Friday, February 18, 2011

The animal that destroys even itself

IT is amusing to notice that many of the moderns, whether sceptics or mystics, have taken as their sign a certain eastern symbol, which is the very symbol of this ultimate nullity. When they wish to represent eternity, they represent it by a serpent with its tail in its mouth. There is a startling sarcasm in the image of that very unsatisfactory meal. The eternity of the material fatalists, the eternity of the eastern pessimists, the eternity of the supercilious theosophists and higher scientists of to-day is, indeed, very well presented by a serpent eating its tail -- a degraded animal who destroys even himself.

Chesterton-'Orthodoxy.'

3 comments:

rental elf said...

Nice article, thanks.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, "Materialism" should probably be replaced by a term like "Energeticism," since "matter" continues to be explored, including quantum phenomenon like information at a distance.

Even Coleridge spoke about the mystery of how we known anything about "matter" by using as an analogy "matter" hiding behind sensory phenomena, like a pin cushion hidden by innumerable pins.

One could probably say the same for "physicalism" (since matter and the physical world both raise questions as to what exactly they are). Though "physicalism" in the sense of modern "physics" is probably inclusive of such terms as "energeticism."

That being said about "materialism," and, "physicalism,"
I ought to add that "naturalism" is still quite alive and well, including non-substance dualist "emergent" varieties.

In short, Chesterton's quotation concerning materialism as well as your own AFR argument appear to be lagging behind the big questions these days.

Also, I might add that circles of reasoning such as Chesterton attempts to lampoon, are quite tight and narrow when it comes to arguments that attempt to demonstrate the truth of a doctrinal Christian belief system involving a written revelation from God, and historical questions that theologians (of each religion, from Judaism to Islam and Christianity) leap past, claiming to have already understood such writings as "God" wants them to, and formulated the perfect and unquestionable creeds already in the third century when Hellenistic converts (who wrote the Gospels) apparently knew less about first century Palestinian Judaism and its apocalyptic element than we do now. And when people were ignorant of a heap of methods of studying the Gospels, from comparative Gospel criticism to textual examinations and word usages studies and redaction criticism and rhetorical and literary criticism, and form and source criticism, and all the questions they have since raised. Early Christian commentaries on Scripture were filled with pious purple prose, and even a high regard for the Book of Enoch among other noncanonical works. Sheesh.

Victor Reppert said...

My AFR argument is perfectly clear on the kind of naturalism that it is attacking. It makes a distinction between mentalistic and non-mentalistic world-views, and it maintains that any world-view that is meaningfully naturalistic has to exclude certain things from the basic level of analysis: normativity, intentionality, subjectivity, and purpose. So whether we use the term physicalism or naturalism or materialism doesn't matter. What matters is what has to be excluded from the "natural" level. If you can't come up with anything that makes something meaningfully naturalistic, then I will advance my Christian theism as a liberal form of naturalism. God then becomes an unusual physical particle, which I will call the theon.