Browsing Institute for Christian Studies by Publisher "Cosmos Publishing Cooperative"
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On the Varieties of Religious Rationality: Plato (and the Buddha) Versus the New AtheistsHolocaust survivor Victor Frankl claims that human beings are spiritually and mentally free, and that it is possible to maintain one's dignity even in a concentration camp. If this tremendous claim is true, it is true regardless of who says it. However, it is only when the claim is made by someone like Frankl that it functions rhetorically, actually prompting the listener to reflect on what it might mean. In the Georgias, Socrates argues for an even more extreme version of this same idea: that it would be better to be tortured to death than to torture someone else, because it is impossible for a torturer to be happy. This paper shows why, if what Frankl and Socrates say is true, both tradition and myth are perfectly rational modes of discourse, and why a culture that rejects the capacity of tradition and myth to disclose truth will almost inevitably reject these claims as irrational. This discussion is framed in terms of an interesting disjunct in the meaning of the term "atheist," as it is used by the New Atheists and as it is used by Plato, and is set in dialogue with the claims of as Vipassana meditation teacher S. N. Goenka, whose teachings bear remarkable similarity to Plato's.
The Quest for Pleasure and the Death of LifeIn this paper, I present a parallel between Schopenhauer, who argues that a purely rational being would see life as meaningless suffering and therefore refuse to inflict existence on a new generation of humans, and economist Lester Thurow, who argues that it is irrational to care about what happens to the world after one's own death, even if this means the extinction of the human species. I show first how these attitudes stem from an orientation that judges life in terms of pleasure and pain. Then, with reference to an article by Amien Kacou, I seek to refute this orientation, showing how a conscious being that actually saw pleasure as its highest good would likely become miserable - or, conversely, that the only way for such a being to actually experience pleasure would be for it to see justice as more important than its own individual satisfaction. I conclude with some reflections on what this means in terms of Nietzsche's statement "God is dead," and what ramifications it has on the current ecological crisis.
The Spiritual Meaning of Technological Evolution to LifeThere are two senses by which technology can be seen as a new layer of living complexity: first, while biological systems can only appropriate 24 of the 91 natural elements into their metabolic processes, technological systems can imbue complex form into all 91 elements; second, this added capacity gives life the potential to expand across its current limit – the atmosphere of the Earth – in the same way as it expanded from the oceans to the land some five hundred million years ago. This essay explores what such an understanding of life and technology might mean to us, humanity, in the context of our current ecological and social catastrophe.