Thursday, November 05, 2009

Discuss 11

'The concentration on violence - riots, assassinations, uprisings, and civil war - valuable in itself for understanding how such things happen and what might be done to hinder them from happening, as well as for showing to what red hells our sightless souls may stray, gives a misleading picture of religious conflict by representing it in its most pathological forms. There are profounder matters at work than mere unreason, to which, after all, all human enterprises are subject, not just those concerned with the Meaning of Life.'
Clifford Geertz

11 comments:

  1. In other words, a lot of people prefer to play the man rather than the ball.

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  2. Or, in other words, the total inability of so many to admit that there just be a force higher than their desires and imagined needs

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  3. 'Mere' unreason? Religion is more than 50% unreason, so I'm betting religious conflict is at least that too.

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  4. But reason, Caolas, is the most unreasonable of forms. It pretends to have a cold and dispassionate objectivity but is, as much as anything else human, subject to the whims and disposition of hits purveyor.

    You're empiricist supreme, David Hume, was no fool when he said: "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them."

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  5. I was with him all the way to the end, and then the nihilistic turn. Recusant's comparison with Hume is a good one.

    Religious conflict is a misapplication of reason (as Michael Ruse reminded us recently), and is therefore irrational. Our energies are indeed better directed elsewhere.

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  6. It does raise the question of whether organizations have to be like this. Religions are an example of human skill at organization; some religions have been going in more or less the same form for more than 2000 years. But at one heck of a price in some cases. I wonder whether different kinds of organization - the internet, for example, is grass roots rather than top down - may allow us to continue to satisfy religious impulses without empowering fanatics and "red hells" of musket and cutlass.

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  7. Is it concentration? fascination may be a more appropriate description, it may be horrified fascination but none the less, it interests us. Deny away everyone.

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  8. In a nutshell, Trust cannot be exchanged or explained by anything quantifiable or scientific, Trust is in off itself, a self contained enigma, from which we get brief glimpses from time to time.

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  9. I just finished reading Clifford Geertz' 'The Pinch of Destiny': Religion as Experience, Meaning, Identity, Power. And there is just so much in it to disagree with, and so much to appreciate the truth of. It reads at times like an art exhibit of Geertz' mind, and at others like his personal history museum,accented with religious artefacts. That said, let me take a look at the first sentence of the excerpt:

    The concentration on violence - riots, assassinations, uprisings, and civil war - valuable in itself for understanding how such things happen and what might be done to hinder them from happening, as well as for showing to what red hells our sightless souls may stray, gives a misleading picture of religious conflict by representing it in its most pathological forms.

    When I first read that sentence, as an excerpt, I was floored that it would end with the accent on religion, that "the concentration on violence . . . gives a misleading picture of religious conflict by representing it in its most pathological forms". I then read the essay, and realized that he is attempting to give an update on William James, so things religious becomes the context. But, when James talks about religious experiences, he is talking about mystical experiences, and specifically what has to do with the solemn. So lets change the sentence, to replace "religious" with "solemn" to see where Geertz has gone off track: "The concentration on violence . . . gives a misleading picture of solemn conflict by representing it in its most pathological forms." We could also say, "gives a misleading picture of mystical conflict." Gertz does not develop on James' ideas. But I enjoy his thinking while I disagree. Here is how James wanted the term "religious" to be used:

    With states that can only by courtesy be called religious we need have nothing to do, our only profitable business being with what nobody can possibly feel tempted to call anything else. I said in my former lecture that we learn most about a thing when we view it under a microscope, as it were, or in its most exaggerated form. This is as true of religious phenomena as of any other kind of fact. The only cases likely to be profitable enough to repay our attention will therefore be cases where the religious spirit is unmistakable and extreme.

    Women who have made political and religious decisions to wear western outfits get flogged. We see adulterers shot by the Taliban. But this is not the level of "religious conflict", the macro level that Geertz is indicating, nor is it using the term "religious" as James has. People get beaten for wearing different clothes when religious beliefs are not involved. Note the incident that took place in Great Britain in which a young goth couple were beaten beyond recognition by a gang of teenagers. And we do not need examples of people getting shot for adultery when no "religious" motivation is involved. Still, let us note that a religious conversion took place, or seemed to, in the case of the flogged women, and this fueled cultural conflict. But let's note that Taliban who flog women are not in the throes of a mystical experience as they flog. There is no religious spirit involved, a necessity for James.

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  10. Let's now go to the macro level of what, for the sake of the rigors that James demanded, is mistakenly characterized as a "religious conflict", but where we find "to what red hells our sightless souls may stray" at that point. Fatima Bhutto wrote an article for The Daily Beast last week called Hillary, Go Home. Here's how it ends:

    While Pakistan will be flush with development dollars, we will have to send the U.S. government detailed reports regarding our armed forces, including assessments of the civilian control of our very independent army, updates on our prevention of nuclear proliferation, and expertise and analysis of how much we have expanded or diminished our nuclear programs.

    Pakistan’s sovereignty was signed over to Hillary and Barack some time ago. With a government willing to use U.S. drone technology against its own people, bomb various parts of its country when directed to, and allow a revolving-door policy for American officials, it’s no wonder Washington is hell bent on supporting the disastrous Zardari government.

    Tonight, as Pakistan buries its many dead, Secretary Clinton and the Obama administration are seen as defenders of a state that can not protect its people. It’s time for her to go home.


    Hillary, a Clinton no less, was in Pakistan talking about how America is standing "shoulder to shoulder" with the Pakistani's. And Fatima, a Bhutto no less, was telling her to go home. Hillary's sightlessness has to do with not understanding the position the Pakistani's have been placed in with the drones. Just as religion has nothing significant to do with Hillary's sightlessness, Fatima says not one word about religion as she broaches the subject of violent conflict in her country. Imagine if the American goverment was using Pakistani drone technology to blow up people in Utah, some innocent by mistake--but anyone: drones going into the hills, valleys and mountains and killing people. Would it matter if the people the Pakistani's wanted dead were religious fanatics? Not only would it not matter to the outraged Americans, but it would not matter to the Pakistani's either. Killers are killers, and their victims are dead loved ones.

    We arrive at the second sentence of the Geertz quote: There are profounder matters at work than mere unreason, to which, after all, all human enterprises are subject, not just those concerned with the Meaning of Life.' This is the conclusion I come to by disagreeing with Geertz on how he got there.

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  11. Descartes is a fanny.November 06, 2009 10:25 pm

    Human beings are confused and violent cunts full stop.

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