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Emil Durkheim and his Moral Critique of Evolution

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Emil Durkheim insisted on the reality of social facts that could be studied like biological facts, even though they had an ontology of a higher order.

John Searle writes concerning “understanding  the ontology of socially created reality” that observer-relative features of objects can provide epistemic objectivity, which for Searle is still a subjective ontology. [1] His example is that of a rock used as a paper weight. The latter is an observer-relative fact, while that it is a rock is an intrinsic ontologically objective fact.  Because Searle adheres to tenets of naturalism, he states, “There could not be an opposition between culture and biology, because if there were, biology would always win.[2]

Now Searle uses the concept of culture rather than society here, even though he is trying to understand the ontology of socially created reality. Sociological forces, however, are very real, in which natural forces play a small role, revolutions and wars, for example. Sociological realities can even play a large role in natural disasters, witness the weak institutions of Haiti ravaged by political and social turmoil and the resultant poverty.

These thoughts are intended as an explanatory preface to Durkheim’s moral critique of biological evolution that supposedly predominates so powerfully over culture and society.


[1] John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality (New York: the Free Press, 1995), see pages 12-13.

[2] Ibid., page 227. Compare this to George Herbert Mead’s citation. It is obvious why Mead is used to defend against biological reductionism in psychology and he is useful when it appears in philosophy, as well. Mead states, “Out of language emerges the field of the mind. It is absurd to look at the mind simply from the standpoint of the individual human organism; for although it has a focus there, it is essentially a social phenomenon; even its biological functions are primarily social.George Herbert Mead, On Social Psychology, Anselm Strauss, ed., (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1956), p. 195.

I would be grateful if someone could provide me with the exact wording and the source of Talcott Parson’s famous citation on Durkheim.

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Written by peterkrey

January 14, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Durkheim’s Typology of Suicides

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Four Types of Suicide according to Emile Durkheim

Dr. Peter Krey, June 19th 2002

(Note that because this post did not pick up the lines, I have also scanned a copy with them.)

In his important book, his study of suicide, Durkheim is trying to show that something as private and individual as suicide can be sociologically determined.

In trying to understand suicide sociologically, Durkheim concentrates on two sociological variables, integration and regulation, and argues that too much or too little of either creates conditions in which suicide becomes more likely.[1]

img038

INTEGRATION and REGULATION

ALTRUISTIC SUICIDE results when an individual is too strongly integrated into his/her group, e.g., in a traditional religious group or into the army, so that s/he easily sacrifices her/himself either for the sake of the group or because s/he cannot face its disapproval. Egoistic suicide on the other hand, results when an individual is not integrated very strongly into any group at all, when s/he recognizes nothing higher than her/himself and has few social supports in time of trouble. Excessive social regulation produces what Durkheim calls fatalistic suicide, and he gives the example of the suicide of slaves who are unable to influence at all the rules under which they must live.  The opposite of excessive regulation, the case where regulation is weak or inadequate, is what he calls anomic suicide. Where inordinate desires and fears develop with no clear expectations or rules of conduct, the resulting disorientation can lead to anomic suicide.[2]


[1]Robert Bellah, Emile Durkheim: On Morality and Society, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973),p. Xxviii.

 

[2]Ibid.

Written by peterkrey

November 2, 2009 at 5:51 am

Posted in 1, Sociology

A Study of Performative Declarations for Social Movements and Continuous Creation via Language from the Language Philosophy of John R. Searle May 6, 1996 by Peter D. S. Krey

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A Study of Performative Declarations for

Social Movements and Continuous Creation via Language

From the Language Philosophy of John R. Searle

    by

                         Peter D. S. Krey,

                      Graduate Student at the

                     Graduate Theological Union

                       (Early Modern History)

                             May 6, 1996

   For Prof. John R. Searle

University of California at Berkeley

                            A Reading Course for credit

                             Philosophy of Language Ph 133

_________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

A Study of Performative Declarations for

Social Movements and Continuous Creation via Language

From the Language Philosophy of John R. Searle

May 6, 1996

by Peter D. S. Krey,

GTU Graduate Student

Preface

Regretfully, this study represents something almost like a diary, in which learning about speech acts and the performatives are explored while reading J. L. Austen and John Searle’s books and then later, Moltmann, Habermas, George Herbet Mead, and others. Sometimes the search for how speech acts and performatives are related to social movements like the Reformation is lost in the exploration about what the ancient representation of God’s creation via language may mean. At one point, I discover and read Searle’s “How Performatives Work,” a definitive piece about performatives, and that starts informing my thoughts.

The first version of this writing was 18 pages long and passed in to Prof. Searle, whose Teaching Assistant critiqued the paper. That leads to the section on St. Thomas and his theory of analogy, so that human words and divine words are set apart. I grapple with this analogy theory again and again, sometimes using Searle’s description of the features of language to good effect. The theory of analogy, however, also propels the focus of the essay more into creation rather than investigating precisely how speech acts and performatives drive social movements.

A very technical part of this study deals with why Searle, who is proposing the linguistic construction of institutions, keeps avoiding the concept of sociology. He explicitly rejects the social construction of reality theorists like Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann. Through Mead’s critique of naturalism, I try to critique Searle and find a social matrix to his linguistic construction of institutions, because sociology can even be defined as the study of institutions. (I wonder what the relationship of institutions and social movements might be? Are they spontaneous institutions that later become ingrained and take root in the society?) That part is where I bring in George Herbert Mead, Jürgen Habermas, Emil Durkheim, Pierre Bourdieu, and Loïs Wacquant. It is peculiar the way Searle skips from biology to culture and avoids the study of sociology.

I reflect on self-reference versus reflexivity, but not very successfully, I’m afraid – (while Habermas nails the distinction). But it does bring the insight that if the constitutive rule (CR) makes all institutions language dependent and language itself is an institution, then reflexivity has to be involved and the CR (X counts as Y in C) has to be constitutive of language, itself, i.e., and for speech acts and performatives as well. This insight makes it possible to pronounce a new status function as if existing, thereby bringing that state of being into existence. The way Charles De Gaulle insisted that the state of France be recognized, even though it no longer existed in World War II, relates to the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven ruled by Jesus Christ, pronouncing it into existence so that God’s will is done on earth as in heaven.

Thus, it may seem as if speech acts and performatives are no longer related to social movements and how they are set afoot and that this essay deals rather with Searle’s mere linguistically constituting institutions. The social movement theme is really not lost, however, because creation via language is not a divine language event of the past, but is creation as on-going. Luther held that creation was continuous and thus in a performative way it is proclaimed and social movements set about by the Word of God still flow from the lips of God’s prophets.

In the appendices definitions of performatives are included and speech acts are diagramed in the way of John Searle. Do not be put off by the letters. They do not stand for sentential calculus, for example, but mere words: W for wish, H for hearer, S for speaker, etc.

 

INTRODUCTION

“The Word of God, whenever it comes, comes to change and renew the world.”[1]  Martin Luther, the Sixteenth Century reformer, who said this bon mot, had utter confidence in the power of the proclaimed Word. His Word of God Theology was very influential in the Early Modern Protestant revolution, which we call the Reformation. His dynamic sense of language, and his belief in the executive power of words, derives, of course, from the Scriptures. Psalm 33:9 expresses it very succinctly:

God spoke, and it was done.

And this passage does not only refer to God’s authority to command, but also to God’s creation by means of the word, ex nihilo. God’s speaking continues creation.[2]

Furthermore, the Prologue of the Gospel of John begins:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made (John 1:1-3).

So great was the Christian respect for the logos, the word, that they sometimes represent the Trinity as the Father, Word, and Holy Spirit. A few verses later in John’s Prologue it reads:

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”[3]

Thus God is not only active at the beginning of time and in the redemption brought in history by Jesus Christ, but is, continuously, involved in creation by means of divine words.

The prophet Isaiah understands the power of God’s

words. For example in a famous passage he writes:

As the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it spring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11).

When considering perfomative language in its various forms, the question arises whether it is related to this theological sense of continuous creation via language or the performative is merely a technical description of the relationship of language and action. That some language itself constitutes action may or may not have anything to do with the theological sense that God’s speaking brings the world into existence, creating it from nothing. It may, however, have everything to do with the claim of Luther and the prophets that speaking the Word of God changes and renews the world.[4]

 

Performatives in the Philosophy of Language

When J. L. Austin discovered the performative dimension of language, he was concerned with the question: “Can saying make it so?”[5] He saw something revolutionary for Philosophy in this discovery – despite some confusion logic might provisionally plunge into because of it. (Is a sentence true or false if saying it makes it so? What are actions in relation to speech?) But Austin then noted that there might be some disappointment over his simple examples.[6] After his constative/performative distinction collapses, in the course of his 1955 Harvard lectures, he still feels affirmative about illocutionary force and the performative. He continues by projecting a general speech act theory beyond that collapsed distinction.

John R. Searle took Austin’s general theory of speech acts and basically rethought and reworked it. He revised Austin’s taxonomy of speech acts, which revolved around classifying the performative verbs, to his own taxonomy, in which he more systematically categorized the speech acts according to their illocutionary point.[7] Here in Searle’s fifth category, which he calls ‘Declarations’, we find the speech act in which he locates the confusion concerning Austin’s discovery of the performative.[8]

(Is the discovery of the perfomative speech act world-shaking or merely a proverbial tempest in a tea cup?)

Striking the same note as Austin in a recent lecture, Searle introduced the performative speech act as “the one, the successful performance of which, is sufficient to change the world.”[9] The declaration brings about a fit between the world and the word by its very performance,[10] i.e., the world is changed by the words. In 1969, when Searle published Speech Acts, he had not yet worked out the symbolic representation of all his different classes of speech acts.[11] But in 1979, in his Expression and Meaning, in doing so, he gives a more technical introduction to this class of speech acts, which he calls “declarations”, with the words:

There is still left an important class of cases, where the state of affairs represented in the proposition expressed is realized or brought into existence by the illocutionary force indicating device,[12] cases where one brings a state of affairs into existence by declaring it to exist, cases where, so to speak “saying makes it so”. Examples of these cases are ‘I resign’, ‘You’re fired’, ‘I excommunicate you’, ‘I christen this ship the battleship Missouri’, “I appoint you chairman’, and ‘War is hereby declared’.[13]

The reality changing aspect is here couched in the words: “the proposition expressed is realized or brought into existence” and “one brings a state of affairs into existence by declaring it to exist”. This accomplishment of an illocutionary declaration is not a little astonishing and could relate to the theological sense of divine speech continuing creation. Thus God’s saying, “Let there be light” brought light into existence. Or the prophet shouts, “Thus saith the Lord!” and the society undergoes a renewal with language changing its realities.

But upon further investigation, it seems that this reality changing force does not characterize all the groups of this class of speech acts. One group of declarations is only self-referential to language: e.g., “I define”, “I abbreviate”, “I name”, etc.[14] Other declarations, however, change reality by making it match their meaning. These performatives are worth tracing for the light they throw on our subject.

In his later book, The Construction of Social Reality,[15] Searle qualifies these declarations as “performative declarations”. Interestingly enough, here, in the context of discussing his constitutive rule:

     “X counts as Y in C”

  (where the Y term gives the X term a new status function), Searle writes about them under a heading with the term “Performative Utterances”. His designation here is noteworthy, because in his previous terminology, he merely named them declarations. Continuing his analysis of the constitutive rule in the latter book, he then uses the term, “performative declaration”:[16]

          In general, where the X term is a speech act, the constitutive rule will enable the speech act to be performed as a performative declaration creating the state of affairs described by the Y term. (The italics are his.)[17]

Here the performative declaration functions in close association with the constitutive rule, ‘X counts as Y in C’, to create another state of affairs.  (“Performed as a performative…” sounds redundant, but it could be reflexive, i.e., meaning a doubling back upon itself – roughly.) Furthermore, Searle here gives us the linguistic or symbolic move from the X term (a speech act) to the Y term (a newly created state of affairs) and the performative declaration brings about the new status function. (A new status function for cigarettes, for example, could be their use as currency when ordinary money has lost its value.) Searle gives the following examples for the difficult analysis above:

Because saying certain things counts as entering into a contract or adjourning a meeting, you can perform those acts by saying you are performing them. If you are a chairman, then saying in appropriate circumstances “The meeting is adjourned” will make it the case that the meeting is adjourned.[18]

Searle’s article, “How Performatives Work” written in 1989, is truly magisterial, because in it he explains the secret complexities of the performative phenomenon.[19] He states that the word, “hereby” is characteristic for the performative and whether it is explicit or not, it illustrates that the performative is an utterance about itself: it is self-referential.[20] The “here” part of this authoritative sounding word, “hereby,” is the self-referential part; and the “by” part, is the executive part of the declaration. And here the implication is not merely the description of an intention but the manifestation of the intention by its very utterance.[21] Thus the speaker must intend that his or her utterance of an order or a promise, for example, make it the case that s/he is giving an order or making a promise:

And that intention can be encoded in the meaning of a sentence when the sentence encodes executive self-referentiality over an intentional verb.…the utterance of a performative sentence constitutes both a declaration and, by derivation, an assertion.[22] 

Given that other conditions are satisfied, a certain class of actions is here involved for which the manifestation of the intention is sufficient to perform the action.[23] The tense of the performative has to be in what Searle calls the present present, or the dramatic present.[24]

In the course of his very thorough study, Searle makes another distinction between two kinds of performatives: linguistic declarations and extra-linguistic declarations. In the latter category, the rules of “extra-linguistic” institutions are required, while in the former, they are not. He classifies promises and orders as commissives and directives, respectively, and places them in the former category, i.e., not requiring the rules of an extra-linguistic institution.[25] At times he calls these two different categories of declarations:

“linguistic performatives” and “extra-linguistic performatives,”

“linguistic declarations” and “institutional declarations,” or “linguistic performatives” and “institutional performatives”.

The utterance of a linguistic declaration or performative, in the first category, accomplishes a purely linguistic institutional fact, like a promise or an order. (Language, for Searle, is also broadly defined as an institution.) For the extra-linguistic or institutional performatives in the second category, the constitutive rules for language alone do not suffice, but those of an extra-linguistic institution are also required. For example, “The meeting will now come to order” requires the extra-linguistic Robert’s Rules of Order. A better example yet, because it contains a performative: “I now pronounce you husband and wife” will not constitute a marriage unless the laws of the state are followed.

Supernatural Declarations

In tracing the performatives relevant to the theological sense God’s speaking, a third performative is promisingly called a “supernatural declaration.” Interestingly enough, Searle maintains that it does not require an extra-linguistic institution. Institutional declarations or performatives are not excepted from this requirement, according to Searle, while the linguistic performatives and the supernatural performatives are.

In the case of the supernatural declaration, a performative verb is not necessary, because any act can be named by fiat, and it does not have to be in that small number of acts of that class of peculiar actions which are named by a verb and are capable of being carried out by the mere manifestation of an intention, (to reiterate a description of the performative again). For example, “I promise to give you an example about what I am writing about”. The previous performative sentence contains a performative verb, “promise,” while “God said, ‘Let there be light and there was light’” does not contain such a verb, and is thus performative by fiat. To talk about a promise, of course, is not to make one (J. L. Austin).

But immediately, two considerations come to mind. “By fiat” might undermine my position – that the performative and its dynamic could shed light on God’s speaking making creation come into existence. God did not need performatives if he spoke by fiat. God also did not need to use performatives explicitly, like, “I decree” or “I declare that there be light.” It is also absurd to think that God would have to get his grammar right in order to create the world by means of speech. Perhaps the performative is merely a dynamic feature of a form of language, which language as such performs as well, when spoken by God. But performatives may still be a version of action via language analogous to divine creation via language and could, possibly, shed light on divine creation, which theologians claim is carried out by God’s speaking.[26]

Secondly, Luther, in his Theology of the Word, relegated all things under law as command and all things under the gospel as promise, making the law and gospel divine performatives. Thus, all good things come to us from divine performatives. If we magnify such language acts to events, and even take a further step, then it could be argued that the good creation also comes by God’s Word of command and promise. Such performatives may further specify God’s Word speaking the creation into existence, or more specifically, the performatives of supernatural declarations would do so, to use Searle’s terminology.[27]

The supernatural declaration, (although Searle sees it merely as a limiting case and would not at all agree to this theological sense), points rather explicitly to the case where the Word of God brings into existence that which it utters. The commands and promises of God as the Word of God are performatives containing a reality changing force; their propositions do not correspond to reality, but have the power to bend realities to correspond to them. It is as if even more than a self-fulfilling prophesy for truth conditions becomes involved when “saying makes it so,” or “thinking makes it so,” or “believing makes it so”. These kinds of statements are intriguing, because they seem to hint that performative language has more to say about creation via language.

  Competence, Authority, and Constitutive Rules

If the performative contains an intention becoming an action named by the verb, the speech-act is still contingent on a speaker and the competence of the speaker, as to whether or not a promise can or cannot be fulfilled. Unsuccessful performatives are those that are outside of the competence of the speaker or hearer. Take an example from baseball: when a runner is sliding over home plate and the umpires yells, “Out!” then the runner is out; but not if someone yells, “Out!” from the stands. The words of the fan, yelling from the stands does not count, because the umpire has the authority by the constitutive rules of the game, while the fan does not.

Competence also spells the difference between a divine and human performative. God speaks in divine performatives, but we humans do not. If a person were diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and someone would say, “I promise you will not die of your lung cancer!” or “I command the lung cancer to leave your body.” It will all be to no avail and be an unsuccessful performative and the person will still die. It would have to be a divine performative and could not be a merely human one. It could be a human one if we already knew the cause and could cure cancer. But as opposed to God, the cancer would not be healed via the naked words spoken by God. Humans would still use medicine as well and treat the disease. In a promise the speaker takes an obligation, but how can the speaker fulfill an obligation beyond his or her competence to fulfill? In the case of a command, how can the hearer take that obligation when it is humanly impossible to carry out? The human performative here would also certainly violate the cancer victim’s truth conditions, while a divine performative would not. God is omniscient and knows the cure for lung cancer. Thus, God’s performative would bring about the state of affairs that God was declaring, namely, the healing of the disease. In this case language itself does not carry out the action, while at times language is action, and God’s speaking is action, even creation via language. I wonder if in the tradition of the prophets, there is any way that the human speaker in such a case can utter the Word of God?

After exploring performative declarations, the linguistic, institutional, and supernatural ones, human and divine, Isaiah’s words come to mind: “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways over your ways and my thoughts over your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 9). We could add to that, God’s speech acts over ours. Divine speech includes creation, in terms of bringing new physical realities into the world, which would include biological realities. With the Divine Word we can speak of creation via language. But human speech is capable of bringing new social realities into existence in terms of movements and the constitution of institutions.

Thus, the human performative that pronounced the healing of lung cancer here addressed biological conditions, which we humans are not yet competent to heal. That healing takes place at times and sometimes does not is true in spontaneous remission, but that healing does not relate to human performative pronouncements. When speaking of the divine creation via language, biological and physical realities are certainly understood to be involved. But Searle is dealing with the linguistic construction of institutional realities. Thus, it would also be fruitful to investigate performatives addressed to sociological conditions. Luther’s citation about God’s Word coming to change and renew the world primarily addresses sociological and personal realities.

Part II

Again, it is not here argued that the Word of God cannot heal cancer, but that we cannot yet pronounce that healing, because our words are still all too human.[28] We could pronounce the healing and believe it fervently, but if God does not act, it will be of no avail. Only God’s saying will make it so.

Now the question arises, in how so far does our human saying make something so? The Word of God cannot, of course, be easily equated with human words. The Thomist doctrine of analogy can help by making more distinctions, because the Word or logos, can also mean a pattern, archetype, or reason.[29] The analogy between human words and the Word of God, from this point of view, consists in God’s creating through speaking and not by making or forcing. Analogous with our speaking, God’s creating is called speaking, because it is meaningful and naturally brings our human response; otherwise God’s speaking continuous creation into existence is dis-analogous with our speaking in very basic ways.[30]

Furthermore, it may be fruitful to investigate whether or not more insight might be gained from within the human and divine analogy. The Psalmist says, “God speaks and it is done.” Luther says, “God makes the heavens and the earth solely by the Word God utters.”[31] Above we cited Luther saying, “God speaks realities into existence” and “that which among us has the sound of a word is a reality with God.”[32] And what has previously been said in this study about performatives is very similar: “a new state of affairs becomes created,” and “the proposition expressed is realized or brought into existence,” and “one brings a state of affairs into existence by declaring it to exist”. I believe Austin’s discovery of the performative and his development of speech-act theory caught a glimpse of this theological sense of the word and that is why it felt so revolutionary and then seemed to evaporate into a technicality of language. Luther certainly felt an encounter with the Word:

Oh, if we were able to weigh, with the affectus [the feeling] that we ought, what it means to be saying, “God is speaking,” “God is promising,” “God is threatening”! Who I ask would not be shaken to their very depths? This is a great word, a great sound, and one to be feared: “Behold the Word of God!”[33]

To continue in a heuristic exploration, the understanding of the performative could shed some light on Luther’s strong sense of words and language as opposed to the vestigial sense, the weak sense, in which mere words are played off against actions. After all, Luther thought that creation amounted to God’s translating language into realities,[34] when God’s thoughts are brought to speech. Because the performative is a language-act, from which action issues out of speech, for God’s divine performatives, ontology, new creations issue from God’s speech. New institutional and and social realities can issue from our human performatives. Thus this study might also throw light upon the dynamic social movements and upheavals of the Reformation that Luther attributed to the Word.[35] Because language is integral to human society and its institutions, as this study of Searle will later show, there may be a more intimate role that language plays in the spontaneous action that becomes social change.

Reconsidering the Thomist analogy between God’s word and human language or human versus divine words, somewhat more insight can be attained approaching divine creation via language and the limitation of the human word by also considering St. Augustine. St. Thomas’s distinction between the divine and human word usually involves the attributes of God. St. Augustine specifically distinguishes between the divine and human word as well. He writes that God is saying: “My word was with me and proceeded into voice. The Word of God was with the Father and proceeded into flesh.”[36] (“Flesh” in the Hebrew sense of the word stands for a human being.) Mark Jordan, in his study of Augustine writes that the church Father was describing the passage from thought to sound or from langue to parole, to use de Saussure’s words.[37] (An analogy is there between thought to sound and word to human being, namely the Incarnation of Christ.) Mark Jordan interpreting St. Augustine goes on to support further study of the analogy between human words and the Word of God:

The two sorts of human verba (verbum interius, verbum prolatus) are meant to explicate the Incarnation of the eternal Verbum. But what becomes possible, once the analogy is constructed is the reversal of its direction.[38]

An internal word or a thought (verbum interius) can proceed to a word spoken aloud (verbum prolatus). By analogy the heavenly Word spoken by the Father can beget the Son. And the Son, who is the Word, speaks creation into existence. What Mark Jordan might mean by “the reversal” could be that the word spoken out loud can throw light on thought and the Son, the Word Incarnate, can throw light on the Father, and, to extrapolate with one more step: then human speech can throw light on Divine speech or the creation via language, if that is what Jordan’s “reversal of its direction” means.

This subtle reflection on Mark Jordan’s words provides some support for saying that our language, with due respect to the limits of analogy, can throw light on the Incarnation, from Augustine’s point of view; and our speech can throw light on Divine speech, to extrapolate further. Interestingly enough, language going from thought to speech in general is also similar to an abstract sentence grasped as a concrete speech-act in the Philosophy of Language and, furthermore, is also similar to a spoken intention becoming a manifest action in a performative utterance as another small “incarnational” increment. And when Searle describes the performative as executive self-reference, then how can one not think of the One who first refused to give the divine name to Moses from the burning bush that did not consume its branches; then finally saying, “I am who I am!” (Exodus 3:14)

Interestingly enough, to further support creation via language even from the human word, Heidegger says that Language is the house of being[39] and “It is language that first brings man about, brings him into existence. Understood in this way, man would be spoken by language.”[40] Persons become pronounced into existence. (Here Heidegger points to another power of language beyond mere action. Language can bring a self into existence and can be the vehicle for sharing oneself with another.) In Heidegger’s reversal, i.e., that human beings do not speak a language but are spoken by their language, one could speak of human beings being the vocabulary of the language of God. Jesus Christ is the Word of God and we too, as Christs to others, also become God’s Words. Heidegger, the poet of being, I believe, is working well on the divine side of the analogy.[41]

   Language as the Source of Institutions

     Searle analyzes the key role that language, in terms of speech acts, plays constituting institutions and making them possible.[42] We will see that John Searle finds this key in what he calls the constitutive rule (CR). But while he sees this rule as bringing institutions into existence, I am looking for the language key to more spontaneous social change and creation via language. (See footnote 42.) I believe that Searle’s analysis of the role language plays in bringing institutions into existence can help understand the role language plays in social change as well. But in a peculiar way I will need to relate society and sociology to Searle’s philosophy of language, because although he makes a tour de force into sociology, which after all, according to Emile Durkheim, is the study of institutions, he never mentions sociology. Thus I’ll be asking, how does his Philosophy of Language relate to sociology?  This will require that I explore the performative per se, the performative or supernatural declaration and the constitutive rule according to John Searle. But I will also introduce the social matrix in which communication evolved and developed according to George Herbert Mead, who argues that significant gestures, vocal gestures or language, selves, minds, and society developed in a social process.[43] This approach will open the way beyond the relation of language and action, into the richer understanding of how language brings selves, minds, communities, societies, and worlds into existence, as well as changing them. That seems like an exaggerated statement, but the biblical language for it runs along the lines of “the Word became flesh.” I will begin with trying to understand the relevant kind of reflexivity and self-reference, which I believe is central to language.

What distinguishes reflexivity from circularity and infinite regress? Sin has been defined as the turning in upon the self, in Latin, curvatus in se, that is, self-absorption.[44] But how is this different from consciousness centering and intensifying back upon itself for a creative breakthrough? The Socratic “Know thyself!” is reflexive, but not self-absorption. Knowing what you know and what you don’t is important. The more you know the more you know that you don’t know and the less you know the more you think you know is the Socratic paradox. In reference to the self, the self is aware of the limits of its knowledge as well as the level of maturity of the knowing self.

Reflexivity and Self-reference: Searle, Mead, and Habermas

Searle described the performative as an executive, self-referential utterance. I want to investigate the self-referential aspect of the performative and relate it to the reflexive nature of language described by George Herbert Mead and then criticized by Jürgen Habermas, both of whose thoughts I am also including to provide a social matrix for Searle’s linguistic construction of institutional reality, which he may be without.

The performative is self-referential because, it is an utterance about itself. In most definitions of the performative, as previously noted, the self-referential or reflexive feature is indicated. In How to Do Things with Words, Austin states that performatives are verbs, e.g., like betting, promising, bequeathing, etc., “very commonly also used in naming the act which, in making such an utterance, I am performing.[45] Notice how in turning back upon itself, the syntax of his definition entails reflexivity: “naming an act which, in making such an utterance, I am performing….”[46] Reflexivity also seems to be in one of Searle’s definitions: a performative “is not merely the description of an intention but the manifestation of the intention by its very utterance.” “By its very utterance” is where the reflexive or self-referential feature again comes to light.

Now this self-reference is not the same as that of the meaning of a sentence doubling back upon itself as in Pascal’s famous example:

“All generalizations are false including this one.”[47]

A value loop comes about in such self-reference making it impossible to ascertain truth or falsity. For Mead the gesture or symbol is not referential to itself, but to the self of the speaker as if addressed by the other.[48] A value loop does not result, but rather, an increasing internalization for the emergence of the self.[49] A different kind of self-reference takes place in the performative. Searle speaks about the difficulty of getting inside its linguistic space:

To be performative the semantic content of the verb needs to function essentially and successfully in the saying of the sentence, in the performance of the speech act.[50]

{Notice the change in status function: “saying the sentence” (X) and “the performance of the speech act (Y).” (Cf. a package of cigarettes (X) becomes money (Y).}

The constitutive rule describes the particular reflexivity of the performative, because if language itself is an institution, according to Searle, and this rule is the basic building block of institutions, it should describe the inner workings of the performative, even if it does not touch upon all its features. (The self-referential or reflexive character is a feature shared by both the performative speech act and the constitutive rule.) The action-Y term loops back to the intention-X term and in such a way that it gives a new status function (from intention to action) inside the performative expression.[51]

Roughly speaking, what is self-referential is also self-reflexive, except that in the latter the meanings of words need not be involved. George Herbert Mead finds that language develops from gestures that become reflexive:

The vocal gesture becomes a significant symbol … when it has the same effect on the individual making it that it has on the individual to whom it is addressed or who explicitly responds to it, and thus involves a reference to the self of the individual making it.[52]

Mead theorizes a reflexivity inherent in language more basic than its ability to express reflexivity.[53] Habermas will nail down Mead’s kind of reflexivity more precisely below.[54]

To continue with Mead, a gesture or symbol becomes significant:

because it calls out in the individual making it the same attitude toward it (or toward its meaning) that it calls out in the other individuals participating with him in the given social act…

Gestures become significant symbols when they implicitly arouse in an individual making them the same responses which they explicitly arouse, or are supposed to arouse, in other individuals, the individuals to whom they are addressed.[55]

From Mead’s theory, the implicit arousal in the speaker, to use Searle’s terms and the explicit arousal in the hearer, provide the reflexivity that opens into the social selves of individuals.[56] Now in the inner operations of a performative, a verb that expresses an intention in the process of being spoken, doubles back and makes its intention into an action. Analogous with Mead’s theory, an increment of externalization takes place from speaking to acting while an increment of internalization takes place from meaning to a self.[57] I believe that iterations of reflexivity are involved in new levels of internalization from significant gesture, to language, to selves, minds, societies, and worlds in the social process described by Mead. (Of course the transitions from one to the next, i.e., language to self, to mind, to society, to world, are the burden of Mead’s whole social psychology.)

Anselm Strauss, in his introduction to George Herbert Mead: Social Psychology, notes that Mead

makes action toward the self an integral facet of the act. One takes himself into account while acting toward the non-self. This self-reflexivity is dependent on language….[58]

Anselm Strauss, who is the editor of G. H. Mead’s lectures, is right that this reflexivity of action is dependent on language, but Mead also maintains that language itself depends upon this reflexivity. A gesture or a vocal gesture, i.e., a word, becomes a significant symbol when it has the same meaning to the individual making it that it has to the individual to whom it is addressed,[59] and thus it involves a reference to the self of the individual making it. This reflexivity is not self-reference to the gesture but to the self of the individual making the significant gesture. And in the social process of this communication,

an individual is an other before he is a self. It is in addressing himself in the role of an other that his self arises in experience.[60]

     Here the words of Mead bring a famous passage of Luther, as well as insights from Heinz Kohut’s Self Psychology to mind. Luther concludes the popular version of his “Freedom of the Christian Person” with the person being outside him or herself, extra nos, in the sense of ecstasy:

Christians do not live in themselves, but in Christ and in their neighbor – in Christ through faith and in the neighbor through love. Through faith they ascend (are enraptured) above themselves into God. From God they descend through love again below themselves, yet always remain in God and God’s love.[61]

These insights militate against a self-centered and completely self-interested individualism that is not grounded in our social and self-transcending nature.[62]

Thus according to Mead, “the self is an other before he is a self.” This statement is quite literally true, because a baby is first inside its mother, internal to the mother, before being born. Mead continues, “It is in addressing himself in the role of an other that his self arises in experience.” Perhaps a psychologically parallel development takes place, where the baby’s self derives from the mother’s self, and is born again, so to speak, i.e., biologically and then as a new self out of the mother’s self.[63]

In Kohut’s Self Psychology, the mother is the other self, with all her self-functions that the child appropriates into its received-self by assimilation or merger and mirroring. When these two developmental processes have been inadequate, the self of the therapist is required to supplement this process by empathy and explanation. Again, Mead is not dealing with today’s psycho-social child development, but that of the evolutionary emergence of language and selves.

Jürgen Habermas follows G.H. Mead very closely, but also criticizes his simplification of the emergence of language.[64] Basically, he argues that Mead does not take the semantic problem of arriving at the same meaning into consideration, because he is more oriented toward mutual goals of action in its progressive adjustments and the socialization of the actors. The latter and the former cannot account for misconstrued symbolic understandings of the other. “Mead never did become sufficiently clear about the important step of internalizing the other’s response to a mistaken use of symbols,” and Habermas continues, “This gap can be filled with Wittgenstein’s analysis of the concept of a rule.”[65] Going from what Habermas calls “signal language” to “grammatical language” required rule-governed behavior. Mead also did not take the propositional content of language into account. A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ brought about the possibility of normative action, that complied with, or was determined to be, against the rule. Habermas argues that Mead left these two crucial elements out of his theory.

Habermas recognizes the importance of Mead’s reflexive principle of the self, taking the attitude of the other. He states that Mead “explains this construction of the inner world once again by means of the mechanism of taking the attitude of the other.”[66] Habermas clarifies more precisely the kind of reflexivity that Mead has in mind:

Mead conceives of internalization as making objective structures of meaning internal [Verinnerlichung]. Unlike the case of reflective relations that come about when a subject turns back upon itself in order to make itself an object for itself, the model of internalization says that the subject finds itself again in something external, inasmuch as it takes into itself and makes its own something that it encounters as an object. The structure of assimilation [Aneignung] differs from the structure of reflection [Spiegelung] by virtue of its opposite direction: the self relates itself to itself not by making itself an object but by recognizing in an external object…something subjective that has been externalized.[67]

Notice that Habermas describes Mead’s reflexivity as very much involved in internalization. While working with language, philosophers have more than abstract ideas at hand. Language is like an organic system that contains the physical features of sound and the visual ones of written form. Language embodies ideas and its embodiment is concrete but much less so than the society and the institutions that it reflects and changes, (if I merely justify the latter with Searle’s concept of the direction of fit). When thinking about language we think we are only in the external features of its physicality whether in sound frequencies or visible writing, but we are not. We are also in its internal dimension. When Searle theorizes about the different ways that status functions are imposed he states:

the usual distinction between the internal and external points of view applies to institutional facts. In this book we are interested primarily in the internal point of view, because it is only from the internal point of view of the participants that the institution can exist at all.

The anthropologist from the outside may see an [institution]… [Searle continues, but it is such] in the first place only because of the collective intentionality and the imposition of status-functions by the participants and this, whether conscious or unconscious, can exist only from the internal point of view.[68]

Thus Habermas describes Mead’s reflexivity as very much involved in internalization and in such a way that it cannot be confused with the problematic self-referential statements, like that of Pascal above.

John Searle tries to free the self-referentiality of the definitions of social facts, like money, by use of the type/token distinction. How can money be defined, “if part of the definition is ‘being thought of, or regarded as, or believed to be money.”[69] He determines that the social concept of money is a placeholder for many economic activities, which could all be articulated instead of “money.” It could also be considered a type, i.e., an institution or general practice; and not a token, i.e., a particular instance, referring to itself.[70] A token as a particular instance referring to itself would bring about circularity or infinite regress.[71] In the reflexivity of Mead, I also can see by analogy how social selves as types are involved at the source of action and expression. There, I believe an internalization, not a value loop, circular argument, or infinite regression, is the result.[72]

I associate reflexivity with internalization, because of my studies of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. For Teilhard, the spiritual energy bending physical energy in upon itself, leads to a series of “in-rolling interiorizations,”[73] wherein the within breaks through in a birth of life, thought, and (he predicts) the crossing of the collective threshold of thought. Teilhard does not deal with the birth of language, but develops an anthropology by means of a very abstract spiritual physics, which he theorized in The Phenomenon of Man, The Divine Milieu, and The Future of Man, to mention just three of his works.

In this study I do not want to get lost in the technical complexities of language but to explore the theological sense of social action and creation via language. But here I have come upon the emergence of the self, mind, society, and (internal) world via language. Perhaps other social breakthroughs via language, as well as its future levels of internalization can be uncovered. Both Teilhard and Mead have the evolutionary sense of the emergent in their theories, while Searle speaks of facts and epistemic ontologies that seem to have no sense of social movement or struggle. His naturalism and individualism lack a sense of urgency for the necessary social breakthroughs that our time in history so desperately requires.[74] This study of the Philosophy of Language came about wondering how Luther’s language launched the Reformation and how positive social movements could be launched today.

 

Situating the Philosophy of Language in the Social Sciences

Searle speaks of brute facts and institutions and then transcends this distinction, classifying eight levels of facts, which he calls a “hierarchical taxonomy of (certain types of) facts.”[75] Searle’s contribution to sociology is very powerful, but his analysis of institutions, which goes to the heart of sociology, avoids any reference to sociology. He does not seem to recognize sociology as a level of description between biology and culture. Later I shall attempt a critique of his work by questioning his constant usage of the word, “facts” and whether they are linguistic or not, his kind of structuralism, that places layer upon layer of “archeological” status-functions upon each other, and the problem whether or not his work is a reductionism of sociology to biology. His facts may not become static entities with functions in a static structuralism. But language itself for Searle becomes a structural institution. His conclusion in The Construction of Social Reality is a vertical movement from biology through institutions to culture, leaving out sociology. Perhaps he thinks that his Philosophy of Language he is doing sociology.

George Herbert Mead has often been used against biological and individualistic accounts.[76] Searle may be vulnerable to the former critique, but not the latter. Mead makes clear that language is an immanently social activity that naming it an institution should in no way obscure. A sociological critique may well be needed to complement Searle’s theory.

Searle feels an urgency to defend the existence of an external reality and the grounding of all institutional facts in brute facts or language independent objective ontology. Meanwhile it is to be underscored that Searle makes no small contribution via the Philosophy of Language for the construction of social reality. If the social construction of reality is not used to erase external reality or make a claim to be the total reality, then it could be seen as an internal reality or externally, as an aspect of reality experienced by a certain society. If the emphasis on external reality and its philosophical concern make social realities and their change insignificant, it becomes problematic.[77] Even if a concern for external reality does not make a claim to exhaust reality totally, it may be used to dominate social reality to such an extent, that social reality becomes trivial and could be presented as only slightly or superficially changeable. Some external realities, however, are also not a given and need not be accepted as unchangeable. A landscape of mountains and valleys and streams can be changed into a disastrous strip mine, which leveled the mountains, filled the valleys, and clogged the streams. It could be reconverted into an ecological landscape once more by digging free the streams and planting trees, for example.

To his credit, Searle uncovers the linguistic construction of social reality and in limiting himself to institutional facts, he writes, “Even if I am right so far, this discussion is only beginning.”[78] Very much like early distinctions in the Philosophy of Language gave way to more specified distinctions, Searle notes that the distinction between brute and institutional realities has to be transcended and absorbed in a further set of distinctions.[79] Thus there is not only the iteration of the constitutive rule and the assignment of different kinds of status-functions, but they ascend from language independent realities, like snow on Mt. Everest to language dependent realities, like scores of six points for a touchdown in football. Searle describes eight of such levels to the point of linguistic functions, were functions themselves iterate on top of functions.[80]

Again, in this study I do not want to become lost in the complexities of the logical formulas for the iterations of institutional construction. My concern remains the theological sense of creation via language and the possibility of social change for the improvement of society in bringing about more humane conditions. Hopefully this excursion into a critique of Searle’s theory will be fruitful for understanding how language plays a role in divine creation and necessary social change.

Searle realizes that human beings do not know the constitutive rules in their progressive iterations that produced the institutions that they live and work in. He theorizes a Background, as opposed to an unconscious, where human beings learn adaptations to the different structures of these institutions, which come about through rules and processes that they are not aware of and do not know. Searle’s argument stands to reason, because, after all, we have learned to adapt with our bodies without understanding the functions of our internal organs. Why should we have been able to understand the inner workings of the institutions of our society? We have adapted to their emergence in society the same way, guided by our familiarity with the Background. An analogy can be made between the under-determination of sentences, which we understand because we interpret the Background in which they are spoken, and the adaptation to institutions because we understand the Background in which they exist.

Searle does not want to be considered a functionalist,[81] because he argues that his functions are always internal to the status. “It could not be a status, if it did not have that function.”[82] Functional sociology sees society as a body and its institutions like its organs each having their different functions. Searle’s functions are involved in the iterations of the constitutive rules that build up these institutions. But if the purpose of early functionalist sociology was stability and equilibrium, then Searle’s approach could lean toward discouraging social change. On the other hand, some of his analysis in the creation, maintenance, and destruction of institutions is very helpful in strategies for social change.

When social institutions are no longer accepted by the people, they lose their power. Searle notes that institutions and structures of property, as well as the state itself, are not maintained by armed police and military power, so that acceptance is compelled where necessary. In a democratic society armed might and the state depend on acceptance of systems and constitutive rules.[83] For example, “In many democratic societies, once the number of law-breakers reaches a critical mass, the police force is largely for show.”[84] We cannot assume, he continues, that the system of acceptance is backed by a credible system of force. The system of force is itself a system of acceptance and the system of force itself presupposes the other system of status-functions.[85]

The previous Luther citation where he claims that “the word is doing the work” while his friends, Melanchthon, Amsdorf, and he are having a beer together, refers to the power of Luther’s writing. It convinced large sections of the European population to no longer accept the institutions of the papacy, episcopal courts, canon law, the monasteries, and five of the seven sacraments, “for starters,” to use a Searle expression. The word of God performatively declared in Luther’s pamphlets, dismantled institutions that had existed over 1,000 years. The history of the Reformation provides powerful evidence for Searle’s argument that acceptance and rejection of institutions builds or dismantles them and the performative role language plays in that process.

Searle mentions the miraculous year 1989, when the Soviet Union came to an end, because it lost the support and the acceptance of its people. As with the armed forces of the Soviet Union, (Searle does not mention) those of East Germany and the Philippines under Marcos, (I might add) all refused to fire on the people, but joined them in their non-acceptance of their governing institutions and stood with them in the creation of new institutions more acceptable to them.[86]

Searle’s heavy usage of the word, “facts” remains problematical. His philosophical use of the word maintains that they are not linguistic entities, but his sociological use of the word certainly gives them linguistic elements.[87]  This word may well be the one most often used in his book.[88] After reading his defense of its usage, it may well be that my former teachers were what he called, “phenomenological idealists” and/or social constructionists.” The former believe that all of reality consists in conscious states and the latter, as Searle puts it, believe the “view that reality is socially constructed, that what we think of the real world is just a bunch of things constructed by groups of people.”[89] In phenomenological reductionism, however, one could suspend the ontological (Husserl) merely for methodological purposes. And social realities can be overcome in collective movements, because they are not the same as an external reality completely independent of language, human volition, and mind.

The anti-materialist argument by Bishop Berkeley that perception is reality is quite convincing to me, when the perception, that is divine, stands for internal and external realities, which exist apart from and independent of our perception, language and consciousness. Searle’s emphasis on external reality is not problematic, if it is not presented to confuse people into believing that it is identical with social reality. The people are then left with the impression that there is hardly a chance for changing inhuman conditions and overcoming adverse realities. The word, “facts” also comes into play here. If in spite of external realities, if they are not used to overcome the hope of change, then I will not conclude that the word is used to foster a realism of resignation[90] or a realism of repression.[91]

Indeed, Searle argues that there are social objects that presuppose or are prior to social acts and that process is over products. “In a sense,” he continues, “the object is just the continuous possibility of the activity.”[92] I imagine that for Searle this is ontological subjectivity. Searle also explains why in the priority of process over product, “institutions are not worn out by continued use, but each use of an institution is in a sense a renewal of that institution.”[93] While products wear out with use, each use of an institution means a renewal of commitment to it. This counter-intuitive reversal brings to mind the burning bush that did not consume the branches (Exodus, Chapter 3) and the spiritual reality about the more love you give away, the more you have.

As above mentioned, George Herbert Mead, according to Anselm Strauss, has often been used against biological reductionism of sociology and individualistic psychological accounts. Searle’s philosophical account does not seem to be individualistic, but it is vulnerable to the charge of reductionism, although he is almost doing sociology via the philosophy of language. Often the word choice of a thinker reveals his or her position. Searle will say, “biological beasts” instead of “sociological beasts.”[94] That is not merely a bent for alliteration. In his conclusion, he will use the word “culture” and avoid mentioning society. He seems to skirt the field of sociology while doing a tour de force into the heart of it by his analysis of institutions. According to Emil Durkheim, “Sociology can be defined as the science of institutions.”[95]

His feeling for social psychology comes through when in passing he mentions that social psychology is “one area where science fails to converge,” perhaps implying thereby, that it is not affirmed by the scientific community.[96] It may be that Searle considers sociology per se to stand for a social construction of reality, erasing the external reality he wants to emphasize and uphold. He does not tire of repeating that institutional facts bottom out in brute facts and writes:

A socially constructed reality presupposes a non-socially

constructed reality…. In a sense, one of the main aims of

this book has been to spell this out. It is a logical

consequence of the main argument of the book that you

cannot have institutional facts without brute facts.[97]

Sociology will speak of everyday realities or the different realities perceived by the different world religions, but it does not thereby need to erase the external reality, which is independent of our language and our mental states. In other words, sociology can accept a social reality that is in flux, is variable, and indeed, changeable. Sociology does not need to erase the ontologically, objective, external reality, however “objective” it would be, should no humans exist to perceive it and live in it. Sociology can grant Searle that the social reality that sociologists speak about is an ontologically subjective and epistemically objective reality.[98]

In a problematic way “facts,” as a word can be used in such a way that social objects like governments, money, universities, to use Searle’s examples,[99] seem to be given and unchangeable as much as the snow and glaciers on Mount Everest, where the snow fall and the intermittent avalanche are quite independent of our language, our collective intentionality, acceptance, and agreement. Meanwhile a few persons can declare a war, mobilize the armed forces, and create the inhuman conditions that result, filling the world with deleterious realities for years to come.

The word, “facts” for me implies that conditions of reality need to be accepted without the possibility of change. In any case I believe the word also brings a discrepancy between Searle’s philosophical argumentation and his theory about the linguistic construction of institutions, between his philosophical and sociological use of the word. For the former use, the point of the word “fact” is to have a concept for the non-linguistic reliability of a statement. For that purpose, Searle argues that facts are not essentially linguistic, that they are not complex objects, nor linguistic entities.[100] In the final chapters, where he deals with external reality and its proof, as well as that of the correspondence theory of truth, he suddenly writes:

It does not follow that facts are somehow essentially

linguistic, that they have the notion of statement built

into them. On the contrary, on the account I have given

they are precisely not linguistic (except, of course, for

the small but important class of linguistic facts)…[101]

But he is not only speaking about linguistic facts, but social, institutional, and functional facts throughout his study. This statement also conflicts with the strong claim about institutions that he proves: “Each institution requires linguistic elements of the facts within the very institution.”[102]

It is important to deal with the question of internal reality again, although I know that Searle merely speaks about an internal point of view. (Then this study will continue with Searle’s emphasis of biology over sociology.) By means of various modes of self-referentiality, it can be argued that we delve into different forms of internal reality and if these are language dependent, could language not play a crucial role in changing social realities and also external realities from within? This change could also proceed by collective intentionality, to use Searle’s terms, through the process of collective acceptance and agreement. Collective intentionality need not merely reside exclusively in individuals; with inter-subjectivity, groups can agree or clash, come to or not come to agreement.  The question becomes, to what extent is change coming from the internal possible? That Eucalyptus trees grow everywhere in San Francisco’s East Bay is an external reality, but they were introduced from Australia and they can be cut down, because of the fire hazard they represent. External reality is also changeable to a certain extent. The wisdom distinction of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer needs to come into play when introducing change: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”[103] We will return to this issue.

The question remains whether or not Searle presents a biological reductionism of sociology, because in his conclusion, he leaves sociology out altogether. In his words:

On my view the traditional opposition between biology and

culture is as misguided as the traditional opposition

between body and mind. Just as mental states are higher

level features of our nervous system, and consequently

there is no opposition between the mental and the physical,

the mental is simply a set of physical features of the

brain at a higher level of description than that of

neurons; so there is no opposition between culture and

biology; culture is the form biology takes. There could not

be an opposition between culture and biology, because if

there were, biology would always win.[104]

Perhaps with the Philosophy of Language, Searle feels that the whole field of sociology can be disregarded. Lars Udehn in Methodological Individualism: “If society is only in the minds of individuals and in the interactions between them, a reduction must be possible in principle.” Udehn calls that the “ontological twist” where suddenly individuals are the only reality.[105] Meanwhile he is doing sociology via the philosophy of language, because what else can such a theory of the linguistic construction of institutions be, if we take Durkheim’s definition of sociology into account? His concept of institutions is incredibly comprehensive, however, because, from his perspective, he is considering language itself an institution. From his iterations of status-functions he ascends up the eight-level hierarchy of facts, until functions become status-functions on top of other functions, and this whole structure arises in the Background and as in evolution, people find their adaptations to it. Brute facts are independent of language (and largely of society) – facts about nature, like molecules, planets, photosynthesis, etc. Then he often progresses to institutional facts, like government, marriage, money, war, universities, etc. But in a lecture he noted that these are in a “continuous flow of dynamic social relations”, and layer upon layer they form a “complex interacting structure of institutional reality” which “is linguistic down to the ground;” its skeletal structure turns out to be the constitutive rule, and thus, this whole archeology of iterated institutions, “has a speech act structure.”[106] Searle’s theory presented in that way is rather dynamic and sounds very much like sociology. But then early on in his book he exposes his naturalism when he writes:

Our aim is to assimilate social reality to our basic ontology of physics, chemistry, and biology. To do this we need to show the continuous line that goes from molecules and mountains to screwdrivers, levers, and beautiful sunsets, and then to legislatures, money, and nation states. The central span of the bridge from physics to society is collective intentionality, and the decisive movement on that bridge in the creation of social reality is the collective intentional imposition of functions on entities that cannot perform those functions without that imposition.[107]

The crucial move that Searle makes here is in collective intentionality, which, he asserts, is as easy to have in one brain as in another. Thus it is like speaking in the first person singular and then speaking in the first person plural. We can say, “I intend” as easily as we can say, “We intend” and Searle holds that collective intentionality is found imprinted on individual brains ready to construct institutional facts by means of the constitutive rule and the assignment of status-functions.[108] With that he can speak of social facts, a subclass of which, are institutional facts, and he continues analyzing institutional reality.

That social reality in all its fullness and complexity can come about as easily as by switching from a singular to a plural personal pronoun seems to confuse language with society. That collective intentionality is inscribed in our brains can explain all the dynamics, forces, tensions, and struggles involved in social reality seems like a drastic genetic reductionism of social experience. Searle is comfortable trying to move from physics to society, at that point, not even giving biology its sui generis principles, let alone grant them to sociology.

Searle believes that the “capacity for collective intentionality is biologically innate and the forms of collective intentionality cannot be eliminated or reduced to something else.”[109] Perhaps a philosophical alienation from the social sciences underlies this statement. It is not derived from an individualistic methodology and yet, it seems to disregard sociology and the social process. At one point in Mead’s study of the mind, he counters the approach that “assumes individual selves as presuppositions, logically and biologically, to the social process and order within which [these selves] interact.”[110] The “logically and biologically prior” critique in Mead’s statement applies to Searle. To quite a degree, the social process seems to dissolve into collective intentionality, which Searle considers “biologically innate.”

Although Searle and Mead have naturalism in common, the latter emphasizes the social process very much more. Ultimately, from a theological point of view, it is very much more possible to share Mead’s emphasis on the social process. Mead’s social theory of the mind is a critique of Searle, for a partially social view of the mind, according to Mead, gives it a “congenital or hereditary biological attribute.”[111] Accordingly, the mind

can get its expression only within or in terms of the environment of an organized social group, yet it is nevertheless in some sense a native endowment – a congenital or hereditary biological attribute – of the individual organism and could not otherwise exist or manifest itself in the social process at all; so that it is not itself essentially a social phenomenon, but rather is biological both in its nature and in its origin and is social only in its characteristic manifestations or expressions. According to this latter view, moreover, the social process presupposes, and in a sense, is a product of, mind; in direct contrast is our opposite view that mind presupposes, and is a product of, the social process.[112]

That Mead’s critique also applies to Searle becomes obvious in his statement that there is no opposition between biology and culture (Searle avoids using the term “society” or “sociology”), “because if there were, biology would always win.”

Emile Durkheim would not allow the reduction of sociology to biology, nor to individual psychology. In the words of George Simpson, Durkheim held that, “It was the mind that made society possible and morality that sustained it. Neither of these was reducible to biology or physiological psychology.”[113] In the words of Durkheim,

[The social realm]… is a category of facts with very distinctive characteristics: it consists in ways of acting, thinking, and feeling, external to the individual, and endowed with a power of coercion, by reason of which they control him. These ways of thinking could not be confused with biological phenomena, since they consist of representations and of actions; nor with psychological phenomena, which exist only in the individual consciousness and through it. [Social facts] constitute thus, a new variety of phenomena; and it is to them exclusively the term “social” ought to be applied.[114]

Durkheim goes on to carve out the relative independence of sociology as a science from biology, in which it is rooted. But in its association of aggregates, a whole forms, which is greater than the sum of its parts. Sociology becomes a sui generis science with society as its object, having principles of its own, above and beyond those of biology.[115]

But note that Searle’s approach coming from the Philosophy of Language is internal, because intentions and intentionality are internal, while a sociological approach is partially external and social facts from its perspective are considered relatively external.[116] While Durkheim describing the sociological method says, “All these questions of intention are too subjective to allow of scientific treatment,”[117] Searle has an understanding of intentions attained by his analysis of speech-acts in the philosophy of Language. His knowledge of intentionality is crucial for his extension and expansion of language analysis into his analysis of institutions.[118] Because sociology is the science of institutions, (Durkheim’s definition) his expansion takes in the heart of sociology itself, (again) without ever mentioning the field. As he begins to uncover the sociological level of description, he also should take seriously the sociological level of explanation, its sui generis principles, and its objective methodology,[119] which collective intentionality cannot fully explain. Because of his theory’s overlap with sociology, however, some of his internal features might well be recognized in sociological external ones, for example, collective intentionality and the assignment of status-functions could be inside collective representations and actions. Searle does not have anything resembling the imposition of constraints and the control of individuals by society, nor does he speak about social and moral forces, merely about illocutionary forces. He focuses on performative speech acts, declarations, and the constitutive rule that declare new status-functions and bring institutions into existence.

    A Selective Summary

     After reviewing Searle’s philosophy of language and arriving at his performative declarations, we again tried to fathom the analogy between creation represented as God’s speaking and our sense of language. Social change via language is also a main concern of this study. Creation via language seemed to show more promise if we explored it further by means of Searle’s lingual construction of social reality. Through George Herbert Mead we added the social matrix to Searle’s theory as well as a basic reflexivity or self-referentiality in the origination of language, only intuitively thereby introducing the internalizations of the self in their socially extensive as well as their psychologically deep forms. Habermas’ description of Mead’s reflexivity brought self-psychology to mind, and that Mead believed the “individual is an other before he is a self,” brought Luther’s extra nos theme to mind, that the self is in Christ and in the neighbor, always outside him or herself, never outside of God and God’s love. It is from Teilhard de Chardin that I have the conviction that self-referentiality or reflexivity is connected with internalization. It turns out that Searle’s collective intentionality is also internal, because intentions and meaning are internal. Searle speaks of an internal point of view that dissolves at a higher level of description, but one can begin to speak of internal realities, because the many internal phenomena dealt with by the Philosophy of Language, make them more than a point of view.

Then grappling with whether Searle’s concern for external reality and his emphasis on facts precluded the change of social realities, we concluded that they did not.[120] Durkheim also underscores social facts, giving them a higher reality, a higher being than brute facts, to use Searle’s terms. Durkheim held that social ontology was of merely a different type from physical ontology, and its higher reality could not be reduced to the lower one. Perhaps Durkheim would still maintain his position, even when Searle calls social reality ontologically subjective and epistemically objective.

Some social constructionists might want to exchange Searle’s philosophical epistemology for a sociology of knowledge and replace philosophy with sociology.[121] But Emile Durkheim does not erase the external reality, with which Searle is philosophically concerned. Assessing Searle’s position is not easy, because he delves into the heart of the field of sociology without mentioning it, doing so, however, quite uniquely via the philosophy of language. The concern that Searle commits a reductionism of sociology to biology runs into difficulty, because he seems to place physics, chemistry, biology, and culture – leaving out sociology, at different levels of description. Perhaps it is a naturalism and materialism of Searle that is at play and an attempt via collective intentionality to overcome the sui generis  domains and principles of each science in question. Thus Searle gives the impression that he can move easily from physics, forgetting about chemistry and biology even, right to culture, again, without even a mention of sociology.

Social realities and forces are higher than physical ones, just as real, but of another type, to reassert Durkheim’s position. Materialist monism, he claimed, erased social and psychological phenomena. But in all this discussion of reductionism, Searle demonstrates an exciting new entry into social reality via the Philosophy of Language. Durkheim, of course, excludes philosophy from being relevant to the science and the scientific methodologies of sociology. Perhaps that is why Searle, the philosopher, never mentions sociology.

III

     To take the hermeneutical integration of language philosophy with sociology somewhat further, the analysis of sociological approaches by Pierre Bourdieu as presented by Loїc Wacquant in An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology may help situate Searle’s philosophical language approach somewhat better. In Bourdieu’s analysis as presented by Wacquant, sociological approaches are divided between those resembling social physics and social phenomenological view-points.[122] In the first, the objectivist approach, the sociologist as an external observer can study the organization of society and the roles of persons in it. The weakness of this approach is that it can skip from model to reality, reifying the structures it conceptualizes by treating them as autonomous entities endowed with the ability to “act” like historical agents.[123]

The second sociological approach is the subjectivist or constructionist view point, which contends that social reality is a contingent and on-going accomplishment of social actors who continually construct their social world through their practices in everyday-life.[124] The sociologists of this variety look through the lens of social phenomenology and see society emerge via decisions, actions, cognitions, and produced by alert individuals for whom the world is familiar and meaningful.[125] Continuing with Bourdieu and Wacquant, this sociological approach gives pride of place to social agency and to the socially approved ways that persons endow their life-world with sense. The weakness of this approach lies in an inability to account for resilience and emergent, objective configurations of society as a whole, as well as its persistence, challenge, and principles beyond the mere aggregates of individuals. These sociologists also fail to realize that the categories that they themselves use are collectively produced.[126]

Searle is not doing social physics to be sure, but sometimes it seems as if he confuses the organism of language with social reality itself, to make an analogy with the model and social reality confusion of the first approach. Although Searle is basically using speech act insights to describe the structure of institutions, he does not lose sight of individual agency or collective agency, for that matter, except that he does not say who pronounces the constitutive rule that iterates the various archeological levels ascending into his linguistic construction of institutional structures.

It is also impossible to place Searle in the social phenomenology camp, because he himself disparages phenomenological idealism. Although he focuses on institutional structure, he is not a subjectivist, because of his approach to social reality through language and concrete speech acts. His Philosophy of Language also makes a more subtle understanding of action possible. The analysis of language discovers action embedded in speech and therefore speech acts, performatives, and performative declarations, as well as the constitutive rule, which all play a crucial role in the creation, maintenance, and destruction of institutions. As Habermas explains, “The theory of speech acts has used [performatives] to establish the inner connection between speaking and acting.”[127] Institutions are language dependent, because Searle carefully proves the strong claim that “each institution requires linguistic elements of the facts within that very institution.”[128]

Thus the two sociological approaches receive a philosophically linguistic grounding in Searle’s approach that now allows speech acts to play a role, where reified structures, on the one hand, were falsely endowed like historical agents with an ability to “act,” and secondly, where not subjectivity, on the other hand, but speaking, either individually or collectively, plays the crucial role in understanding and constructing institutional or social reality. Thus internal to words and language are the actions that can bring social change. Because Searle moves from the philosophy of language with a tour de force into the linguistic construction of institutions, his approach delivers more help than one would expect for understanding continuous creation[129] and social change via language.

In the words of George Herbert Mead, “You cannot convey language as a pure abstraction, you inevitably in some degree convey also the life that lies behind it.”[130] Thus Searle, in his extension and expansion of language philosophy to the social reality lying behind it, gives language a crucial role in the creation, maintenance, and destruction of institutions. Thus his language analysis is more conducive to my theological sense of the performative, i.e., to continuous creation and social change via language.

Although Searle argues that language is also an institution in the broad sense of the term, he does not emphasize the fact that language is a social accomplishment, collectively instituted as well as individually spoken, and of course reified in a variety of technical extensions from writing to printing to its proliferation in the electronic mass media. In the latter mass production of visual as well as speech acts, an individual speaker is often not even heard. But this obvious power to define and shape our realities is not what I am dealing with right now.

Searle is trying to explain how language is intimately and crucially involved in the construction of social reality. The discovery of the performative by J.L. Austin in How to Do Things with Words, by his asking how it is possible that “saying something is actually doing something” brought about the study of speech act theory. It is not an overstatement to say that Searle argues for the linguistic construction of social reality and would underscore, not the “social construction of reality” per se. Berger and Luckmann were on the right track when they called for a sociology of language; language analysis, however, because of John Searle, has started pioneering this field via philosophy.

The sociological method is externally scientific and one would wonder how a sociology of language would relate to the field of linguistics, the scientific study of language. The aversion that linguistics has to the internal is exemplified by its begrudging acceptance of a modicum of meaning in the distinction between phonetics and phonemics. That bias makes it problematic for what needs to progress from an internal perspective. Meaning, collective intentionality, the self, and the mind, all exemplify this truth. Society, institutions, as well as language, also have an internal dimension, without which they become incomprehensible.

In developing his arguments for the strong language claim, i.e., “that each institution requires linguistic elements of the facts within that very institution,”[131] Searle uncovers the constitutive rule of “X counts as Y in C.” Although “counts as” is a performative verb, the constitutive rule (CR) is not a performative, per se, because it is not in the dramatic present and does not contain a first person pronoun. But, of course, if spoken by fiat, it does become a performative declaration. “Let there be light!” if spoken by the One whose speaking is creation, light will come into existence.

Searle notes that the move from the X to the Y is eo ipso a linguistic move, even in cases that have nothing to do with language.[132] In this linguistic move, Searle states that “the Y term [of the CR] must assign some new status that entities named by the X term do not already have, and the new status must be such that human agreement, acceptance, and other forms of collective intentionality are necessary and sufficient to create it.”[133] He continues, “Now, you might think, that is not much of an apparatus to work with, but in fact, as we will see in detail, the mechanism is a powerful engine in the generation of social reality.”[134] Obviously, sociology as an empirical social science, whether in the form of social physics or phenomenology, does not isolate the “inner connection between speaking and acting” (Habermas) in the new way that the Philosophy of Language does; making the latter more conducive to creation and social change via language, the concern of this study.

Searle’s standpoint that the constitutive rule (CR) is a very adequate apparatus to work with, entailing a “powerful engine in the generation of social reality,” relates to this important emphasis on creation and social change via language, because a “linguistic move” is involved from the Y to the X terms. Thus CR interjects language into the heart of social institutions and whether declarations are spoken by fiat or explicitly performative declarations are pronounced, social change via language becomes comprehensible in terms of the creation, maintenance, and destruction of social objects, to use Searle’s words. He offers the governments, money, universities, etc., as examples of “social objects.”[135]

Coming from the analysis of language Searle makes a distinction between social and institutional facts. Not all social facts are language dependent, (a pack of hyenas hunt quite well together without language, is his example). But all institutional facts are language dependent and for such institutional facts, two conditions have to be met: mental representations, such as thoughts, have to be partly constitutive of the fact and secondly, the representations in question must be language dependent.[136] Searle continues, “From the fact that the status function of the Y term can be fulfilled only if it is recognized, accepted, acknowledged, or otherwise believed in, it follows that the institutional fact in question can exist only if it is represented as existing.”[137]

With the last statement, I believe that Searle takes performativity or the creation of social reality to a new level, a higher level of description, if you will. It is one thing to find that “saying something makes it so” on the level of language and action. On this level, we reiterate that Searle defines a performative in terms of executive self-referentiality and by its means, the performative translates an expressed intention into a manifest action. Or when the X term is a speech act, the CR will enable the speech act to be performed as a performative declaration creating the state of affairs described in the Y term.[138] But now on a new and higher level, where such an institution can exist only if it is represented as existing, more than an action becomes manifest. A whole “placeholder for patterns of activities,”[139] i.e., an institution, comes into being.

In this place Searle says that the apparent primacy of social acts over social objects is that these “objects” are really designed to serve agentive functions, and what we think of as social objects, such as governments, money, and universities, are in fact placeholders of patterns of activities. Searle breaks through some of his structural language, like “agentive functions,” for example, by continuing, “I hope that it is clear that the whole operation of agentive functions and collective intentionality is a matter of ongoing activities and the creation of the possibility of more ongoing activities.[140]

The higher level of description ascends from 1/ a promise, where an expressed intention becomes a manifest action to 2/ an operation, like a CR spoken by fiat, where a speech act is given a new status function by a performative declaration, which now creates an institution or a placeholder for a pattern of activities. Such an institution is created for a particular type of ongoing activities carried out collectively by human beings. Again, the more the institution is used the more it is strengthened. It is important for a structural discussion not to eclipse real concrete, historical human beings, because often a structural analysis fails to let them play a role, because of the tendency to reify the structure as if such concrete, historical human beings were irrelevant.

Back to Searle and what I consider his faith statement: a language dependent institution can exist only if it is represented as existing. Then if such an institution exists, it must have been because performative declarations were spoken in the form of the CR, ‘X counts as Y in C’, bringing it into existence through any number of levels of iteration, and with that it became “recognized, accepted, acknowledged, or otherwise collectively believed in.”[141]  Thus the concept of faith comes to mind again and again for the emergence of an institution, especially when Searle says, “A status will exist only if people believe it exists.”[142] In a later place, similarly, Searle states, a representation can be a declaration, which creates the institutional status by representing it as existing.[143]

In this place, Searle also shows that the CR can be made up of the X term only, where it becomes a symbol pointing beyond itself. For examples he offers, kings wearing crowns, husbands and wives wearing wedding rings, etc. In this limiting case, “we treat the X elements themselves as conventional representations of the Y function.”  Here in the limit case of the CR, the X term is a symbol, not only in the sense of it surpassing a sign by pointing beyond itself and participating in what it represents, but in terms of being like a word itself, which is a symbol. Mead called it a significant vocal gesture.

Again Searle refers to a function the same way: “One way to impose a function on an object is just to start using the object to perform that function.”[144]  The presupposition to such action is “believing in” what you are doing and then attaining the collectivization of its acceptance.  In Searle’s apparatus of concepts, by which he analyzes speech acts and performatives, he speaks about a “sincerity condition”: a performative has to be made in good faith and, of course, “It is one thing to talk about a promise and another to make one” (J.L. Austin). A disposition of sincerity as well as collective intentionality, are necessary.

Searle also writes about General Charles De Gaulle during World War II and his insistence that the government and nation of France be recognized, although, indeed, it no longer existed.  Even so he also insisted on its being honored by continuing all the pomp and circumstance as if it did. In that way, he brought about a continuity of France and its government.  Thus Searle states, “One way to create institutional facts in situations where the institution does not exist is simply to act as if it did exist.”[145]

I believe such acting is again a slightly higher level of performative description than the last level, that “an institution can only exist if it is represented as existing.”  Here a whole nation and government are called and maintained in existence, because the General acts as if they existed.  A great deal of faith has to go into that kind of counter-intuitive disposition that acts as if reality (the conquest of France and the Nazi, puppet, Vichy Government of 1940-1944) were not the case. Although they existed, De Gaulle considered them unreal institutions that would be overcome, when victorious France with her very own government would come back into existence.

In this level of performativity, a great deal of faith is involved, and what’s more, precisely a biblical faith.  Listen how the “Epistle to the Hebrews” in the New Testament defines faith:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen….By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the Word of God so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible (11:1-3).

The direction of fit that faith stands for in this passage is world-to-word, because to speak biblically, the Word spoken in faith, or more biblically, the Word of God is spoken in faith, because, even though it has no referent, it calls that referent into existence; as St. Paul says in his Epistle to the Romans, “God calls into existence things, which do not exist” (4:17).

In the words of Searle, who would not, of course, think in this theological sense of the performative: “a new state of affairs becomes created” or “the proposition expressed is realized or brought into existence” or “one brings a state of affairs into existence by declaring it to exist.”

In another sense of the word “state” from that of the last assertion,[146] we can think of De Gaul’s France: “One way to create institutional facts in situations where the institution does not exist is simply to act as if it did exist.”

Is that the earth-shaking discovery that J.L. Austin sensed, but then felt that it had evaporated into a technicality of language?  Searle sometimes also used such expressions about world change via performatives, but then his direction of fit can be very mundane: (I’m repeating an example:) to fill a shopping cart from a shopping list by placing the items into the cart is world-to-word, because the list is changing the world by moving around objects. But checking whether the items on the list are in the cart is word-to-world, because the words on the list are being checked by the objects in the cart.[147]

Performative Theology

Luther had very much more in mind when he was overcome by awe before the Word of God and when he states in the Bondage of the Will, “For the Word of God comes, whenever it comes, to change and renew the world.” And now to revert to New Testament figures again, look at John the Baptizer. (He was not a Baptist as opposed to being a Lutheran.)  He started using baptism by water to usher people into a new life of repentance.  To use Searle here, “One way to impose a function on an object is to just start using the object to perform that function.”  What do Christians declare to be the new status? “Now your selves are no longer of the old Adam and Eve, but you have become a new species, the species of Christ, as your new selves emerge up out of the water” (to use words of St. Paul, but also those of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin). The old person, the old self is the X term and the water together with the Word of God, declare the one baptized a new person, a new self, the Y term, a very child of God. In Searle’s words, “This status exists only if the people believe that it exists”[148]

When Jesus proclaimed, “The Kingdom of Heaven is near at hand!” to use the language of St. Matthew, then St. Paul would say in Romans, “God calls into existence things that do not exist,” and Searle shows that you can bring that state of affairs into existence by declaring it to exist. And Jesus’ proclamation is intended as a performative declaration and because of the continuous creation via language and the executive self-referentiality of I am who I am, almost less faith is needed for Jesus’ Kingdom, than a De Gaulle ever needed for the nation of France. That might be overstated. Perhaps the Kingdom of Heaven does require somewhat more faith than that of De Gaulle, but it is of the same quality. To use the words of Luther when he depicts God’s creation via language, “This is surely a new state of affairs, brought about by a new Word.”[149] What is the Kingdom of Heaven? Paul Tillich would speak about a place that transcends every place, a place beyond our present realities, where the New Reality in Jesus Christ is pronounced, in which all the forces of dehumanization and depersonalization are overcome.[150]

Now that does require an increase in faith over that of General De Gaulle, although an abyss of evil swallowed up the world because of the German Nazi genocide and its war machine that had rolled over France as if it had been given a red carpet to walk on.

But in the promises that we claim in good faith, Luther would say, “If you believe it you have it; if you don’t believe it, you don’t have it.” In his Early New High German:

   Glaubstu, so hastu; Glaubstu nit, so hastu nit.

     That kind of faith, then I submit, creates our social realities and a lack thereof brings about their demise.

Searle first thought that a taxonomy of status functions included the symbolic, deontic, honorific, and procedural. The symbolic status functions create meaning; those of the deontic create rights and obligations; the honorific, create status for its own sake; and the procedural, take steps to attain power.[151] But then Searle discovered that they all boil down basically to creation and destruction of power. He specifies that it is the kind of power that does not come out of the barrel of a gun,[152] but in fact grows out of organizations, i.e., systematic arrangements of status functions. Thus it can be argued that these come out of the good faith that performatively declares them into existence for their collective acceptance.

Luther, Performatives, and the Language of Creation

     Luther, of course, precedes Darwin and the theory of evolution. His theological depiction of God’s speaking spontaneously constituting creation, however, can be separated from his sixteenth century grasp of science. His words in his Genesis Commentary are still worth considering from the standpoint of the analogy of God’s speaking as opposed to ours, as well as for the implications of the logos as the uncreated Word of God, i.e., the Second Person of the Trinity.

Luther argues that in the creation there is a plurality of Persons in God, because one Person is that of the speaker and another is that of the Word or logos. He cites Psalm 33:6, “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were established.”[153]

A word of explanation: here heaven and earth should not be thought of in terms of location. Wolfhart Pannenberg would say that the heavens represent what is completely above and beyond human capacity to do and the earth represents those things in which, to a certain extent, we can participate by our own doing.[154] When Searle speaks about external reality, he is speaking about something that is changeable to a degree, as I have argued before. Luther would argue that “change and improvement are two different things: one lies in human hands and God’s ordaining; the other in God’s hands and gracious favor.”[155] The latter is God’s continuous creation even on earth, the former represent changes that need God’s gracious favor to make them improvements of our conditions.

External realities are not unchangeable, except of course because of inherent physical limitations and/or matters of scale. Lead could not be turned into gold by alchemists in medieval days and we cannot cure many cancers today, and although we can change the course of a river, we cannot move the Pacific Ocean. Archimedes said, “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the world.” Language could be our leverage if it is pronounced with executive performativity. Even mountains could be moved. As Jesus said, “Amen I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). And St. Paul says that if he had complete faith, he could move mountains (I Corinthians 13:2), and surely, he also understood a faith that performed these actions via words. Jesus speaks of the mustard seed, because this tiny seed produces a very large bush, meaning that a little faith can accomplish great things.

Often Scripture speaks figuratively and ordinarily with natural objects as metaphors. Mountains can very well represent monumental social breakthroughs for humanity, such as making wars a thing of the past, for example, or subsuming the nations of the world into a harmonious planetary order, in which the powerful states serve the weaker and impoverished ones, and the resources of the earth are no longer wasted on conflict and war and destruction, but are placed at the service of God’s continuous creation, so that this sorry world receives a new and more human social reality with concomitant personal transformation.[156]

Now continuing with Luther’s Commentary on Genesis, more specifically to his passages about creation via the Word, he quotes Psalm 33:6, “By the Word of the Lord the heavens were established,” to bring that passage to mind again. He states that through the Word, as the Second Person of the Trinity, all things were created and preserved until the present day, as said in Hebrews, “Upholding all things by the Word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Now a significant Luther passage verbatim:

Here attention must be called to this, that the words, “Let there be light” are the Words of God, not of Moses; this means that they are realities. For God calls into existence the things which do not exist (Romans 4:17). He does not speak grammatical words; He speaks true and existent realities. Accordingly, that which among us has the sound of a word is a reality with God. Thus sun, moon, heaven, earth, Peter, Paul, I, you, etc. – we are all Words of God; in fact, only one single syllable or letter in comparison with the entire creation. We, too, speak, but only according to the rules of language; that is, we assign names to objects which have already been created. But the divine rule of language is different, namely: when He says, “Sun shine,” the sun is there at once and shines. Thus the words of God are realities, not bare words.[157]

Luther does not interpret the first light to be that of divine intelligence, but one that spontaneously sets the sun shining through God’s declaration, “Let there be light!” Perhaps even thinking that Searle’s performative declaration of the Y Term giving a new status function to a speech act in the X term, as linguistic a move as it may be, might not explain what Luther calls, the divine rule of God’s language. For Luther, the language of God creates ontology, the way human language makes sound. God’s language does not consist of a flow of words, with their referents, i.e., the objects they refer to, merely named; but God’s language brings its very referents into existence. God’s flow of words issues into the creation of what the divine words pronounce and as easily and spontaneously as words coming out of our mouths. In our human language, the rules of grammar obtain, but in God’s language divine rules structure all the realities we live, move, and have our being in.[158]  God’s speaking calls creation into existence and we struggle for the language to understand it.

When Luther says that the Sun, moon, Peter, Paul, you and I are all words of God, J. G. Hamann (1730-1786), a contemporary critic of Immanuel Kant, most likely having read this passage by Luther, wrote, “Every phenomenon of nature was a word”[159] and the difficulty of understanding such statements comes about because the analogy between divine and human language has become a deep metaphor. God’s speech takes place in eternity and his spoken words enter existence here in our history of space, time, and creation. As Luther says,

God through his Word extends his activity from the beginning of the world to its end. For God there is nothing that is earlier or later, swifter or slower; but in His eyes, all things are present things. For He is simply outside the scope of time.[160]

The idea seems to derive from all things communicating the good wishes of the Creator to the creation. And thus all things, even nature or ontology as external and physical are like linguistic symbols or words for Luther, while Searle claims this status only for institutional facts, saying, that these symbolize, mean, and express something beyond themselves in a way that is publicly understandable.[161] Luther and Hamann are saying that brute facts and objective ontology are linguistic as well and language dependent, being God’s Words of the creation. In church language, all the phenomena of nature are the outward signs of God’s invisible grace.[162]

When Searle separates brute reality or external reality from social or institutional reality, it is tempting to keep the idea of creation in the latter realm. But Luther’s point is that the former is also spoken into existence by the Creator. The creation should not be identified with the awakening of our consciousness, as important as that is: (the light in which we see light.) It is not identical with our emergence as sentient beings, nor with the existence of our internal realities alone. God’s creation should not be interpreted as describing our conscious awakening to its phenomenological grandeur, in the way light brings the whole world out of the darkness into visibility. Because creation via language makes visibility a metaphor for existence, the light of the Word brought about all that exists with its visibility. Nor should creation be interpreted narrowly to bring about only life, or even more narrowly, only social life with a social epistemology; nor just life, thought, and crossing the collective threshold of thought, to use concepts Teilhard de Chardin. Creation brings the internal and external into existence.

For the purposes of this study, external reality as featured by Searle, is not an accurate term, because it is also humanly changeable. What exists completely outside of any human existence and our capacities to change and control is also created by God and expresses something beyond itself through the Word of God, for example, when gold is fashioned in the core explosions of supernovas, and scattered with star dust over the earth: that is God speaking.

For God created the internal dimension of life, thought, the self, mind, society, and world, as well. As much as we are enamored more by externals, what would remain for us if we were locked out into a total externality?  In the words of Christ, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” (Luke 17:21). It is from that source that we receive refreshment for our lives and it can be argued that the vital internal dimension is opened by the Philosophy of Language more than empirical sociology.

Searle lists the features that are essential for a full blown natural language: infinite generative capacity, the presence of illocutionary force indicating devices, quantifiers, logical connectives, and most importantly symbols, such as words, that by convention mean or represent or symbolize something beyond themselves, in a way that is publicly understandable.[163]

We have been featuring words in our language of creation and human language analogy all along. How interesting to use the “infinite generative capacity” of language for the purposes of our analogy as well. In God’s language of creation, like our full blown natural languages, the infinite generative capacity is the infinite creativity of God. Using Luther’s words, it would be analogous to the divine rule of language that has infinite ontological creative capacity. Linguistic force can assert, direct, question, promise, command, etc. It is not in the scope of this study to go into the persuasion of rhetoric and/or reason, gentle or even violent use of language, but to limit it to social change that can come about through language as opposed to force of arms. As Luther said, while he slept and drank Wittenberg beer with my friends, the Word did everything and he did nothing. That that language needs to be publicly understandable can be analogous to creation having to be objectively external and have physicality as well, and not only be representative of the internal dimension.

Now in continuing with our citation of Luther, he makes us mindful that the language of God comes out of eternity. We left off with the sentence: “Thus the words of God are realities, not bare words.” Luther continues:

Here men have differentiated between the uncreated Word and the created Word. The created Word is brought into being by the uncreated Word. What else is the entire creation than the Word of God uttered by God, or extended to the outside? But the uncreated Word is a divine thought, an inner command which abides in God, the same as God, yet a distinct Person. Thus God reveals Himself to us as the Speaker who has with Him the uncreated Word, through whom He created the world and all things with the greatest ease, namely by speaking. Accordingly, there is no more effort for God in His creation than there is for us in the mention of it. With thoughts of this kind the good fathers Augustine and Hilary also delighted themselves….[164]

Luther does not speak of the extension abstractly as an

idea extending into existence, the way Descartes will do later, but “the Word of God uttered by God, extends outward.” For Descartes the body may not need to come into being when the idea is extended. He does not need to cross over the boundary of the concrete and can remain in the abstract, the idea in thought as well as an abstract geometric third dimension can still remain in the mind, unless he stipulates extension as existence.  For Luther, however, this extension is a concrete linguistic one, with internal and external dimensions, with sentience and physicality. The Cartesian extension of the idea into existence ignores the suit of clothes the idea wears when it has the physicality of words.[165] The Philosophy of Language shares this sense of concretion, when it speaks of utterances, speech acts, and performatives, making it a vehicle that is also capable of exploring social realities. Luther remains concrete and his ideas are always enfleshed, embodied, not deserting the Incarnation for the sake of conceptual and systematic abstraction.

Luther further maintains that the “uncreated Word is a

divine thought, an inner command that abides in God, the same as God, yet a distinct Person of the Trinity.”  Luther here corrects a thought that I entertained, namely, that God’s thoughts created our internal reality and God’s Word our externality. God’s Thought abides in God and as the uncreated Word and Command of God, the Word having both an internal and external dimension created both the internal and external worlds. Luther also describes the continuous creation as spontaneous creation, like the flow of speech: the way we speak, God’s creation fills nothingness with the whole articulation of our creation.

The analogy here is also situated between the uncreated

Word, as the Word of God, and the created Word, as the creation, that we live in. The uncreated Word is begotten not made. The created Word – the articulation of creaturely existence, is still divine speech and not yet the language that we have learned.[166] Luther asks, “What else is the entire creation than the Word of God uttered by God, or extended to the outside?” To make the point again somewhat more plainly: Luther is no Cartesian dualist. The extension of the Word with physicality and meaning, becomes the external and internal dimensions of our existence. The uncreated Word is a divine Thought. In the Godhead, the internal Word is the blessed Second Person in the perfect relationality, mutuality, reciprocity, and indwelling in the unity of all Three Persons, which is known as the perichoresis of the Holy Trinity.

When Luther struggled with Romans 1:17:  “For in [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith,’” he experienced a language event. The language of God made him righteous via faith, i.e., in the continuous creation of God via the Word, Luther was made righteous. The experience of such a language event creates the person anew and provides a new command of language. Luther is known for his language of address, which speaks right to a person with the performative promises of God. The citation in the second half of the verse is the oracle of Habakkuk (2:4). Luther caught a glimpse of God’s continuous creation in it. “Let there be light” is a divine performative, which opened the gates of paradise once more. The Word of God could not only make a person into a new creation, but renew the face of the earth via the language of creation. In the words of Psalm 104: 30: “When you send forth your spirit [creatures large and small] are created and you renew the face of the earth.”

The following series of citations from Luther reiterate the

themes that come out of Luther’s theological sense of creation via language, the theological sense of the performative, because there is not only an inner connection between speaking and acting, (Habermas) but between divine speaking and creation. Luther says,

We say only this: that these things were created in this manner and are being preserved by the Word as all nature will be changed in the end….[167]

God is the Creator of all things without means, through the Word, “He said” which is far simpler method of procedure [than that of the philosophers]….[168]

[God] governs and preserves these creatures by the power of His Word, by which he also directed them….[169]

Thus we see how the Holy Spirit also has His own language and way of expression, namely, that God, by speaking, created all things and worked through the Word, and that all His works are some words of God, created by the uncreated Word….[170]

St. Paul says that the whole creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God (Romans 8:19). The word “revealing” here should be understood as their continuous creation by being addressed by the language of God. Thus the children of God are Words of God. (Here we are not far from Heidegger’s dictum that human beings are spoken by language.) Becoming Words of God also makes them change and renew the world, for that is what happens, “when the Word of God comes, whenever it comes.” Social change can thus be integrated into the continuous creation, because those who have been addressed by the Word of God become the children of God and learn to speak the language of God that continues the creation to the end of the world, the purpose for which God created it. Thus continuous creation via language includes personal and social change.

In Luther’s day scientists were still called natural philosophers. We will see how Luther has a unique way of understanding how God created the world. He must have followed Thales of Miletus (580 B.C.E.), who taught that the first principle and basic nature of all things was water. The big bang theory in physics and the theory of the evolution of life in today’s science, still agreeing with Luther’s words today, are far more complex than the simple method that God had for speaking the creation into existence. Luther also thinks that the coherence of God’s language preserves, guides, directs, and holds this whole world together.

A passage in the Epistle to the Colossians points out how God contains, sustains, and makes the whole world hold together, in the sense that Luther is writing about:

[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him. He is himself before all things, and in him all things hold together (1:15-17).

     In our lives without language, we are debilitated and shut out into the externals. Language pervades the internal dimension, and it is essential, ubiquitous, pervasive, and typically invisible, to use some Searle phrases.[171]  It mediates all our relations “permeating every nook and cranny of our social lives, and it is a precondition of our active, communicative existence. This could well be a thick description of the human language analogy for God’s language of creation, sustaining, containing, and preserving our whole creation that way, holding the whole universe together. Then Luther goes further to speak about the Word of God as the language of the Holy Spirit. In the following citation, Luther has several more substantial thoughts:

God speaks a mere Word and immediately the birds are brought forth from the water. If the Word is spoken all things are possible, so that out of the water are made either fish or birds. Therefore any bird whatever and any fish whatever are nothing but nouns in the divine rule of language; through this rule of language those things that are impossible, become very easy, while those that are clearly opposite become very much alike, and vice versa.

Nothing, even raising the dead is comparable to the wonderful work of producing a bird out of the water. We do not wonder about these things, because through our daily association with them we have lost our wonderment. [172]

But anyone who believes them and regards them more attentively, he is compelled to wonder at them, and his wonder gradually strengthens his faith. Since God is able to bring forth from the water the heaven and the stars, the size of which either equals or surpasses that of the earth, likewise, since He is able out of a droplet of water to create sun and moon, could He not also defend our body from Satan or, after it has been placed in the grave, revive it for new life? Therefore we must take note of God’s power that we may be completely without doubt about things which God promises in His Word. Here full assurance is given concerning all His promises, nothing is so difficult or so impossible that He could not bring it about by His Word. The heaven, the earth, the sea, and whatever is in them prove that this is true…. [173]

[Luther continues with, God said, God made, God saw, pointing to all three Persons of the Divine Majesty. The verb, “said,” is used for the Father.] Therefore they have attributed the verb “made” to the Person of the Son. The Son has in Himself not only the image of the Divine Majesty but also the image of all created things. Therefore He bestows existence on things. Just as the objects are spoken by the Father, so all things have their existence through the Son and the Word of the Father. To these, however, is joined the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, who “sees” the created things and approves them. [174]

Luther ascribes saying to the Father, making to the Son, and seeing to the Holy Spirit.

In the medieval days, some philosophers developed a speculative grammar, where nouns signified substances and verbs signified becoming, while their infinitives were thought to signify matter.[175] Luther seems to have a conception of performative grammar. Pronouncing the noun, “bird,” brought a bird into existence by the language of creation. He evidently thinks that God made the birds and the fish out of water, along the lines of the first natural philosopher, Thales.[176] Luther associates fish and birds, while in evolution we derive birds from dinosaurs or perhaps reptiles that came out of the water. If the language of creation is spoken by God in eternity, that would not rule out evolution in space-time, although Luther, of course, in no way anticipates Darwin’s theory.

I’m using the phrase, the “language of creation.” Luther speaks of the “divine rule of language.” Grammatical rules are constitutive, witness Habermas’ using Wittgenstein’s game theory to introduce such rules in the origination of language. Luther may have a unative conception of language as well as considering language sub species aeternitatis, because he describes how impossibilities become easy, opposites become alike, and what is alike becomes opposite. Perhaps, more precisely then, a reversibility would describe Luther’s concept of language more than the word “unative.”[177] Very often Luther places opposites together in a creative tension that is at the heart of change. To refer to a Pre-Socratic philosopher again, Heraclitus believed that everything changes and presented many paradoxes that can be described by the concept of the coincidence of opposites.[178] As the inner dynamic of change, it may also perform the reversal, making like things into opposites.

For Luther the creation is the miracle par excellence, a greater one even than raising the dead. We lose our awe and wonder of the creation because we have become so familiar with the miraculous. We have to observe how a child responds to such wonders as a bird, a dog, a flower, when seeing it for the first time.

Luther presents a somewhat less dramatic version of the Big Bang theory, imagining that God created the heavens and stars, sun and moon, out of a droplet of water. He realizes that their size could be equal to or surpass that of the earth. In the Big Bang theory, the universe exploded out of a dimensionless, microscopic, infinitesimal point, and after the first microseconds, the universe exploded from the size of a golf ball into its space-time that can be measured only in light-years. Luther also shared a kind of faith that scientists display today, when through the Big Bang Theory, they describe the origination of the expanding universe.

For Luther in those pre-Cartesian days, the moral dimension has not yet been separated from the physical creation. The One who created the universe by the Word, can also defend us from evil, and God’s promises, God’s divine performatives, can be believed, because the creation witnesses that nothing is too difficult for God, and therefore we can even trust God about raising us up from our graves. In this way the creation speaks to us,[179] assuring us of the almighty creative love of God, who is capable of fulfilling all of the divine promises to us.

Then Luther ascribes three verbs from the creation narrative to the three Persons of the Trinity. God “said” as the Speaker, the Father; God “made” as the Word, the Son; and God “saw” as the Holy Spirit, who affirms that the creation is good.

Hegel must have understood Luther’s following insight into the Second Person, the Son, the Word. Inside his Person, the Son has both the image of the Divine Majesty and the image of all created things. Hegel often has difficulty distinguishing the Incarnation as creation from that of the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. Seeing the universe in the Body of Christ as its creation and his birth in Bethlehem for the Redemption, has made philosophers feel that Hegel just took Spinoza’s pantheism another step into panentheism or a pantheism of the Second Person of the Trinity.

That the Son bestows existence on all things, is again saying that continuous creation via the Word of God is taking place. That creation can be contained image-wise in the Word while the Word also has the image of the Divine Majesty in Himself, still allows for a distinction and separation to exist between the Second Person of the Trinity and the creation. Speaking about that distinction in terms of the uncreated Word and the created Word makes the Word provide a commonality or a bridge between God and creation. That agrees with Christ having the role of the Mediator, which still presupposes separation of God from the creation and does not necessitate a panentheistic position.

Pantheism holds that God and the world are identical while panentheism holds that God is more while the world is God’s body. Creation is not compatible with both of these philosophical positions. With performatives we are arguing that God’s speaking continues the creation via language and social movements that sincerely believe God’s promises continue the creation, which God declared good, indeed, very good when it came to human beings.

Appendix I.

Definitions of Performatives:

Searle in a lecture of January 18, 1996:

To be performative the semantic content of the verb needs to function essentially and successfully in the saying of the sentence, in the performance of the speech act.

The only semblance of a definition I found hidden away in Austin’s How to Do Things with Words, and not really designated as one:  Performatives begin with a highly significant and unambiguous expression, such as ‘I bet’, ‘I promise’, I bequeath’ an expression very commonly also used in naming the act which, in making such an utterance, I am performing, e.g., betting, promising, bequeathing, etc.[180] It’s syntax shows that reflexivity is being described: “naming an act which, in making such an utterance….” (This is the passage in full length. page 32.)

  

Appendix II.

The Symbolic Structure of the Declaration

I would now like to make a comparison of the symbolic structures of assertives, directives, and commissives with the structure of the declaration class of speech acts. After reading “How Performatives Work” Searle has shown that the assertive is derived from the declaration and the declaration cannot be derived from the assertive, because the self-guaranteeing aspect of the performative cannot be achieved in this way. When Searle noted in class that the psychological state of the declaration could not be a null set  but was most likely a belief, want, or intention, then the symmetry between the assertive and the directive, comprising the declarative; or the assertive and commissive doing so, seemed to be obvious from a comparison of their symbolic structures:

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Just reading this from the symbolic structure certainly does not do enough, but to think that you can change the state of affairs by just representing it as having been changed shows the double nature of the performative declaration. As superficial as this level of description is, it shows that the declaration cannot be a combination of the promise and the order, because then the word to world direction of fit would not be achieved. Thus, belief needs to be a component with the want, desire or intention. The fact that the proposition is combined with an act either by the speaker or hearer is interesting. In a performative declaration, there is the intention which becomes manifest, and the proposition is made true by the speech act. The double direction of fit is achieved, the world to word and the word to world. But while the promise and order speak of a future voluntary act, in this extra-linguistic performative, the action now takes place in the extra-linguistic institution simultaneously with the utterance, just the same way the pure linguistic institutional fact takes place in the promise or the order. It might be worth considering if the promise or order are the prior intention (  p.i. ),  while the future voluntary act is the intention in action ( i.a. ), which of course can only be so in a communicative relationship in an order, because the speaker and the one carrying out the order are different individuals for it, but in the promise the speaker also has the obligation to carry out the future voluntary action, and in this case then, the promise is the promised intention (  p.i. ) for the later intended act ( i.a. ), although other  p.i. (s) may certainly play a role.

Appendix III:

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Note how the assertive could be the X term to which the promise or order, the Y term, could give a new status function as a linguistic act C, and how a certain linguistic act, e.g., could count as, or receive a new status function Y term, as an extra-linguistic institutional fact. This is a crude approximation which needs more specification.

In performatives the proposition seems to receive a new status function because of the illocutionary force, and instead of reflecting reality truly or falsely, it actualizes, becoming the actual state of affairs. The intention X has become the manifestation Y in a new act (linguistically) or institution (extra-linguistically). But this cannot be read from the symbolic notation as such. Searle’s F (p) needs more specification.

Examples of knowing the constitutive rules for an extra-linguistic institution, and not needing to know them for the prophetic or supernatural declaration:

Knowing the constitutive rules for an extra-linguistic institution can be illustrated more extensively, as well as the non-requirement in the case of the supernatural declaration: a justice of the peace, a pastor, a rabbi, or a priest may pronounce a couple husband and wife,[181] after the bride and groom have made their speech-act promises. In some states, the clergy person must be registered and needs to have been sworn in (to abide by the laws of that state). The Catholic Church, technically speaking, will not recognize a marriage not carried out by a priest, and will not honor a divorce, only an annulment, etc. The chairperson of a church assembly may not participate in the discussion on the “floor”, but presides over it, accepts the “motions”, stops the discussion when the “question has been called”, and if the “aye votes have it”, then the motion “carries”, and s/he states: “So ordered.” And an “action” of the assembly/council is communicated to all its members and agencies. The parliamentary rules need to be studied and used skillfully to influence these collective speech act declarations.

In the above cases, the linguistic competence of the speaker and hearer are not sufficient for the successful declaration speech acts, but the position and authority of the speaker and the constitutive rules of the extra-linguistic institution obtain as well. But imagine that a contingent of Native Americans burst into a church with all its delegates assembled and in session. The Native Americans begin charging that a building being erected by this denomination was on an Indian burial ground.[182] Without being on the agenda, without having voice or vote, an eloquent speaker charges the assembly with this institutional insensitivity. Now the speaker does not know the parliamentary rules, does not have voice or vote, nor the authority to speak. Here an approach to Searle’s dictum that a supernatural declaration needs no extra-linguistic institution can be seen functioning in this prophetic moment. A higher authority from God is accepted, and the good will toward the Native Americans felt by the delegates brings about an action in the assembly which orders the building constructed at a different site. With this example, a mere inkling of God’s authority appears, which in larger vistas, for the sake of the renewal of all extra-linguistic institutions, can make divine declarations, without any extra-linguistic institution, out of the Word alone, so to speak.[183]

Of course, a much richer performative declaration has been presented above where the state of affairs represented (in the proclamation of the Gospel) is realized or brought into existence by the self-referential (I am who I am) executive (Believer) brings a state of affairs (the Kingdom of Heaven) into existence by declaring it to exist and living in its reality.

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Endnotesimg350

[1]Luthers Werke, Weimar Ausgabe, vol. 18: 626. This sentence reminds one of Karl Marx, who stated, in his eleventh thesis on Feuerbach: “Philosophers have merely given the world different interpretations; the point, however, is to change it.” Karl Marx and Friedrich, Engels, Ausgewählte Werke in sechs Bänden, (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1974), p. 200.

[2] Luther writes in his Genesis Commentary: “Through his speaking God makes something out of nothing.” And on the same page: “God is, so to speak, the Speaker, who creates; nevertheless, He does not make use of matter, but He makes heaven and earth out of nothing solely by the Word which He utters.” Jaroslav Pelikan, ed., Luther’s Works, Vol. I, (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), page 16.

[3] Again Luther in Genesis, “For God calls into existence the things which do not exist (Romans 4:17). He does not speak grammatical words; He speaks true and existent realities. Accordingly, that which among us has the sound of a word is a reality with God” (Ibid., page 21).

[4] Right now I thought that the linguistic performative, in which a verb expressing an intention and in so doing becoming an action, could be one version of other possibilities. Language can bear feelings, thoughts, and even selves from one person to another. Language may also come to us from the signs of nature and thus do away with Searle’s brute versus socio-linguistic reality distinction (Jürgen Moltmann, Sein Name ist Gerechtigkeit, (München: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2008). See footnote 101.

[5]J.L. Austin, How to do things with Words, (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1962), p. 7.

[6]Ibid, p. 3-4 and p. 5.

[7]John R. Searle, Expression and Meaning, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 29. Searle also takes into account, direction of fit, sincerity condition or psychological state, and the proposition or one of its transformations as property, state, or act.

For Searle’s five classes of performatives, see their symbolic representations toward the end of this paper.

[8]Ibid., p. 17-18.

[9]At University of California in Berkeley, on January, 25, 1996.

[10]John R. Searle, Expression and Meaning, p.18.

Searle can also make the world-changing language seem very trivial, however. One direction of fit bends language to correspond to the world, while the other bends the world to correspond to the language. He illustrates the two with an example of a shopping cart. When filling it with items from a list, you are changing the world with your words. When at the check-out counter, you check if you have everything on your list, you are making the words correspond to the world by checking to see if you have each item on the list.

[11]John R. Searle, Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of Language, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), p. 66. See their symbolic representations at the end of this paper.

[12]Searle now feels that this explanation cannot be right. The illocutionary force indicating devise does not capture what really happens in the performative. He corrects it with the self-referential executive theory in his article “How Performatives Work”. (See below.)

[13]John R. Searle, Expression and Meaning, p. 16.

[14]J. R. Searle, Expression and Meaning, p. 18. Searle mentions these declarations as one of the two exceptions to the rule of the extra-linguistic institution requirement, and concerned only with language itself. This group of speech acts does not concern our subject.

[15]John R. Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, (New York: The Free Press, 1995), p. 54.

[16]Ibid., Searle leaves out the term “declaration” in this heading. It reads: “The Use of Performative Utterances in the Creation of Institutional Facts”.

[17]Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19]John R. Searle, “How Performatives Work”, Linguistics and Philosophy 12: 535-558, 1989. The Construction of Social Reality was, of course, written by Searle in 1995, but I myself discovered Searle’s “How Performatives Work” at this point in my study.

[20]Ibid., p. 543-544.

[21]Ibid., p. 552.

[22]Ibid., p. 553. Interestingly enough, theologically, we could argue that God’s name, “I am who I am” is executively self-referential and thus is the One who calls us into existence.

Intentions are internal. The executive self-referentiality seen internal to meaning and the speaker in the first person pronoun singular: “I”. Of course, everyone walks around, lives, moves, and has his or her being in this “I”, because it is indexical, i.e., everyone refers to him or herself by saying “I”.

[23]Ibid.

[24]Ibid., p. 556.

[25]Ibid., p. 549 and 554-555.

[26] When saying “which language as such performs as well” it should not mislead us to think that there is autonomous language. Whereas writing or speech stands by itself and has an independent life of its own, e.g., even in sound, when recorded; originally language has to have had a speaker and hearer to have communicative action take place, to use Habermas’ term.

[27]The term “supernatural” is very foreign to Lutheran theology.

[28] Once we had a whole healing service for a pastor dying of lung cancer. We all believed fervently for his healing. He reported that the service made him feel good, but it did not cure him. I had to deal with angry feelings toward God for a while thereafter. It felt like I had steel in my chest and like I had gotten in trouble with God for a while. The pastor died about three months after the service.

[29] I thank John Searle’s Teaching Assistant, Eric Kaplan for some of this critique.

[30] Ibid.

[31] LW 1:16. WA 42:13.

[32] LW 1:21. WA 42:16-17.

[33] WA 4:380.15-18. Quoted from James Samuel Preus, From Shadow to Promise, (Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of the Hard University Press, 1969), p. 253. John Searle also has a similar statement: “An utterance is an intentional performance, a manifestation of the human mind. I shiver when I think about this” (from January 16th 1996 Lecture in his course: Philosophy of Language, at University of California at Berkeley).

[34] Perhaps language always has the ability to issue into actions that shape new realities and these can again issue back into language. Thus Habermas calls language the currency of the life-world, because similarly, things change into money and money can be changed back into things.

[35] About the Reformation movement Luther states:

“I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept [cf. Mark 4:26-29], or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip [Melanchthon] and Amsdorf, the Word so weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”  (T. Lull, ed., MLBTW, p. 421-422. LW 51:77. WA 10III: 18c-19c.) Luther here makes a contrast between God’s Word and the use of force, but he saw God doing battle through the word, i.e., his publications, which, at the time, were coming off the presses in many cities.

[36] Mark D. Jordan, “Words and Word: Incarnation and Signification in Augustine’s De Doctrina Christiana” in Augustinian Studies 11:177-96, (1980), p. 187.

[37]Ibid. See Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics, (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1959).

[38] Ibid. To translate the Latin: Two sorts of human words (internal words/words spoken out loud) are meant to explicate the Incarnation of the eternal Word.

[39] Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought, (New York: Harper Rowe, Publishers, 1971), p. 132.

[40] Ibid., p. 192.

[41] Luther says, “One who hears the word becomes like the word, pure, good, and just” [Philip and Peter Krey, editors, Luther’s Spirituality, (New York: Paulist Press, 2007), vide page 74-75 and footnote 18 on page 268]. Perhaps Luther refers here to the Word of God, Jesus Christ, as “the word become flesh,” i.e., a human being.

[42] Language sometimes constitutes action and must in some way launch social movements. But I cannot as yet provide the connection.

[43] Anselm Strauss, ed., George Herbert Mead: On Social Psychology, (The University of Chicago Press, 1956). G.H. Mead has an interesting theory of the origination of language from gestures made by humans in a social act. Mead is famous for his concept of the “generalized other”. I will cite his words describing reflexivity again: “The vocal gesture becomes a significant symbol…when it has the same effect on the individual making it that it has on the individual to whom it is addressed or who explicitly responds to it, and thus involves a reference to the self of the individual making it” (page 15).

[44] What follows is a subtle reflection on how a returning to itself can be a sin as well as a good, such as attaining a higher level of consciousness or a higher status function. Perhaps it would be easier to follow Paul Tillich and just say that all human phenomena are ambiguous, capable of being used negatively and positively, for evil or for good.

[45]Austin, p. 32. I rearranged Austin’s cumbersome definition without changing its substance.

[46] Ibid.

[47] It would help to investigate if self-reference in the one case takes place on the level of meaning, while in other in language per se, in the structure of language itself.

[48] See the more precise description of Mead’s reflexivity by Habermas page 23 of this study.

[49] See Teilhard de Chardin, Phenomenon of Man, (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1959), page 72: Consider the thought of Teilhard: “Matter no longer spreads out beneath our eyes in diffuse and undefinable layers. It coils up around itself in a closed volume. How will its ‘inner’ layer react to such involution?” On the next page Teilhard says “the “growth of the ‘within’ only takes place in the doubly related involution, the coiling of the molecule upon itself and the coiling up of the planet upon itself.” And page 61: “We are seeking a qualitative law of development that from sphere to sphere should be capable of explaining, first of all the invisibility, then the appearance, and then the gradual dominance of the within in comparison to the without of things. This law reveals at once the universe is thought of as passing from State A, characterized by a large number of very simple material elements (that is to say, a very poor within), to State B defined by a smaller number of complex groupings (that is to say with a much richer within.” My intuition takes Teilhard’s theory of cosmogony, where he speaks of crossing “a strange point of in-rolling interiorization” (page 48) into language and the interiorization of the self, mind, society, and world via reflexivity. I am extending his “spectrum of the ‘within’” (page 307) through language to the self, the mind, society, and world. Teilhard’s crossing the “collective threshold of thought” aligns with my intuition here and the word “reflect” can be seen as the mind turned back upon itself, the within first upon the without, and then proceeding into richer and deeper levels. Teilhard is, of course, thinking in terms of an evolutionary genesis: the birth of life, the birth of thought, and then crossing the threshold of collective thought. Teilhard’s involutions make me think of the involuted form of the brain, where I imagine the “reflexivity” is biologically extremely complex.

[50] This citation is from a Searle lecture at University of California at Berkeley on January 18, 1996.

[51] The following statement is not reflexive, but repetitive and used to underscore commitment: “Saying you are going to do something, means you are going to do it.” This is also not a disquotational statement (See Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, page 201), because it does not speak about words and their meaning, but words and their fulfillment with action. The action will demonstrate that you mean the words, i.e., your intentionality is sincere. Saying will mean doing: the communication assures the hearer of follow-through.

The first of the three principles of thought, the principle of identity is similar, but remains abstract in relation to action: “If any statement is true, then it is true.” Here it might be considered reflexive, in that the consequence loops back to the antecedent of this conditional making it a valid Modus ponens argument.

[52] G.H. Mead, page 158.

[53] To say: “I shave myself” makes “to shave” a reflexive verb, because its subject does both the acting and the receiving of the action; “myself” is a reflexive pronoun, because it turns the action of the verb back upon its subject.

[54] This reflexivity reminds me of a cartoon: GI Joe is asked by an illiterate comrade to read a letter from his lover back home. He holds his fingers in GI Joe’s ears, so that he cannot hear her words, thinking that way he won’t know what her intimate words say. But of course, if he is reading it, then he has the internal words or thoughts directly from his sight and he does not have to hear them to know what they say. Reading words we now no longer need the physicality of sound to understand them.

[55] Ibid., pages 158-159.

[56] Even if I am building on Teilhard, I confess that this assertion and following ones rely mostly on my intuition. Pierre Bourdieu champions intuitions, because they verify or falsify themselves in empirical operations. (Admittedly, I cannot speak of “empirical operations” in my work.) But if my intuitions are incorrect, then their correction will hopefully be fruitful. See Pierre Bourdieu and Loїc Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, (University of Chicago Press, 1992), page 108, footnote 62. I realize, however, that my study remains very theoretical.

[57] This is a hypothesis, psychological in nature beyond sociology even. Instead of meaning to self, one could say word to self, but because the word has physicality, it would have to be the word to the embodied self. I wonder how the physicality of words relate to actions as in speech acts? We can speak of ideas in order to strip words of their physicality, but the Philosophy of Language emphasizes physicality, e.g., going from abstract sentences to more concrete utterances, to the “total speech act in the total situation” (Austin), and further to language events.

[58] G. H. Mead, page xxi.

[59]  Jürgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume Two, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989), page 5. Habermas believes that Mead simplifies the account of the emergence of language and he cannot claim that the ego and the alter, to use his terms, already arrive at the same meaning. Mead views linguistic communication almost exclusively under the following two aspects: social integration of goal-directedness and the socialization of subjects capable of acting. He neglects the mutual understanding and the internal structures of language.

[60] G. H. Mead, page 348. For Mead socially communicative action as conceived by Habermas seems to be understood. From a social act in which the individuals adjust themselves toward each other by means of gestures, he theorizes the evolution of language – from gestures to vocal gestures or words. Mead thus describes the emergence of gestures, language, and selves, going on with the emergence of minds and society in a social process.

[61]  Peter and Philip Krey, Luther’s Spirituality, page 90. WA 7:38.6-15.

[62] Paul Tillich sees our social nature as capable of an “I-Thou” relationship as well. Vide: “The Person in a Technical Society,” in John Hutchison, editor, Christian Faith and Social Action, (New York: Charles Scribner Sons, 1953), page 148.

[63] It is necessary to differentiate between a social psychological process of today and a theory of its evolutionary origination, and its questionable recapitulation in the social psychological process of today. In this internal socio-psychological morphology, if I am permitted biological words, it must be said that ontogeny does not recapitulate phylogeny. In child development, the baby seems to have a pre-lingual self and it may well be that its mind is already well “formatted” for the learning of language. In the evolutionary origination of the self, it may have been initiated by the reflexive lingual address, i.e., being spoken to. Also moving from pre-history to history, for the question of the origination of language, primal languages have to be involved and they become the mother languages of various language families. Mead’s theory of language originating from gestures would relate to the development of a primal language.

A woman disagreed with my comment here. When she was pregnant, she did not feel like the embryo was part of her body, but another growing in her body. But a mother’s mentality is distinct from her baby’s.

[64] Jürgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume Two, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989). Notice we are in an inner reality. Habermas is theorizing about “the construction of the inner world.” This inner world, I am arguing, is constructed by Mead’s reflexivity. But reflexivity takes various forms. Perhaps one form becomes the social extensive self and another form becomes the deep psychological self in their respective social and personality orders. This kind of theory cannot be proven by strict logical argumentation because it does not remain in pure philosophy, because it is exploring social psychological development. Searle cannot use such argumentation either until the end of his study, The Construction of Social Reality, in which he is no longer dealing with language and institutions, but purely philosophical questions. My relating reflexivity and internalization is supported by Teilhard de Chardin, but some criticize his thinking as poetic, so my theory still remains intuitive in delving into different contours of the inner world.

[65] Ibid., page 15.

[66] Ibid., page 24.

[67] Ibid., page 9. The elision in this citation is Habermas’ inclusion of Piaget’s “interiorizing” action schemata and Freud’s “internalizing” relations to social objects. Mead’s finding that the internal self emerges in this reflexive appropriation of the other’s meaning, attitude, or self, is much like the appropriation of the self-functions from an other in Kohut’s Self Psychology. Habermas even mentions assimilation and mirroring, since he uses the words, “Aneignung” and “Spiegelung.”

[68] The Construction of Social Reality, page 98. That the institution was a potlatch feast and such was left out of the citation. In a lecture during course, Searle noted that the internal and the external dissolve as distinctions at a higher level of description.

[69]Ibid., page 52.

[70] Ibid., page 32-33.

[71] Ibid.

[72] When standing between mirrors, so that looking in the front one makes you see yourself in the back one, an infinite regression or progression is seen that tends to seem as if it enters a depth, where at last your image is so far way that it can no longer be seen.

[73] Teilhard de Chardin, Phenomenon of Man, page 48 in the footnote.

[74] The call is usually for the study of science, technology, and mathematics and furthering those frontiers of knowledge are indeed important. But our social problems have come to the point where a person “walking around being a bomb ready to explode” is no longer a metaphor. Throwing light on our human condition, the immediate social emergency, and the present crying need, for which scientific and technological solutions are irrelevant or exacerbate the human failing, is certainly also of utmost importance. We used to speak of the culture/ technology gap, and now we speak as if technology itself can close the gap!

[75] The Construction of Social Reality, page 121.

[76] Anselm Strauss, editor, George Herbert Mead on Social Psychology, page xii.

[77] Emile Durkheim counters those who argue that “it is not only paradoxical but ridiculous for us to compare the realities of the social world with those of the external world. But our critics have curiously misinterpreted the meaning and impact of this analogy, for it was not our intention to reduce the higher to the lower forms of being, but merely to claim for the higher forms a degree of reality at least equal to that which is granted the lower. We assert not that social facts are material things, but that they are things by the same right as material things, although they differ from them in type.” George Simpson, editor, Emile Durkheim, (New York: Thomas A. Crowell Company, 1963), page 28. Obviously, Durkheim does not erase external reality in the slightest by his position.

[78] The Construction of Social Reality, page 112. Searle qualifies his statements carefully in other places, e.g., “but my account is right as far as it goes…” (page 29).

[79] Ibid., pages 121-122.      [80] Ibid., page 126.             [81] Ibid., page 114.

[82] Ibid., page 88.                  [83] Ibid., page 90.                 [84] Ibid., page 91.

[85] Ibid.

[86] Ibid. Also see Searle’s discussion that continues with, “One of the great illusions of the era is that ‘In fact power grows out of the barrel of a gun.’ In fact power grows out of organizations, i.e., systematic arrangements of status-functions. And in such organizations the unfortunate person with a gun is likely to be among the least powerful and the most exposed to danger” (page 117-118).

[87] Ibid. See pages 211 and then compare that with his earlier usage of social, institutional and functional facts. See page 34 or 122, just as one of many, many examples.

[88] Ibid. On page 122 itself, he uses it 24 times. And that’s a fact!

[89] Ibid., page 183.

[90]  Paul Tillich’s concept. See Faith and Social Action, page 146.

[91]  I will say more about Searle’s use of the word “facts” later.

[92] Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, pages 36 and 56-57. (The italics are his).

[93] Ibid., page 57.

[94] Ibid., page 29.

[95] George Simpson, editor, Emile Durkheim, (New York: Thomas A. Crowell Company, 1963), page 36.

[96] Ibid., page 179.

[97] Ibid., page 191. On the cover of Searle’s book jacket, a “brute reality” is referred to that seems to oppose social change: “The Social Construction of Reality is an original exposition of the structure of social facts and a powerful defense of the logical priority of brute reality that is independent of human agreement, a reality that provides the foundation for all social phenomena.”

[98] Ibid., page 63.

[99] Ibid., page 57.

[100] Ibid., page 208, 211, and 112. some of Searle’s ideas in the final purely philosophical chapters of his book are not informed by the insights that he gained in the course of his study. In the Preface he notes that these three chapters were written first and then tagged onto the end of his book.

[101] Ibid., page 211. Jürgen Moltmann would critique Searle’s concept of brute facts, saying they are linguistic in the sense of being signs. The difference is inherent in the scientific division of nature to conquer and harness it for our use and standing in awe of the whole of nature as it speaks to us. See https://peterkrey.wordpress.com/?s=Moltmann for a critique of Searle’s approach to facts, which he separates from signs.

[102] Ibid., page 60.

[103] Fred R. Shapiro has questioned whether or not this prayer really derives from Reinhold Niebuhr. Similar prayers recorded in newspapers from a YWCA source, Miss Mildred Pinkerton, and from another social agency source, Miss Constance Leigh, date back to 1936 and 1938. Niebuhr, who thought he wrote it in 1943, may have blended these prayers for his own use as a preacher or his prayer might have been used by these sources, who may have heard him preaching or speaking. See New York Times, 7/12/2008, page A1 and A12. The prayer’s sober nature bespeaks the spirit of Niebuhr’s Christian realism.

[104] John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, page 227. Compare this George Herbert Mead citation with that of Searle’s. It is obvious why Mead is used to defend against biological reductionism in psychology and he is useful when it appears in philosophy, as well. Mead states,

Out of language emerges the field of the mind. It is absurd to look at the mind simply from the standpoint of the individual human organism; for although it has a focus there, it is essentially a social phenomenon; even its biological functions are primarily social.[104]

George Herbert Mead, On Social Psychology, Anselm Strauss, ed., (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1956), p. 195.

[105] Lars Udehn in Methodological Individualism, (London and New York: Routledge, 2001), p. 349.

[106]These citations are from Searle’s Lecture of May 2, 1996. As opposed to the statement of the book jacket, these Searle assertions imply the changeability of the institutions of society. Because of the speech act structure of institutions, performativity can be considered crucial to its change.

[107] Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, page 41. I did not notice that Searle might want his concept of a “basic ontology” to include lower and higher realities, brute ones all the way up to institutional ones. But I do not think that this philosophical conception can bear the weight of all the sui generis principles inherent in the diverse social and physical sciences he is referring to.

[108] Ibid., page 25-26. I wonder if people are more like ducks and geese, that collectively flock together, or like chickens that go all over the place and require pen to keep them together?

[109] Ibid., page 37. He does not explain the latter part of this citation.

[110] Alselm Strauss, George Herbert Mead, page 242.

[111] Ibid., page 243.

[112] Ibid. Mead certainly features the social process here, even saying that it produces mind.

[113] George Simpson, Editor, Emile Durkheim, page 3.

[114] Ibid., page 25. I wonder if collective representations (Durkheim’s term) could be compared with collective intentionality (Searle’s term). These two terms could designate the same social-linguistic fabric from the diverse perspectives of Sociology and the Philosophy of Language.

[115] Emile Durkheim, The Rules of Sociological Method, Steven Lukes, ed., W.D. Halls, trans., (New York: The Free Press, 982), page 177. Durkheim states, “The assertion of the unity of nature was indeed not adequate for social facts to become the content of a new science. Materialistic monism likewise postulates that man is a part of nature, but by making human life, whether of individuals or of societies, a mere epiphenomenon of physical forces, it renders both sociology and psychology useless. On this view sociological phenomena, like individual representations, appear as if assimilated to their substratum….”

[116] George Simpson, editor, Emile Durkheim, page 18.

[117] Ibid., page 31.

[118] Anselm Strauss, Mead Social Psychology, page 258. In Mead’s words, “You cannot convey language as a pure abstraction, you inevitable in some degree convey also the life that lies behind it.” Thus philosophy turns upon language as its object, and continues with the society that lies behind it, the society that it pronounces, to use my words, viz., making a theory of institutionalization by means of speech acts and attempting various logical formulae in their description. To pronounce the society, the constitutive rule could be used performatively as a fiat, and thus, as I will theorize hereafter, it becomes a “powerful engine in the generation of social reality” (Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, page 51).

[119] George Simpson, Editor, Emile Durkheim, pages 29-30. For Durkheim, to penetrate the social world is to penetrate the unknown, a vast new continent to be explored. He maintains that social phenomena are external to the individual (page 29). They represent a social and moral force upon individuals from without, indeed, a constraint, a coercive force. He too sees in the word “institution” as in “collectively instituted,” a word that “well expresses this special mode of reality, provided that the ordinary significance of it be slightly extended” (page 30). Thus sociology can be defined as the science of institutions. Its objective methodology for social facts is their concomitant variation or correlation searching for a direct proof that they are united by an internal bond (page 36). Sociology also uses interviews, opinion surveys, and statistical analysis for causal effects and functions that benefit social ends. Social life is roughly defined as a correspondence between internal and external milieu, the active agentive milieu, being human beings (page 32-33). Searle would specify Durkheim’s active milieu further with performative speech acts. Durkheim excludes philosophers from sociology but was not aware of the expertise of the philosophers of language.

Note that because it has physicality, language also has external reality as well as internal dimensions, such as meaning and intentionality. Thus language can also be said to have internal and external milieu.

[120] Searle explores the internal dimension of society or institutions via Language Philosophy, meanwhile championing external reality (ER).

[121] Searle, the philosopher is fighting back, it appears. Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, in The Social Construction of Reality, (Garden City, New York: Double Day & Company, Inc., 1967), speak of society as objective reality and subjective reality and pretty much replace philosophy with social theory. They speak about a sociology of language that needs to be explored. Perhaps because of the linguistic turn of philosophy, they believe that philosophy deserted the battle for epistemology and metaphysics and sociologist have stepped in their place with a philosophical anthropology that subscribes to a sociology of knowledge and a socially produced reality for the legitimation of the social order, leaving humankind with the conflict of symbolic universes and worlds. Thus it seems that Searle, by means of the philosophy of language is trying to reassert the universality of Philosophical ontology, but without having sufficiently taken the sui generis domains and principles of the social sciences into account.

I believe it is one thing to write philosophy against sociology and the other social sciences, and quite another thing to write philosophy, having appropriated the profit of the social sciences; just like I can imagine a philosopher returning from a focus on language back to philosophy with a profit.

[122] Pierre Bourdieu and Loїc Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, (University of Chicago Press, 1992), page 7.

[123] Ibid., page 8.

[124] Ibid., page 9.

[125] Ibid.

[126] Ibid., I’ve tried to make Wacquant’s sentence here more comprehensible by mixing in some of the concepts from Emile Durkheim.

[127] Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, Vol. II, page 62.

[128] Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, pages 60-78.

[129] Luther did not see creation as having happened at the beginning of the world, as a thing of the past; he considered it as on-going.

[130] Anselm Strauss, George Herbert Mead, page 258.

[131] Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, page 60.

[132] Ibid., page 63.        [133] Ibid., page 51.         [134] Ibid.        [135] Ibid., page 57.

[136] Ibid., page 62.        [137] Ibid., page 62-63.    [138] Ibid., page 54.    [139] Ibid., page 57.

[140] Ibid.         [141] Ibid., p. 63.       [142] Ibid., p. 69.     [143] Ibid., p. 74.

[144] Ibid., p. 126.             [145] Ibid., p. 118.

[146] Going from the first sense of the word “state” to the second, there is a move from the epistemic to the ontic social entity. Many words have the same pattern.

[147] This example comes from a Searle lecture at University of California at Berkeley, his Philosophy of Language course, in the Spring semester, 1996.

Searle has a humorous illustration to help understand his direction-of-fit concept.  It is non-linguistic and uncontroversial. “If Cinderella goes into a shoe store to buy a new pair of shoes, she takes her foot size as a given and seeks shoes to fit (shoe-to-foot direction of fit).  But when the prince seeks the owner of the shoe, he takes the shoe as a given and seeks a foot to fit the shoe (foot-to-shoe direction of fit). Searle, Intentionality, page 8n.

[148] Searle, The Social Construction of Reality, p. 69. He continues, “And reasons function only if people accept them as reasons.”  Thus, if someone does not believe in baptism, this institution will hardly exist for that person. Objectively, however, it is powerfully real for Christian believers.

[149] Luther’s Works, Vol. 1, page 76. Here Luther is speaking about how birds like the peacock are created by God through language. The serpent also first had legs and by God’s pronouncement, then had to creep on its belly.

[150] John A. Hutchison, ed., Christian Faith and Social Action, page 153.

[151] Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, pages 109-110.

[152] Ibid., p. 117.

[153] Luther’s Works, Vol. 1, page 20. These passages can be found in the definitive Weimar Edition of Luther’s Works, volume 42, pages 16ff.

[154] From a guest lecture at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, by Wolfhart Pannenberg, “Luther’s Contribution to Christian Spirituality,” October 7, 1999.

[155] From Luther’s 101 Psalm Commentary (1534), H. H. Borcherdt and George Merz, editors. Martin Luther: Ausgewählte Werke, vol. 5, 2nd ed.,(Munich: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1936), p. 428. WA 51:200-264, (my translation).

[156] I do not believe that change of the social order necessarily entails personal transformation or vice versa. From my observation the change of the social order of the socialist German Democratic Republic did not seem to accomplish personal transformation.

[157] Luther’s Works, Vol. 1, page 21-22. WA 42: 16-17.

[158] Luther’s divine rule of language reminds me of Leibniz’s universal, logically perfect language. “Like Galileo,” William Lawhead states, “Leibniz believed the universe a harmonious system written in a mathematical language by God.” See William F. Lawhead, Voyage of Discovery: a Historical Introduction to Philosophy, 2nd Edition, (Stamford, CT: Wadsworth, Thomson Learning, 2002), page 258-259. Lawhead explains that Leibniz broke mathematics, geometry, jurisprudence to their most elemental units. Thus he discovered the binary system of counting made up of 1 and 0. He used simple triangles and circles for geometry; action, promise, sale, for jurisprudence in order to get to a comprehensive symbolic alphabet of human thought. His purpose was to make the grammar of this symbolic language correspond to the logical structure of the world. Which symbols followed which by the new grammatical rules would yield the solutions to controversies and necessarily lead to the discovery of new truths. (Ibid.)  Luther’s language of God, however, spontaneously speaking things into existence, goes farther than Leibniz.

[159] Walter Leibrecht, God and Man in the Thought of Hamann, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), p. 43.

[160] Luther’s Works, Vol. 1, page 76. WA 42: 57-58.

[161] Searle, The Social Construction of Reality, p. 60 and 66.

[162] Luther added the crucial role of the Word in his teaching about the sacraments. The critique that Luther’s Theology of the Word verbalizes reality, places human language where the ontology of God’s language belongs.

I will bring insights of Jürgen Moltmann to bear here from his new book, Sein Name ist Gerechtigkeit, (München: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2008). I will be able to argue that nature itself is brought into being by speech. For example, reading his discussion about genetic codes, it occurred to me that they could be considered biological performatives producing the living organism which they are expressing. But their language, their speech acts are those of God. Moltmann argues that facts of nature are a reductionism of modern science, because nature also contains signs that speak to conscious human life. Thus Moltmann would surely be adverse to what Searle calls brute facts. See footnotes 4 and 101.

[163] Ibid., page 60-61. The italics are his.

[164] Luther’s Works, Vol. 1, page 21-22.

[165] When Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” he thought he was merely in the ideas of the mind, but those words themselves have physicality, body.

[166] We saw how Augustine presented the divine Word as opposed to human words.

[167] Ibid., p. 31.

[168] Ibid., p. 33.

[169] Ibid., p. 47.

[170] Ibid.

[171] Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, p. 94. I use some of Searle’s language here. He is speaking, however, about “institutional power relations through collectively imposed status-functions.” Searle says, “Institutional power relations are ubiquitous and essential. Institutional power – massive, pervasive, and typically invisible – permeates every nook and cranny of our social lives, and as such it is not a threat to liberal values but rather the precondition of their existence.” (page 94)

[172] Luther’s Works, Vol. 1 , p. 49. WA 42: 36-37.

[173] Ibid.

[174] Ibid., p. 49-50.

[175] See F.C. Copleston, A History of Medieval Philosophy, (New York: Harper Torch Books,1972), pages 169-170.

[176] In the biblical narrative of the creation, God first creates the heavens and the earth, with the implication of creation out of nothing. But “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep.” Then the Spirit of God, the Breath of God, a mighty wind [Ruach Elohim] swept over the face of the waters. After the creation of light, space is created by separating the waters of the sky from that of the earth and then gathering the waters of the earth into oceans, so that the dry land forms continents. Then on the fifth day God says, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures.* And let the birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky” (Genesis 1:20). Thales thought water was the first principle and source of all life. Luther interprets this passage to mean that birds and other animals were later created out of water. Thus creation ex nihilo need not apply for the continuation of God’s creation, according to Luther. *Luther interprets this sentence (my italics) to mean creation. It might just mean the living creatures came out of the water.

[177] The unative concept may still apply for the identity or unity of opposites.

[178] While searching through Heraclitus fragments, I found that he himself did not actually use the concept “coincidence of opposites.” Interestingly enough, what he says about fire can be true for language as well. “Everything is compensation for fire and fire is compensation for everything, as goods are for gold and gold are for goods” (from Robin Waterfield, The First Philosophers, (Oxford University Press, 2000), page 42).  Habermas speaks of language as the currency for the life-world as money is, for the economic system.  Thus everything can be turned into language and be brought back into existence out of language again. Like money it can also be a store-house or a treasury of value in the meantime.

[179] Moltmann asserts that every environment is filled by meaningful symbols and that the speech of nature is directed to people (my translation). Sein Name ist Gerechtigkeit, page 175.

[180]Austin, p. 32.

[181]To pronounce them “man and wife” does an injustice to women, because it places the woman into a role and the man into the dignity of his person. Thus, by the first speech act itself the marriage institution is launched with an inequality of privilege and responsibility.

[182]This scenario is fictitious.

[183]Solum verbum (the word alone) was an important tenet of the Reformation.

Selected Bibliography

J.L. Austin. How to do things with Words. Cambridge, Mass:         Harvard University Press, 1962.

John R. Searle. Speech Acts: An Essay in the Philosophy of         Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

————-. The Philosophy of Language. Oxford: The Oxford      University Press, 1971.

————–. Expression and Meaning.  Cambridge: Cambridge      University Press, 1979.

————–. Intentionality. Cambridge: Cambridge University    Press, 1983.

————–.  The Construction of Social Reality. New York: The

Free Press, 1995.

Articles from Journals:

John R. Searle. “Austin On Locutionary and Illocutionary Acts”.    Philosophical Review 77: 405-424, October, 1968.

————–.”How Performatives Work”. Linguistics and           Philosophy 12: 535-558, 1989.

Luthers Werke. Vol. 18.  Weimar Ausgabe.

George Herbert Mead. On Social Psychology. Anselm Strauss, ed.     Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1956.

Karl Marx and Friedrich. Engels,  Ausgewählte Werke in sechs Bänden. Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1974.

Paul Ricoeur. The Conflict of Interpretations. Evanston:           Northwestern University press, 1974.

W.T. Stace. The Philophy of Hegel. New York: Dover Publications,   1955; originally 1924.

Written by peterkrey

May 30, 2017 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Book Review: Th. Dobzhansky, The Biology of Ultimate Concern: Accepting Evolution and Believing in God. Part Two: Science and Religion

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Theodosius Grygorovich Dobzhansky, The Biology of Ultimate Concern, (London: Rapp + Whiting, 1967, 1969), 152 pages including a full bibliography and index.

Th. Dobzhansky (1900-1975) celebrates the synthesis of genetics and evolution in his work, The Biology of Ultimate Concern. He begins with the significance of human beings in “Humanism and Humanity” and continues with essays on the “Gods of the Gaps, Evolution and Transcendence, Self-Awareness and Death-Awareness, Search for Meaning,” ending with his essay on “The Teilhardian Synthesis.” The foregoing are, respectively, his chapter headings. The title of his book, deriving from Paul Tillich’s conception of “religion” as ultimate concern, is apt because Dobzhansky moves from biology and genetics to the evolutionary theological vision of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955). However, a critique is present alongside his admiration for the great Jesuit paleontologist.

Although Dobzhansky criticizes the “gods of the gaps,” his theorizing that transcendent events occur during the course of evolution aligns rather well with God’s continuous creation.[1] For Dobzhansky these transcendent events ascend with life and then with the emergence of self-conscious humans, who are distinct from animals in many ways, but especially in the awareness of having to die.[2] He argues that no animal buries its dead, (71) nor places weapons, food offerings (70), and decorations in the grave for the afterlife.[3]

For Teilhard the transcendent points in evolution, to use Dobzhansky’s language, are the birth of life and the birth of thought. (I would add the birth of love in the new human being, Jesus Christ.) Teilhard then awaits the crossing of the collective threshold of thought on the way to the new human species formed in the image of Christ, the Omega Point of evolution.[4] Dobzhansky, although a thoroughgoing evolutionary biologist, remained a faithful son of the Orthodox Church. He witnesses to Christ at the very end of his book by means of a citation from Teilhard:

“To the Christian, for whom the whole process of hominization is merely paving the way for the ultimate Parousia [Christ’s second coming], it is above all Christ who invests Himself with the whole reality of the Universe; but at the same time it is the Universe which is illuminated with all the warmth and immortality of Christ”[5] (pages 136-137).

Before expanding further on Dobzhansky and Teilhard, it is important to show the way the former makes his way through his argument which ends up engulfing biological evolution in the spiritually divine.

Dobzhansky’s preface is named “Ad Hominem,” but he is not referring to the fallacy in argumentation. Instead, he is arguing for the evolutionary transcendence of the [human being].[6] He pleads for a new Weltanschauung that integrates religious beliefs and biological evolution. He feels that the German word Weltanschauung is best understood by the Latin word, credo. He writes as a biologist and not as a philosopher or theologian, but he feels that the new credo can neither be derived from science nor [be] arrived at without science (page 9).

According to Dobzhansky, having an intellectual life with evolution and religion in isolated compartments can lead to ideological schizophrenia (115), which can rob us of the meaning of life.[7] “The significance and meaning of life and death have been among the principal problems of philosophy.” (79) Dobzhansky castigates logical positivism, the so-called “science influenced,” modern school of logical analysis which declared these questions meaningless (79-80). “Although science cannot claim to solve [these questions], it can perhaps furnish some information relevant to the speculation of philosophers,” (80) and, he writes, it can help inform a theology esthetically satisfying and rationally persuasive as well (109).

After Copernicus, who was shown to be right by Kepler in 1609 and 1619 and by Galileo in 1610 and 1632, (95) the universe could no longer be considered geocentric, but for Dobzhansky, it could well be argued to be anthropocentric (page 7). He writes: “[The human being], this mysterious product of the world’s evolution, may also be a protagonist and eventually its pilot. In any case, the world is not fixed, not finished, and not unchangeable. Everything in it is engaged in evolutionary flow and development” (page 7). The question comes to mind, could God be the pilot of evolution?[8]

Dobzhansky surprisingly claims that evolution is uplifting for human beings and feels sorry that Darwin used the term “Descent of Man” in the title of one of his two most important books, because evolution is really about the ascent of the human being and human transcendence from the animal estate (page 3). He quotes Dostoevsky concerning the honor it does human beings that the existence of God and the idea of the necessity of God could be conceived by such dumb and irrational human beings during their long toilsome ascent from animality to humanity[9] (page 3).

In his chapter “Gods of the Gaps,” Dobzhansky criticizes various attempts by those who look for gaps between natural events to accommodate God (23). What scientists cannot yet explain, he holds, will one day be explained, making it so much the worse for such a theology. Dobzhansky’s argument proceeds by tracing the history of evolutionary science, leading him toward Teilhard’s alternative theology. His discussion moves from mechanism to vitalism to the mind inside all things, variously called, hylopsychism, panpsychism, and panentheism[10] (27). He notes that vitalism emerged as a reaction to Cartesian mechanism. No longer were the universe and the body thought to be machines, (pace Descartes and Newton); a living force, even a divine force, was now thought to direct the development of organisms and hence evolution. Not yet aware of genetics, vitalists proved that no little human (Homunculus) was already preformed in the spermatozoa, but they posited a vital force that developed the embryo (16-17).

In continuing Dobzhansky’s argument, some definitions become necessary. Ontogeny refers to the development of an individual organism, while phylogeny refers to the sustained change over a succession of generations of evolutionary development (36).[11] Epigenesis holds that a new body forms which was not present earlier as an individual (29).[12]  The term “epigenesis” is used for ontogeny, while the term “genotype,” the emergence of new genotypes, holds for phylogeny. A genotype can be defined as a group or class sharing a specific genetic endowment.

Thus ontogeny and phylogeny need to be kept distinct. For ontogeny, when the embryo is inside the mother, an individual does precede the new one and the genetic code operates like a blueprint replicating the body of the mother in the evolving baby. Dobzhansky theorizes that there are three steps working together in synthetic evolution for phylogeny. “[Natural selection] brings into existence real novelties – genotypes, which never existed before.” (60-61) The position of finalism conceives God or Christ in eternity, preceding even the new human genotype. But Dobzhansky argues that complete novelty arises through the groping of evolution without the eternal God or Christ in whom human beings emerged, because ontogeny (the embryo in the mother) is not analogous with phylogeny (genotype endowed genetically for a new environment).

Dobzhansky argues against vitalism, the belief in an immaterial vital force at work in life (21-27). It was a position held when the work of genes and chromosomes was not yet understood.  Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), who reported his ground-breaking experiments in 1865, founding the science of Genetics, was ignored until 1900. Dobzhansky argues that pan-psychism is an unconvincing approach for the problems involved in theorizing the origination of mind. He tries to face the difficult philosophical challenges for the position that the mind developed de nove (29). Everything in the universe, he continues, did not have to be infused with mind in order for mind to have come into existence. He states that we all know how our own minds were not what they are now. The first flickers arose sometime during childhood; it grew and took its present form by stages and gradations in the process of living (32).

Dobzhansky’s resolution of the gods of the gaps proceeds by considering it wiser to view the all, as parts of the mysterium tremendum (25) e.g., Albert Schweitzer’s “reverence for life,” the [human] conscience, the existence of life, and indeed of the universe itself. “If we cannot bring God in at the end of science, God must be there at the very start, and right through it” (quoting C. H. Coulson p. 25). The question arises, If God must be there from the very start, why does he argue that complete novelty emerges by means of natural selection?  Then Dobzhansky continues, (quoting Karl Heim)[13] “For faith gives us the strength which we need in everyday life, not when it is sustained by miraculous occurrences breaking through the order of nature…but only when one and the same occurrence, an occurrence of which we fully understand the natural causes…at the same time in itself appears to us as an act of God, which we receive directly from God’s hands” (25).[14] With the latter resolution, Dobzhansky concludes “The Gods of the Gaps” with the words of the theologian, Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), “Every event, even the most natural and usual, becomes a miracle, as soon as the religious view of it can be the dominant” (34).[15]

Darwin did not integrate genetics with his theory of evolution. In Dobzhansky’s synthesis of genetics with biological evolution he presents three stages or steps that have to be considered as operating together. 1/ the production of genetic raw materials through mutations, 2/ the formation through natural selection and Mendelian recombination of genetic endowments adapted to survive and reproduce in certain environments, and 3/ the establishment of species barriers by reproductive isolation (page 121). Dobzhansky argues against orthogenesis, defined as evolution proceeding straight toward a fixed objective such as the human being (pages 117-118).[16]  He also argues against finalism, which represents the position that God is directing evolution. Evolution is groping its way forward. (“Groping” is a term he borrows from Teilhard.) Dobzhansky continues that mutations in the first stage can be mostly detrimental to a species, while only the very few turn out to be helpful. Considering these stages of evolution, one could argue against Dobzhansky that all three working systematically together could add up to God’s continuous creation. Through this groping and Teilhard’s directed chance (see below) “God, the Creator of space, time, chance, and indeterminacy, would exercise exactly the degree of control that [God] chooses.” to quote Kenneth R. Miller.[17]

Dobzhansky notes that the metaphor of a sieve through which mutations are sorted out for natural selection to fit a certain environment is not apt, unless it is seen as a regulatory mechanism of a cybernetic system (page 122). The definition that Webster gives for cybernetics brings to mind the idea of some intelligence at work, which is hidden in the term cybernetics. The definition of “cybernetics” is that human control functions are replaced by mechanical and electrical functions assigned to replace them. The question arises, how do these thoughtless and lifeless mechanical and electrical functions replace the human ones that have not yet come into existence? Cybernetics is a human invention. How could it have taken place before human intelligence devised these functions?

Dobzhansky argues that “Hereditary continuity makes organisms time-binding contrivances; the adaptations achieved in the past are not easily squandered. And yet, variation permits the accumulation of new information about the environments in which the species lives at present. This information is ordered and stored in the genes by means of natural selection; natural selection is a cybernetic process which responds to the challenges of the environments and transfers the responses to the genetic endowment of the species” (24). It is hard not to conclude, opposing Dobzhansky that some intelligence ascends within the ascent of the species that is hidden in the concept of cybernetics.

Dobzhansky argues that natural selection produces creative acts and counters the random and chance nature of the mutations operating in the first stage. Natural selection has a cybernetic quality with feedback loops from the genetic endowments achieved, making these biological novelties possible (60-61). He writes that “In evolution chance is bridled by an anti-chance agency, which is natural selection responding to environmental challenges” (126).  Whole organisms or individuals, according to Dobzhansky, select each other as natural selection moves into the third, sexual, reproductive stage (122).

Here a question arises about the distinction between natural selection as taking place “without having a will, intention, or foresight” (60) and whole organisms or individuals, who do have these dispositions, selecting each other. Perhaps two levels of description are involved, so the level for ontogeny has to be distinguished from that of phylogeny. Strengthening his argument for a gradual progression of intelligence in natural selection, Dobzhansky cites Teilhard who believed that higher organisms had discernible elements of creativity and freedom (126) and that Teilhard described the groping of evolution as directed chance (128).

These arguments of Dobzhansky that bring some intelligence, creativity and freedom — rather than pure chance — into natural selection seem to anticipate the arguments for intelligent design that have arisen from probability theory. L. Stafford Betty, with Bruce Cordell in their essay, “The Anthropic-Teleological Argument,” propose a law that “the significantly greater cannot come from the significantly less.”[18] Dobzhansky opposes this thesis again and again, for example, writing: “the point so central that it must be pressed is that natural selection is in a very real sense creative. It brings into existence real novelties – genotypes which never existed before.” (60-61) Because Betty and Cordell only consider chance at work and leave out the second and third steps of evolution, they calculate that it is overwhelmingly improbable that complex organs like the eye could develop from simple forms of life. Kenneth R. Miller, also a biologist who believes in God, demonstrates how earlier forms of the eye developed into more complex ones, refuting Betty and Cordell’s argument.[19]

Thus Dobzhansky guarded against such arguments based on pure chance and probability theory alone. But transcendent events like the birth of life, the advent of the self-conscious human beings, as well as the origination of the universe with the Big Bang theory are marvelous breakthroughs that make the God who creates from nothing (ex nihilo) come to mind. They justify the wonder, awe, and faith of believers, when the religious view becomes dominant, to echo Schleiermacher; when the ultimate concern is the focus, to echo Tillich.

In the last chapter of his book, Dobzhansky uses Teilhard to arrive at his ultimate biological concern. Dobzhansky argues that Teilhard remains true to evolution, extending it prophetically and poetically. Thus the Christian mysticism of Teilhard takes evolution into the reaches of Christian spirituality.

Dobzhansky writes that “it is the totality of evolution that occupies Teilhard’s attention almost exclusively.” (119) He quotes Teilhard: “[Human beings are] the only form of life which need not accept the direction of evolutionary forces acting upon them, but can direct their evolution,” (136) especially when spiritually matured after having crossed the threshold of collective thought. Teilhard envisions the entire living world as a single organism (119); the totality of living substance on earth or the unity of life as a supra-organism (119 and 131). The “thinking envelope,” which he named the noosphere, “emerged from the biosphere, and it emerged earlier from the hydrosphere,” (131) [meaning that all life emerged from the water] and “The noosphere is connected with other envelopes by feedback relationships” (131). Teilhard believed that this supra-organism would in turn become a new “organic superaggregation of souls” (131). Perhaps that is what Teilhard meant by crossing the threshold of collective thought.

According to Dobzhansky, because the position of orthogenesis, the theory that variations in evolution proceeded in a straight direction to the human being, is all about the causes of evolution — which do not concern Teilhard — it puts Dobzhansky into “the peculiar position of having to argue that, in spite of himself, Teilhard was not an exponent of orthogenesis.” (119-120) There are other reasons that support Dobzhansky’s contention: First, Teilhard’s description of evolution as directed-chance as it groped its way forward. Second, human evolution is almost the only kind that interested him. He thought human evolution brought evolution as a whole into focus (119).

Dobzhansky writes that “directed-chance is a paradox, as well as Teilhard’s apt insight that “in evolution there ‘are so curiously combined the blind phantasy of large numbers and the precise orientation of an end pursued.’” (128) The blind phantasy of large numbers also applies to human beings converging for the next transcendent event in the evolution of the noosphere. Thus isolated and arrogant, self-asserting individuals, like Nietzsche’s superhuman or Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor are dangers and obstructions to the way forward (135). The “phantasy of large numbers” of human beings needs to participate in the unity of life, coming together in true unity.[20] No longer will evolution proceed with strife or competition. Competition will be for cooperation. What’s more, the driving force of the evolution of the noosphere will be love. “Teilhard makes love the basic agent of evolution: ‘Driven by the forces of love the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being’” (133-134). Perhaps this is what Dobzhansky meant in his “Gods of the Gaps,” by saying that Teilhard attempted to speak of evolution in ontological images rather than of its phenomenological aspects (33).

After Dobzhansky uses the Teilhard citation to witness to the coming of Christ, the citation with which this book review began, he ends with the need for all human beings to take their next steps together, not as passive witnesses but as participants in the evolutionary process. Dobzhansky ends his book with these words of Teilhard: “The consummation of the World, the gates of the Future, the entrance into the Superhuman, they do not open either to a few privileged or to one chosen people among all peoples! They will admit only an advance of all together, in a direction which all together could join and achieve fulfillment in a spiritual renovation of the Earth.”

Part II

For Dobzhansky’s biology of ultimate concern, a large gap obviously exists between his thoughts and a theological tradition proper. Although he also struggles with the meaning and purpose of life and knows not a little philosophy, he remains a scientist, a biologist, who wishes to include biological facts, theories, and ideas of human interest in a Weltanschauung, that is, a religious credo (page 2). Dobzhansky’s presentation of the evolutionary theology of Teilhard de Chardin at the end of his work is brief but significant.  John F. Haught, a Catholic theologian of Georgetown University develops Teilhard’s evolutionary theology further.[21]

However, going directly from biology to ultimate concern necessarily spells a shortcut through history and the humanities to the theological level of description. First let me use the words of Dobzhansky himself about crossing over these levels, especially when the transcendent points are involved. The important levels of description to be crossed and to bear in mind are the one from pre-history to history and from science to the humanities.

Dobzhansky notes that “phenomena of the inorganic, organic, and human levels are subject to different laws peculiar to those levels. It is unnecessary to assume any intrinsic irreducibility of these laws, but unprofitable to describe phenomena of an overlying level in terms of those of the underlying ones.” (43) The move from pre-historical scientific durations of time to history is problematic, because our ten thousand years of recorded history lose their meaning, coherence, and significance dissolved in millions of years of scientific durations of time. An eco-collapse by scientists anticipating a recovery taking 65 million years is merely an apocalyptic scenario of the end of the world. If evolutionary theology posits the genotype of the formation of Christ as the children of God in a matter of several million years, what meaning, hope, and purpose could that possible give us for our historical future?[22]

Thus, to use Dobzhansky’s own words, an underlying scientific level of description, in terms of evolutionary durations of time is unprofitable for describing the kind of time involved in our historical level of existence.[23]

In a related way the same principle holds true for the sciences of biology and sociology.  Emil Durkheim argued convincingly that sociology has sui generis laws, rooted in but independent of biology.[24] The unique and different laws amount to the essence of the overlying discipline. Thus Social Darwinism is unsound as a science and Dobzhansky himself rejects it. It violates biological and sociological levels of description, importing the laws of biology directly into sociology. In a similar way, great distortion results from leaping from biological evolution through history to philosophy and the ultimate concern of theology.

The history of our religious traditions in general record the experience of extraordinary human beings who had theophanies, oracles, and revelatory relationships with God. To speak only of the Christian tradition, there is Abraham, who responded to God’s call, gave hospitality to three angels and believed God’s promise;[25] Jacob, the cheater, who became Israel in a divine wrestling match;[26] Moses’ theophany before the burning bush that did not consume its branches,[27] the oracle that came to the prophet Habakkuk on his watch: “Look at the arrogant! Their spirit is not right within them, but the righteous live by their faith.”[28] St. Paul quotes Habakkuk two or three times if we count the Epistle to the Hebrews.[29] It is Paul who ascended enraptured into the third heaven[30] and Augustine and his mother Monica were enraptured at the window to their garden.[31] Near the end of his life, St. Thomas stopped writing after such an experience, compared to which all his words were like straw.[32] It was in struggling with Habakkuk’s oracle in Romans that Martin Luther suddenly realized that God was not a wrathful judge condemning him, but that through grace and sheer mercy God justified him through faith, whereupon he felt himself reborn and going through the open doors of paradise.[33] Ordinary religious believers could add volumes to these recorded stories.

The scriptures, treasure troves of wisdom (Huston Smith)[34] are the record of God’s speaking to our ancestors in a way that we cannot fathom in pre-history or in science, whose method continues in a fruitful, materialist and naturalist course. The caveat of Teilhard, who labels materialism and naturalism as truly pagan, warns that although they “in fact bring about an improvement in human living conditions, it is not well-being but more-being which, of psychological necessity, can alone preserve the thinking earth from the taedium vitae (disgust and weariness with life).”[35] Thus should the documents of the holy books be discounted and ignored, then “natural reasoning merely plays blind man’s bluff with God, consistently groping in the dark and missing its mark.”[36] It cannot know the loving and forgiving God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered, was crucified, died and rose again on the third day; nor experience the Holy Spirit, if un-open to the world of spiritual realities.

Even so, it is good to read the words of scientists, like Kenneth R. Miller, who have come to understand that the materialist method, so fruitful in understanding nature, when transgressing its bounds and becoming a Weltanschauung, does itself and religion a disservice. When scientists claim a materialist monopoly on all reality, they participate in scientism and not science. A materialist faith jeopardizes the enterprise of science itself, because it confuses faith and the materialist evidence required for the scientific method. In the same way, when religion forgets that it is about ultimate concern in the spiritual matters of morality, meaning, and the purpose of life and places itself on the same level as science, as a materialist enterprise operating with the scientific method, then it becomes a distortion of itself, easily refuted by scientific evidence, as Miller demonstrates.

Science did have to liberate itself from the clutches of wrong-headed religious authorities, who were incapable of making this distinction. Perhaps now the inevitable backlash is taking place. Thus some scientists assert that the universe at bottom has “no design, no purpose, no evil, [and is filled with] nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”[37] As the pendulum swings back on religion’s transgression against science, there is “the chilling prospect that evolution might succeed in convincing humanity of the fundamental purposelessness of life.”[38] Scientism masquerading as science dare not convince us that the universe is without purpose and say there is no meaning for life. Human laws and ethics are not the subject matter of science, and stepping out of bounds, science becomes scientism when it declares them baseless. In that way it obviously sins against religion, ethics, and the very fabric of human society. When such bleak statements of scientism are taken seriously, not only faith but even rationality itself becomes undermined. John F. Haught maintains that with them the scientific project itself becomes endangered and with science becoming confused with scientism, its statements stand self-contradicted.[39]

The question arises, if a scientist believes in evolution, then what kinds of understandings does s/he have for faith? The biologist, Kenneth Miller argues for spiritual realities that are not to be erased by scientific materialism and naturalism. He takes issue with the skeptic David Hume. “To a believer miracles are more than ‘violations of laws of nature,’ as they were once described by David Hume. They reflect a greater reality, a spiritual reality, and they occur in a context which makes religious, not scientific, sense.”[40]

In defending his faith, Miller argues that God’s intentions can also be accomplished by means of natural laws and chance. He also cites Ian Barbour: “There can be purpose without an exact predetermined will.”(238) Through evolution, Miller argues that God could have created “a creature who, like us, could know Him and love Him, could perceive the heavens and dream of the stars, a creature who could eventually discover the extraordinary process of evolution that filled His earth with so much life.” (238-239)

Much like Martin Luther, Miller holds that “the continuing existence of the universe itself can be attributed to God. The existence of the universe is not self-explanatory, and to a believer the existence of every particle, wave, and field is a product of the continuing will of God.” (241)

In an argument that may resemble a biologist looking for the “gods of gaps” in physics, Miller argues that “the indeterminate nature of quantum events would allow a clever and subtle God to influence events in ways that are profound, but scientifically undetectable for us. Those events could include the appearance of mutations, [he writes] the activation of individual neurons in the brain, and even the survival of individual cells and organisms affected by the chance processes of radioactive decay. Chaos theory, [he continues] emphasizes the fact that enormous changes in physical systems can be brought by unimaginably small changes in initial conditions; and this too could serve as an undetectable amplifier of divine action.” (241) In this way, Miller, who is at the edge of the science of our day, finds ample room for believing in the sovereign majesty of God. He would not say, “God has the whole world in his hands,” but, God has the whole universe in his hands, as “the Creator of space, time, chance, and indeterminacy.” (242)

Another one of Kenneth Miller arguments for his faith revolves around the anthropic principle, i.e., that the structure of the physical universe seems mathematically designed for the sake of life. He writes, “The physical constants of the universe in which we live have to be favorable to human life, because if they were not, nobody would be around to observe them.” (228) According to Stephen Hawkings, “If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million it would have recollapsed before it reached its present size.” (227-228) Hawkings felt that this clearly had religious implications, (229) because with the gravitational constant just that much smaller or larger “the dust from the big bang would have just continued to expand, never coalescing into galaxies, stars, planets, and us.” (228) Thus, the four constants represent a fine tuning of the universe, making life possible.

Daniel Dennett takes an atheistic position against religious interpretations of the fine-tuned universe and argues that perhaps our universe spins out multiple universes and those passing through a black hole could conceivably have other constants. By natural selection our universe then happens to have anthropic fine-tuning for life. Thus the anthropic principle, he argues would be arbitrary. (230) Miller counters that there could never be evidence for such an argument and Dennett himself gives unconscious credence to religion, because he argues that his explanation of the constants with a “multiplying swarm of universes,” is “at least as good as any traditional alternative.” (231) Miller finds Dennett’s argument weak and far-fetched, because natural selection is not part of the physics of astronomy and it takes as much faith to believe in a swarm of multiple universes with different constants issuing from black holes as to believe in the religious explanation. (231)

Kenneth Miller openly confesses his faith in God, but asserts that as tolerant a place as academia is, it is not so for those who embrace religion. Academia just isn’t prepared to accept those who take religion seriously. “The conventions of academic life,” he writes, “almost universally, revolve around the assumption that religious belief is something that people grow out of.” (189) Reasoning, finding meaning and purpose in life consonant with ultimate concern is thus not only up against the materialist and naturalist creed but also an academic bias that ends up blotting out the spiritual dimension of reality.

Kenneth Miller is a biologist like Dobzhansky and both were not theologians. In the first place, Teilhard was also not a theologian, but a scientist. In a now dated work, Karl Heim, a theologian from the University of Tübingen, Germany argues against trying to convince modern scientific people about the existence of God through such arguments from physics, whether they come from quantum physics, the uncertainty principle, or the anthropic arguments about the fine-tuning of the universe for life. More precisely speaking, however, Kenneth Miller does not try to prove the existence of God with his arguments, so much as show how God could still be maintaining and continuing the creation of the universe.

Karl Heim, briefly, takes the primitive space and outdated universe that religion once inhabited and translates religious realities inhabiting the momentous physical universe scientifically conceived today that contains millions upon millions of galaxies down to the quantum physics at the molecular and atomic and subatomic levels. The Bible was written, of course, when everyone still believed that the earth was flat and the sun, moon, and stars rotated around the earth. Paradigm shifts of the scientific conceptions of the universe have gone from that of Ptolemy to Copernicus to Newton and to Einstein’s of today. Karl Heim situates Christian faith into today’s scientific paradigm of the universe.[41]

Heim argues, however, that a non-objectizable space exists that objective science cannot access.[42] The “I and Thou,” the will, and human relations are in this space to which science is oblivious. Following Heidegger, he understands the “I and Thou” as positions into which they are cast (their Dasein) in the here and now, which is also in this internal space. Even if the bodies of the “I and Thou” may be visible objects, they are not objects. He follows Kant and Fichte, who discovered the un-objectizable ego: it is a “fundamental optical fact that the seeing point (the ego) is itself not visible and as soon as a point becomes visible, it is no longer the seeing point.”[43] Indeed, “The thinking subject cannot be objectivized.” (51) “It is evident that this reality [our Dasein], [an ens realissimum, i.e., the most real of realities] belongs to a region lying outside of three dimensional space.” (45)

Heim charts the non-objectizable points as 1/ the ego, the “I” who am cast into an existence, 2/ the Thou, who also wants to be a center of perception and life-initiative, as well as 3/ the will and even relationships, all of which abide in a space that is inaccessible to the objectivity of science. Heim uses panpsychism to uncover a within, a subjective space,[44] which Miller would call spiritual reality, to which science has no access and which has been almost totally eclipsed by the scientism of today that cannot in any way relate to this spiritual space.[45]

In a similar way to my contrast of scientific durations of time and historical time, Karl Heim notes that physical, scientific, objective time exists in a linear series of moments, t1, t2, t3 … tn, which can go backwards and forwards; while time experienced by a subject is in the molten now of a present, where the future is not yet decided and the concluded past becomes objectified and irreversible. Thus Heim charts out a personal but also cosmic space inaccessible to the objectivity of science. Then he posits a higher, completely other dimension in which God resides.

Heim substantiates the completely other dimension by an intriguing, imaginative, allegorical story conceived and written by an Englishman, Edwin Abbott in a book called Flatland: a Romance of Many Dimensions. According to Heim, Abbott wrote this geometrical romance thirty years before Einstein’s theory of relativity. (129)  The story tells about three kinds of beings living in different dimensions. The Lineland beings live in one dimension and only know a point moving in lines. Then there are the Flatland beings, who live in two dimensions, making them aware of all realities on the surfaces inscribed by length and width. Suddenly they are startled by Spaceland beings, who live in all three dimensions and whose contact with the Flatland beings seems miraculous and contradictory to them. (129-130) The analogy opposes our three dimensional space to the completely other dimension, in which God resides, from which we hear about the risen Christ walking on water, entering through closed doors to join his disciples, rising from the dead, etc.

Karl Heim uses the concept of space, because it is infinite for any dimension. He posits un-objectizable, internal as opposed to objective space in the universe. He posits that God is in a space with another dimension from ours, an eternal, divine space that we have no power to penetrate much like the Flatland beings versus the three dimensional Spaceland beings, breaking into their world from “above” them. What contact comes out of the higher dimension, has to be by God’s initiative, by revelation, although personal communication is possible by prayer.

Just arguing from the objective space of science as Kenneth Miller does, for Heim completely misses the mark. It even endangers idolatry from a biblical perspective because of the resulting alien God-concept. Contact has to be initiated by God to us from divine space and as such, comes to us only as a gift.  Along with this encounter a completely new world opens up for that person although it was there all the time.  Such a person sees the whole of reality with new eyes. (192) Natural philosophy trying to conceptualize God and even scientist arguing from the anthropic principle do not become transformed in this way.

Heim quotes the poet Max Dauthendey, who had such an experience. Reading the New Testament thereafter, Dauthendey now felt that “Each of [Christ’s] words is spoken out of the center of the universe,” (189) that “The ‘I’ of the world is God and God is personal.” (218) “Now God stands before me as a joy in the life of the universe. To know the personal nature of God is far more blessed than to know the festal nature of the universe. Someday I’ll see God with my outward eyes, just as I have now seen him and recognize him with my inward eyes.” (218)

This is the authentic faith to which Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and the other prophets, Peter, James, and John, Paul and the other disciples, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther and the other reformers responded. Karl Heim situates this Christian faith in the present scientific paradigm of the universe and the spiritual reality of the completely other dimension out of which God still encounters us today.

 

Bibliography

Also by Th. Dobzhansky: Mankind Evolving: the Evolution of the Human Species. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The Future of Man. New York: Harper Torch Books, 1964.

————————–. The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Harper Torch Books, 1959.

John F. Haught. Lecture Series “Science and Christian Faith.” Philadelphia: Metanexus Institute and Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, 2006-2007. His lectures took place Dec. 6, 2006, Jan. 10, Feb. 19, April 25, and May 23, 2007.

John F. Haught Annotated Lecture Notes on Teilhard from Lecture May 23rd 07. https://peterkrey.wordpress.com/2011/08/28/john-f-haught-lecture-notes-on-teilhard-de-chardin-2007/

John F. Haught. Deeper Than Darwin: the Prospect for Religion in the Age of Evolution. Cambridge, MA: The Westview Press, 2003.

Kenneth R. Miller. Finding Darwin’s God: a Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution. New York: Harper Perennial, 1999.

Hilton C. Oswald, editor. Luther’s Works vol. 19. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1974.

Lewis w. Spitz, editor. Luther’s Works, vol. 34. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960.

Luthers Werke. Weimar Ausgabe vol. 19.

Michael Polanyi. Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. New York: Harper Torchbooks, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1964.

Donald Palmer. Looking at Philosophy, 4th Edition. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006.

Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger,editors, Philosophy of Religion, Second and Third Editions, (Oxford University Press, 2001 and 2007.

John K. Ryan, editor. The Confessions of St. Augustine. New York: DoubleDay & Company, Inc., 1960.

Huston Smith. the World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions. San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991.

Karl Heim. Christian Faith and Natural Science. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1953.

Barbara Brown Taylor. The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion. Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2000.

Mark Traugott, ed. Emile Durkheim on Institutional Analysis. University of Chicago Press, 1978.

Kurt H, Wolff, ed. Emile Durkheim, 1858-1917: a Collection of Essays. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1960.

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Endnotes

[1] Dobzhansky puts the teaching of continuous creation into a nutshell: “Creation is an on-going process, not an event of the distant past” (page 113). The page numbers in parentheses throughout are from Dobzhansky’s Biology of Ultimate Concern.

[2] Dobzhansky rehearses a catalogue of the ways the human being is distinct from an animal: “[Humans] are erect – walking – primates, with a brain large in relation to body size, hands fit for tool manipulation, tool-making, and for carrying objects. [Humans] engage in play, are capable of abstract thought, laughter, formation and use of symbols, of learning and using symbolic language, of learning to distinguish good from evil, [and able] to feel reverence and piety. At least some of these characteristics belong to the humanum.” (53-54) Also see pages 64, 69, and 76.

[3] Dobzhansky writes that “A psychological abyss seems to separate Homo sapiens from all other animals” (130). The rudiments of consciousness are, of course, also in animals. According to Teilhard, however, they cannot know that they know something (130). Also see Teilhard’s The Future of Man, pages 164 and 307.

[4] “For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so will all be made alive in Christ” (1 Corinthians 15: 22-23). Those who awake in Christ have become a new species. Thus St. Paul writes “Adam is a type of the one who was to come” (Romans 5:14).

Barbara Brown Taylor quotes from the book, Servanthood: Leadership for the Third Millennium, by Bennett Sims, who “speaks of Jesus as the prototype of an entirely new level of evolving humanity. As much as Jesus might have looked like any other homo sapiens (cunning humanity), Sims says, he was not. He was the firstborn hetero pacificus (peaceable humanity), who came to bring a new species of creature into being.” The Luminous Web: Essays on Science and Religion, (Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2000), page 31.

[5] See Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1964), page 233.

[6] Because this book precedes the feminist changes in language, I have used the term “human being” where Dobzhansky uses the term “man.”

[7] One of the main reasons for his writing this book is this: “A faith which stands in flagrant contradiction with well authenticated scientific findings cannot be right and one in accord with these findings may nevertheless be wrong” (page 109). Thus his search for a viable synthesis.

[8] N.B: Teilhard’s hope was that in the process of hominization, human beings could become pilots of the evolutionary process. That God is the pilot of evolution resembles finalism, a position which holds that a supernatural force, meaning God, is guiding evolution (118). Although Dobzhansky would disagree with the finalist position that God is piloting evolution, I believe that it is in God that we are enveloped, because, as the Greek poet Aratus said, “In God we live, move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)(See Karl Heim, Christian Faith and Natural Science, (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1953), page 168.) Teilhard also points to God and Christ as the Omega Point for human beings. In Teilhard’s words: “Christ… (is the Redeemer in the fullest sense) as the ultimate mover of anthropogenesis.” Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man., (New York: Harper Torch Books, 1964), page 281.

It is because of the great inefficiency, the waste and the many extinctions or dead ends during the course of evolution that Dobzhansky argues that God should not be named the pilot of evolution. That is a strong argument against those who argue that the way God created the world was through evolution.

What does Dobzhansky then find in Teilhard? How is God there from the very start of cosmological and biological evolution and also right through it, as Dobzhansky later quotes Karl Heim (1874-1958) of Tübingen wrote about faith and the natural sciences. (He did not hold that God controlled quantum events that science interpreted as random.) Dobzhansky does not tell his readers how this position differs from finalism. Teilhard believed, however, that God in Christ was not only the Omega but the Alpha as well (136).

[9] I’m using Dobzhansky’s revision of Dostoyevsky’s words.

[10] Dobzhansky describes the generalized panpsychism and panentheism of C. Hartshorne: “God is, then, a superindividual, and all other individuals are [God’s] constituent parts.” God is conceived as the “cosmic organism.” (28-29). Although Dobzhansky disagrees with him he later writes, “Hartshorne [is] a philosopher who is at least aware of evolutionary problems.” (121)

This thought is intriguing because as St. Paul said, preaching to the Athenians, you “search for God, and perhaps grope for him and find him – though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being,’ as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are God’s offspring.’” (Acts 27-28) Thus, as the universe is in God and illuminated by God, we are in God like an embryo inside the womb of its mother. Thus as the baby replicates its mother, Christ is the image replicating the new human being to come, as well as already having been the image in which the human genotype was formed. Not that preformation is involved, but rather God’s creation out of eternity.

[11] There are two different kinds of changes in evolution. In anagenesis a biological species undergoes changes to adapt to environmental change, but continuing to be a single species. In cladogenesis, a single species splits up into one or more new species because of natural selection in different territories and their different environments (123-124).

[12] A dictionary definition: Epigenesis is opposed to preformation, because it holds that the embryo develops from successive differentiation from an originally undifferentiated structure.

[13]  See footnote 7.

[14] This resolution resembles the Christological teaching that Christ was fully human and fully divine. Thus a fully natural explanation of nature does not preclude a fully spiritual one.

[15] In their essay entitled “The Anthropic Teleological Argument,” in Philosophy of Religion, L. Stafford Betty with Bruce Cordell take an approach based on probability theory and the chance of evolution achieving the complexities found in organic life. They hold to a proposed law that the significantly greater cannot come from the significantly less. Differing from Dobzhansky’s argumentation, they feel that the God of the gaps in the present circumstances of science now stands reversed. In their essay they write, “We found ourselves wondering if ‘God of the gaps’ may someday be used not by atheists to make fun of theists, but by theists to remind atheists of the facts,” because “scientific gaps are not closing, but becoming ever wider and more unbridgeable by science alone.” Michael Peterson, William Hasker, Bruce Reichenbach, and David Basinger, editors, Philosophy of Religion, Third Edition, (Oxford University Press, 2007), page 244. (In the Second Edition, 2001, it is page 227.) Their argument needs to be weighed against Dobzhansky’s, who is, however, no atheist. He remained Orthodox although he did not believe in a personal God nor in the afterlife. But Paul Tillich denied the latter as well, banking completely on the creative act of God for his resurrection.

[16] Thus Dobzhansky argues that there is little chance that life as we know it could exist elsewhere in the universe (page 49, 64, 123, 127-128).

[17] Kenneth R. Miller, Finding Darwin’s God: a Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution, (New York: Harper Perennial, 1999), page 242.

[18] Peterson et al, Philosophy of Religion, edition 2, page 218, edition 3, page 235.

[19] “The human eye with all its marvelous complexity, could indeed have been formed by evolution, one step at a time, from a set of simpler but still functioning organs, shaped every step of the way by natural selection.” Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin’s God, page 136.

[20] In a work not cited by Dobzhansky, Teilhard writes, “Opposing the individual to the group is a false habit of mind: The coming together of separate elements does nothing to eliminate their differences. On the contrary, it exalts them. In every practical sphere true union (that is to say, synthesis) does not confound; it differentiates. From The Future of Man., (New York: Harper Torch Books, 1964), page 55. Thus true unity allows people to be themselves as different as they may be with an internal bond of love, while uniformity takes away the internal bond and insists on being outwardly alike, even controlling a person’s thoughts, insisting on the conformity of thought.

[21] The John F. Haught Lecture Series of 2006-2007 was sponsored by Metanexus Institute and Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA. His lectures took place Dec. 6, 2006, Jan. 10, Feb. 19, April 25, and May 23, 2007. See the URL of my “John F. Haught Annotated Lecture Notes on Teilhard” in my Bibliography.

[22] Scientific durations of time are very different from eternity, a quality of time capable of touching every past, present, and future moment.

[23] See Karl Heim’s interesting contrast of scientific, physical, objective time and the time as experienced from the now by unobjectizable subjects as well as the now of the internal space of the whole Cosmos. I refer to his arguments below.

[24] Mark Traugott, editor, “Course in Sociology: Opening Lecture,” in Emile Durkheim on Institutional Analysis, (Chicago University Press, 1978), page 50-51 and Kurt H. Wolff, editor, “Sociology and Its Scientific Field,” in Emile Durkheim, 1858-1917: a Collection of Essays, (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 1960), pages 364 and 367.

[25] Genesis 12, 18, 15:6.

[26] Genesis 32: 22-32.

[27] Exodus, chapter 3.

[28] Habakkuk 2: 4.

[29] Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38.

[30] 2 Corinthians 12; 2-4.

[31] John K. Ryan, editor, The Confessions of St. Augustine, (New York: DoubleDay & Company, Inc., 1960), pages 221-223.

[32] Donald Palmer, Looking at Philosophy, 4th Edition, (New York: McGraw Hill, 2006), page 140.

[33] Lewis w. Spitz, editor, Luther’s Works, vol. 34, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960), page 337.

[34] Huston Smith quotes Justice Holmes to the effect that “Science makes major contributions to minor needs [while] religion, however small its successes, is at least at work on the things that matter most.” Huston Smith, the World’s Religions: Our Great Wisdom Traditions, (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991), page 9.

[35] Pierre Teilhard, The Future of Man, page 281.

[36] Martin Luther in his Jonah Lectures (1526) writes that before John the Baptist pointed out that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, it was incredible to John’s disciples that Christ was moving about among them. “Thus reason also plays blind man’s bluff with God; it consistently gropes in the dark and misses its mark. It calls that God which is not God and fails to call him God who really is God. Reason would do neither one nor the other if it were not conscious of the existence of God and if it knew who and what God is. Thus reason never finds the true God….So there is a vast difference between knowing there is a God and knowing who or what God is. Nature knows the former – it is inscribed in everybody’s heart; the latter is taught only by the Holy Spirit.” Hilton C. Oswald, editor, Luther’s Works vol. 19, (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1974), page 55. Weimar Ausgabe vol. 19: 206-207.

Barbara Brown Taylor in her book, The Luminous Web, has another poetic metaphor about what Luther is referring to: “when the measly lasso of my reason falls a million miles short of the living truth…” page 81.

[37] Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin’s God, page 171. Miller castigates such scientists.

[38] Ibid., page 187.

[39] John Haught’s Last 2006-2007 Matanexus Lecture, May 23rd 2007, at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, PA.

[40] Kenneth Miller, page 240. The following series of page numbers in parentheses will designate pages from Miller’s book, Finding Darwin’s God.

[41] Barbara Brown Taylor in The Luminous Web, also situates her Christian faith in the new scientific paradigm of the universe the way Karl Heim is doing, but she does not chart the non-objectizable dimension, which science is unequipped to explore and which its method cannot research, as posited by Heim. Her approach is more mystical in a narrative that views the new edges of physics from her implicit stance on revelation. In one important way she goes farther than Miller and Heim, although not Teilhard. She writes of the weak and strong forms of the anthropic principle: the former “states that since we are here, the universe must have been put together in a certain way.” in the latter, “it says that the universe was bound to produce us, since our consciousness makes it possible for the world to exist.” (pages 29-30) Further she writes, “it is difficult to miss the most stunning miracle of creation: that in us, the universe has become conscious.” (page 42) and “In us, God has given all creation a voice.” (page 43)

[42]Heim has not penetrated the scientific cult of objectivity. (Polanyi) Hegel points out that even objectivity is a subjective form of consciousness. The Humanities have different kinds of objectivity appropriate to their disciplines and different from those of science, which violates its limitations by not recognizing them.

[43] Karl Heim, Christian Faith and Natural Science, page 36. The following numbers in parentheses are page numbers from this book.

[44] Heim seems to avoid the term “subjective.” He may feel like many of that day who believed that physics had completely replaced metaphysics and the only task left for philosophers was to mathematize language for more precision in the service of scientists.

[45] Heim’s explicit issue is scientific secularism, which, among other things, is the outcome of the materialism and naturalism of scientism.

Michael Polanyi wrote about what in theological circles we used to call the “cult of scientific objectivity.” He writes: “Objectivism has totally falsified our conception of truth, by exalting what we can know and prove, while covering up with ambiguous utterances all that we know and cannot prove, even though the latter knowledge underlies, and must ultimately set its seal to, all that we can prove.” Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, (New York: Harper Torchbooks, Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1964), page 286. He continues, “Our objectivism, which tolerates no open declarations of faith, has forced modern beliefs to take on implicit forms.” (288) (Kenneth Miller voiced a similar complaint above.) Polanyi argued that our knowledge has to issue from beliefs, which need internal and external checking. But against scientism, “a creed inverted into a science is both blind and deceptive.” (page 268)

From my point of view, the naturalism and materialism of scientism can eclipse the personal subject, the author of science and the free historical subject. Even a scientist, who focuses merely on the measurability of length, mass, and time, can be completely oblivious to being a human subject doing the measuring. And, furthermore, the hands are quite removed from the head and heart, as is instrumental from value rationality.

The Peasants and the Word of God: the Failed Popular Reformation of 1525: A Social-Linguistic Approach

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The Peasants’ and the Word of God: The Failed Popular Reformation of 1525

A Social-Linguistic Approach

(from the title page)

A Research Paper for the Special Comprehensive Requirements
March 31, 1997
Submitted by Peter D.S. Krey

For Graduate Theological Union
Area  II: History of Christianity

Doctoral Committee

Chair: Prof. Christopher Ocker,
San Francisco Theological Seminary

Prof. Timothy Lull, President,
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary

Prof. Thomas A. Brady, Jr., University of California

Prof. Jane Strohl, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary

Title

The Peasants’ and the Word of God: The Failed Popular Reformation of 1525

A Social-Linguistic Approach

 

This study intends to investigate the significance of several words, with their modifiers, reoccurring continually in the documents left by the Peasants’ War of 1525. “Clear and pure Gospel,” or “Word of God, [required] without addition of human teaching,” call attention to themselves. They even appear in the first of the famous Twelve Articles of the Peasants of Upper Swabia:

“The elected pastor should preach to us the holy gospel purely and clearly, without human additions or human doctrines or precepts.”[1]

In the first of the articles that the peasants swore to each other, in the formation of their Christian Union in Memmingen, the term, “Word of God,” is also included:

“First we desire men of skill and understanding in holy Scripture to preach and teach us the holy Gospel and the Word of God, purely and clearly, with all its fruits and without the addition of human teaching.”[2]

In addition, the word, “gospel” comes up eleven times in the Twelve Articles alone; the words, “Scripture, Holy Writ, Bible,” come up ten times, and the “Word of God,” seven times, not to mention the sixty Scriptural citations in the margins![3] Sebastian Lotzer, a furrier who wrote them, and Pr. Christoph Schappeler, were certainly trying to fasten these articles to the Scriptures. Counting words is a rather superficial exercise, but it does indicate that these are key words. They underscore the way Peter Blickle now writes about this event, not merely as a social-political “Revolution of 1525,” but as the “Popular Reformation” that escalated into the “Peasants’ War.”[4]

Using a social linguistic approach is designed not to allow this study to take a myopic point of view, which focuses only on language. Luther cites Hilary making this point: “For meaning must be sought in the reason for speaking and does not lie in the words alone.[5] Thus the social implications of the words will be held in view. For example, Luther and Erasmus make an exegetical issue of the clarity of Scripture.[6] The social implication of the “clear” gospel in the peasants’ usage would mean that the mediation of the priests was no longer necessary, because the laity could now understand Scripture for themselves.[7] Its authority would replace that of the ecclesiastical magisterium, a shift with unfathomable social consequence. Luther’s forceful translation of the Scriptures from Latin into the language of the common people underscored these convictions.

Space does not permit a full discussion of this social linguistic methodology, and therefore, it is provided in an addendum. This approach, however, includes a new paradigm, that seems to reflect such a shift in the Reformation. Following G. Lindbeck, religion is understood like a language. Such language shaped new social realities and not only reflected them.[8] Luther’s powerful dictum, “For the Word of God comes whenever it comes, to change and renew the world.[9] reflects that mode of language. But it will be important to see whether the documents mention this aspect of the Word of God or imply it, rather than imposing [this dynamic concept of the word] upon them, if it is not there.

Tom Scott and Bob Scribner’s work, called The German Peasants‘ War: A History in Documents,[10] provides a representative translation of the programmatic documents of the peasants. Throughout these pages, I will use this primary source to analyze the terms in question, i.e., “the clear and pure Gospel,” and “Word of God without addition of human teaching.”  Because space does not permit differentiation of meanings in the many strands and localities in which the Peasants’ War took place, it will be necessary to take a general view. But strings of words, allusions to tracts, and extra-linguistic evidence can help to point out whether the Word of God is being understood from Luther’s, Zwingli’s, a more radical perspective, or even one of the peasants’ own or of the common man’s own perspective that they held independently of the others.

To give some illustrations already: a string of words usually entails: “To stand by and protect (carry out) the divine Word and holy Gospel and righteousness (justice),“[11] and never the string: “Law and Gospel,” or “Word and Sacrament.” The latter are associated with Luther and almost exclude reference to temporal rule and secular affairs, while the former, “Word, Gospel, and justice,” are a thrust directly at them. Allusions in the first of the Twelve Articles point to Luther’s Leisnig tract and his tract “On Avoiding Human Teaching.” The distinction, however, he makes between divine and human teaching is a recurrent theme in many of his tracts 1522-1526.

To provide an extra-lingual example: the banners [like flags carried before troops marching in formation] are interesting and are known to be very important to the different forces. When the Klettgau peasants hoist the colors of Zürich, blue and white, instead of the Austrian white, red, and black in January 1525, the Word of God has definitely become associated with Zwingli’s sense of Scripture and godly law.(25,115)(i.e., Scribner and Scott, pages 25, 115.)

Most of the places, in which “Gospel” and “Word of God” occur, are followed by references to the Old and New Testament. Only once are they followed by “according to the teachings of St. Paul.”(Michael Gaismair in the Tyrol revolt)(78). With this word string the peasants tend to equate the “Word of God” or “Gospel” with the Scriptures, which is antithetical to Luther. But, at the same time, Luther placed these Scriptures into their hands.[12] Common people who were only half literate struggled to read the New Testament and argued faith issues with masters and doctors of theology.[13] The peasants memorized tracts by singing them, and of course, in a trip to Nuremberg, the coveted evangelical preaching could be heard and  the new belief could penetrate into the oral culture of the peasantry.

After considering Luther’s two tracts, to which the first of the Twelve Articles alludes, and the submission of the peasants to the Word of God, and the relationship of Latin and German, this study will present language that is more or less adequate from the documents. To explain: George Lindbeck notes that a religion is like a language, and adherents learn to interpret and experience themselves in its terms. He notes that for Christians, these terms derive from the story of Jesus, and the history of Israel. (Indeed Schappeler starts the Twelve Articles’ preface with the latter, and the third article, concerning the redemption of the serfs, is certainly imbued in the story of the former.) Reading Luther’s translation of the New Testament or hearing it read or preached to them, gave the peasants the opportunity to interpret and experience themselves and their community, their tithes and dues, their serfdom, their relationship with their magistrates, lords, bishops, and abbots, in short, their whole world, in the terms Lindbeck theorizes. Reading the documents, the language was not equally adequate to this criterium.[14] Often the terms seem like a slogan. In other documents, there is an astonishing command of the language and even word-play.

Secondly, the language was congruent with integral religion in the Popular Reformation component, but became dissonant in the Peasants’ War component into which this reformation escalated.[15] For integral religion the language needs to be homologous[16] with social formation and behavior. An army mustered is a social formation not consonant with the Gospel, from Luther’s standpoint, because what can only transpire through grace, and not by human hand,[17] is actually attempted by a military campaign. For the most part, the peasants would have negotiated – and who can deny they needed to protect themselves? – while the ecclesiastical and secular lords, for the most part, did not negotiate in good faith, but merely bided their time, until they could muster sufficient force to slaughter easily defeated peasants in a military solution.

Two Luther Tracts

The peasants would not have had to learn to sing the Leisnig pamphlet, from hearing it read aloud, to spread its contents among their number.[18] That their whole community ought to have the right and power to elect, appoint, and dismiss pastors who behave improperly, is right in Luther’s title: “THAT A CHRISTIAN ASSEMBLY OR CONGREGATION HAS THE RIGHT AND POWER TO JUDGE ALL TEACHINGS AND TO CALL, APPOINT, AND DISMISS TEACHERS, ESTABLISHED AND PROVEN BY SCRIPTURE[19] (1523). If they had sung and memorized the contents of this tract, they would have heard this introductory paragraph:

To quote: First, it is necessary to know where and what the Christian congregation is,[20] so that men do not engage in human affairs (as the non-Christians were accustomed to do) in the name of the Christian Congregation. The sure mark by which the Christian Congregation can be recognized is that the pure gospel is preached there. For just as the banner of an army is the sure sign by which one can know what kind of lord and army have taken to the field, so, too, the gospel is a sure sign by which one knows where Christ and his army are encamped. We have the sure promise of this from Isaiah 55 [:10-11], “My word” (says God) “that goes forth from my mouth shall not return empty to me; rather, as the rain falls from heaven to earth, making it fruitful, so shall my word also accomplish everything for which I sent it.” Thus we are certain that there must be Christians wherever the gospel is, no matter how few and how sinful and weak they may be. Likewise, where the gospel is absent and human teachings rule, there no Christians live but only pagans, no matter how numerous they are and how holy and upright their life may be.[21] End of quote.

The peasants may have ridden rough-shod over the detail that Luther spoke of the “banner of the gospel” and “Christian armies taking to the field” – figuratively. But they were now actually so assembled. And they felt they were depending on the Word of God, and not human teachings. They quite literally followed banners with the “Word of God” and the name, “Jesus Christ,” upon them.[22] With the Isaiah passage concerning rain and harvests so strikingly fitting for them, Luther was veritably planting the Word of God among them. But notice that the numbers concerned, and strength and weakness mentioned in this passage, are now ominously reversed. (The Christian is not a rare bird here, but a throng laying claim to the name.) And because of the military formation of the peasants, Luther will say they, too, misuse the Christian name.

Luther’s tract, “On Avoiding Human Teaching,[23] is an exegetical study of the contrast of human teaching with the Word of God and explains the puzzling phrase, “without the addition of human teaching.” (Whether the peasants followed Luther’s meaning will need to be determined.) To use a word play, consciously chosen for the social linguistic nature of this study: by this phrase, Luther means his “canon” of the Scripture to which nothing can be added. Naturally, “canon” refers to those Scriptures recognized and ratified by the church or council. It can also mean a “regulative decree,” a “church law,” as in canon law. Or it can mean the church lawyer, as in “canons” living on benefices. But Luther, who has burned the canon law with the bull of his excommunication, starts from scratch and means very clear commands in the New Testament, to which consciences are bound. But human teaching, he argues, contradicts these commands with laws about externals like food, clothing, celebration of days, location (that a monk not be permitted out of his cell), celibacy (elsewhere), images in churches, etc. to which consciences may not be bound. Human teaching is forbidden to reestablish the laws which Christ annulled. According to Luther, monasteries rest on human teachings, on an addition to the Word of God!,[24] (Thus, note that in this formula is hidden the rationale for what Heiko Oberman calls the Peasants’ War, i.e., the “cloisterkrieg!” i.e., a war against the monasteries.[25]) because their orders are oriented around these externals. Nothing is wrong with human teachings, except if they imprison and side-track Christians by binding their consciences, which robs them of their Christian freedom. To reintroduce the word play, then, other writing is good, but it is not to be considered “canon,” that is, a rule or standard.

Thus Luther’s tracts certainly inform the first article of the Twelve. The second article is a different story. Never does Luther claim that the Scripture frees the peasants from the small or large tithe, nor claim that dues, like the small tithe may be an “addition” to Scripture.[26] That exegesis was made of Matthew 23:23, where Jesus names the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, because they care more about gathering in their tithes of mint, dill, and cumin rather than the weightier matters of the law: justice, mercy, and faith.  But Luther would approach this treacherous issue through persuasion via the community of faith, rather than direct action. The peasants, however, could not make such a distinction between taxes and tithes quite so easily if they were under a prince-bishop, or under the abbot of a monastery, in Kempten, for example.

The peasants certainly submitted to the authority of Scripture i.e., as Popular Reformation.[27] Their articles became like an authoritative blue print for the structure of society. If an article agreed with the blue print, it obtained, if not the article fell, along with their practices, social advantages or disadvantages attached. In their words from the twelfth article conclusion:

“If any one or more of these articles are not in agreement with God’s Word (which we doubt), then this should be proved to us from Holy Writ. We will abandon it, when this is proved from the Bible.[28]

The conception behind this idea of the gospel is a legal one. The sense of the gospel in which grace brings about change and bears fruit, as presented by Luther in the Isaiah passage of the Leisnig tract, and emphasized in his Eight Invocavit Sermons,[29] which quelled the Wittenberg disturbances, is not in this gospel conception. Instead of the persuasive, converting, and communicative power of the language, a legal and direct action approach spreads from Zürich, in which iconoclastic riots become the stepping stones to plunder of monasteries.[30]

In his writing, “On Avoiding Human Teaching,” Luther’s language is so strong it could be considered like depth charges which blew the monasteries out of the water. But not by human hand. He insulted the image-stormers roundly: they soiled the camp of the Reformation, and God had to teach them the decency of burying their droppings outside the camp.[31] His reaction to the plunder and destruction of monasteries is the wrath of a prophet.

In terms of the revolutionary social implications of Luther’s translation of the New Testament into the nascent common language, this corpus of documents delivers insufficient material.[32] It records that Hubmaier in Waldshut is charged with the offense of preaching the Gospel in German in the procession of Corpus Christi in 1524.(120) An insult leveled at the macaronic Latin of the priests is also included in Shappeler’s description of corruption of the clergy of Memmingen:[33] common men and women knew the meaning of the gospel and the priests did not, the time had come for the laity to confess the clergy, and the priests had deteriorated to “filthy rogues who preached a gruel of kitchen Latin.[34]

On what he calls an intra-language, endoglossic level,[35] Peter von Polenz analyzes the sophisticated way Luther alienated the conceptual system of the papalists, labeling their usage “strange speech,” (Rotwelsch or Küdderwelsch), and asserting that it functioned to obscure the reality of things, to hide the truth from the people.[36] Language of the nobility could also be contorted and obscure, while the burghers wanted direct, clear, and concise language. Not only with macaronic in mind, Schappeler is to have said: “God be praised the truth has now come to light after having for so long been repressed by the priests for their own purposes.” – according to a complaint by a Procurator Fiscal.(101)

These examples indicate a resistance on the side of the old believers to give up elite, ecclesiastical and academic language, as well as the attack on that language from the side of the Popular Reformation. But the attack is also aimed at the mixture of German and Latin in the preaching of an uneducated clergy. Finally the vantage-point of clear, forceful, and dramatic German represented by Luther and clear evangelical common language preaching of the gospel represented by Schappeler, produce a new light in which the old language can be criticized. Now the gospel is “clear” because the tracts, Scripture, and the preaching are in a vernacular the common people can understand. That was not to the liking of the old order, which was convinced that only heresy would be the outcome.

The impression received reading these documents, that some of the language is far more adequate than other language, derives from the social linguistic methodology of this study. The presupposition that a language event experienced creates a greater command of the language in the hearers or readers,[37] or those encountered and addressed by the Word, seems to allow Luther’s version of the Word of God as a language initiative in persuasion, encounter, and conversion to take precedence over one that is basically already legal. It is very significant that Luther’s dialectic, Law and Gospel, never comes up, but only gospel as godly law. A legal gospel is somewhat transcended in places in the Merano Articles, articles over which Michael Gaismair probably had some influence.(86) The referent of the Gospel becomes the common good, brotherly love, and equality, but it issues into godly law and judicial affairs,[38] while the Luther version of the gospel as promise is never understood clearly.[39] That makes the sense of Luther’s gospel different from the one found in these documents.

The most concise peasants’ formula of their conception is found in the Molscheim Articles:

“To stand by the gospel and protect (carry out) the divine Word and holy Gospel and Righteousness (justice).”[40]

The stress here is completely on the shoulders of the hearers, on human responsibility, without the carrying power of what Luther understood as the Gospel. [They, therefore, laid the emphasis on human agency instead of the divine agency through the word.]

One usage of the term, “Word of God,” stood out as a polar opposite to what Luther meant by it, again from the Merano Articles, numbers 3 and 4. This is the context: Monks have just recently entered their calling to the chagrin of the authors of the articles. “They shall be provided food and drink, and remain in a house until they die off.” “They should be told that they are subject to the Word of God, and should observe it.”(88)

To be “subject to the Word of God” is not at all to allow it to function persuasively, to have it instruct consciences [in Luther’s sense]. A pensive Franconian nobleman writes how future rebellion can be avoided: “No one should be forced into belief; God wants a willing heart.”(210) This sentiment is very different from such a sense of a sovereign word. Persuasion through language is displaced by being subjected to a king, becoming an object of a ruler’s will. God’s Word, certainly also reflects that majesty, but not like that of the Lords of the world, who lord it over their subjects. [God’s working through the word] means being moved by One closer than the closest friend, and a Leader dying for the love and well being of his “subjects.” The Salzburg Articles to follow make this distinction between genuine and corrupt government better.[41]

But the Merano Articles also contain more adequate language. Here is a more positive version of the peasants’ gospel:

“all matters turn on self interest and not the common good….And so that the Word of God may be preached without any self interested additive, brotherly love be preserved, and the common good enhanced, we desire….”(87)

The additive here is greed or self-interest. That can be reversed into a “canon,” i.e., a standard of selfless sharing and participation in the common weal. That is far more adequate than to name tithes or taxes “additives.” The latter is too concrete and leaves no room for rational discriminating judgment.

Language becomes very powerful in the Twenty-Four Articles of Salzburg. A powerful indictment of the old order and its injustices is made here – as seen in the “mirror of the holy Gospel.”(105) Note how the articles avoid slogans: “The thieves and tyrants are so stubborn they will not turn to God and the divine evangelical truth.” This “fire of greed cannot be quenched other than by the Mouth of God.” The “poor common folk” are “hunted [and caught] in their money net with violent coercion.”(105) And the genuine way to govern:

“[The authorities] have not held before their eyes what God commanded and ordained in the Old and New Testaments, to judge the mass of men justly, to serve them truly and to protect and rule them well.”(106)

This language explains what the peasants themselves mean by the Word of God – what God commanded and ordained in the Old and New Testaments.

The command of the language even proceeds to word-play:

“So the ‘groundless’ (i.e., without ground) call themselves ‘Lords of the ground,’ i.e., landlords, and have invented a prodigious robbery [of the people].”[42]

On the other side, those who blamed the rebellion and the misfortune it brought to the land on the gospel, coined the word, “Evan-hellical.” From English it is possible to see the word, “hell” inserted, but in German the word inserted means “plague” or “damage.” (303)

This Merano and Salzburg language stands in sharp contrast to these important terms used as slogans. The Word of God was placed on banners. Then the Word of God was “helped, established, upheld, protected, supported, confirmed, promoted,” etc. To Erasmus Luther wrote something concerning theologians that also fits here:

“They make a parade of Scripture, yet they are as uncertain of it as the other side; though they boast of the Spirit, they give no sign of possessing it.[43]

The most banal use of the word comes from Eisenhut, a very radical priest and peasant leader. “Appear here with a wagon, so that the Gospel and justice will be furthered.”(236) It is, however, couched in a confrontation or perhaps, a threat.

The language of the Peasants’ War also becomes dissonant with the Word of God while using it. Peter von Polenz gives an example of what he calls a sample of advanced, intimately expressive language achieved by the peasants, which spread a sense of equality. He cites Hans Muller von Bulgenbach (the peasant emperor) addressing a city in the Black Forest and inviting it to join the peasants’ cause. Polenz must have become distracted by beautiful words, because after all the solidarity, endearment, and brotherly affection, the paragraph concludes: “You have been warned for the first time![44] Müller is the commander of the whole fighting force, (Huffen) giving the address, and their battle cry is “Gospel, Gospel, Gospel!” (Evangelium, Evangelium, Evangelium)- that Greek loan word in the German, which has “taken” as a real German word, is here not only emptied, but used as a fighting word.

Examples abound in which extortion and compulsion are connected with the Gospel. One city is warned unless they join the cause of the gospel, the peasants will burn and destroy their vineyards, their livelihood growing around the city.

“To avoid being throttled, ruined, and devastated by [the peasants] and to escape the accusation of resisting God’s Word and divine justice, we have finally decided to stand by the Word of God,”(195) the Miltenbergers write to another city.

Altdorf is confronted in a similar way, immediately to swear into the armed contingent, literally, the “bright band” (heller Haufen) and add to this peasant fighting force.(138) For twenty florins some could purchase protection, but the word “gospel” was not used, just the “united bands of evangelical brothers.”(138-139) Because many were coerced to join the peasants, their cohesiveness could not have been genuine.[45]

In the escalation of the Popular Reformation into full blown Peasants’ War, the word “additive” began to refer to more and more. Thus pure Gospel, a code word for “Word of God without the addition of human teaching,” came to mean no lords as well. “What increases the Swiss, but the greed of the Lords?” the Zwinglian revolutionary asks.(275) The Swiss cantons are a lordless society, if one does not count the lordship of the burghers over the peasants of their suburbs. But a greater measure of freedom for the common man was prevalent there, which would, of course, have been a Godsend to German peasants.

In this escalation, a more radical theology permeated “the pure gospel,” i.e., “without additive,” which are the terms, this study is concerned with. A mandate arose to reject all lords but God as an additive to the gospel. When the peasants of Schaffhausen do so,(81,121) they do not explicitly mention additives, but their radical religious ideas relate to Hubmaier’s, if the hostile report of his ideas can be believed. Coming back from Zwingli’s Second Colloquy at Zürich (26-28 of October, 1523), Hubmaier noted that requiem masses, altars, images, church bells, altar lamps, etc., were to be destroyed or removed; no one was to render rents, tithes, interest payments, or annuities; nor obey their lords or be subject to them.(100-101) In an Apology of 1526, Hubmaier claims he never held these positions, but does speak of the “innovations and impositions”  burdening the poor, thus estranging them from the Gospel.(232)[46]

If Hubmaier did not teach such a radical concept of additives to the gospel, a graduated scale of radical theologies can be distilled from peasants’ ideas and actions. These convictions ranged from the rejection of all lords, except God; all lords but the emperor; or all lords, even the captains of the peasants’ bands. The anarchy that prevailed at the failed siege of the Marienburg in Würzburg, is a case in point, a failure that helped doom the peasants in Franconia.

But the peasants had a severe problem with their leaders, many of whom betrayed them. Matern Feuerbacher, for example, whose house had been plundered when he opposed the Poor Conrad rebellion in 1514, went to the peasants with the assignment to dissuade them from rebelling. If that was impossible, he was to have himself elected captain and seek to contain the rebellion, especially to prevent the assembly from uniting with other bands.(141) The peasants grew suspicious of him and tried him in a ring. Feuerbacher defended himself:

“The emperor is our lord; it’s him we want to have; [not Duke Ulrich]; we are here because of the Word of God, to establish it, and where anyone complains of being denied justice, to help him gain it.”(142)

Meanwhile it was his assignment to get the peasants defeated.[47] This appeal to the Word of God successfully covered up his deception.

The Upper Swabian, Zwinglian revolutionary who wrote a long tract to the Assembly of Common Peasantry in the end of April or beginning of May, 1525, rings very true, despite his complete justification of battle for the defense of the gospel. (But ultimately, such a position is self-contradictory.) His tract rings so true, however, because he is so realistic about the attitude of self-defense that the peasants sorely need, but are not free to exercise. Perhaps they were still enjoying their self-image as the agents of the Reformation. After Jäcklin Rohrbach led the atrocity of Weinsberg in which noblemen were forced to run the gauntlet, among them the son-in-law of Ferdinand, Ludwig von Helfenstein, with the daughter of Ferdinand and her small son looking on, and precisely on Easter Day, April 16, 1525,(158) much of the good will the peasants enjoyed evaporated.(32)[48] The common wood-cut image of the peasant guarding the Reformation with his flail, no longer held true. On the other hand, this kind of terror was understood, and many who had held out against the peasants now collapsed, and surrendered to them, while Georg Truchsess von Waldburg, commander of the Swabian League, when he returned with his Landsknecht army from the Italian campaign, roasted the perpetrators of the gauntlet alive – to have the last word on terror.

To return to the revolutionary Zwinglian realist, who was routing for the peasants to attain Swiss freedom:

“If your opponents want to fight and follow their evil heads, and to dispute the Gospel with lances, halberds, muskets, and high breastplates, then be it as God wills, and let the anger burn against those who will not have it otherwise. Their criminal attacks are hated by God. But you should trust in God! Be steadfast in faith! You are not fighting for yourself, but for God, to preserve the Gospel and to tear down the Babylonian prison! Each should strive to help his neighbor in all loyalty and love!…”(273)

Of course, “help his neighbor” with the exception of the enemy to be slain. The peasants had organized themselves into armed units. War cannot protect what in and of itself it is also erasing, i.e., the Gospel.

This revolutionary takes religious judgments into deeper waters. The Gospel certainly has the last word, but the second to last, third, fourth to last judgments may have to be social, political, or military. The problem is not just one of having the gospel and human teaching mixed up (anvermischt), but having a confusion about what action to take in the face of what reality. Thomas Müntzer may or may not have been a fine theologian, but he was no general. To advance as an army geared for battle, singing hymns, and preaching the gospel is contradictory. The battle formation of the peasants into which they mustered themselves was completely reasonable, but to do so for the Gospel was not honest. The words of this tract ring true, calling complete solidarity, with no look “to becoming rich with the goods of others,” and realizing the consequences for them involved in any showing of weakness: torture, maiming, being drawn and quartered! Worst of all he lamented:

“Woe, woe forever for the eternal murder of the entire peasantry!”(274)

There can be a case, as in the Battle of Mohács, where in a superficial way the issue of the outcome is one or another faith, Islam or Christianity. But how much more honest to fight for ones’ lives rather than for the Gospel. Then this tract could be completely realist for spiritual reasons. The peasants were irresolute sometimes for spiritual and sometimes for material reasons. The peasants were justified in fighting for their lives, because circled by cavalry horsemen, they were butchered by the thousands like pigs, as accounts refer to them, or like frogs, which the nobles like storks, would swallow for dinner.[49] The peasants needed to fight for their lives, if not for their faith, and fighting resolutely, may have saved a chance for their new faith as well. The quandary for an army fighting for the Gospel is that the Gospel bids them to love their enemies.

But being realistic and resolute would mean to compare their chances for attaining Swiss freedom outside of the Alpine mountain fortress of Switzerland, one hundred percent of whose fierce menfolk were militarized, and ready to defend it. When Charles V defeated Francis I at Pavia February 24, 1525, and the Swiss immediately called back their 7,000 mercenaries from Duke Ulrich’s siege of Stuttgart, then in reality Swiss freedom itself was jeopardized let alone attainable for large reaches of Germany. It is this same tract that iterates the false hope, even two months after Pavia, that “a cow will stand on the Schwanberg in the land of Franconia, and low or bellow until it is heard in the middle of Switzerland.”(276) But the lordless society of Swiss freedom cannot be identified with Christian freedom, as interpreted by the Gospel without additive, because the Swiss cantons were divided against themselves, six for the old faith and three for the new.(121)[50]

When the two hundred volunteers from Zürich, who joined the Waldshut garrison to “uphold the Gospel” and prevent Hubmaier from being delivered to old believing executioners, the Word of God was not only being resisted from the old side, it was being compromised on the new. For Luther social justice and equality had to be named adiaphora; i.e., as part of human teaching. Christian freedom could not be identified with Swiss freedom. Adiaphora does not mean unimportant, only not ultimate. The ultimate is not attainable by direct human action. Luther’s translation of the New Testament, which had such an impact on the peasants and common people, removed a fixed social barrier blocking the way to equality. His passive mode in terms of social, political, and military action,[51] set the direct action of God through speech, writing, or print, into bold relief. (Witness his Invocavit Sermons‘ citation. See footnote 29 above.)

Broad and comprehensive action taken through language, indeed, God’s direct action through holy language, the Word of God, made advances for equality and solidarity by in-roads to the heart, by education, persuasion, instruction of conscience, the gracious conversion to integrity through faith. Human speech, its transmission and reception, unleashes an invisible direct action aimed at the better life that Luther called, “the betterment of the Christian estate,” (Christlichen Standes Verbesserung).[52] If the Popular Reformation had not been confused and mixed up with the Peasants’ War, had remained “anvermischt,” (that is, not confused and mixed up) there would have been better chances for both, the Popular Reformation and the Peasants’ War. The Gospel does not allow revenge for the blood of innocent preachers shed by the lords. Hubmaier had the right to place them in a Christian ban, but no Christian authority allows such military retribution, nor for the replacement of such lords by election of members of a country parliament (Landschaft). If deemed possible, however, it may be the rational thing to do. But such action cannot have Gospel legitimation.

What our study has tried to classify as inadequate language, Austrian authorities called “pretense and evil camouflage” to attribute to the Word of God “their disobedience to the Holy Empire.”(150) And they saw Zwingli and Zürich behind it, fearing Zürich’s French alliance. When the peasants in the Black Forest pitifully cried for reinforcements from Zürich, which had promised protection and help:

“Yes, [the Zürichers replied,] they were willing to aid the Word of God, but not rebellion, which overturned the same Word of God, and was not to be tolerated.”(302)

This dreadful account of the Swiss abandoning the peasants to protect themselves, is similar to the one in which Zürich arrested four image-stormers in Ittingen pro forma, and then to prevent attack from the Catholic cantons handed them over for execution.(100) Such duplicity produces the suspicion that Zürich was using the Word of God to destabilize Austrian holdings to its own advantage, and in the moment of truth, chose its security over the “Word of God.[53]

The four weeks between the Easter of Weinsberg and the middle of May, 1525, the peasants spoke about what changes would take place “when the Reformation was established.” (Amorbach Articles: “We have a mission of God to rectify the great lack of the Word of God that has hitherto prevailed.”)(283) But in swift battles in the middle of May, their edifice turned out to be a house of cards. The lords unleashed untold savagery upon them. Ernest Gelner has an apt epithet, calling the lords, “thugs,” which is indeed what some of them were.[54]

Conclusion

The string of words, “clear and pure Gospel and Word of God without the addition of human teaching,” certainly evokes the “ubiquitous presence” of Luther, to turn a phrase. But then one can find Zwingli referring to the “bright and clear Gospel,” as well as the “pure Word of God,” too.[55] Although Luther is present in the meaning of these words, the spirit of them belongs to Zwingli. Not at all religiously or spiritually circumscribed, their thrust is directly at the social and political dimension of a mutually sworn commune, whether urban, town, or country. When it comes to tithe-revolt and rejection of civil magistrates, Zwingli parts company with peasants having such views. To a wishfully-thinking peasant, these can be “additions” to the Word of God. Zwingli’s Swiss republicanism allows him to reject lords, but not in such a way that would call all authority into question. Most peasants also did not do that either. But radical theology was present, when “additional human teaching” was considered to refer to secular authority and tithes. Make no mistake, Swiss freedom would entail constitutional change of the secular and ecclesiastic principalities, duchies, monastic holdings of Upper Germany. But the radically religious also rejected decisions of the civil magistrates of Zürich. They tried to achieve a polarization of that society, in order to elect a non-coercive council (senatus) from those who had chosen the evangelical side.[56]

A sectarian spirit does not describe many peasants, nor their aspirations. Like the urban commune later, they wanted to integrate the priesthood into their communes and equalize the nobility. In Franconia they wanted peasant representation in ruling councils, thus they did not reject governmental office. Perhaps some of the rejection of all secular government came about later among the Anabaptists as a deep structured reaction against the brutal annihilation of peasants for even wanting to participate in government.

Because the string of words, and the positions held by the peasants are thus shown to be distinct from those of Luther, Zwingli, and radical religious adherents, this particular phrasing of the words must be their own.

Perhaps a wood-cut, the Allegory of the Godly Mill, in which Zwingli personally had a hand, can relate the multiple involvement in the Popular Reformation component better.[57] The traditional allegory of the mill is reinterpreted for the spreading of the “pure Word of God.” The Father and the Holy Spirit turn the wheel by grace, Christ pours the evangelists and St. Paul into the hopper-funnel to be ground, Erasmus is the miller. The baker is the Augustinian monk, Luther, behind him, kneading the dough in the baking trough, and making the breads, which turn into books. The only unlabeled character, a scholar, most likely Zwingli himself, is handing them to the church hierarchy: a Dominican monk, a cardinal, bishop, and pope, who let the bread-turned into Bibles fall to the ground and reject them. Birds cry, “ban, ban!” over these ecclesiasts, who have just finished banning Luther. The peasant with a threshing flail protects the preaching of the Gospel and threatens the enemies of the Reformation. So Luther and Zwingli, the peasants, and others play their various roles in the mill that turns out the bread of the Word of God for the Reformation.

What the picture does not show, because indeed it came out in the Spring of 1521, is the protracted persecution and frustration of those in the mill that was churning away at the Popular Reformation.  Now the peasant was swinging his flail. Zwingli himself drew up plans for a military campaign between July 1524 -January 4, 1525.[58] Later he tells that the “nerve of the oligarch has to be cut” or otherwise “neither the evangelical truth nor its servants could be secure.” and For Zwingli, in the last analysis (ultima ratio), power politics and war would come into question for the defense of the Gospel.[59] Zwingli’s direct pressure and action to try to open up the forest cantons for evangelical preaching, brought the Catholic cantons up to Zürich to take their lethal revenge.

The defense of the Gospel is a very precarious thing. It is with this issue that the peasants and Zwingli differed diametrically from Luther. The pure Gospel, as a code word for “without addition of human teaching,” advanced to the direct action of destroying images and then monasteries, then even castles had to be attacked.

By the “pure Word of God,” Luther also “meant without the addition of human teaching,” but he held that those institutions which rested on human teaching, did not need to be destroyed by human hands. The physical sound of the naked words had their way of getting into human hearts[60] and dissolving institutions and raising them up in a new form. Thus the personal passive stance involved with justification by grace through faith, correlated with a passive social one as well, featuring the direct action of the Word of God. It was to be helped by no human hand, let alone force, coercion, or military campaigns. Luther thus felt that those who had to lend the word a hand, or who tried to defend it, really entered works righteousness, and were “falling out of the Kingdom” and experiencing a “ship-wreck in faith.”

That is not the conception of the pure Word of God represented by Zwingli, the peasants and the common man. The Word of God, for them, referred to Scripture, basically. Old and New Testaments, especially Luther’s new translations, which made it clear in the many social meanings shown in this study.

For Luther it was Word of God in so far as it was brought to speech in preaching.[61] Pure Gospel for Luther did not only refer the Word of God without the addition of human teaching, but also the Word alone, doing what could not be done by human hand, and most certainly not by force or coercion.

“Pure Word of God” is peasant short-hand, according to Peter Blickle, for that Word, without the addition of human teaching and precepts. According to Luther, the latter are condemned if they try to annul or replace clear commands from Scripture and bind believers to externals. Canon law and traditional dogma of the church could no longer be trusted, because the pope and the entire hierarchy had hopelessly mixed up human and divine law, and the peasants called upon preachers to be the judges to distinguish the two. They wanted out of the Babylonian captivity of their consciences.[62] But in the process they added to the “additives” what was advantageous for them, and their burdens makes this understandable, given all the burdens of others they were forced to carry.[63]

When the “addition was self-interest” as in Gaismair’s Merano Articles, then the formula was much more genuine. Then it became shorthand for the common good, brotherly love, the promotion of equality. When that continues into the identification of the godly law with the gospel, as Blickle writes, making the latter a kind of law to guide political and judicial affairs, then the most important communicative aspect of the Gospel is lost sight of. Certainly God is also a judge and life takes place in court and we are all on trial and the giving of laws is a necessity. But Moses is transcended by the Gospel of Christ, out of which Gospel-of-promise, more than just a blue print for a new society becomes possible. A renewal of language, renewal of lives, renewal of institutions pours out of this Word.

In my analysis the range of meanings of the Word of God in the usage of the peasants ranged from adequate to very inadequate slogans. The latter do correlate with violence and coercion, but Hans Müller of Bulgenbach showed that intimate language can also be used to veil threats. Clearly, very adequate, even incredibly adept language can also be used to incite violence. (Witness the letter of Müntzer to the miners of Mansfeld.) Thus, language, too, does not escape the Tillichian ambiguity, in which it can be the law that kills or the promise that gives new life. But in the latter sense of the Gospel, a striking command of the language can be noticed, which derives from the hearing or experience of the language event. The social formation and behavior need to be homologous or consonant with that language, and if words get into the heart they make them so.

The Word of God as promise is the divine source of language, which is the source of relationships, institutions, society. It builds a verbal universe freer than the physical universe, (because it is invisible and more easily revisable). The verbal society can be rearranged in different ways, so that the social one does not have to be brought into disarray, until the verbal one has gotten it right, and knows how the social one can be changed, or the physical one for that matter, always noting Reinhold Niebuhr’s distinction between what can and cannot be changed. (Think of his Serenity Prayer.) A language command gained from the experience of the Word of God, can absorb an earthly order and reconfigure it a more heavenly one.

This was attempted in the Peasants’ War, with force of arms, however, and a rather more oppressive and sorry world resulted.

Methodological Addendum

The Social Linguistic Approach to the Popular Reformation

A word needs to be said about the social linguistic method of this study,[64] even while using it to advance the Scriptural reception argument, that is, the peasants’ reading Luther’s fresh and powerful translation of his New Testament. The basic concept of a linguistic culture comes from Emil Durkheim,[65] and the notion of the linguistic construction of social realities, and the power of language to bend the world to fit the word, come from John Searle.[66] More, however, will need to be said about George Lindbeck’s cultural-linguistic model of religion and Peter von Polenz’ social-linguistics, because Lindbeck’s religion as a language model really transcends an interpretive method. It entails a shift in the paradigm, from extra- to intra-textuality, one that seems to be illustrated by the sources and is thus fruitful for this study. It can explain a great deal about the Word of God in the Reformation, in general and the Popular Reformation and its escalation into Peasants’ War in the towns and countryside, in particular.[67]

In The Nature of Doctrine,[68] George Lindbeck works out a cultural-linguistic paradigm, which conceives religion to be like a language operating with grammatical, regulative rules. This language has deep grammar and a superficial one with more exceptions than illustrations of the rule (so frustrating to those learning the language).

In the peasants’ own reception of the Word of God, Lindbeck’s arguments are apposite with the peasants’ hearing Scriptures preached and read to them. They learn to interpret and experience their own lives and their world in the terms of the story of Jesus and the history of Israel.[69] Rather than being outside the Scriptures and interpreting them, they are transported into the Scriptures. Lindbeck calls this intra-textuality. The text absorbs the world, rather than the world absorbing the text.[70] The euphoria among the peasants and common people resulted from the powerful impact of a fresh hearing of Scriptures. Here in their hands they could have the Scriptures themselves, the source of the story of Jesus and the history of Israel.[71] They could learn the basic vocabulary of Christianity and interpret their lives and world in its light. And this amazing return to the sources was not in Latin, but in a language they could understand.

Luther translated the Scriptures into his Eastern Middle German, Meisenisch, the language from the Saxon chancellory with his ear to the marketplace and how the common people talked.[72]

It is still hard, however, to imagine the intensity of the euphoria in which hundreds of thousands of peasants suddenly rose up; a movement, Peter Blickle finds to have never happened before nor since in the history of central Europe.[73] This word “euphoria,” however, does not capture a seething rage also present among the peasants, one in which the peasants of Bamberg, for example, could destroy 200 castles in three days.[74] Some of this rage resulted from suddenly understanding their oppression and who their oppressors were. But keyed into that was also a sense of having been deceived by the priests,[75] of the very great discrepancy between their experienced religious life and the picture of it they received right from the very source.

Lindbeck notes that for those who are steeped in the authoritative texts, no world is more real than these create.[76] A Scriptural world is able to absorb the universe. The text absorbs the world rather than the world the text.[77] (Lindbeck seems to be playing a variation on Searle’s theme.) He continues that for the intra-textual stand the interpretative direction goes from the Bible to the world rather than vice versa.[78] (Lindbeck’s schema here resembles Searle’s direction of fit. See footnote [8].) Because the church had become the problematic entity[79] and was the entity that needed to be reformed, it could not be a locus from which to interpret Scripture. Therefore it was relegated to the human domain and authority became located in the Word of God. The word, “alone” now referred to the fact that the church was to be measured by the yardstick of the Scripture, rather than allowing the church to avoid that corrective by controlling its interpretation.

(In his book, Lindbeck is not at all dealing with the Peasants’ War, but because he has the Reformation in mind, what he says applies to the Popular Reformation component of it.)

Sola Scriptura is the cry for the Reformers, but not for the peasants. They wish their lives and articles to reflect the Scripture, however, and wish to hear the viva vox evangelii[80] (that is, the living voice of the Gospel) in preaching to bring about the necessary changes in the church.

Was this change of authority necessary? Critical statements by Schappeler argue that they were, in criticisms that have already been cited. Peter Burke’s observation that the corruption charge used in the struggle to dislodge an old paradigm by a new one is also apt.[81] If the corruption charge became convincing, what authority was left but for the Scripture alone? That was the new paradigm. In addition, to follow Lindbeck, the grammar and the regulative rules had to be discovered in the language of the religion itself. Perhaps what Lindbeck is searching for, when he tries to reinterpret scriptura sui ipsius interpres, (i.e., the Scriptures interpret themselves) is the shift from the Scripture interpreted from outside itself, to the Word of God coming to speech, and reshaping the world from within itself. The world in the grip of this language does not reflect upon the textual, quite so much as become a reflection of it. (This is the performative dimension of the word or language in terms of speech acts. It is well illustrated in Luther’s dictum, “For the Word of God comes, whenever it comes, to change and renew the world.” See footnote [5])

George Lindbeck has taken this study into its argument: in a nutshell, the intensity of the Popular Reformation of the peasants and common people came about by their linguistic reception of Luther‘s newly translated Scriptures, both printed and preached, and expounded by many tracts.[82] The Word of God unleashed powerful religious and social forces. In a characteristic reversal, the language they began to grasp now grasped and moved them. But the escalation of the Reformation into the Peasants‘ War undermined the new language and the movement. The following social-linguistic study will take this argument further.

In Deutsche Sprachgeschichte vom Spätmittelalter bis zur Gegenwart,[83] (translated into English the title is: The History of the German Language from the Middle Ages to the Present), Peter von Polenz writes about inter- and intra-language politics [Sprach(en) Politik]. He defines such language politics as planned, process and goal oriented, government interventions, or interventions of organized circles of power, into the relationships of languages.[84] Such politics try to steer exoglossic/inter-ethnic or endoglossic/intra-ethnic processes, but most often these take place unconsciously, behind the backs of the subjects.[85] Thus there is a continuous, bi-lingual, long-lasting, medieval relationship between the universal high-culture of Latin and the particular, underdeveloped languages of the people.[86] Clearly Luther’s translation of the Scriptures into the Eastern Middle German and the beginnings of the urban oriented Early New High German,[87] in which his translation played an important role, illustrates such an intervention. In the process, no longer are Latin, Greek, and Hebrew the only languages capable of containing the Scriptures, or the Word of God, but now a German designed to be understood by the common people, is, too.[88] To attempt to shut out the common people from the Scriptures and worship and from all knowledge by means of a language represents a very heavy social handicap. The mendicant friars were certainly preaching to the people and initiating earlier evangelical movements since the Thirteenth Century.[89] Their focus induced the common people to more devotion, the aspirations of the religiosi, and their orders, pilgrimages, etc. But something is unique about a situation in which the peasant leader of the Baltringen Band, Ulrich Schmid of Sulmingen, faces the city magistrates and some nobles, who have to come to him, and requires judgment between them according to the words of the Scripture(124) – (Schmid is reported to have come to a marvelous ability to preach to the peasants[90]) and when the rulers return, a week later, he is no longer there with 3,000 but 30,000 common people.(123)

It was certainly a long and slow process taking centuries before High German replaced Latin, but these early modern people of the popular Reformation must have gotten a glimpse of what was possible and, of course, what has become actual in our times. With Early New High German beginning to dislodge Latin, inter-language processes began to be replaced by intra-language ones. Without Latin subordinating all dialects equally, a struggle began between the German dialects, in which ENHG started the demise of Low German as a literary language.[91] Language ridicule set in discriminating against those who could not transcend their dialects and speak High German. Dates are given for when it was no longer forbidden to speak German in the Strassbourg Gymnasium (1538),[92] when the first lectures were held in German (1687), and the Eighteenth Century when the language of instruction became German in the universities,[93] but this was an uneven and slow process. Even in the late Nineteenth Century, it was in Latin that Emil Durkheim had to write his dissertation. High German then began to take over the role, that Latin once had, to discriminate against the lower classes.[94]

The furor and euphoria of the people from 1524-1526 needs explanation not only because of the long drawn out process the displacement of Latin by German entailed, but also the fact that there were many other German translations of the Scriptures. Counting Johann Mentel’s Strassbourg Bible of 1466, there were fourteen German publications of the whole Bible into a high German dialects and four into Low German ones. These along with many partial translations, were mostly from the Vulgate. After Luther’s powerful translation, in which he used Erasmus’s Greek New Testament of 1516 for help in difficult places, none of these pre-Luther Bibles were published again. Luther’s language was simple and understandable for the laity, good for reading aloud, designed to be spoken and heard, figurative and drastic[95] and the earlier versions could not compete. Even the anti-Luther Bibles published by Emser (1527), Dietenberger (1534), and Eck (1537)used Luther’s translation only changing some of the words, about which Luther protests in a circular letter. (Sendebrief)[96]

Thus it is not a matter of Luther’s giving the German people a language, although he plays a significant role in the development of ENHG; it is not a matter of his translation being the first, because it wasn’t; it is not a matter of his discovering the Gospel, (Who lost it?); but it is something unique about his language. Peter von Polenz notes that he placed German into the same category as Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, the three holy languages, the only ones in which the Word of God was legitimate.[97] He also claimed Luther strengthened the Scriptures poetically maintaining a sacral character despite using common language.[98] But perhaps what this social-linguist writes needs to be joined with Lindbeck’s model. Luther’s Scriptures had the power to draw the people into its world, address them with language that moved the heart, and give them a new language command after the experience. (Witness Ulrich Schmid of Sulmingen.) Again, von Polenz maintains that his vital spoken language style, his language of address, his dialogical forms of question and answer, his freedom in sentential word order, anacoluthons,[99] modal words (which designate emotional nuances in what is said), proverbs, in short, he was more interested in speaking about God with the common people, and the preaching in the “Mouth-house” of the church than in academic high German,[100] spoken as if written and ready for publication for scholars.

But there is still something more. And it has been touched upon with the word “performative,” not in a mere technical sense, but in its dynamic ability to change realities. Consider Austin’s distinction about promises, i.e., “to talk about a promise is not to make one.” And in Luther’s reinterpretation of the gospel in terms of the promises of God, and his emphasis on faith, corresponding to Searle’s sincerity conditions, required in speech acts, Austin’s word could be modified: “to write about the Gospel is not the same as making God’s promises and bidding the people to trust in them.” God spoke in this Scriptural language. God acted through speech by changing the fabric of social reality. Institutions were  dismantled and (others) reconstructed in the powerful motion of the Word of God. After all,according to John Searle, the fabric of social institutions is made out of language.

Although the Bondage of the Will could not have been received by the peasants’, first, because it came out in 1526 and secondly, because it was written in Latin; nevertheless, it has very interesting sections, in which Luther is arguing with Erasmus about the Word of God, and how it functioned in the Peasants’ War. It is here that Luther declares: “For the Word of God comes, whenever it comes, to change and renew the world.” And it comes accompanied by tumult and bloodshed, he continues, and that makes him rejoice, because it is the sign that the Word of God is afoot. He is convinced that it has come to bring about the collapse of the kingdom of the pope. Even if the whole world is shattered on account of the Word of God, what is shattered would be lost on any account, if it is not changed by the Word of God. “It is preferable to lose the world, rather than God, its creator, who is able to create innumerable worlds again, and who is better than infinite worlds.”[101]

Luther assures Erasmus that the Word of God cannot be suppressed or prohibited.[102] The Scriptures are “clear,” meaning, they are not obscure so that the meaning has to be mediated to the common people by priests. Exegetical skills need to be learned, but these can be learned by the common people as well as the clergy. Luther’s “exegetical experience” (Lindbeck) with the Word of God needs to be added to the one he experienced with Romans 1:17, where he is in the throes of justification by grace through faith. Back in 1514 in his lecture on Psalm 118 he exclaims: “Behold the Word of God! Oh, if one were only able to weigh, with the feeling we ought, what it means by saying, ‘God is speaking,’ ‘God is promising,’ ‘God is threatening!’ Who I ask would not be shaken to the very depths? This is a great word, a great sound, and one to be feared: ‘Behold, the Word of God!’[103]

Luther may not be able to give a technical definition of performativity, but he certainly has his finger on Austin’s discovery on “How (God) does things with words” – to modify Austin’s title slightly. Again back in the Dictata Super Psalterium, explicating Psalm 115:10, “I have believed, therefore, I have spoken.” He notes, “All our goods are only in words and promises. For heavenly things cannot be shown as present; they can only be proclaimed by the Word.[104] [It is out of such dynamic language that new realities issue out and refresh our old world.]

The Dictata was not published, so the peasants and common people could not have read or heard it, but many a student heard these lectures and by spreading the word,  they represent another important factor. Wittenberg had become the largest university between 1521 to 1525. Between 1515 and 1520 only Leipzig is competing with it’s numbers of registered students, having 1770, while Wittenberg had 1714. They averaged 705 and 600 students per year in this same period. The figures drop between 1521 to 1525: 940 to 1069, and averages of 331 and 379, respectively, making Wittenberg outdistance Leipzig, and become the largest of all twelve German universities.[105] Many of these students were preaching what they learned under Luther and Melanchthon.

In addition to living words the peasants encountered in real persons, Bernd Moeller’s tries to depict the revolution in printing that Luther and his contemporaries represent for the reception of his version of the Reformation. In 1519 there were 45 single publications, the overwhelming majority of them by Luther. He counts 1,000 copies as a conservative estimate for each edition, of which there were 259. That put 259,000 copies of Luther’s writings into the hands of his contemporaries. This he calls the first epiphany of the masses in the Reformation. No author had ever had that kind of publishing success. Very importantly they were more easily read tracts rather than long books.[106] They were by a living author, not by the Fathers of the past, and they dealt with the deepest questions of their existence.[107] Moeller counts only one other set of Luther’s publications, those of 1522 to 1523. Luther published 150 single titles, published in 1,100 editions, meaning that it is likely that over a million copies of his writings came into the hands of the people. Moeller is telling us about the way the explosion of printed tracts, mostly by Luther in these years, were received by the masses. If the crowning achievement of the New Testament is added to that, then the intensity of the Popular Reformation is better understood.


[1]Blickle, The Revolution of 1525, (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1977, 1981), p. 196. Derselbig erwölt Pfarrer soll uns das hailig Evangeli lauter und klar predigen one allen menschlichen Zçsatz, Leer und Gebot. Günter Franz, Quellen zur Geschichte des Bauernkrieges, (München: R.Oldenbourg, 1963), p. 174-179, no. 43.

[2]Scott and Scribner, translators and editors, The German Peasants‘ War, (New Jersey: Humanities Press International, Inc., 1991), p. 132. Item das wir welln, uns das heilig Evangelium und Wort Gots lauter und clar anvermischt menschlicher Lere mit seinen Fruchtn von geschicktn Verstendign der Heilign Geschrift gepredigt und furtragen werdt. Franz, Quellen, p. 197-198. No. 52.

[3]Blickle, 195-201.

[4]Thomas A. Brady, Jr., Heiko A. Oberman, and James D. Tracy, editors, Handbook of European History 1400-1600, v.2, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995), p. 161-192.

[5]LW,33,205. WA 18,600-787. From Bondage of the Will.

[6]Ibid., p. 25.

[7]Luther was not a Carlstadt, who dressed in a peasants’ gray garb, gave up his professorship, and now wanted to be taught by the peasants. Luther remains dialectical. His Leisnig tract for the circumspect replacement of legal patronage by that of the congregation to insure evangelical preaching, is not at all the angry position he takes against the common man in the Erfurter Articles after the Peasants’ War. A portion of the former tract makes his position more transparent: “And since in these last accursed times the bishops and the false spiritual government neither are nor wish to be teachers – moreover they want neither to provide nor tolerate any, and God should not be tempted to send new preachers from heaven – we must act according to Scripture and call and institute from among ourselves, those who are found to be qualified….” From Todd Nichol, “Bishops in the Lutheran Tradition,”  J.M. Tuell and R.W. Fjeld, eds., Episcopacy: Lutheran-United Methodist Dialogue II, (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1991),p. 36-37.

[8]If the Reformation was a language event, and those who experienced it, received a new command of language; and, if a component of the Peasants’ War was the Popular Reformation, then it, too, was involved with a language event.  See John Searle and the direction of fit of language, (word to world and world to word)[in Expression and Meaning, (Cambridge University Press, 1979), pages 3-4], George Lindbeck’s religion as a language model, [See below.] and Peter von Polenz (See footnote 13.) on inter and intra-language politics in the Addendum. Lindbeck’s intra-textuality seems to have real explanatory power for some of the attitudes in these documents, but what the documents themselves reveal before explanation will be the focus of this part of the study. George Lindbeck in The Nature of Doctrine, Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1984.

[9]LW,33,52. WA 18,600-787.

[10]Scott and Scribner, The German Peasants‘ War, has already been cited. Sometimes going back to the original German from their translation is necessary for this study. References to the page numbers of this basic source will henceforth be given in parentheses after the citation.

[11]G. Franz, Quellen, No. 76, p. 244.

[12]See Addendum: Luther’s September and December Testaments numbered about 240,000 copies, while well over a million copies of his tracts were in the hands of the people between 1520 and 1524. See the argument of the Addendum undergirding this study.

[13]Peter von Polenz, Deutsche Sprachgeschichte vom Spätmittelalter bis zur Gegenwart,v. I, (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1991), p.252. Johannes Cochläus’ observed in amazement that shoemakers, wives, simple lay people, who only half-way know how to read, are reading the New Testament eagerly and disputing with masters and doctors of theology about the faith issues of the Gospel!

[14]After applying this method it become clear that Lindbeck’s model dovetails with Luther’s sense of the Word of God. But theories about language event are independent of Luther.

[15]Durkheim’s dictum on methodology in the Addendum is encouraging here, because further thought is needed. [See footnote 64.]

[16]A homology avoids a materialist doctrine such as that of the social infrastructure determining the intellectual superstructure. It asserts that the social formation is a factor in the theology in this case, and vice versa: theology is a factor in the social formation.

[17]LW,39,278-279. WA 10:2,140. “The So-Called Spiritual Estate.”

[18]Peter von Polenz, p. 147.

[19]LW, 39, 300. WA 11, 408.

[20] R. Gritsch explains that Luther distinguishes “church,” i.e., “Kirche” from “congregation,” “gemeyne.” Footnote: LW, 39, 305.

[21]LW, 39, 305. WA 11, 408-416.

[22]Scott and Scribner, p.45. For the Süngau Band the banner quite simply bore the inscription, “Jesus Christ.” In Ebermünster they carried the motto, VDMIE, Verbum Dei Manet in Eternum.

[23]WA, v.10:2, 72-92.

[24]WA, 10:2, p. 76.

[25]Oberman, Heiko A. “The Gospel of Social Unrest: 450 Years After the So-Called ‘German Peasants’ War of 1525.” Harvard Theological Review. 69 (1976), 103-129. Note that “pure gospel” can also function the same way, because, according to Peter Blickle, it is short hand for “the gospel without addition of human teachings.” Hence, also, an implicit attack on monasticism. But Blickle defines “pure gospel” much more inclusively: “a repudiation of the doctrinal tradition of the Church, both dogmas and canon law.” Brady, Oberman, and Tracy, vol. II, p. 168.

[26]N.B. Unlike Zwingli, who had argued in 1520 that the tithe could not be grounded on godly law. This debate then surfaced around Zürich. Zwingli distanced himself from such tithe or tax revolt, but granted its abuse in the prevailing practice. He argued that peasants could not just refuse to pay tithes because they are not founded in Scripture: pacta sunt servanda, i.e., agreements are obligating. Berndt Hamm, Zwingli‘s Reformation der Freiheit, (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1988), p. 104.

[27] Let Thomas Müntzer’s biblical mandate to purge the ungodly in accord with the Old Testament mandate to purge the Canaanites, simply be condemned as misuse of Scripture. According to Luther, such biblical laws are contextual, and need to be mediated through natural law and reason. See Luther’s treatise “How Christians Should Regard Moses (1525).” LW,35:161-174.

[28]Peter Blickle, p. 200-201.

[29]LW,51,77: “In short I will preach it, teach it, write it, but I will constrain no man by force, for faith must come freely without compulsion. Take myself as an example. I opposed indulgences and all the papists, but never with force. I simply taught, preached and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And while I slept [cf. Mark 4:26-29.], or drank Wittenberg beer with my friends Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it.” WA 10:3,1-64.

[30]Scott and Scribner agree with this judgement. See p. 24.

[31]WA 10:2,72.

[32]N.B. Perhaps, it is impossible to see the forest for the trees. A turn to the common language is a precondition for the request for evangelical preachers, and all the articles about the Word of God by the peasants and common man.

[33]Corruption is not a technical term. Peter Burke has some important insights about it. One of the ways a new organization of society fights to replace the old one is by calling it corrupt. In part corruption is in the eye of the beholder.

Peter Burke, History and Social Theory, (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1992), p. 74.  N.B. Better training and education of the new believing preachers, their access to printed New Testaments, use of the vernacular, and their emphasis on pastoral care, however, set the inadequacies of the untrained priests into bold relief.

[34]Ibid., p. 101. He called them Küchen und Suppenprediger. N.B. Peter Blickle uses this source as a representative case for the urban reformation associated with the Popular Reformation. See Brady, Oberman, and Tracy, p. 164-165.

[35]See Approach to Methodology.

[36]Peter von Polenz, p. 254.

[37]Rev. A.C. Thiselton, “The Parables as Language-Event: Some Comments on Fuch’s Hermeneutics in the Light of Linguistic Philosophy,” Scottish Journal of Theology, 23, 1970, p. 447.

[38]Blickle in Brady, Oberman, and Tracy, p. 172. “The peasant meaning of the Word of God, drawing practical consequences for their life in the world [meant  that] pure gospel encourages the common good (gemein Nutzen) and the practice of ‘brotherly love,’ promotes equality, and aims at the Christianization of society. In this sense pure Gospel functioned as a kind of law (lex) and was supposed to guide political and judicial affairs. This was their godly law.”

[39]A creation takes place in a promise [to jump ahead to my unfinished book called Creation via Language]. “I promise to be with you” is a performative because a commitment of the speaker to a future act is received by the hearer of the promise-speech-act.

[40]Franz, Quellen, No. 76, p. 244.

[41]See the citation below starting with: [The authorities]…

[42]Franz, Quellen, p. 296.

[43]LW,33,72. WA 18,600-787.

[44]P. v. Polenz, p. 263. He tries to take the sting out of the word, “ermahnt,” i.e., warned, but he is not convincing.

[45]In the revolution of the sailors and some returning German forces ending WWI, a mockery of comradrie went like this, (according to my father who fought in that war): “Willst Du nicht mein Bruder sein, so schlag ich dir den Schedel ein.“ Freely translated, “If you refuse to be my brother, I break your skull like any other.” (Just to make it rhyme as in German.)

[46]N.B. On a religious level, this is an irrelevant external.  Suffering can bring one closer or estrange a person from the Gospel. But on a social or political level, it can be systemically immanent violence.

[47]Interestingly enough, when the Jews revolted against Rome 60-70 C.E., Josephus had a similar assignment. He became a commander of peasants-in-insurrection, to bring them into the hands of the Roman legions. See Ched Meyers, Binding the Strongman, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1988), page 67 and 86.

[48]One account mentions 14 nobles, another 17, and 24 servants killed in and around running the gauntlet.(158) The peasants did not take many lives, it seems. But they destroyed many monasteries and castles. They themselves, however, were massacred.

[49]A mayor of Ulm spoke sharply and bravely to the assembled peasants: “You peasants are like the frogs in the spring. They all come together and croak and cry: “rivit, rivit.” At that, the stork comes and swallows them. You also cry, ‘Woe! Woe!’ And the Lords will come and strike you dead.” Franz, Quellen, no. 31, p. 145.

[50]Was such an increase in political freedom, which the Swiss enjoyed, the fruit of faith in the gospel, a previous evangelical movement? That is a fair question.

[51]N.B. Military action gives the illusion of being able to do what it is not in its competence to do. Government, too, but here it is more complex.

[52]“Language is a social institution,” according to John Searle. (See footnote 66.) Luther’s version of “freedom of speech:” is the freedom over an invisible institution, which can consciously or (not) reshape the other institutions – although speech is to be understood, here, executively, to change realities, rather than vestigially, to merely reflect them.

[53]N.B. Their concerns for security were justified. The Catholic forest cantons surprised them at the Battle of Kappel, October 11, 1531, killing Zwingli, and at least seven other clergy. Then on October 24, they cut down another Reformed force at Gubel. Euan Cameron, The European Reformation, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991),p. 223.

[54]Ernst Gellner, Plough, Sword, and Book: the Structure of Human History, (University of Chicago Press, 1988), p.277.

[55]B. Hamm, p. 16.

[56]G. H. Williams, The Radical Reformation, Third Edition, (Kirksville, Missouri: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, Inc., 1992), p. 188.

[57]B. Hamm, prefatory picture with explanation.

[58]B. Hamm, p. 20. More recent research redates it to 1526.

[59]Ibid.

[60]James Preus, p. 252-254. This reference is interesting on three counts: 1)How words enter and move the heart, 2) “How words prevail over things — even the most contrary and powerful things!” and 3) How a sacramental view of words makes them ambiguous and obscure signs, while “naked words” are completely clear. (This speaks to clarity of Scriptures.)

[61]B. Hamm, p. 19: A Zwinglian expression spoke of the “Word of God, in so far as it could be drawn, witnessed, and proven from the Old and New Testaments.”

[62]Note the Zwinglian revolutionary’s allusion to the “Babylonian prison” (previously cited). On page 18, B. Hamm cites Zwingli: “Thus, if you want to be Christian authorities, you must let us preach the clear Word of God, and let it do its work, because you are not lords over souls and consciences of people.” “Also wellend ir obren Christen sin, so müssend ir uns das heiter [klare] wort gottes lassen predigen und es demnach lassen würcken; denn ir sind nit herren über die selen und conscientzen [Gewissen] der menschen.”

[63]N.B. It may be that justification was extended by peasants to cover secular burdens. Bernd Moeller argues that justification by grace through faith may be complex for us, but was the lived experience of the people of the Reformation. It relieved them of the burden of achieving merits required by the penitential system of the church. Bernd Moeller, “The Reception of Luther in the Early Reformation,” A Lecture for the International Congress of Luther Research, Oslo, August 14-20, 1988. Helmar Junghans, ed., Luther Year Book, No 57:1990, p. 64. Only in one document in Scott and Scribner, however, is justification by grace through faith mentioned. Preachers are cautioned to formulate it in such a way that the common people do not misunderstand it. It should not be preached to make the temporal duties of the peasants unnecessary. (330)

[64]N.B. Sociological studies usually place the description of their method at the beginning. A history paper, if it does not hide its method, places its description at the end. This study will conform the practice of the historians.

[65]According to Emil Durkheim, there are three distinct educational cultures: a scientific, a historical, and a linguistic one. See Emil Durkheim, The Evolution of Educational Thought, (London: Routledge & Kegan, 1977), p. 348.  N.B. I believe my investigation of the linguistic culture of the Peasants’ War is quite helpful and promising for future scholarship. A methodological dictum of Durkheim’s is also worth citing and remembering for linguistics as well as sociology: “At first we manage only to achieve what are sometimes gross approximations, but they are not without usefulness; for they constitute the mind‘s initial grasp of things and, as schematic as they may be, they are a necessary precondition of subsequent specification.” From Mark Traugott, ed., Emil Durkheim On Institutional Analysis, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 153.

[66]John Searle’s philosophy of language is helpful to the social linguistic approach of this study, especially his analysis of performative speech acts, [See “How Performatives Work,” Linguistics and Philosophy 12, 535-558, 1989.] and his work to unravel the linguistic component in the construction of social realities. [See his The Construction of Social Reality, (New York: the Free Press, 1995 and Making the Social World, (Oxford University Press, 2010).] He interprets language itself as an institution. [See The Construction of Social Reality, page 60.] He has an important insight, which he developed from the discovery of performatives by J.L. Austin in How To Do Things With Words,(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975). Language can attempt to reflect the world empirically, or it can try to shape the world by its power. Thus words and world have a direction of fit. [Expression and Meaning, (Cambridge University Press, 1979), pages 3-4.] Either the word has to match the world, or the world has to match the word. Here we will be speaking about the Word of God. But Searle, a  philosopher, speaks about the difference between having a grocery list and filling it into the shopping cart in a supermarket (where realities are made to match words), versus someone checking the list to see if the list really reflects what is in the shopping cart (Searle, Ibid., page 3.) The Word of God was being used in the former, rather than the latter way. N.B. In other terminology, it is the executive use of words and language rather than the vestigial, the weak use, i.e., mere words rather than actions, in the false alternative of common parlance. A different mode of language, here, even affects historiography. It’s one thing to write history as an empirical reflection of events, and quite another to make history by means of this command of the language.

[67]Brady, Oberman, and Tracy, p. 173.

[68]George Lindbeck in The Nature of Doctrine, (Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1984). I was first introduced to this approach by Robert Bellah in his lectures on the Sociology of Religion. Both Bellah and Lindbeck receive it from the anthropologist, Clifford Geertz. Ibid., p. 20.

[69]Ibid., p. 34. Note that on this page Lindbeck strikes rich chords in Luther’s theology, throwing light upon them from the difference between the cultural-linguistic versus the experiential-expressive paradigms of sociology. The relation of the inner and outer are reversed going from one to the other: “instead of deriving the external features of a religion from inner experience, [in the cultural-linguistic model] it is the inner experiences which are viewed as derivative.” “A religion [for this model] is above all an external word,…” The internal word is also crucially important, for its capacity of hearing and  accepting the true religion. Also see page 114, where Lindbeck notes the interesting difference between the immanence of meaning in the intra-textuality of the cultural-linguistic approach, as opposed to the extra-textuality of the other two paradigms. This throws light on Luther’s powerful sense of immanence, especially in a “text which absorbs the world.” p. 118. G. F. W. Hegel, whom I hold to be the philosopher of Luther’s theology, speaks of the “concept absorbing the world.” The immanence of the linguistic culture must be involved here, and it’s peculiar transcendence is performative.

[70]Ibid., p. 118.

[71]Peter von Polenz notes on page 138 that the September Testament of 1522, the first edition of which came out in three to five thousand copies was sold out in a few weeks at the price of about a weeks wages of a craftsman’s apprentice. The corrected  and improved December Testament was then published in Wittenberg,  and in a few months editions were published in Basel and Augsburg. In all fourteen authorized and sixty-six unauthorized editions were printed from 1522 to 1524. By my calculations then: if about  3,000 copies are in an edition, then about 240,000 printed New Testaments came into the hands of the people.: See Johannes Cochläus’ amazement already cited that common people disputed faith issues of the Gospel! Polenz, p. 252 (Of course, the complete Luther Bible with the Old Testament Exodus story came out later in 1534, after the Peasants’ War.)

[72]Note that because Luther did not write in middle low German, and the Hanseatic League was weakening, taken together with the fact that Bugenhagen made an atrocious translation of Luther’s Bible into this language, MLG, – the demise of low German as a literary language resulted. See von Polenz, p. 286ff. Luther’s September and December Testaments were not easily comprehensible to the low German speaking people of the North. If my theory about the role the Scriptures played in the Peasants’ War is valid, then this may have been one of the factors which excluded northern Germany and the low countries from it.

[73]Thomas A. Brady, Jr., Heiko A. Oberman, and James D. Tracy, editors, Handbook of European History 1400-1600, v.2, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995), p. 172-173.

[74]Ibid., P. 174.

[75]Scott and Scribner, p. 101: A Procurator Fiscal complained that Schappeler is to have said: “God be praised the truth has now come to light after having for so long been repressed by the priests for their own purposes.” (To cite this again.)

[76]Luther is a good example for that. To display some of his dialectics and rhetoric for Erasmus he constructs a sentence that equates Scripture with creation: Duae res sunt Deus (et) Scriptura Dei, non minus quam duae res sunt Creator (et) creatura Dei. Hans-Ulrich Decius, Luther: Studien Ausgabe,III, (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1983),p. 184. WA,18,606.

[77]Lindbeck, p. 117-118. Intra-textuality or the word absorbing the world may be argued to be delusional. Referents are outside of the word. For much of the physical universe that could be argued, but another standpoint places a person inside even the physical universe, which is indeed true of our case. The sociological universe can be approached from inner participation and involvement or “objective” empirical detachment. But Wittgenstein’s description of interpreting a picture from the outside versus entering it as a participant (Thiselton, in the Scottish Journal, p.47) is not delusional as much as another way of knowing and experiencing.

[78]Ibid., p. 118.

[79]See Brady, Oberman, Tracy, p. 165.  The city of Memmingen was at loggerheads with their priests since 1494. They were acting out, and not only while Schappeler was instigating the reformation in the city: they flouted the council’s authority (For the sake of reform, Schappeler did, too.), marched through the streets at night, had drunken brawls, carried long knives, and were anything but exemplary, the city council complained. Note, however, that the religious may have been acting out because the civil authorities were trying to subordinate them. Traditionally they needed to answer only to their abbots and bishops.

[80]Lindbeck, p. 118-119.

[81]N.B. To generalize from this particular viewpoint would be problematic, except, as already noted, Peter Blickle uses this as a representative case for the urban reformation associated with the Popular Reformation. See Brady, Oberman, and Tracy, p. 164-165.

[82]In Akten zur Geschichte des Bauernkrieges in Mitteldeutschland,II, (Scientia Verlag, Aalen, 1964), p. xxxvi, Walther Peter Fuchs argues that Luther’s stand against the revolt needs to be aware that he also provided the consciousness that led to it. To here argue that Luther provided the language, concurs. Language for Luther is the embodiment of consciousness.

[83]Peter von Polenz, Deutsche Sprachgeschichte vom Spätmittelalter bis zur Gegenwart,v. I, (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1991).

[84]Von Polenz, p. 271-272.

[85]Ibid., p. 275.

[86]Ibid., p. 271.

[87]Astrid, Stedje, Deutsche Sprache Gestern und Heute, (München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, GmbH & Co.KG, 1989), p. 115. She notes that Old High German was handed down to us by the spiritual estate, while the ideal of Middle High German is one the courtly knights helped shape, and Early New High German is the language that is primarily stamped by the speech of the cities. Thus Luther’s language absorbed the cities into its world.

[88]Finitum capax infiniti. P. v. Polenz tells of the Mainzer Archbishop Berthold v. Henneberg, a very powerful political figure who issued a Translation – Verbot (in 1484) of any Greek or Latin into German. The latter lacked the abundance of words (copia verborum) which Latin contained, and therefore was not capable of theological and scientific content, and, thus, translation would necessarily distort the truth. See von Polenz, p. 277.

[89]Perhaps their preaching the Word of God originated new orders going outside the monasteries. New monastic “charters” originated from the Word. Now new constitutions for the empire were becoming projected from the Word of God. A long process of monastics going out into the secular society continued from the friars preaching and competing with the “seculars,” to Luther’s becoming secular, to Jesuits living their ministries out in the world, to Max Weber finding secular people with inner-worldly asceticism.

[90]Peasants delighted in hearing him preach: “Give the lords what they are worth: nothing!” Scott and Scribner, p.234.

[91]P. Von Polenz, p. 286.

[92]Ibid., p. 279.

[93]Astrid, Stedje, p. 128. She also notes that in 1570 – 70% of all books were in Latin, while in 1770 only 17% still were.

[94]Von Polenz, p. 289.

[95]Ibid., p. 244.

[96]Ibid., p. 252 and 278. Peter von Polenz designates Luther’s translation of the Scriptures as a political revolt in language and speech.

[97]Ibid., p. 275.

[98]Ibid., p. 248-249.

[99] This effect comes from the failure, accidental or deliberate, to complete a sentence according to its structural plan. See W. F. Thrall, A. Hibbard, and C. H. Holman, A Handbook to Literature, (New York: The Odyssey Press, 1960), p.15.

[100]245.Ibid., p.

[101]LW, 33, 52-53. A remarkable detachment! Not often do we see this philosophical detachment in the very immanent Luther. Here Luther is still a prophet exuding the wrath of God. Later he will feel the tragedy and lament that he killed 100,000 peasants with his own pen. (in Table Talks?)

[102]Ibid, p. 52.

[103]James Preus, From Shadow to Promise, (Cambridge: Belknap, Harvard University Press, 1969), p. 253-254. WA 4, 380, 15-18.

[104]Ibid., p. 247. WA 4.272, 16-24.

[105]Heiko Oberman, The Masters of the Reformation, (Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 296-297.

[106]Bernd Moeller, Luther Year Book, No 57:1990, p. 61.

[107]Ibid., p. 62.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

Tom Scott and Bob Sribner, translators and editors. The German Peasants‘ War. New Jersey: Humanities Press International, Inc., 1991.

Günter Franz. Quellen zur Geschichte des Bauernkrieges. München: R. Oldenbourg, 1963.

Jeroslav Pelican, et. al., ed. Luther’s Works, v. 26, 33, 35, 39, 46, and 51. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1963 –  1970.

Hans-Ulrich Decius. Luther: Studien Ausgabe,III.  Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1983.

D. Martin Luthers Werke. (Kritische Gesamtausgabe) Bänder: 4, 10:2, and 18. Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1907.

Walther Peter Fuchs. Akten zur Geschichte des Bauernkrieges in Mitteldeutschland,II. Aalen: Scientia Verlag, 1964.

Secondary Sources for History

Peter Blickle. The Revolution of 1525. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1977, 1981.

————-. “The Popular Reformation” in Thomas A. Brady, Jr.,   Heiko A. Oberman, and James D. Tracy, editors, Handbook of European History 1400-1600, v.II. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1995.

Euan Cameron. The European Reformation. Oxford: Clarendon, 1991.

Berndt Hamm. Zwinglis Reformation der Freiheit. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1988.

George Lindbeck. The Nature of Doctrine. Philadelphia: The Westminister Press, 1984.

Bernd Moeller, “The Reception of Luther in the Early Reformation,” A Lecture for the International Congress of Luther Research, Oslo, August 14-20, 1988. Helmar Junghans, ed., Lutherjahrbuch. No 57:1990.

Heiko Oberman. The Masters of the Reformation. Cambridge University Press, 1981.

Heiko A. Oberman. “The Gospel of Social Unrest: 450 Years After the So-Called ‘German Peasants’ War’ of 1525.” Harvard Theological Review. 69 (1976), 103-129.

George H. Williams. The Radical Reformation. Third Edition.   Kirksville, Missouri: Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, Inc., 1992.

James Preus. From Shadow to Promise. Cambridge: Belknap, Harvard University Press, 1969.

J.M. Tuell and R.W. Fjeld, eds. Episcopacy: Lutheran-United Methodist Dialogue II. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1991.

Sociology

Peter Burke. History and Social Theory. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1992.

Emil Durkheim. The Evolution of Educational Thought. London: Routledge & Kegan, 1977.

Mark Traugott, ed. Emil Durkheim On Institutional Analysis. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1987.

Ernst Gellner. Plough, Sword, and Book: the Structure of Human History. University of Chicago Press, 1988.

Language Study and the Philosophy of Language

Rev. A.C. Thiselton, “The Parables as Language-Event: Some Comments on Fuch’s Hermeneutics in the Light of Linguistic Philosophy,” in Scottish Journal of Theology. 23, 1970.

Peter von Polenz. Deutsche Sprachgeschichte vom Spätmittelalter bis zur Gegenwart,v. I. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1991.

Astrid, Stedje. Deutsche Sprache Gestern und Heute. München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, GmbH & Co.KG, 1989.

W. F. Thrall, A. Hibbard, and C. H. Holman, A Handbook to Literature. New York: The Odyssey Press, 1960.

J.L. Austin. How To Do Things With Words. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975.

John Searle. “How Performatives Work.” Linguistics and Philosophy 12, 535-558, 1989.

—————Expression and Meaning. Cambridge University Press, 1979.

—————The Construction of Social Reality. New York: the Free Press, 1995.

—————Making the Social World. Oxford University Press, 2010.

Written by peterkrey

December 16, 2010 at 9:36 am

Notes on All the Robert Bellah Lectures (posted so far) on the Sociology of Religion, Spring Semester, UCB, in 1996

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University of California at Berkeley Spring Semester, 1996

Department of Sociology             Professor Robert N. Bellah

Sociology 112

Sociology of Religion

Excerpts Prof. Bellah’s lectures for Theological Consideration with comments by Peter Krey in the footnotes

January 15, 1996 to February 26, 1996

Overcrowding made it impossible to follow the class discussion from outside the door in the hall.

Jan. 18th: Missed Lecture.

Jan. 23rd:    For the study of the Sociology of Religion it is important to be able to bracket out your own belief. A radical atheist or a person who believes theirs is the true faith might not be able to do this. Just take the attitude, “It might be true.” Generalities are made here about religions, but nothing applies to them all.

What is reality? Berger and Luckman wrote a book entitled The Social Construction of Reality. From Alfred Schutz we also discover that reality is not a given. Defining reality delivers real power far superior to that of Bill Gates. Psychology and sociology overlap enormously here. This power is derived from the capacity to set the ideological agenda in the society; setting the parameters for what can be taken seriously; what is real and what isn’t real. For example in the scientific field that power determines who gets tenure and who not, and that concerns whose view of reality is accepted. When a scholars views are not considered real, their suffering becomes very real. Balancing the budget deficit is another example. Who now questions it? Will it redistribute massive new wealth to the rich?

To repeat: What is reality? Berger and Luckman wrote a book entitled The Social Construction of Reality. From Alfred Schutz we also discover that reality is not a given.[1] Defining reality delivers real power far superior to that of Bill Gates. Psychology and sociology overlap enormously here. This power inherent in defining reality is derived from the capacity to set the ideological agenda in the society, i.e., setting the parameters for what can be taken seriously, what is real and what isn’t real. Balancing the budget deficit is a particular example. Who now questions it?[2]

There are three approaches to religion:

1) the cognitive propositional

2) the expressive experiential

Using a Noam Chomsky expression, there is a deep structure to all religions and there are surface structures. Psychology has a preponderance in our society.

3) the cultural linguistic

Religion is a whole way of life. Learning religion is like learning a language with a whole grammar into which one is inducted over a long period of time. Religion is a system of beliefs and practices relative to the sacred creating a moral community. This moral community is critical. Private religion violates moral community. This definition of religion marginalizes private religion.

Chuang Tzu dreamt he was a butterfly and awoke, not knowing if his waking state was a dream or his dream was his waking state. Was he Chuang Tzu or a butterfly? This example concerned alternate realities and identities.

Alfred Schutz noted in 1930 that realities come in multiples and it is not just one thing. The wide awake grown up man sees reality of the world very differently from the way it is seen by a child. Reality could be gendered according to some feminist epistemology. But it would seem to be possible to move between these gendered realities.

Thy World of Daily Life

It is characterized by a natural attitude of which we are not conscious. Reality is what it seems to be, and what it seems to be I will take for granted is. This world as given in the reality of daily life is not experienced in the full immediacy of absolute “hereness and nowness”. It always thinks: “What next?” And thus does not live in the radical sense of the here and now. The latter is a different reality, which is dominated by a practical and pragmatic interest of doing something and getting it done. Or thinking about what one hasn’t done yet and has to do.

Schutz was a phenomenologist and described how in the world of daily life one brought about a projected state of affairs by bodily movements, i.e., working. Thus it is changing things from how they are to how we/they/or professors prefer they be. Because the world of daily life concerns striving beyond working, and is about concerted effort, it always entails the background element of anxiety (to which we return after describing its sense of space and time).

In the world of daily life standard time and space are used. Clock time, in other words, and measuring-stick space, which is mechanical and utterly featureless: twelve o’clock midnight is the same as twelve noon; twenty miles whether coast land or hills, it does not matter. Nothing is pertinent here but exact measurement. The world of work is built on our common agreement on time and space. And standard time is very recent in our history. Not long ago every town had its own time. The railroad changed this and now standard time dominates us so completely we do not think about it.

Schutz was Jewish and hailed from Austria and then Germany.  A fundamental anxiety underlies the reality of daily life. It derives from the knowledge that we all must die. Subliminally we are aware of the fragility of things. Nothing will last. People will abandon us and we ourselves are mortal. As a child Professor Bellah himself was taught the children’s prayer:

If I should die before I wake

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

In the same fragility of life, children still die even now. Thus this anxiety plays into our working and striving. So that a big hole will not open in front of us, we always have to work very hard to keep things going. This characterizes the epoché.  Such doubt needs to be bracketed out. We do not raise that question. Children are more into the here and now because they are less into working. And they perceive the world differently. In taking a trip from his town into Basel, his child stepped out of the car and exclaimed:

“Look! The sun came with us!”

[Question: If mentally challenged people have delusions, and if we argue that the reality of daily life is just another delusion, then how can it be shared? Dreams and delusions are individual.][3] Prof. Bellah’s response: The world of daily life is a socially constructed world, a collective representation, in Durkheim’s words. Realities are different in different subcultures. Thus what is being described here is not a psychology, but we are concerned with shared beliefs and these can be true or untrue. Think of the tulip mania in Holland. This was a common delusion.

Our selfhood is not a given. Selfhood in Bali is very different from our definition of it.

Occasionally daily life has intrusions which do not fit the rules. But this is experienced as strange. Bob Dillon’s “Ballad of a Thin Man” comes to mind:

“Something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”

When this happens something lifts the brackets of the epoché.

Thus the reality of the daily world is not the only reality any of us live in. No one can stand to live in it all the time. Some can’t stand to live in it at all. We leave it when we sleep. And here dreams are necessary as sleep. The structure of dreams is almost antithetical to the reality of the daily world and its space and time. To escape we also day-dream. At home we switch on the TV. One study speaks of the happiness quotient involved, and finds that TV leaves its viewers mildly depressed. But it gets us out of the reality of daily life with its anxieties and concerns. But TV can produce its own anxiety. But that is not real but play-anxiety.

Games represent another multiple reality. They are not played in the world of daily life, but in an artificial world as a parody of daily life. The latter is simplified to having one clear goal, that of winning. Games have a means-ends structure. Our lives do not. Games violate standard time and standard space. In a football game one hour is really more like three hours. Clock time is not equal to game time. In football the space is arbitrarily limited to end at a line. Thus the limiting of space gives it intensity. If we care too much about who wins or loses, then games do not do much for our psychic states.

Travel also helps get away from daily life.

Church services put us into a different reality.

Science operates in an alternate reality. It does not wish to discover useful answers, but merely how the world is. Practical and pragmatic concerns are in all the sciences, but they do not predominate. Science cannot accept the brackets of the daily world, of the epoché, because it looks beneath the surface. What is really going on is not what seems to be going on. The earth goes around the sun, according to science. But can anyone in this room demonstrate that this is really so? We still take it on faith. Even science cannot doubt everything at once. On the other hand, systematic doubt cannot characterize the daily world. It would drive you nuts. Science however uses systematic doubt.

Art responds with more immediacy to realities. If we were to open ourselves to great works of art enough, they might say to us: “Change your lives!” Such masterpieces pull us into themselves so deeply that they lift the brackets and place us into question.

We tend to think daily reality is really real and all others are not quite real. Even our dreams. Even the university is not quite the real world. But the insulation of the university makes it more real rather than less real. Our culture, however, denies these alternate realities, while other cultures have considered other realities much more real. Especially religious reality has been considered that way. From the world of daily reality, they will all wake up, because daily life is a dream. It is an illusion that one is a ruler another a herdsman. The Buddha exclaimed that the world is a burning house – get out of it. Daily life is an illusion and those who put their trust in this world are lost and deluded. Such a religious reality is a direct frontal assault on the reality of daily life and a variation of outcomes results. In tribal religion the reality experienced in the great ceremonials is really real in comparison with hunting and gathering and digging in the fields. There is a contest for what is really real among alternate realities. In our culture, daily life makes religious reality go under. If it is asked whether religious reality is merely an escape from daily reality, then one needs to take account of the fact that the realities of daily life for different cultures are also different. Cultural variability demonstrates that reality also has some variability.


[1]Alfred Schutz, The Problem of Social Reality, (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1962).

[2](This note is added by Peter Krey.) A good portion of our national debt (18%?) will be redistributed to the rich giving them massive new wealth. If we owed the national debt to ourselves, repayment would not be a redistribution-of-wealth problem. But when Reagan made huge tax cuts in the 1980’s, while increasing military spending, the tax cut amounts needed to be borrowed from the financial community and the people of wealth here and abroad, to whom our government is now beholden (yes) for over 15% of tax income for debt service. I write these figures from memory from the New Grollier Encyclopedia, but I believe they are pretty accurate. P. Krey.

[3]These words are the approximate sense of the question that I myself asked Prof. Bellah.

Parallel to the theorizing of Alfred Schutz on daily reality we have the thinking of Abraham Maslow concerning Deficiency cognition and Being cognition.[1] In the latter what he describes as peak experiences come close to what tribal people experienced as “the felt whole”. (See the chart.) Maslow would argue that D – experience characterizes the anxiety of daily life. It is a mode of relating to the world in a partial reality, a deficiency reality. One is not concerned with how things are, but how to use them. One is concerned with manipulation, even of people. Things and people are used to get ahead. In deficiency reality the full immediacy of being in the presence of anything is absent or severely limited. In contrast to this, Maslow speaks of B-cognition in which participation is predominant, that is, “being with” – and being with is its own end. This is the classical ideal type which predominates in B-cognition. Not how to use, but to be open to totality has primacy.

D-cognition has a complete split between subjects and objects. I am clarifying that I am me and not you. I am an independent person relative to anyone. Thus parents cannot nor can you tell me what to do. This goes into our very self definition.

In B-cognition the subject/object split is for the moment abandoned. If I am really with you this moment, the distinction between you and me is not gone, but not salient. In D-cognition there is a great sense of difference from the Other. I am me! Such an emphasis makes a big deal about the Other. But for Being cognition there is no other.

Another distinction between B and D cognition is that in the latter one looks at things as means, because one always looks ahead. But in the former, the means is its own end. We are a very means oriented culture and hence we are very manipulated, while also being keyed into standard time and space. B-cognition is a-spatial and atemporal. Eternity is not endless existence in time but out of time. Something going on forever and ever is not heaven, but the worst nightmare. First Maslow did not have the question of religion in mind at all. B-cognition can occur in all kinds of places. He called them peak experiences, and occurring in athletic feats they can rival contemplative graces. Joe Montana reports entering a “zone.” He reports no longer hearing the crowd – all become one. The difference between player and game, dance and dancer disappears. The minute you worry what will happen next it is gone and you are out of the zone. This is an experience of the felt whole. The feeling proceeds through participation.

Is this experience in sports the same as a religious one? Richardson speaks about feeling a finite whole, while in religion one feels an infinite whole. But is there really a distinction? A finite whole is like the immensity of the ocean, or the presence of another. Jonathan Edwards, a Puritan of the eighteenth century spoke of an infinite whole. -There came into my soul and was as it were, diffused through it, a sense of divine being. How excellent that Being was. And wrapped with him in heaven. And he wanted that excellence to remain his whole life. He continued about feeling the general rightness of all things, and perfect being.

In life dominated by deficiency cognition things are not that great. The consideration is how to respond to the next challenge. This is the expressive experiential point of view (See p. 1 above) with cultural definition.

Another peak experience comes from P. Havel, the current president of Check Republic, who had it when he was in prison. It is recorded in his Letters from Prison.

On a hot cloudless day Havel gazed into the crown of a gorgeous tree that stretched over the fences alongside the watchtowers of his prison. Its branches quivered in the fragile sky. And he went into a vision – all his memories became co-present with an acceptance of the inevitable sovereignty of being. (That is merely the gist of a much longer description of his vision.) Being is one of the definitions of God. Havel felt he was trembling at the abyss of meaning, standing at the edge of the finite. I was struck by the love, he said, I don’t know from whom or from what. He described participation, rightness of things, personal well being.

These experiences are often expressed aesthetically in music or poetry. Wallace Stevens brings in an awakening: Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake, to watch a definition become certain. A cock crows on the left and all is well. Not the balances we achieve, but the balances that happen, moments of awakening, sit at the edge of sleep. Behold the academics as structures in the mist. (These notes should identify his poem so that it could be more accurately transcribed.)

Is there a method to achieve enlightenment?

Sit in order to be enlightened and you will not be. It cannot be manipulated. The sense of enlightenment comes or doesn’t come by itself. You cannot force it. These are trance states. Sometimes dances or bodily movements induce trance states. People in sports don=t seek them, it suddenly comes to them. Quiet meditation and prayer are the background for it often. Taking the Eucharist can be shattering, an incredible experience – when you know you are the body of Christ. Certain things set it up and make it more likely. Samsara is the world of suffering. Even in the world of deficiency something can break.

Can it be achieved through morality?

Morality has a prohibitive and punitive aspect, but also a positive aspect, an attraction to the good component. The former is quintessential to the problem. But for Plato beauty equaled the good. Morality is constraint but also attraction to good. Morality has a special relation to Being cognition.

In B-cognition realities come together. Objects can have different realities. Havel saw the world tree. But it could be just another tree. An object can have another meaning from the one it has in the world of working. Communion bread and wine, for example. A symbol has an ordinary meaning in one realm and can have another meaning in another realm. In the world of daily life we are constantly surrounded by symbols or potential symbols: a tree, a room, a teacher, can mean a lot of other things. Part of us thinks about it in our consciousness. We can train ourselves to become sensitive, but it is of itself. It cannot be manipulated.

Maslow himself had a B-cognition as the Dean of Brandeis University. (Brandeis is located in a suburb of Boston.) A procession was going to take place, and he was expected to attend in full regalia. He had always avoided these processions as silly rituals. We often say, AThat is just a ritual.@ But without rituals we would not be human. He was the dean, so he could not very well avoid the exercise. As the procession began to move, he suddenly saw it stretch out before him. He saw Plato, Aristotle, Marx, Freud and others before him, all in their place until he himself took his place. Behind him were all his students, and his students’ students yet unborn. He experienced an apprehension of the academic procession of academic learning extending backward through time and space, seeing the real basis of the university. If we no longer glimpse that sacred foundation, then it is gone. There is no wholesale knowledge outlet for the consumer society, no ideology factory, but a community devoted to the search for meaning, and if only for a job, all is lost.

Kenneth Burke makes >beyond= into a verb, and speaks of ‘beyonding’.  It is symbolic transcendence. There is something deeper, something truer. One can be trapped in the world of dreadful immanence, totally captivated in the deficiency world with no way out. Like Weber one can be trapped in the iron cage. Sole response can be determined by desire and need. Thus one needs beyonding. One needs to break the dreadful fatalities of this world of realities. To hold everyday reality as the paramount reality is a dangerous assumption. It is just a necessary one for a time. But those locked into this time fail to overcome the deficiencies, and thus ceremonies are necessary, practices whose goods are internal to them. They are not means to an end. It is not what we achieve, but what happens. Meals, sports, concerts, the Sabbath, day of rest, rituals, Time, in part, out of time, with the anxieties of life temporarily allayed. A break seems to be essential.


[1]Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being, (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1968).

________________________________________________________________________________________________

January 30th. I missed this lecture.

February 1, 1996

The point when religious structures were distinguished from social ones is important. Formerly religion was a whole way of life. It is in a late development that religion becomes a restricted sphere.

Bodily actions are central to religion at every stage, as well as materiality in the sacraments. The notion that art, music, poetry is other than religious is quite recent.

Narrative mode of expression stands in contrast to logical or experimental demonstration, which has more prestige in our society. But here in the social sciences the latter are more ambiguous. For example, narrative is necessary at the center of history for it to be able to understand itself.

Myth stands in contrast to how it really is. The former has no concern for when or whether it happened. Saga, however, has rooting in historical experience.  In oral history the meaning of its accounts were shaped by the concerns of later historical elements. It is a huge project to try to isolate the historic elements in the Bible. But Judaism is a historic, not an archaic religion. The Bible does not contain myth, but saga, with mythical elements. The Bible is not tribal (i.e., primitive). They believe it happened.

Facis [from the Latin facio?] points to a fact, a made thing.

Facis points to fiction, a made thing.

But history is also a made thing.

History, at least in a book, also has a plot. Historians want to tell how it actually was, but that is hubris. History is narrative.

Q. (Moving up in the chart gets you into B-cognition.) [See post with Bellah’s first two lectures.]

Anecdote: Bellah was at the Princeton House of Studies and had an opportunity to experience some of the world’s greatest mathematicians and physicists. They are not into the everyday realities of life. Their wives had to come to the door in order to get them and take them home. Music reached them the way normal human interaction could not. This also shows the interrelationship of math and music.

A question arose whether or not Genesis did not have to be considered a myth. What Mid-eastern myth starts off with God? For a very long time Genesis was considered history. The stories were not perceived as myth, and they were not meant to be myths. The stories were at odds with myths and intended as critique of myths. But they have mythical elements.

Q. If our faith and religion are restricted in our society, and every society is inescapably religious, then what is the real religion of our society?[1] Every society has a faith, has a religion, and it can be called humanistic rationalism (The Right is not crazy.) or civil religion. You can’t get rid of it even if you don’t like it. You can only reform it.

A Buddhist apprentice, Ishida Baigan, (Ishida is his family name), practiced meditation.  While nursing his mother, he opened the door, the doubt of his former life scattered, fish swam in the water, birds flew in the air, everything is natural and he rejoiced. He related his experience to his teacher who was not satisfied, because the I remains. There must be nature without the I. In other words the element of subjectivity must be overcome. Then he experienced the serenity of the great sea and the cloudless sky and their distinction disappeared.

It can be the cry of a sparrow, something radically unexpected that wakes you up. Get the self out of the experience. In his second experience, the objective reality is in the forefront, and in the first it was his subjective interpretation. He was a single individual to the point of his second experience.

What he experienced can also be a group experience. It was primarily originally collective, a collective effervescent experience, which is the experience of a different and deeper reality. When the general effervescence is increasing, the group is dominated and carried away by an external power, in which a person does not recognize himself. The Greek word is ec stasis, to stand outside oneself, i.e., to become a new being. A mask is put on the face, and all the companions feel transformed in some way. An environment of exceptionally intense force metamorphosizes them. The language they use is close to that of being born again. The force takes people out of themselves and reveals to them another reality. Not the world that drags along is here, but the sacred power of reality itself. These are unitive events – like experienced in Pentecostalism. The I is gone, who is experiencing is gone; there is no subjectivity nor objectivity but Reality.

There is of course a “hard-wiring” potential for shifts of consciousness. But there is no cheap grace. Drunkenness or drugs will not do. You cannot get it out of a bottle. Because there is no religious atmosphere, you do not get into the B-consciousness.

Jean Piaget[2]

Children first see objects as extensions of their bodies. Early experiences are lived rather than thought, or thinking is living at that stage. But gradually, Piaget notes, for the child to hold in the mind without holding in the hand is an achievement. This is the grasp. (J. Brunner) Representation can be put to the guidance of action itself. Even after action-free imagery has developed, the child needs to do what it is talking about. This is enactive representation. We can give a verbal instruction of how to tie a knot. But it is not learned until it becomes a body motor, sensory-motor habit. It becomes an embodied recipe for certain kinds of actions. Only in this sense can we speak of representations.

The seeing becomes important, but centered on the face relating to holding, feeding, warming and comforting. Seeing is embedded in global human relation.

Religion is always in part bodily. But this brings one problem: we can get sick because of our bodies. Religion has an important role here. Sabaton is rooted in bodily health.[3]

Birth and death are almost always central for religious systems. There is the importance of the rhythm of bodily motion. Concerted physical movements can induce B-cognition. Things can be thought out or danced out. Dancing can be a highly complex and highly intelligent form of activity. But it is embodied. Meditation is an extremely refined use of the body. (Note that the word “use” is very problematic here.) But it is sitting. The pain in the knees kill you. That painful sensation gets better, long devotees report, but it never completely goes away. Breathing is an important form of religious action.

W. B. Yeats wrote an example of enactive representation about six days before his death in 1950?

I know for certain my time will not be long.

I am happy and full of energy.

Man can embody truth, but he cannot know it.

I must embody it in the completion of my life.

Our culture makes knowing anti-physical. If I can’t embody it, if I know it just mentally, it is not there. Christianity rests its truth on the Incarnation, on the embodied truth.

A question was asked concerning the enactive mode of representation. We cannot do without the world of working. A degree of means-ends thinking is pretty essential to avoid catastrophe. If we remain in the unitive state then we are always looking up, and then we fall into a hole.

Here we are making an analogy between the development from childhood to adulthood and the evolution from primitive social fusion to a higher differentiation as society.

To think with a pencil in hand is one thing.

To think without a pencil in hand is an achievement.

To think with a pencil in hand is another achievement again.

A symbol means all kinds of things.  Rockets all over the map.

Some mean the conceptual by it. But Piaget means things rooted in something separate from the body. Piaget speaks of being with a child beside a cathedral in which the bells began ringing with a deafening noise. In his office, the child makes a lot of noise next to his desk. “You are bothering me.” He says to the child.

“You can’t bother me. I am the church.” Piaget noticed that the child was enacting the bell from the church.

When the child starts becoming loose from the enactive stage the game Peek-a-boo becomes its favorite. The deep structure of Peek-a-boo is controlled disappearance and reappearance of a face or object. Children are fascinated with the game. It is preverbal. When played by the mother or with a familiar face the child responds with laughter. But with a stranger it collapses into tears. The game plays with its deepest fears, those of being left. It brings the child to the edge of terror. But it has a ritual delight. There is the loss of the care giver, or loss of object and return. It is a rousing of anxiety and allaying it, also not unknown to religion.

Paul Ricoeur holds that religious symbolism is the central point of religious representation. Subjectivity and objectivity are not radically separate. Both are going on in the representation of a child and in religion. There is regression and progression, double regression and return to discovery. We have the surveyor, staff, and guide, cosmos and psyche, and the great hierophanies. There are great symbols that reveal the sacred: light, water, sun, iconic symbols. The little girl as the church. Images are full of muscles and they do not only affect the brain, but induce enactment.

When a child is first given a crayon it first begins with a random scribble, which is an enactive symbol. It has pleasure in the movement. The hand, line, crayon are all fused. The child is not making a picture, above all not about something. The child is the picture. The paintings of Jackson Pollack are of an adult who is two years old.

Then the child discovers shape, which is more than just an extension of the body. Then at three to four years of age it can draw more clearly bounded shapes like circles and squares. Adults with a strong difference between themselves and the world want the picture to be about something. There is a bounded form in the emerging self.

Mandela, rose window

With a central cross

There is a sense of order in both the self and the world. A drawing can be of a sun or a flower.

Then at four or five children are capable of drawing people identifiably. Then the drawing gets a face – and it is me – or the sun? a flower?  Me?

There are resonances

between the self and the world.

Rhoda Kellog and Scott O’ Dell in the Psychology of Children show that if a child is pushed to representation then it collapses, and then it becomes tedious and bored with the exercises.

Music. If images are full of muscles, then rhythms are characterized by bodily life. Music reaches right into the body. Although the mathematicians and physicists at Princeton were so disembodied, the music could reach them. At a concert the audience should not sit there like a stone. They were playing Vivaldi and Bach and all the musicians were moving, and the audience should too. Otto Klemper, who sat beside Bellah, could not keep still. Music is embodied. It comes out of enactment and goes back into it. Singing is enactment. It is body. To many worshipers, singing is the most important thing in the service.

In many pre-modern conditions music was a more central phenomenon in terms of how cosmic and personal reality came together. Pythagoras discovered that the scale had seven notes, and the planets moved in a musical progression. He heard the music of the spheres, which was an expression of the order of the cosmos. Singing is not just a form of self expression, but one is bringing oneself into harmony with the sounds and rhythms of the cosmos. Confucius takes music to relate to the inner rhythm of Tao and the state of the moral consciousness of people. He visited a number of small states in China. If he heard licentious music there, he said: This state cannot last long.


[1]This is another of my questions.

[2]Bellah is most likely referring to J. Piaget, The Child’s Conception of the World, or Judgement and Reasoning in the Child. A child’s conception of the world provides a recapitulation for the unitive event in religion developing into the mature conceptual stage of adults as well as religions.

[3] Note: Is Sabaton a Swedish sauna? It names a band. It can also be medieval foot and toe armor. I missed the reference and connection here.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

February 6, 1996

Rhoda Kellog and Scott O’ Dell, Psychology of Children.

Music has the power to reach into the body.

We have Verbal symbolization

Poetic symbolization

Narrative symbolization

and Conceptual language.

We take the latter for granted, especially in the university, where we are saturated with it all the time.

Linguistic symbolization.  The relation of a sign and the object to which it points is [said to be] arbitrary. E.g., ‘dog’ and ‘chien’. We turn to the cognitive development of a child to shed light on the fact that the word and object to which it refers is not arbitrary. Piaget is questioning a child: They are discussing a picture of the sun.

“How did we know its name was ‘sun'”?

“Because it was yellow.”

He questioned it over and over again and never could disconnect the sign from the object. They just said it was the sun. There was no understanding that the ‘sun’ is an arbitrary name. For the children the name is an essential part of the thing. The name of the sun entails it. For children the sun is not a concept but for them, the object itself.[1]

Wallace Stevens calls the poem “the cry of the occasion.” It is part of the thing itself, not about it. Conceptual language is always about something. Thus the poem collapses. What is essential is lost. Archibald MacLeish writes:

A poem should be palpable and mute

As a globed fruit.

Dumb

As old medallions on the thumb….

Motionless in time,

As the moon climbs….

A poem should not mean

But be.

“A poem should not mean but be.” We should not ask, what does it mean? It is being at a different level of our consciousness. We have to be part of it. The quality of our participation gives poetry its particular force.

Performative language is not about something, but does something off in a ritual context. “I do” spoken in a marriage ceremony speaks the vows that make the action. Poetry is power. A metaphor can change the world. Unless we see speech acts and not descriptions, we won’t understand the force of the great sonnets of Shakespeare: sense and sensibility. Images and sounds reach into the body. This is accomplished by heightened language, condensed language does that too.

An example for what language can do: An urban pastor was called into the home of a dying mother by her daughter. The daughter explains that she does not know why she called the pastor. A friend had notified the pastor, because they had been estranged from the church a long while. She asked him to pray, but right there.

“Why not in your mother’s room?” the pastor asked.

“Because she has been in a coma a long time, and she would not hear you.”

The pastor insisted that the prayer should be said in the room where the mother lay dying. When the pastor began the Lord’s Prayer, the deeply familiar words reached into her body and pulled her back, because she started to pray the words with them. She remained conscious for a few days and could communicate with her daughter until she died.

Emile Durkheim speaks of a collective consciousness. These words had been said in unison 1,000 times together. 99% of the time speaking the Lord’s Prayer is routine. It is ‘ritual’ in a put-down sense. But 1% of the time, it does do it. Another mode of relating reached her.

Condensed language is the intimate language of a parent and a child, of lovers, words and expressions, unique, only in that relationship. In rocking a child, one says nonsense things, and some stick, become constitutive, trigger associations, touch the world of the shared experience, reach into the body.

In our rush to modernization, we have lost the art of memorization. Before its significance was understood. Foucalt said that it inscribed words on the body forever. Therefore we had a shared culture. Most of the culture any of us has is deeply rooted in the body, the way traditional cultures would have been.

Benedict Anderson speaks of reciting words together operating in forming national identity. They are banal words and times, but a commonality develops. That the words are spoken in unison is important, making the sounds together. This is an echoed physical realization of the imagined community.

In Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1913), Emil Durkheim described religious language as condensed, poetic, performative, and involving unisonality. Wallace Steven writes, “The heaven of Europe is empty, like a Schloss abandoned….” He writes about what did it: “Rust on the steeples. These stretched mother of pearl.” But then Stevens goes on to give it back: “There was a heaven once far beyond thoughts of regulation. The mind saw transparence. The doves of azure. Each man beheld the truth and knew it to be true.” This is something like a B-cognition by Wallace Stevens. God and imagination are one. Rhythm and poetry and heart beat.

Q. Is the religious performative the same thing that John Searle is speaking about? A. Yes. It is doing something with words.

2) Narrative is transitional. It falls between the symbolic poetic and the conceptual. Its language is loaded, but is still somewhat conceptual. There are literal descriptions of what was done. Forms of narratives are often governed by symbolic modes of representation as opposed to literal conceptual concerns. Mythical discourse takes place at the total level not that of the word, sentence, or story. An important question: Is plot in the world or is plot something we see in the world. The truth in narrative does not arise from the correspondence of its words to facts. But story is true at a much deeper level than the literal one. A poem translated into the conceptual has loss. A story also has loss when expressed in conceptual language.

Myth, like music, appears to be in time, but is actually outside time. It requires time to unfold, but it has a special relation with time. It requires time only to deny it. It catches and unfolds like a cloth flapping in the wind. (Claude Levy-Strauss has much to say about music and myth.) The temporal element is not the key. It enters e-ternity. Out-of-time. It deals with permanent truth, which is atemporal and permanent in time. In an adventure movie you gasp and cringe because you lose the distinction between yourself and the movie. You get into it. Narrative, in the same way, obliterates the distinction between you and what is going on – between the inner and outer, between the self and world. In such a way narrative operates differently from conceptual analysis.

In Masterpiece Theater: Final Act makes one identify with a monster, Richard III. He is unspeakably awful. Great plays make you identify, e.g., with Macbeth or Othello. We say “Don’t get upset. It is only a story.”   Would we say, “Don’t get upset. It is only a ritual”? It upsets us because it gets us at a level of truth that is there. We feed on narratives. Narratives keep us going. In a study it was found that narratives occurred every seven minutes between mothers and children. We tell stories to others and to ourselves.  Brunner holds that there is a constitutive function of narrative. We are looking for a plot, a story, so that our self and the world make sense. The self can be depicted as a story teller, which comes close to what it means to be a self. Telling a story to the self encloses one story in another. In this view the self is a telling. The story one tells about oneself to oneself is the self.[2]

There are screen memories, fiction and fact. Truth is not historical but narrative truth. And new narrative is necessary. Psychoanalysis can be presented as re-describing one’s life so that there is more life and possibilities in it than some of the tellings we tell ourselves.

In universities, Departments of Sociology have stories to tell. Scientific accuracy is not the point. Point for point accuracy is not the point. Johann Baptiste Metz said do not obscure intentional dangerous memory. For the nation state, [it is necessary] to tell a story to its people about that people to create that nation. The deepest disputes in history are not about facts, but about the story. What is the right way to tell the story? That is the issue. There is a strange mixture of forgetting and remembering. We have to be very careful about both. But you cannot tell anything you like. Who is to control our freedom? Kenneth Burke states that significant narrative has to deal with those things which we cannot forget. TROUBLE. Things that are just there. For example, Buddha’s birthplace is in Nepal, but India tells it is in Northern India. Someone dead, someone sick, someone old – off Buddha goes. Who has life without trouble? Who has a self without trouble? W.E.H. Stannen an Australian anthropologist speaks of the “immemorial misdirection of life.” Things go wrong right where you don’t want them to. Jesus’ disciples are horrified by the crucifixion. But the cross is the symbol that takes time and trouble into the heart of daily life. Thus the disciples are not to deny the crucifixion, but place it right into the heart of daily life and 1,000 times 1,000 times. It is enacted every moment. Every day is Good Friday.

Benedict Anderson says that national histories are involved in remembering our dead, who must be remembered so that they will not have died in vain.

Narratives have moments where we breakthrough trouble, but can’t stay there. It is just like we can’t stay in daily life all the time. Is this all just an illusion, just an opium for the people? Marx also saw religion as a cry from the heart of a heartless world. If religion kids us out of facing trouble, then it is no help. It needs to be taken up case by case. But most religions are not about that. To dismiss religion is a massive form of denial, which really shows an inadequate study of the subject.

In the transition to conceptual language, Brunner notes that logical propositions are most easily understood when they are embedded in a story. In the broadest sense poetry is also rational and there are categories in narrative too. Conceptual representation is not equal to rationality. Stories are organized by concepts. Religion is involved with the worst as well as the best things done to people. This is the empirical study of religion.

K. Burke notes the powerful story of Genesis chapters 1-3. Rephrased in logical entailment, these chapters concern the freedom to choose, which leads to the logical consequence of disobedience. “Do not do that!” a child is told. “No.” In the logic of the situation, given free will, Q.E.D., they eat the apple. The story is not antithetical to logic. One can tease the logic out of it.

At some point Piaget’s European children at age 7 or 8 begin to achieve the capacity to distinguish themselves from what it is we are describing or arguing about. “The sun did not come with me. I moved. The sun is not a part of me or is only in relation to me.” We learn to ‘decenter’ , which is a classic term coined by Piaget. Much goes on independently of us. We come to the end of our ego-centric period. The child learns to distinguish different points of view. George Herbert Meade speaks of the capacity to take the place of another. One can play baseball, a game in which one has to know all the player positions to be able to play. It is the self against the world, and baseball is a very complex game. The decentered world of late childhood approximates the world of daily life. Because the child does not fully dominate daily life, it is not so conceptual. It has not differentiated itself fully. But reverting back, in a special moment at the end of its first year, the child may take the spoon and feed its mother. That is a sign for not just give-me, but also, I-give-you. Of course, we never quite entirely reach the moment when we don’t think the world hinges on us, but we try.

When we conceptualize, we bracket ourselves and try to see the world as it is, as much as possible. The Greek philosophers had two concepts: 1)epistome and 2)doxa, i.e., 1) knowing, demonstratively, and 2) being of the opinion, which is always arguable. The first deals with objective argument which can be tested. What it tests is always saturated with opinion, doxa. Rhetoric persuades, but it cannot demonstrate. The epistemic can demonstrate, but it cannot persuade. And the world cannot run on epistemes alone.

When the world was de-contextualized and de-centered, a conceptual critique of myth enters, and in the 17th century, conceptual conscious representation arises. But in revolutionary triumph, one throws out from the past what cannot be thrown out. In the words of Yeats: “One cannot know the truth. One can only embody it.” Thomas Hobbes would say that there is no truth in speech, no truth in things spoken of. Only a proposition is true. In a text, the metaphorical is deception. The whole absurdity of metaphor needs to be thrown out. There is no such thing as a common good.” That is language gone crazy. Descartes comes in here. Rosenstock Husey yearning for a clean slate, which could be attained at twenty, exclaimed, “Would to God we had all been born at the age of twenty!” Hobbes and Descartes led to the Enlightenment and modern science. They went too far. This brought about the dark side of modernity, because they denied too much, rather than dealing with it. We cannot really live in the light of conceptual consciousness.


[1]Jean Piaget, The Child’s Conception of the World, (Totowa. New Jersey: Littlefield, Adams, & Company, 1976), p.69 and 86.

[2]A thought of my own that I attach to this lecture: In this version of the self the speech act and the self could be related if it were not a mere sentence as the basic unit, but a literal form, like a poem or story, or drama, or novel, etc, perhaps as unit. It may turn out that a higher level of such a complex speech act could be a person.

Written by peterkrey

August 19, 2010 at 12:21 am

Notes on Another Sociology of Religion Lecture by Robert Bellah, Spring Semester, 1996

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February 6, 1996

Rhoda Kellog and Scott O’ Dell, Psychology of Children.

Music has the power to reach into the body.

We have Verbal symbolization

Poetic symbolization

Narrative symbolization

and Conceptual language.

We take the latter for granted, especially in the university, where we are saturated with it all the time.

Linguistic symbolization.  The relation of a sign and the object to which it points is [said to be] arbitrary. E.g., ‘dog’ and ‘chien’. We turn to the cognitive development of a child to shed light on the fact that the word and object to which it refers is not arbitrary. Piaget is questioning a child: They are discussing a picture of the sun.

“How did we know its name was ‘sun'”?

“Because it was yellow.”

He questioned it over and over again and never could disconnect the sign from the object. They just said it was the sun. There was no understanding that the ‘sun’ is an arbitrary name. For the children the name is an essential part of the thing. The name of the sun entails it. For children the sun is not a concept but for them, the object itself.[1]

Wallace Stevens calls the poem “the cry of the occasion.” It is part of the thing itself, not about it. Conceptual language is always about something. Thus the poem collapses. What is essential is lost. Archibald MacLeish writes:

A poem should be palpable and mute

As a globed fruit.

Dumb

As old medallions on the thumb….

Motionless in time,

As the moon climbs….

A poem should not mean

But be.

“A poem should not mean but be.” We should not ask, what does it mean? It is being at a different level of our consciousness. We have to be part of it. The quality of our participation gives poetry its particular force.

Performative language is not about something, but does something off in a ritual context. “I do” spoken in a marriage ceremony speaks the vows that make the action. Poetry is power. A metaphor can change the world. Unless we see speech acts and not descriptions, we won’t understand the force of the great sonnets of Shakespeare: sense and sensibility. Images and sounds reach into the body. This is accomplished by heightened language, condensed language does that too.

An example for what language can do: An urban pastor was called into the home of a dying mother by her daughter. The daughter explains that she does not know why she called the pastor. A friend had notified the pastor, because they had been estranged from the church a long while. She asked him to pray, but right there.

“Why not in your mother’s room?” the pastor asked.

“Because she has been in a coma a long time, and she would not hear you.”

The pastor insisted that the prayer should be said in the room where the mother lay dying. When the pastor began the Lord’s Prayer, the deeply familiar words reached into her body and pulled her back, because she started to pray the words with them. She remained conscious for a few days and could communicate with her daughter until she died.

Emile Durkheim speaks of a collective consciousness. These words had been said in unison 1,000 times together. 99% of the time speaking the Lord’s Prayer is routine. It is ‘ritual’ in a put-down sense. But 1% of the time, it does do it. Another mode of relating reached her.

Condensed language is the intimate language of a parent and a child, of lovers, words and expressions, unique, only in that relationship. In rocking a child, one says nonsense things, and some stick, become constitutive, trigger associations, touch the world of the shared experience, reach into the body.

In our rush to modernization, we have lost the art of memorization. Before its significance was understood. Foucalt said that it inscribed words on the body forever. Therefore we had a shared culture. Most of the culture any of us has is deeply rooted in the body, the way traditional cultures would have been.

Benedict Anderson speaks of reciting words together operating in forming national identity. They are banal words and times, but a commonality develops. That the words are spoken in unison is important, making the sounds together. This is an echoed physical realization of the imagined community.

In Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1913), Emil Durkheim described religious language as condensed, poetic, performative, and involving unisonality. Wallace Steven writes, “The heaven of Europe is empty, like a Schloss abandoned….” He writes about what did it: “Rust on the steeples. These stretched mother of pearl.” But then Stevens goes on to give it back: “There was a heaven once far beyond thoughts of regulation. The mind saw transparence. The doves of azure. Each man beheld the truth and knew it to be true.” This is something like a B-cognition by Wallace Stevens. God and imagination are one. Rhythm and poetry and heart beat.

Q. Is the religious performative the same thing that John Searle is speaking about? A. Yes. It is doing something with words.

2) Narrative is transitional. It falls between the symbolic poetic and the conceptual. Its language is loaded, but is still somewhat conceptual. There are literal descriptions of what was done. Forms of narratives are often governed by symbolic modes of representation as opposed to literal conceptual concerns. Mythical discourse takes place at the total level not that of the word, sentence, or story. An important question: Is plot in the world or is plot something we see in the world. The truth in narrative does not arise from the correspondence of its words to facts. But story is true at a much deeper level than the literal one. A poem translated into the conceptual has loss. A story also has loss when expressed in conceptual language.

Myth, like music, appears to be in time, but is actually outside time. It requires time to unfold, but it has a special relation with time. It requires time only to deny it. It catches and unfolds like a cloth flapping in the wind. (Claude Levy-Strauss has much to say about music and myth.) The temporal element is not the key. It enters e-ternity. Out-of-time. It deals with permanent truth, which is atemporal and permanent in time. In an adventure movie you gasp and cringe because you lose the distinction between yourself and the movie. You get into it. Narrative, in the same way, obliterates the distinction between you and what is going on – between the inner and outer, between the self and world. In such a way narrative operates differently from conceptual analysis.

In Masterpiece Theater: Final Act makes one identify with a monster, Richard III. He is unspeakably awful. Great plays make you identify, e.g., with Macbeth or Othello. We say “Don’t get upset. It is only a story.”   Would we say, “Don’t get upset. It is only a ritual”? It upsets us because it gets us at a level of truth that is there. We feed on narratives. Narratives keep us going. In a study it was found that narratives occurred every seven minutes between mothers and children. We tell stories to others and to ourselves.  Brunner holds that there is a constitutive function of narrative. We are looking for a plot, a story, so that our self and the world make sense. The self can be depicted as a story teller, which comes close to what it means to be a self. Telling a story to the self encloses one story in another. In this view the self is a telling. The story one tells about oneself to oneself is the self.[2]

There are screen memories, fiction and fact. Truth is not historical but narrative truth. And new narrative is necessary. Psychoanalysis can be presented as re-describing one’s life so that there is more life and possibilities in it than some of the tellings we tell ourselves.

In universities, Departments of Sociology have stories to tell. Scientific accuracy is not the point. Point for point accuracy is not the point. Johann Baptiste Metz said do not obscure intentional dangerous memory. For the nation state, [it is necessary] to tell a story to its people about that people to create that nation. The deepest disputes in history are not about facts, but about the story. What is the right way to tell the story? That is the issue. There is a strange mixture of forgetting and remembering. We have to be very careful about both. But you cannot tell anything you like. Who is to control our freedom? Kenneth Burke states that significant narrative has to deal with those things which we cannot forget. TROUBLE. Things that are just there. For example, Buddha’s birthplace is in Nepal, but India tells it is in Northern India. Someone dead, someone sick, someone old – off Buddha goes. Who has life without trouble? Who has a self without trouble? W.E.H. Stannen an Australian anthropologist speaks of the “immemorial misdirection of life.” Things go wrong right where you don’t want them to. Jesus’ disciples are horrified by the crucifixion. But the cross is the symbol that takes time and trouble into the heart of daily life. Thus the disciples are not to deny the crucifixion, but place it right into the heart of daily life and 1,000 times 1,000 times. It is enacted every moment. Every day is Good Friday.

Benedict Anderson says that national histories are involved in remembering our dead, who must be remembered so that they will not have died in vain.

Narratives have moments where we breakthrough trouble, but can’t stay there. It is just like we can’t stay in daily life all the time. Is this all just an illusion, just an opium for the people? Marx also saw religion as a cry from the heart of a heartless world. If religion kids us out of facing trouble, then it is no help. It needs to be taken up case by case. But most religions are not about that. To dismiss religion is a massive form of denial, which really shows an inadequate study of the subject.

In the transition to conceptual language, Brunner notes that logical propositions are most easily understood when they are embedded in a story. In the broadest sense poetry is also rational and there are categories in narrative too. Conceptual representation is not equal to rationality. Stories are organized by concepts. Religion is involved with the worst as well as the best things done to people. This is the empirical study of religion.

K. Burke notes the powerful story of Genesis chapters 1-3. Rephrased in logical entailment, these chapters concern the freedom to choose, which leads to the logical consequence of disobedience. “Do not do that!” a child is told. “No.” In the logic of the situation, given free will, Q.E.D., they eat the apple. The story is not antithetical to logic. One can tease the logic out of it.

At some point Piaget’s European children at age 7 or 8 begin to achieve the capacity to distinguish themselves from what it is we are describing or arguing about. “The sun did not come with me. I moved. The sun is not a part of me or is only in relation to me.” We learn to ‘decenter’ , which is a classic term coined by Piaget. Much goes on independently of us. We come to the end of our ego-centric period. The child learns to distinguish different points of view. George Herbert Meade speaks of the capacity to take the place of another. One can play baseball, a game in which one has to know all the player positions to be able to play. It is the self against the world, and baseball is a very complex game. The decentered world of late childhood approximates the world of daily life. Because the child does not fully dominate daily life, it is not so conceptual. It has not differentiated itself fully. But reverting back, in a special moment at the end of its first year, the child may take the spoon and feed its mother. That is a sign for not just give-me, but also, I-give-you. Of course, we never quite entirely reach the moment when we don’t think the world hinges on us, but we try.

When we conceptualize, we bracket ourselves and try to see the world as it is, as much as possible. The Greek philosophers had two concepts: 1)epistome and 2)doxa, i.e., 1) knowing, demonstratively, and 2) being of the opinion, which is always arguable. The first deals with objective argument which can be tested. What it tests is always saturated with opinion, doxa. Rhetoric persuades, but it cannot demonstrate. The epistemic can demonstrate, but it cannot persuade. And the world cannot run on epistemes alone.

When the world was de-contextualized and de-centered, a conceptual critique of myth enters, and in the 17th century, conceptual conscious representation arises. But in revolutionary triumph, one throws out from the past what cannot be thrown out. In the words of Yeats: “One cannot know the truth. One can only embody it.” Thomas Hobbes would say that there is no truth in speech, no truth in things spoken of. Only a proposition is true. In a text, the metaphorical is deception. The whole absurdity of metaphor needs to be thrown out. There is no such thing as a common good.” That is language gone crazy. Descartes comes in here. Rosenstock Husey yearning for a clean slate, which could be attained at twenty, exclaimed, “Would to God we had all been born at the age of twenty!” Hobbes and Descartes led to the Enlightenment and modern science. They went too far. This brought about the dark side of modernity, because they denied too much, rather than dealing with it. We cannot really live in the light of conceptual consciousness.


[1]Jean Piaget, The Child’s Conception of the World, (Totowa. New Jersey: Littlefield, Adams, & Company, 1976), p.69 and 86.

[2]A thought of my own that I attach to this lecture: In this version of the self the speech act and the self could be related if it were not a mere sentence as the basic unit, but a literal form, like a poem or story, or drama, or novel, etc, perhaps as unit. It may turn out that a higher level of such a complex speech act could be a person.

[See the notes of all the lectures posted so far in Deficiency Cognition and B-Consciousness.]

Written by peterkrey

August 19, 2010 at 12:08 am

Divergent Social Realities and Being versus Deficiency Cognition: Notes taken in the First Robert Bellah Sociology of Religion Lectures

with 2 comments

University of California at Berkeley Spring Semester, 1996

Department of Sociology             Professor Robert N. Bellah

Sociology 112

Sociology of Religion

Excerpts Prof. Bellah’s lectures for Theological Consideration with comments by Peter Krey in the footnotes

January 15, 1996 to February 26, 1996

Overcrowding made it impossible to follow the class discussion from outside the door in the hall.

Jan. 18th: Missed Lecture.

Jan. 23rd:    For the study of the Sociology of Religion it is important to be able to bracket out your own belief. A radical atheist or a person who believes theirs is the true faith might not be able to do this. Just take the attitude, “It might be true.” Generalities are made here about religions, but nothing applies to them all.

What is reality? Berger and Luckman wrote a book entitled The Social Construction of Reality. From Alfred Schutz we also discover that reality is not a given. Defining reality delivers real power far superior to that of Bill Gates. Psychology and sociology overlap enormously here. This power is derived from the capacity to set the ideological agenda in the society; setting the parameters for what can be taken seriously; what is real and what isn’t real. For example in the scientific field that power determines who gets tenure and who not, and that concerns whose view of reality is accepted. When a scholars views are not considered real, their suffering becomes very real. Balancing the budget deficit is another example. Who now questions it? Will it redistribute massive new wealth to the rich?

To repeat: What is reality? Berger and Luckman wrote a book entitled The Social Construction of Reality. From Alfred Schutz we also discover that reality is not a given.[1] Defining reality delivers real power far superior to that of Bill Gates. Psychology and sociology overlap enormously here. This power inherent in defining reality is derived from the capacity to set the ideological agenda in the society, i.e., setting the parameters for what can be taken seriously, what is real and what isn’t real. Balancing the budget deficit is a particular example. Who now questions it?[2]

There are three approaches to religion:

1) the cognitive propositional

2) the expressive experiential

Using a Noam Chomsky expression, there is a deep structure to all religions and there are surface structures. Psychology has a preponderance in our society.

3) the cultural linguistic

Religion is a whole way of life. Learning religion is like learning a language with a whole grammar into which one is inducted over a long period of time. Religion is a system of beliefs and practices relative to the sacred creating a moral community. This moral community is critical. Private religion violates moral community. This definition of religion marginalizes private religion.

Chuang Tzu dreamt he was a butterfly and awoke, not knowing if his waking state was a dream or his dream was his waking state. Was he Chuang Tzu or a butterfly? This example concerned alternate realities and identities.

Alfred Schutz noted in 1930 that realities come in multiples and it is not just one thing. The wide awake grown up man sees reality of the world very differently from the way it is seen by a child. Reality could be gendered according to some feminist epistemology. But it would seem to be possible to move between these gendered realities.

Thy World of Daily Life

It is characterized by a natural attitude of which we are not conscious. Reality is what it seems to be, and what it seems to be I will take for granted is. This world as given in the reality of daily life is not experienced in the full immediacy of absolute “hereness and nowness”. It always thinks: “What next?” And thus does not live in the radical sense of the here and now. The latter is a different reality, which is dominated by a practical and pragmatic interest of doing something and getting it done. Or thinking about what one hasn’t done yet and has to do.

Schutz was a phenomenologist and described how in the world of daily life one brought about a projected state of affairs by bodily movements, i.e., working. Thus it is changing things from how they are to how we/they/or professors prefer they be. Because the world of daily life concerns striving beyond working, and is about concerted effort, it always entails the background element of anxiety (to which we return after describing its sense of space and time).

In the world of daily life standard time and space are used. Clock time, in other words, and measuring-stick space, which is mechanical and utterly featureless: twelve o’clock midnight is the same as twelve noon; twenty miles whether coast land or hills, it does not matter. Nothing is pertinent here but exact measurement. The world of work is built on our common agreement on time and space. And standard time is very recent in our history. Not long ago every town had its own time. The railroad changed this and now standard time dominates us so completely we do not think about it.

Schutz was Jewish and hailed from Austria and then Germany.  A fundamental anxiety underlies the reality of daily life. It derives from the knowledge that we all must die. Subliminally we are aware of the fragility of things. Nothing will last. People will abandon us and we ourselves are mortal. As a child Professor Bellah himself was taught the children’s prayer:

If I should die before I wake

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

In the same fragility of life, children still die even now. Thus this anxiety plays into our working and striving. So that a big hole will not open in front of us, we always have to work very hard to keep things going. This characterizes the epoché.  Such doubt needs to be bracketed out. We do not raise that question. Children are more into the here and now because they are less into working. And they perceive the world differently. In taking a trip from his town into Basel, his child stepped out of the car and exclaimed:

“Look! The sun came with us!”

[Question: If mentally challenged people have delusions, and if we argue that the reality of daily life is just another delusion, then how can it be shared? Dreams and delusions are individual.][3] Prof. Bellah’s response: The world of daily life is a socially constructed world, a collective representation, in Durkheim’s words. Realities are different in different subcultures. Thus what is being described here is not a psychology, but we are concerned with shared beliefs and these can be true or untrue. Think of the tulip mania in Holland. This was a common delusion.

Our selfhood is not a given. Selfhood in Bali is very different from our definition of it.

Occasionally daily life has intrusions which do not fit the rules. But this is experienced as strange. Bob Dillon’s “Ballad of a Thin Man” comes to mind:

“Something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”

When this happens something lifts the brackets of the epoché.

Thus the reality of the daily world is not the only reality any of us live in. No one can stand to live in it all the time. Some can’t stand to live in it at all. We leave it when we sleep. And here dreams are necessary as sleep. The structure of dreams is almost antithetical to the reality of the daily world and its space and time. To escape we also day-dream. At home we switch on the TV. One study speaks of the happiness quotient involved, and finds that TV leaves its viewers mildly depressed. But it gets us out of the reality of daily life with its anxieties and concerns. But TV can produce its own anxiety. But that is not real but play-anxiety.

Games represent another multiple reality. They are not played in the world of daily life, but in an artificial world as a parody of daily life. The latter is simplified to having one clear goal, that of winning. Games have a means-ends structure. Our lives do not. Games violate standard time and standard space. In a football game one hour is really more like three hours. Clock time is not equal to game time. In football the space is arbitrarily limited to end at a line. Thus the limiting of space gives it intensity. If we care too much about who wins or loses, then games do not do much for our psychic states.

Travel also helps get away from daily life.

Church services put us into a different reality.

Science operates in an alternate reality. It does not wish to discover useful answers, but merely how the world is. Practical and pragmatic concerns are in all the sciences, but they do not predominate. Science cannot accept the brackets of the daily world, of the epoché, because it looks beneath the surface. What is really going on is not what seems to be going on. The earth goes around the sun, according to science. But can anyone in this room demonstrate that this is really so? We still take it on faith. Even science cannot doubt everything at once. On the other hand, systematic doubt cannot characterize the daily world. It would drive you nuts. Science however uses systematic doubt.

Art responds with more immediacy to realities. If we were to open ourselves to great works of art enough, they might say to us: “Change your lives!” Such masterpieces pull us into themselves so deeply that they lift the brackets and place us into question.

We tend to think daily reality is really real and all others are not quite real. Even our dreams. Even the university is not quite the real world. But the insulation of the university makes it more real rather than less real. Our culture, however, denies these alternate realities, while other cultures have considered other realities much more real. Especially religious reality has been considered that way. From the world of daily reality, they will all wake up, because daily life is a dream. It is an illusion that one is a ruler another a herdsman. The Buddha exclaimed that the world is a burning house – get out of it. Daily life is an illusion and those who put their trust in this world are lost and deluded. Such a religious reality is a direct frontal assault on the reality of daily life and a variation of outcomes results. In tribal religion the reality experienced in the great ceremonials is really real in comparison with hunting and gathering and digging in the fields. There is a contest for what is really real among alternate realities. In our culture, daily life makes religious reality go under. If it is asked whether religious reality is merely an escape from daily reality, then one needs to take account of the fact that the realities of daily life for different cultures are also different. Cultural variability demonstrates that reality also has some variability.


[1]Alfred Schutz, The Problem of Social Reality, (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1962).

[2](This note is added by Peter Krey.) A good portion of our national debt (18%?) will be redistributed to the rich giving them massive new wealth. If we owed the national debt to ourselves, repayment would not be a redistribution-of-wealth problem. But when Reagan made huge tax cuts in the 1980’s, while increasing military spending, the tax cut amounts needed to be borrowed from the financial community and the people of wealth here and abroad, to whom our government is now beholden (yes) for over 15% of tax income for debt service. I write these figures from memory from the New Grollier Encyclopedia, but I believe they are pretty accurate. P. Krey.

[3]These words are the approximate sense of the question that I myself asked Prof. Bellah.

Parallel to the theorizing of Alfred Schutz on daily reality we have the thinking of Abraham Maslow concerning Deficiency cognition and Being cognition.[1] In the latter what he describes as peak experiences come close to what tribal people experienced as “the felt whole”. (See the chart.) Maslow would argue that D – experience characterizes the anxiety of daily life. It is a mode of relating to the world in a partial reality, a deficiency reality. One is not concerned with how things are, but how to use them. One is concerned with manipulation, even of people. Things and people are used to get ahead. In deficiency reality the full immediacy of being in the presence of anything is absent or severely limited. In contrast to this, Maslow speaks of B-cognition in which participation is predominant, that is, “being with” – and being with is its own end. This is the classical ideal type which predominates in B-cognition. Not how to use, but to be open to totality has primacy.

D-cognition has a complete split between subjects and objects. I am clarifying that I am me and not you. I am an independent person relative to anyone. Thus parents cannot nor can you tell me what to do. This goes into our very self definition.

In B-cognition the subject/object split is for the moment abandoned. If I am really with you this moment, the distinction between you and me is not gone, but not salient. In D-cognition there is a great sense of difference from the Other. I am me! Such an emphasis makes a big deal about the Other. But for Being cognition there is no other.

Another distinction between B and D cognition is that in the latter one looks at things as means, because one always looks ahead. But in the former, the means is its own end. We are a very means oriented culture and hence we are very manipulated, while also being keyed into standard time and space. B-cognition is a-spatial and atemporal. Eternity is not endless existence in time but out of time. Something going on forever and ever is not heaven, but the worst nightmare. First Maslow did not have the question of religion in mind at all. B-cognition can occur in all kinds of places. He called them peak experiences, and occurring in athletic feats they can rival contemplative graces. Joe Montana reports entering a “zone.” He reports no longer hearing the crowd – all become one. The difference between player and game, dance and dancer disappears. The minute you worry what will happen next it is gone and you are out of the zone. This is an experience of the felt whole. The feeling proceeds through participation.

Is this experience in sports the same as a religious one? Richardson speaks about feeling a finite whole, while in religion one feels an infinite whole. But is there really a distinction? A finite whole is like the immensity of the ocean, or the presence of another. Jonathan Edwards, a Puritan of the eighteenth century spoke of an infinite whole. -There came into my soul and was as it were, diffused through it, a sense of divine being. How excellent that Being was. And wrapped with him in heaven. And he wanted that excellence to remain his whole life. He continued about feeling the general rightness of all things, and perfect being.

In life dominated by deficiency cognition things are not that great. The consideration is how to respond to the next challenge. This is the expressive experiential point of view (See p. 1 above) with cultural definition.

Another peak experience comes from P. Havel, the current president of Check Republic, who had it when he was in prison. It is recorded in his Letters from Prison.

On a hot cloudless day Havel gazed into the crown of a gorgeous tree that stretched over the fences alongside the watchtowers of his prison. Its branches quivered in the fragile sky. And he went into a vision – all his memories became co-present with an acceptance of the inevitable sovereignty of being. (That is merely the gist of a much longer description of his vision.) Being is one of the definitions of God. Havel felt he was trembling at the abyss of meaning, standing at the edge of the finite. I was struck by the love, he said, I don’t know from whom or from what. He described participation, rightness of things, personal well being.

These experiences are often expressed aesthetically in music or poetry. Wallace Stevens brings in an awakening: Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake, to watch a definition become certain. A cock crows on the left and all is well. Not the balances we achieve, but the balances that happen, moments of awakening, sit at the edge of sleep. Behold the academics as structures in the mist. (These notes should identify his poem so that it could be more accurately transcribed.)

Is there a method to achieve enlightenment?

Sit in order to be enlightened and you will not be. It cannot be manipulated. The sense of enlightenment comes or doesn’t come by itself. You cannot force it. These are trance states. Sometimes dances or bodily movements induce trance states. People in sports don=t seek them, it suddenly comes to them. Quiet meditation and prayer are the background for it often. Taking the Eucharist can be shattering, an incredible experience – when you know you are the body of Christ. Certain things set it up and make it more likely. Samsara is the world of suffering. Even in the world of deficiency something can break.

Can it be achieved through morality?

Morality has a prohibitive and punitive aspect, but also a positive aspect, an attraction to the good component. The former is quintessential to the problem. But for Plato beauty equaled the good. Morality is constraint but also attraction to good. Morality has a special relation to Being cognition.

In B-cognition realities come together. Objects can have different realities. Havel saw the world tree. But it could be just another tree. An object can have another meaning from the one it has in the world of working. Communion bread and wine, for example. A symbol has an ordinary meaning in one realm and can have another meaning in another realm. In the world of daily life we are constantly surrounded by symbols or potential symbols: a tree, a room, a teacher, can mean a lot of other things. Part of us thinks about it in our consciousness. We can train ourselves to become sensitive, but it is of itself. It cannot be manipulated.

Maslow himself had a B-cognition as the Dean of Brandeis University. (Brandeis is located in a suburb of Boston.) A procession was going to take place, and he was expected to attend in full regalia. He had always avoided these processions as silly rituals. We often say, AThat is just a ritual.@ But without rituals we would not be human. He was the dean, so he could not very well avoid the exercise. As the procession began to move, he suddenly saw it stretch out before him. He saw Plato, Aristotle, Marx, Freud and others before him, all in their place until he himself took his place. Behind him were all his students, and his students’ students yet unborn. He experienced an apprehension of the academic procession of academic learning extending backward through time and space, seeing the real basis of the university. If we no longer glimpse that sacred foundation, then it is gone. There is no wholesale knowledge outlet for the consumer society, no ideology factory, but a community devoted to the search for meaning, and if only for a job, all is lost.

Kenneth Burke makes >beyond= into a verb, and speaks of ‘beyonding’.  It is symbolic transcendence. There is something deeper, something truer. One can be trapped in the world of dreadful immanence, totally captivated in the deficiency world with no way out. Like Weber one can be trapped in the iron cage. Sole response can be determined by desire and need. Thus one needs beyonding. One needs to break the dreadful fatalities of this world of realities. To hold everyday reality as the paramount reality is a dangerous assumption. It is just a necessary one for a time. But those locked into this time fail to overcome the deficiencies, and thus ceremonies are necessary, practices whose goods are internal to them. They are not means to an end. It is not what we achieve, but what happens. Meals, sports, concerts, the Sabbath, day of rest, rituals, Time, in part, out of time, with the anxieties of life temporarily allayed. A break seems to be essential.


[1]Abraham H. Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being, (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1968).

________________________________________________________________________________________________

January 30th. I missed this lecture.

February 1, 1996

The point when religious structures were distinguished from social ones is important. Formerly religion was a whole way of life. It is in a late development that religion becomes a restricted sphere.

Bodily actions are central to religion at every stage, as well as materiality in the sacraments. The notion that art, music, poetry is other than religious is quite recent.

Narrative mode of expression stands in contrast to logical or experimental demonstration, which has more prestige in our society. But here in the social sciences the latter are more ambiguous. For example, narrative is necessary at the center of history for it to be able to understand itself.

Myth stands in contrast to how it really is. The former has no concern for when or whether it happened. Saga, however, has rooting in historical experience.  In oral history the meaning of its accounts were shaped by the concerns of later historical elements. It is a huge project to try to isolate the historic elements in the Bible. But Judaism is a historic, not an archaic religion. The Bible does not contain myth, but saga, with mythical elements. The Bible is not tribal (i.e., primitive). They believe it happened.

Facis [from the Latin facio?] points to a fact, a made thing.

Facis points to fiction, a made thing.

But history is also a made thing.

History, at least in a book, also has a plot. Historians want to tell how it actually was, but that is hubris. History is narrative.

Q. (Moving up in the chart gets you into B-cognition.) [See post with Bellah’s first two lectures.]

Anecdote: Bellah was at the Princeton House of Studies and had an opportunity to experience some of the world’s greatest mathematicians and physicists. They are not into the everyday realities of life. Their wives had to come to the door in order to get them and take them home. Music reached them the way normal human interaction could not. This also shows the interrelationship of math and music.

A question arose whether or not Genesis did not have to be considered a myth. What Mid-eastern myth starts off with God? For a very long time Genesis was considered history. The stories were not perceived as myth, and they were not meant to be myths. The stories were at odds with myths and intended as critique of myths. But they have mythical elements.

Q. If our faith and religion are restricted in our society, and every society is inescapably religious, then what is the real religion of our society?[1] Every society has a faith, has a religion, and it can be called humanistic rationalism (The Right is not crazy.) or civil religion. You can’t get rid of it even if you don’t like it. You can only reform it.

A Buddhist apprentice, Ishida Baigan, (Ishida is his family name), practiced meditation.  While nursing his mother, he opened the door, the doubt of his former life scattered, fish swam in the water, birds flew in the air, everything is natural and he rejoiced. He related his experience to his teacher who was not satisfied, because the I remains. There must be nature without the I. In other words the element of subjectivity must be overcome. Then he experienced the serenity of the great sea and the cloudless sky and their distinction disappeared.

It can be the cry of a sparrow, something radically unexpected that wakes you up. Get the self out of the experience. In his second experience, the objective reality is in the forefront, and in the first it was his subjective interpretation. He was a single individual to the point of his second experience.

What he experienced can also be a group experience. It was primarily originally collective, a collective effervescent experience, which is the experience of a different and deeper reality. When the general effervescence is increasing, the group is dominated and carried away by an external power, in which a person does not recognize himself. The Greek word is ec stasis, to stand outside oneself, i.e., to become a new being. A mask is put on the face, and all the companions feel transformed in some way. An environment of exceptionally intense force metamorphosizes them. The language they use is close to that of being born again. The force takes people out of themselves and reveals to them another reality. Not the world that drags along is here, but the sacred power of reality itself. These are unitive events – like experienced in Pentecostalism. The I is gone, who is experiencing is gone; there is no subjectivity nor objectivity but Reality.

There is of course a “hard-wiring” potential for shifts of consciousness. But there is no cheap grace. Drunkenness or drugs will not do. You cannot get it out of a bottle. Because there is no religious atmosphere, you do not get into the B-consciousness.

Jean Piaget[2]

Children first see objects as extensions of their bodies. Early experiences are lived rather than thought, or thinking is living at that stage. But gradually, Piaget notes, for the child to hold in the mind without holding in the hand is an achievement. This is the grasp. (J. Brunner) Representation can be put to the guidance of action itself. Even after action-free imagery has developed, the child needs to do what it is talking about. This is enactive representation. We can give a verbal instruction of how to tie a knot. But it is not learned until it becomes a body motor, sensory-motor habit. It becomes an embodied recipe for certain kinds of actions. Only in this sense can we speak of representations.

The seeing becomes important, but centered on the face relating to holding, feeding, warming and comforting. Seeing is embedded in global human relation.

Religion is always in part bodily. But this brings one problem: we can get sick because of our bodies. Religion has an important role here. Sabaton is rooted in bodily health.[3]

Birth and death are almost always central for religious systems. There is the importance of the rhythm of bodily motion. Concerted physical movements can induce B-cognition. Things can be thought out or danced out. Dancing can be a highly complex and highly intelligent form of activity. But it is embodied. Meditation is an extremely refined use of the body. (Note that the word “use” is very problematic here.) But it is sitting. The pain in the knees kill you. That painful sensation gets better, long devotees report, but it never completely goes away. Breathing is an important form of religious action.

W. B. Yeats wrote an example of enactive representation about six days before his death in 1950?

I know for certain my time will not be long.

I am happy and full of energy.

Man can embody truth, but he cannot know it.

I must embody it in the completion of my life.

Our culture makes knowing anti-physical. If I can’t embody it, if I know it just mentally, it is not there. Christianity rests its truth on the Incarnation, on the embodied truth.

A question was asked concerning the enactive mode of representation. We cannot do without the world of working. A degree of means-ends thinking is pretty essential to avoid catastrophe. If we remain in the unitive state then we are always looking up, and then we fall into a hole.

Here we are making an analogy between the development from childhood to adulthood and the evolution from primitive social fusion to a higher differentiation as society.

To think with a pencil in hand is one thing.

To think without a pencil in hand is an achievement.

To think with a pencil in hand is another achievement again.

A symbol means all kinds of things.  Rockets all over the map.

Some mean the conceptual by it. But Piaget means things rooted in something separate from the body. Piaget speaks of being with a child beside a cathedral in which the bells began ringing with a deafening noise. In his office, the child makes a lot of noise next to his desk. “You are bothering me.” He says to the child.

“You can’t bother me. I am the church.” Piaget noticed that the child was enacting the bell from the church.

When the child starts becoming loose from the enactive stage the game Peek-a-boo becomes its favorite. The deep structure of Peek-a-boo is controlled disappearance and reappearance of a face or object. Children are fascinated with the game. It is preverbal. When played by the mother or with a familiar face the child responds with laughter. But with a stranger it collapses into tears. The game plays with its deepest fears, those of being left. It brings the child to the edge of terror. But it has a ritual delight. There is the loss of the care giver, or loss of object and return. It is a rousing of anxiety and allaying it, also not unknown to religion.

Paul Ricoeur holds that religious symbolism is the central point of religious representation. Subjectivity and objectivity are not radically separate. Both are going on in the representation of a child and in religion. There is regression and progression, double regression and return to discovery. We have the surveyor, staff, and guide, cosmos and psyche, and the great hierophanies. There are great symbols that reveal the sacred: light, water, sun, iconic symbols. The little girl as the church. Images are full of muscles and they do not only affect the brain, but induce enactment.

When a child is first given a crayon it first begins with a random scribble, which is an enactive symbol. It has pleasure in the movement. The hand, line, crayon are all fused. The child is not making a picture, above all not about something. The child is the picture. The paintings of Jackson Pollack are of an adult who is two years old.

Then the child discovers shape, which is more than just an extension of the body. Then at three to four years of age it can draw more clearly bounded shapes like circles and squares. Adults with a strong difference between themselves and the world want the picture to be about something. There is a bounded form in the emerging self.

Mandela, rose window

With a central cross

There is a sense of order in both the self and the world. A drawing can be of a sun or a flower.

Then at four or five children are capable of drawing people identifiably. Then the drawing gets a face – and it is me – or the sun? a flower?  Me?

There are resonances

between the self and the world.

Rhoda Kellog and Scott O’ Dell in the Psychology of Children show that if a child is pushed to representation then it collapses, and then it becomes tedious and bored with the exercises.

Music. If images are full of muscles, then rhythms are characterized by bodily life. Music reaches right into the body. Although the mathematicians and physicists at Princeton were so disembodied, the music could reach them. At a concert the audience should not sit there like a stone. They were playing Vivaldi and Bach and all the musicians were moving, and the audience should too. Otto Klemper, who sat beside Bellah, could not keep still. Music is embodied. It comes out of enactment and goes back into it. Singing is enactment. It is body. To many worshipers, singing is the most important thing in the service.

In many pre-modern conditions music was a more central phenomenon in terms of how cosmic and personal reality came together. Pythagoras discovered that the scale had seven notes, and the planets moved in a musical progression. He heard the music of the spheres, which was an expression of the order of the cosmos. Singing is not just a form of self expression, but one is bringing oneself into harmony with the sounds and rhythms of the cosmos. Confucius takes music to relate to the inner rhythm of Tao and the state of the moral consciousness of people. He visited a number of small states in China. If he heard licentious music there, he said: This state cannot last long.


[1]This is another of my questions.

[2]Bellah is most likely referring to J. Piaget, The Child’s Conception of the World, or Judgement and Reasoning in the Child. A child’s conception of the world provides a recapitulation for the unitive event in religion developing into the mature conceptual stage of adults as well as religions.

[3] Note: Is Sabaton a Swedish sauna? It names a band. It can also be medieval foot and toe armor. I missed the reference and connection here.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

February 6, 1996

Rhoda Kellog and Scott O’ Dell, Psychology of Children.

Music has the power to reach into the body.

We have Verbal symbolization

Poetic symbolization

Narrative symbolization

and Conceptual language.

We take the latter for granted, especially in the university, where we are saturated with it all the time.

Linguistic symbolization.  The relation of a sign and the object to which it points is [said to be] arbitrary. E.g., ‘dog’ and ‘chien’. We turn to the cognitive development of a child to shed light on the fact that the word and object to which it refers is not arbitrary. Piaget is questioning a child: They are discussing a picture of the sun.

“How did we know its name was ‘sun'”?

“Because it was yellow.”

He questioned it over and over again and never could disconnect the sign from the object. They just said it was the sun. There was no understanding that the ‘sun’ is an arbitrary name. For the children the name is an essential part of the thing. The name of the sun entails it. For children the sun is not a concept but for them, the object itself.[1]

Wallace Stevens calls the poem “the cry of the occasion.” It is part of the thing itself, not about it. Conceptual language is always about something. Thus the poem collapses. What is essential is lost. Archibald MacLeish writes:

A poem should be palpable and mute

As a globed fruit.

Dumb

As old medallions on the thumb….

Motionless in time,

As the moon climbs….

A poem should not mean

But be.

“A poem should not mean but be.” We should not ask, what does it mean? It is being at a different level of our consciousness. We have to be part of it. The quality of our participation gives poetry its particular force.

Performative language is not about something, but does something off in a ritual context. “I do” spoken in a marriage ceremony speaks the vows that make the action. Poetry is power. A metaphor can change the world. Unless we see speech acts and not descriptions, we won’t understand the force of the great sonnets of Shakespeare: sense and sensibility. Images and sounds reach into the body. This is accomplished by heightened language, condensed language does that too.

An example for what language can do: An urban pastor was called into the home of a dying mother by her daughter. The daughter explains that she does not know why she called the pastor. A friend had notified the pastor, because they had been estranged from the church a long while. She asked him to pray, but right there.

“Why not in your mother’s room?” the pastor asked.

“Because she has been in a coma a long time, and she would not hear you.”

The pastor insisted that the prayer should be said in the room where the mother lay dying. When the pastor began the Lord’s Prayer, the deeply familiar words reached into her body and pulled her back, because she started to pray the words with them. She remained conscious for a few days and could communicate with her daughter until she died.

Emile Durkheim speaks of a collective consciousness. These words had been said in unison 1,000 times together. 99% of the time speaking the Lord’s Prayer is routine. It is ‘ritual’ in a put-down sense. But 1% of the time, it does do it. Another mode of relating reached her.

Condensed language is the intimate language of a parent and a child, of lovers, words and expressions, unique, only in that relationship. In rocking a child, one says nonsense things, and some stick, become constitutive, trigger associations, touch the world of the shared experience, reach into the body.

In our rush to modernization, we have lost the art of memorization. Before its significance was understood. Foucalt said that it inscribed words on the body forever. Therefore we had a shared culture. Most of the culture any of us has is deeply rooted in the body, the way traditional cultures would have been.

Benedict Anderson speaks of reciting words together operating in forming national identity. They are banal words and times, but a commonality develops. That the words are spoken in unison is important, making the sounds together. This is an echoed physical realization of the imagined community.

In Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1913), Emil Durkheim described religious language as condensed, poetic, performative, and involving unisonality. Wallace Steven writes, “The heaven of Europe is empty, like a Schloss abandoned….” He writes about what did it: “Rust on the steeples. These stretched mother of pearl.” But then Stevens goes on to give it back: “There was a heaven once far beyond thoughts of regulation. The mind saw transparence. The doves of azure. Each man beheld the truth and knew it to be true.” This is something like a B-cognition by Wallace Stevens. God and imagination are one. Rhythm and poetry and heart beat.

Q. Is the religious performative the same thing that John Searle is speaking about? A. Yes. It is doing something with words.

2) Narrative is transitional. It falls between the symbolic poetic and the conceptual. Its language is loaded, but is still somewhat conceptual. There are literal descriptions of what was done. Forms of narratives are often governed by symbolic modes of representation as opposed to literal conceptual concerns. Mythical discourse takes place at the total level not that of the word, sentence, or story. An important question: Is plot in the world or is plot something we see in the world. The truth in narrative does not arise from the correspondence of its words to facts. But story is true at a much deeper level than the literal one. A poem translated into the conceptual has loss. A story also has loss when expressed in conceptual language.

Myth, like music, appears to be in time, but is actually outside time. It requires time to unfold, but it has a special relation with time. It requires time only to deny it. It catches and unfolds like a cloth flapping in the wind. (Claude Levy-Strauss has much to say about music and myth.) The temporal element is not the key. It enters e-ternity. Out-of-time. It deals with permanent truth, which is atemporal and permanent in time. In an adventure movie you gasp and cringe because you lose the distinction between yourself and the movie. You get into it. Narrative, in the same way, obliterates the distinction between you and what is going on – between the inner and outer, between the self and world. In such a way narrative operates differently from conceptual analysis.

In Masterpiece Theater: Final Act makes one identify with a monster, Richard III. He is unspeakably awful. Great plays make you identify, e.g., with Macbeth or Othello. We say “Don’t get upset. It is only a story.”   Would we say, “Don’t get upset. It is only a ritual”? It upsets us because it gets us at a level of truth that is there. We feed on narratives. Narratives keep us going. In a study it was found that narratives occurred every seven minutes between mothers and children. We tell stories to others and to ourselves.  Brunner holds that there is a constitutive function of narrative. We are looking for a plot, a story, so that our self and the world make sense. The self can be depicted as a story teller, which comes close to what it means to be a self. Telling a story to the self encloses one story in another. In this view the self is a telling. The story one tells about oneself to oneself is the self.[2]

There are screen memories, fiction and fact. Truth is not historical but narrative truth. And new narrative is necessary. Psychoanalysis can be presented as re-describing one’s life so that there is more life and possibilities in it than some of the tellings we tell ourselves.

In universities, Departments of Sociology have stories to tell. Scientific accuracy is not the point. Point for point accuracy is not the point. Johann Baptiste Metz said do not obscure intentional dangerous memory. For the nation state, [it is necessary] to tell a story to its people about that people to create that nation. The deepest disputes in history are not about facts, but about the story. What is the right way to tell the story? That is the issue. There is a strange mixture of forgetting and remembering. We have to be very careful about both. But you cannot tell anything you like. Who is to control our freedom? Kenneth Burke states that significant narrative has to deal with those things which we cannot forget. TROUBLE. Things that are just there. For example, Buddha’s birthplace is in Nepal, but India tells it is in Northern India. Someone dead, someone sick, someone old – off Buddha goes. Who has life without trouble? Who has a self without trouble? W.E.H. Stannen an Australian anthropologist speaks of the “immemorial misdirection of life.” Things go wrong right where you don’t want them to. Jesus’ disciples are horrified by the crucifixion. But the cross is the symbol that takes time and trouble into the heart of daily life. Thus the disciples are not to deny the crucifixion, but place it right into the heart of daily life and 1,000 times 1,000 times. It is enacted every moment. Every day is Good Friday.

Benedict Anderson says that national histories are involved in remembering our dead, who must be remembered so that they will not have died in vain.

Narratives have moments where we breakthrough trouble, but can’t stay there. It is just like we can’t stay in daily life all the time. Is this all just an illusion, just an opium for the people? Marx also saw religion as a cry from the heart of a heartless world. If religion kids us out of facing trouble, then it is no help. It needs to be taken up case by case. But most religions are not about that. To dismiss religion is a massive form of denial, which really shows an inadequate study of the subject.

In the transition to conceptual language, Brunner notes that logical propositions are most easily understood when they are embedded in a story. In the broadest sense poetry is also rational and there are categories in narrative too. Conceptual representation is not equal to rationality. Stories are organized by concepts. Religion is involved with the worst as well as the best things done to people. This is the empirical study of religion.

K. Burke notes the powerful story of Genesis chapters 1-3. Rephrased in logical entailment, these chapters concern the freedom to choose, which leads to the logical consequence of disobedience. “Do not do that!” a child is told. “No.” In the logic of the situation, given free will, Q.E.D., they eat the apple. The story is not antithetical to logic. One can tease the logic out of it.

At some point Piaget’s European children at age 7 or 8 begin to achieve the capacity to distinguish themselves from what it is we are describing or arguing about. “The sun did not come with me. I moved. The sun is not a part of me or is only in relation to me.” We learn to ‘decenter’ , which is a classic term coined by Piaget. Much goes on independently of us. We come to the end of our ego-centric period. The child learns to distinguish different points of view. George Herbert Meade speaks of the capacity to take the place of another. One can play baseball, a game in which one has to know all the player positions to be able to play. It is the self against the world, and baseball is a very complex game. The decentered world of late childhood approximates the world of daily life. Because the child does not fully dominate daily life, it is not so conceptual. It has not differentiated itself fully. But reverting back, in a special moment at the end of its first year, the child may take the spoon and feed its mother. That is a sign for not just give-me, but also, I-give-you. Of course, we never quite entirely reach the moment when we don’t think the world hinges on us, but we try.

When we conceptualize, we bracket ourselves and try to see the world as it is, as much as possible. The Greek philosophers had two concepts: 1)epistome and 2)doxa, i.e., 1) knowing, demonstratively, and 2) being of the opinion, which is always arguable. The first deals with objective argument which can be tested. What it tests is always saturated with opinion, doxa. Rhetoric persuades, but it cannot demonstrate. The epistemic can demonstrate, but it cannot persuade. And the world cannot run on epistemes alone.

When the world was de-contextualized and de-centered, a conceptual critique of myth enters, and in the 17th century, conceptual conscious representation arises. But in revolutionary triumph, one throws out from the past what cannot be thrown out. In the words of Yeats: “One cannot know the truth. One can only embody it.” Thomas Hobbes would say that there is no truth in speech, no truth in things spoken of. Only a proposition is true. In a text, the metaphorical is deception. The whole absurdity of metaphor needs to be thrown out. There is no such thing as a common good.” That is language gone crazy. Descartes comes in here. Rosenstock Husey yearning for a clean slate, which could be attained at twenty, exclaimed, “Would to God we had all been born at the age of twenty!” Hobbes and Descartes led to the Enlightenment and modern science. They went too far. This brought about the dark side of modernity, because they denied too much, rather than dealing with it. We cannot really live in the light of conceptual consciousness.


[1]Jean Piaget, The Child’s Conception of the World, (Totowa. New Jersey: Littlefield, Adams, & Company, 1976), p.69 and 86.

[2]A thought of my own that I attach to this lecture: In this version of the self the speech act and the self could be related if it were not a mere sentence as the basic unit, but a literal form, like a poem or story, or drama, or novel, etc, perhaps as unit. It may turn out that a higher level of such a complex speech act could be a person.

Written by peterkrey

April 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Sociology

The Law in the Old Testament is relative to time and place, as well as to the prevalent historical conditions, not the Gospel of grace and forgiveness.

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Rereading the Pentateuch, that is, the first five books of the Bible, has been incredibly rewarding, because now I can understand and grasp it with a mature reading, while in my earlier days it was merely bewildering, confusing, and unfamiliar. The Bible is the book of books because it introduces us to the God, who remained faithful and dwelt with and protected God’s chosen people. That same God so compassionately involved with them became incarnate for us in Jesus Christ.

Reading Deuteronomy chapters 1-11 has been a wonderful experience. They are like a gospel hidden away in the Pentateuch. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (6.5) and “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (8.3). Interestingly enough, in Hebrew the book is called Devarim or “Words.” Ah, the gospel is filled by living words and the Book of Nature is filled with the Word of God.[1] Ah, “the Word became flesh and dwelt with us.” In Hebrew, “flesh” in this sense refers to the word becoming a human being.

In chapter 12 however, Deuteronomy takes a spin into the law by means of its Holiness Code, and then problems emerge thick and fast. I woman discovered not to be a virgin by her bridegroom shall be stoned to death (22:22). No question is asked whether or not she was raped or locating the man who took away her virginity. In championing justice by means of the law, which is the real contribution of the law, here the law violates the law, since it is the men who judge her and may have been the ones who violated her.

An incorrigible son shall be stoned to death (21:18-21). No question about the bad government of the parents or about rehabilitation for a young person. This punishment could in itself well be a crime. The parents take the child to the elders: “Here is our son. Fix our problem.” The son could be the loud speaker for the problems the family is having.

“Cursed is anyone hanged from a tree” (21.23). In the case of Jesus, his capital punishment was itself the crime, it was a curse not on the innocent man, but on those who condemned him, and thank God, that he forgave us.

In the previous chapter, it gets even worse: prisoners of war might be taken in some cases, “But as for the towns of these people that the Lord your God has given you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. You shall annihilate them:” the Hittites, Amonites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, because they might lead you astray to worship other gods. What is sometimes called “holy war” is neither holy nor really a war so much as sanctioned genocide. Jesus went to Tyre and Sidon, where the Gentiles worshiped other gods, and converted them. Jesus had mercy on the Syro-Phoenician woman and showed Peter the revelation of unclean animals and bade him eat. This picture language instructed Peter to preach and baptize even the household of the Roman centurion.

That the law in the scriptures is thus relative to time, place, and historical contingencies is illustrated by this change in the instructions given to those chosen by God to further the reign of God.[2]

But sandwiched right in these instructions are those that forbid the Israelites from cutting down all the trees in a siege. A tree-hugging question follows: “Are trees in the field human beings that they should come under siege from you?” (20.19) This question is really relevant even for those companies that clear cut the forests and lay waste our land today. Christ came to bring life and life abundantly. That places capital punishment into question as well as the clear-cutting of forests and the subsequent devastation of nature.

Capital punishment is dealt out freely for too many “crimes,” even for prophets who divine by dreams. They shall be put to death if they use them to speak treason against the Lord (13.5). By your own hand you shall kill anyone who tries to entice you to worship other gods, even your wife, brother, children; and in a town that serves other gods, all the people shall be killed, even their livestock (13.6-11). We will not judge the people of that day, but for today, such an instruction would be an abomination. By means of the Holy Spirit and through healing campaigns of love and compassion, our Lord Jesus sends us to proclaim the Gospel of grace and forgiveness and would only shake the dust off his feet to recalcitrant towns.

In the old days, religion used to be the chain that held a society together and the worship of other gods was a threat to the society and held to be like treason. But Emil Durkheim has argued that now the division of labor has made humans in society need each other and religion is in a forum of freedom, in which everyone can be convinced from his or her heart about what is a true way of life and what is a false way. Jesus introduces this freedom with the reign of God and Martin Luther in the Reformation introduced the diversity of Christian expressions, in which different faiths could remain faithful. In his prohibition of crusades, he was trying to exorcise violence from religion.[3] The freedom of a Christian spells the religious freedom to become convinced of the truth from the heart without coercion.

In our Sierra Pacific Synod assembly a man stood up in the spirit of these old laws, when the equal medical and pension rights for same gender marriages was being debated and read Leviticus 20:13: “if a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death.” He failed to read verse 10 which dictates that in cases of adultery both parties should be put to death, as well as those who curse their parents (20.9), for all manner of abnormal relations, a son sleeping with a father’s wife (and of course many wives are permitted to a man), an uncle’s wife, a daughter-in-law, that prostitutes should be burnt to death (Lev. 21.9).

Now Jesus said about a woman taken in adultery (and notice, not the man, who must have been part of it!) “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone!” Why did that member of our church take account of Jesus’ approach to faith and life?

Did he never read the Sermon on the Mount? You have read of old, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek turn the other also” (Matthew 5.38-39) and “You have heard it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so shall you be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Mat 43-45).

Admittedly, the first three alterations of the law by Jesus intensify the murder, adultery, and divorce commandments, but Jesus obviously stands for an absolute Gospel and a law relative to a time, place, and the historical conditions of the day. Don’t forget how Jesus places himself and his healing mission over the Sabbath law.

Then look at Leviticus chapter 21 beyond verse 9, in which prostitutes are commanded to be burned, while Jesus claims that the righteous have no need of a physician, but the sick do. He came to save sinners and not condemn them. In the further verses of this chapter all the blemished people are listed that a priest is not allowed to draw near: the blind, the lame, someone with a mutilated face or a limb that is too long, someone with a broken foot or hand, a hunchback, a dwarf, a man with a blemish in his eye or itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. A descendant of Aaron with any of these blemishes is not to bring the Lord’s offerings to the God’s holy altar.

Now Jesus transgressed these commandments by not only drawing near to the blemished such as these, but by touching, and healing them. Certainly the scriptures cannot be broken, but the living Word, Jesus broke them, and then he was broken on the tree for us. In this Heaven of grace that Jesus spreads out over us, we realize that we are all sinners fallen short of the glory of God, and the people that we designate as sinners, have a special place, a pride of place, in the gracious forgiveness of God. Therefore we follow our gracious Lord, by being un-self-righteous, trampling the monster of presumptuousness under our feet, all the way to the cross with our savior, Jesus.


[1] See Psalm 19 in its good translation that I have in my Moltmann piece.

[2] See Luther’s, “How Christians should Regard Moses,” in Timothy Lull’s, Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989), pages 135-148: “If I accept Moses’ [law] in one respect (Paul tell the Galatians in chapter 5 [:3], then I am obligated to keep the entire law” (page 140).

[3] See my dissertation, The Sword of the Spirit, the Sword of Iron.

Written by peterkrey

July 2, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Posted in 1, Biblical Commentary

Words and Things – March 19th 2008

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Philosophy of Language

In today’s editorial page of the New York Times (A18), it speaks of “a redundant background check” in “Citizenship, Thwarted.” “Redundant” has always been used for words and here it has spread to cover action, “an unnecessarily duplicated action.” Language has a way of becoming elastic as words become used in many diverse ways. Here the word was first used for other words and now it is being used for actions, specifying the meaning of the word further. For example, you pet a pet. I wonder if the word came from the action or the action from the word-name. Then we speak of a “teacher’s pet” as the word lives on.

     My favorite is the word, “thing.” My high school English teacher said, “Don’t use the word, “thing.” It doesn’t mean anything.” She showed how ubiquitous the word is in our language, because she used it right in her protest unconsciously.

     Meanwhile it is so deeply embedded in our language because it designated an old Icelandic or Scandinavian legislative assembly called the “Thing” or “Ding,” (like a Duma or Diet), which passed decrees called “things.” [The words “think” and “thank” seem to be related to the word “thing.” (Denk, Dank, and Ding in German.)]

     I wonder if “things” as matters gave the name “Thing” to the meeting or assembly, or if it was vice versa? If Emil Durkheim is right, the sociological sense abstracted into the epistemic sense of the word. (Words have a historical career from the time they are coined to all the senses and associations they accumulate, when remaining useful, or dying out of usage, when not.) But if words are primitive or pre-historic in their origin, then they could always have gone in the other direction.

Written by peterkrey

March 19, 2008 at 6:49 pm