Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Personal Note of Sorts

I've had a rather nasty cough for almost two weeks. Yesterday, Friday, I went to the doctor. He diagnosed walking pneumonia, prescribed some drugs, and told me to come back in 7 days if I'm not better.



This means that I may not be up to a new post for a few days.







Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Death of God (Pt. I)







That was Nietzsche's declaration. Even if earlier both Heine and Hegel used the phrase. I'm not familiar enough with Hegel to speculate about what he might have meant by the phrase. Heine mentioned it once in The History of Philosophy in Germany.



Living in the 21st Century, though, "God is Dead" belongs to Nietzsche. Any precedents of usage are a curiosity at best: hints of some elusive profundity but conclusive of nothing.



It's an odd thing to declare something that is omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, unlimited and a host of other perfect attributes has given up the ghost, passed on, expired, is pushing up daisies, or has bought the farm. Most Christians are justifiably perplexed that someone could say such a thing of their Infinite Creator God of Life.



There are at least two possibilities here: 1)either Nietzsche was nuts, or 2) maybe he meant something else, something not easily divined from the words of the phrase. Obviously, I am a partisan of the second option. Otherwise, there would be little for me to explain. And, unsurprisingly for those who know me, I am rather fond of Nietzsche's habits of thought, even when he's wrong, out of his depth, or dissembling.



What did Nietzsche mean by the "Death of God"? I've gone full circle on the importance of the "Death of God" in Nietzsche. When I first struggled with Nietzsche, I still considered myself to be an evangelical Christian, so naturally enough I thought "The Death of God" was the most important element in his thought and writings. Later, after disabusing myself of a few theological inanities, it was all too apparent that "The Death of God" was important but hardly central to his over all thought. Now, I'm inclined to think that if someone understands the place of "The Death of God" in the corpus of his writings, life, and thought, then everything else is straightforward and even easy.



Even if some philosophical prodigy were to show Nietzsche was wrong in all particulars and all generalities of his philosophy, he would still represent a major move in the history of metaphysics and philosophy. The style and
method of most writing philosophy and of metaphysics prior to Nietzsche in particular is best described as terminological. Terminological means divesting words and concepts of meaning until only one unambiguous meaning and usage remains. That is the promise of terminology: one word, one concept, one meaning, one usage, one referent.



As I said, Nietzsche breaks with this way of writing philosophy. This led many of his early commentators to describe him as a philosopher-poet. The poetic devices of irony, symbolism, sarcasm, personification, and the like are prominent devices for not only expressing his philosophy but for its formulation. Consequently, the major, and many of the minor points and elements of Nietzsche's philosophy have a richness and abundance of meanings and significances, befuddling to anyone who associates conceptual precision with singularity of meaning and usage.



In other philosophers, however abstract and difficult a phrase or concept may be to grasp, once a concept is made one's own, usage is straightforward. Whatever Kant may have meant by the Categorical Imperative, one knows that its meaning was arrived at by a process of eliminating ambiguity. Whatever The Categorical Imperative might be, one can be sure that concept is unambiguous, unless Kant made a mistake, in which ambiguity is evidence of error and imprecise thinking.



Applying this line of thought to "God," in hindsight that God should die becomes inevitable. Nietzsche's only explanation of the meaning of "The Death of God" makes it easy enough to dismiss by overlooking the possibilities and implications of the phrase. "The Death of God" means that God is no longer believable.

Nietzsche is different, especially in his later works beginning with The Gay Science. Arguments are made using imagery, metaphor, irony, and other "poetic" devices. Consequently, his writings must be unpacked, watered down, and decompressed.



The Death of God is a shorthand. The phrase appears maybe six or seven times in Nietzsche's published writings. But considered as a shorthand not only that God is no longer believable, but the whole conception of another world and another reality at best becomes a pale shadow of this world, of this world that was denigrated and maligned for the sake of some other, better reality beyond this vale of tears.



It was while I was reading Supplementary Article No. 4, The Odes of Solomon,in his The Jesus Puzzle that I understood simply and clearly that the Death of God meant the end of otherworldly mysticism. I was struck by the strangeness of the belief in the superiority of that other world. What is strangest to me is how I doubt the author(s) of The Odes of Solomon or almost anyone else of that time would have described their knowledge of this other world as grounded in faith. The existence of this other world would be commonsense itself, and to doubt its existence would be madness, and possibly a sign of demonic possession.



The Death of God means that any doctrine, teaching, or exhortation that derives its truth and authority from God and, more importantly, from another world and order of existence, has failed. Such doctrines and moral teachings are no longer believable. The questions of why? To what end? and How come? all lack answers.



Nor is this a private, individual matter. How are institutions to be grounded, organized, and justified? What about moral and legal accountability? With our increasing knowledge of human physiology, it becomes increasingly clear that supernatural "explanations" of human behavior are superfluous [for one example see: Do Fruit Flies Have Free Will?]. Or consider the increasing sophistication of brain imaging in showing a purely physiological basis for moral reasoning, or that other primates exhibit moral behavior.

Our institutions, our sense of morality, our justifications to ourselves for what we do no longer provide guidance for the world in which we live. This is not the fault of science, or of reason, or of human sinfulness. There is a mismatch between our moral and spiritual inheritance and the world in which we live.



We no longer understand ourselves, nor do we know how to find happiness, or even whether happiness is something that may be sought after. Considered most broadly, it is hardly any wonder that there would be doubt, uncertainty, and fear about what is human and what is not.



As a political and historical matter, this translates into ethnic cleansing, death camps, and apartheid. Further it would appear that any definition of humanity is framed so as exclude some types and not others. Even partisans of the broadest definitions of humanity have their doubts as to whether Eichmann, Milosovic, or Hitler are human. Definitions of humanity presume that some moral, non-biological component of humanity is essential and highly privileged. That humanity would have an essential moral/ethical component means that not every biological specimen of homo sapiens shares in this humanity to the same degree.



However human nature may be defined, human nature presumes the existence of some other nonhuman other from whom human embodiments of morality and virtue may be distinguished. Previously, this non-human other was God, now it is Albanians for Serbs, Jews for Nazis, Kurds for Turks, Shiias for Sunnis, and so on. One conclusion that may be drawn from our brief, albeit brutal, history of ethnic cleansing and genocide is straightforward enough: identity presumes some other, a "not-me" and a "not-us." Without God, humanity is indefinable. Perhaps this unarticulated need for God lurks behind the belief in space aliens whether among us, or out among the stars?



Traditional faith in God obscured a basic fact of being human: homo sapiens is a social animal. The Christian God with His Day of Judgment meant that each individual as an individual would be judged for his acts, sins, and words, and his alone. The chasm between individual human and individual human was taken to be absolute.



Being a social animal means, as foolish as it may sound in the 21st Century, that the place of human beings in the world is with other human beings. That no one seems to have understood this before, I can only attribute to theological tomfoolery. Human beings are only with the rarest exceptions found among other human beings. Those rarest exceptions, feral children illustrate the truth of this observation: they demonstrate no inborn goodness, no genius uncorrupted by civil society, or any other desirable qualities.



The Death of God then means a loss and a gain. The loss of a basic and fundamental sense of the moral agency as intrinsic to being human. Because our ethical, moral, and legal categories presume moral agency as inherent to our humanity, we no longer understand ourselves very well, either as individuals or collectively. Confusion reigns, and many desire most fervently a way back to how things used to be. The gain is liberation: we don't know, for good or evil, what we are.

The horror and wonder of it all is how strange we have become to ourselves.


[For my discussion of The Jesus Puzzle see here.]

Friday, May 18, 2007

Another Take on the Last Moment of Innocence, or Two Different Conceptions of Self

I propose two conceptions of self. One essentially static, and one essentially dynamic. Morality as a set of commandments which one obeys or not. Moral Law as Christians argue for it is unchanging and eternal. Accompanying this is an unchanging residue that lies beyond the vicissitudes of a person's emotional life.



This thought in the last paragraph should be clarified. It's more an attempt to give an outline to a thought project: what conception of self accompanies and is implied by conceptions of moral law? For instance, if The Moral Law is conceived as eternal and unchanging, doesn't this strongly imply that change, development, and even growth as a person is immoral and consequently forbidden?



In the Age of Oprah and the omnipresent and naive belief that the truth will of itself prove liberating, it is not immediately obvious that growth as a person could be immoral. There is a phrase that I like, "going through a phase." If we allow that an individual can grow as a person, there will be situations in which transcending one's limits means moving beyond the limits set forth by whatever morality holds local sway. What is morality but setting limits: THOU SHALT NOT... And if the internal logic of a person's passions, desires, and drives require going one step further?



I guess one could appeal to some version Leibniz's monads with their eternally preexisting harmony to exclude the possibility of any real conflict, so as to rule out any possibility that human good might conflict with Morality? But wouldn't the requirement of a necessary harmony between what is good for human beings and moral law in the end mean the same old conflict: If there is conflict between the logic of a person's passions and the demands of Moral Law, then it is always the individual who is in the wrong and must make sacrifices. Or as I wrote earlier: personal growth is immoral.



The irrelevance of Moral Law shows itself for me in the hatred shown it towards ambiguity, Vieldeutigkeit, irony, and playfulness.



I spoke of two conceptions of self in first paragraph. What is the second conception? It is old hat to speak of development and personal growth. The flip-side of development and personal growth is autonomy. The Greek roots of autonomy mean literally self-law. Autonomy means integration, ordering, assigning degrees importance, and maintaining harmony. Just to be clear, harmony doesn't mean a lack of discord. Musically speaking, the more profound the harmony the more profound the discord contained within.



A day comes when a person who is incidentally a Christian makes the painful discovery that that phase of his life has drawn to a close. It is now time to put away childish things.




Monday, May 14, 2007

Another post from Julia Sweeney's Forum

[I posted the following on Julia Sweeney's forum. I have made some minor edits for readability.]

Arrogance and atheism. Why do Atheists seem to many Christians so unforgivably arrogant?



I remember way back when I was an Evangelical -- it was about 27 or 28 years ago. I remember being struck by the audacity, the wanton recklessness of the atheists, nonbelievers, and assorted non-Christians that I encountered. It struck me as nothing short of hubristic arrogance to even dare to have one's own thoughts and opinions about life, the universe, and everything.



It was only later that I came to see the arrogance of those non-Christians differently. To someone who is systematically taught to devalue his own thoughts and opinions for the sake of some orthodoxy or another, a modicum of self-confidence in one's own abilities will appear to be nothing other than arrogance.



"Arrogance of atheists" is the flip-side of something often asserted of Christians and of all believers: believers are reluctant to form their own beliefs and opinions without first checking with the authorities. Christianity consists of interlocking beliefs and doctrines all of which work to devalue (and even slander) without any explicit acknowledgment that forming one's own beliefs and opinions is dangerous.



And before someone tries to explain that God guarantees Christian self-confidence, let me say that that is nonsense. The greater the glory attributed to God, the less that remains for human beings, until all good flows from the Deity, and all that is reprehensible flows from human beings. That is what the doctrine of The Fall of Man teaches.



If evidence for these assertions is needed, consider the near panic Christians fall into when atheism is seriously discussed: Man without God must mean a celebration of all that is horrid, immoral, and reprehensible in Human Beings, and the denial of God can only mean the denial and destruction of all that is good, noble, and admirable in Human Beings.



In a nutshell: typically "atheist arrogance" is another way of saying "Christians lack self-confidence and don't like thinking for themselves about important things."




Sunday, May 13, 2007

Some Updates

I changed the layout. Mainly because I got bored. I rewrote my profile, and I changed the template and layout. I also removed the tags from the posts that had them. Since I hadn't been consistent in my use of tags, I didn't feel they would be helpful. And, I'm at a loss as to which tags to use.



I also uploaded a picture. The figure is laughing and saying, "Satan is an anagram of Santa." It's my own trivial way of making fun of all those Christians who justify their hostility towards Santa Claus with "Santa is an anagram of Satan." The implication being, of course, that it is Santa who is the malevolent Lord of this world.

I will use this picture as an avatar on forums. So, if you see it, you know it's me.

If anyone has any suggestions for any other changes, I'll take them under advisement.




Saturday, May 12, 2007

epigrams and one-liners

1. The Christian God is a personal god because he takes shit personal.



2. Interpreting the Bible for Christians: explaining that Jesus really meant something else.



3. There are two types of Christians: those that follow Jesus and those that follow the ex-Pharisee Paul. But only one gets crucified.



4. If according to Christian teaching, we nonbelievers will suffer eternal torment in the afterlife, then is not the Evangel, The Good News, precisely that there is no afterlife?



5. If laughter at something is forbidden, rational inquiry "uninformed" by revelation is also forbidden.



6. Optimists never refer to themselves as realists.



7. He was the kind of pessimist that wanted a medal for getting out of bed in the morning.



8. Is understanding your problem simply marking it on your psychic map as terra incognita? Profundity does not mean wallowing in the impotence of one's understanding—unless one is a Christian.



9. Church politics is particularly nasty. Christians close their eyes to unchecked egoism and ambition in their pews: God's chosen representative on earth can brook no opposition.



10. There is no right to ignorance, even though evangelicals teach otherwise.



11. He argued himself into his faith, then argued himself out of it.



12. If this life is a test from God, it's good that He loves us. Imagine what life with its diseases, natural disasters, birth defects, genocides, child abuse, and violence would be like if He didn't?






Friday, May 11, 2007

Addendum

Christians, or anyone else with "firm convictions," when they speak of integrity, rational, and open-ended inquiry remind me of nothing so much as of a 8 or 9 year old boy delivering a speech on the evils of marriage. He's heard the adults around him talk about marriage and women. He's no doubt intelligent, even insightful on occasion; however, can anyone but another child not burst out laughing at his little speech? It's the lack of firsthand experience, and even a matter of ability and preparation.



Christians with their fear of putting their beliefs and themselves at risk make themselves laughable. That the Gospel would appear as "foolishness to the Greeks" is probably the only honest part of the New Testament. And in valuing inquiry, rationality, thinking for thinking's sake, does this not make a person Greek?



It is hardly persuasive that Christians have conjured up self-serving rationalizations about letting the little children lead, or that unless one become as a child. Being the father of a 3 and 5 year old, being as a child means asking questions, endless spontaneity, and even more an astonishing lack of any fear of consequences. Qualities, incidentally, Christians typically lack.



But I digress. A religion that prides itself on comfort cannot but end with conformity, laziness, and timidity as virtues.



No doubt there are some small minority of Christians who also find the timidity and addiction to comfort of "their brothers and sisters in Christ" contemptible. I can imagine some of these renouncing the comforts and amenities of civilized Christian life. The analogizing Christians to used-car salesmen would not hold for these.



And just to be clear: I recognize that comparing Christians to used-car salesmen is an ad hominem argument. However, the comparison depends on numerous similarities between Christians and used-car salesmen to make a point: the integrity of Christians is highly suspect.



A Christian would no doubt make the counter-argument that atheists are equally vulnerable on this same point. However, there are no atheist ministers, no atheist Sunday Schools, no weekly Wednesday night atheist meetings, and the list goes on and on. There may be humanist organizations that meet on a regular basis; however, I serious doubt whether any of these place a great emphasis on doctrinal purity or would cease social intercourse with a member who had decided to leave the organization.



There is only one argument that I can see to justify and pull the fangs of the argument of integrity. There is a happy congruence between the needs of the human heart and the truth. The universe has just the right form and arrangement so as to gratify the deepest human needs. What this just so arrangement also requires in order to overcome the argument from lack of integrity that this congruence even extend to regular church attendance.



In the end the assertion of congruence is the flip-side, or rather denial, of the argument of Evil: the fact of evil and suffering at best makes the idea a Good and All-powerful Deity shamelessly escapist. Consequently, congruence between the way and character of existence and human needs and desires is no less escapist.



* * *

A passing thought that I had today about the integrity argument. It seems perversely fitting that a religion that oftentimes prides itself on having prostitutes and tax-collectors as its earliest adherents would have difficulties with the integrity and truth. Prostitutes and tax-collectors belief in a quid pro quo: payment for services rendered. It's not surprising that Christians expect their rewards either for good behavior in some varieties; or in more fundamentalist forms of Christianity great rewards are promised for bowing down & licking the dust of their Lord & Master.




"Atheist Fanaticism" Revisited

My exchanges with Christians illustrate well enough that Christians aren't serious when discussing questions of faith. Why do I say such a thing? Christians certainly feel themselves to be serious, more serious than any mere unbeliever could ever imagine because they, and they alone, know what is truly at stake. Yada yada yada about eternal torment, Judgment Day, etc.



A Christian is not serious when discussing his faith, because (s)he is a Christian first and a seeker of truth and wholeness of mind second. A Christian expects his listeners to put themselves at risk of changing their beliefs while not putting their own beliefs at risk as well.



Consequently, for anyone valuing inquiry that is not adverse to the risks and dangers of actually discovering something unexpected, discourse with a Christian is mostly a waste of time. I say "mostly" only because there is some value to investigating the intellectual and spiritual acrobatics to which Christians subject themselves. That is if one has a taste for dramedy [drama + comedy].



Incidentally, I make an exception for my more mischievous moods. I have been known to play with Christians in proselytizing mode. They're not going to change their minds, so why should I bother to make-believe that they might? Or treat anything that they might say as being on a higher level than anything a used-car salesman might say?



Just to be clear, I will on occasion use Christian proselytizers to remind myself of how clever I can sometimes be. And more than once I, atheist that I am, had to help Christians bear witness to Christ and help them explain the Gospel and point them to Bible passages that fit better than the ones they were using. I felt really good about myself afterwards. If that isn't a good deed, then what is?



This attitude might strike some as "fanatical," well it's not. But these are usually the same people who aren't used thinking very hard about anything. A Christian has much (or little) integrity of opinion and intellect as a used car salesman. They're both trying to sell something and neither can be trusted for that reason. They'll do and say just about anything to close the deal.



Both have a strong personal interests in persuading their listeners. A Christian's opinions form the basis of his social life and often livelihood. And those of us who have suffered the loss of friends and so-called "brothers and sisters in Christ," not too mention love, respect, and even contact with family, because of unwisely voiced doubts know exactly what I mean.



Ostracism is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of faith. It may well be the most powerful.






Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Canary in a Coal Mine, or Why Gay Rights Matter

Why would a straight white male give two hoots about whether or not homosexuals are treated fairly?

I can only answer the question for my own case. I am white. I am straight. I also do not fit common notions of American male masculinity. I don't like watching sports. I never liked hunting and guns, not that my Father didn't try. I don't feel a need for large vehicles. I don't recall ever feeling empowered through the wielding of phallic-shaped objects or phallic substitutes. I am a stay at home dad. I like to cook. I am happily raising two lovely daughters. Left to my own devices I tend towards becoming a homebody.



Even if I am a heterosexual male, my sense of gender identity is hardly mainstream. And there's the problem. Homophobia and homophobic practices and beliefs serve primarily to extend uniformity and conformity. Their effectiveness rests on fear mongering: they propagate the fear that standing out and being different from locally held standard is unforgivable, disastrous, and morally reprehensible.



As a thought experiment, what would happen to me, a non-standard American male, if homophobic beliefs and practices were to succeed in eradicating homosexuality? They guardians and champions of conformity and mediocrity would need new outsiders, new exemplars of moral reprehensibility to condemn and persecute. And I fear that I would become one of their new outsiders and exemplars of moral reprehensibility.



So, why do I think that fair treatment of homosexuals is a good idea? I want that line of conformist persecution to be as far away from me as possible. If homosexuals are treated fairly, then the likelihood that I or persons who have non-standard gender identities will become the object the new outsiders undeserving of fair treatment becomes negligible.



The further away from me that line of unacceptable beliefs and practices is drawn, the better. The line drawn farther away means it is that much more unlikely that I will either suffer discrimination or even be forced out of simple prudence to concern myself with these things. Hence, the metaphor in the title of this entry: Canary in A Coal Mine.



I find it ironic that many of the same persons who decry homosexuality in the name of family values are the most concerned about the peer pressures that their children must suffer. The example these family-value types set for their children? Peer pressure and social conformity are perfectly acceptable IF dressed up in morality and concern for "the children."




An Aside about Kierkegaard

This evening I read Kierkegaard for Beginners. I think it was the first time that I ever read anything about SK of which I felt I understood something. And that's not to say that I liked what I understood. This might also be why I've always been both drawn to & repelled by Kierkegaard. Maybe I have a sympathetic antipathy & an antipathetic sympathy to him. Kierkegaard is one of those very few thinkers that I find myself coming back to every few years. I can't quite make my peace with him: either to let him be, or to figure out what it is that bugs the shit out of me about him, to use a colloquial expression.








On reading through Kierkegaard for Beginners, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I have read at one time or another and at how much of it I remember.



It was an odd feeling, remembering when I was going through my religious crisis. Looking back today, I would say that I dodged a bullet. On reading it, I feel so very lucky that I didn't understand any more when I was deciding whether to throw myself into Nietzsche's writings or into Kierkegaard's.



The morbidity and guilt that fume about much of his writings could easily have had a seductive effect at times in my life. Suffering and pain, psychic pain in particular, promise profundity: knowing things to which the less afflicted are oblivious. De omnibus dubitandum est. Maybe if he had been a bit more suspicious of his mistrust of pleasure and an unacknowledged faith that painful experiences simply the most profound experiences possible. In which case, it looks too much like "I, Soren, suffer. I must suffer. Since I cannot choose not to suffer, I choose to suffer even more. Thus, I am free. The true manifestation of my freedom is my suffering more than I would otherwise." He reminds me of nothing so much as one of Nietzsche's ascetic priests in The Genealogy of Morals in the passage of how N explains how the ascetic priest saves the will.



Having become a political philosopher more than anything else, I'm mistrustful of an emphasis on an overly inward turn. The putative recipient of faith [for him that is "GOD"] can easily be substituted for something else, oh, say Orwell's Big Brother. I don't think it is a historical accident that existentialism was most widespread at the same time as totalitarianism.



Kiekegaard and totalitarianism? Of course, Kierkegaard wouldn't have meant such a thing. The good morals of the human being who is also a thinker & theorist. But, there is an experience and experiences behind his leap of faith. And for us atheists, the emphasis again falls on the subject. The object to which the faith & the leap are directed may vary. (Re)read the end of 1984 in this light, with the main character's discovery of the "right inward relationship" to Big Brother.



I think the parallel, while blasphemous to K scholars, is also
undeniable. It doesn't explain anything, but it does relate K to some of the important events and movements of the 19th Century. In addition, K stands in the fideist tradition of Christian theology: faith & revelation are more important that reason. Second, fideist theologies have a special place for authority & submission to authority. When the faith is merely a matter of the appropriate inwardness of the parson & parishioner so that they can feel themselves to have faith, life can go on pretty much as before, but now with a clear conscience. In essence, the reliance on faith means that not everyone is equal in faith, and therefore, trust in submission to the authority of those with greater faith is required. Of course, K probably didn't want that, but in a broader sociological view of things figures like K are integral & necessary to organized institutional religion. Considered posthumously, K is very much one of Weber's charismatic leaders.



I would expect that in a largely Lutheran country, a good deal of popular Nazi writing would have been about being in the right (inward) relationship with the Fuehrer. But that's just speculation.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Speaking for Eichmann, Or The Banality of Good Intentions

Hannah Arendt used Eichmann as a lens by which to understand better the conditions that made totalitarianism possible. She attended his trial in Israel. She was forcefully struck by his use of banalities and clichés to explain and justify his actions and policies in the Nazi government.



Specifically, Adolf Eichmann was for her a perfect example of an otherwise intelligent human being who did not think. He calculated, he reckoned, but he gave no indication that he was capable of reflection, critical or otherwise, upon his own actions and words. For the textually curious, she gave the most extended treatment of Eichmann in Eichmann in Jerusalem, but the best explanation of why Eichmann matters is to be found in her introduction to The Life of the Mind.



For all of her insight and eloquence, Arendt never once provides an account of how someone might have become thoughtless like Eichmann. This should strike anyone as a troubling paradox: how can a putative absence, in this case, of thought and reflection, be the result of the exercise of reason and thought?



Two value judgments suffice to explain Eichmann's thoughtlessness. The first is that the absence of any specific intent to do wrong, evil, or hurt is desirable. The exact term is unimportant. The consequence of this high valuation of an absence of bad intent is the temptation to conclude that because one is unable to form an intent to bad things one is therefore "good." Why? Because one has done nothing wrong and cannot even conceive of doing something morally wrong.



Speaking ironically, this can be attributed to an over valuation of having a clear conscience. One gets in the habit of not thinking about one's bad and socially unacceptable impulses. This all ends with an inability to consider that someone else might think differently about one's actions, words, and justifications.



The second is more difficult to phrase so succinctly or maybe it's a consequence of the first judgment. This second is an absence. More specifically, it is an absence of courage. Or an absence of confidence in oneself. Or an unwillingness to recognize risk in human affairs as inevitable. Or its a lack of love: there's nothing in this world that merits defense and protection at the cost of one's own safety. But there is a great deal to be fearful of losing.



Taken together, these two judgments result in a faith in necessity: one must do what one must do in order to survive, get ahead, or some other self-serving euphemism. BUT one's are judged and evaluated not how it affects other people, but according to what one intended.



These reflections lead to an unexpected insight: living with and around other people implies an obligation and expectation of considering and taking into account other people: what they will likely think and the effects they will probably suffer.



This is consideration of others is not determinative of what one should or should not do. This consideration of others requires the recognition that how one would like one's own actions to be judged is just one possible way of judging among others.



I suspect part of the belief in the Last Judgment was a recognition that the those intentions accompanying one's life and deeds were to be judged as well and were by no means decisive. One's words, deeds, life, and intentions would be judged by another.



The above can perhaps be summed up in that Eichmann and the little Eichmann's that surround us wish for their actions to be judged not by how their acts, deeds, and words affect the people around them, but they believe that they should be judged and evaluate their own acts, deeds, and words by the ends to which they seek to achieve.






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