Self and other essays in continental philosophy of religion

Kenotic love does have place in philosophy, but only as a religious phenomenon rather than a "general phenomenological account of all loving relations". The problem with caritas , the Christian narrative of love, is that it ultimately produces a closed system, "a universal, circular, and conditional logic" with a "meaning that has been given in advance," and that "necessitates one's free commitment". As a universal love it does not recognize the particularities of love: "the subject marching under this banner does not actually have the freedom to choose and enact love toward another subject.

Focusing critically on the work of Hannah Arendt, Calcagno argues her account of the life of the mind requires a "more robust understanding of desire. Indeed, thinking, judging and willing as described by Arendt entail a "kind of passivity or receptivity," which opens the mind to that which is other than the self. The mind's activity is accordingly "solicited by desire" for that which lies beyond the self, and this desire needs to be taken into account in our theorizing about the life of the mind. While the thematic arrangement of the essays does work, any such arrangement sets up particular conversations.

The two essays on love and politics, for example, consider how change can emerge when love is considered as a social phenomenon. Sophie Bourgault considers the role of love in politics by turning to the seemingly disparate perspectives of Arendt and Simone Weil. There is no place for love and compassion in politics according to Arendt, while for Weil, compassion is precisely what is called for.

For Arendt, politics is characterized by speech and action, but Weil's concern is that those who are most disadvantaged have no voice. But as Bourgault points out, the two thinkers do come together in their agreement that what is needed in our modern world is "more thoughtfulness and empathetic attention" Rethought as attention, love has a place in the social and political world. This is not insignificant, as Christian Lotz reminds us.

Long, Eugene Thomas

For, within the context of recent left political philosophy developed by thinkers such as Hardt, Negri, and Badiou, love seems to be granted a metaphysical status. Lotz reminds us, however, of the Marxist critique of essentialist conceptions of love which "tend to overlook the material, historical, and social form that love takes on in real individuals" shaped by class Also connecting the particular to the general, Lotz points out that "What we can see, feel hear is not sensual in an abstract sense; rather, it is the result of concrete historical forms of how we are related to one another, and of how the sensual world is itself reproduced through labor" In other words, love allows us to engage in particular and concrete relations in a world that is shaped through material relations.

Lotz concludes that rather than thinking about love "in terms of a truth procedure Badiou or an ontological event Negri ," it is the social aspect of love, and the ways in which it is produced to which we should turn our attention Dorothea Olkowski, whose essay completes the fourth part on the phenomenological experience of love, is also concerned with forms of love, in particular in light of recent neurophysiological explanations of love that cannot account for intentionality. In working through her ontology of love, she draws on Merleau-Ponty, in particular his early work "on the interplay of the organism and the phenomenal field" Like Lotz, Olkowski thinks through sensory perception drawing on form.

In this case the "sensory value of each element is determined by its function in the whole and varies with it. Every action undertaken modifies the field where it occurs and establishes lines of force within which action unfolds and alters the phenomenal field" This means that sensory input alone is not sufficient for explaining why we respond in certain ways.

Instead, what is needed is an account of intentionality, of consciousness of certain objects and the ways we take them up, consciousness of the actions we take, of the words we speak, and the ways in which these "consciously constitute the intention s in which they are involved" Consciousness and the world are intertwined.

Since it would be a contradiction to affirm that the greatest possible being does not exist in reality but only in the mind because existing in reality is greater than existing in the mind , one is logically drawn to the conclusion that God must exist. There have been many objections to this argument. Another important objection offered by Immanuel Kant was that existence is not a real predicate.

Alvin Plantinga, for example, has devised a version of the ontological argument utilizing the semantics of modal logic: possibility, necessity, and possible worlds a possible world being a world that is logically possible. Defining a maximally excellent being as one that is omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect in every possible world, his argument can be stated this way:.

Plantinga does not affirm that the argument provides conclusive proof that God exists, but he does claim that there is nothing irrational in accepting it. Regarding the latter, Michael Martin — , offers the following reductio :. Given this argument structure, we could also conclude that ghosts, gremlins, and countless other mythical creatures exist as well, which is absurd.

Cosmological arguments begin by examining some empirical or metaphysical fact of the universe, from which it then follows that something outside the universe must have caused it to exist. There are different types of cosmological arguments, and its defenders include some of the most prominent thinkers spanning the history of philosophy, including Plato, Aristotle, ibn Sina, al-Ghazali, Maimonides, Aquinas, Descartes, and Leibniz.

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Three versions of the argument that have received much attention are the Thomistic contingency argument, the Leibnizian sufficient reason argument, and the kalam argument. It is next argued that not all things can be contingent, for if they were there would be nothing to ground their existence.

This necessary thing or being is God. Another type of cosmological argument is the Leibnizian sufficient reason argument, so named after the German thinker Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz — The argument concludes that the explanation of the universe must lie in a transcendent God since the universe does not have within its own nature the necessity of existence and God does.


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Some recent versions of the cosmological argument grant that contingent things exist due to the causal events of other contingent things, but they then go on to inquire why the universe should exist at all when conceivably this could have not been the case. What provides a sufficient reason for the existence of the universe? It cannot be another contingent thing and on into infinity , for to explain the existence of any contingent thing by another contingent thing lacks a sufficient reason why any contingent thing exists.

If our universe truly is contingent, the obtaining of certain fundamental facts or other will be unexplained within empirical theory, whatever the topological structure of contingent reality.

Self and Other: Essays in Continental Philosophy of Religion | E-kirja | Ellibs E-kirjakauppa

An infinite regress of beings in or outside the spatiotemporal universe cannot forestall such a result. If there is to be an ultimate, or complete, explanation, it will have to ground in some way the most fundamental, contingent facts of the universe in a necessary being, something which has the reason for its existence within its own nature.

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It bears emphasis that such an unconditional explanation need not in any way compete with conditional, empirical explanations. Indeed, it is natural to suppose that empirical explanations will be subsumed within the larger structure of the complete explanation.


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Oxford, Blackwell, , An objection raised against both the Thomistic- and the Leibnizian-type arguments is that they are demanding explanations which are unwarranted. If for every individual contingent thing in the universe there is an explanation, why does the whole need a further explanation? Furthermore, an explanation must at some point come to an end—a brute fact. So why not end with the universe? Why posit some further transcendent reality?

The argument is structured by William Lane Craig, its most ardent proponent in recent times, as follows:. The dilemmas are obvious. Either the universe had a beginning or it did not. If it did, either that beginning was caused or it was not caused. If it was caused, either the cause was personal or it was impersonal. Based on these dilemmas, the argument can be put in the following logical form:. This version of the cosmological argument was bolstered by work in astrophysics and cosmology in the late twentieth century. On one interpretation of the standard Big Bang cosmological model, the time-space universe sprang into existence ex nihilo approximately Such a beginning is best explained, argue kalam defenders, by a non-temporal, non-spatial, personal, transcendent cause—namely God.

The claim that the universe began to exist is also argued philosophically in at least two ways. First, it is argued that an actual infinite set of events cannot exist, for actual infinities lead to metaphysical absurdities. Since an infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite set of events, such a regress is metaphysically impossible. So the past cannot be infinite; the universe must have had a temporal beginning. A second approach begins by arguing that an infinite series of events cannot be formed by successive addition one member being added to another.

The reason why is that, when adding finite numbers one after the other, the set of numbers will always be finite. The addition of yet another finite number, ad infinitum, will never lead to an actual infinite.


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  • Since the past is a series of temporal events formed by successive addition, the past could not be actually infinite in duration. Nor will the future be so.

    Simon Critchley. Hegel: the Philosopher of Tragedy. 2011

    The universe must have had a beginning. Many objections have been raised against the kalam argument, both scientific and philosophical, including that there are other cosmological models of the universe besides the Big Bang in which the universe is understood to be eternal, such as various multi-verse theories. Philosophical rebuttals marshaled against the kalam argument include the utilization of set theory and mathematical systems which employ actual infinite sets. Teleological arguments in the East go back as far as C.

    In the West, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics offered arguments for a directing intelligence of the world given the order found within it. There is an assortment of teleological arguments, but a common theme among them is the claim that certain characteristics of the natural world reflect design, purpose, and intelligence. These features of the natural world are then used as evidence for an intelligent, intentional designer of the world.

    The teleological argument has been articulated and defended at various times and places throughout history, but its zenith was in the early nineteenth century with perhaps its most ardent defender: William Paley — Those offered by David Hume — in his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion are often taken to be archetype refutations of traditional design arguments. Among them are that the analogy between the works of nature and human artifacts is not particularly strong; that even if we could infer a grand designer of the universe, this designer turns out to be something less than the God of the theistic religions especially given the great amount of evil in the world ; and that just because a universe has the appearance of design, it does not follow that it is in fact designed; such an event could have occurred through natural, chance events.

    A more recent version of the design argument is based on the apparent fine-tuning of the cosmos. Fine-tuning arguments, whose current leading defender is Robin Collins, include the claims that the laws of nature, the constants of physics, and the initial conditions of the universe are finely tuned for conscious life.

    Consider the following three: 1 If the strong nuclear force the force that binds protons and neutrons in an atom had been either stronger or weaker by five percent, life would be impossible; 2 If neutrons were not roughly 1. While each of the individual calculations of such constants may not be fully accurate, it is argued that the significant number of them, coupled with their independence from one other, provides evidence of their being intentionally established with conscious life in mind.

    Objections to fine-tuning arguments are multifarious.

    Long, Eugene Thomas

    According to an anthropic principle objection, if the laws of nature and physical constants would have varied to any significant degree, there would be no conscious observers such as ourselves. Given that such observers do exist, it should not be surprising that the laws and constants are just as they are.

    One way of accounting for such observers is the many-worlds hypothesis. In this view, there exist a large number of universes, perhaps an infinite number of them.

    Merold Westphal

    Most of these universes include life-prohibiting parameters, but at least a minimal number of them would probably include life-permitting ones. It should not be surprising that one of them, ours, for example, is life-permitting. Much of the current fine-tuning discussion turns on the plausibility of the many-worlds hypothesis and the anthropic principle. There are other versions of the teleological argument that have also been proposed which focus not on fundamental parameters of the cosmos but on different aspects of living organisms—including their emergence, alleged irreducibly complex systems within living organisms, information intrinsic within DNA, and the rise of consciousness—in an attempt to demonstrate intelligent, intentional qualities in the world.

    If successful, the cosmological argument only provides evidence for a transcendent first cause of the universe, nothing more; at best, the teleological argument provides evidence for a purposive, rational designer of the universe, nothing more; and so on. Natural theologians maintain, however, that the central aim of these arguments is not to offer full-blown proofs of any particular deity, but rather to provide evidence or warrant for belief in a grand designer, or creator, or moral lawgiver.

    Some natural theologians argue that it is best to combine the various arguments in order to provide a cumulative case for a broad form of theism. Taken together, these natural theologians argue, the classical arguments offer a picture of a deity not unlike the God of the theistic religious traditions and even if this approach does not prove the existence of any particular deity, it does nonetheless lend support to theism over naturalism which, as used here, is the view that natural entities have only natural causes, and that the world is fully describable by the physical sciences. Along with arguments for the existence of God, there are also a number of reasons one might have for denying the existence of God.

    If the burden is on the theist to provide highly convincing evidences or reasons that would warrant his or her believing that God exists, in the absence of such evidences and reasons disbelief is justified.