Monday, February 28, 2005

"Said the joker to the thief..."

Gagani de-mystified (somewhat)

Heckuva pill to swallow, huh? Nothing worse than Continental philosophy on an empty stomach.

Gagani (below) is talking about the presence of God in items identified by theological discourse. Not the words themselves (this is a raging issue in contemporary philosophy: whether words are "names" or "signs," and on and on), but what they indicate (let's not even get into "signified" and "signifier." No reason to drag semiotics into this.). So the long phrase "the metaphysics of presence of theological objects" can be more simply rendered "the traditional metaphysical ideas of a transcendent deity."

Then he speaks of the heart of the matter: "that supreme moment which coincides with out actual experience of the significance of religion and which recognizes in religious discourse a hermeneutic perspective from which to look at life...." For "hermeneutic," just fall back on Ricouer, and think of "originary," or the point of beginning. Experience, IOW, is where religion begins, and the significance attached to that experience, is a part of a religious discourse (since nothing is understood wholly outside of a context, or a language, and language involves a shared discourse.)

And a hermeneutical approach because it isn't an attempt abandon what has been known and passed on ("tradition"), but "rather a recovery of the signs of the religious tradition that have not been thought through to the end." This, to me, is the crucial point: carrying the ideas given to us through to the end of our way of understanding, our ways of knowing, without fear of where that will lead us. The "metaphysical commitments" that tradition hands down "regarding the ontological status of the referents of theological discourse," after all, are not originary, but are part of the discourse, a part that may need either reinterpretation (Bultmann's "demythologizing," although I don't favor that course), or simply to be understood apart from traditional metaphysical explanations. ("God is spirit," but must we define "spirit" before we can discourse on our experience of "God"?). Doing this may not be throwing out the "tradition, but in fact "may therefore signify a recovery of the signs and the annunciations immanent within the history of a religious tradition." In other words, once we stop accepting it because "we've always done it this way," and start taking it seriously enough to examine as a contemporary object, not an historical artifact, we may find it has equal significance for us as it did for the first children of Abraham. Or, as Gagani puts it: "Once the metaphysical charge is defused, the objects of the religious tradition become figures for an interpretative perspective on life. It is in this capacity that they may be seen to intepret the movements of existence in which we are immersed, and not in so far as they attract the processes of life and history, sucking them back into a further ontological domain of transcendent beings, which is presented today as the most suitable vantage point from which to re-think religious experience philosophically." Maybe these "objects" do "transcend" us, ultimately. But we will find that by examining them for ourselves; not by starting with the end already in our assumptions.

Or something like that.

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