Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Saint Ludwig

Said Paul of believers, "Not many of you were wise by the standards of this world." Some however, were. Diogenes Allen once related a story of Princeton philosophy professor Gregory Vlastos, who closed his career with a lecture explaining that, exalted as Plato's ideals may have been, for the concept of love of enemies the world would have to wait for Jesus Christ. Coming from a world authority on Plato, that's worth a ponder.

The best philosophers, it seems, know the limit of their discipline. Maybe it's not so odd then that the man who was, arguably, the 20th century's most distinguished one - Ludwig Wittgenstein - had this to say in a private notebook entry, dated 1937:
What inclines even me to believe Christ's resurrection?... -If he did not rise from the dead, then he decomposed in the grave like any other man. He is dead and decomposed. In that case he is a teacher like any other and can no longer help; and once again we are orphaned and alone. So we have to content ourselves with wisdom and speculation. We are in a sort of hell where we can do nothing but dream, roofed in, as it were, and cut off from heaven. But if I am to be REALLY saved, -what I need is certainly not wisdom, dreams or speculations - and this certainty is faith. And faith is faith in what is needed by my heart, my soul, not my speculative intelligence. For it is my soul with its passions, as it were with its flesh and blood, that has to be saved, not my abstract mind. Perhaps we can say: Only love can believe the Resurrection. Or: it is love that believes even the Resurrection; hold fast even to the Resurrection. What combats doubt is, as it were, redemption. Holding fast to this must be holding fast to that belief... So this can come about only if you no longer rest your weight on the earth but suspend yourself from heaven. Then everything will be different and it will be 'no wonder' if you can do things that you cannot do now. (A man who is suspended looks the same as one who is standing, but the interplay of forces within him is nevertheless quite different, so that he can act quite differently that can a standing man). The issue has been put before us clearly: do we stand on earth on our own feet or are we suspended from above, attached to a living Lord (p. 6)?
Why I Am Not a Christian author Bertrand Russell's prize student declaring faith in the resurrection? Count it as further evidence to support Charles Taylor's thesis that Modernity is misunderstood as monolithic secularism. Instead, according to this reviewer, it actually "implies a huge range of possible ways of thinking, including many variations of theism and atheism."