Errol Morris on Peace

Errol Morris has made a series of short films on peace for the NY Times. He chose to focus upon three individuals who ostensibly had little power, influence, means or ability, but who nonetheless changed the world. The first two in particular, explicitly cite faith as crucial to their political perseverance. Morris, as always, simply asks the questions in childlike wonder at the amazing stories they tell. 

God Games

"Kit Eaton reviews Godus, the Sandbox and Godville, three free mobile games that let you control an entire world, not just a single character."

It is an open question today whether and how video games foster religious thought. Nonetheless, I wonder if this is not rather the nexus where narcissism and atheism meet as the player displaces divinity.

The Myth of Religious Violence

The popular belief that religion is the cause of the world’s bloodiest conflicts is central to our modern conviction that faith and politics should never mix. But the messy history of their separation suggests it was never so simple.

Karen Armstrong, "The Myth of Religious Violence," The Guardian

Peculiar that she doesn't cite William Cavanaugh's excellent book by that title.

On Mental Virtues

Fourth, there is humility, which is not letting your own desire for status get in the way of accuracy. The humble person fights against vanity and self-importance. He’s not writing those sentences people write to make themselves seem smart; he’s not thinking of himself much at all. The humble researcher doesn’t become arrogant toward his subject, assuming he has mastered it. Such a person is open to learning from anyone at any stage in life.

"The Mental Virtues" -

On Atheist Factories?

For people born after 1960, having a college degree doesn’t cause religious disaffiliation—young, highly educated people are more likely to identify with a faith, according to a new study... There are a lot of sociological factors at work here, but all of them puncture the stereotype of perniciously secular higher education. Clearly, those God-defying philosophy professors need to work a little harder if they want to build their armies of atheist young people.

"It Turns Out Colleges Aren't Actually Atheist Factories" -

Teaching is not a Business

While these reformers talk a lot about markets and competition, the essence of a good education — bringing together talented teachers, engaged students and a challenging curriculum — goes undiscussed... While technology can be put to good use by talented teachers, they, and not the futurists, must take the lead. The process of teaching and learning is an intimate act that neither computers nor markets can hope to replicate. Small wonder, then, that the business model hasn’t worked in reforming the schools — there is simply no substitute for the personal element.

David L. Kirp, "Teaching is not a Business,"

On the Term "Scientist"

In response, Nature’s editor, Sir Richard Gregory... solicited opinions from linguists and scientific researchers about whether Nature should use ‘scientist.’ The word received more support in 1924 than it had thirty years earlier. Many researchers wrote in to say that ‘scientist’ was a normal and useful word that was now ensconced in the English lexicon, and that Nature should use it. However, many researchers still rejected ‘scientist.’ Sir D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, a zoologist, argued that ‘scientist’ was a tainted term used ‘by people who have no great respect either for science or the “scientist.”’ The eminent naturalist E. Ray Lankester protested that any ‘Barney Bunkum’ might be able to lay claim to such a vague title. ‘I think we must be content to be anatomists, zoologists, geologists, electricians, engineers, mathematicians, naturalists,’ he argued. ‘“Scientist” has acquired—perhaps unjustly—the significance of a charlatan’s device.’

"The History of 'Scientist,'" The Renaissance Mathematicus

Time Passes

My parents celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary this past week. I couldn't be there so wrote a note on time's passing to be read in my absence, largely drawing on Heidegger's Phenomenology of Religious Life and Ricoeur's Time and Narrative.

On Spiritual Nones

‘Every day I add another piece to the religion that is my own,’ Dr. Moore writes. ‘It’s built on years of meditation, chanting, theological study and the practice of therapy — to me a sacred activity.’ At the very least, we might conclude that ‘spiritual but not religious’ isn’t necessarily vague or wishy-washy. It’s not nothing, although it may risk being everything.

"Examining the Growth of the 'Spiritual but Not Religious," -

Religious History on Australian Secularization

The interwar years saw the initiation of a number of important periodicals that reflected the emerging vitality of public intellectual life in Australia. One such publication was The Morpeth Review, a quarterly that appeared between the years 1927 and 1934. Edited by three Anglican intellectuals — E. H. Burgmann, Roy Lee, and A. P. Elkin — it included contributions from prominent historians, political scientists, anthropologists, cultural critics, and theologians. Though its range of concerns was broad, it was guided by a basic vision of intellectual and social life that aimed at reconciling the conflicting elements of modernity. Such conflicts included the divide between the world of work and the family, the divide between classes, between nations, and between church and state, or more broadly, between the secular and the religious spheres. This article will suggest that in the endeavour to reconcile such competing elements The Morpeth Review expressed a kind of political theology that was modernist in inspiration (welcoming science and the critical consciousness) and drew on several overlapping traditions of thought including liberal Anglicanism, Christian socialism, and British idealism, all of which rejected the modern tendency to compartmentalise life and with it to relegate religion to the private sphere.

Ian Tregenza, "The Political Theology of the Morpeth Review, 1927-1934," forthcoming and available on early view in The Journal of Religious History, which is publishing a special issue on secularization in Australia. Of particular note is this article, which looks at the history of radical thought arising in the Newcastle area. Dr. Tregenza also contributed to the forthcoming edited collection on Religion in Australian Political Life which was part of our University of Newcastle funded research on the subject.

On Heidegger's Black Notebooks

We already knew that Heidegger’s institutional involvement with the Nazi party — in particular, his agreement to become rector of Freiburg University in 1933 — was motivated less by political enthusiasm than by a long-held ambition for university reform. The inadequacy of modern universities (which, Heidegger complained, were becoming mere polytechnics), and the squeezing of philosophy departments by efficiency reviews on the one hand and church control on the other, had worried him since the beginning of his university career. At the time of Heidegger’s rectorship, the Nazi party had not yet developed a unified education policy, and it is clear from his inaugural address and the letters surrounding his acceptance of the post that Heidegger was hoping to seize the moment to put into action the intellectual renewal he had been writing and lecturing about for a decade. That he was soon disillusioned becomes clear both in a series of disappointed letters to friends (complaining that a very differently-minded candidate had been appointed minister of education and that he, Heidegger, had not been invited to any education policy meetings at the higher level), and in his premature resignation from the rectorship in early 1934. Heidegger never dabbled in party business again.

Judith Wolfe - "Caught in the Trap of His Own Metaphysics," Standpoint Magazine - 

This is an nteresting and excellent public note on the recent publication of Heidegger's black notebooks. Wolfe was recently appointed at St. Andrews University Divinity School, and a brief interview on her recent Heidegger and Theology with Bloomsbury can also be found here: This latter book looks to be an exceptional edition based on two years of archival research at Humboldt and Freiburg Universities.

On Polydoxy

This special issue of Modern theology stages a critical conversation around the multifocal texts composing Polydoxy: Theology of Multiplicity and Relation, edited by Catherine Keller and Laurel Schneider. That volume is in part the product of a Transdisciplinary Theological Colloquium at Drew University entitled, ‘Polydoxy: Theologies of the Manifold.’ In order to introduce, expand, and refine this vibrant set of theological possibilities, it is our hope in this issue to bring a diversity of perspective to bear on some of the positions enacted in and as ‘polydoxy.’
— Mary-Jane Rubenstein, "Introducing Polydoxy" Modern Theology, vol 30 no 3, July 2014

Interesting volume of Modern Theology on Polydoxy -

On the Aleppo Codex

I am not sure I expected the story of the long-forgotten Aleppo Codex, the perfect copy of the Hebrew Bible, to occupy me for very long after the publication of my book on the subject in 2012. I thought I would soon be on to other things, which is the way journalism tends to work. But, as sometimes happens, the story has taken on a life of its own: a cover-up energized by the fallout from my book; the rejuvenated activities of a small group of codex loyalists ranging in age from 36 (me) to 82 (former Mossad case officer Rafi Sutton); and a recent edict issued against me by a prominent rabbi in New York. In short, the story of the Aleppo Codex is alive today as it has not been in many decades, and I believe an update on developments over the past two years is warranted for those who find themselves fascinated by the strange and ongoing saga of one of the most important manuscripts on earth.

Matti Friedman "The Continuing Mysteries of the Aleppo Codex," Tablet -

An interesting read for anyone interested in the history of codex books.

Kant Confusion

My answer is that, for Kant, to respect personhood requires us to respect or promote various more empirical features of human beings: their happiness, their choices and the natural purposes that (so Kant believes) they find within themselves. We must also act in ways that are expressive of our respect for that value of personhood, so we must not allow ourselves to behave in a supine or submissive manner and we must not demean or disparage others. Between them, I think, these different ways of respecting humanity in our persons cover Kant’s views about the different duties that we have...

Michael Rosen, "Kant Confusion," Times Literary Supplement -

Rosen's suggestion, it seems to me, echoes Levinas' appropriation of Kant in that he also collapses the transcendent into the ethical imperative to treat others as ends in themselves.