Sunday, July 29, 2018

Reading Out From Injustice And Into Justice

It's one of their great contributions to reading that theologians have developed is the understanding of the relationship of readers to texts.   The theologians I read aren't only aware of the fact that we can't read a text as if we were some imaginary objective source who will see what the text says in some imaginary objective purity (one of the more obvious superstitions of modernism and scientism)* but that we all come to texts with various predispositions and even methodologies.  The frameworks through which we read texts is called  "hermeneutics" and the study of that practice are called the same thing.  And, furthermore, that every reading of every text, every understanding of it becomes more secure instead of less only when we admit to and take into account our heremeneutical process as we read them.

Several modern hermeneutical methods are especially convincing, various liberation theologies, feminist theologies I find to be entirely more convincing than the old patriarchal reading of the Scriptures and the history of those readings, afterward.  I think The Bible is so varied, over many authors over many different centuries, so complex in the points of view present in the scriptures, not to mention their interpreters, but most of all so valuable for the insights into life and to promote moral behavior and justice that you should expect you'd need more than one method of understanding it.   One of the disasters of the history of Christian churches is their claim that one of those can be a kind of royal road to enlightenment - I think that was done mostly out of a desire to have uniformity within any specific church and within their realm of influence.  A lot of it was done primarily to ensure uniformity in line with the wishes of the secular rulers within that realm of influence.  That happened from the time of the early Church councils called by various emperors through till the point where governments stopped maintaining state religions but was only secure in even the secular sphere when the governments stopped butting into such matters.

Right now the heremeneutical method I find most interesting is the feminist one, a good example of which was given in this talk by Elizabeth A. Johnson.  I can't see any point in her reasoning to be wrong and I think all of her points are more than amply justified.  It's one of the more unfortunate aspects of the enforced secularism of the would-be left that so many people are entirely unaware of the current attempts to get control of such important and powerful texts, wresting them out of the hands of those who use them to promote inequality and injustice.  When they are read in a way that is a. justified by reason and the nature of the texts, b. motivated by equality and justice, c. honest, they do a lot more to advocate for justice and equality than any secular document that will be written from a materialistic or scientific framework.  Equality and justice are the products of the intentional will of God, you won't find them in looking at atoms and molecules or while pretending you're doing science while looking at behaviors and making up just-so stories about the lost and unknowable past.   You aren't going to find them by accepting the Constitution as written by slaveholders and crooks under any fraudulent hermeneutic of pretending those are anything but guaranteed to produce the inequality and injustice characteristic of the United States before Abraham Lincoln's presidency.

*  Physics in the 20th century found it was inevitable that the observer's point of view would have everything to do with the act of observation and the conclusions come to about what was being observed, though that seems to be something that even a lot of physicists who certainly are aware of that don't practice in their pontifications.  Even the rare biologist admits that, though it's rarest of all, in my experience, in the very areas called science that should start out with that realization.


  1. "The frameworks through which we read texts is called "hermeneutics" and
    the study of that practice are called the same thing. And,
    furthermore, that every reading of every text, every understanding of it
    becomes more secure instead of less only when we admit to and take into
    account our heremeneutical process as we read them."

    Holy shit, Sparky -- you''ve gone all post-modern and semiotic approximately 30 years after that shit was fashionable. Coming up next: you announce that texts write themselves.

    1. As always, Simps, you demonstrate your stupidity and your laziness. From the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy NOT THAT I EXPECT YOU'RE GOING TO READ IT.

      In the Middle Ages the most remarkable characteristic of the interpretative praxis was the so-called accessus ad auctores; this was a standardized introduction that preceded the editions and commentaries of (classical) authors. There were many versions of the accessus, but one of the more widely used was the following typology of seven questions (Detel 2011: 84f.):

      Who (is the author) (quis/persona)?
      What (is the subject matter of the text) (quid/materia)?
      Why (was the text written) (cur/causa)?
      How (was the text composed) (quomodo/modus)?
      When (was the text written or published) (quando/tempus)?
      Where (was the text written or published) (ubi/loco)?
      By which means (was the text written or published) (quibus faculatibus/facultas)?
      Johann Conrad Dannhauer was the first to present a systematic textbook on general hermeneutics (Jaeger 1974), the Idea boni interpretis et malitiosi calumniatoris (1630) introducing the Latin neologism hermeneutica as the title of a general modus sciendi. The intention of this work was to supplement the Aristotelian Organon and its subject matter to distinguish between the true and false meaning of any text (verum sensum a falso discernere). It is explicitly general in scope, relevant for all scientific domains (una generalis omnibus scientiis communis) and applicable to the oral discourse and texts of all authors (in omnibus auctorum scriptis et orationibus). A series of authors followed the lead of Dannhauer who established the systematic locus of hermeneutics within logic (Schönert and Vollhardt 2005). Most remarkable is the work of Johann Clauberg (1654), who introduced sophisticated distinctions between the rules of interpretation with respect to their generality and clarified the capturing of the intention of the author as a valuable aim of interpretative praxis. Thus, a general hermeneutics had existed at least two centuries before Schleiermacher offered his own conception at the beginning of the 19th century—so his claim that such a discipline did not already exist before him is simply false (Schönert and Vollhardt 2005: 9; Detel 2011: 119ff., Scholz 2016: 68ff.)

    2. And the same on "Postmodern Hermeneutics"

      7. Postmodern Hermeneutics
      Hermeneutics, the science of textual interpretation, also plays a role in postmodern philosophy. Unlike deconstruction, which focuses upon the functional structures of a text, hermeneutics seeks to arrive at an agreement or consensus as to what the text means, or is about. Gianni Vattimo formulates a postmodern hermeneutics in The End of Modernity (1985, in English 1988 [1985]), where he distinguishes himself from his Parisian counterparts by posing the question of post-modernity as a matter for ontological hermeneutics. Instead of calling for experimentation with counter-strategies and functional structures, he sees the heterogeneity and diversity in our experience of the world as a hermeneutical problem to be solved by developing a sense continuity between the present and the past. This continuity is to be a unity of meaning rather than the repetition of a functional structure, and the meaning is ontological. In this respect, Vattimo's project is an extension of Heidegger's inquiries into the meaning of being. However, where Heidegger situates Nietzsche within the limits of metaphysics, Vattimo joins Heidegger's ontological hermeneutics with Nietzsche's attempt to think beyond nihilism and historicism with his concept of eternal return. The result, says Vattimo, is a certain distortion of Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche, allowing Heidegger and Nietzsche to be interpreted through one another (Vattimo 1988 [1985], 176). This is a significant point of difference between Vattimo and the French postmodernists, who read Nietzsche against Heidegger, and prefer Nietzsche's textual strategies over Heidegger's pursuit of the meaning of being.

      On Vattimo's account, Nietzsche and Heidegger can be brought together under the common theme of overcoming. Where Nietzsche announces the overcoming of nihilism through the active nihilism of the eternal return, Heidegger proposes to overcome metaphysics through a non-metaphysical experience of being. In both cases, he argues, what is to be overcome is modernity, characterized by the image that philosophy and science are progressive developments in which thought and knowledge increasingly appropriate their own origins and foundations. Overcoming modernity, however, cannot mean progressing into a new historical phase. As Vattimo observes: “Both philosophers find themselves obliged, on the one hand, to take up a critical distance from Western thought insofar as it is foundational; on the other hand, however, they find themselves unable to criticize Western thought in the name of another, and truer, foundation” (Vattimo 1988 [1985], 2). Overcoming modernity must therefore mean a Verwindung, in the sense of twisting or distorting modernity itself, rather than an Überwindung or progression beyond it.

      I know that you neither read that (though you might skim, which is you at the apex of your version of rigorous study) nor understood any of it nor why your comment was especially stupid in the context of what I said. You're just generally stupid. Now, go share your stupidity with your fellow simpletons at Duncleton's.

      It is really bizarre for bunch of people anything from ten to over twenty years older than Duncan see to have some kind of weird daddy issues with him. Maybe that's why he didn't like me, I was supportive out of common courtesy but I never called him "Dad" and I didn't hesitate to tell him when I disagreed with him.

  2. You disappointed me, Sparkles. I thought you were going to write a full-throated defense of this post-Modernist deconstructionist asshole.

    He's my favorite, for the obvious reason that -- how conveeeeeeeenient -- he espoused, along with Jacques Derrida, an influential critical movement that went beyond traditional interpretation of literary texts to reflect on the epistemological difficulties inherent in any textual, literary, or critical activity. And then, of course, after his death, a researcher uncovered some two hundred previously unknown articles which de Man had written in his early twenties for Belgian collaborationist newspapers during World War II, some of them implicitly and two explicitly anti-Semitic.

    How wonderfully Hermeneutic. And Jew-hating. Nothing to do with Darwin, of course.

    1. You expected that because you're a dishonest idiot and a pathological liar who doesn't know more than what he thinks it's groovy to think without bothering to find out how to think about it.

      Wikipedia, really, the Eschatonian idea of an ultimate authority. And here I figured I was dumbing it down by resorting to the Stanford Encyclopedia.

      I'm not annoyed that you prove you're incapable of thinking in anything but the crudest and most inept stereotypes, I expect that when it's you and the Tots.

  3. By the way, schmucko -- I'm having lunch tomorrow -- meeting him for the first time -- with a former classical music critic for the NYT who won a Pulitzer and loves Glenn Gould. Plus he thinks I'm cool.

    Get back to me when you have a similar experience in that hick burg you teach piano in.

    1. Let's see if he wants a follow up lunch.

      He thinks you're cool? Oh dear. And here I thought the long-hair stereotype had died back in the 1940s. And if he is impressed with Glenn Gould's playing he's an idiot. Ask him how he likes the set of Mozart Sonatas Gould crapped all over.

      I'd rather have lunch with a working musician, someone who makes music, than any critic who has ever scribbled about music.

      With whatever drawbacks living in a small town has it's got its advantages, one is that I have no temptation to be overly impressed with myself for coming from here, second, you aren't here and aren't likely ever to be here.

  4. You’re so jealous it’s eating you fucking alive.

    1. Jealous of not having lunch with someone who thinks you're cool? Well, there it is, what it takes for you to say something funny, it has to be clueless and unintentional.

      I think I'd rather have lunch with a department store dummy than a NYT wit.

  5. I guarantee you have had lunches with department store dummies. Oh wait -- you've told me you never go to restaurants. On the other hand, maybe you just invite them to your hovel.

    1. And there, you ruin it by trying to be funny without copying some lame comedian or movie scene.

      And you include class snobbery. How very Eschatonian of you.

  6. And get him to show his lunch companion these comments. I have no doubt it will make quite an impression.

    1. The ones from last weekend were pretty stupid.

      Sometimes I feel guilty for wasting my time playing wack-a-troll with him. But not that guilty.