Thursday, 21 March 2013

My innate pragmatism and pluralism twangs-back...


Before I became a Christian I was a philosophical follower of William James (via Robert Pirsig) - thus a pragmatist and pluralist.

When I became a Christian, for whatever reason, I jettisoned this and tried to adopt a Classical Greek approach - first Aristotle/ Aquinas linked with Western Catholicism, then Platonism linked with Eastern Orthodoxy.

The advantage of Platonism, for me here and now, was that the future held the prospect a condition I envisaged as a blissful eternal stasis: as I imaigined it, like an infinitely prolonged moment of aesthetic, loving and philosophical contemplation.

Indeed I regard Platonism as essentially contemplative and other worldly, such that THE problem is finding reasons ever to do anything or to delay death and put-off the euphoria which awaits on the other side.


Yet, after a period of increasing tension my innate disposition has reasserted itself but this time within the Christian world view; and I have thus twanged-back to William James and his pragmatic/ pluralist vision of the nature of life - especially as described by some aspects of Mormon theology.

(The link of philosophy, interest and sympathy between James and Mormonism is seemingly well known and has been documented among LDS intellectuals for more than a century, but I became aware of it only recently.)


Unless one regards philosophy as more fundamental than Christianity - which sounds like an absurd belief for a Christian yet is clearly very common - then there is nothing whatsoever that is paradoxical or self-contradictory about being a pluralist Christian.

(Indeed, a degree of pluralism is, as James, points-out, intrinsic to all monotheisms in dividing creator from created - but of course Trinitarian Christianity takes this further, and some 'catholic' types of Christianity take it far indeed.)

Monism (as found in Classical theism) is not 'more Christian' in essence, nor indeed necessarily in practice than pluralism; even if it has been much commoner among Christian intellectuals.

At any rate, it is an aspect of the Jamesian perspective that more formal systems are driven by inexplicit feelings of one sort or another - which is why philosophy (and theology) has been so often/ most usually a divider rather than a uniter in human affairs.

(Contrary to theory, religion based on philosophy is frequently no more able to attain consensus than is a religion based on revelation or mysticism - since philosophical discourse is driven by prior feelings and convictions, it leads to schism as quickly and reliably as does personal conviction.) 


However, one big disadvantage of the pragmatist pluralist way of understanding Christianity is that the prospect is exhausting compared with that hope for permanent contemplative bliss to which I referred above.

As a naturally tender-minded and asthenic personality prone to acedia, I naturally looked forward to permanent relief from the recurrent business of living - yet to the pragmatist, the afterlife is 'more of the same forever' with respect to effort, striving, learning, and developing and dealing with the triumphs and tragedies of existence...

I can only hope and presume that the resurrection body brings with it much greater dose of health, energy, motivation and resolution than I am used-to here in mortal life!

Then I might be more enthusiastic about the propect of endless delightful (yet also painful) labour, rather than euphoric eternal rest.