“If the little difficulty of the entry of evil into the world requires that you vary one of God’s perfect qualities, why defend his power at the expense of his goodness? If one must choose between two untruths, I would prefer the opposite choice.” –Rousseau’s letter to Voltaire, 18 August 1756
This blog represents my own personal musings on a number of subjects, especially philosophy of religion. They by no means represent my finished thoughts, and I prefer to think of them as experiments where I can try out new ideas from various sources and traditions, allow them to cross-pollinate, incubate, and develop before they find a more lasting form. I hope your visit here proves to be similarly useful and edifying for you. In the spirit of what the early German Romantics called symphilosophizing, I invite you to share your thoughts about what you read here, in the recognition that philosophy requires friendliness. I hope that this blog not only serves to chronicle my thoughts along the way, but opens me up to questions I would otherwise never hear. Dialectic, in its etymological sense of dialogue.
It’s that reality of transition, of being always on the way, that informs the name of this site: Between Two Untruths. While I have some convictions about what the truth is, the very nature of the things I like to think about is mysterious, opaque, paradoxical–a riddle, if not riddled with contradiction. Still, although it is not transparent what the truth is, I might have a clearer sense of what isn’t true, of untruths. Thus I am underway between untrue options, trying to find another way amid dichotomies others feel more comfortable with.
I am often examining religion as a resource for moral imagination, and while I hold that morality can be (and often is) known and practiced independently of any religious tradition, I think we have neglected some of the most valuable gems in the treasury out of obsessive concern with the worth or worthlessness of more superficially appealing ones. For instance, the question of whether God exists is far less interesting to me than the question of what God means in the first place. Furthermore, the proclivity to define God in terms of power–that it is power that makes God divine–has eclipsed the more humane and more ethereal idea that what is divine about the divine is goodness, that God is the Good. In his response to Voltaire’s Candide, Rousseau upholds this idea, and while this is sadly a minority opinion throughout history, it has predecessors (such as Plato and Boethius) and successors (such as Kant and Levinas). In my ongoing attempt to have an inclusive understanding of the good–such that it has space for those who have been edged out by those in power, past and present–I am getting better at learning from those who aren’t usually included in modern American philosophy course syllabi. Putting Kant in conversation with MLK, for instance, is a recent endeavor of mine. I still have a lot to learn in this regard, and I hope you’ll bear with me. While I seek to become more consistent with myself, I cannot do that without somebody else to let me know where I go astray.
As King said in “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution”: “For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be – this is the interrelated structure of reality.”