Tag: rationality

Listening for the Greater Good

2010 has been granted the dubious honor as the year of the angry voter.  Unfortunately, far too much of that anger has been bolstered by means of a religious appeal.  Tea Party members, for example, have been quick to justify what they believe by using pseudo-intellectual, reductionist conceptions of Christianity.  A quick survey of signs held aloft at rallies will find many who display pure hatred, then cite a verse of Scripture at the bottom.  One sees this also at anti-abortion rallies or those challenging same-sex marriage rights.  A God which always agrees with us no matter what the issue or the circumstance is not God at all.  Christianity may find more of an audience among conservatives, but the gross distortions of many continue to damage its reputation.  

Reform of Any Sort Comes with a Margin of Error

The 1961 Luis Bu├▒uel film, Viridiana, concerns the pious exploits of a young nun who lives in a small village.  Meaning to do good in imitation of Jesus’ ministry, Viridiana leaves the convent and decides to take charge of the moral education of the village’s paupers.  Despite her best intentions, she finds herself exploited, abused, and taken advantage of at every possible turn.  Efforts undertaken to educate the village paupers in morality are an exercise in futility, a clear example of throwing pearls before swine.  After the combined shock of multifarious trauma, Viridiana (Latin for Green) seemingly succumbs to the sin of the world by the film’s conclusion.  Noted reviewer Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote at the time: “The theme is that well-intended charity can often be badly misplaced by innocent, pious people. Therefore, beware of charity.”        

Collapse Into Silence: Pirsig, Tao and the ‘Parmenides’

An amusing little philosophical bon-bon having zero relationship to anything political. We might as well  amuse ourselves from now till election day, because after that I expect we’ll be back to work trying to change the country. So take it for what it’s worth and have a little mental fun with it …

Originally published at http://www.rescogitans.sdu.dk/…

Introduction

American mystic and writer Robert M. Pirsig struggled mightily with the question of

how to interrogate the Unspeakable within the mental constraints of Western logical discourse. This struggle took him on an internal journey far from his Midwest, mid-century home, eventually pushing him into the unknown country of mental illness and involuntary commitment. I believe that what Pirsig was pursuing was not an empty Nothing, a no-thing. It was a full, even overfull Nothing, for which he struggled in vain to find a name and a vocabulary. I have taken to calling it the ‘over-full Nothing’ and will continue to use that term here to indicate when we are speaking of Nothing as an ontological term. Pirsig would come to believe that the closest approach to what he was trying to articulate could be found in the Tao, and indeed the Tao’s mapping to the characteristics of this ‘over-full Nothing’ was quite close. However, he failed to latch onto the full significance of something he noted in passing: the striking similarities between his thought and the system of the important Pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides. We will look in detail at the most influential deployment of the Parmenidean ‘over-full Nothing’, in Plato’s infamously obscure dialogue The Parmenides. Plato’s attempt to wrap it in logical discourse runs aground for the same reason that Pirsig’s attempt to do so ran aground 2500 years later. Both of their attempts to encapsulate the ‘over-full Nothing’ within language and logic eventually collapse into silence in the face of that of which nothing can be said.