philosoraptor42: (Default)
Okay, just thought I'd quickly check whether any of my posts come up when you google "Conor Cunningham". It looks like it's the second page before any of my stuff turns up (but heck, I haven't written much. I've written more on John Milbank and it takes three pages for me to turn up there).

Anyway, I clicked one of the links where they were asking for reviewers for the book. (Not because I want to review it for them, but because it surprised me to see people begging for book reviewers on a blog. Is that normally how this works?) Anyway, the comments were all hilarious....

jridenour said...
Whenever Christians argue that orthodoxy is a third way between fundamentalism and atheism, chances are the argument is b.s.
Saturday, February 19, 2011 4:13:00 AM

Nathaniel Drake Carlson said...
1500 words seems awfully short to do proper justice to this one.
Saturday, February 19, 2011 7:21:00 PM

APS said...
So when is ABC Ethics & Religion just going to change its name to The Daily Red Tory?
Sunday, February 20, 2011 12:53:00 AM
John Milbank expressed support for a movement called "Red Toryism" which basically means "I'm right-wing but I want to be considered left-wing anyway". He then started writing articles for ABC where they're now requesting reviews for Conor Cunningham's book.

A.J. Smith said...
And did they really have to use the same cover as Behe's egregiously bad "Darwin's Black Box" for this?
Sunday, February 20, 2011 2:58:00 AM

Considering that Cunningham is opposed to ID-theory, that's a remarkable oversight on the part of the marketing team.
philosoraptor42: (Default)
A Templeton Foundation fellow and journalist in the Guardian has discovered Conor Cunningham's book. I've written about Conor Cunningham a couple of times already. Anyway, he's decided that Cunningham's book shows that there are serious problems with "Ultra-Darwinism" and would like to explain them to you....

Ultra-Darwinists and the pious gene

Richard Dawkins won't like it, but he and creationists are singing from similar hymn sheets, according to a new book

Here are three questions of the kind evolutionary theorists love. First, why do most mammals walk on four legs? Second, how come some single-celled protists have genomes much larger than humans? Third, why have camera eyes evolved independently in vertebrates and octopuses? 
They're important questions as they challenge certain versions of Darwinism that are dominant today in popular discourse.

My comments on this, under this first cut... )Rest of Vernon's article under the cut... )

Also one more thing. I'm not aware of Nietzsche ever using the phrase "true lies". A google search comes up with either this article or references to the James Cameron movie. *shrugs*

cross-posted to [ profile] atheism 
philosoraptor42: (Default)
John Milbank first notes that Ed Milliband, the new Labour leader in the UK, is actually an atheist. Something he has actually kept rather quiet. (This is by contrast to the current Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, who is now deputy Prime Minister of the coalition government and announced his atheism several months prior to the last general election.) Since Milbank is writing for an Australian audience these days he compares this with the figure of Julia Gillard. (Goodness knows why he's now writing for an Australian publication. Perhaps his suggestions about how to "improve" feminism didn't go down so well with The Guardian.)

As per usual, John decides to name a load of different writers without giving much reason for his choices. So apparently Nietzsche, Heidegger, Carl Schmitt and Louis-Ferdinand Celine are all right-wingers who are darlings of the left-wing. Milbank follows this selection up by saying:
Atheist, and especially nihilistic, Right-wingers can be applauded, even if their thinking requires a little radical-chic tweaking. (The exception clearly is the Catholic Schmitt. But it is not accidental that the bleakness of his vision caused him to regard politics in a more or less nihilistic light.)
Sorry, hang on... Heidegger was also a Christian. I can only presume that John refuses to ackonwledge this because of Heidegger's well-known Nazi party membership. This is the first time I've heard of Louis-Ferdinand Celine, so I can't really comment. Apparently he wrote anti-semitic tracts but also inspired later writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre.

As for Nietzsche's "right wing credentials", Nietzsche does have some right-wing elements. However, he's not easy to pin down. He was most certainly against anti-semitism and nationalism. While most certainly a misogynist (in the footsteps of his early inspiration Arthur Schopenhauer), he believed it important that women be educated. (Amusingly at one point Nietzsche argues that women should not be kept to the kitchen... because the kitchen is far too important to leave to women. *facepalm*) The thing to point is firstly that I have as yet to hear Nietzsche touted as an important left-wing political thinker and secondly that Nietzsche, in spite of his misogynistic views, was actually a hero for many early feminists. Nietzsche's has all sorts of unusual perspectives to offer on a variety of topics and he writes with the firm intention of starting a fight. He wants you to disagree with him. His most important contribution to the history of western thought was his demolition of oppositional binaries. Whether it was war and peace, selfishness and piety, love and hate or good and evil, Nietzsche always tried to mix everything together to get us to see the wider picture.

Thus ends today's Nietzsche rant. On with the show...

So who are the contrasting left wing figures? "T.S. Eliot, G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc and Joseph Ratzinger." Oh yeah, he went there. Apparently Joseph Ratzinger is a left wing figure:
the Left bizarrely ignores the way in which they advocate an ethical critique of capitalism and propose alternatives that may be both more practical and more genuinely transformatory than the average run of Social Democratic proposals.
Yeah, I'm sorry, when did Joseph Ratzinger outline a practical proposal to solve issues of Capitalism? Also, isn't that a bit rich coming from a Pope who is trying to canonise one of his forebearers who was prepared to make a deal with fascists rather than risk the Marxists (who really did want to oppose capitalism) making any headway?
One can only conclude that what is really hated here is religion, along with certain moral stances that religion tends to advocate. And not just religion - more specifically Christianity, because the academic secular Left can sometimes forgive also Right-wing thematics if they derive from an Islamic source.
Of course, this is rubbish. If there were an Islamic figure that the left was really keen on then Milbank would not have hesitated to list it above along with all the white male authors he decided to mention. He refers to "the academic secular Left". If he'd referred to the left-wing media, he might have had more ground since we recently saw how Maryam Namazie (campaigning against the stoning of a woman for adultery) was left out of a debate to which she had been invited to contribute, while two apologists for stoning were given screen time. However, he has instead decided to talk about academic figures where, unlike with his own ranting here, the opinion tends to be more nuanced.

Of course, where he is absolutely right is where he mentions the "moral" stances religion tends to advocate. By moral he is, of course, referring to things which you and I would consider thoroughly immoral. The Pope has most notably contested the UK's equality laws. The Pope's moral stances appear to be opposition to gay rights, opposition to women's rights and opposition to police inquiries into Church figures. Excuse me if I don't think any of those stances are terribly "left-wing".
This prompts the question: can atheism sometimes be not just incidental to a political program, but lie at its very source - as Pope Bendict recently suggested on his visit to Britain?

I think that this can indeed be true of both ostensibly Right-wing and ostensibly Left-wing programs. The Nazis tried to disenchant the world by enthroning pure material force as the only reality: in conversations Hitler admitted that even his racist rantings were but a populist gloss upon this goal.

Stalin and Mao tried to disenchant the world by removing all traces of tradition and most traces of beauty from the world. For the problem with beauty is that it is too enigmatic and unsettling in its intimations of transcendence. Was the Cultural Revolution in China driven by socialism? Surely it was driven by a ferociously virulent and scientistic secularism.
Yeah "scientistic". A new word has just been invented.

What we are looking at here is the real crux of John Milbank's comments here. What he is basically saying is "the Pope is right. You atheists are all a bunch of Nazis".

It's one more excuse to add to John Milbank's absurd campaign for "Red Toryism" (i.e. I'm support the Tories but I'm actually really liberal donchaknow?).

At this point there's a (very) random aside about how awful Thatcher was, along with a claim that Thatcherism wasn't really compatible with religion (depsite Thatcher being a self-professed Christian).
Given the evidence that atheism itself can become a political program and seek to enact nihilism with dire results, should we not be worried about the gradual drift of the Labour party towards atheism, despite the genuine - though varied - pieties of both Blair and Brown? 

I would go further, and suggest that this drift towards atheism keeps exact pace with a retreat from any genuine radicalism. The party of R.H. Tawney, the party shaped by Methodism, by Anglo-Catholic socialism and the legacy of British philosophical Idealism, was a party that sought to create an entirely ethical market, whether through State intervention or (in my view more promisingly) through mutualist association.

But the largely secular party we have today essentially agrees with the Right about the inevitably amoral character of the market, a view that is increasingly backed-up by new modes of social Darwinism.
"New modes of social Darwinism"? What the hell is he on about?

By the way, the idea that "atheism and secularism are nihilistic" is a common refrain in John Milbank's work. Don't you just love how his method of justifying this position to his popular (rather than academic) audience, is to note how lovely and perfect one random unsuccessful political party was?

Let's also not forget that the "piety of Blair" apparently encouraged him that it was good idea to go to war with Iraq when we still hadn't finished our war with Afghanistan under the ridiculous pretense of weapons of mass destruction. In an interview with Michael Parkinson, Blair claimed that he asked God for guidance in this decision....

After a while of asserting that neo-liberalism and democratic socialism are pretty much the same thing before finally asserting that what they really need is Jesus, John Milbank finally calls atheism "totalitarian". But not before insisting that only atheists would have any problem with the monarchy and a political body traditionally run by the aristocracy and of course, we're opposed to Churches (rather than simply not wanting to make use of them ourselves) and we're opposed to the family (do I really need to explain how dodgy this assertion is in view of John Milbank's "critique" of feminism?):
A programmatic atheism is at work in the growing hostility to the Crown, to the House of Lords (which needs reform, not total mutation into a second House of Commons which would likely be a less radical body), to the Churches, to the family and to group-rights, and in favour of foxes, exclusively metropolitan life-styles and absolute value-pluralism.

Indeed, it can sometimes appear that for sections of today's Left, as for past totalitarianisms, a naturalistic atheism is the main program. This is why political categorisation is increasingly made in terms of attitudes to sexual issues, to traditional cultures and to religious belief, rather than to issues of substantive economic justice. 'Culture wars' have come to displace older debates about just distribution.

But the evidence of history is that the politics of atheism drifts towards a nihilism of the rule of power alone. The evidence is equally that advocacy of the sovereign power of the individual soon gives way in practice to the absolute power of the amoral market and of the sovereign State whose only purpose is itself.
As opposed to the sovereign state of the past whose only purpose was the sovereign.

John Milbank's full article can be found here.

I've also cut and pasted it below for the hell of it: 
Read more... )

Article discussed on ONTD_Political
Article discussed on Atheism
philosoraptor42: (Default)
John Milbank was a theology lecturer I came into contact during my degree. His Radical Orthodoxy movement apparently had a major following in academic circles, though there appeared to be very little mainstream knowledge of it. More recently he's been putting forward a number of articles into major news sources. He released a couple of articles in The Guardian's "Comment Is Free" section including one advocating "Red Toryism" (i.e. I want to vote Conservative yet still call myself a lefty) and another (which really infuriated me) advocating a new feminism biased in favour of men *facepalm*

So what's he done now? Well it turns out he's really pleased about certain recent comments by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but he doesn't think she quite kisses Christianity's arse enough. So he's published a new public article. this time on

I don't know if John Milbank mistook extracts from Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book "Nomad" for an individual article or whether he is simply treating them that way. In any case the extracts on that website are no longer available, but I was able to find a cached copy of them which you can find in my un-edited post about this along with a copy of John Milbank's reply. Click here for my original un-edited article.

So how does John Milbank's article frustrate me? Let me count the ways....

1. The Enlightenment was Christian...
Read more... )

2. Christianity is the source of feminism...
Read more... )

3. TRADITIONAL Christians are NEVER biblical literalists...
Read more... )

4. Science was nurtured by Christianity and is the direct result of monotheism.

Read more... )

5. Christians have historically been against forced conversions...
Read more... )

6. In various theocracies and dictatorships around the world Islam has an unfair privilege. Why don't we give the same unfair privilege to Christianity in the west? (Also, Christians don't get enough opportunities to proselytise. Blah Blah Fatwa Envy Blah Blah...)
Read more... )

7. Muslims will prefer Christianity if they are properly informed, whereas they tend to choose Islam because they are coerced.
Read more... )

8. Muslims ought to be apolitical mystics. Christians on the other hand...

Read more... )

9. Rowan Williams advocated "parallel legal jurisdictions"...
Read more... )

10. Rowan Williams and Tariq Ramadan are idiots - therefore that whole Christian proselytising scheme...Read more... )

11. "The lamentably premature collapse of the Western colonial empires."

Read more... )

Bits I actually agreed with

Read more... )

Some silly links

Read more... ) (Cross-posted to atheism)
philosoraptor42: (Default)
John Milbank of the Radical Orthodoxy movement has written a new public article. After publishing an anti-feminist tirade (requesting that we set up a new feminism biased in favour of men) on The Guardian's "comment is free", John now writes in response to an extract from Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book on

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's extract on that website is no longer available, but I was able to find a cached copy of it, which is copied under the cut. John Milbank quotes a chunk of it, so instead of posting that same chunk twice you will find it bolded in my copy of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book extract below.Read more... )

So, I was surprised to find that, after an introduction which I found deeply dodgy, there are some parts where John Milbank talks a bit of sense. I guess he's less likely to have an article brim-full of fail when he's discussing religion rather than feminism. Below I have bolded parts which I find particularly dodgy and, in places, I have included links which I believe aid refutation of those statements (and I shall explain those links below). Those parts I find myself agreeing with or approving of are underlined as well as bolded, because I don't feel it is fair to only point out the bad points while ignoring the better parts.

Christianity, the Enlightenment and Islam
By John Milbank
ABC Religion and Ethics | 24 Aug 2010

Ayaan Hirsi Ali doubtless shocked many of her admirers and detractors alike when she concluded her recent article on the ABC's Religion and Ethics website, "Seeking God, but finding Allah," by praising Pope Benedict XVI's stance on Islam and calling for an alliance between atheists and what she calls "enlightened Christians" in their struggle against a common foe.
Read more... )

My Response

Read more... )
Another writer has also noticed the issues with John's article, decrying his article as "a throwback towards the more obscene forms of Orientalism and colonial arrogance".

Also there's another criticism of John Milbank here (on a different issue).

And he's found on a list of University Professors who have supported 9/11 conspiracy theories.

And if this didn't amuse you enough, here's a link to an old post of mine where I typed out a definition given by one of his Radical Orthdoxy contemporaries, Catherine Pickstock, of the concept of "transcendence".

philosoraptor42: (Default)

Last time I wrote about this, Conor Cunningham was just releasing his documentary "Did Darwin Kill God?" I responded to Conor Cunningham's interviews on the subject, having not yet got around to watching the documentary itself. I have since seen the documentary and can say pretty confidently that the book is, in all likelihood, a load of pointless waffle.

Last time I checked out Conor Cunningham's arguments he was claiming that eugenics is the social consequence of Darwinism (because clearly the whole principle of killing off the weaker members of society would never have been considered prior to Darwin's theory of evolution).

The main reasons I didn't comment on the tv documentary were firstly because it was so awful that I didn't think it was worth critiqueing and secondly because comments I found on various blogs were much more apt than I felt I could be. In the end, what would have been the point in adding another commentary about an old documentary that no one was likely to take an interest? However, now that this documentary has won an award and a new book is coming out, I feel it is necessary to express precisely why I think Cunningham's argument is load of old tripe.

Genesis and Early Christianity

Read more... )

Ussher and the KJV

Read more... )

Fossils In The Nineteenth Century

Read more... )

Darwin's Atheism

Read more... )

The Scopes Trial

Read more... )

Modern Creationism

Read more... )


Read more... )

I don't really think there's much point in reading Cunningham's book, but I've got a horrible feeling I'm going to be hearing a lot about it in the future. *groan*

Quick irrelevant side-note:

In my research for this I was interested discover the following note from Mrs. Darwin (annotating Charles Darwin's autobiography):
Nothing can be said too severe upon the doctrine of everlasting punishment for disbelief—but very few now wd. call that 'Christianity,' (tho' the words are there.)

~If there is a problem with the information I've found in wikipedia links please correct me (and them too preferably).~
philosoraptor42: (Default)
I've been keeping up with what happens at the theology department at my old university and today John Milbank the creator of Radical Orthodoxy (a form of post-modernism that says that modern life is nihilistic and the solution is to start thinking like St. Augustine) decided to contribute to the Guardian. The little subtitle for his article is: "We need a radical feminism that ends women's enslavement and allows them to be neither subordinate nor men writ large". While sometimes these subtitles can be misleading, in this particular case it is quoted word for word from the penultimate paragraph. Yes, the article is as awful as that suggests...

Today, the defence of the family is seen as a rightwing cause. Conversely, liberal feminism is seen as a leftwing cause. But these associations are questionable.
I wonder whether he intends to explain this? Probably not.
Deborah Orr cites the fact that women, like men, were once made wage-slaves as if this were a good thing.
Oh really?
So, when Fay Weldon ruffles feathers, as she did at a literary festival this week, by declaring that one of the down-sides of feminism is that it has "made wage-slaves" out of mothers, I can only shake my head. Mothers always had access to wage-slavery, and those mothers who had husbands who drank the pay-packet, or handed over risible "housekeeping", were particularly glad of their "pin money". Feminism gave women much greater access to, or at least hope of, "careers". Its rejection of marriage was bound up with the fact that a married woman was a woman who could forget about professional progress.
Only by being deliberately obtuse could John possibly have interpreted this as meaning that being wage-slaves is a good thing. The point is that women used to be wage-slaves and that feminism has enabled (and is still enabling) them the opportunity to have careers instead.
She also cites the fact that today middle class women tend to have babies late as if this were a sign of the rise of freedom.
I've noticed in a number of Christian marriage ceremonies that, as well as emphasising that "this ritual right here is for one man and one woman - see what I mean?" there is also often a strong suggestion that the newly-wedded wife is going to be having a baby quite soon after the wedding. This isn't necessarily what the bride has in mind though. The reason tends to be that they want to get settled into a career before they have children. If John Milbank doesn't think that women having careers and independence represents freedom he's got some very odd priorities.
Meanwhile she contends against David Cameron that "the days of the typical family are numbered".
Actually no. No she doesn't.
[Katherine] Rake upset the socially conservative by declaring in her first speech as head of the Family and Parenting Institute (a government-funded organisation that we don't need anyway) that "the days of the typical family are numbered".
See that John? Katherine Rake said it, not Deborah Orr.
If today the middle class have babies late, then that is more the result of competitive market pressures and the market promotion of youth culture than of any supposed liberation of "free choice".
I'll accept market pressures since getting a career tends to be better served by not starting out with a baby in tow. On the other hand, feminists also push for businesses to include creches and to give better deals to those working part-time. Nevertheless, what the "promotion of youth culture" has to do with having babies later, I have not the foggiest. Milbank doesn't bother to explain, so I guess I wil remain in the dark.
As to family decline, this occurs because an overbearing market and state deal directly with the individual, beginning at the youngest age possible. The family is being undermined for the same reason that unions, mutuals and churches have been undermined: because these are voluntary associations that combine self-help and education with a democratic sharing of resources.
Er, what? Where's the reason why it's been undermined? This basically seems to suggest that the only reason the family is "being undermined" (in ways unspecified) is because it's a Good Thing (TM). As far as I'm aware, the only way that Churches are undermined is by their lack of occupants.
Authority within the family is not necessarily patriarchal and aims self-denyingly at reciprocity. In these ways the family offers uniquely a training in mutual nurture. Of course it is the worst source of pathologies, but only because it is the strongest source of psychic health.
Sorry, let's just analyse that last sentence. (One comment on the webpage regarding this sentence says: "I'll wait for the english translation...") The family is a departure from the norm because it's the strongest source of mental health. John seems to be stating that we are all suffering from poor mental health due to lack of emphasis on family. Shouldn't this article be in the Daily Mail?

As for the idea that authority within the family is not necessarily patriarchal, well yeah not anymore. For much of history the marriage contract has been a contract of ownership whereby a father gives away their daughter to her new husband. We know this is no longer the case (thank goodness), but so what? Does this mean that we should be forcing unwed mothers into marriages post-haste? Surely once we have accepted that marriage is not a contract of ownership but rather a mutual bond of love and respect, we must also accept that women have to find a suitable partner before they enter into it?
Of course also, there can be "unconventional" families which should not be penalised. But all families aim for fidelity and stability, and this very aim favours a social and political bias towards marriage rather than cohabitation.
Translation: "By the way, I'm actually quite liberal donchaknow!"
Marriage suspends sexual competition and distributes sexual partners equally. It still today usually protects women physically and compensates for their lesser muscular strength.
Somehow I cannot image John Milbank defending his wife physically. (I've met her since she's also lectures in the same university department.) The best way I can imagine marriage compensating for lesser muscular strength is that men might need to open a jam jar every now and then. (Doesn't work for me. My gf is better at getting jam jars open than I am!) In short: What the hell?
In the case of liberal feminism, the left has shied away from the fact that its success has coincided with a regressive era that has involved an increase in economic inequality and a decline of civil liberties while covertly compensating sexual liberties. The archetypal female subject today is in one way a male capitalist subject writ large, as it is seen as autonomous in relation to biological reproduction as well as economic production. At the same time it remains a traditional "female" subject defined by private concerns now become consumeristic.
This is a mixture of the bleeding obvious and complete nonsense. Whatever may or may not have happened politically, you cannot blame feminism for a decline in civil liberties. If compensating sexual liberties has needed to be 'covert' in order to pass, I hardly see how that is feminism's fault either. Feminists have not been terribly covert about their aims, not least since they intend to change the cultural trends, not simply to pass new laws.

The idea that feminism makes women into "men writ large" is justified by telling us that women are seen as autonomous in relation to biological reproduction and economic production as if this was a bad thing. It appears that John thinks independence, career-mindedness and control over one's own body are 'male' qualities. Who knew?
The downside of this hybrid female subjectivity is the continued enslavement of women in both workplace and home and the loss of a male code of honour as to the assistance of women and children, which has had devastating consequences for the working class. All this combines with an increased state and market control of reproduction which amounts to a new general rule of men over women.
What? Ok, let's break this down:

(a) "...continued enslavement of women in both workplace and home..."

Feminism still has work to do. We know.

(b) "...the loss of a male code of honour as to the assistance of women and children..."

What code of honour? Men feel just as responsible in this regard as they ever have, but there's never been a code of honour involved.

(c) ...which has had devastating consequences for the working class."

Such as?

(d) All this combines with an increased state and market control of reproduction...

State and market control. Oh, you mean sex education and sexual health information, do you? Ah, John Milbank's sympathies for Roman Catholicism are revealed: "How dare the state push contraceptives on us? It's "controlling" I tell you!"

(e) "...which amounts to a new general rule of men over women."

Eh? It does? Would you mind explaining how?
Instead of this we need a true radical feminism more focused on the question of what constitutes good relations between women and men. This needs to include mutual equity concerning procreation and above all equal rights to the combining of work and child nurture without economic loss.
In regards to mutual equity, one comment asks: "And how exactly would one go about growing a womb as a man?" As for combining work and child nurture without economic loss, that's what couples do anyway. This sounds like it is more like the natural result of "competitive market pressures" than a new "true radical feminism". As John D. Caputo said of Radical Orthodoxy, it is very orthodox and not terribly radical.
philosoraptor42: (Default)
A lecturer at my old university (University of Nottingham) called Conor Cunningham is presenting a programme called "Did Darwin Kill God?" on BBC2 in the UK.

Here's a link to an interview with him. (I discuss my own views on it further down):

While I was at the university, Conor Cunningham did a course on Darwinism in the theology department. It actually seemed like a smart idea at the time since he was keen to note that intelligent design and creationism are both dodgy. Unfortunately he also has this strange idea that the majority of Christians never actually had a problem with evolution in the first place.

I'd first noticed that he had some odd ideas when he insisted during a seminar from an outside speaker that anthropology is not prepared to look at itself in the same way that it looks at other social conventions. He suggested that medicine, for example, was not looked at with the same rigour as religion. That night one of my mutually-geeky PhD anthropology friends was talking to me over a drink after the science fiction society meeting and explained that actually anthropology of medicine was a major topic. Considering that Conor Cunningham is the research assistant for John Milbank (leader of the very orthodox and not terribly radical movement in theology known as "Radical Orthodoxy") I was surprised that he wasn't better informed.

Anyway, having heard this podcast my respect for the man has slumped spectacularly. He says that most people who criticised evolution did not do so for religious reasons (heaven forbid!), but because of a threat to the legitimacy of the aristocracy. How does he come to that conclusion? Well, from the sounds of it he mainly just takes it for granted.

There's a much longer interview here. I'm not sure it improves his argument, though at least he's not a nutcase:
Oh wait, as it nears the 8 minute mark he refers to eugenics as "the social consequence of Darwinism" and apparently the only countries which never passed eugenic laws were "Catholic countries" (guess what Mr. Cunningham's religion is...). *groan!*
philosoraptor42: (Default)
A long time ago I listened to an mp3 of a radio programme about Radical Orthodoxy. The highly verbose and well-researched lecturer John Milbank had arrived at the university just as I was considering taking a masters there and all the seminars with visiting speakers during my MA course seemed to have this odd new theology movement hanging over them. I had always been very annoyed by the way the clearly intelligent lecturers seemed to keep making reference to this movement and making highly counter-intuitive assertions I felt I had no right to contest. So I decided, even having finished my masters, to take advantage of the opportunity of hearing a bite-sized view of Radical Orthodoxy meant for ordinary radio listeners.

All I knew so far was that:
(i) Radical Orthodoxy considers modern secular society to be overrun with nihilism and seemingly blamed this on the lack of religious belief.
(ii) It felt the need to consider Christianity from a pre-modern perspective (using post-modern philosophy as a justification for this).
(iii) John Milbank appears to hold a socialist political stance.
(iv) The movement opposes both secularism and theological liberalism.

Anyway after a very dull radio programme I eventually found this definition of 'transcendence' voiced and claimed to be the main idea of what modern society is missing. Transcendence also seemed like a pretty sketchy term at the best of times, but this is really completely incomprehensible. This is actually stated by the Radical Orthodoxy proponent Catherine Pickstock:
"Transcendence is a word to describe the reality which is beyond all categories. It's beyond all dichotomies. Beyond all understanding of 'thing' which we have. So, for example, where we see a thing as having boundaries, as having a place, as having a certain kind of temporality, transcendence is beyond all of those things. It's beyond here and there, near and far, limit and unlimitedness.

"Transcendence is simply beyond every definition. Which isn't to say it's formless, or like a big mess. It is unity itself, but unity conceived of as beyond being. I think 'beyond being' is perhaps the most useful way of thinking of it, although one could also say, as Plato said of the good, that it's unsayable. It simply can't be reached in words.

"So if you think of reality as a kind of hierarchy for a moment and you put transcendence at the top of the hierarchy; and you have on the lower rungs of the hierachy all forms of reality right down to ants and ants' legs and so forth. Although transcendence, according to this picture, is right at the top, equally it is just as present to the ants' legs as it is to the angels and priests and the bishops and so forth. It's both at the top and at the bottom. There simply isn't a place where transcendence cannot be, because it is transcendent; it is beyond all limit, and yet works in and through every limit that we have."
If you want to see if that makes any more sense in the context of the radio programme the link is here:

Personally, I've never heard so much rubbish in all my life.

John Milbank also claims that if priests cannot give an account of angels as real beings they shouldn't be ordained. Oh dear.....


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