of Scripture and Tradition is central to our identity. While we share a rich heritage of reason and intellectual acumen, we do not disregard these authorities in favor of philosophical speculation about God and humans. That is fatal to our identity.

Some Anglican clergy dabbled with spiritualism. James Pike was raised Roman Catholic and became an agnostic. After WWII, Pike and his second wife, Esther Yanovsky, joined the Episcopal Church and Pike became an Episcopal priest. He was charged with heresy three times, though the charges were dropped. He rejected the central dogmas of the Christian Faith touching on the Incarnation and the Trinity. In October 1966, he was formally censured by his fellow bishops, but he was never deposed. That same year his son James Jr. committed suicide, an event that prompted Pike to try to communicate with his dead son using a medium.

The crisis of authority within Anglicanism is also demonstrated in the liturgical revisions of the Episcopal Church in the 1970s. The Episcopal priest and theologian, Urban T. Holmes, understood that ECUSA's liturgical revisions drew more on Process Theology and modern philosophy than on Scripture, Tradition, and the Church Fathers. In reference to the Episcopal Church 1979 Prayer Book, he wrote, "It is evident that Episcopalians as a whole are not clear about what has happened. The renewal movement in the 1970s, apart from the liturgical renewal, often reflects a nostalgia for a classical theology which many theologians know has not been viable for almost 200 years. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is a product of a corporate, differentiated theological mind, which is not totally congruent with many of the inherited formularies of the last few centuries. This reality must soon ‘come home to roost’ in one way or another."

Holmes added, "The church has awakened to the demise of classical theology."

If Holmes believed that "classical" or orthodox theology is not viable, he should have left the priesthood.

Hoping to Escape the Chaos

The crisis of authority in Anglicanism has led many to seek refuge with other sacramental bodies. The departees have gone to churches where authority is either centralized, as with the Pope and the Magisterium, or is sustained by synods of Orthodox bishops who resist modernism and innovation. Within those churches, there are rebellious persons who try to impose their will. There are feminists campaigning for women priests. There are reactionaries demanding the Latin Mass as their right. There are theological and liturgical debates, and jurisdictional conflicts among the Orthodox ethnicities. The necessary imposition of ecclesial authority tends to homogenize and invariably some people will resist conforming.

Anglicans excel at resisting homogenization. It comes of our history under Rome, the bloodshed of the 16th century in England, and the iconoclasm of the Puritans. Some regard the Thirty-Nine Articles as their Confession. Others regard the Articles as important to Reformed theology but take the universal Creeds as the only proper reflection of the catholic Faith. Some use the Book of Common Prayer as a resource out of which they pick prayers and rites. Others uphold the liturgies of the 16th century through the mid-20th century as the historic Anglican formularies which are not to be tampered with. 

Some Anglicans ordain women and believe this practice does not impinge on the Gospel. Others believe rightly that this development stabs at the heart of the Gospel since the priesthood ultimately is about the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and this innovation breaks with catholic tradition, and is without the consent of the Church worldwide. 

There also is a huge range of aesthetic expressions in Anglican churches. Some maintain the elegant architecture of the great cathedrals. Some are scrubbed clean of embellishments and resemble Congregational places of worship. Some are warehouses with big screens and platforms for praise bands. These variances express different theological perspectives, yet all claim to be “Anglican”.

Let us consider also the great intellects who remained Anglican in the face of this crisis of authority: C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Evelyn Underhill, William Temple, Austin Farrer, Matthew Green, and John Stott. Additionally, the Anglican Way of Christianity has many millions of adherents in Africa and Asia where there has been less pressure from their cultures to adopt modernism, feminism, and innovations that break with tradition.

I remain an Anglican in good company! An Anglican I remain against the currents.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Derrida's Hostility to Phonocentrism


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

Phonocentrism is the belief that uttered sounds and speech are inherently superior to written language. Phonocentricists maintain that spoken language is the primary and most fundamental method of communication whereas writing is a derived method of capturing speech. 

Some writers have argued that philosophers such as Plato, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Ferdinand de Saussure have promoted phonocentric views. Walter Ong (1912-2003) expressed support for the idea of phonocentrism. He drew on the work of Eric A. Havelock, who suggested a fundamental shift in the form of thought coinciding with the transition from orality to literacy in Ancient Greece. 

Ong viewed writing as a laboriously learned technology which effects the first transformation of human thought from sound to sight. This transition has implications for structuralism, deconstruction, religion, and anthropology. Ong argued that the general culture of the United States is particularly non-phonocentric.

In 1962, Jacques Derrida, a young French-speaking Algerian of Jewish parentage took interest in this subject, having read a set of lectures by the Oxford philosopher J. L. Austin (1911-1960). Austin's "How to Do Things with Words" contained a theory of the different kinds of speech acts. Beginning in 1946, Austin made a distinction between constative speech and performative speech. Austin was not particularly interested in the distinction between what is spoken and what is written. The philosophical points he made apply to both forms of communication.

Derrida, however, found importance in the distinction and felt that in Western culture and Philosophy too much emphasis had been placed on the spoken word.

Jacques Derrida used the term "phonocentrism" to criticize what he saw as a disdain for written language. He argued that phonocentrism developed because speech, being more immediate than writing, has been regarded as closer to the presence of subjects. He believed that the binary opposition between speech and writing is a form of logocentrism, in which words and language are taken as a fundamental expression of an external reality.

This was problematic for Derrida whose deconstruction of narratives suggests that the notion of meaning is far more complex. Derrida's opposition to phonocentrism came from his attack on what he called "the metaphysics of presence". Derrida characterizes as the metaphysics of presence the tendency to conceive fundamental philosophical concepts such as truth, reality, and being in terms of ideas such as presence, essence, identity, and origin—and in the process to ignore the crucial role of absence and difference. For Derrida negative space is presence. Here we perhaps see some influence from his Hebrew background. The horned altar of the Hebrew was a negative (apophatic) solar image.

Anthony Kenny explains, "Derrida 'deconstructs' the opposition between speech and writing and gives the privileged position to the written text, the one furthest from the control of the author, the one most capable of diverse and superseding interpretations. Some have seen Derrida's attacks on the metaphysics of presence as an enterprise, in a very different key, parallel to Wittgenstein's demolition of the notion of private language." (A. Kenny, Philosophy in the Modern World, Vol. 4, p. 92)

For Derrida, presence and absence are a binary opposition worth exploring. This applied even to his personal preferences. On his reluctance to be photographed and his insistence that no image of himself would appear on his book covers, Derrida said, "For me, writing means to withdraw myself, even if one appears when one writes because publishing means appearing in a certain way. But I didn’t want my appearance to be framed by the contemporary uses of photography where they show the author writing or in a head shot. So I thought it was very important to exclude all forms of photography and all public images of myself." 

Peter Salmon notes, "Jewish, French, Algerian, Derrida’s identity was complicated, and he strove to apply this complexity to all he touched. Part of thinking like Derrida involves taking those things we take most for granted – such as our identity, such as our language – and looking for unexplored assumptions, contradictions and absences."

Derrida’s deconstruction reveals great complexities of meaning in written texts, ideas, myths and human customs. He wanted to know what dominates and blocks what seems not to be present. He ascribes to subordinate objects a more substantial existence than the shadow they cast, or their “trace.” He wrote: "Deconstruction cannot limit itself or proceed immediately to neutralization: it must, by means of a double gesture, a double science, a double writing, practice an overturning of the classical opposition, and a general displacement of the system. It is on that condition alone that deconstruction will provide the means of intervening in the field of oppositions it criticizes" (Metaphysics).

Derrida explores the hidden presence. In so doing, deeper and/or unfamiliar meanings emerge. His method involves neutralizing the shouting voice in order to hear resonances of underlying voices. He looks for Plato behind Aristotle, for mystery behind logic, and for the metaphysical behind the physical. His reversals are a strategic intervention to free western philosophy from the constraints of empiricism, materialism, and linear logic. 

This project necessarily drives one toward the written word which stands still long enough to be deconstructed.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Anglicans and Process Theology

Charles Hartshorne (1897-2000)

Alice C. Linsley

One of the errors of Process Theology, as expounded by Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne, is that God is affected by temporal processes and is "becoming" alongside humanity. In Hartshorne’s process-based conception, humans change for a while, whereas God always changes. This is not the orthodox view of God as immutable. 

The order of Creation makes it evident that there is a distinction between the Creator and the creation, and the very definition of God implies an eternally existent Being outside of the created order. Logically, God cannot change. Isaiah 57:15 says that God "inhabits eternity." He created time and is therefore outside of time.

Hartshorne, like Whitehead, was the son of an Anglican clergyman. Historically, Anglicans have posited unorthodox views of God. Bishop George Berkeley said, "We must all obey the great law of change. It is the most powerful law of nature", and he introduced the concept of panentheism which means that all is in the one God. Hartshorne preferred the term dipolar over panentheism. In Hartshorne’s philosophy, God’s perfection is seen in the evolution and the creativity of living beings, and God is conceived as dualistic—both free and unfree, conscious and unconscious, and eternal and temporal.

Hartshorne departs from orthodox views in his description of the actuality of God (i.e., how God exists). A God who exists necessarily is not necessary or unchanging in terms of divine responsiveness to creaturely changes. Hints of Pragmatism and Darwinian assumptions are evident in his thought.

For William James, Pragmatism was a way to apply Darwin's theories to philosophy. The mid-century Pragmatists believed that humans have survived and evolved because organisms with the ability to reason logically are naturally selected over organisms without reasoning.

However, we have good reason to question Darwinian assumptions about human change. Despite the Darwinian nomenclature employed by paleoanthropologists, the oldest Hominid fossils do not reveal dramatic changes between the oldest of the species (3 million years) and modern humans (300,000 years). And given the record of artifacts, human inventiveness has existed from the beginning. It is pure speculation to say that human nature has changed through the many millennia of our existence.

Anglicans and Process Theology

For Anglicans the authority of Scripture and Tradition is central to our identity. Further, we share a rich heritage of reasoned observation of the natural world. To disregard our Anglican heritage in favor of philosophical speculation about God, humans, and the order of creation is fatal to our identity.

Process Theology continues to influence many prominent Anglicans. Consider this statement from Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, who was writing about humans and the environment:

"...the human task is to draw out potential treasures in the powers of nature and so to realise the convergent process of humanity and nature discovering in collaboration what they can become."

In 2009, The Episcopal Church sought funding for a part-time advocate for environmental stewardship of water. Resolution A516 was titled "Sacred Acts for Sacred Waters". Here is the explanation:

"Scripture teaches us that God made the waters as part of Creation. Throughout Scripture and in liturgical practice, water has had deeply understood sacramental roles culminating with the water of baptism. Science and everyday experience confirm the description in the Scriptures of water as life-giving for all Creation. Millennium Development Goal #7 seeks to provide adequate supplies of life-giving water for all people.

Within Creation water undergoes a cycle. Water flows from sources, is contained, distributed, sometimes purified, used and then collected and distributed for further purification before rejoining the flow. In our reality the water of Creation is the result of complicated combinations of the natural processes set in place by the evolution of Creation and by many human interventions."

There it is again, Process Theology, with a thin veneer of a sacramental (or shamanic) theology. It is clear that Process Theology interacts with political ideologies to produce what is termed a "Woke" consciousness.

The Episcopal priest and theologian, Urban T. Holmes, understood that the liturgical revisions of the 1970s drew more on Process Theology and modern philosophy than on Scripture, Tradition, and the Church Fathers. In reference to the Episcopal Church 1979 Prayer Book, he wrote, "It is evident that Episcopalians as a whole are not clear about what has happened. The renewal movement in the 1970s, apart from the liturgical renewal, often reflects a nostalgia for a classical theology which many theologians know has not been viable for almost 200 years. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is a product of a corporate, differentiated theological mind, which is not totally congruent with many of the inherited formularies of the last few centuries. This reality must soon ‘come home to roost’ in one way or another."

Holmes added, "The church has awakened to the demise of classical theology."

Holmes was honest, and if he believed that "classical" or orthodox theology is not viable, he should have left the priesthood.

C.S. Lewis addresses the problem in a speech he delivered in 1945 on "Christian Apologetics" to Anglican priests:

"It seems to the layman that in the Church of England we often hear from our priests doctrine which is not Anglican Christianity. It may depart from Anglican Christianity in either of two ways: (1) It may be so “broad” or “liberal” or “modern” that it in fact excludes any real supernaturalism and thus ceases to be Christian at all. (2) It may, on the other hand, be Roman. It is not, of course, for me to define to you what Anglican Christianity is--I am your pupil, not your teacher. But I insist that wherever you draw the lines, bounding lines must exist, beyond which your doctrine will cease to be Anglican or to be Christian: and I suggest also that the lines come a great deal sooner than many modern priests think. I think it is your duty to fix the lines clearly in your own minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession.

This is your duty not specifically as Christians or as priests but as honest men. There is a danger here of the clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue. Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defense of these opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. They thus come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of another."

Friday, January 6, 2023

Plato and Christian Theology


Andrew Louth, “The Necessity of Platonism for Christian Theology”. 

Delivered remotely to the King’s College Chapel, 17 January 2021.

Link to full video: 2021 Robert Crouse Memorial Lecture.

Copious Flowers provides some pertinent excerpts of the address.

Related reading: Plato's Debt to Ancient Egypt

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Albert Einstein on Bertrand Russell


Remarks on Bertrand Russell's Theory of Knowledge

By Albert Einstein

When the editor asked me to write something about Bertrand Russell, my admiration and respect for that author at once induced me to say yes. I owe innumerable happy hours to the reading of Russell's works, something which I cannot say of any other contemporary scientific writer, with the exception of Thorstein Veblen. Soon, however, I discovered that it is easier to give such a promise than to fulfill it. I had promised to say something about Russell as philosopher and epistemologist. After having in full confidence begun with it, I quickly recognized what a slippery field I had ventured upon, having, due to lack of experience, until now cautiously limited myself to the field of physics. The present difficulties of his science force the physicist to come to grips with philosophical problems to a greater degree than was the case with earlier generations. Although I shall not speak here of those difficulties, it was my concern with them, more than anything else, which led me to the position outlined in this essay. 

In the evolution of philosophic thought through the centuries the following question has played a major role: What knowledge is pure thought able to supply independently of sense perception? Is there any such knowledge? If not, what precisely is the relation between our knowledge and the raw material furnished by sense-impressions? An almost boundless chaos of philosophical opinions corresponds to these questions and to a few others intimately connected with them. Nevertheless there is visible in this process of relatively fruitless but heroic endeavours a systematic trend of development, namely an increasing scepticism concerning every attempt by means of pure thought to learn something about the "objective world,"· about the world of "things" in contrast to the world of mere "concepts and ideas." Be it said parenthetically that, just as on the part of a real philosopher, quotation-marks are used here to introduce an illegitimate concept, which the reader is asked to permit for the moment, although the concept is suspect in the eyes of the philosophical police. 

During philosophy's childhood it was rather generally believed that it is possible to find everything which can be known by means of mere reflection. It was an illusion which any one can easily understand if, for a moment, he dismisses what he has learned from later philosophy and from natural science; he will not be surprised to find that Plato ascribed a higher reality to "Ideas" than to empirically experienceable things. Even in Spinoza and as late as in Hegel this prejudice was the vitalizing force which seems still to have played the major role. Someone, indeed, might even raise the question whether, without something of this illusion, anything really great can be achieved in the realm of philosophic thought-but we do not wish to ask this question. 

This more aristocratic illusion concerning the unlimited penetrative power of thought has as its counterpart the more plebeian illusion of na1ve realism, according to which things "are" as they are perceived by us through our senses. This illusion dominates the daily life of men and of animals; it is also the point of departure in all of the sciences, especially of the natural sciences. The effort to overcome these two illusions is not independent the one of the other. The overcoming of na1ve realism has been relatively simple. In his introduction to his volume, An Inquiry Into Meaning and Truth, Russell has characterized this process in a marvellously pregnant fashion:

We all start from "naive realism," i.e., the doctrine that things are what they seem. We think that grass is green, that stones are hard, and that snow is cold. But physics assures us that the greenness of grass, the hardness of stones, and the coldness of snow, are not the greenness, hardness, and coldness that we know in our own experience, but something very different. The observer, when he seems to himself to be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed, observing the effects of the stone upon himself. Thus science seems to be at war with itself: when it most means to be objective, it finds itself plunged into subjectivity against its will. Naive realism leads to physics, and physics, if true, shows that naive realism is false. Therefore naive realism, if true, is false; therefore it is false. 

Apart from their masterful formulation these lines say something which had never previously occurred to me. For, superficially considered, the mode of thought in Berkeley and Hume seems to stand in contrast to the mode of thought in the natural sciences. However, Russell's just cited remark uncovers a connection: If Berkeley relies upon the fact that we do not directly grasp the "things" of the external world through our senses, but that only events causally connected with the presence of "things" reach our sense-organs, then this is a consideration which gets its persuasive character from our confidence in the physical mode of thought. For, if one doubts the physical mode of thought in even its most general features, there is no necessity to interpolate between the object and the act of vision anything which separates the object from the subject and makes the "existence of the object" problematical.

It was, however, the very same physical mode of thought and its practical successes which have shaken the confidence in the possibility of understanding things and their relations by means of purely speculative thought. Gradually the conviction gained recognition that all knowledge about things is exclusively a working-over of the raw-material furnished by the senses. In this general (and intentionally somewhat vaguely stated) form this sentence is probably today commonly accepted. But this conviction does not rest on the supposition that anyone haactually proved the impossibility of gaining knowledge of reality by means of pure speculation, but rather upon the fact that the empirical (in the above mentioned sense) procedure alone has shown its capacity to be the source of knowledge. Galileo and Hume first upheld this principle with full clarity and decisiveness. 

Hume saw that concepts which we must regard as essential, such as, for example, causal connection, cannot be gained from material given to us by the senses. This insight led him to a sceptical attitude as concerns knowledge of any kind. If one reads Hume's books, one is amazed that many and sometimes even highly esteemed philosophers after him have been able to write so much obscure stuff and even find grateful readers for it. Hume has permanently influenced the development of the best of philosophers who came after him. One senses him in the reading of Russell's philosophical analyses, whose acumen and simplicity of expression have often reminded me of Hume.

Man has an intense desire for assured knowledge. That is why Hume's clear message seemed crushing: The sensory raw material, the only source of our knowledge, through habit may lead us to belief and expectation but not to the knowledge and still less to the understanding of law-abiding relations. Then Kant took the stage with an idea which, though certainly untenable in the form in which he put it, signified a step towards the solution of Hume's dilemma: Whatever in knowledge is of empirical origin is never certain (Hume). If, therefore, we have definitely assured knowledge, it must be grounded in reason itself. This is held to be the case, for example, in the propositions of geometry and in the principle of causality. These and certain other types of knowledge are, so to speak, a part of the. instrumentality of thinking and therefore do not previously have to be gained from sense data (i.e., they are a priori knowledge). Today everyone knows of course that the mentioned concepts contain nothing of the certainty, of the inherent necessity, which Kant had attributed to them. The following, however, appears to me to be correct in Kant's statement of the problem: in thinking we use, with a certain "right," concepts to which there is no access from the materials of sensory experience, if the situation is viewed from the logical point of view.

As a matter of fact, I am convinced that even much more is to be asserted: the concepts which arise in our thought and in our linguistic expressions are all-when viewed logically-the free creations of thought which cannot inductively be gained from sense-experiences. This is not so easily noticed only because we have the habit of combining certain concepts and conceptual relations (propositions) so definitely with certain sense-experiences that we do not become conscious of the gulf-logically unbridgeable--which separates the world of sensory experiences from the world of concepts and propositions.

Thus, for example, the series of integers is obviously an invention of the human mind, a self-created tool which simplifies the ordering of certain sensory experiences. But there is no way in which this concept could be made to grow, as it were, directly out of sense experiences. It is deliberately that I choose here the concept of number, because it belongs to pre-scientific thinking and because, in spite of that fact, its constructive character is still easily recognizable. The more, however, we turn to the most primitive concepts of everyday life, the more difficult it becomes amidst the mass of inveterate habits to recognize the concept as an independent creation of thinking. It was thus that the fateful conception-fateful, that is to say, for an. understanding of the here existing conditions-could arise, according to which the concepts originate from experience by way of "abstraction," i.e., through omission of a part of its content. I want to indicate now why this conception appears to me to be so fateful. As soon as one is at home in Hume's critique one is easily led to believe that all those concepts and propositions which cannot be deduced from the sensory raw-material are, on account of their "metaphysical" character, to be removed from thinking. For all thought acquires material content only through its relationship with that sensory material. This latter proposition I take to be entirely true; but I hold the prescription for thinking which is grounded on this proposition to be false. For this claim-if only carried through consistently absolutely excludes thinking of any kind as "metaphysical."

In order that thinking might not degenerate into "metaphysics,'' or into empty talk, it is only necessary that enough propositions of the conceptual system be firmly enough connected. with sensory experiences and that the conceptual system, in view of its task of ordering and surveying sense-experience, should show as much unity and parsimony as possible. Beyond that, however, the "system" is (as regards logic) a free play with symbols according to (logical) arbitrarily given rules of the game. All this applies as much (and in the same manner) to the thinking in daily life as to the more consciously and systematically constructed thought in the sciences.

It will now be clear what is meant if I make the following statement: By his clear critique Hume did not only advance philosophy in a decisive way but also-though through no fault of his-created a danger for philosophy in that, following his critique, a fateful "fear of metaphysics" arose which has come to be a malady of contemporary empiricistic philosophizing; this malady is the counterpart to that earlier philosophizing in the clouds, which thought it could neglect and dispense with what was given by the senses.

No matter how much one may admire the acute analysis which Russell has given us in his latest book on Meaning and Truth, it still seems to me that even there the spectre of the metaphysical fear has caused some damage. For this fear seems to me, for example, to be the cause for conceiving of the "thing" as a "bundle of qualities," such that the "qualities" are to be taken from the sensory raw-material. Now the fact that two things are said to be one and the same thing, if they coincide in all qualities, forces one to consider the geometrical relations between things as belonging to their qualities. (Otherwise one is forced to look upon the Eiffel Tower in Paris and that in New York as "the same thing.") 1 Over against that I see no "metaphysical' danger in taking the thing (the object in the sense of physics) as an independent concept into the system together with the proper spatio-temporal structure.

In view of these endeavours I am particularly pleased to note that, in the last chapter of the book, it finally crops out that one can, after all, not get along without "metaphysics." The only thing to which I take exception there is the bad intellectual conscience which shines through between the lines.


1 Compare Russell's An Inquiry Into Meaning and Truth, 119-12.01 chapter on "Proper Names."

From The Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, Vol. V of "The Library of Living Philosophers," edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp, 1944. Translated from the original German by Paul Arthur Schilpp. Tudor Publishers.

Related reading: What Albert Einstein Thought of Christianity; Einstein Was Right About Education

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Derrida's Style of Writing


Paul Austin Murphy looks at Derrida's intentionally obscure writing style. Murphy observes:

How much does a reader need to know about Derrida’s writing style (as well as his philosophy) in order to recognise his (to use Critchley’s words) “wordplay”, “intertextual references”, “allusions”, “neologisms” and “paleonomy”?

Clearly — a hell of a lot.

Of course one can easily argue that one needs to be tuned in — at least to some extent - to any philosopher in order to understand what he or she says. Yet added to that fact — again — is Derrida’s use of language to make it say things it hasn’t previously said. That compounds the difficulties for the reader. And, of course, it’s very clear that Derrida was very happy with making things difficult. Indeed one could easily argue that making things difficult for the reader was at least part of Derrida’s (philosophical) point!

 Read the whole article here.

Monday, November 14, 2022

David Bradshaw on Faith and Reason


In this 2018 article published in Touchstone Magazine, Dr. David Bradshaw (University of Kentucky) explores the relationship between faith and reason, and the views of various philosophers as to how Truth is perceived.

Related reading: David Bradshaw on the Relationship Between Philosophy and Theology