Faith and Enlightenment

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« on: April 24, 2013, 06:06:38 pm »
Quote from: Soterion
After reading through many of the different theories and ideas posited on this forum (many of which I find absolutely fascinating, since my memory about the series is pretty shoddy), I've had a question bubbling up in my imagination.

Is Bakker navigating through the old "Faith versus Enlightenment" dialogue; and if so, what's his stance?

This question has come to my attention as I've been reading all the suggestions about the literal interpretations of Bakker's diegetic concepts (some of which Bakker himself has said are to be taken literally).  Elements such as the swazond (it actually traps souls), souls being actually damned, etc.  If we recall Hegel's famous explication of Faith and Enlightenment, many of the examples focus explicitly on Faith's tendency to take its elements literally (e.g. wine is both wine AND the blood of Christ, bread is both bread AND the body of Christ, etc.).  He also criticizes Enlightenment, however, suggesting that it condemns Faith and posits it as its antithesis, whilst failing to notice its own aspects in Faith.  This is the ol' pesky dialectic returning to annoy us yet again.

For Hegel, the dialectic in Faith and Enlightenment must result in a Notion wherein a "higher" entity is born out of the mutual understanding and recognition between the two elements.  Interestingly, in Bakker's world, it appears as though Enlightenment precedes Faith.  In the thread on Ajencis, someone suggested that the Earwan philosopher reflects Bakker's own philosophy; since Ajencis is an ancient philosopher in Earwa, it appears as the arrival of Men and other historical events have brought about more "faiths" than there previously were.  Granted, Ajencis was still a human; but one who existed closer to the "enlightened" history of the world...

Bakker also cites Adorno in 'The Thousandfold Thought', a cultural theorist who claimed that the Enlightenment was nothing more than mass delusion, an attempt by humanity to secure its dominance over the natural world (this is a major theme in Cormac McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian', another of Bakker's favorites).  In more recent years, John Gray has criticized the Enlightenment as nothing more than "secular religion."

Where do Faith and Enlightenment stand in The Three Seas?  If certain rituals such as the swazond, and certain elements such as damnation, are to be taken literally, then it seems as though Bakker is infusing things that we typically regard as mythical or metaphorical with the quality of "facts" (these need not be Truths, however; I would suggest that facts can simply be formulations of knowledge in a certain historical context).  Of course, there was a period of history when religious details were believed to be Truths; but Bakker's inscription of these details into the fabric of the natural world seems to conflate the elements of both Faith and Enlightenment (since a large part of Enlightenment thought was the empirical scouring of nature and an attempt to create "scientific" explanations for natural phenomena).

Any thoughts on this?

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« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2013, 06:06:43 pm »
Quote from: Jorge
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Is Bakker navigating through the old "Faith versus Enlightenment" dialogue; and if so, what's his stance?

That's been my question since the closing scene in The Thousandfold Thought, although I don't know if there's any good proxy to the 'enlightenment' in his books. The closest thing might be the Dunyain conditioning that guides Kellhus's mind.

In real life, from his blog, it looks like Scott is largely convinced that science is 'true' or at least more trustworthy than philosophical intuition. He is worried, however, because of the way science threatens to obliterate intentionality (and 'morality' along with it) which is something he cannot accept. I find myself caught in the same dilemma, which is why his books resonated so strongly with me. Earwa's Old-Testament-like God might be disgusting, but at least there's a Ground to what is good and what is bad.

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Bakker also cites Adorno in 'The Thousandfold Thought', a cultural theorist who claimed that the Enlightenment was nothing more than mass delusion, an attempt by humanity to secure its dominance over the natural world (this is a major theme in Cormac McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian', another of Bakker's favorites). In more recent years, John Gray has criticized the Enlightenment as nothing more than "secular religion."

This is an interesting idea, but rather than 'mass delusion', it's more like we are nothing BUT delusions, faith and secularism are equally blind to what is really going on because we are brain-shackled. It harkens more to Plato's cave than to Adorno.

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« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2013, 06:06:50 pm »
Quote from: sologdin
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we typically regard as mythical or metaphorical with the quality of "facts"

one of the great virtues of the series is making certain famous concepts manifest by taking them literally.  (abraham provides the best example:  making plato's Forms manifest as the andat.)


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Adorno in 'The Thousandfold Thought', a cultural theorist who claimed that the Enlightenment was nothing more than mass delusion

will contest this characterization to the extent that adorno, as a marxist, has a specific relationship to "enlightenment" that may not be as simple as designating it a mass delusion: there are some components of it that the marxist regards as progressive and necessary, whereas other components, well, not so much.  consider the 1944 introduction to adorno & horkheimer's dialectic of enlightenment:

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we had set ourselves nothing less than the discovery of why mankind, instead of entering a truly human condition, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism.  [...] If the assiduous maintenance and verification of the scientific heritage are an essential part of knowledge (especially where zealous positivists have treated it as useless ballast and consigned it to oblivion), in the present collapse of bourgeois civilization not only the pursuit but the meaning of science has become problematical in that regard.  What the brazen Fascists hypocritically laud and pliable humanist experts naively put into practice--the indefatiguable self-destructiveness of enlightenment--requires philosophy to discard even the last vestiages of innocence in regard to the habits and tendencies of the spirit of the age.  When public opinion has reached a state in which thought inevitably becomes a commodity, and language the means of promoting that commodity, then the attempt to trace the course of such depravation has to deny any allegiance to current linguistic and conceptual conventions, lest their world-historical consequences thwart it entirely.
(A&H dialectic of enlightenment at xi-xii).  there is a later chapter in the same text regarding enlightenment and mass deception:  that chapter partakes of the final sentence of the above-quoted bit:  advertising and fascist propaganda.

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« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2013, 06:06:55 pm »
Quote from: Soterion
sologdin-

Great post, and great points.  I perhaps launched too hastily at Adorno's critique of Enlightenment thought, and conflated it with more recent criticisms of post-Enlightenment (specifically post-Kantian) thought.  I still find it interesting that Bakker's quotes Adorno at the beginning of TTT; but if I recall correctly, that quote is from Minima Moralia, not Dialectic of Enlightenment.  However, the Marxism is obviously still present; I wonder if Bakker simply feels an affinity with Adorno's relentless pessimism...

I suppose a more appropriate text to navigate Bakker's skepticism of Enlightenment would then be Quentin Meillassoux's After Finitude, although I believe this has already been mentioned elsewhere.  The realm of Earwa, being literally pregnant with devastating and catastrophic potential, seems to invite some invocation of Meillassoux's attack on the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

Despite the immense difference and separation between Meillassoux and the Marxist hermeneutics of the Frankfurt School, I still think the critique on Enlightenment (and the entire philosophical tradition that it's handed us) is a point of comparison between the two, as well as Bakker's cycle.