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Silencing Reason

Nothing is "known by faith" but only by experience and reason, and that is why Albert Schweitzer's work is unacceptable to the Church, because Schweitzer's religion is rational rather than a belief in things unknowable (mysticism). Not faith and reason, but faith or reason.

[Nonetheless there is another notion of religious faith than doctrine. And so these remarks are necessary, but they are not the end of the matter, for it may be that both reason and faith have their place, although it is not the same place. Doctrine may be used to "silence thought", to silence reason, but maybe religion is deeper than doctrine.]

Topics on this page ...

Background: Many questions directed, or as often misdirected, to this site go unanswered, and so I have responded to a few here. Small children, animals, and search engines, are unacquainted with the problems of philosophy (cf. PG i § 138, p. 191). These are preliminary "logic of language" remarks (Wittgenstein's expression as my jargon: How is language with meaning distinguished from language without meaning?), preliminary, that is, to being revised again and again, and again.

Words that follow "Query" were found in the referrer logs of this site.

Which philosophy is a "frightful waste of time"?

Query: Wittgenstein's comments on Socratic dialogue.

One might, with as little insight, comment: Reading Wittgenstein's philosophical investigations, one has the feeling: what a terrible waste of time! What is the point of these remarks that tell us nothing about "no small matter, but how to live"? (Bertrand Russell in effect said about the Philosophical Investigations: What is the point of these remarks that do not "aim to understand the world as well as may be"?)

The query was misdirected within my site, as queries sent to this site so often are. It concerns Socrates' Mission in Philosophy (ff.) where the following quotation is discussed:

Reading the Socratic dialogues one has the feeling: what a terrible waste of time! What's the point of these arguments that prove nothing and make nothing clearer? (ibid. p. 14 [MS 111 55: 30.7.1931])

As also is discussed the "with as little insight" remark above. In that discussion, in sum, the answer is: Neither is "a terrible waste of time". But they want different things from philosophy. (Is it possible -- i.e. is this defined language or nonsense? -- to ask: what should we want from philosophy?)

Query: speculative tradition.

Different people want different things from philosophy; some do not want speculation -- but others do, and to them Wittgenstein's remarks about metaphysics are beside the point, if, that is, my account of metaphysics as pictures is correct. After all, speculation is just that: speculation; if it were verifiable, if it were demonstrably true or false, it would not be what we call 'speculation'.

Why does Wittgenstein (in OC § 37) think it the logicians's task to "cure" idealists and realists of philosophy (which was part of Wittgenstein's crusade against philosophy)? Because if he is going to say that "for them it [i.e. the propositions 'There are physical objects' and 'There are no physical objects'] is not nonsense", although it is "a misfiring attempt to express what can't be expressed like that" (ibid. OC § 37), then it can be "expressed like that" -- because it is expressed like that (if it could not be, then, for both the philosopher and for Wittgenstein, it would be nonsense.

But I as well said that the pictures metaphysicians conjure up with their propositions are (often) not nonsense (The pictures themselves are the sense, or, meaning of those propositions) -- but those pictures are idle: they tell us nothing about reality (except in so far as "logical possibility" -- i.e. what can be described in our language -- is part of reality). But must speculators be confused or fail to make a distinction between real and verbal definitions? Cannot they say of their speculations: these are ways that it may be (i.e. these are logical possibilities) -- if that's what they think they are doing ... and I don't think Wittgenstein thought that was what they thought they were doing. Nor do I, for a metaphysician would not call himself a fantasist.

But if as Fichte says idealism is "a speculative position" -- i.e. if it cannot be pictured, because that position has nothing to do with sense perception -- then my account of metaphysics as "pictures", if the word 'picture' means a visual rather than a figurative picture, is wrong in the case of idealism. (Realism is, in my view, just as Wittgenstein says it is: "a misfiring attempt to express what can't be expressed like that": the proposition 'Objects exist', or, 'There are objects' is not a statement of fact, but only a rule of grammar, which, besides "being nonsense" or "pictures", is the third possible value that a metaphysical statement my have, on my account that is.)

So earlier I asked if the book "The World As I Found It" would contain the statement 'There are objects'? But that book must be titled "The World as We Human Beings Find It" (because the concept 'object' is our concept, not my concept: I acquired, as do all human beings, the language I think in; I did not invent the concepts of that language). That the concept 'object' is indispensable to us is a statement about us (i.e. about man) -- and that, at least on my account, was Kant's great 'space' and 'time' categories insight. When Wittgenstein (in Z § 711) says that the philosopher must try to look at things without pre-conceptions, "as it were from a Martian point of view", that won't do -- because his Martian, like man, uses the concept 'object' -- i.e. his Martian in this way perceives the way a human being does. And that is the great insight of "forms of life" (in the sense of "life forms" in this case), that different life forms may have very different ways of perceiving ("Concepts without percepts are blind" and, in some cases, possibly impossible; if a life form does not perceive as a man does, then the concept 'object' does not exist for it). "Is the concept 'object' needed by all life forms?" is a question only a god who sees what man cannot see could answer -- i.e. it belongs to our "Questions Without answers".

Cats and Catness (Medieval Philosophy)

Note: The following maybe simplifies the discussion Subtopic: Realism versus Nominalism.

Query: nominalism and realism, simple definitions for social science.

According to "[the doctrine of] nominalism" "catness" [-- i.e. whatever the essence of being a cat is --] only exists instantiated in particular cats.

According to "[the doctrine of] realism", on the other hand, there is something called 'catness' [-- i.e. whatever the essence of being a cat is --] which [in some way] exists independently of its instantiation in particular cats.

Those are the traditional [historical] philosophical jargon meanings of the contrasting pair 'nominalism' and 'realism'. The doctrines both belong to metaphysics, not to physics [natural science]; they are pure speculation, not knowledge of any kind. They are, so it is said, pictures of reality as reason alone can know reality to be.

Cats need not exist for there to be a concept 'cat'

The account above of nominalism is not right, for if all the cats on earth disappeared, we might still have a concept 'cat', e.g. people who can draw could still draw cats and the behavior of cats could still be described (cf. the grammar of 'fairy'). In the case of cats it seems there is a common nature or essence, indicated by the common name 'cat' -- or is there? We define the word 'cat' ostensively -- i.e. by pointing to cats -- not in verbal rules for using the word 'cat', and therefore what, in rules for the use of the word, the common nature of cats is, is undefined. Nonetheless, the case of 'cat', we feel, is very different from the case of 'game' (where there is such a variety of games, that it may be perplexing that they are all called by one name, namely 'game'; I don't think we would be inclined to say that about house cats).

"Cats need not exist for there to be a concept 'cat'", but is the concept 'cat' if cats exist a different concept from the concept 'cat' if cats don't exist?

I will be brief: your noble son is mad:
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What is't but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that go. (Hamlet ii, 2)

"Let that go" because it's what any fool knows, Polonius the fool thinks, and so doesn't need saying. By 'essence' -- in this case the essence of cats, assuming that there is such a thing -- would be: (1) that-without-which a cat could not be what it is, namely a cat, and (2) that which distinguishes cats from all things that are not cats (Those are the two parts of a Socratic definition according to Plato and Aristotle).

"For to define true madness, what is't but to be nothing else but mad?" Is that the essence of madness, because "to be nothing else but mad" is to be in no way different from mad-ness itself? But neither all madmen nor all cats are alike in every respect, for if they were, all cats would be identical to all other cats, and all madmen to all other madmen. (Of course, in Plato's "strict sense", all madmen are identical in so far as (and no farther) they are madmen.)

"... nothing else but mad." The essence of Hamlet is not to be nothing else but mad, but rather Hamlet-ness "partakes" of many different essences or Forms, as indeed it may be that madness itself does.

Being nothing else but mad (or, cat qua cat)

With respect then to the essence of being mad, all madmen are indeed identical (and the same would be the case with cats). And thus Polonius' "definition of madness" in Hamlet ii, 2, is, or appears to be, correct. Because "... to be nothing else but mad" doesn't imply that someone can't be something additionally to being mad; otherwise there could not be a mad-man or a mad-woman. But those additional things do not belong to the essence of madness (nor to the essence of being a cat (or, "catness"), e.g. if a particular cat were black with blue eyes and another gray with green eyes).

Note: 'could' not 'would' -- i.e. regardless of whether catness is only found in particular cats (nominalism) or has an independent existence (realism), a cat cannot lose its catness without ceasing to be a cat. [An essence cannot be reduced.] Or, again, 'could' not 'would', because 'could' = 'can' = 'logical possibility' and indicates a definition, whereas 'would' would indicate an hypothesis.

[Related, although not identical, to this is the topic Nominal versus Real Definitions, which is about the distinction between verbal (or, misleadingly called "nominal definitions", because 'nominal' suggests that all words are names) and "real definitions" -- the first being the definition of -- i.e. rule for using -- a word, the second being a "definition of some thing", a true or false proposition. In the historical nominalism versus realism question, however, both those doctrines present themselves as real definitions (propositions, not conventions).]

Essence in Realism

According to the doctrine of realism, if I understand it, there is some thing called 'catness' which exists perhaps in a Platonic heaven -- but in any case is not visible in our world. Its existence is known only by reasoning, not by experience. That is Plato's doctrine of "Forms", or, "Ideas". Of these Forms, he reasons, that while "our soul is entombed in a body" we cannot have experience; we can only confusedly recollect their existence from before our soul's entombment in our body. (Diogenes: "I have never seen cuphood".)

If someone says, But if cats had never existed, we would not have the concept 'cat' ... nor I dare say would we imagine that there were any "Form" named 'catness', although one might say, But nonetheless catness might still exist -- because must we recollect all the Forms? Plato was not even sure if every common-name named a Form or if all the instantiated Forms had been given names -- that is, whether or not we had many misconceptions. See Philebus 12e-13a: Square and circle are both shapes, yet they are unlike -- and in certain respects opposite -- to each other (e.g. straight line versus curved line). But how can a single essence be opposite to itself?

As to what we should or must say, according to the holders of these two doctrines, about these things, must we know? What are the rules of this game of reasoning -- that is, if each discussant doesn't just make his own rules of the game? For a game is all it is. (Or it may simply nonsense).

That the existence of "catness" was debated for centuries shows the persistence of human folly; cf. the case of the word 'point' in geometry, that it just "must" be the name of some kind of object -- regardless of what kind of object, just of some kind of object.

Essence in realism and nominalism

But now in a different sense of 'nominalism', namely nominal definition versus real definition

"His [John Knox] mistake was trying to invent a theology based on the nominalistic teaching of heretics. I'm not quite sure that I know what that means, but it must be right, because I read it in the Tablet." (Marshall, A Thread of Scarlet (Satan and Cardinal Campbell) (1959), i, 5

I'm not either. It may be something like this: "Like any other word 'God' is only a sign (spoken sounds, marks on paper), and the question is, What gives that sign meaning in the language?" According to "nominalism", the meaning of a sign in its use in the language, but according to "realism", the meaning of a sign is the thing, the reality, the sign names (or, stands for). I don't think "nominalism" could ever prove that God exists and the divine attributes (natural theology), because any proof would consist only of non-empirical -- i.e. grammatical, according to nominalism -- propositions derived from other non-empirical propositions none of which makes contact with empirical reality. (Nominalism is empirical, realism Rational, "and never the twain shall meet".)

Nominalism and Natural Theology: "What can be known about God by the natural light of reason combined with experience alone?" Nominalism's answer: a grammar -- i.e. rules for using the sign 'God' -- can be described or invented, but nothing known by that means.

God's essence is said to guarantee his existence -- what this really means is that here what is at issue is not the existence of something [as there might be in the case of the proposition 'There are gods on Mt. Olympus']. (CV (1998 rev. ed.) [MS 138 30b: 17.3.1949])

That remark is nominalism.

"God is that than which nothing greater [i.e. more excellent] can be conceived, and therefore God must exist or He would be less than the greatest that can be conceived." That is as good a proof (or "way of knowing") that "God" exists as any of the five ways of St. Thomas Aquinas (Gilson says that these ways are all circular, but that "not all circles are vicious": God wants us to know that He exists, and that is why the premises of these proofs exist in our minds; indeed they are premises without which we could not think at all [Gilson, however, rejects St. Anselm's proof: it is only if God exists that He exists necessarily, i.e. that existence belongs to His essence]). The question is, But how do these proofs make empirical contact with reality; and of course they don't: there are no empirical proofs of non-empirical (spiritual) propositions. (Whether anything non-empirical exists is one of the eternal questions without answer.)

Looking at language, not at "realities"

The fundamental mistake in philosophy (PG i § 81, p. 126-7) -- there is none more fundamental -- is to take the meaning of language, language being the only tool we have for our work (i.e. thinking) in philosophy, for granted, imagining that you are always talking about things (realities) when you use language and therefore that language itself is unimportant, that the difficulty is always in the thing talked about rather than in the language used to talk about it.

But then can we say that if these philosophers had only turned their attention away from the realities they supposed that they were talking about and toward the language they were using to talk about those realities -- that is, if they had set aside the question of truth [and falsity] in favor of the question of sense [meaning] and nonsense (as Wittgenstein had done, which he called his new method or way of philosophizing) -- then they would necessarily have reasoned their way out of this muddle? Well, no; no we can't say that. They did in fact think a great deal about language. But Wittgenstein's complete and utter break with tradition was his own particular contribution to philosophy, based both on the genius of his insight (and even then, his thinking had been oriented by the thought of Frege and Russell; their prior work had directed him toward logic and language in the first instance) and his own peculiar world-picture.

"As a matter of fact, fairies don't exist"

"God is not a name but a concept. Is this perhaps the reason that His essentia involvit existentiam?" (Marshall, A Thread of Scarlet, xiii, 2)

If the word 'God' is not the name of some thing, as the word 'fairy' is not the name of some thing, but only a "concept" (i.e. a rule for using a word), then existence must belong to God's essence so to speak, because otherwise "God" would not exist, because there would be no independent reality to either name or to seek to know the nature of.

In contrast, if the word 'God' is the name of some thing, then regardless of whether there were a concept or not, God would nonetheless exist (although this says nothing about His essence).

"As a matter of fact, fairies don't exist". But as a matter of which kind of fact -- Empirical or Rational, nominalist or realist (Does it belong to the essence of fairies that fairies do not exist -- but to which does essence belong, language or realities)?

Time and God

Query: philosophy, time is one instant.
Query: time as moments always happening simultaneously.

How might we picture this "picture"? We might picture countless simultaneous magic-lantern / single-frame projectors displays; and so I raise the glass, drink the water, swallow the water all in the same moment (as defined by the simultaneous projected images). This picture is similar to the cartoon-picture: there is no causal connection between the various images. Does causality require a sequence-of-events -- that is a grammatical question, of course; the concepts 'causality', and 'before' and 'after' appear to be essentially connected. In the query the word 'moments' seems to negate the word 'simultaneously'. In the query's picture, there is only one moment -- namely now: everything: past, present and future are now -- although note that the picture deprives the words 'past', 'present', 'future' of any meaning. Everything is "happening" now. (But without sequence, without causality, what is the word 'happen' to mean?) The expression "time as" indicates: here a picture is being suggested. cf. the picture: "the after-life as an eternal moment".

Another picture that can be used to give a sense to 'Time is not real' is the duck-rabbit Gestalt shift. (But that picture is, like the above, a metaphysical-fantasy picture.)

Query: is time just a concept? philosophy.

According to Bertrand Russell, according to Kant that's all that it is, a "concept" (in Kantian jargon's sense) -- i.e. it belongs to the human mind, not to reality. But then the same is the case with space according to Kant.

According to McTaggart also time isn't real.

Query: God, all events same moment.

Even God cannot see nonsense (undefined combinations of words). But it is human beings who define words, and thus whatever God can see, if what God sees can in any way be put into words, we can see as well.

As always: As if we hadn't invented the concept 'God'. First we postulate, then we self-mystify. We are like children who ask of their own scribbling: what does this mean?

Query: is solar system a fact or a theory?

What would it be like if it were a fact? For example, what would it be like if motion were not relative (i.e. if 'motion' were not a relational concept) -- i.e. if there were a fixed point of reference in the universe? Any point might be arbitrarily chosen to serve that function, but how would its fixity be fixed, e.g. how would you verify its motionlessness? (In order for the heliocentric model to be a fact, a different conceptual scheme from our own would have to be devised. It would be an entirely new way of looking at things, however, in which the above query might well be nonsense -- i.e. an undefined combination of words.) Another discussion of this question is titled: Is the Solar System Real?

"Defining Knowledge"

I wrote in response to the query Wittgenstein's definition of meaning as use: "In philosophy we define words, not things." But what, then, is the definition of the word 'God'? As far as I could see at that time, the word 'God' is what honour was to Falstaff: air without substance -- i.e. an undefined "sign" (sound, ink marks). Of course I can see deeper than that now, I think.

If you look across the water, you see nothing but its surface. But if you look down, you see that there is depth, that there is much beneath the surface. And it is the same with religion: Its depth may be seen, or glimpsed, or only its surface.

Philosophy defines words, not things

A notion that is a "gift from the Greeks" (Virgil, Aeneid ii, 49) of the classical period: "Knowledge is justified, true belief" (Plato, Theaetetus). Well, if it [i.e. a proposition] isn't justified, then it isn't knowledge. And if it isn't true, then it isn't justified. But if it is belief, then it isn't knowledge. [One cannot both believe and know the same thing.] But these are all grammatical remarks, and nothing whatever more. In general, 'to know' means 'to have sufficient, or, compelling, grounds', but what those look like differs from case to case, and that is as far as the common usage definition of the word 'know' goes. We just do call lots of different things 'grounds' (and therefore 'justifications') and have many different criteria for the application of 'true' and 'false'.

Geometric Points? Not yet again ...

Note: This needlessly augments the discussions What is the meaning of the word 'point' in geometry? and A 'point' is 'a unique address in the plane'. Will no one rid me of this mettlesome conceptual muddle!

Query: a real world example of a geometric point.

Now I might tell you that I had posted an image of a real world geometric point. But I won't tell you that, because if I said such a thing, I would get the reputation of being a liar. (The last clause is from an anthropology story Schweitzer once told.)

Now if there were such an image, which there isn't, it would bear the following caption: 'geometric point' is not the name of an object -- not no place, not no where. That combination of words has a completely different use in our language (from the use of a name): its grammar is similar to the grammar of the demonstrative pronoun 'this', as in 'This [pointing] is the point at which to enter the maze'. Note that there is no object named 'point' at the entrance to the maze; we cannot send the dog to fetch the point and bring it back to us. (Clearly, that grammatical model does not work as a description of how we use the word 'point' in this example.) We do not use the word 'point' that way either here (in giving directions) or in geometry (when we speak of a point -- i.e. a location -- on a line or in a geometric plane).

The word 'point' is used differently in geometry than it is used in, for example, printing (a book, say) where the period used in punctuation is an example of a point: ( . ) In a printed book any particular period -- i.e. ink dot -- is an object; it has a location in the book, but it can also be torn from the book and placed elsewhere or even made to disappear (e.g. in flames).

In any case, if 'geometric point' were the name of an object, it would be the name of an invisible object [imperceptible in all respects] -- and therefore not findable in "the real world". A point, so the learned but confused say, is a "zero-dimensional object"; now try to find an example of one of those somewhere in the "real world".

Either points are to be found nowhere in the world, because they are not objects, or points are to be found everywhere in the world, because there are locations everywhere.

Query: geometry, spot, line, plane.

Here 'spot' = 'point'. As well as saying 'Save me a place in line', we also say 'Save me a spot in line'; and as well as saying 'Save my place in line', we also say 'Save my spot in line'. "Ah, what are you doing home -- you promised to save me a place in line?!" -- "And so I have: here it is, I brought it home with me." That is an example of a grammatical joke. We can bring home a spot on our trousers, but we cannot bring home a location in space. And a geometric point is a location in space, a fixed location on a line and in a plane (identifiable with Cartesian co-ordinates, but the identity is not of an object, but of a location).

At this point, the word 'location' is bound to suggest name-of-object to someone. And, very well, suit yourself: if "locations" can be found in the real world, geometric points can also be found there as well (given that they're the same thing). As can Archimedes "give me a place to stand on and I will move the earth" [This as reported some eight centuries later by the scholar Simplicius (6th century A.D.)] -- doubtless that point must also be an object (of some kind, somewhere) in the real world. As must the point the speaker of the house recently made.

The stables we have to clean are not Aegean. They are quite small and modest. But with the horses continually fouling them, nonetheless our work never ends, as even an life devoted to philosophy can never be more than a centaur's.

Query: what is the size of a geometric point?

Which of these two queries is the more intelligent one -- the one with 'a' or the one with 'the'? You know I don't know. This is correct, however: there is only as it were one point in geometry -- because it is a verbal definition of the word 'point' (and not a "real definition of point", not an hypothesis about what geometric points are or "really" are), because the word 'point' is not in any sense the name of an object.

A point no more has a size than the number 4 has a size, than the number 4 has a color, has volume, has height, length, width or depth. But this will only become clear to you once you understand the concept 'grammar' (in Wittgenstein's jargon): the word 'point' in geometry does not have the grammar of the part of speech: name-of-object. It is nonsense to ask 'What size is a point?' just as it is nonsense to ask 'What color is the number 3?' Both "questions" -- i.e. combinations of words in the form of a question -- are undefined in meaning.

Procrustean Grammar

If the innkeeper [some say highwayman] Procrustes were a grammarian, his bed would be the category name-of-object, and he would force every word into it. In his inn there would be only one rule: The meaning of a word is the object the word stands for. And if that object appears to be invisible, no matter. {book, chair, elf, mind, geometric-point, number-4, umbrella, therefore, mud} Don't you feel that there is something not quite right about a category such as this -- i.e. that it is not really an account of the grammar of our language at all (It's simply a list of all the words of our language). We know nothing about the wayfarer's height if we know only that he can be made to fit a Procrustean bed.

What I would not say. A point has no size in our world but only in geometry, and there it is an object of no dimensions. It is imperceptible, invisible; we can't see or measure it. It exists only in geometric space, not in our space. (Frege, and at one time Russell too, would have said that. But to geometry it does not matter which we say. The Philosophy of Geometry is the view from outside geometry: a calculus is independent of what we say about it.)

What I would not say: But there is another dimension, namely, location. A point has only that dimension and no others. (The so-called fourth dimension, sc. 'time', has no application in geometry, which is timeless -- in the same sense that the rules of chess are timeless.) Although someone could say that; it would do no harm to geometry. Only to a philosophical understanding of it.

The whole source of this confusion is the mistake of trying to force everything into a single category. Our thinking is too poor in grammatical categories. And so Wittgenstein to talked about philosophical grammar.

"Just tell me what the size of a point is. I need to know for my geometry test tomorrow morning." Very well, then: a point is a geometric object having location but no dimensions (in other words, it has no size at all; its dress size is a perfect size zero. If a point were a sub-atomic particle, it would have position, but no mass). "Go ahead, play the game for another 2500 years. It doesn't matter!" No not to Geometry, but it does matter to the Philosophy of Geometry -- and to one's intellectual integrity.

But if the word 'geometric point' is not the name of an object, then how shall the word 'geometric point' be defined?

Query: in geometry what word means a location in space?

But that alone won't do as a definition of 'point'. What -- after all that! The above only concerned the notion of defining 'point' as the name of an object. But as the to query's definition, note that lines and planes are also nothing more than locations in space -- they are simply sets of points. Recall that the "geometric object" named 'line' has only one dimension (length), a 'plane' only two dimensions (length and width); but no object has less than three dimensions (Obviously that is a grammatical remark about the word 'object'). In geometry neither 'line' nor 'plane' nor 'triangle' nor all the rest is any more the name of an object than the word 'point' is: all are simply sets of points, locations in space. Therefore the definition offered by the query is inadequate -- because it does not differentiate a point from any other "geometric object". And, no, I don't at the moment see how to do that, unless we said, e.g. 'a point is an unextended location in space' and the defined all other "geometric objects" as being extended -- i.e. as consisting of more than one point -- in space. We might then say: 'a point is a single member of the set of points making up a plane'. [Note added to Philosophy of Geometry.]

Historical Theology (Historiography) versus Theology

Note: The following supplements the discussion about the creation of Christianity, and concerns things that I myself do not know.

If I understand Albert Schweitzer's Paul and His Interpreters correctly, and maybe I do not, then these are his views. That Paul did not invent Christianity if by 'Christianity' we mean the collection of doctrines and rituals concerned with "saving souls" and Heaven as a ghostly ("spirit") realm somewhere beyond the clouds ("in light inaccessible". Neither has anyone else a clear picture of it, or indeed any picture at all of it: the fresco in the Sistine Chapel of the creation of man with faces of angels surrounding the Lord God is not an example of such a picture), where souls that have been saved go to be with God when the body dies. It was an indefinitely-delayed parousia (or return of Jesus as the Son of Man who would bring in the supernatural Kingdom of God) that was responsible for the creation of Catholic Christianity. Paul himself expected Jesus' return to happen within Paul's own lifetime, as the fulfillment of Judaism (not as its negation or replacement; 'Christ' meant for him the Jewish apocalyptic Messiah, nothing else).

But Paul was mistaken in his world-picture, just as Jesus and late Judaism had been mistaken, in believing that Jesus' death and resurrection would soon be followed by the transformation of the present world ("this world") into the supernatural Kingdom of God. But there is no question of either Jesus or Paul inventing a new religion concerning events in some distant future. For them the supernatural Kingdom of God was already dawning ("The Kingdom of God is in your midst") in Jesus' lifetime, and had, in Paul's theology, somehow already dawned following the death and resurrection of Jesus.

What we now normally call 'Christianity' really should never have been invented. It was a third mistake. The supernatural Kingdom as expected by Jesus, his disciples and Paul did not come -- and so it should have been recognized that if God was not going to give us the kingdom, then we would have to do our best to create what we can of it ourselves -- that is, if our longing really is for the kingdom Jesus described [a community ruled by the ethics of love] rather than for some ill-defined disembodied, personal immortality [for those who are "saved"].

In my view, Catholic Christianity and Reformation Protestantism only perdure because the majority of mankind was -- and indeed still is, perhaps always will be -- more mythological in its thinking than rational. Because it is not simply that our "eternal questions" have no answers. If it were only that, mankind would humbly accept our absence of understanding, our absence of knowing -- rather than embrace the most extravagant dogmas imaginable. Human beings are naturally superstitious, giving little or no thought to verification where the question of life's meaning (the riddle of existence) is the subject-matter, willing to believe most anything however absurd to reason and experience that thing may be.

Obviously, to read the Bible as a historiographer (which Schweitzer calls "Historical [Critical] Theology") is utterly different from reading it as "The Word of God": "What is God saying to me right now?" is a question Bonhoeffer taught his students to ask as they read the Bible. The latter is the mythological way of thinking, the former the critical, "scientific". Which brings us to:

The preservation of doctrine, the a priori rejection of Albert Schweitzer's work

In another context, Wittgenstein wrote that a philosopher is not a member of any community of ideas. By 'philosopher' we mean 'a lover of wisdom in the natural light of reason alone' (To adapt Schweitzer's earliest motto: 'a philosopher is a reverer of truth alone'), not an upholder of tradition or authority, even if questioning their truth or falsity undermines them, silencing thought for a mistaken piety's sake ("mistaken" from philosophy's point of view). Of theologians taking no interest in Schweitzer's work, and indeed not even bothering to read it, the following may (and therefore also may not -- i.e. this is conjecture) be why.

On trouve toujours plus de moines que de raison. (Dostoyevsky, The Devils)

Of course Schweitzer's understanding of Jesus and Paul are unacceptable to the theologians, even to those who say that they are historiographers, because if they accepted his understanding what would become of their "faith" [their believed-in doctrines] -- what would become of their religion -- if they accepted Schweitzer's judgment that John the baptizer and Jesus (as well Paul and the other Apostles) had simply been mistaken in their eschatological expectation that the kingdom of God was immanent! What would become of the theologians' Christianity? So that even though they claim to be historiographers, they are not, because they are not willing to accept [They are not willing to question everything] a solution if it contradicts basic dogma: They judge a book by a whiff of its conclusions: if they are unwilling to accept its conclusion, they ignore the book. According to their way of thinking -- unacknowledged frame of reference -- Christianity must conform to whichever doctrines or creeds their denomination believes in. They are unwilling to follow the argument wherever it leads, so they judge an argument on where it leads rather than on its validity.

One cannot be an historiographer if one's first loyalty is to religious doctrine (a particular reading of Scripture), and not to the truth whatever it may turn out to be. It might be replied that it is easy to be fearless if you have nothing that you need fear losing (as your belief in particular doctrines may be) -- but you can only be without that fear if your highest value is the truth. Or, in other words, as Schweitzer's earliest motto expressed it: Reverence for Truth.

Reverence for truth, as something that must be a factor in our faith if it is not to degenerate into superstition, includes in itself respect for historical truth. (The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, tr. Montgomery (1931), p. x)

Truth is always gain ... ("Epilogue" (tr. Coates) to Mozley's Theology of Albert Schweitzer (1950), p. 106)

As to why his work is unacceptable to faith-bound theologians, Schweitzer states this view the 1950 "Preface to the Sixth Edition" of The Quest of the Historical Jesus (English language edition of 2001, tr. Montgomery, Coates, Cupitt, Bowden).

The fact remains, however, that the eschatological solution has not succeeded in dominating the latest writing on the life of Jesus, and has no immediate prospect of doing so. It is in the remarkable position of not being disproved and, at the same time, not being fully recognized. The reason for the latter is that its historical value is overshadowed by the difficulties which it raises for traditional Christian faith.

It is an axiom of traditional faith that Jesus preached utterly timeless truth. But this is contradicted by the eschatological picture of Jesus, which shows him sharing the expectations of his contemporaries. Faith is here asked to give up something which it has always held and cannot contemplate abandoning. (p. xliii)

Schweitzer quotes the Apostle Paul: "We can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth." (p. xlv; 2 Cor. 13.8)

Nothing is "known by faith", and that is why Albert Schweitzer's work is unacceptable to the Church. [Church authority -- of what is or is not allowed to be questioned -- is of varied kinds: the example of Arthur Stanton.]

"Spiritual knowledge" of Jesus and the historical Jesus

Both the historical-theological studies of Schweitzer and of Johannes Weiss show

that eschatology not only colored the thoughts of Jesus, but also determined his actions. ("Epilogue", p. 103)

Those who have the courage to let Matthew and Luke mean what they say must agree that Jesus shared the later Jewish view of the advent of the Kingdom of God, not spiritualizing it, but using it as a vehicle for his profound and powerful ideal of love.... And now we are confronted by the fact that he shared the outlook of an age long past, which is to us mistaken and unacceptable.... To me, however, Jesus remains what he was. Not for a single moment have I had to struggle for my conviction that in him is the supreme spiritual and religious authority, though his expectation of the speedy advent of a supernatural Kingdom of God was not fulfilled, and we cannot make it our own. (ibid. p. 103-104)

The historical Jesus stands before us as one who shared naturally the outlook of his time.... [The study of history shows that] what is absolutely new does not easily establish itself, and if, for any reason, it does succeed, it is apt to appear unnatural and questionable. So we must believe that, if Jesus had appeared with a fully spiritualized view of the Kingdom and its coming, his proclamation of it would never have been believed. (ibid. p. 104-105)

The outlook of Jesus' time was that of "later Judaism " (ibid. p. 105). Jesus' eschatology (or, picture of the end of this world and the outcome for mankind) was Jewish apocalyptic: the end of this world was imminent, but it would only be transformed to the supernatural Kingdom of God following a "time of troubles" (or, apocalypse) during which mankind would suffer gravely (Thus in the Our Father the petition "Do not lead us into temptation" [In Luke 11.4, the last line of the Lord's Prayer is "and subject us not to the trail"]); but, according to Schweitzer, Jesus believed that his own suffering would spare mankind those troubles.

All attempts to avoid the admission that Jesus held a view of the Kingdom of God and its coming which was not fulfilled and cannot be adopted by us involve the shirking of the truth. Devotion to truth in this matter is of the essence of spiritual life.... Truth is always gain, however hard it is to accommodate ourselves to it. To linger in any kind of untruth proves to be a departure from the straight way of faith. (ibid. p. 106)

Schweitzer makes a distinction between what he calls "spiritual knowledge" which is concerned with our being

in a right relationship to God. It is complete in itself. It is intuitive knowledge of what ought to be in the realm of the spirit. All other knowledge is of a different kind, having to do not with what happens in us, but with what goes on in the world, -- a field in which understanding can only be limited and liable to change. (ibid. p. 105)

I believe that Schweitzer says that what is important about Jesus is his "spiritual knowledge", in which he brings the Kingdom of God "into subjection to his ideal and ethic of love. In due time this transforms the conception of the Kingdom." That new conception is the Christianity of (what Schweitzer calls) "modern Protestantism".

Comment. But is "spiritual knowledge" (or, "intuitive knowledge") what we normally call knowledge [classify using the word 'knowledge']? No, it is not. What was Schweitzer's faith? I think he has told us: "... in ourselves we experience God as different from the God we find in Nature: in Nature we recognize him only as impersonal creative Power, in ourselves we recognize Him as ethical Personality" -- That these two, Power and Personality, are one God -- despite all experience to the contrary -- was Schweitzer's faith. But that is in no way what we call knowledge, for knowledge is at its very least consistent with reason and with all experience: in it there is no contradiction nor "paradox". (That is of course a grammatical remark, a remark about the grammar of our word 'knowledge'.)

Reason versus Belief-In

There is no "faith and reason". They are oil and water. Reason excludes "faith" ("belief-in").

Some speak of "knowing by faith". Obviously you cannot know anything by faith. Faith contrasts with knowledge; it is not a form of knowledge. That is of course a remark -- a reminder -- about the concepts 'faith' and 'knowledge', if by 'faith' is taken to mean 'belief in' (in the sense of belief in a "revealed" doctrine; obviously the expression 'revealed truth' is nonsense: a truth for which there are no rational grounds is not a truth at all). To say that I am subjectively certain -- i.e. certain although I have no grounds for certainty -- that "my redeemer liveth" e.g. is completely different from saying that I am objectively certain. In both cases we use the word 'know', but in the first case (where 'know' simply means 'to be convinced that' or 'to be of the conviction that') it looks more like an abuse of that word, an unjustifiable usage, employment. It makes it look as if you could call faith a type of knowledge (but that can be done only be playing with words: there is no reason why we should use the single [same] word 'know' for both cases). [Kidnapping words from their original home.]

They stick the label 'faith' on a doctrine and pretend [think] that makes it noble, "faith in God", "faith of our fathers", "a man of faith". These are the true disciples of "Abraham, our father in faith" (our father in anti-rationalism, that is). It must not be overlooked that 'faith' and 'irrationalism' are synonyms. (cf. basing one's life on faith in a book.)

Does a philosopher, then, have nothing to fear? Only lack of seriousness, only lack of conscientiousness. (Of course the conclusion that a particular problem is far more complicated than you thought, that it needs a lot more thought or a complete rethinking, is not always welcome (particularly if the original thinking was your own). But that has nothing to do with fear. It is rather like a child's whining "Do we have to?")

I would illustrate this -- I hope not irresponsibly (Actually Schweitzer is criticizing the unwillingness of scholars to question their fundamental ideas even when it becomes clear that there are fundamental problems with them, but they could also be applied to faith inspired blindness to criticism of fundamental ideas) -- with some quotes torn out of context from Paul and His Interpreters, tr. W. Montgomery (1912).

When they declared again and again that the attacks of the radicals had served a useful purpose in inciting them to examine anew their results, and to make corrections where necessary, that was the mere cant of criticism. (p. 140)

... there remained nothing for it to do but to stammer ... something about tradition, intuition, an unmistakable impression, the stamp of genuineness, and the like, and to break off the conversation as quickly as might be. (p. 138)

... and had indeed made its appearance contemporaneously with Bruno Bauer's [criticism]. Like the later it had been either talked down or left to die of neglect. (p. 141)

That seems also to have been Schweitzer's experience with the response or non-response his own The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A History of Research on the Life of Jesus (tr. Montgomery (1910) from theologians. Even the non-theologian Wittgenstein was dismissive of that book when he saw it on Drury's bookshelf (He may or may not simply have been reacting to its title). Drury, who had gone to Cambridge to become an Anglican priest but was dissuaded from this by Wittgenstein, himself says nothing more about Schweitzer, although I do not know what someone the center of whose world-picture was the notion "Wesen der Welt" would make of the work of Schweitzer, who said flatly that reality's essence cannot be known.

Using "catch-words" to evade a problem

... they made play with the catch-words "Greek" and "Gnostic", and thought to have got rid in that way of the question ... (p. 140-141)

By the expression "catchwords" Schweitzer meant, I think (although I don't know), summary-words that most everyone takes for granted that he knows quite well the meaning of (but whose meaning is actually not so clear) or whose truth is regarded as so well-established as to be takable for granted. [cf. the historical periods: "The Dark Ages", "The Middle Ages", "The Reformation", etc.; these are examples of catchwords.]

Schweitzer spoke about catchwords to Norman Cousins (Dr. Schweitzer of Lambaréné (1960), p. 118-119). What he said is I think applicable to his expression "Reverence for Life", that it had become a catchword for many people, as if they had assimilated Schweitzer's thought, although such people knew little about what stood behind it and, as such, it was used as substitute for understanding by them.

"These catchwords are tricky things. I don't think they serve the cause of creative thought in philosophy." (Schweitzer, as remembered by Cousins, p. 119)

The loss of Jesus' kingdom of God

I think what I wrote above, that Christianity should never have been invented -- at least not in the form that it was (i.e. as Catholic and Reformation, which is basically still Catholic, Christianity); it might instead have been what Schweitzer's hospital was to him, about creating an outpost in our world of the Kingdom of God, given that the supernatural and ethical Kingdom of God Jesus spoke of failed to appear after his crucifixion -- is consistent, although not identical, with this:

[The coming of the Kingdom becomes "in later days" "infinitely far away".] Instead of being the very essence of belief, [the Kingdom of God] is now just one article among others. ("The Conception of the Kingdom of God in the Transformation of Eschatology, an Epilogue by Albert Schweitzer" (tr. J. R. Coates) in E. N. Mozley's The Theology of Albert Schweitzer for Christian Inquirers (1950), p. 82)

Jesus went about all the cities and villages ... preaching the gospel of the kingdom ... (Matthew 4.23, 9.35)

In the Catholic Mass the Lord's Prayer is introduced: "Let us pray ... in the words our savior gave us". But, then, is it not strange that in the Lord's Prayer, after the "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name" (Other than Jesus addressing God as "our Father", this seems to be the formula for the beginning to any prayer; however, that "our Father" is essential to Christianity), the very first petition is "Thy kingdom come", whereas in the creed ("Profession of Faith") recited in the Catholic Mass, it is not until the 24th line (of 32 total) that there is any mention at all of the Kingdom, and there it merely says "and his kingdom will have no end", until finally at lines 31-32 we find: "We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen." (Even Pontius Pilate (line 16) is mentioned before the Kingdom.) What for Jesus came first, for Catholic Christianity comes last.

What role does Jesus' teaching of the Kingdom of God play in the life of the Catholic Christian? When someone dies his "soul" goes to "Heaven", which has completely replaced the picture of an earthly but perfected world, the Kingdom of God, as it has also replaced the picture of a bodily resurrection. Catholics never think about the Second Coming, although when reciting the creed during the Mass they profess to "believe in" it.

What does it mean -- 'believe in' -- if it makes so little difference in the way someone lives? -- I.e. is that "little difference" the meaning of 'believe in' -- in this particular case? Is there a general definition of 'believe in' (which is not so general that it is of little help)?

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