Known and unknown things

For ages, man has been confronted with loads of questions. Millions of people tried to find answers but never got to the point where they could say they were satisfied.

There are things that we think we do know. But often when we grow up we come to see we did not know it really. And there are things that we know that we don’t know. Looking at this world and outer space there are so many things that we don’t know, that we don’t know. Those things that we don’t even know enough to know that we don’t know lay so far outside of our existing frame of reference that we can’t even imagine them. They are too far out of our box to hold in mind.

Most of the time we are already so busy with coping about the things we do seem to think are there in the unknown, that we do not have time to think further about those things which are the very far unknown. Lots of things are also matters we do not understand or do not seem to get a grip on to have a good view of them.

Many philosophers were busy with the unknown and wanted to have a clear view of the known. The American philosopher William James was fascinated by the unknown unknowns and assumed that what we knew about reality (and even what we can imagine to be true about reality) is always a tiny fraction of the totality of what is. Question also should be “what is reality”. These days people are confronted a lot by things which are not at all true. The greatest caller and accuser that others are fake is mostly presenting the world with a lot of fake news and very dangerous ideas. (Even when he, as 45th president of the U.S.A. is proud to tell the world he takes this or that product to avoid having Corona, and brings others in danger when they follow him.)

James was a free thinker who held loosely to what he thought was true and assumed that whatever seemed true now would yield to much bigger and more encompassing truths soon. Rather than defend what we know and expand on it slowly, he wanted to inquire directly into what we don’t already know by focusing on the anomalies and oddities that don’t fit into our current understanding.

James felt that our attention should be on the outer fringes of what we know. The next big idea doesn’t come from the center. It comes from the dim outer edge where the light of what we currently know fades into the blackness of the unknown beyond. James risked his career and his reputation as a scientist to study things that others thought were absurdities. As the president of the American Psychical Society he studied spirits, mediums, and life after death. Most scientists felt this was worthless, but James felt that it was out there on the fringes that we would find our way to new and unexpected vistas of truth.

{, How to Move Beyond Vicious Intellectualism}

For mankind has been created by an invisible Source, which is the Being. Without that Being there is no being at all. And that seems very difficult for lots of people to cope with. They want to have something they can touch and see. That is why so many people took themselves some visible god or gods, be it Jesus, cows or other animals or trees.
The two originators of the philosophy of Pragmatism – Charles Sanders Peirce and William James – were both very concerned with unknown unknowns. Both realized that human beings find it very difficult to even imagine that there could be things that we don’t know that we don’t know. Sure we know that there are things that we don’t know. I don’t know lots of scientific and cultural facts, the distance to the nearest star, the president of Monaco and so on. But I know there are such facts that I don’t know. (The film maker and columnist Errol Morris has written for the New York Times recently on the concept of unknown unknowns.)
We all should know that there is so much that we even do not know, which is a manifold of what we know. Are brain is just too limited to cope with everything there is and exists. Bounded unto this earth there is also space which goes beyond our dreams and far away from our own capacity to understand and know what is all there.
Problem with man is also that he thinks to have enough knowledge to understand or to analyse the things in the known and unknown.
Those things that we don’t even know enough to know that we don’t know lay so far outside of our existing frame of reference that we can’t even imagine them. They are too far out of our box to hold in mind. What endears me to Pragmatism more than anything else is the respect given to the existence of truth beyond our current ability to imagine. James and Peirce both assumed that what we knew about reality (and even what we can imagine to be true about reality) is only a tiny part of the totality of reality. And they envisioned a way of going about philosophy in light of this. They created a form of inquiry and a philosophical attitude that was militantly open ended. “Never block the road to inquiry” was Peirce’s motto. And William James railed against what he called vicious intellectualism.

Every day we are requested to look around us and to recognise the truth and untruth, the known and unknown. Each day we have to examine how we want to look at things, because that is going to decide if we are going to be able to go further to understand the unknown as well as the truth or reality.

We must take steps to dare to go out of our comfort zone to come to new visions and coming to known more unknown things. We have to dare to step outside of our own frame of reference. If we are consciously or unconsciously assuming that what we think is true actually is true and negates all other possibilities, our inquiry proceeds by expanding on what we already know. There is the trap for mankind that we focus on what we know and not many try to push at the borders, “creeping slowly out into the vast oceans of unknown that surrounds our small island of known”.

If we want to come to a better world we should dare to look at the darkness and see the light the divine Creator offers the world. He has also given His Word to look into and to find answers. Though not many people take the effort to read that Book of books and come to see more clearly in so many matters that bother us every day.

Danger also for mankind is that people are often so sure that what they think is the truth. Many dare not to question their own value or their own way of looking at things and their own analysation of matters. We should dare to question how we want to look at things. Certainly for looking at things we do not really understand we should consider which glasses we want to use.

James and Peirce wanted our thinking to be free. They wanted to hold on loosely to what we think is true by assuming that whatever we think is true now will yield tomorrow to a much bigger and more encompassing truth. Rather than defend what we know and expand on it slowly they wanted to inquire directly into what we don’t already know by focusing on the anomalies and oddities that don’t fit into our current understanding.

James felt that our attention should be on the outer fringes of what we know. The next big idea doesn’t come from the center. It comes from the dim outer edge where the light of what we currently know fades into the blackness of the unknown beyond. James risked his career and his reputation as a scientist to study things that others thought were absurdities.
{Vicious Intellectualism and the Reality of the Unknown, }

It is not that we have to know how it really is to come to believe. It can very well be that we do not know all the  facts, but may consider that there is some truth or some existence of that what we assume there to be. We have our own sensations and thoughts and can listen to others their thoughts, combining those ideas to form some other ideas, transpiring to come to certain conclusions. Though often we still can’t be sure we would have made the right conclusion.

People should know that even if we cannot point to direct irrefutable evidence of something we should not be afraid to believe in it. As such the belief in God is grounded.

Michael Shermer in his book “How We Believe” describes the mind as a “belief engine” that is constantly creating patterns of belief. From fractured information and sense impressions the mind weaves together plausible pictures of reality that we believe in.
{Belief and Fact, }

Question is also

How do we want to believe?

and

In what do we want to believe?

Most often man only wants to believe in what he can see and feel. For going to believe in certain matters, he wants direct irrefutable evidence. For the matter of God, the divine Creator that is very difficult. To explain God there are also not always common sense definitions. We must be honest, in the God matter, we mostly cannot point to direct irrefutable evidence. To convince others about the existence of God it is also difficult to give really direct evidence.

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Perhaps the following articles can make you think about the matter

  1. 3rd question: Does there exist a Divine Creator
  2. Looking for answers on the question Is there a God #1 Many gods
  3. Is there no ‘proof’ for God? (And why that statement is not as smart as you might think.)
  4. Nature Is A Reflection Of God
  5. Looking for answers on the question Is there a God #3 Transcendence or Surpassing other gods and man
  6. Looking for answers on the question Is there a God #4
  7. 4th Question: Who or What is God
  8. A 1st reply to the 4th Question Who is God 1 A Creating Being to be worshipped

Between theology and philosophy

Theology is a heavily loaded word, which belongs more to the domain of philosophy and when looking at the many Theology colleges or universities one can wonder if it really is about studying the Logos or Word of the Theos the God, because in the majority of such institutions most time is spent into the writings of human beings, giving more attention to the many false human doctrines than the Biblical doctrines.

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To remember

  • on ThinkNet age-old debate on relationship between theology & philosophy.
  • reformational school of Christian philosophy > Neo-Calvinist movement inspired by Abraham Kuyper but brought to fruition by the legal philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd and his brother-in-law, D.H.TH. Vollenhoven).
  • James W. Skillen: when we write or speak + we know those reading/listening will think that any reference to a Christian, biblical perspective means “theology,” = simply talking about finding our place in the ongoing biblical drama of life in Christ–finding our place in the history of God’s work in Jesus Christ
  •  N.T. Wright insist that Paul is doing “theology,” > working to explain how God’s covenant drama with Israel is now being fulfilled in the revelation of Jesus Christ
  •  Paul =  following up on (or anticipating) his times of preaching + teaching in their midst, sending pointed summaries, extensions of what he already told them, + opening new vistas > communicating by living letters about life they share in Christ by the ongoing work of the Spirit.
  • Augustine used word “theology” in 2 different ways > represent essentially distinction many of us are trying to make.  = offer a preliminary explanation, “life of faith” <-> “theology”
  • the Christian way of life = Christian discipleship in all of life > not only a way of worship.
  • explain + interpret Christian struggle
  • multiple issues of political philosophy & “science” = to engage in theoretical enterprise including multiple “-ologies”
  • “politics,” > “political life as a whole” “dirty dealing,” “actions of government” (but not citizens), or “actions of citizens +  interest groups outside government.”
  • In political arena = to find ways of explaining + making distinctions
  • DFM Strauss (South African philosopher and author most recently of Philosophy: the Discipline of Disciplines):1) Theology =/= theological question = domain of philosophy => “Encyclopaedia of Theology” does not mention itself as a theological subdiscipline
  •  2) Dooyeweerd > not defend view that theology studies the faith aspect of creatio => Theology merely studies concrete reality as it functions within the faith aspect.= focuses on coherence of actual phenomena which function within that structure”
  • 3)   Calvinism/ Calvinistic = term only be explained historically by fact that this movement originated in the calvinistic revival which toward the end of the previous century, led to renewed reflection on the relation of the Christian religion to science, culture, and society.
  • Abraham Kuyper could not continue to be restricted to the reformation of the church and theology.
  • 4)    Thomas Aquinas “hijacked” Christian intellectual endeavours for theology by assuming that whenever something is considered in respectu Dei (in relation to God) such an activity is theological in nature.
  • Calvin Jongsma: Developing a theology of X = rampant among scholars who desire to advance a Christian perspective of X  >  Many will say = just a matter of terminology
  • Ponti Venter neo-liberal New Scholasticism = expansion of Theology to include all of human life has a number of contemporary sources:
 
  • marginalising of theology + religion in a secular society. => theology using secular natural science-theology debate to annihilate reformational philosophy for sake of their own financial survival.
  • We now have a huge faculty of theology, catering for every possible discipline and church, while the quality of ministers that is produced is weak, and every year fewer Reformed students report to study for the ministry. There are as many vacant pulpits in the Church as professors of theology who do weak research for the University, there and there are less students in the pipeline than professors.
  • 5. Neo-pragmatist scientism – or new old Scholasticism => to enlighten + govern. => Neo-pragmatism = one of worst forms of authoritarian elitisms
  • Rudi Hayward: Calvin Seerveld’s attempt to dissuade people of the “theology of arts” approach.> promotion of a general spiritualization of art, or a liturgical cast to art, or an evangelizing requirement for art, as the most Christian task misses the grounding biblical insight that art as normal creatural service can be a restored and redemptive, holy act, so artistry does not need an “extra,” theologically explicit insignia to be truly full-fledged service by Christ’s body-at-large.
  • Kerry John Hollingsworth: Philosophy of The Cosmonomic Idea = provided way to see that theoretical analysis (including theological analysis) does not give structural form to human experience within the creation > unpacks structural order of + for creation that is part of God’s “Let there be . . ”

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Find additional reading

  1. Protestant denominations of the Low Countries and Abraham Kuyper
  2. Wes Bredenhof on Abraham Kuyper
  3. Fullness of summer and abundance of harvest found in the satisfying plenitude of life in Christ

memory's sacred domain

ImageThere’s been some interesting discussion recently on ThinkNet on the age-old debate on the relationship between theology and philosophy. For the uninitiated, ThinkNet is a mailing list of people from various disciplines interested in the reformational school of Christian philosophy (often identified by the shorthand — for good or ill — as the “NeoCalvinist” movement. But for insiders, it is a philosophical movement inspired by Abraham Kuyper but brought to fruition by the legal philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd and his brother-in-law, D.H.TH. Vollenhoven).

On this point I have found useful Dooyeweerd’s introduction to his philosophy, In the Twilight of Western Thought, which has a chapter on theology and its relation to philosophy. One of his students, Johan P.A. Mekkes, also has a nifty volume on the topic, recently translated into English as Creation, Revelation and Philosophy

I present below snippets of the discussion, with some editing on…

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Two kinds of knowing – experience and understanding

There are two kinds of knowing – experience and understanding – and the confusion between them is the cause of all sorts of trouble for any thinking person – which is all of us.

Experience is the knowing of things. It is exactly what appears to our senses precisely as it is without us doing anything. It is immediately and directly present to awareness with no mediating activity. Because it is immediate it cannot be denied.

Understanding is the knowing about things. It comes to us in the form of the inner language of thought.
Understanding is the knowing-about-things that is contained in explanations, interpretations and logic.

Reason is intuitive knowing. It is the self evident knowing that isn’t derived from rational deduction. It is directly perceived pure awareness.

Read more:

Experience and Understanding

Ogen open doen voor transparante verkondiging te zien

In onze huidige wereld willen mensen voor alles wel een uitleg vinden. In de vorige decennia namen velen omtrent het geloof hun toevlucht in interpretatieve geschriften.
De laatste jaren is de hermeneutiek de belangrijkste wetenschap geworden in de theologie.

Velen vinden het moeilijk om dat alles te verbinden met het leven hier en nu. Maar moet men daar niet stellen dat velen het veel te ver gaan zoeken? Heeft de mens werkelijk zulk een noodzaak aan al die theologische werken?

Men zou eigenlijk kunnen verwachten dat de Bijbel op zich toch genoeg duidelijkheid zou moeten kunnen scheppen. In wezen kan die dat ook maar de meeste mensen schenken nog het liefst het meeste vertrouwen in mensen die zij rondom zichzelf kunnen benaderen. Schrijvers en denkers van nu spreken hen dan ook het meest aan.

Velen blijken te vergeten dat het Christelijk Geloof niet zo moeilijk hoeft te zijn of niet zo overgoten moet zijn met onbegrijpelijke verhalen of gebeurtenissen. Men moet maar de bijbel ter hand nemen en men zal, als men zijn ogen open doet, wel de transparante verkondiging weten te zien.

Demanding nothing of the world


When you demand nothing of the world,
nor of God,
when you want nothing, seek nothing, expect nothing,
then the supreme state will come to you uninvited and unexpected.

Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

 

Dutch version / Nederlandse versie > Niets van de wereld eisend

A truth to face often to do with time

A truth we all have to face is that the days pass by and that we are always limited by time. It is the ticking of the clock which may remind us that we have to take in account the time. Day and night bring us to face the reality of the day, where we have to make a distinction between the real and the unreal; between knowledge and perception.

We may not forget that “Truth” is unalterable, eternal and unambiguous. Truth might be unrecognised, but it will not be changed. Truth applies to everything that God created, and only what God created or allows to exists is real and true. This is beyond learning because it is beyond time and beyond the limited awareness of processing thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.

Truth has no opposite; no beginning and no end. Truth is real, unchanging and it is the serene peace of faithfulness.

Manny may be looking for truth at the wrong place. We would like to know that the best place to find truth is the Bible.

As we come to the end of 2018 it is perhaps not bad to check how media distorted truth and how much we were confronted with fake news. True news shall be that we soon shall have to face an other year with again new steps to undertake. People should know that there is also the truth that time is starting to run out. Every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year, we are getting closer to the moment of truth. Before it is so far, make sure you are ready. Come to know who is the way to God and how you should be ready for hard times to come.

Today we are still connected to the time, not able to escape it. We are not able to stay young and healthy. We are all confronted with difficulties in life and illnesses. And at a certain point in life we shall have to face it that we shall not be able to be under the living on this earth. We even shall not be able to stop the time when we die. Then our body shall decay to become dust and nothingness again.

The truth of life is that there is no nothingness. When you get drown in the idea of being a nothing or to live in a nothing, you are strangling yourself. Speak of nothing can bring to mind a sense of desolation and darkness, plus can bring you in a space where you feel the emptiness

Although we may describe times of our life interchangeably using nothingness or emptiness, they have different meanings for Christians.

We should not be afraid of the time passing, of empty moments, of scaring moments, of darkness coming over this world. By time we should come to see the signs of the times the book of books speaks so many times. We as Christians are to pour ourselves out in time, treasure, and talent and be ready for others to help them come through the times. When others are afraid of darkness or certain times coming we can show the the light in that darkness.

When at 24.00 hours today sounds the fireworks and light up the skies, we should be happy, because we know we received again one more year to be here on earth and to come closer to better times. And let us not forget, having time, it means also we have to consider our obligation brought by the time. Our responsibility to make the best out of time and to take up a responsible position in times to come. Are you aware of the content you are going to bring in time, this coming new year?

For the time being, we hope you had a nice 2018 and wish you all the best for 2019.

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Concerning time, read: Coming to the end of 2018

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Related

  1. Now that autumn is over, winter is here
  2. A cogitative and brief interpretation concerning time
  3. Lose All That Importance
  4. Nothing Remains
  5. Ego, you go
  6. Nihilism – not waving, drowning.

An Escape Mechanism

To remember

  • God = a ‘wish fulfillment; a fictional father figure projected in the sky of our imagination + created by our desire for security.’
  • Heaven = imaginary projection of our extinction + death
  • religion = psychological escape mechanism => we don’t have to face life as it really is.
  • atheism = flight from reality > projection of desire not to have to meet God one day + give account for your life.

God does not believe in atheists

escape

The new Atheists quote Sigmund Freud, that God is a ‘wish fulfillment; a fictional father figure projected in the sky of our imagination and created by our desire for security.’ On this view, Heaven is an imaginary projection of our extinction and death. And religion is simply a psychological escape mechanism so that we don’t have to face life as it really is. Well, of course, that’s all true; provided only that God does not exist. But if God does exist, exactly the same Freudian argument will show you equally convincingly that it is atheism that is the flight from reality. A projection of the desire not to have to meet God one day and give account for your life. If God does exist, then atheism can easily be seen as a psychological escape mechanism; to avoid taking responsibility for one’s life.

–John Lennox

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Why are we surprised when Buddhists are violent?

Dan Arnold & Alicia Turner, New York Times, 5 March 2018

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The Nya Thar Lyaung reclining Buddha is an important religious site in the Bago region of Myanmar. Credit, Frank Bienewald/LightRocket, via Getty Images

While history suggests it is naïve to be surprised that Buddhists are as capable of inhuman cruelty as anyone else, such astonishment is nevertheless widespread — a fact that partly reflects the distinctive history of modern Buddhism. By ‘modern Buddhism,’ we mean not simply Buddhism as it happens to exist in the contemporary world but rather the distinctive new form of Buddhism that emerged in the 19th and 20th centuries. In this period, Buddhist religious leaders, often living under colonial rule in the historically Buddhist countries of Asia, together with Western enthusiasts who eagerly sought their teachings, collectively produced a newly ecumenical form of Buddhism — one that often indifferently drew from the various Buddhist traditions of countries like China, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Japan and Thailand.

This modern form of Buddhism is distinguished by a novel emphasis on meditation and by a corresponding disregard for rituals, relics, rebirth all the other peculiarly ‘religious’ dimensions of history’s many Buddhist traditions. The widespread embrace of modern Buddhism is reflected in familiar statements insisting that Buddhism is not a religion at all but rather (take your pick) a ‘way of life,’ a ‘philosophy’ or (reflecting recent enthusiasm for all things cognitive-scientific) a ‘mind science.’

Buddhism, in such a view, is not exemplified by practices like Japanese funerary rites, Thai amulet-worship or Tibetan oracular rituals but by the blandly nonreligious mindfulness meditation now becoming more ubiquitous even than yoga. To the extent that such deracinated expressions of Buddhist ideas are accepted as defining what Buddhism is, it can indeed be surprising to learn that the world’s Buddhists have, both in past and present, engaged in violence and destruction.

There is, however, no shortage of historical examples of violence in Buddhist societies. Sri Lanka’s long and tragic civil war (1983-2009), for example, involved a great deal of specifically Buddhist nationalism on the part of a Sinhalese majority resentful of the presence of Tamil Hindus in what the former took to be the last bastion of true Buddhism (the ‘island of dharma’). Political violence in modern Thailand, too, has often been inflected by Buddhist involvement, and there is a growing body of scholarly literature on the martial complicity of Buddhist institutions in World War II-era Japanese nationalism. Even the history of the Dalai Lama’s own sect of Tibetan Buddhism includes events like the razing of rival monasteries, and recent decades have seen a controversy centering on a wrathful protector deity believed by some of the Dalai Lama’s fellow religionists to heap destruction on the false teachers of rival sects.

Read the full article in the New York Times.

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Related

  1. Is the Buddha really a Warmonger?….
  2. Hardline Buddhist Clergyman Released After Serving Time For Inciting Unrest
  3. Sri Lanka declares state of emergency after Buddhist-Muslim clash
  4. Sri Lanka declares state of emergency after Buddhist-Muslim clash
  5. Moral quandary in Myanmar studies: Looking at the Rohingya crisis as an outsider
  6. State of emergency declared in Sri Lanka after Buddhist-Muslim clash
  7. Sri Lanka lifts nationwide state of emergency
  8. 3Novices:Ultra-nationalist Myanmar Buddhist monk freed from prison
  9. Buddhist nationalism burns as Pope visits Myanmar

Socratics and Anti-Socratics: The Status of Expertise

The disciplinary thinker systematizes and delivers received wisdom using institutionally sanctioned techniques. The critical free thinker asks incisive questions that identify the material shortcomings and paradoxes of received wisdom when it’s put into practice. The two constitute a single movement in thinking among a community. A disciplinary approach to understanding the world becomes mainstream and institutionalized, and critics show how those mainstream ideas have become inadequate to the world in which they practice. Yet for all its questions, Socratic philosophy leaves the most important inquiry hanging: Now what?

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Anti-Socratic thinking grounds the legitimacy of expertise in disciplinary knowledge of the academy. Socratic thinking focusses on challenging that disciplinary legitimacy, on grounds that the subject matter expert misses important aspects of reality thanks to its concentration on a limited number of ways of knowing. The expert speaks with self-assured certainty, while the gadfly challenges the expert by identifying important aspects of life that the expert’s disciplinary lens misses. So Tuvel would be an expert, that expertise allowing her article to walk us through a variety of different ways to understand what a genuine transracial identity could be. Her critics would be the gadflies, interrogating the limits of Tuvel’s expertise, showing how her disciplinary approach misses aspects of transgender people’s lived reality that are critical to understanding the material possibilities of trans existence.

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Anti-Socratic thinking grounds the legitimacy of expertise in disciplinary knowledge of the academy. Socratic thinking focusses on challenging that disciplinary legitimacy, on grounds that the subject matter expert misses important aspects of reality thanks to its concentration on a limited number of ways of knowing.

Find some answers on:

Beyond Socrates: The Philosopher as Creative Craftsperson, Adam Riggio

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Frodeman, Robert. “Socratics and Anti-Socratics: The Status of Expertise.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 6, no. 5 (2017): 42-44.

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In Defence of Transracialism

Socrates Carnelian Gem Imprint Rome, 1stBCE1stCE.

Socrates Carnelian Gem Imprint Rome, 1stBCE1stCE. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

God isn’t dead though for many He is not relevant

In the 1960ies we often heard it said that God was dead.

Friedrich Nietzsche and his mother.

Friedrich Nietzsche and his mother. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Carl Ludwig Nietzsche, was appointed pastor at Röcken by order of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, after whom Friedrich Nietzsche was named. Before Friedrich Nietzsche’s fifth birthday his father died in 1849. He was left to live in a household consisting of five women: his mother, Franziska, his younger sister, Elisabeth, his maternal grandmother, and two aunts.

Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl (1806–1876)

Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl (1806–1876) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After attending a private preparatory school, the Domgymnasium, he was admitted to Schulpforta, Germany’s leading Protestant boarding school. Having graduated in 1864, he went to the University of Bonn to study theology and classical philology.  Influenced by the textual criticism of the English and German classicists Richard Bentley and Gottfried Hermann, F.W. Ritschl, in full Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl became a classical scholar remembered for his work on Plautus and as the founder of the Bonn school of classical scholarship. It was under the tutelage of Ritschl in Leipzig that he further developed and became the only student ever to publish in Ritschl’s journal, Rheinisches Museum (“Rhenish Museum”). Ritschl assured the University of Basel that he had never seen anyone like Nietzsche in 40 years of teaching and that his talents were limitless and as such would be the best candidate to receive a professorship in classical philology that fell vacant in 1869 in Basel, Switzerland.

English: Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche, 1882...

English: Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche, 1882; One of five photographies by photographer Gustav Schultze, Naumburg, taken early September 1882. Public domain due to age of photography. Scan processed by Anton (2005)  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In his mature writings Nietzsche was preoccupied by the origin and function of values in human life.With his protestant background one can wonder if his expression “God is dead” was not misinterpreted.

Many people seem to assume that this implies God was once a living creature, and he has since passed away. But this is a misconception. Nietzsche was an atheist, and thus never believed that a God existed in any form except as a figment of the human imagination. {Nietzsche: God is Dead (Part 1)}

Though we do find this man writing a lot about God and looking at the Judeo-Christian tradition, which according to him made suffering tolerable by interpreting it as God’s intention and as an occasion for atonement. For him this clinging to a flattering doctrine of personal immortality, could also seen as man having created its god to feel safe and sure, but those who did not believe in a god or God also tried to cling to an other “true” world, also offering symptoms of a declining life, or life in distress.

But for Nietzsche when there  is no god man also has not need of a god and man did not have to create a “slave” and “master” world, but should be himself the master. Facing the gut (“good”), schlecht (“bad”), and böse (“evil”) was something we made up ourselves as a nonmoral reference to those who were privileged, the masters, as opposed to those who were base, the slaves. For him his generation had come in a timespan where religious and philosophical absolutes had dissolved in the emergence of 19th-century positivism.

With the collapse of metaphysical and theological foundations and sanctions for traditional morality only a pervasive sense of purposelessness and meaninglessness would remain. And the triumph of meaninglessness is the triumph of nihilism: “God is dead.” Nietzsche thought, however, that most people could not accept the eclipse of the ascetic ideal and the intrinsic meaninglessness of existence but would seek supplanting absolutes to invest life with meaning.{ on Friedrich Nietzsche in the Encyclopaedia Britannica}

Many do forget that as a thinker it might well be that Nietzsche also had come into conflict with the trinitarian thought and the sayings in the Scripture that there is only One true God Who is One and an eternal Spirit, not having bones, flesh or blood, whilst so many people around him worshipped a god with flesh, bones and blood who was born and who died. All such contradictions with what is written in the Old and the New Testament could have muddled his mind.

Eventually the faithful get so worried about the well-being of God, that they build an armour to protect him. {What did Nietzsche mean by God is dead?}

When Nietzsche like others would have thought of that in such saying, he also could see the first sign that people were losing faith in God, also noticing around him how many people had lost faith in Him and did not trust God to take care of himself and able to endanger their safety.

The wannabe-philosopher of Finnish origin continues

Still at first, God is safe inside the armour and people continue to worship him. Over time though, God gets pissed off at the whole situation and leaves, or simply suffocates, leaving the armour for people to worship. People keep worshipping the hollow armour, and religion becomes a meaningless ritual with no substance to it. This is what “God is dead, and we have killed him” means. {What did Nietzsche mean by God is dead?}

An “Autobiographical” philosopher also looks at the German philosopher, extremely critical of Christianity, but sees, like us, that we may not just take it as a sort of atheist statement which would be the “ultimate truth”. For Gabriel J. Mitchell

“God is Dead” simply means “The Christian god is becoming increasingly irrelevant to philosophy and culture”.  {What Nietzsche Meant by “God is Dead”}

Mitchell writes:

In popular culture the phrase is often mistaken as an anti-Christian statement. Some sort of declaration of Atheism. This is most obviously manifested in Christian content like the film God’s Not Dead. In the movie, a disgruntled atheist professor demands his students declare the death of God and embrace atheism. {What Nietzsche Meant by “God is Dead”}

With his background and his protestant family it would be strange that with his pretty bold statement that would be going against his own family’s belief and bring a serious anti-Christian message.
The saying „Gott ist tot“ or “God is dead” also known as “the death of God” first appeared in Nietzsche’s 1882 collection “Die fröhliche Wissenschaft” or “The Joyful Wisdom” also known as The Gay Science,  also translated as “The Joyful Pursuit of Knowledge and Understanding”. The German Wissenschaft never indicates “Weisheit” or “wisdom”, but concerns any rigorous practice of a poised, controlled, and disciplined quest for knowledge, typically translated as “science”. Nietzsche speaks about “what if” which does not mean “it is”.

As such Nietzsche writes

What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ […] Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.’ — [The Joyful Wisdom §341]

Buddha in Sarnath Museum (Dhammajak Mutra).jpg

A statue of the Buddha from Sarnath, 4th century CE

A demon or sick person often is seen as a mad person or some one not by his senses. That mad man also can look at different deities and ascetics and sages like Gautama Buddha, probably a very attractive figure for Nietzsche because of all the philosophic thoughts of that teacher who lived in northern India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries before the Common Era.

We find the first occurrence of the famous formulation “God is dead,” first in section 108.

After Buddha was dead, people
showed his shadow for centuries afterwards in a
cave,—an immense frightful shadow. God is dead:
but as the human race is constituted, there will
perhaps be caves for millenniums yet, in which
people will show his shadow.—And we—we have
still to overcome his shadow! {— §108}

FW82.jpg

The Joyful Wisdom or The Gay Science, first published in 1882 and followed by a second edition, which was published after the completion of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil, in 1887.

Section 125 depicts the parable of the madman who is searching for God. He accuses us all of being the murderers of God.

“‘Where is God?’ he cried; ‘I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers…”

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? {Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125, tr. Walter Kaufmann}

Mitchell explains

The line is part of The Parable of the Madman a section from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science. It depicts a maddened individual running around a village asking where he can find God only to declare that God must be dead. In his ever creative style Nietzsche is using this madman as an outlet to explore an idea. Particularly he’s interested in the shifting values of European culture during his lifetime. {What Nietzsche Meant by “God is Dead”}

More and more people took distance from religion, most people confusing God with Church. Having found so many lies in church they considered “God” also being a “fat lie”. Though many wondered what their life was to be and if there was nothing behind it or something hidden for them.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel also had pondered the death of God, first in his Phenomenology of Spirit where he considers the death of God to

‘not [be] seen as anything but an easily recognized part of the usual Christian cycle of redemption’

But there some thought Jesus Christ to be the God, and when Jesus is God and Jesus died than really God would have died. Naturally Jesus is not God, because God is a Spirit Who has no beginning and not end and to Whom man can do nothing. In case Jesus is God and has died God would be dead and this did hurt Hegel, who writes about the great pain of knowing that God is dead

‘The pure concept, however, or infinity, as the abyss of nothingness in which all being sinks, must characterize the infinite pain, which previously was only in culture historically and as the feeling on which rests modern religion, the feeling that God Himself is dead, (the feeling which was uttered by Pascal, though only empirically, in his saying: Nature is such that it marks everywhere, both in and outside of man, a lost God), purely as a phase, but also as no more than just a phase, of the highest idea.’.

Nietzsche recognizes the crisis that the death of God represents for existing moral assumptions:

“When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident… By breaking one main concept out of Christianity, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessary remains in one’s hands.”

Nietzsche saw how man went away from the faith in God and by doing so was looking for new answers or better answers than the churches could give. When not any more believing in the beautiful masterly concept of creation by the Divine Maker belief of cosmic or physical order also fell to the ground.

Nietzsche saw Europe was slowly transitioning into a sort of cultural Nihilism. As advancements in science and technology lead to more and more questioning of the status quo, Philosophical values were beginning to shift. What Nietzsche is getting at here isn’t a declaration of the truth value of Christianity. In fact truth is a topic Nietzsche is extremely critical of. Instead he’s pointing out the weakening of Christian influences on society. {What Nietzsche Meant by “God is Dead”}

Clearly the church was loosing its grip on the citizens. The ability to have the Bible in print and available to lots of people, made them also aware that for years those churches had lied about many things. Those who really went to study the Scriptures where confronted with many things the church said which were not written at all in the Bible.
An other problem arose by the growing knowledge and advancement in the sciences. Several people wanted to play for god themselves.

Later on people can take a look inside the armour and see there is no God there, and say God never existed in the first place. Whether or not God actually exists or existed at any point as an entity in the universe is not as relevant as the fact that there is an inherent need in most people to have faith in God. That in itself does change how people behave, hopefully for the better.

To put this hollow armour analogy in a more abstract way, is that at first people had a genuine faith in God whether or not this faith was reciprocated by an actual God. Over the course of time this genuine God was replaced by a man-made image of God. Man got rid of the real thing in favour of a man-made facsimile. I suppose the underlying motivation is that if man made God, man can also control him. {What did Nietzsche mean by God is dead?}

Seeing how man went away from God Nietzsche probably was very well aware that this could bring man in trouble.

Given Nietzsche’s strong animosity towards religion, you would think people realizing that ‘God is Dead’ would make him happy. After all, Nietzsche was dedicated in his quest to try and rid the individual of dogmatic and supernatural beliefs. Surely, people disregarding religion would be a comforting sight to Nietzsche. But this was not the case. Nietzsche was deeply troubled by the lack of a God, he feared that this may lead to the destruction of our society. {Nietzsche: God is Dead (Part 1)}

The end of Christianity for Europe might bring desolation and chaos. Churches had fostered on human dogma‘s and now people had come to see how different they are to Biblical dogma’s. But when one finds that a church has lied so much would one go for an other church and not face the same problem? Mankind always have nuzzled dogmatic beliefs that are widely held and accepted by society and do not want to do away with so many traditions.

Many of these beliefs go unquestioned, and thus we live in a sort of ‘herd’ similar to sheep (the term sheeple is probably the best representation of this). By overcoming the herd perspective, a man can free himself and achieve new heights. {Nietzsche: The Ubermensch (Part 2)}

When there is no God or when man himself is god, then man may be the master of everything (does he think). When there is no God,like so many think, then man loves to be as a god being the super being or Ubermensch, to which nothing is to small or to big and everything can be made possible. When it is not possible to do something today than it will be possible tomorrow or in the future, so why worry?

The Ubermensch is supposed to act as the answer to the problem of nihilism. Since God is dead, that means there is no objective truth or morality. Thus, an Ubermensch acts as his own ‘God’, abandoning the herd instinct and determining his own morality. He is neither slave nor master, as he does not impose his will on others. He is a master of self-discipline. He must be willing to embrace suffering and learn from it. In a way, the Ubermensch is the next step in human evolution. It’s a new intuition, perspective, and greatness for mankind. {Nietzsche: The Ubermensch (Part 2)}

For sure, man has to take a long way before he shall reach such a state. He also seems to forget that is what the Word of God demands from man, that man work at themselves transforming their character to an ideal being without faults. Only problem that than poses, is to know what would be faults, and what would be the right things to strive for. For a Bible Student no such problems arise because he can find all answers in the Bible. But those who do not want to take a serious look at that Library of ancient works, still many questions shall stay unanswered.

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Additional reading

  1. Today’s thought “Ability to see that God is not dead” (May 12)
  2. Inner feeling, morality and Inter-connection with creation
  3. Christian values and voting not just a game
  4. 3rd question: Does there exist a Divine Creator
  5. Is there no ‘proof’ for God? (And why that statement is not as smart as you might think.)

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Further reading

  1. Moral Collapse Didn’t Begin Yesterday. Occult Paris
  2. Everything and Nothing
  3. No Lives Matter
  4. The Nil God
  5. Wake up; There is no God
  6. The death of God (and politics?)
  7. Because God is not efficient in revealing himself to us, He must not exist.
  8. With God vs Without
  9. God
  10. O God…
  11. Lunch n’ Bats
  12. Collecting our thoughts: opening prayer
  13. A walk on the sea
  14. The End of the World
  15. A Defense of Religion (From an Atheist)
  16. Seraphim Rose: “large numbers of Catholics and Protestants are hardly to be distinguished from unbelievers “
  17. On Nihilism
  18. Dostoyevsky’s Übermensch in Crime & Punishment
  19. God’s Heartbreak
  20. Can You Be A Happy Nihilist?
  21. Ep. 48 – Calvin Warren and Frank Wilderson III on Antiblackness, Nihilism, and Politics
  22. The New Nihilism
  23. A Journey Toward A Theory Of Stupidity 3 | The Grandfather Of Stupidology Part 1
  24. The Weaponisation Of Popular Culture
  25. Chapter 6
  26. What We Can Gain From Detachment
  27. Nietzsche and Buddhism
  28. Buddhism, Nietzsche, Jung, Christianity, and Plato: Religious and Philosophical Themes in Westworld
  29. Identification
  30. Who I am and why I’m here
  31. Übermensch
  32. Nietzsche #7 – Der Übermensch
  33. Nietzsche: Eternal Recurrence (Part 3)
  34. Nietzsche, a philosophical biography (Rüdiger Safranski, 2000)
  35. Übermensch by Mathew Babaoye
  36. Editorial 23: Frank Castle, Ubermensch
  37. How to become Superman: Nietzsche’s overwhelming concept and questions to ask yourself
  38. The Ubermensch as an Archetype

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