Taylor og Grayling om tro og religion

HT Hallvard Jørgensen.

Charles Taylor er en kjent kanadisk, katolsk filosof, mest kjent for sitt arbeid på sekularisering og multikulturalisme. A. C. Grayling er en filosof i den britisk-analytisk tradisjonen, ofte assosiert med den britiske humanetiker-bevegelsen og nyateisme. Følgende dialog er hentet fra dette intervjuet i Prospect Magazine.

Les også:
Godhet, moralske ateister og forvirra britiske humanister

Utdrag start.  Uthevingene er Hallvard sine.

DAVID GOODHART How did religion come into your life? Was it always there?

CHARLES TAYLOR No, it wasn’t always there. At a certain moment, I got interested in God. My background is very varied: my mother’s family was Catholic, so we went to mass; my father was Anglican; and my grandfather was kind of Voltairian, anti-clerical and so on. So there was no single model to cleave to. Our parish was St Viateur d’Outremont—a very special parish. I was very impressed by the tremendous oratorical quotes of the sermons. So I learned my rhetoric from that. But no, I didn’t have a faith that came from the Bible.

I think the really decisive thing in my religious development was that around 1950-52, a great deal of new French-written theology—which eventually inspired Vatican II—was circulating through the media in Quebec, Cité Libre and so on. I read all this stuff: it gave me a sense of what I felt, what I wanted to believe. At that point, it was a hopeless minority theology. Later, to my astonishment, it became the official story of Vatican II.

AC GRAYLING Your acceptance of those views must have been prepared by some sort of antecedent mindset. It was surprising that you didn’t choose the Voltairian.

CT I don’t understand it now; I certainly didn’t understand it then. I guess I have a more coherent story now—that there is some very profound level of human life and human potential transformation which the Voltairians had no clue about. When I read Hume or Gibbon now, I’m very beguiled by the style and so on, but then I think:how can you so totally miss the point of what you’re discussing? Take Hume on miracles: he really seems to think that the human approach to the world is that of a detached observer counting up the likelihood of the evidence—which, of course, is true of his epistemology too.

AG But isn’t it possible that when you are planting a garden, so to speak, you have to do some clearance work first? To deploy a good argument against the rationality of faith or belief in miracles might be part of the clearing. Then there comes the planting, and the very rich tradition of what you might call realistic thought since antiquity has been more or less ignored because it hasn’t been the majority position in history. That’s a much less discussed resort for thinking about the sources of the good and about ethics, and you’re dismissing it. But thinking that Gibbon and Hume are giving us the whole story and not just part of it misses the big point.

CT You see them as ground-clearers. Who are the planters?

AG Well, we could begin with Aristotle and we could trudge on through Stoic ethics. There’s a very profound tradition of humanistic ethics. Why doesn’t that catch your imagination?

CT It does, but I see it as a very different universe from Hume. For instance, Aristotle has an understanding of us as embodied minds, embodied agencies that Hume has been “Cartesianised” away from. In other words,the Humean idea that I could object to faith with my understanding, with some inner intensive mentoring, is un-Aristotelian and un-Stoic.

AG I’m glad you’ve come back to the epistemology point because it’s an important theme in your work. But to stick with the idea of the rationality of faith. Consider a sort of minimal account of rationality, an evidence-based account that says if you’ve got wet in the past it’s rational to take an umbrella with you next time. How do people who have a religious commitment of some kind stop themselves from believing anything for which there is no empirical evidence: fairies, for example, or goblins?

CT What do you mean by empirical evidence? What always astonishes me when I hear people talk like you is that the term “empirical evidence” seems to you to have as obvious an extension as the term “glass.” I challenge that. For Hume there is no empirical evidence for the reality of God. That can only work out if you have a highly improbable and constructive notion of empirical evidence; as one writer once put it, this appallingly contemplative view of the world.

What if the real point of us, as Aristotle thought, as Merleau-Ponty thought, is that we are embodied minds, that things impact us? Then it’s a very different notion from empiricism. What if we’re also beings with an understanding of a moral world and the deeper significance of things?

AG I’ll explain what I mean by empirical evidence. If I was to make an inventory of the things on the surface of this table and I included in it things that no scientific instrument could detect, let alone what my body senses, then my empirical evidence for their presence on the table would be incomplete whereas my faith in the butter and cups of tea and so on would be very well grounded.


AG The point is that this constrains the sort of things one says one believes in. So if somebody believes in angels, archangels, because of a commitment to a traditional religious outlook, what stops them there? What controls their disbelief in fairies, pixies and gnomes? It’s a serious point.

CT Now here we are dealing with a very important issue where a certain kind of evidence is always going to be lacking. But there is a bad kind of epistemology, which is to decide, before you see what the issues are that interest you, that only certain kinds of evidence, like the kinds of evidence and the considered questions on what’s on this table, are going to count. In that kind of case you’re just never going to be able to resolve these kinds of issues I’m talking about. We’re going to start cheating and resolve them on very bad grounds like the following: all views other than mine involve taking account of bits of evidence that are other than the things on this table; therefore, they are all alone.

AG These are very subjective bits of evidence, but you think we should hold on to them. They are rather subjective in character, or emotional maybe, non-rational anyway.

CT Wow! These three words don’t mean the same as each other and don’t mean one single thing. Take emotions. There are certain kinds of things that you can perceive only if you are also perceiving with your emotional reactions. If you then align that with “non-rational,” you’ve made a huge leap—the leap being that whatever involves emotional perception is irrational.

AG I didn’t say irrational, but non-rational.

CT Non-rational.

AG You’ve never written as a philosopher of religion. Yet you have written about the philosophy of religion and you are very religious in your philosophy. Why is that?

CT Well, have I not? At Oxford in the 1970s I was an examiner for the DPhil in the philosophy of religion—it was so jejune and uninteresting. It was questions like: what are the proofs of the existence of God and do they work and does God have many meanings? It was dried-out analytic philosophy, pointless in operation. The kinds of things we are talking about now—the nature of reasoning and so on—get right into issues that are central to the philosophy of religion. I’ve been absent from, let’s say, the “Oxford DPhil syllabus philosophy of religion,” because nobody who has any interest in anything would buy that.


Utdrag slutt.

Det er interessant å se hvordan Taylor avkler Graylings heller naive empirisme, og skyter ned selv hans forsøk på ta klassisk aristotelisme og stoisisme til inntekt for sitt eget syn. Naiv, fordi den er utilstrekkelig – ufullstendig i seg selv, og faller for mange av de samme punktene som i min kritikk av scientisme. Kort fortalt – den er en non-starter.

Men det er også interessant å se hvordan Taylor avviser analytisk religionsfilosofi som uinteressant. Antakeligvis fordi det virker abstrakt og fjernt fra vanlige menneskers levde liv. Forståelig nok.

Det må henge sammen. Tro og fornuft. Deler og helhet. Lære og levd liv. Da kommer vi vanskelig utenom å prate om tradisjon og kultur. Viktig ting å bli minnet på.

Les også:
Den estetiske troen
Kirken – fornuftens fanebærer