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I’ve seen it said before that Mormonism is an expression of theocentric Humanism (or at least very amenable to it) and as a result of its American origins is also amenable to American philosophy of the Pragmatic kind. I’m of the opinion that the Gospel we Mormons are to bring to the world is seriously compromised by the aforementioned ideas and in this thread I’ve decided to give an example of what a Gospel presentation looks like within the context of apologetics; a Gospel that commits to the flames Humanism and the doctrines of Pragmaticism.
I understand the length is a hindrance, but the Cliffs Notes version is: Humans do not create truth, we can only have it revealed to us.
In respect to apologetics, even those who are just slightly familiar with secular anti-mormonism will be well acquainted with their gauche habits of the mind; theirs is a socius that Richard Hofstadter warned us of back in the early 60s with his insightful meditation on, and dutiful archaeology of, ‘Anti-Intellectualism in American Life’. Now it may seem that anti-intellectualism is too harsh a charge to level at the participants of the anti-Mormon social media hive and indeed I do not make it without the necessary gravity it demands. I think the proper place to begin is with just what is meant by “intellectual” in the Hofstadter context:
Speaking of the Intellectual’s dedication to a life of the mind Hofstadter goes on to say:
I think the most prolific Mormon Intellectual today is Daniel C. Peterson and through the aptly named blog ‘Sic et Non’ you can often find him engaging secular anti-mormonism with candor, grace, and acumen. One of Dr. Peterson’s recent blog posts has been causing some murmuring in the usual quarters and I thought it would serve as an excellent example of:
A thoughtful riposte and I daresay a coup de grâce on those who try to engage the good Doctor (as if any of the man’s most vocal critics even know who Gilbert Ryle is, much less having read the man). I’m going to come back to this last paragraph, but first I need to lay some philosophical groundwork.
Now I’m convinced that if Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) had not regretfully joined the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, he’d have been baptized a Mormon after reading the Book of Mormon, even a cursory reading. Herr Heidegger and Joseph Smith have more in common you might think; both come from village life, both ended up rejecting the dogmas that saturated their upbringing and established some new, both had remarkable charisma that drew in and made acolytes out of some of the brightest minds of their day, both raised above their station by their own talents but were derailed by their respective enemies, and both stand accused of extra-marital dalliances among other notable sins.
So what is the big deal about Heidegger? His singular obsession with BEING. Our experience of existence. See Heidegger believed that in Western intellectual tradition we have forgotten about the blunt and ever present question of Being, this fact lead Heidegger into a detailed examination of metaphysics, finding that the traditional ways of investigating Being are not only inadequate but they also impede us. We therefore must resort to “destruktion” in order to “abbau” the contemporary philosophical edifice; this is to say we must destroy the history of philosophy in order to deconstruct our obstacles (this is actually what Derrida has in mind when speaking of “deconstruction” FYI). We must get rid of Platonic, Aristotelian, Thomistic, Kantian, and Cartesian elements before one can look at the raw phenomena of our existence.
See, it isn’t the case that beings are not simply things that exist, as some kind of furniture of reality. What most of the great metaphysicans have missed is that that their views of the world were not fundamental but just a distortion of experience. Being is existence, of which interpretation is necessary and unextractable from Being. Every Being’s existence has a unique specificity to it that is theirs. Interpretation of Being is not neutral, dispassionate, or even contemplative, but it has a movement that is forward to backward and backward to forward. This movement is what makes the existential structures our experienced lives possible, setting the conditions for the mystery of conscious awareness and compels us to question the world.
The rub of it though is that we are Beings in Time limited by birth and death, yet if philosophy and theology are at all representative of their cultures of origin, the West has trouble articulating the authenticity of our temporal character. Now this is where it gets interesting.
Another important and necessary precursor to the genius of Mormonism is Saint Augustine of Hippo (think of him as a North African B.H. Roberts living as a cenobite with a CTR ring w/thorns) who talks about this very issue in his ‘The Free Choice of the Will’ where he speaks at some length about how our love of God as summum bonum. Because we are imago dei what this love of God ends up really being is amor sui, but this is difficult because we must love human essence (which is incommutabilis) but we mistakenly identify our existence (which is mutabilis) as our essence and this drives home the contingency of our lives, this fleshly tabernacle cannot be present and identifiable in the ways we need it to be.
Channeling the Apostle Paul, Augustine correctly notes that to truly love God is to seek the annihilation of the temporal/mortal/present through projection into an absolute future which is really what eternal life is. See here (Mosiah 2:41):
Just like we see in Augustine, the author of Mosiah brings out conceptual distinction between caritas/cupiditas: “…if they hold out faithful to the end...” the neglect of the present pushes us into that absolute future the love of God instills in us to seek.
Okay, so what does any of this have to do with Daniel Peterson? Well I take it as a given that Dr.Peterson is the kind of scholar who is deeply familiar with the canon of Aristotle and in the course of his studies he became intimate with ὑποκείμενον (dealing with form and matter in composition for those reading that are uninitiated). Herr Heidegger was just such a student as well and Heidegger argued authoritatively that art is actually Being imparting truths to us.
I took this to be Dr. Peterson’s point in response that petty school of critics that snap at his heels. That “Shakespeare, Bach, Monet, ****ens, Goethe, Dante, and Dostoevsky” is the kind of art that allows us to bear witness to eternal truths, a glimpse of that absolute future, brief access to that which is incommutabilis, the summum bonum.
But I think Dr.Peterson had a deeper lesson for us in this blog post; the bigger challenges Mormons are facing in terms of defending our sacred history from those who seek to bring Joseph Smith’s divine calling into the realm of the profane come from two wings related but different wings of philosophy. The first is the typical paleo-marxism that seeks to sublate the individual psychic process to outside/exterior social forces (e.g. Rorty and his identification of philosophical Ideology) and the second is post-Lacanian psychoanalysis which would see the Rortyian ideology as being congruent with unconscious pressures (which is the exact strategy Fawn Brodie uses).
I think we ought to join Dr. Peterson is eschewing the present to seek the eternal by adopting the kind of Heideggerian ontology that allows God to be God and we his creatures to be his creatures.
Take care friends!
I responded to the topic that asked if FAIR was a benefit to the church and I thought it would be a good idea for people to post articles they found on FAIR that were particularly helpful, well written, scholarly or otherwise worth sharing. I will start by linking to the article I referred to in my response on the other thread.
Are Jesus and Satan Brothers?
By Robert F. Smith
A friend told me that the problem with writing a biography about Joseph Smith is that it cannot be objective. To illustrate, he added that
Dan Vogel said, "I examine historical issues like, Is the Book of Mormon genuine ancient history? If not, then what is the best explanation for what happened? Were there real or fake plates under the cloth? Of course, I don't think one has to always discuss such things; history is a big subject with many approaches. But I don't think a meaningful biography can be written about Joseph Smith without taking an interpretive stand."
My friend adds that many apologists and critics insist that History is about obvious historical facts. But are they correct? Isn't history not facts, but rather the interpretation of facts? Is Vogel right to put so much emphasis on POV? https://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2009/04/15/just-the-facts-maam-eh-carrs-what-is-history/ .
My involvement in apologetics has been very rewarding. As is the case with most, there are some dark stretches in the path, but I feel wiser for being willing to stay engaged with it. I wanted to share my insights with my kids, but I know that a lecture from me will probably fade into blah, blah, blah...I decided to try and capture it in a fable of sorts and I thought that many of you here would have some valuable insights or corrections. Hopefully, it is self explanatory:
A young squirrel accompanied father to the market for the first time. The squirrel was amazed at the sights and sounds of this new found part of the world. At their first stop, father loaded their harvest on the owl’s balance scale and the owl stacked iron weights on the other end to assess the harvest’s worth. The squirrel was intrigued by how this stranger assigned value to the fruits of his family’s fields. When they returned home, the industrious young squirrel built his own balance scale and fashioned some weights from hand-carved wood. Over the next season, the squirrel weighed crops on the makeshift scale and was excited for the tremendous value they were sure to bring. At the end of the season the squirrel walked with father to the market with some confidence in his step. They approached the owl and loaded their harvest on the balance scale. But the young squirrel was disheartened as the owl stacked only a handful of iron weights on the scale and handed over a few coins. The squirrel had grown accustomed to seeing a tall stack of the hand-carved weights on the makeshift scale at home. The market was not so kind, and visions of a generous recognition faded quickly. The squirrel’s wise father seemed unbothered and graciously accepted the owl’s valuation. The father grabbed the squirrel’s hand and strolled through the market looking for something special to take home as he did every season.
I have a question for the women who defend the church (which doesn't mean you agree with every policy.)
1. Do you consider apologetics to be a "male" activity? Or at least male dominated?
2. If so, in your opinion does that discourage women from joining in?
3. What experiences have you had as a woman where you were treated differently or talked to differently than a man?
4. Have you noticed situations where women were treated differently? (Not given the same credibility, etc.)
5. Do you feel like you are more free to speak up online than in church or in person without having to defer to "the priesthood?" (i.e., if you were speaking to a bishop online would you consider him to have the last word as often happens in wards when it comes to doctrinal or scriptural matters?)
6. Do you notice more women coming online to talk about religion?
Any other insights?