Rorty has a new little volume out, with the Italian religious philosopher, Gianni Vattimo. Really, the volume is just a conference sent to press— two essays and a debate tucked in the back— but this is a superior format in many ways. Philosophy is dialogical; its writings should better reflect that. Marble tomes and treatises give philosophy a bad rep these days. I want to see more written philosophy in magazines, comics, and even in those slender and beautiful For Beginners and Introducing series that help scout philosophers from our nation’s elementary schools. Snobbery— the use of ideas for exclusivity rather than inclusive understanding— will be the death of philosophy, if we let some have their way. The “Grammarians and Pedants,” as Giordano Bruno called them.
The new volume is called The Future of Religion, and has Rorty, in key with his usual intellectual honesty, adopting an ever more subtle vocabulary to speak about religious issues. I like that about Rorty; that he can say “I fucked up here” or “I’m trying to wiggle out of my former position here” and maintain a true faith in his own direction. As opposed to thinkers who believe that their consistency alone is further proof of their beliefs.
Vattimo, as an Italian Catholic, throwns an interesting idea into play: that the main thrust of Christianity is secularization. That the Niezschean death of God is just a recapitulation of the Story of Christ on the cross— the story of kenosis or “God handing everything over to us.” As decidedly unchristian and unreligious as I am, this story has immense appeal to me, and breathes in a whole new appreciation of the story of Incarnation.
I prefer the tale of kenosis to disproving the Divine, even in its Hegelian aspects. There have been quite a number of radical humanists— even deeply religious Italian humanists— who have championed this. Radical humanism can even read it another way: as mankind realizing its own divinity. Making human history equivalent to God’s bildungsroman— the story of God’s self-realization. This may sound a little wacky, but it’s nice because it temporalizes the Divine— it puts it in Time, as something that must be developed rather than received. It’s an interesting myth, that lends meaning if nothing more.
I dropped words about that in the last post, about the Eminent Design in the works by human rather than divine hand. So that Creation, in the beginning, is the work of God; in the end, the product of Man. Grandiose notions, I’m aware, but they are not so much provable or disprovable as weirdly inevitable. Inevitable, not in a Hegelian sense of a plan or Logos fulfilled, but in that something crazy is bound to happen. Language happened. Civilization happened. And it will probably not stop at that. Anything further will be trespassing on the divine, playing god even.
Rorty also mentioned something that I like, something that I’ve echoed previously, about ceasing to be God’s minions and becoming, instead, his “friends.” I think this is a picture that religious and non-religious can work together on. A portrait of God that fits in nicely with Kant’s “What is Enlightenment?”— a father that wants his children to start taking care of themselves. God is not dead— he’s retired.