Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Efficaciousness, continued

The Wonder, Work, and Power Meme

"But what of the thing that the priest promises to the believer, the wholly transcendental "beyond"--how is that to be demonstrated?--The "proof by power," thus assumed, is actually no more at bottom than a belief that the effects which faith promises will not fail to appear. In a formula: "I believe that faith makes for blessedness--therefore, it is true." . . But this is as far as we may go. This "therefore" would be absurdum itself as a criterion of truth.--But let us admit, for the sake of politeness, that blessedness by faith may be demonstrated (--not merely hoped for, and not merely promised by the suspicious lips of a priest): even so, could blessedness--in a technical term, pleasure--ever be a proof of truth? So little is this true that it is almost a proof against truth when sensations of pleasure influence the answer to the question "What is true?" or, at all events, it is enough to make that "truth" highly suspicious. The proof by "pleasure" is a proof of "pleasure"--nothing more; why in the world should it be assumed that true judgments give more pleasure than false ones, and that, in conformity to some pre-established harmony, they necessarily bring agreeable feelings in their train?--The experience of all disciplined and profound minds teaches the contrary. Man has had to fight for every atom of the truth, and has had to pay for it almost everything that the heart, that human love, that human trust cling to. Greatness of soul is needed for this business: the service of truth is the hardest of all services.--What, then, is the meaning of integrityin things intellectual? It means that a man must be severe with his own heart, that he must scorn "beautiful feelings," and that he makes every Yea and Nay a matter of conscience!--Faith makes blessed:therefore, it lies. . . . "(from the AntiKhrist, Mencken's translation)

One could imagine some enthusiastic xtian, like one now bellowing out her support for Sarah Palin (or really, for B.O.), saying something like "I believe that faith makes for blessedness--therefore, it is true." That efficaciousness of faith (to borrow a term from Quine) in a sense suffices for the True Believer, whether in terms of religious faith, or political faith in a sense (e.g., the Teabagger's "faith" in phree enterprise). The Griswold family marches into the First Church of The Redeemer, sings a few hosannas, listens to Pastor Sunday lecture on the Anglicized Gospels, and feels uplifted before getting back in the Yukon and heading towards Carrows, and the kids seem calmer, and well, blessed: what more proof does Pops Griswold need? (Or, similarly, Pops Griswold remembers some advice from a business course instructor--buy low, sell high, etc--, wins on the stock market--ergo, capitalism works...) That's a pragmatist point which the madman Nietzsche understands-- and which the overly analytical skeptic --the Bertrand Russell sort--often has overlooked, regardless of his effective skewering of vague theological concepts.

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