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The Vagaries of Religious Experience
September 30, 2005 5:07 PM   Subscribe

Is God nothing more than an attempt to explain order and good fortune by those who do not understand the mathematics of chance, the principles of self-organizing systems, or the psychology of the human mind? Daniel Gilbert, a professor of Psychology and head of the Social Cognition and Emotion Laboratory at Harvard, discusses his latest research and soon to be published study about the vagaries of religious experience.
posted by pmbuko (66 comments total)

 
oops, put quotes around that first sentence.
posted by pmbuko at 5:11 PM on September 30, 2005


Man, that's funny. I was just doing some random end-of-day browsing, and came acroos an article about this - how would you explaing that, if there's no God?
posted by AwkwardPause at 5:15 PM on September 30, 2005


First, explanations that rely on the inexplicable are not explanations at all. They have the form of explanations, but they do not have the content.

Neither does science, actually. Science uncovers the tapestry of phenomena, not its ontology and aetiology.
posted by Gyan at 5:15 PM on September 30, 2005


some small credit should go to homunculus, who posted it in the Dawkins thread yesterday...
posted by mrgrimm at 5:18 PM on September 30, 2005


Actually, science quite handily explains the etiologies of phenomena all the time and quite explicitly so.

Using ontology in a sentence sends my pretension meters into the red, so I won't even touch that one.
posted by docpops at 5:21 PM on September 30, 2005


docpops : "science quite handily explains the etiologies of phenomena"

Some illustrations, please.
posted by Gyan at 5:24 PM on September 30, 2005


I recommend all of you read the Official God FAQ before debating this further.
posted by madman at 5:26 PM on September 30, 2005


Photosynthesis.
RNA transport.
The Aurora Borealis.
Cellular apoptosis.
Smegma.

But I predict you've got a handy answer up your sleeve for all of this so I'm going to say, possibly incorrectly, that I'll leave it to others with more time and willingness to engage in this sort of theoretical/theological masturbation to pick up the slack.
posted by docpops at 5:29 PM on September 30, 2005


if someone can explain how the mathematics of chance, aka the big bang, is responsible for random gasses one minute turning into the Laker Girls millions of years later, then all praise mathematics of chance.

until then thank you Jesus.
posted by tsarfan at 5:32 PM on September 30, 2005


Actually, science quite handily explains the etiologies of phenomena all the time and quite explicitly so.

Using etiology in a sentence sends my pretension meters into the red, so I won't even touch that one.

AS much as the ridiculous graspings of the fundies chafe my hemorrhoids, they have little to do with the gods of the mystics who actually put more than their economic well being into the search for truth.

.....or their rational well being, for that matter.
posted by stirfry at 5:34 PM on September 30, 2005


Using etiology in a sentence sends my pretension meters into the red, so I won't even touch that one.

Actually, the original post used the super duper pretentious anglophilic 'aetiology'.
posted by docpops at 5:38 PM on September 30, 2005


true, but your quote didn't.
posted by stirfry at 5:45 PM on September 30, 2005


The laker Girls are not a result of Jesus' willingness to provide masturbation material for tsarfans; they are young healthy large-breasted females designed by natural selection to make you want to combine your genetic matter with theirs to gestate and nourish your progeny. That doesn't mean there is no reason to revel in it!
posted by longsleeves at 5:46 PM on September 30, 2005


to revel in the large-breasted is sacramental. nes pas?
posted by stirfry at 5:48 PM on September 30, 2005


I like the Official God FAQ. :) Good link, this guy has done a lot of interesting work.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:02 PM on September 30, 2005


nes pas?

Damn, dude. If you know what etiology means, you could at least properly contsruct "n'est-ce pas".
posted by psmealey at 6:17 PM on September 30, 2005


I disagree with Gilbert. Belief in God is not an attempt to explain anything. It is a predisposition to evade explanation. Natural selection says whoever belongs to the biggest, strongest tribe and is willing to swallow their story and follow that hierarchy has a better chance to stay alive. Invisible deities and eternal bliss/damnation happen to reduce arguments. Good and evil reconcile monstrous acts with a clear conscience and keep killers in line in the off-season. The abundance of invisible all-powerful gods is explained by convergent evolution.

The powerful can do the math, but owe their power to the ignorant.
It's still smoking; I need ten more virgins.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 6:17 PM on September 30, 2005


Docpops, if we are generous and assume that the only kind of cause we are interested in is efficient cause. Doesn't it seem that science gives us at most the proximate cause of the things you list? Does it give a complete account of even that?
posted by oddman at 6:18 PM on September 30, 2005


this guy has done a lot of interesting work.

God? Yeah, definitely some interesting projects. I hear the whole mankind thing isn't working out so well, though.
posted by weston at 6:54 PM on September 30, 2005


Gilbert isn't saying that there is no God.

"But [Science] cannot tell us whether there is a force or entity or idea beyond our ken that deserves to be known as God."

He's saying people make (mis)attribution errors to external agents - sometimes powerful, supernatural ones. Attribution errors are nothing new (nor did I think they would be a subject of controversy).

This seems to cross issues related to attribution errors, external agents, and heuristics and biases ("underestimating the power of chance to produce it") - Kahneman and Tversky.

By the way, he wrote some good science fiction, and he's a nice guy.
posted by mahniart at 7:08 PM on September 30, 2005


I'm willing to accept there's a God. It's this whole "Jesus" fantasy is what I find hard to believe.
posted by dopamine at 7:10 PM on September 30, 2005


I also seem to have a hard time believing in proper grammar, too. Apologies all around.
posted by dopamine at 7:11 PM on September 30, 2005


Nietzsche explored similar questions in On the Genealogy of Morals when he asked, "Under what conditions did men invent for themselves these value judgments good and evil? And what inherent value do they have? Have they hindered or fostered human well-being up to now? Are they a sign of some emergency, of impoverishment, of an atrophying life? Or is it the other way around—do they indicate fullness, power, a will for living, courage, confidence, the future?"
posted by aburd at 7:11 PM on September 30, 2005


nes pas?

Damn, dude. If you know what etiology means, you could at least properly contsruct "n'est-ce pas".


I can't contsruct as well as you apparently. The idea being that ontology is somehow more high falutin' than etiology. nes pas?
posted by stirfry at 7:21 PM on September 30, 2005


Belief in God is not an attempt to explain anything. It is a predisposition to evade explanation

Hardly. I suppose for some people it's all about causes and cosmology, but I rather suspect for most it's an attempt to explain why some events and experiences feel personal.

That feeling, of course, doesn't constitute any particular proof, and doesn't change the fact that people make attribution errors. Including, of course, attributing conclusions in others that one doesn't understand to bad faith.
posted by weston at 7:42 PM on September 30, 2005


People believe in good fortune because they don't understand math? Sure. What is 'luck' is anyway, good question, ask someone who believes such a thing exists, like a gambler. Another similar statement on 'bad luck': lotteries are taxes on the numerically illiterate.

People believe in God because they don't understand math? Separate and overall more significant question imo. Christian thinking generally dosn't allow for the concept of lady luck as an independent entity. It's considered an affont to God's providence, a dark superstition, a misunderstanding of how things work.

Regarding the etiology of value judgements of good and evil, these are considered to be things which were not invented by man but which pre-exist and are commonly, intuitively recognized. Even the worst criminals maintain and understand a clear sense of right and wrong within prison communities. Some take this as evidence of their essential reality. There, I got to use the word etiology. Woot.
posted by scheptech at 7:48 PM on September 30, 2005




Well, I have no idea what "aetiology" means, but I can tell you that no, God is not nothing more than an attempt to explain order and good fortune. It's sort of hard to believe this guy has read the William James from which he quotes.

nes pas?

c'est ca.
posted by sfenders at 8:37 PM on September 30, 2005


What "aetiology" means. (Now I know.)

Ca-ca!
posted by davy at 9:17 PM on September 30, 2005


OmieWise: Some people think that all the branches of philosophy are pretentious. They're often the same people who mistake rhetoric for logic.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 9:17 PM on September 30, 2005


There's probably a lot more people who believe in the philosophy of Jesus (a good percentage more don't act it out) than believe in a being controlling and directing things. In fact everyone I know that believes in God doesn't believe he's controlling things, creatinging things or anything this article describes. Yes, some stupid people believe God helped them through their History 101 test, but a lot more people have much more complex beliefs.
posted by geoff. at 9:22 PM on September 30, 2005


I have more use for otology and audiology.

And aburd, doesn't Nietzsche's antisemitism discredit his views on morality?
posted by davy at 9:35 PM on September 30, 2005


On science and religion as competing explanations of observable phenomena:

"people must belong to a tribe; they yearn to have a purpose larger than themselves. We are obliged by the deepest drives of the human spirit to make ourselves more than animated dust, and we must have a story to tell about where we came from, and why we are here. Could Holy Writ be just the first literate attempt to explain the universe and make ourselves significant within it? Perhaps science is a continuation on new and better-tested ground to attain the same end. If so, then in that sense science is religion liberated and writ large." -Edward O. Wilson, Consilience

If etiology comes up on my GRE verbal, I'll thank you. If it doesn't, I'll call you pretentious.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 10:20 PM on September 30, 2005


davy: no, not really
posted by hototogisu at 10:24 PM on September 30, 2005


Okay, I was gonna pull some totally absurd ramblin' post regarding stirfry's dumb-ass post (on preview, from some other thread, natch, sorry my man) but davy, you've completely fallen off the fucking rails of pseduo-intelligentsia with your grade-school Nietzsche ad hominem. I'll assume you were being sarcastic simply because the alternative is so fucking humiliating for you, that I'll give you the benefit of the doubt (despite your, ah, auspicious posting history). Thank me later, doll. Kisses!
posted by joe lisboa at 11:33 PM on September 30, 2005


yes, i know pseduo = pseudo, you're very clever, Dungeon Master.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:34 PM on September 30, 2005


A different approach to psychology and religion: Two Sciences of Mind.
posted by homunculus at 11:34 PM on September 30, 2005


"It's so hard to believe in anything anymore. Take religion, it seems so arbitrary, so mythological. But science is based on pure empiricism and by virtue of its method excludes metaphysics...If it weren't for my lucky astrology mood watch, I wouldn't believe in anything." - Steve Martin.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:36 PM on September 30, 2005


The emotion at the Emotion Laboratory appears to be uniformly double-plus unbad.
posted by shoos at 11:41 PM on September 30, 2005


Davy axed:

"Doesn't Nietzsche's antisemitism discredit his views on morality?"

...Well, at least as much as Habermas discredited his own views on Theory and Practice by simplistically dismissing Derrida as a "jewish mystic" (cf. his "Philosophical Discourse Of Modernity").

Tread lightly, homes.

Nietzsche was only ever poking quite necessary and tragically ignored ironical derision (Q.E. F'ing D.) at anti-semites in the most cutting (if too historically subtle) ways possible.

In other words - Nietzche was an antisemite to the degree that GWB is a Freedom Fighter.

N'uff said.

(Or is that...'Said' ('scusing lack of diacritical lapsus) ?)

;-P
posted by objet at 1:13 AM on October 1, 2005


the worst you can really say about Nietzche is that he didn't speak out enough against antisemitism.

My understanding is that when he finally broke from Wagner (circa Human all too human), it was over Wagner's antisemitism and that it was going around in the Wagner circle that Freddy had been "seduced by that Jew Paul Ree".

Many people simply assume Fred was a jew hater because his damn quotes are all over Neo Nazi material. The deal is Fred was big before the Nazis. They were just riding the coat tails. Think 'Bush quoting Jesus.'
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 2:47 AM on October 1, 2005


it's all very simple. millions of years ago two tribes were fighting over a very appealing patch of savannah. One group thought they were fighting for a slightly better feeding ground. The other thought they were fighting for the chance to live for infinity in a paradise not unlike a maxfield parrish painting. Guess who won? Guess who we're descendants of?

So, while the idea of a man in the sky rewarding us for smiting enemies and being excellent to each other seems silly, it probably confers a hefty evolutionary benefit. The mystery of religion versus science is hereby solved. You're welcome.
posted by condour75 at 7:31 AM on October 1, 2005


This is really good. I didn't bother with it in the Dawkins thread because there wasn't enough description for me to click through, but it's really interesting and I thank you for posting it.
posted by klangklangston at 7:38 AM on October 1, 2005


I'm with geoff--many of us who believe in God don't believe that he's acting like that or that everything random or unexplainable is attributable to God.

If our minds naturally go to the most favorable explanation, that explain people making up the idea of a God or Gods in the first place. And it woulnd't be a lasting idea with potency if it didn't still have utility. Life, and everything that happens or that we think or feel or do, etc, is more than just a series of events/actions/reactions that can be studied and explained scientifically or empirically. I also always wonder why people think that as more of our brain and its abilities to process, etc, is examined and explained that people will automatically find those explanations satisfying enough to displace other, older, more foolish explanations. It's counterintuitive.
posted by amberglow at 8:10 AM on October 1, 2005


Abraham was probably a historical figure living in the city-state of Ur in Sumeria. If I had to guess I'd say his tribe was subjugated by Ur a few generations earlier. 'Edin' in Sumerian is something along the lines of 'uncultivated land'. As far as I'm aware 'Adam' isn't even a name in Sumerian, it's a contraction of 'Adamu' which means something like 'ochre'. Pretty much everything else was lifted from Zoroastrian mythology.
posted by snarfodox at 8:17 AM on October 1, 2005


i.e. it's all just a thousands-of-years-old ongoing tradition... I don't think we need to explain where these beliefs come from.

The bigger question is: why is it that those traditions are so fondly maintained, even to the point of militant ignorance that attempts to override what science can prove about order and chance?
posted by snarfodox at 8:23 AM on October 1, 2005


they're maintained because they satisfy.
posted by amberglow at 8:24 AM on October 1, 2005


this discussion went much better than I was expecting. Good stuff here. mrgimm, had I found the article via homunculus' link in the Dawkins thread, I would have given him the nod.
posted by pmbuko at 8:44 AM on October 1, 2005


Thing is, there's a lot more to "God" than the big monkey in the sky who smites the bad people and rewards the good. I found Gilbert's effort sort of annoying just because it seems to focus on all the trivial, mundane, and/or stupid things people believe about "God"; the argument of intelligent design and people trying to explain whatever good luck they had today. Those things just seem entirely irrelevant to the more interesting parts of the relationship that some concepts of "God" may have to the true nature of the universe and our place therein. I mean, what's the point of reading or writing about that crap when there's a link to Nietzsche over there. Does anyone capable of reading about this stuff not already know that praying to God will not convince Him to send you a tasty cheesburger for lunch? Does anyone who knows what "etiology" means really need to be told that "intelligent design" is bogus? Maybe so, but I'm just saying it's rather less than I expected from the headline.

The Smile Society thing is nifty, though.
posted by sfenders at 9:19 AM on October 1, 2005


sfenders : the more interesting parts of the relationship that some concepts of "God" may have to the true nature of the universe and our place therein.

Nah.. One should tackle this question without talking about gods, mysticism, etc., as such things lead to silly answers.

Now whether we should we "minimize suffering" vs. "maximize the rate of evolution" is a really interesting moral question.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:38 AM on October 1, 2005


One should tackle this question without talking about gods, mysticism, etc.

Yeah, I agree, mostly. When talking about this stuff with Christians though, it's helpful to know some of the various meanings "God" has in that tradition (even if most of them don't.)

I can go with various meanings for "God". One of my favourites right now is the mechanism in the human mind that when switched on, instantly illuminates everything with divine light.
posted by sfenders at 9:57 AM on October 1, 2005


As a priest myself, I often am boggled by some peoples' tendency to attribute everything than happens to God. Not just positive things, either.

Had a big argument with some folks over Hurricane Katrina. The more psychotic forms of Christianity might claim New Orleans was destroyed because of gay people or Mardi Gras or something -- but I didn't expect members of my own faith to believe Katrina was sent to dramatically expose the corruption and hypocrisy of the U.S. government. They were basically saying they believe God is a terrorist and that they approved. Hoo boy.

In one of my own experiences a few years ago, God told me I give Her credit for too many things, but I wouldn't have come up with that one.
posted by Foosnark at 10:29 AM on October 1, 2005


Well, there's a big difference between attributing stuff to God (prayers of thanksgiving) and pretending to know God's motives.
posted by sfenders at 10:44 AM on October 1, 2005


if someone can explain how the mathematics of chance, aka the big bang, is responsible for random gasses one minute turning into the Laker Girls millions of years later, then all praise mathematics of chance.

until then thank you Jesus.


And there we have the problem personified, smart people. Sheer, bloody-minded ignorance that doesn't really want to know better. Or to explain Jesus as well as the Laker girls.
posted by Decani at 10:56 AM on October 1, 2005


Foosnark, it might have been more of a reaction to the other comments about God sending Katrina to punish. If God is sending disaster down, why not do it to those who deserve it? (altho it doesn't work as an idea, because it wasn't the GOP and those in power that were destroyed, but the lives of many hundreds of thousands of regular people.)
posted by amberglow at 11:13 AM on October 1, 2005


Laker girls

Btw, why is sex so frequently used as a counter-arg in some way? It's like the number one proof of the falsehood of Christ's teaching: 'hey you want a dose of reality: everyone has genitals including you, so there.'...?
posted by scheptech at 4:12 PM on October 1, 2005


davy: And aburd, doesn't Nietzsche's antisemitism discredit his views on morality?

It's clear that you haven't read Nietzsche fairly or carefully (or at all), so I'll be gentle in my reproach. The simple truth is that your criticism has no connection with reality.

Here's Nietzsche on the Jews and anti-Semitism:

"The Jews, however, are beyond any doubt the strongest, toughest, and purest race now living in Europe; ... to that end it might be useful and fair to expel the anti-Semetic screamers from the country." [Beyond Good and Evil 251]

"Consider Jewish scholars in this light: All of them have a high regard for logic, that is for compelling agreement by force of reasons; they know, with that they are bound to win, even where they encounter race and class prejudices and where one does not like to believe them." [The Gay Science 348]

"Jews among Germans are always the higher race—more refined, spiritual, kind." [Ecce Homo, "Why I Write Such Good Books" 2, early draft]

"When I imagine a type of man that antagonizes all my instincts, it always turns into a German—or an anti-Semite." [Ecce Homo, "The Case of Wagner" 4 (excised, probably by his sister)]

"I again remind readers who have ears for such things of that Berlin apostle of revenge, Eugen Dühring, who employs moral mumbo-jumbo more indecently and repulsively than anyone else in Germany today: Dühring, the foremost moral bigmouth today—unexcelled even among his own ilk, the anti-Semites." [Genealogy of Morals III 14]

Nietzsche concerned himself with cultural development and evolution, and leveled his critical eye at many cultures across history. The Jews, being prominent players in numerous courses of development with which he was concerned, were not spared his philosophical scalpel. But neither were they especially ill-treated. Nietzsche laid the spiritual corpse bare, but with a loving hand:

"What Europe owes to the Jews? Many things, good and bad, and above all one thing that is both of the best and of the worst: the grand style in morality, the terribleness and majesty of infinite demands, infinite meanings, the whole romanticism and sublimity of moral questionabilities—and hence the most attractive, captious, and choicest part of those plays of color and secductions to life in whose afterglow the sky of our European culture, its evening sky, is burning now—perhaps burning itself out. We artists among the spectators and philosophers are—grateful for this to the Jews." [Beyond Good and Evil 250]

"Every nation, every man, possesses unpleasant, indeed dangerous qualities: it is cruel to demand that the Jew should constitute an exception. In him these qualities may even be dangerous and repellent to an exceptional degree; and perhaps the youthful stock-exchange Jew is the most repulsive invention of the entire human race. Nonetheless I should like to know how much must, in a total accounting, be forgiven a people who, not without us all being to blame, have had the most grief-laden history of any people and whom we have to thank for the noblest human being (Christ), the purest sage (Spinoza), the mightiest book and the most efficacious moral code in the world. Moreover: in the darkest periods of the Middle Ages, when the cloudbanks of Asia had settled low over Europe, it was the Jewish freethinkers, scholars and physicians who, under the harshest personal constraint, held firmly to the banner of enlightenment and intellectual independence and defended Europe against Asia; it is thanks not the least to their efforts that a more natural, rational and in any event unmythical elucidation of the world could at last again obtain victory and the ring of culture that now unites us with the enlightenment of Graeco-Roman antiquity remain unbroken. If Christianity has done everything to orientalize the occident, Judaism has always played an essential part in occidentalizing it again: which in a certain sense means making of Europe's mission and history a continuation of the Greek." [Human, All Too Human I 475]

And all this against a backdrop of surging anti-Semetism in Germany and Austria, and among his family and closest friends! Are you sure he was an anti-semite? I'll let Nietzsche speak for himself, but whatever his moral faults, I should note that by glossing over Nietzsche so unfairly, you are depriving yourself of the enjoyment of reading one of literature's greatest craftsmen.

Sorry for following the derail.
posted by dilettanti at 4:22 PM on October 1, 2005


Actually, I confess I was being sarcastic and disingenuous: I've been reading Nietzsche since 1977. My own take on Ol' Freddy, given that his works are scattered with both pro- and anti-Jewish remarks, is that he was ambivalent and conflicted. He was born and raised in an "antisemitic culture area", but instead of just blindly going along with his early conditioning (the way most of us do) he kept trying hard to understand and overcome it, with varying degrees of success at any given time.

I don't know why so many "Nietzsche scholars" are so uncomfortable with the kind of "grey areas" that his thinking should help us acknowledge. Instead we read "yes he was an antisemite" or "no he was not", accompanied as in dilettanti's comment with out-of-context gems carefully selected to siupport one point of view or the other. A few months ago a guy on rec.arts.books posted a list of anti-Jewish quotes that would be a perfect comeback to dilettanti's defense; those of us who have read enough of Nietzsche deeply enough, if we saw the pro- and anti-Jewish excerpts in columns side by side, would be jerking our heads from side-to-side like spectators at a tennis tourny seated in line with the net watching evenly-matched players wear each other out.
posted by davy at 6:03 PM on October 1, 2005


Hint for Nietzsche fans: try reading Nietzsche, not Kaufmann interpreting Nietzsche.
posted by davy at 6:07 PM on October 1, 2005


Is God nothing more than an attempt to explain order and good fortune

Short answer: Yes, "nothing more".


Longer answer: If you include "transcendental experiences", insights, ecstasies, revelations et. al. -- the phenomena that suggest ideas such as Tao, Gaia, Great Spirit -- the realization that we're embedded in something bigger than ourselves -- in with "good fortune". Except that for most, "good fortune" involves decades of discipline.

Nothing is what It All is.
How much less do "you" weigh when "you" die?


posted by Twang at 2:11 AM on October 2, 2005


I'd suggest Huxley's Perennial Philosophy for the answer to this one.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:33 AM on October 2, 2005


How much less do "you" weigh when "you" die?

"I" am not dead yet, so "I" can't say for certain, but "I"'m going to guess "21 0 ounces".
posted by cytherea at 12:43 PM on October 2, 2005


davy: Instead we read "yes he was an antisemite" or "no he was not", accompanied as in dilettanti's comment with out-of-context gems carefully selected to siupport one point of view or the other.

I wasn't trying to establish the positive assertion that Nietzsche was some sort of honorary Jew, or even that he positively was not an anti-semite. I was merely trying to show (particularly for people who are not as informed as you are on the issue) that there are significant obstacles to the easy assertion that he was a raving anti-semite and therefore his views on morality generally should be summarily rejected. You know, the very position you sarcastically and disingenuously advanced.

Were the quotations "carefully selected"? Sort of—I was trying to find the largest and most obvious obstacles I could, but I am not a "Nietzsche scholar" and have never made a systematic survey on the topic. I wasn't trying to suggest a full and fair analysis of the entire history of his thought—such a task would be far beyond my capabilities. I did, however, want to give you and and others some evidence that would quickly and easily suggest that your faux position was simply unwarranted (except, perhaps, as a duly noted exercise in sarcasm and disingenuity).

I apologize for reading your comment (and your familiarity with Nietzsche) incorrectly. I trust that you can see how such a misreading could occur. Such views are asserted seriously alarmingly frequently, and I think it does a great disservice to other readers to allow such ideas to go unchallenged. My goal in commenting was simply to challenge it, and to suggest that the question was far richer than your initial comment had suggested. I am quite comfortable living in grey areas.

I'd love to discuss further, but this is already off-topic, and I'm afraid nobody's reading this thread anymore, anyway. I do want to note, however, that Kaufmann's is one of the few in-print and readily-available biographies that I haven't read.
posted by dilettanti at 8:46 PM on October 2, 2005


edgeFilter
posted by mowglisambo at 5:26 PM on October 3, 2005


I'd suggest Huxley's Perennial Philosophy for the answer to this one.

I always knew I liked you, Smedley. Check out Frithjof Schuon, if you never have. BIG thinker in the perennial vein.
posted by sonofsamiam at 5:48 PM on October 3, 2005


dilettanti said: "I am not a 'Nietzsche scholar' and have never made a systematic survey on the topic..."

Fair enough. I'm not either: though I've read a bunch of his stuff I've never taken thorough notes nor compiled lists of his pro- or anti-Jewish remarks. That's what 'Nietzsche scholars' are for. I agree though that anybody who's really read Nietzsche would have trouble regarding him as a proto-Nazi. But then one good thing about Freddy is he disagreed with himself so often that the possibilities for out-of-context quoting are as rich as with the Bible.

"I trust that you can see how such a misreading could occur."

No, I think you read my disingenuous snark correctly as it was put, you just didn't see the invisible "/sarcasm" tag. And that disingenuous sarcastic snark shouldn't have been directed at you anyway; kind of like those cows that get shot up during deer-hunting season. For that I apologize.
posted by davy at 8:08 PM on October 4, 2005


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