File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0106, message 105

Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2001 19:53:58 +0100
Subject: Re: Ethics of Aesthetics?

Don and All,

This 'religion thing' is not going to fade gently into the night... (at lest on
this list)...

A few things to address below - one of my persoanl favorite writers on the
subject  is Rene Girard  - he theorises that the origins and power of the
symbolic and religious activities lies in its theoretical origins in the process
of humanisation (a construction process), identified by Girard as 'The Violence
and sacred' - sacrifice. In the construction of the human social the process of
sacrifice, the sacrifice of a human functioned as a guarantee to prevent violence
and the extinction of the local social group. At some stage in some societies the
human was superceded by the sacrificied animal, and the identification of the
beyond, outside of the inoperative community as 'other', as 'sub-human'. Religion
is theorised as being founded in the relationship between the sacrificed victim
and the social, it becomes a near legalistic relationship (hence the relations to
the work of Dumezil) - the murdered victim becomes  near-divine and eventually
the divine victim becomes the religious guarantaur of social order. The social
and religion is founded on violence and exclusion... The implicit narrative of
relegion and the spirit is 'violence and sacrifice of the other' - theology would
appear to its legitimation.... Girard makes for uncomfortable reading because of
this focus on violence as the founding moment of the social - however it is an
interesting way into the founding similarities of the indo-european myths...

Proposition 7.
Religious and cultish sacrifices remain as popular as ever - exemplary examples
are the Hale-Bopp suicides, the prevented mass suicide in Italy a few years ago -
the italian state moved in and closed down the cult on the basis of the absence
of planning permission (god failed to inform the cults leader about Italian

>         Invidious and dangerous but not gone.

No - myths are not like scientific theories they do not dissapear when they are

>         Why didn't Lyotard incorporate the dominant religious
>         tendencies within his grand narratives argument?

The work had already been done by Georges Dumezil (on Indo-European and
Indo-Iranian  myths and comparative religion). Personally I suspect it is because
Lyotard almost became a Catholic Monk.

>         While the proliferation of religious and spiritual
>         narratives may be a trend, I hardly see them displacing the
> Judeo/Christian
>         narratives.

Over what timescale? We have seen the Judeo/Christian/Islamic narratives changing
greatly under the impact of science/technology and the changes that have resulted
have all been for the better.

>         How does a postmodernist account for the high percentage of
>         people who still accept, if not practice, the theistic dogma.
>         I continue to ask because I think the major contribution of
>         postmodern theory is the identification of the withering away of the
> grand
>         narratives but when it comes to the end of theistic religion where's
> the
>         evidence?

What evidence do you require? Will European evidence do?

> Steve Continues,
> >>>I would not suggest that religion will not exist and will continue to do
> so,
> I think however that it is as Nancy stated a 'weak knowledge' which needs
> tobe understood and analyzed in its contemporary forms as >a continuation of
> the indo-european and indo-iranian myths and legends... The key word is
> 'myth' - the underlying problem remains:
> the reactionary results of nearl yall religious practice - when taken
> outside of the individual human realmand placed in the social field >itself.
> This has become a greater problemsince mass industrialisation >and threatens
> to become more so.>>>
>         The key word from above is not 'Myth' it is 'continues'.

No the identification of religion as myth is critical - specific religions all
fade away to be replaced by some other variety of myth previously religions now
by the equally myth laden sciences. How many hundreds of years did it take for
alchemy to fade, the worship of  Mitra or the other soveriegn gods to fade
away... But we still know of them - they are reduced to the status of myth...
Along with Elvis and the supremacy of man.

Proposition 8.
The key element in religion has always been its relationship to the sources of
social and political power - science and technology has in some parts of the
world replaced religion in this relationship with social and polticial power; as
a consequence the rationale for religions continuance has ended.

Proposition 9.
The end of the myth that science functions as the embodiment of reason and
rationality - this does not remove the Science/Technology couplet from its
relation to socio-political power and its ability to support and question. The
reality seems to be that science and technology are deeply humanised by the
introduction of humanity into the process and have never been more popular or had
so much democratic scrutiny.




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