Several years ago I began writing about theology to bridge the gaps between my past generation and the newer, younger generations of today. Little did I realize to what extent my faith group had lagged behind in this effort... nor how little yielded they were in plumbing the depths of the gap that has since arisen over my brief 30-year span since leaving its traditions and regalia. Thinking back, I suppose that even in my day we were too little concentrated on maintaining relevancy to the generations to come.... Mostly, I think, we were more interested in inducting future generations into our way of thinking, rather than preparing them to think independently as future Christian exegetes.
However, as secular modernism has swept through the church another counter movement has arisen known as (anti-secular) postmodernism. Though slow to grasp its formative disruption, I have since reawakened to examine what this has meant for the church of the 21st Century... and have steadily been writing about it these past two years. First to deconstruct my modernistic churched past during my first six months of blogging - both theologically as well as my socio-religious group. Then I went about trying to reconstruct it based upon postmodernism's more contemporary insights which has involved these past two years of writing. Now, at the last, I have come to examining where we might go from here into a kind of post-postmodernism (but for short I'll call it postmodernism). But to do that I must continue to examine modernistic thought - but at its philosophical level and no longer on its pragmatic, church, or theological levels. Thus in today's article I chanced upon Charles Taylor (see Part 2 of this post) and came to understand Taylor's connection to this summer's past study on Radical Theology (which I have yet to explain except to say that I will in future commentaries when I begin to examine it).
I must first begin by stating my interest in moving beyond my Reformed tradition's usage of creedal formulas as a way to draw nearer to God. Though helpful as statements of faith, it is also being used by the church to protect its Reformed traditions about God, man, and the church, without allowing further examination of orthodoxy beyond its modernistic expressions. For myself, I have found the gospel of Jesus to be lost in today's societal postmodernism. And in an effort to better speak my Christian faith to the generation of the 21st Century I have steadily been working towards a re-expression of Christianity through the language of Emergent Theology and Postmodern Orthodoxy.
As such, I am also finding a postmodern, anthropologic hermeneutic to be helpful in discerning how our words have replaced God's words in modernism's regress of biblical truth. Belatedly, the church is beginning to wake up and recognize this error as it reacts by seeking God in its newer liturgies and songs, theologies and worship, prayers and recitations of God's faithfulness, goodness, mercy and love. Which also means that the Protestant and Catholic traditions must now decide how to relax their past doctrines and as they transition forwards.
What began all this was my belated realization that my Reformed tradition had spawned two separate thought streams - one of secularity (as shown in Part II of today's article), and the other as Analytic thought (using logical positivistic thought and creedal syllogisms for theologic formulation) based upon the Enlightenment's perchance for exquisite statements about God:
[Wikipedia] Analytic philosophy is often understood in contrast to other philosophical traditions, most notably continental philosophy, and also Indian philosophy, Thomism, and Marxism.
Similar to building a computer language that uses a defined syntax to structure human ideas and language, so analytic philosophy goes about its task of restructuring human language into less ambiguous syntax and more meaning-infilled dialogue. A good example of this would be our early days in geometry where we worked our lessons towards a solution based upon mathematical axioms and geometric laws. Similarly, Reformed (and perhaps, Catholic) theology has leaned into this direction, though not wholly, but in its most ideal expressions of its dogmas using pithy creedal confessions and theologically-informed syntax to create fully formed ideas of Christian expression. Expressions that have become the standard bearers of biblical truth against the fluidity or the narrative language of the Bible which we read and study. Thus compiling and composing it into its own religious language and set of instructions for worship and belief, mission and living.
Opposite to this endeavor is that of Continental Philosophy (begun in Germany and France and now transposed across Europe, the UK, and North America). Continental philosophy includes the following movements:
[Wikipedia] German idealism, phenomenology, existentialism (and its antecedents, such as the thought of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche), hermeneutics, structuralism, post-structuralism, French feminism, psychoanalytic theory, and the critical theory of the Frankfurt School and related branches of Western Marxism.
Here one works at deriving meaning from words and human thought forms as relative to the speaker or to the group. To understandably allow for the ambiguity and syntactical fluidity of the human language as an imprecise expression of ideas through narrative and story, experience and opinion. As such, movements like historical criticism, or redactive thought, have sought to examine why a biblical passage was written as it was; by a speaker measured within his/her's own cultural and time periods; what those time periods may have meant for that speaker, or to that society they spoke to; the meaning of the redactive placement of biblical passages and texts within-and-outside of the Bible's historical commentaries and subjective imposition; how those passages and texts carried meaning to later societies as they embraced those words in newer ways - even as we now embrace them through our own private readings and joined church experiences.
Out of this was born Liberal Christianity with an emphasis on the interpretive exegesis of the biblical text as against a more literalistic reading. A literal reading that assumes the bible may be read as one would read a computer code - without historic, linguistic, or cultural ambiguity - by using reasoned logic for theological interpretation. To the degree that interpretation bore well with conservative orthodoxy it was accepted... but to the degree that it diverged form cherished church traditions it was not. Thus liberal theology took a quick dive towards either neo-orthodoxy or paganism and the orthodox church assumed it was ok to disregard textual study and interpretation.
Asked another way, we might ask "What then is the orthodox church's philosophical tradition based upon? It must have one, doesn't it?" Well yes, it seems that it does, having been steadily built eon-after-eon primarily upon either Aristotelian thought, with its emphasis on deduction and investigation of concrete, and particular, things and situations. Or upon Platonism which affirms the existence of abstract objects. Objects that "exist" in a "third realm distinct both from the sensible external world and from the internal world of consciousness, and is the opposite of nominalism.
Notably then, the Christian orthodox tradition arose from Western Greek thought as opposed to its Eastern compliment that kept to its Semitic and African roots through the time of Roman imperialism (in an admixture of West meets East). The Medieval period of the church saw two traditions arise around two primary figures: that of the 4th Century Early Church Father Augustine, who favored Neo-Platonism; and that of the 13th Century Scholasticist, Thomas Aquinas, who favored Aristotle. From Aquinas flowed the philosophies of naturalism (sic, Natural Theology) and Thomism (named after the same):
[Wikipedia] St. Thomas Aquinas believed that truth is true wherever it is found, and thus consulted Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Muslim philosophers. Specifically, he was a realist (i.e., he, unlike the skeptics, believed that the world can be known as it is). He largely followed Aristotelian terminology and metaphysics, and wrote comprehensive commentaries on Aristotle, often affirming Aristotle's views with independent arguments. Thomas respectfully referred to Aristotle simply as "the Philosopher." He also adhered to some neoplatonic principles, for example that "it is absolutely true that there is first something which is essentially being and essentially good, which we call God, ... [and that] everything can be called good and a being, inasmuch as it participates in it by way of a certain assimilation..."
And so, in summary address, we might say (as respecting only the Western traditions of the church and not its Near-Eastern nor Asian influences) that classic church orthodoxy has been built around Greek thought - primarily that of either Aristotle (384-322 BC) or Plato (428-328 BC). It is from these traditions that the 15th Century Renaissance and 16th Century Reformation arose. To this tradition was an action (the Enlightenment period which gave birth to Modernism) and a reaction (the Continental philosophy of German Idealism which gave birth to Liberal Theology). From which resulted a synthesis between Analytic Philosophy on the one hand, and Continental Philosophy on the other. Each presently couched within a postmodern reflective period as they intersected and bisected with one another.
For myself, I am more interested in Postmodern Christianity's embrace of Continental Philosophy which is giving birth to a more progressive area of study known as Radical Theology. A developing tradition that relies on Continental Philosophy as begun under the Kantian and Hegelian traditions. But in the form that I wish to address, it will be conservative as respecting both (1) past church traditions and historic doctrine, and (2) faithful exegesis to the Bible.... Of course, exegesis will spin around one's idea of interpretation, or hermeneutic - either preferencing secularity or anti-secularity as found respectively in modern and postmodern thought. However each enterprise will be done in the hopes of not straying overmuch into the deep waters of philosophical thought unmoored from the deeper waters of biblical witness. Additionally, I also wish to utilize a neo-orthodox approach to liberal theology that emphasizes God's Word over our own words when properly separated out from church dogmas and restrictive religious folklore. Meaning that I wish to push the envelop of modernistic church interpretive tradition built on Greek/Reformed/Catholic thought to one built on an admixture of Jewish/Semitic thought (e.g., the New Perspective of Paul: see sidebar) combined with a postmodern, emergent perspective. And, as an added direction, I would like to speak to a Christian faith that is apocalyptic and accompanied by a Weak Theological perspective of God (see sidebar Index - Phase III). This last effort must necessarily include Relational-Process Theism and Open Theism (sic, see sidebars again). In conclusion, I will leave below several helpful charts of philosophy's inter-relations, along with an article related to those charts, pertaining to the importance and centrality of one's philosophy to politics, economy, and the social-community life of society.
August 9, 2013
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The complete history of philosophy
visualized in one graph
Simon Raper of Drunks&Lampposts has compiled a mesmerizing graph that charts the entire history of philosophy. By extracting information from the "influenced by" sections in Wikipedia, he was able to visually convey an overarching web of philosophical traditions. And by adding extra weight to the most influential philosophers, Raper was able to produce a compelling graph that offers some fascinating insights into the formation and development of various schools of philosophical thought.
The first thing you notice when looking at the graph is that there are six primary philosophers who take center stage in terms of their influence, namely Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche (the last one being a bit of a surprise — though Nietzsche's writings have certainly returned to vogue in recent years).
Conspicuous by his absence is Descartes, but Raper offers a possible explanation: The chart only measures direct influences, and it's likely that Descartes's tremendous contribution has trickled through second and third degree associations. Alternately, it could also be the fault of strictly using associations established by Wikipedia editors.
Other highly influential philosophers (rightly) include Kierkegaard, Husserl, Heidegger, Leibniz, Rousseau, Hume, Wittgenstein, and even Noam Chomsky.
The graph also shows a certain amount of "clumping" that one would expect — a logical grouping of philosophers within their respective traditions, and in close relation to their precursors and eventual offshoots. The ancient philosophers are nicely represented in green at the top-left corner. The continental tradition is shown through the initial grouping of Hegel and Nietzsche, leading into Heidegger and Sarte, and then into the "isms" of the 20th century. The graph also shows the analytic school of Frege, Russell and Wittgenstein, along with the American pragmatists.
Click to Enlarge
For Original Charts website - Click here