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here we have Habermas

October 15, 2010

Here are a collection of quotes from a collection of essays, Time of Transitions, by Jürgen Habermas.  These struck me and I wanted to be able to find them again.  I don’t agree with all the quotes below, but I find them thought-provoking.

But we lack the standards by which we could judge whether these forms of spirit are rational.  We scarcely know any longer what the question of the rationality of institutions beyond their mere stability is supposed to mean.  The thread of objective idealism snapped in the course of the nineteenth century…. After the unifying bond of reason was ruptured, Hegel’s conception of ethical life disintegrated into the elements from which he originally constructed it: language, work, and interaction. (p. 59)

It is beyond dispute that the sina qua non for a democratic will-formation on a pan-European scale that is capable of sustaining and legitimating positively coordinated and effective redistributive policies is greater solidarity at the base….  so that, for example, Swedes and Portuguese will be ready to vouch for one another…. Skeptics [argue] that there is no such thing as a European “people” capable of constituting a European state.  However, peoples first come into being with their state constitutions.  Democracy is a juridically mediated form of political integration…. But if one bears in mind that in the European states in the nineteenth century, national consciousness and civic solidarity–the first modern forum of collective identity–were produced only gradually with the help of national historiography, mass communications, and universal conscription, then there is no call for defeatism. (p. ?)

Egalitarian universalism, from which sprang the ideas of freedom and social solidarity, of an autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, of the individual morality of conscience, human rights, and democracy, is the direct heir to the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love.  This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation.  To this day, there is no alternative to it.  And in the light of the current challenges of a postnational constellation, we continue to draw on the substance of this heritage.  Everything else is just idle postmodern talk. (p. 150)

In my view, a philosophy that oversteps the limits of methodological atheism forfeits its philosophical seriousness. (p. 162)

After referring to the garden and Adam’s free choice as the first mythic age:

“In this second, historical age, a humbled God must himself await redemption, because humanity has taken upon itself the burden of resurrecting fallen nature. (p. 162)

I am fascinated to know how his assumed methodological atheism allows him to have confidence in his own viewpoint.  His statement of what determines philosophical seriousness rests on his individual view.  How can he be certain that he has the right view?  The problem with methodological atheism is that it rules out the atheistic null hypothesis a priori.  In other words, the atheist posits that there is not a god (A), and their null hypothesis would have to be that there is not not a god (not-A), or that there is a god.

Would any serious atheist reading this care to explain how setting the philosophical ground rules to limit the discussion to methodological atheism allows any serious weight to be given to an individual person’s viewpoint?

why Europe?

October 9, 2010

Why did western culture develop so dynamically in Europe? Why has this little appendage of the Eurasian continent had the enormous global cultural impact that its had? Consider this quote from Lesslie Newbigin:

Classical thought, for all its splendid achievements, had been unable to overcome dichotomies between being and becoming, between reason and will, between the intelligible or spiritual world and the material world known by the senses. Human history was an unending struggle of virtue against fortune, of the skill and courage and cunning of the human will against the blind power of fate which would — in the end — always prevail. The classical world had lost its nerve. Truth was ultimately unknowable. In Gibbon’s tart words, all religions were to the people equally true, to the philosophers equally false, and to the government equally useful. And this inward and spiritual decay was matched by all too visible disasters until in Augustine’s own time the eternal city, the very citadel of classical civilization, was captured and sacked by the barbarians. (Newbigin, Truth to Tell (1991), p. 15)

Why wasn’t that the end of the story? How is it that much of what was good in classical culture was carried over and preserved to provide a rich foundation for the later flourishing of European culture in the Renaissance and Reformation? Why didn’t the barbarians win?

carbon footprint

June 6, 2010

This evening I went to the grocery store, bought some fruit, veggies, and sourdough pretzel, put them in my reusable bag, and walked home. I’ve realized that I can walk to the grocery store in 15 minutes.

Most Americans would drive. Why? I can see stopping on my way home from work or other places, but if I’m home doesn’t it make more sense to walk? Here are the benefits to walking, as I see it:

  • I see more, like the bright orange flowers beside the grocery driveway, or the fading sunlight dancing among the grey clouds overhead.
  • I get some exercise as part of my normal routine.
  • No exhaust fumes from my vehicle pollute the air.
  • My diesel bill for my car is marginally cheaper.
  • My carbon footprint is smaller (perhaps, unless I wear out my shoes faster, and who knows if the process of producing and shipping the next pair of shoes I buy emits more carbon that the small amount I save by walking to the grocery store).
  • There’s a greater chance I’ll run into a neighbor.
  • Walking gives me time to think, space to breath.
  • How far would you be willing to walk to the grocery store?

    Tertullian and Earth Day

    April 22, 2010

    In the early days of the Christian church, Tertullian wrote:

    “Everything has been visited, everything known, everything exploited. Now pleasant estates obliterate the famous wilderness areas of the past. Plowed fields have replaced forests, domesticated animals have dispersed wildlife. Beaches are plowed, mountains smoothed and swamps drained. There are as many cities as, in former years, there were dwellings. Islands do not frighten, nor cliffs deter. Everywhere there are buildings, everywhere people, everywhere communities, everywhere life….Proof [of this crowding] is the density of human beings. We weigh upon the world; its resources hardly suffice to support us. As our needs grow larger, so do our protests, that already nature does not sustain us. In truth, plague, famine, wars and earthquakes must be regarded as a blessing to civilization, since they prune away the luxuriant growth of the human race.”

    What Tertullian failed to see in that quote is that people are not the problem–they are the most important resource on earth. It is people, creatively solving problems, who figure out how to use stuff in resourceful ways. With people, sand can become glass, silicon-based processors for computers, concrete, or a sandcastle; without people you have the Sahara Desert. Without people, none of the “resources” of the earth would be anything but stuff in the ground.

    Want to save the planet? Protect and preserve the flourishing of human life. Happy Earth Day!

    Calvinism is back

    March 29, 2010

    Informative article on current growth of Calvinism in America: Calvinism is back

    good food (past and future)

    March 29, 2010

    While I was looking through a box of random stuff by my desk, I came across an old business card from a little Cuban grocery and sandwich shop that used to be around the corner from where I lived when I was at Georgia Tech.  I’d forgotten the name of the place, but there it was on the card: “Kool Korner Grocery” and the owner’s name: “I. Ramirez.”  Those were some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten, and their little hole-in-the-wall shop was the sort of place where you’d see students, lawyers, construction workers–everybody in line at lunch.  The line usually snaked through the store, out the door, and down the block a bit.

    Curious whether they’re still open, I looked them up online, and found this blog post which said they had to close back in June 2008 when the landlord sold the corner property to developers. Very sad.

    However, as I read comments and patrons’ laments at Atlanta’s loss of true Cuban sandwiches, I was delighted to a link to another blog post which said that the owner has re-opened his business in Birmingham, Alabama. I’m heading that was for a concert next month, so I may plan on enjoying an authentic Cuban sandwich while I’m there.


    March 18, 2010

    As many Christian churches do during Lent, for the past weeks my church has honed in on our sins.  Yet we know that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.  As I see more clearly the depth of my sin, I’m overwhelmed by the greatness of Jesus’ work: He died to set me free!

    Freedom.  Those who have it sometimes take it for granted, not even noticing it, and those who don’t have it long for it.  A fish in water is free, but if you were to ask the fish about its freedom, it would probably be hard-pressed to describe the water to you. Yet remove the fish from the constraints of its pond or river, and suddenly it sees how its freedom within the boundaries of the water is a life and death matter.

    Freedom for life is found in the Word of God.  Like the fish in water, when we live within the boundaries of God’s Word, we find freedom and life.  Deuteronomy 4:1,2 say,

    And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you.  You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I have commanded you.

    Two observations:
    (1.) The reason God gives Israel for listening and obeying him is “that you may live.”
    (2.) We ought to speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where it remains silent.  This gives life and frees us to be fully human.

    Life comes from obeying the commandments of God.  Like a fish in water, we are free to swim when we’re constrained by the waters’ edges.  To go beyond the boundaries is certain death.

    The Bible clearly teaches that men and women are made in God’s image and given the cultural mandate to develop the flourishing of the earth and its creatures (Genesis 1:26-30).  It doesn’t ever define certain behaviors as inherently masculine or feminine, so we should take care to remain silent where God is silent.

    For example, to force an artistically gifted young boy to give up his art and play sports because its more “manly,” or to tell a young girl who is a gifted athlete that she should play dolls rather than soccer could squelch the individual talents and humanity of those people.  Both the boy and the girl above should be encouraged to pursue becoming more like Jesus–pursue holiness without which no one will see God–while developing the unique skills and interests God has given them.  This frees them to enrich their local communities and cities, to pursue the shalom (peace) of the place in which God plants them, and when we pursue Christ-like holiness, masculinity and femininity will take care of themselves.  (This example is from Mardi Keyes’ lecture, “Male & Female – In the Image of God.” Its available for free from the L’Abri Ideas Library:

    The boundaries God gives us are real: we are to pursue holiness by pursuing Jesus.  But the life and freedom we receive are equally real.  Like a fish in water, as we swim in the waters of the grace of God for us in Jesus Christ, we become more fully human and are free to love and serve others with our unique, individual gifts.