Friday, January 23, 2009

"The Victory of Reason"

A quick note on “The Victory of Reason”:

I find it rather amusing that Stark suggests the west made improvements with explosive powder by using it in the development of the canon and fire arms, while he states the Chinese were content with fireworks. Evidently the Chinese didn’t have killing people on they’re minds when they developed the use of powder, however for whatever reason the west did…

How does technology developed for the sole purpose of murder fit with the Christian tradition? Evidently God wants us to destroy our enemies in ever more efficient ways.

I really don’t like this book – but I’ve decided I’m going to finish it anyway.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Milk n' Shake

While I’m in the process of collecting my thoughts, I’d like to take a moment to tell a personal story, simply because it’s on my mind and I feel to a certain degree that it’s of the utmost importance in such circumstances as I will draw out. That personal story is regarding the proper method of shaking and milking one’s manhood after taking a leak.

I’m the Quality engineer at a particular facility which is part of a division of a much larger company – in total the company racks in about 10bill a year and of course is a world wide operation, blah blah. Last week the Purchasing manager for our site and myself took a trip to a potential supplier; I was there to perform an audit of they’re quality systems to asses whether or not they’d be on par with our expectations with respect to quality, and he was there with the package of items that we wanted them to quote. From their side was the company President, Vise president, Sales Manager and Engineering manager, all the heavy hitters – in this economy they want to secure the business.

Anyway we take the song and dance tour - they baffle us with all the usual bullshit I’m used to seeing in these situations - I occasionally chime in with my usual smart ass comments to garner odd looks from the higher ups, and next thing you know it we’re back at the round table (having also conducted my audit). Serious discussion ensues, I cover my audit results, the purchasing manager makes his demands and we’re flingin’ some good shit; they’re then giving their canned company power point speech over lunch fit for the fanciest metro sexual bum, and I’m digging into it like I don’t give a shit about what they’re talkin’ about – fuck, I feel like I’m the only one eating.

Anyway, no need to belabor the details… The meeting is coming to an end and it went quite well for both sides. Our purchasing manager gets up and says, “Where’s the restroom?” As it happens it was right around the corner, so he leaves for a moment and soon enough returns. At this point we’re all standing exchanging meaningless small talk about this and that when suddenly I look over at our purchasing manager and fuck an A, no shit, the poor bastard didn’t get a good shake. Not only did he put it away prematurely such that piss soaked through his khakis, but the way he shook his willy when he was finishing up caused some back splatter around his knee and thigh area.

So here I am, what the fucks a brother gonna say in this instance? I could see that everyone else was noticing it, and there isn’t a universal man sign for this sort of thing, so I quickly brought up football, looked away and tried to maintain my composure. After the fact when we finally got in the car, I didn’t even mention it to him, what’s the point. I mean come on, any self respecting corporate casual warin’ monkey in a meeting of the minds should know how to “milk n’ shake” his junk right? I mean, what a pansy…

When you’re warin’ khakis, you milk it like a cow, you give her a gentle shake, milk again, then shake again. When you’re done you GENTLY put your buddy away making notice of any residuals (nap it off with a friggin towel if have to, be gay about it). Every man knows once the dog gets back in his house he gets a little relaxed and a few drips can happen, but with the proper milking and shaking techniques this effect can be reduced – not only that, but for God’s sake, how about some 100% cotton boxers in this situation, ditch the tighty whities man, Christ!

Anyway, milk, shake, milk, shake. Get it right, keep your khakis clean.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Voodoo Lady

I’m a little empty headed and short on inspiration right now - typical post holidays hangover. I've been reading "The Victory of Reason", but as it turns out it really isn't doing anything for me and I'm not sure if I'll actually be able to finish it. As of late I've been staring at "Philosophical Investigations", which I read a few years ago and have been itching to go another round... I don't know, maybe I'll stare at the wall for another week. In the meantime, here's a little ditty called "Voodoo Lady" - it sorta fits this occasion.

P.2 The Two Horns of Realism and Non-realism

I’d like to start this where Psiomniac left off in the last comment string where he stated:

“But as we already agreed, you cannot show representation outside of a circular argument. I think we agreed that there can be no non circular argument that justifies our appeal to things like reason or to the existence of things outside our minds. That is to say that the foundationalist quest for a bullet proof argument to show we are justified is doomed.”

To this I believe we both agree…

“But it doesn't follow that there are no reasons at all to suppose that we represent aspects of the phenomenal world. You want to argue perhaps that it is impossible to occupy a position from which we can directly assess a correspondence between what we say and how things are; trying to attain such a transcendental vantage point would be like trying to step outside our own skin.”

Let me build an example from this; lets suppose that I’m a realist and I proclaim that God exists. Naturally the atheist demands proof of which so far in the history of mankind no such thing exists – as such the theist pre-supposes God’s existence. However, is there any reason at all to suppose God doesn’t exist? Does the world assume a creator in much the same way a word assumes a representation? It's my belief that in this instance the theist needs to offer up a reason why one should believe such a thing in the absence of proof.

This is likewise the case for the representationalist; if you want to assume that words are representational and you agree that one cannot prove such a thing, then why should I believe it? I think we’d both agree following your first paragraph that it would merely be an assumption.

“The plausibility of this idea, and perhaps the notion that if there are 'objects' in the world that exist independently of our representations of them, then there is no way in which our representations could intelligibly thought to be 'like' the objects, since the only notions of representation as such that are available to us, are in terms of our concepts and sense experience, rather than the objects themselves. This is taken to introduce the limitation that since we can't know objects in-themselves, we cannot talk meaningfully about them. Thus the notion of representation is a non starter, or so the argument goes.
Is that interpretation close?”

No, not a correct interpretation:
This seems to me to be a statement made from the empiricist’s tool kit that I would simply reject outright. It seems to say, “We can’t know objects because all we can know is sense experience”; and of course we can reduce this to, “We can’t know sense experience because all we can know is cognitive states”, and so on and so on as science opens up new avenues of description we have a reduction ad absurdum.

If one cannot show the truth of represenation, then why should I beleive it?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Pirsig: The Buddha within Analytic Thought

An interesting note to make; I was looking for a quote for another post when my eyes trolled across this in ZMM (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance):

“But about the Buddha that exists within analytic thought, and gives that analytic thought its direction, virtually nothing has been said, and there are historic reasons for this.”

Given Pirsig’s supposed experience with Buddhism I’m not sure how he can actually make this comment…

Up until the time of about the 6th century, the mirror idea of the mind prevailed in Chinese Buddhism; the basic idea of Zen meditation was to essentially wipe the dust from the mirror such that the Buddha and one’s self nature could be seen clearly. Zen at this time would spilt between two schools of thought; one school, that of Shen-hsiu’s which taught dust-wiping, and the other Hui.neg’s who taught that the Buddha exists in everything. If from the mind the world arises, why not let the latter rise as it pleases.
Hui-neng states:

There is no Bodhi-tree,
Nor stand of mirror bright.
Since all is void,
Where can the dust alight?

If this isn’t a rejection of the mirror of nature, I don’t know what is (I should note here that the mirror analogy is not one borrowed from Rorty in this instance, but strait from Buddhism at the time of the 6th century and prior). Again, the dominate idea prevailing in Buddhism up until the time of Hui-neng was that the Buddha-nature which is contained within all things is completely pure and undefiled in it’s self being. The idea of Zen meditation then, was to bring out the self-nature and restore it to it’s original purity. This sort of meditation, however, or better put this sort of conception often lead to the thinking that, by meditating as such one can clear the mirror of consciousness and thereby see the underlying form of his self-nature. Hui-neng’s protest was strongly against this view as he believed it had a suicidal effect on life – let the world arise as it arises. It is completely against the idea of Zen to have such a conception that one is restoring purity, that one is seeing past appearance to reveal the true reality of oneself.
Hui-neng proclaimed, “From the first not a thing is.” And this would stand as a cap stone to his Zen teaching and is meant to do away with the idea of attaining, or seeing purity, an underlying form.

Hui-neng rather, focuses on the world, of seeing and being. There is the seeing as one conceives objects as separate from himself, as recognizing two separate entities; and there is the seeing into the ultimate nature of things. The sort of seeing that can be aligned with “ultimate nature” is the sort which does away with notions of separate entities (subject object views), and rather insists that one see the seer and the object together, as becoming indentified with each other.

When one takes Hui-neng’s statement “From the first not a thing is” in substitution of previous Zen thinking as with the statement, “The self-nature of the Mind is pure and undefiled”, it's meant that all notions of the appearance/reality distinction disappear and one has nowhere to stand. It is this experience that is central to Zen Buddhism, the whole notion of seeing, yet having nothing to stand upon; under one’s feet is not the notion that something underlying is being represented, or that the Buddha is being revealed, the Buddha exists in everything.

So then, if we knife through Pirsig’s statement above and consider what Hui-neng is saying, I believe he would rightly agree that analytic thought, as a tool and manner of seeing and being in the world, vary much contains the Buddha. To say that analytic thought is not part of a Buddhist conception is (from the Buddhist perspective) simply to say that such conceptualizing, in terms of specificities, is not a necessity. When one blurs distinctions about purity and underlying form and focuses upon seeing and being within the world yet having nothing to stand upon, there’s no reason to develop philosophies around certain sorts of discourses, whether rhetoric, dialectic, analytic, so on, as this conception arises prior to the analytic. To put it another way, once one does away with appearence/reality distictions, one can let the discourse fall where it may, again, there's no reason to conceptualize about it. Pirsig seems to zero in on this point not due to the absence of a discussion considering a certain sort of discourse in Buddhism, but to reconcile his own specific thought process with one he seems to lean towards.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Some Shots

Sam started to post some personal shots so I felt inspired to do the same. I often wonder just who are these buttheads I blog with, and perhaps they think, "Who is this idiot anyway". The photos add a nice personal touch I think...

Here we find Andrew comfortably at work sporting his fashionable blue ESD smock. Lookin good Andrew, lookin good.....

This is about what 8 beers, hot and dehydrated gets you...

Monday, January 05, 2009

Buddhism, Non-realism & Christianity

I'm going to make this short and follow up on it later (this is not necessarily meant as a response to the last post, just a thread of some thinking, a sort of purge if you will)...

I’d like to bring Buddhism into this post as I’ve been sort of getting off topic from what this blog is all about, which I would consider to simply be “Religious Language” (well that’s not exactly true, I took a lateral move to define some things). What’s interesting to note strait off is the view of language held by people like Rorty, Wittgenstein and Davidson, and that is the notion that words are tools. I say interesting because this is a view that’s been held by Buddhists for eons, consider the following Buddhist phrase:

”You can use your finger to point at the moon, but don’t mistake your finger for the moon.”

From this I can make the following statement:
One can say “There’s Rover the Big Red Dog” to call attention to Rover the Big Red Dog, but don’t mistake “Rover the Big Red Dog” for Rover the Big Red Dog.

Of course this is exactly what the realist does; he thinks that he’s somehow captured the essence of thing in “Rove the Big Red Dog”, that he’s represented reality somehow, and that his statement corresponds to reality in some manner or another. But he’s not looking at Rover in this instance, he’s looking at “Rover”, he’s looking at his finger. He may even tell you otherwise, or even that you’re nuts, “There’s Rover right there!!!” And I would respond, “Yes, I know what you mean, Rover is a good dog indeed.”

One of my favorite lines from Robert Pirsig’s book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, for its shear poignancy, is the following where he states (and I paraphrase): “The only Zen that exists on the top of mountains is the Zen you bring with you.” In the same way, the only representation, the only essence, which exists in Rover the Dog is the essence you bring with you; for there is no more essence to a thing then there is Zen on the tops of mountains. When you make the statement, “There’s Rover the Dog”, you’ve conveyed a contingent truth and meaning, however there exists no Rover in your words, no underlying representation or correspondence one can clasp onto.

So what should we do in this instance? Consider another verse from Buddhism:
“The fish trap exists because of the fish; once you've gotten the fish, you can forget the trap. The rabbit snare exists because of the rabbit; once you've gotten the rabbit, you can forget the snare. Words exist because of meaning; once you've gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him?”

Once one has the meaning, one can forget about the words. Meaning is temporary, and like a finger, it calls simple attention. One has not represented for me Rover by saying “Rover”, ones words are not a correspondence but a meaning and a truth existing in words. As said in the past, what Rover is outside ones needs and intentions is not something to be known and as such you have not defined an underlying reality by differentiating so called objective reality by cutting it with words, you have merely identified meaning; stated a contingent truth in language; and pointed ones attention to a view of quality. Consider the following question and answer between Ta-chu Hui-hai and Ma-tsu):

Question (Ta-chu Hui-hai): “When there is no word, no discourse, this is Dhyana (Zazen, meditation); but when there are words and discourses, can this be called Dhyana?”

Answer (Ma-tsu): “When I speak of Dhyana, it has no relationship to discoursing or not discoursing; my Dhyana is ever-abiding Dhyana. Why? Because Dhyana is all the while in Use (use represents what an object stands for, it’s value, utility and function). Even when words are uttered, discoursing goes on, or when discriminative reasoning prevails, there is Dhyana in it, for all is Dhyana.“When a mind, thoroughly understanding the emptiness of all things, faces forms, it at once realizes their emptiness. With it emptiness is there all the time, whether it faces forms or not, whether it discourses or not, whether it discriminates or not. This applies to everything which belongs to out site, hearing, memory, and consciousness generally. Why is it so? Because all things in their self-nature (self-knowledge; not being, but knowing, as knowing IS being) are empty; and wherever we go we find this emptiness. As all is empty, no attachment takes place; and on account of this non-attachment there is a simultaneous Use (of Dhyana and Prajna/Wisdom). The bodhisattva always knows how to make Use of emptiness, and thereby he attains the Ultimate. Therefore it is said that by the oneness of Dhyana and Prajna is meant Emancipation.”

So what should one make of this question and answer? It is often thought by the Buddhist understudy (monk) that the practice of Dhyana/Zazen (meditation) is the art of breaking past appearance to get to reality, which is where true enlightenment exists. Ma-tsu’s response then is quite clear in this context as he is merely saying there is no appearance reality distinction to be made; whether discoursing or not discoursing Dhyana is always prevailing. Once again the only essence that exists in one discourse or another is the essence you bring with you, the essence you apply. To think that one has discovered the essence of a thing in his words, to believe that one has found a commensurable dialoged with which to represent the world, is to apply the meaninglessness of meanings onto another. We may both agree to the moon at the end of your finger, but in such instance we have not captured its beauty; in the least you have captured a man’s attention.

The issue with the realist is his dogma, and just like the Liberal Ironist, the Buddhist rejects such things. Dogma is merely the notion of commensurability, the idea that we’ve reached a point where language gives us certainty about the world, and that we have adequately represented it. I'd like to note an interesting point; here in the west we have the dogma that essence can be made clear through language and the discovery of truth, where in the east there is the dogma that we can reach essence through the absence of discourse - however again, both are ideas that there exists an appearence/reality distiction and furthermore that there's a way get beyond this appearence to reality. But I follow from above, that words are tools, they’re for meaning and once one has the meaning he can forget about the words. He can forget about them not insofar as they are of little use in directing further attention, but only insofar as it isn’t representative of anything which can be considered an underlying reality. “Rover the Dog” is not Rover the Dog, he is many things relatively, and nothing ultimately. At this point I can call attention to the quote from Rorty in the sidebar.

On to Christianity:
My issues with Christianity have always surrounded its existence, teaching, and practice as a literal dogma, which now I’ll merely call the natural tendency to view it from the perspective of philosophical realism. My instincts have always told me that there was something suspicious going on behind the curtain of Christian belief, which is why I got into comparative religion and Buddhism in the first place; they simply made more sense. Today I realize that (or tend to believe) it isn’t the fault of Christianity itself per se, but the influences that Plutonic metaphysics has had on modern day Christian thinking which has left it in a dogmatic state of slumber and suspicion. Today I tend to think, as with most of eastern philosophy, that a non-realist approach simply makes more sense, and not just towards religion, but life in general. Of course, the east wasn’t as heavily influence (if at all) by Plutonic metaphysics and thus to high degree has maintained its purity – whereas Christianity becomes more cracked by the minute, more nonsensical in the face of a correspondence view of essence/reality. Although a correspondence view of reality has yet to even be shown outside of arguments that beg the essential questions.

It was asked of me, “how can a non-realist have a theology?”, and in an off-hand way, “What is non-realism anyway?” I’ll belabor the non-realism talk later as I think I’ve said enough on that for now (considering the above in this post and below) what I’d really like to address here is the theology, the belief in God and what it means. I could make the statement “God exists.” And the realist would likely respond, “Prove it.” Here I can simply say, “God exists in the same way ‘Rover the Big Red Dog’ exists.” Ah yes, and the realist may say, “Well show me God then.”

There exists a key element here which needs to be understood, and that is, what is God? God is (as I’ve said), “All Loving” and “All Good”. Shall I show you these things then? Shall I wash your feet, and give you a hug? Will you respond to me in this instance, “That is not God, you’re just washing my feet.” And I will say, “No doubt this is true, or so your finger says.” One might simply respond that I have not shown them an object, but such is the same response when one points me in the direction of Rover; am I seeing “Object”? Or am I recognizing a truth and meaning which is all too quickly forgotten upon my wet face?

(speaking rhetorically)
So tell me, Mr. Realist, if a dog represents something which has existence in reality, perhaps you can prove such a thing. Is it true simply because we can point to it? Is that what it is? Is all it’s existence wrapped up in “Rover the Big Red Dog”? What is Rover the Big Red Dog outside of “Rove the Big Red Dog”? If there is no answer to this, then emptiness is the right response from you. Or perhaps “Rover the Big Red Dog” simply is Rover the Big Red Dog? If that’s all that it is, then for certain God is not love, but if it is something else you know not, then surely God is Love.

I'll follow up on the Christianity portion of this at a later date - again, I just needed to get this out... P.S. - no spell or grammer check on this one, sorry.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

"Innocent Bones"

The Two Horns of Realism and Non-Realism

I’m going to begin this how I ended it and call attention to my post on (click“Prayer and Meditation”). It occurred to me as I was writing this and reflecting on my Buddhist sentiments that I am in fact a non-realist to a high degree – even though I’ve been fighting it for a while. The point of the prayer and meditation post was to point out just how un-mystical the mystical really is, but for some reason I’ve been hanging onto it even though I’ve been all along in my posts on Buddhism ridiculing it. I’m a non-realist, what can I say…

It could be said that I’ve reached a bit of an impasse in my thinking, although I suppose it’s always been there, I simply haven’t seen it clearly. The impasse of course, centers around the sort of vocabulary one would find in a religious discourse from the Realist perspective and sort you would find in the Non-realist perspective. Clearly, as it stands, I have a foot and a half in the non-realist court and a half a foot still holding on to an old way of speaking.

If I were to take the realist horn relative to a religious discourse, then I mean to suggest that, in terms of God, there is in fact a God “out there” and the manner in which we speak identifies in some sense with what his nature is. In other words to call God good is to speak literally (of course this notion I reject). To put it more clearly a realist would suggest that science, lets say that of gravity, is identifying True characteristics which are intrinsic properties of the world, that we have in effect made a discovery about the world which was always there to be discovered. So once again, to call God good from this perspective is to identify a characteristic of God which is intrinsic to his nature. On the other hand, opposite of talking about God’s objective characteristics as being “all good”, “omnipotent”, “omnipresent”, “all knowing”, etc., is the speaking of/about God’s presence in terms of mystical and spiritual connections or awareness (a transcendence) – there is the feeling of the divine so to speak, and this language suggests that the presence of this experience is from the “God out there”.

So we have two perspectives here of course, the objective and the subjective, both of which lead to the same sorts of criticisms from the atheist. On the one hand (the atheist would suggest) there should be some way to measure and prove at least some of Gods nature in the same way we can measure and prove the world by defining and measuring gravity – where gravity is in this case, an intrinsic characteristic of the world in itself. If we say that God is out there and he’s “all good”, then we have the problem of evil. If we ascribe to any of the other common characteristics listed above, then we’re merely speaking nonsense and appealing to ineffability, in which case we’ve given no real reason why one should believe in God at all. Of course there are hordes of arguments for God out there which I won’t get into as from the realist perspective they are all wrought with holes, inconsistencies, pre-suppositions and circular reasoning.

From the subjective side of the argument the atheist will often grant that in fact there is such a thing as a “spiritual dimension”, but quickly passes it off as “a metaphor for complex cognitive and emotional states that other traditions might describe as ‘transcendental’.” Which, as I’ve argued, is merely pushing the problem off to another language game; after all, appealing to nerves and brain states, whereas it seems nice and scientific (getting us one step closer to big “T” Truth), only seems as such as it’s not part of our everyday language practices. If, as apposed to stating, “I’m feeling spiritual”, I rather stated that, “I’m in cognitive state ‘G’[od]”, the question of the cause of that brain state still remains, we’re just talking about it within another language game. What remains is the realist perspective that the cause of those brain states is a transcendental God existing “out there”, in which case we still have the burden of proof to show we have something objectively valid as a first cause which amounts to more then playing “God of the gaps”.

As a result of all this muddy water of realism, for a long time now I’ve grasped the non-realist horn without really even realizing that that’s what I was doing; which is merely to say that I hadn’t yet categorized my position, or for that matter thought about categorizing it. There’s a slight catch, however, when grasping to firmly onto the non-realist horn, which I’ll get to, but let me first state again what I tend to think this horn implies. As stated in a previous post, the basic premise of the non-realist stance is to say; nothing exists apart from our knowledge and language about a particular thing – more importantly, God doesn’t exist outside of our faith and what it is we say about him. Essentially this gets us to Rorty’s definition I quoted in an earlier post which I’ll paraphrase here by saying that truth is not “out there” as truth is a product of human language; language is a human creation, as such, where there is no language there is no truth. As a result, truth cannot exist “out there” independently of the human mind simply because sentences cannot exist in this way. Here we can rightly say that the world is out there, but descriptions of the world are not and only descriptions can be true of false.

Now I don’t want to belabor things I’ve already stated in the past, but this is where I dive head first into my mantra on God and much of religious language as metaphor. Furthermore that this metaphor plays itself out via a continual conversation had by man over time. In this way, from the non-realist perspective, we’re always re-defining what God is relative to whatever we may see as our current needs and intentions, always keeping in mind the underlying principles that define our belief. The obvious question becomes, “What is God a metaphor for?” I generally see this question as a tactic to tie down what it is we’re talking about in such a way that we can evaluate if from the realist perspective – and of course I refuse to have that conversation with the atheist, so he then claims that I’m being intellectually dishonest, or cowardly.

There are two perspectives I’d take in responding to this question and those are:
1.) With respect to a community of believers identifying and communicating with each other.
2.) With respect to a personal language that one has within himself.

Responding relative to “1” I would simply say that God is in some sense a figure, or symbol that:
A.) Identifies us with a certain community of believers.
B.) Codifies an underlying system of belief that’s based not on an authority per se, but on certain fundamental principles, i.e. Love, Forgiveness, Hope – essentially all the principles Christ preached which could be quite an expanded list of principles.

To see God as a metaphor in this way is to always have a sense that we’re expanding our community relative to our underlying principles to include all of mankind in much the same way a democratic society, following it’s underlying principles of freedom and equality, expands it’s principles to include all of mankind. To say that God is “all good” in this sense, is simply to say that relative to how our community defines that, we, through following the principles that underlie our beliefs, cultivate that goodness within ourselves and perpetuate those principals to all man kind. In this way we should see our beliefs not as dogmatic or static, rather we should always be re-interpreting those principles to include everyone. For example there are big questions going around as to whether or not homosexuals should be accepted into the religious community; this question will not be finally decided upon relative to a static dogma (although it’s that view which continually pushes the homosexual community away), but relative to the principles which underlie our beliefs. In this way, we cease to see God as “something out there” and rather something that identifies us as a people with basic principles in mind as to how we should act and behave towards one another. To believe in God is merely to adhere to some basic principles in much the same as to be a believer in Democracy is to be one who follows in the principles of freedom and equality. In this instance I can see the atheist asking, “Great, so why do we need God then?” and I would simply respond, “You don’t.” But you don’t need to talk about Democracy either, but in not doing so you’re in effect alienating yourself from the community.

Anyway (I said I wasn’t going to belabor things I already said), so I’ll move on to 2, a response to the metaphor with respect to a personal language that one has within himself – this is where my half a foot dangles into the realist. Within a community of believers we’ll often talk about doing things in the name of God, or doing things in the name of Christ, and in this sense we can side with Rorty and see these beliefs not as representations but as habits of action, and the words not as representations, but as tools. This works rather nicely as a view of the Christian and what he/she does. However, once we start talking about things like “a personal feeling of spirituality”, “faith”, and “a sense of the mystical”, we here begin to reach out to the realist horn where the transcendental arises and our actions cannot account for our language practice. Seemingly enough we understand each other (as Christians) when we use such language, but in what sense is this actually the case? I think we would understand each other as speaking metaphorically, but metaphorically of what? If someone were to say to me, “I have a real sense of the presence of God”, I think I can to a certain degree appreciate and understand it, but I certainly can’t parse anything of use out of it. Relative to a “habit of action” I can only assume that this means one has strong convictions and feelings about our underlying principles. So should I or could I reduce 2 to 1 and say with complete confidence, “God is nothing more then what we say” and ignore all spiritual components as unimportant?

Suppose I make an analogy here between a spiritual sense and love. We all have a sense of love, what it means and how it feels. From a communal aspect it’s one thing to understand and/or know how a person is feeling, but it’s generally more important to understand what that implies in terms of a habit of action. When we “share in the love” we’re sharing in a certain habit of action towards each other – it’s not so important then, that we infer specific feelings then we observe certain actions that we assume to be consistent with those feelings. So in this instance are we ignoring love? If, again, we say that God is nothing more then what we say about him (and our beliefs represent habits of action), does this really short site the mystical component to experience? Or does it say rather, we understand there to be a mystical component as we experience it in ourselves, however its irrelevant compared to our actions regarding it? In other words I can say I’m as spiritual as I want, but if I’m a dick, nobody cares.

Let me grab that statement one more time, “Does the non-realist position ignore the mystical component?” or is it that the mystical component is merely irrelevant? In other words calling ourselves mystics (and having mystical experiences) infers certain behaviors… Short of deeds and habits of action, saying that one has great faith, belief, and mystical connections is completely meaningless to anybody and everybody but oneself – as a result one should only consider it relative to deeds. What else do we have?
To suggest that there is something more to the mystical beyond a habit of action is almost to suggest that the morally upright atheist who donates money and volunteers his time is somehow feeling different then the faith based Christian who does the same…