Protestant sects broke away from Roman Catholicism; (2) philosophically

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Some Religious Versions of the Self

Three ways of thinking about religion:

(1) institutionally, as a sociological phenomenon (which will be a major target of the Enlightenment philosophes); this had been made enormously complex after increasingly centrifugal Protestant sects broke away from Roman Catholicism;
(2) philosophically, as the once unchallenged system of explanation that was in­creasingly under challenge;
(3) psychologi­cally, as a systematic explanation for feelings of conflictedness and guilt.
Increasing internalization of religious experience: the progression (suggested by the philosopher Paul Ricoeur) from defilement through sin to guilt (the gnawing of conscience, medieval “agenbite of inwit”). The significance of the theological account of original sin, and the radical dualism of soul vs. flesh.
Augustine’s Confessions as seminal work: the self enslaved by sin, utterly selfish but never satisfied; salvation possible only from outside, through the word of God (in Augustine’s case, when he picked up a Bible in response to the words Tolle lege, “Take up and read”).
Tendency of the great world religions of the first millennium B.C. to reject this world, and even to reject the body; T.S. Eliot in The Waste Land connects Augustine’s “To Carthage then I came, burning burning burning burning” to the Fire Sermon of the Buddha: “All is burning... The body is burning, tangibles are burning... The mind is burning, ideas are burning, mind-consciousness is burning.”
Augustine’s theology as adapted by Calvinism: a tiny minority are elect and will be saved, the rest are repro­bate and damned.
Looking ahead: Enlightenment thinkers will insist on the positive value of the body and the world; they will see pride as a virtue rather than as sin; and they will seek fulfillment in social interaction, not in self-repressing solitude.
Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in the Protestant (in his case, Baptist) tradition: the Bible is the sole source of truth; radical individualism rejects this world in favor of eternal salvation; psychic experience is externalized in allegory, so that unwanted behavior is seen as diabolical tempta­tion from outside; sin is an intol­erable burden that can only be removed by divine grace.
Pascal, in the Jansenist wing of Catholicism (with an Augustinian emphasis on sin and pre­destination), writing to a worldly, skeptical, aristocratic French audience:
the existential aloneness of each person; pride as the in­eradicable source of jealousy and exploitation;
nature” and the moi (the “me”) are fundamentally corrupted, and Christianity is the only religion that rightly teaches us to hate ourselves;
the disturbing remoteness of the hidden God (deus absconditus) in the silent, infinite space of modern science.
Examples of Addison’s “Hymn” and Hume’s account of the Quaker martyr James Nayler: advent of nondoctrinal deism, which accepts the existence of God but deduces it from nature rather than from inner light or from the Bible; inability to imagine the spiritual anxieties that the older creeds addressed.
Descartes, the founder of Cartesian rationalism (his name is “Cartesius” in Latin):
the move from philosophy as wisdom (philo-sophia) to epistemology (the problem of knowledge);
the assumptions of the 17th century “Age of Reason:” reason (not faith) can give us absolute certainty, but the way to get there is through systematic doubt;
the one thing we know for certain is that each of us is a res cogitans, a thing that thinks, and the bottom line is therefore the famous cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am.” But what we can’t know for certain that the thinking self has a body; thus, the modern mind-body problem. And for Descartes, the thinking mind is pretty much detached from the social and political world.

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