David Thompson


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February 01, 2008



You may find this & the links there interesting, David.

"Religion Within Reason"
Pope Benedict's Critique of Islam
by Mark Gould ~ Policy Review ~ Dec. 2007

Sorry if it sounds like I'm shillin' for the pope, but I think he's one smart cookie, even if I disagree with him on a few details like the metaphysical existence of deities.



Thanks. I’m interested in any organisation that employs a Chief Exorcist.




Personally, I'm less interested in the pope's organization and more interested in the way he intellectually juggles matters theological and epistemological in order to accommodate both his role as a dogmatist within his organization, and his role as a rational man in terms of his relationship with those outside his organization and with the reality of the human experience, in order to produce a pragmatic axiological model with which in many parts I agree.

It was this quote from his Regensberg lecture ~ http://tinyurl.com/pxb9a ~ that really caught my eye, and that's when I started looking into his arguments more closely: "Modern scientific reason quite simply has to accept the rational structure of matter and the correspondence between our spirit and the prevailing rational structures of nature as a given, on which its methodology has to be based. Yet the question why this has to be so is a real question, and one which has to be remanded by the natural sciences to other modes and planes of thought: to philosophy and theology."

My argument for "why this has to be so" is that "it just is", but science can't prove that; it is a metaphysical question, not an epistemological one.

It appears to me that, independent of the job he is doing within his organization, he is as I mentioned very intelligent, and it appears he is interested in reasoned discussion. Let's just say I'd much rather spend a few days discussing philosophy and realpolitik with him that I would discussing such things with most people.

Benedict, Kissinger, Greenspan & Vitruvius: Table for four please.



Yes, I can see how Benedict might seem an interesting figure; more interesting than many of his predecessors, certainly. Though his official capacity, as it were, tends to undermine his credibility in matters epistemological. For instance, he also claims to know what God wants, in some detail, despite never quite explaining how this remarkable knowledge came into to his possession, or how it might be verified by others less fortunate. And a passing familiarity with pre-Christian mythology would undercut the claims of the organization he heads. Crudely put, he’s having it both ways. Though, as you say, if I had to choose between having dinner with him or many of his counterparts in the theology market, he wouldn’t be the worst choice.


Yes of course he is trying to have it both ways. Aren't we all? Do we not all have brain structures that seek belief? Do we not all have brain structures that seek rational understanding? I think Benedict would agree that the answer to the last two questions is yes. If so, then given his position & intelligence, I think discussing with him *how* he juggles the both ways would be worthwhile. Also, his approach toward the Islam problem is at least interesting. And I bet he could trump Sir Humphrey in his knowledge of the behaviour of bureaucracy ;-)

In a previous Friday Ephemera ~ http://tinyurl.com/3b9aqg ~ I mentioned that, "One of the things I'm interested in is listening to substantive interviews with old people who have experienced events in the large and have developed aspects of wisdom that I think are worth studying". It is in that sense, and having now read some of his works and analysis thereof, that I am interested in Benedict.

There's room for five chairs at the table, won't you join us?

Returning to matters ephemera, and if you're interested in this game: which three living people would you like to have dinner with (where "have dinner" means spending at least eight hours in honest discussion)? And which three dead people? You've got my living list above, as for dead, off the top of my head, I'd pick Aristotle, Descartes, and Franklin.



“Yes of course he is trying to have it both ways. Aren’t we all?”

I do hope not.

“Do we not all have brain structures that seek belief?”

Belief in what, though? Deities? Ectoplasm? Or belief in the sense of trust, conjecture or best guesses? I think there’s a difference. I generally go about my day assuming that the Sun and planets will behave much as usual, though I can’t prove beyond all doubt that something terribly inconvenient won’t at some point happen.

As for dinner guests, living and dead, how about: David Hume, Derren Brown, Gaius Octavian Caesar, Joe Kittinger, Muhammad… And, since time is our plaything, I’d invite someone born today but at the age of, say, 50, so as to have a little future perspective.


See, that's what I love about your blog, David, I'm always learning something new. Before today, I had no idea who Derren Brown and Joe Kittinger were, and now I do. Thanks as always; have a great week.


Dinner? Pah! A nice buffet with our host and all the regular posters, and lashings of microbe improved fruit juice is my choice.

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