Friday, August 3, 2007


Sorry! I rather forgot about this. I'm afraid I've just not had the mental stamina to summon up a strong response to your question... so it will stick to vague statements and generalities and precept-ish nonsense. Albeit all true.

My first question upon rereading your post is that it's odd that you fixate so much on the possibility of intellectual dishonesty in enjoying a work of art made for religious reasons. Does it vex you to look at Greek or Roman art without their worldviews? I don't know how much exposure you have to European takes on "Eastern" religion, but what does it mean to read a German who has sort of adopted a cloak of Buddhism? How do you read any of the grotesquely authoritarian authors in European history?

Now, I grant that there's a difference between caring that Pound is a facist and caring that a Mass is, um, a mass... but is it so much of a difference? I suspect that this is where the discomfiture arises... religion (among other things, but religion most pointedly) seems to object to being considered abstractly. One can imagine "Suppose I thought..." just about anything, but what about the idea that such supposition is, of itself, wrong? (It's dubious that this is what religion demands, but it's not outside of religion, either. That is, most religion admits of sinners, but it won't admit that you didn't sin).

Only, I don't think that's right at all. Because the religious experience precedes dogma. And this, I suppose, is why I find your fixation curious, why I don't see why you're over-concerned about your Moabite's dishonesty. I think it's pretty clear that what you object to in a Dawkins is the sense one has that no one will, on their deathbed, read The Selfish Gene, but God only knows how many people have read Boethius, that it somehow fails to resonant with the vagaries of sentience- fear of death, loneliness, time, love, hate, and so on. Incidentally, having only read bits of Dawkins, I don't know that he isn't actively trying to do that. "Oh, loneliness is evolution telling you to reproduce! Hate is you killing babies so there's more food for your genes!" My genes are vomiting.

So, can you read Tolstoy without selling everything you own? Of course! It's entirely possible to have an honest and authentic interaction with art without subscribing to its creator's dogma, what's necessary is the shared sense of being human, which, I'm of late given to suspect, is cognizance of the infinite (or, rather, lack thereof. Knowing that there is a limitless potential subjective experience which is of value solely by virtue of its existence which is beyond what anyone does accomplish, and yet, in principle, not beyond what one could accomplish). I occasionally am given to fright that someday by some scientific tyranny we may be forced to admit to a perfect knowledge of how our minds work, and then I suppose life is as trite as The Matrix, but that won't happen, actually. Thank God.

1 comment:

  1. I occasionally am given to fright that someday by some scientific tyranny we may be forced to admit to a perfect knowledge of how our minds work

    I'm pretty sure that this would reduce to solving the Halting Problem, which is impossible. So rest easy?