This paper is an exploration and interpretation of Kierkegaard's account of Christian belief. I argue that Kierkegaard believed that the Christian metaphysical tradition was exhausted and hence that there could be no defence of belief in God in purely rational terms. I defend this interpretation against objections, going on to argue that Kierkegaard thought it possible to defend a post-metaphysical conception of religious belief. I argue that Kierkegaard thought that such a defence was available if we understand correctly what it (...) is to speak with ethico-religious authority. I argue that, when interpreted in the way I outline, Kierkegaard's notion of ethico-religious authority shows his conception of religious belief to have great plausibility. However, Kierkegaard goes on to argue that an individual's true relationship with God is constituted through the cultivation of guilt and the sense of himself as a sinner, and I give reasons for rejecting this claim, arguing that such cultivation is a form of asceticism. (shrink)
Most recent interpreters of Maimonides argue that his ethical views develop from support of the mean in Eight Chapters to support of asceticism in "Laws Concerning Character Traits" and the Guide. This article challenges that interpretation: first, through a reconsideration of Aristotle's views on the mean and the relation of the ethically virtuous life to the contemplative life, and, second, through a reconsideration of Maimonides' texts. One riddle recommends we not jump to conclusions about Maimonides' views: In Eight Chapters (...) he appears to advocate the mean, on the basis of Aristotelian sources. In the Guide he ascribes his most ascetic recommendations to Aristotle. (shrink)
Situated in a period that witnessed the genesis of institutions that have lasted to this day, this path-breaking study looks at how ancient Christian women, particularly in Asia Minor and Egypt, initiated ascetic ways of living, and how these practices were then institutionalized. Susanna Elm demonstrates that--in direct contrast to later conceptions--asceticism began primarly as an urban movement, in which women were significant protagonists. In the process, they completely transformed and expanded their roles as wife, mother, or widow: as (...) Christian ascetics, they became `virgin wives', `virgin mothers', and `virgin widows' - with all the legal and economic implications of such a dramatic shift. As importantly, though, Christian men and women ascetics lived together. As `virgins of God' they created new families `in Christ'. No longer determined by their human bonds or human sexuality, they were `neither male nor female'. Finally, the book demonstrates how ascetic bishops - today known as saints - eventually `reformed' these early models of communal, ascetic life by dividing the `virgins of God' into monks and nuns and thus laid the foundation for the monasticism we know today. (shrink)
This essay is conceived as a contribution to the academic debate on the ethical status of mystical traditions with regard to Jain asceticism in particular and—through comparison of Jain with Advaita Vedanta asceticism—to ideologies of radical quietism more generally. For both Jain and Advaita Vedantic ascetic traditions, the material world, and particularly the body, are the primary obstacles to spiritual development. We deal with the social, physical, and environmental implications of such a worldview, rather than with the practice (...) or the phenomenology or the doctrine of mysticism, which we grant to be an accurate reflection of a particular kind of cosmic experience. We address ethical issues, not metaphysical ones. In our discussion of Jain asceticism, we demonstrate that the basic problem (and promise) of quietism, in almost any cultural form, is the shocking realization it can occasion that the Real has absolutely nothing to do with the social or with any sort of ethical action. We argue that Jain asceticism cannot function as an adequate resource for contemporary ethics. Our normative concerns lie exclusively with the adequacy of Jain quietism in supporting a stable global community and a sustainable natural environment. One can be mystical without being ethical, and ethical without being a mystic. We conclude that the truths of quietism are both very profound and profoundly nonethical. (shrink)
This paper compares Pierre Hadot’s work on the history of philosophy as a way of life to the work of Albert Camus. I will argue that in the early work of Camus, up to and including the publication of The Myth of Sisyphus , there is evidence to support the notions that, firstly, Camus also identified these historical moments as obstacles to the practice of ascesis, and secondly, that he proceeded by orienting his own work toward overcoming these obstacles, and (...) thus toward a modern rehabilitation of ascesis. Moreover, in contrast to Hadot’s Platonism, Camus located the source of this practice in the pre-philosophical stage of Athenian tragedy. This points to a further contrast between these two figures, which has historical and cultural precedents, in the distinction between this pre-Platonic form of ascesis - favoured by Camus - and the latter Christian form of asceticism - favoured by Hadot, with the status of Platonic ascesis rendered in terms of prefiguring this Christian form of asceticism. (shrink)
Book synopsis: A Companion to Schopenhauer provides a comprehensive guide to all the important facets of Schopenhauer’s philosophy. The volume contains 26 newly commissioned essays by prominent Schopenhauer scholars working in the field today.
Dissertação de Mestrado OLIVEIRA, Carla Bianca Costa de. Dioniso e o crucificado : estudo sobre o divino a partir das perspectivas trágica e ascética segundo Nietzsche. 2012. 142 folhas. Dissertação (Mestrado) – Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais, Programa de Pós-graduação em Ciências da Religião, Belo Horizonte. Palavras-chave : Filosofia trágica. Ascetismo. Dionisíaco. Deus. Nietzsche. Religião e contemporaneidade. Keywords : Philosophy tragic. Asceticism. Dionysiac. God. Nietzsche. Religion and contemporaneity.
Este artigo busca expor as críticas de Bernardo de Claraval às superfluidades humanas no texto da Apologia, especialmente aquelas referentes à arte arquitetural. Em segundo lugar, procura analisar as implicações estéticas do ascetismo cisterciense e bernardiano. As críticas de Bernardo exercem uma influência decisiva na ornamentação e fazem nascer uma nova arquitetura. This paper is to expose the criticism of human superfluities at Bernard of Clairvaux in the text of the Apology, especially those related to architectural art. Secondly, analyzes the (...) aesthetic implications of cistercian and bernardian asceticism. Criticism of Bernard exercise a decisive influence on ornamentation and give birth to a new architecture. (shrink)
The work of the French thinker Simone Weil has exerted an important influence on scholars in a wide range of fields. To date, however, her writings have attracted comparatively little interest from educationists. This article discusses some of the key concepts in Weil’s philosophy — gravity, grace, decreation, and attention — and assesses their significance for the arts and humanities in higher education.
Judaism, like Gilbert Meilaender, analogizes food and sex. Traditionally, Judaism saw the primary purpose of sex as procreation, the fulfillment of a biblical mandate. It did not, however, link sex to the Garden of Eden story, and it acknowledged that sex was also important for couples' bonding. While Meilaender sees bonding as a value co-equal with procreation, Judaism traditionally kept procreation as the primary goal. Couples were encouraged to have sex when infertile and were permitted contraception when pregnancy endangered life, (...) but whenever possible, they were directed to also have sex for procreation. Many modern rabbis, in agreement with Meilaender, permit contraception in order to foster bonding as a separate goal of sex. However, reproductive technology is seen, in Judaism, as partnership with God, allowing for a process of birth that is as natural as the process of producing food by farming. Last, when sex is permitted, Judaism celebrates the joy attendant to sex as a Divine gift. (shrink)
The essay investigates the problem of Self-construction in latest Nietzsche’s thought and its relation with the question of decadence. The identity crisis of Western civilisation, the break-up of the ethical and cultural ground of modern European societies, become at the same time the opportunity for a radical renewal of humanity, the starting point for a great «anthropotechnical experiment» aimed at shaping a new human «type», a new model for a Post-Christian ethos.
In this article we tried to point out the outstanding convergences between On abstinence of Porphyry, and the Indian ascetic tradition, as it is shown in the sources rooted in the Katha up. In this process, becomes evident the exquisite spirit of the neoplatonic philosopher and his search for an universaly view through which it could be able to express his compasive caring for the liberations of all the “inteligences of good will”.
En este ensayo nos ocupamos del tema de la confesión protestante, en el marco de las tesis de Foucault sobre el saber y el poder. Para ello, nos apoyamos en dos tradiciones distintas: de un lado, el análisis de Weber de la relación entre la ascesis y el capitalismo en las sociedades reformistas; de otro lado, el análisis político de Foucault sobre la pastoral en cuanto estrategia de poder que está vinculada a la cuestión sobre la subjetividad. La hipótesis es (...) que la confesión protestante puede ser analizada a la luz de los postulados sobre el poder, para tratar de mostrar cómo la cuestión del uso del tiempo y la disciplina en la actividad son cuestiones que están, en parte, en el origen –en sentido genealógico– de los dispositivos de codificación moral de las sociedades modernas. En la primera parte, interesa ver cómo la confesión protestante constituye una estrategia de poder que articula los sujetos al problema del gobierno de sí. El objetivo es describir la emergencia de ciertas modalidades confesionales, relacionadas con los manuales casuísticos o tratados sobre el arte de gobernarse a sí mismo, que derivan en prácticas de control de la actividad. Luego, nos ocupamos del problema de la subjetividad, caracterizándola mediante el concepto de pliegue. Para cerrar, aprovechamos las reflexiones sobre la confesión protestante para responder a la pregunta de ¿cómo es que los enunciados devienen práctica social? (shrink)
Both Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin borrow from Freudian theory in their analyses of fetishism’s relation to the contemporary reception of cultural products. I will argue that both authors have confused the Marxian and Freudian theories of fetishism, resulting in mistaken conclusions about artistic reception. By disentangling the Marxian and Freudian elements in both authors’ positions, I want to show that 1) Adorno’s characterization of regressive listening implies, contrary to his intentions, that the current reception of artwork is in fact (...) antagonistic to fetishism, and that 2) his criticism of Benjamin’s optimism toward “reception in distraction” is nevertheless justified. If I am correct, it may be necessary to reassess Adorno’s demand for asceticism in advanced art. The current danger may not be “fetishism” at all, but rather the troublesome consequences of fetishism’s decline. (shrink)
I do not for a moment question the fact that many people have experiences of a special type which may be termed “religious”, The extent to which religious experience may be regarded as a reasonably common phenomenon in present-day Britain is shown clearly by David Hay in his Exploring Inner Space, Harmondsworth 1982. that such experiences often involve reference to something which appears to display a radical unlikeness to all else and that they are therefore in some sense inexpressible. Doubtless (...) the ideas I have put forward about the possible source of such unlikeness and ineffability might suggest models of God which would not find much theological approval, at least within any mainstream theistic tradition, since some sort of pantheism seems inevitably to be implied. But however this might be, the concept of radical unlikeness as it has been analyzed here can, I think, help us towards understanding certain problematic areas in religion quite apart from the issue of intelligibility, which has been the focus of this discussion. To begin with, radical unlikeness suggests a way in which the historical continuity of concepts of the transcendent might be upheld against the discontinuity suggested by the diversity of interpretations through which they have moved. Ancient and modern outlooks on, say, God differ enormously, as indeed do the range of co-temporal accounts at many particular moments. But, by and large, theologians firmly maintain that it is a single and unchanging phenomenon which is being dealt with. Unless we can point to some common element which is both specific enough to create a binding sense of common tradition, yet never completely expressed by any attempt at understanding it within that tradition (thus persistently demanding new attempts to apprehend it), then given the widely differing views of God within, for example, the Christian community, it is difficult to see how we could assume that in fact they all stemmed from the same source and were talking about the same thing. The idea of radical unlikeness could provide an element with just these required characteristics: it could be seen as what all the accounts attempt to net, with varying degrees of adequacy, within their offered interpretations. It could be seen as what remains constant, constantly elusive yet constantly generative of fresh attempts to apprehend it, throughout a history of intra-religious diversity. This sort of explanation could, presumably, be applied to the intra-religious diversity of the non-Christian traditions too.Secondly, radical unlikeness might suggest a possible way of understanding inter-religious diversity in a way which allows that whilst such diversity exists, whilst the differences between religions are real, they are grounded in a similar root-experience. It may, at first sight, seem difficult to continue thinking of the various religious traditions as truly separate phenomena if they are taken as being grounded on experiences whose ineffability stems from the unlikeness of experiencing things as a whole. Here we must stress again that if they are to be considered intelligible, radically unlike experiences cannot be considered completely so - or putting this another way, we cannot more than approach experience of totality. Sense can be given to religious claims of ineffability by suggesting experience of near totality, where we reach the last point on the scale of inclusiveness which complies with the logical criteria demanded of something for it to be possible for us to be aware of it. We might thus attempt an explanation of inter-religious diversity based on the view that Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam etc. acquire their differences from the different elements included in their experience of near totality. Taking totality to be represented by the scale of one to ten, Hinduism might be seen as grounded on experience of 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-9-10, Buddhism on experience of 1-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 and so on. The resulting dissimilarities are thus centred not on different types of experience, but on different areas of inclusiveness. This is, of course, to suppose that the various religious traditions are all based on the same degree (as opposed to the same elements) of inclusiveness, but it is by no means clear that such a supposition is justified. Continuing with our decimal analogy, might it not be suggested that whilst Christianity stemmed from experience of 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10, Jainism was founded on a less extensive encounter with the divine (say 4-5-6-7-8-9-10)? It is, however, uncertain how we can compare and evaluate different religious traditions in such a way as to be able to comment on such claims. A definite danger of comparative religion is that by concentrating on establishing and exploring inter-religious likenesses, it may obscure the radical unlikeness of religious phenomena. It should be borne firmly in mind that such likenesses as may be established within comparative studies may not win religious phenomena a place within our understanding comparable to objects of more everyday concern. Statements found in the Old Testament, the Qur'an and the Vedas, for example, may, on occasion, be alike, but at the end of the day such things are often alike only, or chiefly, in so far as they display the same radical unlikeness in relation to the non-religious elements in our outlook.The analysis of radical unlikeness and ineffability which has been advanced might also suggest a way in which certain passages in religious writings could be understood, passages which at first sight can be seriously perplexing. If, for example, to return to the quotation given in the introductory section of this paper, we continue to think of accounts of the nature of Shiva as being attempts to describe some discrete, objective entity, then it is inevitable that either we will share the Puranic writer's puzzlement or that much of what we read about Shiva will appear as the muddled and extravagant thinking thrown up by an uncritical and over-fertile mythological imagination, consisting of little more than a hotch-potch of contradictory elements. But if we see such accounts as attempting to say something about everything, as symbols of near totality stemming from experiences which verge on the holistic, then what we read - with all its ambiguities - may become somewhat more meaningful. Thus W.D. O'Flaherty comments that Shiva “embodies all of life in all its detail at every minute” (Asceticism and Eroticism in the Mythology of Shiva, London 1973, p. 315). Similarly Alain Dani41ou sees Shiva, ultimately, in terms of his being "the supreme state of reality" beyond whom there is only "non-existence" (Hindu Polytheism, London 1964, p. 190).This analysis of ineffability and intelligibility seeks to introduce for debate a possible way of understanding the radical unlikeness which accounts of religious experience apparently attempt to speak about. It does not, however, claim to present an exhaustive treatment of the issues raised, on the contrary, I am conscious of many shortcomings and omissions. For instance, it remains to be seen under precisely what conditions something counts as being an elucidating likeness (presumably all experiences are, for example, temporal, yet temporality alone would not seem to offer a particularly elucidating comparison). Moreover, the degree to which appeal to likeness is allowed operation in actual accounts of religious experience needs to be explored. In addition, the notion of categorizing experiences according to the extent to which they approach a point of total inclusion requires careful clarification. To begin with, according to what criteria could we establish that one experience was more inclusive than another? However, such issues can only be mentioned here, any adequate consideration of them would require a separate paper.In conclusion, I would suggest that to use radical unlikeness and/or ineffability simply as devices by which to halt any process of investigation, proclaiming that the thing in question is not like anything and so is beyond all words, risks making unintelligible and placing beyond all further inquiry an important and extensive area of human experience. As William Alston put it, to label something ineffable in an unqualified way is to shirk the job of making explicit the ways in which it can be talked about. William P. Alston, “ineffability”, Philosophical Review 65 (1956), 522. It is surely more accurate to take ineffability as a “qualifier”I.T. Ramsey, Models and Mystery (Oxford 1964), p. 60. which “multiplies models without end”Ibid. than as an absolute which prevents the construction of any elucidating models. (shrink)
Nietzsche's tortured relationship to the Christian God has received scant attention from commentators. In this paper I seek to map out the central lines a proper understanding of Nietzsche in this regard might take. I argue that fundamental in such an understanding is Nietzsche's profoundly corporeal moral vocabulary, and I trace connections between this vocabulary and Nietzsche's concern with cleanliness, his asceticism, and the notion of a sense of common humanity with others.
In this paper, I seek to present the range of issues involved in the efforts of sixteenth-century kabbalists to understand the nature of selfhood, and the paths prescribed for the formation of an ideal life. I reflect on the mystical writings of Moshe Cordovero, Eliyahu de Vidas, and ayyim Vital—probing their conceptions of core identity, the polarity between body and soul, and the ethical guidance for a life well lived. In so doing, I consider the following additional themes, and their (...) relation to the matrix of self-formation and religious identity: reincarnation and rebirth; the virtue of humility and self-effacement; the cultivation of wisdom; ideals of piety and prophetic experience; asceticism; and the spiritual transcendence of desire. In presenting this wide range of constituent themes, I argue that sixteenth-century kabbalists understood the soul to be the ultimate marker of personal identity (nuanced and complicated by the doctrine of reincarnation), and that they formulated a vision of an ideal ethics in which the human being functions as an earthly vessel for the divine presence. What is more, the preparation of that vessel required a degree of humility so extreme that the attainment of ideal personhood ultimately involved the effacement of that very identity. (shrink)