Ah, look, an old friend returns. At that post of Stephen Law’s on Anselm’s proof we talked about the other day. Old friend returns in characteristic form – posting thirty or forty thousand words in each comment, talking about hermeneutics and Gadamer and Hermamer and gadaneutics until the wallpaper starts to peel spontaneously off the walls in very sympathy. He’s also got some new tricks though – mentioning ‘G_d’ a lot, overusing scare quotes or irony quotes beyond all reason, lots of quiet boasting. I wonder if you’ve guessed which friend I mean yet – I wonder if your memories are keen this morning. He used to deposit his book-length comments here often, often; he did it for nearly two years, ignoring nearly all replies in favour of depositing new stand-alone book-length ruminations on hermeneutics and the profundity of it all. I gave him a lot of rope, many chances, abundant opportunities to change; and then I’d had enough, and I banned him. Looking at his new effusions, I have to say, I’m hugging myself with joy that he does not post here any longer, because he can’t. I feel no quiver of regret. I do not miss his little ways. I do not worry that my thinking is the poorer for want of his wisdom.
Shall I give you a taste?
And in Anselm’s world the “problem” of atheism, the non-existence of divinity, was scarcely conceived to “exist”…The upshot here is that Anselm’s “proof” should be regarded in an heuristic and hortatory sense, rather than as logically dispositive…Now I myself am an atheist, though of an indifferentist variety, (noboby gets a leg-up through the profession of their beliefs), and of strongly anti-positivist instincts…But the idea that matters of belief and “faith” can be disposed of, ahistorically and extra-culturally, by technical refinements in logical argumentation just strikes me as silly and beside the point.
Stephen asked him, civilly, to clarify – but ah, he didn’t realize; he didn’t know he was dealing with one who never clarifies, who only ever repeats and amplifies. And so it fell out.
Religious ideas have a “logic” of their own, even if it’s not logical, and if one is going to deal with such matters, one should take account of the complexion of religious ideas and thinking and attempt to understand them as best one can, which does not require regarding them as true. One has to attempt to understand the sources of their compellingness in religious “experience”, such as ideas about suffering, sin, transcendence, redemption, vocation and the like…Religious beliefs are a mixed bag and are not simply cognitive, but contain ethical, expressive, and practical components, as well, but in such a way that they are holistically connected with each other, such that they operate “beneath” the level of the rational differentiation of validities, in terms of which modern forms of rationality and argument function.
And so on, and on, and on – that sample represents only about .1% of the total. It’s funny (and familiar) stuff. But I’m glad it’s being posted somewhere else and not here.
Maybe our friend is bucking for the Templeton prize. Maybe he thinks there’s a good chance that next year they will award it to someone who comments indefatigably and at length on other people’s websites. That seems quite a reasonable hope, doesn’t it? Sure.