The Personalist Project

Comments (10)

Katie van Schaijik

#1, Jan 9, 2012 2:46pm

Great stuff, Teresa. Reminds me of a line from--I think St. Philip Neri--"Let's begin to do good, for until now we have done nothing."

Also of the Serenity Prayer popularized by AA: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference."

It does seem like so much of living well means doing good and right regarless of what happens around us and how others react.

TorahJew

#2, Jan 9, 2012 8:11pm

I think it would be nice if truths were self-evident, but I think that at the core of the wrestling coach's dictums is a fervent belief in the indivdual. In my opinion, history has shown that individual life and potential is only found in traditions that believe that every man is made in G-d's image.

I was watching a film recently about fascism, and it pointed out how Hitler saw people as "bricks" to be used as specific and controlled tools to achieve concrete ends. Certainly both many Eastern cultures share this perspective with Fascism and Communism - and why not? It is very seductive for elitists to think they really are superior. The idea that we have unique (and often undiscovered) destinies is profoundly Western in origin. And it is an idea under siege by forces that continue to want to see us not as individuals but as groups, not as free actors, but as victims of our circumstances.

Katie van Schaijik

#3, Jan 10, 2012 12:01am

TorahJew, Jan. 9 at 8:11pm

In my opinion, history has shown that individual life and potential is only found in traditions that believe that every man is made in G-d's image.

I agree that it was the Judeo-Christian tradition that brought the fact of individuality to light in the world.  (Many peoples still don't see it.)  But that's not quite the same as denying it's a self-evident truth, is it? 

Self-evident doesn't mean "obvious to all".  

Katie van Schaijik

#4, Jan 10, 2012 12:05am

I mean, once one sees it, one sees, too, that one ought to have seen it all along.  

This is different from religious dogma, like that the Virgin Mary was conceived without original sin, or that God's name is "I am, who am."

TorahJew

#5, Jan 10, 2012 9:51am

I think that one sees what one wants to see.

When Abraham achieves a military victory, his allied kings credit him, and offer him a reward. Malchi Tzedek sees him immediately afterward, and credits G-d for the victory.

Both people saw the same battle. They came to opposite conclusions about its providence. The Torah offers both accounts without comment.

If you want to believe that the individual has value, then you see it everywhere. But if you ascribe to the far more seductive conclusion that we are victims of our upbringing/environment, and entirely incapable of creating our own destiny, then there is nothing that is self-evident about Personalism.

Katie van Schaijik

#6, Jan 10, 2012 10:01am

TorahJew, Jan. 10 at 9:51am

If you want to believe that the individual has value, then you see it everywhere. But if you ascribe to the far more seductive conclusion that we are victims of our upbringing/environment, and entirely incapable of creating our own destiny, then there is nothing that is self-evident about Personalism.

Here you point to the phenomenon of value-blindness.  In other words, a not-seeing of what objectively is.  It's true that those who don't want to see won't see.  It's also true that some who want to see don't see.  

None of that changes the fact that those who do see, see.  And what they see is real.

Recall Plato's analogy of the cave.

Further, crediting God with the victory in the case you mention above is an act of faith, not intellectual insight. Speaking rather too broadly and simply: Faith is the "faculty" through which we grasp the supernatural realm.  Reason is the faculty through which we come to know the natural realm.  

TorahJew

#7, Jan 10, 2012 10:38am

Katie van Schaijik, Jan. 10 at 10:01am

TorahJew, Jan. 10 at 9:51am

there is nothing that is self-evident about Personalism.

It's true that those who don't want to see won't see. 

None of that changes the fact that those who do see, see.  And what they see is real.

I don't think it is this simple. I think that reality is in the eyes of the perceiver. For those who see the value of the individual, then that is reality.

For those who see people as nothing more than animals buffeted by their environment, then that is their reality.

Just as with the existence of G-d, there is no "objective" way to prove one is true and one is false. But what is clearly true to me is that if we think we are capable of greatness, then greatness is possible. But if we think we cannot do much with our lives, then greatness is never within our grasp.

TorahJew

#8, Jan 10, 2012 10:47am

Katie van Schaijik, Jan. 10 at 10:01am

Speaking rather too broadly and simply: Faith is the "faculty" through which we grasp the supernatural realm.  Reason is the faculty through which we come to know the natural realm.  

For my part, I see Reason as applicable to both the spiritual and physical realms: reason is at the core of biblical exegesis, after all. I believe that we can know the spiritual as surely as we can know the physical.

Faith is merely the presupposition that makes Reason effective. If I believe that the Torah is the Word of G-d, then everything else follows.

I am afraid that our differing language may be too much of an impediment, but I am willing to keep seeing if we can struggle through!

Katie van Schaijik

#9, Jan 10, 2012 11:47am

TorahJew, Jan. 10 at 10:47am

 I believe that we can know the spiritual as surely as we can know the physical.

Much more surely.  Our knowledge that responsibility implies freedom, for instance, is much more sure than our knowledge that the earth is round.  Our knowledge that lying is evil is much more certain than our knowledge that matter is composed mostly of space.

But "spiritual" is not the same as "supernatural".  I can know through Reason--by way of the ontological argument, say--that God exists.  That His name is Yahweh I know only through Revelation.  I accept it through faith.  To believe that the Torah is from Him, is likewise act of faith.  To study and ponder its meaning of course is an exercise of both reason and faith.

Reason is likewise the medium through which people of different faiths and no faiths can challenge each other, as we're attempting here.

TorahJew

#10, Jan 11, 2012 8:32pm

I think we are talking past each other. To me, knowledge of the good, or a logical conclusion, is not knowledge of the spiritual. But I have a hard time defining the spiritual beyond simply saying that it that which separates us from animals. The power of creation, the power of language, a grasp of history and knowledge... perhaps. But all of those things can be used for good OR ill absent divine guidance. I have to think on this.

FWIW, I don't think that Reason can prove either the existence or non-existence of G-d. That step is one of Faith - just as believing that the Torah is G-d's word.

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