File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 84

Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2001 15:22:07 -0100
Subject: Re: Mystify me!


Excellent beginning for your dissertation!

For those curious about the origin and meaning of  "cynicism":

After following this discussion for days, I would like to see a dissertation
on "belief", which IMHO is an approximate opposite of cynicism.

Watching experts on TV, I'm convinced that no one knows what to DO.

There are many who speak of the futility of violence.  A kills B.  B's
brother, C kills A,
A's brother D kills C, whose son etc. etc. etc.  The we-them syndrome
persists for generations - such is the history of mankind or mancruel.

There are many who speak of the need for tolerance - of those who embody
cynicisms, different beliefs, theistic, atheistic, agnostic.

Like young children, we seek security.  We seek security in a set of beliefs
which other persons or man-made of god-given circumstances will not cause us
to abandon.

And we are hostile towards any opposition that threatens our belief systems.

Like Eric and Steve, I favor scientific accounts of the world vs. religious
accounts, but
sometimes wonder if the human tribe gained more than it lost in the 20th

Of course gain and loss are merely facets of personal belief systems.



> Eric,
> I think your post reflects that you are getting a better idea of where I
> coming from and some ways.
> > As I see it, our main disagreements are over the use of the term
> > mystification and the fact that you want to contain the virus within
> > fundamentalism and not see it spread to infect the rest of religion as a
> > whole.
> I like the above so far.
> > Consider this, however.  Unless you are operating with a different
> > definition of fundamentalism that the one currently in use, I don't
> > think you would describe the institution of the Catholic Church as
> > fundamentalist.
> I am sure our working definitions of fundamentalist are different.
> >I think you would agree it would be fairer to describe
> > it as a broad-based institution which contains some who may be described
> > as fundamentalist and others who may be described as liberal and
> > progressive.
> >
> So far so good.
> > Nonetheless, I think you would agree that, as an institution, the church
> > has pursued policies that are anti-feminist on a vast array of issues
> > that include ordination, divorce, contraception, abortion and
> > ecclesiastical representation.
> >
> So far so good.
> > I don't really think you can get away with merely blaming this on a
> > bunch of lone gunmen fundamentalists.  The policy of the church is far
> > too pervasive and structural for that.
> >
> I didn't and I wouldn't.  I didn't ever claim that fundamentalism is
> responsible for everything bad in the world.  I guess that would REALLY be
> making fundamentalism a devil term.  I'm not really going to go that far.
> don't like supply-side economics, but I wouldn't blame that on
> fundamentalism either.
> Let's look at the structure of this argument.  You say or imply:
> 1.  Matthew says fundamentalism is bad.
> 2. The Catholic Church is heterogeneous.
> 3.  The Catholic Church supports bad things.
> 4.  The Catholic Church, not just its fundamentalist wing, is bad.
> 5.  Religion in general is bad.
> Democratic processes have led to bad things.  Is democracy bad?
> have done bad things.  Are governments bad?  People have done bad things.
> Are people bad?  Life hurts.  Is life bad?
> This is what we call overgeneralization, right?  You say the Church is a
> molecular structure to stop me from blaming its bad policies just on
> fundamentalism, but then you want to blame it in total as a molar
> Then, I presume, we are to generalize that damnation further to the whole
> religion.   I realize you never said number 5 in this post and to be fair
> you have backed away from that general statement in previous posts, but I
> still feel you are arguing that point.
> > By coincidence, I received my copy of the New York Review of Books
> > yesterday and there was an article in it by Frederick Crews entitled
> > "Saving Us from Darwin."  In this article he discusses the plight of
> > creationism and the extent to which they have been forced to retreat in
> > their argument because of the power of what Daniel C. Dennett has termed
> > "Darwin's Dangerous Idea."  Here is a quote from the article:
> >
> > "the theory's success at every later stage has tipped the explanatory
> > balance towards some naturalistic account of life's beginning.  So, too,
> > competitive pressures now form a more plausible framework than divine
> > action for guessing how the human brain could have acquired
> > consciousness and facilitated cultural productions, not excepting
> > religion itself.  It is this march toward successfully explaining the
> > higher by the lower that renders Darwinian science a threat to
> > theological dogma of all but the blandest kind."
> >
> The foundation of religion is faith, not geometric proofs.  It is the
> definition of the differend to invoke rules of legitimation for something
> that rule it out from the get go.  This scientism-believer says that
> religion doesn't follow scientific reason and so they are undergoing a
> crisis.  What do they need scientific reason for?
> > If I use the term mystification to describe the "religions of the book"
> > it is not because I want to invoke a devil term, but because I see them
> > as currently undergoing a crisis of legitimation.  The authority of
> > scripture comes supposedly from God, but more and more the foundation
> > for the existence of such a God has been shown to be illusory within the
> > current scientific framework that provides the basis for all of our
> > global technology.
> >
> The foundation for the existence of God has not been shown to be illusory
> within the current scientific framework.  Asimov can write a book
> theories that claim to prove the existence of God, but nothing can
> disprove faith, because faith cares not for that kind of logic.  It is
> that details of the foundational narratives have been challenged, such as
> the age of the earth and its movements.  This causes fundamentalists to
> reject science.  But most religious people are not threatened by idea that
> their parables are parables and have no problem assimilating scientific
> religious narratives.
> > How do church leaders maintain their authority in the face of such
> > unmasking and how do they react to the growing change in demographics it
> > has caused? (All of which, I might add, has nothing to do with my own
> > subjective opinion or a vague penchant for devil terms.)
> >
> The fact that you say this has nothing to do with your own subjective
> opinion suggests [TO ME of course] a fundamentalistic acceptance of these
> "scientific" explanations as objective in the vulgar sense.
> > As Negri and Hardt have indicated, such Fundamentalism is not
> > traditional at all, but a contemporary reaction and refusal of the
> > contemporary historical passage to Empire.  Here is what they say about
> > Islam:
> >
> > "they emphasize ijihad, original thought.  Contemporary Islam
> > radicalisms are indeed primarily based on "original thought" and the
> > invention of original values and practices, which perhaps echo those of
> > other periods of revivalism or fundamentalism but are really directed in
> > reaction to the present social order.  In both case, then, the
> > fundamentalist "return to tradition" is really a new invention."
> >
> This makes total sense.  The Russian formalists described all of this
> ago.  "Old" and "new" only operate in relation to one another.
> > In a similar vein, Jerry Falwell appeared on the 700 club and blamed
> > 9/11 on the pagans, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, the American
> > Civil Liberties and the People for the American Way. As this great man
> > of God put it:
> >
> > "All of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in
> > their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"
> >
> > And before you have a knee jerk response to this and exclaim that Jerry
> > Falwell is merely a fundamentalist, I want you to pause and reflect for
> > a moment.
> >
> Is it a knee jerk response to call him a fundamentalist?  How about
> "jackass"?  Am I allowed to call him that without being called reactionary
> by you?  Call my responses whatever you want.  He is a fundamentalist and
> jackass.  He has declared himself to be on the side of the terrorists just
> like he was on the side of AIDS.  He assumes they are acts of God, so they
> must have a reason behind them, to teach America to repent for
> licentiousness.  This shows the likeness of Falwell and bin Laden as
> fundamentalists.  Furthermore, while the amount of supporters Falwell does
> have is troubling, I will repeat like a broken record:  Don't take one
> species of religious people and assume their characteristics apply to the
> whole genus.  It is hilarious that such poor reasoning is required in
> defense of "reason."  I have seen Muslim, Jewish and Catholic leaders on
> explicitly saying that this act could not have been an act of God.
> > Who are George W. Bush, John Ashcroft and other highly placed officials
> > in the current United States administration, if not fundamentalists?  Is
> > your conceptual framework really adequate for explaining what is going
> > on, after the incident of 9/11?  What role does religion really play
> > within the current crisis anyway?
> >
> This is a really important point.  I have already said that Bush's
> fundamentalism scares me and that I considered his "crusade" remark
> and dangerous.  Ashcroft is a fundamentalist Christian, but to his credit,
> has so far kept his promise to separate his private and public personas
> the most part.  This suggests to me that he is not fundamentalist in the
> sense I have been describing in my earlier posts.  He seems willing to
> balance different concerns.  I would rather someone else be in his
> but the speeches I have heard him make have been very careful and
> intelligent in comparison to Bush's.  Cheney is disturbingly right wing,
> not a fundamentalist and he seems much more aware of the dangers at hand
> than Bush (big surprise, right)?  Condaleeza Rice I know less about, but
> has been pushing Bush to be more unilateralist and that is bad.  Powell,
> course, is as moderate as you could hope from a general.  I hope that
> ignorance will force him to take the advice of the more circumspect and
> intelligent voices around him.
> At times it seems like you are saying that religion is bad.  At other
> it seems like you are saying that religion is false.  At other times it
> seems like you are saying religion is anachronistic.  I guess all I am
> saying is that religion is a word that applies to a lot of things with
> different value, different values, different truth values and different
> levels of "timeliness" (untimeliness can be bad and good).  It is useless
> try to suggest that "religion" caused this, because that statement is
> truistic or false.
> I make no claims to being able to explain what is going one in a really
> satisfying way.  It is all too complicated and scary.  But I will say
> My ethical response is that "resolve" (a word that is being bandied around
> lot) is only good if it is cognitively flexible.  "Re-solve" can't mean
> solve once and for all through some fruitless act of revenge.  It has to
> mean "rework and rework."  The U.S. has to try harder to live up to its
> fantasy of itsself as a successful ethical experiment and just world
> Where would we derive our ethics other than from our traditions?  To
> rejecting religion or "metaphysics" would do the trick is just as stupid
> saying embracing religions law more strictly would do the trick.  The only
> thing that will do the trick, in the long run, is spreading the wealth
> around.  I don't care how we justify it.  We just have to do it.  Appeal
> secular reason, appeal to religious reason, appeal to pathos in the most
> saccharin ways possible.  Who cares.  Just spread the wealth around so
> people aren't so desperate.
> I want to thank you for continuing to write, Eric.  This has helped me
> about some issues that will be important to my dissertation on cynicism.
> mal


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