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The Nexus between History and the Self
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2007-11-27 09:11:54
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In viewing humanity in its historicity as the primary subject of philosophy, Vico had in mind something very similar to what after Heidegger we describe as “humanity’s being in the world.” Vico, like Heidegger, pointed out that the puzzling nature of humanity is characterized by its being not just the theme of philosophical knowledge but also its very subject and bearer of it. For Vico, history is always a form of experience of the self. It obeys the ancient command “know thyself.”

This self-experience does not come by way of introspection, but rather by meeting others and their worlds, i.e., by way of history. Life teaches us who we are and what our human nature is much better than introspection ever could. Vico conceived of human nature as dynamic, as something that develops and grows. He in fact identifies three particular stages of human development: the era of the gods, the era of the heroes, the era of men. He also postulates what he calls “senso comune,” or the common sense of the race; that is to say, human nature is much the same everywhere and the basic elements of life’s experience are common to all humans. In other words, within the three Vichian cycles (which are phenomenological as well as chronological) there are constants of human nature. For example, the transitory nature of human affairs and the very human impulse to overcome fleeting time with the scaffolding of human artifacts: language, literature, art, myth, religion, music, dancing, the institutions of the family, the tribe, the nation, and so on.

Vico is far from denying hat experiences may change from individual to individual, or that different individuals may perceive the same experience differently; however, he insists that the constant can also be discerned. He means constants such as the corrupt nature of all we possess, love, hate, fear, and most visible of all, the omnipresence of death which determines for all human beings, not excluding those who shun meditating on it, the very meaning of life. It is by reflecting on those constants that the horizon of our self-experience broadens.

We may now ask: how can history perform this broadening of the horizon or our self-experience if our relation to it is one of spectator at a play? After all, even the professional historians among us do not seem to exhibit an unusual degree of self-knowledge! But we ought not be too surprised at that phenomenon were we to reflect on the fact that many historians, under the influence of a pervading Cartesian paradigm of reality, perceive what they investigate as part of a closed past. What seems to interest them is merely how things developed and what resulted from that to which people looked forward in fear and hope.

It is precisely that kind of “objective” knowledge that will distort our view of past reality. Within a Cartesian paradigm this distortion is practically unavoidable, because we know too much; that is to say, we know more than the people who actually lived through the events we study. It is that “extra knowledge” that invariably lessens the solidarity which makes the study of history productive for our self-experience. Hindsight makes it difficult to imagine that the people under study are moving toward a yet incalculable and hidden future; that as a rule people venture the diagnosis of their existential situation in fear and hope.

This distortion by hindsight, this knowing too much so to speak, may even apply to a description of my own life’s past situations. The value of keeping a diary lies precisely in the fact that in such a diary my existential fears and hopes are still fresh and unresolved and will be described as such. Later on, in recounting the events of a battle, let us say, I may indeed be able to recollect and describe in some detail the objective events of that battle: confusion, shouting, military strategies and so on, but what will remain more difficult to do is to relive the exact emotions I felt as I faced the distinct possibility of personal extinction. It is exactly in those emotion, not in the objective journalistic events, that we may hope to find the genuine elemental part of the experience of a battle. It does little good to look back at events as the objective historian if I am unable to recapture those emotions. The high school drop-out has definitely intuited something when he defines history as “the story of dead people.” Chances are that history has been presented to him as dead past by teachers who while taking part in their rigorous “objectivity” are unable to make history come alive.

Indeed, it remains difficult for rational man’s imagination, and even more for his rationality, to recapture past emotive states, The mere fact that I survived a battle means that a already a distance has been established which makes it difficult for me to integrate the actual past situation with all its fears and anxiety with my present self so that I may continue growing. Poets seems to be much more capable of this difficult imaginative operation than historians.

To illustrate this point let us take two examples from classical literature: Caesar’s Gallic Wars and Dante’s Divine Comedy. Caesar both made and wrote history. However, in reading his recounting of his own war exploits we have difficulty perceiving the hope fulfilled or frustrated, the fears that never came to pass, and how these motivated the decisions of his military campaign. What is rather obvious is that Caesar is engaging in falsification by hindsight. His boast “Veni, vidi, vici” comes across as inauthentic. Not only is Caesar seeing events in retrospect and hiding from us the casualty figures (more than a million), but also his consummate ambition to become the supreme ruler of Rome. To have revealed that hope and the accompanying fear of not succeeding would have meant to present a Caesar who is less than a demi-god; which is to say, at the time of the writing Caesar already knows too much.

At the time Caesar is already a winner and thus unable to describe the deceptions a human being can fall into when he is unsure of his future and is confronted by enemies ready to dash his hopes. What Caesar is in fact revealing to us are the fossilized realities of the past and in so doing setting himself up on a pedestal as a great conqueror deciding the destiny of millions. This is nothing short than history as a monument of sort. In short, it is the killing of history and as such it could not have led to any kind of self-discovery and expansion of Caesar’s self. Rarely if ever is the reader of The Gallic Wars is confronted with open possibilities, or the confusion and the uncertainty issuing from not knowing what form the historical facts will take.

Let us now look at another, radically different example of classical literature: Dante’s journey which in his Commedia begins thus: “Midway upon the journey of our life/I found myself in a dark wood/where the right way was lost./Ah, how hard a thing it is to tell what this wild and rough and difficult wood was/which in thought renews my fear!/So bitter it is that death is little more.” (Inferno, Canto I: 1-6/ Translated by Charles Eliot Norton).

Obviously, Dante is not narrating here a factual historical event of his life. Rather, he is describing an existential fact of the human condition through that most universal of archetypes: the journey through life of Everyman from womb to tomb. Hence the possessive adjective employed is not “my” but “our.” And yet, it is also his and only his particular life-journey: “I found my self in a dark wood,” as he renders it. In other words, this is both and at the same time Dante’s journey but also our journey because there are, as pointed out above, constants in human nature. One of them being the experiencing of life as a journey with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Another constant is the awareness in mid-life that one may be on the wrong track.

It does indeed take about half of one’s lifetime before one becomes aware that our existential condition is, to say it with Heidegger, of “being thrown into the world.” Youth, misguidedly perceiving itself as immortal is rather slow in perceiving this condition. Dante, on the other hand, is a mature man who has engaged in the politics of Florence and the vicissitudes of life, had undergone frustrations and disappointments and is now aware that he is lost. He is both the author of the Commedia but also its pilgrim on a journey. He knows this because at this point he has at least an inkling, symbolized by the rising sun, of what the right path might be.

However, unlike Caesar, Dante refrains from giving us a retrospective falsification by hindsight. To the contrary, he masterfully recreates, as only a poet can, the very conditions of fear and anxiety he felt when he became painfully aware of being a lost soul on the road to perdition. As he puts it: “in thought renews my fear.” He is well aware that unless he can conjure up the terror and the confusion he felt at the beginning of his journey, he will end up with a fossilized historical account which will not yield self-knowledge either for himself or for his readers. Without that self-knowledge no right way will be discovered.

It is therefore not surprising that Vico greatly admired Dante. For Dante is saying poetically what Vico would theorize philosophically. I as a human being can understand history (including my own past life) only on condition that I made myself contemporary with other people and other eras’, or even my own, past situations by empathizing, via imagination, with the decision of that particular moment in time. It is here that lies the particular power and fascination of myth. It allows us to empathize with the archetypes pf the human condition. As Berdyaev has well rendered it: “imagination calls up something better than the reality around us. Creativeness always rises above reality. Imagination plays this part not only in art and myth but also in scientific discussions.”

So it turns out that paradoxically Dante’s subjective mytho-poetic account of the human condition turns out to be more “historical” than Caesar’s purportedly objective account of actual real events. There is in fact more truth in Dante’s fictional journey into transcendent worlds than in Caesar’s war exploits. But there is more. In both examples examined, the goal posited by the two authors as the future toward which they tend, determines to a large extend the significance of the past. In other words, the evaluation and meaning of what is remembered gives us standards for the present and the future. Thus our own understanding and planning of life are the starting points for historical understanding. What we discover there affects us and leads us to an expansion of individual and collective experience.

The first lesson to be learned from Dante and Vico is that understanding starts in life and forces us down to new depths. Which is to say, the way up is the way down. In order for Dante to return to the lost Garden and then to Purgatory and Heaven he has to first descend into the depths of the earth. It is only in its feedback to life and society that The Divine Comedy and The New Science achieve its supreme significance for both authors and readers. The objectivity of formal knowledge turns out to be a mere transitional stage, not an end in itself and to reduce reality to what may be consciously rationalized ultimately means to limit life’s experiences.

Like Dante and Vico I may also encounter myself by way of history and of the microcosmic reflection of humanity and myself actualized and depicted in innumerable examples, but I can do so only if I understand history in terms of myself, my own decisions, and my open present. I must place myself within the Vichian hermeneutical circle, which is to say that it is not enough to understand myself as a mere product of the past. I must put history at the service of life. Even more, I must make it a critical history and bring it to judgment, if need be. It is only that kind of critical history that points to the relation between identity (self-knowledge) and history.

Here is how the hermeneutical circle functions: my own self-understanding opens up history for me. In turn, when I understand history thus it has an effect on me by making explicit my implicit identity. Once I know what that identity is, what it means to be human, then I can come before the past not as its passive by-product but as a dynamic prosecutor. I can oppose my own identity to history and interact with it. Here history imitates life which is not passive as the Cartesian paradigm suggests (i.e., the extension of matter into space), but rather active and dynamic (the interaction of matter and spirit) as implied by the Vichian paradigm. Dante and Vico point the way. They don’t merely supply us with information about historical processes. They do much more. They teach us, the readers to bring a self to oppose to history in dialogue, thus rendering us capable of having and experience of the self.

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Sand2007-11-27 13:34:11
The prolixity of the text throws difficulties at comprehending what is proposed but it seems to be saying that history is invalid if not apprehended as personal experience with no comprehension of the eventual outcome. It seems to reject that events can valuably be analyzed and judged by understanding the motives of the participants and the final consequences of their actions. In all it also rejects that history should be fitted into patterns of development of the cultural evolution of the species but merely sensed as immediate emotional experience. Admittedly this is useful in novels and emotional documentation of the individuals in a historical action but to reject the clear analysis of an occurrence in the light of its final outcome and the forces in action which motivated the participants seems to me to be losing extremely important understanding of the complexities of life.

The flat statement that the importance of life is determined by death is in total contradiction to my own experience.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-27 20:38:05
To address the editorial question on the cover, for Heidegger to find his lost self in Dante's "dark wood" he would have had to acknowledge (as Dante the pilgrim does at the beginning of his journey) that he had lost his way the very moment when, despite his great cleverness, he heard "the voice of Being" in Adolf Hitler and joined the Nazi party. Whether he found his self at the moment of his death I do not presume to know. That is between him and God. Those who say that death does not determine the importance of life will have to give time to time and they too will sooner than later find out that they have at the very lieast one common experience with the rest of human-kind to which they belong: they will die, even if they believe in a resurrection. The insane of course not not ackonwledge the experience and declare themselves gods who never die; to wit Caligula. But he too died.

Sand2007-11-27 21:23:44
We all eat, breathe, sleep, digest, get sick and recover, make love, have children, etc. Some of us think and puzzle out all sorts of interesting things. Death just happens and is not all that important unless you let it get hold of your daily thinking which can get morbid. To hell with death, I have more fascinating things to play with.

Sand2007-11-28 06:59:43
There is much idiotic blabber from this source about “religion bashing” and it should be stated at least once that religion as such is something that has accompanied the development of the human species since its inception and it is a generality that covers many different attitudes and beliefs in human culture. I doubt that a large number of these aspects are defensible and on the other hand a large number claimed by religion are, in fact, fundamental to the inherent nature of the species and are necessary and beneficial to the existence of civilization. To fit them all under the generalized umbrella of religion in defense of the reprehensible qualities of that classification of social structures is dangerous and scandalous and scoundrelous. Decency demands its rejection.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-28 14:39:23
Santayana would probably approve of this statement if he had not read the other inane, undecent and slanderous ones proffered by the same source in this forum, Catholicism in particular. He would also approve of the German Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoffer's theology or "religionless religion" while reminding Bonhoffer of religion's Latin ethymology: to bind together, to make whole and that therefore as Jung pointed out: throw religion out the window and it will show up as a fanatical anti-religious ideology, to wit Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao who theorized and set-up the religionless states of the 20th century, the so called worker's paradise of secular salvation...Santayana would also remind Bonhoffer of the statement of Robert Shuman's (the founding father of the EU: "I never feel so European as when I enter a cathedral." Shalom.

Sand2007-11-28 14:53:41
For example:

Pope Statement Derails Religious Unity
Armstrong Williams
Thursday, July 26, 2007

This is a crucial moment in world history; wars are raging, countries are forming, and terrorists are plotting.
The opportunity to make positive change and bring about good in the world is right at our fingertips. But in order to make a lasting impact, we, as a global community, need to be united.
This is why I was so disappointed in Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican for releasing a document stating that Roman Catholicism is the only true path to salvation. The document, restating the views of a 2000 document, also said that other Christian and Orthodox communities are either defective or not true churches.
These actions by the Catholic Church are a big blow to the movement for peace and unity amongst religions and nations.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-28 15:20:07
For example this from Lumen Gentium or The Constitution of the Catholic Church proclaimed at Vatican II, conviniently ignored by Catholicism bashers:

"There are those who without any fault do not know anything about Christ or his Church, yet who search for God with a sincere heart and, under the influence of grace, try to put into effect the will of God as known to them through the dictate of conscience: these too can obtain eternal salvation. Nor does divine Providence deny the helps that are necessary for salvation to those who, through no fault of their own, have not yet attained to the express recognition of God yet who strive, not without divine grace, to lead an upright life." (no. 16).


P.S. Of course all of the above has precious little to do with the nexus between history and the self but there it is. What is the agenda behind this disconnnect? No matter. For not by cake alone does man live...

Sand2007-11-28 15:39:31
Perhaps a strong cup of coffee along with the cake might arouse the Pope to be more accepting. It would, of course, expect too much that it would jolt the Pope into accepting atheism.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-28 20:01:45
“It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church” [16]

This from the same document attacked by the inveterate bashers of Catholicism out to grind an ax. So much for ingnorance, scandalous and scoundrelous behavior.

Sand2007-11-28 20:25:36
What is more distressing to me than anything, Paparella, is your total lack of originality in concept, in language, and in flexibility. I am always bashing religion or grinding an ax and you are, like some dumb parrot, always standing on giant shoulders, always remembering the past so that you don't repeat it and yet you continuously repeat it as you have the least creative mind of anyone I have ever come across. You are a prime example of someone who has been totally indoctrinated in some idiotic method of thinking and, much like an asshole fascist or communist, recite your rote doctrines over and over and over. You bleat continually of your hatred of robotic human behavior and behave more like a robot than anyone I have encountered. I have tried to reason with you, argue with you, insult you and nothing can pry you out your petrified status. You never have anything clever to say, it's always some damned quote or other because you have no mind of your own, no capability to figure out your own point of view, always dredged out of the past which is supposed to have value because it's antique like a dumb piece of furniture or a neolithic knickknack. You seem reasonably well read so you must be aware that Aristotle claimed women have a different number of teeth then men and, like an average philosopher in love with his abstract moonings, never thought to check his wife's mouth. I guess you must believe you are a philosopher. OK. You're welcome to it.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-28 20:26:22
P.S. On the cake and a strong cup of coffee for the Pope. He'll probably remind you that it is irrational and illogical to insist on having one's cake and eating it too!

Sand2007-11-28 20:30:05
Another one of your dumb not thought out aphorisms. If you have cake, what the hell else do you do with it but eat it? You can have it in your stomach much more nicely than in your hand.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-28 20:31:57
Mock on, Mock on Voltaire, Rousseau:
Mock on, Mock on: 'tis all in vain!
You throw the sand against the wind,
And the wind blows it back again.
--William Blake

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-28 20:52:43
"Another one of your dumb not thought out aphorisms..."

Ah! But did the voices tell you that the stomach too cannot hold the infamous cake forever? Your "poetics of defacation" ought to be able to make something with that intestinal image for the edification of the magazine's readers.

Sand2007-11-28 21:03:18
Blake wrote wonderful poetry and did some nice artwork but that didn't prevent him from being nuts. I also admire Van Gogh.

You can put your cake into a bank vault but if you believe it will stay cake forever it only confirms your inability to face reality.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-28 21:40:45
I wonder what, if anything, does the painting on today's Ovi cover conjure up to your mind.

Sand2007-11-28 21:58:40
That's possible.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-28 22:31:54
But not likely!

Sand2007-11-28 23:31:03
Considering your total lack of curiosity that's true.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-29 12:26:00
It is always true in one's head; but is it true out there in the real world?

Sand2007-11-29 15:48:03
It's been a while, Paparella, and the vast wasteland of your mind has been laid out and it reveals no originality whatsoever to extract and indicate any comprehension of reality whatsoever. Merely a junkyard of hackneyed cliche´s and misappropriate quotations. That, of course, forms your reality and it's quite sad that a man who has evidently passed through a good deal of formal education should end up more or less empty minded. The best of humanity is remembered for innovative perceptions and even the lowest level of perceptive humanity leaves a bit of something original when he or she ceases. All that there is of you is a collage of quotations which, of course, leaves nothing to be remembered.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-29 16:45:27
"Eppur si muove" to use another apt quote to be contemptuosly rejected by the clever by half, especially if understood... Shalom.

Sand2007-11-29 16:59:02
Ah yes. Galileo and that wonderful decision of the Catholics to decide questions for which they had no competence and condemn somebody who hoped to help them out of their ignorance.
They're still at it, apparently. Forgetting the past as usual. Not even clever by an infinitesimal of one percent.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-29 17:01:32
P.S. Cake and coffee and good elimination is fine for the body, but Man is also endowed with a mind and a soul and they too need to be fed on more than the limited constipating staple of rationalism. The results unfortunately are intellectually and spiritually constipated clever by half people deluding themselves that that they are capable of determining who is healthy and who is unhealthy in that regard. They ought to stick to cakes for the belly.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-29 17:17:06
P.S. It is a terrible thing to have grown up slavishly appropriating all the false unexamined assumptions of one's age, and then get old defending and rationlalizing them. The silver lining however is that it is never too late till one draws one's last breath. Voltaire died cursing Dante but Dante might have gotten the last word after all or there would have not have been any need for so much agitation and trading of insults and argumenti ad hominem. Shalom.

Sand2007-11-29 17:22:16
"It is a terrible thing to have grown up slavishly appropriating all the false unexamined assumptions of one's age, and then get old defending and rationalizing them." Fantastic! I couldn't have evaluated you better.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-29 18:59:16
Yes, but who is doing the evaluating; your self or the unexamined rationalistic voices in your head?

Sand2007-11-29 19:12:43
As usual, you are judging me by what goes on in your own head. I don't blame you for this as you seem to have no other standards. I am not schizophrenic as you seem to be confessing to be. All of my thinking is examined and rational, not irrational as you seem to favor. Since you reject the concept of internal vocal thinking it seems that you have other methods. Do your thoughts appear internally in New Times, or perhaps Morse Code? I suspect perhaps in Aramaic since you are so devoted to the ancient texts but obviously you are terribly inexpert in translating it into clear English.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-29 19:34:57
How many were sent to insane asylums by Stalin simply because they disagreed with him? One wonders how many you'd send there were you able to obtain a bit of political power. Historically, that is the inevitable bottom line of rationalism devoid of imagination and the poetical. It was predicted way ahead of its advent by Dostoyevsky in The Possessed. Shalom.

Sand2007-11-29 19:59:09
I am continuously amazed at how you shake in your boots at my censoring you, at my absolute power to commit you, to ship you off to an institution that might restore you to your sanity. You seem so deeply embedded in the past that you have not heard that most insane people are now put on some drug or, if they are pedophiles, craftily moved around by the Catholic Church so as not to become apparent to the authorities. Be assured that I am not your oppressor. I am merely pointing out your severe limitations so that you do not damage yourself or your fellow citizens. It is, unfortunately, another manifestation of your paranoid schizophrenia that you see me so powerful. Calm down, old man. I am over 3000 miles away and more interesting in devising new forms of pastry than protecting the American public from your delusions.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-29 22:13:24
I accept the acknowledgment of your severe limitations condemning you to devising new forms of pastry 3000 miles away, which is supposed to reassure me so that I stop shaking in my boots for fear of the Grand Inquisitor of Finland, but I am afraid that its sincerity remains suspect. You’d like nothing better than explain it away by some rationalization or other, paranoia, schizophrenia, dementia, but the facts out there, as distinct from the voices in your head, do not seem to support the deceptively humble and reassuring rhetoric of an old shacking man over eighty with nothing to do but bake cakes for the Pope. If you actually did, would the hemlock be included in them? I must ask since, as most readers in this forum well know by now, you have also been egregiously and spuriously grinding slanderous axes against the Catholic Church, and just about every form of religious expressions, at every possible chance. You seem to conceive of it as your grand mission in this forum Machiavellically justifying any reprehensible means. What is amazing to me is that you really believe that somehow insults and ad hominem arguments further your scurrilous cause. Moreover, not too long ago you declared publicly in another forum to which you ran sulking after withdrawing from this one, that:

“since nobody else seemed to support my point of view I decided to withdraw submitting from the publication altogether as Paparella has spread his idiocy like some malignant fungus throughout the whole site…” (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-29 22:16:52
Now you have returned as St. George with the lance of rationalism on a white horse to pompously declare yourself Grand Inquisitor of political correctness (i.e., the misguided unexamined assumption of our era…) or to say it a bit more humbly within your poetics of defecation amd religionless religion, the “intellectual pooper scooper of Ovi magazine.”
As far as I know no editor of the magazine has commissioned you as Grand Inquisitor, or St. George of political correctness, or chief intellectual pooper scooper. If they had, I would no longer be contributing to the magazine.

Sand2007-11-30 05:27:35
Did I mention that the Pope was a target for my baking? Your delusions really are beginning to get interesting. Whatever I might think of Italy I can only marvel at its pastry capabilities and your Pope is certainly supplied with better sources in that area than I could only dream to supply. Your paranoia is certainly getting out of control.
I would be heartbroken if you abandoned OVI as you are such a wonderful source of idiocies begging to be exploded. Nobody else is such an easy target for the sharp end of analysis.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-30 06:07:34
But you are the one who told the readers of A Lamb without a guiding light that you had abandoned Ovi out of frustration. Making universal cakes and eating them too? So much for rationality! It looks more like lunacy to me.

Sand2007-11-30 07:09:55
Is Jung your source for diagnosing insanity on the basis of making and consuming cakes? Or have you ventured into psychology on your own severely limited capability?
I abandoned OVI as I had better things to do and was called back by the editors. If you dislike their decision, please confront them directly.

Sand2007-11-30 10:55:20
Somewhere back among the recent ridiculous attempts to defend your basic mental instability you describe me as a shacking old man. I am fully aware of Christianity's distaste for sexual pleasure but unfortunately I only wish I were so lucky.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-30 15:03:50
From which of the voices you converse with did you get that Christians have a distaste for sexual pleasure? You should point out to it that there are two billion or so Christians in the world (one third of the world's population) and so far pleasurable sex remains the only way to bring that about. Perhaps that is a mere wishful thinking and fantasy? If the voice can square call the ambulance immediately.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-30 15:05:44
correction: if the voice can square that circle, call the ambulance immediately.

Sand2007-11-30 15:44:47
This site is revealing.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-30 16:57:07
True to form the voice in your haed has side-stepped the question so that it could hold on to to squaring the circle and continue grinding its ax in the dark cavern "enlightened" by a reason devoid of imagination. From the same site this:

Karl Rahner: 'The Church in both theory and practice [has] used bad arguments to defend moral maxims based on problematic... 'prejudices'... This dark tragedy... is so burdensome because we are dealing here, in all or very many cases, with questions that penetrated deeply into the concrete lives of human beings, because such false maxims, which were never objectively valid... placed burdens on people... that from the standpoint of the freedom of the Gospel were not legitimate' (p.334).

Karl Rahner happens to be a Catholic theologian.

Sand2007-11-30 17:00:05
Here is an excerpt from that site.

For the Roman Catholic church, the chief sins of humanity are located in the bedroom, not the battlefield. For some theologians, 'certain sexual practices were more reprehensible than killing a human being' (p.149). You can have a 'just war' to kill people, but it's never right to kill the unborn: 'Many mothers owe their death to papal pronouncements [about saving the life of the fetus at any cost] from 1884 to 1951' (p.302). 'The cruel God of Augustine, the persecutor and condemner of the newborn, of those who before their death did not manage to get baptized, is also a persecutor and torturer of mothers' (p.308).

Thomas Aquinas affirmed that the heavenly reward for virgins/celibates amounts to 100%, with 60% for widows and only 30% for married people (p.195). Priestly celibacy is unbiblical and unworkable (see pp. 118-119; cf. David Rice, 'Shattered Vows': if you leave the priesthood to marry, you can't practice ministry; but in all continents bishops know the parish priests who are adulterers... and stay. What gross hypocrisy!).

Sand2007-11-30 18:02:24
And here is further material.

Church abhorrence of sex traces to the teachings of St. Augustine. Known as the "Great Sinner" and a slave to lust until his conversion in 391, the young Augustine is reported to have prayed, "Oh, God, give me virtue - but not yet." Of course, when he finally became virtuous, it was with a vengeance. Perhaps, if Christianity's greatest theologian had not had so many male hormones, today's world would stand a better chance of controlling population growth.

But Paul VI had another reason for leaving the teachings of his recent predecessors unchanged. A pope cannot overrule a prior pope without undermining his own position. The Catholic Church has rested its claim to authority on the supposed unbroken succession of Bishops of Rome from Peter. Forget that Peter was never Bishop of Rome. Facts are never very important in religion. (Perhaps Jesus was just making a pun when he said "Thou art Peter and upon this Rock I will build my church." In Aramaic, the word for both Peter and Rock is Cepha.)

Not all popes in the line of succession have had a prudish view of sex. Sixtus IV, who built the Sistine Chapel, licensed the brothels of Rome, bringing himself an extra income of 30,000 ducats a year. Alexander VI had ten illegitimate children, and surely broke some kind of record sleeping with three generations - his mother, his mistress, and their daughter (the infamous Lucrezia Borgia).
But the most influential popes, notably Gregory the Great, followed Augustine's lead in declaring all sex, for whatever reason, a sin. More recent popes have broken with this teaching, but quietly so that they still can lay claim to an unbroken chain of authority, with few noticing that they had already severed the chain themselves.

Take the current notion of infallible papal authority on matters of morals. This was not declared until the First Vatican Council in 1870. And, many currently required beliefs, are equally recent, For example, the Immaculate Conception of Mary was not decreed until 1858, contradicting the teachings of a number of earlier popes.

So too with the current official position on sex. Recognizing that asking a husband and wife to have sex just twice in their lifetimes - to fill their zero population growth quota - is wholly impractical, the Church has in recent times allowed sex by the rhythm method. While still light-years away from actual marital practice, even among most Catholics, this compromise is also light-years away from the tradition that the sexual act is always sinful, even when performed for the purpose of begetting a child. The Church cannot hide from its most fundamental teaching, that all humans are born with the Original Sin committed by Adam when he succumbed to the temptations of Eve.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-30 19:44:05
All those taken for granted half-truths still do not refute the fact that for two billion Christians to exist in the world, there must have been a lot of sex going on. But the anti-religious fanatic will simply side-step that fact and quote other bashers so that his anti-religious orthodoxy remains intact. Ah, the wornders of unbridled rationalism.

P.S. One of the tenets of CHristian theology is to be found in the Song of Songs which celebrates the joys of sexual relations between husband and wife reflecting the relationship of God to the soul and/or Christ to his Church. You will never hear that from the fanatical religion basher.

Sand2007-11-30 20:17:10
The Song of Solomon is, of course, pre-Christian, and there are all sorts of rather nasty things in the Old Testament that would not gain any sort of approval by current Christianity.

Emanuel Paparella2007-11-30 21:45:03
Voilà, with a one liner we have taken care of the poetics of the Song of Songs. Astonishing!

Sand2007-11-30 21:57:03
Whatever the poetics, how long will it be before the sagas of Beowulf, Gilgamesh and the Kalevala are claimed as Christian doctrine by Paparella?

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-01 00:00:25
Look again at that painting by William Blake on the cover of Ovi of a few days ago and see if you can wrap your mind around it... What that painting is revealing is that the whole of the created universe has a beginning and a perceivable "telos" in its 17 billion years or so of existence and the miracle is that it exists rather than nothing(in the beginning was the Word) and a meaning. The Christ in the Sistine chapel that looks like an Apollo is not the historical Christ which the antireligion basher loves to make a caricature of, but that very Word. O course one does not expect the modern nihilist lost in the wasteland of rationalism and imbued with banalities about Christianity, to perceive those spiritual realities, and yet despite the shallow mocking "eppur si muove." I am afraid that not by cakes alone does man live although it may not hurt to imitate Santayana and go live the rest of your days in Rome baking universal cakes for the Pope...

Sand2007-12-01 04:56:23
Why Paparella! The Bible indicates that universe was created around six thousand years ago. Isn't that poetic enough for you or do you have to refer to scientific rationalisms to inspire your spirit?

My baking really seems to have gotten under your skin. You should try it. It's really quite easy and someone of your limited intellect should get a basic thrill from doing something useful for a change. I can send you a flock of recipes and you can confront reality in a mixing bowl where it is easier to handle than futzing with abstract concepts which has obviously thrown you into a mental hurricane.

Sand2007-12-01 05:07:48
Incidentally, that Michelangelo Pieta in the Vatican is obviously done with Italian models who might have been inspiring for western oriented perceptions, but no-one knows what Christ and his mother really looked like. Michelangelo's portrait of Adam in the Sistine Chapel shows him with a bellybutton so he was rather off on even fantasy facts.
Christ was, obviously, a Jew and I doubt if a really Jewish looking Christ would have made the Italians happy since the Jews in Italy at the time were forced to live in ghettos and not treated particularly well. But, of course, reality never holds a very high place in religion anyway.

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-01 11:31:17
True to form, either the point was not grasped, or one is playing the disengenious fool unable to grasp irony.


Sand2007-12-01 12:08:59
The problem is, of course, that when you try to slip into irony your comment is indistinguishable from your straight text. It's uniformly idiotic.

Emanuel L. Paparella2007-12-01 14:46:14
I have been wondering if it has ever occurred to you that the real idiocy is that of not being able to distinguish an intellectual discussion of issues from mere personal views and insults and to do that in writing in a magazine to boot.

Sand2007-12-01 16:34:43
An intellectual discussion is usually consistent of an exchange of views and when there is some difference of viewpoint then that difference is examined and hopefully adjusted. Whenever I presented facts that indicated your viewpoint might be in correlation with the facts I have been accused of "grinding an ax" or "religion bashing". That is not at all a proper response so I merely pointed that your responses were stupid, which, of course, would be an insult if your responses were not stupid. Unfortunately your responses were stupid so it was merely a matter of passing along a piece of helpful information.

Sand2007-12-01 16:36:31
Second line should read "not in correlation with the facts" My bad.

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-01 18:35:58
Of course the very same charge can be made about your acute obtuseness self-servingly parading as objective open-minded examination of the facts, more often than not cavalierly ignored when presented or refuted. Eistein was on target: one cannot get out of the box of rationalism using rationalism. Therein lies the snake eating its own tail and fanaticism parading as "enlightenment," but the Emperor remains naked to any truly objective observer. Ask around, but not to those voices in your head...

Sand2007-12-01 20:01:29
We both are totally aware that you are completely misrepresenting Einstein. There is enough material clearly indicating that Einstein disdained a personal God for you to have seen it many times. I wonder why you persist in this stupidity.
This latest message is a duplicate of one you have posted many times with the same metaphors and cliche´s. What the hell is wrong with you?

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-01 22:22:34
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”

“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”

--Albert Einstein


Sand2007-12-01 22:45:09
Since you claim to be a historian (something I am seriously beginning to doubt)you cannot be unaware of the massive brutality that has been the constant companion of humanity throughout its entire development. Whatever Einstein might have said does not mean it has overwhelming validity. Apparently anybody with an historic reputation can fart and you find it musical.The term "humanity" as used in the quote you submitted is grossly misappropriate as applied to the history of our species. To pick out technology as a single cause of human brutality is as silly as choosing any one characteristic of human social activity to condemn as a basic cause. If there is one cause it probably is a drive for power and control which has existed in all forms of brutality in all human civilizations all the way back to the cave men. This form of ignorance and stupidity you insistently display is frankly incredible and inexcusable.

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-01 23:52:59

Sand2007-12-02 05:19:25
As usual you refuse to discus my objections. You seem to want to scurry under a Jewish umbrella with your formulaic "shalom" like any robotic piece of software. It is no answer. You are totally disgusting.

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-02 07:12:28
What you call objections are mere shallow epiteths, in case you have not realized it yet, hardly deserving of being dignified with an intelligent reply. Shalom, or peace, is to calm down your ravings so as to make you aware that the cynicism about human nature is unwarranted. It is better to look at the glass as half full rather than half empty. Were it not for the mitigating forces of religion you and I would still be running like barbarians in the woods; and even that would not be as bad as the present day rationalistic "barbarism of the intellect" parading as cultural diversity but in reality intolerant of those who disagree with their ideology. As the Romans aptly put it: corruptio optima pessima. The corruption of the best, of those who have given up their inheritance and tradition for a disch of lentils, or beans as the case may be, is the worst kind of corruption. Shalom.

Sand2007-12-02 09:04:46
Your characterization of religion as a civilizing force is obviously countered by the current religious demand for the execution of a peaceful teacher for the innocent naming a Teddy bear Mohamed Christianity recently has not been quite as bloodthirsty but in its time it has tortured and murdered thousands in equally mindless brutality. To claim this as civilizing is to be either ignorant of history or just plain stupid. What is required is not placidity but perception and intelligence, qualities which seem to have deserted you entirely.

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-02 14:02:28
We have seen the results of the religionless state. It was called the Soviet Union. One there is one still under experimentation, the so called People's Republic of China. The omens are all bad on that experiment too which is beginning to copy all the excesses and abuses of unbridled capitalism minus democracy, and religion of course. Not to mention that is either to be ignorant of history or just plain stupid.

Minerva2007-12-05 07:03:13
You're both a bunch of overgrown children. Get over yourselves and grow up.

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-05 11:46:10
Wise words Minerva. They do honor to your name, but I am afraid that they have little to do with the topic of the article.

Surely you have noticed that children make sense of reality not by rationality but by imagination. Perhaps the issue you mention comes down to this: how can one be child-like without becoming childish? Surely there is a way to resolve that conundrum.

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