Modest Proposals

"I will teach you differences."
Ludwig Wittgenstein

An interesting notion: terms do not have relations but relations have terms. 

Say, for instance, that A R B is a relation. A’s relation to B is a “relation of,” which is only a nominal relation in the sense that A’s being cannot be said to be constituted by A’s relation to B but, really, A’s being is “relation-of-B.” What this establishes is that A’s identity is the relationship with B, not that A has an identity and then it has a relationship. This is a helpful articulation, for me at least, because then one does not have to establish how A comes to know B—or how A knows “the truth” of B—or anything of that sort.

(To read more: see Hartshorne’s 2nd chapter “God as Absolute, yet Related to All” from The Divine Relativity. Really this chapter is a treatise on the difference between external and internal relations.)

Note: this is essentially phenomenology’s articulation of “consciousness” as “consciousness-of” where “beings show themselves as themselves.”

A comrade of mine responded to a post I had earlier about “a new era in religion” by writing, “One recognizes a god in that he misbehaves,value got 0 to do with it.”

Of course, this can be one way in which one encounters the divine—by one’s conscience. But even philosophers of religion, theologians, and religious scholars object to the identification of the conscience with one’s understanding of God—or even with the equivocation of the conscience with “God’s voice.”

I simply want to give a brief list of other ways people come to an understanding of God (this is explicated quite well in John Cobb, Jr.’s, book God and the World). People also encounter God through divine experiences of beauty (thus the notion of “creator”), divine experiences of order (thus the notion of Lawgiver), divine experiences of dependence (God as ground of being), divine moral experiences (God as Judge), and distinctive religious experiences (the notion of “Wholly Other”).

At any rate, I imagine there are other ways one primally comes to understand the notion of God. To be reductionistic about this matter is to willfully misunderstand and bracket much of human experience and human beings in the process.

A new era in religion may be predicted as soon as men grasp the idea that it is just as true that God is the supreme beneficiary or recipient of achievement, hence supremely relative to all achieved actualities, as that he is the supreme benefactor or source of achievement, and in so far nonrelative to its results. There has been a secret poison long working in religious thought and feeling, the poison of man’s wanting to be an ultimate recipient of value. Religion then becomes man’s self-service, not genuinely his service of God. For if God can be indebted to no one, can receive value from no one, then to speak of serving him is to indulge in equivocation. Really it must, on that assumption, be only the creature who is to be served or benefited. God would be the cause and protector of value, but the value caused and protected must be simply ours. On this time-hallowed view, God was the mine and the miner from and by which the wealth was dug; but the ultimate consumer was ourselves….It is time that we consider the possibility that it may be just as blasphemous to suppose ourselves the ultimate recipients, as the ultimate makers, of achieved good. We are intermediate and secondary makers of value, intermediate benefactors; are we not likewise intermediate and secondary recipients of value, intermediate beneficiaries? The supreme source, and as well the supreme result, of the entire process of value-making is, I suggest, the divine life, in its originative and its consummatory phases, and these phases are genuinely distinct.

—Charles Hartshorne, The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God (1948), 58-59.

Is it political if I tell you that if we burn coal, you’re going to warm the atmosphere? Or is that a statement of fact that you’ve made political? It’s a scientific statement. The fact that there are elements of society that have made it political, that’s a whole other thing.

—Neil deGrasse Tyson (via socio-logic)

(Source: alwaysmoneyinthebnanastand, via wilwheaton)

We are not so much concerned that the forms and language of the past be preserved as that the faith come fully to life in relation to our needs and opportunities.

-John Cobb in Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition

I feel like this quote sums up what any theologian’s aim should be as the reifying and simple restating of orthodox beliefs is kind useless. I mean, we already know what the beliefs are, but it seems to me that far less often, we have any clue what on earth they actually mean. For example, I think a theologian should be far less concerned with whether or not the resurrection occurred, but whether or not it occurs today - not asking, did this happen, but does this happen, and what does it mean. We must never be afraid to ditch beliefs that either no longer make sense to us (sup Bultmann) or are harmful to groups of people as any liberation theologian will attest to. Christianity must evolve and theology must both aid and explicate this evolving faith.

(via stationtostation)

Charles Hartshorne’s Idea of Relativity

Charles Hartshorne has written in The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God that relativity—or the idea of relationality—is an ontological use of the logical principle of extension. What follows is that a concept classified ontologically as absolute must not assume another concept for its intelligibility.

The implications for this idea are enormous. This makes the correspondence notion of truth a relative concept—in that it requires an actual state of the world in order to verify a truth claim. A very interesting idea indeed.

It also makes the idea of omniscience relative—in that knowledge requires an object. What knowledge claims to know may change, and therefore the contents of divine knowledge changes. This is also an interesting idea.

Hartshorne’s Subtle Contribution

I just read one of the greatest statements ever written by Hartshorne. It seems to be one of his greatest contributions to Whitehead’s tradition of thought.

He writes that possibilities are always general and are therefore never definite. Only actuality is definite because definiteness is created through contrast and contrasts are only established through relationality—which is a characteristic of actuality. If his line of reasoning is true, then it follows that the present gives rise to emergent possibilities—possibilities that were not, so far as the past is concerned, “given” or definite. This makes novelty a possibility for the present.

This is a great contribution to Whitehead’s thought because Whitehead called eternal objects (which are possibilities) “forms of definiteness.” It would seem as if the past, then, would be wholly determinative of the present—for the past would give over the form of definiteness which would give shape to the present. This is the whole story for Whitehead’s conception of eternal objects because even at the end of Process and Reality he revokes his notion of conceptual prehension (which would superficially solve his problem) for the more naturalized notion of “hybrid prehension”—which is the prehension of “the form of definiteness” of an actual occasion in the becoming occasion’s actual world.

*I won’t mention God’s role as the giver of the initial aim, here, because Whitehead’s God seems at best incomplete and at worst incoherent.

Atticus Finch gave him an opportunity to play himself.

Harper Lee (about Gregory Peck)

(Source: melikeit2011, via vermeers)

How can the moral side of our natures be so profound, if the theoretical side is so incurably superficial?

—Charles Hartshorne, A Natural Theology for Our Time, 49.