SS: “Revisiting Mamre”: The Stranger in the Three Abrahamic Faiths

Philosophy, Religion, and the Meaning of Nationhood in the 21st century

English: Devonian Pond,Ryerson University, Tor...
English: Devonian Pond,Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The CJMA welcomes proposals from individuals who are interested in presenting a paper at its 2017 spring conference.

Saturday, May 27 to Sunday May 28, 2017
Ryerson University,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

In the 21st century, diverse tendencies appear to be altering or even undermining nationhood, understood as belonging to a sovereign people with a shared heritage. Philosophers have discussed individualism, multiculturalism, and globalization – in Canada we have the recent contribution of substantial thinkers like Charles Taylor, John Ralston Saul, George Grant, and Leslie Armour. In addition, the role of religion is emerging as a prominent factor determining nationhood: from political and patriotic Christian Evangelism in the United States, Canada, and Latin America to the traditional theocratic tendencies in the Middle East, and the role of Hinduism and Confucianism in promoting national identities is significant. Furthermore, any discussion of nationhood in the 21st century must take into account concerns associated with the role of Islam in European and American societies, and the contribution of Native American religion to our appreciation of the natural environment and cohesive community.

All papers addressing the role of philosophy and/or religion in determining the meaning of nationhood in the 21st century are welcome.

Those who wish to present a paper should send a one-page abstract or proposal to:

Dr. Elizabeth Trott
Email: etrott@ryerson.ca

Deadline for submission of proposals: February 15, 2017

Free Will: a rejection

Free will is such a great idea. I would totally choose it if it existed. Believing we are in control of our destiny, becoming who we want to be, taking (and giving) credit for our successes and knowing who to blame for failures. Everyone loves free will. Religion loves it so much it made room for where there is none.

But isn’t the problem obvious? Free will hinges on being able to choose, and I just don’t see how it can be possibly true that we ever have a choice. That’s the illusion. We think we are making our own choices among the available alternatives, but really, we couldn’t have chosen otherwise.

The moment before you make any decision is the last stop in a casual chain of events spanning from the beginning of time. Whichever way you could think to interfere is just another necessary part of the chain that will inevitably lead to the decision you can’t avoid. This is because every cause has one – and only one – effect. We observe that to be true.

chooseadventurefreewilllukesurlSo the way something is at any given moment is the only way it could have been. If it were anything else, then the moment that came before has to be different to have caused it, and the moment before that, before that… so unless our past is constantly rewriting itself, we have no choice. For free will to be true, we need to have been able to act otherwise. But there is no way to avoid acting the way you do.

It does seem like sort of a cop-out, I know. Maybe whatever’s going on in our brains before we make the choice that we couldn’t have made otherwise is free will in action? But that doesn’t make it any less true that there is only one choice we do make, and it was the only choice we can make. Doesn’t that negate free will?

And the other thing – how do you know it’s your conscious self that accounts for any decision you ever make, anyway? Our actions are our choices, but what drives our actions? The unseen forces of desire. And what accounts for desire but a whole bunch of stuff that’s out of our control? Hormones, genes, and the effect of a lifetime of experiences that happen to us. We are the sum of all of this, and more. This is what decides what choice to make – this is the programming we’re stuck with.

Maybe we can define freedom as being able to do what we want, if we wanted. But often it turns out that we didn’t really want what we chose after all./ And how often do we have desires we don’t approve?  Ones we wish we had? If we could choose how to feel we’d be a lot happier with our choices because they’re the only ones we would have wanted. But apparently we can’t choose how to feel, so how can we take responsibility for what comes of it?

We’re just automatons living in a mechanistic universe – I can’t see it any other way. Now excuse me, it’s time for my kill-crazy rampage.

Sunday’ Sermon

 
I recently watched this old movie for the 12th time. It is sometimes funny, sometimes irritating, and it caused a real storm of criticism when it came out. There are four parts to the debate available on YouTube.

The full debate from “Friday Night, Saturday Morning”, 9th November 1979.

On the edition of 9 November 1979, hosted by Tim Rice, a discussion was held about the then-new film Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which been banned by many local councils and caused protests throughout the world with accusations that it was blasphemous. To argue in favour of this accusation were broadcaster and noted Christian Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood (the then Bishop of Southwark). In its defence were two members of the Monty Python team, John Cleese and Michael Palin.

Sunday’s Sermon

sermon

“Overall, De Cruz and Nichols have produced an engaging volume and I recommend it to those interested in the interplay between cognitive science of religion and philosophy of religion. That said, the volume falls short with regard to providing advances in experimental philosophy. Further, both the discussion of experimental philosophy of religion in the introduction and the example given in Chapter 7 detract from what is otherwise an enjoyable volume.”

English: The first lecture in Experimental Phi...
English: The first lecture in Experimental Philosophy, which took place in London in 1748. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sermon on the Hood of an Essex: Flannery O’Connor’s “Wise Blood”

fcDr. Glenn Settle is a long-time friend and former colleague. He is a keen reader of literature and the world.

 

 

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Abstract

Flannery O’Connor‘s readers have not discussed the centrality of the Wise Blood sermon. The novel includes five dialogue sermons that may be considered as a five-part discourse, from exordium through conclusion. Full of fits and starts like Hazel’s car, the sermon is integral to the novel, even central to its action, particularly that related to Hazel’s character growth. In sermon delivery Hazel rhetorically tries out numerous belief systems. The sermon occasion thus becomes a learning experience for him. The interruption/completion of the sermon, via ghostly doubles, leads to Hazel’s apparent epiphany.

By Glenn Settle (2001): Sermon on the Hood of an Essex: Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood , Text and Performance Quarterly, 21:3, 183-201

Read the paper here: Wise Blood