Monday, March 15, 2010

Closed and open witness II

It's a week that I am brooding over the conclusions of the previous post, and consequently the title I gave to it, thinking they need some explanations, while, taken by other business, I didn't find the time to give them.

The other business is my teaching cultural anthropology. Now, we all know how close the question of culture is to that of religion, to the point that I dare say that religion is nothing else than culture, i.e. the understanding of the world out of which we live in its ultimate implications.

Multiculturalism is therefore nonsense. Even to declare all cultures equally legitimate, it's a way of affirming one's understanding of the world, and hence one's culture.

So, these days I was trying to introduce my students to cultural anthropology by explaining them this simple fact: simple, and though hard to accept in our liberal society, where what we call science is actually the culture by which we are taught to understand the world.

Thus, believe it or not, the problem we face with science is specular to the one raised by the religion of the book.

With the name of science it is brought forward a knowledge that is claimed to be based on evidence, and not on faith in someone, let's call him a prophet.

From Thomas Hobbes in the Seventeenth Century to Karl Popper in the Twentieth Century, the objection advanced to any talk of revelation is the same: you claim to have had an experience of God speaking to you; I don't say you didn't, but neither I can say you did, because I have no way to tell, being the evidence you appeal to foreclosed to me.

That's because you don't want to see the evidence available to you as proof of where my words come from – could the prophet retort, and throw the ball back to the scientist: your evidence is good enough to build atomic bombs, but not to prove that by so doing we achieve control of nature, because there is no such thing, but only God's will, to which we submit ourselves even when building such bombs.

Here it is the result of direct witness for alleged evidence: two kinds of "prophesy", speaking in the name of God or in the name of Nature, set the one against the other.

Reciprocally closed.

Cultural anthropology, instead, at least as I understand it, withdraws from such a confrontations of opposing prophetic claims. It's task is to take comparatively into exam men's witness. By way of this, the evidence it appeals to is neither immediately of God or of Nature, but of what human beings represent for each other.

Should we say their divine nature? God's potentia present in them and among them?


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