Friday, May 30, 2014

Film Fest Friday: Ingmar Bergman's The Virigin Spring


Jungfrukällan (The Virigin Spring)
original story by Ulla Isaksson

Max von Sydow ... Töre
Birgitta Valberg ... Märeta
Gunnel Lindblom ... Ingeri
Birgitta Pettersson ... Karin
Axel Düberg ... Thin Herdsman
Tor Isedal ... Mute Herdsman
Allan Edwall ... Beggar
Ove Porath ... Boy
Axel Slangus ... Bridge Keeper
Gudrun Brost ... Frida
Oscar Ljung

This is a recycle. It's one of the first reviews I did. I will have a new Bergman review (for me) soon in Persona. For now I think a lot of new readers haven't see this one. I am re watching all my very favorites so it's time to re-run this.

Now that I have a DVD player I can review old movies without waiting to see them on tv. I recently got hold of the Virgin Spring, one of my favorite films by Ingmar Bergman, my favorite director. The Virgin Spring won the Oscar for Best Foreign film in 1961. Bergman had just established himself as a film maker of international standing a couple of years before with his break out feature "Smiles of Summer Night," (1956) and followed it the next year with one of the finest films ever made (my true favorite) "The Seventh Seal" (1957). "The Virgin Spring" reinforced Bergman's greatness and established him for the 1960s as one of the major film makers of the time.

The film deals with theme of murder, revenge, theodicy. It's a fine commentary on the problem of pain and evil, having belief in God in a world where evil is allowed. The film is set in Medieval Sweden. It's in black and white, as were all of his early films, and thus the big sky effect of black and white is present as we see the glorious countryside of Sweden. The look of the film is totally authentic. The family lives in a rustric compound reminiscent of a fort in the old West. The Father,Töre, played by Max von Sydow ("the Exorcist," the knight in "Seventh Seal") and the mother,Märeta, played by Birgitta Valberg have one daughter, Karin, played by Birgitta Pettersson. She is blond, young, beautiful, playful, spoiled, arrogant. There's another girl involved, Ingeri. She's a foster child. Fostering waws an old tradition in Sweden; the child of a friend who died, or even just kid seen on the street who was homeless, would be adopted by the family as a playmate for the natural child. Of course Karin is manipuative, spoiled, twists her paretns around her little finger. The mother is indulgent the father tries to be strict but melts like butter. They fawn over the Blond Karin and give little attention to the dark haired Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom).

The film opens with Ingeri calling upon Oden to help her. She is pregnant and is treat with disdain because the child is out of wedlock. She resents the spoiled girl and even smuggles a frog into her lunch to torment her. In calling upon Oden Ingeri is doing something forbidden. Christianity has already taken root, (about thirteenth or fourteenth century). The family are Catholics and they are honored to supply candles to the church for the mass. The daughter is sent to take them. She must go by horse and it takes a whole day's journey. The dark haired girl is sent with her to keep her company. The two are angry with one another and Ingeri is feeling sick so she is left behind at a bridgekeeper's hut. Karin goes on my herself. The bridgekeeper (Axel Slangus) Worships Oden, and the Ingeri recognizes the signs of human sacrifice in his hut. She escapes his grasp just as he puts the moves on her for sexual favors. But she has to leave her horse. She escapes from him into the woods on foot, and walks to try and catch up to the other girl.

Meanwhile, Karin has ridden on a ways as is spied by three young beaggers. Two are probably early twenties and one is a small boy. They stalk her for a bit and finally come down from their vantage point in the hills and meet up with her. She is playful and likes to lure danger so she has no care about going with them off the road intot he hills to eat lunch. By this time the other gril catches up and spies them out from the same vantage point the beggars occupied earlier. As they eat the frog pops out, the one Ingeri hid in Karin's lunch. The beggars are angered and think she is making fun of them, but they were up to no good anyway. They rape Karin as Ingeri watchs from the hill top. They finally kill her with a crushing blow. The boy has no real role in the rape or the murder, but he has no choice but to go along anyway.

We then cut to the parents house. It is dark, they are sitting down to dinner. They are worried, but Karin has does before apparently, stayed out all night and found people to stay with until morning. There is also a chance she could have stayed in the church. The father isn't worried, the mother is beside her shelf, but the father calms her. Three beaggers show up at the gate. They seek shelter for the night, giving a story about how the drifted down the north, times are hard, they lost their farm, the night will be brutally cold. Tore gives them permission to sleep in the hall. Its' a viking house so they have a central "great hall" where they all eat, and individual bedrooms in little huts around the great hall united by causeways. They take the two men and their young boy in and show great compassion and understanding. They are allowed to eat with the family and the father says they can talk about work the next day. As the mother retires for the night, one of the beaggers, who more or less acts as spokesman, (Allan Edwall) tries to sell her a garment claming it had belonged to their sister. It is a blouse of exceptionally fine craftsmanship, gold in color trimed in blue.

The mother recognizes at once this the very garment she dressed her daughter in that morning, but of course the three have no idea they are in the girls very home!Birgitta Valberg accomplishes one of the most skillful acting jobs I've ever seen. At the same time she is filled with anguish and rage, but she know she dare not give away a single trace of recognition. So she just stares saying nothing as though she is considering the offer. The man prattles on with lies about his sister's life and what a fine dress it is. After a long moment, we can see the skill of the actress, both rage and cover up at once; she forces out the words "i must show it to my husband...I will give you an answer in the morning." She takes the blouse, locks them in for the night with an outside bolt, and goes into her own suit. She thrusts the dress under her husband's nose. He stares sleepily not comprehending for a moment the significance. The woman explains and bursts into tears. There is even a drop of blood on it.

In the exquisite Bergmanesqe Fashion, Tore builds he Angst as he wirely climbs from the bed, fills himself with resolve and then proceeds to prepare to act. He takes his sword, goes to outside to the great hall to make sure they are bolted in. Then he finds Ingeri sobbing under the stairs. She explains how she witnessed the murder. So Tore tells her to prepare a bath. A Bath? Of course, what else would a good Viking do before avenging his daughter's murder but take a sauna? He wrestles a tree out of the ground, a birch, and cuts off its limbs. Takes his Sauna and whips himself with the birch branches. Then he dresses and calls for the butcher knife. The girl brings him a huge knife. He goes to the great hall, and observes the three sleeping. He looks at their things and finds the rest of Karin's clothes and even a candlestick. He goes back over to them, wakes them up and begins the slaughter. The one closes to him falls almost at once. The other, the one who tried to sell the dress, fights better. He disarms the father and they fight hand to hand, but Tore chokes him to death with his bare hands. He then picks up the boy and throes him against the wall has hard as he can, in a gesture that would make any professional wrestler proud. The boy is killed immediately. The father sits staring at his hands, the mother cradles the dead boy sobbing.

The whole family and several servants lead a mournful procession back to the spot where the murder happened, led by Ingeri. There they find Karin's naked body lying in the dirt. The mother cradles her as she had the boy, the father sits of to the side staring at his hands and shouts at God, "you saw! you saw this! why didn't you stop it!??" He looks at his hands and says "what have I done!" He remorseful that he too became a murderer. Then in a totally surprising move, the jumps and declares that "I shall build a church on this site, a shrine to the Virgin!" They pick up the body to bury her and spring of water rushes up form the ground, like some miracle right out of a medieval tale. The fathers blind leap of faith in the face of adversity and doubt has brought forth a metaphor right there on the screen; the Spring is a metaphor of hope, also a personification of nature (as though weeping for the girl) and confirmation of faith.

The Virgin Spring Is a powerful film, loaded with existential angst, Bergman's trademark. It illustrates for us the power of narrative. Even tough this is not a bible story it illustrates perfectly why the Bible depends so much on narrative. It is only through narrative that we can have carthorses. By entering into the story through the story telling device we experince the anxiety the dilemma of faith and doubt and the sense of bewilderment, and we move through the emotional crisis and feel that we have gained something from taking this journey with the characters. It's one of the oldest literary devices there is. No one uses it in film more expertly than Bergman. The issues of theodicy can only make sense when seen through the drama of in context of real human lives. This is why I call my theory of the free will defense "Soeteriological drama." It's not a stage production for God's pleasure, but reflects the true drama of life as people struggle with their problems and try to comprehend good and evil pain and suffering. Berman's father was a minister, and even though he was an atheist, he had a fine sense of modern theology in the Keirkeggardian form. This film is an excellent gateway to undertake a journey of Carthorses through the problem of theodicy.

see my tribute to Bergman on the occasion of his death Greatness has left the planet, Ingmar Bermgan dies.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Can Science Disprove the Soul

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In “Can a Machine have a Soul?” Bill Lauritzen claims to have disproved the soul.[1] He’s considering the issue of weather or not transferring human consciousness into a machine would give the machine a soul? His solution is to disprove that humans have souls then there’s no soul to worry about. In my view the soul is a symbol and it’s the spirit that lives on after death. So there’s no question of proving or disproving the soul since there is no question or proving or disproving symbols. For the sake of this issue I’ll use his terminology. He assumes the soul is the thing that lives. After all, he would make the same argument against the spirit. That argument is made by the bogus method of merely assume what he thinks human ancestors must have thought about after life and what they based it on. Basing it on something we know is false such as an literalized analogy between smoke is the afterlife of fire, and breath sustaining life, being like smoke, therefore like the smoke form the flame breath must live on as soul. That’s his conjecture. Of course he assume this is the only reason to think there might be a soul and thus he’s swept it out of the way with modern doubt! That really is his only answer. Rather he asserts that it was the attempt to explain oxygen. He’s using as breath in that sense. It’s really breath that he means.[2]
            To reinforce it all he goes through a mock play where two cavemen has things out and this is supposed to be actual proof. It’s nothing more than detailed speculation. His little play is nothing more than taking us through the steps on might go through to arrive at the conclusion of after life after having witnessed death: He sees the blood, he reasons from past experience, that when people lose a lot of this stuff they stop living. He sees the blood evaporate. He understands that it’s going from a liquid to gaseous state (would he understand that)? So he puts it all together and reasons. Of course it’s really a modern person “reasoning” his way to answers he already knows. Is that proof that this actually what happened? No it’s totally theoretical.  He even shows a series of pictures of a goat dying and rotting away to reinforce how one might come to the conclusion that there is some mysterious thing in the air that makes us life (like he would really know evaporation pus gas in the air).[3] “So early humans thought there were ghosts and spirits living in the air. They didn’t want a ghost angry with them, so they would kill and burn animals, so they would kill and burn animals, even humans in some cases, in other word they would make a sacrifice, to feed these ghosts and spirits. Sacrafice as the root word sacer, meaning sacred.”[4] I don’t think I’ve heard of sacrifice being a meal for ghosts. That’s a conjecture and perhaps not a good one. It really is a minor point.
            Then he goes on a long triad about how science discovered oxygen to show that science is so much better than religious thinking. Of course since he made the whole thing up and its’ conjecture and he’s stepping over a bunch of steps that took thousands of years it’s a rather meaningless point. Of course he totally ignores the fact that modern science was created by Christians and one of the chief discoverers of oxygen was Robert Boyle who was a devout Christian and who did science as form of Christian apologetics. I say one because the actual discover was a complex process involving several people. Joseph Priestly was anther of those and he actually discovered it but Boyle paved the way.[5] Both men were Christians. [6]. [7] It’s absurd to compare primitive thinking to modern and try to pass that off as proof that science is better than religion. We have modern thinkers who are both scientific and religious, and modern science owes a great debt to religious thinkers such as Newton and Boyle, and even Priestly. In fact part of his rendition of the discovery of oxygen includes a lot about Robert Boyle, he never does actually indicate that was a Christian, so it appears as a rebuke to religious thinking.
            He then takes a long detour though a discussion of thing that really could be just left out of the issue. These are matters of brain size vs the kind of diet we have its suitability for hunter gatherer society. It really has nothing to with the issues. He discusses alchemy and how the understanding of blood evaporation and smoke might contribute to correlations between the basic elements and alchemical knowledge. It’s not relevant but I surmise that he includes it to indicate how wonderfully predictive his theories are. He can predict the nature of alchemy with it, of course we already know how it turns out so it’s not as though he’s predicting the unknown. Realizing he has strayed from the topic he springs back to summarize the issue on the soul:
Getting back to the original question: can a machine have a soul? Of course, there may be some mysterious energy we know nothing about. However, if we apply Occam’s razor, I think we can see that we have a simple theory that covers all the facts: the “soul” and “spirit” are convenient terms invented by early humans who knew nothing about atomic theory. The “soul” and spirit probably do not exist except perhaps in this ordinary sense, “a person’s moral or emotional nature or sense of identity.”[8]
The reference to atomic theory pertains to the reality about atoms and molecules and a modern understanding of what happens with evaporation. He says we have a simple theory that covers the facts. The problem here is he doesn’t know the facts. He has not given us any facts. He has literally just concocted a speculative idea with no empirical proof to back it up. He’s merely assuming correlations are cause and that he’s exhausted the facts merely because he’s brought out a few facts that back his view. Since he doesn’t value religion he doesn’t even try to understand what really went into understanding the soul or the spirit. He offers just enough facts to explain it away and then claims he has the facts. Moreover, notice that he puts his theory in terms of probability, and not in terms empirical proof. It can’t be a real disproof if it’s just a probability. There are other aspects of the spirit that he had failed to come to terms with. Basically, he has made the assumption that all knowledge is scientific so therefore the soul was invented to explain scientific questions, the physical workings of the world. It’s more likely the soul was a means of explaining religious and spiritual truth not physical truth. We don’t’ know what al that entails.
            It’s probably related to the need to explain mystical experience, or the sense of the numinous. It’s bound to be related to spiritual needs, that would relate to the special sense that engenders concept such the Holy. First of all we know that those aspects of the sacred that issue forth in mystical experience, the sense of the numinous, are used to with complex psychological issues. 

Atheists and skeptics reduce everything they critique and then lose the phenomena in the reduction. Thus, they only see the explanatory aspects of ancient religion and never try to think beyond the simple assumption that people were doing this to explain things. This is the “Og no like noise in sky” Idea. Stupid primitive people without science try to explain simple things they don’t understand so they make up religion. That is all the skeptic can see. But those who are aware of the mystical consciousness can see more. I am sure the skeptics will argue that they are reading it in. All I can do is to assert that if the reader will read Maslow and if the reader is aware of Maslow’s acuity as a scholar, one will place a great deal of confidence in the notion that Maslow was discovering and not reading in. Maslow   interpreted everyday psychology as laced with the trace of the supernatural, because for him “supernatural” just meant a deeper level of consciousness about ordinary things. His views of human psychology were laced with Jungian notions of archetypes. He equated the archetypes with “supernatural.” In speaking of the relationship between men and women and their relation to the psychological archetypes, he finds that the same symbols are always used for the same meanings. This comes out in psychological studies across the board. He marks archetypical thinking, as B and D. B analysis has to do with the higher, ideal, abstract, D has to do with the earthy human aspects of our existence; the practical the earthy. These are roughly equivalent to St. Augustine’s terms: height and depth. An example of what he’s talking about is the male tendency to seek two of womanhood, the goddess and the witch (or well itwhat rhymes with “witch”). Maslow says that psychology tells us that we need a bit of both. A woman put on a pedestal and seen only as a goddess is unapproachable and cannot be pleased. A woman seen only as the ‘other’ can’t be respected and won’t make a good partner. Of course this goes vice versa for the way women view men: the “good guy” vs. “the outlaw,” the rebel, the “bad boy.” Materialists are going to find that this point is trivial and just a part of daily living, and that’s the point. The reason ancients have a tendency to sacralize these kinds of ordinary relationships is because they sense a connection between them and the transcendent. That is the sense of the numinous. The same symbols turn up again and again, according to Malow, in all kinds of psychological study. Psychologically there is a link between the use of certain symbols in mythology and religion, and the transcendent.
            He makes this connection himself. Iin speaking of the dichotomy of most religious life between the “mystical” or ‘inner.’ ‘Personal’ to the organizational (he doesn’t use the phrase but the “doctrinal”) “The profoundly and authentically religious person integrates these trends easily and automatically. The forms, rituals, ceremonials, and verbal formulae in which he was reared remain for him experientially rooted, symbolically meaningful, archetypal, unitive.”[9] He is revealing a link between the rituals of the primitives, mythology, and religious experience (especially “peak experience” or Mystical consciousness). That link is in the archetypes, the psychological symbols that ground us in a sense of what life is about and give us a connection with these concepts of height and depth, or the ideal and practical. In appendix I. “An example of B analysis,” He states:
This can also be seen operationally in terms of the Jungian archetypes which can be recovered in several ways. I have managed to get it in good introspectors simply by asking them directly to free associate to a particular symbol. The psychoanalytic literature, of course, has many such reports. Practically every deep case history will report such symbolic, archaic ways of viewing the woman, both in her good aspects and her bad aspects. (Both the Jungians and the Kleinians recognize the great and good mother and the witch mother as basic archetypes.) Another way of getting at this is in terms ofthrough the artificial dream that is suggested under hypnosis. It can also probably be investigated by spontaneous drawings, as the art therapists have pointed out. Still another possibility is the George Klein technique of two cards very rapidly succeeding each other so that symbolism can be studied. Any person who has been psychoanalyzed can fairly easily fall into such symbolic or metaphorical thinking in his dreams or free associations or fantasies or reveries.[10]
He is relating this to the mythological symbols of the grate mother, the goddess, the witch, the demon, and one might also think of Lilith or for men the Shy Father, vs. the demon the trickster. The link between mythological symbols and mystical consciousness is further born out by another psychologist, David Lukoff who made the link between the high incidence rate in the general population found by the Greely study and the use of archetypes. Lukoff framed schizophrenic delusions as private mythology.
 “This method derives from the discipline of comparative mythology but goes beyond to decipher the psychological truths embodied in the symbol-laden stories. Campbell’s (1949) study The Hero With a Thousand Faces is the premier example of this method. Lukoff (1985) treated the account of a psychotic episode as a symbol-laden personal myth and attempted to uncover themes that parallel the structure and content of classic mystical experiences.”[11]
Other studies, such as Buckley and Galanter (1979) have observed individuals in the midst of mystical experience when exposed to religious ceremonies.[12] Some might see this as undermining my own argument because skeptics do argue that religious experience is a form of mental illness. But there is a distinction between some mentally ill people having religious experiences and saying that mystical experience is mental illness. Many studies disprove this assertion (see chapter on “studies”). But as Lukoff shows, this does not mean that some mentally people can’t have mystical experiences.
Maslow talks about the psychological necessity of being able to maintain a transformative symbology. He is not merely saying that we should do this, but that this is what we do; it is universal and through many different techniques and psychological schools of thought he shows that this has been gleaned over and over again. What Jung called the Archetypes are universal symbols of transformation, which we understand in the unconscious[13] , and we must be able to hold them in proper relation to the mundane (the Sacred and the Profane) in order to enjoy healthy growth, or we stagnate and become pathological. It is crucial to human psychology to maintain this balance. Far from merely being stupid and not understanding science, striving to explain a pre-Newtonian world, the primitives understood this balance and held it better than we do. Religious belief is crucial to our psychological well being, and this fact, far more than the need for social order or the need for to explain thunder, explains the origins of religion.

As Maslow says:
“For practically all primitives, these matters that I have spoken about are seen in a more pious, sacred way, as Eliade has stressed, i.e., as rituals, ceremonies, and mysteries. The ceremony of puberty, which we make nothing of, is extremely important for most primitive cultures. When the girl menstruates for the first time and becomes a woman, it is truly a great event and a great ceremony; and it is truly, in the profound and naturalistic and human sense, a great religious moment in the life not only of the girl herself but also of the whole tribe. She steps into the realm of those who can carry on life and those who can produce life; so also for the boy’s puberty; so also for the ceremonies of death, of old age, of marriage, of the mysteries of women, the mysteries of men. I think that an examination of primitive or preliterate cultures would show that they often manage the unitive life better than we do, at least as far as relations between the sexes are concerned and also as between adults and children. They combine better than we do the B and the D, as Eliade has pointed out. He defined primitive cultures as different from industrial cultures because they have kept their sense of the sacred about the basic biological things of life.

“We must remember, after all, that all these happenings are, in truth, mysteries. Even though they happen a million times, they are still mysteries. If we lose our sense of the mysterious, or the numinous, if we lose our sense of awe, of humility, of being struck dumb, if we lose our sense of good fortune, then we have lost a very real and basic human capacity and are diminished thereby.”

“Now that may be taken as a frank admission of a naturalistic psychological origin, except that it involves a universal symbology, which is not explicable through merely naturalistic means. How is it that all humans come to hold these same archetypical symbols? The “primitives” viewed and understood a sense of transformation, which gave them integration into the universe. This is crucial for human development. They sensed a power in the numinous, that is the origin of religion.”[14]
Ceremonies and rituals about ordinary things such as puberty, sex, marriage, birth, death, these are attempts at mediating the Ultimate transforromative experiences that all religions take to the resolution of what they identify as the human problematic. Pre historic man says “I see a connection between my place in the universe, and this sense that I get when I reflect upon nature as a whole. I sense that I am one small part in a great unity, and I sense this in everything in life, falling in love, having children, death., I have a place in the universe in relation to whatever that is I sense beyond the stars…” The skeptic reduces this to “Og like girls, but girls make Og nervous.” So he makes rituals about sex and relationships to ward off the evil spirits that make him nervous. But it’s clear, while pre-historic man probably wasn’t an existentialist and perhaps wasn’t that sophisticated about it all, he did sense a connection between life and the numinous. Of course this doesn’t mean that the primitive humans had any special insight into relationships that we need to follow.  This is strong evidence that people have always had a sense of the numinous as far back as we know. This is an indication of some form of this sense because it clearly shows a connection between ordinary aspects of life and the transcendent. It also means that the typical skeptical explanation for the origin of religion is just losing the phenomena, taking out the real indications of a form of consciousness and reducing what they find to nothing more than a simplistic explanation for things.

While it is true that these experiences and their psycho-social uses have probably evolved over time, it is equally true that they were probably being put to the same uses all along because we can see the relationships between religious symbols, spiritual concepts, and psycho-social aspects. It makes more sense to think they were used in that way all along. the cocnept of the soul is just some simple idea of saying "what keeps me living?O it's some ghost in the machine" but rather why do I feel this strange sense of importance of life and the world when I stare at the stars all night? Then to explain mystical experience they come up with the realization that consciousness probably transcends the material world. From that it's easy to think it lives on after life. Then if the associate it with the wind in the trees and blood and breath and life, that's scientifically mistaken but it's not completely off track. It does at least link the feelings of mystical experience with the reality and meaning of the world and the after life.
Mystical experience is at the base of religion itself. "Mysticism is a manifestation of something which is at the root of all religions."[15] 

David Steindl-Rast,
The question we need to tackle is this: How does one get from mystic experience to an established religion? My one-word answer is: inevitably. What makes the process inevitable is that we do with our mystical experience what we do with every experience, that is, we try to understand it; we opt for or against it; we express our feelings with regard to it. Do this with your mystical experience and you have all the makings of a religion. This can be shown.

Moment by moment, as we experience this and that, our intellect keeps step; it interprets what we perceive. This is especially true when we have one of those deeply meaningful moments: our intellect swoops down upon that mystical experience and starts interpreting it. Religious doctrine begins at this point. There is no religion in the world that doesn't have its doctrine. And there is no religious doctrine that could not ultimately be traced back to its roots in mystical experience – that is, if one had time and patience enough, for those roots can be mighty long and entangled. Even if you said, "My private religion has no doctrine for I know that my deepest religious awareness cannot be put into words," that would be exactly what we are talking about: an intellectual interpretation of your experience. Your "doctrine" would be a piece of so-called negative (apophatic) theology, found in most religions.[16]

It makes sense that if every doctrine has it's roots in mystical experience that the doctrine of the soul does as well. Now it could easily be that the basic idea was invented by observing breath i the body and wind in the trees then backed up by these emotional experiences. That's ok it means there is no Casper the friendly Ghost-like entity in us waiting to get out. We do not need to hold to that view of the soul or the spirit. Spirit is mind, the word in Greek means mind, it's perfectly logical to understand consciousness as the aspect that lives on. A connection through mystical experience would be quite logical for the spirit. So the reality of consciousness as enduring connection with God and the infinite got mixed up with hoaky notions about wind in trees and evaporation and produced this idea of the ghost. That doesn't mean there is conscoiusness that survives death and unites us with God or not spirit that is reinvigorated when we give our lives to Christ. 

This tendency to want to destroy ideas of religion through scinece is nothing more than the illusion of technique. This notion harkens back to a book form the 70's by William Barrett.[17]Perhaps because science is misunderstood by many as thriving upon proof, and it is seen as the umpire of reality because its ability to prove empirically, (apologies to Karl Popper) the illusion of technique is created in the minds of those who misunderstand science in this way. I will say more about this in the next chapter. It is not the scientists who create the illusion but the needs of science groupies who expect it to ground their metaphysical needs that create the illusion. The tendency to reduce all knowledge to one thing enables the illusion to work. The illusion works in the way that reductionism works. If some aspect of reality can’t be gotten at by our methods then we assume it doesn’t exist, because that means it’s not something we can control.
"The illusion of technique," the modern dream of a single method that would apply in all areas of human concern. Such hegemony encourages thinking in terms of a "will to power," seeing things as 'manipulanda', that which awaits reshaping by humans. Barrett contrasts this with the "will to prayer," an attitude which, inspired by Platonic 'eros', seeks, not control, but active engagement leading to personal transformation.[i]
Thus the only knowledge there is, is in our control. In other words, the facts always support our view. So naturally our manipulation of the world is absolute and produces all the knowledge there is. If there seems to be anything beyond that we can reduce it and lose the phenomena and we explain it away. Religious experience is reduced to brain function, brain function is reduced to chemistry, chemistry has no room in it for transcendent sprits and thus they don’t’ exist. The illusion is backed by the fact that we can always manipulate more and more stuff and thus demonstrate our view of the world works.


[1] Bill Lauritzen, Abstract, “Can a Machine Have a Soul,” Journal of Personal Cyberconscienceness. Vol. 8, Iss 1 (2013) 30-39, 30-31.
[2] Ibid.31
[3] Ibid. 32-33.
[4] Ibid. 33
[5] Zbigniew SZYDŁO, “Who Discovered Oxygen?” Proceedings of ECOpole, Vol. 1, No. 1/2 (2007)
[6] Kevin de Berg, “The Enlightenment and Joseph Priestley’s Disenchantment with Science and Religion.” Christian Perspective on Science and Technology, ISCAST Online Journal, (2012) Vol. 8.   accessed 4/7/14.
[7] Margaret Jacob, The Newtonians and The English Revolution 1689-1720. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1976. Boyle’s Christianity and apologetics are discussed throughout  the work.
[8] Bill Lauritzen, Ibid. 38.
[9] Abraham H. Maslow  Religiooins, Values and Peak-Experiences, “preface” to the 1970 edition.
[10] Ibid, appendix I. “An Example of B Analysis.”
[11] David Lukoff “the Diagnosis of Mystical Experiences With Psychotic Features” Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, (1985) 17, (2) 155-81 in Lukoff and Lu, Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, (1988) 20, (2) 182.
[12] Ibid
[13] Abraham H. Maslow, Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences
Appendix I. An Example of B-Analysis

[15] Frank Crossfiled Haphold, Mysticism: A Study and Anthology. New York:Penguin Books, 1979, 16
[16.]David Steindl-Rast. "The Mystical Core of Organized Religion," ReVision, Summer 1989 12(1):11-14. Used by the Council on Spiritual Practices with permission. 1989
 on line:  
accessed 4/8/14.
Brother David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B., is a monk of Mount Savior Monastery in the Finger Lake Region of New York State and a member of the board of the Council on Spiritual Practices. He holds a Ph.D. from the Psychological Institute at the University of Vienna and has practiced Zen with Buddhist masters. He is author of Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer and Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey Through the Hours of the Day.
[17] William Barrett, The Illusion of Technique: a Search for Meaning in A Technological Civilization.
New York:Anchor books, 1979.

[18] Raymond D. Boisvert, “The Will to Power and the Will To Prayer: William Barrett’s The Illusion of Technique 30 years Latter.” Journal of Speculative Philosophy: A Quarterly Journal of History, Criticism, and Imagination.” 22, (1), 24-32.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Ethical Naturalism and Value Systems: part 3, The Euthyphro Dilemma (final)

 photo Joseph_Fletcher_zps362f9578.jpg
Joseph Fletcher: Situation Ethics,
episcopal priest, pioneer in bio ethics.

The Euthyphro Dilemma

            Christian values have been assailed by modernity since the enlightenment. One of the major forms that attack takes is through the “Euthyphro dilemma.” This dilemma is aimed at the assumption that the only form of Christian ethics is divine command theory,[1] that God makes something good just because he says it, and his saying is an arbitrary whim. According to Baggett and Walls account of Louise Antony version is “are morally good actions morally Good simply in virtue of the gods favoring them or does God favor them because they are—independently of his favoring them—morally good?[2] Antony replaces “the gods” with “God” indicating that the God of monotheism is her intended target of rhetorical analysis, as Baggett and Walls point out. Yet the dilemma was orinally cast with Greek gods in mind. Bagget and Walls’s take on the dilemma is very detailed and complex, it’s one of the best in recent years. I won’t be going into it with that kind of complexity. The basic upshot of the dilemma is that either God is subject to an independent standard outside himself, and thus he is not God and secular thought might find that standard so we don’t need religion, or morality is just an arbitrary whim on God’s part. Yet the dilemma is based upon the Greek gods not the Christian, and as noted, Antony shifts form the Greek to the God of the Christian tradition with no justification. The Greek gods were continent beings, they had parents they were not eternal they were not the creators. The dilemma really doesn’t apply to the God of the Christian tradition who is eternal and the basis of all that is. That means there’s a closer relationship between the good God than just God’s commands. That connection  closer than divine command theory would have it; it’s not just a matter of “good is what God says it is,” although it is dependent upon God, but not just on his commands.[3]
            The relationship between God and the good is not merely based upon voluntarism, that God demans X therefore is good. Rather, it is that God is the basis of the good. Goodness is God’s character and without God there would be no concept of the good. God depends upon God but not just upon his commands. It’s not merely that there would be no big bully on the block to tell us what is good, but that there would be no good itself because God is the good itself. The good is derived form God’s character and God’s character is love, love is the background of the moral universe (Augustine) and thus goodness is derived form love. That brings up several problems. For example, J.L. Mackie argues that once one affirms the existence of unchangeable moral good then God becomes unnecessary and secular thinkers might find those principles without God.[4] The concept of unchangeable moral good that is detachable form God is an impossibly. It might be that thinkers could come to conclusions that coincide with truths implicit upon God’s character and not know it. That’s hardly the same as saying God is “unnecessary.” If there’s any relation between what’s good and what’s true and if good is based upon God’s character there’s no true ontological separation between those two. In discussions with atheists when I say that morality is based upon love and love is God’s character they usually balk at both aspects of that statement: they figure love is a reaction of chemicals in the brain that just produces little sentimental or romantic feelings, and moral good is derived from behavior not from love. Usually they don’t observe the implicit value that would make a behavior good or bad. There’s more to it than just saying good is based upon God’s character. It’s also a matter of God’s judgment. God’s power, knowledge and goodness underwrite his moral authority.[5] God not only creates all that is, including planning its purpose, but also knows the truth and is the only mind that can figure the complexities of all existing relationships between moral concepts and human behavior, and the only truly objective judge who knows the subjects of moral behavior better than they know themselves, and in addition to all that has the forthrightness and loving concern to explicate moral judgments fairly. When I say “love” is behind the good I don’t mean romantic love or sentimentality but the Greek term agape.  The idea that love is the basis of he good may be a problem for some Christians because there is a concept in the Christian tradition that love and moral goodness are two counterpoising forces that have to keep each other in balance. I suggest that is nonsense if we are talking about Gods’ love, the love that is the basis of God’s character. “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8).

What is the good?

            Agape is used of God’s love through the New Testament. It is translated as “charity” at times.[6] The word is linked with good will and benevolence. The King James translation renders it “charity” (1 Corinthians 13:1). There’s more to it than that. It’s also linked to “preference” to prefer the other. The word is used for the love of God for man and man for God, the love humans for each other, and the love of God for Christ.[7] Agape is the basis of the good. What is good evaluated as what is agapic (loving). Other moral precepts and axioms such as justice, fairness and reciprocity would all be meaningful only in relation to agape. In fact one major theological ethicist came to that conclusion back in the 1960s, that was Joseph Fletcher. A lot of Christians were outraged by his view of “situation ethics,” and his book by the same title.[8] It was controversial and it drew lots of fire including the charge of “new morality.” Nevertheless he was a top notch ethicist. Fletcher argues that love and justice are the same. Justice is the distributive aspect of love.[9] He calls upon Augustine and argues that love must be prudent. He argues that this view forces us to pull back from the notion that love is sentimental and “mushy” and non intellectual. This is the intellectual side of love; today we call it “tough love.” Literally the argument is how do we manae to supply the beneficiaries of love when there are so many? The answer is by turning the problem into a question of justice. We make sure that justice is done at the same time making sure that love is distributed and doing it in such a way that we exclude one for he sake of the other.[10] Thus we can see how the other aspects of moral axioms indeed stem form love. Love is the background of the moral universe.
            Christian ethics certainly revolve around love. The value system that we use to inform that choice is the one through which Augustine re-valued the values of the Roman Empire. That value system plays out upon the eternal scale of values. We love the eternal we use the temporal. Human beings are eternal, created in the image of God, thus each human being is an end in himself/herself. Temporal things are means to ends. Thus temporal things are to be used and put aside but human beings matter. If science was the basis of ethics, nature never tells us that humans are valuable, there would be no basis for valuing humans except the cultural, and that is relative and can be discarded. Ethical naturalists might kid themselves about the alleged “objective basis” for ethics, they sound like persupositionalist Christian apologists trying to explain what that means. Without the arbitrary assumption already built in regarding the value of human worth, without appeal to a transcendent value system such as Christian agape there is no basis that science could ever give us for not using humans and valuing things. One finds scientistic thinkers such as atheists, especially on the popular level, expressing the sentiments that “humans are not so special.” We don’t have souls, there’s no God, we are just bags of chemicals or jumped up apes so why should we think we are special? Steve Paulson is an example from the popular level. Although he has an advanced science degree and works in science, obliquely. He’s a producer for public radio and an author. He expresses the idea that humans are just “cosmopolitan apes.” Again the idea is not to find fault with evolution. We can accept evolution as scientific fact and accept ethics as philosophical fact and accept The Bible as spiritual fact all at the same time and value humanity. Paulson says:

Most assume that humans are fundamentally different form the rest of the animal world…many people believe that but to biologists we are animals. It’s hard to believe that we are fundamentally different because there is no part of the human brain that is not present in the monkey’s brain. Our brains are bigger and we certainly have more powerful computer than any other animal, but the computer is not fundamentally different. So there’s no fundamental divide between humans and Chimpanzees? no…if you were to ask what the big difference is I would probably say it’s language but like all capacities once you break them down you are going to find some of these part sin other species.[11]

He argues that chimps have morality, “they have a sense of fairness.” Is it really a concept of fairness or just behavior would be fair if they really understood it, but perhaps they don’t? He finds that chimps respond to the needs of others, they seem to share food with those who don’t have enough. Is this really ethical thinking or just a instinctive sense of love that might pervade all creatures? He’s talking about cooperation in hunting. That’s not proof that they value each other. It could just be a practical matter that helps them all. It is evidence of outcome oriented thinking that doesn’t necessarily recognize a moral dimension but a practical survival dimension. Isn’t that what Harris and Churchland and Wilson are reducing ethics to?
            More examination of how this thinking plays out at the popular level, even though this is not scientific, we find bloggers expressed some odd sentiments. The blog “Think Atheist” urges that we should be “ridding ourselves of humanities self centrality: The Importance of Inclusively.”[12]

Humanity thought the universe spun around the Earth as if it were the purpose of the universe. Likewise, the sun.

Another way we think we are special is amongst the rest of the life forms on the planet. We like to believe that there are animals... and there are humans. We seem to have a hard time admitting to ourselves that we are animals. But we are. I'd like to take this idea one step further though. We are all LIFE. We are all BIOLOGY. And the separations between us that seem so important, identifiable and distinctive. Are actually not all that different in the end. All life on this planet evolved IS RELATED. FAMILY. By quantifiable amounts. 99% of our DNA is that of a chimpanzees and 50% of our DNA is that of a banana. ALL LIFE is CLOSELY related. We all come from the same place and we're all going in the same direction. We are procreating and spreading the seed of life, adapting to new environments by all means necessary, even if we must evolve.[13]

If we are animals and we are life and we are no better than any other animals or life would it really matter if we don’t get the quinine to the children dying of malaria? After all there’s lots more life where that life comes from and no one is special. Or that we have to allow dying or even killing off some group so the rest will have more to go around? After all a good outcome is all that matters, we are not special so we can be a means to an end. How are they going to decide this in the clash of such values? Neither the nature from which they take their ethical axioms, nor the science they prize so highly tells us to value humanity or to make humans ends in themselves. How will they resolve such conflicts?            
            These ideas can be put into a positive version. Yet if we assume that we are now coasting on Christian memories and the culture has lots of ideas left over from a time when we valued humanity, what’s going to happen in a couple of generations when those ideas are all gone and we are just seen as “some examples of life among other life,” no better than any other animal and not more than a means to an end; the end being an outcome considered “moral” by those who don’t see a difference in marmoset values and human values. Out come is not totally divorced from deontology. Just because a deontologist doesn’t use outcome as the basis for ethical “ought” doesn’t mean we don’t care about having good outcomes. It seems that if there is no ethical deliberation along the lines of basic value system there is no ethical thought. If there is no ethical thought there is no ethical action. Reducing meta ethical theory (the theory of what makes a thing good or not) to behavior is not the answer. Valuing human individuals as ends in themselves and worthy of preserving rights and ends seems like a good place to start thinking about the sorts of outcomes we desire.

[1] David Baggett and Jerry L. Walls, Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011, 32.
[2] Ibid., 32.
[3] Ibid., 84.
[4] Ibid., 85.
[5] Ibid., 123.
[6] Bible Hub website, Thayers Greek Lexicon, Electronic Database. Bible soft, 2002, 2011.  accessed 5/30/13.
[7] Ibid.
[8] James F. Childress, “Introduction,” Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics: the New Morality. Louisville Kentucky: Westminster, John Knox Press, originally published 1966. 1.
[9] Ibid., 87. Not only did Fletcher receive a lot of criticism, “situation ethics” was the title of the book and the name of the ethical theory, the subtitle was “the new morality.” Both became dirty words, so the actual title of the book was like a charge leveled against him. I am not supporting situation ethics but I do support Fletcher’s reading of love and justice.
[10] Ibid.,  88.
[11] Steve Paulson, The Cosmopolitan Ape: primatology, empathy, morality, community, culture.” Website:  accessed 6/3/13.
[12] Dragontorn, Think Atheist, “Ridding ourselves of Humanities Self Centrality: the Importance of Inclusively.” Blog:  accessed 6/3/13.
[13] Ibid.