• A Particular Collision: Arendt, CERN, and Reformational Philosophy

      Johnson, Matthew E.; Institute for Christian Studies (2014-03-27)
      In this paper, I will explore how recent discoveries in particle physics that are part of the pursuit of a so-called “unified theory of everything” play into a worldview that has the potential to poison ethical life. I will explicate Hannah Arendt’s critique of modern science’s pursuit of knowledge by means of (what she calls) “acting into nature,” and I will place the groundbreaking experimental research at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, as well as the theoretical search for a unified “theory of everything,” within the scope of Arendt’s critique. In order to maintain Arendt’s concept of unprecedented newness inherent in human action (or what she calls “natality”) as a response to a scientific reductionism that tends to accompany these claims and pursuits of theoretical physics and to expose what is at stake in Arendt’s critique, I will turn to the anti-reductionistic Reformational philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd and D. H. Th. Vollenhoven, which offers a model that resonates with Arendt’s critique of modern science, while also allowing for a potentially viable way forward for considerations of the scope of scientific knowledge. Finally, I will conclude with the implications of this Reformational anti-reductionism on Arendt’s concern that human action, with its power to create new and unprecedented historical situations and natural processes, must be held accountable by reflection. What is learned from Arendt and the Reformational philosophers is that giving ground to the possibility of a unified theory of everything carries with it a determinism that disallows the recognition of both newness and irreducible complexity, both of which are essential to the ethical life.
    • Songs of Solidarity: A New Approach to Liturgical Music and Community Cohesion

      Johnson, Matthew E.; Institute for Christian Studies (2014-03-06)
      In this paper, I will focus on a single type of music used in a religious setting, namely congregational song, which I will broadly refer to as “liturgical music.” Though liturgical music in the context of Christian community serves a variety of functions for community participants, this paper will focus on two major functions liturgical music plays in the way it facilitates community coherence: (1) it connects participants via embodied empathetic imagination to a particular defining narrative or mythology, and (2) it connects participants via co-performance directly to one another. I will suggest that liturgical art in religious community is actually a constitutive force in that community, having the capability of illuminating and affirming the communal identity shared by the participants. Participation in liturgical music is a way of actively shaping the community as a community, re-telling together a deeply held defining mythology in the context of the present world and creating a shared moment of co-performance in which participants enter into true face-to-face relationships with one another. Finally, I will illustrate how these functions may play out in a religious community through an analysis of Psalm 136’s content and use in ancient Israelite liturgy.