Monday, May 16, 2011

Postmetaphysical Puritanism

Balder started a new thread by this name at IPS. Following are some excerpts:


In that article that Bruce linked to Lears writes: "As their critics began to realize, positivists had abandoned the provisionality of science’s experimental outlook by transforming science from a method into a metaphysic, a source of absolute certainty."

I was thinking earlier today, while going over a few posts here, that sometimes I see echoes of this kind of thing in discussions on this forum. In certain ways, postmetaphysics is held up as a kind of gold standard against which to measure or judge other ways of thinking and being. I mean, of course, it's a forum on postmetaphysics, duh -- but what I'd noticed were phrases suggestive of a .... postmetaphysical "puritanism" (or asceticism) -- a seeming yearning to cleanse or purge one's thinking of ideas and attitudes with any scent of the metaphysical on it.


The last quote [not included above]] (about meditation stripped of traditional baggage) is something I wrote.  In it, I was not forwarding my own views, but trying to summarize what I see as the similar aims of Harris and Krishnamurti.  But with that said, Mary's critique still struck a chord with me, because I believe it is something others have picked up on here as well, at least from time to time, and I've actually had a similar response to my own "voice" here on several occasions -- picking up on a certain nascent asceticism to the tone of some of my posts, or a sort of concern with establishing and maintaining (postmetaphysical) doctrinal purity.  When I've sensed something like this, the experience has been like being surprised and disconcerted by one's own shadow.  Enforcing some kind of postmetaphysical puritanism is not my conscious intent, and does not represent my aspirations, either for this forum or for "all religious people," but I've found that in trying to explore and clearly articulate just what is involved in a postmetaphysical approach to spirituality -- if such an animal is even possible, as we've discussed -- the discussion has often circulated around questions of what is acceptable, or what will fly, in a "postmetaphysical space," and what will not.  And I think that can lead -- and sometimes has lead -- to a boundary-enforcing sort of concern that may smack of dogmatism.

When approached about this before, my response has been that the main exercise here on IPS, as I understand it and attempt to pursue it, is not to craft some sort of doctrine to be imposed on other groups, but to explore and articulate a "meaning space" for interested individuals who are looking for a form of spirituality resonant with their own (postmodern/postmetaphysical/integral) sensibilities.  And this is still how I see what we're doing here.  But I can understand how / why the impression is sometimes given that a dogmatic movement is afoot, and for myself, I want to remain vigilant of that as a "shadow" to what we are attempting here.


This dichotomy would appear to be one of the principle issues here, posed dialectically as it should be.

On the one hand there is the (pomo? anarchic?) concern that people be free to "practice" as they please. And yet there may be certain beliefs and "practices" that could be antithetical to the free society in which we live, and these should be subject to discussion and critique.

I'm picking up on another related issue in what theurj states, though it is not explicitly stated by him and he may not wish to phrase it the way I will. And that is the tension between, on the one hand, allowing people to practice and believe as they wish, and, on the other hand, the free critique of religious and metaphysical conceptions.

This tension parallels that between a "hermeneutics of suspicion," on the one hand, and what I call the "hermeneutics of sympathy," on the other. The second approach has traditionally been linked to purportedly "neutral" phenomenological accounts of religion, but it is also linked to "tolerant," if not fully fledged positive, attitudes to religion.

While there is no doubt some value to "tolerance" toward other cultures, and religions in general, personally, over the years, I have, run up against what I feel are the limitations of this attitude. As a result, I have come to abandon the once held belief that I should be simply "tolerant" toward all religions. This is specifically the case where certain conservative and fundamentalist manifestations of religion in the world are concerned, but it is also the case where I sense that there may be some sleight of hand at work (as in the case of certain questionable "healers" and the conceptions surrounding them), or where I feel some particular conception calls for critique due to what I feel is some form of incoherence.

I also think that there can be found, among some, a certain generally held "politically correct" attitude toward religions. I sense that this attitude may be an extension of the idea that we should be "open minded" and respectful toward other cultures. While I think the latter is generally a good principle to adhere to, I have reservations about its full and unreflective extension toward all religions, or religion in general. For I think that there is also the matter that intellectuals should be free to criticize religious concepts, in a manner akin to being able to criticize political theories or philosophical concepts, that needs to be factored into the equation. The problem of course is that people tend to be even more sensitive about their religious beliefs than they are about their political and philosophical ones, and for this reason, so goes the thinking, we are supposed to "tiptoe" around them so as to not "offend" anyone. The idea, for example, that "religion" and "science" are two "complementary but different spheres" of human existence strikes me -- at least as it is used in certain defences of religion over against the "new atheists" -- as an example of tiptoeing around the issue so as to not step on anyone's toes. I sometimes find the application of this idea rather disingenuous, if not paternalistic and patronizing, and I have come to admire, to a limited degree anyway, those who have had the stones to speak up and voice their concerns about various religious conceptions, even though the ones that are doing so sometimes reveal their own limited understanding of that which they criticize. If anything though, i think that such criticism is a step in the right direction, even if it is not always positive, in that it at least gets the conversation going in a way that is not simply superficial or disingenuous.

Maybe we could just change the name of the forum to "integral postmetaphysical spirituality." :-)


LOL, given the way we've questioned every part of the title of the forum, maybe it should be "integral postmetaphysical spirituality."


Indeed. However the questioning doesn't negate the endeavor. Remember the following from the After Finitude thread, quoting Caputo. To the contrary negating the negation is a positive affirmation of what I call integral postmetaphysical sp;irituality in a good way. And it is rhetorical poetry to at least my ears. (My underlining below):

Žižek provocatively suggests an odd kind of 'positive' unbelief in an undead God, like the 'undead' in the novels of Stephen King, a 'spectral' belief that is never simple disbelief along with a God who is never simply dead (101). God is dead but we continue to (un)believe in the ghost of god, in a living dead god. If atheism ("I don't believe in God") is the negation of belief ("I believe in God"), what is the negation of that negation? It is not a higher living spirit of faith that reconciles belief and unbelief but a negation deeper than a simple naturalistic and reactionary atheism (like Hitchins and Dawkins). Belief is not aufgehoben but rather not quite killed off, even though it is dead. It is muted, erased but surviving under erasure, like seeing Marley's ghost even though Scrooge knows he is dead these twenty years; like a crossed out letter we can still read, oddly living on in a kind of spectral condition. Things are neither black nor white but shifting, spectral, incomplete. We have bid farewell to God, adieu to the good old God (à Dieu), farewell to the Big Other, Who Makes Everything Turn Out Right, Who Writes Straight with Crooked Lines, who maketh me to lie down in green pastures. Still, that negation of negation does not spell the simple death of belief but its positive mode in which belief, while dead, lives on (sur/vivre). This unbelief would be the 'pure form' of belief, and if belief is the substance of the things that appear not, Žižek proposes a belief deprived of substance as well as of appearance. Žižek mocks Derrida mercilessly, but when spaceship Žižek finally lands, when this buzzing flutterbug named Žižek finally alights, one has to ask, exactly how far has he landed from Derrida's 'spectral messianic.'

If this is postmetaphysical puritanism then I pray to God/dess to grace me with more.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.