Monday, 17 May 2010

Catholic Post-modernism

A useful post, by Simon Rowney of Cathnews, as an example of the sort of witless rambling that the intertubes facilitates. I'm of the opinion that the more free speech and transparency for ideas in the public sphere the better, and the internet supplies that in spades. So, the theory goes, idiocy will be exposed, and the human project will progress *more* rationally. Hopefully. It's possible, however, that it allows foolishness to be spread as quick if not quicker than before, so the theory may be wrong. Consider this nonsense:
Modern people believe philosophy is a private and personal encounter with truth. Ever since the publication of Descartes' Meditations each person has been forced to answer the fundamental questions alone. This paradox holds true, despite the fact that Science, much like Christianity, is very public and has a definite creed.
I'm not too sure what this means; perhaps he's commenting on the inevitable problem we humans have as prisoners of our own perceptions; certainly Descartes' cogito ergo sum points us in that direction. But one can easily fall into solipsism, which hardly gets the Catholic anywhere. If one isn't solipsistic, then, by definition, one isn't *forced* to answer the fundamental questions alone. No, one has fellow travellers, and tools to help. (And of course, science does not have a *creed* but a methodology.)
Because of this, in the modern world it is considered a grave error to question another person's rationality. By all means we are invited to proclaim truth and critically appraise the validity of arguments. However we cannot, under any circumstances, question another's rationality.
This is so laughable one is attempted to call Poe. What would be the point of not pointing out someone's irrationality? Or is he saying no-one's really irrational?Are we really expected never to question someone's rationality? Where does that leave the courts, who have to decide on the competence of defendants? Are we not expected to call Harold Shipman and Christie mad? This really is the height of stupidity, let alone irrationality. It's clear to me that what the writer is talking about is not modernism, but post-modernism.
Dawkins assumes that all educated people will reach the same conclusions!
No. He's well aware that educated people reach different conclusions. That evidence is all around us. Why is science such an important methodology? Because it acknowledges this truth and counters it.
In the modern world proclaiming public and definite truths has special difficulties. Dawkins and many spokespeople for science are not even aware these difficulties exist. They move forward in blissful ignorance of their fundamental myopia.
On the contrary, in my experience they are well aware of the problems that proclamations of definite truths can be. Truth in science, as opposed to logic for example, is always contingent. In this it stands in stark opposition to the bold absolute assertions of the dogmatically religious.
The Church, on the other hand, is acutely aware of the modern challenge. She is equally aware that personal philosophy can strengthen Faith and create opportunities for evangelization. In large part the Church's view has been the happy result of Cardinal Newman's influence. Through the life and writings of this thoroughly modern man, the Church has come to understand and embrace the extraordinary interplay between a personal philosophy and a public creed.
It's ironic indeed that the Catholics are beatifying Newman, who appears to have been a very devout man whose very nature is denied as natural by his Church, and was buried with his lifelong partner Ambrose St. John. Interesting indeed to consider how the personal and the public 'interplayed' for him. But however pious and wise is a person does not make them right in all matters, and for that reason, personal philosophy is nothing more than a useful contribution to the human project. The root of much evil in the world is to reify one's own personal philosophy and present it as fact. This could be the definition of the religious.

Rowney wants to discredit science through a post-modern dismissal of all rational analysis, which allows him to maintain his foul prejudices (and of course everyone else theirs). So we begin to see a coalition of forces in defence of irrationality, made up of the devout and the credulous, demanding an unthinking *respect* for any crackpot idea. That way, they can get a free pass for their favourite crackpot idea.

Now the danger here is that many people have rather *disreputable* crackpot ideas, which they are keen to impose in the public sphere, to satisfy their own prejudices and benefit themselves. Rowney's argument is the perfect justification for *any* ideology. By his own logic a church set up with a mission statement to eliminate all Roman Catholics could not be condemned as irrational. Well, unlike him, I *would* question the rationality of such people, and would defend everyone's right to question it. More than that, it's vital for the healthy development of our society that we shouldn't stand idly by when we see irrational behaviour, but should condemn it for what it is.

Therefore I question Rowney's rationality, despite not being able to, apparently.

For an example of the irrationality of Catholic dogma, try this.

And a tragic example of the irrationality of another sect here.


Post a Comment